The underground ghetto city of GazaHaving despaired of the world, of the fear, of the blood, the only refuge left to us was the earth. We buried ourselves alive.

By Amir Nizar Zuabi
Published 02:06 04.08.14
Ten years and seven operations later, the mission is completed. Upper Gaza is totally abandoned. All of Gaza has moved underground. Men, women and children, a great mass of people.
We dug entire neighborhoods, streets, highways, schools, theaters, hospitals. We dug mirror images of the land above that we abandoned. We gave up on the dream of getting out of the Gaza Strip. On the promises to lift the blockade, to find a solution to the crowdedness and the hunger, and we took action. We, who were attacked from the sky, from the sea, from the fields, who had one-ton bombs dropped on our heads in pointless rounds of killing, have turned our back on life. We, whom the world forgot, decided to pay it back in kind, and forgot it right back.
Having despaired of the world, of the fear, of the blood, the only refuge left to us was the earth. We buried ourselves alive.
Now, 10 years after we started digging, the mission is complete. Deep, deep beneath the living world there is an entire city – the Gaza ghetto, an underground city. It’s moldier, chillier and a lot bigger. Here, you can barely hear the huge bombs exploding, and the only hint of the tanks smashing the streets is a slight tremor in the ceiling. We dug down into the soil of Gaza, through the layers of time. Sometimes we found bones, remnants – a room containing the jawbone of an ass, Samson’s long braid and Delilah’s thighbone, the bone that once supported the flesh of a splayed leg. And we found two broken pillars of an ancient temple. On one we saw a faint etching: “Remember me, please, that I may be avenged of my two eyes.” The loamy Gaza soil has always been the ally of despair and the despairing.
We kept digging more and more, with bare hands, with cracked fingernails. We dug so deep, so far, that we canceled out the blockade and the borders and the definitions of the upper world. We dug underneath all of that rubbish, and then we kept digging along the length and breadth of the land whose refugees we are. We returned to it, deep down in the earth. We realized a subterranean right of return.
At first we could still hear the clamor of Tel Aviv above us. We heard the propaganda herds shouting “Death to Gaza,” “Death to artists,” “Death to anyone who doesn’t applaud,” “Death to anyone who doesn’t toe the line,” “Death to life.” And we heard the sound of the footsteps that grew more and more organized, until they became a military march that trampled all.
We blocked our ears and dug deeper, farther. We didn’t want to hear anything, we wanted to get away. We dug so deep that we reached the Styx, the river of the dead. The old boatman gave us a helpless look and then he turned away. What good will his little boat do against the tide of blood, the masses of people, against the people of Gaza? We swam across the cold river until we reached the cold rocky bank, and then we kept digging – beyond life, and far beyond time.
We lost our eyesight. What good are eyes in the pitch black? We’re growing whiter day by day, almost translucent, like candle tallow. From dust to dust was the blessing in every mouth, quietly; we don’t hear anything anymore. Not the double standard, or the thousands of bombs, or the anguished cries of the attacker. Here we hear only the constant mechanical gnawing of the earth. Here in the dark there is only pure, solid despair, despair that makes us keep digging and digging.
And we start to hope that if we keep on digging, all the way to the core, if we don’t stop, if we perforate the land like a honeycomb, if we make it as flimsy as silk, maybe it will suddenly collapse in on itself. And then, like a tray piled with cups of coffee and cookies that crashes to the floor in a mess of crumbs and glass, it will all mix together. The upper part and the lower part will blend. And the rules will change. And we’ll be able to say with a sigh of relief: Here is a piece of sky mixed with a cracked piece of sea; here is Shujaiyeh mixed with Sderot; here is Zeitoun mixed with the Mount of Olives; here is compassion mixed with relief; here is one human being mixed with another. And we’ll know that we were saved from the living death in which we are trapped, and now we’ll join the life of above, and with them build a new land.
And an entire people will rise to the surface of the earth, pale and faded, blinded by the sun that beats down on the land. And we will stand in silence, waiting for our eyes to adjust to the light. And as we stand there in silence, the fear and anxiety will gradually creep into our heart, that while we were finding refuge in subterranean Gaza, the land above took its own life, was left behind and emptied out.

The underground ghetto city of Gaza

Having despaired of the world, of the fear, of the blood, the only refuge left to us was the earth. We buried ourselves alive.

By Amir Nizar Zuabi

Published 02:06 04.08.14

Ten years and seven operations later, the mission is completed. Upper Gaza is totally abandoned. All of Gaza has moved underground. Men, women and children, a great mass of people.

We dug entire neighborhoods, streets, highways, schools, theaters, hospitals. We dug mirror images of the land above that we abandoned. We gave up on the dream of getting out of the Gaza Strip. On the promises to lift the blockade, to find a solution to the crowdedness and the hunger, and we took action. We, who were attacked from the sky, from the sea, from the fields, who had one-ton bombs dropped on our heads in pointless rounds of killing, have turned our back on life. We, whom the world forgot, decided to pay it back in kind, and forgot it right back.

Having despaired of the world, of the fear, of the blood, the only refuge left to us was the earth. We buried ourselves alive.

Now, 10 years after we started digging, the mission is complete. Deep, deep beneath the living world there is an entire city – the Gaza ghetto, an underground city. It’s moldier, chillier and a lot bigger. Here, you can barely hear the huge bombs exploding, and the only hint of the tanks smashing the streets is a slight tremor in the ceiling. We dug down into the soil of Gaza, through the layers of time. Sometimes we found bones, remnants – a room containing the jawbone of an ass, Samson’s long braid and Delilah’s thighbone, the bone that once supported the flesh of a splayed leg. And we found two broken pillars of an ancient temple. On one we saw a faint etching: “Remember me, please, that I may be avenged of my two eyes.” The loamy Gaza soil has always been the ally of despair and the despairing.

We kept digging more and more, with bare hands, with cracked fingernails. We dug so deep, so far, that we canceled out the blockade and the borders and the definitions of the upper world. We dug underneath all of that rubbish, and then we kept digging along the length and breadth of the land whose refugees we are. We returned to it, deep down in the earth. We realized a subterranean right of return.

At first we could still hear the clamor of Tel Aviv above us. We heard the propaganda herds shouting “Death to Gaza,” “Death to artists,” “Death to anyone who doesn’t applaud,” “Death to anyone who doesn’t toe the line,” “Death to life.” And we heard the sound of the footsteps that grew more and more organized, until they became a military march that trampled all.

We blocked our ears and dug deeper, farther. We didn’t want to hear anything, we wanted to get away. We dug so deep that we reached the Styx, the river of the dead. The old boatman gave us a helpless look and then he turned away. What good will his little boat do against the tide of blood, the masses of people, against the people of Gaza? We swam across the cold river until we reached the cold rocky bank, and then we kept digging – beyond life, and far beyond time.

We lost our eyesight. What good are eyes in the pitch black? We’re growing whiter day by day, almost translucent, like candle tallow. From dust to dust was the blessing in every mouth, quietly; we don’t hear anything anymore. Not the double standard, or the thousands of bombs, or the anguished cries of the attacker. Here we hear only the constant mechanical gnawing of the earth. Here in the dark there is only pure, solid despair, despair that makes us keep digging and digging.

And we start to hope that if we keep on digging, all the way to the core, if we don’t stop, if we perforate the land like a honeycomb, if we make it as flimsy as silk, maybe it will suddenly collapse in on itself. And then, like a tray piled with cups of coffee and cookies that crashes to the floor in a mess of crumbs and glass, it will all mix together. The upper part and the lower part will blend. And the rules will change. And we’ll be able to say with a sigh of relief: Here is a piece of sky mixed with a cracked piece of sea; here is Shujaiyeh mixed with Sderot; here is Zeitoun mixed with the Mount of Olives; here is compassion mixed with relief; here is one human being mixed with another. And we’ll know that we were saved from the living death in which we are trapped, and now we’ll join the life of above, and with them build a new land.

