Video: Unrest In Egypt Squeezes Gaza

Gaza: The economy under the siege

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Khalil S. Shaheen, Head of the Economic Unit at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, talks about the Gaza economy under the siege, how the occupation and the siege affect directly the economy, and therefore the development of the oppressed Palestinian people, denying them the right to develop and have normal lives as human beings.

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Latest report from Gaza on the continued closure of the Rafah crossing and its implication on life in the world’s largest open air prison

An inspirational video on the Water for Gaza campaign of the MAIA Mural Brigade Please help us spread the word

The right to clean water is universal! US based MAIA Mural Brigade has been invited back to occupied Palestine’s Gaza Strip to create an international, multi-media mural project about the universal right to clean water!

Check out our Indiegogo campaign page for more information about this project and how you can be a part of it! Please share widely! http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/mai…

Video: Israeli blockade of Gaza sea port began in 1967

Al-Ahram Commentary: Gaza depressed about Egypt by Rana Baker

Rana Baker Al-Ahram

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are aware of and strongly affected by the hostile campaign brewing against them in neighbouring Egypt. Especially disheartening for Gaza’s Palestinians was General Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s decision to close the Rafah Crossing hours after his speech that ended Mohamed Morsi’s rule on 3 July. For the residents of Gaza, this was enough of an indicator to expect a “return” to the dark days of Hosni Mubarak.

The driving force behind such accusations and outright incitement to murder is Hamas’s allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood, now deemed the enemy of the Egyptian revolution and democracy. This anti-Muslim Brotherhood fanfare has made it easier for anchors on Egyptian state and privately owned TV channels to lump the Palestinians into a single group of Hamas.

Israel’s siege on Gaza and the subsequent closure of most commercial crossing points made Egypt the lifeline and only gateway for the vast majority of the Gazan population. The besieged people of Gaza not only depend on Egypt for travel purposes, but also for most of their goods and construction materials.

Today, an atmosphere of apprehensiveness is enveloping the Strip. Instead of watching Egyptian TV drama series customary in the month of Ramadan, Gazans are glued to news channels, speculating on events as they unfold in Cairo and all over Egypt.

For now, life in the Strip seems to have come to a standstill with travel plans either cancelled or postponed and prices of basic commodities soaring due to the recent military crackdown on the tunnels that link Gaza and Egypt. The crackdown, which caused total destruction or damage to 80 per cent of the tunnels, comes in response to allegations that Hamas militants smuggle themselves into Sinai and Cairo to aid the Brotherhood. This claim, however, has never been substantiated despite numerous claims by army officials about “investigations” into the purported attacks.

To make matters worse, Palestinians in the Strip are now forced into filling their vehicles with Israeli fuel, which is twice as expensive as its Egyptian counterpart. Any rumour about Egyptian fuel at Gaza’s gas stations means kilometres-long queues of vehicles, sometimes blocking roads from the early hours of the morning. This has also led to increased profits to Israeli suppliers directly involved in the colonisation of Palestinian land.

But the economy is not the only side of Palestinian daily life affected by the unrest in Egypt. Politically, Gazans are observing Israeli reactions to the military stepping into the political scene again, weeding the Muslim Brotherhood from electoral politics, with great concern. The Israeli government seems to be satisfied with the Egyptian military’s moves, despite that the Muslim Brotherhood maintained relations with the right-wing government of Israel under Morsi’s rule.

This has caused further anxiety among Gaza’s Palestinians who deem Egypt’s relations with Israel a thermometer by which to measure and expect Egypt’s policies towards Gaza and its residents now and in the future. This feeling of anxiety is coupled with mistrust towards the Egyptian army whose long-standing security cooperation with Israel continues to suffocate the Palestinians.

Because of the military-instigated anti-Palestinian propaganda, Gazans not only fear for themselves but also for their children who are studying or working in Egypt. Today, many Palestinians in Egypt find themselves under the threat of being arrested or attacked merely because of their origin.

To further complicate the situation, students who left Egypt to spend the summer vacation with their families in Gaza are worried about the prospect of not being able to return to their universities when classes resume in September.

All this has made many Palestinians feel obliged to reiterate examples of their long history of support for the Egyptian people’s struggles against foreign invaders and more recently, the 25 January Revolution. In fact, Palestinians were quick to condemn Mohamed Morsi for his November constitutional declaration in which he gave himself sweeping powers even over the judiciary. These statements, however, go either unheard or downplayed and belied.

It is also worth noting that people in Gaza are themselves divided over the crisis in Egypt. Palestinian secular elites and VIPs who flourished under Mubarak hope to see the old regime back in power — this means that they fully support the military takeover. Hamas supporters, on the other hand, are calling for the reinstatement of “legitimacy”. Leftists and moderates find both camps equally guilty of protecting the interests of Western imperialism in the Arab world’s most influential country.

