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Palestinians need a state, not a 'business plan'

Jared Kushner believes the first stage to peace is investing capital in Gaza and the West Bank. But just how far can that investment go when Israel is determined to maintain full control of and exploit every aspect of the Palestinian economy?

By Sam Bahour

President Donald Trump is taking part in an all-out attempt to batter the Palestinians into political surrender, and his weapon of choice is money. In full coordination with the Israeli government, he is overseeing a global campaign to ensure funds supporting Palestinians are drying up. Everything from Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem to health care and education for Palestinian refugees are on the receiving end of the cuts. In the bullseye of this attack is the Palestinian government.

So when CNN reported on Sunday that the Trump administration would be hosting an “economic workshop” in Bahrain to encourage capital investment in the West Bank, Gaza, and the region — the first part of the president’s so-called “Deal of the Century” — it sounded like more of the same.

The plan is said to address four major components: infrastructure, industry, empowering and investing in people, and governance reforms “to make the area as investible as possible.” While on paper all of this sounds fine and well, it may very well be the first step in the collapse of Trump’s peace plan.

The unforeseen silver lining is that the U.S. has lost any remaining influence it had on Palestinian society. As the U.S.-monopolized peace process was driven to total collapse, past U.S. administrations understood that keeping USAID funds operating in the West Bank and Gaza Strip gave the U.S. some sort of financial clout, after losing any semblance of political credibility. Now that Trump has closed the USAID mission in Tel Aviv, which previously served the West Bank, Palestinians are free to think without a noose of U.S. funding around their necks.

The Trump administration is not letting up. With its newly-announced workshop, it seems the White House will be dangling billions of dollars to get the Palestinians to accept the plan.

Speaking last week at the Washington Institute about the administration’s upcoming Middle East peace plan, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, said, “I think we developed a good business plan.” As someone who formulates real business plans for a living, I understand that if one works according to misguided assumptions, even the best of business plans will...

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Israel doesn't have to be an apartheid state

It is our duty to take every opportunity to say to the world that the occupation is not Israel, that we are not willing to continue imposing military rule on another people any longer.

By Zehava Galon

In Israel of 2019, the controversy is no longer over one state, two states, democracy or apartheid. Today, the very legitimacy of discussing alternatives to Israel’s current political trajectory is beyond the pale. Politicians of the old, new or extreme right are no longer interested in dealing with alternatives but rather in delegitimizing anyone who opposes their policies. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu divides the Israeli public into “loyalists” and “traitors” rather than to supporters and opponents of the occupation.

Disputes are the lifeblood of democracy, but Netanyahu’s successive governments have changed the rules. Until recently, it was still possible to hold on to the illusion that we all share a democratic set of values. We believed that the rule of law exists, that everyone is equal before the law, and that there is loyalty to certain state rules. Netanyahu’s government has dissolved all that, de facto changing Israel’s regime from a liberal democracy to one that de-legitimizes those who oppose it and that despises human rights and democratic norms.

Critics of the occupation are routinely and publicly condemned. Just look at what happened to prominent television journalist Oshrat Kotler when during a news broadcast on Channel 13, she said: “We send children to the army, to the territories, and they return animals. That is the result of the occupation.” Netanyahu responded by saying: “I am proud of the IDF soldiers and I love them very much. Oshrat Kotler’s remarks deserve every condemnation.” His peers on the right demanded the attorney general bring her to justice.

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When B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad told the UN Security Council that the world must “act against the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people,” Israelis responded by wondering why El-Ad would speak about these matters abroad. This question is repeatedly directed at peace and human rights organizations, who understand that preaching on moral grounds alone is not enough to make Israel realize the cruelties of its policies and will certainly not end the oppression all at once. Netanyahu’s government limits the ability of those civil society organizations to enter public institutions,...

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Mizrahi rebel: Bidding farewell to an Israeli Black Panther

Kochavi Shemesh, one of the legendary leaders of the Israeli Black Panthers, believed that the liberation of Mizrahim was bound up with the freedom of Palestinians, black South Africans, and other oppressed people. He passed away last week at the age of 75.

