Podcast Ep 63: Raising children under Israel’s bombs

On episode 63, we speak to Refaat Alareer, a professor, writer and father in Gaza, about the latest Israeli military assault on Gaza that killed nearly 50 Palestinians, including 17 children, in early August.

“What Israel is doing is nonstop campaigns of mowing the lawn, killing as many Palestinians and putting us [in] a corner where we can’t do anything to defend ourselves and our rights,” Alareer tells us.

He wrote a striking feature for The Electronic Intifada during the assault, expressing the difficulty of parenting his young children during Israel’s incessant attacks and the ongoing siege on Gaza.

But he also described the resilience of the ongoing liberation struggle and Palestinian resistance.

Alareer explains to us that Israeli politicians frequently launch attacks on Gaza in the lead-up to elections, but that it’s wrong to assume that Israel only kills when elections are on the horizon.

He says that these regular killings are part of a century-long strategy to eliminate Palestinians despite political theater.

“They know how to win votes, they know how to win seats, they know how to do it – by killing Palestinians, by making our life miserable,” he says.

“It was [former Prime Minister Naftali] Bennett who said ‘I killed Arabs, I’m proud of it.’ Because he knows, despite [that] this could resonate horribly globally, they don’t care about the public opinion – because there will not be punishment, and there will not be consequences for what they do.”

We also talk about Israel’s rampant arrest raids and attacks across the West Bank, as well as the ransacking of seven Palestinian human rights groups’ offices by Israeli soldiers just two weeks ago.

Articles we discussed

Video production by Tamara Nassar

Theme music by Sharif Zakout

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Full transcript

Lightly edited for clarity.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Welcome back to The Electronic Intifada Podcast. I’m Nora Barrows-Friedman with Asa Winstanley. We’re back from a short summer break and Asa is back from a special project, which we’ll talk about in due time.

But today we’re talking about the current situation in Gaza after Israel launched a surprise attack in early August. Over three days the Israeli military killed nearly 50 Palestinians including 17 children. Gaza’s Ministry of Health reported 360 injured, including at least 151 children, 58 women, and 19 elderly persons. As people in Gaza struggle to rebuild yet again, Israel has continued its killing spree in the occupied West Bank after its ceasefire with Islamic Jihad in Gaza took effect on August 8. The day after the ceasefire, an early morning assault by occupation forces in the old city of Nablus killed three Palestinians, including a child and injured almost 70 with live ammunition. Hours later, occupation forces fatally shot another Palestinian child in Hebron. Since January, Israel has killed at least 20 children in the West Bank, according to Defense for Children International-Palestine. Israel has been conducting rampant arrest raids and attacks across the West Bank.

And last week, the Israeli army raided the offices of seven Palestinian human rights organizations in the West Bank, including the six groups that were designated last year by the Israeli government as quote “terrorist” organizations. According to Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights group, the Israeli military entered the Ramallah area at 3am on August 18, and raided its offices as well as those of Addameer, the Bisan Center for – Center for Research and Development, Defense for ChildrenIinternational-Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees. A seventh organization, the Union of Health Work Committees was also reportedly raided that same night. These designations have been denounced by UN experts and were rejected by nine European Union states that fund the targeted groups for lack of evidence substantiating Israel’s claims.

Joining us to talk about all of this is our friend Refaat Alareer. Refaat is the editor of Gaza Writes Back: Short Stories from Young Writers in Gaza, Palestine. He teaches World Literature and Creative Writing at the Islamic University of Gaza, and recently wrote the article “Without consequences, Israel will continue to murder Palestinians” on August 7 for The Electronic Intifada. Refaat, thank you so much for joining us again on The Electronic Intifada Podcast.

Refaat Alareer: Thank you all for having me.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Thank you. We’re really glad you’re safe after this latest round of attacks. But let’s start by having you talk about what you and your family, your young daughters experienced earlier this month as Israel once again attacked Gaza. Tell us what it was like as a parent during those three days. And you know, this comes just a year after Israel’s massacre in May 2021.

Refaat Alareer: What Israel is doing is nonstop campaigns of mowing the lawn, killing as many Palestinians and putting us in a place, in a corner where we can’t do anything to defend ourselves and our rights. When Israel started bombing, my little Amal, about whom I wrote in the article for The Electronic Intifada, asked her mother if there is going to be another war. And it was really hard on me as a father, as a parent, a little kid five, six years old, preparing in three weeks to go to school, to start school. And she’s asking about another war happening in her short life of five. And that was part of the article but this is what the kids in Gaza go through every year, every two years maximum, and then in between these huge, massive campaigns, Israel also never stops bombing Palestinians.

So it’s very traumatic. It’s like a nightmare that you never wake from, a nightmare that leads to a nightmare and leads to a nightmare like Pandora, Pandora’s box. As a father, as a parent, we are helpless. We don’t know what to do, we cannot find a solution for this.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Tell us a little bit about what it’s been like in the aftermath of those three days. And how did your daughters – did they eventually go to school? I mean, what is it like trying to kind of, you know, live your normal life after so much destruction and so much terror and the nightmares that you just mentioned?

Refaat Alareer: The – usually, there is no, like I said, there is no normal in Gaza. We never have normal days. Because even when we go back, we go back to the siege, to the occupation, to dying slowly, to lacking electricity, lacking power, lacking even sometimes basics for food, for books sometimes and school materials, sometimes closed with Israel, sometimes tightening the noose and closing the borders and not allowing Palestinian cancer patients and others to go to seek treatment. The aftermath is usually no bombs, but a lot of talks, about what happened and how things happened. And you are always forced to listen to the little ones talking about the bombs and what happened and who was afraid, who wasn’t afraid. You know, sometimes kids try to prove that they were you know, heroes despite what happens during the bombings, usually there are screams there are tears, you know, you can imagine how kids react when there is a bombing nearby.

After war, after the aftermath. It’s usually kids talking about wars like sometimes like politicians speaking about missiles and the bombings or usually the very devastating when they realize that a friend of them was killed or a little one that went to nursery with them was killed with the family house of relatives like what happened to my relatives. Last year. My in-law’s house was destroyed. And the little ones no longer had a home. And my kids Lena, Lena and Amal, were talking about – because their mother was saying something about them losing everything, their clothes and toys, and then the little ones who are saying that telling their mom if they can give some of their clothes, and some their toys.

So there’s usually after the wars after the Israeli attacks and onslaughts, there is a lot of pain, a lot of trauma. And there is a lot of this, you know, I would say this poetic reaction from – because you don’t want them to be –You want your kids to be generous. You want them to be selfless. But you don’t want them to be talking about war in the context of, of war. You love your kids when they share their sweets or their clothes or their toys with other kids when they hang out. But when this happens, it’s so sweet, so beautiful, but at the same time, it’s the kind of sweetness and beauty you don’t want.

Asa Winstanley: Yeah, absolutely. So, Refaat, you wrote in your piece that – saying “Palestinians have become accustomed to Israel’s carnage when elections approach, Israeli leaders know the best way to win votes is to flex their muscles.” And I think that is – that it was particularly clear in this round of violence. This Israeli assault, this particular Israeli assault against Gaza, because there was no – there was no pretext. You know, there was no there was nothing that they could say that oh, well, you know, the Palestinian fighters started firing and as far as you know, even though that’s always bogus anyway, just because of the very nature of Israel. But on this day, you know, it was – they called it a, I think they called it a preemptive action, preemptive strike kind of thing.

So there was no, you know, it just seemed particularly acute that it was just particularly cynical. And it was particularly, you know, premised on the upcoming Israeli elections. So there’s that factor as you put in your piece. But you also say it’s wrong to assume that Israel only kills when elections are on the horizon. And that these regular killings are part of a 100-year strategy to eliminate Palestinians despite political theater. So can you talk about that a little?

Refaat Alareer: The Israeli society is a highly militarized society, maybe more than American society. In 2014, like I remember, you know, more than 2,400 people were massacred. And, you know, many Israelis were on top of certain hills around Gaza, looking at the bombs falling as like a theatre, described by American correspondents. There was a poll, I think the article was published talking about more, I think 94 percent of Israeli Jews supporting the ongoing massacres and destruction of Gaza. So these Israeli politicians and leaders, they know this, they know this very well. They know how to win votes, they know how to win seats, they know how to do it, by killing Palestinians by making our life miserable by proving that. It was Bennet who said I killed Arabs, I’m proud of it. Because he knows, despite, you know, this could resonate horribly, globally, but they don’t care about the public opinion, they don’t care about – because there will not be punishment, and there will not be consequences for what, for what they do.

I remember when this campaign started, I was one of the people who posted that there is an Israeli election coming and you know, people want to show it to you know, flex their muscles by killing Palestinians. And then there are so many people talking about this, Israeli journalists, even non-Palestinian pro-Palestinians and others. But for Palestinians who’ve been suffering for decades under this military, brutal military regime, military rule, whether there are elections or not, we’re exposed to Israeli killing machines, we’re killed day and night, we’re being suffocated. Even if Israel is not killing us, shedding our blood or being suffocated. When you can’t travel, when somebody – I know people in Gaza who, people who died because they can’t go to the West Bank or to Jerusalem because they will get arrested at Erez because 30 years ago, they threw stones at Israeli military jeeps, or because a family member was a freedom fighter.

So the reality on the ground that sadly not many people see is that the 24/7 Israelis are killing us, suffocating us, shedding our blood. And for many people, this slow death that happens is even worse in so many ways. At least, when Israel starts a war, many people start paying attention. And even when we talk about truce, or a lull or a ceasefire, it never stops because like Nora said, in less than a day after the truce, Israel killed three Palestinians and injured many – I think two of them succumbed to their wounds, one died today. So the reality is that Israel kills more when there are elections on the horizon, but Israel is always killing Palestinians and suffocating them.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Yeah, and part of that suffocation is the siege, the blockade, you know, 15, 16-year-old blockade. Can you talk about how that kind of punctuates – You know, you were talking earlier about there is no, there’s no, you know, semblance of normalcy in the Gaza Strip, when every, you know, everything is under blockade, when there are no medications, when there are extensive barriers to freedom of movement, and imports and exports. And, you know, I mean, it just permeates every single molecule of life in Gaza. And, you know, once the bombs stop the media leaves and no one talks about you know, the ongoing violence of the blockade itself. Can you talk a little bit about that, about that and how the siege is operating now, you know, 15, 16 years later.

Refaat Alareer: I usually like to talk about the siege being tightened in 2006 because there has always been a siege. When the occupation starts, when colonization starts, it besieges the people at the same time, controls the movement, restricts the movement, people who want to travel, people who want to seek medical treatment, who just want to travel for fun, for business, for studies, etc. So we have always – I remember when I was in grade – probably I was in grade seven. And the teacher asked a question, there was a passage in the book that counts Arab countries, and there was a blank space, in a very strange, in the middle, and he said, can someone, can anybody guess what’s going on here? And we didn’t know, we were little kids, like I think it was grade six or seven. And he said, the space was the word Palestine in Arabic, and it was erased because the Israeli military controls the books that come to Gaza and what – even the word Palestine.

And the other day I was reading about one Israeli as I understood what she was angry about the Palestinian Torah, I think it’s a term in Judaism and how Zionism is like you shouldn’t use the word Palestine. And I remembered an article from Haaretz I think, five years ago, when an Israeli zoo was categorizing a gazelle as a Palestinian gazelle, giving it the scientific name. And there was an uproar, many Israelis protested, like, why are you using the word, you should be sued for this. There should be – You shouldn’t say Palestinian at all.

So this is the state of siege, Israel wants to control its people and also wants to control us more the way, even the word Palestine. And I remember friends who spent six in the First intifada six months in prison for raising the Palestinian flag or for having the picture of a small, tiny picture of Yasser Arafat, or for sometimes wearing a t-shirt with a keffiyeh or something. So the siege has always been there, sometimes what, what to wear, what to do, what to say, where to go, where not to go.

