by Stuart Littlewood
There is little joy in writing about the plight of the Palestinians, as I have done for the last 10 years. But one of the rewards is that, occasionally, I receive a letter from someone who’s living the nightmare and prepared to share their innermost fears.
So I was delighted to hear from Amal again but dreaded what she might be about to tell me.
Amal (means ‘hope’) is a young wife and mother of three in Gaza. She is university educated and her English is excellent. As I’ve said before, Palestinians – especially the ladies – are very keen on education and do their utmost to get the best they can in difficult circumstances. Her last message, nine months ago, described her little family’s situation in the wake of Israel’s genocidal assaults and surrounded by death, destruction, grief and chronic deprivation.
“My kids are in the 4th & 3rd primary grades and the youngest goes to KG [?kindergarten],” she wrote then. “They go to UNRWA schools as we are originally refugees. They receive education of quite good quality. But schools work in 2 or 3 shifts a day especially in areas where displaced people of the last war still shelter in UNRWA schools; they don’t have any other place to go.
“Hamas has its recent financial crisis after Al-Sisi became president in Egypt and destroyed all tunnels where they used to bring in money. Also its external relationships are not as before especially with Iran due to Hamas not supporting Al-Asaad in his civil war. Also Qatar seems not trusting anymore and its new prince decrease the fund.
“It is common here for people to talk, discuss and analyse the political issues; that [is] why I talk freely somewhat. When I have other free times I talk about football and I support Barcelona…. huhh.”
In her latest letter she apologises for not writing sooner.
“The situation here is depressing still and we don’t have electricity for more than 2-4 hours a day. I use it for things more useful than the internet such as laundry, cleaning, cooking, baking and other house duties. Especially we don’t have sufficient gas supplies. You will wait for months to receive 6 kilos of gas for cooking; otherwise, you can use wood fire and coal for cooking and other tasks to keep life going on. We are going back to the old days, even these commodities are relatively expensive in Gaza where most families still struggle to secure the basic necessities.
“The lack of electricity means people can go hours or days without water as power is needed to pump water into homes; as well, pumping the waste water is a big concern. Gaza; this uninhabitable planet, is still suffering in different ways. You can sit in the sun or use blankets to bring warm. But there are not many options in a region that has experienced an uncommonly cold winter. Heavy rains have already brought severe flooding and damages into homes and schools.
“It is even more tragic for people who still live in caravans, makeshift shelters with rainwater leaking through the ceiling every time it rains. There are thousands of houses that were destroyed in 2014 wars and were not built again; people can’t afford the rent for new places of course. Thousands are living in badly damaged homes. As long as the situation remains the same, there is not much hope in rebuilding what have been destroyed in Gaza. Reconstruction requires hundreds of thousands of truckloads of materials; yet few have entered Gaza monthly and it could take decades for reconstruction to happen. The blockade is still firm by the Israeli government. Also; Rafah crossing [into Egypt] is tightly closed and is opened for only 2-3 days every month for specific groups with high priority such as people with severe illnesses or foreign visa and students who study abroad. Others can’t even dream to leave Gaza.
“In Gaza; new taxes are imposed that leaves people fuming. Poverty rates are higher in a time [when] finding a job or any source of income is next to impossible. Hamas still send its crises to the lives and future of people here. We keep silent because we don’t have choices. The internal conflict is extreme despite the talks about near deal in Doha, Qatar to reunite Gaza Strip and the West Bank in one cabinet. Indeed, we lost trust in both parties many years ago. Many attempts before were not successful and left further frustration and defeat; expectations of near reconciliation this time are also not high.
“A fourth [Israeli] operation in the Gaza Strip is inevitable sooner than expected. It is the life ritual in Gaza either to live in war or to expect war. The coastal enclave population is trapped, traumatized, and descending ever deeper into despair, with suicide rates skyrocketing. Ten years of oppression and frustration have produced a generation of negative thoughts and distressed attitude. It is not easy for a young man whose family sold everything to complete his education to stay at home eventually.
“Youth in Gaza is helpless and hopeless, has no trust or faith in anything or any change. Yesterday a young man burnt himself and another one called Hamada ended his life by hanging. He wrote a few words that he is already dead and went away. Another young man also hanged himself three days ago. In Gaza; you may suicide or die suddenly. I knew tens of young men ageing between 20-30 died recently of heart attacks. Silent tears in their eyes are the worst type and even the prayers of their mothers can’t relieve their accumulated problems. It is new phenomena here that you go to bed at night and don’t get up again. Or you may die of chronic disease or cancer. Uncontrolled use of pesticides and the pollutants of weapons during the wars leave 130 new detection of cancer monthly and this is the tip of the iceberg.
“I want to run away from this madness. And I know that hundreds of thousands of Gazans want to leave as well. We are cold not only physically but also metaphorically. Actually; I’m not sure about the accuracy of my name Hope because I’m also hopeless. I sometimes ask why I wasn’t killed during one of the wars. If the heaven is the final abode, so it is the big reward for all the suffering that we have witnessed. If it is Hell, there is no big different from the hell of Gaza.
“This [is] what I could write in a hurry. I know I have lost my artistic ability and I’m telling just facts. I’m distressed and in bad mood; I can’t smile or draw smiles…. I hope that your home was not affected by the storm and that you are all safe. I wish that everything is going well with you and I wish to know where to follow your articles when I have time and electricity.”
The Gaza tragedy is the most disgraceful of the many outrages that our political leaders not only created but seek to perpetuate. What an insult to humanity these individuals are. One such is our Minister for the Cabinet Office, Matthew Hancock.
He is currently on a visit to Israel promoting business links with Britain and announcing details of the Government’s ban on all publicly funded institutions, including local councils and universities, from making ethical choices regarding pension investments and procurement. The aim is to stop public boycotting of goods and services supplied by companies complicit in the weapons trade, tobacco products or products from Israeli squatter colonies on stolen Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
A statement from the office of Prime Minister David Cameron says that boycotts “undermine good community relations, poisoning and polarising debate, weakening integration and fuelling anti-Semitism”, adding that locally imposed boycotts “can roll back integration as well as hinder Britain’s export trade and harm international relationships”.
The fact is, British people are sickened by some of the Cameron government’s “relationships”, especially its devotion to Israel.
After working on jet fighters in the RAF Stuart became an industrial marketing specialist with manufacturing companies and consultancy firms. He also “indulged himself” as a newspaper columnist. In politics, he served as a Cambridgeshire county councillor and member of the Police Authority. Now retired he campaigns on various issues and contributes to several online news & opinion sites. An Associate of the Royal Photographic Society, he has produced two photo-documentary books which can be read online at Radiofreepalestine.org.uk and Paperturn-view.com