What’s Next for the Palestinians?

by WILLIAM HUGHES

The topic under discussion was grim – "The Politics of Starvation: The Humanitarian Crisis in Palestine." In Room SC-6 of the U.S. Capitol, the Council for the National Interest (CNI) authored a public forum, the 18th in a series over the last few years, dealing with Middle East issues, and in particular, the Israel-Palestine Question. The two presenters at the standing-room- only event on June 23, 2006, were Tim Rothermel, a former UN chief of its Development Program to the Palestinian people (UNDP); and Ms. Laila El-Haddad, a Palestinian journalist and mother from Gaza. She is a graduate of the Kennedy School of Government at both Harvard and Duke U. Ms. El-Haddad has reported for Aljazeera Satellite Network, Pacifica Radio, UK Guardian Unlimited and also BBC World Service. She also maintains a popular blog.

Since January, 2006, the Israelis have been tightening the screws on the Palestinians, because they dared to elect a government dominated by members of Hamas. (3) Beside additional border closings and constant harassment of civilians at check points, the Israelis’ targeted killings of victims has also greatly accelerated. After May 31, 2006, when Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke to a mostly servile U.S. Congress, the Israeli Occupation Army (IOF) slaughtered 32 Palestinians, including 10 children. Olmert said he has "deep regrets" about the operations of the IOF, but that the lives of Israeli citizens were "even more important," which sounded like a line out of George Orwell’s "Animal Farm." As a result of some of the arbitrary IOF’s border closings, essential food items for "765,000 Gazans" have been seriously "delayed" and even put in jeopardy.

"The humanitarian outlook for the occupied Palestinian territory has become extremely bleak. It is expected to worsen dramatically in the coming months," said Rothermel. He underscored that since the Hamas victory at the polls in January, Israel has halted its "transfer of the Value Added Taxes and custom taxes it is obligated to pay, amounting to half of the Palestinian Authority’s budget." Along with this measure, "Western donor funding for Palestinians," has been suspended as well. "With the fall in revenue to the Palestine Authority (PA), the salaries of over 150,000 civil servants have for the most part not been paid since March. And these civil servants, in turn, directly support some one million other Palestinians or a quarter of the population in the West Bank and Gaza. And the majority of these civil servants are the doctors and nurses, school teachers, police officials and municipal employees whose services provide the backbone of a functioning civil society," Rothermel emphasized.

The affable Eugene H. Bird, CNI’s President, since 1994, opened the proceedings by saying the Israel-Palestine Question "was central to resolving the U.S. war on terrorism." He said that over "60 percent" of the American people want Israel to be held "more accountable" for its reckless actions and that the present federal administration has "no idea what they are doing." As for the U.S. Congress, he said, "It should be ashamed of itself." Rafi Dajani, executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), served as moderator for the nearly two-hour program.

"Numbers reflect the deepening crisis," Rothermel continued. "Seventy percent of the population in the occupied Palestinian territory is now living below the poverty line, up from sixty-eight percent in 2005, and thirty percent five years earlier. Unemployment, currently at thirty-eighty percent of the workforce, is expected to double by the end of this year, according to World Bank estimates. The lack of socioeconomic improvement and a rise in violence, attributable to living conditions, has led to increased levels of insecurity throughout the population and food insecurity, i.e. people unable to rely on the purchase of food, has reached over half the population as a result of the PA’s fiscal crisis, extended closures (of borders) and market disruptions."

Rothermel also referred to a recent UN report, whose compelling statistics revealed that the "Gross Domestic Product (in the Occupied Territories) is estimated to fall by 27% by the end of 2006, and poverty [is] expected to rise sharply. Around 70% of Gaza’s potential workforce, for example, will be out of work or go without pay. [They] made up 40% [of the] current unemployed. The loss of PA salaries and further job cuts through the contraction of the economy and the loss of work in Israel (sic)…Palestinians and their goods are no longer able to move freely within the West Bank and are banned from entering many areas, such as the Jordan Valley. Imports into Gaza from Israel are functioning at minimal levels and exports in the past two months have dropped to just six trucks a day…"

The other speaker at this event was Ms. El-Haddad. Her comments were mostly restricted to the present desperate human rights situation in Gaza, where close to 1.4 million people reside. She said Gaza is "sealed off" and that "90 percent of the population are under a total travel ban." She also told the audience that "over 16,000 homes" in the southern border town of Rafah were razed by the IOF, prior to their so-called "disengagement," and that "20,000 fruit-filled trees were uprooted" by the occupiers. (5) She added that Gaza is "so enclosed, that it feels like a prison." To reinforce that opinion, she told how one of the children of Rafah had asked her: "Have you ever seen an Egyptian?" Many of the children of that area, she related, "have never left Rafah, let alone Gaza." Ms. El-Haddad showed photos of "Green Houses" in Gaza, that were funded by U.S. taxpayers and were destroyed by the IOF, which she labeled, "a completely unaccountable" entity.

