Gideon Levy has one of his usual heartbreaking profiles in Haaretz about the remaining survivors of the Beit Hanun massacre. I know I’m repeating myself, but it simply breaks the heart to read prose like this:
This is Islam al-Atamna. A girl of 14. She is sitting in her black mourning clothes. Eight close relatives – including her mother, grandparents, uncles and aunts – were all killed before her eyes, one after the other. They were killed in the street after they awoke at home in horror at the sound of the first shell that exploded and then fled outdoors, where the next shells caught them. About 11 fell on a residential neighborhood, one shell a minute, a rain of death, pursuing them in their flight. Fatherless for some time already, the girl is left alone in the world with her two little sisters and her 3-year-old brother Abdullah, whose legs were severed and who is hospitalized in the Al-Hilal Hospital in Gaza.
What should we say to Islam? What can we say to Islam? That the chip in the radar system is to blame? That the electronic component is responsible? Perhaps that the Palestinians are to blame?
Since the accident the girl has not fallen asleep for even a moment, which one can see in her frozen face. Islam is now a girl in shock, whose entire world was destroyed last Wednesday morning, with a total of 22 relatives dead and dozens wounded.
Levy continues Lamentations-like with his dirge of death:
Now the survivors are sitting in the street of death, all of whose fatalities are members of one family, the Al-Atamna family. There has never before been such killing, of 22 members of one family, not even under direct Israeli occupation.
In the hospitals in Gaza, Egypt and Israel the wounded, about 40 in number, are moaning, many of them with amputated limbs and head injuries, quite a number of them children. The dead also include children, and mainly women: The mass poster that was printed presents the portraits of the men and the children who were killed, whereas the pictures of the women are replaced by paintings of red roses, as is the custom.
Flowers and children. A boy in a suit, a tie and glasses, Saad, 9 years old at his death; a boy in sunglasses, Mohammed, 11 years old; and a boy without glasses, Mahdi, 13. And there are the little ones: 3-year-old Maram and 8-month-old Maisa. All victims. Mothers and their children, grandfathers and their granddaughters, brothers and sisters, one after another, one shell after another. The IDF regrets …
Here Levy describes the scene of devastation at one of the apartment houses which was shelled:
On the fourth floor, in the apartment of the family of Amjad Al-Atamna, where two shells fell on two children’s rooms, tearing not-very-large holes in their ceilings, signs of the killing are still in evidence. The children were crushed here to pieces by the shells that landed on their heads while they were sleeping the peaceful sleep of little children. The Arabic notebook of Khalil Al-Atamna, wrapped in a cover with colorful cartoons, is among the ruins. Kahlil is hospitalized in serious condition. A third shell hit the wall of the stairwell, killing a mother and her two daughters while they were fleeing. The three were catapulted from the stairwell into the street.
Levy closes his requiem with a plea for the end of violence from one of the survivors who speaks of the orphaned Islam Al-Atamna:
Taxi driver Raad Al-Atamna, a member of the family and an old acquaintance of ours from the Erez checkpoint: “Her uncle was also killed, and another uncle is in a hospital in Egypt. Now she has nobody. What can I tell you, only God will look after her and help her. Gideon, I’m begging God not to harm either a Muslim or a Jew – no person should be harmed like us. It’s a tragedy, a Holocaust such as we have not had since 1956. I hope that what happened to us doesn’t happen to anyone else in the world.”
One of my rightist pro-Israel commenters today said that he feels “deep empathy” for the Beit Hanun dead, but that they have only themselves to blame” for bringing to power a party, Hamas, which wishes to make war on Israel. As if being blown to bits in your bed has anything whatsoever to do with who you voted for in an election. Such obtuse notions are an abomination in the face of testimony such as Raad Al-Atamna’s. Have these Palestine haters no shame?
The IDF has “apologized.” As if this somehow makes a difference or even matters. Israel is providing medical care for the survivors. But tell us, oh dear IDF, how will Islam Al-Atamna care for a 3 year old brother who is a double amputee?? Will you provide these survivors with lifetime welfare to ensure that they can maintain some small measure of dignity in the remainder of their lives? Of course not. As soon as the cameras go away, Israeli attentiveness, such as it is, will turn off like a spigot.
Levy reports that another survivor died of his wounds a week ago, bringing the death toll now to 19:
The pervasive atmosphere in the town is gloomy. The mourners’ tents are already empty, and the plastic chairs have been piled up, until the next time there is mourning. The mourners are only sitting now for Bassam Al-Atamna, Bassam who died late. He died of his wounds last Friday at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, after efforts to save him failed.