Visiting the Gaza strip, July 2008
When you approach the Erez frontier post to enter Gaza from the north, you notice a concentration camp straightaway even if you may never have seen one like the ones turned into museums or educational centres, or like the ones that appear in documentaries or photographs.
An observation balloon, innocently painted white, rocks gently to and fro in the air over the wall surrounding Gaza. It makes sure no unhappy soul moves beyond arbitrary limits set by the camp guards. The visitor is overwhelmed by the mammoth steel-reinforced wall. This imprisons a million and a half inmates inside an area approximately 38 kilometres long and 12 wide at its widest.
Apart from cases you can count on the fingers of one hand, Palestinians quite simply cannot pass through Erez. Full stop. Besides, they are not allowed out via the South, crossing into Egypt, nor via the West, since the Mediterranean Sea is barred to them, nor via the air, since that too is likewise barred, despite there being no boats or planes to travel in. In any case, the airport was destroyed by the bombs of Israel air power. Gazans are not allowed to exit by digging underground either.
Patrolling closely about the ten or so people waiting under a scorching sun before a guard post in the middle of open ground about a built-up area, various soldiers and plain clothes police, with state of the art machine guns at the ready, make very clear the people had better keep very still. At the end of a long wait, by loudspeaker, the soldier in the armed guard post lets them through into the built-up precinct. It is like a warehouse, unexpectedly high, air conditioned and with various control posts inside, although only one is in use, since not enough people go through to warrant operating the rest. One is subjected to more waiting despite the absence of movement.
For the Zionist mentality everyone who does not cooperate with the system must pay a price. It is not even necessary to be one of their declared enemies. In this case, the visitors came from a State with good relations of all kinds with Israel, namely the Kingdom of Spain. Their documents were in order and they were unarmed. Matters had been prearranged with the Israeli authorities via the Spanish Consulate in Jerusalem. They also had a return ticket to their country, money for their stay and a stated humanitarian purpose for their visit, which would last exactly three days. The reason the Israeli frontier police at Erez waste the foreigners’ time, is because the Zionists are not enthusiastic about witnesses visiting the camp. Foreigners arriving at Erez intending to pass through, are indeed that, nothing else. Israelis are forbidden to enter. Israelis attempt to discourage visitors by many means. If the sight of the wall, the wandering machinegun-totting soldiers, the wait in the sun do not work, then visitors are subjected to hostile interrogation. From behind thick armoured glass, the seated interrogator addresses the standing interrogated person. The questions vary from the reasonable to the comical, “What are you doing in Gaza? Have you been to Israel before? Do you speak Russian? Do you have a driving license? How many passports do you have? What’s your boss called?” From the higher level floor above, cameras and guards record and observe the visitors without being seen. Afterwards people have to go individually through a narrow series of metal barriers which the service personnel can shut off at will, then another couple of armoured doors operated by remote control and – all the while under closed circuit TV cameras – one leaves the precinct to enter a metal corridor and finally cross through the concrete wall into the Palestinian side.
When returning from Gaza to Israel, the process is the same except that one is forced to enter a coffin-like cubicle that is adjusted to one’s body and in which you have to place yourself, legs apart, arms apart above your head. A kind of vertical electronic belt or ribbon goes around one’s body. It is a procedure as stupid as it is impressive since the soldiers know beforehand who the visitors are and why they are visiting Gaza.