Wednesday, January 17, 2007

PHOTO STORY: Dr Attallah's Farm

Up until November of 2001 Dr Attallah's farm in Northern Gaza supported his meager monthly salary of a few hundred dollars as a surgeon at Gaza's biggest government hospital. He inherited the land from his father and was adding a green house almost every year for a number of year, planting mainly flowers which were then exported all over the world.

On a Friday in November 2001 Dr Atallah received a phone call from one of his assistants that his land, the farm and all six greenhouses were being bulldozed by the Israeli army. He watched the destruction of a land so dear to him from a distance. The day we went to visit the land we had to park the car along this hill, as all roads leading up to the farm had been completely bulldozed in recent months.

Now on foot we walked along what used to be a road past one farm after another that had been leveled by the Israeli army. Everyday people like Dr Attalah are punished on behalf of the security of everyday people living on the other side of the border in Israel. The tall house in the far left corner was where the boundary with an Israeli settlement was. After the withdrawal from the settlements in September 2005 those settlement lands became a 'security zone' which are unaccessible to Palestinians and serve as a security buffer between Israelis and Palestinians. As the dire conditions in Gaza continue to attract Palestinians to turn to violence against their neighboring occupier, Israel will attempt to increase this "security zone" to further imprison and exile the Palestinians as far away from areas of Israeli habitation. This is an expensive and short-sighted approach addressing the facade of conflict, rather than addressing the deep roots of conflict.

A sheep herder walks his flocks past where Dr Attallah's farm once stood. This is the only use still available for this land that was once considered a part of Gaza's fruit basket.

Dr Attalah talks to his old neighbors about farming and export conditions.

Wherever he goes Dr Attalah can't stop being a doctor. Here he is removing the stitches of one of his neighbor's sons. He hopes that one day he will have the resources and the political conditions will allow for him to rebuild his farm to support both himself and his family and provide a few jobs to unemployed Palestinians around him.