on not forgetting gaza

sara roy has a really important article this week aptly entitled “the peril of forgetting gaza”:

The recent meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu generated speculation over the future relationship between America and Israel, and a potentially changed U.S. policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Analysts on the right and left are commenting on a new, tougher American policy characterized by strengthened U.S. demands on Israel. However, beneath the diplomatic choreography lies an agonizing reality that received only brief comment from Obama and silence from Netanyahu: The ongoing devastation of the people of Gaza.

Gaza is an example of a society that has been deliberately reduced to a state of abject destitution, its once productive population transformed into one of aid-dependent paupers. This context is undeniably one of mass suffering, created largely by Israel but with the active complicity of the international community, especially the U.S. and European Union, and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Gaza’s subjection began long before Israel’s recent war against it.. The Israeli occupation—now largely forgotten or denied by the international community—has devastated Gaza’s economy and people, especially since 2006. Although economic restrictions actually increased before Hamas’ electoral victory in January 2006, the deepened sanction regime and siege subsequently imposed by Israel and the international community, and later intensified in June 2007 when Hamas seized control of Gaza, has all but destroyed the local economy. If there has been a pronounced theme among the many Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals who I have interviewed in the last three years, it was the fear of damage to Gaza’s society and economy so profound that billions of dollars and generations of people would be required to address it—a fear that has now been realized.

After Israel’s December assault, Gaza’s already compromised conditions have become virtually unlivable. Livelihoods, homes, and public infrastructure have been damaged or destroyed on a scale that even the Israel Defense Forces admitted was indefensible. In Gaza today, there is no private sector to speak of and no industry. 80 percent of Gaza’s agricultural crops were destroyed and Israel continues to snipe at farmers attempting to plant and tend fields near the well-fenced and patrolled border. Most productive activity has been extinguished.

One powerful expression of Gaza’s economic demise—and the Gazans’ indomitable will to provide for themselves and their families—is its burgeoning tunnel economy that emerged long ago in response to the siege. Thousands of Palestinians are now employed digging tunnels into Egypt—around 1,000 tunnels are reported to exist although not all are operational. According to local economists, 90 percent of economic activity in Gaza—once considered a lower middle-income economy (along with the West Bank)—is presently devoted to smuggling.

Today, 96 percent of Gaza’s population of 1.4 million is dependent on humanitarian aid for basic needs. According to the World Food Programme, the Gaza Strip requires a minimum of 400 trucks of food every day just to meet the basic nutritional needs of the population. Yet, despite a 22 March decision by the Israeli cabinet to lift all restrictions on foodstuffs entering Gaza, only 653 trucks of food and other supplies were allowed entry during the week of May 10, at best meeting 23 percent of required need.

Israel now allows only 30 to 40 commercial items to enter Gaza compared to 4,000 approved products prior to June 2006. According to the Israeli journalist, Amira Hass, Gazans still are denied many commodities (a policy in effect long before the December assault): Building materials (including wood for windows and doors), electrical appliances (such as refrigerators and washing machines), spare parts for cars and machines, fabrics, threads, needles, candles, matches, mattresses, sheets, blankets, cutlery, crockery, cups, glasses, musical instruments, books, tea, coffee, sausages, semolina, chocolate, sesame seeds, nuts, milk products in large packages, most baking products, light bulbs, crayons, clothing, and shoes.

Given these constraints, among many others—including the internal disarray of the Palestinian leadership—one wonders how the reconstruction to which Obama referred will be possible. There is no question that people must be helped immediately. Programs aimed at alleviating suffering and reinstating some semblance of normalcy are ongoing, but at a scale shaped entirely by the extreme limitations on the availability of goods. In this context of repressive occupation and heightened restriction, what does it mean to reconstruct Gaza? How is it possible under such conditions to empower people and build sustainable and resilient institutions able to withstand expected external shocks? Without an immediate end to Israel’s blockade and the resumption of trade and the movement of people outside the prison that Gaza has long been, the current crisis will grow massively more acute. Unless the U.S. administration is willing to exert real pressure on Israel for implementation—and the indications thus far suggest they are not—little will change. Not surprisingly, despite international pledges of $5.2 billion for Gaza’s reconstruction, Palestinians there are now rebuilding their homes using mud.

Recently, I spoke with some friends in Gaza and the conversations were profoundly disturbing. My friends spoke of the deeply felt absence of any source of protection—personal, communal or institutional. There is little in society that possesses legitimacy and there is a fading consensus on rules and an eroding understanding of what they are for. Trauma and grief overwhelm the landscape despite expressions of resilience. The feeling of abandonment among people appears complete, understood perhaps in their growing inability to identify with any sense of possibility. The most striking was this comment: “It is no longer the occupation or even the war that consumes us but the realization of our own irrelevance.”

What possible benefit can be derived from an increasingly impoverished, unhealthy, densely crowded, and furious Gaza alongside Israel? Gaza’s terrible injustice not only threatens Israeli and regional security, but it undermines America’s credibility, alienating our claim to democratic practice and the rule of law.

If Palestinians are continually denied what we want and demand for ourselves—an ordinary life, dignity, livelihood, safety, and a place where they can raise their children—and are forced, yet again, to face the destruction of their families, then the inevitable outcome will be greater and more extreme violence across all factions, both old and increasingly new. What looms is no less than the loss of entire generation of Palestinians. And if this happens—perhaps it already has—we shall all bear the cost.

for an innovative and brilliant visual representation of what roy is talking about check out this new video on the topography and architecture of the savaging of gaza with music by checkpoint 303 called “cartografiando gaza”:

of course palestinians are not forgetting gaza. palestinians are actively working to file lawsuits in various contexts for the most recent onslaught of savagery against gaza:

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), based in Gaza, stated that Palestinian lawyers have prepared 936 lawsuits against the Israeli army for committing war crimes against the Palestinians during the Israeli war on Gaza.

The German weekly, Der Spiegel, published a report on Saturday stating that the PCHR collected testimonies and conducted filed investigations to document the Israeli violations.

Some of the documented incidents are about children who were shot by the army at close range, entire families killed after being buried under the ruble of their homes, incidents regarding women burnt by Israel’s white phosphorus shells, and several other violations.

The Der Spiegel stated that the PCHR is trying to have the cases submitted to the National Court in Madrid.

The Israeli army and Israel’s leadership claim that the so-called internal investigation Israel carried out revealed that the army did not intentionally harm Palestinian civilians during the war which began on December 27, 2008, and ended in January 18, 2009.

and there are others who care enough to pursue leagal proceedings outside the zionist entity where such a trial will get a fair hearing, although the zionist entity is doing its best to obstruct such a process as sharon weill and valentina azarov reported in electronic intifada:

Currently, the fate of one of the only remaining venues that offers a redress mechanism for Palestinians is at stake. It is one that can bring accountability of Israeli officials and decision-makers who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. The amendment of universal jurisdiction laws, often incommensurably restricting access to these mechanisms, is at variance with the effect of certain crimes on humanity as a whole, on which the notion of universal jurisdiction is premised. The pressure exerted on the Spanish government to amend its law is an example of the regrettable phenomenon of the weakening of international law at the price of the individual.

On 22 July 2002, around midnight, an Israeli Air Force plane dropped a one-ton bomb on Gaza City’s al-Daraj neighborhood, one of the most densely-populated residential areas in the world. The military objective of this operation was to target and kill Hamas’ former military leader in the Gaza Strip, Salah Shehadeh, who at that time was in his house with his family. As a result of the operation, Shehadeh and 14 civilians were killed, most of them children and infants, and 150 persons were injured, about half of them severely. Houses in the vicinity were either destroyed or damaged. Seven members of the Matar family, whose neighboring house was totally destroyed, were among the casualties.

More than six years later, in Madrid, just a few days after Israel’s most recent invasion of Gaza ended, Judge Fernando Andreu Merelles decided to open a criminal investigation on the basis of universal jurisdiction against seven Israeli political and military officials who were alleged to have committed a war crime — and possibly a crime against humanity — in the course of that operation. The officials included Dan Halutz, then Commander of the Israeli Air Forces; Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, then Israeli Defense Minister; Moshe Yaalon, then Israeli army Chief of Staff; Doron Almog, then Southern Commander of the Israeli army; Giora Eiland, then Head of the Israeli National Security Council; Michael Herzog, then Military Secretary to the Israeli Defense Ministry; and Abraham Dichter, then Director of the General Security Services.

