Palestinian Youth Respond to Israel’s Attacks
My new blog piece on Huffington Post:
Originally published on Youthradio.org, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe.
By Nora Barrows-Friedman
“How fast everything happens in Gaza,” writes award-winning college student Fidaa abou Assi, in an email she sent to friends from Gaza on June 3. “Everything could turn upside-down over-night…In the blink of an eye, you could become homeless, parentless, jobless, penniless, hope-less, helpless, lifeless…You go to the university with hopes and ambitions only to figure out that your university is being targeted by the Israeli forces.”
Abou Assi was chosen to be an official governmental translator for the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which planned to arrive at the beleaguered Gaza strip on Memorial Day weekend and disperse thousands of tons of needed humanitarian aid — including paper and pens for students like her.
Since 2007, Israel has collectively punished the entire Gaza strip by blockading a wide-ranging, arbitrary array of items–medications, diapers, salami, printing ink, etc.–plunging Gaza and its 1.5 million Palestinian residents into a humanitarian crisis. Abou Assi writes that hundreds of Palestinians lined the shores of the Gaza strip last week in anticipation of the aid convoy, but as we know, the ships never arrived. Nine activists on one ship, Mavi Marmara, were killed by Israeli commandos.
Young Palestinians Speak Out from Gaza City
I contacted several young Palestinians in Gaza and asked them to respond to Israel’s attack and the 3-year long blockade against the Gaza strip.
Sameh Habeeb of Gaza City is the 24 year-old chief editor of the Palestine Telegraph, an online newspaper in English. He said that he wasn’t shocked at all by the attack itself, but was deeply saddened at the propaganda that followed.
“Israel says there is no siege or crisis in Gaza,” Habeeb remarks. “[But] OXFAM, Amnesty In-ternational, the United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Human Rights Watch have all confirmed [the situation in Gaza]. Israel tries to discredit them. What a world. What we see now is that Israel says that they are right and the rest of the world is wrong.”
Twenty three-year-old Omar Ghraieb, a reporter and translator in Gaza City, says he knows Americans have very limited knowledge of the reality in occupied Palestine. “Imagine yourself living in a prison where you wake up in the morning and only have this limited space to go out to when you are on a break,” he comments. “Well, welcome to the biggest open-air prison, Wel-come to Gaza.”
He says his community spent days tracking the Freedom Flotilla, anxious to welcome them. But when the news came down in the early morning of May 31 that the flotilla had been intercepted and people on the boats had been arrested, seized, attacked, and killed, he joined hundreds of people at the port to show solidarity and anger towards Israel’s actions.
“I saw children at the port crying, fishermen with sadness pouring down their faces, angry youth and shocked officials,” he recounts. “We will never forget those heroes nor those innocent brave souls who sacrificed their lives to show their solidarity with us and help us break the siege and end the imposed blockade. We felt overwhelmed with what had happened, and with the support that we felt from the people all over the world who marched in demonstrations protesting that massacre. Gaza will never forget what happened. We will forever commemorate this massacre.”
Israel Scrambles to Cover its Tracks
As news of the killings spread across the world, outrage and condemnation followed. In dozens of major global cities, thousands of people spilled into the streets in protest. Seventeen countries summoned their Israeli ambassadors, publicly calling for explanations. Turkey severed diplomatic ties with Israel and categorized the attack on the boats as a war crime.
Meanwhile, Israel’s PR machine quickly went into overdrive — painting the humanitarian aid activists as “violent;” “anti-semitic;” and “terrorists” linked with al-Qaeda — while Israeli officials, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, insisted that there is “no humanitarian crisis” in Gaza. Most of the mainstream corporate media followed suit.
A Message of Resilience
As Israel opposes an international investigation into the massacre, Gaza City-based Omar Ghraieb measures the devastating impacts of the blockade, the regular air strikes and the daily paralyzation of normal life against the backdrop of a very resilient culture. “Within the circumstances and catastrophies that Gaza has been through…Gazans somehow find a way to keep the blood flowing in Gaza’s veins…Somehow, we remain positive, hopeful and filled with faith.”
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