- Throughout 43 years of occupation, Israel has waged war
on Palestinians' human rights and civil liberties, a new UN report providing
more evidence that keeps mounting exponentially, adding clarity about an
out-of-control rogue state operating lawlessly.
- On August 10, Haaretz writer Akiva Eldar cited it in
an article headlined, "UN report: IDF barring Gazans' access to farms,
fishing zones," saying:
- "Over the last 10 years, the (IDF has) increasingly
restricted Palestinian access to farmland on the Gazan side of the Israeli-Gaza
border as well as (offshore waters) along the Gaza beach, a United Nations
report (just) revealed."
- Prepared jointly by the Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the World Food Program (WFP), it's titled
"Between the Fence and a Hard Place," explaining Israel's draconian/illegal
restrictions on the pretext of "preventing attacks by Palestinian
armed factions." In fact, only Israel poses a regional threat. A global
one as well, what Palestinians and Israel's neighbors have known for decades.
- Despite the Green Line, Oslo Accords, the so-called 2005
"disengagement," ongoing siege, the continued theft of West Bank
and East Jerusalem land and more, Israel imposes punitive restrictions
on Gazans, including under the 1994 Jericho Agreement. It established a
1,000 meter-wide "security perimeter" in the Territory, Palestinian
police enforcing "special security measures" to prevent entry
into Israel without permission.
- A separate provision allowed a 20 nautical mile area
off Gaza's coast for fishing, recreation, and other economic activities.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), in theory, share joint enforcement
authority, but, in fact, Israel has sole control.
- Since September 2000, the start of the second Intifada,
Israel took over more repressively than ever. Palestinians have been denied
all rights in their own territory under vague and restrictive rules, including
use of their own land and waters. As a result, Gazans have been irreparably
- Defining the Restricted Areas and Affected Populations
- Israel's precise access parameters "are uncertain,"
including boundaries, conditions allowing or denying entry, and consequences
if against Israeli restrictions. Morever, in the past decade, the IDF hardened
measures in place.
- Up to November 2008, a 300 meter prohibition was imposed.
After Cast Lead, however, it expanded to a 1,000 - 1,500 meters, putting
valuable farmland and residential areas off limits as follows:
- -- a "no-go zone" up to 500 meters inside the
Green Line. Those entering may be shot on sight. Israeli incursions regularly
occur, destroying property found, including crops; and
- -- a "high risk" zone up to 1,500 meters within
the Line. "Opening fire at people accessing this area, as well as
land leveling and property destruction, are common and widespread practices....carried
out irregularly and unpredictably."
- Affected Gazans reported even worse harshness, affecting
areas up to 3,000 meters inside the Line. Omitting these from UN calculations,
the combined "no go/high risk" prohibitions cover about 62.6
square km or about 17% of Gaza (95% of which is arable land), off limits
to Palestinians who own it. In total, they're denied access to 35% of the
Territory's cultivable farmland, a major blow to its agriculture.
- In addition, under the 2002 Bertini Commitment, Israel
tightened coastal water restrictions from 20 nautical miles (NM) offshore
to 12, but, in fact, even harsher limits were imposed. Some areas were
entirely closed, others allowed open only part of the year. In mid-2006,
restrictions applied beyond six NM, and after Cast Lead
- beyond three and in some areas only one. As a result,
Gazans are gradually losing all rights to their coastal waters, those entering
restricted areas risking life and loss of property.
- "Overall, Palestinians are totally prevented from
accessing 85 percent of the sea areas on which they are entitled to carry
out maritime activities, including fishing, according to the 1994 Gaza-Jericho
Agreement." About 113,000 people are affected (7.5% of Gaza's population),
including those owning land and other property in restricted areas.
- Many fisherman have also been harmed, Gaza's Ministry
of Agriculture reporting at yearend 2009 that only 3,500 were registered,
down from 10,000 in September 2000 when restrictions began. The number
of people directly affected by land and fishing limits is about 178,000
or 12% of the population.
- The Resulting Crisis
- The UN report cites Israel's "systematic lack of
respect for (Gazans') basic rights, as enshrined in international humanitarian
and human rights law."
- Worse still, are its enforcement methods, including:
- -- arbitrarily opening fire on anyone entering restricted
areas, at times with warning shots, others with intent to kill, incidents
happening daily. "The Fishermen's Syndicate reported that in (Q 1
2010)," 48 live firings on fishermen occurred, an average of four
a week. A small percentage caused death or injury, but the risk is always
- In the 19 month period from January 2009 through July
2010, 22 civilian deaths (including six children) and 146 injuries were
reported (including 27 children).
- Legal Implications
- International law is clear and unequivocal, civilians
at all times to be treated as protected persons during conflicts and occupation.
The principle of distinction puts combatants and others in separate categories.
