As israel becomes a political liability it is time to challenge its enablers

Source

by Nada Elia

New York Senator Chuck Schumer. (Photo: Sarah E)

The Great Return March has already made a difference.  As thirty thousand non-violent marchers are all indiscriminately viewed as “legitimate targets” for asserting their inalienable human rights, the image of Israel as a liberal democracy, an image already severely tarnished by its brazen embrace of apartheid over the past few years, is now receiving additional blows that will be hard to recover from.  US politicians are finally noticing, and expressing criticism of the country that was once untouchable. As Philip Weiss notes:  “As protests at the Gaza border get underway this morning, several liberal Democratic politicians have finally objected to Israel’s shooting of unarmed Palestinians at the Gaza fence.” Weiss goes on to point out that the criticism of Israel is nevertheless tempered by the call on Palestinians  “to exercise their rights nonviolently,” and describes Senator Elizabeth Warren’s criticism as “tepid.”

My own take about US politicians’ response to these attacks is quite different.  Up to the latest attacks, on the weekly Great Return Marches by Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, American politicians have come out in droves to assert that offensive formula, “Israel has the right to defend itself.”  It is offensive because Israel is not defending itself, it is defending an illegal occupation, which violates the human rights of a civilian people it is obligated, according to international law, to be protecting. It is also offensive because we have never, not once, heard an equivalent “Palestinians have the right to defend themselves,” even when they are the ones coming under attack.

Much more revealing than the few comments by congresspeople who criticized Israel,  Mark Pocan (WI), Pramila Jayapal (WA), Keith Ellison (MN), Barbara Lee (CA), and Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr. (GA), is that, this time around, not a single Democrat has actually come out to shield Israel.  Not one has stated that “Israel is our friend and strongest ally,” not one has spoken of “joint values.”  As Jonathan Ofir noted, Israel’s genocidal comments are isolating it.

From the Balfour Declaration to today’s Great Return March, the past hundred years of Palestinian history have been one painful trajectory of racist settler-colonial injustice imposed upon the indigenous people, followed by uprisings, which in turn are violently suppressed, until the people can take no more, and rise up again, demanding justice.  The revolts, the 1936-39 uprising against Mandate Britain, (sometimes known as “the first intifada”) and more recently, the 1987 and 2000 intifadas, have taken on many forms, from armed insurrection to completely peaceful protests. They have invariably been met with extreme violence on the part of the oppressor, whether England, which first imposed martial law and crafted many of the measures Israel still employs in its discrimination against the Palestinians, to the full blown massacres Israel now routinely engages in, as it finally strips off the mask of “democracy:” to declare that every Palestinian refugee is a legitimate target.

This is the turning point we have been looking for, when Israel is finally viewed by its hitherto enablers as a liability, not an asset.  At a time when the US is deeply divided between white supremacy and the impulse to resist fascism, the toxic collision between Trump and Netanyahu, and on the popular level between white nationalism and Zionism, is forcing US politicians to distance themselves from an Israel that is ever more open about its true nature as a racist, genocidal state.  Now, then, is the time to break the Zionist hold on our “representatives,” and make it very clear to them that they do not have our support while they profess “joint values” with Israel.

And this is already happening, as outraged citizens are indeed confronting our politicians. It started a couple of years ago,  at town halls across the nation.  We must increase the pressure.  We could ask Bernie Sanders, for example, who rehashed the cliché of “disproportionate response,” as he explained that Israel “over reacted” to the marches, what, exactly, he would view as  an appropriate “response” to unarmed civilians asserting their inalienable human rights. Should Israel have killed five, instead of seventeen protesters? Maybe only three? Would killing three unarmed protesters be “proportionate?”

If we don’t seize the moment of outrage, now, as Israel shows its bare face of criminality, we might as well abandon the struggle.  But if we want change, rather than a scream of pain, we must direct our activism towards those who enable the oppressor. It is past time we stopped discussing such irrelevant matters as whether Palestinian resistance is fully non-violent.  It is resistance, by a dispossessed, disenfranchised, oppressed people, against a nuclear power that does not recognize the humanity of the Palestinians whose most basic rights it has been violating for seventy years.

