As posted on the blog Mondoweiss, March 16, 2009 - The following was written by Rose Mishaan, a participant on the recent National Lawyer's Guild delegation to Gaza. Rose is a student at the University of California Hastings College of Law. I know Rose from when we were both members of Jews Against the Occupation in New York. She sent this out as an email to friends and has given us permission to reprint it here. All the photos below were taken by her. - Adam Horowitz
It took me a month to write this email. In that month, I've been through a whirlwind of emotions, trying to find away to process the things that I saw. I still haven't figured it out.
I went to Gaza with a group of lawyers to investigate violations of international law. We crossed into Gaza through the Egyptian border crossing at Rafah. At first we were fairly convinced we wouldn't get through. We had heard different stories of internationals trying to get through and then getting turned away -- they didn't have the proper credentials, they didn't have a letter from their embassy, etc. It made it all the more anti-climactic when we got through with no problem. just a minor 7-hour detainment at the border, which was really nothing at all. they said we were free to go. so we boarded a bus and drove the half-mile to the Palestinian side of the crossing. when we got there, we went through the world's one and only Palestinian Authority border crossing. we were the only ones there. they stamped all our passports and gave us a hero's welcome -- invited us to sit down for tea and have some desserts. they could not believe an American delegation was there, in Gaza. as far as we learned, we were only the second American delegation to enter Gaza since the offensive -- after a delegation of engineers. We were certainly the first and only delegation of American lawyers. while we were trying to avoid the mandatory Palestinian shmooze time with tea and snacks, waiting for our cabs to arrive to take us to our hotel, we felt a bomb explode. to our unexperienced senses, it felt like it was right under us. i got immediately anxious and decided we need to get out of there. our Palestinian hosts laughed at me kindly and said "don't worry this is normal here". somehow, not that comforting. we got in our two cabs and starting heading from the border to our hotel in Gaza City. the ride from Rafah to Gaza City was about 40 minutes. as soon as we left the border gates, we began to see the bombed out buildings. one of my companions yelled out "holy shit!" and we looked to where she was pointing and saw the giant crater in the building. then my other travel companion turned to her and said "you can't yell 'holy shit' every time you see a bombed out building. we'll all have heart attacks." and she was right. the entire 40-minute drive to Gaza City, our cab driver pointed out the sights around us. he explained what each bombed out building was, who was living there and what had been a big story in the news. all we saw was decimation. one building after another collapsed into rubble....
Gaza was like nothing I'd ever seen. The reality of a very real bloodbath set in. I saw what this onslaught did to people -- real people. i looked into their eyes and heard their stories and saw their wounds. It made war realer than i ever wanted it to be. There still isn't yet a day that goes by that I don't think about what i saw and heard, and feel guilty about leaving, and sad that people are still living with such pain, fear, trauma and loss. I think the hardest part is knowing that as a world, we utterly failed the Palestinians of Gaza. We stood and watched them die and justified our own inaction. It is something that should bring a little shame to us all.