GAZA: IMPEDING ASSISTANCE: CHALLENGES TO MEETING THE HUMANITARIAN NEEDS OF PALESTINIANS

SPECIAL FOCUS
May 2010

IMPEDING ASSISTANCE: CHALLENGES TO MEETING THE HUMANITARIAN NEEDS OF PALESTINIANS

This Special Focus draws attention to the range of measures currently impeding the humanitarian community’s ability to provide assistance to vulnerable Palestinians. The delivery of principled humanitarian assistance requires an operating environment that is conducive to the regular and continued deployment of staff and supplies, and managed in accordance with the principles of impartiality, neutrality and independence. In the occupied Palestinian territory, however, the humanitarian community is facing a number of 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.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

“When the delivery of humanitarian access is restricted, lives are lost and misery prolonged needlessly.”1
John Holmes, UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

The delivery of principled humanitarian assistance requires an operating environment that is conducive to the regular and continued deployment of staff and supplies, and managed in accordance with the humanitarian principles of impartiality, neutrality and independence. In the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), however, the humanitarian community is facing a number of obstacles to the movement of staff and goods and other restrictions impacting day-to-day operations that impede the provision of humanitarian aid to vulnerable Palestinians.

The current humanitarian operation in the oPt is one of the largest in the world; at the time of its launching in November 2009, the oPt Consolidated Appeal (CAP) for 2010 ranked fifth out of 12 appeals globally, in terms of requested assistance. Through the oPt CAP, UN agencies and international and national NGOs2 requested over US$ 660 million for 2010. This support is intended to help mitigate the worst impacts of on-going conflict on the most vulnerable Palestinians, who continue to face a human dignity crisis, characterized by the erosion of livelihoods and the continued denial of basic human rights; nearly 40 percent of the Palestinian population is food-insecure and unemployment levels in the West Bank and Gaza Strip remain high.3

The humanitarian operations outlined in the oPt’s CAP occur within the context of a prolonged Israeli military occupation in which policies to alter the status and character of the territory continue to be pursued contrary to international law. The situation in the Gaza Strip, in particular, presents severe impediments to humanitarian operations. Sweeping import restrictions imposed by Israel since June 2007 have either prevented the implementation of planned humanitarian projects or resulted in significant delays. For example, UNRWA reports that it has had 24 construction and infrastructure projects, totaling some US$ 109 million in donor funds, frozen as a result of the blockade. Among the affected projects are schools, health facilities, housing units, and sewage infrastructure. Additionally, the ‘no contact’ policy of some donors, prohibiting contact with the Hamas authorities, continues to affect some humanitarian organizations, while Hamas’s requests for compliance with its administrative procedures from UN agencies and NGOs have intensified. This ‘two-way’ tension is narrowing the operational independence of some organizations and, at times, restricts on-going humanitarian operations.

In the West Bank, humanitarian organizations face ongoing restrictions on movement and access. Policies include a permit regime required for staff from the West Bank to enter East Jerusalem, and continued access difficulties stemming from the deployment of hundreds of closure obstacles, among others. In particular, agencies mandated with service provision are limited in doing so in Area C, due to the restrictive planning regime applied by Israel and restrictions to obtaining building permits and difficulties accessing certain areas.

The humanitarian community’s primary concern with the measures outlined in this report is that they impede its ability to meet the needs of vulnerable Palestinians whose livelihoods have been reduced or destroyed by years of continued occupation, conflict and the denial of basic human rights.4 More than ever, immediate steps are required to reverse this trend.

A complete lifting of Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip and improved Palestinian access to land and resources in the West Bank and external markets are just a few examples of measures that could significantly improve Palestinian livelihoods through a reduction in unemployment and poverty. Israel’s modest relaxation in recent months of some import restrictions, which have allowed for the entry to Gaza of a number of much needed, previously-restricted items, including glass, wood, and aluminum, among others, have been welcome improvements.

