The morning after the ceasefire came into force in Gaza, a number of young Palestinian friends – all of them more interested in iPhones and football than kneeling down in the mosque – told me that for the first time in their lives, they feel proud.
Since yesterday I have been nervous, happy, and very confused. The thought that Hamas – with the help of the ‘Arab Awakening’ – might have ended the blockade is troubling. The group has cordoned off public space in Gaza, restricting both freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. I was raised in the West, brought up on the slippery words and subtleties of diplomacy: ‘non-violence’, ‘conflict resolution’ – these were the notions that I was taught growing up; these, I was assured, were the tools for ending oppression. At times many of us in the community said to Hamas: you need to be moderate, you need to stop the rockets, you need to trust Obama (we really said that).
But perhaps their way was the only way, based on the understanding that the occupation of Palestine was non-negotiable. In the absence of a ‘peace process’ to cover the occupiers’ tracks, there were only two options: Gaza goes, or Gaza stays. As a result, Palestinians in Gaza may have a future where they can breathe more easily. According to the ceasefire agreement, both sides are now committed to
opening the crossings and facilitating the movement of people and transfer of goods and refraining from restricting residents’ free movements and targeting residents in border areas.
Some time ago I was in Zamalek, Cairo, with a friend who was born and raised in Gaza. It was late and we wanted to get back to our apartment. For some reason we got into an altercation with a taxi driver; it ended up with my (normally very cool) friend shouting: ‘Ana Ghazzawi!’ A way of saying: ‘You don’t want to mess with me.’ The driver didn’t, and the situation was ‘de-escalated’. It was only yesterday, after a night of ceasefire celebrations, having survived Operation Pillar of Defence, that I really began to understand why he said it. Perhaps for too long ma kuntsh Ghazzawi, I was not Gazan, and it’s a possibility that leaves me with more questions than answers.