The war against Gaza and the Palestinians in general continues.
Economically, Gaza is the land of ruin.
ANJALI KAMAT: Gaza is now a land of ruins. On December 27th, 2008, Israel launched a brutal twenty-two-day military operation in the Gaza Strip that killed over 1,400 Palestinians, the vast majority civilians. In addition to government and United Nations buildings, it is estimated that 21,000 homes were destroyed in all, leaving 100,000 people homeless. Over 600 industries and small businesses in Gaza were razed to the ground, sustaining $180 million in damages, according to the United Nations Development Program.
The industrial zone in Ezbat Abed Rabbo in northern Gaza once housed about sixty workshops and industries. Now it’s just a pile of rubble and twisted metal. Abu Omar established the Haddad tile factory and warehouse here just five years ago. During Israel’s latest assault on Gaza, he closed the factory and moved his family to the relative safety of Gaza City.
ABU OMAR: [translated] When we returned after the war, this is what we found. When we first came back, we couldn’t even recognize our neighborhood. It was like an earthquake, magnitude 10.0, not just 6.0. This is what we found. If there was any resistance, it must have been from here all the way to the Wafa hospital a mile and a half away. They didn’t spare a single house or factory or anything between here and the hospital. I consider this the result of an official decision by the Israeli government to destroy the entire area. We’ve incurred losses of $2,200,000.
ANJALI KAMAT: Salem Darraj used to work at a cement factory in the same area. Now, he too has joined the burgeoning ranks of the Palestinian unemployed, which some economists estimate has now risen to a staggering 70 percent in the Gaza Strip.
Read the interview in full. And note the final statements:
ANJALI KAMAT: While the people of Gaza try to rebuild their shattered lives, their primary demands are for the borders to be opened and guarantees that Israel will not destroy their homes and factories and farms once again. And many, like Abu Omar, the owner of the tile factory, don’t want monetary or humanitarian aid from the international community, but solidarity in their struggle for justice and accountability.
- ABU OMAR: [translated] We don’t want to beg the world for money. We just want to take those who destroyed our houses to court. If we are really criminals and our houses are terrorist houses, then OK, this is what you get. But if our houses are innocent and our factories are innocent, then the Israelis need to account for what they destroyed. They are the ones who should give us the reparations. Why do we need to rely on the sympathy of the world? We don’t want that. We want the world to stand by our rights. We don’t want their charity, little bits of money and food. We’re full, thank God. We are just asking for our rights, nothing else.
Solidarity. Not charity. Support. Not ugly humanitarian aid. Reparations and Legal Justice. Not pity.
Meanwhile, White phosphorus – that truly ugly weapon (is there a pretty weapon?) used by the Israelis (and funded by the US) – lives on in Gaza and has not been forgotten. “Sabah Abu Halima who was burnt from head to toe and lost her husband and four children is still in pain and has weekly physiotherapy sessions at Shifa hospital.”
She explained that “We had a happy home, I lived in this house in security with my husband and children. I was the happiest person in the world, but all of that changed when on 4 January the Israeli army entered our village and fired two phosphorus shells [that] penetrated our roof and burnt us while we were having our lunch. The fire was like lava, my family was burnt and their bodies turned to crisps.”
The mournful mother who is still unable to walk or talk properly, lost her house when it was completely engulfed in flames from the bombs. Luckily she found a photo of her youngest daughter, Shahad, who was only 15 months old when she was killed. I asked her to comment on this writing, which was left on the wall of her bedroom: “From the Israeli Defense Forces, we are sorry!” She answered that “I demand the whole world and international human rights organizations to sue the killers of my family, they killed so many innocent people who tried to rescue us, what was the guilt of my children and my baby Shahad? Their sorry will not bring back my family, I’m still physiologically and mentally in pain, I can’t even pick up a cup of tea now, my life will never be the same,” Sabah answered with tears in her eyes.