On September 9, the Israeli agency for Coordination of Government Activities in the (Palestinian) Territories, or COGAT, posted the photograph below, aimed at proving that Palestinian students are freely leaving Gaza for opportunities abroad. “It wrote: LIVE: 65 students exit #Gaza to study abroad #LikeEveryMonth.” The student in the propaganda photo saw it and wrote a response. She has allowed us to publish it. –Editors.
My response to COGAT’s photo of me as I crossed Erez from Gaza
Not only was I shocked to see the Israeli “Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories” photo of myself on their facebook post, but even more disgusted by the fact they have used it to make a claim that is 100% false. This is ME in this picture- the Palestinian woman.
And yes, I did get out of the Gaza Strip through The Israeli Erez Checkpoint on December, 29th 2014 which was eight months ago. The laugh I have on my face is a laugh out of fear and indeed it was a miracle the photographer caught that moment given the ordeal I had just been through. I spent the entire time extremely scared as the checkpoint was full of Israeli soldiers with their advanced weapons, knowing full well they controlled our entire lives. I was thinking to myself that they can shoot me in the blink of an eye and I will be just another number of the Palestinian body count, killed by Israel and forgotten by the outside world. So I was indeed relieved just to get through and experience those extra steps of momentary freedom that nearly all of my people in Gaza are never permitted to take. Especially given that I had already lived through the three Israeli assaults from 2008-2015 against the Gaza Strip that had their own impact on me and my family. Too scared to focus, I even lost my wallet that had my I-20 in it, and without the I-20 that comes along with the visa I could not travel to the USA to join the university – I actually got stuck in Amman-Jordan for two weeks. This created other complications and obstacles for me. I lost a lot of other personal items at the checkpoint and who wouldn’t, with the kind of nerves that anyone would have traveling abroad for the first time and facing up close the guns and soldiers who had long denied me my freedom and spent the whole of last summer massacring my people.
On the day I left Gaza through Erez, I was planning to spend a few days in Ramallah with my uncle and his family, but I was not allowed. Eventually, I found out that we were a group of students (who had got their scholarships through the PLO – unlike me) who had received coordination from the Palestinian Authority to ONLY pass through present-day Israel directly to Amman. Luckily, I was included in this group because I had the American F1 student visa and a visa to Jordan. This and the fact I had frequently applied to get a permit and been rejected so they just let me through. For many others, places abroad are dashed for Palestinians just as deserving of their placement abroad. In the end, we got on a bus, were driven directly to Amman and had a police car from the Israeli government right behind us for the entire journey until we got to the Jordanian crossing.
This picture was published WITHOUT my consent and is an example of how the camera lies. But what do I expect from an occupation that evolved into a state that was built on manipulation, aggression, lies and the destruction of other peoples’ lives?
To imprison and kill us with the world watching – we are used to this. To use us as photo opportunities to falsely present Israel’s treatment of us as kind, is an even greater insult.