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Archive for March, 2008

The West Bank has been erupting in a series of small-scale demonstrations and violent clashes as people try in some way to make some impact in regards to what’s happening in Gaza. Mostly it’s just an expression of anger and grief. People are reeling with each news report, watching the death count rise. It’s up to 98 since Wednesday. And counting. 67 were killed yesterday. All civilians (palestine has no army). 16 of them resistance fighters. 19 of them children – one a 2-day old baby girl. Over 200 people injured.

Apparently there’s not enough cement or coffins to bury all the dead – because of the siege.  This is the current Israeli siege on Gaza that has been in effect since they withdrew from formal occupation of the Gaza strip in 2005 – because Israel still controls all of the borders (except for Rafah, which is the crossing controlled by Egypt) including airspace and marine territories.  The intensification of the siege which took place in January this year was pretty widely reported, with Israel preventing all imports and exports, most entry and exit (approximately 25% of all people with dire medical conditions requiring treatment outside of Gaza are refused permits to leave); and an adequate supply of electricity and fuel (legally possible because  it declared Gaza a “hostile entity” in September last year).  ٍSo now not only are Palestinians in Gaza without water for most of the day, (when it comes through it’s sandy, dirty and contaminated with sewage), but the Ministry of Health is also having to beg Egypt for cement and coffins to bury the dead.

And all the international community can talk about is how Hamas needs to stop the Qassam rocket attacks on the settlements within striking range of the rockets (between 3-10km depending on the type), despite the Israeli defense minister in 2006 arguing that the threat of Qassams is more psychological than physical.  But this week one Israeli resident of Sderot was killed, and so many, many Palestinians must die.  In fact, 4 days ago Israel’s deputy defense minister threatened Palestine with a “holocaust”.  And cabinet minister Meir Sheetrit urged Israel to “hit everything that moves” in
Gaza “with weapons and ammunition.”  Luckily, the UN Security Council has agreed to express “deep concern” over the attacks on Gaza.  There was talk about calling for a cease-fire (which Hamas has already tried to do twice), but there was a widespread fear that the US would veto it.

But whilst a full-scale ground invasion is imminent, defense minister Barak has advised it’s not about to happen just yet.  Apparently now is not the right time, but that time is soon.  It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.  And if it does chances are we will see another war with Lebanon, because Hebollah has recently promised to join in the fight, should Israel attack Gaza.

At the same time, many people are suggesting (as seems to happen with some regularity) that the 3rd intifada is upon us.  All over the West Bank skirmishes between Palestinians and the occupying Israeli army are taking place.  Today a 14 year old boy was killed in Hebron by Israeli Occupation Force soldiers.  Many more were injured there, as well as in Bi’lin and Bethlehem, as Palestinians protested the attacks on Gaza.  Young boys spent the day throwing rocks at Qalandia (the major checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem).  Whilst I have grown increasingly skeptical of these declarations, it does seem very possible.

The last few days have been profoundly saddening and disempowering.  What has been perhaps most disturbing though, was the protest of 30 Hamas women that took place in Ramallah today.  Approximately 150 Palestinian Authority police surrounded one of the main mosques in Ramallah, waiting for the Hamas protesters to emerge so that they could be arrested, we heard.  But when they came out, the 30 women were allowed to march out into the street, cardboard posters held proudly, as they chanted against the attacks on Gaza.  We tried to film the demonstration, but within 30 seconds a PA cop in plain clothes was on top of us, trying to take the tape.  The media warned us to keep the camera out of sight – “Even we don’t film here” one said.  Already the guy from Associated Press had been beaten up.  The women were stopped at the first intersection they came to, surrounded by the aggressive cops wielding Kalashnikovs.  But still defiantly they chanted.  Held there for a while, they were allowed to march a bit further on, while men with enormous yellow Fatah flags ran up the side of the protest and blocked the women from reaching al Manarah (the city centre), hijacking the demonstration.  I was advised that the cops do this regularly, that they were the ones to give the men the flags.  Then, in a particularly fascist turn, the police started chanting Fatah slogans, trying to drown out the women.  Suddenly, as if on cue, batons were drawn and the women were attacked viciously, while the crowds around them were beaten, dispersing onlookers.  As we were herded down a side street, a local noted that this was “the new occupation.  This is the second occupation.”

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