The Ongoing Dread in Gaza: So Many Names, So Many Lives

Activists in Chicago this month evoked the deadly trauma of Israeli aerial attacks, Kathy Kelly reports. 

By Kathy Kelly
The Progressive

“I felt shaky and uneasy all day, preparing for this talk” – Jehad Abusalim, a Palestinian from the territory of Gaza.

Jehad Abusalim, a Palestinian now living in the United States, grew up Gaza. In Chicago earlier this month, while addressing activists committed to breaking the siege of Gaza, he held up a stack of 31 papers. On each page were names of 1,254 Palestinians living in Gaza who had been killed in just one month of Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” attacks five years ago.  

“I felt shaky and uneasy all day preparing for this talk,” he told the group. He described his dismay when, looking through the list of names, he recognized one of a young man from his small town.

“He was always friendly to me,” Abusalim said. “I remember how he would greet me on the way to the mosque. His family and friends loved him, respected him.”

Abusalim recalled the intensity of losing loved ones and homes; of seeing livelihoods and infrastructure destroyed by aerial attacks; of being unable to protect the most vulnerable. He said it often takes 10 years or more before Palestinian families traumatized by Israeli attacks can begin talking about what happened. Noting Israel’s major aerial attacks in 2009, 2013 and 2014, along with more recent attacks killing participants in the “Great March of Return,” he spoke of ongoing dread about what might befall Gaza’s children the next time an attack happens.

Three Days of Action 

Kayakers on the Chicago River display Free Gaza sign. (Barbara Briggs Letson)

Eighty people gathered to hear Abusalim and Retired Colonel Ann Wright, of US Boat to Gaza, as they helped launch the “Free Gaza Chicago River Flotilla,” three days of action that culminated on July 20 with a spirited demonstration by “kayactivists” and boaters, along with onshore protesters, calling for an end to the siege of Gaza. Wright resigned from her post as a U.S. diplomat when the United States launched the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing of Iraq. Having participated in four previous internationals flotillas aiming to defy Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza’s shoreline, Wright is devoting her energies preparing for a fifth in 2020.

Another organizer and member of U.S. Boat to Gaza, Elizabeth Murray, who like Wright formerly worked for the U.S. government, recalled being in a seminar sponsored by a prestigious think tank in Washington, D.C., when a panel member compared Israeli attacks against Palestinians with routine efforts to “mow the lawn.” She recounted hearing a light tittering as the D.C. audience members expressed amusement. But, Murray said, “Not a single person objected to the panelist’s remark.” This was in 2010, following Israel’s 2009 Operation Cast Lead, which killed 1,383 Palestinians, 333 of whom were children.

Abusalim’s colleague at the American Friends Service Committee, Jennifer Bing, had cautioned Chicago flotilla planners to carefully consider the tone of their actions. A colorful and lively event during a busy weekend morning along Chicago’s popular riverfront could be exciting and, yes, fun.

But Palestinians in Gaza cope with constant tension, she noted. Denied freedom of movement, they live in the world’s largest open-air prison, under conditions the United Nations has predicted will render their land uninhabitable by 2020. Households get four-to-six hours of electricity per day. According to UNICEF, “sewage treatment plants can’t operate fully and the equivalent of forty-three Olympic-sized swimming pools of raw or partly treated sewage is pumped into the sea every day.”

Banner from a Chicago River bridge: “Israel, Stop Killing Palestinians.” (Barbara Briggs Letson)

Forms of Solidarity

Facing cruel human rights violations on a daily basis, the organizers urge solidarity in the form of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions. U.S. residents bear particular responsibility for Israel’s military attacks against civilians, they note, as the United States has supplied Israel with billions of dollars for military buildup.

U.S. companies profit hugely from selling weapons to Israel. For example, Boeing, with headquarters in Chicago, sells Israel Apache helicopters, Hellfire and Harpoon missiles, JDAM guiding systems and Small Diameter Bombs that deliver Dense Inert Metal Explosive munitions. All of these weapons have been used repeatedly in Israeli attacks on densely populated civilian areas.

During the 2009 Operation Cast Lead, I was in Rafah, Gaza, listening to children explaining the difference between explosions caused by F-16 fighter jets dropping 500-pound bombs and Apache helicopters firing Hellfire missiles. 

Israel continues using those weapons, and Israeli purchases fatten Boeing’s financial portfolios.

