When Living on is the Harder Option

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Many people, especially those outside of Palestine, follow the news and pitch of the Intifada by watching the numbers of dead and wounded. Nobody, however, seems to be paying attention to those who have managed to stay alive. Some might argue that Israel is carrying out policies that make death the easiest of its punishments lowered against the Palestinian – or at least that less painful.

Israel’s policies have put every member of the Palestinian people, with the exception of the martyrs, in a prison of borders – borders between almost every city, village and refugee camp. This has made it nearly impossible to move from one Palestinian area to another.

When it is possible to reach your desired destination, the trip is a daily torture. Coming from Ramallah to Jerusalem, for example, takes between one to two hours. Further destinations take up to four and the trip is full of fear, tension and danger.

Perhaps what alleviates the pain for those who have daily hardships in traveling from one place to another is that they know they are luckier than most Palestinians. Many people do not need to go from one place to another because they no longer have a job to get to.

Israeli punitive measures have unemployed and impoverished hundreds of thousands of Palestinians that remain alive. They have also partially paralyzed the education process and other essential services. These measures have also resulted in the destruction of thousands of dunams of farmland and fruit trees, especially essential olive trees.

Unemployment in the territories has soared to 45 percent since late September. Over half of these jobs have been lost inside the West Bank and Gaza, not just those lost when Israel banned all Palestinian workers from inside the Green Line. It is estimated that the gross domestic production will soon decline by 25 percent of its already-low rate.

Palestinians are accustomed to wide family support, by which members of the nuclear and sometimes extended family live together communally. Family members help each other, especially financially. Despite this, there are thousands of cases of families going hungry – not starving – but making do with less than they should.

One man martyred in the Aqsa Intifada was from the city of Qalqilya. Two days before he was killed he was released from prison. His crime was that he got caught stealing vegetables from the main vegetable market in the city. He said he could not feed his children because he had lost his job at the start of the uprising.

When the police went to double-check his story, they found his wife soaking bread in water to feed her children. There was no other food in the house. The man was released.

The following day, during demonstrations in the city, he was hit by a bullet in the chest. His suffering was over.

Perhaps he chose the lesser punishment, that of death. Perhaps he committed suicide in his own way.

Is Israel trying to turn the Palestinian masses into a people with no reason to live?

Mr. Ghassan Khatib is the publisher of the Palestine Report.

Making Peace Impossible

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