Despatch from Gaza

Israel Shamir writes: Gaza is out of news. The Strip could be relocated to Mars – there no reports from there, just brief reports of Jews bombing away the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and another small power plant. Israel allows no reporters inside. Our friend Silvia Cattori tried to get in, could not make it, but managed to record the following interview with a Palestinian located in the North of Gaza.

Silvia Cattori: What is the mental state of the population after weeks of bombings and deprivations?

A: We have suffered. We are in a dramatic situation. The Israeli army has entered up to Saladine Street; the military has cut Gaza in two: it is like it was before. They have installed a base. There are a dozen tanks with bulldozers. They are in the process of razing land, greenhouses; they are destroying all that remains of life. For two weeks, the F-16s and the drones bomb and destroy our homes. There are hundreds of dead and badly wounded.

S.C.: Is it blind bombing of everything as opposed to bombing that is targeting “terrorists”?

A: The day before yesterday, for example, the Israelis attacked a house, assassinating an entire family, under the pretext that it sheltered Mohamed Daif, the head of those firing the Qassam rockets. However, it wasn’t true. Unfortunately, an entire family, a father, a mother, five daughters and two sons lost their lives.

S.C.: Having cut Gaza in two, are the soldiers threatening the population from this position?

A: Yes, their tanks, posted in the centre of the Gaza Strip, between Del Balla and Kahn Younes, are currently firing rockets – just like in the north of Gaza.

S.C.: Are the tanks moving?

A: No, the Israeli soldiers are chicken; they are afraid of being attacked by the resistance.

S.C.: Do the members of the Hamas Government still show themselves on the street?

A: We are seeing no one. They are all on the list of the next assassinations. They only come out when they have a rendez-vous, but it is always done with great secrecy.

S.C.: During the two weeks of the bombings that have left you without water, without electricity, without food, have you been afraid for your family?

A: The first attack by the Israeli planes at Betlaya was near my house. It was there that there were a large number of wounded and killed. The children were in a panic. Fearing that Israel would attack our neighbourhood, we left our house to move away from the zone. Now, we have returned home.

S.C.: How do people put up with living in such a horrible situation? Do they want you to free the captured soldier as quickly as possible to end Israel’s pretext to continue the collective punishment?

A: The majority of the Palestinians support the position of the resistance, the position that the soldier won’t be released until Israel releases 1000 of the weakest prisoners they hold, women and children. Prisoners that are living – contrary to the Israeli propaganda film shown recently on television in the west that we have heard about – under inhuman conditions. This film didn’t talk about the torture of the prisoners, didn’t show prisoners being held like beasts in tents, plagued by insects and disease, didn’t say that most of the prisoners can only see their families once every six months. [1]

S.C.: Has the accord signed between Fatah and Hamas two weeks ago taken affect?

A: They were speaking of an entente. But on the ground, it is the contrary. The Fatah militia continues their assassinations, so the Palestinians continue to be threatened by two enemies: that is, by Israel and by those Palestinians who are collaborating with the occupier in order to destablize Hamas. The Israeli attacks actually prevented a civil war between Palestinians. At this moment, each Palestinian, no matter what party, feels above all like a target of Israeli shooting.

S.C.: Can even the father of a family like you, who has nothing to do with the resistance, be hit by what they call a targeted assassination?

A: You must know that our crime is being Palestinian, to belong to Palestine. If I find myself by chance in the same taxi as someone that an Israeli plane wants to assassinate, I can be killed.

S.C.: For that you will have to face more and more aggression? The Israeli army has announced that Operation Summer Rain will last as long as necessary.

A: You know that Israel is government by lunatics at this moment. They are narrow-minded politicians. They have unleashed war in Gaza, and, as of two days, they have declared war on Lebanon. Maybe that will give us a bit of a break because the pressure is only longer only concentrated on us.

S.C.: One thing that is worrisome in any situation of war is the trauma undergone by the children. Are they still normal after all they have had to endure?

A: The other day I wanted to take my kids to the sea. My three-year-old daughter started to cry. She said, “No, Daddy, I never want to go to the beach again.” I asked her why. “I don’t want to die.” I said, “OK, if you don’t want to die, I’ll go with your brothers and sisters.” “You neither. No one should go to the beach,” she cried. You can see how a three-year-old child reacts after seeing on television the family massacred on the beach. If I talk about the beach, she cries.
S.C.: Were the victims these last months people like you, people who are not armed, who have no protection, and who do not harm anyone?