And it was certainly never appropriate to worry about how Israel will be impacted by the Right of Return. Worrying about the impact of the Right of Return on Israel is like university administrators who prioritize the impact of a rape conviction on the rapist. “Oh but it would destroy his career as an athlete!” The Right of Return is non-negotiable. A country that violates it is the criminal party. Palestinians returning to the town and villages they fled during Al Nakba will change the demographics in Israel, but it would be justice at long last.  Those demographics, allowing Israel to claim it is a “Jewish democracy,” are themselves the result of violence, and can only be maintained through violence.  Besides, qualifying “democracy” voids that very term. Would we ever accept, rather than ridicule and criticize, a country that claims to be a “male democracy,” or a “Muslim democracy?”  And Ahed Tamimi’s slapping of the Israeli occupation soldier is no more “violent” than a woman scratching her rapist. We have prioritized the oppressor for way too long.

In a little under a month, Palestinians will be commemorating the 70th anniversary of Al Nakba.  We can be part of the solution, by confronting Israel’s enablers here in the US.  Or we can let our outrage join history’s heap pile of missed opportunities. And forget about the ideals of freedom, self-determination, justice.  They can be buried in the rubble in Gaza.

Let us do our part.

Advertisements

Trump envoy blames Hamas for Gaza ‘disaster’, whitewashes israel’s blockade

Source

Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, has attacked Hamas in an op-ed in the Washington Post, and announced that the White House will soon be “brainstorming” for solutions to the situation in the occupied Gaza Strip.

Intifada - Cartoon [Sarwar Ahmed/MiddleEastMonitor]

Intifada – Cartoon [Sarwar Ahmed/MiddleEastMonitor]

According to Greenblatt, “in response to the burgeoning humanitarian situation in Gaza, key countries and stakeholders are preparing to act”, placing the blame for the “humanitarian disaster” entirely on “Hamas’ exploitation of the Palestinians of Gaza”.

The envoy referenced a recent meeting in Cairo, and revealed “there will be a brainstorming session at the White House next week to find real solutions to the problems that Hamas has caused”.

The “Gaza conference” in Washington will, Greenblatt said, “focus on ideas for how to develop, over time, a viable economy in Gaza”, taking into account “Egypt’s and Israel’s security concerns”.

Focusing entirely on Hamas, the senior official stated that the Trump administration is committed “to find a path to a brighter future for the Palestinians of Gaza”, who, Greenblatt said, “have the opportunity to reject the failed policies of Hamas”.

Read: Hamas denies US accusations on Gaza misery

Greenblatt’s op-ed failed to mention the status of the Gaza Strip as under Israeli military occupation, as affirmed by the UN Security Council, nor the over decade-long illegal blockade of the territory.

54 patients died waiting for israel to let them out of Gaza. Their treatment would have been better had they been ISIS terrorists

Source

Cancer patients take part in a December 2016 protest in Gaza City demanding that they be allowed to travel for treatment. In 2017, 54 patients died in Gaza after Israel denied or delayed such permits, the majority of them cancer patients.

Mohammed Asad APA images

Fifty-four Palestinians died last year waiting for Israeli permits to leave the Gaza Strip for medical treatment.

One of them was Faten Ahmed, a 26-year-old with a rare form of cancer. She died in August while awaiting an Israeli permit to travel for chemotherapy and radiotherapy not available in Gaza.

She had previously missed eight hospital appointments after Israeli “security approval” was delayed or denied, according to the World Health Organization.

Ahmed was one of five women who died from cancer in that month alone waiting for Israeli permission that never came.

Overall, 46 of those who died last year waiting for permits were cancer patients.

Shocking number of deaths

This staggering toll highlights the lethal impact of Israel’s ever-tightening siege on the two million people who live in Gaza.

“We’re seeing Israel increasingly deny or delay access to potentially life-saving cancer and other treatment outside Gaza, with shockingly high numbers of Palestinian patients subsequently dying, while Gaza’s healthcare system – subjected to half a century of occupation and a decade of blockade – is decreasingly able to meet the needs of its population,” Aimee Shalan, CEO of Medical Aid for Palestinians, said on Tuesday.

Her charity, along with Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and Physicians for Human Rights Israel, has issued an urgent call on Israel to “lift the unlawful sweeping restrictions on the freedom of movement of people from Gaza, most critically those with significant health problems.”

In 2017 Israeli occupation authorities approved just 54 percent of applications for permits to leave Gaza for medical appointments, the lowest rate since the World Health Organization began collecting data in 2008.

Israel has dramatically tightened the deadly squeeze; its approval rate for permits fell from 92 percent in 2012 to 82 percent in 2014 and then 62 percent in 2016, before hitting its lowest point last year.

The health and human rights groups note that the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross have declared Israel’s land, sea and air blockade on Gaza, preventing the movement of its population, to be “collective punishment” – a war crime.

“Palestinians from Gaza missed at least 11,000 scheduled medical appointments in 2017 after Israeli authorities denied or failed to respond in time to applications for permits,” the groups state.

Egypt and Palestinian Authority complicit

The groups also note that Egypt and the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority played a role in worsening the situation: “Egypt has kept the Rafah crossing mostly closed for the population in Gaza since 2013, which contributed to restricting access to health care.”

“As a state bordering a territory with a protracted humanitarian crisis, Egypt should facilitate humanitarian access for the population,” they state. “Nevertheless, ultimate responsibility remains with Israel, the occupying power.”

The Palestinian Authority also sharply reduced its financial approvals for medical treatment outside Gaza as part of its sanctions aimed at forcing Hamas to hand over control of the governance of Gaza.

These PA restrictions resulted in at least one death, according to the groups. But medical authorities in Gaza have said that more than a dozen people, including a 3-year-old girl with a heart condition, died waiting for payment approval from Ramallah.

All of this comes amid the protracted siege-induced crisis which has brought the collapse of key parts of the health system.

“Amid widespread poverty and unemployment, at least 10 percent of young children are stunted by chronic malnutrition, up to half of all medicines and medical items in Gaza are completely depleted or below one month’s supply, and chronic electricity shortages have caused officials to cut health and other essential services,” the human rights and medical groups state.

End the siege

Earlier this month, hospitals in Gaza began shutting down as emergency generators ran out of fuel, forcing the postponement of hundreds of operations.

On Wednesday, RT posted this report from Gaza about the plight of cancer patients. Correspondent Anya Parampil spoke to Zakia Tafish whose husband Jamil died after he was repeatedly blocked from traveling to Jerusalem for surgery.

The channel also aired a report about the worsening situation in the territory’s hospitals.

Following UN warnings of looming catastrophe, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates last week pledged $11 million in short-term funding to stave off an even worse catastrophe for another few months.

However, as the human rights groups note, there is no long-term solution but to end the siege.

“The Israeli government’s restrictions on movement are directly connected to patient deaths and compounded suffering as ill patients seek permits,” Al Mezan director Issam Younis said.

“These practices form part of the closure and permit regime that prevents patients from a life of dignity, and violates the right to life.”

The UK-based Medical Aid for Palestinians is calling on the public to contact lawmakers in the British parliament and “ask them to urge the UK government to take action and save lives in Gaza.”

 

Gaza: A Concentration Camp of 1.5 Million People

Source

By Jean Shaoul,

Israel mounts fresh military assault on Gaza

Israeli forces attacked 18 targets in the Gaza Strip belonging to Hamas, which controls the besieged enclave, in the second such action over the weekend.

The strikes followed an explosion during a demonstration of Palestinians on the southern border with Israel Saturday that injured four Israeli soldiers. The Israeli military shot and killed two Palestinian teenagers in response. It was the worst such border incident since Israel’s war against Gaza in 2014 and portends a broader offensive.

None of the militant groups in Gaza has claimed responsibility for the explosion. Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman accused the Popular Resistance Committees, one of the smaller armed groups in Gaza, of detonating the bomb. Nevertheless, as always Israel holds Hamas, the Islamist national bourgeois party that controls Gaza, responsible for the attack.

For months, there have been almost weekly demonstrations against Israel’s blockade of Gaza and the deteriorating economic conditions. Last December, tensions rose after US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Earlier this year, Gaza’s traders closed in protest over the deteriorating situation.

Israel’s Army Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot warned the cabinet recently that tensions were rising due to the worsening humanitarian crisis, that demonstrations were increasing in size and that an incident along the fence could spark an escalation of hostilities. His purpose was to get cabinet approval for harsh measures to deal with the crisis in the face of Gaza’s economic collapse.

Conditions in Gaza, a narrow coastal strip on the Egyptian-Israeli border, after 11 years of living under a land, sea and air blockade, are hellish.

Last year, a United Nations report stated that the living conditions for two million Palestinians had deteriorated “further and faster” than the prediction made in 2012 that the enclave would become “unlivable” by 2020. Large numbers of people are destitute. Forty-six percent of the population are without work. Sixty five percent live on $1.90 or less a day. This collapse in purchasing power has led to a huge drop in the number of trucks entering Gaza with food and equipment—from 800-1,200 a day to just 300.

Power shortages mean that most Palestinians are lucky if they get four hours of electricity a day. There is not enough power to pump sewage, so 95 percent of Gaza’s drinking water is not fit to drink. The coastal aquifer is almost unusable and will soon be irreversibly-depleted unless remedial action is taken.

The health system is collapsing, medical supplies are dwindling and clinics are closing, causing untold suffering and unnecessary deaths. Unable to get treatment in Gaza for complicated or chronic medical problems, many seek treatment in Egypt, Israel, the West Bank or Jordan. Yet last year, Israel granted just 54 percent of 25,000 applications for travel permits in time for patients to attend their scheduled appointments, down from 92 percent in 2012. As a result, at least 54 people died in 2017 waiting for visas.

Children are in school for just four hours a day.

There is no escape from this open-air prison. Israel has surrounded the Gaza Strip with a high-tech barrier and spent almost $1 billion building an underground-barrier project to seal its border to the attack tunnels into Israel. It controls two of the three exit points, while Egypt controls the third. Last year, Israel issued one-third of the number of exit visas issued two years earlier and just one percent of the number in early 2000. Movement between the two Palestinian territories, Gaza and the West Bank, in either direction is all but impossible.

The economic and social plight of the two million Palestinians living in the tiny enclave has been dire ever since Israel, with the full support of the US, European Union and the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority (PA)—particularly since 2013—imposed a blockade on Gaza. Jordan, by imposing strict transit conditions on Gazans, and Egypt, which controls the Rafah crossing, have played a key role in the siege.

The siege of Gaza was mounted following the unexpected victory of Hamas over Fatah in the January 2006 elections which the major powers had intended as a means of strengthening the hand of Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah leader and PA President. Winning 44 percent of the vote in the West Bank and Gaza, compared to Fatah’s 41 percent, Hamas took 74 of the 132-seat Palestinian Legislative Council.

Hamas’ election victory was the result of widespread disgust at Fatah’s corruption and subservience to Israel. The Oslo Accords, which Hamas had earlier opposed, had brought wealth for a few and unemployment, poverty and military oppression for the majority, while the Israeli settlements on land to be included in any future state had increased.

Despite Hamas’ willingness to accept some form of a “two state solution” and take a minority role in a coalition with Fatah, Israel and the US rejected this. They demanded Hamas abandon its three core tenets and renounce the use of arms, recognise Israel and sign up to the Oslo Accords in return for international recognition of a Hamas-controlled PA, or face an international boycott. The other members of the Quartet, the UN, European Union and Russia, soon fell in line with Washington’s demands, and the EU too cut its aid to the PA.

The US and Israel were determined to prevent any attempts by Fatah and Hamas to reach an agreement, deepening the split between the two factions in order to divide and rule, while increasing Hamas’ economic dependence on Qatar and Iran.

In June 2006, Israel launched an attack on Gaza, knocking out its power station, making Gaza increasingly dependent on Israel for its electricity and precipitating daily power cuts lasting for hours at a time. Israel tightened its blockade on Gaza after Hamas forestalled and defeated an attempted coup by Fatah in a brief but brutal civil war in June 2007. Three military assaults on Gaza in 2008-09, 2012 and 2014 killed 1,417, 147 and 2,250 Palestinians respectively, and destroyed much of Gaza’s basic infrastructure together with tens of thousands of homes. Around 90,000 of the 500,000 people displaced by the 2014 assault remain displaced or homeless.

The blockade worsened after the military coup in Egypt that toppled the Muslim Brotherhood-led government of Mohammed Morsi and the clampdown on the Brotherhood and Hamas—a Brotherhood affiliate—by the military junta of Abdul Fattah el-Sisi.

El-Sisi closed Egypt’s border crossing at Rafah and forced Hamas to close the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt that had provided a means of circumventing Israel’s blockade and a source of income, by taxing the goods brought in, for Hamas.

Last year, Abbas imposed further hardship on Gaza. He stopped paying Israel for fuel for Gaza’s power station and electrical transmission into the Gaza Strip and ended or cut salary payments to thousands of public sector workers. This was to force Hamas into “reconciliation” talks with Fatah that culminated in a Cairo-brokered agreement in October. But the talks have stalled and the promised relief has failed to materialise.

In October, the World Food Programme announced a cutback in its food voucher programme in Gaza due to a budget shortfall.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration withheld $65 million in funding for the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA), which supports some 1.2 million in Gaza, as well as $45 million in food aid in the West Bank and Gaza that it had promised for an emergency UNRWA appeal.

UNRWA has for decades provided key social services as well as a vital lifeline for the poorest Palestinians. Now that too has gone and the viability of the agency itself is in question.

*

Featured image is from Defend Democracy Press.

Genocide? As Gaza Dries Out, israel Turns Off Fresh Water Spigot

Source

Rather than heeding the warnings from the UN to open up Gaza’s blockade and allow vital aid, what we have witnessed over the course of the last decade is a periodic all-out Israeli assault on Gaza’s vital infrastructure.

GAZA  (Analysis) — Near the end of last month, Haaretz reported that, according to an expert hydrologist, 97 percent of Gaza’s drinking water has been contaminated by sewage and salt. The UN also confirmed that this was the case early last year, and clearly, the situation has remained unchanged even up until 2018. Robert Piper, the UN’s local coordinator for humanitarian and development activities, has called the situation “really very serious” and stated that “[w]e are falling far behind the demand for clean drinking water for Gazans.”This kind of mistreatment is part and parcel of an overall package of deprivation that continues to plague the Palestinian people. There are some 2 million residents in Gaza affected by this egregious policy, famously one of the most densely populated areas on the planet. Gaza’s water resources are fully controlled by Israel and the division of groundwater is something that was provided for in the Oslo II Accord. However, despite the fact that under the Accord Israel is allocated four times the Palestinian portion of water resources, it has been revealed that Israel has been extracting 80 percent more water from the West Bank than it agreed to.

In 2009, the World Bank wrote that the responsibility was on the government of Israel to recognize that water and sanitation is a central component of the Gaza Strip humanitarian crisis and make arrangements to facilitate fuel distribution to some 170 water and sewage pumps in Gaza; maintain the Beit Lahiya Sewage Lake; and restore regular electricity supply in order to reduce dependence on fuel for generators.

<img src=”https://www.mintpressnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Citizen-Activist-email.png”/> According to the World Bank, at the time, almost all of Gaza’s population was without running water and was dependent on stored water supplies. The World Bank also noted that nearly all sewage and water pumps were out of operation due to lack of electricity and diminished fuel supplies, something that we will address below. But once again, these deficiencies fall squarely on the shoulders of the Israeli government, which is wholly responsible for Gaza’s electricity and water supply.

In order to rectify the issue, the Deputy UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Maxwell Gaylard, called for the immediate opening of Gaza’s crossings to allow the entry of spare parts and materials critical to the restoration of Gaza’s water and sanitation services. Israel famously closed Gaza’s crossing points in June 2007 and the local population has been suffering ever since.

However, there are many other factors that have helped to create this humanitarian catastrophe. Israel routinely unleashes bombing campaigns on the Gaza Strip every few years, targeting vital infrastructure, including destroying Gaza’s only power plant in 2014. The blockade single-handedly prevents vital materials and equipment from making its way into Gaza, making redevelopment impossible, even some four years later.

 

Electricity supply

A Palestinian family warm themselves on a fire outside their makeshift home during a power cut in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. (AP/ Khalil Hamra)

A Palestinian family warm themselves on a fire outside their makeshift home during a power cut in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. (AP/ Khalil Hamra)

According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the Gaza Strip endures dry, hot summers that are subject to drought.

Exploiting these conditions, Israel has used electricity as an inventive point of leverage to torture the Palestinian people, while the international community has stayed largely silent. This is the same international community that cites human rights abuses in Syria, Iran, and North Korea to promote military intervention and regime change to suit its geopolitical needs, yet stays silent as 2 million Gazan residents are suffering immensely in what is widely regarded as an open-air prison and the world’s largest ghetto.

