I live in the Gaza Strip, that sliver of land with a 37.4% unemployment rate Israel likes to claim is no longer under occupation. But whenever I open my laptop and connect to the internet here, I get ads in Hebrew like this one for JDate:
אתר הכרויות לדתיים - מי לא מכיר מישהו שהכיר בג’יי דייט? הירשמו בחינם – מקסימום מצאתם שידוך. www.JDate
Whether I’m reading the New York Times, perusing Facebook or checking my gmail account, Israeli companies bombard me with deals on manicures and massages beckoning me to “meet Jewish singles in my area.”
But I live in the besieged Gaza Strip, where 77% of the population lives below the poverty line of $2 a day, where 15% of children are stunted from malnutrition and the Israeli blockade has caused 163 key medicines to go out of a stock. The only Jewish singles in my area are those routinely flying F-16s above my apartment, firing at Palestinian fishermen off the coast, driving tanks through bulldozed orchards or shooting at me when I’m taking a Friday evening stroll. I really don’t want to meet them in my area “for dating and romance” or any other purpose. And, given those bullets that passed eerily close to my head two weeks ago, I’m pretty sure they don’t want to meet me.
So why does .il — the domain for Israel — come up when I connect to the internet in Gaza City? Why am I enticed to read about Kim Kardeshian in Hebrew or encouraged to download “the world’s first Jewish news ipad app?” Perhaps my laptop is telling me what anyone who spends more than five minutes in Gaza knows — that the Israeli Occupation is alive and well. Just because the Jewish-only settlements are gone, doesn’t mean that Israel no longer controls the sky, the water, the earth — and the internet of the Gaza Strip.
Radhika Sainath is a civil rights attorney and a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement.