The isolation + demonization of Gaza

Here are some young men surfing — in Gaza.

The photo is the 9th in a photo album on daily life in Gaza published by The Guardian newspaper here

From Guardian GazaLive blogging + tweeting on life in Gaza - photo by Rex Features

And here is another photo, the 15th and last,  in the same Guardian photo album:
From the Guardian -  man in cart drawn by donkey on Gaza's beachfront - photo by Rex Features

The Guardian writes in what newspapers used to call a “special package” but which is here called a “live blog” on a day in the life of Gaza that there are 1.7 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip — slightly higher than other estimates [some of which have showed a decrease in the population from the previous 1.5 million round figure to 1.4 million].

It shouldn’t be so remarkable to publish reports from Gaza — but the Guardian’s coverage, led by Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood and her Israeli stringer Phoebe Greenwood did cause ripples.

      Here, for example, is a retort sent on Twitter by Avital Liebovich, Israeli Defense Forces Spokeswoman for the International Media:
      Tweet from Phoebe Greenwood @pagreenwood –

Eating fresh plums straight off the tree in Beit Lahia, so very delicious #GazaLive

Retort via Twitter by Avital Leibovich @AvitalLeibovich –
@pagreenwood Beit Lahia is one of the most popular rocket launching areas in #Gaza . Enjoy your stay! #hamas

Then, a nonseqitor reply [sometimes the best kind] by Phoebe Greenwood to Avital Liebovich –
10:43 AM – 8 Jun 12 via Twitter for iPhone ·
Reply to @AvitalLeibovich @pagreenwood
Phoebe Greenwood @pagreenwood
@AvitalLeibovich well what I heard earlier was Hamas training not rocket fire or idf fire – happier to hear that than the real deal!

And here is a picture taken and Tweeted by Phoebe Greenwood, of sunset on the Gaza beach:
Phoebe Greenwood for The Guardian - sunset on the Gaza beach

Life is extremely difficult in the isolation and sanctions that has been imposed upon Gaza to punish it for Hamas having won Palestinian Legislative Council elections in 2006, then for having pushed Fatah/Palestinian Preventive Security forces out of Gaza in mid-June 2007.  The IDF’s extremely punitive Operation Cast Lead, waged for three weeks [from 27 December 2008 until 18 January 2009, just hours before Barak Obama’s inauguration as U.S. President succeeding George W. Bush] caused damage to Gaza’s homes and infrastructure that still remains.

Yet, humans are resiliant, people are full of vitality, and life goes on…so far.

Amira Hass, the correspondent for Haaretz who lived in Gaza for three years in the 1990’s, returned twice by sea from Cyprus covering for Haaretz the first and another early Free Gaza expedition to “break the blockade” of Gaza  [a formal naval blockade was imposed on 3-4 January 2009, during Operation Cast Lead, but the policy existed earlier]. She wrote, in a Comment is Free opinion piece published on Friday 8 June here in The Guardian during its special GazaLive coverage that:

“A stout sense of humour and self-irony is the least most Israelis expect of Gazans. It is certainly true today, when they are spoken of almost solely through the hyperbole of military commentators who jump frantically from discussing the Iranian threat to the danger that the tiny, overcrowded, impoverished and besieged enclave poses to the state of Israel, a global military power. But that sense of humour is also lost in the victim-oriented Palestinian media reports or the militant statements of anonymous veiled speakers and lower-tier Hamas politicians of which the meagre Israeli media diet ordinarily consists…
Even 25 years ago, the relationship between Gazans and Israelis was very different. Back then, Gazans were a reservoir of cheap labour and still flocked to the streets of Israeli towns – to be found in every restaurant, clothing factory, garage and construction site. How were they seen then by the ordinary Israeli? Were they mere functional shadows who disappeared in their dorm shanties? Dispensable ghosts? Savages? An Uncle Tom? Then in 1991, Israel imposed the closure – an under-discussed policy of movement restrictions on Palestinians, especially in Gaza, which was gradually streamlined into the reality of a separate, cut-off entity that exists today. It was in 1990 I started my professional ‘romance’ with Gaza. I realised how poorly and inaccurately it was being portrayed…This was still the first popular uprising. The Gazans, until now a faceless group, started acquiring the generic title of ‘terrorists’ among Israelis…
Tragically, it was during and after the Israeli onslaught on Gaza in the winter of 2008/9 that I got another reminder of such past ties. A blacksmith who hurried to move his shop’s equipment to a safe place was hit by an Israeli missile. Eight people, his sons among them, who were loading a truck with the equipment, had been targeted by military officers who deciphered the inspection drone footage and misinterpreted the elongated objects as ‘grad missiles’ and not the oxygen jars that they were (a common, deadly mistake, by the way, during that attack). I had the impossible task of interviewing this broken man over the phone a day or two after. He quickly switched to Hebrew, telling me about the Israeli business partner he’d worked with for years. ‘Talk to him, he’ll confirm that I am not a terrorist’. He also told me that this ex-business partner wired him money following the attack. But when I called the Israeli man he refused to talk to me, because ‘he does not speak with traitors’. When I entered Gaza, a few days after the onslaught ended, I heard it over and over again, from people old enough to have worked in Israel and whose fields, houses and factories were just destroyed: they spoke warmly of their ex-employers and Israeli business partners who had just called them, worried about their plight. The welcome astonishment with which such stories were received by my young editors told me yet again of how the strict policy of separation was bearing its fruits. Without any trace of ordinary human encounters left (since 2006 even Israeli journalists are barred from entering the Gaza Strip), Gazans have become abstract, almost extra-terrestrial, creatures. As such it is so much easier for officials, and some media mouthpieces, to stereotype and demonise. It is based on brusque and tawdry TV scenes, and makes Israeli video war-games, but with real fire, much easier”.