Remembering Those Killed

Outside Boeing headquarters, a gong was rung after each name of a person killed in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge was read aloud. (Barbara Briggs Letson)

On July 19, young Palestinians outside of the Israeli consulate read aloud the names of people who had, five years ago, been killed in Gaza. We listened solemnly and then proceeded to Boeing’s Chicago headquarters, again listening as youngsters read more names, punctuated by a solemn gong after each victim was remembered. Ultimately, 2,104 Palestinians, more than two-thirds of whom were civilians, including 495 children, were killed during the seven-week attack on the Gaza Strip in 2014.

During the Free Gaza Chicago River flotilla on July 20, Husam Marajda, from the Arab American Action Network, sat in a small boat next to his grandfather, who was visiting from Palestine. His chant, “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go!” echoed from the water to the shore. Banners were dropped from bridges above, the largest reading, “Israel, Stop Killing Palestinians.”

Kayakers wore red T-shirts announcing the “Gaza Unlocked” campaign and managed to display flags, connected by string, spelling out “Free Gaza.” Passengers on other boats flashed encouraging peace signs and thumbs up signals. Those processing along the shore line, carrying banners and signs, walked the entirety of our planned route before a sergeant from the Chicago Police Department arrived to say we needed a permit.

We can’t permit ourselves to remain silent. Following the energetic flotilla activity, I sat with several friends in a quiet spot. “So many names,” said one friend, thinking of the list Abusalim had held up. “So many lives,” said another.    

Kathy Kelly (kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org)

A version of this article was published July 23rd at The Progressive.  

Before commenting please read Robert Parry’s Comment PolicyAllegations unsupported by facts, gross or misleading factual errors and ad hominem attacks, and abusive language toward other commenters or our writers will be removed.

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27 comments for “The Ongoing Dread in Gaza: So Many Names, So Many Lives

  1. Arch
    August 13, 2019 at 07:30

    Actually, you’re lying. In almost all cases, it is Hamas who reacts to provocations by the Israeli side.

    A simple record of the incidents going back to operation cast lead will expose the lie you just told.

  2. Arch
    August 4, 2019 at 19:35

    So-called Israel, the only Jewish Zionist Theocracy in the Middle East
    is built on a foundation of glass.
    It appears powerful to the blind, but
    it will be leveled to the ground within 15 years.
    And the Palestinians will have their land back.

  3. apr
    August 3, 2019 at 17:36

    Here is a video of Palestine from 19’th century showing adherents of different religions and ethnicities getting along fine:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxemkAXlr8s

    They had been getting along fine for centuries, if not millenia. The same year that this was made, the “Father of Zionism”, Theodor Herzl confided to his diary his plan of starting a movement to ethnically cleanse Palestine by “spiriting the penniless population” across the border “discreetly and circumspectly”.

  4. August 3, 2019 at 13:08

    It is beyond comprehension that the world allows this to go on. A vicious, murderous little state is killing the people of another state while the world looks on and occasionally says tut tut. Other than the Irish Republic I can think of no western country that has pointed the finger at the Zionists. We are are complicit in this savagery. Barbarism marches on without skipping a beat.

  5. Vera Gottlieb
    August 3, 2019 at 12:14

    Is it any wonder that anti Semitism is on the rise? I am of Jewish background and most certainly condemn israel for it’s behaviour towards Palestinians. Are Jews forgetting what co-religioners went through during Nazi Germany?

  6. Malek al Kuffar
    August 3, 2019 at 07:17

    Typical Palestinian hypocrisy.
    Palestinian Islamic Jihad routinely hides weapons and explosives caches under playgrounds and schools, and its doctors store guns under their patients’ beds. Their dogma leads them to put innocent civilians in danger by turning civilian facilities into military targets.
    They take these risks for purely dogmatic reasons, to flaunt their contempt for the way the West classifies things, like legal vs illegal combatants, military targets vs protected civilian facilities, charity vs terrorism, etc.
    Hamas rejects international humanitarian law, just as it rejects all laws made by humans. It only respects laws made by Allah. But unfortunately Allah stopped making laws more than one thousand years ago. Hamas routinely stores munitions in mosques, including rockets.
    During the 2014 Gaza war, Israel withdrew once it had destroyed the war tunnels that Hamas dug using child labour and diverting cement needed for building housing for Gazans. Hamas was using the tunnels to launch raids into Israel, intending to kidnap civilians and use them as hostages and/or to attack Israeli civilians.
    Thanks to the Israeli army’s attack on Gaza, none of Hamas’ aggressive plans could be accomplished.
    During that conflict at least two foreign correspondents, one from India and one from Finland, reported that Hamas was firing rockets from heavily populated areas, including from a hospital. Hamas HQ is reportedly in a basement beneath a hospital.
    See Wikipedia article “Palestinian tunnel warfare in Gaza”

    • Arch
      August 13, 2019 at 07:17

      There is nothing hypocrytical about what Hamas is doing.

