Peace in our Time?

November 30, 2006

Letter from Laila [Laila El-Haddad, Gazan journalist]

Filed under: Palestine, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 11:07 pm

Dear friends,

its been a while since I’ve written, mainly because I have taken to updating my blog, which I know many of you read.

But I’ve decided to take this opportunity to also update you on our situation by email.

As many of you know Yousuf and I, along with my parents, left the US to Gaza nearly 3 weeks ago.  For two of those weeks, we have been stuck 50 km from the Rafah Crossing, in the face of an ongoing Israeli-imposed closure of the passage. 

We are staying in the Egyptian border town of Al-Arish, but for the past two days, we were literally stuck on the Egyptian side of the crossing itself, waiting to be let through, after we-and thousands of others, recieved word about the imminent (temporary) opening of the crossing, which has been shut down by Israel since late June. It has only been opened for 20 days since that time.
We stood and we waited and we cried and we returned back to Egypt Wednesday, and again Thursday.

It was anguish. Anguish and misery and desperation personfied in every woman, man and child.

One hour turned into two, then three, then five, as we stood shielding our eyes from the piercing midday sun on Wednesday, when we were told the Crossing would be opening for a few hours.

Some wailed in exhaustion, others fainted, still others cracked dry humor, trying to pass the time. We stood, thousands of us, packed together elbow to elbow like cattle, penned in between steel barriers on one end, and riot-geared Egyptian security guards on the perimeter, who were given orders not to allow anyone through until they hear otherwise from the Israelis-and to respond with force if anyone dared.

Many of the people had been waiting for more than two weeks to cross back into Gaza, sometimes making the trip to the crossing several times a day upon receiving word of its imminent opening.

“We have been waiting for 15 days now. Only god knows when it will open-today, tomorrow, the day after?” said 57-year-old Abu Yousuf Barghut, his shrapnel-riddled arm trembling by his side.

His tearful wife, Aisha, added: “God knows we only went to seek treatment for him and to come right back. And now we are stuck and waiting us in Gaza are my four children. This is the most basic of rights-to be able to return to our homes, and we are even denied that.”

“The only way anyone will actually pay attention to our plight is if one of us dies here, and even then, I’m not sure the world will care,” stammered one young man, Isam Shaksu, his eye heavily bandaged after having received an corneal implantation in Jordan.

In July, seven Palestinians waiting to be let into Gaza from Egypt died waiting to cross Rafah.

The Crossing is Gaza’s gateway to the world-and the only passagway in and out of the area for 1.4 million Palestinians.  Without it, Palestinian cannot seek medical treatment unavailable in Gaza; cannot re-unite with family members or attend universities or jobs abroad; and those on the outside cannot return home. There is simply no other way into Gaza for residents of the the Strip: our only airport’s runway was destroyed in 2001, and Israel denies us access to other borders passages through Israel or the West Bank.

After the hours and the sun, one would have thought the black steel gates ahead of us were the gates to Heaven, but in fact they only led to more masses, more waiting, more hell.

There is something you feel as you stand there, and sometimes squatted, for hours at a time, waiting to be let through the Egyptian side of Rafah Crossing. It is something of your humanity slowing drifting away. It is gradual, but unmistakable.

And you are never quite the same again.

There were mixed Israeli orders-first to open the crossing for three days, starting Wedneday, yesterday; then breaking news at 11pm retracted that order, and by Wednesday morning, another about-face saying that the border would in fact be opened. By the time we arrived, it was 11am, and already somewhere around 2000 has amassed in front of the gates. And no one was budging.

Yousuf waited along with us, asking incessantly “When would the crossing open??”, and begging me to pose the same quetion to the Egyptian officers manning it. Everytime he’d see the gate budge open he would get excited and yell “Its open!! Its open!!”. And everyone would heave a heavy sigh.

When we finally did make it inside the “Second sector” of the Egyptian side, the relief was overwhelming-we had moved 50 metres!! And we could wait another four hours if it meant we’d finally be allowed through. But instead we faced yet another uncertain wait; it was like some sadistic game with no certain ending.

As we waited, we saw members of the Palestinian athletic teams heading to the Asian games after a two week delay.

We also saw Ismail Haniya on his way out to his Arab tour. He stopped to mingle with the desperate crowds, some hailing him, some complaining about how long they had waited.

We finally learned that the crossing had been closed this entire time, and the Egyptians were only allowing people through to give them some hope to cling on to-and to prevent the masses from rioting, which has happened before.

We thought once he’d passed, we’d be allowed through. But it is then we learned that Mahmud Zahar had crossed earlier that morning-carrying suitcases full of $20 million .

The European Monitors-whom the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights have accused of contributing to the strangulation of Gaza- were not pleased. How could he not declare the money, and how could he have the audacity to try and bring in money to feed his peole in the first place??

They filed a “complaint” with the Israelis, who immediately told them to shut down the crossing, without giving a reason, leaving thousands-including Yousuf, my parents and I, stranded.

My mother and Yousuf had gone ahead of my father and I-and our bags-into the terminal, and Yousuf fell asleep in the mosque. It was then that the officers had informed us the crossing was no longer operational-and everyone who was inside, even those who had already made it as far as the Palestinian side, would have to go back.