In addition, all parties to the conflict must abide by their international legal obligations to ensure the smooth passage of humanitarian relief and personnel, and that the humanitarian community is able to carry out its work effectively and efficiently. Additionally, there is a need for donor countries to strongly advocate for an improvement in the humanitarian situation and respect for humanitarian operations in their bilateral relations with the authorities concerned. Another necessary step is that relevant donor countries and affected humanitarian organizations re-evaluate their position vis-à-vis the ‘no contact’ policy, where humanitarian operations are concerned, as well as related funding restrictions. Finally, the humanitarian community needs financial support for initiatives designed to resolve or overcome access issues and other restrictions on humanitarian operations.

Endnotes
1Quoted in “OCHA on Message: Humanitarian Access,” April 2010. Original quote from an August 2009 op-ed.
2The humanitarian strategy under-pinning the 2010 CAP is supported by 236 projects, comprising 147 from the NGO community and 89 from UN agencies.

3For additional details on the parameters of the human dignity crisis, see OCHA oPt, “Locked In: The humanitarian impact of two years of blockade on the Gaza Strip,” August 2009 and the oPt Consolidated Appeal for 2010.

4While the report draws attention to some of the specific ways in which the population is impacted, this subject is treated more fully in other OCHA oPt reports, so a detailed impact analysis is not included here. See, for example, regular OCHA oPt reports, “Protection of Civilians Weekly Report” and the monthly “Humanitarian Monitor.” For the impact of specific restrictions, see OCHA oPt Special Focus reports, such as “Locked In”, August 2009, and “Restricting Space: The planning and zoning regime applied by Israel in Area C of the West Bank,” December 2009.

REF: http://unispal.un.org/

BREAKING THE ILLEGAL ISRAHELL BLOCKAGE!!!

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Israel to stop Gaza aid ships

Strenger than Fiction / In order to change its image, Israel must change its policy

Saying Israel is progressive and creative doesn’t work when its politicians focus on victimhood and aggression.

One of the Foreign Ministry’s most important projects over the last years has been to research how Israel can rebrand and reposition itself in the world. The project has involved first class researchers in Israel and abroad, and I have been very impressed by the quality of the data and the analysis.

The first conclusion of the ‘Branding Israel’ project has been that Israel needs to focus on the young global elites, because these are today’s opinion shapers, and tomorrow’s political leaders. These elites, as research by economist Richard Florida has shown, and my own research confirms, possess liberal and progressive world views. They are repelled by bigotry, violence and intolerance, and they utterly reject political and military repression.

So far, the Israeli narrative has been governed by themes like victimhood and the struggle for survival. Accordingly, Israel’s image has been built primarily around the army and has always centered on the conflict with the Arab world – as a result, Israel is perceived as aggressive, withdrawn, without joie de vivre, and therefore negative.

The most important positive result of the ‘Branding Israel’ project has been that during the last decades, a powerful new sub-brand of Israel has evolved: it is called Tel Aviv, it is associated with Israel’s culture, technology and joie de vivre: it is perceived as liberal in outlook, full of vitality, creativity and oriented toward the future. Hence, the study concludes, Israel must rebrand itself as creative, vital and progressive; an image that has positive resonance with the young global elites.

However, there is one major obstacle in the path to rebranding Israel. Our politicians don’t seem to understand how the mechanism of rebranding works. They confuse the old concept of ‘hasbara’, which literally means ‘explanation’ with branding. Explaining and arguing has no impact whatsoever on how people experience a person or a brand. Our relationship to brands is like our relationship to human beings: it is primarily emotional.

If somebody explains to you that she is a nice person, but does so sternly and harshly, it is the tone of voice rather than the content of the message that determines the listener’s emotional reaction. Moreover: if you explain that you are nice, and are then seen behaving violently, it is the behavior rather than the words that will determine the emotional reaction. We all know this: if an airline explains to you that it is friendly, but you are treated dismally by its employees, you will tell your friends that the airline is horrible, not that it is friendly. Ultimately perception of a brand hinges on actual behavior and organizational culture, not propaganda.

Our politicians keep maintaining the image of Israel as obsessed with power and survival and reinforce Israel’s image as a negative world-presence. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman use every opportunity to compare the Iranian threat to the Holocaust and Netanyahu keeps expressing his concern for the Jewish people. Interior Minister Eli Yishai keeps repeating that Israel will continue to build in Jerusalem forever. In addition BBC broadcasts pictures of settlers hitting Palestinians and uprooting their olive trees. Lieberman may think that rebranding Israel will divert attention from the conflict, but this will not work.

