Palestinian resistance factions and civil society in Gaza demand that Israel abide by international law and lift the seven-year-long siege and blockade, enforced by Egypt, as part of the terms for a lasting ceasefire.
Gaza-based professor, scholar and boycott activist Haidar Eid says that even if Israel and Egypt lift the siege and allow unrestricted reconstruction materials into Gaza via its seven crossing points, it could take up to ten years to restore Gaza to the state it was in even before the attacks began last month.
Since Israel’s onslaught began on 7 July, the United Nations estimates that 16,800 homes belonging to “16,735 families, consisting of approximately 100,410 individuals, have no home to return to as they were totally destroyed or heavily damaged.”
The Electronic Intifada interviewed Eid on Wednesday evening Palestine time. He had just returned from a day visiting people in Khuzaa town near Khan Younis in southern Gaza, where it was recently revealed that Israeli soldiers had summarily executed fleeing civilians carrying white flags and fired on paramedics and rescue workers.
“You could also see resilience”
“The level of the devastation is something … that I cannot really describe,” Eid recounted. “The destroyed houses, the demolished houses. There are still dead animals there, that people couldn’t even move. Hundreds of them. Hundreds of sheep, hundreds of cows.
“And the smell — the smell of some of the dead bodies, corpses under the rubble. And the stories that you are told by people — you could see the pain and the horror in the eyes of the people, but you could also see resilience.”
People in Khuzaa whom Eid met told him that they support the ongoing resistance by Palestinian fighters against Israel’s occupation army.
“People would complain and tell you about what Israeli soldiers would do,” Eid said. “But at the same time, they would say: we support resistance. And we think that resistance should go on, because we cannot go on living like this. We cannot go on living like animals. We want an end to this siege, but the end of the siege must also lead to our own freedom.’”
Listen to the interview via the media player at the top, or read the transcript below.
Transcript of interview with Haidar Eid
Haidar Eid: My name is Haidar Eid. I’m an associate professor of cultural studies and post-colonial and post-modern literature at al-Aqsa University in Gaza. I’m also a member of PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, and a co-founder of the One Democratic State Group in Gaza.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Haidar, you just came back from Khuzaa in eastern Gaza. Can you tell us why you went, and what you saw there today?
HE: Well, I went because I really wanted to see first-hand the level of destruction and horror that Israeli occupation forces left there. In fact, yesterday I was in Shujaiya [east of Gaza City], and I didn’t have the opportunity to go to Shujaiya or Khuzaa before because of the constant shelling and airstrikes on the eastern border or the places that are near the eastern border of Gaza. That is Khuzaa, eastern Khan Younis, eastern Rafah, Shujaiya and the northern border which is Beit Hanoun. And I’m going to Beit Hanoun tomorrow.
I think the first feeling you get — the first thing I told my friend when I was driving before leaving the car, I said, I don’t know why I can identify with the Jews of Auschwitz now, more than any other time. And I can identify with those who had to survive the Holocaust. I have no explanation for why I felt and why I said that, but now I feel that I can relate more to these people.
And I also started talking to my friend, and the people of Khuzaa who came and I shook hands with them and they started telling me their stories and I told them that I spent some time as well in South Africa, I went to Soweto, I went to some of the townships around Johannesburg, Lenasia, Cape Town, et cetera.
And I remember the stories that I was told by those South Africans who had to go through — and live the horror — of the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, and those who had to go through the horror of the Soweto massacre in 1977, and the experiences that people told me, for example — some comrades who survived the horror of the 1960s in the American south, even. The Civil Rights movement in the US, et cetera.
What I want to say is that the human dimension was there, all the time. And victimhood. And no people can monopolize that pain.
The level of the devastation is something, Nora, that I cannot really describe. The stories I was told, the things I saw. The destroyed houses, the demolished houses. There are still dead animals there, that people couldn’t even move. Hundreds of them. Hundreds of sheep, hundreds of cows.
And the smell — the smell of some of the dead bodies, corpses under the rubble. And the stories that you are told by people — you could see the pain and the horror in the eyes of the people, but you could also see resilience. At the same time you could see resilience.
And yes, people would complain and tell you about what Israeli soldiers would do, but at the same time, they would say: We support resistance. And we think that resistance should go on, because we cannot go on living like this. We cannot go on living like animals. We want an end to this siege, but the end of the siege must also lead to our own freedom.”
I’ve just come back so I have all these mixed feelings. You are the first person I’m talking to about these feelings.
