Part 1: I am so tired of having to explain why Palestinians deserve to live
By Dina Elmuti, November 19, 2015
Every day, I desperately attempt to make sense of the senseless. I feverishly try to patch and weave together the pieces of history to understand and grapple with the calamities that have bestowed us today. But reality has satirized itself too many times over. By the time we update the list of murdered Palestinians, the list is outdated. Criminal atrocities and genocidal assaults have become so commonplace and typical of the monstrous, egregious, laughable irony etched deeply in the psyche of a state founded in the aftermath of the Holocaust.
What exists today is an almost Kafkaesque reality in which the humanity of the oppressed is posthumously twisted and put on trial over and over and over again. Year after year, they’re forced to prove that they are human enough. That they’re alive enough. That their blood and flesh are worth enough, like others. Body count, political leverage and an extensive history of settler brutality exemplify one ugly reality. The media exemplifies another. The Palestinian people live under illegal military occupation and Israel holds the preponderance of military, political and cultural power over the occupied Palestinians. Palestinians have no army, no tanks, no bombers, and no naval ships. And yet, it is the occupied Palestinian people who are constantly asked to guarantee the security and ensure the well-being of their occupiers, while the occupiers are continually held accountable for nothing.
Fact becomes fiction and fiction become fact, and the unjustifiable is justified. Acute agony rips through the bodies of old and young alike, tremors terrorize small, defenseless bodies, and the world accepts it all as deplorable but necessary. Because everything Israel does is reactionary and justified under the normalization of Zionist brutality.
As I sit here watching Israeli forces stop to pose for a selfie before unloading bullets into the bodies of Palestinian youth and severing their lives in incomprehensible ways, I feel so angry, so horrified, so humiliated and burning with indignation, so raw that it’s like a fire raging with decimated hopes. I’m desperately trying to figure out how to be alive in a moment when the indifference of the world to the suffering of my people has never been more unapologetic. I don’t live under Israel’s draconian punishment system and illegal occupation, but I find myself wondering how those in Palestine have suppressed a rage so strong it threatens to tear their being to shreds. I’m crying out the ocean lodged in my throat, but I can’t seem to scream loud enough for the anonymous screams that are silenced by the fetters of bloodcurdling atrocities.
And I’m tired.
I’m so tired of having to explain why my people deserve to live. Why the beaten, exhausted victims of Israel’s cruelty and brutality have every right to rise up and fight for their dignity. I’m so tired of having to explain why young boys who look like my younger brother and young women who look my younger sister shouldn’t be hunted down like game and subsequently put on trial for their own murders. For fighting for the fundamental rights so many of us casually take for granted every day. I’m so tired of seeing Palestinian elders, who lived through the 1948 Catastrophe (al-Nakba), have to see Zionism manifest itself in the most horrific ways against the Palestinian youth they have tirelessly fought for. My heart constricts at the reality that they will leave this Earth without seeing true liberation and justice for the Palestinian people come to fruition. I’m so tired of seeing bodies shrouded in white, stored in mercilessly public morgues and placed into the ground. I’m so tired of having to see orphans abandoned and mothers bereft. I’m tired, so very tired of people reduced to nothing more than collateral damage and state-sanctioned carnage – easily interchangeable, easily removable, easily destroyed for daring to resist state-sanctioned terror and every apparatus of a colonial regime.
I’m tired of this heart-wrenching feeling of knowing that every time there’s a Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a Ali Dawabsha, a Fadi Aloun, there will be swarms of bigoted Zionist demagogues ready with a premeditated laundry list of justifications why their existences were not even worthy enough to be mourned and that their murderers deserve for their lives to be protected and continue unscathed. Because incinerating and asphyxiating children and robbing them of life are no crimes to them. There will always be mobs of Zionist zealots and supporters who will exert effort and energy if it guarantees demeaning and destroying the lives of Palestinians.
