The Gaza Ministry of Health has calculated that more than 7,000 Palestinians have been killed, including nearly 3,000 children, by the latest Israeli bombing on Gaza. Those living in Gaza are under the constant threat of airstrikes, with little food, water, or access to medical care. This week on Deconstructed, Maram Al-Dada, an aviation engineer based in Florida, joins Ryan Grim; Al-Dada’s family is in Gaza, where he grew up. By the time of the interview, a shocking 46 members of Al-Dada’s family had been killed by Israeli attacks, with the rest wondering when their moment will come. Al-Dada talks about his childhood in Gaza, the escalating restrictions placed on Palestinians, and his family’s experience during these past few weeks.
Note: This episode was recorded on Thursday evening (October 26), before the Friday evening escalation by Israel and before Gaza lost cellular and internet service.
Ryan Grim: Following weeks of a relentless bombing campaign coupled with the shutting off of food, water and fuel, the death toll in Gaza has climbed above 7,000. More than a million people have been displaced internally, significantly more than half the population.
Among the areas of Gaza that has been targeted is the city of Khan Yunis in the south, home to more than 100,000 residents.
Al Jazeera Reporter: Airstrikes are everywhere and, as we speak, there is heavy artillery shelling going on in the eastern part of the city of Khan Yunis, and they’re bombing more homes and destroying more infrastructure. There are airstrikes carried out by sophisticated attack jets destroying every bit and every sign of life in the Gaza Strip.
CBC Reporter: It’s the aftermath of an Israeli airstrike that hit a complex of residential buildings in Khan Yunis in the early hours of the morning. The Israeli army says it’s targeting Hamas operatives, not civilians. The south is supposed to be the safe side of Gaza, hundreds of thousands have left the North, heeding Israeli warnings.
RG: I’m Ryan Grim. This is Deconstructed.
Today we’re going to be joined again by Maram Al-Dada, an aviation engineer from Orlando, who you may remember from a February episode. I interviewed him then about organizing he had done with the Florida Palestine Network during the last Gaza War in 2021, where he joined Maxwell Frost at a rally, and he later lobbied him to stand firm on Palestinian human rights.
That rally was before Frost ran for Congress, and the episode took a look at the way AIPAC and the group Democratic Majority for Israel pressured Frost and others to back off their criticism of the Israeli government. That reporting informed a long Intercept investigation, and also informed my new book, “The Squad: AOC and the Hope of a Political Revolution,” which focuses heavily on the fight between the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and AIPAC’s leading allies in Congress.
I didn’t set out to write the book on that conflict, but it has dominated so much of their time in office, that’s just where the story took it. This week, that fight has ratcheted up to unprecedented levels of animosity when nine Democrats voted against a resolution that condemned Hamas and defended Israel’s response, but said nothing about Palestinian civilian lives lost.
Democratic Representative Josh Gottheimer, the Squad’s chief antagonist in the House, called them “despicable” in response. But leaving Palestinian lives out of a resolution or suggesting — as President Biden did this week — that the numbers from Gaza can’t be trusted because Hamas runs the health ministry, doesn’t change what’s happening on the ground.
Last week, I reached back out to Maram, knowing that he was from Gaza, and asked how or whether his family was holding up. His response was a gut punch. And I later told him that, if he was up for it, I’d be honored to have him come on the podcast and tell his and his family’s story. After giving it some thought, he offered to do it, difficult as it no doubt will be.
Maram, welcome to Deconstructed.
MD: Thank you so much, Ryan. I appreciate it. Thank you for having me.
RG: Of course, of course. And I know this is a really hard time for you and your family. I want to begin by expressing all of our condolences, and thank you for being willing to talk to me today.
I wanted to start by getting some background on your family. You know, how they ended up in Gaza in the first place.
MD: Thank you so much. So, my family originally is from the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip and, in 1948, when the 1948 war started, the Israelis pushed all the and the Palestinians in the south into the Gaza Strip. I and my family were [some] of these people, one of these families that were pushed.
And every night, my dad would tell me that he would go with my grandmother to go and look at their land, to basically take care of their crops, and water it, and all that. And he said, at night, when we tried to go, the Israeli soldiers would start shooting at us.
I actually was watching a documentary for Ilan Pappe. He was saying, oh, he found a document on the Israeli archive, and that’s basically the process they explained. They knew that these villagers would come out of the Gaza Strip trying to take care of their land, and they would just wait for them to shoot them.
When he tried to explain that plan or how they were looking at it, and just hearing from my dad, knowing my dad and my grandmother were part of that. It was just interesting.
