Gaza, COVID-19 and the Petty Irritations of Your “#QuarantineLife”

Posted by

No one understands “#QurantineLife” better than Gaza – the world’s largest open-air prison. Will Israel release its Gaza Strip prison in the interest of all humanity — to help the world contain #COVID19? Surely Palestinians are human. Or are they? Do you truly believe Palestinian lives count amongst these slogans, these headlines proclaiming “coming together for all of human life?” Think about these questions. Think hard.

Gazans live that #QuarantineLife, everyday. They have since 2007. You pay for that with your tax dollars. So do I. And Palestinian children pay with their lives.

The only society on EARTH that understands what permanent “lockdown,” “quarantine” and “shelter-in-place” means are in the Gaza Strip. But they cannot “practice social-distancing.” They’re locked together in the world’s most densely populated area by the state of Israel.

And now Corona Virus is there.

Why do I term Gaza the world’s “largest open-air prison?” Perhaps a map will help locate the problem for you. Isolate the issue – much like the prisoners inside. The Gaza Strip has been under blockade since 2007. By land. By sea. By air.

How is #QuarantineLife treating you?

I hope you bought enough toilet paper.

I hope UberEats delivers in your area.

I hope you have access to testing kits.

I hope you have electricity more than 70% of the time, and FaceTime to break up the monotony of that quarantine life.

I hope your Netflix is working.

I hope your Spring Break wasn’t ruined.

I’m sorry your favorite bar is closed.

I hope your water is safe to drink.

I’m sorry cabin fever is getting to you. That the kids are driving you crazy.

I’m sorry you lost a paycheck.

I hope you can leave your neighborhood to access a medical facility.

I hope you are not trapped in an open-air prison where you cannot leave, even by sea. Because if you dare to drift 6 nautical miles from your own shoreline, you will be shot by an occupying military. Maybe you will die. Maybe you will be left blind. And the world will watch. Doing nothing. I’d like invite you along with me for a “welcome to lockdown and the Gaza experience.”

I am not interested in your thoughts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If you think your geopolitical opinions are relevant in this context, “misguided” is a word that does not even begin to describe the state of your “humanity.”

Whose “fault” is the blockade of Gaza? The entire world. Yours. Mine.

If your reply is “but Gaza voted for Hamas,” I can only ask that God forgives you. Because you advocate collective punishment, genocide, violations of the Geneva Convention, and other assorted reasons for referrals to the International Criminal Court: or: war crimes according to the United Nations.

Reminds me a bit of that Op-Ed written by Gilad Sharon, the son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon: “[h]umanitarian fears of killing Gazan non-combatants ‘ultimately lead to harming the truly innocent: the residents of southern Israel.’ … Gazans aren’t hostages; they chose this freely, and must live with the consequences.”

It’s a bit uncomfortable to realize — you’re using precisely the same logic as Al Qaeda for the 9/11 attacks: collective punishment. At least I hope so. It should be.

Crimes against humanity. After all, I thought you told me you believe Palestinian life is human. That Hamas was the problem.

“But Hamas–” No, you don’t get to continue. 60 % of Gaza is under the age of 18. 40%+ under 14. These children had nothing to do with the elections that catalyzed Hamas’ takeover of the strip. So, please. I implore you to ask yourself: “why do I support the genocide of children?” Examine your soul.

“But I have to stay home and my spring break is ruined!” Gaza has been under a blockade since 2007. By land. By sea. By air.

“God, online classes are gonna suuuuuuuuck.” I am glad you were allowed to leave your city for a university education. I am sorry your college sent you home early. What can you do when education is interrupted by events outside of your control? Like Corona. Like war. Like bombs dropped on elementary schools.

“I can’t believe I have to homeschool my kids AND work from home.” That’s rough. I wish I could say I feel you, but I don’t have children. I’ve never had to come up with a contingency plan when the regular options weren’t available.

“Fuck this, let’s just go out anyway. Wait until Mom and Dad are asleep.” It’s not like you have to tunnel out of your house. Just be quiet when you’re sneaking out the front door.

“OMG, this is martial law in the United States!” I’m confused; is martial law – somehow – a practice excusable to you elsewhere? Why might that be? Is military occupation reserved for those who…”deserve it?”

“I could have used that money, but at least the city is worked on a rent freeze.” Believe me, I do empathize with that stress. Come May, I am unemployed – like more than half my human brothers and sisters trapped in Gaza. But I can leave. Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip decimated the economy. GDP dropped 50%. 80% of Gaza lives below the poverty line. And I am sorry you missed that a paycheck; I hope President Trump’s check plan reaches you quickly.

