For many years, we have been hearing in news bulletins or reading in newspapers about the numbers of martyrs caused by the occupation due to its aggression and attacks on Palestinians. We compare these numbers and tally them with previous years to gauge the intensity of the violence practiced by the occupation against the Palestinian people. For example, in 2021, the Israeli occupation killed approximately 265 Palestinians in Gaza and 84 in the West Bank, and in 2022, 33 and 154 respectively, according to UN OCHA’s statistics and reports.
As of now, there have been at least 2329 martyrs in Gaza and 55 martyrs in the West Bank during the week of the Israeli aggression on Gaza. These numbers do not include the martyrs since the beginning of 2023 in various parts of Palestine. The statistics for the martyr numbers and the reports show the increasing violence and killings against Palestinians year after year.
But what happens after these statistics and reports are published? Is there condemnation and denouncement? What comes next? What happens to the martyrs after that?
Very few people will remember the martyr after their passing. The martyr is simply added to the list, buried along with their life, dreams, ambitions, past, and future. Their memories fade away, and their existence becomes just another number. No one thinks about the life of the martyr—who their friends were, who was dearest to them, what their work was like, how they related to their colleagues, how they connected with their family. Were they the eldest or the youngest among their siblings? What secrets did they keep? What was their favourite meal? What were the goals they aspired to achieve in their life? All these questions are wiped away and forgotten, as if they never were, reducing them to mere statistics.
This feeling serves as a poignant reminder of the dehumanization that can occur due to occupation, where each martyr becomes nothing more than a statistic, overshadowing the richness of their lives and the profound impact they left on those who knew and loved them. This is precisely what the Israeli occupation desires, to erase their humanity and reduce them to mere numbers.
The lives of Palestinian martyrs are not just numbers; they had a life before their martyrdom. They strived and fought for a better future. Some were doctors, nurses, or paramedics, dedicated to saving people’s lives. Some were teachers, imparting knowledge to entire generations. Some were parents, the backbone of their families, and siblings supporting one another. They were fighters for their homeland, for their land. They were resilient resistance fighters on their own soil, resisting for a better life.
What happens to those who loved them after their loss? Every martyr has loved ones whose hearts are broken and their spirits crushed. Their lives are deeply impacted in the aftermath. Yasmin Jaber, the sister of the martyr Momen Jaber, who was martyred on 9 August 2022 in the clashes that took place in Bab al-Zawiya in Hebron, said this while remembering him, “My brother, my heart aches, and my tears have dried up. All that’s left after you is tears, frustration, and sadness. Life has become unbearable.”
Momen, at the age of 17, was known for the smile that never left his face. He had a gift for bringing smiles to the faces of his friends, excelled in his school, and held deep respect and love for his teachers. During school vacations, he worked to help support his family. On the day of his martyrdom, he was supposed to pay the household electricity bill with his salary, and he was a very strong supporter of his sister’s projects.
Momen was a kind-hearted person who cherished life. He chose not to remain silent in the face of the injustice and oppression the people endured under the occupation. His participation in the demonstration was a response to the tragic events in Nablus that day when the old city was invaded, and three individuals were killed after widespread destruction and house bombings.
Momen was martyred by the occupation’s gunfire, which pierced his heart. His body and heart were not strong enough to bear the brutality of those bullets that penetrated his core. He left behind his family, his work, and his life.
Now, during the recent aggression on Gaza, the Palestinian resistance chose to fight in an attempt to combat the blockade that has been imposed on Gaza for 16 years. They resist the occupation, which has been killing and displacing Palestinians since 1948.
This resistance, a natural response to the occupation’s crimes against Palestinians, has been met with condemnation by many, while the occupiers are given the right to defend themselves. The Palestinian resistance is often unjustly labeled as terrorism, even though they are merely defending their land and within their rights of international law and UN General Assembly Resolution 2649 of 1970, which affirms the legitimacy of the struggle for self-determination. It states, “The General Assembly reaffirms the legitimacy of the peoples’ struggle for liberation from colonial and foreign domination and alien subjugation by all available means, including armed struggle.” The global prevalence of racism has made it difficult to recognize Palestinian existence, as if Palestinians are born only to face death, simply because they are Palestinian and under occupation.
It is as if people think Palestinians embrace death, as if their lives don’t matter. In truth, Palestinians hold life dear. The Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish beautifully captured this love for life in his poems. One of the most profound examples of this is seen in Gaza, a city that faces annual aerial bombardments by the Israeli occupation. Yet, Gazans refuse to surrender. They stand tall, rebuild their homes after every bombing, and create new paths for life. They chose hope and resilience on this land, where every life lost in this aggression had dreams of living in a future filled with justice, equality, freedom, and a world free from discrimination.
These martyrs, who have lost their lives, each one of them was a whole world to someone. This is something that the world should deeply understand. It’s about supporting the oppressed, not the occupiers who have been causing suffering and displacement for 75 years. We should stand in solidarity with the oppressed people who are striving for their rights and freedom using the means available to them. We must share the stories of the souls that were lost in the pursuit of freedom in this land. The lives of Palestinians matter; they are a people who long for peace and justice, unlike what the occupiers try to portray and distort in the media.
I understand that you stand against violence but don’t let your stance against violence create a space of denial for the right to resist. CPT’s work of non-violence is rooted in justice and equality, just like the Palestinian struggle to resist oppression on a daily basis. Peace should come to this land, and it can only come by freedom from oppression and occupation. Palestine and its people are part of this world, and every individual life has an impact. I hope that God grants us insight, and that we never forget to pray for Palestine to attain freedom and peace. I conclude with the words of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish in his poem, “Peace be upon the land created for peace, which has never seen a day of peace.”