This personal account describes aspects of closure, siege, and daily life witnessed in the Gaza Strip from May to July 2009, with emphasis on the impact of the blockade in the wake of Operation Cast Lead. As an international worker made to grapple with increasingly complicated Israeli bureaucracy, but “allowed” access into Gaza for purposes of humanitarian aid, the author describes her impressions of the current Gazan situation as an instance of isolation whose plight is increasingly hidden from the gaze of the outside world.
I FIRST ENTERED THE GAZA STRIP on 5 May 2009 through Erez crossing, the only Israeli passage for the movement of people into and out of this Palestinian territory isolated on the shores of the Mediterranean. I had been hired by a small Italian NGO to work in Gaza City for three months on an emergency distribution project providing polyurethane water storage tanks to households affected by Operation Cast Lead some five months earlier. Having said this, I am not inclined to describe myself as a humanitarian aid worker, but rather as someone who has been seeking to better understand, through direct experience, what is unfolding in the occupied Palestinian territory. I had not been to the Strip in nearly seven years, as entering Gaza for internationals has not been easy since well before the Hamas takeover in June 2007 and the further tightening of the closure that has led to the unprecedented levels of blockade we witness today. What seems to be an almost complete narrative blackout about Gaza has provoked me to write this brief report.
ELENA N. HOGAN is a humanitarian aid worker who has been active in the occupied Palestinian territory since 2002. She has worked in the Gaza Strip on development projects in the water, sanitation, and hygiene sector, as well as with the Gaza Fishermen’s Union. She is currently based in Jerusalem.