Gaza is Changing All of Us

The images from Gaza are painful beyond measure. (Hadi Daoud APA images)

I scroll through news and photos and videos daily.

I check Whatsapp first thing in the morning for messages from friends in Gaza and send off a few to ask how they’re doing.

They tolerate my stupid question. I’m not really asking, though, because I know they’re not okay.

I just want to make sure they’re alive.

To send them love. To tell them I’m thinking of them.

I wonder if it’s for them or for me. I love and miss them and wish I never left Gaza because now I can’t get back since Israel is controlling the Egyptian border.

I also check the resistance Telegram channels daily to see if they have posted new videos. Their epic bravery renews my optimism and sense of revolutionary determination.

Most of the scenes on my scroll are painful beyond measure. The livestreamed atrocities I consume by day are processed in my dreams by night.

Gaza doesn’t leave me.

I’m not alone. Nearly all of my friends say the same and I see random people on social media losing their minds over what they’re witnessing.

Most of them are ordinary citizens who’ve never been political. Their initiation into geopolitical order is genocide – headless, limbless, faceless Palestinian babies and children, with Israeli soldiers and civilians cheering it all on.

Day in and day out.

I watched a British soldier today scream at the world on social media, unable to contain his pain and disbelief at the unimaginable cruelty.

The reel went on for several minutes. The soldier’s face turned red and his veins bulged and his eyes misted.

How long?

Gaza is changing all of us.

How long will this go on?

No protest, no resignation, no complaint to the International Court of Justice, no pressure seems to curtail Israel’s insatiable bloodlust and criminal war machine.

Now the Israelis want to bomb Lebanon, threatening to turn Beirut into Gaza.

If Israel were a person, they would be locked up in a maximum security prison for the world’s worst criminals.

The creation of this settler colony was the biggest geopolitical blunder in modern history, threatening to drag the whole world into an inferno. Palestinians are already there, in the pits of Israel’s depravity, burning and dying and screaming for help.

On my last trip to Gaza, I took over 60 pounds of food for just one family.

A friend’s mother knew a woman who knew another woman who had three kids with phenylketonuria (PKU), a hereditary condition that makes children unable to metabolize phenylalanine, an amino acid found in most foods. Without a special diet low in phenylalanine, PKU will lead to mental disabilities, seizure disorders and other neurological conditions.

Israel’s blockade of food to the strip made it impossible for the mother to find the food they needed, and giving her children regular bread was akin to slowly poisoning them. My friends in Egypt weren’t able to locate the special pasta and flour so I ordered it from a company in the US and hauled it in an overweight suitcase across the world, then across the border to Gaza.

There, I delivered the goods through a friend traveling to Nuseirat, the area in central Gaza where the family was at the time. Later that day, the mother sent photos and videos of her children eating the pasta, smiling, grateful and gleeful.

She had also baked them cookies from the special dough.

I think about them often, for the supply I brought has surely run out by now.

I wonder, too, if they survived the Nuseirat massacre on 8 June. Or were they among the 270 lives sacrificed to extract four Israeli captives?

I wonder how many other people with PKU have been forced daily to choose between hunger or neurological poison.

I think of little Zeina, a young friend I made.

I fell in love with her and her family – one brother and loving parents. All of them kind and smart and close knit.

But when it was time for me to leave, Zeina meekly took me aside when no one would notice. She was trembling slightly.

“Can I go with you when you leave?” she pleaded.

I don’t believe in lying to children, though the truth was hard to utter. The best I could do was promise to come back and assure her that this horror would end.

Eventually, it will end.

I don’t know how long she had waited for the right opportunity to take me aside, or if she had practiced how she would ask me. I think she believed there was a chance and I know she felt she was betraying her family because she later begged me not to tell her mom.

There are hundreds of thousands of children like Zeina, traumatized in ways none of us can truly comprehend. Their brains are rewiring and their childhood no longer resembles childhood.

Only the willfully ignorant and morally vacuous, which may well be one in the same, are untouched by this holocaust in real time.

The rest of us are awake and enraged and mobilizing.

Gaza has altered our collective DNA. We are united in our love and pain and resolve to resist and escalate until Palestine is liberated and these genocidal Zionists are held to account in the same manner Nazis were.

Article first published in The Electronic Intifada

Susan Abulhawa is a writer and activist. Her most recent novel is Against the Loveless World. Read other articles by Susan.