OCHA’s Special Focus on Occupied Palestine

On June 9, McClatchy and other publications revealed some of what’s rarely, if ever, acknowledged in the press — that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is “economic warfare,” not for security as most commonly reported, based on an Israeli document the Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement’s lawsuit obtained.

Gisha’s director, Sari Bashi, said the document shows the siege is collective punishment, in violation of Fourth Geneva’s Article 33 stating: “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”

For over 43 years of occupation, Israel has willfully and maliciously violated this and virtually all other Fourth Geneva and other humanitarian rights law provisions.

In the wake of the Flotilla massacre, a Gisha June 9 press release headlined, “The Pyrrhic Victory of Jam and Halva,” saying:

Israel agreed to let these items, razors, coriander, cardamon, and cookies enter Gaza, after banning them for three years. However, it “continues to prevent the transfer of purely civilian goods, such as fabrics, fishing rods, and food wrappers, as part of what it calls “economic warfare” aimed at crippling Gaza’s economy, (and by doing so) denies 1.5 million human beings the right to engage in productive, dignified work,” let alone rebuild and survive under unending harshness.

The day before on June 8, the London Daily Telegraph’s Adrian Blomfield and Alex Spillius headlined, “Israel to accept British plan to ease Gaza blockade,” saying:

Its government is willing to do it “in exchange for international acceptance of a watered-down investigation into last week’s deadly raid,” massacring humanitarian activists in international waters. In other words, a whitewash, along the lines of a June 10 Haaretz Barak Ravid and Amos Harel report saying Washington and Tel Aviv agreed to let former Israeli Supreme Court Justice, Yaakov Tirkel, head an internal investigation into the matter, an idea the Obama administration proposed to include international law jurists (nationalities not named, but very likely will be Israelis) and two observers — one American, the other European.

The legality of the blockade will be examined and whether Israel’s Flotilla massacre violated international law. On June 9, “A team of (Israeli-appointed) military experts headed by Major General (res.) Giora Eiland began its own examination of the flotilla incident.”

On June 11, the neoconservative Weekly Standard’s William Kristol headlined, “Sources: Obama Administration to Support Anti-Israeli Resolution at UN Next Week,” saying:

Obama officials “have been telling foreign governments that the administration (will) support (a UN) independent commission… to investigate Israel’s behavior in the Gaza flotilla incident” — what Kristol called “an extraordinary singling out of Israel, (a biased) investigation, (and one that will set) a terrible precedent, (perhaps leading to) outside investigations of incidents involving US troops or intelligence operatives (in) our war on terror.”

On June 11, Haaretz writer Natasha Mozgovaya headlined, “US denies pushing for Gaza flotilla probe,” quoting State Department spokesman Philip Crowley, saying:

“We are not aware of any resolution that will be introduced at the UN next week…. We support an Israeli led investigation and we are open to the potential ways in which the international community can participate in it;” that is, with individuals acceptable to Israel and Washington, ruling out independent judgments — in other words, assure whitewash, the usual practice by both countries to keep sensitive information suppressed.

These investigations won’t reveal the purpose of the siege or attack, let alone their illegality. Israel needs Hamas, and would invent it if it didn’t exist as a pretext to hype fear, impose harshness, and conduct repeated assaults against bogus security threats – without challenge the way Israel’s done it for decades, the Flotilla attack the latest atrocity after thousands of others previously.

Why so this time was to maintain an oppressive siege, keep 1.5 million Gazans trapped, cause enough harm to deter other aid missions from coming, and assassinate designated activists on board, the commandos given names and photos in advance. The death toll -9 confirmed dead, another 6 or 7 missing, likely dumped overboard to perish at sea.

OCHA’s Report on Occupied Palestine

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs occupied Palestinian territory issued a May 2010 report titled, “Impending Assistance: Challenges to Meeting the Humanitarian Needs of Palestinians,” citing “obstacles to the movement of staff and goods and other restrictions impacting day-to-day operations that limit its ability to efficiently and effectively respond to existing needs.”

According to John Holmes, UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, “When the delivery of humanitarian access is restricted, lives are lost and misery prolonged needlessly.”

OCHA discussed needs throughout the Territories, but highlighted them in Gaza. Besides sweeping import restrictions, UNWRA reported its 24 construction and infrastructure projects are frozen and can’t begin, including for schools, health facilities, housing units,  sewage, and sanitation.

In the West Bank, free movement and access restrictions impede efforts, including the problems of getting permits. As a result, the needs of vulnerable Palestinians go unmet, a trend OCHA calls vital to reverse.

“A complete lifting of Israel’s (Gaza) blockade and improved (West Bank) access… are just (two) examples of measures that could significantly improve Palestinian livelihoods through a reduction in unemployment and poverty.”

Israel’s modest Gaza relaxation is woefully inadequate, and largely cosmetic. It’s a welcome baby step provided much more follows, including international community pressure to enforce change as well as political and financial support.

The General Assembly’s February 2004 Resolution 58/114 “Strengthen(ed) the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations,” stating:

“All governments and parties in complex humanitarian emergencies, in particular in armed conflicts, and in post conflict situations, in countries in which humanitarian personnel are operating, are called upon in conformity to relevant provisions of international law and international humanitarian law to: cooperate fully with the (UN) and other humanitarian agencies and organizations; and to ensure the safe and unhindered access of” personnel, supplies and equipment to aid civilians, refugees and displaced persons.

Israel refuses to honor this and dozens of other UN resolutions. As a result, humanitarian missions are severely impeded, especially in Gaza under siege. Since its onset, “the UN has literally spent thousands of staff hours attempting to secure entry of goods… with only limited success, and virtually none for reconstruction.

“Since 2007, UNWRA has been unable to complete any of its construction projects, including those projects meant to re-house 14,200 people, many of whom had their homes destroyed by Israeli military operations between 2000 and 2004,” let alone from Cast Lead.

A 2007 Khan Yunis project, funded by the Arab Emirates Red Crescent Society, planned to build 600 housing units for 3,575 individuals. Yet it was suspended after Israel prohibited entry of necessary construction materials, including for related infrastructure. 

Prior to the blockade, 151 units were partly built, and only after months of negotiations did Israel agree to let in some materials to complete them — as of May, enough only for about 13, “completely inadequate to address” the enormous need.

A new UNWRA poverty survey showed how Palestinian refugees are “completely unable to secure access to food and (lack) the means to purchase even the most basic items” like soap and safe drinking water — a population that tripled since June 2007.

Overall, the UN and other relief agencies face enormous obstacles throughout the Territories that negatively impact their operations or deter them altogether. For example, in the West Bank’s Area C, home for 60% of its population, Israeli control caused years of neglect.

As a result, a recent West Bank UNICEF, WFP, and UNRWA survey found severe restrictions on Palestinians’ access to range land and water, raising herder communities’ food insecurity levels up to 80%, compared to 25% overall in the Territory.

Construction is also impeded for needed schools, medical clinics, dwellings, and vital infrastructure as a result of the permit approval process, taking years, and discouraging funding as a result.

One example involved an ambitious 2010 plan, focused on meeting urgent West Bank water, sanitation, education, and housing needs. The proposal includes 15 projects in 17 Area C communities for 52,000 people, and for a moratorium on home demolitions for lacking permit permission to build them.

Three months after the plan’s submission, the UN and its partners still await an official Israeli response, and may wait months longer before hearing anything.

Besides numerous obstacles impeding the movement of goods and day-to-day operations, humanitarian agencies face a range of restrictions, including West Bank checkpoints and permits (taking 3-6 months to obtain), entry into East Jerusalem, and access to Gaza under siege, besides invasive searches and other measures to enter through Erez crossing.

At minimum, they delay work and raise costs. At worst, operations can’t meet the population’s needs. For example, in March 2010, UN staff reported 53 West Bank access incidents, costing 287 staff hours or the equivalent of 38 days. Over two-thirds of the delays or denials resulted from Israeli demands to carry out measures contrary to UN conventions and guidelines, such as vehicle searches and requirement that staff exit them at checkpoints.

Entering Gaza was severely restricted after September 2000, the start of the second Intifada, and today it’s much harder under siege, requiring lengthy permit procedures, many denied on “security grounds.”

Getting into Gaza is especially hard, including needing visas, then delays, strip searches, whether entry can be vehicular or on foot, and numerous other impediments affecting operations.

In June 2009, Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, called the Occupied Territory situation “wholly unacceptable” with regard to access and security of humanitarian workers, adding that:

“The violation of International Humanitarian Law is as deadly as any weapon. And no reason can justify it.”

Especially in Gaza under extreme conditions, including up to 95% of its water contaminated, according to Amnesty International, inadequate power, electricity, and sanitation, 60% of households food insecure, chronic malnutrition rising, nearly all of the Strip’s production capacity entirely or partially shut down, construction at a standstill, the fish catch down about 50%, unemployment and poverty at record high levels, the health sector overworked and unable to function optimally, education heavily impacted, and numerous other hardships unimaginable in the West.

OCHA and other international agencies are concerned, calling for the immediate, unconditional lifting of the siege as well as improved West Bank access, including to and from East Jerusalem. 

Nothing should impede humanitarian organizations from carrying out their mission effectively and efficiently. Israel, of course, does it willfully, repeatedly, and illegally, a situation no longer to be tolerated, and high time for world leaders to demand it unconditionally, something few have the courage to suggest.