And Sari Bashi [Executive Director of GISHA, which has opposed restrictions of movement and goods on Gaza as a form of collective punishment which she argues is illegal under international law, today marks five years of closure [June 2007-2012] with a message sent by email that says:

“Five years after Israel closed Gaza’s crossings in the wake of the Hamas takeover (June 14, 2007), Gaza has been somewhat re-opened to access abroad, but sweeping restrictions on movement to Israel and the West Bank remain nearly unchanged. As a result, the prospect of economic recovery is limited, and the integrity of the Palestinian territory, considered a cornerstone of a ‘two-state solution’, is compromised in ways that will be difficult to reverse. Although the current Israeli government renounced the logic of the ‘economic warfare’ policy imposed on Gaza from 2007-2010, in practice it is still implementing restrictions with the explicit political aim of ‘pressuring Hamas’ under the ambiguous term ‘separation policy” … The separation policy is sustaining the economic anomaly created by the closure, in which productive sectors are paralyzed while the local government’s budget and its narrow tier of beneficiaries enjoy staggering growth. Despite numerous official statements that Israel is committed to economic development in Gaza and despite the relative improvement in Gaza’s economy since 2009, sustainable growth is impossible in these circumstances. The relative growth reflects an acute dependence on external sources of funding and lack of income from exports; it is explained in large part by tunnel-supported construction activity and high public sector employment. Restrictions on travel between Gaza and the West Bank also sever the familial, educational and cultural ties that bind the Palestinian territory. According to military officials, the separation policy is based on a political decision, rather than being a necessary security measure, yet, despite its far-reaching implications, it remains unclear which governmental branch made the decision to implement the policy and if it has been discussed or otherwise debated, taking into consideration the needs and rights of Gaza residents and Israel’s self-stated interests. The Palestinian factional rift is exacerbating the separation by contributing to political and institutional fragmentation of the Palestinian territory, and complicating coordination procedures needed to facilitate movement between Gaza, Israel and the West Bank”

GISHA also reports that:

      + Exits of Palestinians to Egypt are nearly at pre-2007 rates; access via sea and airspace remains blocked.


      + Exits of Palestinian travelers to the West Bank and Israel are less than 1% of the volume before September 2000.


      + Travel from Gaza to the West Bank and Israel is officially limited to ‘exceptional humanitarian cases, with an emphasis on urgent medical treatment’.

However, Israel is allowing up to 100 senior merchants, most of whom are men, to enter Israel and the West Bank each day. Less senior professionals and businesspeople, including most businesswomen, are banned.

      + These same restrictions apply to residents of Gaza wishing to enter the West Bank from Jordan, via the Israeli-controlled Allenby Crossing.


      + Entrance of goods to Gaza via Israeli-controlled crossings stands at 40% of pre-closure rates. Construction materials are mostly banned but enter Gaza from Egypt via tunnels.


      + Sale of goods from Gaza to markets in the West Bank and Israel remains banned.


    + The rate of outgoing goods, while slightly higher since 2010, stands at 2% of what it was before June 2007.

More information on this is available on the GISHA website, starting here.

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