Unlike any other: A tough Ramadan in Gaza

Haitham Ahmed , Thursday 24 May 2018

Crippled by the Israeli siege and the continuance of internal divisions, Palestinians have little to celebrate in the Islamic holy month

A Palestinian man prepares Ramadan decorations including a lantern known as a "Fanous" on May 18, 2018, in Gaza City during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan AFP

These most blessed days of the Islamic year are sad for Palestinians. They are heartbroken and anxious about their future.

Ramadan came after dozens of martyrs were killed and thousands injured during March of Return demonstrations, and amid the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

Ramadan this year is unlike any other, especially amid reports in the media that US President Donald Trump will announce the “deal of the century” immediately after the holy month.

Salah Abdel-Ati, director of the Palestinian Centre for Political Research and Studies (Masarat) in Gaza and coordinator of the legal committee of the March of Return, said Ramadan this year comes at a very difficult time for Gazans in humanitarian terms due to the siege on Gaza and sanctions by the Palestinian Authority (PA) on civil servants. Combined, these have had catastrophic results, especially on healthcare.

Abdel-Ati, a lawyer, said there is also an inner struggle around those who have been victims of Israeli violations.

“There is a law stating the Association of Martyr Families and Injured is in charge of the injured and their families, and makes monthly payments to these families to help them live a decent life,” he explained.

“The injured are also taken care of as long as they are more than 40 per cent disabled. However, there are no exact figures about those who deserve assistance.

More than half the injuries are due to gas inhalation which damage the lungs and nervous system. Although they are categorised as injured, they do not receive assistance because they do not meet the criteria.”

Abdel-Ati noted that the martyrs of 2014 have not yet been registered due to inter-Palestinian divisions, and the wages of many martyr families, the injured and civil servants, have not been paid for months because of PA sanctions on the Gaza Strip.

Responding to suggestions that the siege is intentionally impoverishing Gaza ahead of plans to reinvade it and occupy it, Abdel-Ati said Israel tried to occupy Gaza before and launched three wars to no avail.

He said attempts to impoverish and weaken the Gaza Strip aim to undermine the will of the people and peaceful resistance.

“The occupation thought that by imposing a brutal siege and creating inhumane conditions, the people will surrender, which is impossible,” he said.

He continued that to overcome these circumstances, Palestinians must close ranks and the world community must guarantee an end to the siege, rebuild Gaza and give people their rights — primarily the right of movement for individuals and commodities.

Asaad Judah, member of the global communication committee for the March of Return, said that despite the massacre committed by Israel, marches continue despite lost momentum due to Ramadan.

Judah said that march leaders insist on keeping protests peaceful and maintaining wide activism which has so far achieved several key goals, primarily making the Palestinian cause a priority again, putting the right of return back on the international agenda, exposing Israel’s wanton killing, and putting focus on the suffering of Gazans and the crimes of the Israeli occupation.

It also triggered debate inside Israel between those who oppose and those who support Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians.

Some in Israel clearly support the demands of Gazans, whether in reaction to tragic events or in fear of further deterioration.

Responding to media reports that Trump will announce the “deal of the century” after Ramadan, Ahmed Abu Ratima, political activist and member of the media committee of the March of Return, said that regardless of the US’s position the Palestinian people have proven they cannot be overlooked.

Abu Ratima said the marches have shown that all Palestinians reject surrendering their rights, “which is a powerful message to the occupation and Trump”.

In a message to Washington, he said if Trump insists on imposing a deal, “[Palestinians] will be energised to confront these hostile plots against our rights, which we will never compromise.”

Political science professor in Gaza Abeer Abdel-Rahman said: “We Palestinians may seem to be the weakest link in this picture, and although the US envoy to the UN and her allies claim Palestinian rejection of the deal is secondary, Palestinian acceptance of the deal is crucial and the key for success.

The lack of an effective and loud international response to the Gaza massacre and relocating the US embassy is a clear message to all Palestinians to accept or shut up.

We saw how Israel brutally silenced Gaza through its fascist army which killed more than 112 civilian protesters, and injured more than 13,000 since the start of March of Return.”

Abdel-Rahman continued that the US does not believe this silence is enough for the deal to go through; the Palestinians must accept the proposal.

She added it is clear the Palestinian leadership has made up its mind and declared early on that any deal is unacceptable and the US is no longer a broker of peace since it recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Thus, the Palestinian leadership has become an obstacle for such a deal.

“The threat today is much higher than it was 14 years ago,” Abdel-Rahman said, referring to the time of late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, who was accused by the US and Israel of rejecting peace overtures.

She warned “the absence of President Abbas due to health reasons amid his quarrels and inter-Palestinian divisions gives Israel and the US enough time to pass the ‘deal of the century’ through practical steps on the ground while the Palestinians are distracted with internal divisions post-Abbas, which is unlike post-Arafat disputes because of existing divisions.

This would be enough to silence the Palestinians about the deal amid internal conflicts, which Israel will fuel and transform into a Palestinian battle over power.

By the time Palestinians reconcile, the deal of the century will have become a reality recognised in the Arab world and internationally, and they will become a divided people with nothing.”

*A version of this article appears in print in the 24 May 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Tough Ramadan in Gaza

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