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Freedom, dignity and hope

GAZA / MODERN TIMES meets different voices in Gaza today: About America's new plan, and conditions on the ground.


We are there now, in 2020. New Year's plans for the 2020s have been discussed around the world. But i Gaza two million people are more concerned with how they will survive the next decade.

Salwa Abu Nemer

Salwa Abu Nemer starts laughing, but ends up coughing when we mention the UN warning as early as 2012 which assumed that "Gaza would become uninhabitable in eight years."

Nemer's reaction was quick at first, told as she sat in a smoky corner of her miserable house: "We were already dead twenty years ago!" She said this – a 30-year-old mother of seven – while making an omelette in a burnt-out frying pan. They live in Nahr al-Bared, Gaza's poorest refugee camp.

At the time, the UN Representative on Palestinian Territories (UNCT) said that the infrastructure "is struggling to keep up with a growing population."

Nemer tells MODERN TIMES that «The UN miscalculated 20 years ago. Dozens of families in the camp are starving without having daily bread or any mattresses to sleep on. We will now face the same miserable situation Trump og Kushners fateful plan. ”

Pointing to her eight-year-old daughter, she mentions that a monthly dose of syrup costs around $ 79, almost a monthly salary: “How can we afford it when her father works to carry crushed stones on a donkey-drawn cart for four dollars? day? The simple answer is that we must beg today, in the year 2020. "

Abeer Zorob

Palestinians have dismissed US President Donald Trump's new Middle East peace plan from January as a conspiracy. The United States envisioned a Palestinian state while recognizing Israeli sovereignty over settlements in the occupied West Bank.

People in Gaza remember the UN warning and are afraid of what awaits them. Gaza will remain uninhabitable unless urgent measures are taken to improve water supply, electricity, health and education services.

Abeer Zourob (45) is the mother of five children, and lives a few meters away from Nemer. She refers to the United States' new plan as "pouring more salt into old wounds". Both families live in thin tin sheds. Zourob, a former kindergarten teacher, invited MODERN TIMES into the home she calls "a nasty scout camp." Dozens of ragged clothes and dented pots fill the only two rooms.

Both mothers experience a nightmare when it starts to rain at night over the rusty tin roof. "We spend such nights chasing away scorpions crawling under children's pillows. This is how we live in 2020 ", said Abeer as she scolds her three and four year old daughters for not closing the tap on a 250 liter plastic container with drinking water.

Each refill of the tank costs Zourobs or her neighbor's husbands one and a half dollars each.

Ahmed Bashir

People in Gaza continue their daily lives under harsh conditions, overpopulated and with repeated Israeli attacks. The power outages continue, despite a grant from Qatar. And the problem of polluted water continues – environmentalists have announced that forurensningone is at 97 percent.

Environmental expert Ahmed Bashir tells MODERN TIMES: "At the end of last year, people here in Gaza were constantly losing water from the municipal waterworks, they could not even wash in houses and kitchens." Therefore, many are addicted to buying water from private desalination plants. But only five percent of the population can afford it.

A real economic improvement had to include the following: a port, an industrial area, an airport, the opening of borders and full work permits in Israel.

Bashir explains that the proportion of salt and nitrate in the groundwater in the Gaza Strip exceeds the internationally accepted level of 96 percent. Also the inhabitants who get clean water from private individuals desalination plant, is exposed to biological contamination.

"We can say that we live in a catastrophe that almost needs a magic wand to solve our great need for water in a densely populated environment." We really need new water sources to prevent the underground reservoir from being emptied. Here, desalination projects must be carried out in accordance with standards from the World Health Organization. And other projects for reuse of wastewater ", Bashir tells MODERN TIMES.

Osama Nawfal

During the academic year 2018–2019, thousands of students have been forced to quit due to deteriorating financial conditions. Graduates are also unemployed, which does not exactly encourage further studies.

During last year, 520 companies and factories also had to close. According to the Gaza Chamber of Commerce (Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics), this currently leads to around 500 unemployed in Gaza. Half of these are recent graduates.

Should the new proposed Trump / Kuchner plan with more economic projects in Gaza help?

These have no long-term perspective, says Osama Nawfal to MODERN TIMES. He is the Director of Planning and Policy at the Gaza Ministry economy. Financial aid only temporarily calms the situation and reduces confrontations. But it is no more than a short-term anesthetic, according to the director.

With severe continuous repression of Palestinians – where their ability to persevere is limited – economic improvement can be positive. But that would require a basic infrastructure in Gaza. According to Nawfal, Gaza is hit hard every time there is a confrontation with Israel. The basics of economic expansion are difficult to maintain.

Nawfal explains that a real economic improvement had to include the following: a port, an industrial area, an airport, the opening of borders and full work permits in Israel. This would be a strategic plan to achieve lasting peace, rather than the failures that have emerged over the last 100 years.

Palestinians have dismissed US President Donald Trump's new Middle East peace plan from January as a conspiracy.

According to Nawfal, the crisis in Gaza can be solved by Washington and Cairo, together with the UN, engaging the international community to take responsibility for peace and conflict solutions rather than military escalation. New proposals should alleviate the humanitarian crisis, such as power and water shortages, provide greater freedom of movement for individuals in Gaza, and open up for exports and imports. Such freedom for Gaza will facilitate and open the door to the whole world.

According to Nawfal, such a sustainable political agreement must include both Hamas, the PA (Palestinian Authority of the West Bank) and Israel. Here, Hamas must agree to a long-term ceasefire and the gradual disarmament of its weapons. The PA must gradually regain control of Gaza in cooperation with Hamas. At the same time must Israel agree to significantly minimize its siege of Gaza – as part of a new ceasefire agreement.

Maisara Zaunoun

At the port area of ​​Gaza, MODERN TIMES meets the family of Maisara Zaunoun. They jog with theirs in a short break between school exams. They express genuine concern about the UN warning and the US new plan:

'I'm getting very anxious. I always think about emigrating, to find a safe place for my family and children ", says Zaunoun. He is 47 years old, the father of five children and lives in the city of Bait Lahia, in northern Gaza:

"My concerns are based on the fact that unemployment is rising daily. The situation is getting worse, I see no solution on the horizon. Many of us have endured this miserable reality for years. But our fears are now stronger, especially due to higher living costs in Gaza, and not least because the salinity of the water tastes almost as salty as the water in the Mediterranean. " Zaunoun runs a car wash himself.

Ala'a Jabari

Ala'a Jabari, a specialist in international development and cooperation, tells MODERN TIMES that in recent years the financial situation has been about being resolved through salaries and external assistance. But he mentions India for example with pioneering experiences where unemployment was solved by the government investing in technology and data programming.

He thus believes that Gaza can adapt in the same way as India, by investing in technology to create new markets and job opportunities: "The Gaza government can invest in young people by teaching them programming, for example from smartphone applications," adds Jabari. to.

The Great March of Return

In the 1920s, the early Zionists believed that an improvement in the standard of living of the Arabs would reduce their opposition to the Zionist project. After the war in 1967, Israeli Moshe Dayan and his supporters expected greenhouses with mulberries (similar to blackberries) and open bridges between the West Bank and Jordan, to ensure a lasting coexistence.

The UN warning in the old Gaza 2020 report did not help. In any case, Israel did not take it seriously.

The people of Gaza also reacted with hopelessness in 2018, when they realized that there was no solution in sight. With the protests, called The Great March of Return, young Palestinians in Gaza – the vast majority of the population – showed the world that it is not just food and water they need to survive. They need freedom, dignity and hope.

Nadia Othman
Nadia Othman
Othman is a regular correspondent for Ny Tid, living in Gaza.

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