Saturday, March 10, 2007

"Humans are dysfunctional”

Ghazi was sitting on the ground eating lettuce, next to his wife who was washing vegetables in a large metal vat. When he heard my voice at the gate, he got up with excitement and slowly walked over on his wooden cane, a large smile on his face, offering me the last leaf of lettuce. He was wearing a brown wool outfit and looking much stronger than the past many times that I had seen him. He was still going to the hospital three times a week for kidney dialysis, but he had also begun teaching Arabic literature and linguistics again three times a week at the Azhar University in Gaza City. While I had been away the infighting in Gaza had deteriorated significantly. One battle occurred at the hospital while Ghazi was hooked up to the dialysis machine. There was shooting in and around the hospital and he was forced to get on the ground and hide. Gaza had never seen what it witnessed in December and January. With a look of horror on his face Ghazi explained, it reached a stage where brother was killing brother.

Ghazi’s son Ihab joined us and for a long time I quizzed him on the process of exporting strawberries from Gaza. Ihab was a salesman of fruit and vegetables, who would buy second grade goods from local growers that couldn’t be exported to Europe and would sell them in Israel and the West Bank. This would require him to spend hours at the Karni crossing between Gaza and Israel, which was the only channel for goods entering or exiting Gaza. Ihab explained to me the methods that the strawberry growers used to sneak their lower quality goods into the container of the high grade ones. Agrexco, the largest Israeli exporter that held a monopoly on the market on the other hand, abused its power by paying the Palestinians much lower prices for their produce than they did growers in Israel that Ihab knew. “Humans are dysfunctional” Ghazi pointed out, every one working only for his own benefit, looking out for their own needs. Ihab, having ended his account of the corrupt strawberry market added, “there isn’t anyone that does any good.”

From other friends of mine in the area I had learned that Ghazi had quite a reputation as a “communist”, in this community this referred more to one’s religious beliefs than to the political ones. Ghazi was certain that it was personal possessions that corrupted. I pointed out that attempts of communist systems failed because the few in power ruled with corruption, he added in defeat that people also stopped being motivated to work. The state of humankind tormented Ghazi.

Rita, Ghazi’s seven year old niece had appeared and was throwing shoes at us from behind a bush, when she was told off she started running after her younger brother Eouda with a broken off stick she found. Just minutes prior Eouda himself had used it to chase after the chicken that was lounging around the garden where we sat.