Archive for Fatah

Fatah holds key party congress

Posted in Fatah, Gaza, Hamas, Israeli occupation, Palestine, Pictures, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , on 04/08/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 4th August 2009

Source: BBC News

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Fatah leaders at the congress in Bethlehem

Thousands of delegates are in Bethlehem for the congress

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction has begun a congress – its first in 20 years.

Speaking at the congress, Mr Abbas said Palestinians sought peace with Israel but “resistance” remained an option.

Fatah is widely seen as corrupt and ineffective, the BBC’s Middle East correspondent Tim Franks says.

Our correspondent says there will be close interest in who is elected to the faction’s main internal positions of power.

Some 2,000 delegates are convening for Fatah’s three-day congress in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

An estimated 400 Fatah delegates who live in the Gaza Strip were banned from travelling to Bethlehem for the conference by the territory’s rulers, Hamas.

The Palestinians of course are committed to a peaceful solution, however, we maintain the right for armed struggle when it is necessary and as an option
Mahmoud Abbas

Israel had allowed about 500 delegates who live abroad to travel to the congress.

“Having the conference at all is a miracle, and having it in the homeland is another miracle,” Mr Abbas said on Tuesday.

Commenting on the conference, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev, said: “Israel seeks peace and reconciliation with our Palestinian neighbours – reconciliation that must be based on both sides recognising the rights of the other: Israel recognising that the Palestinians have national rights, and the Palestinians recognising that Jews have national rights too.”

Renewal

The congress will be discussing a new platform that seeks to rejuvenate the movement.

Another key test will be whether the conference alters the wording of Fatah’s charter, which refers to eradicating Israel.

Palestinians install a poster bearing a portrait of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Bethlehem

The draft document proposes to keep the option of “armed struggle” if peace talks with Israel fail.

It also says that an Israeli settlement freeze in the West Bank is a precondition for any further talks with Israel.

The congress comes as the US is hoping to broker a new round of peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Maybe more important is the issue of who the delegates elect to the internal positions of power, our correspondent says.

He adds that – in the words of one reformer – the current leaders are like princes in the Gulf.

Opinion polls still suggest that Fatah is currently more popular than its main rival – the Islamist Hamas movement which controls the Gaza Strip.

But without a strong infusion of freshness, in the long-term Palestinians say that Fatah will only decline, our correspondent says.

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As blockade bites deep, more Gaza children must work

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Israeli occupation, Pictures, Siege with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 31/07/2009 by 3071km

Written by Rami Almeghari

Date published: 31st July 2009

Source: The Electronic Intifada

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As blockade bites deep, more Gaza children must work
Rami Almeghari writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 31 July 2009

Fourteen-year-old Jihad sells chewing gum to drivers in Gaza City. (Rami Almeghari)


Zaher and Jihad are two boys living in Gaza. Every day they get up early and rush to Gaza City’s streets so that they might find something to sell to those walking or driving by. Their fathers have been unemployed since the the intifada — the uprising against Israeli occupation — began in 2000 and they, along with thousands of others, were no longer allowed to work inside Israel. Conditions worsened after Israel imposed a siege on the territory in June 2007. The boys work in order to help their families.

Zaher, 17, from Gaza City’s al-Tuffah neighborhood explains that, “I get up at 6am every day, then I go to a local farmer, where I pick up mint leaves. I carry the leaves and start my working day as you see me now.” He buys small bunches of mint leaves for one shekel ($0.25). Working sunset to sunrise, Zaher earns about 90 shekels a day.

Zaher added, “I am forced to sell these leaves here. Otherwise my family cannot live. There are 10 members in my family, including me, my brothers and parents. No one helps us as my father has been without work for the past nine years. The only assistance we get is some food rations provided by UNRWA [the UN Agency for Palestine refugees] from time to time as well as some help from a generous relative.”

While running among the cars in the street, Zaher explains that not everyone is supportive or generous. Stating that, “Sometimes some people, especially young ones in luxurious cars, mock us. I recall that one day while I was trying to sell mint to some young men in a car, they took the leaves from me and then drove away fast as the light turned green. When they stopped they gave me the leaves and said sarcastically ‘who told you we want these leaves?'”

Standing on another corner at the al-Saraya crossing, Jihad al-Jael sells small packs of chewing gum. Jihad, 14, and his 15-year-old brother walk to the crossing every morning from the Gaza City neighborhood of al-Mujama al-Islami, which is about three kilometers away.

