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.
At least five young unarmed people shot by soldiers despite rules permitting live fire only in extreme circumstances
At least five unarmed young Palestinians, including a 21-year-old woman, have been shot dead by Israeli soldiers in 13 days since the start of the year, prompting mounting concern about the unwarranted use of live fire. A sixth was killed on his 17th birthday last month, and a seventh death this month is disputed by the Israeli military.
The commander of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) in the West Bank, Brigadier-General Hagai Mordechai has ordered all commanders to reiterate to all soldiers the rules of engagement, a military spokesman told the Guardian.
The use of live fire is permitted only in extreme circumstances, and shooting to kill only in a life-threatening situation. “None of [the dead] posed a threat that justifies the use of lethal force,” said Sarit Michaeli, of the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem and the author of a report published on Monday which analyses the IDF’s use of crowd control weapons in the West Bank. “Swift action by the army is required to transmit a clear message to soldiers that the lives of Palestinians have equal value and that firing live ammunition in non-life threatening situations is illegal.”
The youngest to be killed was 15-year-old Salah Amarin, who died last Wednesday, five days after being shot in the head during clashes near Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem. According to the IDF, he had been launching stones from a slingshot.
The same day as Amarin died, Lubna al-Hanash, 22, was shot in the face while walking on a college campus south of Bethlehem. According to the IDF, a routine patrol in the area had opened fire in self-defence after being “confronted by Palestinians with Molotov cocktails”. But Suad Jaara, a friend who was injured in the shooting, told the Palestinian news agency Ma’an: “An Israeli soldier was shooting from his rifle while a white car was parked on the roadside. There was no one in the area except Lubna and I.”
Sixteen-year-old Samir Awad was shot on 15 January after crossing a fence that forms part of the security barrier near his home in the village of Budrus. He had just completed school exam before a midterm break from school when he was grabbed by soldiers, broke free and ran away. Soldiers opened fire, hitting him from behind in the back and the head. The IDF said Awad was “attempting to infiltrate into Israel”.
Three days earlier, Uday Darwish, 21, was also shot in the back while running away from soldiers after attempting to cross the separation barrier south of Hebron, according to Palestinian sources. The IDF said “soldiers at the scene fired towards his legs”.
Last month, Mohammed al-Salaymeh was killed by a female soldier at a checkpoint in Hebron while en route to buy a cake to celebrate his 17th birthday. The IDF said he had brandished a toy gun. Grainy video footage of the incident appears to show the youth struggling with a soldier, and then being shot three times. The third and final shot is fired as Salaymeh is leaving the scene.
In Gaza, Anwar al-Mamlouk, 19, was shot in the abdomen 50 metres from the border fence on 11 January by Israeli soldiers, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.
Three days later, a 21-year-old farmer, Mustafa Abu Jarad died after being shot in the head. The IDF denied it was responsible.
According to B’Tselem, IDF regulations say live fire is permissible “in a case of violent rioting by the separation barrier, when there appears to be a real threat of damage to, or breaching of, the barrier, and when less severe methods have proved to be ineffective, the commander of the force may, as a last resort, authorise the firing of single shots of live ammunition at the legs of those people identified as central agitators”.
At least 46 Palestinians have been killed since 2005 by live ammunition fired by soldiers at stone-throwers, says its report, Israel’s Use of Crowd Control Weapons in the West Bank. The most common crowd control weapons are tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, stun grenades and “skunk” – the use of foul-smelling liquid in water cannon.
“Live ammunition is the most lethal means used by security forces at West Bank demonstrations,” says the report. “The Israeli military’s standing orders explicitly state that live ammunition may not be fired at stone-throwers.”
The IDF said the report relied on “a biased narrative” and “specific incidents … are exceptions to IDF policy rather than the rule”. It added: “Every soldier who is expected to contend with these situations regularly trains with riot dispersal means and is carefully taught the rules of engagement.”
The Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad called for “strong condemnation from the international community” of the recent spate of deaths from live fire, and urged “immediate intervention to compel Israel to desist from these serious attacks on our people”.
