- Imagine life under these conditions:
- Living in limbo under a foreign occupier. Having no self-
determination, no right of return, and no power over your daily life.
Being in constant fear, economically strangled, and collectively punished.
- Having your free movement denied by enclosed population
centers, closed borders, regular curfews, roadblocks, checkpoints, electric
fences, and separation walls. Having your homes regularly demolished
and land systematically stolen to build settlements for encroachers in
violation of international law prohibiting an occupier from settling its
population on conquered land.
- Having your right to essential services denied - to emergency
health care, education, employment, and enough food and clean water.
Being forced into extreme poverty, having your crops destroyed, and being
victimized by punitive taxes. Having no right for redress in the occupier's
courts under laws only protecting the occupier.
- Being regularly targeted by incursions and attacks on
the ground and from the air. Being willfully harassed, ethnically cleansed,
arrested, incarcerated, tortured, and slaughtered on any pretext, including
for your right of self-defense. Having no rights on your own land in your
own country for over six decades and counting. Vilified for being Muslims
and called terrorists, Jihadists, crazed Arabs, and fundamentalist extremists.
Victimized by a slow-motion genocide to destroy you.
- According to Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, Israel has
conducted state-sponsored genocide against the Palestinians for decades
and intensively in Gaza. In a September 2006 Electronic Intifada article
titled "Genocide in Gaza" he wrote:
- "A genocide is taking place in Gaza....An average
of eight Palestinians die daily in the Israeli attacks on the Strip. Most
of them are children. Hundreds are maimed, wounded and paralyzed. (It's
become) a daily business, now reported (only) in the internal pages of
the local press, quite often in microscopic fonts. The chief culprits
are the Israeli pilots who have a field day," like shooting fish
in a barrel. Why not, they're only Muslims, so who'll notice or care.
- International law expert Francis Boyle does and in March
1998 proposed that "the Provisional Government of (Palestine) and
its President institute legal proceedings against Israel before the International
Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague for violating the" Genocide Convention.
He stated that "Israel has indeed perpetrated the international crime
of genocide against the Palestinian people (and the) lawsuit would....demonstrate
that undeniable fact to the entire world."
- Israel is a serial human rights international law abuser.
The UN Human Rights Commission affirms that it violates nearly all 149
articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention that governs the treatment of
civilians in war and under occupation and is guilty of grievous war crimes.
The Commission also determined that as an occupying power Israel has committed
crimes against humanity as defined under the 1945 Nuremberg Charter.
- Geneva, Nuremberg and other international human rights
laws guarantee what Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
states: that everyone "has the right to life, liberty and security
of person." Article 6 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights also affirms it in saying that every "human
being has the inherent right to life." Official Israeli policy is
to deny it to Palestinians under occupation, especially Gazans under siege.
- On November 5, it was egregiously tightened after Israel
closed all commercial crossings and banned virtually all permissible items
- previously severely restricted and in limited amounts.
- On November 21, Haaretz reported that Karen AbuZayd,
United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) commissioner-general said
Gaza faces a humanitarian "catastrophe" if Israel maintains
its blockade. She called the current closure the gravest since the early
days of the Second Intifada eight years ago. "It's been closed for
so much longer than ever before....and we have nothing in our warehouses....It
will be a catastrophe if this persists, a disaster."
- Out of Gaza's 1.5 million population, UNRWA provides
vitally needed rations for 820,000 of its refugees, and the UN World Food
Program aids another 200,000 people. They supply about 60% of daily needs,
now effectively shut off and nearly exhausted - including food, medicines,
fuel, and other basic essentials.
- On November 17, 31 containers of foods and medicines
were allowed in through Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing, southeast
of Rafah. It was closed, along with other border crossings, for the previous
two weeks. These amounts are hugely deficient and amount to less than
10% of what entered Gaza before Israel's June 2007 imposed siege.
- Also allowed in was 427,000 liters of fuel or barely
enough to operate Gaza's power plant for a day. It's effectively shut
down, and at least 30% of the population is without electricity and around
70% experiences lengthy power outages for days or weeks.
- On November 20, AP reported that Israeli officials "stood
by (their) decision to shut cargo crossings into the Gaza Strip, brushing
off pleas to ease the blockade from United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon."
Of course, the Strip has been mostly isolated since Israel's imposed
siege 18 months ago that created a humanitarian crisis now intensified.
- Why so was stated to the Jerusalem Post by senior IDF
General Amos Gilad: Because "Hamas is committed to the destruction
of the state....It (also) wants to take over the PLO." Unmentioned
are the facts that refute this assertion. After Ismail Haniyeh became
Hamas prime minister in 2006, he offered the Bush administration peace
and a long-term truce in return for an end to Israel's (illegal) occupation.
He was rebuffed the way he is from Israel for the same offer.
