Archive for Israeli blockade

Gaza produces film under Israeli blockade

Posted in Gaza, Hamas, Israeli occupation, Palestine, Siege, Videos with tags , , , , on 14/08/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 14th August 2009

Source: Al Jazeera English

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Many aspects of life in Gaza have suffered under the Israeli blockade and Palestinian culture is just one of them.

But amid the trauma of withstanding worsening living conditions, Palestinians from the impoverished territory have managed to produce the first feature film to come out of Gaza in almost a decade.

Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin reports on the Hamas-funded film about a hero of the movement’s armed wing.

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Hamas starts the ‘Islamisation’ of Gaza

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Hamas, Israeli occupation, Palestine, Siege with tags , , , , , , , , on 14/08/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 14th August 2009

Source: El País (translated from Spanish into English by 3.071 Km)

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The population rejects the plan of the fundamentalists to impose a strict Islamic morality – female lawyers will have to use the ‘hijab’ in court.

A group of young people enter a store and advise the owner to remove the dummy from the window. Underwear for all to see -sometimes suggestive lingerie-  is a long-outdated indecency. As it is that men walk along the beach of Gaza with their uncovered chest.

The police has also requested documentation to couples walking down the street to check whether they were married, although the measure was quickly cancelled after some angry reactions and protests by several NGOs in the Palestinian territory. Guns have fallen silent over the past six months, but Hamas and its government are working in other fields. They now encourage or attempt to impose certain behaviors that are appropriate to Islamic law and morality.

“The campaign is in accordance to our religion and traditions. We have seen some dangers for our youth and our role is to warn our people about these things,” said Taleb Abu Shaar, Minister of Religious Affairs. Although Abu Shaar ensures that no one is forced to do something they dislike, the campaign has met with a rejection greater than expected. And not only among the laity.

Many streets of Gaza are full of posters that encourage, for example, not smoking. It would be very, very strange to see a leader of Hamas cigarette in hand. “Those who do this are not always civil servants, but they are members of Hamas. The posters call for maintaining a decent performance,” said Maru, who lives in the neighboring refugee camp of Jabalia, and is sympathetic to the fundamentalist movement.

The Islamist government and its judicial bodies have decreed that from September the 1st all female lawyers must go to court with the hijab. There are thousands of women working in companies, ministries, hospitals or schools. Of course, driving. Gaza is not Saudi Arabia. The authorities claim that they only seek to apply a law in force since 1930, which regulated the mode of dress of lawyers and judges. It is perhaps the most relevant of a number of measures that cause discomfort in the laity, but also among many of the religious people of the Strip. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights based in Gaza, has criticized the blatant illegality of the initiative.

“Of course, the laity do not like this to happen. But many people who sympathize with Hamas, either. Not that fervently oppose the measures, but they think the Government could focus on more important matters,” Maruan explained. Institutions operate at half gas: Sixteen departments were razed during the war launched by Israel last December. The Palestinian Authority, bitter rival of Hamas, pays from Ramallah the payroll of their former employees with the only condition that they do not work for the islamist government, which has forced the government of Ismail Haniya in Gaza to recruit inexperienced staff. Complaints are heard. “Yes, they might be polite, but they are incompetent,” Maruan adds.

The slow process of Islamisation of the Palestinian society started decades ago. Because religious practices are by no means unique to Gaza. In many cities in West Bank -ever ruled in the past 15 years by a secular-nationalist government- you can not buy a can of beer in a store. Walking by a Muslim woman in Hebron or Nablus who does not cover her head is an equally complicated task. And Ramadan is scrupulously respected in public spaces. Hamas will not be the one to slow down this trend.  “I,” says the director of an NGO in Gaza, “I tried my 16 years old daughter not to wear the hijab. No way. She uses it because she wants to. All her friends wear it.”

As it regards to many other hot topics, Hamas is not monolithic. Several leaders called for further implementation of the controversial decisions. Others preferred to stop. A member of Hamas recognised recently in this newspaper: “Society is not yet ready to implement Islamic laws.” In three years of almost complete dominance of the Strip there were few decisions that led Hamas to further Islamicise the Strip’s society, which has raised harsh accusations from Al Qaeda against the Palestinian Islamist party.

It is difficult to know whether this warm way launched by Hamas  will reduce its sympathies. It may lose from one side what gains from the other. “Old style entrepreneurs are always satisfied to bring a few bags from Israel. The Israeli blockade has left them without any goods. But the blockade is creating a new business network that thrives on the tunnels of Rafah, an industry that  the fundamentalist movement controls,” says the head of the mentioned NGO in Gaza.

Hamas is building its own economic structure, having restored the judiciary and police. “I don’t really think it is losing popular support, although the  discomfort of many people with certain decisions is undeniable,” he concludes.

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.