We are planning a conference with the Director of the United Nations Millennium Campaign to discuss poverty in Palestine, and the unique challenge to achieving development goals under military occupation.
Most likely the conference will be canceled. The security situation in the West Bank is not so bad right now, despite the declared state of emergency. All of the violence so far has been targeted acts of retaliation against Hamas for its actions in Gaza.
But how can we talk about poverty when the government has been dissolved?
How can we talk about economic development when Hamas has just taken by force what it won by democratic election in Gaza?
How can we bring international partners to the table to discuss food insecurity when there are masked men shooting machine guns in the streets?
Life under military occupation is never dull. Now, in addition to the deaths resulting from daily Israeli military incursions, Palestinians are killing each other.
Hamas has taken complete control over Gaza. More than 120 people have been killed in the past week.
The coordinator of our Gaza office says that they were unable to leave the house all week. When bullets smashed through their windows, the entire family hid in the one room in the house with no windows. His one-and-a-half year old daughter now says “takh, takh” (colloquial Arabic for “bang, bang”) every time she hears gunshots. These are among her first words. Mommy, daddy, takh, takh, bang, bang.
Here in Ramallah, Fatah is trying to assert control. On Friday night, they raided the Hamas office across from my house, breaking all the windows and firing automatic weapons.
I stayed at home all day Friday in a state of confusion. We heard intermittent shooting but were unsure whether civil war had broken out or Palestinian kids were just setting off fireworks (I’ll never understand how people in a conflict zone could be so fond of fireworks, but Palestinians love them).
Other frazzled internationals filled our apartment and we sat together waiting for news. We watched the great American movie Zoolander and I introduced my Palestinian friends to the jingoist satire Team America: World Police. We added each other to Facebook and Google chat. We answered each other’s cell phones to comfort worried parents.
At around 2pm, my American friend Tiffany and I decided to venture out to the nearby store for supplies of water and chocolate. As we were walking to the store we heard shots coming from around the corner and grabbed hands and started running back toward the apartment.
A man passed us on the street and said: “don’t be afraid, it’s just Fatah firing in the air at al Manara” (that’s the town square a block and a half from my house).
So we turned around and started out again giggling and reassuring each other that everything was OK. We could see a crowd of masked men with machine guns when we turned the corner to go into the shop.
I jumped every time I heard a shot.
The shopkeepers laughed and said: “Welcome to Palestine. In this city it is normal.”
Other than my one adventure outside risking falling bullets because the people shooting to scare off Hamas forgot that the rules of gravity also apply to ammunition, the day was fairly mellow.
Yesterday was market day and the streets of Ramallah were filled again. Families walked past masked machine-gun toting men in the city center on their way to buy produce for the week.
As I crossed al Manara I passed by two Fatah security members greeting each other. Two men carrying machine guns kissed four times on the cheek in the traditional Arab greeting between close friends and family members.
This morning I complained to my coworker Jumana about being stuck inside all weekend.
“This is nothing,” she said. “You should have been here when we were under siege by the Israelis and couldn’t leave the house for two months because of the curfew. People snuck through the back roads risking getting shot just so they could come over and play cards and smoke hookah all day.”
Indeed, violence and insecurity are not new for Palestinians.
However, no one has ever seen Palestinians kill each other like this before. People here are horrified and devastated.
And none of us know what will happen next.
Posted By Eliza Bates
Posted Jun 17th, 2007