Gaza City in the spotlight: hesitant hope in a city where everyone still wants out

As the UN’s day of solidarity with Palestinians nears, Gazans have restored a hesitant bustle

Miriam Berger, The Guardian, Saturday 25 November 2017

Fishermen off the coast of Gaza City, which is home to a 5,000-year-old port. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian
Fishermen off the coast of Gaza City, which is home to a 5,000-year-old port. (David Levene, The Guardian)

Today Medinat Ghazzah, or Gaza City, is running on empty – and yet still going. Gaza City, the Gaza Strip’s principal urban centre, carries various scars of war. Since 2006, Gaza has endured one civil war between Palestinians, three wars between the ruling Hamas militant group and Israel, a decade of Hamas’ repressive rule, and a crushing blockade by neighbouring Israel and Egypt – all of which have crippled the economy and turned the tiny territory into a site of humanitarian crisis.

Gaza City’s dusty buildings and bumpy roads, many still damaged or half-rebuilt from the last war, are at times reminiscent of facades found in Egypt and the Palestinian West Bank. But it is the crushing monotony and suffocating limits of life that define the city for residents who have walked the same streets for a decade without a chance of getting out. Still, the city carries on, with coffee shops, traffic, clothes stores, restaurants and even a new upscale mall offering diversions for those who can afford them.

Palestinians attend Friday noon prayer beneath the fallen minaret during the 2014 war.Palestinians attend Friday noon prayer beneath the fallen minaret during the 2014 war.

The city’s framework, like the rest of Gaza, is innately tied up with politics. Gaza was once part of Britain’s Mandate Palestine. Then came Egyptian occupation in 1948, followed by Israeli in 1967. Now, for the last decade, Hamas, which the European Union has designated as terrorist group, has ruled the tiny territory while Israel controls most borders.

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Justice for Palestine

War On Want logo    Justice for Palestine, War on Want

The catastrophe facing the Palestinian people is a defining global justice issue of our time. It is not an intractable conflict between two equal sides. It is an Occupation by a powerful military state, armed and supported by the West, against an impoverished, stateless and displaced people.

  • A fourth generation of Palestinian children is now being brought up in refugee camps inside and outside Palestine, living in chronic poverty and denied the right to return to their family homes.
  • Hundreds of thousands more Palestinians suffer discrimination over access to public services, land rights and employment within Israel itself.
  • Israel’s siege of Gaza has condemned its 1.9 million inhabitants to poverty and psychological violence on a daily basis as movement is restricted and there is an ever present threat of military force.
  • In the West Bank, the expansion of Israeli settlements, the continued construction of the Apartheid Wall, the military closure of the Jordan Valley and the annexation of East Jerusalem are creating an irreversible reality of permanent Occupation.
  • This brutal Occupation, the building of the Apartheid Wall and ongoing military oppression can only be continued with the support of countries and companies that continue to back Israel through business and investment.

Stop Arming Israel

UK banks and financial institutions hold billions of pounds worth of shares in companies that sell weapons, military equipment and technology to Israel. We can’t allow banks on our high streets to continue lending support to Israel’s militarised repression of Palestinians. Stay tuned for our new report and campaign focused on the role played by HSBC in financing the sale of weapons to Israel. Take action.

The UK government is complicit in Israel’s continuing violations of human rights and international law. By purchasing arms from and selling arms to Israel, the UK government is giving direct material support for Israel’s aggression and sending a clear message of approval for its actions.Take action.

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May 26 – June 25, 2017
Sponsor an Orphan this Ramadan

Palestine Children’s Relief Fund

This Ramadan, Give Hope to Orphans in Gaza

Make a difference during the month of Ramadan by supporting the PCRF’s Gaza Orphan Sponsorship Program. Throughout this month, millions of people all over the world will fast from sunrise to sunset and provide charity to those in need. Please consider making the PCRF your chosen charity and help us successfully launch our Ramadan campaign!

Our goal for the Ramadan 2017 Campaign, “Give Hope: Gaza Orphan Sponsorship Ramadan Campaign”, is to provide orphans in Gaza food and other commodities they need to live a better childhood. As a donor, you will be able to choose either 1) to make a one-time donation in any amount towards the general fund for these orphans, thus keeping it sustainable for years to come; or 2) to provide monthly support for a specific orphan.