By Asaf Shalev

Kochavi Shemesh, who was born in Iraq during World War II and grew up in the dilapidated and war-ravished slums of Jewish Jerusalem in the 1950s, never received formal schooling. He didn’t even finish first grade.

The lack of education didn’t stop him from founding and editing a community newspaper as an adult in the late 1960s. What did stop him was a visit from the police soon after putting out the seventh weekly issue. The crime? Operating a newspaper without a permit, a legal requirement that was in place in Israel until 2017. Shemesh had thought of applying for one but he didn’t qualify because he’d never earned a high school diploma.

“The paper came out every Saturday evening,” Shemesh later recalled in a 1971 interview with Maariv. “It contained sports news and Sephardi human interest stories. It did well. We fostered Sephardi consciousness.”

A judge gave Shemesh a choice of paying a small fine or serving a three-week prison sentence. On principle, he chose prison.

Autodidactic and strong-minded, Shemesh, who died last week at age 75, hitched his talents to the cause of social justice. Chiefly, he championed the rights of Mizrahi Jews, but his solidarity extended far beyond that — to Palestinians, Vietnamese, black South Africans, and others.

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In early 1971, a group of Israeli youth stunned and scandalized society when they rose up as the Black Panthers of Israel, summoning the specter of civil turmoil from across the globe. A friend introduced Shemesh to the firebrands and he immediately joined the group.

His affiliation with the Panthers solidified on May 18, 1971, a date that would forever be known in Jerusalemite lore as the Night of the Panthers. The events started unfolding peaceably enough with a rally of several hundred Panthers at the city’s Davidka Square.

The Panthers moved through the crowd passing out leaflets with their demands and ideology written out in bullet points. Loudspeakers amplified speeches. One protester held up a sign that declared:

“Join the Black Panther Rebellion
The Rebellion of the Sephardim”

As...

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How Israel's blockade exacerbates violence against women in Gaza

Women in Gaza deal with patriarchal gender norms and intra-Palestinian political divides, but addressing their needs cannot be realized without Israel lifting its blockade.

By Anwar Mhajne

Violence during military operations affects both men and women, but women often face a unique set of challenges. For Palestinian women in Gaza in particular, the interaction between patriarchy, the intra-Palestinian political divide, and Israel’s blockade, exacerbates the violence they face.

Internal political divisions hinder the establishment of effective institutional response mechanisms across the occupied Palestinian territories. Patriarchal gender norms and traditions contribute to the proliferation and acceptance of violence against women and girls. But Israel’s decades-long blockade of Gaza, which heavily restricts the movement of people and goods in and out of the strip, has created an environment of constant violence against women.

According to a 2011 violence survey by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), 37 percent of women, on average, are victims of gender-based violence in Palestine. In the Gaza Strip, this figure increases to 51 percent.

The risks of experiencing gender-based violence surges in times of direct military operations. For example, during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, the danger of experiencing domestic violence increased considerably, according to research on violence against women and girls in Gaza. During the war, there was a 22 percent incline in the forms of domestic violence experienced by married women, and a 30 percent increase for non-married women. Furthermore, the displacement caused by military operations increase the likelihood of experiencing domestic violence.

The high rates of poverty and unemployment, which have caused an enduring economic depression in Gaza, have obliterated family income sources, and traditional family relationships have struggled to adjust to the changing situation. Thousands of men in Gaza are unable to fulfill their traditional role as the breadwinner and protector of the family, leaving women to bear the brunt of their husbands’ frustrations.

Even though unemployment rates are high in Gaza (52 percent), there is a significant increase in women’s workforce participation, which has now reached 26 percent. The blockade has forced hundreds of women to become the sole providers while still tending to housework and caring for their husbands, many of whom suffer from depression. Women’s integration in the workforce emerged out of necessity, but it threatens traditional masculine identities and adds further to tensions in the home.

Lengthy exposure to violence intensifies daily pressures...

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Despite its flaws, we need to fight for Israel’s High Court

By propping up a legal system that does not protect the most vulnerable and powerless, the justices of Israel’s High Court have planted the seeds of its own destruction.

