Wall of separation
Since construction started in 2002, the wall separating the West Bank from Israel has come to symbolize all the humiliations and security oppression which the Palestinian people are forced to endure on a daily basis. This wall deprives them of one of the most fundamental liberties: the right to circulate freely. It's also designed to isolate them, and to remind them of Israel's supremacy over their territory. In Bethlehem, the wall provides today a canvas for artistic expression, by people such as the British street artist Banksy. But while it attracts large numbers of tourists, this wall is above all a wall of shame, dividing rather than uniting. A wall which may well project the true intentions of Israel as a prelude to the future annexation of Palestine.
This wall is above all a wall of shame, dividing rather than uniting.
The west bank - Helping the victims of settler violence
According to Ghassan Daghlass, the man in charge of the settlements issue in the Nablus region for the Palestinian Authority, the systematic encroachment of Israeli settlers is one of the biggest problems facing the Palestinians. In MdM’s intervention areas alone, an average of one critical incident is reported every week – meaning someone is killed, receives death threats or is seriously wounded. It isn't just the violence. These settlements are always located in strategic positions which deprive the Palestinians of their resources. The lands which enables them to live and have been in their possession for thousands of years, are regularly confiscated or destroyed by settlers acting with total impunity.
An average of one critical incident is reported every week.
Like in Urif, for example. The latest attack on this village of 400 inhabitants overlooked by the settlement of Yitzhar took place on 29 April 2017. On that day, forty masked settlers, escorted by Israeli soldiers, attacked Mounir, a father of 8 children. Mounir was beaten and left on the ground, his leg smashed in. Now that he's disabled, he can no longer feed his family, but he can rely on the solidarity of his village, which remains active and regularly testifies to these outrages on social and associative networks.
Gaza - "Gateway to paradise, or cemetery of dreams"
Nearly 2 million people live imprisoned in the Gaza Strip, one of the most densely populated areas in the world. In addition to the demographic pressure, Gaza also has to endure Israeli occupation and – for the last 10 years – a blockade which deprives its inhabitants of basic material requirements, access to healthcare and elementary freedoms. Imports of telecommunications and construction equipment are also severely restricted.
A blockade which deprives its inhabitants of basic material requirements, access to healthcare and elementary freedoms.
Caught in the middle of the political tensions between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, the people of Gaza find themselves trapped in a Kafkaesque situation, and are reduced to the most basic acts of pragmatism just to survive. Foodstuffs are expensive, and so is heating oil. With just four hours of electricity a day, living a normal life is impossible. The necessary resources do exist in Gaza: only they can't be exploited because of a blockade that's illegal in the eyes of international law. Is the state of Israel above the law? There's no justice in Gaza anyway.
In Gaza, the blockade kills ans maims
One of the worst consequences of the blockade is the generally poor health of the population. The problem is manifest in many ways, beginning with material shortages. With frequent power outages, medical technology – x-ray equipment, for example – operates below capacity. Even where generators are available, they are unable to provide the necessary power for equipment to function correctly. Consumables and drugs such as pain-killers or antibiotics are in short supply. As it's very difficult to leave the Gaza Strip, doctors are unable to receive proper training. In an attempt to counter this situation, MdM has concentrated its work on emergency readiness (Gaza has had 3 wars in the last 10 years). Doctors have been specially trained in emergency treatment, hospitals and health centres have been equipped with the necessary supplies, and special attention is given to the correct triage of victims in an endeavour to save as many lives as possible.
Consumables and drugs such as pain-killers or antibiotics are in short supply.
The blockade has also severely affected the mental health of the people of Gaza. Cases of depression, insomnia and even suicide are on the rise. People have even died because of the blockade, their applications for exit from Gaza on medical grounds either refused or approved far too late. Today, not even humanitarian imperatives can systematically guarantee the basic human right to health care anymore.
Being a woman in Gaza - A double affliction
With life an everyday struggle just to eat, care for themselves and bring up their children, women in Gaza also have cultural and family pressures to contend with. Few women are free to choose when they want to have a child. Like medicines, contraceptives are in short supply because of the blockade. Abortion is only allowed in extreme cases, and only if a woman's husband or legal guardian – and the religious authorities – give their consent.
Women in Gaza also have cultural and family pressures to contend with.
Women with cancer bear a double affliction too. Out of fear of being abandoned by their husbands, they often hide their illness from those closest to them. As chemotherapy is not available locally, they have to apply for permits to leave Gaza.
But these permits are granted on fewer and fewer occasions, especially when someone in the applicant's family is on record as a political activist. These women are also pressed by the Israeli authorities to act as informants, which they refuse to do. And so they become hostages of politics as well as illness. Unable to receive proper treatment, only 50% of Gazan women with breast cancer – which represents one case of cancer in every 10 – survive. In Israel, the recovery rate is 80%. The Gaza association CFTA (Free Thought and Culture), a long-standing partner of MdM, holds confidence-building talking sessions designed to help women overcome the difficulties they face.
Restricted areas: civilians in danger
In Gaza, certain areas near the frontier are subject to access restrictions unilaterally imposed by Israel with no legal justification. In these buffer zones that encroach upon Gazan territory, Israel reserves the right to act as it sees fit, including resort to the army. Implemented for "security" reasons along the land frontier and also at sea, these restricted areas – where thousands of peasant farmers and fishermen work and gain their subsistence – are frequently the scene of shootings by the Israeli forces. Almost 10% of the population of Gaza is directly affected by this situation, and incidents occur regularly.
Israel reserves the right to act as it sees fit, including resort to the army.
At sea, it's very difficult for fishermen to know if they've strayed into the restricted zone – even though most attacks have occurred inside authorized zones. With six Israeli military boats on permanent patrol, even the horizon is closed. On 15 April 2017, Fadi lost his brother, shot dead by Israeli soldiers. Fadi's been fishing with his family for 15 years now. In that time, he's been attacked on four occasions and his boat confiscated ten times or more. But he still loves his livelihood, so does Mardleen. The only fisherwoman in Gaza, Mardleen too has been the victim of violence. She has taken first aid training with MdM teams so she can help her community and be an individual in her own right.
What future for the young people of Gaza?
The youth and the talent are there. Educated and well-trained, the under 18 youth of Gaza accounts for over half of the enclave's population. But in a territory that's crying out for development, over 60% of young people are unemployed. As Assma, 20, observes: "We live an extraordinary life in Gaza. We can't think about tomorrow, otherwise we'd go mad". For Youssef, "you have to be very strong to live in Gaza, but the Palestinians are resilient". The only way out of this open-air prison are the Internet and social networks. Even music is subject to restrictions, as Hamas only allows traditional Arabic songs.
Over 60% of young people are unemployed.
Yet there is hope. Majeda Al Saqqa, the charismatic founder of NGO Free Thought and Culture (CFTA), says: "One day we'll regain our rights, for everything's illegal here and I believe in justice. It may take 10, 20 or 50 years, no matter. These are very short times on the longer scale of History, which will prove us right."