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Palestinians Denied Essentials to Life

Written by Subject: Israel - Palestine
Palestinians Denied Essentials to Life

by Stephen Lendman

Besides persecution, repression, and injustice, deprivation defines life in Occupied Palestine. Essentials fall way below minimum standards.

Shortages and crises affect water, sanitation, electricity, fuel, and vital healthcare when most needed.

On March 14, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) headlined, "Occupied Lives: Switching off hospitals," saying:

Gaza's hospitals, including al-Shifa (Gaza's largest medical complex), "fac(e) severe difficulties in providing basis services...." As a result, the right to health and life are undermined. "Such problems have been a consistent feature of life in the Gaza Strip since the current closure was imposed in 2007."

Unreliable supply and high cost got Gaza to stop importing Israeli industrial fuel. Gaza's tunnel economy coped best it could. On February 14, Egypt curtailed supplies. As a result, a power crisis followed.

Without enough fuel, Gaza's power plant can't operate properly. Vital services can't function. Drinking water, health and sanitation facilities are affected.

In mid-February, the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company shut down. Around two-thirds of Gaza was affected. Citing unprecedented challenges, the company said severe complications restricted daily electricity distribution to six hours daily, followed by 18 hour outages.

Gaza's Health Ministry declared a state of emergency. Hospital generators lack enough fuel to operate properly. Patient lives and well-being are jeopardized. During days of Israeli bombing, doctors struggled to cope with treating wounded patients.

Health Ministry official Bassam Barhoum said:

"The patients most at risk are those in the intensive care unit, the babies in the nurseries, kidney dialysis patients and those in need of surgery. Thank God, no patients have died until now."

"However, we face other types of losses due to the electricity crisis. In the past two weeks generators of 6 basic health clinics across the Gaza Strip broke. They are simply not built to operate for the amount of time we need them."

"Generators are made for brief emergencies, of a few hours, only. Besides that, our generators and other machines are damaged and broken by the power being cut and returning constantly. Also, the fluctuation in power levels is harmful to our equipment. Now we lack the spare parts and oils to maintain the machines."

Al-Shifa Hospital's Deputy Director of the Intensive Care Unit, Kamal Abu Obada, deals daily with these problems. "For me as a doctor," he said, "this is all very depressing. All the time I'm working to keep the patients alive and when the electricity is cut they are all at risk. If something happens to them, my efforts were all in vain."

During emergency periods, surgeries are suspended except for emergencies. Air-conditioning or heating in winter are cut. Water purification and laundry services are limited. Hygiene and sanitation crises result.

According to Abu Obada:

"During the state of emergency everything stops. We are not able to send our patients for surgery, unless it is absolutely necessary. We have to suspend other forms of treatment as well as tests and diagnostics."

"The moment the electricity is cut, we rush to the patients and provide them with oxygen manually using oxygen bags. But we face two problems in doing this. Firstly, we simply don't have enough manpower to attend to all the patients during the cuts."

"Also, it is difficult to control the quantity of oxygen manually, risking ruptures in the lungs when squeezing too much air out of the bag into the patient's lungs. When the power comes back we have to reprogram all the machines again."

"When there is a power cut, the heart and blood pressure monitors switch off. The internal sensors inside our machines are broken by the cuts which causes the alarms to go off unnecessarily and then for them to fail to kick in when something is wrong with the patient."

"Some of our patients are awake and are aware of the power cuts when they occur. These patients can hear us in those moments and fear for their own lives and those of the other(s)."

Abu Obada, Bassam Barhoum, and others explain daily siege-caused problems. As a result, lives are lost. Needless suffering occurs. Israeli denial of essential to life constitutes crimes against humanity.

Palestinians Denied Water on their Own Land

Vandana Shiva calls water nature's gift, essential to life, limited and exhaustible, vital to conserve, and a commons for everyone off-limits to commodify.

Not according to corporate profiteers and Israel. Commissioned by OCHA (Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) a new UN report headlined, "Seizure of springs by settlers greatly limits Palestinian access to water," saying:

Settlers lawlessly seized dozens of springs in Israeli-controlled Area C. It comprises over 60% of the West Bank. Palestinians are denied access to their own water. Intimidation and threats confront them if they try.

