Insects in disguise

It’s not just birds occupying Gaza’s skies. (Matthew Cassel)

You’re sitting outdoors. In the middle of a garden, in an orchard, a field or on a balcony. What better way to welcome the spring? Your body, still shivering from a winter not too long gone, gladly welcomes the flow of sunbeams that warmly engulf you in light. A cold breeze brushes against your cheek, reminding you that it’s not quite summer yet, and that you should get up and enjoy the spring that came earlier than usual this year.

Nothing on mother Earth can disturb this eternal moment of peace. Nothing can stand between you, the sunbeams and the breeze, the blooming flowers and trees, and the time that slowly passes. It’s your own meditation class, where you play instructor, and it’s your own world, to which you set your own frames and limits (or not), hoping to stop disruption of your peace.

But then, at the peak of your springtime ecstasy, you let out all the silence that occupied you for the past couple of hours to loudly curse that fly (or mosquito?) that rudely flew into your peace zone. Whatever it was, it invasively interrupted your moment of peace by breaking into your private world. It was because of such intruders, and only because of them, that you set the limits and frames in the first place.

Your palm looks around for that irritating insect, ready to hit it with all the strength it can afford. But the insect is nowhere to be found, even though you can hear it as clearly and as loudly as ever. “Could this insect be taking the form of something else?” your mind wonders. Your curious eyes are excited at an opportunity to play their favorite game, I spy with my little eye (or perhaps ear?) something that sounds and irritates like an insect, but that I still can’t see.

While your imagination is still on the hunt, you are forced to withdraw from your world. You remember where you live, and you unwillingly tell yourself that the game is over. You tell your little eyes that they were spying in the wrong place, because that “insect” is the Israeli spy drone that has been hovering in the sky, surveiling your life, for a very long time now. It spied for so long that it can probably tell you the story of your life better than you ever could.

And then it hits you, that no matter how hard you try, and no matter for how long, you will never be able to do anything to stop that insect-like drone from disturbing your peace and spying on your humble life. At least with flies and mosquitoes, which you wrongfully accused, you can use your palm or spray some insecticide. But what can you do about a drone that buzzes unreachably above your head, 24/7?

At night, the drone always keeps you company. It buzzes you with a never-ending lullaby and it invades your dreams (that is, if you’re able to sleep despite its awful, nonstop buzzing). Of the hundreds of thoughts that occur to you while you’re trying to fall asleep, you remember that the drone is pilotless. Otherwise, what would have motivated the pilot to keep his dull job? Its not like Gaza is another City of Light (it is, however, the Queen of the Night) that he can enjoy watching from his drone. What is it that this drone really wants? Spy on our spectacular lives, or teach us life lessons by moving the whole population of Gaza out of its besieged “comfort zone” and into a besieged “anxiety zone,” constantly watched over by Big Brother?

In Gaza, we call the drone zannana, which has two meanings: “buzzer” and “nagger.” Buzzer is for the buzzing sound it makes, and nagger because it seems like it keeps nagging Palestinians for something that we probably don’t have, like peace and security. And the drone is never going to spot peace and security in Gaza, or in Ashkelon, if it stays in our sky. If our hearts are not at peace, nothing else will be. And Israelis know what that is like.

Had Gaza been a major oil exporter, I would’ve confidently ended this article by calling for an enforcement of a no-fly zone over Gaza. However, the sad reality is that its not. In fact, Gaza has nothing worthy of the world’s money or attention, except perhaps the lives of 1.5 million people living under a suffocating siege that is illegal under international law and violates our human rights and for which Israel and its allies should be held accountable.

But who cares! When Gaza with its 1.5 million inhabitants was attacked by Israel for 22 consecutive days in the winter of 2008-09, the world, represented by the UN, did its part by sending a mission to investigate what we all know were war crimes committed by Israel. Jurist Richard Goldstone, after writing the famous Goldstone report — which accused Israel of intentionally targeting civilians — retreated less than a year later by saying that had he known then what he knows now, the report would have been different. Goldstone also accused the UN Human Rights Council of having an “anti-Israel bias,” and expressed hope that the report could bring “a new era of evenhandedness at the UNHRC, whose history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted.”

If the UNHRC was biased against Israel the past several years, it scares me to even imagine what “a new era of evenhandedness” will be like. But hey, did we, Palestinians, volunteer to be the reason why Goldstone is smeared as a “self-hating Jew”? Of course not. We know how much the world cares about what we think, and how heavily our thoughts and opinions weigh on the scale of decision-making that affects the smallest details of our daily life. So for now, we will be waiting in Gaza for a new war for which Goldstone’s retreat paved the most legal path, signaled by the bite of the insect-in-disguise that is hovering in our sky at this very moment.

Yasmeen El Khoudary is a freelance writer and researcher based in Gaza City, Palestine. Her blog is and she can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.