One Year Later, Palestinians Live In Rubble While Israel Blocks Aid

I don't know what to say. The United States not only permits this, we subsidize it - at great personal cost to our country. After all, why were we a

I don't know what to say. The United States not only permits this, we subsidize it - at great personal cost to our country. After all, why were we an Al Qaeda target in the first place?

Yes, we'll tie ourselves in knots to keep a taxpayer dollar from getting anywhere near an abortion, yet we continue to fund the slow starvation of the Palestinians.

Very sad:

One year after Israel launched its three-week offensive in Gaza that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians and damaged or destroyed over 50,000 homes in a campaign aimed at stopping Hamas rocket fire, the survivors are still living in rubble. And it is not for want of money that thousands of residents of the coastal enclave remain homeless this winter: Moved by the plight of Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinians who were already reeling from a two-and-a-half year economic siege imposed by Israel with help from Egypt and the U.S. even before Israel's air and ground assault had begun, international donors earlier this year pledged over $4.5 billion to repair war damages. But that aid has failed to reach Gaza, according to Palestinians and relief agencies who accuse Israel of imposing Kafkaesque rules that bar entry to vital reconstruction materials and items as bizarre as glass, most schoolbooks, honey and family-sized tubs of margarine.

Says Chris Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations' Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), "Because the Israelis are not allowing in any reconstruction material, that $4.5 billion is just a paper figure." With over 80% of Gazans now surviving on humanitarian handouts from UNRWA, Gunness adds, "Palestinians are becoming more desperate and more extreme."

Relief officials estimate that Gaza needs 40,000 tons of cement and 25,000 tons of iron to start repairing the homes, hospitals, schools and shops destroyed during Israel's offensive. But so far, according to GISHA, an Israeli legal rights group, the Israelis have allowed only 19 trucks carrying construction material into Gaza since the war ended last January. "You could say that Israel has bombed Gaza back into the mud age," says UNRWA's Gunness, "because that's what they're building their houses out of now — mud."

Without parts to replace machinery damaged in the war, 97% of Gaza's factories have shut down, raising unemployment to over 43%. With scarce sources of income, many Gazans would probably starve if not for food handouts from the U.N. and other agencies. Over 40,000 Gazans have no electricity, 10,000 have no running water in their homes, and because Israel bans entry of the spare parts needed to run its sewage treatment plant, every day 87 million liters of sewage is dumped into the Mediterranean (which washes up on Israel's beaches, too.)

Although the international community occasionally protests Gaza's ongoing tragedy, so far no real pressure has been applied on Israel to loosen its stranglehold. One senior official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing government recently confided to a U.N. colleague that Israel's goal for Gaza was: "No development, no prosperity, no humanitarian crisis." The U.N. official interpreted that to mean that Israel would provide Gaza with an intravenous drip of relief to keep its 1.5 million inhabitants alive, but just barely, in hopes that the people would overthrow the Hamas government they voted into power in the last Palestinian elections. But that hasn't happened yet, nor is it likely to; Hamas smuggles arms, money and supplies into Gaza through tunnels from Egypt, and, increasingly, joining the militants has become the only source of a monthly wage for young males. In the meantime, said John Ging, UNRWA's chief officer in Gaza, the Israeli siege is "facilitating the destruction of a civilized society." Before the siege Palestinians in Gaza prided themselves on the excellence of their schools and industriousness of their workforce, many of whom, in more peaceful times, found jobs across the fence in Israel.

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