- During a recent visit, a 50-person European Campaign
to End the Siege of Gaza (ECESG) assessed conditions on the ground firsthand,
one year after Operation Cast Lead:
- "to collect and document the facts, and then return
to our respective countries and the European Parliament to push for actions
that will bring immediate humanitarian relief and an end to the siege,
as well as peace and justice to the Palestinian people," what they've
long been denied under a repressive occupation.
- ECESG (www.savegaza.eu) calls itself:
- "an umbrella body of non-governmental organizations
across Europe that advocates (for) the fundamental right of the Palestinian
people in Gaza to live in peace and dignity without being subjected to
any form of collective punishment....ECESG supports the restoration of
(Gazans') inalienable rights....and lobbies for pressure to be exerted
on (Israel) to lift its siege and end the human tragedy there."
- Meetings were held with Palestinian Legislative Council
members, Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, and UNRWA Director of Operations,
- Areas toured were most affected, including Izbet Abet
Rabu, the Al-Fakhoura School, and the Al-Salam neighborhood. Delegates
also met with Al-Samouni family survivors who lost 23 members during the
- They saw firsthand what human rights and various international
organizations documented, including the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) Goldstone
Commission's damning indictment of Israeli crimes of war and against humanity
after its extensive 2009 fact finding mission.
- The combination of destructive war, siege, and humanitarian
crisis has been well reported. Nonetheless, ECESG's report is important
because it's current and by 50 European parliamentarians and ministers,
able to reach other high level officials at home, perhaps with enough clout
for action - if not now, toward it happening sooner.
- Israel's edifice is weakening. It's just a matter of
time until it's effectively pierced. The ECESG, Judge Goldstone, the Global
BDS movement, and other committed activists will realize it by relentlessly
hammering for peace, equality and justice. Nothing less must be accepted
- Highlights of ECESG's Report - Destruction of Homes
- Many thousands need "complete rebuilding (or) major
repairs" - besides the huge backlog of others from previous Israeli-inflicted
destruction. As a result, throughout Gaza, houses are half built for lack
of materials, many "condemned as unhygienic or unsafe to live in."
- Colin Low, UK House of Lords member and president of
the European Blind Union said:
- "I was immediately struck by the desperate condition
of the inhabitants of Izbet Abed Rabu, a small village (in) northeastern
Gaza. Some 300 - 400 houses, a factory and farmland had been completely
razed to the ground. (What's left) could only be described as a bomb site
through which I had to pick my way carefully. We met a family who were
obviously (for over a year) living in the most abject of conditions - three
or four generations, including an old lady....over 100, living in a tent
without washing facilities of any kind and only a make shift fire on the
ground for cooking."
- Clear evidence also found showed Israeli forces targeted
civilian homes with heavy-caliber weapons and shells - attacks unrelated
to military necessity, but to target civilians and ease access for IDF
- "The use of such unwarranted weapons on civilian
buildings....indicates a deliberate breach of" Fourth Geneva, unmentioned
in the Goldstone report. It also corroborates Israeli NGOs (including Breaking
the Silence) saying commanders ordered troops to intimidate the local population
- kill civilians and destroy homes, other property and non-military structures
to prevent a return to normalcy post-conflict.
- The Al-Samouni family (that lost 23 of its 48 members)
was also visited. Earlier, Masouda Al-Samouni told the Palestinians Centre
for Human Rights (PCHR):
- "I have no hope, no future, I lost everything in
the offensive. I was in the corner with my children just watching. I was
screaming and crying, I saw everything, the blood and the brains. There
was smoke everywhere. I saw my brother-in-law falling down, and my mother-in-law.
I realized that my three brothers-in-law and my mother-in-law were dead....I
was injured in the chest and couldn't move....I was bleeding and five months
- Israeli soldiers entered Ateya Al-Samouni's home forcibly.
He identified himself as the owner. "The soldiers shot him while he
was still holding his ID and an Israeli driving license. The soldiers then
opened fire inside the room" where 20 family members were sheltered,
killing or wounding many. Other abuse followed, including Mona Al-Samouni
witnessing her parents shot to death and Almaza A-Samouni, whose mother
and six siblings were killed.
- Survivors suffer from depression and nightmares. Like
most others throughout Gaza, they live in deep poverty with no source of
income and no publicity about their plight.
- "It is shocking that such destruction and trauma
are still festering more than a year after the invasion."
- It's because of Israel's imposed siege, prohibiting vitally
needed construction materials from entering, except for a few token truckloads
a month for a 1.5 million population needing hundreds on a regular basis
- School Destruction
- As a result, education is in crisis for lack of facilities,
supplies, and traumatized children unable to concentrate on learning. Even
before the war, the siege heavily impacted schools. The previous year,
82% of government schools and 88% of UNRWA ones operated on double-shifts
- Post-conflict, it's much worse. Hundreds of schools were
damaged, 18 or more entirely destroyed, and several others used as shelters
were targeted to kill civilians, dozens in all.