A: Almost all of the victims are civilians. However, the Israeli army justifies the bombings of families who are eating or sleeping saying that there are fighters among them. There are members of the resistance, but they aren’t among these victims. Everyone in Palestine, with the exception of the collaborators, is a resistor in spirit.

S.C.: With such a catastrophic situation, one that is ongoing, in what kind of mental state are you?

A: We continue to live in spite of the unlivable situation Israel imposes upon us. We are accustomed to living this life that isn’t a life. There is no food, there is only brackish water, there is no electricity. This is our life. But it is better than living a life were we crush ourselves.

SC.: How will you be able to rebuild yet again the entire infrastructure that the Israel bombing is destroying? Do you think they can be put back in action quickly?

A: The Israelis will never leave standing anything we build. Each time that we repair the transformer in the north or the south of Gaza, they bomb it again. We have yet to hear any protests from the Arab or European states. Some states have condemned the Israeli operations, but their condemnations are too weak. It isn’t enough to make Israel back off. From the moment that Europe cut off our aid, it meant they have been collaborating with Israel in its collective punishment, to starve us and to make us suffer more.

S.C.: Do you have the impression that the journalists who obtained permission to enter Gaza have been correctly informing the world on the suffering you are undergoing?

A: It is always the same thing, whether they come or not. I would have been very happy it if had been you who had gotten permission to come, because I am certain you would have reported with honesty. We follow the news. It is always a superficial and Israeli version of things that is shown. The suffering of the people, our pain, all those at CNN, Fox News, the BBC, have no idea what it is. They lie in our faces. We watch their lies live.

S.C.: Don’t you think that those journalists that ignore your reality and repeat the same things are led into error by the Palestinian chauffeurs and guides accompanying and supervising them and informing them in a biased way?

A: All they have to do is what you do, go out into the street and get people to talk. It’s not by them all staying in the same five star hotels in Gaza that they will be able to find the truth.

S.C.: They don’t go out into the streets?

A: Even when they go, they conform to the information given by Israeli press officers or the supervision of their agencies. At the end of the day, they say what their Jerusalem or other office tells them to say and don’t say what they have been told not to say. You’re a journalist; you should know how it works.

S.C.: I wasn’t able to enter Gaza this time and can’t report on what is happening to you. It makes me all the more sad because I have remained very attached to the place and I knew so many Palestinians who were suffering and two members of the ISM as well as the London journalist James Miller – who wanted to report about your suffering and the assassination of children – who were killed in 2003 by the Israeli army.

A: They won’t let you in because you are too honest. Israel well knows that you do not look at our reality in the same way as the journalists who generally come here. If you were seeing everything through the eyes of Israeli propaganda, you could have entered Gaza….

S.C. I was interrogated by the Israel secret service Sabak on my arrival at Ben Gurion airport. Won’t I put any Palestinian I meet into danger if these services, which have their spies on every Palestinian street, are watching me now?

A: You can’t put anyone in danger. Every Palestinian is in danger. At any moment, the drone that is flying overhead can strike me. Don’t let yourself be intimidated. Do you know why they intimidated you when you arrived and why they follow you? Because those people are afraid of you?

S.C.: Afraid of me? Are you joking?

A: All of these soldiers and spies that make up the most formidable army in the world, in spite of their power, are afraid of anyone who uses his words…to speak the truth. They are afraid of those who speak the truth. They are weak people. We can win this fight even though our means are nothing compared to theirs, because we have the will and the courage that they don’t have.

S.C.: What I have seen since I started traveling through the West Bank is without a doubt less atrocious than what is happening in Gaza, but, believe me, it is already too much to support. I cried when I saw a group of people being held like animals in an enclosed space at the checkpoint in Bethlehem. I cried when I arrived in Naplouse and I saw the crowd of silent people who were waiting for the soldiers to condescend to let them leave. You Palestinians seem so strong in the face of all of these humiliations they impose. Do you cry sometimes?

A: Of course I cry. I often cry now when I see all of these families who have been assassinated. A quarter of the victims are children.

S.C.: Does your wife cry, too?

A: Yes, often. Everywhere around, here in Gaza, or over there in the West Bank, are people struck by misfortune that breaks your heart. We are one people and we are suffering together. We are one unique body.

[1] It may be the film recently shown by the television network Arte.

P.S.: This interview was conducted via internet and telephone.

Translated by Signs of the Times