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Sad, strange and sometimes a little funny

People inspect the debris of a building and huge holes after Israeli airstrikes hit the residential area of Khan Yunis, Gaza on November 14, 2019 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]
People inspect the debris of a building and huge holes after Israeli airstrikes hit the residential area of Khan Yunis, Gaza on November 14, 2019 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]

I receive emails from Khaled. I have never met him. He tells me that he lives in southern Gaza; that many years ago he read one of my articles on counterpunch.org. His emails often look the same. A short text and the same short ending. My responses have also always been short. I thank him and then encourage him to write again.

During the Israeli military offensive in 2014 I received daily emails from him. They were often about his love for Gaza, that it was his home and that he never wanted to leave. He read my stories and didn't recognise himself. He told me that my stories were too sad.

At the same time, Khaled thought it was strange that the American administration had questioned whether the ICC should investigate the 2014 bombings in Gaza. If, indeed, there were reasons to investigate. The mighty West was more concerned over what happened in Israel than the 2,000 Palestinians who were killed. Khaled found this strange and also a little funny. That's how he often ends his emails: sad, strange and sometimes a little funny.

Khaled told me that some of his relatives had moved into his house. Their house had been demolished. There are more and more people on the Gaza Strip now. Families were crowded together, but the inhabitable area got smaller and smaller. It was sad. Khaled found it strange that Netanyahu thinks that settlers should have a right to organic expansion. It was even more strange when Barack Obama, through the US budget, continued to increase financial aid to the apartheid regime in Israel.

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It is hard here, Khaled wrote, but not hopeless. This is where I want to live. I will never leave. I live, he wrote, in a house that lies closest to the wall against Egypt. I previously lived almost on the border. But someone thought that there should be a buffer zone alongside the wall. We no longer have a right to live in our own house, on our land. Somehow the world doesn't find it strange that someone claimed the right to clear out thousands of homes; to force away thousands of people; to make it even more crowded on the strip; to make it a bit more impossible to live. It is sad, Khaled wrote, but isn't it also strange that countries in the West, like the US, Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Sweden, Norway and pretty much everyone else kept quiet? They let it happen. We cried and laughed at the same time. Cried for ourselves and laughed at the world.

He asked me if I saw the images of the bombed UN school. If I had seen the children. The ones who died, those who were hurt and all the frightened children who survived. Very sad, he wrote, but also strange that the world's leaders were so happy when Israel said that it was a mistake.

Surely it is a serious crime to colonise a people, Khaled wrote. To take over land, steal houses, demolish houses, expel families and transform farmland into military zones. Surely this is very serious? Khaled wrote that he has read that I and many others refer to this as apartheid. He had learnt in school that what happened to the blacks and coloured people in South Africa belonged among the very worst tragedies for humanity. Khaled wrote that he hadn't realised that what was happening to them in Palestine was even worse.

It is sad that leaders of the so called democratic world have become international criminals. Together they are financing this madness. Very sad and a little strange that Bush the elder, Clinton, Bush the younger, Obama and now Trump don't understand what they are taking a leading role in. Funny, Khaled said, when you consider that Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize. Imagine financing war, killing children, demolishing homes, occupying land and then receiving the nice reward of the Nobel Peace Prize. Khaled wrote that it was sad, strange and really, really funny.

A child was killed by a grenade fired from a ship at sea. Three others started to run, tried to seek refuge; they were also killed. They were terrorists, Israel said. Sad how four children died; sad how the world didn't care. Very sad, Khaled wrote, and not at all funny.

READ: Israeli jets strike Gaza after rocket fire

We start to cry and laugh when clinics are destroyed. At the clinic, there can be children with shrapnel; young men and women with gunshot wounds; men and women with sawn-off legs. Healthy human beings whose lives have been destroyed by nationalists, religious madness and authoritarians; the kind of people who never seem to get enough. Here they lie, those who have been injured by bullets. They are dying now when the UN is under fire. We cry, Khaled wrote, and we laugh at those who make decisions "over there". All those who pray for the abuser and who think that we cannot get enough abuse. More weapons are exported to Israel, more bullets, more bombs. They say to each other that we can probably continue for a few more days.

It is obvious, Khaled said, that every house, every painting that was stolen or bank account that disappeared in Germany was to be returned. Wasn't it sad and very strange that our demolished homes or our paintings that were stolen in 1948 are not to be returned? And that my father's two bank books from 1944, which I have in my hand, became worthless in a second? It is tragicomic how the democratic world acts. One day the thief is punished, the next he is rewarded.

I work as a teacher, Khaled wrote. The month after the New Year bombings, the students wanted to talk about what happened; about why their classmate didn't come back. Why the house had been razed to the ground. Khaled wrote that in school he had tried to explain, but that he couldn't. He couldn't find the words. It was so sad that there are no words to explain what happens around him. I try to get the children to laugh. Sometimes I dress up like a clown. It helps for a short moment. You know, Khaled wrote, the clown is both very sad and very funny.

I am angry, Khaled wrote. Very angry. Three young settlers killed. Sad, Khaled wrote. Why? To Khaled, those who killed the three settlers were terrorists. We don't have a right to kill innocent people.

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A few days passed. New emails. The war had begun, the bombs started falling. A new email. Mats, Mats, children are being killed. Hundreds are being slaughtered. Sad and cynically funny that the pilots are not called terrorists. Mats, how can it not be terrorism when a refugee camp is bombed, a ghetto?

The emails continued. The sad blended with the funny. Khaled was glad that I wasn't there with him. That I'm not needed there but somewhere else. He writes that someone needs to be born here to survive here, to not go crazy. It's not as bad as you think, Mats. It is at the same time so much worse. I live in hell already. It cannot get worse.

At the same time, Mats, it is so infinitely beautiful. Beautiful when the sun goes down over the Mediterranean. When the children swim and play on the beach, chase each other out in the water.

Mats, he writes, no children were killed on the beach today. You maybe should have been here. We still have good coffee. The houmous tastes good and the strawberries are red. Soon we will have another child. It can only get better.

Suddenly the emails stopped. Emptiness. Silence. The last email was about the children playing on the beach. That no children were killed on the beach that very day.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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