Because they are not numbers

This post was originally published on Al Akhbar English

As social media activists, Palestinians always get attacked by Israeli and pro-Israeli Zionists. Their response to the recent Israeli aggression on Gaza proposes that “Hamas is to blame for not caring for the safety and security of Palestinian civilians”. “Hamas is to blame for not building shelters for Palestinians like Israel does!”

What is strikingly laughable is not the weak Israeli argument (or lack thereof) but the sheer ignorance of Israeli public. Whenever there is an assault on civilians in Gaza, the only moral thing to do is to condemn the attacks, not blame the Hamas government for not providing shelter from the Israeli bombs raining on Palestinian civilians. How humane is it to justify the killing by simply saying “Oh, it is legitimate for us to bomb you but it is not our problem you have nowhere to hide?” But when it comes to Israeli violence against Gaza, it always seems easier to blame the victim. We’re always classified as wild animals thirsty for blood and death, so who cares how many of us die?

What outsiders tend to forget is that Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on earth. There are over 1.6 million people literally trapped in this besieged coastal enclave. Bombing them is nothing but a war crime. Our unemployment rate has risen to over 40% with constant water, cooking gas and fuel shortages. Gaza has been under an ongoing Israeli siege by air, land, and sea for 1739 days. So, if we have no construction materials to build the homes of the 80 to 90 thousand displaced people displaced from their homes by Israel’s so-called Operation Cast Lead then excuse us if we are unable to build shelters or Iron Domes to meet Israeli “security” levels. We are not funded as though we were America’s 51st state. This attitude reminds me of how insignificant the people of Gaza feel when outsiders tell them to “take care” or “stay safe.” Call me naïve, but how do you suggest we do that?

Palestinian victims are not numbers. They once were part of a family. They were loved and granted love. They had people waiting for them at the dining table every day. They had names, jobs, schools seats, friends, lovers, wives and children. They too had a dream of a free country, but it was their turn to pay for “dreaming too big”. A friend, a family member, or even I could have been among these victims. Israel can just call you a terrorist or claim that you were planning an attack against them to coldly put an end to your not-so-worthy life.
When Israel decides you are a threat to its security, Israel would target while you and your whole family are asleep, walking, riding a motorcycle or driving your car. Their blind airstrikes are indiscriminate and then the righteous Palestinian retaliation is all to blame.

One of the martyrs is my friend’s cousin. Nayef Qarmout is a twelve-year-old Palestinian kid who was murdered while going to school. A friend wrote of the killing: “Nayef Karmout, 12 years old, killed by an Israeli air raid this morning while 4 of his schoolmates were injured. Reports say pieces of his flesh scattered along their school bags.”

At the age of 15, I remember how important my school bag style was to me. I wonder what was on your mind when that rocket hit! I am sorry Nayef, I won’t go to your funeral. But how can I not hope for another life after this one, a world beyond our present reality where no one can end a child’s life by pressing a button. But now you are gone and what I hope for does not mean much anyway.

One day prior to Nayef’s murder, I argued with my mother over whether to take my four-year-old nephew to kindergarten or not. Though I knew we were not even safe in our own home, I insisted he should not go. But mom was too stubborn to listen. The next day, we heard the news of Nayef’s murder, his friends’ injuries and the school that caught fire due to an airstrike close by.

Could you possibly imagine the rush of feelings I had while live-tweeting the incident? No, you could not. You have never experienced it, but I have. When our little boy made it home, I cried, hugged him, and wept over Nayef. I could not imagine how his mom must have felt. Her boy could have grown to a handsome young man that would have knocked girls off their feet. He could have been a doctor, a teacher, a footballer. He could have had a beautiful family. He could have been his mom’s spoiled boy. He could have been her only source of support when she grew old. He could have brought her flowers on Mother’s Day. But Israel took away the only flower his mother cared about.

