Monday, May 22, 2006

Daily struggles under the seige

Speaking with our staff in Gaza and Ramallah just now was another reminder of how bad things are in Palestine. As I was talking with the Gaza office, I could hear the gunfire of yet another clash between Hamas and the security forces. As we talked news came that the Jordanian ambassador was inadvertently hit by some of the gunfire, and his driver killed.

People's nerves are absolutely shot, one staff member said that any sound makes them jump now. They say as bad as the blockade of the Gaza Strip is, people could handle it. But what is killing them (literally and figuratively) is the internal fighting. People can't go out into the streets without fear of getting caught in between something.

Most people blame both sides for being corrupt and selfish, putting party interests above national interests, and falling into a destructive and base power struggle. People see no end to the current madness.

In the West Bank things are better, but not by much. There haven't been the same kind of clashes as are now occuring daily in Gaza, but the economic situation is dismal and crime is increasing. Our office was robbed and two computers recently taken. A couple of days ago the Jawwal telephone company offices were attacked and shot up, resulting in a 24 hour cut in the network. The al-Jazeera news office was also attacked and all the office's cars taken.

One of our staff members, who is from Ramallah, recently married a Palestinian from Jerusalem. She has been trying to get a permit so she can stay with him (which is customary, that the man provide a house for the new wife), but the Israeli High Court recently announced that the government will issue no new permissions for Palestinians from outside what Israel considers its borders, including a grossly expanded greater municipality of Jerusalem, to go to Israel. So one of her daily struggles is trying to find a way to get back to her husband and baby after work.

They are now looking for a house near the Qalandia checkpoint, which is main entry point to Ramallah, but have found it almost impossible. As there are no more permits for people married to Jerusalemites to go to their homes, many people are moving to Ramallah or the surrounding area. The result has been a severe housing shortage and housing prices that have doubled and tripled.

These are minor troubles compared to what some people there are enduring, but gives you a sense of how the situation is impacting everyone.

So it's a good thing that it is "the Israeli government policy not to punish the Palestinian people for their vote." I mean, just imagine if it was!!


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