Struggling to stay human
MENASSAT’s Bethlehem correspondent, Fadi Abu Saada, recalls the bloody events in Gaza and their impact on the lives of Palestinian journalists.
It was past two in the morning on Wednesday February 27 when the phone woke me from my sleep. When the phone rings at this hour, it is always bad news.
“Fadi, we have five martyrs in an Israeli raid on northern Gaza. Fadi, there are martyrs and casualties in a new attack on Jabalia. Fadi, a new raid on Bet Lahia and Khan Yunis.”
What have I done for my day to start this way?
I jumped from my bed, turned on my computer, and started working without thinking.
By dawn, the number of casualties exceeded twenty.
At 7 a.m. on that doomed day, I went to the office to continue working. The bombing was getting heavier by the second, and the number of wounded and dead was rising fast.
We knew some of the names of the martyrs but none of the wounded, for the hospitals and the paramedics were barely keeping up with treating the casualties.
The atmosphere in the office was tense all day long. Stress was apparent on the faces of the reporters, the editors and even the technicians.
Thursday was similar to the previous day.
Despite the continuing Israeli attacks on every inch of Gaza, Friday was a bit calmer.
We were able to breathe for a while, aware that it was only a lull in the storm. This is what I have learned from previous experiences.
Within the first hours of Saturday, the fourth day of what the Palestinians called “Gaza’s Holocaust,” while the Israelis preferred “Warm Winter,” the name given to the military operation, we heard about the death of ten more Palestinian citizens.
We talked about “Black Saturday” or “Dead Saturday,” for it was black and deadly in every respect.
Imagine our feelings when the number of deadly casualties reached more than sixty by 6 p.m. with about 150 wounded.
Suddenly, I felt like I couldn’t possibly go on, so I called one of my colleagues to cover for me.
I had many reasons for this decision.
First, I was aware that I had lost my humanity in dealing with the dead, even though it was my people in Gaza dying.
Under tremendous stress, I found myself dealing with the dead as “just a matter of numbers.”
Terrified, I asked myself, “What has become of me?”
Second, I was utterly tired.
When a four-year old kid asked me what was happening in Gaza after seeing some of the footage on the news, I felt unable to answer him on this or any other matter.
How to explain what our days are like to someone who doesn’t know this place?
I could say that our days are all similar.
They start and end with one of the following words: killed, arrested, demolished, attacked, bombed;” the list of synonyms is endless.
At the end of each day, we are “psychologically sick” with an illness for which there is no treatment.
What if I tell you that we start every day knowing that it doesn’t differ from the previous one?
How are we be able to do that when our wounds are still bleeding, when there is no end in sight for our suffering?
What about our families? Do we give them the same disease we have? Will they be able to accept us everyday?
The answer is Yes.
They are strong, as we are, or otherwise we would have not been able to carry on.
Only God knows how long will we be able to suffer in the future which doesn’t seem anywhere near.
The truth, which is also a disaster, is that we are still human.
As long as we can feel pain and emotional stress, we remain human.
The truth is also that we are, first and foremost, Palestinians, even if we try to be neutral as journalists.
Even though we try to cover the events as they happen, we do it for our country and our people, in order to reflect the true situation to the whole world, and everybody knows that.
However, the main question that continues to worry me is this: Are there still people out there who feel with us, as we feel with others?
Do they feel the pain, the suffering and the despair that we witness and live every day?
Only you know the answer.
Fadi Abu Saada is MENASSAT’s Bethlehem correspondent, and the director of the Palestine News Network, www.pnn.ps
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