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Mentoring in Gaza's first hackathon (dopeboy.github.io)
343 points by dopeboy on June 7, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 152 comments

>>6 The gulf (UAE, Saudi, Qatar, etc) is the regional tech hub.

I would imagine Israel is the regional tech hub, even if there are few to no interactions with tech people in Gaza. Would it be more accurate to say the gulf is the regional tech hub for these programmers' day to day lives?

A "hub" should have connections to the surrounding area. Being the biggest creator of something won't necessarily make you the regional hub as well.

You're right - thank you. I've just made an edit.

Thanks for the edit. Too often journalists phrase things in a way that implicitly equates "the Middle East" with "the Arab countries", to the exclusion of a great many people who actually live in the Middle East.

Does anyone know how the IT sector is in places like Dubai? I hear about a lot of need for skilled programmers there, but it's hard to glean insight from Europe. Anyone with first-hand experience?

I'm living in the UAE. As far as I can tell, there is a growing demand for skilled developers, especially in web and app dev positions. Most companies hiring are small in size, usually local startups, and most of them are operating in the e-commerce space.

Cool places to work at: Dubizzle[1] (Python + Django) and JadoPado[2] (PHP I believe).

[1]: https://uae.dubizzle.com/

[2]: https://uae.jadopado.com/

Just from travelling to europe and dubai, the tech scene in dubai is incredibly small. There are some cowork spaces and 'accelerators', but the ecosystem needs time and effort to grow.

My father was born in Gaza, but got out as soon as he could and went to college in the states. I'm glad this is happening! There's certainly talent there like everywhere else. A big problem I see with Gaza digging itself out of these problems is the destruction of infrastructure, inability to get supplies and the effect this has on the job market. Software development is one of those few professions that, as you touched on, allow Palestinians to find a somewhat stable flow of work.

Thanks for mentoring and doing what you can there. I'd like to go and see some extended family sometime myself.

Edit: How available are things like computers? I remember when my dad brought electronics over as gifts it was usually something more-or-less unattainable, but this was years ago: Super Nintendos and things like that.

I didn't inquire but based on what I saw inside the incubator, it seemed computers were pretty available. The only iffy thing when it comes to access are 3D printers.

"I met a Gaza Sky Geeks staff member who told me about his story. His parents had to flee their ancestral home from Jaffa in 1948. He lost his childhood home in the war of 2014. He also lost friends and neighbors in the war.

Despite all of this, you would never be able to guess of any of his past after talking to him. In fact, the only reason I knew to talk to him is because I overhead someone else mention his past. He’s the most upbeat, jovial guy at the space who was on his way to the U.K. in a couple days with an eye on a seed round for a startup he’s working on. One might expect atleast some chip on the shoulder, some bitterness, maybe even a little anger. I haven’t seen that from him or any of other Gazans I’ve met and that—more than anything else—has been the biggest surprise for me on this trip."

This is amazing.

The author does a pretty good job of keeping politics out of his article, but my visceral feeling is that you're trying to do quite the opposite here by choosing that specific quote.

The author does not know the history of the land, nor does he claim to. But by drawing HN's readership to the quote about personal loss it's my guess that you're trying to politicize the issue. Maybe I'm wrong, but it's my hunch. I've seen many people use similar tactics before.

This guy has suffered, but instead of complaining he is pushing through it. We all have our problems, but since ue live in a personal bubble, examples like this can help us put our problems in a new perspective.

I am drawing attention to the amazing human resiliency, and what can we learn from it.

What was the process like in terms of applying for the Israeli military permit? Did you experience any problems with border control moving in and out of Israel/Gaza? Did you take your own laptop? What's the internet like? I'm assuming you don't get mobile coverage?

There are ground rules every mentor had to agree to before going. We could not go anywhere unaccompanied - Who's rule is this?

So. Many. Questions!

For the permit, all the basics + scan of passport, LinkedIn URL, my parents' names, and my paternal grandfather's name (!).

No one had any problems at the border. Everyone is super professional and courteous. Those that were muslim and/or of palestinian decent took slightly longer.

I took my own laptop. The only different thing is you have to leave it open (but not unlocked) when it goes through the scanner.

We were mostly confined inside the incubator or a hotel so we had wifi most of the time. I think it's 2G or 3G otherwise. Not sure if by an Israeli carrier or a Palestinian one.

The rules are set by the parent organization, Mercy Corps. They receive the bulk of their funding from USAID and my guess is those ground rules are impacted by that.

>> "LinkedIn URL, my parents' names, and my paternal grandfather's name"

Any idea why this info is required?

It's a special case of a more general (Israeli) bullshit detection technique. They'll ask something unexpected, but reasonable enough that an honest person would be able to say the answer immediately. The idea is that you bait a person presenting false information into revealing that they are lying. Security will ask a sequence of inane questions that a truthful person should be able to answer immediately. If a person being questioned grows shifty, nervous-looking, starts sweating, stops making eye-contact, or shows any other sign of illegitimacy, then the questioning will continue until (il)legitimacy is established. It is not a flawless method (see end of comment) but it usually works. It is virtually impossible to nail every single aspect of a BS story. If you're 100% legitimate, then you'll probably have no problems recalling things like your grandfather's name or the synagogue you were Bar-Mitzvah'd at. I'm a pale South African Jew - I was asked that.


Security: Are you a member of a Hebrew congregation?

Person: Yes, such and such a synagogue

Security: Who is the Rabbi there?

A legit person might say "Oh it's Rabbi so-and-so", but if a person hesitates, and has to think, and blurts out an answer like "Rabbi Cohen" then it is less likely they are being forthcoming.

In some sense, this is a very rough mental-Bayesian process of probability updating. A person arrives at the border / El-Al check-in. Security assigns some prior probability p_0 that a person should be allowed access, and via a string of questions, amongst other techniques, a posterior probability p_n that that person should be on that flight / in Israel is established.

