Wednesday, May 19, 2010

These Virtual Connections Are for Real

By Eva Bartlett

"GAZA CITY, May 19, 2010 (IPS) - "I've learned most of what I know about photo editing and graphic design via the Internet," says Emad, 27-year-old film-maker and editor. In Gaza, this sort of thing has become usual in a different way.

"This programme isn't available here," he says, smiling triumphantly as he finishes downloading the latest edition of an advanced video editing programme. "Even if it was, I can't afford to pay 600 dollars for it, not even if I worked for two months. But I need this for my work, so I looked for a free online version."

Isolated under a siege which began shortly after Hamas was elected in 2006 and heightened severely in mid-2007, Palestinians in Gaza have suffered the effects of such alienation in all aspects of their lives. The economy has been destroyed both by the prolonged and choking siege and the 2008-2009 Israeli war on Gaza, leaving unemployment hovering near 60 percent.

Aside from denying Palestinians in Gaza an astonishing number of the most basic of daily items, as well as material vitally needed for reconstruction or in the health sector or for schools and universities, the siege is a psychological attack and strangulation which has pronounced affects on Palestinians dreams, hopes, and daily realities......

Denied the opportunity to leave and visit family and relatives outside of Gaza, the Internet fulfils another vital role. "It's too expensive to call people outside Gaza, but using Skype or a messenger programme, I can keep in touch with friends and family abroad."

Activists and educational groups also make the most of the Internet and technology. Satellite-enabled video conferences and Skype hook-ups allow university students in Gaza to connect with those in the occupied West Bank and with universities outside of Gaza working to break the siege on education.

The annual Bil'in conference, on Apr. 21 this year included a satellite hook-up with academics and activists in Gaza, as well as residents in one of the hardest hit areas during the Israeli war on Gaza...."

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