Thursday, April 22, 2010

Access to the water - Gaza style

A story today on the BBC site reminded me that some people have more trouble getting on the waters than others.

The clip you see above is of the few fun things to do in Gaza - surf. The territory is currently under a blockade that is more like a medieval siege, with materials like glass or even paper banned, along with more useful things like parts for the sewage system, and so there was no way to import a surf board.

Enter one enterprising Californian, the surfing legend Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz, who took it upon himself back in 2007 to personally deliver 15 boards. What can one say but "respect dude!"

Getting them through the blockade was a major achievement: usually when they say that you have to do a bit of kiss-up to the border guards you are only speaking metaphorically - here it was apparently literal.

But it must surely have been worth it - doesn't that look good!

There are other dangers, apart from dodging the sewage. Go too far out and you'll end up like this poor Palestinian fisherman, courtesy of the Israeli gunships enforcing the blockade:

That's not what I consider counts as the Freedom of the Seas.


Pat said...

Definitely not a warm and fuzzy part of the world.

Of course, crews on the water can be very paranoid given that boats that look innocent may turn out to be packed with explosives or gunmen.

Add generations of distrust and ancient grudges and hatreds and it's a pleasant surprise that people can even manage something as innocent and healthy as surfing.

JP said...

The problem with the whole ancient grudge line (that I've heard many times on US news channels) is that it is simply not true.

Historically, the people that lived in Palestine, which included Muslims, Christians and Jews, all got a long very well.

The problem started in the first half of the 20th Century when the Zionists decided that what really mattered was how you answered the question "Are you Jewish?".

Those that gave what the Zionists viewed as the "right" answer turned from Palestinians into Israelis. For those that gave the "wrong" answer i.e. Christians and Muslims, the result was ethnic cleansing or 2nd class subjects, then occupation and oppression, and more recently being the victim of war crimes.

The problem with the fisherman is typical of the policy that was described in the Goldstone Report, namely excessive force that can not be justified militarily but only as part of a collective punishment.

In all my travels in the Middle East I've never heard once anyone with problems with Jewish people - indeed this trip was just one of many, many Jews to Gaza where they were received with courtesy.

Kat said...

It is terrible when the innocent (in this case the fishermen)become the victims.

Of course, it's worth thinking about what the Jews have gone through too:
after being scattered throughout the world, after being hated and despised, after being regarded as sub-human or second class citizens in many countries (including the UK), after being "ethnically cleansed" by most of the World (!)- they weren't even regarded as an nation until until 1948 (when Jews were encouraged to return to their historic homeland).

Based on the kind of news reports we have to judge this situation from, it's easy to believe that all Jews and all Palestinians are at war, the reality is that there are many on both sides who probably just want peace.

However, it's a very tricky situtaion for Israel knowing that terrorist groups like Hamas have made it perfectly clear that their intention is to wipe Israel completely off the map...peaceful coexistance is not on their agenda.

I can also appreciate the very valid concern about adopting Sharia Law - which would no doubt occur if Palestinian leaders had their way.

JP said...

Actually Hamas have said on many times that they would accept the two state solution based upon Israel withdrawing from the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It is only Israel that rejects such as a solution, instead building ever more settlements.

What Hamas refuse to do is recognise Israel, understandable given that that country occupies their lands and refuses to recognise in return the rights of the Palestinian people.

Of course I condemn all acts of terror but Israel has killed many, many more civilians than Hamas has (by a factor of 100 in a recent conflict). Furthermore even when there are periods (such as at present) where there no significant terrorist activities Israel continues to occupy Palestine and oppress the Palestinians.

It should also be noted that the main Palestinian political bodies do not support Sharia law.

Any solution should be based on equality, universal human rights and respect for all the people that live or have rights to live between the Jordan and the sea - equally, irrespective of how they answer the question "Are you Jewish?".

However Israel rejects such an ethical approach, instead being founded by ethnic cleansing and being built on a policy of discrimination.