Michele Bahl, Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, November 14, 2012
Yesterday we visited the Gaza Community Mental Health Program. Since the siege, which started in 2006 when Hamas won the election, there has been a medication shortage. Israel controls everything that comes into Gaza, and we were told that cancer medications are not allowed in. There are so many things that are not allowed into Gaza, such as materials to rebuild from the Israeli bombings, and utility vehicles to collect garbage. People are dying in Gaza not because there are a shortage of hospitals, but because there are a lack of supplies due to the severe restrictions that Israel imposes on the people of Gaza by this siege.
I haven’t seen one Israeli soldier here, but the population of 1.7 Gazans feel Israel’s presence here all of the time. It is a terrifying presence.
During Operation Cast Lead, which took place in Dec. ’08/ Jan. 09, Israel killed hundreds of innocent civilians. Over half of the population of Gaza is under 18 years old. There is no place that people feel safe in Gaza due to the reality that Israel can attack Gaza and cause widespread destruction at any time.
There is ongoing terror that people face every day, but Americans never hear about it. I believe if my fellow Americans were aware of the ongoing systematic violence that Israel carries out, they would be outraged and want to do something to stop it. If I didn’t believe this, I would have no hope.
Raji Sourani, the head of the Palestine Center of Human Rights, shared the following: “Never ever tell a free person what to do; a free person should know what to do.”
Through all of this disaster and trauma, the people of Palestine are incredibly resilient and will never give up their hope of having justice and being free. The many people we spoke with made it clear that the cause of the suffering of the Palestinian people is political, not humanitarian.
“We have the right to plan for our future, if even for one minute. It is a dream for us.”
“Everyone in the world wants to trust tomorrow, but you cannot trust tomorrow in Gaza.”
Gaza is an open air prison and I will work as hard as I can when I return to the United States to expose this truth and do whatever I can to work toward change. This is what the people in Gaza have been imploring our delegation to do.