conversations on Palestine re-awaken me to the absurdities of daily life in occupied Palestine

Disturbingly, I’ve become accustomed to and not surprised by, the daily injustices inflicted upon Palestinians throughout occupied Palestine: aadi (“normal”) as many Palestinians say.  In my time in the occupied West Bank in 2007, Israeli army raids and lock-downs (“curfews”), as horrific as they are, became normal, since they happen all of the time.  As do the abductions of Palestinians from their homes, including elderly, youths, children, women, and the everyday people striving to provide for their families, having done nothing wrong or meriting being abducted, arrested, imprisoned (usually without charge, “administrative detention”).

The more I’ve become immersed in the realities of Palestinians, the more unbelievably ‘normal’ and expected they’ve become. It’s when I discuss this abysmal daily injustices with others who’ve just read or heard of them that they again become as outrageous as they are.

Is Gaza being bombed right now or are things okay?

Friends and loved ones ask me this a lot, entirely out of good intentions and hopes.  But, without meaning to be, it’s a loaded question: Gaza is always being attacked and oppressed, things are never okay… if not the whole-out onslaught of Nov 2012, Dec/Jan 2008-2009, and everything before and in between, then the shelling of Palestinian fishers and farmers who on a daily basis face the threat of Israeli assault…. or the random incidents of assassinations of and injury to Palestinian children, civilians of all ages, rubble collectors, bird catchers, and cemetery visitors that occur month after month, year after year.

So, while it’s a relief to respond, “no, for the moment the (continuous) bombing has relented, there are just so many other occupation-manufactured hardships, and avoidable tragedies and injustices that Palestinians endure on a daily basis. And I myself fall prey to being oblivious to many of these:

-Since December, employees on the payroll of the Palestinian Authority haven’t received their paltry salaries, payments which enable them to survive on the most meagre of budgets but without which now, nearly two months later, families are going without meals and the employed aren’t even able to pay their shared taxi fare to their place of work. While employees in the occupied West Bank reportedly received part of their salaries (note: meagre salaries to begin with), in Gaza they have not. The reason, as Ma’an news reports is that “since early December, Israel has withheld around $100 million in monthly tax revenue it collects on behalf of the PA as punishment for the UN’s acceptance of Palestine as a non-member state.” And although thee days ago there was hope after reports of being able to receive salaries on Thursday, nothing has changed in Gaza. “I don’t know how I’ll get to work tomorrow,” I’m told. “I don’t have a shekel to pay for the taxi (an 8 shekel shared taxi round-trip, around $2). There are people in my family (married siblings with children) who can’t feed their families, can’t even buy flour.” Bearing in mind that most Palestinians in Gaza know how to stretch a limited budget and likewise limited meals, the situation right now has again gotten dire.  Red line, like Israel’s pledge to slowly starve Palestinians.

A three-and-a-half-year long legal battle waged by Gisha has led the Israeli Ministry of Defense to reveal the document entitled “Food Consumption in the Gaza Strip – Red Lines”. The document includes information about the policy of restricting the entrance of food to the Gaza Strip, which was in effect between 2007 and 2010

…The sharp decrease in the incoming quantities of food products caused supply to be unpredictable and contributed to a significant rise in food prices in Gaza.

…The red lines presentation, prepared in January 2008, summarizes work conducted by the security establishment in cooperation with the Israeli Ministry of Health which analyzed ordinary food consumption by Gaza Strip residents.

…The calculations made in the presentation led to the conclusion that the “daily humanitarian portion” Gaza’s residents needed would require bringing in 106 trucks from Israel five days per week, this in addition to wheat and grains which entered via a
conveyor belt at Karni Crossing. In the first year following Hamas’ takeover of the Strip and the tightening of the closure (July 2007 to June 2008), an average of 65 trucks entered each scheduled working day (not including Karni).

…First and foremost, we note that preventing the transfer of basic items to a civilian population as a means of exerting pressure on political or military actors violates international humanitarian law. Israel, which exercises significant control over the civilian population’s access to food, thus bears obligations toward that population. The fact that Egypt did not open a regular and reliable channel for supply of food to Gaza does not detract from Israel’s obligations (for a complete analysis of Gisha’s position about the legal status of Gaza, see Scale of Control).