Israel’s politicians and many of its well-meaning defenders say things like ‘but BBC and CNN are tendentious: why don’t they broadcast pictures of Israel’s medical breakthroughs and of its rescue team in Haiti?’ The answer is that in a free world you cannot dictate to the media what to broadcast. Because Israel’s actions in the territories are seen as its true nature, Israel’s sending its rescue team to Haiti is interpreted by many in the world, unfortunately and unjustly, as nothing but a propaganda effort.

Here we come to the deeper problem: in the same way an airline is, in the end, judged by its service, not by its advertising slogans, Israel is judged by its actions and not by hasbara. If Netanyahu wants Israel to be seen as progressive, liberal and creative, he cannot continue to build in Jerusalem, or say in his speeches that he will continue to do so forever. This is seen by the world as reactionary, repressive and brutal, not because the world is biased, but because Israel’s policy of dispossession in Jerusalem and in the settlements is indeed reactionary and repressive and cannot be justified by any security interest.

Israel will have to decide: it cannot rebrand itself as a liberal, creative and progressive country without being one. Our business sector, our artists and academics are mostly progressive, liberal and creative. But their impact on how Israel is perceived will remain negligible as long as Israel’s politicians and emissaries keep harping on victimhood and survival and as long as its policies are repressive.

This being said, for me the most important point is not how the world perceives us, but how Israel really is. We should care about being liberal, progressive and creative because these are values in themselves. Once the young global elites of the world will see that this is what we are, because we will have changed Israel’s policies, Branding Israel will take care of itself.

REf: Haaretz

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Special Place in Hell / Rebranding Israel as a State Headed for Fascism

SHIP 2 GAZA: 8 boats on their way 2 break the israeli illegal shoah blockade of Gaza

Ship to Gaza is an initiative of practical solidarity with the people in Gaza. As soon as it is economically and practically possible, we intend to send a ship with supplies that are in great demand from Scandinavia via ports in Europe and the Mediterranean Sea to Gaza. In the ports that are visited on the way, cultural and advocacy events will be organised in collaboration with local organisations. Upon arrival in Gaza, the aid will be administered by politically independent organisations.

Ship to Gaza

ISRAELI NUCLEAR BANALITY: how Israel offered to sell South Africa the bomb (When will we put sanctions on Israhell?)

Revealed: how Israel offered to sell South Africa nuclear weapons

Exclusive: Secret apartheid-era papers give first official evidence of Israeli nuclear weapons

Secret South African documents reveal that Israel offered to sell nuclear warheads to the apartheid regime, providing the first official documentary evidence of the state’s possession of nuclear weapons.

The “top secret” minutes of meetings between senior officials from the two countries in 1975 show that South Africa‘s defence minister, PW Botha, asked for the warheads and Shimon Peres, then Israel’s defence minister and now its president, responded by offering them “in three sizes”. The two men also signed a broad-ranging agreement governing military ties between the two countries that included a clause declaring that “the very existence of this agreement” was to remain secret.

The documents, uncovered by an American academic, Sasha Polakow-Suransky, in research for a book on the close relationship between the two countries, provide evidence that Israel has nuclear weapons despite its policy of “ambiguity” in neither confirming nor denying their existence.

The Israeli authorities tried to stop South Africa’s post-apartheid government declassifying the documents at Polakow-Suransky’s request and the revelations will be an embarrassment, particularly as this week’s nuclear non-proliferation talks in New York focus on the Middle East.

They will also undermine Israel’s attempts to suggest that, if it has nuclear weapons, it is a “responsible” power that would not misuse them, whereas countries such as Iran cannot be trusted.

South African documents show that the apartheid-era military wanted the missiles as a deterrent and for potential strikes against neighbouring states.

The documents show both sides met on 31 March 1975. Polakow-Suransky writes in his book published in the US this week, The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s secret alliance with apartheid South Africa. At the talks Israeli officials “formally offered to sell South Africa some of the nuclear-capable Jericho missiles in its arsenal”.

Among those attending the meeting was the South African military chief of staff, Lieutenant General RF Armstrong. He immediately drew up a memo in which he laid out the benefits of South Africa obtaining the Jericho missiles but only if they were fitted with nuclear weapons.

The memo, marked “top secret” and dated the same day as the meeting with the Israelis, has previously been revealed but its context was not fully understood because it was not known to be directly linked to the Israeli offer on the same day and that it was the basis for a direct request to Israel. In it, Armstrong writes: “In considering the merits of a weapon system such as the one being offered, certain assumptions have been made: a) That the missiles will be armed with nuclear warheads manufactured in RSA (Republic of South Africa) or acquired elsewhere.”

But South Africa was years from being able to build atomic weapons. A little more than two months later, on 4 June, Peres and Botha met in Zurich. By then the Jericho project had the codename Chalet.

The top secret minutes of the meeting record that: “Minister Botha expressed interest in a limited number of units of Chalet subject to the correct payload being available.” The document then records: “Minister Peres said the correct payload was available in three sizes. Minister Botha expressed his appreciation and said that he would ask for advice.” The “three sizes” are believed to refer to the conventional, chemical and nuclear weapons.

The use of a euphemism, the “correct payload”, reflects Israeli sensitivity over the nuclear issue and would not have been used had it been referring to conventional weapons. It can also only have meant nuclear warheads as Armstrong’s memorandum makes clear South Africa was interested in the Jericho missiles solely as a means of delivering nuclear weapons.

In addition, the only payload the South Africans would have needed to obtain from Israel was nuclear. The South Africans were capable of putting together other warheads.

Botha did not go ahead with the deal in part because of the cost. In addition, any deal would have to have had final approval by Israel’s prime minister and it is uncertain it would have been forthcoming.

South Africa eventually built its own nuclear bombs, albeit possibly with Israeli assistance. But the collaboration on military technology only grew over the following years. South Africa also provided much of the yellowcake uranium that Israel required to develop its weapons.

The documents confirm accounts by a former South African naval commander, Dieter Gerhardt – jailed in 1983 for spying for the Soviet Union. After his release with the collapse of apartheid, Gerhardt said there was an agreement between Israel and South Africa called Chalet which involved an offer by the Jewish state to arm eight Jericho missiles with “special warheads”. Gerhardt said these were atomic bombs. But until now there has been no documentary evidence of the offer.

Some weeks before Peres made his offer of nuclear warheads to Botha, the two defence ministers signed a covert agreement governing the military alliance known as Secment. It was so secret that it included a denial of its own existence: “It is hereby expressly agreed that the very existence of this agreement… shall be secret and shall not be disclosed by either party”.

The agreement also said that neither party could unilaterally renounce it.

The existence of Israel’s nuclear weapons programme was revealed by Mordechai Vanunu to the Sunday Times in 1986. He provided photographs taken inside the Dimona nuclear site and gave detailed descriptions of the processes involved in producing part of the nuclear material but provided no written documentation.

Documents seized by Iranian students from the US embassy in Tehran after the 1979 revolution revealed the Shah expressed an interest to Israel in developing nuclear arms. But the South African documents offer confirmation Israel was in a position to arm Jericho missiles with nuclear warheads.

Israel pressured the present South African government not to declassify documents obtained by Polakow-Suransky. “The Israeli defence ministry tried to block my access to the Secment agreement on the grounds it was sensitive material, especially the signature and the date,” he said. “The South Africans didn’t seem to care; they blacked out a few lines and handed it over to me. The ANC government is not so worried about protecting the dirty laundry of the apartheid regime’s old allies.”

Ref: Guardian

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Australia expels Israeli diplomat

Australia has ordered the explusion of an Isreali diplomat over the use of fake passports in the assassination of a senior Hamas commander in Dubai in January.

Australian investigators say Israel was responsible for forging four Australian passports that were used in the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel.

“These investigations and advice have left the government in no doubt that Israel was responsible for the abuse and counterfeiting of these passports,” Stephen Smith, the Australian foreign minister, told Australia’s parliament on Monday.

Smitth said that the operation to kill Al-Mabhouh was not the first time Israel had forged Australian travel documents. He did not elaborate on previous incidents.

Australian investigators concluded the fake passports were the work of Mossad, Israel’s state intelligence agency.

“No government can tolerate the abuse of its passports, especially by a foreign government,” the foreign minister said.

