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August 23, 2010

Darkness Dawns at Ramadan

By Eva Bartlett

Gaza is running out of drinking water. Credit:Eva Bartlett/IPS

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip, Aug 22, 2010 (IPS) – “It’s been days without electricity and water. We can’t do anything, and it’s unbearably hot now.” Abu Fouad, 83, speaks of the power cuts plaguing all of the Gaza Strip.

While Palestinians in Gaza have grown accustomed to power outages, a combined result of the destroyed power plant, bombed by Israeli in 2006, and the siege imposed by Israel and the international community, the blackouts have increased in frequency and duration.

For years, Palestinians in Gaza have been subject to power outages, ranging from six hours to 14 hours a day. More recently, the blackouts last entire days.

The main reason is a reported lack of fuel for the plant, fuel which since November 2009 the Palestinian Authority has been responsible for buying and transferring to Gaza.

Making matters worse, Gaza is experiencing a wave of intolerable heat and humidity. Temperatures have soared to between 35-40 degrees Celcius, with humidity up to 65 percent.

Umm Fouad is 64, has had 15 children, and has a consequently fatigued body. With her poor health, she is constantly tired on a good day.

“It’s so hot. All day long I can’t breathe, and I’m exhausted. There’s no relief. Even when there is electricity, the ceiling fan just pushes the hot air around. But now without electricity for so long, everything is even hotter and harder.”

Ramadan, a month of fasting, is also a time of joy for Muslims. Yet this is one of the hardest Ramadans Abu Fouad’s family has faced.

Aside from the dangerously high heat and humidity, there are practical concerns. “We can’t make bread, there’s no electricity for the hotplate, and we don’t have cooking gas,” says Umm Fouad.

“It’s been three days we haven’t had water,” says Abu Jaber, 45, one of Abu Fouad’s many sons. His apartment is on the third floor of the simple concrete house, and during the summer month heats up until it is unbearable to be indoors.

“There are 53 people living in this house. Our six apartments each need around 1,500 litres of water per day, for cooking, laundry, cleaning, bathing…and that’s excluding drinking water.”

Like other homes in the neighbourhood, the house is not connected to town water lines. Instead, when town water runs to a public line 150 metres from the home, Abu Fouad hooks up a hose and through a series of pumps, sends it up to the roof storage containers. “We need five pumps to bring the water from town connection to the roof of our house,” explains Abu Jaber.

Throughout the Strip, water lines are affected by the lack of electricity, meaning entire areas are cut off from running water for as long as the blackouts last.

A Gaza-wide lack of water compounds the problem. The United Nations notes that 43 percent of water in the networks is lost to leakages that result from a need to rehabilitate the water networks. But under siege, bringing the basic piping and materials needed for this project is impossible.

“Now that the power outages last for days at a time, my father isn’t able to bring the water our family needs,” says Abu Jaber.

“When our area has electricity, the water lines aren’t running. And when there’s water, we don’t have electricity. So he ends up staying awake all night waiting for electricity to come.”

Abu Fouad explains the water tank routine he takes care of. “In good circumstances, when we have electricity, it still takes at least an hour and a half to pump the water to each 1,500 litre tank. Since there are six tanks, it takes almost half a day.”

But that’s when there is regular electricity. Now with the power cuts, he is left waiting for the time when electricity and town water coincide.

“I’m worried about everyone in our house. They all need water. How will they wash for prayers? How will they cool down in this heat?”

The head of the family, he thinks of his children and their families. “Everyone comes home from work or school wanting to wash and refresh. But now its very hard for them to do so.”

A devout Muslim, he worries about cleanliness for praying. “Now that it is Ramadan, it’s all the more important to wash. I don’t ask for much, but I do need to wash my hands, face, body before praying, and I pray five times a day.”

Waiting for the chance to refill their water tanks, Abu Fouad misses out on rest.

“I’m not sleeping much. It’s easier to go without sleep when you are young, but when you are older like me, and in this heat, you suffer. I’m very tired. My joints ache. I need this rest. I need the cleansing water.”

Abu Jaber agrees that the problem impacts the entire house. “My daughter studies virtually at university, and she absolutely needs a computer and internet access to do her studies.”

His eight-year-old son, Ahmed, also feels the cuts. “He’s fasting this year. He fasted last year, no problem. But because there’s no relief from this intense heat, he’s finding it very hard physically this year.” Abu Jaber speaks of his younger brother, 31, and without work for several years. “My brother opened an ice cream shop a few months ago, to work during the summer months. And just when he started to get customers and collect what he’d invested, the power cuts got worse.”

“The money I earn from the shop doesn’t compensate me for what I spent to open it. My generator isn’t meant to run for hours at a time,” says Abu Oday. “And to run it six hours costs me 30 shekels (seven dollars) in fuel.”

