This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
Time – and the news – moves on. Quickly. So, with the war over, Gaza remains in the news but off the front pages. ISIS has now taken the lead.
Still every now and then an interesting reminder of the Gaza war surfaces. In this case, by drowning. At first it seemed that the boat deliberately sunk off the Malta coast last week was another case of human trafficking gone from bad to worse. Horrible but unrelated to Israel/Palestine. Now reports have it that 250-300 of as many as 500 drowned were refugees from Gaza. They were attempting to escape what is left of the prison walls in Gaza.
So says the EUobserver in a narrative that is a fitting continuation of Israel’s war on Gaza – without leaving out the world’s complicity in the war and its aftermath. As well, it is a story of corruption all around. Refugees trying to escape by sea can expect little else:
The Palestinian survivors told the International Organisation for Migration they paid a “travel office” in Gaza $2,000 each using money from grants to rebuild their homes.
Haaretz reports, citing one anonymous people smuggler, that some people pay up to $4,000. They enter Egypt through tunnels under the Rafah crossing point, where buses take them to safe houses in Egypt.
The sea crossing to Europe [from Damietta, Egypt] can take a week because they are forced to keep changing boats.
The smugglers bribe Egyptian officials. They also have agents in south Europe who help migrants get out of detention facilities. Some tell the Palestinians to claim they are Syrians fleeing the civil war.
The survivors told the IOM that their boat was deliberately rammed by smugglers in waters south of Malta on 11 September when the migrants refused to board a smaller vessel.
“After they hit our boat they waited to make sure that it had sunk completely before leaving. They were laughing”, one survivor said.
Some people floated in the sea for three days before bad weather set in. One survivor who made it to Crete was a two-year old girl.
Is this what the European Union meant by the sea route it proposed during one of the many Gaza war ceasefires? If you remember the EU hoped that in lieu of the seaport Gaza was demanding Israel might allow Gazans – under heavy security of course – to travel from Gaza to Cyprus by sea.
There isn’t much being reported on the seaport. Apparently, Gazans aren’t waiting any longer. They’re trying to get out any way they can.
A Gaza resident contemplating making the same voyage in a few weeks remarked: “We are thinking: It’s better to try and to drown in the sea than to stay at home and be killed by Israeli bombs.”
Even with the obvious danger, it’s hard to argue against the only sea route likely to open for Gazans who survived Israel’s onslaught.
Ceasefire in place, Gaza remains under siege. By land – and sea.