It’s Ramadan in Gaza. This year, it is punctuated by scarcity and fear, rather than feast and celebration. For many families in Gaza, this will be a month of mourning. Twenty-nine Palestinians were killed during last weekend’s fierce Israeli military assault, including two pregnant women and an infant just a few months old. The night before the holy month began, flashes of light penetrated the dark sky as Israel dropped bombs on us yet again.
It all started on Friday when Israel killed four Palestinian demonstrators during the peaceful Great Return March, a grassroots weekly protest movement I helped launch last year in response to Israel’s ongoing denial of our basic human rights, including its illegal, 12-year siege. Israel’s violence against the protesters triggered a response. On Saturday morning, military wings of Palestinian factions retaliated by launching dozens of homemade rockets toward towns bordering the Gaza Strip.
I always advocate nonviolent civil disobedience, but our community suffers under Israel’s violent policies every day. It doesn’t take much analysis to see that some will resist the violence through whatever means they can.
Israel then launched a series of deadly attacks targeting apartment buildings, local businesses, and media offices in a bustling neighborhood called Al-Remal, in the heart of Gaza City. Buildings crumbled into ashes in an instant. A shop owner, hysterical after seeing his only source of income gone, screamed out of desperation: “Where are the missiles hidden in this building? Where are the nuclear weapons they targeted? Show me!”
We all know what the devastated shopkeeper knows: Israel bombs civilian residential and commercial buildings to keep us in submission—to deter us from rising up and resisting the everyday violence waged against us through its ongoing occupation and blockade of our land.
Like all parents in Gaza, I am at a loss for how to comfort and calm my children each time an Israeli bomb drops. With every explosion, my children run to me in terror. I try to placate them by saying, “Those explosions are far away from our home. They’re near the sea and they won’t come near us.” I know I’m hiding the truth from them because no one in Gaza is safe, and Israel has killed many children their same age. But if I can’t stop the violence, the least I can do is alleviate its negative impact on my children.
A cease-fire was announced on Monday, but I don’t know how long it will hold. Netanyahu declared that “the campaign is not over” and added, “We are preparing to continue.” While a cease-fire may provide temporary relief from Israel’s large-scale bombing campaigns, it won’t end the daily suffering our children endure living under Israel’s ongoing military rule.
The reality is that the violence didn’t start a few days ago. When we’re not being bombed by Israel, Israel’s snipers are gunning down peaceful protesters, journalists, and medics. Since the Great Return March started last year, Israeli snipers killed around 270 Palestinians. And when Palestinians aren’t being killed by missiles or bullets, we’re dying a slow and painful death as a result of Israel’s blockade. For 12 years, Israel has limited our access to clean drinking water, food, lifesaving medicine, electricity, and construction supplies to rebuild our homes. Without adequate food, shelter, and water, we cannot survive.
Those of us who are left are tormented psychologically. Israel controls our borders and our ability to move, so we are prisoners on our own land. We are denied the right to travel freely to find work or pursue our education, to visit our families in other towns, or even to seek treatment at a hospital. Our youth unemployment hovers at a staggering 70 percent because Israel bombs our businesses and cuts off our trade. Gaza’s young people are denied even a flicker of hope.
Cease-fire or not, there is no way out of the endless violence until Israel, the occupying power, ends its illegal blockade and siege of Gaza. Israel cannot control our lives and our land forever. Palestinians, like all people in the world, want to live free.