As reitanqild mentioned, the LI is probably to help with basic vetting.

Family names - my guess is to perform a more rigorous background check. This is probably more relevant for people of Palestinian descent.

LinkedIn URL most likely was instead of a written CV. Wish companies would accept this.

As for the rest, I don't know but I hear they have some issues both with rockets as well as (often) clueless western demonstrants so getting being careful and getting good background information on visitors does sound like the right thing to do.

Excellent write-up and well done for doing this!

Were there any female instructors? If there had been some could they have led a female-only session in the evening?


    On the first day of the 48 hour hackathon, all female participants had to
    leave by 6:30 PM. This is because, under Sharia law, women cannot hang out
    with men they are not related or married to late into the evening.
(For people like me who glance at the comment thread before reading the article, or who merely skimmed the article.)

Seeing "Sharia law" referred to as a definite entity is a little strange. It's like someone saying "under common law...". It's cromulent, but only on general principals not many specific statutes. There are several countries that follow Sharia, just like many countries follow civil law or common law.

Relevant here because there are countries that follow Sharia that don't enforce such a curfew.

Does anyone have a definite idea which school of Sharia jurisprudence Hamas even follows?

The article mentioned that the ruling government follows some part of Sharia law.

And I'm sure the rest would take a lawyer to interpret, just like everywhere else, because the commoner interpretation of "why" is different than the legal or religious interpretation of "why"

Three of the mentors were female. Many of the staff and local volunteers were female.

That's a good idea. I don't know to be honest.

Here's an idea: the next time someone asks women to leave because they're not allowed to hang out with men, respectfully suggest that all men leave instead.

Instead of being sexist and asking people to leave based on their gender, ask those who believe in Sharia to leave. Demand that anyone who enters the hackathon makes a public deceleration that they are not followers of any religious belief that treat women and men different.

Sounds like a great idea if you want to visit a war-torn area to make a protest about sexism and Sharia, not to mention risk getting mixed up in an international incident or worse. Not so much if you want to run a hackathon which actually improves the lives of those that took part.

You seem to have misunderstood what I said. This wasn't at all me being sexist or asking others to be sexist. It was meant to get people to question those rules and motivate men to practice solidarity with women without directly violating the rules and immediately being punished by Hamas. Hamas kills people for the kind of tactics you proposed. If you want to fight Hamas directly, better make sure you have lots of people behind you or at least a good number of trained people with guns.

So by indirectly violating the rules and send a political message by asking all the men to leave, how do you think hamas will react? Do you think they will appreciate that you get people (and media) to question the religious rules? It doesn't sound like people who enforces their religious beliefs with guns aren't going to be happy with political activism, be that indirect or direct.

Maybe the best way to combine a hackathon and political activism is to hold them in places where people do not shot political activists. Its not the best choice, but what is the alternative?

It wouldn't violate the rules at all, that's the trick... at least according to my layman interpretation of the rule.

Of course, Hamas is run by crazy people; who knows if and how they'd react. I didn't mean to say that my imagined response would be without any risks either. It certainly takes courage to do anything against Hamas from within Gaza.

Did the female instructors also have to leave in the evening, despite them not being Gazan?

No, they did not. Though in practice, they did. Only males did the overnight grind.

This is turning into a very interesting AMA. Thanks dopeboy.

I wanted to ask if you felt in any danger at any time. Either in Gaza on onroute through the checkpoints?

What are the ambitions of the participants? Do they want to work / set up companies in Gaza or work abroad?

I never felt in danger. But I'm also brown and everyone there told me I look Arab.

It's a mix - I couldn't tell you the proportions off the top of my head. There are hard emigration realities that force Gazans to do the former.

I work part-time for an Israeli tech company and am a Zionist; I assumed your post would be ultra political and demonizing Israel.

Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to see your post was thoughtful, kept politics out of it and remained focused.

You're helping Gazans live better lives by teaching them a trade skill. That's a real kindness you did. Kudos.

I saw a presentation in person about this at one of Google's Startup conferences. I had to ask a ton of logistical questions like if they used the Israeli business formation and banking system to get funds in for seed rounds, turns out they use the UK and US because "f-ck that noise" lol

so I found that interesting.

You got any keys sittin' in the trunk or do I have to come back next week for the fresh batch, dopeboy?

On a more serious note, this sounds like an amazing experience and I'm very glad you decided to share it with us.

That's very interesting the type of technology experience you saw in the crowd there. Surprised you didn't see more Python, iOS/Android, or any of the Javascript frameworks like Node. The internet cutting out with the electricity must have sucked though. Especially for people without generators.....how are you gonna Stack Overflow?!

Great writeup.

You touched on it - but was there much political talk at all? Or was it just the normal kind of conversations?

How was their english?

There was - and I usually started it. I deliberately left them off this piece.

There's general angst against Hamas. There's universal mistrust of Israel. There's a good deal of division on how to engage with the Israelis / what to negotiate for.

Their English is good. They could understand everything I said. Sometimes it took them awhile to express certain words and phrases. During the hackathon pitches, about half the teams opted to speak in Arabic. In these instances, judges were paired with translators.

The only times I read about Gaza is when Israel had just invaded it, pictures of dead bodies and bombed out buildings. Having never seen any description of what it's like inside, reading its name brings up thoughts of suffering and sadness and nothing else.

Thanks for writing this up and taking those photos. I could not have imagined there are places in Gaza that are just like my own office. It looks like a great place to be.

Your comment reminded me of Banksy's recent short film (spoof advert) on Gaza: "Make this the year YOU discover a new destination" https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3e2dShY8jIo

Here's a fascinating documentary about concrete smuggling millionaires and the seafront property villas in Gaza:


Is there a reason they couldn't work for Israeli companies? Do they even know any Israelis? I'm fascinated by this.

edit - so many more questions:

Besides the curfew, were the girls treated / educated the same as the guys?

