Sunday, July 27, 2008

Unknown Attacks on Hamas in Gaza City

An attack on a popular Hamas hangout in Gaza City was the first of its kind since Hamas' takeover of the Gaza Strip in June of 2007. Generally Hamas has provided very effective security for Gazan citizens since rather violently taking over Fatah security headquarters just over one year ago. Retalliation was expected and yet no confirmation yet exists who actually was behind the attacks, Fatah?, Israel, a disgruntled Gazan clan? We cannot yet jump to conclusions. Hamas responded by closing dozens of Fatah affiliated organizations.

This report from Palestinian Center for Human Rights:

PCHR strongly condemns the heinous crime perpetrated by unknown elements yesterday in Gaza that resulted in killing 6 people, including a 4-year old girl, and injuring 27 others. The crime was perpetrated by a directed explosive device in a beach-front café crowded with Hamas members and supporters. At the same time, PCHR strongly condemns the immediate reaction of the Government in Gaza and its security forces against supporters and institutions of the rival Fatah party, as if Fatah was behind the crime. This reaction included arresting dozens of Fatah activists as well as raiding and closing tens of civil society organizations, benevolent societies, and sports clubs affiliated with Fatah.

The Center’s preliminary investigation indicates that at approximately 20:25 on Friday, 25 July, an explosive device went off in El-Hilal Café on the Gaza City beach. It is a café usually frequented by Hamas activists and supporters. The explosion killed 6 people vacationing on the beach; all of them from Gaza City. One of the killed was a 4-year old child; and the other 5 were Hamas members. In addition, 27 people sustained injuries. Police sources informed PCHR that the explosive device was directed and was placed inside the café; and that it contained metallic shrapnel 10 – 12 millimeters in length.

Read on

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What is Cease-Fire?

At the end of my visit they started asking me to take pictures for their brothers, uncles, sons and fathers in Israeli prisons for over four months… a picture of a new born not yet seen by the imprisoned father, one father’s favorite girl and a picture of the detainees' pictures hanging on the wall to let the prisoners know they are missed, they are celebrated.

On March 19th Israel rounded up Assad Salach and his sons Fahmi and Salach and Assad’s brother Sa’id and his son Ghassan along with over 300 men ages 16 and above along its northern border with the Gaza Strip. It is not the first time that Israel arrests the male members of the Salach family.

These days when homemade Qassam rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip they are usually launched from within the cities, not these border areas. Thus, it makes little sense for these men to be arrested solely for security purposes. Rather, it seems to be a method of pushing the families inhabiting the border areas into the cities and deserting their only source of income, their land. Israel is successfully destroying the potential of the fruit basket of the densely populated Strip. The once luscious green land is now reduced to an arid no-man’s-land, easily overseeable by Israel’s security towers and drones overlooking it all. But more importantly the economic crisis caused by this ongoing intentional de-development of Gaza’s economy is destroying the society’s makeup.

The Salach’s main family home was destroyed in 2001. On March 25th eight Israeli bulldozers crossed the nearby border and flattened the fields. Shortly thereafter they came back and flattened the home with some family members still inside. That day the Abu Assad, the Salach family grandfather had a stroke, he and his wife, Om Assad were taken to the hospital. By the end of the day Om Assad had lost her husband, her home and the trees that had adorned the family’s fields. She moved half a kilometer down the road to her other son’s home. Today, Israel has taken him as well.

Assad and Sa’id used to collect the tank shells, things of ugliness, which Israel fired on them as they tended to their goats and fields. They would paint them and fill them with flowers and turned them into vases, things of beauty. “The day they started doing that the Israelis almost completely stopped firing at us,” Assad’s wife told me. As soon as the media spread pictures of their act- turning death into life, ugliness into beauty- the shells stopped falling. When the men were detained so were the vases, Israel did not want such a story to continue getting out.

Despite a cease-fire five of the Salach family members remain imprisoned without even a court case, their fields still lie in ruin as the Israeli army fires at them when they try and approach it, their old home remains demolished while the memories of the past continue to haunt them daily. But today, the case-fire allows them to host a guest.