Jihad explains that, “I have five sisters and five brothers as my father has been without work for the past nine years. Under these harsh conditions me and my brother are forced to come here in the heart of Gaza City, in order to earn a living for hungry stomachs.”

Jihad’s father is not only unemployed but is also ailing. The family does not have another source of income other than the occasional food rations they receive from UNRWA.

Sadly, Jihad and Zaher are not alone. Children can be seen on Gaza City’s other street corners, selling in front of stores or to passing cars. Other children sell tea, coffee or tissues at the Jundi al-Majhoul public garden in the al-Rimal district. All of them work to help their families.

Although the Palestinian Child Law of 2004 forbids children under age 15 from working, the phenomenon has become more prevalent among that age group and younger due to the harsh economic conditions in Gaza. In June, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) published a report stating that the closure of Gaza has pushed the unemployment rate to 44 percent and caused a dramatic rise in poverty. Currently, more than 70 percent of Gaza’s population lives in poverty, with an income of less than $250 a month for a family of seven to nine.

A crippling Israeli blockade has hampered public life in Gaza, with 95 percent of local industries being forced to shut down, due to lack of essential raw materials and shortage of machineries. According to the ICRC, only 2,662 truckloads of goods entered Gaza from Israel in May. This represented a decrease of almost 80 percent from the 11,392 truckloads Israel allowed in during April 2007, before Hamas took over the territory amidst factional fighting with the US-supported Fatah party of West Bank Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. Israel imposed a siege on Gaza after Hamas’ takeover.

Sajy al-Mughanni, communication officer for the UN children’s agency (UNICEF) in Gaza, blamed Israel’s 25-month siege for the growing poverty as well as the increasing number of working children in the region. He explained that, “We do have a high level of unemployment in Gaza. In terms of child labor, we don’t have specific numbers. But we do use our teams to go out in the field, to do an assessment and try to intervene with the families. I can confirm to you that the phenomenon of child labor is growing. The increase of this phenomenon can be mainly attributed to the Israeli blockade.”

Al-Mughanni added that, “We are coordinating with all UN agencies to provide food aid or health care to many families, in an attempt to provide relief and prevent further spread of the child labor phenomenon. However, this is not solving the problem drastically. So if we want to realize an end to such a phenomenon, the Israeli blockade should come to an end and Palestinians in Gaza should go back to their normal life, prior to the imposition of the siege.”

Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip.

Gaza conflict: Views on Hamas

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, Hamas, Israeli occupation, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Pictures, Siege with tags , , , , , , , , on 07/07/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 7th July 2009

Source: BBC News

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Israel said its 22-day military operation in Gaza in January was aimed at ending rocket fire from Hamas, and weakening the Islamic movement that controls the coastal Strip. Six months after the conflict, three Gazans affected by it give their views on Hamas’s standing in Gaza.

YOUSSEF ABU EIDA, FATHER OF EIGHT

Youssef Abu Eida, Gaza

Youssef Abu Eida’s four-floor house, home to his eight children and other extended family members, was destroyed during the conflict. Construction materials are blocked from entering Gaza under Israel’s blockade, so he has not been able to begin rebuilding.

“Nothing has changed. Each month I feel worse. I got mad. Now I am living in Jabaliya camp, with 12 people in one bedroom.

“Hamas and the Jews both did this. Hamas don’t have the power for war – so why did they launch rockets at Israel? Israel needed war here, but who gave Israel the key to come here? Hamas.

GAZA CONFLICT: SIX MONTHS ON
Yaser al-Wadiya, factory owner, Gaza

“They say ‘no problem’. But there is a problem! They take everything, clothes, milk food, everything. I think a lot of money comes into Gaza – where is it? For who? Who has taken all the money? What have Hamas done for my family?

“There are 1.5m people in Gaza – are all of them Hamas? No, they are not. You can ask my son, does he need Hamas? Does he like Hamas? No.

“In six months’ time maybe I will go crazy, take off all my clothes and run in the streets. All my dreams were in this house, it took me 32 years work to build it. The people here are dead, nothing is moving, everything is stopped.”

KAMALAIN SHAAT, ISLAMIC UNIVERSITY

Islamic University president

Kamalain Shaat is head of Gaza’s Islamic University, which is widely seen as close to Hamas. Some of the university’s buildings were destroyed in Israeli airstrikes – Israel said it targeted a chemistry laboratory used to make explosives.

