Gazans in the United States Suffer the Horrors of War From Abroad

Written by Pam Bailey.

As the media headlines swing from the growing death count in the Gaza Strip to fitful truce negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel, a growing number of Americans are becoming aware of the eight-year-old blockade that has prevented the 1.8 million people of Gaza from living a normal life. However, it still seems like a distant battle; most Americans don’t realize that the conflict is fueled by billions of dollars of US military “aid,” or that there are Palestinians from Gaza living among them, fearing for their loved ones’ lives from afar.

Separated from their parents, siblings, children and spouses after leaving the Strip to study or work, they have watched news of the Israeli assault with horror. Some have lost homes, relatives or both.

“I’d rather be with my family than be abroad,” says Minna Albarqi, who, like most of the few Gazan students studying in the United States, managed to earn a full scholarship so she could pursue a higher academic degree – in her case, at Hollins University in Virginia. “Whatever happens to them, I want to happen to me. It’s too painful wondering what is happening to them.”

Mohammed Alhammami, who left Gaza’s Nuseirat refugee camp to study public policy and government at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, agrees: “The hardest part about being abroad is not being there, not knowing what is happening immediately. I’ve been literally stuck in front of my computer screen, glued to the news, reading the names of the dead, afraid that I will know them . . . that a member of my family will be there.”

Ahmed Msallam, who is studying computer science at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, was terrified when he read the news in late July that in one single neighborhood – called Shejaya, in eastern Gaza City – Israeli forces had killed at least 87 residents, a third of them children. Shejaya is his home.

“I felt like I was being ripped apart,” he recalls. “The war in 2008 and 2009 was horrendous, but this is a lot worse. Civilians are being targeted everywhere, even during so-called ‘truce times.’”

Fortunately, although Msallam’s family was forced to evacuate and the interior of his home is damaged, it is still standing and none of his relatives were killed. Iman Abu Aitah, a junior with a double major in literary studies and biology at Columbia College, South Carolina, wasn’t so lucky. She learned on July 23 that her parents, two brothers and 4-year-old nephew had been killed instantly in an Israeli rocket attack. In addition, two of Abu Aitah’s sisters and another brother were injured in the blast. A close friend of Abu Aitah, Ghada Tafesh, reports that she is “staying strong” and plans to complete her degree, then return home to help support her siblings.

Tafesh, who is pursuing the same double major at Philadelphia’s Wilson College, had hoped to return to Gaza this summer, following a visit with her aunt in a Palestinian refugee community in Lebanon. However, as the threat of war became increasingly serious, she and her family changed her plane ticket three times. Once Israel unleashed its assault, which killed more than 2,000 Palestinians in Gaza, the borders closed. She never made it in.

“Not being there killed a little of my soul every minute. I was worried sick all the time; I didn’t want to be left behind,” says Tafesh. Fortunately, in her aunt’s refugee camp, she was surrounded by sympathetic supporters. “As soon as people knew I was from Gaza, I got a lot of encouraging words. It made me feel better. ”

Living in the United States, however, can be rough for Palestinians. A July CNN poll found thata majority of Americans believe Israel’s military actions in Gaza are justified, with only four in 10 saying that Israel has used too much force.

“I love America because of the opportunity I have been given to get a quality education and become someone who will impact the world,” says Msallam. “But I also think it is shameful for a country that claims to be a democracy to allow the systematic targeting and killing of Palestinians, and to support the Israeli blockade that is denying my little brother the basic human rights he deserves.”

Nisreen Zaqout, a 19-year-old sophomore at Illinois College in Jacksonville, had no idea how challenging it would be when she agreed to participate in a program called New Story Leadership (NSL), which brings Israeli and Palestinian youth together in Washington, DC. She was the only participant this summer from Gaza, and when the assault began, she found it difficult to project a positive attitude as she mixed with Israelis and members of Congress. In her concluding speech at the end of the program, Zaqout was brutally honest.

