|Photo by Kelly VanPelt
January 26, 2010
"Neocolonialism is a new form of slavery", a Gazan citizen.
The walls of Gaza are the unofficial Gazette of the Strip. On them one
can follow what is going on. The walls are covered by scores of
posters, pictures of martyrs, murals, slogans, calls, giant portraits
of Yasser Arafat by the young artist Mohammad Ed-Derry, announcements…
At the end of the year the external wall of the Esh-Shifa hospital –
months ago refreshed with coats of paint color rusty – was covered with
more than twenty paintings depicting the Israeli war and the suffering
of the people.
In Mustafa Hafez St, a superb mosaic was composed on the wall of the
UNRWA HQ, near the main entrance. The mosaic is around 5 m. long and 4
m. large. It represents a group of Palestinians looking toward the sky.
At the bottom is written "Gaza Freedom March 31.12.2009". The master
piece is made of bits of stone irregularly cut. With the reflect of the
lights in the night, the mosaic become a firework and the small stones
shine like thousands of stars or thousands of diamonds.
In Tal El-Hawa, the most elegant district of Gaza City, the compound of
ministries, although heavily damages during the Israeli war last
winter, is still standing. For a period of time the employees worked in
the rubble in large beige tents crowned with small Palestinian flags.
Sometime, someone wrote on an external wall: Why??!!…" One year after
the Israeli offensive more graffiti have been added on a wall: "Gaza
Free, No one can do for me, Only I can change my life", "Sorry…
Gaza", "T’aime Palestine", "Coming free Gaza", "Gaza will not go down",
"27.12.2008", i.e. the day the "Cast Lead" operation started.
Despite the suffocating siege imposes on the Gaza Strip, the coming of
the New Year was celebrated as usual, but only in a few restaurants. On
an eatery’s window in Tal El-Hawa is written with cotton wool: "Happy
New Year 2010". Exactly one year ago the Gazans were under smart
On New Year’s Eve a group of 84 foreigners were taken to a cafeteria,
The Gallery, where they attended a concert of hip-hop and ‘oud. After
immense difficulties the activists were authorized to cross into Gaza,
out of a group of more 1.400 stuck in Cairo. They arrived in the Strip
late on Wednesday 30 December. Among them were four rabbis from Neturei
Karta International, many Jews as well as Palestinians living abroad.
The 24-hour visit permit given by the Egyptians was extended in order
to respect the Shabbat of the rabbis. However, the whole visit was
spoiled due to a very unusual tight security and a fire which broke out
on Shabbat day in the kitchen of the small and practically unknown
El-Jazeera cafeteria. For a while there was panic in the hotel. The
cafeteria is located on the seashore, just a few meters from the
Commodore Gaza Hotel where the internationals were hosted, but also
just a few steps from the firemen station. Nevertheless, the foreign
activists said new words should be coined because they were unable to
express their feelings for being in Gaza. The locals as well couldn’t
contain their emotions.
A young American lady from the Freedom March For Gaza had collected
around $19.000 in the USA, were telling us her mates. The money was
spent in Egypt to buy goods for the besieged Gazans. All the goods were
stored in a large hall in the Commodore Hotel and the hall was full.
Many packs were still closed. On a table, at the back, there were what
seemed to be medicines. Toward the end of the visit the last foreigners
still in Gaza finished to fill Egyptian schoolbags with all sorts of
stationery, toothbrushes, toothpaste, toys, etc. In addition, were
brought from Egypt an amount of orange soda and potato ships.
In the end, the situation turned nasty and the American girl lost her
temper because she couldn’t personally give the goods to the recipients
of her choice. But really there was no time left. The rabbis said they
would be ready to depart at 20:00 on Saturday. All the remaining
foreigners should leave by that time. The Government was under heavy
pressures from the Egyptian side. The Palestinian security tried all
the possible gentile ways to convince the foreigners to leave. It was
hard and we understood the desire of the foreigners to remain more in
Gaza and their frustrations.
Therefore, the departure of the third bus at around 20:15, on Saturday
2 January, turned into a drama. The departure of the second bus shortly
after 15:00 was already problematic: eleven foreigners were missing and
those present refused to board the bus. Furthermore, on the bus a
lovely Palestinian girl living in the States was weeping and repeating:
"This is my country!!".
When the US girl lost her temper in the Commodore hall, she shouted:
"No to Hamas!’, meaning she didn’t want the goods to be taken by the
Government; she also shouted to the stoic security men: "Your people is
dying from hunger!".
First of all, we presumed everything was done in good faith by the
visiting group. But I was astonished by two facts: why the $19.000 or
so were spent in Egypt? The cash money is necessary in Gaza, not in
Egypt, and the shopkeepers need to sell. On top of that, why to buy in
Egypt what is available in Gaza?
After a few days, on Wednesday 6 January, 482 internationals and 130
vehicles of humanitarian aid arrived from Egypt. The Viva Palestina
convoy led by the British MP George Galloway included also Jews and
Palestinians living abroad. The first British lady I met gave me the
answer to my questions: "In Great Britain, it is said the Gazans are
dying from starvation and almost eat rats. Thus you can understand why
the goods were brought in Egypt by the previous solidarity group."
Here, when such international rumors are repeated to the Gazans they
are hurt, but they also laugh. Ahed assures that he eats better than in
Great Britain… Sometimes, when we read articles and international
reports about the Strip we don’t recognize it. There are in fact two
different Gazas: one real on the ground and another one fabricated by
the enemy propaganda or by inaccurate international reports. In the
early 2000s, for instance. Christian Aid, a UK NGO, titled a report:
"Gaza like Zimbabwe". So far Gaza is not yet like Zimbabwe.
There was indeed a period of acute shortages in Gaza. It lasted for
several months and was the peak of the crisis. Were lacking cash money,
food, candles, small batteries, flour, cigarettes, paper for printing
and photocopying, glue, shoes, cardboard boxes, nylon bags and
everything one can imagine. But this period is over. It ended at the
beginning of 2008 when one night militants demolished the iron wall
left by the Israeli master at the border with Egypt, high 8 m. and long
several kms. All the population of the besieged Strip invaded
peacefully Egypt for around ten days – including newborns and elderly,
entrepreneurs and businessmen – and brought home everything they could
They are reports that are objective and depict accurately the real
situation on the ground, like those of the Gaza-based Palestinian
Center for Human Rights. Without exaggeration the situation is tragic
and is deteriorating day after day. Life is impossible. However, the
locals resist, are resilient and innovative, find new ways to remain
alive under this form of modern slavery. On the other hand,
international and local crocks are interested in making the situation
more black than it is for their own benefits and for getting more funds.
For sure they are plenty of poor, jobless, miserable, disabled people
and for sure not all of them receive sufficient aid. However, these
people keep their dignity and don’t approach the foreigners lying and
begging for help. Moreover, some local NGOs which are supposed to help
them are well known for sucking the blood of the Palestinian people
like vampires, in addition to other entities which are supposed to
rescue them. The locals are fed up with all these crocks.
In Gaza nowadays nobody is dying from hunger. Despite the international
embargo and the Israeli-imposed siege that has become routine now
everything is available: biscuits, chocolate, clothing, toys,
cigarettes, mobile phones, lab-tops, lingerie, cosmetics, perfumes,
motorcycles, generators, refrigerators, washing machines…
Furthermore, a good number of people eat red meat, chicken, turkey,
pigeon, fish. The youth say they are doing miracles. The old militants
say the Gazan people cannot be defeated. Paradoxically, absolutely
everything is lacking in Gaza.
When asked what they need, the Gazans will never tell you they need a
WFP bag of flour or USAID Refined Vegetable Oil Vitamin A Fortified.
The Gazans will tell you they are hungry indeed, very hungry, but
hungry for justice, democracy, freedom, independence. It’s all and it’s
– Flora Nicoletta is an independent French journalist who lives in
Gaza. She is currently working on her fourth book on the Palestinian