Israel has kept the Karni (al-Muntar) industrial crossing into the Gaza Strip shut for weeks at a time, locking out medicines, food and goods, as well as preventing the export of agricultural produce from Gaza. Approximately 165,000 employees of the Palestinian Authority have gone without pay for more than three months, affecting the lives of at least 700,000 people. Doctors, nurses, teachers, civil servants, policemen and others return home empty-handed each day to families whose overall levels of poverty and malnutrition have grown dramatically. Save the Children UK Program Manager Jan Coffey reports that now in Gaza, 78 percent of the population lives below the poverty line ($2 per day) and that 10 percent of children under 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition.
On March 15, 2006, the World Bank published a report in which the economic outlook for the occupied Palestinian territories is assumed based on a scenario (now extant) in which tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority are withheld, trade and labor restrictions are imposed, and foreign aid reduced. Under this scenario "[r]eal GDP per capita declines by 27 percent, and personal incomes . by 30 percent -- a one-year contraction of economic activity equivalent to a deep depression. .Unemployment hits 47 percent and poverty 74 percent by 2008. By 2008, the cumulative loss in real GDP per capita since 1999 has reached 55 percent." The World Bank estimated in 2004, following "Disengagement," 2006 poverty rates in the West Bank would reach 41 percent and in the Gaza Strip 68 percent. Unemployment would be at 23 percent in the West Bank and 38 percent in the Gaza Strip. These estimates were made before the Western powers and their friends imposed the economic embargo and suspended aid to the Palestinian Authority.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has warned of a "humanitarian crisis" if the lack of aid and funding to the Palestinian Authority continues. "The ICRC is deeply concerned about the growing needs and the worsening security situation in the occupied territories, caused in large part by the decision earlier this year to withhold funds and other aid from the Palestinian Authority," it said on Monday, June 12.." [T]he occupying power -- in this case the State of Israel -- is responsible for meeting the basic needs of the civilian population of the territories it occupies. Those needs include sufficient food, medical supplies and means of shelter."
Israel's continued withholding of just Palestinian tax/customs revenues reduces the total available budget resources for the Palestinian Authority to between U.S. $700-$750 million. In the Palestinian Authority's draft budget for 2006, prepared by the IMF in December 2005, the figure needed to sustain the territories was U.S. $1.9 billion. The United States' administration nonetheless claims that no humanitarian crisis in the occupied territories exists.
The rationale for this onslaught on a civilian population? Israel says Hamas is a terrorist organization bent on Israel's destruction. As prominent Israelis and western observers have pointed out, Hamas's leadership has made it clear on numerous occasions that Israel's right to exist is not at issue. What is at issue is Israel's adamant refusal to confirm Palestine's right to exist. As Prime Minister Olmert told a joint session of the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago, "I believed, and to this day still believe, in our people's eternal and historic right to this entire land." In other words, he doesn't recognize the right of Palestinians to even the wretched cantons currently envisaged in his "realignment."
The world shook with rage at the reports from Darfur. Does not the starvation, not to mention almost daily murder of Palestinian civilians merit even a word of reproach to the government of Israel, or the U.S. and European governments that have joined in this barbaric siege?
© Creators Syndicate
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June 23, 2006 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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