By The Rachel Corrie Foundation
It is July 2014, and more than a dozen people gather on the beach in Khan Yunis, the second largest urban area in the Gaza Strip. They line up plastic chairs around a television set, as groups of friends around the world are doing the same, to watch the World Cup match between Argentina and the Netherlands.
Anyone who has spent time in the Palestinian territories has felt the immense popularity of football, especially among the youth in Palestine. In Gaza, there are plenty of young football fans; the median age is 18. Lionel Messi’s surname and famous number 10 blankets the backs of countless Palestinian youth throughout Gaza as they play pickup games in their FC Barcelona replica jerseys, by far the most popular team in the territories.
Messi, the captain of the Argentinian team, takes the field for the semifinal match. Thirty minutes later, an Israeli airstrike explodes the cafe, killing nine of the young fans, aged 16 to 28.
The incident was a microcosm of the decades-long injustices leveled by the Israeli government and its military against the population of Gaza. The TV which the young men huddled around showed an Israeli broadcast of the World Cup match, the only feed available to those living in a territory within which the development of infrastructure by Gazans – including communications – is controlled wholesale by the state of Israel. This control extends to exports, imports, clean water supplies, permits to enter or exit Gaza, and many other facets of life.
The television was powered by a generator, as the majority of Gaza has suffered a lack of accessible electricity since falling under a complete Israeli military blockade beginning in 2007. Since 2012, a system of rotating electricity service has been implemented, with selected areas receiving only up to six hours of service per day before the electricity is cut off and moved to another area of the grid.
On this particular evening, the young men gathered on the beach for the football match to try and escape – at least mentally – the second full day of Israeli bombardment; an assault that would eventually last 49 days and claim the lives of more than 2,200 Palestinians.
The impact of the greater policies which shaped this microcosm is nothing short of devastating. A September 2015 report from the United Nations warns that “Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020 due to ongoing de-development, eight years of economic blockade and three military operations in the past six years.” And yet, Gaza remains absent from the mainstream conversation around a lasting political solution in Palestine/Israel. Gaza has remained neglected to the point of near omission throughout the history of the U.S. brokered “peace process” and has been rendered inconsequential, outside of condemnation of violence on behalf of Hamas and other political groups in the region, in media and diplomatic rhetoric dominated by Israeli “security” concerns.
This void leaves an opportunity and responsibility for people of conscience throughout the world to help close the diplomatic and humanitarian deficit created by Israeli and American policy. At the Rachel Corrie Foundation (RCF) we have worked for more than a decade with our partners in Gaza to develop and implement a range of initiatives aimed at eliminating that gap. We are honored to partner with Al Basma Club for the Disabled this December to present the second event of our Rachel Corrie 2015 Gaza Sport Initiatives, the Rachel Corrie Sports Tournament for Athletes with Disabilities. Through this event, 150 men and women will take part in football, table tennis, and basketball tournaments, and a wheelchair marathon, providing a sport forum to showcase the skills of athletes who are deaf, amputees, paraplegics, or have suffered from polio.
RCF will be accepting donations throughout the month of December so that we may continue this initiative. Contributions can be made through our website, or by calling (360) 754-3998. These donations not only help provide the basics – such as stadium rental, supplies and preparations, new footballs, and other necessities – but also cover additional arrangements that make this tournament a memorable one for athletes and observers alike.
The pervasiveness of Israeli militarism seeks to erase even these most basic expressions of humanity. Simple pleasures in life, such as the ability to gather with friends for a football match or to participate in organized sports and activities, must be demanded as part and parcel of any person’s self determination. Please join wsith RCF and our partners in Gaza to break through the barbarism of Israeli policy; to declare to the world that the people Gaza will not be denied these inalienable rights.
– The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace & Justice is a grassroots, 501(c)3 non-profit organization that conducts and supports programs that foster connections between people, that build understanding, respect, and appreciation for differences, and that promote cooperation within and between local and global communities. The foundation encourages and supports grassroots efforts in pursuit of human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice, which we view as pre-requisites for world peace. Continuing the work begun and envisioned by our daughter, Rachel Corrie, our initial emphasis has been on Israel/Palestine.