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What is it like to be in Gaza?

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What is it like to be in Gaza? 


I used to feel so unfortunate to be here in Gaza. I still do. 


While I was writing this piece, I went to other websites to check if it’s been 30 or 32 days since
the Israeli assault began. Then I wondered if that really matters! Here I am in Gaza, a place where numbers make no difference but to media. I’m sick of watching the death toll increasing to 1904 and more than ten thousands wounded. Behind those numbers lies a tremendous collection of heartbreaking stories.

I am 21 years old and I’ve witnessed three bloody wars in only 7 years! I am still traumatized by the scenes of the first war so called “Cast Lead”. I can assure you that I now, as all Gazans, suffer from a three-layer trauma. 

This attack is different in all aspects. Everything becomes a target. Civilians, houses, mosques, hospitals, media offices, even cemeteries. And guess what the pretext is? “Those civilians aided the “terrorists”. “Those civilians were used as human shield by Hamas fighters.” “The terrorists were hiding in those places or they were used as a weapons store.” Does any of them seem convincing to you? 

Homeless thousands of Gazans have been since the beginning of this massacre. My family and I had to evacuate our home when we saw everyone in our neighborhood fleeing their homes. We went to our grandfather’s house and stayed there for three days. But we could not stand being away from home. Our grandfathers and grandmothers flee their homes once in 1984 and they never went back home. “We’ll stay home no matter what”, we made up our minds.  


Two days after we went back home, we were lucky enough to enjoy a three-day ceasefire. This period of time, which might be so short to you, was enough for me at least to forget some of the scenes of horror in this genocide. I could not be happier when I heard there will be a ceasefire for three days. “My family and I survived this attack”, I told myself. In the very first hour of the ceasefire, my dad and I went to Beit Hanoun, north of the Gaza Strip. Beit Hanoun witnessed a horror movie directed by the Israeli army. I took many photos of what I’ve seen.


 Below are some of them.





 Too optimistic I was. This ceasefire has come to an end which makes me uncertain whether we will really survive this insanity or not!







Discussion 12 Comments

  • Lambert Meertens 9th Aug 2014

    I can't imagine how it is to live in a perpetual war, worried with the sound of each bomb for the safety of your loved ones, grateful for the nights you can catch a few hours of good sleep.

    Reading about it (I don't watch television) makes me feel so powerless, and walking in demonstrations I don't understand why there aren't more people.

    I have the sense something may be moving. Among the people I talk to more than before criticize the Israeli propaganda talk, and some media that used to slavishly support Israel in the conflict now are quite critical of the disproportionate violence used by the IDF and its disregard for civilian lives. Yet it is all still far too little.

    • Alaa Radwan 10th Aug 2014

      Thanks for your words dear Lambert. I'm happy to see all these people taking to the streets calling for stopping the attack. It is not the same anymore..people are becoming aware of what's going on in Gaza and "Israel".

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 9th Aug 2014

    My heart goes out to you Alaa. Thank you so much for taking the time to write in this horror time of Israeli state terrorism you are living through. May you and your loved ones stay safe during all these war crimes (as is the blockade of Gaza itself).

    I think Lambert is also right in what he says in his last paragraph.

    Can you find any quiet moments at all to perhaps escape into the some of the great English literature you are studying? The warmest of regards to you Alaa, Peter

    • Alaa Radwan 10th Aug 2014

      thanks a lot Peter :)

      I started reading Nicholas Sparks's The Last Song- A Romance novel. It is ironic how I'm in a middle of a bloody massacre and I'm reading a novel about love...

      thanks very much again for your support

    • Peter Lach-Newinsky 10th Aug 2014

      Great, Alaa, very glad to hear it. Maybe these ironies and paradoxes are exactly what it is to be human and are what art and literature are there to remind us of. And of love. And maybe that's exactly what these deluded war-and-state people/terrorists are trying to suppress in themselves and in others...

      Keep reading, and writing, Alaa, keep sharing. Warmest greetings, Peter

  • Jon Doe 10th Aug 2014

    I am so inspired by your resistance and fierce intelligence. And I'm so deeply sorry I have not done more to take to the streets and pressure my government to stop the horrific high tech slaughter that the US is arming and supporting in Gaza. I'm amazed to hear that even in all that brutality you can still find the mental space and focus to read a novel about love and update us about your life in Gaza. That is a beautiful testament to your humanity and the power of love and intelligence over violence.

    Please stay safe, I am honored to hear your words and see these images, and will share them with chapter members in NYC.

    While I know that words are insufficient in a time of such violence and there is so much more that US-Americans need to do to stop the violence our government creates, one small thing is that I do is work to support a group of military veterans in the US, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), and they released this statement on Gaza:

    Iraq Veterans Against the War Statement on Gaza
    published by IVAW National on 08/01/14 1:53pm

    Over the last three weeks, we at Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) have watched with dread the endless bombing of Gaza, leading to the senseless killing of now more than 1,300 Palestinians and the destruction of their homes, lives and livelihoods.

    In the past we have announced our support of the right to self-determination for Palestinians, alongside our firm conviction of the illegality and dehumanizing nature of the blockade of Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank. This moment is no different.

    The US government has continually provided arms and money to Israel to the tune of $3.1 billion per year. It is our own country’s weaponry that is causing the deaths of entire families in Gaza. We see it as our duty to resist the steady grinding militarization of our foreign and domestic policies and we stand in solidarity with those resisting the same efforts overseas, both the Palestinian people and the Israeli reservists who have refused to serve in this conflict.

    We are an organization made up of veterans who are intimately familiar with neocolonial missions and who carried out the day-to-day operations that enabled the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. As such, we can’t help but see Israel’s continued violation of basic human rights of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza as anything but the actions of a country engaged in the oppression of a colonized people.

    Iraq Veterans Against the War firmly denounces the disproportionate violence that Israel has waged on the people of Gaza and supports an immediate and enduring cease-fire with the removal of occupying Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip. Additionally we support a lifting of the unilateral and illegal embargo of the Gaza Strip.

    We also call for the United States government to immediately cease providing political cover and material support for Israel. This means the ending of military aid and an embargo on arms shipments. The United States should no longer support a country engaging in serious war crimes and violations of international law by collectively punishing Gazans for the decisions of their leaders.

  • ishi crew 11th Aug 2014


    1. Nowadays, I don't know how to take what I read on the web. Is this a true report? (It sounds like it, since I have seen others including in mainstream media---my only issue is 'where do they get electricity and web connections, given the amount of destruction---i guess some still exist).
    If it is, and if for some reason I want to comment, exactly what should I say and how should I say it?
    Sometimes the way i 'frame' things', or phrase them, turns people off because its either seen as overly elitist, esoteric, pedantic, academic, etc.---something I should put in an academic journal--- or else the opposite, as a hostile, non-pc, etc. rant (which should be banned along with say NWA, sid vicious, etc.)

    Regarding 'framing' (a pretty terrible and also very old, now trendy concept---somewhat like 'intersectionality' in my view (to begin stepping on toes), which is a new religion with its all new discovery and ownsership (via enclosure, copyrite and patent) of the golden rule) , I'll say for example I once went to some workshops on NVC (nonviolent communication) (at an 'anarchist infoshop' run by an 'anarchist') where the whole idea was the currently popular variant of 'we want to hear everyone's point of view but if you can't say something positive don't say anything at all'; and/or 'you can say anything you want, but there is a standard format used by NVC, which means since we ban certain words, you must look in our thesaurus to find a synonym which fits the format.
    ( In general I am seen not to frame my arguments well. I haven't got a 'Coke is it!!!' world in harmony thing yet. However, my view is if you say Coke is it, then you get coke. If you want something else, maybe the way I'm saying it is the or one possibly correct way. )

    (The same approach as NVC is used by groups who use roberts rules of order, or others such as LessWrong (like IOPS some sort of web based consensus training to create a better world through logic, projects, actions, etc) or science journalists who claim to be trying to find ways of commmunicating to the public the facts of physics, evolution, religion, vacines, GMOs, global warming, sexuality, race, gender, nuclear power etc.), most of whom seem to have adopted the view that (like I see on IOPS) you have to 'break it down' into fast McInfobytes the average person can digest, and which can be put on a PSA (possibly run by your PR company). (Alot of the science types however also disagree among themselves so i'm not sure they should be talking about the blindness of the public when they can't even 'take the stick out of their eye').

