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Until Return - Issue 2

"Gaza Forgotten"
by Dr. Jess Ghannam
Al Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
November 15, 2007

While the world's attention is on the so-called "Peace Conference" coming up at the end of November in Annapolis, Palestinians living in Gaza continue to be subjected to the most cruel, inhuman, and unconscionable acts of Israeli aggression. For Israel, there are no bounds or limits to the inhumanity or breaches of international law and morality when it comes to Palestinians, especially those living in Gaza. The phrase, "it can't get any worse", is far from reality as the situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate every day, every minute, and every second. The international community has turned its back on Gaza and as time passes, Palestinians living (or rather existing) in Gaza are left with only their dignity and stubborn refusal to succumb to occupation.

Reports from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights ( about the situation in Gaza are disturbing. From the Nov 7, 2007 report:

"IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces) have continued to close all border crossings of the Gaza Strip for nearly 17 months. The total siege imposed by IOF on the Gaza Strip has left disastrous impacts on the humanitarian situation and has violated the economic and social rights of the Palestinian civilian population, particularly the rights to appropriate living conditions, health and education. It has also paralyzed most economic sectors. Furthermore, severe restrictions have been imposed on the movement of the Palestinian civilian population. Moreover, the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip has severely impacted the flow of food, medical supplies and other necessities such as fuel, construction materials and raw materials for various economic sectors. IOF have further tightened the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip since Hamas' takeover of the Gaza Strip, and the living and economic conditions of Palestinian civilians have further deteriorated. During the reporting period, the Israeli government declared the Gaza Strip as "an enemy entity," which implies imposing more restrictions and measures of collective punishment against the Palestinian civilian population. On 19 September 2007, the Israeli government declared the Gaza Strip as "an enemy entity" and accordingly measures of collective punishment against Gaza escalated. Since that time, IOF have limited the goods exported to the Gaza Strip to only 9 basic materials. As a consequence, local markets ran out of many goods, which caused a sharp increase in prices, which mounted to 500% for some goods. Israeli occupation forces have banned the flow of some medicines, furniture, electrical appliances, cows and cigarettes into the Gaza Strip, and have decreased the amounts of some goods allowed into the Gaza Strip, such as fruits, milk and some dairy products. IOF have also continued to impose severe restrictions on fishing in the Gaza Strip."

Gaza has become an open air prison where physical and psychological abuses by the Israeli military are routine. Food, medicine and basic essentials for survival are being dribbled in—titrated ever so closely as to not immediately kill, but to slowly starve Palestinians to death or submission; all under the watchful eye of the international community, the UN, and the Quartet.

The most grotesque manifestation of the Israeli aggression and immorality concerns the denial of medical care to the people of Gaza. As the world community is well aware, it is a violation of international law and human rights to refuse medical care to people under occupation. Yet, Israel continues to deny entry of food and medicine into Gaza and even more disturbing, it is denying terminally ill Palestinians from leaving Gaza to receive urgent medical care.

A recent article in the Israeli press has described the situation (from YNET News--,7340,L-3470830,00.html):

"The 47-year-old Palestinian known as H. apparently suffers from a liver tumor and urgently needs to undergo a biopsy that would enable treatment. Meanwhile, C. is a Palestinian who requires urgent surgery, A. is a 20-year-old Palestinian woman who suffers from cancer and needs to urgently visit a hospital, 16-year-old girl T. suffers from a heart defect and urgently requires catheterization or surgery, 20-year-old L. has cancer and needs radiation and chemotherapy, and 27-year-old A. has a brain tumor and requires urgent treatment. All these cases were examined by senior Israeli oncologists and cardiologists who ruled that treatment is urgently needed and postponing it endangers the lives of the patients. The State of Israel rejected the requests, arguing that the six are prevented from entering Israel for security reasons."

Amira Hass writing recently in Ha'aretz (

"The Shin Bet is refusing to allow a 21-year-old Rafiah man who is sick with cancer and in need of immediate medical care to come to Israel, even though he obtained permission from the Israeli Defense Forces' Coordination and Liaison Administration. The Shin Bet also arrested the patient's father, who accompanied him to the hospital. Mahmoud Abu Taha was diagnosed with cancer of the small intestine in August 2007. Treatment in Gaza was unsuccessful, and he lost a third of his body weight. In addition, he is not taking all of the vitamins he needs because of the shortage of medications in Gazan hospitals. Because of his serious condition, the doctors decided to postpone chemotherapy and send him to Tel HaShomer hospital in Ramat Gan. According to Mahmoud's brother, Hanni Abu Taleh, on October 18, they received permission shortly after they filed a request with the IDF. The father and his sick son drove in an ambulance to Erez Crossing, and after a half-hour wait, the father's name was called on the loudspeaker. According to the brother, the patient continued to wait in the ambulance, lying on a stretcher and attached to an oxygen tank and an infusion. After two hours, it was announced on the loudspeaker that he was denied entrance into Israel. They returned to the hospital in Khan Yunis. At the same time, a person who identified himself as an officer with the Shin Bet called Hanni and told him that his father had been arrested. The family filed another request for Mahmoud to come for medical treatment at Tel HaShomer, but they still have not received a reply."

For Israelis, sick and dying Palestinians are security threats and denying them treatment is a way to protect Israel. But what is Israel protecting itself from?

The Sick Logic of Torture, Abuse and Occupation

As we bear witness to the atrocities committed by the Government of Israel and the Israeli Military--and by extension, US Foreign Policy promoted and encouraged by the current Administration and Congress—we must ask the obvious question about motivation. What would motivate a people, a society, and a country to fully engage in such grotesque and calculated human rights abuses and atrocities?

Although there are many ways to address this question, one approach is to more fully understand the nature of occupation, colonial expansion, and global hegemony. Put very simply, the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestine has no limits, no bounds and no restraints when it comes to maintaining and extending the Zionist dream of a land without Arabs, specifically without Palestinian Arabs. The goal of occupation, any occupation for that matter, is to control—control people, control resources, and control narratives. The situation in Gaza is an extension of the Israeli logic of creating conditions so heinous that Palestinians will accept being occupied or leave Palestine. To the surprise of most Israelis, Palestinians have never accepted occupation and clearly have not left Palestine. Close to 60 years of occupation and Palestinians remain steadfast in their connection to the land and a belief in self-determination. Neither the atrocities being committed in Gaza nor the faux peace conference in Annapolis can stop Palestinians from these inalienable rights. What complicates the situation for Palestinians is that the Zionist dream is also serving the interests of American domination and strategic control of the Arab world. It is very clear, finally, to the Administration that the process of controlling the resources of the Arab world cannot continue in an unfettered way unless there is an appearance that the Palestinian "problem" has been solved. As long as there is an appearance of bringing peace to Palestine, the domination of the Arab world cannot go forward. Hence the Annapolis Peace Conference is occurring at a time when Iraq is devolving into utter chaos, Iran is on the verge of being attacked and the other Arab countries are being coerced into the global market place of free trade, the IMF, and structural adjustments.

So why is Gaza the object of so much immoral punishment and attack? Because Gaza and its denizens remain clear—they will never accept occupation, they will never accept a fake peace accord with the fantasy of a racist 2-state solution, and they will never give up on their inalienable right to return to their homes. Palestinians in Gaza will resist and they know that time is on their side. So yes, things can and will get worse for Palestinians living in Gaza. Israel will continue its illegal and immoral occupation of Palestinians. This will continue until the world community wakes up and demands that the cancer of occupation must end before peace will prevail anywhere in the world.

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