The Amazing Story of Gaza
1987 was the year of the first Intifada; it was also the year of my birth. I quickly became immune to things children should never be exposed to!!
A normal day for me could mean that Israeli soldiers might raid our home in the early morning. My mother was so afraid of what they may do that she would hide the kitchen knives fearing that the soldiers would slaughter us in our beds for no reason. The Israeli soldiers at that time practiced an extremely dirty way of killing children. The fear was exacerbated because the Zionist media was (and still is) so dominating that it would be a case of our word against theirs and their word would always win.
All around me were stories of death, of broken bones, of severed heads and amputated limbs. Right from the beginning, I and all the other children around me were unable to live a ‘normal’ life. The journey to my school or playground was always one filled with anxiety and dread. From my early years I developed psychological issues as a result of this constant stress and daily exposure to things no child should ever be exposed to.
As I grew, I started to pay attention to the world of technology. In 1995, my family bought their first computer. I immersed myself in this brave new world and it’s accompanying language, English. My knowledge of the English language blossomed from the ‘OK’, ‘Cancel,’ ‘Close’ and ‘Start’ keys. This knowledge gradually expanded to build the necessary skills and database of words until I came to understand and even speak the language well.
At school, everyday I eagerly waited for the English language period. When the teacher would ask me to read a paragraph out loud in class, I could hardly contain my excitement. I would imagine myself speaking in front of a large crowd and felt as though not just my throat and mouth were speaking, but my whole body, nerves and veins. It was a visceral experience. I loved to speak in the English language.
Throughout my preparatory and secondary education and at the time of the eruption of the second Intifada (September 2000), I became more aware of my surroundings in occupied Gaza. Every day of my life was about coming to terms with the reality of living with the occupation: the checkpoints, tank positions, ammunition, weapons, the destruction of homes, airstrikes, closure, restrictions, settlers and settlements, mindless killing and painful deaths and the ongoing legacy of grief.
This period saw also saw the effects of this highly unstable environment on my life. I began to experience nightmares and suffer from anxiety. The instability in Gaza was reflected in the instability in my head.
After the Israeli occupation forces withdrew from the Gaza Strip in September 2005, they claimed that the occupation of the territory was over and that they were no longer responsible for what happens inside the Strip. But in reality, all they did was to transform their occupation into a deadly and brutal siege of the people of Gaza from all sides - from the air and the three directions (east, north and the naval blockade from the west). In addition, the Egyptian regime led by former president Hosni Mubarak took the responsibility for the siege from the south by closing the Rafah Crossing and destroying the tunnels that were providing the people of Gaza with vital supplies of products that were blocked by the Israelis.
Hamas won the elections in 2006. Hamas in brief, is a party (as well as the other Palestinian parties) that is genuinely seeking the liberation of Palestine from the Israeli occupation, which was imposed by the British Mandate and with the false authorization of Arthur Belfour.
Hamas, despite being democratically elected by the people of Gaza in legitimate elections, were not accepted by the U.S. and the Israeli occupation. Conditions worsened under the siege. They tried to either bring Hamas to its knees or push the people of Gaza to reject them.
In 2007, the fighters of the military wing of Hamas clashed with the fighters of the rival party Fatah. Fatah backed the security arrangements controlled by the Israeli occupation and used them as a tool to crush Hamas. They provided intelligence information about the fighters of Hamas' military wing so that the Israelis could assassinate them later.
The clashes resulted in the end of Fatah's power in the Gaza Strip and they fled to the West Bank. This was used as an additional excuse for the Israeli occupation, the U.S. and their Arab allies, to tighten the siege on the Gaza Strip even further.
After Fatah left Gaza, daily life became completely paralyzed and the people had no choice but to concentrate on finding food and water, keeping a roof over their heads and simply surviving. This hidden goal of the siege, namely the crippling of Palestinian intellect and progression, has continued to affect me personally.
