Reflections on 2014

Travel buddies, that’s who we are.

New beginnings, they don’t give much of a meaning. To me, albeit with scattered breaks of delight and moments of awe, life is one uninterrupted continuum of worried striving, endeavors trying to come together to make some sense; the wise will discover this early, early enough to not care too much or too little. As such, I have never been fond of recollections, personal reflection or stringent resolutions. December is just December, and a new year is just that.

However, I am going to give it a try this year. I’ll try to look back and say something. I plead with you to excuse what will probably appear to you as a hectic flow of semi-ideas; it is still an attempt, give it credit would ya?

Ehm.

I’ll begin with the most worrying.

My hair loss accelerated this year. I blame my paternal genes for that, but I also blame Gaza’s poor, salty water, the Einstein in me who wouldn’t stop thinking, and the Shampoo commercials for selling myths.

Hang on, it gets serious, I promise.

I discovered some great music. I can positively say that my music collection is the best you can find in the whole middle east. By the way I recommend you check my Justin Bieber folder. (Kidding!)

In 2014, I made my first money as an adult. It was not planned, and it was not much, but it was a first, and firsts are always worthy of appreciation.

And day by day, I made some friendships solid, friendships I am positive will last beyond borders or grey hairs, inshAllah; and for that, for them, I am grateful.

In 2014, I experienced extreme fear once, when an artillery shell whizzed over my head. It caught me off guard, when I was recovering from a stolen bout of sleep. As it exploded far away, I felt momentary relief. Seconds later, another one followed.

In 2014, I cried not a single time. It’s a burden I carried with me from 2013, and which I will carry on to my next year. Rage, frustration or longing; all are forms of energy. Laws of energy conservation state that it can be neither created nor destroyed. I have no problem with the first part. Going through my third and longest war in just six years, I was lucky enough not to get hurt; However, I suffered, everyone did. No, everyone DOES. It still goes on. And with every passing day, more energy is ramped up inside of me, inside of us. I wonder if it’s not destroyed, where does it go?

In 2014, I dodged few bullets. Few others hit me; some were even aimed at my chest, but hey! What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – I guess!

I have company now more than ever, but I’ve never felt lonelier. Let’s just leave this orphaned idea here.

All the way through 2014 I stood tall; well, almost. But see, the thing is I don’t have much like for standing. If next year brings me someone who is clever, smart and cute enough to sweep me off my feet, she’ll be most welcome.

As I look back to 2014, I see a year in which we, collectively, stood against the ruthless, immoral Zionist war machine without a blink. I see my graduation, top of my class and with excellence. I see my close friends getting engaged and then married. I see myself happy for my friends who got engaged and married. I see my mother who is proud of me. She doesn’t say it much, but I know it. I see my father who sees in me more than I could ever see in myself.

As I look back to 2014, I see many blessings and hardships, but I now realize that with every hardship came an equal amount of ease, isn’t that the greatest blessing of all? Alhamdulillah.

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Gaza needs big solutions, not big headlines

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This summer, as Gaza was pummelled by tens of thousands of Israeli shells and bombs for two long months, you could sense an unlikely feeling amid the extreme fear and uncertainty: hope.
For 51 devastating days, Gaza occupied the headlines. People were talking about it and so were politicians. The story was widely getting out that 1.8 million people, who have been under a strict blockade for nearly eight years, were now suffering a third war. Albeit at a high cost, Gaza’s voice was finally being heard. An opening, even an end to the suffocation, it was assumed, was coming.

Today, those hopes have vanished and anxiety and uncertainty dominates. After a ceasefire was reached in
late August, world attention shifted. It was not until October12 that Gaza returned to the front pages with news that $5.4 billion had been pledged at a reconstruction conference in Cairo.

This led to an artificial feeling of satisfaction being promoted through the media… as if the donations were enough to make up for the failure of the international community to stop the war.

