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Using Aid to Trap Palestinians, while Their Rights are Being Depleted

Entrance goods into Gaza

An Israeli army officer monitoring the entrance of goods into Gaza

By Ramona Wadi

More rhetoric and the absence of any constructive action have created a spectrum of expectations for Gaza. The past few days have seen an escalation of alarm juxtaposed against fake optimism. The latter is a veneer for a widespread complacency that is not bothered by the decline in financial aid for the enclave.

According to Wafa news agency, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah claimed that,

“United, we will be able to withstand all plots against our national cause and our just right and will allow us to face unfair American decisions and constant Israeli violations.”

Two days earlier, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov used Twitter to give details of a meeting between Hamdallah and Israeli Major General Yoav Mordechai. Mladenov claimed that the two officials discussed “critical humanitarian solutions.” He concluded with a bizarre statement: “Much can be done if the conditions are right.”

In both statements, it is implicit that Palestinians must subjugate themselves. Hamdallah should not be authorized to speak of unity on behalf of all Palestinians, let alone mangle the history of resistance to exploit the temporary limelight for himself. There is more than enough evidence of the efforts by Hamdallah and the Palestinian Authority to coerce the people of Gaza into yet another farcical attempt at reconciliation by further depriving the population of access to basic necessities through the enforcement of punitive measures.

National unity is absent from the equation, as Hamdallah well knows, being part of an entity that exists to prop-up the Israeli occupation and thrives upon thwarting Palestinian independence. The only equivalence that can be garnered from his comments is the imposition of different forms of oppression upon Gaza derived from its unique circumstances, in a way that complements the ongoing violence in the occupied West Bank. Different tactics yielding a similar result: suffocate all means of people’s resistance in order to place the narrative directly into the hands of a few complicit “representatives”.

If Palestinians are eliminated from their own narrative, the only body with which the international community can negotiate is the PA.

This gives Mladenov’s comment additional context. It defies all considerations and obligations. If the conditions were right, Gaza would not have been reduced to dependence upon international humanitarian aid; the UN’s involvement should emphasize this fact, rather than emulate Israel and blast the enclave into oblivion by other means, in this case collaboration to prolong human suffering.

Since the conditions are not right, Mladenov has the obligation to address the discrepancies in terms of provision on the humanitarian and political level. Humanitarian aid must not be provided on condition that the Palestinians relinquish their political and human rights.

With failed initiatives becoming another premeditated, external imposition upon the Palestinians in Gaza, the political actors involved in Palestine are dedicated to maintaining the deprivation of the enclave’s residents to the point that they will be trapped into relinquishing their political objectives. Humanitarian aid is a powerful weapon and one that is being used by Israel, the US, the PA and the UN to trap Palestinians into navigating parts of the planned deprivation system that they are experiencing.

As the focus keeps shifting upon the most crucial aspects of well-being, the political backdrop is left increasingly in the hands of institutional representatives who alter Palestinian demands from autonomy to charity. This is what should be remembered when listening to statements from the likes of Hamdallah, Mladenov and the power structures that they represent.

(Source / 24.02.2018)

A sliver of truth amidst UN manipulation of Palestinian rights

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres talks at a press conference in Beit Lahia, Gaza on 30 August 2017

By Ramona Wadi

As always, UN officials take pride in pontificating about Palestine. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has proved to be no exception, faithfully pursuing the same agenda which resulted in Palestinians becoming a marginalised subject of discussion. Israel may complain of rhetorical visibility allocated to Palestine at the UN, however, it is this tactic which allows Israeli violations to continue unhindered.

International committees, agencies, meetings and resolutions have placed an irreparable burden upon Palestinians, resulting in extreme political isolation. Sometimes, this isolation is publicly voiced, albeit without the desire to allow Palestinians to reclaim their rights to territory and return.

In his address to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Guterres spoke a sliver of truth: “As we all know, the question of Palestine is inextricably linked with the history of United Nations and is one of the longest unresolved issues on our agenda.” Lest a sliver of false hope is ignited, Guterres reiterated that there is no “plan B” to the two-state compromise. His ending remarks comprise of: “A two-state solution is the only way to achieve the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and secure a sustainable solution to the conflict.”

