Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Minus fuel

"There is currently no fuel available in the Gaza Strip on the open market."

Not too many of us, I think, can envision the details of how this single fact rips apart individual lives. I'd like to invite each of us today to try, that is, to take a look at the minutiae or his or her daily routine – minus fuel. What would it mean? This is the current face of Israel's strangulation of Gaza, already counted in years and tightened slowly, lulling and all but losing international public interest.

The first item below is a statement made earlier today, Wednesday April 23rd, in Gaza, by the U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert H. Serry. It is a direct response to the Gaza Strip Fuel Situation Report presented by OCHA, the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Aid. Calling on both Israel and the Palestinians to "make responsible choices," Serry expressed the urgent imperative that these parties "step back from the brink". The situation, he said, was "both unacceptable and unsustainable."

The second item below lists the main results of the severe fuel shortage imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip. Three hour power cuts already occur daily throughout the Strip. To quote one of the results cited: "Vaccines for 50,000 babies will be spoiled if power cuts exceed eight hours and will take six months to replace." Add to this the fact that the fuel shortage has brought waste collection to a standstill in twelve municipalities. (The full report in English can be accessed here.) This reality is actively imposed by Israel with the full support and participation of the United States, in the territory from which it claims to have removed its oppressive occupation.

Rela Mazali










23 April 2008

Thank you, John. Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. You are very welcome here at UNSCO Headquarters.

You have just heard from John Ging about the grave fuel situation and the broader humanitarian distress facing the people of Gaza, and the immense challenges current conditions are also posing for UN operations. The facts he has briefed you on speak for themselves. The situation here is both unacceptable and unsustainable.

The killing of civilians, including many children here in Gaza, and also a cameraman, the destruction of the economy, shortages of daily necessities, the lack of access to and from Gaza, the separation of Gaza’s institutions from the Palestinian Authority, the danger of more and more escalation, with even more suffering for the Palestinians, and serious consequences also for Egypt and Israel. We are at a crossroads and the parties must make responsible choices to step back from the brink

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is extremely concerned at the humanitarian, human rights, security and political crisis here. He and I and the entire UN system are absolutely committed to averting a further worsening of the situation, and seeing Gaza return to better times.

The UN is leading the humanitarian effort to sustain the people of Gaza under conditions of great adversity. We are also very active, politically and diplomatically, pushing all parties, and the international community, to work for a different and more positive strategy for Gaza. We are giving our strong support to the current Egyptian efforts to calm the violence, and we call on all concerned to work with Egypt in that effort.

In this context, the recent attacks by Palestinian militants against crossing points into Gaza are deeply disturbing. I appeal to Hamas to immediately end attacks against the crossings, whether by it or any other faction or group. These attacks endanger both international and Israeli civilians, and cannot possibly contribute to Palestinian efforts to ease the blockade of Gaza. On the contrary, they serve only to deepen and prolong it.

The United Nations has repeatedly condemned the killing of civilians by Israeli military operations here in Gaza, which is a depressingly and unacceptably regular occurrence. We have also repeatedly condemned deliberate attacks on civilians at crossings or by the firing of rockets into Israel. Not just because they bring nothing but misery to Palestinians, but because all attacks on civilians are wrong.

It is also wrong for Israel to punish a civilian population for such attacks. I call on Israel to restore fuel supplies to Gaza, and to allow the passage of humanitarian assistance and commercial supplies, sufficient to allow the functioning of all basic services and for Palestinians to live their daily lives. The collective punishment of the population of Gaza, which has been instituted for months now, has failed.

The path to true security and well being for Israel, the Palestinians, and Egypt is a different one. The immediate and common goal must be an end to violence and a reopening of crossings. This is a vital first step if other, broader goals are to be achieved – the stabilization of conditions in Gaza; the reunification of Gaza and the West Bank within the framework of the legitimate Palestinian Authority; genuine progress in negotiations leading to a final status agreement with Israel; the creation of a sovereign, independent, contiguous and viable State of Palestine in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

All Palestinians, no matter what faction, want and deserve these things to be achieved. As UN Security Council Resolution 242 stresses, these goals must be achieved through negotiation based on the principles of an end of occupation, an end of conflict, and a just solution to the refugee issue. That is why we strongly support the current political process, despite all the difficulties it faces, and why we hope that, when it comes to Gaza too, wisdom and restraint will prevail, for the welfare of all Palestinians and their neighbours.


United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Gaza Strip Fuel Situation Report as of 23 April 2008

There is currently no fuel available in the Gaza Strip on the open market and there are power cuts of three hours per day in almost all of Gaza. For months the fuel crisis has hampered vital humanitarian work, but the complete absence of fuel will dramatically worsen the humanitarian situation.

Key Observations

Provision of UNRWA’s food assistance to 650,000 refugees in Gaza will stop on Thursday.

12 municipalities and solid waste management councils have stopped all their operations, affecting at least 500,000 Gazans.

Ministry of Health hospitals have between 33 and 170 hours of fuel supply. Hospitals managed by NGOs have fuel for less than one week.

The Central Drug Stores ran out of fuel on 22 April. Vaccines for 50,000 babies will be spoiled if power cuts exceed eight hours and will take six months to replace.

UNRWA Gaza’s vehicle fleet will be grounded as of Thursday which will prevent normal operation of UNRWA’s 214 schools, 19 health centers and solid waste collection.

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News blog:
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Rowan Berkeley said...

I've got an idea : why don't we start a full-scale english-language web-mag, devoted to expounding the possibilities of genuinely left zionism, while protecting against arguments that undermine zionism altogether? The difficulty of deciding which side of this line of demarcation any particular argument falls upon will constitute the basis for the think-pieces. I fear that my own efforts will simply end up with my blog getting closed down, but at the moment I am getting upwards of 600 hits a day, because trackbacks and links are bringing people in.

Rowan Berkeley said...

Incidentally, I recommend Ian Lustick's "Unsettled States, Disputed Lands," a scholarly text that gives enormous and profound details on the political psychology of revanchism and how to defuse it, using France, Ireland, and Algeria as examples. He understands, for instance, how de Gaulle could use obscure appeals to an imaginary millennial and sacral France, to restore the self-esteem of the French and protect them against the narcissistic wound of decolonisation, in order to move France AWAY from exactly the sort of politics he seemed to be encouraging!