And an entire people will rise to the surface of the earth, pale and faded, blinded by the sun that beats down on the land. And we will stand in silence, waiting for our eyes to adjust to the light. And as we stand there in silence, the fear and anxiety will gradually creep into our heart, that while we were finding refuge in subterranean Gaza, the land above took its own life, was left behind and emptied out.

Three Poems for Gaza by Nathalie Handal

Gaza

Once in a tiny strip
dark holes swallowed hearts
and one child told another
withdraw your breath
whenever the night wind
is no longer a land of dreams



The Gazans

I died before I lived
I lived once in a grave
now I’m told it’s not big enough
to hold all of my deaths



Tiny Feet

A mother looks at another—
a sea of small bodies
burnt or decapitated
around them—
and asks,
How do we mourn this?

(Source: worldliteraturetoday.org)

The Children of Gaza by Mike Rosen

Don’t mention the children.

Don’t name the dead children.

The people must not know the names

of the dead children.

The names of the children must be hidden.

The children must be nameless.

The children must leave this world

having no names.

No one must know the names of

the dead children.

No one must say the names of the

dead children.

No one must even think that the children

have names.

People must understand that it would be dangerous

to know the names of the children.

The people must be protected from

knowing the names of the children.

The names of the children could spread

like wildfire.

The people would not be safe if they knew

the names of the children.

Don’t name the dead children.

Don’t remember the dead children.

Don’t think of the dead children.

Don’t say: ‘dead children’.

Mike Rosen is a Jewish writer from North London, who was recently Britain’s official Children’s Poet Laureate. He read this poem at last Saturday’s 100,000-strong Gaza solidarity demonstration in London.

(Source: counterpunch.org)

An Other Gaza by Suheir Hammad

in chaos one man collects
his daughter into a plastic bag
oh my god the bag is leaking
one kisses a cave was baby boy face just this
morning braids unplaiting phosphorous
wordless exhaust smoke shock

what is it that remains of us now
then what is recyclable in us

men’s beards carry their lineage
refracted memory drones
drummed ears echo frequency
children call for siblings reborn
skulls fracture eyes the color purple
here the steeliest doctors weep

the sea waves shelled boys
sirens post explosions

all is shrapnel and hunger
none is safe all are waiting
between wall and wait and sea
and wall there is no day
what are we
flares rain metal escalation

descent upon heads ladders of spine collapse
night eats sleep the people hold fasts

children of lightening no rain
sewage into water skin flamed to ash
the women’s faces track lifelines
grief upon grief astronomical
dust was people last night
tunnel is the people now

raising horizon in coffins
there is no recovery

she says they light the night with bombs
she says that’s not the sun at all
she says this is a crime against my heart
she says nothing
touch me
she says listen

we are shelter and target
we are stars exploded

the people run into themselves for refuge
they catch up to their ghosts
between devastate and displace
what is destroyed again is everything
what is created is a hole
an other

hallelujah:

Alexander Gerst’s view of the rockets and explosions in Gaza from the International Space Station

hallelujah:

Alexander Gerst’s view of the rockets and explosions in Gaza from the International Space Station

Gaza Suite by Suheir Hammad. Poetry as resistance. Take heart. 

Burned books from the collection of Gaza poet Othman Hussein. Photo by Maysoon Hussein.According to family friends in the UK who spoke to The Electronic Intifada, the house, located in Shuka, an agricultural town east of Rafah, was hit by tank shells on Thursday, 17 July. The home was completely destroyed, although Hussein and his relations were able to escape harm.

Burned books from the collection of Gaza poet Othman Hussein. Photo by Maysoon Hussein.

According to family friends in the UK who spoke to The Electronic Intifada, the house, located in Shuka, an agricultural town east of Rafah, was hit by tank shells on Thursday, 17 July. The home was completely destroyed, although Hussein and his relations were able to escape harm.