NBF: How can you assess the level of destruction — not just of houses and of neighborhoods and of livelihoods but of this generational trauma that keeps repeating itself — especially in the youth of Gaza? Children of Gaza who are six years old have now lived through three separate invasions and bombing campaigns. As a father, as a teacher, as an educator, as a scholar, how do you assess — when the ceasfire holds, when the siege is lifted, even when occupation ends, what’s the next step for Palestine?
HE: This is a brilliant question, Nora. I want to start by trying to rephrase what one of my friends had to tell me. He’s an expert on reconstruction. This time has been the most devastating massacre in the history of Palestine that I understand. And he said in a way it’s been the most devastating destruction since 1948.
You need to remember — Gaza has been under bombardment, invasions, continuing siege, and the horror is definitely beyond words, Nora. I really feel that I cannot give justice to the horror that people had to go through after the last 35 days, which might resume after 12 o’clock this evening, by the way.
Medical supplies are exhausted, completely finished. The death toll has gone beyond 2,000, 400 of whom are children, 210 are women, 75 elderly. And the number of the injured has gone beyond 10,000, including around 3,000 children, 1,800 women, 400 elderly, et cetera. Hospitals are not working properly, we have problems with the ambulances, medical staff are always, and have always been since 2006, under attack while on duty, because doctors and paramedics are being killed as I’m speaking to you right now, I know that.
So this is the situation in Gaza right now. My friend told me that because Israel this time has decided to attack not only human beings and commit unprecedented massacres, but it has decided to target the infrastructure of the Gaza Strip, he said it will take us — if we start reconstructing and rebuilding, and if Israel decides to open the six crossings separating Gaza from Israel, and allow them to open 24/7, and Egypt opens the Rafah crossing 24/7, and allows the flow of people and goods — it will take us between five and ten years in order to get Gaza to where it was before the war.
So that is the answer to your question. The answer is that the horror is beyond what ordinary people can imagine. And that’s why we expect the international community to do something. This horror cannot go on. We have done our duty, we have been resisting, and we will continue.
We will continue resisting apartheid Israel. The whole world stood with the Blacks and the indigenous population in South Africa in the 1960s and ’70s and ’80s of last century, until the apartheid system was forced — and I am consciously using this word, forced — to release Nelson Mandela. Had it been left to the whites of South Africa, we would have never seen the end of apartheid in South Africa.
And that is why the international community had to stand on the right side of history and support the Blacks of South Africa. Otherwise Nelson Mandela would have died on Robben Island. But Mandela was released because the people of South Africa resisted the ugly, inhumane apartheid system of South Africa, supported by a sustained campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions. And this is exactly what we are counting on, exactly what we are backing on.
The resistance on the ground has been performing extremely well, actually. You are talking about a people that has been under a siege since January 2006. We have not been allowed to import milk for our children, Nora. We have not been allowed Tylenol, aspirin, for headaches. So leave alone serious illnesses — cancer, heart problems, kidney dialysis, et cetera. But in spite of that, resistance has performed very well. And Israel has admitted that they cannot even re-occupy the Gaza Strip.
For thirty days, all they could only re-occupy was only 300 meters and they couldn’t stay there because of the fierce resistance of the Palestinian people. And when I say resistance, let me be clear about that. Mainstream media talks about an “Israel-Hamas conflict.” There is no Gaza conflict. There is an Israeli aggression. There are Israeli massacres committed against civilians of the Gaza Strip. So far, Nora, 2,000 people have been killed, 95 percent of whom are civilians, and I gave you the figures.
When I’m talking about resistance, I’m talking about the armed wing of the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, even al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is the armed wing of Fatah. And I think with this fierce resistance, our message has been absolutely clear to the international community and to Israel: this cannot go on.
We prefer to die standing up like palm trees, or Israel has to subscribe to international law. It has to withdraw its occupation forces from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, i.e. the Arab lands it has occupied in 1967; this is in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolution 242. Israel has to implement United Nations resolution 194 which calls for the right of return of seven million Palestinian refugees.
And I think the real reason why Israel has been attacking Gaza, Nora, is that two-thirds of the Palestinians in Gaza are refugees who are entitled to their right of return. Number three, we want an end to Israel’s apartheid policy in the territories it occupied in 1948. The whole world said no to apartheid in South Africa, and the whole world must now say no to Israeli apartheid in Palestine.
The moment that apartheid collapses and crumbles in Palestine, Gaza will have a future. But not only Gaza — it is Gaza, the West Bank, and even Palestine 1948.