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May 26 – June 25, 2017
Feed Families in Gaza This Ramadan

From our friend Anees in Rafah: Donate to send food packages to needy families. The project has raised more than half of its $5,000 goal; please help them over the top in this Ramadan Challenge.

Hello from Gaza

Ramadan is just a few weeks away – and we need your help to provide support and care to those most in need. The conditions in Gaza grow worse every day, with unemployment now sitting at 43%. For many, there is nowhere to work and no-one to help them.

مرحبا من غزة

باقي لشهر رمضان أسابيع قليلة، ونحنبحاجة لمساعدتكم لتوفير الدعم والرعاية لأولئك الذين هم في أمس الحاجة إليها، معالعلم بأن الظروف الاقتصادية والاجتماعية في قطاع غزة تزداد سواء يوما بعد يوم.حيث تبلغ نسبة البطالة 43% ولا يوجد من يهتم في العائلات الفقير بالشكل المطلوب.

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Keep Gaza Children Warm

Anees Mansour, gofundme, November 5, 2016 

We are about to enter the winter season in Gaza. The houses can’t handle the weather as they are not insulated properly and we only get about eight hours of electricity a day. The conditions are extremely difficult.

We’ve been working with children from some of the most marginalized communities for over a year now putting together summer camps and educational workshops which has resulted in terrific participation and results.

But now we need to deal with the absolute basics: we just need to keep the children warm.

Public response and support of our work has been tremendous in the past and we’ve raised enough money for many activities. So now we’re looking for help to provide warm Jackets to the children here in Rafah.

Rafah is one of the poorest areas in Gaza, which, of course, is suffering from a prolonged brutal siege. All and any help is appreciated. Each jacket costs $20. The more money we can raise together, the more children we can keep warm.

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Spooky Luci Lights & Olive Oil

Dear Members and Friends of MRSCP,

Madison-Rafah Sister City Project recently partnered with the Rebuilding Alliance to send solar-powered rechargeable bright white “Luci Lights” to children in Rafah. We have already raised enough funds to send a shipment of 40 lights to one classroom, and are only $90 away from being able to send a second 40-light shipment! In order to raise the additional funds, we are offering a limited number of “Spooky Luci” lights, a Halloween version of the Luci Lights, for the price of $15 for one, and $10 for any additional lights. There are three patterns, shown above, with four colors that can be fixed or rotated.

If you would like to purchase one or more Spooky Luci lights, please send an e-mail ASAP to dwallbaum at gmail.com. (Sorry, we no longer have any regular white Luci Lights for purchase.)

You can read more about the Luci Light project here.

If you would like to donate to the Luci Lights for Rafah project, but do not wish to buy a Spooky Luci light, please send a check to: Continue reading

Fall fundraising appeal from MRSCP

Luci Lights for Rafah and Playground finish for Hebron

Dear Members and Friends of MRSCP,

We would like to ask your support for two modest but important projects this fall.

The first is to help MRSCP and the Rebuilding Alliance send a shipment of solar-powered, inflatable Luci Lights to a classroom of Rafah Children. $400 will send 40 lights that children can use to study, play or just walk outside in the night time in Gaza, where electrical power is sporadic at best. We have already raised over $260 of the needed funds, and would like to raise the remaining amount quickly so we can get the lights on the way.

You can watch a short video about this project here: Luci Lights reach Gaza Families during Ramadan!

The second is to help MRSCP and Playgrounds for Palestine-Madison complete the landscaping and site remediation at the playground that we helped install in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron, in the West Bank. $800 will level the site, remove dangerous debris and rubble, and install a safety railing. Again, we want to move quickly as the children are anxious to be able to fully use the playground (and settlers are eager to prevent it!).



Please send checks made out to MRSCP marked “fall humanitarian projects’. If you wish, you may specify either “Luci Lights” or “Playground Finish”. Send to:

    MRSCP
    P.O. Box 5214
    Madison, WI 53705

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Vote for our Gaza photo in Global Giving contest!

Our photo (above), taken by Mohammad Mansour, was selected as a finalist in Global Giving’s 2016 Photo Contest! This picture was taken while the first pallet of Luci Lights that we sent was being distributed at the Women’s Project Center in Rafah, Gaza. If we win the competition, we will put the prize money towards sending another pallet — our hope is that we can give a light to every child in Gaza, to help them and their families cope with the difficulties of daily power outages.