“This represents a clear affront to the security of our passport system.”

Australia and Isreal had been close allies prior to the incident.

Furore

The scandal over the use of fake passports erupted after the January 20 murder of the Hamas commander.

Police in Dubai identified dozens of people involved in the assassination, who entered the country using fraudulent British, Irish, French, German and Australian passports.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Dubai police are also seeking the arrest of another British man in connection with the assassination.

Interpol is understood to have issued an arrest warrant for Christopher Lockwood, a 62 year old British national, following a request from the Dubai police.

Britian expelled an Israeli diplomat in March after also concluding that Isreal was responsible for forging 12 British passports to facilitate the killing.

In February, Avigdor Lieberman, the Isreali foreign minister, said there was no evidence to link his country to the assassination.

Ref: Al Jazeera

GAZA MASSCRE: New weapons experimented in Gaza: population risks genetic mutations

By NewWeapons Committee – 11 May 2010
www.newweapons.org/?q=node/113

PRESS RELEASE – 2010 may 11th

Toxic and carcinogenic metals, able to produce genetic mutations, have been found in the tissues of people wounded in Gaza during Israeli military operations of 2006 and 2009. The research has been carried out on wounds provoked by weapons that did not leave fragments in the bodies of the victims, a peculiarity that was pointed out repeatedly by doctors in Gaza. This shows that experimental weapons, whose effects are still to be assessed, were used.

The researchers compared the quantity of 32 elements present in the tissues through ICP/MS (a type of highly sensitive mass spectrometry) . The job, carried out by laboratories of Sapienza University of Rome (Italy), Chalmer University (Sweden) and Beirut University (Lebanon), was coordinated by the New Weapons Research Group (Nwrg), an independent committee of scientists and experts based in Italy, who is studying the use of unconventional weapons and their mid-term effects on the population of after-war areas. The relevant presence of toxic and carcinogenic metals found in the wound tissues points to direct risks for survivors, but also to the possibility of environmental contamination.

Biopsies of tissues were performed by doctors of Shifa hospital, in Gaza city, who selected and classified the type of wounds. Research was conducted on 16 tissue samples belonging to 13 victims. Four biopsies were taken in June 2006, during the operation “Summer Rains”, while the others were taken in the first week of January 2009, during the operation “Cast Lead”. All tissues were appropriately preserved and then examined by each of the three universities.

Some of the elements found are carcinogenic (mercury, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, nickel and uranium), others are potentially carcinogenic (cobalt and vanadium), others are also fetotoxic (alluminium, copper, barium, lead and manganese). The first ones can produce genetic mutations; the second ones can have the same effect on animals, but they are not proven to do the same on people; the third ones have toxic effects on people ad can affect either the embryo or the foetus in pregnant women. All metals found in high amounts have pathogenic effects on human respiratory organs, kidney and skin and affect sexual and neurological development and functions.

“Nobody – says professor Paola Manduca, spokesperson for the New Weapons Research Group, genetics teacher and researcher at the University of Genoa – had never conducted bioptic analysis on tissue samples from wounds. We have focused on wounds made by weapons that do not leave fragments, as the doctors from Gaza reported on them repeatedly. We wanted to verify the presence of metals that remained on the skin and in the derma. It was suspected that these metals were present in the weapons that leave no fragments, but it had never been demonstrated before. To our surprise even the burns provoked by white phosporus contain high amount of metals. Moreover, the presence of these metals in the weapons implies that they have been dispersed in the environment, in unknown amounts and range; they have been inhaled by the victims and by bystanders, thus constituting a risk for survivors and for people that were not directly hit by the bombing.”

The research follows two previous studies conducted by Nwrg. The former was published on december 17th 2009 and statued the presence of toxic metals in areas around the craters provoked by the Israeli bombing on Gaza Strip. The latter was published on March 17th 2010 and it pointed out the presence of toxic metals in hair samples of Palestinian children of Gaza Strip area hit by Israeli bombings. Both point to the presence of environmental contamination, aggravated by the living conditions on the ground and often in shelters exposed to wind and dust, due to the impossibility to rebuild housing imposed by the Israeli blockade to the entrance of needed building materials and tools.

Ref: IOA