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Home arrow Blog arrow December 2008 arrow December 28, 2008

December 28, 2008
WAWA Blog December 28, 2008: In 2005 I wrote re Gaza:...and hot tempers from those under occupation are a powder keg that’s getting ready to blow!

KEEP HOPE ALIVE Chapter 14: 9/11/05 AND THE GULFPORT BLUES


Back at the A-frame, Terese sipped from her steaming mug of black brew and checked her email, to find report 57 from Jerry Levin, the reporter and full-time volunteer with Christian Peacemaker Teams who had shepherded her through Hebron. She sighed repeatedly as she read about the start of a new school year in Hebron, for it wasn’t good. She had spent a few hours in Hebron in June, and had not forgotten it for one day since.


“Christ, have mercy! These teachers and kids trying to get to school are threatened and hassled by these erratic and illegal settlers, and a trigger-happy IDF! What a daily life to have to contend with! I cannot imagine watching my child have to go through a checkpoint or be verbally and physically abused just to get to school! What are we teaching these kids, when they grow up looking up the barrel of an Israeli soldier’s weapon of destruction?”


Next, she opened a press conference summary of September 6, 2005, from Dr. Mustafa Bargouthi, September 6, 2005’s Palestinian National Initiative report regarding the aftermath of the “disengagement,” and the bottom line was more settlers, more walls, and more corruption in the PA. He stated that ‘Ninety percent of security violations in Palestine are committed by security forces and intelligence. These forces must be disciplined; the rule of law and an independent judiciary must be installed. [And] it is estimated that 30 percent of the 160,000 salaried government employees do not attend work of any kind. This kind of corruption and nepotism must be ended.’


Terese moaned when she read about the violations since the cease-fire agreement of February 8. “Christ, have mercy! Seventy-five Palestinians, including seventeen innocent children, and fourteen Israelis, including two innocent children, have been murdered. Two thousand Palestinians have been arrested; there have been 2,306 checkpoints imposed, and 8,700 acres of Palestinian land has been confiscated by the Israeli government! And how can these settlers sleep at night, after attacking Palestinians 394 times since the cease-fire agreement? I feel bad about these screwed-up settlers, but they are a cult that has been allowed to get out of control. The Israeli government enticed and encouraged them to settle in illegal land, and this is what it has come to! And yet, the illegal settlements continue!


“And, what a farce the so-called disengagement in Gaza was. The Israeli government still controls all access to Gaza by land, sea, and air. Bargouthi documented that only 25 of over 150 settlements will be dismantled, and only 8,475 of over 436,000 settlers [less than 2 percent of settlers] have been evacuated. Meanwhile, in the past year, 12,800 new settlers have moved into the West Bank — 50 percent more settlers than were evacuated.”


“This is no withdrawal, this is BS! Until Palestinians have control of Gaza’s borders and a guaranteed passage between Gaza and the West Bank, it is not a withdrawal; it’s just BS propaganda! And Gaza is less than 6 percent of the occupied territories, and that leaves 94 percent of Palestinian territories under the boot of the IDF. The corruption in the PA government and hot tempers from those under occupation are a powder keg that’s getting ready to blow! What’s it going to take to wake the world up to the fact that most of our problems with radical Islamist fundamentalist militants leads us back to the conflict in Israel and Palestine? All roads do indeed lead to Jerusalem. What’s it going to take before the International community gets it together and insists, in unity, upon the upholding of international law as the rule we all live by? And that includes Israel and America, too, for both ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I wonder, what’s the point of signing on, but then not doing it?


“What’s it going to take to wake up the legions of blind U.S. Christian Zionists to their indifference to the misery of their sisters and brothers in Israel and Palestine? Their blind allegiance to the Israeli government has allowed our best friend in the world to become a big bully. What’s it going to take to break through the ignorance that hard-earned U.S. tax dollars are being used to continue the occupation and apartheid wall?”



The following were among the days emails



Dear All,


I write this evening pained at heart.  The evils of the Israeli government and the support it receives from the world are incomparably difficult for me to digest.  I'm emptied of words.  Richard Falk in "Slouching Towards a Palestinian Holocaust"  expresses my thoughts to a 'T.'  If you have not yet read it, please do.  It was written before today's merciless killings, but with the realization that they could happen.
 
As I have several times said, Hamas was willing to talk, but Israel refused to.  Hamas was willing to have a long truce.  But Israel ignored.  Obviously, not Hamas but Gaza is the problem.
 
As I have already said, Gaza with its 1.5 million Palestinians does not fit into Israel's plan for the Greater Israel.  This evening I spoke with an acquaintance from Sderot.  She related that the city was empty.  All its residents had left. They have my full sympathy. They are no less pawns in Israel's leaders' hands than are residents of Gaza.  But unlike residents of Sderot, those of Gaza have no place to run to, nowhere to hide.  Israel refuses to open the borders and Egypt likewise.  Shame on Mubarak!
 
Israeli commentators were proud that Israel had destroyed all the Hamas 'security' structures.  'Security' that was referred to is police stations, and the majority of the victims were police men, some had just completed their training as traffic police and were in the midst of the ceremony awarding them their stripes, or whatever.  Why? My spouse has it right, they, he says, were the only ones in uniforms identifiable as Hamas personnel.  Garbage men would have been in the same category had they had uniforms, and had there been money to hire them.  The first wave of bombings came just as children were on their way home from school!  Excellent timing!
 
And in the end, ladies and gentlemen, will Israelis be more secure after this is over (whenever that will be) than they were before?  Is there any guarantee that Hezbollah and others will not join the fray?  How many Israelis will lose their lives in the ensuing?
 
Israel undoubtedly wants to rid Gaza of Palestinians.  How far will it go to find a solution to the 'Palestinian problem'?  Israel's leaders, realizing that immigration has dried up and that a Jewish majority in Israel is threatened with becoming a minority, want to rid themselves of the excess baggage of Gazans.  Just how far these will leaders go to accomplish their end, the next days might well reveal...
 
