My child asked me before I came here why I was so angry: I wasn’t always enraged. In the beginning I too was perplexed-- but then I was only 7 years old when I heard of my first Israeli bombing of the Arab people. I am a child of Israel’s Operation Litani of 1978 when Israel’s bombing of Lebanon killed more than a thousand civilians and tens of thousands of war devastated families were left homeless. Since 1978, I have grown up alongside of countless other Operations by Israel on my Palestinian sisters and brothers: Operations Summer Rains, Autumn Clouds, Hot Winter, Cast Lead, Returning Echo, Pillar of Defence and now Protective Edge.
Why does Israel need so many different names for what is essentially one operation? Because the various acts of the Israeli state all really have the same name: Operation Genocide.
I am going to talk in *numbers* today, because I cannot bear to talk about *names*: the name of the streets in Gaza where my sister’s house lies in ruins, I cannot bear to take the names of my sister’s children who have been killed since the bombing began. Mohammed Ayman Ashour was 15 years old, he was killed in Khan Younis. What did he like to watch on YouTube? Did he text his friends? Or the 8 year old Siraj Ayad Abdelal? So no, I cannot think of names today, so I will talk in numbers.
First, 84 Palestinians have been killed already since this collective punishment of Palestine began.
Second, of those who lost their life half are women and children. Gaza is an open air prison where there are no bomb shelters.
Third, Children in Gaza who have made it to 7 years old are living through the third major Israeli bombing op in their lifetime.
Now for the my final number that explains why I stand here today 36 years after I first read about Israeli bombing: And that number is: $3 billion dollars per year-- which is the US government’s aid to Israel to carry on this ethnic cleansing.
Every bomb that drops on Gaza tonight, every bullet that takes a child’s life has a dollar sign on it.
Why is Israel bombing Gaza now? Their operation is based on a series of lies. The Israeli state knew days in advance about the unfortunate death of the three teenage boys. Netanyahu put out a media gag order to suppress news of their death because he was not going to let a tragedy go to waste. Some commentators say that they even knew the name of the individuals who committed the murders, but Israel was not interested in resolving the murder of the boys, they even lied to the boys’ families. Israel wanted to use this tragedy to deliver collective punishment on Gaza and Palestine. So what is the real reason?
I can think of a few: Israel's inability to accept the Palestinian Unity government; the assumption that with a new dictator in Egypt, and loss of money from Iran, Hamas in Gaza was more vulnerable to attack; the new US alliance with Iran over ISIS in Iraq and yes the growing global awareness amongst ordinary people like you and me that the state that exists propped by imperialism and bloodshed is not the “real democracy in the middle east” it is an “Apartheid State”.
So this is why I am here today. I know that the period of Israel even pretending to create consent and legitimacy for its acts internationally is over. They now live on force alone.
But since that day when I was seven years old and watched Operation Litani, a whole generation of children have grown up in various parts of the world. Today they are a leading force for Palestinian justice on US college campuses, they are boycotting Israeli goods on European streets, they are leading militant demonstrations across the Middle East and Asia. It is this generation of international fighters for Palestinian freedom, from the River to the sea, who will lead the campaign to Boycott Divest and Sanction Israel to victory.
And I may see that Apartheid Wall finally come down in my life time—but till then, on our campuses, in our trade unions, on our streets: We stand with Gaza.