På 1960-talet byggde svenska myndigheter upp ett fiskeläge i den sydligaste delen av Gaza-remsan. I detta arbete ska svenska fiskare ha deltagit. Enligt en del uppgifter byggdes byn dock i huvudsak av FN-soldater, men andra gör gällande att det var ett biståndsprojekt drivet av den svenska regeringen. Platsen kallas ”Swedish village” och är en av Gazaremsans fattigaste avkrokar:
The village is underdeveloped, not only because of Israel’s current blockade but because the area, even before 2005 when Hamas took over, was an isolated zone under the control of the Israeli occupation and its Jewish-only settlers, leaving the 800 Palestinian residents of the village closed in with restrictions on mobility.
Ali Abu Owda is the elected representative of the village and the oldest man at 80-years-old. He shares with MEE the story of his village since it was established in 1965 when Palestinians were pushed out of their traditional homes.
“We were living in homes made out of mud, but heavy winter storms destroyed everything and forced us to shelter in schools in 1965,” he says.
“We survive on fishing but that is now heavily restricted. Our fishermen are chased and attacked by Israeli and Egyptian warships on a regular basis,” he says, making earning a living extremely difficult and dangerous.
The poor infrastructure and lack of hygiene causes major health problems, mostly among the children who are deeply affected by a lack of utility services and safe hygiene. Hassouna says the village is unlike the rest of the Gaza Strip because it is remote from the main city of Rafah and far away from the rest of the Gaza Strip, close to the no-go zone known as the Egyptian border, and to smuggling activities where residents witness random shootings at night.
Hassouna says that only seven people in the village are officially working for the Palestinian Authority. The rest are unemployed, including fishermen and their wives and children, who have to live in one or two rooms for each family.
“I am a fisherman and I can’t find food to feed my family,” says 54-year-old Kamel Abu Owda, father of seven children, two of whom are married.
He says the sea is under blockade and he can’t even venture out into areas already known to be depleted of fish. In the past, whatever fish he managed to catch, he swaps for basic chicken – a dream meal for his children.
Most areas in the Gaza Strip suffer from a shortage of water, but the Swedish village suffers particularly badly as the water coming into people’s homes is salty, polluted, undrinkable and a major health hazard.
I modern tid har befolkningen i Swedish village återigen fått hjälp från ett biståndsprojekt, dock inte svenskt:
The Swedish Village, a remote village of fishermen in the far south of the Gaza Strip in the occupied Palestinian territory, is home to some 95 households living under extreme poverty. Visitors to the Village – built by the Swedish Government in the 1960s – can immediately see the poor infrastructure and inappropriate living conditions tolerated by its 700 inhabitants, who live on less than $US1 per day.
Part of a larger fishing community in the Gaza Strip, the fishermen of that area have faced years of neglect in terms of development activities. But that is not their only worry.
“We were born fishermen. My father was a fisherman and my grandfathers before him. Before, fishing was safer and more productive. Now, we are subject to different risks,” said Kamel Abu Odah, a 50-year-old fisherman with a family of eight and a long-time resident of the Swedish Village.
“We have grown so poor that I cannot buy fishing nets anymore. They are too expensive. I can hardly provide daily food, send my children to school or get appropriate medical care,” he added.
Abu Odah, who used to earn $250 to $350 a month, now benefits from a $4,000 in-kind grant of fishing nets, provided by UNDP’s Deprived Families Economic Empowerment Programme (DEEP). His was one of nine households to receive these nets in his village, based on a needs assessment that flagged his family as extremely poor and in need of a small grant to get back on their feet.
With new nets that enable him to catch different sizes and types of fish, and trained in bookkeeping to monitor his income and expenditures, Abu Odah and his two sons have resumed their daily fishing trips.
His business has expanded, and his brother and nephew are also benefiting from the project. His records show that his income has increased to between $1,300 and $1,500 a month.
“I can now save money, buy the boat I always dreamt of and send my daughter to university next year,” Abu Odah said.
Nästa gång en svensk fiskare skulle komma till Gaza var på 2000-talet i samband med projektet Gazas ark. En svensk fiskare, Charlie Andreasson, var då nere i Gazaremsan för att reparera och utrusta en båt som sedan skulle användas för att bryta blockaden av Gazaremsan. Nu är det snart dags igen. Denna gång ska en tidigare dansk fiskebåt seglas ner till Gaza.