 
I also include a brief report of the protest demonstration that spouse and I attended in Tel Aviv this evening.  We were only about 300-400.  But what is sad is that even had we been 500,000 it would not have made an iota of difference.
 
Sad sad sad.
Dorothy



Left-wing activists protest Gaza op as 'genocide'
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3645241,00.html

Around 300 left-wing activists gather on Defense Ministry lawn to protest offensive against Hamas during Olmert's speech; five arrested after clashing with police
Sharon Navot

While Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called for the unity of the citizens of Israel and their support for the operation in Gaza, hundreds of left-wing activists gathered on the Defense Ministry's lawn to protest the deaths of over 200 Palestinians. 

Five of the protestors were arrested for rioting after they damaged the security fence and clashed with police forces on the scene.
Around 300 activists took part in the protest, in order to condemn what they called Israel's "genocide and war crimes". The demonstrators marched through the streets of Tel Aviv until they reached the ministry's headquarters.

Many cried slogans such as "No to war – yes to peace", and carried signs saying "Israel's government is committing war crimes", "Negotiation instead of slaughter", and "Lift the siege from Gaza".

During his speech the prime minister noted that Israel did everything in order to enable the lull in the south to go on.

“The desire for calm was met with terror,” he said. “No country would reconcile itself to such reality. In recent days it turned out that Hamas was interested in a confrontation. Under such circumstances, we had no choice but to respond.”

He added that “the operation is meant to improve the security reality of southern residents in a thorough manner.”

Richard Falk, TFF Associate

June 29, 2007

 

       And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
            Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?-William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming

 

There is little doubt that the Nazi Holocaust was as close to unconditional evil as has been revealed throughout the entire bloody history of the human species. Its massiveness, unconcealed genocidal intent, and reliance on the mentality and instruments of modernity give its enactment in the death camps of Europe a special status in our moral imagination. This special status is exhibited in the continuing presentation of its gruesome realities through film, books, and a variety of cultural artifacts more than six decades after the events in question ceased. The permanent memory of the Holocaust is also kept alive by the  existence of several notable museums devoted exclusively to the depiction of the horrors that took place during the period of Nazi rule in Germany.


Against this background, it is especially painful for me, as an American Jew, to feel compelled to portray the ongoing and intensifying abuse of the Palestinian people by Israel through a reliance on such an inflammatory metaphor as ‘holocaust.’  The word is derived from the Greek holos (meaning ‘completely’) and kaustos (meaning ‘burnt’), and was used in ancient Greece to refer to the complete burning of a sacrificial offering to a divinity. Because such a background implies a religious undertaking, there is some inclination in Jewish literature to prefer the Hebrew word ‘Shoah’ that can be translated roughly as ‘calamity,’ and was the name given to the 1985 epic nine-hour narration of the Nazi experience by the French filmmaker, Claude Lanzmann. The Germans themselves were more antiseptic in their designation, officially naming their undertaking as the ‘Final Solution of the Jewish Qestion.’ The label is, of course, inaccurate as a variety of non-Jewish identities were also targets of this genocidal assault, including the Roma and Sinti(‘gypsies), Jehovah Witnesses, gays, disabled persons, political opponents.


Is it an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not. The recent developments in Gaza are especially disturbing because they express so vividly a deliberate intention on the part of Israel and its allies to subject an entire human community to life-endangering conditions of utmost cruelty. The suggestion that this pattern of conduct is a holocaust-in-the-making represents a rather desperate appeal to the governments of the world and to international public opinion to act urgently to prevent these current genocidal tendencies from culminating in a collective tragedy. If ever the ethos of ‘a responsibility to protect,’ recently adopted by the UN Security Council  as the basis of ‘humanitarian intervention’ is applicable, it would be to act now to start protecting the people of Gaza from further pain and suffering. But it would be unrealistic to expect the UN to do anything in the face of this crisis, given the pattern of US support for Israel and taking into account the extent to which European governments have lent their weight to recent illicit efforts to crush Hamas as a Palestinian political force.


Even if the pressures exerted on Gaza were to be acknowledged as having genocidal potential and even if Israel’s impunity under America’s geopolitical umbrella is put aside, there is little assurance that any sort of protective action in Gaza would be taken. There were strong advance signals in 1994 of a genocide to come in Rwanda, and yet nothing was done to stop it; the UN and the world watched while the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of Bosnians took place, an incident that the World Court described as ‘genocide’ a few months ago; similarly, there have been repeated allegations of genocidal conduct in Darfur over the course of the last several years, and hardly an international finger has been raised, either to protect those threatened or to resolve the conflict in some manner that shares power and resources among the contending ethnic groups.


But Gaza is morally far worse, although mass death has not yet resulted. It is far worse because the international community is watching the ugly spectacle unfold while some of its most influential members actively encourage and assist Israel in its approach to Gaza. Not only the United States, but also the European Union, are complicit, as are such neighbors as Egypt and Jordan apparently motivated by their worries that Hamas is somehow connected with their own problems associated with the rising strength of the Muslim Brotherhood within their own borders. It is helpful to recall that the liberal democracies of Europe paid homage to Hitler at the 1936 Olympic Games, and then turned away tens of thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany. I am not suggesting that the comparison should be viewed as literal, but to insist that a pattern of criminality associated with Israeli policies in Gaza has actually been supported by the leading democracies of the 21st century.



To ground these allegations, it is necessary to consider the background of the current situation. For over four decades, ever since 1967, Gaza has been occupied by Israel in a manner that turned this crowded area into a cauldron of pain and suffering for the entire population on a daily basis, with more than half of Gazans living in miserable refugees camps and even more dependent on humanitarian relief to satisfy basic human needs. With great fanfare, under Sharon’s leadership, Israel supposedly ended its military occupation and dismantled its settlements in 2005. The process was largely a sham as Israel maintained full control over borders, air space, offshore seas, as well as asserted its military control of Gaza, engaging in violent incursions, sending missiles to Gaza at will on assassination missions that themselves violate international humanitarian law, and managing to kill more than 300 Gazan civilians since its supposed physical departure.



