I was just glancing through my posts from the beginning of this year–in January. I was recalling the teach-in on Gaza we did at Boise State University around that same time. I was recalling the images I watched on television and read in the newspapers about Gaza earlier this year. Here is one such report from Al Jazeera on January 21, 2008:
This is what we can expect yet again in Gaza if things do not change soon. 70% of Gaza is experiencing a blackout now:
Seventy percent of the Gaza Strip is blacked out on Sunday night after Israel blocked deliveries fuel for Gaza’s power plant for the fifth consecutive day, a high-ranking Palestinian energy official said.
Kan’an Ubeid, the deputy chief of the Palestinian Energy Authority said in a press conference in Gaza that in addition to the shutdown of the diesel-fueled power plant, the electric network bringing in power from Israel collapsed due to the increased pressure on the system.
Ubeid said that as a part of its strict blockade, Israel is also preventing the import of equipment and spare parts, including generators, cables, meters and wires, needed to repair the power lines bringing electricity from Israel.
He said that a lack of cooking gas forced residents living in areas supplied with power by Israel relied on electric heading more, increasing the pressure on the network.
The lack of spare parts also means that repairs cannot be made to generators powering hospitals and other key infrastructure. The main generator at the European Hospital in Khan Younis has already shut down, as has the backup generator at Ash-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, the Strip’s largest medical center.
The power cuts also mean that local water utilities cannot pump water with sufficient pressure, meaning that high rise buildings are without water.
And it’s not just the lack of fuel. It’s also the lack of medicine (and recall that fuel is needed to allow hospitals to function properly):
Chief of emergency and ambulance department at the Hamas-run health ministry, announced on Sunday that the Israeli occupation authorities denied today access to Gaza of 15 trucks, loaded with medicine.
Abu Hasanin said that the Israeli authorities, at the Karni crossing, to the east of Gaza city, prevented the entry of the said shipment, in a time the Strip lacks more than 300 medicines.
“The health conditions are increasingly deteriorated with the continuation of the Israeli closure of border crossings for the past two weeks”, Abu Hasanin added.
He further explained that since November of this year, the Israeli blockade on Gaza has led to the death of 270 patients, who are in need of urgent medical care, and that more that 400 others with chronic diseases have been denied exist for referral at hospitals , out side of Gaza.
And food is expected to run out shortly as well:
The Gaza Strip will run out of basic supplies of food in the next few days if Israel or Egypt does not ease a strict eleven-day blockade of the territory, a senior Palestinian official warned on Sunday.
De facto Minister of National Economy Ziyad Thatha said, “There is a food and humanitarian crisis [in] the Gaza Strip where crossings have been closed for the eleventh day.
As a result of this cycle of siege and closure Palestinians are facing malnourishment:
“The Israeli blockade of Gaza has led to a steady rise in chronic malnutrition among the 1.5 million people living in the strip, according to a leaked report from the Red Cross,” The Independent reported.
“It chronicles the ‘devastating’ effect of the siege that Israel imposed after Hamas seized control in June 2007 and notes that the dramatic fall in living standards has triggered a shift in diet that will damage the long-term health of those living in Gaza and has led to alarming deficiencies in iron, vitamin A and vitamin D.
Palestinians are also still bombarded by Israeli missile strikes against the imprisoned population of Gaza:
A second Israeli air strike was carried out in the Gaza Strip on Sunday. The first strike killed four activists and was precipitated by the launch of homemade projectiles into the western Negev by Palestinian activists.
The day saw four separate rounds of projectiles launched at Israeli targets by Palestinian military factions. No Israeli injuries were reported.
John Ging, director of UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), explains the human cost of this siege:
Since the cease-fire went into place this summer, Ging said, fewer supplies have passed through the crossing than did in the beginning of 2006, when the western Negev suffered incessant Qassam rocket fire.
“Why? There is no need to explain the security challenges here. We are always told that we must ensure security arrangements, and we accepted that,” he said. “But no one has explained to me the security reason behind the closure of every crossing. The crossings have tremendously sophisticated security devices. No one can pass with an explosives belt or weapon without being detected.”
“Explain to me why people who present no security threat are not authorized to work in Israel as in the past. I ask the Israelis, why don’t you allow the entry of cement, even during the cease-fire, so we can build new schools and reduce the crowdedness in classrooms?”
The Erez and Rafah crossings are open, Ging noted, but only for certain individuals such as the ill, business people and politicians. Senior Hamas officials may leave the Strip through the Rafah crossing, and individuals linked to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah may leave through Erez.
“One illegal action does not justify another. Where else is the UN under embargo? Where else is food aid subordinated to such severe restrictions?” Ging asked.
“Why close it for certain people and open it for others? That’s why so many people call it collective punishment. It’s not only illegal and inhuman, but also ineffective. It only empowers the extremists.”
And yet people wonder why Palestinians continue–as is their right under international law–their resistance against military bombardment and the siege:
“It is unbelievable that when Palestinian factions fire homemade projectiles at Israel in response to Israeli atrocities, everybody intervenes and ask for self-restraint, meanwhile the enemy kills and assassinates us and unfortunately nobody comments,” Abu Ahmad said.
I’m repeating myself. Again and again. I would love one day to not have to share the same stories of suffering in Gaza. I would love for the refugees in Gaza to have the right of return to their homes. The right of Gazans to farm and fish their land. I would prefer not to experience this sort of déjà vu. But maybe I would rather experience the sort of déjà vu that Tam Tam experiences? 😉