The UN criticizes Israel’s blockade of Gaza and is said to embolden the “terrorists”

So what’s going on in Gaza these days?  Well, we hear often about the insecurity of the citizens of Sderot in Israel that is under fairly constant barrage by the largely ineffective Quassam rockets.  What else is happenning?

John Holmes, undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, toured Gaza’s largest hospital, speaking with dialysis patients and inspecting the neonatal unit, and then visited an industrial zone that once employed 1,800 Palestinians but has been idled by the border closure.

Israel and Egypt severely restricted access to Gaza after the Islamic militants seized the territory by force in June. Since then, only a few dozen trucks carrying food, medicine and other basics have been permitted into Gaza every day, while most exports are banned. The closure has driven up poverty and unemployment, and the U.N. says some 80 percent of Gaza’s 1.4 million people now get some food aid.

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/02/15/africa/ME-GEN-Israel-Palestinians.php

I have made clear my view that I do not think that (the closure) is justified by the rocket attacks or anything else, because it collectively penalizes the population of Gaza, Holmes said.

http://www.pr-inside.com/senior-un-envoy-deeply-concerned-about-r443481.htm

Well, Israeli officials didn’t take kindly to this sort of talk by Holmes:

“The use of expressions such as these creates an analogy between the terrorists and those who are defending themselves against terror,” Abramovich told Holmes, according to a statement issued by Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

The statement added: “Holmes’ remarks do not serve the interests of peace, as they may unwittingly encourage terrorists to believe that the international community will exert pressure on Israel, instead of dealing with the roots of the violence.”

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/955267.html

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1203343699272&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull

Wow, what masterful use of propaganda by Abramovich.  They are terrorists, because the fire rockets at us that don’t do too much harm, while we are not terrorists, but just protecting ourselves when we turn the Gaza strip into a huge prison, kill their people daily, cut off their utilities (a war crime by international law), allow those with medical needs to die at the border crossings while we sneer at them, steal their water and their land, and allow some of them to live within our borders, but not as full citizens with severely tailored rights and privileges, and generally keep our foot on their necks while they squirm and we get to have the most powerful nation in the world on our side. 

Of course, the comments by Holmes are not that descriptive and don’t really give us a good picture of what’s going on in Gaza right now like, for example the following article:

“We receive 20-25 new referrals every day, and we see approximately 350 children a week here at the centre. Last year we treated more than 8,400 children here in Gaza city, plus another 8,000 children at our centre in Khan Younis. All of them were under five years old, and all of them were malnourished.”

Najah Zohod is the Nutritional Director of the Ard al-Insan Child Nutrition Center in Gaza City. The center works exclusively with malnourished under-five-year-olds. Children are regularly referred to Ard al-Insan from the Gaza-based UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which supports some of the poorest communities in the Gaza Strip. But many mothers self-refer, by simply turning up at the center with their babies and young children. This morning Ard al-Insan is crowded with women and children queuing for assessments and treatment. Most of the children are quiet, and some look thin and listless.

“Our target group is children suffering second and third degree malnutrition” says Najah Zohod. “We weigh every child who comes here, and take blood and urine samples. Approximately half the children are mildly malnourished. But 32 percent are suffering second-degree malnutrition — and the remaining 16 percent are third-degree malnourished.” All those assessed as suffering second- or third-degree malnutrition are referred to the Nutrition Unit. “We give the children nutritious meals here at the center, and also train mothers to feed their children a healthy balanced diet,” says Najah. “We usually serve the children fresh meat, fruit and vegetables. But this week we cannot serve the children any fruit at all, because of the closure.”

