Media Watch September 1, 2020
Welcome to the Health and Human Rights Media Watch. During the Coronavirus pandemic, we are curating a weekly timeline/update on the impact of the virus on Israel/Palestine and all related submissions to Media Watch will be folded into that report. Please follow at https://www.jvphealth.com/covid-19. Health and human rights news unrelated to the pandemic is included here. If you want to be involved in this JVP Health Advisory Council Media Watch project, please contact me at email@example.com.
And now to Media Watch…
Although Media Watch is devoted to non-Covid related news, we want to call your attention to the first reports of community spread of Covid 19 in several areas of Gaza. This has the potential for a catastrophic collapse of the health care system and will have wide effects on Gazan health in general due to the precarious state of hospitals, clinics, and the lack of basic as well as sophisticated supplies and medications and overworked medical staff. This is heightened by the crowded conditions in refugee camps, the lack of clean water, fuel, and reliable electricity, and the elevated levels of stress related illnesses like hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Mental health is also challenged. Local authorities responded with an immediate lock down for 72 hours which the population was not prepared for. All primary health centers were closed, surgeries postponed except for emergencies. The focus is on contact tracing and controlling the spread of disease. Meanwhile fire balloons have resumed towards Israel to call attention to the blockade and the Israelis have responded with nightly airstrikes and stopping fuel imports, decreasing the availability of electricity. For an exclusive update from the director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program: https://www.gazamentalhealth.org/gaza-community-mental-health-programme-update-27-august-2020/
For a full report, please read the Covid 19 timeline from August 29, 2020. https://www.jvphealth.org/covid-19
MONTHLY HUMAN RIGHTS HERO AND VIOLATION
Hero for the month is the International community who applied pressure to a military court in Israel which released the Palestinian human rights defender and BDS coordinator Mahmoud Nawajaa after 19 days of illegal detention without charges. Nawajaa believes that sustained international pressure works.
The Violation of the month is Israel's bombing of Gaza for 10 days in a row.
Israel has bombed Gaza almost every night since 6 August, in retaliation for the balloons or, less frequently, rocket fire which are a desperate attempt to call attention to conditions on the Strip. It has also tightened its 13-year blockade on Gaza's two million inhabitants. In addition, Israel has banned Gaza fishermen from going to sea and closed its goods crossing with the territory, prompting the closure of Gaza's sole power plant because of a lack of fuel.
***indicates headlines, Haaretz paywall
· The scorching summer heat in Gaza combines with shortages of electricity and water to create dangerous and even lethal conditions. Parents spray the walls and floors of their homes with scarce water to soothe their children. Gazans have about 10-15 hours of electricity per day, representing improvements in Israeli policy since 2018. Only 3% of piped water in Gaza is fit for human consumption; 26% of all illness stems from contaminated water. Electronic Intifada
· Israel announced late Monday it would shut the Kerem Shalom crossing on its border with the Gaza Strip, in response to the resumption in recent days of cross-border attacks. After a lull of several months amid the outbreak of the coronavirus in the region, Palestinians in Gaza have resumed launching incendiary balloons across the border fence, leading Israelis living near the border to fear a new security flare-up.
· The recent shut down of the power plant due to lack of diesel fuel will drastically reduce the meager supply of electricity which hospitals in Gaza receive and will directly afftect seven neonatal nurseries in Gaza which can accommodate 135 incubators. The frequent power cuts and the use of alternative energy cause damage to devices such as incubators, resuscitators, and ventilators for newborns, which can lead to death.
· Since mid-August Israel has been bombing Gaza nightly, all as part of what Israel says is a response to incendiary balloons sent from Gaza into Israeli territory. The latest bombardments come at a difficult time for Gaza’s 2 million residents, who suffer from daily issues with water, electricity, rising unemployment, and most recently, the coronavirus pandemic. While Gaza has successfully managed to keep the rate of infection of the coronavirus remarkably low, the health ministry there just reported nine new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of new cases since to 18. On top of the constant threat of COVID-19 in Gaza, earlier this week, Gaza’s sole power plant shut down and halted operations, due to an Israeli ban on fuel imports into the territory. Mondoweiss
· Dr. Ashraf al-Qedra, the Gaza health ministry’s spokesperson, confirmed that Facebook shut down the health ministry’s Facebook page about 10 days previously. This is the third time FB has shut down the ministry’s informational FB page. Al-Qedra said the pretext Facebook gave was that the ministry had used the words “martyr” or “resistance.” The word shahid in Arabic – often translated as “martyr” – is used almost universally by Palestinians to describe any person, whether a civilian or a combatant, killed in the context of the conflict with Israel.
· Since the Palestinian Authority halted coordination with Israel on May 21st (in response to the start of West Bank annexation), the already difficult process for Palestinian patients living in the Gaza Strip to acquire medical travel permits to better-equipped hospitals in occupied East Jerusalem has become arduous, with rights groups trying to fill the vacuum. Delays and rejections due to ambiguous "security concerns" are all routine. These delays cause medical conditions to worsen, patients to die, and travel companions who may not have been needed or approved at the start of the application process become critically necessary by the time the patient's permit is approved. According to WHO data, over 2,000 exit permit applications are submitted each month in Gaza, a third of which are cancer patients, and in the first half of 2020, one third of those applications were rejected.
· In a photo essay and a new report with personal testimonies, B’tselem documents the plight of nearly two million Gazans who suffer constant water shortages. The tap water is polluted and salty, both of which cause severe impacts on health, equipment, infrastructure, and agriculture. 96.2% of household water in Gaza is non-potable. 40% of the domestic water supply is lost on the way to consumers due to outdated infrastructure. For drinking and cooking, and despite severe financial hardship, residents are forced to buy expensive and unregulated water from private sources that is just as polluted (70%).
· The Israeli army bombed the Gaza Strip [and has continued almost nightly attacks] in retaliation for the launching of incendiary balloons from the Palestinian territory into Israel. "Israel's jets and military aircraft attacked Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip, including underground infrastructure," Israel's army stated.
Military authorities also reported on clashes along the wall separating Israel and Gaza.
Tensions have escalated on the border after a pause that started at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Recently, Israeli authorities also closed Kerem Shalom, the only cargo crossing between Gaza and Israel.
· Gaza Strip exit approval for people with emergency cancer, cardiology, infant and other humanitarian needs has slowed, with a daily toll in lives. A planned temporary procedure, with WHO oversight, after Palestinian Authority-Israel coordination ended due to annexation threats, has not been started, for unknown reasons. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel’s application supports notes requests increasing to five times normal, given false claims about treatment availability in the Strip, new medical documentation hurdles, denials, delays, and lack of procedural transparency.
· The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) follows with deep concern the serious deterioration in medical services for cancer patients in the Gaza Strip, such as lack of proper diagnosis and necessary treatments (both chemotherapy and radiation therapy). PCHR fears that this shortage would affect the lives of cancer patients in light of the weakness of the health system, primarily caused by the Israeli closure on the Gaza Strip for 14 years. PCHR also calls upon the international community and the World Health Organization (WHO) to pressure Israel to allow importing all necessary medical supplies and medicines to the Gaza Strip, especially those relevant to radiation therapy that is necessary for cancer patients. PCHR also calls upon the Palestinian National Authority (PA) to find solutions in order to save the lives of cancer patients whose health conditions require urgent intervention to obtain comprehensive medical services.
· Six years after Operation Protective Edge, Palestinian youth reflect on surviving in Gaza.
· Israel began bulldozing villagers’ homes in the West Bank, claiming they were built without permits. One family’s house has already been demolished and more than 30 other buildings are slated for destruction. [This is even more dangerous during a pandemic when families are expected to shelter at home.]
· Palestinian physics professor Imad Barghouthi sent a letter from Ofer prison, near Ramallah, asking for support and solidarity. The letter is being circulated by Scientists for Palestine, and a link in the article will allow you to view and sign a petition demanding his release. Prof. Barghouthi was arrested by Israeli authorities on July 16 for public expression of his opinions and activity on social media. “I consider this arrest to be against my right to freedom of speech which is protected by international law. I have the right to express my own opinion and speak up to defend my country from military occupation. Also, my detention infringes on the rights of my students, my research and scientific activities. …I do not expect any justice from the Israeli military court system which is designed to subjugate the Palestinian population and lacks any credibility.”
· Israeli authorities have threatened to demolish the West Bank cave where a Palestinian family sought sanctuary in after they were twice refused permission to build a house. Amarneh, a 30-year-old civil engineer, lives with his family in the northern West Bank village of Farasin, where Israel insists it must approve any new residential construction and tears down homes built without permits. Amarneh said he thought Israel could not argue that the cave was illegally built since it was a natural formation, and the PA agreed to register the land in his name.
· Israeli forces shot a 16-year-old Palestinian boy in the occupied West Bank. The 16-year-old was one of three teenagers in the occupied West Bank village of Deir Abu Meshal who, according to Defense for Children International – Palestine, were accused of throwing stones or Molotov cocktails. Israeli forces nearby opened-fire and injured all three boys. The Israelis forces informed the 16 year-old’s family the next day that he was dead.
