Every Monday, Palestinians in Nuseirat refugee camp rummage through piles of secondhand Israeli junk in the cheapest market is the Gaza Strip. There are dozens of piles of items from silverware to underwear.
During my most recent visit to the Gaza Strip, I visited the Monday market with my colleagues Jehad Saftawi and Lara Aburamadan. The market was bustling and there was little shade to provide respite from the sun. Several dozen people of all ages sifted through piles of clothing on the ground, much of it stained and below the standard of what a discerning person would consider suitable for donation. At just one shekel per item, the Monday market is the only option for many Palestinian to find affordable clothing.
Among the piles of unsorted clothing are countless shirts that feature Israeli military designs. Here are a few I found in a few minutes of digging:
That is the insignia and name for the Druze-populated Sword Battalion.
The pink inscription reads, top to bottom:
Prepare for muster
3… 2… Attention
[Peace sign] Foray 2011
But perhaps the most disturbing was this:
To be clear, the image on the front is some kind of mythological demonic creature with wings, prepared to drop a bomb. Considering Gaza’s function as a laboratory for Israel’s weapons industry, this is a particularly disturbing sight. Underneath it, says “Team Yoav,” which appears to be a reconnaissance team belonging to the Golani Brigade.
However, the text on the back of the shirt might provide the most insight into the relationship between Israel and Gaza.
It reads: “Whichever way we want it, whenever we want.”
This phrase, the motto of Sayeret Golani which existed before the occupation, encapsulates Israeli domination of everyday Palestinian life, especially in the Gaza Strip. Obscured by the common terminology of “conflict,” Israel’s restrictions and control – by means of siege, severe limits on freedom of movement, and regular bombing campaigns – are reflected crystal clear by this statement.
That Israel allows Palestinians in Gaza to import used goods is not a symbol of goodwill or charitable policy – it represents normalization of the siege. To place this in proper context, remember that basic necessities such as adequate electricity and water are not let into Gaza, and Israel calculates the caloric intake for every Palestinian in Gaza, keeping the population malnourished but above catastrophe.
Of course, large swaths of areas that were decimated last year look almost exactly as they did at the end of the war. Just 25% of the $5.4 billion promised by international donors to rebuild has entered Gaza.
In effect, Palestinians can have a used Israeli fork to consume their allotted caloric intake while sitting on piles of rubbles where their families and neighbors were slaughtered by Israeli bombs as they slept, while wearing a humiliating shirt that announces, “My occupier can attack me in whichever way it wants, at any time it chooses, and coerce me to wear a shirt saying so.”
Editor’s Note: An older version of this article omitted that the phrase, “Whichever way we want it, whenever we want,” is the motto of Sayeret Golani.
With thanks to Dena Shunra for translation.