Briefing Paper December 2008

Palestine’s War of Independence

I have seen an old Palestinian watch while the Israeli Army bulldozed his olive trees, pushed his wife into the dirt, clubbed his sons, and drove him out of his house “for security reasons.” Armed only with his anger and his helpless tears, he faced down their guns by shouting “Who will help us? Where is Osama Bin Laden? I will become Osama Bin Laden.”

Letters, The Independent 10/12/08

Despite the vote being put on the back burner by ordinary MEPs, Europe’s 27 foreign ministers have voted unanimously to upgrade Israel’s association with the EU.

As a result of the upgrade in relations, Israel’s foreign minister will start meeting three times a year with all 27 EU foreign ministers. Other ministers will meet once a year with their European counterparts. Israel and the EU will also conduct a strategic dialogue on issues such as the peace process, the Iranian threat, counterterrorism and organized crime. In addition, the EU pledged to help Israel integrate into UN agencies and to include Israeli experts in EU peacekeeping forces.

Jews Sans Frontieres blog (10/12/08)

Testimony: Woman delivers stillborn child at checkpoint

B’Tselem Report (extract), 17/09/08

Naheel Awni Abd al-Rahim Abu Rideh, 21, married with one child, is a homemaker and a resident of Qusra in Nablus district. Her testimony was given to Salma a-Deba’i on 8 September 2008 at the witness’s home:

Seven months ago, I became pregnant again. Last Thursday [4 September], I had sharp stomach pains and I started to bleed badly. Around midnight, I couldn’t bear the pain any more. I woke my husband and asked him to take me to the hospital. At the Zatara checkpoint the soldiers let us cross without a problem. When we got to the Huwwara checkpoint, the soldiers didn’t let us pass. They said we didn’t have a permit to cross by car.

The pain got worse. I felt as if I was going to give birth any moment. Now and then, the soldiers came over to the car and looked at me lying in the back seat. I couldn’t stop thinking that I’d have to give birth in the car while the soldiers watched. I kept screaming and crying and calling for help. I don’t know how much time passed, but suddenly I felt movement. I felt as the baby moved, as if he was calling for help and asking us to help him come out. My motherin-law covered me with my clothes. I shouted to my husband, “The baby is out!” He shouted to the soldiers something in Hebrew that I didn’t understand.

I don’t remember exactly what happened then, but when the medics arrived, they picked me up with the car seat and put me in the ambulance. I didn’t feel the baby moving any more and realized he was dead. The medics took away the dead baby and took me to the hospital. My husband and mother-in-law came with me in the ambulance. At the hospital, the doctors operated on me to clean my uterus. They discharged me the next day.

Italian probe: Israel used new weapon prototype in Gaza Strip

Ha’aretz   11/10/08

The weapon is supposed to still be in the testing phase and has not been used on the battlefield.

An investigative report to be aired on Italian television Wednesday raises the possibility that Israel has used an experimental weapon in the Gaza Strip in recent months, causing especially serious physical injuries, such as amputated limbs and severe burns. The weapon is similar to one developed by the U.S. military, known as DIME, which causes a powerful and lethal blast, but only within a relatively small radius.

The Italian report is based on the eyewitness accounts of medical doctors in the Strip, as well as tests carried out in an Italian laboratory. Israel Air Force Maj.-Gen (res.) Yitzhak Ben-Israel, formerly head of the IDF’s weaponsdevelopment program, told the Italian reporters that “one of the ideas [behind the weapon] is to allow those targeted to be hit without causing damage to bystanders or other persons.”

It follows reports by Gaza-based doctors of inexplicably serious injuries. The doctors reported an exceptionally large number of wounded who lost legs, of completely burned bodies and injuries unaccompanied by metal shrapnel.

Some of the doctors also claimed that they removed particles from wounds that could not be seen in an x-ray machine.

According to those who testified, the wounded were hit by munitions launched from drones, most of them in July.

Dr. Habas al-Wahid, head of the emergency room at the Shuhada al-Aqsa hospital, in Deir el-Balah, told the reporters that the legs of the injured were sliced from their bodies “as if a saw was used to cut through the bone.” There were signs of heat and burns near the point of the amputation, but no signs that the dismemberment was caused by metal fragments. Dr. Juma Saka, of Shifa Hospital, in Gaza City, said the doctors found small entry wounds on the bodies of the wounded and the dead. According to Saka, a powder was found on the victims’ bodies and in their internal organs. “The powder was like microscopic shrapnel, and these are what likely caused the injuries,” Saka said.

The Italian investigative team raised the possibility that the IDF is making use of a weapon similar in character to DIME – Dense Inert Metal Explosive – developed for the U.S. military. According to the official website of a U.S. air force laboratory, it is a “focused lethality” weapon, which aims to accurately destroy the target while causing minimum damage to the surrounding. According to the site, the projectile comprises a carbon-fiber casing filled with tungsten powder and explosives. In the explosion, tungsten particles – a metal capable of conducting very high temperatures – spread over a radius of four metres and cause death.

The weapon is supposed to still be in the testing phase and has not been used on the battlefield. It is believed that the weapon is highly carcinogenic and harmful to the environment.

Brown lauds Israel as ‘symbol of hope’    Jerusalem Post 6th October 2008

“We will stand strong against any boycotts of Israel or Israeli academics and its institutions . . . .

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown . . . said that Israel is “a symbol of hope from which all the world can learn.”

Speaking on Monday night to the annual fundraising dinner of the United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA), the largest Jewish charity in Europe, he spoke about the role hope has played in Jewish history and the work done by the charity, not just for the Jewish community but for Britain as a whole. Paying tribute to everyone involved in the charity, he said how his wife Sarah was “moved and inspired” by the work of one of UJIA’s Israel experience programs which she visited in Jerusalem recently.

He was impressed, he said, with the charity’s partnership with Israel but in particular with communities of the Galile , “where you are not simply sending charity but investing fully in the sustainability of that region.”

He paid homage to the members of a “great community”, who he said “work tirelessly not just for your own community but to give so much to Britain and the world as a whole.”

“You don’t just give money, you invest in people, you invest in the future, you invest in hope, you nurture the next generation of leaders, you empower them to reinvigorate their communities, you invest in economic, education and regeneration to bring new opportunity to the people of Galilee,” he said.

Over 800 people from the Jewish community heard the prime minister talk about Israel’s many achievements, what the Jewish people had done to arrive at statehood and how they had “journeyed to an unknown future” with hope sustaining them.

“For 2,000 years, until 1948, the persistent call of the Jewish people was ‘next year in Jerusalem,'” he said. “For 2,000 years, there was not one piece of land anywhere in the whole world that you could call your own.

“For 2,000 years, you had history but not a home. For 2,000 years, you lived in the artistic and cultural and intellectual and scientific and political realm of every continent but you had no home. “For 2,000 years, you endured pogroms in so many countries, then the horror of the Holocaust – which is the shame of mankind – because you had no home yet for 2,000 years, yet nothing – no prison cell, no forced migration, no violence, not even the Holocaust itself could ever break the spirit of a people yearning to be free.”

He spoke about Israel ‘s achievements in the face of adversity. “What remarkable achievements Israel has achieved,” he said. “Draining the swamps in the twentieth century, pioneering electric cars in the twenty- first, a history of ingenuity that is a lesson to the boundless capacity of mind and spirit. Eight citizens have already been awarded Nobel prizes. “In Israel today there are more hi-tech industries, more symphony orchestras, more universities and research institutions than countries that are 100 times the size of Israel. The language of the Bible [was] made the living tongue again so your story, the story of Israel, is the symbol I identify with as a symbol of hope from which all the world can learn.”

Brown also expressed his pride at having been the first British prime minister to address the Knesset during his visit in July. To huge applause he said that it was his hope that Iran would heed the clear message from the rest of world by suspending its nuclear program. “It is not just a threat to Israel but the entire world, so I say to the Iranian regime, join the world and get the benefits of being part of a global society, or face isolation from all of us. “If Iran does not cooperate, we will demand the imposition of ever tougher sanctions in the next few weeks,” he said. He talked about standing up to discrimination against Israel.