      Hamas and the IDF cannot be compared with the same moral standard. Hamas are civilians, not part of an army engaged in a war of aggression. They ate civilians engaged in resistance to occupation.

      Since all their land is under IDF occupation, thete is no place from which they can mount defence against IDF aggression that will not result in non-combatants being harmed.

      Further facts hasbara trolls like you forget:

      1. Israel is the overwhelmingly the initiator of attacks on Gaza civilians.

      2. The “human shields” excuse is used by the IDF to justify deliberate murder of innocents.

      3. Gaza is under IDF occupation, and permanently under attack. Therefore Israel is perpetually the initiator of hostilities, and Hamas perpetually tje reacting party.

      4. Resistance to occupation by an indigenous population to European, colonial, fake hebrews is quite justified, using any means necessary.

  7. Kevin Smith
    August 2, 2019 at 21:30

    If you recall Israel gave back Gazza which originally was Egyptian territory to the Palestinians in 2005 very quickly how must took over and begin running it like a terrorist camp you seem to be concerned only about one side is death when they intentionally try to cause more violence instead of making peace they destroyed all the infrastructure that Israel left them in Gaza to their own disappointment if they would make peace they would have everything

    • Robert Cable
      August 2, 2019 at 23:13

      Kevin, I think you are talking about Hamas, not “how must”; but your facts are as mistaken as you spelling.

    • August 2, 2019 at 23:15

      Kevin Smith, I think you are talking about Hamas rather than “how must”; but your facts are as mistaken as your spelling.

    • Arch
      August 13, 2019 at 07:26

      Kevin, stop gaslighting. Israel ‘gave back’ nothing to no one.

      Israel created an open air prison and retained control of the sea around and airspace above the Gaza strip.

      Israel “keeps the people in gaza on a diet”, as said by zionist jew politicians. This is collective punishment , and a war crime.

      Gazans cannot accept ships into Gaza, neither can they safely fish the waters.

      The final lie about giving gaza back is the fact that no borders are agreed for where Gaza ends and Israel begins… so what did they ‘give back’ and to who?

  8. Dave Horsman
    August 2, 2019 at 11:43

    ‘Elizabeth Murray, who … in Washington, D.C., when a panel member compared Israeli attacks against Palestinians with routine efforts to “mow the lawn.” She recounted hearing a light tittering … But, “Not a single person objected to the panelist’s remark.” ‘

    Have you ever not reacted because you were just stunned by it all?

  9. Colin Spencer
    August 2, 2019 at 01:47

    The only time the IDF attacks sites in Gaza is when the Palestinian terrorists send a barrage of rockets into Israel. If the Palestinian authorities were able to channel billions of dollars in overseas aid into infrastructure, schools, hospitals, police forces, and good administration, they would be able to develop a thriving economy, and there would be no need for Israel to conduct defense activities of any kind. The cause of all of the Palestinian problems is cultivated hate. Obviously that gets the Palestinian people nowhere. When will they wake up?

    • August 2, 2019 at 04:04

      Hard to believe anyone accepts that.

      The rockets – rare and ineffective – represent the desperation of a people kept locked up in a squalid prison for a lifetime. Surrounded by fences and radar-activated machine-gun towers. Fishermen given harsh limits on how far they can go without being shot by Israel patrol boats, as they have been sometimes.

      It actually resembles a giant prison camp. It started as a giant refugee camp with Palestinians running from the terrors of 1948, but policies have turned it into a prison camp, a nasty one.

      “Cultivated hate’? My God, what else motivates Israel’s behavior towards these people?

      You know, some Israelis like to brag about the fact that something worse hasn’t happened to them, and that’s some brag isn’t it?

      But I question whether there can be much worse.

      An entire lifetime of no freedom of movement, no rights, no hope, constant abuse, treatment almost like cattle at check-points daily, no opportunities for development, and even no secure ownership of homes.

      Not permitting even the materials for repair to get imported? Repairs needed after Israel’s several heavy bombardments of civilians. Jets and missiles used on civilians. A number of times.

      Bombardments in which more than a thousand children died plus several thousand adults, including women and old people. I saw photos of blood running down a street gutter, resembling something from a slaughterhouse.

      In the original illegal blockade, Israel had actually calculated the minimum number of calories that would just keep the population alive, and that’s what was allowed to be imported. That’s why there were no chocolate bars in Gaza for a time.

      It was such an appalling measure, Israel finally relented somewhat from all kinds of private diplomatic pressure. But still the Palestinians can’t even repair the mess Israel made, and they live in unsanitary squalor, imposed on them by inability to get materials and supplies.

      You know, when General Dayan won the Six Day War, he was widely quoted as saying it would be necessary to make the Palestinians feel miserable so they would all want to leave.

      That, in a nut shell, has been Israel’s policy for half a century.

      You can just feel the love, can’t you?

      • Anonymous
        August 2, 2019 at 09:50

        There are some (few) worse situations out there and you really should not try and claim that this is as bad as the holocaust was — but this is not a competition and in no way do any of those situations make this any less horrible.

        Otherwise quite well said.

      • AnneR
        August 4, 2019 at 08:49

        Anonymous – I would hope that you recognize that this Holocaust you mention – the Nazi inflicted one – includes the Roma, the Slavs (of whom some 20+ million were deliberately targeted and killed by the Nazis in camps and in mass slaughter pits and starvation by siege) and the mentally and physically handicapped, not only the European Jewish population, terrible though that was.

        The Nazis didn’t *only* target Jews but *also* Slavs, specifically those in the USSR – now Belorussia, Ukraine and Russia – because they were a) viewed as Untermenschen (inferior, sub-human – as were the Jews) *and* their lands were to provide Germans with that “Lebensraum.”

        Moreover there is something unethical, inhuman to dismiss other deliberate slaughters on a massive basis even of over a longer time period, or with the odd million or so fewer people killed (e.g. the genocidal ethnic-cleansing of Native Americans, the genocide of the Armenians, the more recent genocide in Rwanda) – ALL such deliberate efforts to eradicate, eliminate, remove, dispossess a people are equally abysmal, inhuman, immoral, unethical, criminal. Vile.

        None is worse than another.

    • AnneR
      August 2, 2019 at 09:31

      So Mr Spencer (assuming that is your name) – were you not aware that the Palestinians, as an ethnically-cleansed, dispossessed (all by Zionist Israel/is) oppressed people have *every* legal *right* to resist their continued oppression, dispossession by *any* means: *ANY.* Under International Law. Therefore the Palestinians are *not* terrorists. It is the Israelis, specifically the Zionists among them and their supporters, who are the terrorists and have been since the 1930s (Zionism has always been a racist, orientalist enterprise intent on dispossessing the rightful land owners and dwellers, the Palestinians, and that since its inception under Herzl).

      Please tell us how many Israelis have been killed by Hamas rockets (little more than fireworks)? And how many Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli Air Force alone in Gaza, for instance? Are they comparable numbers? NOT hardly.

      Can you name the Palestinian Air Force? Navy? Army? Palestinians have none of these military institutions.

      The Palestinians do NOT get Billions of dollars in aid and military materiel from *anywhere* – but guess which nation does? Ah – Israel. From the US.

      Israel isn’t about defense – it is Offensive and has been since the Zionist colonists began arriving in Palestine.

      As for racism? I can assure from personal experience that Zionist Israelis are imbued with profound racism toward the Palestinians – indeed also (the Ashkenazi, i.e. European, origin Zionists) toward Jews from Arab lands and Ethiopia. But their deeply rooted racist hatred of Palestinians is worse.

      Historically in Palestine Palestinians whether Muslim, Christian or Jewish all got along together. The fractures and racism all developed when the Ashkenazi Zionists began to emigrate into Palestine – they brought with them the orientalist, racist perceptions of their European background with them.

    • Bob
      August 2, 2019 at 11:47

      Total BS. Israel steals land everyday and they do things like bomb Syria at will. Gaza is a prison camp. The Jews love to use Hilters tactics on the Palestinians. They are sadistic killers and thieves. The entire world is turning against Israel. I am a republican and I say thank God that Rep Tlaib and Omar point out the evil doings of Israel and the number who agree is growing by the day! The free ride for Israel is coming to an end.

    • JR
      August 2, 2019 at 15:55

      If you believe that crap, the you need to read the actual facts. The “resettlement” activity is the destruction of Palestinian homes on a daily basis, forcibly displacing thousands of families at the threat of being shot, imprisoned or simply killed. You’re stunning ignorance about the apartheid occupation of their lands, on-going human rights abuses, withholding food, medicine, water, and access is revealing. When will YOU wake up? Probably never because you’re ignorant parroting what hogwash you’ve swallowed.

    • Robert Cable
      August 2, 2019 at 23:23

      Colin Spencer, you’re a TROLL, right. You represent the “cultivated hate” of Zionism which does not care about actual facts or fellow humans but only about free land and manipulated “aid” from the USA and other countries.

    • Arch
      August 13, 2019 at 07:28

      Actually, you’re lying. In almost all cases, it is Hamas who reacts to provocations by the Israeli side.

      A simple record of the incidents going back to operation cast lead will expose the lie you just told.

  10. Bob
    August 1, 2019 at 14:54

    Israel is a terrorist state. What they have done to the Palestinians and to Christians living in the occupied territories are war crimes. All Israel has done since 1967 is steal homes, land and murdered anyone who gets in their way. Thank you for this good article.

    • AnneR
      August 2, 2019 at 09:17

      Actually Bob This Zionist theft, dispossession and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians began in earnest in 1947, *not* only after 1967. Between 500,000 and 750,000 Palestinians were deliberately and concertedly uprooted, many killed, and pushed out of Palestine-Israel through 1947-1948 (these Palestinians form the core of the refugees and their descendants who have been denied the right of return by Israel ever since.

      Ilan Pappe – an Israeli historian who cannot work in Israel (he is a professor at a university in England) – has written some of the most well documented (and impossible to read but for the necessity) histories revealing exactly what Israel (with UK connivance did well before 1967, never mind from then on).

  11. Drew Hunkins
    August 1, 2019 at 11:59

    Israel’s become a lunatic state. A world pariah. It’s a sadistic paranoid racist hegemonic artificial country based on Jewish supremacism. The rest of the world looks on in disbelief and horror as they gun down in cold blood unarmed nurses, children and protesters. Often shooting them in the genitalia or ankles in order to permanently cripple. Meanwhile, we have much of the Jewish population in Israel pulling up lawn chairs to watch the destruction and horror.

    If we’re not careful, these psychopaths could embroil the Western world in a massive war in the Middle East, with young American men dying in the vast expanse of Persia. B/c they have overwhelming influence in the U.S. corporate media the arrogant Zionists have totally brainwashed 85% of the U.S. population to view Iran as some sort of violent threat!

    And Chomsky and Finkelstein are against BDS.

    • David G
      August 1, 2019 at 19:00

      Is Israel really a “world pariah”?

      Russia and China seem entirely willing to engage with Israel on both security and economics, and that’s the direction global power is flowing toward. Those countries won’t indulge Israel in its fantasies of destroying Iran, but neither does it look like they will elevate the historic grievances of the Palestinians above or even equal to their own conventional national interests.

      I think the big change for Israel in the new multipolar world is that it will have to engage with rising, non-U.S.-empire powers as a normal country, with give and take, and with influence commensurate with its actual stature – in contrast to its effortless manipulation of the U.S. and, to varying degrees, Western Europe. (We’re not going to be seeing China’s National People’s Congress or Russia’s State Duma flopping up and down like trained seals to applaud an Israeli prime minister the way the U.S. Congress is blithe to.)

      If the nearby Arab states become more democratic, that could make things hotter for Israel, but for now, the relative decline of Western power means a lessening of the importance of both official Western support for Zionism *and* popular (and sometimes official) Western sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians.

      It will be up to the Israelis to adjust to the changing global realities, but I think they will prove well able to deal realistically with China, Russia, and other rising powers, while continuing to dig their spurs into the increasingly exhausted U.S. horse they’ve been riding at full gallop since 1967 – though they will need to exercise some care in their pursuit of the long-term goal of destroying Arab Palestine, lest they arrogantly go too far too fast, putting countries that would rather not deal with the problem in a difficult position.

      I don’t view this state of affairs with any particular relish, but that’s how it looks to me.

      • David G Horsman (really)
        August 2, 2019 at 11:56

        I think you are being realistic not siding with Israel. I mostly agree.

        I think technology will make boycotting much more powerful soon.

Comments are closed.