Razan Al Najjar

Countless times have I tried to pen down my feelings for Palestinians and describe their plight using the limited list of words known to me, but English language has a very limited number of synonyms and expressions to describe affliction, feebleness, and despair.

The first time my conscious was made aware of their struggle was on the demise of Yasser Arafat back in 2004. It has been 14 years now and not a year has passed without decimation of Palestinians. When the only interest of the world with these humans is to treat them as numbers in terms of injured and killed and when the whole big planet has failed to acknowledge Nakba as forceful expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and, thus, an indelible example of tyranny and injustice in history of mankind, what else can be expected?

Bezons, a municipality near Paris, has recently named a street after ‘Nakba’ which, as reported in The Times of Israel, has been declared as “false declaration, shockingly irresponsible and dangerous” by the president of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities. The question is that what history has this naming of a street distorted? The reality is and will remain to be that the term commemorates the exodus of 760,000 Palestinians as a result of the 1948 war.

It has been a decade since the imposition of Israeli blockade on Gaza that has cost thousands of Palestinians their lives. Among the latest victims is Razan Najjar, a 21-year-old volunteer paramedic who was fatally shot in the chest by Israeli troops with her arms raised to show she was unarmed while trying to aid the injured Palestinians near Israel’s border fence with Gaza. Two other colleagues of hers were also shot in the legs while they were standing away from the protestors preparing for the next round of helping injured civilians. They were shot despite wearing white vests with clear indicators showing they were medical personnel.

Gaza’s unceasing isolation has wrecked its economy, exhausted its resources, reduced its population to destitution and left the area without sufficient electricity

The Israeli army spokesperson verified through a tweet: “Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.” Even if they are unaware of each and every bullet’s final destination let us remind them that these bullets landed in bodies of 126 Palestinian adult civilians, two first aid providers, three journalists, and many children. Those who were suffocated to death from toxic gas inhalation in Gaza protest crackdown, including an 8-month-old baby girl identified as Laila Anwar Ghandour, are registered in separate figures.

“When we got back home, the baby stopped crying and I thought she was asleep,” her grandmother Heyam Omar sobbed. “I took her to the children’s hospital and the doctor told me she was martyred.” When it was time to take her to her small grave, Laila’s mother refused to hand over her lifeless body. “Let her stay with me, it is too early for her to go.”

The degree of helplessness shown by these victims is an apt portrayal of most of the casualties…  and the real situation – risen hands, display of being unarmed, markers of being innocuous, innocent faces, petrified eyes, sealed lips, but hearts seeking a ray of hope. The hope of seeing an end to this decades-long conflict. The hope of seeing a new beginning. The hope of living at least one day breathing in air filled with freedom.

But the sight to discern hope from wishful thinking seems to blur with the amount of lies Israeli officials spread following such events to justify and conceal the heinous crimes they commit.

In Razan’s case, a well-trained Israeli sniper’s shot was claimed to be unintentional, she was falsely accused to be associated with Hamas, and her interview to a news channel was misquoted. While she had said “I am a human shield to save those who are injured”, the propagandists chopped the sentence and shifted the entire focus towards “human shield”.

In Laila’s case, Haaretz found it most convenient to shift the entire burden of her death on a pre-existing medical condition and reported that her death had nothing to do with tear gas.

With 120 votes in favour, the United Nations General Assembly has recently condemned Israel for excessive use of force against Palestinians civilians and requested the Secretary General Antonio Guterres to recommend an “international mechanism” for occupied territory. This shows that the world is not dead yet. This proves that all the aforementioned sacrifices along with many more have been finally acknowledged.

“The nature of this resolution clearly demonstrates that politics is driving the day. It is totally one-sided. It makes not one mention of the Hamas terrorists who routinely initiate the violence in Gaza,” Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, told the General Assembly before the vote. But why are the opponents of this resolution not remembering the fact that most of the protesters were undoubtedly unarmed and Israeli indubitably used excessive force against them?

While fatal and wounded casualties are, unfortunately, a definitive barometer to gauge the extent of destruction and degree of calamity, certain indicators remain silent until it is time to explode.

Gaza’s unceasing isolation has wrecked its economy, exhausted its resources, reduced its population to destitution and left the area without sufficient electricity, health and education services.

Living under air, land and sea siege also implies the pressure of earning on breadwinners. With approximately 60 per cent of the population being unemployed, current conditions are not in the favour of providing children with physical and mental health. As reported by Save the Children organisation, 95 per cent of 150 children reported hyperactivity, depression and aggression with over 290,000 children in Gaza awaiting psycho-social support. Just imagine for a brief moment witnessing 11 years of siege and three wars since 2008. Hearing noise of bombings, seeing towns being transformed into huge rubble, weeping for the loved ones who were turned into corpses and not having anywhere to go for distraction and learning is not easy. These children have been burdened with more they can bear.