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Genocide Is Underway in Gaza. US Leaders Can No Longer Say “We Didn’t Know.”

I can’t stop thinking of all the children in Gaza who can’t understand why no one is coming to their rescue.

Palestinians search for survivors and the bodies of victims through the rubble of buildings destroyed during Israeli bombardment, in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on October 26, 2023.

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The past two weeks have been very painful for me and my Palestinian American family, but especially for our relatives in Palestine. I’ve had little sleep, and when I did manage to close my eyes, I was unable to stop the nightmares. The horror that is taking place in Gaza became like a noose around my neck preventing me from breathing. I couldn’t help but think of all the children who lost their parents, their homes, and who can’t understand why no one in the world cares about them and why no one is coming to their rescue. Close to half the population of Gaza was born under the 17-year-long suffocating siege and have known nothing but misery and extreme hardship.

The death toll from Israel’s aerial bombardment has surpassed 7000, including 3000 children, according to Palestinian health authorities. Fifty-one percent of all homes in Gaza have now been destroyed, and over 1.4 million Palestinians have been displaced from their homes in northern Gaza, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The dire, inhumane consequences of Israel’s halting deliveries of food, water, fuel, electricity and medicine will take their toll and will result in the death of an even larger number of Palestinian children and civilians in the coming days.

“Hospitals have lost their ability to treat [patients], and medical teams are treating the patients with very limited capabilities,” Palestinian health ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qudra said in an interview.

Under the watchful eye of world leaders who continue to repeat the same mantra that “Israel has the right to defend itself” but are indifferent to Palestinians and their right to resist their occupation and blockade, Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, the former head of the Israel National Security Council, said in Israeli media, “Creating a severe humanitarian crisis in Gaza is a necessary means to achieve the goal. Gaza will become a place where no human being can exist.”

“Human animals must be treated as such. There will be no electricity and no water [in Gaza], there will only be destruction,” said Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alian, head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. “You wanted hell, you will get hell.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s statement at yesterday’s UN Security Council session that the UN “must affirm the right of any nation to defend itself and to prevent such harm from repeating itself,” simply adds fuel to the fire. Every government official in the U.S., the U.K. and the EU who isn’t calling for a ceasefire and an end to the carnage should be held accountable for their part in this genocide. Sending billions of dollars in missiles and weapons to the Israeli military in order to mercilessly kill and ethnically cleanse more Palestinians amplifies the U.S.’s complicity in the atrocities. The tragic loss of Israeli lives on October 7 should not be used as a pretext to launch this genocidal campaign against Palestinians in Gaza.

Israel is actively implementing a strategy I have called the “out-of-state” solution. This strategy aims to transfer Palestinians — or keep terrorizing and oppressing them until they give up and leave — to neighboring Arab countries, dispossessing them of their homeland. This is what we are witnessing in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem before our very eyes.

According to the Palestine Ministry of Health in Ramallah, Israel Defense Forces and armed settlers have killed at least 100 Palestinians in the West Bank and displaced at least 13 Palestinian communities in the last two weeks.

The two-state solution promised to Palestinians during the Oslo Accords is no longer possible; the chances of a one-state solution with equal citizenship rights for everyone are even slimmer, since Zionists insist on keeping Israel a Jewish state with democratic rights for Jews only.

What is left — and what many in the new extremist Israeli government are in favor of — is driving as many Palestinians as possible out of Israel/Palestine.

The Netanyahu government made clear its intention to commit genocide against the Palestinians and is counting on people around the world becoming numb as the death toll rises.

Fifty-one percent of all homes in Gaza have now been destroyed.

During French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent visit to Israel, Netanyahu said that the fight “was a battle between the ‘axis of evil’ and ‘the free world’.… This battle is not merely our own … it’s everybody’s battle.” Macron’s visit to Israel completes the series of pilgrimages to Israel by prominent Western leaders renewing their pledges of allegiance to the Israeli state and giving it the green light for its ground offensive.

But, as we’ve seen time and time again, Palestinians are resilient and are determined to keep their struggle alive, no matter how severe Israeli attempts are at their erasure.

There is a newly invigorated global grassroots movement for justice in the Arab and Muslim world as we’ve seen from the massive demonstrations in Amman, Cairo, Beirut, and elsewhere. Palestine is on the minds of the masses in Europe, too. From Paris — in defiance of a pro-Palestinian protest ban — to Dublin, London, Edinburgh and Geneva, the voices of Palestinian supporters chanting “Free Free Palestine” are reverberating in cities throughout the Western world. And in Washington, D.C. we heard the voices of American Jews mobilizing in solidarity with Palestinians and loudly declaring “Not In Our Name” as they marched to Capitol Hill and called on their representatives to demand an immediate ceasefire. On October 19, they shut down Congress to draw attention to the U.S. complicity in Israel’s ongoing oppression of Palestinians.

Meanwhile, Palestinians in spaces ranging from cultural institutions to college campuses to media outlets are being silenced, harassed and discriminated against.

My latest personal experience of this occurred in Germany, where I spent this past week attending the Frankfurter Buchmesse, or Frankfurt Book Fair (FBF). Upon my arrival in Frankfurt, I was greeted by an overwhelming display of Israeli flags everywhere — at the airport, on train ticket machines, on government buildings. Why, I wondered? Is it because Germany is still atoning for its past crimes? The next morning, I woke up to a shocking statement by the FBF Director Juergen Boos that said: “We want to make Jewish and Israeli voices especially visible at the book fair.… Frankfurter Buchmesse stands with complete solidarity on the side of Israel.”

As if this was not bad enough coming from a renowned institution that was celebrating its 75th anniversary — and one that prides itself on promoting cultural exchange and freedom of expression — the FBF followed its one-sided statement by announcing a decision to cancel the award ceremony of the LiBeraturpreis 2023 “due to the war in Israel.” Palestinian writer Adania Shibli won the German literature prize this year. Contrary to what The New York Times initially reported, Shibli, whose first two novels Touch and We Are Equally Far Away from Love were released by Interlink Publishing, (the Massachusetts-based, independent publishing house that I founded), did not agree to the cancellation.

In light of these announcements and the FBF’s attempt to silence Palestinian voices, many exhibitors — Indonesia’s collective stand, Malaysia’s collective stand, the Arab Publishers Association, the Sharjah Book authority, and others — decided to withdraw their participation as a sign of protest, leaving behind many empty booths. In a statement, the Sharjah Book Authority, organizer of the world’s third-largest book fair, said: “Given the recent announcement by the organizers of the Frankfurt Book Fair, we have decided to withdraw our participation this year. We champion the role of culture and books to encourage dialogue and understanding between people. We believe that this role is more important now than ever.”

Every government official in the U.S., the U.K. and the EU who isn’t calling for a ceasefire and an end to the carnage should be held accountable for their part in this genocide.

I, too, was compelled to withdraw from my scheduled talk sponsored by the Frankfurt Book Fair, where I was initially asked to participate in a discussion about the role of literature-in-translation in promoting cross-cultural understanding and knowledge. How could I participate in such a discussion when the FBF had just silenced an author whose novels we translated into English simply because she is Palestinian?

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which claims to monitor the Frankfurt Book Fair each year for books that foment “antisemitism and hate” apparently did not like the Palestine-related books displayed on our stand and suggested that our publishing house, Interlink Publishing, “be denied access, in the spirit of the Fair’s rules.” The center called several of our titles “in the lineage of the so-called ‘self-hating’ Jews.” While the “Hate Prize” went to a Turkish publisher, Timas Publishing Group, the “Runner-Up Prize” is shared by our publishing house Interlink Publishing and French publisher La Fabrique “for their combined effort to demonize Israel and indulge in antisemitism.”

The silencing of Palestinian voices and their supporters is not restricted to Germany. It is happening here in the United States, in mainstream media and on college campuses. The New York City cultural institution known as the 92nd Street Y canceled an event with author Viet Thanh Nguyen after he signed an open letter critical of Israel. As a result, several authors — including Saidiya Hartman, Christina Sharpe and Andrea Long Chu — have canceled their own upcoming talks at the 92nd Street Y. Similarly, the Hilton Houston Post Oak Hotel canceled its contract to host the upcoming conference of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights scheduled to take place on October 27-29. You can read the full press release here. And according to a report in Arab News, the U.S. news network MSNBC suspended Muslim anchors Mehdi Hasan, Ayman Mohyeldin and Ali Velshi amid the Israeli war in Gaza. On October 26, 57 UMass Amherst students were arrested for democratic dissent.

The world’s failure to challenge Israel’s ongoing oppression, occupation, apartheid and genocidal tactics against Palestinians provides the context for what is taking place now. Fearing a repeat of their mass displacement 75 years ago, many Palestinians in Gaza are opting to stay where they are and risk death. Israel’s message to the people of Gaza to leave or die is being ignored because Palestinians know that if they leave, they will not be able to return.

There is an urgent need for a ceasefire to stop the deliberate mass killing of Palestinians, which is in flagrant violation of international law. The genocide is underway. We can no longer say that we didn’t know.

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