Written by: Dr. Talal Abu Rukba
The pervasive phenomenon of forced displacement affecting all Gaza Strip residents has given rise to a distinct cultural phenomenon within Palestinian society, termed the "culture of displacement." This culture mirrors the adaptive behaviors and struggles of the displaced populace as they seek secure shelter and strive for a basic standard of living, often under challenging circumstances that test their human dignity. Amidst the daily struggle to meet fundamental needs, the culture of displacement has seen the emergence of an individualistic mindset among the displaced, shaped by the relentless pursuit of survival and sustenance.
The pressing challenges of securing accessible water and firewood for cooking emerge as top priorities in the lives of the displaced. The tragic repercussions of their displacement have plunged them into a state of shock, tension and anxiety as each passing day worsens their plight. Compounded by the failure of humanitarian institutions to adequately address the catastrophic impact of Israeli occupation on Palestinian society, a pervasive sense of chaos and unpredictability prevails in addressing displacement and its aftermath.
The inadequacy of humanitarian institutions in meeting the needs of the displaced and ensuring minimal levels of human dignity has spurred them to take matters into their own hands, striving to secure a decent life for their families. However, this pursuit sometimes leads to encroachments on the rights of others, an emphasis on individual values over collective ones and a gradual erosion of communal values in the lives of the displaced.
The situation also entails a disturbing exploitation of the displaced individuals' needs, notably reflected in exorbitant rental rates that have skyrocketed in Rafah Governorate, the epicenter of displacement with nearly 1.3 million individuals from across the Gaza Strip to date, with the numbers continuing to rise. This exploitation extends to essential commodities, with prices surging to nearly ten times their pre-war levels since the Israeli aggression on Gaza. It is worth noting that the displaced have had to adopt new roles as lumberjacks and water carriers to navigate their changed circumstances. Water and bread queues have become commonplace in the Palestinian displacement scene, marked by daily confrontations and tensions as individuals vie for access to essential resources such as a gallon of water or a loaf of bread. This situation leads to a profound social and moral decay within Palestinian society in the Gaza Strip. The harsh reality permeates every aspect of daily life for the displaced, who endure significant hardships to shield their children from the ravages of displacement. This relentless struggle threatens to erode the souls and values of those affected, exacerbating the societal disintegration already underway.
Addressing the urgent need to combat societal collapse and the erosion of communal bonds, exacerbated by the pervasive culture of self-interest amongst the displaced, necessitates a critical examination of the flawed approaches taken by humanitarian institutions in recent months. These approaches have been marked by disorder, individualism and a sense of entitlement in addressing the needs of displacement. Particularly concerning is the prevalence of favoritism, nepotism and duplicity in aid distribution, wherein familial and personal connections often override principles of fairness and transparency. This has resulted in aid being exploited for personal gain, with reports emerging of aid being sold in markets by unscrupulous merchants and thieves.
Undoubtedly, the forced displacement inflicted by Israeli occupying forces upon all Gaza Strip residents is a deliberate tactic aimed at destabilizing societal structures and plunging Palestinian society into a state of turmoil, societal breakdown and social fragmentation. This destabilization is further exacerbated by the inadequate response of humanitarian institutions in effectively countering the occupation's objectives.
It has become imperative for us to devise an emergency plan capable of addressing the needs of displacement, with the cooperation of both governmental and non-governmental entities. This entails restoring order in our approach to addressing displacement-related challenges. This process starts with the consolidation of efforts and the implementation of digital solutions to prevent duplication. Moreover, it requires comprehensive strategies to ensure that assistance reaches all displaced individuals. Will you heed this call, or will you allow chaos and unpredictability to prevail?
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's views and not necessarily the Association's or donor's opinion.