By Haidar Eid
A day in Gaza under Israeli attack.
I sit in my apartment in Gaza City for days and nights, watching the sky turn grey with thick smoke during the day, and bright yellow and orange in the darkness of the night. The grey and yellow and orange are courtesy of Israeli bombs, missiles, shelling, drones – gifts from the people of the United States to the people of Gaza. We don’t want your gifts, we want our land, our birthright. And because Israelis want it too, we must live in an open-air prison, be the target of your “best” pilots, be dehumanised so that you can kill us and blame us for making you kill us!
6pm Saturday, July 19 It is summer in Gaza, Ramadan. Families should be together, sitting on the rooftops, having iftar, cutting open a red, juicy watermelon, eating roasted pumpkin seeds, shelling nuts, going to the mosque, staying awake late into the night, praying. It is the time to take our children to the beach, to tease them for being too clever, if they got very high marks and to tease them for not being very clever, if they did not get high marks. It is the time to visit family in Sheikh Radwan, in Rafah, in Khan Younis, to have iftar with brothers and sisters, and nieces and nephews. But we dared to leave our homes for the last 12 days.
We have to confess to our children that we cannot observe Ramadan like everyone else. We are Palestinian, so our lives are different, must be different. Their lives must be different. They have land that the Israelis want. They are different, they have Israelis in their lives. They are the goyim, the unwanted other, the native American, the nigger of the American South, the kaffir of South Africa.
6:30pm Saturday, July 19 The Palestinian Resistance demands that Egypt opens the Rafah crossing permanently. There’s a story to tell to our children: Why is the Rafah crossing closed today? Why has it been mostly closed since 2006? Isn’t Egypt an Arab country? Aren’t Palestinians Arabs or is it that Gazans aren’t Arabs? How do we explain this to the children of Gaza?
To the five-year old whose legs are being amputated as I write this: Does she know that the Rafah crossing was closed before she was born? Does she know that she had to lose her legs just because she is Palestinian, and lives in Gaza, and Israel is very, very scared of her? So scared that they had to shell her house 10 times in quick succession? So scared that this amount of fire power is the only thing that will stop her from scaring the Israelis?
7pm Saturday, July 19 Two colleagues from Al Aqsa University, Jamal, Nasr and Khaled Nasr, have lost their two sons! RIP our lovely boys. How do I face your parents? How do your parents face tomorrow? And how many Israeli colleagues sympathise with us?
8pm Saturday, July 19 More than 100 Palestinians killed in Gaza in 48 hours! Our population is only 1.8 million. This is a massacre! They are insane. This is ethnic cleansing. World, wake up!
9pm Saturday, July 19 Bolivian President Evo Morales calls what is happening in Palestine a genocide. Some are saying that it should be investigated. There is no need to investigate if the Israelis do not punish the instigators and perpetrators of genocide! Judge Richard Goldstone detailed the guilt of the Israeli army in 2008-2009. No one was held accountable or punished. The Gaza Docket of the 2008-2009 atrocity was given to the South African government who could act in terms of the Rome Statute. No one was held accountable or punished. Words are meaningless when 60 are killed in one day, when children have legs amputated, and when they sit alone in the dark, and cry next to the dead bodies of their parents.
10 pm Saturday, July 19 Massive protests in London in support of Gaza. I tell friends there that they should demand nothing less than the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, military embargo, and sanctions against Israel! That is the only way to stop the ongoing genocide of Palestinians – the holocaust of the 21st century! The horror!
Midnight Saturday, July 19 A black, dark summer night. No water, no electricity. The smell of smoke and fear and panic fills the night. The relentless sound of Israeli shelling: thump, thump, thump. All night long. Huge explosions in the east of Gaza, Shujayea the only mistake of the people there is that they live right next door to Israel and they follow the wrong religion! So they must endure multiple explosions all night long. Ambulances are not allowed in. The Red Cross does not go in – too dangerous. So what will the people there do? Sit with their injured and dead? That sound of non-stop explosions – it drives us mad with anger, with fear, with despair. How many are dying? How many are in pain? Where is the world? They told them to run away from there because they are going to attack, but where do you run to in Gaza? The borders are closed. It is the Israelis who want the borders closed, but it is also the Israelis who say “run away”!
