On Wednesday, Nov. 14, when the war in Gaza started, I became a wreck. I had no way of contacting my family, so my only solace was to check the list of the dead online almost every five minutes and stay tense until the cease-fire was announced. My name is Caroline Katba, and I am the only Palestinian at Amherst College who grew up in Gaza. Growing up in the Gaza strip is no fun ride; it is emotionally and mentally exhausting. Nevertheless, I am immensely grateful to all the experiences that I have had, because they helped shape me, and my perspective of the world. Furthermore, on Wednesday Nov. 28 after I read Flaster’s Article Why Hamas Forced Me to Leave Amherst College, I felt obligated to write an immediate response, because Flaster seemed to be narrating all the propaganda that he is completely bathed in. I will be telling the story from my side. Also, I would like to make it clear that I am neither a supporter of Hamas nor is my family involved with the party in any way possible; I am merely a pro-Palestine human being.
Many innocent lives have been claimed by this 64-year-old conflict on either side, and both parties are responsible. Israel has ignored many international laws regarding the use of violence, and the world has been silent. Israel claims that all the wars and all the mass murders are simply an act of self defense, and Hamas claims its response to be resistance to an occupation which started in 1948 and has been crippling to many aspects of the Palestinian life. Because of the nature of the Occupation, Palestine has been separated into two entities; the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. To make matters even more complicated, in 2006 a conflict between Fatah and Hamas (Palestine’s main parties) split the Palestinian authority into two polities, seeing themselves as the true representatives of the Palestinian people, Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza.
Gaza is the densest open air prison in the world with more than 1.7 million people living in a 140 square-mile area. The previous war on Gaza, which lasted eight days, resulted in the deaths of 170+ people and injured 900+ people with more than 1500 air strikes. Furthermore, to show how Palestinians are so used to all this terror and violence, when the circulated news about the ground invasion of 77,000 approved reserve officers to a stand by position next to 16,000 others, a joke was passed around; one of the officials said: we cannot house you (soldiers); we are filled to the rim! I, on the other hand, was worrying as if it was the end of the world, not being able to contact my family, knowing that they live in a building that has many press offices, radio and TV station, and not knowing exactly what is happening, because media outlets would not show everything, I was simply devastated and in tears. I remembered going through the war in 2008-2009; which was horrifying, and I didn’t expect this war to be different.
In his article, Flaster mentioned that “Israel carries out arguably the most humane military response in the history of warfare” I strongly disagree with his opinion; in 2008-2009 more than 1400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. In my opinion murdering civilians on either side is very inhumane; however, a ratio of 1:100 is not “humane” and so was the war in the last month. In addition he argues that “In fact, Israel drops warning pamphlets, makes telephone calls and sends out text messages to all residents near potential targets so that civilians can stay far away before a strike occurs.” Flaster might call it warnings, I call it psychological war. In 2008-2009, I was the one who answered the phone when we received the infamous phone call, and the recording told me that we must vacate, because soon enough our building and the buildings around us would be bombed. As a 14-year-old at the time, I was seriously scared. I told my parents, and they tried to calm me down. My family and I couldn’t leave knowing that there are no safe places, so we stayed put, all clustered in one room that was central to the house, with every window open so that the glass wouldn’t shatter on us. It was a cold night; we sat and waited, waited to die. Even though our house was not bombed, simply receiving the call and waiting to die scarred me for life. When one waits to die, one cannot help but feel hopeless, because there was no place to hide. But after an hour or so, I remembered where I was born, and I remembered the normalcy of death in the Gaza Strip.
Moreover, in his article, Flaster proceeds to announce his ignorance by asking “What is their cause? End the occupation? Israel already pulled out of Gaza seven years ago and has only been rewarded with more terror.” First of all, I am wondering why he would choose to enlist in an army to fight a people without being educated about their cause. Second of all, Israel pulling out of the illegal settlements from Gaza is not equivalent to ending the occupation. When borders are closed almost all the time in Gaza, when we, Palestinians can’t sleep because Israeli F-16s and noisy spy aircrafts are roaming in the air non-stop, and when Palestinians are humiliated, arrested and used as human shields in the West Bank on a daily basis, when we Gazans can hardly leave the open prison, simply to visit our families in the West Bank and Jerusalem our capitol, when we still have international silence against the segregation wall, and Israel’s crimes against humanity, Flaster, that is called Occupation.
Furthermore, Flaster adds “Criticizing Israel for the resulting deaths is… unfair” No, Flaster, criticizing Israel is as fair as criticizing Hamas for the resulting deaths. And he adds “whenever a Gazan child dies, he or she is quickly paraded in front of cameras for a photo op.” I find this to be extremely offensive. Mind you, we do not parade our children, they were murdered! And the world needs to witness these crimes. I am wondering, what propaganda were you told about these children, were you told that they were Hamas militants? I know what it is like being a child and growing up in a war zone, I wonder, do you? I feel sorry for children on either side of this political conflict.
Lastly, on Nov. 29 Palestine was recognized as a state by the United Nations. The recognition is a tremendous step towards ending the conflict; however, on Dec. 1 “Netanyahu decided to build 3000 new housing units in east Jerusalem and in settlements in the West Bank in response to the Palestinian action at the UN,” said a Hebrew tweet by Barak Ravid. It seems as though whether Palestinians used violent or non-violent resistance, Israel still will respond with state violence.
My only wish for the future is for this political conflict to end and for peace to occur.