Palestinian Americans Experience Anguish as Relatives in Gaza Face Life-Threatening Conditions

by Andrew Wright
Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza

For the foreseeable future, Laila El-Haddad is committed to a singular cause: amplifying the stories and urgent calls for assistance from her fellow Palestinians to the international community.

Operating from her home-based office in Columbia, Maryland, El-Haddad has been ardently managing a flurry of phone calls this week. She’s been contacted by journalists seeking insights into the situation in Gaza, as well as by Palestinian Americans who are attempting to engage their local elected representatives.

Amid this frenetic activity, the 45-year-old author and mother intermittently checks WhatsApp for any messages from her relatives in Gaza. They can only communicate during brief intervals when electricity and internet are available. Israel has cut off electricity, and frequent internet disruptions have hampered communication.

El-Haddad states, “I am endeavoring to maintain my composure by doing what is within my power to assist.”

The emotions of many Palestinian Americans range from helplessness to despair as they find it increasingly challenging to connect with family members in Gaza. With shortages of fuel and water, an absence of electricity, and forced evacuations, delivering aid to civilians in the embattled region has become almost unattainable.

Israel has relentlessly launched airstrikes on Gaza for several consecutive days, and there are threats of a ground invasion in retaliation for Hamas’ attacks on Israel, which resulted in 1,300 fatalities last weekend. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, the death toll in the besieged territory has surpassed 2,200 in recent days, including 724 children and 458 women. The figures are expected to climb amid the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

Even prior to the recent escalations, visiting family in Gaza was a taxing, arduous, and often fruitless endeavor for Palestinian Americans, most of whom cannot leave Gaza. Unlike their Israeli American counterparts, Palestinian Americans argue that they have never been granted the liberty to extend direct aid to their relatives in times of turmoil.

Mohammad AbuLughod, a resident of a Milwaukee suburb, has received fragmented updates from his family in Gaza via a solar-powered cell phone. The grim updates depict a dire reality: deaths due to airstrikes, damaged schools, and destroyed buildings. “There’s no feasible way to send assistance; even if we could send money, there’s nothing to purchase,” he laments.

Deanna Othman, based in a suburb of Chicago, received what could be a final message from her young nephew in Gaza via Instagram. “What can one possibly say to someone confronting the prospect of their own demise?” Othman ponders.

Haneen Okal, a Palestinian American currently in Gaza with her three children, found herself trapped when Israeli airstrikes rendered the Rafah crossing with Egypt inoperable. Her pleas for evacuation assistance from the U.S. State Department have thus far gone unanswered. Her husband, Abdulla, is desperately petitioning the U.S. government for his family’s safe return to New Jersey.

Several Palestinian Americans have expressed their agony over being unable to directly assist, unlike Israelis who have the option to join reserve units or provide ground aid.

This leaves those with family in Gaza feeling impotent and isolated, as they are unable to do anything but watch as their loved ones struggle for safety amid hazardous conditions.

“It’s emotionally traumatizing to recognize that American citizens have been accorded privileges and access to my homeland that are denied to my Palestinian husband, whose own family was forcibly displaced,” remarks El-Haddad.

The ordeal of many Palestinian Americans is tinged with loss, yearning, and a sentiment that their historical and familial roots are being effaced. This is all exacerbated by the unfolding human tragedy in Gaza, leaving many to grapple with a harrowing reality they feel powerless to change.

Noreen Nasir is a New York-based journalist specializing in Race and Ethnicity issues. She can be followed on social media at twitter.com/noreensnasir.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Palestinian Americans

What is the primary focus of the article?

The article primarily focuses on the emotional and psychological struggles faced by Palestinian Americans as their family members in Gaza endure life-threatening conditions amid ongoing conflict.

Who is Laila El-Haddad and what is her role in the article?

Laila El-Haddad is a 45-year-old author and mother based in Columbia, Maryland. She serves as a representative figure for Palestinian Americans who are endeavoring to amplify the stories and urgent calls for assistance from Palestinians in Gaza to the international community.

What challenges are mentioned regarding communication with family members in Gaza?

The article mentions that frequent electricity cut-offs and internet outages, instigated largely by Israel, have made it extremely difficult for Palestinian Americans to maintain regular contact with their family members in Gaza.

How are Palestinian Americans feeling according to the article?

According to the article, many Palestinian Americans are experiencing feelings of helplessness, despair, and emotional trauma as they are unable to directly assist or even maintain consistent contact with their loved ones in Gaza.

What is the current humanitarian situation in Gaza as described in the article?

The article describes a dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, with more than 2,200 people killed in recent days, including 724 children and 458 women. There are also shortages of fuel, water, and electricity, making the delivery of aid nearly impossible.

How do Palestinian Americans compare their situation to that of Israeli Americans?

Palestinian Americans in the article argue that, unlike their Israeli American counterparts, they have never been afforded the opportunity to directly aid their relatives in Gaza, especially in times of crisis.

What are some of the ways Palestinian Americans are trying to cope?

Some Palestinian Americans are pouring themselves into work that supports aid organizations, while others are attempting to engage local elected representatives to bring attention to the crisis. However, the overarching sentiment is one of helplessness and emotional distress.

Who is the author of the article and what is their specialization?

The author of the article is Noreen Nasir, a New York-based journalist who specializes in Race and Ethnicity issues.

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Sarah J October 15, 2023 - 12:29 am

I can’t even imagine the trauma and helplessness these families must be feeling. we need more articles like this to open people’s eyes. Where’s the international intervention?

Mike D. October 15, 2023 - 4:41 am

This is really heartbreaking stuff. makes you realize how much we take for granted every day, like just being able to call family whenever we want.

Tom H October 15, 2023 - 5:20 am

its time to act people. Enough talking. These families are suffering. What can we actually DO to help?

Emily W. October 15, 2023 - 12:50 pm

I’m glad articles like this are getting written but it’s not enough. Where is the accountability for all this suffering?

Nina B. October 15, 2023 - 5:48 pm

This is just another reminder that behind the numbers and politics, there are real human beings suffering. Articles like this are so important to remind us of that.

Alan S October 15, 2023 - 7:56 pm

reading this makes me feel helpless too. But it’s important that we’re at least aware of whats going on, and maybe that’s the first step to making a change.


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