One year has passed since ‘Operation Protective Edge,’ the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. We have seen many articles by analysts this past week, but they fail to report the Palestinian perspective. The burning question in the minds of the Gazan people is why has there been a one year delay in the reconstruction?
The answer is simple — both Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas want to hold the purse strings of the reconstruction funds, which donor nations pledged at $5.5 billion. Donor nations may be skeptical about the shaky unity government, which almost failed in the past year since its establishment in the April 2014 ‘Shati Agreement’. Abbas nearly declared an amendment in establishing a new government, splitting the unity government and repeating Yitzhak Rabin’s’ famous declaration, ‘let’s throw Gaza to the Sea’.
Egyptians created a 2-kilometer buffer zone in removing the smuggling tunnels that made Hamas leaders into billionaires. Hamas’ top priority is to reconstruct its military capabilities and terror tunnels. Now that the funds have dried up since the smuggling tunnels have been destroyed, Hamas has issued a new tax upon the Gazan people.
A recent report by The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), states that “According to testimonies submitted to ICHR by citizens from different social categories, these taxes, which are imposed on different commodities and services in the Gaza Strip, aggravate the suffering of the people. Citizens who wish to import goods are bound to pay taxes to receive “import permission”. This implies that the competent authorities have started to implement the Solidarity Tax Act. In fact, prior to the import, the authorities identify the quantity of the goods and then decide on what tax to enforce. These taxes that are imposed under the pretext of “normal rise of prices” have a negative economic impact on the consumers. Furthermore, the taxes are imposed on governmental services.” The ICHR calls for Hamas to reverse this new tax.
Also, a new tax has been imposed by Hamas during the holy month of Ramadan. Each person who wishes to stay in a mosque for services must pay 20 shekels from the 19th of Ramadan to the 29th of Ramadan:
The damage caused by the ‘Protective Edge’ War, which Hamas provoked, is as follows: 2.5 million tons of rubble remains in Gaza to this day. 200,000 workers lost their means of employment. 80% of the Gazan people are surviving on welfare. 40% of Gazans are living below poverty lines. 22,000 Gazans are homeless. Only 600 caravans have been provided to the Gaza Strip since the end of the war. 29 Palestinians were executed by Hamas during the war. Several terror bombings occurred in the Gaza strip by Salafist groups. Destruction of the economic, moral and psychological status of the Gazan people is still felt today.
A few days ago, I held Skype calls with friends in Gaza asking them about their feelings since the war.
- Ahmad, from Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza, said “the rule of Hamas in the Gaza Strip is like throwing us into a pit. If Hamas will continue their policies, they will bring more death and destruction to their own people.”
- Muhana, from Khan Younis City, said “we are living under a dictatorship regime. Hamas kills any opposition. Since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, there is an absence of any Palestinian political factions in the Gaza Strip. Today it looks as if the next upcoming war bells are ringing.”
- Azmi, from Shuja’iyya, said “the situation in Gaza right now is that hunger, poverty and unemployment reached the highest percentage since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip.”
Several reports have been published by the UN, UNHRC, and other international organizations discussing the reconstruction, the economic situation and the mental health of the Gazan people, but there is no benefit from these discussions one year post-’Protective Edge.’
According to the Secretary General of the UN, there are no schools — no hospitals — no electricity and no proper drinking water and this is the reality for the Gazan people these days. Both Hamas and Fatah should be held responsible for this.
The writer is a human rights activist, Political Analyst and Commentator on Internal Palestinian Politics. Please see also http://www.bassemeidhumanrights.com/.