Raafat Al-Nedar woke up and headed straight to join the long queues at the ATM in the northern Gaza city of Jabaliya in order to withdraw his month salary.
The 47-year-old had already spent the money; repayment of a loan he’d taken, electricity, water and telephone bills, school fees for his eldest son and medical bills for his youngest daughter who is being treated for leukaemia.
Al-Nedar, a security officer who has not been paid by the Palestinian Authority, spoke to MEMOabout the “nightmares” he has been facing as a result of the internal political division between the two major Palestinian factions in the occupied territories.
The division, a result of the “chaos” created as a result of Fatah’s resounding defeat to Hamas in the 2006 elections. In spite of winning the highest number of votes, Hamas was unable to take over the institutions in the occupied West Bank as Fatah would not relinquish control.
However in Gaza the situation was different.
When Hamas entered power in the now besieged enclave, the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West bank called on its employees in Gaza to go on strike as a form of civil disobedience. Those who refused were sacked and their salaries were suspended. Al-Nedar complied with the PA’s request and did not return to work as a form of protest.
Since 2007, the PA has suspended the salaries of several employees and last year it forcedthousands in to retirement accusing them of being loyal to Hamas.
Early this year, the PA cut the salaries of hundreds families of martyrs and prisoners in Gaza, as well as hundreds of its employees who are loyal to dismissed Fatah leader Mohammad Dahlan.
Al-Neder was shocked when staff at a government clinic asked him to pay for his baby daughter Dana’s medical examination in Jabaliya. This had always been covered by his health insurance.
“When I asked about this,” he said, “I was told that all the services offered to government employees were suspended.”
“It was shocking for me. I have no salary and now I have to pay for a bank loan, care for a baby, who is losing her sight, secondary school students and an eight-member family.”
Rami Fares, an education supervisor at the Ministry of Education in Gaza and spokesperson for the employees who lost their salaries, said that Al-Neder’s case is similar to that of hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza “who have been suffering by the will of our president.”
Fares said that scores of employees, whose salaries were suspended and who lost access to public services as a result, won court cases against the PA’s action but the Fatah run authority has no reinstated their payments.
They include 51-year-old Yasser Abu-Salim who was involved in the civil disobedience in Gaza, which aligned him with PA President Mahmoud Abbas. This, however, was not enough to prove his loyalty.
“I have two disabled daughters in their teens and they are almost laying on their backs all the time,” Abu-Salim told MEMO. “They need at least $1,200 for treatment and healthcare expenses each month,” he said, noting that the cost of their treatment was higher than the salary he once received from the PA.
Abu-Salim said health insurance “filled the gap” between his salary and the monthly expenses for treatment. “But, since the salary was suspended, I have been living in a complete tragedy,” he said.
Employees who complied with Abbas’ orders and went on strike now believe the PA head is ignoring them and has dissolved their rights.
“My message to Abbas is that we have chosen you to be our president, why do you punish us? If we are able to bear your punishment, what is the fault of our sick children? Why do you prevent them from receiving treatment?” Al-Nedar asked.
Doctors in Gaza have said that Al-Nedar’s daughter “must be transferred to the West Bank or Israeli hospitals for treatment which does not existed in Gaza hospitals”, but PA security officers stopped him travelling through the Erez (Beit Hanoun) crossing between the Strip and Israel.
He was told this was because he was “loyal to Mohamad Dahlan, who is Abbas’ rival and current ally of Hamas.”
“If you [Abbas] prevent us from enjoying our rights and receiving our salaries, this proves that you do not serve us, but our enemies, who enjoy inflicting suffering on us and on our children,” Al-Nedar concluded.