RG: And they were doing this because they believed that any day they were coming back to that land. Is that right?
MD: Yeah. Yeah. And I do believe — until now — we do believe that, one day, just justice will prevail.
I think I was reading the other day a quote from Martin Luther King, and he said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” So, it’s something we believe in. We believe in justice. We believe that the history will correct itself.
RG: So, when did you leave Gaza?
MD: I was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, so we spent half the year in the Gaza Strip and half the year in Saudi Arabia. So, six months in Saudi Arabia and, when my dad finishes, we go and transfer to Gaza.
The last time I went to Gaza was in 2003. I tried to go again multiple times, but, you know, the blockade started, and it was almost an impossible mission.
RG: So, what was it like going in and out of Gaza, and how many people in Gaza were able to leave and come back? Because you have an advantage of understanding a community better sometimes, if you have other communities that you’re also a part of, because then you have things to compare and contrast, whereas people who just are raised in one area and never leave it, that’s just what life is.
MD: I’ll tell you a little story. Traveling as a Palestinian, traveling to us is a very exhausting operation.
So, we would travel from Jeddah [in Saudi Arabia] to Amman, Jordan, and then from Amman, Jordan, we’d drive to the Jordan River crossing, and most likely you’d spend the night there. You stay there, and then you have to cross, you take another car …
Getting into that crossing, it’s not like a regular crossing, regular borders, you just go with your car. No, no, no. There’s multiple buses, you have to transfer between them, and that’s how the system works. And then you transfer, you take your luggage, and then go into or take another car, and you drive, and you don’t drive. So, for Gazans, you basically don’t have the freedom to move. They call it tarheel, which basically means forced deportation to the Gaza Strip.
So, you get in the car, usually with someone with an Israeli citizenship that takes you to — or someone [with] some sort of security coordination — but we know that we’re not allowed to get out of the car. And we go directly to the Erez Crossing. Erez Crossing comes right on the borders of Gaza, and a lot of things happened there too, I remember. That’s a military post, that’s literally a military post.
I remember when my sister, she was almost a year old — no, not even a year, months old. We were traveling, and it was the first time we go to Gaza after she was born, and my mom had a can of powdered milk for her. And they thought it was a bomb, even though we went through the Jordanian crossings, the Jordanian airports, and all that. But, for some reason they thought it was a bomb.
They put us in a room. I was with my mom and my dad, my three siblings, and myself. And they put us in a room. It was, like, a silver roof, all silver, and there was a table in the middle, and then they left, and they asked my mom to open the can of milk, that powdered milk can. I understand what that meant back then, but I understand it now, and it’s really not good.
I remember [understanding how] we’re not allowed to go, if we go in. It’s just the demeanor, how they treat you, just seeing your mom and your dad are just… “Don’t move that way.” They’re scared of that individual who’s running, searching, you… You’re not treated normally. It’s not like going through the TSA and getting your security checks. No, no, no. You’re treated … Just, it’s humiliation, you’re humiliated. It’s just horrible. And as soon as we go into Gaza, like 20 minutes, you’re home. So that process to us, it takes almost like two days, a day and a half.
So I remember the first time I traveled to another destination, other than Gaza. I was 17 years old, I was going to Jordan, and I remember when I just got out of the airport and in the car, and I was just going… My brother was with me, he was two years older than me. I was looking at him. I was like, “That’s it?”
RG: Do we just get in a car and go?
MD: I swear to god, I was shocked. That’s it? I didn’t know travel was that easy. And it was honestly very sad, because I know a lot of people still go through that, and family members of mine who are in their 50s, they’ve never experienced anything other than what I’ve experienced in the first 17 years.
RG: And so, the time that you were there was still the direct and explicit occupation. Because, it was what? 2006?
MD: So, I was there in the First Intifada, the Second Intifada. I was through curfews, multiple curfews. And I even remember, like, when military jeeps would pass through the village, everybody would go — we called it skag — between two buildings, and they would go and hide between buildings. I’ve done that too.
So, yeah. I’ve witnessed the whole thing.
RG: What were the Intifadas like as a child? How would it be explained to you by your parents, of what’s happening? And also, just on the micro level of how you’re supposed to stay safe as a child, what kind of directions would parents give, to say, this is how we make sure you come home every night?
MD: When this whole thing started, just the past two weeks, my younger brother and I were talking about what happened in the First Intifada. There’s that incident that happened, and he remembers it, and we remember it vividly. Like, we were kids, I was probably like six years old, he was five. And he was telling me, I remember that day very well, I was eating mangoes when they broke in.
So, the story I remember, we were … So, they would pass through the village, and they would start arresting any male who’s more than 18 years old. Like, older males, or men. And the word spreads in the village, our town, very fast. Like, people know, they spread it. We call it “Facebook.” We have our own Facebook. It’s just like, people start screaming, they tell each other.
So, my dad, my uncles, they both got out of the car, out of the house, and they went to Abasan, which is an eastern village. They just start running. And we stayed, we were just in the house. And my mom, my uncle’s wife, and my other uncle’s wife, my grandmother, and the kid, my siblings, and I.
Like, a few hours later, we just hear the jeeps. So, basically, they scream, basically, “Don’t get out of the house.” That’s what they say. And they start just breaking into houses and arresting people.
And I remember, I was in the kitchen, and my brother was eating; he was saying he was eating mangoes, watching the door. Not watching the door, just in front of the door. And they broke in. And he was telling me, he used the phrase, he said, basically, he’s like, “I peed myself.”
RG: I’m sure.
MD: And I remember when my grandmother went to the house running, to the door, running, trying just to … I think it was her instinct, trying to push them out. I saw that. And that is, I remember that like it was this morning. With his rifle, he just punched her in the face, and she just fell down, and they just start searching the house. There was a bunch of soldiers, and we were just hiding behind my mom. That lasted for maybe like five minutes, something like this. And then they just, they broke everything in the house, and they just left.
So, I remember the First Intifada. That’s how it was. Yeah. And you’d see … Oh, I’ve seen so many, a lot of people, they get killed in the streets. And back then, media wasn’t covering that stuff as [they are] now. You didn’t see it [then]. So, I’ve seen people get killed in the streets multiple times. Multiple times.
RG: What would you do? Would you try to help drag them somewhere? Or would you take off so that you didn’t get killed, too? Like, how do you respond?
MD: We were young so, usually, we followed the crowd. Like, if they stayed there, usually people start throwing rocks, and they hide, or you would just run away. It depends if they start shooting or doing whatever. You just run.
And remember, I was a child. And every time we’d go out, my mom was very protective, and tried to keep us in. “Don’t go, Maram. This is not a joke.” She’d tell us, the three of us, “Don’t leave. It’s very dangerous.” She would always try to control us and keep us in the house. We were kids, we’d do what other kids would do. Yeah.
RG: So, how did you get out of Gaza, in the end?
MD: So, I went in 2005. I went to Jordan to do my undergrad, and I finished my undergraduate degree. And, by that time, the whole blockade had started, the election happened. Hamas won the elections and Israel withdrew from Gaza, blockaded Gaza. No one was able to go in and out. And, since then, I wasn’t able to go back. It became like an impossible mission to go to Gaza.
RG: Were you able to vote in that election, and were you surprised that Hamas won? How did that all unfold, as you remember?
MD: No, I actually didn’t vote, I was in Jordan. Was I surprised?
So, back then, Hamas … I mean, OK, Palestinians, we all are labeled terrorists. I mean, Fatah, the PLO, until now, is actually a designated terrorist organization by the United States government. So, from a U.S. government perspective, the whole system, we’re all terrorists.
RG: Like, all the candidates, all the parties.
MD: Everybody is designated as terrorists. And Hamas says, back then, there was a massive killing spree of all the leaders, Palestinian leaders. And, basically, the Israeli government killed all of them.
RG: It was this assassination program that they rolled out.
MD: Yeah, and that happened during that period. And it was, by then, Hamas, they’ve done a few … They were, in a way, getting militarized, but not even close to what it is today.
So, it wasn’t surprising. It was, in a way, I honestly would say, we all expected Fatah to win because, I mean, Yasser Arafat Abu Ammar, he was the leader of the Palestinians for so many years, and Fatah has always represented the Palestinians. So, it was a little surprising, but Hamas is just, to the Palestinians, it’s like, another faction, another party.
RG: Right. You were telling me before we started that you tried to visit again, just very recently. Tell us about that a little bit. What inspired you to try to make the trip?
MD: I mean, I’ve always wanted to go to Jerusalem. When I was a child — remember, like I was telling you at the beginning — I would go across from the Jordan River to Gaza. We would see Jerusalem. We would see the … And we weren’t allowed to leave. So, it’s something we’ve always wanted, to go and see Jerusalem. See where my grandfather’s is from, my grandfather told me where he used to go and work in Jaffa when he was a child, and tell me all these stories. So, I wanted just to go and see it and, at the same time, I wanted to go to see my grandmother in Gaza.
