Tuesday 16 December 2008

"We are slowly dying".

Sameh A. Habeeb writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine.

Israel has further tightened the screw on Gaza, where some areas have been completely plunged into darkness as fuel shortages shut down Gaza's sole power plant 25 days ago.

The power cuts affect all activities dependent on electrical power as the remaining power sources provided by Israel and Egypt cannot serve the needs of the whole of the Gaza Strip. Access to drinking and irrigation water is affected, as well as sewage treatment, risking disease. Already, this means that millions of liters of sewage water pollute the Mediterranean Sea on a daily basis.

Israel is also denying food to the 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. According to the Popular Committee Against the Siege, basic food items like milk, flour, cooking oil, meat, rice and legumes are not sufficiently available. Some figures indicate that only 15 percent of Gaza's food needs are getting in through the Israeli-controlled borders.

Palestinians in Gaza are also being denied the right to access medical treatment. Basic medicines have vanished from the Strip, including those for the treatment of diabetes, heart conditions, asthma and other chronic diseases. There are also shortages of medicine to treat cancer and renal and liver diseases. Sterilization and disinfectant supplies, as well as other needs for the safe treatment medical patients, are in short supply. Machines that mean life or death for Gaza patients are breaking down because Israel is not allowing the import of spare parts. Doctors will have a hard time even diagnosing patients because the power cuts have damaged CT and x-ray equipment at Gaza's hospitals.

Gaza's population is largely dependent on humanitarian aid as Israel has been denying them the right to work since it started imposing closure on the Strip years ago. But now even humanitarian aid is being largely banned from the Strip, and Israel has severely restricted aid to the UN agency for Palestine Refugees, UNRWA. With UNRWA unable to distribute food aid to its hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries (the majority of Gaza's residents are the descendents of refugees who were forced from their homes and property in what is now Israel, 60 years ago), widespread hunger is not a question of if but when.

Israel has ensured that it's not just Gaza's human population that will be going hungry, but its animals as well. For four weeks Israel has not allowed the import of fodder, while Gaza's agriculture requires 150 tons per day. Gaza's agricultural sector, already suffering since Israel began to prevent the export of food products from Gaza a year and a half ago, is severely affected by the lack of vaccinations, seeds, insecticides and fertilizer in the Strip.

Gaza has become a place where a normal life is impossible. "I'm fed up," said Khalil Barakat, a middle-aged, unemployed refugee of the Beach refugee camp. "We are caged like animals in Gaza. If I had a chance to emigrate to live my remaining years in peace, then I would love to."

This writer asked an old friend of his, a young mother named Um Muhammad Abu Ouf, how her family has been affected by the siege. As darkness descended upon Gaza City's Omar al-Muktar Street, she replied, "The siege has become a daily nightmare, day and night. Electricity cuts off and that frightens my 11-month-old infant. It makes conditions unsafe for him. Further, I'm trying to get some fortified food for him. I went to many stores and shops but in vain. I could not find any food nor necessary supplies for my son as there is a shortage of a lot of the basic products needed to care for infants, such as milk, diapers and so forth."

Meanwhile, Nahed Deeb, who feared that famine looms near, was similarly frustrated: "We are slowly dying and no one is taking action. I lost my work eight years ago and I'm dependant on irregular aid. This is applicable to hundreds of thousands in normal circumstances. Nevertheless, poor people like me are no longer getting any kind of support."

It is unlikely that the people of Gaza will have a respite from Israel's siege of collective punishment as the Israeli Defense Ministry recently announced that Gaza's crossings would remain closed until further notice. Israeli forces also this week prevented a Libyan boat loaded with three thousand tons of foodstuffs from reaching Gaza's shore, under the pretext that the boat carried weapons. However, a Qatari boat is scheduled to set sail from Cyprus in an attempt to deliver humanitarian aid to the Strip, and Turkish, Kuwaiti, Yemeni and Jordanian boats are to also attempt to break the siege, and Palestinian leaders in Israel have pledged to do the same this weekend.

If the siege is designed to pressure Palestinians in Gaza to surrender their rights, as one resident who identified himself as Mr. Muhammad asserted, Israel will be met with resistance: "We have been patient for 60 years now. We passed more cruel times than this. So why give up this year? We have to be adamant and patient and the siege will be eventually lifted."

Sameh A. Habeeb is a photojournalist, humanitarian and peaceactivist based in Gaza, Palestine. He writes for several news websites on a freelance basis.

The Death of Rachel Corrie.

David Rovics

When she sat down in the dirt
In front of your machine
A lovely woman dressed in red
You in military green
If you had met her in Jerusalem
You might have asked her on a date
But here you were in Gaza
Rolling towards the gate

As your foot went to the floor
Did you recall her eyes
Did her gaze remind you
That you've become what you despise
As you rolled on towards this woman
And ignored all the shouts to stop
Did you feel a shred of doubt
As you watched her body drop

And as your Caterpillar tracks
Upon her body pressed
With twenty tons of deadly force
Crushed the bones within her chest
Could you feel the contours of her face
As you took her life away
Did you serve your country well
On that cool spring day

And when you went back across the
Green LineBack to the open shore
Did you think that this was just another day
In a dirty war
And when you looked out on the water
Did you feel an empty void
Or was it just one more life you've taken
One more home destroyed

Livni competes with Netanyahu in Racism.

It is parliamentary (Zionist Knesset) election time, and with an ever increasing trend towards extreme right and racism by the vast majority of the Zionist colonialist population in occupied Palestine; thus the trend of the different Zionist political parties and their masses to express the deep and widespread racism and hate towards the about 20% of indigenous Palestinian Arabs still not ethnically cleansed from their occupied homeland. Livni and Netanyahu as well as the Labor party leader, Ehud Barak, the supposed-to-be Zionist left (who is day and night threatening to fully destroy Lebanon if its resistance dared to object to and challenge an attempted invasion of Lebanon), as well as the rest of the Zionist leaders, are competing in who can express their racism the most.

Livni speaking to a group of secondary school students in Tel Aviv in remarks broadcast by army radio talked about “democracy” (!!!) "My solution for maintaining a Jewish and democratic state of Israel is to have two distinct national entities." The woman with Polish roots claiming to be speaking about a “democratic state” wants to complete the uprooting of Palestinian Arabs from their own homeland!!!! This is how school students are raised, fed and smeared with racism and fascism even before reaching their teens.

Livni added in her rhetorical campaign racing with Netanyahu competing in who is least democratic and most racist saying: "And among other things I will also be able to approach the Palestinian residents (note not even citizens of the state they are supposed to belong to) of Israel, those whom we call Arab Israelis, and tell them: 'your national aspirations lie elsewhere.'"

Don’t such people feel ashamed when lying about a thing that for sure they know is a big lie? They should know that the national aspirations of Palestinian Arabs is to remain in their homeland even under the unbearable conditions in which they are living, being treated not simply as third class citizens, but less than human as expressed by the Zionist occupiers leaders as well as their followers. Their national aspirations, in addition to sticking to their homeland, is to have their uprooted brothers and sisters practice their inalienable Right of Return even while occupied Palestine is still falsely and illegally called “Israel”.

Those Zionist racists should realize that after a century and a quarter of resistance to the Zionist project, they cannot uproot the remainder of Palestinian Arabs still holding fast and strong to their land, and fighting with their uprooted brethren in A-shatat (diaspora) to practice their Right of Return to their land and homes!


Alexsi Currier

While Livni promises Arab deportation, Obama offers "nuclear umbrella" to Tel Aviv - that's what friends are for!

By Michele Giorgio il manifesto

Jerusalem - Everyone is pointing their finger at Benyamin Netanyahu, guilty of being the leader of a Likud full of rightist extremists like Moshe Feiglin. And yet, yesterday Tzipi Livni, the candidate as the Premier of the “centrist” Kadima in the coming elections held next 10 February who is currently serving as Foreign Minister, proved to hold opinions that are very close to those of the nationalist extremists. Leaving no room for possible misinterpretations, Livni told a group of high school students in Tel Aviv that the Israeli Arabs (Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, one fifth of the Israeli population) should go and live in the Palestinian state when it has been set up.

“Once a Palestinian state is established”—Livni claimed—“among other things I will also be able to approach the Palestinian residents of Israel, those whom we call Arab Israelis, and tell them: 'your national aspirations lie elsewhere.'” Livni didn’t specify which steps she would take in order to have the Arab Israelis transferred into the future Palestinian state while the Arab Israelis will go on demanding the foundation of an Israeli state belonging to all its citizens and not to its Jewish majority alone.

At any rate, there is only the slightest difference between her ideas and those of the far-right extremist and former minister Avigdor Lieberman, the historical supporter of the expulsion of the Arab Israelis. What is certain is that Livni—who in these days is carrying out a battle against renewing the truce with Hamas—is placing herself to the right of Netanyahu, who is seen as favourite by the opinion polls. This year, paradoxically, in order to dispel doubts about his being a “moderate” and not an extremist, he has promised to sit at the negotiation table with Palestinians and Syrians and he gives reassurance that he will silence the unpresentable Feiglin.

“Livni’s intentions,”—former Communist MK Issam Makhul told “il manifesto”—“severely menace the rights of the Palestinian minority, yet the Jewish majority must know that those beliefs are detrimental for the entire state of Israel and for the achievement of democracy in this country. What’s needed is a future for each Israeli citizen rather than thinking that a future Palestinian state is going to be the solution for absurd demographic worries”.

Makhul’s considerations also affect the Palestinian President Abu Mazen, who in these days has only been able to repeat that he’s willing “to negotiate with everyone,” both with Livni and Netanyahu. Abu Mazen has to ask himself fundamental questions about which kind of Palestinian state he has in mind, he should wonder whether this state is really destineed to make the dream of independence come true or, rather, if it will end up being only a “box” full of Palestinians, including those who live in the Arab population centres in Israel, a state which, amongst the other things, would lack full sovereignty.

The US has refrained from commenting, and they have limited themselves to reconfirming their military alliance with Israel. President-elect Obama is willing to offer Tel Aviv a “nuclear umbrella” against a possible threat of Iranian atomic attacks, an authoritative American source quoted by Haaretz said.

The US, the source explained, will soon declare that an Iranian strike against Israel will bring “a devastating nuclear response against Iran,” just as the in-coming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had suggested during her campaign for the Democratic party nomination. Israel is only partly satisfied with such statement since the idea of a “nuclear umbrella” may disguise the American acceptance of an Iran coming into possession of the atomic bomb.

Translated from Italian by Diego Traversa and revised by Mary Rizzo