"You ... enter through a decaying concrete gate, the Palestinian flag painted on and chipping, a sign that might have looked vaguely cheerful years ago, saying 'Welcome to Palestine,'" reported Lora Gordon. "You walk through and there is a feeling of finality, no turning back. Welcome to Gaza. Welcome to hell."
Lora Gordon, of Point Breeze, is a 21-year-old Jew born Laura Kraftowitz who returned here in January from a stay in the Gaza Strip. A member of the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian-led group trying to raise awareness about the Israeli occupation, Gordon told a Pitt crowd on Mar. 4 about her 10 months living with Palestinian families in the town of Rafah.
One Palestinian friend, Abu Jameel, with whom she lived, Gordon said, was a rich storeowner in Israel but, after the latest intifada, was relegated to Rafah, living behind the rusting 20-foot corrugated steel wall built by Israel for security. Gordon witnessed Jameel's home bombarded with bullets by Israeli gunfire. Two days before she left Rafah, Jameel's home -- indeed, his entire neighborhood -- was leveled by Israeli bulldozers. Her account was bolstered by a Mar. 5 Jerusalem Post article that reported, "Since October 2000, almost 15,000 people had their houses demolished by [Israel Defense Force] bulldozers in the Gaza Strip, two thirds of them in the Rafah refugee camp in the northern part of the Strip."
Throughout her nearly two-hour lecture and question period, Gordon portrayed the whole Gaza Strip as a massive humanitarian crisis, with Palestinians brutally terrorized and killed daily by organized Israeli forces, homes constantly destroyed and unemployment ballooning to 85 percent. She says she witnessed a Solidarity Movement colleague being shot and bleeding to death because the Israeli military wouldn't let ambulances into the area to save his life.
Her characterization of Israel's "slow ethnic cleansing" and "purposeful ghettoization of Palestinians" as a "racist state" drew only one vocal objection from an audience member who stood to yell out, "You have sown more hatred in this room than I have seen in my life."
Though the International Solidarity Movement calls itself nonviolent, Gordon left the door open to other choices. "Is there political resistance on the part of the Palestinians?" asked one audience member.
Replied Gordon: "Yeah, sure. There is armed resistance in Rafah...but it's ineffective...it's mostly symbolic."
"Peaceful resistance," corrected the audience member.
"I think people who do not want to live should have the choice to die honorably," said Gordon.