The Emir of Qatar visited Gaza today, considered an historic event because it is the first time a head-of-state has visited Gaza since Hamas was elected. Qatar is providing major funding (some report $254 million, but today I heard $400+ milli0n) for the reconstruction of Gaza. Much of Gaza was destroyed or badly damaged in the war (Israel called it the Cast Lead Operation) in ’08-’09.
As a visitor to Gaza, I knew something was up a few days ago even though I don’t understand Arabic. Signs, banners and flags were being installed at major intersections. And the Islamic University of Gaza was getting spruced up in anticipation of hosting the Emir, his wife, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and his wife and other dignitaries.
I couldn’t understand much of the ceremony and will be looking for an English translation. But I don’t need to speak Arabic to know that this visit generated alot of excitement among people in Gaza. I think I understand why.
The Gaza Strip has been under Israel’s siege for more than five years. I’m going to write more about the siege later, but can you imagine being locked in your home, unable to travel, unable to receive many visitors, unable to purchase basic supplies, unable to sell your goods and services, unable to control your air space, your seaport, your borders? That type of isolation for 5+ years has more than a physical and economic impact, it also impacts the soul and spirit of the people.
I don’t understand why Israel (and the United States who supports Israel) thinks that blockading 1.7 million people from the rest of the world is going to improve the relationships in the Middle East. Commonsense says that the siege is only increasing the antagonism and determination to break it.
Today the siege was broken in a pretty dramatic fashion with the visit of the Emir of Qatar. Now it would be nice if the next President of the United States would visit.