The U.N. once predicted Gaza would be ‘uninhabitable’ by 2020. Two million people still live there.

The shoreline in Gaza City during strong winds on Christmas Day.   (Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images )
The shoreline in Gaza City during strong winds on Christmas Day (Mohammed Abed-AFP-Getty Images)

Hazem Balousha and Miriam Berger, The Washington Post, January 1, 2020

GAZA CITY — Jana Tawil was born in 2012, the same year that the United Nations released an alarm-raising report on the state of the Gaza Strip: If the prevailing economic, environmental and political trends continued, the organization warned, the besieged coastal enclave sandwiched between Israel and Egypt would become unlivable by 2020.

The United Nations revised its initial rating in 2017 to warn that “de-development” was happening even faster than it first predicted.

Jana’s father, 35-year-old Mahmoud Tawil, never thought much of that assessment.

“When the U.N. report [said] that Gaza would be unlivable, I felt that Gaza was not fit for life in the same year, not in the year 2020,” he said.

That is the bleak reality facing Gaza’s 2 million Palestinian residents as they approach a new year and new decade: still stuck living in a place the world has already deemed uninhabitable in perhaps the most surreal of 2020 predictions.

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Gaza 2020: How easy it is for the world to delete Palestinian pain


A man holds the hand of Maria al-Gazali, a 14-month-old Palestinian baby, as her body lies on a stretcher at a hospital in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza on 5 May 2019. She died during an Israeli air strike (AFP)

David Hearst, Middle East Eye, 13 December 2019

I would like you to try an exercise. Google the words  “family of eight killed” and you will be given several options – one in Sonora, Mexico, another in Pike, Ohio, yet another in Mendocino County, California.

But Google’s massive memory seems to have suffered amnesia over what took place just one month ago in Deir al-Baba, Gaza.

To recap, because you, too, may have forgotten: on 14 November, an Israeli pilot dropped a one-tonne JDAM bomb on a building where eight members of one family were sleeping. Five of them were children. Two of them were infants.

December 15, 2019
Laila Hassan from Women in Hebron


Madison, WI
1:00 — 3:00 pm
RSVP for directions

 

Please join us as we welcome Ms. Laila Hassan of the Women in Hebron crafts cooperative to Madison, where she will be displaying and selling some of the crafts made by the women of the Hebron area. Women in Hebron plays a vital role in supporting 150 women and their families.

Snacks and refreshments including Arabic coffee will be served. Palestinian extra virgin olive oil will also be available for tasting and sale.


This event will be held at a home in Madison. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to dwallbaum@gmail.com by 10 am on December 15.

Co-sponsored by MRSCP, Jewish Voice for Peace-Madison and Playgrounds for Palestine-Madison.

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Desperate work for desperate people


A man carries steel bars with bare hands in a yard filled with scrap metal. (Mohammed Al-Hajjar)

Amjad Ayman Yaghi, The Electronic Intifada, 15 October 2019

On 5 May, Israeli airplanes struck targets in Gaza.

The bombings came with the usual tragic consequences: 25 Palestinains were killed, among them 14 civilians. Four Israeli civilians also died in rocket fire from Gaza.

It was one of those “spikes in tensions” that for the briefest of moments shines a media spotlight on Gaza.

That spotlight didn’t stay long enough to see what else happened. As calm returned, a contractor, Muhammad Abu Jebah, gathered together a group of laborers to extract metal from the rubble of the Abu Qamar building, which was destroyed in one of the bombing raids.

Abu Jebah thinks of it as a new industry, one that arose after Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli attack on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009, and one that illustrates the lengths to which Palestinians in Gaza have to go to survive.

Trucks and bulldozers move in first to clear the rubble. Then a team of men filter through the building to smash concrete and extract the metal inside.

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The Ecological War on Gaza


Satellite image of herbicide concentration on the Israel-Gaza border. (Forensic Architecture report video)

Rob Goyanes, Jewish Currents, September 9, 2019

FOR CENTURIES, the plains that comprise modern-day Gaza were lush with citrus orchards. Though early Zionists claimed to have pioneered the orange industry, Palestinian farmers had maintained orange groves—specifically of the sweet “Jaffa” orange that would later be co-opted as a symbol of Israeli ingenuity—for export since the 1800s. In some cases, these orchards were passed down by generations of Palestinian families. Arabs and Jews set up mutual orange enterprises in the early 20th century, but things started to change following Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, and especially following the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. 

