Sunday, 9 August 2015

What's going on in Palestine?

[Category: Whats going on?]

If you follow the news, you may have a sense of what is happening in Palestine. However, a single news story, however bleak, can never quite capture the ongoing and cumulative effects of occupation and oppression. To give a snapshot, I've gathered some of the events of the past two months into a single post to provide a more detailed depiction of the situation.

Freedom Flotilla. Israel has a long-standing blockade on the land, sea and airspace surrounding Palestinian territories. Fishermen out of Gaza are only permitted to fish three nautical miles offshore limiting their access to a primary source of food and revenue. They regularly have their boats seized or are subject to harassment from Israeli military forces that patrol the area. The Freedom Flotilla seeks to force Israel to conform to international law and stop limiting freedom of movement, access to agricultural land and fishing and the ability of foreign agencies to deliver aid. On June 29th the Flotilla was stopped whilst breaking the blockade and its crew and passengers were subject to violent arrests and abuse from Israeli forces.

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(Flotilla being boarded by Israeli forces. Image source: Reuters.)

Susiya. In June an international delegation visited the Palestinian village of Susiya to express condemnation of the Israeli demolition order that would destroy homes and evict over 300 Palestinians including a large number of children. The village has been subject to three previous evictions and demolitions, as well as frequent violent attacks by Israeli settlers. It falls within 'Area C' which refers to Palestinian land under Israeli administration. All new buildings require permits which are almost never granted to Palestinians. However, the area features a high number of Israeli settlements which have been allowed to remain despite flouting international law. The Israeli government has accepted the legitimacy of documents proving that the land has belonged to Palestinian families for well over a century, but plans to go ahead with the demolition and eviction regardless.

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(Residents of Susiya facing yet another eviction. Image: google images)

Stone throwing. In June, the Israeli parliament passed a law changing the penalties for stone throwing to 10 years if the defendant can prove no intent to harm, or 20 years with proven intent to cause harm. The law applies to attacks on property as well as humans. As stone throwing is a common way for Palestinians to resist incursions onto their land, the law disproportionately affects their right to protest and defend themselves and particularly targets youths and children. Given that arrest and detention by Israelis is frequently brutal and can extend for many months without charge or trial, even in arrests involving children, this law is particularly egregious. Israel is also the only country in the world to try children in military courts and subject them to punishments such as solitary confinement whilst incarcerated.

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(The penalty for throwing stones at an Israeli vehicle is now 10 years.) 

Ongoing power outages. In 2006 an Israeli F16 bomber targeted the power plant in Gaza. Since then the 1.8 million residents have been forced to buy power from Israel and Egypt and since then there has routinely been only enough power to meet the needs of less than 50% of the population. This month there have been protests as Gazans have had less than three hours power a day in the hottest months. Gaza is still feeling the effects of the assault by Israel last year; hospitals have yet to recover basic infrastructure and large areas are still rubble. Unemployment is high with little hope of being reduced as Gazans are subject to movement restrictions. As much of the energy dispute is over unpaid bills, it is unlikely to be resolved any time soon. Until then the people of Gaza are unable to wash, cook or stay cool and are forced to endure pitch black nights. 

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(Palestinian children do their schoolwork by candlelight)

Force feeding. Israel changed the law banning the force feeding of hunger strikers last month and is preparing to force feed Mohammed Allan, a Palestinian lawyer being held under 'administrative detention', an anti-terror measure whereby the suspect can be held for up to six months without charge or trial. Allan has been held since November and began his strike 56 days ago to protest his lack of trial. Force feeding is widely considered to be torture and a serious breach of human rights. Under the Israeli apartheid which enforces a two-tier legal system, hunger strike is one of the few peaceful forms of protest available to those being held unlawfully.

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(Palestinian protest in support of hunger strikers)

Attack on Al Aqsa mosque. Al Aqsa mosque is in East Jerusalem and is legally recognised as being Palestinian territory. However, occupying Israeli forces frequently restrict access by worshipers and break the law by holding prayers or readings within the Islamic areas. It is also frequently a target for inflammatory attacks by Jewish settlers. In the days leading up to Tisha B'av, a Jewish holiday commemorating the destruction of the Temples that used to stand on Temple Mount, many skirmishes by settler youth erupted in the grounds of the mosque. On July 25th, the day itself, Israeli forces raided the mosque on the grounds that Palestinians had been stockpiling rocks and fireworks to be used in retaliation. Two hundred and fifty settlers also stormed the mosque. Ten Palestinian citizens were injured and significant permanent damage was done to the mosque and it's grounds. This attack was not only an act of aggression against people at prayer, but also the desecration of an ancient and sacred holy site.

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(Apartheid in a single picture)

Arson attack in Duma. At 4am on Friday 31st of July, four Israeli settler youths broke into two houses in Duma village in the occupied West Bank. They threw firebombs, killing baby Ali Saad Dawabsheh and putting his three relatives into intensive care. His father, Saad Dawabsheh has since died of his injuries and his four year old brother and mother remain in critical condition in hospital. The suspected ringleader of the attack, Mier Ettingern has been sentenced to one year of administrative detention. However, without any significant crackdown on the settler movement, violence like this is going to continue. The settler terrorists are little better than your basic racist thug, but with the weight of public approval behind them. Israel approves permits for new settler structures, doesn't enforce international law and investigates less than 10% of complaints made by Palestinians against them. The very act of settlement is tantamount to terrorism, but the state continues in it's support. Last month, Natanyahu approved funding for 300 settler units on Palestinian land despite resistance from the international community.

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(Burned photographs in the home of the Dawabsheh family)

Ongoing civilian casualties. In the protests following the arson attack in Duma, 15 year old Laith al-Khaledi was shot by Israeli forces at the Atara checkpoint, making him the 18th civilian to have been killed by Israeli forces in 2015 alone. Other civilian casualties include 17 year old Muhammad ali-Kosba who was shot in the back after throwing a stone at an Israeli vehicle, Muhammad al Hamed al-Musri, a 27-year old man was shot in the exclusion zone and 52 year old Falah Abu Maria who was shot close range in the chest whilst defending his injured son from arrest.

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(The funeral procession of Laith al-Khaledi. Image: Getty Images)

Any of these events in isolation is a stark reminder of the brutal and unjust apartheid being perpetrated against Palestinians. Taken together, the events of just two months paint a picture of the struggle that many Palestinians have experienced in various forms for over a century. The international community cannot keep turning a blind eye. I don't want to tell my children in thirty years that in the age of unrivaled access to information that we stood by and allowed apartheid and genocide.

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Above all, talk about it. Don't let the conversation die just because bombs aren't dropping. Support Palestinian artists and communicators. Do what you can, but don't do nothing. 

Note: I am an independent blogger who writes for the sake of widening my own and others understanding. I have no particular expertise or experience but I always try to do appropriate research and link to people who do have experience and expertise. If you disagree with anything I have written or with my treatment of an issue, please get in touch. 

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