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6 Feb, 2009 07:16

Israeli clampdown on Gaza ahead of election

The recent war in Gaza and security in the Middle East are dominating the election campaign in Israel. But residents in Gaza say next week’s vote will make little or no difference to their lives.

Business is slow in Gaza, but one industry is seeing a postwar boom.

At Nibras Print shop in Gaza city, the presses have been working around the clock, rolling off full-colour posters and banners of smiling faces.

Pictures of the dead are big business. Mahmoud El Abed’s brother, Khalid, was killed during the first days of the war.

“My brother was martyred, he was 21 years old. He was a Hamas fighter who faced the Israeli soldiers to protect the Palestinian people. In our religion, he is still alive. We can feel him every minute. By making pictures of him we feel he is among us and the children see these pictures and learn from them,” Mahmoud says.

But most other businesses in Gaza have all but gone bankrupt.

Nasser Oda used to employ 30 people but today, after the war and with the borders with Israel still closed, that number is down to three. His factory has stopped producing olive oil because he can’t get ingredients in from outside and his oil fields have been destroyed by Israeli tanks. He can’t make bricks for houses because he had no cement and 160 tonnes of olives will soon go bad.

“I need at least a year to recover. I’ve already lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The only work I can do is to recycle old plastics but I make nowhere near enough to recover my losses. The main problem is Israel’s siege on Gaza. The borders are all closed and so I can’t get materials in,”
Nasser Oda explains.

Nasser works with Israeli businessmen on the other side of the border. But there’s no love lost in a relationship he describes as purely economic.

Nasser says Israeli businesses are also suffering because of the blockade.

“But if they want anything, all they have to do is ask their government. So when the elections come in Jerusalem, I don’t care who wins. All Israelis are two sides of the same coin. I have a very black view of my future and the future of Gaza. Nothing will make a difference for us,” he says.

On February 10 Israelis go to the polls. The recent war in Gaza will probably see many of them supporting right-wing opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

What this means for Gazans like Nasser is more closures – and possibly even more violence.

To prevent suicide bombers crossing the border, Israel is no longer allowing people to enter and leave Gaza until after the elections.