The Real Violence of the Occupation
The other day, I called a former colleague of mine from Gaza. She and I used to work together many moons ago and established a friendship over the phone. Due to the closure that Israel has imposed time and again, it prevented our friendship into developing beyond the few conversations over the phone that we make each year.
It greatly bothers me that I am unable to be a good friend to her; I could not offer my condolences to her in person when her brother died suddenly from a heart attack last summer or the fact that when her husband was ill, I was not able to stand by her side.
Thank God for modern communication; although in this sweltering “Summer Rain” operation, it took about two weeks to get through to her to find out about her well being and that of her family. When I called she was sitting in her office, with no electricity because the owner of their office building decided not to turn on the generator that day in order to curb the costs of rising fuel.
How were they conducting business, I asked, to which she replied that they had to revert to primitive means of communication and were having to do everything over the phone, since they could not reply to emails or receive faxes. It is ironic that this could happen in the day and age of globalization and mass communication, which proves that what we take for granted is ever so fragile.
I asked my friend about the family and how they were holding up given the current situation in Gaza. She said that the family of nine that had been killed a few nights earlier was very close to where they lived. In the densely populated Gaza, there is nowhere to hide and take refuge when an air strike occurs. Those who claim that Palestinian armed groups use innocent civilians as human shields are gravely mistaken; they cannot escape into the wilderness and hide in caves away from population centers, simply because such is the stronghold Israel has on movement and space that these men live and almost certainly die among the innocent.
My friend’s kids were really excited about watching the final World Cup games, but the Israelis scrambled satellite signals and they were unable to enjoy the game. She told me how they were constantly fighting with one another over who uses the internet within the limited time slot that their electricity generator allows. The radio has become a major source of entertainment after the Internet and TV were scrapped; but, when the batteries ran out they could not be replaced – no batteries were to be found in Gaza. What are children and teenagers to do under such circumstance but drive their mother mad, who stands by heartbroken at their stolen childhood?
Grandparents are important in all children’s lives, they connect our parents’ past to our present, and the fact that my friend cannot take her children to visit her parents is saddening. To visit her parents, my friend used to take the beach route mostly as an alternative since the main roads were closed off by Israel. This route, however, has become one of the most dangerous and most avoided during the past month or so. Palestinians scarcely use this route anymore because anyone who uses it takes the risk of being shelled from the sea, like Huda’s family, who were killed enjoying a family outing on a hot summer day over a month ago. Who would have thought that the perils of the sea could reach out and snatch you from what turned out to be the false safety of the shore?
Now, as the front in the north has opened with Israel, i.e. Lebanon, the issue of Gaza and the Palestinians has all but dropped from the radar. Yet there are countless families in Gaza, who still endure siege and its ramifications; bombardment and the chronic state of trauma and anxiety that result from it. The violence of the occupation is not just the gruesomeness of the killing and the blood images that flash repeatedly across TV screens; the violence of the occupation has a more sinister effect on the lives of people who have to go through constant attack with no means of escape to a safer haven and indeed absolutely no glimmer of hope for improvement in their situation or it ever shaping into something that remotely resembles a normal, peaceful and secure existence. Those images can never be quantified, for the real wounds are deeply carved rivers of unquenchable anguish in the heart of every Palestinian.