Mike Marqusee – If I Am Not For Myself

Today I went to Glasgow to hear Mike Marqusee speak about his new book If I am Not for Myself – Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew. You can read about the book on Mike’s blog, and details of the remainder of his short Scottish tour are here. In his talk, he described the starting-point for the book as his refusal to accept the label “self-hating”–a description of an anti-Zionist which can only make sense if you accept Zionism’s claim to be the sole representative of the Jewish people. To dispute that claim, he brought forward evidence from the prophets, from haskalah (Jewish enlightenment), and from the history of the Bund (the Jewish trade union federation of Eastern Europe and Russia). He emphasised that Zionism was not the inevitable path of European Jewry, but the product of accident and of mistakes (and also, I would add, of ruthless determination by Jews emulating the right-wing nationalists of Eastern Europe). Even though I came in more or less convinced of his arguments, I still found his talk informative and thought-provoking. (Incidentally, in case it worries you too, he gave a pretty good answer to my misgivings about adopting the label “anti-Zionist” in the twenty-first century).

I bought a copy of the book (well, my dad and I bought half a copy each :) ) and I’m looking forward no end to reading it. I strongly recommend that you catch one of Mike’s talks if you get the opportunity.

More on double standards

An op-ed by Gideon Levy in Ha’aretz raises the question of whether the Isreali government actually wants peace at all. One may or may not agree with his conclusion, but he highlights some important examples of the Isreali government’s double standards and convenient excuses regarding negotiation.

Terror, used as the ultimate excuse for Israeli refusal, only helps Olmert keep reciting, ad nauseum, “If they [the Palestinians] don’t change, don’t fight terror and don’t adhere to any of their obligations, then they will never extract themselves from their unending chaos.” As though the Palestinians haven’t taken measures against terrorism, as though Israel is the one to determine what their obligations are, as though Israel isn’t to blame for the unending chaos Palestinians suffer under the occupation.

Israel makes a point of setting prerequisites and believes it has an exclusive right to do so. But, time and time again, Israel avoids the most basic prerequisite for any just peace – an end to the occupation.

Forgiveness

In London last week I went to a showing at the ICA of a new film, Forgiveness, made by the Israeli director Udi Aloni (son of Shulamit Aloni, for people who like making connections). Aloni was at the showing and discussed the film with the audience afterwards. “Forgiveness” is a tremendous film, about memory and the repression of memory. Its central setting is a mental hospital for Holocaust survivors that was built on the ruins of Deir Yassin, and which the film pictures as a place where two different kinds of ghosts can meet and reach reconciliation. There’s far more to it than that, of course—the website has a story outline and reviews, if you want to read about it—but really, you should just get out and see it.

SPSC on Atzmon, again

A follow-up to this post: Mick Napier of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign has written a highly critical article on Atzmon. (At the time I’m writing, the SPSC server isn’t working, but you can get a flavour from an extract here). I can’t resist ungraciously pointing out that Mick doesn’t actually mention anywhere that the SPSC recently gave Atzmon a platform, but the main thing is that in this piece he recognises the danger that Atzmon and his allies represent both to Jews and to the Palestinian solidarity movement by bringing genuine anti-Semitism into the campaign. That’s a very welcome statement.

Thoughts on the demands made to Hamas

The Palestinian government is constantly being told that it must renounce violence and recognise the state of Israel.

Here’s the thing: Hamas has no incentive to renounce violence as long as Israelis aren’t being told to do the same.

And what does it mean to recognise the state of Israel? It doesn’t mean “acknowledge Israel” because no one is denying Israel exists. What the “hawks” keep claiming is that Hamas/Palestinians/Arabs/insert-term-of-choice-here want to “chase Jews into the sea” and “wipe Israel off the map”.

So “recognise Israel probably means something like “accept that Israelis are here to stay, and that Israel isn’t going to disappear”. In which case, why is no one demanding that the Israeli government “recognise” Palestine? Where are the demands for the Israeli government to accept that Palestinians have a legitimate claim to the places they live in or grew up in, and have a right of return? Where are the demands for the Israeli occupation forces withdraw from the occupied (not “disputed”) territories?

It’s deeply foolish and, dare I say it, naive to place demands on the Palestinian government and expect them to comply, when no parallel demands are being made to the Israeli government.