Although the allegations in the action referred only to war crimes, the court stated that the facts could amount to more serious crimes than what was initially claimed — namely, crimes against humanity. This preliminary legal assessment motivated the legal team to work toward basing a new charge. The lawyers announced that they would redouble their efforts to demonstrate that the al-Daraj bombing was part of a policy of “widespread and systematic” attacks directed against a civilian population, fitting the definition of a crime against humanity.

As the request for Israel to provide information on the existence of any judicial proceedings concerning the military operation was not answered and the state expressed its unwillingness to cooperate with the legal team, the Spanish court thereby ruled that the investigation be conducted by the Spanish jurisdiction. On the same day the decision concerning the commencement of the investigation was rendered, Israeli officials sent a 400-page document to the Spanish legal team, stating that the facts of the complaint regarding the operation were subject to proceedings in Israel, and therefore the Spanish court should have declined to exercise jurisdiction.

but the savaging of gaza has never ended, not only because of the closure and the siege, but also because the israeli terrorist forces continue to attack gaza as they did this week from the sea:

Palestinian sources in Gaza reported on Tuesday morning that Israeli Navy ships and infantry brigades conducted a limited offensive in the Gaza Strip. During the attack several armored vehicles and military bulldozers uprooted farmland and destroyed hothouses.

An area of about 400m surrounding the military base at the Kerem Shalom Crossing was flattened, transformed into free fire zone.

Israeli navy gunships shelled Palestinian fishing boats in the northern and southern parts of the Gaza Strip; fishing boats were damaged , but there were no reported injuries. Dozens of fishermen were turned back due to the navy’s threats.

and the israeli terrorist forces also attacked gaza by land this week:

Israeli soldiers fired on Thursday night several shells at a number of Palestinian homes, east of Beit Hanoun, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.

Local sources reported that soldiers stationed at the northeastern border fired rounds of live ammunition and a number of shells at an open area east of Beit Hanoun. No damage or injuries were reported.

On Thursday evening, Israeli soldiers shelled several homes in Al Fahareen Area, east of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Several residents were treated for shock.

meanwhile the zionist terrorist colonist regime this week made it easier for them to continue its savage attacks on palestinians in gaza:

The Israeli ministerial council decided to give the army “a free hand” to retaliate to any cease fired violation carried out by Palestinians armed groups in the Gaza Strip.

The cabinet decided to hold Hamas responsible for any deterioration in the security situation, and decided to give the Israeli army a free hand to retaliate and to carry out limited offensives.

Israeli sources that Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, adopted this position.

He also held talks on the possibility of opening the crossing terminals in Gaza especially amidst the American and International pressure.

Netanyahu’s office said that the Israeli cabinet discussed the methods that would ease the suffering of the Palestinian in Gaza without harming Israel’s security interests.

the notion that the zionist entity is trying to ease the suffering of palestinians in gaza is laughable, especially when you look at reports that calculate its policies about food it will and will not allow into gaza–and especially the way they calculate it to make sure palestinians are always already on the brink of starvation as reported in ha’aretz:

The policy is not fixed, but continually subject to change, explains a COGAT official. Thus, about two months ago, the COGAT officials allowed pumpkins and carrots into Gaza, reversing a ban that had been in place for many months. The entry of “delicacies” such as cherries, kiwi, green almonds, pomegranates and chocolate is expressly prohibited. As is halvah, too, most of the time. Sources involved in COGAT’s work say that those at the highest levels, including acting coordinator Amos Gilad, monitor the food brought into Gaza on a daily basis and personally approve the entry of any kind of fruit, vegetable or processed food product requested by the Palestinians. At one of the unit’s meetings, Colonel Oded Iterman, a COGAT officer, explained the policy as follows: “We don’t want Gilad Shalit’s captors to be munching Bamba [a popular Israeli snack food] right over his head.”

The “Red Lines” document explains: “In order to make basic living in Gaza possible, the deputy defense minister approved the entry into the Gaza Strip of 106 trucks with humanitarian products, 77 of which are basic food products. The entry of wheat and animal feed was also permitted via the aggregates conveyor belt outside the Karni terminal.”