So, about two months ago or earlier this year, they started talking about the whole visa waiver program, and Israel would be accepted in the visa waiver program. And, in return, all American citizens of Palestinian origins would be treated like normal American citizens … Or, actually, they said all Americans of all Muslim and Arab origins would be able to go to cross any borders without problems in the occupied territories.
So, I said, you know what? It’s an opportunity. I’ll just go see Jerusalem, visit where my grandfather used to work, and then just go and see my grandmother, and leave.
So I got on a plane, crossed the pond, went to Jordan, I got in a car, I went to the Jordan crossing. And I was there for four hours, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting. And then they just put me in as, like … “Oh, you have Palestinian citizenship.” I said, yeah, I am Palestinian. And he goes, “Well, you can’t come from here.” I said, why? There’s the whole visa waiver program, I tried to explain it, and it was back and forth. And he was like, “Go back.”
I remember when I went back … It was very sad to me, it was very emotional. I turned back, to look back, and I see it, literally. My hometown, my country. And I was crying. I just left, went to Amman.
RG: You could see your hometown from there?
MD: Not “hometown.” Homeland, I meant homeland. Palestine.
RG: Homeland. I was going to say …
MD: You can see Palestine. I can see the mountains. I can see … It was so close.
RG: It’s right there.
RG: So, you’ve never been to Jerusalem?
MD: Never been to Jerusalem. Never been to Jerusalem. Any place but Gaza.
So, let me try to explain it to you, and to people who listen. There is a system that was set up in 1948 that [explains] how Palestinians basically lived.
Palestinians were divided into four or five categories, and they give us something they call Hawiya; I have it, actually, here in my bag. Hawiya is a card that has a color, and it has your name, picture, and where you are from, and that Hawiya identifies where you go, where you can go.
RG: An ID number on there, too?
MD: There is an ID number, yes. And it identifies where you can go. So, a person from Gaza can’t go anywhere but Gaza. A refugee, he’s out of the system, he can’t even go back. A person in the West Bank can only go to the West Bank and Gaza. A person from Jerusalem has a blue ID, there’s a specific setup for them. And there are 1948 Palestinians who have Palestinian citizenship, they can go everywhere, except Gaza.
So, that’s how the system … And there is also the Jewish, any person who’s Jewish, that guy can go anywhere.
RG: Except Gaza. Or could they go to Gaza?
MD: They actually can go, but usually they don’t like to go.
RG: And so, except for the 1948 Palestinian citizen, the blue one gives you the most relative room to maneuver?
MD: Yeah. Yeah.
RG: And what color is the Gaza one?
RG: I guess that’s the most restrictive. You can’t move.
MD: Yeah, you can’t go anywhere but Gaza.
RG: Can’t leave Gaza.
So, it was only, then, a couple weeks later that… October 7th, you woke up to the news of Hamas’s assault, breaking through the security barrier, first overrunning military bases, capturing and killing soldiers there. And then continuing on massacring people at the music festival and rampaging through some kibbutzim.
I would imagine you immediately were in contact with people in Gaza, your relatives there. What was their reaction to that news? What did they …
MD: They were just as shocked as we were. And I remember my uncle was saying, “Oh, things will never be the same again. Things will never be the same again.”
RG: That was true. What was your reaction as it was all unfolding?
MD: So, I was actually … I wasn’t asleep, I was awake. I was about to turn the TV off and go to sleep, and then …
RG: That’s right, because it started just … I went to sleep just before …
MD: About 11?
MD: And I was watching, and I see the news. Rockets are being shot out of Gaza, and then all the videos start popping up of Hamas fighters and military bases. It was like, I mean … First what was shocking was like, oh my god. Is it that easy to, I feel like … It’s that simple? Because they were showing us, it’s just like, two people in a truck, just driving.
RG: Like, a bulldozer, or a small bulldozer and a couple of people in it.
MD: Literally a pickup truck. A pickup truck. And we knew things are not going to be the same again, we all knew that things are not going to be the same. Not to Gaza, I think, for the whole cause. As Palestinians, I think this whole thing will change. They will either annihilate Gaza or this whole system will collapse. But it seems like it’s heading to annihilate Gaza, unfortunately.
RG: It does seem like it’s heading in that direction.
And so, as Israel is gearing up its response, how was your family preparing for what was coming? Because, as you said, with the cards that they have, it’s not like they have a whole lot of options to run.
