The Rafah Evacuation is Another Form of Israeli Torture - Latest Global News

The Rafah Evacuation is Another Form of Israeli Torture

When news spread on May 6 that Hamas had accepted a ceasefire proposal, celebrations erupted across Gaza. People took to the streets cheering, believing that the war – the seven months of hell – was over. I was skeptical, but I also teared up at the thought that the horror could be over.

It soon became clear that only one side had accepted the deal. The other was determined to continue its brutal massacres of Palestinians. Israel pressed ahead with its invasion of Rafah, where more than a million people from the north and central part of the strip had sought refuge, believing Israeli assurances that this was a “safe zone.”

On May 7, the Israeli army captured the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, the only way out for Palestinians who were able to find means to evacuate, as well as for the injured and sick who managed to obtain Israeli exit permits. It was also the main entry point for what little humanitarian aid Israel allowed to enter the Strip.

My family and I had been trying to find a way out of Gaza. The news dashed what little hope we had of leaving. We really have nowhere to go now as we face death from bombing, starvation or disease.

Israel presents its evacuation orders to the rest of the world as caring for Palestinian civilians. But Israel knows that pushing people from one place to another every few weeks is a form of torture.

According to the United Nations, more than half a million Palestinians have fled Rafah. Families who had already been displaced several times had to once again pack up their belongings and head into uncertainty.

Contrary to claims made to Western media, Israel has made no arrangements for the evacuation. People fleeing must pay for private cars or animal carts for transportation. If you don’t have money, try to walk. Some are too impoverished or have sick or elderly family members and cannot make the trip.

The half a million people who left Rafah had to move in with relatives or, if they were lucky, set up tents wherever they could find space. They are not provided with food, water or other basic needs. Above all, there is no guarantee of safety. Just a day ago, a family who had just fled Rafah was killed when the Israeli army bombed a house in Nuseirat camp.

The migration of these large numbers of people places enormous strain on the communities to which they move. There were fights in the queues for water and bread. Prices of staple foods have skyrocketed. This constant forced eviction of people is tearing apart the social fabric of Palestinian society.

No child or adult should experience life in displacement. People are crammed into rooms or tents, sometimes more than a dozen. There are no toilets, showers or adequate sanitation facilities. There is no privacy or personal space.

Diseases that were once eradicated are now widespread. People regularly contract hepatitis and stomach viruses.

When temperatures rise, heat stroke claims the lives of babies and children.

Israel’s constant evictions of already displaced Palestinians are also destroying the small semblance of normality that parents want to establish for their children.

A month ago I visited one of the camps in Rafah. There I met Nesreen Ayoub, who had to flee her home in Gaza City with her family.

After losing so much, she found some comfort in her daughter Tasneem, who attended classes at a makeshift school and returned to her tent with a spark of joy, a rare commodity in these desperate times.

Teachers and college graduates volunteered to teach children, hoping to encourage them in the midst of despair. I also met Samia al-Khor, an Arabic teacher who had also fled the north. Her longing for the familiar rhythm of the classroom had led her to bring together eager children and teach them the Arabic language on a piece of rubble that she had turned into a blackboard.

The camp was one of the first areas in Rafah that Israel ordered evacuated. The makeshift classrooms were dismantled and the joy of learning was denied.

Even the smallest moments of happiness must be withheld from the Palestinians. That is the Israeli way of thinking. Remember the outrage in the Israeli media over the scenes of Palestinian children trying to cool off in the sea amid the oppressive heat? There can be no respite for the Palestinians. They must be condemned to eternal suffering.

As Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa reminded us in a recent essay, Israel Shahak, a Holocaust survivor and Israeli intellectual, was one of the first to see Israel as a reflection of Nazism. In a 1983 essay, he wrote that he noticed the Israeli tendency toward what he called “Nazification” as early as 1968, a year after the Israeli army occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“It is now commonplace to claim that most of Hitler’s horrors could have been prevented if the Nazi intentions and early practices had been recognized for what they were. The same applies to Israeli National Socialism. It can still be stopped if you recognize it for what it is,” Shahak wrote.

For four decades his warning went unheeded. And we have reached the point where Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, unfazed by global outrage.

Gaza is “hell on earth,” as the UN put it. The noise of drones and fighter jets, the roar of bombs and shells, the smell of rotting corpses and raw sewage, the sight of destroyed neighborhoods, the bouts of hunger and thirst, the agony of losing loved ones dominate this small strip of land.

The predominant emotions are not those of resilience, but rather those of fear, despair and terror. The myth of Palestinian endurance is collapsing in the face of the unimaginable suffering Israel is inflicting on the Palestinians.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.

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