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Monday, June 29, 2009

Gaza: 1.5 million people trapped in despair

That's the conclusion of the International Committee of the Red Cross in a new report released today. You can read a summary and download the pdf at the link. Here are some of the basic conclusions:

This small coastal strip is cut off from the outside world. Even before the latest hostilities, drastic restrictions on the movement of people and goods imposed by the Israeli authorities, particularly since October 2007, had led to worsening poverty, rising unemployment and deteriorating public services such as health care, water and sanitation. Insufficient cooperation between the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and the Hamas administration in Gaza had also hit the provision of essential services. As a result, the people of Gaza were already experiencing a major crisis affecting all aspects of daily life when hostilities intensified in late December.

Six months later, restrictions on imports are making it impossible for Gazans to rebuild their lives. The quantities of goods now entering Gaza fall well short of what is required to meet the population's needs. In May 2009, only 2,662 truckloads of goods entered Gaza from Israel, a decrease of almost 80 per cent compared to the 11,392 truckloads allowed in during April 2007, before Hamas took over the territory.

Israel created the conditions in Gaza that allowed Hamas to take over in the first place, because the Palestinian Authority was helpless and unable to help the Gazan people; now it blames Hamas for its own continuing blockade of Gaza. I raise again the question I posed on Saturday: Why does the United Nations and the United States allow Israel to make all of the decisions about territories it illegally occupies or illegally lays siege to, in the case of Gaza? It is long past time for the international community to take these territories away from Israel, guarantee Israel's security, and create the conditions for a viable Palestinian state. Israel will never do it unless it is forced to.

Photo:Ezbet Abd Rabo, Gaza North, May 2009. ©ICRC / M. Al Baba

Justice denied in Madoff sentencing. Since Madoff is already 71 years old, it is unlikely that he will ever serve more than a fraction of his 150 year prison sentence. Like so many white collar criminals, he got off lightly...

Iran and the left. While I have expressed skepticism on this blog about whether the Iranian elections really were rigged (at least to the extent that Ahmadinejad did not really win), apparently some of my fellow leftists think that the current protests in that country are inspired by the CIA and the Obama administration and that somehow Ahmadinejad is the real progressive in all this. Journalist Reese Erlich, author of "The Iran Agenda," directs some common sense against such nonsense in a post on Commondreams.org.


Racial profiling by French police. Anyone who has lived or spent time in France, if they are honest, knows that the police stop non-white people much more often than whites, and often on the flimsiest of pretexts. A new study by the Soros Foundation funded Open Society Justice Initiative and the French research agency CNRS, reported in the June 30 International Herald Tribune, shows just how much more often:

Racial and ethnic profiling by the police is illegal in France, but the study of more than 500 stops at major Parisian transit stations showed that those who appeared to be of Arab origin were at least 7.5 times more likely than whites to be stopped, and that those perceived to be black — of sub-Saharan African or Caribbean origin — were six times more likely than whites to be stopped.

Racism among whites has long been endemic to French society, especially among the older generations. Many French are very critical of the United States, and often for good reasons, but they were humbled when Barack Obama was elected: The day a Black or even North African candidate could become president of France is still very far off...

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