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I'm a Palestinian from Gaza, not an alien

The people of Gaza don’t need the sympathy of the international community, they need to be treated like human beings.

By Abeer Ayyoub

I’m a Palestinian from Gaza, not simply “a Gazan.” I’m not exactly what you see in the mainstream media: I’m no expert in firing rockets, I don’t live under rubble and I don’t rely on humanitarian handouts.

Actually, I was never aware of how people outside of Gaza saw us until I was given the chance to leave the isolated enclave for the first time. The first time I left Gaza was in 2012, when I traveled to Jerusalem for some work meetings. It was strange to find out that even Palestinians who live only dozens of miles away are also mislead by the media about the truth of Palestinians in the strip.

I was extremely overwhelmed to see the other parts of my homeland for the first time. I wanted to tell everyone I met that I was from Gaza, since most people never get to meet us in real life. “I’m from Gaza,” I announced to the Palestinian receptionist at the fancy East Jerusalem hotel with a wide smile. He went speechless before mockingly asking whether I had any rockets in my pockets. I expected such comments from Israelis, but never from a Palestinians.

The next day, I traveled from Jerusalem to Ramallah on a bus near Damascus Gate. After finding a window seat, a handsome man came to sit beside me. We made some small talk – I could tell he was from Bethlehem, but he had no idea where I was from. “I’m from Gaza,” I said. “ No way, but you are cute and smart!” he said. Once again, I went speechless. Where on earth did he get the idea that people from Gaza are any less cute or smart than those in Bethlehem?

These incidents could not prepare me for the reactions I would receive when I traveled to the United States a few weeks later, where some people had no idea that Gaza even exists.

So, for all those who are misled by photos of bombings and bloodshed: yes, there is an ongoing conflict in Palestine, not only in Gaza. And yes, Gaza is not an independent region, it is a part of occupied Palestine. These facts don’t make me an alien.

It became tiresome and offensive to repeatedly hear people ask whether people in Gaza go shopping, receive an education, go to the gym or travel. Yes, the 1.8 million besieged people in Gaza who live under fire, totally isolated from the world, do go to schools and universities; find proper jobs; and travel (when Egypt opens the Rafah crossing).

The people of Gaza do not need the sympathy of the international community. Humanitarian handouts are not the only thing people in Gaza lack. Gaza is full of talented and intellectual people. Palestinians in Gaza need only to be treated like normal humans who deserve respect for teaching the whole world how to live day by day.

Read more:
In escalations of violence, Gazans pay the price
Palestinian and proud: Celebrating International Women’s Day in Gaza

Abeer Ayyoub, 26, studied English literature at the Islamic University of Gaza. She is a journalist who covered the last war on Gaza and has recently covered various internal issues. She has written pieces online in English for Al Jazeera, Haaretz and other publications.

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    1. The Trespasser

      “The people of Gaza don’t need the sympathy of the international community, they need to be treated like human beings.”

      Oh, they are treated like human beings.

      Like human beings who had chosen to be ruled by a terrorist organization.

      Reply to Comment
      • Mike Panzone

        How do you know this young woman voted to be ruled by a terrorist organization? The point of this article seems to be that you can not lump all gazans together, as you have just done with your silly comment.

        Reply to Comment
        • Reza Lustig

          That’s the story with our old friend Trespasser, and Zionists in general; individuals don’t exist among the Arabs, only demographics.

          Reply to Comment
          • Marcos

            What a dopey comment. You just committed the same act you abhor when others do it. How can one take you seriously as a thinking person? Unless this is an application of Poes’s law, you should be ridiculed and scorned whenever you try to insert yourself into a conversation with adults.

            Reply to Comment
          • Reza Lustig

            Just check Trespasser’s last comment. He did it again! It stands to reason that he and you see fit to condemn hundreds of thousands of civilians to various indignities because you don’t like who got elected to run them. Zionists always say that we (the thinking community) need to “understand” them and “put ourselves in their place” before we condemn colonialism and religio-ethnic chauvinism. Which is the exact opposite of your policy towards the people of Gaza. Empathy, I suppose, is for schnooks.

            Reply to Comment
          • Vadim

            Just like you would condemn the BDS movement for its attempts to hurt Israel just because not all Israelis voted Likud?

            Just like you would condemn Palestinian Terrorist organizations for hurting people without checking who they voted for?

            Israelis must take responsibility for their leadership, no matter who they voted for. Same goes for Palestinians.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >… you don’t like who got elected to run them.

            Did you ever happen to read the Hamas Covenant of 1988?
            Oh, but of course not, why would you?

            http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp

            Few selected quotes:

            Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it”

            The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the links in the chain of the struggle against the Zionist invaders. It goes back to 1939… includes the … 1948 war and the … 1968 and after.

            Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Koran its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes. (Yalla, yalla, we have a lot of expiring ammunition. T.)

            The Moslem woman has a role no less important than that of the moslem man in the battle of liberation. She is the maker of men. Her role in guiding and educating the new generations is great.

            We should not forget to remind every Moslem that when the Jews conquered the Holy City in 1967, they stood on the threshold of the Aqsa Mosque and proclaimed that “Mohammed is dead, and his descendants are all women.”

            Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Moslem people. “May the cowards never sleep.”

            >Zionists always say that we (the thinking community) need to “understand” them and “put ourselves in their place” before we condemn colonialism and religio-ethnic chauvinism. Which is the exact opposite of your policy towards the people of Gaza.

            Not exactly.

            The difference between Zionists and Gazans in this case is that Zionists want Jews to have a homeland, while Gazans want Jews to be gone.

            >Empathy, I suppose, is for schnooks.

            By your logic Israelis should empathically allow Arab militants to kill as many as they could. A fullish suggestion.

            Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          >How do you know this young woman voted to be ruled by a terrorist organization?

          From the international law point of view, it is of no consequences whether this or that particular young woman had voted for Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad or had not voted at all. What matters is that she is a resident of a territory which is ruled by a terrorist organization.

          By your logic, MasterCard and Visa should screen their Russian customers and allow services to those who do not support annexation of Crimea. Nonsense, obviously.

          >The point of this article seems to be that you can not lump all gazans together

          It only seems. At no point author criticize Hamas or, say, mention that apartment buildings were targeted for being used used as weapons factories, storages and launch facilities.

          The picture presented is that Gaza is only populated by people who aren’t any less cute or smart than those in Bethlehem who are bombed randomly for no good reason.

          Gazans should either get rid of Hamas or make it change it’s charter, as PLO did. Until that happens, Gaza is an entity which had declared illegal war of extermination on another entity and as such can be bombed and blockaded in accordance with the international law.

          Reply to Comment
          • Mike Panzone

            If as you say, all of Gaza should be punished according to international law for acts of war against Israel, so should all Israelis suffer for their country’s numerous violations of international law.

            Reply to Comment
      • tod

        Thank you for this article, Abeer.

        Reply to Comment
    2. You know, just as a reader, it would be really nice if you could do occasional pieces for 972 on Gaza. “Teaching the whole world how to live day by day” is a very good theme.

      Reply to Comment