Gaza gebeld, man aan de telefoon. Meestal is zijn eerste antwoord: we leven nog.
Dit keer vroeg ik: hoe is het leven, en hij antwoordde: dit is geen leven.
Ik ken hem, hij is geen klager.
Iedereen loopt, vertelt hij. Auto’s rijden vrijwel niet meer want er is geen benzine meer. De hoop is nog gevestigd op een nieuwe lading diesel, zodat de elektriciteit het tenminste nog even doet. Dus kinderen en studenten moeten soms kilometers lopen naar school of universiteit, of naar hun werk. Khaled heeft een poliobeen en kan dat niet. Omdat gehandicapten van de overheid nog een beetje benzine krijgt dat de overheid achterhoudt voor de ambulances en echte noodgevallen kan hij nog wel rijden, maar hij doet het het liefst niet want hij schaamt zich als hij de oude vrouwen langs de weg ziet die van vermoeidheid maar zijn gaan zitten en niet meer verder kunnen, of die smeken of ze mee mogen. Zijn zoons hebben nog mazzel, de internationale school kan nog een schoolbus laten rijden, maar veel kinderen gaan niet meer naar school.
Nu is het de vraag of de UNWRA nog voldoende benzine krijgt om de voedseldistributie op gang te krijgen, want het merendeel van Gaza is afhankelijk van de voedselhulp. Een plastic fles gewone bakolie kost op dit moment zes dollar. Dat kunnen nog maar heel weinig mensen betalen.
Gisteren was er opstand onder de vissers. Ook die krijgen geen benzine meer, en ze kunnen dus niet uitvaren. Die zitten dus zonder middelen van bestaan en de Gazanen zitten zonder vis, dat overigens voor gewone mensen ook al niet meer te betalen is.
Er dreigen meer rampen. Het totaal verouderde rioleringssysteem dreigt het elk moment te begeven, en zonder benzine voor de pompen stroomt de rotzooi straks de straten over. Er was in 2006 al een keer een ramp toen een van die vieze opvangmeertjes waar rioleerwater in opgevangen wordt het begaf en een paar mensen in de smurrie verdronken. Zie de artikelen hieronder.
Over twee weken gaan we weer, insha’Allah, als we er in komen. Ik vroeg mijn Palestijnse familie wat ik mee kan nemen. Niets, zegt Khaled. Het is principieel. Hij wil geen voorrechten als iedereen het zo slecht heeft. De kleren die ik een keer voor de kinderen had meegenomen heeft hij weggegeven. Er zijn mensen die het harder nodig hebben. Maar ik hoor Wassim, zijn jongste zoon op de achtergrond roepen: chocola! Zijn vader lacht. Okee, neem maar chocola mee voor de jongens.
Dat zal ik doen.
O en voor de kleine berichtjes die hier de krant niet halen: gisterochtend schoot het Israelische leger een granaat door het dak van een huis in Beit Hanoun, in het noorden, waar ze weer eens een invasie uitvoeren. De familie zat aan het ontbijt. Vier kinderen waren op slag dood, Rudina, Hana, Saleh en Mousab Abu Meatik, tussen de zes jaar en vijftien maanden oud. De moeder is in kritische conditie in het ziekenhuis opgenomen. Haaretz, vanochtend. Hier.
Pardon. Op het NOS radio nieuws werd het wel vermeld. Vier kinderen in één keer is kennelijk wel de kritische grens om er wat van te zeggen.
En nog een bericht: buiten Gazastad sluiten de bakkerijen omdat ze geen gasflessen meer hebben om brood mee te bakken. Brood is het goedkoopste en meest noodzakelijke voedingsmiddel om van te leven. Rauw meel kun je niet eten. Houtvuurtjes zijn ook een zeldzaamheid, want er is in Gaza vrijwel geen hout. Huizen worden gebouwd van cement. Dat is trouwens ook op. Zie Haaretz, hier.
Meer informatie hieronder.
En dit is het ergste en onverdragelijkste: dit is geen natuurramp, geen tsunami, geen kwestie van een arm land dat onderontwikkeld is. Deze menselijke misere is met opzet veroorzaakt, en wij kijken toe.
WIJ KIJKEN TOE.
These articles call attention to another crisis unfolding in Gaza, the
massive amount of raw sewage that is contaminating the drinking water and
making people sick. The situation is desperately unstable – the sewage
treatment facilities are old and in bad repair, and designed to serve a
population of less than 400,000 (Gaza now has 1.5 million people).
Whatever sewage does not get pumped into the Mediterranean (itself a
terrible solution) is held in large, open-air lakes by dykes that have
burst in the past and are liable to break again. And they leak: “sewage
is literally pouring into the streets,” says the head of CARE
International, quoted in the second piece below.
Construction of a new plant and repair to the old is hampered by the
occupation, and particularly the fuel shortage – materials and contractors
simply cannot get through.
The first article, from the BBC, refers to the leaking sewage as a
‘tsumami’. While this analogy highlights the severity of the problem, it
is deeply misleading to compare this to a natural disaster: it is a
human-made disaster. It is not a tragedy but rather a crime, the
predictable and culpable result of intentional policies undertaken by
Israel and the international community.