On a good day, residents in Gaza over the last six months have been receiving three to four hours of electricity per day, the flow of which is controlled by Israel. However, according to the Times of Israel, Gazans were only able to obtain four hours’ worth of electricity thanks mainly to fuel supplies sent from Egypt. On a bad day, some estimates cite that Gazans have been receiving as little as two hours electricity per day if any at all.

After the Palestinian Authority said it would begin resuming payment for Israeli electricity flows to the Gaza Strip (at a cost of some $2.8 million per month), Israel announced it would restore its share of the electricity supply. However, this will increase Gaza’s electricity supply only to approximately six hours’ worth of electricity per day. The outage of electricity is expected to last for 12 hours a day at least, according to the Electronic Intifada.

One should bear in mind that, with a Gazan population of around 2 million residents, the effects of this stringent electricity supply are felt far beyond just the average household. In August of last year, Gaza’s children’s hospitals also warned of a health “catastrophe,” as power cuts routinely take place during four-hour-long dialysis treatment.

For years, Israel has attempted to shed blame from its inhumane policies and instead point to the debacle solely on an internal Palestinian issue between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Last year, Human Rights Watch’s director for the region, Omar Shakir, told the right-wing pro-Israel publication Algemeiner that because Israel is “legally the occupying power,” it bore the brunt of the responsibility for this crisis. “Israel controls the borders, the airspace, the waters of Gaza, so Israel has an obligation that goes beyond merely responding to a request from Palestinian authorities,” Shakir reportedly said.

The Electronic Intifada also notes that Israel has been using electricity as a politically viable blackmail tool, with Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) stating it would restore electricity after Israeli prisoners held in Gaza were returned, as well as the bodies of two Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul. It is also worth noting that Egypt, too, shares a great deal of the blame for this horrific treatment of the Palestinian people

 

Assaults on Gaza

a Palestinian girl walks next to destroyed houses, in the Shijaiyah neighborhood of Gaza City

A Palestinian girl walks next to destroyed houses, in the Shijaiyah neighborhood of Gaza City after a devastating bombing campaign by Israel in March of 2015.

Rather than heeding the warnings from the UN to open up Gaza’s blockade and allow vital aid, what we have witnessed over the course of the last decade is a periodic all-out assault on Gaza’s vital infrastructure.

Since the blockade was enforced, there have been three major IDF operations in Gaza: Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, and Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

Following Operation Cast Lead, the World Bank reported that there had been severe damage to the water and sanitation infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.


Read more by Darius Shahtahmasebi


After Operation Protective Edge in 2014, the UN reported that more than 20,000 Palestinian homes, 148 schools and 60 healthcare centers in Gaza were damaged or destroyed. Israel even bombed a disability center at the time. Gaza has no air force, no air defenses, and no substantive military to defend its people.

While most pro-Israeli pundits would point to Hamas rocket fire as an excuse for the interventions, the truth on the ground tells a different story.

The Submission to the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict, published by Truthout, quite clearly demonstrates that Israeli airstrikes and ground attacks preceded Hamas rocket fire; and that Hamas rocket-fire had been nonexistent since Israel’s previous assault in 2012. In other words, Hamas had been abiding by its terms of the ceasefire — even while Israel had been starving Gaza of basic human rights, as argued and outlined above.

Further, in July 2014, The Guardian published a blog by investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed, which claimed Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza in 2014 was rooted in a desire to control Palestinian gas off the coast of Gaza and had nothing to do with concerns about Hamas rocket fire. The Guardian axed his blog not long after.

The Jerusalem debacle

Israeli police fire tear gas at Palestine protesters during protests against US. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Ramallah, Occupied Palestine. Feb 2, 2018. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)

Israeli police fire tear gas at Palestine protesters during protests against US. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Ramallah, Occupied Palestine. Feb 2, 2018. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)

Israel modus operandi has been to attack Gaza by punishing the civilian population with these heavy sanctions affecting its basic life necessities. It is almost as if the Israeli government has been attempting to provoke a response from the Gaza Strip, which could then be used again to justify yet another intervention — given it has been proven that Israel has lied about its stated reasons for intervention in the past. This response, however, never came in the form that Israel might have hoped for.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel, inflaming an already tense situation, was the political icing on the cake of Palestinian suffering. Regardless of one’s views on the Israel-Palestine conflict, which continues to divide people all along the political spectrum, the fact remains that this decision alone pushed an already volatile situation to a point of outright violence. According to Reuters, since Trump’s infamous decision, at least 13 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli forces.