As unacceptable as is this earlier part of the story, a dramatic turn for the worse occurred when Hamas prevailed in the January 2006 national legislative elections. It is a bitter irony that Hamas was encouraged, especially by Washington, to participate in the elections to show its commitment to a political process (as an alternative to violence) and then was badly punished for having the temerity to succeed. These elections were internationally monitored under the leadership of the former American president, Jimmy Carter, and pronounced as completely fair.



Carter has recently termed this Israeli/American refusal to accept the outcome of such a democratic verdict as itself ‘criminal.’ It is also deeply discrediting of the campaign of the Bush presidency to promote democracy in the region, an effort already under a dark shadow in view of the policy failure in Iraq.


After winning the Palestinian elections, Hamas was castigated as a terrorist organization that had not renounced violence against Israel and had refused to recognize the Jewish state as a legitimate political entity. In fact, the behavior and outlook of Hamas is quite different. From the outset of its political Hamas was ready to work with other Palestinian groups, especially Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas, to establish a ‘unity’ government. More than this, their leadership revealed a willingness to move toward an acceptance of Israel’s existence if Israel would in turn agree to move back to its 1967 borders, implementing finally unanimous Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.


Even more dramatically, Hamas proposed a ten-year truce with Israel, and went so far as to put in place a unilateral ceasefire that lasted for eighteen months, and was broken only to engage in rather pathetic strikes mainly taking place in response to Israeli violent provocations in Gaza. As Efraim Halevi, former head of Israel’s Mossad was reported to have said, ‘What Isreal needs from Hamas is an end to violence, not diplomatic recognition.’ And this is precisely what Hamas offered and what Israel rejected.


The main weapon available to Hamas, and other Palestinian extremist elements, were Qassam missiles that resulted in producing no more than 12 Israeli deaths in six years. While each civilian death is an unacceptable tragedy, the ratio of death and injury for the two sides in so unequal as to call into question the security logic of continuously inflicting excessive force and collective punishment on the entire beleaguered Gazan population, which is accurately regarded as the world’s largest ‘prison.’


Instead of trying diplomacy and respecting democratic results, Israel and the United States used their leverage to reverse the outcome of the 2006 elections by organizing a variety of international efforts designed to make Hamas fail in its attempts to govern in Gaza. Such efforts were reinforced by the related unwillingness of the defeated Fatah elements to cooperate with Hamas in establishing a government that would be representative of Palestinians as a whole. The main anti-Hamas tactic relied upon was to support Abbas as the sole legitimate leader of the Palestinian people, to impose an economic boycott on the Palestinians generally, to send in weapons for Fatah militias and to enlist neighbors in these efforts, particularly Egypt and Jordan. The United States Government appointed a special envoy, Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, to work with Abbas forces, and helped channel $40 million to buildup the Presidential Guard, which were the Fatah forces associated with Abbas.


This was a particularly disgraceful policy. Fatah militias, especially in Gaza, had long been wildly corrupt and often used their weapons to terrorize their adversaries and intimidate the population in a variety of thuggish ways. It was this pattern of abuse by Fatah that was significantly responsible for the Hamas victory in the 2006 elections, along with the popular feelings that Fatah, as a political actor, had neither the will nor capacity to achieve results helpful to the Palestinian people, while Hamas had managed resistance and community service efforts that were widely admired by Gazans.


The latest phase of this external/internal dynamic was to induce civil strife in Gaza that led a complete takeover by Hamas forces. With standard irony, a set of policies adopted by Israel in partnership with the United States once more produced exactly the opposite of their intended effects. The impact of the refusal to honor the election results has after 18 months made Hamas much stronger throughout the Palestinian territories, and put it in control of Gaza. Such an outcome is reminiscent of a similar effect of the 2006 Lebanon War that was undertaken by the Israel/United States strategic partnership to destroy Hezbollah, but had the actual consequence of making Hezbollah a much stronger, more respected force in Lebanon and throughout the region.


The Israel and the United States seemed trapped in a faulty logic that is incapable of learning from mistakes, and takes every setback as a sign that instead of shifting course, the faulty undertaking should be expanded and intensified, that failure resulted from doing too little of the right thing, rather than is the case, doing the wrong thing. So instead of taking advantage of Hamas’ renewed call for a unity government, its clarification that it is not against Fatah, but only that “[w]e have fought against a small clique within Fatah,” (Abu Ubaya, Hamas military commander), Israel seems more determined than ever to foment civil war in Palestine, to make the Gazans pay with their wellbeing and lives to the extent necessary to crush their will, and to separate once and for all the destinies of Gaza and the West Bank.


The insidious new turn of Israeli occupation policy is as follows: push Abbas to rely on hard-line no compromise approach toward Hamas, highlighted by the creation of an unelected ‘emergency’ government to replace the elected leadership. The emergency designated prime minister, Salam Fayyad, appointed to replace the Hamas leader, Ismail Haniya, as head of the Palestinian Authority. It is revealing to recall that when Fayyad’s party was on the 2006 election list its candidates won only 2% of the vote. Israel is also reportedly ready to ease some West Bank restrictions on movement in such a way as to convince Palestinians that they can have a better future if they repudiate Hamas and place their bets on Abbas, by now a most discredited political figure who has substantially sold out the Palestinian cause to gain favor and support from Israel/United States, as well as to prevail in the internal Palestinian power struggle.


To promote these goals it is conceivable, although unlikely, that Israel might release Marwan Barghouti, the only credible Fatah leader, from prison provided Barghouti would be willing to accept the Israeli approach of Sharon/Olmert to the establishment of a Palestinian state. This latter step is doubtful, as Barghouti is a far cry from Abbas, and would be highly unlikely to agree to anything less than a full withdrawal of Israel to the 1967 borders, including the elimination of West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements.

This latest turn in policy needs to be understood in the wider context of the Israeli refusal to reach a reasonable compromise with the Palestinian people since 1967. There is widespread recognition that such an outcome would depend on Israeli withdrawal, establishment of a Palestinian state with full sovereignty on the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as capital, and sufficient external financial assistance to give the Palestinians the prospect of economic viability.  The truth is that there is no Israeli leadership with the vision or backing to negotiate such a solution, and so the struggle will continue with violence on both sides.

