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Zazana, a blind eye that knows everything from the sky

Palestinar ume bat drone bati begira, Gazako Rafah hirian. Argazkia: M. Abed - AFP

Such is the effect of drones in Gaza on everyday life and the collective imagination that have invented a word of their own for drones: Zazana. It's an onomatopoeic word in the Gaza dialect.

In The Drone Eats With Me: A Gaza Diary (Dronea comes with me: a Gaza newspaper), the Palestinian writer Atef Abu Saif offers a personal account of how Israel lived with its family seven weeks after the Gaza offensive in 2014. From 8 July to 26 August 2014, more than 2,300 Palestinians were killed by the Zionist armed forces, mostly civilians, destroyed 18,000 homes and left 108,000 families homeless. Over 10,000 wounded, including 3,374 children. They used massively drones for care and aggression.

Dron’s ubiquity constantly breaks the daily routines and intimate space of the inhabitants of Gaza. In the words of Abu Saif, "it is a silent sense of being continuously under the penetrating influence of the drone that crosses walls and roofs and penetrates into the most private and intimate moments of the population". Being the largest outdoor jail in the world in Gaza and the narrowest and most guarded on the planet is not a waste. This climate of terror is also included in basic social practices such as meals, food preparation and sleep. Abu Saif says, "Food is ready. I woke the children up. We all sat around five dishes: white cheese, hummus, orange jam, yellow cheese and olives. Darkness (alludes to constant light by cuts) comes with us. Fear and anxiety eat with us. The unknown comes with us. The F16 comes with us. Drone and its operator somewhere in Israel eat with us."

Another piece of the book tells what happened in the afternoon when they met their friend Abu Annas and his son to burn a shisha cistern truck in front of the house. After heating the pipe, his friend's son warns them of the dangers of smoking on the street: "The drone could interpret as a weapon the pipe heat signal." When his father objects, the young man adds: "The drone is blind [...] an empty heat signal, it is all he needs to attack." Drone is a child talking about thermal cameras and infrared lenses used by Israelis to identify "suspicious" people or objects, weapons or explosives.

"We must put ourselves in the skin of the drone operator, think like a drone operator, respect his blind passion for fulfilling orders, the mute logic of his mission goals. We must always bear in mind the unconditional obedience of this operator," says Abu Saif.

Atef Abu Saif, Minister of Culture of the Palestinian National Power since 2019, lives in the West Bank. However, when Israel began the genocide against Gaza on 7 October 2023, it was in the Gaza Strip. He went to visit his family and decided to stay there. As in 2014, he has also written his diary with the experiences of the first 40 days of the Zionist offensive: Don’t look left, a diary of genocide. On 29 December he managed to move to Egypt with his son and today they are Ramallahn.

Gazatees say they hear or see the drone, but it is even more tragic and ironic that the great Israeli Elbit Systems uses the slogan "A star was born in the skies of Gaza" to market its Skylark drone.

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