International & Antiwar News


Originally published in the Winter/Spring 2023 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 71, printed March 22. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Winter/Spring 2023 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For other issues dating back to 2012, see the Full Issues page.

By Ahmed Nasser

My name is Ahmed. I am 23 years old. I live in occupied Palestine, specifically in the besieged Gaza Strip. My family consists of six people: my father, mother, me and three brothers. I am the eldest.

The Gaza Strip is very, very small, with an area of only 360 square kilometers. (Editor: That’s about 140 square miles, or two-and-a-quarter the size of Richmond, with nine times as many people.) It has been besieged for more than 17 years. It is part of the Palestinian National Authority, but was separated in 2005. The blockade was imposed in early 2006. This is where the most severe forms of injustice are evident.

I was born in the year 2000, when Gaza witnessed many challenges and difficulties, including attacks and incursions. Killing and the policy of barriers and Israeli military control took place in 2006, when I was only six years old and in the first grade of elementary school. A strict siege was imposed on the Gaza Strip, separating and isolating it from any other part of the country.

In 2008 came the first attack after the imposition of the blockade. This attack was completely different from those that came before. This time, it was by warplanes, tanks and soldiers. An internationally prohibited weapon was used against us: phosphorus. It was fired by warplanes over our heads indiscriminately.

What resulted from this aggression was great damage to the infrastructure, the deaths of thousands of Palestinians and the destruction of thousands of homes over their inhabitants. My school and all UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) schools were turned into shelters for residents who fled from their homes. I do not forget what I went through and witnessed from the crying of mothers, the destruction of homes, the sounds of shelling and fear.

The families who were displaced and their homes demolished were not able to rebuild them or remove the impact of the rubble. The occupation prevented the entry of any building materials into the sector. It was no less dangerous and devastating to the important cultural facilities.

There was no pressure on the occupation government to ease the siege, bring in goods and facilitate the movement of travelers, whether for patients inside the Strip, or for those who wish to study abroad or choose another place to live.

Since the age of 12, I had to help my father in work, but I did not allow this matter and the difficult living situation of the family to allow me to give up completing my studies. I worked in construction and in the olive harvest season. But the wages were very low, and work was not available at all times because of the paralysis of life and the prevention of entry of everything that would alleviate and create job opportunities for the Gazan people.

When I reached the age of 15, I went to work in agricultural lands, close to the border with what is called Israel. An occupation tank was on the other side and it started shooting at us, only to tamper with us, intimidate us and try to prevent us from harvesting the crops. This frightened the employer and he ordered us to return to our homes to avoid any of us being killed or injured.

People here depend on the goods that are allowed to be brought in and a little from local agriculture, but the blockade prevents the entry of many pesticides and large machines that would advance the sector and self-sufficiency. And above all this suffering, you are not allowed to leave and travel, except in great circumstances and financial costs that I cannot provide in light of the economic situation at home. All this results in the great challenges of trying to complete my education or provide for the needs of my younger brothers and the family, of which I can hardly provide only a few.

Living in the Gaza Strip is one of the worst experiences a person can experience. We live in a besieged place that suffers from one of the highest rates of population density in the world and the most unemployment, where our childhood was not beautiful. We suffer from crises that do not pass in other countries. When I was a child, I lost friends who used to study with me at school, and when I returned, it turned out that they were killed in the bombing by the planes. I lost many of my extended family and cousins.

Living in the Gaza Strip makes you a man who takes responsibility from the age of infancy and makes you strong, so that the sound of planes no longer scares us. We have become accustomed to the sounds of planes since the softness of our nails.

The bitterness, the pain and the loss of opportunities that we, as Palestinians from Gaza, were born with, as if we made a mistake, as if we were burdened with sins and we pay for them every moment – who is responsible for burdening us with this guilt??!

Ahmed Nasser is a young Palestinian who was raised and lives in the Gaza Strip, a narrow strip of land along the Mediterranean Sea that has been militarily blockaded by Israel since 2006. At our request, he wrote this opinion piece for The Virginia Defender.

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