Sleepless in Gaza

The Miqdads showing the case from which money and gold were stolen.

18 November

Four nights ago, at 1.30 am, four soldiers blasted down the external door and entered the flat of the Miqdad family in Gaza City. The adults and the terrified children were forced into one room. Meanwhile more than 30 tanks were called up. Another 60 soldiers entered the small building and ransacked the flats. They were searching for arms but found none. The Miqdads say that soldiers stole the family’s life savings, US$30,000 worth of Jordanian currency and gold. Many Palestinians prefer to hoard their wealth than to trust a bank with it. Five young men were taken away by the soldiers. Three have been released.

Last night was also a very disturbed one for the Miqdads. At 10.30 pm Israeli helicopters attacked the nearby Palestinian Security Headquarters with rockets and machine-guns. Bulldozers destroyed the main gate and soldiers ransacked offices. They claimed they found weapons. This was the eighth consecutive night on which there have been attacks on buildings in Gaza City.

Not only are the people being woken by helicopters, rockets, shells and fire from automatic weapons – which starts the dogs barking – but, as it is Ramadan, at about 2.30 am men make rounds of the streets drumming and chanting, to encourage the faithful to prepare food to eat before dawn when the fasting resumes. From 4 until 5, loud speakers relay the call to prayer and then ensure that the prayers are heard by those not attending a mosque.

In spite of the broken nights, most people seem fairly lively during the day. Work, for those fortunate enough to be employed, starts at 7 am and finishes at 1 pm, an hour earlier than normal. At this time of year, Ramadan is less onerous than when it falls during the warmer weather and longer days of summer. Then it is much more of a discipline not to eat or drink between sunrise and sunset, particularly to drink.

A lot of praying is being done and a large proportion of men finger little tasselled rosaries to help them reflect on the 99 names of God. Women use them too, but not so obviously. For many Palestinians, their faith keeps them going through year after year of oppression. Texts from the Koran are in evidence in homes and offices. A little shop over the road from where I am staying thrives just by selling framed sayings from the Qur’an. I greeted the bearded owner with ‘Sabbah al-khayr’ (Good morning), to which he replied ‘Hi!’ I may stand out as clearly as a Martian, but in their courteous way the Palestinians welcome me and when they know why I am here, they thank me warmly for coming.

Why am I here? I am against the fighting, the killing and injustice. Israeli government policies and actions by the Israeli military are making life hell for the people living in the West Bank and Gaza, these illegally occupied territories. Some right-wing Israelis openly propagate their solution: the forcible ‘transfer’ of the Palestinians from the West Bank into neighbouring Arab countries with car stickers saying ‘Transfer = Security + Peace’ in Hebrew.

The world has learnt that three settlers and eight military were killed in Hebron recently. Two British Quakers were there at the time and another two members of our team joined them later. Each attack makes more distant the possibility of agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. However, what the world seems not to be aware of is that on average three Palestinians, most of them civilians, are killed every day by the Israeli military, and many more are injured. As most of these shootings are scattered they do not attract media attention. This morning a woman told me that her 75-year-old grandfather was shot dead by settlers when he went out with his donkey cart to water his trees.

The way the Palestinians are being treated now is similar to the way Jews were treated in Germany and elsewhere in Europe before and during the Second World War. Many stood with the Jews then. I feel that we cannot but stand with the Palestinians suffering such injustice now.

Tony Davies, Gaza Strip, 18/11/02

Published by Quaker Peace & Social Witness,
Friends House, Euston Road, London NW12BJ

Telephone: 020 7663 1073 Fax: 020 7663 1049


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