Here on the slopes of hills, facing the dusk and the cannon of time
Close to the gardens of broken shadows,
We do what prisoners do,
And what the jobless do:
We cultivate hope.
When the planes disappear, the white, white doves
Fly off and wash the cheeks of heaven
With unbound wings taking radiance back again, taking possession
Of the ether and of play. Higher, higher still, the white, white doves
Fly off. Ah, if only the sky
Were real [a man passing between two bombs said to me].
[Under Siege: Mahmoud Darwish]
This was New Year in Gaza 2009. And this is New Year in Gaza 2010. Twenty-two days of Israeli bombardment by land, sea and air left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead and 5,000 injured; approximately 4,000 homes destroyed and 17,000 others damaged; and entire neighborhoods wiped out. The attacks, which began on 27 December 2008, mostly ended by the third week of January 2009 after Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire after the unilateral war.
Here is an excerpt from a report of the status of commitments by the ‘international community’ for Gaza:
Funds for Reconstruction:
- Reconstruction funds pledged at the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit: Some $4.5 billion.
- Number of months ‘international community’ negotiated with Israeli government over mechanism for transferring reconstruction funds and materials: 9 months.
- Implementation of mechanism for transferring reconstruction funds and materials: None.
- During the war: Some 3,500 homes were completely destroyed, some 2,800 sustained heavy damage, and some 54,000 were lightly damaged. These homes housed about 325,000 people.
- Policy on import of construction materials (cement, glass, iron) prior to the war: Banned, few humanitarian exceptions.
- Policy on import of construction materials today: Construction materials (cement, glass, iron, etc.) banned; 19 trucks of mostly cement and gravel permitted to enter for exceptional humanitarian projects.
- Needed to rebuild homes: At least 40,000 tons of cement, 25,000 tons of iron.
Infrastructure (Electricity, Water and Sewage):
- During the war: Seven out of 12 electric lines were shut down; the power station operated only 50% of the time. One million people were without electricity, and half a million people were without running water.
- Needed prior to the war to repair and maintain infrastructure: 172 types of spare parts that were either completely out of stock or were below minimum supply; 3.5 million liters/week industrial diesel for power station.
- Needed today to repair and maintain infrastructure: 240 types of spare parts that are either completely out of stock or are below minimum supply; 3.5 million liters/week industrial diesel for power station.
- Policy on import of materials prior to the war: Industrial diesel supply for power station limited to no more than 63% of need; parts stood idly for months in warehouses in Israel and the West Bank due to the restrictions and delays on their import into the Gaza Strip.
- Policy on import of materials for infrastructure today: Permission granted exceptionally for the entrance of fewer than 100 trucks carrying spare parts and building materials; industrial diesel still limited to no more than 63% of need.
- Repercussions: 40,000 people have no electricity; 10,000 have no running water; power outages eight hours a day, four days a week for most areas; 87 million liters of untreated or partially treated sewage dumped into the sea daily for lack of electricity and spare parts.
- During the war: More than 1,000 factories, businesses and private sector institutions were damaged, at an estimated cost of $45 million.
- Policy on import of goods prior to the war: Just 25% of the demand for goods was met (2,500 trucks per month versus 10,400); fewer than 40 kinds of items permitted (versus some 4,000 prior to the closure); ban on import of raw materials for industry and on export.
- Policy on import of goods today: Just 25% of the demand for goods is met, permitting entrance of about 60 kinds of goods; ban on import of raw materials for industry and on export.
- Repercussions: Some 97% of factories have remained closed; 42.3% unemployment in the third quarter of 2009 (compared to 32.3% unemployment in June 2007); 80% of the population dependent on food aid.
- Policy on import of school supplies prior to the war: Banned, except for UNRWA schools.
- Policy on import of school supplies today: Banned, except for UNRWA schools.
(Note: To compare these data with those reported by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, click here. To read Gisha's report, “Red Lines Crossed: Destruction of Gaza's Infrastructure”, click here. Here is the report by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights entitled "23 Days of War, 928 Days of Closure: Life One Year after Israel's Latest Offensive on the Gaza Strip").
But resistance continues. 50,000 Palestinians in Gaza are marching to the Erez border crossing with Israel tonight in protest of the continuing blockade on Gaza. The 1400 international solidarity activists who are in Egypt to join the Gaza Freedom March were stopped by the Egyptian government’s collusion with Israel. But Egypt has had to buckle under the pressure of heightened protests and the marchers will proceed. However Egypt is still directly colluding with Israel by constructing the steel wall along its borders with Gaza. The political pressure generated around the Gaza Freedom March and the Viva Palestina convoy has shown that despite the stupor and the indifference of the ‘international community’ about Gaza and its complicity in Israel's Occupation, the blockade on Gaza is still very vulnerable politically. More pressure from within and without can end it. This is why we cultivate hope in the New Year with the people of Gaza in their struggle to break the siege.