Nasser Al 'Amoudi, outside the symbolic tent erected on the site of his BMW shop. © Malian/PCHR
March 31, 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.
Text and images by Malian/PCHR.
Nasser Al 'Amoudi, with
his biker’s jacket and sunglasses, embodies the essence
of a car enthusiast. For years he has been the proud
owner of the only BMW spare parts shop in the Gaza
Strip. People would travel from every corner to purchase
second hand parts from his shop. Now Nasser’s workshop
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.
Nasser Al 'Amoudi
on his motorbike outside the remains of his BMW Spare
Parts shop. © Malian/PCHR
Al 'Amoudi BMW Spare
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.
Nasser Al 'Amoudi,
outside the symbolic tent erected on the site of his BMW
shop. © Malian/PCHR
During the offensive,
while Nasser sheltered in his home in Shati refugee camp
with his wife and three children, Israeli fighter jets,
helicopters, naval vessels, and ground tanks pounded
Salateen. His garage and workshop were levelled by
Israeli military bulldozers around the 14 of January
2009, when many of the local residents had
fled the area. "I drove back here on my motorbike on the
first day of the ceasefire, on 18 January 2009," says
Nasser. "There was absolutely nothing left. Years of
work, just gone."
Piled up around the
refugee tent on Nasser’s site, are the crumpled metal
bumpers of BMW cars. Nasser has tried to salvage
whatever he could but the tent is little more than a
testament to the human spirit. "I’ve set up this tent
with the old sign from my shop as a symbol, even though
I have no goods to sell," Nasser adds. "Just to let the
world see what happened to me…"
During the 22 day
offensive Beit Lahiya suffered extreme levels of
devastation and the resulting crisis is still affecting
all aspects of life. Civilians like Nasser Al 'Amoudi
and others, continue to be denied their economic,
social, cultural, civil and political rights.
An overview of the
Salateen area, badly destroyed by Israeli military
apparatus. © Malian/PCHR
Meanwhile, the European
Union (EU) is considering upgrading its trade relations
with Israel under the EU-Israel Association Agreement,
which offers Israel preferential terms in its trade with
the EU. Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association states
that the relationship between Israel and the EU should
be based on respect for human rights and democratic
principles, as a core part of the Agreement and as a
precondition for economic cooperation.
In light of Israel’s latest actions in the Gaza Strip, and continuing
breaches of international law, PCHR is calling on the
EU-Israel Association Council to reconsider Israel’s
request for a significant upgrading of relations, and to
hold Israel to account for its continuing violations of
international law and the human rights clauses within
the Agreement. Upgrading the Association Agreement gives
Israel tacit approval to continue violating its
contractual obligations and makes the EU complicit in
Over 120 industrial and commercial workshops were completely destroyed
by Israeli Occupation Forces between 27 December 2008
and 18 January 2009, and at least 200 others were
damaged, as well as some of Gaza’s largest factories
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
"What is the point of addressing the international community about this
issue?" asks Nasser. "No one seems to care. I will try
to rebuild my shop. What else can I do? Where else can I
go? I just hope that this will not happen again in