Saturday, June 30, 2007

Israel assassinates Fatah militants in Gaza

Among the Palestinians assassinated in the Gaza Strip today, not one is a member of Hamas, nor even all of them Islamic Jihad. Haaretz reported this,

"Abu Thaer, a spokesman for the armed wing of Fatah, said the head of the group's militant wing in the central Gaza region, 50-year-old Salah Quffa, had been killed in the attack.

His son, Iyad, was also killed, the spokesman said.

The third casualty, 40-year-old Samir Abu-Muslim, was apparently a civilian bystander."

These are members of the Ayman Jouda group, a part of
Fatah's military wing who have long acted independently of the Palestinian president and his security commanders. In recent infighting between Hamas and a number of Fatah security forces they stayed far from the fighting. The existence of such entities dispel notions of a mere "civil war" between Hamas and Fatah. Groups such as Ayman Jouda point to the increasing fragmentation of Fatah, largely along the lines of pro- and anti-US complicity.

Abbas appearing to distance himself from the US?

Abu Mazen choses France as the location to make declarations calling on an International Peacekeeping force to police Gaza. Making these statements in Paris, must be Abu Mazen's weak attempt at distancing himself from a hard U.S. and Israeli line that the Palestinian president has been taking lately. Furthermore, it is rather peculiar that Abu Mazen promises returning law and order to all of Palestinian Territories when at least in Gaza Palestinain are now finally experiencing law and order now that Fatah leaders have packed up and left and many Fatah forces are staying at home these days. This reminds me of the sort of things I would be required to analyze in Logic 101. Hamas's use of force, which Abu Mazen refers to continuously does not demonstrate Hamas' innate violent nature.

At the end of the press conference Abu Mazen does make an honest comment that Palestinians need hope, not just security. In Gaza at least Hamas has provided some sembalnce of security, but hope truly is lacking for many people here. Yet sadly, hope is also not found in Abu Manzen's consistant appearances with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert or his empty rhetoric of a "peace process" and a "bi-national solution."

It looks as if Egypt and Saudi Arabia are re-considering their harsh stance towards Hamas. If not Hamas in the Gaza Strip, could other groups like Alqaeda have a presence on Egypt's border soon? Hamas may soon look soft compared to other ideologies that could soon gain popularity in Gaza. Egypt has decided to move its embassy back to Gaza while Abu Mazen will continue issuing passports from Gaza after all.

Israel vs. Hizballah Summer 2007?

Haaretz reports Saturday June 30, 12:30am,

"Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon expressed "deep concern" Friday that Lebanon's continuing internal political instability will hinder its implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, the ceasefire agreement that ended the Second Lebanon War, which calls for the disarmament of all militant groups in the region near the country's border with Israel."

Friday, June 29, 2007

Fatah Divide

Hani Al-Hassan is a longtime Fatah member. He is former Minister of Interior, was a close advisor to president Yaser Arafat and senior advisor to Abu Mazen. In an interview on Aljazeera on Wednesday Al-Hassan voiced criticism of some Fatah members and their actions relating to the Hamas' military takeover in Gaza. Consequently, Abu Mazen dismissed Al-Hassan from his position. This comes after the president sacked seven of his highest officers in Gaza over the past two weeks.

This from the Jerusalem Post,

Hassan described the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip as a serve blow to US security coordinator Maj.-Gen. Keith Dayton, who has been working toward strengthening Abbas's security forces ahead of a possible confrontation with Hamas.

In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Hassan said the fighting in the Gaza Strip was between Hamas and group of "collaborators" with the US and Israel, and not between Hamas and Fatah.

His remarks were clearly directed against Dahlan and a number of senior Fatah leaders.

In another interview, Hassan named Dahlan as the "main culprit" behind the crisis. He said Dahlan used his strong influence and Abbas's "blind confidence" to foil any reconciliation bid between Fatah and Hamas after the Islamic movement came to power in January 2006.

Many of Al-Hassan’s claims parallel those of Hamas who in the past weeks have disclosed hundreds of secret Fatah documents confiscated from Fatah security headquarters in Gaza City.

Why is this split taking place within
Fatah's ranks?

This quote from Alistair Crooke's sheds some light, by taking us back to Palestinian elections of last year.

The election outcome, however, was not primarily a judgment on Fatah’s corruption, even if this was a significant factor. I recall a leader in a refugee camp in Lebanon saying: ‘You will see . . . what this victory for Hamas represents is the final rupture of the Palestinians’ faith in the international community. We no longer believe that the Americans or the Europeans ultimately can be counted on to do the right thing by us. We know that we must rely only on ourselves now.’ Hamas had recognised for some time that the Palestinian constituency that voted Fatah a monopoly of power and of armed force in 1993, following the Oslo Accords, no longer existed. Hardly any Palestinians now believe that Palestinian ‘good behaviour’ – as promised to Israel by Fatah – will induce the US to ignore its domestic Israel lobby and exert pressure on Israel to withdraw from the lands occupied in 1967. ‘Hamas had predicted all along that Israel would not fulfil its bargain,’ Tamimi writes, ‘and that it was using peacemaking in order to expropriate more land.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Failing of Gaza

The democratically elected Hamas government was doomed to failure when the world refused to recognize the last election outcome. Furthermore, as the former government dominated by Fatah was not willing to hand over authority over government institutions and security forces, Hamas was forced to carry out what was practically a coup d’etat in order to take its place as sole governing body of the Palestinians and thus be able to tackle the ever increasing lawlessness there.

Now, the new mini state of Gaza will fail, because the world will not allow it to succeed.

Aristotle considered chaos to be a very likely outcome of the competing interests given voice in democracy. In Gaza, Palestinian differences have been exploited to bring about Aristotle’s predicted internal division. On a national level US leadership is determined through a democratic process. Yet, in its foreign policy US leadership resembles an oligarchy, a wolf in sheep’s clothing that hypocritically insists on an increased spread of democracy while forcing its personal agenda on world leaders. Abu Mazen is its latest victim forced to promote “democracy”, yet consent to the demands of the US-aligned oligarchy. The giving in to this duplicitous policy will, much like the Native American experience, lead to the demise of the Palestinian cause.

The Failing of Gaza

Transportation is one of the few sectors of Gaza’s economy that is relatively constant. No matter how dire the financial situation, collective taxis are always shuttling people along the main roads of the Gaza Strip. This past week saw an exception to even this rule, reflecting the severe desperation of Gazans. There are a few reasons for this.

Many people are afraid of what the future may bring. Militarily, Hamas has shown its domination over Fatah by ousting the latter in 48 hours. Yet, politically, Hamas has dug itself into a hole, with seemingly little foresight for a political agenda of realpolitik. Because of Fatah’s unwillingness to hand over power and Hamas’ weak position on the world’s political stage, it is the people who will suffer. The US and Israel are now, more urgently than ever trying to bring about the weakening of Hamas, for their deeper goal of conquer and divide. Yet neither has learned that starving a people does not break their determination, it only reinforces it. Fatah has lost a vast amount of legitimacy in the eyes of its people, while Hamas is being internationally weakened; as a result the Palestinians are more divided than ever. The oligarchy and its partners continue to use whatever means necessary, be it force or a vernacular of promoting the people’s rights, to attain their personal interests.

In Gaza government employees, despite being largely unpaid, still attended their work until Hamas took over the Gaza Strip last week. President Mahmoud Abbas’s new US-backed emergency government has called for all government employees, including the police force not to report for work while promising to finally pay them a full month’s salary. Economic borders with Israel are largely sealed slowing trade down to a trickle. Many Gazans are staying home because of the uncertainty of their future. These are difficult days and yet many rather save their money for the even harder times ahead.

On the Egyptian side of the Rafah border thousands of Palestinians are once again living in tents in refugee camps like in 1948. Wednesday morning Egypt declared it would not open the border, thus effectively closing Gaza’s only gateway to the world. The emergency government canceled Palestinian passports last week calling for their reissuing in the West Bank. Gazans are left without access to the rest of the world, without internationally recognized travel documents, with only the bare minimum of food to survive on and are largely unemployed in a depleted economy. The Western backed emergency government is complicit in the creation of this sealing off of Gaza and the further severing of Gaza from the West Bank.

How long can Gaza survive while its civil servants are ordered to stay home by its Fatah leadership whom they are loyal to, yet which has deserted them? How long can Gaza go on with school teachers, ministry employees and policemen remaining in their homes? These should answer to their elected government and yet the oligarchy has illegitimized it and instated a puppet government, while international leaders follow suit.

One taxi driver told me security is more important than bread because what does one do with all the money in the world if you don’t have security to keep you alive to enjoy it. Another driver told me a man can’t get married and say to his wife, “good morning, habibti, my love,” and then disappear for the rest of the day without providing for her and their home. Palestinians cannot survive without bread.

Israeli Promises

After the Hamas military takeover in Gaza, Olmert’s government promised to ease roadblocks and security restrictions in the West Bank. This statement was put on hold after the Israeli army raised objections. Further promises have been made that Palestinian taxes, illegally withheld by Israel over the past year and a half are to be returned to the new emergency government. The details of when and how much and if at all, still lie in Israel’s hands. Olmert was reported saying Tuesday,

"We aren't deluding ourselves… there are concerns that Abu Mazen will be tempted to do what he did with the Mecca agreement, and enter into a new unity government alongside Hamas." Israeli Minister Eli Yishai said, “funds should be transferred to the PA in stages, in order to determine whether it has any practical effect in terms of strengthening Abbas.”

Israel seems hardly concerned with the legality of its actions or even its dialogue partner Abu Mazen’s needs.

Twisting Reality

On Tuesday Egyptian President Husni Mubarak explained, "Fatah has also committed mistakes, but it is clear that Hamas started the whole thing and confused the world."

Mubarak rightfully points out the “confusion” that reigns after recent events in Gaza. Yet, the sources of this deliberate “confusion” are the world oligarchy’s leaders and its partners.

Mubarak went on to say, “Hamas had made a dangerous mistake in allowing chaos to prevail.”

On Tuesday US secretary of state envoy to the Middle East David Welch said,

“We are supporting the legitimate security forces and enhancing them in order to establish a Palestinian entity which will be able to provide security and stability for Palestinian citizens, and we will be committed to this in the future.”

In his leaked report retired UN special envoy to the Middle East Alvaro De Soto contradicts such statements saying, “the Americans clearly encouraged a confrontation between Fatah and Hamas and worked to isolate and damage Hamas and build up Fatah with recognition and weaponry.”

Since Hamas has taken rightful control in Gaza, the people have witnessed a complete turn-around in its security situation. No civilians are seen walking the streets carrying arms, no more gunfire is heard as was becoming the norm while Fatah security forces dominated, reports of theft and crime are almost unheard of and drug lords are being round up and criminals brought to justice. Mubarak’s claim of chaos prevailing under Hamas doesn’t hold water and the US’s effort of training illegitimate security forces brought anything but peace and security.

The Way Out

In addition to the rhetoric President Mubarak also had something insightful to say Tuesday,

“Unify the Palestinian ranks through dialogue… a common Palestinian position” is “an immediate requirement that can bear no delay.”

Indeed these two factions so torn apart must sit together once more and find a way forward. Hamas is calling for dialogue already. Fatah needs to prioritize their own people’s choices and silence Western voices that are tempting them with legitimacy in the world’s eyes if they concede to the oligarchy’s demands.

After Hamas’ election victory early last year, Fatah was not able to come to terms with its election loss. 16 months later, Fatah is still in denial of the ultimate outcome, Hamas’ seizing of power in the Gaza Strip. For Fatah, the Palestinian national agenda seems to be buried beneath a pride and the prioritizing of certain individuals of their personal interests tied closely to those of the oligarchy. This could well lead to the movement’s downfall while taking the Palestinian national agenda years to recover.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Gilad Shalit for 1.5 million Palestinians, deal?

Today marks one year since Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier was captured at the Gaza-Israel border from a tank in his military outpost. Since that day he may have been held captive in a house, a room, a cellar, a cave, ultimately he is in a prison, his own personal cage somewhere. Palestinians also are held in a cage.

Sunday an Israeli Minister had the gall to propose the exchange of the life of one Israeli for the lives of 1.5 million Palestinians.

The world is not interested in a true prisoner exchange. Here is just one further example of life within the cage of Gaza.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Who am I?

When the situation becomes too unstable in Gaza I have the option of leaving here, I can leave and never come back. I can run from this world of discomfort, of poverty and lack of security. But these are not the things I pine for, comfort, riches, security. I will continue to speak out against injustice and be the voice of the voiceless because I long to live for the other, rather than for my-self. It takes a re-shaping of the habits of my mind and heart to reach even partially this way of being. That is why I am here.

Today fear fills the hearts of Gaza’s people, with the recent string of events Gaza’s future is as uncertain as ever. There is a fear that they may one day return from their perpetual search for charity and donation empty handed (80% of Gazans are receiving international food aid); a fear of waking to another day of hopelessness (70% of Gazans are either unemployed or largely unpaid government employees); a fear that the economic disaster they are experiencing today may overcome their lives (60% of the population live under the poverty level of $2 per day); a fear is that this economic crisis will divide the entire population in inter-factional feuding and result in a lawless chaos as factions and political parties vie for the little power that does exist in Gaza.

All this could be prevented, but it takes a perspective of the conflict that includes a memory that goes back further than just a couple years, one must go back to the start. Prior to 1948 and the creation of the state of Israel the Gaza Strip did not exist. On that fateful day nearly 60 years ago a majority of the ancestors of Palestinians living/imprisoned in the Gaza Strip today, walked the dusty paths to this plot of land. On that day their future was determined to be confined in this space, which only then was renamed, the Gaza Strip, a prison with borders to keep in an unwanted people. 200,000 refugees were added to the 70,000 living in Gaza City and its surrounding cities at the time. Life began in UN tents and over the course of these 60 years those rows of tents have become overcrowded and inhumane refugee camps, where families listen to their neighbors’ conversations and private interactions, where sickness spreads with ease, where children play in sewage that runs down narrow streets.

I have come to find that the injustice of this world exists to maintain the status quo of the way of life, the ease of life of the upper class, to keep comfortable those already living in comfort, to keep wealthy those living with wealth, to keep secure those living in security.

The root of what is considered a social or political sickness is a matter of interpretation. My perspective as either oppressor or oppressed, whether I am aware of it or not, will determine and limit how I see the world around me, unless I am shaken awake to the reality of the other. As they say, “One person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.”

The great women and men of history are those that have been able to step out of their perch of comfort and identify with the one that is colonized, the one who is deprived of human rights, the one that is abused, the one who is forgotten by the mighty of the world. From a place of comfort it is easy to consider the oppressed a victim of her own lack of perseverance, his inactivity or her idleness. From the eyes of the individualist where one is always considered able to “make one’s self”, the fault lies with the victim. It takes an awaking, a metamorphosis to be able to place oneself in the shoes of the other, and there staring at death, to gain new eyes that condemn one’s own inactivity and idleness in the face of the oppression that one’s very existence executes on the oppressed. Some of the worst evils we commit are the ones we are unaware of.

My heart burns for these, the oppressed.

Recently I have been challenged and consoled by a prayer of St Francis’ of Assisi. Francis was a man who chose to leave behind the splendor of a bourgeois life to serve and live among the poor, no doubt he was familiar with the suffering of the exploited. These words are powerful in a world that is more prone to raping, economically, politically, sexually, than to giving, in a world more prone to hungering for power and money no matter what the means, than to serving the one that is anything but powerful, the voiceless.

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is sadness, joy;
Where there is darkness, light;

Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
Not so much to be understood, as to understand;
Not so much to be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.”

Who is the powerless, the voiceless, the oppressed in your world?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

New York Times Sound and Images

Steven Erlanger from the New York Times gives this insightful audio report over the screening of images in life in Gaza after the Hamas military take over.

Welcome to the Gaza Zoo

The Jerusalem Post stated that the Israeli army is considering parachuting food into Gaza since they will not interact with Hamas to coordinate border crossing coordination. If borders stay closed as this suggests, it means that food may fall from the sky but nothing will exit from Gaza, no fruit, vegetables, clothes, no furniture, no nothing, trade with the outside world would come to an end.

This prospect would mean a slow death for Palestinians. Today Gazans are becoming ever more like animals in a zoo, their cage remains closed, but enough food and water is provided to keep them alive and the many commentators, journalists and analysts coming visiting constantly. The UN has explained that if the main economic border crossing is not opened within 2-4 weeks a humanitarian crisis will break out in Gaza. I believe Israel will be forced to open the border somehow, because like animals in a zoo, you can’t let them starve.

In the past number of days, one of the most common headlines related to Gaza was something along the lines of a “desecrated church,” when in reality it was a case concerning the looting of a Christian school.

A friend of mine living near the school, himself a Fatah security member told me that members of the Preventative Security Force would often station themselves on the roof of the school building during attacks on their headquarters just behind the school. This was the case last week as well, as Hamas forces carried out an attack on the building from three directions.

Like many buildings that were used as strongholds the doors were blown open with an RPG to secure no resistance coming from inside it. Succeeding the attack the building was then vandalized, crosses were broken and much was stolen. It is highly unlikely that Hamas carried out this vandalism; they were after all fighting a war.

Within days Hamas had identified some of the thieves and returned six stolen computers. Gaza’s Catholic priest, Emanuel Mussalam was interviewed on Hamas radio yesterday calling for the man to be put on trial who had ordered the forced entry into the school.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Why this Coup D'etat?

Technically what took place in Gaza last week cannot be considered a coup, and yet practically it very much took the shape of a bloody coup d’etat.

Why is it that an elected government is required to carry out a coup?

After some days of reflection and hearing many, many accounts of what took place last week, I stick to my early conclusion that the Hamas routing of Fatah security forces in Gaza was politically warranted. But I don’t believe that the means justified the ends.

Sadly, the blood that was shed was the only option the opposition and the international community that backed it, left the democratically elected Hamas leadership to take on the role the people had chosen for it. Hamas’ takeover of Gaza’s rival security forces took on the form of a coup because they were not given rightful control of government institutions after winning the elections. This coup may have been the only option left for Hamas to attempt to earn some form of legitimacy and end the endless inter-factional fighting.

The vast majority of Gazans are living a much safer reality today than they were when two parties vied for authority over Gaza’s security forces. Yet, a minority still suffers, Fatah members fear Hamas searches of their homes, mother’s fear that their sons, who were employed by the former security forces, will be rounded up and punished. The same certainly filled the hearts of Hamas members and their families in the past; now the tables have turned. The reality is that in this society checks and balances are few and far between, largely relying on a familial network of who knows who.

While visiting Ireland yesterday, Jimmy Carter had this to say,

“This effort to divide Palestinians into two peoples now is a step in the wrong direction, all efforts of the international community should be to reconcile the two, but there's no effort from the outside to bring the two together."

"The United States and Israel decided to punish all the people in Palestine and did everything they could to deter a compromise between Hamas and Fatah."

Hamas was given few options and now has played into this strategy of division. Despite positive reports of last week’s events by a human rights group, Hamas ought to be held responsible for some of the brutal actions perpetrated. The bluff of the international community ought to be called; they fabricated this division and now seek to perpetuate it. Today, Abu Mazen accused Mishal of his attempted assassination, by airing a video recording that he claims proves his statements. Hamas for its part accused Dahlan, Abu Mazen’s National Security Advisor, of poisoning former president Yaser Arafat and attempting to assassinate Prime Minister Haniyeh.

In the course of this political power struggle, it is the common people that suffer.

Many rival media outlets were closed during the four days of fighting, the Fatah sponsored Palestine TV has been moved to Ramallah in the West Bank after Hamas closed their office in Gaza, the director fleeing for his life. As one of their anchors pointed out, their callers from Gaza are now their eyes on the street in Gaza.

The following words were spoken through streams of tears in a call to Palestine TV during last weeks fighting by an elderly woman from Beit Hanoun, Gaza,

Where are you Abu Mazen, where are you Ismail Haniyeh?
Curse political titles
Why do we Arabs fight each other?
We want to live, we want peace
This will be recorded in history
Where are you Muslims, shame on you
We don’t want political titles
What is this that is happening?
Ibrahim my son, this is my son, shame on you
Oh world, come and see what Beit Hanoun looks like
During the days of incursions we used to be able to fill out water Gerry cans, now we can’t even leave out homes
Shame on you, you that killed Abu Lou’ai and Ibrahim..

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Trading Thrills for Security and Self-determination

My friend Mohamed the policeman decided not to go to work since Monday. All but one of the ten people in his unit did the same. Mohamed was in surprisingly high spirits when I saw him last night, “I am free, I have no work!” After almost two years he is finally expecting to be paid a full months wage while being ordered not to appear for work.

Now Hamas has to attend to the mundane daily duties that a government is meant to. Hamas security members are driving around old Fatah vehicles and Hamas policemen in green
caps (the party's colors) have been controlling traffic, although they look a bit inexperienced, many are rather energetic in their new jobs. When a Hamas militant tells you to stop, you stop. Mohamed pointed out to me that Gazans need an iron fist to rule them, that is the only thing they will listen to and respect.

Yesterday I heard hammering outside near my building. A group of Bedouins that are illegally living in metal shacks have been told to move them. Law and order is being put into effect. I never thought I would see this day in Gaza.

The Hamas Ministry of Interior has provided Mohamed’s father, a retired army general with
an official permit for possession of his personal arms and his PA vehicle. Many other such vehicles have been confiscated from Fatah officials considered corrupt by Hamas, while in some areas searches have been carried out door to door for Fatah weapons.

A taxi driver told me that so many of the Fatah leaders that were chased out of Gaza were the ones that were ruining things, they never paid their bills and messed things up for the rest of the people. In Gaza, much like other Arab societies, so many daily obstacles (like paying bills, canceling traffic tickets, getting your kids to pass their exams..) rely on who you know or who you are to get done. In some ways the often corrupt Fatah leadership has finally paid their bills, yet many innocent policemen, government employees and others are being punished along with their superiors.

The fruit shop down the street was rather empty today, only local vegetables, some local fruit and three baskets of Israeli apples. For nine days now items like fruit and newspapers have not been allowed into Gaza. It seems Israel is punishing Palestinians, much like a disobedient child, by confiscating some of the everyday thrills of life, like Israeli fruit, yogurt and newspapers.

A report in the International Herald Tribune reported,

"Israel's agriculture minister, Shalom Simchon, has asked Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who officially took office on Tuesday, to find a way to resume the transfer of Israeli produce into Gaza, Army Radio reported. The closure of Karni is costing Israeli farmers who market to Gaza almost $5 million a week, a farmer's association said. Simchon told Army Radio, "Anyone who thinks that the crossings with Gaza will remain closed is wrong."

Israel’s economy is intricately tied to Gaza’s and Israel is losing just as much if not more than the Palestinians are with such a closure; Gaza serves as Israel’s third class market as pointed out ever so discretely in Haaretz,

“In some cases this fruit is grown specifically for Gaza and is not sold in Israel, and it will be extremely difficult for farmers to find alternative markets in Israel or overseas.”

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Desecration of Democracy

What does it take to get Israel to just begin recognizing some Palestinian human rights?

1. Carry out democratic elections
2. Determine a government according to the election outcome
3. THEN isolate this government in one part of the country
4. Set an illegal embargo on the people there
5. Freeze the government’s bank accounts
6. Isolate the government internationally

The result will be:

1. The return of all stolen taxes belonging to Palestinians
2. An easing of roadblocks and security measures
3. Lifting of the illegally imposed economic embargo
4. International funding for a new non-democratically determined government
5. Normalization of relations between international governments and the non-democratically determined government
6. The legalizing of private American trade (the world’s largest economy) with Palestinians (previously this deed could result in incarceration)
7. The releasing of a political prisoner (with four life sentences) to strengthen the non-democratically determined government

To try and bolster this two-faced US foreign policy position in the Middle East, the US Secretary of State said Monday:

"Through its actions, Hamas sought to divide the Palestinian nation, we reject that. It is the position of the United States that there is one Palestinian people and there should be one Palestinian state."

In reality is it not Israel and the US that are dividing the Palestinians by politically immobilizing their elected leaders?

On Tuesday White House spokesman Tony Snow was reported saying,

"What's important is, you have to have a partner who is committed to peace, and we believe that President Abbas is. And therefore we are committed to working with this new emergency government.”

A source in the prime minister's entourage in the US explained,

"We want to make Hamas a pariah and prevent it joining the international game."

Hamas' violent takeover of the Gaza Strip last week resulted in two governments: the Hamas leadership headed by deposed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza and a new emergency cabinet led by the Western-backed economist Salam Fayyad in the West Bank. Both are calling the other the perpetrators of a coup.

