Marcelle Zoughbi is a senior TESOL, education and history major from Palestine.

Being a Palestinian Christian living in America has been an interesting experience.  The responses I get from people when they learn where I am from vary significantly.  They range from “Oh, that’s nice, you’re from Israel” to “Oh, so you are Jewish?” to “When did you convert to Christianity?”

That being said, I am aware of the Palestinian Christian voice being lost or unheard. That is why I decided to give my perspective on the most recent violence in Gaza, and compensate for what was not written in the Western news.

The Israeli military’s operation Pillar of Cloud’s stated goal was to stop recent rocket attacks coming from Gaza (which came as a result of the killing of 23-year-old Ahmad Nabhani when he approached the border fence with Israel.) The operation resulted in six people being killed on the Israeli side (two soldiers and four civilians) and 160 people killed (at least 105 of which were civilians) and hundreds injured in Gaza.

To understand the overall situation in Gaza, you must first know that it has been under Israeli military oppression since 1967.  Israel maintains control of Gaza’s water, electricity and telecommunication networks, refuses to allow Gaza a functioning airport, seaport, or commercial crossing, cuts Gazan trade and commerce with the outside world with a blockade that even includes toys, restricts the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza, prevents farmers from tending their fields, places severe restrictions on the importation of water for drinking and irrigation and periodically bombs Gaza’s electrical generating system, roads, bridges, farms, and olive orchards. As a direct result, Gaza’s living conditions are unbearable. According to the U.N. 70% of Gazans live on less than a dollar a day, and there is a 40% unemployment rate. Gazans struggle to find clean water, food, medical supplies and sometimes clean air. They live in the largest open-air prison in the world.

I have heard many people disapprove of the tactics of certain groups of Palestinians in Gaza, such as launching rockets at civilian areas.  I am for peaceful and nonviolent resistance and I too disagree with these groups’ tactics, but it does not surprise me that they resort to such tactics. It doesn’t surprise me that people who are living in desperation choose desperate techniques to defend themselves.

When make-shift rockets are fired from Gaza, Israelis are protected by interceptors, bomb shelters and advanced warning systems. When Gazans are being bombed by the advanced and well-funded Israeli military, they have no place to hide. As Americans, I invite you all to question your government’s “neutral” third-party status in this unjust and lopsided conflict and to think about this quote written by journalist Glenn Greenwald:

“For years now, U.S. financial, military and diplomatic support of Israel has been the central enabling force driving this endless conflict. The bombs Israel drops on Gazans, and the planes they use to drop them, and the weapons they use to occupy the West Bank and protect settlements are paid for, in substantial part, by the US taxpayer…”

So many Gazans have been killed and injured by this occupation and conflict but these people are not just numbers to me. They are friends, they are family. They are my people.