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(en) Organisation Communiste Libertarie (OCL) - Palestine - Trip Report in Gaza (December 2013) by Pierre Stambul (fr) [machine translation]

Date Tue, 14 Jan 2014 12:10:41 +0200

Pierre Stambul, member of the UJFP (French Jewish Union for Peace), libertarian communist and occasional contributor Alternating Current was in Gaza in December. He brought these few days of travel and meetings he was able to report on the situation as comprehensive as possible, we publish.

Report on my trip to Egypt and Gaza (December 2013)

1) Gaza: how to get there?

For French, the process is as follows: request an invitation to Unadikum (see below) indicating the approximate dates of stay desired. Send to Egyptian Embassy in Paris this invitation, a photocopy of the passport and a form letter that asks can go to Gaza "humanitarian sleep". When you have obtained permission from the embassy (it takes about three weeks, sometimes you insist) take the precaution in multiple copies. For some time, the opening of the Rafah border crossing periods are rare and brief. You can get lucky, but it can also be blocked for a long time in Cairo, what happened to me. It is best to be on the phone with Unadikum Gaza. They know a few hours in advance when the border will open. Take a moment a ticket to Cairo. It is more expensive but it avoids the cost of many days of downtime. The same issue date and ticket bought at the last minute to apply for the return.

In Cairo, there is a hotel in the center (near the museum and Tahrir Square) comfortable and cheap (14 euros), the manager is related Unadikum. It was he who contacted a vehicle to go to Rafah (400 Km, starting between 20 and 60 euros).

As soon as we reached the Suez Canal, checkpoints succeed sometimes with very unpleasant moments. The road is often cut and we must start on small paths in fields or villages.

At the Egyptian customs, provide 4-7 hours of waiting (while in Cairo where we assumed tourist airport, we pass in 5 minutes). This is the primitive bureaucracy pure formalities with handmade and computers down. The International are not treated better than the Palestinian ne s. This is Gaza is punished and humiliated. It is also ransomed with absurd expenses (provide thirty euros each way). Palestinian side, it is much simpler. One can even ask not to have the Palestinian buffer to preserve future travel in the West Bank with the same passport.

2) Unadikum

These are somewhat international brigades to Palestine. The main facilitator of the association, Manu Pineda is a Spanish Malaga whose activism for Palestine back to the first Intifada. He was then in the Jabaliya refugee camp.

Unadikum has an apartment near the Gaza port that can accommodate 6 or 7 people. The association has established a network of relationships with many Palestinians. They have cars and drivers but they are much more than that. They are great people whose life stories are representative of those Gazans. Almost every day there are public meetings and parties.

The Palestinian who guided and accompanied me during my stay made me share his vision, his opinions, his way of life, his hopes and despairs.

Unadikum a continuous action to protect farmers who work near the "security barrier" (to use the vocabulary of the occupant) and fishermen who are assaulted onto the beach despite theoretical permission to go to 6 km The fellow who came Unadikum-art with me to Gaza carrying several bags of drugs.

Unadikum following news on Gaza and per hour when it comes to something happening. Thus we went es Dec. 24 at the hospital to see the body of Hala, a three year old girl, killed by an Israeli tank firing at 700 m distance on a house inhabited by 25 people. We also saw other family members injured es. The family asked us to film and witness.

Unadikum knows everyone in Gaza: political parties, unions, associations, NGOs. It is thanks to them that I have had several meetings. If I had time, I would have been able to meet Hamas. Manu Pineda gave me a strong impression. He was in Athens for the fleet. It considers that it is important not to oppose the approach Unadikum, BDS, flotilla or other forms of solidarity. Instead, everything is complementary and should be added. He deplores unnecessary divisions in the solidarity movement. I fully share this view.

3) Egypt and Gaza

Two elements are not in doubt:
There was a real massive popular movement that led an uprising against the Muslim Brotherhood. These were heavily discredited by the exercise of power more than partisan and an inability to deal with problems (including social) of Egypt. Morsi had naively believed that replacing the chief of the army or a few judges would have a free hand. The Muslim Brotherhood has not only lost power, they were defeated in the civil society losing such a majority they held for decades among students and physicians face independent lists.

If Tamarod movement (= rebellion) was spontaneous, a significant portion of its leaders rallied quickly to the idea of ââa military coup. For example, the leader of the independent trade unions became Minister of Labour of the new regime. The army seemed resigned to a power-sharing with the brothers jumped at the chance. We are clearly dealing with a revolution against reactionary. Some revolutionary leaders of the first revolution, remaining opponents. Some are in prison. Some condemn the deadly crackdown against the Brotherhood. All challenge the draconian laws. Now, the first party in Egypt is the Salafist party Al Nour supported by Saudi Arabia and probably established and assisted by the army.

What relationship with Gaza? The first charge against Morsi (for which he could face the death penalty) would be his participation (in the Mubarak era) to a "conspiracy" with Hamas, Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Al Qaeda ... do not throw away, the yard is full. Egyptian justice is preparing to indict in absentia dozens of members of Hamas and Hezbollah. The second count indictment accuses Morsi have had as head of state relations with Hamas (!).

The new Egyptian leaders prepare to justify the eviction of the Muslim Brotherhood in a referendum. They issued a decree that criminalizes the call to vote or not to boycott the poll!

Which switches the opinion in their favor is "insecurity". We can still have doubts. I witnessed an intense media campaign to assimilate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. The next day, a suicide car bomb caused the deaths of 15 people in Mansoura in the delta. Immediately, the decision was made to formally describe the Brotherhood as terrorist. In such case, we do not know who killed who and who handles that. Similarly, it appears that the Sinai is full of Al Qaeda terrorists helped by Hamas. One can have doubts. North Sinai is totally flat, offers no hiding place and the army presence is impressive. Curiously the mountainous Sinai adjacent tourist resorts of the Red Sea was not terrorists. Bizarre. This "threat" is the justification for almost blocking the Rafah border.

However, the last issue of 2013 the weekly Al Ahram (French) publishes a superb record of three pages on Palestine. Articles include: "Negotiations adrift" where it is explained that Kerry wants to surrender the Palestinians. "We need a Palestinian action to abort the plot" , an article which criticizes the Gulf countries. "Palestine, collateral victim of the Arab Spring. " "The death toll colonies" article recalls between 2012 and 2013, colonization has increased by 70%. "First mixed year of Palestine to the United Nations" , an article which confirms that the Palestinian Authority has undertaken not to enter the International Criminal Court against Israel. And finally "On the verge of bankruptcy" , an article which said that the Palestinian Authority coffers are empty and customs revenue (controlled by Israel) represent 2/3 of its budget.
There is just a lack in this issue: the key role of Egypt in the Gaza blockade and the fact that countries like Israel collectively punishing the entire population of Gaza.

4) Gaza, fast printing

From the film Gazastrophe shot immediately after the operation "Cast Lead" , we see much less rubble and visibly, despite the shortage of cement, there have been many reconstructions. Salah al-Din road through the Gaza Strip from north to south is being repaired, but you can move smoothly.

I have not had time to go to the refugee camps, or see the airport destroyed or holding tanks. Approximately 70% of the population of Gaza refugee status. In this sense, the city of Gaza is a little different with historic neighborhoods and a rather nice waterfront (hotels, bars, port). Unanimously, Gazans say: "We are normal people, we are not terrorists, we want to live like everyone else" .

Far from it. First, they are in a cage. Erez border is closed, with rare exceptions. The Karni which pass the farm trucks lesser "incident." The Rafah opens sporadically.

The issue of water (see below) is central. Tap water comes from the aquifer can be used for agriculture or washing, but it is brackish and totally unfit for consumption. You have to pay (expensive) for drinking water.
Electricity is an average of 6 hours per day. The flashlight is indispensable. Despite generators, it is only partially informed and everyday people trapped in elevators.
Gasoline is rare. In Egypt, it is subsidized and costs only 12 cents per liter. When this species arrived in Gaza, it was gasoline 80 cents. Today, there are more than the Israeli gasoline 1.60. For Gazans is expensive so sometimes carts replace cars.
Unemployment and poverty are widespread. The economy has been destroyed or choked, including agriculture and fisheries (see below).
hospitals lack medicines, hygiene and well-trained doctors. Many patients go abroad for treatment.
A huge effort is focused on education. There is very little illiteracy (while Egypt has 30% illiterate). Many students go abroad to complete their studies. Many graduates forced to survive on odd jobs encountered.
Palestinians with whom I have spoken are mainly graduates close to Unadikum. All have great regret: "Palestine has neither unity nor leadership." They are very critical of the two Palestinian governments: "they only care about their own interests" .
I even heard a rare speech: "My employer in Tel Aviv was an Israeli of Libyan descent who respected me and say, here is your country. can live together with people like him and I regret that period " .

A final word on the question of religion in Gaza. Christmas is a holiday out of respect for the Christian minority which is highly appreciated. With an Islamist party in power, one could imagine that religious symbols are pervasive. Actually, no. There is less Islamic beards or hidjebs in Egypt.
Everyone I spoke knew I was Jewish. This has led to reactions of sympathy. Once astonishment.

5) The Union of Palestinian Women (PWU: Palestinian women's union)

This association was created in 1964 at the time of the Egyptian occupation. It is directed by Leila Klaibo. It houses a nursery, a kindergarten and a kindergarten. The children sang nursery rhymes to me in Arabic and English. The association helps poor families and orphans. It receives no subsidies, just sometimes donations (computer room). She saw meager registration fees for families. I gave 600 euros for three sponsored by a large militant Marseille children.

An idea comes to me: many French local authorities turn their heads when they speak of Gaza (ie "terrorists"). PWU handed me a document in English which explains their goals and activities. With such a document, it seems possible to apply to municipalities or regions subsidize PWU.

6) PCHR (Palestinian Center for Human Rights)

A) Eyad Al Alam (lawyer, director of legal affairs)

PCHR objectives are protection of economic rights, victim assistance, the development of democratic rights, legal aid and the confrontation with the occupant. PCHR also sometimes has problems with the Palestinian Authority. He investigates and documents on all the occupant is on the attack.
PCHR worked with investigators from the Goldstone report. He provided investigators with all documents that it has used.
Weekly PCHR publishes report. Sometimes it is also investigating intra-Palestinian violence.
As NGOs, it receives funding from Oxfam or Amnesty. It does not accept grants from the United States.
publishes reports on the situation of private fishermen working on the lack of drugs and lack of medical transfers on poverty among hospitals that did the buildings.
It works with the support committees for prisoners (there are 500 political prisoners from Gaza) and committees against torture in connection with the lawyers. Since the release of Shalit, families can visit the prisoners but the agreement is regularly violated.

"Nothing will change with Abu Mazen." "It is clear that Egypt is against us. Some claim attack Hamas but they are all Palestinians who suffer the consequences. "
Eyad believes that Palestine is very small and hopes changes in Israel. "Our dream is a single state, it is our reference Mandela, our leaders are stupid. " "At the time of the occupation, I was not in a cage, I could go to Tel Aviv. Today, electricity and food is lacking. " "We have two parliaments, two governments, two laws. Why did he not reunification? I do not care about Fatah-Hamas relations. We want elections but Israel controls everything and do not leave. " "The Gaza government was using Morsi and now that the Muslim Brotherhood are called terrorists, we are paying the consequences." "The two governments Palestinians have no legitimacy or legal framework to exercise power. " "I dream of our rights to lead a normal life and be treated like human beings. Palestinians are treated like animals. We do not even have the right to choose our leaders. "

B) Khalil Shaheen (economic and social rights)

"It is worse today for human rights. Our basic rights are denied. We have no geographical unit with the West Bank and we are totally dependent on Israeli politics. "
"What is at work is the division of Palestine, ethnic cleansing and apartheid in Jerusalem . "
Face "to this there a conspiracy of silence, complicity and impunity. We need sanctions. Those who have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity must be judged. "
"Europe has paid our port and airport. She did not say anything when they were destroyed. "
"Human rights apply everywhere, otherwise it is discrimination. We must build on the right, which implies the right to resist oppression. "
"Those who ordered their army to fire on civilians violated the Geneva Convention. Why international justice does protect Israeli war criminals? "
"Richard Falk was accused of anti-Semitism when he spoke of genocide. Before him, John Dugard has been dragged through the mud. Falk and Dugard are yet Jews. "

Khalil explains that the Gaza situation is catastrophic since the destruction of tunnels and we are dealing with a collective punishment with the blockade. This blockade Gazans costs double what the international community gives them. There is 45% unemployment (no work) to Gaza. Among them, 35,000 unemployed graduates because the public sector can not offer them anything.

This is the fishing industry is the most damaged: boat confiscated 700 m from the coast, fishermen killed 2 300 m from the shore. In 2012, there were 4,200 fishermen and 219 fishing boats for a miserable barely reaching the level of 50 years ago. People are driven to misery. Many young people want to leave. "On Palestinian unity, Hamas and Fatah have a little advanced, but it is mission impossible. It lacks the political will and charismatic leaders. Civilians pay for this division, it's a shame. Our nationalism must fight exclusively against the occupier and our rights. "

Debate on the state / two states, Khalil pointed out that Noam Chomsky who came to Gaza says the opposite of Edward Said's position. For him international recognition involves two states "As a Palestinian, I was victimized and abused. The Nakba is in me. I was born here, this is my country. Gets a Russian nationality and I have nothing. The law has the power, not morality. With globalization, I hope that the barriers will disappear. Why the international community does accept this collective punishment? "

Amira Hass reminds Khalil lived 3 years in the camp of Jabaliya and Rafah two years. He explained that the drones have killed 650 people. These are war crimes, an international court will judge them.
In November, the parents of Rachel Corrie came to Gaza. A week after their departure, the Israeli offensive began.

7) The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP Rabah Mohanna, politburo member)

On the wall, there is the portrait of George Habash, founder of the PFLP and Mustafa Abu Ali, former Secretary General, assassinated by the Israelis in 2001. "Zionism is a part of international capitalism and the imperialist world system. Zionists came here to expel the Palestinians and replace ". "We're in the worst of situations. Arabs are used and managed by Americans, not a true democracy. Cooperation with the Americans is bad for the Arabs. The Arab revolutions were not ripe for a radical change. This affects Palestine, we are part of this world. " "In Syria, it began with a true popular movement and it was used after by groups linked to Saudi Arabia. U.S. aid has divided Syria. "

Rabah list five key issues:

Break off negotiations with Israel.
Palestinian division is unbearable with a shared responsibility. They only think about their interest.
The opposition of the two governments is very detrimental.
We must end the siege of Gaza and colonization.
Economic and social situation in Gaza is very serious.
Rabah said that the religious question is secondary. What is central is the Israeli occupation, harassment and oppression.
many PFLP activists are in prison, including the Secretary General Ahmed Saadat. Many activists were killed. Rabah recalls the words of Rehavam Zeevi executed by the PFLP in 2001: "we must crush the Palestinians under our shoes like insects."

He explains social action PFLP: "we focus on kindergartens, projects, institutes, hospitals (as in Jabaliya), NGOs, aid to farmers and fishermen."

The PFLP has a national conference every 6 years. The latest has just taken place. 2/3 of the management have been changed. He now has 20% of women (which is not obvious in Palestinian society) and 35% of youth in the direction. "We are the third largest Palestinian party. We want to unify a third pole with the Communist Party and the party of Mustafa Barghouti. "
Rabah reaffirms the position of his party for One Democratic State in Palestine: "no matter that people are Christians, Muslims, Jews and others. Two states, it has failed. "
He recalled that the Zionist project is the transfer: "they want to achieve through aggression, war, pressure and substandard living conditions. They resist. "

8) UAWC (union committees agricultural workers), Mohamed al-Bakri, General Secretary

The Gaza Strip is 360 km2 and 1,750,000 inhabitants. It is an agricultural land and it disappears. She rose from 120,000 dunums (one third of the area) in 2006 to 73,000 today. There is a very big problem of food security. The problem is more political than military: we do not know when Gaza is free.

The Oslo Accords had said that fishermen could fish up to 20 miles offshore. In fact, Israel has banned fishing beyond 2000 and there is very little fish on the coast. The occupation forces fired on the boats and stop fishermen. Programs are made ââso that they have nets and new boats, but we need a political solution.
Same problem for farmers. There is good soil where there were colonies. 34% of the arable land is located along the barrier. Israelis prohibit sometimes grow to more than a Km They regularly shoot the peasants. It is 150 deaths in 7 years not counting the many slaughtered animals.

Every 100 m, the Israelis have dug wells to capture groundwater from the West Bank. Should be 180 million m3 of water for agriculture in Gaza. With wells, the aquifer produces only 110 million. Result, the water table is filled with sea water and brackish. He has a desalination plant, but it is idling with the electricity shortage.

The situation in Gaza is chaotic: no work, a divided Palestine, not gasoline. At the hospital which treats cancers, there are only three doctors and some drugs. Patients who are treated in Israel must pay dearly. Gaza produces strawberries. Israel has banned their export to the West Bank. For export to Holland, it's complicated and random. We pass by a company run by Palestinians in Israel.

During the recent floods, 3,000 greenhouses were flooded. It is imperative to replace them. Israel does not want and peasants lose their products. Suddenly, the people are forced to buy Israeli fruit. With the occupation, no development is possible.

We must push for our products that are cheap can be exported.
UAWC supports farmers to keep them on their land. They are 120,000 in Gaza with an essentially without family labor laborer. The owners are very small (on average 5 dunums or half hectare). Gaza is self-sufficient in vegetables and chickens, but must be imported eggs, red meat (Israel) and fish (Egypt through the tunnels).

"We are against the tunnels. International law gives Israel the responsibility for Gaza. Tunnels relieve us, but infers that Israel may extend the blockade. "
"Without a political solution, it will continue to run out of water, land, medical, education and it will explode."