    My view of these people is they essentially have an elitist and business manager point of view --- basically you assume people dont know what they are talking about, are incompetent, and to get things done you have to either use force of authority or else persuasion and propoganda. (This of course has been shown, in systems such as capitalism and market democracy, to be highly effective---an elementary school teacher decides children need to learn to read, and uses PR or authority to make sure the people learn the correct alphabet, not whatever one they want, and voila---literacy, constitutions, arms trades, ecological theory and destruction.).

    Regarding 'pc' stuff , now often termed things like 'trigger' words (i.e. don't say anything that will trigger 'my 19th nervous breakdown' because then instead of attending the next meeting with the group I will have to spend hours with my psychologist healing my inner child---though of course if you are a psychologist then one good way to get patients is to go around and use trigger words and then wait for the phone calls at your psychology practice), I sometimes can switch from some sort of (seen as condescending elitist discourse) to strait 'street dialect' or 'ghettoese'. I remember going to one conference (and they let me in for free, didnt even ask for money since i looked like a squatter) where people like Nader, Shiva, Chomsky etc were talking about globalization, and it got into the topic of 'racism'. The only black person in the audience (of mostly well dressed, prosperous looking students and NGO types, and this is in what was known as 'chocolate city' due to its demographics) got up and said 'if you all are so worried about race, why ain't you got no n-s in here'? The response almost was like 'throw that n-r out so we can get on with our serious discussion of a serious social problem' on which we are experts---and, 'one reason we dont have any in here is that we just couldnt find any ones competent, civilized and smart enough to let in'.)

    2. So, here we go.

    3. I'm amazed there is even web in Gaza, as well as electricity it requires. I heard the power plant was destroyed. I'm also amazed that in that situation someone is sufficiently calm and untraumatized so as to be able to post a coherent comment to the web. You seem to be doing exactly what I would do---try to find a few pearls in the mud. (But I guess a million or so people live in gaza, so if a few thousand are killed, there are still plenty enough that maybe some have a few spots where they can try to stay sane. This may sound 'cold' but not long ago where i live it was the homicide capital of the USA, so we had 500 murders a year in a population of 500,000, and that doesnt count casualties; yet life went on, as I gather it does in gaza, iraq, etc). "Every day is every day'.

    4. I see you go to the university in gaza, which apparently has also been destroyed, which seems a tragedy (since I like these kinds of places, along with wildernesses, or things like the Bhuddist temples the Taliban destroyed in afghanistan since they didnt fit their religious concept).

    ( I will say I am not down with what is done at many US universities, and I also dislike the fact that many people involved in bisnesses which destroy wildernesses, also enjoy going to them---maybe their vacations should be destroyed even if its means some wilderness is too. Sleep in the bed you made.

    So in some ways I am ambivalent. Its nice that some great stuff is done in universities, but at the same time they also support a whole lot of people I dislike and disagree with, and produce tons of what I call 'consumericans' who mostly go on to work on wall street, manage casinos, lotteries, gentricication, sports, etc. Even Jefferson said maybe it would be a good thing if the USA had a revolution every once in awhile, since rather than reform or repair, its better just to start over and build from the ground up. I'm agnostic (undecided). At present however I dont work very hard at reforming it (I'm through with or on sabbatical from meetings, protests, etc.; so I'll let others decide whether to work for reform, revolution, or maybe just join the status quo---eat rather than be eaten). (I hear Cornel West was interviewed by a guy who wrote a book on it--- last nite on the radio---west has a job at yale, wears 5 piece suits and a 25 carat gold chain; he also says he knows his progressive cause is tragic and essentially a loser, but he still tries---so it seems he's taken a happy balance of both still promoting both reform and revolution, while at the same time avoiding burn out, by getting a nice easy job teaching theology at Yale). Beats marching around or sleeping outside, though like Chomsky, you still get to go, while also being able to go back to the heights of the status quo. Even Pope Frances worries about poverty, while letting his staff live in million dollar mansions.

    That university in Gaza apparently was started by one of the first Hamas leaders, who was assasinated by the israelis.
    Its interesting too you study english literature there. I wonder if they have classes in poltical theory, covering IOPS or anarchism, fascism, theocracy, democracy etc. In the USA, many of these things are taught, but in most places many topics are left out.

    4. I saw your 'proposed project' for a sort of independent graduate type level study of social sciences----i think that is an excellent idea (though possibly difficult to pull off in the age of MOOCS). I'd actually be involved in this, but I won't commit because I am skeptical it would come off. I've been in alternative, free universities, study groups etc. before and too often they become dominated by a few ideologues and self-promoting opportunists and become authoritarian and boring. (Which is exactly like most standard universities unless you are lucky).

