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WikiLeaks: Keeping Gaza on the Brink

Yesterday’s WikiLeaks news included the release of a US State department cable describing Israel’s policy on Gaza:

“As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed to (U.S. embassy economic officers) on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge”

This cable confirms what has been so very evident on the ground in Gaza – and while dated November 2, 2008, the collective punishment approach has not changed. Not surprisingly, conditions have also not changed since this summer’s much-hyped announcement that the blockade of Gaza would be eased, an announcement that Israel used to quiet the growing international concern following their attack on the Mavi Mamara and murder of 9 activists.

We were told – by Tony Blair and US officials – that the easing announced was a major step forward but the reality is quite different.

Following the Israeli announcement of steps to ‘ease’ the blockade, international attention shifted to the Israeli-palestinian negotiations and the pressure from the international community to lift the blockade was also eased.

That description is from a report, Dashed Hopes, issued in November2010, by 25 international aid groups including Oxfam, Save the Children UK, Christian Aid and more, profiling living conditions in Gaza 5 months after the Israeli announcement. You can read the full report here.

Amongst their findings:

Karni crossing with capacity to process over 750 trucks daily remains closed except for a conveyor belt. The conveyor is processing only 137 truckloads per week on average, down from 158 prior to ‘easing’, and only 38% of what was promised. (emph. added)

Because UNRWA was unable to get construction materials to build new schools, 40,000 eligible children could not be enrolled at UNRWA schools at the start of the new academic year and were referred to schools under the authority of the Hamas government. Over 90% of UNRWA schools are already running double shifts and shipping containers are sometimes used as classrooms. Israel has so far approved – in principle – only 6 out of 100 schools needed by UNRWA to accommodate students in the coming years.(emph. added)

Although there has been a significant increase in the amount of food stuffs entering Gaza, many humanitarian items, including vital water equipment, that are not on the Israeli restricted list continue to receive no permits. Two thirds of Gaza’s factories report they have received none or only some of the raw materials they need to recommence operations. as a result, 39% of Gaza residents remain unemployed and unable to afford the new goods in the shops. Without raw materials and the chance to export, Gaza’s businesses are unable to compete with the cheaper newly imported goods. This economic development leaves 80% of the population dependent upon international aid.(emph. added)

And it’s worth remembering that those “cheaper newly imported goods” are primarily Israeli produced, providing Israeli businesses increased profits at the expense of the people imprisoned in Gaza.

You have to wonder just how much devastation of the people of Gaza it would take for the world governments to actually force Israel to stop. After all,

The ICRC, a traditionally neutral organisation, paints a bleak picture of conditions in Gaza: hospitals short of equipment, power cuts lasting hours each day, drinking water unfit for consumption.

“The whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility. The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law,” the agency said in the statement.

But as we’ve learned too frequently over the past few years, international law has apparently become a pipedream.

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Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com