Tarek Abuata: Human Rights in Palestine During the Pandemic

WORT 89.9 FM A Public Affair with host Esty Dinur on March 27, 2020:

Tarek Abuata grew up in Bethlehem and moved with his family to Texas during the first Intifada when he was 12. After graduating from the University of Texas Law School, he worked in Ramallah researching legal and policy issues. From 2004 to 2007, he trained Palestinian youth in grassroots organizing and activism, and from 2007 to 2016 he was the coordinator of the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron. He has been the Executive Director of FOSNA since 2016. In his work in the U.S., Tarek is most interested in connecting struggles at home and abroad for peace, justice and freedom.

Coronavirus and Gaza

DONATE!

Here are three good options for sending medical relief to Palestine and Gaza:

  • Rebuilding Alliance has a matching grant deadline of midnight EST on Friday, March 27: Closed

  • The Middle East Children’s Alliance needs to raise $45,000 ASAP for a targeted prevention campaign in Gaza: Donate
  • Finally, United Nations Relief and Works Administration (UNRWA) is appealing for emergency funds for all of Palestine: Donate

INFORMATION

March 28, 2020
Webinar: Film Gaza Fights For Freedom by Abby Martin

Social Justice Event Collective, March 5, 2020

Please join us for a film webinar on March 28th, 2020 at 1:00 PM Eastern Time for the screening of Gaza Fights for Freedom, a film by US journalist Abby Martin.

This screening is presented by Social Justice Event Collective and co-hosted by Canadian Boat to Gaza, Independent Jewish Voices-London, Ontario and People for Peace-London, Ontario.

The original event was to be held during Israeli Apartheid Week on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

We have postponed the event to be held through a Zoom online webinar. You may register in advance for this webinar here.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Film-maker Abby Martin will join us after the screening to discuss the making of her documentary, including a questions and answers period. Filmed during the height of the Great March Of Return protests, it features riveting exclusive footage of demonstrations. The documentary tells the story of Gaza past and present, showing rare archival footage that explains the history never acknowledged by mass media. You hear from victims of the ongoing massacre, including journalists, medics and the family of internationally acclaimed paramedic, Razan al-Najjar. At its core, ‘Gaza Fights For Freedom’ is a thorough indictment of the Israeli military for war crimes, and a stunning cinematic portrayal of Palestinians’ heroic resistance.

We will also be joined by a Gaza participant from We Are Not Numbers for a questions and answers period.

The Canadian Boat To Gaza will be accepting donations to help raise funds for the Freedom Flotilla’s sailing in 2020. The donation link is here.

Palestinians report 1st cases of coronavirus in Gaza Strip


Workers wearing protective gear spray disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus, at the main market in Gaza City, Thursday, March 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

FARES AKRAM, Associated Press, March 22, 2020

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The Palestinian Health Ministry announced early Sunday that two residents who returned recently from Pakistan to the Gaza Strip tested positive for the coronavirus, the first cases to be diagnosed in the Palestinian enclave.

The development added to fears of a potential outbreak in crowded Gaza, which has an overstretched health care system after years of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, cross-border conflicts with Israel and Palestinian political division.

Hundreds of Gazans have returned home in the past two weeks, but only 92 people have been examined, highlighting the territory’s limited tested capacity.

Gaza has been mostly cut off from the world as Israel and Egypt imposed severe movement restrictions following the 2007 takeover by the militant Hamas group. This is believed to have delayed the arrival of the virus.

Israel and Egypt in the past two years relaxed some travel restrictions on Gaza’s 2 million residents, but they closed their borders again last week as those two countries struggle to contain the coronavirus spreading on their territories. Gaza residents are still allowed to return home.


A worker wearing protective gear sprays disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus, in Gaza City, Thursday, March 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

The ministry said the cases were two people who returned recently from Pakistan. It said they had been moved to isolation at a hospital in Rafah, a city in the southern Gaza Strip.

More than 1,270 people are quarantined at hospitals, hotels and schools after crossing into Gaza from Israel and Egypt, the ministry said. On Saturday, Hamas’ Interior Ministry shut down wedding halls and banned weekly street markets as precautionary measures.

No deaths from the virus have been reported in the Palestinian areas. In the West Bank, 55 cases have been diagnosed, with 17 recovering, the ministry said. Most of the cases were in the biblical city of Bethlehem.

The vast majority of infected people recover from the virus. For most, it produces only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But the coronavirus can cause severe illness, including pneumonia, and even death, for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems.

A 360-square-kilometer (139-square-mile) stretch of land, the Gaza Strip is one of the world’s most densely populated areas. In 2018, the World Bank said its economy was in “free fall” and called for urgent actions by Israel and the international community to avoid collapse. Unemployment stands at 52% and poverty levels are 50%.

Help Palestinians in Gaza survive Coronavirus

If Not Now, March 20,2020

We have an opportunity to save thousands of lives — if we act now.

As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps our country and the world, I am watching everyday people do what is necessary — in the vacuum left by our government’s failure — to help their communities. My friends are joining mutual aid networks and others are fundraising so the most vulnerable are financially stable.

But our obligation to one another does not stop at the border.

If we do not act now, Palestinians living under blockade in Gaza will suffer incredible losses from COVID-19. For 15 years, the Israeli government has blockaded 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza, restricting their access to crucial resources, including medical supplies. And Israel’s regular military assaults have decimated much of Gaza’s public infrastructure.

That is why I’m asking you to demand that the Israeli government live up to its legal and moral obligation as the occupying party and protect Palestinians in Gaza by lifting the blockade on Gaza and immediately delivering medical supplies — such as Coronavirus test kits, ventilation equipment, and medical masks — to Gaza.

Currently, 1.8 million Palestinians live in the 141 square miles that comprise the Gaza Strip (roughly the size of Detroit). Though Hamas governs Gaza internally, Israel is still the effective occupying power because Israel’s military controls the land, sea, and air of Gaza. The blockade on Gaza has been inhumane for over a decade, but to refuse to lift it during a global health pandemic is immoral, outrageous, and unforgettable.

And, with one of the highest population densities in the world and few medical resources, Gaza is one step away from a public health disaster. Those 1.8 million people only have access to enough COVID-19 test kits for 190 people, meaning only 1 in every 9473 Palestinians there can be tested. Additionally, there are just 20 available ventilation devices in all of Gaza — just 1 ventilation device for every 90,000 Palestinians there.

Palestinians in Gaza must now weather the coronavirus in addition to the punishing, 15-year-long Israeli blockade of the coastal enclave. The international community has ignored the humanitarian crisis facing Palestinians in Gaza for too long. Rather than waiting to react to the coronavirus hitting Gaza, we must be proactive.


Sign the petition!

Failing to do so will result in thousands of deaths, and the blame will lay squarely with the Israeli government.

Stay safe and stay in solidarity,
Naftali
IfNotNow

Coronavirus Is a Death Sentence for Palestinians Caged in Gaza

Even a small outbreak among Gaza’s densely-packed, blockaded population would put an impossible strain on a healthcare system already teetering on the verge of collapse


A man, wearing a mask against coronavirus infection, looks through a fence as he waits for Palestinians returning from abroad. Gaza’s Rafah border crossing with Egypt. March 8, 2020. (IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS)

Shannon Maree Torrens, Haaretz, Mar 12, 2020

Imagine two million human beings living in the space of just 365 square kilometers. One of the most densely populated places on Planet Earth, confined in a cage from which they cannot escape. These two million people cannot leave, even if they wanted to, without great difficulty.

They must live their lives within the confines of this rapidly deteriorating area of land, some persisting in the hope that one day things may change, but many surviving with the realization and resignation that they very well may not. No matter their degree of optimism or pessimism, all are isolated from the rest of the world. We call this place the Gaza Strip, and it has been under blockade by Israel since 2007.

