Along with the growing Israeli settlement projects in Jerusalem and the West Bank, the siege of Gaza is part of the ongoing ethnic cleansing, community decimation and collective punishment of the Palestinian people. The 1.8 million people living in the tiny Palestinian territory of Gaza have been living under blockade for eight years and are increasingly impoverished.
The land, sea and air blockade of Gaza is enforced by both Israel and Egypt. Visiting Gaza is usually difficult or impossible. However, in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, with the Muslim Brotherhood in power in Egypt, the Egyptian government briefly eased some of the restrictions on visiting Gaza. Thus I was able to join Medea Benjamin and Ann Wright of Code Pink, Kathy Kelley of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, and other delegates from ISM and National Lawyer's Guild on a visit to Gaza just after the eight-day Israeli attack November 14-21, 2012.
I filmed "Visiting Palestine" in the Jabalya Refugee Camp on December 3rd, my last day in Gaza. My guide was Majed Abusalama, who grew up in the Jabalya Camp, which is about a half hour north of Gaza City.
A majority of the people living in Gaza are refugees of the descendants of refugees who were forced from their homes by Europeans and into refugee camps in the Gaza Strip in 1948. Egypt administered Gaza until Israel captured it in the 1967 war. Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005, but the US and Israel imposed sanctions after the Palestinian political party Hamas won a majority of votes in the West Bank and Gaza in the election for the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006. In the ensuing power struggle between Fatah and Hamas, the latter seized control of Gaza in 2007, and Israel imposed a siege on Gaza.
What I most like about this video is the diversity of people I meet in it: secular and religious, pacifist and more militant, those with small houses and those with larger houses. And each Gazan I meet has her or his own way of coping with the absurdity of living under the siege and the repeated attacks. The video is a first-hand and, I believe, quite authentic document of the experiences and feelings of people in one place in Palestine: it is no more than that and no less than that.
Many of the Palestinians I meet tell me -- quite spontaneously -- that the US plays a huge role in making their lives so difficult. The people of Gaza must live every day with the knowledge that a new attack against them, financed in large measure by us US taxpayers, could be launched at any time.
I put a bit of myself in this video just so that you can see that I myself was surprised and even shocked at some of what I saw and learned. I believe that most of us Americans have little idea of the real human impact of US policies on other peoples. And it is important that we learn as much as we can, because we as citizens are ultimately responsible for the actions of our government.
The Israeli attack in November 2012 was clearly meant to be a "collective punishment" of the Palestinians living in Gaza. As one witness tells me in the video, rather than "targeting" the supposed militants, the Israelis warned them and their neighbors to get out of their houses and then blasted whole city blocks with bombs dropped from F-16s provided by the United States.
We US taxpayers give $3 billion to Israel for their military each year -- this is hardly the way to achieve peace!