The British have finally come out and lightly criticized Israel’s blockade of Gaza:
“The resulting power cuts had left vital infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, water and sewage systems, as well as households, reliant on backup generators,” Foreign Secretary David Miliband and International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander said.
“This further aggravated the already difficult humanitarian situation in Gaza,” the two cabinet ministers said in a written joint statement.
Reports have indicated that the Gaza Power Station had cut electricity production by 30 per cent because the reductions in industrial diesel supplies since October have left reserves near exhaustion.
The criticism comes after the British government also broke its silence over continuing Israeli raids into Gaza since the signing of the Annapolis agreement in the US in November, while chastising the latest killings of Palestinian civilians.
“The deaths and injury of a number of Palestinian civilians as a result of recent Israeli military incursions into Gaza risks undermining efforts to build confidence and give momentum to the peace process following Annapolis,” Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells warned.
The same sentiments have not been forthcoming from the US government unfortunately (but predictably). The British too are unduly influenced by an Israeli lobby as the following author points out:
“The Israel lobby’s deep penetration of our political system, many feel, is preventing Britain from taking a principled stand on Middle East matters, including the long catalogue of violations of Palestinian human rights, the Gaza siege being a particularly nasty example.”
“Our minister with responsibility for Middle East affairs is a former chairman of Labour Friends of Israel. His shadow is a member of Conservative Friends of Israel. Indeed, a large majority of Conservative MPs and MEPs are Friends of Israel. The lobby also claims a considerable number of Labour MPs and ministers. The Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel website brazenly states that its first aim is to maximize support for the State of Israel within the party and Parliament.”
“All MPs (and many parliamentary candidates) are exposed to the lobby’s influence and a large number apparently carry its message into their parliamentary work, causing damage to our democracy and harm to Britain’s interests and reputation abroad.”
“The regime’s tentacles reach into the Standards Committee itself, where the three political party appointees are top-ranking Friends of Israel or closely connected to Friends of Israel. The committee, as everyone knows, is there to uphold the famous Seven Principles of Public Life. The presence at the heart of government of people pledged to promote the interests of another country – and not declaring their dual allegiance – undermines at least five of these sacred principles.”
“What will the public, already sick of our politicians, make of this,bearing in mind that for 60 years Muslim and Christian Palestinians have been terrorized, murdered and dispossessed by a regime so warmly embraced in our name?”
In the meantime, the Gaza situation continues to worsen in spite of a recent return of industrial diesel transports into Gaza to the same level as that which preceeded the siege:
“Food is running short for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the impoverished Gaza Strip and more aid is urgently needed to prevent a humanitarian crisis, the World Food Programme said on Friday.”
“Some 302,000 people need food aid in Gaza, equivalent to nearly two-thirds of the population not including refugees, WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume told journalists.”
“The situation is getting worse by the day,” she said.
“Nearly 70 percent of the 1.5 million people in Gaza live on less than 250 dollars (169 euros) a month, while food accounts for 60 percent of household expenditure.”
“Gaza has been under strict economic sanctions since the Islamist Hamas movement seized power in June, with Israel cutting off food and fuel supplies.”
“Anaemia rates have risen to 77.5 percent as Gaza’s isolation has deepened, Berthiaume said.”
Additionally, the dire condition of medical care facilities, brought about by the siege is highlighted here:
“The Israeli government has maintained a total siege of the Gaza Strip since the democratically-elected Hamas party took power in June 2007. Sixty-one Palestinian patients have died due to being denied access to needed medical care by Israeli forces in that time period.”
“The Physicians for Human Rights declared their intention to give a message to U.S. President George W. Bush as he visits the region this week, to show him that the Israeli siege on Gaza is severely impacting the ability of Palestinian hospitals to provide medical care. Electricity cut-offs, prevention of imports of medical equipment, and closure of borders preventing patients from receiving needed treatment abroad are all factors that have had a detrimental, and often deadly, impact on the Palestinian medical sector in Gaza.”
“PHR-Israel stated that the broader context of the convoy is to focus international attention on Israeli policy at Erez Crossing, which has increasingly denied access to care of hundreds of patients in need of treatment unavailable in the Gaza Strip, thus jeopardizing their lives and health.”
“According to the group’s press release, the most recent stage of this policy was a ruling Wednesday by three Israeli high court judges. In that ruling, eight out of fifteen urgent life-threatening cases represented by a PHR-Israel petition have been denied access to life-saving care outside Gaza without any hope of redress. Despite a previous high court ruling that stipulated that patients with security prohibitions should be ensured alternative routes of access to care, the court refused to compel the state to ensure passage to the patients.”
“The group called on the international community and concerned individuals worldwide to write to Israeli officials or to their nearest Israeli consulate to demand an end to the Israeli siege on Gaza for the sake of the patients in need of lifesaving medical care.”
Of course, this was the week that President Bush visited the West Bank among other sites in the middle east. Apparently the tour he took was not the kind that gives an accurate view of Palestine according to this CNN writer:
“Gaza today is a wasteland. Since Hamas took power, the Israeli government has made it extremely difficult for Gazans to travel outside their crowded strip of land along the Mediterranean. Israel has also severely restricted imports in Gaza to essential humanitarian goods. Four out of every five Palestinians depend on international food aid, according to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. No one is starving, but the economy has come to a virtual standstill.”
“President Bush won’t see the hospital wards where babies, just weeks old, are dying because their doctors can’t get permission from Israeli authorities to go to Israel for treatment as they did in the past.”
“Earlier this week, I visited the intensive care unit in Gaza’s Nasser Pediatric Hospital. Hospital director, Dr. Anwar Khalil, explained that a third of their incubators have broken down because of a lack of spare parts. The electricity goes out on a regular basis because the power is cut up to eight hours a day after Israel reduced fuel supplies.”
“Israeli leaders insist they’re trying to pressure Hamas militants from firing locally made missiles into Israel, a near daily occurrence. But to the vast majority of Gazans — who have nothing to do with the missiles, who are powerless to stop the militants — it amounts to collective punishment.”