My Palestinian friend just posted pictures of his bombed apartment in Gaza. An estimated 65,000 Palestinians are now homeless with 1.8 million people displaced. Fortunately, my friend was not home at the time of the shelling. Just in case you are wondering, he was not a part of Hamas. He was an English teacher and loyal to Fatah, although that is becoming increasingly dangerous in a place like Gaza. He was so disturbed when Hamas won the elections in 2006 that he resigned his government teaching position and began looking for ways to study abroad. He was offered a full scholarship to study English Literature at a school in England, but he was not permitted to leave Gaza to receive that scholarship.
He had to leave his family in Gaza, but eventually, he was able to leave through Egypt to study in Cyprus. That is where I met him. While he was in Cyprus his wife gave birth to his daughter. He dared not return to Gaza because he was unsure if he could get out again to finish his studies. His daughter was two when he finally returned to Gaza and saw his little girl for the first time.
Hamas came to power in 2006 promising religious and ethical reform. My friend saw through their empty promises. Nothing improved. Corruption continued and the people began speaking out against Hamas. Elections were scheduled in 2010 and my friend felt sure that Hamas would be voted out of power, but Hamas would not allow the election to take place. My friend was frustrated again, but returned to Gaza to take care of his family. Because of the Israeli blockade for the last several years, supplies were hard to come by. Cement could be used to harden Israeli targets and build tunnels, but it was also used to make concrete blocks and build houses. The blockade made construction of anything difficult and expensive. Still, my friends had managed to set up a modest living in Gaza. Unemployment is high in Gaza. Local businesses cannot get supplies. The economy is in shambles, but with a Master of English Arts, my friend was able to teach at a local school. The school is now destroyed.
Trapped between Hamas and the Israeli military, all of his possessions destroyed and his job lost, what is he to do? He has no control over Hamas. He did not vote for Hamas, but as a Palestinian he is assumed to be guilty of something. The home he worked so hard to build with the few supplies available was destroyed along with his furnishings. The UN shelters where they were told to go to be “safe” were not safe. He once supported a two-state solution and peace, but now? Who is he supposed to trust? The U.S.? Israel? Hamas? My friends were not supportive of Hamas, but I sense their frustration and the tone of their postings is changing. Have you ever heard the phrase, “fight or flight?” It is basically saying that when faced with a physical threat you have two options for self-preservation. You can either run from the threat or fight for your survival. One way to force the fight response, one way to “radicalize” the people, is to block all the exits and then start shooting. My Palestinian friends have no ability to hurt Israel; in fact, they would like to get out of Gaza, but that is not an option. What would you do?