Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Letter from Gaza

My friend Yasmine wrote me this letter from Gaza.
It speaks for itself of a reality we can only imagine from such a distance.

Dear all,

I'm sorry for not being in touch and for not writing sooner, but words are failing me, and I cannot articulate what Gaza feels like right now. A hopeless prison with a dark gloomy cloud over it. It's been raining for three days now and its starting to get cold. Unfortunately with rainstorms, come power outages, so that means there is no water or electric heaters. Gas heaters are not operatable either because of the high gas price, that's when gas is even available. But also because most people are saving their gas for cooking food, rather than using it for heaters, especially with a possible invasion coming in two weeks and the possible cut off of gas. I feel for people without access to heat. I also feel for people like my aunt whose house was demolished and is living in a half built house with no windows that UNRWA stopped building because they ran out of cement and other building materials. It's the beginning of the winter. It's only going to get colder.

I also can't help but think of Gaza's sick and dying….in their frailty, lying there helpless…wishing…hoping…praying that by God's mercy they would be allowed a permit to leave Gaza, or by some sort of miracle someone will save them. But most are denied access..…and most die a slow agonizing death, and only then are their bodies free.

And the world reads about it, but its just another story, another one of Gaza's tragedies. But I wish the world would realize how real this is and how real these sick people are. Some of these sick patients are my uncle who has heart disease, or my little cousin with a tumor, and now unfortunately my aunt's husband who one day was walking, and the next day woke up crippled from a brain tumor. And when you see people you care about so sick and unable to leave Gaza, you first get angry for having such shitty luck, and for the injustice of the world….the type of anger that turns into fury and consumes you, until it becomes exhausting. You then resign yourself to the reality of Gaza's fate…which finally sinks in. But with that reality comes hopelessness and the crippling feeling of helplessness. And so my uncle, my cousin and my aunt's husband lie in a hospital, waiting for their permits, and none of us can do a thing other than pray or chase around people who may know someone who knows someone who can help us with a permit. But we know full well how real death is, and that most just die while waiting. And then a human rights organization issues a statement, yet again, another Palestinian dies because they were denied access to medical care. And their only crime was being born Palestinian in Gaza and falling ill. Nowhere else will you see this but in Gaza. And no place else will the world remain silent at the obscenity of Israel's inhumane acts, except in Gaza.

It's hard to not feel like we're in a large concentration camp as I see Gaza's empty streets, and the hopeless feeling in the air…and just the gloominess that has covered Gaza. I think most people feel abandoned as we are literally locked up in this small, concentrated space and we don't know what the world plans for us, or what to expect next. It's hard to imagine what being in Gaza does to someone's will until you've come here. You no longer feel alive, in fact, you're not living; you're just killing time until some sort of change happens. Sadly, Gaza has become desensitized to the rest of the world, as it feels like the international community has turned a blind eye to the reality that is Gaza, and as long as Israel is allowing some food in and hasn't completely cut off electricity or gas..and as long as we are kept alive, no one will ask about us.

But just because we are breathing, that doesn't mean we're alive.



Anonymous said...

So what's the plan?

If, in theory, the border between Gaza and Egypt were to be open, and Gaza were given an airport and seaport, how would things be better? When the average woman marries at age 19 or so and has 6 or 7 kids and no college education--how will you ever have anything but crushing poverty? With a population that triples every 20 years, how will you ever not feel trapped in a too-small space? Most people don't receive medical treatment in other countries, and most nations don't feed more than 90% of their populace with international aid. How will those in Gaza change their situation so they will have jobs and hospitals? Realistically, you can't support a constantly-growing population of 1.4 million on subsistance farming. How will you get more advanced jobs into the area, and how many people will be qualified for them? I'm honestly curious. Right now I can't imagine Gaza ever being anything but a lot of poor people in a small space, even with open borders.

Anonymous said...

With all the sympathy to Gaza's sick and innocent, I really cannot follow the twisted logic here. The 'permits' mentioned in this letter are permits to allow crossing into ISRAEL, and receive treatment in ISRAEL (on the Israeli’s tax payers expense, of course). And why, exactly, should Israel grant this?

Israel no longer controls all of Gaza's borders, nor maintains direct responsibility for the people in Gaza, not since the withdrawal anyway. The border with Egypt is controlled by Egypt with no Israeli presence. What prevents Egypt from allowing these people to get treatment in Egypt or travel elsewhere? Yet I hear only of Israel's 'inhumane acts' and nothing of Egypt’s wrong doing.

The truth is Egypt is not concerned with the welfare of sick people in Gaza, nor is anyone else interested in financing the treatment of these poor, sick people. Permits, which allow them to receive treatment in Israel, are their only hope, and permits are scarce.

As long as Israel/Palestinians are at war with one another, Gaza not under direct Israeli occupation, and Gaza has at least one border not controlled by Israel, Israel has the right to close its borders with Gaza as it sees fit.

northshorewoman said...

Where is the respect for the humanity of the people of Gaza in these earlier comments? Sadly, it seems that in the eyes of those who judge and condemn, only some lives count. This failure to humanize the people of Gaza lies behind why the world allows --indeed abets -- such a dire situation continuing to worsen in Gaza.

