Your home is about to be destroyed; you have no shelter

On this, the 2 year anniversary of my brother’s death, I awoke to a message from a Palestinian friend.  His family, in Jabaliya Refugee Camp in the Northern Gaza Strip, has just received the phone call from Israel: their home is about to be destroyed, get out.

The family of Ali Rajab and Leila Khalil lives in the Hay Raid al Saliheen neighborhood of Jabaliya Refugee Camp.  They are refugees, from Israel-proper.  They are a family of paramedics. They have no connection to rockets, to fighting, or even to a political party.  

Basel’s family received 5 phone calls.  The first said to get out by July 15th, their home would be destroyed then.  The most recent one said they had 4 hours.  I said, Basel, they need to get out now.  Israel doesn’t give people the time it says it will.  Basel said, they can’t.  There is nowhere safe to go in Gaza.  Nowhere.  In 2008, people in his neighborhood taking shelter in a UN school were blown to smithereens.  Basel’s dad, Ali, nearly got blown up a few days ago when the Red Crescent Ambulance he was driving was narrowly missed by an Israeli missile.  

I really don’t know if his family plans to try to leave their house and risk assassination on the streets, where Israel is now firing missiles at groups of people, or to stay and risk death at home.  Again I asked Basel if they had anywhere they could go.  Again he told me that there is not a safe place in all of Gaza, and there is no way out.  

Israel called the family on the landline.  If their intelligence has the phone number to the house, and the address, then surely it has the intelligence to know there is nothing in that house but civilians. Israeli public relations states that the “warning” calls and bombs (gentle, warning bombs, like a soft kiss in the morning) are an indication that it is humane, because it gives people time to evacuate.  But this would require somewhere safe to go, and unlike Israel, Gaza has no bomb shelters, and no safe places.  It also implies that somehow, a civilian home in which all the civilians should be given a chance to leave, is still a target; that doesn’t even make any sense.  Are the Khalils’ bedsheets or family photos threatening to Israel?

My mom suggested that Israel “warns” its victims because it is engaging in a new form of torture, psychological torture.  Like a cat torturing a mouse before dispatching of it, except in this case the mice are people.  Basel says Israel is doing all this to try to turn the majority Gaza population against Hamas, cause an uprising, but this might only work if the Gazans weren’t so busy trying not to be killed; also, it’s one hell of an evil way to provoke a civilian uprising.  I search for rational, if still evil, motivation in the action of nation-states, but I come up empty-handed.  I suppose that genocide lacks reason, except perhaps to whip the majority population up into a patriotic blind frenzy.  And I can no longer think of a word that better describes trapping a huge population, denying them essential supplies, and then engaging in massive bombing campaigns against them other than genocide.  (See the UN Convention on the Crime and Punishment of Genocide, http://www.hrweb.org/legal/genocide.html)

Basel called me I think mostly because he needed to talk to someone.  I hope it was not because he thought I could do something, because I feel completely helpless.  A family — Leila, Ali, Ghassan, Mohammed, Ahmed, Hannan – has just been told that their countdown clock is on, and given no ways to stop it.  All we can do is tell people.  I’m telling you.  Please tell someone.  

I feel that I am watching helplessly as a military I fund commits genocide.  I have not forgiven the Americans, Germans, and other citizens of the world who watched this happen to my grandparents. I do not want to be among the helpless enablers this time.  

It’s the 2 year anniversary of my brother’s death.  But as my mom, who I called this morning, said, Alex will still be dead in a week.  For now we focus on the people who have a chance to remain alive.  Please call the White House at 202-456-1111, the State Department at 202-647-4000 (ask for the comment line), your Senator at http://www.senate.gov/senators and Representative atwww.house.gov/representatives, and write your local media. Please tell people about the Khalils.  

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