Citriculture largely disappeared from Gaza in the second half of the 20th century, due in large part to Israeli bulldozing of the orange groves. Through the course of investigating the disappearance of the orchards, a researcher with Forensic Architecture—a research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London, composed of architects, software developers, and others who investigate human rights violations—learned that the low-lying crops that replaced the groves in recent years were potentially dying due to Israeli actions. This prompted the agency to take a closer look at crop disappearance in Gaza.

In July, Forensic Architecture released a report titled “Herbicidal Warfare in Gaza,” detailing the results of their investigation, which finds that the crop deaths were caused by herbicides sprayed by Israel and carried into Gaza by the wind. The findings raise the disturbing possibility that the Israeli military has been engaging in a form of ecological warfare (a possibility first reported by +972 Magazine in 2015). 

“The actual campaign against the citrus was sustained during the Oslo and Madrid peace processes,” says one of the researchers, who asked not to be named because of safety concerns (the report itself was not published anonymously, and lists all participating researchers by name). During the peace processes in the 1990s, he adds, Israeli bulldozers systematically destroyed orange groves. Israel claimed this was necessary because “orange groves were used as a shelter for terrorists.”  

Israel occupied and illegally settled Gaza between 1967 and 2005, after which it pulled out its settlements. Israeli bulldozing during this period was a significant factor in the decimation of Palestinian orange orchards, and Gazans typically didn’t have the money or resources to maintain the groves that were left. Soon, according to the researcher, Palestinian farmers began gradually replacing citrus trees with crops that couldn’t be said to provide cover for terrorists, and were cheaper to maintain, including strawberries, cherry tomatoes, and herbs.

Ever since Hamas took power in Gaza in 2007, Israel has maintained a crippling economic blockade, accompanied by periodic bombing campaigns that have killed thousands of civilians. Israel has established and patrolled a “buffer zone,” up to 300 meters or more in some areas, which stretches the entire length of the Gaza side of the border since 2014—roughly the time when a significant number of the lower-growing crops grown by Palestinian farmers close to the border started to die. According to farmers’ testimony—which appears in the Forensic Architecture report and has also been reported on elsewhere—land in the buffer zone, which was previously used by Palestinians as agricultural and residential space, has been razed and bulldozed regularly by the Israeli military for the purpose of surveillance and military operations. When the crops started dying, farmers saw planes spraying herbicides over the Israeli side of the buffer zone, and they assumed the herbicides were to blame.

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Apartheid Arms: Why Israel Sells Military Equipment to Human Rights Violators


According to Amnesty International, over the past 20 years, Israeli military exports went to at least eight countries that have been known for serious violations of human rights,. (Photo: via MEMO)

Mohamed Mohamed, The Palestine Chronicle, May 21, 2019

An in-depth report released in Hebrew by Amnesty International’s Israeli chapter provides a damning picture of Israeli arms exports to countries that violate human rights. This report provides solid evidence that over the past 20 years, Israeli military exports went to at least eight countries that have been known for serious violations of human rights:

  • Azerbaijan – which has persecuted government critics and LGBTQ people – received Israeli battleships, anti-tank missiles, attack drones, military vehicles, and radar systems
  • Cameroon – implicated in kidnappings, torture, and murder – received Israeli military training and armored vehicles
  • Mexico – undergoing a severe human rights crisis and forced disappearances – received Israeli spyware software that targeted journalists, human rights lawyers, and anti-corruption activists
  • Myanmar – which has engaged in ethnic cleansing, genocide, and crimes against humanity – received armored vehicles and naval ammunition
  • Philippines – which carried out mass extrajudicial executions – received Israeli assault rifles, machine guns, and anti-tank guided missiles
  • South Sudan – implicated in ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity – received Israeli surveillance technology and assault rifles
  • Sri Lanka – which was engaged in a brutal civil war – received Israeli drones and battleships
  • United Arab Emirates – which has imprisoned government critics and human rights activists – received Israeli spyware software, including the infamous “Pegasus” spyware (just days ago, NSO, the Israeli company behind Pegasus, was linked to a security exploit targeting WhatsApp that allowed Pegasus to be installed)

What is worse is that some of these countries were under international sanctions and weapons sales embargoes, yet Israel continued to sell arms to them.

