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Scholar: Why Is Israel Targeting the Families of Those It Already Killed?

Jehad Abusalim, friend of late Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer, discusses the deaths of Alareer’s daughter and grandson.

An Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on Friday killed the eldest daughter and the infant grandson of the prominent Palestinian poet and past Democracy Now! guest Refaat Alareer, who himself was killed in an Israeli airstrike in December. Shaima Refaat Alareer was killed along with her husband and 2-month-old son while sheltering in the building of international relief charity Global Communities. Shaima had recently lamented on Facebook that her father never got to meet his grandson, writing, “I never imagined that I would lose you early even before you see him.” “Why is the state of Israel and its military targeting the families and relatives of those it has already assassinated and murdered?” asks Jehad Abusalim, a scholar, policy analyst and friend of Refaat Alareer and his family. “Israel seeks to eradicate, to destroy the social environment that fosters resistance and defiance. This environment produced figures like Refaat.”

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman.

We end today’s show with the tragic news that an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City Friday killed the eldest daughter and baby grandson of the prominent Palestinian poet and past Democracy Now! guest Refaat Alareer, who himself was killed in an Israeli airstrike in December.

Shaima Refaat Alareer was killed Friday along with her husband and 2-month-old son. She was a renowned illustrator in Gaza. She recently wrote a message on Facebook addressed to her late father that said, quote, “I have a beautiful news for you, I wish I could convey it to you while you are in front of me, I present to you your first grandchild. Do you know, my father, that you have become a grandfather? This is your grandson Abd al-Rahman whom I have long imagined you carrying, but I never imagined that I would lose you early even before you see him,” she wrote.

The website Electronic Intifada reports Shaima Refaat Alareer and her family were killed while sheltering in the building of Global Communities, an international relief charity.

For more, we’re joined in Washington, D.C., by Jehad Abusalim, a scholar and policy analyst from Gaza, executive director of the Jerusalem Fund. He was a friend of Refaat Alareer and is the editor of Light in Gaza: Writings Born of Fire.

Jehad, welcome back to Democracy Now! We only have a few minutes, but can you talk about this latest news, the death of Refaat Alareer’s eldest daughter, Shaima?

JEHAD ABUSALIM: Thank you for having me.

On April 26, Israel bombed the building where Shaima Refaat Alareer, her husband Muhammad Abd al-Aziz Siyam and their newborn baby, Abd al-Rahman, were sheltering in the Rimal neighborhood at the heart of Gaza City. This, of course, was a tragic loss for Refaat’s family and friends and those who love him, including, of course, his wife and children. Shaima was Refaat’s eldest daughter. She was deeply beloved by her father. And it was a tragedy.

And, of course, this tragedy raises many critical questions as to why is the state of Israel and its military targeting the families and relatives of those it has already assassinated and murdered. And as I have previously discussed on your program, by targeting poets, academics, scholars, journalists, doctors and institutional leaders, Israel aims to dismantle the societal structure of Gaza. Israel aims to make life unbearable and to make Gaza itself unlivable.

Of course, you know, despite the bombing and the killing and the mass destruction and starvation, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians continue to live and persevere in the entire Gaza Strip, but specifically in Gaza City and the north. And Shaima, Refaat’s daughter, was one of those who decided to stay in the north and endure and not leave and not give Israel the Nakba that it sought to accomplish by attacking and destroying Gaza.

So, again, Israel seeks to eradicate, to destroy the social environment that fosters resistance and defiance. This environment produced figures like Refaat, who, you know, people like him champion their dignity and national cause. And, of course, Israel’s aggressive actions and crimes know no bounds, extending even to children, mothers, fathers and newborns.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask, in this minute we have left — you talk about scholasticide. Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor published a report last month titled “Annihilation of Gaza Education: Israel is systematically erasing the entire educational system.” At least 95 academics, including dozens of professors, like Refaat Alareer, have been killed by Israel. Jehad, your final comment?

JEHAD ABUSALIM: I mean, this shows the scale of destruction of Gaza’s educational sector. As you mentioned, the Israeli military killed more than 95 university professors, hundreds of teachers and thousands of students, in what has been a devastating assault on Palestinian education. All major universities in Gaza, including the Islamic University, Al-Azhar, Al-Israa, have been destroyed.

And as students globally continue to rise and voice their protest against the genocide in Gaza, we must remember and mourn the enormous losses suffered by the educational community. And I call on the student movement to continue to honor Refaat’s memory and legacy and to pay tribute to the countless educators and students who have perished under Israel’s bombs. This is the best way to honor our colleagues and those who have carried the message of education in Gaza and unfortunately have been murdered by Israel, and to continue carrying their message forward.

AMY GOODMAN: Jehad Abusalim, again, our condolences on the death of your friend Refaat Alareer and now the death of his eldest daughter, Shaima Refaat Alareer, her 2-month-old baby boy and her husband, just killed in an Israeli strike. Jehad Abusalim is a scholar and policy analyst from Gaza. He’s executive director of the Jerusalem Fund.

That does it for our broadcast. To see the poem Refaat Alareer wrote, “If I Must Die,” go to democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.