On July 7, Palestinians found themselves in the throes of yet another Israeli aggression. Thirteen days into the Israeli onslaught on Gaza, over 400 Palestinians have been killed, most of them civilians. At least 77 children are among the dead. Thousands of people have been injured and over 50,000 displaced. Some 15,000 houses have been destroyed or severely damaged, and dozens of fishing boats have been burned, destroyed or partially damaged.
The main water line for al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza was bombed and damaged, while 50 percent of sewage pumping and treatment centres are no longer operating. A home for the disabled run by a charitable centre was destroyed, killing two women and injuring others. A kindergarten was hit and damaged. A rehabilitation hospital was targeted. The house of police chief Tayseer Al-Batsh was hit by two Israeli bombs, critically injuring him and killing 17 people of Al-Batsh family. Four children playing on the beach were slain as an Israeli gunboat targeted them in broad daylight. Another three children were killed while playing on the rooftop of their house. The list goes on and on.
In response to Israel’s occupation and illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip (with Egypt’s complicity), its wreaking havoc across the West Bank, its constant human rights violations and arrests, shooting at Palestinian fishermen and farmers, and frequent bombing of Gaza – Palestinian armed groups have fired a barrage of rockets into Israeli territory. Sirens go off in Jerusalem, Sderot, Tel Aviv, Isdoud, Ber Saba’, and other areas, forcing Israeli citizens into shelters. So far there have been two civilian deaths in Israel and five Israeli soldiers have been killed in clashes with Palestinian fighters.
In late afternoon on July 16, the house of my deceased grandparents – home to four families and 12 people in East Gaza – was bombed. My uncles and cousins received no phone call, no messages, nothing (not that a phone call telling you “we’ll bomb your house” makes it any better). The distance between their house and that of their neighbours is less than a metre. No rocket could have possibly been fired from their house into Israel. And, yet, an Israeli “targeted” strike hit them. When the first missile fell, they ran out of the house. My uncle and 70 year old aunt sustained injuries but they all miraculously survived.
Homeless, in every sense of the word, they are now split into relatives’ homes. Their house has been completely destroyed. Most of their belongings remain in the street; they visit every morning, trying to find and pull out of the rubble anything still fit for use. My uncle’s wife, an agriculture engineer and a lifelong embroidery enthusiast, laments, “How did I not take my embroideries? Why did I leave without them?”
We are still in the holy month of Ramadan, a time of spirituality, reflection and religious devotion, when people socialise outside and at home with family and friends. Mornings and evenings of Ramadan are no longer the same, though. Most workplaces are closed. People do not go to school or work. They are careful not to go out a lot, although many Palestinians still venture out to get food and perform Taraweeh – evening prayers. At night, most people, except for medical staff and journalists, remain indoors.
War is horror. War is our vulnerability and helplessness. It is our inability to protect family and friends. It is deciding not which area in Gaza is safer, but which one is less dangerous. It is packing official papers, a bottle of water, life savings, a mobile with a dead battery, and, above all, memories into one small “emergency bag” and forgetting the bag altogether once your house is shelled. War is having no time to say goodbye to your window, or the stickers on your wall, or a piece of embroidery, or that crack in the door you always hated. War is leaving your house barefoot. War is your grief aired live on TV. War is humiliation. War is remorse for things you have not done. War is traumatised children and traumatised adults. War is broken hearts and scars that do not heal.
War is the painful abruptness of loss. All it takes is a minute, or perhaps less than a minute. A sky lantern lights up the whole area around the “target”, guiding the Israeli apache or F16 through the dark strip. A terrifying whoosh accompanies the missile as it falls upon the house. Screams and silent tears. A last declaration of faith in Allah and His messenger. A last breath. The sky lights up again. A massive explosion is heard outside. Smoke clouds the area and the air around smells of death. Flames erupt. The explosion echoes in your ear. In seconds, someone’s memories are buried under the rubble of their home. Someone’s loved ones are gone forever.
