We could be next

Nour Khalil AbuShammala

The Electronic Intifada  /  May 19, 2021

I have spent yet another night under Israeli attack in Gaza City. It was terrifying.

The damage to our home has so far been minor. But the noise of explosions and the trembling they cause can unnerve even the strongest among us.

My family, like hundreds of thousands of others, was forced from its home during the Nakba, the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine. We are now penned into tiny Gaza with nowhere else to go.

It is difficult to fully convey the horror of what we are facing. All of us fear being the next target.

We see the images of neighbors, including children and infants, being pulled from the rubble. Some are dead, others alive.

We are well aware that we could be next.

Lives are precious

Many international journalists are reporting from Israel and not from here in Gaza. And those journalists who are inside Gaza have often come under attack.

Israel has blown up media offices in Gaza. That can be seen as a deliberate effort to prevent grim images of Israel’s attack from being circulated around the world.

I have stopped thinking about my own life.

My only wish is to die with my whole body intact. I would hate to be torn apart by the American weapons that Israel is firing on us.

A few nights ago, Israel subjected us to a series of air strikes inside five minutes. Those five minutes felt like five years of terror.

Our lives are precious and we deserve to be treated as human beings. We are not numbers.

Yet that is how we are presented by much of the international media. Ten killed here, dozens there.

Americans will never understand our situation as long as the “analysis” presented in their newspapers and on their TV screens remains so shallow. There is seldom any mention of underlying issues.

We feel scared and unsafe.

We are worried that we may lose people we love or that our homes will be destroyed – along with all the memories stored inside them.

My forebears lost their homes. The emotions that go with loss – and the fear of loss – are intense.

The treatment of Palestinians meets the UN definition of genocide, not to mention apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

Our fears and our experiences are unlikely to be properly documented whether we live or die.

Joe Biden, the US president, does not feel our fear or know our dispossession. The European Union only issues empty statements – repeatedly.

Wrong to be Palestinian?

I am studying law. I remember learning about international humanitarian law and its relevance for Palestinians.

Our teacher talked about all the conventions and treaties that theoretically uphold our rights. Then I asked: Why are Palestinians facing all these injustices if these laws are there to protect us?

I still ask myself that question.

Is it wrong to be a Palestinian?

People everywhere want their rights to be respected. The rights to live on their own land, to live in safety, to travel freely and to pass the day without the fear of being killed.

The Israeli occupation “justifies” its barbaric actions against Gaza by claiming it is only targeting Hamas. Much of the western world applauds and the leaders of too many Arab and Muslim states stay silent.

Biden and much of the US Congress contend that Israel is merely defending itself. No one is talking about our right to defend ourselves against a state led by war criminals.

Israel is a state which has operated a system of apartheid for many decades.

Israel has been committing crimes against Palestinians since its formation. Even before the state of Israel was established, Zionist militias subjected Palestinians to ethnic cleansing.

International humanitarian law is supposed to protect the oppressed and dispossessed. But the governments of the world are more inclined to support the occupier and dispossessor.

No one is coming to our rescue or to uphold our rights. We are here alone and suffering, left to fend for ourselves with numerous powerful countries going as far as to oppose our very right to defend ourselves against the grotesque military power of Israel.

World leaders are perfectly content to look the other way as we are bombed.

Who will defend our rights at the United Nations and in the International Criminal Court?

Nour Khalil AbuShammala is a law student in Gaza