From Shuja’eya to Shatila: remembering the massacres through the years

By Laila Sadeddin

It has become a habit for Palestinians to commemorate brutal massacres that have befallen us year after year and generation after generation. As new age groups are born, we are forced to remember the slaughters that our ancestors lived to witness and tell us stories about, and new massacres that our brethren back home are experiencing on a day-to-day basis.

Last week, the Palestinian and Arab community all around the globe commemorated the Sabra and Shatila Massacre that took place 32 years ago in the refugee camps of Lebanon. Between Sept. 16 and 18, 1982, thousands of innocent Palestinian and Lebanese civilians were killed and slaughtered under the supervision of Israel and the Lebanese Phalangist militia. Stories of the atrocities our people experienced and saw firsthand are always shared; vigils are always held; and, for that whole week, we relive and relearn everything about our dark history as if it is the first time we were hearing it.

Thirty-two years later, one of the biggest slaughters of the Palestinian people cannot be addressed without mentioning the genocides and massacres we are seeing and reliving today. There is a defined ternary between the events from 1948 to 1982 to 2014.

To say that it is devastating to remember each horrific event, honor its martyrs, and commemorate our occupied homeland is an understatement. As the decades go by, it gets harder.

On July 8, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip woke up to a completely different and broken neighborhood than they had known before. The neighborhood district of Shuja’eya, in the Gaza Strip, was awoken by heavy shelling and artillery during the merciless  Israeli offensive on the Strip (“Operation Protective Edge”). More than 100 Palestinians were brutally killed in their sleep, among them children, women, and the elderly.

It was a shock to Palestinians worldwide – another massacre taking place right before our eyes?

The answer was clear as day.

At midnight on July 20, Israeli forces sent their F-16s, tanks, mortar fires, and troops into Shuja’eya. The results were heartbreaking. The photos that came out of this neighborhood the following morning served as déjà-vu to those who lived to tell the tales of 1948 and 1982. Scenes that came out of Shuja’eya looked too familiar to the scenes that came out of the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila three decades ago.

It has become status quo for Palestinians worldwide to live with and keep track of each Israeli offensive, each war, and each massacre that slams our nation and its citizens. It happens every year, and as the number of our martyrs increases, as the amount of land we can claim as ours decreases, we have no choice but to remember, compare, and contrast the events that took place the years prior. We recollect and cry over massacres, old and new, year after year. We honor our massacres. We mourn our massacres. We hold moments of utter silence for our massacres, moments that seem to have no end in sight.

One thing is for sure: nothing will ever be forgotten or erased. From Deir Yassin, to Qibya; from Khan Yunis to Jenin; from Sabra and Shatila, to the “Massacre at Dawn” of Shuja’eya, Israel’s crimes have always gone uncharged and unchecked. The slaughter of our people and the murders, cruelty, and illegal occupation that we have endured every day since 1948 has become a part of our resilient culture that is known for breathing in resistance in and out.

Thirty-two years have passed since Sabra and Shatila; thirty-two more years will pass after the massacre at Shuja’eya, and with each year, we will remain steadfast in demanding justice and telling those who may have forgotten: the last thing we will do is forget the history that has shaped us into the Palestinians people we are today.

Hamdoun and Sadaddin are members of Suffolk’s Students for Justice in Palestine.