US Trump’s peace plan will establish a ‘New Palestine’ in Gaza

US President Donald Trump in Georgia, US on 8 November 2019 [Kyle Mazza/Anadolu Agency]

US President Donald Trump in Georgia, US on 8 November 2019

Details of US President Donald Trump’s peace deal for the Middle East, dubbed the “deal of the century”, have allegedly been obtained by Lebanese TV station Al-Mayadeen.

While the report has not been officially confirmed, the draft specifies the timetable and methods of the plan and discusses a trilateral peace agreement between the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Israel, according to the Jerusalem Post.

A state named “New Palestine” will be established in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, except for the territories already occupied by Israel. This will force Palestine to pay Israel for protection against international aggression.

Jerusalem will not be divided in the agreement and will instead be shared by Israel and “New Palestine” with Arab residents of Jerusalem registered as residents of the new Palestinian state and not of Israel.

The process of the so-called “deal of the century” project announced by the Trump administration to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict began with the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)’s office in Washington and US recognition of Jerusalem as the “unified capital” of the state of Israel.

Russia’s Putin: Trump’s peace plan ‘pretty vague’

And which has since seen the US embassy moved to Jerusalem; acceptance of the “legitimacy” of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories; recognising Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights; efforts to have UNRWA closed down; and recognition of the “Jewishness” of the state.

Al-Aqsa Mosque is currently administered by the Islamic Waqf, an arm of the Jordanian Ministry of Sacred Properties, but secured by Israeli police. According to the reported draft, the responsibility for Al-Aqsa Mosque will be put in the hands of Saudi Arabia.

Israeli settlers seen in the the Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound, during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, on 17 October 2019 [Kudüs İslami Vakıflar İdaresi/Handout/Anadolu Agency]

The Jerusalem Municipality would become responsible for the entire city of Jerusalem, but the Palestinian state would be responsible for education and would pay the Israeli municipality taxes and utilities, which means, Jerusalem will remain united under mostly Israeli control, reported the Jerusalem Post.

READ: 3,750 Jerusalemites, including 1,070 children, arrested since Trump declared city Israel’s capital

The project, which demands immediate demilitarisation of Hamas, as the “New Palestine” will be banned from having an army, has already been approved by the US, the European Union and Gulf states, according to Al-Mayadeen.

Within five years, a seaport and airport will be created for the Palestinian state, and until then, Palestinians will be able to use Israeli ports.

The US, EU and Gulf states, will shoulder the financial burden of the plan, which is expected to cost about $30 billion over a five-year period, the ultra-Orthodox Hamodia newspaper reported.

(Source / 17.12.2019)

18,000 homes in occupied Jerusalem under demolition threat, says official

Construction work on Jewish settlement in Jerusalem [Mahfouz Abu Turk/Apaimages]

Construction work on Jewish settlements in Jerusalem

Some 18,000 homes in Jerusalem are under the threat of demolition by the Israeli occupation authorities, the city’s deputy governor announced yesterday.

Abdullah Siam told The Voice of Palestine that the Israeli demolition activities were being carried under the pretext of the homes’ “illegal construction.”

“The demolition of the Palestinian homes in occupied Jerusalem comes in the context of Israel’s punitive measures, forced displacement, ethnic cleansing, and the Judaization of the occupied Jerusalem,” Siam pointed out.

The Israeli occupation has been demolishing Palestinian homes and structures in the occupied Jerusalem in an effort to expand settlements and force Palestinians from their homes and lands.

(Source / 17.12.2019)

HRW: Facebook stifling Palestinian free speech


Social media giant Facebook is actively limiting Palestinian freedom of speech by targeting criticism of Israel on its platform, Human Rights Watch has warned in its new report today.

Entitled “Born Without Civil Rights”, the study found that Palestinian content is suffering from an increased crackdown on Facebook, which has put in place algorithms which identify such content.

Palestinians have for years complained that Facebook is targeting their accounts, deleting them without notice.

HRW Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir, the author of the report, acknowledges the right Israel – like any democracy – has to monitor incitement-directed speech.

However, the report investigates whether Israel has blurred the lines between legitimate criticism and incitement, both on social media and in terms of the right to physically protest.