I am deeply saddened by the hopelessness and abandonment that Yasmine sees and feels. I hope that government policies and leaders would stop playing their dumb (and death causing ) political games and real change could be effected. I too am wondering what it takes for this to happen. The world went out in millions to protest the invasion of Iraq, and yet? It seems the cabal in world power do what they wish no matter what.

What can we do? I feel helpless to help. I go out on the street and say No to War, No to Occupation; I speak out in my community; I write letters to the editor and to my prime minister and Member of Parliament (I live in Canada), who usually just sent form letters back.

I deeply wish for justice for Palestinians. I am saddened by the heartlessness and meanness of the previous posts. Why can't we care for each other rather than blame, accuse, and abandon?

Anonymous said...

How is it heartless and mean to ask how Gaza is going to survive? I really don't understand you. You write letters to "end the occupation"? Wow, you're such a good person, you really respect everyone's humanity. Do you have any plan as to how to prevent mass starvation and flight from Gaza once border crossing are open, or does your respect for humanity not extend to the most basic ability to plan ahead? I would like to hear that someone has a plan that goes beyond the immediate, something that would prevent Gaza from being wiped out by starvation or disease. I guess that makes me a big old meanie. A real supporter would never be so crass as to ask about the future.

To anyone intelligent out there--my question still stands.
-first anonymous

northshorewoman said...

perhaps one area that we could begin thinking about in terms of the "future" poverty of Palestinians in Gaza is the right to return and reparations. Perhaps returning to them the property, homes, gardens, fields, villages, towns, cities, and land that they were expelled from is the first step to alleviating poverty. Many of the Palestinians who live in Gaza now (700,000 plus their descendants) rushed there because of the horrors of Deir Yassin and other slaughters. These temporary Gazan refugees/residents are waiting to return to their homes. I'm sure if the Palestinians of Gaza have survived the barbaric Israeli occupation and world indifference for so many years, they are very capable to feeding themselves and prospering -- once their lands and livelihoods are returned.

Anonymous said...

That is not going to happen. Anyone with a minimal grasp of reality can tell you that is not going to happen. I can say "oh, maybe everyone in Gaza will get one billion dollars, maybe they'll discover a sea of oil under rafiah," blah blah blah--Gaza needs a realistic plan, something that can be implemented without any miracles.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Canada;
I admire some people's keen sense of justice, on another's expense of course.

Two wrongs don't make a right, and Israel will not and should not commit suicide in order to achieve what you see as justice.

The wrongs caused to the Palestinian refugees are a fact. The share of blame held by Arab governments for keeping the Palestinian refugees as miserable as possible in order to facilitate their political games is also a fact.

The Palestinian refugees talk about Jaffa and Haifa - dreaming of a Palestine that simply does not exist anymore.
Compensation for lost land and property - yes (to be balanced against the Jewish lost property in Arab countries).
Economic aid - yes (they already receive about 2Bn$ yearly).

But No. The Palestinians (with the mental aid of such as yourself) want all it all - all or nothing – and therefore it is nothing, and will, apparently, continue to be nothing.

Sara said...

to the author of this blog: may i re-post this letter on my own blog?

northshorewoman said...

To my Israeli friends,

We all have things to learn from each other, and to teach each other. No "side" or nation or person owns the 'truth'; however, having said that, it is very important in all of our deliberations to look at the issue of justice. It is also very very important to keep dialogue open and not slam doors with our words, not close our eyes or hearts to other peoples' ways of being and thinking. A question I often ask myself: is my language making a space for others to enter? or am I silencing others? shutting them out?

Multiculturalism, an experiment which Canada has been undergoing for many decades is a wonderful exercise in living amongst difference, in speaking across differences. Canada's multiculturalism is, of course, flawed, as flawed as the people who attempt to make it work. SOme Canadians deride new immigrants (especially those who have brown skin or the Islamic faith) and tell them publicly to "do it the Canadian way or go home". Of course, by this they mean the white, middle-class, Christian way.

They forget that their families came as colonizers to Canada and displaced the First Nations peoples.

Israeli policy and law, sadly, is against multiculturalism. In 2005 a university course on multiculturalism was proposed, instead, your Ministry of Education cancelled it. Israel is an exclusive nation, not an inclusive one. That is in your laws. Your closing of doors is codified.

Like Israel, Canada is a nation built by colonizers, and like Israel's suppression of the rights of Palestinians, Canada, too, continues to discriminate against the people it subjected to its rule (First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples). We have 75- 100 land claims still in court, many of them decades old. The Canadian government is slow to redress the wrongs it did and continues to do to the First Nations peoples.

Is the answer then not to address these wrongs? Many Canadians and the Canadian government wish that the First nations peoples would just give up these land claims. Many white Canadians (of all immigrant background, and including some brown Canadians too who have not informed themselves) think the "the natives" (as they call them) have everything given to them and enough is enough.

Meanwhile, First Nations health indicators, poverty, suicide levels, etc. are all atrocious and worsening as the land claims, self-determination and true justice remain illusive, cloaked in the legal language of Canadian equality and multiculturalism.