A Final Comment

Commenting on the OCHA report, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said:

“The longer the (Gaza) closure continues, the more it undermines future prospects of workers and their families, in particular of the younger generation.

Restrictions on access and movement in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which include the separation barrier, checkpoints and other physical obstacles, together with an increasingly sophisticated permit system, continue to strongly undermine economic activity, the Palestinian social fabric, enterprises and the well-being of workers.”

A lasting solution to the conflict rests on building an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State living in peace and security with all its neighbors.”

In Occupied Palestine, that vision is unfulfilled, short of international solidarity to enforce it, Israeli harshness firmly in place. 

On his June 11, William Blum said, “The worst thing that ever happened to the Jewish people is the Holocaust. The(ir) second worst thing… is the state of Israel,” what Palestinians have understood for 62 years with no visible letup to this day. 

Besides innumerable daily hardships, on June 10, the International Middle East Media Center reported that 25 fundamentalist Knesset members “submitted a bill proposing that the (body) transfer money allocated to the Palestinian Authority to Jewish settlements, to punish Palestinians for their boycott campaign” as part of the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement.

The bill not only targets the Territories, it includes Israeli Arabs, stating that “Israeli citizens must not encourage, initiate or help the boycott campaign, (so those who) violate the new law” must be obligated to compensate affected Israelis.

Under the extremist Netanyahu-controlled Knesset, this is what passes for governance, and what Palestinians have to endure — but it’s one example of many. Repression continues daily in the Territories and against Arab Israeli citizens, resulting in arrests, torture and imprisonments for nonviolent protests and other lawful forms of resistance. 

Gazans remain under siege, assaulted by regular Israeli incursions, and West Bank Palestinians face similar hardships, repression and occupation viciousness, what no one ever should endure, what no civilized state would ever impose, what no world community should allow, yet it literally lets Israel get away with murder by failing to hold its officials accountable, what one day will end because what can’t go on forever, won’t, including in Occupied Palestine.

Stephen Lendman wrote How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War. Contact him at: lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM-1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening. Read other articles by Stephen.

7 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Ismail Zayid said on June 15th, 2010 at 12:27pm #

    Stephen Lendman, accurately, states: “For over 43 years of occupation, Israel has willfully and maliciously violated this and virtually all other Fourth Geneva and other humanitarian rights law provisions.” Violation of any of the articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention is defined, by international law, as a war crime. It should also be remembered that Article 1 of the Convention stipulates that the High Contracting Parties, [all signitories to the Convention], are required to condemn any state that violates any articles of the Convention and enforce the Convention . Yet, we see the major powers, who are signitories to the Convention, continue to provide aid to Israel facilitating Israeli repeated and continued violation of the Convention.

  2. Eileen Fleming said on June 15th, 2010 at 6:15pm #

    The Israeli blockade on Gaza was begun as a direct response to the election of Hamas in January 2006 and also as an evil sick ‘joke’ and not in response to Hamas seizing power back from Fatah!

    On February 19, 2006, Gideon Levy wrote for HA’ARETZ:

    “The team, headed by the prime minister’s advisor Dov Weissglas and including the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, the director of the Shin Bet and senior generals and officials, convened for a discussion with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on ways to respond to the Hamas election victory.

    “Everyone agreed on the need to impose an economic siege on the Palestinian Authority, and Weissglas, as usual, provided the punch line:

    “It’s like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but won’t die,” the advisor joked, and the participants reportedly rolled with laughter.” [1]

    The rest:

  3. Mulga Mumblebrain said on June 15th, 2010 at 10:06pm #

    In fact I believe it is true that the blockade began as soon as the Jews were evacuated from Gaza,when Israel began throttling Gazan agricultural exports.The removal of the illegal settler infestations, accompanied by the usual Israeli maudlin self-pity and narcissistic concentration on Jewish ‘suffering’ while totally ignoring far greater Gazan suffering,was part of a Zionist plan that goes back as far as the days of aiding and abetting the rise of Hamas in the 1980s. Hamas was seen as a tool to subvert Fatah, many of whose leaders, Abbas in particular, were already corrupted collaborationists of the occupiers. If Hamas rose to power, the Herrenvolk could simply throw up their hands and declare that there was no-one to negotiate with. In fact, as everyone with the least knowledge of the history of the Judaic Reich knows,it has been the Israelis who, from the very beginning of the Zionist colonial enterprise, have had absolutely no interest in negotiating with or affording recognition to people, the Palestinians, who they regard, even more than the rest of the goyim, as insects.

