The Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy
August 11, 2022
As you might have seen or heard, Israel launched yet another assault on the besieged Gaza strip, with bombardments and airstrikes killing 45 Palestinians and injuring more than 360, so far.
With the announcement of yet another precarious ceasefire, the international community’s attention is likely to move away from Gaza, yet again, leaving its people to mourn and rebuild in isolation under Israel’s 15 years of ongoing military siege. With this being Israel’s fifth assault since 2009 it is crucial to educate and inform ourselves and each other on Gaza, and to fight against its invisibilization and its dehumanization as mere periodical news cycle. Gaza has an ancestral history that is an integral and enmeshed part of Palestinian history. We must fight to keep it as part of the whole, and look ahead with a long-term vision, united against Israel’s intention to fragment and isolate Palestinians everywhere.
This is why we are sharing with you again our latest Palestinian Takes email from June on Gaza, marking the passage of 15 years of Israel’s military siege. The email includes various Palestinian perspectives and resources on Gaza’s present and past, intertwined to bring us to the current moment.
The Nakba in 1948 and “the Gaza strip”:
- Gaza has been inhabited since around 1500 BC, a thriving port for multiple cultures. Right before the Nakba of 1948, Gaza was one of many of Palestine’s districts, including the areas of Bir Al Sabi’ (Beersheba). As Israel’s ethnic cleansing operations began, 49 villages of the Gaza district were destroyed and more than 200,000 Palestinians were expelled from the southern and coastal areas of Palestine to smaller parts of Gaza district, which came to be known as the Gaza strip, as we learn in the Interactive Encyclopedia of the Palestine Question.
- Since 1948, Gaza has become the epitome of the Palestinian refugees’ right of return movement, embodied more recently by the Great March of Return, that was co-initiated by Ahmad Abu Artema: “I wondered what would happen if 200,000 protesters gathered near the Israel fence with Gaza Strip, and entered the lands that are ours”.
The centrality of Gaza to iconic Palestinian food and land cultivation:
- At home, on the sidewalks or dangling from the roofs of the shops at the markets or crossroads, this is how the branches of the unripe dates, called the “red gold”, announce they’re in season, a fruit after which the city of Deir Al-Balah (Land of Unripe Dates) is named.
- Famous recipes have been curated by Palestinian chef Laila Haddad in The Gaza Kitchen cookbook, documenting people’s history and daily life through traditional dishes like the Rumaniyya (eggplant lentil pomegranate bowl) and Dagga (hot tomato and dill salad).
- With its long Mediterranean coastline, fishery became a major source of food culture and sovereignty for many families. Yet, following the Israeli blockade in 2007, fishermen were systematically prevented from accessing the sea beyond 20 nautical miles, which gradually decreased to 3 nautical miles, while regularly being targeted and shot at by the Israeli naval army.
- “In a few years there will be no more fishing at all, we will have to forget our profession and become traders”, said Gaza fishermen in a documentary on the topic.
Fishermen on a Gaza Beach, 1987
(Palestinian Museum Digital Archive)
A testing ground for apartheid, weapons and colonial repression:
- In 1948, Palestinian refugees “were not expecting that their exodus would be prolonged for seven decades, and that they would be subjected to condescending efforts to void their right to return.” writes Jehad Abu-Salim.
- In the span of two decades, the Israeli regime has led four aerial bombardment campaigns, killing and injuring thousands of Palestinians in the besieged Gaza, intentionally treating it as a testing ground for its military capabilities before it is exported all over the world.
- “All the injustices Palestinians in Gaza face are a direct consequence of the continued denial of freedom, dignity and return. Overshadowing it with a humanitarian crisis is depriving the people in Gaza of their political will and reducing them to poor, powerless and passive subjects.” – writes Abir Kopty.
- This thematic chronology by the Interactive Encyclopedia of the Palestine Question is an important resource covering how main events unfolded in the Israeli assaults on Gaza in 2008-2009, 2012 and 2014-2015.
This visual by Visualizing Palestine explains how the Israeli closure on Gaza started long before the blockade and in the height of the 1990s peace process.
We will never forget and never forgive: Palestinian testimonies from under the rubble:
- “My brother was the only one who lived the long 12 hours under the rubble with me. He was calling my name every 5 minutes, asking: ‘Omar are you still alive?’ In his last moments, he asked me to forgive him and pronounced the Shahada. He knew he wouldn’t make it.” – This is the testimony of Omar Abu al-Ouf, the only survivor from his family of 17, who were all killed by an Israeli airstrike on their house in Gaza in May 2021
- “My siblings and I were playing the moment when the rocket hit the ground, it exploded in front of us. I look around and I see my sister, cousins and brother! I gasped and held my sister and hugged her, I could not leave her.” – testimony of 15-year-old Batoul Al Masri who lost her brother and younger sister after an Israel missile hit them while playing in May 2021.
Gaza, an artistic, creative ground:
- A group of youth in Gaza launched a platform designed to share stories with the world, defying harmful stereotypes through storytelling: We Are Not Numbers.
- Gaza Mon Amour, a film released in 2020 and produced by the twin Tarzan brothers exiled from Gaza, is a powerful, moving tale and a love story where Gaza’s ancient Greek heritage meets today’s reality, full of humanity and love behind destruction and war.
- I am 22 years old, I lost 22 people – A painting by Zeinab Al-Qolaq whose home was shelled by an Israeli airstrike in 2021, killing 22 of her family members overnight, including her mother and three siblings.
“عمري 22 عاماً و فقدت 22 شخصاً"
“I am 22 years old, I lost 22 people”
— زَيْنب (@Zainab_Shokry) May 29, 2022
Only after having unpacked the situation in Gaza can prospects for decolonization and liberation be found.
Though it is not always easy to fight against oppressive forces, we shall remain strong and united, educating, mobilizing and organizing with you from Gaza, to Nablus and beyond.
Inès Abdel Razek,