I am writing this looking at my terrified six-year old son, who keeps putting his hands over his ears, trying to block out the sounds of Israel’s bombardment. I am also with my two daughters, aged 13 and 10, and my wife. Their faces show the anxiety of not knowing if – and where – we are safe.
My two older sons, 16 and 15, sit stunned and silent – and I know they are reliving the memories of the previous three offensives on Gaza Strip and the family members we lost. These are the feelings that every family in the Gaza Strip is living through.
We Palestinians have lived through decades of humiliation, injustices, and maltreatment. In 1948, we were expelled from our land: over 600 villages were fully destroyed, hundreds of thousands of us were killed or uprooted. Nearly 800,000 of us ended up living as refugees in different places around the globe.
This happened under the eyes of the international community who have promised us a sovereign state over about one fifth of our original homeland. That decision was only accepted in the 1990s by Palestinians believing in a two-state solution.
Some 26 years later, we look at the conditions in the promised state of Palestine and we see a West Bank divided and occupied by hundreds of thousands of settlers living in settlements built on the rubble of Palestinian homes. We see that the existence of the Palestinian people is a living hell.
We see the Gaza Strip under blockade for more than 14 years, leaving us deprived of basic living conditions. We’ve also suffered three large offensives in this small area which killed, destroyed and traumatised thousands of our people.
And we see east Jerusalem, with its holiest sites – for Muslims and Christians alike – under constant threat, as settlers take over Palestinian homes and neighbourhoods.
Israeli settlers recently started to attack Sheikh Jarrah, trying to seize more homes of Palestinian families. Everyone saw it. No one intervened.
On one of the holiest evenings of Ramadan, Israel decided to evict tens of thousands of worshippers who were praying at Al-Aqsa. These were mostly Palestinians. Everyone saw the brutal use of military power by Israel. Again, no one intervened.
The violent scenes in Sheikh Jarrah and the Al-Aqsa compound have lit a fire in Palestinian hearts; not only in historic Palestine, but also everywhere in the world.
While we demonstrated in Akka, Jaffa, Nazareth and the West Bank, rockets were fired from Gaza demanding an end to the atrocities in Jerusalem.
The Israeli army’s response was to attack Gaza with even more violence than in previous offensives. Bombardments hit tower blocks, apartments, governmental and police buildings – even whole streets. To date, at least 200 Palestinians have been killed, including 58 children; and 10 people in Israel, including two children. Everyone is seeing it. No one intervenes.
How long will the world sit idly by while we in Gaza suffer like this? The people of Gaza need more than just statements and resolutions, while Israel receives arms which are killing and terrorising us.
I am a father first and a psychiatrist second. My dream is for my children to live, to grow, to learn, in safety. This is the same dream as that of every one of the clients I see. There will be more of them today – and tomorrow.
It is my job to give hope. So, I will tell them what I tell my children and my wife: “Because this injustice for Palestinians has gone on for seven decades, that does not make it normal. The world is increasingly full of people who do not accept it is normal. There will be change.”
Concrete political action is needed now to end not only the current deathly bombing raids, but also this illegal occupation and siege of Gaza by Israel. The international community must now fulfil its promise of a sovereign Palestinian state. Every civilized country must recognize us.
Our living conditions under the siege are an affront to human dignity. I tell my children and my clients that we Palestinians have the right to live as any other people in the world: to live in peace, in dignity and to enjoy our rights. “It will come,” I say. And I have to believe it, after all, I’m a father – I can’t bear to see my children live like this any longer.