Tag Archives: UNDP

Stuck on the wrong side of the Wall

I’ve been sharing the stories of Palestinians from OCHA’s 50 Years of Occupation project. All of the stories are available online here.

I decided to divide them into 5 stories each day spread over a couple of weeks because I hope Americans will spend the time to read each and really feel what life is like under military occupation. OCHA has done an excellent job of compiling all of these stories. Please share them.



Abbas Yousef from AL JANIYA | RAMALLAH

Abbas owns land located inside the perimeter fence of an Israeli settlement, with two plots of olive trees.

An understanding with the Israeli authorities that allowed him to continue accessing his land was suspended between 2000 and 2006, during which time most of the trees were reportedly vandalized or uprooted.

Since 2011, farmers from Al Janiya have been allocated 3-4 days during the olive harvest season, and 1-2 days during the ploughing season, to access their land, following prior coordination with Israeli officials.

The authorities prevent some farmers from using tractors to plough their land, citing potential damage to the settlement’s sewage network.

In 2016, Abbas reported that the 50 olive trees that remained in this area had yield an average of ten gallons of olive oil per season, generating an income of approximately US$1,000, down from 30 gallons generating US$3,000 prior to 2000.




Remas al Ghofary and her sister from AT TUFAH | GAZA CITY (photo by UNDP)

Remas was three years old when the 2014 escalation broke.

Back then, she lived with her family in an apartment building, but it was destroyed in the hostilities.

Her mother, Afnan, told UNDP: ❝It has been almost three years now since we lost our home, our memories and my children’s first moments. Every day I wake up thinking it is a dream, but it is not. It is no longer my home.

Remas’ parents have no steady income. It has been difficult for the family to cover their basic living costs, especially now that they also have to pay for the house they are renting.

❝Our rent was covered by UNDP support for two years,❞ said Afnan. ❝Now we need NIS700 [US$190] every month to cover our rent. This has been going on since June 2016 when the funding stopped,❞ she added.

❝I am aware of the political situation and delays in funding, but it is becoming much more difficult to meet the needs of my children and my family. We did not get a grant to reconstruct our home, even though my husband’s family did. So, we are here with no cash assistance or hope to rebuild our home.

❝I do not envy anyone, but I am jealous of families like my husband’s who have the opportunity to go back to their homes.

I know one thing: unless my home is rebuilt, I am just counting the days with no purpose. I really miss my home!❞

Displaced girl

Displaced Palestinian girl in Gaza. (Photo by OCHA in February 2015)

Restrictions on the import of goods, including basic construction materials, imposed by Israel as part of its blockade, have complicated, delayed and, in some cases prevented reconstruction and repair of destroyed or severely damaged homes.

In other cases, where goods are available, families lack the financial resources to purchase them due to the poor economic situation in Gaza caused largely by the years-long blockade.



Rimaz Kasabreh in BEIT HANINA | EAST JERUSALEM (Portrait photo by JC Tordai, 2010)

❝My name is Rimaz Kasabreh, I am 33 years old, and I’m from the northern West Bank. In 1996, I married my husband who is a resident of Jerusalem and moved to Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem.

❝We have three children. My husband and I were aware that family unification application was not going to be easy, which is why we didn’t submit an application for a few years. When we did, it took years for the Israeli authorities to process our application.

❝At the time I was working at a private school in the centre of the city although I didn’t have a Jerusalem ID card or a permit.

❝I needed to cross the Ar Ram checkpoint, located in Beit Hanina, to get to work and over the years, this became more difficult with my West Bank ID card: it happened many times that the soldiers at the checkpoint turned me back.

❝The school issued me a card to show I was employed by them but it didn’t help much. To avoid the checkpoint I used dirt roads and climbed over hills. I rarely made it to school in time. In winter I would arrive completely wet and cold, in the summer hot and sweaty.

❝In 2003, with the new (Nationality and Entry into Israel) law it became more difficult. It’s illegal for taxi and bus drivers from Jerusalem to take passengers from the West Bank. Taxi and minibus drivers would ask every passenger about their ID card. It became more and more difficult for me to go to work or anywhere in Jerusalem.

I couldn’t go shopping, I couldn’t visit my friends, I couldn’t take the children to school, or to a doctor or to summer camps where other children their age went. This affected my children. They were too young to understand why their friends’ mothers did things with them while I couldn’t…

❝Very often I took risks. One day, when I was nine months pregnant, the police stopped the mini bus I was on and when they found out my status they took the driver’s name and license number and warned him next time he was caught with someone from the West Bank they would confiscate his vehicle. I was released after they checked my records and found out I was married to a person from Jerusalem. They made me sign a piece of paper pledging I will not move or work within the State of Israel, which of course according to their definition includes East Jerusalem.

❝In October 2003, I was caught again in a taxi. It was the third time the driver was caught driving a West Banker so the police confiscated his taxi for three months and took away his driving license. The taxi driver blamed me and demanded compensation.

