Harrowing blogs from Oxfam staff in Gaza

To get a feel for life in besieged Gaza right now, have a look at some riveting eye witness accounts here.

Oxfam staffer Mohamed Ali writes
‘We have one day left of food and the nappies I bought two weeks ago are nearly gone. They are not good quality as little has been able to enter this strip of land since the blockade was imposed on us eighteen months ago. Bad quality nappies means unpleasant leakages, and for the last few days the little ones have had to be bathed in freezing cold water.

We are now eleven, huddled together in my parents’ dining room. My brother and I and our families moved there, thinking that the first floor may be the safest option. There is a saying in Arabic, which says, ‘ death in a group is a mercy’, I guess if we die together maybe just maybe we will feel less of the pain than in doing so alone.

I have had 8 hours sleep since the beginning of this conflict; we can hear attacks almost every minute.
I am not afraid of dying – I know that one day we all must die. But not like this, not sitting idly in my home with my children in my arms waiting for our lives to be taken away. I am disgusted by this injustice.’

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Comments

3 Responses to “Harrowing blogs from Oxfam staff in Gaza”
  1. Pushpanath K

    Dear Bro Mohamed,

    You touched me profoundly.I share my solidarity with you and your fighting spirit.

    I will share your story- “I do not want to die like this” to many.
    Reading this made me not just angry but convinced me to fight harder.
    with best wishes for you, and your lovely family.

  2. David

    I did find this article very interesting. Life for Gazan civilians right now sounds like hell. Absolute hell. As a supporter of Israel’s military operation, I found myself asking “what can the Gazan people possibly do to stop this crisis?”, and I found myself responding “absolutely nothing”, and that is terrible. It is because I am so horrified that people should have to endure what the Gazan civilian population are currently facing that I first got involved with Oxfam.

    Yet, in my opinion the complexities and context of what is probably the most complex and politically charged conflict in the world are often ignored, and this is an opinion defended below.

    For anybody who might wish to know, I am Jewish, though barely practicing, and have visited Israel once, but I am also a Politics student, and I would like to my opinions on the subject are as devoid of personal bias as I possibly could provide them. I do not always support Israeli foreign policy, and did not do so during the Lebanon war of 2006, although I would point out that the rocket fire on the Lebanese border has stopped since that war, and that is a point worth considering in this context.

    I will begin firstly with discussing the rocket fire. The small, in relative terms, number of Israeli fatalities as a result of Hamas’ rocket fire is often cited as evidence of the disproportionality of Israel’s attacks, and indeed it does seem initially as though Israel’s military campaign to stop the rocket fire is perhaps over-zealous given such small numbers of fatalities. However, the reason why this figure has remained so low has nothing to do with Hamas’ moderacy, and everything to do with the measures undertaken by the Israeli government to protect its civilians from rocket fire. When a rocket is fired from the Gaza strip, it is tracked by Israeli surveillance teams on the border, and an air raid siren is sounded in the city at which the rocket is aimed at, allowing residents in those cities to take up positions in air-raid shelters. The lives of people in these cities are, whilst nowhere near as distressing as those currently documented in Gaza, by no means desirable, and remember that these rockets attacks have been happening regularly for well over five years, with up to 60/70 such rockets being sent over per day before Israel launched Operation Cast Lead (If
    anyone would like me to send them a testament of somebody
    living in one such city, Sederot, I would be happy to do so). Whilst some of these rockets are home-made, many are also sophisticated weapons, smuggled into the Gaza strip from Iran, and capable of killing scores if successfully targeting a densely populated civilian area. Which is exactly what Hamas does, firing the vast majority of the rockets at the three main cities which are within range of their weapons. Hamas may have only succeeded in killing a few Israelis in the last year (I forget the exact statistic), but I think I have shown this is not down to their own moderacy (anyone wishing to learn about this “moderacy” should take a look at the official Hamas charter, http://www.palestinecenter.org/cpap/documents/charter.html , but I’ll talk about this more later), but down to the Israeli government’s efforts to protect their civilians. Unfortunately Hamas are not, I believe, attributable with the same level of effort in this respect, purposely hiding rockets (which they know Israeli forces will seek to target before they can be launched into Israeli territory) in mosques, launching these rockets in densely-populated civilian areas etc. I ask what should Israel’s reaction to the rocket fire be? Is over 5 years of rocket fire not enough waiting? A ceasefire now, before Isreal has time to cut the supply lines of the rockets, and destroy the stockpiles which Hamas has been building up (and increasing
    the range of) over the recent 6-month ceasefire (throughout
    which, by the way, rocket fire continued), will mean the entire military operation will achieve nothing, and the dead will have perished for nothing also. It is important to remember that this military operation is NOT a revenge attack on the Palestinian people, but a concerted and planned effort to reduce the number of rockets fired across
    the Gaza border. The proportion of Hamas casualties to civilians shows this, although I once again wish to add how terrible those civilian casualties are.

