The celebration of Children's Day on 12 October made me remember and rewatch the documentary Born in Gaza (2014) on Netflix by Italian-Argentinian war correspondent, writer and filmmaker Hernán Zin. The documentary was shot during the 2014 offensive on the Gaza Strip and portrays the daily lives of ten children amidst the bombs and destruction caused by Israeli terrorist attacks.
What prompted the director to film the documentary were the terrifying images of one of the airstrikes on a beach in Gaza, resulting in the deaths of four children from the same family (Mohamed, Ismail, Zakariya and Ahed) while playing soccer. Cases like this are the so-called "side effects" of the "most modern army in the world", which cannot distinguish between children and military fighters.
Born in Gaza translates the Palestinian effort to overcome the traumas after the attacks in a frank and direct way. It achieves this through testimonies like those of Mohamed, a boy who looks for things in the dumps to sell and support his family since his father cannot work; of Udai, who witnessed the death of his 22-year-old older brother, Muhammad; and of Mahmud, the son of a Palestinian peasant who had his crops destroyed and his lambs and camels killed by Zionist attacks.
The documentary also features Sondos, a little girl who still carries the scars of her liver wound; Rajaf, the son of an ambulance driver who was murdered while saving lives; Malak, a young woman who witnessed the bombing of a United Nations (UN) school for girls in the Jabalia refugee camp; Hamada, one of four boys who survived the attack on the Gaza beach; and Bisan, a little girl whose parents were killed in the bombing and needs cosmetic eye surgery outside of Gaza.
The testimonies are moving and clearly report the tragic experience and effects of the Israeli occupation on their lives, like when Mahmud says: "We don't have missiles or tanks. We grow vegetables, not bombs." There is the scene where Rajaf and his friends pay homage to his deceased father, spraying water from a plastic bottle on his grave. There is also the speech of Motasem, who suffers from post-traumatic stress and needs psychological help outside of Gaza, which is not allowed by Israel. He says that he sees the ghost of his dead brother every night.
The film uses the resource of sometimes showing children in slow motion as they walk through the debris, in an attempt to turn them into individuals, concrete victims of Israeli terrorism, and not mere statistics of a conflict in which Israel's responsibility for destruction and death is minimised by the media and the Western historiography.
It portrays the harsh realities of how those children and their families suffer and struggle to overcome the trauma and to normalise their lives in the face of the destruction of their homes, schools and hospitals. Between 7 July and 26 August, 2014, Israeli terrorism murdered 2,200 Palestinians, including 550 children – 70 per cent under 12 years of age. Israel was responsible for more than 11,000 injuries, including 3,358 children. More than 100,000 people were displaced during the attacks that year, according to the annual report of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). On the side of the Israeli aggressor, 73 people died, including 67 soldiers.
The facts reported in the documentary on the destruction and deaths are part of Gaza's history, in which the Israeli occupier carries out permanent cruel aggression as a way to legitimise the Zionist colonial occupation and illegally expand the territory assigned to Israel. The US-supplied state-of-the-art fighter aircraft and bomb attacks aim to destroy Gaza's infrastructure, create chaos, promote ethnic cleansing and weaken the Palestinian resistance.
Despite all the modern military apparatus, Israel has not been able to double the resistance forces nor prevent the widespread demonstrations of solidarity with the Palestinian people. Those resistance forces expose the crimes of the Jewish state in the main capitals of the world and organise anti-Israel demonstrations in several cities in the territories assigned to Israel, in which Jews and Palestinians from Israel reside.
READ: Gaza's pain
The Gaza Strip covers 365 square kilometres and is inhabited by more than two million Palestinians. It is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with about 6,000 inhabitants per square kilometre. More than 70 per cent are children or young people without the right to clean water, electricity and medicine. Since 2007, Israel has prevented the entry of hundreds of types of goods and raw materials into Gaza, as well as the export of many industrial and agricultural products due to the closing of most commercial accesses.
Israel has turned the Gaza Strip into an unbearable place, as the siege has become the world's largest open-air prison, recalling the Nazi concentration camps during World War II and used by Zionists as a way to blackmail the world and cover up their crimes. Israel carries out a slow-motion genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. Along with the daily suffering under the siege, repeated attacks only worsen the living conditions of its residents.
By robbing Palestinian children of their childhoods, Israel is consistent with its 1948 policy of the continued ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. While many children receive gifts on Children's Day, the gift Palestinian children want is the right to play like any other child, running free through the streets of Palestine, without tanks and bombs, without daily funerals and arrests.
 OCHA: "2014 FOI ARRASADOR PARA PALESTINOS NOS TERRITÓRIOS OCUPADOS". UN News, 2021. https://news.un.org/pt/story/2015/03/1506391-ocha-2014-foi-arrasador-para-palestinos-nos-territorios-ocupados. Accessed on: 10 October, 2021.
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