Do you want to get depressed? I mean really, deeply, darkly depressed? Then this Haaretz interview by Nir Gontarz with Gaza-based radio broadcaster and political commentator Sami Obeid published on Thursday is just for you (ביבי דואג לעצמו, לשרה וליאיר. אנחנו סגורים בעזה. אין מה לעשות, רק לשגר טילים). It reminded me of a Richard Pryor signature joke about a black dude who murdered his entire family and when the police asked him why he did it, he said, They was home.
“We are closed off from Egypt and Israel and the sea is closed off,” Obeid tells his Israeli interviewer. “You’ve got nothing to do. Just launch missiles at Israel. You asked what is happening in Gaza? We wait and wait. 15 years with no change. Tomorrow the guns will quiet down and we’ll go back to doing the same thing. We’ll go back to the same spot.”
Quick, someone hand me a razor. Sami Obeid is on the list of the Israeli media’s pet Arab interviewees. He is not a fanatic, he doesn’t hate Jews, he doesn’t like Hamas. He simply describes all the aspects of his reality with all the hopefulness of a hospice patient.
He loves Tel Aviv, by the way. “I lived in Tel Aviv for seven years, from ’82 to ’89,” he tells Gontarz. “I’m familiar with all the streets.” Then he sighs: “I can no longer enter Israel. Me and all the residents of Gaza.”
His analysis of the politics behind the war channels the pure cynicism of a Jean-Paul Sartre epic feat of despair. “The war was for Abu Yair (a reference to Netanyahu who boasted during the elections that this is what Israeli Arabs called him after his son. They enjoy mocking him with that one), and now he is forming a government with Benny Gantz and everything is back to normal.”
“But after the calm that comes today, tomorrow, in two days, or another hundred days – there’s no change in the life of Gaza. After the war, donors give to Gaza. Who takes the money? Mahmoud Abbas. What does Abbas do with the money? Not rehabilitation for Gaza. So we’ll be waiting for the next round.”
Obeid has no illusions about Hamas, but he does provide a fresh if sad angle on the rulers of the Strip: “The citizens of Gaza are controlled by Hamas. There is no escape from it and no other ruler. Who will rule Gaza? Who will run the life of Gaza? There’s no one. The residents are miserable. Let us live. Israel is making an error. If I were in the Israeli government, I would open up the border and bring in workers, and create coexistence. Hamas rules and will continue to rule because no one wants Gaza. Only Hamas enjoys ruling it, and it will fight whoever deprives it of this rule. The citizens are miserable. They have no choice. What will they do? If they revolt against Hamas, what will come out of it? Nothing.”
However, Obeid brings up an unexpected point, “Internal security like Hamas provides – I’ve never seen in my life. Nowhere in the world. We are Arabs. We’re accustomed to quarreling with each other. Now there are no fights. There’s no crime in the neighborhoods. It’s quiet.”
Then he returns to his main theme: “But there’s no money. No jobs and no money. The residents are poor. They don’t decide. Who decides? Hamas is leading the life of Gaza. They go to war without telling anyone. They stop the war without telling anyone.”
There’s more, but I like you too much to subject you to the whole thing. Now hand me my Zoloft.