Did people have modern hardware? Do you know if it was difficult for them to obtain?

Did any of them work as software engineers for local Gaza based companies?

There are Palestinians that work for Israeli companies. They mostly live in the West Bank.

If you live in Gaza, it's very difficult to travel out of it. The southern border to Egypt is closed. The northern border (which is the one we went through) is open but you need permits to enter Israel. The military takes its time with the permits and it's not always guaranteed you will get one. This makes a commuting sort of setup impossible.

The women there were treated and educated the same. Some of them outshined the guys.

I saw modern laptops and screens where ever I went. Definitely more Android than iPhone. There is difficulty around bringing in 3D printers.

I did not meet any Gazans who worked for local companies. Most seemed to work for the gulf or were working on startups aimed for deployment in the gulf.

Just to add a [hopefully] interesting tidbit from experience as an Israeli:

While Gazans don't really have the option of working directly for companies in Israel because of the travel restrictions, there are IT outsourcing firms in Gaza who contract for Israeli companies. We worked with such a firm in one of my previous job, and I even had the chance to speak to their engineers on the phone once or twice. (Conversation was entirely in English, since they didn't understand Hebrew, and my Arabic is less than stellar to make a huge understatement.) I didn't personally have the chance to meet them face-to-face, but a few of the higher-ups went. The meetings were understandably rare and not easy to arrange, and they had to take place in specified locations in the vicinity of the border checkpoint, as the Palestinian engineers were limited in their allowed travel within Israel. (And the Israelis aren't allowed into Gaza at all.)


> Ironically movements like the BDS actually cause Palestinians who work for Israeli companies to loose their jobs.

This argument was often made against anti-apartheid sanctions on South Africa. The answer was that it was for the oppressed population to decide.

1 - I doubt anybody asked the Hamas-oppressed population of Gaza. When they'll want to boycott their employers they'll just quit their jobs.

2 - The situation is very different from the south-African "apartheid". Gaza is a sovereign territory with an hostile religious fanatic government that forced Egypt and Israel to maintain highly secured borders. The Israeli law does not discriminate its citizens and there are Palestinian parliament members and judges.

3 - By employing both Israelis and Palestinians, companies actually contribute more to peace and equality than BDS ever will.

> The situation is very different from the south-African "apartheid". Gaza is a sovereign territory with an hostile religious fanatic government that forced Egypt and Israel to maintain highly secured borders. The Israeli law does not discriminate its citizens and there are Palestinian parliament members and judges.

One of the most comprehensive sources on the Israel apartheid comparison is here:


> By employing both Israelis and Palestinians, companies actually contribute more to peace and equality than BDS ever will.

A bunch of human rights organizations have evidence that the Palestinians are exploited as a cheap labor that is outside of Israeli labor protections:


It would be cool if Israeli companies adopted somethign akin to the Sullivan principles which were adopted by ethical South African companies during the apartheid era:


Then you know they are not just using Palestinian labor for cost saving reasons, but the companies are showing support and are working towards breaking down the system of inequality that is currently in place there.

Writing as an Israeli.

There is no inequality inherent in the system. The fact that Palestinian nationals (who are not Israeli citizens) are mostly employed in cheap jobs is no different from Filipinos or Chinese being employed in cheap jobs abroad. Israeli Arabs have the same rights as Jews, in everything from education to employment. They even get preferential acceptance to universities (lower acceptance requirements).

Claiming there is an apartheid in Israel is simply FUD.

I live in Australia where Filipinos and Chinese work in 'Cheap jobs' paying $19 an hour, the standard minimum wage. The government busted a chain of convenience stores for under paying people on student visas who worked more than their limit of 20 hours. The students were given immunity against deportation for admitting they worked more than their limit, so they can come out and complain, so that the government can force the convenience store chain to pay reparations to those student workers. If this was Israel, they'd blame they exceeded their limit, deported them and blamed them for working too much and accepting less than minimum wage, resulting in no compensation paid out.

So no, you don't get to say the rest of the world do the same as Israel. To do so is FUD. Israel is one of a kind. I understand why Israel had always had a defensive posture and thinking. Lots of shit happened in the past. But today? Israel is strong, and it is doing too much to keep the Gazans down. What other country blows up 20000 houses and slaughtered hundreds of civilians in response to 2 terrorist deaths?

Can you even imagine New Zealand firing, an increasing number of rockets, every day? Sending their special units to kidnap and slaughter innocent children?

Just last week, four people were murdered in a restaurant (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/June_2016_Tel_Aviv_shooting). Can you imagine this Happening in Melbourne? Can you imagine a thing like this, sponsored by the New Zealand government who immediately declares the murderers as heroes and buys houses for their families?

There have been numerous incidents like this in the last couple of years and like before, since no one can live under terror attacks, a war will start. Like before, you will only hear about the retaliation, you will only see photos of destruction on the Palestinian side. You won't see how Hamas executes is own people for "collaborating" with Israel (or just because they don't like them), how it forces them to serve as human shields for its deadly rockets. You will criticize Israel out of understandable, but very misplaced sympathy.

You claiming his FUD claiming is FUD, is FUD.

It's all very simple, really. Israel is like the rest of the world and we're all just waiting for the world to realize the actual problem, which is:

--The crazy, murderous, religious fanatics who want rule the world (and kill all Jews, but I'm not sure anyone cares about this detail)--


(it's shocking we could not all just get along...)

>3 - By employing both Israelis and Palestinians, companies actually contribute more to peace and equality than BDS ever will.

Exploiting an occupied population does nothing to contribute to peace. It would be better for Israeli companies to leave Palestinians alone as a labor force and employ Israelis.

This answer doesn't make any sense: people decided to go work for israeli companies, but pressure of activists from US and Europe made them lose their jobs.

