Gaza jobless rate at 45%, five years after full blockade imposed

The Gaza Strip enters its fifth year of a full Israeli blockade by land, air and sea on Tuesday with unemployment at 45.2%, one of the highest rates in the world, according to a UN aid agency report (PDF).

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) found that by the second half of 2010, real wages had fallen 34.5% since the first half of 2006, when sanctions were imposed by Israel after Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip, won a Palestinian legislative election.

The UN says the strict blockade began a year later.

“These are disturbing trends,” said UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness, “and the refugees, who make up two-thirds of Gaza’s 1.5 million population, were the worst hit.”

He said: “It is hard to understand the logic of a man-made policy which deliberately impoverishes so many and condemns hundreds of thousands of potentially productive people to a life of destitution.”

Israel continues to blockade Gaza, controlling the flow of imports and tightly restricting access to Israeli territory mainly to urgent humanitarian cases, to prevent Hamas militants, who are supported by Iran and Syria from obtaining weapons, explosives and ammunition.

Israel partly relaxed its grip a year ago in response to international pressure, allowing in more trade goods and expanding the secure logistics hub at Kerem Shalom crossing to a potential 400 truckloads of goods per day.

UNRWA provides food staples and schools for Gaza’s refugee population. The enclave has no airport or seaport for freight.

The UN has recently asked countries to dissuade those pro-Palestinian groups with plans to break the blockade by sea in so-called “international humanitarian aid” flotillas that Israel says are simply politically motivated provocations.

Gaza’s pressure cooker atmosphere has been relieved since the fall of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak this year and a change in policy by Cairo, a party to the blockade with Israel, which now opens the southern border crossing at Rafah daily for civilian traffic, though not for trade.

But UNRWA reports that Gaza’s working-age population (those over 15) is estimated to have grown by 2% in the second half of 2010 from the first half, increasing the demand for jobs that do not exist in its broken economy.

(www.guardian.co.uk / 14.06.2011)

Israel’s Crimes against Palestinians: War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity, Genocide

(The author served as Legal Adviser to the Palestinian Delegation to the Middle East peace Negotiations from 1991 to 1993. The viewpoints expressed here are his own.)

The International Laws of Belligerent Occupation

Belligerent occupation is governed by The Hague Regulations of 1907, as well as by the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, and the customary laws of belligerent occupation. Security Council Resolution 1322 (2000), paragraph 3 continued: “Calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and its responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in a Time of War of 12 August 1949;…” Again, the Security Council vote was 14 to 0, becoming obligatory international law.

The Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the West Bank, to the Gaza Strip, and to the entire City of Jerusalem, in order to protect the Palestinians living there. The Palestinian People living in this Palestinian Land are “protected persons” within the meaning of the Fourth Geneva Convention. All of their rights are sacred under international law.

There are 149 substantive articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention that protect the rights of every one of these Palestinians living in occupied Palestine. The Israeli Government is currently violating, and has since 1967 been violating, almost each and every one of these sacred rights of the Palestinian People recognized by the Fourth Geneva Convention. Indeed, violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention are war crimes.

So this is not a symmetrical situation. As matters of fact and of law, the gross and repeated violations of Palestinian rights by the Israeli army and Israeli settlers living illegally in occupied Palestine constitute war crimes. Conversely, the Palestinian People are defending Themselves and their Land and their Homes against Israeli war crimes and Israeli war criminals, both military and civilian.

The U.N. Human Rights Commission

Indeed, it is far more serious than that. On 19 October 2000 a Special Session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights adopted a Resolution set forth in U.N. Document E/CN.4/S-5/L.2/Rev. 1, “Condemning the provocative visit to Al-Haram Al-Sharif on 28 September 2000 by Ariel Sharon, the Likud party leader, which triggered the tragic events that followed in occupied East Jerusalem and the other occupied Palestinian territories, resulting in a high number of deaths and injuries among Palestinian civilians.” The U.N. Human Rights Commission then said it was “[g]ravely concerned” about several different types of atrocities inflicted by Israel upon the Palestinian People, which it denominated “war crimes, flagrant violations of international humanitarian law and crimes against humanity.”

