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Arabs Rise for Rights

Gangnam Style Finds a Tragic Touch in Gaza

The Gangnam Style from Gaza. Credit: Emad Badwan/IPS.

GAZA CITY, Feb 18 2013 (IPS) - “We wanted to do something to bring focus to the plight of Palestinian political prisoners, of which there are around 5,000 in Israeli jails, including hunger strikers, children, women,” says Mohannad Barakat, 30, one of seven Palestinians who have made a Palestinian version of the Gangnam style.

The Gangnam Gaza Style parodies the chart-topping South Korean video ‘Gangnam Style.’ Gaza’s version injects sordid realities of Palestinians’ lives under Israeli military occupation and the years-long choking siege of the Gaza Strip.

“We wanted to tell the outside world about the impossible circumstances under which we live: that our airport has been destroyed, our fishers are prevented from accessing their sea, that half our population is out of work, that we use tunnels instead of border crossings and donkeys because fuel is scarce.”

The Gazan rendition of the Korean dance video highlights some of Gaza’s most urgent problems under the siege, including daily power outages, fuel shortages, lack of freedom of movement, and unemployment.

Dressed in black, heads wrapped with the traditional black and white Kuffiyehs (scarves), five men and two children dance a fusion of ‘Gangnam style’ and Dabke, the energetic dance found in many Arab countries.

The four-and-a-half minute video moves from Gaza’s coast, polluted with the untreatable sewage pumped into the sea at the rate of 90 million litres per day, to gas-less filling stations, to the tunnels which serve as border crossings and bring Israeli-banned construction materials into Strip, long devastated by Israeli-bombing.

The theatrical bomb explosion in the original Gangnam Style video also appears more appropriately in the Gazan version: with two major Israeli offensives on the Strip in the last four years, and numerous other Israeli attacks before and in between, Gaza’s Palestinians are all too familiar with bombings.

Wassim abu Shabaan, 10, one of the two children in the clip is one of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza whose homes have been destroyed by Israeli bombing and bulldozing in the last four years.

“The whole house was destroyed, everything was destroyed…our computer, my room, our clothes, everything,” says the boy of the 2009 Israeli bombing of his home.

“Palestinian children can recognise the difference between an F-15 and an F-16 warplane, and the difference between drones armed with missiles and surveillance drones just by their sound,” says Mohannad Barakat.

In the November 2012 Israeli attacks on Gaza, Israeli warplanes bombed Palestine stadium, one of Gaza’s few venues for sports and a place where disabled athletes trained. Gangnam Gaza depicts this destruction, the five men and two children entering the stadium with soccer balls in hand to find it in ruins.

The Gaza Community Mental Health Programme found in 2009 that over 91 percent of children in Gaza suffer from moderate to severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Children make up roughly half the population of Gaza’s 1.7 million people.

“All of us are affected by the siege and the various Israeli wars on Gaza. We all have psychological problems from living under these circumstances. We hadn’t recovered from the 2009 Israeli war on Gaza when the 2012 attacks occurred.”

Gaza’s infrastructure had likewise not recovered from the attacks and the siege, with hospitals reporting consistent shortages of essential medicines and medical supplies, and Gaza’s schools severely overcrowded, the vast majority of whom run double, even triple, shifts to accommodate all of the students.

Since 2006, when Israel bombed Gaza’s sole power plant, the entire Strip has been under daily rolling power outages, ranging from 18 and 20 hour outages in the worst years to the current eight hours on, eight hours off scheduled outages.

“It’s the 21st century but Gaza still has almost no electricity,” says Barakat. “The use of candles and generators indoors during power outages has caused a number of fires and carbon monoxide poisoning deaths in recent years.”

The Strip is currently enduring another crisis of cooking gas shortages, particularly hard during winter months when hot meals and beverages help make up for the lack of heating in the typically uninsulated homes.

The problem of sewage treatment has yet to be solved, for want of building materials to expand Gaza’s outdated sanitation facilities. The combination of power outages and little clean water to begin with contributes to a general water crisis, with 95 percent of Gaza’s water undrinkable by World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.

A 2012 United Nations report entitled ‘Gaza in 2020: a Liveable Place?’ predicts that Gaza’s sole aquifer, already over-tapped and under-replenished will fail by 2016.

The WHO reports that at least 81 patients have died due to delayed medical referrals since 2008 alone.  In 2012, Palestinian authorities reported over 400 kidney patients were at risk due to lack of essential dialysis equipment shortages.

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP-UK) reports that 10 percent of children under five years old suffer chronic malnutrition, while anaemia is rampant among pregnant women.

Since 2007, the Israeli army has killed 2,300 Palestinians, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ June, 2012 report. Many of these deaths, and hundreds of the 7,700 injuries the UN reported (not including the November 2012 Israeli attacks) have occurred in Gaza’s border regions and on the sea, where fishers and farmers alike are targeted by the Israeli army as they work.

The Israeli-imposed “buffer zone” cuts Gazan Palestinians off from 35 percent of their agricultural land, impacting on their economy and local food sources.

Produce once exported to the rest of Palestine and to European markets, along with textiles and furniture, have not been exported since 2006, save an insignificant amount. The same June 2012 UN report notes that Gazan exports “have dropped to less than 3 percent of 2006 levels.”
Some of Gaza’s most desperately poor work in the hundreds of tunnels running to Egypt. As of June 2012, the UN noted that “at least 172 Palestinian civilians have been killed while working in tunnels,” since 2007.

Although most of the young men in ‘Gangnam Gaza Style’ have studied or are currently studying in post-secondary education, nearly all are unemployed.

Filmed over a two week period, using a cell phone camera, the clip cost roughly 100 dollars to make. “For taxis and phone cards mostly,” says Barakat.

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  • henrytobias

    The unemployment rate is no higher than in the rest of the Arab world. If the Gazans would turn there ingenuity to productive ends, instead of trying to destroy Israel with home-made rockets, perhaps that would solve some of their problems.

  • jochair

    retorical question:
    what keeps Palestinians from leaving to one of the many Arab countries? It is only their desire to destroy Israel, no wonder their lives are unhappy. but it is their own doing.

  • maelstrom

    Of course, voluntary exodus of these unreasonably angry people would solve Israel’s insurmountable problem, but it sounds a bit like what led to another final solution.

  • maelstrom

    Seems to me this is an application of ingenuity without resort to violence you should be pleased to see, unless your view is that no legitimate protest or resistance toward Israel exists.

  • henrytobias

    This is fine. It is everyone’s right to protest. Pity they can’t protest their own leadership, who I believe from an article which I think appeared on this same site, is oppressing them something terrible. See ‘Gaza gags civil liberties’ under Human Rights banner on this site. Most Gazans were better off under Israeli rule. Unemployment was less and civil rights were more.

  • windtalker

    Civil Rights were more?? That is not true, it may not all be rosy on the Gaza side either, but the Palestinians living under Israeli law are badly disadvantaged, being bullied to willingly locked away, water supply to poplace in Gaza is a 5th of the one to Isreal’s polulace and undercuts requirements by WHO by 1/3.

    Lots and lots more daily oppession, who thinks this does not CREATE resistance is simply ignorant.

    Recommended: Miko Peled, Israeli, son of General Peled, look into videos, texts, facebook, twitter…..

    And ‘Gatekeeper’ by Samuel Burke, award winning best documentation exposing the experiences of 6 former IDF troops…

    Find your FACTS.

  • henrytobias

    Miko Peled, I believe has been discredited and the ‘Gatekeeper’ is biased. Anyhow, I was talking relative, not absolute and adding a little irony.

  • jgarbuz

    No, if my family had gone to Poland in the 1930s, the way my mother wanted to, they wouldn’t have been murdered in the Holocaust. In the 1920s and early 1930s, Jews were free to immigrate into the “Jewish National Home” in Palestine, but most did not because of the poverty and Arab riots there.Most remained in Europe, the Arab lands and the Americas. So 6 million ended up murdered in Europe and later nearly 1 million Jews fled the Arab countries as well. Israel is the Jewish homeland; the Arabs have 21 countries of their own.

  • jgarbuz

    Sorry, I meant if my family had emigrated FROM Poland TO Palestine in the 1930s, they would have survived. The only ones who survived from my mother’s family besides my mother were those who went to America at the turn of the century.But my mother’s friends who went to Palestine all survived and my mother met them still alive in the 1970s when she first visited Israel.

  • jgarbuz

    Here are some FACTS. When I lived in Beersheba and worked in the industrial zone outside of Sderot from 1982 to 1986, Arabs from Gaza came into Israel by the thousands to work and get free health care ever single day. Some 25,000 came from Gaza into Israel every day. My ex-father in law used to bring his car to a garage in Gaza to get routine car maintenance and repairs at half the price in overtaxed Israel. The Gazans were doing very well before the radicals instigated the first intifada. These are facts I witnessed with my own two eyes. The Arabs shot themselves in the foot, but they always have a tendency to do that.Just look around the Arabs world after the “Arab Spring.”

  • maelstrom

    No doubt the Jewish holocaust was the most appalling example of a very human habit, fueled in the 20th century by nationalism. But to regard Arab Palestinians as a population that should pack up and move to accommodate Israel and perhaps their own survival, is to exercise the same prejudice applied to your family. A sick irony when you think about it.

    I applaud the use of global popular culture by these Gazans to communicate their frustration.

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