Why I support Anera

Gaza has endured occupation and dispossession for more years than Anera has existed. Gaza has been under varying forms of closure since 1991. The blockade—which is really an intensified military closure—is approaching its 16th year. It has destroyed normal trade relations upon which Gaza’s small economy largely depends. The resulting isolation of Gaza from the West Bank, Israel, the Middle East, and the world, has devastated the local economy producing high levels of unemployment (approaching and at times exceeding 50 percent overall and well over 60 percent for those 15-29 years), and impoverishment.

For Gaza it is not a question of economic growth and development but of basic humanitarian requirements where around 80 percent of the population depends on some form of humanitarian assistance to meet their primary needs. Although there is enough food available in the local market, most people do not have the money to purchase it. Without donor aid from Anera and other international organizations, these tragic statistics would be even worse.

I have been a supporter of Anera for over 35 years. Anera has long played a vital role in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, responding to both immediate and longer-term needs – from supplying medicines to spearheading early childhood development programs aimed at giving Palestinian youngsters the possibility of a better life. Anera’s impact is real and no one should ever doubt that.

It is not possible to convey Gaza’s reality in a few paragraphs, but one point is important to understand and it revolves around the meaning of violence in the Palestinian context. The pressures on the population are immense and unrelenting and also include considerable infrastructural damage and destruction, and environmental degradation where it is no exaggeration to say that Gaza’s water and soil are dangerously contaminated, what one scientist referred to as a toxic ecology or “biosphere of war.” Hence violence in Gaza is not only, or even primarily, defined in militaristic terms but in prosaic ones, in everyday, ordinary acts: restrictions on freedom of movement that prevent families from seeing each other or from traveling abroad to study, the absence of clean water, insufficient supplies of electricity, the struggle to find a job, the struggle to feed one’s children, accessing school safely, reaching a hospital, even burying a loved one. In this regard, Palestinian economic activity should be understood not as a state-building exercise but as a struggle for survival and as a form of non-violent resistance.

As the Palestinian attorney, Jonathan Kuttab, stated: “For Palestinians the violence perpetrated against them is not limited to Israeli guns and shootings, albeit significant. It is often more subtle and pervasive and covers all areas of their lives. The symbol of Israeli violence for Palestinians is often not the gun, but the bulldozer.”

Similarly, given the many assaults on Gaza—for example, in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2008-09, 2012, 2014, and 2021—nothing in Gaza is “post-trauma,” and such a definition ignores the nature of trauma among Palestinians, especially in Gaza. Minimally, 10 percent of the population—over 200,000 people—need serious mental health intervention according to the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme. The intergenerational impact of trauma on both an individual and societal level is not to be underestimated.

Yet, it is also critical to understand that Gaza cannot be understood solely through the lens of suffering and conflict.

As I have written elsewhere, Gaza is also home to rebuilding: the renewal of small-scale agriculture, human rights monitoring, mental health rehabilitation, environmental repair, and technological innovation. Although these initiatives among others occur within clear structural imitations, they remain persistent. The constraining factor in Gaza has never been insufficient talent.

Gaza is also home to creativity and imagination—and always has been. In Gaza today, you will find a thriving cultural sector: writers, poets, artists, songwriters, singers, rap artists, dancers, photographers, actors, and stage managers. There are libraries, theaters, museums, and art galleries. Culture in Gaza is vibrant, and it is also a form of resistance, of disrupting an unjust status quo, speaking to the sense of power that Palestinians have, which is so often overlooked.

Sara Roy is a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University.

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