READ: Some Palestinians in Gaza are forced to start marriage via social media

In October, journalists and activists in Palestine launched a social media campaign against Facebook for censoring Palestinian content in cooperation with Sada Social Centre, a group that monitors social media violations against Palestinian content.

In September 2016, a Facebook delegation met Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan – in order to improve “cooperation against incitement to terror and murder”, according to a statement released by the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office at the time.

Palestinians pointed out that the social media giant was giving in to the Israeli government’s influence to suppress the Palestinian narrative and was adopting the occupiers’ definition of what incitement is.

On the group, the report adds, Israeli occupying forces rely on military orders permitting them to shut down unlicensed protests or to create closed military zones to quash peaceful Palestinian demonstrations in the occupied West Bank and detain participants.

According to HRW: “The Israeli army has deprived generations of Palestinians in the West Bank of their basic civil rights, including the rights to free assembly, association and expression, regularly drawing on military orders issued in the first days of the occupation.”

READ: Iraq’s Sadr closes Facebook account with ‘goodbye’ post

After conducting 29 interviews with former detainees and lawyers representing Palestinian men and women caught up in the Israeli military justice system, as well as a review of indictments and military court decisions, the NGO states in its report that the Israeli army’s orders are “written so broadly that they violate the obligation of states under international human rights law to clearly spell out conduct that could result in criminal sanction.”

In response to the report, Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch, said: “Israel’s efforts to justify depriving Palestinians of basic civil rights protections for more than half a century based on the exigencies of its forever military occupation just don’t fly anymore.”

“Given Israel’s long-term control over Palestinians, it should at minimum allow them to exercise the same rights it grants its own citizens, regardless of the political arrangement in place,” she added.

(Source / 17.12.2019)

Palestinian Car Repair Shop for Second Time in Three Months

Israeli forces, on Monday, demolished a cave in the village of Deir Razih, southwest of the city of Hebron, in the southern occupied West Bank, the Palestinian News and Info Agency (WAFA) reported.

Soldiers also razed the flooring for a car repair shop, and in the process destroyed several vehicles that were parked in the area as well.

Basil Ideis, owner of the land on which the car shop was built, said that three months ago, the Israeli army demolished his small makeshift shop on the same land, and levelled the land near it, he added that the army had ordered him then not to re-build on his land.

Israel demolishes Palestinian homes on a regular basis, as a matter of policy, causing displacement of the native Palestinian people, a crime against humanity as stated in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

(Source / 17.12.2019)

Palestinian Foreign Ministry: Settlers Involved in Attacks Against Palestinians Must be Added to Terrorist List

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry, on Monday, called on world governments to place Israeli settlers involved in attacking and terrorizing the Palestinian civilian population in the occupied territories on their terrorist lists and ban them entry into their countries, the Palestinian News and Info Agency reported.

In a statement, it said that settlers’ attacks against Palestinian civilians and property in the West Bank have multiplied in recent years, describing the groups that carry them out, namely the Price Tag and Youth of the Hills groups as “organized terrorism.”

It said the attacks include cutting and torching trees, seizure of land by force, slashing car tires, violent attacks of homes with the intent to hurt their occupants, vandalism of structures and equipment, destroying water networks and roads, hurling stones at cars driving on West Bank roads near the settlements, shooting at people, particularly at checkpoints.

Israeli reports documented 256 attacks against Palestinians in the occupied territories since the start of 2019, while many other attacks remain undocumented, explained the statement.

“The Ministry condemns in the strongest terms terrorism in all its forms and holds the Israeli government and its various arms, fully and directly responsible for this dangerous escalation in the attacks by settler organizations and their armed terrorist militias. The occupation forces support, train and protect the settlers as they carry out violent attacks against Palestinian civilians and their property, and even attack and repress the Palestinians to prevent them from defending themselves and confronting settler attacks,” it said, adding, “the occupier’s military and judicial agencies provide impunity for the settlers involved in committing these crimes. Rarely are settler terrorists arrested, especially in the Yitzhar settlement outpost, and if they are arrested, they will soon be released under various pretexts, or face bogus trials, which also end with their release and acquittal in order to continue their sabotage operations.”

(Source / 17.12.2019)

Female Journalist Placed Under Administrative Detention for Four Months

According to the Palestinian Prisoner Society (PPS) said that, on Monday, the Israeli authorities issued an administrative detention order for a period of four months against female Palestinian journalist Bushra al-Tawil, 26, who was detained last week at her family home in al-Bireh, the Palestinian News and Info Agency reported.

