art of resistance, Israel, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine

Gaza then, Gaza now.

On Monday, the Israeli military announced “Operation Protective Edge,” which it says aims to stop Palestinian rocket fire into southern Israel.  Today, Israel is launching new airstrikes on Gaza and violence is escalating as Israel bombs dozens of targets in the Gaza Strip and threatens a new full-scale assault. To prepare for a potential attack, Israel has called up more than 1,500 troops to fortify a contingent already massed along the Gaza border. There are calls from activists from both sides not to take part in these escalations – who believes in peace, refuses to join the war, they say.

Today, Suhad Abu Khdeir, the aunt of  Tariq Abu Khdeir, the 15-year-old Palestinian-American (cousin of murdered Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir) who was beaten up by Israeli forces several days ago, spoke to Democracy Now. “This is absolutely unjustifiable,” she said of Tariq’s beating. “You have three uniformed men, in full combat gear, against a 15-year-old.

Rachel Fraenkel, the mother of Naftali, one of the Israeli teenagers killed in the West Bank last month has spoken out against the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir. This is what she said:

Even in the depth of the mourning over our son, it’s hard for me to describe how distressed we were over the outrage that happened in Jerusalem. The shedding of innocent blood is against morality. It’s against the Torah and Judaism. It’s against the basis of our life in this country. The murderers of our children, whoever sent them, whoever helped them, whoever incited towards that murder, will all be brought to justice. But it will be them and no innocent people. And it will be done by the government, the police, the Justice Department, and not by vigilantes. No mother or father should go through what we are going now, and we share the pain of the parents of Mohammed Abu Khdeir. The legacy of the life and death of Naftali, Eyal and Gilad is a legacy of love, of humanity, of national unity.

Yesterday, Washington Post published raw footage of deadly airstrikes on Gaza. In it, we see people running, people trapped under rubble and lifeless bodies on the street.

This could be another black scenario for Gaza and Palestinian people, and just to remind ourselves of the atrocities of 2008 (around 1200-1300 Palestinian deaths and 13 Israeli deaths/4 from friendly fire/), I am now posting the photos by Magnum’s Paolo Pellegrin, from his Gaza photo essay.

PAR445138(Twelve-year-old Khamis Abu Arab was playing outside when he found an undetonated shell. He brought it home, where it exploded in his face. A series of operations in an Israeli hospital removed shrapnel from his eyes but couldn’t restore his sight. Gaza, Palestine 2011. © Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos)

PAR445147(Mohammad Al Ejla, 18, is seen in Gaza, Palestine 2012. Mohammad was just arriving to a shop to buy candles for his mother when a rocket exploded. Ten people were killed and many injured. Mohammad spent three days in Shifa hospital, and then he was transferred to a hospital in Egypt. He was in coma for a month. He lost his right arm, his left leg and suffered several shrapnel wounds. He still has some shrapnel in his face and his head. Mohammad was an apprentice at his uncle’s mechanic shop, but now he spends his days at home. He would need to be operated on again, to remove the last shrapnel pieces and also to be fitted with an artificial limb. © Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos)

PAR457232(Jamila al Habash, 18 years old, is seen in Gaza, Palestine, 2012. Jamila 15 years, On January 4, 2009 was with her sister Shada, who was 10 yrs old, and three cousins. They were playing and feeding the pigeons on the roof. It was a quiet day, but suddenly a bomb hit the roof. Jamila lost both her legs above the knees. Her cousin Mohamed lost his foot. Her sister and her cousin Israa, who was 12 yrs old, were killed instantly. She was treated at Shifa Hospital in Gaza city and after 1 week she was moved to Saudi Arabia, where she stayed for 6 month. She was also operated in France, where they removed the shrapnels from her thighs. Jamila told us that her life will continue and she will study journalism at university, to become a journalist and expose the occupation crimes. © Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos)

PAR457243(Khalil Al Jadili, 19 yrs old, is seen in Gaza, Palestine, in 2012.On January 16th, 2009, at around 4:00 p.m., all the family members were in the living room, when a shell hit the house and Khalil lost both his legs. His younger brother Abdel Hadi – then 14 – lost one eye and suffered many injuries in his face and chest. Their 8 yrs old brother, Mohanad, was injured seriously and died at the hospital. After the attack, Khalil lost consciousness and the 2nd day he was moved to Egypt, where he stayed for 2 months. Then he was treated in Slovenia for 3 weeks, to fix his artificial limbs. The Israelis tactic is to shell where they want to pass and Khalil and his family say this is the reason why their house was hit. Khalil now is practicing disable swimming sport and got medals in competitions. He is studying at the university now. © Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos)

