the latest on gaza

a few weeks ago there was a very important post on kabobfest entitled “stop saying free gaza.” it began like this:

Gaza is not a different country than Palestine; its plight is not isolated from that of the West Bank, Palestinian-Israelis, or Palestinian refugees in the Diaspora. So stop changing your banners and placards from “Free Palestine” and “End Apartheid” to “Free Gaza.”

Palestinians and their supporters alike have fallen in a simple trap set in the sideshow of Israel’s Attack on Gaza earlier this year. Israel has consistently tried to separate segments of the Palestinian society and find ways to foster distrust among them.

you should read the whole post, but it ended like this:

So, next time you carry a “Free Gaza” sign, think. Are you taking the side of one of the segments Israel forced? Has the rest of Palestine been freed? How much of the story are new solidarity recruits learning from you pushing this new branding campaign? What are you going to do next time Israel commits a massacre in different city? Are you going to print new placards? What if the city name is hard to pronounce?

Talk about Gaza as only the latest example of Israel’s atrocities, not as if it’s a separate conflict. Soon it will be a year (seemingly eternity) without Israel attacking Gaza, the border with Egypt get’s opened and food flows, What will be your slogan for the cause du jour?

Unless we keep our eyes on Israel’s apartheid, Israel’s racism, and colonialism, we will not be able to drive a successful strategy. Israel will keep playing and toying with us with its distraction tactics, and we will happily follow without realizing the impact our emotional and myopic acts have on the larger picture.

i think it is important not to separate gaza from any other part of the struggle to free palestine. the struggle is the same. it is anti-colonial. it is about refugees and their right of return. period. but the struggle in gaza looks different to the outside world. and so they carry the banner of free gaza. this is why palestinians got together and released a statement critiquing norman finkelstein’s march on gaza, the thrust of which is as follows:

1- The statement fails to give any political context to this abstract siege, avoiding to even condemn Israel’s military occupation! The siege is not just about suffering and humanitarian needs. It is about occupation and denial of Palestinians refugees in Gaza , as well as everywhere else, their fundamental right to return. That is also illegal. 80 per cent of Gazans are refugees who were ethnically cleansed in 1948.

2) We feel that the statement ostensibly addresses internationals and urges them to perform this non-violent act in solidarity with Palestinians under siege in Gaza, but it also lectures us, indirectly, about non-violence. Obviously, no Palestinians have been involved in writing it!

3) Everyone who wants to breach the Erez checkpoint from the Gaza side, as this purports to do, must first enter Gaza ! And how do they plan to do that? Egypt , the most important local collaborator with the siege will have none of that.

4) The statement ignores THE most effective non-violent means of resistance to date: BDS! This intentional omission and focus on Gandhi non-violence as a “new” form of resistance that must be taught to us smacks of naiveté and presumptuous colonial pompousness. Forms of resistance are not mutually exclusive. The writers of the statement could have supported the growing BDS campaign in parallel to endorsing this idea of a non-violent march.

5) Such a march must be first explicitly led by the Palestinians in Gaza, as represented by political forces and other civil society organs, and second explicitly advocated by Palestinians. Before organizing international brigades of Gandhian activists to come to Gaza to march “alongside the people of Gaza,” how about asking us Palestinians in Gaza what we want!

6) Palestinians in Gaza as referred to twice as “the people of Gaza,” further entrenching the Israeli division of the Palestinians into THE Palestinians, meaning those in the West Bank, Israeli Arabs, some abstract refugees, and “the people of Gaza .” Jerusalemites are, of course, Israelis with some special problems! The people in Gaza are only indirectly referred to as part of the Palestinian people. Again, no people, no right to self determination. Only a humanitarian issue.

We, therefore, will endorse the statement only if these serious concerns are taken into consideration.