Is repatriation, returning of lands, and financial restitution feasible? Yes. Is it a difficult process? Yes. Will there be some obstinate people on both sides who say no to everything? Yes. Will those who have benefited from the stolen lands feel the most effect and pain? Yes. Will those who have colonized have to recognize that they collectively as a nation they are colonizers and that they have been on the upperhand side of an unequal power relation? Yes.

Canada's flawed system of multiculturalism and its surely sorely small beginnings of attempting to redress wrongs against its Indigenous inhabitants has some things that other nations, other peoples can learn from. From what we did wrong and continue to do wrong, too. THe FIrst Nations in Canada can fill you in on that, on our failings. Our government and our image in the world as peacemakers etc show only Canada the good.

So, to my Israeli friends: it is our responsibility as privileged members of our nations to inform ourselves of the perspectives of the people we have displaced and colonized. It is our responsibility as citizens who enjoy more rights than others to really listen to those with less rights.

Perhaps your government and the Israeli people can learn from multiculturalism, its successes AND ITS FAILURES and then perhaps teach us Canadians how we can do it better.

Becka said...

To anonymous number one:

I actually respect your question. Palestine is not the only place in the world where poverty and desperation grip the community. I think it needs to be said though that the Palestinian economy was growing and developing until the Oslo agreements and the second intifada.

Since then the Palestinian economy has been set back over twenty years.

Many promises have been made by the international community, the United States in particular, for an increase in Gazan exports.

Palestinians have the will and desire to practice economic liberal policies but we are not allowing them to enforce them. Therefore, we need to upon up freedom movement in the West Bank and in Gaza.

Also, while Palestinians are given aid. Israel keeps the aid from the PA. They also keep taxes from imports that are supposed to go to the PA. (They have no legal justification to do this). If the PA had access to the money, they could actually build their own infrastructure.

Also, if instead of giving aid in bulk if countries gave microfinance loans to individuals then again Palestinians can build their own economy.

In order for this to happen though, the walls and barriers need to start coming down...and that is where the problem is. I know the walls are not coming down anytime soon, so the next best option is to rely ways to allow goods to freely flow in and out of the borders.

These are just my ideas though...I'm not very good with economics though...

Israeli said...


1) Colonizers are those who come to a place in order to take resources on behalf of a country located elsewhere. So, for example, Americans were colonizers back when they still served Britain, but were not colonizers after gaining independence. Israelis were never colonizers, as they did not settle the land on behalf of Europe or Arab countries, but rather in order to escape Europe and Arab countries.

2) You refer only to Arab property expropriated by Jews. What about the many Jewish communities destroyed by Arabs in 1948? Do we Israelis get compensation for Mei Shiloach (now Silwan), Jewish houses in Hebron, or the former kibbutzim in Gaza?

3) You ignore the huge increases in the Arab population. Even if an Arab family were to be compensated for a piece of property that their grandparents once owned in Haifa (for example), that compensation money is only going to go so far when split between six times as many people as the property originally supported.

In general, you don't support your theory that compensation will somehow make things better. Where on this planet do you see a birthrate and levels of education like those in Gaza that hasn't led to poverty? Within Israel, the hareidim also marry young, have about 7 kids per family, and often lack a post-high school secular education. And guess what? Most of them are poor! It's simply not a system that works. I'm not against big fmailies, but they require planning, such as education that can provide a means of support. Gaza needs a plan to promote and provide that kind of education.

saint roque said...

I quote from "Anonymous" above:

"When the average woman marries at age 19 or so and has 6 or 7 kids and no college education--how will you ever have anything but crushing poverty? With a population that triples every 20 years, how will you ever not feel trapped in a too-small space? Most people don't receive medical treatment in other countries, and most nations don't feed more than 90% of their populace with international aid. How will those in Gaza change their situation so they will have jobs and hospitals? Realistically, you can't support a constantly-growing population of 1.4 million on subsistance farming. How will you get more advanced jobs into the area, and how many people will be qualified for them? I'm honestly curious. Right now I can't imagine Gaza ever being anything but a lot of poor people in a small space, even with open borders."

You are in condradiction with yourself by asking how someone who marries at 19 and has 6 or 7 children and what good it is to support on a humanitarian level the people in Gaza. If you specifically help the poor, by opening up hospitals (everyone needs hospitals, not just the poor), you also need to open up schools, give people there a chance to study. Of course right now few are qualified to maintain and run a hospital. Part of international aid needs to go toward funding these people's lives abroad as they study, and get ready for going back to Gaza to help. Plus, even if Gaza remains poor forever, that's one thing, most countries are poor... but that doesn't mean letting Israel do what they were forced to suffer in the past, that is, forcing people to live in a concentration camp. The aid is available, the money is there, but Israel is blocking everything. Good example to look at is the Erez dam, and the paralized recontruction due to some arbitrary decision made by Israel.

I think you are right in asking how over a million people can lived, trapped in such a small place, and growing in population. It's possible, but it all depends on how and when Palestine will gain not only independence, but autonomy.