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Opinion: As darkness descends on Gaza, I yearn for the world to see us, too

Opinion by Omar Ghraieb

Gaza (CNN) — An explosive roar shakes my home and my laptop goes flying, landing amid shattered glass and debris. Looking at its flickering screen, I sigh and brace myself to pronounce the death of another computer — and this essay. I collect it gently from the floor and coax it back to life. I keep writing.

In Gaza, we have all been glued to the news for the last five days, watching in disbelief as strikes and counterstrikes have been exchanged and the death counts on both sides of the border mount. While every round of violence starts differently, they all end the same way here: with Palestinians paying a heavy price. We live in perpetual anticipation of a tragic ending.

Now I write, because writing is a lifeline, and a temporary escape from a reality that has become unfathomably darker in the last few days.

Our electricity falters, our water is scarce, and the air outside my home fills with thick smoke and acrid gunpowder. My throat and eyes burn. It’s too dangerous to venture out for bread, yet my thoughts drift to the guilty pleasure of an iced salted caramel macchiato that might bring inner peace, or at least some temporary distraction. What more can one expect from a Gaza millennial living in the impoverished coastal enclave that some call the world’s largest open-air prison, under a suffocating blockade for more than 15 years?

I write, and the world watches as violence, blood and darkness descend upon us. We are in unprecedented and terrifying times. But for me and many others in Gaza, it also feels like yet another flare up in the decades-long, stagnant struggle for peace, safety and dignity. What I see in Western media – erasing Israel’s occupation, its blockade and our suffering – bears no resemblance to what I see out my window.

Outside, a sense of uneasy anticipation and anxiety permeates the atmosphere as people in Gaza ponder our uncertain future. We try to predict how much further this all will unravel. We compare the contents of our emergency kits, diligently prepared to ensure our readiness for evacuations from the massive violence Israel is unleashing upon us, on top of its directive to cut off food and water.

We’ve been through so many escalations that we always buy extra canned food and nuts for emergencies and then, due to water being scarce and even cut off, we fill every pot, pan, jar and anything else that will hold liquid in the hope we won’t run out.

Neighbors discuss essential items they need and trade whatever they can spare. One family found themselves with extra diapers, another discovered an abundance of bread. In a silent exchange that spoke volumes, they assisted each other, orchestrating a trade that seemed as significant as any business deal, all through the unspoken language of empathy. They strategize about the most effective evacuation plans and areas to flee to, despite being acutely aware that we have nowhere, really, to run or escape to. The Gaza Strip has no shelters or bunkers for us to seek refuge from Israel’s bombs.

I wonder if I should keep quiet, as I’ve been conditioned to do; to bury my fears and anxiety beneath the layers of internal and external oppression that have cascaded throughout my lifetime and for decades before it. The world ignores our plight and denies our humanity, blaming us for our own oppression. I feel like I’m trapped in an alternate dimension, struggling to process my surroundings without losing my sanity or my soul.

The bias and selective outrage of Western governments isn’t new. They have never seen or cared about us as we have suffered under Israel’s occupation, violence and discrimination, year after year, decade after decade.

The question is, where do we go from here?

As I navigate the minefield of self-censorship and external oppression, I ponder the worthiness of Palestinians denouncing violence and pleading for a just peace. In a world that ignores our cries, I question whether my words can break through, knowing well that if they don’t, it will likely be because I’m Palestinian.

During every escalation of violence, US media reveal their bias towards Israel, largely omitting Palestinian voices from the equation. The loss of life reported on the news is horrific, yet Western journalists and politicians show much less concern when Israel has inflicted mass violence and casualties on Palestinians repeatedly over the past decades.

I yearn for the world to see us, too — to hear us, and acknowledge our humanity and our right to live in freedom and safety like everyone else. Is there still space for raw humanity and aching hearts amid conversations about power dynamics and political victories? If there were, we would have been free long ago.

The relentless, brutal Israeli military assaults and the oppressive conditions of the blockade of our borders have failed to desensitize me. It’s impossible to forget or ignore that these decades of Israeli military occupation color every facet of our existence and fragment our land and our people.

For many of us, this, however limited, is our greatest power: to dream and to feel pain in a world that seeks to dull our edges and dim our brightest lights. For now, I raise my voice, I continue to read, I continue to write, and I continue to hope.

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