Why is Israel bombing Gaza?

We’ll be demonstrating again this Saturday, August 16 from 10:00-11:00 at the usual corner in Racine, WI on the NW corner of Highways 31 and 20. We have signs. Please come if you are able.

Thank you! RCPJ

For My Child, For All Our Children

In the past ten years of Friday demonstrations against the Israeli Occupation, I have helped carry countless people to the ambulance—men and women, injured by Israeli rubber coated bullets, tear gas canisters and live ammunition. But until last Thursday, I never knew what this experience would feel like when the person I was carrying was one of my own children.

I heard a gunshot, and then the scream of my sixteen-year-old son Majd. A silence fell over me as I ran to him with many thoughts in my head. Where was he shot? Would he be okay? Why did the Israeli soldiers target him? He was just standing there as the demonstration was ending. Did they shoot him because they know I am one of the organizers of these protests?

It is in these moments of uncertainty that our greatest fears haunt us—moments that the people in Gaza have been experiencing on a daily basis.

Over the past few weeks, there have been demonstrations throughout the West Bank to protest Israel’s illegal actions and to show our support for our brothers and sisters in Gaza. This is in response to the murder of over 1,868 people and injuring of thousands more, where over 80% of those killed have been civilians–mostly women and children. During these protests of solidarity, the Israelis have been particularly brutal in their responses and they have injured and killed many peaceful demonstrators.

After visiting the hospital in Ramallah where many injured Palestinians are recovering, residents of Bil’in knew we needed to have a special demonstration in our village, in Bil’in, to show our support for Gaza. This demonstration was planned in honor of the children of Gaza, and our children in Bil’in. We know that the children are affected most by this violence, by the Occupation.

Three weeks earlier when the bombings first started and everywhere on the news there were discussions about children being killed in Gaza, my eight-year-old daughter Mayar was having trouble sleeping. She would keep waking up and come to wherever I was so that I would hold her; she was afraid.

Late one night, she started to ask me questions that no father ever wants to hear.

“Why is Israel bombing Gaza? Why won’t they leave us alone?

Why are they killing kids who are my age? And why won’t anyone stop them?”

I did not have an answer for Mayar, there is no good answer that can explain what is happening.

The truth is, I was ashamed to tell her that so much of the world is sleeping while people in Gaza are being killed. In this moment I understood in a new way that her childhood, her life, like the lives of so many other Palestinian children, would be forever changed as a result of these massacres in Gaza. I cannot protect her from this reality.

My child is wise, and her questions are important for many of us to consider. It is because of these questions that we must continue to resist. So that our children and our children’s children do not have to face such harsh realities of Occupation, imprisonment, death and destruction all their lives.

The day of the latest demonstration, hundreds of people from Bil’in joined together to march to the Apartheid Wall that still separates us from our agricultural land. As we approached the Wall, the heavily armed Israeli soldiers met us and used their jeeps to begin shooting many tear gas canisters on our peaceful demonstration.

As the demonstrators began to scatter to avoid suffocation from the tear gas, the soldiers started to come into our village. As we were turning toward home, I saw the Israeli Commander point his rifle in our direction, take aim, and then fire. I could instantly tell from the sound that it was live ammunition, and in the next moment I saw what he had been aiming at—my son.

It is not easy to describe the feeling of hearing your child scream in agony. “Am I going to die Baba?” he asked breathlessly, as I rushed to hold him and see where he had been shot.

It was very difficult to lift him up even as his leg is dripping blood and then to carry him to the ambulance. Maybe the most difficult of all, was calling my wife Tesaheel from the ambulance and trying to explain to her what was had happened to our son, trying to sound confident as I told her that his injury was not too bad, that our son would be okay, that everything would be okay. I felt like I was being choked, that I was being strangled and the words would not come out of my mouth. I never want to tell my wife that our child is in danger—but this is our life, our everyday experience.

In those moments after he was shot I was not thinking about the commander that shot him. I was not thinking about the Occupation or the war in Gaza, all I could think about was my son. I was not sure if he was being brave, scared or was in shock, because while we were in the ambulance he was very quiet the whole time. He has been shot before with a high projectile tear gas canister and rubber bullets, all of which can kill, of course—but each time he has never bled this much, and I have never been so afraid that my child may be dying.

When we finally arrived at the hospital the doctors said that the bullet hit a nerve in his leg. He could not feel his foot, and he would need to have surgery in Israel or Jordan because they do not have the type of medical equipment needed for this surgery in the West Bank. He has been in the hospital now for six days, and since that time I have not left his side. Many family members and friends come to visit and it has been wonderful for Majid to see how much all of these people love him and support him. His body is healing, he is able to move around in a wheel chair. We are all relieved, and so grateful he is alive, but this experience is not over. And this was only one small taste of what so many here must endure.

During the past week I have thought a lot about my son, my family and my work organizing demonstrations against the Occupation. I realize that it is not helpful to blame or get angry at myself, though I have wondered if he would have been shot if I was not organizing the resistance in Bil’in. The truth is, many children are harmed and even killed without any political connection. But I feel the desperation of a parent who wants to but is not able to protect his children. It is beyond my control—I am not the one that chose to shoot an innocent young boy. I am not the one that gave the order to shoot tear gas at peaceful demonstrators or to drop bombs on homes, schools and hospitals in Gaza.

This is our life living under Occupation. My son is no different from the thousands of others that have been shot during this conflict. As a leader of popular resistance protests my family joins with me in demonstrations, knowing that any one of us could be arrested, injured or even killed as a result. But we do it anyway, because we have no other choice—we will never achieve our freedom unless we struggle for it and sometimes pay for it with blood and tears.

So we must continue to resist, for my children and for all our children, in the hopes that our efforts today will create a future for Palestinians in which we are safe, and free.

Iyad

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