- Again why so? Israel and Washington are allied in a joint
enterprise and need enemies, aka "terrorists." While maintaining
an illusory "peace process," none whatever exists nor is any
effort made to address equity for the Palestinians. What matters is joint-
control of the region. Israel as the local hegemon. America as part of
its world empire and all vital resources in it, especially oil, of course.
- In the 1980s, former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir admitted
that Israel waged war against Lebanon in 1982 because there was "a
terrible danger....not so much a military one as a political one."
So a pretext was arranged the way it always is to invent threats and
- In January 2006, it was policy again after Hamas won
a resounding democratic majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council
(PLC). As a result, they and the Palestinians paid dearly. Israel, America
and the West ended all outside aid, imposed a crippling economic embargo
and sanctions, and politically isolated the ruling Hamas government. An
intensive crackdown followed that continues to this day - regular interventions,
attacks, ruthless repression, and the imposition of a medieval siege on
Gaza, now intensified.
- On November 19, the Territory's largest flour mill shut
down for a lack of wheat, and the UN suspended cash grants to 98,000 poor
Gazans because of a shortage of Israeli currency.
- The world community has been silent. Conditions continue
to deteriorate, and Christian Aid is speaking out. It accused Israel
of collective punishment in violation of international law. Under Fourth
Geneva's Article 33:
- "No protected person (under occupation) may be punished
for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties
and likewise all measure of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited
(as well as) Reprisals against protected persons and their property."
- Costa Dabbagh from the Near East Council of Churches
(a Christian Aid partner) says "Simply letting food into Gaza is
not enough," and precious little is arriving. Its people "are
fed and kept alive without dignity and the international community should
be blamed for it." It's "not acceptable to be waiting for food
to come. (Gazans) want to live freely with Israel and other countries
in peace. (They're) not against any individual or government (but) are
- They're also against starving, extreme deprivation, no
effective outside aid, and no support from world or other Arab leaders
in their behalf. At the moment, three of five mills have stopped operating,
and the two others are about to for lack of wheat. Several bakeries are
closed for lack of flour, fuel, cooking gas and electricity.
- Of Gaza's 72 bakeries, 47 produce Syrian bread (the most
popular kind); 29 of them stopped operating; eight others are at partial
capacity; 10 bake Iraqi bread, and 15 others different varieties and
pastries. None are in full operation, and all may have to close for lack
of supplies and power. Gazans are being strangled and starved.
- Health facilities are also in crisis and their patients
endangered because of their limited ability to provide services. In addition,
45 vital medicines are embargoed and unavailable. Another unconscionable
- Shifa Hospital is Gaza's largest and seriously hampered.
Besides a lack of power, medicines and other supplies, its equipment needs
repair and has no readily available spare parts. Its main generator is
in disrepair. Its MRI machine can't operate without electricity. It's
short on gas for disinfection and to prepare food for patients. Concern
is growing that much other essential equipment may also stop working or
have to shut down for lack of power.
- Shifa's director, Hassan Khalaf, and the Red Cross describe
the situation as critical. Lives are at risk. The intensive care unit
can't operate. Electronic equipment in the newborn baby unit doesn't
function, and the staff has to manually pump oxygen to all infants. In
addition, stocks of about 160 essential medicines have run out and another
120 are running low. Shifa can't run very long under these conditions.
- Nor can Gaza's other hospitals and all other operations
in the Territory - an intolerable situation barely reported on in the
dominant US media. Inverting the truth, they portray Israel heroically
as a democratic island in a hostile Arab sea.
- They won't explain that Israel is obligated to provide
essentials under Fourth Geneva's Article 55. It states:
- "To the fullest extent of the means available to
it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical
supplies of the population; it should, in particular, bring in the necessary
foodstuffs, medical stores and other (essential) articles if the resources
of the occupied territory are inadequate." Israel continues to violate
this law and all others.
- As Andrea Becker of the UK-based Medical Aid for Palestinians
states: For Israelis, "international law was tossed aside long ago."
The result for Gazans is "exhaustion gripping hold of (them) all.
Survival leaves (them) little if no room for political engagement - and
beyond exhaustion, anger and frustration are all that is left."
- A Partial Border Reopening
- On November 24, Haaretz reported that "Israel partially
(opened) its border crossings with the Gaza Strip (today) to allow the
transfer of humanitarian aid (after) all but completely (keeping them)
shut for (the past) 19 days." Defense officials let in "44 trucks
with basic goods....through Kerem Shalom crossings" in the South.
- According to the Ma'an News Agency, another 200 truckloads
of UN humanitarian aid and 25 more containing food will also be allowed
through Kerem Shalom. This is helpful but woefully short of what the
Strip needs regularly to care for its 1.5 million people, most of whom
rely solely or mainly on outside aid.
- Whether this additional aid will even arrive is now open
to question, according to Haaretz (on November 25). It reported that
Israel "closed its crossings with Gaza again," supposedly after
two Qassam rockets were fired on Sunday, one on Monday, and another on
Tuesday. Unmentioned are the regular and devastating IDF attacks against
Palestinian civilians who have little more than crude weapons for self-defense
and are no match against Israel's overpowering force.
- According to Haaretz on November 26, some aid may be
forthcoming and surprisingly from Libya. It "sent a ship carrying
3000 tons of humanitarian aid to Gaza" to break Israel's blockade.
The International Middle East Media Center called on other Arab states
to do the same - flout the blockade and send aid even with no assurance
Israel will allow it in. It's been very effective preventing most everything
so far and shows no signs of relenting.
- A Shocking Red Cross Report
- On November 15, the London Independent headlined an article
titled; "Chronic malnutrition in Gaza blamed on Israel." Writer
Donald Macintyre referred to a leaked Red Cross report he called "explosive."
- It chronicled "the devastating effect of the siege
that Israel imposed after Hamas (took control of Gaza) in June 2007 and
notes that the dramatic fall in living standards triggered a shift in
diet that will damage the long-term health of (Gaza's population). Alarming
deficiencies (showed up) in iron, vitamin A and vitamin D."
- The report goes on to say that "heavy restrictions
on all major sectors of Gaza's economy, compounded by a cost of living
increase of at least 40%, is causing progressive deterioration in food
security for up to 70 per cent of (the) population. That in turn is forcing
people to cut household expenditures down to survival levels."
- Chronic malnutrition is rising steadily, and "micronutrient
deficiencies are of great concern." Since 2007, the reported cited
a switch to "low cost/high energy" cereals, sugar and oil and
away from higher-cost animal products, fresh fruits and vegetables. This
type diet assures long-term harmful consequences for people on it.
- The Red Cross said that "the (18 month) embargo
has had a devastating effect for a large proportion of households who
have had to make major changes on the composition of their food basket."
They now rely 80% on cereals, sugar and oil. In addition, people are
selling assets, cutting back on clothing and children's education, scavenging
for discarded items, and doing virtually anything to survive.
- The report refers to economic disintegration and that
prolonging the current situation risks permanently damaging households
and their capacity to recover. The study was conducted from May to July
- Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli prime minister Ehud
Olmert, had little response except to say that the people of Gaza were
being "held hostage" to Hamas' "extremist and nihilist"
ideology. In fact, Hamas wants peace, has repeatedly been conciliatory,
and its founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, said earlier that armed struggle
would cease "if the Zionists ended (their) occupation of Palestinian
territories and stopped killing Palestinian women, children and innocent
- That offer is repeatedly rejected. More recently, Hamas
offered to maintain peace and recognize Israel in return for a Palestinian
state inside pre-1967 borders, its Occupied Territories. That, as well,
is a non-starter for Israel. It conflicts with its West Bank plan to colonize
the Territory and ethnically cleanse its rightful inhabitants in violation
of international law.
- Israeli Clampdown on Human Rights Organizations and the
- Over 20 human rights organizations sought entry to Gaza
but were denied to prevent them from seeing and reporting on conditions
on the ground. A delegation representing the Coordination Forum of The
Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA) arrived at Erez
Crossing with the required permit and were still prevented from entering.
- International journalists are also banned. The AP head
and Israeli Foreign Press Association chairman, Steven Gutkin, said journalists
called and complained. In response, the association appealed to the government
without success. "We consider it a serious problem for freedom of
the press. We think that journalists have to be placed in a special category.
A blanket ban on people going into Gaza should not apply to journalists,"
- "We are hoping that this is not the start of a policy
of banning journalists from Gaza. We would like to point out that when
times are tough, and when things heat up, it is important for journalists
to be able to enter" and report on it.
- A BBC media crew was also refused entry along with Conny
Mus from Dutch television station RTL after being told he and his crew
- Even Haaretz objected in a recent editorial titled: "Open
Gaza to media coverage." It stated: "To serve their function
sufficiently, representatives of the Israeli and international press must
be in Gaza, just like in any other conflict region around the world.
There is no way to cover (events there) without free access...."
- Haaretz called on the Israel Press Council, journalist
associations, editors, writers, and the public to "raise their voices
in protest." It also asked the defense establishment "to immediately
lift the media closure."