It is now March 2020. The novel coronavirus, has become an issue of global concern. The disease it causes, COVID-19, has spread far from its origins in China. In a short space of time, coronavirus is seemingly everywhere. It moves as frequently as the planes and people who spread it back and forth across the world.

As of 11 March, more than 118,000 people have been infected globally, almost 4,300 people have died and at least 114 countries/territories and areas are affected. The world buys masks and hand sanitizer. The World Health Organisation classifies novel coronavirus as a pandemic. People stock up on food. "What will happen to us?" the world says. "What if we get sick?"

And what of the people who live in the cage of Gaza? What will happen to them? 

If you’re locked in a cage, you are protected – but, simultaneously, you are also at much greater risk of being acutely affected. If the people of Gaza become unwell, will anyone care, any more than to the minimal degree they have in the past? Will anything change for them, or will it simply become much worse?

At the time of writing, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip. But it only takes one person to change the course of things for the worse – that infamous Patient Zero, to which many of the world’s wealthiest and most medically advanced countries can attest as they grapple with spiking contagion rates.  

On Thursday 5 March the Palestinian Authority announced a 30-day state of emergency, following seven initial coronavirus cases discovered in Bethlehem, closing educational institutions and numerous places of work. It is now reported that the Occupied Palestinian Territory has 30 cases of COVID-19.

Continue reading

What Valentine’s Day Means in Gaza, Palestine

Hani and his uncle and daughter in front of an UNRWA school in the Gaza Strip
Hani and his uncle and daughter in front of an UNRWA school in the Gaza Strip

UNRWA USA, February 7, 2020

Hani Almadhoun is UNRWA USA’s new Director of Philanthropy.

Though he now lives in Virginia with his wife and daughters, he grew up in the Gaza Strip. Hani’s father was an UNRWA teacher in Gaza and his family benefited from UNRWA services there, so he can speak firsthand from personal experience about the work UNRWA does and how the Gaza Strip has changed over the past few decades.

Below, Hani reflects on these changes through the lens of Valentine’s Day.

Hani Almadhoun’s reflection on Valentine’s Day and
what it means for Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip

Strangers in Our Homeland


MK Aida Touma-Sliman, January 15th, 2019. Photo: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk via Flickr

Aida Touma-Sliman, JewishCurrents, February 6, 2020

LAST WEEK, Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu announced a deal that is intended to determine the future of the Palestinian people, without a single Palestinian present in the room or involved in the consultation process. They unveiled the plan in the midst of Trump’s impeachment trial and on the same day that Netanyahu was indicted for corruption. Like a group of men deliberating women’s reproductive freedoms, the Americans and Israelis who drafted the plan intend to unilaterally decide the fate of Palestinians, our land, and our fundamental rights. The plan’s total erasure of Palestinian voices and blatant denial of these rights lays bare the real intentions of the Trump and Netanyahu administrations.

Just as importantly, the past week clarifies the positions of so-called moderates—from US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Israel’s Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White Party—who have either barely protested or outright endorsed the plan. While it is no secret that the US and Israel have always rendered Palestinian narratives, demands, and aspirations secondary, centrist acquiescence to Trump’s plan suggests that the “deal of the century” is the logical culmination of a long-held vision of an apartheid Palestinian pseudo-state, bereft of meaningful sovereignty or self-determination. 

Trump and Netanyahu have inherited this vision and added their typical vulgarity. Their plan would enshrine Jewish supremacy in all of Israel and historic Palestine, annexing Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank, the Jordan Valley, and East Jerusalem, while leaving Palestinians in the occupied territories with a patchwork of isolated ghettos surrounded by walls and military checkpoints. Israeli law would be applied in all settlements, which violate international law and numerous UN resolutions. Israel would retain sovereign control over the air and sea, as well as absolute “security” control in the entire territory west of the Jordan River. Jerusalem, including occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem and its holy sites, will remain entirely in Israeli hands. And Palestinian refugees will be categorically denied their right to return to the land from which they were expelled by Israel because they were not Jewish. 

