By Nora Barrows-Friedman on August 26, 2015
On 26 August 2014, a ceasefire brought an end to 51 days of Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip.
Israel killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 551 children. A year later, due to the eight years of continuous siege, reconstruction of the tens of thousands homes Israel destroyed has not yet begun. More than 100,000 homes were damaged and more than 100,000 people in Gaza remain without permanent shelter — as Israel still tightly regulates what comes in and out of Gaza, home to 1.8 million Palestinians.
Unemployment has skyrocketed and electricity is available only a few hours per day for most of Gaza’s residents. Gaza’s infant mortality rate has also risen for the first time in 50 years, according to the United Nations. The agency points to Israel’s blockade as the likely reason for the increase.
“The rubble from our house is still there,” says Gaza-based writer, editor and educator Refaat Alareer, in a recent interview with The Electronic Intifada. His home was destroyed and his brother Mohammed was killed along with 25 extended family members in Israeli attacks.
“We’ve been through one of the toughest years ever as Palestinians,” he adds. “We lived through the first intifada, the curfews, the daily shootings and the horrors of the second intifada. Miraculously, some of us survived the three wars — but the year that followed, to me, to my family members, to me, to so many people I know, has been the toughest because it’s been a slow death.”
“We’re being killed slowly by the siege imposed mainly by Israel — and with the complicity of the international community,” Alareer explains.
In their brand new book Gaza Unsilenced, Alareer and co-editor Laila El-Haddad meticulously collected essential reporting, essays, analysis, Tweets, blog posts, poetry and art that was made during the war on Gaza and the year that has followed.
As they write in the introduction, “we were driven by a sense of urgency, despair and obligation to curate and edit this book, to be a conduit for voices writing from and about Gaza, as a means for changing the narrative and thereby changing public opinions, which we hope can help push the long-standing US policy of alliance with Israel in a different direction, and ultimately let Gaza live.”
El-Haddad says that last year’s assault was unique in the sense that it was “the first time we were hearing very loudly and clearly Palestinians from within Gaza writing, tweeting live from the hospital, from their houses, but also writing and speaking out to Facebook and to the media.”
El-Haddad adds that she and Alareer “wanted to include those voices in a way that could narrate that story — and by extension the Palestinian story — in a way that hasn’t been documented before.”
The Electronic Intifada also spoke with contributor Charlotte Silver, who recently returned from Gaza. She says she saw “a very different place than I ever could have imagined.”
“You feel — in people’s energy, sitting at a table, walking around — the restlessness and the confinement that they’re in,” she explains. “Gaza is a tiny place. You can’t go anywhere that takes longer than 20 minutes. And there’s an entire population made up of mostly young people who can’t look into their future without seeing these small parameters, these small borders.”
Silver reported on the lack of reconstruction across Gaza, pairing up with photojournalist Ezz Zanoun for a powerful photo essay on the thousands of displaced Palestinian families. She met with Palestinians whose homes were bombed by Israel more than ten years ago and still haven’t had their homes reconstructed.
“The destruction to Gaza is something that pre-dated last summer’s war and it continues to go forward. It’s not just the 12,000 homes that were destroyed, it’s much more, it’s much broader, deeper. It’s not just that travesty that happened last summer,” Silver adds.
Listen to the interviews with Refaat Alareer, Laila El-Haddad and Charlotte Silver via the media player above.
This Gaza podcast special features sounds from video shot by Gaza-based journalist Jehad Saftawi and San Francisco Bay Area-based artist Naima Shalhoub.
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Source: Electronic Intifada