Signed by:

The One Democratic State Group

Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel

Al-Quds Bank for Culture and Information

Friends for the Visually Impaired

Al-Aqsa University-Academic Cooperation Dept.

while gaza is not separate from the rest of palestine nor is its struggle for justice different, it is important to understand the different context in which colonization and ethnic cleansing occur in gaza. here is a recent video from journalist jordan flaherty and lily keber that gives some idea to the ongoing siege there:

because it has now been three years since the zionist entity’s siege on gaza began, the united nations ocha office recently released a report documenting how this extreme form of ethnic cleansing is affecting palestinians in gaza. a summary of the report reads in part (and full summary can be read here):

Following the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, Israel has imposed an unprecedented blockade on all border crossings in and out of the Gaza Strip. The blockade has ‘locked in’ 1.5 million people in what is one of the most densely populated areas on earth, triggering a protracted human dignity crisis with negative humanitarian consequences. At the heart of this crisis is the degradation in the living conditions of the population, caused by the erosion of livelihoods and the gradual decline in the state of infrastructure, and the quality of vital services in the areas of health, water and sanitation, and education.

The blockade, now in its third year, has taken place alongside recurrent cycles of violence and human rights violations, stemming from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Hamas’s rule over Gaza. The denial of Palestinians’ right to leave Gaza, or to move freely to the West Bank, particularly when their lives, physical integrity, or basic freedoms are under threat, is another key component of the current human dignity crisis. This denial had a devastating impact during Israel’s “Cast Lead” military offensive, launched on 27 December 2008, contributing to the significant loss of civilian life and the large number of seriously injured and traumatized people as a result.

The three week-long Israeli offensive also involved the widespread destruction of homes, infrastructure and productive assets. The ongoing restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza through the crossings has limited the ability of all relevant actors to address the immense needs and challenges that emerged as a result of the most recent military offensive.

Over the past three months, Israel has allowed entry into Gaza of a small number of truckloads carrying goods previously prevented from entering, including limited construction, water, sanitation and education materials. While these are welcome steps, their actual impact when compared to the current level of needs in Gaza remains negligible.

This blockade has been characterized by the UN’s most senior humanitarian official, John Holmes, as a form of collective punishment on the entire Gazan population. The UN, the ICRC, many states and humanitarian organizations have repeatedly urged the Government of Israel to remove the restrictions on Gaza’s borders; to allow free access to agricultural areas within Gaza, and to allow unrestricted fishing in Gaza’s territorial waters. These are the urgent first steps needed to start the reconstruction of homes and infrastructure, the revival of the economy and the restoration of human dignity in Gaza.

and it has been just over six months since the intensity of the zionist savagery ended, and yet, of course, the zionists controlling the prison that is gaza have made it impossible to remove rubble and to rebuild, as sherine tadros reported on al jazeera a couple of weeks ago:

a story from irin news this week illustrates just one of the many palestinian casualties of this siege:

Arafat Hamdona, 20, has been confined to the cancer unit of As-Shifa, Gaza’s primary hospital, since he was diagnosed with maxillary skin tumours in June 2008. Red lesions protrude from his face, his features are distorted and his eyes swollen shut.

In April, Arafat was permitted to travel to Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem where he received three series of chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment. He was scheduled to return for further treatment, but has not been granted permission by the Israeli authorities to leave Gaza.

“He is only given pain killers,” said Arafat’s father, Faraj Hamdona, explaining that that is all As-Shifa has to offer.

According to a July 2009 report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Jerusalem, Gaza doctors and nurses do not have the medical equipment to respond to the health needs of the 1.5 million people living in the Gaza Strip.

Medical equipment is often broken, lacking spare parts, or outdated.

WHO attributes the dismal state of Gaza’s healthcare system to the Israeli blockade of the territory, tightened in June 2007 after Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by the West, seized control. The poor organization of maintenance services in Gaza compounds the problem, reports WHO.

and the medical issues are compounded by the problems related to the imposed malnutrition according to a recent electronic intifada article by eva bartlett:

According to the UN and various non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the trickle of goods entering Gaza now is just a quarter of that prior to the siege, the majority of which is limited to basic food aid items. The aid-dependent families have moved from a balanced diet to one consisting mainly of sugar and carbohydrates, lacking in vitamins and proteins.

