Letter from Gaza: ‘Alive due to lack of death’

Gaza-born Jehad Abusalim describes the devastating effects of Israel’s blockade on the daily lives of Palestinians.

Palestinian woman
'When the electricity goes out, the silence is deafening' [File: Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

In Gaza, entire families sit in the darkness of their living rooms, with candles generating the only light. Dozens of families have lost loved ones in house fires.

Propane is scarce, and small generators are unsafe and hard to come by. They are usually smuggled through tunnels and poorly made. One of my college professors lost three children (a 14-year-old and eight-year-old twins) after their generator exploded.

Gaza residents face so much hardship and pain, just to secure one of life’s basic necessities.

When the electricity goes out, the silence is deafening. Everything grinds to a halt: refrigerators, televisions, hospital equipment, water pumps and fans. Modern life stops. The quiet allows us to imagine what the world was like before we were immersed in the noise of car horns and the hum and buzz of modern machines. Later, the quiet is replaced by a storm of sound as generators whir and screech back to life.

INTERACTIVE: 24 Hours in Gaza

I will never forget the afternoon when I asked my father how long he thought the blockade would last.

“A  few months, my son. A few months. It won’t take long,” he answered.

A few weeks ago, more than a decade since the Israeli blockade of Gaza was implemented, I spoke with my father again and reminded him of what he said that day. I could practically feel his sorrow and grief through the phone.

“I don’t know how many 10 years there are in one’s life,” he answered, crushed by the naivete of his statement all those years ago.

How is it acceptable that in 2017, Gaza’s residents, including my own family, have to spend so much of their time worrying about water, light and food? What justifies a policy that causes toddlers like my younger brother to soak in sweat during the night and place their cheeks on the cool tile floor to escape the heat of Gaza’s nights?

No peace can come from forcing thousands of people to wait until dawn for their weekly share of water, while on the other side of the border, Israelis take dips in swimming pools and enjoy unlimited access to fresh water.

Nowadays, if you ask Palestinians in Gaza how they are doing, they might answer: “Alive, due to lack of death.” This commonly used expression captures the dreadfulness of everyday life in Gaza.

It pains me to say this, but Gaza will inevitably fall apart. Every second in Gaza under Israel’s blockade – where water and medical care are luxuries – is tainted by tragedy. Every time a family cannot afford to put food on the table, every time a house fire claims yet another victim, every time a cancer patient cannot acquire life-saving treatment or another desperate person ends their life, the horror of the blockade comes into full view.

READ MORE: The orphans of Gaza

So long as Israel maintains control over Palestinian lives but denies them their basic rights and freedoms, it cannot call itself a democracy.

The United Nations has declared Gaza unlivable“, and the blockade creates a slow, collective death. What will it take to convince the international community that the people of Gaza, like all people on this Earth, deserve to live in dignity?

More and more people are joining the effort to advocate for Palestinian freedom, including by participating in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. It is time we end the blockade on Gaza and set the Palestinian people free.

Jehad Abusalim is a doctoral student at New York University and a policy analyst with Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Source: Al Jazeera