At the border crossing into Gaza a middle aged woman sat next to me looking rather pale. She was accompanied by what looked like her mother, even frailer than her.
Between her hands the sick woman grasped a pack of six tea glasses. It seemed a bit strange of an item to be bringing back into Gaza with so few permitted to make this rare excursion beyond Gaza’s borders. Later that day, after a large welcoming lunch and over tea in plastic throw away cups I found out that tea glasses like so many other things had run out in Gaza. A single glass had nearly reached the cost of the price of a whole set and for my hosting family this was simply not affordable.
Much of my second day I spent at the beach. The one outlet for a majority of Gaza’s population is still very much a reality and on summer days like this one, hundreds of people flock to the beach to forget the daily routine.
Every occupation has its winners and losers, those that profit and those that lose almost everything. Recently I have been reading Marx who considered the making and the writing of “history” to be based on class divisions. According to Marx, the world was not so much explainable by the acts of God on passively receiving humankind, as a world that was driven and lead by the acts of people. For Marx, these acts of history were determined and received their meaning by the division of classes.
By the evening I had been invited to a gathering of some of Gaza’s elite society. For some of them, the recent re-opening of the borders was a monkey wrench for their monopolies in the market. A ton of cement was now back down to 520 shekels, a week ago one 10kg bag had cost 270 shekel. As soon as cement was allowed back into Gaza, the Hamas government- showing some rather socialist colors- set prices in order to undermine such monopolies and make prices accessible to the common population. That night we had duck, chicken and chicken wings, large plates of dessert and watermelon. Throughout the course of that day Marx started making a lot of sense.
Between the beach and the evening BBQ I had my first taste of Gaza’s streets under the gas shortages. Due to Israel limiting the amounts of gas into Gaza only one third of required supplies makes it in. This limited amount is not provided in the regular market, which would drive it up to extremely high prices and create a further monopoly. Rather, Hamas divides it rather wisely. Of course a majority of Hamas members and all government offices are supplied with their needs. Furthermore, Hamas provides a weekly stipend of gas at regular market prices to all drivers that register their cars with them. Some of that supply and likely a percentage of Hamas’ main share leaks into the black market at extravagant prices that most cannot afford; a liter of petrol costs $15. Many drivers cannot afford to register as they didn’t for so long under the previous Fateh government and the accumulated cost is simply too high. Instead many have begun to use cooking oil to fill their tanks. The streets smell accordingly. The stench of falafil oil filling the air makes walking down main roads hardly bearable.
On the Palestinian side of the border crossing into Gaza, carrying my bags for a small tip, Ridwan told me he was so tired of it all. Every night shelling back and forth, back and forth, the shaky cease-fire- although violated by both sides by now- has given him some rest. Later that evening, over cigarettes and cards the high society of Gaza spoke of their dread of the effects of cease-fire. A few days earlier a home-made rocket was fired into the desert of Israel ordered by a group of businessmen who had too much to lose by the end of the fighting and open borders. The streets on the way into Gaza were lined with trucks of Israeli fruit, rarely does that flow cede, Israeli farms have a captive market in Gaza where farmers grow largely vegetables and rely on Israel for their B-grade fruit.
It may not be all-encompassing but in these two days I have seen “history” written by the division of classes beyond even the boundaries of occupation. But occupation remains the color these stark divisions are painted in; in Gaza occupation is the framework that makes it all possible.
– Philip Rizq is an Egyptian German writer. He visited and lived in Gaza on many occasions.