When time doesn’t fly

Published December 31, 2023
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.

AS one New Year’s Eve turns into the next, most people tend to say time flies. Another year gone by quickly, and time does, indeed, seem to fly. But for this to happen, you must have a semblance of a ‘normal’ life, a bit of a luxury in these trying times.

Just imagine what life would be like for you if you happened to be one of the 2.2 million Gaza Palestinians who are being choked and killed in their thousands, men, women, children and infants in their homes, hospitals and schools, whose roads and areas, designated as ‘safe zones’ by the Israeli occupation forces, are, in fact, no less than killing fields.

Time must be at a standstill for them as they survive from one day to another amidst the struggle for safe shelters, food and water and the constant noise of the overhead drones whose din is only broken by screaming warplanes.

These planes discharge their cargo of US-gifted JDAMS (joint direct action munitions), 900-kilogramme ‘bunker buster’ bombs that slam into their targets, including apartment blocks, where people, mostly women and children, are sheltering. Explosions fill the air, huge clouds of smoke and dust rise up as fire obliterates any sign of life that survived the blast.

Explosions fill the air, huge clouds of smoke and dust rise up as fire obliterates any sign of life that survived the blast.

The wailing sirens of ambulances are a reminder of how accurate these brutal ‘smart bombs’ are in finding their victims from among the most vulnerable of Gaza’s citizens. So far, nearly 70 per cent of the over 21,000 Palestinians slaughtered have been women and children.

Every missile or bomb that hits a multi-storeyed apartment building and razes it to the ground and claims dozens of innocent victims, is followed by frantic activity on the part of mostly untrained rescue volunteers and family members of those entombed in the rubble, and who try and dig out anyone alive with nothing but their bare hands. Time is at a standstill if this is what you are forced to brave.

Time is also at a standstill if the democratic West led by the US, which always takes the moral high ground, tells you the root cause of the death, destruction, murder and mayhem lies in the ferocious attack by Hamas on Oct 7 this year in which 1,200 Israelis, a third of whom were uniformed security personnel, were killed.

Countless other lives were snuffed out as attack helicopters and tank crews followed the ‘Hannibal directive’ and fired shells and missiles at homes and cars suspected of having/ carrying those taken hostage and their captors.

This is not to say for a moment that unarmed civilians were not killed by Hamas in the action described by former US Defence Department official and ambassador Chaas Freeman as a “break out” by prisoners of the open-air prison called Gaza.

But Israel’s retaliation is miles beyond reasonable and largely disproportionate to what is allowed under international law. However, international law is something Israel has always held in contempt just as its main backer and enabler US has.

The expulsion of Palestinians from their ancestral lands happened in 1948 in what the Palestinians call Nakba (catastrophe). Those confined to Gaza today are what remain of those expelled from the southern parts of Palestine (now southern Israel), their children and grandchildren.

Not satisfied with usurping the land it did in 1948, Israel attacked its neighbours and occupied large tracts of the West Bank in 1967. Even after the Oslo Accords with the Palestine Liberation Organisation, that granted very limited self-rule to the Palestinians, Israel over the past 20 years has continued to ‘settle’ its citizens in West Bank settlements. Today, these setters number nearly a million.

Where Gaza resembled a prison fenced in with watchtowers and CCTV camera/ drone surveillance round the clock, the humiliation faced by the Palestinians living in the West Bank, where under the protection of the Israeli Defence Forces, settlers subjected the centuries-old rightful owners of the land to humiliation, further displacement and often murder.

All this as the US and its Western allies seemed to suggest that it was kosher for the Palestinians to atone for the sins of Nazi Germany which brutally annihilated 5m to 6m Jews in the Holocaust during Hitler’s reign of terror.

Today, the unbroken will of the wounded and tormented Gazans stands in the way of Israel executing a second Nakba as its forces have followed a scorched-earth policy, destroying homes and obliterating any sign of infrastructure necessary for living. One has no idea when and how Gaza will be rebuilt once Israel’s genocidal war ends.

Time must be at a standstill for those in temporary shelters with their homes, belongings, schools, hospitals, universities gone and many educated professionals such as doctors, professors, health workers, and journalists killed for the crime of telling the world through social media of the mass murder of their people.

Closer to home, one is equally sure that time is not flying for our Baloch citizens whose kith and kin have been the victims of enforced disappearance. The clock stopped for the valiant but tormented Sammi Deen Baloch 14 years ago when her father, a doctor, was ‘taken’ from the hospital where he worked and was disappeared without a trace.

Ms Baloch and Mahrang Baloch, who become the figurehead of the protest march from Turbat to Islamabad where the sit-in is happening after the latest extrajudicial murder, beseech the state for information of their loved ones — to no avail. In deploying water cannons and using other third-degree methods the state has shown its contempt for them.

Returning his Sitara-i-Imtiaz, acclaimed journalist-novelist Mohammed Hanif wrote: “Journalists of my generation have seen Sammi Baloch and Mahrang Baloch grow up in protest camps. Ashamed to witness a new generation being denied their basic dignity.”

I so want to say Happy New Year to you, but honestly, don’t have the heart to. Stay safe, give your loved ones a hug.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.

abbas.nasir@hotmail.com

Published in Dawn, December 31st, 2023

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