More than 350 Israeli soldiers who took part in last summer’s military onslaught on the Gaza Strip have since received psychiatric counseling for post-traumatic stress, an Israeli report has revealed.
The report, published Wednesday in the Israel Today newspaper said that soldiers had undergone treatment for symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress, including disorientation, low productivity and recurring nightmares.
The newspaper quoted a senior Israeli official as saying that the number of soldiers receiving psychiatric treatment following last summer’s onslaught on Gaza was higher than those who did so following previous operations.
For 51 days this summer, Israel pounded the Gaza Strip by air, land and sea. More than 2,310 Gazans, 70 percent of them civilians, were killed and 10,626 injured during unrelenting Israeli attacks on the besieged strip this past summer.
According to the UN, the Israeli military killed at least 495 Palestinian children in Gaza during “Operation Protective Edge.” The al-Mezan Center for Human Rights puts the number at 518, while the Palestinian Center for Human Rights puts it at 519.
All three figures exceed the total number of Israelis, civilians and soldiers, killed by Palestinians in the last decade.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that 3,106 Palestinian children were injured in the seven- week assault. The UN estimates that 1,000 children will suffer a permanent disability as a result of their injury.
Moreover, the UN said as many as 1,500 children have been orphaned by Israeli attacks that killed their parents, while 6,000 children will have a parent with a lifelong disability.
The besieged enclave has also seen widespread destruction of its infrastructure, reaching levels of devastation that UN chief Ban Ki Moon called “beyond description” in a visit to the Strip on October 14.
Some 100,000 people remain displaced while 450,000 don’t have access to running water.
Meanwhile, the official, who holds a senior position in the Israeli military’s psychiatric department, said that “hundreds” of soldiers have sought psychiatric treatment for “severe stress.”
He said that 80 percent of the soldiers to have undergone treatment had since been “fully rehabilitated” and returned to service.
Treatment was carried out at southern Israel’s Re’im military base where affected soldiers received up to eight hours of treatment each day, the official was quoted as saying.
A report published in January revealed that at least 10 Israeli soldiers committed suicide in 2014, including four who took part in the onslaught on the Gaza Strip.
In September, Israeli newspaper Maariv reported that the three troops from the elite Golani Brigade had suffered psychological problems in connection to their participation in the recent offensive on the Gaza Strip.
Also in September, 43 reservists and former members of Israel’s elite army intelligence unit have announced in a letter addressed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that they refuse to serve in the military, slamming “abuses” of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, annexed East Jerusalem and Gaza.
Hamas spokesperson, Sami Abu Zuhri
Palestinian faction Hamas on Saturday denounced as “shocking” an Egyptian court decision to designate the movement a “terrorist organisation”.”Labeling Hamas as a terrorist organisation is a dangerous decision that represents a shift in Egyptian-Palestinian relations,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Anadolu Agency.
“Unfortunately, the situation has been turned upside down: Israel the enemy has become a friend of Egypt while Hamas – which is an integral part of the Palestinian people – has become a terrorist,” Abu Zuhri said.
The spokesman, however, said that Hamas will not be affected by the Egyptian court verdict as it came to “export Egypt’s domestic problems.”
Earlier Saturday, an Egyptian court designated Hamas as a “terrorist” group over claims that the group had carried out terrorist attacks in Egypt through tunnels linking the Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip.
In March 2014, the same court outlawed Hamas’ activities in Egypt and confiscated its offices.
The court had said that the ban would be temporary until another court – which is trying ousted President Mohamed Morsi for alleged “collaboration” with Hamas to carry out “hostile” acts in Egypt – delivers its final verdict.
Last month, the same court declared the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, a terrorist organisation.
A number of Hamas members have been among the defendants in two trials that Morsi – a Muslim Brotherhood leader – currently faces for alleged espionage and jailbreak.
Egypt’s media has blamed Hamas, an ideological offshoot of the Brotherhood, for a series of deadly attacks on security forces since Morsi’s ouster. Hamas has consistently denied the allegations.
Photo from http://www.banksy.co.uk
The English graffiti artist has taken his politically charged message to the bombed-out neighborhoods of Gaza, where a series of murals amid a backdrop of devastation attempts to give voice to the desperation felt by Palestinians.
The first mural, entitled “Bomb Damage,” appears to be inspired by Rodin’s famous sculpture “The Thinker.” In Banksy’s version, the viewer is struck with the realization that the only possible thing on the mind of the subject is the utter devastation that literally surrounds him.
Another piece, done in the artist’s trademark black, stenciled imagery, shows the silhouettes of children riding an amusement park swing that is shown circling around one of the looming guard stations that punctuate the length of the West Bank barrier, which, upon completion, will be approximately 700 kilometers (430 miles).
