Gaza: Between the Fence & a Hard Place

Yesterday I was reading the forthcoming translation of Mahmoud Darwish‘s first — 1973 — collection of prose essays on Palestine. This is an extremely moving book, and I will come back to it when it is published in the late fall. In one of the pieces, called “Silence for the Sake of Gaza,” written nearly forty years ago, we read: “It would be unfair to turn Gaza into a legend because we will end up hating her when we discover that she is nothing more than a small, poor city that resists. And when we ask, ‘What has made her into a legend?’ we will have to break our mirrors and cry if we have any dignity, or curse her if we refused to rebel against ourselves.” It applies today still, but these last 10 years of harsh occupation have made the situation of the people and the land much worse. I am not sure Darwish could write the following sentence today, not sure if such “optimism” is still possible after the intervening 40 years of calamities, but maybe Darwish & the Palestinian people still would, still do: “The idea of the lost paradise is tempting to those who are not possessed by a pressing question, but inflicts upon the Palestinian condition an accumulation of tears and weakness in the blood. This is how my homeland surpasses Paradise: it is like Paradise, but it is also attainable.” (my italics)

The UN is hardly a radical organization. It is therefore worthwhile to read its take on what has happened to Gaza during the past 10 years of Israeli occupation. You can download a pdf. of its report “Between the Fence and a Hard Place — The Humanitarian Impact of Israeli-Imposed Restrictions on Access to land and Sea in the Gaza Strip”, here. The New York Times comments on it here, and starts its article as follows:

Report Criticizes Gaza Restrictions

By ETHAN BRONNER

BEIT HANOUN, Gaza — Kamal Sweleim’s family has owned a farm in this northern part of Gaza for six decades. For most of that time, it was a mix of citrus orchards and plump cows, and the family made a handsome living selling its products to Israel, Jordan and the West Bank.

But 10 years ago, when the second Palestinian uprising broke out, spreading violence in Israeli streets, Israeli tanks started repeatedly tearing through the family’s fields chasing militants. Last year, during the Israeli war in Gaza, the Sweleims were ordered to move out, and their trees and wells were bulldozed.

A once prosperous clan with good ties to Israel, they now rent a tiny house, living off cousins and international welfare.

“Don’t remind me of what we used to have,” Mr. Sweleim said as he stood near his desolate fields surrounded by destroyed houses. “My father would never believe where we have ended up.”

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