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قدیمی 12-24-2008, 10:23 PM   #1
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تاریخ عضویت: Aug 2008
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پیش فرض How can keeping food and medicine from the people of Gaza protect the people of Israel...By Harvard Professor

If Gaza falls


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.
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قدیمی 12-24-2008, 11:36 PM   #2
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تاریخ عضویت: Oct 2008
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پیش فرض Re: How can keeping food and medicine from the people of Gaza protect the people of Israel...By Harvard Professor

http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article9997.shtml
Gaza's death throes, and no one's listening
Sonja Karkar, The Electronic Intifada, 27 November 2008

Palestinians wait to fix their old portable "primus" stoves which burn diesel fuel at a shop in the Beach refugee camp in Gaza City, 25 November 2008. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)
What kind of government in the 21st century can deny another people basic human rights -- that is, the right to food, water, shelter, security and dignity?

What kind of government imposes draconian sanctions on another people for democratically electing a government not to its liking?

What kind of government seals a heavily populated territory of 1.5 million people so that no person can enter or leave without permission, fishermen cannot fish in their own waters, and world food aid cannot be delivered to the starving population?

What kind of government shuts off fuel, water and electricity and then rains down on the people, bombs and artillery fire?

The answer is: no government of integrity.

And yet, government after government in Israel continues to demand recognition and accolades as a first world democracy superior to all others, despite Israel's flouting of international law, its human rights abuses and the criminality and corruption of Israeli leaders. Worse still, the world has acquiesced and has welcomed every Israeli administration into its fold as a favored guest.

This should give everyone pause to revisit our noble declarations of independence and human rights, ethics, morality, religious beliefs, civil liberties and the rule of law. Are they just for show or do they really mean something? Are they intended only for some people or for all people?

Israel's President Shimon Peres is just one of the many leaders who have furthered Israel's aggressive policies and programs and yet he has been honored with a knighthood from the Queen and is likely to be honored with a lecture series named after him at Oxford University's Balliol College. Dubious honors indeed, for a man who helped to forcibly expel 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland in the 1948 war.

Today, we are witnessing in Gaza the kind of ghetto the world thought it would never see again and the comparison was conjured up early this year by Israel's Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai when he threatened "a bigger holocaust [shoah]" against the Palestinians in Gaza. Later, he explained away his use of the word as meaning "disaster," when in fact it has emotional connotations well known to everyone. Either way, the threat was ominous enough.

The slow death that is being visited on the Palestinians in Gaza is finding its first victims in more than 400 critically ill patients who are being prevented from leaving Gaza for urgent medical attention in Israeli or Arab hospitals. Thousands of other patients are being turned away from hospitals suffering from a severe shortage of 300 different kinds of medicines.

The hospitals have been deprived of medicines and equipment for so long now, that the trickle of supplies finally being allowed through, can no longer meet the minimum daily needs of the Palestinian civilian population. Similarly, the energy fuel being shipped in, is barely enough to operate the Gaza power plant for one day.

This drip-feeding of aid was suggested by Israeli Prime Ministerial adviser Dov Weissglas who said in February 2006: "The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not make them die of hunger."

Such a malevolent policy has led to a steady increase in malnutrition as people are being starved of their staples of life. Not only have the flour mills been forced to shut down because fuel and power have run out, but now all wheat supplies have been exhausted. Out of the 72 bakeries operating in the Gaza Strip, 29 have completely stopped baking bread and others are expected to follow. This means that even the most staple of all foods -- bread -- will soon not be available for a hungry population.

A Red Cross report describes the effects of the siege as "devastating". Seventy percent of the population is suffering from food insecurity while the suspension of food aid distribution to some 750,000 refugees in the pitiful camps in Gaza since 4 November, has further devastated Palestinians with no recourse to other alternatives.

The United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have all called Israel's blockade "cruel." Former United States President Jimmy Carter makes no apology for describing the situation as "a heinous atrocity" amounting to a war crime.

In Britain, Oxfam's CEO Barbara Stocking has strongly criticized the Foreign Secretary David Miliband for not mentioning the "human desperation" in Gaza on his recent trip to Israel and Palestine.

Israel's tactics though may be unravelling.

So draconian has been Israel's closure of Gaza, the world's biggest media organizations including The New York Times are outraged that their journalists have been banned from entering the Gaza Strip and have protested in writing to Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Christian leaders have also been excluded from Gaza. Last week, Israel prevented Archbishop Franco, the Papal Nuncio in Israel, from celebrating mass to mark the beginning of Advent in the holy weeks leading up to Christmas.

And in the occupied West Bank, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has approved the building of hundreds more illegal settlement units with a flagrant disregard of the peace process agreements, further frustrating the current US administration eager to produce a solution before the end of its term.

What is truly astonishing is the world's silence in the face of all this. The shameful rush to grant Israel every honor and recognition so that it will be saved from the historical ignominy of having orchestrated the destruction of Palestinian society, is nothing short of unconscionable.

Sonja Karkar is the founder and president of Women for Palestine and one of the founders and co-conveners of Australians for Palestine in Melbourne, Australia. She is also the editor of www.australiansforpalestine.com and contributes articles on Palestine regularly to various publications.
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