Unemployed before opening the shop, the 29-year-old wanted an income to support his wife and three children. “I end up paying more for the diesel and generator maintenance than I earn. So I’m closing the shop.”

The problems of one family are mirrored by families around the Strip, with a population of 1.5 million people in a very small, very hot piece of land.

“Because of the electricity and water shortages, it’s the hardest Ramadan I’ve experienced yet,” Umm Fouad says. “But we will continue to fast.” (END)


‘Israel was attacked in ‘47′ and other howlers from the pen of George Will

Aug 22, 2010 11:21 am | Howard Kyle

Weiss: Praise the lord, George Will is in Jerusalem opining for the Washington Post in the most reactionary manner possible about the Jews’ ancient claim to the land based on a ring found near the western wall and other hokum. Max Blumenthal has a great response to Will that includes the statement: “To understand the sheer insanity of Netanyahu’s magical ring story, consider how I would be received if my grandfather, Hymie Blumenthal, changed his name to Hymie Quetzalcoatl, then I asserted a historical mandate to rule over Mexico because Quetzalcoatl was a deity of the inhabitants of the ancient Toltec city of Teotihuacan. I would have a hard time being taken as seriously as David Koresh or the Unabomber.”

Meantime, Howard Kyle, a longtime student of the issue, sent us a letter he has sent to George Will. Here it is:

The following is a response to your August 19 column, Skip the lecture on Israel’s ‘risks for peace’.

I agree with your main point that it is “fatuous” or “obscene” to lecture Israel on taking risks for peace. Instead we should be lecturing Israel on their obligation to comply with international law in order to achieve peace.

In July 2004, the International Court of Justice in an advisory opinion ruled that both Israel’s separartion wall and its associated regime of check points, settlements, and by pass roads in the West Bank were illegal. The ICJ further stated that an occupying power cannot claim that the lawful inhabitants of the occupied territory constitute a “foreign” threat for the purposes of Article 51 of the UN Charter. The ICJ noted that Israeli settlements and the displacement of Palestinians is a violation of Article 49, paragraph 6, of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The ICJ further cited Israel’s on going, oppressive policy of land confiscations, house demolitions, creation of Jewish only enclaves, restrictions on movement and access to water, food, education, health care and employment, as being in violation of its obligations under international law and the Palestinian right to self determination.

This is what anyone seriously interested in peace should be lecturing Israel about. All else, as they say, is just commentary. However, you completely ignore this most relevant point and go on to promulgate distorted history and and a completely Israelicentric point of view.

Let me start with this careless statement.

“On Nov. 29, 1947, the United Nations recommended a partition plan. Israel accepted the recommendation. On Nov. 30, Israel was attacked.”

Israel didn’t come into existence until May 14/15,1948. It was the Jewish Agency that accepted the partition plan on behalf of the Jewish Community in Palestine. The plan was rejected by the Arab community and for good reason. The partition plan gave 57% of the land as well as 84% of the prime agricultural land to the Jews who constituted only 33% of the population and most of whom were recent immigrants. Jews comprised only 7% of the population in Palestine when the Balfour Declaration was issued in 1917.

Second, the recommended partition plan was just that – a recommendation. It did not have the force of law. That would have required a Security Council resolution. The partition plan also required certain preconditions be met. Among these were the establishment of both an Arab and a Jewish state as well an international zone to include Jerusalem for it to take effect. It was not a unilateral choice. The proposed states were required to adopt a constitution ensuring the civil and religious rights of all their citizens and to form an economic union. None of which ever happened. (Israel still has no formal constitution, generally considered a hallmark of a democratic state.)

You write sympathetically of Israeli parents, who ten years ago, during the intifada would put their school bound children “on separate buses to decrease the chance that neither would return for dinner.” Yet, you ignore the routine violence and harassment that Palestinian school children in the occupied areas experience today from ultra nationalist settlers.

Just this April, an Israeli settler deliberately drove his vehicle into a group of Palestinian school children as they walked to school in At-Tuwani. The children from this and the neighboring villages require a military escort to and from school because of repeated attacks by Israeli settlers from Ma’on settlement and Havat Ma’on outpost. You might find it enlightening to read The Closed Road to Education: Palestinian Students suffer under violent settlement expansion by a group called Christian Peacemakers Team (For your convenience

You get in a dig about the late Yasser Arafat whom you describe as a “terrorist and Nobel Peace Prize winner.” Was it your intention to create the impression that this irony is unique to the Palestinians? You must be aware that former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978. During the British Mandate era, Begin was head of the Irgun, which the British government declared a terrorist organization. Begin was responsible for the King David Hotel bombing in 1946 which killed more than 90 people and the massacre of 240 men, women and children on April 9, 1948 at Dier Yassin. Perhaps you buy into the discredited notion that he, unlike Arafat, was a “freedom fighter.”

