At first glance you might think everyone is in a hurry - heads
down, no eye contact as people move from place to place - but
these are the gestures of angry people who have been coerced,
neglected, and oppressed. Thick, unrelenting oppression touches
every single aspect of life in Gaza, from the graffiti on the walls
of the cities and towns to the unsmiling elderly, the unemployed
young men crowding the streets, and the children - that
December day, my own - seeking relief in play at the beach.
This is my Gaza: Israeli gunships on the horizon, helicopters
overhead, the airless smugglers' tunnels into Egypt, UN relief
trucks on the roadways, smashed buildings, and corroding
infrastructure. There is never enough - not enough cooking oil,
not enough fresh fruit or water. Never, ever enough. So easily
do allegiances switch inside Gaza that it is sometimes hard to
know who is in charge, whom to hold responsible: Israel, the
international community, Fatah, Hamas, the gangs, the religious
fundamentalists. Most blame the Israelis, the United
Gaza is a human time bomb in the process of imploding. All
through 2008 there were warning signs that the world ignored.
The election of Hamas in January 2006 increased the tension
between Israelis and Palestinians, as did the sporadic firing
of Qassam rockets into Israel and the sanctions imposed on
Palestinians by the international community, as a result.
The rockets, homemade, most often missing their targets,
spoke the language of desperation. They invited overreaction
by the Israeli army and retaliatory rocket attacks from helicopter
gunships that rained down death and destruction on
Palestinians, often defenseless children. That in turn set the
stage for more Qassam rockets - and the cycle kept repeating
As a physician, I would describe this cycle of taunting and
bullying as a form of self-destructive behavior that arises when
a situation is viewed as hopeless. Everything is denied to us in
Gaza. The response to each of our desires and needs is "No."
No gas, no electricity, no exit visa. No to your children, no to
life. Even the well-educated can't cope; there are more postgraduates
and university graduates per capita here in Gaza
than in most places on earth, but their socioeconomic life does
not match their educational level because of poverty, closed
borders, unemployment, and substandard housing. People
cannot survive, cannot live a normal life, and as a result, extremism
has been on the rise. It is human nature to seek revenge in
the face of relentless suffering. You can't expect an unhealthy
person to think logically. Almost everyone here has psychiatric
problems of one type or another; everyone needs rehabilitation.
But no help is available to ease the tension. This parasuicidal
behavior - the launching of rockets and the suicide bombings -
invites counterattacks by the Israelis and then revenge
from the Gazans, which leads to an even more disproportionate
response from the Israelis. And the vicious cycle continues.
More than half of the people in Gaza are under the age of
eighteen; that's a lot of angry, disenfranchised young people.
Teachers report behavior problems in schools - conduct that
demonstrates outward frustration and a sense of helplessness
in the face of war and violence. Violence against women has
escalated in the last ten years, as it always does during conflict.
Unemployment and the related feelings of futility and hopelessness
create a breed of people who are ready to take action
because they feel like outcasts - like they have nothing to lose,
and worse, nothing to save.
They are trying to get the attention of the people outside our
closed borders: those who make decisions about who is welcome
and who is not. Their rallying cry is "Look over here, the level of
suffering in this place has to stop." But how can Gazans attract
the attention of the international community? Even humanitarian
aid organizations depend on permission from Israel to enter
and leave the Gaza Strip. There is a blatant abuse of power by
people given the title of border patrol officer and a uniform,
but who may not even understand the implications beyond
a simple list of rules dictated by ego-driven leaders. They are
disconnected from the common ground with others who are
fellow human beings.
Kenn Nesbitt is new Children's Poet Laureate(Jun 12 2013) Kenn Nesbitt has been named the new Children's Poet Laureate: Consultant in Children's Poetry to the Poetry Foundation, which noted that the two-year position...