  4. mary said on June 15th, 2010 at 11:46pm #

    Not forgetting the US funding and equipping of Fatah which is obviously never mentioned by the Hasbara worker bees as they busy around for their queen, the Zionist state.

    U.S. funding, weapons, and training for Fatah
    Over 2006 and 2007, the United States supplied guns, ammunition, and training to Palestinian Fatah activists to take on Hamas in the streets of Gaza and the West Bank in a U.S. effort that cost $59 million and covertly persuaded Arab allies to supply more funding. A large number of Fatah activists were trained and “graduated” from two West Bank camps while Jordan and Egypt trained two Fatah battalions, one of which was deployed to Gaza in May.[6][7][8]

    According to Vanity Fair, in 2006 the United States initiated a “covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, to provoke a Palestinian civil war.” [9]


    PS Surprised this stayed on Wiki. I have been looking at some of the editing that takes place by CAMERA staff members.

  5. mary said on June 15th, 2010 at 11:53pm #

    I was watching Eileen on this video the other day – There’s Nothing Christian about Zionism – This video is an introduction to “The Crucifixion of Kindness” by Gilad Atzmon, Compassion VS Antichrists by eileen fleming, my experiences attending a John Hagee CUFI event in Miami and more published first @ WeAreWideAwake.org on June 11, 2010


    I liked Jeff Halper’s joke (in the comments)

    Here’s a ‘joke’ American Israeli Professor Jeff Halper, Co-Founder of Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions told me in 2005:
    “You know why Israel doesn’t? want to be America’s 51st state?
    “Because then they would only have two Senators.”

  6. hayate said on June 16th, 2010 at 12:27am #

    Don’t Let Enemies of Freedom Suppress the Truth about Israel’s Attack on a Humanitarian Aid Ship!
    by Al-Awda-New York: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition

    Don’t Let Enemies of Freedom Suppress the Truth about
    Israel’s Attack on a Humanitarian Aid Ship!
    All Out to the House of the Lord Church, 415 Atlantic Ave.
    Thursday June 17, 7 pm

    Two weeks ago Israeli naval commandos stormed a Turkish ship loaded with humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza. They murdered 9 unarmed passengers. The oldest, Ibrahim Bilgen, was 61. The youngest, Furkan Dogan, a U.S. citizen born in Troy, N.Y., was just 19.

    On Thursday, June 17, two eyewitnesses to this horror, U.S. filmmaker Iara Lee and British political organizer Kevin Ovenden, and Ahmet Unsal, a former Member of Turkey’s Parliament, have been invited to tell their views and stories at a public forum at Brooklyn’s historic House of the Lord Church. The meeting is cosponsored by dozens of organizations.

    They come with nothing but words. But words of truth strike fear into the hearts of certain hate-filled New York politicians who have voted time and again to turn U.S. taxpayers’ dollars into missiles and bombs for Israel’s war machine.

    On June 14, City Council speaker Christine Quinn, Reps. Jerry Nadler, Anthony Weiner, Carolyn Mahoney, Charles Rangel, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer gathered in Times Square at the behest of the so-called “Jewish Community Relations Council.” They shamelessly demanded that the State Department investigate the invited speakers for “ties to terrorism.” They want to prevent or delay their entry in the United States. This is a clear attempt to not only deny the passengers’ right to speak but to deny the people of the United States the right to hear their words.

    The group of politicians who issued this call have supported every act of terror by the Israeli state against the native people of Palestine and its neighbors. …

    Send statements supporting the right of the survivors to be heard to: gro.ynadwa-lanull@ofni

  7. mary said on June 18th, 2010 at 8:03am #

    This is one to watch.

    Egypt refuses to stop flotillas
    06/18/2010 12:16

    Cairo paper reports: Israel asks Egypt to block Iranian aid ships.

    Cairo newspaper “A-Dar” reported Friday that Israel issued a request to Egypt to prevent aid ships from Iran reaching Gaza via the Suez Canal. Egyptian officials reported the request because “it contradicts the law.”

    Egyptian authorities explained to the Cairo newspaper that Israel requested Egypt prevent any aid ships arriving from Iran passing through the Suez Canal claiming that Iran is aiding Hamas to work against Egypt.

    Egypt closes Gaza to Algerian aid
    Israel fears Lebanese ‘fast’ flotilla

    The newspaper added that Egypt refused the Israeli demands because it is not possible to prevent the passage of any ship through the canal because of international laws. Egyptians explained that they are not able to stand against the intent of Arab states, the Muslim world and international organizations to provide aid to the residents of Gaza and to lift the blockade.

    Sources at “A-Dar” reported that according to sources at the department for defending the interests of Iran in Cairo that Egypt approved the demands of hundreds of Iranians that will accompany the aid ships.