From father to son: How the Palestinian struggle is passed from one generation to the next

Besides the tedious regurgitation of the usual summary which even refrains from attributing colonial expansion directly to Israel, anyone reading or listening to Guterres’ address would have benefited from an acknowledgement that the colonisation of Palestine was aided by collusion and incompetence on behalf of the organisation claiming to protect human rights. It is unacceptable that the UN maintains its façade of responsibility for human rights when it thrives upon allowing its influential members to break international law with impunity.

The constant appropriation of Palestinian voices through international institutions has not ceased. It is following the designated trajectory set in the early years of the UN, as Guterres has pointed out in his generalised statements. Placing his statement within context, one such example of Palestinian absence can be found in the intervention by the Guatemalan Ambassador to the UN in 1947 when the Partition Plan which paved the way for the colonisation of historic Palestine was being debated. The words uttered by Jose Garcia Granados: “An ignorant majority should not be allowed to impose its will. A million progressive human beings should not be the plaything of a few ringleaders supported by millions of human beings of less advanced ideas,” summarise the UN’s perpetual attitude towards oppressed populations.

Decades later, the colonisers, supported by the UN, have flaunted their purported superiority by massacres, displacement and dispossession of Palestinians while the organisation exploits every life lost through aggression committed by Israel, to create a spectacle out of the colonised. It is puerile to assume that just because the UN regularly debates Palestine; it is a proponent of Palestinian rights.

Palestinian absence has become a requirement in discourse regarding Palestine. Guterres could have substituted his entire speech by publicly asserting that every international action, rhetorical or otherwise, constitutes a collaborative approach towards colonising more Palestinian territory. The UN is well aware of the fact that absence is not equivalent to meaningless. Pursuing such duplicity at the expense of Palestinian lives makes an update on the UN’s motives a prerequisite.

(Source / 08.02.2018)

Projects take precedence over the protection of Palestinian rights

Israeli security forces gather around a demolition site in Jerusalem on 14 March 2017 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

Israeli security forces gather around a demolition site in Jerusalem on 14 March 2017

By Ramona Wadi

If references to international law were effective in reducing or reversing Israeli violence, Palestinians would have tasted freedom many decades ago. The recent demolition by Israel of two EU-funded classrooms in Abu Nuwar was nothing unusual in this regard, and produced the usual, by now meaningless, responses. The Israelis said that no permits had been issued for the classrooms, bringing to mind the description “construction terror” used by Israeli MK Moti Yogev.

Despite the systematic violence targeting sectors which are crucial for Palestinians and their existence, such as education, there has been no variation in the rhetoric of response from UN and Palestinian Authority officials. Roberto Valent, the UN’s acting Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territories, issued a detailed statement, reminding everyone that the Abu Nuwar School had been targeted by demolition for the sixth time. Israel’s policies, he added “have created a coercive environment that violates the human rights of residents and generates a risk of forcible transfer.”

PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah cited the right to education in international treaties. Demolitions which target education facilities, he added, constitute “a deliberate policy of the Israeli authorities to pressure Palestinian communities to leave, in order to confiscate their land and build additional settlements.”

Read: Palestinians, rights groups urge UN to name companies complicit in settlements

The difference between both statements is that the UN has preferred to address forced transfer as a possible consequence of Israeli demolition of Palestinian properties. Hamdallah’s statement leaves no doubt about the policy of forced transfer, yet fails to seek accountability beyond referencing international laws and conventions. If both approaches were to be analysed together, one would discover a complementary approach that safeguards Israel’s perception of itself as being above any law, international or otherwise. It also validates the self-identity which the colonial entity has constructed while requiring that Palestinians adhere to their enforced marginalised existence.

There is certainly enough awareness of the correlation between the destruction of education facilities and forced transfer. However, a statement by Shadi Othman from the EU office in Jerusalem indicates the misplaced priorities of international institutions which fund projects for Palestinians. “The European Union,” he explained, “has demanded from Israel more than once not to demolish projects [that] the European Union funds and which aim to improve the living conditions of the Palestinians.”

