Friday, January 2, 2009

[A story of a Gazan fisherman]

Written by Fida Qishta

Fida Qishta lives in the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, Palestine. She is a freelance journalist, filmmaker and blogger, and the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) coordinator for the Gaza Strip.

This is an extract from her diary referring to the gaza fishermen. You can read the whole text posted on the ISM website on Friday, 02 January 2009

From the thousands of stories about life in Gaza and the suffering of the people here, I was amazed by one story of Gaza’s fishermen that I heard when I was out on a fishing boat. To write a story like this you need to wake up at 5:30 am and prepare yourself to leave Rafah at 6am to be on time for the fishing trip.

The trip from Rafah to Gaza City is an hour by taxi. Normally, we share the taxi with six other people. We don’t know one another, but the strange thing is that we talk to each other as friends who see each other every day. And in that way you can hear six stories about life, about a father or a son, a mother or a daughter, a lover or a friend, about their days, or about the questions in their minds that need answers. We share the taxi to share the costs, but at the same time to share the happiness and the sadness. This is one of the things we have that people in Europe don’t.

At 7 am on my first day fishing, I wanted to be on one of the trawlers. I didn’t think it would be easy or that I would be safe, but it was worth trying, in order to see something different and a window on the world that is almost closed.

I arrived at Gaza port with one of my friends, got on the boat and started the trip, after the fishermen had prepared themselves. On the boat I realized how open the fishermen were, how much they wanted to talk about their experiences. They just needed somebody to listen, somebody to make them feel better.

While we were all chatting about different things, Ahmed, who is 20 years old, started to talk. He said, my brother was shot in the head while he was working on this boat. I remember that day very well. All of us on the boat were working, and things were going alright until an Israeli gunboat showed up and started to shoot at us. You are going to ask me, for no reason? Yes, for no reason, unless they aim to make us suffer on land and in the sea. The gunboat started to shoot directly at our boat. Ibrahim was shot in the head. Some of us were scared, and some tried to deal with Ibrahim’s wound. They were really strong to be able to deal with his injury and see all of the blood. For a while I thought he had died. But when we arrived to the port, and took him to the hospital, he was in very bad condition according to the doctors. He stayed in the emergency room for ten days, and after that it was God’s will that he survived. Since then he has not come back to fish because the accident affected him.

I asked myself since hearing this story, what is the mistake that we have made to face this fate? The Israelis always say that they fight us because we are armed. Are the nets that we use for fishing a prohibited thing, are they a weapon? If so, international law should inform us of this.

For your information, according to the Oslo Agreements, Gaza’s fishermen have the right to fish 20 miles from the shore, and according to international law we can fish 12 miles out, with or without an occupation. Then why does the Israeli Navy force these fishermen to fish no more than six miles from shore? Is this part of their siege, or another of their security reasons which have no end?

I asked another fisherman named Hassan who is 35 years old, is it really dangerous to fish? He answered, the Israelis have left me with no alternative but to die.

In the stories that I write I never try to remember the date or the time, but for some people it makes a difference to know when something happened. But for Gazans it doesn’t make any difference. It amazes me how people here survive. Maybe as we say in Arabic, a person who sees others’ miseries finds that his misery looks smaller than he imagined.