Tuesday, January 23, 2007

More on Gaza

I'm back in Dheisheh camp after a few more full days with Mona in Gaza. Erez Crossing was, of course, more of the same on the way out. Nightmarish gates and unintelligble directions through a speaker. I left in record time, just over an hour. On the way out you have to navigate the turnstiles, pass your belongings through the x-ray inspection (I had to send mine through four times), go through some frightening human x-ray machine with your hands up and legs spread. Then when someone finally appeared after an hour of getting orders on where to go and what to do through a speaker, the soldier opened and examined everything in my luggage. Another good experience with Israeli "security."

It was an overwhelming four days. Mona was hoping to travel to the UK to speak at a conference so we hurried to get everything done by Saturday when the Rafah Crossing was scheduled to open (predictably, the border didn't open and she had to delay her flight).

Destroyed Home in Beit Hanoun

Beit Hanoun town center

I haven't spent much time in Gaza so it's usually difficult for me to tell the new rubble from the old after so many years of military bombardment. But the scale of destruction was noticeable even to me.

I saw two of the bridges that were bombed by the Israeli military in June and still haven't been reconstructed (with so few trucks able to enter Gaza and the devastated economy, rebuilding is very slow). We drove by endless rows of inhabited houses that have holes from artillery shelling and large tracts of land without even a small bush or patch of grass because they have been newly bulldozed.

But more important than the images of physical destruction, are the effects this violence has had on the people. But my white, middle class upbringing in the US and my short visit there carrying an American passport leaves me unable to even imagine life in Gaza.

The poverty level in Gaza is 80-85%. We have created this. The US/EU/Israeli sanctions against the Palestinian Authority have meant little to no money for government employees. The Israeli attacks with weapons made in the US and paid for by our $3 billion aid package to Israel have left many families with no home, no farm, or no breadwinner. And the border closures have forced the farmers that still have their orchards, greenhouses, or crops to let their produce rot in Gaza because they can't export them in time. It's frightening how fast the economy has plummetted from an already low place.

How can anyone be surprised by the internal violence after we have stood by for decades watching Israel attack and isolate Gaza? It's easy to look in now and say the people should unite, that more violence is the last thing needed. But the whole situaion is so hopeless and they cannot reach those who are responsible to hold them accountable. There's no leaving Gaza and no explaining the truth on CNN, so people have to place the blame on those they can reach, rival political factions in Gaza.

1 comment:

Judy Myers said...

Hi Josie, We're thinking of you everyday! It's great to read your posts. Keep them coming (when you can find the time). I feel as though I can get a small sense of what life is like for Mona and the kids in Gaza from your writing and I can't wait to see some of the digital stories from Dheisheh. Take care, Judy