Palestine: A tragic cycle of pain and sorrow

A man reacts as Palestinians search for casualties a day after Israeli strikes on houses in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, November 1, 2023. Picture: Reuters / Mohammed Al-Masri

A man reacts as Palestinians search for casualties a day after Israeli strikes on houses in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, November 1, 2023. Picture: Reuters / Mohammed Al-Masri

Published Nov 4, 2023


By Aziz Younis

My name is Aziz Younis, and I am a Palestinian journalist. I hail from Jenin, where my roots stretch back to a time when my grandfather was forcibly displaced by Israeli occupation forces to Jordan during the Nakba in 1948.

My story is one among countless Palestinian narratives that yearn to be heard, for there exists a depth of emotion beyond what words alone can convey.

In Arabic, we have a word - “Qahr”. While this word defies translation, it embodies a profound mix of anger against injustice, oppression, racism, and dehumanisation.

Picture this as an anger simmering on a low flame, left to brew over a century. It becomes more than an emotion; slowly transforming into a very tangible part of your being, etched into your genetic code, moving through generations until it becomes an unshakable presence, demanding justice.

The result is a tragic cycle of both grief and sorrow.

I have never set foot in Palestine; entry into the land of my forefathers, is a privilege I’m denied, while you, as a South African, may visit freely. One of my most cherished birthday gifts is a video I received from a South African friend on a tour of Palestine, standing on the land of my ancestors in Jenin, holding up the keys to my family’s home, saying: “Aziz, this is your house, your land; you’ll be here soon.”

On the 7th of October, we decided that 75 years of a brutal occupation was enough. We had to make the difficult choice of whether we would continue living on our knees or stand up and reclaim our heritage. The old, rusty keys to our homes in Palestine were retrieved, a testament to our unwavering hope. It is no longer just a dream now it is an impending reality.

Speaking to colleagues about the horrific situation in Palestine is difficult. We are drained, overwhelmed, and disheartened as we witness the ongoing genocide. Our people are losing their lives, and the world’s attention feels fleeting. Some label the situation “complicated,” but what is complicated about bombs raining down on innocent civilians for over three weeks? As for what led to this? This is straightforward.

Call it a response to our people being forced from their homes, their land stolen, and those who remained were subjected to occupation and apartheid. Not complicated!

What next? Do we surrender? Never! Peace and justice loving people everywhere have a duty to stand up for Palestine and its people and while despondency may try to creep into the narrative, our commitment to this just cause must remain unbreakable, fuelled by the indomitable spirit of our people to endure and to seek justice with a beautiful patience.

The question then is: what can we do for the Palestinians? Well the simple answer is, whatever we possibly can. We are journalists, doctors, students, professors, workers, and activists. As South Africans you are the people who have triumphed over apartheid. The answer lies in our commitment and the power of truth and sharing the correct narrative.

One of our strongest tools is social media. We all have a platform for sharing stories, images, videos, and information about the Palestinian struggle at our fingertips. This provides us with a means to challenge the false racist narratives that underpin occupation and ethnic cleansing. Not only can we utilise this platform to connect with those who support our cause but also to educate those around us.

In the past week alone, I have lost 13 members of my family, a tragedy we do not even have the time to process, and a feeling of rage I cannot express. And then in the midst of my grief, a friend of mine sent me the following text: “I want you to know that I’ve just lost 10 members of my family who were living in a six-story apartment building in Gaza. They were mercilessly killed in an Israeli bombing this morning.”

“I want you to know that I’ve just lost 10 members of my family who were living in a six-story apartment building in Gaza. They were mercilessly killed in an Israeli bombing this morning.”

Our emotions are raw, and the anguish is unbearable, and the pain keeps multiplying. I have a friend from Gaza based in Johannesburg who has lost a staggering 25 members of his family. A loss like his defies comprehension. The weight of our collective losses is unbearable, and it fuels my anger, not just as a witness to the suffering but as someone who has been directly impacted.

Does the world not see the unforgivable toll that this conflict exacts on innocent lives, on families, on people who had no part in this tragedy but are made to bear its horrific consequences?

As Palestinian journalists, it’s crucial to ensure that we present a well-rounded perspective when covering conflicts. Failing to provide readers with the underlying causes of a “war” is both misleading and irresponsible. We must not overlook the 17-year Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, which clearly demonstrates Israeli control over borders and resources, including the ability to restrict water, food, and electricity. Omitting the history of Israeli settler colonial violence is a mistake and it is essential to use the term “occupation” to accurately describe the conditions under which Palestinians live.

For many years, the mainstream media has framed the Israeli occupation of Palestine as the “Israel-Palestine conflict” however this framing is problematic because this is not a conflict between two equal sides, rather it is a war waged by one of the world’s strongest military forces against a civilian population and this has to be conveyed in our reporting.

We should avoid portraying “fighting” between Israelis and Palestinians as senseless violence from both sides of an equal contest. In reality, one side has been consistently violating UN resolutions and international law for more than half a century.

This is a struggle of the occupied against its occupier and human rights groups the world over as well as South Africa’s liberation struggle icons have accused Israel of committing the crime of apartheid.

This is not an Israel-Gaza war because in the last three weeks Israeli occupation forces have killed nearly 100 Palestinians in the West Bank and demolished countless homes. This is not a war against Hamas because there is no significant Hamas presence in the West Bank, but Palestinians in the West Bank are being attacked daily. This is not a war that began on October 7 when Hamas fighters infiltrated Israel because Hamas was established in 1987 and Israel’s displacement of Palestinians began in 1948 with the Nakba. This is Israel’s genocide against Palestinians.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Palestine, misinformation and distortion are all too common. Our commitment to truth and due diligence should remain unwavering. It’s essential that we avoid unintentionally amplifying Israeli propaganda. Just as we prioritise accuracy in reporting on other conflicts like Russia and Ukraine, we must do the same for Palestine.

Recently Israel attempted to silence young Palestinians on social media by removing countless accounts posts pictures and videos. This is testament to the impact we can have with our actions.

This is Israel’s genocide against Palestinians.

Support for Palestine is not confined to activists or bound by geographical location or identity, it is something we all can and should commit to. Offer your thoughts and wishes, provide comfort and strength to those suffering.

In terms of advocating for change, Palestinians are calling on the world to boycott products and entities associated with the Israeli occupation. Boycotts have been used as non-violent means of protest to pressure governments and corporations to change their policies and actions. This is the least we can all do.

* Aziz Younis is a Palestinian journalist who is based in South Africa.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.