“We will stand strong against any boycotts of Israel or Israeli academics and its institutions and be active against any forms of anti-Semitism, ” he said. To a standing ovation, the prime minister ended by saying, “This year may God write you the people of Israel and all of us in the book of life, and let me wish you Shana Tova.”

The Gaza Strip, Palestine

October, 2008 Popular Committee Against the Siege(PCAS),


As the Gaza Strip enters its fifth month of “calm” with the Israelis, 80 percent of the population lives below the line of poverty. Palestinian Legislative Council member and Chairman of the Popular Committee Against the Siege(PCAS), Jamal N. El Khoudary says, “Now more than ever international institutions must take responsibility to hold the Israeli government accountable for its crimes against the Palestinian population.” The Committee’s Statistics Department has issued a report on the effects of the 16 month Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip. As of October, the strangling siege over the Gaza Strip reached its sixteenth month and the siege’s drastic results on all economic sectors of life in the Gaza Strip make it a catastrophic zone of the first degree, as 1.5 million citizens are living under the effect of the siege.

The movement of people and goods from and to the strip is paralyzed, and all commercial transactions have been stopped in a manner that contradicts all agreements, intents, commitments and accords the occupation took upon itself with international organizations to facilitate the movement of goods and people within and outside Palestinian territories. They made three agreements on the matter, the last of which was reached in November 2005, relative to movement and transit. Yet, the occupation proceeded with its antagonistic and criminal policy that resulted in shredding the lives of Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank and the Strip. The Strip, which depends entirely on its imports from and through Israel has been greatly affected. Since it started its siege, Occupation forces didn’t allow any raw materials to be brought into the Gaza Strip, as well as forbidding Gaza from exporting its products, the outcome of which is an increase in the percentage of its inhabitants living under the poverty line to 80% as per some estimates, while according to the International Bank, estimates increased from 35% by the end of 2006 to 67% by the end of October 2007.

The percentage of unemployment reached 65%, therefore, further decreasing the purchasing power to meet basic human needs, not taking into account the sharp decrease of income down to US$ 650 per annum and 2$ a day.

Direct monthly losses as a result of the siege are estimated at 45 million US$, which are spread as follows: The industrial sector 15 million US$ namely, 33% of the total, agriculture 10 million US$, 22% of the total, trade, services and fishing 20 million US$, 45% of the total.

1- The Private Sector

Private sector productivity in the Palestinian territories in general and the Gaza Strip in particular had a sharp 76% decline from what it was at before the Al-Aqsa Intifada. Down to 31.1 during the first quarter of 2001, although it recovered some of its vitality to reach an average of 46% during the period extending between January 2006 and July 2006. But upon imposing the full siege on the Strip on mid July 2007, productivity decreased directly to 11%. The cause is due to Occupation authorities having stopped the application of the Customs Code for the Strip, which resulted in banning the importation of all raw materials especially. Since local raw material in all of Gaza’s industrial facilities does not exceed 10%, noting that even this percentage is obtained with great difficulty, thus costs have increased more than the total cost of production. In addition to the difficulty in marketing locally produced products because of the siege, the ban on exportation has dealt a fatal blow to this sector of the economy.

Studies show that more than 43% of the private sector establishments had to decrease their commercial activities to a level exceeding 75%, while noting that 55% of these establishments had to shut down their operations.

2-The Industrial Sector

The industrial sector depends completely on imported raw materials. It depends up to 80% on imported machines and spare parts, and during the peak season of production (May – June) it is possible to export 748 truckloads of industrial products per month (including furniture, food products, clothing and agricultural products).

Since the beginning of the siege, the Occupation cancelled the application of its Customs Code for the Strip, resulting in the stopping of all industrial activities, which depends up to 85% on imported raw materials that are imported from Israel or in transit through it, and statistics indicate that more than 97% of industrial establishments, a total of 3,900, were shut down, stopping the export of their product; as a consequence 33,000 out of 35,000 employees and workers in this sector joined the ranks of the unemployed up to the date of the imposition of the siege in mid-June 2007, and after the siege the number of employed industrial workers does not exceed 1,500.

Estimates issued by the Union of Palestinian Industries said that direct monthly losses since the beginning of the siege on the Strip is 15,000,000 US$, as the net daily income of the industrial sector in Gaza last year was 500,000 US$, which means that a total 97.5 of furniture workshops closed their doors up till the end of 2007, while statements issued by economic sectors shows a total loss of 120,000,000 US$. The affected sectors’ statements indicate that no furniture exports, such as 95% of the wood industries, stopped production. Only 30 out of the 600 establishments in this sector are still working, a net loss of 55,000,000 US$ (8 million in July, 10 in August, 12 in October, 13 in November, and 12 in December) in addition to 6,500 workers who lost their jobs, 245 monthly truck-loads of exports were stopped.

3-The Agricultural Sector

The Gaza Strip has 70,000 donums (9364 Hectares) of agricultural land, with a production capacity between 280,000 to

300,000 tons of agricultural products per annum, one third of which is usually exported. The agricultural sector counts 40,000 permanent jobs for citizens in Gaza (namely 12.7% of the working force), it is also the source for food and life for one quarter of the population in the Gaza Strip. Since the beginning of the total siege, the Occupation banned the exports of its products including agricultural products out of the Strip, and furthermore, it prohibited the import of seeds and seedlings, fertilizers and other agricultural requirements, which caused big losses exceeding the original estimates since mid-July up to end of 2007.

These losses amounted to 67 million US$, and according to the Ministry of Agriculture statements, the average daily losses due the ban of agricultural products is 150,000 US$. Thus, a total loss during the last six months that amounts to 28,000,000 US$. About 25,000 tons of potatoes were destroyed and more than 10,000 tons of other products were destroyed or sold locally at much lower prices than those of export prices (local prices were 10 to 15% of the export prices). While other farmers suffered direct losses as a result of production being sold locally compared to export prices, as a result of dumping the products produced for export purposes in the local market, it is expected that the total produce in the last season shall drop by 20 to 30% less than in the previous season. Thus, losses are estimated at 10 million US$ monthly.

It is important to mention that the siege destroyed agricultural products for the period between 15 November

2007 and May 2008. The number of workers in this season is 7,500 farmers, whose estimated production is 14 million US$ which was supposed to be produced fully for export, as an area of 3130 donums (418 Hectares) is planted with strawberries, tomatoes and carnations. On the other hand, and as a result of the difficulties in the fishing industry, estimates are that 3,000 fishermen are expected to lose their jobs with an estimated monthly loss of 3,000,000 US$.

4-Health Sector:

The health sector has been exposed since Zionist Occupation imposed its siege on the Gaza Slip to a major blow, which affected its ability to provide the basic required health services to its citizens. During the most recent period, a great shortage of a large number of basic pharmaceutical needs, that is 160 types of medicines until the date of the preparation of this report, and another 130 kinds are expected to go out of stock within the upcoming days. This is in addition to the disability of 90 medical instruments to perform because of the lack of spare parts needed for their maintenance, among these machines are 31 kidney dialysis machines.

Summed to all of this is the inability of citizens to travel abroad for medical treatment. Statements issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that hundreds of patients with acute medical illnesses, and those which require highly specialized surgeries especially in the brain, nerves and bones, as well as the treatment requirements for cancer patients, and those with kidney and heart diseases, could not travel abroad for treatment. The Occupation refused to allow 1150 patients to leave the Strip for treatment since the beginning of the siege, out of which there were 270 serious cases. Popular Committee Against the Siege started its activities towards the end of October, it has registered 252 cases of deaths due to the siege.

5-Construction and Infrastructure Sector

Since Israel’s announcement of the stoppage of the application of its Customs Code for the Gaza Strip, and banning the import of raw materials including iron and cement, the sector has suffered almost complete paralysis, (the stopping of 13 tile factories, 30 cement factories, 145 marble factories and 250 brick factories), thus 3,500 people lost their jobs.

