Gazans tell Australians: 'No place is safe'

Friday, July 18, 2014
Rally in support of Palestine, Perth. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

ABOUT 10,000 PEOPLE rallied in Melbourne on July 12 to protest against Israel's attack on Gaza.

Samah Sabawi, a playwright, poet, political analyst and human rights advocate originally from Gaza, gave the speech below to the rally.

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As Israel continues its ruthless bombardment of the Gaza Strip, Palestinians in Gaza have been sending their messages to the world using social media. They want us to hear their voices and to carry them to those around us. I will start by honouring their request and sharing with you some of their messages.

A young girl wrote: "Why can't they just bomb us all to death. Why do we have to live one step from death all our lives ... why must we endure all of this terror?"

A mother expressed her concern about her three year old who is hysterical. She won't stop crying.

One man mourns his neighbour's dead child: "We had to collect his pieces ... is this normal? I ask the world is this normal?"

My cousin wrote that she now makes sure she is well-layered in clothes, even though it is hot summer. She does this so that, if a rocket pierces her home, she may have some dignity in death.

A few days ago when this assault on the lives and the people and infrastructure of Gaza began, my newsfeed had many prayers from my friends and family in Gaza. There are less of them now on Facebook, and the ones that have remained their prayers have been replaced with obituaries of the dead.

Those who survive will have the misfortune of reliving this trauma for the rest of their lives and during future Israeli assaults. For a seven-year-old child in Gaza, this would be his third time living such atrocities.

Of course, in between Israel's wars there are Israel's drones constantly hovering every single day in the sky, there are Israeli F-16s. Life under occupation is never normal to begin with.

People spend their lives trying to build a home only to see it destroyed again and again.
The word humanitarian crisis cannot begin to describe the situation there. Electricity shortages, food shortages, medicine shortages and the list goes on. The bombing doesn't stop. It targets residential homes, hospitals, mosques, civilian infrastructure and it is ruthless. The numbers of dead is rising. No place is safe.

This is not, as Israel would like to believe, self defence. The argument of self defence doesn't stand in international law when you're defending yourself against a people you occupy illegally for decades and when you deprive these people for decades of their basic human rights.

Those who adore the "both sides" mantra need only to look at the numbers of fatalities, look at the damage caused by both sides. Only one side is being massacred, ethnically cleansed, occupied and besieged. Only one side is having their entire city subjected to hundreds of one ton bombs.

Until yesterday, Israel announced it has dropped more than 400 tonnes of bombs on Gaza hitting 440 targets. Remember, Gaza is 41 kilometres long and 12 kilometres wide. Now imagine the scale of this collective punishment.

Will the international community move? Possibly not. But we know that after this display of Israel's latest and most sophisticated weapons, Israel will turn Palestinian blood into lots of money.

Remember the biggest surge in Israel's arms trade followed Operation Cast Lead, Israel's month-long attack on Gaza in winter 2008-09. Sales in the arms industry sector that year reached $6 billion for the first time.

When people say "both sides have got to lay down their weapons", they need to understand that when this happens Israel will remain an occupier and the Palestinians an occupied, besieged and oppressed people. Resolving the conflict requires a lot more than empty slogans that only aim to maintain the status quo.

One last thing I want to say: when doing the math, when counting Palestinian rockets landing on Israel, or Israeli bombs falling over Gaza, when counting the Palestinian dead over the years, the Israeli dead, the wounded, please don't forget to count the minutes, the hours, the days, and the years of the occupation. Each and every day, Palestinians were born and died without their freedom.

And when you've done the math, don't just get angry, take action. Heed the call of Palestinian civil society to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel. This is the only way.

From GLW issue 1017

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