Posts By Tithi Bhattacharya

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The Children of Gaza Have Names

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I wake up in the middle of the night to go check on my child. She breathes, she makes little sleep-noises. I leave the room. Again, half-an hour later I go back to check if she is alright. If she still breathes. I go back again and again through the night because instead of sleep­ing I have been watching the news com­ing in from Gaza. This is the sev­enth day of bomb­ing in Gaza, ten chil­dren are dead and 140 wounded. I refuse to call them “chil­dren”. They are not “chil­dren” to be com­pressed into a com­mon noun by the west­ern press: they have names, they had toys, they also once cried in their sleep while their par­ents went up to check on them.

Let us call out: Jumana and Tamer Esei­fan. Jumana and Tamer were killed by an Israeli mis­sile in the town of Jabaliya. They were not yet four. Let us call out: Iyad Abu Khoussa. Iyad was killed when another Israeli mis­sile hit his home. He was one. 10 mem­bers of the al Dalu fam­ily were killed in an Israeli air­strike while they were sleep­ing in their beds. Let’s call out some of their names: Sara was 7, Jamal was 6, Yusef was 4, and Ibrahim? he was 2. The New York Times reporter, Jodi Rudoren, described the funeral for the al Dalu chil­dren as an exer­cise in “pageantry”. Accord­ing to Rudoren los­ing ten fam­ily mem­bers in one day was no excuse for for­get­ting your man­ners and weep­ing in public. Jumana and Tamer. Iyad and Sara and Jamal. Yusef and Ibrahim. Let’s remem­ber they have names. Let’s remem­ber they also had toys.

When the bombs star­ted to fall why didn’t their par­ents flee? Mohammed Omer, a Palestinian journ­al­ist based in Gaza, tells us why.

Gaza does not have bomb shel­ters, and with the bor­ders closed, the shoreline block­aded and many of the tun­nels des­troyed, no one can leave. The Palestinian edu­ca­tion min­istry and the United Nation Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) have shut all schools in this coastal enclave. Mosques and churches are not safe. The sta­dium is not safe. Media offices are not safe. Gov­ern­ment build­ings are not safe. Homes are not safe.

There is nowhere to go. But when the bombs stop fall­ing what will life be like for those who remain in this ‘open air prison’ that is Gaza? What does child­hood in Gaza smell of when there are no airstrikes?

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