A call to disrupt ‘Israeli’ and American violence on Gaza

Palestinians from Gaza share their unfiltered accounts of the massacres carried out by Israel in May 2021, at the launch of the “Gaza is Palestine” campaign.

BY SUMAYA AWAD

The Peoples’ Inquiry held on October 7, 2021 was an opportunity for the American public to hear the unfiltered accounts of Palestinians from Gaza on the massacres carried out by Israel in May 2021. It culminated in a call to action for people in the U.S. to exercise their influence to disrupt Israeli and American violence on Palestinians in Gaza and a re-commitment to end the blockade and siege of the Gaza Strip. The Inquiry acted as the launch point for a new campaign sponsored by Adalah Justice Project and MPower Change: Gaza is Palestine. 

Below is a series of excerpts from The People’s Inquiry. You can watch the full event and hear from the full line-up of speakers including Malak Mattar, Rashida Tlaib, and more above. 

You can join the campaign, sign-up to volunteer, and/or host a screening of The People’s Inquiry by visiting the ‘organize’ tab on our site. Stay tuned for more actions! 

Mohammad El-Kurd 

“You know when I was asked to moderate this event I was hesitant because I am not from Gaza, but that is exactly why I am moderating.  For so long, for decades, Israel has separated us through colonial borders, via the cement barriers that separate our geographies and make our cities that are minutes and hours away seem far away, and the colonial and fragmentation within our own minds. Today I am speaking in this event to emphasize that Gaza is Palestine and Palestine can come together and be there for one another despite the colonial fragmentations.

I am speaking in this event to emphasize that Gaza is Palestine and Palestine can come together and be there for one another despite the colonial fragmentations.

Mohammad El-Kurd

I don’t think there is much people can add to the heft of [these] testimonies, to this harrowing violence that people face, particularly those in the Gaza strip. I will say this kind of horror is what westerners learn about as the past, as if it is long gone in a dark chapter of history, but this incremental genocide against the Gaza Strip is ongoing day to day.”

Hear more from Mohammed here.

– Mohammad El-Kurd is a Palestinian writer from Jerusalem. 

Abier Almasri 

“I see [this] as a great opportunity to remind the world that Palestinians in Gaza deserve to have the same normal life as yours. We deserve to have a life with 24 hours of electricity, a life with freedom of movement, a life without conflict, without the buzzing of a drone.

We should acknowledge that being alive after the conflict, after reaching the cease fire, does not mean that we survived.

Abier Almasri

During the last 14 years, Israel authorities continued to restrict movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza, limiting travel to military cases, mostly people who need vital medical treatment. Most people around the world can decide where to travel, [it’s] so easy. It only takes a few clicks to book a flight and book a hotel, then you are approved. For people in Gaza, it takes months, years, if you are lucky and you manage to get that permit. I know my first time traveling was in 2018. I know the taste of freedom, and I was able to realize what it is that we don’t have only in that year.  I feel we deserve this normal life.

As to the conflict [in May], I think we should acknowledge that being alive after the conflict, after reaching the cease fire, does not mean that we survived, because people in Gaza actually found themselves experiencing another kind of conflict, a conflict that is not covered by the media.  A conflict that is not photographed.”

Hear more from Abier here.

– Abier Almasri is a Palestinian from Gaza and is the research assistant for the Gaza Strip at Human Rights Watch.

Issam Adwan 

“Listening [to the speakers today] brings back the nightmare we all witnessed during the continuous bombardment on Gaza. It echoes in my heart the horrible stories of loss and destruction.

Living in Gaza, this 365 square kilometers where everyone’s [life] is questioned and [everything is] controversial. Anything coming out of Gaza, stories, human rights demands, everything is questioned. I’ve been living with this policy the last fifteen years that Gaza has been under blockade. The right to travel. My right to pursue education. My right to work outside. My right to go for medical care outside Gaza was almost denied. Consider my circumstance for instance: I am considered one of the most elite people living in Gaza despite living in similar circumstances of injustice, occupation, and siege. Still my situation is way better off than others. Still I am dehumanized and face injustice. My story is no way similar to the stories of entire families erased and wiped out from Gaza.  During those 11 days of bombardment in Gaza [in May] I worked with the victims and families who survived the massacres, who walk the streets at night.

For my generation, the youth, we are barely sticking to hope.

For my generation, the youth, we are barely sticking to hope. We are trying to convince ourselves, from time to time, that there is hope for western communities to start to listen to us and to what happened during the latest attacks on Gaza. If there is any possibility for those words, those stories to change anything, I hope it is not too late to save the lives of those innocent people that are living through these inhuman policies.” 

Hear more from Issam here.

– Issam Adwan is a journalist and a writer from Gaza. He is the former project manager for We Are Not Numbers, a collective of Palestinian youth in Gaza telling the human stories behind the numbers in the news.

Jehad Abusalim 

“The Gaza Strip today is a place where two million Palestinians live and die and live and survive and thrive and try and fail and embrace their humanity as much as they can despite all odds. People in Gaza live under miserable conditions indeed and they are deprived of many basic rights necessary for people to experience normal life as my colleagues here said. But people in Gaza are also deprived of another thing. They are deprived of context, of the ability to tell their story and for them to be understood in the context of their history.  And this history matters. It matters because unlike other places, and like many others, the Zionist aggression in the case of Palestine still shape the lives of Palestinians in Gaza and Palestinians elsewhere.

Gaza today is a big prison and not in a metaphorical sense. It is a prison where 2 million Palestinians, 70 percent of whom are 1948 refugees, including my family and the family of my colleagues on this panel live trapped.

Jehad Abusalim

The Gaza Strip today and I invite you to open Google maps and look at Gaza from above and you will see a large dot of gray: that is the Gaza Strip. Concrete constituting what is the Gaza Strip within its confines to guarantee inhabitants access to water, industry, green areas, even room to breathe.  It is a place where people do not enjoy the ability to expand and to live and to thrive. People there are confined to a very small territory. I recall, during my childhood, I would go to the roof of my family’s home. When I looked to the east, I saw the separation fence east of Gaza. If I looked to the west, I saw the Mediterranean shore. When you live in Gaza you experience confinement as part of your daily life. You experience limited space. On top of that you are banned from accessing the outside world unless you go through unimaginable pain to leave for medical treatment or for your studies, assuming you succeed in the end.  As I was growing up, I realized that nothing about my experience growing up in Gaza was normal or even humane. After I left Gaza and saw how much people have freedom of movement and are able to experience this wide world, I realized where the spirit of defiance that characterized Gaza for decades came from. Nothing but normal human resistance to imprisonment and confinement. 

Gaza today is a big prison and not in a metaphorical sense. It is a prison where 2 million Palestinians, 70 percent of whom are 1948 refugees, including my family and the family of my colleagues on this panel live trapped in a tiny geographic space.”

Hear more from Jehad here.

– Jehad Abusalim is the Education and Policy Associate of the Palestine Activism Program at the American Friends Service Committee. He is completing his PhD in the History and Hebrew and Judaic Studies joint program at New York University. Jehad’s family continues to live in Gaza.

Annie Shiel

“Unlike other countries that receive military financing from the US, Israel receives the financing in a lump sum then distributed by the Israel government.  Because of this, the US has no mechanism to track which weapons go to which units making it nearly impossible to implement legally required monitoring of US origin weapons under the Arms Export Control Act. The third example I will give [is that] Israel is also one of few countries allowed to use US funding in foreign military financing to buy US weapons directly from manufacturers rather than the government-to-government process. Israel also gets to use US funding on its own domestic arms industry.  There is little to no transparency on how the funds are used and no monitoring, but evidence suggests the funds are often used to buy things like ammunition that contributes directly to the harm we heard about today.  

President Biden committed to centering human rights in his foreign policy but that can only be credible if it applies everywhere.

Annie Shiel

President Biden committed to centering human rights in his foreign policy but that can only be credible if it applies everywhere. So that commitment is undoubtedly failing once again in the US relationship with Israel where the unquestioned flow of military aid and arms transfer despite gross violation of human rights not only facilitates harm but sends a signal. We must demand the Biden administration place more stringent human rights restrictions on all military funding and arm sales and apply those safeguards equally to Israel so the US is no longer funding the devastating harm described here today. Congress can use its oversight rule to demand the executive branch implement existing laws and apply them equally.  Like section 502 B of the Foreign Assistance Act. Congress can pledge stronger human rights and of course it can always block or restrict new arms transfers as they come up.”

Hear more from Annie here.

– Annie Shiel is Senior Advisor for U.S. Policy and Advocacy for CIVIC where she engages with U.S. policymakers, lawmakers, and advocates. She is based in DC.  

This article is part of the Mondoweiss series Redefining Liberation by the Adalah Justice Project on moving past the narrow definition of national struggle and embracing liberation strategies grounded in the rich Palestinian legacy of joint struggle and transnational solidarity. With strong connections to radical organizing happening in their Palestinian homeland, Adalah Justice Project‘s vision of transformation is rooted in the understanding that race, gender, sexual orientation, and class all intersect to create the conditions of our current reality. AJP is a Palestinian organization that works to transform public discourse and U.S. policy on Palestine through public education, coalition-building, and advocacy within all realms of political activity, from the grassroots to Capitol Hill. Learn more about AJP’s work, and follow the entire series here.

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