Finding Freedom in Cyberspace
Blogging From Gaza
By Suzanne Baroud
Freelance Writer — Seattle
"I am writing to let you know that in less than 2 hours the last turbine of the Gaza Strip's only power plant will stop working. The fuel for the power plant … will run out in 2 hours," blogs Mona El-Farra, a mother from Gaza.
There are new blogs popping up all the time, and several of them coming out of Gaza are a very much welcomed addition to web-based media. From a doctor and feminist in Gaza city to a college-aged young man in Rafah, their message of hope, determination, and humanity penetrates the vindictive Israeli siege. Thanks to these citizen journalists, anyone in the world can capture a glimpse of life in Gaza, their blogs are like little windows into their caged world.
The Gaza Bloggers' accounts contribute many things, but mostly a strong affirmation of the failure of world media who has decidedly determined to omit, ignore, and totally disregard countless crimes that are perpetually carried out by the Israeli army and government in occupied Palestine.
"What more details shall I give"!
I have been particularly interested in reading some of these blogs in recent weeks, wanting so much but still quite unable to comprehend what it must be like to be imprisoned from all sides, watching all surplus of life's necessities slowly run-out. Rice, flour, milk, gas … I ask myself, just how can a mother, a father endure such a situation, knowing that the rest of the world sits quietly while your prison guard easily and patiently waits for you and your children to starve?
"From Gaza, With Love" is a blog written by Mona El-Farra, a mother, human rights activist, and doctor at one of Gaza's largest hospitals. In an entry dated Jan. 20, and titled, In Two Hours, All of the Gaza Strip Will Sink in to Darkness, her words bleed with an unambiguous fear and uncertainty. She writes, "I am writing to let you know that in less than 2 hours the last turbine of the Gaza Strip's only power plant will stop working. The fuel for the power plant … will run out in 2 hours.
"I hurried to recharge my laptop and my mobile and to wash the clothes. I checked my candles and rechargeable lights !!!!!! I telephoned Al-Awda hospital and was really panicked to learn that we have only have enough fuel for 4 days for the electrical generator !!!!! What more details shall I give? No electricity leads to no pumped fresh water and no proper sewage system which in turn leads to more diseases and more needs for different surgical operations. But after 4 days no emergency operations can be conducted in our hospitals."
Another local blog showed photos of a man bundled up beside a small propane-powered lantern, snuggling with a little girl and reading a picture-book. Next, a family sits around a small barbeque, trying to cook something in a large pot with a pile of torn up paper as their only source of fuel.
"Wake Up You Live in Gaza"
In an earlier entry, Dr. El-Farra describes a day in the life in an entry titled One of My Days in Gaza. She explains how she wakes up at dawn one morning to gaze out her window to view the lovely Gaza sea. Even in the quietness of the early morning, her lovely view is interrupted, and her writing eloquently describes the abrupt distraction from the roll of the waves to the imposition of an Israeli gunboat. Her writing develops from an articulate and appropriately punctuated description to an even more poignant rambling of sorrows and passions that grab hold of your heart.
She laments, as if scolding herself, "wake up YOU LIVE IN Gaza, where there is no place for any romantic feelings, no place for saying simple thing, like, what a nice day, no place for planning any thing ahead of you, no place for you to enjoy what has been left of the nature, birds stopped singing, the war sound is louder than what left of nature, how can u feel normal when u are surrounded with poverty, unemployment, crowd, ruins of buildings, destroyed land lack of entertainment, lack of freedom of movement, daily violence, lack of safety, and the most heartbreaking is living with no vision or hope for future change in the political situation."
Heba, a 29–year-old mother of two little girls, hosts a lovely blog called "Contemplating from Gaza". Heba's blog poignantly humanizes Gaza as she shares her thoughts on one of her favourite stories, Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables" and shares her sense of empathy with Hugo's mystifying characters. She has posted pictures of her two delightful daughters at a birthday party, dressed in their best, and showing off a birthday cake, decorated like a teddy bear and decked with blazing birthday candles.
I asked Heba what compelled her to join the ever-growing world of bloggers, she said, "I blog to draw a portrait of Gaza people's suffering, trying to show the world the undeniable truth of how 1.5 million people can be imprisoned, deprived of basic human rights, and forced to cope with inhumane grim circumstances on a daily basis."
She spoke to the resilience of the people of Gaza, saying, "In my blog, I am interested in reflecting the way Gazans deal and interact with their surroundings, developing adaptation mechanisms, not letting the imposed siege or the internal political dilemmas break their will or shake their beliefs."
Ambassadors of Sorts
Another man who blogs from Rafah simply calls himself "Mohammed". His blog which is named "Rafah Today" is filled with memoirs, snapshots of family and friends, including his own brother, Hussam who was killed in October. Other images haunt the reader, images of cars burning and truckloads of unidentified body parts arriving to local hospitals after Israeli attacks.
In one entry, Mohammed comments on statements made by one Israeli official that "it is unacceptable that people in Sderot are living in fear every day and people in the Gaza Strip are living life as usual." He laments, "I wonder, what exactly does he consider 'life as usual'? For if he means it is normal that over 35 civilians should be killed in 4 days, an entire population should be on the verge of starvation and should be forced to shiver through winter nights without electricity or sufficient blankets, that hospitals and medical centers should be forced to shut down or operate at sub-par capability and without needed medicine, food, blankets, and even space,… the list goes on … well then yes, we are living life as usual."
I have the honor of corresponding with Mohammed and he shared some of the exchanges which he has had with people all over the world. Particularly powerful was a message Mohammed received from Jerry Geffner, an American Jew. In his message which he send to Mohammed on the first day of Hanaukah he said, "It is traditional for Jews to dedicate candles for special people. I want to dedicate my candle to you … I as a Jew light my candle in honor of your struggle for freedom and dignity. I as a Jew know our freedom and rights as brothers and sisters are linked.
"I condemn the occupation of your country and hope we can all live in peace. I am sad that so many Jewish Israelis are ignoring our own terrible history of suffering and lack of freedom by denying the validity of your dignity and rights…. I hope to hear your voice again and walk down the streets of Gaza with you someday in peace and hope for a new better life."
These bloggers are ambassadors of sorts. Their entries reek of anger against injustice but they also express of deep sense of hope and more, a strong desire to feel some sort of alliance and camaraderie with the outside world, a longing for connection outside their open-air prison that is called Gaza. Their ability to rise above their present destiny and embrace humanity is nothing short of astounding. In a blog coming out of Rafah, a young writer describes how a neighbour is blown to smithereens by an Israeli helicopter gunship and then closes the entry, writing, "I love you all".
Bloggers in Gaza are not politicians, nor are they members of a massive state propaganda machine. They are everyday individuals whose language embodies a greater sense of universality. Even when the news of Gaza — as inaccurate and stereotypical as it often is — dies out, Gaza's bloggers will continue to share their personal and collective struggles, with the hope that someone out there would read and listen, and that someday the international community "would do something," for Gaza, they say, can take no more.
Suzanne Baroud is an American writer and editor of several books. She is the managing editor of PalestineChronicle.com, and a regular contributor to IslamOnline.net. http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1203757515840&pagename=Zone-English-Muslim_Affairs%2FMAELayout
The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) used to say: "O Allah, I seek refuge in Thee from four things: Knowledge which does not profit, a heart which is not submissive, a soul which has an insatiable appetite, and a supplication which is not heard."