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On Gaza, World Leaders Fail to Act but Global Citizens Step Forward

Medea Benjamin @ Common Dreams - One year ago, the brutal Israeli 22-day invasion of the Gaza Strip shocked the world, leaving some 1,400 people dead, thousands more wounded, as well as hospitals, schools, prisons, UN facilities, factories, agricultural processing plants and some 20,000 homes damaged or destroyed. As we mark the one-year anniversary of the invasion, the plight of the people of Gaza continues unabated:
  • Despite pledges of money for reconstruction, Israel refuses to allow in the machinery necessary to clear the rubble or the materials needed to rebuild--banning cement, gravel, wood, pipes, glass, steel bars, aluminum and tar. Many who were made homeless during the bombing are still living in tents amidst the onset of another cold winter. Desperate, some are reverting to the ancient techniques of building homes made of mud.
  • Trade depends on an elaborate system of illicit and dangerous tunnels between Egypt and Gaza. The goods brought in are expensive, but they are the lifeline for the 1.5 million people who live under siege. The Israelis periodically bomb the tunnels, the Egyptians inject them with gas, and now, with U.S. technology and funds, Egypt is building a wall descending 70 feet into the ground to seal up the only trade route the inhabitants of Gaza have with the outside world.
  • Recent restrictions on the transfer of gas resources into Gaza have left many without adequate means to cook or provide heating as winter deepens.The Ministry of Health says that several hospitals lack the gas supplies to provide adequate hygiene for their patients. Similar restrictions on the movement of industrial fuel into the Strip have forced Gaza's sole power plant to drastically limit the amount of electricity.
  • Water and sewage infrastructure has reached a crisis point, with tons of raw sewage pumped daily into the Mediterranean.Amnesty International recently deemed that 90 to 95 person of the water available to Gaza's inhabitants was unfit for human consumption, and 60 per cent of the Gaza Strip's residents have only irregular access to water. Repairs to Gaza's overburdened sewage and water networks are largely prevented by the blockade.
  • The once-steady flow abroad of many hundreds of students a year, often to pursue postgraduate studies in Western universities, has slowed to a trickle. Israel is not even allowing students from Gaza to study in the West Bank.
  • Attempts at hold Israel accountable for crimes committed during the invasion have been thwarted. The September 2009 Goldstone Report recommended that if Israel and Hamas did not investigate and prosecute those who committed war crimes, the case should be referred to the International Criminal Court. But US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, and the U.S. Congress, condemned the report, assuring that it will not be brought before the U.N. Security Council.
In a report released on December 22 called Failing Gaza: No rebuilding, no recovery, no more excuses, a group of 16 humanitarian organizations detailed the ongoing suffering of Gaza's 1.5 million people from Israel's invasion and ongoing siege. "It is not only Israel that has failed the people of Gaza with a blockade that punishes everybody living there for the acts of a few," said Jeremy Hobbs, Oxfam International Executive Director. "World powers have also failed and even betrayed Gaza's ordinary citizens." Read more.

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