- International law prohibits attacking schools, hospitals,
mosques, UN facilities and other non-military structures. Doing so is a
war crime. Doing it in densely populated Gaza was gratuitous mass murder,
especially since UNRWA head John Ging gave IDF forces exact coordinates
of UN facilities, including schools attacked. He also said:
- "I can tell you categorically that there was no
military activity in (the Al-Fakhoura) school at the time of the tragedy.
(Those murdered) were innocent people," sheltering from conflict.
- The American International School was also visited, entirely
destroyed and not rebuilt one year later. "To date, almost nothing
has been rebuilt or repaired as a result of the ban on" construction
materials. Gerald Kaufman, British MP said:
- "The Minister of Education told us that the exam
results at the schools are falling since (the war). Even worse, we were
told by psychiatrists that children now routinely ask when they will die."
Every day longer the siege continues further damages Gaza's youths.
- Living Without Power
- Although key lines were restored, 90% of Gazans experience
up to 8 hours of stoppage daily, EU nations exacerbating conditions by
cutting off pre-siege PEGASE program funding - subsidies for fuel purchases.
As a result, over half of all Gazans have reduced or no power because the
sole plant can't supply it. Refrigerators, stoves, heaters and other appliances
can't be used. Children can't do homework in the dark. Emergency surgeries
are disrupted or can't be performed, at times with life-threatening consequences.
- Lack of Enough Clean Water
- The supply and regular disruptions are a daily fact of
life, especially for half the population in high-rise buildings "where
water must be carried to upper stories using electric pumps." As a
result, bathing, brushing teeth, doing laundry, washing dishes, and preparing
meals at times are impossible.
- Sanitation infrastructure was also badly damaged and
not repaired. Gaza's Coastal Municipalities Water Utility said that since
the blockade it's been hampered by few essential spare parts to operate.
In addition, "The increased pumping....depleted the aquifer and accelerated
the salin(ity) of the water."
- Loss of pressure also lets polluted water enter pipes,
sent straight to households when distribution resumes. "About 90 percent
of the water supplied to Gaza residents is not suitable for drinking, according
to" WTO standards because of sea and contaminated water infiltration.
As a result, water-related illnesses are widespread, and conditions are
worsening and life-threatening.
- Easily preventable diarrhea causes 12% of childhood deaths,
and of 40,000 "newborn babies this year, at least half are at immediate
risk of nitrate poisoning; the incidence of 'blue baby-syndrome (methaemoglobinaemia)
is exceptionally high."
- Nitrate poisoning is a major problem. In some places,
it's 300 times the WTO standard.
- Based on availability for those who can afford it, buying
water privately trucked in is the only alternative other than begging from
neighbors or doing without at great risk.
- Waste water treatment facilities suffered "a complete
breakdown," according to Ibraheim Radwan of Gaza's Engineering Syndicate.
He described the impact of raw sewage flows to the sea and at times streets
with contaminants leaching into tap water.
- Lack of enough power and fuel are the problems, without
which facilities can't operate. As a result, Gaza's three purification
plants run sporadically, and 80 million liters of sewage reach the sea
daily, more than half the output. Half is partially treated, the remainder
- For dependent Gazans, it's like living atop a toxic waste
dump containing the most hazardous contaminants, endangering health and
- Mohammed Al Aklouk, Chair of Gaza's Public Service Association,
"described how the crises in construction, power, water and sanitation
affect the vital provision of healthcare" for everyone in need. Facilities
are doing what they can "within the constraints imposed by the blockade."
- It's not easy because shortages of everything exist,
and much was destroyed and not replaced. There's also "a chronic shortage
of specialized medical personnel and access to training," besides
spare parts, needed equipment, and dozens of unavailable drugs for cancer,
heart, kidney and other diseases, and psychiatric disorders. What's available
runs out and isn't replaced because of siege restrictions.
- Most often, even for emergencies, care outside Gaza is
also denied because crossings remain closed. In addition, doctors report
an alarming increase in birth defects and other medical problems because
of exposure to white phosphorous and other hazardous chemicals - war crimes
when used as weapons. Worse ones against civilian men, women and children.
Worst of all in densely populated Gaza.
- According to Jolanta Szczypinska, Polish MP, "The
white phosphorous that was used by the Israeli army in the heavily populated
civilian area of Izbet Abed Rabu was still burning a year after the war."
- Emotional as Well as Physical Suffering
- As a result of the siege and conflict, a plague of psychological
trauma afflicts Gazans, especially children, 73% of whom suffer emotional
and behavioral disorders according to post-war studies. Most common are
nightmares, involuntary urination, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression,
aggression and bed-wetting.
- Save the Children's Osama Damo called Gaza "a traumatized
nation." Out of fear, children can't sleep. "Others cry at the
sound of loud noises, mistaking them for military jets and tanks coming
to bomb their homes." The stress level endangers mental health and
future for entire the population.
- Gaza's Agriculture in Shambles
- Pre-siege and conflict, it provided employment for 13%
of Gaza's workforce, and it thrived with a capacity to grow around 400,000
tons of produce a year, a third for export.
- It supplied much of Gaza's food needs. No longer after
tanks and armored vehicles raised around 17% of arable land, including
the same percentage of olive, date and other fruit orchards and over 9%
of open fields. Greenhouses, livestock and shelters, irrigation channels,
wells and pumps were also bombed or bulldozed, and replacement materials
and parts are prohibited.
- Further, up to one-third of agricultural land lies in
so-called "no-go" areas - Israel's imposed "buffer zone,"
expanded to anywhere from 300 meters to two kilometers into Gaza. As a
result, many farmers lost their livelihoods and nearly half of agricultural
land can't be used.
- According to UK House of Lords member Baroness Jenny
Tonge, children lack basic nutrients "to develop properly. The result:
anemia, stunted growth, attention deficit disorders, post-traumatic stress
- Employment or Lack of It
- Operation Cast Lead destroyed or severely damaged hundreds
of businesses and factories. As a result, an estimated 120,000 private
sector jobs were lost. Gaza's tunnel economy compensates but can't replace
a normally functioning economy, impossible under siege prohibiting a way
- Solutions Not Forthcoming
- With Fatah running the West Bank and Hamas (Gaza's legitimate
government, bogusly designated a terrorist organization) in charge of Gaza,
"most funds are being channeled to the West Bank instead of Gaza and
80 percent of Gaza's population is living under the poverty line."
- Commenting, British MP Robert Marshall-Andrews said:
- "We find greater-than-apparent significance in the
destruction of parliamentary, administrative and police buildings....when
we place it in the context of similar actions that have been systematically
conducted in the past few years in areas such as Nablus and Ramallah. By
destroying civilian infrastructure for both politics and policing, the
Israeli forces continue to undermine the argument they make about Palestinians
not being able to be a partner for peace that can deliver security."
- Maliciously taking away their livelihoods and the argument
increases several fold. "The people of Gaza await justice!"
- ECESG's Call to Action
- Rhetoric aside, EU nations failed to translate words
to actions. They and America must take the lead to end the blockade to
prevent June 2010 from being its third anniversary. Specifically ECESG
- -- ending the siege;
- -- arresting suspected war criminals and holding them
- -- inviting the Palestinian Legislative Council to EU
capitals for engagement with European Parliament officials;
- -- the international community must respect and support
future Palestinian elected officials, whether or not they approve voter
- -- violence against civilians must be condemned "from
any source and for any reason;" and
- -- a unity Fatah-Hamas government is essential, without
explaining that Hamas was democratically elected; Fatah usurped West Bank
power and holds it illegally.
- "Unity" requires letting Hamas serve the people
who elected it, not a bogus coup d'etat regime with no legitimacy, working
against the interests of its own people by allying with Israel and Washington
for its own interests.
- According to British MP Clare Short:
- "What is clear to me is that the humanitarian crisis
in Gaza is very dire, and regardless of the politics of the situation,
all parties - the EU, US, Egypt, the Arab League and Israel - should take
much more vigorous action as a matter of urgency to relieve it. If they
do not, a deprived and traumatized generation fueled by hatred and a desire
for revenge will become a ticking time-bomb in the explosive cauldron of
the Middle East."
- Short left out that Washington and Israel generate it
- Israel an occupier with imperial aims; America its funder, weapons and
technology supplier, and partnered hegemon with global ambitions.
- Short of a policy and direction change, Gazan and West
Bank Palestinians will continue to suffer until the entire region erupts
with unpredictable consequences for all parties involved. So far, nothing
is being done to prevent it, leaving an explosive situation unaddressed.
- A Final Comment
- On April 19, Gaza's Health Ministry warned that an ongoing
fuel shortage is exacerbating an already grave humanitarian crisis. The
announcement followed the April 9 closure of the Strip's only power plant,
causing a total blackout.
- Hospitals and clinics turned to emergency generators,
but they need fuel, so the problem persists. Health Ministry Director General
Medhat Abbas called the situation "devastating" in explaining
its importance for refrigeration, labs and blood banks as well as emergency
services. He asked the international community for immediate and urgent
help, what up to now has been entirely absent short of rhetoric.
- As a result, Palestinians continue to suffer and die,
out of sight and mind of world leaders who largely don't give a damn. Why
else would they tolerate nearly three years of medieval siege that's slowly
starving 1.5 million people to death, a holocaust they refuse to acknowledge
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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