Taking the Pulse in Gaza

Joe Public Films founder and producer Tom Jackson is currently in Gaza, teaching a class in basic video production to a Gazan youth group from American Friends Service Committee’s office in Gaza City. He is also attempting to get a clear picture of life in Gaza under siege and occupation. This is the first blog installment from his visit.

If you came to Gaza but only visited Gaza City, you might wonder what the concern is over. Downtown Gaza city is a buzzing area with universities, cabs flying everywhere (and I mean everywhere, including in the wrong lanes), and people going about their business. While unemployment in all of Gaza is well over 50%, it seems that Gaza City has been at least somewhat spared, both in the bombing last year, and in the economic and humanitarian crisis this year.
 
Outside Gaza City, where I have now been a few times, one can see very easily and clearly what the problem is. Two days ago I visited families still living in tents because their homes were destroyed almost a year ago. One family, with several small children, was finding it very hard to feed their youngest child of only a few months. They told me she is under-weight– a fact that was quite visible to me. They could not get enough milk to feed her. When I hear stories like this as I am video taping, knowing that in just a few weeks I can go back to the comfort and relative ease of my life far away, it fills me with a very dark feeling. What on Earth can I say? Certain things come to mind– “I’ll do everything that I can”– but, somehow it just isn’t enough. They don’t want or need words. We wound up telling them that we would contact ANERA, which is an organization that helps refugees with various issues, and if they can’t help we will ask them who can. We’re following up today. 
 
In refugee camps around the Gaza Strip there are many stories like this. Homes destroyed, and no ability to rebuild because the siege keeps rebuilding materials out of the country. Bad water because in some places water treatment plants were damaged or destroyed. The potential for a huge humaintarian catastrophe here is great, if the siege is not lifted soon. H1N1 in a place like this is truly something to be afraid of– Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, conditions are bad and not getting better, and the population is very young, so a large % of the population is in the vulnerable age range. Apparently there are vaccines in Gaza now, but by all accounts that I’ve heard so far, not enough. It is unclear to me why there is not enough. I’ll continue to look into it and write about this again.
 
There are so many issues that I plan to interview people about while I’m here, including the water issue, the challenges faced by farmers (water issues again, and now fertilizer and equipment shortages due to the siege), fishermen (Israel is limiting their range off the coast that is accessible to them), issues mentioned before like unemployment and inability to rebuild.
 
Meanwhile there is talk of the Gaza Freedom March. Gazans I’ve talked to differ widely in their beliefs on whether the marchers will be allowed in. Most are doubtful, because Egypt, they believe, is unlikely to be cooperative (more on that later). Whatever the case, there are two internal marches planned, from inside Gaza to the two borders — Rafah on the Egyptian border, and Erez on the Israeli border. There are probably even fewer Gazans who believe these marches will be allowed to cross the border to leave Gaza. Still, the point will be made.
 
Wherever people are able to hold a vigil or a rally on any of the last days of December or on January 1st, in order to express support for lifting the siege on Gaza, your efforts will be greatly appreciated here. There is a gathering planned in Central Maine, and peace and justice activists here have been glad to hear about it.
 
My apologies for taking awhile to get some description  of life in Gaza out. It takes some time to take the pulse, but I am starting to get a better sense of thinsg here, including politically, which I’ll write more about soon.

2 thoughts on “Taking the Pulse in Gaza

  1. Dear Tom,
    Great report. Thanks for some hopeful words about Gaza City. I hope there is cause for increased optimism. Also glad to read that the concerns of Gazans about the upcoming march(es) is over whether or not people will be allowed to enter Gaza, not that so many outsiders are coming, making life there harder in some way. There has been concern about how such a beleaguered population center with such problems will handle over 1000 walkers and activists, even for just a day or two, or several hours.
    Yours,
    Jim (currently in Las Vegas; I’ll be marching with friends and allies in San Francisco on 12/27.

  2. hi Tom

    i don’t know what i want to say , but good job
    thnx 4 ur work to let people know what is gaza ?
    what happen inside it ? and to let the west know about us :)

    yours safa’

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