Photo from http://www.banksy.co.uk
The artist also provided his personal thoughts on the situation confronting the people of Gaza:
“Gaza is often described as ‘the world’s largest open air prison’ because no one is allowed to enter or leave. But that seems a bit unfair to prisons – they don’t have their electricity and drinking water cut off randomly almost everyday,” Banksy said in a spray-painted statement.
In another painting, in which a huge white kitten appears to toy with a ball of coiled metal, the artist is hurling criticism at the popular Internet meme involving kittens, which attracts so much attention at the expense of more serious issues.
The street artist explained in yet another spray-painted bit of commentary the reaction of a local man to the work, and his response:
“A local man came up and said ‘Please – what does this mean?’ I explained I wanted to highlight the destruction in Gaza by posting photos on my website – but on the internet people only look at pictures of kittens.”
Photo from http://www.banksy.co.uk
In another place, Banksy offered some advice on a concrete wall: “If We Wash Our Hands Of The Conflict Between The Powerful And The Powerless We Side With The Powerful – We Don’t Remain Neutral”.
Finally, the street artist provides a poignant statement in a 2-minute video, where he invites the viewers to “discover a new destination” this year, while providing a brief, yet unforgettable stroll through Gaza.
Banksy, who is widely believed to be Robin Gunningham, an artist from Bristol’s underground art scene, has gone from the streets to the top of the art world. His first film, Exit Through the Gift Shop, labeled as “the world’s first street art disaster movie”, made its debut at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. In 2014, he was awarded Person of the Year at the 2014 Webby Awards.
Photo from http://www.banksy.co.uk
Chris Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), discusses the causes and consequences of the fact that only about 5% of pledged donations have reached Gaza.
Ken Klippenstein: What has been the impact of the failure of donor aid funds to reach Gaza?
Chris Gunness: Let me illustrate that with one simple vignette. I was in Gaza yesterday, and I met a grandfather living in the northern area, which is near the fence with Israel. The man is 62. Two of his grandchildren froze to death (i.e., died of hypothermia) during the storm known as Huda, which was in January.
They are living, 15 of them, in a shack, which I assumed when I saw it from the road was for animals. When I went there, it was a tiny, three-roomed wooden structure covered in leaky plastic. It was raining, so water was flowing in. And that is the very place where baby Salima died on the 21st of January at the age of just 40 days old.
The floor is sand, and on top of that they’ve put threadbare carpets. When you sit on them, they’re so wet and cold [that] it’s no protection whatsoever. Baby Salima basically got rained on all night. There was nowhere for them to go. Her body was blue and trembling. They took her to the hospital, and after one night the doctor phoned up and said that Salima was dead. Another grandchild, a boy, was 50 days old. He was in a UN shelter; it was freezing cold, and he died very suddenly of hypothermia.
There are about 110,000 homes which are either completely uninhabitable or very badly damaged. Assuming each home has between six and eight people, that’s 600,000-800,000 people, approximately. So in terms of both the depth of the suffering and the breadth of the humanitarian impact, it’s immense.
KK: Why haven’t the donor funds gone through? We heard so many different countries, from the Gulf states to the West, pledged aid – $5.4 billion, in fact.
CG: Your question is a very good one. Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer. It’s not from lack of appeals from us; it’s not from want of me telling stories like this; it’s not from lack of donors being given the figures, analysis, what the cost will be in human terms. All of this stuff they know, so there’s absolutely no shortage of information.
KK: What obligation does the West – particularly the United States, but also Europe – have to reconstruct Gaza, given that they are the ones who armed Israel? The West armed Israel with precisely the same weapons that were used to destroy Gaza in this last operation.
CG: And also, it’s those same donors who all met in Cairo [and agreed to rebuild Gaza] – without any security guarantees that it’s not going to be completely leveled again in another couple of years’ time, as has happened for the last six years. There have been three wars since 2009.
You should also ask what are the responsibilities of the belligerent parties, because in a conflict, the belligerent parties are responsible for the protection of civilians.
I think if you look at the Palestinian refugees in Gaza … we have a situation where Gaza is under blockade and the political pressures that need to come to bear to lift the blockade are not being effectively brought to bear. So the blockade continues.
Not only do huge swaths of Gaza look like an earthquake just hit, but it’s proven very difficult to reconstruct, because the funds simply are not there.
What is the point of reconstructing Gaza if the place is not allowed to have a functioning economy? Do you want gleaming white, new houses and totally impoverished people because the population can’t export?
What you need in an economy like Gaza is to be able to import raw materials to make things [like] garments and export them. If you can’t export them, then you can’t have a functioning economy. The people of Gaza are incredibly entrepreneurial. They’re very proud. They don’t want to suffer the indignities of aid dependency.
What are the obligations of the international community? One of their obligations is to put pressures to bear on the right place so that the blockade is lifted by Israel and the people of Gaza are allowed to trade. If you trade, you can have a disposable income; if you have a disposable income, you can buy things.
