Amal Abu Aisha is the director of Women’s Affairs Center in Gaza City, where she works to raise awareness among Palestinian women about their social, economic, and political rights. I spoke to her in the quiet of the 72-hour cease fire, a respite from the 29 days of Israeli bombardment. Gaza City is now in its seventh day without electricity after an Israeli missile bombed the power plant. Though the Israeli Electric Corporation has begun work fixing cables that bring power from Israel into Gaza, power has still not been restored to Gaza City and other areas supplied by the plant, which means that water—which must be electronically processed—is still scarce.
People in Gaza City are angry, and sad. “We are suffering, we are suffering, we are suffering,” Abu Aisha said. “If you see your city destroyed, if you see your friends, homeless, wandering the streets. No water, no electricity, no medicine.” Abu Aisha is angry about the schools that were bombed, and the high civilian casualty rate, and the neighborhoods—like Shejaiya and Khuza’a that have been nearly obliterated.
But Abu Aisha is also not a fan of Hamas. “I’m not with Hamas,” she said. “I believe in human rights only.” As opposed to Hamas: “They don’t believe in it. They have their own beliefs.” She laments the Islamicization that has accompanied Hamas’s rule in Gaza. “When Hamas controls Gaza, we go more and more Islamic,” she said.
With Hamas extremism on the one hand and Israel’s siege limiting her freedom of movement on the other, Abu Aisha said has no one to represent her rights. “I didn’t support Hamas but I didn’t support killing children,” she said. “I want, I want my freedom of mobility.”
She believes that human rights organizations should enter Gaza and help monitor human rights. She had high hopes for the Palestinian Unity Government, a more democratic alternative to Hamas’s regime, in which elections haven’t been held since 2006. She believes she would be represented by a joint government—“including Hamas,” she said. “Why do we have to ignore it? They are from us. I don’t agree with them but they represent some of the population. This is democracy.”
Batya Ungar-Sargon is a freelance writer who lives in New York. Her Twitter feed is @bungarsargon.