- Targeting civilians is absolutely prohibited, regardless
of circumstances, and when launching attacks, care must be taken to avoid
harming them and their property. Yet Israel consistently and egregiously
defiles the law, acting willfully in violation with impunity, besides its
draconian military laws and medieval siege, not covered in the UN report.
- Yet they're crucial to understand the severity of conditions,
causing sustained, extreme, unrelenting humanitarian harm in a climate
of uncertainty. Palestinians never know if they, their neighborhoods, or
loved ones will be attacked. Fishermen are always endangered, and anyone
collecting rubble or scrap metal in restricted areas may be shot, killed
or injured, including women and children.
- Worse still is the lack of clarity for demarcated areas,
besides Israel changing them regularly without notice. In addition, at
least once, misleading information was provided, the Israeli air force
(in May 2009) dropping thousands of leaflets warning Gazans not to enter
areas closer than 300 meters from the Green Line when, in fact, restrictions
were up to 1,500 and in some areas 3,000.
- "The lack of clarity, (arbitrary modifications),
and unpredictability associated with this access regime makes it highly
arbitrary, thus significantly increasing the level of risk to thousands
of civilians who depend on access....for their livelihoods."
- Destruction of Land and Property
- Most occurred since September 2000, areas over 300 meters
especially since 2006. As a result, "most (affected) agricultural
land has been gradually abandoned and structures never reconstructed."
- Since late 2008, regular land, crops and property destruction
has been "carried out more less regularly" during weekly IDF
incursions, typically by four to 10 tanks, bulldozers and jeeps, accompanied
by helicopters, drones, and live fire. From January through May 2010, 72
recorded incidents occurred, averaging over three a week, Gazans never
knowing where or when they'll strike, or who may be affected.
- They're also targeted by remotely-controlled weapon stations,
deployed in secured pillboxes every several hundred meters along the Green
Line. Each contains machine guns able to hit targets up to 1.5 km away.
According to Haaretz, "the procedure to authorize opening fire is
complex, but takes less than two minutes" to complete. An assault
is then initiated by pressing a button. Live fire guided by relayed field
images and ground sensors follows, as well as more from aircraft and drones.
- Attacks are also made by tanks and other weapons, in
all cases against nonviolent civilians in violation of international law.
After years of occupation and conflict, the toll is horrific, ordinary
people up against the world's fourth most powerful military acting lawlessly
- In economic terms alone, the UN conservatively estimated
a $308 million cost over the past five years (excluding Cast Lead) affecting:
- -- nearly 4,500 acres of land planted with fruit trees;
- -- another 1,500 acres of greenhouses;
- -- 1,000 residential structures;
- -- over 300 water wells;
- -- Gaza's water purification system and sole power plant;
- -- six factories; and
- -- the toll on fishermen, their boats and equipment.
- Impact on Gazans' Livelihood
- Affected Gazans have been impoverished and denied essentials
under siege, besides living in fear and threatened almost daily with aggressive
assaults. In economic terms, the loss of livelihoods and property alone
has been devastating, affecting fruit trees, greenhouses, water wells,
sheep and chicken farms, other farmland, fishing boats and equipment, factories,
schools, hospitals, mosques, homes, and other structures.
- An estimated 75,000 annual metric tons of produce alone
has been lost, increasing as Israel destroys more land, farmers losing
a third or more of their income. Fayyadh Al-Sumeiri's situation is typical.
In 2003, the IDF leveled his small farm. Another plot with olive trees
was destroyed in late 2008. He replaced it with wheat, rented some additional
land, but both areas were again bulldozed during Cast Lead plus an irrigation
- Lost income impoverished him and his family, plunging
him into debt, Al-Sumeiri saying:
- "Every day I pass by shops and see people that I
owe money to, and I lower my head. I don't know what to do because I have
no income. Everything we earned was from the land and every meter we planted
was destroyed. Every day I pray that I will be able to return to my land
and bring it back to the state it was in."
- Thousands of other Gazan farmers tell similar stories,
the siege, war, occupation, and regular incursions suffocating them slowly.
It's slow-motion genocide ongoing for years, affecting the entire population,
1.5 million people trapped in the world's largest open-air prison.
- Coping Under Siege
- Under dire conditions, humanitarian aid has helped but
not enough "to make a substantial difference in the lives of the affected
population." As a result, strategies to generate alternate income
have been used, farmers, for example, trying crop diversification or open-air
planting after greenhouses were destroyed. Others sold assets or rely on
the tunnel economy. Yet income generated is meager compared to earlier,
including by fishermen, restricted on where they can go so their catch
is smaller, less lucrative, and over-fished shallower waters are being
depleted, compromising them further.
- Other coping methods involve buying less, including essentials
harming health and well-being, but with little income there's no choice.