❝He used to wait for me outside the school gate and shout at me that if I didn’t pay him the money I would be in trouble. In the end, my husband paid him money. After this incident I quit my job. Most taxi drivers in Jerusalem recognized me and refused to take me. I was confined to the house and hardly ever left except to go to the neighbours’ house. It was very hard for me. I was not used to staying at home. My family could not visit me because they’re from the West Bank. They only come at Christmas and Easter, when Christians are given special permits to celebrate the feasts in Jerusalem.

❝About three-and-a-half years ago the Ministry of Interior finally accepted my application for family unification. They gave me a paper valid for one year, with which I could apply for a permit to stay in Jerusalem.

❝Although this didn’t mean I was a resident yet, at least it meant I could take a taxi and go places.

❝I’ve renewed this paper four times now. Each time my husband and I have to provide evidence that we’re living together in Jerusalem. We have to show that we pay water and electricity bills, the municipal tax and that our children go to schools in Jerusalem. It takes weeks, even months, just to get through to the Ministry of Interior for an appointment. They don’t pick up the phone. When delays in the permit renewal occur I

live in Jerusalem illegally all over again. I often took the risk and ask my husband to drive me around. I wouldn’t ask for rides from friends and relatives, as I know the consequences if they’re caught with me in their car

❝The third permit expired in December 2008. Although I requested an appointment in time and submitted all the evidence they requested, it took them months to get back to me. During this time I was confined to the house once again. They told me they were checking my security record and that of my family, including my parents, my brothers and sisters and their families, as well as my husband’s family.

❝The same happened in May 2009, when I applied to renew my permit, which I didn’t get until August. My husband and I employed a lawyer to speed up the family unification process.

❝After we paid him a large amount of money he told us the Ministry of Interior is not approving applications any more. I have no idea how long this situation will go on for.

❝My husband and I have been married for over 13 years now and I’m still unable to live a normal life with him and the children. When we enter Jerusalem from the West Bank my husband is allowed to cross by car, while I have to cross on foot. I can’t benefit from Israeli health care, so I go to Ramallah whenever I need health services. Luckily I have never been in an emergency while I was living in Jerusalem ‘illegally’.

❝I still cannot apply for a job. Nobody will employ me knowing that I am in Jerusalem on short-term permits which I have to renew every year.

❝Everybody knows that renewal is not guaranteed. It could happen again that I will spend months without a permit before the authorities process my request. I feel I am losing the best years of my life sitting at home. Many of my friends are in the same situation.❞



Manal ‘Ayyad from ABU DIS | JERUSALEM Western side of the Barrier

❝The Separation Wall has had a negative effect on our lives, impacting all the residents here. Prior to the Wall, we were one community, but the Wall has cut our community in two.

❝After the construction of the Wall, I don’t like to go to Abu Dis anymore (e.g. the eastern side). It takes more than one hour, and if the checkpoint is closed, ❝I need two or maybe three hours. I need to use two cars: one from our house to the checkpoint, then walk through the checkpoint, and finally take another car from the checkpoint to Abu Dis on the other side.

❝Once we were going to a wedding in Abu Dis, one of our relatives was getting married. But the Israelis closed the checkpoint. We were all ready for the wedding, but they prevented us from going to Abu Dis.

❝We stayed for one hour at the checkpoint, talked to them, to convince them to allow us through. In the end, we all became stressed and returned home. We did not attend the wedding.

❝Our location is very difficult. No one can visit us. Really, it’s very difficult for us. My hope is to wake up one morning to find that there is no Separation Wall.❞




Sami’s neighbourhood of East Jerusalem was cut in two by Israel’s construction of the Barrier in the early 2000s.

His home remained on the eastern side while his daughter’s is located on the western side.

Recorded in 2014, this video was part of OCHA’s interactive map project, which marked the tenth anniversary to the West Bank Barrier by illustrating its impact on Palestinian communities in and around East Jerusalem.

Today,❞ he told us, ❝we find ourselves surrounded by a wall, which can best be described as a continuously bleeding wound.❞


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Rule of Law or Lawlessness in Gaza?

One of the most shocking things I learned during my 8-9 months in Gaza was how justice can be administered so violently and outside the justice system.

Last November, six men were killed by Palestinian gunmen on suspicion of collaborating with Israel.  Their bodies were left dumped in a busy intersection and one body was dragged through the streets on a rope behind motorcycles.

In March, a 23-year-old young woman in Nuseirat Refugee Camp, in the middle of the Gaza Strip, was killed by her father and brother — an honor killing. Although the two were arrested, it is likely that they will receive lenient sentences according to this article.

As horrific as these events might seem to Westerners, what I found even more shocking was that Palestinians with whom I talked about these events seemed unperturbed.  Some tried to justify these actions, while others just shrugged them off.