What are the sources of this division?

A fear overtook the Gaza Strip after Hamas took control of institutions this past week, which are rightfully theirs to control. The US and Israel’s anticipated and proclaimed reaction to the latest round of events (a democratically elected government taking over government institutions) is causing fear and uncertainty concerning Gazans future plight. Few outside of Gaza realize that the Gaza Strip can hardly be more isolated, or sink into a worse economic depression, save starvation, than it has in the past two years.

Many in Gaza consider the emergency government to be legitimate, for the sole reason that the world, not the majority of Palestinians, actually recognizes the new political entity (in the last parliamentary elections the new prime minister’s party received 2.4% of vote).

The colonial tactic of Conquer and Divide is being put to use on the Palestinians yet once again; initially in the Gaza Strip between Fatah and Hamas and now between the West Bank and Gaza.

This image, developed by Hamas (recalling the American deck of cards of their most wanted in Iraq), paints a vivid picture of the deep seeded divisions in Palestinian society.
Why was Hamas so determined to wipe out this “collaborative cell in Fatah”? To just touch on this question brings to the surface the deck’s Ace, a Dahlan funded hit man called Sameech Almadhoun, nicknamed “Almaleoun” (the cursed one) by many Hamas supporters. In the past weeks Hamas systematically executed his companions and leaders and finally Sameech himself after this small group of fighters wreaked havoc in their neighborhood in the Northern Gaza Strip.

Palestinians are more divided and polarized than ever which can be seen in their reaction to last week’s events. Each side is pointing out the ultimate blame in the other. Haaretz reported this account from a Fatah member who had fled Gaza,

"Hamas believes that nothing will stop them from rising to power. Everything is legitimate: to kill, burn, torture. Three people from National Security were decapitated with a knife, the way they do in Iraq. They cut off the legs of Samih al-Madhun [a senior Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades figure] after they killed him. They are animals."

My neighbor Ayman, a Hamas supporter, was kidnapped by Sameech one week before the latter was executed. Ayman was beaten and taken to the beach to be shot. His oldest brother, himself a Fatah activist, saved his life by calling the perpetrators and pleading for his younger brother’s life, many others were not as fortunate.

“Civil War” has often been uttered prematurely in the media, yet last week’s kidnappings, lootings and murders now taking place on a tit-for-tat basis between West Bank Fatah men and Hamas activists in Gaza demonstrate this new reality. Sameech and his companions were used to sow division between Palestinians.

Part of a Conquer and Divide strategy is timing. Why did Israel wait until this moment to consider Mahmoud Abbas a “partner committed to peace” when his positions have hardly changed since his election over two years ago? Why is Israel only now considering freeing Marwan Al-Barghouthi, a convicted Fatah activist? Why only now release the frozen government taxes ($570 million) that the Palestinians have desperately needed since Israel started withholding them in March of last year?

On Monday Haaretz’s Akiva Eldar wrote,

If Ariel Sharon were able to hear the news from the Gaza Strip and West Bank, he would call his loyal aide, Dov Weissglas, and say with a big laugh: "We did it, Dubi." Sharon is in a coma, but his plan is alive and kicking. Everyone is now talking about the state of Hamastan. In his house, they called it a bantustan, after the South African protectorates designed to perpetuate apartheid.

Just as in the Palestinian territories, blacks and colored people in South Africa were given limited autonomy in the country's least fertile areas. Those who remained outside these isolated enclaves, which were disconnected from each other, received the status of foreign workers, without civil rights. A few years ago, Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema told Israeli friends that shortly before he was elected prime minister, Sharon told him that the bantustan plan was the most suitable solution to our conflict.

Although Mahmoud Abbas and his new US backed government have finally received international status and the economic blockade is being lifted on Palestinians, the Palestinian cause seems to have been buried beneath the ruble. With internal division more than ever in the limelight, the source of all this mess, the atrocities carried out against Palestinians dating back to the early 20th Century, solidified in 1948 and ongoing land theft, colonial expansion and disregard of Palestinian human rights are forgotten amidst the chaos.

The Palestinians are more divided than ever, distracted by wrongs carried out against each other.

The plot of Conquer and Divide is a great smokescreen covering up the desecration of democracy and another attempt to lay to rest the Palestinian cause.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Choosing between two governments in Gaza

In Gaza the reality of being ruled by two governments for some is becoming a daily dilemma. My neighbor Mohamed is a police officer and responsible for security at the AlAqsa University in Gaza City. His superiors in the West Bank have informed him he is to remain home and will continue to receive his monthly salary. In return local Hamas authorities have informed the police force that they will be dismissed from the police if they do not appear for work.

Mohamed is faced with a tough decision, does he respect local authorities, which after all represent the Palestinian people’s elected government and at the end of the day are those that have most say in his day to day life in Gaza (after all the Fatah authorities deserted him along with other non-Hamas supporters, in Gaza)? Or, will he obey those that actually pay his salary, the new emergency government, not elected by the people and yet the governing body recognized by the West and other Arab nations alike as the sole representing political body of the Palestinians?

Mohamed says his colleagues will determine their actions according to who is paying their salaries. If the local Hamas authorities will pay them for their services they will obey them and go to work. If they continue to be paid by the President and his new emergency government in the West Bank they will remain at home.

Word has gone around that some officers will report to the West Bank authorities which members of the police force are obeying Hamas orders and working and that these will then be removed from their posts and their salaries canceled. This way they say the emergency government will determine who is a Hamas supporter (those that obey Hamas orders and work) and those that are Fatah supporters (those that obey Fatah orders and remain at work).

The future is unclear. How long will the Hamas government last in Gaza? Will the emergency Fatah government actually stand by “its people” in Gaza as it promised today? How about the economic boycott that is beginning to be carried out, within two days Gaza will run out of petrol, the electricity company will be forced to shut down, within a week supplies of most basic foods will run dry, will Israel continue the economic blockade?

Meanwhile, temporary Hamas policemen took to the streets today wearing brand new Hamas vests; traffic in the streets has never been so organized and disciplined. Finally, the Gaza Strip has just one government and just one police force governing it. A sense of order and security are the upsides that come along with the fear of a very uncertain future.

