Sunday, November 25, 2012

Who can declare Victory, Hamas? Israel?, Plus a Look at Gaza

Following the Israeli Gaza bombardment, the second in the last four years, Hamas was quick to declare victory. The two sides had reached a ceasefire, which most likely was similar to the one that they were about to sign just a week before the Israeli operation began. During the week long campaign, in the name of self-defense, the Israelis used excessive force (an understatement), bombing Gaza’s infrastructure, and killing over 160 people. While Israelis claim this was done to stop the firing of rockets on their civilian population, which under no circumstances can be condoned, it is safe to say that the escalation could have been avoided, and was sparked by Israel, following the assassination of Hamas leader, Ahmad al-Jabari. 

Israel signed the ceasefire seemingly to avoid a ground invasion. Prime Minister Netanyahu knew too well that a botched operation could spoil his plans to be re-elected in January. And, if it was not due to election speculation, the fact is that Israel was not able to stop the rockets from showering Israel, even after wreaking mass havoc. So, in that sense, Israel did not win. But, did they lose? Certainly, not; in this game that has gone on far too long, there are no "winners," and the losers are the masses of people who are caught up in the fire of their politicians, who recklessly "fight in their name." 
On Gaza Affair and Regional issues, plus Hard Questions for Israel, click here

Relation between the Gaza Affair and Israeli Elections, click here
Therefore, an Israeli non-victory also does not equal a Hamas victory; something Hamas claimed, following the signing of the ceasefire.  Yes, they succeeded to hit Tel Aviv with their rockets; the last time this happened was in 1991, when during the first Gulf War Iraq fired scud missiles, much larger than the Hamas rockets. Hamas also succeeded in holding their own; but to claim that this was a victory is absurd. Especially, at what cost! During the midst of fighting, I simply did not buy Hamas’ persistence to shoot rockets into Israel as a noble resistance, and I placed it on the same level as the Israelis’ sick obsession of bombing the hell out of Gaza. The Hamas’ policy of continued resistance (shooting rockets) can only be interpreted as one of "we will go down with the ship no matter what, taking all of our passengers with us." And, for all those claiming victory, they should open their eyes and see that for Hamas, this was a major blow, but for Gaza it was much bigger.

Not Hamas, Not Israel, let the Palestinian People be the Victors  

I should hope that after all this pain and suffering that the real victors will be the Palestinian people. In four days, on November 29, 65 years after the UN declared that Palestine would be divided into a Jewish and Arab state, it is likely that Palestine is going to be recognized by the UN General Assembly as a non-member state. As it stands now, the Palestinians have a chance to win the needed 2/3 of the vote, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas set on moving forward, despite Israel’s threats to topple him if he succeeds.  Now, the time has come for the world to stand up and recognize Palestine. Yes, most likely, the United States and Europe will object or sustain; yet, if they do so, this will be a stain on these countries, especially after the Gaza operation. For US President, Barack Obama, this is gus chance to prove to the world that he is serious about reaching a comprehensive peace settlement (see former blog related to this)    

For Gaza, they urgently need the status of statehood.  Once this is achieved it will be a golden opportunity for the world to take steps to end the blockade, and second, to take responsibility to solve the real crisis in Gaza: mass poverty, unemployment, coupled with one of the highest birthrates on the planet (see below). The time has come for Gaza, regardless which government rules there, or what actions are taken, that the world take notice of the suffering that has gone on there for decades. 


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I have provided some staggering statistics below, which show the sheer desperation Gazans face on a daily basis:

Population: 1,710,257 (Gaza City is one of the most densely populated places in the whole world!)
43.8% 0-14 years of age (male 384,494/ female 363,818)
54.7% 15-63 (male 469,528/ female 448,182)
65 years and over: 2.6% (male 17,939/ female 26,296) (2012 est.)
Median Age male-17.9 years old (some statistics places this even at 14)
Infant mortality about 17/1000 births
Unemployment rate: 40% (184th country out of 201)
Poverty Rate 38%
Literacy rate: 92.4%

  • Gazan households spend 56 percent of their expenditures on food, with 52.5 percent eating lower quality food and 67 percent buying food on credit as a result of high food costs.
  • 54 percent of households face food insecurity, defined as inadequate physical, social or economic access to food. An additional 12 percent are considered vulnerable to food insecurity. Only 20 percent of Gazan households are food secure.
  • 38 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
  • Since the blockade began, the number of Palestinian refugees completely unable to secure access to food and lacking the means to purchase even the most basic items, such as soap, school stationery and safe drinking water (‘abject poverty’) has tripled to 300,000.
  • 75 percent of households polled by the World Food Programme in the Gaza Strip received outside aid.
  • Gaza’s hospitals are at “zero stock levels” for 178 of 480 essential medications, with another 69 at low stock. Of 700 essential medical supplies, 190 are at “zero stock levels” and another 70 at low stock.
  • Due to lack of fuel, the Gaza Power Plant runs at 45 percent capacity, leading to daily blackouts of eight to twelve hours. Given this fuel shortage, 90 percent of private cars are no longer driven and of public services, only 15 percent are operational. (Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, The Illegal Closure of the Gaza Strip: Collective Punishment of the Civilian Population, December 10, 2010)
  • The Gaza aquifer provides 90 percent of Gaza’s water. Only ten percent of that water meets the standards of being suitable for consumption. Water-borne diseases cause 26 percent of illnesses in Gaza.
  • Because of lack of treatment capacity and electricity, Gaza authorities must release around 80,000 cubic meters of sewage into the Mediterranean Sea on a daily basis.
  • The construction of 86,000 houses is required to meet natural growth and recover from previous Israeli invasions.

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