    (In fact, this is one reason why open groups (like the Occupy movement, which also had study groups) into 'horizontalism' often fail---they turn into very mediocre social clubs. If you like hanging out, meeting people, hooking up, learning a few code words
    ('parecon'), having a group and identity, etc or thats all you have time for, fine. Otherwise if you'd prefer to find a group with a larger vocabulary and a different form of hanging out based on studying---even if its outside your comfort zone-- you might be better off trying to get into the most elite university you can---and aim for getting tenure and a paycheck too-- because then you will be in an ivory tower guarded by a police force and you can say anything you want, study anything you want, and won't have to deal with nitwits or prophets who bring in some sort of 'coke and IOPS is it, god said, i believe it, and thats all there is too it' concept. (Though of course even elite places nowadays in the US and elsewhere occassionaly or even commonly have people who break rules---school shootings, rapes, etc.)

    5. I heard the US pollster (of leanese descent) on the radio recently, he says 70% of people in gaza according to his polls want en end to the war . One can remember Hamas won with less than 50% of the vote (the ticket was split). I guess the idea is 'long term'----you have to break some eggs to get an omelet---if shooting rockets gets the border open, then do it (since I guess the idea the intifadas ended the settler areas in gaza).
    i'm agnostic---i could see maybe in the long run, this is a good tactic, or else that maybe life in gaza was better a few months ago, as bad as it was, and the same thing could have been achieved in different ways.
    (In my area this type of discussion or questioning is in general not permitted among activist types. However, I see them as similar to the Bolsheviks in russia 100 years ago. Their idea was our strategy is the correct one, so you are with us or you are against us, because we are Experts, the dictators of the proletariat (the masses). (experts are part of the proletariat, who by our ideology, must rule---our (trotsky, lnein, stalin) as part of the working class is to give orders, and yours is to follow them). all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others, and in our logic equality is meaningless. (This statement is not true, though it is (also)false).

    inifnity. good luck. (i don't read fiction or love stories any more---only ones i really liked were semiauthobiographical things about exploring the wilderness). I mostly read science, (math, physics, bio, logic) and economics/sociology. (eg i wonder if it was worth spending 100$M on tunnels and such in an impoverisged place, or not. I say same thing about USA---how much dead weight is there in unviersities supported by the taxpayer? Howe many casinos and sports stadiums do we need? Does IOPS need for people to sepnd money flying to some conference where you waste time hanging out, and planning some way to 'organize' the masses into supporting your group (of course, part time, since they need to keep their job, and you need to publish so you can get a job teaching at Harvard---ie like M Sandel, the issue of 'justice' to students who will go on to work in Finance; that way you can donate to keep the IOPS web site up).

    (ps. i;ve always found it interesting that Israel claims its the one democratic state in the area, when it permits the rabid settler movement to exist---sure palestinians throw rocks, but the settlers took the land where those those rocks lived, and were sleeping on.if you don't want to get bit by a snake, leave it alone.)

    • Alaa Radwan 11th Aug 2014

      ishi crew,

      I don't know how I'm gonna reply to this too long comment.

      I will try to comment on some points.

      First, it is true that the main power plant was damaged but not completely. Before this assault, we were having electricity for about 12 hours and sometimes 6 hours a day. Now we have 6 hours of electricity a day. But my family has a generator so we can do our job which is to distribute water to people.

      I agree with you that reports like mine has nothing to make you believe what is written in it. But 1900 people dead can not be a lie, can it?

  • Rod 11th Aug 2014

    Hi Alaa,

    Thanks a lot for your blog, it's good to hear from you! I hope you and your loved ones are doing well considering the circumstances and can stay reasonably sane amidst the horror that's enfolding.

    There seems to be a decline in support for Israel amongst the general public in western countries, though more so in Europe than in the US (where it matters the most). With each massacre the Israeli government/military perpetrate, they are showing their true colors for the whole world to see, which hopefully will reduce the widespread ignorance amongst the general public about the conflict.

    Stay strong and I hope to hear more from you!

    Kind regards, Roderick

  • Titas Biswas 11th Aug 2014

    I hope it will be over soon.History shall never forgive those Israelis.

