Hamas may stop firing indiscriminate rockets on Israel cities, and Israel may stop their air raids, bombing and home demolition of the Palestinians, but the harsh occupation and the injustice keeps going.
Today, a 14-year-old Israeli teen has witnessed four major wars, had to say goodbye to a parent who was deployed to war, who may or may not return home, has been subjected to numerous Hamas rocket attacks, listened to the sound of sirens instructing her to take cover in a bomb shelter and, like me, probably has a lot of nightmares, hers about rockets and suicide-bombers, while mine are about the Israeli soldiers and their cruelty.
Today, a 14-year-old teen in Gaza has also lived through those four major wars and air strikes and has seen her relatives, classmates and neighbors torn apart by Israeli missiles and bombs. In the middle of night, she has been forced to flee her demolished home to take shelter in a camp set up by Hamas who would recruit her later to resist the occupation.
None of these children gets to choose what side of the conflict to be born on or which God they will be taught to worship. These children are our children. Many of us hurt equally for the loss of life and destruction on each side.
Both sides are engaged in perpetual war. Wars not just aimed to defeat, but with the goal of eliminating the other side. Both have engaged in indiscriminate attacks against civilians. And both are committing war crimes against humanity.
At the end of each war, Hamas claims victory for indiscriminately firing 4,000 rockets on Israeli cities, terrifying civilians and causing death and destruction in the name of independence and resistance. While Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, with modern precision weapons, hits targets, demolishing numerous homes and centers, destroying roads, bridges, water tanks, power lines, tunnels, and whatever infrastructure was restored from the previous war, killing many civilians and crushing an already devastated Palestinian economy, all in the name of self-defense and security.
The cruel conditions the Palestinians endure daily are impossible to imagine. And expecting the Palestinians to give up their resistance, submit to continued Israeli occupation and economic strangulation, and give up their rights for statehood, is like expecting we Americans to give up our independence and submit to being a forever-impoverished colony of a foreign government.
What would you do if your home were demolished, regardless of how many minutes you were given to evacuate your family in the middle of night? Regardless of whether you had anything or nothing to do with Hamas?
What would you do if you were made homeless on top of being stateless? What would you do if your land were confiscated?
What would you do if you were denied your basic needs, including medicine? If your electricity and cooking gas were constantly cut off? If your water wasn’t safe to drink? If your movement were restricted and villages barricaded? If travel were denied and your territory isolated from the world? If you lived under a state with double standards and policies that impose different laws for people depending on their religion and race? If you were denied citizenship in your birth land while foreigners are granted full rights?
What would you do if you could not protect your own children? What would you do if you were denied seeing your dying father or mother?
Would you dispute the occupation? Would you dispute the injustice? Would you resist?
Palestinians were dancing in the streets celebrating President Biden’s election, full of hope that he would bring some fairness and balance to help lift their siege and end the occupation. Resolving this 70-year conflict requires holding both sides accountable for their crimes against humanity. Our unconditional support for the occupier, while labeling the occupied as terrorists is a policy that has led to more wars, less stability, and No Peace.
Anan Abu-Taleb, the former mayor of Oak Park, grew up in Gaza through his teenage years.