“We Want Freedom”: Refaat Alareer, Gaza Scholar & Activist Killed by Israeli Strike, in His Own Words
Written by GRB on 09/12/2023
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates at the U.N. climate summit.
Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has entered its third month. Health officials in Gaza say the Israeli assault has killed over 17,000 Palestinians. Earlier this week, an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City killed the acclaimed Palestinian academic and activist Refaat Alareer, along with his brother, his sister and four of his nieces. For more than 16 years, Alareer worked as a professor of English literature at the Islamic University of Gaza, where he taught Shakespeare and other subjects. Refaat Alareer was a father of six and a mentor to many young Palestinian writers and journalists. He also co-founded the organization We Are Not Numbers. He authored dozens of stories and poems about life under Israeli occupation in Gaza.
In a few minutes we’ll speak to one of his friends, but first I want to return to Refaat Alareer in his own words. He’s spoken to us several times. This is October 10th. As he spoke to Democracy Now!, Israeli strikes rattled his family’s home in Gaza City.
REFAAT ALAREER: What is happening in Gaza is complete and utter extermination of the non-Jewish population in occupied Palestine. As you mentioned, Israel ordered a medieval hermetic siege from air and sea. Israel has also just bombed the only way out through Egypt, the Rafah crossing. The only way out is for — what’s happening, what we are foreseeing is slow starvation, slow genocide. Maybe Israel is going to push us all into the sea.
And I think what is making it even more difficult than before is that the whole world, not even lip service — all American and European countries and politicians are rushing to pledge allegiance to Israel and to Netanyahu. American politicians, American presidential hopefuls are literally calling for genocide. American mainstream media is not pushing back against Israeli officials calling for the collateral damage of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza.
Why is this happening? Because we refuse to live under occupation. We refuse to live in total submission. We want freedom. We want this occupation to end. This is not a state of war, as one of your guests just mentioned. This is a state of occupation that started over 75 years, that started with the British Empire giving Palestine to the Zionist movement in 1917. …
The only hope we have is in the growing popular support in America, in the movements of — the movements, the human rights and the rights movements in America and across Europe, to take to the streets to pressure their politicians into putting an end to this dark, dark episode of not only the history of the Middle East, but also the history of humanity. If people are asking how was the Holocaust allowed and other genocides in Africa and across the world, now you can see this live on TV, live on social media. Palestinians’ whole blocks destroyed, hospitals, schools, businesses. We are speaking about thousands and thousands of housing units destroyed by Israel. So, my message to the free people of the world is to move to pressure, to mobilize and to take to the streets.
AMY GOODMAN: Refaat Alareer, you are the father of six. How old are your children? And can you describe what it’s like to live there right now?
REFAAT ALAREER: Like I said, this has been systematically happening for over seven decades. It was the noose around Gaza’s neck was tightened 15 years ago, and it’s being tightened even further now. The situation is unspeakable. You can’t describe what’s happening in words. We speak about thousands, hundreds and thousands of Israeli bombs and shells targeting all areas of the Gaza Strip. The kids can’t sleep. The kids can’t eat. The kids can’t even speak. Most of the time they’re just mute, silent, shaking out of fear, sometimes whimpering because of how close the bombs are wherever you are in Gaza. And again, the houses shake every time there is a bomb around. And this is happening again all over Gaza Strip.
Israel is telling people, is pushing people forcibly to leave out of their homes and urging them to go to certain places, like the city center or the U.N. places, shelters, and then Israel bombs the roads leading to these areas and bombs these crowded areas. Yesterday, there was a massacre. Israel killed about 60 Palestinians in Jabaliya refugee camp in a local market where there is a U.N. school, people taking shelter there. So, whether it is my kids or any Palestinian kid or any Palestinian, no one is safe. No place is safe. Israel is bombing everywhere.
AMY GOODMAN: Those were the words of the acclaimed Palestinian academic and activist Refaat Alareer, speaking on Democracy Now! October 10th. Earlier this week, he was killed in an Israeli airstrike along with his brother, his sister and four of his nieces. Refaat last posted on social media Monday, writing on the platform X, quote, “The Democratic Party and Biden are responsible for the Gaza genocide perpetrated by Israel.” When Democracy Now! spoke to Refaat during the 2021 Israeli assault on Gaza, he also accused the Biden administration of enabling the massacre of Palestinians.
REFAAT ALAREER: I think it was Biden that gave Netanyahu the green light to start it. When they tweeted that America supports Israel’s right to defend itself two days after the aggression started, I quickly said that this is going to be a long war against civilians, because Israel is killing us using American weapons, using American technology, using American planes. America has — the American administration — all American administrations have blood, Palestinian blood, on their hands. The massacre that is going on is on Biden.
AMY GOODMAN: Again, the words of the late Palestinian academic and activist Refaat Alareer, speaking on Democracy Now! in 2021, months after he had written an op-ed for The New York Times headlined “My Child Asks, ‘Can Israel Destroy Our Building If the Power Is Out?’”