Not being able to practice the English language freely and travel (I have never left Gaza) creates huge stress and anxiety for me. I feel as though I am trapped, that I cannot realize my potential or develop any further. My oppressors control my life; my future is in their hands. This cruel truth leaves me crippled and frustrated.
I studied my bachelor degree at a local university in Gaza.
Unfortunately my studies were very dull due to a variety of factors. Namely, the lack of enthusiasm of lecturers, lack of native speakers and those three quarters of the four-year study were spent concentrating on ‘compulsory’ subjects that were not even related to the English language.
Learning any profession is a waste of time without finding a way to practice. With no native speakers to learn from, no ability to travel, I felt as though I was a piece of food, preserved indefinitely inside the freezer. The English language in besieged Gaza is not so useful.
Because we have been forced to focus on the very basic things most people worldwide take for granted such as electricity, water, food and safety, people have forgot about advancing themselves. The siege largely put a stop to people making progress in their lives. I constantly wonder where and whom I might be if my universal human rights weren’t flouted on a daily basis.
Being complimented for my good English over conversations had on Facebook or Skype is no compensation for the pain in the knowledge that I am daily deprived from utilizing my intellectual potential. I am unable to improve my life and more importantly the lives of people in my country.
A significant turning point in my life came during the Israeli war against Gaza in 2009. At the time the war began, I was on my way to attend a lecture at my university. I was standing at a taxi stop and suddenly a very powerful airstrike hit directly opposite and very close to me. I was shocked to the core, my face turned burned, my mind and body trembled. I hurried immediately back home where I remained for 23 days. This war was to be incredibly deadly with the Israeli forces using world-banned weapons including cluster and white phosphorus bombs.
The stress that the 2009 war ignited in me with the impact of that bomb was far reaching. My mental health deteriorated and I was plagued by insomnia, experienced many different manifestations of anxiety and generally could not shake the feeling that perhaps it was impossible to achieve anything in this life but to wait to be killed by the terrorist Israelis.
I just couldn’t understand how the world could be so blind to our plight. It didn’t seem to matter how many Palestinians were killed, how much land was seized illegally, how many people were arrested, killed, made to suffer or made homeless. The reality was that NO ONE DOES ANYTHING. The feeling of desolation and desperation from this feeling of abandonment haunts me still. It is a feeling of suffocation, of gasping for air.
Israeli Occupation is just ugly, dirty and brutal. It hasn’t just robbed us of our land, but our lives, our happiness, our freedom. Freedom in every sense of the word – freedom of movement, of education, of the ability to create our own future. Everything the Israelis do is designed to make us flee our land, leave our home and abandon what is rightfully ours.
This year, the Israeli terrorist forces resorted to imposing the conditions of a massive concentration camp on the residents of the Gaza Strip. The destruction and killing in this war toppled the figures recorded in the last two wars in 2009 and 2012 with 2146 martyrs, 10,000+ injured along with a huge number of destroyed homes, schools, hospitals and mosques. The massive economic losses have set us back maybe 20 years. The Israelis want us to yield and comply. They expect us to live like animals - not asking for anything but food and water. To the extent that this current siege is known as the “Calories Siege” meaning that our oppressors have counted the amount of calories required to keep us alive and only allow this amount of food in. Their game is to wait until we are very close to dying of hunger and drought, then they allow very limited amounts of food and water in so that we are brought back into life until we run out of them again.
I am a young man who has lived through three wars, whose nerves are shattered and hopes of a future speaking the language I have fought to learn, are distant. Can anyone tell me that things are really going to change in my lifetime? Can anyone hear my voice?
My only hope is that with the advent of social media and alternative press agencies, the Zionist propaganda media machine will not always win. Their lies will not always be believed and people may start to hear the truth about what is happening in Gaza. The truth about a suffocating peoples — people hungry for the world, hungry for their future, hungry for their voices and most importantly for the truth to be heard and to be believed.