By Michael Sfard

It is widely expected that the next Netanyahu government will set its sights on hollowing out the judiciary in Israel. According to countless reports and statements by Netanyahu and other senior politicians, the fifth Netanyahu government plans to advance legislation to strip the High Court of Justice of its power to revoke unconstitutional laws and strip it of the power to scrutinize administrative acts, government policies and executive decisions.

Netanyahu and his cronies want an obedient court. They want a court that will uphold their obscene whims and rubber stamp anything that musters a simple parliamentary majority.

Netanyahu’s corrupt, personal self-interest of avoiding being put on trial, combined with the annexationist-apartheid agenda of his allies in the nationalist-Kahanist camp, have made that vision possible.

It is difficult to overstate just how deep of a change Israel’s system of governance will undergo if the Knesset gives itself the power to effectively veto High Court decisions, or if it strips the court of its powers of oversight. The ruling parliamentary majority and the government in Israel already have powers that are unmatched in the democratic world; there is virtually no system of checks and balances in place. The realization of that unchecked power naturally harms interests — and sometimes the rights — of individuals or minorities and disadvantaged group.

In order to grasp the significance and prevalence of judicial review over government bodies, one need only recall how Netanyahu recently ran to the High Court (oh, the irony) to complain that State Comptroller’s Office would not permit him to fund his legal defense in pending corruption cases with donations from a wealthy patron. That Netanyahu himself sought relief from the courts from what he believed to be an unjust decision against him demonstrates perfectly how central a feature judicial review is for a modern system based on the concept of rule of law that respects individual rights.

Thus the desire to protect the rule of law and minority rights, by protecting Israel’s Supreme Court, is only natural.

And yet, the truth must be said: Israel’s High Court played a role in nurturing the weeds now threatening to cut off the locks of its hair. Yes, for many years the...

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With Trump's help, Netanyahu is making the occupation permanent

Netanyahu may have succeeded in convincing Israelis that facts on the ground can defeat Palestinian national aspirations. He forgot to tell them that holding millions under endless occupation is unsustainable.

By Susie Becher

Regardless of whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes good on his promise to annex areas of the West Bank during his new term in office, the very fact that he made such a statement is damaging. Together with his friend in the White House, Netanyahu has been slowly whittling away at the principles that are internationally recognized as the basis for any Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. By uttering the word “annexation,” he has shattered yet another taboo, borrowing the unfathomable from the domain of the extreme right wing and inserting it into the heart of the public discourse on the conflict.

Netanyahu has succeeded in lulling the Israeli public into believing that facts on the ground can defeat Palestinian national aspirations and outweigh international law. Helping him surgically remove the occupation from the body politic is Chief Anesthesiologist Donald Trump. Working hand in hand, these two are marketing “alternative facts” that the public is buying hook, line, and sinker.

First came Trump’s declaration that the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel took the issue off the table. Then the word “occupied” was expunged from State Department documents dealing the occupation and replaced with the term “controlled.”

Next, we heard the president say that extending Israeli sovereignty to the Golan Heights will improve Israel’s ability to meet security challenges, while Netanyahu added the lie that a country can lay claim to territory captured in a defensive war. This was followed by Trump’s statement that a Netanyahu victory in the elections will be good for peace. And finally, we heard Secretary of State Pompeo say that Bibi’s annexation plans won’t hurt the chances of the so-called “Deal of the Century.”

One could scoff at a delusional leader who thinks that his pronouncements become truth just because he said so. But there is great danger in the public’s acceptance of these distortions as conventional wisdom, even if they are easily dispelled.

Trump didn’t take Jerusalem off the table; he moved it to center stage. The EU and United Nations were quick to condemn the U.S. move and reassert that the status of the city must be resolved through negotiations between the parties. Even Pope Francis felt compelled to voice his alarm.

In some parallel...

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The bloody scenes I'll never forget from Gaza's Return March

A year ago, Israeli forces gunned down 64 demonstrators during Gaza’s Great Return March. Palestinian journalist Hind Khoudary was there to see it all — the bloody stretchers, the wounded, and the dead.

By Hind Khoudary

GAZA CITY — F16s are flying on low velocity over the Gaza sky as I get flashbacks to May 14 of last year. I don’t know if I will ever be able forget all the scenes I witnessed on that ugly day. The images I witnessed are carved into my brain and heart until today, perhaps forever.