You place responsibility for the intifada solely on Arafat, who you say “launched” it, even though a US fact-finding U.S. committee led by Senator George J. Mitchell reviewed such allegations and found “no basis on which to conclude that there was a deliberate plan by the PA to initiate a campaign of violence.” However, Mitchell did note one cause:

Palestinians are genuinely angry at the continued growth of settlements and at their daily experiences of humiliation and disruption as a result of Israel’s presence in the Palestinian territories. Palestinians see settlers and settlements in their midst not only as violating the spirit of the Oslo process, but also as application of force in the form of Israel’s overwhelming military superiority.

You resurrect the old canard of Ehud Barak’s so called “generous offer.” You write that during the July 2000 Camp David meeting, then Prime Minister Barak “offered to cede control of all of Gaza and more than 90 percent of the West Bank, with small swaps of land to accommodate the growth of Jerusalem suburbs just across the 1949 armistice line” and by rejecting Israeli generosity those silly Palestinians missed an opportunity to have a state.

Let’s look at that so called generous offer in more detail. According to an analysis by Seth Ackerman:

The annexations and security arrangements would divide the West Bank into three disconnected cantons. In exchange for taking fertile West Bank lands that happen to contain most of the region’s scarce water aquifers, Israel offered to give up a piece of its own territory in the Negev Desert–about one-tenth the size of the land it would annex–including a former toxic waste dump.

Palestinians living in their new “independent state” would be forced to cross Israeli territory every time they traveled or shipped goods from one section of the West Bank to another, and Israel could close those routes at will. Israel would also retain a network of so-called “bypass roads” that would crisscross the Palestinian state.

Israel was also to have kept “security control” for an indefinite period of time over the Jordan Valley. Palestine would not have free access to its own international borders with Jordan and Egypt–putting Palestinian trade, and therefore its economy, at the mercy of the Israeli military.

The Palestinians would have permanently locked in place many of the worst aspects of the very occupation they were trying to bring to an end.

But don’t just take his word for it. Here’s what Shlomo Ben-Ami, Israel’s Foreign Minister and key negotiator at Camp David had to say about the generous offer in a 2006 radio interview: “Camp David was not the missed opportunity for the Palestinians, and if I were a Palestinian I would have rejected Camp David, as well.”

You write: “The creation of Israel did not involve the destruction of a Palestinian state, there having been no such state since the Romans arrived.” Yes, but Palestine was a defined territory when under Ottoman rule, and more importantly, was recognized as such by both the League of Nations and the UN. An indigenous population had been living there more than there for more than 1,000 years.

Under the League of Nations, Palestine was classified as a Class A Mandate. As such it was considered advanced enough politically and economically that a provisional independence could be granted, “subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance.” Upon termination of a mandate sovereignty was to be automatically vested in the people of that territory. Palestine was the only Class A Mandate under the League that was not granted independent statehood.

You write: “In the 62 years since this homeland was founded on one-sixth of 1 percent of the land of what is carelessly and inaccurately called “the Arab world,” Israelis have never known an hour of real peace.” Yes and was that not to be expected? No one forced Israel to declare itself into existence when and where it did. It knew the neighborhood and the risks. It knew that none of the Arab nations that would be its neighbors voted in support of partition nor would the partition resolution have passed in the General Assembly were it not for extensive United States lobbying.

By early 1948 it was widely accepted that the partition plan would not work. That is why the UN started to back away from it and began work on a U.S. proposed UN Trusteeship Plan for Palestine. Unfortunately, President Truman, yielding to Zionist pressure, killed this effort when he blindsided his own delegation at the UN by recognizing the new state of Israel 11 minutes after it declared its existence.

The Trusteeship Plan was intended to provide for a peaceful transition from the British Mandate into a new governmental entity in Palestine capable of serving and protecting all of its citizens – Jew, Christian and Moslem. It would have prevented the misery and suffering caused by the forced displacement of 750,000 Palestinian refugees by Israel In its War for Independence that is the root cause of the problems there today.

US Secretary of State George Marshall and Defense Secretary James Forrestal both opposed Truman’s rapid recognition of the Jewish state. Their opposition was based in part on the regional instability that would inevitably result from establishing a colony of 800,000 recently arrived European Jewish immigrants in the midst of 22 million Muslims sympathetic to the Palestinians.

