War Crimes in Gaza - Interview with Donna Wallach
by Anis Hamadeh
Donna Wallach was on the first Free Gaza boat that came from Cyprus in August 2008 and has stayed in Gaza since. She comes from California and is of Eastern-European Jewish descent. Donna lived in occupied Palestine in the Tel Aviv area from 1981 to 1997 and experienced the impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinians living inside Israel as well as the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. She also was in Ramallah during its siege in 2002.
How is the elecricity, food and medical situation in the Gaza Strip today?
The last shipment of fuel was 420,000 liters, not even enough to power the Gaza Power Plant for one day. Electricity is off in many places at least 12 hours a day and in some places 20 hours a day. Some areas are without running water 12 hours a day. Today, 21st November Beach Camp was without running water all day. Jabaliya Camp was without running water and electricity for 12 hours. The The last flour mill closed on Thursday 20th November, they ran out of wheat to mill. This will impact the bakeries which make the various types of bread produced in the Gaza Strip. There were 72 bakeries in Gaza Strip and many of them had already closed, it could be they are now all closed. I heard today that there is no bread to be bought. Access to food is a human right - Israel does not have the right to deny food, or water or medicine. The director of emergency ambulances said that 300 kinds of medicines are lacking here. When the electricity goes out the hospitals are in dire straits, their generators are breaking down and there are no spare parts to fix them. (I was watching the news in Arabic - couldn’t understand what was said - but the pictures showed the neonatal care unit for babies who need incubators. It looked like the doctors were having to care for the babies by their own hands - the incubators weren’t functioning. This could mean death to defenseless babies.)
Were there any Palestinians killed by the Israeli forces?
Eighteen Palestinians have been killed by invading Israeli occupation force soldiers in the past three weeks, the last one was yesterday, 20th November. All the 18 Palestinian martyrs were killed defending Palestinian land and the Palestinian people from the invading Israel occupation force army who were illegally invading Gaza Strip.
You have been out with the fishermen as an international observer. We heard that Israel shoots at them. What is the background?
Fishermen can’t fish. They are limited to a six mile limit which has already been overfished. Every day the fishermen are shot at by the Israeli occupation force navy. I have witnessed it every time I go out with the fishermen. The Israeli occupation force Navy shoots at them with M16s, cannons, grenades and high-powered water cannon. The high-powered water cannon ALWAYS causes damage to the boats. Fishermen and three of the international volunteers have been injured by the high-powered blast of the water cannon. Recently the Israeli occupation force Navy has been using the water cannon to shoot dirty water, which has a very bad smell and some of us think it is very toxic. We are getting samples tested here in Gaza and in Cyprus. We are DEEPLY concerned because in the recent times the Navy has waited to use the dirty water after a netful of fish has been brought onto deck and then they spray it, contaminating the fish, the entire boat and deck and any and all fishermen who get hit with the water. I have heard that some of the fishermen were sick for three days after getting hit with the dirty water. About a month ago, a 19-year-old fisherman from Rafah, Mohammed Muslah, was very seriously wounded for fishing on a very small boat, using paddles because they had no money to buy fuel for the outboard motor. With no warning whatsoever, the Israeli occupation force Navy shot at his boat and at him. He was wounded in the lower leg. The Israeli occupation force Navy was shining their very bright lights on him, so they could clearly see that he was a fisherman fishing in the sea. It took hours for him to get to shore and to hospital. Because of the illegal occupation and the genocidal siege, the hospital could not give him the necessary care. His family struggled very hard and were able to get him acceptance into a hospital in Ramallah, Al-Mokassed, for treatment. It took more than three weeks for him to be able to cross the Erez crossing and arrive to the hospital. He almost lost his leg. We still don’t know his condition.
According to Article 55 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea the Exclusive Economic Zone extends to a distance of 200 nautical miles (370 km) out from its coast. This is the zone where people may fish. On which legal grounds can it be only six miles for Gazans?
Israel imposes an arbitray six nautical mile fishing limit on the fishermen from Gaza City and an arbitrary four nautical mile fishing limit on the fishermen from Rafah. According to the Oslo accords the Palestinian fishermen have the right to fish out to 20 miles into the sea. The six mile limit is totally arbitrary and illegal by the Israeli occupation force navy. This genocidal policy must end! The fishermen associations of the world and the people of the world must stand up and call for an immediate end to all trade with the Apartheid Israeli State until they lift the siege on Gaza and totally leave the territorial waters of Gaza.
Are there similar arbitrary and unlawful restrictions on land?
Israeli occupation force army declared a “Buffer Zone” along the entire eastern border of Gaza Strip with the Apartheid Israeli State. A distance of 300 - 500 meters wide this entire length of the Gaza Strip has turned this agriculturally-rich land into a desert, destroying all the trees, crops, hot houses, chicken farms, sheep farms, etc. Farmers living along the “Buffer Zone” can’t farm, they are shot at by the Israeli occupation force soldiers when they go to their farms. Some of them haven’t been able to farm for five to fifteen years. Taking away the livelihood and the food from the Palestinian farmers, their families and the people who bought the locally grown food. Now many, if not most Palestinians, are totally dependent on food aid - flour, oil, sugar and salt. In addition, most of the fruit and vegetables in the stores are Israeli fruit and vegetables. This is a genocidal policy, wreaking havoc on the Palestinian infrastructure, the Palestinian culture and the Palestinian economy.
There also appear to be restrictions for education in Gaza. What can you tell us about this?
500 students with scholarships can’t get out to their universities, they are losing their scholarships. 3000 students who have been accepted to universities can’t get out and are losing their admittance to go study abroad. Education is a human right - Israel does not have the right to deny education.
We are, of course, talking about war crimes here, not just about some inconvenient restrictions.
Something MUST be done to stop these crimes, these War Crimes against an entire population of 1.5 million Palestinians.
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