Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Gaza Crossing

Alice in Erez


"There is a problem, the driver explains to me in broken English. They won't let you through. On the other side of Erez where the gatekeepers sit in their park-rangers' office with the neon lights and the coffee-machine, my number isn't blinking approval on the computer. Or something like that. A furious volley of phone calls on my behalf commences ­ between the driver, friends in Gaza, PA security and the masters in Israel. Sorry, not coordinated. Sorry, it will take a while; sorry, you can't leave. Sorry, no. An American citizen in the Gaza Strip will stay with the prisoners for now because the keepers are not ready to let her out of the cage. Revenge for your audacity, I think. Live with the others since you like it so well; eat their dust and shower in their sewers. You wanted to go to Gaza, no?

Drones can't tell a taxi from a car full of 'militants.' In the darkness on the road they won't know who we are-or at least it will make matters easier when the explanations for two dead civilians come in the next day, one of them an 'international'. It was dark, you see, and they were 'suspicious.' The suitcase might have been full of explosives. Therefore no investigation will be necessary. Therefore it was OK. Therefore it was our fault for being out. Therefore you should not go to Gaza. Is the message clear?

In the tall apartment building teeming with prisoner families of Gaza, friends call back and forth to Israel for me ­ in their Hebrew and English. The ghosts of Kafka and Lewis Carroll are hovering about us bemused and mocking: prisoners of the Gaza Strip trying to arrange the release of an American citizen. They all have to give the Israeli authorities their names. I finally take the phone to speak to the boss and, for the first time in the history of my excursions to this god-forsaken land, an Israeli apologizes.

What a blessing: Six-thirty in the morning I am ready again, suitcases in tow, just in time for the explosion down the street; just in time to view the melted mess of a once-automobile and four once-human beings smoldering in the middle of Gaza City, boys picking at the wreckage and ambulance sirens closing in. State-of-the-art incineration tactics: a gleaming helicopter gunship straight off the defense industry's spankingly efficient assembly line and loaded with glimmering precision-guided missiles. Tourist attractions are never-ending. If they'd only let more people in who would need Hollywood?

The next set of steel bars appears. The final tunnel chamber is divided into three corrals: one for the sub-humans from Gaza currently not allowed out at all; one for the pain-in-the-ass-visitors they haven't figured out how to dispense with altogether like me; one ­wider than the other two- for the VIPs with diplomatic status who still have to be treated like guests. Anyone who has passed through Erez will find no hint of exaggeration in this description. Anyone who has ever raised a question about this sprawling, grotesque steel and concrete military-industrial guards' complex will have been told it is for their security that this must exist. Anyone who has set foot in the Gaza Strip will know at once what a revolting load of crap that is.

This monstrosity is not for your security. This neo-fascist, Stalinist, gulag Guantanamo is there to keep you out, to keep you from even trying, from even wanting, to go in. It is there so you will not see the torn up streets, and ruined land; the bombed-out buildings and poisoned soil; the bull-dozed houses and bullet-holed refugee camps; the back-up generators chugging away; the destroyed central power transformer, the wrecked factories and shops; the caved-in mosques and unfinished clinics; the pressure-less water pumps; the lots full of rubble and trash; the wretched horse and donkey-carts and beggar-children; the worn out mothers, the humiliated fathers, the unemployed young men; the young girls holding whole families together; the exhausted teachers, the pay-less civil servants, the street vendo rs with last week's produce; the heaps of rust and stench of rot, the overcrowded book-and-desk-deprived schools full of troubled youth, bed-wetters, ptsd children; the travesties-of-hospitals; the wards of the sick and wounded; the morgues full of the dead; the merciful, silver-trayed freezers in the morgues where rest finally takes you unaware.

Why? Because this blockade on human traffic into Gaza, this travesty of an experiment in collective human torture, is sanctioned, supported, condoned and blessed by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, the Arab League, the G-8, the corporate masters, the "international community"; by heads of states, presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, kings; by foreign ministers and their trusty delegations; by politicians and diplomats, executives and organizations, academies and institutes, think tanks and centers for the study ofs; by departments of foreign affairs, interior, education and finance; by media lords, newspapers, radios, television stations, journalists, analysts, commentators and publics who don't dare open their mouths, write out their shock, register their objections, express their disgust, squeak out their "no's" lest they suggest that Israel's apparatus of inhumanity is an abomination on the face of the earth.

Servility to power, obsequiousness, righteous barbarism, elitist racism, cowardice, complicity and denial fuel the engine of this dreadful machine, and those with the power to stop it at once refuse to utter a sound."


She is such a terrific writer and a very courageous woman. I wish we had just a few like her in the Arab world.

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