The Accountability Program director at Defense for Children International - Palestine stated that, “International law requires that intentional lethal force be used only when absolutely unavoidable to protect life, and only when lesser means would be insufficient to apprehend a suspect…” “Where individuals allegedly carry out a violent criminal act, they should be apprehended in accordance with international law and afforded due process of law.”
· Three children were shot in the head in East Jerusalem in 10 weeks and no one knows why. Gunfire may have come from the Palestinian side of the separation wall; residents wonder whether the perpetrator would have been found had victims been Jewish. Haaretz ***
OCCUPIED TERRITORIES & ISRAEL
· An Israeli military court on Sunday extended for another eight days the detention of Mahmoud Nawajaa. Nawajaa, the coordinator of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, was seized from his home near Ramallah by Israeli occupation forces in a night raid on 30 July. Since then Israel has been holding him without charge or trial and is denying him access to a lawyer. On 8/17 he was released after being held in arbitrary detention for 19 days without facing any charges.
· The High Court of Justice revoked a demolition order for the family home of a Palestinian charged with murdering Israeli soldier Amit Ben Ygal in the West Bank in May, drawing harsh criticism from several right-wing politicians.Supreme Court Justices Menachem Mazuz and George Karra granted the petition filed by Nizmi Abu Bakr’s family that challenged the order. The two justices wrote that the demolition of the family home would “involve serious damage to a number of basic rights, including property rights and human dignity, and a number of rights derived from human dignity.” Justice Yael Willner, in a minority opinion, said the demolition order should stand, and Netanyahu called the judgment a ‘miserable ruling.’
· In 2015 the situation in Palestine was referred to the International Criminal Court. After a preliminary examination, in December 2019 the Prosecutor of the ICC declared that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. The three areas in which the examination identified crimes were the in conduct of the assault on Gaza in 2014, the ongoing settlement program, and Israel’s use of lethal and non-lethal violence against Palestinian demonstrators in the Great March of Return. As Palestine remains under military occupation and Israel is not a signatory of the Stature of Rome, the Prosecutor has asked for a ruling on the territorial extent of its jurisdiction before launching a full investigation.
· The Israeli practice of confiscating and withholding the bodies of dead Palestinian is likely a violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law which prohibits cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, as well as requires that parties of an armed conflict must bury the deceased in an honorable way. For Palestinian families, Israel’s practice amounts to collective punishment in violation of international humanitarian law.
Israel has forced Palestinian families who, amidst their grief, have to fight for their right to bid farewell and bury their child. It is a discriminatory and deeply harmful policy imposed upon Palestinians, that not only violates the rights of families to bury the remains of their loved ones but also infringes on the cultural rights of the deceased to be buried in accordance with their cultural and religious rituals.
· Following 17 days in prison, Mahmoud Nawajaa, an Israeli military court released Palestinian human rights activist and BDS general coordinator, Mahmoud Nawajaa, without any charges. Nawajaa was released and returned to the occupied West Bank. He was detained on July 30.
In the weeks leading up to his release, the Palestinian BDS National Committee organized two rallies in Ramallah and Gaza in front of the diplomatic missions of Germany, to demand his immediate and unconditional release. There were also protests in Israel. Germany is the current president of the European Union (EU) council. More than 150 representatives of various Palestinian mass organizations, political parties, trade unions and other civil society groups participated in these demonstrations, demanding that the EU council put pressure on Israel for the release of Mahmoud Nawajaa. Peoples Dispatch Mondoweiss Aljazeera Frontline Defenders
· The Israeli army conducted numerous illegal demolitions in early August in the occupied territories of West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Israeli authorities destroyed several Palestinian homes, a barbershop and various structures on a large tract of land near an illegal Israeli settlement.
Such demolitions regularly conducted by Israel are illegal under the fourth Geneva convention as they amount to collective punishment of the occupied people. Israel has used these demolitions to confiscate and usurp Palestinian land for its settlement expansion and to displace Palestinians from the area in order to change the demographic balance in specific cities and villages. Palestinians are routinely deprived of their right to own property and build homes as the occupation authorities make it almost impossible for them to obtain Israeli construction permits.
· A squad of Israeli anti-femicide women are sticking up signs on the streets of Tel Aviv to protest a 60% rise in violence against them since the pandemic hit in March.
· The Justice Ministry unit in charge of probing police misconduct submitted indictments on Thursday against five Border Police officers for 14 instances of robbery and assault against Palestinian men entering Israel. “Like a gang of criminals,” the officers stole thousands of shekels and sometimes drew blood, along with breach of trust and obstructing an investigation.
· Despite pushback from conservatives and caution from politicians, queer Palestinians are gaining new ground in their fight for legitimacy. For a long time, queer Palestinians have been living under two different and overlapping systems of identity erasures. One is by Israelis who have continuously denied their existence as Palestinians, claiming there is “no such thing as the Palestinian people.” The second is by Palestinians who have for the most part denied denied their existence as homosexuals, bisexuals, transgender, queers, and so on and labeled them as deviants.
Queer Palestinians were considered unworthy of political representation despite having led the charge for a long time now against pinkwashing. Several developments have made this transformational and historic moment possible, not the least of which is the unyielding and stubborn work of Palestinian LGBTQ organizations, such as al-Qaws and Aswat, and independent activists who have shown up and confronted the conservative forces who seek to deny our existence and legitimacy.
· In early July, a Palestinian Israeli citizen who is the CEO of a very successful tahini company with global operations, Al-Arz, made a donation to the Israeli LGBTQ advocacy organization, The Aguda, to start a helpline for queer Palestinian citizens of Israel. The donation sparked intense criticism from several sectors. Some called for a boycott of the firm in protest of its support for LGBTQ issues. LGBTQ rights activists have criticized Al-Arz for choosing to donate to a Zionist Israeli group (thereby enabling Israel's pinkwashing efforts and efforts to "erase" them) instead of existing and well-established Palestinian LGBTQ organizations such as al-Qaws and Aswat. The Al-Arz donation is but the latest in a series of demonstrations of support for the Palestinian LGBTQ community. Much of the mainstream press is furthering pinkwashing by inaccurately framing the issue as one of hostile, conservative and homophobic Palestinians vs Israel, and this ignores the real context of the LGBTQ struggle within the Palestinian community.
· The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) calls on donors to include Palestinian refugees in emergency response as well as longer-term plans for Lebanon. “We must help Palestine refugees in Lebanon weather yet another storm that could push them further to the brink of despair,” said Claudio Cordone, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon. UNRWA emphasizes cash assistance, since Palestinian refugees in Lebanon face restrictions on their right to work and own property. The majority live in poverty, currently exacerbated by the pandemic and worsening economic crisis.
· As Palestinian refugees among thousands of others in Beirut sought desperately needed health care after the massive explosion one week ago, WHO made an assessment of the city’s health care facilities and found that half were “non-functional.” Three major hospitals were closed and three more had to reduce their capacity. In addition, WHO warmed that COVID-19 prevention measures were not being followed in some facilities.
· Excellent first hand report on the Beirut explosion and the political situation in Lebanon. The author, friend, and colleague, Seema Jilani, is a pediatrician and journalist who was involved in an early delegation to Israel/Palestine organized by a number of members of the JVP HAC.
· Palestinian refugees and emergency care groups rushed to help rescue efforts, give blood, provide food, and cleanup after the port explosion August 4th, which left over 220 dead, 7,000 injured, and 300,000 people homeless. The four Palestinian camps in Beirut were spared the worst physical damage, but children and others are severely impacted nonetheless. Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) in Lebanon and partner organizations (Naba’a, Palestine Red Crescent Society/PRCS, and UNICEF) provided treatment at Burj el Barajneh camp’s Haifa Hospital, appealing for support after depleting essential medical supplies already chronically under-resourced.
· Lebanon is facing the worst humanitarian crisis of its history, with the convergence of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, an economic collapse, and now this terrible, preventable explosion. Pre-pandemic, the country had a debt of more than 90 billion dollars, around 170 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Banks no longer allow cash withdrawals in dollars, only in Lebanese pounds. The destruction of the port of Beirut — which processes 80% of the country’s imported goods — could quickly plunge Lebanon into an even worse economic disaster. Healthcare workers report that hundreds of thousands of medicines, used to supply health centers across Lebanon, were stored at the port and were badly damaged by the explosion. One of the country’s main vaccine and medication stock piles was destroyed, leading to acute shortages in critically needed medications and supplies. The explosions also destroyed essential personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline COVID-19 responders. Hospitals were already at maximum capacity with COVID-19 patients before the explosion. Now, inundated by those injured by the blast, these facilities are overwhelmed. Families are also facing rising food insecurity and lack of shelter.
· Samer, a 16-year-old Palestinian refugee from Syria, reports mobilizing via social media after the port explosion, extending from the Adolescents Health peer support program for school challenges during COVID, HIV/AIDS and life skills for young Palestinian refugees. “We are now using alternative methods. For example, we did two videos…posted on the project’s page and got many as lot of engagement.