In operative paragraph 1 of its 19 October 2000 Resolution, the U.N. Human Rights Commission then: “Strongly condemns the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force in violation of international humanitarian law by the Israeli occupying Power against innocent and unarmed Palestinian civilians…including many children, in the occupied territories, which constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity;…” And in paragraph 5 of its 19 October 2000 Resolution, the U.N. Human Rights Commission: “Also affirms that the deliberate and systematic killing of civilians and children by the Israeli occupying authorities constitutes a flagrant and grave violation of the right to life and also constitutes a crime against humanity;…” Article 68 of the United Nations Charter had expressly required the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council to “set up” this Commission “for the promotion of human rights.”

Israel’s War Crimes Against Palestinians

We all have a general idea of what a war crime is, so I am not going to elaborate upon that term here. But there are different degrees of heinousness for war crimes. In particular are the more serious war crimes denominated “grave breaches” of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Since the start of the Al Aqsa Intifada, the world has seen those inflicted every day by Israel against the Palestinian People living in occupied Palestine: e.g., willful killing of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli army and Israel’s illegal paramilitary settlers. These Israeli “grave breaches” of the Fourth Geneva Convention mandate universal prosecution for their perpetrators, whether military or civilian, as well as prosecution for their commanders, whether military or civilian, including Israel’s political leaders.

Israel’s Crimes Against Humanity Against the Palestinians

But I want to focus for a moment on Israel’s “crime against humanity” against the Palestinian People — as determined by the U.N. Human Rights Commission itself, set up pursuant to the requirements of the United Nations Charter. What is a “crime against humanity”? This concept goes all the way back to the Nuremberg Charter of 1945 for the trial of the major Nazi war criminals. And in the Nuremberg Charter of 1945, drafted by the United States Government, there was created and inserted a new type of international crime specifically intended to deal with the Nazi persecution of the Jewish People.

The paradigmatic example of a “crime against humanity” is what Hitler and the Nazis did to the Jewish People. This is where the concept of crime against humanity came from. And this is what the U.N. Human Rights Commission determined that Israel is currently doing to the Palestinian People: Crimes against humanity. Legally, just like what Hitler and the Nazis did to the Jews.

The Precursor to Genocide

Moreover, a crime against humanity is the direct historical and legal precursor to the international crime of genocide as defined by the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The theory here was that what Hitler and the Nazis did to the Jewish People required a special international treaty that would codify and universalize the Nuremberg concept of “crime against humanity.” And that treaty ultimately became the 1948 Genocide Convention.

In fairness, you will note that the U.N. Human Rights Commission did not go so far as to condemn Israel for committing genocide against the Palestinian People. But it has condemned Israel for committing crimes against humanity, which is the direct precursor to genocide. And I submit that if something is not done quite soon by the American People and the International Community to stop Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Palestinian People, it could very well degenerate into genocide, if Israel is not there already. And in this regard, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is what international lawyers call a genocidaire–one who has already committed genocide in the past.

Mr. Francis A. Boyle is a Professor in International Law.

(www.monabaker.com / 14.06.2011)

UN refugee agency marks 5 years of Gaza siege

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — “If the aim of the blockade policy was to weaken the Hamas administration, the public employment numbers suggest this has failed,” a UNRWA spokesman said Tuesday as the UN marks Gaza’s fifth year under intense Israeli siege.

Commenting on a report released by the UN agency charged with providing care and services for the one million refugees living in the Gaza Strip, on the fifth anniversary of the siege, spokesman Chris Gunness added “it has certainly been highly successful in punishing some of the poorest of the poor in the Middle East region.”

According to UNRWA, wages in Gaza fell 34.5 per cent since the first half of 2006, while unemployment reached 45.2 percent in the second half of 2010.

“These are disturbing trends,” Gunness said, “and the refugees, which make up two thirds of Gaza’s 1.5 million population were the worst hit in the period covered in this report. It is hard to understand the logic of a man-made policy which deliberately impoverishes so many and condemns hundreds of thousands of potentially productive people to a life of destitution.”

On 14 June 2006, militants in the Gaza Strip captured an Israeli soldier patrolling its border. In retaliation for the capture of a soldier, Israeli forces entered the West Bank and abducted eight Hamas ministers and 21 party lawmakers from their homes and offices. Imports and exports into and out of Gaza were scaled down to a fraction of normal levels in an attempt to pressure the ruling party Hamas to return the soldier.

Hamas, negotiating on behalf of the factions which captured the soldier, are demanding the release of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in return for his release.

Israel tightened the siege, restricting access to coastal fishing waters in October 2006, reducing the fishing limit from 20 nautical miles down to six. Then following Israel’s offensive on Gaza in the winter of 2008-9, the fishing limit was reduced to three nautical miles, effectively quashing the industry.