The Israeli approach to the Palestinian challenge is based on isolating Gaza and cantonizing the West Bank, leaving the settlement blocs intact, and appropriating the whole of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. For years this sidestepping of diplomacy has dominated Israeli behavior, including during the Oslo peace process that was initiated on the White House lawn in 1993 by the famous handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat.

While talking about peace, the number of Israeli settlers doubled, huge sums were invested in settlement roads linked directly to Israel, and the process of Israeli settlement and Palestinian displacement from East Jerusalem was moving ahead at a steady pace. Significantly, also, the ‘moderate’ Arafat was totally discredited as a Palestinian leader capable of negotiating with Israel, being treated as dangerous precisely because he was willing to accept a reasonable compromise. Interestingly, until recently when he became useful in the effort to reverse the Hamas electoral victory, Abbas was treated by Isreal as too weak, too lacking in authority, to act on behalf of the Palestinian people in a negotiating process, one more excuse for persisting with its preferred unilateralist course.

These considerations also make it highly unlikely that Barghouti will be released from prison unless there is some dramatic change of heart on the Israeli side. Instead of working toward some kind of political resolution, Israel has built an elaborate and illegal security wall on Palestinian territory, expanded the settlements, made life intolerable for the 1.4 million people crammed into Gaza, and pretends that such unlawful ‘facts on the ground’ are a path leading toward security and peace.



On June 25, 2007 leaders from Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority met in Sharm El Sheik on the Red Sea to move ahead with their anti-Hamas diplomacy. Israel proposes to release 250 Fatah prisoners (of 9,000 Palestinians currently held) and to hand over Palestinian revenues to Abbas on an installment basis, provided none of the funds is used in Gaza, where a humanitarian catastrophe unfolds day by day. These leaders agreed to cooperate in this effort to break Hamas and to impose a Fatah-led Palestinian Authority on an unwilling Palestine population. Remember that Hamas prevailed in the 2006 elections, not only in Gaza, but in the West Bank as well. To deny Palestinian their right of self-determination is almost certain to backfire in a manner similar to similar efforts, producing a radicalized version of what is being opposed. As some commentators have expressed, getting rid of Hamas means establishing al Qaeda!

Israel is currently stiffening the boycott on economic relations that has brought the people of Gaza to the brink of collective starvation. This set of policies, carried on for more than four decades, has imposed a sub-human existence on a people that have been repeatedly and systematically made the target of a variety of severe forms of collective punishment. The entire population of Gaza is treated as the ‘enemy’ of Israel, and little pretext is made in Tel Aviv of acknowledging the innocence of this long victimized civilian society.

To persist with such an approach under present circumstances is indeed genocidal, and risks destroying an entire Palestinian community that is an integral part of an ethnic whole. It is this prospect that makes appropriate the warning of a Palestinian holocaust in the making, and should remind the world of the famous post-Nazi pledge of ‘never again.’ 







Sarah Roy, a longtime expert analyst of economic and political developments in the Gaza Strip identifies two objectives to Israel's current military campaign. Neither of them is an attempt, officially claimed by Israel to be the goal of this attack, of stopping Hamas shelling of Israeli towns and villages. Israel, says Roy, aims "to ensure that the Palestinians there are seen merely as a humanitarian problem, beggars who have no political identity and therefore can have no political claims." And it furthermore wants "to foist Gaza onto Egypt" thereby finalizing the political and territorial breakup of a Palestinian political entity.

In imagining the daily details of life under Israel's ever-tightening criminal siege, a recent resource was provided by the Israeli group, Physicans for Human Rights, following their dispatch of a research and aid delegation to Gaza. The PHR report, attached below noted, for instance, "a sharp increase of 300% in burns cases admitted to the burns department at Shifaa hospital in Gaza ... over the past month. This is a result of the ongoing shortages in electricity, cooking gas and heating gas. These, along with the arrival of the cold winter months, have led the population of Gaza to light wood fires, resulting in dangerous conditions. Many of the burns cases reported to us have been of children..."
-Rela Mazali

Racheli Gai adds:

The third piece we're sending is by Ali Abunimah.  In addition to exposing the hollowness of the claim that the bombing is in retaliation for the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip,  he reminds us that we must find ways to show our solidarity with the Palestinians, and to oppose Israel's criminal activities.  

Protests are being organized everywhere, even as I'm typing these words.  But after the protests take place, then what??   Abunimah closes his article by saying:

"Palestinians everywhere are asking for solidarity, real solidarity, in the form of sustained, determined political action. The Gaza-based One Democratic State Group reaffirmed this today as it "called upon all civil society organizations and freedom loving people to act immediately in any possible way to put pressure on their governments to end diplomatic ties with Apartheid Israel and institute sanctions against it.

The global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement for Palestine (http://www.bdsmovement.net/) provides the framework for this. Now is the time to channel our raw emotions into a long-term commitment to make sure we do not wake up to "another Gaza" ever again."

We end with a graphic description of some of the carnage in Gaza, sent by Rebecca Vilkomerson.




If Gaza falls . . .

Sara Roy
London Review of Books
1.1.2009
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n01/roy_01_.html

Israel’s siege of Gaza began on 5 November, the day after an Israeli attack inside the strip, no doubt designed finally to undermine the truce between Israel and Hamas established last June. Although both sides had violated the agreement before, this incursion was on a different scale. Hamas responded by firing rockets into Israel and the violence has not abated since then. Israel’s siege has two fundamental goals. One is to ensure that the Palestinians there are seen merely as a humanitarian problem, beggars who have no political identity and therefore can have no political claims. The second is to foist Gaza onto Egypt. That is why the Israelis tolerate the hundreds of tunnels between Gaza and Egypt around which an informal but increasingly regulated commercial sector has begun to form. The overwhelming majority of Gazans are impoverished and officially 49.1 per cent are unemployed. In fact the prospect of steady employment is rapidly disappearing for the majority of the population
.


