Note: this video contains graphic images of violence.
This is a vocal piece called “Lifeboat,” adapted from a poem by the late Egyptian poet Salah Jahin.
It is performed by Haidar Eid, the renowned Palestinian writer, activist and university professor born and living in Gaza.
Eid’s voice echoes over video capturing the last moments of Salem Shamaly, to whom this performance is dedicated, “along with all the martyrs of the Palestinian struggle for liberation.”
Shamaly, 22, was from the eastern Gaza City neighborhood of Shujaiya.
After the early morning Israeli bombardment and massacre in the neighborhood on 20 July, Shamaly went there to try to find members of his family from whom he had become separated.
He never found them. Shamaly was fatally shot in cold blood by a sniper.
Rescue workers and members of the International Solidarity Movement witnessed the crime, but were unable to help Shamaly or recover his body due to the ongoing risk of Israeli sniper fire.
Local videographer Muhammad Abdullah shot the footage of Shamaly’s last minutes and the horrifying moment of his murder.
The video spread quickly online after the International Solidarity Movement published it.
Meanwhile, Shamaly’s desperately worried family were searching for their missing son. Two days later, Shamaly’s relatives, including his mother and sister, saw the video and recognized him.
This is how they learned of – and witnessed – his death.
Salem Shamaly’s father, 62-year-old Khalil, said the family had evacuated Shujaiya early in the morning. As soon as they reached safety, they realized Salem was missing. “It’s impossible to put into words how difficult it was,” Khalil Shamaly told Blumenthal.
“We waited for two or three days not knowing and when we found out, it was too difficult to handle. I have had to call on God and he helped me.”
Shamaly’s body, badly damaged in further Israeli bombardments, was eventually recovered and buried by his family.
The footage of Shamaly’s death is hard to watch. But this piece also includes uplifting scenes from the solidarity protests with Gaza all over the world, from London to Dublin, from Cape Town to Melbourne and from Santiago to New York City.
“Israel’s three genocidal wars against the Gaza Strip, and all the crimes it has committed since 1948, are due to the absence of one word: accountability,” Eid says in a text included in the video.
Calling for more international support for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), Eid adds, “We want to reach that phase in which Israel is held accountable.”
Here are the words of “Lifeboat”:
The sea of life is full of all that drowned in life
I screamed, and death entered my throat and filled it
Lifeboat, Lifeboat, Oh people!
I screamed. They said: “there is nothing.” But only love is a lifeboat.