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We Are Not Numbers: Palestinian Journalist Ahmed Alnaouq Mourns 21 Family Members Killed by Israel


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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The United Nations says more than 200,000 Palestinians living in the northern Gaza Strip have fled their homes over the past 10 days after being forcibly displaced by Israel’s massive bombardment. Since October 7th, more than 1.5 million Palestinians have been displaced. That’s more than three-quarters of Gaza’s population. Many fear they’ll never be allowed to return home.

Over 1,500 displaced Palestinians remain at Al-Shifa, the largest hospital in Gaza, which has run out of fuel and has stopped functioning as a hospital. The World Health Organization has warned Al-Shifa has become, quote, “nearly a cemetery” as dead bodies pile up outside the hospital. Heavy fighting has been reported just outside the hospital doors. Israel claims Hamas has a command center below the hospital, but the claim has been denied by hospital officials.

Many Palestinians in Gaza are comparing the recent events to the 1948 Nakba, Arabic for “catastrophe,” when 700,000 Palestinians were pushed out of their homes and turned into refugees during the creation of the state of Israel. This is 80-year-old Abla Awad. She grew up in a refugee camp in Gaza, had been forced from her home as a 5-year-old in 1948. Now she’s become a refugee again.

ABLA AWAD: [translated] We came here. We fled from Jabaliya camp and came here to escape the bombing. And now we’re here. Ants are everywhere. Flies are everywhere. There’s no food. It’s been a while since I had any bread. I’m hungry and want to eat. They’re kneading the dough now. …

It’s the same thing happening again. We were displaced from our home cities, and we ended up in Gaza. We used to live in Bureij refugee camp. And now it’s a second Nakba. What did we do to them? Every few years they bring a new Nakba onto us. … I was 5 years old, and I remember being displaced. Our families carried us along with their bags, and they took us to Gaza. I swear it’s the same as what’s happening today. Just like they displaced us the first time, they’re doing so another time. The two situations are alike. I have never seen a war like this. People are being displaced.

AMY GOODMAN: The words of Abla Awad, an 80-year-old Palestinian woman in Gaza.

We go now to London, where we’re joined by Ahmed Alnaouq. He is a Palestinian journalist from Gaza who lives now in London, co-founder of We Are Not Numbers. At least 20 members of his family have been killed in Gaza since October 7th, including his father and several siblings. His recent piece for The Nation is headlined “Palestinians Just Want to Be Treated Like Human Beings.”

Welcome to Democracy Now! We are so sorry for your loss, Ahmed. If you can talk about what happened to your family?

AHMED ALNAOUQ: Thank you very much, first, for having me.

What happened to my family is what’s happened to another thousand Palestinian families — in fact, 1,200 other Palestinian families. And it’s what has been going on for the past 75 years. My family was living in their home. There was my father, my three sisters, two brothers, my cousin and 14 nieces and nephews. They were sleeping in my home on the 22nd of October when Israel bombed my home and killed all of my family members except for two — actually, except for three. One of them was a kid whose name is Malak, 10 years old. She was severely burned, and then she spent a few days at the hospital, and then she succumbed to her wound. The rest is my nephew, 3 years old, and my sister-in-law. She survived. But 21 family members were killed. And this is what’s happening in Gaza. This is what has been going on for the past 75 years. And only since the 7th of October, more than 1,200 other families suffered the same loss I have suffered right now.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Ahmed, you left Gaza in 2019. Have you been able to return since? And when was the last time you saw any of your family members?

AHMED ALNAOUQ: Well, unfortunately, I left Gaza in 2019 but haven’t been able to meet any of my family members ever since. And I was — for the past four years, I have been trying my best to meet with my father, to see my father. He was an old man. He was 75 years old, but he looked older than he is. He was very sick. And for the past four years I have been dying every day a hundred times because I miss my father, and I couldn’t meet with him because of the borders and the blockade. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen him ever since I left Gaza. And I never met with any of my siblings, who I lost, ever since I left Gaza.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Your reaction to the enormous protests around the world? There was a huge one in London this Saturday. What do you hope might come from these mobilizations?

AHMED ALNAOUQ: Well, actually, London has been protesting for the past four weeks, every Saturday, London, in protests — not only London, but also in Edinburgh and in capitals all over the world. People are protesting in thousands and in hundreds of thousands. The Saturday that we have seen on — the protest that we have seen on Saturday in London, people estimate the number between 800,000 to a million people. It’s one of the biggest protests in the history of Britain, after the protest in the War in Iraq in 2003. And these hundreds of thousands of people who protested, every one of them called for one single thing: a ceasefire, and ceasefire now.

