Khaled lives precariously in a refugee camp in Gaza. His poignant reports have been translated into many languages. Today, his voice, usually cheerful, was filled with revolt and a great lassitude.
Silvia Cattori: The Israeli bombings have already killed over 500 people and have wounded thousands in a few weeks in Gaza and Lebanon. Don’t the Israeli authorities have any human consideration?
Khaled: Now the soldiers are in the process of bombing us from all sides, from the sky, from their tanks posted on the frontier north of Gaza. It is very worrisome. Every day we are plunged in an boundless pain because of our dead and wounded. Yesterday, Israeli shooting claimed 25 new victims and more than 75 wounded among the inhabitants of Al Shijaeeya in Al Sha’af, east of the city of Gaza, and in the neighbourhood of Jabalyia, they bombed a house only 100 metres from my own.
S.C.: Will you have to leave?
Khaled: The Israeli army advised one of our neighbours that he should leave. Between his house and mine there is only one house.
S.C.: But what is Israel trying to achieve with this repeated carnage and destruction? What is their final goal? Terrorize you until you leave for good, as they have already done at Rafah?
Khaled: It didn’t start yesterday. Since 1948 the Israelis are following the same plan to get rid of us: they call this plan "transfer". At one moment, it is at a certain place that they terrorize and massacre us, at another moment, it is somewhere else. The crime is called "ethnic cleansing". Their goal: to make us leave so they can take our land under the pretext of creating "security zones". As there are no protests worthy of this name, the Israeli soldiers are free to continue this indefinitely.
S.C.: Is the goal, then, to terrorize you by ever more horrifying massacres, and once panic has entered your hearts, to see you flee en mass as in 1948? But where can you go this time? To Egypt?
Khaled: The important thing for them is to completely clean us out of Gaza. It doesn’t matter if they have to drive us into the sea. It is their plan. That’s how they got 3⁄4’s of the Palestinians to flee in 1948. But I think the Israelis will never again manage to get us to leave this refuge.
S.C.: You must be disappointed with the results of the Rome Conference where the cry of the Lebanese prime minister for a cease-fire was not heard. Was that taken in Gaza as a green light for Israel to continue to massacre you?
Khaled: The west has always allowed Israeli governments to massacre and destroy as they wished. It is only the degree of brutality that changes. The rights of man are violated by the state of Israel with the full awareness of the entire world, with the support of the United States, and organizations like Amnesty International say nothing, and the Europeans say nothing, and they ask us, the victims, to make an effort. Every time the Security Council votes on a resolution critical of Israel’s actions, the United States immediately vetoes it and prevents Israel from being condemned. For us, things are like they always are. The West condemns our resistance. Hamas and Hezbollah, whatever one thinks of them, are the honour of the Arab peoples. Israel wants to kill the only force that defies them and that have any honour. For us, what is happening in Gaza, and now in Lebanon, is terrible. But, even if what we are enduring is more horrible than ever, Europe must know that we will never abandon the authorities of the Hamas government.
S.C.: Do you think the battalions of tanks would dare penetrate into the interior of the Gaza Strip?
Khaled: It’s done. They have entered the north of Gaza. They are close to Jabalyia. Only two kilometres separate them from us. It could be that, if they enter Jabalyia, we will undergo a massacre like that at Sabra and Chatila.
S.C.: Which means you feel completely powerless in the face of this seasoned army?
Khaled: The militants try to protect us, to prevent the Israeli soldiers from entering our neighbourhoods, but they don’t have the means. In Lebanon, Hezbollah militants can fight against them because there are mountains and zones with few people. But here we are piled up one on another. It isn’t possible. Under their shelling, there are no safe places. We have no other choice but to stay in our homes and hope that God will protect us.
S.C.: The fact that you can’t escape must create an oppressive sense of being closed in.
Khlaed: Yes, we feel imprisoned. The Gaza Strip is the biggest prison in the world.
S.C.: Have your authorities called on the humanitarian organizations?
Khaled: All those representatives of the NGOs, of the UN or of governments have never done anything concrete for us. We suffer more and more and their peace or aid projects only serve to reinforce Israel’s position. The last example is the conference in Rome. Every day you can see the blood of our children being spilt. Who has the cure? Maybe they are obliged to act for the Lebanese people because of the large-scale destruction inflicted by Israel. But have you heard the Red Cross or any of the other human rights organizations protest against what is being done to us? Have you heard them accuse Israel of war crimes? Amnesty labelled the suicide bombings as crimes against humanity in 2003. Amnesty shuts up when it comes to Israel.
S.C.: Are your militants completely powerless to stop the battalions of Israeli tanks?
Khaled: Yes. They have nothing other to do but to stay standing.
S.C.: But, when the bombing stops, what we see are above all women and children who have been massacred. The population must feel in a state of complete abandonment and indescribable panic, the children above all.
Khaled: These acts demand that the entire world denounces the odious crimes against innocent people. However, the Arab states stay silent and, when they say something, it is to support the position of the United States. The children have been traumatized for a long time. They have worrisome behaviour. The Israeli army is waging a war against militants who take seriously their responsibility to protect us. The government leaders are very threatened and live clandestinely. They aren’t apt to take up a rifle against a tank.
S.C.: Are you hopeful that this reign of bombing will soon end?
Khaled: Israel is not going to stop. They would only stop if one of these massacres provoked large protests. Then, the Israeli army might pull back a bit, waiting for the protests to calm down, and then the massacres will start again.
Translated by Signs of the Times