Dr. Fady Joudah—an award-winning Palestinian American writer, poet, and physician, whose essay, “A Palestinian Meditation in a Time of Annihilation,” we were proud to publish last week—has lost more than fifty members of his extended family in Gaza in the past month.
I say “lost,” but that, of course, is not the word.
Dr. Joudah’s family weren’t “lost” any more than the desperate inhabitants of the Al Maghazi refugee camp were casualties of some unattributable explosion.
His family were murdered. They were blown apart in their dozens, old and young, day after day, by a relentless barrage of Israeli airstrikes; airstrikes which had, and continue to have, the full-throated support of the United States government, led by a president who still refuses to call for a ceasefire.
Speaking in an interview with Nermeen Shaikh of Democracy Now!, Joudah said the following:
We have had more than 50 or 60 people in our extended family killed by Israeli airstrikes. Some of them are in-laws of one of my cousins, and others are different families. Others were also killed by the dozens in one strike. One particular story is of a woman I knew since when I was a child in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. And her brother’s grandkids were killed because Israel bombed the house next to them, and in the bombing, one of the walls—one of the walls of their house fell off on them. And they were sleeping, and it killed the three grandchildren and the parents. And only the grandfather survives. So this is also a different spectrum of what we hear about the children being the only survivors in entire families. There are also stories of elderly people who have survived 1948, the Nakba, and/or 1967, and they’re the only ones who are surviving or who have survived their families.
If the magnitude of Joudah’s loss seems incomprehensible, that’s because, for almost all of us here in America, it is, and there’s a real danger in that.
Next year, when the news cycle has moved on and the decades-long plight of the Palestinian people has been forgotten (again, as it always is), you’re going to find yourself cornered by a friend in a bar or a family member over the dinner table or maybe a fellow writer on a festival panel. They’re going to tell you that what happened in Gaza was terrible, unconscionable even, but that you need to be pragmatic. That Joe Biden is still, despite everything, the lesser of two evils. That you owe it to the country, to democracy, to hold your nose and cast your vote for the Democrat. That Trump’s return to the White House would be the end of the world.
They’ll talk like Aaron Sorkin characters of a looming political apocalypse, because they haven’t the slightest comprehension of what it’s like to suffer though a real one.
Fady Joudah’s family have. The people of Gaza have.
When those well-meaning scolds have finished lecturing you about American democracy in peril, I want you to tell them about this man. Ask them to imagine how it would feel to have fifty members of your family violently wiped from the earth in less than a month. To watch from afar as your government—your president and your state representatives—endorsed the genocide of your people. To see the precious individual humanities of your cousins and nieces and nephews and friends reduced to debated death statistics on the evening news.
Then ask them where they get the fucking nerve to tell you to vote for the man who could have stopped it all with a phone call, but didn’t.
Our deepest condolences go out to Dr. Joudah and his family.