Introduction by Phil Butland, commissioning editor, The Left Berlin
On Friday, 5th August, Israeli fighter planes made an unprovoked attack on Gaza. By the time a ceasefire was declared, two days later, at least 43 Palestinians had been killed, including 15 children. Gaza’s only power plant has ceased operations and Israel closed all crossings into Gaza, cutting off access for fuel trucks.
The reaction of Western powers has been at best to blame “both sides”. White House spokesperson John Kirby called on “all sides to avoid further escalation,” while adding that the US “absolutely fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist groups that have taken the lives of innocent civilians in Israel.”
An EU statement similarly called for “maximum restraint on all sides in order to avoid a further escalation and further casualties”, while stressing that “Israel has the right to protect its civilian population”. The German government said that it was “extremely worried”, issuing a statement that said “we urgently call on the participants to do everything to refrain from causing a further escalation, which would once more endanger people”.
President Joe Biden went even further, commending Israel for saving lives. Biden said: “Over these recent days, Israel has defended its people from indiscriminate rocket attacks launched by the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the United States is proud of our support for Israel’s Iron-Dome, which intercepted hundreds of rockets and saved countless lives.” And yet no rockets were fired at Israel until after Palestinian civilians had been killed by Israeli bombs.
This is not a problem caused by “both sides”. Israeli bombers – financed and built by countries like Germany – have been used once more against civilians who have nowhere to run. Repeated attacks on Gaza has become a policy decision to intimidate a beleaguered population, often in the run up to an election.
As Meron Rapaport reported in the Middle East Eye: “Israel behaves the way it does because it doesn’t feel accountable to anyone at all, whether in the international arena, the Israeli domestic arena, or – thanks to the Abraham Accords – the regional Middle East arena. The Palestinians, of course, don’t count at all.” This follows reports, most recently from Amnesty International, that Israel is now an Apartheid State.
To make a first step towards redressing the balance, we publish below the first reactions of Shahd and Majed Abusalama. Shahd and Majed are both Gazan activists currently living in Europe. As Western media refuse to give the victims of the bombing a voice, we believe that it is even more important that such voices are heard.
Shahd Abusalama: “I’m tired of finding new words to capture people’s attention and move them to actions”
I am tired of reassuring you that my family continues to survive under Israel’s ongoing attack on Gaza. I’m tired of finding new words to capture people’s attention and move them to actions. I’m tired of counting years of ongoing Nakba, the martyrs, the injured, the orphans, the dispossessed and homeless, and being reminded that Palestinian lives do not matter every time I open Western media reporting “Israel targets militants”. Does the 5-year-old Alaa Qaddum belong to Israel’s “bank of targets”? Why did Israel kill her? Why did Israel kill the brothers Ahmad (11) and Mo’min (5) Al-Nairab? What did 9-year-old Hazem Mohammed Ali Salem and 10-year-old Khalil Shbeir do to deserve being killed?
I’m tired of empty calls for “restraint on both sides” when there is clearly one side (Israel) occupying and slaughtering the other (Palestinian people). I’m tired of hearing Israel’s politics of deflection and imperial powers and their media mouthpiece justifying Israeli crimes and manipulating facts and minds. What is there that hasn’t been said yet? That has not been recorded and experienced? What more evidence is needed to show the real face of the terrorist state of Israel? What red lines haven’t yet been crossed? What more reports are needed to prove the criminal nature of Israel as a settler-colonial and apartheid regime that thrives on the negation of Palestinians? What more injustices and grief need to be inflected for existing resolutions to be acted upon?
Stay strong Palestine. Freedom, justice, equality.
Shahd Abusalama is an acedemic based in Sheffield, Great Britain who grew up in Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza. She defeated a defamation campaign against her. Earlier this year we conducted this interview with Shahd.
Majed Abusalama: “The situation is getting beyond our endurance and capabilities”
I just heard the news about Nijem family who were wiped out from our universe some minutes ago. They live one km away from our family’s home but few hundreds away from my aunts and uncles’ homes, however they survived.
We both are refugees from Beit Jerja village, and came together to our refugee camp in 1948. We never separated more than 2 km away from each other, visited each other in sadness and happiness, shared so much more than the story of Nakba. Our refugee camp has been extended but I think it is a little bit more than 2 km where over 300,000 Palestinians are living today, it is one of the most densely populated areas in the planet, it is where we belong today. If we lose someone from a family in the camp, all the camp inhabitants mourn for days, we all shake and remember them. In the camp, we have loads of memories and events to say, some we restored dozens of times after Israeli bombardment, raiding or airstriking.
My beloved Gazans in general will tell you about loads of their resistance against Israeli colonialism and how they never surrender but I want to tell you how we all lived tragedies of sadness, rivers of tears, many tight hugs and screams for life as well which we carry throughout our lives under the multiple layers of Israeli aggressions and violence.
We just survived so much together under military occupation until today, living and enduring a slow and speedy violence that is eating us inside, and I will not lie about that, pretending that we are all about being strong in the face of our harsh everyday reality but no, the situation is getting beyond our endurance and capabilities to handle, our ongoing trauma and never-ending confrontation are eating our souls.
I can tell you for ages how my neighbors, friends and extended family could not rest for decades, how they will not like to look weak in front of the Israeli genocidal machine or anyone except their own people who share the above and embrace it with our collective love to Palestine, which exceeds everything, and our love to make justice prevail soon. They want to die standing since standing to death which is the most scary idea to mankind, is the most honorable death to Palestinians, it is dying for a just cause, it is dying as a freedom fighter, as a Shaheed.
43 [shaheed] were murdered until now, among them 15 children and 4 women, and 311 wounded until now. Many families are in pain, others became orphans and others lost very beloved ones and relatives. I lost a few neighbors and witnessed the pain of a few friends who expressed their heavy hearts and emotions out to us while mourning their family members. Stay and stand with Gaza.
Majed Abusalama is Shahd’s brother and an award winning journalist, scholar, campaigner and human rights defender. His articles and political commentary has been featured in Middle East Eye, Mondoweiss, Deutsche Welle, Babelmed, among others. He is partly based in Berlin.
If you would like to get active to defend Palestinian rights, Shahd and Majed recommend that you support Palästina Spricht and the Jüdische Stimme für Gerechten Frieden in Nahost. You can see a gallery of photos from the Berlin rally for Gaza on 7th August 2022 here.