Witness Diary: ‘Gaza Has Been Zeroed’

January 10th, 2009 - by admin

Sami Abdel Shafi / Al Jazeera – 2009-01-10 09:37:51


Sami Abdel Shafi, a partner of a management consultancy firm based in Gaza City and media commentator, says what little capacity Gaza had to run its own affairs has been destroyed.

(January 9, 2008) — We live close to the ministerial buildings, the police headquarters and the presidential compound, which have been hit over and over again. When the munitions actually impact, not only do you have a huge explosion but a huge vacuum is generated that sends shockwaves through the surrounding structures.

We have to keep all of the windows open to prevent the glass from shattering and flying across the room. That’s the only precaution we can take. Other than that, I try to stay alert and on standby 24-hours-a-day, which is very difficult without sleep.

People spend almost 24-hours a day indoors, listening to the news on the radio – if they have batteries. Gaza’s streets are empty day and night. Just a handful of places are open, otherwise Gaza City is closed.

Constant Hum of Jets
People spend as little time as possible outside as they don’t trust the daily three-hour “ceasefire” as a true truce, particularly when the skies above them are filled with the continuous humming of Israeli jets and drones. On top of that, people have heard reports of the raids, shootings and killings that have taken place in the three-hour “ceasefire”.

When people do dare venture out, it’s to look for food, batteries and vegetables, although even basics like tomatoes and bread are tough to come by.

You can’t find any dairy products – no milk, no yoghurt or cheese. People join endless queues outside the few bakeries that have enough flour to open – though most won’t be able to buy enough for their families.

It can take three hours just to get a small quantity of bread. In the absence of official rationing, bakers have taken it upons themselves to limit distribution in the hope that everyone gets something to eat.

People outside Gaza forget that the Strip is not a sovereign nation, so Palestinians have been forced to fend for themselves. The population has to run itself because Gaza is not a state and does not have the mechanisms or resources – even in terms of emergency aid – to properly protect the people.

Gaza’s Economy ‘Zeroed’
The fact that Israel has attacked Gaza’s civilian institutions, like the attack on the ministries, has destroyed what little capacity we did have to run civil services – such as medical and emergency aid provision.

Gaza’s economy had already been zeroed after the Israelis stepped up its blockade of the Gaza Strip after Hamas won the 2006 elections in both the West Bank and Gaza.

The siege prevented resources getting into the hands of the first Hamas government and the 2007 unity government between Hamas and Fatah, severely restricting their ability to establish a fully-functioning civil society.

Our private sector had already been annihilated, and the result of this war will be the annihilation of the public sector too.

Whatever capacity we did have to run our own affairs is now no longer there, and it will make it extraordinarily difficult for the Gaza Strip to go forward whenever the war does end.

Only then will people discover the real cost of this war, when we have to look around and ask just how we begin a rebuilding effort on such a massive scale.

The way Israel has conducted this war will neither advance peace nor allow it to escape serious scrutiny when the conflict finally ends.

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