Saturday, March 19, 2016

Joel Migdal: Six hours in Gaza

Its rare to read a report out of Gaza without the ubiquitous, cliched anti-Israel sound bites.  Joel S. Migdal is the founding chair of the University of Washington's International Studies Program. In 1993, he received the University of Washington’s Distinguished Teaching Award; in 1994, the Washington State Governor’s Writers Award; in 2006, the Marsha L. Landolt Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award; and, in 2008, the Provost Distinguished Lectureship.  Prof. Migdal writes about his 6 hours in Gaza, here
Prof Migdal is genuinely surprised by what he sees and what he doesn’t see  in Gaza:
... I had expected the obvious and wrenching poverty that I had seen in some Indian cities or many other Third World countries, for that matter—collapsing infrastructure, rickety shacks, a surfeit of beggars, children in rags, adults sleeping on the sidewalks. At least in this part of the city and others that I saw later in the day, none of that was visible. Instead, I saw hordes of children going to school, university students walking in and out of the gates of the two universities—both the children and the university students reasonably dressed. I observed morning shoppers buying vegetables and fruits from stands, shopkeepers opening their shops, and people walking purposefully to wherever they were going for the start of the day. There were cranes and construction workers everywhere, with lots of uncompleted buildings being worked on. A garbage truck, with a UN sign on it, was making its rounds.
I saw almost no signs of authority on the streets. No police. No guns. No moral police. One person commented to me that in 2009 Hamas was omnipresent, with lots of moral policing on the streets. Since then, such surveillance has fallen off, but people have learned to be self-policing in their behavior in public, he said, just to be safe and not harassed.
People were certainly not in rags. Men were mostly in chino-type pants and button-down shirts. With very few exceptions, women were covered with the hijab and burka. Perhaps 10-20 percent of them were in black with their faces totally covered. Incidentally, this sort of veiling was not a traditional practice in Palestinian society; it is very much a product of the “new fundamentalism.”

Prof. Migdal  pours a great deal into his 6 hour visit,  and writes about his visits with Gaza intellectuals,  humanitarianism groups, and the fledgling Gaza entrepreneurial class, providing a real glimpse at life in Gaza beyond the platitudes and cliches.

Read it all here

No comments: