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Suicide and a lost generation: Gaza youth are dying before they can live

Young Palestinians are mourning the loss of two young artists from Gaza, a writer and an illustrator, both of whom represent Gaza’s lost generation, trapped by the hopelessness of Israel’s siege.

By Qamar Taha

Palestinian youth in Gaza. (Illustrative photo by Activestills.org)

Palestinian youth in Gaza. (Illustrative photo by Activestills.org)

Tragic news spread among youth in Gaza last week: Mohanned Younis, a young writer, just 22 years old, took his own life. Younis, who had graduated from a pharmacology program, wrote short stories. Some of his stories won prizes, and one was most recently nominated for the A.M. Qattan Foundation literary prize. He had tried on numerous occasions to leave the Gaza Strip in order to advance his writing career, to fulfill his dreams. In much of his writing, he touched on the depressing reality in Gaza, which he described as unbearable and not survivable — a feeling which is apparently shared by many other youth in Gaza.

According to the Facebook page of “We Are Not Numbers,” which encourages youth in Gaza to tell their stories, Younis is just the latest suicide among youth in Gaza. When the unemployment rate for people under 30 stands at 60 percent; when the possibility of leaving Gaza to study elsewhere, to develop oneself, and certainly just to travel, has been reduced to almost zero; when the lack of electricity makes the most basic daily tasks unthinkably difficult; when there is a military attack, destruction and killing every few years; and when the prospects of hope and opportunity appear further and slimmer than ever — tragic outcomes are almost unavoidable.

News of Younis’s death was joined by another piece of tragic news this week: illustrator Moath al-Haj, 30, was found dead in his Gaza home. Al-Haj, who was orphaned at a young age, was well known among young, educated Palestinians for his sharp and expressive illustrations, in which he used clean lines to demonstrate the difficulties of his life and the situation in Gaza, primarily among the youth. His death led to impassioned discussions on social networks and many people attributed his death to the heartbreak of his life circumstances.

Forty-two percent of the population in Gaza is under the age of 15. That is an entire generation whose dreams and aspirations, talents and capabilities are trapped between the fences and checkpoints of Israel’s illogical and unjust policies and siege. I never met Mohanned or Moath but I think it’s only right to spread the messages of hope and ambition that both of them articulated through their art. There are many more like them: writers and illustrators, musicians and dancers, athletes and caricaturists, inventors and poets.

Freedom of movement is a basic right bestowed upon every human, and a fundamental necessity for young people who want to realize their aspirations. They need to be allowed to leave the Gaza Strip, and to return to it. Others need to be allowed to enter the Gaza Strip in order to meet them. The siege must be lifted. They must be allowed to meet with other talented young people just like them, in all of Palestine and around the world. Those types of encounters, those types of opportunities for growth and development create hope — not just for them but for young people throughout the region. Ending the siege and ending the occupation can make that happen.

A drawing by Moath al-Haj (Caption: “Smile: Maybe war will be ashamed!”:
Moath al-Haj

Qamar Taha is a research coordinator at Gisha, an Israeli non-profit that works to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially Gaza residents. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the organization. This article first appeared in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Lewis from Afula

      Well, Israel is no longer in charge of Gaza. The people of Gaza have their own government to blame for their conditions.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Lewis: “For the last 25 years, Israel has imposed increasingly strict restrictions on travel to and from the Gaza Strip. Those restrictions affect nearly every aspect of life in Gaza…”

        https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/04/02/unwilling-or-unable/israeli-restrictions-access-and-gaza-human-rights-workers

        I don’t know how it’s possible to say that Israel is no longer in charge of Gaza when they control all exports, imports and travel in and out of Gaza, and they aren’t nice about it.
        They also regularly shoot Gazan fishermen off the coast.

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          Well, the people of Gaza deny Israel the right to exist. So you cannot blame Israel for putting the barriers you mention.
          Gazns have to decide do whether their neighbors have the right to exist.
          NO RIGHT OF ISRAEL’S EXISTENCE = MORE PROBLEMS IMPOSED BY ISRAEL ON GAZA.

          Its all very simple, really.

          Reply to Comment
      • duh

        The fact they’re segregated in a ghetto is the fault of the Zionist movement, as it conspired to engineer a demographic majority in the hypothetical “Jewish” state.

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          Duh:
          Gaza is bigger than Malta, Monaco, Liechenstein, Andorra amd some Pacific Islands. In terms of population density, Gaza is the same to Singapore. So in terms of size and population density, Gaza is equivalent or better than many countries.

          Reply to Comment
          • duh

            For that matter, the South African bantustans were even bigger than Gaza, but the fact the apartheid govt. tried to pass them off as international borders fooled no one as to their real purpose.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            The Gaza-Israel border was NEVER a bantustan. It was the cease-fire line at the end of the 1949 war. A war decalred when 5 Arab armies invaded the new State of Israel with the aim of destroying her.

