Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|I live a priveledged life while..|
|08/21/01 at 22:33:05|
...my brother craves a mango.
I thought this article articulated the pangs of simple desires that our
brothers can't have, while the rest of the world ignores the fact.
By Daniel Williams
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, August 20, 2001; Page A07
GAZA CITY, Aug. 19 -- To understand Lufti Bishawi's bitter despair, it
would help to walk in his shoes. They are second-hand, bought from a
pile of cracked and smelly hand-me-downs in an open-air market, and they
are from Israel.
"Every time I take a step, I feel like I am walking in a swamp," said
Bishawi, 69. "How did I get to this point, when I am old, to end my life
in shoes thrown away by the enemy who robs me of everything?"
The Gaza Strip has been destitute ever since waves of refugees
inundated its once-placid towns 53 years ago during the birth of Israel and the
flight of Palestinians from their homes. But rarely has Gaza, now
teeming with more than 1 million people, sunk to its present depth of
misery. Never has it been so tightly sealed off for such a long time as it
has been during these past 11 months of the Palestinian conflict with
"There is simply no doubt we are in a survival mode," said Ismail Abu
Shehada, an assistant minister of industry in Yasser Arafat's
Palestinian Authority who is in charge of fledgling industrial and free-trade
zones in Gaza. "You just have to look out the window to see."
The skyline that bristled with cranes when peace talks were promising
is largely empty of construction activity. Traffic on central Gaza
City's usually jammed roads is light. Long lines at butcher shops and
vegetable stalls have moved to handout centers run by Islamic movements.
Young boys beg for food at government ministries.
Bishawi's business, peddling chlorine bleach by horse-drawn cart, has
all but collapsed. "People are barely washing clothes and floors with
soap, much less chlorine," he said. His income has declined from about
$10 a day last fall to $5 today. His extended family, which includes
unemployed sons and their wives and children, numbers 34. The older men
scrounge for porter jobs carrying goods around the market. Young grandsons
beg at a police station and bring home an egg or two when the officers
are feeling generous.
Such is the continuing toll of the nearly year-old conflict. Large
parts of industry stand idle, tens of thousands of laborers are barred from
jobs inside Israel, and checkpoints and blockades hinder trade among
towns within the Gaza Strip. Each month brings new lows in employment and
income. A similar trajectory is evident in the West Bank, but the
decline is softened slightly by numerous factors: People have their own
gardens, more people work abroad and send home remittances and workers risk
arrest by sneaking into Israel for day jobs.
In December, the unemployment rate in Gaza was 50 percent, according to
Palestinian Authority and U.N. statistics. By June, it had reached 64
percent, the industry ministry said. More than half of Gaza families saw
their incomes decline by 50 percent during the past 11 months. Almost
two-thirds of all Palestinians live below the poverty line, defined as a
monthly income of less than $400 for a family of six. In Gaza, eight of
10 people live below that threshold, the Palestinian Statistics Center
reported in July.
There is no end in sight. Israel has no plans to open Gaza to trade.
Fear of terrorist attacks may have marked the end of Gaza as a labor pool
for the Jewish state. "If they let us in, of course some people would
take the opportunity for revenge. Who here has not lost a son, a cousin,
a friend to death or injury?" asked Bishawi. Israelis shot his grandson
Rafiq, 16, in the leg during the early days of the current conflict.
"It is better to keep us from the Jews, for we hate them," Rafiq said.
He carries a card from the Palestinian Authority identifying him as a
wounded veteran of the conflict, which entitles him to a free school
Israel has closed off Gaza not only from itself, but from the rest of
the world. The airport is closed, no road links Gaza with the West Bank
or the Arab world to the east and north, and the crossing south and
west to Egypt is routinely blocked by Israeli soldiers.
Military positions ring the Gaza Strip and overlook it from settlement
blocs still controlled by Israel. Snipers hidden in towers and in a
house on the short border with Egypt keep Palestinians at bay. Gunboats
shoot at fishermen who venture more than two miles off the coast.
[In southern Gaza tonight, three members of a Palestinian family were
killed during a clash, the Associated Press reported. According to
Palestinian reports, activist Samir Abu Zeid, his son and daughter died when
a rocket hit their home in the town of Rafah during an exchange of
fire. The Israeli military acknowledged a clash in the area but insisted
its troops did not fire any rockets or shells. The army said the
Palestinian home was hit by a Palestinian mortar that fell short of its
intended target, an Israeli army position. Earlier, a 13-year-old Palestinian
in southern Gaza was shot in the chest and killed by Israeli troops,
according to Palestinian officials. Another Palestinian was killed near
an Israeli roadblock in the West Bank.]
It is difficult to measure belt-tightening for people who can't afford
belts. But a trip around Gaza City on Bishawi's cart gives a dusty view
of how Palestinians cope, buying fewer goods of that are of
increasingly poorer quality.
Bishawi begins his day at dawn, when it is still cool; his tin-roofed
house will be like an oven by 7:30. After a breakfast of beans and herbs
-- for the time being, eggs are off the menu -- he harnesses his horse
and begins his rounds from house to house and marketplace to
marketplace. The horse's stall is one room in the five-room house.
Bishawi pulled out old pictures of himself, taken in 1948 shortly after
he arrived here from near Jaffa, where he was a farmer. His horse
looked fit, and Bishawi looked sturdy under his checkered headdress. "We
thought we would be here for a day," he said.
Bishawi began his rounds at the Fras market, stopping at Mohammed
Masmiyeh's school-clothing store. Masmiyeh sells blue-striped smocks for
girls and blue shirts with clip-on ties for boys. He reduced the price for
smocks from $5 to $2.50, and for shirts from $7.50 to $5. "I ordered
only the cheapest clothes, from China," Masmiyeh said. "I should be doing
$150 to $200 business a day, but I am doing no more than $75. And no
one is buying new school bags."
Bishawi told Masmiyeh that his daughters-in-law would soon be coming to
shop. Back on the cart, Bishawi said, "They won't come. We are using
last year's clothes, except for the boy who gets his free."
One of his daughters-in-law walked to the U.N. refugee office to see
about provisions. Each month the family receives a bag of flour, rice and
sugar, plus $10 per child. The family also begs for help from the
Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, which provides limited food and
money. The Bishawis eat chicken every 10 days. "I would kill for a mango,"
sighed Sawson, the wife of Bishawi's oldest son, Hassan.
A butcher at the market loudly lamented a decline in business. "I used
to gross up to $1,000 a day," said Atif Moushtaha.
He pointed to a pile of fat. "I used to throw fat away. Now people
come, and they offer 10 shekels [25 cents] for it," he said. "So I sell
The owner of the chicken shop next door chimed in: "If anyone comes to
me, it will probably be for necks, even feet. People never used to eat
chicken feet before," said Jaber Habib, waving the knife he uses to
slaughter the birds. It had not drawn blood on this morning.
Bishawi returned after selling one bottle of bleach for 25 cents to a
store owner. His cart rolled by a fruit stand where two customers
inspected a softening melon. Zuhair Ashor, the proprietor, described his
business as a dead end. "I buy cheap fruit from Israel, but of course the
quality is worse," he said. "So no one will buy. Customers ask for
credit, but I can't give it." His daily turnover has dropped from $1,750 to
$750. "People only want tomatoes and maybe grapes from our own
Passing by Fras market again, Bishawi pointed out a group of men trying
on shoes from a pile in a dark corridor. This is where he bought his
black shoes, unlaced, now dusty from the morning journey. The customers
stood awkwardly on one leg while they tried some on. They barely spoke.
One commented simply, "What can anyone say? You see for yourself how
shameful this is. We are the garbage dump for Israel."
Bishawi nodded in agreement. "I don't tell anyone I bought my shoes
here," he said. "I say that I found these among old things of mine.
Really, it is too humiliating."
|Re: I live a priveledged life while..|
|08/22/01 at 01:19:37|
awesome article... if we don't feel anything after that one has to wonder if we are muslims still ...
Individual posts do not necessarily reflect the views of Jannah.org, Islam, or all Muslims. All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners. Comments are owned by the poster and may not be used without consent of the author.The rest © Jannah.Org