The truth will out 0

 Rafael D Frankel, correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor, wrote in the August 12, 2008 edition:


"I want [the Israelis] to come back," says Riyad al-Laham, an unemployed father of eight who worked in the area’s Jewish settlements for nearly 20 years. "All the Mawassi people used to work in the settlements and make good money. Now there is nothing to do. Even our own agricultural land is barren."

Located in the middle of Gush Katif, the former block of Jewish settlements here, Mawassi fell within the security cordon the Israeli army threw around its citizens from 2002 to 2005, when attacks from the neighboring Palestinian town of Khan Yunis came almost daily.

During those years, the people of Mawassi continued to work in Gush Katif, mainly as farmhands in hundreds of greenhouses the Jewish settlers operated.

Mr. Laham and many others in Mawassi say they preferred the relative economic security of those days to the current destitution, even if they are now free from Israeli occupation.

"Freedom to go where?" Laham asks. "I have no fuel now for my car. Where can I go? Freedom is a slogan. Even for a donkey you need money – which I don’t have."

Three years ago, before Israel withdrew, Mawassi was a town of fertile corn crops and greenhouses, which – like the ones in the Jewish settlements – grew cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, and strawberries.

Now, in the ethnic Palestinian section of town, nearly half the land lies barren.

Only shells remain of many of the greenhouses that were stripped of valuable materials.

A city that fed itself with its produce and the money its men made from working with the settlers, Mawassi is now dependent on food handouts from the United Nations.

Like the rest of Gaza, its people lack cooking gas and petrol, even if they feel more secure without Israeli soldiers all around them.

In the Bedouin section of town, Salem al-Bahabsa sits with five of his 24 grandchildren in front of his chicken coop. Goats and sheep wander around the other parts of the Bedouin quarter, where people live mostly in tents with tin roofs.

"We are all now unemployed and depend on charity for food," Mr. Bahabsa says. "My sons were farmers in the greenhouses. We worked in the settlements and had resources. Now, I don’t think I could survive without [the UN]…. Before was better."

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Thursday, August 21, 2008

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