The point is that all the same arguments were brought up against the previous anti-apartheid movement (the one in South Africa) at the time, and today almost no one would argue that those sanctions (and boycotts and divestments) weren't justified. Least of all on the basis that they "hurt, not help" the oppressed population. So this objection to the same tactics now is unconvincing.

The difference is that Israel is not apartheid (obviously).

The Palestinians are a different country. In South Africa they are all one country so they have to work together.

In contrast with Palestinians it's a different country entirely, so when you prevent them from working, you have little effect on Israel at all, you just hurt the Palestinians.

Officially, the black areas of South Africa during apartheid were different countries too. It seems to be something we've forgotten because apartheid South Africa has few supporters these days and it was obvious they weren't really since they were completely dependent on white South Africa economically and politically.

> Officially, the black areas of South Africa during apartheid were different countries too.

Well, no. Some black areas in South Africa (and South West Africa under South Africa's occupation) were converted into notionally internally self-governing regions, but of the twenty (10 each in South and South West Africa), only 10 (4 in South Africa, 6 in South West Africa) were ever even nominally (that is, according to the South African government -- no other government recognized any of them) independent states, and, in any case, there were a lot of black areas in South (and South West) Africa that were not part of either these "homelands", whether the notionally independent ones are otherwise.

(Now, in 1970, all of the black people of South Africa, whether they lived in the "homelands" or not, were assigned citizenship in one of them and had their South African citizenship cancelled. But that doesn't mean that the "homelands" covered all the black areas.)

Please provide an example of a software engineer living in Gaza that was working for an Israeli company but lost their job because of pressure from US and European activists.

I would be pretty surprised if you can find even one example. Heck, I'd be surprised if you can even find an example of a software engineer living in Gaza that has ever worked for an Israeli company at all.

Or, perhaps, an example of someone living in Gaza attending an Israeli university (they can't).

Why restrict yourself to Gazan software engineers? There were hundreds of Palestinians working for SodaStream in the West Bank. When it moved within the Green Line they all lost their jobs. It's not entirely clear the move was to do with pressure for activists but it seems reasonable to hypothesise that it had something to do with it.


> Why restrict yourself to Gazan software engineers?

Cause that's what I thought we were talking about?


> > Why restrict yourself to Gazan software engineers?

> Cause that's what I thought we were talking about?

Maybe. The narrative of the thread seemed to have moved to Palestinians working for Israeli companies in general. Sorry if I misunderstood.

> "electronicintifada.net"

There's a big clue in that name.

Parent comment that changed conversation to this topic clearly didn't limit the subject only to software engineers — neither did I.

> Or, perhaps, an example of someone living in Gaza attending an Israeli university (they can't).

Yes — Gaza citizens wanted independence, and they got it, with everything that goes along. I'm pretty sure that there are PA citizens learning in israeli universities though, especially Ariel.

> I'm pretty sure that there are PA citizens learning in israeli universities though, especially Ariel.

Ariel is probably the worst example you could have chosen. Palestinian residents of the West Bank are not allowed to enter the settlement of Ariel that Ariel University is in, so that seems unlikely. I'm pretty sure there are zero PA citizens enrolled at Ariel.

I would not be surprised if there are zero PA citizens enrolled at any Israeli universities, I'm not 'pretty sure' there are zero, but pretty sure there are very very few if any, and possibly zero or nearly so. (see for example http://www.richardsilverstein.com/2009/05/28/banning-palesti... http://gisha.org/press/1033 )

The suggestion that Gaza residents have obtained "everything that goes along with independence" is too ridiculous to say much more about.

whose answer?

The answer of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, which few (in the West at least) would now argue was wrong.

Although one could expect it, it's quite refreshing to hear the most educated people in gaza aren't all ok sacrificing their life in suicidal bombings. it makes me think that there's hope that one day they'll get rid of this fanatical regime and make peace.

Could you give a few hints on what were the ideas in the pitch ? Was it about religion ? dating ? or were there some ideas more specific to their condition ?

Here's three actual groups from the hackathon to give you a flavor:

* Homee (pronounced homie as in “what’s up homie”) - a marketplace where people can buy and sell homemade goods. Think Etsy. This group ended up winning first place.

* Debate Time - a mobile app where you can review a product by submitting a video of yourself talking about it. Others reply in video form too.

* Diet Time - a mobile app that let’s you enter what you ate and then tells you how much exercise you need to burn it off.

Wouldn't it be cool if there was street view in Gaza? If you search for Khan Yunis you find lots of pictures of dead bodies and smoking buildings, but absolutely nothing about what the city actually looks like.

Are there any relevant internet restrictions?

Is there any program for remote google-hangout type help, or remote buddy system, or something?

I didn't test the limits. All the social media and news websites that I use on a daily basis were accessible. The only interesting thing I can say is I did a visual traceroute and all traffic was routed through Ramallah which is in the West Bank.

Everyone used Skype for remote work.

What was the educational background/level of the participants? Where did they get programming skills from?

Most were in university or had recently graduated. They got their skills from there.

Wow, this is an awesome write-up. Kudos to you.

Really interesting. Shame that they can't deal directly with Israelis, with all of their start-ups and like-minded technology types.

I can never reconcile my respect and admiration of Israeli achievements in technology with my disgust at their horrible treatment of the Palestinians.

There's no need to reconcile those sentiments. I respect and admire US achievements in technology (and music, cinema, etc), even though the US government has done and does a lot of disgusting things to non-US citizens. There's no contradiction.

Also, consider what policies your fellow citizens might support if your country was surrounded by hostile neighbours. I mean, 40% of the American public supports the "Mexico Wall", even though Mexico is an important trade partner and poses no military threat to the US. Imagine if Mexico and Canada were to declare their intent to destroy the US...

