The Politicization of Death in Gaza
On Saturday June 2nd, thousands of people grieved together at the funeral of a Palestinian medic who was killed by the Israeli Defense Forces one day prior at the border fence of Gaza. A woman by the name of Razan al-Najjar was just 21-years old when she was shot running to the aid of a wounded Palestinian protester. While many pro-Palestinian supporters expressed their devastation and outrage at the death of Najjar, one of over one hundred people to have been killed since the protests began in March, it did not take long for her death to be politicized and contested. The Israeli military has responded to the uproar over Najjar’s death by saying that their troops followed standard operating procedures, and that Najjar’s death was not the result of IDF but rather of Hamas, a extremist organization acting mainly out of the Gaza strip.
This is not the first time that the Israeli military has claimed that Hamas has purposefully attempted to put civilian lives on the line to garner worldwide sympathy for the Palestinian cause. A few weeks prior, on May 14, 2018, the death of an 8-month year old baby named Layla al-Ghandour sparked controversy as two competing narratives were put out on the cause of her death. Layla was near the front-line at Gaza when a cloud of tear-gas enveloped her. She was declared dead hours later at the hospital.. While the family had stated that Layla’s cause of death was gas asphyxiation as a result of the IDF’s tear gas, their narrative was questioned just hours later when evidence arose that Layla had also been suffering from a congenital heart disease.
Now, what was at first a clear-cut, devastating case of an innocent life being taken at Gaza is now clouded with political narratives. The Israeli military has states that they are in possession of several accounts stating that Layla did not die of tear gas asphyxiation, but rather of her heart condition. According the the IDF, Hamas is presenting the narrative of the infant’s death at the hands of Israelis in order to promote their own political agenda. Just as they claimed with medic Razan al-Najjar, Israelis have stated that Layla al-Ghandour’s death is being paraded as Hamas manipulative propaganda, in an effort to garner international sympathy for their cause.
Razan al-Najjar and Layla al-Ghandour are just two of dozens of people whose deaths are quarreled over, and used to politicize the situation in Gaza. Once you cast aside both Israeli and Palestinian narratives, what lies beneath all the political agendas and claims of “fake news” is the very real, very painful grief of all the families that are still figuring out how to cope with the loss of their departed dear ones.
By Deepika Singh