    People may object to what I have stated above by saying that the rocket fire would stop if Israel ease the crippling economic blockade that has been imposed on the Gaza strip. To such objections, I point out firstly that rocket fire existed far before the blockade was ever imposed, and indeed that Hamas has been responsible for targeted attacks on Israeli civilians since the movement’s very inception. Whether the means be gunfire, rockets, or suicide bombs, Hamas have always rejoiced (you only have to go on youtube to find the celebratory videos) in the murder of Israeli citizens. Indeed, it is specifically stated in the charter cited above, the official Hamas charter
    http://www.palestinecenter.org/cpap/documents/charter.html), that the aims of Hamas are to anhilate the Jewish (they will
    not use the word Israeli) people. Here is a taster for anybody who wants to read this document: The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him! It is true that the blockade is crippling for many Gazans, but should Israel really assist a government with the declared aims of Hamas? Does this not seem a bizarre demand to anybody else.
    Israel has stated previously that a pre-requisite for
    negotiating with Hamas is for them to recognise the right to
    exist of the state of Israel. Yet Hamas will not renounce
    its aims “fight the Jews (and kill them)” (quoted from the charter).

    What I fail to understand is that Hamas are exactly the type of organisation that Oxfam and other NGOs normally campaign against. A totalitarian regime which fails to
    protect its people. Look at the way political opposition was silenced and indeed exterminated in the recent clashes with the other main party in Palestinian politics, Fatah. And look at the indoctrination that Hamas feeds its own people.PLEASE WATCH this because I think this is the most horrifying thing of the
    lot. http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=r1lMKX-Le1I . If Hamas are
    allowed to continue in power, and such indoctrination continues, for 10-20 years (for there will be no elections in Gaza, in light of the suppression of political opposition that has already occured), what hope is there of peace in the middle-east? With children taught to preach the killing of Jews from the age of 4 (who knows, maybe earlier?), how
    could there ever be a lasting peace. A ceasefire now would
    be a quick-fix, rolling back the problem, which grows in
    magnitude in proportion as it is left untouched. This is why
    I do not suppport it.

    I believe that there is a humanitarian obligation on both sides (i.e. there must be a ceasefire from both sides) to bring about the end of the fighting but I also believe that if the Israeli government were confident that the rocket fire on behalf of Hamas would cease then their military operation would already have been concluded. I think that the rocket fire will only cease if the supply line is cut, because the antagonism of Hamas is unlikely to disappear, particularly so long as they continue to preach the killings of Israeli citizens. Nonetheless, as each day goes on, I find myself less resolutely defending Israel’s actions because the number of innocent victims is so high. Any state should be able to take measures to protect its citizens, particularly from the executive body of another state, but the humanitarian cost of this conflict (if indeed it can be called that, because, as is often pointed out, Hamas are nowhere near on a level playing field with Israel, though throughout Hamas’ history it has used whatever weapons available to maximise civilian casualties, so perhaps this is a good thing) has been disastrously high.

    My antipathy towards the Hamas movement is no less strong though, and I truly believe that any ceasefire which leaves Hamas in power will represent merely a short-term fix, before a new war breaks out between the two peoples once again. I disagree with the statment that actions of aggression do nothing to bring about peace and stability. To use WWII as an example (though obviously the circumstances are very different), Britain and France’s declaration of war on Germany did eventually bring about peace and stability, and though an “act of aggression”, it is widely seen as a good that the allied powers intervened as opposed to continuing an unsuccessful appeasement policy. Does Israel have to wait until Hamas, who have repeatedly stressed their aims to “kill the jews” (again from the Hamas charter), has the means to realise those aims, or at least strike deeper into Israeli society than at present before it can wage a legitimate war on Hamas, a war which will doubtless kill thousands?

    Oxfam’s stance on this
    conflict is both expectable and correct for an NGO. NGOs play a hugely important role in society in terms of protecting human rights, and thus it is important for Oxfam’s goals to be in line with this. What they should be
    doing in addition to calling for a ceasefire however, is working with the Israeli government
    to compose innovative ideas as to how they can get aid to
    the people of Gaza so that it is safe for Oxfam aid workers,
    and safe for the people of Gaza to receive food and medical
    supplies. It seems clear that Israel will not abandon the campaign until it feels it has achieved its targets of eliminating rocket fire, and thus Oxfam should be looking to make the most out of what realistic options are available to them. Their campaign will no doubt result in the provision of vital supplies to Gazan
    families, and in this respect, even though I support Israel’s right to launch this operation, I am wholly supportive.

    Anyway, anybody still reading is clearly very
    interested in the conflict, and no doubt will have something
    to say in response.

    David

  3. David

    Having re-read my comments above, I would like to point out that the above argument was copy and pasted from a previos email discussion I was having. As such it completely omits a direct response to Mohamed Ali, the Oxfam staffer who wrote the horrifc blog above.

    To Mohamed, I would extend my deepest sympathies to you, your family and your people. My opinions above are not meant to undermine your suffering in any way. Your story is deeply moving, and I pray that your suffering will soon cease, and that you and your family will be protected during this terrible time.

    I hope you can understand my arguments in the previous article, and view such comments not as an ignoring and overlooking of how despairing these last few days must have been for you, but as a genuine belief as to what is most likely to bring long term peace to the people of Palestine and the people of Israel.

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