“Being part of NSL at this time is absolute torture. I wanted to quit. I still want to quit,” she admitted. “I kept trying not to think about what is going on back home. . . . about bombs falling from the sky, about what is happening to my family, about myself. I thought maybe I could detach myself from Gaza and make the best out of this experience. That I could learn to be pragmatic. But I couldn’t, and I still can’t. I realized that it is impossible to detach me from myself.”

Does Zaqout still have hope that a better future for her people is within reach? “To be honest, I see no hope,” she said. “If you live in Gaza, you know you are stuck. You can’t get out. And if you are a curious tourist, you can’t get in. . . . But to me, Gaza is not the problem; it is the solution. People in Gaza appreciate life more than any other place in the world. Think about it. They die to live. I stand before you as a fighter, fighting for dignity, freedom and the right to choose.”

Copyright, Reprinted with permission.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


sheila h.
sheila haigh2 years ago

(last bit again....)

Note also, “Genocide begins with the silence of the world.” And, ““Never again” must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!”

I agree, and I will not be silent. Or silenced.

sheila h.
sheila haigh2 years ago


Furthermore, we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history in these pages to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children. Nothing can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities. Nothing can justify depriving people of electricity and water.

We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to bring about an end to all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people. We call for an immediate end to the siege against and blockade of Gaza. We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. “Never again” must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!”

[Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of Nazi genocide unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza (all signatures with ages & personal histories included)]

Note the line above – “In Israel, politicians and pundits in The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians…” Here’s the link;

Note also, “Genocide begins with the silence of the world.” And, ““Never again” must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!”

I agree,

sheila h.
sheila haigh2 years ago

PS, Howard – I notice that no Israel supporters ever actually responds to actual facts posted on these sites, they just trot out the Israeli lines of the day. Maybe what non-Jews have to say is not worthy of consideration, I don’t know. Perhaps such supporter will take notice of fellow Jews.

Living in New York, you no doubt saw the disgusting racist full page advert in The New York Times and other papers by Elie Weisel. Did you see the response by more than 300 survivors and descendants of the Nazis, also in The New York Times? Here it is in full for you;

“As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine. We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack, and Western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation. Genocide begins with the silence of the world.

We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever-pitch. In Israel, politicians and pundits in The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and right-wing Israelis are adopting Neo-Nazi insignia.

Furthermore, we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history in these pages to justify the unjustifiable: Is

sheila h.
sheila haigh2 years ago


Then in the 60’s and 70’s came the Jewish Underground and the TNT Network. All TERRORISTS. All with the intention of achieving Israel’s political and territorial goals of taking as much land as possible and driving out as many Palestinians as possible.

Unless and until Israel and its supporters are prepared to admit and acknowledge its own history of terrorism, they are in no position to condemn others who fight for their freedom as the UN Charter gives them the right to do “by all necessary means at their disposal, including armed struggle”, (General Assembly Resolutions A/RES/3246 (XXIX) Nov. 1974 and A/RES/33/24, Nov. 1978, etc.). The rest of what you have to say is just plain Israeli propaganda with no basis in fact.

“One man’s murderer is another man’s patriot.” - Edwin Samuel, 1958

“One man’s terrorist is another man’s heroic freedom fighter.” - Christian Ewing Hauer, 1968

“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” - Gerald Seymour, 1975.

sheila h.
sheila haigh2 years ago

Howard – Try to insult me if you like, but its water off a duck’s back. I am well confident of the facts I report. Yes, Hamas was founded in 1987. But who encouraged, assisted and helped finance its creation? Israel. Why? To weaken Yasser Arafat and the PLO at a time when western powers were pressing for peace talks. Israel wanted to divide the opposition (and still does).

The events you list? Nothing to do with Hamas. To list them is another attempt at the Zionist propaganda tactic of distraction and deflection. We are all too familiar with it and it doesn’t work anymore.

I note you’re from New York. The US, and New York in particular, was a major fundraising source for the IRA – TERRORISTS - I missed their bombing of the Baltic Exchange in London by seconds.

Want to concentrate on the Middle East? OK. Jewish terrorism goes as far back as Roman times when the Jewish Sicarii killed wealthy fellow Jews for co-operating with the Romans around 50CE, and has continued throughout history at various times in various places. So, let’s look at the 20th Century. In the early days, from the 1920’s and until after Israel was created, Etzel/Irgun, LEHI/Stern Gang, Haganah, whose leaders and fighters went on to become Presidents, Prime Ministers, Defense Ministers, Army Chiefs throughout Israel’s history until today. Also Tzrifin Underground, Covenant of Zealots/Brit Hakanaim. Then in the 60’s and 70’s came the Je

Howard Grossberg
Past Member 2 years ago

Sheila- Your ignorance shows. Hamas was founded in 1987 with the sole objective of destroying Israel. They are terrorists. Do you remember 9/11? The massacre of Israeli athletes during the Olympics? The Boston Marathon massacre? These are terrorists. Plain and simple. How about ISIS beheading Americans? TERRORISTS. Israel is not comprised of terrorists. Israel produces scientists, authors, composers, literary figures. Terrorists don't add to the world in this fashion. They get little if any formal education. They are programmed by their parents from an early age to become killing machines. They need to be eliminated from the world before ISIS comes to the US and starts beheading us all.

JL A.2 years ago

It is very hard to imagine coping with that much worry, concern, stress and uncertainty while trying to complete an education--they deserve our compassion.

sheila h.
sheila haigh2 years ago


Having failed to break up this current consensus government, and having failed to crush the spirit and resilience of the Palestinians in Gaza, they are now setting out to destroy it from the Palestinian Authority side as they announced yesterday (31 Aug) that they will steal another 400 hectares (1000 acres) of Palestinian West Bank land. Having got used to western powers rolling over and kowtowing to them, they’re obviously seriously offended when someone has the balls to stand up to “god’s chosen people”.

If Israel really wants peace, it’s quite simple. GET OUT OF SOMEONE ELSE’S LAND.

sheila h.
sheila haigh2 years ago


1 July – Israel launches 34 air strikes on Gaza. This continued daily. Many killed. Hamas did not respond.

6 July – Israel bombed a tunnel, killing 6 Hamas men.

7 July – Hamas retaliated.

8 July – Full war on Gaza from air, land and sea.

So don’t give me the “he hit me first” bull-shit. I’ve given a list elsewhere of the many long-term truces that Hamas has offered to Israel (and known by the US administration & UN), but always rejected by Israel (I can do it again if you like). I can list for you the many ceasefires and their terms, never honoured by Israel. I can list for you the times the Palestinians have agreed to unite and speak with one voice in negotiations, but which Israel has always so far managed to break up because they want the Palestinians to remain divided so they can claim they “don’t have a partner for peace”.

sheila h.
sheila haigh2 years ago

Ah, yes, Darryll – the 5-year-old child’s excuse again…….”the other kid hit me first…”

Something happens in the West Bank, so Israel decides to bomb Gaza.

That’s the equivalent of someone in London saying, “Someone in Berlin’s done something we don’t like …….. Let’s bomb Madrid”.

I give you facts, figures, evidence, eye witness accounts, but none of that is relevant, apparently “THAT’S not the point”. The only “point” you want to hear is the standard Israeli propaganda line that fewer and fewer people are believing – because THEY are looking at the facts, figures, evidence and eye-witness accounts, and they don’t like what they see. Propaganda no longer works when people can see the facts and the evidence.

The world watched as the Palestinians announced their consensus government at end April and confirmed on 2 June, accepted by all the world except Israel, and knew exactly what was going to happen when Netanyahu threatened that if they did not break it up the Palestinians “would pay a heavy price”.