Life in Gaza: An InterviewDevon Douglas-Bowers I Geopolitics I Interview I February 12th, 2015
The following is a transcript of a recent interview I did with Gaza resident @OccPalGaza in which we discuss life and politics in the Gaza Strip.
1. What is life like in the Gaza Strip? We get a lot of outside images, but people in the West aren't particularly privy what goes on there, we only learn about it when Israel is launching another attack.
Daily life in Gaza is a struggle for most. Poverty, unemployment and of course the blockade weigh heavily on people. After the war many many people want to leave and try to have a life elsewhere. Hearing the Israeli occupation shoot at fishermen and farmers nearly every day is frustrating and enrages me.
Seeing the remains of bombed out buildings in every neighborhood where so many of us died is a sick and painful reminder of what Israel can do to us whenever they wish.The memories of how awful it was during those 50 long days will never leave me or my nightmares. I ache inside when I think of how the children are dealing with this when I can't.
Although we face such hardships,we still find a way to move forward and hope for a better future. There is little to do in Gaza as far as entertainment goes no movie theaters, no western style malls or bowling alleys. Families gather in the evenings when there is no electricity and play cards, talk and laugh with each other. Young people go and walk at the Gaza Seaport, families sit on the benches and watch the trawlers come in with their fish and drink hot tea with dried sage; children play football in the green. Men gather around open fires on the sidewalks and have coffee while roasting chestnuts, women visit each other. It is a simple life and good life, if only war was not always a threat. We don't take the important things for granted.
2. What is the political situation there? We consistently hear about Hamas, but are there other active groups that jockey for position?
Hamas is always in the news, either from western pro-Israel propaganda or from Hamas' own internal propaganda. Fatah is more popular in Gaza, according to a recent poll more than twice as popular as Hamas. Islamic Jihad and Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine come after Fatah and Hamas. People here are just exhausted from being used as pawns. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank is not perfect yet Hamas is not a good government. It is time for elections and Hamas needs to finally let us vote after 9 long years.
3. Are the people in the Strip politically engaged in the sense that they actively support one political group or another or protests against the occupation?
The majority of people align with one of the factions-generally you can tell a by a family name what group they are with. Some families are divided and sometimes those divisions cause friction. When you go to weddings you can tell if the couple is Fatah or Hamas by the songs they play! Even education is about faction: Al Azhar University is the Fatah aligned university and Islamic University is Hamas.
4. Tell us some of the acts of resistance that have taken place against the occupation.
There are many acts of resistance against the occupation. Many people inaccurately think resistance means violence but it is not true. Every week in West Bank there are tens of protests. BDS is an act of resistance, and many people even in Gaza engage in that. My act of resistance is informing the world what happens here.
5. How do the Gazans view outside solidarity actions? Do some people think that those in the West should pressure their governments into ending the blockade?
I am always happy when the outside world supports us.During the war I saw posts and pictures from many groups supporting us and it helped me know we were not going to be forgotten no matter how much Israel bombed us. Most people here know that individual governments that support Israel like UK and US do not represent their people. I like Americans and British and they are good people, the governments are not. I feel without the help of those outside, nothing will ever change here.
6. You mentioned on Twitter that there are Israeli products in the Gaza Strip. Could you mention why this is and discuss a little the economic situation?
Yes there are many many Israeli products in Gaza. Everything from washing machines, medicines, and makeup to hair scarves. The reason is simple: Israel controls what is allowed through the border. Israeli products are more expensive than products from Egypt, Turkey and even from the West Bank. Because Israel controls what enters, our economy is severely restricted as well since it is hard to import raw materials for manufacturing goods here in Gaza.
Further what is produced here, such as our renowned citrus and strawberries, are rarely allowed to exit Gaza for export abroad. Palestinian Authority has laws against selling goods from Israeli settlements (this applied to Gaza as well) however since Hamas took control that is no longer enforced.
7. What is the best way, in your opinion, that Westerns can support the people of Gaza and the Palestinian cause?
I think the best way is to do exactly what you are doing: inform the world. Keep talking about us, keeping talking about the occupation. Let people know what happens here every day; pressure local groups, universities & city councils to BDS. Every little bit helps. I feel we are edging closer and closer to freedom. Some days I am impatient and my hope falters but I know in my heart one day, Palestine will be free from occupation.