We pleaded with an Egyptian Officer: “It took us 6 hours to get as far the inside of the terminal, please let us through”.

“Big deal-it took me ten hours to get here from Cairo,” he retorted, as I reminded myself they get paid a measly 180 Egyptian pounds a month and couldn’t care less.

Another officer was more sympathetic.

“What you lot have to understand is that no one gives a damn what happens to you-you could sit here and suffocate for all they care. You are simply not human enough for them to care.”

When is it that we lost our humanity, I wondered? And when is it that the humanity and desperation of a people, waiting desperately to be let through to their homes, was less important than the call of duty? And that a government was made to choose between feeding their own people, or giving them passage to their homes?

Inside the terminal, the scenes were dizzying. Already disoriented form lack of sleep and little food, I looked around in awe. It was nothing short of an interment camp, and I lost myself somewhere between the silent anguish of old men, aching, teary eyed-women on the verge of collapse, and children, some strewn across the floor in exhaustion, others who were sick, in wheelchairs, wailing…

We returned to Arish, exhausted and sleep deprived, only to find that all of the apartments were occupied by returning passengers. The only flat we found was one without hot water and leaky ceiling pipes, but we couldn’t care less. By 9pm we were all out.

The next morning, we left again to the border-where we had left our suitcases-despite word from taxi drivers that the crossing would not open. We waited again, this time for only 5 hours, until we decided it was an exercise in futility.

Everyone was looking for answers-some answers, any answers. When would the crossing open? Was there hope it would open today? If so, what time? Should we wait, should we return to Arish? Nobody knew.

Every now and then someone would make a call to some secondary source they knew in Gaza or on the border, and rumors would spread like wildfire across the masses. “At noon-they say at noon there is a possibility it will open! Patience, patience!”.

And then we wait some more.

One man, frustrated, took his bags and began to push them back on a trolley and out through the throngs of exhausted passengers.

“Where the hell do you think you’re going??” bellowed one of the Egyptian officers.

“To Jerusalem! Where do you think??” he snapped.

It was nearing the end of our long day, and overcome by exhaustion, we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

A friend in the UN told me the Europeans had left their posts after yesterday’s “incidents” and thus the Palestinian side of the crossing has shut down indefinitely now.

Rice is scheduled to come for talks with Abbas and Israel today, to discuss extending the “truce” to the West Bank, and re-implenting the lost Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA), which she one brokered one year ago this month.  IT was supposed to hand over control over Rafah, among other crossings, to Palestinians.  The year has come and gone, and all of our crossings, our air, our water, and our lives, remain under Israeli control.

And so now, we return to square one. Back in Arish, waiting, as ever, for the border to open.


Laila M. El-Haddad

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APARTHEID: Israelis adopt what South Africa dropped.

Filed under: Blogroll, Palestine, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 10:55 pm

By JOHN DUGARD; 29 Nov. 2006
EXCERPT: Following the worldwide anti-apartheid movement, one might expect a similarly concerted international effort united in opposition to Israel’s abhorrent treatment of the Palestinians. Instead one finds an international community divided between the West and the rest of the world. The Security Council is prevented from taking action because of the U.S. veto and European Union abstinence. And the United States and the European Union, acting in collusion with the United Nations and the Russian Federation, have in effect imposed economic sanctions on the Palestinian people for having, by democratic means, elected a government deemed unacceptable to Israel and the West. Forgotten is the commitment to putting an end to occupation, colonization and apartheid.

Former President Jimmy Carter’s new book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” is igniting controversy for its allegation that Israel practices a form of apartheid. As a South African and former anti-apartheid advocate who visits the Palestinian territories regularly to assess the human rights situation for the U.N. Human Rights Council, the comparison to South African apartheid is of special interest to me. On the face of it, the two regimes are very different. Apartheid was a system of institutionalized racial discrimination that the white minority in South Africa employed to maintain power over the black majority. It was characterized by the denial of political rights to blacks, the fragmentation of the country into white areas and black areas (called Bantustans) and by the imposition on blacks of restrictive measures designed to achieve white superiority, racial separation and white security.

The “pass system,” which sought to prevent the free movement of blacks and to restrict their entry to the cities, was rigorously enforced. Blacks were forcibly “relocated,” and they were denied access to most public amenities and to many forms of employment. The system was enforced by a brutal security apparatus in which torture played a significant role.

The Palestinian territories — East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza — have been under Israeli military occupation since 1967. Although military occupation is tolerated and regulated by international law, it is considered an undesirable regime that should be ended as soon as possible. The United Nations for nearly 40 years has condemned Israel’s military occupation, together with colonialism and apartheid, as contrary to the international public order.

In principle, the purpose of military occupation is different from that of apartheid. It is not designed as a long-term oppressive regime but as an interim measure that maintains law and order in a territory following an armed conflict and pending a peace settlement. But this is not the nature of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Since 1967 Israel has imposed its control over the Palestinian territories in the manner of a colonizing power, under the guise of occupation. It has permanently seized the territories’ most desirable parts — the holy sites in East Jerusalem, Hebron and Bethlehem and the fertile agricultural lands along the western border and in the Jordan Valley — and settled its own Jewish “colonists” throughout the land.

Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories has many features of colonization. At the same time it has many of the worst characteristics of apartheid. The West Bank has been fragmented into three areas -north (Jenin and Nablus), center (Ramallah) and south (Hebron) – which increasingly resemble the Bantustans of South Africa.

Restrictions on freedom of movement imposed by a rigid permit system enforced by some 520 checkpoints and roadblocks resemble, but in severity go well beyond, apartheid’s “pass system.” And the security apparatus is reminiscent of that of apartheid, with more than 10,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons and frequent allegations of torture and cruel treatment.

Many aspects of Israel’s occupation surpass those of the apartheid regime. Israel’s large-scale destruction of Palestinian homes, leveling of agricultural lands, military incursions and targeted assassinations of Palestinians far exceed any similar practices in apartheid South Africa. No wall was ever built to separate blacks and whites.

Following the worldwide anti-apartheid movement, one might expect a similarly concerted international effort united in opposition to Israel’s abhorrent treatment of the Palestinians. Instead one finds an international community divided between the West and the rest of the world. The Security Council is prevented from taking action because of the U.S. veto and European Union abstinence. And the United States and the European Union, acting in collusion with the United Nations and the Russian Federation, have in effect imposed economic sanctions on the Palestinian people for having, by democratic means, elected a government deemed unacceptable to Israel and the West. Forgotten is the commitment to putting an end to occupation, colonization and apartheid.

In these circumstances, the United States should not be surprised if the rest of the world begins to lose faith in its commitment to human rights. Some Americans — rightly — complain that other countries are unconcerned about Sudan’s violence-torn Darfur region and similar situations in the world. But while the United States itself maintains a double standard with respect to Palestine it cannot expect cooperation from others in the struggle for human rights.

John Dugard is a South African law professor teaching in the Netherlands. He is currently Special Rapporteur on Palestine to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

ISRAEL-PALESTINE: APARTHEID OR CONFEDERATION

Filed under: Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 10:49 pm

By Jeff Halper

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s address to both houses of the American Congress in May, 2006, was the clearest, most explicit presentation of Israel’s conception of where it is going vis-à-vis the Palestinians. It is perhaps the most skilled use of Newspeak since George Orwell invented the term in his novel 1984. Just as Orwell’s totalitarian propagandists proclaimed WAR IS PEACE, so Olmert declared in Washington:  ISRAELI EXPANSION IS WITHDRAWAL and UNILATERAL REALIGNMENT IS PEACE. (He had help with the language. Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel drafted large sections of the speech together with an American advisor who specializes in “Republican language.”) 

Because of Olmert’s use of Orwellian language (can anyone, including President Bush or members of Congress, explain to us what “convergence” and “realignment” mean?), we must listen carefully to what is said, what is not said and what is meant. For “convergence” in one form or another, if not this year then next, is where Israel has to go if it continues to pursue its agenda of territorial expansion at the expense of the Palestinians. 

What was said in Congress sounds fine if taken at face value. Olmert, extending “my hand in peace to Mahmoud Abbas, the elected president of the Palestinian Authority,” declared Israel’s willingness to negotiate with him on condition that the Palestinians “renounce terrorism, dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, accept previous agreements and commitments, and recognize the right of Israel to exist.” If they do so, Olmert held out Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution.  

What wasn’t said? While reference to a Palestinian state sounds forthcoming, two key elements set down in the Road Map defining that state were missing: an end to the Israeli Occupation and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. “A settlement,” says the text of the Road Map to which Olmert and Bush constantly declare their allegiance, “will result in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel. The settlement will…end the occupation that began in 1967.”  

Olmert’s “convergence” (or “realignment”) plan is based on the massive “facts on the ground” – what I have called its Matrix of Control – that are intended to foreclose completely the emergence of a viable Palestinian state (although Israel needs a Palestinian Bantustan to “relieve” it of the Palestinian population). Any plan which includes the Matrix of Control cannot possibly address Palestinian needs, and in fact creates a permanent regime of Apartheid. According to Olmert’s plan, the “Separation Barrier” will become Israel’s permanent “demographic border,” with Israel annexing some 10% of the West Bank. That may not sound like much, but consider this: the settlement blocs thus incorporated into Israel (together with a half-million Israeli settlers) carve the West Bank into a number of small, disconnected, impoverished “cantons” and remove from the Palestinians their richest agricultural land and all the water. Hardly the basis for a viable state.   

The convergence plan also creates a “greater” Israeli Jerusalem over the entire central portion of the West Bank, thereby cutting the economic, cultural, religious and historic heart out of any Palestinian state. It then sandwiches the Palestinians between the Barrier/border and yet another “security” border, the Jordan Valley, giving Israel two eastern borders. Palestinian freedom of movement of both people and goods is thus prevented into both Israel and Jordan but also internally, between the various cantons. Israel will also retain control of Palestinian airspace, the electro-magnetic sphere and even the right of a Palestinian state to conduct its own foreign policy.  

