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Head of Business at the Palestinian Embassy in Argentina talks war in Gaza

Sleep alludes us and we can barely put food in our mouths. Eating seems far less important now. We check our mobile phones day and night, and we stay glued to the television seeking news from our homeland. The images that flood onto our screens keep us on constant alert.

  • 7 months ago
  • October 31, 2023
6 min read
Welcome to Orato World Media’s Op-Ed Section where we publish guest posts from influencers and individuals around the world on current trending topics and issues of interest to our readership. Today’s guest post is from Riyad Alhalabi. Riyad serves as the head of Business at the Palestinian embassy in Argentina. He was born in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon and his wife was born in Gaza. This op-ed piece was facilitated by Orato World Media journalist Mariano Junco.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina ꟷ When the conflict between Israel and Palestine broke out, I was stationed in Buenos Aires, Argentina, many miles away. As the head of Business at the Palestinian embassy in Argentina, I stay busy representing the Palestinian people to my home country. As Israel began to bombard Gaza, a sense of anger and pain flooded my body. Seeing the cruel deaths of thousands of innocent civilians in Gaza left all of us feeling deeply rejected. After all, we are human: we want to live.

[According to a CNN report this week, Gaza’s health ministry published a report. It contains the names of over 6,000 documented deaths in Gaza since October 7, 2023. The report stated that between October 7 and 26, 7,028 Palestinians were killed, including 2,913 children…”]

Read more stories out of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The loss of communication in Gaza makes it impossible to talk to our colleagues and loved ones

My mother gave birth to me in a refugee camp in Beirut, the capitol of Lebanon. We lived in that camp out of fear of the attacks against Palestine. My wife, on the other hand, came from Gaza City. Watching the eruption of violence in the region feels like a family ordeal to us. Our minds never stop thinking. We become consumed with the safety and support of our family and loved ones in Gaza.

Sleep alludes us and we can barely put food in our mouths. Eating seems far less important now. We check our mobile phones day and night, and we stay glued to the television seeking news from our homeland. The images that flood onto our screens keep us on constant alert. This nervousness magnifies as we watch rockets pummel Gaza. The news, it seems, becomes our only way to stay connected to our people.

Now, Gaza faces constant interruptions in electricity, internet and communications. This makes it practically impossible to talk to our loved ones and our colleagues. [Orato World Media has tried to bring stories out of Gaza to publication. Many of our journalists have been unable to maintain contact with their interview subjects as communication disruptions ensue.]

When I speak of this, people think I am exaggerating, but I am not. What everyone seems to call “the cost of war” happens to be our lives.

The Palestinian people are living in a permanent state of alert

Since the attacks intensified, fear and anguish fill my life. This is not the first time, nor the last Israel severely punished the civilian population of Palestine – especially in the Gaza Strip. Events like this, represent a string of actions. Those actions began more than 16 years ago as part of Israel’s criminal policy against the Palestinian people.

Decades of systemic violation of Palestinian rights existed long before this most recent event. [According to ReliefWeb – a humanitarian information service provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – in the first nine months of 2023, 44 Palestinians and at least 38 children died at the hands of Israeli forces in occupied West Bank, the highest number since the organization began recording this data.]

This most recent episode of conflict highlights what I perceive to be political and media bias. I wonder, “Why does no one report on the ongoing deaths of Palestinians in occupied territories?” For most Palestinians, we carry grief in our hearts every day. We see the double standard. As I watch the events of October 2023 unfold, I search for answers. “Why do we normalize the killing and dehumanization of the Palestinian people. When will we seek solutions to address the structural causes of this chaos?”

Palestinians incarcerated by Israel at an unprecedented rate

As the head of Business at the Palestinian Embassy in Argentina, I see the complexity of life for Palestinian people around the globe. Each population experiences a slightly different reality, whether you live in Gaza or in West Bank cities. Others in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria have their own experiences.

However, a common thread exists between all of us. Since the attacks on Gaza began, no matter where we live, our bodies and minds remain on high alert. We believe, in our hearts, attacks on our people can happen anytime, anywhere in the world. I speak as a diplomat with global experience when I say the Palestinian people are experiencing two things right now. First, our hearts break for the Palestinians who are landlocked in Gaza.  

[A news article verified and published by Al Jazeera this month, says that “Many would argue that all of Gaza is effectively an open-air prison – 2.2 million people blockaded by Israel in a tiny coastal enclave. The article goes on to provide some historical perspective. It says that since 1967, Israel has arrested an estimated 1,000,000 Palestinians, a number confirmed by the United Nations. Approximately 700 Palestinian children under 18 from occupied West Bank are prosecuted annually through Israeli military court. Two in five Palestinian men end up incarcerated under the 1,600 military orders issued by Israel via the occupation.]

Why isn’t the Geneva Convention protecting innocent people?

The second thing most Palestinians share is a strong sense of being seen. We feel the empathy and support of global citizens carrying out mobilizations in support of Palestine around the world. Through my significant connections, I can honestly say, I know not a single Palestinian who doesn’t feel the weight of this moment. Everyone I know hurts deeply, seeing the massacre of so many innocent people.

The fear of loss of life remains ever-present for each one of us. We watch in horror as, minute by minute, the death toll rises in Gaza. As an embassy representative, I see the numbers every day. Argentina has, at the moment, 600,000 internally displaced Palestinian civilians. The International Federation of Journalists reported at least 24 Palestinian journalists have been killed since the fighting erupted.

Time magazine cited a Ministry of Health report out of Gaza acknowledging the death of more than 70 healthcare professionals. My thoughts scream out, “Why? When we are protected by the Fourth Geneva Convention, why are so many innocent people dying?”

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