The Acts of the Democracies

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2006

The Siege of Palestine

Early in 2006, the Palestinians had an election that was seen as free and fair by external independent observers.

The USA and Israel saw the result as against their interests. Israel, supported by the USA, closed off Gaza, laying siege to the territory and stopping all funding, goods and movement. Taxes owed on goods entering Gaza are witheld by Israel. The USA (which controls most of the world's financial system) threatened Arab and Middle Eastern banks if they supplied aid or money to the Palestinians. The European Union collude with USA'a policy against the Palestinians by withdrawing subsidies. Western media fail to report on the plight of the people of Palestine.

In September, the UK newspaper, The Independent, begins publishing a series of stories about the Palestinian territoty of Gaza. According to this newspaper:

"The Israeli siege of the Palestinian enclave is so tight that its people are on the edge of starvation. Here on the shores of the Mediterranean a great tragedy is taking place that is being ignored because the world's attention has been diverted by wars in Lebanon and Iraq."

The report continues: "A whole society is being destroyed. There are 1.5 million Palestinians imprisoned in the most heavily populated area in the world. Israel has stopped all trade. It has even forbidden fishermen to go far from the shore so they wade into the surf to try vainly to catch fish with hand-thrown nets.

Many people are being killed by Israeli incursions that occur every day by land and air. A total of 262 people have been killed and 1,200 wounded, of whom 60 had arms or legs amputated, since 25 June, says Dr Juma al-Saqa, the director of the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City which is fast running out of medicine. Of these, 64 were children and 26 women. This bloody conflict in Gaza has so far received only a fraction of the attention given by the international media to the war in Lebanon."

Gideon Levy, a journalist for the Israel newspaper, Haaretz writes that for the previous three months the Israeli army "has been rampaging through Gaza - there's no other word to describe it - killing and demolishing, bombing and shelling, indiscriminately".

The Independent continues: "Gaza has essentially been reoccupied since Israeli troops and tanks come and go at will. In the northern district of Shajhayeh they took over several houses last week and stayed five days. By the time they withdrew, 22 Palestinians had been killed, three houses were destroyed and groves of olive, citrus and almond trees had been bulldozed. Fuad al-Tuba, the 61-year-old farmer who owned a farm here, said: 'They even destroyed 22 of my bee-hives and killed four sheep.' He pointed sadly to a field, its brown sandy earth churned up by tracks of bulldozers, where the stumps of trees and broken branches with wilting leaves lay in heaps. Near by a yellow car was standing on its nose in the middle of a heap of concrete blocks that had once been a small house. His son Baher al-Tuba described how for five days Israeli soldiers confined him and his relatives to one room in his house where they survived by drinking water from a fish pond. 'Snipers took up positions in the windows and shot at anybody who came near', he said. 'They killed one of my neighbours called Fathi Abu Gumbuz who was 56 years old and just went out to get water'."

According to a report published by the World Bank in August, the West Bank and Gaza face "a year of unprecedented economic recession. Real incomes may contract by at least a third in 2006 and poverty to affect close to two thirds of the population." The income per person in beseaged Palestine falls to less than $2 per day.

Crime and looting increases as people become desperate to feed their families.

Dr Maged Abu-Ramadan, the mayor of Gaza City declares: "It is the worst year for us since 1948. Gaza is a jail. Neither people nor goods are allowed to leave it. People are already starving. They try to live on bread and falafel and a few tomatoes and cucumbers they grow themselves."

He continues that the Israelis "have destroyed 70 per cent of our orange groves in order to create security zones". Exports are left to rot. After Israeli air strikes electric power is at 55%. Nearly 70% of Palestinians are unemployed and the remainder who work for the state are not being paid due to the economic siege. The siege leaves Gaza as the poorest region on the Mediterranean. Of its population 1.3 million, 33% live in refugee camps.

The Independent writes that "The Israeli siege and the European boycott are a collective punishment of everybody in Gaza". According to one Palestinian "Arab and Western countries want to destroy this government because it is the government of the resistance".

Between 25 June and 8 September:

The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem reports that 76 Palestinians, including 19 children, were killed by Israeli forces in August alone. Evidence shows at least 53 per cent were not participating in hostilities.

International aid agencies report that the Israeli military and economic siege of Gaza has led to many people looking for scraps of food in rubbish dumps. Karen Abuzayd, the head of the UN Relief and Works Agency: "The pressure and tactics have not resulted in a desire for compromise. But rather they have created mass despair, anger and a sense of hopelessness and abandonment."

Kirstie Campbell of the United Nations's World Food Programme: "Women in Gaza tell me they are eating only one meal a day, bread with tomatoes or cheap vegetables." What little food is available is eaten cold due to the frequent power cuts and lack of money to pay for fuel. In addition, in one month 4% of Gaza's agricultural land was destroyed by Israeli bulldozers. The 35,000 fishermen cannot fish because Israeli gunboats will fire on them if they go more than a few hundred yards from the shore. The USA and European led boycott of the Palestinian government means that there is no foreign aid to pay Palestinian government employees. The government had a monthly budget of around $200 million, half of which went to pay 165,000 public sector workers. By mid-September the budget was $25 million a month.

Aid agencies struggle to persuade the world and the Western-controlled media that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is much worse than it is in the more reported Lebanon: "In contrast to Lebanon, where humanitarian food aid needs have been essentially met, the growing number of poor in Gaza are living on the bare minimum."

23 peace activists cycling from London to Jerusalem are denied entry to the Jenin refugee camp by Israeli officials. The mainly UK group reached the outskirts of Jenin after travelling from Damascus, and were detained for 8 hours. One of the founders of the group, Peace Cycle 2006, Laura Abraham:

"No valid reason was given. Spurious explanations were provided by officials, and despite phone calls to the Israeli authorities from the British consulate, the group was told it would not be permitted to cross indefinitely." Requests for water or the use of toilet facilities were also denied: "We were treated so well in every country we passed through in Europe and the Middle East, but now we are being treated like animals."

In November, Israeli artilery kills 20 civilians (including women and children) in Bait Hanoun. The USA vetoes a United Nations resolution condemning the attack and calling for Israel to withdraw from Gaza. The UK abstains. This is the second similar resolution vetoed by the USA in 2006. 350 Palestinians died under Israeli attack between June and November 2006. Israel says that the attacks are to stop rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. These killed nine Israelis between 2000 and 2006.

The Israeli human rights organisation, B'Tselem, publish a report saying that in 2006, 660 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli forces in the occupied territories. This included 141 children and over 320 civilians. These figures had increased three fold from the previous year. Some 292 homes were demolished making 1,769 people homeless. 42 Arab homes were demolished in East Jerusalem. In the same period, Palestinians killed 17 Israelis, including a child and six soldiers. This was a drop from the previous year. The disparity of these figures and the fact that Israeli has been occupying Palestinian territory for nearly 40 years is under-reported in the West.

© 2014, KryssTal


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