Yuval Abraham reports in +972:
The electricity cuts out at 2pm in Gaza, but Muhammad has charged his phone in advance so he’ll have enough battery for our conversation. I call him on Facebook Video, and when he answers, he’s wearing a white vest and dripping with sweat. “Is it this hot where you are too?” he laughs, and I nod, look over at the fan in my room.
I’ve known Muhammad for a little over a year. He was the first person from Gaza I ever spoke to. He works as a physiotherapist at a government hospital, and has experienced Gaza’s wars through the injuries he’s had to treat. He starts our conversation with a warning: “I’m not worth your while interviewing. I don’t have anything to say about the Israeli elections, because they don’t interest me,” he says. “Firstly, because I’m drowning in day-to-day problems in Gaza. We’re not being paid our doctors’ wages, and the noise from the drones is driving me crazy.” He glances upwards, and imitates the humming of Israeli military drones. “The buzzing won’t leave me alone. It’s there constantly, over my head, in the sky. I hear it in my room, in the office — everywhere.
“The second reason I’m not interested in the elections,” Muhammad continues, smiling bitterly, “is that I don’t think it matters who wins. [Israel’s] policy toward Gaza won’t change. I heard about their other leader, the general who’s competing against Netanyahu from the Blue and White party — what’s his name? ‘Gantz’? Right. Him. I saw him boasting about killing loads of Palestinians in Gaza, and promising that he’d continue this level of force against us. In other words, Netanyahu by a different name.”
Even though he’s not interested in the elections, Muhammad still knows three of the parties: Blue and White, Likud, and the Joint List (for whom he would vote, if he could). He says that Facebook has made it easier for people to follow what’s happening in Israel these days. Most of his knowledge about the elections has come from social media.
“It wasn’t like this 10 years ago. Now, everyone can easily see what Israeli leaders are publishing online,” he says. “I hear people at the hospital chatting about the elections, and particularly with the question of whether there’s a chance of things changing. People are hungry for change, even if it’s minor.”
Yet for Muhammad, the most painful aspect of the elections is how “Israeli leaders use Gaza to drum up votes” during the campaign. “Every leader tries to seem like a bigger hero than the next one, promising to strike us and defeat Hamas,” he says. “Do you know how challenging that is, psychologically, for the people living here? Not just because of the wars, but because of the sense that they’re exploiting us. That they’re exploiting our death.”