Eva Bartlett | In Gaza
28 December 2009
The anniversary of the first day of Israel’s massacre of Gaza last winter passed yesterday. Palestinians still locked in Gaza couldn’t avoid thinking about that hell, recalling to others where they were when the first strikes hit…what they did, what they thought, what they saw and smelled and heard.
At 11 am yesterday I’m in a meeting, but all of us are aware of the significance of the hour, particularly as the minutes pass towards 11:25, when the slaughter began.
Later, I visit a family in the north, their mother killed, shot at close range by an Israeli soldier as she carried a white cloth, trying to lead the family out of their home. Not an isolated story. How are they? Grim, alive without joy, no expectations except that things will get worse. Mahmoud is a young engineer but is jobless. They are not refugess and so don’t receive UN hand-outs. A charitable association gives them flour, oil, sugar and tea every 40 days. Meat, fish? Impossible.
Near their house, the scent of orange blossoms, though most of their trees were razed by Israeli tanks and bulldozers. The Moawiyya school across the street still gapes with its missile holes in the side and in the roof. The neighbouring houses still gape with jagged, absent walls.
Mahmoud lives just 20 m up the street from the tent encampment in this area of Attatra, where the Attar family are still braving the cold, still rendered homeless, still out of the world’s news and off the radar, still uncompensated, and among those more subject to bouts of fear when the Israeli warplanes and drones fly over. They are able to hear shooting from the northern and eastern borders, as well as the regular Israeli navy shooting and shelling of fishermen on Palestinian waters.
This morning, at 11:55 I re-notice the roar of F-16s… maybe they were always there and I was again oblivious to them…Sometimes it is a casual, drawn-out, rolling roar, as the warplanes troll the skies. Sometimes it’s a rush, sudden, invasive, low, near.
That’s this one, the one that grabs my attention and makes me wonder: perhaps they just delayed it by a day and a half hour.
There is little rational thinking when such planes swarm above. The notion “Israel couldn’t do it again so soon, not with the world commemorating the massacre” dissapates into “why not, Israel has committed massacres in the past, the world has frowned, and it’s buseinss as usual into the next onslaught.”
But it’s not only me, with just a year’s experience here. Of all, I should be more inclined to think, “no way, not now,” when I know that nearly 1500 people from over 40 countries and all walks of life are on their way to Gaza, and another 500 in the Viva Palestina lifeline are hunger-striking till Egypt relents its complicit denial of entry…when I know that the Palestinian-led BDS movement has surged into vitality, and that strong Jewish voices around the world are condeming Israel’s occupations and war crimes.
But it’s fighter planes like the one currently above us that mocks rationality and screams “it’s here, this time it’s an attack.”
If I, a passport-holding international who can basically leave when I decide and who hasn’t lost a house, a child, a loved one, hasn’t been burned to the bone by white phosphorous, hasn’t had my livelihood and memories destroyed…if I feel this, imagine how those who suffered worst are feeling, the younger children for whom it was their first massacre, or the older children who know in too great detail the sounds of the different war machines.