My trip to the Gaza Strip and Podcast

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Hey everyone. I've been going through some old footage, from my time traveling solo across the Middle East and North Africa, between 2012-2016, and I thought StP would be a good place to share and archive some of that stuff.

For those who aren't familiar with the situation in Gaza, I won't go into a ton of detail, but will just provide the following synopsis. To give a brief background on myself and my connection to this issue, I completed my graduate research and thesis in the West Bank and Israel, while living in Dheisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem in 2007-08. I spent several months traveling back and forth collecting oral histories from people on both sides, interviewing refugees, former soldiers, etc. I also devoted an episode of my podcast to a conversation about Gaza, where I also shared more about my own travels. You can check it out on most platforms, or on the website for Latitude Adjustment podcast.

[I'm having some issues uploading my short video files, but hope to include them here very soon. In the meantime, I hope you find this post helpful/educational. Sorry for the delay.]

A short history of Gaza:

First, I want to say that I know this is a contentious topic, and I'm not posting this here to pick a fight with anyone. I'm posting this in order to inspire more curiosity about this issue, as Gaza is a hard place to access and so much about this conflict is misrepresented and misunderstood. There are few places I've lived where I've felt safer than in the West Bank and Gaza. I know how that will probably sound to many of you, and that it may well come off as an exaggeration to make some sort of political point. But the simple fact is that much of the violence there is structural and political, and not directed at foreigners. Another reason is that these communities are enduring so much together and are so restricted in their movements, everybody knows everybody and people tend to be respectful and very welcoming. What's more, Palestinians actually want more people from outside to come and see their conditions and to share what they have seen, so there is no incentive for them to be hostile or unwelcoming. My journey with this topic started out in a very different place, with a very different perspective than I have now. I am familiar with all of the arguments on both sides, and the counter arguments to those arguments, and so on. I also don't have the time or energy to get in a shit fight on the Internet about who's responsible for what. I've devoted several years of my life to careful study of this issue and the history, and to traveling all over the region and interacting with people on all sides. I don't expect everyone to agree with my perspective, but if your intention is to troll this post or dismiss Palestinians as a bunch of "terrorists" please save us both some time and do it elsewhere. And again, I deal with the politics in painful detail in the podcast, so I'm just going to refer people there if they want to argue politics. This is just to give some historical background and context for my trip to Gaza...

During the creation of the State of Israel, during the 1948 War, about 750,000 Palestinians fled their homes in what became Israel, winding up in refugee camps in neighboring countries (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq), as well as in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. After the 1948 war the two territories were not formally annexed by any nation, but Gaza fell under the administrative authority of Egypt, and the West Bank under the authority of Jordan, until the 1967 "Six Day War", in which Israel defeated Syria, Jordan and Egypt, and the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem (technically a part of the West Bank), Gaza, and the West Bank, fell under Israel military occupation. Shortly after, Israel began to build illegal settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem (i.e. the actual historical part of Jerusalem), and Gaza, creating spaces for their own citizens to live in occupied territory, while the Palestinian residents remained under a separate set of laws and continue to be governed by the Israeli military authorities. No country recognizes Israel's right to build these settlements, which are illegal under international law (see the Fourth Geneva Convention), but they have continued to expand them ever since 1967. In 2005, then prime minister Ariel Sharon, unilaterally withdrew all 8,000 Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip, which on its surface appeared to be a gesture of good will. However, as settlers were removed from Gaza, settlement expansion in East Jerusalem and the West Bank continued to explode, and is now at over 500,000 settlers. The Gaza withdrawal was little more than a gesture, and a strategic shift of focus to the more sought after land in the West Bank and the holy city of Jerusalem.

It's also important to note that during the early 90's a short thaw in relations between Israel and the Palestinians allowed the PLO to return from exile and establish very limited autonomy in parts of the West Bank and Gaza. This was known as the "Oslo Process", named for the secret negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian officials mediated in Norway. This had largely stalled by the mid 90's, and then completely with the Second Intifada in 2000. Things have been going downhill pretty much ever since, especially concerning any serious prospects for Israel recognizing or allowing for Palestinian statehood.

