Another day in Palestine

I wonder how much of what is happening here in Palestine and Israel reaches the news in Europe or North America. Have you all seen pictures of streets flooded with sewage in Gaza? Have you heard about the attack by Israel Defence Forces on students at Al-Quds University and on a nearby village, during which 40 Palestinians, including many students, were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets? Do you know about the Prawer Plan to evict Bedouin families from their “unrecognised” villages in the Negev?

The streets flooded with sewage are in Zeitoun, an eastern district of Gaza City. A sewage pumping station is shut down for 18 hours per day because there is no electricity. Only a limited amount of electricity comes into Gaza from Israel. And the one-and-only power station in Gaza has had to shut down because of a lack of fuel.

Diesel used to be imported through tunnels under the border with Egypt. But all the tunnels have been closed. The Energy Authority in Gaza was buying fuel from Israel through the Energy Authority in Ramallah. But the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank is facing a financial crisis. So it is insisting that the Energy Authority in Gaza pay the same fuel tax that people pay in the West Bank. The Hamas-controlled Authority in Gaza cannot afford to pay the tax.

So Hamas blames the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority and Israel. The Palestinian Authority blames Israel. And Israel blames the Palestinians for not getting their act together. Meanwhile the sewage in the streets is a serious health risk. Children are already suffering from vomiting and diarrhea.

This is only one of many serious problems which Palestinian families in Gaza are facing because of the lack of electricity. It is difficult for students to study. And hospitals are struggling to cope. The siege of Gaza is causing other problems too. Many children are suffering from malnutrition. Buildings destroyed by Israeli bombing cannot be rebuilt, because Israel is blocking the import of construction materials. There is widespread unemployment and people are dependent on aid.

Mads Fredrik Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor who has worked in Gaza, gave a powerful presentation at the Sabeel conference today. He showed video footage of Gaza City being bombed. This was during either Operation Cast Lead (27 December 2008 – 18 January 2009) or Operation Pillar of Salt (14-21 November 2012). During Operation Cast Lead more than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.

Many Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by drone attacks. Families, who may be asleep in their beds, may be warned, by a “knock on the roof” from a small rocket, that they have four minutes to leave the house before it is destroyed by a bomb.

Just a few days ago Israeli naval forces captured two fishermen off the coast of the Gaza Strip and seized their boat. This is typical of the harassment that fishermen face.

Why is it, that Israel can terrorise the people of Gaza with impunity?

Since no-one was killed, I suspect that the attack by Israel Defence Forces on students at Al-Quds University went unreported in the international press. Such attacks cause serious disruption to young people’s education. And they are bound to have unseen psychological effects as well as causing physical injuries. It is no wonder that many Palestinians come to hate Israelis.

The Prawer Plan is currently going through its second and third readings in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. It provides for the removal of Bedouin families from “unrecognised” villages and their resettlement in towns which are already overcrowded. Nearly 40,000 people will be displaced. On Saturday I shall be joining other participants in the Sabeel conference on an excursion to the Negev to see what is happening.

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