This is interesting, because the humanitarian aspect of seeking to improve Palestinians’ lives is not a direct challenge to Israeli politics and policies that create violence against, and the vulnerability of, the Palestinian people. It is also convenient for the EU to have humanitarian structures demolished rather than risking a disruption of economic relations with Israel by, for example, introducing sanctions to put pressure on the state. Thus, it can be deduced that Palestinians and their legitimate rights are far from being a priority for the institutions funding a number of facilities in the occupied territories. If international institutions are forced to address the consequences of forced transfer, an allocation of funds for yet another project to be targeted by Israel will no doubt be forthcoming. It will not, however, come with any kind of diplomatic or other protection for the Palestinians.

Read: International community urged to take immediate action to save patients in Gaza

The responses to the demolitions are detrimental to the people of Palestine; indeed, the approach taken actually safeguards the interests of both Israel and international donors. It is obvious (and has been for decades) that Israel will not bat an eyelid when reminded that it is in constant violation of international law, particularly when it knows that it can exert so much influence at the UN, either directly or through its proxies at the US State Department and its client nations.

The EU, on the other hand, has created a project out of Palestinian suffering, which makes the cycle of violations, including demolitions, favourable for its purportedly humanitarian agenda “to help” Palestinians. All of this posturing, though, merely enables the political actors to divert attention away from the fact that projects, even those scheduled for eventual destruction, are more important than developing and implementing a political framework which makes Israel accountable under international law. Between prioritising projects and people, international institutions prefer the façade of the former over the protection of Palestinian rights.

(Source / 06.02.2018)

Impediments reflect the intention to make violations permanent

Ramona Wadi

By Ramona Wadi

Last year, Israel and the US invested unprecedented efforts in discrediting the legitimate rights of Palestinians and seeking to limit, to the point of dysfunction, the role of institutions working directly with Palestinian refugees, notably the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

During a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in June 2017, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley accused the UN of bullying tactics against Israel, prompting Netanyahu to state mere days later that UNRWA should be dismantled.

Since the early days of Donald Trump’s presidency, Israel is no longer choosing who to discredit. Supported in international institutions by the US in an overt manner, Netanyahu has adopted a different strategy – that of leveraging similar attacks on the UN and Palestinians (despite the body’s support for Israel’s colonial project).

However, both the UN and Palestinians are subjugated to the point of dependence, albeit under different circumstances. The UN’s dependence is directly linked to maintaining the cycle of human rights violations. Palestinians, on the other hand, have been forced into dependence for survival because the international community, in accordance with Israel’s demand, eliminated the possibilities for anti-colonial struggle and framed the political cycle of displacement as a humanitarian concern.

The recent news that Trump is withholding more than half of its financial annual contribution to UNRWA makes this dynamic even clearer. Commissioner General Pierre Krähenbühl’s statement reflects both the necessity of the organisation’s work, as well as the importance of assuring the permanence of services offered to Palestinian refugees.

It is no secret that the US has always guaranteed billions for Israeli violence and millions as hypocritical compensation for the perpetual violations inflicted upon Palestinians. Identical tactics have been implemented in the context of UNRWA. The needs of Palestinian refugees are not being met in a way which befits autonomy and independence, despite the US being the largest single donor until 2017. The deficit created through US collaboration with Israel ensures that UNRWA will be restricted in its accomplishments, with the result that Palestinians will remain tethered to priorities related to basic needs in order to survive.

Thus, it is contradictory to call for the dismantling of UNRWA while reducing its budget. The needs of Palestinians perpetuated by Israel, the US and the international community, have to be met in a specific manner that is stronger than the current measure. If the organisation’s budget is severely crippled, it stands to reason that necessities will have to remain a priority. Since Palestinians are not fictitious, despite what Netanyahu and the Zionist narrative proclaim, neither the refugees nor their needs will disappear.

UNRWA’s existence is a consequence of the Israeli colonial project. In a world not morally warped, the focus of accountability would be shifted upon the aggressor, rather than a dependent organisation that cannot completely guarantee the well-being of Palestinian refugees, let alone autonomy. Perhaps Netanyahu can consider the obvious solution which would see the end of the humanitarian approach towards Palestinians: decolonise the land, let the refugees return to historic Palestine, and the UNRWA saga will come to a dignified end.

(Source / 20.01.2018)

Healthcare services in Gaza to collapse soon due to Israeli siege

In addition to the severe lack of medicines and medical equipment, Israel and the PA put restrictions on medical transfers for patients in need for treatment abroad

After 11 years of strict Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip and intentional procrastination of Palestinian Authority (PA) to take up its responsibilities in Gaza, healthcare services to collapse in days.

Shelves of the Palestinians ministry of health in the Gaza Strip are almost empty as hundreds of medicines ran out months ago.

“The Israeli occupation put strict conditions on the passage of medicines, the medical equipment and medical disposals,” Spokesman of the Ministry of Health Ashraf al-Qidra said in a statement.

He also said that the basic medical materials needed for urgent and necessary surgeries and initial lab tests had run out from the besieged enclave.

Al-Qidra called for the PA ministry of health in Ramallah to send medicines, equipment and spare parts, as well as to transfer administration fees.

Meanwhile, he called for the international community to put pressure on the Israeli occupation to facilitate the entry of at least the urgent material and medical equipment and medicines.

(Source / 02.01.2018)

Gaza: 47 percent of basic medicines in hospitals are out of stock

Abdul-Latif al-Hajj

Director of Gaza hospitals Abdul-Latif al-Hajj has warned that the health situation in Gaza is going to deteriorate further due to depleting medical supplies and the failure to pay for cleaning and catering services in hospitals.

In press remarks to the Palestinian Information Center (PIC), Hajj stated that the warehouses of the health ministry hospitals in Gaza are 47 percent short of basic medicines, describing the scarcities in medicinal supplies as burdensome for doctors and families of patients.

He also held the Ramallah-based government responsible for the failure of the health ministry in Gaza to pay its contractors who employ cleaners and other service-providers at hospitals.

He said that after the consensus government took over the ministries in Gaza, the health situation, in particular, started to decline significantly, stressing that Gaza needs permanent solutions to all problems faced by the health sector.

(Source / 31.12.2017)

Cancer-stricken Gazan dies after Israel denies him medical referral

Gazan died of cancer

A 63-year-old Palestinian was pronounced dead in the blockaded Gaza Strip after the Israeli occupation authorities prevented him from receiving life-saving treatment at hospitals in Palestinian territories occupied in 1948 (Israel).

Abdul Fatah al-Sabakhi, from Gaza’s al-Nuseirat camp, succumbed to his cancer disease. Sometime earlier, Sabakhi, a former UNRWA employee, reached a hospital in Palestinian territories occupied in 1948. However, the Israeli authorities barred him from continuing medical therapy, resulting in his death.

Over recent weeks, al-Sabakahi’s health condition had sharply gone down, before he died on Tuesday morning.

Al-Sabakhi is one among hundreds of Gazans who died in the besieged coastal enclave of Gaza after they were denied the right to urgent medical referrals and treatment outside of Gaza’s under-equipped hospitals.

(Source / 27.12.2017)

Press Release

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Palestinian Prisoners' families

Press release of the consortium of human rights organization concerning the Israeli harassment of Palestinian Prisoners’ families.

The consortium follows with concern Monday morning’s brutal and inhumane verbal harassment of the families of Palestinian prisoners by Israeli Knesset member, Oren Hazan. His actions constituted both a blatant attack on the prisoners families and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Being an international organization the Red Cross should be exempt from such disrespect.

In the light of this dangerous incident we in the consortium of human rights organization state the following:

1. Full protection should be provided to convoys carrying the families of prisoners from the Gaza Strip from their departure to their safe return to the Gaza Strip. The right of mothers to visit imprisoned sons is, after all, guaranteed under international law.

2. We call upon the international community to compel the Israeli occupation to stop its offensive actions and oblige it to respect international humanitarian law regarding Palestinian prisoners, including the right to secure visits between prisoners and their families.

