Tuesday 12 January 2010

Blog-log Day 14 - Gaza

It's tricky to know where to start with this, and all I am really clear about is that my brain is about to burst, I have seen and heard so much.

But let me try and make a start and tell some of what I saw with pictures.

Today I went to Gaza, an early start to be there for the 8am crossing and a full day with UNRWA leaving Gaza at 3pm (it takes about an hour to get through security - not because it is busy but because it is a long and thorough process).

Can I also just say to all readers that this is very much written from what I saw - it's a complex set of experiences and the stories and accounts I heard need to be fully processed by me - not least by a night's sleep before being developed into firmer views - but let me try and give you an insight.

The first thing to say about the access is that it feels like an incredibly efficient but cold airport - but the other element I now understand is bar soldiers, just how few Israei's actually know what goes on within Gaza. I spent tonight having dinner with friends in Jerusalem and none of them have been to Gaza or the West Bank in at least the last 10 years - those that had been to Gaza went as soldiers (during service rather than during recent conflicts) and Ramallah or the West Bank was somewhere they had been to as much younger children.

I should add that I had absolutely no real or clear understanding of what to expect - it's the first time I had been to anything that might be described as a war zone, but all the reading of history didn't give me a clear image of what to expect.

I was struck by the devastation in the 'buffer zone' - nothing was left standing - there are a few almost ironic features left - a tap in a field of ruins - but largely crumbled concrete and mangled metal from the building sturctures. The building construction time has rendered destroyed buildings near useless for re-using the materials.

The second is that this all lies within what is clearly incredibly verdant landscape - it's clear that the north of the Gaza strip has/had the potential to be incredibly fertile agricultural land yet this is a community that relies on food vouchers from the UN - on a simplistic level - the contrast is just too stark to pass by without comment.

Next is the wider wider prosperity and potential of Gaza (and I only saw northern Gaza in the time I had). It was clear to me, and reflected in conversation with virtually everyone, that this is a community that is well educated, educationally ambitious for their young people, entrepenurial and innovative and dogged. But the war has set back such economic hopes and left a wake of distruction, mistrust and significant food and fuel poverty.

The blockade is having the effect of giving massive leverage over the local economy (if it can be called that) by the operators of the tunnels - the tunnels I now understand are not some determined small operation of a few parcels here and there - they are full scale passages enabling the illegal passage of fuel, building materials (cement, blocks etc) as well as commodities and food stuffs and inevitably arms and weapons. It's a full scale operation. The illegality of the operation is opposed by many of the traders and merchants of Gaza who see their business being undermined by Hamas.

Now I'm sure it is possible to get contrary opinions but some of the messages I heard were pretty clear and almost pleas to me at least (in no particular order):
- we (Palestinians) are not all terrorists, we are as much terrorised as Israel is.
- the vast majority of people here have no truck with extremism.
- there is little love for the British MP George Galloway and he is percieved by the people as stirring up anger and negative passions
- before the war there was strong and growing trade with Israel and that was good for trade, work, skills and opportunities
- the building destruction that has taken place has left an indelible mark as there are no rebuilding materials
- what is the next move/next stage if the "idiots" ( a direct quote) keep firing rockets: what do we "residents" do?

I think I'll pause there - I want to sleep further and think about what I saw and heard. Going was one of the best things I have done and I'm grateful to friends and contacts who made the links to enable me to get the permit and see something of it for myself and to the team who made my visit possible today.


Anonymous said...

Hopefully after sleeping on it, you will re-write that whole blog entry and correct all of your "mistakes".

