Gaza’s Reality — What an amazing little girl and what amazing women appear in this video.
Al Jazeera report on Israel’s blockade of the Gaza strip
From Sabbah’s blog
Israel Blockades the Gaza Strip
Six days ago Israel imposed a complete blockade on the Gaza strip where 1.5 million Palestinian people live, leaving everyone there without electricity, without water, and with no way to get these or the basic necessities of life– food, warmth, medical care. What supplies were available were exorbitantly expensive. The blockade follows on the heels of sanctions imposed by Israel after Palestine’s democratic elections in January of 2006 resulted in the election of members of Hamas, viewed by Israel and the western world as militants and terorrists, viewed by Palestinians as their leaders and heroes. Israel justifies the complete blockade as a response to homemade rocket fire aimed at the Israeli town of Sderot, but as Sonia Karkar writes:
…by no stretch of the imagination is the firing of rockets compared to Israel’s ongoing siege of Gaza an even contest. The Palestinians are imprisoned in Gaza and have no military force other than guns and homemade rockets. Israel, on the other hand, has the most sophisticated weaponry in the world at its disposal and uses it with merciless ferocity. It is bombing the Gaza Strip with its F-16 fighter planes and helicopter gun ships and is launching artillery fire from the tanks it has surrounding this tiny stretch of land. In just the last few days, some 40 people have been killed and 120 injured, most of them civilians.
On January 23, blogger Mohammed Omer wrote of the situation in Gaza City:
It gets dark, and cold, and people are getting hungry.
Israel closed border crossings Friday, not allowing even UN humanitarian aid trucks carrying basic food. Crossings have been closed frequently since October 2007.
“On Wednesday or Thursday we will have to suspend our food distribution programme in Gaza,” spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Christopher Gunness told IPS. “We are running out of fuel for vehicles.”
With 80 percent of the 1.5 million people in Gaza dependent on food aid, this latest severing of food sources is building up to a humanitarian catastrophe.
Umm Jamal Al Baba, a 60-year-old from Rafah camp, stands visibly tired in a queue of hundreds for bread. “I can no longer make bread in my house — there is no gas for cooking, no electricity.”
Now that rice had disappeared under the siege, or priced out of the reach of most people, bread means survival for Palestinians in Gaza Strip.
This Palestinian area voted in Hamas, which does not recognise Israel, and this has led to continuing Israeli reprisals. The narrow strip of land has Israel on one side and the Mediterranean on the other, and people are dependent on food and other resources coming in from the Israeli side.
The situation for Palestinians is somewhat better in the West Bank bordering Israel and Jordan. Israel is more accepting of the other Palestinian party Fatah which runs the Palestinian Authority there. The two Palestinian areas are cut off by Israel in the middle. Prosperous Israel next door is a world apart from the world of Umm Jamal.
After a long wait, Umm Jamal leaves with a small bag of bread. “This will not be enough to feed my grandchildren for even one day,” she says. “I can only hope this situation does not go on for long, because I don’t know how much longer we can last at this rate.”
And what if the situation does not improve? That, she said, could be the beginning of a “hunger revolution”.
Like others, Umm Jamal woke up Monday to shuttered shops and desolate streets because of the petrol shortage. The main power plant shut down Sunday after Israel blocked fuel supplies, plunging much of the Gaza Strip into darkness. The little electricity supplied has been shared among different cities and camps for a few hours a day.
“Gaza needs 250-260 megawatts of electricity, not counting the needs of factories and workshops, many of which have been demolished and shut down,” says Jamal al-Dardasawi, spokesman for Gaza’s Palestinian Electricity Company. “Israel and Egypt provide roughly 50 percent of Gaza’s electricity needs.”
Dardasawi said Israel has destroyed many electricity lines during its latest military invasions, leading to further cuts. “The electricity crisis in Gaza came following the manufactured fuel shortages,” he said. “If the shortages continue, they will gravely affect electricity supplies to hospitals and clinics.” Medical centres already suffer from lack of medicines, blankets and food.
Gaza City streets and houses are in utter darkness. Forty-one-year-old Ahmed Hussien searches the shops in vain for candles for his children. He leaves empty-handed. “I have been to four shops; there are absolutely no candles available in the market.”
Hussein says he cannot see why Israel does not let even candles through. “Will I threaten Israel’s security if I light one candle for my kids in a dark night, so they don’t cry all night?”
Worldwide, the flame of a candle is seen as a symbol of hope. In Gaza, it is now a basic tool of survival. And too many cannot find it.
