“I wanna live to see my little kids grow. I wanna watch their graduations not funerals.” – Eman Basher, a Palestinian in Gaza whose testimony appears in Visualising Palestine
It is tempting, as always when there is an outpouring of fear and horror at violence, to begin our recollection with the last big thing. Is that the Israeli bombing of al-Ahli hospital where people were being treated and others were trying to rest after being forced out of their homes? Perhaps the bombing of Saint Porphyrios Greek Orthodox Church, the third oldest church in the world where civilians were taking shelter? Is it the some 6,000 Israeli bombs dropped in Gaza in the week beginning 7 October 2023 which killed over 2,000 people, wounding further thousands, with more displaced and an innumerable number traumatised and re-traumatised and traumatised again? Is it the call for 1.1 million Palestinians to uproot their lives in mere hours on the orders of the Israeli military? Is it the killing of 1,300 Israelis and hostage-taking of others that many consider the beginning of this particular barrage of atrocities? In writing this small paragraph I have missed out the destruction of so many families, homes, neighbourhoods, childhoods, hopes.
And what is ironic is that even as us Palestinians are being cast as inherently violent, we’ve also historically been the source of spectacular nonviolent protests. Think of May 2018, when young Palestinians organized the Great March of Return. We saw thirty to forty thousand Palestinians at the Gaza perimeter, demanding the right to return home, to lift the siege. And they were shot down like birds at a 300 meter distance by Israeli snipers: 50 were murdered and more than 1,700 wounded. – Noura Erakat, Palestinain human rights lawyer
If we are to limit our view in this time of desperate terror, grief and anger all around the world to just that which is inspired by the violence in Palestine and Israel (and in our hearts and minds know that this has meant that many other tragedies have not been grieved and supported by the world at large, like the earthquakes in Afghanistan, floods in Libya, the violence against Armenians by Azerbaijan, and humanitarian crisis in Sudan caused by war - to name too few), then we must also acknowledge that this has a longer timeline. This really started in 1948 with the creation of the Israeli settler-state, the forced displacement of thousands of Palestinians (which means that 75% of Gazans are already refugees), and has continued nightmarishly to this day, with ever increasing occupation and the violence that comes with such a crime.
“What is a proportionate response because it has been different from one tier to another? So, if you look at this graph, for example, this is the death of Israelis and Palestinians, and it’s changing from one year to year. It’s fluctuating like crypto … So my question is today, what is the going rate today for human lives?” – Bassem Youssef, political commentator and satirist in an interview with Piers Morgan
What we see around us is anger and grief. We see it in our fellow observers, families, friends, on social media where we watch Gazans enduring, and sometimes succumbing to this terror, and on news reports where countless people are asked to vocalise their feelings or political opinions whatever they may be. And that is true and that is fair. The combined death toll is potentially over 5,000 people in the space of about two weeks– and we don’t know exactly because how can we know how many people are beneath the rubble? Between 1987 and 23 October 2023, 15,726 Palestinians have been killed and 3,159 Israelis have been killed.
It is now incumbent on the international community to intervene to prevent an impending genocide. – Al-Haq, Palestinian Human Rights NGO
In light of this devastation it feels most important to say that it is not over. Though we have watched thousands die, many of us feeling helpless and thwarted by our politicians who are meant to be our voice, there are still so many people who have the right to live in Gaza and the West Bank, and who need the voices of those distant from their lives to stand in solidarity with them – we people who hold privilege and power by virtue of our ability to ignore how broken our world is and go about our lives.
We have seen massive protests by people across the world united by their shared humanity to say that these crimes, which do in fact approach genocide, cannot continue. Across the United Kingdom thousands of people have protested our political leaders’ insane support of Israel as they bomb Gaza and state their deliberate attempt to do as much harm as possible. In the US, we have seen sit-ins on Capitol Hill and in Senate offices by Jewish activist groups who are demanding that the violence stops and have made it clear that these political decisions which cause the deaths of Palestinians are not made in their name.
On Friday 20 October 2023 there was a cultural strike (joined by Lighthouse and rallied by the Mosaic Rooms in London) to demonstrate that it takes more than words to change the world, it takes action, and to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. To quote the reasoning for the strike:
“Silence is complicity and decolonisation is only possible through political, economic and cultural action. As we bear witness to the ongoing genocide in Gaza, we implore you to use your collective power to advocate for an immediate cessation of violence and to support the cause of freedom and self-determination for the Palestinian people.”
What is paramount in this time is that there must first be a ceasefire that allows for aid, like food, medical supplies, water and power back into Gaza. There must be a lasting cessation of hostilities in the West Bank and Jerusalem too, where settlers and soldiers have been even more aggressiveand may soon be given arms.
To support the ceasefire you can email your MP (links to MAP template letter here: https://www.map.org.uk/campaigns/protect-palestinians-against-atrocities-in-gazaand link to find your MP here: https://members.parliament.uk/FindYourMP)
You can join a protest (these have power because they are both a show of resistance and resilience – but you as an individual will also see all the other people around you who care. There’s power in that).
- Edinburgh 21 October at the foot of the Mound (Princes St)
- Glasgow 21 October Buchanan Steps
We are seeing a failing of mainstream media to accurately portray the violence against Palestinians – you can follow Palestinian journalists’ social media accounts straight from Gaza. (Remember that these are often uncensored videos which do not shy away from the cruelty of what is happening and this can cause secondary trauma. There are different ways of dealing with this.)
Groups/Organisations outside Palestine:
There are countless reading lists for you to understand what is happening, like:
- Lighthouse: https://www.lighthousebookshop.com/posts/literature-wont-stop-genocide-in-gaza
- Mosaic Rooms: https://mosaicrooms.org/palestine-reading-resources/
Even though aid is not currently being allowed into Gaza, you can support the charities and hospitals that are operating there and that will benefit most from your support when channels are open:
At Lighthouse we’re looking for ways to support our local community, get the word out, and make a difference in whatever way we can. If you know of organisations supporting Palestinians in the UK with their mental health or other needs, please let us know.