Saloua Raouda Choucair (Lebanon), Poem Wall, 1963–5.

 

Dear friends,

Greetings from the desk of Tricontinental Pan-Africa,

On the evening of 13 November, my family and I were home in Johannesburg and heard an indescribable, loud banging sound. We froze. Was that a gunshot? Our five-year-old son ran into my arms and asked what was happening. Seconds later, with no warning, we were under a barrage of hail bigger than golf balls. We walked around the house in the aftermath, taking stock and trying to put ourselves at ease. When I tucked our boys into bed that night, they were still a little shaken.

They asked, ‘Will everything be okay?’

‘Goodnight’, I said. ‘See you in the morning. Everything will be okay’.

My only real fear was the extent of material but repairable destruction the hailstorm left in its wake.

This newsletter could have been about living in a world with constant passive anxiety about a home break-in or the realities of climate change or a reflection on the many publications Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research has produced this year that I would recommend making it onto your holiday reading list.

 

Heba Zagout (Palestine), Jerusalem at Night, 2022.

 

All are important threads of conversation, but images and reports from inside Palestine continue to haunt our waking moments. Is this horrendous history really being made in our time, in 2023? Do all the advances humanity has made and all the protections every human being has a right to enjoy mean nothing?

The hail appeared at random, as actual natural disasters do. They strike anywhere and at any time, but even natural disasters seem to have a humane lifespan.

This time, Gaza has been under attack for 78 days as of 24 December 2023. Every night, someone in the settler colonial apartheid state of Israel methodically confirms the targets that will be hit by multi-pronged strikes the next day, as a Palestinian mother tucks her young children into bed with the all too familiar sound of shelling nearby. Odds are the droning sound of a plane in the polluted sky over them brings more weapons of destruction. There have been no basic provisions, which they apparently must be grateful for as humanitarian aid, forthcoming in days.

They ask, ‘Will everything be okay?’

‘Goodnight. See you in the morning. Everything will be okay,’ she says.

 

Khaled Hourani (Palestine), Watermelon Flag, 2021.

 

Her real fear, the same for three generations of their family over 75 years, is that peaceful sleep will never come. The home, the hospital, the school, the mosque, the church, or camp for the displaced where they are sheltering may become al’anqad (‘ruins’), the most hated word in Gaza, before they wake.

Gaza and its surroundings have been under siege for decades. In what is now popularly referred to as ‘genocide’ and ‘neurological ethnic cleansing’, the traumatising sounds of war have long since driven away all wildlife including birds. The detritus of waste, rubble, and artillery shells combine with toxic fine dust that seeps into everything and poisons everything still barely living.

Gazans are being denied access to basic food, clean water, electricity, physical and digital connection to others, and health services. Military personnel trained for combat suffer from the documented long-term effects of war from only a short time in these situations. Whereas generations of Palestinians are born, live and die in this Permanent Nakba (‘catastrophe’), their trauma reaching untold depths.

 

Omar El-Nagdi (Egypt), Untitled, 1970.

 

In early December, Haidar Eid, a professor of Literature and Cultural Studies at the Gaza University and Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) activist, was one of a few fortunate souls evacuated with his family from Gaza as he holds dual citizenship with South Africa. Eid is the author of Decolonising the Palestinian Mind, a personal and political story which will be republished by Inkani Books in 2024. He arrived in South Africa after ‘a very arduous and tiring trip from Gaza, through Egypt’. He was forcibly displaced and dispossessed with his near starving wife and two young daughters four times, enduring almost sixty days of the bombardment.

In a recorded contribution to the launch of his book, Eid gave his own account of being in a ‘death camp’, the ‘largest open-air prison on Earth’. He spoke of how his book is inspired by the images of children and their resistance; nearly half of those murdered in this current Israeli operation are children.

Decolonising the Palestinian Mind was influenced by the works of Steve Biko, Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, Amílcar Cabral, Ghassan Kanafani, Edward Said, and others to amplify the voice of Palestinians often muffled by their dehumanising and demonising portrayal in mainstream media as ‘victims or villains’, never given permission to share their own narratives and be agents of change.

From movement and activist spaces everywhere, as the world slows down and indulges in the excesses of this time of year, we say, how can we wind down and be merry? Remember Palestine.

Warmly,

Tariro

Tariro Takuva has extensive experience in finance and operations. She works in different capacities to support organisations and movements on the African continent that are focused on facilitating community and societal engagement, education, advancing and promoting social justice, human rights, and furthering democracy and equality.

tariro@thetricontinental.org