Of course I refused to meet with Antony Blinken.

I refused to provide a photo opportunity to the Biden administration because it has aided and abetted the killing of 85 members of my family. I hope they take the time to read about the nightmare all Palestinians in Gaza are living through.

What could I say in three minutes to someone who is aiding and abetting Israel’s assault, which has killed 85 members of my family so far? How could I provide a photo opportunity to Secretary Blinken when President Biden has not only armed and funded Israel, but also just suspended funding to the most important aid agency providing humanitarian assistance to two million Palestinians facing death from US-supplied bombs, and starvation and disease caused by Israel preventing all but a trickle of food, water, and medicine from entering Gaza?

I could not, in good conscience, accept Secretary Blinken’s invitation, so I chose to boycott the meeting, as did a number of others from our community. Instead, I hope he will take the time to read about my family’s ordeal, which is a microcosm of the nightmare that all Palestinians in Gaza are living through and which the Biden administration is deeply complicit in.

In mid-October, generations of one branch of my family were killed in a single Israeli airstrike. Among those killed, Tuqa, who was supposed to be celebrating her wedding, and Esam and Jamal, who played competitive basketball and ping pong as teenagers. Shortly afterwards my cousins Hatem and Aziz were killed in Khan Younis in southern Gaza – which was supposed to be in the so-called safe zone – along with 14 other relatives, including seven children. Aziz was a pharmacist. Hatem always had a smile on his face. One child survived, with an amputation. He woke up from surgery to learn his father, uncle, and siblings were dead. Soon after, he died as well.

In November, my cousins’ home was destroyed by an Israeli missile without warning. Wael, who survived, found half of his mother’s body buried in rubble, alongside the pieces of his sister Wafaa, who was a beloved teacher. His brother Hani suffered what should have been a minor leg injury. But unable to get medical attention, Hani bled to death. The bodies of Hani’s wife and his sister, Huda, are still missing. The intensity of the Israeli bombing made it impossible to hold a proper burial; relatives buried the bodies they could recover in a makeshift mass grave.

I receive daily messages from my family: who has been killed, who needs a tent to shelter from the winter rain and cold, who hasn’t eaten. My cousin’s newborn twins have been malnourished from birth. The homes of every surviving relative are destroyed or damaged. They’re either in a tent, a UN school, or friends’ homes. They subsist mostly on bread, sometimes animal feed. Some people in Gaza have resorted to eating grass. My cousin Nael recently texted, “We have been sleeping without food for 24 hours at a time, and we have not seen flour, meat, vegetables, or fruits for three months now.” My 80-year-old uncle suffers from terrible gastrointestinal illnesses from the contaminated water.

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