Israel Condemned This Gazan Fisherman to Life in Eternal Darkness

Let the sailors in their white uniforms know what they do in the name of the rite of security to helpless fishermen who endanger no one and who have done no harm

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Khader al-Saaidy has barely left his home since he was blinded by Israel's Navy.
Khader al-Saaidy has barely left his home since he was blinded by Israel's Navy.Credit: Khaled Aziza
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

This is what Israel should have done. A military vehicle should have waited last week for Khader al-Saaidy on the Israeli side of the Erez crossing point from Gaza, waiting to take him to the hospital to examine whether his remaining eye, the one that wasn’t ripped out, could be saved.

Then Israel should have seen to his rehabilitation, providing him with a guide dog, buying him a new fishing boat instead of the one it took away – and that was returned to him as a pile of wood. And of course, Israel should have properly compensated him for his blindness and ruining his life.

>> Read more: At odds with military, Netanyahu uses Gaza fishing zone for collective punishment | Analysis ■ A Gazan blinded by Israeli navy gunfire loses a final glimmer of hope

The soldiers who inflicted this upon him should have been tried and severely punished. Those in every course in the navy should be told his story, from time to time bringing him in as a guest lecturer – living testimony of the hell he has endured.

Let the sailors in their white uniforms know what they do in the name of the rite of security to helpless fishermen who endanger no one and who have done no harm. They should know what happens when they recklessly fire at Gaza fishermen.

This is what Israel has done: For months, a blinded Saaidy knocked at Israel’s door, desperately trying to get to the appointment that had been made for him for tests at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, where he was operated on after the soldiers shot him. The office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, an agency of the occupation, refused for months to approve his entering Israel, so he missed several checkups at the hospital.

Al-Saaidy with his children, Gaza, June 12, 2019.Credit: Khaled Aziza

In desperation, he went to Egypt, where they said they had nothing to offer him, but maybe in Israel they would be able to save his eye. Only the wondrous intervention of Prof. Dan Turner, deputy director of Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, who is a West Bank settler from Kfar Adumim, along with Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the human rights group B’Tselem, got Saaidy to Israel for tests a few days ago. It followed persistent efforts and many refusals.

Saaidy is blind, but his mother was not allowed into Israel to accompany him. She, like her blind son, is dangerous. After additional intervention and more pleas, she was allowed in.

The end of the story is not a good one. Doctors at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon said it was already too late. Saaidy would be condemned to a life of blindness, degeneration and poverty in the cage that is Gaza. His little dream just to see his children again has been shattered and his world has been destroyed. His doctor did say that it was possible that treatment might be possible in the future, perhaps in five years.

Saaidy’s mother emerged from the doctor’s office crying and Saaidy himself wiped away a tear. He then returned to his home in the Shati refugee camp, where he lives in one room with his wife and three children, which he has hardly left since he was blinded.

Saaidy was a fisherman in Gaza whom the army says cast his nets beyond the permitted fishing zone. Israel’s unbelievable chutzpah knows no bounds – preventing Gaza fishermen, who cling to one of the last sources of livelihood in their large prison, from going out into the open sea. Israel, after all, has “withdrawn from Gaza” and Hamas fires rockets at Israel for no reason.

This illegal and inhumane policy, which serves as collective punishment and is also against international law, is enforced by cruel and criminal means. The Israel Navy fires on the pitiful boats to scare them off, the way one would fire at a pack of stray dogs, which also shouldn’t be shot. This is all happening far from the public eye, in Gaza’s sea, which no one cares about.

They fired 15 rubber-coated metal bullets at Saaidy from short range at his upper body. One bullet penetrated his eye socket and wreaked havoc. The Israeli sailors knew that he was a fisherman and posed no danger, yet they shot him. Order must be maintained: order that leads Israel to invade the coast off of Khan Yunis in Gaza, preventing fishermen from earning a living.

Saaidy is so unfortunate that he had been shot before by soldiers, and even went to jail for 13 months for exceeding the fishing zone dictated by a violent, tyrannical military. He may never again go back to sea.

Last week his mother led him by the hand to a taxi that had been arranged for them by Physicians for Human Rights and together they returned to Gaza, to eternal darkness.

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