Steven Aiello

Gazan Youth Speak III

Ongoing series involving questions sent to Palestinian students (ages 12-18) in Gaza. Here are the questions and answers (the students have no direct contact with me — everything is communicated via their teacher). Whatever your political views, I think that the responses communicate clearly how youth are victims of this conflict, while also showing the range of individual perspectives of both Gazans, and the Jewish Israelis who asked the questions. The responses are presented as is, with only minor editing of typos, and explanatory comments in (parentheses). All are anonymous, with only letters representing individual responses.

What should happen to the hostages (especially women and children)?

  1. Women and under 11, leave them (i.e., release them).
  2. Give them back.
  3. If there are hostages, just let them go.
  4. Get innocent people that have been kidnapped out of prisons in occupied Palestine out, then they can go.
  5. Let them go
  6. Not sure, maybe give back kidnapped Palestinians?
  7. I guess they should be treated the same way as our people that are prisoners, and been kidnapped, tortured by Israel.
  8. Let them go.
  9. Not sure, let them go?
  10. I do not know, leave them?
  11. They should be gotten rid of. They are not useful for anything. I to mean free them.
  12. Whenever it is possible, both the ones still alive and those that have passed away should be returned.

Do you believe me when I say that I truly care about you and wish I could magically get you out of there and take you to a safer place?

*Reminder: The students only knew that an anonymous Israeli Jew had sent them this question*

Yes 0

No 2

  1. Who is that? Who are they? Where do they live? No I do not trust.
  2. I do not know you, no I do not
  3. Thanks and yes I do, but I want to stay. Not every one of us can leave. then none is left to build it up again.
  4. No I do not
  5. Thanks for showing support for us Palestinians.
  6. You probably are sincere. But I am careful around people that I don’t know personally.
  7. I believe but trust isn’t there
  8. No, I am not ready to trust people from there. Not after what happened to me and my family.
  9. A few I am sure would do it
  10. Yes I do believe it, but I seek refuge in Allah almighty and prayers.

Do you believe a two-state solution is still possible? Do you want one?

  1. No, I want my country, nothing else.
  2. No, one state
  3. Yes it is possible but we need to talk, not be stubborn.
  4. No, I want Palestine as one state.
  5. No that should not happen
  6. It always possible and yes that is the best
  7. I never wanted one
  8. I think it is possible if we really want it, but I think it is important to stop ignoring Gaza. And work out a way to connect it with a large land area. So that it can be two states but that they are connected. Otherwise there is danger of yet another occupation of either area.
  9. No I want something like UAE
  10. I accept any or, it probably is possible. We just need new leaders who are ready to be in the nation, and to work for peace. Not for war.
  11. Yes but it has to be new borders. And a big land piece given to Gaza, connecting it with the West Bank. Not just some road or land bridge, I have heard those suggestions. And I guarantee if that was done, Israel would control it and shut it off every now and then when they wanted to.
  12. Yes it is always possible, if the will is there. I don’t mind to have one. Even if I am more supporting a kind of UAE version.

Do you think the operation (i.e. October 7th attacks) was worth the price? What do you think the price will be?

1 Unqualified no

1 qualified no

1 qualified yes

1 unanswered

These two questions elicited a lot of comments.

  1. I not sure how much cost but it was good that it happened.
  2. I not know much what they say, but they were scared and I hear soldiers were taken.
  3. the cost to bring fear and say that this is enough? Yes, it is enough. We have been isolated and denied every sort of freedom, while our people are suffering so yes. It is worth it.
  4. So far it is worth it, I have seen nothing I have not seen before
  5. They used too much violence.
  6. They will probably go in here, and meet us face to face. I would say something had to be done, this couldn’t continue anymore. There had to be a change.
  7. No but it is like both sides have been waiting and waiting. Politicians I mean, not civilians
  8. Yes there had to be a change, otherwise back into the wheel of eternity of violence. Again. Many will die, many will lose families, but hopefully it also means political change and more freedom. Putting people in a cage just doesn’t work. It is like a volcano, sooner or later it does erupt. And things will never be the same again.
  9. Cost is of course war, and hopefully a change in politics and approach. Stop the occupation and control of whatever we do. Stop the collective punishments for something 1-2 or 3 people do. And especially if it was done in the West Bank and not here. Stop belittling us and make us all look like lesser humans, stop acting like our sufferings never have taken place. Stop putting your own people into false safety with walls and iron domes. Stop being so naive and think that you can control people by holding them hostage on a small land strip. And then be surprised when the bubble finally bursts. Something had to happen. Otherwise, we will never be free, and things would just continue.
  10. Lots of death, death of human lives, death of trust, but from it all will also rise some kind of mutual understanding and love. As we are all the children of Ibrahim, and Allah loves us all. We have to stop falling into the trap of revenge and damaging one another. I am afraid it will be hurtful, lots of blood, fear, tears and anger. But everything has an end. And we will both lose this war, if wars can ever have a winner.

Do you think civilians should be taken hostage, or just soldiers?

1 said no (meant that none be taken hostage)

5 said just soldiers.

  1. No. They took a doctor in east palestine (West Bank) and many (things?) they did that was not good. We should takes soldiers but all soldiers are above age 15 I think
  2. I do not believe in prisoner exchange, it is like making people be objects.
  3. As usual, a war. Lots of people dead. And they say it was self defense. And we say the same.
  4. there are few civilians in occupied areas, so it is better to take soldiers.
  5. I think what happened had to happen. It doesn’t matter really who was taken hostage.
  6. The problem is that the Jews have had a long history of just that, being hostages. For them it is a never ending trauma that seems to be coming back again and again. You can even find it in the Torah, about Jews being taken hostages. It is one of the dumbest ways to try to “get them”. There are so many other ways, even if the occupation has made it seem impossible for any other solutions. As Muslims we HAVE to try to always offer peace, before war. Even when the occupiers don’t listen, we shouldn’t just go ahead and fall into the trap of horrific revenge which severely hurts other human beings. So I don’t think anyone should be a hostage. But let’s say I was forced to give an answer, then I would say only soldiers.

If civilians – should children be taken hostage?

6 answered no (with no further comments).

  1. No one under age 11 should be taken.
  2. Just soldiers, those that are and have been. But everyone there will be a soldier eventually. It is all a definition.
  3. There have been children arrested and kidnapped for many years by Israel. Time to give them a taste of their own treatment. I guess they should be treated the same way as our people that are prisoners, and have been kidnapped, tortured by IL.
  4. None of it. People are not objects.
  5. No I don’t see why. Leave them.
  6. Absolutely not, anyone can read about this in Surah 4 (Chapter 4 in the Quran). It is forbidden.
About the Author
Steven Aiello is the Director of Debate for Peace (, and a board member of the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development NY. He has a BA in Economics, MA in Diplomacy and Conflict Studies, and MA in Islamic Studies. He teaches Model UN for schools throughout Israel. Among his other hats he serves as Regional Coordinator for Creating Friendships for Peace, and Dialogue Officer at Asfar. Steven has also served as Chief of the Middle East Desk Head for Wikistrat, interned for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the American Islamic Congress. His writing has been published in the NY Daily News, Jerusalem Post, Iran Human Rights Review; Berkley Center at Georgetown;, and the Center for Islamic Pluralism. He can be reached via email at
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