The quantity and quality of food consumed has dropped. As a result, health
problems have increased, including higher incidences of anemia, diabetes,
high blood pressure, and other illnesses. Overall, the quality of life
in all respects has steadily eroded since fall 2000, especially under siege.
- Impact on Education
- Seven educational institutions were identified within
1,500 meters of the Green Line, affecting around 250 teachers, administrative
and maintenance staff serving about 4,400 students from elementary school
to vocational training. Cast Lead entirely destroyed another school in
the restricted area plus others, including college facilities, throughout
- Overall, "The safety of students and staff attending
these institutions, the quality of education provided and the level of
educational achievement have been seriously undermined by their frequent
exposure to Israeli fire...." As a result, schools have incurred significant
damage, remain vulnerable, and have diverted scarce funds for recurrent
- Students and staff say classes are often interrupted
by nearby assaults, yet believe children are safer in school than if evacuated
elsewhere, exposing them to conflict in the open. In addition, a shortage
of facilities forces most schools to run on double schedules - shifts reducing
overall class time, restricting the number of new students, and providing
less education on very restricted budgets because everything needed is
in short supply, compounded by traumatized students, their concentration
and performance affected.
- "A consistent message to emerge was that frequent
exposure to life threatening situations, along with the systematic destruction
of livelihoods, severely eroded people's basic sense of physical and economic
security. This erosion is perceived as a key cause behind the recurrence
of an array of negative symptoms" observed in students, families and
- -- increased adult depression;
- -- frequent childrens' bedwetting;
- -- lower school performance;
- -- higher dropout rates;
- -- changes in nutrition habits;
- -- greater domestic violence, symptomatic of adult men
losing their role as breadwinners; and
- -- weakening social networks because dangerous conditions
keep people close to home, fewer family visits resulting.
- Impact on Utility Infrastructure
- Israeli restrictions have significantly impeded maintenance,
repair and upgrading of wastewater and electricity infrastructure, harming
all Gazans under siege. Located east of Jabalia up to 200 meters from the
Green Line, the North Gaza Emergency Sewage Treatment Plant is the Strip's
largest facility, able to handle the sewage for more than 500,000 people.
Currently, IDF restrictions impede staff access, allow only daylight operations,
and inadequate fuel and electricity compromise operations further.
- Only recently did Israel approve "in principle"
the relocation of a Khan Yunis facility, reaching up to 400 meters from
the Line. Negotiations continue to allow required material imports as well
as worker access to the site, Israeli bureaucratic restrictions so far
- For the past three years, a new Gaza City wastewater
treatment plant, to replace an existing lower capacity one, has been stalled
because of Israeli bureaucratic delays. As a result, around 80 million
liters of untreated and partially-treated sewage is dumped daily into the
Mediterranean Sea, contaminating Gaza's coastal areas and most drinking
- "The (serious) public health concerns of the inability
to properly treat the current volume of sewage produced in the Gaza Strip
are significant," affecting the entire population, a topic addressed
in previous articles accessed through the following links:
- As a result, less than 10% of Gaza's aquifer drinking
water is safe, the rest toxic, exposing those consuming it to serious health
risks, including anemia, diarrhea, parasitic skin and other infections,
and infant mortality.
- In addition, an electricity crisis exists, also addressed
in a previous article accessed through the following link:
- "Overall, access restrictions to infrastructure
delivering electricity from Israel into (Gaza) have compounded an already
precarious situation caused by the steady decline in electricity produced
by" the Strip's only facility. It's severely impeded by Israel's materials
and spare parts ban, preventing proper maintenance and rehabilitation unless
- Final Comments
- UN findings reveal the impact of Israeli restrictions,
exacerbated by Gaza's siege. Israel's "lethal" enforcement has
"resulted in a severe 'protection crisis,' characterized by a systematic
lack of respect for the most basic rights afforded to civilian populations
under international law."
- The entire Strip is impacted, especially Gazans close
to the Green Line, fishermen confined to shallow coastal waters, as well
as women, children, the elderly and infirm. Everyone needs help more than
ever, mostly by lifting the siege, increasing humanitarian aid, ending
Israeli incursions, and giving the population a chance to rebuild and restore
their lives, livelihoods, and dignity. It's what Israel won't allow and
world leaders still tolerate, violating their obligation under international
law and Security Council Resolution 1860.
- It called for "an immediate and durable ceasefire
(leading) to a full Israeli withdrawal, unimpeded provision through Gaza
of food, fuel and medical treatment, and intensified" efforts for
peace. Yet it's been unsuccessful because Israel ignores it and enforcement
pressure's not applied.
- As a result, Gazans suffer grievously, the entire population
harmed by an out-of-control rogue state, bogusly claiming security concerns
to commit slow-motion genocide, the world community complicit by indifference.
Strong measures for change are needed, what only mass outrage and intensified
BDS pressure can achieve.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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