Further, it wasn’t long after Trump’s announcement that Israel began resuming air strikes in the Gaza Strip. Perhaps this is a sign of things to come in the not-too-distant future. While tensions are heating up between Israel and Syria, Lebanon and Iran, it has been largely overlooked that Hamas and Israel are preparing for an imminent war even as we speak.

 

Gaza in crisis

A Palestinian man and his son warm themselves by a fire during cold, rainy weather on the outskirts of the Khan Younis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, Jan. 5, 2018. (AP/ Khalil Hamra)

A Palestinian man and his son warm themselves by a fire during cold, rainy weather on the outskirts of the Khan Younis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, Jan. 5, 2018. (AP/ Khalil Hamra)

In 2015, the UN predicted that Gaza would become uninhabitable by 2020. Not pulling any punches, the UN concedes the cause of this crisis is based on two important factors: Israeli military operations and the decades-long blockade that has crippled Gaza’s economy and infrastructure. Reportedly, Gaza has an unemployment rate of some 50 percent, the highest unemployment rate in the world, with a youth unemployment rate of at least 60 percent.

According to The New York Times, UN officials are warning that Gaza is facing a total collapse. Rather than exporting some much-needed freedom, human rights and democracy, the Trump administration instead announced that it would withhold $65 million from UNRWA — vital money required for providing basic necessities for some 1.2 million Palestinians in Gaza. The Times also wrote:

Still, whether out of bluster or desperation, Gazans both in and out of power have begun talking openly about confronting Israel over its blockade in the kind of mass action that could easily lead to casualties and escalation.”

No matter how one cuts it, whether Israel has been intentionally trying to elicit a response from Gaza or not, the fact remains that the Israeli government is intentionally pursuing a long list of policies that will almost certainly lead to a hostile escalation, as the international community continues to turn a blind eye to the everyday suffering of the Palestinian people. Israeli policies indeed border on a systematic genocide that will, if unchecked, completely erode the Gaza Strip to nothingness in just a few short years.

Top Photo | Palestinian children fill their bottles with water from a UNICEF tap in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. (Photo: UNICEF)

Darius Shahtahmasebi is a practicing attorney with an interest in human rights, international law, and journalism. He is a graduate of the University of Otago, where he obtained degrees in Law and Japanese. Follow him on Twitter at @TVsLeaking.

israel Using Electricity to Blackmail Gaza, a gross violation of international law.

Israel Using Electricity to Blackmail Gaza

A Palestinian man holds up a sign that says “We want electricity” at a rally in Jabaliya in northern Gaza against the chronic power shortages imposed on the territory, January 2017.

Mohammed Asad APA images

 

Israel has restored supplies of electricity it sells to the Gaza Strip which it cut in June, exacerbating a humanitarian crisis.

But it is openly blackmailing residents of the besieged territory, which still receives far less electricity than it needs, including to run life-saving medical services and sanitation.

Israel says Gaza won’t get more power without progress on the release of Israelis detained in Gaza – a use of basic humanitarian needs as bargaining chips in gross violation of international law.

On Monday, Israel began supplying 120 megawatts to Gaza, which means that Gaza’s two million residents may now receive up to six hours of electricity per day, followed by an outage of 12 hours.

This came after the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas asked Israel to restore the supply amid a faltering reconciliation deal with rival Hamas, which has ruled in Gaza over the last decade.

Five of The Electronic Intifada’s contributors in different parts of Gaza said they had noticed slight to modest improvements in the situation since Monday.

Rami Almeghari, who lives in central Gaza’s Maghazi refugee camp, said that the connection time had risen to six to eight hours, compared with two to four previously.

Hamza Abu Eltarabesh, who lives in western Gaza City, observed, “The change is very slight. In fact we didn’t feel it.”

Punitive cuts

Any increase marks an improvement only by the dire standards of Gaza.

“Even under ‘ordinary’ conditions, for years the amount of electricity available to Gaza residents has only met about half of actual demand,” according to Gisha, an Israeli human rights group that monitors the siege of Gaza.

Gisha notes that Gaza’s sole power plant relies on fuel purchased from either Israel or Egypt and that additional electricity supplied over lines from Egypt “has been sporadic due to unstable security conditions in the region.”

That “ordinary” situation got considerably worse last year, after Abbas and Israel implemented a series of punitive measures aimed at forcing Hamas to give up power in Gaza.

In mid-April Gaza’s power plant stopped functioning after emergency fuel supplies funded by Turkey and Qatar ran out and a dispute over charges between the PA and Hamas meant that no more fuel was being purchased.

Within weeks, the Red Cross warned that Gaza’s health system was on the brink of “systemic collapse.”

In June, Israel tightened the noose by sharply cutting the electricity it supplies to Gaza at the request of Abbas’ authority from 120 megawatts to just 70.

Health “catastrophe”

By July, Gaza’s electricity supply plunged to an all-time low – just 90 megawatts of the estimated 400-500 it needs daily – and a month later hospitals were warning of “catastrophe.”

Hospitals postponed surgeries because they could not keep the power on long enough to run life support equipment.

Rights groups said that even if the cuts had been requested by the PA, Israel, as the occupying power, could not wash its hands of the situation.

“Israel controls the borders, the airspace, the waters of Gaza, so Israel has an obligation that goes beyond merely responding to a request from Palestinian authorities,” Human Rights Watch’s Omar Shakir stated.

Sixteen human rights organizations wrote to Israel’s attorney general denouncing the cuts as a clear violation of international humanitarian law.

Blackmail

Given the silence and complicity of the so-called international community when Israel implemented the cuts in June, it is no surprise now that Israel – assured of impunity – continues to violate its legal responsibilities.

COGAT – the bureaucratic enforcement arm of Israel’s military occupation, which tries to brand itself as a “humanitarian” body – is attempting to blackmail the civilian population in Gaza over further electricity supplies.

In a statement Monday, COGAT said Israel had agreed to restore the 120 megawatts it was supplying before June, which the PA would have to pay for, but that “humanitarian issues are not one sided.”

COGAT said that Israel would not consider selling an additional 100 megawatts “before humanitarian issues such as the return of the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul and the return of additional Israeli citizens held in Gaza are discussed.”

Israel’s attempt to use electricity as a negotiating chip for Israelis detained in Gaza is a blatant violation of its legal obligations as an occupying power.

The Fourth Geneva Convention requires Israel to use “the fullest extent of the means available to it” to ensure supplies of food and medical services, and to maintain public health and hygiene in the occupied territory. These are services for which an adequate supply of electricity is absolutely essential.

Such blackmail could violate the Fourth Geneva Convention’s prohibition on collective punishment and the prohibition in international law on siege warfare against a civilian population.

The International Committee of the Red Cross already stated in 2010 that Israel’s blockade of Gaza that began a decade ago “constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law” and that the “whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility.”

Sheer hypocrisy

The family of Hadar Goldin, an Israeli occupation soldier who went missing during Israel’s 2014 invasion of Gaza, slammed the Israeli government for increasing the electricity supply to Gaza at all. The family remains determined that two million people – half of them children – should be made to suffer until they learn news of their son’s fate.

Following Goldin’s disappearance, the Israeli army went on a three-day killing spree in Gaza that left 225 Palestinians dead and thousands of homes damaged or destroyed.

COGAT even supplied a quote from Leah Goldin, the missing soldier’s mother, stating that “every mother wants to visit her son’s grave and the inability to return Hadar Goldin for his burial is considered a crime in Islam.”

Neither she nor Israeli occupation officials at COGAT noted the irony – not to say the sheer hypocrisy of such a statement – given that Israel systematically withholds the bodies of Palestinians killed by its forces, often in suspected extrajudicial executions, a policy that human rights defenders denounce as a “severe violation of international law.”

Israel has withheld some bodies for decades, burying them in its so-called “cemetery of numbers” where families cannot visit to mourn their loved ones.

In November, Israel seized the bodies of five fighters from the resistance group Islamic Jihad killed in the detonation of a tunnel along the Gaza-Israel boundary.

According to human rights defenders, Israel is illegally using the bodies as bargaining chips.

While Palestinians in Gaza will welcome any easing of the electricity siege, the situation remains dire despite Monday’s increase in supply.

As 2018 started, the World Health Organization said that Gaza’s health system remained “on the edge of collapse.”

 

The U.S. Is Complicit in Slow-Motion Genocide in Palestine

%d bloggers like this: