Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Besieged Shores of the Other Mediterranean

The Mediterranean Sea. Your mind may wander to France's fabled cote d'azur, Monaco's glittering Monte Carlo, or perhaps the old world glamour of the Italian riviera. I have travelled to the other Mediterranean and am writing from the besieged shoreline of Gaza. Carl Jung might have referred to this forgotten piece of the region's geography as the Mediterranean's shadow side.

Instead of traditional folk music streaming out of the cantina or techno music pounding the dance floor, the soundtrack here is the rough and ugly noise of an overhead Israeli helicopter gunship firing a sound bomb to - well, to what end actually? Is it an attempt to try out foreign taxpayer funded new munitions on the civilian population below? Is it to assert social control and political dominance? Is it to re-traumatize those who were brutalized in earlier, more lethal military strikes? What I do know for certainty is that the hotel shook violently as I was having my breakfast. I ran outside, and for a moment I thought the noise was associated with the mosque that was being constructed on the water's edge. Hand held tools don't shake the ground, so I was convinced the source of the bang was far more sinister.

Later on that day I asked people in the street about the loud blast, and the worrying thing was a complete disregard to it. The people of Gaza have years of experience with military incursions, such as the brutal atrocities that took place in the 2009 Operation Cast Lead massacre.

Everyone experiences daily reminders of the colonial subjugation that goes hand in hand with military occupation. Rocket fire is one recurring strand in the soundtrack of the blockade of Gaza. "I like it when they bomb us", said the taxi driver. " I would rather die, and rest in peace, then live like this." As it has become somewhat customary for me in such instances, I am suddenly stunned into a disturbing silence that mirrors his own hopelessness. What does one say to counter his learned helplessness? Can a pithy, psychologically informed comment provide any comfort or measure of hopeful optimism in an attempt to possibly shift his thinking - just ever so slightly?

I pay my fare. He thanks me for visiting Gaza. "I'm glad to be here", and I walk out into the street.

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