MD: So, last we spoke, how many people did I tell you of my relatives were killed?
RG: When we spoke last week, you told me 30 on your mother’s side have been killed, and 7 on your father’s side have been killed.
MD: Yeah. An additional nine were killed.
RG: An additional nine …
MD: Yeah, on my mom’s side. It’s a total of 46. Yesterday, when you texted me about this interview, my uncle’s house was bombed, my aunt’s house was bombed, my cousin’s house was bombed. I mean, yesterday, it was a very tough time. We really thought, like, that’s it. The whole family would go.
RG: I saw news of Khan Yunis being bombed over the last couple of days, and I thought of you and your family each time.
MD: I was talking to my uncle when I was trying to get him to join this interview. He was telling me, “We will die in this war. All of us will die, but we don’t know when.” It’s evident to us. that, I mean, just … The thing is that, when they explain it, it’s just horrifying. What’s happening there is horrifying.
I’ll tell you a little story. Yesterday, I was calling him, I was talking to him. He goes, “Today, a bomb fell in our street. A guy’s leg was cut off in front of everyone, and we were trying to just help him, waiting for an ambulance, and there was just no ambulance.” There’s no 911, ambulance, no … The healthcare system’s collapsed.
And he just kept bleeding, and people just, at the end, just put him on a car, and they just drove him away, trying to take him to the hospital. I don’t know what happened after.
And then, another story, he goes, “There’s no food.” My cousin called, my aunt, called my uncle; that was before their house was bombed. She goes, do you have food? Do you have any bread? And he said, let me try to see who has bread.
They don’t have, so they tried calling around, and they found there’s one little bakery in our town that still has [bread], and they called and were like, “Can you please keep a bag of bread for us?”
So he called my aunt back, and he goes, oh, ask my cousin, to go and pick it up. and he tells him, “I can’t go, I can’t leave, it’s the street.” Our street — called Jamal Abdul Nasser, you can go check it out on Google — that street is just blocked because the buildings are collapsed, I can’t just cross to the other side.
So I was like, wow. So it’s just a slow death. Just waiting to die, there’s no food, no … They get water now four hours a day, no electricity. It’s horrifying. It’s what’s happening is literally slow death.
RG: I noticed that Khan Yunis was one of the first neighborhoods where they turned water back on for that very short stretch of time — and you mentioned that they have it for four hours a day now — but that means that they didn’t have it at all. And, in the beginning, what did you hear from your family about that first week?
MD: The first few days, we were literally waiting for, like … They had a little bit of water, and they basically were trying to make it last as long they can. And it was like, they couldn’t flush their toilets, they couldn’t clean their houses, they couldn’t do anything. And just, if this continued, we, by now, I think all of them would have been honestly gone.
Well, I’m glad there was a little bit of pressure, so they just turned the water back on. They get it now for four hours a day, and they try to, like, fill up.
RG: You were saying your aunt went how long without a drop of it?
MD: She said, four days. We didn’t have a single drop of water.
RG: And so, in those four days, they were relying on the little bit that they had saved?
MD: They had, yeah.
RG: From the very beginning?
MD: Yeah. There was pressure, I think, from the U.S. government. I think the whole world just was like, just give them water.
MD: They just, they said yeah. They opened the water.
RG: Did they say anything about what life was like without water? Because that’s the kind of thing that I can’t even begin to imagine.
MD: Everybody, they talk about … I mean, they weren’t thinking of the future, honestly, I don’t think they were thinking of it, like, in a few days. We were thinking about it, my siblings and I were thinking about it, but they … When you have a little bit of water and there’s bombs falling down, you see people just …
Every time I talk to them, they tell me, “Oh, he was here.” “He was here.” That, actually, was a story that was told to me this morning. “He was here yesterday, but today we actually went to his funeral. He was killed.”
So, when they see it, things like this, I don’t think they think of the future, “What’s going to happen to us in a week if we didn’t have water?” They weren’t concerned about that. They wanted this whole thing, this nightmare, to end. But it got progressively worse.
RG: Right. That makes sense. From our perspective, we’re like, you need water to live. And from their perspective, they’re like, well, yes, but we also won’t live if a bomb lands on our roof.
MD: I mean, before my aunt’s house was bombed, houses adjacent to the area were bombed and windows would break one by one, and damages to the walls, and things like this would happen. It’s just like, it was … When you live in a condition like this, I don’t imagine your mindset is [such that] you’re thinking straight at all.
MD: So, it’s just horrifying. You just pray it ends.
