Gaza Born: A Past Never Forgotten
Issue   |   Wed, 12/05/2012 - 00:23

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.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 12/05/2012 - 10:39

Beyond powerful.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 12/05/2012 - 12:31

Very moving piece, thanks for sharing your story.

Amal (not verified) says:
Wed, 12/05/2012 - 15:53

You are wonderful, thank you so much for this.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 12/05/2012 - 16:54

By calling the Jews pigs, you simply affirm that the anti-Israel movement is undoubtedly just the modern expression of anti-Semitism. By calling Jews pigs and judging Israel by an absurd double standard and hoping for their "judgment day," you're no different than some medieval town crier blaming the Jews for poisoning the wells or drinking Christian blood.

puppy (not verified) says:
Wed, 12/05/2012 - 17:43

an excellent article !!!! thanks for sharing

Jew Power (not verified) says:
Wed, 12/05/2012 - 22:34

After a year in the Israeli army, I became more "moderate."

However, don't you have enough countries of your own? Why Israel?
Give a dollar and you wish to take 100. Give Azza and you want Jerusalem. WHEN DOES ENOUGH BECOME ENOUGH?

Your view is when Israel is pushed into the sea. Caroline, shame on you.

We have lived through the Holocaust; we finally have OUR LAND.

I will fight for Israel until my bones become brittle because, "If I'm not for me, who am?"

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 12/05/2012 - 20:25

Completely out of line.

dr.sorski (not verified) says:
Wed, 12/05/2012 - 21:30

It is the truth we all cannot lie or hide from an justice will always be served to that an all it can be

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 12/05/2012 - 22:36

After a year in the Israeli army, I became more "moderate."

However, don't you have enough countries of your own? Why Israel?
Give a dollar and you wish to take 100. Give Azza and you want Jerusalem. WHEN DOES ENOUGH BECOME ENOUGH?

Your view is when Israel is pushed into the sea. Caroline, shame on you.

We have lived through the Holocaust; we finally have OUR LAND.

I will fight for Israel until my bones become brittle because, "If I'm not for me, who am?"

Unbiased (not verified) says:
Wed, 12/05/2012 - 22:39

This is a nice article, but it's not completely forthright. It's actually a little misleading. Using the statistic of 1:100 would lead a reader to think that Israel kills 100 times as many Gazans as Gazans kill Israelis, and therefore Israel is 100 less humane than Gaza. The reality is that Hamas fires rockets from populated civilian areas knowing that Israel will strike back on those very same areas. Even Hamas' headquarters is underneath a hospital! On top of that, Hamas certainly does use their civilian casualties as media propaganda. They've used the same bodies twice to parade on television, as well the bodies of Gazans who died via a rocket strike from Gaza that accidentally killed them. So, as far as Hamas is concerned, parading dead civilians is certainly something they do or, as the author puts it, "we" do.

The reality (for unbiased realists, at least) is simple. When Israel fires a rocket into Gaza and kills civilians, Israel calls it a failure. When Hamas fires a rocket into Israel and kills civilians, Hamas calls it a success.

CAROLINE (not verified) says:
Wed, 12/05/2012 - 22:44


Tara (not verified) says:
Wed, 12/05/2012 - 22:47

Thanks for giving us both sides of the story, and being so civil about something so personal.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 12/06/2012 - 00:23

Poorly written article - all rhetoric, no substance.

Trnc K (not verified) says:
Thu, 12/06/2012 - 01:36

love, your resident.

John Y (not verified) says:
Thu, 12/06/2012 - 03:40

Given the history of jewish stereotyping and propaganda, I think The Student should remove the first comment to this article. It adds nothing to an otherwise interesting article that people on both sides of this issue should read.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 12/06/2012 - 08:57

A great, levelheaded, and moving piece! I really appreciate your perspective Caroline

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 12/06/2012 - 10:29

Mike, go preach your hatred elsewhere.

monir (not verified) says:
Thu, 12/06/2012 - 10:36

you are completely true but the wrong thing is that we don't fight against judisim our fight is against zionism thats it and palestine sooner or later will be FREE and no one can stand the injustice we live ..... free PALESTINE death to israel ... you may consider it rude to kill the israelies but the law in all the world give all the people the right to self defense like if any one attacked your house with guns and took your house would you just sit there and stare at what is he doing ?? this is simply what happened in palestine zionists started coming to palestine in 1947 and they killed alot of people with the support of the british government whom were ruling then and our fight for freedom started from that time ..

Ahmed M (not verified) says:
Sat, 12/08/2012 - 03:53

I think this is an amazing article that displays facts as well as a common sense perspective. it is civilized an well written as well.
Thank you for sharing this!

Smith Student (not verified) says:
Sun, 12/09/2012 - 03:50

Coming from someone who grew up in Tel Aviv, many comments made in this article are considerably misleading or incorrect entirely. You assert that you are used as human shields, when it is your government power Hamas (termed a terrorist organization by the U.S. and whose primary objective is to erase Israel from the map) who uses you as such by placing their headquarters in an area with schools and underneath a hospital. It is completely necessary to have an air base next to a settlements of people who have repeatedly bombed and terrorized innocent civilians in Israel, hence the aircraft noises you complain about. Almost anyone is allowed to visit Jerusalem, because it is considered such a holy and sacred place to Muslims, Christians, Jews, and many other religions, so that they may pray at the Kotel or Al Aqsa. The West Bank is almost equally as open. The only times when people are barred from entering is because they may pose a threat to the people who gather there. Unfortunately at the moment, this includes all Palestinians, for reasons including suicide bombers and bombs launched from Gaza and authorized by Hamas which have terrorized innocent Israeli citizens in many different parts of Israel. If Palestinians were truly after peace in this area, these activities would cease and Israel would accept Palestinians visiting Israel without hesitation.
You state that warnings of defense forces of Israel are 'psychological warfare'. Gazans give the Israelis no such warnings and so we are faced with never knowing when or where we may be safe.
You consider the mortality rate of Israel vs Gaza to be 1:100, while ignoring the basic realities of the numbers of Israelis killed by suicide bombings, or 'martyrs' as Muslim Palestinians refer to them, not including the victims of the bombs that have been launched frequently for the past few years from Gaza, all considered beneficial by your government.
You state that you do not support Hamas and yet you do not condemn any of their acts, but place all of the blame of Israel finally fighting back for itself.
Israel may have been wrong to settle in Gaza, but the state has completely legal rights to enact settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, both of which are legally Israeli territory. This cannot be termed occupation when it is so clearly in Israel's rights to build on the land agreed upon in the settlement. Settlement is not a violent activity, as you refer to it.
Finally, you are rude and condescending in your adresses to Michael Flaster's article, which was clearly well researched and well written. I can conclude that you should be the one to question your views, not him.

Hampshire Student (not verified) says:
Mon, 12/10/2012 - 13:58

Well said, Smithie!

Jeff (not verified) says:
Mon, 12/10/2012 - 13:44


You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.

Steven (not verified) says:
Mon, 12/10/2012 - 13:51

I think that it’s important for the entire world community — and especially representative of the progressive left — to say to the Muslims, “Time to grow up and learn to live with your neighbors and take care of your own people. The Israelis haven’t done anything to you that you haven’t done to others, indeed that you haven’t done to your own people. If you want to live in a peaceful global society, it’s time to put aside vendettas and the need to regain your honor by spilling blood.”

Israel is the test of Islam’s readiness to join the world community as honorable partners, and not as belligerents whose borders are bloody almost everywhere in the world where Muslim countries border other countries, Muslim or not. Until the Palestinians are ready to have a win-win relationship with Israel, there will be no peace. And until the Arab world stops using Israel as its excuse for not liberalizing, Arabs will continue to lose.