The Road Map, like international law regarding the end of occupations in general, also insists on a negotiated solution between the parties. Olmert made a great issue of Palestinian terrorism (playing on American sensibilities to this buzz-word), placing pre-conditions on negotiations. Israel is willing to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, he said, if it renounces terrorism, dismantles the terrorist infrastructure, accepts previous agreements and recognizes the right of Israel to exist (a right Israel has not recognized vis-a-vis the Palestinians). What is not mentioned is Israel’s Occupation which, regardless of an end to terror and negotiations, is being institutionalized and made permanent. For neither security nor terrorism are really the issue; Israel’s policies of annexation are based on a pro-active claim to the entire country. Virtually no element of the Occupation – the establishment of some 300 settlements, expropriation of most West Bank land, the demolition of 12,000 Palestinian homes, the uprooting of a million olive and fruit trees, the construction of a massive system of highways to link the settlements into Israel proper or the tortuous route of the Barrier deep in Palestinian territory – can be explained by security. Terrorism on all sides is wrong (let it be noted that Israel has killed four times more civilians than the Palestinians have), but to demand that resistance cease while an occupation is being made permanent is unconscionable. 

Finally, what was meant? In a word: Apartheid. The “A” word was missing from Olmert’s speech, of course, but the bottom line of his convergence plan is clear: the establishment of a permanent, institutionalized regime of Israeli domination over Palestinians based on separation between Jews and Arabs. Now this is a far cry from the vision of the Road Map. “A settlement,” says the Road Map text, “will result in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel. The settlement will…end the occupation that began in 1967.” The “convergence plan” also eliminates any possibility for negotiations – not because of Palestinian intransigence, but because Israel has nothing of meaning to negotiate. So how do we adapt this unilateral plan to Europe’s insistence on preserving the moribund Road Map? Simple. Just switch from “convergence” to “realignment.” In Olmert’s new formulation, Israel is merely “realigning” its borders in an “interim” manner that conforms to Phase Two of the Road Map. The Palestinians get their state, albeit with “provisional borders.” And that’s where we stay forever. De facto convergence in Road Map clothing. 

This, of course, is the Palestinians’ greatest fear, that the Road Map gets “stuck” in Phase Two and never gets to Phase Three, an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state.” De facto for Israel means permanent. Once it has turned the Separation Barrier into a border, annexed the settlement blocs and “greater” Jerusalem and created the semblance of a two-state solution, no further pressures to advance to Phase Three will be forthcoming.  

And where are the Palestinians in all this? Irrelevant, in Israel’s view, and manipulated as usual. “Should we realize that the bilateral track with the Palestinians is of no consequence,” said Olmert to Congress, “should the Palestinians ignore our outstretched hand for peace, Israel will seek other alternatives to promote our future and the prospects of hope in the Middle East. At that juncture, the time for realignment will occur. Realignment would be a process to allow Israel to build its future without being held hostage to Palestinian terrorist activities.” Talk about an Orwellian formulation! The election of Hamas has nothing to do with the impossibility of negotiations. Sharon refused to negotiate with or even meet the pliable Abbas, and Israeli governments never negotiated seriously with Arafat. The truth is that Israel has nothing to negotiate. “Greater” Jerusalem is ours, the settlement blocs are ours, the borders are ours, the water is ours, even the sky is ours. What’s left to negotiate?  

Make no mistake about it: Apartheid is at our door in Israel/Palestine. The Israeli plan of convergence/realignment conforms precisely to the concept of Apartheid. First, it is based on the principle of separating populations. Israel officially calls its policy towards the Palestinians “separation,” which is what apartheid means in Afrikaans; the official name of the wall Israel is building in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem is the “Separation Barrier.” Second, separation is accompanied by domination and oppression. Israel will expand to about 85% of the country, take all its resources and elements of sovereignty (such as control of movement and borders), and leave the Palestinian majority to live in a truncated Bantustan-state with no meaningful sovereignty, no freedom and no economy. Whether separation-with-domination is based on race as in Apartheid South Africa or on religion and nationalism as in Israel/Palestine is irrelevant. The point is that Israel, like South Africa in the dark days of Apartheid, is establishing a permanent regime whose principles and effects are precisely those ascribed to Apartheid.  

This cannot be permitted. “If apartheid ended, so can the occupation,” said Bishop Desmond Tutu, adding: “but the moral force and international pressure will have to be just as determined.” President Jimmy Carter has just published a book warning explicitly of Apartheid in Palestine. It is incumbent upon all of us – civil society, faith-based communities and governments alike – to take urgent actions to ensure that, less than two decades after the fall of the Apartheid regime in South Africa, another such system does not arise before our eyes, on the southern border of Europe, in the very land considered holy by the three great monotheistic faiths.  (more…)

November 22, 2006

Medecins du Monde Survey of Gaza Health Deterioration

Filed under: Blogroll, Palestine, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 9:58 am

http://www.medecinsdumonde.org/publications/rapports/Gaza_survey%20_2006_eng.pdf/download

[http://www.medecinsdumonde.org/publications/rapports/Gaza_survey%20_2006_eng.pdf/download]
CONTEXT
The election of Hamas – January 2006
28 June 2006 – operation “Summer Rain”

THE SURVEY
METHODOLOGY
1. Survey carried out 27 to 29 June 2006
2. Survey carried out 3 to 8 July 2006
RESULTS AND ANALYSIS