We don’t want to be going to the donor community with our begging bowl in hand and asking for money. It’s much better if people in Gaza can have their own economy. Of course they’ll need assistance reconstructing the place, but thereafter, they need to have a functioning economy. Otherwise they’re going to be condemned for decades more to this life-support system known as international aid.
KK: Israel has necessitated this aid by its blockade since Gaza doesn’t have a viable economy?
CG: Yeah. In the year 2000, there were 80,000 people in UNRWA’s food distribution. Fifteen years later, it’s 10 times that – 800,000. A lot of that aid dependency is due to the fact that there’s a blockade and Gaza cannot trade.
Unemployment is 44%. Food insecurity is rising. 90% of the water in Gaza is undrinkable. That’s the impact of the blockade. It’s devastating.
KK: As a UN official, could you comment on what obligations Israel has [under international law] as the occupying force in the Palestinian territories?
CG: In the UN, Israel is an occupying power, and has obligations to provide services, housing, water, electricity; all the things which protected populations need to have in situations of occupation. It’s all very clearly stipulated in the 4th Geneva Convention.
KK: What has been the effect of the destruction of the supply tunnels running from Egypt to Gaza?
CG: Make no mistake, the destruction of the tunnels has devastated a lifeline to the people of Gaza. I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever about that. But the majority of the crossings into Gaza are through Israel.
The Rafah crossing – I’ve been through it – is a single road in one direction. A very narrow road, actually. And a very narrow single road in the other direction. It is not a crossing through which you would want to mount a major import-export or aid operation to 1.8 million people.
KK: How does the failure of the aid to reach Gaza now compare with previous instances?
CG: This is as bad as it’s ever been, I think. After the Cairo conference where the donor community pledged $5.4 billion, we created a plan for $720 million [in aid]. That was for essentially two things: rental properties for people whose houses had been destroyed, and for repair and reconstruction. That $720 million plan has a deficit of $585 million.
I’ve never known it to be this bad and I’ve been here for 9 years.
KK: I imagine failing to reconstruct Gaza represents a security risk.
CG: Having 1.8 million desperate, isolated, destitute people at any country’s doorstep – especially given the history, and given that there’s a fence around it and a blockade – how can that ever be considered to be in anybody’s interest – not just Israel, but all of us?
The Palestinian cause is a source of anger and frustration in many places, including across the Middle East. So it’s in nobody’s interest anywhere in the world to have Gaza in the state that it’s in.
[This transcript has been lightly edited.]
GAZA CITY – Hundreds of Palestinians were evacuated from their homes Sunday morning after Israeli authorities opened a number of dams near the border, flooding the Gaza Valley in the wake of a recent severe winter storm.
The Gaza Ministry of Interior said in a statement that civil defense services and teams from the Ministry of Public Works had evacuated more than 80 families from both sides of the Gaza Valley (Wadi Gaza) after their homes flooded as water levels reached more than three meters.
Gaza has experienced flooding in recent days amid a major storm that saw temperatures drop and frigid rain pour down.
The storm displaced dozens and caused hardship for tens of thousands, including many of the approximately 110,000 Palestinians left homeless by Israel’s assault over the summer.
The suffering is compounded by the fact that Israel has maintained a complete siege over Gaza for the last eight years, severely limiting electricity and the availability of fuel for generators. It has also prevented the displaced from rebuilding their homes, as construction materials are largely banned from entering.
Gaza civil defense services spokesman Muhammad al-Midana warned that further harm could be caused if Israel opens up more dams in the area, noting that water is currently flowing at a high speed from the Israel border through the valley and into the Mediterranean sea.
Evacuated families have been sent to shelters sponsored by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, in al-Bureij refugee camp and in al-Zahra neighborhood in the central Gaza Strip.
The Gaza Valley (Wadi Gaza) is a wetland located in the central Gaza Strip between al-Nuseirat refugee camp and al-Moghraqa. It is called HaBesor in Hebrew, and it flows from two streams — one whose source runs from near Beersheba, and the other from near Hebron.
Israeli dams on the river to collect rainwater have dried up the wetlands inside Gaza, and destroyed the only source of surface water in the area.
Locals have continued to use it to dispose of their waste for lack of other ways to do so, however, creating an environmental hazard.
This is not the first time Israeli authorities have opened the Gaza Valley dams.
In Dec. 2013, Israeli authorities also opened the dams amid heavy flooding in the Gaza Strip. The resulting floods damaged dozens of homes and forces many families in the area from their homes.
In 2010, the dams were opened as well, forcing 100 families from their homes. At the time civil defense services said that they had managed to save seven people who had been at risk of drowning.
Palestinian students from Gaza are still prevented by Israel from studying at West Bank universities, after an announcement this week to the contrary was retracted as a mistake.
On Wednesday, Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced that a quota of 50 students would be permitted to exit Gaza “for the purpose of academic studies” in the West Bank. However, as related by NGO Gisha, the very same evening, COGAT clarified that there had been a “clerical error” in the relevant document, and that there would be no such permits.
The Israeli government has opposed Palestinians from Gaza studying in the West Bank on the grounds of ‘security’. The High Court of Justice has also rejected petitions by human rights groups on the matter, including one filed on behalf of five women studying gender, democracy and law.
In 2009, 21-year-old, Bethlehem University student Berlanty Azzam was arrested at a West Bank checkpoint and immediately returned to the Gaza Strip, after a solider noted Gaza City as the town of residence on her ID.
The ill-fated announcement was included on a list of various measures apparently prepared by Israel to “ease” restrictions. According to reports from COGAT and Palestinian officials, it would appear that the number of merchant permits will rise, as will the type and quantity of goods permitted to exit from Gaza for sale in the West Bank.
Back in November, two truckloads of wooden planks left Gaza for sale in the West Bank, the first time that wood from Gaza has been sold in the West Bank since the blockade was imposed in 2007. The same month, some truckloads of clothes, fish, and agricultural products made the same journey, again for the first time.
This is less indicative of Israeli authorities’ generosity but rather highlights the deception that is the ‘security’ rationale for the restrictions in the first place. Why were Gaza’s farmers allowed to send cucumbers to the West Bank on November 6, 2014 – but not before? Why won’t Israel lift restrictions on exports, save for piecemeal exceptions?
The continued refusal to allow Palestinian students from Gaza to study in West Bank universities is further evidence that Israel’s approach is one based on collective punishment. Worth remembering, the next time someone tries justifying yet another apartheid policy in the name of ‘security’.
The PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) did not object to the appointment of new UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nikolay Mladenov, although he was described by Tayseer Khaled, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, as “persona non grata” — not trusted by the Palestinians and nor qualified for the job.
The 15-member UN Security Council unanimously voted to appoint Bulgarian Mladenov, 42, to succeed Holland’s Robert Serry. He would also be the representative of the UN secretary general to the International Quartet (the UN, US, EU and Russia), and personal representative of the UN chief to the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Although protocol allows the PLO the right to reject diplomatic representatives to the organisation, observers cannot understand why it accepted Mladenov. There is no convincing answer except a futile desire by the PLO to appease the UN and Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, at a time when PLO diplomatic efforts are focused on the UN and its agencies.
Mladenov not only failed in a similar mission as UN envoy to Iraq and resigned, he is someone who describes himself — and is described by the leaders of the Israeli occupation — as “a good friend of Israel”. As Bulgarian foreign minister, Mladenov suggested a “military alliance” between Bulgaria and Israel. He has often spoken about his bias towards “Israel’s right to exist” and its right “to defend itself” against Palestinians resisting Israeli occupation. He even admitted to being a Free Mason, served Jewish billionaire George Soros, and publicly advocated the US’s “constructive chaos” policies in the Arab world. In fact, his Jewish origins may be the least controversial aspect of him.
Meanwhile, the occupation state does not hesitate in ignoring the UN, its resolutions and representatives, disregarding and even assassinating them when necessary. Most recently, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened to “expel” Mladenov’s predecessor Serry as “persona non grata”. Shortly before that, William Schabas, the head of the UN commission investigating the occupation’s recent war on the Gaza Strip, resigned after Israel refused to cooperate with him or allow him to enter the country.
After the UN tolerated the assassination of its first envoy to Palestine, Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte in 1948, at the hands of the Zionist Stern Gang led by Yitzhak Shamir (who later became prime minister of the occupation state), Israel was emboldened to adopt a permanent policy of disregarding the UN without deterrence so far.
In fact, over the past two years the occupation state has carried out a proxy war against the UN. It has facilitated logistics, intelligence, firepower and medical assistance to allow the domination of militias fighting the Syrian regime on its side of the disengagement zone between the liberated and occupied Arab Syrian Golan. This compelled the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) to withdraw after its positions were attacked, dozens of its troops kidnapped and their weapons and equipment seized. Until today, the UN has not dared to rectify the situation, which resulted in the collapse of the UN-sponsored ceasefire and rules of engagement between Syria and Israel.
The Middle East is teeming with international peace envoys. The UN has one, so does the US, the EU, Russia, China and the Quartet. Their names change without anything on the ground in occupied Palestine changing. Except for expanding the occupation through settlements under the “peace” umbrella these envoys provide, without any hope that the international community they represent will be able to effect any real tangible change for the present and future of the Palestinian people on the ground.
So what can Mladenov do that his predecessors, the UN, the Quartet, the Arab League and others, couldn’t?
Khaled believes the real test, to remove Palestinian doubts about Mladenov’s role and mission, will be his position on the siege on Gaza and reconstruction there. However, Mladenov’s track record does not indicate there is cause for optimism. Nor does the track record of “UN special coordinators” since the creation of the position in 1994 and the subsequent expansion of its role, as well as the extensive history of choosing UN and US envoys of Jewish origins or related in the first degree to Jews, such as Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright, John Kerry, Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk and Quartet representative Tony Blair.
On 6 February, the secretaries general of the UN and Arab League issued a joint statement expressing “deep concern” about conditions in Gaza. They urged Arab and international donors to honour their financial pledges made at the Cairo Conference last October “as soon as possible”, in order to rebuild the Gaza Strip and end the siege there. A few days ago, James Rowley, UN coordinator for humanitarian affairs in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, sent out an “urgent call” for these commitments to be fulfilled and an “immediate” lift of the siege on Gaza, because he is “very concerned another conflict will break out” if not.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry described the statement by the Quartet on 8 February after it met in Munich, Germany, as “short of expectations” because it ignored “all the old-new and evolving truths” of the occupation state.
The Quartet also said it is “deeply concerned” about the “difficult conditions in Gaza where reconstruction needs to be quicker” and urged donors to “pay their financial pledges as soon as possible”. However, it linked this to encouraging both sides to “restart negotiations as soon as possible”.
Restarting talks “as soon as possible”, nonetheless, must await the outcome of general elections in Israel and the US. This means the Palestinian people must wait for another two years in the vain hope of reconstructing Gaza. It is obvious the occupation state is enjoying the luxury of time, making easy the occupation without resistance, as well as building settlements without deterrence.
Before handing over the reins to Mladenov, Serry described the failure of donors to pay their dues as “scandalous” and warned “if there is no progress in the coming months” — not two years — towards a two-state solution, “the reality will be a one state [solution]”: the single state of Israel. Former UN coordinator Terry Rod Larsen said in 2002, “the Palestinian patient is dying in the interim.”
Last December, Serry warned in his report to the Security Council that a war in Gaza “could re-ignite if conditions on the ground do not change” in the besieged Gaza Strip. It is clear that what Serry described as a “deadly diplomatic vacuum” coupled with the ongoing siege on rebuilding Gaza, are an explosive recipe in the besieged Gaza Strip, the outcome and ramifications of which are unpredictable.
The “scandal” of donors not paying their dues to rebuild Gaza, as Serry described it, under the pretext that the PLO government does not control the Gaza Strip, is a green light given by the international community to the occupation state to carry out another military assault on national resistance forces in Gaza.
The scandal of Arabs not paying their pledges at Arab summits to provide the PA with a financial “safety net” amounts to flagrant Arab pressure on the PLO to accept the Quartet’s proposal to restart talks with the occupation state “as soon as possible”.
This is Mladenov’s dual mission as the new UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process. PLO negotiators continue to wait for a breakthrough by “peace” envoys that are imposed on them and appointed by the US and the UN, although they represent the occupation state. Mladenov is the most recent. He will not change anything on the ground.
Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Bir Zeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
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Unpiloted aircraft, known as drones in the arms industry, have become Israel’s weapon of choice in its attacks on Gaza. In 2012 drones killed more people in Gaza than any other aircraft. In Israel’s ‘Operation Protective Edge’ attack, 37% of those killed died in drone attacks.
In 2013 Corporate Watch visited Gaza for two months to interview the survivors of drone attacks and human rights workers about the effect of living beneath the drones. The interviews tell the story of the survivors and highlights their calls for support from the global solidarity movement.
This briefing compiles the interviews and gives short profiles of some of the companies profiting from Israel’s drone wars: Elbit and IAI.
We hope that reading this briefing will inspire you to take action in solidarity with people living under siege in Gaza. As one survivor of a drone strike told us: “We do not need just words”.
Senior member of Hamas’ political bureau Mousa Abu-Marzkouk yesterday revealed that Quartet peace envoy Tony Blair is trying to blackmail Hamas in return for reconstructing the Gaza Strip.
On his Facebook page, Abu-Marzouk revealed five conditions put by the Quartet that Hamas has to meet in order to make way for the reconstruction of what the Israeli occupation destroyed during last summer’s 51-day war in Gaza.
Abu-Marzouk said: “Once again, and in the name of the international community, Tony Blair is exploiting the tragedy made by the Israeli occupation that includes the destruction of homes and making people homeless.”
Expressing deep concern about the devastated people in Gaza, Abu-Marzouk said: “Destroyed homes of Palestinians in Gaza became shrines to Blair and his likes. Blair says that there is no reconstruction unless these five conditions are fulfilled, and Hamas has to agree to:
- Accept the Palestinian reconciliation.
- Accept the political programme based on a Palestinian state on 1967 borders.
- Reiterate that Hamas is a Palestinian faction with only Palestinian goals and it is not part of any Islamist movement with regional goals.
- Adopt the two-state solution as a final, not temporary, solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
- Send an assurance message to Egypt that Gaza is not a terror base for Sinai terrorists and hold talks with the Egyptian government to stop terrorism in Sinai.”
“These are the conditions for Hamas to be accepted by the international community as well as the Quartet’s conditions for rebuilding Gaza and improving living standards,” Abu-Marzouk said.
