Palestinian refugees queuing at UNRWA to receive subsidies.(Lara Aburamadan)
The more I tread through Gaza’s roads, the more I get trapped into a web of complexities. “Do not be too political” I whisper to myself. I try too hard but I fail. Cars, buses, food; all stamped with Hebrew calligraphy. To me, given my Hebraic illiteracy, the stamps represent one thing: a calligraphic occupation.
It is me grappling with a bunch of irritating realities in a city of over-expressive details. Even the few coins I tucked into my pocket this morning are stamped. Israel’s warships continue to dot the sea and there at the far end of my sight lies the untouchable: my mother’s ethnically cleansed home of origin, Almajdal (Ashkelon nowadays). Ashkelon is a glowing Israeli city that is close enough for the people of Gaza to see, yet, never to reach. When it comes to us, the inferior demographic bomb, Ashkelon is nothing better than a kill-on-the-spot zone.
I was fourteen years old when Israel “disengaged” from Gaza in 2005. At the time, I was too naïve to fathom the reasons behind and consequences of such political move. Years later, I would conclude that it only helped desensitize us to the occupation by reducing the level of direct physical interaction between us, the people of Gaza, and Israel’s facts on the ground. The people of the West Bank, on another hand, paid the price; house demolitions soared and new settlements were built up to redeploy thousands of rooted-up settlers.
International agencies, especially those concerned with the refugees such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), are, deliberately or not, helping keep us from being in flagrant touch with the injustices of Israel’s occupation. The majority of Gaza’s refugees depend on the UNRWA for subsidies, work, even medical treatment and schooling for their children.
A year ago, during the Gaza-based Israeli Apartheid Week, we hosted a Palestinian refugee known as Hajj Abu Hezaima. Hajj Abu Hezaima witnessed the ethnic cleansing of his village, Zarnouga in 1948. Tears rolled down the old man’s face as he told us his story. Like many refugees, the Hajj had worked at the UNRWA for several years, and in the end, he made an important remark: “The refugee problem could be solved; but the UNRWA is cementing it.”
The UNRWA, just like any other UN-controlled agency, is dominated by Israel’s most powerful ally: the US. More than a year ago, when John Ging was still in charge of the UNRWA, he told me that in order achieve a lasting peace with Israel, we must opt for and fully support a solution based on diving Palestine into two states. When I asked him about the fate of refugees, he said that we must “sacrifice” in order to achieve peace.
Now, close your eyes and imagine Gaza, without the UNRWA.
Palestinian refugees, whether inside Palestine or in the Diaspora, constitute the vast majority of the Palestinian population everywhere. Those who continue to live in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria or elsewhere are those who suffer the most due to the harsh conditions under which they are forced to live. Now if the UNRWA and UNRWA-like agencies disappeared, the majority of the Palestinian population, the refugees, will lose the last straw. They will suddenly be exposed to the untamed brutality of Israel’s Aryan-akin practices. With no subsidies, clothing or appropriate schooling to speak of, Palestinian refugees everywhere will flood the streets realizing that the time has come for the long-awaited return. A third intifada?
Everyone is doomed
But everyone in the Palestinian society seems to be doomed. The non-refugees are highly dependent on foreign aid and the fate of their families is hanging at the PA’s “appropriate” handling of what Israel deems as its “security.”
Now that Saeb Erekat is back to the table, he, once again, is placing us in a falsified context where the oppressor and the oppressed project themselves as equal parts. This settlement-expansion process i.e. peace process, is further expanding the gap between the Palestinians and their leadership.
Ma’an News Agency presented a poll on its website wherein 68.7% regarded the current Amman negotiations as “pointless” with only 20.3% regarding them as “a positive step toward peace.” Eleven percent voted for “harmful to national reconciliation efforts.”
Negotiations have more than once proved to be useless. In fact, they proved to be damaging to the very essence of the Palestinian popular struggle i.e. the Right of Return.
A third intifada
I was born to a Gazan father and a refugee mother who has never experienced life in refugee camps. My grandfather was a lucky man; when Zionist gangs expelled him from Ashkelon, he took everything he needed to start a life in Gaza without being convicted to any of the thousands of UN-distributed tents. I have always been ashamed of myself finding it embarrassing not to have been raised in a refugee camp, or, at least, of not having a touching story to share and write about.
There in the folds of three-room shacks, in the eyes of barefoot kids weaving through stench-smelling alleyways, in the angry melodies of the first and second intifada, lies, in utter anguish, the third intifada.
In every non-refugee house, deprived of representation, constantly looked at as the “spoilt” who sacrifices “the least” shrieks the bitterness caused by a life of uncertainties.
People everywhere are born to be free. Enslavement is not only illegal because it causes human miseries, but because it essentially opposes the sound human nature that views fellow human beings as brothers and sisters not as slaves or second-class citizens. Unfortunately, Israel is singling itself out of this category.
Since the 1993 Oslo Accords, more Palestinian land has been expropriated and the Nakba never ceased. The Palestinian leadership, whether in Gaza or the West Bank, proved to be politically disabled; a broken record at best. Israel’s Apartheid is breaking new grounds passing new racist laws every day. World leaders are becoming more biased than they have ever been turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the atrocities committed against the Palestinian people on a daily basis. Isn’t it the time for a popular Palestinian revolution in the form of a third intifada?