“We have lost two main buildings, including all our science college labs – but we decided from day one that we have to continue with life. Right now we are offering our students educational services with maybe 90% efficiency, with the minimal resources we have.

“I am not sure about the popularity of Hamas. But what is really clear is that five missiles targeted two educational institutions, which is not acceptable at all. The Israeli army didn’t deny this, so they are to blame of course.

“Hamas came in by election. I don’t think anything would change if there was an election tomorrow. The people here are suffering, but they are persistent not to give up.

“I think all the time life is difficult [not just in Gaza or because of Hamas]. Do you think people in the [Fatah-controlled] West Bank are not in a difficult situation? They have more than 600 checkpoints. We are in difficulty too – it is part of the whole situation.”

TIHANI ABED RABBU, BEREAVED MOTHER

Tihani Abed Rabbu, Gaza

Tihani Abed Rabbu’s teenage son Mustafa, her brother and her closest friend were all killed during the conflict.

“After six months, life is hell. I can’t understand, I can’t absorb it. None of us can go back to normal life, not me, not my children, nor my husband.

“It’s not easy to forget the memory, to get rid of the image from your mind. Also there is no security. The Israelis could attack again, the Fatah and Hamas conflict could ignite again.

“I’m afraid that after I have lost Mostafa, that I will lose somebody else as well. When my children go to sleep, and I look at them, I start to think ‘who is next – is it Ahmad’s turn, or his brother?’

“What worries me is the safety of my family, my sons and my husband. My husband is going through a difficult time, a crazy time. He wants to affiliate with Hamas, he wants to get revenge after what they have done to us.

“How do you expect us to be peaceful after they have killed my son and turned my family into angry people – as they refer to us, “terrorists”. I cannot calm my family down.

“One of my sons is affiliated to [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas, every day he fights with his brothers and his father.

“If Fatah and Hamas don’t reconcile after this war, I feel like all those people who died, died for nothing, and that the people from both factions have nothing to do with the Palestinian cause – that they are not paying respect to those who died.

“They should wake up and put an end to this division. Unless they do that, I won’t feel that my son died as a martyr for the Palestinian cause.”

Two years after Hamas won Gaza

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Hamas, History, International community, Israel, Israeli occupation, Palestine, Siege with tags , , , , , , on 14/06/2009 by 3071km

Written by Ayman Mohyeldin

Date published: 14th June 2009

Source: Al-Jazeera English

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On June 14, 2007, Hamas drove Fatah out and gained complete control over Gaza [GALLO/GETTY]

Two years to the day after Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip, the lives of Palestinians in Gaza have seemingly become inextricably defined by two crises.

An internal political impasse has fragmented Palestinian society, reduced the credibility of Palestinian political leaders in the eyes of the public and derailed their people’s momentum for national liberation.Meanwhile, an Israeli-imposed, western-backed siege has created a humanitarian crisis for the 1.5 million people trapped inside Gaza.

What happened on June 14, 2007 depends on whom you ask. Even the language used among Palestinians to describe the events of that day reflects their deep ideological divisions.

A difference of perspective

In the eyes of Hamas and its followers, it is known in Arabic as “el hasm” – or “decisive affirmation”.

For them, Hamas decided to end Gaza’s lawlessness, crime and corruption and US-engineered attempts by the subversive Fatah movement to undermine Hamas’s legitimate right to govern after winning the 2006 elections.

The failure of various power-sharing agreements between Fatah and Hamas, national unity governments and attempts to reform the fragmented security services into one cohesive apparatus between the elections in 2006 until June 2007 set the stage for confrontation.

Those who do not share Hamas’s narrative of events call June 14, 2007 the “enqelaab” – the “coup”.

They say that Hamas violently ousted the legitimate Palestinian Authority, overrunning all government institutions with its loyalists.But the critics say the movement and its paramilitary forces were not prepared to govern, nor were they accustomed to the dissent found in the plurality of a democratic society.

Hamas, they say, wanted to dominate Palestinian politics by ballots and by guns – thus jeopardising years of struggle for statehood lead by the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO).

Regardless of the classification, those fateful days when Hamas gained and solidified its complete control of Gaza have been a defining moment for the Palestinian people and for the region.

Kareem Lebhour, a reporter for Radio France International, was one of the few international journalists who was in Gaza during the takeover.

He believes that the events of June 14 have been exploited by Arab regimes, the US and Israel for their own political agendas.

“Nobody wanted to see Hamas succeed in governing [after the elections they won in 2006],” he said.

Fearful of losing power to Islamist movements, governments across the region have been very cautious in allowing fair, democratic elections.

Instead, they have pointed to the Hamas takeover as a warning, as fitting the image of “Muslim men in beards with guns” taking over power, Kareem said.

In a near complete reversal from its earlier objective of promoting democracy through the Arab world, the administration of George Bush, the former US president, eased off calls for more democratic reforms across the region, fearing Hamas’s popular win could repeat itself in strategic American allies such as Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf States.

Instead, the international community turned its back on the legitimate winners of the Palestinian elections, setting the tone for internal political divisions and bloody clashes between the Hamas movement and its political rivals in the US-backed secular Fatah organisation.

Ignoring Gaza’s reality

If there is one conclusion that all regional players and the US have reached over the past two years, it is that ignoring Gaza’s reality is done at their own peril.

More than 80 per cent of Gaza’s population rely on some sort of assistance [AFP]

If Fatah and the PLO want to carry out elections across the Palestinian territories, they must incorporate Hamas.

If Hamas wants to extend its influence across the geographic divide into the West Bank and cast off its international pariah status, it must tolerate political, social and cultural plurality and demonstrate pragmatism in its dealings with those it ideologically opposes.If the US is serious about achieving a lasting and just peace in the region, it must acknowledge Hamas and what it stands for among the Palestinian people.

And if Israel is to achieve any semblance of security, it will have to deal with Hamas either directly or indirectly.

Life in Gaza

The past two years have been lost time.

Many believe the greatest casualty has been the deliberate social, economic and humanitarian degradation of 1.5 million people forced into abject destitution.

Since 2007, Gaza has passed through isolation, economic sanctions, a brutal Israeli assault – both physical and psychological – and a stifling siege that has made life intolerable.

It has been allowed to happen because of the complicity of the US, European countries, and Arab governments.

Every measure of life in Gaza has grown increasingly worse – from education to health care to economics.

What was once classified as a modest economy has now been reduced to an aid-dependent society with more than 80 per cent of the population relying on some sort of assistance.

Today, the most thriving industry is smuggling, through the tunnels along the border between Egypt and Gaza.

Nearly 1,000 tunnels have been dug to smuggle everything and anything needed in Gaza.

From basic food to medicine, the tunnels have become Gaza’s lifeline to the outside world and a testament to the indomitable will of the Palestinian people to survive these past two years.

There has been little apparent progress in Gaza since 2006, but some credit Hamas with re-establishing law and order.

Officials in Gaza are quick to cite the reduced crime rate and the security that has been restored by the Hamas-run government and security services.

However, human rghts organisations say it has come at a price.

Political and civil liberties in Gaza have shrunk and they accuse Hamas and its security services of often going beyond the rule of law to enforce the law.

A recent crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank by the Palestinian Authority resulted in Hamas security detaining dozens in Gaza.

It is a vicious cycle of revenge, attacks and detentions that has marked and marred the last two years of Palestinian rivalry.

‘The way ahead’

The way ahead for the Palestinians is unity.

Time and time again, from pundits to experts, from the factional leaders to ordinary Palestinians, calls for national unity have become the rallying mantra.

Every round of talks aimed at ending the two-year-old political infighting brings the people a little closer to hope that their lives may soon change.

The way ahead for Gaza will largely depend on how much more the international community – predominantly the US and its Western allies – is willing to tolerate these dire humanitarian conditions.

In his recent speech to the “Muslim World”, Barack Obama, the US president, said that the “humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security interests”, a suggestion that the status quo is untenable.

Whether the US will mount more pressure on Israel to change the reality on the ground remains to be seen and more of that will be gleamed when Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, outlines his cabinet’s diplomatic agenda for peace on Sunday, the same day as the anniversary of the Hamas’s takeover of Gaza.

Until either one of these crises is resolved, Palestinians in Gaza will undoubtedly find themselves living in the balance between internal political paralysis and external international intransigence to their suffering.

