Refaat Alareer

Palestinian professor, poet, and activist Refaat Alareer was killed by an Israeli airstrike on Gaza on December 7, 2023.

(Photo: American Friends Service Committee)

'Huge Loss' as Gaza Luminary Refaat Alareer 'Assassinated' by Israel

"Refaat Alareer embraced everything good and pure about Gaza and Palestine," said one friend. "He will not be forgotten and his legacy will live on for many generations to come."

Human rights defenders around the world expressed anguish and outrage Thursday after Refaat Alareer, a Palestinian professor who was one of Gaza's most prominent writers and activists, was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Shejaiya that also killed his brother, sister, and her four children.

Alareer, 44, was "a beloved professor of world literature, comparative literature, Shakespeare, and creative writing at the Islamic University of Gaza, where he taught since 2007," notedLiterary Hub.

According to the publication:

He was the co-editor of Gaza Unsilenced (2015) and the editor of Gaza Writes Back: Short Stories from Young Writers in Gaza, Palestine (2014). Dr. Alareer was also one of the founders of We Are Not Numbers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating "a new generation of Palestinian writers and thinkers who can bring together a profound change to the Palestinian cause."

Through his popular Twitter account, " Refaat in Gaza," Dr. Alareer documented, and forcefully condemned, the ongoing atrocities committed against his people by Israeli forces, as well as the U.S. administrations that have enabled them.

Alareer's friend and We Are Not Numbers co-founder Ahmed Alnaouqwrote on social media: "[Refaat] authored many books and wrote tens of stories about Gaza. Refaat's assassination is tragic, painful, and outrageous. It is a huge loss."

A groundswell of tributes to Alareer flooded social media following the news of his killing.

Gazan poet Mosab Abu Toha said, "Breaking, my heart is broken, my friend and colleague Refaat Alareer was killed with his family minutes ago."

"I don't want to believe this," he added. "We both loved to pick strawberries together. I took this photo of him this summer."

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)—Quaker peace group whose Light In Gaza anthology featured Alareer's work—said in a statement that "Refaat was a friend, a mentor, and a father."

"He built up those around him, helping them envision a different future and encouraging them to speak up for their rights," AFSC added. "His impact will be felt for generations to come."

Palestinian journalist Hebh Jamal wrote: "You killed my friend. Someone I kept praying would stay safe. Someone I messaged daily [because] his resilience gave me hope."

"He laughed in the face of the genocidal maniacs every day he stayed alive never allowing them to think he was afraid," she added. "You killed him. You killed Refaat Alareer."

Canadian author and activist Naomi Kleinsaid she is "absolutely sickened by this loss."

"I was just now on his site reading his beautiful poetry," she added. "I feel such shame."

The Chicago-based website The Electronic Intifadasaid on social media it is "devastated by Israel's murder of our dear colleague, friend, and mentor."

"Throughout this genocide, Refaat never stopped writing, supporting his students, and bringing Gaza's voice to the world," the site added. "We will make sure it continues to be heard."

Journalist and filmmaker Dan Cohen wrote that "I'm in tears and sick to my stomach as I write this."

"Refaat was a guiding light as I documented life and death for my documentary, Killing Gaza," he continued. "He helped me gain access to elders in his neighborhood who provided testimony of shocking Israeli war crimes."

"Refaat Alareer embraced everything good and pure about Gaza and Palestine," Cohen added. "He will not be forgotten and his legacy will live on for many generations to come."

Some believe Alareer was targeted for assassination because of his social media posts supporting Palestinian resistance and mocking uncorroborated reports that Hamas militants baked an Israeli infant in an oven during the October 7 attacks.

"With or without baking powder?" he asked.

Last month, Alareer posted one of his poems, "If I Must Die," on social media.

If I must die,
you must live
to tell my story
to sell my things
to buy a piece of cloth
and some strings,
(make it white with a long tail)
so that a child, somewhere in Gaza
while looking heaven in the eye
awaiting his dad who left in a blaze—
and bid no one farewell
not even to his flesh
not even to himself—
sees the kite, my kite you made, flying up above
and thinks for a moment an angel is there
bringing back love
If I must die
let it bring hope
let it be a tale.

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