Overall, a deep feeling of disappointment in the Egyptian revolution characterises most discussions, and many lament the uncritical dismissal of Palestinians as ungrateful “terrorists”. Meanwhile, the Hamas government is calling on the interim Egyptian government to open its borders to Palestinians. The Egyptian government, so far, has only agreed to allow patients and holders of foreign passports into Egypt.

The author writes for The Electronic Intifada.

Gaza’s Ark: A bid to break Israel’s blockade… from within

GAZA CITY: Palestinian labourers and foreign activists are working tirelessly to transform a large fishing boat into “Gaza’s Ark” with the aim of exporting local produce in the latest bid to break Israel’s blockade on the coastal strip.

The Ark, which is being fitted out to carry goods and more than 100 passengers, is near completion and is expected to set sail for Europe in the latest high-profile attempt to challenge Israel’s maritime lockdown on the tiny Hamas-run territory.

If they are successful, this will be the first time goods from Gaza have been exported by sea since the signing of the 1994 Oslo Peace Accords.

Significantly, this attempt to alleviate the effects of the seven-year blockade comes from within Gaza, where locals refurbishing the 24-metre-long (78 feet) vessel want to take matters into their own hands, rather than waiting for help from the outside world.

“This will help fishermen, farmers and factory workers in Gaza to market their products,” said Abu Ammar Bakr, who was a fisherman for 40 years before turning his hand to repairing boats.

Mohammed Abu Salmi, who owns a furniture shop, was equally buoyed by the prospect of shipping products overseas.

“Export by sea will resuscitate farming and light industry in Gaza and will ease unemployment… and help to lift this oppressive blockade,” he told AFP.

“We have great experience and produce great furniture,” Abu Salmi boasted.

“We exported to Israel and from there to Europe before the blockade, and people abroad are asking for our products,” he said, pointing proudly at the dining tables and chairs fashioned in his workshop.

Among the items which are to be carried on board for export are fruit and farm produce, furniture, embroidery and other crafts, organisers say.

“The aim is not aid or humanitarian like the boats that were coming to Gaza, it’s a commercial venture to support the Palestinian economy and pave the way to exporting Palestinian products,” project manager Mahfouz Kabariti said.

But a sense of apprehension marks the preparations.

A plaque at the entrance to the quay on which the Ark is being built remembers the nine Turkish activists who were killed in May 2010 during an Israeli raid on a six-ship flotilla trying to reach Gaza in defiance of the blockade.

Although the international outcry which followed the deadly raid forced Israel to significantly ease the terms of its blockade on Gaza, which was first imposed in 2006, tight curbs remain in place on exports and travel.

Breaking the siege ‘from within’

Under the terms of the current restrictions, Gaza fishermen are not allowed to enter waters more than six nautical miles (11 kilometres) from the shore, with naval patrol boats known to fire on those who step out of line.

It is the prospect of a confrontation with Israeli forces that is worrying some of those planning to join the boat on its blockade-breaking mission, with Abu Salmi afraid the navy might “open fire and sink the Ark, or arrest those on board like they did in 2010 and seize the goods”.

Organisers of the project are unsure what action Israel might take.

“I hope Israel won’t stop the boat from sailing to European countries,” said Kabariti.

“It is natural that the Israeli authorities might not allow a boat to set sail from Gaza. But we want to send our message to the world, whether the occupation allows it to sail or not,” he said.

“We want to draw attention to the blockade which is preventing Palestinian products from being exported, and we have an ark that we can use to do it.”

Among those planning to join the Ark on its maiden voyage are a number of foreign activists, who include Swedish national Charlie Andreasson who also took part in the ill-fated Freedom Flotilla of 2010.

The aim, said Andreasson, is “to break the siege”.

“Why would they stop it?” he asked, somewhat naively.

“We’ve been sending ships to Gaza to try to break the siege, and this time we are turning it around and sending a ship from Gaza out to Europe with goods — so we’re trying to break the siege from within,” he told AFP.

Andreasson has been working on the project since early June, when activists managed to raise enough money from European donors to buy up the old fishing boat.

From its purchase to completion, including labour, Gaza’s Ark will have cost an estimated $150,000 (114,000 euros), with its website showing that so far, $110,000 has been raised.

Dozens of people are working to restore the Ark, with local fishermen receiving a salary for their labour and foreign activists volunteering.

The project’s mission statement, according to the website, is to “challenge the illegal and inhuman Israeli blockade”.

For fisherman Bakr, it would be a huge blow if the Ark — which will sail under the Palestinian flag as well as several international ones — never left port.

Fisherman and factory workers would have to watch their goods “festering in warehouses because they’re unable to export them”, he said.

This article first appeared here