Life in Gaza – 2008

26 Feb

Statistics and factual news reporting focusing on statistics sometimes do not convey the seriousness of human rights violations. The sufferings of Palestinians under the Occupation have rarely been reported by the major news organisations. Instead, news on the Middle East tend to focus on sensational headlines from rocket attacks by militants to military incursions from Israel.

The importance of such reporting cannot be discounted because they, after all, are hard news. Yet, it is often, the missing human angle which proves mind-bothering. After all, the effects of the Occupation is more than just the number of inflicted injuries or deaths.

The human rights violations perpetuated by the Israeli government with its collective punishment strategies may fail to impress upon the average news reader, who is unlikely to understand the disastrous impact of fuel and electricity cuts or closure of border crossings.

In this regard, international and regional NGOs and the Qatar- based news agency, Al Jazeera, have done exemplary work in filling this void, by publishing real life stories of Palestinians who are suffering due to these impositions.

Manal, a humanitarian worker working in partnership with Oxfam, wrote about the deplorable living conditions in Gaza due to the fuel cuts. The result – a total breakdown of the sewage treatment system, degenerating into a health crisis.

“Tenants in ground floor flats were forced to move in with neighbours on higher floors. People are now using sand bags to absorb the sewage water which continues to seep into their houses.

The amount of children who have been taken ill has increased considerably. Cases of diarrhea are mounting by the day. Even now, children continue to play outside amongst the raw sewage – where else can they go?”

In another Al Jazeera Gaza diary, ‘Birthday under siege’, Omar, another humanitarian worker for Oxfam, wrote about the food and humanitarian crisis, as a result of the economic blockade which causes skyrocketing increase in prices of blankets, food and medicine, further abetted by an increasingly unemployed population. It was however the reply to his children that made the entire episode heart-wrenching.

‘Tomorrow my two daughters will celebrate their seventh birthdays. Like most children in this part of the world their idea of celebration is cakes, sweets and gifts. It breaks my heart to hear them say, “Daddy, will you go to the shop tomorrow and buy us the sweet things that we like for our birthday?”

Although it upsets me, I had to tell them the truth – that maybe I would not be able to. It all depends on the availability of flour and sugar and if chocolate is allowed into Gaza.’

Laila El-Haddad, a freelance journalist, wrote about the ‘brief respite’ when the Rafah border crossing with Egypt was broken down. Published on Electronic Intifada website, her encounter with a pair of young boys who had never ventured outside Gaza, made her story touching, if not, almost unbelievable.

‘It was then that I met a pair of young boys, nine and ten, who curiously peered over the fence beyond the wall, into Egypt. In hushed whispers and innocent giggles they pondered what life was like outside of Gaza and then asked me: “Have you ever seen an Egyptian? What do they look like?” They had never left Rafah in their lives.

The UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) website also features stories of Palestinian refugees. Najwa Sheikh, conveyed a sense of pessimism as a mother, struggling to make ends meet.

‘Leaving my home for work this morning, I waited more than an hour in the street for a taxi. There’s no fuel, so the streets were empty and quiet – too quiet, the kind of hush that tells you there’s something not normal. I went to four bakeries in search of bread. All were closed or crowded with long queues of people. Pregnant and tired I left, chastising myself for not keeping flour at home. But what’s the point of keeping flour at home if there’s no electricity to bake the bread?

It’s really funny to find yourself in such a situation. You feel so helpless and then watch as your helplessness turns to apathy – not because you don’t care but because you have no power to improve or change anything.

At the end of a long day, I find myself not looking forward to going home. My work office is warm and has lights, but going home means another long wait for a taxi then a long night in the freezing dark, waiting for my children to start crying. How do I explain to them this sudden darkness which has enveloped their young lives?’

It is these individual stories that show how the impact of collective punishment have a lasting and detrimental effect on Gazans. These anecdotes will continue to remind the international community and their governments of their obligation towards the Palestinians – to pressurise the Israel government in ending the Occupation.

===

References:

1. Gaza Diary: Sewage on our doorstep, Al Jazeera, Manal, 24 February 2008

2. Gaza Diary: Birthday under siege, Al Jazeera, Omar, 11 February 2008

3. Down goes the wall, Electronic Intifada, Laila El-Haddad, 25 January 2008

4. Letters from Gaza (3) …no expectations, UNRWA: Refugee Stories, Najwa Sheikh, January 2008

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One Response to “Life in Gaza – 2008”

  1. Beju March 4, 2008 at 6:30 pm #

    Another well written article from the Readings From A Political Duo-ble. What is happening in Gaza is ming boggling to say the least. The lack of media attention on what is happening in Gaza just goes to show you how corrupt the media is. Unless US citizens are involved, the media just does not care.

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