Yesterday, AFP published a report that needs to be seen to be believed: Gazans take coastal walks to escape ‘double confinement’
And it’s mostly Israel’s fault of course.
At sunrise in Gaza, the strip’s coastal path begins to fill up with pedestrians, as growing numbers of Palestinians have taken up walking to relieve stress trapped inside the Israel-blockaded enclave.
Apparently Gazans have not taken up walking for the reasons others have during these times of coronavirus have; to get outside after being stuck indoors for a majority of the day, and even to exercise for fitness after eating too much while being stuck at home.
Also, Egypt – who have also closed off a border with Gaza – are not worth mentioning here.
Life in Gaza, controlled by the Islamist group Hamas since 2007, was mentally taxing even before the novel coronavirus outbreak brought additional hardship, including nightly curfews and tight movement restrictions.
“There’s a lot of mental pressure in Gaza. We suffer from it,” said 40-year-old Walid al-Louh, wearing a New York Yankees cap.
No doubt the seemingly irrelevant mention of a NY Yankees cap is supposed to elicit sympathy among Americans and Western audiences.
“People come out to walk along the seashore, just to let off steam.”
One of the new devotees is Hanadi al-Akawy, 32, who said she walks five kilometres (three miles) a day with her husband “to get rid of psychological pressure”.
– ‘Window of freedom’ –
Gaza’s densely-packed population of two million people was, in the early phase of the global pandemic, seen as uniquely protected given the movement restrictions already in place.
The coastal strip has only two entry and exit points, the Erez crossing to Israel and the Rafah crossing to Egypt.
The flow of people through Erez is tightly controlled by Israel, which has fought three wars with Hamas since 2008, and maintains a crippling blockade it says is necessary to contain a hostile Islamist group.
Note how while the Rafah crossing to Egypt is finally mentioned here, only the tight controls of Israel’s Erez crossing – called a “crippling blockade” – requires further elaboration.
Also, the terrorist groups of Gaza are referring to as the more benign sounding “hostile Islamist group”, with “contain” presumably being used as a euphemism for “trying to prevent them from murdering Israeli civilians.”
Gaza’s health infrastructure is weak, partly due to the blockade, so when the virus began to spread within the enclave, Hamas imposed draconian measures to contain it.
Of course, AFP doesn’t see the fact that Hamas have diverted funds – meant for improving the lot of Gazans – to build their terrorist infrastructure, instead of on things like healthcare, as worth mentioning here when speaking about Gaza’s weak health infrastructure.
But for psychiatrist Samir Zaqout, the additional stress brought by the pandemic was “too much” for a population that already felt imprisoned.
The Gaza-based expert said that watching people take their coastline jaunts reminds him of prison inmates relishing their daily walk in the exercise yard, before being sent back to their cells.
“People do what they can to let out their emotions,” Zaqout told AFP. “Walking is a part of that, especially since the seaside is our only window of freedom.”
Yeah, some prison.
According to a 2017 study published by the PLOS ONE scientific journal, the Palestinian Territories had the highest rates of depression compared to a group of 20 countries surveyed, which ranged from Morocco to Afghanistan.
Incidentally, PLOS ONE scientific journal has nothing to do with the PLO.
A 2020 poll from the British charity Islamic Relief said that 80 percent of 2,000 workers surveyed in Gaza reported having “mental problems” caused by the pandemic, which reduced their already limited income.
The same Islamic Relief with links to terrorism, mind you.
On Gaza’s corniche, Marwan al-Assar told AFP he had been jogging along the coast for years, but until recently had been alone.
“Now people are copying me,” he said. “The culture is growing.”
No doubt if they see Israelis walking, they’ll accuse us of cultural appropriation.
And here’s the cherry on top of all of this: Just a few days earlier, AFP came out with this report:
Hundreds of Palestinian youths gather every Friday to watch dirt bikers and 4×4 motorists test their courage and driving skills up a steep sandy hill on the outskirts of Gaza City.
As I said, some prison.