The most obvious place to start is with the teaching of hatred in the Palestinian media and schools and mosques. The kind of thing that Palestinian children are taught about Israelis and Jews is as bad as the Nazis taught German youth. (In fact, no priest or minister, even at the height of Nazi frenzy called for the extermination of the Jews, something that happens regularly from the pulpit of the mosques, then broadcast on PA TV).

The other critical thing to address is the Palestinian inability to self-criticize, to take any responsibility for what they’ve done. Ask any Palestinian or pro-Palestinian what the Palestinians have done wrong and you’ll get a blank look. It’s all Israel’s fault. In order for positive-sum relations to work, both sides have to take responsibility. As for the israelis, and the Western Jews, there’s almost no limit to how self-critical they’ll get. Indeed, many have a kind of masochistic omnipotence complex where it’s all “our” fault, and if only we could be better (say sorry more, make more concessions) we can fix anything.

My point is not that Israel hasn’t done things they shouldn’t have, that they have nothing to apologize for. It’s that they are not only ready to, but have done so to such an extent that they take responsibility for things they haven’t done (like Ilan Pappe’s student inventing a massacre at Tantura). When one side takes too much responsibility and the other takes none, it’s a lose-lose — only the haters win.

Gilad (not verified) says:
Mon, 12/10/2012 - 14:02

Some of these postings are antisemitic. Statements such as "They say history has shown that these pigs have never been good neighbors, when will the world understand!" is similar to the rhetoric used by the Nazi's and other white power organizations. As is this statement: "The US congress loves pigs who give them election money, this everybody understands."

It is similar to anti-semitic rheotic used by Hamas: "Source: Hamas website, Feb. 1, 2006
Bassem Al-Takrouri, Hamas suicide terrorist:
"Angels of mercy, escort our souls to Heaven after we fulfill this duty of crushing the descendants of apes and pigs. Dear father and mother, blessings of honor and respect to you while you escort me to the Maidens of Paradise as a Martyr."

What is the policy of posting hateful speech here? Where do the moderators draw the line between hateful speech and commentary?

admin says:
Mon, 12/10/2012 - 14:24


The posting by Mike Yohe has now been taken down. I don't think the comment was thoroughly read when it was approved, and after seeing the complaints by several people about it and analyzing the comment, we have decided to take it down.

We will be drawing up a strict hate speech policy for our comments for next semester so that comments like those will not be published again.

Hana T '14 (not verified) says:
Mon, 12/10/2012 - 14:28

I am truly horrified at the ease in which this student body dispels the account of an individual who GREW UP in Gaza and LIVED through the bloodshed and violence that we can only perceive through the media's twisted agenda. The arrogance in which Amherst students tout US/Israel propaganda is really disappointing, considering the critical education we are supposedly receiving. Good for you, Caroline, for sharing with us what you actually experienced, which is infinitely more valuable and insightful than a bunch of bullshit "facts" supplied by biased and corrupt governments and their media slaves. Shame on all the naysayers who have watched a few hours of CNN and find themselves informed enough to tell us all about the TRUTH in the Middle East.

BB (not verified) says:
Mon, 12/10/2012 - 15:56

Caroline, Gaza is NOT the "densest open-air prison in the world." Tel-Aviv is far more densely populated, for one thing. And for another, if Gaza was such a prison, why would the Israelis let you out to come to Amherst and write this drivel?

A Fellow Palest... (not verified) says:
Mon, 12/10/2012 - 19:22

Caroline has made up her own facts here. Her reply to Michael is emotional yet poorly written and sad. She is hurting us fellow Palestinians by attacking Israel. I live in the West Bank and life is much better for us because we work with the Israelis and try everyday to become more democratic and more peaceful like them. I have come to realize that Arab culture is at it's root rather violent and we must move away from our past and adopt the Western way of acceptance and peace. I have let go of my pride and ego and simply found the truth. So should you Caroline. Peace be with you. DOWN with Hamas!!