Said Abdelwahed, PhD
Professor Abdelwahed teaches English and Comparative Literature at
Alazhar university in Gaza.
His frequent writings in our literature corner range from Troubadour poetry to
Aphra Behn's Oroonoko to refelections on the works of James Morrier, Michael
Davitt or Samuel Johnson.
Our heart goes out for Palestine everyday.
Even checking out something as insignificant as our website statistics is an
alarming sign that there is something very wrong happening there.
Our highest visits used to come from "Palestine" until over the past few months where it dwindled down gradually until it went off the list not even reaching Romania's .4%.
In line with what's happening there, Professor Abdelwahed still writes but no longer his usual type of essay.
For weeks, my colleagues and students as well as myself, have been huffing and
puffing on the current miserable situation in Gaza Strip, and accordingly, on
the future of the place and the people alike! Hence, I found myself starting
this article normally reflecting on what has been taking place in this part of
the world. I thought of where to commence my article. Shall I start with the
socio-political situation or with the politico-social one? Nevertheless, I
remained undecided as I realized that the situation in Gaza is sometimes a
mixture of the two and in other times, the two situations alternate in a
Words fall short from describing the situation in Gaza. However, I may describe
it as truly rebellious, disorderly, uncontrollable, tumultuous, unmanageable,
riotous, confused, irrepressible, uncontainable, angry, anxious, incongruous,
frantic, absurd, radical and revolutionary all in one. Thus, it is no wonder
that Gazans have something and its opposite simultaneously. By all means, lives
a situation of bread and blood. It’s a situation of identity and dignity too.
Luckily, this unique tableau enjoys coverage in news bulletins of some of the
Arab satellite channels. Sometimes, when Israel feels hurt from Gaza, in one way
or another, Western media channels then compete to defend Israel, which leads to
the repeated news and screening of pictures! Their news and pictures paint the
Palestinians as criminals and the Israelis as victims! Anyways, the case of Gaza
keeps the whole situation controversial in the world mass media regardless of
their political slants and objectives!
It is clear to everyone concerned with world politics and economics that Gazans’
daily life needs and services such as health, education, and agriculture to name
a few are totally threatened. According to bakers, wheat, and flour merchants,
it is believed that Gaza bakeries may not remain open and baking for more than
one week. Nothing is being allowed to enter into Gaza, even the mundane such as
stationary and paper of all kinds, colors and sizes. Not even shoes! Israel has
denied shoes from being shipped to Gaza from anywhere in the world, even from
local production facilities in Hebron, West Bank! Shoemakers, who repair old
shoes, have been franticly busy with work maintaining shoes and school bags,
etc. They attempt to meet the needs of one and a half million with only 15
sewing machines in service. If the situation continues as it is, people will
walk barefoot! Can you imagine walking barefoot? Is this what the world is
waiting for? I cannot understand!
Daily life needs are further complicated by the limited municipal services
provided due to the collective punishment of all Gaza Palestinians by Israel
(Approx. 1.5 million people). Municipal services are also weak due to poor
facilities and logistics. Pumps and waste water treatment plants have stopped
due to the fuel problem. There was no rubbish collection in Gaza city for almost
a week because of the fuel situation. Many of the municipality trucks and
vehicles need spare parts and maintenance, which results in heaps of solid waste
accumulating on streets corners. The scenery is awfully dirty and oozes a
dreadful smell. This situation again constitutes other health and psychological
considerations. In the health sector, I would like to give one example of Al-Aqsa
hospital, which is located in the mid-area of the Gaza Strip. It's a small
medical facility with little and poor resources that serves a population of
300,000 people in all medical fields! It possesses one bed for each 3000 people!
Inadequate space is further complicated by poor logistics and lack of medicine
and requirements for small surgeries, etc. Summer is around the corner and it’s
the time for mosquitoes and other harmful insects! All emergency programs have
failed so far in overcoming, or even going around this inhumane situation. In
the meantime, in Gaza, I cannot see a civil society or an effective role by
local civil society organizations, as they have been marginalized in favor of
political parties! However, thanks are due to UNRWA and other relief
organizations and its various services as without it, Gaza people could have
suffered a totally hellish life.
