I come from a family of Palestinian refugees from Ramle, and Gaza embraced us following the Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948. Seventy percent of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are refugees. Today, these refugees have no refuge, as they endure once again bombings and killings. There are no safe shelters, and people have nowhere to flee. When people in Gaza go to sleep at night, if they manage to get any sleep, they say: “Good night and may God allow us to meet again tomorrow”. As you see images of bombs lighting the skies and imposing darkness on our people, I call on you to imagine those inhabiting these homes.
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Since the start of the Israeli aggression two weeks ago, over 600 Palestinians have been killed, including over 140 children. More than 20 families have been decimated. Our hearts have no place left for more mourning, or our souls for more wounds. In the last eight years of inhumane siege imposed on around 1.7 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Israeli occupation forces have attacked Gaza six times, killing over 2500 Palestinians.
Has it achieved security for Israel? Palestinians have been hearing international statements about Israel's right to security, asking themselves if those issuing such statements have taken a second to think about it: What about our right to defend ourselves? What means are we allowed to deploy to achieve that purpose, especially since the international community has done nothing to protect our civilian population? Can Israel demand security while it pursues its occupation under its different manifestations, including the siege, colonization, incursions, arrests, bombings and extra-judicial killings? Are the lives of Israeli civilians more valuable than the lives of Palestinian civilians? Can Israel commit war crimes and crimes against humanity under the pretext of ensuring security? Isn't Israel imposing insecurity on an entire nation and creating the conditions of its own insecurity? Israel has only two choices, either exterminate us or recognize and respect our rights as a nation and as human beings.
There is no military solution to this conflict, and there can be no peace with occupation and oppression. The end of occupation is the only path towards lasting peace and security. The international community has a legal, political and moral responsibility to uphold universal values, which are also lying under the bombs and the rubble in Gaza. By providing Israel with the conditions for total impunity, the international community has contributed in the consolidation of the extremist camp in Israel and its presence in power and has drifted us away from peace. As the Fatah movement, in line with the Palestinian national consensus, and together with all the justice-loving people across the globe, we believe that Israeli crimes should be prosecuted, including through Palestine's immediate accession to the International Criminal Court. The key for peace is not impunity but justice.
Israel, by killing our children, also killed the promises they carried with them of all what they could have accomplished. In its pursuit of an ever-extending geography, it has besieged our lives. In a few weeks from now, our kids were supposed to go back to school. Some will be missing on the attendance sheet. Others will have nowhere to go. Schools have been transformed into rubble or shelters, no longer serving as pathway to the future. But Palestinians everywhere, notably in Gaza, continue to demonstrate they are full of life, pursuing education, deploying their creativity, finding inspirations in dreams and wounds alike. They cry out, not for help, but for hope. And we need to preserve that hope.
My mother passed away not so long ago, and she spent her life at the service of others, including through setting up a center which provided services to children and women in Gaza, in the fields of culture, health, education and sports. She would have cried over these children our mothers fight so hard to bring up, to be obliged to bury them before they were able to spread their wings. When that center was bombed by Israeli F16 a few days ago, I felt my mother died once again. The destruction of this center serves as a metaphor of the dreams we plant and Israeli occupation forces come to uproot. But look at Palestine: After 66 years of dispossession, oppression, occupation and apartheid, it continues to stand tall among all nations, asserting our right to freedom, to live in dignity over our land, and to enjoy peace and security. May our kids not die for these rights, but finally be able to live to enjoy them.
Sabri Saidam is Deputy Secretary General of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and a Presidential adviser.