How to tell the stories of the siege when you cannot enter Gaza

September 13, 2019
In a new podcast, I hoped to capture the impacts of the Gaza blockade that are mostly invisible to the outside world. There was just one problem: I can’t go there.

Mohammed Tilbani, one of few Palestinian merchants from Gaza with a permit to leave and enter the strip, at his candy factory in Hebron.

Lital Firestone writes in 972:

When I first dreamed up the idea of doing a podcast about Gaza, I hoped to use the medium to get answers to my burning questions about life in the strip. I had seen Gaza covered in the news: military operations, billowing black smoke surrounding Gaza’s borders, and death counts of gunned-down protestors. But I wanted to understand what was happening through the eyes — or mouths, as it were —of the residents themselves.

For years, I have listened to podcasts whose investigative reporting wound tragedies around my ears. I wondered if I could get a listener, oceans away, to be similarly moved by someone in Gaza. Whether they tune in on a packed morning train or while walking their dog, as their headphones envelop them in the candid words of a people struggling for their autonomy, could their perspective shift?

Once I started my fellowship at Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, I quickly understood how difficult it would be to collect these stories firsthand. While I can easily travel the world with my American passport, the people I wanted to hear from in Gaza have been landlocked by Israel for over a decade.

I learned that under Israel’s permit regime, a stringent set of criteria regulates the limited circumstances that people can enter or exit Gaza, denying residents their basic rights. I was naïve to think I could enter the strip somehow, when authorities would not even permit a man separated from his family for 12 years to visit his father in the West Bank who had just suffered a debilitating stroke, because he did not “meet the criteria” for receiving a permit.

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