I – THE INTERVIEWEES’ LIVING CONDITIONS
1. Demography: overpopulation and young population
2. A worrying economic situation
3. Increasingly precarious living conditions
– Access to water
– Access to sanitation
– Access to electricity and fuel
4. Deterioration of households’ food situation
II – ACCESS TO THE PALESTINIAN HEALTH SERVICE
1. Patients’ increasing problems accessing medical facilities
2. A health service in a stranglehold
III – THE INTERVIEWEES’ HEALTH
1. Perception of their health status before operation “Summer Rain”
2. Main illnesses
3. Signs of psychological trauma

CONTENTS
Since February 2006, the Occupied Palestinian Territories have suffered the effects of the international economic embargo ordered by the main western donors after Hamas’s victory in the parliamentary elections of 25 January 2006. The suspension of aid causes extra problems for the Palestinian civilian population, whose living conditions have continued to deteriorate ever more sharply since 2000. In this context, operation “Summer Rain”, launched by the Israeli army on 28 June as a reaction to the kidnapping of a soldier by Palestinian militants, is an additional aggravating factor which increases the risk of destabilising the area and driving the Palestinian Territories into a major humanitarian crisis. 70% of the Palestinian population currently live below the poverty line, the recorded unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip stands at 40% and it is harder to access food and drinking water than before 2000. In addition, the destruction of infrastructure and main transport routes during operation “Summer Rain” launched on 28 June, greatly hinder electricity, drinking water and fuel distribution and restrict travel in the Gaza Strip. Therefore, beyond the immediate consequences on the population’s physical and mental health, the latest Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip could have long -term effects and weaken still further an already unstable situation.

Médecins du Monde-France (MdM) is an international solidarity medical association which has been involved since 1980 in improving the living conditions of civil ian populations across the world, especially in terms of access to hygiene, medicines and health care.

In this report MdM is seeking to evaluate the Gazan population’s health care access and the problems health care teams have faced since the beginning of 2006 through an analysis of the health status of patients consulting medical facilities in the Gaza Strip.

The analysis is based on data collected directly on the ground during two surveys led by MdM-France and carried out by its local team based in Gaza. These surveys were carried out before and during operation “Summer Rain”, the first from 27 to 29 June 2006 and the second from 3 to 8 July 20064. They covered a total population of 1487 people who came for consultations at fifteen health facilities representative of all the Gazan health facilities and distributed across the Gaza Strip (north, centre and south). There were three parts to the surveys: living conditions (work, housing conditions, access to food and water), health care access (accessibility of health facilities and medicines for patients, accessibility of place of work for health care workers), and mental health.

The most revealing results about the overall situation before operation “Summer Rain”, and then about how the situation deteriorated, concern:
Access to health facilities: at the beginning of June, 23% of patients took over a week to seek a consultation. Since the beginning of July, it took them on average four times longer to reach health facilities.

General health status: in May 2006, premature births in hospitals increased by 60%. 52.6% of patients who consulted were suffering from chronic illnesses; 93% of them were receiving treatment. Psychological illnesses were continually increasing, especially among children. Since June 2006, 84.7% of the interviewees had witnessed a traumatic event in the days preceding the consultation. Employment: 35% of interviewees said they were unemployed or had no fixed income. 30% of those with a job were working in the informal sector.

http://www.medecinsdumonde.org/publications/rapports/Gaza_survey%20_2006_eng.pdf/download
________________________________________

Evaluation of Drinking Water Quality in Gaza Strip

Filed under: Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 9:45 am

Gaza Strip lies on the South-Western part of the Palestinian coastal plain.  It is a semi-arid area, roughly estimated by 365 Km2 with its length approximately 45 km forming a long narrow rectangle.  The annual average daily temperature ranges from 250C in the summer to 130C in the winter.  The average annual rainfall varies from 450 mm/year in the North to 200 mm/year in the South.  Most of the rainfall occurs in the period from October to March while the rest of the year is completely dry (PHG, 2002).  About 1.38 million of the Palestinian people live and work in the narrow strip (PCBS 2005).  Gaza Strip is characterized by scarcity of its natural water resources.  The main source of water in the Gaza Strip is the groundwater aquifer.  Over pumping and low rainfall have limited the quality of water available and have further contributed to the degradation of the water quality.

 

Water quality of the coastal aquifer underlying
Gaza has deteriorated severely.  This has been brought about a number of reasons, the most important of which is the Israeli occupation (destroy of infrastructure, hold surface and underground water) and the excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides.  These malpractices with the uncontrolled discharge of sewage water and solid waste leach have increased the nitrate concentration in the ground water of Gaza Strip. Concentration of more than ten times the international accepted limits have been reported (WHO standard is 45 mg/L).  The reason for drawing attention to nitrate pollution is its toxicity to humans, especially for babies and pregnant women by the so-called “blue babies” syndromes.

On the other hand, there is the salinity problem of the groundwater aquifer in Gaza Strip. The salinity content has show an obvious increase during the 5 past years. Chloride contents less than 200 mg/l has been found only in the northern and south-western parts of Gaza Strip. Very high chloride contents of over 1000 mg/L have been found in the central and the south-eastern parts of the area. This may be the result from over-pumping the aquifer, which induces an increasing groundwater flow from the east, and seawater intrusion from the west, thus raising chloride contents in the fresh water aquifer. The problem of fluoride, sulphate, alkalinity and hardness are well known in many parts of Gaza Strip.