What happened a year ago this week was no WAR. It was an attack on a defenceless people by one of the best equipped and biggest military forces in the world. It was slaughter, genocide. A few pathetic home made rockets fired from the Palestinian side of this huge open air concentration camp have done barely any damage at all on the Israeli side.
You fail to mention that in this attack 1,400 innocent civlilians were blown to pieces including 400 children.
400 children, for Christs sake man!
You didn't mention the phosporous bombs that were dropped on schools and towns nor the depleted uranium that was used.
These tunnels that you claim are illegal are the only way the people can survive this cruel Israeli siege. Now the Egyptians, arab traitors are building an underground steel wall to stop them.
The fertile ground in the Israeli devastated "buffer" was being farmed. Any Gazan trying to harvest his land risks being shot at by trigger happy soldiers who kill Palestinians on a weekly basis.
The country that you rave about would not exist but for the nearly five billion dollars in handouts that it gets from the USA and the billions in reparations that it still claims from Germany nearly seventy years after the war that incidently had nothing to do with the Palestinians who were driven from their homes by invading Europeans who had no right to be there.
A year after the holocaust on Gaza, the Israeli gangsters are still bombing and shooting the poor people of Gaza while you were having such a wonderful time in their occupied land.
You have nailed your colours to the mast and we in Kilburn know where you stand.
You most certainly will not be getting my vote and I'm sure the huge muslim majority in the area will not be voting for you either when they discover all about your love for the pimping, whoring, drug running gangster state of Israel.
How sad that we are losing Sarah Teather.

Anonymous said...

Could not agree more with previous poster.
I do believe this fast eddie character believes he can sacrifice the muslim vote because the Jewish vote is bigger in this constituency. I do not think he has figured out many Jewish people do not agree with the disproportionate response the state of Israel has unleashed on innocent civilians.

Ed Fordham said...

I simply put something of what I saw.
To suggest that me taking a hard line supporting one side or the other would help is just daft. Interestingly the feedback from the UN is that having people actually up for the dialogue is helpful. And the idea that any of us can help by taking harder and harder positions...
I didn;t mention the phosphorus cos I wasn;t in that part of Gaza strip - I was in Gaza City, I spoke of what i saw.

Clearly there is much more to this about the use of army might, wherther it was a war or an incursion etc - but give me the credit for having taken a serious interest, got access, started talki8ng about it, seeking to see and understand for my own eyes and being in the debate not on the sidelines.

There's quite enough heat in this debate without people reading this blog accelerating it more - I'm trying to take my prospective role seriously and understand what can and can;t be achieved.


Anonymous said...

On a more local and realistic level I worry about your associations with big US politicians even before you are elected. Smacks of top table behaviour and hardly someone who will tackle the Jubilee line problems and dog mess.
Seems that h & k is just a stepping stone for you and you only moved here when you got the PPC role?

Anonymous said...

Can we sort out peace on the tube lines before we sort out peace in the middle east !! Christ.

Ed Fordham said...

I've been working on north west London transport links for best part of 5 years and will continue to do so.

I reckon I have a pretty good track record on local street-based issues - but having a brief window to reflect on the wider world doesn't seem to be too unreasonable...


Anonymous said...

If you had some foresight as to what your actions might precipitate and hence you could be trusted I would vote for you but I think I remember you were backing the bid for the Olympics and now with the Jubilee line being upgraded to cope with the predicted influx of visitors you complain - not very joined up thinking on your part ?

Ed Fordham said...

Fascinating from Anonymous but sadly inaccurate

I have supported the need for the Olympics and the refurbishment all along.

However, the way in which it has been done, managed (or not), supervised and communicated has been farcical and got worse with every passing week and over-run weekend. It was scheduled for 50 weekends and is already at 128 weekends with another 30 to go!

Anonymous said...

In that case it is completely naive of you to think that local concerns or even Londoners concerns will outweigh big businesses (the Olympics). Of course they will say we have the infrastructure to deal with the influx and of course they have plans to expand the network. Are these plans palatable to Londoners - were they transparent - did you not spot any holes in them? Or in the rush for the Olympics were locals overlooked.

Anonymous said...

I see if you are in danger of losing the argument you just censor the post. This is not moderation and from now on I refuse to contribute or read your blog. Call yourself a Liberal, Shame on you.

Ed Fordham said...

I'm not sure what this refers to.
I can say hand-on-heart that I have never censored anyone's post.

the comments go through a filter cos there is so much spam - often in japanese!

Sometimes there is a delay but nothing has been edited or changed.

I did once delete a post about a year ago as it was littered with swear words and was unconnected to the post...

Hope that helps


Anonymous said...

