No Human Being Can Exist

RECENTLY, AN AUSTRALIAN-PALESTINIAN friend of mine was invited to appear on Australia’s national television network to discuss the situation in and around Gaza.1 His white interviewers posed all the usual questions: Can you defend what we’ve seen from Hamas militants? How has the Palestinian cause been helped by this violence? How can anyone defend the slaughter of young music lovers at a music festival? Do you defend Hamas? They probably expected a defensive reaction from him, but calmly, in his smooth Australian-accented English, my friend had already turned the interview on its head. “I want to know why I’m here today, and why I haven’t been here for the past year,” he said gently. By the eve of October 7, he pointed out, Israeli forces had already killed more than two hundred Palestinians in 2023. The siege in Gaza was more than sixteen years old, and Israel had been operating outside international law for seventy-five years. “Normal” in Palestine was a killing a day—yet a killing a day in a decades-old occupation was hardly news; it certainly wasn’t justification for a live interview on a national television network. Palestinians were being given the opportunity to speak now because the Western media suddenly cared, and they cared (“as we should care,” my friend added) because, this time, the victims included Israeli civilians. In the days after October 7, Australia made a strong show of support for Israel: Parliament and the Sydney Opera House were lit up in the colors of the Israeli flag; the Prime Minister said pro-Palestinian rallies should be called off out of respect for the Israeli dead; the foreign minister was lambasted for saying Israel should endeavor to minimize civilian deaths in Gaza. “Well, what about our lives?” my friend asked.

What about lighting up a building for us? When our government lights up every building blue and white, how are we [Australian Palestinians] supposed to feel? Are we not Australian? Should nobody care about us? A 14-year-old boy was set on fire in the West Bank by Israeli settlers. What about us?

The news anchors were caught off guard. This isn’t how these interviews are supposed to go.


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