The World Health Organization (WHO) cites an increase in growth-stunting malnourishment, now at over 10 percent of children, attributed to a chronic lack of protein, iron, and essential vitamins. The WHO further warns of increasing anemia rates: 65 percent among children below 12 months of age, and 35 percent among pregnant women.

The United Nations Children’s Agency (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), and Gaza’s Ard al-Insan center for nutrition, among various bodies, note the link between malnutrition and a deficiency of protein and vegetables in the diet.

An International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) June 2009 report notes that the effects of a restricted diet also include “difficulty in fighting off infections, fatigue and a reduced capacity to learn.” The ICRC warns of the long-term ramifications on Gaza’s malnourished children.

while the zionist entity and its american collaborators are chiefly responsible for this siege, the regime in egypt is also responsible for collective punishment of palestinians. kabobfest had another important post on the ways in which egypt profits from the siege on gaza:

As The president of Egypt tours the States talking about many issues including the Palestinian question. And I’m getting into my second month of my visit to Gaza and cannot deny the sad effects of the siege on Gaza. Most aspects of life in Gaza have been negatively affected by this unfair siege. The price of food especially, vegetables and fruits have now surpassed prices in the United States, same thing for clothing, shoes and electronics. While the cost of living in Gaza soared due to the sanction and limitations on the movement of goods, wages and salaries are nowhere near the States. Yes, there are tunnels in Gaza, and they smuggle all sort of things through these tunnels. Items as large as fridges and as small as birthday candles flow through the tunnels to Gaza. But those tunnels only can bring so much and smuggling isn’t the cheapest way to supply a market. Thirty to Forty dollars is the charge to smuggle a bag of goods. While the people of Gaza struggle, the two Palestinian governments watch from the sidelines but claim to be there for the people. The guys in Ramallah help their people in Gaza and the guys in Gaza take care of their own, while the common man is left with nothing. In the meantime the Arab and Muslim nations stand by the people of Gaza but have done little to break the siege. This post does not come easy, in fact this subject I hope to be wrong on. Egyptians have led the fight to break the siege on Gaza but from where I stand the blockade is helping the Egyptian government on so many levels, here is how:

Economically: Goods in Gaza mainly come from Egypt and since Palestinians do not have many choices because the Israelis allow only humanitarian goods into the Strip (flour, sugar, milk, rice…etc.). That leaves plenty of needed material that has a market in Gaza. Items like fans, shirts, razors, shampoo, appliances, certain medications, cookies, potato chips, pencils and school bags, chairs, kitchen ware…etc. In the past these goods used to be imported from various countries such as China and India. Thanks to the embargo, Egypt now is the main supplier of these goods; Egyptian factories are now earning plenty of cash as they provide the needed goods. Egyptian businesses are also making a profit by playing the broker role between the Palestinian buyers and the international vendors. There are those who move the goods to Rafah and those who push it through the tunnels to the Palestinian on the other end. Did I also mention that all those transactions are paid in cash?

It’s Good for Business: If a Palestinian wants to leave Gaza the can be smuggles through a tunnel for the bargain price of two to three hundred dollars. But there is another way. A two thousand dollar pay off to an Egyptian General through his Palestinian front man and you’re on VIP list to get through the gate at the Rafah crossing; even if the crossing point is closed, one will be allowed into the land of milk and honey. This travel clearance even overrides a Hamas veto because they cannot risk angering the Egyptians. I guess this is sort of like the American service offered in select airport for busy travelers where they can skip long security lines by using the express lane for a fee. This is funny because when a Palestinians pointed out this corruption to an Egyptian official, the official suggested he too take advantage of it. Politically, the mess in Gaze serves as a model for not choosing the Islamist oriented policies. For sometime Egypt has tried to convince its people that Islamists are bad for business and bad for regional stability. But most of those arguments fell flat until the Hamas takeover in Gaza in June 2007. Obviously many parties have an interest in seeing Hamas fail to make the point “We might be bad, but they are worse”. Also by playing the broker between the Palestinaina Authority on the West Bank, Hamas in Gaza and Israel, Egypt gains regional credit for their active role in promoting “peace” and Arab unity.

