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Another Grim Aniversary For Gaza

Another grim anniversary for Gaza
Efforts to end the Gaza blockade must go hand in hand with the wider Palestinian right to self-determination.By
Sharif Nashashibi

Sharif Nashashibi is an award-winning journalist and analyst on Arab affairs.

July 8 marks the anniversary of last year’s Israeli onslaught against Gaza. Commonly and mistakenly described as a war against Hamas, the targets and victims were overwhelmingly civilian (a consistent and deliberate Israeli military strategy). According to the United Nations, two-thirds of the 2,251 Palestinian fatalities were civilian, including 551 children and 299 women.
More than 1,500 children were orphaned. Children and women comprised almost two-thirds of the 11,231 Palestinians injured, 10 percent of whom are permanently disabled. A report by Save The Children on July 6 documented continued “severe emotional distress” among children, including regular bedwetting and nightmares.
Some 19,000 homes were totally or partially destroyed, and 500,000 Palestinians (28 percent of Gaza’s population) were displaced, in what the UN described as “the largest displacement recorded in Gaza since 1967”.

Gaza anniversary

Has Israel committed war crimes in Gaza?
The anniversary of the war will attract predictions about the likelihood or inevitability of the next one. Certainly, for the people of Gaza that prospect is always on the horizon.
Most extremist
Israel’s recently elected government – aptly described as the most extremist in the country’s history (and that is saying something) – consists of figures who believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has actually been too soft on Hamas, and want a full-scale invasion and reoccupation of Gaza to wipe out the Palestinian faction.
The terms of last summer’s ceasefire agreement repeat the basic flaws that doomed previous truces: vague wording, and the postponement of talks on the fundamental issues. That means ample time and opportunity for the ceasefire to unravel (Israel has repeatedly violated it).
There is no mention of Egypt or Israel ending their blockades of Gaza, nor of the wider issue of Palestinian statehood. Israel even balks at smaller-scale issues such as constructing a Gaza seaport and rebuilding the airport that was bombed in 2000.
Furthermore, Netanyahu may feel that whenever his popularity is flagging, the remedy is another assault on Gaza. His public approval ratings were sky high during last year’s onslaught, peaking at 82 percent when the ground invasion began.
Gaza’s civilian population has for too long languished in what is aptly described as the world’s largest open-air prison.

So yet another war may be a matter of when, not if, but the next one might not necessarily be with Israel. Last week, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) threatened to “uproot” and “overrun” the “tyrants of Hamas” in Gaza, and to implement sharia law there.
The threat should be taken seriously, given that it follows a string of recent attacks carried out by its sympathisers against Hamas in Gaza – a jihadist challenge to the latter’s authority that would have been unthinkable not long ago. There have reportedly been at least a dozen such attacks so far this year alone, including four in May.

Desperate population

The humanitarian catastrophe that the years-long blockade has caused in Gaza is providing ISIL with fertile ground for recruitment among sections of the impoverished territory’s increasingly desperate population.
“The blockade – now in place for eight years – has devastated Gaza’s economy, left most people unable to leave Gaza, restricted people from essential services such as healthcare and education, and cut Palestinians in Gaza off from those in the West Bank,” said Oxfam on July 3.
According to its report, more than 40 percent of people in Gaza are unemployed, including 67 percent of youth, “the highest rate in the world”. A whopping 80 percent of people are in need of aid, and exports are at less than 3 percent of their pre-blockade levels due to “heavy restrictions” on the transfer of goods.
“Many key industries … have been decimated as essential materials are not allowed” into Gaza, “most of the water supply is unsafe to drink and there are power cuts of 12 hours a day”.

Debate about whether or when conflict will erupt again takes place under the fundamentally flawed premise that war entails simply the resumption of military hostilities. The blockade itself is an act of war, with no end in sight. Focusing only on violence gives the false impression that in its absence there is peace in Gaza, which is occasionally and inexplicably broken by Palestinian militants.
Last summer’s Israeli onslaught did not create a humanitarian disaster – it exacerbated a long-festering one.
“One year on… life for many people in Gaza is getting worse,” said Oxfam, adding that “an already vulnerable civilian population has been left even more vulnerable.”
Not a single home that was totally or partially destroyed has been rebuilt, due to the blockade’s restrictions on building materials.
Moral imperative
A complete lifting of the blockade is a moral imperative, as Gaza’s civilian population has for too long languished in what is aptly described as the world’s largest open-air prison. However, that should be seen as a stepping-stone to realising Palestinian rights and aspirations, not an end-all solution.
The blockade and its duration – even efforts to end it – have created a discourse that views Gaza increasingly as a distinct entity separate from the rest of Palestine and its people. This serves Israel’s divide-and-conquer strategy, which must be resisted.
Efforts to end the blockade must go hand in hand with the wider Palestinian right to self-determination. Palestinians may be geographically and politically divided, but they are one people and one nation.
Even if the blockade were lifted, Gazans would not accept to leave their compatriots to their own fate. Sadly, however, the end of their misery remains a more distant prospect than the resumption of armed conflict, for which there will be more grim anniversaries.
Sharif Nashashibi is an award-winning journalist and analyst on Arab affairs.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2015/07/grim-anniversary-gaza-150708061032649.html

