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Palestinian civilians on their daily fight for survival

Palestinians are fleeing Rafah as Israeli forces launch a ground and air operation in the eastern part of the southern Gaza city, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, on May 8, 2024. (Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Palestinians are fleeing Rafah as Israeli forces launch a ground and air operation in the eastern part of the southern Gaza city, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, on May 8, 2024. (Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s assault on Gaza.

Some are trapped with limited access to food and water. Others have fled.

Today, On Point: With no firm ceasefire in sight, Palestinian civilians discuss their daily fight for survival.


Abeer Barakat, Gaza City resident. University lecturer. Teaches English at Gaza’s University College of Applied Sciences.

Laila El-Haddad, award-winning Palestinian author, social activist, policy analyst and journalist.

Aseel Mousa, freelance journalist who recently fled Gaza to Egypt.

Sulaiman Khatib, co-founder of Combatants for Peace, an Israeli-Palestinian organization that’s committed to nonviolent action against the “Israeli occupation and all forms of violence” in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Also Featured

Ahmed Abu Artema, activist and writer currently in Rafah.


Part I

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI: Today, we will be hearing from Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and Egypt. First, here are what’s in the headlines right now about Rafah. More than one million people are sheltering in the southern Gazan city. The Israeli military has initiated a ground incursion there and has seized control of the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, President Biden said yesterday that the U.S. would not supply Israel with certain weapons if its military invades Rafah. Meanwhile, Hamas accepted a ceasefire proposal that Israel says is, quote, “Far from its requirements.” Israeli officials are saying that the Rafah incursion is a, quote, very limited operation to achieve tactical goals that will put further pressure on Hamas in continued talks.

So those are the headlines. But on the ground in Rafah, there are not headlines. There are people. Over the past several days, Ahmed Abu Artema has been sending On Point voice memos from Rafah. He is a father, and currently homeless. He has no regular internet, so short messages are the only way he can communicate with us. Ahmed’s voice is sometimes hard to hear in the tape you’re about to listen to.

That’s because there is an Israeli military drone flying overhead almost continuously day and night where he is. I ask, if you can, just put away all the distractions that might draw your attention away for the next few minutes. Lean in and listen closely. As carefully as you can.

AHMED ABU ARTEMA: Currently, I’m homeless. My apartment was destroyed by the Israeli occupation army. Six of my family members were murdered by the Israeli attack, including my child, Abdullah. … The situation in Gaza Strip is horrible. As you listen in the background, the sound of the Israeli drones, which is U.S. made. This horrible voice is continuing in the sky of Rafah and Gaza Strip in general, without stopping since about seven months.

So imagine the fearing of the people when they are hearing this voice every hour in the day. This is despite that the Israeli army claim that Rafah is a safe place until now. But even with this claim, the destroying houses are still there. In every street. It’s horrible. I don’t even find words to describe.

… The people here in Gaza are suffering from everything. No electricity, no water, no food. Even if there are there is some food, no money to buy the food. I’m one of the hundreds of thousands of the people in Gaza Strip. Now we are homeless. I’m homeless. Sometimes I may sleep in the school or in the house of one of my friends.

The situation is horrible. Even if someone decide to travel across Rafah crossing the people here pay $5,000 to travel. And sometimes even after they pay this bribe, they are denied from the Egyptian security. The situation is still horrible. 

Hi Claire, I’m sorry for the delay. I don’t have a stable access to internet. I’m homeless. Without a place to sleep, without a place to stay, without internet, without electricity, without anything. The Israeli invasion to Rafah and to control Rafah crossing is making the situation worse and worse.

Rafah crossing is the only way for the aid [to get to] Gaza and the only way for the injured people to be evacuated. There is no place, safe place anywhere in Gaza. Everywhere you can go, there is a danger. We are dying. All of us are dying. Some of us are dying by the Israeli missiles. The others are dying by fear and by hunger and by all the ways, the Israeli invasion of Rafah is making the situation catastrophic.