The plan would also have dire consequences for Palestinian citizens of Israel, many of whom would probably be stripped of their citizenship and transferred to the new Palestinian “state” under the plan’s proposed land swaps. To those ends, Israel’s Tourism Minister, Yariv Levin, has already raised the specter of de-nationalizating Israel’s Palestinian citizens, who make up about 20% of the population, or about 1.8 million people. Many people in this category would likely lose the ability to travel within most of historic Palestine and be subject to the same restrictions, including on movement, imposed on citizens of the new Palestinian “state.” 

As a Palestinian citizen of Israel myself, I have been treated with suspicion and as a threat by the government for my whole life, a fifth column in my own homeland. Will I now be told to move to the new Palestine, or remain and accept permanent second- or third-class Israeli citizenship? We already face dozens of laws that discriminate against us—including the so-called “Jewish nation-state” law, which has effectively made segregation official national policy—because we are not Jewish. With Trump’s plan, Israel’s claim to being a liberal democracy that values human rights has been discredited once and for all.

Trump and Netanyahu’s plan, then, is outrageously unapologetic in its denial of Palestinian rights and its whitewashing of Israeli colonization. In key respects, however, it does not represent a radical break with the many previous plans proposed over the past several decades—by both Democrats and Republicans, by Israel’s Labor and Likud—to “grant” Palestinians nominally autonomous, discontiguous parcels of land surrounded by Israeli settlements and under the control of the Israeli military, and to pass off these bantustans as an independent state. As far back as 1978, Prime Minister Menachem Begin proposed granting Palestinians a limited “autonomy” or home rule in scraps of the occupied Palestinian territories in an attempt to quash Palestinian demands for independence. The 1993 Oslo Accords offered Palestinians limited self-rule in parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, while allowing unfettered Israeli settlement expansion—with the number of Israeli settlers more than tripling since the signing of the peace agreement. 

Gantz, supposedly a moderate alternative to Netanyahu, has embraced Trump and Netanyahu’s racist annexation plan, and vowed to bring it for approval in the Knesset. The Joint List—the coalition of Arab-majority parties, of which I am a member—will not support any candidate or party that supports annexation, including Gantz. Indeed, with rare exceptions, most Jewish Israeli politicians subscribe, implicitly or explicitly, to Trump and Netanyahu’s agenda of segregation, intolerance, and xenophobia, as evidenced by the nation-state law and others passed in recent years, like the so-called Nakba law, which is intended to suppress public discussion and debate of the mass expulsion of Palestinians that accompanied Israel’s establishment as a Jewish state in 1948.

In the US, meanwhile, even some Democrats critical of Trump and Netanyahu have been muted in their criticism of this scheme. Reacting to a summary of the plan last week, Pelosi declared that it “appears to be a basis for negotiations . . . so let us be optimistic and hopeful.” Echoing Pelosi, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel of New York declared: “There’s some good room for hope there.”

With the notable exception of Bernie Sanders, Democratic presidential hopefuls have thus far refrained from proposing concrete ideas to end US complicity in Israel’s apartheid regime, with some even proudly reiterating their support for Israel. Because our shared values of freedom, equality, and democracy are on the line more clearly than ever before, Democrats can no longer get away with claiming progressive credentials in some arenas while remaining willfully blind to injustice elsewhere. Trump and Netanyahu recognize their own shared values and are working hand in hand; Democratic leaders likewise need to understand that Palestinians are their natural allies in resisting the onslaught of Trumpism in the US and around the globe.

The time has finally come for Israeli leaders to pay a price for their half-century-old occupation of Palestinian lands, for seven decades of ethnic cleansing, for blockading the Gaza Strip for over a decade, and for their relentless incitement against and attempts to exclude us—Israel’s Palestinian citizens—from equal citizenship in our own homeland.

Aida Touma-Sliman is a member of the Israeli Knesset representing Hadash/The Joint List.