He added: “These conditions do not mean that Hamas will deal with the Zionist enemy; not even one condition was put on Israel.”
Abu-Marzouk refuted the conditions one by one. Regarding the reconciliation, he said: “It was achieved. I do not know what more is needed from Hamas, which conceded everything for a technocrat government.”
About the state on the 1967 borders, he said: “The problem is not with the Palestinian side, but with the other side. Blair should have spoken about it with Israel. He should have asked it whether it accepts a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital and whether it accepts to dismantle settlements.”
Regarding Hamas’s goals, he stressed that Hamas is a Palestinian faction with Palestinian goals and it is not part of a regional Islamist movement. “We know that he means the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.
“This is used by all as a pretext,” he stressed. “Hamas is a Palestinian movement and its history proves that as it has not carried out any of its operations outside the Palestinian lands. Even when its leaders were targeted outside Palestine, it did not respond in the same places.”
Meanwhile, he reiterated the importance of Hamas having links with any side offering help for it. “We have no interest to have hostility with any party wherever it is and whatever the ideological differences with it are,” he said.
About the two-state solution, Abu-Marzouk said: “Blair knows that any oppressive agreement cannot remain alive for too long. Any agreement imposed by the current powers cannot remain the same when these powers change.”
Regarding Egypt, he explained: “Egypt is not merely a neighbouring country; its stability and unity are in the Palestinian interest. We deal seriously and responsibly with anyone who harms Egypt. Gaza will absolutely not be a breeding ground for terrorism.”
Adding that Hamas’s relationship with Egypt is not of Blair’s concern.
GAZA – The Palestinian ministry of information strongly denounced Israel’s channel 7 for fabricating claims about some of the journalists that had been killed by the Israeli army during the last war on the Gaza Strip, and described its report as “misleading.”
Israel’s channel 7 claimed in a recent report that eight of the journalists who were killed during Israel’s last military operation in Gaza were working for Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
The information ministry said in a press release on Sunday that the channel’s claims about the journalists was an exposed attempt by the Israeli government to shirk its responsibility for the crimes its army had committed against the journalists in Gaza.
The ministry underlined that all Israeli crimes against the journalists in the last war were documented in reports issued by international and local organizations, especially the International Federation of Journalists.
It said that Israel’s attempt to deflect attention from its crimes by questioning the number of slain journalists and their professional activities could not deceive the UN probe committee or the international community.
Six weeks after being abducted on her way home from school in the occupied West Bank, 14-year-old Malak al-Khatib was released from the Israeli jail where she had been imprisoned on Friday. She was the youngest Palestinian girl ever to be incarcerated, and is one of hundreds of children to be prosecuted through the Israeli military court system each year. As of the December 2014, there were 156 child prisoners, 17 of which were under 16 years old, according to the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association. As the patron benefactor of the illegal Israeli occupation, the United States government is complicit in Israeli’s disgraceful persecution and abuse of Palestinian children. While American officials refrain from condemning human rights violations against Palestinian children, they vocally condemn any resistance against the violent Israeli occupation.
During Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in August, the Obama administration expressed its strongest indignation regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during President Obama’s six years in office. After the apparent capture of Israeli Occupation soldier Hadar Goldin by the Palestinian resistance, administration officials said the action was “barbaric” and “outrageous.”
That morning a cease-fire was set to take effect after nearly two weeks of fighting in which hundreds of Palestinian civilians had already been slaughtered. A few hours before the designated cease-fire time, Israeli occupation troops continued operations trying to destroy tunnels inside Gaza used to smuggle food and goods that were denied to the Palestinian territory as part of the eight-year-long blockade imposed by Israel for voting the wrong way. When the IOF forces reached a tunnel they encountered resistance from Palestinian fighters in the Qassam Brigades. Several Israeli troops were killed. It appeared that Goldin had been captured and led away into the tunnel.
The Occupation Forces then reportedly employed the savage Hannibal Directive, a repulsive military procedure developed nearly 30 years ago in which the Israeli army uses massive amounts of firepower in an attempt to kill their own soldier rather than allow him to be captured. Journalist Max Blumenthal says that Israeli troops employed an “indiscriminate assault on the entire circumference of the area where … Goldin was allegedly taken.” According to Blumenthal, this was one of three possible instance of the Hannibal Directive during Israel’s murderous summer rampage in Gaza.
So during a military operation inside Palestinian territory shortly before or at the time Israel had agreed to a cease-fire the Palestinian militants defending themselves from the savage onslaught against homes, hospitals, mosques, parks, sports clubs, cafés, high-rises, ambulances, disability centers, power plants, and UN schools, captured an enemy combatant consistent with the laws of war. Israel then orders indiscriminate fire to kill him rather then let him be taken alive. This is the situation American officials found to be barbaric – by the Palestinians, not the Israelis.
A month later, when Israel finally agreed to a cease-fire (which it has continued to violate nearly every day with impunity) more than 2,100 Palestinians had been killed, including 578 children. Among the children whose lives had been snuffed out was four-year-old Sahir Abu Namous, whose head was blown open by shrapnel; five-month-old Faris Juma al-Mahmoum, killed along with his mother and 18 other family members in shelling; five-day-old Shayma Sheikh Khalil, born prematurely after her mother was killed by an Israeli airstrike; and four cousins playing soccer on a beach, at least one of whom was killed in a second explosion after the Israeli gunner who had failed to kill him with an original shell re-aimed and fired again.
In his strongest language against the Israeli operation, Obama told Netanyahu that he was “deeply concerned” about further escalation. Yet he did not call any Israeli actions – which numerous human rights groups have since decried as war crimes that must be referred to the International Criminal Court – “barbaric” or “outrageous.” And he was apparently not concerned enough to stop the delivery of weapons to resupply Israeli so they could be used to massacre more Palestinian civilians. Neither was he concerned enough to direct his administration to join 29 other nations on the UN Human Rights Council in voting just to investigate potential war crimes.
The US government even fails to oppose child abuse by Israel against its own citizen. Several weeks before the bloodbath in Gaza, 15-year-old Tarek Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian-American from Tampa, was savagely beaten by Israeli police. The teen from Tampa was visiting Jerusalem with his family shortly after a cousin had been abducted, doused with gasoline and burned alive by Israeli settlers. Tarek and his family claimed he was ambushed while on his family’s property. After the assault that left the teenager with head wounds, he was jailed. This was deemed by the US administration to be “profoundly troubling,” but again not “barbaric” or even “outrageous.”
For teenagers who do not hold American citizenship, their mistreatment by the US-funded occupation does not elicit as much as a shrug from American officials. As the Electronic Intifada reported, Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem have demanded that the Israeli forces stop harassing schoolchildren and provoking confrontations with them.
As was the case with Malak al-Khatib, many Palestinian children are accused of throwing stones. Malak was also accused of having a knife, which would not be a problem if she were an Israeli settler, many of whom carry and use guns.
Human rights groups have claimed that Palestinian children are often accused of stone-throwing. When they are arrested and thrown into the Israeli military justice system, they are often detained arbitrarily and questioned without an adult present.
Malak was convicted after an alleged confession, which was obtained after hours of questioning by Israeli soldiers while she was unaccompanied. Her father dismissed the veracity of her alleged confession, telling the Israeli paper Haaretz “How can you question her without her parents and without a lawyer? Interrogate a little girl like this and she’ll admit to being in possession of an M16 rifle, too.”
Regardless, throwing stones is a legitimate act of resistance according to international law. A 1987 UN General Assembly resolution differentiates terrorism from the “struggle of peoples for national liberation.” The resolution grants “peoples under colonial and racist regimes and foreign occupation … the right to these peoples to struggle to this end.” The measure was approved with 153 votes in favor. Only the United States and Israel voted against it.
Even militant resistance against occupying troops is clearly protected as part of a struggle against occupation. Clearly, stone-throwing falls within the protections explicitly stated by the UN resolution. In fact, some people have even said that Palestinians have a “duty to throw stones.”
“Throwing stones is the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule,” wrote Israeli journalist Amira Hass. “Throwing stones is an action as well as a metaphor of resistance. Persecution of stone-throwers, including 8-year-old children, is an inseparable part – though it’s not always spelled out – of the job requirements of the foreign ruler, no less than shooting, torture, land theft, restrictions on movement, and the unequal distribution of water sources.”
Yet like Malak, the Israeli occupation uses stone-throwing to punish and abuse children whose land they have illegally occupied for 47 years.
The human rights group Defence for Children International Palestine found that “Palestinian children detained by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank last year fell victim to a pattern of abuse designed to coerce confessions.”
They reported that Israeli occupiers ordered solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, and torture against the children they abduct. “Impunity for violations was a significant obstacle in 2014 as DCIP filed nine complaints with Israeli authorities concerning the ill-treatment and torture of five children while in Israeli military detention. Not a single indictment has been issued against a perpetrator,” the group wrote.
Another human rights group reported that 240 children detained in Jerusalem by Israeli authorities suffered sexual abuse.
Yet the only thing that the United States government will declare as “barbaric” is the capture of an adult Israeli combatant in a defensive military operation. To American officials, Palestinian life – even for children – does not matter. When Israelis teens are killed, President Obama and American officials express their condolences and lament the “terror against innocent youth.” This is never reciprocated for Palestinian children, who are killed by Israelis at nearly more than 15 times the rate of Israeli children being killed by Palestinians – with 2,060 Palestinian children killed since September 2000.
The United States government has long held as its policy that it values its strategic relationship with Israel above any concerns for democracy and human rights. Regardless of how serious Israel’s offenses of its oppression against Palestinians – including and especially children – government officials will refuse to allow actions to change this predetermined policy.
Not even the lives of Palestinian children matter enough to force American officials to show any semblance of humanity for the tragedy that they aid and abet in Palestine. The only outrage the US government is capable of showing is when Palestinians dare to resist the violence and colonial domination that Israel subjects them to, under approving American sponsorship.
In the northern Jordan Valley last week, Israeli forces destroyed a 1,000 metre pipeline built to provide water to Palestinian communities. In East Jerusalem, tens of thousands of Palestinians have been cut off from a regular supply of running water for nearly a year. In Gaza, the water infrastructure has been decimated and in the homes that do receive water it is still undrinkable. Water and who controls it has become a key part of Israel’s occupation, with the Palestinian territories; West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, in a constant struggle for the vital resource.
Before the birth of Israel, Chaim Weizmann, who would become the country’s first president, said in 1919: “[It is] of vital importance not only to secure all water resources already feeding the country, but also to control them at their source.” Rafael Eitan, chief of staff and minister of agriculture and environment, said some years later: “Israel must hold on to the West Bank to make sure that Tel Aviv’s taps don’t run dry.”
Current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in 1998: “And when I talk about the importance to Israel’s security… It means that a housewife in Tel Aviv can open the tap and there’s water running to it, and it’s not been dried up because of a rash decision that handed over control of our aquifers to the wrong hands.”
In 1967, the year the occupation began, Israel put the plan Weizmann had talked about as early as 1919 into action. All Palestinian water resources were declared Israeli State Property and Palestinians had to apply for permits to develop their water resources. After nearly 30 years, the Oslo Accords were signed, supposedly bringing an end to the situation. Another 20 years on, it is apparent that they instead formalised and legitimised an existing discriminatory arrangement – an arrangement still in place today.
In the West Bank, the Jordan River, one of the main water sources, has been diverted upstream into Lake Kinneret/Tiberias/Sea of Galilee – lakes inside Israel, while Palestinians are physically barred from accessing its river banks. Palestinians have access to one fifth of the mountain aquifer, the other main source, while Israel abstracts the balance, and in addition overdraws by more than 50 per cent, up to 1.8 times its share under Oslo.
The Separation Wall, roadblocks, checkpoints and other Israeli ‘security measures’ further restrict Palestinian communities’ access to water resources and filling points. Meanwhile Israeli settlers living in the same territory are supplied with an abundance of water; the consumption of more than 500,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank is about six times higher than that of 2.6 million Palestinians in the West Bank.
To boost insufficient supplies, the Palestinians must buy water from Israel’s national water company “Mekorot” – the same water that Israel extracts from the mountain aquifer and which the Palestinians should be able to extract for themselves.
Jamal Juma, coordinator of the Stop the Wall campaign, an organisation which is part of a network of groups challenging Mekorot, said: “The real water problem in Palestine is not about scarcity of water. There is more annual rainfall in Ramallah than in London and per capita consumption of water in Israel is higher than the average consumption in Europe. The water problem in Palestine is created by Israel, through systematic theft of water and denial of access to water. Mekorot is the core player in implementing what we call Israel’s water apartheid.”
For East Jerusalem residents the situation is slightly different. East Jerusalem fell under Israeli jurisdiction after Israel annexed the whole of the city. The Jerusalemite Palestinians pay taxes to Israel and also technically qualify for Israeli healthcare, social benefits and services – including running water. However, the neighbourhoods of Ras Shehada, Ras Khamis, Dahyat A’salam and the Shuafat refugee camp have been suffering from a severe water crisis since last March when residents went three weeks without any water supply. They have been forced to buy water bottles at a high cost, and must limit their consumption by using electric pumps and industrial containers.
In Gaza, the water infrastructure is in pieces as a result of repeated wars and a blockade which has prevented repairs and maintenance. By the end of the latest bombardment over the summer, around 26 water wells had been completely or partially destroyed, while 46 kilometres of the water supply networks had been damaged, according to a statement by the Palestinian Water Authority. The water distribution network suffered an estimated $34.4 million worth of damage.
Waste water treatment is another longstanding problem in Gaza. Many residents are not connected to a sewage system and domestic waste flows into cesspits, contaminating groundwater. Electricity shortages and damages to waste water treatment facilities during “Operation Cast Lead”, Israel’s 2008-2009 military offensive, made the situation worse – some 90 million litres of untreated sewage flows into the Mediterranean daily.
Prior to the recent attack, 97 per cent of residents in Gaza were connected to a public water system. However, 90 per cent of this was undrinkable and so residents were forced to buy water treated in governmental or private factories, or factories run by charities. The public water system means households can have running water; however electricity and fuel shortages prevent the water from being pumped through the system.
Access to water is a highly politicised and manipulated resource in Palestine. As Palestinian communities suffer – albeit through the destruction of their wells, through water that doesn’t come through the taps, or sewage that flows into the street – it is clear that, in Palestine, water is not a right.