22 October 2012


Informed Comment / By Juan Cole from AlterNet

Israeli Government Consciously Planned to Keep Palestinians "on a Diet", Controlling Their Food Supply, Damning Document Reveals

Israeli military forced to reveal that Israel calculated the amount of calories Palestinians would need to avoid malnutrition.

October 18, 2012

A demonstration against the assault on the Gaza Strip on January 02, 2009 at Old City, Jerusalem, Israel. Photo Credit: Mikhail Levit / Shutterstock.com

An Israeli human rights organization, Gisha, sued in Israeli courts to force the release of a planning document for ‘putting the Palestinians on a diet’ without risking the bad press of mass starvation, and the courts concurred. The document, produced by the Israeli army, appears to be a calculation of how to make sure, despite the Israeli blockade, that Palestinians got an average of 2279 calories a day, the basic need. But by planning on limiting the calories in that way, the Israeli military was actually plotting to keep Palestinians in Gaza (half of them children) permanently on the brink of malnutrition, what health professionals call “food insecurity”. And, it was foreseeable that sometimes they would slip into malnutrition, since not as many trucks were always let in every day as the Israeli army recommended (106 were recommended, but it was often less in the period 2007-2010).

Planning for keeping people on the edge is nearly as bad as planning actually to starve them. A prudent person would know that a blockade is a blunt enough instrument, with shipments up and down in a given week, that such a policy would from time to time produce real misery. Were any physicians involved? They should be boycotted by the international community.

And, the Israeli army’s way of trying to minimize the document must be the worst example of propaganda in history! They are saying that the plan was produced but not consulted. But this document aimed at making sure just enough trucks got in to keep people on the edge. If the government didn’t consult it, does that mean it did not care if the food shipments slipped below the basic calorie allowance? Wouldn’t it have been better if they had known about the 106-truck recommendation?

The food blockade had real effects. About ten percent of Palestinian children in Gaza under 5 have had their growth stunted by malnutrition.

A recent report [pdf] by Save the Children and Medical Aid for Palestinians found that, in addition, anemia is widespread, affecting over two-thirds of infants, 58.6 percent of schoolchildren, and over a third of pregnant mothers.

I mean, don’t those figures make you want to do something for those mothers and children? Wouldn’t they melt anyone’s heart?

Although, under international pressure, the Israeli government eased its blockade slightly in 2010, and foodstuffs are no longer interdicted, it still limits imports into Gaza, and its wide-ranging ban on exports has thrown Palestinians into unemployment at Depression levels, imperiling their ability to afford food even when it is available.

A UN Report out last month predicts that if Israel does not change its policies toward Gaza, the strip will be uninhabitable by 2020, when the population will likely be 2.1 million (think Houston). The deterioration of the water, and the sharp downward mobility of the Palestinians, are only some of the problems the territory will face.

Note that the Israeli government did not voluntarily cease its policy of keeping Palestinians on a diet in 2010. It was forced to by Turkish and European aid activists, and 9 people, one an American citizen, were martyred for this change when Israeli commandos illegally boarded a civilian, unarmed ship in international waters and shot it up.

In any case, there are other ways to starve out the people of Gaza than bluntly preventing food from coming in. Nobel-prize-winning economist Amartya Sen showed that the real cause of famines is not lack of food but that the price of the food rises above the ability of people to pay for it. By keeping Gaza on the edge of economic collapse, the Likud government has continued the food blockade by other means.

The Israeli members of Gisha, who are Mensches, care that their government is contributing in a systematic and deliberate way to damaging childrens’ health because of the way their parents voted in 2006! And they want to embarrass it into ceasing this illegal and inhumane treatment of people who are under Israeli military Occupation and protected from such measures by the Geneva Convention of 1949 (a convention on occupation designed to prevent a recurrence of the excesses and atrocities of the Fascist Powers in World War II, and which you would think an Israeli government would be embarrassed to contravene).

Aljazeera English has a video report, valuable because unlike CNN or other Western cable news channels, it actually interviews the Palestinians affected.

It is precisely because the Israeli blockade of Palestinian non-combatants in Gaza is considered creepy and evil not just by me but by any ethical personthat a number of European members of parliament have boarded the aid ship Estelle, and will make another attempt to deliver food and other aid to Gaza, despite Israeli threats.

The blockade has medical as well as nutritional bad effects. Palestinians in Gaza have to get Israeli permission (!) to leave the strip for medical care. Palestinian hospitals, having been starved of funds and materiel by Israel, are dilapidated. A study published this month in The Lancet found that 10% of such requests were delayed or rejected by Israeli authorities (the rejection or delay rate for the Palestinian territories over all is nearly a fifth). Israel’s delays murdered 6 Palestinians in Gaza last year, as surely as though they had been taken out and shot twice behind the ear. How would you like to have to apply to an arbitrary foreign government for permission to go next door to a neighboring country for medical care?