Mohamed gave me 3 CD in English on his union, fishermen and farmers.
UAWC is a member of Via Campesina . The union helps farmers to organize themselves. It is related to ISM (International Solidarity movement) and Solidarity .
Mohamed says, facing the BDS, the Israelis make false certificates claiming that their products come from Tel Aviv.

Israel tried to sabotage a program UAWC with Australians saying qu'UAWC, the PFLP. The operation failed. But three UAWC leaders were arrested and released. "International law can grow and fish. Israel violates this right by saying that it is contrary to its security. " UAWC receives funding from the European Union, Spain, France, Oxfam, an Arabic background and solidarity movement.

UAWC has a development program (tractors cheap). During floods, the association was able to provide the sealing material.
UAWC has 29 local committees in Gaza and the West Bank 52.

The discussion ends of the political situation: "The European Union has paid millions of dollars for democracy. Who took advantage of the Arab Spring? The United States, Saudi Arabia! Where is the democracy? In Syria, Bashar is a bastard but where is the alternative? Al Qaeda tanks, not the people. And here, Hamas was very stupid intervening in Egyptian affairs. They gave an excuse for collective punishment " .

9) Ziad Medoukh, head of the Department of French at the University of Gaza Al-Aqsa

Ziad returned from a stay in France. He went through Amman, Jericho and Erez and struggled to return ("total humiliation"). He began to send regular updates on Gaza movement of French solidarity.

On Egypt, recalls that there has many family ties between that country and Gaza involving 50,000 families and that is the only neighboring country. It recognizes that the opening of the Rafah border is arbitrary but includes security reasons the Egyptian government and believes that the Israeli blockade is 100%. "If Egypt lost Gaza is lost" . On this point, I'm not convinced.

There has strained relations between the Egyptian government and the Gaza but no rupture. "Bearded Gaza are in a difficult situation. There was no demonstration against Egypt to Gaza, everyone needs " .
Ziad believes that the Egyptian army is stuck and can not open the border, but that all our efforts should target Israel. " There will be no third intifada because of the Palestinian division. Since Arafat's death, there is more leadership. Direction to go just outside the Palestinian society and not inside. Both governments benefit from the occupation to retain power. Both governments have lost legitimacy. Both are failing. But they know that people will not revolt against them. Both sides of political opponents were arrested and imprisoned. " "Young people prefer to take a bullet rather than Israeli Palestinian bullet. Everything is blocked. Egyptian mediation for Palestinian reunification stopped. There is a new Prime Minister in Ramallah honest but nothing changes. "

The discussion comes on the boycott. The concept is underdeveloped in Palestine because markets are captive. There are few Israeli products, no products colonies but the Palestinians have no room for maneuver. "All forms of solidarity are welcome. But the priority is to lift a blockade that lasted for 7 years. If there is not comparable to what is done in South Africa movement, it will not work. "

Ziad speaks of Palestinian civil society. "She has a key dual role: resistance against the blockade and occupation, the resistance against the Palestinian division. NGOs created in the 80-90 years continue to supervise the population. "

On education, the enrollment rate is 93% and there is very little illiterate. Study is to resist, it is a sign of hope. There are 5 major universities in Gaza and 100,000 students. But many do not find work after their studies or doing odd jobs.

45% of the population is under the poverty line. 2/3 of the population are in partial or total unemployment. There is an adaptation to scarcity.

2/3 of the population of Gaza are refugees es-es registered with UNRWA. It has an important role as regards food aid, education, medical centers ...

Under the blockade, Israel allows all prevent diplomats from entering Gaza, pull workers UNRWA ...

10) Some tracks

Focus our work in the solidarity movement against the blockade of Gaza is fundamental.

For information, work PCHR should be regularly published in French. We can add more information "emotional" for example from the member UJFP currently resides in Gaza. For example, to December 20, an idle Israeli sniper killed a Palestinian who was sorting garbage dresser 700 m from the fence and I do not think anyone has spoken.

Until now, there was no link between UJFP and Unadikum. It is harmful. Must consider all forms of joint work possible because our goals and vision are identical.

You must go to Gaza taking into account the difficulties in my short experience. I think the idea of ââa mission of ten people: the UJFP but also with our usual partners (ATMF Generation Palestine CCIPPP, BDS France). I'm already a candidate to leave.


Pierre Stambul published Israel / Palestine, Refusing to be an accomplice to the commitment , 600 pages, 25 euros, Acratie editions.

Available in good bookshops, if by ordering directly from the publisher.

Acratie editions
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