So a journalist sends me a few questions for an article she is writing, those are the questions and my quickanswers.
1. In your opinion, is Gaza “occupied”by Israel?
2. What do you want Americans to know about the situation in Palestine?
3. What do you want Americans to know about the Arab or Muslim world?
4. Any additional comments
1) One must understand the definition of the word ‘occupation’ and then compare it with the facts on the ground in order to judge whether Gaza is indeed occupied by Israel or not. According to my dictionary, occupation means ‘Invasion, conquest, and control of a nation or territory by foreign armed forces’. Another definition is ‘The military government exercising control over an occupied nation or territory.’ Now let us act blind and try to find out whether this is the case in Gaza or not.
As a Palestinian living in Gaza, I am subject to random Israeli air strikes every now and then. Case in point would be the day previous to yesterday where the Israeli jets pounded my area with their missiles, using apaches, F16s, and helicopters. In the past couple of days, around 7 people were reported injured, two of whom are children. That is for armed forces. Then we move to our basic human right of movement. As a Palestinian from Gaza, I am destined to strive for at the very least three or four months to plan on leaving the strip for whatever purpose; be it educational, medical, vocational, or even for a holiday. I am destined to work 40 times harder to get the needed documents months in advance, and even then, the likely possibility is for me to be rejected and not allowed to leave the strip. Hundreds of people are rejected everyday at the Rafah crossing, due to the Israeli siege. It is noteworthy that also an engineer in Gaza is assigned the Gaza International Airport project, but Israel would not allow us to rebuild it. Other than movement would be trade. It is incredibly dangerous for any trader to engage in trade, noting that trade in Gaza means only imports as we are not allowed to export. What is allowed to pass through Israel is peanuts compared to the needs of 1.5 million locked up in this 360km2 of land. If it weren’t for the tunnel industry, as dangerous as it is, Gaza would be starving by now. Add to this the regular power cuts we face every single day. Every 8 hours, the power goes out and our only resort would be power generators. This is resulting from not allowing enough fuel to get into Gaza, of course by Israel. Not to mention also the restraints on sent and received mail; never mind the fact that it takes months to reach its destination, whether coming in or going out, but what you are allowed to ship is what matters (only papers and documents are allowed to be shipped in or out, nothing else). These are but few examples of the ‘control of a nation or territory by foreign armed forces’ mentioned in the definition of occupation, and the list goes on for whoever is living in Gaza or interested to know the facts. In the end, what does blockade and siege fall under if it weren’t ‘occupation’?
2) I want Americans to know that their tax dollars are contributing to one of the biggest injustices of modern history, resulting in a massive disproportionate use of power against a civilian population. I want Americans to try to understand what it is like to be under occupation, and to try to feel the anger jammed up inside every Palestinian for seeing their family suffer endlessly when there is very little that they can do about it. I also want Americans to know that violence is never an inherent part of the culture, and if it were them facing 63 years of pain, agony, oppression, displacement, humiliation, and massacres, they would do far more than homemade rockets. While Israel is supplied with the most destructive weapons of all time, on a constant basis, we are being locked up and forced to live a miserable life under a tight, inhumane blockade. We are dying in the hundreds, but the world is not paying attention. I want them to see the injustice in how a Palestinian life is nothing compared to a scratch an Israeli person might get. I want them also to notice the countless non-violent resistance approaches by the Palestinian people from years and years ago and continuing until this day, yet the response is always violence, murder, and oppression from the Israeli internationally-back armed forces; case in point would be the continuous Nabi Saleh peaceful protests that are always dispersed violently by the Israeli army. I want Americans to know that the Palestinians are paying for what Hitler did, and that we were never part of any victimization of the Jewish people. They came to this land, massacred my people and displaced them to settle there and build their country. I want them to know that my mother is a refugee and her family was thrown out of their home during the Nakba of 1948 (formation of Israel) to have an Israeli family live there instead. I also want Americans to know that Jews and Arabs in Palestine used to coexist peacefully, and it wasn’t until the Jewish immigrants (later called “Israelis”) who were supported by the British started to displace Palestinians from their livelihoods on farms owned by absentee landlords and then the creation of the state of Israel which puts the Jewish people (that are born to a Jewish mother) first, and any other citizen would be a second-class citizen with less rights, that the conflict started. I want them to open their eyes to apartheid in this part of the world, and if not act against it and against the discrimination and injustice it entails, then at least not to contribute to it.
3) I want Americans to think outside the box and open their eyes to the protests that are taking place across the Arab world in order to see that we all love democracy, love freedom, and love justice (contrary to what the media usually portrays). I want them to think of how such dictators as Mubarak, for instance, were supported by the American government for years, which shows the complicity of that government that advocates ‘democracy’. And I also ask them to not be too stupid to accuse Muslims in general of being terrorists, because terrorism knows no religion. This can be seen in the latest bombings in Norway that left over 90 innocent people killed, and how it was instantly claimed to be Islamic terrorists until the truth came out. Open your minds and hearts, stop contributing to the injustice and violence against innocent Arabs and Muslims and creating more enemies while you are at it, merely for domination and imperialistic purposes. Muslims respect and love all religions, and perhaps the most important verse in the Quran would be “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion” (2:256). My friends who were killed during Israel’s assault were named Musa (Moses) and Eesa (Jesus). In fact, we learn about Moses and Jesus in school as our prophets too, and we respect them that we name some of our children after them. Let us see each other as equal human beings and respect each other, and there shall be peace.
4) I want to shed light on Israel’s reaction to the PA appeal of UN recognition of a Palestinian state. Although this ‘state’ would mean giving up almost 80% of the land, Israel is rejecting it and is threatening us not to go on with it. I do not support this UN recognition anyway, but it just goes to show that no matter what we do, Israel will find a way to say no, and then they say it is us who do not want peace. We, as Palestinians, have tried everything in our pockets. What else are we supposed to do? What does Israel suggest?
I also blame the decent Jews for not rising up against Zionists, just as they blamed the decent Germans for not rising up against the Nazis. On the other hand, my love & respect goes to the decent and brave Jews who are opposing the crimes of Israel, most recent of those is Lucas, the American Jew who spoke about Palestine inside Israel and got beaten and arrested for it. And also the Jewish activists who come to Palestine, including Gaza, to show their solidarity. Our problem is not with Jews as many seem to believe, it is with the apartheid regime that puts people born to a Jewish mother as the standard, and everybody else is second-class. It is with those who claim that the Palestinian people never existed and those who see us as ‘cockroaches’ and not worthy of living. I don’t see them attacking Peter Griffin, from Family Guy, for saying Jew is the only religion with the word ‘ew’ in it! I mean I never heard a Palestinian say it, as funny as it is! Finally, I love Chuck Norris and I think if he were here, he would stand with the Palestinians in their struggle for justice, peace, and freedom!