For example, the UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on South Sudan due to its acts of ethnic cleansing, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and even using mass rape as a method of war. Yet South Sudan still ended up acquiring Israeli-made assault rifles. Part of this is due to the fact that Israeli weapons reach such countries after a chain of transactions, which helps to avoid international monitoring and decrease transparency.

Israeli authorities claim that they “carefully examine the state of human rights in each country before approving export licenses for selling them weapons,” but the fact that Israeli weapons made it to the countries mentioned above proves that this statement is far from the truth.

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Palestinian artist brings Japanese origami to Gaza

Ahmed Humaid

In this January 16, 2019 photo Palestinian artist Ahmed Humaid, 29, works on one of his origami sculptures in his house in Nusseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip. Origami, the Japanese art of paper folding, is an unlikely pursuit for an artist living in the Gaza Strip, which has been largely cut off from the outside world since Israel and Egypt imposed a crippling blockade on the Hamas-ruled territory more than a decade ago. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Wafaa Shurafa, Associated Press, Jan 27, 2019

GAZA CITY — In a small studio packed with sculptures made of scrap metal, Palestinian artist Ahmed Humaid has found a new medium in origami, the Japanese art of paper folding.

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Gaza’s economy is not ‘falling.’ It was pushed.


Palestinian laborers protest against the continued Israeli siege and the spread of unemployment in Gaza City on May 1, 2018. (Photo: Ashram Amra/APA Images)

Marilyn Garson, Mondoweiss, September 27, 2018

The economic and social situation in Gaza that has been declining for over a decade, has deteriorated exponentially in recent months. . . The situation has reached a critical point.
— Economic Monitoring Report to the World Bank Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, Sept 27, 2018 (PDF)

The latest Economic Monitoring Report to the World Bank Ad Hoc Liaison Committee [AHLC] quantifies the collective punishment and mounting hardship of the Gaza Strip:

  • – 6% growth in the first quarter of 2018, compared to the same months of 2017.
  • 53.7% unemployment, over 70% for youth and 78% for women in Q1, 2018. The first figures from Q2 suggest that unemployment has risen a further 5%.
  • 53% of Gazans – every second person – lives below the poverty line.
  • 2% of Gazans receive an uninterrupted supply of water. 98% do not.

The cause is not in doubt: the government of Israel imposes “restrictions that are the main impediment” to normal economic activity. “The blockade has caused Gaza’s economy to deindustrialize”. As proportions of GDP, manufacturing and agriculture have declined by more than half since 1994. The blockade and repeated wars have caused Gaza’s economy to grow more slowly than all of its comparator economies (including the West Bank).

And try doing business in an economy this volatile:

Islam Maraqa of ISM on WORT

Gil Halstead with Islam Maraqa on Access

Shahir Hunaina, YouTube, November 16, 2016

My Blood is Palestinian (Dammi Falastini), translation by Sara Ba

Keeping my oath, following my religion
You will find me on my land
I belong to my people, I sacrifice my soul for them
My blood is Palestinian, Palestinian, Palestinian
My blood is Palestinian

We stood for you, our homeland
With our pride and Arabisim
Al-Quds land called us
(As) The sound of my mother calling me
Palestinian, Palestinian
My blood is Palestinian

Keeping my oath, following my religion
You will find me on my land
I belong to my people, I sacrifice my soul for them
My blood is Palestinian, Palestinian, Palestinian
My blood is Palestinian

O mother don’t worry
Your homeland is a fortified castle
Which I sacrifice my soul for
And my blood, and my veins

Keeping my oath, following my religion
You will find me on my land
I belong to my people, I sacrifice my soul for them
My blood is Palestinian, Palestinian, Palestinian
My blood is Palestinian

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