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Palestinians in Gaza Are Suffering and Dying By
Israeli Siege, Abbas Cuts of Salaries and Electricity
By Ramzy Baroud
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, July
Gaza neighborhoods destroyed by Israeli air strikes and
bombardment on the city, July 2014
Pushing Gaza to Suicide: The Politics of Humiliation
Mohammed Abed is a 28-year-old taxi driver from the village of Qarara,
near the town of Khan Younis, in the Gaza Strip. He has no teeth.
Lack of medical care and proper dentistry work cost him all of his
teeth, which rotted and decayed at a very young age. Yet, his dire
financial needs prevented him from acquiring dentures. His community
eventually pitched in, collecting the few hundred dollars needed for
Mohammed to finally being able to eat.
Mohammed is not
unemployed. He works ten hours, sometimes more, every single day. The
old taxi he drives between Khan Younis and Gaza City is owned by someone
else. Mohammed’s entire daily salary ranges from 20 to 25 shekels, about
Raising a family with four children with such a
meager income made it impossible for Mohammed to think of such seemingly
extraneous expenses, such as fixing his teeth or acquiring dentures.
Strange as it may seem, Mohammed Abed is somewhat lucky.
Unemployment in Gaza is among the highest in the world, presently estimated
at 44 percent. Those who are 'employed', like Mohammed, still
struggle to survive. 80
percent of all Gazans are dependent on humanitarian assistance.
In 2015, the UN had warned that Gaza would be uninhabitable
by 2020. At the time, all aspects of life had testified to that
fact: lack of reliable electricity supply, polluted water, Israel's
military seizure of much of the Gaza Strip's arable land, restricting
the movement of fishermen and so on.
military siege on Gaza has extended for over 10 years, and the
situation continues to deteriorate.
A Red Cross report last May
warned of another 'looming crisis' in the public health sector, due to
the lack of electricity.
The energy crisis has extended from
electricity supplies to even cooking gas.
Last February Israel
cut cooking gas supplies to the Strip to a half.
gas stations stopped accepting empty gas cylinders because their tanks
are empty,” according to
the Chairman of the Petroleum and Gas Owners Association of the Gaza
Strip, Mahmoud Shawa. He described the situation as "very critical."
Three months ago, the Mahmoud Abbas-controlled Palestinian
Authority in Ramallah decided to reduce the salaries of tens of
thousands of its employees in the Gaza Strip.
The money provided
by the PA had played an essential role in keeping the struggling economy
afloat. With most employees receiving half - or less - of their
salaries, the barely functioning Gaza economy is dying.
‘H’ is a
university professor and his wife, ‘S’, is a doctor. The middle-class
couple with five children has lived a fairly comfortable life in the
Strip, even during the early years of the siege. Now, they tell me they
are counting their money very carefully so as to avoid the fate of most
‘S's salary comes from Ramallah. She is now only able to
claim $350 dollars from what was once a significantly higher pay. ‘H’
does not receive his money from the West Bank's authority, but his
salary was slashed by half, anyway, since most of the students are now
too poor to pay for their tuitions.
Mu’in, who lives in the
Nuseirat Refugee Camp, is worse off. A retired teacher, with a pension
that barely reaches 200 dollars a month, Mu’in is struggling to put food
on the table. An educated father of four unemployed adult sons and a
wife recovering from a stroke and can barely walk, Mu’in lives mostly on
With no access to the West Bank due to the Israeli
siege, and with severe restrictions on movement via the Rafah-Egypt
border, Gaza is living through its darkest days. Literally. Starting
June 11, Israel began reducing the electricity supply to the
impoverished Strip, as per the request of Abbas' Palestinian Authority.
The results are devastating. Gaza households now receive 2 to 3
hours of electricity per day, and not even at fixed hours.
told me that her family is constantly on alert. "When electricity
arrives at any time of the day or night, we all spring into action," she
said. “All batteries must be charged as quickly as possible and the
laundry must be done, even at 3 in the morning.”
But Gazans are
survivors. They have endured such hardships for years and, somehow, they
have subsisted. But cancer
patients cannot survive on mere strength of character.
Rania, who lives in Gaza City, is a mother of three. She has been
struggling with breast cancer for a year. With no chemotherapy available
in Gaza's barely-functioning hospitals, she has taken the arduous
journey from Gaza to Jerusalem every time she has needed to carry out
the life-saving procedure.
That, until Israel decided not to
issue new permits to Gaza's terminally
ill patients, some of whom have died waiting for permits and, others
- like Rania - who are still hoping for a miracle before cancer
spreads through the rest of their bodies.
But Israel and Egypt
are not the only culprits. The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah is
using the siege as a bargaining chip to put pressure on its rivals,
Hamas, who have controlled the besieged Strip for ten years.
Hamas, on the other hand, is reportedly seeking
a partnership with its old foe, Mohammed Dahlan, to ease the Gaza
siege through Egypt in exchange for making him the head of a committee
that is in charge of Gaza's external affairs.
Dahlan is also a
foe of Abbas, both fighting over the leadership of the Fatah party for
Abbas' requests to Israel to pressure on Gaza via
electricity reduction, together with his earlier salary cuts, are meant
to push Hamas out of its the proposed alliance with Dahlan.
Palestinians in Gaza are suffering;
in fact, dying.
To think that Palestinian
'leaders' are actually involved in tightening or manipulating the siege
to exact political concessions from one another, is dismaying.
While Israel is invested in maintaining the Palestinian rift, so that it
continues with its own illegal settlement policies in the West Bank and
Jerusalem unhindered, Palestinians are blinded by pitiful personal
interests and worthless 'control' over occupied land.
political struggle, the likes of Mohammed, ‘H’, ‘S’ and cancer-ridden
Rania – together with two million others - seem to be of no
Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Regional Director for
the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, sounded
the alarm on June 14 when she warned that “the latest power cuts
risk turning an already dire situation into a full-blown humanitarian
“For 10 years, the siege has unlawfully deprived
Palestinians in Gaza of their most basic rights and necessities. Under
the burden of the illegal blockade and three armed conflicts, the
economy has sharply declined and humanitarian conditions have
deteriorated severely,” she said.
Omar Shakir, Human Rights
Watch director for the region, rejected
the notion that the Israelis cut of electricity supplies to Gaza are
made as per the Palestinian Authority’s request.
controls the borders, the airspace, the waters of Gaza,
so Israel has an obligation that goes beyond merely responding to a
request from Palestinian authorities,” Shakir said.
Israel’s dismissal of international calls to end the siege and
Palestinians’ pathetic power game, Gazans are left alone, unable to move
freely or live even according to the lowest acceptable living standards.
Fatima, a 52-old mother from Rafah, told me that she tried to kill
herself a few days ago, if it were not for her children wrestling the
When I told Fatima that she has so much to live for,
she chuckled and said nothing.
rate in the Strip is at all-time high, and
despair is believed to be the main
factor behind the alarming phenomena.
Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years.
He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an
author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His
books include “Searching Jenin”, “The Second Palestinian Intifada” and
his latest “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story”. His
website is www.ramzybaroud.net.
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