|Grand Central, NYC|
Some of the public may reasonably ask, “why here”? And the answer is very simple.
It’s not actually about creating disruption or inconvenience to the public.
It’s to invite people of good conscience to stop for a moment, to take a minute from their own travels, and reflect upon the trapped people in Gaza and the inhuman constraints on their basic ability to travel.
How easy it is for us to go to a train station, a bus station, an airport, a port, to do all the normal travel things that people do. Yet that right to travel and return, a fundamental human right, has been denied to the people of Gaza since 2006 under Israel’s brutal and illegal siege.
Just think what that must be like, to be caged in a concentration camp, to grow up knowing that you may never get the chance to leave, to visit family, to have a holiday, to wander the earth and enjoy the same basic life experiences as others.
What kind of regime could impose such wicked restrictions on an entire population?
And now, under Israel’s genocidal plan, the only direction of travel for Gazans is into the Sinai wilderness, to live in tent cities, 2.4 million people banished from their land, refugees again, back on the ‘Nakba road’, bombed to oblivion as they go.
The known statistics (almost certainly underestimated) are truly staggering: over 15,000 people slaughtered in 7 weeks, almost half of them children, the greatest concentration of state-directed killing in modern times. Over 36,000 have been injured. Many more will die from lack of medical attention. Thousands more lives lie ruined. 1.7 million people are now completely displaced. 70 journalists have also been murdered by the regime.
Crammed into southern Gaza - the torture countdown to the end of Israel's 'humanitarian pause' now passed - the mass murder has started again, with over 175 more souls wiped out on the first day. The media make cursory note of the numbers, the 'normalisation' of mass victims - what's another 175 when set against the many thousands. Astounding levels of killing, all shrouded in criminal silence from the US/UK/EU, the regime's most complicit backers.
Might moral-minded travellers take a moment from their own daily commute to stop and think what all this must be like - to try and comprehend the scale of such cruelty, the savage treatment of an entire people?
When travelling back to their comfortable homes and humble abodes at night, might they think about the apocalyptic scenes across Gaza: the scorched landscape of pulverised homes, refugee camps, UN schools, hospitals, mosques, churches and playgrounds, all reduced to rubble, so many children still lying under it.
The scale of it all leaves many simply lost for words. The massacre of entire families in apartment blocks. In the West Bank too, the open slaying of small children in the street. Scenes of incomprehensible barbarism and suffering. The sheer wickedness of what we're seeing before our eyes is hard to even process. We can but echo those plaintive words from the heart of darkness: "the horror, the horror."
For far-right religious zealot Bezalel Smotrich, party to Netanyahu's sordid coalition, Western countries should accept Gazan families 'wishing to relocate': "I welcome the initiative of the voluntary emigration of Gaza Arabs to countries around the world," he asserts.
Whatever the pain and carnage, whatever the historic loss of life, whatever this latest threat of mass ethnic cleansing, whatever the genocide, the people of Gaza will never heed this fascistic call to travel. They will never be forced into exile by their oppressor regime. There will be a return. Palestine will never die.
These gatherings at stations are a statement of support for the caged, the bombed, the suffering of Gaza.
May homeward passengers on Western platforms with return tickets come to understand the existential fear Gazans have of never being able to return to their own homes, their streets, their land again.
Let us show our concern, our empathy, our love for the trapped and heroic people of Gaza, for the occupied, brutalised and movement-restricted people of the West Bank, and for all Palestinians living under this ruthless apartheid system.
Let us work to ensure that, from the ruins, a renewed Gaza will some day rise, where liberated people will be able to stand, like anyone else, at a train station - as they once did, long ago - and partake in the normal travels of life.