Palestinian Doctor Reacts to Gaza Pullout

Dr. Eyad Serraj talks about what life is like in Gaza for Palestinians. He is a psychiatrist and director of the Gaza Mental Health Institute. Serraj says he hopes to travel more freely now, but he remains apprehensive about security in the area.

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We're hearing this week from a number of voices in the Gaza Strip, and this morning, we've called Dr. Eyad Serraj. He's a Palestinian psychiatrist living in Gaza City. Dr. Serraj grew up in Gaza in the years before the Israeli occupation.

Dr. EYAD SERRAJ: I remember when I was a little kid, my father used to take us every Friday to different spots on the beach. Now I hope that I can go back to that. I also hope that I can take my little boat on a sea trip from Gaza to Rafah, across which we were not allowed to do before.

INSKEEP: Gaza must have been a very different place when you growing up there in the '50s and '60s.

Dr. SERRAJ: Oh, yeah, completely. Now Gaza is becoming overcrowded and really full of concrete. When I was young, it was green and it was beautiful. It was safe. It was peaceful. And with the confiscation of almost a third of the size of Gaza to the benefit of the few settlements, the overcrowding has really intensified in Gaza. And of course, we have squalors in the refugee camps everywhere. We have eight refugee camps. These are the people who came from Palestine in 1948, and they are squeezed into shanty homes and dirty places. Gaza was really a beautiful place before all the disasters.

INSKEEP: What has this occupation meant for Palestinians, for you personally?

Dr. SERRAJ: I am so restricted in my movement for the last years of the occupation because of the checkpoints everywhere, because there--our land that was confiscated and Israeli settlers moved in. These areas were not allowed for us Palestinians. It meant humiliation at every checkpoint you move. So the occupation was really kind of turning our environment into a very oppressive, sometimes inhuman environment which resulted in a lot of military confrontations between the Palestinians and the Israelis and also a lot of hatred between the two sides. So hopefully this time this will be the beginning of real peace, security for all of us.

INSKEEP: You mentioned hatred between the two sides. Yesterday on this program, we spoke to an Israeli settler who's deeply upset about having to leave what she considers her home. What do you think about what those settlers are going through in these last few days?

Dr. SERRAJ: I have my feelings for them because I know what it means for someone to have his home destroyed and be removed. It happened to us Palestinians more than once. But you know, I think these people are also victims, as we are. They are victims twice, in fact, victims of the historical persecution of Jews in Europe, which resulted in the establishment of Israel, and now they are victims of their own government, in particular this government which was headed by Sharon once who started the settlement project in Palestinian areas. So these people are human beings. They have feelings, of course. They have the right to live in security and peace, but they have been victimized by the conflict and particularly by their own Zionist ideology, I think.

INSKEEP: The settlements, of course, will be destroyed by Israeli authorities, then the rubble cleared away by Palestinians. What would you like to see happen to that land?

Dr. SERRAJ: I sincerely hope that it will be turned into something good for the Palestinians to have a kind of sense of freedom and dignity that will help them to move towards peace. I am apprehensive, to be honest with you, that in the Palestinian Authority, they're still not really prepared, and their record is not very good in managing their affairs. So I hope that there will be serious reform in the Palestinian Authority so this land can be used effectively and not be taken by some of the warlords or some of the big names in the Palestinian Authority.

INSKEEP: Eyad Serraj is a psychiatrist, a Palestinian living in Gaza City.

Thanks very much.

Dr. SERRAJ: Thank you.


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