Tag Archives: Occupation

Life in Gaza: ‘We wake up to terrifying sonic booms and try to sleep while Israelis are shelling’

My article published in The Independent UK on life in Gaza

I was thinking about how I would start to write about life in Gaza – how I would lay the words out with eloquence – when suddenly an explosion boomed close by and those thoughts fled my mind.
I didn’t know the source; maybe it was internal training or perhaps another air strike.
Movement and horns stopped on the street below, a brief pause to make sure it wasn’t anyone close that was hit, then movement resumed. My heart is still pounding and my mind racing and, like every other woman in Gaza, I say a quick prayer of thanks that my family is near and safe and hope no one was hurt.

My husband lights a cigarette in the next room while reports come in that it was an “internal” explosion from training. Either way I guess it doesn’t really matter, it is just enough to remind us nothing in Gaza is ever normal.

I like to stand out on my balcony in the wee hours of the morning just before the call to prayer. Everything is so silent and still and the stars above are so close you can touch them. It is easy to forget in those few minutes where I am, so easy to forget the challenges that plague our daily life.

The UN issued a report last week saying Gaza is becoming uninhabitable and the humanitarian conditions are deteriorating – sadly that is true.

We wake up to terrifying sonic booms and try to sleep while the Israeli navy is shelling. Simple things like daily running water and a full day of electricity have now become luxuries. Nearly four weeks ago the sole power generator in Gaza stopped working due to lack of fuel. We had become used to the eight hours of electricity we were allotted but now we are down to four to six hours at a time and lengthy 12-14 hour blackouts.

At any given moment at least one-third of Gaza will be in the dark. During the long days of summer it is much easier to cope but now the days are much shorter and it seems most of our time is spent in the dark. Students study by candlelight and women cook by flashlight. Men gather on the balconies to smoke and talk politics – the only light that can be seen are the small red dots of their glowing cigarettes.

Some families are able to afford a converter than runs on a car battery and can power a few small items. The cost for the unit is about 700 shekels (£120) and the batteries cost another 700 shekels. This might not seem like much but even that is out of reach for a majority of families especially now the unemployment rate is nearly 40 per cent. Stores, restaurants and larger apartment buildings often use gas generators. These days, however, it is nearly impossible to get fuel and queues are very long with some people waiting 24 hours just for a few litres.

Drivers are feeling the shortage and finding a taxi is impossible at times. Yet everyone knows how hard it is and we try to help each other as much as possible. People pile as many in as can fit in a car, sometimes sitting on laps, just to make sure others can get to their homes. It is not uncommon to see three or even four people squeezed into the front seat of a taxi going from Gaza City to the refugee camps in the middle of Gaza. Some cars are now running on a mixture of cooking oils and the smell of falafel and French fries trails after them. Cooking gas supply runs low every winter but this year it is the worst shortage in a long time. An average family goes through one 12kg gas cylinder a month and it costs 65 shekels. It takes more than a month to get a refill. Neighbours are helping each other and women rotate cooking duties to save gas-cooking large meals for multiple families at one time.

Others less fortunate are resorting to cooking over open fires outside, burning paper and cardboard as fuel. I am constantly worried what will happen when the cold and wet weather arrives next month. Rubbish collection has nearly stopped in the densely populated city. Swarms of flies, wild cats and dogs hover around the rubbish piles. In an attempt to help alleviate the situation, donkey carts have now been deployed to collect what they can. So far it is not making a dent.

Two weeks ago the sewage pumping stations stopped working in many areas – they simply did not have the fuel to work. Raw sewage leaks into the streets. Fathers carry their children to get to school and most cars won’t venture into it. The sludge reeks and brings mosquitoes in swarms.

There is fear it will end up in the water supply as well. The Al-Shati refugee camp, also known as Beach camp, has reported foul smelling and discoloured water this week and many have fallen ill with stomach maladies already. My area has been lucky so far, no sewage in the streets but unfortunately we don’t have any water at all.

As I write this we are beginning the fourth day with dry taps. With the erratic electricity schedule the water pumping station is rarely working when my building has electricity so even when there is water in the lines there is no way to get it up to the flats. Before the fuel crisis we only received water from the municipal lines three or four times a week, now it is half of that if we are lucky. We fill old bottles when we do have water.

This is life in Gaza now: a constant struggle to find the bare necessities. Gaza life is about always being prepared for the worst case scenario because normally that is what happens. It has been a year since the last major Israeli aggression here and we are trying to pick up the pieces. Constructions materials are now refused entry so repairs have ground to a halt.

