Can you imagine living in New Jersey and having the federal government tell you that you couldn’t go to New York City for a lifesaving medical procedure?
Welcome to Gaza.
Welcome to siege. Welcome to the crux of it….the lack of freedom….of movement….of all of the things that we as Americans take deeply for granted. The siege isn’t just about the humanitarian crisis unfolding, with 80% of the population living on less than 2 USD per day and 45% unemployed, or the desperately needed medical supplies not being allowed in. It is about the basic human rights and freedoms that Israel and Egypt, in a sense as well, are denying Gazans. They can’t get in, they can’t get out. Mail can’t get in or out. A tunnel economy has unfolded as the only means of real survival, thus destroying Gaza’s actual economy. This. This is siege. It is the slow, methodical closing off of an entire population from the world….a slow choking of the life out of the 1.7 million people living here.
Last night, we experienced a complete and utter siege as our last whisper to the world was cut…we lost internet, mobile phones, and international land lines. The cause is still unknown, as the Israelis have continued to deny, but it is being speculated that an Israeli bulldozer digging on the border hit a communications line, severing Gaza’s ties to the world for over 15 hours. At first we thought nothing of it. Must have been some sort of small glitch and it would be back on soon. But hours later, when I finally went to bed last night, windows cracked in case of bombing, and a flashlight next to the bed since we’d been running on a generator with no electricity for almost 24 hours, I was nervous. I live alone and could no longer reach anyone…even inside Gaza. I truly and deeply felt like a prisoner.
Worst case scenarios have now been the topic of discussion on Twitter all day as we all try to figure out what happened. Israel wanted a media blackout during the last war so that the world wouldn’t know what they were doing…much like Syria right now….but people were still able to get word out with communications open. Was this a test run to finally shut us up? Close us off completely? Not even a whimper of despair could be heard now. If they struck, it could be a massacre, and the world wouldn’t know until it was too late. The internet and mobile phones are our lifeline. The only way the world knows Gaza is still alive. The only way we can still shout that the world must pay attention. If that is cut for any length of time, there is no telling what could happen. That was the fear gripping Gaza as we went to sleep last night.
In an email home this morning, I compared the relationship between Israel and Gaza to a case of domestic violence. That may seem like an extreme, but I don’t know how else to explain this to the outside world. Gaza is the battered wife and Israel, the abusive husband. You go to sleep every single night wondering when they will strike again and how hard. Wondering if you will wake up alive the next day. Wondering if something is going to piss Israel off enough to wake you up from your slumber and drunkenly beat you down with all their might. We just sit here and take it, and take it, and take it, and every now and then, someone musters a bit of strength and fires a rocket** back trying to say “enough!” Then we’re beaten down even harder. There is no winning here. I wonder sometimes if this truly is going to end like many instances of domestic violence when the husband will finally go over the edge and kill his wife. Will Israel finally lose its cool enough to choke the last breath out of Gaza? Was last night the test run? It seems like just a matter of time….
**Please note that I do not support violence in any form. I understand why the rockets are being fired, but do not condone them nor do I feel they are a useful form of resistance, particularly due to the fact that they are completely unguided and do not usually hit military targets.