- Interview by
- David Broder
Nour Alshaer is a student from Gaza who studies pre-medicine at Washington and Lee University in Virginia. She hopes to create cancer treatment infrastructure to give a fighting chance to Palestinians denied entry to Israeli hospitals. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic she took a year off to be with her family in Rafah, Gaza, where she is currently.
Having lived through four rounds of bombing — and losing family and friends to Israeli airstrikes — she is urging international action against Israeli apartheid and for an end to the blockade of Gaza. On Wednesday she spoke to Jacobin’s David Broder about the situation in Gaza, the murder of her cousin and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.
What is it like to be in Gaza right now?
We are completely trapped in our houses at the moment — we have nowhere else to go.
Last night was the most horrifying night in our city, hearing the constant sounds of airstrikes and bombs. I have never felt more like I was ready to die — I was putting messages on social media asking people to do what they can.
We know the sounds of the F16, since we were children, and from the loudness we could tell if the explosion was on the same street, or on the same neighborhood. Now we also hear the American F35s. They’re using us as lab rats to test their weapons — it couldn’t be more dehumanizing.
I don’t know if I’ll survive. There are shortages of food and water and we can’t go outside to buy anything, because we never know when the bombings will come. We aren’t safe if we go outside, but we’re not safe at home either, because the bombs fall everywhere.
Can you tell us what happened to your cousin?
On the first day of Eid another massacre happened in my neighborhood. They bombed houses with no warning — it was the sound of F16s and it was so loud that we knew it was our neighborhood being bombed. We heard the last names on the news and so I was worried about my best friend. She made it but my pregnant cousin and her daughter were killed. My other cousin is still in the ICU, in critical condition. We didn’t get a moment of grief — there couldn’t be a funeral.
What do you think when the Israelis claim that they are directing “surgical strikes,” not against residential areas?
This is an easy way to make it possible to commit genocide against people of Gaza — saying they’re trying to kill terrorists. But Palestinian resistance has always been met with anger, whether it’s peaceful or violent. When people peacefully resist with BDS [Boycott, Divest and Sanctions] they call it antisemitic. When, after a blockade of many years, some groups resisted violently, then the Israelis blame that for their own airstrikes.
Holding unarmed civilians responsible makes no sense. The Israelis are bombing residential buildings and saying they are targeting terrorists. But the whole Gaza strip is residential buildings — it’s one of the most densely populated places on Earth. At the same time, there’s a power dynamic. Israel has a military, the Iron Dome, bomb shelters, whereas we are a civilian population attacked by an armed state.
Almost half the people killed so far were women and children, and many others were older civilians. It’s not just about Hamas. Long before it was even invented, Palestinians were being killed. This time, Israeli settlers have been marking the homes of Palestinians in Israel to be targeted, and people are being killed in the West Bank while they’re planting olive trees.
It was reported that the only coronavirus lab in Gaza was destroyed. What is the health situation like now?
The Israeli strikes have been destroying infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, which will make it even worse for the survivors than it was before. I don’t know if I’ll be a survivor. But this is why we don’t just need a truce, because that means a situation where life is even more miserable. We need to lift the blockade so that Christians, Muslims, and Jews can live equally — which won’t happen under the Israeli government.
More than forty thousand people in Northern Gaza lost their homes and took refuge in UNRWA schools, but two of these schools were then bombed. There’s so many people crowded in these places, which helps the virus spread. Israel won’t allow any aid to get to the homeless families there.
Faced with this emergency there’s so much demand for ICU beds we can’t do anything about the pandemic. Even before the war, while Israelis were vaccinated, Israel was limiting how much vaccine gets to the people of Gaza. It’s an apartheid regime.
Do people in Gaza feel like they are alone? What solidarity would actually help?
We got used to people in the West believing Israeli propaganda. We got sick and tired of the Israelis twisting stories, playing the victims, and the West believing it. It’s like two hundred plus Palestinians who have been killed, and far less Israelis. I’m not justifying the killing on either side but it’s not the same.
This time around it’s different. Social media has been empowering, to have our stories shown and more people see the reality — the truth is coming out, kind of.
We share the footage of people in solidarity abroad, but we also know that these protests are symbolic. They aren’t going to make a change or save our lives, now. Governments already know what they’re supporting, so the protests have to be about pushing them to defund Israel, to stop supporting Israel. To stop helping the killing of children with their people’s money. And people need to boycott all companies that support Israel and the Israeli military, in order to put meaningful sanctions on Israel.