Our life lines – the tunnels from Egypt – have been severed. Without them we don’t have a consistent flow of food, medicine and fuel. The border with Israel is often closed and only half of the needed trucks of aid are allowed in when it is open. The items on the market shelves are withering away and prices are getting higher and higher.

Sometimes I think someone has hit the pause button on life but then I see all that we have survived and realise we continue on just as before: couples get married, babies are born and children go to school. We laugh with our friends, we love each other and, most importantly, we live.

Sally Idwedar is a blogger and resident of Gaza City. She was born in New York and her family is originally from Yibna, Palestine.

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Perspective: Gaza rockets versus Israeli Air Strike Updated

new rockets

Apartheid roads: Restricted Roads in West Bank

The following charts outline the road restrictions in place by Israel on Palestinians in the West Bank. Can you imagine not being able to use a road simply because you are Palestinian?

Roads Palestinians are prohibited from using in the West Bank

Roads Palestinians are prohibited from using in the West Bank

Roads in West Bank with partial prohibitions for Palestinians

Roads in West Bank with partial prohibitions for Palestinians

Hebron roads with restrictions for Palestinians

Hebron roads with restrictions for Palestinians

Graphs all courtesy of B’Tselem

Drawing Circles In The Gaza Sky: An Israeli Air Force Hobby

Often we are given the *pleasure* of viewing Israeli Terror Air Force jet trails loop and curve across our sky. Today was one of those days. I wonder how many US $$$’s are spent on fuel to power the jets to take the *soldiers* on their creative drawing class trips?

Keep in mind Israel controls Gaza airspace and no commercial air traffic is allowed into Gaza airspace. Also, Gaza does not have a single plane, helicopter or drone so the only jet trails we see are from Israeli jets..the very same jets that bomb us.
oct 24 gaza 7

Sheikh Radwan Area of Gaza

Sheikh Radwan Area of Gaza

AL Jundi Street facing east in Gaza

AL Jundi Street facing east in Gaza

Jet trail stretched from south to north

Jet trail stretched from south to north

A Look at Israeli Military Orders: From the Draconian to the Absurd

The first Israeli military order was issued on June 7, 1967. Military Proclamation 1 announced that Israel had occupied and assumed administrative control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip ‘in the interests of security and public order’. Today there are over 2500 military orders and countless amendments. It wasn’t until the 80’s that a compilation of the orders were put together so the general public could have access to the Occupation’s ‘laws’. Even today it is hard to find the exact details of some of the early orders and texts. I will share a small selection of these orders that control all facets of Palestinian life and apply to only Palestinians- not illegal Israeli settlers.

Water Apartheid
Military Order #92 and #158 (8/15/67) gives control of all water resources in West Bank and Gaza Strip to Israeli Military (Article 5). Gives Military power to appoint and direct the organization and directors of any “water entity” in the region (Article 5). Regulations that follow then requires a license from the Israeli Military to install or continue to own or operate any type of water control device (pump, well, irrigation equipment, etc.) which the Military can withdraw at any time. Public Notice of decisions in local newspapers no longer required, only posting within offices of the Israeli Military Authority.

Educational & Political Oppression
Israel Attempts to block ALL forms of resistance and attempts to erase our history.
Military Order #854 (7/6/80) puts Israeli Military in control of acceptance and entrance of students, and faculty and staff employment at West Bank Universities. Israeli Military controls licensing of teachers. Students without I.D. Cards must register with the Israeli Military.
Military Order #107 publishes a list of 60 prohibited school textbooks.Publications banned include works on Arabic grammar, histories of the Crusades and works on Arab nationalism.
Military Order #1079 (amends M.O.107) prohibits video and audio work of a political nature. Publishes new list of over 1000 items including all United Nations Resolutions pertaining to Palestine, poetry, novels, etc.
Military Order #101 forbids a gathering of more than 10 people unless the Israeli military receives advance notice with names of all participants.
Military Order #284 (7/26/68) prohibits training or contact with any “hostile organization” which includes any organization with aims to endanger the security of the public, or the IDF, or public order in Israel, or other areas under control of the Israeli Military
Under #284 it is also prohibited to listen to patriotic music and to have flags of any political faction. Oh and ‘hostile organization’ is ANY that rejects the Occupation.

