On January 18, Israel and Hamas each separately announced its decision to halt the hostilities they had been engaged in since December 27. That un-negotiated, parallel ceasefire remains fragile and has been far from completely observed. Israel, in particular, has maintained its aggressive presence close by 1.5 million people, surveilling them very closely from ground, sea, and air (including from low-flying drones), and launching numerous attacks against Gazans from all those platforms.
The horror and carnage of full-blown war has not returned. But the tight siege that Israel has, quite ilegally, maintained around the Strip has been inflicting– and daily until now continues to inflict– severe harm on Gaza’s war- and siege-battered people.
Today in Jerusalem, 23 high-profile international NGOs issued a joint statement accusing much of the world of “standing by” as “Gazans sift through the rubble.”
Ma’an News reports,
- More than “lip service to the needs of the people of Gaza” is required, the statement said. It had particularly harsh words for the European Union, set to review its trade and economic relations with Israel in the coming weeks.
“If the EU does not put the brakes on the process to strengthen ties with Israel, it will be sending a dangerous signal to the world that maintaining a destructive policy of closure is acceptable,” said Martha Myers, country director of CARE West Bank and Gaza.
I agree with the criticism of the EU. But the US is just as culpable for the its failure to challenge Israel’s policies towards Gaza. Perhaps even more so, given the clout the US government has, which throughout the past 16 years it has always unfailingly used to protect Israel from any form of accountability or sanction, regardless of the illegality or gross brutality of the Israeli government’s actions against its neighbors.
The Ma’an report continues thus:
- “Gaza’s industry, including the agricultural sector, has almost completely collapsed and reconstruction has proved a near impossible task. Operation Cast Lead destroyed Gaza’s economy which was already severely weakened after months of blockade. It makes no sense to continue depriving ordinary people the opportunity to earn a living and support their families. The crossings must be opened now to allow the normal flow of commerce. If they are not, the people of Gaza simply will not recover,” added Myers.
Reconstruction in Gaza is severely constrained. Materials such as cement and reinforced steel rods are still being denied entry by Israel, the statement said.
Highlighting the ramifications of the decision the joint statement said, “This means that the 20,000 families – or at least 140,000 people – whose homes were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable as a result of the conflict are unable to rebuild their lives. Many are living in tents and in makeshift shelters constructed with salvaged bricks and plastic sheeting, with no end in sight.”
Country Director for Oxfam Great Britain in Jerusalem John Prideaux-Brune said bluntly that “There has been zero progress in allowing construction materials in to help people rebuild their lives. This is unacceptable, full stop.”
He called on world leaders to “take practical steps to fully open the crossings and exert as much pressure on Israel and all parties to ensure that families can finally see a light at the end of what has been a very long and dark tunnel. A drip-feed of food aid and medicines is simply not enough.”
I haven’t seen the full NGO statement yet. But the Ma’an report lists the signatories, who are indeed a high-profile and international group.
Among them is, not surprisingly, CARE West Bank and Gaza. I note that when Pres. Obama recently made his financial disclosure forms public, they included a record that last year, from his family’s income of over $2 million, he and Michelle made a $25,000 donation to CARE. So I’m assuming he supports the goals of that excellent, US-based relief and development organization.
(A few quick side-notes here: Late last night I finished writing my own short piece of analysis for IPS on the situation three months after the Gaza ceasefire. The NGOs’ report had not been released at that point, darn it! I was, however, able to include some material from the excellent interview I conducted in Jerusalem last month with John Prideaux-Brune. You’ll see the published piece later today… Ma’an News, which is probably the best OPTs news source, now has a really useful Twitter feed, that you might want to bookmark… Also, as you may have noticed: I’m now back, after a short break with my family in England. Big thanks to Don and Scott for posting extra in my absence.)