It gives me a heartwarming feeling that Palestine, that my family, that the children in Gaza are not forgotten, that people follow the news, that people care about the Palestinians in Gaza, and people — and, most importantly, that people in the West no longer buy the mainstream media narrative that seeks to dehumanize and demonize the Palestinian people and to provide a cover for Israelis to commit massacres against the Palestinian people. So it gives me a heartwarming feeling that we are not forgotten, and people care about us, and people will keep protesting against the Israeli occupation, people will keep protesting against this aggression, this onslaught on the Palestinians in Gaza, until there is a ceasefire.

And I think these protests are doing a great job. We have seen that the governments, many of the politicians have changed their tone when it comes to Gaza. We have seen the comments from President Macron, which is very good, and I think it’s a step in the right direction. I think this country is a democracy, and I think people, when they protest, I think, eventually, their government will have to listen to them and to pressure Israel stop its onslaught on Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the politics of what’s happening in London now? I mean, this massive protest, one of the largest Britain has seen, in London this weekend, and then the ousting of the foreign secretary, Braverman, saying that pro-Palestinian marches are “hate marches,” so she was thrown out, and David Cameron, the former prime minister, was made the foreign secretary, and then the discussion of Tony Blair being brought back, as well. Your response, Ahmed?

AHMED ALNAOUQ: Well, I think the message that the protesters in London and all over the U.K. gave to the government is that we do not accept to be slammed. We do not accept to be called hate marches. We do not accept the false allegation that people who protest for Palestine are antisemitic. And unfortunately, unfortunately, we have seen some comments from politicians, from the former home secretary, describing these marches as “hate marches.” Unfortunately, we, the Palestinians and pro-Palestinians and people from all over the U.K. — now we are talking about the majority of the people who live in the U.K. are now pro-Palestinian, are pro-ceasefire. You could rarely find someone who wants Israel to continue their massacres against the Palestinian people. Unfortunately, the government is not living up to its responsibility as a democracy. They’re not living up to the demands and aspiration of the British people.

And I think the British people were very generous, very kind. They were very pro-justice. And they came from all across the U.K. on Saturday. People came from all across the U.K. They traveled for hours in order to participate in this protest. And their message was that they do not accept these allegations. They do not accept that this protest is a hate march. They come — Jewish, Muslims, Christians, atheists, people of LGBTQ, people from all colors, from all faiths came to the U.K., came to London on Saturday, and they protested, calling for a ceasefire. This is actually a love march. And people who came here, they came out of love, out of humanity. And they came here to say that enough is enough. And these people do not accept that their home secretary says that they are hate marchers.

And I believe that the power of people is very, very — people are very powerful, and their calls are very powerful. And I think, eventually, the government will have to listen to them. I think this is a right step, a step in the right direction from the British government to ousting this — Suella. And I really hope that the next home secretary — I really have hope that they will do a better job than the previous one.

AMY GOODMAN: We were just showing video of this massive march. And among the signs, there was a large group of Jews who were marching, saying “Jews against apartheid,” the Jewish star with “Not in our name.” But I wanted to come to the United States and get your response, Ahmed, to what’s happening here, President Biden speaking Monday, saying Al-Shifa Hospital must be protected.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: You know I have not been reluctant in expressing my concern to what’s going on. And it is my hope and expectation that there will be less intrusive action relative to the hospital. We’re in contact, and we’re — with the Israelis. Also, there is an effort to take this pause to deal with the release of prisoners. And that’s being negotiated, as well, with the Qataris engaged. And so I remain somewhat hopeful. But the hospital must be protected.

AMY GOODMAN: “The hospital must be protected,” President Biden said. Your response, and also, previously, to the large Jewish population who’s speaking out against what Israel is doing in Gaza, and separating their condemnation of antisemitism from condemnation of the Israeli state?

AHMED ALNAOUQ: The Jewish people in this country and in America, actually, has been playing a pivotal role in this struggle against the occupation, in this struggle against the apartheid and occupation of Palestine. We in London, we have, for example, in this protest, more than a thousand people, Jewish people, came in the protest, in the Jewish bloc, and they protested. And their calls were the same calls as everyone in the protest is calling for. The Jewish people are part of the struggle of the Palestinian liberation movement, and they have been doing a great job. And actually, I believe that one of the most vocal voices for Palestine are of Jewish voices. We have seen many organizations in the U.S. and in the U.K. with Jewish people, Jewish Voice for Peace and Na’amod and many other organizations here and there, who are calling, who are fighting day and night for the liberation of the Palestinian people, who are fighting against the occupation peacefully and justly. They are not antisemitic. They can’t be antisemitic while they are Jews.

And unfortunately, the smear campaigns that the Israeli lobby is doing here is fierce, and they do not distinguish between the Jewish people or the Christians or the Muslims. As long as we are pro-Palestine, as long as we are against occupation, then we are antisemitic. That’s really absurd. But I am very, very, very proud, and all of us are very, very, very proud of the Jewish community, of the Jewish community in the U.S. and in the U.K. who challenge the stereotypes, who challenge the Western media, and who challenge the disinformation and misinformation about what’s going on in Palestine and Israel. And they came out and said in one word that they are pro-justice, pro-peace, and they are with ceasefire now.

