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

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

I believe the personal is political

Iman Abu Aitah | 24-06-2015

A destroyed house in the Al-Sheikh Radwan area [photo by Eman Mohammed]


Just give us a story, a human story. We’re not interested in politics. We just want to tell people about you and your people, so give us a human story. Don’t mention those words ‘apartheid’ and ‘occupation.’ You see, this is not political. Help me, as a journalist, to tell your story, which is not a political story,” he said to me.

Forgive me, Mr. Journalist, but I don’t think I understand your request.

Forgive me, but I can still see the middle-aged woman embracing her child for the last time under the rubble of their destroyed house. I can still hear the screams of the 16-year-old boy who lost his entire family—and his legs. I still remember the 25-year-old woman who was seven months pregnant, and, had she lived for only two more months, could have tasted the sweet joy of motherhood for the first time. I can hear the cries of the 6-year-old child who witnessed the death of his mommy and daddy, and I remember the brokenness and defeat I saw in his eyes.

I can still see the wounded flooding the corridors of the only two big hospitals in Gaza. I remember, as though it happened yesterday, the 17 children who joyfully put on their best clothes and went out, despite the fear and suffering, to celebrate the holiday by buying cotton candy and playing on the playground, not knowing they would never get to play—or breathe—again. I remember entire families who were removed from government records because no one was left to carry the family name. I can still see the families who sought shelter in UN-operated refugee schools because they were supposedly “protected by international law; no one can touch them there,” yet their safe haven became their graveyard.

Mr. Journalist, these people are all me and I am all of them. I can still feel the fear of not knowing if I will live to see another day. I remember wondering if I will ever have the chance to embrace a loved one again. I remember the empty flower-topped desk next to me where my best friend used to sit before she was added to the list of “collateral damage” when we were 11. I remember everything with a vividness and clarity that I try hard to block; however, I certainly can never forget losing my own parents, two brothers and 4-year-old nephew in an “accidental” Israeli bombing.

These people are not numbers. They are human and I know every single one of them personally because I am all of them.

How can I tell you about the death, the poverty, the destroyed infrastructure, the lack of medication, the strip searches, the humiliation, the human rights violations, and the loss of land and identity, without adding that all of these upheavals are the product of colonial powers? How can I describe an occupied people without describing an occupier?

Mr. Journalist. I do not believe I understand your request, but I do believe that the personal is political.

This article, first published on January 29, 2015, won first place in the Annual Pearce Essay Contest of Columbia College (South Carolina, USA), where Iman attended university.


Posted: January 28, 2015

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