After four pages filled with detailed charts of the number of grams and calories of every type of food to be permitted for consumption by Gaza residents (broken down by gender and age), comes this recommendation: “It is necessary to deal with the international community and the Palestinian Health Ministry to provide nutritional supplements (only some of the flour in Gaza is enriched) and to provide education about proper nutrition.” Printed in large letters at the end of the document is this admonition: “The stability of the humanitarian effort is critical for the prevention of the development of malnutrition.”

but there are those who are resisting this siege and savagery. the free gaza movement is preparing for another action called “right to read” which they describe as follows:

In partnership with Al-Aqsa University in Gaza, the Free Gaza Movement (FG) is launching its “Right to Read” campaign which will use the FG boats to deliver textbooks and other educational supplies to universities throughout the occupied Gaza Strip.

This is not a charitable endeavor. Rather it is an act of solidarity and resistance to Israel’s choke-hold on Gaza and attempt to deny Palestinians education. According to UNWRA, Israel’s blockade restricts ink, paper, and other learning materials from entering into Gaza.

Our campaign invites individuals to join us at a person-to-person level by contributing one or more books to our shipment as an expression of resistance to the blockade. This effort also allows institutions around the world to support Palestinians’ right to education by donating new and used copies of textbooks to be delivered by the Free Gaza Movement to universities in the Gaza Strip.

We invite you to participate in this expression of resistance to the blockade. Specifically, you can donate funds to purchase books (and/or help offset shipping costs to Cyprus) or you can send new and used books directly for inclusion on an upcoming voyage. While all books are welcomed, we have already received a wish list from the universities in Gaza of books that are most in need.

To review the wish list and get more details on how to contribute to the “Right to Read” campaign, please visit <freegaza.org/right-to-read?lang=en>. Our first shipment will be sent on FG’s Summer of Hope July voyage to Gaza.

Education is a right — a right that has been denied to Gaza’s most precious resource, its young people. Free Gaza is committed to breaking this siege. We welcome people of goodwill, such as yourself, to join us in this campaign.

For more information:

Dina Kennedy: dkennedy [at] freegaza.org
Darlene Wallach: darlene [at] freegaza.org
www.freegaza.org

and of course there is good old fashioned palestinian hip hop resistance as jordan flaherty discovered on his recent trip to gaza:

For Ayman, making music is a form of resistance to war and occupation and also a tool to communicate the reality of life in Palestine. “Most of our lyrics are about the occupation,” he tells me. “Lately we’ve also started singing about the conflict between Hamas and Fatah. Any problem, it needs to be written about.” Rapper Chuck D, from the group Public Enemy, once called rap music the CNN for Black America. For Ayman and his friends, music is their weapon to break media silence. “Most of the world believes we are the terrorists,” he says. “And the media is closed to us, so we get our message out through Hip-Hop.”

One of the first acts to take the stage was a duo called Black Unit Band. Mohammed Wafy, one of the two singers, displays the innocent charm of a teen pop star as he jumps from the stage and into the audience. Tall and skinny with a shock of black hair, Mohammed is 18 and looks younger. Khaled Harara, the other singer (and Mohammed’s next door neighbor) is a few years older and several pounds heavier, but no less energetic on stage.

As the evening progressed, the energy in the room continued to rise. The next act featured six members from two combined groups (DA MCs, and RG, for Revolutionary Guys) now collectively called DARG Team. The crowd was up on their feet, many of them singing along as the performers displayed a range of lyrical stylings.

In Mohammed Wafy’s apartment, the performers waited anxiously for the results of the contest. The call came in on Ayman’s cell phone. Putting it on speaker, everyone listened as the results were announced: DARG team had come in first place, and Black Unit had placed third. There were no hurt feelings apparent for those that didn’t win — for these young performers, every victory is a shared victory. DARG members will now go on to Denmark to produce an album (if they can get out of Gaza).

Fadi Bakhet, a studious and slightly preppy looking Afro-Palestinian in wire-rimmed glasses, is DARG’s manager, and also the brother of one of the members. As the night continued, the gathering moved to his apartment. They celebrated the successful show, which also fell on the last day of exams for many students, and the laughing and conversation continued late into the night. The next day was hot and sunny, and thousands of Gazans gathered on the beach to swim and relax by the Mediterranean.

if you click on the link above to flaherty’s story, you can find links to the various bands as well as videos of a few of the groups he mentioned on youtube. here is one of those video clips from one of my favorite palestinian rap groups p.r. or palestinian rapperz:

One thought on “on not forgetting gaza

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