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.”