Adonis Diaries

Archive for November 7th, 2021

Apartheid Israel denied the Palestinians any opportunity to develop any remaining land they left them

November 5, 2021

Hala Abdel Karim, 36, is among 42 female entrepreneurs who were selected by the Ma’an Development Center to receive a financial grant and set up their own business as part of the “No to Work in Settlements” project.

She lives in the village of Zbeidat located in the Jordan Valley on the border between the Palestinian territories and Jordan.

She spends her day working on her farm in the Jordan Valley, which stretches over about 650 dunums, as she grows and picks aromatic herbs, especially basil, for export to foreign countries.

This came as an alternative to her work in the Israeli settlements, which resulted from the lack of opportunities in the Palestinian labor market.

Through the grant provided by Ma’an, Hala managed to set up a greenhouse dedicated to the cultivation of aromatic plants for export to foreign markets.

“We own agricultural lands, but we do not have the financial means to set up greenhouses and purchase other inputs for cultivation. Therefore, we find that working in the settlements is a viable alternative to make ends meet,” she told Al-Monitor over the phone.

(Note that Israel denies the Palestinian the necessary water resources: The Israeli gets 7 times what a Palestinian receive in agricultural resources)


Palestinians say no to work in settlements

A local Palestinian organization launched a project titled “No to Work in Settlements” with the aim of employing Palestinian women entrepreneurs in the Palestinian Jordan Valley, away from their work in Israeli settlements.

A general view taken on March 3, 2020, shows Palestinian farmers working in an agricultural field.

ABBAS MOMANI/AFP via Getty Images

A correspondent in Gaza

The business that Hala is working on has relieved her from the exhausting work in the settlements.

“I had to get up at 5 a.m. to go to work. We would spend more than 15 straight hours picking, weighing, packing, packaging and preparing the aromatic plants at the warehouse for their export abroad in return for about $37 per day,” she said.

According to Hala, working conditions were not favorable for women.

“The Jordan Valley is one of the hottest regions in the world during summer because it is below sea level, and working inside plastic greenhouses is like working in hell. But we had no choice but to be patient because this was our only way to make ends meet.”

“I would see scorpions and snakes, among other animals, while harvesting crops, and I would try to avoid getting stung by them. I was working there without any kind of health insurance,” she said.

Today, however, Hala works on her own farm and employs about 17 other workers and three of her brothers.

Under the slogan “No to work in settlements,” the Palestinian Ma’an Development Center launched the Afaaq project, which aims to employ female entrepreneurs in the Palestinian Jordan Valley in the Palestinian labor market as an alternative to working in settlements within a development program carried out by the center in the Jordan Valley, with funding from Norway.

Fayez Amro, 24, was also one of the grant recipients, and she is trying to avoid competing with settlement products. “This is the first time we grow seedless grapes in a greenhouse, and the crops will be harvested early in February so they are sold before the harvest season in the Israeli settlements, where they are grown on open farms,” she told Al-Monitor.

The high unemployment rate in the Palestinian labor market is what mainly leads Palestinian workers to search for job opportunities in Israeli settlements, especially Palestinian workers in the Gaza Strip who suffer from high rates of poverty due to the deteriorating economic conditions and the ongoing Israeli blockade.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, unemployment rates in the West Bank reached 17%, compared to 45% in the Gaza Strip in the second quarter of 2021.

As far as gender is concerned, unemployment rates in the Palestinian labor market stand at 42% among females and 23% among males.

A report issued by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in April shows that the plight of workers in the Gaza Strip has reached alarming levels, as only one person out of five of working age is managing to find a job.

The main incentive for these workers to work inside the settlements is the high wages they receive, given that they amount to four times the value of local wages.

According to the same ILO report, the number of Palestinian workers working in Israel and settlements has been steadily increasing in recent years and reached about 133,000 workers before the epidemic, decreasing only about 6% during the 2020 coronavirus restrictions.

Sami Khader, director-general of the Ma’an Development Center, told Al-Monitor, “We have been implementing projects in the Jordan Valley for nearly 20 years, and this project aims to achieve independence for Palestinian workers from the Israeli labor market, especially settlements.”

“The humiliating practices that workers, especially female workers, are subjected to, such as low wages, sexual harassment and difficult working conditions, have prompted us to give priority to female entrepreneurs as grant recipients,” Khader went on to say.

Although Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in February of last year called on Palestinian workers not to work in settlements, on contractors not to take any contracts there and on workers to stop going to settlements for the first time in a long time, such calls fell on deaf ears.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) had launched a campaign in 2010 to put an end to work in Israeli settlements and stop consuming their products, to no avail.

Khader believes that “the Palestinian decision to prevent work in the settlements is rightful, but the PA remains unable to create strategic alternatives for workers in the Palestinian market.”

Israel is taking advantage of the cheap, skilled labor while trying to increase the number of permits to increase the dependence of the Palestinian economy on the Israeli economy — all the while hitting its components,” Khader said.

Adly Hanaisheh, project coordinator at the Ma’an Center, told Al-Monitor, “The Israeli authorities are trying to control the Jordan Valley, and we have resorted to economic grants instead of loans for women to achieve sustainability and enhance the resilience of the population there.”

