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Home arrow Blog arrow August 2008 arrow August 18, 2008

August 18, 2008
WAWA Blog August 18, 2008: A Jew's eye-view of Gaza and Israel's "two roads" solution  

Harry Shannon is a member of Independent Jewish Voices who wrote the following eye witness account.
Sam Bahour, a Palestinian Christian living in Ramallah forwarded "Israel’s ‘Two Roads’ Solution" which follows:

Gaza's shocking devastation TheSpec.com - Opinions - Gaza's shocking devastation

A Canadian Jew's visit to the territory left him ashamed by what he saw

Harry Shannon
The Hamilton Spectator - (Aug 14, 2008)
http://www.thespec.com/printArticle/418302


I had expected conditions in Gaza to be bad, but I was still shocked at the devastation when I went there in July.

Last month my companion and I entered Gaza at the Erez crossing through a modern building reminiscent of an airport terminal. After questioning by the Israeli border police, we left the building and had a kilometer walk to pick up transportation.

It was as if we had travelled to another planet. The sandy track is surrounded by the blown-up remnants of Gaza 's former industrial district. Rubble stretching for hundreds of meters lines the route.

Even on the main road through Gaza , driving is a slalom course around potholes. The air reeks of burnt oil and stale food from exhaust fumes (cars rely on used cooking oil for fuel.)

There are not many cars on the road, anyway. Donkey carts are common.

Despite the 35 C temperatures, drivers don't use air conditioning in cars so they can save fuel.

Every so often, the smell of sewage fills the air. Lack of treatment facilities means that much of it is dumped raw into the Mediterranean .

We went first to a children's hospital on the edge of Gaza City . The hospital director and doctors described the conditions. Of 100 beds, 40 were occupied by children with bacterial meningitis, an extremely serious disease.

There's a shortage of basic medicines and supplies, even simple things such as alcohol swabs.

The hospital has three ventilators; only one is working. Israel won't let in spare parts for the others.

The working machine is for a "hopeless case" who can't be taken off. Meanwhile, patients who could benefit have no working machine.

There are many cases of malnutrition -- for example, children nearly a year old weighing 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds). Their families can't afford the special formula they need to improve.

Because of lack of equipment and qualified personnel, there is no radiotherapy and limited chemotherapy in Gaza .

Treatment for many conditions can only be obtained in Israel . Physicians for Human Rights -- Israel reports that, despite the ceasefire in the last few weeks, emergency medical cases are still refused entry into Israel , where they could have life-saving treatment. PHR has documented many cases of people dying before they are treated.

Indeed the proportion of patients denied exit from Gaza for treatment has increased since last year.

PHR will soon release a report on "medical extortion." Some sick Palestinians are interrogated at the Erez crossing and asked to become informants or collaborators as a condition of permission to leave Gaza for medical treatment.

After leaving the hospital, we travelled to the southern end of Gaza . We stopped at the Rafah crossing, the border with Egypt . It was closed, as it is most of the time.

A cluster of people were waiting, hoping against hope that they would be allowed to cross. Egypt is under pressure from both Israel and the U.S. not to open the border, and in any event, they do not want large numbers of refugees to flood in.

We drove into the city of Rafah , which has come under bombardment by the Israeli military. A huge number of buildings have been severely damaged or completely destroyed.

For street after street, barely any building is untouched. Makeshift shacks of corrugated metal and cloth sheets are now homes for those who have lost their housing.

We returned north along the coast road. The beauty of the sea view contrasted sharply with the rest of what we had seen.

After passing the Ash-Shati refugee camp, we went by modern hotels. They wait in vain for customers. The Gazan economy, devastated by Israel 's border controls, continues to languish.

My sister and her husband are Orthodox Jews living near Tel Aviv. They are outraged at Israel 's behavior, especially the restrictions on sick patients needing to leave Gaza . My brother-in-law, a former chair of family medicine at Tel Aviv University and a specialist in medical ethics, has complained publicly about this.

As a Jew, I, too, am ashamed and disgusted at what is happening. Yes, Israel needs security. But what is happening goes far beyond security needs.

Israel 's actions amount to collective punishment, forbidden under international law.

I am ashamed that the Harper government has tilted toward unconditional support for Israel against the Palestinians.

The current policy is unconscionable, as anyone who visits Gaza can see only too well.

Harry Shannon is a professor of clinical epidemiology and bio-statistics at McMaster University , and a member of Independent Jewish Voices. He lives in Dundas .





Israel’s ‘Two Roads’ Solution

Fred Schlomka

As the eyes of the world are on the Liberty Ships approaching Gaza, a massive segregated road project in the Greater Jerusalem area is quietly approaching completion. Israel is about to unveil the realization of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s dream of Palestinian ‘transportational contiguity’, in lieu of contiguous territory. Route 1, currently shared with Palestinians, connects Jerusalem to the eastern settlement of Ma’ale Adumim (pop. 35,000). This four-lane highway leads to the Dead Sea and also whisks settlers to Jerusalem in twenty minutes through the ‘E1’ development area. Since Sharon’s ultimate goal was to remove Palestinian traffic from settler roads, he came up with the ingenious plan to build a separate road network for exclusive Palestinian use, with no connection to the settler roads, only bridges and underpasses.


The crown jewel of this Orwellian nightmare, renamed the ‘Fabric of Life Roads’, is currently being readied for use and will complete the territorial separation between the north and south West Bank. Several new steep and narrow roads snake through the hills south of E1 from the Palestinian enclaves of Azariya (Bethany), Adu Dis and adjacent villages. They all merge into a single two-lane road that dips under Route 1, curving around the northeast edge of Jerusalem. The road will soon be extended to enter Ramallah, completing the entire segregated road network through the E1 area.


 All Palestinian traffic from the southern West Bank will be forced to use these roads when traveling to the northern West Bank. This will be accomplished through the simple maneuver of physically blocking access to Route 1 from Azariya, which currently funnels all northbound Palestinian traffic. Palestinians will wake up one morning and find that a short fifteen-minute trip from Azariya to Ramallah has turned into a lengthy trek of 1-2 hours. The trip from Bethlehem to Ramallah could take 3-4 hours depending on the backup at the Container Checkpoint and traffic density. Tourists or Israelis can travel from Bethlehem to the Ramallah checkpoint at Kalandia in about twenty minutes through Jerusalem in good traffic.


Other segregated road sections have already opened to the south and west of Ramallah from villages ‘caught’ on the west side of Israel’s ‘Separation Barrier’. The Bir Naballah area is now cut off from Jerusalem forcing residents to drive out of the enclave to the north through a sealed road under Route 45, leading to Ramallah. Route 443, going north from Jerusalem to Modi’in has left numerous Palestinian villages cut off to the West. Another network of segregated roads is now connecting these villages to Ramallah though Route 443 underpasses. South of Jerusalem a similar road network is also underway in order to clear Route 60 of Palestinian traffic and allow the settlers of the Gush Etzion block exclusive use of the road.  North of Jerusalem Route 60 is the main road leading to the settlements of Ofra, Shilo and beyond. This may well be the next target of Israel’s drive to remove Palestinians from settler highways.


Further north there is a four-lane highway, Route 5, stretching from Tel Aviv to the Central West Bank settlement of Ariel (pop. 25,000) allowing settlers to travel to Tel Aviv in twenty minutes. Construction recently began on the next phase of Route 5, going east past Ariel to Route 60, eventually reaching Route 90 in the Jordan Valley. The completion of Route 5 will permanently divide the northern West Bank with an Israeli controlled strip, and enable settlers in the central Jordan Valley to reach Tel Aviv in forty-five minutes, a trip that now takes more than two hours.


Thus there will be two populations, Israeli and Palestinian, using the same space simultaneously and separately. They will pass each other like subway trains, each on their own track, on a different elevation, never to meet.  The ephemeral presence of 2.5 million Palestinians will eventually have no impact on the ethos of half a million Jewish settlers. The goal will have been reached, an Arab-free environment.


The simultaneous consolidation of the settler and Palestinian road networks will be completed within the next few years. However the Greater Jerusalem system is now in place and could become operational within months. This two-layered state, Israel/Palestine is like a Rubik’s Cube with no solution. No matter which way you twist it there can be no rational outcome.


The political ramifications of this are profound. The heartland of Palestine, East Jerusalem, will be forever gone as the capital of a future Palestinian state, settled by over two hundred thousands Israelis and growing by over 5% per year. The Palestinian neighborhoods remaining in East Jerusalem, bisected by 8-meter high walls and creeping settlements, have already lost their community soul. Without a vibrant Palestinian East Jerusalem, territorial integrity between the north and south West Bank, and a reversal of Israel’s ongoing land grab, there cannot be a viable Palestinian state.


Fred Schlomka ( ) is the Director of http://www.ToursInEnglish.com and travels the roads of the West Bank daily.  



   
 
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