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Gaza: Good News and Bad

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Gaza: Good News and Bad
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Israeli SettlersFirst the good. On November 22, the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC) said a "Freedom Spring" convoy arrived through Rafah's border terminal, connecting Gaza and Egypt.

Arab Spring movement members will meet Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyya and other Palestinian officials. In addition, meetings will be held with women's groups, local NGOs, and others.

Tours through Gaza's refugee camps and visiting UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency) are planned.

Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) head Ahmad Bahar called the visit historic, saying "convoy members managed to defend their people's dignity and honor, and now, they came to Gaza to express support and solidarity with their people."

"You came to challenge this siege. I want to tell you that today is the beginning of the end of this siege, the siege that was never lifted, despite conspiracies and claims of easing it. This conspiracy is against the steadfastness of our people, the people who defend their dignity, children and country, the people who want to liberate Jerusalem."

Egyptian Popular Committee Against the Judaization of Jerusalem head, Salah Sultan, said convoy members will "return as fighters and liberators of Jerusalem and the Al Aqsa Mosque. We will stand with you. The world will stand with you to defend Jerusalem, especially after the Zionists declared plans to demolish the historic Moghrabi (Magharba) Gate in Jerusalem that links between the Al Boraq Wall and the Al Aqsa Mosque."

Arab Spring activists represent solidarity with besieged Gazans. They also reflect a growing spirit that others support their liberating struggle.

On November 22, the Palestine News Network headlined, "Israel Allows More Construction Materials into Gaza, Exports Still at Zero," saying:

Nearly 300 trucks came through southern Gaza's Karem Abu Salem crossing. They carried industrial, agricultural, and transportation supplies.

Palestinian liaison official Ra'ed Fattouh said 12 trucks delivered cement and other construction materials, despite a near ban most times. Another 53 trucks carried gravel, 11 had aid supplies, 183 were for industrial use, 40 delivered livestock feed, nine were for agriculture, five for transportation, and 20 had new vehicles.

Another 50 came for UNRWA projects. Cooking gas supplied only one-fourth of current weekly needs, falling way short of avoiding a humanitarian crisis.

No exports left Gaza since May 13, 2011. At the time, a small truckload of flowers destined for the Netherlands got out.

Oxfam says Gaza's export ban keeps its economy "heavily dependent on local demand." However, it's constrained by an impoverished population's weak demand.

"Until crossings are fully open for export, the impact of the easing of the blockade on unemployment, poverty and food insecurity rates remains limited."

Israel planned it that way. It's siege is politically motivated. It has nothing to do with security. Saying so's a ruse to maintain it illegally.

The Bad News

It always overwhelms the good. Daily, the Palestine News & Information Agency (WAFA) reports it. On November 22, it said:

(1) Israeli Rimon Prison security forces "viciously attacked" Palestinian prisoners "looking for hidden cellular phones." Beatings followed. Personal belongings were destroyed. Prisoners were isolated in solitary confinement. Other punishments were imposed.

Palestinian minister of prisoners' affairs, Issa Qaraqi, accused Israel of targeting prisoners for "political gains."

(2) Israeli bulldozers razed Hassan Erekat's agricultural land. Irrigation networks were destroyed. They were the main water source for land northeast of Jericho. Doing so was malicious and criminal. Reasons given were spurious.

(3) Homes of West Bank activists were raided. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) said 17 of its members were arrested in Jenin, its refugee camp, area villages, and Kufr Malik village east of Ramallah.

On November 21, WAFA monitored "incitement and racism" in Israeli publications. One article said releasing Palestinian "murderers" in the Gilad Shalit swap damaged Israel's "legitimacy of our fight against terrorism."

Another same day report said Jewish extremists broke into Jaffa's Hasan Beik mosque "to perform Jewish prayer" inside. Doing so was lawless breaking and entering. Damage done was vandalism.

Israeli authorities turned a blind eye like they always do, inciting further incidents. Israeli hard-liners earlier tried to torch the mosque. No prosecutions followed.

Numerous reports say Gaza patients can't access treatment abroad when it's unavailable otherwise. Last summer, children needing life-saving surgery were denied. So are others for political reasons, targeting human need maliciously.

Getting permission to leave is daunting. Permits are required. Bureaucratic obstacles must be overcome. The entire process is time-consuming. Gravely ill patients can't wait. As a result, some die needlessly. Others suffer interminable pain. So do loved ones watching them.

On November 17, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) headlined, "Gaza: Residents deprived of critical medications and medical care," saying:

Gaza health facilities are critically short of drugs and medical supplies. MSF and others can't make up for shortfalls. "In late September, 36% of essential drugs were lacking," some entirely.

Since Israel besieged Gaza in June 2007, conditions continue to deteriorate. Aid falls far short of needs. At least 164 essential drugs are "completely unavailable."

“Patients' health is threatened....Only 260 of the 900 required medical supply items (specifically, single-use items) were supplied."