  • Johannes 12th Aug 2014

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us Alaa! I'd like to remind our members that you can sign a petition calling for a military embargo on Israel here:


    On a positive note, I agree that at least public opinion is somewhat shifting, which is a start. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! recently asked Noam Chomsky about that:

    «What about opinion in the United States? Can you talk about the role that it plays? We saw some certainly remarkable changes. MSNBC had the reporter Ayman Mohyeldin, who had been at Al Jazeera, very respected. He had been, together with Sherine Tadros, in 2008 the only Western reporters in Gaza covering Operation Cast Lead, tremendous experience in the area. And he was pulled out by MSNBC. But because there was a tremendous response against this, with—I think what was trending was "Let Ayman report"—he was then brought back in. So there was a feeling that people wanted to get a sense of what was happening on the ground. There seemed to be some kind of opening. Do you sense a difference in the American population, how—the attitude toward what’s happening in Israel and the Occupied Territories?»

    To which Noam Chomsky replied:

    «Very definitely. It’s been happening over some years. There was a kind of a point of inflection that increased after Cast Lead, which horrified many people, and it’s happening again now. You can see it everywhere. Take, say, The New York Times. The New York Times devoted a good part of their op-ed page to a Gaza diary a couple of days ago, which was heart-rending and eloquent. They’ve had strong op-eds condemning extremist Israeli policies. That’s new, and it reflects something that’s happening in the country. You can see it in polls, especially among young people. If you look at the polling results, the population below 30, roughly, by now has shifted substantially. You can see it on college campuses. I mean, I see it personally. I’ve been giving talks on these things for almost 50 years. I used to have police protection, literally, even at my own university. The meetings were broken up violently, you know, enormous protest. Within the past, roughly, decade, that’s changed substantially by now that Palestinian solidarity is maybe the biggest issue on campus. Huge audiences. There isn’t even—hardly get a hostile question. That’s a tremendous change. That’s strikingly among younger people, but they become older.

    However, there’s something we have to remember about the United States: It’s not a democracy; it’s a plutocracy. There’s study after study that comes out in mainstream academic political science which shows what we all know or ought to know, that political decisions are made by a very small sector of extreme privilege and wealth, concentrated capital. For most of the population, their opinions simply don’t matter in the political system. They’re essentially disenfranchised. I can give the details if you like, but that’s basically the story. Now, public opinion can make a difference. Even in dictatorships, the public can’t be ignored, and in a partially democratic society like this, even less so. So, ultimately, this will make a difference. And how long "ultimately" is, well, that’s up to us.

    We’ve seen it before. Take, say, the East Timor case, which I mentioned. For 25 years, the United States strongly supported the vicious Indonesian invasion and massacre, virtual genocide. It was happening right through 1999, as the Indonesian atrocities increased and escalated. After Dili, the capital city, was practically evacuated after Indonesian attacks, the U.S. was still supporting it. Finally, in mid-September 1999, under considerable international and also domestic pressure, Clinton quietly told the Indonesian generals, "It’s finished." And they had said they’d never leave. They said, "This is our territory." They pulled out within days and allowed a U.N. peacekeeping force to enter without Indonesian military resistance. Well, you know, that’s a dramatic indication of what can be done. South Africa is a more complex case but has similarities, and there are others. Sooner or later, it’s possible—and that’s really up to us—that domestic pressure will compel the U.S. government to join the world on this issue, and that will be a decisive change.»


  • Jane Johnson 12th Aug 2014

    Thank you Alaa for continuing to share your experiences from the ground in Gaza, I think your blogs are very valuable and I hope you will continue writing them. It's always good to hear from you and to know that you are well. I must admit, I find it difficult to know what to write to you, given that I'm so powerless to say or do anything that can make any difference to the horrendous situation you are in. And I cannot speak as eloquently as some of the other clever clogs on here! I suppose this is the situation for many others who read your blog and want to respond but don't quite know what to say. I hope I can speak on behalf of those who feel a bit awkward or are lost for words, that we are thinking of you and praying for your safety as well as the safety of your family and loved ones (praying in a non-religious sense for some of us).

    I have signed the petition calling for a military embargo on Israel that Johannes shared above and will urge others to do so. In the meantime, stay safe, keep us updated, and don't lose your beautiful spirit. Warmest wishes, Jane