The [pdf] Lancet article says,

“In 2011, 1082 (10%) of 10,560 applicants in the Gaza Strip had their access permits denied or delayed, with no reason given, and 197 (2%) were called for security interview. Patients aged 18–40 years had the highest rate of denied or delayed permits. Tracer interviews with Gazan families of patients who had their permits denied or delayed showed that six patients died while waiting for the permits.”

The Gaza Strip is a small expanse of land on the coast of the Mediterranean to Israel’s southeast, which also borders on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Some 40% of its 1.7 million people are victims of Israel’s 1948 ethnic cleansing campaign, and many, having been chased off their farms and out of their homes by the military forces of the Yishuv (the Jewish settler community in British Mandate Palestine), still live, or their descendants do, in refugee camps. The territory was captured by Israel in 1967, and until 2005 Israelis were actually encouraged to colonize it. The Kadima government gave up on that enterprise, but did not let its Palestinian people go.

In January of 2006, Hamas won the elections for the Palestine Authority (it had been allowed to run at the insistence of Bush, who, however, backed down in a cowardly way from ‘democratization’ when the Israelis insisted that the outcome was unacceptable). The Bush administration and the Israeli government connived in staging a coup by Fateh in the West Bank. The coup failed in Gaza, where the elected Hamas government retained control.

From 2007, Israel imposed a blockade on the exports and imports of the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip. It vastly limited the number of trucks that were allowed in from Israel and disallowed most exports. Dov Weinglass, an aide to then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, announced that the Palestinians would be ‘put on a diet.’ That is, the Israeli government had decided to wage economic and nutritional warfare against the Palestinians.

Obviously, allowing them to become malnourished would raise an outcry even in an international community that typically allows Israel’s settler colonialism to get away with murder toward the Palestinians. So the policy was to keep the Palestinians “food insecure.” That is, they wouldn’t be starved, but they’d be one step away from starving — if they lost a source of income, for instance.

Wikileaks revealed a US embassy cable that confirmed, “As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed to [U.S. embassy economic officers] on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge…”

Note that the cowardly US government went along with this policy of ruining the lives of civilian non-combatants as a way of trying to defeat the Hamas party-militia (five years later, I think we can safely pronounce the policy a failure). The most horrible thing is that the Israelis, and the international community, have no long-term plans for Gaza. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. There is no vision for how this blockade of innocents will ever end. People pay lip service to a ‘two state solution,’ but everyone knows that Israel won’t allow the Palestinians to have a state! Although Qatar has just announced a multi-million-dollar aid program, it remains to be seen whether Israel will allow it. And, aid is secondary to the dignity of being citizens in a state, which is what Palestinians really need (the economic efflorescence would come from that statehood better than from outside charity). The people of Gaza are apparently to be kept in a large out-door concentration camp forever. Unless the world cares enough to rescue them from that fate.

