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Gaza under Israeli terror: "Every call with my family could be the last"

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Relentless Israeli bombing of Gaza. (AFP)

In this episode we will be talking about the recent escalation of violence against the people in Gaza, and across the occupied West Bank.

Shahd Abusalama, a Palestinian artist from Gaza and the author of Palestine from My Eyes blog walks us through a brief history of the Palestinian plight and the present crisis in the occupied lands. She is a PhD student at Sheffield Hallam University, exploring Palestinian cinema.

Though not in Gaza at the moment, she is well versed on the situation on the ground since her family is in Gaza.

She holds an MA in Media and the Middle East from SOAS, University of London, and a BA in English Literature from Al-Azha University - Gaza.

Shahd Abusalama joins us on episode 51 of PRESSCAST, a podcast by Press TV, and gives her view of the indefatigable Palestinian will to resist.

Welcome to the show, would you be so kind as to update us on the situation and what is actually happening in Gaza?

Gaza is under severe bombardment from land, sea and air by Israeli weaponry that has been besieging the Gaza Strip for the past, nearly two decades, and indiscriminate fire is targeting right now all the people and we are counting massacre after (massacre) another. These are war crimes and human rights violations, and it's been happening continuously since Israel came into existence on the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Our families right now are appealing from under heavy bombardment. Every call could be the last call with my family.

Shahd Abusalama, Palestinian Writer and Activist

When was the last time you talked with your family?

We just spoke to them. But sometimes the connection is not possible, because the bombing is literally nonstop, and electricity is very scarce and that is affecting the internet connection. And so, we try our best to stay in touch, but people are flooding into our home. There are currently over 30 people, most of them are children, seeking refuge in my home from heavily bombarded areas, especially in the north of Gaza. It's (horrific), and this has been continuing for seven days. Like people haven't been sleeping, haven't been eating, that left in horror. But they're, they're remaining steadfast and all they can do is just pray, just pray that they're going to survive this aggression.

Shahd Abusalama, Palestinian Writer and Activist

A western journalist, who has been to Gaza, told us that Gaza is not that big, you know it's not a big place, it's a small place, so any bomb that they shoot at you has a chance of landing on a house or somewhere in a residential area.

We have seen horrific images of houses collapsing, bombs falling and people, you know, not knowing what fate may have in store for them in the next second or so.

Having lived under the same circumstances in Gaza, would you mind telling us about the experience?

I will share [my experiences] but I will have to remind the listeners, and people watching that. This is really like re-traumatizing like every time we have to live through this, it's often an already bleeding wound and I've lived with my people through such aggression in the past; so many times I lost count.

And, and our home was one threatened by bombardment. And it's extremely extreme terror, like, really unbearable and Gaza, you have to remember, it is one of the mostly most densely populated areas on earth.

And the majority of its people are actually youth, young people, like we have the highest rates of young people in Gaza, and the houses are packed.

There is no so called precise targeting any targets can lead to the deaths of dozens of people, and dozens of casualties. And we've seen right now, everything is recorded everything is before our own eyes. And we're seeing the residential buildings are falling on people's heads. Until now as we speak right now rescue crews are trying to get people from under the rubble.

This morning, we heard news from one of the journalists in Gaza. His name, Mohammed icky. He was with his family. He wasn't really actually at work; he was with his family at the time. The street they lived on is currently completely distorted and devastated, flattened and leveled to the ground and Mohammed icky sent a message just a couple of hours ago from under the rubble, saying that he's alive. And the rescue crew, eventually, two hours later, announced his death.

So, really, like, the situation is beyond inhumane. And it keeps shocking us every time we think that Israel has crossed on all red lines, there are still more red lines to cross. And the world is still watching. And right now, condemnations and petitions and calls for de-escalation is not enough.

Israel has been killing the Palestinians systematically, and right now this killing machine is not only targeting our people in Gaza, it is only happening there at a more drastic level, but in the West Bank, in 48 lands, in what is now supposedly Israel, in Yaffa and Haifa and elsewhere Palestinians are being attacked indiscriminately.

And you can see on all TV news you can see live (footage), Palestinians are standing before one of the strongest armies of the world with their own bare chests and they are being brutally repressed for daring to call for freedom, justice and equality for their own people. The situation is unfair.

Shahd Abusalama, Palestinian Writer and Activist

As you are well aware, even before this new round of bombings Gaza was living under a tightening siege, which started in 2007  and has been going on ever since.

When such things happen, when bombs are falling throughout the city and innocent people are losing their lives, Is there a change in the lockdown, in the siege, can people leave? Is there any medical and food aid coming in? What about water? How do people deal with such things?

I mean your questions are really pouring salt on injury, because everything is disrupted, right now, life is disrupted, and people are scared to do, to even like go to the supermarket, Gaza as you said has been already undergoing a brutal siege that has been already condemned by human rights organizations, by the United Nations, and it's been called brutal and inhumane and the UN has made the report in 2012 that warns that Gaza, may be unlivable by 2020.

Right now we've exceeded that deadline. And actually, even then, the Palestinians took it as an insult when the UN said that Gaza, may be unlivable in 2020.

Has it ever been livable? Do you, do you imagine you imagine this sort of horror, like I was born in the middle of the First Intifada, that erupted In Jabalia refugee camp, where I was also born in 1987. And ever since. Ever since I was, I was born in the middle of those horrible, horrible times with a gun targeting my mom, who had broken the curfew. She had to break curfew, where Israeli army, basically killed any moving being, and I'm here in front of you but I'm a survivor, and every Palestinian is really a survivor, because we know that this campaign of ethnic cleansing, has been continuous ever since Israel came into existence on the ruins, and this explosion and dispersion of the Palestinian people.

Shahd Abusalama, Palestinian Writer and Activist

A couple of months ago there was this huge explosion in Beirut. A European friend, living there at the time because of his job while raising his two European kids, said after the incident that he was really worried about his children experiencing the trauma of the explosion, and that they had immediately moved far away from the site of the explosion.

And then a couple of months later, they moved back to Europe because of the trauma that the children were going through.

How does this compare with what you went through as a child living in Gaza?

This is the lived reality of all Palestinian children right now. The majority actually, of those killed in Gaza, are children. Israel is claiming to a have huge bank of targets, they call it Bank of targets.

Right now we are counting more than 180, killed in Palestine 51 of them are children, and the bodies are still torn and buried under the rubble, there are so many, so many people stuck under the rubble.

And we don't know, the death toll is going through, it is shocking, we're counting back seven days of constant bombing, seven days of constant bombing discriminated between a child, a woman and dirtily and those Palestinians are mostly refugees, and they have been dispossessed, not once, not twice, multiple times, and actually yesterday, we commemorated the 73rd anniversary of Nakba the worst experience of uninterrupted violence.

And this has been, actually, not just my life. The, this has been the marker as well of the childhood of my father, my parents, my grandparents, and we're living it one generation after the other, it's multi generational trauma, trans-generational trauma, and it's been affecting Palestinians, all over their exiles, all over their corners of exiles both in Palestine and outside the country.

It's incredible, I want to point out that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that has been actually issued around the same time the UN resolution 194 was issued that guaranteed the Palestinians the right to return and compensation that was in 1948.

The declaration of human rights, that most countries endorse, says that all people were born equal, and were born free and equal in life, and rights and dignity.

The Palestinians have been denied these rights before the eyes of the whole world and are even being excluded from the discourse on human rights.

Soothing words for Palestine, military support for Israel

And the world has been invested in maintaining Israel, way more than serving justice for the Palestinians, and what is happening right now is shame on all of humanity, that it's continuing and repeating over and over again.

Justice for Palestinians has been long overdue; holding Israel to account has been long overdue.

The evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity has been binding [sic] since before Israel came to existence, with the sponsorship of imperial powers such as the UK and the US, and it's continuing until now, and yet, Israel continues to escape accountability.

But, we know from history, that no regime based on oppression and injustice and oppression of the native people has ever lasted. In South Africa apartheid failed.

And the imperial powers and their colonial empires, even the biggest empires have also failed.

There have been countries and people, who have experienced settler colonialism and apartheid for centuries, and eventually the people have risen and justice was served.

And we know that what is keeping us strong now is our belief in justice, and our absolute shock at the moral bankruptcy of the world, and the horrendous crime that Israel is committing on behalf of defense, and democracy and, and equality.

This is all bull#### we know this is all bull#### and the Palestinians will keep on holding on to the rubble. Until Palestine is free.

Shahd Abusalama, Palestinian Writer and Activist

One of the main reasons why people around the world, especially in the Western world, do not know about the real situation in Palestine and in Gaza is because of their media, because the mainstream-media don't really show what's happening in Gaza.

As someone who is presently in the UK, how are the media showing the events in Gaza, what are they saying about it?

So I am actually. I was supposed to submit my PhD thesis in the representation of Palestinians in colonial Korean and Palestinian documentary film. And this was supposed to happen next month.

So, I've studied the historical and systematic demonization of the Palestinians, and how it manifests, not only in media, but also in international policy, in public discourse, in academia, in all these discourses where knowledge is being produced.

But, as we know, history has been for for a long time, written from the perspective of the colonisers. The so called victors, who claimed their victory and distracted from the immense pain and crimes that they commited against the people who are under colonisation, and oppression. But Insha’Allah, we hope that that history is going to be corrected.

And right now, unfortunately, the international media is continuing to do its usual so called mistakes. Let us consider the guardian.

On the seventh of May it published a report apologizing for mistakes "that they've made in the past 200 years of broadcasting". And one of these mistakes was their support and facilitation for the Balfour declaration that enabled the Zionist settlers to be treated as a priority, and to be privileged over the native people of Palestine.

And that was, basically, the foundation of what is now the Israeli apartheid, that is dominating Historic Palestine from the river to the sea, and receiving international media attention,  entertaining Israel's so called self defense and parroting it uncritically; not even deliberately.

This is a strategy of blaming the victim. And this is not new, most colonial powers, most oppressive regimes, have used the same strategy against colonized people.

And the so called self-defense narrative is completely false. It's a sham.

You cannot claim self-defense against the people that you occupy; international law is clear about this. And it's clear that the people fighting for liberation from colonial power have the right to resist. Have the right to self-defense.

So if anyone, if anyone in this equation, that is marked with a severe power imbalance, has the right to self defence it is the Palestinian people and we all shoulder the moral responsibility to support the resilience and the resistance of the Palestinian people, that is continuing for over a century of anti colonial struggle against British and Zionist aggression.

Shahd Abusalama, Palestinian Writer and Activist

How the UK public perceive the dire straits of Palestine

As a Palestinian activist presently residing in the United Kingdom what can you do to spread the word about the Palestinian struggle and to enlighten the public, who may not have heard the real truth?

We try to do our best. I can, I can barely feel my voice coming out to be honest. And this has been my state for the past seven days, I'm horrified and I'm shaking, and I'm waiting for a call all the time. A few days ago, I was, I was live with Lowkey, the Iraqi British rapper, in London I was on a live call with several Palestinians on the ground at the same time.

And in the middle of the live call, we received a phone call from my family and my mum was semi unconscious, and she was literally shouting from under the table, they hid under the table.

And at that time Israel launched over 100 missiles, coordinated bombing across the Gaza Strip.

“It feels like Judgment Day”

My mom was saying, on the phone, ‘It feels like the Judgement Day. It feels like the end of the world. All I want is hearing your voice, make it stop. Make it stop’. And she was, she was like literally awaiting, she was waiting for her death, and she called to say goodbye.

And ever since this has been the nightmare; this has been the nightmare of most Palestinians, this is not just my nightmare.

This is the nightmare of every Palestinian, and those people who come live with us from Palestine; they know they will do it one morning, while knowing that that this could be the last appearance for them.

The last appearance for them. I need to reiterate that everyone shoulders this responsibility, and it shouldn't be left to the Palestinians to highlight what is going on. What is going on in Palestine is a human rights issue, and it should concern, every citizen of the world. All free people of the world.

What we've done to the South African people has to be done to the Palestinian people.

We did it in the past, we did it in Algeria, we did it in South Africa, and we can do it for Palestine. Keep it up. Everybody stay strong. Keep on exposing Israeli crimes and keep on calling freedom, justice and equality and return for the Palestinians.

What is happening right now, the mainstream narrative has to be disrupted, the mainstream politics that are going on Palestine has to be, had to be, disrupted.

The so called 1967 borders are not present right now, because the map of Israeli aggression is unifying the map of Palestine and the Palestinians are being targeted, beyond the green line inside and outside. There is no, there is no so called green line.

Right now, all the Palestinians are one unit, calling for freedom, justice and equality and return to their homelands, that are right now, in what is nowadays called Israel.

Israeli apartheid must be held to account. Make your way in your neighbourhood in your schools in your workplace, use your (social media) platform.

The Palestinians in Gaza are struggling to actually get in touch with the world, because of the severe bombardments and the aggression is continuing.

The people are being killed, children are being killed, right now as we speak, do everything possible, and even if there is a truce announced,  know that the Palestinians will be waiting for the next aggression.

This will not stop unless Israeli Apartheid is held to account before Justice.

Shahd Abusalama, Palestinian Writer and Activist

PRESSCAST is also available in YOUTUBE from this episode on in.

PRESSCAST is also available in YOUTUBE from this episode on in.


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