Soon after, details began to leak. Included in the sum were annual donations already made to the Palestinian Authority’s budget. Subtract those and only half the donated funds would go towards reconstruction.  Original estimates of the damages inflicted by the Israeli campaign were between $6 billion and $8 billion. Palestinian officials had asked for up to $4 billion and the actual commitments made were $2.7 billion.

With this budget – assuming all countries actually pay up – what destruction will be excluded from reconstruction plans? And what about the immediate relief efforts? Are they included in those $2.7 billion? Or are there immediate relief efforts at all?  On UNRWA’s Twitter feed, one finds no significant change in the statistics compared to those immediately following the ceasefire.

Nearly three months on, 32,000 of the 100,000 people left homeless by the war remain scattered around 18 UNRWA schools. The rest live hand-to-mouth existences in the homes of relatives or in rented accommodation.

And the harsh reality goes on: the number of refugees in Gaza relying on food aid has risen to 867,000 and 47 percent of Gazans are unemployed. The youth unemployment rate is nearly 70 percent.

But it is not just the unemployed who are penniless. Some 50,000 public sector employees have not been paid for a year thanks to the tightened Israeli blockade and inter-factional political rivalries. The power deficit, meanwhile, 54 percent before to the military onslaught, is now more than 70 percent. Gaza’s only power station lacks even fuel to run. Shouldn’t this fuel at least be part of immediate relief efforts?

The conference also failed to provide clear mechanisms or even a timeline for the reconstruction process, leaving it at the mercy of those who control the borders.

Soon after the ceasefire, Robert Serry, the UN envoy to the Middle East, devised a complex plan to monitor construction materials entering Gaza that included CCTV cameras, international inspectors and detailed lists of benefactors, all to placate Israel. Israel retains the right to veto any beneficiaries of aid, or major rebuilding projects.  The plan is supposed to alleviate Israeli “security concerns”.

But Serry is ignoring the fact that all the subterranean defences the Palestinian resistance established were in fact dug after the first war on Gaza in 2008, ie during the strictest years of the blockade when construction materials were already completely banned from entry.

He also fails, as a representative of the international community, to fulfil his obligations towards a nation under occupation. His plan not only legitimises the blockade, but makes the UN an accomplice.

It is also projected that the mechanism will slow down reconstruction to a rate at which Oxfam now estimates it will take 50 years to reconstruct Gaza. This is not to mention the corruption that is very likely to flourish around these many complicated steps. Furthermore, before the war, Gaza had a deficit of 75,000 housing units as a result of the blockade. Serry’s plan fails to explain how those units, which people living in the most crowded enclave on earth desperately need, are going to be built.

It’s no wonder people here are already making jokes about Serry’s name, which rhymes with that of Kerry, the US secretary of state whose years-long shuttle diplomacy has yielded a big zero.

The failures to address the Gazan crisis extend even deeper. What about the $600 million needed to solve the power problem? Following the war, Israel once again declined to increase power supplies to Gaza. Having eight hours of electricity a day is the best a Gazan can hope for.

And what about the vanishing water supply? In many areas, water is available only once a week, and in some of those, the salinity approaches that of sea water. And sanitation? The overwhelmed sewage treatment facilities and the outdated pipelines pose a constant public health risk.

Those are all real issues that are not going to vanish on their own. In 2012, UNRWA announced that the Gaza Strip would be uninhabitable as of 2020; the war only brought that date closer, making an already vulnerable community even more vulnerable. Also missing are any guarantees or mechanisms to prevent Israel from launching further aggression on the besieged and impoverished enclave. Talks to solidify the ceasefire were supposed to be held in Cairo a month ago, but they haven’t materialised; every time there seems to be a new excuse to postpone.

The conditions in Gaza are worse than ever. Many assume that the eruption of another bout of violence is just a matter of time.

And finally, the most crucial condition, and the one always overlooked: justice. There are absolutely no talks on any effort to hold accountable the criminals responsible for the murder of 2,205 Palestinians. Until justice is served and Palestinian rights are restored, the coal still smoulders under the ashes.


Date of publication 23 November, 2014 Here