(Source: electronicintifada.net)

Hiding among civilians by Richard Seymour
Hamas, they tell us, is cowardly and cynical. 
Hiding among civilians.
They hid at the el-Wafa hospital. They hid at the beach, where children played football. They hid at the yard of 75 year old Muhammad Hamad. They hid among the residential quarters of Shujaya. They hid in the home of the poet, Othman Hussein. They hid in the thousands of houses damaged or destroyed. They hid in 84 schools and 23 medical facilities.  They hid in a cafe, where Gazans were watching the World Cup. They hid in the ambulances trying to retrieve the injured.
Masters of disguise, they hid so well that no one ever found them.  They hid themselves in a young woman in pink household slippers, sprawled on the pavement, taken down while fleeing.  They hid themselves in the little boy whose parts were carried away by his father in a plastic shopping bag.  They hid themselves in an elderly woman, lying in a pool of blood on a stone floor.
Hamas, they tell us, is cowardly and cynical.

Hiding among civilians by Richard Seymour


Hamas, they tell us, is cowardly and cynical. 

Hiding among civilians.

They hid at the el-Wafa hospital. They hid at the beach, where children played football. They hid at the yard of 75 year old Muhammad Hamad. They hid among the residential quarters of Shujaya. They hid in the home of the poet, Othman Hussein. They hid in the thousands of houses damaged or destroyed. They hid in 84 schools and 23 medical facilities.  They hid in a cafe, where Gazans were watching the World Cup. They hid in the ambulances trying to retrieve the injured.

Masters of disguise, they hid so well that no one ever found them.  They hid themselves in a young woman in pink household slippers, sprawled on the pavement, taken down while fleeing.  They hid themselves in the little boy whose parts were carried away by his father in a plastic shopping bag.  They hid themselves in an elderly woman, lying in a pool of blood on a stone floor.

Hamas, they tell us, is cowardly and cynical.

Tribute to Mohammed, Ahed, Zakaria, and Mohammed Bakr, murdered by the IDF on a beach in Gaza while playing football, by artist Amir Schiby.Yesterday I cried my eyes out in my office, sat at my desk frozen in front of a tab open to Facebook, because I didn’t know how to wish a happy 24th birthday to a friend in Gaza. Bombs raining down on her birthday. Everyone on her wall was wishing her a “safe birthday” so I did eventually too, writing to her and saying, I wish I could sit with you in my kitchen and bake a cake for you and make you tea. Hourly you and all in Gaza are in my prayers. She deserves so much more than just a safe birthday. There are more of us aware and speaking out than there were in 2009, but still so many are silent. Still the world sits and helplessly watches the systematic murder of civilians. I read an Israeli woman on Facebook say all she can do is translate the names of the dead and recite them to honour them, and she asks that others do the same. I wonder as the death toll rises, does she feel tired reading and writing that long list, or is it all that is keeping her going. I feel raw and selfish in my tears. I keep thinking of those four little boys running on the beach in the sun. Of journalist Ayman Mohyeldin kicking a footy around with them minutes before the bombs hit them. Too much empathy doesn’t help me sleep at night. It is hard at times like this when most of my comrades are somewhere else: other cities, other countries, not amongst my friends here. We reach out to each other online, because for me it is harder to find political care and solidarity in my small city, as blessed as I am with loving friends here. I think briefly, about going back to church. I think of my ancestry, Indigenous resistance and war. Of my tupuna tāne refusing to cede sovereignty. Today I went to a girlfriend’s baby shower. Feasted and drank, breaking bread in celebration. Baby mamas and baby daddies and baby mamas to be. Touched the soft head of a 5 week old baby girl, held a nearly one year old girl, watched a brother and sister play Lego and fight, rubbed my friend’s pregnant belly. She is due close to my sister whose belly I don’t get to rub, because she too is far from me, in India. How I wish I could be there with her. A friend and mother of three with a newborn talks about missing her belly and says, “Sometimes you wish they were back in your belly where you could keep them safe.” How I long for this experience of motherhood, in a world where the horror sometimes overwhelms me. I came away from this healing time looking forward to welcoming these new babies into the world, and to keep working for peace for all children. Inshallah.

