My country is getting destroyed on live TV

A girl waves the Palestinian flag over a highway

My sister waves the Palestinian flag for passersby on a highway in Mississauga, 17 December 2023. 

Mahmoud Nasser

My second home – Canada – no longer feels like it any more. Living in Gaza for the past few years has changed my entire being, leaving me forever deeply attached to my homeland.

Leaving Gaza on the 38th day of this “war” did not give me any solace. I grew more anxious, more angry, more dejected, more upset, and felt more helpless about what continues to happen in Gaza.

A moment ago, I walked past the TV screen. I glanced as a not so unfamiliar sight grabbed my attention.

Dead bodies of innocent civilians lying on the ground. On the top right of the screen, it says, “Al-Shifa hospital.”

I continued to stare in disbelief, and then turned to my mom.

“Did this really happen today?”

“Yes,” she said.

Why is it still happening? I am so tired of asking this question, tired of thinking about this question, because I cannot manage any answers, reasonable, or unreasonable.

I am in Canada while my homeland is being destroyed live on TV. People are angry, but world leaders keep proffering the same narrative: self-defense.

Canada and other world powers and supposed advocates of human rights and dignity, have nothing to say. They are happy to see this ugly massacre unfold before their eyes.

Their mouths are suddenly shut. Human rights and international law does not apply to the people of Gaza, not to Palestine.

Palestine has committed the cardinal sin of existing.

Israeli officials go on TV and repeat the same old lines, defending and masking their crimes with the most obvious and abhorrent lies believed by no one with an ounce of dignity. Seeing such a ridiculous narrative tends to hurt just as much if not more than the thousands of tons of ordnance raining from above.

That narrative feels like the salt in the wound. Not only are we being massacred, no one will do anything about it.

I thought I escaped the “war” but the “war” hasn’t escaped me. Every day it continues is a day feeling stuck as the world watches the greatest horror of the last century unfolds against my people.

Lost humanity

I attended an event a few days back that the Palestinian Authority’s diplomatic representative attended, alongside some Palestinians who escaped the “war.”

What stood most on that day for me were the words of a 60-year-old man. His mouth struggled to get the words out at first, he clearly looked traumatized, he had endured 42 days in Gaza.

“I tremble as I speak. My mother escaped with the help of God, she is 82 years old. Every day I wake up to her cries. Every day I go to sleep to her cries. She weeps not only for the loss of her homeland, but for the kids and relatives she left behind.”

“This is our reality. This is our struggle.”

The diplomatic representative chimed in.

“The hardest thing about this genocide is the helplessness felt as a Palestinian. Our nation is traumatized. To the world, all the so-called nations, how can you see all these crimes and stay quiet? The moment we saw a dog eating the corpse of a dead Palestinian left bleeding on the pavement, at that moment I realized that we have lost all our humanity.”

I am in Canada and my country is getting destroyed on live television.

I still find it hard to get a good night’s rest. I toss and turn every night struggling to accept my new reality.

My eyes take my mind to my homeland. Almost every night I am stricken with nightmares of war, nightmares of being captured, nightmares of the constant shelling, of evacuating, nightmares of facing death dead in the eye.

How can this be ?

I struggle even with starting my life again. Two months shy of 31, it feels like my life has to find a new beginning.

Everything that I once knew, is for now only a thought.

People wearing the Palestinian kefiyeh at an event

People attending a small event in support of Palestinians in Gaza. Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, 17 December 2023. 

Mahmoud Nasser

I struggle with fighting the biggest fear of all, losing my homeland forever.

Despite the horror the people of Gaza continue to face daily, there always remains that glimmer of hope, allowing us to cope and withstand the cruelty of such a reality.

There is that glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, one day Gaza could return to us, or we could return to it.

Ask any Gazan you know about their biggest fear, and unmistakably the answer will be losing their homeland.

Fear the night

The destroyed houses, the mosques, the erased history, the face and feeling of what used to be Gaza, all that can be restored.

As much as those things make Gaza what it is to us, we must look deep. We undoubtedly see and know that Gaza is Gaza, not only through what’s been destroyed, but through the essence of its people.

The Israeli forces can mercilessly kill until they have quenched their racist bloodthirst. They can ravage all the streets.

But take the essence of the place? They can’t and never will. The soul that fills the air, no white phosphorus can burn, no bullet can pierce and no words can delegitimize.

Simply put, it sucks for the Israelis. They are up against the people of Gaza. Our biggest weapon is not ballistic missiles or nuclear bombs. It is a courage like no other.

Despite all the racism, dehumanization, false narratives, misrepresentation, the lack of international protection and the absence of international law, Gaza fights on.

Gaza will survive.

We will build these streets again. We will walk al-Rasheed street once more, and gaze at the indescribably magical sunsets for as long as the sun still sets.

I am in Canada, while the people of Gaza are getting slain on live television.

My father showed me a satellite image of our beautiful town in Beit Hanoun. A sad sight caught my eyes.

Our bayara – a small plot of land of 7 acres with our olive trees, our lemon and orange trees, those living remnants of my childhood, looks bulldozed… for the third time in my lifetime.

Being so far away from it all is not easy.

Yes I am safe. But are my relatives safe? Are my friends safe? Is our house alright? Will I ever get to see my country again?

I think about this every night. I went from dreading the nights for fear of being bombed in my sleep, to dreading the nights due to the overwhelming sadness that I brought with me from Gaza to Canada.

Mahmoud Nasser is a photographer and writer.