Friday, 1 January 2010

A New Year

A Happy, Productive and Successful New Year to:

This posting is about Abd Rabo Husein, of Yibna, Rafah, but before his story, can I say Congratulations to all who have travelled out to Gaza on the Viva Palestina Convoy, or with Code Pink direct to Egypt, or by themselves to El Arish. May you be successful in this new Year. All have been subject to arbitrary Egptian actions. Those on Egyptian soil have been arrested or attacked by riot police, whilst the Viva Palestina convoy has been forced to return to Syria and set off by boat for Gaza from there via El Arish in Egypt. They could have driven to Gaza from Aqaba after a short ferry crossing to Taba or Nuweiba in a few hours, but this would have meant travelling along the Israeli border on a road closed to foreigners. Why is it closed just to foreigners? Think Israeli security demands, and a supine, greedy Egyptian Government.
This ludicrous demand by the Egyptians means the boat will have to sail past Israel, and then on past Gaza to El Arish. It thrilled me to think that three boats, 200 vehicles, 500? people, would be sailing within 30 miles of Gaza Port, and a little leftwards turn would sail them directly to their destination. But the Egyptians have thought of that, and decreed that only vehicles will travel by sea. People must fly.
My heart goes out to all those people who have given up a large slice of their time to try and break the siege of Gaza, and they deserve respect and support. Many participants will be constrained by time, and will soon have to return for work or study, but signs that people are hardening their positions comes from hearing of those now in their 5th or 6th day of hunger strike in Cairo.
A key moment in breaking British resolve to stop unlimited immigration by Jews into Palestine after World War II came with the arrival of the ship Exodus, which was turned back from Haifa, and which Zionist Terrorists threatened to blow up with all its passengers if it wasn't allowed to land. The UK Government gave in to this threat by terrorists, and effectively, by giving in, gave Palestine into the Zionist control. This episode has been an important learning experience for Palestinian armed groups too.
Let us not threaten to blow up the boat, but must it travel without passengers at all? And must it go to El Arish instead of directly to Gaza? And must the British Government continue to be completely spineless where Palestine is concerned? The Old Man, below, is a timely reminder of British impact in Palestine:

His name is Abd Rabo Hussein and he was born and lived in Yibna, in what is now Israel. He worked for the British military at Lod airport - what is now known as Ben Gurion Airport. When the Exodus Immigrants, and all of the other immigrants decided at the point of a gun that Palestine would become Israel and that Israel had no room for Yibna which would be cleansed of Palestinians and annihilated, he was turned from a British Asset into a stateless refugee. His work for the British Military, which, as in modern Day Iraq, would have made him a target for Jewish Terrorists, cut no ice with the UK Government, who refused to help him in any way. He fled to Gaza where he was settled in a tent in Rafah Refugee Camp (Yibna Section). When the partition of Palestine, and subsequent land grab by Israel, did not produce the expected return of refugees, and when the UK Government, despite UN resolutions, did nothing to facilitate return, these tents became permanent houses, no bigger than the tent plot provided by the UN:
This is still the case today, and this is one such house, the house of a young family who we see in their kitchen with their only form of heating and cooking.
After the dust from the wars following partition cleared, Mr Hussein found himself in Egypt. He hadn't moved, of course, but Gaza became an Egyptian province. At that time, before the Suez nationalisation, there were British Military bases in Egypt, and Mr Hussein thought that would be a good place to work. The British thought so too, and he was employed for several years in the plating shop and as an electrician on a RAF base near the Suez canal.
Once again the British were not interested in his welfare, simply his work output, and once again they abandoned him to his hovel in Gaza. Once back in Gaza he set up a small workshop, since he was a skilled fitter, and found a small prosperity. But then, after the 1967 'Six Day War', he found himself back in Israel once more, again without moving.
Israeli occupation brought mixed fortunes to the inhabitants of Gaza. It humiliated them, made trade and commerce subject to extreme difficulty, often costing ten times more in bribes to Israeli authorities to move stuff out of or into Gaza via the Israeli port of Ashkelon, than the shipping costs from Ashkelon to, say, China. But unskilled labourers could find work on Israeli settlements at poverty wages compared to Israel, but above average compared to Gaza. But that would not help a skilled fitter like Mr Hussein, so he continued to work in his shop:

He continues to work there today, doing the same work as when the Israelis were there, after they left, and now that he finds himself under siege. He makes the little cookers that the young family have in the picture above, although he can only do this if you can give him the metal from scrap or somewhere, since the import of all metal is prohibited. Living close to the tunnels, as he does, is no help if you don't have the money to buy the goods that come that way.
All his life he has been a hard worker, a skilled fitter, a loyal servant of the British Crown, a deeply law-abiding citizen, a refugee in a place that has been three different countries, none of which is his home, because his home has been stolen, like his country, and eradicated, at least physically. Now he is subject to three governments (Hamas, Fatah/Israel, the UN) at the same time! He is nearly 90 years old. He has no pension, no country takes responsibility for him, and he must work until he dies, although because he lives in a UN refugee camp, he will at least get basic rations and some healthcare.
Whilst rich Israelis sue Germans and others in International courts for property that their families often sold to Nazis (but, as they say, under duress) some of those Israelis live on Land and in Houses they stole from this man and his compatriots, without shame, without guilt, without any empathy. Having a relative who was in a concentration camp or who fled from the Nazis has become a badge that descendants think entitles them to steal what they like. But mostly, they are the descendants, why do they think their Father's suffering should entitle them to privilege, when they give such little care to those whom they continue to kill themselves in the Ghetto of Gaza?
Abd Rabo Hussein is still alive, and he wants to go home. He still remembers his English friend Sgt Cowell, from the plating shop, and would like to contact him.
Hedy Epstein, victim of the Holocaust, is also alive, and her memories of the Holocaust have persuaded her to be on Hunger Strike in Cairo in support of Mr Abd and all the other refugees and besieged Palestinians. Special regard must be directed at those whose suffering leads them not to demand this and that from innocent third parties, but to empathy with those now in a similar position.
I wish them both well, and a happy, productive and above all successful new year, and I hope that Mr Hussein can join Ms Epstein in having grim memories, but that are only memories, of events that have finally ended.