Have decided to return to blogging/informing despite the extremely disturbing efforts to control information whether about Egypt, Syria, Palestine, the arts.
As Bassem Youssef, heart-surgeon turned comedian said recently: “You can’t shut people up.”
So why did I fall silent? Actually I have been active on other forms of social media and got re-involved in music after a hiatus.
I was searching through my files and found this written for the Encyclopedia of the Arab-Israeli Conflict on an area of Gaza where people were trapped for years due to Israel’s administrative rules. I wrote it after traveling to Gaza to observe Israel’s withdrawal, when settlers resisted. I was with a news crew which filmed settlers attacking a Palestinian home from their roof; the crew and lead (from the Times) said they knew their editor wouldn’t accept the other part of the story … we went into Gaza to talk to various people about their expectations for the future. Mind you, this predated Hamas’ victory in the elections in ’06. Recently, I met a man in Arkansas who is from this part of Gaza and he mentioned working in the flower gardens – I had no opportunity to say I had visited. On several other trips to Gaza, I paused to marvel at the beached boats, unable to fish, although Gaza should rightfully develop a seaport and touristic beach. As part of the encyclopedia project one struggle was to insert more information on Palestinian geography, history, personalities and perspectives; every brief article counted. And finally, the point – could Israel’s settlers be forced to withdraw from areas they occupy? (Yes, almost 4,000 settlers left Gaza, not at all willingly, but they did).
Al-Muwasi` (meaning gardens) know as Mawasi, is a strip of coastal land on the Gaza Strip, one by fourteen kilometers, divided administratively into the Khan Yunis and Rafah Mawasi. Classified under the Oslo Agreement I of 1994 as a “yellow” area, Israel controlled security, and Palestinians held civil jurisdiction. 760 families (5300 people) inhabit the Khan Yunis Mawasi. 220 families are Palestinian refugees who fled here in 1948. The residents of Malhala are Bedouin refugees, primarily from the Beersheva (Bir Saba`) area. 430 families (3000 persons) live in the Rafah Mawasi including refugees from the Ashdod area who live in the “Swedish village,” part of the Rafah refugee camp. [Note these figures were current at that time )
At least 15 Israeli settlements were established on Mawasi including Katif, Ganei Tal, Kfar Yam, Neve Dekalim, Gan Or, Bedolah, Rafih Yam and Morag. In 2005, Mawasi was the site of Israeli demonstrations against withdrawal from Gaza. Demonstrators seized empty buildings and threw stones at Palestinian homes.
The Mawasi Palestinians were not allowed after 1967 to travel to Khan Yunis or Rafah where some have families and property. Later, they were increasingly restricted due to their proximity to the Israeli Gush Katif settlement to their east. The Gush Katif central administration was based at Neve Dekalim and the area was subjected to special security arrangements. The Palestinians used to fish, but were forbidden to do so; instead they relied on agriculture. However, since 2000 this output suffered from land-razing and Israeli-imposed transport restrictions. Electricity was available only at night for 5 to 6 hours through a temporary generator. The school lacks electricity, water and sufficient teachers, and its clinic has electricity only 2 hours a day. The Khan Yunis Mawasi has only one private well and no sewage system. The Israeli settlers’ standard of living was considerably higher than the Palestinians as they enjoyed state subsidies and adequate services, well-maintained roads, better residences, and easier access to schools, clinics and supermarkets. Until 2005, there were approximately 3900 Israeli settlers in the area.
Palestinian truck-drivers used to wait for hours to drive through checkpoints. Only men are allowed to walk through checkpoints on foot and restrictions on gas for cooking and heating were imposed there. Carrying metal through was not allowed, including coins. Of additional concern to Palestinians were incidents of Israeli dumping of toxic waste in the area and the presence of 4 sewage treatment plants serving Israeli settlements, but which pollute Palestinian areas.
Since 2005, a Red Cross project has restored some of the Shanshola boats used to fish sardines.
B’tselem. Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.
“Al-Mawasi, Gaza Strip: Impossible Life in an Isolated Enclave.” March 2003, pp. 1-21.
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. Suffering in Isolation: A Report on Life Under Occupation in the Mawasi Areas in the Gaza Strip, August 2003. pp. 1-125.
Personal interviews with al-Muwasi’ residents, July 2005.
Sherifa Zuhur, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College