Monday, July 10, 2006

Politics of Starvation: The Humanitarian Crisis in Palestine

Friday, June 23, 2006 10-11:30 am

Speakers: Timothy Rothermel, Former UNDP Chief in Jerusalem
Laila El Haddad, Al-Jazeera International Correspondent

Politics of starvation is a description of the catastrophic human rights situation in the West Bank and Gaza where FAO has estimated that 51% of Palestinians cannot meet their daily food needs. The speakers shed light on the impact of sanction and isolation on the political, economic and social structure of the Palestinians.

Mr. Rothermel indicated that the humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory is dramatically deteriorating. Since the Hamas victory in the January election, the flow of international community aid to Palestinians has stopped. Also, the Israeli authorities have stopped the transference of "the value added taxes and custom taxes it is obligated to pay, amounting to half of the Palestinian Authority's budget." This caused a deficit in the resources and the Authority (PA) has become incapable of paying over salaries for over 150,000 civil servants since March. It is very important to mention that those civil servants do support almost another million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Also, they are mostly doctors, nurses, school teachers, police officials whose services constitute the backbone of a prospering civil society.

Mr. Rothermel further explained alarming statistics in which over 70% of the Palestinian population in the occupied Palestinian territory is now living below the poverty line. Unemployment in Gaza and the occupied territories is disturbing. And unemployment rates are expected to twofold by the end of this year according to World Bank estimates. Levels of insecurity throughout the population and food deficiency have dramatically increased due to the decline in the socio-economic stability of the Palestinians life and the cuts of foreign aid. The degradation of the situation has left many people unable to purchase food due to Israelis blocking routes and market disruptions.

Mr. Rothermel also referred to a recent UN report revealing that "Gross Domestic Product (in the Occupied Territories) is estimated to fall by 27% by the end of 2006, and poverty [is] expected to rise sharply. Around 70% of Gaza's potential workforce, for example, will be out of work or go without pay. [They] made up 40% [of the] current unemployed. Palestinians and their goods are no longer able to move freely within the West Bank and are banned from entering many areas, such as the Jordan Valley."

Ms. El Haddad explained that that the division in south Gaza and the cut of foreign aid to reach Palestinians has turned Gaza into a prison for a 1.4 under a complex new form of occupation. Also, Israeli Defense Forces has tight control over mobility, as well as admittance of residence into Palestinian territories. Laila said “almost 90% of Palestinians cannot go out of Gaza”. Also, sanctions and grip control of Israel over mobility and trade has left Gaza without any economical support. Moreover, Israel control over ID issuance made many Palestinian families live separated. Many family members were not able to acquire residence IDs, as a result could not join their families after the Israeli disengagement form Gaza.

by Youmna Diri

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