One year later, Gaza is still in crisis

Israel/Palestine
on 17 Comments

“The real victims of the war are the survivors,” my friend Hamza, a Palestinian journalist, told me earlier this month, as we drank mango juice at a beach café in Gaza City.

Indeed, despite 12 months of relative peace, Gazans are still enduring the aftermath of three Israeli wars in the past six years, an ongoing Israeli and Egyptian imposed blockade, a crippled economy, and internal political strife.

“Everyone here—100 percent of the people—are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder,” Hamza said. Just moments earlier, he and his brother instinctively ducked their heads upon hearing a nearby firework explode.

This sentiment was echoed numerous times by the doctors, public health officials, journalists, artists, and aid workers I spoke with throughout my visit to Gaza.

“The war ended on the 26th of August, 2014,” said Dr. Ghada al-Jadba, the Chief Field Health Program officer for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). “But another crisis began. You will see the destruction of the houses but behind the houses you will see more and more destruction of the people. Behind each house, there will be a very sad story, a disaster, a humanitarian disaster.”

Hamza and another journalist, Jehad, took me to Beit Hanoun and Shujayia, where some of the worst destruction from last summer’s war took place. They showed me where, just a year ago, they witnessed hundreds of dead and mutilated bodies, killed by Israeli forces, strewn across the streets under the afternoon sun.

We saw apartment buildings that had been flattened by American-exported F-16 jets, the floors piled on top of one another like pancakes.

We saw people still living in the bare skeletons of buildings despite the absence of any walls. Large open spaces dot the landscape, where houses and farmland were completely demolished by Israel’s Caterpillar D-9 bulldozers.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza destroyed 18,000 homes, leaving more than 100,000 homeless. Approximately 2,205 Palestinians, including at least 1,483 civilians and 521 children, were killed. Seventy-one Israelis, including four civilians (plus one foreign civilian) and a security coordinator, were killed by Palestinian rocket fire and attacks on invading soldiers.

The blockade, which Israel and Egypt began imposing in 2007 after Hamas took internal control of Gaza, has prevented nearly all goods, including construction materials and many medical supplies, from entering or exiting Gaza. Gaza’s people, too, are largely prevented from leaving the Strip.

“It is like a large prison,” Dr. al-Jadba said. “This increases all the challenges of addressing health problems.” Since the war, these problems have multiplied.

A small number of patients whose condition Israel considers treatable only in foreign hospitals are granted limited exit permits. Most Gazans are not so fortunate. My friend, Mohammed, watched his father die after he was prevented from leaving for medical treatment.

Compounding the challenges imposed by the blockade, Gaza’s hospitals and schools are facing an unprecedented financial crisis. Forced to teach in overcrowded classrooms, many of which were damaged by Israeli airstrikes, UNRWA’s teachers are currently on strike.  Gaza’s hospitals, seventeen of which were damaged or destroyed during last summer’s war, are on the brink of shutting down, as officials can no longer afford the fuel necessary for the generators. Gaza currently has just six hours of electricity per day.

These conditions have left many people feeling hopeless. “It was easier during the war,” a young aid worker said to me at a café one evening. “During the war, they killed us instantly. Now they are killing us slowly.”

When asked what Americans could do for the people of Gaza, nearly everyone I met said that political solidarity should be the first priority.

“This means that the illegal blockade on Gaza should be removed,” Dr. al-Jadba said. “The international community needs to help in removing this blockade. This will relieve the economic situation and improve the psychological and social situations.”

Suhaila Tarazi, the director of Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, agreed that Israel must “open the borders for people.”

“We are human beings,” said a doctor from the Union of Health Work Committees. “We have the right to live in independence and to move freely.”

“We want to live with the Israelis as good neighbors,” Dr. Maher Ayyad, of Ahli Arab Hospital, added, “but let us live together with open borders in love and peace.”

Just as I was leaving Gaza, four more Palestinians were killed in the territory, as an Israeli ordinance left over from last summer unexpectedly exploded amidst the rubble of a building in Rafah.

Too many Americans sat on their hands last summer while Israel used American weaponry to kill more than 2,000 people and destroy an entire territory’s infrastructure. How much longer will we remain silent?

About Robert Ross

Robert Ross is an Associate Professor of Global Cultural Studies at Point Park University, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His research and teaching focus upon the political-economic geographies of Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and the United States. He is also a member of the Pittsburgh Palestine Solidarity Committee and the Israel-Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

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17 Responses

  1. just
    August 26, 2015, 7:37 pm

    ““It was easier during the war,” a young aid worker said to me at a café one evening. “During the war, they killed us instantly. Now they are killing us slowly.” ”

    Israeli war crimes and cruelty never stop, and the unbearable suffering continues.

    Alice Rothchild has said that “This is a form of continuous PTSD (or as I like to say, it can’t be “post-traumatic stress disorder if it is not yet post.”” – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/03/no-time-to-mourn#sthash.vogHK952.dpuf

    “Too many Americans sat on their hands last summer while Israel used American weaponry to kill more than 2,000 people and destroy an entire territory’s infrastructure. How much longer will we remain silent?”

    That’s the question I have asked myself every day for years, Robert. The voices of millions of human beings around the world were ignored again by the “leaders” last summer. They’re still doing their best to ignore us today. We will be heard. 1S1P1V, BDS, Free Gaza, Free Palestine, and end the Occupation!

    • just
      August 26, 2015, 10:53 pm

      “Petition to End Gaza Blockade Signed by Over 500,000 in One Day

      Online petition, launched by online activist group Avaaz and backed by some 30 other groups, calls on world leaders to pressure Israel into lifting restrictions on building materials. …

      … The petition is addressed to UN Special Coordinator Mladenov, U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British PM James Cameron, Qatar’s Sheikh Al Thani, EU FM Federica Mogherini, “and all other world leaders.”

      According to Al Jazeera, the petition’s organizers hope it would gain 1.8 million signatures, representing the population of the Strip. …”

      read more: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.673164?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

      Petition here @ https://secure.avaaz.org/en/gaza_blockade_aida/?1440413696

      Israel should pay the total cost of rebuilding the Gaza that they repeatedly destroy, international protection should be given to Palestinians, and any money pledged to rebuild Gaza should be allocated to essential services.

    • J.town
      August 27, 2015, 5:01 am

      Absolutely it really is Continued trauma and yes.we will be heard, that’s if Israel.doesnt implode in on itself. There is no way they can continue this behaviour for another 67 years, with all.the technology they have designed they will eventually be victims of their own sucess.

  2. talknic
    August 27, 2015, 7:23 am

    I’m doing some research. Perhaps hophmi et al can point me to photos of something comparable suffered by Israelis at the hands of the Palestinians

    • gratefuldennis
      August 27, 2015, 7:14 pm

      That is pretty much impossible since Israel is occupying Palestinian lands and there is no Israeli lands being occupied by Palestinians. So how could there be anything similar? It is impossible to be a terrorist when defending your country from an occupying power.

      If that was the case then the French Underground that fought against the German Nazi occupation of France would be considered terrorist. There is not much difference with the situation in France in WWII than that of Gaza and throughout the shrinking lands of Palestine today. Except The people of France has support and help by many countries of the Allied Forces. The Palestinians have nobody coming to their aid except civilians that were forcibly blocked by the Israeli Navy from bringing in medicines and food.

    • jon s
      August 29, 2015, 3:20 pm

      talknic,
      Of course the population of Gaza sustained much more casualties and far more extensive property damage than Israel and the causes of the imbalance are also well known .
      But since when does the number of your casualties and the extent of the destruction on your side prove the justice of your cause?

      • Mooser
        August 29, 2015, 5:17 pm

        “But since when does the number of your casualties and the extent of the destruction on your side prove the justice of your cause?”

        And what, may I ask is Gaza’s “cause”? Please tell us “Jon s” what Gaza’s “cause” is, apparently a cause so awful even the disproportionate destructive doesn’t ameliorate its awfulness?

      • Annie Robbins
        August 29, 2015, 6:44 pm

        since when does the number of your casualties and the extent of the destruction on your side prove the justice of your cause?

        hmm, i’m thinking the holocaust gave zionism a boost. for many people the world over it justified the theft of the holy land from the indigenous people. and i think a few zionists were banking on that too.

        but aside from that your statement is a strawman jon because no one except for maybe netanyahu and all his radical right wing co horts strut out the idea palestinians die to prove the justice of their cause. they die because they have a enemy with challenged deprived morals who are willing to slaughter people for their own benefit.

        it’s been like that from day one. zionists didn’t give a hoot about palestinian grief, death or suffering the nakba etc if it got in the way of their fantasy dreamland. isn’t that what avi shavits said in his book, ‘it’s a pity we slaughter them but then i wouldn’t have my country’ kind of crap.

      • MHughes976
        August 29, 2015, 7:49 pm

        If you are ready to inflict a lot of suffering, why would that be? Advantage and profit could form a plausible reason. If you are ready to endure much by way of suffering and death, why would that be? That the people inflicting all that stuff are wicked oppressors who should be resisted at great cost is an explanation that deserves to be considered quite seriously.

      • talknic
        August 29, 2015, 9:12 pm

        @ jon s

        In short you can’t, because there is no destruction in Israel that warrants or justifies Israel not withdrawing from all non-Israeli territories or its military actions to those who oppose its illegal activities in non-Israeli territories

        “Of course the population of Gaza sustained much more casualties and far more extensive property damage than Israel and the causes of the imbalance are also well known”

        Indeed. Israel is by far the overwhelming power in the region. Given a free ticket to engage in its criminal activities outside of its borders thru carefully maintaining the US veto vote in the UNSC, without which it would become a failed state

        “But since when does the number of your casualties and the extent of the destruction on your side prove the justice of your cause? “

        There is no justice in Israel’s cause. In fact there’s no valid moral, legal or ethical reason for any of the crimes Israel has committed since proclaiming its borders effective 00:01 May 15th 1948.

      • eljay
        August 29, 2015, 9:29 pm

        || Annie Robbins: hmm, i’m thinking the holocaust gave zionism a boost. … ||

        The Holocaust, the “thousands of Jews” killed by Palestinian suicide bombs in (greater) Israel, acts of anti-Semitism in Paris and elsewhere – all of them are used by Zio-supremacists:
        – not as reasons to advocate the universal and consistent application of justice, accountability and equality; but
        – as justification for Jewish supremacism in/and a supremacist “Jewish State” and related past and on-going (war) crimes.

  3. RobertHenryEller
    August 27, 2015, 8:49 am

    One year later? Gaza has been in crisis since 1948.

    • just
      August 27, 2015, 12:50 pm

      That’s true, RHE.

      For some soulful music and profound thoughts/writing, here’s Haidar Eid:

      “Gaza Blues: Hymns of love, death and resistance

      Here, at the mercy of time,
      on these foothills at sunset
      near ripped-up orchards stripped of their shadows,
      we do what prisoners do,
      we do what the unemployed do:
      we cultivate hope.
      — Mahmoud Darwish

      Pain can, surprisingly, bring out the best in people.

      When Israel committed one of its ugliest crimes in the Shujaiya neighborhood of Gaza City in July 2014 — the massacre of dozens of people — I became a different person.

      I felt a cocktail of mixed emotions: helplessness, horror, pain, loneliness, alienation, melancholy and resilience.

      Being an activist at that moment didn’t help me stop a US-made Israeli F16 from targeting Khuzaa, or another US-made weaponized vehicle from shelling the houses of Beit Hanoun. I felt like the long and dark nights were in cahoots with apartheid Israel — they were both against me.

      Local radio stations were constantly reporting breaking news, their reporters at the scenes of different massacres. My heart and mind struggled to absorb all the news at once. But this was news mixed with flesh and blood — that of my friends, my nieces, my nephews, my students, my colleagues, my own flesh and blood.

      So I started singing.

      “Take out the only weapon you have on this dark night and fight back while tears are rolling down your cheeks! You know that they are cheering on the other side of the barbed wires! They are having barbecues and drinking beer when a bomb falls on our children’s heads!”

      “Shujaiya! Shujaiya! Shujaiya!”

      “Khuzaa! Khuzaa! Khuzaa!”

      Soaked with tears

      In my hand was my weapon — a tiny mobile phone close to my mouth, my beard soaked with tears. Then the first child — a song — was born, a child baptized in blood. Hence the title, “Love in the Time of Genocide,” which I gave to the late Egyptian poet Abdel Rahim Mansour’s lyrics, written to commemorate the Denshawai massacre in Egypt committed by British soldiers in 1906 (listen). …”

      Much more @ https://electronicintifada.net/content/gaza-blues-hymns-love-death-and-resistance/14801

  4. just
    August 27, 2015, 1:27 pm

    From Vice News, photos by Ezz Zanoun

    “In Photos: Life in Gaza a Year After the Ceasefire”

    https://news.vice.com/article/in-photos-life-in-gaza-a-year-after-the-ceasefire

    The “ceasefire” that Israel has violated over and over again.

  5. gratefuldennis
    August 27, 2015, 7:47 pm

    This nightmare will continue for the Palestinians as long as Netanyahu and his racist cabinet are in power according to Henry Siegman who is the former executive director of the American Jewish Congress, long described as one of the nation’s “big three” Jewish organizations.

    Henry Siegman believes that negotiations should be led by the UN Security Council for a two state solution and states about Netanyahu: “….that any government that is headed by Netanyahu not only is disinterested in pursuing a two-state solution, but indeed sees as its primary mission and goal, policy goal, is to prevent a two-state agreement.

    Siegman referring the the Netanyahu Government also said: “When…you look at a government that is made up of people who are either racists, out-and-out racists, and people who are totally opposed to a two-state agreement, while at the same time being opposed to granting Palestinians in the West Bank Israeli citizenship. You somehow can’t avoid this terrible realization that this state of Israel, that the Jewish people has prayed for, has supported, has seen as a historic change in the situation of Jews worldwide, has a government that is a racist government. ”

    For those interested in the entire interview you can watch it here:
    http://www.democracynow.org/2015/8/13/henry_siegman_leading_us_jewish_voice

  6. Boomer
    August 28, 2015, 6:08 am

    Sad news, but thanks for reporting it. You ask, “how much longer will Americans remain silent?” I think we know the answer to that.

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