A Lesson on Gazan Resilience with Palestinian journalist
Despite growing up in Gaza, under military occupation by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Mohammed Omer managed to become an award-winning journalist and author.
Omer concluded his book tour for “Shell Shocked: On the Ground Under Israeli Assault” in wintry Chicago. Omer had been given the opportunity through the American Friends Service Committee to meet with organizers across the United States organizing against the prison-industrial complex, anti-Blackness and the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border. He shared his experience of visiting Ferguson and meeting with Black Lives Matter organizers who are currently resisting anti-Blackness, institutional racism and police brutality.
“In Gaza there are thousands of Mike Brown’s, there are youth who are shot by the IDF then left to bleed and die in the streets,” Omer Said.
Omer began his career at the age of 17, writing and reporting on the life of Palestinians in Gaza. He says that his life under military occupation forced him to become a journalist—someone needed to tell the stories of the Palestinians blocked inside the 23 miles of land. Omer is known for his factual and critical reporting of the living conditions of Palestinians in Gaza.
He describes his experience as a Palestinian journalist in the Middle East as “dancing on shattered glass.” Through the different challenges that come with being a journalist in Gaza, such as extreme electricity shortage and a lack of other resources due to the siege, he still is able to report on the many celebrations, sorrows, revolutions and resistance efforts within occupied Palestine and across the Middle East.
Anti-Blackness and anti-Arab Zionist racism are different, but they share common ground in that they are both white supremacist ideologies that continue the murder, oppression and military occupation of Black and brown people. Through his experience as a Palestinian from Gaza, he is able to build solidarity with organizers across different movements who share the common goal of liberation.
Omer’s book gives the world an opportunity to experience the Israeli government’s terror attacks on Gaza in 2014. During his book tour, he shared what Palestinians in Gaza have experienced as Israel continuously dropped bombs into the small strip of land.
He began his presentation in Chicago by giving the audience a thirty minute virtual tour of Gaza. A few members of the audience were quickly confused with how to even enter Gaza to begin the tour, without completely understanding that the blockade that Israel has imposed on Gaza has completely shut down all of their borders. He then moves on to show the realities of the land that is populated by the 1.8 million people. Numerous neighborhoods have been destroyed with barely any civil infrastructure left. Israel viciously targeted hospitals, churches, mosques, schools and other buildings in which Palestinians thought would be safe from the bombings.
Omer shared a story of his trip to the northern part of Gaza where he met with locals. He had been exploring his land and interviewing people that had just endured Israel’s heavy bombings. A woman who noticed that he was from the south of Gaza immediately insisted that he had a cup of tea before leaving. She went to where she once lived and dug out the tea bags that were under the rubble of her bombed house. One would be puzzled to think as to why this woman was worried about being inhospitable rather than her destroyed home, through this Omer showed us that the people of Gaza are the most resilient. Israel may be able to wage war against them and commit genocide, all while under a brutal ongoing siege but they will never be able to destroy the Palestinian spirit.
Surprisingly, the presentation was free from any direct criticism or political discussion about Israel. Rather the presentation was filled with stories of the people of Gaza—their small celebrations of getting a tiny GoPro camera approved across the border, their mourning’s of family members and friends murdered at the hands of a settler-colonial nation, and examples of their strength to continue living despite living under a siege, military occupation, and constantly being targeted for existing as Palestinians. If there is one thing Chicago can learn from Mohammed Omer’s presentation, it is the resilience of the Palestinians of Gaza. Over 80% of the people of Gaza suffer from (P)TSD, the post in parenthesis because Israel continues their agenda of ethnic cleansing through military occupation and war. Yet they continue to survive and celebrate life. What we can do for Gaza is share their stories, pressure our elected officials to stop supporting the blockade, pressure our government to critically reconsider our political alliance and financial support for the oppressive Zionist state of Israel, and stand in solidarity with Palestine. We must continue to live, fight, and resist as the Palestinians of Gaza do, despite their heavy struggle.