Cultural genocide: Israel has wiped out a golden generation of Gaza's artists, musicians, actors and writers

Woman in front of a painting of a Palestinian woman and buildings
6 min read

Not long ago, the artistic community of Gaza formed a vital element of Palestinian society and a vibrant reflection of its resilience; today, they are struggling to exist - Israel's genocidal assault has wiped out a generation of artists from the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Ministry of Culture revealed the statistic that Israel's brutal and indiscriminate bombardment of the Gaza Strip had led to the deaths of  28 Palestinian artists, intellectuals, and authors since 7 October 2023.

The report outlined the profound impact the ongoing Israeli onslaught was having on the cultural fabric in Gaza, and pointed to the gravity of the current situation. Below are a few words in testimony to some prominent Palestinian artists, cultural figures and creative souls who have been killed by Israel since 7 October.

Heba Zaqout

Visual artist and teacher of fine arts, Heba Ghazi Ibrahim Zaqout (39) was killed on 13 October with her son. Zaqout was a fine arts graduate from Al-Aqsa University in Gaza. Many of her paintings  were done in acrylics and depicted women, the Palestinian homeland, and nature. Her paintings emphasised Palestinian identity and existence - with bright, joyful landscapes often filled with mosques and churches, minarets and domes.

Heba Abu Nada

Author, poet and teacher Heba Abu Nada (32) was killed, also alongside her son, in an Israeli air raid on Khan Younis on 20 October. Her novel "Oxygen is not for the dead", won second place in the Sharjah Award for Arab Creativity in 2017.

In her last tweet posted on 8 October, she wrote in Arabic: "Gaza's night is dark apart from the glow of rockets, quiet apart from the sound of the bombs, terrifying apart from the comfort of prayer, black apart from the light of the martyrs. Good night, Gaza."

Omar Abu Shawish

Likewise, poet, novelist and social activist, Omar Fares Abu Shawish (36) was martyred on 7 October during the bombardment of Nuseirat refugee camp in Gaza, where he was born and lived. Abu Shawish was well known for his concern for issues affecting the youth, and participated in establishing several youth associations, and was awarded a number of local and international awards.

In testimony to his influence, the Arab Youth Council for Integrated Development, affiliated with the League of Arab States (LAS), honoured him with the "Distinguished Arab Youth in the Field of Media, Journalism and Culture" award in 2013. Abu Shawish's literary contributions were equally important; he published several poetry collections and a novel entitled " 'Alā qayd al-mawt" in 2016.

Inas Saqqa

Inas Saqqa was a well-known actress, playwright and teacher who specialised in children's theatre. She was killed in an Israeli air raid at the end of October with three of her children, Sara, Leen and Ibrahim. Saqqa was one of the most influential and prominent figures on the theatre scene in Gaza and a pioneer of creative arts for children in the Strip – organising many summer theatre workshops for young people.

Woman wearing brightly coloured top and black hat
Inas Saqqa was one of Gaza's most celebrated actors and playwrights and was killed with three of her children in an Israeli airstrike on 31 October 2023 [@saqqainas/Instagram]

She was also a skilled actress - Saqqa's contributions to cinema included her roles in the two films "Sara" and "The Homeland's Sparrow" in 2014. "Sara" addressed the urgent social issue of honour killings, and "The Homeland's Sparrow" looked at the Palestinian struggle between the 1948 Nakba ("Catastrophe") and Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967. Besides acting, she was known for her cultural contributions and her cooperation with multiple theatre troupes in the Gaza Strip, and she also participated in the writing and production of several plays including "The Bear", "Women of Gaza and Ayoub's Patience", and "Everything is Fine".

Yousef Dawas

On 14 October, Palestinian musician, writer, journalist, photographer and aspiring psychoanalyst Yousef Dawas (20) was killed in an Israeli airstrike on his family home in northern Gaza. Dawas was fluent in Arabic and English, both writing and speaking, and wrote articles which dealt with a wide-range of topics.

Young man with guitar sitting hear the sea
Yousef Dawas was killed by an Israeli airstrike on his family home in northern Gaza on 14 October 2023 [@yousefdawas76/Instagram]

Dawas also produced short videos which discussed many different subjects, including his aspirations to travel and discover the world – although in one video clip he emphasised that he dreamt of visiting other Palestinian towns and villages more than far flung overseas destinations - before Israel ended his life and his many dreams.

Mohammed Qraiqea

Aged just 24, innovative cartoonist, artist, photographer, volunteer and activist Mohammed Sami Qraiqea was killed on 17 October, one of around 500 victims who were killed when the Al-Ahli Arab hospital was bombed as thousands of civilians sheltered there. 

Young man in a hat smiling
Mohammed Qraiqea was an artist interested in blending technology with art. He spent his final days entertaining children sheltering in the Al-Ahli Arab hospital [Al-Araby Al-Jadeed]

Even in his final days alongside others seeking refuge in the hospital compound, Qraiqea strived to lighten the tense atmosphere and alleviate the terror and anxiety consuming the children and injured at the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital where he was, using his artistic skills and infectious energy, which he called "trying to give psychological first aid to the children and families". In a video clip in one of his final Instagram posts he can be seen in the centre of a circle of children in the courtyard of the Al-Ahli hospital, keeping them entertained to distract from the psychological stress and trauma they are under.

Nooraldeen Hajjaj

On 2 December, young writer Nooraldeen Hajjaj (27) was martyred in an Israeli airstrike on his home in Shujaiya neighbourhood. He had composed the play "The Gray Ones" in 2022 and the novel "Wings That Do Not Fly" in 2021. He was also an active participant in initiatives like the Cordoba Association and the Days of Theatre Foundation.

His last message to the outside world was: "My name is Nour al Din Hajjaj, I am a Palestinian writer, I am twenty-seven years old and I have many dreams.

I am not a number and I do not consent to my death being passing news. Say, too, that I love life, happiness, freedom, children's laughter, the sea, coffee, writing, Fairouz, everything that is joyful—though these things will all disappear in the space of a moment."

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition with additional reporting. To read the original article click here.

Translated by Rose Chacko   

This article is taken from our Arabic sister publication, Al-Araby Al Jadeed and mirrors the source's original editorial guidelines and reporting policies. Any requests for correction or comment will be forwarded to the original authors and editors.

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