2am Sunday, July 20 Summer in Gaza. We should be walking on the shores of the beautiful Mediterranean, enjoying the cool breeze now that the sun has gone down. Young people should be playing night football, commiserating with those who supported Brazil in the World Cup, retelling every moment of excellence in Colombia’s games, insulting those who supported Germany, making Spain’s supporters the butt of a thousand jokes. Young people should be dancing dabkhe, staging theatre shows, planning Eid.
But this is Gaza under Israeli bombardment and young people here have to hold tight onto the hands of their young siblings, while at the same time checking that the road is clear, that the sky is clear. Sometimes they must carry a mother, a grandmother, a baby, and they must run, run, run, quick before the drones see us! Quick before an Israeli filled with hate pulls the trigger, quick before an American-made missile blows us into the sky so that we become part of that big, yellow flame that lights up the dark, Gaza night.
4am Sunday, 20 July Can’t sleep, thinking about the people being attacked. F16s are flying almost next to my window! With every explosion, I wonder, who? How many? What is their state now? Who is gone? Who is left? Where will it end? I know what death tastes like now.
8am Sunday, July 20 Another sleepless night! The Israelis will not allow the Red Cross into Shujayea! And the bombings continue with no one to pick up the bodies on the streets, no one to help the injured. Thousands of families walking into Gaza City from the north, from the east, walking away from the approaching Israeli army. Is this 1948 or is it 1967?
Palestinians are again walking away from a murderous Israeli with a death weapon in his/ her hand, ready to kill to take another 20 metres of land away from us. A hundred people, 200 people, 1000 people – a small price Israelis think, to get another 20 metres of the precious land of Palestine. They love our land but they hate us. Why did they come here then? Why did they not stay in the western civilisation that they value so much? Why did they come to the land of the dark Arab, the land of the peasant olive farmer, the land of thefedayeen that they created by their presence here?
10am Sunday, July 20 The question from the media to Palestinians: Israel is saying that its defence forces try to avoid civilian casualties, and that it warns civilians before any military action in their neighbourhood. Answer from us: This is not downtown Manhattan or London, with trains, buses, planes to take us from here to anywhere we would like to go!! We are under siege, have been since 2006, with the support and complicity of the United States, United Kingdom, the castrated United Nations, the socialist government of France which is refusing to let their citizens protest in support of Palestinians under Israeli bombardment. They have not allowed doctors to enter Gaza, doctors from Malaysia, United Kingdom, Turkey, many countries. Human beings who empathise with us, who want to stop the blood, ease the pain, stitch the gaping holes in our bodies.
12 noon Sunday, July 20 17 children, 18 women, 14 elderly (so far) in Shujayea, among 60 dead. Today the Israeli war machine butchered 104; the number of those injured in Gaza so far is 3000. There is no gauze in the hospitals, no painkillers, no anaesthetic for the operation, no beds, no sleep for the doctors, no silence for the injured.
3pm Sunday, July 20 Random shelling and air strikes across the Gaza Strip. Eight killed in my neighborhood, Remal.
5:40pm Sunday, July 20 The words of Mark Regev reach my unbelieving ears. I look outside and see huge mountains of thick grey smoke, the same smoke that has engulfed Gaza for the last 12 days, the same smoke that has blocked out the sun and the blue Mediterranean Sea for the last 24 hours. This spokesman of the apartheid Israeli regime is justifying the killing of Palestinian civilians in Shujayea because the most “moral” army in the world dropped pamphlets to tell people to leave their homes before they bombed. “Leave your homes or we will kill and rape you” – that’s what the Haganah and the Stern Gang told my parents in 1948; my parents died dreaming of returning to their Zarnouqa. There was no satellite television then, no Facebook, no Twitter, no cell phones, no way to tell the world what was happening to them. So much technology, so much communication, so many words, so little action, so little change. Gaza oh my Gaza! Palestine, oh my Palestine! My land of sad oranges!
8pm Sunday, July 20 Another evening, another hour of Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip. Will Beit Hanoun and/or Beit Lahia, in the north, witness the second massacre tonight? BBC and CNN are not calling what has happened a massacre?! How many should be killed in order to convince the editors in London and New York to call it a massacre? What if their children were to be slaughtered by apartheid Israel? Would that change their “neutrality”?!
Should we accept an Egyptian ceasefire initiative calling on us to surrender to Israel? A ceasefire that will result in the continuation of the siege? An initiative that calls our resistance to occupation and apartheid “hostilities”? Why are people dying? For the status quo to remain as is?
Gaza, the Sharpeville, the Guernica of Palestine will become our Saigon! We cannot afford despair!
Haidar Eid is an associate Professor at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza.