Palestinian man mourns child wrapped in cloth in Gaza on December 19, 2023

A man mourns as he holds the wrapped body of a Palestinian child who was killed overnight by Israeli bombing at a hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on December 19, 2023.

(Photo by Mohammed Abed/AFP via Getty Images)

2023: The Year Humanity Died

When the dust of the war on Gaza settles, it will sit on our global conscience for generations to come.

As a Palestinian who was born two generations apart from the Nakba, I have never imagined that one day I would witness the genocide of my people unfold before my eyes in broad daylight. While I always feared the prospect of a Second Nakba, as many Palestinians do, I have never dreamed, not even in my worst nightmares, that I would live it, witness it, and write about it.

In my happy Palestinian innocence, I believed that even if Israel was keen on repeating the Nakba, or attempting to “finish the job of 1948,” as many Israeli officials have threatened over the years, the Free World would not allow it to happen. In my wishful thinking, I believed that the world had learned its lesson since the Nakba. Yes, the world failed the Palestinian people in 1948. Yes, it allowed Israel to carry out its ethnic cleansing and mass expulsion of Palestinians. Yes, it abandoned the Palestinian refugees, and rewarded Israel with a United Nations recognition and membership. But that was 75 years ago, the age of genocides and holocausts. A lot of progress had been made since, I told myself. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. The U.N. evolved. Human rights groups mushroomed. Mandela won the Nobel Peace. True, genocide would occur so often and so uncontested in the decades since, but after the horrific genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia, the leaders of the Free World seemed to have had enough! They seemed adamant not to allow another genocide to happen—Never Again! Not in Palestine, not again!

Summit after summit, they vowed that such atrocities had no place in the new century. Even when the new century in Palestine ushered in the Second Intifada and the collapse of the Oslo Accords, I still believed that the horrors of the past were in check. Even when Israel mushroomed in size, and the settlements tripled, and the apartheid system was closing in on the Palestinians in the West Bank, and the merciless siege suffocating those in Gaza, where one million children were born and raised in captivity, I still believed that that was the peak of our suffering and nothing remotely close the terrors of Rwanda or Bosnia, or indeed the First Nakba, would happen to us, because the world was watching, and it was ready to dispatch its postwar moral arsenal to stop it!

As a Palestinian, as a human being, I feel that part of me has died in this war.

I was dead wrong. For three bloody months since the Gaza Genocide first unfolded, the Free World has sat there watching, and cheering, and mocking us to death.

During the first weeks, I still held onto my naïve optimism. True, the Free World betrayed Palestinians in Gaza; it allowed Israel to act with impunity; it tolerated its war crimes and mass atrocities; it denied the children of Gaza even the pretense of humanity. But ultimately it was bound to come to its senses and unleash its moral diplomacy to end this horror. So I persisted in my optimism. Perhaps the world needed more time to fathom what was happening. Perhaps it was waiting for a few more thousands of Palestinians to be killed before making its drastic move. Yet week after week, the world remained silent, blind to our deaths, deaf to our sufferings.

One month into the bloodshed, after Israel had killed 1,000 children, I said that’s it; the world would make its move now, if only to save the children! But the U.S. responded by vetoing a humanitarian cease-fire that could have saved thousands of innocent lives! A month after, when the death toll of children reached 10,000, I said enough is enough; it’s high time the world acted NOW, because humanity itself is at stake! U.N. officials had already sounded the alarm that Gaza was becoming a “graveyard for children,” so no one could pretend they did not know. The time to act was now or never! Yet there was another U.S. veto; another cold hand was raised to issue a new death sentence for Palestinians. Another spit in the face of humanity!

Now I’m lost for words. I have lost faith in humanity. The staggering death toll in Gaza is humanly impossible to fathom or accept without losing our sense of shared humanity. As a Palestinian, as a human being, I feel that part of me has died in this war. I know for certain that I will not emerge from this tragedy the same person I was before. None of us will.

Gaza may be annihilated, but it’s not going anywhere. When the dust of war settles, it will sit on our global conscience for generations to come. It will be a permanent stain on our humanity. The children of Gaza will not forget, if they survive. The living will remember, and the dead will haunt us forever. Gaza will be remembered not only as the crime of the century, but also as the site of our greatest shame, where humanity failed.

2023 will go down in history as the darkest in Palestine––the year humanity died.

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