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).
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.