It was very early in the morning, everyone was predicting a backlash from the Palestinians after the U.S. opened its embassy in Jerusalem. I headed to the protest area early that day; women, men, and children waved Palestinian flags and chanted slogans against Trump.

I was working with two news outlets and as a fixer with internationals. Even today I have no idea how I was able to cope with all of the workload. By 11 a.m. the internet was disconnected entirely. No signal.

Suddenly, all I heard were ambulances. The wounded on crutches, live ammunition and tear gas canisters fired into the air. The next thing I knew, paramedics were washing blood from the stretchers, their uniforms turning red.

The situation grew more dangerous. My phone wouldn’t stop ringing — everyone was trying to call me to make sure I was okay. I said I was, but my trembling voice and the screaming in the background told a different story.

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Running out of breath with the heavy flack jacket, we hid from live ammunition under the burning sun while suffocating from tear gas for hours. The scene was so bad that I couldn’t speak for two days.

I won’t ever forget the scene of the 30-year-old man shot in the middle of his head in front of my eyes, the little children crying from teargas as they searched for their parents, the Israeli soldiers stationed behind the fence arresting three boys and beating them up, the 80-year-old woman who participated in the march, demanding the right to return because she still believes she will go back to the town she was expelled from someday.

Bashir Faraj, 23, lost his right leg after he was hit by live bullets that completely fractured his bones and tissues. His leg was eventually amputated. I met Faraj a day after his injury, when he was screaming in the...

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PODCAST: The other Palestinian march of return

The +972 Podcast heads to the destroyed village of Khubbeiza to hear what Nakba Day means to different people, including Palestinians internally displaced in Israel.

Every year for over two decades, thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel have marked Nakba Day by marching to the site of a different village that was depopulated and destroyed during the Nakba.

While the story of Palestinian refugees — 700,000 of whom were driven out or fled in 1948 — is relatively well known, we rarely speak of those who were internally displaced during the war. These families remained in what became Israel but were never allowed to return to their original homes.

This year, the Return March marking 71 years since the Nakba was held in one such village, Khubbeiza. +972 Magazine’s Henriette Chacar went to the march to hear from participants of various ages what it means to them.

Listen here: iTunes/Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify

Some shared childhood memories from 1948. Other participants emphasized the importance of preserving Palestinian identity and history in the face of growing Israeli oppression. Jewish allies who were there talked about showing solidarity, and recognizing the rights of Palestinians. All the stories people shared had one theme: ‘We are here and we haven’t forgotten.’

“Their Independence Day is our Nakba,” said Rasmieh Khalaileh. “There are hundreds of villages that were displaced, not by choice but by force, which they expelled and are now dispersed across the world. This is what encourages me to come, even if it’s only a symbolic gesture for the people who were expelled, who dream to come back to their land.”

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The story of my family's Nakba

How strange is it to see the events that defined the lives of three generations of my family as a mere paragraph in a book? How strange is it to discover that your family’s lived experience is considered merely a footnote on the pages of history?

By Nooran Alhamdan

It is a sweet July night, with the smell of citrus heavy in the air. The sound of women ululating and laughter echoes through the hills. The center of the village of Qazaza is a celebration, with men jovially drinking bitter coffee and children chasing after one another. My grandfather was one of these children, screaming in delight and trying not to trip over the bare earth.

The village had gathered in a pre-celebration of a much anticipated wedding between my grandfather’s older brother, Abdulla, and a woman who was said to be of the most beautiful in the village. The year is 1948. Despite all the hardships the village had seen with recent political upheaval in Palestine, Qazaza remained a simple place, full of families whose duties never extended beyond harvesting their crops.

The air was pierced by a sudden shout; the voice was shrill and the language foreign. Three men appeared in front of the gathering. They spoke again and the foreign language revealed itself to be broken Arabic. The villagers understood who these men were, but strained to understand what words were shattering the air, until eventually the shards formed “etlaa o bara” — “get out.”

Abdulla, the soon to be groom, stepped forward in an attempt to speak to the men. No, we won’t leave. Why are you here? You should leave.

