Besieged Gaza Two Years after Cast Lead
By Stephen Lendman
December 28 was Cast Lead’s second anniversary, a three week onslaught inflicting an appalling human, destructive and environmental toll. The war ended. Regular attacks continued, and Gaza remains suffocating under siege. Yet world leaders are doing nothing to end it or hold Israeli war criminals accountable.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) said "Gaza remains sealed-off from the outside world (after) the single most brutal event in" the occupation’s history, and "impunity for war crimes prevails."
To date, victims’ rights have been unaddressed. International law remains ignored. Indisputable war crimes were airbrushed from history. Israeli war criminals were shielded from justice. Only three lower-ranking soldier were convicted for war-related offenses. One was for credit card theft, two others for using a nine year old boy as a human shield. Israeli government officials who ordered war, generals and top commanders who planned and implemented it, and other complicit figures were uncharged and unpunished.
World leader silence condoned them. The rule of law was trashed for imperial Israel, including allowing it to slowly suffocate over 1.5 million Gazans. Moreover, a newly released WikiLeaks cable says Israel plans major wars on Gaza and Lebanon.
Preventing Gaza’s Reconstruction
On December 21, the Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement asked "Who will rebuild Gaza?" Six months after Israel’s cabinet decision to ease closure, a new Gisha report headlined "Reconstructing the Closure: Will recent changes to the closure policy be enough to build in Gaza," saying:
"Despite the cabinet’s decision, Israel continues to ban the entrance of steel, gravel and cement, (essential) items which are not considered to be dual-use according to international standards." Narrow exceptions only were allowed with "burdensome bureaucratic strings attached."
For most items, Israel bogusly claims Hamas may use construction materials to build bunkers and "enhance its military capability" in other ways. As a result, little rebuilding progress has been made. Gaza remains in ruins, and over 1.5 million Palestinians struggle daily to cope.
For example, from July 6 – December 6, 2010, only 744 truckloads of cement, gravel and steel entered Gaza for international projects. In addition, up to 900 tons of concrete (equaling 36 truckloads), 300 tons of steel, or 250 tons of gravel move through tunnels on any given day. Though way short of enough, whatever’s supplied helps. In contrast, prior to June 2007 (when siege began), over 5,000 truckloads of these materials came in monthly. Israel is determined to suffocate Gazans, committing the equivalent of slow-motion genocide.
Ongoing Gaza Displacement
On December 27, the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights new report headlined, "On-going Displacement: Gaza’s Displaced Two Years after the War," saying:
Two years after Cast Lead, "tens of thousands of Gaza residents continue to live a life of displacement" because of Israel’s suffocating siege. As a result, they’ve gotten little "meaningful relief (or) their right to adequate housing."
After Cast Lead ended, UN Under Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, said it’s "absolutely critical that (construction) material(s) be allowed into Gaza on a regular and hopefully free basis."
For over two years, Israel’s prevented them, collectively punishing tens of thousands of Gazans, unable to rebuild their homes and lives. Gaza’s Ministry of Housing and Public Works said 51,553 homes were destroyed or damaged. Of these, 3,336 were completed demolished and 4,021 sustained major damages.
Most aid Gazans got came from Hamas, the UN Development Program (UNDP), and UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Other agencies also provided materials, equipment and food. Also, families whose homes were totally destroyed got cash. Refugee homeless families received about $5,000 from Hamas and a comparable amount from UNWRA. Others whose properties sustained major damage got about $2,500 from Hamas and another $3,000 from UNWRA.
Non-refugee families were also helped, amounts based on whether their homes were entirely or partially destroyed. Families who lost properties have been most harmed, needing alternate shelter, mostly in leased apartments until their homes are rebuilt.
Based on a random survey from its "home demolitions" database among families whose homes were entirely destroyed, Al Mezan estimates:
— 93.3% of families haven’t gotten rebuilding help so must live elsewhere;
— 13.3% rebuilt their homes;
— 86.6% can’t do it because they didn’t receive enough help;
— 56.6% have rented homes or apartments; of those, 41.2 % (23.3% of the total) get regular assistance, covering their full rent expense; another 35.3% receive only partial help;
— 33.3% get no help for rent;
— 10% live in houses other than their own;
— 6.7% live with relatives or their families;
— 10% live in tents;
— 30% had to move their children to new schools;
— 66.7% said alternative housing doesn’t provide comfort and privacy like their own; and
— 86.7% are dissatisfied with how service providers handled home demolition and destruction problems.
A second survey among families whose homes were partially destroyed showed findings only modestly better, except that:
— 83.3% were living in their own residences, despite damage; and
— 43.3% were dissatisfied with service providers, half the percentage of homeless families.
Overall, however, Gaza remains in crisis, ongoing since June 2007, and exacerbated by Cast Lead destruction, atrocities, regular assaults, little concern by the international community, and no accountability for Israeli war criminals. Occupied Palestine’s history shows sustained justice denied, especially in Gaza under siege.
Another Lebanon and Gaza War?
Juan Cole writes regularly for his Informed Comment site, on January 2 headlining "WikiLeaks: Israel Plans Total War on Lebanon, Gaza," saying:
Norway’s Aftenposten newspaper "summarized an Israeli military briefing by Israeli Chief of Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi" for US congressional members over a year ago, saying:
"The memo on the talks….as well as numerous other documents from the same period, to which Aftenposten has gained access, leave a clear message: The Israeli military is forging ahead at full speed with preparations for a new war in the Middle East."
Cole emphasized "serious and specific" preparations, not contingency planning. US cables quoted Ashkenazi saying:
"I’m preparing the Israeli army for a major war, since it is easier to scale down to a smaller operation than to do the opposite….In the next war Israel cannot accept any restrictions on warfare in urban areas."
Neither did Israel’s last two conflicts in 2006 against Lebanon and Cast Lead, under its "Dayiya Doctrine," named after the Beirut suburb destroyed in summer 2006. It reflected how future wars would be fought as IDF Northern Command head Gabi Eisenkot explained at the time, saying:
"What happened in the Dayiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on. We will apply disproportionate force at the heart of the enemy’s weak spot (civilians and non-military targets) and cause great damage and destruction. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages (towns or cities), they are military bases. This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved."
Cast Lead (like Lebanon 2006) showed that civilians and non-military targets are attacked freely without cause to inflict maximum damage, deaths, injuries and human misery – "Dayiya."
Whether or not true, Ashkenazi and America’s State Department claim Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah amassed large stockpiles of rockets, threatening Israel. In fact, no nation endangered Israel since the 1973 war, and given its dominant regional strength, none does so now. Other nations’ weapons are purely defensive and no match for Israel, nuclear-armed and dangerous.
Cole observes that Israel "could have a peace treaty with Syria and Lebanon tomorrow by giving back the Golan Heights and the Shebaa Farms…." For decades, Palestinians have also sought peace, but Israel chooses conflict. So does America.
As a result, Cole fears that Washington’s support for Israeli belligerence will incite inevitable blowback, "finally finish(ing) off the (few remaining) civil liberties enshrined in the American Constitution." Already on life support, they need only a shove to be cut off.
– Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: [email protected] and visit his blog at: sjlendman.blogspot.com.