I was able to enter Gaza, and was there for nearly three glorious days before Hamas forced me to leave again. My time there was truly better than I could have hoped for. During my few days there, I rented a rented a great flat (for the month) on the beautiful Mediterranean, saw dear old friends who’ve been locked in the prison that has become Gaza and not allowed to leave, met some amazing activists, went to an art and cultural center, where we told stories, drank tea and I was serenaded Fairouz. I also spent time in the too cool and delicious Mezage cafe. I also went to a restaurant opening named in honor of, and dedicated to the late, great, Italian activist Vittorio Arrogoni (who was as a matter of fact/coincidence, killed by Hamas affiliates last year):!
Then on the morning of the third day I got a troubled call from my “coordinator”, telling me there was “a problem”; to pack my bags and that I must leave immediately.
The reason for my forced departure, given by the officials who were apologetic and assured me it was nothing personal was, ‘for my safety’- and they blamed it on the Egyptian gov’t. Still it doesn’t fully make sense, and the real reason for Hamas returning me is confusing and complicated. To be honest, I’m not sure I understand what’s really going on..or why I was able to get in with their permission for 3 days, before they made me leave.
In fact, the completely arbitrary and confusing process reminded me so much of what it is like to attempt to enter Israel, which you must do if you want to travel to get to Palestinian territories. However, what has become clear, which wasn’t before – is that the Hamas officials, are working the in the exact same way as all the others who are responsible for creating and upholding the siege. Having taken its cues from ISRAEL, EGYPT, AND THE U.S.–NOW HAMAS seems perfectly happy to have cemented the siege – from all sides, and are profiting greatly from the tunnels arrangement, as a way to retain power and control the strip. Of course, all the while both their (Hamas in Gaza, and the PA in the West Bank) term’s have expired. They are both locked into this status quo – while carrying on about the need for a “unity” gov’t, which they are responsible for not resolving, while meanwhile using as justification not to allow for elections.
What also hit me like a slap in the face was the extent to which we have neglected to heed the call from activists in Gaza who have been speaking out against this corruption and rotten system. Those who dare open their mouths are left to be shot in the legs and imprisoned, where my journalist friend told me many have actually lost their minds due to physical and psychological torture Hamas imposed on them! Of course I completely support the campaign, and issues raised by the #PalHunger strikers. I also feel it is critical raise the issue of Palestinians imprisoned in Hamas jails. Incidentally, their is no way to know the true number that are rotting away, in Hamas dungeons–as I heard many of the families of these prisoners do not even know where their loved ones are!
And, tragically, this today is what has become of our beloved Gaza/Palestine..
So now, I am making the best of it and staying in the beautiful Sinai, in a small city called AlArish about 30 mins from the Rafah border – where I have been for the past month (sans 3 days) enjoying the fresh air of the Med, meeting many great people and learning a lot about Bedouin culture, which has been really amazing.
AND, thankfully, the day after I returned to Arish, this really STRONG and amazing protest took place! Of course, the Egyptian army wouldn’t let us get within 20 miles of it, but it made me feel much better…:D
“A radical Egyptian group on Wednesday plans to deface an IDF memorial in Sinai, painting it the colors of the Egyptian flag.A radical Egyptian group on Wednesday plans to deface an IDF memorial in Sinai, painting it the colors of the Egyptian flag. The memorial was set up about 40 years ago in memory of ten IDF soldiers killed in a helicopter crash, and according to the Camp David Accords, Egypt is committed to preserving and protecting the memorial – which they have done until now.
But given the recent tension in Sinai, including the numerous terrorist attacks and Grad rocket fire on Eilat emanating from the region, as well as the rise of the new radical Islamic government in Egypt, Israeli officials are very concerned that Egypt will allow the group to carry out its plan.”
Clearly, no need to worry Israel (for now!). Unfortunately, your precious rock is still now, as safe as ever due to your guardians-the Egyptian gov’t, who have shown that they are far more interested in upholding YOUR interests, rather than their own people’s.