…Later, in responses to requests made by Gisha under the Freedom of Information Act, the state disclosed detailed lists of the goods and people (Hebrew) that were permitted or prohibited from entering and leaving the Gaza Strip. The lists indicated that materials that could be used in manufacturing and industry were banned – for example, fabric, packaging material and industrial salt. Also banned were foods defined as luxuries, such as hummus with sesame paste or mushrooms. In October 2010, the state disclosed three procedures that had guided the policy on which goods were allowed into the Gaza Strip. These procedures included mathematical formulas for calculating the quantities of food and the basic products Israel would allow into the Gaza Strip.

…In June 2009, the Haaretz weekend magazine published an investigative report by journalists Yotam Feldman and Uri Blau, who found, among other things, that the security establishment had calculated the number of calories consumed by Gaza residents and used it to establish a “humanitarian minimum”, a bottom line to which it was possible to reduce food supply to Gaza without causing hunger or malnutrition. Following the report, Gisha requested the document containing the calculations, which was titled the “red lines” document.

Aside from the obvious direct pressure that (manufactured) poverty puts on the income-earners themselves, their family members also suffer with worry: in Gaza, family members are a unit, one sibling’s hardship is another’s worry. Although Israel gets by by not actually starving to death Gaza’s Palestinians, Israeli policies on Gaza do result in high rates of malnutrition and stunting.

While many countries emerge from Christmas and New Years holidays sated, some people arguably even resentful at returning to work, Gaza’s Palestinians continue to scour for work, and wait for the paychecks they are due. A the PCHR notes in its Dec 27-Jan 03 report): “Recently-declared measures to ease the closure are vague, purely cosmetic and fail to deal with the root causes of the crisis; the root causes can only be addressed by an immediate and complete lifting of the closure, including lifting the travel ban into and out of the Gaza Strip and the ban on exports. Palestinians in Gaza may no longer suffer from the same shortage of goods but, as long as the closure is allowed to continue, they will remain economically dependent, unable to care for themselves, and socially, culturally and academically isolated from the rest of the world.”

-power outages: they are a daily given, normal, unwillingly expected. But normal as they’ve unfortunately become, they add to the extreme cold experienced in Palestine this year, combined with abnormal amounts of rain (and subsequent flooding tragedies causing tunnel collapses). [UPDATE: Man killed, 3 wounded in Gaza tunnel collapse] Combine this with the ban on construction materials and the fact that many of those whose homes were destroyed in 2008-2009 Israeli bombings haven’t been able to rebuild, like if unimaginably difficult for Palestinians in Gaza.

-medicines: a January 2013 report cited “more than 602 types of medications and medical supplies” lacking in Gaza, a Strip which has for years, under the Israeli-led siege, suffered shortages of medicines and medical supplies. According to the report, “most of the missing medications and supplies are urgently needed as they are used in Intensive Care units, anesthesia, urgent care, kidney failure treatment,” and would impact on heart surgeries, “pregnant women, infants and children”. Medical Aid for Palestinians also notes that: “Prior to the military offensive, zero-stock levels of 40% of essential drugs and 65% of medical supplies were a major concern – and currently remain so. Shortages include lifesaving drugs, such as those needed to treat cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as psychotherapeutics and kidney dialysis products. The lack of life-saving antibiotics is also placing vulnerable groups such as young children, the elderly and diabetics at particular risk. Many treatments require a consistent supply of medication to manage life-threatening conditions, with interruptions in treatment placing patients at risk of complications such as strokes and heart attacks.

In addition to shortages of medicines and supplies, health facilities and vehicles also sustained damage during the hostilities. Thirteen primary health care centres were partially damaged by indirect shelling. One hospital was seriously damaged by a direct hit and two others reported minor damage. Three ambulance drivers were injured and six ambulances were damaged during the bombardment.”

A Dec 2012 WHO report corroborates these stats and the longevity of the medical supplies shortages, noting that: “The MoH has been suffering from severe shortages in drugs and disposable materials for the past several years. In 2012 drug items at zero stock ranged from 29% to 42.5% of the essential drug list, peaking in May (42.5%) and in October (40%)” and describes how hospitals coped during the Nov 2012 attacks: “Some hospitals reported re-use of single use supplies, for example, Nasser hospital in Khanyounis reported the need to re-use endotracheal tubes in the neonatal intensive care unit, the cardiac catheterization team at Gaza European hospital reported re-sterilizing cardiac catheters for re-use…”

UPDATE: (from Ma’an)

Israeli forces shot and injured a man in north Gaza on Monday, Palestinian medics said.