Imports between 2006-2010 were restricted to a short list of goods, with reports suggesting calculations had been made to import only the minimum necessary food supplies to sustain the population. After an international aid flotilla sailed to Gaza in June 2010 and Israeli commandos shot and killed nine of the activists on board, world outcry against the siege prompted a slight easing, with more commercial goods permitted in.

Prohibitions on industrial goods and building materials remain, however, making reconstruction of the 6,000 homes destroyed during Israel’s winter offensive impossible without intervention from international agencies.

Israel says materials used in construction of homes could be used to manufacture weapons.

A massive tunnel import industry grew in the southern Gaza Strip after the blockade was imposed, allowing building materials, cars foodstuffs and weapons to be brought into Gaza. The goods are too expensive for most Palestinians in the Strip to afford.

Exports of goods and produce from Gaza have effectively been stopped, with only a few hundred loads of strawberries and carnations having been exported to Europe under a Dutch government program since the imposition of the siege.

During the past five years, UNRWA noted in its report, that the private sector had been hit particularly hard in comparison with the public sector. While private businesses were forced to cut nearly 8,000 jobs in the second half of 2010, the Hamas dominated public sector grew by nearly three percent over the same period.

“Our research indicates that since 2007, Hamas has been able to increase public employment by at least one-fifth,” said Gunness. “Even more striking, in what should have been a relatively good year for the Gaza private sector with the supposed easing of the blockade, the public sector generated 70% of all net job growth as between second-half 2009 and second-half 2010.”

UNRWA has stated that it will continue to operate in the health and education sectors in Gaza, with some 213,000 children currently attending UNRWA run schools. However, the report stated that since the start of the blockade, the number of people living on less than one dollar a day has tripled to nearly 300,000 since the blockade was imposed.

“With many reconstruction projects still awaiting approval, the future looks bleak” Gunness said.

(www.maannews.net / 14.06.2011)

Germany pledges 50 million euros for the sewage plant project in central Gaza

The Minister of Development Dirk Nebel, said Tuesday that his country had pledged 50 million euros to a sanitary drainage project east of the Bureij camp in central Gaza Strip, and three million euros for the Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to build schools in the sector.
Nebel said in a press conference held at the headquarters (UNRWA) in Gaza City, said his visit aimed to the sector for the projects being implemented in partnership between the Palestinians and Germany.
He pointed out that he had seen during his visit to the sector of wastewater treatment plant in the area of Sheikh Ajleen west of Gaza City, which has pledged his country to provide 20 million euros to rehabilitate.
Turning to the German minister vowed his country during the Sharm el-Sheikh, which was held in 2009 following the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip, providing 150 million euros to support the humanitarian needs and reconstruction of the sector, stressing the need for rapid progress in these projects to benefit residents of the Gaza Strip from them.
He stressed Nebel that ‘there is no substitute for investment and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip because the young people in the sector need to the process of building their future and therefore Altmanip German help in the development of young children’, adding that it ‘can not be no development in the Gaza Strip without a political solution and a final cease-fire ‘.
German minister demanded that Israel lift the blockade completely from the Gaza Strip even begin the process of reconstruction of Gaza and move forward.
In political affairs, said the German minister, said his country ‘believes that the only solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the establishment of two states, Palestinian and Israeli side by side according to the requirements of the international quartet committee and not to go beyond this subject’.
With regard to national reconciliation that took place in Cairo on the fourth of last month, said Nebel, it is’ a step forward and could play an important role in the future, and to be an important step on the road to two-state solution ‘, noting that his country’ will judge the Government of compatibility coming through their actions’.
The German minister to the Israeli government was prevented from visiting the Gaza Strip the same time the current of last year ‘but I realized after a year of prohibition that would be useful to the German government through the development of its institutions to work for a better life for the population in the Gaza Strip’.
Nebel pointed out that his country ‘ties with the natural with the PNA, and that there is cooperation between the two sides’, pointing at the same time that Germany ‘has normal relations with Israel’.
The German minister arrived in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning crossing of Beit Hanoun and visited the headquarters of the Palestinian refugees in al-Nasser Street in Gaza City, and the water station in the Sheikh Ajleen west of Gaza, and also met with the Commissioner-General’s (UNRWA) Filipio Grande

(Facebook / 14.06.2011)

Nederland was en is voor Israël

Maxime Verhagen in Israël, in 2008 Maxime Verhagen in Israël, in 2008 ANP
Toegevoegd: donderdag 27 jan 2011, 14:11
Update: donderdag 27 jan 2011, 14:19

Ook al groeit alom de kritiek op Israël, Nederland is een trouwe steunpilaar gebleven. De documenten die door WikiLeaks naar buiten zijn gebracht kleuren dat beeld verder in.

