At the southernmost tip of the Gaza Strip, 35 kilometers south of Gaza City, lies the city of Rafah and its refugee camps. Of the total population of 110,000, 78,000 are refugees. A Rafah resident, ‘Isam Younis, interviewed a 28-year old worker from Rafah’s Shabura refugee camp.
When the Palestinian people rebelled in December 1987, I was working in a garage inside the Green Line [in Israel]. My wage was between $200-300 per month. I used to work between 12 and 15 hours a day in harsh and extremely exploitative conditions due to the fact that I was an Arab. With the start of the intifada our daily life changed. Due to the strikes and curfews, I worked only about 13-14 days per month. The situation at work became worse and the terror from the owner of the garage towards me and my workmates increased. In October 1988, I was fired.
I tried to find work in the Gaza Strip but found nothing. I have been unemployed until now. My family consists of 16 persons; most are young children. Only one younger brother is employed, in a small garage. His income is never more than $200 per month because of the strikes and curfews.
All the world knows about the long curfews imposed on Shabura, the most rebellious camp and the center of unrest in the whole of the Occupied Territories. Often we have had only ten days each month without a curfew.
Under occupation we have no freedom of expression, and no freedom to travel. Other repressive measures are carried out against us daily, like the night-time “programs” organized by the fascist Israeli soldiers. In the bitter cold of the night and with the rain pouring on our heads they force us to sweep and clean the streets and wipe out the slogans on the walls. The soldiers are pleased with their sadism; they keep us out for five or seven hours and beat us with their guns. And God help the person who is caught wearing a shirt with the colors of the Palestinian flag. His fate is to be beaten, then arrested and accused of possessing banned material. If any person is caught with a book or publication which has the word Palestine in it, he is accused of possessing inciting literature.
I accept elections as a democratic principle. But what elections? When? And what will be their consequence? And who will supervise them? If the elections are a first step on the way toward an independent state and freedom under the supervision of the PLO, then I accept them. On the other hand, if the elections are merely an act whose sole intention is to decrease international pressure on the Zionist and racist state of Israel and make it appear democratic, or if they will lead to autonomy and the implementation of the Camp David accords, then I do not accept them.