BY Vincent Lyn
Israel has been described as an “apartheid” state by some scholars, United Nations investigators, human rights groups all critical of Israeli policy. The description has also been used by several Israeli former politicians. Critics of Israeli policy say that “a system of control” in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, including the ID system; Israeli settlements; separate roads for Israeli and Palestinian citizens around many of these settlements; Israeli military checkpoints; marriage law; the West Bank Barrier; use of Palestinians as cheaper labor; Palestinian West Bank enclaves and inequities in infrastructure, legal rights, and access to land and resources between Palestinians and Israeli residents in the Israeli occupied territories, resemble some aspects of the South African apartheid regime, and that elements of Israel’s occupation constitute forms of colonialism and of apartheid, contrary to international law.
The Gaza Strip is home to a population of approximately 1.9 million people, including some 1.4 million Palestine refugees.
For the last decade, the socioeconomic situation in Gaza has been in steady decline. The blockade on land, air and sea imposed by Israel following the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007 entered its 13th year in June 2019 and continues to have a devastating effect as access to markets and people’s movement to and from the Gaza Strip remain severely restricted. The U.N. Secretary-General has found that the blockade and related restrictions contravene international humanitarian law as they target and impose hardship on the civilian population, effectively penalizing them for acts they have not committed.
Years of conflict and blockade have left 80% of the population dependent on international assistance while the continuing intra-Palestinian divisions serve to exacerbate the humanitarian and service delivery crisis on the ground. The economy and its capacity to create jobs have been devastated, resulting in the impoverishment and de-development of a highly skilled and well-educated society. In 2019, the average unemployment rate has reached over 55% — one of the highest in the world according to the World Bank. The number of Palestine refugees relying on food aid has increased from fewer than 80,000 in the year 2000 to almost one million today.
Access to clean water and electricity remains at crisis level and impacts nearly every aspect of life in Gaza. Clean water is unavailable for 95% of the population, and, availability of electricity is only 4–5 hours per day by the end of October, 2019. However, ongoing power shortages has severely impacted the availability of essential services, particularly health, water and sanitation services, and continues to undermine Gaza’s fragile economy, particularly the manufacturing and agriculture sectors. As a result of the continued deteriorating socio-economic situation in Gaza from the blockade, there is increasing and widespread hopelessness among Gaza’s population.
The shocking scale and horrific nature of the debilitating injuries inflicted by Israeli forces on Palestinians in Gaza suggests Israel has pursued a deliberate strategy to maim civilians. Many of those shot by Israeli forces are suffering life-changing injuries with profound physical and psychological scars for years to come. These devastating injuries, and the ongoing shooting of innocent Palestinians, highlight the urgent need for a worldwide arms embargo to be imposed on Israel. The plight of the Palestinian diaspora is by far one of the worst crimes in our present history ongoing 70+ years.
Personally I’ve befriended Palestinian people who are without doubt some of the warmest and loveliest people — allowing me into their Spartan, humble homes, always welcoming me with drink and food. In the eyes of a family I have come to aid and care about living in Gaza, here is a mother’s passionate plea and tear filled words. Lara is a mother with 5 children, who also cares for her grandpa, father and mother.
In her words: “We don’t have a salary because we can’t meet the needs of our children. There is no change in our lives. Our lives have become a killer routine. Our lives are difficult. Just want to live a decent life like other people. Immigration has become the dream of everyone from Gaza. In Gaza, a man losses his status, and tears dig in the eyes of the men who lived life. The parents stand helpless in front of their children. What does it mean to cry in front a man the supermarket owner refusing to give his wife some cheese? His children were waiting for lunch because he could not pay the debts? In Gaza, humanity has lost its content, and for a moment it seems as if the gates of heaven have been shut in the face of this miserable and impoverished city and all but the blood you pay as a tax for its survival in Gaza. Are all the positions of the world sufficient to answer the question of hunger? Or the cry of a child who woke up in the middle of the night so terrified to believe that he was in the grave because the electricity had been cut off at night and everything turned dark. Can we imagine that the closure of the region in the world for decades, since its occupation in 1967 and Gaza isolated from the world, prevented the Israeli population in the Gaza Strip from communicating with the outside, and unlike other Arabs, once the Israeli left, increased its forces in the Gaza Strip. The freedom of Gaza for people to travel, and Hamas to control Gaza, which re-closed the Gaza Strip as an exception in the life of Gaza, which was written and not written on them. Who were before misery as if born cursed.
There is no life in Gaza, no electricity, no water, no jobs, no universities, no travel, no treatment, no built houses, no paved streets, no relationships, no women, no men, no money, no dreams, no hopes, no future for generations. The people of Gaza are angry at anything and everything. The factions, troops, politicians and all those killed are angry at themselves and their electoral choices and more angry at their inability to change their reality, their inability to take to the streets, their inability to pressure the forces, and their inability to be the power of influence after everyone has been let down.
Gaza seemed to be a laboratory for political amateurs trying their fortune. Their blood is still in the battles of tomorrow as if people realize that there is no stability for this region that does not stop the fighting. Here in Gaza, frustration has never been so great, even in the worst moments of war. Here in Gaza, grief and pain reign. On its own as a coastal city after the Nabka, history records that it dies slowly in front of everyone. As a Mother, I do not want anything, whether my children live like the rest of the world, eat, wear, play, dream. My children and I just simply want go to a beautiful country to live safely.”
It’s truly heartbreaking, Palestinians are prisoners surrounded by walls, barbwire and watchtowers, living in fear, without jobs and lacking clean water and electricity. It’s inhuman. Israel has become nothing less than an apartheid state and should be ashamed and held accountable for their crimes against humanity.
Israel has arrested 745 Palestinian children in 2019. Israel is the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes children in military courts — between 500 and 700 each year. The Israel Prison Service revealed that an average of 204 Palestinian children have been held in custody every month since 2012. Children as young as 12 are routinely taken from their homes at gunpoint in night-time raids by soldiers. Blindfolded, bound and shackled. Interrogated without a lawyer or relative being present and with no audio-visual recording. Put into solitary confinement. Forced to sign confessions (often in Hebrew — a language they do not understand intimidation and terrorizing of children is immoral and unconscionable. Children languishing in detention camps is a crime against humanity and leaders need to do their utmost to protect the humanity and dignity of all these children.
On November 19, 2019 Trump declared Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land are now ‘legal’ — upending 50 years of U.S. policy toward Israel and most likely has shattered any hope of peace in the Middle East. Announcing that the U.S. would no longer view Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank as “inconsistent with international law”.
On November 19, 2019 Canada also reversed course and voted in favor of a United Nations resolution condemning Israel for its “occupation” of Palestinian Territories, prompting a backlash of anger from Jewish groups. The move marks a further departure between the U.S. and Canada on their posture toward Israel and a potential reversal of long-standing Canadian foreign policy. The Trudeau government on Tuesday supported a resolution put forward by “the state of Palestine”, for a “just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement” to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and explicitly refers to contested lands between the two countries as “Occupied Palestinian Territories.” It also cites a 2004 International Court of Justice decision that said Israel’s construction of a protective wall in the West Bank “severely impedes the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.” The U.S. was among five countries that rejected the resolution, while Australia abstained. A total of 164 countries voted in favor, including the U.K., Germany and others.
However, the fact remains that the Fourth Geneva Convention — of which the U.S. is a signatory — states that an occupying power cannot move its civilian population into the territory it occupies.
TRUTH BE TOLD
CEO/Founder at We Can save Children
Director of Creative Development at African Views Organization
Economic & Social Council at United Nations
Rescue & Recovery Security Specialist at International Confederation of Police & Security Experts