RG: Have you seen the flyers that the IDF has been dropping in the Khan Yunis neighborhood? Because a source of mine passed me one. Have you seen these yet? I’ll read it to you. They’re leaflets. So, it’s a leaflet that’s everywhere in this village of Khan Yunis, and it’s from the IDF.
It say, in Arabic — and I’m told with a bunch of typos and grammatical problems, but I don’t speak Arabic, so I can’t testify to that — but it says, “If you want a better future for yourself and your children, do the right thing and send us concrete and useful information about the hostages in your area. The Israel Defense Forces promises to do its best to keep you and your houses safe, and to give you a financial reward. We promise you complete anonymity.”
And then underneath it has, you know, WhatsApp and other phone numbers that people can then use to give information about hostages. It feels like the implicit stick there — the carrot being, we’ll pay you — the stick being, what’s been going on will just continue to happen, unless these hostages are exchanged. Although, do you think that would stop if they were?
Is there some suspicion that a lot of hostages are in this area, or do you think that this is happening all over Gasa?
MD: There is no place now in Gaza, there is no place that is not being bombed.
They took my grandmother to a friend of theirs in Rafah, which is literally on the Gaza border, and there were houses next door that were bombed. So, there is no place that’s not getting bombed.
And the idea of collective punishment, that is something we’ve experienced all of our lives. That’s something that Israelis do, that’s routine. And the experience you get as a Palestinian from the Israelis, you’re looked down upon, you’re not looked at as equal. You’re not looked at as even human. And that is something every Palestinian have experienced.
And you were asking me about why Hamas was elected, and Hamas was elected … You know what? I guarantee you. Take Modi of India, put him in Palestine and have him say, oh, I’ll fight the occupation for you? He will win the elections. I mean, if you bring in someone like Abbas, the PLO, they’ve been in power for 35 years saying, oh, we’ll negotiate something, we’ll negotiate something. Our life is just getting worse and worse and worse and worse.
We used to get food, power. I used to be able to go, now I can’t even go. Honestly, Hamas being in power, being elected, not surprising at all, not surprising at all. And I have the luxury of saying, oh, this is moral, this is not moral, this is good, this is not good. This is civilian, this is not civilian. Because I’m sitting here under the A/C.
But when you live in Gaza, there is no future, no one works. I don’t know what the unemployment rate, but I think it’s probably a hundred and fifty percent. Nobody works. We send them money. There is no economy. They’re not allowed to have an economy. Power is limited, movement is limited. Future is not existent.
What’s happened? Honestly, only an idiot wouldn’t think that it would happen. I mean, if you put your foot on someone’s neck for 16, 17, 75 years? He’s going to say, please take your leg, that’s what happened, that’s how I … Honestly, the analogy comes in my head. Negotiations, please, 35 years, please take it off my neck. And then I’ll just find a stone and hit you with it. And that is literally what’s happening.
And do I think it’s … Peace is a product of justice. If there is no justice, you’re not going to have peace. If I’m stealing your food, your money, you’re not going to be just looking at me. You’re going to try to get it back. I mean, there needs to be some sort of a just solution to this issue.
RG: I’ve thought about that phenomenon as… Israel has talked about eradicating Hamas. Like, they’re going to go in and they’re going to destroy Hamas. And let’s say that, as an organization, you could uproot the entire thing — just hypothetically, for the sake of argument — you get rid of the entire thing, of Hamas. If it’s the case like you’re saying, that Modi could come in there, and if he takes the same line that Hamas took before, that would be the party that gains support, it feels like whatever returns in Hamas’s place would then be effectively the same.
MD: It just makes sense, Ryan. I mean, think about it. If you have an oppressed group of people, they’re treated like subhuman. No food, no water, occupation, they can’t even leave. I mean, my cousins, my grandmother, now, if she sees me she wouldn’t recognize me, if she only sees me in FaceTime. I haven’t seen her since 2005.
What do you expect of these people? Like, what do you expect them to say? “I’m your victim, but I submit to your will? I’m OK with being oppressed?” It’s not going to happen. It’s a natural behavior, human behavior.
The Oslo Accords were in 2000 and 1993? It’s almost 30 years of negotiations and nothing happened. Initially, everybody believed there will be a two-state solution, and we will have a Palestinian state, and we’ll just forsake, we’ll forgive and let go of everything, and we’ll just be happy and raise kids. And it was like 30 years later, not even, nothing. Less land, more oppression. It’s expected. What happened is just expected, and it’s not going to stop. Honestly, normally, that never stops until there is justice.