This is expressed quite well in a statement by the United Nations Relief
and Works Agency, “Gaza is on the threshold of becoming the first
territory to be intentionally reduced to a state of abject destitution,
with the knowledge, acquiescence and – some would say – encouragement of
the international community.”
Gaza`s sewage `tsunami`
By Jeremy Bowen
BBC Middle East editor
April 22, 2008
From Occupation Magazine: http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=26563
A five-month-old baby lay on a blanket in the shade of a hut made of metal
Thin tree branches, with leaves and twigs intact, were laced around the
ends of the hut to insulate it against the hot wind that blows into the
sand dunes, rolling away to the border fence and on to Israel.
The baby`s mother sat with her legs tucked under her, hiding most of her
face behind her black head-scarf. It flapped slightly in the breeze, and
she used it to wipe her tears and muffle her sobs.
The woman`s name is Aziza Abu Otayek. She wept because she was remembering
the death of another baby son, one morning in March last year, just after
the older children had gone to school.
Until that day their home was just downhill from a deep pond of sewage,
pumped into a depression in the dunes and held there by earth walls
because the water authorities in the Gaza Strip had nowhere else to put
`Wall of human waste`
On 27 March 2007, the walls gave way.
Aziza heard someone shouting, telling her to run away. She got out of the
hut, then went back in because she had forgotten her head covering.
The wall of raw human waste slammed into them. It knocked her down and
tore the baby from her arms.
He drowned. They found his body against the wall of the mosque a hundred
metres away. He was nine months old.
His grandmother was also drowned.
Aziza worried about her new baby until he was born at the end of last
year, because when she was hit by the flood she swallowed some of the
sewage and she thought it might have harmed him.
They named the new baby Mohammed, after his dead brother.
While she talked, he gurgled happily, untroubled by the flies that buzzed
around his eyes and lips.
Aziza has an older son, a four-year-old called Ramadan. His father said he
asks about his dead brother, and when he is cross he says he prefers the
first Mohammed to the second one.
But Ramadan seems a cheery little soul, though he has nightmares about the
He looks around the lakes of almost raw sewage that still lie near their
home and asks his parents if another wave is going to come.
One might. The pond that killed Ramadan`s brother and grandmother is not
the only one near their home. The others are much bigger and full of
A Palestinian water engineer called Sadi Ali gave me a tour. He explained
that the sewage lakes have grown so big because Gaza`s growing
population – 1.4 million, half of whom are under 16 – has overwhelmed what
were anyway inadequate facilities for dealing with waste water.
Even though, to his great regret, they pump tens of thousands of litres of
untreated sewage into the Mediterranean every day, they have to do
something with the rest.
Sadi said that the lakes are 11m (36ft) higher than the surrounding land,
and only the earth walls around them hold the muck in.
In this single spot alone – and he said other parts of Gaza were as bad –
the lakes were so big that if the dykes burst a tsunami of sewage 6m
(20ft) or 7m (23ft) high would swamp an area inhabited by 10,000 people.
Conflict with Israel
Sadi Ali worries that a stray bomb or missile could break a dyke.
There is a £40m ($80m) plan, funded by international donors, for a proper
sewage treatment system for north Gaza.
Sadi Ali is trying to build it. But it is well behind schedule.
The problem is the same one that dominates every part of life here – the
conflict with Israel.
Gaza has been battered by years of fighting
Restrictions imposed by the Israelis – which they say are vital to protect
their own people – have slowed down, and sometimes completely stopped the
import of raw materials for construction like cement and piping.
Contractors have not been able to move freely. The latest problem is the
lack of fuel.
Try building a sewage system in a war.
When we set up the television camera near the sewage lakes a little
barefoot boy, barely more than a toddler, came up and asked if we were
going to attack the Israeli positions.
He might have been asking if it was going to rain.
For him, and several hundred thousand other Gazan children, explosions are
part of the soundtrack of their lives. The boy must have assumed the
camera and its tripod looked like a weapon.
After that we worked faster, in case the Israelis thought the same thing.
From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Saturday 19 April, 2008 at
1130 BST on BBC Radio 4. Please check the programme schedules for World
Service transmission times.
March 29 / 30, 2008
A New Crisis in the Making
The Great Lake of Gaza
By SUZANNE BAROUD
In a place just a few miles from sandy beaches and soaring sky-scrapers,
white stone villas and sky-blue swimming pools, it seems the epitome of
irony and injustice that over 1.5 million people would be subjected to
drinking sewage-contaminated water. When there is such a fine line
bordering wealth and poverty, privilege and need, how unsettling to
realize that just a stones throw away, mothers and fathers must nourish
their families with poison. As if the occupier could not find one more
creative way to torment his victim.
The greatest outrage is that such a reality is the decided policy of the
Israeli government. It is decried by the most prominent human rights and
humanitarian groups throughout the world, and yet it is increasingly
enhanced by Israel and shamelessly backed and justified by the US. It is
indisputable that the calamity of contaminated water in the Gaza Strip is
a resolute policy of the Israeli government.
