Opinion: Eid al-Fitr in Gaza: A war against humanity itself

Palestinians visit the graves of their relatives after Eid al-Fitr prayers, during the celebrations at the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, at a cemetery just outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls, on April 10.

Palestinians visit the graves of their relatives after Eid al-Fitr prayers, during the celebrations at the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, at a cemetery just outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls, on April 10. Leo Correa / AP


Published: 04-13-2024 6:00 AM

Robert Azzi is a photographer and writer who lives in Exeter. His columns are archived at robertazzitheother.substack.com.

Tuesday was the last day of Ramadan fasting. At sunset, around the world, believers began calling or sending ‘Eid Mubarak’ greetings to each other. I received greetings throughout the day as, due to time zone differences, Eid — from Dhaka to Detroit, Kuala Lumpur to Exeter — unfolded and embraced its nearly two billion adherents in thankfulness and joy.

Eid al-Fitr, a three-day holiday, started in earnest with communal prayers on Wednesday, many outdoors to accommodate the number of families who gathered. Families got together for festivities, visited with relatives and friends and shared large meals with traditional foods — among my favorites are muhammara and molokhia. Many people wore new clothes and bought presents for children or gave them cash gifts, ‘eidiyah.’

Eid al Fitr is also known as ‘sweet’ Eid and many worshipers ate something sweet before the communal prayers, such as dates or my cookie of choice, ma’amoul.

Except in Gaza.

There was nothing sweet about Eid al Fitr in Gaza this year.

There was nothing sweet in Gaza, where an extreme form of enforced fasting, clearly witnessed by a civilized word as genocide and enforced starvation and famine, has been imposed for months by the occupying power, the settler-colonial state of Israel.

Nothing sweet in Gaza, where the average caloric intake imposed upon its residents, enforced by troops bearing American-supplied arms, is 245, less than 12% of the average daily caloric needs of a healthy adult — fewer calories than in a small handful of M&M-coated peanuts, one of my favorites snacks.

If they were lucky Tuesday Gazans weren’t bombed as they prayed communally.

If they were lucky they might even have found a mosque with its qibla still intact to direct their prayers toward Mecca.

If they were lucky they might have found some food — or M&Ms.

If they were really lucky they might have located some surviving relatives with whom to share blessings and commiserations.

There was certainly no luck in Gaza last Easter Monday, a day some in the Christian tradition refer to as the “Monday of the Angel” to honor the angel who appeared in the empty tomb and told Mary that Jesus wasn’t there because he had “risen,” when Israel assassinated seven aid workers from World Central Kitchen (WCK) who were in Gaza to try to provide aid to needy and hungry Palestinians.

No angel was present to guide their convoy of three vehicles to safety.

In response to the murders of his colleagues, the founder of World Central Kitchen, chef José Andrés, accused Israel of targeting his aid workers “systematically, car by car” during strikes that left seven dead on the Monday of the Angel.

More angels, seven more shahids, ‘martyrs,’ murdered since Oct. 7 to satisfy Israel’s seemingly unquenchable thirst for vengeance.

“This it seems is a war against humanity itself,” Andrés said, as world leaders expressed outrage and dismay. “And you can never win that war. Because humanity eventually will always prevail.”

President Biden, for example, said that Israel had not done enough to protect civilians and noted that the [WCK] deaths were not a “stand-alone incident.” He said the conflict “has been one of the worst in recent memory in terms of how many aid workers have been killed.”

What about outrage over how many Palestinians have been killed, Mr. President?

What about outrage over starvation and famine?

What about outrage over the unknown thousands of Palestinians buried under Gazan rubble caused by American bombs, Mr. President?

The swell of outrage after the targeted assassinations of six white people — Polish, Australian, British (and, incidentally, a Palestinian) — was too much even for those white people complicit with Israeli war crimes.


Shocked! Shocked to find that assassinations are going on here.

Shocked that six white people were murdered in a convoy, one car after another (and incidentally including a Palestinian driver/translator) trying to provide humanitarian aid to non-white peoples.


It wasn’t enough before that moment, it appears, for many of Israel’s benefactors and supporters to be shocked by the over 33,000 deaths (including over 15,000 children) already documented with thousands more unaccounted for — Palestinians either missing, buried while under fire or duress, decomposing in inaccessible parts of Gaza, or perhaps even bulldozed amidst rubble by occupation troops.

No, white people had to die.

It took, to my mind, white people to be martyred in order to recognize the humanity of the Palestinian people and today I mourn how untouched far too many people are, some of whom I know well, who still fail to recognize the humanity of people unlike themselves.

There is little sweet for Muslims this year.

Wednesday I read that an olive-skinned Palestinian, Walid Daqqa, a novelist and children’s book author and one of Israel’s most prominent political prisoners, died from cancer while in Israeli custody. He had completed a 37-year prison sentence a year ago but Israel refused to release him, even though it was believed that he had suffered from medical negligence and was in desperate need of medical attention. As he approached death both his wife and daughter were denied permission to visit him.

Amnesty International noted that attempts to have him released on health grounds were blocked by Israeli courts, which argued that his illness “wasn’t serious enough.”

“It is heart-wrenching that Walid Daqqa has died in Israeli custody despite the many calls for his urgent release on humanitarian grounds following,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty’s Senior Director for Research, Advocacy, Policy and Campaigns.


In response to his death, Israeli forces attacked mourners visiting the family home in the city of Baqa al-Gharbiya, a majority Palestinian Israeli town. The forces removed a funeral tent set up outside the family’s home in order to allow people to offer their condolences and arrested five people, including relatives.

His body has yet to be released to his family.

“This it seems is a war against humanity itself.”

There is little sweet for Muslims this year.

Little sweet indeed.