RG: And when you think about the phenomenon of, oppressed people are going to resist, and you think about what Israel is doing in Gaza now, that’s one reason I think that your earlier point that you were making about annihilation might be the most logical explanation. Israel feels like, this is a moment, they’re going to end this problem.
But what does that look like? We’re talking 2 million people.
MD: 2.3 million.
RG: 2.3 million people. What does it look like if Israel tries that?
MD: I hope the world is not OK with that. It’s 2.3 million people getting killed in front of us, and we’re just watching this? Wow. What was this going to say? What does this say about us as just the human species? Wow, I mean, I hope that never happens. I mean, honestly, I’m just getting chills just thinking about that concept. And like, to think about it is… No, I hope it never happens.
RG: And I don’t necessarily mean the killing of 2.3 million people, but the pushing of a million-plus into, say, the Sinai.
MD: I mean, they push the people from Jaffa to Gaza, and then they’re going to push them to Sinai. That problem, if you think pushing them to Sinai will end this, I mean, I just … I think it’s just … Yeah. I don’t think it’s going to end it.
Yeah, if something, this is going to create more problems for Egypt, and going to get Egypt more involved. Yeah. People don’t give up their rights. Like, that’s just normal.
RG: So, just the other day, President Biden was asked about civilian casualties in Gaza. I’m sure you saw his answer to that.
President Joe Biden: What they say to me is they have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed. I’m sure innocents have been killed, and it’s the price of waging a war. I think we should be incredibly careful… Not ‘we,’ the Israelis should be incredibly careful.
RG: What was your reaction when you heard Biden say, I can’t really trust these numbers.
MD: I agree with him, but I agree with him on the other side. Because I was talking to my uncle, and he goes like, people just disappear. Like, they disappear. their building just was hit and they’re down under the rubble. Nobody knows who’s under, who’s gone. So, I do think it’s, honestly, I confidently can say it’s more than what the media is saying, the numbers are more. I’m confident.
I mean, if I’m an individual in Gaza and I … Relatives, not the people I know. Relatives? 46 people were killed. People I know. I have families, like the whole family was gone. And usually the families in Gaza, in the house, there’ll be like 30 people living there. It’s a very condensed place, there’s not a lot of space in Gaza. So, I do think it’s more than what they say, honestly.
RG: You probably also saw these comments from John Kirby the other day, where he was asked about civilian casualties, and he said:
John Kirby: This is war. It is combat. It is bloody, it is ugly, and it’s going to be messy. And innocent civilians are going to be hurt going forward. I wish I could tell you something different, I wish that that wasn’t going to happen.
MD: It’s something we’re used to, honestly, unfortunately, from Europeans and Western governments. It’s just usually, like, see how the world is just like, up and armed? The whole media is just covering, and there is like, 1,400 Israelis were killed.
I mean, we, Arabs and Muslims … And that’s, by the way, that’s the perception of it. That’s a very strategic mistake, I think, that Joe Biden and the U.S. government is doing. Everybody’s looking at you. The whole world, just my social media is just like, are we subhuman? Are we not like you? Everybody, this resentment, feeling of resentment of average individual towards us, going, why aren’t we the same? Why aren’t you worried about it the same? Why are you looking at us differently? There’s almost 7,500 people were killed in Gazan, and you’re still talking about 200 hostages, and you’re killing … I mean, solve it diplomatically instead of dropping bombs.
And that is the feeling. I mean, when we talk about the Iraq War, the same thing. I don’t know, like, a million people were killed in Iraq? And Afghanistan, god knows how many. And it’s the feeling that everybody’s getting around the world that — or at least around the Arabic world — that, oh, the U.S. government really doesn’t, all of this quote-unquote “bullshit” about human rights is just bullshit. It’s just to push their agenda and get to what they want. But there is really nothing called human rights. It’s all bullshit.
RG: And do you think any of the strikes related to your family were targeted? Why are they hitting these buildings? Like, does it feel indiscriminate? Like, what is going on there?
MD: I mean, I do think it’s indiscriminate. Did you look at the picture? There is no way all these people are not …
RG: It does not look discriminate, yes.
MD: They’re just dropping bombs. And I mean, my family, they have nothing to do with politics. These people, they’re literally just in their house, and they don’t, they don’t have … They’re not engaged in anything. Not Hamas, not Fatah, they are not with anyone. And they were just gone.
A lot of people were killed from even Fatah. Everybody’s just getting bombed.
RG: Yeah. I’m sure you saw this, that the family of Al Jazeera Gaza Bureau Chief Wael al-Dahdouh was killed.
RG: And the family thought they thought they were in a safe location down in Southern Gaza. As you said, there doesn’t seem to be anywhere safe. And an Israeli journalist from Channel 13, his name is Zvi Yehezkeli, said on the air that he thought the IDF … Or, not that he thought. He said the IDF targeted the family.
His quote was, “Generally, we know the target. For example, today there was a target: the family of an Al Jazeera reporter. In general, we know.” On the other hand, they’re also just so indiscriminately bombing, it’s hard to say.
What is the sense of Gazans about whether or not IDF is pulling off these targeted killings?
MD: So, let me tell you something about how we understand what they do. That the Israelis, the collective punishment, it’s something they do. We understand that, we know it, and we’ve lived it. But they do play on this, building in this psychological fear of people.
I was reading online, there’s something called The Iron Wall. It’s an article that was written by Ze’ev Jabotinsky, one of the founders of Zionism. And he was basically saying, we need to beat them, and just make them feel that we are just too powerful for them. We are merciless, we’ll kill all of them if we have to. So, they never raise, basically, their finger on our face, they never resist us. And he says, you can’t take someone’s land and not expect them to resist. And so, we need to just build so much fear inside of them, so they never resist us.
And that is why I think what’s happening … So, they’re called deterrent. They want to just make you very afraid of them. And I do think, honestly, people just … I just told you, I was talking to my uncle, and he was like, we all will die. And they do think that, as a Palestinian, there is no future, and you know they’re going to kill you either way. So, just screw it. Go for it. Just do what you have to do.
RG: How does a family mourn so many people? Like, how do you begin the process of mourning the new person, when you haven’t finished mourning the last person?
MD: That’s, honestly, a very tough question. Now we’re thinking of protecting who’s left, honestly. And just … You open Instagram, and you see the story. It’s like, whenever someone gets killed — you know, I have a lot of friends and family in Gaza — and they just post, oh, he passed away, he was killed today, was killed today.
Every [day] we open social media. And a few days ago, my uncle, my cousin had something, and they were afraid to open it. I was like, is it going to be bad news? And when we text them on WhatsApp, and they don’t read it for a few hours — they don’t have power until whenever they get a chance to charge, using solar power, a solar panel — so they don’t read the message. If, like, half an hour passes by, they don’t read it. We just start trying to figure out how we can reach out to our people in Gaza to know if they’re still alive.
It’s just horrible times, honestly. And it’s very emotional on us. All of us.
RG: When you say you’re focusing on trying to keep the remaining people alive, alive, is there anything they can do? Like, are there any … Or is it just hope?
MD: Just pray. Just hope and pray. And they, what are they going to do? I mean, where are they going to go? Like, they took my grandmother to Rafah, to a friend of my uncle, to the house of a friend of my uncle. We were talking to her yesterday, she said, “Oh, they bombed Rafah, and there’s a few buildings that were shot down or bombed.” And we’re in Khan Yunis, we’re actually, like, right in the center of Gaza. So, really no place, there’s no safe place, either.
You know what? The nine people I was telling you about? How I knew they were killed? On TV. We’re watching TV, and there’s, like, Al-Zahra bombed. I immediately texted my cousin, [I say], what happened? And he goes, yes. And he gave me the names.
RG: Did you notice that the Gaza Ministry of Health released the names of more than 7,000?
MD: Yeah. And their names aren’t actually on the list, you know? 212 pages. I went to scroll through it, and yeah.
RG: Yeah. That was in response for listeners who haven’t followed it. That was in response to President Biden, saying they don’t believe the list. And that’s one reason I was asking you about ID numbers, because they included the ID numbers as well, so that anybody, Israelis, if they want to …
MD: Yeah, I saw that. I saw that. I saw the documents, 212 pages of names, and ID numbers. And age, I think, even.
RG: Maram, is there anything else you’d want to say, that the audience ought to know?
MD: Learn more about the history of this. Learn more about … Compare this, read more about what’s happening in South Africa, and how similar it is to what’s happening. And just understand how the system works. It’s not only when there is a blowup, this is a continuous … It’s just a whole system that was built on oppressing one group that is just dominated by another ethnic group.
So, just educate yourself, learn more about it. And just keep us in your prayers.
RG: Well, you’ll be in ours, Maram. Thank you so much for joining us.
MD: Thank you so much, Ryan.
RG: That was Maram Al-Dada, and that’s our show.
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