The UN special co-ordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, has also raised concerns about the use of live fire by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank.
In an editorial published before the most recent two deaths, the liberal daily Haaretz said the “basic problem emerging from these cases … is in soldiers and commanders’ overly-free interpretation regarding the circumstances permitting killing Palestinian civilians who only approach the fence, or even try to cross it, without endangering the lives of Israeli soldiers or civilians.”
It added: “The consecutive incidents in which Palestinians were killed in recent days give the feeling that Palestinian blood may be shed with impunity.”
“Take some kittens, some tender little moggies in a box”, said Jamal, a surgeon at Al-Shifa, Gaza’s main hospital, while a nurse actually placed a couple of bloodstained cardboard boxes in front of us. “Seal it up, then jump on it with all your weight and might, until you feel their little bones crunching, and you hear the last muffled little meow.” I stared at the boxes in astonishment, and the doctor continued: “Try to imagine what would happen after such images were circulated. The righteous outrage of public opinions, the complaints of the animal rights organizations….” The doctor went on in this vein, and I was unable to take my eyes off the boxes at our feet. “Israel trapped hundred of civilians inside a school as if in a box, including many children, and then crushed them with all the might of its bombs. What were the world’s reactions? Almost nothing. We would have been better of as animals rather than Palestinians, we would have been better protected.”
At this point the doctor leans towards one of the boxes, and takes its lid off in front of me. Inside it are the amputated limbs, legs and arms, some from the knee down, others with the entire femur attached, from amputees injured at the Al-Fakhura United Nations school in Jabalia, which resulted in more than 50 casualties.”
From the late Vittorio Arrigoni’s book Stay Human which is an account of the 22 day Israeli massacre on Gaza in 2008-9.
Don’t stay silent about injustice.
Be the voice for the voiceless.
“Israel Must Stop Its Illegal Settlement Activities, Violations”
IMEMC – Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, stated that the Palestinian Authority will act on the international level to stop Israel’s illegal settlement construction and expansion activities, and stated that there are 63 UN organizations that the Palestinians can now join.
Abbas said that Israel must stop all of its illegal settlement activities, especially its E1 project that aims at linking occupied East Jerusalem with the Maale Adumim illegal settlement bloc.
He added that the several countries have asked the Palestinians not to head to the International Criminal Court to sue Israel for its illegal settlement activities, and violations against the Palestinian people, but also stated that the Palestinian Authority reserves this right should Israel decide to go ahead with its E1 project, especially since this project will isolate East Jerusalem, its Palestinian communities and towns, will divide the West Bank, and block any Palestinian geographical contiguity.
“Should Israel choose to implement the E1 project, the two-state solution will have no chances of survival”, Abbas stated, “Therefore, we reserve the right to head to different international organizations to stop Israel”.
There are more than 35.000 Jewish settlers living in Maale Adumim, Israel wants to connect it to the illegal settlements and illegal settlement outposts in occupied East Jerusalem; the E1 project is planned to be constructed on 12 square/kilometers between Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and Jericho, the Bokra Net Arabic news website reported.
Abbas further stated that, after the Palestinians managed to obtain a nonmember observer state status at the UN General Assembly, the international community recognized Palestine as an occupied state.
“Therefore we became under the jurisdiction of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as the occupied territories are now considered part of an occupied state, and not disputed territories as Israel tries to claim, the convention prohibits occupiers from changing the demography of occupied territories.”
The Palestinian President Added that settlements are illegal, illegitimate and violate International Law, and that Jerusalem is also an occupied city, and the center of the conflict.
“But Israel is isolating it from the rest of the Palestinian territories, it is also splitting the West Bank into two parts, this will never be acceptable, we will head to the Security Council to stop these violations, we will do whatever we can on the international level to stop Israel’s settlement activities and its ongoing violations.”
Palestinian president asks government to stop using “Palestinian Authority” on public documents, as budget woes worsen.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has asked his West Bank-based government to prepare for replacing the words “Palestinian Authority” with “State of Palestine”.
