Gaza: They Have Names

Daddy, can people die of fright?
— Question of a nine year old child in Gaza to her father, 17th November 2012

As I write the lost in Gaza has reached 52, the injured 560. The Al Shifa Hospital has reported being close to running out of generator fuel – thus incubators, life supporting equipment will close down lives. Medical supplies are perilously low.

Israel decides how many calories the people of Gaza deserve and indeed what food (as all else) they can import. They now, again, decide who of the 1.6 million fellow human beings in the tiny Gaza strip can live or die.

The massively disproportionate response to rocket attacks on their country is reported to aim at reducing Gaza to a pre-industrial age. Identical to the expression used by then US Secretary of State James Baker regarding Iraq in 1991.

Israeli government spokespeople gloss over this threat by talking of “pinpoint accuracy”, “surgical strikes”, “incursions” rather than invasion (whether by air or on the ground.)

But the dead are mothers, fathers, uncles aunts, grandmothers, grandfathers.  They  are children, students and babies on the threshold of their tenuous, calorie-restricted, walled in, embargoed life. And they are not “collateral damage”, “unfortunate accidents” or a collective number of “casualties.” They have names and ages, are living beings who were with us days or hours ago and who have been disposed of as casually and coldly as a clear out of the unwanted accumulation in a domestic cupboard.

A 22 year old Palestinian university student has been compiling names. Given the continually cut communications, the logistics of moving about as the missiles fall, it is still incomplete, but here it is – for now:

 1 – Ahmad Al-Ja’bary, 52 years;
2 – Mohammed Al-hams, 28 years;
3 – Rinan Arafat, 4 years;
4 – Omar Al-Mashharawi, 11 months;
5 – Essam Abu-Alma’za, 20 years;
6 – Mohammed Al-qaseer, 20 years;
7 – Heba Al-Mashharawi, six months pregnant, 19 years;
8 – Mahmoud Abu Sawawin, 65 years;
9 – Habis Hassan Mismih, 29 years;
10 – Wael Haidar Al-Ghalban, 31 years;
11 – Hehsam Mohammed Al-Ghalban, 31 years;
12 – Rani Hammad, 25 years;
13 – Khaled Abi Nasser, 27 years;
14 – Marwan Abu Al-Qumsan, 52 years;
15 – Walid Al-Abalda, 2-and-a-half years;
16 – Oday Jammal Nasser, 16 years;
18 – Fares Al-Basyouni, 11 years;
19 – Ayman Abu Warda, 22 years;
21 – Tahrir Suliman, 20 years;
22 – Ismael Qandil, 24 years;
23 – younis Kamal Tafesh, 55 years;
24 – Mohammed Talal Suliman, 28 years;
25 – Amjad Mohammed Abu-Jalala , 32 years;
26 – Ziyad Farhan Abu-Jalala , 23 years;
27 – Ayman Mohammed Abu Jalala, 44 years;
28 – Hassan Salem Al-Heemla’, 27 years;
29 – Khaled Khalil Al-Shaer, 24 years
30 – Ayman Rafeeq sleem, 26 years
31 – Ahmad Abu Musamih, 32 years;
32 – Osama Abdejjawad;
33 – Ashraf Darwish Al Shaer 27 years;
34 – Ali Al-Mana’ma;
35`- Mukhlis Edwan;
36 – Mohammed Al-Loulhy;
37 – Ahmad Al-Atrush;
38 – Ahmed Abu Mesmeh;

and other two martyrs  until now.

Today the bodies of Jumana Abu Sefan, 18 months, and her brother Tamer, three-and-a-half years are added by this writer.

It is perhaps worth repeating again, James Arthur Balfour’s words to Lord Rothschild  of November 2nd, 1917.

His Majesty’s Government view with favour†the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine,†or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country. (Emphasis mine.)

Palestine is thus, of course, rightly, acknowledged as a country in its own right, the Jewish people, if you will, guests, not rulers, conquerers or occupiers. Palestinians’ civil and religious rights have been grievously ignored, trampled, prejudiced from day one. Continuing crimes of enormity are mass murder and massacre.

Nicholas Wood, author of War Crimes or Just War, and his wife Sara have designed a large placard which perhaps puts into context the injustice heaped on Palestine by a people whose collective psyche is dominated by another unimaginable historic injustice.

It reads:

You take my water
Burn my olive trees
Destroy my house
Take my job
Steal my land
Imprison my father
Kill my mother
Bomb my country
Starve us all
Humiliate us all
I am to blame
I shot a rocket back.

It is hard not to ponder on whether “the only democracy in the Middle East” should perhaps take a long, thoughtful look in the collective mirror.

Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist with special knowledge of Iraq. Author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of Baghdad in the Great City series for World Almanac books, she has also been Senior Researcher for two Award winning documentaries on Iraq, John Pilger's Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq and Denis Halliday Returns for RTE (Ireland.) Read other articles by Felicity.