The Tunnels

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Hamas, Israeli occupation, Operation Cast Lead, Pictures, Siege with tags , , , , , , , on 25/04/2009 by 3071km

A Palestinian citizen getting a sheep through a tunnel (NPR, AFP/Getty Images)

A Palestinian citizen getting a sheep through a tunnel (NPR, AFP/Getty Images)

The Tunnels Between Gaza And Egypt

Many tunnels that are leading to the besieged Gaza Strip have been constructed under the ground of the Palestinian Rafah border between Egypt and Gaza. The existence of these tunnels has raised alarm among the Israelis, who in the last war on Gaza failed to destroy them despite delivering hundreds of bombs in the Rafah area.

Palestinians are forced to use these tunnels as the last resort to break the strict Israeli siege on Gaza. Tunnels are still able to provide Gaza with relief materials, livestock and the basic requirements of the inhabitants of Gaza, such as gas, rice, sugar and even goats and cows.

It is believed that there are about 1000 tunnels under the ground and only a few have been destroyed because of the Israeli heavy shelling between Gaza and Egypt. The deepest point of drilling under the ground is around 27m and the length of such tunnels is sometimes around 900-1000 under the earth’s surface.

We have to mention that Gaza is suffering from a rising unemployment since Israel tightened its blockade on the territory in 2007 trying to weaken the Palestinian rulers of the Hamas government. Goods are scarce in Gaza markets because of Israeli restrictions on Gaza and the strict control of what Palestinians can import and what they can’t. However, through the underground tunnels Palestinians can transfer all types of goods including fuel and spare parts for cars, computers and clothing.

Some of the owners of these tunnels told us that its number has increased to about 1000 tunnels and they are staffed by between 20 and 25 workers in the Palestinian gray economy struggling to continue. Some owners of these tunnels added that Hamas imposed taxes on the trade through tunnels.

The construction of tunnels is not cheap: the cost of digging a tunnel of around 500 meters long is between USD 60.000 – USD 90.000, while the cost of a tunnel of 1.000 meters of length with additional safety measures can be up to USD 150.000. The possibility of danger in these tunnels is evident. Palestinian officials say that only this year 45 workers died under the tunnels because of accidents.

Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, ending the control of the Fatah faction of President Mahmud Abbas, and adopted the sector of tunnels as a means of challenging the Israeli siege. It is known that Hamas blamed the Egyptian security forces, under Israeli and USA pressure, of the collapse of the tunnels.

Tunnels are by now the only way to break the siege on Gaza. They provide for the simplest human needs helping to overcome the crisis and allowing life to continue in the Strip.

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To know more about the tunnels, check this podcast from NPR broadcasted before Operation Cast Lead started:

Smugglers’ Tunnels In Gaza Strip Booming (NPR, 08-12-2008)

“In Gaza today, building, and rebuilding, is needed for everything. Not just houses.”

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Gaza reconstruction with tags , , , , , , , on 16/04/2009 by 3071km
Palestinian girls look out from the balcony of their damaged house in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip (March 23, 2009). REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Palestinian girls look out from the balcony of their damaged house in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip (March 23, 2009). REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Written by Jawad Harb

Published on 25th March 2009

Source: Reuters AlertNet

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Jaward Harb talks about the need to give response to the psychological trauma that Gazans, especially children, are experiencing as a result of the massacre.

Before the war, most action plans of the women’s groups we work with weren’t focused on psychosocial support; most were talking about income-generating projects for women such as rabbit-raising, supporting female farmers, sewing. But after the war, the priorities changed. People need an immediate response to the psychological trauma.

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But they don’t talk much, still. I try to sit with them when I have time, but they are becoming silent people. They are traumatized. They don’t know what to say. I try to take them outside, but we can’t leave Gaza; they are surrounded by it, every day. We go walking in the city, or go out for lunch, and they can talk and smile, but then they see the destruction. We can’t escape it.

Activism

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Siege with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 09/04/2009 by 3071km

Activism (Global Voices)

Interview to Richard Falk and Philip Rizk from Global Voices in which they talk about activism and non-violent resistance to express protest and disagreement not only in Gaza and Palestine but also in the rest of the world.

Rizk raises many interesting points including blogging as a powerful arm of non-violent resistance, the role of NGOs in slowing the outburst of the humanitarian and political crisis in Gaza, the Israeli strategy of dividing Palestinians in order to deepen the occupation, etc. He also talks a bit about his film This Palestinian Life. Stories of Palestinian Nonviolent Resistance, which we have introduced in our previous post.