By Fatima Haffejee
To say that I have been glued to the carnage underway in Gaza is putting it mildly. I’ve spent every free minute either reading up tweets, facebook updates and links that I selectively click on all in relation to the sufferings endured by thousands of Palestinians.Bits of the world cup settling in between like intervals amidst the main storyline. Opinions, thoughts, prayers, hopes and anxieties, scattered through my timeline. Everything else seeming nonsensical, irrelevant, un-newsworthy. Perhaps my mind has chosen to categorize it as such, but all else is deemed unnecessary in light of what is going on there . Pictures of babies, dismembered, their heads split open and organs strewn about, their mothers and fathers tears of anguish, haunt my thoughts. Since the onset of July to date over a thousand Palestinians have been murdered. Entire families have been nonsensically massacred within seconds, leaving behind lone survivors, rubble and dust where a home once stood.
A resident from the area of Shajaia, in Palestine, Malaka Mahomed, who was fortunate. Enough to receive a scholarship abroad, now resides in the UK. She is studying towards a masters in Politics and Law at Sheffield University whilst the remainder of her family still reside in Shajaia. The move however, did not deter her from being a passionate advocate and voice for human rights in her homeland.
Pam Bailey, a freelance journalist and activist with Codepink: Women for Peace states: “In my travels across the Palestinian Territory, I have met many smart, passionate,
courageous individuals, but Malaka stands out amongst them all. It is so easy – particularly now, as conditions worsen in Gaza, to become discouraged and desperate. However, Malaka maintains a strong, can-do spirit, and has not hesitated to take the initiative in the toughest of issues.”
Malaka is a 24 year old Palestinian, whose family ended up in the Gaza strip after being forced to flee their ancestral home in Jaffa. Like most Palestinians in Gaza, she suffered from a shortage of books, water, electricity, technology and freedom of movement. Due to her perseverance and determination she completed a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG).
She maintains regular contact with family and friends from Palestine, her social media feeds are a constant update of a gruesome reality. As a result, she has a proven track record as a social activist and whilst still in junior college, successfully implemented the first BDS (Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions) campaign at a university in Gaza.
‘It’s the third time the Israeli occupation forces have called us. They’re asking us to evacuate by tonight.’ Her sister messaged her recently
In response Malaka asked her what they planned to do,
“Nothing. We love life and aspire for freedom. But we aren’t, and never will be afraid of Israeli rockets. We will go back to our house and we will rebuild it.”she said, with much indignation.
Malaka goes on to say that ‘There is so much injustice in this world. It’s not easy to hear from my family and to hear about what’s happening to them, but the bright side is that they’re alive.’
‘The world however, has not remained silent on a global concern. Over the last three weeks countries like Paris, London, Mauritius, Kashmir, France and South Africa have taken a stand for what is widely considered a humanitarian crisis. Johannesburg, Durban and even Cape Town have recently taken to the streets as a united voice. Of the protest in London Malaka says, “There was a fantastic turnout estimated at more than one hundred thousand protesters. It’s the best demonstration I have ever joined. The tide is changing. There is a distinct shift in public opinion on Israeli apartheid.’
Wafa, who is one year of age, lives by Malaka’s house in Shijaiya. She recently lost her father, grandfather and six other members of her family.’Malaka says that the Gaza conflict costs Israel approximately $585 million after 12 days of fighting. This, she believes, is contributed by the American government, a cut back on education once again as a result.Regardless of the ongoing turmoil, Palestinians are decidedly unwilling to step down. As one banner at the recent protest in Sandton read; ‘Everything is made in China. Except for courage, that is made in Palestine.’
Malaka is rather proud of her father who, despite having received notification to evacuate, along with her brother, refused to comply. It was only when the bombing had increased to three per second that her sister managed to convince him to leave. Nothing is safe – houses, mosques, hospitals -everything is being attacked. To Israel and its supporters: ‘You will never break us. Your bombs only make us stronger.”’
Though aware of the inhumanity that surrounds her, Malaka is not tolerant of it. It was due to an initiative of hers that Samer Issawi, the longest hunger striker in Palestinian history, was freed. But speaking out against injustice is never safe;‘In the last 10 days I have received hundreds of death wishes and a number of threats from Israeli Zionists that only make me stronger (in my stance).’
Her sister told her that ‘There is no safe place in Gaza but despite that there is good that comes from all of this.’
‘What good?’ Malaka asked, wondering how there was any ‘good’ in what was happening there.
‘If we’re killed, you will stay alive. It’s good that you’re away. We will have one member of our family alive. Tell the world what it is like to live in Gaza’, was her reply.