Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, January 2012
Gaza Tunnel Smuggling OK, Says Confused Britain
By Stuart Littlewood
Redress, Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, January 18, 2012
Fuel oil for power generation becomes a black market item
Now, the British government suddenly says it's OK for Gazans to smuggle essential fuel oil for electricity generation through the tunnels they use to import black market goods and we’ve been helping Israel to destroy.
These words were written as part of what Lord Hylton calls "a comprehensive reply" to questions he had raised with the British government about Gaza, the West Bank and the wider issue of Palestinian refugees, which he has posted on his House of Lords blog.
It’s loaded with the same yellow-streaked drivel I've been receiving for several years – the government "remains concerned", "we are pressing the Israeli government", "we condemn", "we have urged the Israelis", and so on.
There is never any real action, just endless flim-flam.
Another gem is this: "With fishing limits and exports, we and European Union partners are urging the Israelis to extend the current fishing limit from three to 12 miles and to allow increased exports from Gaza to the West Bank, Israel and other third countries."
Israel has no business restricting Gaza's fishing boats to three miles in
the first place. Maritime law needs to be enforced.
The charity Oxfam reports that the near-total ban on fuel imports for public sale, imposed by Israel in October 2008, also remains in place. Fuel for home heating, running cars and private industry is only available through the black market. Now fuel oil for utilities, including hospitals and basic services, is ranked the same, apparently.
While on the subject of energy needs, let’s remember that Gaza has an extensive offshore gas field which Israel prevents the Palestinians from exploiting and is trying to steal.
According to Oxfam, 75 per cent of Gaza’s population currently receives
humanitarian aid. Approximately 1.1 million people are receiving food aid
from humanitarian organizations, primarily the United Nations Relief and
Works Agency (UNWRA) and the World Food Programme. By doing nothing to end
the illegal blockade/occupation the international community milks the West’s
taxpayers year after year to provide cover for Israel’s crimes.
Only 11 per cent of construction materials needed for aid agencies and Palestinian Authority-approved projects have been allowed into Gaza; therefore people do not benefit as they should from humanitarian organizations’ reconstruction efforts. Only 28 per cent of the building plan for UNRWA projects in Gaza has been approved, and these are facing serious delays. Israel’s ban on building materials has prevented the reconstruction of most of the 3,540 homes destroyed and the 2,870 damaged during Operation Cast Lead, which means that extended families are often squeezed into one house or, in some cases, one room.
Oxfam reports that 250 schools in Gaza are still out of action. Eighty-five per cent of schools that are operational have to work double shifts, which means shorter class time and an end to extra-curricular activities.
Starved of essential imports, including raw materials, and its exports blocked, Gaza has seen its economy decimated. The private sector has lost 120,000 jobs. Twenty-six per cent of the Gazan workforce, including 38 per cent of youths, are unemployedWater and sanitation
Materials for 17 water and sanitation projects are held up by the Israeli authorities. In the meantime, 90-95 per cent of water from Gaza’s only source, the underground aquifer, is undrinkable. Experts warn that, at the current rate of depletion, the aquifer will become unusable by 2016, and the damage will be irreversible by 2020.
Gaza residents are restricted to an average of 91 litres of water per day compared to 280 litres used by Israelis. The World Health Organization says 100-150 litres a day is required to meet health needsLand and maritime siege
There has been no change to the
unilaterally-imposed “buffer zone”, a restricted-access area around Gaza’s
perimeter with Israel, which extends in places up to 1,500 metres into Gaza
and on the coast limits fishing to three nautical miles. This places 35 per
cent of Gaza’s farmland and 85 per cent of its coastal fishing waters off
limits, making a devastating hole in the economy. The lives and livelihoods
of an estimated 178,000 people are directly affected, including 3,500
licensed fishermen. Israel enforces the buffer zone by sniper fire and
I have just received a letter from
Alistair Burt, the foreign office minister for Middle East affairs, saying
the same sort of thing Lord Hylton was quoting – that ”we continue to press
the Israeli government at ministerial and official level to ease access
restrictions, including to increase the fishing limits from three to 12
miles”, blah, blah, blah…
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