By Kathleen McQuillen, AFSC Iowa Program Coordinator

Susan Johnson is one of only a handful of outside persons allowed inside Gaza in the months following the December 2008-January 2009 Israeli war against Gaza. Traveling with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in May of 2009, Susan interviewed and photographed Gazans reeling from Israel’s punishing bombardment.

It is said by Israeli apologists that the devastating Israeli attack, which killed 1400 Gazans, was a response to the rockets fired from Gaza. Yet the rockets from Gaza, which is essentially an open-air prison penned in by Israel’s closed borders, resulted in one Israeli death in the 18 months prior to the Israeli assault.

Susan recently shared her experience through photos and commentaries with an audience gathered at the Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting House. Her experiences left her feeling “very responsible to tell the Palestinian story.”

That story holds many stories within.

The rubble throughout this small strip of Palestinian land reveals collapsed homes, hospitals, and schools, including the American International School. The destruction of the police station recalls the 200 police cadets killed in their graduation ceremony the day the bombing started.

A grandmother, Susan related easily to the distress of the grandmother of seven boys, one of whom suffered a serious leg injury, and all of whom suffer from depression. Now they all fear leaving home, they resist going to school, and they experience night tremors.  Sobbing, the grandmother asked no one in particular, “What will become of them?”

White phosphorous and melting bodies, malnutrition and swelling bellies, children’s art work of helicopter and tank shellings are real life dramas played out hundreds of times over in this desolate, devastated, and neglected Gaza.

Unexploded land mines marked “made in USA” remind us of the stories yet to come.

AFSC is a member organization of the US Campaign to End the Occupation. Check out their website for more information and action steps. www.endtheoccupation.org

To participate locally with the AFSC – Middle East Peace Education Project, contact Kathleen at kmcquillen@afsc.org.