Saturday, January 12, 2008

Gaza residents discuss the closure (BBC)

Three Palestinians describe life in Gaza under the closure of the borders and how much they think the extra funding pledged by donors in Paris can help them.
I am principal of a school for children aged 10-13. The school is in a poor area and we are funded by UNWRA. The pupils who attend are among those hit hardest by the closure [of Gaza's border with Israel and Egypt, since June 2007]. Many of their parents used to work outside the Gaza Strip, so since the closure they have had no income.
Some of them come without proper clothing or shoes. It all affects their health and their performance at school. They attend, but often they are not really concentrating.
We have a lot of problems with low achievement. We do try to raise standards, but the circumstances don't help.
Some of these young people are blaming the whole world for their problems.
Put yourself in their shoes - what do you think will happen to them? They may become radicalised, they may become fanatics.
This is definitely affecting their mentality, their personalities.
As far as this new aid money goes, if it goes directly to the people I can assure you it will help. But the method of delivering the money is important.
The UN is the only international agency in Gaza which is working. It is making a lot of effort to help the refugees.
Every day we hear some clashes between Palestinians and Israelis on the borders to our east. But it doesn't really come into our area, to be honest.
However the closure affects every area of life.
Since Hamas took power there has been no construction work. There are a lot of half-finished projects and broken areas. Everything is upside down.
We heard about the pledges made by the donors. They spend a lot of money in the West Bank but here we don't tend to see it.
There are some shortages. We can't find the washing liquid we want, and there wasn't enough lamb for the Eid celebrations. We couldn't find Cola or Sevenup.
But more important are the medical shortages. In the West Bank patients can leave for treatment elsewhere. Here, they don't have the option.
At the moment I am the only source of income for about 12 members of my family. I work with an international humanitarian organisation and I also work as a freelance journalist.
My father used to work in tailoring in the Israeli industrial areas in Erez. When the Israelis withdrew [in September 2005] they closed the factory and he found similar work inside Gaza for less money.
But since the closure even that factory closed because no materials could get through. I would say about 70% of factories have closed for the same reasons.
I am an ambitious man and want to do an MA. My wife is educated, she's an electrical engineer. We want to travel, get more experiences and more education. But even if I get a visa, I can't leave.
The problem with this donors' conference is that they're giving their money to Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas]. He only represents the West Bank - and he's the one separating the West Bank from Gaza.
How can this man sleep when he has cut the salaries of 33,000 people in Gaza?
Two months ago my wife had our first baby. I look at him and I want to give him a better life, but I don't know how to.