The problem of sewage management in Gaza is not a new issue, and in fact
dates back to the direct Israeli occupation of Gaza in 1967. At that time,
Israel built the sewage treatment facilities which are still in operation
today, built then to serve a population of 380,000 people, a number that
has grown to 1.5 million.
The depleted source of clean drinking water and the ever-growing sewage
crisis in Gaza is leading to areas of overflow, the largest of them called
“the great lake” which occupies some 30 hectares of land and holds
approximately 2-3 million cubic meters of waste water.
With archaic facilities to serve a group that has nearly tripled in
number, and with the lack of basic necessities such as fuel to power the
pumps necessary to keep the facilities running, the result is the spillage
of toxic sewage into the ground and ground water and even directly into
The United Nations publication, IRIN recently interviewed Rebhi al-Sheikh,
the head of the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) in Gaza, who stated that
at present, 75 percent of Gaza’s drinking water is polluted.
In January 2008, UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur, John Dugard
travelled to Palestine and assessed the situation, one that he described
as “catastrophic” under Israel-imposed restrictions.
I recently spoke with Dr. Suma Baroud about the range of problems and
health issues that result from the existence of run-off areas such as the
great lake. She explained, “As a medical practitioner working in the field
of primary health care in the Khan Younis region for the last 10 years, I
have learned from my anecdotal observation that there are a myriad of
overwhelming problems and ailments inflicting the health of Gaza
residents, especially children as a result of the ever-growing lakes of
sewage like that of the ‘great lake’ or the ‘Majari’ as we call it.
Many children are treated in our health centers for illnesses induced by
infestations of small organisms such as amoeba. These ailments progress
and lead to internal diseases which affect the small and large intestine
and hamper or impede their functions, such as abdominal colic, diarrhea
and constipation. Other complications include anemia, failure to thrive,
and mental disturbances. More, we have seen growing numbers of children
who suffer from conditions such as insomnia, low self-esteem and
Add to this a big number of patients who are treated in our clinics in
summer for skin infections resulting from insects bites. There is an
overwhelming problem with such insects which thrive in the conditions
under which we suffer, with intense heat and standing sewage and water.
There is tremendous pressure on the Ministry of Health due to
over-consumption of medications that fight these diseases and their
An uncountable number of rights groups have brought the plight of Gaza to
the fore in recent weeks, including the International Committee of the Red
Cross who recently told IRIN that, “The environmental situation in Gaza is
bad and getting worse.”
30,000-50,000 cubic metres of partially treated waste water and 20,000
cubic metres of raw sewage end up in rivers and the Mediterranean Sea.
Some 10,000-30,000 cubic metres of partially treated sewage end up in the
ground, in some cases reaching the aquifer, polluting Gaza’s already poor
drinking water supply.
The International Crisis Group recently pressed Israel, Egypt, the PA and
the Hamas Government to do everything possible to make necessary
commodities available such as fuel, which is essential to the containing
of Gaza’s huge sewage problem.
In an article recently published in the California based publication, the
Coastal Post, US Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader bashed Israel for its
multi-faceted execution of institutionalized violence against the people
of Gaza, and called the US to account for its out-right complicity with
Israel’s inhuman and illegal practices: “Israel’s siege has also caused
extensive loss of life in Gaza from crumbling health care facilities,
electricity cut-offs, malnutrition and contaminated drinking water from
broken public water systems. The victims here are mostly children and
civilian adults who expire unnoticed by the West. The suffering of Gaza
civilians is ignored by 98% of the US Congress, which gives billions of
taxpayer dollars to Israel annually.”
According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), “Gaza is
on the threshold of becoming the first territory to be intentionally
reduced to a state of abject destitution, with the knowledge, acquiescence
and – some would say – encouragement of the international community.”
In early March of this year, a report drafted by eight British human
rights groups and humanitarian groups condemned Israel’s policies in a
“scathing” report which declared that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza was
the “worst since 1967”.
“As we speak, sewage is literally pouring into the streets,” said Geoffrey
Dennis, head of CARE International.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said Israel must protect its
citizens, “but as the occupying power in Gaza it also has a legal duty to
ensure that Gazans have access to food, clean water, electricity and
She added: “Punishing the entire Gazan population by denying them these
basic human rights is utterly indefensible. The current situation is
man-made and must be reversed.”
The 16-page report — sponsored by Amnesty, along with CARE International
UK, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Medecins du Monde UK, Oxfam, Save the Children
UK and Trocaire — calls on the British government to exert greater
pressure on Israel and to reverse its policy on not negotiating with
Gaza’s Hamas rulers.”
As Amnesty’s Kate Allen pressed, the urgency of this issue cannot be
emphasized enough. Spillage so great that its masses are designated “the
great lake”, such abuse and mistreatment of a population regarded as
“protected persons” is nothing less than pure outrage. The international
community must take action immediately to ensure the protection Gaza
deserves, for as Allen declared, this abhorrent action is undeniably
man-made and must be reversed immediately.
Suzanne Baroud is an American writer and editor of several books. She is
the managing editor of PalestineChronicle.com.
Jewish Peace News editors:
Sarah Anne Minkin
Jewish Peace News blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com