Most affected medical areas include surgery, intensive care, hermodialysis, treatment to prevent organ transplant rejection, oncology, hematology, psychiatric medications, ophthalmology, maternity, pediatrics, and catheterization lab procedures to diagnose and treat heart disease.

In addition, five medical centers treating kidney disease face drug shortages. Unless resupplied within several weeks, they'll be exhausted. As a result, patients' lives will be endangered. Many already are. For others it's too late.

MSF concluded saying, "We remain particularly concerned about the future of Gaza's patients and ill residents."

Staying alive and healthy under siege is daunting. Few in normal surroundings understand. Gazans live it daily.

A Final Comment

Last August, the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights titled a report, "Israel makes Torture, degrading treatment a policy," saying:

Its field report covering the period from May 1, 2009 - April 30, 2010 said Israel practices it in numerous ways, despite international law prohibiting all forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

Notoriously, Israel brutally mistreats Palestinians in custody, including women and children.

Many other forms of mistreatment are also common. They include lawless arrests and detentions, attacking peaceful protesters, middle-of-the-night raids, restricting free movement and expression, denying critically needed medical care outside Gaza, bulldozing Palestinian homes, displacing residents, prohibiting farmers from accessing their land, attacking fishermen at sea, restricting access to essential services, besieging Gaza, and much more.

The Committee Against Torture (CAT) includes 10 independent experts, charged with monitoring the implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment by State parties.

All States must submit reports, annually at first after adopting the Convention, quadrennially thereafter.

CAT called besieging Gaza "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment....a prima facie violation of....CAT." It also violates Fourth Geneva's collective punishment prohibition.

Israel spurns all international laws, no matter its treaty obligations. All Palestinians suffer extreme repression, especially Gazans, suffocating horrendously under siege.


2- Israeli Settlers Attack Palestinians with Impunity

Palestinians are doubly cursed. Israel's military attacks them regularly. During the past week alone, Israeli air strikes killed four Gazans, wounding another 14.

Al-Nabi Saleh village residents participating in a peaceful demonstration were assaulted. Two injuries were reported, including a child. Israel's navy arrested three Palestinian fishermen, confiscating their boats.

Their security forces conducted 91 incursions (13 a day on average) into Palestinian communities, arresting 14 civilians. One injury was reported.

Israeli security forces raided homes of recently released Palestinian prisoners. They were ordered to appear for questioning to harass and perhaps re-incarcerate them.

In addition, Palestinian property was attacked, bulldozed, otherwise destroyed or damaged.

All the above incidents and similar daily ones violate international and Israeli law.

Lawless Israeli settlers also assault Palestinians with impunity. Investigations when held are whitewashed. Rarely is anyone prosecuted even for offenses too serious to ignore.

On November 11, B'Tselem reported on "Settler violence against Palestinian farmers and their property, Beitillu, Ramallah District," saying:

On October 24, 25 and 26, four attacks occurred. Three involved settlers damaging or uprooting olive trees on privately owned Palestinian land near Nahli'el and Talmon settlements. A Palestinian farmer was also assaulted on his land.

On October 24, Faiz Abu Ziyada, a Beitillu resident, saw signs posted on olive trees on his land. It's several hundred meters from the illegal Nahli'el settlement.

Abu Ziyada complained to police. The same day, Hassan Tabal, another Beitillu resident, found 30 of his olive trees burned. Twenty were totally destroyed. He also notified police.

On October 25, Abu Ziyada family members waited for Israeli soldiers to accompany them to their land to pick olives. Settlers assaulted them. Two soldiers present did nothing. Instead, they told Palestinians to leave.

Given no choice, they watched helplessly from a distance while settlers smashed windows in their car. Instead of stopping them, soldiers summoned police. They arrived to investigate. Palestinians know settlers commit violence with impunity. Inquiries of any sort go nowhere.

While family members were being questioned, Aa'il Abu Ziyada saw damage done to his olive trees. Branches were maliciously broken off. The previous day they were unharmed.

On October 26, Bazar family members saw branches torn off 10 of their olive trees. Later an Al Jazeera jeep arriving to document the damage was stoned. A B'Tselem volunteer with them was injured when a stone struck him in the neck.

Last year, B'Tselem documented six settler vandalism incidents. They happen regularly. Many aren't reported. Affected Palestinians may fear for their lives. Other times complaints lodged fall on deaf ears.

In 2010, B'Tselem discussed several incidents near Talmon, Dolev and Hanli'el settlements. They included assaults, threats, damage to trees, and crop theft. Farmers complained to police.

Four cases were closed, three on grounds of "offender unknown." It's polite language for whitewash. Another ended for reasons unknown, and a fifth one remains unresolved.

In 2006, Israel's High Court ruled that "protection of the safety and property of the local residents is one of the most fundamental obligations imposed on the military commander in the field."

The Court ordered four principles maintained:

  • assuring Palestinian farmers are safe during olive harvest;
  • that they have free access to their land;
  • that security forces protect their property; and
  • thoroughly investigate complaints filed.

Israeli government and military officials routinely ignore Supreme Court rulings, doing what they wish extralegally.