Gilad Atzmon in Edinburgh

Gilad Atzmon, the famous saxophonist, played in Edinburgh on Nov. 22nd at the invititation of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Before the gig, he gave a talk entitled “Zionist Control (The Gatekeepers of the Pro-Palestine Discourse)”–it’s no secret that he doesn’t think much of “Jewish leftist groups”. The Jewish Socialist Group wrote to SPSC (it’s an open letter that I couldn’t find anywhere on the Web, so I have reproduced it below) protesting about the invitation on the grounds of Atzmon’s antisemitism. I also wrote privately, in a personal capacity, to Mick Napier of SPSC, who has promised a considered reply.

Dear Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign,

The terrible situation of the Palestinians today, especially in Gaza, demands the broadest possible unity by those who wish to challenge oppression, racism and human rights abuses. Those who disrupt that unity, or make pro-Palestinian activity vulnerable to charges of antisemitism cannot be friends of the Palestinian people.

Against this background, the Jewish Socialists’ Group strongly oppose Scottish PSC’s invitation to Gilad Atzmon to speak and perform on November 22 at an event called “Zionist control”. Apart from the SWP, which has inexplicably invited Atzmon to its annual Marxism events, and to a book launch at its Bookmarks shop (which was picketed by “Jews Against Zionism and other anti-racists), Atzmon is shunned by other progressive, pro-Palestinian organisations. They completely reject his statements – regurgitating world Jewish conspiracy theories and diminishing the crimes of Nazism – which have been widely denounced as antisemitic.

Atzmon’s outbursts have been a gift to Zionist journalists, providing them with an opportunity to discredit and smear those who support Palestinian rights and justice for the Palestinian people.

If you are not familiar with the views of the person you have invited, here are some examples from his article “On antisemitism” December 2003 on his own website (www.gilad.co.uk):

“We must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously…American Jewry makes any debate on whether the ‘Protocols of the elders of Zion’ are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews do try to control the world, by proxy.”

“Israel’s behaviour throws some light on the persecution of Jews throughout history.”

In 2005 Atzmon approvingly distributed Paul Eisen’s essay “Holocaust Wars” which the Socialist Unity website described as “a full-blooded exposition of
Holocaust denial material and a tribute to notorious neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel.” Atzmon said he had only “slight differences” with Eisen’s article.

In 2006 he wrote an article called “Beyond comparison” for Al-Jazeerah [not the TV station] (August 12) about Israel and Nazism: “Nazis were indeed proper expansionists, they were trying to take towns and land intact…unlike the Nazis who had respect for other national movements including Zionism, Israel has zero respect for anyone including its next door neighbours. The Israeli behavior should be realised as the ultimate vulgar biblical barbarism
on the verge of cannibalism.

“While Nazism was a nationalist expansionist movement with extensive yet limited ambitions, the Jewish State and its Zionist lobbies are trying to revive the spirit of a global crusade in the name of a bizarre religious war.

“It is about time to … say it all loudly… We have to admit that Israel is the ultimate evil rather than Nazi Germany”.

Since the early 1980s the Jewish Socialists’ Group has worked closely with Palestinian organisations and solidarity campaigns and more recently with Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Just Peace UK and European Jews for a Just Peace in the struggle against occupation and for equality and self-determination for Palestinians. We have challenged Jewish communal “leaders” when they denounce opponents of Israel as antisemitic and Jewish opponents of Zionism as “self-haters”.

At the same time we remain vigilant about antisemitism and other forms of racism. We agree entirely with the Britain’s former PLO representative, Afif Safieh, who frequently told pro-Palestinian demonstrations and meetings that antisemitism was an enemy of the Palestinians as well as the Jews.

As Jewish socialists and outspoken opponents of Zionism, racism and fascism, we cannot understand how it benefits the Palestinian struggle to invite and promote an individual who speaks as Atzmon does, regardless of his origins. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign has long had a clause in its aims to oppose antisemitism and all forms of racism. We cannot understand why SPSC seem intent on exposing the pro-Palestinian movement to charges of antisemitism.

We appeal to Scottish PSC to rescind the invitation and we appeal to Palestinian organisations and solidarity organisations to make their views on this
known to Scottish PSC.