 

Narendra Modi in Israel: Don’t believe the hype, India isn’t abandoning support for Palestine

It seems only fair that the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel is Narendra Modi of the BJP.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Narendra Modi at Tel Aviv airport on Tuesday. PTI

Benjamin Netanyahu and Narendra Modi at Tel Aviv airport on Tuesday. PTI

The party had, even when it was in the Opposition, advocated closer ties to Israel, a nation much admired by the BJP and the Sangh Parivar for its aggressive defence capabilities and disproportionate retaliation for every missile launched from Palestinian soil.

In the hubbub surrounding Modi’s visit, former prime minister PV Narasimha Rao is almost forgotten. It was Rao, ever the pragmatist, who decided to improve relations with with Israel in 1992, at the end of the Cold War.

So he should be given some credit, especially as the Congress party since Independence had been a forceful advocate of Palestinian rights and Rao’s decision would have shocked several party stalwarts.

Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is going all out to make Modi’s visit — to mark 25 years of diplomatic ties — a memorable one. He will receive Modi at the airport, which he has done only for US president Donald Trump. Remember, the US is Israel’s closest ally.  Netanyahu will also accompany Modi everywhere during the trip.

In fact, there has been so much focus on the Modi visit, that Israel’s well respected newspaper Haaretz, wondered if India was to replace the US as Tel Aviv’s major ally: “Judging by the multiple ‘promo’ articles in the Indian and Israel press pre-announcing the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Israel in July 2017, India could be Israel’s greatest ally. Uncertain of President Trump’s stand on several key issues, will ‘redemption’ come to Jerusalem via New Delhi?”

And the same piece goes on to say: “Indeed, the stakes are high. Israel has already signed on its largest deal in history: a $2 billion defense agreement (reportedly, $1.6 billion for Israel Aerospace Industries and $0.4 billion for Rafael, a a state-owned defense company) by which India will purchase anti-missile systems and
components made in Israel.’’

Yet despite the friendship and the hype around it, Modi will need to balance relations with Israel with that of other Gulf countries. The tight rope walk that India has always done since 1992, will continue to be Delhi’s focus. Modi knows that well and has drawn red lines.

In interviews ahead of the visit, the prime minister made it clear that on certain issues, he would not completely break from the past. When asked if India would shift its embassy to Jerusalem by an Israeli newspaper that was pro-government, unlike Trump, who promised he would do so during the election, Modi gave a categorical no.

Modi also stuck to Delhi’s line on the Palestinian issue: “India believes in a two-state solution in which both Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist peacefully,” he said on Monday.

He went on to say: “A final-status agreement should respect the sentiments and address demands of all affected parties,” he added. So despite India’s close ties with Israel, it is not as if Delhi is going to ignore Palestine or the Gulf countries.

There has been much talk about breaking with convention and making the trip to Israel a stand-alone visit. It had been mandatory for all Indian leaders to visit both Israel and Palestine. President Pranab Mukherjee as well as Vice-President Hamid Ansari had done so.

While Modi is not visiting Palestine, India had invited President Mahmoud Abbas to Delhi in May and again reiterated Delhi’s support for a Palestinian state. Despite Modi’s desire to expand ties with Israel and upgrade it to perhaps a strategic partnership, Modi has not neglected the Gulf nations. He has invested both time and effort and established a rapport with the ruling families of Saudi Arabi, Qatar, and UAE and has visited each of these countries.

Considering over seven million Indians live and work out of the region and send back remittances fluctuating between $35 and $4o billion annually, the Arab states cannot be ignored.

The bulk of India’s oil supplies and 80 percent of its natural gas is imported from the region. So Modi knows that he cannot tilt completely towards Israel without offending key Arab leaders. Though the Arab states have paid mere lip service to the Palestinian cause in the last two decades, a complete change of India’s policy towards Palestine will not go down well in the region. It will be interpreted as part of the the BJP government’s anti-Muslim stand.

Leaders of the region are also aware that Kashmir, India’s only Muslim majority state, is on the boil as street protests take on the BJP-PDP government in Srinagar. Despite the violence and the crackdown by the authorities in Kashmir, the Gulf leaders, have not so far made many statements on the situation in Kashmir.

In the early days, there would have been an outpouring of concern from every Arab capital on the Valley. More significant has been the cooperation of both Saudi Arabia and the UAE in getting terror suspects back from these countries.

Published Date: Jul 05, 2017 06:46 am | Updated Date: Jul 05, 2017 06:46 am

Water: India is desperately short of it, and Israel is a leader in desalination and irrigation tech. Might be a key ingredient in this scenario?

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