CHAKRABARTI: That’s Ahmed Abu Artema in the southern Gazan city of Rafah. He’s been sending on point producer Claire Donnelly voice memos over the past several days. And we should note that drone sound that you heard in the original tape that Ahmed sent us, it was actually so loud, we had to put an audio filter on it in order to reduce the drone sound and bring out Ahmed’s voice a little bit more so you could actually hear it. So what we just heard just now is still not as loud as what residents and refugees in Rafah are hearing every single day. Now, as Ahmed told us, his 12-year-old son was killed in an Israeli attack. His two other children were injured, and they are now receiving treatment in the United Arab Emirates.

Tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians have been killed in Israel’s assault on Gaza. Thousands others, tens of thousands of others have fled the violence for other countries, and millions more are facing the daily fight to survive in Gaza. Abeer Barakat never left northern Gaza. She has been in Gaza City since the start of the war some seven months ago, and she joins us now.

Abeer, welcome to On Point.

ABEER BARAKAT: Hello, Meghna. Thank you for having me.

CHAKRABARTI: Can you tell us right now what your day-to-day life is like?

BARAKAT: It’s a very difficult life to lead. Actually, we are not living. We are surviving. That’s all, from the early dawn until the end of the night.

We are trying just to find water, food, fire. It’s pretty much like the ice age or the stone age, it is. This is exactly how I feel. I even now call my children, the Croods. In the early morning, we try to get clean water and then we collect wood. Then we try to prepare breakfast, make the fire.

So this is something that used to be only taking five minutes in the morning. Now I have to take around one hour preparing just a very simple meal. And then the rest of the day is just like that. For me, I tried to go to the bazaar, find whatever food I can find. Before that, I even used to collect grass from the lands around me.

You can imagine someone like me who is already a renowned university lecturer from a good standing family. But right now, I live the very difficult and simple life, or maybe you can call it the difficult life of not even farmers, the ancient human being. Instead of being able to produce research papers and go to college and teach students.

I’m only making fire to cook a simple food, simple meal.

CHAKRABARTI: As you said Abeer, you’re a university lecturer and you teach English at the University College of Applied Sciences. Can I just understand, I want to be sure I heard you correctly, you say sometimes you have to collect grass?

BARAKAT: Yes, exactly.


BARAKAT: I have collected grass. So that I can cook it. This is when the famine was taking very difficult knots on us in Gaza, when the occupation didn’t allow for any kind of aid to enter Gaza. So food was very scarce at that time. And that’s why it was very difficult for us to have, to be able to cook a simple meal.

We had to find anything around us in the environment so that we can eat, and we can continue to live. Everybody of us has lost at least 10 kilograms. You can imagine, everybody looked very slim and skinny. And it was very scary at that time. And as you have mentioned, I have lived —

CHAKRABARTI: Abeer, are you there?

BARAKAT: In Gaza. I didn’t leave. I only had to move from one area to another in order to stay in Gaza and not to go to the South.

CHAKRABARTI: Of course, understandably, internet connections are very unstable between the United States and Gaza right now. Listeners, as you’re listening along with me I’m asking for everyone’s patience if the internet goes in and out. We have one minute before we must take our first break, Abeer.

Let me just ask you quickly does the university, Gaza’s University College of Applied Science, does it still physically exist?

BARAKAT: Okay. Not completely, as I know it is partially destroyed. But today the incursion of this morning is very close to the campus, I’m not sure if the campus still exists or not. As for the other universities, they are totally destroyed. The campus of the university college is a smaller one compared to other Palestine universities —

CHAKRABARTI: Abeer, what I’m going to do, forgive the interruption, but again, we have to take a break anyway, so hopefully we can get your line a little bit more stabilized over the next minute and a half, so stick with us. Today we are listening and hearing from the lives of Palestinians in Rafah, in Gaza City, we’ll hear from the West Bank as well.

Part II

CHAKRABARTI: Abeer, if I may earlier when we were listening to Ahmed and his reflections from Rafah, it was that sound of the drone that really jumped out at me. What does it sound like and feel like where you are in Gaza City?

It looks like we don’t have her connect. Oh, Abeer, can you hear me?

BARAKAT: Yeah, can you repeat?