Yours,
David Rosenberg
(on behalf of the National Committee of the Jewish Socialists’ Group)

Meeting with Alyn Smith MEP

Two of us went on Friday to meet Alyn Smith, the Scottish Nationalist MEP, who has just got back from a European Parliament fact-finding mission to Israel and Palestine. The mission was announced on a Europa website (a link at the bottom leads to the mission’s programme, which was pretty good, but subsequent news about it seems to have been relayed only through an Iranian news agency, Electronic Intifada, Al-Jazeerah, etc). This may be because the conclusions that the MEPs brought back are uncomfortable, though unfortunately not surprising. Alyn Smith seems to have been brought up to speed on the situation by the five days of meetings and visits, and has come back with an admirable determination to try to find a positive Scottish contribution to the situation. First the very uncomfortable main points that he has brought back:

  1. The mission saw for themselves what the Palestinian solidarity movement has been saying for months: that the humanitarian situation on the West Bank, and especially in Gaza, is catastrophic. About Gaza they said:

    Due to economic sanctions, almost all public institutions have shut down. The hospitals are overcrowded and receive neither money nor sufficient medicine. The public employees have not been paid for months. The doctors told us that some deadly injuries are not caused by traditional weapons but most likely by new experimental chemical weapons. More amputations than ever are necessary. They have not had the time to examine the dead bodies yet as they are busy dealing with the wounds of those who have survived.

    (It’s not only economic sanctions that are strangling the PA. Probably more important is the large amount of customs revenue that the Israeli government is still “withholding”.) It’s impossible to imagine a situation so bad continuing indefinitely. But the MEPs didn’t forecast any success for the hopes of the Israeli government and the “international community” that the Palestinians will rise up and throw off the Hamas government. They believe that it is more likely that the situation will solidify support behind Hamas, which they acknowledge as the elected government. More likely is the prospect of civil war or a coup by Abbas, who is importing large quantities of arms into the Gaza strip, a situation that the US is “completely relaxed” about (to quote Alyn). You can’t imagine anything more likely to please Olmert and Bush.

  2. We couldn’t take any encouragement from his assessment of the political leadership on either (or, more accurately, any) side of the conflict.

  3. His opinion of EU policy was scathing. The attempt to route part of the PA payroll as aid through Abbas’s office makes no sense at all, either in the context of the Hamas boycott (which it undermines, as far as it is effective at all), or in the context of helping the PA continue to operate (which it is completely ineffective at doing, since the amounts involved are so small). I was particularly struck by his opinion about the Rafah checkpoint, the only route into Gaza that is (supposedly) not under Israeli control. Rafah is open under the supervision of EU monitors, which means that when they can’t reach it it stays closed (this happens often). And where are the monitors living–remember, this is a checkpoint between Gaza and Egypt? Why, in Ashkelon, of course! That way, their access to Rafah is entirely under the control of the IDF. According to Alyn, the head of the EU “Border Assistance Mission” didn’t bother even to try to justify this arrangement to the MEPs

Alyn hopes to call a meeting of “stakeholders” in the Scottish community very soon. I know that before he went he discussed the situation with at least the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities. He plans on a meeting in early December, at which he hopes to be an honest broker in starting a dialogue between the different stakeholders, in the hope that a distinctive Scottish position will emerge. It’s a conscientious and constructive move, but I can’t say I’m wildly optimistic about the chances of the dialogue being very helpful.

Anarchists Against the Wall

I went to a meeting today with this rather discouraging title, half-expecting a wild-eyed and disorganised presentation, even though friends had told me that it would be much better than that. (I can’t be the only one who felt that way, though; we have had two people sign off our mailing lists simply because the meeting was advertised on them.)

In fact, it was very good, with two speakers–one Israeli, one Palestinian– PowerPoint presentations, and a couple of films. I was only there part of the time and didn’t see the films, though we now have them on DVD. The presentation on the wall itself is now sadly routine, but what was new to me was a first-hand description of the non-violent demonstrations that have been regularly taking place at Bil’in (I’ve known about them for some time because of effective publicity from Gush Shalom). Like many villages along the route of the wall, Bil’in will be cut off from much (60%) of its farming land. The demonstrations there are important for several reasons: they are a continuing focus of resistance to the most visible symbol of the occupation; they show how effective non-violence can be, even against a state prepared to use extreme violence at any time; and they provide an opportunity and a practical example of Israelis and Palestinians organising and working together. As the Israeli speaker, Sarah Assouline, said “You can’t tell us that there is no partner for peace!”

About the violence: Sarah described how terrifying it is to face the police and the army at these demonstrations (adding that it was too terrifying for her!) People have been seriously injured at Bil’in and, in other places, have been killed in non-violent demonstrations against the wall. All the dead were Palestinians–the army doesn’t use live ammunition when Israelis are among the demonstrators, so that is one very important role that they can fulfil. But I still wouldn’t care to face the teargas, rubber bullets, and experimental riot control weapons that the army tries out at Bil’in.

When I talked to Sarah outside the meeting, she emphasised that she is a woman on a mission. The demonstrators are facing huge legal bills, even though they have an advocate who has been working for them for very little pay. They aren’t terribly good at advertising themselves–unlike Gush Shalom (see links) who they work with on the demonstrations. I don’t suppose the associations of their name can help much. But after seeing the presentation, I thought that what they are doing is important, and we should support them. How about doing a benefit for them–we could raise some money, show the films and tell people about Bil’in, and have a good time too?

Responses to the Herald letter

I’ve collected together the responses mailed to SJJP during the first couple of days after the letter appeared. The mixture ranges, as you would expect, from “shame on you” to “good on you”. There were replies in the Herald in the several days following (here are the letter pages for 18th August and 21st August – I think there were others, but unfortunately the Herald doesn’t index more than two days back).

SJJP Letter in the Herald

Our letter appeared in full in the Herald today, with no fewer than 20 signatures!  It was interesting to see how easy it was to get people’s responses and signatures, compared to previous times. Obviously that’s partly because the Lebanon war has been (and will continue to be) such a sharp crisis, but I think this might be the start of a lasting increase in people’s willingness to speak out for justice in the Middle East.

A number of factors combine to silence Jews in Britain who want to say “not in my name”, including (at least) a sense of loyalty, discomfort with the idea of being identified, a feeling of powerlessness, and fear of the reaction from within our own community. These form a powerful combination, but we’ve seen over the past week that if we can overcome our isolation we can get a lot of strength from one another. It would be nice to think that this is the beginning of a sustained campaign.

SJJP on the August 12th demonstration

We only started organising for the demonstration a few days beforehand, so it was very gratifying to have a good turnout, a speaker (Barrie Levine, who gave an excellent speech), a banner, placards and leaflets. People joined the SJJP group from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, and the far North. One supporter, in her eighties, made a 17-hour round trip to join us! She said, like many other people there, that sometimes you just have to act, and this war in Lebanon is such a time.

There was a lot of enthusiasm among the people behind our banner. Protesting against the Lebanon war has given us focus and energy, which have been hard to sustain in the last year in the face of the Gaza withdrawal and the remorseless grinding down of the OPT. No matter what the short-term results of the negotiations over the ceasefire resolution, there’s going to be a need for sustained campaigning for a long time to come. The response to today’s demonstration is a hopeful sign that we can do that.

Israel, Gaza, Lebanon, and all that stuff

So I’ve been putting off posting this, because I couldn’t figure out what to say about it. My first reaction was a sigh, “it goes on.” At some point, I almost stop being surprised. Almost.

I cannot grasp what anyone thinks they have to gain from this. All explanations of the Middle Eastern conflict stop making sense. There is no explanation that I can see anymore.

Shortages in Gaza continue, a ceasefire collapses, a soldier is kidnapped, dozens if not hundreds of Gazan civilians will die for that, a Hezbollah raid, IDF forces in Lebanon…where did it begin? Where will it end?

This didn’t begin with a soldier being kidnapped. This didn’t begin with a crisis in Gaza. This didn’t begin with Hamas being elected, or the intifada, or the collapse of the Camp David agreement, or with 1967. We can go back and back and back and talk about provokations and responses and never get anywhere.

What I will say is that this game of “capture a soldier, and we’ll starve 1.4 million civilians” is grossly mismatched. This game of “illegally occupy a land and a people for 40 years and expect them to be on good behaviour” is stupid. And goodness only knows what Hamas thinks it can stand to gain by blowing stuff up.

And the rest of the world…well, doesn’t really care. We carry on with our lives. We worry instead about oil prices, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll stop to think for a minute about why on earth the BBC is calling it an Israel crisis. I mean, the Isrealis aren’t the ones starving. No media bias there, of course.

There is the expected statement from Washington saying nothing much, just before the US pulled out their veto on regard for human rights a UN resolution condemning Israel’s Gaza incursion (Can’t link to the article because the Haaretz page is down).

Now Israel is “back” in Gaza. The scare quotes are because they were never really “out”. Unsurprising, given the support they get.

So call me a pessimist, but I don’t see an end. It just goes on.

