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OCHA's Special Focus on Occupied Palestine

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OCHA's Special Focus on Occupied Palestine
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blockadeOn June 9, McClatchy and other publications revealed some of what's rarely, if ever, acknowledged in the press - that Israel's blockade of Gaza is "economic warfare," not for security as most commonly reported, based on an Israeli document the Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement's lawsuit obtained.

Gisha's director, Sari Bashi, said the document shows the siege is collective punishment, in violation of Fourth Geneva's Article 33 stating:

"No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited."

For over 43 years of occupation, Israel has willfully and maliciously violated this and virtually all other Fourth Geneva and other humanitarian rights law provisions.

In the wake of the Flotilla massacre, a Gisha June 9 press release headlined, "The Pyrrhic Victory of Jam and Halva," saying:

Israel agreed to let these items, razors, coriander, cardamon, and cookies enter Gaza, after banning them for three years. However, it "continues to prevent the transfer of purely civilian goods, such as fabrics, fishing rods, and food wrappers, as part of what it calls "economic warfare" aimed at crippling Gaza's economy, (and by doing so) denies 1.5 million human beings the right to engage in productive, dignified work," let alone rebuild and survive under unending harshness.

The day before on June 8, the London Daily Telegraph's Adrian Blomfield and Alex Spillius headlined, "Israel to accept British plan to ease Gaza blockade," saying:

Its government is willing to do it "in exchange for international acceptance of a watered-down investigation into last week's deadly raid," massacring humanitarian activists in international waters. In other words, a whitewash, along the lines of a June 10 Haaretz Barak Ravid and Amos Harel report saying Washington and Tel Aviv agreed to let former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Yaakov Tirkel head an internal investigation into the matter, an idea the Obama administration proposed to include international law jurists (nationalities not named, but very likely will be Israelis) and two observers - one American, the other European.

The legality of the blockade will be examined and whether Israel's Flotilla massacre violated international law. On June 9, "A team of (Israeli-appointed) military experts headed by Major General (res.) Giora Eiland began its own examination of the flotilla incident."

On June 11, the neoconservative Weekly Standard's William Kristol headlined, "Sources: Obama Administration to Support Anti-Israeli Resolution at UN Next Week," saying:

Obama officials "have been telling foreign governments that the administration (will) support (a UN) independent commission....to investigate Israel's behavior in the Gaza flotilla incident" - what Kristol called "an extraordinary singling out of Israel, (a biased) investigation, (and one that will set) a terrible precedent, (perhaps leading to) outside investigations of incidents involving US troops or intelligence operatives (in) our war on terror."

On June 11, Haaretz writer Natasha Mozgovaya headlined, "US denies pushing for Gaza flotilla probe," quoting State Department spokesman Philip Crowley, saying:

"We are not aware of any resolution that will be introduced at the UN next week....We support an Israeli led investigation and we are open to the potential ways in which the international community can participate in it;" that is, with individuals acceptable to Israel and Washington, ruling out independent judgments - in other words, assure whitewash, the usual practice by both countries to keep sensitive information suppressed.

These investigations won't reveal the purpose of the siege or attack, let alone their illegality. Israel needs Hamas, and would invent it if it didn't exist as a pretext to hype fear, impose harshness, and conduct repeated assaults against bogus security threats - without challenge the way Israel's done it for decades, the Flotilla attack the latest atrocity after thousands of others previously.

Why so this time was to maintain an oppressive siege, keep 1.5 million Gazans trapped, cause enough harm to deter other aid missions from coming, and assassinate designated activists on board, the commandos given names and photos in advance. The death toll - 9 confirmed dead, another 6 or 7 missing, likely dumped overboard to perish at sea.

OCHA's Report on Occupied Palestine

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs occupied Palestinian territory issued a May 2010 report titled, "Impending Assistance: Challenges to Meeting the Humanitarian Needs of Palestinians," citing "obstacles to the movement of staff and goods and other restrictions impacting day-to-day operations that limit its ability to efficiently and effectively respond to existing needs."

According to John Holmes, UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, "When the delivery of humanitarian access is restricted, lives are lost and misery prolonged needlessly."

OCHA discussed needs throughout the Territories, but highlighted them in Gaza. Besides sweeping import restrictions, UNWRA reported its 24 construction and infrastructure projects are frozen and can't begin, including for schools, health facilities, housing units,  sewage, and sanitation.

In the West Bank, free movement and access restrictions impede efforts, including the problems of getting permits. As a result, the needs of vulnerable Palestinians go unmet, a trend OCHA calls vital to reverse.

"A complete lifting of Israel's (Gaza) blockade and improved (West Bank) access....are just (two) examples of measures that could significantly improve Palestinian livelihoods through a reduction in unemployment and poverty."

Israel's modest Gaza relaxation is woefully inadequate, and largely cosmetic. It's a welcome baby step provided much more follows, including international community pressure to enforce change as well as political and financial support.

The General Assembly's February 2004 Resolution 58/114 "Strengthen(ed) the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations," stating:

"All governments and parties in complex humanitarian emergencies, in particular in armed conflicts, and in post conflict situations, in countries in which humanitarian personnel are operating, are called upon in conformity to relevant provisions of international law and international humanitarian law to: cooperate fully with the (UN) and other humanitarian agencies and organizations; and to ensure the safe and unhindered access of" personnel, supplies and equipment to aid civilians, refugees and displaced persons.

Israel refuses to honor this and dozens of other UN resolutions. As a result, humanitarian missions are severely impeded, especially in Gaza under siege. Since its onset, "the UN has literally spent thousands of staff hours attempting to secure entry of goods....with only limited success, and virtually none for reconstruction.

"Since 2007, UNWRA has been unable to complete any of its construction projects, including those projects meant to re-house 14,200 people, many of whom had their homes destroyed by Israeli military operations between 2000 and 2004," let alone from Cast Lead.

A 2007 Khan Yunis project, funded by the Arab Emirates Red Crescent Society, planned to build 600 housing units for 3,575 individuals. Yet it was suspended after Israel prohibited entry of necessary construction materials, including for related infrastructure.



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