Meanwhile, a Katyusha
rocket fired from Lebanon, landed in Israel. With a government proving itself to be rather incapable, Israel is getting into one prickly situation after another and sending 20,000 soldiers into Gaza sounds to me like another worthless bloodbath.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Why Gaza is hungry, scared and isolated

floThe conversation at the lunch table with Isa and May, Elias and Rana was just about two things, immigrating and what the most vital shopping items are for their homes.

“People are thinking of how to spend the summer vacation we are thinking of how to stockpile food,” said Rana Al Najjar, one of my hosts as we made a trip to the shop to buy what food was still available.

News has spread through Gaza that in light of the economic embargo on the Gaza Strip we will run out of gasoline by tomorrow. This means electricity will also cut as the main power station in Gaza is run on petrol.

Our first stop was a natural gas shop where we drop off our oven’s gas bottles and were told to pick them up filled in the evening.

Next was a wholesale sugar store. Prices of sugar, flour and basic foods are going up as people are buying in a frenzy, afraid of shortages in coming days.

Our last stop was the grocers, where swarms of people were shopping in order to stock up for a very uncertain future.

My visit at the hospital this morning was difficult. On Friday Ghada’s brother was shot in his right leg twice, one bullet remained in his leg. When he first arrived at the hospital they had placed him on a wooden board waiting for space to be freed for him. His operation lasted many hours and ended with 33 stitches in his leg.

Ghada told me that he had screamed a lot the night before. When I saw him he was still writhing in pain. Sa’ed is 22 and had just working for the Fatah secret police two months ago. He is unmarried and jumped at this opportunity to take a job in order to prepare for his future. The events of the past days were not what he had reckoned for and whatever grudges Hamas held against the security apparatus he was not one with blood on his hands.

What I witnessed at the hospital was horrible and that was without even entering one single hospital room. Sa’ed was in a bed in the hallway, since they had run out of rooms and at one point even out of beds. Looking from the hospital window I saw at least three other young men being moved around on beds or wheelchairs with just their right leg bandaged. Being shot in the legs, a common occurrence in the past days of fighting is a horrible form of torture.

Mahmoud Abbas has declined a meeting with Hamas’ Khaled Mishal citing he would not meet with “murderers.” Furthermore, an internationally backed and recognized emergency government is to be sworn in later this evening, after the president has officially dissolved the democratically elected, Hamas dominated unity government.

I want to point out at this point that I called the events of the last few days a “coup” in accordance with what many in Gaza are naming it. In hindsight I consider Hamas to have a legitimate political right to the military takeover that occurred. Yet, this is not to say that this occurrence bodes well for the people, rather there is a fear of this turning into a social and humanitarian crisis.

The source of this fear of what the future holds is two-fold.

The at times double-faced statements of the Hamas leadership (in Sa'ed's case Hamas announced they did not harm any Fatah security force members that handed themselves over, Sa'ed did and was shot at by a sniper, then tortured and shot in the legs), a priority of their own people over the general public and their seeming lack of realpolitik, revealed in the few signs of a strategy or plan for the future by the Hamas leadership (after routing Fatah security forces and political leadership in Gaza and taking over their headquarters, Hamas declared they recognize Abu Mazen as president and do not consider Gaza a separate Palestinian entity). The consequences of this are felt by the people, not those in power.

Yet, my fear is rooted even deeper in the actions of the “International Community” (largely a pseudonym for the USA) who has refused to recognize a democratically elected Palestinian government in an election that was enforced on the Palestinians in accordance with an American Foreign Policy drive for “Democracy in the Middle East.” Moreover this “International Community” collectively punishes Palestinians for their “democratic” vote which the world’s sole superpower is not in favor of.

Because of a hypocritical promise of "freedom" through “democratic reform,” Sa’ed is suffering in an open air hospital bed in Gaza City, Rana, Elias, Isa and May are scrounging to stockpile food for an uncertain future and the entire Gaza Strip is punished on behalf of the duplicitous ideology and wishful thinking of a few rich white men.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Dust clears in Gaza

After a turbulent few days and the initial stages of surprise some changes have started to become clear on the ground in Gaza.

UNRWA announced all its operations would return to full capacity after early signs that they would be reduced due to inter-factional fighting.

Hamas has announced that negotiations were taking place with Alan Johnston's captors and promised release by Saturday.

Under U.S. pressure the Government of Israel declared it would release tax monies withheld from the PA since Hamas' election victory early last year (over $700 million dollars) in order to strengthen Abu Mazen's political position vis a vis the Palestinians. As can be seen in this picture, the weak leader is in urgent need of anything he can get.

We walked the streets at midnight tonight, they seemed safer than ever. A friend of mine's brother was shot in the leg yesterday by Hamas forces and is in hospital after a critical operation. I will go visit him and Dr Attalah in the morning.

After routing Fatah in Gaza and taking over every last security stronghold, it seems Hamas has noticed it has reached a bit of a dead end politically and has declared its continued recognition of Abu Mazen as the legitimate Palestinian president.

Fatah on the other hand has responded by naming the Gaza Strip a renegade entity and declaring an emergency government in the West Bank. This is the most bizarre democracy concoction the U.S. hass created here.

What occurred across the Gaza Strip this week was not a civil war, from my understanding of the concept, because it was a one-sided offensive. Yet, we have seen little signs of tit-for-tat arrests and threats taking place between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza.. this could be the birth pangs of something like a civil war.

Awaking to a New Reailty in Gaza

In Gaza people awake today to a new reality. Last night, my host Isa told me military coups were the sort of thing he heard and read about, he never thought he would experience one. Yesterday Gazans did.

Although the final Fatah stronghold was still standing by the evening Hamas fighters were already making the rounds in the streets, three and four jeeps at a time, loaded with armed men wearing all black, their faces covered with masks, holding their guns in the air, a few, rather uncomfortably, waving to the people. On Alaqsa, the only remaining radio station being aired from Gaza belonging to Hamas, these areas are being called “freed” from the traitors.

A former Fatah spokesman, now speaking on behalf of Hamas, was heard on the air denouncing his former leaders, calling them US spies and traitors.

A further shock came around 8pm when Abu Mazen announced Gaza a renegade entity and declared his presidency over the West Bank. Gazans reacted with disgust. During the fighting of the past few days Abu Mazan was largely silent, ordering his forces to stay in their bases. Many consider Abu Mazen to have sold out his own leadership in the Gaza Strip by not coming to their rescue, now he was throwing his people (Fatah supporters) away, like garbage, they said.

With the electricity cut and cell phones working only rarely people clung to the radio to hear as the latest news unfolded. With only one local station in Gaza and only one perspective to be heard rumors abounded. Supposedly fishermen had called in to the Hamas station reporting that some of the Fatah leadership taking final refuge in the president’s compound had escaped by sea some heading South to Egypt, others north towards Israel. One report gave the name of a drug dealer and a Fatah spokesman supposedly escaping together on one boat.

Sitting on the street one could hear the news spread, often the same names of people who had been killed or thought to have escaped were mentioned among the people walking by. The coup d'├ętat was the only thought on their minds of young and old.

A friend, who works with a Fatah security apparatus, told me that the Hamas men that came to his door checking IDs had treated him well. As long as one did not have his weapons on him and stayed home Hamas considered these Fatah members “honorable” in contrast to the “traitors” who resisted what Hamas considers their justified military coup. “Traitors” were at times either shot in the legs or depending on their status brutally executed.

One of the Fatah military compounds freed on Friday was the location of prisons and torture halls where many Hamas members had been tortured over the years for their opposition to the Fatah government. The Hamas celebration at taking it over was only logical.

On Wednesday Palestine TV, a Fatah station aired callers crying about the horrible scenes they had witnessed. An Islamic Jihad sheikh was interviewed condemning the events on the streets of Gaza. By Thursday all radio and TV stations belonging to Fatah in the Gaza Strip were closed down.

Generally people are very concerned about what the near future holds. The streets seem rather secure, but anyone that was at all in opposition to Hamas is scared, most are staying home or are in hiding somewhere. Cars are moving about, people are walking the streets, I am back at the Marna House, people are smoking shisha and laughing. Along the road outside old men are sitting in the shade playing backgammon. The combination of normalcy of life and fear of the unknown of the future makes for a strange atmosphere.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Crisis in Gaza; Calls for End of PA Boycott

"If you have two brothers, put them in a cage and deprive them of basic and essential needs for life, they will fight, I don't think we should put the blame on the victim."

Ziad Abu Amr, Palestinian Foreign Minster at news conference in Tokyo

Israel's strategy of Conquer ad Divide has reached another threshold. Israel’s right wing Maariv newspaper described Palestine as divided into Hamastan in the Gaza Strip and Fatah Land in the West Bank. What better way to turn the world’s attention away from its ongoing construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank and expansion of its illegal separation barrier that is confiscating Palestinian land.

The Jerusalem Post for its part is advertising Israel’s attempt to wash its hands of the blood running in the streets in Gaza which perpetuates the myth that Israel is free of the responsibility she has of creating the Gaza Strip in 1948. Israel, not Egypt is the one who ought to take responsibility for the ongoing crisis.

A new Oxfam
report points out precisely this role of Israel as midwife to the crisis in Gaza, citing the economic crisis looming in Gaza. Oxfam is calling for the EU to end the boycott of PA.

Watch this short film on the underground economy via the tunnels of Rafah's border town by journalist Laila Al-Haddad.

Alvaro de Soto, the UN's recently retired Middle East envoy has condemned the UN's policy in the region and calls for the UN's withdrawal from the Quartet which is carrying out an economic embargo on the Palestinian unity government.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Arming of Anarchy

This from an article in Haaretz speaking of Bush's new plan for the Middle East to be announced later this month:

"The officials said the Americans see increasing military aid to Israel and supplying new American weapons to the Gulf states as important steps to bolster the moderate countries in the region and counter Iran's rising strength."

Enough weapons to stop the problems of the world. Violence and further supplying of arms is not the answer to these ills. I am sick of seeing my friends here look to the leaders of various factions, or some outside power's military as a savior to their social strife. I don't want to hear another person or politician or government tell me who they think is the right party or group to be armed, enough weapons! Enough worshiping the idol or war!

There is clear documentation that the US and Israel have been arming Fatah's factions, Hamas and others are being armed by other players in the Middle East. Such arming is the path to this death we see today and it makes me angry.

A home next to the president's is set on fire,
in another day of inter-fighting 23 are reported killed,
over 50 injured

Monday, June 11, 2007

Another Dark Day in Gaza.

The situation is back to as it was at the height of fighting a few weeks ago. I was caught in the Erez terminal for some time while it came under attack by Qassam fire from Gaza. Leaving Gaza last week I was holed up for almost two hours as a Qassam hit the army compound just inside the Erez checkpoint. It seems these projectiles are becoming more accurate.

As Jamal and I drove away from Erez he stopped a vehicle coming from Gaza City to ask about the conditions of the road. The driver told us there were Hamas checkpoints all along Salahadin Street, the most direct route to our destination so we took a smaller road that runs through the industrial area. For me there is no fear with such checkpoints and yet Jamal was a bit concerned as he is affiliated with Fatah although not a high ranked or active member. In the car’s rearview mirror I watched the fear in Jamal’s eyes as he attempted to remove a sticker of Yasir Arafat that his son Daher had stuck on the inside of the windshield of his car. The image of the deceased leader was a clear indication of Jamal’s party affiliation. Bit by bit, for the next ten minutes Jamal managed to peel off parts of the image.

We drove on as Jamal received calls reporting about the situation near his home. A Fatah leader on his same street was under attack and masked Hamas’ men were at the door of his home; his oldest son Daher had called to inform him. Jamal warned Daher not to leave the house. Four people had died in Beit Hanoun, a town in the Northern Gaza Strip, basically as I was crossing the border into Gaza, a matter of kilometers away. We reached my home without further incident. I tried to pressure Jamal to stay but he wanted to try and reach home before nightfall.

15 minutes later I called Jamal a number of times without answer and got extremely worried. Before we reached my home a civilian from Beit Lahya, where Jamal was heading, reported on the radio that a taxi driver had been kidnapped. The scene kept going through my mind, as Jamal didn’t answer my calls. Eventually he picked up, in a bit of a panic. He had suddenly come across a Hamas checkpoint; he crossed it after they searched his car. With many more checkpoints ahead he decided to turn back and will stay at my place for the night.

Before the news broke, Jamal received the call, his 55 year old neighbor who was being sought had been killed. Jamal’s nephew was shot in the legs; he had to tell his brother to go look for him at the hospital.

This will mean an escalation over the next days. The hopelessness in Gaza has reached a pinnacle. The economic siege is again bringing some people in Gaza to a breaking point and the factions have reverted to a demonizing tribalism, each pouring the blame on the other. The inhumane conditions everyone is living are finally taking their toll, sadly the consequences are taking this desperate, revolting form.

Another dark day in Gaza.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Children of Gaza

Recently I have realized that I take my childhood for granted.

These days children in Gaza are finishing their final exams. The summer has finally arrived, but I wonder what tidings it will bring for most children? Few news outlets have reported statements made by the Israeli deputy prime minister calling for Israel to shut off water and electricity to the Gaza Strip. In Gaza everyone is mentioning it, for the rest of the world this is not news.

Last Wednesday two boys were in the North of the Gaza Strip hunting birds with nets. They were shot and killed by Israeli army snipers at the border. The boys were no older than 12. My friend Wessam who is a photographer was called to the scene by one of the ambulance drivers that tried to come to their rescue, but it was already too late.

Abu Salim, a friend of mine recently told me that his children have learned to hit the floor once they hear any form of gunfire or explosions. With Israeli tanks near by and planes flying overhead they have spent many nights recently sleeping on the ground. It’s safer there.

My friend Mohamed from Biddo, a village near Ramallah says he has not seen the sea for 15 years. When his son asks him why they can’t go, he doesn’t know what to say. Jamal in Gaza is afraid of taking his kids to the beach near his house because last summer a whole family was murdered there by shells from an Israeli navy ship.

Children in Gaza are sort of like animals in a zoo. They eat and drink what they are given, their cage is always closed and there is only so much they can do and only so far they can go inside this little space.

It doesn’t really matter if its winter or summer.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Dr Attalah's Harvest in Gaza

Two days ago Dr Attalah brought me a big bag of potatoes. At long last the risk he took early this year to restore and cultivate his land in the Northern Gaza Strip which included re-digging his old well and buying a new motor have paid off… and yet not without cost. Dr Attalah is still $5000 in debt, which he cannot pay off. And then, two weeks ago when the Israeli forces again occupied an area in the Northern Gaza Strip they tore up a quarter of his land, but thankfully no harm was done to the motor and well this time.

While there the Israeli forces were stationed in a house that lies on the boundaries of Dr Attalah’s land. The owner of the home knew the risk of it being occupied was great during incursions because of its location, so he built a roof that the army could use to be stationed on (I have never built a house or had one built for me, but I don’t think it’s the norm in housing construction to make plans for an army to occupy part of a home). The soldiers had other ideas though and tore down all the walls in the top floor in order to turn that into their headquarters instead of the roof. The family was detained in the bottom floor for the week, their movement severely restricted.

Dr Attalah finally visited his land yesterday after many weeks of the danger being too great. Sa’id Alattar, a farmer was killed on his bike on the path near the land. An Israeli sniper shot him in the back; he was dead on the spot.

Abu Rushdie, the farmer who is renting Dr Attalah’s land did not stop tending to it throughout the past weeks. He cannot afford the losses of skipping a days work, especially at such a critical stage of harvest. He could not afford to hide in fear. Abu Rushdie and his boys, who help him with the work had to get permission daily in order to reach the land. Some days they were held from doing so, for five days they were given from 7am to noon to tend to what remained of their crops, while the Israeli tanks and snipers looked on nearby.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Visiting The Dead in Gaza

Jamal’s car was sounding more and more rickety I noticed as we drove to his house for lunch. He was late since he had spent the entire day at the Rafah border with some neighbors who were trying to cross to Egypt for medical care. They had gotten there at the crack of dawn only to turn back in the late afternoon without success. Of the thousands gathered a select few had made it across, but they were not among the lucky few. I have to be honest, I have no idea what the hell must be like crossing that border because I have never had the privilege or bad fortune to attempt to do so. When it is actually open, only Palestinians are permitted to cross.

The Rafah border is operated by Palestinians on one side, by Egyptians on the other and has a European mission monitoring the process on the Palestinian side. One of the more positive things to come of the Israeli disengagement is that they no longer man this border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt and yet Israel still controls it from a distance. On a daily basis the European mission is prepared to travel from their headquarters in the Israeli city of Ashqalon 45 minutes away to the Southern most tip of the Gaza Strip to allow passage for Gaza’s inhabitants to the rest of the world. All it takes for the trip and thus the operation of the border to be canceled is Israel’s discouragement from doing so… like the rest of Israeli decision making, for reasons of security precautions of course. Yesterday the border was open after almost two weeks of closure, whereas the agreement that was established between Israel, Palestine and the Egyptians was for its daily opening. In a report written one year after the signing of the agreement, the border had been closed during the final six months phase for 86% of the time. Jamal was exhausted and after a short lunch took a nap in the corner of one of the two rooms in his house.
Jamal’s oldest daughter had just finished her final exams, Hamza, Jamal’s favorite had completed kindergarten and was about to tear up his graduation certificate when I got hold of it. The others had just a few more days to go before the summer break. I asked them what they would do during the summer, “stay home” Maysa told me, “and visit my grandmother,” Om Daher’s mother lived a few houses away. Jamal had drawn a tarp across the open air sitting space in his courtyard to spare us a little from the sun. The boys were running around and his wife Om Daher would order them out of the room every time they got too rowdy. I couldn’t imagine the entire summer going by like this with none of them involved in any activity but being home.
Meanwhile the Israeli surveillance balloon was not far away and the rockets flew overhead at night. I wondered what effect this was having on these kids. Jamal explained that during the past week Daher, his oldest son and him had been standing at the door of their house when they saw a guided missile heading into their neighborhood, “Daher was scared,” he laughed. He described the missile as weaving around homes until reaching its destination, a Hamas facility not too far from their home. Jamal said he had not slept much the night before because of the sound of the missiles overhead and Om Daher complained they could not watch TV, one of the rare distractions and forms of entertainment here, because of the static caused by the movement in the air. I learned that the large picture hanging on the wall was of Jamal’s recently deceased mother. For the past year he had not been to visit her because the cemetery she was buried in was located too close to the border with Israel. I knew Israel controlled water, airspace and borders, but in Gaza, even the dead were off-limits to visit.

*first photo is by my friend Wessam Nassar