Occupied Lives: Nothing left to hope for
Youssef Abu Mghasib
Youssef Abu Mghasib (38) owns 10 dunnums of farmland in Deir el Balah, in the central part of the Gaza Strip, just over 300 meters from the Gaza-Israeli border and beyond Israel’s unilaterally imposed 300 meter buffer zone. Here, he grows olives and an assortment of vegetables to support his family, though Youssef lives with wife, 9 children, mother and sister in a home 500 meters from their farm. On 12 June 2012, Youssef’s land was bulldozed by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF).
On the day of the bulldozing, Youssef recalls that: “I was watering plants on my farm when I heard the sound of the bulldozers and tanks. I could also hear heavy shooting. I was really scared that something would happen to me, so I ran home. The bulldozers came and destroyed all of my olive trees and crushed my vegetables. My irrigation system was completely destroyed. Nothing could be salvaged from the land. Then, just 4 days later, they came back with their tanks and leveled the land until all of it was finally flat.”
The bulldozing of Abu Mghasib’s land has subsequently plunged the family into financial and emotional turmoil: “I felt completely destroyed when they bulldozed my farm. I had been cultivating that land since 2001, when my father died and left it to me. It was destroyed in the Second Intifada, but I had worked very hard to plant new olive trees and put in an irrigation system. My mother had a nervous breakdown when they were bulldozing the land. She was shouting and crying and we had to rush her to hospital. My wife was also hysterical.”
The loss of Youssef’s land and equipment is estimated to be USD 20,000: “My land is not even within the 300 meters considered to be the buffer zone, yet it was destroyed. My irrigation pipes are now useless. I used to feed my family from that land and sell the extra produce in the market. I currently have no other source of income and no other occupation. When the opportunity arises, I work on other people’s farms to make a few shekels. Life has just been hard since 12 June. I had taken out a loan before the land was destroyed to rebuild the farm. Now, I have no way of paying back this loan. My neighbors gave me a bale of wheat because we have nothing to eat, but it will not feed us forever. It pains me that I could not even afford to buy my children school bags.”