PAR457245(Emad Owda, 30 yrs old, is seen in Gaza, Palestine in 2012.It was late at night on January 14th, 2009 when Emad decided to flee the area, as his family already had, due to a massive shelling. He was with a friend when he was hit by a drone. His friend died immediately while he was left bleeding for 40 minutes with severe wounds. Then an ambulance arrived and took him to the hospital where he stayed for 3 days, before being transferred to Egypt. He lost a leg, while the other one is severely damaged. He also lost his right eye. He is a father of 3 children. He said that after the war he went to the PCHR center in the north of Gaza, in the Jabalia camp, to describe what happened to him. © Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos)

PAR457267(Nawal Asfour, 54 years old, the mother of Ahmed Asfour, is seen in Gaza, Palestine in 2012. Nawal was cooking Ahmed’s favorite dish and was waiting for him, who was coming back for Friday’s lunch, when she heard the explosions and she cried saying that Ahmed was injured. She is a housekeeper and a mother of 3 sons and 4 daughters. His son Ahmed Samir Asfour, 23 yrs old, was hit twice by drones while he was coming back after the noon prayer with his three cousins, in front of their house, on January 9th, 2009. After one day in hospital, he was transferred to Egypt for 10 months where he underwent 10 operations. He lost two fingers, his pancreas and has many shrapnel wounds all over his body. His family tried to move him to St. Joseph Hospital in Jerusalem in coordination with the IDF, but when they arrived at the Erez checkpoint, Ahmed was assumed to have connections with the Goldstone report, so he was taken to jail. He stayed there for 30 months, while they moved him from Ashkelon to the military hospital in Be’er Sheva. The family received the first call from Ahmed after 15 months. On April 2012, he was released and returned to Gaza. Because he lost his pancreas, he has to receive four injections of insulin every day. Ahmed now is studying Journalism at university. © Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos)

PAR457268(Najah Dader, 45 yrs old, is seen in Gaza city, Gaza, Palestine, 2012. During an intense shelling in the area where Najah lives with her family, on January 8th 2009, they decided to leave. Najah took 2 of her sons with her and left the house. After a while she decided to come back, because she thought that she had left a child behind, but when she came back home she didn’t find anyone there. So she went out again and she was hit while she was on the street. Najah suffered facial injuries as the laceration of the lower lip and she has had many plastic surgeries to connect the deformities. In the Shifa hospital they also had to cut her right hand. Then she was transferred to a hospital in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, where she stayed for 3 month and underwent 7 operations. She had 3 more operations in Gaza, when she came back. The family tried to take her to Egypt for more operations she would need to have, but they couldn’t, because of the lack of resources. She was a seamstress, but now she is disabled and can’t work anymore, so the family income has completely dropped. © Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos)

PAR457270(Majid Al Salibi, 6 yrs old, is seen in Khan Younis, Gaza, Palestine in 2012. The entire family was having lunch after Friday prayer on January 2nd 2009, when Israeli shells started hitting nearby. Majid, who was 3 yrs old, had already finished eating and was on the front door when he was wounded by an explosion. A piece of shrapnel cut through his right hand and wounded his left one. His father Hussein held him and walked 1 km to the Nasser hospital, where a team of French surgeons treated him. © Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos)

To conclude this post, here is an excerpt from the Letter from Gaza (1956) by Ghassan Kanafani.

In the middle of the year, that year, the Jews bombarded the central district of Sabha and attacked Gaza, our Gaza, with bombs and flame-throwers. That event might have made some change in my routine, but there was nothing for me to take much notice of; I was going to leave. this Gaza behind me and go to California where I would live for myself, my own self which had suffered so long. I hated Gaza and its inhabitants. Everything in the amputated town reminded me of failed pictures painted in grey by a sick man. Yes, I would send my mother and my brother’s widow and her children a meagre sum to help them to live, but I would liberate myself from this last tie too, there in green California, far from the reek of defeat which for seven years had filled my nostrils. The sympathy which bound me to my brother’s children, their mother and mine would never be enough to justify my tragedy in taking this perpendicular dive. It mustn’t drag me any further down than it already had. I must flee!

You know these feelings, Mustafa, because you’ve really experienced them. What is this ill-defined tie we had with Gaza which blunted our enthusiasm for flight? Why didn’t we analyse the matter in such away as to give it a clear meaning? Why didn’t we leave this defeat with its wounds behind us and move on to a brighter future which would give us deeper consolation? Why? We didn’t exactly know.