It is 3:30 A.M. I hear the third boom in a span of only a few minutes as a reminder of the war. War is waking up for suhour not by an alarm clock, but by a blast. Faces are pale and food is tasteless. Time is meaningless. Power is now off and there is no way I can make sure my friends are alive. My niece, still crying and terrified by the sounds of bombing yawns, her tears lulling her to sleep. I turn on the radio again only to hear about Western leaders staunchly asserting, from the comfort of their countries, the right of our oppressor to “defend” itself, while simultaneously denying a defenceless and besieged population that right. I smile at the irony of it all as another explosion roars in the background.
Nearly half of the Palestinian women and children fell victim to Israeli brutalities in Shejaia, in the neighbourhood of Gaza. This was the deadliest day in the two week aggression by the Jewish state against Palestinians and with fresh fatalities the overall death toll of Palestinians reached 435. Such was the magnitude of the tragedy that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared three days ofmourning in remembrance of the massacre of innocent people in what is being dubbed as ground offensive.
It is rightly pointed out by strategists that with the eyes of the world on the catastrophe in Ukraine, the Israeli armed forces are engaged fiercely in eliminating Palestinians in a 66-year-old conflict whose resolution seems further away than ever. Unfortunately, the West has closed its eyes to the plight of hapless Palestinians by portraying the conflict as mutual hostilities between rocket firing Hamas and bomb dropping Israel. What they forget is the fact that in over two weeks just two Israeli civilians have reportedly been killed by rockets fired by Hamas while almost all the 435 casualties on Palestinian side are civilians and the number of those injured is over one thousand. This is nothing but just double standards of the West that cares for birds and animals but is unconcerned about basic human rights of Palestinian people. Wailing women and weeping children do not matter for them just because they are Muslim Palestinians and ‘deserve such a treatment’. The silence of the West and the civilized world is condemnable as it is encouraging the Jewish state to continue with its genocide and massacre besides inflicting large-scale destructions in the already impoverished areas. The UN took symbolic notice of the situation and Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon was reported to be on his way to the region but one doesn’t know whether he has landed somewhere or not and what he intends to do to stop Israel from its killing spree. Israel has undertaken the aggression on the pretext of silencing Hamas rockets, trying to convey to the world that the real issue of the region is rocket firing from Gaza and not illegal occupation of Arab lands. How can Israel make itself safe by killing mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers before the eyes of children who will never forget these gory scenes during their entire life-time?
One could be forgiven for believing that the protection of civil liberties and fundamental freedoms, and the obligation upon a state to protect and adhere to those rights without prejudice, would be uniform. One could also be forgiven for believing that the treatment of a citizen on the right hand side of the road would be the same as that of the treatment of a citizen on the left hand side of the road. One could be forgiven for naively believing that all are equal before the law.
However, the way in which Israel treats its own nationals as compared to the way in which it treats Palestinians, comes as a stark reminder that there is no equality. It also comes as a stark reminder that without universal condemnation by the international community, and specifically the United States, this disparity in treatment will never change.
There will of course be those who do not accept that there is a double standard, or seek to justify that double standard on the basis that Israel is simply seeking to defend its borders, and its people. There are examples however, that cannot be justified.
Following the brutal murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, and the demonstrations that followed, the boy’s cousin, Tariq Abu Khdeir, aged 15, was arrested by members of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). During that arrest he was brutally beaten. Video evidence released would tend to demonstrate just how violently he was beaten during the arrest.
Regrettably, Tariq’s arrest and treatment is not an isolated incident. What is unusual, however, is the course of events following his arrest.
Tariq is Palestinian-American. Having been arrested and brutally assaulted, he was locked in the police station for hours, without access to medical treatment or a lawyer. Tariq demanded that he be granted consular access and speak to a representative at the US Embassy. Upon doing so, and upon there being mention of the fact that he held a US passport, he was then taken to hospital for treatment. Photographs of his swollen and bruised face bear testimony to the manner in which he had been treated.
The US State Department was quoted as saying how it was “profoundly disturbed” by the video. Tariq was then released on bail, although he was required to pay for his release and is now under house arrest. Tariq’s mother has vowed to bring criminal proceedings against the IDF officers.
The Israeli Justice Ministry has now confirmed that the government’s legal adviser will investigate the video showing the assault. (Source Aljazeera)