New Blog: Gaza in Egypt

Read about Gaza in Egypt, a side of the news not caught anywhere.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Critical Lawsuit Against Israel's Military

A groundbreaking lawsuit is being filed in Spanish Courts accusing seven former senior Israeli military officials of war crimes. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights filed the lawsuit on behalf of six Palestinians who survived an Israeli extra judicial execution operation in the Gaza Strip in July 2002. This is the first time survivors of an Israeli military attack have filed a lawsuit against members of the Israeli military in Spain.

Read On

Friday, July 4, 2008

Marx in Gaza

At the border crossing into Gaza a middle aged woman sat next to me looking rather pale. She was accompanied by what looked like her mother, even frailer than her. Between her hands the sick woman grasped a pack of six tea glasses. It seemed a bit strange of an item to be bringing back into Gaza with so few permitted to make this rare excursion beyond Gaza’s borders. Later that day, after a large welcoming lunch and over tea in plastic throw away cups I found out that tea glasses like so many other things had run out in Gaza. A single glass had nearly reached the cost of the price of a whole set and for my hosting family this was simply not affordable.

Much of my second day I spent at the beach. The one outlet for a majority of Gaza’s population is still very much a reality and on summer days like this one, hundreds of people flock to the beach to forget the daily routine.

Every occupation has its winners and losers, those that profit and those that lose almost everything. Recently I have been reading Marx who considered the making and the writing of “history” to be based on class divisions. According to Marx, the world was not so much explainable by the acts of God on passively receiving humankind, as a world that was driven and lead by the acts of people. For Marx, these acts of history were determined and received their meaning by the division of classes.

By the evening I had been invited to a gathering of some of Gaza’s elite society. For some of them, the recent re-opening of the borders was a monkey wrench for their monopolies in the market. A ton of cement was now back down to 520 shekels, a week ago one 10kg bag had cost 270 shekel. As soon as cement was allowed back into Gaza, the Hamas government- showing some rather socialist colors- set prices in order to undermine such monopolies and make prices accessible to the common population. That night we had duck, chicken and chicken wings, large plates of dessert and watermelon. Throughout the course of that day Marx started making a lot of sense.

Between the beach and the evening BBQ I had my first taste of Gaza’s streets under the gas shortages. Due to Israel limiting the amounts of gas into Gaza only one third of required supplies makes it in. This limited amount is not provided in the regular market, which would drive it up to extremely high prices and create a further monopoly. Rather, Hamas divides it rather wisely. Of course a majority of Hamas members and all government offices are supplied with their needs. Furthermore, Hamas provides a weekly stipend of gas at regular market prices to all drivers that register their cars with them. Some of that supply and likely a percentage of Hamas’ main share leaks into the black market at extravagant prices that most cannot afford; a liter of petrol costs $15. Many drivers cannot afford to register as they didn’t for so long under the previous Fateh government and the accumulated cost is simply too high. Instead many have begun to use cooking oil to fill their tanks. The streets smell accordingly. The stench of falafil oil filling the air makes walking down main roads hardly bearable.

On the Palestinian side of the border crossing into Gaza, carrying my bags for a small tip, Ridwan told me he was so tired of it all. Every night shelling back and forth, back and forth, the shaky cease-fire- although violated by both sides by now- has given him some rest. Later that evening, over cigarettes and cards the high society of Gaza spoke of their dread of the effects of cease-fire. A few days earlier a home-made rocket was fired into the desert of Israel ordered by a group of businessmen who had too much to lose by the end of the fighting and open borders. The streets on the way into Gaza were lined with trucks of Israeli fruit, rarely does that flow cede, Israeli farms have a captive market in Gaza where farmers grow largely vegetables and rely on Israel for their B-grade fruit.

It may not be all-encompassing but in these two days I have seen “history” written by the division of classes beyond even the boundaries of occupation. But occupation remains the color these stark divisions are painted in; in Gaza occupation is the framework that makes it all possible.