Every time they start bombing Gaza again, I think about how this new list of casualties are all people who survived the last round, and the one before it, and the one before it. They huddled in doorways, in hallways, in bathrooms, in those places you’re taught to shelter when you have no shelter; they held each other, they prayed, they probably laughed or cried hysterically at one point; they drank (water, tea, alcohol), they played grim-faced rounds of cards during nights that never seemed to end; they clutched well-worn talismans or repeated certain phrases or recreated patterns of movement that they hoped were ritual enough to help ward off the bombs. And they waited. And waited.
(I know this waiting, I remember this waiting, this sustained vibration of the body as you work to hold yourself together, to hold yourself to a single point in space as the world explodes around you and you feel you might fly apart with it at any moment; you will yourself not to think about it, about what it really means, lest you start screaming and never stop. I know it and yet it is nothing compared to what the people of Gaza live, have lived, are living.)
I think about how they survived before and how that survival must have seemed like some sort of triumph, even as it felt like a cheat, and when the bombing ended and they went back out into the world of the living it felt like this escape (like every escape before it) meant that they were meant to live, meant to go on, that they still had something yet to accomplish, to feel, to be. That their survival was somehow evidence of their continued survival, that they had been overlooked by death as much as they had been chosen by life. That even as they mourned their friends and houses and neighbors they said, “Alhamdulillah,” and looked around at their families and thought, “we have come through, Alhamdulillah.” Because we do this, we humans, we build these narratives lest we go utterly mad, we convince ourselves we mean something, that our lives mean something, even in the midst of war. This is what these latest victims (and the ones to come) have survived. They have survived not only countless rounds of bombs, not only the sear of animal, acrid fear, not only a brutal occupation in the world’s largest open-air prison, not only siege and deprivation and oppression, not only erasure of their history, memory, land and food, not only the callousness of world governments and the cold, reptilian gaze of the international media, not only Arab leaders using them as nondescript bodies piled atop one another to help them claw their way to the top and who were then promptly forgotten (even as those leaders sit on their thrones, crushing those very same bodies with their catchphrase-leaden weight), not only the vileness of an Israeli state-sponsored racism so commonplace and virulent it has become as inevitable and incurable as the cold, not only the inhuman generalization that would have us believe that they are all terrorists, from the youngest babe-in-arms to the oldest teta and jiddo. Not only all that. They have also survived the complete obliteration of meaning and come out alive – only to finally die in this, the latest round of bombs.
Here are their names, lest we forget they have them: http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/victims-gaza-list-palestinians-killed-israels-ongoing-assault