Tear fund launches emergency appeal for Gaza
International appeals are being made to protect people caught up in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Rachel Thomas speaks to a young Muslim family from the Holy Land, now living in Hamilton, and a Hamilton-based Jewish professor, on their feelings on the situation in Gaza.
As the death toll surpasses 1000 in Gaza, Tear Fund has launched an appeal to help civilians caught up in the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
"At this point three out of four dead Palestinians are civilians and one out of four are children," said Tear Fund chief executive Ian McInnes.
Tear Fund is working with its partner in Gaza to enable families to provide for their basic needs and is looking at ways to support families in Gaza when the hostilities end.
"We are very careful not to chose sides and if we do we chose the sides of civilians," McInnes said.
Immediate relief is given to the most vulnerable families by way of cash-care packages for medical supplies, food and to meet the costs of new accommodation where housing has been destroyed in the conflict.
McInnes said Tear Fund's reconciliation aimed to build relationships and common understanding between mens and womens groups.
"We're trying to bring Palestinians, Christians and Jews together - for many they have met very few people on the other side."
McInnes said the Israeli government has so far tolerated their efforts, but getting resources to residents in Gaza can be difficult, being a controlled warzone.
He said blockades in Gaza have placed an "economic stranglehold" on the densely packed strip, preventing refugees from building basic infrastructure.
"There's no other war zone in the world where civilians are so densely packed in."
"There is utter frustration on behalf of Palestinians . . . I can't really see any solution or way out of this conflict."
McInnes said he had "no idea" whether the Israeli government fully intended on following through on a two-state solution, but admitted it was hard to envisage.
"It would be very hard to run a country with people who oppose you in the middle."
He said Hamas, being an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, has no political leverage any more with Egypt, "and that concerns us terribly".
McInnes said, once the latest escalation in violence had settled and Gaza was more accessible, Tear Fund would also undertake longer-term recovery activities.
To give to this appeal Kiwis can visit tearfund.org.nz or phone 0800 800 777.
CEASEFIRE WILL WORK UNTIL HAMAS FIRES MORE MISSILES
JEWISH PROFESSOR: Dov Bing says there is no chance Hamas will recognise Israel as a country.
Hamilton professor Dov Bing, a Jew born in Holland, lived and studied Hebrew in Israel for five years during the 1960s.
I worked and studied Hebrew in kibbutz Beit Hashita in the 1960s, then studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Last time I visited Israel was last year when I was part of a symposium and I visited my brother and his children in the Negev. They live very close to the Gaza border. One of the kibbutzim [Israeli communities] was infiltrated by a Hamas underground tunnel. My two nephews have four children each.
The wives and children were moved to family in the centre of the country but my two nephews stayed to defend the two kibbutzim.
One of the reasons why Palestinian civilians have been killed is that most rocket bases in Gaza are in civilian structures. Tunnel entrances are also hidden in civilian structures.
So who is Hamas and why have they sent a barrage of 2200 or so rockets into Israeli cities?
In 1991, Hamas established its military wing, al-Qassam Brigades.
In the mid-1990s they started suicide missions. In 1996, they killed 59 Israeli civilians in four major Israeli cities.
This did not help the peace process and was not in the interest of the Palestinian people. Up to that time, 150,000 Palestinians worked in the Israeli economy which helped the people of Gaza and the West Bank.
For security reasons Israel had to stop this policy.
In 2001 and 2003, the United States and the European Union designated Hamas as a terrorist organisation.
Then in 2005 came the surprising Israeli disengagement from Gaza.
Close to 9000 Israelis were taken out of Gaza and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the Israeli people hoped Gaza would be an example for the West Bank, and that withdrawal from the West Bank would follow.
Unfortunately, Hamas stopped all that. Hamas won the elections in January 2006, then staged a coup in which they murdered 200 of their fellow Palestinian Fatah members, the other political Palestinian party. Some of the Fatah people were thrown to their deaths from two-storey buildings.
Is there a chance for a peace agreement with Hamas or a chance that Hamas will recognise the state of Israel?
The answer is an emphatic no!
Hamas wants to re-establish a caliphate [Islamic state] through a holy war or jihad. Hamas is a group of religious fanatics and capable of anything to achieve its aims.
Abu Mazen, who heads the Palestinian Authority and Fatah, has recognised Israel with the Oslo Accords and has tried to negotiate with Israel for a two-state solution. He deserves everyone's support.
Hamas has alienated Egypt because Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
The present confrontation will end with a ceasefire until Hamas once again fires missiles at Israeli cities.
If that happens, Israel will not hesitate to defeat Hamas altogether and allow Fatah to govern that part of a future Palestinian state.
THERE WAS A TIME WE LIVED IN PEACE
MUSLIM FAMILY: Ahmed Saadeh, his wife, Ruba Nizar and daughter, Rahaf Saadeh, 3, sought a better life in New Zealand.
A Muslim family from the Holy Land, who now live in Hamilton, spoke to Rachel Thomas on their feelings on the situation in their homeland.
Ahmed Saadeh has been living in Hamilton for over a year and is a PhD candidate at Waikato University. His wife, Ruba, is a physician.
Ahmed: "We both are Jordanian citizens but Ruba is a Palestinian citizen as well. She's from the West Bank. We are both originally from Palestine, she is from Nablus in the West Bank and I am from Jerusalem.
Ruba: "To get here I used the Jordanian citizenship. If I used the Palestinian citizenship I think I would not come here. So difficult."
Ahmed: "We have a home in the West Bank and my wife can go there because she is a citizen but for me, I couldn't. Only she and our kids. There's no visa or anything or anyway for me to get there.
"There was no peace in our homeland since 60 years ago and the 1948 wars. According to the United Nations more than 1 million Palestinians displaced to Jordan, Libya, Syria and Iraq. Also according to some figures around 300,000 people were killed and injured in that war. Since that war, there was no peace at all.
"According to the United Nations, 40 to 50 per cent of Jordanian people are from Palestinian origin and all these people have been displaced from Palestine. After a while the tents became small houses.
"There are many talks about a two-state solution but this is just at a formal level. If we review the history of the last five years you will see there were two wars and then this war. The first in 2009, the second in 2012 and this is the third one.
It's only formal talks from the Israeli Government, but if you are talking about the people of Israel and Palestinian people there is no potential there under the light of this situation. Every couple of years we have a war with thousands of people injured and killed.
"I'm not saying there is no solution, but I'm saying there is no intention for this solution from this Israeli government. I believe they don't want to implement it. You couldn't kill thousands of people then ask them to live in peace just near to you. It's impossible.
"There's a gap between their talk and their practice.
"There are around 1.8 million people in Gaza living in a very small area, without basic needs like healthcare, medication. Nothing. The power cuts are between 12 and 16 hours every day because there is a fuel shortage.
"It's not about religion. In Palestine, Christians, Jews and Muslims lived for hundreds of years, and the same thing in Jordan. We have Christians in Jordan and we get married to each other. We live with each other in peace."
Ruba: "Our neighbours in Nablus in the West Bank are Jews and the other family are Christians so we are living together."
Ahmed: "There's no religious problem in the Holy Land, you know that was the land of all religions from thousands of years ago.
"This is what was happening before the Israeli Government started to make the discrimination policies."