The words barely left his mouth before a gun appeared, then a bullet, then the sound of the shot. It reverberated between the hills, replacing the sound of children and ululations. There was now only silence, a silence that began on that July night in 1948 and has hung over the village since — a stillness unbroken for over 70 years.

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I first heard the story of my family’s Nakba, the “catastrophe” that upended the lives of millions of Palestinians, from my father. He told it to me in passing, I don’t recall exactly when or for what reason. I do remember the surprise that I felt. I must have been no...

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The Israeli right is now openly saying it wants to keep Hamas in power

As the latest round of fighting in Gaza and southern Israel died down, it became clear that keeping Hamas in power has become a central tenet of the Israeli right.

By Meron Rapoport

The idea that Hamas is an Israeli creation is nearly as old as Hamas itself. Researchers, journalists, high-ranking Israeli military and government officials — even Americans — have found substantial evidence to that effect. And yet the Israeli narrative presents Hamas as a zealous, murderous terrorist group — the sworn enemy of every Israeli and Jew around the world.

Official Israel has never admitted to supporting Hamas and every Israeli who dares talk about the need to speak with Hamas is immediately portrayed as a traitor. This is the same treatment IDF and Shin Bet officials received during and after the last war on Gaza, when they repeated the mantra that Israel must reach an agreement with Hamas. The same goes for the brief “Eurovision War” last week. Naftali Bennett, along with many on the right, have built a career on taking on the security establishment, which they view as weak and cowardly.

That’s why the cadre of right-wingers who joined hands last week to praise Netanyahu’s decision “to keep Hamas on its feet,” as journalist Galit Distal Atbaryan put it, is no less than amazing. The fact that this group runs the gamut from Netanyahu confidants — including Distal Atbaryan herself — to the prime minister’s critics, including far-right MK Betzalel Smotrich, is a sign that keeping Hamas in power has become a central policy of the entire Israeli right.

In the eyes of the right today, every Israeli patriot must wholeheartedly support the Hamas regime in Gaza. Leftist traitors, they say, support the possibility that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who rules over the West Bank, take control of the Gaza Strip, bringing Israel closer to the “pit of the two-state solution,” as right-wing pundit and former IDF Major-General Gershon Hacohen put it.

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The policy of “separating” the West Bank from Gaza isn’t new. It began in the late 1980s, with various prime ministers — from Yitzhak Rabin to Netanyahu — finding ways to make it more sophisticated it over the years. Now comes the reasoning behind the separation. No longer are we dealing solely with the question of ostensible security benefits that result in severing Gaza from...

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'My kids think I'm a hero. They have no idea I'm also afraid'

When the bombs fall on Gaza, Abu Ali and his family, like two million other residents of Gaza, have nowhere to run. This is what it’s like to live under Israeli airstrikes.

By Yael Marom

It’s strange to think that less than a week ago Israel and Hamas were closer to war than they have been since 2014. As airstrikes pummeled Gaza and rockets rained down on southern Israel — which left 27 Palestinians and four Israelis dead — I spoke to Abu Ali, a friend of mine who lives in Gaza City. Abu Ali had been up all night, fearful that one of his children would wake up scared and shaking from the sounds bombs falling.

“We don’t have a bomb shelter, so when there is a bombing we are together, holding our children’s hands trying to calm them,” he said over the phone on Sunday afternoon, just as hostilities were reaching a peak. “Unfortunately, my sons think that I’m a hero. They think their father can prevent the missiles from hitting our home. They believe in their father, so they feel safe when they see me. Even if they hear the bombing, they feel okay because ‘our father the hero is here, and he can stop the missiles from entering our home.’”

It was not an easy conversation to have. I live in the safety of Jaffa, while he lives exposed to Israeli attacks in Gaza. For three days I had been busy either making sure my parents were running to their bomb shelter whenever the sirens went off or worrying about my loved ones living in range of rocket fire in southern Israel. I prayed as we spoke, hoping that sirens wouldn’t go off in Jaffa.

More than anything, I was embarrassed by my helplessness, my fear, and the fact that I have my own personal shelter in my home. What does one say to someone who lives under a blockade imposed by my country on a tiny, dense, poor, and desperate strip of land for the past 12 years, where at any moment his home can turn into rubble? Abu Ali and his family, like the two million residents of Gaza, have nowhere to run.