When I went on holiday in June and assembled all my possessions, longing for the sweet departure, the start towards those little things which give life a nice, bright meaning, I found Gaza just as I had known it, closed like the introverted lining of a rusted snail-shell thrown up by the waves on the sticky, sandy shore by the slaughter-house. This Gaza was more cramped than the mind of a sleeper in the throes of a fearful nightmare, with its narrow streets which had their bulging balconies…this Gaza! But what are the obscure causes that draw a man to his family, his house, his memories, as a spring draws a small flock of mountain goats? I don’t know. All I know is that I went to my mother in our house that morning. When I arrived my late brother’s wife met me there and asked me,weeping, if I would do as her wounded daughter, Nadia, in Gaza hospital wished and visit her that evening. Do you know Nadia, my brother’s beautiful thirteen-year-old daughter?

That evening I bought a pound of apples and set out for the hospital to visit Nadia. I knew that there was something about it that my mother and my sister-in-law were hiding from me, something which their tongues could not utter, something strange which I could not put my finger on. I loved Nadia from habit, the same habit that made me love all that generation which had been so brought up on defeat and displacement that it had come to think that a happy life was a kind of social deviation.

What happened at that moment? I don’t know. I entered the white room very calm. Ill children have something of saintliness, and how much more so if the child is ill as result of cruel, painful wounds. Nadia was lying on her bed, her back propped up on a big pillow over which her hair was spread like a thick pelt. There was profound silence in her wide eyes and a tear always shining in the depths of her black pupils. Her face was calm and still but eloquent as the face of a tortured prophet might be. Nadia was still a child, but she seemed more than a child, much more, and older than a child, much older.

“Nadia!”

I’ve no idea whether I was the one who said it, or whether it was someone else behind me. But she raised her eyes to me and I felt them dissolve me like a piece of sugar that had fallen into a hot cup of tea. ‘

Together with her slight smile I heard her voice. “Uncle! Have you just come from Kuwait?”

Her voice broke in her throat, and she raised herself with the help of her hands and stretched out her neck towards me. I patted her back and sat down near her.

“Nadia! I’ve brought you presents from Kuwait, lots of presents. I’ll wait till you can leave your bed, completely well and healed, and you’ll come to my house and I’ll give them to you. I’ve bought you the red trousers you wrote and asked me for. Yes, I’ve bought them.”

It was a lie, born of the tense situation, but as I uttered it I felt that I was speaking the truth for the first time. Nadia trembled as though she had an electric shock and lowered her head in a terrible silence. I felt her tears wetting the back of my hand.

“Say something, Nadia! Don’t you want the red trousers?” She lifted her gaze to me and made as if to speak, but then she stopped, gritted her teeth and I heard her voice again, coming from faraway.

“Uncle!”

She stretched out her hand, lifted the white coverlet with her fingers and pointed to her leg, amputated from the top of the thigh.

My friend … Never shall I forget Nadia’s leg, amputated from the top of the thigh. No! Nor shall I forget the grief which had moulded her face and merged into its traits for ever. I went out of the hospital in Gaza that day, my hand clutched in silent derision on the two pounds I had brought with me to give Nadia. The blazing sun filled the streets with the colour of blood. And Gaza was brand new, Mustafa! You and I never saw it like this. The stone piled up at the beginning of the Shajiya quarter where we lived had a meaning, and they seemed to have been put there for no other reason but to explain it. This Gaza in which we had lived and with whose good people we had spent seven years of defeat was something new. It seemed to me just a beginning. I don’t know why I thought it was just a beginning. I imagined that the main street that I walked along on the way back home was only the beginning of a long, long road leading to Safad. Everything in this Gaza throbbed with sadness which was not confined to weeping. It was a challenge: more than that it was something like reclamation of the amputated leg!

I went out into the streets of Gaza, streets filled with blinding sunlight. They told me that Nadia had lost her leg when she threw herself on top of her little brothers and sisters to protect them from the bombs and flames that had fastened their claws into the house. Nadia could have saved herself, she could have run away, rescued her leg. But she didn’t.

Why?

No, my friend, I won’t come to Sacramento, and I’ve no regrets. No, and nor will I finish what we began together in childhood. This obscure feeling that you had as you left Gaza, this small feeling must grow into a giant deep within you. It must expand, you must seek it in order to find yourself, here among the ugly debris of defeat.

I won’t come to you. But you, return to us! Come back, to learn from Nadia’s leg, amputated from the top of the thigh, what life is and what existence is worth.

Come back, my friend! We are all waiting for you.

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