Tribute to Mohammed, Ahed, Zakaria, and Mohammed Bakr, murdered by the IDF on a beach in Gaza while playing football, by artist Amir Schiby.


Yesterday I cried my eyes out in my office, sat at my desk frozen in front of a tab open to Facebook, because I didn’t know how to wish a happy 24th birthday to a friend in Gaza. Bombs raining down on her birthday. Everyone on her wall was wishing her a “safe birthday” so I did eventually too, writing to her and saying, I wish I could sit with you in my kitchen and bake a cake for you and make you tea. Hourly you and all in Gaza are in my prayers. She deserves so much more than just a safe birthday.

There are more of us aware and speaking out than there were in 2009, but still so many are silent
. Still the world sits and helplessly watches the systematic murder of civilians. I read an Israeli woman on Facebook say all she can do is translate the names of the dead and recite them to honour them, and she asks that others do the same. I wonder as the death toll rises, does she feel tired reading and writing that long list, or is it all that is keeping her going. I feel raw and selfish in my tears. I keep thinking of those four little boys running on the beach in the sun. Of journalist Ayman Mohyeldin kicking a footy around with them minutes before the bombs hit them

Too much empathy doesn’t help me sleep at night. It is hard at times like this when most of my comrades are somewhere else: other cities, other countries, not amongst my friends here. We reach out to each other online, because for me it is harder to find political care and solidarity in my small city, as blessed as I am with loving friends here. I think briefly, about going back to church. I think of my ancestry, Indigenous resistance and war. Of my tupuna tāne refusing to cede sovereignty. 

Today I went to a girlfriend’s baby shower. Feasted and drank, breaking bread in celebration. Baby mamas and baby daddies and baby mamas to be. Touched the soft head of a 5 week old baby girl, held a nearly one year old girl, watched a brother and sister play Lego and fight, rubbed my friend’s pregnant belly. She is due close to my sister whose belly I don’t get to rub, because she too is far from me, in India. How I wish I could be there with her. A friend and mother of three with a newborn talks about missing her belly and says, “Sometimes you wish they were back in your belly where you could keep them safe.” How I long for this experience of motherhood, in a world where the horror sometimes overwhelms me. I came away from this healing time looking forward to welcoming these new babies into the world, and to keep working for peace for all children. Inshallah.

(Source: facebook.com)

How will we return to life its splendor after the bodies of the young are stolen? He carries his body in his hands and needs no coffin. His hands have become a coffin for his child shrouded in white cloth. He walks with his head high and his tears flowing. But he is lucky that he is still alive to pay his child the last honors. Entire families were buried in their homes and no one remained to pay them these last honors. It is so simple. In this civilized world of international rights and conventions and the right to life and the right to housing and the right to education and the right of expression, these rights are not for Palestinians but for someone else.
There are no spaces for life. No place to return. All of Gaza bids farewell to herself every night and congratulates those who remain alive the morning of another day. They inspect their bodies then run their hands over the living. They close their eyes then open them, and once again call the members of their families one by one…so that the memory of their names does not fail and their spirits do not disappear.
—Hedaya Shamun, “I Do Not Wish For You To See Gaza As Anything But a Rose
We face a choice - We can choose division and confusion over manifold events in the Middle East, which in themselves are important and also give rise to genuine disagreement.
Or, after attempts by all our enemies to marginalise the central issue, the loadstone for progress: Palestine, we can choose another path. We can choose a sense of priority, of proportion and of strategic unity.
All together in a single fist deployed for the Palestinian people and not for selfish ends.
The test of the claims of any who claim to represent progress, justice and dignity in the region and beyond is to what extent they stand practically with the Palestinian people. And the measure of their falsity is how much they elevate secondary divisions to avoid doing so - whether the self defeating division is based on sect or political tradition.
All out in every way you can for Gaza - and through Gaza to a Palestine, free, sovereign dignified.
Hatta al Nasr, Hatta al Nasr, Hatta al Quds (until victory, until victory, until Jerusalem).