Gaza… surviving inside the tiny box
THE GAZA STRIP sits inside a tiny box some 25 miles long and, for the most part, less than five miles wide. At its widest it is well under eight miles wide.
It is bounded to the west by the Mediterranean’s most miserable beaches. To the south-west is a seven-mile border with Egypt’s Sinai desert. To the east and north it is bounded by barbed wire, concrete, corrugated iron and a 32-mile long border with Israel.
Inside this box live more than 1.4 million people, probably the sixth most densely populated area in the world. Certainly it is the most densely populated area to be surrounded on three sides by barbed wire. Most are descended from refugees from the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Almost half the population is 14 or under.
Getting in and out of Gaza is entirely governed by the whims of those who live on the other side of the barbed wire.
This is how it has been for most of the time since 1967 — more than 40 years.
The demographics are deeply depressing, and the numbers are incomprehensible: Just under half the population is unemployed, alarmingly the highest unemployment rate in the world.
More than one in six children below the age of five suffer from malnutrition. More than half women of child-bearing age are anaemic. With at least eight giant refugee camps decades old more than one-in-five are not directly connected to services such as water and sewerage.
It’s hard to imagine. Imagine.
Gaza easily fits in beneath Yonkers to the north, Long Beach to the east and south and Staten Island and Elizabeth to the west.
As I write this some 400 people — including well over two dozen legally-elected public officials — have been bombed to death inside this box. That’s in the past four days. The tragedies of the past 50 years cannot be counted.
Imagine jets repeatedly bombing New York City in the the yellow rectangle to the left.
If you don’t live in New York City… imagine getting in your car (you’re already on an up, no car in Gaza). Drive two miles to the beach. It’s not a beach for sun-bathing or swimming. Gaza fishing boats were machine-gunned off this beach a month ago. Turn round, drive back home and two miles further… to the barbed wire.
Now drive north-east 12 miles. You can’t go any further, even if you want to. Turn round, and take a long leisurely ride for less than half-an-hour to the Egyptian border. You’ve seen Gaza. If you live here, that’s it. This is your world.
If you make stuff or grow things that need to be exported, you’re entirely dependent on those who live outside of the yellow box. If you need stuff from outside the yellow box, you’re entirely dependent on those who live outside the yellow box.
There’s one gate to the north, five to the east and one to the south.
Imagine one road into New York City from Yonkers, five from the east, one from Staten Island and nothing from Jersey City, Newark or Inglewood from the west. And it is the people of Yonkers, Long Beach and Staten Island who decide whether or not the gates are open or not.
All other roads are blocked by concrete and barbed wire. And it’s been like this for 40+ years. Population density is like that of Gaza.
Imagine You’re mother or child is ill… you’re inside the yellow box.
Imagine. Your child wants an education, a future, has ambition… you’re inside the yellow box.
Imagine. Your relatives and family live a bare 40 miles away in the occupied West Bank… you live inside the yellow box.
But the people who live outside the yellow box have the right to come inside your yellow box and kill your elected officials, bulldoze your homes, shoot your young people. Imagine.
And the people outside of the yellow box tell everyone else that it’s all your fault, you people who live inside the closed yellow box.
What would you do? Imagine.
As Kafka said, “war is a monumental failure of imagination”.