By Rick Sterling, MtDPJC Board Member and Chair International Affairs Committee
First published, August 14, 2014, in http://dissidentvoice.org/2014/08/if-the-east-bay-was-gaza-how-would-you-feel/
The Palestinian enclave known as Gaza is approximately 25 miles long by 5 miles wide. It is about the same area as the East Bay from Oakland in the north to Fremont in the south. To the west is open water; to the east are the hills (heavily-reinforced razor wire fence for Gaza).
What would life be like if the East Bay of San Francisco was Gaza?
Imagine that is where you were born, where you will spend all your years, where you will die. Your world will be confined to that narrow strip, a lifetime sentence in an open air prison.
* Your family and ancestors lived for many centuries in villages beyond Gaza. In 1948 they were forced to flee their community and find temporary refuge in Gaza. They expected to return to their village. But a week became a month then years and now decades. You cannot even visit your family’s home or village let alone move back there. (Fact: about 80% of Gaza’s nearly 2 million population are refugees or children of refugees. They were driven out of areas now known as Sderot, Ashkelon, etc)
* There are only two entry/exit points for people and two more for goods and supplies in the entire Gaza Strip. But it does not matter because you cannot go out through any of them anyway. Nor can you depart by sea. There are patrolling Israeli Navy warships to capture or kill you if you try.
* You have relatives just 35 miles away in Bethlehem but you have never seen them, they cannot visit you and you cannot visit them. Israel keeps Palestinian Gaza completely separated and detached from the Palestinian West Bank in violation of international agreements including the Oslo Accords.
* If you are desperately sick and need special medical treatment it will be very difficult to get permission to go to hospital in Tel Aviv or Cairo. If you are lucky enough to get that rare permission, you will be pressured to become a collaborator. Most people just die.
* If you are an outstanding student and receive scholarship to study abroad, all your hard work and study may not help because your exit will likely be denied.
* If you are a fisherman, you will be restricted to fishing within three miles of shore. You are not allowed to go into into deeper waters where bigger and more fish are. Israeli Navy gunboats patrol the waters and shoot and kill fishermen who try to go beyond the illegal but enforced restriction.
* If you want to ship goods or work as a dockworker loading and unloading ships, you cannot. Israel does not allow ships to depart or arrive. In 2010, in international waters, Israel killed nine civilians who were trying to bring aid to Gaza.
* If you want to grow fruit and vegetables on land within Gaza but near the border, you will risk being shot, shelled or kidnapped by Israeli soldiers. Israel enforces a “buffer zone” on the Palestinian side of the enclosure around Gaza.
* If you are a Gazan farmer who can successfully produce strawberries and flowers you could earn a good living exporting these to Europe. Unfortunately Israel frequently blocks the export of crops and products from Gaza. More likely your flowers will wilt and die.
* Gaza has no air force or navy or anti-aircraft missiles. On the other side, Israel has the most sophisticated weapons, much of it supplied by United States. Israel drops bombs and targeted missiles at will – killing hundreds then thousands. Israel uses banned weapons such as White Phosphorous and Flechette bombs on civilian homes, UN shelters, hospitals and ambulances.
* You will probably have repeated cases of diarrhea, disease and illness from drinking contaminated water. That is because 90% of the water is unfit for consumption and Israel keeps bombing the power plants necessary for pumping and filtering water.
* You will have a huge problem finding work. The unemployment rate is now at 41%. You will be dependent on international handouts. Israel controls the amount of food permitted to enter Gaza so there is continual shortage leading to nutritional deprivation, stunted growth and anemia.
* You are subject to attacks and massacres every few years. Over three weeks in winter 2008-9 Israel killed over 1440 people, mostly civilians. In 2012 hundreds more were killed. In the last month Israel has killed almost 2,000 Palestinian (80% civilians) while THREE Israeli civilians have been killed.
* Some Gazans protest the prison like conditions by launching mostly home-made projectiles. These unguided “rockets” fired into Israel are largely ineffective and more like fireworks with small explosive. Nearly EVERY DAY of the past month, Israel killed more Palestinian civilians than ALL the Israelis killed by ALL the “rockets’ from Gaza in the past TEN YEARS.
Why are Palestinians designated as “terrorists” when Israel is doing the vast majority of killing?
Is this fair or just? How would YOU feel if the East Bay was Gaza?
Rick Sterling / email@example.com