On 5 November the Israeli government sealed all the ways into and out of Gaza. Food, medicine, fuel, parts for water and sanitation systems, fertiliser, plastic sheeting, phones, paper, glue, shoes and even teacups are no longer getting through in sufficient quantities or at all. According to Oxfam only 137 trucks of food were allowed into Gaza in November. This means that an average of 4.6 trucks per day entered the strip compared to an average of 123 in October this year and 564 in December 2005. The two main food providers in Gaza are the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the World Food Programme (WFP). UNRWA alone feeds approximately 750,000 people in Gaza, and requires 15 trucks of food daily to do so. Between 5 November and 30 November, only 23 trucks arrived, around 6 per cent of the total needed; during the week of 30 November it received 12 trucks, or 11 per cent of what was required. There were three days in November when UNRWA ran out of food, with the result that on each of these days 20,000 people were unable to receive their scheduled supply. According to John Ging, the director of UNRWA in Gaza, most of the people who get food aid are entirely dependent on it. On 18 December UNRWA suspended all food distribution for both emergency and regular programmes because of the blockade.

The WFP has had similar problems, sending only 35 trucks out of the 190 it had scheduled to cover Gazans’ needs until the start of February (six more were allowed in between 30 November and 6 December). Not only that: the WFP has to pay to store food that isn’t being sent to Gaza. This cost $215,000 in November alone. If the siege continues, the WFP will have to pay an extra $150,000 for storage in December, money that will be used not to support Palestinians but to benefit Israeli business.

The majority of commercial bakeries in Gaza – 30 out of 47 – have had to close because they have run out of cooking gas. People are using any fuel they can find to cook with. As the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has made clear, cooking-gas canisters are necessary for generating the warmth to incubate broiler chicks. Shortages of gas and animal feed have forced commercial producers to smother hundreds of thousands of chicks. By April, according to the FAO, there will be no poultry there at all: 70 per cent of Gazans rely on chicken as a major source of protein.

Banks, suffering from Israeli restrictions on the transfer of banknotes into the territory were forced to close on 4 December. A sign on the door of one read: ‘Due to the decision of the Palestinian Finance Authority, the bank will be closed today Thursday, 4.12.2008, because of the unavailability of cash money, and the bank will be reopened once the cash money is available.’

The World Bank has warned that Gaza’s banking system could collapse if these restrictions continue. All cash for work programmes has been stopped and on 19 November UNRWA suspended its cash assistance programme to the most needy. It also ceased production of textbooks because there is no paper, ink or glue in Gaza. This will affect 200,000 students returning to school in the new year. On 11 December, the Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, sent $25 million following an appeal from the Palestinian prime minister, Salaam Fayad, the first infusion of its kind since October. It won’t even cover a month’s salary for Gaza’s 77,000 civil servants.

On 13 November production at Gaza’s only power station was suspended and the turbines shut down because it had run out of industrial diesel. This in turn caused the two turbine batteries to run down, and they failed to start up again when fuel was received some ten days later. About a hundred spare parts ordered for the turbines have been sitting in the port of Ashdod in Israel for the last eight months, waiting for the Israeli authorities to let them through customs. Now Israel has started to auction these parts because they have been in customs for more than 45 days. The proceeds are being held in Israeli accounts.

During the week of 30 November, 394,000 litres of industrial diesel were allowed in for the power plant: approximately 18 per cent of the weekly minimum that Israel is legally obliged to allow in. It was enough for one turbine to run for two days before the plant was shut down again. The Gaza Electricity Distribution Company said that most of the Gaza Strip will be without electricity for between four and 12 hours a day. At any given time during these outages, over 65,000 people have no electricity.

No other diesel fuel (for standby generators and transport) was delivered during that week, no petrol (which has been kept out since early November) or cooking gas. Gaza’s hospitals are apparently relying on diesel and gas smuggled from Egypt via the tunnels; these supplies are said to be administered and taxed by Hamas. Even so, two of Gaza’s hospitals have been out of cooking gas since the week of 23 November.

Adding to the problems caused by the siege are those created by the political divisions between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Hamas Authority in Gaza. For example, Gaza’s Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU), which is not controlled by Hamas, is supposed to receive funds from the World Bank via the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) in Ramallah to pay for fuel to run the pumps for Gaza’s sewage system. Since June, the PWA has refused to hand over those funds, perhaps because it feels that a functioning sewage system would benefit Hamas. I don’t know whether the World Bank has attempted to intervene, but meanwhile UNRWA is providing the fuel, although they have no budget for it. The CMWU has also asked Israel’s permission to import 200 tons of chlorine, but by the end of November it had received only 18 tons – enough for one week of chlorinated water. By mid-December Gaza City and the north of Gaza had access to water only six hours every three days.

According to the World Health Organisation, the political divisions between Gaza and the West Bank are also having a serious impact on drug stocks in Gaza. The West Bank Ministry of Health (MOH) is responsible for procuring and delivering most of the pharmaceuticals and medical disposables used in Gaza. But stocks are at dangerously low levels. Throughout November the MOH West Bank was turning shipments away because it had no warehouse space, yet it wasn’t sending supplies on to Gaza in adequate quantities. During the week of 30 November, one truck carrying drugs and medical supplies from the MOH in Ramallah entered Gaza, the first delivery since early September.

The breakdown of an entire society is happening in front of us, but there is little international response beyond UN warnings which are ignored. The European Union announced recently that it wanted to strengthen its relationship with Israel while the Israeli leadership openly calls for a large-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip and continues its economic stranglehold over the territory with, it appears, the not-so-tacit support of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah – which has been co-operating with Israel on a number of measures. On 19 December Hamas officially ended its truce with Israel, which Israel said it wanted to renew, because of Israel’s failure to ease the blockade.

How can keeping food and medicine from the people of Gaza protect the people of Israel? How can the impoverishment and suffering of Gaza’s children – more than 50 per cent of the population – benefit anyone? International law as well as human decency demands their protection. If Gaza falls, the West Bank will be next.