04 October 2012


The worst apartheid in modern history

Palestinians not only endure a crushing occupation; Israel's apartheid system makes them pay for it as well, writes Mustafa Barghouthi - 3 October 2012 (from Al Ahram)
Frederick Douglass, the American orator, writer and social reformer who had escaped from slavery, wrote: "Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave."
What we need to do in Palestine is to develop a better knowledge and understanding of the system of slavery that Israel created, and that some of us do not see, whether out of ignorance, out of fear, or out of a sense of impotence in the face of this reality.
Modern history offers no equivalent to the perniciousness and repressiveness of the racist apartheid system. In the course of seven decades, official Israeli policy built itself on the cumulative products of three processes. The first was the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people, which reached its peak in 1948. The second was the longest foreign occupation in history. The third was the apartheid system that is more brutal than that which had existed in South Africa, to which testify the South African freedom fighters that visited us, such as Desmond Tutu.
Not only did Israel create what today amounts to six million Palestinian refugees who are deprived of the right to return, since 1948 it strove to deprive the Palestinians who remained in what became Israel of their land and to turn them into a source of cheap labour that remained under the thumb of military rule until 1966. Following the 1967 war, military rule moved to the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, where military authorities set into motion a drive to steal Palestinian land, expropriate natural resources and deprive the occupied people of essential needs for subsistence.
Today, Israel controls 90 per cent of the water in the West Bank. It allows illegal settlements to consume 2,400 cubic metres of water per person per year, compared to less than 50 cubic metres of water per year per person for Palestinians. In other words, Israeli settlers are entitled to 48 times more water than Palestinians in the West Bank.
To add insult to injury, Israel forces the Palestinians to pay twice as much as Israelis do for the water and electricity they consume.
Consider, too, that per capita income in Israel is $32,000, as compared to less than $1,500 for Palestinians. Nevertheless, thanks to the Oslo Accords, the Paris Protocol on Economic Relations and the unified customs system, the Palestinians are forced to pay the same prices for goods as the average Israeli who earns 20 times more than they do.
Even at the height of the Jim Crow laws in the US and the apartheid system in South Africa there was nothing like the Israeli road system in the West Bank where many main roads are reserved for Israelis only. Palestinians have to take the long and rugged side roads while Israelis speed to their destinations on the smooth and well-paved highways made for them alone. Moreover, the Wadi Al-Nar road, which is meant for Palestinians and which was recently repaved with the assistance of USAID, suffers a chronic traffic jam at the checkpoint that Palestinians from the northern and central West Bank have to pass through on the way to the southern West Bank, and that the Israeli army can close off at whim should Israeli authorities deem it expedient to sever the West Bank into two.
Conditions are worse for the people of Gaza who have been the object of a six-year long inhuman campaign of collective punishment. In Gaza, water resources are running out and growing contaminated and unfit for human consumption, and frequent and long-lasting electricity cut-offs aggravate the hazards to health and compound the strains caused by shortages in basic needs for subsistence.
But perhaps one of the most telling features of the Israeli apartheid system is Qalqiliya. This city of 45,000 people is surrounded by a wall that is twice the height of the Berlin Wall. It has a single eight-metre wide entrance controlled by an Israeli-manned checkpoint that the army can close off just as any prison warden shuts the doors on the prison's inmates. Nor is this the only Palestinian town that has been turned into a jail; there are dozens of other towns and villages like it.
The situation in Susiya, a village in the area of Yata in the southern part of the West Bank, is particularly grim these days. The residents of this village, like those in seven other villages, had just been notified that their homes, primary school and their clinic, which is operated by the Palestinian Medical Relief agency, have been designated for demolition and that they, themselves, no longer have a right to remain on this land because the Israel army plans to use it for military training.
Life in the village had not been easy before this. One side is hemmed off by an Israeli-only highway and because of other forbidden roads, students have to trudge over six-kilometres of dirt roads, which turn into pools of mud in the winter, in order to reach their secondary school. A huge pipe passes through the village transporting freshwater from the West Bank to an illegal Israeli settlement that was built on what was once village land. The villagers have to purchase water from mobile tanks at the rate of 27 shekels per litre while the Israeli settlers only pay five shekels a litre for water that is conveniently piped straight into their houses.
I hardly need to mention how many helpless villagers from Susiya were arrested or attacked because they had the audacity to want to remain in their homes.
Apartheid is a system that provides for two different sets of laws for two peoples or ethnic groups on the same land. The Israeli apartheid system prohibits a Palestinian from Jerusalem from living with his wife and family because she is from Ramallah, 16 kilometres away. She does not have the right to join her husband in Jerusalem and if he moved to Ramallah he would lose his citizenship rights and, hence, not only his right to health insurance, for example, but his right to live in Jerusalem where he was born. Meanwhile, under Israeli law, a Jew from any part of the world has the right to obtain citizenship once he sets foot in Lod Airport, and to live anywhere he wants, whether in Israel or in occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank, which is most likely where the authorities will lure him through grants and other facilities meant to encourage settlers to set up home on expropriated Palestinian land.
The calamity is that the Palestinians have ended up paying the costs for the occupation and the systematic injustices visited upon them by the apartheid system through the fees and taxes that Israel exacts, the rates of which rise as Israeli authorities dictate.
The Israeli government has clearly made up its mind. It has put paid to the two-state solution and opted for an extensive system of apartheid. In the process, it has reduced the idea of a Palestinian state to a freakish "self-governing" entity whose duties entail performing the security services for the occupation in isolated cantons and Bantustans that are cut off from 60 per cent of the West Bank which, in turn, is cut off from Jerusalem and Gaza.
The time has come to let go of the illusions of the past, to acknowledge that Oslo and its protocols have failed and to resolve that the brutal apartheid system cannot continue. As Henry Thoreau said: "Revolt against tyranny is the basis of liberty."
Palestinians will not be free and they will not see economic prosperity until they rebel against the system of Israeli apartheid.
The writer is a member of the Palestinian parliament and secretary-general of the Palestine National Initiative.

02 October 2012



SBS Television and advertisements

Target: SBS Management in Australia
Sponsored by: Mannie De Saxe

SBS television was started in Australia some 30 years ago to assist the multicultural aspects of modern Australia's changing demographics. SBS was funded by the federal government but successive governments reduced their budget, so SBS began putting commercial advertising at the beginning and end of their programmes in order to raise revenue.

When a new CEO was apponted some 10 years ago, he decided that if the advertisements were played in the middle of programmes, more revenue would be raised for the station. This ploy failed miserably, and as a consequence SBS lost viewers and the quality of its programmes deteriorated rapidly.

Now in 2012, SBS has a new management and this petition is to urge the new team to drop the advertisments in the middle of programmes. SBS used to have the best news bulletins of all tv stations in Australia, and, because of the advertisements, it has lost continuity and quality - and some of its best newsreaders!

We are hoping to get enough signatures on this petition to induce SBS management to reconsider, and restore the service to its former glory!



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Preston, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm