Monday, March 30, 2009

Aftermath: "The Only BMW Store in Gaza"

Nasser Al Amoudi outside the symbolic tent erected on the site of his destroyed BMW spare parts shop
Photo: Malian/PCHR.

Palestinian Center for Human Rights, March 29, 2009 - In this new series of personal testimonies, PCHR looks at the aftermath of Israel’s 22 day offensive on the Gaza Strip, and the ongoing impact it is having on the civilian population.

Nasser Al ‘Amoudi, with his biker’s jacket and sunglasses, embodies the of a car enthusiast. For years he has been the owner of the only BMW spare parts shop in the Strip. People would travel from every corner to purchase secondhand parts from his shop. Now Nasser’s and garage, which were worth $300,000 before the Israeli army destroyed them during their latest offensive, lie in tatters, and his financial security has gone.

Al ‘Amoudi BMW Spare Parts is situated on a main street running through the Salateen area of Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza. This area was one of the worst affected during Israel’s ground offensive – hundreds of houses and greenhouses were completely destroyed in Salateen, thousands of trees were uprooted, and there are still 100 families living in a tent camp just a few metres away. This predominantly fishing community has sustained many Israeli incursions over the years but the scars of the latest one are all pervasive and have made the area almost unrecognisable to its residents. Even the cemetery with its cracked gravestones and deep tank tracks, was not spared.

“This land belongs to me and my family and we have had this business for 22 years,” says 38-year-old Nasser, his hand leaning on the edge of the tent he has erected on the site of his shop. “I worked in the garage when I was a small boy, and I took over from my brother when I was old enough. We had customers from Gaza City, from Khan Yunis, and Rafah. This was the only place to find good used spare parts for BMW cars. All of Gaza knew this shop.”

Nasser used to have friends in Germany whom he did business with to secure the spare parts, but everything collapsed with the closure of Gaza’s borders two years ago: “People were still coming here before the war, but business had slowed down, almost to a standstill. Gaza has been closed off from the outside world for two years, and it’s impossible for businesses like mine to function under those conditions.”

The economic blockade and closure of Gaza’s borders since June 2007 has had a devastating impact on the Strip’s economic sectors. Most production facilities have ceased operations and the import and export of goods are severely limited. Israel’s policy of collective punishment has left the territory unable to secure basic foods, medicines, or other supplies and the result has been a skyrocketing of poverty rates and unemployment.....

Over 120 industrial and commercial workshops were completely by Israeli Occupation Forces between 27 December and 18 January 2009, and at least 200 others damaged, as well as some of Gaza’s largest producing soft drinks, concrete, and other basic items.

The high civilian death toll and the extensive destruction to public and private property indicate that one of the objectives of the Israeli political and military establishments was to cause the maximum possible damage in Gaza. As Nasser Al ‘Amoudi, rearranges the metal sign hanging from his tent, it is apparent that the Israeli army achieved that objective....

No comments: