Marilyn Garson spoke to our club on 10 October 2021
The chaos, desperation, poverty and despair but also the unity and friendliness of the Palestinian people in Gaza were poignantly and powerfully recounted by Marilyn Garson, a Canadian born aid worker now resident in New Zealand.

Marilyn has written a book “Still Lives: a memoir of Gaza” telling of her work there helping the populace striving for better lives in a crowded, besieged and walled in strip of land between Israel and Egypt.

Marilyn was born Jewish in Halifax, Nova Scotia, qualified in politics and international relations and moved to New Zealand in the 1980s. Helping people start business in or near war zones was her speciality. 
In 2011 she was invited to work in Gaza as Economic Director of a large NGO leading an ambitious young Palestinian team. Gaza's business owners, technology graduates, and job-seekers (facing the highest unemployment on earth) overturned Marilyn's understanding of aid and justice.

Then she volunteered to join the United Nations' emergency team that would remain inside Gaza through the 2014 war. Marilyn witnessed first-hand the impact of Israel's urban assault and massive civilian displacement. The UN was prepared to shelter 35,000 displaced Gazans, but 293,000 arrived. 

“Israel controls everything allowed into Gaza from the types of food to the pencils in schools”, she told the club this week. “Mixed spice was ok but coriander and cumin separately were not.”

The litany of misery and deprivation for Gaza first began as a refugee camp back in 1948: 73 years on, three quarters of the sewage generated by the two million people living in Gaza went straight into the Mediterranean; 97 percent of the water was unfit to drink.

While severely critical of Israel’s blockade and regular air strikes on Gaza, Marilyn is no friend of Hamas, the Palestinian  government of the territory. “ Hamas is a second layer of oppressions for Gazans”, she said, “but it is unproductive to exclude them from any peace process.”
John Bishop