I refer to the post above the one you commented on - do you think you could address that post.
Also ,apologies , if it does take you 2 days to moderate one post!

Ed Fordham said...

I assume you're talking about the top table comment

It's very simple and I've said it before that what is international relations for most seats is domestic policy here in north west london and there's nothing odd about being interested and understanding these issues given the frequency they crop up on the doorsteps.

In fact I am the fourth generation of my family to have lived here and anyone who knows me does not doubt my committment to the area... Hampstead and Kilburn constituency is no stepping stone for me...

This blog shows that surely?

Anonymous said...

All this blog shows for me is that you will steer discussions onto safe ground at all costs.
You're good at spinning mistakes rather than admitting to them.
You try to engage as little as possible and only when you are called on your behaviour do you try to put up a defence surrounded by soft soap.
For instance the claim that '4 generations' of your family has lived here - well you only moved into to kilburn borders when you got the PPC role.
When it was hampstead and highgate you lived in the heart of hampstead and never posted about Kilburn or ever mentioned any love of it.

Ed Fordham said...

I think most people would think that the idea that i don;t try and engage is almost laughable really

if you think i steer to safe ground then i think you fundamentally misunderstand what the middle east is all about

This blog however, has been unashamedly and predominantly about local stuff - it's an interest of mine - there are plenty of other political content i contribute to not least www.hampsteadandkilburn.org.uk

You clearly don't know that i moved from one rented flat in west hampstead to one in hampstead before purchasing in kilburn.

and if you think i have only just picked up the kilburnbaton then you either haven;t been watching or are deliberately seeking to be negative... but then you do clearly enjoy being anonymous

Anonymous said...

You went for a holiday in Israel - some readers got miffed at your one sided reporting - I do not care to comment on this other than the sheer naivety of your behaviour.
Lived in Sutton, Stoke, Hampstead then bought in Kilburn - probably because hampstead maybe a bit expensive?
Cite one example of your love for kilburn before your PPC role - go on - just one - in the public arena.
Just one...

Ed Fordham said...

Poor Theo, must be hard being Theo...
For the record I have never lived in Sutton for what it's worth and considering the damage decades of labour of rule has failed to stop or reverse in Kilburn i'm not sure how you have the nerve really.

Sad all in really...

Ed Fordham said...

For some reason this is viewable on my e-mail but not in the comments feed of the blog:

"Do you really think I will allow you to censor me unchallenged. Either you let the posts through or get called on your behaviour on a lot more public forum - you choice Fordham especially after the hand on the heart stunt. "

But I can assure people that there is no censoring (tempting though that can be).

I only log on now and then so that's when I upload things. But some people seem to be a tad impatient...

Anonymous said...

So will you actually cite an example or just dodge the question and move discussion onto personal attacks?
Cite an example of you mentioning Kilburn publicly before becoming its PPC.
And I am only a civilian.

Ed Fordham said...

I'm not sure what you are trying to prove - and I genuinely think it's slightly odd and aggressive and obsessive.

Kilburn Bridge works when I was urging for some recognition of Kilburn's history - the plaque Camden eventually laid says Roman Bridge 700s! - clearly wrong
There was the work - not very public - about the location of the priory and the recognition of the significance of Hermit Place
Or perhaps the plea I made for the Kilburn State when it was a bingo hall to be open more for history and music recitals of the organ/whurlitzer...
all pre 2006 when I was selected...

But there is something slightly odd about your comments - I never lived in Sutton, but the fact you refer to where my professional work was based for a time, reveals a level of knowledge that goes beyond the innocent "I am a civillian".

So on that note I think I will end this thread - if you want more you can email me on ed.fordham@hampsteadandkilburn.org.uk
That seems fair?
I'm trying to engage with 80,000 people - six or seven replies on here isn't a good balance between me and one person whose trying to make a point that feels pretty obscure! I'm certainly not willing to claim for things I haven't done - which seems to be wider claim your trying to make.

Theo Blackwell's blog said...

"Poor Theo, must be hard being Theo..."

That was a real punter from your area, not me!

Lib Dems often play fast-and-loose with community politics, so you've got to answer for the stances you tak. Simple as that.