Israel holds around 4.5 million Palestinians hostage on their own land in their own country. Under military rule. Affording them no rights whatever. Especially 1.8 million besieged Gazans. Trapped in the world's largest open-air prison. Another 1.7 million Israeli Arab citizens treated like enemies of the state.
No signs of change whatever exist. Occupation harshness continues. Palestinian self-determination remains as distant as ever. Besieged Gaza lies in ruins. Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement executive director Eitan Diamond reports a dire picture, saying:
"The tragic story of Gaza began before the latest hostilities, but the situation has become more dire as a consequence of the destruction caused by the hostilities. There are over 100,000 people who have lost their homes. They still haven’t found a new home. Not a single house, four months after the hostilities, has been rebuilt (up) to this point."
"There’s also been a very slow movement of construction materials which are desperately needed in Gaza. A fraction of the quantity of construction material that is needed has gone through, so people are in a desperate state. Seventy percent of the population, even before the hostilities, depended on humanitarian aid just to get by. In this kind of a reality it is not surprising that people are desperate, and many take desperate measures."
Gaza's main markets are Israel and the West Bank. Since 2007, hey've been completely "sealed," said Diamond. Positive rhetoric for change belies tragedy without end on the ground. Gazans' ability to live normally is "nonexistent." Nothing is being done to change things.
Israel's war on Gaza continues. Ceasefire terms are breached almost daily. Cairo peace talks accomplished nothing. Corrupted PA officials siphoned off half the $5.4 billion pledged for rebuilding. For unspecified budget purposes. Money down a black hole. Israel maintains total control over rebuilding what it destroyed. Gazans have no say. Border crossings remain largely closed.
London's Guardian reports corruption hampering rebuilding. Saying "a controversial UN-designed mechanism to control the supply of building materials (favoring Israel at the expense of Gazans) has been widely corrupted." Oxfam reports less building materials entering Gaza than before Israel's war. Despite ceasefire terms stipulating otherwise. In November, Israel let only 287 truckloads enter Gaza. "(A)t this rate, reconstruction and development could take decades," Oxfam said.
UN officials estimate around 100,000 homes damaged or destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of Gazans lack municipal water network access. Daily blackouts persist up to 18 hours daily. Promised aid hasn't come. Gazans needing rebuilding help need Israel's approval to get it. Under a system requiring registration. For specified amounts of materials. From special warehouses. Monitored by UN inspectors. Serving Israeli interests. Taking bribes. For cement to be sold at black market prices. One warehouse manager, Maher Khalil, explained what's happening as follows:
"We do what we are supposed to do. There is a list published with people's names which we post outside. They check their name and come with their (authorization). We check the ID and then give them the cement."
"We told the UN inspectors who came to see us we can only check what is going on inside the warehouse, not what is happening outside. Inside we sell the concrete for 500 shekels ton. Outside they sell it for 1,600."
Economist Omar Shaaban calls what's happening "a disgrace. The new reconstruction mechanism has reproduced the Israeli siege of Gaza, only this time it is the UN that is regulating it."
"The UN is trading stability for cement - and not very much of it. And most of the cement that is coming in is being sold on the black market. Israel knows it. (UN Mideast envoy Robert) Serry knows it. The mechanism (is) a license for corruption. It is a license to prolong the siege. It is a license for big salaries for the UN officials running it."
According to Oxfam's regional director Catherine Essoyan:
"It is deplorable that such little progress has been made given the enormous scale of needs and massive destruction. People in Gaza are becoming increasingly and understandably frustrated at the lack of progress. The international community has repeatedly failed the people of Gaza. It must not fail them again at such a critical time."
It's doing so in real time. In plain sight. Violating a clear obligation to help. Expect things a year or two from today to be little different. Maybe worse than now. Depending on what Israel has in mind. Gazans remain largely on their own. Trapped by international community indifference. Collusion with Israel. Corrupted PA officials profiting at the expense of their own people.
Largely out of sight and mind. London's Guardian article a rare mainstream explanation. On December 26, Haaretz editors headlined what US editors ignore. Saying it's time to end Gaza's blockade. Without explaining its lawless imposition. For political reasons. Unrelated to Israeli security. Targeting Palestine's legitimate government. Imprisoning about two dozen Hamas legislators. For belonging to the wrong party. Gaza was largely isolated before Hamas' rise to power. "By restricting movement and by controlling the land, sea and air space surrounding and above Gaza, Israel controls its economy and dictates its poverty," said Haaretz editors.
"Israel must rescind its policy of closure and of cutting the Gaza Strip off from the world and recognize the fact that the residents of Gaza are part of the Palestinian people, whose official leadership is striving to establish a state alongside Israel."
Why won't New York Times editors express this view. Their longstanding pro-Israeli bias is deplorable. On October 10, they headlined "Having to Rebuild Gaza, Again." Not a word about Israel's premeditated naked aggression. It's ruthless killing machine. Its responsibility for lawless mass slaughter and destruction. Its willful targeting of non-combatant men, women, children, infants, the elderly and infirm. It's collusion with Washington in all its wars. It's Big Lie about Hamas being a terrorist organization. "Israel's implacable enemy," said Times editors.
Not a word about ending what they called a "draconian blockade." Instead urging corrupt PA officials to "assert leadership in Gaza…(As) a credible political alternative to Hamas." Palestinians alone have say over who'll lead them. Not Israel or Times editors. Don't expect them to explain. Or about ongoing Israeli crimes during holiday season festivities. On Christmas day, Israel's West Jerusalem municipality approved 380 new illegal settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem.
On stolen Palestinian land. Meaning Palestinian family dispossessions coming. To accommodate Israeli lawlessness. At least 12 Palestinians were kidnapped. In pre-dawn raids. In Nablus, Hebron and East Jerusalem. Another 14 in Azzoun. East of Qalqilia. On suspicion of hurling a Molotov cocktail at a settler's car. Setting it ablaze. Injuring a child inside. Mass indiscriminate arrests are longstanding Israeli practice. Guilt by accusation follows.
Silwan resident Mousa Odeh's home was targeted. Israeli soldiers kidnapped his 15-year-old child, Musallam. Two other Silwan children were kidnapped. One identified as Mohammad Nasser. Aged 12. These type incidents occur multiple times daily. Terrorizing Palestinian communities. Christmas day no exception. Israeli security forces demolished six EU-funded Palestinian irrigation pools. Used by northern Jordan Valley farmers. Now without a vital water supply.
Israel destroyed Gaza resident Shuruq Abu Tu'eymah's home. She struggles to survive in an UNRWA school. With her husband and four daughters. She dreamed of her own home. Her husband is an electrician. He worked on Gazan lifeline tunnels. On Egypt's border.
In 2010, one collapsed on him. Fracturing his back and ribs. "He hasn't been able to work since," said Shuruq. In 2012, she borrowed money from her family. To build a home on a plot of land she and her husband owned. In Abasan al-Jadidah. About 1.5 kilometers from Israel's border.
The house was about 125 square meters. Unfinished because of lack of money. Shuruq and her family moved in anyway. Thrilled to have a home of their own. Feeling "on top of the world." About two months before Israel launched Operation Protective Edge, "my house was finally ready," said Shuruq.
When war began, she was pregnant with her fifth child. She and her family were scared. They moved to her parents' house. East of Khan Yunis. Remaining until July 27. When air strikes and shelling became intense. "We were afraid we would all be killed," said Shuruq. Her father called for ICRC help. To relocate them somehere safe. On August 1, Shuruq's fifth child was born. While hospitalized, her husband told her their home and his parents' house were bombed. She couldn't bare to see what happened. Years of s and work destroyed. "In a single moment," she said. "Trough no fault of (their) own."
"We (did) nothing wrong. My family and I have a lot of beautiful memories from that house and I didn't want them spoiled."
She called UNWRA school living conditions "hard." Basic needs aren't met. Family members sleep on mats. With blankets they supplied themselves.
"We keep getting the flu and stomach ailments because of the cold and our unhealthy diet, which consists mostly of dry or tinned food," she said.
"The bathroom is in the schoolyard, at a distance from the building. We're afraid of sleeping here because of all the strangers. We have no privacy and I'm tense. There are a lot of families here. Almost sixty women and children living together."
She goes to her sister's or parent's homes to do laundry. To shower. "There is no hot water at the school, and it's getting cold," she explained.
"We're waiting for the world to help us, so we can at least go back home."
Despite large parts of Gaza turned to rubble. Practically no reconstruction began. Israel controls everything. Complicit with corrupted UN and PA officials. Hundreds of thousands of Gazans in need don't matter. At Christmas or any time of year. Israeli ruthlessness decides things. Collectively punishing 1.8 million people. Held hostage for political reasons. Suffering horrifically. Out of sight and mind. World leaders remain beholden to Israel. Rhetoric substitutes for help.
A Final Comment
In 2014, the Al Haq human rights group documented 60 Palestinians Israeli security forces murdered in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Aside from Operation Protective Edge's genocidal slaughter. Israel has no concern for Palestinians' lives and welfare. Treating young children like adults. Ignoring fundamental international humanitarian and human rights laws.Operating with impunity. Committing virtually every high crime imaginable.
On Christmas like every day. Throughout the holiday season. Israeli state terror never rests. Palestinian corpses attest to its barbarity. So do its thousands of mutilated victims. Many more in its gulag. For wanting to live free. On their own land in peace. What Israel categorically won't tolerate. On Christmas and every day of the year.
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|Allen L. Jasson|