Before I came, I knew of course that one of the problems in Palestine is a lack of unity with the split between Hamas and Fatah. What we experience coming here is how much this division is not geographically split between Gaza and the Westbank, but is very palpable within Gaza. In fact, we felt a whiff of the divisiveness in this society right from the second day on, as there were some events organised by IUG in the morning (Khan Yunis, …) and a secular event organised by the Gaza Mental Health Center and the DiWan Gaza. In fact, Chomsky, and by extension we, were caught in between IUG, not terribly secular, and the secular parts of society that wanted to meet with Chomsky, and that he wanted to meet with too. The unfortunate lack of communication between all these sectors was one reason why Chomsky had next to no time to get a breathing space somewehre inbetween events. It occurs to me that people were probably worried that if they left him a reasonble two-hour break in the afternoon, this would immediately be snapped up by the competition.
The division is not merely Hamas versus Fatah. It’s more broadly between Islamic and secular society, and it includes many civil society groups that are trying to get ahead in this war of political leadership. In other words, what you find everywhere where people are struggling for and exercising democracy, but here it is exacerbated through the occupation and the blockade.
After the concert Haidar Eid takes us to meet with Amjad Y. Shawa, Mohsen Abu Ramdan, and Hamdi Shaqqura, the deputy director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. Amjad and Mohsen are the director and chair person, respectively of PNGO, which stands for Palestinian Non-Governmental Organisation Networks. We sit in a neon lit room around a table. This looks more like grassroots organising than what we’ve seen so far. It turns out to be a very interesting and informative meeting. Too much detail to tell it all here. A few points and quotes that stick out in my notes (with a bit of help from the others to refresh my memory):
- The blockade exacerbates unemployment, poverty, and isolation, which add up to a recipe for extremism.
- Those who really suffer from the division in Palestinian society are the civil society, not the political leadership.
- Gaza is full of chocolate and chips, thanks to Tony Blair’s initiative to loosen the blockade.
- Breaking the siege is needed, but the ultimate goal is to achieve full autonomy for the Palestinian people.
- Palestinians don’t want aid so much as they want justice and political autonomy.
- The media and activists have increasingly started focusing on Gaza. It is important to emphasize that the issue is Palestinian right to statehood, right to return, right to basic human rights… (Should I change the title of this blog?)
- David points out that although the new campaign around building a ship in Gaza to sail out of Gaza, is called Gaza Arc, the organizers always emphasize that the idea is sailing from Palestine and giving the right of trade to Palestinians at large.
- The issue of tunnel trade comes up again, which financially and unequally benefits Hamas.
Thanks to Haidar Eid for having arranged this meeting!