and here is one of the many ways in which egypt’s complicity bears responsibility for palestinians in gaza who are forced to use tunnels to bring in much needed goods for their survival. ayman mohyeldin’s report on al jaeera highlights this complicity and the problem of the zionist-egyptian siege:

although there has not yet been enough significant international outcry over the complicity of egypt and the u.s. with respect to war crimes committed in gaza, there has been ongoing and persistent writing and reporting on the zionist entity’s role in those war crimes, the most recent of which is human rights watch’s report documenting how zionist terrorist colonist soldiers murdered palestinians carrying white flags. the report is important, because it is yet another piece of evidence, but at the same time it is problematic given the 1,400 murders the zionist entity committed in gaza. what is a bit more promising is the news that in zionist colonists who also hold south african citizenship are going to be prosecuted for committing war crimes in gaza:

Two South African organizations have called for 70 South Africans to be prosecuted for involvement in war crimes allegedly committed by the IDF during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in December and January.

The Palestinian Solidarity Alliance and the Media Review Network are also urging the immediate arrest of IDF Lt.-Col. David Benjamin, who is in South Africa attending the Limmud-SA educational conference this week.

The two NGOs are listed as complainants in an affidavit, called the Gaza Docket, which was handed last week to the South African National Prosecuting Authority and the Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation.

It is supported by approximately 3,500 pages of evidence, including some submitted by Human Rights Watch on the “brutal military onslaught on Gaza by the Israeli Defense Force.”

Some 70 South Africans are listed in the affidavit for prosecution as they had served in the Israeli army. Their names are withheld due to the fact that they are suspects. It is unclear if these people served in the IDF during Cast Lead and whether they retain their South African citizenship.

such reports and developments are clearly a threat to the zionist entity as jonathan cook reveals in an article in electronic intifada:

In a bid to staunch the flow of damaging evidence of war crimes committed during Israel’s winter assault on Gaza, the Israeli government has launched a campaign to clamp down on human rights groups, both in Israel and abroad.

It has begun by targeting one of the world’s leading rights organizations, the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), as well as a local group of dissident army veterans, Breaking the Silence, which last month published the testimonies of 26 combat soldiers who served in Gaza.

Additionally, according to the Israeli media, the government is planning a “much more aggressive stance” towards human rights groups working to help the Palestinians.

Officials have questioned the sources of funding received by the organizations and threatened legislation to ban support from foreign governments, particularly in Europe.

Breaking the Silence and other Israeli activists have responded by accusing the government of a “witch hunt” designed to intimidate them and starve them of the funds needed to pursue their investigations.

“This is a very dangerous step,” said Mikhael Mannekin, one of the directors of Breaking the Silence. “Israel is moving in a very anti-democratic direction.”

The campaign is reported to be the brainchild of the far-right foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, currently facing corruption charges, but has the backing of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Early last month, Lieberman used a press conference to accuse non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, of replacing diplomats in setting the international community’s agenda in relation to Israel. He also threatened reforms to curb the groups’ influence.

A week later, Netanyahu’s office weighed in against Human Rights Watch, heavily criticizing the organization for its recent fund-raising activities in Saudi Arabia.

HRW has pointed out that it only accepts private donations, and has not accepted Saudi government funds, but Israeli officials say all Saudi money is tainted and will compromise HRW’s impartiality as a human rights watchdog in its treatment of Israel.

what i haven’t seen a full report on, including implications of ongoing war crimes, another to add to the list is the ongoing assault on palestinian farmers who live and farm the land near the ever-expanding “buffer zone” where zionist terrorist colonists use palestinian people for their target practice. sherine tadros report on al jazeera last month documented this:

but the farmers keep farming the land as yet another form of resistance in a space where so few options for resistance exist. likewise, this video which i keep meaning to post is a moving story about one of the rappers from the group palestinian rapperz (p.r.) whose father was murdered by palestinian terrorist colonists. here is casey kauffman’s report on al jazeera:

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