Four Years of Disaster

— Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2004 — Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi began today’s press conference with a summary of recent trends and statistics. The second Intifada, now entering its fifth year, has seen the world distracted by events in Iraq, enabling Israel to continue violating Palestinians’ human rights with complete impunity.

The International media remain more accessible to the Israeli side and thus allow Israel to push forward its preferred narrative. Furthermore, these past years have witnessed a significant deterioration in international support and involvement with the peace process, many becoming disheartened and reluctant having supported the now dead Oslo Peace Accord.

However, the Intifada has also witnessed the emergence of a new democratic opposition movement, born within the Palestinian Territories, together with a consolidation in support for pioneering, modern Palestinian leaders.

In the years since 1948, the Palestinians have witnessed a consistent decrease in their promised State — now to be just 11% of historic Palestine (i.e. half the West Bank, according to Sharon’s plan). What we are looking at now is not a future Palestinian State, but a series of Bantustans.

Death and Injury

In the four years since Sharon’s famous visit to the Haram Al Sharif [“Temple Mount” in east Jerusalem — ed.] we have seen 4,342 Palestinians and Israelis killed.

Of those 1,008 were Israeli and 3,334 Palestinian; 82% of Palestinians killed were civilians. Two to three Palestinians are killed by Israeli soldiers, police or settlers per day. If this death rate were applied to Britain it would be equivalent to 35 being killed per day, and in the United States this would be 157 per day.

Since the start of the Intifada on the 28th of September 2000, 621 Palestinian children below the age of 17 have been killed by the Israeli occupation forces. Of this figure 411 were shot with live ammunition and 200 were shot in the head, face or neck; 331 were from the Gaza Strip.

Ten thousand Palestinian children have been injured. Dr. Barghouthi insisted that there is absolutely no excuse to justify the killing of such a huge number of children. What is equally disturbing is the telling figures of injuries received to the head — Israeli forces were obviously shooting to kill. In fact the majority of Palestinians killed have suffered injuries to the head and upper body.

Four hundred and twenty-four Palestinians have died in extra-judicial executions (assassinations), 186 of whom were bystanders or “unintended” victims, killed as they were near the victim. Thirty-nine such bystanders were children, 26 were women. In Gaza whilst 72 Palestinians died in targeted killings, a shocking 118 bystanders were additionally killed in these attacks.

Israel continues to make use of an old emergency law that dates back to the British Mandate. This Law allows Israel to arrest and detain anyone for an unlimited time without charging them.

There are currently 78 Palestinian children in administrative detention. There are also currently 100 Palestinian women and 377 children in Israeli prisons. Eighty percent of the children are routinely tortured or harassed and 31% suffer from disease.

Health and Economic Catastrophe

Thirty percent of Palestinian children now suffer from chronic malnutrition. The number of pregnant women unable to receive any medical attention during their pregnancy is now five times higher than figures before September 2000.

More than one billion dollars worth of Palestinian infrastructure has been destroyed by Israeli forces, and more than 200 million dollars of this was donor financed. Since the start of the Intifada the Palestinian GDP has decreased by 50%; agricultural losses have amounted to millions of dollars.

Israeli forces have shelled or broken into 298 Palestinian schools. Four young children were shot in the head in UN run schools in Gaza, in 2004 alone.

Since September 2000, the price of water in the Palestinian Territories has increased from $2.5 per cubic meter to $7.5 per cubic meter. And only a shocking 70 liters [less than 23 gallons] per person per day is consumed in the West Bank for domestic, urban AND industrial use.

Two hundred Palestinian communities have no access to a clean water supply. In the Gaza Strip we can no longer forecast a disaster because it has already begun. There is no water supply in Gaza that is fit for drinking.

Every Israeli citizen consumes five times more water than the Palestinians. Illegal settlers living in the West Bank consume twenty times more water than the Palestinians living there.

There are currently 703 movement restrictions in the West Bank alone. As an example of the effects on Palestinian everyday life that this has caused, whilst a journey from Ramallah to Hebron should take around one hour, it has taken up to twelve hours for many Palestinians.