- The Israeli press has been banned from entering Gaza
for the past two years. Only Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass has been
there. She then left and could only get back in by sea, and not easily
- Orwell would appreciate how Coordinator of Government
Activities in the Territories Peter Lerner responded: "There is no
decision not to allow journalists in." The Israeli foreign ministry
said no restrictive order was issued in spite of clear evidence it's being
- Hostilities in Gazan Waters
- The Israeli navy is also in action. It arrested three
human rights activists: Darlene Wallach from America, Andrew Muncie from
Britain, and Vittorio Arrigoni from Italy as they accompanied Gaza fishermen
in waters nowhere near ones under Israeli control. The three were imprisoned,
are on hunger strike in protest, and may face deportation or worse as
Israeli justice is harsh and not forthcoming against opponents of its
- Under the Oslo Accords, Palestinians can fish as far
out as 30 kilometers. Forty thousand fishermen and their dependents rely
on their catch for their livelihoods and sustenance. Israel egregiously
impedes them, and after Hamas took control of Gaza, it restricted fishing
to within six kilometers of shore (in less productive shallow waters)
and rigorously enforces it. Those exceeding the limit risk being shot
or arrested and their boats confiscated or destroyed - another serious
international law violation.
- Saber Al-Hissie is one of them. He's been fishing in
Gazan waters for 15 years, his father and grandfather before him. He spent
half his life at sea, "but every day we face problems from Israeli
gunboats," he explained. "They follow us, and then they start
shooting at us because they want to force us to stop working."
- Thousands of fishermen live in Gaza, mostly in and around
Gaza City where the main harbor is located. Al-Hissie is one of them and
describes the restrictions Israel imposes on him and others trying to
earn a living from the sea.
- "If we sail six miles out to sea, then maybe we
will be safe. But if we go any further, the Israelis always harass us.
They circle the boats, they shoot towards us, and recently they started
using water cannon to attack us." He won't exceed the limit to protect
his boat, but it's scared with bullet holes anyway.
- He and others aren't safe wherever they fish. They're
harassed and attacked daily. "Unless you see it for yourself, you
cannot believe the situation we are facing," he explains. It decimated
local fishing. Ten years ago, Gazan fishermen caught about 3000 tons a
year. It's now less than 500 and another part of the Gaza siege, Israel's
war on its people, and its ongoing slow-motion genocide. "We just
want to fish and support our families," says Saber. "We are
not committing any crimes, but they are."
- End the Israeli Blockade and Stop the Genocide
- On November 24, UN General Assembly president Miguel
D'Escoto Brockmann said Israel's treatment of the Palestinians was like
"the apartheid of an earlier era." His remarks were at an annual
debate marking the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian
People. He added: "We must not be afraid to call something what it
is" since the UN passed the International Convention against the
crime of apartheid.
- Israel's response was familiar. Its UN ambassador, Gabriela
Shalev, called Brockmann an "Israel hater." He's a 75-year old
Catholic priest. If he were Jewish, she'd have accused him of being "self-
- On November 20, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Navanethem Pillay, called for an immediate end to Israel's blockade.
In response, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) audaciously expressed
shock at what it called a one-sided statement.
- The High Commissioner's call came after mounting reports
of human rights and humanitarian concerns. For its part, Israel claims
its siege is a necessary response to mortar and rocket attacks on Israeli
towns and military posts. They're little more than pin pricks and only
occur in response to sustained and brutal Israeli attacks against Gazan
civilians, including men, women and children - a long-standing practice
for decades with overwhelming force against light arms and homemade weapons
as well as children throwing rocks. It hardly justifies a medieval siege
against 1.5 million people and the horrific fallout it causes. And for
- For five months through November 3, Hamas and Israel
were at peace as a result of an agreed on Egyptian-brockered hudna (or
truce). On November 4 it ended when the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) entered
Gaza (without cause) and killed six Hamas officers supposedly because
of tunnels close to the Kisufim roadblock. Thereafter, and in spite of
both sides calling for peace, IDF hostilities continued.
- Israel is a serial aggressor. Hamas responds in self-defense
(as do West Bank Palestinians). Reality is turned on its head. Lightly-
armed Gazans are called terrorists, and the world's fourth most powerful
military its victims.
- In fact, Gazans are grievously harmed, impoverished,
slaughtered and now starved. Israel claims it as a right. International
law is a non-starter, and a state of war exists against innocent men,
women and children with no world efforts made to stop it.
- The Washington - Israeli axis believes strife, instability,
and a "war on terror" can remake the Middle East and place it
firmly under their control. No matter that it failed hugely in Iraq, the
same in Afghanistan, and for over six decades in Occupied Palestine.
- Today starving Gazans won't be silenced. They keep protesting,
and according to Hamazah Mansur, head of the Jordanian-based Islamic
Action Front's six-member parliamentary bloc: If conditions in the Territory
worsens, "Arab rulers should expect an earthquake that would shake
their countries and regimes." It's high time something shook them
out of their silent complicity with decades of slow- motion genocide, now
worse than ever in Gaza under siege.
- Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre
for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached