Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Ahmed Alnaouq | 15-03-2018

I am the Gaza correspondent for a blog called "Canada Talks Israel Palestine." In response to my introduction, an Israeli man named Amir wrote the message below, which sparked an intense exchange. My reply to Amir might be helpful if you encounter similar arguments in defense of Israeli policies and behavior. 

Ahmed,

You are 23. I am more than double your age. You never faced wars and killing. I did. Too much. It is indescribable what death means. I write to you as I think that your motto, your starting point, is very bad. You say that your “dream is to advance the cause of Palestinian human rights and to expose the ‘human face’ of the Israeli occupation.” But the Israeli occupation is humane. It is much more humane than your own regime and your people, the Arabs.

Let’s take your place, Gaza. The occupation supplies you with everything you need. Your problem is that your (elected?) regime takes all of it from you, the people, and uses it for military/destructive purposes or uses it for their private uses, selling it on the market and taking the money. If Israel was not supporting you with food, water, energy and power, you would have never survived. Please do your job properly. Before you start writing, learn the matter. You don’t know the facts. what you read/hear in Gaza is not the truth. It is Arab propaganda. Just look at the support/help that Israel gives to Jordan, Egypt and even your people who get medical treatment free of charge in Israeli hospitals. Israel is a humane state. Yours is not. So, instead of pulling us, Israel, down to your low level, you should write, bravely, the truth and pull your people up. You must help them rebuild the ruins your leadership caused. If you do the opposite, blaming Israel for everything, you ruin your chance to get out.

Amir

* * *

Amir,

Thank you for taking the time to comment. I am sorry I am replying late; my mother was diagnosed with cancer this week, and I have not been in the best of spirits. (Your “humane” government limits the treatments available to her.)

It’s true I am “half your age.” However, you are wrong when you say I have not faced “wars and killing.” I assume you held a gun and “defended yourself” while serving in the Israeli military—probably when invading Palestinian lands and homes, as it so often does. (If you are really unaware of, or unwilling to admit, the terror inflicted by the Israeli military during its “operations,” simply read the testimony of your state’s own soldiers.)

As for me, do you not realize that Gaza has suffered through three wars since 2008 alone? Where do you think I was during those assaults, each of which killed and wounded many more Palestinians than Israelis? It isn’t necessary to be a fighter to be threatened by Israeli guns. In the last and largest of the wars on Gaza, which occurred in 2014, 70 Israelis were killed, compared to 2,149 Gazans—most of whom were civilians. Among the Palestinians killed by Israeli forces were my brother, cousin and five of my best friends. You say, “it is indescribable what death means.” You don’t need to try to describe it. I know personally what it means.

However, my exposure to Israeli violence began even before 2008; it dominated my childhood. I grew up during the Second Intifada, in which Israeli tanks roamed around my city, terrorizing and sometimes killing both kids and adults. By the time I was out of my teens, I knew how to distinguish between a surveillance drone, an Apache helicopter and an F16 by their sound alone. We become familiar with Israeli war weapons just as Canadian and Israeli kids learn about smartphones and video games. Trust me, no one has felt the brunt of war more than us.

You go on to assert that the Israeli occupation is “humane,” that it supplies us with “everything you need.” Forgive me for being blunt and probably sounding rude, but this statement also displays rather shocking ignorance. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Here are just a few contrary facts:

  • Gaza hospitals have run out of and cannot obtain 40 percent of the 516 medications considered “essential” by the World Health Organization. (By the way, you also are wrong when you say Israel helps my people get medical treatment, free of charge, in Israeli hospitals. According to the World Health Organization, Israeli authorities approved only 54 percent requests for permits to leave Gaza for medical care in 2017. Fifty-four Gazan Palestinians, 46 of whom had cancer, died that year, following denial or delay of their permits.)
  • An estimated 4,500 homes destroyed or damaged in the 2014 war on Gaza still have not been rebuilt or repaired—in large part because the import of basic materials, like cement, is so restricted. For example, the amount of cement brought into Gaza between October 2014 and the end of December 2017 was less than 2 million tons, only 30 percent of Gaza’s needs.
     
  • The Israeli government severely limits, or prevents altogether, the entry of materials needed to repair and operate purification and sanitation equipment—leaving 96 percent of our water undrinkable.

All of these points address emergency needs. It is considered a frivolous luxury to hope to leave Gaza to see a little of the world if you don’t have a life-threatening illness or a full academic scholarship. Why are we not allowed to simply be a tourist, like everyone else in the world? Imagine, for a minute, that you live in small space as densely crowded as the Gaza Strip (2 million people crammed into 365 square kilometers, or 141 square miles), but were never allowed to leave? You invited Peter [the founder of the blog] to your country so you could show him Israel. Since you are so “humane,” why not invite me too? I would gladly accept the invitation; I have never been able to visit Jerusalem, my religion’s holiest city, and I have dreamt of doing so every night for six months.

You attack Gaza’s “regime,” saying it is inhumane and corrupt and thus the real source of our problems, not Israel. It’s true that, like those of many other governments around the world, Hamas officials leave much to be desired. I certainly won’t deny that. But to blame them for all or even most of our ills is absurd. What government could possibly operate effectively or efficiently when it has no control over imports, exports or travel in and out?

And don’t get me started on the subject of the “purity” of the Israeli government. A recent Israeli newspaper article opened this way: “With each passing day, the severity of government corruption in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his family and his cronies were allegedly involved ratchets up a notch.” And he’s not alone. Every prime minister in the last 20 years has at some point been under criminal investigation.

You go on to say, "You don’t know the facts. What you read/hear in Gaza is not the truth. It is the Arab propaganda." I am living the truth, not reading about it.

I am the one who lost loved ones, I am the one who dreams of having just eight hours of electricity a day, and I am the one whose wildest dream is to travel outside of Gaza once in my life. I’d turn your statement around and say it appears that you don’t know the facts and are relying only on Israeli propaganda.

Contrary to your accusations, I have never written in hatred, and I never will. Even after my brother was killed, my only wish was for a peaceful life, with full civil and human rights. Then perhaps we could live in harmony.

Sincerely,

Ahmed

 

 

Posted: March 15, 2018

Mentor: Pam Bailey


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