Is Gaza governed by the rule of law or the rule of force?  Is the rule of law so easily dismissed in Gaza?  Or is Sharia law so contrary to our secular laws that the two cannot coexist?

I want to learn a lot more about Sharia law before sharing any opinions, but I was very excited when a good friend of mine, a Palestinian lawyer in Gaza, took me to the Palestinian Bar Association (PBA) and I learned about the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Rule of Law and Access to Justice Programme.  The Legal Aid Clinics in Gaza are a big component of that project.

Visiting the Legal Aid Clinic at the PBA

Visiting the Legal Aid Clinic at the PBA

The Palestinian Bar Association (PBA) recently moved into a new building in Gaza and I was given the grand tour.  This state-of-the-art facility looks very impressive; the people and programs there are even more impressive.

Lora standing with the President of the Palestinian Bar Association in Gaza

Lora standing with the President of the Palestinian Bar Association in Gaza

Based on a March 2012 UNDP report, these lawyers have a huge challenge in front of them. Public Perceptions of Palestinian Justice and Security Institutions” shares the findings of a survey of 6,710 Palestinian households in the summer of 2011.

Although the data shows Palestinians throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories (oPt) consider the courts, lawyers and civil society organizations which support their work play a pivotal role in promoting and protecting the rule of law, there is a significant gender justice gap and the formal justice system is considered too slow.  Satisfaction with justice and security institutions is lowest in the Gaza Strip, as compared to the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The one question the report does not address is how do we improve the rule of law in the oPt when Israel appears to be outside of the rule of international law in many aspects of its occupation?

Some of the recommendations included in the report:

  • Discriminatory legislation and service provision must be reformed to extend justice to all Palestinians.
  • There is a need for quicker, dialogue-based, human-rights focused alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms.
  • Strengthen the performance of court clerks and make the courts more “user-friendly”.
  • Encourage “judicial activism and judicial vocalism”.   Hmmmm!
  • Support development of gender-sensitive case management protocols.
  • Enhance protection and confidentiality measures.
  • Research Sharia courts
  • Support justice sector monitoring and oversight mechanisms to support the “emergence of a unitary justice system which protects the rights of all Palestinians, under the democratic control of the Palestinian people”.


The Palestinian people manifestly have the courage to speak truth to power, the magnanimity to take action to promote human freedom, and a strong desire to use formal justice and security institutions. This combination is essential for addressing the most critical need revealed by the data: for greater accountability to improve service delivery.


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MPYM فلسطين ـــ ماليزيا

mpym branding

Last night I witnessed some bridge-building at a posh hotel in Gaza, Al Mathaf.  Speakers representing the Malaysia-Palestine Youth Movement (MPYM) were presenting the goals and future activities of a new partnership between Malaysia and Palestine.  Since I don’t understand Arabic, I’ve copied some of the text from their Facebook page below.

Malaysia Palestine Youth Movement (MPYM) will improve the economic and social conditions of the Palestinian people by identifying their social and economic needs and by establishing concrete projects to that end. MPYM is a responsive development agency that works together with the Palestinian Youth Leaders and members from OIC, Hamas, Fatah and Local NGOs to fulfill their aspiration for sustainable human development based on self-determination, equality and freedom. The overarching aim of the conference is to move towards an action plan that will be announced after the conference.

MPYM launch at Al Mathaf in Gaza

MPYM launch at Al Mathaf in Gaza

Speakers shared the goals of the MPYM.

Speakers shared the goals of the MPYM.

Dr. Wesam from Islamic University of Gaza attended the ceremony.

Dr. Wesam from Islamic University of Gaza attended the ceremony.

There were between 100-150 people in attendance, and some had questions. Lack of transparency seemed to be a concern.  “How were the people selected to travel earlier to Malaysia?  This is the first I’m hearing about the MPYM.”   Another asked: “How will you reach out to engage the youth in Gaza in future projects?”  One person cautioned the organizers not to get tied into the political division and strife in Palestine (ie. Fatah vs. Hamas).

The audience was encouraged to ask questions.

The audience was encouraged to ask questions.

At the end of the evening, a large cake was brought out lit with sparklers!

Cake with sparklers.

Cake with sparklers.

There was a celebratory mood in the air, tinged with anticipation.  I suspect that many in the audience are hoping this collaboration between Malaysia and Palestine will open up new jobs and opportunities for the youth in Gaza where the unemployment rate tops 32% and is rising!

Based on two little words on the MPYM Facebook page, I have reason to be hopeful.  “Action plan.”

Generally, I don’t see a culture of planning in Gaza.  Life is about survival and making it through today’s crises.   The MPYM wants to make an “action plan” to guide its activities.  This is an excellent beginning.  Momtaz!    I hope the planning process is transparent and inclusive.

The youth involved in this project give me hope too.  I hope they don’t let the old farts meddle.

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Filed under Economic Development, Gaza