What an absurd idea! Playing 18-holes of golf in Gaza with some friends on a sunny weekend afternoon… almost as absurd as the current situation in the enclosed and besieged Strip.
Nowhere else on Planet Earth is an entire population of people, in this case around 1.5 million Palestinians, cut off from the rest of the world and imprisoned in what the Columbia University professor, Rashid Khalidi, entitled one of his more recent books: The Iron Cage (2006).
The aid flotilla fiasco at the end of May was meant to break the Israeli siege of Gaza, but nothing has really changed. The wilful killing of civilians on a boat in international high seas by Israeli ‘commandos' playing war games has gone unpunished.
And even worse: Israel has adroitly manoeuvred to turn the loss of international sympathy (except for in the United States where polls supporting Israel have never been so high) to their advantage by requesting the assistance of the United Nations in stopping further ships bound for Gaza.
Why anyone should be allowed to stop humanitarian aid to any beleaguered place on the planet is beyond comprehension. But in Gaza, Israel's complete failure to abide by international law has become the norm. Worst of all: Israel's insouciance is accepted; the seclusion of Gaza, banal.
Israel is said to have eased the embargo (endorsed by the international - Western - community, i.e. the Quartet), but here are the facts: there are absolutely no Palestinian goods exported from Gaza, and everything imported to the Strip has to run through Israel and goes to international organisations. Yes, there has been a gradual increase of trucks entering Gaza via Kerem Shalom, from nearly 600 in early June to almost 800 at the end of July 2010. But there has been no change regarding the Israeli policy of prohibiting Palestinians from entering Israel.
Egypt does allow more Palestinians to pass Rafah border post for studies or medical treatment, or with visas to third countries. It's a wonder it's taken so long for fellow Arabs to help each other in this forgotten corner of the eastern Mediterranean that was once a great crossroads of civilisations.
When Israel withdrew unilaterally in the summer of 2005, the Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA) was meant to revive this devastated land with trade and investment. The AMA calls for at least 400 trucks/day leaving Gaza — the export of goods is a basic component for any economy.
Quartet special envoy, Tony Blair, endorses opening the Gaza/Israel border posts of Erez, Karni, Nahal Oz, and expanding Kerem Shalom in the south-eastern corner of the Gaza/Israel/Egypt triangle to bring in humanitarian assistance and eventually spur trade.
Nothing has happened. According to the 2008 Israeli Directive on Defence Export Control, banning 58 items from entering Gaza, and updated on July 6, 2010, with a second list prohibiting ‘Dual Use Items for Projects', such as cement, Israel's stranglehold on Gaza is simply surreal.
See the Israeli human rights organisation monitoring the entrance/exit of goods/people from Gaza, GISHA, for more details: www.gisha.org For example: during the summer of 2000, an estimated 26,000 Palestinian workers crossed to Israel every day, now an average of 90 cross over.
Anyone having been to Erez border post will consider that as a lot and those 90 as lucky individuals. Usually the hours drip away pointlessly as Israeli officers turn away potential travellers.
One such group from Google was denied entrance to Gaza in late 2009 because they were not ‘humanitarian'.
Try googling ‘Gaza': the basic roads are demarcated, the Mediterranean Sea is written clearly, but the names — the few that are there — are all written in English or Hebrew!
No Google Maps for Gaza… Scroll further north and you'll come across the detailed roads, highway numbers and cities of Israel.
Past Tel Aviv, there is a 9-hole course at the Kibbutz Gaash Golf Club. And further north, not far from where a Roman coastal city once stood, is the Caesarea Golf & Country Club, which was included in the Rolex World's Top 1,000 Golf Club Guide. Not bad for a little country.
As more boats attempt the sea journey to Gaza — from Turkey, then Libya, now Lebanon, and maybe even the United States —one is compelled, on a bright day, to wonder how pleasant it would be to play golf in Gaza. The boats will be deviated to fairer shores, but the sardonic captain smiles.
There are certainly enough holes in Gaza for golf… Israel would not allow any of those terrifying little white dimpled Titliest balls to enter the Strip, but if one made it there some day, maybe one could play a round together. Or simply unload and reload, trade and travel, like everywhere else in the world.
Stuart Reigeluth is editor of Revolve.