Voting is easy — just click this link to find our photo. Then, check your email to confirm your vote! We love to see photos of the children that are receiving the Luci Lights, it is a great reminder of how important this project is.

Thanks for your support, and don’t forget to vote this week!

Best,
Donna


Project #18427

Brighten the Future of Gaza’s Children

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Gaza: Abandoned in the Middle of Nowhere

, Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, June 28, 2016

During a brief pause to hostilities in July 2014, families returned to eastern Gaza, which saw some of the heaviest bombings. Photo Credit: Oxfam / Flickr

Palestinians in Gaza are largely forgotten. They are an invisible people inhabiting a world without rights and possibilities. Over Israel’s near 50-year occupation, Gaza and the West Bank were reduced from a lower middle-income economy to a dysfunctional economy disproportionately dependent on foreign assistance. Gaza is under immense pressure from a continued blockade, now in its tenth year. Egyptian restrictions on the movement of people through Rafah, “which has remained largely closed… since October 2014, including for humanitarian assistance”[1] increased internal discord and hindered intra-Palestinian reconciliation.

There are stunningly high levels of unemployment and poverty. According to the World Bank, unemployment currently stands at 43 percent and in excess of 60 percent for Gazan youth. Yet, while Gaza’s economic demise is well documented, the blockade’s societal impact is often neglected. The blockade created a series of long-term, chronic conditions in Palestinian society,[2] including the destruction of civilian space, changes to social structure and health status, widespread trauma, a dramatic change in popular attitudes, and finally, a widening generational divide.

As United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Spokesman Chris Gunness notes: “The juxtaposition of hopelessness and despair, contrasted with the transformational potential of Gazan society, has never been so palpable.”[3]According to the World Bank, the Israeli blockade alone—which has severed almost all of the territory’s ties to the outside world, virtually terminating Gaza’s critically needed export trade—decreased Gaza’s GDP by at least 50 percent since 2007.[4] Egypt’s near total termination of Gaza’s tunnel trade—a vital, albeit underground economic lifeline—dealt an additional and extremely damaging blow. On top of this, the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, or Operation Protective Edge (OPE), worsened an already bleak situation by reducing Gaza’s economy by an additional $460 million.

This set in motion what one local analyst called a “dynamic of disintegration” that produced a range of unprecedented socioeconomic changes. Combined with the ruinous impact of the blockade, OPE was resulted in extensive damage to or destruction of homes, schools, health facilities, factories, businesses, sewage and water treatment infrastructure, and agriculture — effectively resulting in the destruction of civilian space. At least 100,000 people found themselves homeless, resulting in an estimated 75,000 being displaced, 11,200 being injured, at least 1,000 becoming permanently disabled, and 1,500 children becoming orphaned.[5]

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Gaza’s plight matters to the world

Elizabeth Kucinich in Gaza
Elizabeth Kucinich in Gaza (UNRWA USA)

Elizabeth Kucinich, The Hill, June 23, 2016

This month, U.S. congressmen, including Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), were refused entry into the Gaza Strip at the Erez crossing while on a fact-finding mission in Israel-Palestine. Israeli authorities, without elaboration, claimed that their application had not met the criteria necessary to enter. Apparently elected U.S. congressmen inspecting American taxpayer-funded projects and reviewing U.S. aid to Palestinians in Gaza is not worthy criteria.

Bernie Sanders’ representatives to the Democratic platform committee have brought the plight of the Palestinians into the national political debate. This could become a breakthrough moment, presaging policies that address the security of both Israelis and Palestinians as being mutually inclusive.

Some have suggested that the members of Congress may have been turned away from Gaza by Israel through the influence of the U.S. State Department, attempting to prevent Democratic members from elevating the issue of Israel-Palestine. Whatever the motivation, in that moment of rejection, those Congressmen experienced a small taste of the restrictions on freedom of movement that Palestinians live daily. For the Palestinians in Gaza, living under a blockade that just entered its 10th year, virtually all movement in and out is prohibited.

As I watched the Israeli military assault on Gaza in 2014, I was desperate to help. I looked to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, mandated with providing essential services for Palestine refugees, and joined the board of its nonprofit arm, UNRWA USA. Last spring, I traveled with UNWRA USA staff to the occupied Palestinian territory — the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip — to visit our projects, ascertain living conditions and witness for myself the political and economic situation. The trip was my first to Gaza. Had the other members of Congress been permitted to enter Gaza, they may have seen for themselves what I witnessed firsthand.

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