CHAKRABARTI: Yes. I’ll repeat the question one more time.

BARAKAT: So can you repeat the question please?

CHAKRABARTI: What does it sound like and feel like where you are in Gaza City?

Yeah. Okay. So right now what we have is the chance you take with live radio. There’s obviously a very large digital delay between our studio and Abeer in Gaza City. So what we’re going to do is while we work on that, we’ll continue to work on that. We actually, in the process of producing and researching and preparing this show, our producer, Claire Donnelly, was able to talk to Abeer extensively on tape a couple of days ago.

And we had that ready in the background, just in case our line failed today during the live show as it clearly has with Abeer. So I’m going to turn to that pre-taped interview. And first of all, I had just asked Abeer about what does it sound like and feel like in Gaza City. Claire Donnelly, our producer, also asked her that a few days ago and here’s what Abeer said.

BARAKAT: The sound, I hope you can hear it in the background of this voice note. We have constant, the constant buzz. The constant annoying buzz of the drones, that never leaves the sky of Gaza. And of course, we hear frequent bombing from time to time. Sometimes it’s very difficult and it’s very intense.

Other times it’s a little bit quiet, but we always hear these bombs.

CHAKRABARTI: Again, Claire was able to talk to Abeer on a day where she had some stable internet. As we’ve mentioned, she used to teach English at Gaza’s University College of Applied Sciences, but since the beginning of the war, she has had to bounce around, staying with friends, relatives, sometimes total strangers, because her own house is no longer an option.

BARAKAT: I have evacuated about 11 times, and it was really difficult and painful. I used to live in the Ansar area, in the southern Rimal neighborhood. That area has been targeted frequently by the occupation. And my home has been also raided many times, which is already partially destroyed. So the house is really a big mess and I don’t know if we can live in it again because it needs a lot to be fixed.

CHAKRABARTI: Abeer has four children, three girls and a boy. Two of her children are college aged and two are in high school. And like many Gazans, Abeer’s family has struggled to get food and water. You heard her talking to us live about that in the previous segment, she also told us that packages of food dropped from parachutes or dropped with parachutes that are called humanitarian aid, she says they have not made things any easier.

BARAKAT: I consider it as airdropped humiliation, not humanitarian aid, because people run around, try to get it. Some people got hurt from it. And usually, if you are someone who is aggressive, you can fight to get a box of that aid. But for us, we cannot, of course, run around to get from a parachute a box of food, although we were experiencing a huge shortage of food.

And it was really very difficult for us. We thought that it would be better for our dignity to die of hunger rather than just to run and fight to get some food.

CHAKRABARTI: Last month, Abeer told us that Gaza’s familial tribes did distribute some food rations, and her family got three parcels of food and two sacks of flour.

Now, as we’ve said, Abeer has been in Gaza City since the start of the war. She had no plans to leave Gaza at all. She felt it was her duty, as a Palestinian, this is what she told us, to stay in Gaza. But as she told Claire a couple of days ago, her thinking on that has shifted.

BARAKAT: This is just a very fresh news that I’m giving to you today.

I took a very difficult step that I have worked on since four weeks ago. I sent my two eldest daughters to Egypt, they crossed today. I still have another two children, my eldest son and my youngest daughter. Who’s in the 10th grade right now. Maybe I would plan for their evacuation later.

Maybe I will evacuate with them. I’m not sure yet, because we have to pay a huge amount of money to the Egyptian authorities. Yeah.

CHAKRABARTI: So Abeer’s experience there, similar to what Ahmed had told us earlier, Ahmed who’s in Rafah, that in order to cross from Rafah into Egypt, it can sometimes cost $5,000 per person.

Now, Abeer told us that part of what changed her mind about trying to get some of her children out of Gaza was the Israeli army’s destruction of Gaza’s Al Shifa hospital back in March. Abeer says That whole area is in ruins and no one lives there and that it’s true increasingly throughout Gaza.

BARAKAT: When I started thinking about that and, pondering about this situation, we are now left with out without any hospitals, schools, universities, colleges.

