Family and friends have been asking me “why do you want to return to Gaza?”
I was very fortunate to visit Gaza between September 2012 and May 2013. I had the experience of a lifetime —- met wonderful people, learned a lot about a new (for me) culture and the cruel realities of Israel’s occupation and siege, experienced the horrors of Israel’s 8 days of bombardment of the Gaza Strip, and grew as a person of conscience.
Maybe the experience of a lifetime can’t (or shouldn’t) be repeated. Seriously. I was blessed once and should count my blessings — learn from them and move on.
But I can’t. Can’t move on, that is. My conscience wasn’t only pricked, it was stabbed.
Just as a bell can’t be unrung (is there such a word?), I can’t pretend that the Israeli occupation doesn’t exist or that my country isn’t responsible for perpetuating the misery and injustices that I witnessed in Gaza.
So I’ve been thinking about my conscience. About what I want to do, what I should do, which might be very different.
I’m 60 years old — perhaps an old woman to some but in my mind I’m strong, experienced and have many skills and talents to share. Where and how should I share them?
The window of opportunity is rapidly closing. If I’m lucky, I have only 5-10 years of strength and mental faculties left when I can truly contribute and make a meaningful difference. After the window closes, I’ll be content to sit on my porch and read good books and tend the vegetable garden, if Allah-God-Yahweh grants me more time. When it’s my time to bite the dust, I don’t want to have any regrets.
I shouldn’t return to Gaza if I’m merely trying to satisfy my own needs. The white savior complex is disgustingly all too real and I don’t want to fall into that trap. (Read this very thoughtful piece about the white savior industrial complex by Teju Cole, available here.)
I don’t want to add greenhouse gases by my air travel unless my purpose of traveling outweighs the potential GHG impact.
I also don’t want to be part of the second occupation. Gaza is occupied by NGOs, many of which have created a dependency for decades and sapped the initiative and desire of many Palestinians to take charge of their future. I have a hunch that some of the NGOs have a self-interest in prolonging Israel’s occupation, so they can justify their work. Foreigners who collect big salaries and drive around in large SUVs waving little flags are rather perverted IMHO (in my humble opinion).
So why do I want to return to Gaza?
I know that a perfect storm is brewing there. I think the next 5-10 years are going to be decisive in determining how Palestinians in Gaza weather this storm. For my foreign friends, here’s the definition of “perfect storm.”
- The United Nations predicts that Gaza will be unlivable by 2020. See here. There’s no evidence that anyone is taking this dire warning seriously.
- The impacts of climate change are not going to bypass this coastal enclave and Palestinians are currently ill-equipped to respond or prepare, as witnessed just this winter with the horrific flooding that followed torrential rain storms.
- A political solution to the occupation and internal division between Fatah and Hamas appears to be further away than before Kerry initiated the “peace talks”.
- Gaza is a population time bomb. It’s going to explode – no doubt about it.
So I want to return to Gaza to do the following:
- See my friends
- Use my planning and legal skills to respond to this perfect storm
- Use my writing skills to inform Americans about what I witness in Gaza
- MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
I’d like to hear from friends (either responding on the blog or to my email LoraLucero@aol.com) about my reasons for returning. What should I be adding to this equation?