The current situation in Palestine is a pure disaster with barbaric and illegal measures taking place in the name of “security.” The last two academic years 2000/01 and 2001/02 have been a dead lock catastrophic cycle of violence that have watered the Holy Land with Palestinian and Israeli blood. Since the Palestinian Uprising began September 28, 2000, over 1600 people have died with 450 children under eighteen. The number of injured people has exceeded beyond 40,000. The Gaza Strip was totally cut off from the West Bank. Gaza itself was split into three areas.
The current situation in Palestine is a pure disaster with barbaric and illegal measures taking place in the name of “security.” The last two academic years 2000/01 and 2001/02 have been a dead lock catastrophic cycle of violence that have watered the Holy Land with Palestinian and Israeli blood. Since the Palestinian Uprising began September 28, 2000, over 1600 people have died with 450 children under eighteen. The number of injured people has exceeded beyond 40,000. The Gaza Strip was totally cut off from the West Bank. Gaza itself was split into three areas. West Bank towns and villages were cut off from each other with hundreds of roadblocks to the point of physical and psychological strangulation. It is not humanly possible to live with the tortures imposed by the Israeli army. Yesterday when I complained about the illegal checkpoint and insisted to pass as a legal visitor of Israel on a foreign passport with a current visa, the soldier smashed by car window. The legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for freedom and independence have never been more important than right now.
The total destruction of the economy has devastated families the most and increased the poverty rate. The official unemployment rate by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics was reported at 36% this year before their office was completely destroyed by the Israeli army. People face daily dehumanization, humiliation, harassment and risk their lives to go to work and school. Most people face anywhere from two to five checkpoints going to work daily (in each direction) and hours on the road restricted from using cars to cross these nightmare checkpoints walking on bare foot through dirt roads, mountainsides and valleys to make it to school, work or the hospital. The walking is possible for the days that cities and towns are not under a total and strict curfew as was experienced by Bethlehem residents for over forty days. This last week Ramallah has being tightly sealed off to everyone except diplomats. This closure has disrupted hundreds of children that could not get into Ramallah to take their final examinations for the end of the school year. Ambulances have often been denied access to where they are most needed and many medical personnel have been shot dead while they were trying to help the injured especially during the three-week period Ramallah was under total occupation. Hospitals have been hit by live ammunition not only resulting in injury and death but severe damage to vital medical equipment.
Israel continues to demolish homes especially in Jerusalem. The Israeli government is trying to limit Palestinian population growth in the occupied Palestinian City, claimed by both sides as a capital. Israel has demolished hundreds of Palestinian homes and uprooted over 500,000 acres of crops during the Palestinian Intifada, a flagrant violation of international law. The international Committee of the Red Cross cited they had to help over 5,000 homeless people due to Israeli operations of demolishing 655 houses since September 2000 and this is not counting the total destruction of the Jenin camp that left the additional 600 houses completely destroyed. On January 10, 2002, in Rafa refugee camp in the Gaza strip, Israeli occupation forces destroyed 60 houses and left 600 people homeless all in one day. According to international human rights the demolitions and destruction of crops constitute collective punishment and are totally illegal but Israel gets away with it because the United States is willing to finance this mass destruction.
The situation can only improve if Israel ends the thirty-five year old Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. It is not possible to have peace and occupation at the same time. The Palestinian Authority has recognized Israel on 78% of historic Palestine. It is Israel that refuses to acknowledge Palestine’s right to exist on the remaining 22% of land occupied in l967. The constant enlargement of illegal Israel settlements in the West Bank and Gaza will continue to be a great obstacle to peace. These 250,000 settlers demand the protection of the Israeli army on Palestinian territory that constantly flares up the violence. America’s position for Arafat to “stop the violence” falls short of addressing the root causes of that violence: denial of Palestinian freedom. Following Israeli’s intense efforts to humiliate and weaken President Yasser Arafat, he continues to hold a symbolic importance as the patriarch of Palestine.
The harsh closure has brought the following results according to the Birzeit University Public opinion poll (February 18, 2002). It is however, necessary to have new opinion polls after the Israeli reoccupation of Palestinian territories because the destruction and catastrophe is beyond belief.
About 11% of Palestinian students were prevented from continuing their education as a result of the Israeli imposed closure.
66% reported that their children have suffered or still suffering from trauma and stress due to measures undertaken by the Israeli army or settlers; 75% in Gaza and 61% in the West Bank.
78% report that school-age children are unable to focus on (or complete) their homework as result of the current situation.
66% report an increase in the level of violence among children and young people as a result of the current situation.
67% are facing additional difficulties in accessing health services as result of the imposed closures.
42% of Palestinian wives had to sell their jewelry (“gold gifts-savings from dowry”) to help their families cope with the rising poverty rates.
(Statistics for this article were specifically collected from B’Tselem Israeli Information Center for Human Right in the Occupied Territories, The Jerusalem Times, and Birzeit University Media Center)