Monday 1 June 2009


By Gideon Levy
April 24, 2009
Alyan Abu-Aun is lying in his tent, his crutches beside him. He smokes cigarettes and stares into the tiny tent's empty space. His young son sits on his lap. Ten people are crammed into the tent, about the size of a small room.
It has been their home for three months. Nothing remains of their previous home, which the Israel Defense Forces shelled during Operation Cast Lead. They are refugees for a second time; Abu-Aun's mother still remembers her home in Sumsum, a town that once stood near Ashkelon.
She remembers the first Nakhba. She also remembers that after that one, the world still gave aid to the refugees of Palestine. But today? Not so much due to the increasing cruelty of the illegal occupying criminal Israel.
Abu-Aun, 53, was wounded while trying to flee when his home in the Gaza town of Beit Lahia was bombed. He has been on crutches ever since. His wife gave birth during the height of the war, and now the baby is with them in the cold tent.The tents provide little protection from the rain, and there is nowhere to keep basic food supplies dry.
The tent was sent flying during the storm that devoured the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, so the family had to put it back up. They receive water only occasionally in a container, and a tiny tin shack serves as a bathroom for the 100 families in this new refugee camp, 'Camp Gaza,' in Beit Lahia's Al-Atatra neighborhood.

Abu-Aun sounded particularly bitter this past weekend; the Red Cross refused his family a bigger tent. He has also had enough of eating beans.

For three months, the Abu-Aun family and thousands of others have been living in five tent encampments built after the war. They have not begun clearing away the ruins of their homes, let alone build new ones.

Let me point out two things in this picture. For those who thought Palestinians lived in squalor and dirt, before the attacks, think again. Look at the quality of these furnishings. Second, four people were wiped out when this house was randomly targeted.
Those living in tents face cramped conditions, with little privacy and a lack of basic facilities. Mothers in the camp bemoan the fact that their children have no place to study and that food and hot drinks have to be prepared over open fires.For the older residents of the camps, who remember the initial tent camps set up by UNRWA after 1948 it feels as if events have come in a tragic full circle.
Thousands live in the shadow of the ruins of their homes, thousands in tents, thousands crowded together with their relatives, tens of thousands who are newly homeless and whom the world has lost interest in. Currently the construction of more permanent structures to shelter those who are displaced is severely hampered by the restrictions on building materials entering Gaza.
This scene has been reenacted a thousand times now. Hampers of food rejected because they contained jam or honey. Or pasta. As for building goods, even if it is intended to rebuild schools and hospitals, it is refused because Hamas is the government and these are government institution. "Aiding Hamas".
Those living in the camps are aware of the pledges of Gaza aid that are being made, yet at present they have little hope of seeing that aid in the near future, and feel isolated and abandoned. Until the crossings are fully opened and humanitarian aid and materials for rebuilding are allowed in, the only meager hope available is that the rain will stop.
After the conference of donor countries, which convened to great fanfare in Sharm el-Sheikh a month and a half ago, which included 75 countries and agreed to transfer $1 billion to rebuild Gaza, nothing happened.
Financial promises of aid have the value of Monopoly money in Gaza.
Gaza is besieged. There are no building materials. Israel and the world are setting conditions, the Palestinians are incapable of forming a unity government, as is needed, the money and concrete are nowhere to be seen and the Abu-Aun family continues to live in a tent.
Even the $900 million promised by the United States is stuck in the cash register. It's doubtful whether it will ever be taken out. America's word.It's exactly three months since the much-talked-about war, and Gaza is once again forgotten. Israel has never taken an interest in the welfare of its victims. Now the world has forgotten, too.
Two weeks with hardly a Qassam rocket has taken Gaza completely off the agenda. If the Gazans don't hurry up and resume firing, nobody will take an interest in their welfare again.
Although not new, this is an especially grievous and saddening message liable to spark the next cycle of violence. And then it will be certain they won't get aid because they will be shooting.Somebody must assume responsibility for the fate of the Abu-Aun family and other victims like them. If they had been injured in an earthquake, the world probably would have helped them recover long ago.
Even Israel would have quickly dispatched aid convoys from ZAKA, Magen David Adom, even the IDF. But the Abu-Aun family was not injured by a natural disaster, but by hands and flesh and blood, made in Israel, and not for the first time.
Surviving daughter of Ebrahim Hilmi Al-Samoni, Almaza ,13, who lost four brothers, mother, nephew and and 23 other relatives, sits with her father Ebrahim Hilmi Al-Samoni on the rubble of her family's destroyed home in Gaza City, Gaza Strip. The Al-Samoni family lost 29 members by Israeli action in Gaza. And the Israelis cheered! "They voted Hamas in, they deserve it."
The response: no compensation, no aid, no rehabilitation. Israel and the world are too preoccupied to rebuild Gaza. They have become speechless. Gaza, remember?

From the ruins of the Abu-Aun family sprouts a new desperation. It will be more bitter than its predecessor. A decent family of eight has been destroyed, physically and psychologically, and the world stands aloof.
We should not expect Israel to compensate its victims or rebuild the ruins it caused, even though this would clearly be in its interest, not to mention its moral obligation, a topic not even talked about.The world once again has to clean up Israel's mess. But Israel is setting more and more political conditions for providing emergency humanitarian aid! Empty excuses to leave Gaza in ruins and not offer aid that Gaza deserves and desperately needs.
Gaza has once again been left to its own devices, the Abu-Aun family has been left in its tent, and when the hostilities resume we will be told once again about the cruelty and brutality of ... the Palestinians.
One of the reasons such fertile land, until the attacks verdant with fruit and olive groves, farmland and very lovely homes, is being razed to the ground like this is due to the belief that Israel hopes to first, make life so difficult people no longer wish to live there; second to starve them; third, to make the land unrecognizable in the hopes that the people will forget what once was as the generations pass.
It is my belief that one of the means that Israel is employing to eliminate Palestine with approval or at least the ennui of the world is by provoking the situation, egging them on, making the place so inhospitable, that the people are infighting, starving them, etc etc, and breaking their morale, that FINALLY the rockets start again and, through its usual manipulation of the international media, Palestinians will be painted once again as the aggressors and Israel will create another hell for them.I also believe they WANT to create terrorists of these children to "justify" the termination of a "brutal wild people".
Among Palestinians, the key is a very important symbol of return to their homes, reclaiming their stolen heritage. This generation will NOT forget, as Israel maintains they will.
Israel may have pulled out its tanks and troops from Gaza, but the significant physical and psychological scars it caused will remain for years to come. While the physical damage can be overcome in the next few years with financial support from the international community, the psychological damage will take decades and different kinds of resources to overcome.
The stories of traumatized and frustrated people of Gaza will continue to be told to remind the world of its shameful silence during the barbaric war and also to remind us of our ethical responsibility after the war.
According to medical and United Nations sources in Gaza, 1315 people were killed and more than 5000 were injured. Of those who were killed in the four weeks of the Israeli invasion, 410 were children under 12 years old, 104 women, more than 200 elderly people, 15 first-aid staff and 4 journalists.The people of Gaza are still discovering more bodies under the rubble and, sadly, in some cases they find entire families who were killed together. According to Al-Jazeera, 13 families of more than five members were killed together during the war on Gaza.
Add to these numbers the tens of thousands of people whose houses were destroyed or had to evacuate their homes. According to the same sources, more than 5,000 houses and businesses were completely destroyed and more than 20,000 partially destroyed.Mosques, schools and United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) buildings were not safe as well. Fifty-one mosques, almost a dozen schools and several UNRWA buildings were heavily damaged.
My Father’s Question to You
When telling me about the story of our house, my dad wanted me to ask Americans: how would you feel if, while sitting in the comfort and safety of your house, you receive a phone call asking you to leave the house in an hour?
What would you do if there were four families (22 people) living there?
What would you tell the children?
My Dad wondered whether your reaction would be similar to his ~ evacuating our house on January 5 and splitting our family into four groups so relatives and friends could accommodate them.
This home can be salvaged, and the family considers themselves "lucky'!
When my family returned after the “ceasefire” they found significant damage to the doors and all windows on the 2nd and 3rd floor were destroyed. They were lucky; at least the house was still standing.
Although terrifying, these numbers do not tell the full story of these war crimes. The scariest and most important part of the tragedy is the medium and long-term biological and psychological impact on the people of Gaza.
A white phosphorus burn, not as serious as most. No one knows what will come of such damage, let alone the environmental effect poured over fertile farmlands.
What kind of life will the children of Gaza have after this direct exposure to some of the scariest, loudest and deadliest state of the "art" weapons?
A friend told me that during the war, instead of playing with their toys and reading their books, like children their age around the world, her 6 and 8 year old kids were guessing whether the last bomb was a tank or F-16 bomb based on the sound and magnitude.After the assault ended her children told her that they “missed” the sounds of the fighting. Is that what children their age are supposed to talk and think about?
What medical problems will the people of Gaza face as a result of weapons prohibited by international law such as phosphoric bombs or depleted uranium weapons? What kind of future is waiting for those who lost most or all of their families?
Could this really make Israelis safer?
What About the Children?Throughout the Israeli air war and invasion it was extremely difficult to reach my family.After learning that my 40 year-old cousin’s neighborhood was hit by Israeli tanks and F-16s, I phoned her. A mother of three beautiful children, I was particularly worried because she has heart disease.
She sounded very tired, nervous, weak and hopeless and started crying on the phone. This broke my heart and I tried to offer some moral support, the least I could do.
While still crying, she told me that she just put her children to bed and that she looked at them and was afraid that she would not see them in the morning.
Given the experience of other Gaza mothers, her fear was fully warranted. Two weeks earlier, a mother like her put her five daughters to sleep in one room thinking that this was the safest place in their house.
While sleeping peacefully, a US-made bomb hit the room and the girls, age four to 13, were gone. It took only a minute and that mother was left with nothing but fear, tears and a hopeless heart.The 5 sisters. When this photo shot around the world, Israel worried about their public image and accused the Palestinians of Palywood and abusing their dead children by using them for propaganda! Then, of course, they blamed Hamas!
What did those innocent girls do? Nothing. They were punished in this barbaric way only because they are Palestinians.
The people of Gaza feel abandoned by the international community, including our Arab brothers and neighbors, because of the shameful silence that allowed the horror to continue.
An old man looking at what was once a fine home full of happy children.
The people of Gaza have always been supportive of just and fair causes around the world and always provided all the support they could.
I assure you that despite the terrible suffering we have experienced in the past and during this recent invasion, we will continue to be the supportive, caring and proud people of Gaza because we are true humans with precious values and beliefs.

1 comment:

  1. i am without words to describe how this makes me feel.


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