I am a terrorist. At least that is what they call me. I grew up hearing the same word being repeated so often that I thought terrorists were the good guys for a second. They are apparently not. Of the many sad times I have gone through, the 2008-09 offensive that Israel launched on the Gaza Strip was the worst and probably the most painful. I was “lucky” enough to survive and to now have the chance to speak for those who lost their lives, although I am quite sure their deaths can speak well for them.
It was 27 December 2008 when the Israeli warplanes started dropping bombs on every place in Gaza, killing anything or anybody getting — or not getting — in their way.
The war left lots of people dead. Approximately 1,400 Palestinians were killed, thousands more injured. There were people dying everyday.
Then there was Anwar.
Just when we began to hear the news of Israel’s intentions to end the war, Anwar Shehada was killed. Anwar was a 13-year-old neighbor of mine who lived a few meters away from where I live. It was the last day of the war when Anwar told her younger sister she was going up to get the laundry from the roof. Her sister asked her not to go; Anwar told her sister not to worry because the war was almost over.
Before her parents could see her going up to the roof, Anwar was already gone. She probably thought that Israel would not kill a beautiful 13-year-old girl. Israel proved her wrong. The explosion that killed Anwar was the loudest one I have ever heard. I thought it was our house being shelled. The floor was literally shaking. We waited for death. In seconds, we saw the smoke coming out of the neighbors’ house. They said Anwar’s blood was all over the roof. Her head was found in the street.
Killed in a “safe” house
And then, there was Haneen.
Haneen was actually killed before Anwar, but we knew about her death a week after the end of the war. Haneen was my five-year-old friend who I first met in a mosque to which we both used to go. All I remember about her is the way she liked to tease me. She used to make that sound of “meow” because she knew I hate cats. “Meow” was actually the way she said “hi” each time we saw each other. During the war, Haneen’s family decided to go stay with their relatives in Tal al-Tawa, assuming that the area would be less dangerous. Haneen left her house, only to be killed in a house that was thought to be safe.
I cannot imagine the pain Haneen felt when the bomb penetrated her little heart, tearing it apart. I do not know what it feels like to lose a child, and I have no idea how tremendous the suffering of Anwar and Haneen’s parents is. I cannot imagine the shock Haneen felt when she saw the ceiling of the bedroom falling down and getting closer to her face.
I cannot imagine how a soldier looked right from his plane at that little girl and decided to end her life. I cannot imagine the kind of hatred that soldier had towards Palestinians that made him believe that murdering a child was okay. I cannot imagine the denial that soldier lived in that made him think what he did was “self-defense.” I cannot imagine how this very same soldier can now eat, drink, sleep and simply go on with his life. And I cannot understand how stupid Israel has to be to think that I will not fight back and seek justice for my little friends.
I kept thinking of Haneen for a year after she got killed, but now I do not think of her too much. It is just when I see her mother in the street that I remember how cute Haneen was. In fact, I have become selfish enough to avoid saying hi to Haneen’s mom whenever we meet. Each time I see her, I hide my face, hoping she will not see me. When Haneen was alive, her mother and I used to chat about how smart Haneen was and how bright her future would be. Now I just have nothing to say to her. I cannot make things better. I cannot look her mother in the eye and ask her “how are things?” because each time she replies “things are good,” I am sure that they are not.
A world of confusion
I am living in a world whose concepts are no longer clear to me. A world where the criminal walks free and the victim is called a terrorist. A world where killing a five-year-old kid is permissible. A world that has left me baffled about what is right and what is wrong. I have always thought that we could figure out who the terrorist was simply by looking at who died on whose side. I was wrong. Israel has the ability to kill Palestinians at night and call them terrorists the next morning.
Haneen did not know what cold-hearted blood is. Haneen was a little kid whose life was snuffed out because an Israeli soldier felt like killing somebody, and she just happened to be that somebody. Haneen was an unfortunate human being who was born Palestinian and accordingly guilty. She did nothing wrong to Israel. She was a five-year-old girl who was split into little pieces while in bed.
Haneen was too young to die. Who cares about Haneen’s death anyway? Was she a terrorist too?
Sarah Ali, 20, is a Gazan blogger and a student of English literature at the Islamic University of Gaza. Her blog is sarahmali.wordpress.com.