Medical officials at Kamal Odwan Hospital told Ma’an that the unidentified man was shot in the head near Beit Lahiya and is in a critical condition.

On Friday, Anwar Muhammad al-Mamlouk, 22, was killed by Israeli fire east of Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza, health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra told Ma’an.

Another man was seriously wounded and taken to the Kamal Udwan Hospital by paramedics.

Al-Mamlouk was in an outdoor area studying for an exam when he was killed, according to his brother Hani, who was not harmed in the incident.

Israeli military sources said that some Palestinians had tried to damage the fence and Israeli soldiers identified a direct hit on the legs of one of the people involved.

Israeli troops have shot at Gazans near the border at least 10 times since the end of an eight-day offensive in November. Some 30 people have been wounded in the incidents, Gaza officials say.”

Skunking houses in Nabi Saleh

*photo by Haim Schwarczenberg, Israeli army “Skunk trunk spraying putrid liquid all over residential homes in the village of Nabi Saleh.”, courtesy Mondoweiss

I read today about the Israelis using something called Skunk on Palestinians

She was referring to a recent incident, though not isolated, in Nabi Saleh, in the occupied West Bank.  She’d likely read the report: “If you’ve ever been to this village, you know that these are ordinary people’s homes, and that almost all the village, whether it likes it or not, is involved in resistance efforts to the takeover of its lands and spring by the neighboring Jewish colony, Halamish. Halamish is an illegal settlement under international law; but the United States says nothing about the human rights abuse and civil rights violations documented by Schwarczenberg above.”

This “skunking” happens regularly to the civilians in Nabi Saleh and throughout occupied Palestine where the occupying army does this. I knew of it already from the Israeli navy’s same actions on Palestinian fishers in Gaza, from at least as far back as 2008.

The nauseating sewage stench remains in clothes and on the body for days, no matter how much one washes. Again, as normal as this has become for Palestinians, stepping back at looking at the actions of the occupying Zionist army, I really can’t imagine enduring this on a regular basis, nor so much more.

UPDATE:

-Palestinians protest use of ‘skunk’ liquid

-Skunk gas Israel pours on Palestinians has never been used against Jewish demonstrators

“Why aren’t there any Palestinian Gandhis?”

Actually, thankfully this is only something I read in corporate and Zionist media. But the fact is that non-violent protestors, BDS activists, hunger-strikers like Samer Issawi (on hunger strike for over 170 days now, one of many Palestinian hunger strikers in protest of being held by the Zionist occupation under “administrative detention”), and the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who non-violently resist the Zionist occupation every day goes largely unmentioned in corporate media.

“I don’t understand, how can Jews do to Palestinians what Nazis did to them?”

I’ve seen more and more of this type of question in recent years, particularly after major Israeli assaults on Gaza, after the years-long closure of Gaza, the building of the Wall in the occupied West Bank. I do point out to anyone who mentions that to me that there is a difference between “Jews” and “Zionists” and though this is obvious to most, it is the Zionist agenda which is committing acts similar to Nazis (or worse than, according to many, like South Africans who lived under Apartheid and who have seen the conditions of Gaza, or Jewish activists who see the realities of Palestinian life under Zionist occupation), not just Jewish people in general.

But I’m no expert in this, and would defer to linking to a number of outspoken activists and scholars, many of whom are Jewish, some of whom are holocaust survivors or descendents of:

Exile and the Prophetic: Gaza City is right around the corner from the Warsaw Ghetto

We are forbidden to say this: Gaza is a Concentration Camp

Gaza Is a Concentration Camp: One Israeli official promised a holocaust in Gaza; it is impossible to keep pace with the death toll

Israel’s starvation diet formula in Gaza and the expansion of the ‘Dahiya doctrine’

Image and Reality in the Middle East: An Interview with Norman Finkelstein

Dr. Norman Finkelstein on using the Holocaust

Holocaust: Nazi’s vs. Israeli’s by Norman G. Finkelstein

One comment

  1. Hi! I’ve been following your blog for a while and I’ve found it amazingly informative and insightful. I’m currently working in Ramallah trying to create a platform for Palestinian youth to voice their stories of growing up under occupation. If you’re interested in finding out a bit more any support would be massively appreciated: http://www.facebook.com/PalestineThroughGraphics

    Again, amazing blog!

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