As for Biden, he said that Al-Shifa Hospital should be protected. I really want to believe him, but I don’t think that he’s genuine in his calls, because he is supporting Israel. He has been aiding Israel with the money, with diplomacy, with weaponry. He has doubled the money that he gives to Israel to bomb us. For example, my family was bombed by an F-16, an American-made airplane. So, Biden provides Israel with whatever it needs, with the weapon, with whatever it needs, and then they say that Al-Shifa Hospital should be protected. Unfortunately, Al-Shifa Hospital is not protected. Now most of the refugees who came to Al-Shifa Hospital, they already left. We have seen videos of piles of bodies in Al-Shifa Hospital, and eyewitnesses say that the stray dogs go and eat from the bodies of the Palestinian people, because they cannot go and bury these bodies of the dead people in the Gaza Strip. Unfortunately, I think these comments from Biden should be — I will only believe these comments if he does something, if he does an action. But right now I do not trust his words. I do not trust his calls. And I believe he is complicit in the war crimes that Israel is committing against the Palestinian people, including the targeting of the hospitals, Al-Shifa Hospital and other hospitals. They have been targeted, these hospitals, because Israel had the cover and the atmosphere from the U.S. government, from the U.S. military, from the U.S. media, mainstream media, to do what they are doing right now.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, Ahmed, I wanted to ask you — you were mentioning Al-Shifa Hospital and the United States being complicit. The terrible, absolutely terrible images we’ve seen in the past two days of the premature infants cut off from their incubators and just all together in a big group surrounded by aluminum foil to protect them — I can’t understand why even in the United States still or even in the West there are still people who don’t recognize the enormous war crimes that are being committed here. Your sense of what it will take to stop this, to allow at least a ceasefire in Gaza right now?

AHMED ALNAOUQ: Well, I don’t know what it takes to force a ceasefire, after everything that we have seen, after the targeting of civilians, the targeting of hospitals, targeting of schools, targeting of refugees as they are going south, more than 15,000 people now already killed, including the 2,000 or 3,000 people under the rubble. Entire areas have been wiped out. Neighborhoods have been destroyed. And people are starving. People are literally starving in Gaza. They don’t have food. They dont’ have water. They don’t have medical supplies. They don’t have electricity. They don’t have internet connection. All of this, a genocide, is taking place in Gaza, and we’re still seeing some politicians and some governments who refuse to push Israel for a ceasefire. I don’t know what does it take to stop all of that.

And we have seen what’s going on in the hospital, in Shifa Hospital, is a crime. It’s a crime against humanity. I don’t think — I don’t know how these people are humans, how they feel for their brothers and sisters, who allow these massacres to happen in Al-Shifa Hospital. And allow me to say this: The Israelis are targeting Al-Shifa Hospital and other hospitals not because there is a Hamas base in it. Of course they know that there is no Hamas there. These are public areas, and everyone, like, they are taped and filmed all the time. There is no Hamas inside Al-Shifa Hospital, but Israel wants to destroy Al-Shifa Hospital in order to force everyone who live north of the valley to go south, because people are taking refuge in these hospitals, so Israel are bombing these hospitals so that they end all the shelters for the refugees, and that’s when they will be forced to move south. So, all these allegations that Hamas members or military base is in Al-Shifa Hospital, other hospital, is absurd.

Now, a country or an army that is willing and capable of killing 5,000 Palestinian kids while they were sleeping in their homes, including 14 of my nieces and nephews, is capable of lying and saying that there is Hamas in the hospital. This is a lie, and the world should know. The world should know better. Now we have social media. We see the truth as it is. And I do not give any excuse for anyone who believes or buys the Israeli narrative about what’s going on in this conflict, because this army is a killer, is a murderer, and they are, of course, capable of lying, as they have lied for many, many, many years before.

AMY GOODMAN: Ahmed Alnaouq, I want to thank you for being with us, co-founder of We Are Not Numbers. At least 20 members of his family have been killed in Gaza since the October 7th Hamas attack, including his father and several siblings. His recent piece for The Nation is headlined “Palestinians Just Want to Be Treated Like Human Beings.” We’ll link to it at

Next up, we speak with two journalists, the award-winning Jazmine Hughes, forced to resign from The New York Times Magazine after signing an open letter criticizing Israel. We also speak to the writer Jamie Lauren Keiles, who is leaving The New York Times, as well. Back in 30 seconds.


AMY GOODMAN: “Wednesday Morning” by Macklemore, who addressed the pro-ceasefire rally in Washington, D.C., last week.

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