This introduction has been particularly hard to write. I’ve written and rewritten this 16 times already, and it’s still just as hard. Earlier this week on 11 May 2022, an Israeli sniper, a murderer, decided to take the life of Shireen Abu Akleh, the household name of Palestinian journalism, as she was reporting on an Israeli raid on Jenin refugee camp.
It still does not feel real.
There’s a scary thing about systematic violence where we sometimes do not react adequately to the gravity of the situation or event. It’s not because we do not care or think lightly of what happened, but because this is what systematic settler colonial violence, like Israeli violence, does: it takes away from our emotions, feelings, and honest reactions of things, because it happens so often that we need to move on quickly.
Or so we thought.
We thought the settler-colonial violence would no longer surprise us with its brutality, until on the morning of 11 May 2022, Shireen was killed in cold blood by a very determined and inhumane Israeli sniper, and every Palestinian is now mourning this tremendous, heart-breaking loss.
I’m writing this when I’m not currently back home, and more layers of pain are added to dealing with mourning Shireen when abroad. There’s so much anger, so much sadness, and so much pain that it does not make any sense to be away from home. In times like these all we need are each other and the streets to scream our lungs out.
I used to think it was bizarre when people used the words “killed in cold blood by Israeli forces.” I mean … they’re occupiers, they’re militants, they implement a regime of Apartheid and military occupation, what other cruel way would they use to kill us other than “in cold blood”? But when Shireen was shot, I felt every essence of that phrase, I felt it in every sense of the words, I felt the gravity, the cruelty, and monstrosity of Israeli military-occupation forces murdering someone in cold blood.
When I originally set out to write this piece I wanted to share different voices on Apartheid violence from Jenin to Jerusalem. I did not know this will extend to Shireen, affectionately known as “the daughter of Jerusalem,” being actually murdered in Jenin.
And from Jerusalem to Jenin, Apartheid violence did not stop and continues until today.
Sanad Abu Attiyeh was the neighborhood’s Ramadan Musaharati (waking everyone to eat Suhoor meal before sunrise in preparation for fasting) in Jenin. He was 17 years old when he was cold-bloodedly shot dead with live bullets by Israeli soldiers. After he was buried, his friends did not leave his side . They spent all night holding his picture next to his grave. That’s how these boys spent their first days of Ramadan this year.
Little Yousef [see video] from Jerusalem had the traumatic experience of being faced with an Israeli Occupation Forces officer going at him with a baton. A man who did not even know him came to his rescue dealing with the indescribable pain of being hit, more than once, with batons.
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From the beginning of the year 2022 until today, 53 Palestinians were murdered by Israeli forces, 10 of them are children, including 19- month-old Fatima from Gaza, who was denied a health permit to get access to much needed treatment, resulting in her death. The deaths are a result of an endless cycle of impunity for Israel that makes more room for the Israeli government to continue their gruesome, brutal violence against Palestinians living under the Israeli Apartheid Regime.
It has been over a month since the latest brutal cycle of violence has started. This is not to say that the violence ever stops. But since early Ramadan until now Israel’s displays of violence has been heightened and orchestrated in a way that’s so public – to the Palestinian public at least – in an attempt to scare and deter other Palestinians from being present, outspoken, or defiant of Israeli Apartheid violence. And let’s be clear, this endless cycle of violence is merely a continuation to the brutal cycle of impunity Israel has enjoyed for decades where the majority of states and international bodies do so little to stop or even speak out about their crimes. It was so easy to call Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an aggression and ask to boycott Russia, while Israel has been committing the same crimes for the past 74 years with no accountability whatsoever.
I spoke to our partners on the ground to understand the gravity of the situation and to see how we can help. Our partner the Madaa Silwan Creative Center provides legal aid and psychosocial support to children who are impacted by the occupation in Silwan and other areas of occupied Jerusalem. Sahar Abbasi from Madaa told me:
“Throughout this endless military operation that seems to stretch to all parts of the occupied land, there’s been an extra focus by Israeli forces to terrorize children. Most of the detention cases we’ve followed up on lately were children, specifically under 16 years old. Most of the allegations of torture were from children, where it was not only physical torture but also psychological. For example, over 16 Israeli military soldiers and police officers would surround one kid, beat him, kneel on his neck, and start throwing accusations of ‘hatred towards the Jews’ to somehow justify their criminal behavior. Israel has always used accusations of anti-Semitism in its propaganda to deter criticism against the apartheid state, but now it’s being weaponized against our children to torture them and throw them in jail. Many families are terrified now every time their children leave their homes in Jerusalem. What if they never come back? What if they get detained? What if they beat and harm our kids?”
This sentiment of fear when “sending our kids out” is not specific to Jerusalem, but true for families all over Palestine, especially in Jenin Refugee Camp. When I spoke with our partner Mustafa Sheta from Jenin Freedom Theatre, he explained “This fear of sending our kids to school every morning is very much present, especially for those between 16 and 18 years old because Israeli snipers actively target them. When Hanan died of her gunshot wounds, we were devastated. You feel as if your own kid is the one who was killed by Israeli bullets. Then on top of this fear you have the Israeli Occupation Forces enforcing collective punishment on us by locking us in the camp in order to deter our resistance and stifle life further in the camp, but to no avail or success. We will continue to do our job, we will continue to support each other and our people, we will continue to provide psychosocial support to our youth and no one will be left alone.”
And if there’s one thing that the Apartheid regime’s violence will never succeed to do here in Palestine it is to defeat the people’s will. When Shireen was killed while reporting Israeli crimes, her colleagues held their cameras through their tears to document the atrocity. When Sanad was murdered by Israeli forces, his friends did not leave his side, and when a young child from Jerusalem was at risk of Israeli batons, another Palestinian from Um Al-fahem came to his rescue. No child was left alone to face torture by Israeli Occupation Forces in Jerusalem, Palestinian lawyers volunteered their time and worked day and night to help them get released from detention.
In all of these instances our partners were always there, always ready to support, always ready to stay day and night and do what is needed for their communities. It’s no longer a mere display of solidarity to support such institutions and communities on the ground in Palestine, but rather a duty, so their voices and the voice of Shireen Abu Akleh will continue to echo and rise higher and louder.