Gaza Strip, Palestine has been brutally occupied by Apartheid Israel since 1967 and has been under a genocidal siege since mid-2007. Israel controls all the borders, and the southern border is additionally controlled by Egypt. The sea and the air space are as if behind bars too. 1.5 million Palestinians collectively punished – prisoner-like - in the largest open-air prison in the world. Incubatored babies, children, teenagers, adults, senior citizens, all are totally encaged. Israel has deemed them to be terrorists, threats to the security and peace of every Israeli citizen, and all the governments of the world, and many international organizations, comply in this illegal action by their do nothing, say nothing policies.
This hermetic closure on Gaza Strip is preventing fuel, medicine, food, wheat for milling, spare parts, all various and sundry supplies through the border crossings. The fuel which powers the sewage treatment plants, which supplies the power plant that provides electricity and running water to the people in their homes and businesses, i.e. the businesses that are still open among the hundreds of thousands that have closed as a direct result of the siege and occupation, is in short supply. Some areas have electricity and running water only 12 hours a day and some people living in the many refugee camps or in high multi-storied buildings are without running water and electricity for days at a time. All the hospitals use generators for power every day when the electricity goes out. The generators are breaking down and there are no spare parts available to fix them, they are at the border crossing waiting to enter. In addition, hundreds if not thousands of medicines are lacking. There have been various attempts to bring medicines in, but they have all been thwarted by Israel and by Egypt who refuse to allow the medicines in. Sick people have no right to life by Zionist standards.
Nobody comes in or out of Gaza Strip unless Israel approves: businesspeople, foreign travelers, non-violent direct action volunteers, journalists, and of course Palestinians – cannot enter or leave. Sick people, with urgent medical conditions who need treatment in hospitals outside of Gaza Strip, can't get out. As a result at least 258 Palestinians have died, needlessly. 500 students with scholarships and 3,000 students with admittance to Universities abroad, are not permitted to leave Gaza Strip to continue their higher education. They are losing their scholarships and admittances daily, thwarting their attempts to be the future leaders of this area.
Exports of strawberries, flowers, fish and other Gazan produced products can't get out to be sold abroad or even in Israel and so hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in Gaza Strip are denied a livelihood. Why?!
Since the genocidal siege was implemented, the Israeli occupation force Navy has enforced an arbitrary 4 to 6 mile fishing limit on all the fishermen of Gaza Strip. Israeli gunboats enforce this arbitrary limit by patrolling the internationally recognized Gazan waters. You have to understand, war ships are invading the Gazan fishing waters on a daily basis – breaking the ceasefire. The navy soldiers often shoot, wound and kill unarmed Palestinian fishermen while they are trawling and fishing, trying to earn a livelihood for their families. These are acts of war, yet you never hear about it or see it on the news.
On 23rd August 2008, the first two Free Gaza Movement boats entered the waters of Gaza Strip and landed at Gaza City port in Palestine, the first time in 41 years that an international boat has landed in this once thriving port city. Since then, members of International Solidarity Movement (ISM) Gaza Strip, who arrived on the boats, have been accompanying some of the Palestinian fishermen from Gaza City when they trawl for fish in their internationally recognized Gazan waters. The volunteers have witnessed the Israeli occupation force Navy shooting machine guns, grenades, and other weapons towards the Palestinian trawling vessels and also using a high-powered water cannon against them while they are trawling for fish, often as they are bringing in the nets. The water cannon shoots high-powered blasts of water onto the boats, damaging the boats and injuring people. A new weapon used by this specific gunboat is blasting high-powered dirty water, with a very bad smell, onto the boats and onto the fishermen and volunteers. Sometimes the gunboat waits to blast this bad smelling water until the trawlers have pulled in a netfull of fish, the fish and decks of the boat are then covered with this horrendous smelly water. It is unknown what is in the water, but it is feared that it is highly toxic and could present a health threat to anybody who has come into contact with the water and anyone who eats the fish sprayed by the dirty water.
On Tuesday 18th November 2008, three Palestinian trawling vessels, fishing 7 miles off the coast of Deir Al-Balah, Gaza Strip, Palestine, clearly inside internationally recognized Gazan fishing waters, were surrounded by nine Israeli naval gunboats. Sixteen unarmed Palestinian fishermen, and three international ISM volunteers, were arrested and kidnapped at gunpoint by commandos of the 4th largest army in the world. The three Palestinian trawling vessels were illegally confiscated. The sixteen fishermen were released at midnight that night, but the international volunteers were kidnapped into Israel against their will and later deported to Europe and to USA, although each of them wanted to return to Gaza Strip. Ten days later the trawling vessels were returned to the Gazan fishing waters, the day after legal briefs were filed in Israel's Supreme Court against the Israeli occupation force Navy.
The farming communities living along the border with Israel also face a difficult situation. The Israeli occupation force army declared an arbitrary Buffer Zone along the entire eastern border of Gaza Strip with Israel. Palestinian farmers who live in the area can't farm their lands, some for 5 – 15 years. This zone is 100 - 500 meters deep inside Palestine. This "Buffer Zone" is on agriculturally-rich soil, but soldiers driving the D9 bulldozers have created a desert by destroying all the olive, fruit, nut trees, the vegetable crops, the hot houses and killing all the sheep and chicken farms – destroying the livelihood of the farmers and their families. Directly on the other side are Israeli farms (kibbutzes) and those farmers farm right up against the fence. Even today when farmers go to their land they are shot at – they are forbidden to work their own land.
"As of March 2005, there are approximately 7,500 Palestinian political prisoners being held in Israeli prisons. Over 750 of these are administrative detainees, held without charge or trial for indefinite periods of time. 344 of the political prisoners are aged 18 and under, 78 of whom are 16 years and under. There are 115 Palestinian female political prisoners, 19 of whom are mothers and 1 of whom gave birth in prison, with their children remaining in prison with them. Of the total 7,500 political prisoners, 3,800 are being held in civil prisons, with the remaining political prisoners held in Israeli military detention centers and prison camps." (1) The above statistics are from three years ago, the number of Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli prisons is now over 11,000! The Palestinian political prisoners are from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, all collectively punished for being alive while Palestinian.
It is the Apartheid Israeli occupation force army who have been the aggressors and who make war on the Palestinian people every day, yet the major news media in the US target the Palestinians as terrorists. For decades, the Israeli occupation force army has been sending jeeps, tanks, D9 bulldozers, F-16s, apache helicopters, drones, and Israeli occupation force soldiers into Palestinian farms, villages, cities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, causing death and destruction to all in their path - hundreds of babies, children, women and men killed and thousands maimed for life. Why are they always being vilified? The Palestinian people are a generous, kind, peace-loving people who want to live in peace and dignity with all people in the region. They need the world community to step forward and demand that the violators of their human right to self-determination, their human rights for peace and security, their human right to live in freedom be held to account.
On 29th November 2008, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign National Committee (BNC), presented its strategic position paper " UNITED AGAINST Apartheid, Colonialism and Occupation DIGNITY & JUSTICE for the Palestinian People (Final Draft, October 2008) Palestinian Civil Society's Strategic Position Paper for the Durban Review Conference, Geneva, 20 – 24 April 2009 ", here is an excerpt from only one of its findings:
" The State of Israel must be held accountable to its legal obligations. Impunity for its massive and systematic violations of international law and treating it as an exception above the law of nations must be ended. Only thus can justice and dignity be restored to the Palestinian people, and lasting, comprehensive peace be established in the Middle East. As states and the United Nations have lacked political will for effective action, the wider international community, in particular churches, unions, NGOs, cultural and academic figures, and independent experts are called upon to develop and strengthen effective measures, such as the civil society Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel (BDS) and legal action, that can create political will among states and the United Nations to respect their legal obligations to the Palestinian people and halt and reverse Israel's regime of apartheid, settler-colonialism and belligerent occupation." (2)
(1) ADDAMEER Prisoners' Support and Human Rights Association, http://www.addameer.org/addameer/campaigns/manal/factsheet.html
(2) BNC Position Paper Durban, UNITED AGAINST Apartheid, Colonialism and Occupation DIGNITY & JUSTICE for the Palestinian People (Final Draft, October 2008) Palestinian Civil Society's Strategic Position Paper for the Durban Review Conference, Geneva, 20 – 24 April 2009