3. We urge the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to take the necessary measures to ensure that such acts will not be repeated and to ensure the safety of prisoners’ relatives during and after their visit.

4. We ask the Human Rights Council to convene and take the necessary decisions to prevent the recurrence of what happened. In accordance with the immunity given the international community, the occupation should be obliged to sign the documents granting the ICRC headquarters and convoys the diplomatic immunity necessary for their freedom of action.

5. We invite the various media to further interact with the issue of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli occupation prisons as a distinct humanitarian issue.

(Source: Palestine / 26.12.2017)

Officials: Patients in Gaza hospitals left with no food

Image of an injured Palestinian receiving medical care at the Al-Najar hospital in Gaza on 20 October 2013 [Khaled Khaled/Apaimages]

An injured Palestinian can be seen receiving medical care at the Al-Najar hospital in Gaza on 20 October, 2013

Companies which provide meals to patients in hospitals in the besieged Gaza Strip have stopped catering to medical centres because they have not been paid for months, a Ministry of Health spokesperson revealed yesterday.

Speaking to Quds Press, Ashraf Al-Qidra said the government of national accord in occupied Ramallah had not settled the catering companies’ payments.

“Hundreds of patients are now without food,” Al-Qidra said, adding that the Ministry of Finance had not responded to requests made weeks ago to settle the companies’ dues.

He said that patients in the hospitals in Gaza need 86,000 meals a year at a cost of 6 million shekels ($1.7 million).

Last year, Gaza could not cover the cost of the meals and obtained funding from charities.

Healthcare in Gaza: Is there any hope left?

(Source / 19.12.2017)

Samah Jabr on being one of only 22 psychiatrists in the West Bank

In her capacity as the head of mental health services in the West Bank, Jabr is trying to develop a model of services that corresponds with the resources available

Samah Jabr is one of the first female psychiatrists in Palestine, and one of only 22 psychiatrists serving the occupied West Bank’s 2.5 million strong population.

Born in Jerusalem, Jabr grew up as a resident with no citizenship rights. Throughout her life, she was exposed to life under military occupation, witnessing the impact of traumatic events such as imprisonment and home demolitions on the psychological wellbeing of Palestinians.

“Growing up in Palestine as a Jerusalemite made me aware of the vulnerability of my situation, and made me understand that injustice is a very important pathogen that harms the wellbeing of the Palestinian people under occupation,” Jabr told MEMO.

After graduating from the School of Medicine at Al-Quds University, Jabr pursued advanced training in psychiatry and child psychotherapy in France, England and Palestine. Aside from her clinical work, she has also been documenting her experiences since 1998, writing for media outlets and producing scholarly publications for specialised journals.

“My work in medicine brought me close to the experiences of people,” she said, “and I feel an ethical responsibility to provide a testimony about the cases and the experiences of Palestinians.”

‘Unliveable’: Gaza’s rising suicide rates

Jabr tells me that she has encountered many victims of physical and psychological torture throughout her career, but it is always the less visible, less pronounced scars that strike her the most.

She relates the case of a young man who now sleeps with a bag of underwear next to his bed because he is in constant fear of re-arrest. Another case that left its mark on Jabr was that of a sisters whose mother was arrested by Israeli soldiers in a raid on their home. Fearing another raid, the girls slept in the middle room of the house for months instead of their bedrooms, fully dressed and wearing their headscarves.

Dr Samah Jabr

Dr Samah Jabr

“People are more interested in concrete injuries; the amputation of a leg or a head trauma,” she explains, “and we often don’t pay attention when it is not bloody.”

We talk about how many people were killed and how many were injured, but there is a lot of invisible, unseen suffering

“I perceive my ethical responsibility not only to do the palliative work necessary for managing the consequences of abuse, but also to inform and to do what can be done to stop the abuse and the injustice.”

She goes on to relate another story of a Palestinian boy who told her that the guards in prison were better than his father because they would give him a cigarette to smoke whilst his father wouldn’t. “Later, I learned from that boy how his father couldn’t protect him from being arrested,” she continues.

