Guest contribution by Manar Mohammad
It occurs to me that as I am typing this, a bomb is falling on Gaza. More will have fallen by the time I type the last period in this piece. I have never lived in Gaza and so I do not know what the constant bombardment of bombs sounds like. I do not know what it is like to sit in your own living room, staring at the walls adorned with photos of your family and wondering when these very same walls that keep your family safe will end your lives. I do not know what it is like to hide in the school I once believed would help me accomplish the goals I need to meet and exceed in order to pursue a higher purpose. I do not know what it is like to walk outside of my house and find the neighbor’s house across the street turned to rubble.
I am, however, from Palestine — just from the other side of it. It is sad to see that in the news, the West Bank and Gaza Strip are considered two separate places, almost two separate countries. Then I think back to the people I met and lived with in the West Bank and realize that even we Palestinians have begun to think of the two regions as separate places as well. I was living in city of Ramallah when Israel’s 2008-2009 invasion of Gaza occurred, and I remember how distant we were from the people in Gaza, the way we are now in America, watching their grief on the television screen and through the internet.
That was the closest we were physically allowed to get to feeling with them, knowing about them. The more this realization set in, however, the more convinced I became that this is due not just to Israel’s divide-and-conquer method of occupation but also to the life I saw around me, the people I spoke to, the excuses we gave for ourselves.
Now, about two weeks into Israel’s latest assault on Gaza, people are beginning to avoid the news because “the news is too much,” or because they “do not want life to just be about sorrow.” The guilt overwhelms me as I think of the last time I had a thought like that come to me. It came as a cold breeze in the middle of an icy day and shook me until I realized how wrong it was. At the end of the day, our walls are up, our homes are safe, our beds are warm, and our skies are blue with the whitest clouds of hope. The least we can do for our brothers and sisters in Gaza is to try and hear them, to empathize with them. They can stomach the pain. We should be able to stomach the news, to stay informed and mobilized.
It won’t be nearly enough. It won’t be what the suffering in Gaza are looking for. But if we become desensitized to or afraid of the images, we won’t have the heart in us to pray for them and to seek the best for them. We must remember that even if we hail from the West Bank or the ’48 territories, even if we reside in the United States or some place where we must always be prepared to teach others about Gaza, we are still Palestinians.
At the end of the day, no matter what happens and how high the death toll becomes, as long as Israel and its illegal occupation face resistance from the people of Gaza who demand their human rights, as long as the rest of us stand steadfast in solidarity with the oppressed, as long as we continue to educate the public and pressure our leaders into defending justice, the blood of the dead will not go in vain.
The people of Gaza are holding onto their strength, not just for themselves, but for all of Palestine. They are a constant reminder that Palestine will be free, so long as we, united, maintain our dignity and strength as well.
Manar Mohammad is a Biology and English double major at Carthage College. She aspires to use her passion for writing and her voice in America to tell the stories that others need to hear to be moved to make a difference.