Try and imagine the suffering of one family that loses 27 family members in one bombing. Then imagine getting the news from CNN or AP, or over a shaky phone line, interrupted by the long distance static coming from the Israeli occupied and locked-down Gaza strip.
"There hasn't been a Palestinian in this world that isn't directly or indirectly impacted by what's happening right now in Gaza," said Lara Kiswani, of the San Francisco-based Arab Resource and Organizing Center. "There are family members, or friends that have been killed, several of our youth organizers have lost family members in Gaza, and are distraught, as a result. Often times when we are sitting here organizing these demonstrations or actions, a lot of the time is spent trying to get a hold of our family members in Palestine, as well. People, due to the electricity short outs, were not even able to actually get a hold of people. And when we do, the news that we are getting is quite devastating," said Kiswani. "We already know of three prominent families here in the bay area that have had family members killed, as many as 50 or more altogether. The Al Jamah family most recently. There's a cousin here in San Jose whose holding a day of condolences at the south San Jose."
This was the plight of Palestinian-American Dentist, Hani Al Jamah. The 41 year old San Jose California based dentist was devastated by the news from Khan yunis on Sunday July 20, that dozens of family members of his extended family had been killed in a Gaza Strip air strike, their charred and shredded bodies lay buried beneath the dust and rubble of their four-story home, in the northern Gaza strip.
Dr Jamah had last seen his relatives on a visit to Gaza two years ago. "When I visited, they came to greet me, and they were so friendly and giving -- they didn't have much but they were so generous with what they had," he told reporters.
Jamah told reporters that the
dead included "babies and children, three pregnant women and the 60-year-old
matriarch of the family. Only her husband survived because he'd gone on a trip
to the grocery store just before the missile struck at sundown on Sunday." The
crestfallen dentist said "Sunset is when they end their Ramadan fast," he said.
"He'd just gone to bring back something to eat."
Millions of Palestinians, like Dr. Jamah, generations of them cleansed from their homeland by Israeli occupiers who have continued non-stop from 1948 to occupy more and more Palestinian land, are living a daily long distance nightmare. They scan the headlines and the internet, and all of social media, looking for details of the latest Israeli bombing, to see if their friends and relatives are among the over 800 dead, as well as thousands who have been wounded by Israeli's massive attack by land, air and sea.
Jihad, a Palestinian student living in the Bay Area, has also been devastated by Israeli attacks on civilian neighborhoods in Gaza. He has been on the phone non-stop, trying to see "who is dead and who is alive, whose house or block or neighborhood has been destroyed since I left the Gaza strip in August of last year."
"My family is there," he told me in a radio interview on Wednesday...
"My father, mother, two brothers and my little sister are there. And I'm really worried about them because of the situation. Their situation is so difficult because they had to leave their home, after our neighborhood was heavily bombed by artillery. You mentioned drones, sea, and air, but also all the Gaza population who lives close to the border area with Israel, is being heavily shelled by artillery, which randomly bombs populated areas. So their situation is so hard, it's really hard to connect with them. It's hard to call them, and to make sure they are fine. And now it's more difficult to get to them because they have been evacuated from a place that is being bombed to another place that is being bombed."
Jihad had just spoken to family members an hour before our interview.
"I spoke to them a few hours ago. The neighbors in their area received a warning from the Israeli army that the house will be hit. And, you know, how they knock on the roof with these empty rockets. And unfortunately, they're now freaking out for many hours because until now, this targeted house hasn't been targeted. And people are really afraid so there is nowhere to go...my cousin's house was bombed today without warning. They tried to bomb the mosque in our neighborhood, but the bomb didn't hit the mosque; it hit my cousin's house. And luckily they were in a room that is a little bit far away from the explosion. So luckily, they survived."
But Jihad said, given there are no shelters, and even schools are being hit, there is nowhere to hide. The problem in Gaza now is that there's nowhere to live. "People have nowhere to go. They escape from an area that is being targeted, to another area that is being targeted. All these explosions, and all these bombings happen randomly, and they don't take into consideration the amount of civilian casualties that might fall."
The young Palestinian was distraught to learn that a close friend, someone with whom he had played in the streets, gone to school with -- had been blown to bits in an Israeli bombing.
"Until now, I lost two friends. One friend is from school, from childhood; he was sleeping, he was taking a nap in his apartment, and he was killed while sleeping. His house was hit by a rocket that was launched from the sea. That's it. This is how it happened. He was taking a nap, he was civilian, he was doing nothing, he was sleeping on his bed, and suddenly the house was targeted and he was killed. Another friend was killed while fleeing a neighborhood in Gaza City, which was exposed, to the extremely violent ground invasion. And he was shot in his back while fleeing.... We went to school together. We knew each other in school and I was really surprised when I heard about his death. He's a normal person, like me and you. He goes to school now, he goes to the university. He has a life. He's just a normal person. He was just trying to take a nap in day time because at night time you can barely have a sleep."
Jihad said there has been no peace for his family, and no end to his worry...Each phone call is accompanied by the sound of bombing.
"I was talking to my father, a few days ago, and like I'm talking to him for about two minutes on the phone. In these two minutes we counted seven explosions by the heavy artillery that's being shot at our neighborhood. So, my family couldn't really stay where they are and this also applies to my friend who was killed, and this applies to 1.8 million people who are stuck in the Gaza Strip right now. So, it's a really difficult situation, and civilians are paying...the Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip are paying the heaviest price."
Exiled Palestinian activist Ziad Abbas of the Middle East Children's Alliance in Berkeley with members of his group on the ground in Gaza City, told me. "When I talk to my friend and colleagues in Gaza, I record what they say, and try to get Americans to feel what's going on," he said. "I hear bombs going off in the background. Sirens going off right as we're are talking. You know how sometimes you call someone and hear music some music or kids playing in the background, now it's the bombs exploding and kids crying...lots of the them."
Fighting Back In Cities Around The World
On the same day, July 20, that Dr Jamah was learning the devastating news regarding the bombing and killing of 27 family members, millions of Palestinians, and their supporters around the world had taken to the streets. Thousands gathered and marched through the streets of San Francisco, to protest the massive deadly civilian attacks on Gaza, that as of this writing have taken over well over 800 lives, including about one quarter who were children, and over 4,000 wounded.