Instead of protecting Palestinians, Israeli soldiers prevent them from accessing their land, and require they coordinate harvesting olives to suit military commander demands.

They claim coordination is needed to prevent or minimize settler attacks. Of course, they'd be few or none if guilty parties were arrested and prosecuted, including being forced to make restitution for damaged property.

The above cases show how disdainfully authorities treat Palestinians. At the same time, settlers get free reign to assault farmers on their land and vandalize their property.

B'Tselem wanted answers from Israel's Binyamin brigade. Instead it got meaningless responses, signifying nothing would be done regarding the above incidents or to prevent future ones.

Soldiers present when Abu Ziyada family members were assaulted violated military orders to detain offenders until police arrived. It rarely happens. Settlers know they can do what they please with impunity.

OCHA Documents 2011 Settler Violence

A November Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for the Occupied Palestinian Territory discussed this year's settler violence to date. These facts were covered:

  • on average, weekly settler attacks causing Palestinian injuries and property damage increased 40% compared to 2010, 165% to 2009;
  • settlers killed three Palestinians, injuring another 167;
  • another Palestinian was killed and 101 injured by soldiers intervening in settler-farmer clashes; Palestinians were harmed instead of protected;
  • eight settlers were killed, another 30 injured, compared to five deaths and 43 injuries in 2010;
  • settlers damaged or destroyed nearly 10,000 Palestinian trees, mainly olive ones; the livelihoods of hundreds of families were significantly undermined;
  • in July 2011, repeated attacks entirely displaced a Palestinian community of 127;
  • Israeli police summarily dismissed over 90% of  Palestinian complaints; and
  • OCHA identified over 80 Palestinian communities with a combined population of nearly 250,000 vulnerable to settler violence, including 76,000 at high risk.

OCHA concluded that:

(1) Settler violence undermines the security and livelihoods of West Bank Palestinians.

(2) Many attacks were committed by settlers living in unauthorized Israeli "outposts," many built on privately-owned Palestinian land.

(3) Settler violence stems from Israel's longstanding policy of stealing Palestinian land, displacing Arabs with Jews, and turning a blind eye to their lawlessness.

(4) International and Israeli laws are ignored. Most investigations are whitewashed. Settlers commit vandalism and assaults with impunity. As a result, they continue unchallenged.

(5) Settler violence increases the risk of Palestinian displacement. Stealing more land is facilitated.

(6) Israel is legally obligated to prevent settler attacks, protect Palestinian property, and prosecute settler offenders. It rarely happens.

A Final Comment

Across America, cops attack protesters with mace, pepper spray, tear gas, beatings, and other crowd dispersal methods.

In some parts of the world, demonstrators risk their lives protesting, in countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Bahrain.

On November 19, an email arrived saying the following:

"We are very sad about the death of a child supporting the Occupy Wall St. movement. He was also one of the members of the Occupy Bahrain movement.

The 16 year old child was killed by (monarchal) Al Khalifa mercenaries. His name is Ali Yousif Badah. He is from Sitra City.

Yes it is in Bahrain - it happend after midnight on Friday night, i.e. early Saturday morning. After Ali was run over by a police car, mercenaries cleaned up blood and remains from the crime scene, and an ambulance later picked up his body.

His father said that it is difficult to look at Ali's body, as it has been run over in a terribly brutal way. May God help his family!"

Since February, dozens of other protesting Bahrainis were murdered in cold blood. So far, it hasn't gone this far in America.

Given Washington's appetite for violence, belligerence in all forms can't be ruled out if authorities decide on much harsher ways to crack down.

Some critics are silenced other ways. On November 18, Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abuninah said Washington's National Press Club suspended journalist Sam Husseini for asking former Saudi intelligence head Prince Turki al-Faisal this question:

  • "There's been a lot of talk about the legitimacy of the Syrian regime. I want to know what legitimacy your regime has, sir."
  • "You come before us, representative of one of the most autocratic, misogynistic regimes on the face of the earth."
  • "Human Rights Watch and others report of torture and detention of activists. You squelched the democratic uprising in Bahrain. You tried to overturn the democratic uprising in Egypt, and indeed you continue to oppress your own people."
  • "What legitimacy does your regime have - other than with billions of dollars and weapons" supporting you?

In response, National Press Club executive director William McCarren suspended Husseini for "boisterous and unseemly conduct and language."

America's major media, especially television, also suppress critics of state and corporate power, as well as Israel and foreign despots allied with Washington.

Recognition and acceptance depend on saying nothing offensive about entrenched power interests. Criticize and risk exclusion, banishment or worse.

Increasingly, America's First Amendment isn't worth the parchment it's reproduced on. Cross a forbidden line and get punished. Cross it on America's streets against Wall Street and corporate greed and get brutalized by rogue cops.

Cross it repeatedly and risk life and limb if your views resonate globally. America won't tolerate democratic values at home or abroad.

In contrast, despotic rogue allies and their supporters are welcome. Husseini and courageous journalists are punished for doing what mainstream ones won't dare - their job.

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