This brings the number of Palestinian women held in administrative detention to three, including Shorouk al-Badan, from Bethlehem, and Ala al-Bisher, from Qalqilia. The number of female prisoners in Israeli jails has reached 42.

Al-Tawil has been arrested three times before, in 2011 she was sentenced to a prison term of 16 months, and was released as part of a prisoners’ exchange deal.

In 2014, the Israeli military re-arrested her to serve her previous sentence. In 2017, al-Tawil was arrested again and placed under administrative detention under the pretext of secret evidence, she was detained for eight months.

Once again, on December 11, days after the release of her father, Jamal al-Tawil, former mayor of al-Bireh, who served 20 months in administrative detention for his role in the resistance. Al-Tawil’s mother had also served time in Israeli detention for her resistance of the occupation.

(Source / 17.12.2019)

How Britain dresses up crimes in Israel as ‘charitable acts’

Ayalon Park or Canada Park, an Israeli park , which was build by JNF on the ruins of the village of Imwas. Imwas was emptied of its native residents in 1948 by Zionist militia to create ‘Israel’

By Jonathan Cook

When is a war crime not a war crime? When, according to British officials, that war crime has been given a makeover as a “charitable act”.

The British state is being asked to account for its financial and moral support for a UK organisation accused of complicity in the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland. So far, it appears determined to evade answering those questions.

The target of the campaign is the Jewish National Fund UK (JNF UK), which describes itself as “Britain’s oldest Israel charity”. Noting its role in “building Israel for over a century”, the organisation boasts: “Every penny raised by JNF UK is sent to a project in Israel.”

In fact, donations to JNF UK were used to buy some of the 250 million trees planted across Israel since 1948, the year when 750,000 Palestinians were forced out at gunpoint from their homes by the new Israeli army. Those expulsions were an event Palestinians call their Nakba, or “catastrophe”.

Afterwards, the Israeli army laid waste to many hundreds of Palestinian villages, turning them into rubble. Forests planted over the villages were then promoted as efforts to “make the desert bloom”.

Subsidised by taxpayers

In fact, the trees were intended primarily to block Palestinian refugees from ever being able to return to their villages and rebuild their homes. As a result, millions of Palestinians today languish in refugee camps across the Middle East, evicted from their homeland with the help of the forests.

JNF UK raised the funds for a parent organisation in Israel, the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF), which enforced the expulsions by using the donations to plant the forests. The Israeli state’s ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinian population was effectively disguised as a form of environmentalism.

Britain and other Western states appear to have accepted that barely concealed deception. They have long treated their local JNF fundraising arms as charities. JNF UK received charitable status in 1939, nearly a decade before Israel was created as a Jewish state on the ruins of Palestinians’ homeland.

The forests are still managed with money raised through tax-deductible donations in Britain and elsewhere. Since 1990, donations to JNF UK have been eligible for Gift Aid, meaning that the British government tops up donations by adding its own 25 percent contribution.

In effect, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian villages has been subsidised by the British public.

Backing from MPs

Britain’s continuing sanction of these crimes – and others – is being belatedly given scrutiny by human rights activists in Britain.

A campaign launched in 2010 called Stop the JNF – backed by various Palestinian solidarity organisations – has aimed to shame British officials into ending JNF UK’s charitable status.

The campaign gained parliamentary support a year later, when 68 MPs signed an early-day motion condemning the JNF’s activities and calling for its charitable status to be revoked. The motion was sponsored by Jeremy Corbyn, then a backbencher but now leader of the Labour Party, and attracted cross-party support, though no Conservative MPs backed it.

Nonetheless, the campaign has faced institutional resistance every step of the way. Over the past six years, appeals to the Charity Commission, a department of the British government, to intervene and remove JNF UK from its list of registered charities have been repeatedly rebuffed.

Rather than seeking explanations from JNF UK, British officials have largely ignored the evidence they have been presented with.

Trees ‘a weapon of war’

The campaign has highlighted one specific and egregious example of JNF UK’s work. The organisation raised donations to create a large recreation area west of Jerusalem called British Park, which includes forests, over three Palestinian villages that were destroyed by the Israeli army after 1948. A sign at the entrance reads: “Gift of the Jewish National Fund in Great Britain.”

Many of those who donated to the project, often British Jews encouraged to drop pennies into the JNF’s iconic fundraising “blue boxes”, had no idea how their money was being used.

The Stop the JNF campaign included testimony from Kholoud al-Ajarma, whose family was expelled from the village of Ajjur during the Nakba. Today, the family lives in the overcrowded Aida refugee camp, next to Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.

KKL-JNF planted trees at British Park on land to which Ajarma’s family, and many others, still have the title deeds. In doing so, the group violated the protected status of such lands in international law.

In her submission, Ajarma wrote: “It was British pounds that helped destroy my village. The Jewish National Fund is not merely planting trees. These trees have been used as a weapon of war, a weapon of colonisation.”

Israeli scholar Uri Davis has observed that the establishment of British Park “ought to be classified as an act, and as a policy, of complicity with war crimes”.

4,000 protest letters

The Charity Commission’s barrister, Iain Steele, conceded in a submission that it was possible the JNF had violated the Ajarma family’s rights by creating British Park on their land. Nonetheless, the Charity Commission has on two occasions refused to consider revoking JNF UK’s charitable status. Rather than addressing the merits of Stop the JNF’s arguments, the Charity Commission has evasively claimed that the campaigners, even the Ajarma family, are not affected by whether the JNF is registered as a charity.

In June, a commission official even wrote to the campaign with an astounding defence that appears to strip the term “charitable” of all meaning. He wrote: “In simple terms the test for charitable status is a test of what an organisation was set up to do, not what it does in practice.”

The commission’s apparent reasoning is that, so long as the JNF includes fine-sounding words in its mission statement, what it does in practice as a “charity” does not matter.

In April, Stop the JNF appealed the commission’s decision not to revoke JNF UK’s charitable status to the First-tier Tribunal. The judge, however, told them that neither Ajarma nor the campaign itself had a legal right to be heard. He concluded instead that only the attorney-general could overrule the Charity Commission’s decision. In October, the attorney-general rejected the campaigners’ claims without investigating them.

In an attempt to revive the case, Stop the JNF has submitted more than 4,000 letters of protest to the attorney-general, calling on him to reassess the organisation’s continuing charitable status.

A parallel call was made to the advocate-general of Scotland, which has a separate legal system.

‘Intense political controversy’

The JNF did not respond to questions sent by Middle East Eye about its role in planting the forests, its charitable status and other criticisms of its involvement with Israel.

The establishment’s apparent unwillingness to confront JNF UK’s historical record is perhaps not surprising. The JNF was one of the key organisations that helped to realise a British government promise made in the 1917 Balfour Declaration to help create a “Jewish home” in what was then Palestine.

Two years later, Lord Balfour declared that the colonisation of Palestine by Zionist Jews from Europe was “of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 [Palestinian] Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land”. Little, it seems, has changed in official British attitudes since.

Steele, the Charity Commission’s barrister, successfully urged the First-tier Tribunal not to get involved, arguing that it would be “drawn into matters of intense political controversy, for no obvious benefit to anyone”.

Surely, Ajarma and many millions more Palestinians would strenuously dispute that assessment. They would have much to gain should Britain finally demonstrate a willingness to confront its continuing role in aiding and comforting groups such as the JNF, accused of complicity in crimes against international law in historic Palestine.

As Stop the JNF organisers wrote in their own letter to the attorney-general: “These people [Palestinian refugees such as the Ajarma family] are not defined by the JNF as recipients of their charity, but they have human and legal rights which the actions of this charity unacceptably violate.”

Reminiscent of dark regimes

The campaign has not only focused on JNF UK’s historic role in dispossessing Palestinians. It points out that the JNF is still actively contributing to Israel’s own grossly discriminatory and racist policies – another reason it should be barred from being considered a charity.

JNF UK’s accounts from 2016 show that it has funded the OR Movement, an Israeli organisation that assists in the development of Jewish-only communities in Israel and the occupied territories.

One such Jewish community, Hiran, is being established on the ruins of homes that belonged to Bedouin familes. They were recently forced out of their village of Umm al-Hiran – a move the legal rights group Adalah has described as “reminiscent of the darkest of regimes such as apartheid-era South Africa”.

On its website, JNF-KKL congratulates “Friends of JNF UK” for supporting the establishment of nearby Hiran Forest. The JNF claims the forest will “help mitigate climate change” – once again disguising ethnic cleansing of Palestinians as a form of environmentalism.

Funding the Israeli army

JNF UK’s annual accounts in 2015 also revealed that it contributed money to the Israeli army under the title “Tzuk Eitan 9 Gaza war effort” – a reference to Israel’s attack on Gaza in late 2014, whose death toll included some 550 Palestinian children.

A United Nations commission of inquiry found evidence that Israel had committed war crimes by indiscriminately targeting civilians – a conclusion confirmed by the testimonies of Israeli soldiers to Breaking the Silence, an Israeli whistle-blowing group.

Equally troubling, an investigation last month by Haaretz reported that, under Israeli government pressure, the KKL-JNF has been secretly directing vast sums of money into buying and developing land in the occupied West Bank to aid Jewish settlers, again in violation of international law.

The funds were allegedly channeled to Himnuta Jerusalem, effectively the JNF’s subsidiary in the occupied territories, disguised as funds for projects in Jerusalem.

Veteran Israeli journalist Raviv Drucker observed that KKL-JNF was rapidly converting itself into a banking fund for the settlers. He added that its “coffers are bursting with billions of shekels [and] the settlers’ appetite for land is at a peak”.

Given the lack of transparency in KKL-JNF’s accounts, it is difficult to know precisely where the funds have come from. But as more than $70m has been spent by KKL-JNF over the past two years in the occupied West Bank, according to Haaretz, the funds likely include money raised by JNF UK.

In any case, research by Stop the JNF suggests JNF UK has no objections to making “charitable” donations to settlements in the West Bank. Its accounts record contributions to Sansana, a community of religious settlers close to Hebron.

Settlements are considered a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

No ‘duty’ towards equality

KKL-JNF is a major landowner in Israel. Under a special arrangement with the Israeli government, it owns 13 percent of Israel’s territory – often lands seized from Palestinian refugees. The arrangement includes a provision from 1961 that the primary aim of the JNF in Israel is to acquire property “for the purpose of settling Jews on such lands and properties”.

In 2004, KKL-JNF explained its role. It was “not a public body that works for the benefit of all citizens of the state. The loyalty of the JNF is given to the Jewish people and only to them is the JNF obligated. The JNF, as the owner of the JNF land, does not have a duty to practice equality towards all citizens of the state.”

In marketing and allocating lands only to Jews, the legal group Adalah has noted, the JNF in Israel intentionally rides roughshod over the rights of a fifth of the country’s population who are Palestinian by heritage.

In other words, the JNF is integral to an Israeli system that enforces an apartheid-style regime that prevents Israel’s Palestinian minority from accessing and benefiting from a substantial part of Israel’s territory.

Violating British law

This institutionalised discrimination has been made even more explicit since Israel last year passed the nation-state law, which declares: “The State views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value, and shall act to encourage and promote its establishment and strengthening.”

As the Stop the JNF campaign notes, British charities should abide by legal responsibilities enshrined in UK legislation, such as the 2010 Equality Act, which makes it illegal to discriminate based on “colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin”.

The JNF UK is clearly failing to abide by this core legal principle. It is operating in a foreign state where it has helped, over many decades, to fund activities that grossly violate both British law and international law. The evidence compiled by Stop the JNF indicates that JNF UK has itself been complicit in aiding the commission of war crimes, both in Israel and the occupied territories.

It has also given financial and moral succour to its parent organisation, which has crafted a system of apartheid that confers superior land rights on Jews over Israel’s Palestinian minority.

British taxpayers should not be subsidising institutionalised discrimination and crimes abroad – even more so when they are being dressed up as “charitable acts”.

(Source / 17.12.2019)

HRW: ‘Israel’ uses draconian military orders to repress Palestinian journalism and activism

Occupied Palestine (QNN)- A new report by Human Rights Watch revealed that the occupation state has been using extremely severe military orders against journalists and activists throughout the West Bank.

The 92-page report, “Born Without Civil Rights: Israel’s Use of Draconian Military Orders to Repress Palestinians in the West Bank,” revealed that the occupation state has used military orders against nonviolent political activity, including protesting, publishing material “having a political significance,” and joining groups “hostile” to Israel.

‘Israel’ has been depending on such orders to arrest large numbers of Palestinians for anti-occupation speech, activism, or political affiliations, or to outlaw political and other nongovernmental organizations; and shut down media outlets.

“Israel’s efforts to justify depriving Palestinians of basic civil rights protections for more than half a century based on the exigencies of its forever military occupation just don’t fly anymore,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. “Given Israel’s long-term control over Palestinians, it should at minimum allow them to exercise the same rights it grants its own citizens, regardless of the political arrangement in place.”

The report called on governments and international organizations concerned with the rights of Palestinians to “endorse a civil rights framework to highlight the impact of Israel’s restrictive military orders in the West Bank and press Israel to grant Palestinians full civil and other rights at least equal to what it grants Israeli citizens”.

According to international law, ‘Israel’, as the occupier is required to restore “public life” for the occupied Palestinian population.

Israel’s brutal military rule is applied to Palestinians, but not to the more than 400,000 Israeli settlers in the same territory.

“Nothing can justify today’s reality where in some places people on one side of the street enjoy civil rights, while those on the other side do not,” Whitson said.

(Source / 17.12.2019)

Three Palestinians wounded in Israeli crackdown on Palestinian workers

Tulkarem (QNN)- Three Palestinians were reportedly wounded during an Israeli crackdown on Palestinian workers in northern Tulkarem this morning.

An Activist told QNN that a Palestinian young man was shot by Israeli soldiers, who were chasing the workers at the Akabah gate in the north, which is located between the apartheid wall and the occupied land.

He said that the Israeli army still holds the young man and refuses to allow medical teams to provide medical care for him. Some locals tried to help release the wounded young man, but the Israelis responded opening fire at them.

Israeli soldiers also chased other workers in the south and used bullets and tear gas against them, causing several suffocation cases.

Israeli authorities refuse to grant Palestinian workers access permits for “security considerations”, preventing them from reaching their workplaces, which pushes many workers to find other ways, like making holes in the apartheid wall in order to pass through it to their jobs.

(Source / 17.12.2019)

Gaza 2020: ‘Our worst nightmare is when it starts raining’

Palestinians, living under the Israeli blockade, describe conditions in the territory

By Maha Hussaini and Nada Nabil

On the eve of 2020, Gaza residents speak about difficulties of their life under the strict 13-year-old Israeli siege, which affected every single corner in the coastal enclave.

The United Nations issued a report seven years ago warning that by 2020, the Gaza Strip could be uninhabitable due to severe problems with its water, power, healthcare and education systems.

Today, on the eve of 2020, MEE spoke with a homeowner, a doctor and a teacher about how their lives have changed in recent years – and what the future may hold.

Winter is the worst nightmare

Aisha Abu Nemer, 23, lives with her husband and three children – aged eight, six and eight months – in Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

The shabby house, located in a marginalised, poor neighbourhood, is 50 square metres in total and topped with a tin roof. The family lives in one room, which serves as a living room, kitchen and toilet.

In an adjoining, single bedroom where all the family sleeps, there is a mattress on the floor and a white closet, the only piece of furniture in the home.

None of this protects Aisha Abu Nemer and her family from Gaza’s heat, cold or damp.

“Our worst nightmare is when it starts raining,” she tells MEE. “We have to get up at midnight to fill buckets with the rainwater that floods the house and remove the mattresses and blankets from the floor.

“You can imagine that we have to always stay awake until it stops raining and the blankets dry.”

It was not always like this. When she and her husband, Jihad Abu Nemer, married eight years ago, Gaza’s economy was in better shape.

“My husband collects concrete on a laden cart and sells it for around 5-8 shekels [$1-$2] a day. That’s around 100-150 shekels [$29-$43] a month, which absolutely cannot cover our needs. That is why we mainly depend on aid.

“Eight years ago, he used to earn much more,” she adds, noting he earned around $100-$150 a month back then.

According to UNRWA, the UN agency that cares for refugees, years of conflict and blockade have left 80 percent of Gaza’s population dependent on international assistance.

Essentials are hard to come by. “We do not get tap water,” Nemer says. “It would cost us a lot to get a municipal water supply. So our neighbour fills our water barrel every now and then for bathing and washing the dishes and clothes.

As for the drinking water, we fill another barrel from a water tap installed by a relief society in the neighbourhood.”

Despite her dire economic situation, Abu Nemer’s first priority is to get her six-year-old daughter a proper education.

“My daughter is in the first grade. She only has one dress for school. Once she gets back from school, I wash it and put it in the sun so that she can wear it the next day.

“Even if we did not have enough money for her education, I would sell my blood to send her to school.”

Queues in front of dialysis department

Abdullah al-Qishawi, 49, has been a doctor for more than two decades, and has been supervising Gaza’s first kidney transplantation project, launched in 2013.

At the dialysis department of Gaza City’s al-Shifa Hospital, the largest medical complex in Gaza, Dr Abdullah al-Qishawi does his rounds.

Qishawi, who is the head of the department, is checking on dozens of dialysis patients, many of whom have experienced a serious deterioration in their health since the start of 2019, due to a lack of medical equipment and electricity cuts.

The effects are evident in the overcrowded department. Rooms and beds are all full, forcing many patients to wait long hours – sometimes outside – for their turn on the dialysis machines.

“We are experiencing an aggravated crisis of medicine shortage and electricity cuts that complicates the treatment of dialysis patients,” Qishawi tells MEE.

The number of people needing treatment is also on the rise.

“What exacerbates the situation and doubles the number of dialysis patients is the fact that almost all the drinking water in Gaza is undrinkable. Thus, tens of thousands of people are harming their kidneys.”

There are 65 dialysis machines in Gaza, but just under a third of them are broken, Qishawi says. The Palestinian health ministry is unable to replace or fix them due to a lack of spare parts.

The dialysis department used to operate for 16 hours a day, from 8am until midnight. Now, to deal with the increasing number of patients and lack of medical staff and equipment, it has been forced to extend its hours until 4am.

“There is a severe lack of medical supplies and equipment, rendering the largest hospital in the enclave unable to provide the necessary and often urgent treatment to thousands of patients,” Qishawi says.

“The situation has significantly exacerbated during the past few years. If it continues this way, we will be witnessing a real catastrophe at all levels.”

And Qishawi has little hope for the future.

“There is no doubt that, although the situation has always been bad under blockade, we are witnessing the worst period in terms of medical services and the overall health situation [of Gaza residents].”

One small class with 50 students

Basema al-Basous, 44, is a teacher at al-Abbas elementary school in the densely populated Shujayea neighbourhood of Gaza City.

In an Islamic studies class, Basema al-Basous, who has been a teacher for more than nine years, gives a Quran recitation lesson to 50 female students.

“Managing a classroom with 50 students is one of the most challenging things I’ve had to deal with since I first became a teacher,” Basous tells MEE.

“It’s difficult for both teachers and students to be in such an overcrowded place. I frequently suffer from hoarseness because I have to raise my voice to make myself heard to 50 children.”

The problem of overcrowding in Gaza’s schools is well recognised, with the population having grown by around 20 percent during the past decade.

Many educational facilites are forced to operate double shifts to cope with the influx. The Palestinian education ministry has said that 86 new school buildings must be built, and more than 1,000 classrooms added to existing buildings by 2021 to provide a safe and adequate learning environment.

Basous says her classes have been growing over the past few years, as parents have moved their children from private schools to government ones for economic reasons.

She agrees that building new schools and providing better equipment – including ventilation and heating systems – would be a step forward for Gaza’s education sector.

The overcrowding can also affect children’s health and productivity.

“If one morning a student who has the flu attends class, the next morning, there are about 30 other students who are infected,” Basous says.

“In addition to that, the chaos and lack of chairs and desks – as well as the limited time – all reduce students’ productivity, comprehension and social harmony.”

She says she aims to “build a bridge of love and trust” with her students to help manage the extra load. But some of her colleagues struggle due to the noise and the difficulties of communicating with such a large number of students, she adds.

And she remains hopeful that the territory will be able to overcome its economic and humanitarian crisis.

‘Palestinians in Gaza have their own way of resilience, that they can overcome their crises and live under the most difficult situations’

“I do not believe Gaza will be unlivable at any point in time,” Basous says. “Palestinians in Gaza have their own way of resilience, that they can overcome their crises and live under the most difficult situations.”

Until the education ministry tackles the problems at Gaza’s schools, she adds, “We will continue our personal initiatives and efforts to support our students.

“We cannot let them down, whatever happens.”

(Source / 17.12.2019)