But 15 years ago, it was tightened to the extent of suffocation, when literally the Israelis were counting the calories entering Gaza. It’s a little bit better now, things have improved a little bit. But it’s improved, because it’s part of this political game Gaza is being used as a lab. They test everything, they see, they want to starve us, to stop Palestinians. I think the unemployment rate reached 45 to 50%. Sometimes in Gaza too, they want to starve Palestinians. They want to control our movements. They want to control what we eat. We’ve seen reports sometimes what – Israel is not allowing books, not allowing chocolates, and just like because they want to tell the world to tell us that we are going to control you no matter what, what you do.

And this is what we refuse as Palestinians, we reject Israeli law. We don’t want to submit to Israel’s rule. And the more barbaric, the more brutal Israel grows, the more resilient and the more determined Palestinians become. And I think I mentioned this in the article it concerned about whether I took that paragraph out that Israel has been killing us, has been bombing us for – no, I think the paragraph was edited out. There was a paragraph about the leaders of today, being the very little kids 20 years ago seeing other people killed by Israel. And the Israeli terror, the Israeli massacres did not terrorize those people to become cowards, to give up, to say, oh my God, we can’t fight back. We can’t. No, they grew up to be leaders. And, and there is – if you follow this from a military point of view, like the more like when Israel kills military leaders, the ones that come up more determined and more ferocious in a sense, you know, to fight back to create new ways to hopefully contribute to ending Israeli occupation.

Asa Winstanley: Yeah. This story is about Israel even trying to ban and eradicate the word Palestine. It’s really interesting about the animals as well. I remember so many different stories about this, like the word Palestine is just such a threat to them that they consider it to be such a threat to them. And it’s bizarre to even remove it from textbooks like this. You know, this is the actions of a dictatorship, like they’re actions of a cult really.

I saw this Netflix documentary, I was watching this Netflix documentary recently about a cult in America, the fundamentalist Mormons. And, you know, as it became more and more extreme, they began sort of – their leader began sort of trying to eradicate scientific learning. And they would go through and they would cut out the pages of books that, you know, were basically anything that went against his teachings. And, you know, here’s Israel doing the same thing to Palestinians to try and eradicate Palestine. Yeah, it shows what I mean.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Yeah, well, it shows us how threatened – and, they know, you know, like, there’s a whole I mean, you can get into the psychology of Zionism.

Refaat Alareer: The stories in Sheikh Jarrah with the balloons and to bring down a bunch of balloons just like, What the hell are you doing? I think there was like – talking, speaking about how Israel tried to understand this, there was I think, a military attack but Palestinian resistance on Gaza’s fence, when they put the Palestinian flag and it was booby-trapped. Right? And then the soldier like, you know, nonchalantly, took it and he wanted to throw it and it was like Oh, my God. And sometimes it’s like, it backfires. If you hate the flag this much. Like, okay, you need to get to pay the price sometimes.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: And, yeah, I mean, you know, you’re, you’re an educator, you’re a professor at the university. And, you know, you do a lot of literature, but you also do media criticism, at least, you know, at least on Twitter. The, you know, not only is the establishment media, ignoring the siege, the blockade. But, it doesn’t retract or issue corrections when information comes out about Israel’s obvious culpability in certain attacks.

You know, for example, the Israeli military, the Israeli military admitted, it killed five Palestinian children in Gaza in one of the many attacks after initially lying that the atrocity was caused by an Islamic Jihad rocket that fell short. The explosion took place on August 7, at the al-Fallujah cemetery, west of Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza. You know, these children were apparently visiting the grave of their grandfather and Israel dropped a missile. Can you talk about the impunity of Israel and the so-called international community’s absolute silence and complicity with this kind of violence and you know, really how the media kind of absorbs Israel of any responsibility as well, when it comes to Palestinians?

Refaat Alareer: We have long given up on the international community, on America or Europe because these are the very people protecting Israel and sending Israel the weapons. In 2014, when Israel ran out of some kind of shells, I think, they totally just opened the doors to American store warehouses inside occupied Palestine. And they took as many as they wanted, because America is here to protect Israel. And we see how Israel is even interfering in American politics. But no one wants to talk about that, either. So on the Palestinian public opinion is that there is no way that officially America is going to do anything or Europe is just going to interfere. All they can do is just lip service and the media is complicit.