Pro-Israël

“Nederland wordt binnen de EU gezien als het meest pro-Israel”, zegt een hoge Nederlandse ambtenaar in 2003 tegen de Amerikanen. Een prettige boodschap voor de VS, immers de trouwste bondgenoot immers van Israël.

Als het bijvoorbeeld gaat om de aanpak van Hamas (‘op de lijst van terreurorganisaties plaatsen’), of om de afscheidingbarrière die Israël bouwt op Palestijns gebied (‘liever buiten het Internatonaal Gerechtshof in Den Haag proberen te houden’) zitten Nederland en Amerika op één lijn.

In de jaren daarna rijzen in diverse Europese landen steeds meer kritische vragen over Israël. Met name door de blokkade van de Gazastrook en na de Israëlische aanval op Gaza kalft het begrip voor Israël af. Maar de houding van de Nederlandse regering blijft welwillend, zo niet positief.

Verhagen

Vooral als Maxime Verhagen minister van Buitenlandse Zaken is (2007-2010), betoont Nederland zich een trouwe vriend van Israël. “Ik raak meer en meer geïsoleerd binnen de EU…”, klaagt Verhagen in 2009 tegen Hillary Clinton in een gesprek over het Midden-Oosten.

Zou het een gevolg kunnen zijn van een eigenschap die de Amerikanen een paar jaar daarvoor al constateren? “Verhagen wil instinctief de band tussen Nederland en de VS te versterken, zelfs, indien nodig, als dat ten koste gaat van Europa.”

Gaza-oorlog

Eind december 2008 valt Israël de Gazastrook binnen, om een einde te maken aan raketbeschietingen vanuit Gaza op het zuiden van Israël. Er komen in de Gaza-oorlog, die drie weken duurt, veel meer Palestijnen dan Israëliërs om het leven, vooral burgers; zo’n 1300 Palestijnen tegen 13 Israëliers.

Er zijn nog meer ongemakkelijke dingen voor Israël: er is witte fosfor gebruikt en Israëlische militairen hebben zich misdragen.

Over die Gaza-oorlog is in de vrijgegeven berichten vrijwel niets te vinden. Wel over de nasleep ervan.

Goldstone

De VN-mensenrechtenraad geeft rechter Richard Goldstone de opdracht een onderzoek te doen naar mensenrechtenschendingen tijdens de oorlog. Zijn rapport is kritisch, zowel over Hamas als over Israël.

Minister Verhagen reageert direct fel op het rapport in de media: het zou eenzijdig de schuld bij Israël leggen. In de Tweede Kamer moet hij even later melden dat hij te voorbarig heeft gereageerd.

Een hoge ambtenaar praat de Amerikanen daarover bij, is nu te lezen. Hij legt uit dat Verhagen te maken heeft met een parlement waarin sommigen kritischer staan ten opzichte van Israël dan hijzelf. “Het is onmogelijk dit meningsverschil over Israël te verbergen”, zegt hij.

Ruzie Verhagen – Koenders

Over de vraag wat er met dat rapport van Goldstone moet gebeuren, en wat daarover in een brief aan de Tweede Kamer moet, ontbrandt vervolgens een ‘high-level’ politiek conflict – zo vertellen een paar Nederlandse ambtenaren aan hun Amerikaanse collega’s. Een conflict tussen minister Verhagen (CDA) en minister Koenders van Ontwikkelingssamenwerking (PvdA) die samen bij de VN in New York zijn.

Verhagen wil Israël te vriend houden, Koenders wil een harde aanpak. “Verhagen vindt dat we Israël moeten vertellen: jullie hebben vrienden, maar moeten wel wat concessies doen. Koenders, die druk op Israël wil zetten, ging door het lint.”

Het conflict wordt beslecht door topambtenaar De Gooijer, die in de ambtsberichten vaker voorkomt. Hij stelt, na een nachtelijk telefoontje van Balkenende, een brief aan de Kamer op die “de aandacht in de Tweede Kamer afleidt van het gedrag van Israël, zodat de Kamer zich kan richten op het lastiger onderwerp Afghanistan.”

(nos.nl / 14.06.2011)