Children in Gaza greeting the convoy. (Photo: Stay Human Convoy)
We are getting to know Gaza
In the north-eastern zone of the city, Palestinian youths tell us stories about those infamous days in December 2008, when the Israeli army began its Operation ‘Cast Lead’. The landscape in front of us bears witness to the devastation the Operation left in its wake: buildings turned rubble, destroyed houses, fields which the locals try cultivating, now become arid and contaminated with white phosphorus bombs. Only a few kilometres away lies the frontier that separates the occupied territory from Israel; between the inhabited zones and the actual frontier is an area called the ‘buffer zone’, stretches of arable land which the Palestinians do not have access to. When they try working on the land, they risk being attacked by the Israeli army posted on the towers spaced out along the frontier, either at the hand of snipers -positioned in some of these towers-, or automatic machine guns.
Often, during harvest time, Israeli soldiers break in with tanks whilst shooting at the locals who find themselves within the ‘buffer zone’. These incursions also have a devastating effect on the fields and the harvest- in fact, this happened again this morning. High up in the sky, one of the young men points out a kind of zeppelin: this is how Israel controls all of Gaza City, for inside the air-born structure is a powerful satellite camera, a kind of ultra-modern Panopticon. The only difference is that this time, there is no mystery as to who controls it.
We also get to meet the inhabitants of this part of the city. The first to come and meet us are children who greet us with radiant smiles- smiles that the ravages of war have not been able to erode. Stories about these infamous bombings continue to pour. This time, it is a woman who speaks: a husband lost; her children buried beneath the rubble; a daughter shot in the face; and a trip to Germany to get her operated.
Then, comes the story of the Al Samoni family: thirty people who took refuge inside a house whilst following instructions from the Israeli army; and then the bombs rained down upon the house, whilst the very soldiers who told them to take refuge there, were now preventing ambulances and emergency health workers from reaching the house. The neighbourhood was one of the first to be targeted by the bombings and used to be called Al Zaytoon. Today, it has been renamed to honour the Al Samoni family. We then hear more devastating tales of inhuman behaviour: of soldiers who knock on doors telling the women they wish to speak with their husbands, whilst the rifleman shoots and kills even before the husband has had a chance to come out.
The inhabitants of this neighbourhood, seeking to rebuild the area and reinvent for themselves a life outside of war, have built a shelter with the support of the community, which they have named Al Samuni as a tribute to the murdered family. This shelter is the only streak of colour here, a patch of yellow amidst the grey of the rubble and the monochrome of a landscape that is being rebuilt slowly and with a lot of difficulty. The next Convoy which will leave for Gaza will also be called Al Samuni.
Operation ‘Cast Lead’: over thirty days of bombings, and more than 1400 civilians killed. Months of isolation, with no access to health facilities, or schooling for the young. The local cement factory was completely destroyed. Two and half tons of bombs –curtsey of a ‘democratic’ Israel- fell indiscriminately, creating devastation everywhere: the area hosting the ministries was attacked at least six times. By the end of the military intervention, the fields destined for agriculture were covered in concrete.
Meeting with media activists
In the afternoon, we have our first meeting with media activists, bringing together journalists, bloggers, media activists and independent artists, both from the Convoy and from Gaza. The underlying connecting thread is the will to continue the incredibly valuable work which Vittorio never ceased to forward and generate. The drive to consolidate these projects comes from these young men and women from Gaza who knew Vittorio and worked with him. The first priority is how to coordinate and organize the huge quantity of self-generated communication material which is the beating pulse of the alternative information movement within the Gaza Strip. Indeed, the only portrayal of Gaza in the mainstream media is of a land that is solely made of tears and blood, as mainstream outlets are only on the look-out for sensationalist one-off scoops, and ever reluctant to give Gaza any kind of serious and in-depth coverage.
These young men and women from Gaza want to tell the world about their daily life under siege- hard, sad realities, that are sombre, but not without light either. For this reason, we are committed to the necessity of creating an international network, which will enable us to relay Gaza- as it is and in its own voice(s)- to the world, but also relay the world into Gaza.
Meeting with El Shaab Voice Radio.
Also in the afternoon, a delegation from the ‘Stay Human’ Convoy is received by the Radio Station El Shaab. During the bombings, and from the tenth storey of the building which hosts the studio, the radio ended up acting as a de-facto look-out for the ambulances, signalling the places where they should intervene. We give a live interview at the radio, and explain the reasons which brought the ‘Stay Human’ Convoy to Gaza, a month after Vittorio’s murder.
Free Free Palestine!