More by Johann Hari, columnist for the Independent.
There’s a Parliamantary Early Day Motion (EDM 2568) that calls for a cessation of violence in the Middle East:

‘That this House expresses grave concern about the escalating crisis in the Middle East that has now spread to Lebanon; notes that Israel’s disproportionate military actions in Gaza and Lebanon, including an air and sea blockade of Lebanon, attacks on the airport in Beirut on 13th July and the killing of at least 35 Lebanese civilians within the first 24 hours, risk provoking further regional conflict by seriously jeopardising the fragile political landscape in Lebanon; condemns Hizballah’s rocket attacks on Israel and the abduction of Israeli soldiers; urges the British Government to call for an immediate cessation of violence from all parties and to condemn the killing of all civilians on all sides; and calls on all sides to respect the other’s sovereignty and international law and to release all prisoners held illegally without trial as a means to end the current crisis.’

Write to your MPs and urge them to support EDM 2568.
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Natfhe and the academic boycott

The National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) has put forward a motion to boycott Israeli academic institutions, that is to be voted on at the NATFHE conference this weekend. Via Engage, here is the letter that was published in today’s Guardian in opposition to the academic boycot, which explicitely condemns the occupation:

‘We call on Natfhe to reject the motion that “invites” academics to blacklist Israeli “institutions and individuals” that do not “publicly dissociate themselves” from “Israeli apartheid policies”. The purpose of the apartheid analogy is not to shed light on the conflict but to mobilise an emotional vote for a blacklist. We oppose the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the daily violence that is necessary to sustain it, as we oppose campaigns to kill Israelis. We are for peace and mutual recognition between Israel and Palestine. But this boycott proposal would do more harm than good, if the aim is to bolster the Israeli and Palestinian peace movements.’

Those who live in glass houses…

…should not threaten to sue Ahmadinejad.

‘A group of Israeli diplomats wants to sue Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for incitement to genocide.

Lawyers are preparing to send a file on Mr Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel, to the International Court of Justice.

… The UN convention defines genocide as the intent or actual destruction, in whole or in part, of a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.’

Incitement to genocide? Look, anti-semitism, like any other form of racism, is never ok. That said, Israeli dioplomats should check out the activities of their government and the IDF. If you represent a government that routinely and systematically ennacts anti-Arab policies and violence, is “incitement to genocide” something you should be so eager to cry?

‘In 2004 the court ruled that parts of Israel’s West Bank “security barrier” that ran through Palestinian land were illegal.’

Quite.

On a separate note, JVP informs me that the “Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Bill of 2006” (HR 4681) passed the US House of Representatives and is now headed for the Senate. The bill would stop all funds that go to Palestinians, but as the PA has not directly received US funds for some years, the funds being stopped are not funds that would go to Hamas anyway — they’re funds that would go towards humanitarian aid for Palestinians. Cutting funds for humanitarian aid will on worsen the shortages in Gaza and the West Bank.

Quick roundup.

  1. The Israeli Supreme Court has upheld a racist law that prevents Palestinian Arabs from living with Israeli Arab spouses or family.
  2. The Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has said that the ceasefire will be extended if the Israelis withdraw to the 1967 borders.
  3. A White House official is quoted as saying that Israel would “be willing to go bilateral” if Abbas dismantles terrorist organisations. However, Israel knows full-well that Abbas is in no position to do this because he does not control Hamas or Islamic Jihad; which casts doubt on the sincerity of the offer. Ehud Olmert was quoted on the radio as saying he was “willing to devote six to nine months to find a Palestinian partner” before going ahead with his unilateral plan for a withdrawal in the West Bank, thus making it clear that he is not engaging in a genuine negotiation with the Palestinian government.

The effects of cutting off foreign aid

As Gideon Levy points out yet again, not only has it caused a humanitarian crisis for which the Israeli government and the Quartet are responsible, but because it ultimately attracts support for Hamas and involves the Quartet in a diplomatic farce which it has now lost:

‘Two or three months and the “boycott” party of the Palestinian Authority ended. It was also an especially stupid masked ball: Hamas can now brandish a real achievement. Israel and the world have surrendered unconditionally, and the flow of money to the territories is being renewed.

The problem is that some of the masks have remained, and the foolishness continues: Israel and the world will not transfer monies “directly” to the Hamas government, but rather by means of a special “Hamas bypass” mechanism. This unnecessary mask will also be removed quickly.

What has Israel gained from this game? Nothing. It has only lost. The pictures of shortages and distress have been chalked up, and rightly so, to Israel. …

It is necessary to go back to the two eternal verities: First of all, the Palestinian people elected Hamas in democratic elections, which were held at the initiative of the United States and with Israel’s agreement; secondly, the state of Israel bears the responsibility for the fate of the population in the occupied territories. You wanted elections? Hamas was elected. You wanted to topple the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization? Here are the results. You want occupation? You have to pay the price. There is no way of escaping this.’

Collective punishment of the Palestinians is downright morally appalling, and we’ve seen that it doesn’t work.

The policies of the Israeli government and the Quartet have only served to strengthen support for Hamas. The more the Israeli government continues in its current policies of starving 3.5 million Palestinians, most of whom are living in what is essentially a prison (the occupied territories have no sea port or airport or free movemtn even within the occupied territories), the more Palestinians will turn to the extremism that seems to be fighting back.

There is one positive thing here, however: the blockade and the shortages it caused are finally being chalked up to Israel, instead of Palestinians suffering because of those policies.

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PSC meeting on the blockade, Euston 10th May

Last night I went to a Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) meeting at Euston on the crisis in the Territories. The PSC organised a strong platform, with Tony Benn, Karma Nabulsi, Lindsey German and Tariq Ali amongst others. Plenty of strong feeling, but the big hall in the Friends’ Meeting House was only half full–maybe a couple of hundred people. Karma Nabulsi had a strong quote from one of her contacts in the OT:

“The silence of the West hurts more than the bullets of the Israelis”

Allowing for a degree of overstatement, it’s still an arresting thought. I’ll say something more about this “silence” in my post about today’s news. The most interesting and controversial speech was from Tariq Ali, who was kept to the end as a rousing finish. The PSC obviously need him more than he needs them, as his speech was far from the party line. He was very emphatic that you couldn’t understand what is happening without understanding the Palestinian election, which he interpreted for our benefit: it’s because they realised that Oslo would never have given them a viable state (and also, to be fair to Tariq, because they were fed up with Fatah corruption). He didn’t say what would represent viability, though he allowed that a retreat to the 1967 borders would be “a first step” to towards a viable Palestinian state. His views on the future for the region were summed up in this wonderfully dogmatic line:

“Abandoning fantasy politics means a one-state solution”

Most of the speakers made complimentary (and often, I thought, condescending) reference to JfJfP (which is organising a vigil on Monday night to protest at the EU’s position).

The PSC is organising a national demonstration in London on May 20th against the blockade.

Not just Gaza

Cutting off aid to the Hamas-controlled PA is having a severe impact on Palestinians. The West Bank economy has been dependent on foreign aid since before the election, and the lack of aid now means that public-sector employees are not receiving wages, crushing the already fragile economy:

‘The World Bank estimates that only 12 per cent of the PA’s economic activity was ever internally generated. The rest came from outside, either through Palestinians earning wages in Israel or foreign donor support. When Yasser Arafat, then the Palestinian leader, launched the armed intifada in late 2000, Israel closed the checkpoints to the occupied territories, reducing the income from foreign earnings to a trickle. By the time Hamas won power in January’s general election, the PA was in debt to the tune of £451 million.’

Border closures that prevent Palestinians living in the West Bank from getting to their jobs in Jerusalem are also taking their toll, and have now sparked protest from the UN Relief and Works Agency:

‘Anders Fange, director of operations in the West Bank of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East … said: “I do understand the Israeli security considerations but the government of Israel should also live up to its obligations under international law to allow freedom of movement for U.N. personnel. This recent development impedes our work capacity at a time of increased need.”‘

Civilian casualties

There’s another excellent editorial by Gideon Levy.

‘Does anyone among our excellent artillery forces think about the great fear they are causing to the children upon whose homes they are launching their shells? Have they been shown pictures of the destruction they sowed, whether deliberately or not? No Qassam rocket justifies this terrible, disproportionate bombing, thousands of shells in a densely populated area, on its fields and occasionally on its homes; the echoes of this shelling did not reach Israel and did not interest anyone here. Last week we went to bombarded Beit Lahiya, in the row of houses that was shelled there, two dead and several wounded, this week in bombarded Beit Hanoun, three children wounded and dozens suffering from shock. ‘

The IDF response?

‘The IDF spokesman: [said] “The IDF operates to defend the citizens of the State of Israel, and in response carries out firing toward the sources and points of launching, while trying as much as possible to avoid hitting populated areas. Unfortunately, the terror organizations are exploiting the IDF’s sensitivity in regard to harming civilians, and deliberately operate near and from populated areas, using the Palestinian population as a ‘human shield.'”‘