Tuesday, May 15, 2007

In Gaza adding Castrophe to Catastrophe

The streets are closed this morning still. Reportedly another truce was formed last night, but things remain as they are, this morning the house of Rami's brother was attacked with RPGs. I believe no one was harmed. Rami just came back from Cairo where he was in a car accident and had to have surgery. Now he has returned to this chaos, this hell where Palestinians are fighting each other rather than recalling the events of the nakba, the catastrophe that took place 59 years ago today when over 200,000 Palestinians were exiled to this place called the Gaza Strip. Ali Abunimah quotes Israeli historian Benny Morris, "the Jewish state would not have come into existence without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them… There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing." Today Gaza is reaping the consequences of this “necessary” ethnic cleansing.

The only time I left home yesterday was to go to my favorite fruit store just down the street. The place was closed first the time in the course of the two years that I have been here. Three soldiers sat on the sidewalk in front of the sealed store. The kids in my building seemed to be loving the traffic standstill, all around my building they are playing football, using the roadblocks as goals, the guards are their spectators, no doubt tempted to lay down their guns and join in the game.

Earlier that day the Minister of Interior had resigned. This one man was the glue that held together a very shaky unity government. In a press conference he explained, "I cannot agree to be a minister without jurisdiction since we need deeds rather than words." During his time in the post he complained that neither Fateh nor Hamas gave him the jurisdiction he needed in order to control the rival factions on the streets. This Interior Minister was a figurehead.

The invisible hand stirring this pot of anarchy in Gaza is a vague entity called the “International Community.” With the USA at the forefront they have been trying to suffocate Hamas ever since they won a majority of parliament seats in democratic elections early last year. Over the course of Hamas’ tenure in government international aid has not been blocked but actually increased, with just one minor clause… that the aid be limited for humanitarian use. Thus 80% of Gazans survive from such handouts but are left without jobs and totally unempowered to provide their families with a livelihood. The donated money cannot be used to build a house, to create a job, to fix a street or to repair a sewage pipe or improve water facilities, but food can be carted into this prison and distributed to unemployed fathers and their children. What were to happen if this aid stopped flowing? Palestinians would actual go hungry, then we would see people starve, but the invisible hand won’t allow for that, because it would force the “International Community” to actually search for viable solutions to the crisis that has been brewing in the Gaza Strip since May 15th 1948.

Meanwhile, since their election loss the US has financed Fatah to train their military. Fatah party members have been recruited all across the Gaza Strip for intensive training in Gaza to prepare them for further training abroad.

Friday night my friends Jamal and Ibrahim came over to play cards. They are from Beit Lehya in the North of the Gaza Strip. That week Fatah had summoned Jamal for 45 days of intensive closed training starting Sunday, in exchange for 600 shekels, $150. Jamal told me a friend of his would get him excused from the training; he has no interest in participating in any military activities in Gaza. Ibrahim’s cousin is being trained in Russia; another cousin is about to return from Yemen after basic military training there. Over the past week heavy activity has been sighted at a number of Hamas training locations in Gaza. Funds reportedly are received from Iran and other donors.

The Gaza Strip has become the playground for world bullies to play out their differences.

It seems that since February when the Mecca Agreement brought about a unity government both Hamas and Fatah have taken this time of relative calm to build up their military wings. It took the two parties five weeks to agree on one man to play the mediating role of Interior Minister. Hani Al-Qawasmi was suggested by Hamas and approved of by Mahmoud Abbas’s office but he was a straw man with little if any authority from either party. Yesterday he finally threw in his cards and it seems the whole house of cards is collapsing in his wake.

This morning a Hamas man was killed. Later in the five Fatah National security members were reported dead after their convoy was ambushed. Two men that escaped were killed by the Israeli army at the border. 450 Fatah fighters entered Gaza today where they were training in Egypt. After not being able to leave his house this morning Dr Attalah has spent some hours in the hospital and now is returning home to be with his family. The shifa hospital where he works is desperately calling for people to donate blood. The area surrounding my friend Abu Ghassan’s house in Jabalya has been declared a Hamas territory; the block I love on is a Fatah stronghold.

Today, on the 59th memorial day of the Palestinian Nakba, catastrophe is being added to catastrophe.