Well, now the good news, provisionally:
Israel has granted me a permit to enter Gaza—for 6 months. And the international organization I will volunteer at and who applied for the permit, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is now registered. Furthermore, the Israeli District Coordinating Office (DCO) tells us they’d granted the permit 2 weeks ago.
What happened? We may never know.
I speculate: the bureaucracy is impossibly complicated, the gargantuan bureaucracy of running an occupation. Israel risks an implosion much like what happened to South African apartheid, partially because the system became unsustainable, chaotic, absurd, and repugnant. I’ve encountered Israeli procedures before that became damaging to Israel. Perhaps I’d been permitted all along and the AFSC registered for the entire time but no one knew exactly.
Or: someone exerted pressure on the Israelis to at least in this case ease the entry restrictions. I’ve asked people to contact their Congressional legislators and perhaps a word zinged from someone in the Congress to someone in the Israeli administration and Walla, results. But doubtful. Yet I don’t wish to rule out kindly pressure.
Or: it’s part of a general relaxation of restrictions as is happening in the West Bank. I’ve read that Gaza border crossings, mostly those thru which commercial materials pass, are now open more regularly. A new policy? And if so, why now? Has international pressure been a factor?
Or: prayer. I pray, people pray with and for me and for my loved ones. Can consequences be proved? Obviously not. Are they possible? I believe so.
Or: other reasons unfathomable to me at the moment.
However, I am not yet in Gaza. I’ve heard stories of permitted people held at the main personnel crossing, Erez, which I’ll use in a few days, for up to 9 hours before final admission—and some are denied entry, even with the permit. On my last entry two years ago (my 3rd), tho permitted, the security officer at Erez questioned me for nearly one hour with the usual intimidating queries. What will you do, who will you see, where will you stay? Oh, a photographer, what are you going to photograph? Only the suffering? Why 2 weeks, you only need a few days. Etc. I do not look forward to this, but simply expect it and will treat the officer with respect while insisting on my right to enter.
Finally, I raise again questions I’ve stated before: what right does Israel have to control who enters Gaza, especially when they systematically prohibit humanitarian workers like myself? Yes, maybe they have a right to bar weapons and fighters, altho this could be debated. (A population has the right to defend itself, as is claimed frequently in justification for Israel’s brutal attacks on Gaza. Who controls the import of weapons to Israel, especially the lethal ones used my infamously on Gaza last winter? What’s become of the US Arms Import and Control Act denying weapons to countries that use them on civilian populations?) And yes, of course, Israel surely has the right to control entry from Gaza into Israel.
Suppose Canada or Mexico fortified its border with the United States and unilaterally decided who could enter the US and who would be prohibited. There would be an outcry against this shocking use of power—silence concerning Israel. Why?
Where else in the world is behavior like this tolerated, even supported and advocated as the United States does by supplying weapons like the Apache helicopter, F-16 fighter jet, white phosphorus bombs, and other elements of control such as Motorola’s surveillance and communication gear and Caterpillar’s huge militarized D9 bulldozers?
So the question is not simply about entry of people like me, it is also about entry of humanitarian materials like cement, metal, plastic, and other materials vital for reconstruction. And it is about accountability and justice. Who is responsible for the carnage and suffering? Who pays for the reconstruction, the international community once again enabling the occupation to continue? Should Israel be required to pay damages, open the borders, end the siege and the suffering, respect international law and United Nations resolutions?
Thanks to all of you who helped in your various ways resolve my minor dilemma. Soon Gaza and my dispatches from the hallowed ground there. I expect to be there for 3-4 weeks.