            Reply to Comment
          • duh

            For 38 years with Gaza and 50 with the West Bank, it was possible for Israelis to move across the Green Line but not Palestinians. It’s been obvious for decades that Israel is using the occupation as a fig-leaf to run a segregationist regime. If it’s to be argued that Israel needs the 1967 territories for defense, that’s certainly undermined by moving civilians into them.

            P.S. the UN-proposed “Jewish” state was not invaded by 5 armies.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Israel left Gaza in 2005. Yet you are still not satisfied – the Israelis commit a crime because they exist. You should admit it.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Hashmal

      As long as the people in charge of Gaza dream of destroying my country I am not going to do a single damn thing to make their job easier.

      Israel left Gaza. Gazans are the problem of the Gazan government. Not mine.

      Reply to Comment
    3. i_like_ike52

      I suggest that this piece be sent to the HAMAS rulers of Gaza, because they are 100% responsible for the dire situation described here. I am certain, that if the IDF were to enter Gaza and remove the HAMAS regime most Gazans would welcome them for at least a few days.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Israel created Hamas. And uses it, regards it as a convenience. A few convenient things it does is provide useful fodder for duping the world about Israel’s true situation and true aims, keeping the Palestinians divided, and providing fodder for right wing bloviators. Hamas won a free and fair election. Then Israel and the United States engineered and backed an armed coup against democratic result.

        Hey Lewis from Afula, re “Israel left Gaza in 2005. Yet you are still not satisfied – the Israelis commit a crime because they exist. You should admit it”:

        Is this some new Cartesian-Existentialist-Miltaristic-Terroristic synthetic philosophical position?: “We shoot helpless Gazan fishermen with our Navy patrol boats, therefore we exist”?

        It does point out that Israel (1) Never does anything honest when it comes to its occupations, and (2) Israel does seem to not be able to exist without being violent, that violent domination of another people seems to have become a way of life, raison d’etre and raison d’etat.

        Reply to Comment
        • i_like_ike52

          The Palestinians freely voted for HAMAS in 2006. Are you telling me that the whole Palestinian people are nothing but dupes? Would such a people do what Israel wants? Isn’t Islam a religion of peace as Obama says so wouldn’t an Islamic movement like HAMAS be an ideal ruling party for the Palestinians?

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Isn’t Judaism a religion of peace and if so then why is Habayit Hayehudi a belligerent occupier party and therefore an ideal ruling party for the current Israeli Justice and Education Ministers and other neo-fascists?

            Reply to Comment
          • i_like_ike52

            Hard to keep track of your line of reasoning since you never directly relate to what I say but rather you constantly indulge in “whataboutery” whenever I point out things like how the Palestinians are viewed in American society (Ben-“but what about Israel’s (supposed) crimes!”).
            First you say that Israel “created HAMAS”, but then you say that they were “moderate” at first. So what’s bad about that. However, then you say Israel and Bush supposedly carried out a coup and ousted the HAMAS regime on the West Bank which then you claim “radicalized” them. This makes no sense. If they were moderate at first, why would Israel want to radicalize them? Did you ever read the HAMAS charter? Is it “moderate” in your eyes? However, since it is an Islamic movement, then, by definition it MUST be moderate because Obama says Islam is a religion of peace and love, so how COULD it become “radicalized”.
            You also claim that the FATAH/PA is “corrupt”. How can that be? It was founded by Arafat and I assume you would have been among those before 1993 that demand Israel recognize Arafat and bring him to the country. Would someone like him create a “corrupt” regime? How could a man that you would have supported be corrupt? Add to that that Abbas is Arafat’s hand-picked successor. So what can be bad about him? Maybe he doesn’t call elections because he is so popular that he doesn’t need them? Or, perhaps, he fears HAMAS would win, but, as you said, HAMAS was created by Israel, so what would be bad about that?
            You see the reasons for my confusion regarding your views?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            You’ve simply piled up a bunch of distortions and fake versions of what I actually said, and I have to invoke Brandolini’s Law.
            In speaking about Judaism and Israel the way you speak about Islam and the Palestinians I was just giving you a taste of your own medicine.
            You are the very last person here who should lecture others on whataboutery. IMHO.

            Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          Ben:
          Israel left Gaza in 2005.
          Only when Gaza recognizes Israel’s right to exist will Israel will recognize Gaza’s right to exist. Sounds fair to me !

          Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          I repeat my key point to Ben:
          Israel left Gaza in 2005. Yet you are still not satisfied – the Israelis commit a crime because they exist. You should admit it.

          His last comment does not answer this point.

          Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Another weasel word retort from Ben:
            He gives a link to a past 972 mag article that discusses Al Jazeera’s interpretation on Gaza’s status. Yeh, that’s going to be “impartial advice” on Gaza’s status.

            As long as Israel exists, Gaza is “under occupation” because the existence of Israel “occupies” the rabid pathetic minds of the Islamofascist scum that inhabit the place.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Lewis from Afula as “impartial.” More entertainment value from Lewis.

            Reply to Comment
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