Written by Ashraf Tantish
Date published: 27 August 2009
Source: The Palestinian Telegraph
Gazan children celebrating the first day of Ramadan
Gaza: tomorrow never die
The holy month of Ramadan is not so joyous for Gazans trying to cope with unemployment, an ongoing, critical siege, and the death of family members in the war.
It’s a big prison, holding 1.5 million Palestinians, and it takes you to the closed iron gates, and an Israeli soldier sipping his coffee and working on the order of trucks, which have arrived, loaded with the Israeli products, which are sometimes corrupted because of the length of time waiting for permission to cross into the Strip. Such goods serve a useful purpose, but do not mean much to the Palestinians, in the light of the deadly Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip.
The pain unleashed in Ramadan acts daily to affect the future of the Palestinians.
The Israeli occupation, the compelling circumstance, and the aftermath of the last Israeli war on Gaza imposes upon the Palestinians a severe pain and control on the daily basis of their life, especially in the Gaza Strip.
The ultimate goal of the Israelis is to drive the Palestinians out of the game, to break any chance of dreaming about an independent state, to live in peace and have the basic human life; moreover, the Israelis want to reduce a subjugated people to a fragment, who then become fair game for abuse.
Not for a moment did the Israelis hesitate to terrorize the Palestinian residents who tried to express their need for a good life, their need to stop the unfair siege, and who tried to express their frustration and anger in response to the aggressive Israeli war. At the same time, they are still trying their best to break any chance for the international activists and calls to end the siege on Gaza. The Israelis want to break the Palestinian souls, and to break their dream of a better life.
The Palestinians are left with no way to rebel and demonstrate, because they are fed up with the oppression – the oppression that the Palestinians have lived under for six decades now. They left no way to say no, to demonstrate and shout against the Israeli oppression and repression of their lives, and the takeover of their land and properties.
The most horrible thing is to live in a prison with 1.5 million Palestinians. A big prison in which the Israelis attempt to control you totally, from head to toe. For sure, many lifetimes will be wasted and go with the winds. It’s not human in itself and for a moment it’s not death – it’s worse: it’s killing the Palestinians in their daily life, agonizing them and leading them to nothing, just suffocated and hanged for every long day.
This ongoing collective punishment of the Gaza Strip, the massacres, the dropping of bombs on innocent civilians in the last war on Gaza, the blowing up of homes, and hideous terror tactics practiced against the Palestinians under occupation made the Palestinian life look like hell, with no possibility of the thought that things will be better in the coming years.
Many talk about a breakthrough in the crisis and a breakthrough in the political process, but everything is as it is. The continuation of the closure. Continuing to starve the Palestinians. And at the expense of what?
This year, Ramadan comes under the ongoing Israeli siege and the ongoing division between the two big political Palestinian parties, Hamas and Fatah.
Before the crisis, there was a way to a breakthrough, but it was defined over time. The war destroyed the hopes which been shrouded in tears on the Palestinian situation.
When the sun went down on the second day in Ramadan, Abu Ahmed sat with his seven children around him, waiting to break their fasting.
The image of their house didn’t free them from a severe pain, especially on the face of Abu Ahmad, for the parting of his son. But Um Ahmad started to talk about something that is missing in her house – her son was at home last year for Ramadan. She could not restrain herself, and began to cry.
Perhaps there are many other things that made Um Ahmad cry. But the only thing that her eyes saw is her son killed, her home demolished, and the bitterness of living in a torn tent. All these things coincided with a real crisis experienced by her family, and most other Palestinian families, for years.
Abu Ahmad’s house is not the only to lose loved ones; there are hundreds of Palestinian homes that are still ravaging from the pain.
Palestinian families still have members in the Israeli jails. The blockade and this oppression, hunger and injustice, causes many Palestinians to cry in this month.
Ramadan this year for Ranada, 48, has another meaning. The pain is on her face – not only because of the poverty, but because of the severe pain of the loss of her son. He was swept away by the crazy war 7 months ago, when he was killed by an Israeli bullet, while he was playing with his friends.
She said, “Ramadan has no meaning without my son, he is supposed to be here between us. I wanted him to be with us. We all miss him, especially when we come to break our fasting. His chair is always empty. It’s really unfair for me as a mother to live like this.”
In the last seven years, the Palestinian economic damage has exceeded all expectations. The Palestinian markets experienced a great regression in terms of amount of sales, because of the siege. Of course, the damage reached many sectors, especially the industrial and the agricultural ones.
The siege left Gazans to complain about the high price hike, which caused a reduction in their daily consumption and a noticeable decrease in the customs of Ramadan.
Markets have suffered a trade recession because of the limited purchase movement and because of the high food prices – especially meat, fish and fruits – as well as the lack of a large number of food commodities Palestinians need in the month of Ramadan. For three years, the Israeli authorities have not allowed them to enter Gaza, and have also prevented the passage of sweets and a variety of cheese, juices, spices, and other items.
A report issued by the Central Bureau of Statistics showed that the prices of goods in the Palestinian territories recorded a rise of 17% during the month of August compared to July last year. The report showed that the prices of some primary commodities like flour, oil and milk products, and others in Gaza, recorded a rise of 18% over the original price due to the high cost of these materials worldwide, and the siege on the Strip.
Murad, a marketer, said, “the movement of the clients in the market is very bad and sharply decreased, compared with the last several years.” He added, “Where are my customers? A few years ago, exactly this month, I was not able to take a break for just one hour, working on finishing customers necessities. But, a long list of food has been barred from entering Gaza. And what is available, including low-quality goods entering through the tunnels that connect Egypt with Gaza, is sold at high prices”.
Murad attributed the slow trade movement to the blockade, and added that the month of Ramadan coincided with the beginning of the new school year, and the Palestinian concerns about the provision of school supplies.
He expresses the hope that the blockade will be lifted, and the movement will recover in the market, and turn Ramadan, and all the months of the year, back into very cheerful times.
In this regard, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) warned of the deterioration of the living conditions of the residents of the Gaza Strip (of which refugees constitute 70%), especially with the continued siege and the closure of the crossings.
The situation in the Gaza Strip is bad, and the lives of one million refugees, who represent 70% of the total population, are under the shadow of chronic unemployment, health hazards, lack of access to water and energy, and the lack of housing for thousands of Palestinians, under the rubble of their former homes, along with all their worldly belongings.”
It is noteworthy that the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza remained closed for three years, and is opened on an exceptional basis to the stranded and sick.
No Light Tonight
This night there is no electricity. A small candle to illuminate the banquet of Abu Ali and his family. Abu Ali said, “the electricity crisis did not appear just tonight, it was here since the Israelis were in Gaza. There was power cut and there was considerable disruption. But after the Lebanon war, the problem increased when the Israelis attacked the Palestinian power plant, until it started fading away. But the coming of the war on Gaza and what happened, it became true that the crisis was beyond imagination, especially in Ramadan. We need air to live and at the same time we need electricity, because I believe as a Palestinian living under these circumstances, the need for electricity has become something essential. But, who said that electricity is the only problem? I’ve been having problems everywhere. No more human life for us in Gaza. We suffer wherever we go as Palestinians, inside and outside.”
In this regard, The Deputy Chairman of the Palestinian Energy Authority in Gaza, Kanaan Obeid, said that “witnessing the month of Ramadan has doubled the power crisis that took place since the Israeli war on Gaza.”
He stressed that the crisis is mainly in the decline of the amount of fuel needed to run the feeder lines to the Gaza Strip, which coincided with the rejection of the occupation authorities to provide further industrial diesel for the operation of the power plant.
Ebeid had said in the press statement that the occupation forces codified the contained quantities of diesel fuel for the station about a year ago, and it does not allow only the insertion of more than two million and 200 thousand liters per week, enough to generate 55 megawatts, out of 140 MW, is the maximum production of energy at the plant.
In fact, the electricity distribution company in the provinces of Gaza was forced Friday to shut down one of the three production units operating in the electricity generation plant, due to a severe shortage in the amount of industrial diesel needed to run it.
In his press statement, Ebeid demanded the international community and Arab countries solve the electricity problems before the month of Ramadan, noting that the company has completed all the procedures for the distribution of the electricity to the citizens in accordance with the existing potential energy, noting that the electricity will be disconnected 4 to 5 times for a period of eight hours per week.
Ebeid also warned that the crisis of electricity would be “very severe” due to the high consumption of electricity during the summer season, which coincides this time with the holy month of Ramadan and the beginning of the school year in various schools and universities sector, putting the expectation that the Gazans cirisis will be escalated.
He noted that turning off the unit would affect different regions of the sector, particularly in Gaza City, which will be most affected by this crisis, stressing that the electricity distribution company doing what it can to mitigate the impacts of the crisis on the lives of citizens.
Because of the siege, and since the launch of the Intifada, the Palestinian workers have been deprived of work in Israel. More than 50 thousand workers were going to work in Israel every day. The siege and the closure forced thousands of Palestinians to wait in long lines to receive assistance – circumstances long outdated in some of the poorest African villages.
Ahmad, 45, is almost a model of Gaza’s families. He has been unemployed for years, and before the beginning of Ramadan, he started looking for assistance in the assemblies or the charities, hoping to find a food basket to feed his ten sons.
He said, “The Palestinian people suffer from lots of concerns. Look at me: before the start of the holy month, I was trying to look for someone to help me under these difficult circumstances. There is no work for years in the area but we have these associations.”
He continued: “I try to bring joy to my family by any means, but to no avail, and the only thing we can do now, is to keep our fasting well and pray that our life will get better somehow.”
Yet this is not all what is happening. After experiencing the ongoing cruel siege, life in Gaza became like sentencing the Palestinians to one thousand terms of life imprisonment. For sure, after the Palestinians spend their best life in jail (under siege) under extremely harsh conditions, it is terrifying to envision that any of them might pass away in jail, while the whole world discusses “peace” and the human rights issues, without actually doing anything about the Palestinian rights.