My op-ed for Al-Jazeera English.
In 2006, the Israeli authorities imposed an overall siege on the Gaza Strip forcing 1.6 million Palestinians to live under miserable conditions. Since then, Gaza, depending on the degree of instability in the area, has been largely covered in the world media, sometimes enjoying the status of a quasi-main theme.
However, many of these subjects dealt with by Western press are quite unimportant to deal with publicly. The only importance they have seems to be that of their context, being how the Gaza Strip is such a pivotal and curious a place.
One needs to be critical of information so as not to fall victim to any deliberate misrepresentation of the facts, or any other well-handled, yet ill-timed treatment of any of these subjects.
The unfortunate “Gaza Youth Manifesto”
Recently a group of Palestinian youth from Gaza issued a “manifesto” on their Facebook page called Gaza Youth Breaks Out (GYBO). It outstandingly highlights Gaza youths’ immense frustration and anger. Unluckily, however, its writers poured out their fury pell-mell indiscriminately at every possible cause they deemed as conducive to their miserable conditions, instead of carefully underlining the principal source of this unendurable suffering.
Hence, the true cause of this suffering, i.e. Israel and its 2008/09 invasion of the Gaza Strip, the five-year relentless blockade, and its daily heinous crimes against Palestinian civilians, weren’t (unintentionally, I assume) as accentuated as the uncommendable behavior of the Hamas government in Gaza toward its people, which replaced Israel as the originator of Gaza’s youth distress.
The GYBO manifesto has received worldwide attention from Western press and media outlets. But did any of them take the time to listen to the grievances the manifesto mentioned in a considerable portion of Gaza’s youth due to its misguided content? (Note: under a great deal of criticism, the group had to issue a second manifesto, which appears on the group’s Facebook page).
To this effect, to stress similar cases over Israel’s policy toward the Gaza Strip only harms Palestinians and should be seen as an attempt at deflecting the world’s attention from the base injustice the Palestinians are forced to live under. Moreover, they do seem to attract the audience’s interest who has become used to prosaic coverage of Israel’s continuous and flagrant violations of basic human rights.
This does not mean issues of human rights’ abuses should be disregarded. The suppression exercised by the government and other violations of human rights should always be reported in an objective way and brought to light in order to help fight against it by all means.
The “rising middle class” and addressing minor grievances
Similarly, a newly published Associated Press feature story sheds light on the widening gap between a very tiny middle class and the majority of the people who live under the poverty line.
Well-written, objective, and supported with facts and figures as it might seem, the article should nonetheless be dismissed as misleading and lacking in the analytical interpretation necessary to explain the real origins of the discontent the people of Gaza have.
“A budding middle class in the impoverished Gaza Strip is … fueling perhaps the most acrimonious grass roots resentment yet toward the ruling Hamas movement.”
The introductory statement of the article is inaccurate since it presupposes the presence of this “resentment” toward the Hamas government in Gaza without placing it within its greater context which is that of the Israeli occupation and its blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The prime grievances the people of Gaza have are those toward Israel and its blockade of the Gaza Strip. This has fuelled so much anger and despair that, like the GYBO manifesto, they started to resent everything around them, including the Hamas government. So even this sense of dissatisfaction toward the government is a form of grievous indignation toward Israel itself.
Normally, people would hate the government under whose control they have had to endure the most miserable conditions. It is true the government in Gaza isn’t doing enough to at least alleviate the people’s Israeli-inflicted suffering. It is also true that there is too much corruption inside the government itself to be concealed any longer, but trying to deal with these issues as the main source of people’s anger is dubious, since it ignores the fact that what people are enraged about, above all things, is the Israeli siege.
Although, the article makes it clear the majority of the people are discontent, it seems to ridiculously question the fact that there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza while there are others – a very small minority – who live in self-indulgence. It also never accounts for the so called “rise of the middle class” in Gaza except by simplistically relating it to the attitudes of the Hamas government and the “corruption” of some of its “loyalists”.
The only thing this article seems to do is deflect the readers’ attention from the real origins of frustration in Gaza that are represented in Israel’s overall inhuman policy toward the Palestinians to a few unimportant issues.
Israel’s crimes are still the issue
By comparison, in other countries internal suppression is exercised by governments on a larger scale and things like women’s rights are often abused at a serious level, and little attention is paid to them. Similarly, the grievances toward an assumed middle class rise in Gaza is a completely preposterous issue to discuss, when recent Israeli airstrikes killed 15 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
At a time when Palestinians in Gaza, both the wealthy and the poor, are awakened by Israeli warplanes bombing their neighbourhoods, it is these kinds of grievances, suffering and anger that the world needs to know about that besiege the Gaza Strip, and not class differences.