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A letter to Hillary, from Gaza

posted on: Apr 13, 2016

Hillary Clinton, the leading U.S. Democratic presidential candidate, recently told thousands of people at a Washington, DC, conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that if she is elected she would be a staunch advocate for the Jewish state, that “Israel’s security is non-negotiable. America can’t ever be neutral when it comes to Israel’s security.” Here is a reply from Basman Derawi, a writer from the Gaza Strip with We Are Not Numbers.

Dear Mrs. Clinton,

When I get confused I take a deep breath, close my eyes and clear my mind, as I did after hearing your speech at AIPAC. I am confused because the picture you painted of Palestinians is not the one I see around me—and I live in Gaza. All I want is to live in peace and be able to pursue my dreams like you and your fellow Americans. One of the things I love about America is that it is a place where people with different cultures, colors and religions live together. This is what I want too; I don’t want either a Jewish state or an Islamic one, I want nothing more than to be allowed to live peacefully with both my Palestinian and Jewish neighbors (who really are very close, despite the huge wall they have built), in a land where everyone is free to practice their own religion and live in dignity. Why have you not taken time to get to know us, if you aspire to be one of the world’s greatest leaders? I ask you to put yourself in our shoes.

Batman writes to Hillary Clinton
Basman Derawi and his niece

After my first year of studying physiotherapy in 2006, my dreams extended beyond the walls Israel and Egypt have built around Gaza. I dreamed of traveling outside, but those thoughts started to fade after two years, when Israel attacked us with its massive weapons—the first of three wars to come. Since then, all of our infrastructure has been nearly destroyed, particularly the electricity; we now get powerless than eight hours a day. Imagine yourself spending more than 16 hours a day without electricity.

In 2014, Israel attacked us a third time, and this time its killing machines reached one of my friends at his house, along with many other civilians. Haytham too was a physiotherapist, only 25 years old. And now he’s gone.

You don’t know how scary the future is when you hear rumors about a coming war, which we hear all the time; how painful it is when your dreams and wishes turn from seeking further education abroad to merely having a full day of electricity without cuts, to praying for more days without another attack, to not losing someone you love. But every time I see photos of Jerusalem, I remember how badly I still want to visit this holy city. Is that too much to ask? You always talk about the right of Israel to defend itself. Why are our rights always ignored?

It seems you think I was born a terrorist, and that my future children will be born terrorists as well. But you never seem interested in learning how my family has experienced all types of abuse and racism—from my grandmother’s expulsion from her homeland in 1948 to the last attack in 2014 when my entire neighborhood was under siege and a police station called Jawazat, so close to my house, was destroyed. Yet we are called terrorists for defending ourselves. Would you not defend your neighborhood, your home? More than 2,000 Palestinians were killed, compared to fewer than a hundred Israelis. Why are we the ones you call terrorists?

There is not a lot more to say. I am a human with a face, hands, feet and, most importantly, a heart. I hope you understand that we have the right to live a full life, not a half one, and that you will stop seeing us as stereotypes and labels. In fact, I invite you to come visit my family and see for yourself. My mother cooks the best maklouba around and we would love to make it for you.  I would be so pleased if you accepted the invitation, and I am sure you will come to look at us from a different point of view.

Sincerely,

Basman Derawi