Every summer, I spend time in the Palestinian village of Duma, near the city of Nablus. This past summer, I saw a side of Duma that remains etched in permanent horror. On July 31st, Reham, Saad, Ahmed, and Ali Dawabsha were immolated in an Israeli settler arson attack on their home, burning 18-month-old Ali to death.
After weeks of agonizing pain, Reham and Saad succumbed to their wounds, leaving five-year-old Ahmed Dawabsha burned in over 60% of his body, fighting for his life in an Israeli hospital, and orphaned. When I visited the family home I had passed by countless times on visits to Duma, horror clotted my veins. Every step I took, everywhere I stood, the ground beneath my feet was tainted by casualty, by terrorism, by hatred, by barbarity. Blackened patches of ground were hideous hallmarks and reminders of all those who had been tortured by unspeakable pains. Nothing was left untouched by death.
Now imagine, for a second, if this situation were reversed; if this act of unmitigated savagery had been committed against an Israeli family. There would have been uproar and worldwide condemnation. But violence committed by Israelis remains excused, humanized, and justified, regardless of the extent of the damage, destruction and death toll. The recent terror attacks in Paris struck at the hearts of millions worldwide, but barely a peep was uttered when the Israeli Air Force, by its own estimate, stated that it had dropped 800 tons of bombs on Gaza.
DIME bombs unearthed entire societies, dropped on rehabilitation clinics and centers for the disabled, and white phosphorus was abundantly and indiscriminately dropped on some of the most densely populated neighborhoods on Earth. Gaza was reduced to piles of smoldering rubble and people were being bombed, slaughtered and dismembered in their own homes for 51 days during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, and Israeli politicians were globally heralded as crusaders of a noble cause.
Gaza remains pockmarked by craters of repeated Israeli attacks and bombings on its hospitals. It is littered with the rubble, left behind from the bombardment of residential neighborhoods and the leveling of over 10,000 homes. Broken bodies pelted with shrapnel and white phosphorus remain irretrievably broken.
The world didn’t blink an eye when over 2,100 Palestinians in Gaza – over 500 of which were innocent children – were annihilated and blasted to pieces, remaining nameless and implicitly unworthy of grief. Israel wiped out the existence of 89 families during Operative Protective Edge. Palestinian lives have proven to be so cheap to so many.
There was no option to overlay the colors of the Palestinian flag on our Facebook profile pictures to show solidarity with the Palestinians being obliterated. No ‘safety check feature’ was activated so people living under the barrage of missiles and artillery shells could let their friends know they’re safe with one click. The lack of moral outrage at such unmitigated savagery is splattered in the pages of history. And the spine-chilling truth remains: In the global hierarchy of ‘grievability’ some lives are just rendered more grievable than others, and some victims simply remain unhuman in life.
Every Palestinian – irrespective of age – is not fully human in life, and if violence and terror are carried out against those who are not fully human or unreal, well then from the perspective of violence, it couldn’t possibly injure or abolish any of their lives because they were not human, alive or real to begin with. They were moving targets whose lives were already negated.
Oppressors continue to ascribe value to the lives of the oppressed, and only the conscious horror of destruction creates the correct relationship with the dead. ISIS and Israel are two faces of the same coin. One night in Paris is every single night in Palestine. The only difference? The existence of the Palestinian people is flippantly erased in every discourse, and their lives are not grievable.
It’s arealization that slams into me like 200 pounds of common sense, daily.
The international conspiratorial silence reaffirms that some lives matter more than others. Some lives matter so much that they need to be protected at all costs, and other lives matter less, or not even at all.
And when that becomes reality, then the lives that do not matter so much (or do not matter at all) can be erased and exposed to conditions of established destitution and oppression, and there is no concern. Or even worse, this situation is regarded as the way it is supposed to be; the way it was always supposed to be. But violence is violence and terror is terror, and the sly appropriation of words and propaganda to advance an agenda is simply Orwellian. A world that selectively mourns the deaths of a select few and empire decides who, when, where and how we choose to mourn.
The attack against the Dawabsha family was an incomprehensible, unpardonable crime but far from an isolated one. It is one of the many in the catalogue of notorious barbarities and manifold savageries committed in the name of a Zionist state. The Palestinian people have been subjected to whole-body tragedies and depraved acts of terrorism for nearly 70 years now. Whether they are tackling the tragedy that surrounds missile strikes and massacres, home raids or daily indignities, they are a people who are never afforded innocence, never afforded grief, and never afforded sympathy for the intolerable pain they have been subjected to.
The irony is never lost on me that people, who were burned in the Holocaust and have faced instant and ubiquitous vilification themselves, have bred generations who go on to burn, vilify, and criminalize other human beings. Zionism’s legacy of unrestrained, indissoluble hatred has continued to turn homes into cemeteries and systematic barbarism into official policy. Policies of subjugating and anathematizing the Palestinian people on the basis that they are degenerate sub-humans are actively encouraged and funded. And the longstanding suffering and torture ceremonially inflicted on them is unequivocally supported.
For Israeli Occupation Forces, it is open season; a season that lasts all year round. There are no permits required, no restrictions levied. They are vested with weaponry funded by U.S. taxpayers, strapped with loaded machine guns and ready to “shoot to kill” every moving target. Children wielding stones and knives are squashed dead. Shoot first, ask later.
Israeli forces discern a revolting pleasure in cruelty and suffering. They’ve become so desensitized to carrying out extrajudicial executions of unarmed civilians, inflicting unbearable agony on others, and pulling the trigger without so much as a second thought as if they’re playing a video game. The killing of Palestinian civilians has become so commonplace, such a natural part of conversation. With a shrill disregard for human life, they’ve become immersed in a world that long ago stopped recognizing the value of human life and human dignity; a world that robbed them of their will and reduced them to machines aiming at moving objects in keffiyehs to be exterminated like prey.
Aggressive, unhinged, implacable soldiers have successfully demonized and dehumanized themselves more than anyone else.
Entire generations have been scarred. Death explodes within the same air that the Palestinian people breathe in safety every day. Their trauma is neither post nor past; it is perpetual. Children close their eyes and see nothing but violence and devastation, and open their eyes to the same. Their innocence has been assassinated and they’ve been stripped of their humanity for decades. When people are dehumanized, any and all crimes against them are justified. Irrespective of how offensive or horrific arguments may seem. This is the perpetual hostility that is met by resistance.
This article was written by Dina Elmuti for American Herald Tribune on Nov. 19, 2015. Dina is a first-generation Palestinian-American living in Chicago, working at an Urban Youth Trauma Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She works in the States and overseas with an NGO for victims of torture in the Occupied Territories of Palestine (Ramallah). Dina has written for online publications like The Electronic Intifada, Mondoweiss, and The Daily Beast since 2008.