An Israeli Civil Administration spokesman dismissively said Palestinians should lodge complaints if they're denied access or violently treated. Previous attempts fell on deaf ears.

The UN report said most springs are on private Palestinian land. Israel and settlers work together stealing them. It's done several ways, including designating sites tourist areas, erecting physical barriers, and annexing areas lawlessly.

Palestinians can't access their own land for agriculture, drinking water, or other domestic consumption. According to the Matah Binyamin Regional Council for 42 settlements:

"For some years now the council is active in developing, restoring and preserving natural and heritage sites. As part of this process several murky springs were transformed into accessible sites for the public."

"In some cases, an irrigation system was built for livestock. The springs are now active tourist sites serving both Palestinians and Jews ... after dozens of years of neglect."

Israel's Civil Administration said:

"Any building activity in Area C, including the restoration of sites, including springs, necessitates building permits. In contradiction to the report, we have recently conducted enforcement activities against such illegal construction at springs near Elon Moreh and Har Brakha."

"Everyone has the right to approach springs in public areas. If access to any individual is being denied by any person, that individual should submit a complaint to the police."

Palestinians trying it attest to its futility. Settlers get carte blanche to do what they please, including stealing what's essential to life. Palestinians in one community said soldiers prevent them from entering areas, except for a few days a year to harvest olives.

OCHA called spring seizures an extension of settlement activity and expansions. They include "trespass, intimidation and physical assault, stealing of private property, and construction without a building permit." It's encouraged for Jews. Palestinians are denied on their own land.

"Yet, the Israel authorities have systematically failed to enforce the law on those responsible for these acts and to provide Palestinians with any effective remedy."

OCHA called on Israel to "restore Palestinian access to the water springs taken over by settlers." It also urged "effective investigations into cases of settler violence and trespass."

Much more than urging's needed. Measures with teeth are essential. In 45 years of occupation, Israel defied international law, ignored dozens of UN resolutions, and did whatever it wished with impunity. Nothing in OCHA's report changes things. Palestinians remain on their own to cope.

A Final Comment

Palestinians are abused many other ways. On March 22, Russia Today updated a week earlier report headlined, "Israel targets Palestinian solar panels in bid for West Bank dominance," saying:

If Israel proceeds with current demolition orders, hundreds of Palestinians will lose electricity. Many call it "an attempt to drive (them) out of the Israeli-controlled part of the territory" to facilitate stealing it.

According to Imenizil village head Ali Mohamed Ihrizat:

"We are suspended between heaven and earth. The solar panels were a glimmer of hope for us."

International charities provided them. Israel says they were built without permits. No matter. They're on private Palestinian land. In Israeli controlled Area C, Jews freely expand existing settlements and construct new ones.

In contrast, Palestinians face intolerable hurdles to build on their own land. Over 90% of permit requests are denied. In the past decade alone, around 2,000 Palestinian structures were demolished, including private residences.

Meanwhile, Israel provides settlements with water, electricity, and other essential services. Palestinians must rely on wells, generators, and other ways to cope. According to Peace Now:

"The denial of permits for Palestinians on such a large scale raises the fear that there is a specific policy by the authorities to encourage a 'silent transfer' of the Palestinian population from Area C" to assure Jews get all valued parts.

Solar panels were donated to make up for what Israel denies. NGOs built dozens for 1,500 or more Palestinians. Each one costs tens of thousands of dollars.

An unnamed UN source said:

"From December 2010 to April 2011, we saw a systematic targeting of the water infrastructure in Hebron, Bethlehem and the Jordan valley."

"Now, in the last couple of months, they are targeting electricity. Two villages in the area have had their electrical poles demolished. There is this systematic effort by the civil administration targeting all Palestinian infrastructure in Hebron."

Despite a Rabbis for Human Rights legal challenge temporarily freezing demolition orders, nothing's planned to cancel them. Israeli NGO head Noam Dotan involved in installing panels calls Israel's plan immoral and self-defeating.

"The panels are not a security threat," he said. They represent "a positive project. What do they want? Do they want the people to be more poor? To be more violent?"

Indeed, to call them terrorists and drive as many off their land as possible. That's how police states operate. As a result, millions of Palestinians suffer unjustly.

Only Jews have rights. Palestinians struggle for justice on their own, even to obtain essentials to life and survive.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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