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Trapped

Nigel Roberts's picture

Gaza City, January 10, 2010

In our WDR Concept Note, we have written about an ‘expectations trap’. We argue that persistent violence and disappointment at efforts to tackle it can fracture peoples’ confidence in their leaders and institutions: a crisis of confidence that can snowball, as when investors lose faith in the stock market. Under this dynamic of despair, people are more prone to embrace violence, out of anger or an effort to preserve dignity and identity.

    Reconstruction Gaza Style.  Photos © Natalia Cieslik.

Gaza is a literal expectations trap, both physical and psychological. It is true that Israeli settlers and soldiers no longer live here, but it must be hard for any but the more avid Hamas supporters to find many positives out of two decades of ‘peacemaking’let alone believe that a just resolution is anywhere near happening. Visiting almost a year after the recent war with Israel, Laurence Wright described the isolation and hopelessness in the The New Yorker: “I began to see Gaza as, I suspect, many Gazans do: a floating island, a dystopian Atlantis, drifting farther away from contact with any other society.”

Ha’aretz columnist Aluf Benn recently wrote an op-ed on Israel’s Palestinian problem, saying how most Israelis have essentially forgotten about their neighbors. “The policy of isolation is the real legacy of Ariel Sharon, who built the fence in the West Bank, left the Gaza Strip and pushed the Palestinians out of the Israeli labor force. Sharon did not believe in peace and was not interested in links with the "Arabs." All he wanted was to protect the Jews from attacks by their "bloodthirsty" neighbors. Keeping them out of sight lets Israelis live as if there were no conflict, with only settlers on the periphery and soldiers on the firing line.”

Escape

In Gaza, though, more than 60% of its population is under 16. What you or I take for granted isn’t available to most of them: there are very few job prospects, little hope of moving anywhere, a received history of suffering, daily evidence of their parents’ frustration. With their material circumstances so compromised, little wonder if many seek escape on other planes of reality. One such alternative is offered by the jihadi websites that populate the internet. There may be few active salafis in Gaza today, but the pressure Gaza is experiencing could change that.

It isn’t clear that the young Gazan generation will allow itself to be forgotten.