“Ugh. My study abroad experience got cut short.” Yeah, that’s hard. Opportunities to see the world, to learn from cultural and educational exchange programs, to engage in peer-to-peer diplomacy with those whose experiences radically differ from your own. The type of growth afforded by a program like a Fulbright scholarship, for example… those rare experiences are invaluable. Incomparable.

“I wanted to visit my family this week!” Good thing you’re not in urgent need of medical care, and seeking an occupying power’s permit to for the privilege of possibly saving your life. It sucks not to travel freely.

“I’m so sick of bottled water. I should have bought more wine.” COVID-19 will obliterate the Palestinians trapped there. The water isn’t safe to drink.

“UGH. Why is there such a run on toilet paper? When is Amazon going to restock?” Did you manage to buy up enough toilet paper? Nothing is worse than that whole human bodily function issue, especially in times of crisis – am I right? 60% of Gaza’s population is connected to a sewerage collection system. The majority of those, by the way, are children. That is why the water is not safe to drink. So I guess you can take comfort in this: at least 97% of your water isn’t contaminated with your own feces.

“I was listening to the radio, you guys, and they said people need to stop clogging up the emergency rooms.” Hospital workers in Gaza re-sterilize medical instruments because Israel won’t allow importation of basic medical supplies. Public health is a pressing issue for us all, isn’t it. I hope you can access the ER. I hope there are enough hospitals.

“I am so bored and I cannot take more of this shit on the news. Text me Netflix recommendations.” Does ethnic cleansing get in the way of your reality television? I’m pretty shocked a show with such low ratings keeps getting renewed, season after season. Clearly, no one wants to watch it. What’s the matter? Just not as exciting as Love is Blind?

“I miss the bar! God, why doesn’t Nobu deliver?! I’m like literally staaaaarving.” More than 62% of Gazas are food insecure. Of those…65% are children. And back in 2009, 65% of Gaza’s babies — infants — were anemic. Thank God UberEats is still delivering to your apartment. Being hungry sucks.

“Well, at least I can use all this time to work out before summer swimsuit season. No need for a diet, haha!” Israel restricts humanitarian delivery of foodstuffs to Gaza, based on … the estimated calorie counts necessary to keep a human being alive. Simply alive. Giorgio Agamben’s bare life: a live that never existed at all is quite easy to sacrifice; after all, such a death constitutes no sacrifice. It’s like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but won’t die.” — Dov Weisglass, advisor to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (2006).

“GOD BEING STUCK IN THE HOUSE SUCKS SO BAD WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO ALREADY!” Yeah. that’s hard. I sympathize. I hate being grounded, too. Always have. Most young people do. I bet Gazans hate it, too. Coronavirus is there, and our human brothers in sisters in Gaza have been grounded for a long, long time. They cannot leave. “Social-distancing” is impossible. I’m so very sorry about your cabin fever.

“Honey, the kids are driving me INSANE. Can we please take them on a walk, something? The beach should be deserted tonight. And we can just stay at a safe distance.” I pray there will be no drones to meet your children playing in the sand. It’s always nice to have calm, quiet kids.

“When are we getting the goddamn vaccine? I’m so over this. When is life returning to normal?” It is a sobering thought to consider the sparse access to COVID-19 testing kits. The long wait for a promised vaccine. An end to this madness. Gaza understands. WHO’s Gaza director notes that there are only 62 ventilation devices in the Strip. 1/3 are already in use. Gaza has TWO test kits — for 190 people, in a society of more than 1.82 million people.

For years, we have watched – our turned out eyes away – while Gazans die. I reiterate: whose fault is Gaza? Ours. All of us. The world has done nothing. We will keep watching now… as all of Gaza dies. All these posts about “coming together for all humanity.” Gaza is human. Palestinians are human.

Do you need a Palestinian to prove her humanity? You do? Then she sure as hell ain’t the one “who isn’t human.”

Let me reiterate: The only society on EARTH that understands what permanent “lockdown,” “quarantine” and “shelter-in-place” means are in the Gaza Strip. But they cannot “practice social-distancing.” They’re locked together in the world’s most densely populated area – an open-air prison.

No way in, no way out. But epidemics have a nasty habit of disrespect for international borders – whether nation states, or military occupations.

And the virus is there.

Take a lesson from Gaza. Shelter in place. After all, what else can you do? Lives are at stake.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s