The siege has led to growing and severe unemployment rates, food and power shortage, and combined with Israeli wars, a severe lack of infastructure and homes [file photo]
By Dr Ramzy Baroud, Middle East Monitor, 26 January 2016
[Ramzy will be a keynote speaker at the 2016 NZ Conference on Palestine, at the Auckland Town Hall on Saturday 3 April. Ed]
Gaza is bleeding
Whenever Mariam Aljamal’s children hear the sound of thunder at night, they wet their beds. Their reaction is almost instinctive, and is shared by a large number of children throughout the Gaza Strip.
Mariam’s three children — Jamal, Lina and Sarah — were all born a few years after the Gaza siege was first imposed in 2006, and all of them have experienced at least one Israeli war. “My kids feel scared when the electricity goes off, which is most of the time,” says the 33-year-old mother from Nuseirat Refugee Camp, who has a degree in Communication and is currently pursuing her MA. “They are still living the trauma of the 2014 offensive. War is still haunting my family, and life has become so hard for us.”
Indeed, after years of trying, Mariam is yet to find work. Unemployment in Gaza is the highest in the world, according to the World Bank.
The destruction in Gaza as a result of three consecutive wars has been so severe; it has affected almost every aspect of the Strip’s already dilapidated infrastructure. Power outages, for example, have become part of life in Gaza. If all goes according to plan, Palestinians here have only 8-10 hours, per day, to utilize electricity, and for the rest of the day they suffer in darkness. The UN had already declared that Gaza will become “inhabitable” by 2020. But there are aspects of this drama that do not receive a fair share of attention, such as how the siege is hindering human development for an entire generation.
When the siege was imposed, Ahmad Ghazal was only 13-years-old. Now, he is 23 and works at a local library in Gaza City. “Life here is not pleasant,” he says. “In the last 10 years my family has suffered the lack of food, clean water, proper medical care and the most basic of human needs. But what frustrates me most is the fact that I am not able to move freely…”
Maher Azzam is 21 and he, too, feels imprisoned. He teaches English at Smart International Centre for Languages and Development and aspires to be a writer. However, he sees life in Gaza as a slow death. “The number of martyrs in the Strip over the course of 10 years has exceeded 4,000, but those innocent people only died once,” he says. “People who are still alive in Gaza, have been dying every day for a whole decade. But we must stay optimistic and hopeful. We have learned to be creative to survive, to express ourselves and to carry on without submitting, despite Israel’s ongoing crimes and the silence of the international community.”
The consequences of the siege are far-reaching to the extent that Anas Almassri, a student-intern at the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor in Deir Al-Balah, says that whatever remained of Gaza’s middle class is now dwindling. “The middle class in Gaza continues to shrink as a result of the diminishing economic opportunities, and this affects the income of families terribly, who cannot send their kids to universities and, therefore, cannot maintain their standard of living.”
For Ghada Abu Msabeh, 20, also from Deir Al-Balah, the siege has now become so rooted in the collective psyche of Gazans that it has grown to become the new norm. “I think that we have come to the point that the siege has become a part of our daily life and routine,” she argues. “I honestly cannot imagine what life would be if we are able to move freely or even go for an entire day without power outage. It is honestly difficult to remember how life used to be before the siege.”
Hana Salah, 25, a writer and humanitarian worker with Oxfam Italy, tried to seek an opportunity outside Gaza, but she was not successful. “I didn’t try again because seeing others’ attempt and fail was enough to depress me,” she says. “I feel that we are living in a cage and have no idea what is transpiring outside this cage. I don’t know what will happen, but can only hope and pray for God’s mercy.”
Some of those who were able to leave to pursue their education outside Gaza, were stuck when they attempted to return for a visit.
With reporting from Yousef Aljamal in Gaza. Yousef was a keynote speaker at the 2013 NZ Conference on Palestine.