In Gaza, Young Palestinians Want Their Revolution

Disillusioned Palestinians have three targets: Hamas, Fatah, Israel.

Gaza City (Gloucester)
Gaza City (Gloucester)
Francesca Paci

RAFAH - "How do I see the revolution in Cairo? Like this: a blocked road," says Youssuf, 50, pointing to the barrier behind some stalled construction projects that separates the Palestinian city of Rafah and Egypt proper.

Since January 25, the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt has been sealed. The only way to cross is through the underground tunnels that were built in 2007, in violation of an international embargo that followed the takeover of Gaza by the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Through this route, many Hamas militants -- who escaped Egypt's prisons when the revolution began three weeks ago -- have been able to return home to Gaza. The corpse of Youssuf's cousin, Ali Yousni, came back to Gaza this way, too. He died of a heart attack last week, while he was in El Arish on business.

The voices from Cairo's Tahir Square that arrive in Gaza are strong, but there's a price. The current instability has made it more difficult to travel through the Sinai. For this reason, the value of smuggled goods is on the rise. "I have to pay 300 (Israeli) shekels (around $80) extra for every cargo, because I have to hire an armed escort," says Abu Khalis, who owns one of the illegal tunnels.

The price of gas has doubled and the cost of cement has risen from 430 to 900 shekels per ton. At first sight, life in Gaza has not changed. There are the same disappointments and daily problems.

For the first time, Palestinians are spectators of an ‘intifada," or uprising, rather than participants. But the number of police cars at the corners of the dirt roads tells another story. Everyone is waiting to see what will happen -- if a wider Arab revolution will be sparked – as is happening with the Facebook group Karama. From the name, it is impossible to understand who the real organizers are, though many think they are linked to the Palestinian political party Fatah.

"I am not going, because if people will rally in the streets, the security will shoot to kill," says Asmaa Alghoul, a 29-year old journalist. She wears a 1970s-style leather jacket, has purple varnish on her nails, and black eyeliner. She does not seem scared at all. Over the past five years, Alghoul has argued openly with Hamas and, regularly denouncing "Islam that kills freedom, while faking a struggle against Israel's occupation." In 2009, she was fired by a Ramallah newspaper, al Ayyam, because she denounced abuses and torture perpetrated by Fatah in the West Bank.

Now that the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions are giving wings to millions of young Arabs' dreams, her blog has became a key target for Hamas, and she has been arrested along with her brother and father.

Alghoul stretches over the balcony and points to a dark car on the street, which she says has been following her for days. "They hit me, they threatened me with death. They say I am an enemy of the government, and that I have organized the rally for the revolution. But it is not true. I am not going to the rally because I am not affiliated with any party. When the revolution will start, it will be a popular revolution."

Alghoul is not alone. Since Hamas took power in Gaza five years ago, its popularity has greatly diminished. The mothers at the market, the fishermen fathers who sit on boats that do not sail, Mahamoud -- who has a client every hour and a half in his hardware shop -- all say the same thing. "We did not gain anything moving from Fatah to Hamas," they say.

Still, the older generation does not want to expose themselves to risks. Their children, however, are ready. In the last two months, before the beginning of the Tunisian revolution, eight university students, between 20 and 25, launched Facebook the "Gaza Young People Manifesto" on Facebook. In short, it says, "F-you, Hamas. F-you, Israel. F-you, Fatah. F-you, UN. F-you, USA."

They refuse to be victims, and also demand that Hamas and Fatah reconcile their differences for the sake of the Palestinian people. "Change starts from facing up to each one's responsibility," they say. At the beginning, Wael Ghonim – the blogger and Google employee who has became a symbol of the Egyptian revolution – was with them. Now they have almost 20,000 supporters. To meet them in a cafe in Arimal, Gaza City, it is necessary to have a mediator and to agree to not mention their real names, along with any details that could make them identifiable to the authorities.

I cannot mention their studies, or where they live. Three of them arrive. They wear jeans, sweaters, and sneakers. They could be students in London, Paris, or New York. They listen to the Beatles and Fairouz, the Lebanese singer. They know by heart quotes from The Godfather. We agree to use pseudonyms: "Everything has started as a game. Among friends, we were wondering what we wanted to be when we grew up. It started out as a game about the fact we could do nothing. We could not take advantage of our studies, get married without a job, nor run away," says Abu Yaz. "So, we wrote the Manifesto, but just because we were among friends. We grew up knowing that you cannot trust anyone," adds Abu Oun.

A policeman enters in the cafe to buy some sweets. The guys change topic. They speak about football, Inter, Milan, and Real Madrid. Then they start again when the officer leaves. "We do not want to sit by anymore. Our struggle is different from the Tunisian and Egyptian ones. We have three enemies: Hamas and Fatah – each of which fights against the other and have bled our cause to death – and Israel," they say.

Their network is growing. Since Alghoul began her blog, almost 20 other bloggers have spoken up. Among them is Afun, just a boy. By word-of-mouth, the Manifesto has been quietly spread.

The Hamas security has shut down the young people's center Sharik. "Like other young people our age in the other Middle East countries, we do not want to be exploited," says a veiled girl, while she drinks a tea on the terrace of the Hotel Beach. Religion is important, she says, but not in politics. "Until now, we were useful for everyone. For Iran that pays Hamas, for the US that pays Israel and Fatah. We want to chase away government leaders who do not represent us," she says.

"Degage," (Go away) people shouted in the streets of Tunis. "Mubarak out," the cheer echoed in Cairo. And, as the children here begin to voice the long-held frustrations of their parents, Gaza is starting to grumble.

Read the original article in Italian

photo - (Gloucester)

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7 Ways The Pandemic May Change The Airline Industry For Good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

Ready for (a different kind of) takeoff?

Carl-Johan Karlsson

It's hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has had on the airline industry, with global revenues dropping by 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world filing for bankruptcy. One moment last year when the gravity became particularly apparent was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering "flights to nowhere" — starting and ending at the same airport as a way to earn some cash from would-be travelers who missed the in-flight experience.

More than a year later today, experts believe that air traffic won't return to normal levels until 2024.

But beyond the financial woes, the unprecedented slowdown in air travel may bring some silver linings as key aspects of the industry are bound to change once back in full spin, with some longer-term effects on aviation already emerging. Here are some major transformations to expect in the coming years:

Cleaner aviation fuel

The U.S. administration of President Joe Biden and the airline industry recently agreed to the ambitious goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050. Already in a decade, the U.S. aims to produce three billion gallons of sustainable fuel — about one-tenth of current total use — from waste, plants and other organic matter.

While greening the world's road transport has long been at the top of the climate agenda, aviation is not even included under the Paris Agreement. But with air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel.

Fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund.

In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials. Energy is supplied through wind turbines from the surrounding area, while the fuel's main ingredients are water and waste-generated CO2 coming from a nearby biogas plant.

Farther north, Norwegian Air Shuttle has recently submitted a recommendation to the government that fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund aimed at developing cleaner aviation fuel, according to Norwegian news site E24. The airline also suggested that the government significantly reduce the tax burden on the industry over a longer period to allow airlines to recover from the pandemic.

Black-and-white photo of an ariplane shot from below flying across the sky and leaving condensation trails

High-flying ambitions for the sector

Joel & Jasmin Førestbird

Hydrogen and electrification

Some airline manufacturers are betting on hydrogen, with research suggesting that the abundant resource has the potential to match the flight distances and payload of a current fossil-fuel aircraft. If derived from renewable resources like sun and wind power, hydrogen — with an energy-density almost three times that of gasoline or diesel — could work as a fully sustainable aviation fuel that emits only water.

One example comes out of California, where fuel-cell specialist HyPoint has entered a partnership with Pennsylvania-based Piasecki Aircraft Corporation to manufacture 650-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell systems for aircrafts. According to HyPoint, the system — scheduled for commercial availability product by 2025 — will have four times the energy density of existing lithium-ion batteries and double the specific power of existing hydrogen fuel-cell systems.

Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce is looking to smash the speed record of electrical flights with a newly designed 23-foot-long model. Christened the Spirit of Innovation, the small plane took off for the first time earlier this month and successfully managed a 15-minute long test flight. However, the company has announced plans to fly the machine faster than 300 mph (480 km/h) before the year is out, and also to sell similar propulsion systems to companies developing electrical air taxis or small commuter planes.

New aircraft designs

Airlines are also upgrading aircraft design to become more eco-friendly. Air France just received its first upgrade of a single-aisle, medium-haul aircraft in 33 years. Fleet director Nicolas Bertrand told French daily Les Echos that the new A220 — that will replace the old A320 model — will reduce operating costs by 10%, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20% and noise footprint by 34%.

International first class will be very nearly a thing of the past.

The pandemic has also ushered in a new era of consumer demand where privacy and personal space is put above luxury. The retirement of older aircraft caused by COVID-19 means that international first class — already in steady decline over the last decades — will be very nearly a thing of the past. Instead, airplane manufacturers around the world (including Delta, China Eastern, JetBlue, British Airways and Shanghai Airlines) are betting on a new generation of super-business minisuites where passengers have a privacy door. The idea, which was introduced by Qatar Airways in 2017, is to offer more personal space than in regular business class but without the lavishness of first class.

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

Hygiene rankings  

Rome's Fiumicino Airport has become the first in the world to earn "the COVID-19 5-Star Airport Rating" from Skytrax, an international airline and airport review and ranking site, Italian daily La Repubblica reports. Skytrax, which publishes a yearly annual ranking of the world's best airports and issues the World Airport Awards, this year created a second list to specifically call out airports with the best health and hygiene standards.

Smoother check-in

​The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

Data privacy issues

​However, as pointed out in Canadian publication The Lawyer's Daily, increased use of AI and biometrics also means increased privacy concerns. For example, health and hygiene measures like digital vaccine passports also mean that airports can collect data on who has been vaccinated and the type of vaccine used.

Photo of planes at Auckland airport, New Zealand

Auckland Airport, New Zealand

Douglas Bagg

The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less?

At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel in particular is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.

Trying to forecast the future, experts point to the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks as at least a partial blueprint for what a recovery might look like in the years ahead. Twenty years ago, as passenger enthusiasm for flying waned amid security fears following the attacks, airlines were forced to cancel flights and put planes into storage.

40% of Swedes intend to travel less

According to McKinsey, leisure trips and visits to family and friends rebounded faster than business flights, which took four years to return to pre-crisis levels in the UK. This time too, business travel is expected to lag, with the consulting firm estimating only 80% recovery of pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

But the COVID-19 crisis also came at a time when passengers were already rethinking their travel habits due to climate concerns, while worldwide lockdowns have ushered in a new era of remote working. In Sweden, a survey by the country's largest research company shows that 40% of the population intend to travel less even after the pandemic ends. Similarly in the UK, nearly 60% of adults said during the spring they intended to fly less after being vaccinated against COVID-19 — with climate change cited as a top reason for people wanting to reduce their number of flights, according to research by the University of Bristol.

At the same time, major companies are increasingly forced to face the music of the environmental movement, with several corporations rolling out climate targets over the last few years. Today, five of the 10 biggest buyers of corporate air travel in the US are technology companies: Amazon, IBM, Google, Apple and Microsoft, according to Taipei Times, all of which have set individual targets for environmental stewardship. As such, the era of flying across the Atlantic for a two-hour executive meeting is likely in its dying days.

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