Part 2: Israel dropped 800 tons of bombs on Gaza, the world didn’t blink an eye
November 19, 2015
Every summer, I spend time in the Palestinian village of Duma, near the city of Nablus. This past summer, I saw a side of Duma that remains etched in permanent horror. On July 31st, Reham, Saad, Ahmed, and Ali Dawabsha were immolated in an Israeli settler arson attack on their home, burning 18-month-old Ali to death. After weeks of agonizing pain, Reham and Saad succumbed to their wounds, leaving five-year-old Ahmed Dawabsha burned in over 60% of his body, fighting for his life in an Israeli hospital, and orphaned. When I visited the family home I had passed by countless times on visits to Duma, horror clotted my veins. Every step I took, everywhere I stood, the ground beneath my feet was tainted by casualty, by terrorism, by hatred, by barbarity. Blackened patches of ground were hideous hallmarks and reminders of all those who had been tortured by unspeakable pains. Nothing was left untouched by death.
Now imagine, for a second, if this situation were reversed; if this act of unmitigated savagery had been committed against an Israeli family. There would have been uproar and worldwide condemnation. But violence committed by Israelis remains excused, humanized, and justified, regardless of the extent of the damage, destruction and death toll. The recent terror attacks in Paris struck at the hearts of millions worldwide, but barely a peep was uttered when the Israeli Air Force, by its own estimate, stated that it had dropped 800 tons of bombs on Gaza. DIME bombs unearthed entire societies, dropped on rehabilitation clinics and centers for the disabled, and white phosphorus was abundantly and indiscriminately dropped on some of the most densely populated neighborhoods on Earth. Gaza was reduced to piles of smoldering rubble and people were being bombed, slaughtered and dismembered in their own homes for 51 days during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, and Israeli politicians were globally heralded as crusaders of a noble cause. Gaza remains pockmarked by craters of repeated Israeli attacks and bombings on its hospitals. It is littered with the rubble, left behind from the bombardment of residential neighborhoods and the leveling of over 10,000 homes. Broken bodies pelted with shrapnel and white phosphorus remain irretrievably broken.
The world didn’t blink an eye when over 2,100 Palestinians in Gaza – over 500 of which were innocent children – were annihilated and blasted to pieces, remaining nameless and implicitly unworthy of grief. Israel wiped out the existence of 89 families during Operative Protective Edge. Palestinian lives have proven to be so cheap to so many. There was no option to overlay the colors of the Palestinian flag on our Facebook profile pictures to show solidarity with the Palestinians being obliterated. No ‘safety check feature’ was activated so people living under the barrage of missiles and artillery shells could let their friends know they’re safe with one click. The lack of moral outrage at such unmitigated savagery is splattered in the pages of history. And the spine-chilling truth remains: In the global hierarchy of ‘grievability’ some lives are just rendered more grievable than others, and some victims simply remain unhuman in life.
Every Palestinian – irrespective of age – is not fully human in life, and if violence and terror are carried out against those who are not fully human or unreal, well then from the perspective of violence, it couldn’t possibly injure or abolish any of their lives because they were not human, alive or real to begin with. They were moving targets whose lives were already negated. Oppressors continue to ascribe value to the lives of the oppressed, and only the conscious horror of destruction creates the correct relationship with the dead. ISIS and Israel are two faces of the same coin. One night in Paris is every single night in Palestine. The only difference? The existence of the Palestinian people is flippantly erased in every discourse, and their lives are not grievable.
Part 3: Palestine is a condition of resistance against the cruelty of humanity
November 21, 2015
When resistance becomes law
The occupation of Palestine continues to be perpetuated daily through torture, imprisonment, assassinations, humiliations at 300 checkpoints, curfews, annexation of Palestinian land through settlement expansion, home demolitions, and a systematic policy of economic deprivation and cruelty. Cruelty depends on an understanding of cruelty and the ability to choose against it. Or the ability to choose to ignore it. The Palestinian people resist because they have been deprived of everything – their freedom, their self-determination, their family, their safety and security, their sense of peace and the most basic freedoms. Every human right –sacrosanct and immitigable. And when everything is taken from you, you do everything you can to get it back.
They resist because they have endured the most brazen and depraved acts of violence and cruelty, and they refuse to celebrate passivity and non-violence in the face of those who are the most deliberately violent. They refuse to remain docile and kind when it comes to their own destruction and annihilation. They resist because they choose to be liberated from the shackles of their oppression and despair, not just to become more comfortable with these shackles. They resist because Palestine is a condition of resistance against the cruelty of humanity. Palestinian resistance is necessary and successful in corroding Zionist impunity and bloodthirsty, unrestrained and seemingly gratuitous violence and acts of terror. This has never and will never be a two-sided anything because there will never be symmetry between the oppressor and the oppressed; the occupier and the occupied.
And what we are witnessing now, thanks in great part to social media, is the baring of Zionism’s ugly face and fangs. Unlike previous Intifadas, Israel cannot control media access and the flow of information to the outside world. Social media affords us another narrative, unpolished and uncensored. And no matter how deliberately obscured it is, one simple truth remains: No human beings can tolerate to see their children, parents and loved ones executed, burned alive, bombed, traumatized, scarred and broken. No human beings.
This is not a war
This is not a war. What is happening in Palestine right now is not a war. There are not two sides in equal defense of each other. Youth wielding stones in their hands up against armed-to-the-bone military forces is not a war. The murder of an occupied people by an occupier is always, always, always the murder of innocent civilians. Israel continues to play fast and loose with the term “self-defense” to describe its egregious, indiscriminate and disproportionate actions to the point where the language doesn’t appear to merit a second thought from the general public. Dubbing itself the perpetual victim of villainous actions by “terrorists” wielding knives and stones, Israel continues to commit egregious atrocities. But how does a systematic abuser of human rights, a belligerent, uncompromising, expansionist and genocidal settler state find itself under attack by the occupied and oppressed?
Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza last summer was incomprehensible in its scale and impossible to quantify was not a war. 67 years of unfettered instruments of butchery and asymmetric murderous terror campaigns that erode international standing are not wars. A military force with almost unimaginable might against a civilian population, some of whom are armed with tin-can rockets which are mere fireworks in comparison to the weapons of their enemies is not at war with an unarmed civilian population. Justifying the gratuitous mass slaughter of unarmed men, women and children is indistinguishable from the logic that justified the Holocaust. The merciless assaults on a people, particularly in the case of the epistemic violence and cruelty carried out on the fish bowl that is Gaza, is not a war. It is systematic genocide.
Genocide to the level of extermination and mass obliteration, year after year after year, to the verge of extinction. Gaza had survived several attempts to eliminate it over the years, and when the battered, beleaguered survivors of an ongoing genocide decided that they’d had enough and would resist their own annihilation, they were the ones condemned, while the murderers, terrorists, and their enablers were victimized. And worst of all, they expected a halo for their unrepentant criminality and intransigence, flaunted in the face of international humanitarian law and basic human decency.
This world has failed the Palestinian people in every conceivable way. It has become so desensitized to its own egregious hypocrisy and double standards have been woven into the very fabric of imperialism. This world is pro-justice, so long as it’s justice for the oppressor not the oppressed. There’s sympathy with the oppressed, so long as it’s sympathy for the oppressed the West deems worthy of sympathy. And there’s tolerance, so long as it means tolerating the oppressors that are intolerant of your very existence for 67 years and counting.
But anyone who really claims to care about unequivocal justice and peace will challenge this blatant hypocrisy. There are few times in our lives where we have the privilege to witness history taking place. Where we have the opportunity to stand, unequivocally, on the right side of history. On the side of the oppressed. This is one of those times. This is the power of human dignity and what should propel us to action is human dignity. The inalienable human dignity of the oppressed, but also the dignity of each of us. We lose dignity every single day we continue to tolerate the intolerable, unconscionable acts that continue to deform and mutate an entire people. Without concrete action, our words will remain hollow.
Dina is a first-generation Palestinian-American living in Chicago, working at an Urban Youth Trauma Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She works in the States and overseas with an NGO for victims of torture in the Occupied Territories of Palestine (Ramallah). Dina has written for online publications like The Electronic Intifada, Mondoweiss, and The Daily Beast since 2008.