Israel’s ongoing siege and closure of the Gaza Strip is chronically affecting every aspect of life in Gaza, including access to fresh food and water. Fresh meat has been scarce for weeks, and now there are also shortages of fresh fruit. Meanwhile chronic power cuts across the Strip have left 50 percent of Gaza households (around 750,000 people) desperately short of fresh drinking water, because there isn’t enough fuel to power their electric water pumps more than four to six hours per day. Despite the fact that collective punishment is illegal under international human rights and humanitarian law, the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) continue to collectively punish 1.5 million Gazan civilians. Many of the women who come to Ard al-Insan for help to feed their malnourished children are now dependent on food aid assistance from either UNWRA or the World Food Program (WFP). But WFP is currently unable to provide 84,000 of its poorest beneficiaries in Gaza their full aid rations, also because of the continued closure. Some of the poorest families in the Gaza Strip are struggling to obtain adequate food for their children.

http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article9308.shtml

The french foreign minister:

http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5gcckY_Ju3K7xPcTL5qPFDKGsxg4A

and the nations of Jordan and Egypt have called for an end to the siege on Gaza by Israel.

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3507461,00.html

Hamas remains open to study peace proposals:

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-02/18/content_7626130.htm

But Israel is not interested in peace, except by having it thru the expelling of Palestinian Arabs.

The one thing that may have an effect upon the hard hearts of the Israeli government in changing the policy on the seige of Gaza, is the increasingly painful effect the seige is having upon Israel’s economy:

Israel sells to Gazans between 60 and 80 tons of fruit per year – bananas, apples, pears, peaches and avocados. But much is surplus, third-class quality fruit, either damaged or too small, i.e. not suitable for the Israeli market and can’t be sold elsewhere.

Nevertheless, Ilan Eshel, head of the Israeli fruit growers’ organization, estimates that some 10 percent of the Israeli fruit harvest goes to Gaza.

This statistic, however, can be misleading, as, “There are producers for whom it is 100 percent of their harvest,” Hillel Adiri, a former director general of the Israeli Agriculture Ministry said.

If Israel’s exports to Gaza are stopped, 20,000 dunams (20 million square meters) of fruit will have to be uprooted at a cost of New Israeli Shekels 200,000 ($55,600) annually, and the growers will have to be compensated, Eshel explained.

Some Israeli factories are also heavily dependent on Gaza. Certain textile factories in Tel Aviv produce some of their products in Gaza. Likewise, some manufacturers in the Israeli-Arab sector depend on the Gaza market. Permanent closure could lead to up to 76,000 Israeli job losses.

In Ashdod and Haifa, cheap electronics are imported from East Asia and then sold on to the Palestinian territories, thereby ensuring the tariffs go directly to Israel and not to the Palestinians.

Israeli exports to the territories encounter no trade barriers, but Palestinian exports to Israel are severely restricted. The World Bank estimates that lost revenue to the Palestinian economy from “indirect imports” amounts to the tune of $180 million annually.

http://www.metimes.com/International/2008/02/18/siege_of_gaza_bites_into_israeli_economy/9238/

The above quoted story interestingly points out that Gaza is by definition, an Israeli occupied territory:

Additionally, the occupied Palestinian territories – the Gaza Strip is still considered occupied, even though the Jewish settlers left, due to Israel’s continuing control of its water, borders, airspace, population registry, electricity, fuel and coastline – were always important to Israel economically.

The article also makes the following good points:

Prior to the second intifada, which broke out in 2000, Gaza and the West Bank were a pool of cheap labor for the Jewish State. Palestinian laborers did the dirty jobs Israelis did not want to do; they worked long hours and were paid a fraction of the wages that Israelis got. Like their Israeli counterparts they were legally obliged to pay for social security insurance, but unlike Israelis they were unable to draw the benefits.

Israeli policy in the territories was also aimed at preventing any competition from Palestinian businesses that could challenge Israel’s economic dominance. This was achieved by neglecting Palestinian infrastructure and by imposing draconian customs restrictions, thereby forcing Palestinians to import Israeli products.

Israel also ensured that Israeli resources such as electricity, natural gas and communications systems were the only ones Palestinians had access to. The occupying powers also neglected their finance sector and made no effort to develop a legal and regulatory environment favorable to investment.

Today, a large part of Israel’s labor force comes from Asia and Eastern Europe. And while – by evacuating Jewish settlers and the military from Gaza – its leaders consider to have washed their hands of the economic responsibilities an occupying power has toward its occupied subjects, the truth is the continuing siege of Gaza is exacting an economic price on the occupier, and an even bigger political one.

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