My introduction to violence was intimate and domestic. My father’s fist met my mother’s face at night. Maybe that’s why I never want to see it again.
Violence was familial, which made it familiar. Like the back of my father’s hand, I knew it when I saw it.
Far from romantic, my father waited until all of us children were in bed. My mother kept quiet so as not to disturb our childhood, I suppose. But one of them was always in a bad mood so we all received at the very least a tongue-lashing.
I don’t remember her screaming but I do remember things falling, first loose change and then her. I didn’t need a news report or an expert analysis. The effects were immediate: swollen eyes, busted lip and torn clothing.
But the adults said, “No hitting! No fighting! Keep your hands to yourself.”
I guess the rules for the playground don’t apply when it’s your parents. Forget what we said when the sandbox-land is important, right? Because your body belongs to me or this land belongs to me and I’ll take it violently if I have to.
Still, like the ten-year-old me who pressed her ear to my parents’ bedroom door to ensure that my mother was still breathing, I pay close attention to the stories about the Israel-Hamas war coming across my social media feed: “Israel-Gaza crisis: US vetoes Security Council resolution,” “Israel-Palestine: Gaza death toll passes 5,000 with no ceasefire in sight,” “Gaza fuel running out; hostage talks progressing,” and “Israeli airstrikes surge in Gaza, destroying homes and killing dozens at a time.” I notice that the violence is one-sided, that the Palestinian children aren’t hitting anybody.
Rubble comes between us so I look for the children. I look at the children, their bloody, limp, dead bodies.
Entire lineages blown to pieces; I wonder who will be left to ensure that the remaining Palestinian children are not killed. I press my head against the screen, and I listen for signs of life. I worry that when I wake up, they won’t be here.
Is this their introduction to violence? Was it not first cartoonish, colorful and far- removed from their reality?
They couldn’t have seen Disney’s version of it. Farfur, the host of “Tomorrow’s Pioneers,” dressed in a Mickey Mouse suit on the al-Aqsa television station of Hamas and used the American cartoon character as an instrument of violent resistance to Israel and the U.S. all the way back in 2007.
“He advises children to drink their milk as well as encouraging what Israeli critics have described as ‘hate-filled propaganda’ against the ‘Zionist occupation’ of Palestine,” Mark Oliver wrote for The Guardian that same year.
In the final episode of the show, Farfur, dressed as a Mickey Mouse lookalike, is beaten to death as part of a skit. He is presented as a martyr who died defending his land.
This is an introduction to violence. Conditioned to be ready to defend and protect, to expect an attack or, worse, death. Instead of faces painted with butterflies, hearts or their favorite superhero, the parents of Palestinian children write their names on their hands and legs so that they can identify them later at a hospital or the morgue.
“There are a lot of people dying, so we just write the name so their family can know them,” Naseralldin Abutaha, an emergency nurse at the hospital, said. “When the child’s face is not left in a condition to be looked at, we don’t allow families to look at children’s faces,” he said.
Somehow, they’ve gotten behind my parents’ locked door. Bombs crush their skulls and my hopes to ever meet them.
Because adults can’t keep their hands to themselves, we’ll never be introduced as neighbors, new students or become fast friends. No, we’ll just know each other through violence.