The chemical quality of drinking water wells in Gaza Strip at the year 2006 comparing with WHO standards for TDS, nitrate, chloride, Hardness, Sodium and fluoride are 56%, 80%, 62%, 39%, 62 and 48% respectively.

The microbiological quality of drinking water in wells and networks in Gaza Strip at the year 2006 comparing with WHO standard for total coliform contamination percentage are 8% and 10% respectively.

According to WHO limit, total coliform contamination percentage should not be exceeds than 5% of the total examined samples.

Khalid TebiDirector of water control departmentMinistry of health For further information, you can seePalestinian Hydrology group (PHG) reportsPalestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS)Ministry of Health (MOH) annual reports

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Israel-Lebanon – Out of all Proportion

Filed under: Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 9:40 am

Israel/Lebanon: Urgent need for UN inquiry

A full, impartial UN-led inquiry that includes provision for reparations to the victims is urgently needed. Anything less would not only be a gross betrayal of the civilian victims, more than one thousand of whom were killed, but also a recipe for further civilian bloodshed with impunity,
–Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa programme
Amnesty International has published its latest and concluding report into violations of international humanitarian law committed during this year’s Israel-Hizbullah conflict. The report focuses on Israeli attacks in which civilians were killed as well as the impact on civilians of other attacks by Israeli forces. It also examines allegations that Hizbullah used civilians as “human shields”.

“More than three months have now gone by since the ceasefire and to Amnesty International’s knowledge neither side has even begun investigations into the grave violations committed during last summer’s conflict,” according to Malcolm Smart.

Based on field research conducted in Lebanon and Israel in July, August and September 2006, the report includes evidence from interviews with victims; meetings with Israeli and Lebanese military and government officials, as well as senior Hizbullah officials; information from non-governmental groups; and official statements and media reports.

Amnesty International is calling on the United Nations to set up an international commission empowered to investigate the evidence of violations of international law by both Hizbullah and Israel, and to make provision for reparations for the victims. The organization is also calling for an arms embargo on both sides, and an immediate moratorium on cluster weapons.

For further information, please see:
Press Release:
Israel/Lebanon: Further evidence of grave violations in Israel-Hizbullah conflict underlines urgent need for UN inquiry (Hebrew / Arabic)

Reports:
Israel/Lebanon, Out of all proportion – civilians bear the brunt of the war (21 November 2006)
Under fire – Hizbullah’s attacks on northern Israel (14 September 2006)
Deliberate destruction or ‘collateral damage’? Israeli attacks against civilian infrastructure (23 August 2006)

Visit the links:http://web.amnesty.org/pages/isr-leb-211106-feature-eng  
http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engmde020332006  
http://news.amnesty.org/index/ENGMDE020352006  

Press release in Arabic: http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ARAMDE020352006 and in Hebrew: http://news.amnesty.org/404/404.html
Please note that the full version of the report will be available on our website in Arabic and Hebrew shortly.
————————————-

East Mediterranean Team
Amnesty International, International Secretariat
Peter Benenson House,

1 Easton Street
London
WC1X 0DW
United Kingdom

E-mail: Eastmed@amnesty.org
Tel:       +44 (0)20 7413 5500
Fax:      +44 (0)20 7413 5719

WHO Concerned about Further Deterioration in Access to Health Services in OPT

Filed under: Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 9:30 am

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION CONCERNED ABOUT FURTHER DETERIORATION IN ACCESS TO MEDICAL SERVICES IN THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORY     16 November 2006 

WHO is concerned about the rapid deterioration of Palestinians’ equitable access to adequate and effective medical services. This is mainly the result of the Palestinian Ministry of Health’s financial crisis which has   followed the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006. The Government of Israel has stopped handing over the tax and customs revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and international donors have suspended direct aid to the Ministry of Health. 

As a consequence of these measures, the PA has been unable to pay regular salaries since March 2006. Health workers employed by the PA have since received provisional allowances through the Temporary International Mechanism established by the European Union. However, they joined a general open-ended strike on 23 August demanding full payment of long-overdue salaries and guarantees that salaries in the upcoming months will be paid.

According to media  reports, unions representing health professionals in the West Bank have announced that as of 15 November  public medical services will be further restricted. This will affect people requiring emergency care, chronic patients and deliveries of newborns as Primary Health Centers will be closed down and emergency rooms at public hospitals will stop operating.

“WHO is very concerned about the announced reduction of services and the deterioration of vital medical services. This will further exacerbate the already difficult humanitarian situation affecting Palestinian lives and their right to enjoy the highest possible level of physical and mental health, “said WHO’s Head of Office, Ambrogio Manenti.  

WHO calls on the parties concerned to work to reach an agreement that will guarantee Palestinians’ access to essential medical services during the strike.

