No surprises here. Despite an easing of restrictions on imports into Gaza, the goods Israel permits to enter the world’s largest open-air prison are still well below what is required for the sustenance of a full human life.
Moreover, the virtual ban on exports means unemployment rates – hovering at around 30% – continue to be the worst in the world. Add to this the impact of Israel’s bombing of the civilian infrastructure and it comes as no surprise that poverty levels in Palestine are amongst the worst in the world.
Ramallah: Poverty levels in the Palestinian Territories, and mainly in the Gaza Strip, have reached unprecedented levels with 11,626 families among a million Gazans officially approved by the Ministry of Palestinian Social Affairs as being in need of financial assistance, said a senior official.
Speaking to Gulf News, Dr Thana’a Al Khozendar, the Director-General of the Combat Poverty Programme at the Ministry of Social Affairs, the latest Israeli offensive against Gaza created more poverty and increased the list of needy families applying to the ministry for financial assistance.
“The Israeli military operation in Gaza added poorer people to their already long lists. The Israeli offensive also created richer people on the other hand,” said Dr Al Khozendar. “The tunnel’s business increased the numbers of rich people in Gaza and expanded the gap between rich and poor in Gaza.”
Israel’s blockade on Gaza has led to the flourishing of trade through underground tunnels between the strip and Egypt.
The press release featured below from the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s ‘Department of Culture and Information’ is dated March 26. It features Dr Hana Ashrawi’s bold rebuke of the US for its predictable failure to support four resolutions brought before the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) condemning Israel for ongoing human rights abuses in occupied Palestine.
Obama has made his visit to Israel/Palestine and his position is clear: US support for Israel is unconditional and no pressure is being put on the Netanyahu government to end the Palestinian occupation or even to slow the rate of settlement expansion! Now the gloves are off and the PA is telling it like it is! As Ashrawi says, “The United States, ostensibly a champion of ‘liberty and justice for all’, voted against freedom and democracy, and for racism, oppression and apartheid.”
Will this press release receive any attention in the US? We’ll see. Will these prophetic protests from Palestine make any difference to US policy? Not likely!
Dr. Ashrawi on the adoption by the UNHRC of four resolutions regarding the situation in the Occupied State of Palestine
On 19 March 2013, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), in its 22nd session, voted nearly unanimously to adopt four texts regarding the situation in the Occupied State of Palestine, including East Jerusalem.
In relevant part, the texts warned that ongoing Israeli violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, particularly as regards the illegal settlement enterprise, constituted ‘a major obstacle to the establishment of a just and comprehensive peace and to the creation of an independent, viable, sovereign and democratic Palestinian State’. They demanded that Israel respect international human rights and humanitarian law and comply with its legal obligations thereunder. They condemned ‘all acts of violence, including all acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction’; and called upon Israel to implement serious measures to prevent and punish acts of violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians and properties in the Occupied State, including East Jerusalem. They demanded that ‘Israel, the occupying power, cease all practices and actions that violate the human rights of the Palestinian people, including the killing and injury of civilians, the arbitrary detention and imprisonment of civilians and the destruction and confiscation of civilian property’. They demanded that all parties concerned implement and ensure the implementation of the all of the recommendations found in the Report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission to Investigate the Implications of Israeli settlements on the Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and urged their assistance in the early realization of ‘the inalienable, permanent and unqualified right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including their right to live in freedom, justice and dignity, and to establish their sovereign, independent, democratic and viable contiguous State’.
Only the United States voted against any of the four texts, and it voted against them all.
In response, PLO Executive Committee member, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi said:
“On behalf of the Palestinian people and leadership, I would like to express great appreciation and gratitude to the Council Members who stood up for human rights, peace, and justice in the Occupied State of Palestine. We appreciate your support and value your courage to stand behind your convictions.”
Dr. Ashrawi stressed, “In this context, the United States once again demonstrated a total disregard for Palestinian rights and the requirements of peace. In this 22nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, it willfully voted against the fundamental human rights of people and against the very core values upon which the United States claims to be founded.”
“The United States, ostensibly a champion of ‘liberty and justice for all’, voted against freedom and democracy, and for racism, oppression and apartheid. It voted against justice, and for impunity, in the face of the most egregious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. It voted against peace. There can be no justification for this double standard.”
“Rather than respecting human rights and the rule of law, the United States has chosen to politicize them, and to continue to isolate itself with its unwavering support for the illegal policies and practices of the Israeli occupation.”
“It is therefore incumbent upon the international community to stand strong and united in upholding the rule of law and the established principles and values that govern the international system and individual states,” concluded Dr. Ashrawi.
It is extraordinary to watch the tide of world opinion increasingly shifting towards the people of Palestine while, conversely, Israel experiences ever-increasing isolation.
US President Obama’s recent visit to Israel all but confirmed the complete irrelevance of America in any ongoing ‘peace process’. In the meantime, not only neighboring Arab states and European countries but African countries as well line up in support of Palestinian independence.
We might have anticipated that Zimbabwe would be a natural ally to Palestine, having gone through their own struggle for independence from white minority rule. As with South Africa, the parallels with Apartheid are too close to the bone to go unnoticed.
Zimbabwe: Palestine Commends Zim
Palestine has commended Zimbabwe for its political support in its quest to become an independent state. The Middle East country is under occupation from Israel, which is supported by western countries mainly the United States of America.
Presenting a public lecture at the National Defence College in Harare yesterday, Palestinian ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Hashem Dajani said there was a need to strengthen the relationship between the two countries that started during Zimbabwe’s struggle for independence.
“I want to express our appreciation to President Robert Mugabe, to the people and Government of Zimbabwe for the political support given to our Palestine people in their struggles,” he said.
“The Palestine-Zimbabwe relations of friendship, support and solidarity go back to the days of the struggle for independence and it continues to grow stronger. We share almost the same vision on different issues within the framework of different forums, like the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement global economy and many others.”
Mr Dajani was confident that the Palestinian people would continue fighting to realise “their national objectives, freedom and independence.”
“Your support for us in our national struggle will accelerate realisation of peace and victory and avert our people and the region from new wars and disasters,” he said.
He described Zimbabwe as a “united nation” as evidenced by the recently held constitutional referendum. “To me the referendum was successful and it showed that the people of Zimbabwe, without interference, are united. It is clear that the unity displayed during the referendum will prevail during the elections expected soon,” he said.
He said most Israeli political parties, with unlimited support from the US, had systemically denied the Palestinian people their most basic rights.
“It is Israel that occupies the four million people in the State of Palestine. It is Israel that has condemned more than five million Palestinians to exile,” he said.
“It is Israeli occupation of Palestine that constitutes the main source of violence and instability in the region.Justice seems to have no meaning in the Israeli political lexicon unless it is in relation to Israeli Jewish citizens. This fact can be attested to by I,5 million Christian and Muslim Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship and yet face institutionalised discrimination within Israel itself and incitement against Palestinians is on the rise.”
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This is an insightful article by Huffinton Posts’ Robert Naiman. One can put a positive spin on Obama’s visit and speeches. While he didn’t promise to do anything to help the ‘peace process’ along, he didn’t seem to want to hinder it either – something that the Israeli government has relied on the US to do through successive administrations!
Indeed Obama would be doing the world a great service if he allowed some of Israel’s Arab and international neighbors to take a more intentional role in solving the Israel/Palestine debacle, and we all know that he has no personal desire to prop up Benjamin Netanyahu!
Flotilla 3.0: Redeeming Obama’s Palestine Speech With Gaza’s Ark
There’s a half-empty way and a half-full way of looking at President Obama’s Jerusalem speech about the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.
The half-empty way of looking at it is: this was Obama’s white flag of surrender. To everyone around the world who for decades has been assuming that at the end of the day, the president of the United States would lead the way to resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, Obama was saying:
Don’t look at me. Just because the United States is the principal military, diplomatic, and economic protector of the Israeli government, doesn’t mean that I, as the president of the United States, will do anything about the military occupation of millions of Palestinian human beings. Bibi doesn’t want an independent Palestinian state, Bibi’s government doesn’t want an independent Palestinian state, AIPAC doesn’t want an independent Palestinian state, and Congress — which defers to AIPAC — doesn’t want an independent Palestinian state. Of course, many of them mouth the words — not Bibi’s government, they don’t even do that — but those who mouth the words oppose any practical measure that would help bring an independent Palestinian state into existence. They’re “two state fakers.” Settlement freeze? Impossible. UN membership for Palestine? Can’t be done. No, according to the two state fakers, the only option on the menu in the restaurant for the Palestinians is to return to negotiations without a settlement freeze, negotiations that for 20 years have brought more land confiscation, more settlements, more restrictions on Palestinian movement and commerce, more oppression. And so, Obama was saying, my hands are tied. Don’t look at me.
The half-full way of looking at it is this: it was a great speech. If you “price in,” as the markets say, acceptance that the U.S. government isn’t going to lead on this, it was a great motivational speech. President Obama made a very compelling case that someone else should do something.
The interesting thing is that whether you see it as a great motivational speech or a white flag of surrender, the practical consequences for the public are largely the same: the initiative for justice is going to have to come from somewhere else. The best that we can probably expect from Obama is that if the initiative for justice comes from somewhere else, he won’t get in the way, or won’t get in the way very much. While that is much less than we are entitled to expect, it is much more than the Netanyahu government and its supporters want. They demand that President Obama do everything he can to get in the way of justice. So, if he doesn’t get in the way of justice, or only does so halfheartedly, he’ll be helping us more than they want.
Some people look to Europe. If Europe got serious about curtailing imports from Israel if the occupation doesn’t end, that’s something the Israeli business elite would take seriously, and they would put pressure on the Israeli government to compromise, rather than lose their export income. It’s striking to contrast how Europe is treating its trade with Israel to how it is treating its trade with Iran. In the case of Israel, Europe is toying with the idea of seriously curtailing imports from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In the case of Iran, Europe has shut down virtually all trade, including trade in lifesaving medicines, in violation of international humanitarian law. Giving Israel a little more of the Iran treatment could go a long way. In addition, Europe could support membership for Palestine at the International Criminal Court, and then could support legal action against the settlements and land confiscation at the ICC. So, Europe certainly has a lot of room to get serious about ending the occupation.
Some people look to the Arab Spring. Since 1979, the Camp David Treaty as implemented has been a pillar of the occupation. As many Egyptians see it, it wasn’t supposed to be like that. Under the treaty, the Israeli military was supposed to withdraw from the West Bank. But of course, that never happened. What happened instead is that for 30 years the Mubarak regime traded compliance with Israeli policy towards the Palestinians for U.S. agreement to look the other way while the Egyptian government beat the Egyptian people. Now Egypt has a democratically-elected government. What if that government made ending the occupation a political and diplomatic priority?
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