Besides this, all development projects have been stopped, the value of which is estimated at 350 million US$, as the United Nations development stopped all its construction contracts for the infrastructure in the Strip, such as rehabilitation of street, water and sewage facilities, with an estimated cost of 60 million US$, and the UNRWA stopped its program for creating job opportunities at an estimated cost of 90 million US$ from which more than 16,000 people were supposed to benefit.

6-Food Products

Since the start of its siege on the Gaza Strip, Israel has permitted the passing of food products on an intermittent basis, but upon considering the Strip an enemy region, the Occupiers limited the number of basic food products. They are allowed to be up to and not exceeding 20 items, certain food products that turned out to be in great shortage, and there is complete absence of a great number of others, thus resulting in an acute rise in prices in addition to other factors, that affected every aspect of the lives of Gazans. As per the report of the central bureau of statistics, the increase in prices reached 5.79% in August, 3.15% in September, 1.03% October and 1.13% in November; meaning an increase since the beginning of the siege of 8%, compared to an increase in the West Bank of 0.10%.

Estimates for daily consumption of the following food products in the Gaza Strip are: 867 tons of flour, 153 tons of sugar, 110 tons of rice, 75 tons of different kinds of oil and 49 tons herbs and vegetables. According to crossing administration only 15 % of Gaza needs get in.

7-Freedom of Movement and Crossings:

The Gaza Strip is connected with the outside world through six entry points, five of which are connected with the Occupation. They are: Karm Abu Salem, Sowfa, Al-Mintar and Beit Hanoun (Eretz) crossings. As for the Rafah crossing, it is connected with The Arab Republic of Egypt. Israel controls its side of the five crossings, in which complete paralysis is practiced. Israel doesn’t permit the transport of people from and toward the Strip except for extremely rare cases. It is allowed only through the Eretz crossing and only for employees of foreign establishments as well as in some acute health cases. Yet, most of these cases’ applications for crossing are refused.

As for people’s food product requirements and other supplies, estimates point out that the Strip requires imports from the outside world and from the West Bank. About 300 truckloads per day of raw material and other goods comprise the daily requirements.

Israel doesn’t allow the transit except for basic human needs and basic food products. This has resulted in the lack of any stockpile of basic products, in addition to the absence of a large number of basic food products in the Palestinian market. Only 1,806 truckloads were permitted in October and 1812 in November, that is, an average of 60 per day, far below the basic survival requirements.

8-Water and sanitation sector

After the events of June 2007 in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli side took a series of actions and decisions, including:   1. Reduction in the supply of fuel needed to operate the power plant resulted in the phenomenon of power cuts and blackouts. 2. Reduction in the supply of fuel to run generators as substitute for electricity. 3. The closure of the crossings and preventing materials, equipment and spare parts into Gaza affected general health system and water quality for people.

9-Solid Waste Sector

This sector is being damaged and hindered as the solid waste water is not reaching the venue dedicated for that.

Israel bars visit to father’s grave

Jonathan Cook 30 October 2008

Salwa Salam Qupty clutches a fading sepia photograph of a young Palestinian man wearing a traditional white headscarf. It is the sole memento that survives of her father, killed by a Jewish militia during the 1948 war that established Israel. “He was killed 60 years ago as he was travelling to work,” she said, struggling to hold back the tears. “My mother was four months pregnant with me at the time. This photograph is the closest I’ve ever got to him.”                 Six decades on from his death, she has never been allowed to visit his grave in Galilee and lay a wreath for the father she never met. This month, after more than 10 years of requests to the Israeli authorities, she learnt that officials are unlikely ever to grant such a visit, even though Mrs Qupty is an Israeli citizen and lives only a few miles from the cemetery. Government sources said allowing the visit risks encouraging hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees to claim a right to return to the villages from which they were expelled in 1948.

As Israel celebrated its 60th anniversary with street parties this summer, Mrs Qupty was marking two related anniversaries: the Nakba, or catastrophe, and her father’s death in the early stages of the war. “I am a twin of the Nakba,” she said from her home in Kafr Kana, close to Nazareth. “I was born at the very moment when most of my people lost everything: their homes, their land, their belongings, their livelihoods. In my case I lost my father, too.”                 Faris Salam was killed in late March 1948, shortly before Israel’s establishment. On the day he died, Salam left his village of Malul, west of Nazareth, to catch a bus to his job on the railways in Haifa. “Those were dangerous times,” Mrs Qupty said. “My family were even afraid to go and collect water from the village well because Jews would shoot at them from their positions up in the hills.” When the bus drove into an ambush, Salam and the driver were shot dead and several other passengers injured. He was buried in Malul, but four months later the 800 inhabitants were forced to flee when they came under sustained attack from the Israeli army. Mrs Qupty’s mother sought sanctuary in Nazareth, where she gave birth to Salwa days later.

Soon the army declared Malul a military zone and blew up all the homes, sparing only two churches and the mosque. The Christian cemetery, where Salam is buried, was enclosed by a military base named Nahlal.

For the past 12 years, Mrs Qupty has been trying to find a way to visit the grave and say a few words to the father she never knew. “As I get older, the fact that I never met him and that I haven’t seen where he is buried gets harder to bear,” she said. “I want him to know that I exist and that I miss him. Is that too much to ask?”

Over the years she has lobbied members of the Israeli parliament, written to the Defence Ministry and sent countless letters to the local media — to little avail. “The nearest I can get to him is looking through the base’s perimeter fence at a forest that hides my view of the cemetery,” she said. To the bemusement of the Israeli soldiers on guard, she sometimes throws a bouquet of flowers over the fence. On one occasion, she said, she found the courage to approach the base’s gate and asked to be let in. An officer told her to address a formal request to the Defence Ministry. “But I’m not going there with a gun, only with a bunch of flowers,” she said.

This month a government spokesman finally responded, calling Mrs Qupty’s request to visit her father’s grave a “complex” matter that had been referred to the defence minister, Ehud Barak, for a final decision.

Ministry officials were reported to have decided that her visit should be blocked on the grounds that other Palestinians who seek to return to the villages from which they or their ancestors were expelled in 1948 might use it as legal precedent.

During the war, 750,000 Palestinians fled from more than 400 villages, all of which were subsequently levelled. Most of the refugees ended up in camps in neighbouring Arab states. Unlike them, however, Mrs Qupty’s mother managed to remain inside the borders of the new Jewish state, along with about 100,000 other Palestinians, and eventually received citizenship. Today there are 1.2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, one fifth of the country’s population. Of those, one quarter are internal refugees, or officially classified as “present absentees”: present in Israel in terms of citizenship but absent in terms of legal redress over their forced removal from their homes.

Isabelle Humphries, a British scholar who has interviewed many families expelled from Malul, pointed out that the refugees’ Israeli citizenship conferred on them no more rights to access their former village than refugees living abroad. “Most cannot make even short visits to the ruins of the villages, to their places of worship or their graves. Often the lands of the destroyed village have been declared military zones or are now in the private hands of Jewish communities.” Ms Humphries said Israel had repeatedly used the excuse that making any concessions to individual refugees would open the floodgates to the return of all the refugees. “If Israel were to admit that internal refugees have rights to the land and property confiscated in 1948, policymakers know that it would draw further attention to Israel’s continuing refusal to recognize the rights of refugees outside the state.”

Mrs Qupty, a social worker supervising children in protective custody, said her work had increased her understanding of the trauma that the events of 1948 had done to Palestinians. “My mother was left with nothing after the war. I was born in a tiny room in Nazareth and we lived there for many years. My older brother and two sisters had to be placed in religious institutions because she did not have the means to care for them. We grew up hardly knowing each other.” For several years after the war, her grandfather secretly returned to Malul by donkey to grow crops on his land, though he was fined when he was caught doing so.

On a few occasions Mrs Qupty accompanied him, but never saw the cemetery where her father is buried. “By the time I was old enough to understand what had happened to my father, the military base had been built over the cemetery.” Finally convinced that Israel is unlikely ever to concede a visit, Mrs Qupty said she would turn to the courts. But human rights lawyers regard her chances of success as slim. The Supreme Court rarely overturns government decisions taken on security grounds.

(Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is

Israeli bureaucracy at its best

  1. Michael Ynet, October 25, 2008

This is also an important lesson for all other sick people in the Gaza Strip who seek to leave it in order to get medical treatment: You want your requests to be handled quickly and efficiently? Please be kind enough to die quickly. That will really make it easier to approve your request.

On more than one occasion I wrote about the stories of sick individuals whose request to leave the Palestinian territories in order to receive life-saving medical treatment has been rejected by the Shin Bet. Despite their serious illness and complete helplessness, they were characterized as a “security risk” and their requests were dismissed. However, as it turns out, some people do get their requests approved eventually. Here is one such story.

In the past year, 58-year-old Muhammad Abu-Amro was found to suffer from intestinal cancer. The despicable disease spread to other parts of his body. Hopsitals in Gaza are unable to treat such tough cases of cancer. They lack the requested equipment and specialization. Therefore, Muhammad was urgently referred by his doctors to Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv, which possesses the appropriate equipment, expertise, and knowledge. That was back in March 2008. Muhammad submitted, as costmary and required, a request to the proper authorities in order to arrive in Tel Aviv and receive the treatment that may, perhaps, save his life, but could certainly extend it and make it better. His request was rejected. For security reasons, of course. The Shin Bet ruled that Muhammad, the man and the cancer, constitute a security risk to the state of Israel. Time and again his family submitted the request, and time and again it was dismissed.

Meanwhile, the passage of time and the cancer did their thing. Yet even though the cancer got worst, it appeared that the “security risk” inherent in Muhammad did not shrink. The request kept on being denied. Knesset members made an effort, international sources exerted pressure, the Physicians for Human Rights group pleaded…but nothing helped. And so, seven months have passed. The cancer kept on eating away at Muhammad, who whose condition kept on deteriorating. Yet the shin Bet insisted: Muhammad won’t be allowed in. The man who could barely stand on his feet is still a “security risk.”

It seemed that all hope is lost, but then came the big day – October 13th, 2008. Army representatives announced, through the Physicians for Human Rights group, that Muhammad’s request had been approved. He is allowed to come out of the Gaza prison, arrive at Ichilov hospital, and receive the required treatment. Who would have believed it? Seven months of pressure and wait finally bore fruit, and the celebration was great.

Only one small detail dampened the festivities: Eight days before that, on October 5th, 2008, Muhammad Abu-Amro passed away. Expired. Died. And there we have bureaucratic efficiency at its best: Barely a week passed since Muhammad Abu-Amro stopped constituting a “security risk,” and he already received the Shin Bet permit to see a doctor. Isn’t it exciting?

This is also an important lesson for all other sick people in the Gaza Strip who seek to leave it in order to get medical treatment: You want your requests to be handled quickly and efficiently? Please be kind enough to die quickly. That will really make it easier to approve your request.

Part of Ralph Nader’s open letter to Barack Obama

During your visit to Israel this summer, you scheduled a mere 45 minutes of your time for Palestinians with no news conference, and no visit to Palestinian refugee camps that would have focused the media on the brutalization of the Palestinians. Your trip supported the illegal, cruel blockade of Gaza in defiance of international law and the United Nations charter.

To advance change and hope, the presidential persona requires character, courage, integrity- not expediency, accommodation and short-range opportunism. Take, for example, your transformation from an articulate defender of Palestinian rights in Chicago before your run for the U.S. Senate to an acolyte, a dittoman for the hard-line AIPAC lobby, which bolsters the militaristic oppression, occupation, blockage, colonization and land-water seizures over the years of the Palestinian peoples and their shrunken territories in the West Bank and Gaza. Eric Alterman summarized numerous polls in a December 2007 issue of The Nation magazine showing that AIPAC policies are opposed by a majority of Jewish-Americans.

You know quite well that only when the U.S. Government supports the Israeli and Palestinian peace movements, that years ago worked out a detailed two-state solution (which is supported by a majority of Israelis and Palestinians), will there be a chance for a peaceful resolution of this 60-year plus conflict. Yet you align yourself with the hard-liners, so much so that in your infamous, demeaning speech to the AIPAC convention right after you gained the nomination of the Democratic Party, you supported an “undivided Jerusalem,” and opposed negotiations with Hamas- the elected government in Gaza. Once again, you ignored the will of the Israeli people who, in a March 1, 2008 poll by the respected newspaper Haaretz, showed that 64% of Israelis favored “direct negotiations with Hamas.” Siding with the AIPAC hard-liners is what one of the many leading Palestinians advocating dialogue and peace with the Israeli people was describing when he wrote “Anti-semitism today is the persecution of Palestinian society by the Israeli state.”

During your visit to Israel this summer, you scheduled a mere 45 minutes of your time for Palestinians with no news conference, and no visit to Palestinian refugee camps that would have focused the media on the brutalization of the Palestinians. Your trip supported the illegal, cruel blockade of Gaza in defiance of international law and the United Nations charter. You focused on southern Israeli casualties which during the past year have totaled one civilian casualty to every 400 Palestinian casualties on the Gaza side. Instead of a statesmanship that decried all violence and its replacement with acceptance of the Arab League’s 2002 proposal to permit a viable Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in return for full economic and diplomatic relations between Arab countries and Israel, you played the role of a cheap politician, leaving the area and Palestinians with the feeling of much shock and little awe.

David Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, described your trip succinctly: “There was almost a wilful display of indifference to the fact that there are two narratives here. This could serve him well as a candidate, but not as a President.” Palestinian American commentator, Ali Abunimah, noted that Obama did not utter a single criticism of Israel, “of its relentless settlement and wall construction, of the closures that make life unlivable for millions of Palestinians. …Even the Bush administration recently criticized Israeli’s use of cluster bombs against Lebanese civilians [see for elaboration]. But Obama defended Israeli’s assault on

Lebanon as an exercise of its ‘legitimate right to defend itself.

In numerous columns Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz, strongly criticized the Israeli government’s assault on civilians in Gaza, including attacks on “the heart of a crowded refugee camp… with horrible bloodshed” in early 2008.

Israeli writer and peace advocate- Uri Avnery- described Obama’s appearance before AIPAC as one that “broke all records for obsequiousness and fawning, adding that Obama “is prepared to sacrifice the most basic American interests. After all, the US has a vital interest in achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace that will allow it to find ways to the hearts of the Arab masses from Iraq to Morocco. Obama has harmed his image in the Muslim world and mortgaged his future- if and when he is elected president.,” he said, adding, “Of one thing I am certain: Obama’s declarations at the AIPAC conference are very, very bad for peace. And what is bad for peace is bad for Israel, bad for the world and bad for the Palestinian people.”

A further illustration of your deficiency of character is the way you turned your back on the Muslim-Americans in this country. You refused to send surrogates to speak to voters at their events. Having visited numerous churches and synagogues, you refused to visit a single Mosque in America. Even George W. Bush visited the Grand Mosque in Washington D.C. after 9/11 to express proper sentiments of tolerance before a frightened major religious group of innocents.

Although the New York Times published a major article on June 24, 2008 titled “Muslim Voters Detect a Snub from Obama” (by Andrea Elliott), citing examples of your aversion to these Americans who come from all walks of life, who serve in the armed forces and who work to live the American dream. Three days earlier the International Herald Tribune published an article by Roger Cohen titled “Why Obama Should Visit a Mosque.” None of these comments and reports change your political bigotry against Muslim-Americans- even though your father was a Muslim from Kenya.

Perhaps nothing illustrated your utter lack of political courage or even the mildest version of this trait than your surrendering to demands of the hard-liners to prohibit former president Jimmy Carter from speaking at the Democratic National Convention. This is a tradition for former presidents and one accorded in prime time to Bill Clinton this year.

Here was a President who negotiated peace between Israel and Egypt, but his recent book pressing the dominant Israeli superpower to avoid Apartheid of the Palestinians and make peace was all that it took to side-line him. Instead of an important address to the nation by Jimmy Carter on this critical international problem, he was relegated to a stroll across the stage to “tumultuous applause,” following a showing of a film about the Carter Centre’s post-Katrina work. Shame on you, Barack Obama!

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