8-month-old baby with heart problems needed to exit Gaza

 

Celine Jaber, Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI), August 16, 2020

Dear friends,

A month ago, I checked my inbox, and my stomach sank. An older woman from Gaza wrote to me: “Please, I have an urgent appointment at a hospital in the West Bank – radiation therapy for uterine cancer.  Civilian coordination has stopped. I don’t know how I’m going to get out of here. The disease is eating away at my body. I grow weaker every day. I feel death is coming, that it’ll be here any minute. Please help.”

The Palestinian Authority cut off ties with Israel in response to the annexation plan. They’ve disbanded the Civilian Affairs Committee – a Palestinian Authority agency that was responsible for coordinating Palestinians’ exit permit applications with the Israeli military.

Since then, Haneen, my Gaza permit intake colleague, and I have been coordinating exit and ambulance transportation for patients. These are things the Civilian Affairs Committee  used to do. This situation is impossible. There are only two of us. The phone starts ringing at 8:00 A.M. and doesn’t stop until nighttime – dozens of patients in critical condition from Gaza – cancer, brain and heart disease, people who have to get out, who need coordination.

In our conversations, the patients keep saying: “The treatment isn’t available in Gaza.” They send me medical documents, and I reassure them and say, “I understand.” It’s very difficult for me when they try to prove they are sick, that they’re getting worse, that they have a right to exit, because it’s their most basic right, the right any patient has to get proper treatment.

A father called me. His son is eight months old, a cute boy. He has heart problems. His name is Omar, and he needed to exit for a surgical procedure that isn’t available in the Gaza Strip. He had an appointment for June. I sent a request to the military’s Civil Liaison Administration (CLA) to arrange for his exit, but I received no response. It went on for two weeks. I sent the request again and again and still no answer. In other requests I made, the CLA wrote back: “The Civilian Affairs Committee has to coordinate exits.” I said: “But there is no committee anymore. The Palestinian Authority disbanded it.” They said: “No committee, no exit.” 

The child had already missed his May appointment because there was no coordination. He missed his June appointment because the CLA did not respond to his request.  Three days before the appointment, he died.

Since his death, I’ve been in a very hard place. My stomach keeps hurting from the stress. When I take a break and don’t answer the phone, I feel guilty. For some reason, I think a lot about his father, who called me after and thanked me. I didn’t understand him. How did he find time to thank me? And for what? His baby died.

It gets worse every day. Two weeks ago, I got a call from parents of three different children, less than a month old, also with heart conditions. They needed an ambulance to get to Erez Crossing. In the past, the Civilian Affairs Committee would arrange for ambulances, but now there’s no committee, so there’s no one to coordinate.

At first, we tried to coordinate through the ICRC, but we found out that the Palestinian Authority decision has caused chaos, and there were no clear instructions on coordinating ambulances. In the past, in most cases, transportation was coordinated by the Civilian Affairs Committee. In any case, I made the arrangement, and the children left. 

My dream is for the Gaza closure to be lifted and that I’ll be able to go there, for there to be freedom. The Palestinian Authority should have found another arrangement for patients before making such a big decision, but I don’t criticize the decision itself. Israel is responsible for the crossing and for the millions of people living in Gaza, because, ultimately, it’s the ruling power in the area, at the border crossings. Israel is preventing them from exiting.

I feel like I won’t be able to go on like this for much longer. It’s mentally grueling. Right now, most patients aren’t exiting because of coronavirus, so we handle only the urgent requests. After coronavirus, there will be many more requests, and then what?

Since June 10th, just a few weeks after the decision made by the Palestinian Authority to halt civilian and security coordination with Israel, including requests by patients from the Gaza Strip to travel to East Jerusalem and Israel, PHRI has been receiving calls from patients in the Gaza Strip who need urgent life-saving treatments or ambulance transportation using the back-to-back system (where one ambulance takes the patient to the crossing, and another completes the journey to the hospital and vice versa). Calls have come from cancer patients, heart patients, humanitarian cases involving babies and adults and more. Over the course of June and July, PHRI provided assistance in 195 urgent applications, most from cancer patients. This is five times our normal caseload, which now comes with added work as while previously PHRI intervened in cases of rejected or unanswered applications, we now manage the bureaucracy of the application process and liaise between the CLA and the patients.

Ultimately – regardless of the coordinating body involved – Israel is responsible for the lives of these patients as it wields power over their ability to access treatment. To safeguard the lives and health of Gaza’s residents, the closure has to be lifted, and patients should be given safe free passage between Gaza and the West Bank.

Best regards,

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IOF Tightens Gaza Strip Closure

Fuel Entry Suspended and Fishing Area Reduced

Ref: 72/2020, 13 August 2020

On Wednesday, 12 August 2020, Israeli authorities announced new restrictions on the movement of goods entering the Gaza Strip and reduced the fishing area, in alleged response to the launch of incendiary balloons towards Israeli settlements adjacent to the Gaza Strip. The Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Kamil Abu Rukun, stated that pursuing to security consultations, it was decided to immediately stop the entry of fuel into the Gaza Strip and reduce the permitted fishing area from 15 to 8 nautical miles until further notice. Abu Rukun added that “These decisions were made in light of the ongoing violence and launch of incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli territory.”

This decision followed the Israeli authorities’ former decision to close Karm Abu Salem crossing issued two days ago (starting from Tuesday, 11 August 2020) except for the transportation of goods for vital humanitarian cases and fuel.

The decision suspending the entry of fuel into the Gaza Strip deepens its electricity crisis and increases its 64% power deficit (pre-suspension decision). In the best case scenario, the Gaza Strip available power reaches 180 Megawatts (120 MW from Israel, and 60 MW from the Gaza power plant), a far cry from its 500 MW minimum need.

In light of the Israeli decision, it is expected that the power deficit would reach 76% after the power plant shuts, raising the hours of power outages to 16 – 20 hours per day.

This development bears warning to the impact on the lives of the 2 million Gaza residents, as their homes and workplaces will turn into hell, preventing them from leading normal lives due to the high heat and humidity. Most significantly, as the electricity crisis intensifies, basic services are expected to rapidly deteriorate, particularly health and sanitation services, including drinking water sources and sanitation services.

Furthermore, reducing the fishing area negatively affects and undermines the livelihoods of 4,160 fishermen and 700 workers in professions associated with the fishing sector i.e. the main providers for their families (a total of 27,700 persons). Even before this decision, Gazan fishermen already suffered an inability to fish and sail freely in the allowed fishing area due to the recurrent Israeli attacks at sea, the entry ban of equipment and necessary supplies for fishermen. Consequently, hundreds of fishermen are effectively unable to provide their families’ basic needs, such as food, medicine, clothing, and education.

The impact of the new Israeli decisions would deepen the humanitarian and living crises in the Gaza Strip, especially raising unemployment, poverty and food insecurity. Statistics pre-recent restrictions indicate a dangerous unemployment rate at 46%, i.e. 211,300 unemployed workers; this rate is highest among youth at 63%. Also, more than half of the Gaza Strip population suffers poverty, as data from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) indicate that the prevalence of poverty among the Gaza Strip population exceeds 53%, and more than 62.2% of the Gaza population is classified as food insecure according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

These decisions fall under the framework of the complete, illegal and unhumanitarian closure policy imposed by the Israeli authorities on the Gaza Strip since June 2007, as the Gaza Strip crossings have witnessed tightened restrictions on the movement of goods and persons.

Regarding commercial crossings, Israeli authorities continue to impose strict restrictions on the entry of goods classified as “dual use materials.” The Israeli authorities officially list 62 items as “dual use items” which contain hundreds of goods and basic materials. The items on the “dual-use goods” list are essential to the life of the population, so imposing restrictions on them contribute to the deterioration of infrastructure and the deterioration of economic, health and education conditions. Israeli authorities also continue to ban the export of Gaza Strip products, excluding limited quantities that do not surpass 5% of Gaza’s monthly exports before the closure in June 2007.

As to the crossing dedicated for movement of individuals, the extreme measures enforced by the Israeli authorities on the freedom of movement from and to the Gaza Strip via Beit Hanoun crossing are still in effect. Since early March 2020, restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities and the Palestinian Authority continued for the purpose of combating the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). These measures decreased and limited the number of persons and categories allowed to travel, as all categories were banned travel, except for limited humanitarian cases, and only patients are allowed to travel for treatment abroad.

PCHR is deeply concerned over the Israeli occupying authorities’ decisions to tighten the closure on the Gaza Strip. PCHR also considers this decision a form of collective punishment and an act of revenge against Palestinian civilians.