Elsewhere, it is true that life has turned to be really dull with lots and lots
of missing things and needs plus other restrictions like no travel and no
movement inside the city. Of course, this is due to the current monotonous
situation. On the streets you find a great number of people waiting to catch
commuter cars but what is available (though in bad condition) is much less than
the needs; local passengers over number the capacity of cars available. I was
told by some girl students from the border city of Rafah that they found no
alternative but to stay in a car's trunk (3 young women), as the Mercedes, which
has a capacity of 7 passenger seats, was loaded with 14 people! Can you imagine
traveling like this or paying double the fair? Had not the girls accepted the
offer to stay in the trunk of the car, they would not have been able to travel
home. Mind you that we live in a shame culture, which means that no girl can
sleep outside her father's home regardless of the circumstances.
As I mentioned at the start of the article, words cannot truly describe this
inhumane and absurd situation in Gaza. The absurdity reminds me of Harold
Pinter's The Room and the theater of the absurd, which I read last week to my
drama class. Needless to day, it was not hard for them to understand the ideas
of the absurd; depression, anxiety, fear, lack of confidence, valueless time and
place, and what not. That was simply because they live almost the same situation
of the absurd movement. In a reaction to the situation, one of my female
students, a young lady from a Russian mother and Palestinian father wrote to me
saying: "It's safe to say that no 'artist', however good he was, would ever be
able to perform-just simple shots of our daily life- that way, that would break
the hearts of the audience, and leave an impression of a life time! … Ahhh ...
Emotions are most of the time so mixed that you don't know what you really feel.
And don't know what to start with ..."
Despite all of this, people are still able to find hope and dream. The same
student who commented on the absurd situation wrote: "In fact, every time I see
sun shines, I feel as if it smiles to me. Every time I see those small yellow
flowers, I like to smile and smile. Every time I go to the university, even
though sometimes I'm obliged to, but I know that in the end of the day I'll get
out with something useful, and most important are the precious moments I spend
among friends and colleagues. Every time I get deeply frustrated that much that
I suffer a heart ache and sometimes I feel that it is my end! I open the window
of my bed room and wonder the sea, the sky; the moon light, and the stars ...
even darkness has its own beauty! Otherwise, I go for my Holy Book, read some
verses of the words of my Lord, come to relax and ... I'm alive! With all those
frustrations and hopes around it is no wonder that next week I will be reading
with my drama students Valley Song by South Africa's anti-apartheid white
playwright Athol Fugard.
Those are only observable examples of the sufferings mixed with dreams and
hopes. In simple words, when you are inside a comprehensive cordon or siege you
become in need of everything in life including your sovereignty and freedom; you
enjoy no moment in your life, but you keep hope alive!
This gloomy situation can be seen on the surface level and during the routine
daily life, but underneath, the situation seems to be gloomier. One may get
shocked if he understands to what extent the deterioration in Gaza aquifers and
underground water has reached. There is no talk about it at all! Gaza people
drink salty and unclean water to the extent that those who live on life saving
machines are on the rise day after day! There are limited resources to enrich
aquifers including the little quantities of showers once or twice a year.
Meantime, there is always a negative impact of the sea water, and the water
traps built by Israel off the Gaza Strip region. Anyway, the complications of
the water situation are in need of special study and explanation. It’s a long
However, before looking at the position of the people in the current devastated
life and dying economic situation, and the short term solutions that keep the
whole society living on the margin of life, I believe that one needs first
understand something about that dilemma itself. With those documentations of the
socio-political or perhaps politico-social sufferings which directly touch the
bulk of the population, the peasant-farmers and per diem workers at the bottom
of the economic scale and the destroyed health and educational services and its
resulting ruthless life without fuel and electricity. Moreover, with the
unsympathetic harsh travel restrictions for everyone else, all Gazans became in
the same boat except those politicians whom Egypt permits to travel. However, it
is unfortunate that the record stops here and we know next to nothing of the off
scene policies around us! Thus, urgent and crucial questions jump into mind and
keep buzzing without being able to find adequate, reliable and convincing
answers for it! Man remains living in a vicious circle!
Among those questions are: Why the Palestinians are no longer the key player in
their own matters and the Middle East game? Are the Palestinians going to be two
Palestinian entities added to the already neglected entities in Lebanon and
elsewhere? Are the Palestinians of Gaza going to be another copy of the Somalia
case, or Baqoba, or Tora Bora, or perhaps a unique mixture of those cases? Are
the Palestinian people turning to become a nation of beggars at the doors and
mercy of the industrial countries and donors! Who is guilty for those crimes
against the Palestinian people? Is there a way out of those seemingly
never-ending dark corridors? If there is, then where it is? Though Israel is to
be strongly blamed in this regard, but it is still unfortunate that no
Palestinian whoever is he or she, can give satisfactory answers to any of those
questions as far as he or she lives in the West Bank or Gaza Strip!
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