In 2006 the Palestinian Authority held elections in Gaza and the West Bank (though bear in mind that both places are still under the full control of the Israeli military and Palestinians have no country). To everyone's surprise, including Hamas... Hamas won the elections over the PLO (the PLO is the coalition of parties that include Fatah, which was founded by Yaser Arafat, and now lead by Mahmoud Abbas). Hama's victory was largely seen not as a vote of support for their particular brand of Islamist ideology, but as a rejection of the corruption of the alternative (the PLO and Fatah). In the months that followed, the US, Israel, and most Western governments and international bodies, refused to recognize or speak with the Hamas government, identifying them as a terrorist entity, and then open fighting broke out between Fatah and Hamas in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007. There are a variety of theories as to why the fighting started and what international interests might have been involved, but I'll just leave it at that.

After the short intra-Palestinan war in Gaza in June of 2007, Hamas seized power outright in Gaza, while Fatah solidified its control of the West Bank. I moved to Bethlehem, in the West Bank, in October of that year and stayed for 5 months as various raids were carried out by both Israel and the pro Fatah Palestinian Authority to round up Hamas supporters in the West Bank.

From 2007 forwards Israel has maintained a state of siege on Gaza, sealing off all land, air and sea access, and restricting all movement in or out of the small territory that is about 11 km wide by 51 km long, and packed with about 2 million residents. There have also been three wars on Gaza since that time with thousands of Palestinian civilians maimed and killed, and roughly a hundred Israeli soldiers killed. Egypt controls the only other access to Gaza, through the Rafah border crossing in the North Sinai desert. For most of the past 11 years Egypt has gone along with Israel in maintaining the siege, briefly opening the crossing every so often. But after the revolution in Egypt the candidate for the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammad Morsi was elected in 2012. Hamas is essentially the Palestinian version of the Muslim Brotherhood, and so relations between Egypt and Gaza briefly thawed during the year that Morsi was in power, before he was overthrown by the current president Sisi in a military coup almost exactly one year later in June-July of 2013.

This is the period where I was able to get into Gaza, in 2013 (I think it was in April). It was really complicated and involved a lot of paperwork, bluffing, and dealing with Palestinian, Egyptian, and US Embassy bureaucracy, but after about 6 months I took a van across the desert and found myself at the Rafah crossing, standing there in the middle of nowhere with people wheeling refrigerators and appliances around, and walking livestock around this isolated desert outpost. It was a total cluster fuck, and the Egyptian security are notorious for being awful to the Palestinians, and frankly were pretty shitty to me as well. But I managed to get through... barely, even with all of the necessary paperwork in hand.

This video is a short walk into one of the tunnels that used to exist under the Rafah border. Some were controlled by Hamas and some by private entrepreneurs, who would charge smugglers a fee to take everything from cars to cattle to people across. Most have been flooded or destroyed since the last war on Gaza in 2014.

I'm happy to answer questions as I have time, and if there's an interest I can do another call with members of this community to share more about what I've learned about this conflict over the years, but in the meantime I would again suggest checking out my Latitude Adjustment podcast episode that deals with this topic and, if you dig it, subscribing to the show. The next episode will come out in a few days, and will deal with a different border conflict... Mexico.

I'll try to post some video clips soon.
 

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Thanks for sharing these, Ill be listening to these on my train rides the upcoming weeks, looking forward to hearing about the mx border conflict and am interested on if/how you think the dissolution of the nation-states can be made possible.
 

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fuck yeah man keep it comin...
 
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#4
That is extremely interesting.
Thank you. I'm very close to the conflict and I feel like you did a very good job describing and stating facts.
 
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#5
thanks man, I read fuck loads about the Middle East and Western Foreign Policy - two books I would highly recommend to anyone interested in the subject - The Great War For Civilization by Robert Fisk and Blowback (How The West Fucked Up The Middle East) by Michael Luders....
 

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