In light of the above, PCHR calls upon the International Community to:

    • Immediately and urgently intervene to cancel these decisions and allow the entry of fuel and all the Gaza strip population’s needs;
    • Immediately and urgently intervene to put pressure on Israel in order to expand the permitted fishing area to 20 nautical miles off the Gaza shore;
    • Force the Israeli authorities to abandon the policy of collective punishment imposed on the population of the Gaza Strip; and
    • Remind Israel of its obligations as an occupying power of the Gaza Strip to its population, in accordance with Article 55 of the Geneva Convention of 1949, which states: “The occupying Power shall, to the fullest extent of its means, provide the population with food and supplies and must take into account the needs of the civilian population”.

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COVID-19 and Human Rights – 2013 Laureate Raji Sourani

“Governments must put human rights and dignity at the centre”

Raji Sourani, The Right Livelihood Foundation, May 8, 2020

On the evening of 21 March 2020, Gaza’s health ministry confirmed the first two cases of COVID-19. Overpopulated and impoverished, the Gaza Strip faces particular vulnerability in the context of the pandemic. A potential large-scale outbreak of the virus would constitute another enormous strain on Gaza’s population, already affected by more than a decade of Israeli blockade, causing extreme poverty, harsh living conditions, dysfunctional infrastructure and a fragile healthcare system. Furthermore, Israel’s over half-century-long occupation of Gaza involved systematic human rights violations against the Palestinian population, including the use of excessive lethal force against protesters and prolonged administrative detention without charge or trial.

It is in these exceptional circumstances that 2013 Right Livelihood Award Laureate Raji Sourani has been tirelessly working to defend and promote human rights. As the most prominent human rights lawyer based in the Gaza Strip, Sourani established the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights to document and investigate human rights violations committed in the Occupied Territories, and has defended countless victims before Israeli courts. For his activism, he has been imprisoned six times by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

At the time of writing this article, 19 people in Gaza were tested positive with COVID-19. Giving the enormous challenges that this pandemic poses to the Palestinian population, we asked Sourani to give us more details about the situation in the Gaza Strip, where he currently resides.

What is the current situation in Gaza, and what are your major concerns?

Israel’s more than a decade-long closure of Gaza severely restricts the movement of people and goods. We have been in isolation for a very long time, and we know very well the implications of such an exceptional situation, that is now affecting most of the world.

At the moment, 19 people in Gaza are positive to coronavirus, 160 people in Jerusalem and 250 in the West Bank, mostly workers coming from Israel. The response to the crisis in Gaza has been mainly focused on prevention – by immediately quarantining all those coming from the outside – and on health education, including social distancing, personal protection, and hygiene rules. However, being Gaza one of the most densely populated places on earth, it became soon clear that home quarantine is not effective, and authorities have been using hotels, schools, hospital sections and health facilities to quarantine all those who have symptoms.

I am really worried about the lack of coordination between Israel and the Palestinian authority in tackling this crisis. Both of them bear the duty to provide essential health services and apply public health measures throughout this pandemic. However, this is not happening and people affected are not being treated in a non-discriminatory way.

What is the current condition of the health system and the provision of medical supplies? 

The health care system in Gaza was on the brink of collapse even before receiving its first COVID-19 patient. It has been struggling for over a decade as a result of the blockade and the destruction of infrastructure by Israel, with shortages in medical devices, drugs, equipment and health workers expertise. Despite we have qualified doctors in Gaza, they are very limited in their work because they are completely disconnected from the outside. Public health conditions are extremely poor, including lack of water and electricity.

In such a critical moment, it’s more important than ever that Israel lifts the closure on Gaza, so that it can equip itself with the necessary medical supplies to combat the pandemic. As enshrined in Article 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the occupying power has the duty of ensuring and maintaining the “adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics”. Therefore, in addition to its own citizens and residents, Israel must fulfil its duty to protect people living under its occupation. However, at the moment, medical supplies in Gaza are coming from international actors only.

What about human rights? How has your work been impacted by COVID19?

PCHR is currently very limited in its work. We are dealing with cancer cases and other life-saving cases but it has become increasingly difficult because people remain stuck outside. We have also seen an increase in problems related to gender. This pandemic has worsened the already dramatic levels of poverty, and women are those who are being most affected. PCHR has also issued a
warning
that the state of emergency should not be used as an excuse to perpetrate human rights violations, and emergency state powers granted to executive authorities must not be used in an arbitrary manner.

I am extremely worried about the plan of the new Israeli coalition government to annex parts of the West Bank. In the coalition deal he signed with Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party, Netanyahu has negotiated a right to annex parts of the West Bank from 1 July. It is clear to me that the Israeli government is using the cover of the Covid-19 pandemic to seek to implement this plan. However, the unilateral annexation of any part of the West Bank represents a serious breach of international law.

What about the impact of COVID-19 on the living conditions in Gaza? 

Gaza’s population is a physically vulnerable population, with malnutrition on the rise, dense living and housing conditions, and an elderly population without access to proper nursing care. Appalling socio-economic conditions are prevalent throughout the Strip. The blockade forced residents of Gaza into extreme poverty, by trapping them in a closed, limited job market with an unemployment rate of more than 70% among young people and around 80% of residents relying on humanitarian aid. The impact of the virus on this scenario could be dramatic, and this is what worries me the most.

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Myths about Gaza

 

4/27/20

 

Since the Coronavirus crisis began, IfNotNow has focused most of our movement’s resources on supporting the millions of Palestinian people trapped in Gaza, a densely populated strip of land that Israel’s military blockade has turned into an open air prison. Together, we gathered 13,000 signatures on a petition demanding the Israeli government lift the blockade and act to protect Gaza. And we have raised over $15,000 to provide direct medical aid to Gaza.

We did all this because the Israeli blockade — combined with Israel’s regular military assaults — have weakened Gaza’s public health system, and we know that an outbreak in Gaza would have devastating consequences.

We also know that the American Jewish establishment have defended and justified the Israeli military blockade of Gaza since it began 13 years ago. The myths they have created and perpetuated have paved the way to a complete dehumanization of the millions of people living in Gaza and a failure to put forward any serious political solutions to this crisis.

So this week, IfNotNow is organizing a digital education campaign around the 5 myths that the American Jewish establishment uses to justify the Israeli military blockade on Gaza. We’re going to explore not just the inaccuracies of these myths, but also the harm they’ve done to Palestinians.

Each day we will be debunking one new myth, each of which will be all too familiar to people who follow the news or have formal Jewish education.

We’ve been countering these myths and holding our community to account for perpetuating them since our founding, during the War on Gaza in summer 2014. And we have successfully shifted the conversation towards one that prioritizes freedom and dignity for all Palestinians and Israelis rather than endless occupation.

However, there is so much more to be done. And we’re hoping this digital education campaign can help get us there.

Here are two ways you can help make this campaign successful this week:

• Share with your friends and family. Everyday we will be posting a series of graphics and facts on social media. — and we need you to share them so your friends friends and family can learn the truth. Click here to see today’s posts from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

• Join our movement for the long haul: In the coming weeks, organizers from our movement will be having hundreds of 1-on-1 conversations with people just like you, who support our movement but never found the right opportunity to get more involved. Sign up for a 1-on-1 or an orientation workshop here.

Together, we can educate our community and grow the movement.

Let’s do this,
Yonah Lieberman
IfNotNow

Second Appeal in the COVID-19 Crisis

Ref: 36/2020
Date: 14 April 2020
Time: 10:00 GMT

 

Second Appeal in COVID-19 Crisis

PCHR Calls for Immediate Release of Minors, Women, Patients and Elderly among Palestinian Prisoners in Israeli Jails

At a time where the whole world is combating the coronavirus pandemic and States have adopted precautionary and preventive measures to defy the virus, Israeli authorities maintain the imprisonment of more than 5,000 Palestinians, including 180 children, 43 women, and more than 700 patients in harsh and unsanitary conditions that are inhumane to say the least.

Imprisonment conditions for Palestinians in Israeli jails do not meet the minimum international standards guaranteed under the international humanitarian law (IHL), as Israeli prisons provide inadequate living conditions, and they are crowded.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights has been closely following the concerning updates relevant to the reality of Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli jails with the spread of coronavirus. Despite PCHR’s numerous and urgent interventions with the Israeli authorities, and its continued demands that Israeli authorities adopt immediately and urgently the necessary measures to protect inmates from the coronavirus pandemic, Israeli authorities have adopted a number of measures that further violates prisoners’ rights. Israeli authorities have adopted strict new measures, including banning visitations with prisoners’ families, and prisoners’ lawyers since 17 March 2020, without offering an alternative mean to ensure prisoners have constant contact with their families and lawyers.

Additionally, Israeli authorities have neglected the continued and urgent requests for the immediate release of Palestinian prisoners who are considered at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19, the elderlies and the chronically ill in particular.

Making matters worse, Physicians for Human Rights received a shocking decision by the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ) rejecting its petition to the Court demanding it order the Israel Prison Service (IPS) and the Ministry of Health to ensure proper medical services are provided for Palestinian prisoners, and take necessary measures to prevent the spread of the virus within the prison system. The Court had determined that the petition did not include any legal demands that warrants its intervention; thus, it was refused.

The current situation is no different to the ongoing Israeli policy of medical negligence against Palestinian detainees, despite HCJ’s recognition in its decision of the seriousness of this deadly virus and the death rate of those affected is significantly higher among elderlies and patients suffering from chronic diseases, including heart disease, high-blood pressure and diabetes. However, HCJ’s decision ignored the need to take serious measures to protect the lives of prisoners in these categories of this deadly virus, including the need to immediately release them.

Therefore, the Israeli authorities are still failing to take urgent and serious precautions to protect the lives of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons, despite the real threat to the lives of thousands of them.

PCHR stresses that Israeli authorities do not comply with its obligations towards Palestinian detainees according to the rules of international law, including the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners in addition to the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions.

PCHR reiterates its call on the Israeli authorities to take all serious and immediate measures, which no longer can stand delays or procrastination, including providing adequate healthcare and medical treatment for the prisoners and the need for immediate release of all detainees, especially the patients, elderlies, women, and children. PCHR confirms that Israeli authorities bear full legal responsibility for the lives of Palestinian prisoners.

April 22, 2020
Gaza in Context Webinar

This webinar is part of a series of virtual events to raise funds for the Let’s Get Free 2020 Program. We are requesting a donation to join the webinar, from $0 – $50. Additional donations are welcome! Can’t attend? Donations are always welcome: DONATE HERE

Eyewitness Palestine & the March for Racial Justice are excited to host

    Learning For our Liberation:
    Gaza in Context’s Lessons for Today’s Struggles for Justice
    April 22nd – 6pm EST – Zoom Webinar
    Featuring Noura Erakat
    Human Rights Attorney, Activist, Scholar and the Film’s Co-director and Writer
    Participants of the Let’s Get Free Program

Gaza in Context
"Israel’s deliberate fragmentation of the Palestinian people and their land for the past 70 years has also fragmented the Palestinian narrative and struggle for rights. This is just one reason why it is vital that efforts to stop and reverse Israel’s colonization project adopt a holistic framework of analysis.Gaza in Context does just that: It zeroes in on Israel’s repeated assaults against the besieged strip but then broadens out to show how Israel’s attacks on Gaza are part of a consistent plan against the entire Palestinian people, a plan that from day one has sought to minimize the number of Palestinians in historic Palestine and maximize the number of Israeli Jews. The 20-minute film and accompanying educational materials succinctly provide the missing context in so many accounts of the conflict. It is an excellent entry point for the many thousands who are beginning to support Palestinian rights and an important refresher for others that have been involved in the movement for longer. Spread the word!"
~ Nadia Hijab, Executive Director, Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network
Learn more about Gaza in Context

Let’s Get Free Program
For Black youth growing up in D.C. today, the natural disaster of COVID-19 is layered right on top of a human-created disaster for Black people. The system tries to stop Black youth from thriving at every step: mass development displaces Black families, lack of medical facilities denies Black youth care, transportation gaps separate their communities from economic opportunity, and the criminal legal system pushes children straight from schools to prisons.

Through a delegation to Palestine in 2020 with Eyewitness Palestine, Black D.C. youth will have the opportunity to learn and identify methods and practices from the people of Palestine who are engaged in a daily fight for their survival. Having the chance to witness the beautiful, determined strength and love of a people suffering from White Supremacy/Settler Colonialism will change the lives of these youth forever and create clarity on the existing systems designed to destroy any resemblance of self-determination and liberation and most importantly, develop tactics to fight back against these systems.
Learn more about the Let’s Get Free Program

This webinar is part of a series of virtual events to raise funds for the Let’s Get Free 2020 Program. We are requesting a donation to join the webinar, from $0 – $50. Additional donations are welcome! Can’t attend? Donations are always welcome: DONATE HERE