“The Ma’an Center supports such agricultural projects with the aim of helping women limit their risk-taking and helping them to market their products,” he said.

Read more:

Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah’s search for home

In the Nobel Prize-winning writer’s novels, migration is a process in which ordinary people are caught between the memory of violence past and present.

For some, healing is possible.

On the night of 11 January 1964, one month after Zanzibar gained independence, the Arab sultan and his elected constitutional government were overthrown by forces claiming to represent the African racial majority. There were reprisals and pogroms against Arabs and South Asians, resulting in the death of around 20 000 people. 

Zanzibar’s much vaunted cosmopolitanism came face to face with the repressed memory of slavery and the slave trade.

It had been one of the main slave trading ports and in the 19th century about 50 000 slaves passed through the slave markets here. The new rhetoric pitted the African against the Arab.

Abdulrazzak Gurnah, of Arab heritage, fled Zanzibar in 1967 to England along with his brother, to land in the middle of racial hatred in a country coming to terms with imperial decline and its increasing irrelevance.

In 1968, Enoch Powell was to make his infamous rivers of blood speech as he predicted a violent and sanguinary future for Britain with what he and other conservatives saw as a rising flood of immigrants. 

Gurnah’s oeuvre reflects these histories of the Indian Ocean world, colonialism, migration, violence and race.

What does it mean to belong somewhere, and does the migrant live a life that can only be about coping, with a persistent memory of violence past and present?

7 October 2021: Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah, winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature, reflects on the migrant experience in many of his works. (Photograph: Reuters/ Henry

Migration as a process

In Gurnah’s novels, migration is Not a single act.

It is an ongoing process with individuals constantly caught between worlds, bearing the scars of former degradation and continuing secrets. It is a state of suspended animation, and as Hannah in The Last Gift, lashes out at her mother, why do these “vile, immigrant tragedies” continue to haunt people?

These are ordinary people without tremendous psychic resources, who muddle through and there is the promise of redemption that lies in suggestions of a life beyond the space of the novel.

Gurnah leaves open windows in each of his novels suggesting possibilities of healing through return, new meetings and possible resolutions. However, return too is fraught with the possibility of disillusionment as much as a sense of not fitting in. 

In Gurnah’s Admiring Silence as much as By the Sea what the returning migrant is confronted by is a sense of unbridgeable distance, born as much out of estrangement as the guilt of leaving.

In the former novel, the presence of persistently blocked toilets becomes a metaphor for the stagnation as much as the squalor of the post-colony. The central character in Admiring Silence lies to his white partner about his country and himself to win for himself a sense of self-esteem as much as to solicit affinity. It is his way of managing and of coping.

There is no bedrock here, no haven from the heartless world.

Families are fragile entities and consist as much of inner tensions as the fact that one belongs to them contingently. One may be taken in as a foundling, and subject to an authoritarian patriarch.

On the other hand, as Gurnah says, “even love can be crushing”, as families make demands on individuals; fierce chains of required loyalty or obedience bind one.

Menace attends every moment, and the child is the prime candidate for prospective violence. So too the young women, who are manipulated and begin to acquire a mere “mercantile worth”. 

In Departure, the childhood of the protagonist is short and brutal. In Dottie, the eponymous character “comes through” but her siblings do not.

Yusuf in Paradise survives, but luck matters as much as individual resilience or resourcefulness. There is none of the sentimentality associated with bourgeois fiction of the family as a unit which despite all its problems provides a space of return. There is no there there, as Gertrude Stein might have said, in Gurnah’s world of immigrants.

Colonialism’s lasting impact

The Indian Ocean world impinges on the consciousness of characters in which being Muslim is less about religion and more about a cultural cosmopolis – the world of Arabian Nights and tales of the trickster Abu Nawas.

It is a world that takes in Palestine, the Swahili coast from Somalia to Mozambique, and Aden, Kerala and Bombay.

Madagascar, an African island, seems to belong to another planet in this world determined by monsoon winds and historical networks. The Indian Ocean is both vast as well as familiar in its micro-worlds. Colonialism impacts on this world and creates new hierarchies and disruptions. 

In Afterlives, we get a parable from a German colony in southern Africa during World War I. We know by now that colonial wars involved the large-scale carnage of colonial troops from Africa and Asia and mawkish European invocations of Ypres and Flanders usually forget this fact.

An oberleutnant develops an affinity for Hamza, his orderly, and tries to civilize him through cultivating a love for Friedrich Schiller’s poetry.

This misguided humanism is rooted in the hardness of racial difference and the impossibility of friendship between unequals. As Gurnah shows, the ideological mindset of superiority can only exude condescension, not affinity.

Abbas in The Last Gift has the sense of coming from a tiny place, he remains frightened of the world with its vastness. This sense of men from small places trying to find a home in the world is a theme that runs through Gurnah’s novels. However, despite the scars, the memories of violence and the fragility of relations, they come through in the end.

This article was first published by Indian Express.

Note: The civil war in Lebanon (1975-1990) displaced thousands of pseudo-citizens from their original root villages to other sectarian cantons. All these transferred people have been living in sadness and a “strange” existence for decades. No wonder Lebanon social fabric has lost its community root in culture and traditions.




November 2021

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