Systematic Dehumanization – A Poem

At the Rafah crossing at the Gaza-Egypt border. (Photo: via Mondoweiss)

By Stuart Rees

(To record a young Gazan student’s characteristically gutsy six week wait, with her two-year-old son, for permission to exit Gaza via Israel to Jordan, eventually having to escape through the Rafah crossing into Egypt, then to Cairo for a flight home to Australia.)

The uniforms
have confiscated your papers
but will not tell you why.
Invisible in their indifference,
they have refused you permission to leave
but will not tell you why.

Clouds of uncertainty
loom in mind and bloodstream,
over rubble, through Gaza’s streets until,
like maggots gobbling identity,
they may replace your confidence
with the cancer of despair.

You who have swum against currents,
are now in danger of drowning.
The only sign from the shore
is an instruction to wait,
to remember that people like you
are of little consequence.
Great powers have nudged and winked
so this justifies the punishment
for being who you are and where you are from.

Oppression persists,
powerlessness deepens,
somewhere the controllers
are shifting their papers,
so you have no alternative
but to tread water and breathe hopes
that signals from another shore
may point a way to escape,
though right now it would be wise
to stifle emotions,
pretend normality
and wait.

– Stuart Rees is the former Director Sydney Peace Foundation, Professor Emeritus Univ. of Sydney. He contributed this article to

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