In a Rafah-based grassroots community organization serving children, women and impoverished families, the consequences of the violent siege on Gaza, imposed shortly after Hamas was elected in early 2006, can be seen in the cracked furniture, shabby toys, tattered books, near-empty rooms, and small number of children participating in after-school homework sessions.
Najwa, the centre’s director, explains how prior to the siege, the centre not only provided extra-curricular school support and development for children, but also ran summer courses and games for hundreds of Rafah’s poorest, most oppressed youths.
When exports were allowed, she explained, fine embroidery was sold. The handiwork was done by roughly 40 women, contributing to their families’ incomes when jobs were scarce. Now that jobs have moved beyond scarce to non-existant, this last source of revenue has also disappeared, markets closed with the borders.
The teachers and counsellors here all work voluntarily, said Najwa. One young woman helping youths with their schoolwork dipped into her own pockets to buy a whiteboard and pens for the classroom.
There is no money, no funding. And it’s programs like these that are hurt by the internationally-imposed siege on Gaza.
What, then is the objective of such a siege, when social support programs are forced to close down or run at the bare minimum? Who, again, is being punished?
Is it the democratically-elected leaders who suffer? Or, as with the Israeli massacre of Gaza last winter, is it each and every one of Gaza’s civilians locked within this Strip?