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OCHA's Special Focus on Occupied Palestine - OCHA's Special Focus on Occupied Palestine

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OCHA's Special Focus on Occupied Palestine
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Prior to the blockade, 151 units were partly built, and only after months of negotiations did Israel agree to let in some materials to complete them - as of May, enough only for about 13, "completely inadequate to address" the enormous need.

A new UNWRA poverty survey showed how Palestinian refugees are "completely unable to secure access to food and (lack) the means to purchase even the most basic items" like soap and safe drinking water - a population that tripled since June 2007.

Overall, the UN and other relief agencies face enormous obstacles throughout the Territories that negatively impact their operations or deter them altogether. For example, in the West Bank's Area C, home for 60% of its population, Israeli control caused years of neglect.

As a result, a recent West Bank UNICEF, WFP, and UNRWA survey found severe restrictions on Palestinians' access to range land and water, raising herder communities' food insecurity levels up to 80%, compared to 25% overall in the Territory.

Construction is also impeded for needed schools, medical clinics, dwellings, and vital infrastructure as a result of the permit approval process, taking years, and discouraging funding as a result.

One example involved an ambitious 2010 plan, focused on meeting urgent West Bank water, sanitation, education, and housing needs. The proposal includes 15 projects in 17 Area C communities for 52,000 people, and for a moratorium on home demolitions for lacking permit permission to build them.

Three months after the plan's submission, the UN and its partners still await an official Israeli response, and may wait months longer before hearing anything.

Besides numerous obstacles impeding the movement of goods and day-to-day operations, humanitarian agencies face a range of restrictions, including West Bank checkpoints and permits (taking 3 - 6 months to obtain), entry into East Jerusalem, and access to Gaza under siege, besides invasive searches and other measures to enter through Erez crossing.

At minimum, they delay work and raise costs. At worst, operations can't meet the population's needs. For example, in March 2010, UN staff reported 53 West Bank access incidents, costing 287 staff hours or the equivalent of 38 days. Over two-thirds of the delays or denials resulted from Israeli demands to carry out measures contrary to UN conventions and guidelines, such as vehicle searches and requirement that staff exit them at checkpoints.

Entering Gaza was severely restricted after September 2000, the start of the second Intifada, and today it's much harder under siege, requiring lengthy permit procedures, many denied on "security grounds."

Getting into Gaza is especially hard, including needing visas, then delays, strip searches, whether entry can be vehicular or on foot, and numerous other impediments affecting operations.

In June 2009, Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, called the Occupied Territory situation "wholly unacceptable" with regard to access and security of humanitarian workers, adding that:

"The violation of International Humanitarian Law is as deadly as any weapon. And no reason can justify it."

Especially in Gaza under extreme conditions, including up to 95% of its water contaminated, according to Amnesty International, inadequate power, electricity, and sanitation, 60% of households food insecure, chronic malnutrition rising, nearly all of the Strip's production capacity entirely or partially shut down, construction at a standstill, the fish catch down about 50%, unemployment and poverty at record high levels, the health sector overworked and unable to function optimally, education heavily impacted, and numerous other hardships unimaginable in the West.

OCHA and other international agencies are concerned, calling for the immediate, unconditional lifting of the siege as well as improved West Bank access, including to and from East Jerusalem.

Nothing should impede humanitarian organizations from carrying out their mission effectively and efficiently. Israel, of course, does it willfully, repeatedly, and illegally, a situation no longer to be tolerated, and high time for world leaders to demand it unconditionally, something few have the courage to suggest.

A Final Comment

Commenting on the OCHA report, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said:

"The longer the (Gaza) closure continues, the more it undermines future prospects of workers and their families, in particular of the younger generation.

Restrictions on access and movement in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which include the separation barrier, checkpoints and other physical obstacles, together with an increasingly sophisticated permit system, continue to strongly undermine economic activity, the Palestinian social fabric, enterprises and the well-being of workers."

A lasting solution to the conflict rests on building an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State living in peace and security with all its neighbors."

In Occupied Palestine, that vision is unfulfilled, short of international solidarity to enforce it, Israeli harshness firmly in place.

On his June 11 posting, William Blum said "The worst thing that ever happened to the Jewish people is the Holocaust. The(ir) second worst the state of Israel," what Palestinians have understood for 62 years with no visible letup to this day.

Besides innumerable daily hardships, on June 10, the International Middle East Media Center reported that 25 fundamentalist Knesset members "submitted a bill proposing that the (body) transfer money allocated to the Palestinian Authority to Jewish settlements, to punish Palestinians for their boycott campaign" as part of the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement.

The bill not only targets the Territories, it includes Israeli Arabs, stating that "Israeli citizens must not encourage, initiate or help the boycott campaign, (so those who) violate the new law" must be obligated to compensate affected Israelis.

Under the extremist Netanyahu-controlled Knesset, this is what passes for governance, and what Palestinians have to endure - but it's one example of many. Repression continues daily in the Territories and against Arab Israeli citizens, resulting in arrests, torture and imprisonments for nonviolent protests and other lawful forms of resistance.

Gazans remain under siege, assaulted by regular Israeli incursions, and West Bank Palestinians face similar hardships, repression and occupation viciousness, what no one ever should endure, what no civilized state would ever impose, what no world community should allow, yet it literally lets Israel get away with murder by failing to hold its officials accountable, what one day will end because what can't go on forever, won't, including in Occupied Palestine.

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