We have nothing. We don’t have access to clean water. We didn’t have access to the internet or electricity. The destruction is everywhere around you, wherever you spot your eye, wherever you look, you will spot the destruction everywhere. So I started to think what kind of future would I have here? And not for me, it’s for my four children.

CHAKRABARTI: Abeer told Claire, our producer, again, this was a few days ago that if her whole family leaves Gaza, it will not be forever. She tells her children that they have a duty to come back and rebuild their country. Throughout the war, Abeer says she’s been frustrated by the media coverage of Palestinians, particularly by American media coverage.

She’s also very angry at U.S. leadership.

BARAKAT: We are the rightful owners of this land. We have every right in this land, and we have every right to defend ourselves. It really makes me angry when I hear the American president or the American administration at all, or in general, they say, Israel has the right to defend itself, from who has the right to defend himself is the rightful owner of this land.

So how would someone flip the fact just like that? The majority of the casualties, or the dead or the killed or the people who have lost their homes and their businesses, we are civilians. We are not an army. We are not military in any face or shape or whatever.

CHAKRABARTI: Abeer also says that she struggles to believe what she’s experiencing is actually happening. Because it seems so unreal and so hard sometimes that the daily fight for survival, she’s not sure if it’s really happening, but it is.

BARAKAT: We have seen all kinds of atrocities, something that is beyond the imagination of any human mind. And I keep thinking that I’m in a big Hollywood movie.

I even remember every catastrophe movie I have ever watched in my life, and I keep saying to myself, is this real or not? Can you imagine? So please, this is our reality right now. It’s not a movie and we are the victims here. So please stop this genocide now! Stop the mass killing now!

CHAKRABARTI: So that’s Abeer Barakat in Gaza City.

This is from a conversation that she had with our producer Claire Donnelly a couple of days ago, which we had in reserve in case our live connection to Abeer, who’s still in Gaza City, dropped or failed, which it has. We will continue to work to get Abeer back live, but let me turn now to Laila El-Haddad.

She’s an award-winning Palestinian author, social activist, policy analyst, and journalist based here in the United States. Professor El-Haddad, welcome back to On Point.

LAILA EL-HADDAD: Thank you. I wish I could say I was a professor, but I’m not.

CHAKRABARTI: Okay, I’m just, I’m giving you for that honor. I’m giving you a promotion, my apologies.

EL-HADDAD: An honorary doctorate.

CHAKRABARTI: Yeah, just trying to keep all the plates spinning at the moment, but it’s nothing in comparison to what we’re hearing, and from the people in Gaza who have just been sharing their stories. How would you describe what you know of what’s happening there to an American audience right now, especially since there’s all this talk about, continued talks about a possible, a pause or ceasefire.

There’s the Rafah incursion that the Israeli military started. It’s a little difficult to really fathom what is going on there.

EL-HADDAD: What I’ve been telling people, and of course, just by way of context, my entire extended family is there, so my uncles and my cousins, I know I was on the show before in the fall talking about them and their experience.

I’ve had one uncle who has successfully managed to get out of Gaza just the day before they shut down the Rafah crossing, but the rest of my uncles and cousins are still there. And one of them, my cousin … had insisted on remaining in her home in Gaza City just up until a few weeks ago. When in the middle of the night, when the Israeli army reoccupied Gaza City and surrounded Shifa Hospital.

She lives in the Rimal neighborhood nearby where she lived. And 14 Israeli soldiers stormed her home in the middle of the night and forced her and her husband and her disabled in-laws to leave and walk 10 hours down south with just minimum, just a backpack on their back. And it was an exhausting journey.

And so they forcibly displaced them and then they occupied their home and burned everything down. And she, after making that very long, arduous journey to where she was told would be safe, then of course she was forcibly evacuated again from Rafah. And she’s now in the center of Gaza.

So it’s just been seven months of nonstop horror upon horror. And what I keep saying is everything that sustains life in Gaza has been a target, whether those are places, institutions of learning or culture, of healing, hospitals, of productivity and growth, like farms, more than half of the trees in all of Gaza have been destroyed and 90%in the very far north.

So it’s just been a living nightmare upon a nightmare that people just want to be over with, so they can get back to try to some semblance of normalty to try to rebuild. And even that seems like a very remote possibility right now. So when you and your family members here, the Israeli government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that Israeli military operations will continue in Gaza until Hamas is completely defeated or uprooted, and that is the standard by which they’ll measure the success of military actions there.

What is your response to that?

EL-HADDAD: I think that we have to understand that Hamas is not the source of the problem. That this started, first of all, that’s an impossible goal to achieve. And I think that it’s an excuse and the Israelis know it. The Israeli leadership knows it. But that this didn’t start and end with Hamas.

Hamas was not always on the scene. And before it was Hamas, it was, the Palestinian authority. It was Arafat. And before Arafat in the 1970s, it was the PFLP, the popular front for the liberation of Palestine, and it was so on and so forth. There was a time when Ariel Sharon went into Gaza, not in the 2000s or even the ’90s, but long before that.

The ’50s and then in the 1970s and executed over a thousand Palestinian men and razed down two thirds of all the homes and some of the refugee camps and so on for the same reasons and purposes that they claim today, this idea of constantly thinning, so called thinning the population of Gaza, displacing Palestinians. This week we mark as Palestinians the 76th anniversary of what we refer to as the Nakba, the catastrophe that marks the date of the ethnic cleansing and dispossession of the Palestinians, of course. And that is very, very much on the minds of all of us as we commemorate that this week, because we see this as an ongoing process, what we refer to as the ongoing Nakba right now in Gaza, being repeated yet again.

The continued Israeli dispossession of Palestinians, of their land and their life and their livelihood and their freedoms.

CHAKRABARTI: A little earlier we played that tape from Abeer, where she very clearly has deep criticisms of the U.S. media and, the U. S. political leadership here. Last time you were on the show, Laila, you shared those same those same views.

Has that changed at all? Let me put it this way, what was your reaction to President Biden yesterday saying that he was going to cut off some military aid if Israel expands its incursion in Rafah?

EL-HADDAD: Too little, too late. We have been saying for months, and by we, I don’t just mean we as Palestinians or Palestinians on the ground who were eyewitnesses to all of this, but also human, every major human rights organization, even humanitarian organizations.

This is, by many opinions, the most well documented, live streamed genocide in recent history. And yet for seven months, we have seen our administration, the Biden administration, begin by assisting in manufacturing consent for this genocide followed by dehumanizing Palestinians and then be complicit.

In this ongoing genocide by way of financing it, providing weaponry and diplomatic and medical support. So after seven months for him to come and say don’t be bad and go into Rafah or we may not send some weapons to you, is really just an empty threat. And as I said, too little, too late.

Part III

CHAKRABARTI: Today we are listening to what the daily lives are like for Palestinians in Gaza. And I’m joined today, now, by Aseel Mousa, a freelance journalist who recently made it into Egypt from Gaza. Aseel, welcome to On Point.

ASEEL MOUSA: Thank you so much. How are you?

CHAKRABARTI: Yeah. I’m fortunate, and hold on for just one moment, Aseel, because also with us now is Sulaiman Khatib, joining us from Ramallah in the West Bank. Sulaiman is the co-founder of Combatants for Peace, an Israeli-Palestinian organization committed to nonviolent action. Sulaiman, can you hear me?

And welcome.

SULAIMAN KHATIB: Yes, thank you for having me.

CHAKRABARTI: Thank you so much. And you have been listening through for most of the show, so I appreciate your patience. I’m going to ask for just a couple more minutes of your patience because I’m not quite sure how long we have Aseel on the line from Egypt.

So Aseel you recently were able to get into Egypt from Gaza. Can you tell me about that? When did that happen and how did it happen?

MOUSA: Okay. Actually, evacuating the Gaza Strip is not an easy process. We need to register with a company that’s name is Hala. We pay amount of money and then we are waiting for our names to be listed.

And the list that will be allowed to evacuate Gaza to Egypt. So me and my family waited for around 25 days to be allowed to evacuate Gaza, this happened after we were displaced for over four and a half months. So we needed to admit it to Egypt after suffering and so on.


And what is your life like now in Egypt?

MOUSA: Life in Egypt while being, evacuating your country and your homeland is horrible here in Egypt. We are not allowed to work or even to study. We just here waiting for the war to stop and we are waiting for the ceasefire to return back to our homeland.

The suffering we face in Egypt is not lesser than the suffering we faced when we were in Gaza. We have our relatives and beloved ones in Rafah and over the Gaza Strip. We are actually facing more suffering and troubles in Egypt. Life here is not easy.

As I told you, we are not allowed to work or even study and we are doing nothing, actually.

CHAKRABARTI: Doing nothing.

We spoke to other Palestinians who had been able to make it to Egypt over the past several days, and one thing we heard was that many of them were feeling extreme guilt that they weren’t in Gaza anymore.

MOUSA: Yes. Yes. I feel guilty because I have food now. I feel guilty because I have drinking water now, while my relatives and friends don’t have.

I feel guilty because I sleep while feeling a little bit safe, while my people in Gaza feel afraid, terrified. And even if I am in another country, I am traumatized with any sound I hear. The sound of the airplanes remind me, what the helicopter reminds me, what the Israeli bombing, actually the situation in Egypt.

For Palestinians who evacuated Gaza is really tough. When I meet people from Gaza who made it to Egypt, they say we are like dying here. We cannot entertain life. We cannot entertain the safety we are in. We cannot entertain anything we can do in Egypt. Until the cease fire is declared.

CHAKRABARTI: Hold on for just a second, because … again, thank you for your patience. You are in Ramallah in the West Bank. Just how much has your life changed on a daily basis? Since the Gaza War began?

KHATIB: Thank you, Meghna, for having me. Do you hear me? Just making sure.

CHAKRABARTI: Yes, I do hear you. Go ahead, please.

KHATIB: Thank you for having me. Of course, we can’t compare the life in West Bank to the Gaza Strip, as we heard, our brothers and sisters, Abeer and Ahmad. Of course, it’s much more, the atrocities happening daily in daily. In Gaza, as we speak in West Bank, actually the settler violence has been increased dramatically since October 7th, with the presence of the Israeli army and the Israeli system.

So the situation become really much more horrible in terms of arresting thousands of people in jails. Hundreds of people has been killed already. And a lot of people were wounded. And also like the checkpoints, the roadblocks among different Palestinian areas, and specifically in Area C when we talk about around Jerusalem, Jordan Valley, South Hebron Hills, wherever the settler exists, there is a lot of violence and there is no safety for movement around here.

CHAKRABARTI: So Sulaiman you are co-founder of Combatants for Peace, as I said earlier, and by your own admission, you told us that when you were a teenager yourself, 13, 14, you participated in, what you called an armed struggle and ended up in an Israeli jail at the age of 14 for 10 years.

Is that correct?


CHAKRABARTI: So from that time, though, it seems like the situation has basically been unchanged for the reality for Palestinians. And if anything, it has gotten dramatically worse. So given your experience as a teenager, can you help describe to us what you think the young people in Gaza right now, those same teenagers, 12, 13, 14, what do you think their minds are trying to contemplate now and what path they might head down?

KHATIB: First of all it’s really hard to give advice to teenagers because, one, the teenagers are not a problem. We have to really touch the roots of the problem, rather than the teenagers. Especially right now with the trauma and the massacre that happening right now in Gaza. And people, as we heard before, are suffering for their survival.

So it’s really hard to have a intellectual conversation about what they should do. I do believe that our people deserve a life and freedom. And most of our people, if they’re given the opportunity, will choose life, then this and destruction, and I think this apply for everybody here living between the river and the sea, and that’s what we want to see the freedom and the collective liberation for the people living here and justice and accountability.

That’s what we want to see. And definitely the conversation about arms struggle, and nonviolence is a historical conversation. Maybe this is not the time for that, but we’ve seen this in many other places. If we take South Africa, for example and other examples, I believe that the bar of nonviolence, definitely can take us to a different place and take us to our freedom. That’s my feeling, from my personal experience. Yeah.

CHAKRABARTI: So let me just update the listeners a little bit here. It looks like we have Abeer Barakat back, so I’m going to go to her in just a moment. But given that, I want to say thank you so much to Aseel Mousa, who is a freelance journalist who recently was able to leave Gaza and is in Egypt. Aseel, thank you so much for joining us. And same thing to Laila El-Haddad, award winning Palestinian author, social activist, policy analyst, and journalist who’s U.S. based right now. Laila, thank you also for coming and joining us at the last minute here.

So before I go back to Abeer, Sulaiman, you said something about living in peace from the river to the sea. Now, of course, that language in particular, many people hear that and hear an equivalence to eradicating Israel, because it’s Israel that also lies between the river and the sea.

Specifically, what do you mean?

KHATIB: Oh, first of all, I’m talking, we are talking about liberation and the freedom and healing and peace for every human that live between the river to the sea, which includes Israelis. I didn’t exclude the Israelis in my statement. And of course, talking about peace and liberation and freedom becomes dangerous for forces of war and forces of darkness that want to use all the excuses not to touch the roots of this conflict and not to solve it, which I believe it’s possible to solve it actually. And it seems impossible in the Middle of this chaos and the war and surveillance and so on. But I really know, from other historical experiences, and I know from my heart. I grew up here.

I know from the people here and from everything we know. That it is possible, and we can’t really drive change without hope. So for me, really having hope in these changing moments, and we can see also, even though us with the student’s movement, there’s a lot of global awareness right now and things are changing.

So the system is shaking. So the response is by more force and more force. Our goal actually, when we speak about freedom, it doesn’t have to come on the account of any other people. I believe every human deserve life, and we protect life, no matter what the background, if it’s Jewish or Palestinian. And our peoples in the past has lived together.

It’s not something new. We can really get inspired from both the history and also got inspired from the future. Also, we have to be also aware of that trauma. So I believe we have to build this together. And one little example Laila before spoke about the Palestinian Nakba, the catastrophe in ’48. We are doing a ceremony for that.

In the 15th of May, together with our Israeli partners, that could be an imagination thing. We started this a couple of years ago, and we have much more bigger partners right now. So I believe change is possible. That’s basically what I’m trying to say.

CHAKRABARTI: And as you said, through Combatants for Peace, you’re advocating for change through nonviolent means.

At this point, what we’ve been hearing for many months and especially today on this show is, frankly, the daily humiliations that Gazans and also people in the West Bank, but especially Gazans, are feeling. I think Abeer had said it so powerfully, when she said, even the food being parachuted down upon people feels like a humiliation. Because they have to fight for the food once it hits the ground.

I’d like you to describe, if you’ve ever experienced that sense of humiliation, and if and how at all you’ve experienced it. You overcame it, if you did.

KHATIB: Are you asking Aseel or myself?

CHAKRABARTI: I’m asking you, actually, Sulaiman, if I may.

KHATIB: Oh. Yeah. Yeah, of course. Part of the occupation policies is actually dehumanizing the people.

And that’s what happened when they basically, the media machine, is basically working so much to dehumanize the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people. And once you dehumanize people, you easily can basically target them and see them less human than you are. And including a lot of trauma, and not respecting any rights.

And of course, personally, I’ve been in jail for more than 10 years. My brother was in jail. I come from a very local Palestinian family outside of Jerusalem. We’re encountering a lot of torture also physical and psychological torture in jail. I’ve been in hunger strikes for 16 days and 17 days, food hunger strikes, and so on.

I feel in the same time, with all this victimhood and all the humiliation, I feel also grounded and strong as an indigenous person to this land. I don’t feel acting out of a revenge. That’s not my heart. Rather than, I think I feel as Palestinian, the belonging to the land and the place gives me a lot of strength.

… And I believe like what we heard from the speaker before from Gaza, and I know from my personal connections that some people don’t want even to leave, despite they might be killed. With that said, I believe our culture, also, the indigenous culture of the area, can provide a lot of also forgiveness, a love and healing and reconciliation.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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