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    Watch novelist Susan Abulhawa’s harrowing dispatch from Gaza.

    Dan Sheehan

    March 6, 2024, 12:08pm

    “The reality on the ground is infinitely worse than the worst videos and photos that we’re seeing in the west.”


    Susan Abulhawa—the Palestinian-American writer and human rights activist whose debut novel, Mornings in Jenin, became an international bestseller in 2010—has just returned from two weeks in Gaza.

    Earlier today, Abulhawa—who is also the Executive Director of the Palestine Writes Literature Festival and the founder of the NGO Playgrounds for Palestine—spoke with Amy Goodman and Juan González of Democracy Now! about the horrors she witnessed in Rafah and Khan Ynis, describing the situation on the ground as “infinitely worse than the worst videos and photos that we’re seeing in the west”:

    Beyond people being buried en mass in their homes, their bodies being shredded to pieces…there is this daily massive degradation of life. It is a total denigration of a whole society that was once high functioning and proud and has basically been reduced to the most primal of ambitions . . . What we’re hearing on the ground is surreal, it’s dystopian. What I witnessed personally in Rafah and in some of the middle areas is incomprehensible. I will call it a holocaust, and I don’t use that word lightly . . . What’s happening to people isn’t just this death and dismemberment and hunger. It is a total denigration of their personhood, of their whole society. There are no universities left. Israel intentionally bombed schools and blew them up, presumably to ensure that rebuilding could not take place, that reestablishing a society cannot take place without the infrastructure of education, of healthcare . . . One of the things that Israel has been keen to do in Gaza is to erase the remnants of people’s lives . . . On a societal level, Israel has targeted places of worship, mosques, ancient churches, museums, cultural centers, libraries. Any place that has records of people’s lives, that has remnants and traces of their roots in the land, has been intentionally wiped away. It’s really frustrating for us to read Western media talking about Israel targeting Hamas and whatnot. They’re not. When you’re on the ground, you understand that this has always been about displacing Palestinians, taking their place, and wiping them off the map. That has been Israel’s stated goal, in this instance and in 1948. It has always been their aim to destroy us, remove us, kill us, and take our place. That’s what’s happening now in Gaza. It’s what happened in 1948 and in 1967. Every new Nakba, every new escalation, is greater than the one before, and here we now arrive at a moment of genocide and holocaust, because the world has allowed Israel to act with such barbarity, with impunity.


    Abulhawa’s entire testimony is essential watching, and a stark corrective to the idea that the nightmare unfolding in Gaza has eased of late:

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