The order by Abbas on Sunday applies to all public documents, but Palestinian officials said on Monday they will not rush to issue new passports and ID cards to avoid confrontation with Israel.
Hassan Alawi, a deputy interior minister in the Palestinian Authority, said documents and stationery with the new emblem will be ready within two months, but all documents Palestinians need in their dealings with Israel will only be changed if there is a further decision by Abbas.
Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman, dismissed the name change as insignificant, but declined comment on whether Israel would retaliate in any way.
“Whether the changes are really implemented is unsure because of the political situation right now,” said Al Jazeera’s Jane Ferguson, reporting from Jerusalem. “But the move is to regain momentum after the UN vote.”
In late November, Abbas won UN recognition of a state of Palestine in the occupied West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, overriding Israeli objections to the largely symbolic step.
The UN bid gave the Palestinians new diplomatic leverage by affirming the borders of a future state of Palestine in lands Israel captured in 1967, but changed little in the day-to-day lives of Palestinians.
Set up two decades ago as part of interim peace deals with Israel, the self-rule government was meant to be temporary and replaced by a fully functioning state of Palestine – to be established through negotiations with Israel.
However, those talks repeatedly broke down, and for the past four years the two sides have been unable to agree on the terms of renewing the negotiations.
In an apparent response to the UN move, Israel in December halted its monthly transfer of about $100m in tax rebates it collects on behalf of the Palestinians. That sum amounts to about one-third of the monthly operating costs of the Palestinian Authority, which now only takes in about $50m a month in revenues.
Israel has said it used the withheld money to settle Palestinian Authority debt to Israeli companies, and it is not clear whether the transfers will resume.
As a result, the Palestinian Authority is on the “verge of being completely incapacitated”, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad warned on Sunday.
In an interview with the Associated Press news agency, Fayyad attributed his government’s “extreme jeopardy” and unprecedented financial crisis to failure by Arab countries to send hundreds of millions of dollars in promised aid.
The 22-nation Arab League has not kept a promise to make up for the funds Israel withholds, Fayyad said.
The cash crunch has gradually worsened in recent years, and the Palestinian Authority now has reached the point of not being able to pay the salaries of about 150,000 government employees, Fayyad said.
While European countries have kept their aid commitments, about $200m in US aid was held up by Congress last year – a sum President Barack Obama’s administration hopes to deliver to the Palestinians this year, along with an additional $250m in aid.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies
With 2012 over and 2013 here, why don’t we take a look at some statistics.
It has been reported that the Palestinian Authority is currently looking into the possibility of filing a complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Israel for arresting 900 Palestinian children in 2012.
Palestine is able to file to the ICC thanks to its succesful UN bid for statehood.
“We need to use the newly gained state status to take measures against Israel for its crimes especially the arrest, detention, and abuse of Palestinian children, let alone trying them before military courts,” said Eissa Karakea, Palestinian Minister of Detainees’ Affairs.
He also stated that Palestine now has the right to join international human rights organizations and through them can file complaints against Israel.
“Israel is violating the Child Protection Act and all international laws by subjecting children to such traumatic experiences. The Israeli minister of security had actually said earlier that Palestinian children have no immunity” said Karakea.
Karakea also states that the International Criminal Court is already aware of the horrendous crimes committed against Palestinian children.
“Several human rights organizations are launching campaigns and organizing conferences in solidarity with Palestinian children and are spreading testimonials by the victims, but this is not enough. We need to take further steps.”
A report issued by the Ministry of Detainees Affairs revealed that the number of Palestinian children arrested by Israeli authorities had jumped from 700 in 2011 to 900 in 2012.
According to the report, those children are usually mistreated and brutally beaten during detention in order to admit to crimes they have not committed and to. These children are also interrogated for long hours while their hands and feet are tied and sometimes they are blindfolded. In some interrogation centers, the report noted, children are left for hours under the rain. In most cases, the children are subjected to various forms of collective punishment.
The detainees are deprived of basic rights like seeing their families and they are also not allowed to sit with psychiatrists.
A cartoon I came across after Palestine’s successful statehood bid in the UN.