Eighty-six Palestinians have already died because of movement restrictions, and this figure includes 30 children. Had these people been allowed to travel, they would have probably survived. In addition at least 55 women have been forced to give birth at checkpoints, with 20 losing their children.

The Apartheid Wall

The Wall is three times as long and twice as high as the Berlin Wall. In Qalqilia 40,000 residents are imprisoned within the Wall in what can only be described as a ghetto. As well as those imprisoned inside the Wall the residents of surrounding villages now placed on the western (Israeli) side of the Wall have been cut off entirely from schools, jobs, health care and family. Many in fact have lost all access to the outside world.

Eleven Israeli-manned gates are collectively only opened for a total of 55 minutes per day. Anyone who wishes to enter or leave Qalqilia must have special permission — even patients and medical providers. Qalqilia residents claim that they can no longer see the sunset.

Whilst there is talk about adjustments to the Wall’s route, there are in fact no changes other than mere cosmetic alterations. What we are witnessing is not just the building of the Wall, but the destruction of a two-state solution.

“Disengagement” in Gaza

Sharon only accepted the “Road Map to Peace” as approved by the Israeli Cabinet with 15 reservations, the first being a refusal to freeze any settlement building. At the same time, whilst Sharon talks about removing settlements in the West Bank, he is referring to four that exist in the north of the West Bank, on land that can not be enclaved by the Wall.

The other existing settlements will of course remain, because they exist on land that Israel plans to appropriate through the Wall and enclaves.

Unfortunately, with regards to Sharon’s Gaza Plan most of the world’s media mistakenly refer to it as a “withdrawal.” In fact Sharon never referred to a “withdrawal;” what he actually said was that they would redeploy from Gaza but that the military would still enter at any time they deemed appropriate.

In Rafah the Israeli forces are destroying on average six houses per day in order to clear a passage separating Gaza from Egypt, which will grant them full border control. So far 2200 homes have been demolished in this area alone.

During this last year of the Intifada, there has been a serious rise in mass popular support for non-violent resistance. This is why suicide attacks against Israel have significantly decreased, not because of the Wall. However, this has certainly not encouraged Israeli forces to stop attacking Palestinians.

“Relative Calm”?

Between March 15 and August 31, 2004, the International media talked of a period of “relative calm” purely because there were no suicide attacks against Israel. However, the following days of March saw 45 Palestinians dead with no Israeli casualties; April saw 56 Palestinians dead compared to 3 Israelis; and May saw 116 Palestinians dead (the majority during Israel’s “Operation Rainbow” in Rafah) compared to 19 Israelis.

Of the total Israelis killed, 18 were soldiers, 10 were illegal settlers and only three were civilians. This means that during a period of practical ceasefire on the part of the Palestinians, Israel continued to kill civilians at a rate of 12:1.

If Sharon were at all serious about wanting a peaceful solution, genuine advantage could have been taken during this period of quiet. Instead he proceeded to kill more Palestinians than at any other time since the beginning of the Intifada other than the 2002 invasions.

Palestinian Elections

Israeli forces have closed six election registration offices in Jerusalem as well as others across the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Dr. Barghouthi stressed that this is totally unacceptable and that if the Palestinians are to achieve reform through democratic process, then the international community must do more than condemn these recent actions; they must demand that Israel reopen the offices.

Democracy, he insisted, is a precondition not only for reform but also for lasting peace, a peace based on justice.

Dr Barghouthi concluded the press conference by declaring that unfortunately, he was almost 100% sure he would be greeting the same audience at a press conference to mark the fifth anniversary of the Intifada.

As of yet, there has been no reason for the Palestinians to stop resisting — “either we live as slaves under an occupation or we continue to struggle for freedom,” and he insisted the latter path will be taken.

[This summary was published by The Palestine Monitor on the fourth anniversary of the Palestinian Intifada. Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi is Director of the Health, Development and Information Project (HDIP) in Ramallah, West Bank.]

ATC 113, November-December 2004