How should I start, I asked myself, to send a message of love, hope, and steadfastness on this 3rd anniversary of the Intifada?
I am not a politician or a political analyst to write an analysis about Palestinian people’s life under 36 years of Israeli occupation. I am an activist in social and health work, I am one who has experienced and witnessed many acts of aggression, violence and injustice by the Israeli army against my people.
I personally went through the traumatic experience of losing my childhood home, when the Israelis demolished my parents’ home and destroyed our citrus grove. That grove was one day full of fruitful trees and a main lifeline for many farmers who used to work there, and then it was gone. Nobody is allowed to set foot there any more. Later a bridge was built there to allow a safe passage for the Israeli settlers who are illegally living there. There are plenty of UN resolutions on occupation and occupying forces, which spell out this illegality.
In the Gaza Strip of 360 square kilometres where I live, 5000 settlers occupy 40% of the land, while 1.2 million of Palestinians live on the rest of the land on one of the most highly populated areas of the world.
On my way to visit my mother in Khan Yunis town 20 km south of Gaza City, I have to cross the Abu Holi checkpoint and pass under that bridge. It should be a twenty-minute drive to my parents’ place where my mother, an 80-year-old widow, lives on her own, but the journey usually takes 2 hours.
To travel from Gaza to Khan Yunis, I have to pass by Nusseirat camp. Last time, while on the road I met the smell of death and bombs. Four hours before, the Israeli army made an incursion into the refugee camp, killed one resistance fighter, Jehad Abu Sweereh, and left dozens of people injured and homeless, they demolished the house on top of its residents, as they have several times before, the last time was the assassination attempt against Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahaar, a Hamas political leader and a colleague whom I have known for a long time. He escaped, but his son was killed in the attack.
On my drive to Khan Yunis, I couldn’t help but feel deeply anxious with the attack helicopters and fighter jets visible overhead, who are they going to hit next? Is it the car in front of us, or the one behind us? This is the constant worry for all Gazans, since Israelis intensified its attacks against the resistance activists both military and political scores of civilians have been caught in the blasts and either killed or injured.
Before the checkpoint, I can see a long queue of cars waiting to cross. I watch the vast area of agricultural land that is completely destroyed. Once it was a fruitful, beautiful, area. Now the damage is clear and choking for some one like me who knows the area very well and can painfully realize the difference and the extent of the damage inflicted on the environment.
The Israelis try to assassinate our history and human feelings beside our physical existence in the area for hundreds of years. They insist on treating us as numbers, as 3rd grade citizens that are only entitled to the least of human needs. But they are daily faced by the Palestinian people’s ability to continue living, tolerating the most tragic events. We are a nation that is looking forward towards a normal peaceful life. We deserve it, and we deserve our independent state and identity so that we can take part in the area’s development. This is what I think about as I sit in the car watching people being treated like dirt, young soldiers ignoring even our human identity.
Six thousand dunums (60 square kilometres) of Palestine agricultural land has been destroyed since the eruption of the second Intifada; 3,877 houses were demolished; 3,338 people killed and 46,647 injured; of whom 6,188 are left with grave disabilities; 594 children have been killed, either directly through military acts or due to the inability to reach hospital medical facilities, being stopped at the checkpoints or being under curfews; 199 women were killed in the attacks 54 women gave birth while waiting at the checkpoints, 31 of them had dead babies, 424 ambulance drivers were targeted while rescuing casualties, at clash points 25 were killed and more injured, 99 patients died at the checkpoints while waiting to cross and denied access to hospital.
Hospitals and medical facilities have come under attack from the Israeli army on 303 occasions.
Statistics can tell you the size of the problem, but I believe even one mother who has to give birth to her child on the road and was prevented from reaching the hospital by the occupying forces is enough of a violation of human rights to be utterly condemned.
On one occasion I was the witness in Jabalia refugee camp of an attack on some children who were playing football on a makeshift football pitch. The weapon used was a flechette tank shell, which is highly destructive and banned internationally.
Another terrible story was of an old deaf man who was buried under the rubble of his home when the army destroyed his house disregarding his family’s pleas to evacuate him.
But there are too many stories to tell of this daily aggression and injustice. In my work with the Union of Health Work Committees, a local health NGO, there have been several occasions when we received medical donations from abroad, but the Israelis did not allow it in for a long time. This has happened with various donations, including children’s milk
Mothers of Palestinian children kiss their children goodbye in the morning uncertain to receive them safely home from school in the afternoon. On many occasions children were killed while returning home from school. I am one of these mothers, worried all the time about my children’s safety. I feel that no place is safe in Gaza under occupation; an attack can come any time and anywhere.
From my balcony I can watch the Gaza’s beautiful sea, but the same sea carried Israeli frogmen at night to kill silently and in cold blood five of Arafat’s guards under my window. The smell of death was too intense that night.
As a result of this daily stress 90% of the population in Gaza suffer from different sorts of psychological disorders, 41% suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome, mainly women and children. 35% of children suffer from anaemia due to lack of balanced food that they need for normal healthy development.
My message on the 3rd anniversary of the Intifada is a message of continuing resistance against the occupation, with your support, and the solidarity of humans worldwide who don’t accept injustice against fellow human beings. People, who reject injustice imposed on other nations, speak out for us.
Just to remind you that despite this daily ordeal we face under occupation we are still going on with our lives, going to work, school and university. We help each other; we help our people to resist, and our children to cope with the most stressful situations.
We implement different health and social programmes to help our women and children, we offer our health services at the most difficult times and yet we insist on developing these services too, with your support and solidarity that has been tremendous and effective through the past 3 years. We shall continue until we only see smiles, not tears, on the world’s children faces, including Palestinian children.
We shall continue our struggle against occupation, and our battle is not only a Palestinian battle against Israeli occupation, it is the battle of all genuine people against injustice worldwide.
Dr. Mona Al-Farra works for the Union of Health Work Committees in Gaza.