Voices from Gaza

Jonathan Spollen
4 Min Read

An English teacher not paid in six months considers leaving

GAZA/CAIRO: Mohammed, an English teacher at a university in Gaza, has lived in Rafah his whole life. A child during the 1987 ‘Intifada,’ and a student during the 2000 uprising, his memory of conflict in this tiny strip of land, is dates back many years.

It is the latest clash between Fatah and Hamas however – between Palestinians – that has shaken him most. Despite their differing ideas and ideologies, Palestinians, he says, were always united against a foreign enemy.

Now they are threatened by an enemy within – factionalism.

The recent fighting that saw Fatah deposed from the Palestinian unity government in Gaza, and Hamas take power, was more terrifying than the usual fighting with Israel, he says, for the simple reason that it was impossible to distinguish between fighters.

“You couldn’t know whether the militants were Fatah or Hamas, because they disguised themselves in one another’s uniforms, he told The Daily Star Egypt in phone interview.

In this way, he recounts, each side accused the other of killings they had committed themselves.

Mohammed’s home is located in the center of Rafah- “a key strategic point between the refugee camps and the security compounds – right in the middle of the fighting.

“My house sustained a number of bullets, he says. “We couldn’t go outside our home.

“My wife was trying to study for her exams at university, but she was terrified. She missed the deadlines for her essays.

What most angers Palestinians, says Mohammed, is that they are dying at the hands of fellow Palestinians. When the local Imam laments the killing of a community member at Friday prayer, he is careful not to mention the individual’s political affiliation.

Only the grieving process, it seems, transcends the division that caused it.

But with Hamas now firmly in control of Gaza, Palestinians from all walks of life are, at least, apprehensive about the future.

International aid and trade embargoes, and Israel’s withholding of tax monies (currently being handed over to Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas), means Mohammed has not been paid in six months.

His experience is typical of the workforce in Gaza who, he says, are “very upset.

He attributes Hamas’ continued popularity to its “more effective rhetoric and “grassroots support, which permeates almost every level of Gazan society.

“They have their preachers everywhere, he says, “even kindergartens. [They also have] many supporters among academics and workers in Gaza.

A teacher himself, Mohammed can only afford to live in Gaza because his qualifications – a Masters degree in Translation from the University of London – mean he can get extra work in the private sector, unlike the majority of his colleagues.

But he admits that even that will not sustain him indefinitely.

If the situation does not improve by the end of the summer, he says, he and his wife will likely join the thousands of Gazans queuing up to leave.

(Mohammed asked that his surname be withheld.)

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