Monday, 30 April 2007

The Municipality

Fareed calls Gaza “hell on earth…” It’s chaos, he says, 14 year old kids carrying Kalashnikovs.
“If you need one, let me know,” he offers, “I have a friend with two. His wife bought them for protection.”
“His wife bought two Kalashnikovs?”
“Yeah, but they’re not cheap…”
“What does he do that needs a Kalashnikov?”
“He works in theatre.”

Gangs rule the streets, kidnappings and killings happen on a daily basis, mostly through inter-family criminal feuds. The government has virtually no power there - look at Alan Johnston. It seems everyone knows who has him, even the British (they’ve made very little noise about his kidnapping) but everyone is also aware that the PA has nothing compared to the influence of the family that holds him.

For the first time, Fareed tells me, he hears Palestinians wishing the Israelis would come back to Gaza.
“We had work in their greenhouses,” they say “and there was none of this gang warfare.”
The Israelis, meanwhile, must be loving this decent into anarchy, and are happy to allow the flow of arms into Gaza. The Palestinians go on killing themselves, and any rockets fired into Isreal keep the Israeli public afriad, and the government in control. It's an ideal situation for the current government, who would be eaten alive at the first sign of weakness.

If all else fails, the Israelis can always invent their own reality. Fareed tells thestory of a Goethe Institute employee who was trapped in Gaza – he took four months of wrangling and paperwork to get her out. She was originally Palestinian, born in Gaza, but moved to Germany at aged 13. The Israelis had her on record as a Palestinian, with an identity card. She knew nothing about it, and after she entered Gaza for work, she was stuck. No Israeli permission to be in there, she now couldn’t get out. The Israelis insisted she was Palestinian. She insisted she was German.
In the end they had to process a Palestinian ID for her, and with that apply to be allowed OUT of Gaza. The Israelis finally relented, and gave her a four hour window during which she had to cross Allenby bridge into Jordon and never return.

(You are not who you say you are)

Looking out the window of his kitchen, he points to the building next door. “This is the last Jewish building on this road. The next one is Arab. See the new tarmac we have on our road? It ends at those houses. We get our rubbish collected regularly, they don’t. It’s open racism.” It’s a line in the road, not just figurative, but a physical line where the new tarmac ends and the old roads begin.