Monday, January 8, 2024

The Essay in a Time of Genocide: Two Palestinian Writers and a Continuing Call

Maram Humaid's five-month-old baby
Maram Humaid’s five-month-old baby in Southern Gaza [Maram Humaid/Al Jazeera]

For the past five weeks, Essay Daily has regularly featured pieces on the essay in a time of genocide. 

When we extended the invitation to contribute to this feature on November 27th, approximately 1,200 Israelis and 14,854 Palestinians had been killed in the current conflict in Gaza. As of today, January 8th, at least 8,000 more Palestinians have been killed, including 249 in the last 24 hours. 

Right now, according to the United Nation’s World Food Programme, half of Gaza's 2.2 million people are suffering from extreme or severe hunger, and the World Health Organization reports that Gaza is “experiencing soaring rates of infectious disease.” People are suffering from upper respiratory infections, meningitis, skin rashes, scabies, lice, and chickenpox. Over 100,000 cases of diarrhea have been reported since mid-October. This horrific situation has been made worse by Gaza’s current lack of sanitation, clean water, and the collapse of its healthcare system. Approximately 1.9 million people in Gaza have been forced to flee their homes.

Essay Daily has currently published all of the work that's been submitted by our contributors. We are grateful for their essays and for how they’ve illuminated what it means to write as global citizens. Like we do with our other features, we will keep open the call for this feature as we continue to live and write in a time genocide. If you’re an essayist interested in contributing, contact Eric LeMay (

As this part of our feature ends, we would like to direct you to two essays by Palestinian writers. The first, “Don’t Look Away,” is by the London-based lawyer and fiction writer Selma Dabbag and was published on the London Review of Books' blog on December 13th. Dabbag begins her essay:

I wonder whether there is a right way to respond to grief, to loss, to a risk of genocide of one’s people. Whether one should go out or stay in, whether it is unseemly to visit cinemas and theatres, to eat out in restaurants, or to laugh. I know a young woman in London whose home was bombed in Gaza City on 10 October. Her family are (or were, the last time I spoke to her) in a tent in a school in Khan Younis. They have no walls, she says. No roof. Some days they eat nothing but a small tin of pineapple, or mushrooms. It is getting cold. Like thousands of others, they had no chance to pack anything from their home before it was bombed. On one occasion there was fighting outside the school, men fearful for the safety of their wives, their daughters, trying to get them inside the gates. The bombing is non-stop. ‘Some days I find everything very funny,’ she told me. Some evenings she spends in tears, but everything is unstable. ‘I feel I am going mad,’ she said. ‘I can’t stop laughing.’

The second essay is by Maram Humaid, a Palestinian journalist and storyteller who lives in Gaza. It’s entitled “Israel flattened my home, killed my family. I still lit a candle for 2024" and was published on January 1st by Al Jazeera. Humaid's essay ends:

Three weeks ago, my aunt, her family, and grandchildren were killed when their six-story home was bombed. Forty-five people were killed and their bodies remained trapped under the rubble for days.

My father and I mourned while offering condolences to my only surviving cousin, who was displaced with her husband to Deir el-Balah.

She told us that no one was able to get them out because of the presence of tanks and snipers around the place. Neighbours told them that they heard some of them alive screaming and pleading for help from under the rubble, but they could not help them. Then these voices eventually faded away after a few days.

This is how lives end in Gaza. This is how people are killed. They get bombed in homes, left to bleed to death under rubble, without rescue. Pain eats away at the hearts of their loved ones who watch their deaths helplessly.

The wider world’s inability to stop this highlights how little our lives are valued. Our death and killing, our spilled blood, have become permissible.

While the world was illuminated to celebrate the New Year last night, I lit a candle for my five-month-old child, amidst the darkness of continuous bombings around.

Our only wish is survival, an end to the war. Farewell to a sorrowful and painful year. Long live Gaza.


No comments:

Post a Comment