The media is complicit. We’ve seen how even trying, attempting to support Palestine, like we’ve seen what happened with Ilhan Omar or Rashida Tlaib how they are viciously attacked by American pundits on CNN and everywhere, accused of being anti-Semitic. The Palestinians have realized this long ago and we have said that Palestinian official representatives still try to to find a way among these, you know, supporters to, to find help, and help is not going to come. The only help that comes is the one that wants the Palestinian Authority to control us by proxy, Israel can no longer be inside Gaza or cannot be inside the West Bank 24/7, especially in areas where there are you know, resistance growing every day. So we give the money, carry the weapons, you protect, you protect us.

So when it comes to the official, again, media, this is how people most people feel, but we are very hopeful that on the, you know, the grassroots, the organizations, the, you know, the unions, the people who vote, can say something, we’ve seen this in 2014, and even 2021, during the COVID pandemic, people went and took to the street, the more people take to the street, the more hope we have, that this is going to impact because this, you know, even with politicians who go to Congress or anywhere else, they still give us, you know, limited sometimes, but at least when people are talking about how, like when I was, Rashida Tlaib describes as well as apartheid or accuses Netanyahu of being racist, of being brutal, being war criminals, this is good, at least people more and more people are paying attention to, to this. And one of the worst things about the media official media is that they think sometimes they’re more like more military, more anti-Palestinian than Israel itself, because Israel does this, because there will always be accountability, this limited accountability inside the colony. Israel said, No, we didn’t kill these kids. No, Israel didn’t kill [them], Palestinians killed themselves. And then a couple of days later says, Oops, we did it. It was you know, we missed – we will come to investigate, but nobody else, not even on the personal level in the West, is going to be willing to say Sorry, there is a correction about something we did.

We’ve seen how even in other massacres we’ve seen how Israelis on social media, there are so many Israeli accounts and creating these fake organizations like Middle East Intelligence, or I don’t know, Palestine Gaza News, it was run by Israelis who get, I think, money from Israel. There was this guy who celebrated this, celebrated the attack, was saying that Israel liquidated five Palestinian freedom fighters in Jabaliya. And then it turned out that this was actually a massacre of five or six kids were killed. And then, he deleted his tweet and there was also a video. I’m not sure if you saw this video, but the Israeli army posted saying that we wanted to hit this house because there are missiles inside but we didn’t because there was a passerby and the video cut, the soldier saying stop, abort. And then there was another Israeli official Twitter account that posted the whole video. And actually, like a moment after the video after it was cut, there was another car coming to the place and the place was hit.

So in reality, Israel fakes this, fabricates many things. And while many news media in America, especially they copy-paste the Israeli press releases, the Israeli military press releases word for word. What Israel says is usually the fact, what Palestinians say is usually doubtful. According to Palestinian sources, Palestinian say, allegedly, but Palestinian – Israelis report facts. This is very unprofessional. This is going to be – hopefully the change is going to come soon. But many people should be ashamed of doing this because this is not journalism.

Asa Winstanley: Exactly. Yeah, it’s similar to – it makes me think of what happened with Shireen Abu Akleh. Because I don’t know, I reached the point where I don’t read all these investigations anymore. Because, you know, it’s like, why do we need however many it was like, seven or eight different investigations into who killed Shireen Abu Akleh? Like, there were, you know, there were all these journalists who witnessed it. And that, you know, that it was a deliberate killing of a Palestinian journalist by Israeli soldiers. You know, it was very clear there was no crossfire happening, there was no, you know, gun battle happening. It was a completely unprovoked killing. And, and yeah, the Western media just, and the American government needs all these investigations, which then when they do happen, and the American so-called investigation ended up being inconclusive, very conveniently.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Yeah. Yeah, they say we’re still, we’re still waiting for more evidence to surface or, you know, it’s inconclusive, or, you know, we’re waiting for Israel’s, you know, further investigation, because it can investigate itself fairly, apparently.

Asa Winstanley: Yeah.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: It’s amazing.

Asa Winstanley: It’s very frustrating. Yeah.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: And meanwhile, we have the attacks on, you know, human rights organizations that are documenting these war crimes and have forensic evidence and all the reports, you know, that that would be needed, you know, to prove Israel’s responsibility and culpability in these kinds of attacks. Michael Sfard, an Israeli lawyer representing some of the designated groups – the groups that, that the Israeli government designated as terrorist said that the attacks on the organizations last week was motivated out of, quote, desire to frustrate the International Criminal Court investigations.

And Benny Gantz, as we’ve reported, many, many times, the Israeli Defense Minister who imposed the designations is a person of interest in the court’s probe over his role in Israel’s targeting of civilians during its attacks on Gaza. So there is a direct link between what the Israeli government wants to cover up, and what these organizations are trying to reveal, and prove to the international court where Israel could be held accountable. Can you talk about what I know, this happened in the West Bank, and you’re in Gaza, but there are field offices in Gaza that are, you know, affiliated with these organizations. Can you talk about some of the reverberations that have happened since those attacks?

Asa Winstanley: And this will – sorry to butt in, but this relates to what you wrote in your piece that we mentioned earlier, as well Refaat, about the Israeli leaders knowing about the best way to win votes to flex their muscle, flex their muscles, because Benny Gantz, the very same guy who, you know, as outlawed these organizations as human rights organizations, documentary war crimes, as terror designations, is basically trying to protect himself, because he was the very same guy who had an election advert in one of the last few elections, threatening to set Gaza back to the Stone Age. So, you know, it’s, it all ties up.

Refaat Alareer: Exactly. This is, in many ways, like I don’t know. Sometimes it’s frustrating talking about this, because it doesn’t matter what we say it doesn’t matter what Palestinians, what Palestinians say. It’s, we keep shouting and screaming and, you know, reporting all over social media – hundreds of Palestinians, pro-Palestinians, thousands of them out there exposing Israel. And Israel knows that no matter how many of its crimes and massacres which it would be – we, recently we’ve seen many of the Israeli crimes committed in the late 40s, early 50s against Palestinians in Tantura, here and there, Israel doesn’t – doesn’t care. So that is very interesting, because there is a lot of immunity. Israel kills with immunity. Israel knows it’s not going to be held to account by anybody, no ICC, not even, you know, like 20 years ago, there were reports about how it is a very casual, you know, slap Israel on the wrist, like a little kid, you know.

But even now, it doesn’t matter because Israel is growing more ferocious. Israel is influencing American politics in – AIPAC was bragging yesterday that 98, 98% of the people they supported, won the primaries. And this is incredible, spending over $20 million so that the right – even choosing people like supporting people who endorsed the attack against the Congress, in Washington after the election when Trump lost and people who refused to verify the elections, that Biden Biden won, so people who are bad to America, but because they’re good to Israel, going to do this. In in, in Gaza, when when we talk about these organizations it brings back what Israel was doing here when it was in Gaza, universities, schools, organizations, all banned all closed, you can’t – the University where I studied, and where I work, I teach now, was closed for years in the late 80s and early 90s. Like for two or three years plus and it’s just a university, classes teaching people English, Arabic, chemistry.

Another because it’s the one like I said in the beginning, Israel wants to control every tiny little aspect of our lives. Whether this harms Israel or not, whether this exposes Israel or not. Recently we’ve seen how many Israelis – reading a report on +972 Magazine, the report that was published soon after the latest attacks, that says we killed a little kid but it was within the rules. So former IDF soldiers reveal how the army authorizes strikes in Gaza, knowing civilians will be killed so long as the number is deemed low, low enough.

So Israel doesn’t care, Israel is not going – Israel knows it’s not going to be impacted by those organizations documenting and reporting and exposing its war crimes and massacres. Never. It could impact you know, the reach out to people who are on the fence who don’t know what Israel is, is doing. But Israel doesn’t care about those people. Because in a way they have, you know, usually Biden’s ear or Trump’s ear influencing him. Sometimes there were reports about Trump okaying annexing the West Bank to Netanyahu just a couple of weeks ago.

So the impact Israel has and the immunity Israel has makes these, you know, attacks against these organizations, or puts these attacks in the context that Israel has always been to controlling us controlling our lives, controlling – Because when you close the close these organizations, you also look at how many jobs you’re going to lose when the people lose funds. I know some of the branches, these organizations have they employ like hundreds of people sometimes, like Israel again, does when it attacks Gaza, why would Israel bomb a high-rise building that has 50 small businesses? 50 small businesses that employ, you know, hundreds of people with thousands of family members.

