- Created: Wednesday, 16 December 2009 16:44
- Written by Bob Shepherd
Israel’s barbaric onslaught on Gaza, which began on 27 December 2008, has been condemned by several human rights groups but the most significant political blow has come from the Goldstone Report which was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) and found that Israel’s operations in Gaza ‘were carefully planned in all their phases as a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population’ (see FRFI 209). It concluded that Israel had ‘committed actions amounting to war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity’.
The report also highlights the continuing blockade of Gaza which prevents the people from rebuilding their destroyed homes: ‘reconstruction has been impossible due to the continuing blockade’. Yet in a clear capitulation to the US by President Abbas, the Palestinian UNHCR delegate asked for any debate on the report to be postponed until March 2010. This action triggered massive protests at all levels of Palestinian society. Demonstrations in Ramallah and East Jerusalem called for Abbas and the Palestinian Authority government to resign. The massive opposition forced Abbas into a humiliating U-turn and allowed the report to be considered at the October UNHCR meeting, where it was endorsed by a majority of the member countries. Unsurprisingly the US voted against, whilst Britain absented itself.
At the beginning of November the report went to the UN General Assembly where an overwhelming majority, 114 to 18, voted to endorse it. Britain this time abstained. The vote also called for the report to go to the Security Council.
The devastating human results of the continuing blockade of Gaza, acknowledged by the Goldstone Report, are evident. 80% of a population of 1.5m are now dependent on food aid from the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) and other charities. Around 850,000 people receive food aid that provides 60% of their daily calorie input. According to UNRWA, since the onslaught on Gaza, the number of the ‘abject poor’, those who have no means whatsoever of supporting themselves, has tripled to 300,000. UNRWA now provides the total daily food input for such people as well as small amounts of cash as they have nothing to support themselves with.
The Israeli blitzkrieg left tens of thousands of people living in tents and damaged buildings. A report issued at the beginning of November by the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Maxwell Gaylard, and associated NGOs called on Israel to lift the siege of Gaza, declaring: ‘The winter will be particularly hard on the children of Gaza, whose capacities to withstand the rigors of a cold, wet winter has already been severely undermined by a marked deterioration of basic services and decent into poverty...The people of Gaza share with everyone else the right to dignified lives, free of indiscriminate and prolonged suffering. They should not be subjected to this continuation of collective punishment brought on by the blockade’.
Defend the Palestinian people!
Boycott Israeli goods!
FRFI 212 December 2009 / January 2010