WHO also urges the international community to support the Palestinian public health sector in this critical phase. In its statement of 20 September 2006, the Quartet noted that the resumption of transfers of tax and customs revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the PA would have a significant impact on the Palestinian economy. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:Dr Ambrogio Manenti, Head of Office, WHO West Bank and
Gaza, mobile. 00972547668553
Dr Daniel Lopez Acuna, Director Recovery and Transition programme, Health Action in Crisis, WHO Headquarters Geneva, tel.  0041794755557  

SETTLEMENTS VIOLATE ISRAELI LAW

Filed under: Palestine, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 9:23 am

More than a third of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank are built on privately owned Palestinian land, an Israeli campaign group has reported. Peace Now says nearly 40% of the land the settlements sit on is, according to official data, “effectively stolen” from Palestinian landowners.

This, the group says, is a violation of Israel’s own laws.

Settlements in the occupied West Bank are illegal under international law, although Israel rejects this.

About 430,000 Jews live in these residential areas in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Leaked data

Peace Now called on the Israeli government to return the private land to its Palestinian owners.

In recent years the Israeli government has said repeatedly that it respects Palestinian property rights in the West Bank.

An Israeli official has said the government is reviewing the report.

REPORT FINDINGS

130 settlements were constructed either entirely or partially on private Palestinian land

19,800 acres of the land used by the settlements, nearly 40% of the total, is private Palestinian land

86.4% of Maale Adumim is built on privately-owned land

Source: Peace Now Most computers will open this document automatically, but you may need Adobe Reader

The data on which the findings are based comes from a 2004 survey by the Civil Administration, which manages the civilian aspects of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

The data was leaked to Peace Now via an official in the Civil Administration. The group says the government had refused to give this information to it.

The group says that the data it has received has been “hidden by the State for many years, for fear that the revelation of these facts could damage its international relations”.

According to the report, 86.4% of the Maale Adumim settlement block, the largest in the West Bank, is built on private Palestinian land, and not on what the Israeli government refers to as “state land”.

The settlement is home to 32,372 people and lies due east of Jerusalem.

‘Violation’ of Israeli law

“The claim by the State and settlers that the settlements have been constructed on state land is misleading and false,” Peace Now says.

JEWISH SETTLEMENTS

Illegal under international law according to Fourth Geneva Convention (article 49), which prohibits an occupying power transferring citizens from its own territory to occupied territory

Israel argues international conventions relating to occupied land do not apply to West Bank because it was not under the legitimate sovereignty of any state before 1967


“The vast majority of settlement construction was done against the law of the land and the Supreme Court ruling and therefore unauthorised.

“[The data] indicates the direct violation of Israeli law carried out by the State itself, driven by the architects and leaders of the settlement movement.”

In 1979 the Israeli High Court forbade the establishment of settlements on privately-owned Palestinian that has been seized by Israel for military purposes.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at its core a conflict over land and in the West Bank property rights, BBC Jerusalem correspondent Crispin Thorold says.

This is the area which Palestinians want to be the basis of a future independent state.

If confirmed the findings could have major implications for any future peace deal.

Some of the settlements that the Israeli government wants to be included within its final borders are built on land overwhelmingly owned by Palestinian individuals. Peace Now is an Israeli group that monitors Israel settlements in the West Bank.

The oldest peace movement in Israel, it advocates the setting up of a Palestinian state on land occupied by Israel in 1967.

Published: 2006/11/21 13:57:08 GMT

© BBC MMVI

November 16, 2006

Alice in Erez : The Gaza Crossing by Jennifer Loewenstein

Filed under: Palestine, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 10:22 pm

November 15, 2006

http://www.counterpunch.org/loewenstein11152006.html

A clear and warm November evening; sun sets in a violence of color to the west over the sea and a full luminescent moon on the rise over Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. As if on cue, the buzz of the pilot-less drones overhead begins as their nightly circling ritual gets underway. The taxi driver’s hands grip the wheel of the car more intently as we speed along the winding road to Erez past the village huddled in the shadows a few hundred meters away to our right. At the Palestinian side, the driver gets out of the taxi, my passport in hand, and takes it into the shack of an office where a handful of scruffy, uniformed security figures are sitting. Darkness is creeping in from the East.

There is a problem, the driver explains to me in broken English. They won’t let you through. On the other side of Erez where the gatekeepers sit in their park-rangers’ office with the neon lights and the coffee-machine, my number isn’t blinking approval on the computer. Or something like that. A furious volley of phone calls on my behalf commences ¬ between the driver, friends in Gaza, PA security and the masters in Israel. Sorry, not coordinated. Sorry, it will take a while; sorry, you can’t leave. Sorry, no. An American citizen in the Gaza Strip will stay with the prisoners for now because the keepers are not ready to let her out of the cage. Revenge for your audacity, I think. Live with the others since you like it so well; eat their dust and shower in their sewers. You wanted to go to Gaza, no?

Darkness covers half the sky and the drones sound hungry. The driver shouts into the phone to my friend, Khamsa Daqa’iq! Khamsa Daqa’iq! (Five minutes! Five minutes!) He’ll wait only 5 more minutes, he says, before returning me to Gaza City ¬ but I know better. He’ll wait until his life is in danger trying to help me get out. And sure enough, it is 45 minutes later when he looks at me beseechingly and says we must return. The wardens are not cooperating. My number is not approved. Now it is night.