Sara Roy teaches at Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies and is the author of Failing Peace: Gaza and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.

----------------------------------------

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel Update 22.12.2008

·      PHR-Israel delegation to the Gaza Strip, 18-19 December, 2008-12-22
·      Gaza siege results in 300% increase in burn cases in the burns department at Shifaa’ hospital in the Gaza Strip
·      Denial of access to healthcare continues
·      PHR-Israel and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) issue a joint protest following the expulsion of UN Special Rapporteur Falk. http://www.phr.org.il/phr/files/articlefile_1230045569593.doc

18-19 December, 2008-12-22



The visit was held in order to learn about the current condition of the health system, to provide medical services in Gaza hospitals, and to plan for future delegations on the basis of medical needs.

Medical assistance and meetings:

The delegation brought with it medical equipment to a value of 25 thousand US dollars, including prosthetic limbs, and transferred them to the European Hospital in Khan Younis.
Dr. Mustafa Yassin, an expert orthopedic oncologist from Rabin Medical Center (Hasharon Campus) in Israel, examined 25 patients at the European Hospital. Several of these were recommended for a knee replacement, which will be carried out by Dr. Yassin on his next visit to Gaza.
The delegation met with representatives of the local Ministry of Health and heard an update on the current situation, as well as a review of 2008, whose main contents follow:
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH) in Gaza, 155,478 patients were admitted to the 14 hospitals and medical centers operating within the Gaza Strip. Some 49,000 surgical procedures were held, and 35,276 hospital births were recorded. According to statistics prepared by the “Institute for Palestinian Studies” for 2008, birthrates increased by 2.6% in comparison to 2007. The total budget of the Ministry of Health allocated to medical treatments for 2008 was 21 million US dollars.

The most common conditions treated in medical centers of the MoH in Gaza in 2008 were oncology diseases, liver and kidney conditions, joint diseases and arteriosclerosis.

According to Gaza MoH statistics for 2008, the number of cancer cases diagnosed this year was 520, of whom 91 were children. Breast cancer and cancer of the brain and other nervous systems were the most common types of cancer. 620 cardiac cases were registered, of whom 99 were children. 342 kidney patients are currently treated by hemodialysis. 3,199 cases of Hepatitis A were recorded, 496 of Hepatitis B, and 196 of Hepatitis C.

A shortage of 105 types of medicines, or one quarter of the medications ordered by the MoH in Gaza has characterized the majority of 2008. 30 of these are for lifesaving treatments, 21 for cancer, kidney and liver conditions. In addition, a total of 220 parts and equipment items defined as necessary for surgical procedures and for maintenance of Intensive Care Units are lacking. Several milk sterilization instruments in pediatric departments have stopped functioning.

The Ministry of Health in Gaza operates 58 emergency vehicles for medical evacuation. Half of these were put out of service due to lack of spare parts (engine oil, batteries, internal seats and upholstery, electrical and medical equipment). As a result the MoH purchased 64 substandard alternative vehicles, which were used for patient transfer. Many ambulances are currently still out of service and some patients are transferred in private vehicles.

In emergencies, the evacuation services suffer from substandard communications due to the collapse of the two cellular systems in Gaza: Jawwal and Mirs. As a result, ambulance drivers meet difficulties in communicating with headquarters, with hospitals, with each other and with the patients’ families. This can lead to severe delays and even to loss of lives. The proposed solution is an internal communications system for the evacuation system in Gaza, estimated costs of which are 170,000 US dollars, a sum currently unavailable to the Gaza MoH.

There is a severe shortage of several types of gases that are necessary for the functioning of the health system (e.g., Carbon Oxygen Type 2, Ethylene Oxide, dry and liquid Nitrogen, medical Nitrous and cooking gas). There is also a chronic shortage of fuel for the hospitals in Gaza, leading to a depletion of stores in a manner that will not enable maintenance of full activities in case of further fuel cuts.

Gaza siege results in 300% increase in burn cases in the burns department at Shifaa’ hospital in the Gaza Strip

In December 2008, PHR-Israel recorded an increase in patients suffering from burns applying to the organization for assistance. Further investigation revealed that a sharp increase of 300% in burns cases admitted to the burns department at Shifaa hospital in Gaza has been recorded over the past month. This is a result of the ongoing shortages in electricity, cooking gas and heating gas. These, along with the arrival of the cold winter months, have led the population of Gaza to light wood fires, resulting in dangerous conditions. Many of the burns cases reported to us have been of children playing with fire while attempting to light fires for heating or cooking, or lighting candles for light at home.

According to Dr. Nafez Abu Sha’ban, director of the burns department in Shifaa hospital in Gaza, the department is overloaded and is treating 16 patients, the vast majority of whom are children. This is despite the fact that the department is actually capable of providing adequate treatment to only 5 patients at a time. According to Dr. Abu Sha’ban, the Israeli siege on Gaza has caused not only a severe shortage of water, electricity and other basic goods, but also in gas and fuel for cooking, heating and baking. As a result, many are now using Primus stoves or open fires for cooking and heating.

Due to the case overload in the burns department, and the current lack of basic and advanced medical equipment (e.g., resuscitation equipment for children and spare parts for existing equipment), the department cannot give immediate and appropriate response to the large number of patients. As a result of this, as well as of the high degree of severity and complexity of the cases, Palestinian doctors are referring some of the children to advanced medical centers in Israel. However, many children, some of them in life-threatening conditions, remain in Gaza without proper care, despite these referrals, due to a shortage in beds in children’s ICU and in children’s burns departments in the four medical centers in Israel that are able to treat children’s burns: Hadassah Ein Karem in Jerusalem, Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, Rambam in Haifa, and Soroka in Beer-Sheva.

A written appointment letter for hospitalization from a hospital is a precondition set by the Israeli security apparatus for Palestinians who need to be transferred to medical care that is unavailable in Gaza. Without it, they cannot apply for a permit to exit Gaza. In urgent and lifesaving cases, the wait for an appointment and the permit application process impair the chances of recovery and can even endanger lives. Israeli children, who are admitted to hospital immediately, must also wait for a bed, but are not further delayed by bureaucratic hurdles once they have a place.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel has received four applications from families whose children sustained medium to severe burns over the past week, and who are referred urgently to medical care in Israel, but have not managed to get appointments for hospitalization. All these patients already have financial undertakings from the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah, to cover the costs of the care, and the invitation letter from the hospital is the only obstacle to their exit. One of these cases ended in death, and it joins two other child deaths from the past week in Gaza.

Rahaf, three and a half, has third-degree burns on 55% of her body, and she is currently hospitalized in lifethreatening condition in the burns department at Shifaa hospital in Gaza. Her body heat has been 35 degrees Celsius for the past three days, and she is artificially ventilated. Rahaf was seriously injured on December 17 at 3pm after trying to light a stove in the kitchen of her home. On the same day she already had all the necessary medical documents and a financial undertaking from the Ministry of Health to cover all costs of care, but from then until this afternoon, the family could not find a hospital able to admit her. This afternoon (22 December), after numerous calls made by PHR-Israel to hospital departments in Israel, Rahaf finally received an appointment for Rambam medical center in Haifa, for tomorrow morning. We hope for her speedy recovery.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel requests that the demand to present an appointment to a specific department before applying for a permit be waived in cases of children in need of urgent transfer of this type, in order to minimize delays as far as possible and ensure speedy transfer at the first opportunity.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel vehemently opposes the collective measures imposed on the civilian population of Gaza, and points to these burns cases as one more example of the disastrous results of the siege policy.

Denial of access to healthcare continues

Since the renewal of Israeli military operations and Palestinian Qassam rockets on the south of Israel on November 3rd, declared restrictions on exit of patients from the Gaza Strip have increased. In the past two months, the Israeli authorities at Erez Crossing rejected 11 new appeals we sent to them, following rejection of their applications for medical exit permits. Four of these patients need orthopedic care, three have kidney disease, two are cancer patients, one is in need of neurosurgical intervention and the last needs ophthalmology care. All these patients have already had their requests rejected in the past and have been waiting for weeks or even months for medical care. The GSS rejected PHR-Israel’s appeals on their behalf, despite the submission of expert opinions by specialist doctors, which clarified that denial of care could cause irrevocable damage. Nine further recent requests by PHR-Israel have not yet received any response from the GSS, which is delaying its
responses increasingly in recent weeks. The delayed cases include a haemophiliac, a cancer patient and a five-year-old girl with heart disease, whose mother has died but her father is not allowed to accompany her.

Rafah crossing into Egypt remains closed, and last time it was opened was on September 20.

At unpredictable intervals since November 3rd, the Israeli government has ordered the total closure of Erez Crossing to all but the “most urgent, lifesaving, humanitarian” cases. In practice, such a closure makes the exit of even very serious and urgent cases close to impossible. In the opinion of PHR-Israel, the prioritization of exit according to medical severity/urgency is unethical, as the rest of the patients will stay behind without care. This constitutes an improper use of medical criteria for non-medical, political purposes.[1]

PHR-Israel and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) issue a joint protest following the expulsion of UN Special Rapporteur Falk.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) vehemently protest the expulsion from Israel of UN Special Rapporteur Prof. Richard Falk, on December 17. PHR-Israel had been invited to participate in a meeting with the Rapporteur and to provide evidence regarding violations of the right to health in the OPT, access to healthcare and rights of prisoners and detainees. The expulsion of Prof. Falk is also injurious to the ongoing work of PHR-Israel.

PHR-Israel and PMRS have issued a letter of protest to Israeli government ministries on this issue. Please see this to read the letter http://www.phr.org.il/phr/files/articlefile_1230045569593.doc



For further details please contact Miri Weingarten, , +972 546995199, or Ran Yaron, , +972 547577696.

[1] For more on the ethical ramifications of such prioritisation, see PHR-Israel’s medical-ethical position paper, August 2007.





PHR-Israel delegation to the Gaza Strip,  On the 18th of December, a PHR-Israel delegation entered Gaza for a two-day visit, the eighth since the start of 2008. The delegation followed a period of three months during which the Israeli security apparatus had denied PHR-Israel access to the Gaza Strip, for various reasons.


Gaza massacres must spur us to action

By Ali Abunimah

The Electronic Intifada
27 December 2008

http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10055.shtml

"I will play music and celebrate what the Israeli air force is doing." Those were the words, spoken on Al Jazeera today by Ofer Shmerling, an Israeli civil defense
official in the Sderot area adjacent to Gaza, as images of Israel's latest massacres were broadcast around the world.

A short time earlier, US-supplied Israeli F-16 warplanes and Apache helicopters dropped over 100 bombs on dozens of locations in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip killing at
least 195 persons and injuring hundreds more. Many of these locations were police stations located, like police stations the world over, in the middle of civilian areas.
The US government was one of the first to offer its support for Israel's attacks, and others will follow.

Reports said that many of the dead were Palestinian police officers. Among those Israel labels "terrorists" were more than a dozen traffic police officers undergoing training.
An as yet unknown number of civilians were killed and injured; Al Jazeera showed images of several dead children, and the Israeli attacks came at the time thousands of
Palestinian children were in the streets on their way home from school.

Shmerling's joy has been echoed by Israelis and their supporters around the world; their violence is righteous violence. It is "self-defense" against "terrorists" and therefore justified.
Israeli bombing -- like American and NATO bombing in Iraq and Afghanistan -- is bombing for freedom, peace and democracy.

The rationalization for Israel's massacres, already being faithfully transmitted by the English-language media, is that Israel is acting in "retaliation" for Palestinian rockets fired
with increasing intensity ever since the six-month truce expired on 19 December (until today, no Israeli had been killed or injured by these recent rockets attacks).

But today's horrific attacks mark only a change in Israel's method of killing Palestinians recently. In recent months they died mostly silent deaths, the elderly and sick especially,
deprived of food and necessary medicine by the two year-old Israeli blockade calculated and intended to cause suffering and deprivation to 1.5 million Palestinians, the vast majority refugees and children, caged into the Gaza Strip. In Gaza, Palestinians died silently, for want of basic medications: insulin, cancer treatment, products for dialysis prohibited from reaching them by Israel.

