On October 14, I lost nine members of my extended family after Israeli air strikes targeted the house of my father’s cousin Azmi Aljamal, killing him, his wife, three of his children, three of his grandchildren, and his niece. My brother Abood reached his home despite facing a lot of difficulties.
He told me that when he pulled Azmi’s body out of the building debris, “he was still alive and breathing.”
Abood then conveyed the tragic news to the rest of our extended family by texting us on WhatsApp and making phone calls to my parents. By October 27, however, the luxury of reporting our death as Palestinians in Gaza to the rest of the world became out of reach when Israel cut off cellular and internet services completely in the besieged region.
Blocking access to internet, electricity, fuel and telecommunications services came after Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant ordered at the start of the carpet bombing of Gaza that Palestinians are “human beasts” who must be denied access to essential life-sustaining services. The normalisation of such genocidal language occurred because none of the major Western powers condemned the Israeli state for its dehumanisation campaign against Palestinians, which eventually gave them a licence to bomb hospitals and refugee camps.
Cutting off internet and cellular services meant that Palestinians living both inside Gaza and abroad would not be able to know who gets killed or who survives. It meant turning Palestine into a black hole of sorts. Whatever limited footage emerging out of Gaza in the last five days shows the impact of the ongoing blackout – Palestinians are carrying their people killed in Israel’s carpet bombing on donkey carts because they cannot contact ambulance services or report casualties to rescue teams.
Medics in Gaza are following the screams of people coming out of flattened buildings following Israeli air strikes. Many Palestinians have died because ambulances were not able to reach them on time. Volunteers are riding their bikes to report air strikes to rescue teams.
Israel’s message from this blackout in Gaza is clear – that Palestinians do not have the right to report their dead, both to paramedics who might be able to revive them or to the families and well-wishers who would mourn the killings in the rest of the world. On the other hand, Palestinians once again feel the global powers, the champions of human rights and equality, are failing them by simply watching this horror on their phones and TV screens.
A public relations battle
Since October 7, following Hamas’s attack on Israeli military installations and settlements outside of Gaza, Israel has killed 8796 Palestinians in cold blood. At least 2030 of them are still under the rubble, including 900 children. Of the 8796 Palestinians killed between October 7 and November 1, 70 percent were children and women, with more than 3648 children in Gaza killed.
While Israel is noticing the growing pro-Palestinian solidarity across the world, with big cities like London, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Istanbul, Amman, Cairo, New York, Chicago, Rome, and others teeming with protesters condemning Israel’s crimes against Palestinians, a large majority of Israelis continues to believe in the state propaganda – that even if it takes massacring thousands of Palestinian civilians, they must do so to make Israel safe.
In light of the changing global perception about Israel, with more and more people refusing to believe in their “self-defence” propaganda, the Israeli state imposed a communication embargo on Palestine to hide their massacres and unleash its army of trolls, pro-Israeli western media outlets and celebrity influencers to distract the world from the gravity of the crisis and obfuscate the Palestinian reality.
But the truth always finds its way out. Israel cannot hide the massive scale of crimes they are committing in Gaza. Palestinians are counting every life they have lost in the past four weeks, refusing to forget any victim of Israeli massacres, whether it is the Alghoul family in Al Shati refugee camp, which lost 80 members to Israeli air strikes, with half of them still under the rubble, or the Aqel family in Jabaliya refugee camp, whose 85 members were killed in a similar bombing, Palestinians remember each one of them.
The aftermath of the blackout
The Tal Al-Hawa neighbourhood, where Al Quds Hospital is located, has been flattened to the ground, with multiple Palestinians killed. Hospitals are overcrowded and staff overworked. Doctors operate on patients on the floor and many patients don’t have access to anaesthesia when undergoing life-saving surgeries. Simply, Israel didn’t want the world to see this gruesome reality because Tel Aviv, and its Western allies, can’t justify to their people the mass killing of Palestinians in Gaza. What is Israel to do? Go to any extent to shield the killings of Palestinians and send a chilling message to Gazans – that they will be killed in isolation.
Israel is making a mockery of international law, which the Western powers apply selectively depending on their subjective interests. As a result, Israel brazenly bombs whatever it wants to bomb. Israel bombs markets, shopping centres, toy stores, schools, libraries, mosques, churches, empty streets, crowded streets, moving objects, static objects, concrete walls, fabricated fences, olive orchards, barren fields, and if nothing is left, it bombs hospitals and refugee camps.
For Palestinians, it’s like facing a mad king on a dragon, hell-bent on burning down the entire city. And Israeli forces and their allies are leaving no stone unturned to make Israel, the mad king, look good.