Drones can’t tell a taxi from a car full of ‘militants.’ In the darkness on the road they won’t know who we are-or at least it will make matters easier when the explanations for two dead civilians come in the next day, one of them an ‘international’. It was dark, you see, and they were ‘suspicious.’ The suitcase might have been full of explosives. Therefore no investigation will be necessary. Therefore it was OK. Therefore it was our fault for being out. Therefore you should not go to Gaza. Is the message clear?

The trip back is a roller coaster ride with the wrong kind of thrills. Friends meet us on the curbside outside their home and we all tip the driver better than he’ll ever get again in his lifetime. He is breathing again; an old man with white hair, looking apologetically into my eyes.

In the tall apartment building teeming with prisoner families of Gaza, friends call back and forth to Israel for me ¬ in their Hebrew and English. The ghosts of Kafka and Lewis Carroll are hovering about us bemused and mocking: prisoners of the Gaza Strip trying to arrange the release of an American citizen. They all have to give the Israeli authorities their names. I finally take the phone to speak to the boss and, for the first time in the history of my excursions to this god-forsaken land, an Israeli apologizes.

Sorry. Forgot to give your number to Security at Erez. You can leave in the morning.

What a blessing: Six-thirty in the morning I am ready again, suitcases in tow, just in time for the explosion down the street; just in time to view the melted mess of a once-automobile and four once-human beings smoldering in the middle of Gaza City, boys picking at the wreckage and ambulance sirens closing in. State-of-the-art incineration tactics: a gleaming helicopter gunship straight off the defense industry’s spankingly efficient assembly line and loaded with glimmering precision-guided missiles. Tourist attractions are never-ending. If they’d only let more people in who would need Hollywood?

This time on the Gaza side of Erez I am free to go, pulling my wheeled suitcase behind, concrete walls on either side of a cavernous tunnel covered by a canvas roof. My steps echo, there is nothing in sight but the tunnel and the first row of steel bars that segment the crossing into sections. Security cameras hide in the corners and a Voice from nowhere directs:

Please push open the gate.

I’m past the first jail doors and clacking on toward the second set. Here, a steel-barred revolving door interrupts the even, steel-barred gates. The Voice sounds again.

Go through the turnstile.

Monotone, passionless Voice.

Put your bags on the belt.

Don’t even think about disobeying.

Step into the glass x-ray machine with your arms outstretched and your legs apart.

The glass doors spin closed, high-tech sound like the elevators in the Mall of America. I am x-rayed along with my bags as they inch through the baggage tunnel.

Please step back.

Please step in again.

Please step forward.

Please take your bags.

Please walk forward.

What a polite Voice. It says “please”.

Don’t touch the glass.

The Voice sees everything I’m doing. It sees through my clothing and my leather back-pack.

You dropped something, the Voice tells me. Hint of humanoid at the other end. I pick it up.

Go on.

(more…)

Gaza – The European Parliament voted for UN Force & Intnl. Peace Conference

Filed under: Palestine, Uncategorized — angelajerusalem @ 10:19 pm

NEWS UPDATE 16.11.06

Strongly denouncing the Israeli military operations in Beit Hanun and Israel’s war against Gaza and the West bank in general, the President of the Development Committee of the European Parliament, Luisa Morgantini MEP today said in reaction to the European Parliament’s resolution on Gaza that Israel’s indiscriminate attacks represent a serious breach of the principles of the Geneva Convention amounting to a war crime and called for an international UN force to protect civilians.

“We need an international UN observation and protection mission with peacekeeping troops to be sent to Gaza…Those under attack need protection and assistance. The international community has a duty to protect civilians, to stop the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, put an end to house demolitions and the destruction of infrastructure”.

Morgantini stressed that mutual Israeli-Palestinian recognition is essential in this crisis. This means that “the international community should recognize the democratically elected government of Palestine and to support the efforts made by all Palestinian political forces and President Mahoumud Abbas to form a new unity government which should make all efforts to stop Palestinian militia groups firing rockets on Israeli towns and people.”

On the issue of Israel’s withholding of Palestinian customs duties, Morgantini argued that the EU and the Quartet must force Israel to return the funds confiscated from Palestine. “It is unacceptable that Israel is still withholding Palestinian tax and customs revenues and aggravating the Palestinian humanitarian crisis” she said. “The funds must be immediately transferred”. Morgantini also welcomed the call in today’s European Parliament resolution for an urgent meeting on the EU-Israel Association Agreement and the application of article two, according to which, in the case of violations of human rights the agreement should be suspended. She said there was “no doubt about the human rights violations committed by the Israeli government”.

Morgantini concluded that the resolution should become action and the calling for an immediate international conference for a just peace in the Middle East should be immediate. “Any negotiations on an overall peace agreement should be based on the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the certainty of a Palestinian State alongside the State of Israel with Jerusalem as a shared capital.”

Luisa Morgantini, Bruxelles +32 2 2847151, Strasbourg +33 388177151 Mobil +39 348 3921465 luisa.morgantini@europarl.europa.eu

David Lundy +32 485 50 58 12 david.lundy@europarl.europa.eu     www.guengl.eu  

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