Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Stop being accomplices to blockade!

CAMPAIGNERS against the Israeli siege on Gaza have reiterated appeals to the Egyptian government to respond positively to Arab and Islamic initiatives to break the two-year siege, and let fuel supplies and humanitarian aid through.

Non-governmental organisations and reporters have warned that a humanitarian disaster could be looking in the Gaza Strip. Besides shortages of food and medical supplies, fuel and power cuts, together with lack of spare parts, have led to essential services such as sewage treatment and disposal breaking down. One woman and child were already killed when a dam collapsed, and with raw sewage flooding on to streets disease could soon be rife.

Israel's Supreme Court held a hearing on May 21 on a petition submitted by nine Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups, represented by Gisha - Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, claiming that since April 9, 2008, the State of Israel has violated its commitment to supply even minimal, insufficient quantities of fuel to the Gaza Strip. The groups said the fuel restrictions are crippling the functioning of hospitals, water wells, sewage treatment plants, and public transportation - and thus endangering the health and well-being of Gaza's 1.5 million residents. Israel controls Gaza's borders and does not permit Gaza residents to receive fuel except via the Israeli-controlled Nahal Oz Crossing.

The position of the rights groups is that all deliberate restrictions on fuel supply to Gaza are illegal, because they violate Israel's obligations to Gaza residents under international humanitarian law, including the obligation to refrain from collective punishment.
Human Rights Groups Claim Israel is Preventing Fuel Supply to Gaza; Systematically Violating Court Order

The court has not yet issued a ruling in the case.

Dr. Arafat Madi, who is campaigning for Egypt to open its border crossing, said that in light of the Israeli persistence in imposing its siege and its manipulation of the fuel quantities allowed into Gaza, Egypt should take an urgent decision to open the Rafah border crossing.

Dr. Madi pointed out that Qatar, Algeria and Iran had expressed willingness to provide adequate fuel free of charge to Gaza, and in light of these Arab generous efforts Egypt should take an immediate decision befitting its ethical and humanitarian responsibilities towards its neighbors in the Strip.

He warned that the Egyptian authorities' reluctance to open the Rafah crossing under many pretexts is like a slow death sentence issued against the Gaza people, which also causes further deaths among patients who cannot find appropriate medical treatment in besieged Gaza.

The pressure on the Egyptian government to cease acting as an accomplice to the Israeli siege is being increased as Egypt's pro-US policy position and reliance becomes more uncomfortable, due to Bush's blatant support for an intransigeant Israel. On his visit to Jerusalem the US president affirmed his support for Israel as an ally, denounced those who wanted to talk with Hamas as "appeasers", and proclaimed US support for "democracy" in the Middle East. This last bit was received with bitter irony, in view not only of the treatment of a democratically elected Palestinian authority, but of the Egyptian government's arrests of trade unionists and Muslim or left-wing political opponents.

Egypt takes a step back from Bush embrace
Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, The Electronic Intifada, 23 May 2008

The Egyptian government's shameful collaboration in the Israeli blockade of Gaza is a humiliating price to pay for
US backing. There could be worse to come as the US continues threatening war with Iran. But what are we to say then of the British and other European Union governments which could help break the Israeli blockade but have so far actaed as its accomplices?

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