You mention the 1936 Peel Commission which originally proposed a partition plan for Palestine that was shot down by both Arabs and Zionists. It would have been more appropriate to reference the 1946 Joint Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine whose report has more relevance to the current situation. Among the Committee’s key recommendations:

In order to dispose, once and for all, of the exclusive claims of Jews and Arabs to Palestine, we regard it as essential that a clear statement of the following principles should be made: That Jew shall not dominate Arab and Arab shall not dominate Jew in Palestine. That Palestine shall be neither a Jewish state nor an Arab state…We, therefore, emphatically declare that Palestine is a Holy Land, sacred-to Christian, to Jew and to Moslem alike; and because it is a Holy Land, Palestine is not, and can never become, a land which any race or religion can justly claim as its very own.

Truman rejected all of the Committee’s recommendations except one calling for a temporary increased Jewish immigration to Palestine.

Perhaps this “homeland” that, as you say, has “never known an hour of real peace” would have had a different fate if it had given the UN Trusteeship Plan a chance to achieve a peaceful resolution instead of undermining it.

If there is ever to be a resolution to the Palestinian Israeli issue, it will only be achieved by an open minded, thorough and honest understanding of the issues involved. A true peace, one that is just, sustainable and most importantly, grounded in international law, cannot be built upon myths and half truths. Your column does not help to achieve that type of peace. In fact, it does the opposite.


Norman Finkelstein : we want a reasonable settlement

RT speaks to U.S. author, academic and outspoken Palestinian supporter, Norman Finkelstein, as he is lobbying to speak at the United Nations to promote progress for a Middle-East Peace Process.

Zionist Fanatics Interviewed!

“We came here to a country that was populated by Arabs and we are building here a Hebrew, a Jewish state; instead of the Arab villages, Jewish villages were established. You even do not know the names of those villages, and I do not blame you because these villages no longer exist. There is not a single Jewish settlement that was not established in the place of a former Arab Village.” ­ Moshe Dyan, March 19, 1969, speech at the Technion in Haifa, quoted in Ha’aretz, April 4, 1969.

US Boat to GAZA Fundraiser

Lets Set Sail to GAZA on “The Audacity of Hope”

Saturday August 28, 2010 7:00 – 9:30 PM

Speakers, Food, Music

The Potter’s House 1658 Columbia Road NW Washington, DC 20009


Contact: Alice Azzouzi – 703-862-3622

Dear Friends,

This is an important moment in history. In the aftermath of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre and increased world-wide scrutiny of Israel’s blockade of Gaza, the Israeli government has mounted a huge public relations campaign spreading the lie that by letting a few more items into Gaza the blockade has been lifted.

This is not the reality. Gaza is still under siege, vital building materials and other supplies are banned, exports of goods from Gaza are denied and neither ships nor people can travel without permission from Israel, permission which Israel will not give. Gaza is essentially an open-air prison under a U.S.-backed Israeli blockade.

We are planning to launch a U.S. boat to Gaza, joining a flotilla of ships from Europe, Canada, India, South Africa and parts of the Middle East due to set sail in September/ October of this year. In order to succeed in this essential but costly human rights project, we need significant financial support. Citizens around the world have responded to the plight of the Palestinian people and are taking action to help break the blockade which is suffocating the lives of the people of Gaza and denying them their liberty.

The U.S. government is complicit through established policies that uncritically support Israel in its brutal attack on the Palestinian people and on those who attempt to intervene on their behalf. We in the United States must continue to step up and do our part. We must join with others from across the world to support an end to the collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. We turn to you to help make the U.S. boat, The Audacity of Hope, a reality.

The cost is $ 370,000, of which we have raised $ 150,000 so far. We must raise at least $ 200,000 in the next month. These funds will be used to purchase a boat large enough for 40-60 people, secure a crew, and cover the licensing and registering of the boat. In addition, the funds will subsidize some other costs of sending a U.S. delegation. We can make this happen together. For example, with 370 people giving $1,000, or with 3,700 people giving $100, we will have raised our full amount. We have already received donations ranging from $10 to $10,000. So, give what you can and give generously.
From the deck of The Audacity of Hope, we will be in a powerful and unique position to challenge U.S. foreign policy and affirm the universal obligation to uphold human rights and international law. Let us act now because every moment counts and every dollar counts. Together we will contribute to the great effort to end the blockade of Gaza and the illegal occupation of Palestine.

To learn more and to donate on-line, go to:

Please spread this appeal letter far and wide, so that others will contribute as well.

Thank you for your generosity.

On behalf of the U.S. BOAT TO GAZA,

Checks payable to: Way to Jerusalem PHC, write: U.S. BOAT TO GAZA in the memo.

Mail to: The Way to Jerusalem Mission Group

The Potter’s House 1658 Columbia Rd NW Washington, DC 20009

Alice Azzouzi – 703-862-3622

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