My first year in primary school in 1987, was when the first intifada began. In my first week in grade one, the teachers asked us “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
Salamah, my classmate answered with great enthusiasm “I want to be a doctor to cure sick people!”
The second day, Salamah did not come to school and when we asked about him, the teacher said “Salamah will never come to school again. He was martyred, the Israeli soldiers shot and killed him while he was on his way home yesterday.”
I still remember the shocked and fearful expressions on the students’ faces when they received the news.
At such a young age we came to understand that not only would we never see Salamah and his dream to become a doctor fulfilled but we too could be killed and buried with our dreams.
The suffering for us as Palestinian children did not end there.
In 2002 I met Wael, a classmate in college – a Palestinian Gazan who was born and raised in Saudi Arabia. Wael came to Gaza to finish his university education and go back to live with his family.
When we were chatting at that time, he was telling me “I can’t wait to graduate and go back to Saudi Arabia to live with my family, find a job, raise a small family and live in peace.”
In 2005, when Wael graduated, he told me “I am so excited! Finally, I have finished school and I’ve packed my bags, booked the tickets and am ready to go to be with my family in two days.”
On the last day, Wael said, “Salam Shabab, Nshofkom Ala Khair” (in English: bye guys, see you well). He put his luggage in the taxi, excitedly hopped in and waved his hand until the car disappeared from the neighbourhood.
While Wael was a few meters away from the departure hall in Rafah terminal between Gaza and Egypt, an Israeli airstrike hit the area and he was killed.
A vivid flashback of my friend Salamah and his dream to be a doctor came to me suddenly, along with the painful thought of how both lives were cut too short. I thought to myself no matter your age, where you are born, raised or where you live, as long as there is an occupation and you’re a Palestinian your dreams will always be at risk. Being a Palestinian under occupation means you can be insulted, attacked, maimed or killed by the Israeli Occupation Force (IOF) at their whim.
During the recent 11 days of devastating attacks on Gaza, I saw the Israeli forces launch air strikes that indiscriminately killed over 70 Palestinian children under the age of 16. I asked myself how many innocent dreams were buried with those children? And how many more were buried when the attacks of 2008 and 2014 took place? For no reason other than the fact they were Palestinian children!
And how many more will be buried as long as the occupation and the Israeli aggression continues?
As we commemorate one of the worst days in the history of Palestinians, the Nakba day -the Palestinian Catastrophe- after 73 years of occupation, the stealing of land, oppression and gross human rights violations continue in a land with an increasingly right wing, racist apartheid regime whose war crimes remain unchecked!
I am asking our Canadian government: how many more deaths, years of oppression and human rights violations do you want Palestinian’s to suffer before you’re conscience is moved to stand up and stop the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians?
How many more Palestinians should be killed by the Israelis before the Canadian government will speak up against the genocide being committed by the apartheid Israeli state?
How many more atrocities need to be reported by international human rights organizations as proof that Israel committed crimes of apartheid? So what will it take the Canadian government to speak up? When will the Canadian government stop its double standards and find its humanity?
When will Mr. Justin Trudeau understand?
That when he celebrates the independence of the Israeli state, he is celebrating the catastrophe of six million people expelled from their homes and villages to establish an apartheid state!
Co-founder of Atlantic Canada Palestinian Society, Halifax, NS and Palestine Solidarity Committee, Saint John, NB
On Wednesday June 2nd there will be a partly virtual vigil to honor the 255 lives lost which included over 70 children in Gaza.