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Abu Ali, 35, who works for an NGO, lives in the western part of Gaza City with his...

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PODCAST: Witnessing regime change in Sudan as a refugee in exile

The Sudanese refugee community in Israel watched ecstatically as long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir was deposed. But there’s a catch. Listen to the latest episode of The +972 Podcast.

Listen here: iTunes/Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify

“The uprising in Sudan did not start a couple of months ago, it started years ago,” says Mutasim Ali, one of the leaders of the Sudanese refugee community in Israel, who fled Darfur and arrived in Israel in 2009. For Ali and the approximately 7,000 Sudanese asylum seekers in Israel, al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in Darfur, is the very reason they fled their homeland.

“I didn’t really believe that this moment will happen at some point in Sudanese society because, if more than 500,000 people were killed in Darfur and nobody protested to say, ‘hey, this president should not serve anymore and should be indicted,’ I really lost hope. But then all of a sudden I regained my hope and I felt the pride of being Sudanese,” added Ali.

You are the only Sudanese person in Israel to actually have received refugee status. You were the executive director of the African Refugee Development Center. You became a spokesperson of your community, in many ways. What were your hopes then and do you still have them today?

“The struggle was far beyond the status, refugee status, right? It was basically about how refugees and asylum seekers should be treated in Israel. It was about how Israeli society should look at strangers,” explained Ali.

“I had hope that this could work out because we were able to rally thousands of Israelis to bring them together to support our struggle,” he added, referring to a wave of protests in support of refugee rights in Israel in 2014.

When Ali was finally given refugee status in 2016, he believed his case would set a precedent for others like him. “I forgot that giving refugee status for one person cannot serve as a precedent because the government, again, uses the argument of ‘we check individual cases.’ The contradictory part of this is that the government is unwilling even to review individual claims,” said Ali.

“I’m still the one and the only Sudanese refugee to be given refugee status since 2016 until today, which is so unfortunate.”

When you imagine going...

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Start of Ramadan marred by bombing, poverty in Gaza

Markets remained empty and many worshipers stayed away from mosques during the first few days of the Muslim holy month due to a violent escalation with Israel that left 27 Palestinians and four Israelis dead.

By Amjad Yaghi

GAZA CITY — The foot traffic in Gaza’s markets was scarce already in the days leading up to the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. The Gaza Strip is seeing its worst economic crisis in 10 years, and Gazans are struggling to celebrate Ramadan, especially after two days of intense Israeli airstrikes that left 27 dead and over 150 wounded across the strip and four dead in Israel.

On Sunday morning, with the sounds of bombing and artillery fire still ringing out on Gaza’s eastern boundary — and as Palestinian factions fired hundreds of rockets into southern Israel — a small stream of people nonetheless headed to the markets to buy food for the holiday, during which Muslims fast from dawn until sunset.

In Al-Zawiya market, the oldest in the eastern part of Gaza City, the decorations put up a week ago have not been removed. And yet, the market, one of the most popular attractions in the city, has seen few visitors.

Mohammed al-Borei, who sells Ramadan lanterns and decorations in al-Zawiya, said Sunday that he was expecting to sell most of his stock. The escalation, which sowed widespread fear of even greater violence, however, kept people at home.

“I opened the shop hoping to celebrate Ramadan amid the bombing and destruction,” al-Borei said. “I thought there would be a truce between Gaza and the Israeli army. We know Israeli bombing isn’t new to Gaza, but what sin have we committed to be deprived of the one month we have waited for all year?”

“All religious rituals should be respected across the world,” he continued. “If Palestinians attacked the Israeli army during the Jewish holidays, we would be hearing that Palestinians are ruining the celebrations. We don`t want bombing. Just as their religion encourages peace, so too does Islam. We want peace during Ramadan.”

A marred holiday

Many Gazans didn’t go for prayers in mosques over the past few days, fearful of Israeli air raids.

Ayman Abu Mohadi, who lives in the Al-Naser neighborhood of Gaza City, said everyone remembers their suffering during the 2014 war, which also fell on Ramadan. His children, he said, still remember the last war.

Back in in...

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