The Absurd
The most absurd orders impacting a large section of the Palestinian population are the regulations levied at farmers.
Military Order #818 establishes how Palestinians can plant decorative flowers.
Military Order #1147 (amendment) requires Palestinians to get permission from the Israeli military to grow onions.
Military Order #1015 (8/27/82) requires Palestinians to get Israeli military permission to plant and grow fruit trees. Permits expire in one year or each June 15th.
Military Order #96 forbids transport or purchase of goods on a donkey.
Military Order #1002 requiring license issued by Israeli Military-appointed authorities to sell seedlings and operate a nursery.
Military Order #134 prohibits Palestinians from operating tractors or other farm machinery made in Israel or imported from any other country.
Military Order #47 (7/9/67) farmers need permission from Israeli Military appointee to transport agricultural goods.

Blatant Apartheid
Military Order #297 establishes I.D. Card system which are required by authorities for all business transactions. Gives Israeli Military right to confiscate I.D. Cards for any reason. Israeli Military not required to give receipt when confiscating I.D. Cards.
Military Order #1080 (10/3/83) (amends M.O.180) allows Israeli Military-appointed Village Leagues to carry guns and assume many police duties. (but not Palestinians)

Land Theft Laws
Military Order #811 and #847 allows Jews to purchase land from unwilling non-Jewish (Palestinian) sellers by using a ‘power of attorney.’
Military Order #25 forbids public inspection of land transactions.
Military Order #58 makes land transactions immune to review so long as the transaction was carried out by an Israeli ‘acting in good faith.’
Military Order #58, Article 5 says any land transaction will not be voided even if proven to be invalid.
Military Order #847 declares only Israeli notaries can authenticate signatures.
Military Order #1101(amends M.O.271) in order to apply to the Israeli Military Objections Committee for compensation for damages caused by Israeli Military, person must first get certificate from Area Commander that the Military personnel causing the damage were involved in a “security” operation at the time.
Military Order #25 (6/18/67) requires Israeli Military issued permit for all transactions involving immoveable property.

Financial Subjugation
Military Order #33 (6/26/67) gives Israeli Military control over bank deposits.
Military Order #45 (7/9/67) transfers control of Jordanian Banks, and applications for new banks, over to Israeli-appointed position of “Inspector of Banks”
Military Order #26 (6/18/67) gives Israeli Military control over currency transactions, bills of exchange, Gold transactions.
Military Order #998 requires Palestinians to get Israeli military permission to make a withdrawal from their bank accounts.
Military Order #952 (1/20/82) prohibits residents of West Bank from buying foreign currencies except for importing good and services, or for transfer to a dependent relative living outside the West Bank (not to exceed $3000). Also, residents of the West Bank cannot take more than $3000 with them when they travel outside the West Bank, and no more than $500 of that total can be in cash. Requires all residents who have bank accounts to inform the Israeli Military authorities of the account and it’s balance. Residents who own immoveable property outside the West Bank are required to inform the Israeli Military authorities about the details of that ownership.
Military Order #973 (9/6/82) prohibits all money transfers by individuals unless permission has been obtained from the Israeli Military authorities.

Complete Control of Commerce & Business
Military Order #93 and amendment gives all Palestinian insurance business to the Israeli Insurance Syndicate.
Military Order #128 gives the Israeli military the right to take over any Palestinian business which does not open during regular business hours.
Military Order #363 requires Palestinian mechanics to report to the Israeli military the particulars of any and all cars they repair.

Apartheid Legal Systems

Apartheid is defined by International Criminal Court (ICC), which also lists apartheid as a crime against humanity, as inhumane acts “committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups… with the intention of maintaining that regime.”
Palestinians live under military law and are tried by military tribunals. Illegal settlers are tried under Israeli civilian law and by ‘religious councils’.

Military Order #378 (4/20/70) empowers Military Area Commanders to establish military courts (Article 3) with prosecutors (Article 8), officials and judges(Article 4) all appointed by same Area Commanders. In addition, these courts can diverge from rules of evidence (Article 9) and regular procedures (Article 10), or hold hearings in secret (Article 11) when needed. Anyone disobeying or resisting the court may be immediately sentenced and jailed for up to 2 years (Article 17). If the Area Commander does not approve of the results of a trial, he has the right to cancel its proceedings and call for a new trial in front of a new judge (Article 42.4), or change the sentence (Articles 44 & 50.C.5.b). Allows the court to order the detention of a person for 6 month periods without trial (using an “arrest warrant”). The person can then be kept in jail longer with issuance of a new arrest warrant. Detention without trial is called, “administrative detention” (Articles 78.F & 87). States that the Military Area Commander has the right to restrict any movements and activities of any persons (Article 85) including confinement to a specific area including his home (Article 86). In addition, Area Commanders have the right to restrict or control the use of any vehicle for any purpose (Article 88), have the right to impose curfews on any area (Article 89), and have the right to close off any area or building or business or institution to any person prohibiting either entrance or exit (Article 90 & 91). In addition, the burden of proof is on the defendant to prove his innocence (Article 94).
Military Order #1229 authorizes Israel to hold Palestinians in administrative detention for up to six months without charge or trial. Six-month detentions can be renewed indefinitely.
Military Order #783 (3/25/79) establishes 5 regional “religious councils” in the West Bank to cover all Israeli-controlled lands in the West Bank. Establishes special Settlement Courts in the Israeli Settlements to try criminal cases (replaced by M.O.892, and relevant amendments also in M.O.1058).
Military Order #892 (3/1/80) established additional “Religious Councils” and Municipal Courts for specific Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and states that all are constituted and operated according to regulations issued by the Area Military Commander (Article 2).
Military Order #29 (6/23/67) concerns operations of prisons. Establishes registration system for tracking prisoners while they are in the prison system. Rules that prisoners can be denied access to a lawyer at any time at the discretion of the Israeli Military Commander.

Extending their control ad infinitum
Military Order #224 (1967) declares that the Emergency Regulations installed by the British Mandate Authorities in 1945 are in affect in the West Bank until specifically declared invalid by name. These Regulations gave the Military powers to violate civil rights and international laws because a security emergency had been declared in the West Bank.I will post more military orders at a later date as I think most people can only stomach a few at a time.
Peace and love,
Sally

Gaza: A Life in Contrast

One of the first things that grabbed my attention when I moved to Gaza was the utter contradictions everywhere I looked. The natural beauty of the land and people contrasts sharply with the ravages of war. The open sky with stars so bright marred by an Israeli F-16 shooting across. Sounds of the ocean waves broken by the tat-tat-tat of an M-16 from the Occupation Navy. Children laughing and playing football in the street and the ground trembling from an air strike. Here are a few of my observations in pictures:

Bombed press building Nov 2012 on Jundi Street and row of closed shops on a rainy day also Jundi Street

Bombed press building Nov 2012 on Jundi Street and row of closed shops on a rainy day also Jundi Street

Destroyed building in Shujiya area and blooming tree in Sirat refugee camp

Destroyed building in Shujiya area and blooming tree in Sirat refugee camp

Adandonded house near Al Mina Sayadeen and a citrus grove in central Gaza

Adandonded house near Al Mina Sayadeen and a citrus grove in central Gaza

Alley in Sirat Refugee Camp and horses being washed in the sea

Alley in Sirat Refugee Camp and horses being washed in the sea

Abandoned building in North Gaza and yellow sunset over the Gaza Seaport

Abandoned building in North Gaza and yellow sunset over the Gaza Seaport

Israeli jet trails in our sky and the vast blue sky of Sawardha village

Israeli jet trails in our sky and the vast blue sky of Sawardha village

Rows of buildings in a North Gaza refugee camp and the beach in central Gaza

Rows of buildings in a North Gaza refugee camp and the beach in central Gaza

Refugee house in Shati Refugee Camp and a new mosque in North Gaza

Refugee house in Shati Refugee Camp and a new mosque in North Gaza

Bombed ministry building in Saraya and a orange-red sunset

Bombed ministry building in Saraya and a orange-red sunset

Houses on the outskirts of Sirat Refugee Camp and fishermen with their boat

Houses on the outskirts of Sirat Refugee Camp and fishermen with their boat

A Beach Like No Other

Small Gaza fishing boat

Small Gaza fishing boat

Horses and camels strolling by on the beach.

Horses and camels strolling by on the beach.

Destroyed former resort and restaurant in North Gaza

Destroyed former resort and restaurant in North Gaza

Cafe by the beach where you can get a table and sit all day - Khan Younis

Cafe by the beach where you can get a table and sit all day – Khan Younis

Famous flute player on the beach. He has been doing this for years. Nuseirat Gaza

Famous flute player on the beach. He has been doing this for years. Nuseirat Gaza

Bedouin man playing with his children

Bedouin man playing with his children

Bombed and abandoned building North Gaza beach

Bombed and abandoned building North Gaza beach

Amazing sunset in central Gaza

Amazing sunset in central Gaza

Wiping Palestine Off the Map and Out of Mind

Israel supporters are all aflutter over a map of Palestine from Arab Bank which they claim is trying to wipe Israel off the map. This is the ‘offensive’ poster on ‘Pal Watch’ homepage:

Pal Media Watch Homepage

Pal Media Watch Homepage

Oddly enough, Pal Watch (notorious for their anti-Palestine rhetoric) is silent over the Go Israel Ministry of Tourism website’s maps of Israel that does not include Palestine with even so much as 1967 borders. The Israeli news source Haaretz even ran a story on the issue in 2010 but the map is still unchanged.

Israel Ministry of Tourism Map without Palestine

Israel Ministry of Tourism Map without Palestine

Unfortunately this goes well beyond a misrepresentation on a map. A study by Nurit Peled-Elhanan details how Israel is in fact wiping Palestine off the map not vice versa.
He explains:

‘Palestinians, both citizens and those who live under occupation, are never presented as modern, industrious individuals but always stereotypically, in racist vocabulary and racist visuals, as terrorists, as a demographic problem or as third-world ‘Oxfam Images’ of primitive farmers (Hicks 1980), namely as a developmental burden. Their “inferiority” is presented as a natural condition or their ‘lot’ and their misfortunes are either a “tragedy”, an act of fate, or their own doing.Their tradition is made to signify “backwardness”, and their discrimination is represented as a national necessity.’

    Let that sink in: ‘their discrimination is represented as a national necessity’.

Many times, perhaps even daily, I have debates with Israel-supporters who refer to non-Jews in Israel by using the generic hyperonym ‘Arabs’! Many refuse to acknowledge we are many ethnicities and religions i.e, Muslims, Christians, Druze, Bedouins and Cirkassians, This has been dubbed by Van Leeuwen (1996:46) as genericisation and along with impersonalisation are characteristics of racist discourse. Sadly I think this makes it easier for Israel-supporters to justify the atrocities we have endured for 65 years.

Van Dijk elaborates by stating “Dominance, differentiation, diffusion, diversion, impersonalisation , destruction, and daily discrimination […] serve in various ways to legitimate and enact the distinction of the “other” […] by dominating the minority groups, by excluding them from social activities and even by destroying and murdering them”(Quoted in: RW 2001: 21).”

    So I ask: who is really being wiped off the map?

Day at the Beach: Fun, Sun, and Israeli Shelling

Gaza Beach

Gaza Beach

Friday is the 1st day of the weekend in the Middle East. Families gather and spend time with each other after a long week of work and in Gaza it is no different. We don’t have Western-style malls nor do we even have a movie theatre but that really doesn’t bother us. We are simple people and we don’t need fancy things to keep us entertained. So today we piled into a couple of cars (4 in the back and 3 in the front) and headed to the beach in the North part of Gaza. The entrance fee of 20 shekels ($6) got us 10 plastic chairs, 2 tables and an umbrella. Each of us brought snacks to share and carafes of hot tea and Turkish coffee and we settled in for a relaxing afternoon. The women sat and talked and played with the newest little addition to the family while the men swam and played games with the children. Time passed slowly and the last afternoon gently turned to dusk.  Just before sunset the Gaza fishing boats were making their way out to the 3 mile limit of our allowed area. I was watching the children play in the ocean- care-free and laughing- when the sound of the Israeli Navy shelling brought me back to reality.  Three gunboats were making their way across our narrow stretch of water firing large calibre machine guns as they went. The fishing boats were not even near the border yet- their 45HP motors were still put-putting along slowly. What was the reason for this shelling? Were we having too much fun? Did we forget for a minute that we are under a brutal occupation and blockade? The Navy gunboats eventually stopped and turned around going off to the North shore. No one was hurt from the shelling and the boats escaped without further harassment. Children continued frolicking and adults continued sipping coffee-this is nothing new or strange in Gaza.  In fact there were no worried faces or strained looks, no babies crying from fear, no mothers calling for their children- this is just the way life is in Gaza. No matter what they hand us we will keep living- we will not let them creep into our hearts and our minds and impregnate us with fear. As I reflected on this I became angry. Why should this be normal? Why should we be so accustomed to shelling and bombing? They dare tell us WE are violent! ! That WE don’t love our children! Such hypocrisy. They are the ones that have brought violence and destruction to our doorstep for 65 years but to their dismay- we Palestinians keep LIVING.