So it comes in this context, Israel doesn’t care about what these people or these organizations do, because very – now we have Israeli organizations, again, which Israel tries to ban and like B’Tselem and others. Despite the little work they do to us Palestinians, we don’t think they are doing enough to bring Israeli leaders to account. So when the very same thing that Palestinians are saying and doing and documenting and exposing is being documented and exposed by Israeli organizations, it means no matter how many organizations Israel closes, the truth is going to come out because of the social media, because of the videos, because of the citizen journalists reporting 24/7. So why closed these organizations? Because Israel wants to be the boss. Israel wants to control our lives.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: How – finally, how do you talk about this with your young kids? How do you kind of repair, over and over again, these wounds? And you know, you and the children, the other children in your family in your neighborhood? I mean, how, how do you keep moving forward under these conditions?

Refaat Alareer: I don’t know if we even try to move from this, these attacks, but you can’t escape them. They are inescapable. They are all over the place. Every time when buildings are destroyed, and kids lose loved ones, parents lose kids, and if you don’t talk to your kids about them, they will know because they know that – I can’t remember which one of my daughters was asking my wife why Hamza doesn’t have a father. Where’s his father? I mean, how are you going to tell her that Israel killed him in 2014? And what does it mean? What does it mean? How are you going to word this? And then sometimes you like I just said, you listen to the kids talking to each other. Talking about somebody’s father being killed by Israel, Israel killing this person or killing that person, it’s – the most difficult thing is trying to go on in life, lead a normal life.

Knowing like, sometimes what happened is something that happened that’s in the past, it’s never in the past, of course, but knowing pretty well that this is going to happen soon. And sometimes you could predict it. But this time it was like Israel said, it’s preemptive because some Palestinians were thinking of one day trying maybe to harm Israel. Everybody in Gaza wants to harm Israel, the occupation. We all want it. So because we want an end to the Israeli occupation, is this harming anybody working for Palestine and anybody supporting Palestine, doing activism for Palestine is very quickly accused of being anti-Semitic even a Nazi even, every horrible thing. So what I’m saying is that, like, again, many people spoke about this and wrote about this, there are no posts, there is no post-war trauma in Gaza because the war never ends. And the trauma never ends.

And again, we have to go through this very difficult mission of trying to make the kids understand. Sometimes we do, sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail. And in the article, I say it, because the lies are no longer believed by the kids, they grow up. And they listen to older kids talking about missiles, and war and assassinations and killings. And then you have to go through it every couple of years, sometimes he actually I think, I can’t find the words to describe this, this feeling. And there is also when we talk about the kids, there’s also the adults, the kids, your children who are now 15 or 16, or 17. It’s also very difficult, for those who were born, for example, mine – I have two kids who finished high school, and they went through like five wars now, four wars. On many occasions, they lost friends, they lost family members, they lost cousins and relatives.

Sometimes you don’t just want to talk about it. Because nothing makes sense. Because you know, it’s going to happen again. But we keep hoping there is always this thing about Palestinians in Gaza, we keep hoping, we keep believing in the fact that no occupation will, will live forever. No colonial project like Israel will remain forever. Look what’s happened to the British Empire. Look what happened to many other occupations around the world. If it’s not in our lifetimes, hopefully it will be in the lifetimes for our kids. But there is one thing that is very certain – we cannot remain silent. We know Israel is so powerful. We know Israel has all it wants to control and to impose its horrible military rule on us. But we can’t just stand or remain silent because we know in the future people will look back and say thank you for doing what you could. And let’s continue the struggle until Palestine is free.

Nora Barrows-Friedman: That’s Refaat Alareer, he is an educator and a writer in Gaza. His Twitter is at @Itranslate123 and his most recent article on The Electronic Intifada is “Without consequences. Israel will continue to murder Palestinians,” we’ll have a link to that and to your work on the blog post that accompanies this episode. Refaat, as always, thank you so much for what you do and for being a contributor to EI and for being with us today on The Electronic Intifada Podcast.

Refaat Alareer: Thank you very much.


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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).