Tuesday, December 29, 2009

One Year Since Israel's Offensive, Gaza Still Suffers.

The situation in Gaza, one year after the Israelis bombed the place back to the stone age, remains appalling:

One year after Israel launched its three-week offensive in Gaza that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians and damaged or destroyed more than 50,000 homes in a campaign aimed at stopping Hamas rocket fire, the survivors are still living in rubble. And it is not for want of money that thousands of residents of the coastal enclave remain homeless this winter. Moved by the plight of Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinians who were already reeling from a 2½-year economic siege imposed by Israel with help from Egypt and the U.S. even before Israel's air-and-ground assault had begun, international donors earlier this year pledged more than $4.5 billion to repair war damages. But that aid has failed to reach Gaza, according to Palestinians and relief agencies who accuse Israel of imposing Kafkaesque rules that bar from entry vital reconstruction materials and items as innocuous as glass, most schoolbooks, honey and family-size tubs of margarine.

Says Chris Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA): "Because the Israelis are not allowing in any reconstruction material, that $4.5 billion is just a paper figure." With more than 80% of Gazans now surviving on humanitarian handouts from UNRWA, Gunness adds, "Palestinians are becoming more desperate and more extreme."

And yet, despite this scandal, Netanyahu stood up in the Knesset the other day to utterly rewrite his role in the continuing suffering of the Palestinians:
From day one, we told the Palestinians, the Americans, the Europeans, the Russians and the entire world that negotiations have to start right away. I think a call was even issued from right here, on the Knesset podium, to the Palestinian Authority. And it would be an understatement to say that we've never received a response.
The truth is that Netanyahu has refused to negotiate in any meaningful way with anyone, yet he portrays himself here as the one who is looking for peace, but receiving no response from the Palestinians. It's a fantasy world which he paints.

Then he lists the ways he feels his government have been thanked for their generosity:
What have we got from the other side? The Goldstone Report, complaints about building in Gilo and all kinds of unprecedented and unjustified preconditions.
The "unprecedented and unjustified preconditions" that he complains about are also known by the more mundane term: international law. He has been asked to stop illegal settlement building, and it is that request which he is treating with such horror.

The reality on the ground could not be more different from the picture which Netanyahu is painting:

Relief officials estimate that Gaza needs 40,000 tons of cement and 25,000 tons of iron to start repairing the homes, hospitals, schools and shops destroyed during Israel's offensive. But so far, according to GISHA, an Israeli legal-rights group, the Israelis have allowed only 19 trucks carrying construction material into Gaza since the war ended last January. "You could say that Israel has bombed Gaza back into the mud age," says UNRWA's Gunness, "because that's what they're building their houses out of now — mud."

Without parts to replace machinery damaged in the war, 97% of Gaza's factories have shut down, raising unemployment higher than 43%. With scarce sources of income, many Gazans would probably starve if not for food handouts from the U.N. and other agencies. More than 40,000 Gazans have no electricity; 10,000 have no running water in their homes; and because Israel bans entry of the spare parts needed to run Gaza's sewage-treatment plant, every day 87 million liters of sewage are dumped into the Mediterranean (which washes up on Israel's beaches too).

Although the international community occasionally protests Gaza's ongoing tragedy, so far no real pressure has been put on Israel to loosen its stranglehold.

The fact that this last sentence appears in Time Magazine, shows how scandalous this has now become.

Where is the international pressure on Israel to stop this collective punishment of the Palestinian people? Why is Netanyahu allowed to stand in the Knesset and spout this nonsense without the international community coming down on his head?

When will Obama place some pressure on the Israelis to comply with international law? It shames all of us that we sit quietly by while this takes place.

Click here for full article.

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