It is important to recall, with the current lack of coverage, that the siege on Gaza continues full steam ahead, leaving Palestinians in Gaza (and analysts, human rights organizations, and the casual observer) to say that it is now as bad as it was in 2007. As much potential, culture, and knowledge as Palestinians have, they are forever being forced backwards, grateful for whatever stop-gap for whatever crisis is at the time inflicted upon them. In these times of rolling power outages, fuel and cooking gas crises, medicines and equipment shortages (“zero stock”), inventions and innovations to get around the lack of fuel or deal with no electricity are prized. But shouldn’t Palestinians be allowed just a little more than the reward of figuring out the latest way to cook without gas, electricity or wood, or how to get to university and work without public transport. Perhaps in addition to these small rewards they might also get a vestige of justice, equality, freedom of movement, and the ability to produce and export and provide for their families.
I spoke with three Palestinians in their early to mid twenties on what is life like now in Gaza.
On life under siege
I am sick of the current situation in Gaza. It is suffocating me.
Living in Gaza under siege is unbearable .Palestinians have suffered for many years but no one listens: the continued closure of the Rafah border, the fuel crisis, the lack of basic human needs, the ongoing power cuts, the lack of clean water, the strict Israeli and Egyptian policies with Palestinian fishermen…
Thousands of university graduates don’t have jobs. Finding a job is something like a miracle here in Gaza. As a result, most youths are depressed, hopeless, desperate, lost …
We lose electricity eight hours per day. Sometimes we have no electricity for long as 12 hours a day. Patients suffer lack of medicine and equipment.Every single person who lives in the Gaza Strip is impacted by the closures.
Yousef al Jamal [website]:
Life is getting tougher everyday. We are back to fighting to get the most basic needs to survive such as fuel and electricity. There is a serious transportation crisis. Prices of goods doubled. Unemployment increased. 100s of stuck patients and students’ future is at risk.
Electricity goes off 12 hours a day. This paralyzes life in Gaza completely. Factories, bakeries and businesses stop.
In 2007, my eldest sister died because she was denied a permit to get medical care in Jerusalem. The Rafah crossing was shut down. The situation today is almost the same. Two people passed away so far because of the closure of the border.
[also: Yousef al Jammal's 'Waiting in Gaza, where nothing makes sense']
Gaza is small and generally (in good times) easy to get around. Taxis are cheap compared to other countries. But, with the constant lack of fuel, transportation is always dwindling. Sometimes, its almost impossible to find a taxi and if you do, it will cost you more than the usual cab fair, sometimes doubled, because the fuel is scarce and getting it is expensive.
I see great potential and beauty in this little bit of land, tarnished by Israeli attacks and the siege. However, living here is challenging. There are many bad aspects to living in Gaza but perhaps the most prominent are: power outages, lack of fuel and water, and the most of all is the freedom of movement or to be more accurate the lack of it. The Rafah border is Gaza’s only breather, but its always closed, and when/if its opened and you managed to cross it into Cairo by a miracle, it will be a hellish experience. But at least the Rafah crossing is a possibility. The Erez crossing (linking Gaza to the West Bank and controlled fully by Israel) is not on the table for the majority of Gaza’s citizens.
Perhaps the most affected by the siege are the patients who suffer from severe illnesses and need urgent medical care outside of Gaza, students with scholarships for higher education abroad, and basically everyone else who lives in Gaza and is inevitably affected by any of the previously mentioned difficult aspects.
Gaza is always, I mean ALWAYS, suffering from one or more things. Israeli attacks, the siege, Egypt’s siege (the closure of Rafah border), power outages, fuel shortages, water shortages, cooking gas shortages. But life goes on and we try to survive.
The closure of borders means the death of people and their dreams. If patients cant exit Gaza, and they remain trapped (as they usually do), they die. Many have already died here after being denied exit for urgent medical care.
With the closure of the Rafah tunnels, prices are slowly skyrocketing. I am also affected by the closure of Rafah border, I couldn’t attend a UN media seminar I was invited to. I can’t attend any other international conferences and training courses and I was offered a job in San Francisco and they waited for me for over three weeks but I couldn’t leave so they had to hire somebody else.
In 2007, after finishing high school, I got a full scholarship to study abroad. I was madly happy, and tried for more than 4 months to travel through the Rafah crossing. But I wasn’t able to leave the Gaza Strip; all my dreams vanished at the Rafah Crossing gate.
Now I have a bachelors degree in English language, and I am still dreaming of traveling outside of Gaza to pursue further studies in at a European university. But the closed Rafah crossing again threatens my dreams and plans, another nightmare for me.
Most students here in Gaza daily suffer from a transportation crisis, especially the ones who live in the south, in Khan Younis and Rafah. They wait for hours to find a car or a mini bus to take them to their universities, and often miss their morning lectures.
Hundreds of students have lost their scholarships and visas because of the ongoing closure of Rafah crossing.
Last Saturday, only about 130 travelers managed to pass through the Rafah crossing, 130 of thousands of Palestinians who were hoping to get out of this big prison
Yousef al Jamal:
I am MA student I am stuck in Gaza. I may lose my scholarship if I don’t travel soon.
[see Yousef al Jamal's “Don't Crush Our Dreams: a please from a student trapped in Gaza”]
The dreams of students are shattered everyday. Students around the world find the hard part to be obtaining scholarships, but Palestinians in Gaza earn scholarships yet are trapped and denied the opportunity of pursuing their dreams because they can’t exit. Palestine came number 1 in the countries that has the lowest illiteracy rates, and Gaza is has the lowest rate of illiteracy in Palestine.
Who is to blame?
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly who is the responsible for this, but the blame is first on deaf Arab communities and then on the rest of the world, who are still silent till now.
I think Israeli, Egyptian, Palestinians and international decision-makers are trying to increase pressure on Hamas by increasing the strict strategies against Gaza, closing the borders with Gaza to make people rise up against Hamas.
The new regime in Egypt doesn’t stand with the Palestinian government in Gaza, Hamas, which stood with Morsi.
Yousef al Jamal:
Israel is responsible the most being the occupying power, then Egypt. Borders are used to collectively punish the people if Gaza to reach political compromises.
Israel and Egypt are behind the closure of borders. Israel, because it is the occupier. And Egypt because they want to blame whats happening in their country on Hamas and collectively punish Palestinians after seeing Israel doing it for years.
Peace talks have never worked and never will. They will bring no justice whatsoever to Palestinians because there is no intention of trying to achieve a peace with the Palestinian people and there never has been … The mandate for Palestine was prepared long before WW2 with the intention of creating an Israel which includes all of Palestine and many neighboring countries.
Peace talks are a sham, only there to keep the west misinformed and disinterested. All the general public hears about Palestine is the same message repeated year after year in the news: Palestine-Israel peace talks….brainwashing them to stop listening.
It gives them also the opportunity to say that Palestine isn’t cooperating. There are no peace talks, there is simply a will by the powers that be to remove Palestine from the map and create greater Israel with as little interference as possible.
Even now, we often hear drones and sometimes Israeli F-16s. There’s no cease-fire! There are more than 230 Israeli cease-fire violations as “peace talks” go on.
Yousef al Jamal:
The best way to waste time is to get involved in this useless ‘process’ which gives Israel the umbrella to confiscate more Palestinian lands.
The buzz of Israeli drones over Gaza and the shootings from Israeli warships is very usual in Gaza. It’s a part and parcel of our daily struggle to survive.
The thought of Kerry having genuine concern for Palestinians is ridiculous. Of course he doesn’t.
I don’t support any so-called “Peace talks” between Israel and Palestine. What have those peace talks every achieve for Palestinians before? We only made compromises and lost more land. I don’t think we can afford to give up anything we have left, because what we have now is not much. Israel will never allow for the siege on Gaza to be broken or ended, specially now that its being highly supported by Egypt.
In the 2008-2009 Israeli attacks, I lost a few neighbors and a friend, which is nothing compared to other people who lost their families and houses. Some moved to other houses, some couldn’t afford moving or rebuilding so they lived in tents, some went to humanitarian organizations and some are still suffering losses till now. You can rebuild your houses but you can never bring back your family or relatives or friends from death. A friend of mine finished rebuilding his house just recently, he was a newlywed during the 2008-2009 attacks, he lived in his new house for two weeks before Israel bombed it, he paid everything he owned to build it. He moved in with his parents and is still waiting to furnish it and finish completing it.
Israel is constantly present in Gaza. If Israeli drones aren’t buzzing over our heads, then F-16s will definitely be roaring in the skies of Gaza. They shoot at and harass farmers and fishermen on a daily basis. Israel continually breaks ceasefires, no wonder the number of violations of the recent ceasefire is 235. And that wont be the last one for sure.
Why is there never an R2P for Palestine?
It’s obvious that Israel and America are two faces of the same coin. US and western intervention in Syria is part of dividing the whole Arab region. What they want is to control the Arab region.
Yousef al Jamal:
Israel feels it is at risk, the interests of global powers in Syria is at risk, thus they intervene under the pretext of human rights, but in Gaza, their interests are not threatened, this they don’t care.
The US will never intervene in Palestine because they fully support Israel, even though Israel has chemical (and nuclear) weapons. But Syria is seen to be a threat by Israel, the US intervened in Iraq and is still there even though the weapons of mass destruction was a lie, so for sure now they want to eliminate Syria because Syria is strong and strategic. Israel used chemical weapons during its 2008-2009 war on Gaza and the US said nothing and did nothing but supports Israel. Why the double standards?