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Gaza children

Palestinian children look out from a torn piece of cloth on a sunny day in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza Strip. (Photo: Yousef Masoud/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Palestinian Families Face Another Summer of Needless Suffering in Gaza

We hang on with raw courage and creativity. Will the world ever see us or hear us?

Muhammad Jihad Ismael

My family and I—my wife, our young son, our elders, and the twin baby girls who will be born to us this week—ask the world to hear the conditions of our lives here in Deir el Balah, after 14 years’ captivity in the world’s largest toxic prison-camp, and since the May waves of Israeli tank shells, artillery shells, rockets and bombs have stopped exploding in our midst. 

"Fourteen years of brutal mass confinement, chronic malnutrition, trauma, psychological problems, and thousands of people maimed by weapons from land, sea and air: these go on deepening Gaza’s widespread depression and suicidal despair."

In some ways this calm is harder than open war. Right now, war continues in the dispossessions of our cousins from the neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. Here, most of the Gaza Strip’s assets, infrastructure and services are in catastrophic ruins. So, there is almost no water fit for drinking, washing, or just cooling off in this season’s volcanic record heat, no water that will not rot our teeth and ruin our stomachs, almost no water for the vegetable gardens that keep us barely alive. With luck, we have 8 hours of daily electricity even to pump it into household holding-tanks. 

As May began our crucial fishing season, Israel banned our boats altogether from the sea. Now that boats can venture at most 6 miles out (or take fire from gunboats), their catches are as insufficient as the mere 200 daily trucks of other food allowed into the Strip by Israel. (200 trucks divided by 2.5 million people = 12,500 people supposedly fed by a single truck.) Desperate for protein and nourishment, we are forced to buy frozen fish from the trucks. This is often spoiled when it reaches us, and what can a captive do, complain? To whom, with any hope of a hearing? 

We hang on with raw courage and creativity. Palestinian and Egyptian bulldozers labor in the heat, clearing mountains of rubble from streets and crowded neighborhoods, filling in craters from bombs aimed to block crucial roads to our hospitals. We do all we can even as Israel obstructs our funding for rebuilding and materials. Qatar, for example, sent monthly financial help to about 100,000 of our poorest families, but this is now frozen by Israeli financiers. Last week, UNRWA professionals distributed food parcels, but somehow not including powdered milk---which might have replaced the tanker-trucks of milk so needed by our young ones, but now forbidden us (with no explanation) by Israel. 

For all this, restrictions on trade and traffic in and out of Gaza are more severe than ever. Marketplace stalls are missing many important items, while other goods pile up unsold because people lack money to buy them. Workers and farmers lose the pittances they could earn, for their employers can scarcely get hold of raw materials or export their products. 

Fourteen years of brutal mass confinement, chronic malnutrition, trauma, psychological problems, and thousands of people maimed by weapons from land, sea and air: these go on deepening Gaza’s widespread depression and suicidal despair. Yet, in the face of life itself grinding to a halt, we dream and work for new, full and fair elections. This week we will celebrate the birth of our two daughters. And in both ways, we Palestinians will go on struggling for equality among our neighbors in accord with international law. In the face of so much needless human suffering, we ask the good people all over the world to reach out---to us, and with us---into action for true justice. 

 


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Muhammad Jihad Ismael

Muhammad Jihad Ismael

Muhammad Jihad Ismael lives in Gaza.

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