For Uri Avnery
While the thirst for blood overtook social media; while commentator Shimon Riklin tweeted, “We want you to kill terrorists, and as many as possible, until the cries of their families overcome their sick murderousness”; while Minister Yoav Galant, a man whose hands are stained with a great deal of Gazan blood, declared with Biblical lyricism, “I’ll pursue my enemies and catch them, I won’t come back until they’re finished”; while Yair Lapid was writing, “The IDF must hit them with all its force, without hesitating, without thinking” – while all this was happening, Inas and Bayan Khammash were killed.
They were mother and daughter. Inas was 23, in her ninth month of pregnancy; Bayan was an 18-month-old baby. They were killed when a missile hit their home, a rented apartment in a one-story building in Dir al-Balah in the Gaza Strip. The father of the family, Mohammed, was seriously wounded.
Their killing didn’t slake the thirst for blood on social media in the slightest. It barely earned a mention in the mainstream Israeli media, which were far more concerned by the cancellation of a wedding in Sderot. That’s always Israel’s order of priorities.
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It’s not that the suffering of residents of Israeli communities near Gaza shouldn’t be given abundant coverage, but the complete disregard for the victims on the other side, even the killing of a pregnant mother and her daughter, is an act of collaboration with wartime propaganda. The complete public indifference to every killing, coupled with the thirst for blood that has become politically correct, is also evidence of an unparalleled nadir.
It’s not hard to imagine what would have happened, both in Israel and abroad, if Hamas had killed a pregnant Israeli woman and her baby daughter. But Inas and Bayan were Palestinians from Dir al-Balah.
Are there still any Israelis who glanced for a moment at their own loved ones and imagined the atrocity of killing a pregnant mother with her baby in her arms? Does the thought still pass through anyone’s mind here that Inas and Bayan were a pregnant mother and her baby daughter, like the neighbors across the way? Like your daughter and granddaughter. Like your wife and daughter.
Can thoughts like these still arise even for a moment, given the onslaught of dehumanization, propaganda and brainwashing, which justifies any killing and blames the entire world, with the sole exception of those who committed it? Given the media, most of which just wants to see more and more blood being spilled in Gaza, and even does everything in its power so that blood will actually be spilled? Given the usual excuses that the Israel Defense Forces never intend to hit a pregnant woman and her daughter, they merely happen to do so, again and again and again and again?
Given all this, is there still any chance that the killing of a mother and daughter will shock anyone here? That it will touch anyone?
For almost 12 years, Gaza has been closed to Israeli journalists on Israel’s orders, and Israel’s fighting media accepts this submissively, even gladly. How badly I wish I could go to Inas and Bayan’s house right now, to tell their story and, above all, to remind the reader that they were human beings, people – a very difficult thing to do in the atmosphere of today’s Israel.
On one of our last trips to Gaza, in September 2006, photographer Miki Kratsman and I went to the Hammad family’s house in the Brazil refugee camp in Rafah. A huge crater had opened up a few hundred meters from the miserable tin shack we entered. In the dim room, we saw nothing but a crushed wheelchair and a crippled woman lying on the sofa.
A few nights earlier, the family heard airplanes overhead. Basma, then 42 and completely paralyzed, was lying in her iron bed. She quickly told her only daughter, 14-year-old Dam al-Iz, to rush to her so she could protect the girl with her own body. A concrete roof crashed down on them and killed Dam, her only daughter, who was lying curled up in her mother’s arms.
Ever since Inas and Bayan were killed, I’ve been thinking about Dam al-Iz and her mother again.