(not assuming you are American, above is just an example)

A better way to frame the support is in how the US defeated Germany and Japan and then helped them economically, in order to get them back up and prevent too much resentment. First and foremost Britain took no responsibility when they decided it's best to un-occupy the region, allowing the recent conflict over the same patch of land a lot of previous blood was wasted for before. Also, let's be fair and mention how much support (like Japan or Germany) the new state has gotten from the West and used that to reach where it's now. There's a difference between a regime supported while under sanctions and limited I/O ports and another that's supported freely. I'm mentioning that before anyone says Palestinians were supported from the outside as well.

Regarding Israel's (the regime) support of the west bank and gaza: it's more like a prison where, despite the inmates' violent behavior trying to get out, you must support them because you're holding the key to their cells since the victory in the war. Is it right for either side to repeatedly reach out to violence as a bargaining chip? No, it's not, but not every tribe of this world subscribes to Mahatma's strategy. Well, the Norwegians did successfully when peacefully opposing the German invasion, but again, different populations act and think differently.

I don't pick sides in this debate, but it's important to put things into perspective. Yes, other nations may have decimated them. Yes, both regimes have a history of undiplomatic approaches to finding consensus. No, Israel (the regime) doesn't support them out of good will.

When I cant reconcile something, I start by questioning my own assumptions and premise.

Israelis are not a "guy". There are multiple segments of the population and typically the technological achievement people and the assholes that go to wars are not the same people.

Just for the record - most people here want peace and are willing to make sacrifices for it. If only it were that simple.

>Just for the record - most people here want peace and are willing to make sacrifices for it. If only it were that simple.

Lav davka. Most people want peace for free, and don't see why they should have to do the work of siding with filthy smolanim to counter the settlement movement when the Palestinians aren't trustworthy anyway.

Try attending an antiwar demo and being yelled at that you're a traitor and a dirty Arab if you think most Israelis want peace so much.

If most Israelis wanted peace, they wouldn't vote for the Right.

They vote for the right because they are afraid and violence and terrorist attacks have slowed down considerably when the right is in power.

This doesnt mean they dont want peace, it just means they want ssecurity first.

I'm struggling to imagine a single country in the world that would act as humane as Israel in a similar conflict.

That. As much as I think it's great that people are expecting more of Israel, IDF does not get enough praise. It's tough enough to come up with a workable solution (might not even be possible!), even tougher when you have to defend yourself from an onslaught of unwarranted criticism.

Some of you might enjoy this report by 9 retired high-ranking military people from different countries: http://www.high-level-military-group.org/pdf/hlmg-assessment...

Im struggling to understand what people hear when Amnesty International declares Gaza as worst humanitarian disaster since 1967.

"It could be worst, at least they aren't gassing them in camps"

Apart from AI's dubious record on that — you understand that these two statements about the conflict are not mutually exclusive, right? Of course Gaza is a humanitarian disaster, even extremen right-wingers would agree with you on that.

I'm struggling to imagine a single country in the world in a similar conflict.

there are plenty of arab-jewish businesses. in israel, though. arabs are pretty prominent in israeli STEM and medicine

Sadly, not so much in tech. In medicine, yes, very much so. But in 15 or so years of tech career in Tel Aviv I only got to work with or interview (or even receive job applications from) a handful of Arab engineers.

The most prominent arab Israelis in tech usually leave Israel for the US, e.g. Nafea Bshara (co-founder of Annapurna Labs, now an Amazon subsidiary) and Johny Srouji ( http://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-johny-srouji-apple-ch... ).

SolidRun [0] which makes Cubox and Hummingboard (popular micro ARM boxes, among other things), is also founded and run by arab Israelis.

Of note, I have met quite a few arab israelis in technolgoy, and every single one was from a christian family background. I'm sure there must also be arab israeli muslims into technology (among arab israelis, muslim outnumber christians 10:1) - but I have not yet met any in my travels.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SolidRun

Tel Aviv is probably the worst place in the country to look for Arabs in hi-tech; Most of them are concentrated in the Haifa and Yoqneam region. (And possibly in other areas of the country which are less of a hi-tech hub.) In some companies in that area the Arab engineers probably outnumber the non-Arabs - the Technion churns out quite a few high quality Arab engineers on a yearly basis.

It's getting better. More and more Arabs are entering the Israeli tech world.

You'd meet more in Haifa area. Arab engineers I worked with in Tel Aviv all came from Haifa, Nazareth or further north.

That was my impression too. Sad given that Jaffa is part of Tel Aviv.

i've met some arabs in tech in israel. but they are not nearly as many as in medicine

Great story! Thank you for sharing your experiences!

I'm curious how did you find out about the event in the first place?

A friend at Google passed it along. She was on a particular mailing list and it caught her eye.

Google for Entrepreneurs provides some financial assistance to Gaza Sky Geeks which is probably why they put it in the mailing list in the first place.

"On the first day of the 48 hour hackathon, all female participants had to leave by 6:30 PM. This is because, under Sharia law, women cannot hang out with men they are not related or married to late into the evening."

Why am I not surprised.

There is no as such sharia law that prohibits women to be back by 6:30.

Well apparently someone is enforcing these rules. And it is clear that Hamas supports thus enforcement

No law is needed to enforce such prohibitions through various forms of pressure.

I don't see how this comment adds significant value to the discussion. Anyone care to explain?

But then, neither does yours.

I'm an Israeli, I'm also a NodeJS core member and an open source guy with a lot of web experience. I've contacted Gaza Sky Geeks multiple times and offered assistance.

They took almost a month to reply. Apparently, Israelis are not welcome. It's a shame that my only way to experience my neighbors is through serving in an armed forces war.

Your country is at war with them, and they are mostly on the receiving end.

While I understand it can be frustrating not to be able to attend, certainly you can understand that it may be hard for at least some of the attendants to interact with you without prejudice, and therefore that it's significantly easier to plan without you.

Blame the cause, not the consequence.

> it may be hard for at least some of the attendants to interact with you without prejudice

And vice-versa. The poster couldn't help but publicly write: "We hate the Gazan government". At least this individual will bring hate for their elected government. (And not just this one person, given the ominous "we".)

I've had no problem assisting marginalized groups, as a privileged person. Because I don't center it on myself, as if I'm entitled to "experience my neighbors". As if the alternative is "serving in an armed forces war" against them, the extreme form of violence.

The hackathon's organizers are clearly competent. Creating at least a somewhat safe environment for learners. As we can see, they would have been fools to do otherwise.

As a side note - if you ARE a developer in Gaza reading this and would like free coding help - feel free to contact me at "myhnusername"@"googlesemailservice".com

I dated a Tunisian guy once and he was also frustrated he couldn't get into an Israeli university solely because of his nationality. This whole rift saddens me.

I agree - it is equally frustrating. If you send me his contact information I'll see if I can contact some people from my university and see if there is something that can be done.

That is truly nice of you. However haven't contacted the guy in years. Thank you though! The world needs more people like you.

They probably did a cost-benefit analysis and realised the logistics and effort required to get one israeli into a gaza hackathon were not worth the pay off.

Maybe you could organise a fundraiser to sponsor gazans to come to israel instead. They might like a chance to get out and have new experiences.

I offered to do remote and I offered to do it for free. They did refer me to a supporters group: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/gsg-yaffa

It's a shame, I really do believe me and others like me have a lot to contribute and we're interested in contributing.

We hate the Gazan government but we don't hate the Gaza population. I would really want to see them prosper like Israel and what better way than technology and what better way to bring it to them than to code together. We're on the same time zone too.

Can you explain this: what logistics and effort? They are taking in people from all over the world yet not next door?

Official line of Hamas is that you have to kill all israeli jews they encounter on sight — even if it means making a suicide attack. Kids in kindergarden play through scenes of stabbing, kidnappings and suicide bombings. And despite Israel's security measures, this happens (inside Israel borders, not in Gaza) almost weekly.

So, if unarmed israeli would find himself on his own in Gaza, we would have a full-fledged security crisis which would probably lead to the next war (because the dude most likely would be killed) instead of a hackathon.

Really pleased to stumble across your comment. Don't be disheartened. People who support boycotts often come down very hard on those who work together. Kolhakavod.

Dude, you crazy? Hamas regularly executes suspected "israeli collaborators" in the streets — if these guys would answer your email, this would already be more evidence that is usually presented against these poor sods.

this is awesome. do you think you or anyone you worked with might be affected by that terrible anti-BDS law Cuomo passed (if you were in its jurisdiction?)

BDS/anti-BDS has nothing to do with prohibiting working in palestine and traveling to palestine. actually, the BDS movement affects israeli businesses in west bank by boycotting them

The BDS movement seeks to boycott all Israeli businesses, irrespective of their location.

it does. but it hits the west bank businesses harder than others

How do you imagine Cuomo's anti-BDS law could affect him?

So very true. I think if Mexico and Canada not only declared dead their intent to destroy the US but also decided to shoot rockets onto civilians on a daily basis (as does Hamas launches from the Gaza Strip), there would definitely be a tough response should they not stop (as the military invasion of Gaza). One also needs to consider that Israel offers cost-free, no-strings-attached medical care to Palestinians who show up at their borders with Israel. Israel also provides the Hamas regime and Gazans with power, water, and internet connectivity, all of this despite being fired on daily, having their civilians kidnapped and attacked by smuggling tunnels dug straight into Isrsel's territory, and being threatened with destruction. I definitely don't agree with many decisions the Israeli government has made, but despite what many believe, Israel definitely supports the Gazans and Wesr Bank residents in many ways.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11859848 and marked it off-topic.

Israel has occupied Gaza and West a bank, and resistance to military occupation is legal per the Geneva conventions. Gaza has always resisted the Israeli occupation hence it's punishment. There are continuous attacks upon Gaza from Israel too. The disparity in armed power and thus destruction is massive. In the last Gaza war about 20000 tons of bombs were dropped on Gaza, whereas what they launched against Israel was maybe a few tons.

1. Israel is no longer in control of Gaza 2. if you're going to fire stuff at a x1000 stronger military power, then maybe it's time you made better decisions (ref: peace deal made by Ehud Barak back in 2000, which Arafat sunk for no good reason)

Israel is in control of Gaza, as recognized by most observers. It controls the airspace, sea, and everything that goes in and out, as well as of course the continuous incursions into the territory.

According to the ceasefires which Israel has signed with Hamas, it's supposed to alleviate the siege on the strip, but it has never lived up to those ceasefires, whereas Hamas has. Continuing to devastate the territory economically, of course the people there will revolt!

Are you joking? If you lived next to Gaza, how could you trust them? They repeatedly have said they want to destroy Israel, in speech after speech, thousands of rockets fired indiscriminately into Israeli towns and villages, dozens of attack tunnels dug, and it's in the Hamas charter that Israel must be destroyed. There's some evidence that ISIS is now operating in Gaza, and some Gazan Arabs have gone to Iran for combat/terrorism training.

If not for the extremists controlling the Strip, and dominating the hearts and minds of its residents, Gaza could be a high tech paradise: foreign investment there could be huge, with Israeli factories and tech centers set up, agricultural enterprises, and billion dollar Mediterranean resorts along the gorgeous coast.

I don't see your point. The US government has a long history of overthrowing governments (even democratically elected ones) in the middle east and other parts of the world. If you're trying to justify killing thousands of civilians with that their leaders are threatening you, it's an argument very closely resembling those extremists make against the US.

The idea that Gaza is a threat to Israel is not true, Israel has a huge, sophisticated military. It is Israel which is the threat to its neighbors, it's launched many wars. Israel has preached the same kind of destruction about Gaza and actually carried it out.

Regarding the history of Israel and the Palestinians, You should look at the history of the occupation. In the Gaza Strip, the 5m high walls concrete walls between the few thousand settlers who use way more resources, occupied about 1/3rd of the land, while over a million people lived around them in poverty. It's very cruel and brutal apartheid/imperialism by Israel understandably made Gazans angry. Things like arbitrary detention, mass torture of Palestinians, assassinations and so on which are the underpinning of the military occupation, this is what pushes people to extremism.

