Tightening the Siege

by Amal Amireh

“We Travel Like Other People”

“Mamnou3,”* she said from behind the window. The harshness of the word was neither softened by its familiarity nor by the lazy gesture that accompanied it when she threw my application back to me.

It was eleven on a cloudless June day. I have been standing in line since 5 o’clock that morning. I was twenty-four. She looked eighteen. I ventured, “Why?”

Her laziness immediately turned into impatience. “Mamnou3!” She repeated, already looking at the next heavily stamped travel application in front of her. Then as if to end any possibility of a conversation, and my future with it, she uttered the dreaded words: “Roukh baitak!”**

There she was in my city, actually few blocks from my home, shooing me away in an Arabic accented with contempt, and deciding my life for me. Her military uniform, her gun which is never far from her, and the bureaucratic authority of an illegal occupation gave her words a finality designed to crush. Just like bulldozers.

These words were the final stamp that sealed my application—an application that I had submitted a month earlier requiring permission to travel from El Bireh in the West Bank to Boston in the United States after receiving a Fulbright scholarship via AMIDEAST. I had graduated from the English Department at Birzeit University two years earlier, despite checkpoints and closures that in my senior year alone totaled seven months. This scholarship was my only chance for graduate education.

But the gods of military occupation had decreed that summer that no one between the ages of eighteen and thirty is allowed to leave the West Bank until further notice. Of course there was no official announcement of such a decree. That would spoil the arbitrariness of it all and give the occupied the dangerous notion that they are owed any explanation at all. You just learn of it when you compare notes with other crushed souls who were told to go home.

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Don’t Look Away: The Siege of Gaza Must End

by Kathy Kelly

In late June 2011, I’m going to be a passenger on “The Audacity of Hope,” the USA boat in this summer’s international flotilla to break the illegal and deadly Israeli siege of Gaza. Organizers, supporters and passengers aim to nonviolently end the brutal collective punishment imposed on Gazan residents since 2006 when the Israeli government began a stringent air, naval and land blockade of the Gaza Strip explicitly to punish Gaza’s residents for choosing the Hamas government in a democratic election.  Both the Hamas and the Israeli governments have indiscriminately killed civilians in repeated attacks, but the vast preponderance of these outrages over the length of the conflict have been inflicted by Israeli soldiers and settlers on unarmed Palestinians.  I was witness to one such attack when last in Gaza two years ago, under heavy Israeli bombardment in a civilian neighborhood in Rafah.

In January 2009, I lived with a family in Rafah during the final days of the “Operation Cast Lead” bombing.  We were a few streets down from an area where there was heavy bombing. Employing its ever-replenished stockpile of U.S. weapons, the Israeli government sought to destroy tunnels beneath the Egyptian border through which food, medicine, badly-needed building supplies, and possibly a few weapons as well were evading the internationally condemned blockade and entering Gaza.

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But the Coffins Do Come In

by Mohammed Omer

IPS — GAZA CITY, Oct 13, 2010 – Samir Tahseen Al-Nadeem died after waiting 35 days for an exit permit for treatment for his heart condition. He was 26. The medicines he needed could not get in. But the coffins do.

Goods waiting for months to be transferred to the Gaza Strip at the Israeli-controlled Karni crossing. (Photo: Mohammed Omer)

The health ministry now lists 375 deaths due to shortage of life-saving medicines. The medicines sit just outside the borders of the territory until most pass their expiry dates. But there are no expiry dates on about 10,000 coffins that have been donated for Gaza. The coffins do make it to those that eventually need them.

By the end of last month more than 70 percent of medicines donated for Gaza had been dumped because they were past their expiry date, the health ministry says. They were worth many millions of dollars. And they were worth many lives.

“Much of the donated medicines came from Arab states,” Dr Mounir Al- Boursh, director of the pharmaceutical department at the health ministry tells IPS. This added up to 10,300 tonnes of medicines worth 25 million dollars, he said.

Only about 30 percent of this could be used, he said; the rest either expired, or was inaccessible because of restricted distribution by the Israelis, who control what gets into Gaza.

It’s not easy to dump medicines safely either. Much of unused supply mixes with domestic waste, creating health hazards far from bringing relief. The World Health Organisation has had to “raise concern about the unsafe disposal of expired medication and other medical disposable material,” WHO spokesperson told IPS.

But the Gaza ministry has received 10,000 coffins, about 1,000 of them for children, Dr Boursh said. Such help, he said, “does not meet with the needs of the Gaza Strip.”

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In their own words

On the excellent ‘Promised Land’ blog, Noam Sheizaf draws attention to an IDF slideshow which lists “the principles of Israeli policy” towards the Gaza Strip, particularly with regards to restrictions on freedom of movement. One objective is listed as “separating/differentiating Judea and Samaria [West Bank] from Gaza”. Sheizaf notes that this “is the first time an Israeli official document publicly declares that the current policy objective is to create two separate political entities in the Palestinian territories”.

This is an example of how Zionist lobby spin can often be challenged using the words of Israeli officials. Last month, Netanyahu’s testimony before the Turkel Commission included the admission that, in the words of Gaza Gateway, “Israel’s decisions on what to allow or prohibit into Gaza were based not on concern for the welfare of the population in Gaza but rather about Israel’s image in the international media”. So much for ‘security’.

Then just a week ago, the same Commission heard testimony from Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, who said that “Israel declared economic warfare against the Gaza Strip and prevented the entry of goods – including certain kinds of food and other civilian items – that posed no security threat, with the goal of disrupting civilian life in the Gaza Strip”.

Finally, remember that in a 2007 legal case, the Israeli government’s State Attorney’s Office argued [PDF] that “harming the economy itself is a legitimate means of warfare and a relevant consideration even when deciding on allowing in relief consignments”.