Enduring the siege

February 1, 2008

Dr. Mona El-Farra is a physician and human rights activist living in Gaza City. She writes a blog called "From Gaza with Love" which can be read at fromgaza.blogspot.com. On the night before the border wall was toppled in Rafah, Socialist Worker spoke with Dr. El-Farra about the starvation conditions Palestinians face as a result of Israel's siege.

A voice from Gaza:

CAN YOU describe the conditions you face as a physician in Gaza City?

THIS IS a very grueling and harsh siege against Gaza, and it has been going for seven months. At the moment, the border is completely sealed, and no one can enter Gaza. Five days ago, the Israeli Army didn't allow fuels or the medical supplies.

I call this collective punishment because they are punishing the whole population of Gaza, an overreaction to the shelling of the south part of Israel.

In the last 48 hours, I didn't have electricity in my apartment, and all Gaza City was sinking into darkness. It was a blackout. Even the hospitals were using spotlights, because they were worried about running out of fuel.

I'll give you an example about Al Shifa hospital, a government hospital and the last hospital in Gaza state. There are 100 patients in the intensive care unit, and those patients' lives are seriously threatened because if the fuel runs out, that means the machines will go out, and they will die at that moment. Another 400 patients are facing the same destiny if the power stays cut off.

What else to read

For two eyewitness accounts of life in Gaza under Israel's siege, read "Rafah Today," an Internet blog by Palestinian independent journalist Mohammed Omer, and "From Gaza With Love," a blog written by Dr. Mona El-Farra.

The Electronic Intifada Web site provides updates on the current situation in Gaza and the West Bank.

Between the Lines: Readings on Israel, the Palestinians and the U.S. "War on Terror," by Tikva Honig-Parnass and Toufic Haddad, documents the apartheid-like conditions that Palestinians live under today.

For background on Israel's war and the Palestinian struggle for freedom, read The Struggle for Palestine, a collection of essays edited by Lance Selfa on the history of the occupation and Palestinian resistance.

Fortunately, this morning, Israel allowed some fuel to enter Gaza, just enough for a few days. Israel insisted that no petrol is to enter Gaza, and that means in the coming few days, we will run out of all the petrol in Gaza and will be forced to walk to our work or stay at home. I don't know what will happen.

My main concern is the hospital, of course, because it will affect our patents and affect our routine services. Not only is the power cut off, but the medications and medical supplies are exhausted. Many kinds of medications are lacking in Gaza.

Already, we don't have adequate health care, but if you add on the siege, you can see how this is a huge problem for we who are working in the medical field. We see our patients dying in front of our eyes, and we can do nothing for them.

Poverty is prevalent in Gaza at the moment. Eighty percent of the population depends on aid agencies and is under the poverty line. Sixty-two percent of the children suffer from malnutrition, mainly anemia due to lack of food. Three years ago, when your newspaper interviewed me, that number was a quite big number of 42 percent. But the number has increased to 62 percent. This is alarming.

With this siege, there is no cement allowed into Gaza, so the roads are destroyed. Programs to reconstruct or renovate are halted. We cannot build homes for our people, and we cannot build our graves. We cannot put people to rest in peace and dignity, and we cannot have dignity in our lives. It is a very cold winter, without electricity, food or shelter.

We are under continuous military attacks--from the land, from the sea, from the air. No place is safe. You don't have electricity in your home to watch TV, to feel you are alive. And outside your home, you aren't safe.

WHAT IS the sentiment among Palestinians in Gaza City?

THERE WAS a big demonstration protesting against the siege; today, there was big demonstration at the border. They were trying to cross the border to the Egyptian side. People are trying to break the siege.

The Israeli Army is outside Gaza City, but they still control Gaza from everywhere, and they make our lives very difficult.

HOW DOES Israel's recent siege fit into a long-term plan for Gaza?

THIS IS not a new strategy. This is something that has been preplanned against the Occupied Territories. At one stage, they use the pretext of a kidnapped Israeli soldier, and at another stage, they use the pretext of the security of Israel against the rockets that have been fired from Gaza.

But the main goal for Israel is more destruction and more destroying of the infrastructure of the Gaza Strip, so that our people in the end will accept any solution to get rid of this miserable life and this interior crisis. So there will be no chance for a just solution to the Israeli conflict. This is the strategy of Israel.

The bottom line is that they are destroying the infrastructure, so that they end up with the Palestinian people accepting any solution, and there will no place for peace or justice.

Further Reading

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