Well the walls have been working fantastically well for Israel. Suicide bombings just don't really happen anymore. Yeah sure, the knifings have been going on, but those kill a lot less people.

15 years ago there used to be a bombing every week.

The suicide bombings only came after attacks by Israel, each one was a response for an attack by Israel, for example attacking apartment buildings with helicopter gunships. That's important to remember - they have a context.

Yes the wall is working well for Israel, it's annexed more of the West Bank by default, and is disrupting the lives of Palestinians massively, and also the migration of wildlife.

There's been quite a lot of violence lately, death toll is still pretty high since late 2015.

"the people there will revolt!"

- As they should, but you got it the other way around. They should rise against the fanatics among them who aim for Islam domination, the destruction of Israel. Those continuously attempting to kill innocent people.

Seriously, why do you think the naval blockade is in place? How does Israel benefits from it?

In any case, there are also a couple of facts you need to look into.

"Israel is in control of Gaza"

- Gaza is ruled by Hamas and it also has a border with Egypt

"it has never lived up to those ceasefires"

- When did they actually ceased to fire? (you know, you can't just occasionally bomb the other side during a ceasefire)

Israel instituted the separation fence in Gaza in 1993 during the Oslo process. It's remained there since despite being explicitly banned by the Oslo treaty, to which Israel is a signatory. It moved immediately to divide the West Bank from Gaza. If you look at the map, Gaza is the one possibly opening to Palestine to the rest of the world, Palestine is otherwise surrounded by hostile countries. This is why the blockade is maintained.

There were have been ceasefires in 2008 and 2012 where there were no rocket attacks. Hamas lived up to it. Most rocket attacks were in reponse to an Israeli action. It's a long history which I don't have time to go through now but has been covered by observers like Noam Chomsky. http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175892/

"Gaza is the one possibly opening to Palestine to the rest of the world, Palestine is otherwise surrounded by hostile countries. This is why the blockade is maintained."

- What exactly do you mean by Palestine? if you mean Gaza and the West Bank, then who are the hostile countries? Egypt, Jordan and Israel? Even if they are all "hostile" what do they gain by maintaining an expensive naval blockade (and providing alternative, regulated by security checks, routes, which also cost those "hostile" countries a lot of money)?

"There were have been ceasefires in 2008 and 2012 where there were no rocket attacks" "Most rocket attacks were in reponse to an Israeli action"

- Absolute lies. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Palestinian_rocket_att..., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Palestinian_rocket_att.... I live here in the missile range. Noam Chomsky, a great linguist, an "Observer" from a different continent, is not a very good historian.

Gaza and Palestine are one, historically, and as the Oslo accords designate. They are artificially separated at present. Yes Egypt is hostile to Gaza, there was a brief period during the revolt when it wasn't but now it is, under Egyptian military dictatorship. Jordan is hostile, it's in a military alliance with Israel. Palestinian nationalism is against all of these countries' interests, that's why they have always countered it. For example Jordan in 1971 with Israel's aid put down a Palestianian revolt.

Ok I live in Pretoria, South Africa, where do you stay? Sderot?

Chomsky is a very fine scholar on Israel, one of the greatest. Very much worth reading, particularly "The Fateful Triangle" He was a Zionist, lived there.

> I think if Mexico and Canada not only declared dead their intent to destroy the US but also decided to shoot rockets onto civilians on a daily basis

Oh you mean like many Israelis don't just declare the intent to annex the west bank, but actually have settlements there / support them? The declarations are numerous, here's a recent and particularly shameless one.


> Bennett also indirectly criticized Netanyahu for opposing a Palestinian state before the 2015 elections and supporting it after the elections.

> "The time has come to say clearly: The land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel," Bennett said. "In Hebrew, English, Russian and French; in summer and in winter; when there are elections and when there aren't. Why? Because the world listens to every word we say."

> "The world identifies weakness just as it identifies strength," Bennett added. "The world smells when we aren't certain about our right to the land and attacks us furiously with boycotts.

The people who want to annex the other side - which exist on both sides - each can't be excused with those on the other side.

> being threatened with destruction

Not really credibly so, and all the while while expanding settlements, demolishing houses, targeting human rights organizations, killing people and even faking evidence such as https://twitter.com/Channel2News/status/737971602260889600/v... - and other such things which all fall under "definitely not agreeing with many decisions" I would assume.

Yes, there's plenty of terrorism sold as "freedom fighting", and I agree it's terrorism. There's also plenty of blaming Israel for everything while not even criticizing Hamas or the absolutely useless Palestinian authorities. But this tale of bleeding heart Israel trying to do the very best, and being so misunderstood? Just look at a map, even that says a lot.

A far right politician in Israel does not represent the entire country, any more than Trump represents the entire U.S., much less so in fact since Israel is a very diverse multi-party democracy. The settlements are controversial, granted, but they are on barren land and in any event the Arabs simply don't accept any deal that's been offered over the decades. They have responded to every peace offering with horrific, murderous violence. They have no moral superiority. When people are deliberately killing babies and old women, it's very hard to sympathize with their cause. Under the circumstances, yes Israel is a bleeding heart and is doing its very best to restrain itself in the face of horrible provocations, and is very misunderstood by people who have little or no knowledge of the history and facts of the situation.

> When people are deliberately killing babies and old women, it's very hard to sympathize with their cause.

Right, and that's after you said "A far right politician in Israel does not represent the entire country".

> is very misunderstood by people who have little or no knowledge of the history and facts of the situation.

Notice how you didn't substantiate any of your claims, call the settlements "controversial" and seem to think that they are on "barren land" (right) would be relevant even if it was true, instead of a clear breach of Geneva conventions.

Even if you could justify an occupation, you cannot justify the settlements and the intention they represent, the deed that is being done, and trying to push that on "far right politicians" while treating Palestinians as a monolith, is just having a double standard.

I never claimed Palestinians have "moral superiority" and never would, because that's not how it works outside of sophistry. You don't work out who is worse, and then use them as a scapegoat for everything while absolving those who are "not the worst". Individual crimes do matter, and remain crimes even if the other party commits more. Which is not to be confused with "just because there are unsubstantiated claims the other party commits more", either. And all of that also applies to the "pro-Palestinians" who rage about how "the Zionists" are the worst, and how Israel is the worst. They peddle the exact same logic with roles reversed. "Don't criticize us, criticize them!"

"even if you could justify an occupation"

The so-called occupation is a military administration begun after retreating Arab armies ceded the territories in 1967. This arrangement is legal and covered under international conventions. The U.S. did it in Japan and Germany for five years; the Soviet Union did it in eastern Europe for 45 years. The Chinese illegally occupied the vast lands of Tibet in 1950 and show no signs of letting go and the U.N. says nothing.

The Israelis withdrew from Gaza in 2005, forcibly removing the settlers, and were rewarded with 11,000 rockets. 11,000! They have every right to inspect cargo that enters Gaza; the Syrians and Iranians have long tried to import deadly weapons into that sorry land, and if they ever succeeded, Israel would have no choice but to reduce the place to rubble finally and completely and drive the Arabs from there back into Egypt which is where their ancestors came from 100-150 years previously.

As for "didn't substantiate any of your claims" for Pete's sake open up a newspaper once in a while. Two Jewish women in their 80s were just stabbed to death in Israel -- reports say they begged Arab workers nearby to call emergency services and the Arabs ignored them. Two elderly women in their eighties. Just today, probably while the above commenter was writing that stuff, there was a shooting attack in Tel Aviv, two Arab brothers from Hebron just opened up in a restaurant and killed four people and wounded several others before the police shot and wounded them. The Hamas leader, mistakenly believing one to be killed, called him a "hero". Just today. One of thousands of similar such incidents. Sophistry indeed. This is war, an ongoing and bitter war to drive the Jews out or kill them all. Israelis are totally justified and indeed should be doing a lot more.

> The Israelis withdrew from Gaza in 2005, forcibly removing the settlers, and were rewarded with 11,000 rockets

That wasn't because they removed the settlers, that's because they simply flat out withdrew.

> As for "didn't substantiate any of your claims" for Pete's sake open up a newspaper once in a while.

I know about the terrorist attacks, but that doesn't make the settlement land all "barren", it doesn't mean they "They have responded to every peace offering with horrific, murderous violence" -- it wasn't Palestinians who killed Rabin, you know -- and it doesn't fuse Palestinians into one monolith, something which you pointed out about Israelis but seem unable or unwilling to acknowledge here.

To what "peace offering" are the recent terrorist attacks a response? Who claimed they have "moral superiority", how is such a dichotomy be useful? Listing off instances of terrorism if I didn't know that, when I even said

> there's plenty of terrorism sold as "freedom fighting"

does not substantiate anything but one claim, one you didn't even make, namely "there is terrorism". I mean yeah, duh. My comment takes that into account from the get go. You claimed "there is terrorism in response to every peace offer", that's not the same thing.

> The so-called occupation is a military administration begun after retreating Arab armies ceded the territories in 1967. This arrangement is legal and covered under international conventions. The U.S. did it in Japan and Germany for five years; the Soviet Union did it in eastern Europe for 45 years.

Same here -- your point being? I know that, but since occupation can not forever, at least not as intention, and settlements are never okay, what I said is true now, where it's easy to justify occupation, and also when it might not be.

You can't talk peace while expanding settlements by force. Leibowitz was and remains right, it's just colonialism. And even if there is nobody to talk to atm, don't take what's not yours, and don't confuse self-defense and abuse. That goes for everybody at all times. I'm all for Israeli not taking shit, but to not see how driving out Palestinians also MUST be the intention of people who don't want them to have a state, that's just dishonest. To say "oh those are just far-right politicians, those don't count", isn't made up for with listing atrocities.

> Israelis are totally justified

With what, exactly? Just generally? Because they are "the victim"? I just explained why it doesn't work that way, if you want to dispute that, do so.

>A far right politician in Israel does not represent the entire country,

He was in the coalition!

Why did you use Mexico and Canada for your analogy, when the more apt analogy was the Native Americans?

Have the native Americans still completely accepted in their heart, their peace with (or surrender to) the settlers?

Political talk is abnormal? The number of conversations I've had about Trump recently must make me an outlier, then.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11859233 and marked it off-topic.

Perhaps I should have been more direct with my point: I think it is disrespectful to Palestinians to expect that their "normal conversation" doesn't include any sort of reference to their political realities, as political realities are part of everyone's normal, in any society that acts even under the pretense of democracy (and Hamas was elected).

It would have been odd if people living in a territory that had electricity for six hours daily and mostly closed/highly regulated borders didn't have normal conversation about topics that are, inherently, political.

I think you are overanalyzing the post that used the word "normal". I think he/she was talking colloquially and didn't mean to imply that political talk is abnormal.

So, this is cool. I had absolutely no idea you could even do that. Kudos.

You live in Gaza?

The Gaza strip is an enemy state of Israel so, if you are Israeli, you immediately lose your citizenship by entering the Gaza strip (or any of the other enemy states).


> cases in which the state can initiate a cancellation of citizenship of an Israeli citizen

That is not the same thing as "you immediately lose your citizenship". Does this actually happen frequently?

Israelis go to Gaza all the time - typically Muslim relatives, and sometimes aid workers.

No, no it does not. The best reference I could find with a quick Google search says the law has been used to revoke citizenship of only 2 people since the creation of the state of Israel.

amazing story, dude!

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