Later that night, my young nephew caught an inadvertent glimpse of the pictures of victims on the news. He asked: “Who are these dead people? Who killed them and why?” Unable to answer or maybe unwilling, I thought to myself, “We really do not raise our children to hate but Israel makes sure they do every second of the day.”

Amid all the killing we held Israeli Apartheid Week in Gaza, part of the week of Palestine solidarity events that took place on university campuses around the world. Throughout the lectures and rallies, we listened as Palestinian ambulance sirens blared through the streets, rushing frantically to reach victims at the site of Israeli bombings.

Life went on, weddings were held, universities and schools opened, shops and markets never closed. Israeli aggression continued with the world’s approving silence. But this has never stopped the Gaza Strip from standing tall.

Because they are not numbers…because we Gazans are humans with beautiful and painful stories…We make sure we are remembered…So keep in your memories those names and in your hearts their stories:

1. Zuhair Qaisi, 49, Secretary-General of PRC. Gaza city
2. Mahmoud Hanani, 44. Qaisi’s brother/son-in-law and assistant. Gaza city
3. Obaid Gharabli, 22. Gaza city
4. Mohamed Harara, 24. Gaza city
5. Shady Seqali, 27. Gaza city
6. Hazim Awad Qreqe, 20. Tufah- Gaza city
7. Mahmoud Nejem, 22. BeitLahia
8. Mohamed Maghari, 25. BeitLahia
9. Motasem Hajjaj, 22. Gaza city
10. Ahmed Hajjaj, 22. Gaza city
11. Fayek Saad, 28. Gaza city
12. Mohamed Ghamiry, 26. Dier Al-Balah
13. Hussien Berem Hammad, 51. Khanyounis
14. Mansour Abu Nusirah, 20. Khanyounis
15. Mahdi Abu Shawish, 24. Rafah
16. Ahmad Salem, 24. Zaitoun- Gaza city (wedded two days before his murder)
17. Ayoub Asalyia, 15. Jabalia
18. Salman ABu Metleq 24. Khan Younis
19. Refa’at Abu Eid, 24. Khan Younis
20. Nayef Qarmout, 12. Jabalia
21. Mohammed Al Hsoumi, 65.
22. Fayza Al Hsoumi (Mohammed’s daughter) 35.
23. Adel El Issi, 52. Gaza City
24. Bassam el Ejla, 20. Shejaeya- East Gaza
25. Mohammed Thaher, 21. Shejaeya- East Gaza


3 Responses to “Because they are not numbers”

  1. bubbamuntzer Says:

    “Israeli aggression continued with the world’s approving silence.”

    I wish I’d thought of that sentence. Damn. Well, there’s more of them, and then there’s the sum of the parts, which is very moving.

  2. Nakib Says:

    I have been looking for accounts of Gaza from someone dwelling inside the besieged city and then finally I stumbled onto your blog. I am glad to the blogging world & you that first-hand accounts of life at Gaza are available for the people all over the globe to know about what Israel has been belligerently doing ‘with the world’s approving silence’.
    I am really ashamed to be a human being after reading this post. For Nayef, I wish life was not so unfair, ruthless and truly hope that his soul is rewarded the most beautiful place in the Gardens under which rivers flow. Israel’s continued aggression have made countless mothers sonless, wives widows and children fatherless. I know nothing will happen to Israel with such losses but if not in this world in the Hereafter they shall pay.
    With heartfelt condolences,
    Nakib (from Dhaka)

  3. Lucia Says:

    Very articulate, informative and well-written, unlike some other blogs I have read from Gaza, which for some reason, usually too much emotionality, I usually can’t link for most overly uninformed Americans I know.

    I only have one comment. I can’t answer for all the strangers on Twitter or Facebook who, as a matter of politeness or formality, go around saying to Gazans “take care” or “stay safe,” however there are those of us who actually love someone (or several) in Gaza and are sitting on the outside completely helpless, maybe praying our loved one will stay alive long enough to join us “out here”–and then what else could we say besides “stay safe” (along with all the other words of love) to express a miniscule fraction of that worry?

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