Power to the People
Two days ago, desperate to survive — to obtain clean water (sewage was running in the streets and there was no water because there was no electricity to run the pumps), food and medicines — Palestinians used homemade bombs to blow up the wall between the Gaza and Egypt and the people streamed through into Egypt. Raising Yusef, a Palestinian blogger who divides her time between the Gaza and the United States, writes about the text messages she received as the wall was coming down:
…”its coming down-its coming down!” [Fida] declared ecstatically. “Laila! the Palestinians destroyed Rafah wall, all of it. All of it not part of it! Your sister Fida.”
…For the first time in months, I sensed a degree of enthusiasm, hope…relief even, emanating from thousands of miles away, via digitized words, from Gaza. Words that have been all but absent from the Palestinian vocabulary. Buried. Methodically and gradually destroyed.
…And so once again, this monstrosity that is a source of so much agony in our lives, that cripples our movement and severs our ties to each other and to our world, to our families and our homes, our universities and places of work, hospitals and airports, has fallen through the will of the people.
Although CNN and mainstream news media have reported that Egyptian authorities made little attempt to keep Palestinians from entering Egypt, blogger al-falasteenyia says this in not true; instead, Egypt simply couldn’t keep the people out.
The photo above shows Egyptian police loosing water hoses on women attempting to walk through the demolished fence and at one point they fired into the crowd, injuring 60 women.
About four minutes into the video below you see women who have apparently been shot being loaded into ambulances and carried out on gurneys.
B’tselem, an Israeli human rights organization which “endeavors to document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human rights culture in Israel,” has issued this statement:
24 Jan 2007: Israeli Human Rights Organizations: End the Siege on Gaza
We, Israeli human rights organizations, publicly support the joint Palestinian-Israeli international campaign to end the siege on the Gaza Strip immediately.
Although the toppling of the fence at the Egyptian border temporarily eased the stranglehold, the million and a half residents of Gaza still depend almost entirely on importation of goods, fuel, and electricity through crossings controlled by Israel. There is also concern that in response to the border breakthrough, Israel will step up punitive measures against the population.
As Israeli human rights organizations, we cannot remain silent while the siege continues, bringing in its wake a humanitarian crisis.
The firing of Qassam rockets at Israeli civilian targets is criminal and abhorrent. It is Israel’s duty to defend its citizens, but collectively punishing an entire civilian population, of which most are not involved in the hostilities and over half are under 14, is illegal, improper, and immoral.
Participating organizations: The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Amnesty-Israel, , Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, Hamoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights
Israeli peace groups led by Gush Shalom and in coordination with End the Siege campaign, have initiated a Relief Convoy to Gaza to take place on Saturday, January 26. If you click on these links you will find information about other actions throughout the world aimed at ending the blockade.
Sonya Karkar’s article in the Electronic Intifada is entitled “Gaza’s Last Gasp,” . True enough, we do not know what the coming days will bring, whether the wall will be rebuilt, whether those who crossed into Egypt will be sent back to prison, whether the United Nations will intervene, whether Israel will end the blockade. But what we all know is that no one can imprison 1.5 million people on a tiny piece of land forever. Ultimately, the people will speak. As Raising Yousef writes:
People often ask me why such things — meaning people powered civil protests that can overcome even the strongest occupation — don’t happen sooner, or more often, or at all for that matter. We underestimate the power of occupation to destroy a people’s will to live, let alone resist and and attempt to change the situation. This is the worst thing about occupation, whether a military occupation like Israel’s, or a political one like Hosni Mubarak’s in his own country. And it is only when you can overcome the psychological occupation, the occupation of the mind, that the military occupation in all its manifestations can be defeated.
So true, as to women as women as well. We often ask here on this blog what it will take for women to act against male power. We wonder why women, who are more than half the world’s population, do not act. But I think Raising Yousef is right, we underestimate the power of occupation to destroy our will to resist, and as women, we, too, are an occupied people. I’m reminded of a quote I’ve had for some time on my website and which comes to mind every time I blog about atrocities against women:
What will it take for women to recognize that globally, as women, we are targeted for destruction? What specific cataclysm in the history of our social subordination will forge in us, as a fundamental element of our identity, an awareness of the fact and the means by which our specific social group is being destroyed? Which outrage against us will so shake the conscience of the world that it will force us to acquire a preparedness for dealing with our own possible demise? –Natalie Nenadic, from “Femicide”
I am glad for the many fine Israeli peace organizations linked in this post, for Rabbis for Human Rights, and for similar Israeli organizations which are standing in solidarity against the blockade. I know that people of good will throughout the world are also standing in that solidarity. I wonder whether these draconian, genocidal acts might have sparked what could be the beginning of the end of Palestine’s long agony.
Some of my previous posts about Israel and Palestine: