Life or Death in the Gaza Strip




Uploaded by vice on Jul 10, 2012

Transcript:

[MODEM CONNECTING]

SUROOSH ALVI: We're at the Erez crossing, which is where
you enter Gaza from.
So apparently, when you go into Gaza, you have to walk
until you get to the first town there.
And--
[GUNFIRE]
SUROOSH ALVI: And apparently, that walk is
very dangerous, because--
[GUNFIRE]
SUROOSH ALVI: Because you can get shot.

It's been brothers killing brothers over there, Hamas and
Fatah, fighting over control of the Gaza Strip.
Hamas declared victory.
Hamas is saying, you know, enough with moderation.
It's time to create a proper Islamic state.

We are driving through the Sinai Peninsula on our way to
the Gaza Strip.
In 2007, we were filming in Israel and we tried to access
the Gaza Strip through the Erez crossing.
We couldn't get in.
It was sealed off.
Four years later, we are now accessing the Gaza Strip
through Egypt, through the Rafah crossing.
After the Egyptian Revolution, the crossing was opened up.
The people wanted to support the Palestinians inside the
Gaza Strip.
They've been under a blockade by air and by sea.
It's been inaccessible, sealed off to the outside world.
So it's finally open now, and we're going to go in and see
what life is like for the people of the Gaza Strip
underneath Hamas rule.

[HORN HONKING]

SUROOSH ALVI: Now even though the Rafah crossing is open, it
doesn't make getting in any easier.
MALE SPEAKER 1: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

SUROOSH ALVI: When we got to the entrance, it was a jammed
mess of suitcases and people screaming to get in.
MALE SPEAKER 2: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

SUROOSH ALVI: With our passports and a little bit of
patience, we eventually pushed through the chaos, slipped
through the gate and into the clearing.

SUROOSH ALVI: After that, we had to go to a holding center
to get checked and vetted again, which ended up taking
about three hours.
The place was packed, but the vibe inside was a bit calmer
and more organized and it was outside.
People seemed genuinely excited to be entering the
Gaza Strip.
MALE SPEAKER 3: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

SUROOSH ALVI: We eventually got put on a bus, drove past
the border marker, and got dropped off in Palestinian
territory on the other side.
The whole bus trip lasted about three minutes, and we
drove the distance of about two football fields.
But we couldn't argue with protocol.
We were finally in the Gaza Strip.

The drive from the border town of Rafah in the south to Gaza
City in the north is just 25 miles, which gives you an idea
of just how tiny the place is.
According to the UN, more than two-thirds of its 1.6 million
residents are refugees.
Even though Gaza is small, it's a crucial part of
Palestine and completely isolated from the West Bank.
In 2006, Gaza held elections for the first time, and much
of the world was shocked when Hamas, a group that the US and
Europe classify as a terrorist organization, won.
The Bush administration, who had championed elections in
the Arab world, were obviously less than
thrilled with this outcome.
They began working to isolate new Hamas-controlled
government.
In addition to helping impose a blockade that cut off Hamas
from the outside world, they equipped Hamas's rivals,
Fatah, with a raft of new weapons and training in hopes
that they would unseat Hamas from power.
It didn't work.
After a succession of assassinations, kidnappings,
and street battles between Hamas and Fatah, Hamas took
complete control of the Gaza Strip and, for the first time
in its history, had to figure out how to run a government.
MALE SPEAKER 4: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE ON
LOUDSPEAKER]
In the days before we arrived, militant groups inside Gaza
had been launching rockets into Israel, and the Israelis
responded by launching attacks on what they
called terror cells.
When we got to our hotel, we could see Israeli drones
flying around everywhere.
Kind of screwed up our plan--
doing a story on Gaza without ever mentioning Israel.
The constant buzzing of drones overhead made us super
paranoid that anything place we went
could be blown to bits.
Like the Hamas government building where we met with the
group's spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum.

SUROOSH ALVI: Can you explain to me why there were rockets
being launched into Israel and why Israel was bombing Gaza
over the last few days?
Why did the cease-fire break down?

SUROOSH ALVI: Who attacked first?

SUROOSH ALVI: Israel attacked?

SUROOSH ALVI: Islamic Jihad is a group that--
it's more radical, I think, than Hamas.

SUROOSH ALVI: The resistance against Israel is part of the
fabric of everyday life in Gaza, so when a militant group
like Al-Ansar decides to have a pop-up press conference in
the middle of a busy street, nobody bats an
eye, except for us.
Holy shit.
MALE SPEAKER 5: [SPEAKING ARABIC]

SUROOSH ALVI: And like that, they were gone.
It was a hell of a first day in the Gaza Strip.

[HORN HONKING]
SUROOSH ALVI: We're going on patrol with the
Hamas police force.
Apparently, there's some kind of fight going on.
We're going to see who's kicking whose ass.
After the 2007 battle with rival Palestinian faction,
Fatah, Hamas came out on top, which meant most Fatah
supporters got the hell out of Gaza.
So we were surprised when the police rolled up to an entire
Fatah neighborhood.
We seem to be in Fatah-controlled
territory right now.
Their flags are flying everywhere.
And I'm not sure why we're here or what the police are
investigating.
MALE SPEAKER 6: [SPEAKING ARABIC]

SUROOSH ALVI: What they seem to be investigating with this
full-on show of force was a minor building code violation.
MALE SPEAKER 6: [SPEAKING ARABIC]

SUROOSH ALVI: Hamas has a reputation for imposing a
strict rule of law.
MALE SPEAKER 6: [SPEAKING ARABIC]
SUROOSH ALVI: Even more so if you're a member of Fatah.
So basically, Hamas was just harassing Fatah supporters.
SAMAH AHMED: All Fatah members here in
Gaza cannot to anything.
The situation controlled by Hamas.
She's the government and she's the security.
She's everything.
It's not easy to have your normal daily life with Hamas.
If the security of Hamas came to any restaurant, any opening
places, and find boys and girls sitting together, they
start to ask about the kind of the relationship between you,
if it's legal or not.
Sometimes I feel that they occupied my mind.
I didn't want to say that Fatah is the best.
They have many faults.
They do many mistakes.
But at least they are better than Hamas.
SUROOSH ALVI: Hamas viewed the Fatah-run Palestinian
Authority in the West Bank as an inherently corrupt entity
that failed to provide basic services for Gazans and looked
the other way when it came to alcohol and drugs.
Much of Hamas's popularity comes from the fact that they
are seen as honest and incorruptible.
And when they took power, they put a concerted effort into
stomping out all forms of vice in Gaza.
But the same tunnels that allow Hamas to smuggle in
weapons from Egypt also allow for a steady flow of drugs.
SAMAH AHMED: They're children working in the tunnel.
They are 12, 13.
They are smoking and taking drugs.
Through the tunnels, many kind of drugs can enter to Gaza,
because there is no control on the tunnels.

SUROOSH ALVI: So because there's no control in the
tunnels, Hamas are constantly doing drug raids around Gaza.
MALE SPEAKER ON RADIO: [SPEAKING ARABIC]

SUROOSH ALVI: And they round up all kinds of drugs in all
shapes and sizes.

SUROOSH ALVI: Cocaine balls.

MALE SPEAKER 6: [SPEAKING ARABIC]

SUROOSH ALVI: It's cocaine in perfectly formed triangles,
which is odd.
Lot of little bricks of hash and pills.

SUROOSH ALVI: That's 100 grams?
MALE SPEAKER 6: [SPEAKING ARABIC]
MALE SPEAKER 7: [SPEAKING ARABIC]
SUROOSH ALVI: Now things like hash and cocaine are pretty
standard for a drug raid.
But the biggest drug problem in Gaza is Tramodol, or as
it's called there, Tramol.
Tramol is a prescription painkiller that has become the
drug of choice for young people looking to escape the
reality of life in Gaza.
MALE SPEAKER 6: [SPEAKING ARABIC]

SUROOSH ALVI: And where is it all coming from?
Is ti coming from Egypt?
MALE SPEAKER 6: [SPEAKING ARABIC]
SUROOSH ALVI: Through the tunnels?
MALE SPEAKER 6: [SPEAKING ARABIC]

SUROOSH ALVI: We decided to see if we could find some kids
to talk to who might be using Tramol.
Our fixer, Raed, said he knew just the place to go.
RAED: [SPEAKING ARABIC]

SUROOSH ALVI: We are now hunting for kids on drugs, and
we figured a park is a good place to go.
In my experience, parks are great places for stoned kids
to hang out.
The psychological impact of living under occupation in a
place that's sealed off is really heavy.
They're poor, they don't have jobs, they've lost their
family members to war.
They're turning to drugs.
They're numbing the pain.
They're trying to find a way to escape, and the only way
they can do that is through pharmaceuticals.
We spotted some kids hanging out in the corner of the park
and walked over to them.
I let Raed do the talking.
MALE SPEAKERS: [SPEAKING ARABIC]
SUROOSH ALVI: Really?
MALE SPEAKERS: [SPEAKING ARABIC]

SUROOSH ALVI: They don't care.
MALE SPEAKERS: [SPEAKING ARABIC]

SUROOSH ALVI: So according to these kids, Tramol became more
popular after Hamas came to power, and its reach is still
spreading, in spite of all the crackdowns and in spite of the
harsh punishments suffered by people who got caught.
People who we would be meeting the next day.

[MUEZZIN GIVING CALL TO PRAYER OVER LOUDSPEAKER]

SUROOSH ALVI: After seeing the Hamas police squad show off
all the drugs they've confiscated in raids across
the Gaza Strip, we wanted to see what happens to the people
they catch.
Gaza City's central prison is home to both drug smugglers
and drug users.
MALE SPEAKERS: [SPEAKING ARABIC]


SUROOSH ALVI: We read that drugs are a big problem.
For the crime of smuggling drugs, or smoking hash, or
adultery, what are the punishments?

SUROOSH ALVI: And how do they execute people?
They hang them?

SUROOSH ALVI: Shooting.
Wow.
Heavy.

SUROOSH ALVI: It's all drugs?
And how many prisoners are in this room here?
SUROOSH ALVI: 36?
In this one room?

SUROOSH ALVI: He's a good man?
SUROOSH ALVI: Why does he like you so much?
SUROOSH ALVI: Right, right.
That's why he's being nice now.

SUROOSH ALVI: How do you know that they will
come back after Eid?

SUROOSH ALVI: Put the whole family in jail.

SUROOSH ALVI: Anyone ever escape from here?

SUROOSH ALVI: OK.

SUROOSH ALVI: How many women are in the prison?
SUROOSH ALVI: That's all?

SUROOSH ALVI: In all of Gaza?
JAMILA AL-SHANTI: Yes.
SUROOSH ALVI: And what are the crimes that
they're in prison for?

SUROOSH ALVI: Right.
[MUEZZIN GIVING CALL TO PRAYER OVER LOUDSPEAKER]

SUROOSH ALVI: Rather than letting us visit the women in
their cells, the women's warden dragged the female
prisoners out and put them on display for us in a room that
they apparently use to make prisoner arts and crafts.
[MEOW]
SUROOSH ALVI: It's a bit of a PR show.
They're giving them, you know, like warm
clothes for the winter.
Basically, it's--
it's odd.
It's a bit weird.
She's the boss.
FEMALE SPEAKERS: [SPEAKING ARABIC]

SUROOSH ALVI: We weren't allowed to interview the women
on camera, so we had Raed find out what these women had done
to end up behind bars.
This woman here is in jail for two years because she helped
her son escape and get out of Gaza Strip illegally, to go to
Israel or the West Bank.
I'm not sure where he went.
And she was smiling and was actually saying it with pride,
which was interesting.
The woman who had the little boy out of wedlock, she is in
jail or six years for that crime.
For having a kid illegitimately.


