It's no joke living under a corrupt and sometimes murderous regime, and one can only feel compassion for those who have to. However, even in the worst days of the Soviet regime, its millions of citizens sustained themselves with sardonic humour and self-mockery, through jokes and satirical songs.
A close friend who recently moved from Gaza City to Ramallah with his wife and two young children told me that the cost of each passport for a Gazan citizen is almost NIS 1,200, as opposed to NIS 235 prior to the Hamas takeover - just one of the consequences of the political disputes between the governments of Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in Ramallah.
After the takeover, several administrative offices had been formed in Gaza whose duties included the distribution of passports to civilians. I can't fathom how these offices transfer the passport requests from Gaza to Ramallah. I do not rule out the possibility that they are in fact smuggled through the tunnels and sent via Egyptian mail to Ramallah.
Today there is a serious passport shortage in the Gaza Strip. The PA, to help remedy that problem, is supposed to pass out about 5,000 new passports every month to citizens in the Gaza Strip. Hamas uses passports by selectively distributing them to the people within its government instead of making them available to anyone applying for them. The lack of passports in Gaza has brought a major increase in demand and even 10,000 new passports issued a month would not be enough to relieve the deficit.
But here's where the farce descends into near slapstick. For the article from which the extract was taken was written by the brother of one of the PA's ministers. He's the long-serving head of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitorying Group, which investigates and documents Human Rights abuses by both the Palestinian and the Israeli authorities. And here's his take on his brother's experience at the hands of the government in which he's a minister:
My brother, Hatem Abdulqader, was appointed 40 days ago to be the Minister of Jerusalem Affairs in the Salaam Fayad government. However, his new employer wasn't able to provide him with an office. No one in the government was able to tell my brother to his face that every minister needs a chair, a table and coffee utensils to serve the people who come to his office to congratulate him. When I heard about this, I lent my brother NIS 10,000 to find an office.
Eventually, he had to build one for himself. He had approached the Ministry of Finance many times requesting an office, a chair and a desk, but was told time again that the PA's cash register was empty.
This episode enraged me. Why is it necessity to appoint so many ministers to form a government? Why is the PA in need of $100 million each month for salaries? Where does all this money go? What do all these ministers do for their people?
In the television broadcast showing my brother being sworn in as minister, he raised his hand and swore by the Koran to be loyal to his people and country. If I were him, I would refuse to take this vow in front of Abbas or Fayad. I would be willing to take the oath only when the people standing in front of me are responsible enough to uphold this vow themselves.
The Fayad government actually wanted to use my brother to commit perjury, to swear in front of the entire Palestinian nation in the name of a useless government.
Well, yes, where does the money go? The US and EU may be withholding aid from the Hamas regime, but they're certainly pouring it into the PA's coffers.