Picture by Motaz Azaiza ©@motaz_azaiza 2023
As I sit down to write, the weight of an enduring conflict bears down on my heart. Gaza, a place synonymous with suffering and conflict, is once again in the global spotlight since October 7th. My thoughts weigh heavily, and my heart aches as I contemplate the Palestinian people who are not merely fighting for their lives but enduring the horrors of survival. As a member of the Arab community, I recognize our collective failure in standing up for them and amplifying their voices. Not even one Arabic country has been able to get a bottle of water in the Gaza Strip. Western news channels have always shown a one-sided story with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although I know this blog may not make a difference in the terrible situation Palestinians face, I'm writing it. Even if only one person reads it, it’s worth it. This blog is dedicated to my Palestinian brothers and sisters, and to anyone who is willing to read it.
Free Palestine signifies a profound yearning for freedom, justice, safety, and the ending of the occupation, paving the way for a life marked by equal human rights
For 3 weeks now, I wake up with anxiety gripping my heart. My dear friend Ahmad has a niece and nephew currently trapped in Gaza. Karim, a 28-year-old engineer, is hiding in the northern region of Gaza. He's forced to consume polluted water and breathe the air filled with the scent of death, all the while living in constant fear for his life and the safety of his family. Some days, Ahmad loses contact with them, uncertain whether it's due to a battery shortage or worse. And this represents just a single narrative, regrettably, one among countless others. My heart breaks over and over again with every video I see. Dead children covered in rubble, a father holding a plastic bag with what’s left of his son's body parts, human organs scattered on the streets. It’s the scene of a real-life horror movie. Hospitals, churches, mosques, ambulances, and the homes where generations grew, were all bombed to oblivion by the Israeli Defence Force. It’s been Bloody Sunday times 10 for 3 weeks straight, with no ceasefire on the table. The Israeli government has cut Gaza off from the world, leaving them all on their own. These days, I find myself in tears, helpless in the face of a conflict of innocent civilians who have been deliberately unheard and unseen for 75 years.
Three weeks ago, I joined over 15,000 people at a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Amsterdam. It was a powerful display of solidarity with the people of Gaza. Yet, beneath the surface of our collective voice, I couldn't help but feel a lingering sadness. Despite attending numerous pro-Palestinian events throughout my life, very little has changed. Attending Pro-Palestinian demonstrations for the past 3 weeks now feels more like attending a mass funeral, where hope has been replaced by a pervasive sense of hopelessness. People in the Westbank dream of ever swimming in the sea, as they don’t even have the right to travel within their own country. The children of Gaza dream of eating sugar, or seeing their dead brother again cause they miss playing together. It saddens me that the Palestinians aren’t allowed to have bigger dreams, yet they have the strongest spirits I’ve ever encountered. I wish for them to have lives where safety, freedom and equal human rights are given. To live lives in which they can have first-world problems, just like us. But instead, the people of Gaza are currently in the ultimate survival mode, not knowing if they’ll live to see another day, not knowing who they will bury tomorrow. At the moment there are no more body bags available and people are ‘burying’ their murdered loved ones in mass graves. Does this ring a bell and remind us of a horrible event in history we never hoped would repeat itself? Humanity has completely failed.
This ongoing conflict recalls the Russian assaults on Ukraine just last year. The global response was monumental. The world united in support of Ukraine, transcending racial and religious boundaries. The Ukrainian flag became a symbol of solidarity. People stood up and fought for humanity. It makes me wonder how many delved into the intricacies of the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, which is also quite complex. Fact of the matter is that those details were not that important. What truly mattered was evident: innocent lives were in danger, and this realization galvanized the world to act with compassion, empathy, and profound humanity. The EU imposed individual and economic sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. However, I can't help but wonder why the same level of empathy, solidarity and protection isn't extended to my Palestinian brothers and sisters. Are Arabs seen as unrelatable to the West? Don’t we shed the same blood as we die?
Have you condemned Hamas yet?
The number 1 question asked on the news channels. All life is sacred. And yes, I think that it’s safe to say that everyone agrees that all sorts of violence in this disaster should be condemned. But let’s acknowledge right now that this question does not work anymore. It’s not possible to now focus on 1 horrible event of a conflict that has been ongoing for the last 75 years. Add to that, that 1 country with military superiority is in charge, and the other country has been under its occupation, I repeat: for 75 years. If you want to ask this question, we will have to address the whole history of the conflict. It’s like being punched in the face by someone and asking the victim to not respond. Asking this question at this point is using one single event to dehumanize innocent civilians and justify the ongoing massacre in the Gaza Strip. People are quick to label Hamas as a terrorist organisation, but call the genocide happening in Gaza Israel's right to self defence, cause they are so called 'looking' for Hamas and the Israeli hostages. During Piers Morgan's interview with Cenk Uygur, Cenk raised a significant question: Why would Israel bomb Gaza, risking the lives of its own hostages, if it believed that Hamas and the Israeli hostages were in the same location? So far, 8000 Palestinians have faced a horrific death, and Hamas and the hostages still haven't been found.
Consider this scenario: A mass shooter invades a school, taking children hostage. Would we ever condone our government bombing the school to eliminate the shooter, even if it meant sacrificing those same children as collateral damage? Labeling them as human shields would be universally unacceptable. The situation in Gaza is no different, and attempting to justify murdering innocent civilians in this manner is absurd. Pro-Palestinian people share footage of crimes enacted by the Israeli government all year round, for 75 years now. Palestinians have participated in peaceful demonstrations, have appealed to the UN, and governments, and cried for help, but the world only pays attention when Israel gets attacked.
The other day, I was talking to a friend, and we remembered how we used to wish for a Free Palestine. We dreamed of a place where people could live without injustice, enjoying freedom and safety, and shaping their lives on their own terms. However, as we discussed the current situation, we realized that the goal has shifted. My friend said: my wish is no longer "Free Palestine" but rather "Save Palestine." Safety and freedom, two core human rights, are now caught in a difficult trade-off. Gaza deserves protection. Palestinians deserve protection. Its people deserve the same human rights as anyone else. Safety is a universal right, and we cannot be indifferent. And only when we are safe, we can then maybe one day, carefully wish for a future in which freedom has a place.
When we choose silence in the face of injustice, we inadvertently lend our voice to the oppressors. Do not be neutral; stand up for humanity. Demand a ceasefire now, write to your government, show up at demonstrations, don't stop talking about Palestine. Are we willing to stand for a humanity that knows no borders?