SUROOSH ALVI: That's interesting.
So basically what you're saying is that Hamas is very
progressive when it comes to women's rights.

SAMAH AHMED: Actually, it's a complicated life for the women
and also for all the Palestinians.
But especially for the women, the girls, you cannot do
whatever you want.
It's not easy, actually.

SUROOSH ALVI: Just to be clear about this, women's rights now
compared to five years ago, how is it different?
SAMAH AHMED: The wife cannot go to the police station if
she getting beated from her husband.
Before, you can go to the police station.
SUROOSH ALVI: Right.
SAMAH AHMED: And the police station told the woman, just
go and solve your problem with your husband.

I wish that Hamas didn't win the election.
I have many good memories with Hamas members.
We have been like brothers and sisters.
But when they get the power, they changed.

Gaza became another country.
It's not anymore a part of Palestine.

SUROOSH ALVI: We're at the Hamas police
station in Gaza City.
These are unexploded bombs, and the police just told us
that they found a bomb in Khan Yunis, a town nearby, and
they've asked us if we want to go with them and watch them
blow the bomb up.
And we said yes.

The bomb squad grounds were overflowing with tons of
unexploded ordnance, including the infamous Qassam rocket,
which was developed by the military arm of Hamas.
MALE SPEAKER 8: [SPEAKING ARABIC]

SUROOSH ALVI: We're looking at a Qassam rocket.
It is made in a secret underground
factory here in Gaza.
It's not very accurate.
It has a range of eight kilometers.
Often not very effective.
Some Palestinians think it's more trouble than it's worth.
But it has created a lot of problems for Israel, and has
them living in fear in the southern cities
of Ashdod and Ashkelon.

So these are all the unexploded bombs.
Grenades in here.
Mortar shells, a lot of them.
Bit freaky in here.
MALE SPEAKERS: [SPEAKING ARABIC]

SUROOSH ALVI: Just as we were looking at all the weapons in
the truck, everyone started freaking out and pointing up
at the sky.
It turned out that what we had witnessed was Israel's test of
a new long-range missile capable of hitting Iran.
We were happy it wasn't going to come down on our heads in
Gaza, but it was a potent reminder of the strength of
Israel's military.
It feels like everyone was anticipating
something to happen.
Israel's been saying for the last couple days these
cryptic, veiled threats.
They're going to go in and solve this problem once and
for all in Gaza.
What does that mean?

Now that we were all completely paranoid, we headed
off into the desert with our truck full of bombs.
We're riding along here behind a rolling bomb, essentially.
The truck is full of unexploded ordnance.
We have grenades, landmines, mortars, rockets.
They're loose, bouncing around in the back of the truck.
We're driving through crowded urban areas.
We just passed a school.
It doesn't seem like they're taking a lot of precautions,
but it hasn't blown up yet.

Come on, man.
What are you doing?
Fuck!
No, that's good.
I'm good.
All right, you having fun now?
You enjoying yourselves?
We are on a former Israeli settlement.
It's the only place in Gaza with enough open area where
you can blow something up without someone
getting killed or hurt.
I can't help but point out the irony of blowing up Israeli
bombs that were left here where Israeli
settlers used to live.
Makes us nervous.
You know, like, I don't know that one of these things isn't
going to go off.
They're just dumping it off the truck, dropping things.
Shouldn't they be exploding?
All right.
I--
I'm done.

MALE SPEAKERS: [SPEAKING ARABIC]

SUROOSH ALVI: This is the final stage.
We've left two cameras, one right by the pit of bombs and
the other one up on the hill.
Hopefully they don't get blown up.
We're trying to convince George, our cameraman-- that's
you-- to stay here and get a better shot.
But he doesn't seem to be too into that.
Our producer Jason courageously and/or stupidly
volunteered to go film in the bunker.