“This is a very small example of the kind of unseen damage vulnerable people suffer and the kind of abusive intimacy that people can have, which can disturb their feelings and value system,” she says, “and these examples were very common.”

Healthcare in Gaza: Is there any hope left?

Documenting trauma on film

Jabr’s encounters and insights into the psychological impact of life in Palestine were the subject of a documentary released in theatres in France last month. In the film, she narrates excerpts from her writings addressing what resistance means in the context of the Israeli occupation.

French film director Alexandra Dols contacted Jabr at end of 2012 wanting to feature her writings as the foundation of the documentary after she came across an article Jabr wrote in 2007 for the Washington Report on Middle East affairs entitled “Dancing to Different Drummers – But Dancing, Nevertheless”, which explored what one act meant to different individuals. The article starts off with an encounter with a patient of hers telling her how she was “dancing like a slaughtered chicken” when her son was killed, and then follows her other encounters that day with Israeli soldiers dancing at a checkpoint and later herself dancing at a family wedding.

Hesitant at first, Jabr wrote back to Alexandra in 2013 agreeing to the documentary. The crew arrived in Palestine towards the end of the year.

“Dols came with two volunteers,” Jabr says, pointing out the difficulties the team had encountered in securing funding for the montage. “But the fact that they were not supported by a big institution was reassuring for me,” Jabr says, indicating her concerns about mainstream censorship of her discourse. She explains:

I view resistance as a healthy response to the violent reality and the occupation, where people have to submit to injustice

This idea was echoed by the various Palestinian voices interviewed in the film, who come from a variety of backgrounds from across the political and ideological spectrum.

“The interviews and the recording of my articles took a lot of time,” Jabr adds, “but I am satisfied with the film.”

I liked how Dols visualised my articles. She made me read them and provided images and pictures that make the articles, the themes and the ideas that I’m writing about, more visible and more pronounced.

Having attended the first week of screenings in France, Jabr says she found the film to be a great tool for discussion, adding that the reaction was encouraging. “It’s a two-hour film but people would stay another two hours to discuss and ask questions,” she says.

“Some mental health professionals who attended were challenging me about the question of neutrality and impartiality,” she continues. “Some of them came with the assumption that being politically opinionated lacks professionalism and that allowed me to elaborate on the ethical responsibility that I find necessary, and on the importance of understanding the context…without ignoring the intrapersonal conflicts in individuals.”

Find out about Jabr’s latest film: Beyond the Frontlines: Tales of Resistance and Resilience in Palestine 

Following the screening, Jabr received a letter in which a member of the audience wrote that Israel must be suicidal to allow the film director to enter Jerusalem or to allow Jabr to travel abroad to criticise it. Her encounter with him was addressed in an article she wrote following the screening.

The film was also screened in Palestine and was accepted for the “Days of Cinema” film festival. It later won the Sunbird Award for best documentary.

The Israeli group of mental health professionals for human rights, PsychoActive, also hosted a screening of the film. “There was a spectrum of different reactions,” Jabr said, “and the first reaction was silence and sadness.”

While some Israelis were encouraged not just to have an opinion about the occupation but to act against it, others accused the film of being one-sided and lacking an Israeli perspective.

“The director makes it clear from the first scene, where there is a conversation between an Israeli and a Palestinian, that she has decided to follow the story of the Palestinian,” Jabr explains.

Mental health in Palestine

Fifty years of occupation have left Palestinians with one of the highest rates of mental health disorders in the Middle East, yet mental health services continue to be among the most under-resourced areas of health provision, with insufficient budgets and personnel.

“These deficiencies are not only influenced by the reality on the ground, but also by attitudes of policy makers in health,” Jabr says, “but in spite of these limitations, there is growth in this profession and we are doing a lot to improve it.”

In her capacity as the head of mental health services in the West Bank, Jabr is trying to develop a model of services that corresponds with the resources available. “I am trying to promote a hierarchy of services, by which general doctors, nurses and teachers can provide low intensity interventions to support the resilience and the wellbeing of people,” she adds, “to identify those who need help and refer the ones who need more specialised intervention to specialised professionals.”

(Source / 17.12.2017)