What the media never question is Israel's idea of a truce. It is very simple. Under an Israeli-style truce, Palestinians have the right to remain silent while Israel starves them, kills them and
continues to violently colonize their land. Israel has not only banned food and medicine to sustain Palestinian bodies in Gaza but it is also intent on starving minds: due to the blockade, there
is not even ink, paper and glue to print textbooks for schoolchildren.

As John Ging, the head of operations of the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), told The Electronic Intifada in November: "there was five months of a ceasefire in the last couple of months, where the people of Gaza did not benefit; they did not have any restoration of a dignified existence. We in fact at the UN, our supplies were also restricted during the period of the ceasefire, to the point where we were left in a very vulnerable and precarious position and with a few days of closure we ran out of food."

That is an Israeli truce. Any response to Israeli attacks -- whether peaceful protests against the apartheid wall in Bilin and Nilin in the West Bank is met with bullets and bombs. There are no rockets launched at Israel from the West Bank, and yet Israel's attacks, killings, land theft, settler pogroms and kidnappings never ceased for one single day during the truce. The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah has acceded to all of Israel's demands, even assembling "security forces" to fight the resistance on Israel's behalf. None of that has spared a single Palestinian or her property or livelihood from Israel's relentless violent colonization. It did not save, for instance, the al-Kurd family from seeing their home of 50 years in occupied East Jerusalem demolished on 9 November, so the land it sits on could be taken by settlers.

Once again we are watching massacres in Gaza, as we did last March when 110 Palestinians, including dozens of children, were killed by Israel in just a few days. Once again people everywhere feel rage, anger and despair that this outlaw state carries out such crimes with impunity.

But all over the Arab media and internet today the rage being expressed is not directed solely at Israel. Notably, it is directed more sharply than ever at Arab states. The images that stick are of Israel's foreign minister Tzipi Livni in Cairo on Christmas day. There she sat smiling with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Then there are the pictures of Livni and Egypt's foreign minister smiling and slapping their palms together.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported today that last wednesday the Israeli "cabinet authorized the prime minister, the defense minister, and the foreign minister to determine the timing and the method" of Israel's attacks on Gaza. Everywhere people ask, what did Livni tell the Egyptians and more importantly what did they tell her? Did Israel get a green light to turn Gaza's streets red once again? Few are ready to give Egypt the benefit of the doubt after it has helped Israel besiege Gaza by keeping the Rafah border crossing closed for more than a year.

On top of the intense anger and sadness so many people feel at Israel's renewed mass killings in Gaza is a sense of frustration that there seem to be so few ways to channel it into a political response that can change the course of events, end the suffering, and bring justice.

But there are ways, and this is a moment to focus on them. Already I have received notices of demonstrations and solidarity actions being planned in cities all over the world. That is important. But what will happen after the demonstrations disperse and the anger dies down? Will we continue to let Palestinians in Gaza die in silence?

Palestinians everywhere are asking for solidarity, real solidarity, in the form of sustained, determined political action. The Gaza-based One Democratic State Group reaffirmed this today as it "called upon all civil society organizations and freedom loving people to act immediately in any possible way to put pressure on their governments to end diplomatic ties with Apartheid Israel and institute sanctions against it."

The global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement for Palestine (http://www.bdsmovement.net/) provides the framework for this. Now is the time to channel our raw emotions into a long-term commitment to make sure we do not wake up to "another Gaza" ever again.

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan Books, 2006).



From: "Safa Joudeh"
Date: Sat, 27 Dec 2008 09:31:03 -0600
Subject: Today in Gaza

I've never seen anything like this.  It all happened so fast but the amount of death and destruction is inconceivable, even to me and I'm in the middle of it and a few hours have already passed.  I think 15 locations were hit during the air raid on Gaza.    The images are probably not broadcast in US media.  There are piles and piles of bodies in the locations that were hit.  As you look at them you can see that a few of the young men are still alive, someone lifts a hand here, and another raise his head there.  They probably died within moments because their bodies are burned, most have lost limbs, some have their guts hanging out and they're all lying in pools of blood.    Outside my home, (which is close to the universities) a bomb fell on a large group of young men, university students, they'd been warned not to stand in groups, it makes them an easy target, but they were waiting for buses to take them home.  This was about 3 hours ago  7 were killed, 4 students and 3 of our neighbors

kids, teenagers who were from the same family (Rayes) and were best friends. As I'm writing this I heard a funeral procession go by outside, I looked out the window and it was the 3 Rayes boys,  They spent all their time together when they were alive, and now their sharing the same funeral together.  Nothing could stop my 14 year old brother from rushing out to see the bodies of his friends laying in the street after they were killed.    He hasn't spoken a word since.
A little further down the street about an hour earlier 3 girls happened to be passing by one of the locations when a bomb fell.  The girls bodies were torn into pieces and covered the street from one side to the other.

These are just a couple of images that i've witnessed.    In all the locations people are going through the dead terrified of recognizing a family member among them.  The city is in a state of alarm, panic and confusion, cell phones aren't working, hospitals and morgues are backed up and some of the dead are still lying in the streets with their families gathered around them, kissing their faces, holding on to them.  Outside the destroyed buildings old men are kneeling on the floor weeping.  Their slim hopes of finding their sons still alive vanished after taking one look at what had become of their office buildings.  

160 people dead in today's air raid.  That means 160 funeral processions, a few today, most of them tomorrow probably.    To think that yesterday these families were worried about food and heat and electricity.  At this point I think they -actually all of us- would gladly have Hamas sign off every last basic right we've been calling for the last few months forever if it could have stopped this from ever having happened.

The bombing was very close to my home.    Most of my extended family live in the area.  My family is ok, but 2 of my uncles' homes were damaged, another relative was injured.
I don't know why I'm sending this email.  It doesn't even begin to tell the story on any level. Just flashes of thing that happened today that are going through my head.



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