Monday, June 27, 2011

Back In Gaza And Little Has Changed

I am back in the Strip. I left Gaza via the border at Rafah in June 2010, after an 18 month stay.

My exit through the Eygpt frontier crossing was a result of pressure put on authorities there to open its border to Gaza. Hosni Mubarak’s regime apparently felt the need to play down the siege a bit as Israeli commandos had just massacred nine Turkish civilians on the Mavi Marmara solidarity flotilla.

The border opened, yet life in Gaza went on as it always has done under siege: functioning, but only just. Visa-holders and medical patients crossed through into Egypt but to the vast majority of other Palestinians in Gaza with dreams of breathing different air, even if just for a week, it remained closed.

In late May this year, post-Mubarak Egypt declared Gaza’s border permanently open, but shortly after closed it again. Now it’s open once more but the Rafah crossing still limits men between the ages of 18-40 from crossing unless they hold special permits.

But dreams of travel, study, medical care aside, the status of the Rafah border crossing means next to nothing in terms of the siege effects: Israel still controls what enters and exits Gaza, the power still cuts out every day, and the medical crisis is worse than ever. Much of Gaza is still in ruins after Israel’s deadly 22-day assault, which ended in January 2009, leaving 1,400 Palestinian dead.

A year on, in this enclosed 40-something km strip of land flanked by the Mediterranean sea, I notice some things have changed, but the big picture hasn’t. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands