Emad Marzuq, 2006 – Photo by Caritas-Gaza
October 23, 2010
When, in June 1967, Israel captured the Gaza Strip, the West Bank including Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, the then Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan declared it would be an enlighted occupation. And, indeed, since 33 years now the occupied experience day in, day out the enlighted occupation.
In 2006 there was a priest in Gaza with a heart, Father Manuel Musallam from Bir Zeit, West Bank. Father Manuel was the Voice of Gaza and his voice was the voice of a tenor till he retired in April 2009. Since then, incidentally, the Catholic church of Gaza only prays and the Greek-Orthodox and the Baptist churches continue only to pray like in the past.
At the beginning of August 2006 Father Manuel took us for a tour: Muslims and Christians, political people, deputies, activists, journalists, nuns, Caritas and other Ngo’s, ordinary citizens. We went, in particular, to Beit Lahia in the north and to El-Maghazi RC in the central Gaza Strip to express solidarity to victims of the latest devastating military operations.
On our way back to Gaza City a very young man from El-Maghazi RC spoke to me on the bus. He was working with Caritas-Gaza. His job was to provide wheelchairs, walkers and crutches to the disabled. He invited me to go to Esh-Shifa hospital to meet the crippled he worked with. I was busy but he insisted: “You should come! You should see!” I was very busy. He continued to insist and repeated: “Please, you should come! You should see!”.
We went to Esh-Shifa hospital. It was in the afternoon. In the first room we entered there was Emad Eid Mattar Marzuq. Emad had lost his two legs at the end of July, a few days before my visit. His wife was pregnant at home. His brothers were with him. They offered me tea, coffee, soft drink, fruits, candies, as it is the Palestinian custom.
It was a hot day. Emad was 37-year old and handsome. A white sheet covered part of his body. When Emad moved I saw for a second that he was completely naked and his two short stumps were enormous due to big bandages. The bandages were so big that no underpants could be worn by Emad.
One night Emad was walking in the neighborhood of Shejayia in Gaza City. While he was speaking on his cell phone a missile was fired at him. His brothers explained me that inside such kind of missile there are some sort of turning knives which cut everything.
The young man from Caritas took me to other rooms. That day I saw no less than twenty amputees, a living catalogue of horror. All of them were young. They had been hit in the areas of the latest Israeli incursions or in another places. One was without his right arm and without his left leg. One was without his right eye and without his left leg. One had his leg cut under the knee, another one had lost his entire leg. One had lost his right hand and his left arm, another one had lost his two legs. However, Emad was the worst case that day.
I promised Emad Marzuq to return to visit him in a couple of days, but I never returned to the hospital. From the late director of Caritas I got a photo of Emad. Towards October I heard Emad interviewed by the then BBC correspondent Alan Johnston for the English World Service. I got his news through one of his brothers and some acquaintances.
I was informed Emad went to Iran to get artificial legs. Later I was told he couldn’t walk with such legs. Then I heard Emad got an electrical chair, called here “car”… and then the electrical chair broke and Emad returned to use his wheelchair.
In 2008 I had a conversation with a foreign man from a democratic country who used to come regularly to Gaza to gather – as he said – the feelings of the Palestinians (sic).
When I showed him the picture of Emad, he said: “It was in 2006 when Israel introduced this kind of missiles. I went to Esh-Shifa hospital at the time and I saw beheaded bodies and bodies cut in two. And when they were transported on a stretcher, sometimes half of the bodies fell on the ground.” How did you feel after that? Could you sleep at night? I asked him. He replied: “I felt nothing because this is not my war, although I have Palestinian friends. Maybe tomorrow I will be in Congo or in Somalia!’ And he explained me the connection between the missile, the communication system, the cell phone and the target. According to him, it was not necessary to have spies on the ground.
In May 2009, after the war, I had the courage to visit Emad at home, in Et-Tuffah district in Gaza City. The zinc roof of his room was holed. He was jumping from his wheelchair to his bed and vice versa. The two legs from Iran were in a corner of the room.
The two legs were rose-coloured. Each one weighted six kilos. The stumps of Emad being short and weak, he couldn’t raise his legs once he wore the artificial limbs. Further, the prosthesis were injuring the skin of his stumps making him bleeding. And, moreover, the legs were rigid like two trunks, they were not moving at the knee and at the ankle. The two legs from Iran in a corner of the room were adding insult to injury.
Emad also complained about his electric chair which was not working properly. And he added that in thousands they came to visit him, Ngo’s, journalists, all kind of people, with cameras, video cameras. They made promises but he had never seen a cup of tea.
The day I visited Emad I was with a professional local crock (crook ?), but at the time I had no evidence yet that the crock was a crock. Just I had heard. The crock promised to Emad a new electrical chair and to others crippled the crock made the same promise. No one got the 4,000 dollars electrical chair and, fortunately, the government stopped the altruism of the crock.
I visited Emad the other day. Before, a few meters in front of his home, on the other side of a quiet and sandy street, there was a wall of greenery with climbing flowered plants. Behind the green wall there was a large track of land – called here “bayara’ – full of citrus and olive trees, and there was an agricultural well. Now, in front of the house one can see a sort of airport, a piece of Sahara.
Eight months ago or so, after midnight, the Israeli air force bombarded the well and left a large and deep hole. The zinc roof of Emad’s house flew. The morning after Emad recorded on his mobile phone the devastated land, where all the people gathered, and the hole. Like every Gazan, Emad is an amateur war reporter and he showed me his shooting on his mobile.
At present, Emad has a new zinc roof on his one-storey house. The house is modest but tidy, with very clean paint coats. Now Emad, 41, who was a laborer, has a new nine-month baby, in addition to his four children aged from 16 to 3. Some months ago he has got a new wheelchair from an international Ngo which bears the trademark of an Israeli company… and the electric chair is under repair.
Despite their daily dose of drama, most of the Gazans who see the picture of Emad are horrified, even amputees. The picture was taken by Caritas-Gaza in the house of an Emad’s uncle. Emad was lying on a mattress on the floor after the double amputation, without an adequate bed.
In the streets of Gaza one can see many amputees. There are scores of girls, women and men like Emad Marzuq and many are even in worse physical conditions and poorer than Emad… and not all of them can go in the street. My friend Abu Ramzi underlines that the smart Israeli missiles are American.
– Flora Nicoletta is an independent French journalist living in Gaza. She is currently working on her fourth book on the Palestinian question.