Ma’an News – Fluctuating prices, poverty and border restrictions mean growing numbers of Palestinians are facing food insecurity this year — one of the key priorities in the humanitarian community’s annual appeal for the occupied Palestinian territory.
This year’s Consolidated Appeal Process is for $401.6 million, a slight decrease on last year’s $416.7 million, only 68 percent of which was financed.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which helped coordinate the CAP, estimates that 1.3 million Palestinians do not have enough food.
The latest figures show the number of households without sufficient access to food has risen by 7 percent since 2011, a trend which — if continued — would have left an estimated 41 percent of Palestinians without the necessary resources to get sufficient, safe and nutritious food at the end of 2012.
“Palestinian wages have not kept pace with inflation … Many poor Palestinians have exhausted their coping mechanisms (taking on loans, cutting back consumption) and are now much more vulnerable to small price increases than they were,” said a recent World Food Program bulletin.
According to the CAP, the situation is further worsened by restrictions on the movement of people and goods, which have resulted in higher prices of basic food commodities and reduced the purchasing power of many vulnerable families.
Humanitarian agencies hope to carry out 157 projects in 2013 — 58 implemented by UN agencies, 82 by international NGOs and 17 by local NGOs.
But doing this type of work is becoming increasingly difficult, according to aid workers who say getting access to vulnerable communities became tougher in 2012 because of lengthy Israeli planning procedures and restrictions on mobility and authorization.
In 2011, UN reconstruction projects had to wait an average of eight months for approval from Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in Territories, a unit in the Israeli Ministry of Defense that engages in coordinating civilian issues between the government of Israel, the army, international organizations, diplomats, and the Palestinian Authority). By the end of 2012, the average waiting time more than doubled to 20 months, according to the CAP report.
In addition, aid workers lost some 1,959 working hours due to 535 access incidents while attempting to pass Israeli checkpoints in 2012, Maria José Torres, OCHA deputy head of office in OPT, told IRIN.
This trend is expected to worsen once the Israeli Crossing Points Administration, a civilian department linked to the Defense Ministry, begins to operate all checkpoints.
The CPA requires regular searches of UN vehicles, unless the driver is an international staff member, and national UN staff are subject to body searches and required to walk through the crossings the CPA operates. It remains unclear, however, when exactly CPA will take over.
Impact of recent political events
The recent escalation in violence in Gaza at the end of 2012 only increased humanitarian needs and added an extra $26 million to the CAP as communities try to rebuild: this year’s appeal has a tighter focus on strictly humanitarian projects that would immediately tackle suffering, said Torres.
The indebted Palestinian government in the West Bank is also struggling to provide basic services due to a shortfall in revenue provoked by declining donor support, and also the holding back of tax revenues by Israel, which objected to the State of Palestine being given the status of a non-member observer state at the UN.
A man-made crisis?
These incidents highlight the close correlation between politics and humanitarian needs in oPt.
At the CAP presentation in Ramallah, several speakers on the podium criticized Israel for provoking what they said was a man-made humanitarian crisis in oPt.
“The UN has repeatedly called upon the State of Israel to meet its obligations as an occupying power, including halting demolitions and addressing humanitarian needs. Unfortunately, these have not been met,” said the resident humanitarian coordinator in oPt, James Rawley.
“The international community tries to fill the gap, and this humanitarian action is essential. But it is no substitute to political action.”
Many of the Palestinian officials and humanitarian staff present told IRIN they had become frustrated by the man-made and largely unchanged humanitarian crisis in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
“After 20 years of a useless peace process with Israel, the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate. The status quo is not working,” said Estephan Salameh, an adviser to the Palestinian Ministry of Planning in the West Bank.
Gaza’s children affirmed their place at the forefront of creativity and innovation last week, as a 14-year-old girl from Jabalia refugee camp, northern Gaza, took first place in an international math competition featuring the best young brains from all around the world.
In recent years in Gaza, creativity and achievement has grown and flourished against extraordinary odds; a blockade and the rubble of many conflicts, the last of which was eight-day war on Gaza in November 2012.
14-year-old Palestine refugee Areej El Madhoun, a student at UNRWA’s school in Jabalia camp received the first prize in this year’s Intelligent Mental-Arithmetic Competition, held in Malaysia every two years.
The Intelligent Mental-Arithmetic program, which targets children between the ages of 4 and 12, works on developing the mental capacity and performance of children by adopting a technique called the “Both-Hand Abacus Mental-Arithmetic” teaching method. Using the fingers of the left and right hands to compute simultaneously, the program works to create stimulation in both the left and right sides of the brain. This enables children to solve various mathematical questions with speed, accuracy and skill, in addition to improving their thinking abilities.
Ninth-grader Areej outmatched 2,500 other participants from ten countries by solving 182 complicated mathematical questions within an eight-minute period.
Areej sees her success as the greatest gift she can offer to the children of Gaza after the recent eight-day war, which saw houses and infrastructure destroyed, and incidences of psychological trauma rise.
“Winning the first prize is a victory for Palestine. I was very proud to carry my country’s flag”, said a delighted Areej.
“When I was announced as the winner, I felt overwhelmed and cried so hard”.
The recent memory of war made her victory particularly poignant, Areej added
“I went through some difficult times before the competition. The most recent conflict in Gaza had just ended two weeks before the competition began.”
In the end, the fear and anxiety brought on by the conflict did not subdue her overwhelming joy at winning first prize, she said.
In addition to Areej, four other young Palestinians received advanced places in the international competition; proving once again that the talent of Palestinian youth is remarkable, when given the opportunity to be.
(UNRWA – http://www.unrwa.org)
Ma’an News – Israel’s housing ministry released government tenders for the construction of 198 new settlement units in the occupied West Bank, Israeli media reported Wednesday.
Noting the timing before national elections, Israel’s Ynet news site reported that the announcement invited developers to bid on two projects in Efrat and Kiryat Arba.
Both settlements are in the Hebron area of the occupied Palestinian West Bank and considered illegal under international law.
The announcement came two weeks ahead of an Israeli election the incumbent prime minister’s joint party list is expected to win. Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly promised to hold on to settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and expanded them during his term.
A centrist challenger, former Foreign Minister and peace negotiator Tzipi Livni, has made Israel’s international isolation under Netanyahu the focus of her campaign.
Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now said meanwhile that approval for construction in 2012 far exceeded by a “record level” the counts for the previous two years.
Israeli authorities issued 3,148 such tenders in 2012 – the highest single-year figure in a decade – compared with 1,321 in 2011 and 663 in 2011, Peace Now said.
Netanyahu’s settlement policies, Peace Now said, “disclose a clear intention to use settlements to systematically undermine and render impossible a realistic, viable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.
Almost 40 percent of the new building sites were in what Peace Now called “isolated settlements”, and not the more built-up blocs which the government says Israel will keep in any deal with the Palestinians.
Also Wednesday, Netanyahu’s office declined comment on an un-sourced column by US writer Jeffrey Goldberg, which described Obama as frustrated at West Bank settlement building.
“Obama said privately and repeatedly, ‘Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are’,” Goldberg wrote in the column published Tuesday by Bloomberg.
The president “seems to view the prime minister as a political coward, an essentially unchallenged leader who nevertheless is unwilling to lead or spend political capital to advance the cause of compromise”, added Goldberg.
Some Israeli commentators saw the column as payback for Netanyahu’s perceived back-room lobbying on behalf of Republican Mitt Romney in his failed run against Obama in November’s US election. Netanyahu has denied any such meddling.
Reuters contributed to this report.
IMEMC – A revised petition of a legal opinion that was submitted to the Israeli High Court of Justice, against the eviction of twelve Palestinians villages from their home so that the army can conduct military training, stated that the Palestinians could have legal grounds to sue Israel at the International Criminal Court, Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported.
The petition states that by declaring around 30.000 Dunams in the Southern Hebron Hills as an Israeli live-fire training zone, removing the Palestinian residents from their property, there will be legal grounds for suing Israel.
In the early 1980’s, Israel declared the 30.000 Dunams of Palestinian lands as a live-fire zone, Haaretz, said, while in 1999, the Israeli Army issued orders displacing the Palestinians who live in the area, and even used force to evict some of them.
The Israeli High Court received two petitions against the eviction of the Palestinians, and issued a temporary injunction allowing them to return to their homes, but did not void the army’s illegal decision declaring the area as a live-fire zone.
Haaretz further reported in July of last year, Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, submitted the Ministry’s official decision to the court declaring that Palestinians living in eight of the twelve villages need to be evicted “as they are in the live-fire zone”, and claimed that this area is “crucial for Israeli military drills.”
Barak alleged that the Palestinians who live in these villages “are not permanent residents” as they are mainly Bedouin tribes and shepherds, and added that “the army can remove them as they have no legal status”.
On Wednesday, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, submitted a revised petition on behalf of the residents, as suggested by the court.
Haaretz reported that the revised petition stated that the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the forcible transfer of protected populations from occupied territories, and that even countries that are not signatories to the Convention are even bound by it.
Israel is one of the signatories of the Convention, and even without signing it, the Convention should supersede orders issued by military commanders.
Haaretz added that Professors Eyal Benvenisti, Yuval Shany, and David Kremcher, whose legal opinions were included in the petition, argued that the prohibition on the forcible removal of protected civilian populations living in occupied territories, as stated in the Geneva Convention, became a customary law.
The legal experts also stated that the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court “explicitly grants jurisdiction to the court to look into these cases.”
They said that there are no exceptions, as this prohibition is clear and does not depend on the residency status of the residents, and added that the absoluteness that this prohibition stems from what largely took place during World War II, when massive deportations were widely carried out under different claims.
Furthermore, the Fourth Geneva Convention allows the temporary transfer of civilian populations due to temporary military needs, due to war of or armed conflict, but it does not apply to this case as Israel is not in war, but is creating a military training area.
What Israel is doing is the forcible transfer of a civilian population, even if the army did not need to resort to military force, therefore its action is illegal.