Ms. El-Haddad said that since the "disengagement" by the IOF, in March, 2006, (citing UN statistics), that "over 8,000" artillery shells have fallen on Gaza, about "a hundred shells a day," fired by IOF’s air strikes, ground forces or from their naval gunboats. "The only commercial crossing," she continued, "into Gaza has been closed more than 50 percent of the year. And as a result, the wheat stocks, at one point, were completely depleted and there were bread shortages. People had to line up and get their rations-two bags of bread a day. The problem is that those stocks (wheat stocks) have never been replenished, are unreliable, and also a thousands of tons of fruits and vegetables actually rotted. Millions of dollars were lost. More importantly, exports couldn’t get outside to Europe…"

Summing up, Ms. El-Haddad said, "there are 9,000 Palestinians" languishing in Israeli jails. The overwhelming majority of them, "without charges. Twenty percent of all Palestinians have been detained or imprisoned at one point in their lives-40 percent of men. Gaza," she concluded, "is very dangerous. It is really at the brink of an implosion, that I can’t emphasize enough. Everything is so unstable right now from a humanitarian perspective…"

Finally, as a result of the authoritative and scholarly Harvard Study, many in this country have come to the shocking realization, that the Israeli Lobby has been exercising "unmatched power" over our foreign policy for more than 40 years, which hasn’t been in the national interest. (6) Whether that will make any difference in how the American people reply to this latest outrage, (read collective punishment), by the Israelis over the Palestinians, remains an open question. Nevertheless, the Israelis, and their Hard Right Zionist supporters in the U.S., should be put on notice that a day of justice is coming. The brilliant Scottish historian, Thomas Caryle, put it this way: "Foolish men imagine that because judgment for an evil thing is delayed, there is no justice…Judgment for an evil thing is many times delayed…but it is sure as life, it is sure as death."

WILLIAM HUGHES is the author of "Saying ‘No’ to the War Party" (IUniverse, Inc.). He can be reached at liamhughes@comcast.net.

© WILLIAM HUGHES 2006.




 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 04, 2015
Vincent J. Roscigno
University Bureaucracy as Organized Crime
Paul Street
Bernie Sanders’ Top Five Race Problems: the Whiteness of Nominal Socialism
Herbert Dyer, Jr.
Is White Supremacy a Mental Disorder?
Ramzy Baroud
The Palestinian Bubble and the Burning of Toddler, Ali Dawabsha
Pepe Escobar
Reshuffling Eurasia’s Energy Deck — Iran, China and Pipelineistan
L. Michael Hager
The Battle Over BDS
Eric Draitser
Puerto Rico: Troubled Commonwealth or Debt Colony?
Colin Todhunter
Hypnotic Trance in Delhi: Monsanto, GMOs and the Looting of India’s Agriculture
Benjamin Willis
The New Cubanologos: What’s in a Word?
Matt Peppe
60 Minutes Provides Platform for US Military
Binoy Kampmark
The Turkish Mission: Reining in the Kurds
Eoin Higgins
Teaching Lessons of White Supremacy in Prime-Time: Blackrifice in the Post-Apocalyptic World of the CW’s The 100
Gary Corseri
Gaza: Our Child’s Shattered Face in the Mirror
Robert Dodge
The Nuclear World at 70
Paula Bach
Exit the Euro? Polemic with Greek Economist Costas Lapavitsas
August 03, 2015
Jack Dresser
The Case of Alison Weir: Two Palestinian Solidarity Organizations Borrow from Joe McCarthy’s Playbook
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Atomic Era Turns 70, as Nuclear Hazards Endure
Nelson Valdes
An Internet Legend: the Pope, Fidel and the Black President
Robert Hunziker
The Perfectly Nasty Ocean Storm
Ahmad Moussa
Incinerating Palestinian Children
Greg Felton
Greece Succumbs to Imperialist Banksterism
Binoy Kampmark
Stalling the Trans-Pacific Partnership: the Failure of the Hawai’i Talks
Ted Rall
My Letter to Nick Goldberg of the LA Times
Mark Weisbrot
New Greek Bailout Increases the Possibility of Grexit
Jose Martinez
Black/Hispanic/Women: a Leadership Crisis
Victor Grossman
German Know-Nothings Today
Patrick Walker
We’re Not Sandernistas: Reinventing the Wheels of Bernie’s Bandwagon
Norman Pollack
Moral Consequences of War: America’s Hegemonic Thirst
Ralph Nader
Republicans Support Massive Tax Evasion by Starving IRS Budget
Alexander Reid Ross
Colonial Pride and the Killing of Cecil the Lion
Suhayb Ahmed
What’s Happening in Britain: Jeremy Corbyn and the Future of the Labour Party
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington