World / October 14, 2023

Gaza Is Being Killed. We Desperately Need Your Help.

The situation gets darker and bleaker by the hour. We need all people of conscience around the world to raise their voices in solidarity with us.

Ahmed Abu Artema
A woman inspects the damage to her home after Israeli strikes on the Rafah camp in the southern Gaza Strip on October 14, 2023.

A woman inspects the damage to her home after Israeli strikes on the Rafah camp in the southern Gaza Strip on October 14, 2023.

(Mohammed Abed / AFP via Getty Images)

The last week here in Gaza has been a blur of cascading violence. The ringing in my ears continues even during the brief lulls when bombs stop dropping. The stench of death is on the streets, and the nights are endless, with no electricity and intensifying bombardments.

The situation that I and the other nearly 2.4 million Palestinians in Gaza find ourselves in is extremely dire, and deteriorating by the hour. Israel cut off water, food supplies, and electricity, and told more than half of the population to flee their homes in the north. It then began bombing cars and trucks on the roads people were using to flee. A major land invasion could come at any moment. As of this writing, Israel has killed nearly 2,300 Palestinians since Saturday, including at least 580 children and 351 women. But we have nowhere to run or hide in the open-air prison that Israel has put us in.

From the midst of this horror, one image continues to come to my mind: a part of Gaza’s apartheid wall being torn down and hundreds of Palestinians streaming out of the enclave in which some of us have been imprisoned for literally all of our lives.

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The fence is a symbol of 56 years of brutal Israeli military occupation and of a crippling siege and naval blockade that has strangled us for 16 years. When I first saw the videos of the wall being breached last Saturday, I thought I must be dreaming. I’ve fantasized for years about breaking free of the cage that Israel has put us in and, once on the other side, going to my native village of Ramle, from which my grandparents were violently forced out in 1948 during Israel’s establishment and made refugees in the southern Gaza Strip. In fact, those fantasies of returning to my homeland are what fueled my participation in organizing the Great March of Return in 2018.

When asked by journalists if I justify Hamas’s killing of civilians once they breached the wall, my reaction is twofold. First, no, I don’t justify killing civilians and noncombatants. But then I wonder why, if I am asked to account for the violence perpetrated by Hamas, Israelis are not routinely asked to account for how their military responded to the Great March of Return.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza marched along the perimeter of the wall, demonstrating peacefully for our freedom and our right to return to our native villages. And yet, despite the fact that this was the largest unarmed mass popular movement that we had seen in Palestine in my generation, Israel’s snipers killed over 200 of us, including 46 children, gravely wounding many thousands more. One Israeli soldier bragged to the media about how many people he had shot in the knee.

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Israel sent us a very clear message when it responded to our peaceful protest with such bloodshed: It doesn’t matter if you attempt to achieve your demands nonviolently. We will kill you and deny you your rights regardless. Despair among Gaza’s youth, already rampant, deepened. What’s more, Israel paid no international price for commiting this violence against innocent civilians. We learned yet again just how little value the world placed on our lives.

I have one other answer for the questions journalists have been asking me: If you want to understand a book, you can’t start with the last chapter. What is taking place now in Gaza did not begin on October 7; the roots of this crisis can be found in 1948, with the Nakba (Catastrophe), when 15,000 Palestinians were massacred during the establishment of Israel, and 750,000 others— approximately three-quarters of all Palestinians—were removed in the ethnic cleansing that established Israel by the destruction of Palestine. In fact, approximately 80 percent of Gaza’s residents are refugees, the majority of them stemming from the expulsions that took place during the Nakba. The crisis deepened in 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, and the Syrian Golan Heights, establishing a racist system of apartheid that continues to today, as has been recognized by every major human rights organization.

Our plight in Gaza has grown only more dire and desperate in the ensuing decades of military rule and siege, with Israel controlling movement of goods in and out of Gaza. Gaza is one of the most densely populated strips of land in the world, and more than half the population is children. We are trapped, with no freedom of movement inside 140 square miles, living in conditions of grinding poverty, joblessness, and misery intentionally created and enforced by Israel. The United Nations has repeatedly warned that Gaza is on the verge of being uninhabitable; a situation made more extreme by the fact that we endure massive bombardments from Israel every few years, killing thousands of civilians and gravely damaging critical infrastructure.

Young people in Gaza are so hopeless about their future that some of them have tried to escape across the Mediterranean via dangerous boats that had little chance of making the journey to Europe safely.

People in Gaza have been dying a slow death for years. Gaza itself is now dying. Or more accurately, it is being killed.

Israel is determined to “eliminate everything” in Gaza, as Defense Minister Yoav Galant has said. The bombing is killing innocent civilians, including entire families. In recent days, Gallant has ordered the siege to be tightened even further, saying, “We are fighting human animals and we act accordingly.” His words chilled me to the bone. As scholars of history know, genocide begins with this kind of extreme, dehumanizing language. But again, you have to start at the beginning of the book. Israel has been treating us like “human animals” and denying our humanity and our existence since 1948.

The situation gets darker and bleaker by the hour. I may not be able to send any more updates; with a massive ground invasion imminent, our connection to the outside world may be completely severed.

We need all people of conscience around the world to understand the relentless oppression that created this horrific reality. It is the only way to achieve true safety and peace for all. And then, raise your voices in solidarity with us. Help us tear down the wall, end our imprisonment, and fulfill our dreams of liberation.

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Ahmed Abu Artema

Ahmed Abu Artema is a Gaza-based writer and was one of the organizers of the Great March of Return.

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