Aug 03 2014

West Bank Palestinians raise money for Gaza

Published by at 1:04 pm under Articles,Palestinian politics


By Daoud Kuttab

A burly man driving a Land Rover ran quickly into the Greenland supermarket and asked for 10 large boxes of bottled water. When the owner of the store, where I happened to be at the time, asked what the water was for, the man answered that it was a contribution to Gaza. Without a blink, the storeowner ordered one of his staff to add five more boxes as a contribution. At the entrance of the store in this Ramallah suburb of Tireh, I saw two signs calling on customers to contribute to Gaza. “Your small contribution will go a long way,” said an ad, signed by the Latin Church in Ramallah.

Driving through the occupied West Bank, we see large signs that state, “We are all Gaza.” Radio stations blare revolutionary chants, Marcel Khalife patriotic songs and Mahmoud Darwish poems between news reports and interviews with Gaza reporters and Palestinian analysts.

In Bethlehem, Alex Awad, 68, said that he felt guilty every time he went into a store and picked up a product with a bar code starting with 729 — a reference to its Israeli origin. Palestinians have been encouraged to look for products beginning with the 625, the Palestinian barcode. Awad, who runs the Shepherd Society, said he was working with Gazans to help them with the current crisis. Awad is working with a New Zealand Christian humanitarian organization to raise $100,000. They hope that the money will be distributed to Gazan families at the rate of $250 a family to help them with buying food, water, gas or paying for alternative housing if their homes are destroyed.

Awad told Al-Monitor that he was dusting off an article he wrote years ago, calling on Palestinians to stop using Israel currency. “This is a small act but it is something everyone can do and it allows people to feel that they are not helping the occupiers,” he said. Awad conceded that the Palestinian government may have made commitments in the Paris Accords to use the Israeli shekel, but that this was the time to end this commitment. “Israel has violated so many elements in that agreement, including not allowing the movement of goods and people between the West Bank and Gaza. But even if the Palestinian Authority can’t rid itself of these commitments, there is no reason why the people are obliged to use the currency of our occupiers.” A large percentage of the currency coming to Palestine is in dollars, euros or Jordanian dinars. Awad asked why people were quick to change that to the Israeli shekel.

Awad, author of “Palestinian Memories: The Story of a Palestinian Mother and Her People,” lost his father in 1948 when he was two years old. He says that it is important to relay the Palestinian narrative to counter the Israeli public relations machine.

The support for Palestinians in Gaza is not bound to supermarkets and local groups. The United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) used television to seek support for Palestinians in Gaza. Mohammad Assaf, who won the “Arab Idol” TV talent competition last year and has been named UNRWA’s Youth Ambassador, appeared in a black and white ad on the entertainment-only TV channel MBC4, appealing for funds to help Gaza’s displaced refugees.

Palestinian citizens of Israel also got involved in contributions for Gaza. In Um al-Fahm 2 million shekels ($585,000) were raised. Another group organized buses to the West Bank city of Tulkarm, where Palestinian citizens of Israel donated blood at a hospital.

In addition to in-kind contributions — preferred by many to avoid corruption — and financial support, many Palestinians in the West Bank feel that they need to demonstrate in support of the people of Gaza. Demonstrations peaked on the last days of the holy month of Ramadan and were put down forcefully by the Israelis, causing the deaths of six Palestinian demonstrators.

A huge Ramallah-to-Jerusalem protest July 25 brought out tens of thousands and ended in harsh repression by Israeli soldiers near the Qalandia checkpoint. Two Palestinians were killed and 200 were injured. Since the start of the Eid al-Fitr holidays, the demonstrations came to a halt but calls for a day of anger on Aug. 1 brought out massive demonstrations throughout the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Near Ramallah, a 19-year-old Palestinian was killed by Israeli troops. Angry demonstrations also occurred in and around Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus, Tulkarm and other West Bank cities.

Palestinians in the West Bank know that their contributions and support and demonstrations are not going to change the main issues regarding Gaza. Their contributions, whether bottled water, blood donations or anti-Israeli demonstrations are meant to show solidarity and to give frustrated Palestinians the feeling that they are doing something to support their brethren in Gaza.


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