Climatologists have coined the phrase “new normal” to refer to the more difficult changes in our world’s environment (more intense and frequent storms, more dangerous weather conditions, more extreme temperatures). We are warned to expect these conditions as the “new normal” and not aberrations.
There is a different kind of “new normal” here in Gaza. I visited the Gaza beach and seaport yesterday for the first time. The Palestinian fishermen were sorting through their catch, repairing their nets, painting their boats. Children were playing while families sat on the beach watching.
The cool breeze was refreshing and I understood why the beach is the focal point for recreation and relaxation for many families.
I was aware of an unseen current, however, that I didn’t really understand.
I didn’t see any Israeli ships, and only heard their planes when the sound was pointed out to me. There were no overt signs of aggression or violence from either side. This was just an ordinary seaport. Or so I thought . . .
When I started to remove my binoculars from my purse so I could get a better view of the Mediterranean Sea, I was cautioned not to use them. “The Israelis are always watching everything on the beach and in the water.”
The Oslo Accords authorize the Palestinians to fish 20 miles from the shore, but several years ago Israel allowed the fishermen to go no further than 3 miles. I don’t know the reason for this limitation, but it has seriously restricted their catch and ability to make a living. And to drive the point home, the Israeli military regularly targets the fishermen who come near that invisible boundary, shooting at them, capsizing their boats, and even killing them.
One fisherman explains the situation this way.
According to Adel, fishermen in Gaza live in terror and fear whenever they go to the sea. “For a year now,” he says “Israeli warships have been targeting our boats even before we reach the three mile limit… The patrol boats chase us every day, arrest fishermen and confiscate their nets. Many of my friends have lost their boats either through damage from bullets or confiscation. Many of them have been arrested or injured. Fishing in Gaza has become very dangerous. We go out in our boats without knowing whether or not we will come back.”
When I returned to the apartment where I’m staying, the family was listening to the radio. A news report indicated that two fishermen (brothers) had just been shot and killed by the Israeli military out at sea! It must have just happened after I left the beach. I didn’t understand any of the details. I was told that this happens all of the time —- the “new normal.” People are concerned but not surprised. Life goes on.
This is the old “new normal” here in Gaza. It’s been going on for years. But only in Gaza would shooting and killing unarmed fishermen trying to make a living be just an occupational hazard. I’m shocked! Imagine fishing off Eastern Long Island and being accosted by the US Coast Guard?
Later in the afternoon, the news report was updated and we learned that the brothers were wounded but not killed. This “new normal” must not be acceptable by any civilized nation.