MALE SPEAKERS: [SPEAKING ARABIC]

SUROOSH ALVI: Feels a little chaotic.
Apparently, they're having some technical problems now.
MALE SPEAKERS: [SPEAKING ARABIC]

SUROOSH ALVI: I'm more worried about Jason inside of that
doghouse bunker that he's in.
MALE SPEAKER 9: [SPEAKING ARABIC]

SUROOSH ALVI: No?
MALE SPEAKERS: [SPEAKING ARABIC]

SUROOSH ALVI: They're telling us to get down.
MALE SPEAKERS: [SPEAKING ARABIC]

[EXPLOSION]

MALE SPEAKERS: [SPEAKING ARABIC]

[SIREN]

SUROOSH ALVI: Behind me is the crater.
It was done successfully, although it took a while.
It didn't detonate the first couple times.
And as we were sitting around waiting, I thought about this
morning when the Israelis launched a super high-tech
missile And then meanwhile, 20 kilometers over.
It's like a cartoon.
Not particularly calculated and kind of chaotic.
Maybe that sums up life in Gaza Strip.

We're doing some shopping right now.
Got some--
some swag.
Al-Qassam.
MALE SPEAKER 10: Yeah, Hamas.
SUROOSH ALVI: Hamas Military Brigade.

SUROOSH ALVI: Yeah, why?
The drone?
MALE SPEAKER 10: Yeah, of course.
SUROOSH ALVI: Will it get me?
SUROOSH ALVI: I'm not worried.
I'm not wearing the right shirt, though.
Like a button-down shirt with my Islamic Jihad headband?
Doesn't really work.
I'm going to keep it on.
I'll go shopping with it.
I'm kidding.
All right, we'll take those also.
Just as we were getting into the groove of things in Gaza
and were starting to relax, we found out that the border
crossing was closing unexpectedly.
RAED: [SPEAKING ARABIC]
SUROOSH ALVI: Raed got on the phone to try and convince them
to keep the crossing open long enough for us to
get back into Egypt.
We are trying to get to the border now, to Rafah crossing.
If we don't make it there before noon, then we might be
stuck in Gaza, in which case, we'll have to
go through the tunnels.
Samah decided to hitch a ride with us, hoping that she might
slip through in the chaos.

So if you get through today, that's a pretty big deal.
Means that you're maybe not being targeted anymore, or--?

RAED: [SPEAKING ARABIC]

SUROOSH ALVI: In spite of Samah having a visa to travel
to Germany, the Hamas border guards weren't having it.
And we were rushed along without her, leaving her
behind the walls of the Gaza Strip.
RAED: [SPEAKING ARABIC]

SUROOSH ALVI: After our first try to get into Gaza in 2007,
it took us years to finally get in.
In reality, if Israel hadn't made it so hard to get in in
the first place, I don't think we would have been so curious
about what was going on behind those walls.

When we first arrived, we were really impressed by this kind
of orderliness that you don't see in many places that are as
poor as Gaza.
But then as we began to realize that this was purely
the result of Hamas's authoritarian approach to law
and order, it began to creep us out.
MALE SPEAKER 11: [ARABIC]
SUROOSH ALVI: The Hamas government operates in an
environment of paranoia that has them on guard not only
against the outside world but against their brothers and
sisters in Fatah and against ordinary Gazans, whose
poverty, they fear, could tempt them
into spying for Israel.

What we have here is an authoritarian government
operating within prison walls and under economic siege.
It's like the set up for a Kurt Russell movie, except
that it's real.

But as we crossed into the chaos of post-revolution
Egypt, part of me just wanted to turn around and go right
back to Gaza.
MALE SPEAKER 12: [SPEAKING ARABIC]


JASON MOJICA: What do you want money for?
MALE SPEAKER 12: [SPEAKING ARABIC]
JASON MOJICA: Can we go?
Go, go.
[RAED AND MAN ARGUING IN ARABIC]


SUROOSH ALVI: Can we drive the car now?