Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Gaza Today in the U.K.

Steve Farley: Can we move on, colleagues, I'm conscious of time. There will be an opportunity at about 12:45 to come back to this, and there will be discussions later on. I want to take Sameh Habeeb first, who is a photojournalist with an eyewitness account of what went on in Gaza, and then Brian Campfield from NIPSA, and also the president of the Trades Council, and then Eamon McMahon from the ICTU. That's a fairly tight timetable but I think it was important to give Manawel the opportunity and for you to ask him questions, it's very rare that we get this direct opportunity. So Sameh if we hand over to you?

Sameh Habeeb: yes


Sameh: I see just a row of people that I've never met, because this is my first time to meet more people from the West Bank. We are not able, we are not allowed

Manawel: [in Arabic]

Sameh: Yes, and only here, in Britain, the reason, our troubles is uniting us. It's my second time here in Liverpool to speak on the situation in the Gaza Strip, I've got 15 minutes which is not enough at all, to speak about 3 years of siege and the last war. But I will try to recount and compress things to come out with something good, and I would love to address your eagerness to know about the political situation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. So I would try to get some more extra minutes but I will try to be 15. I'll be speaking about the siege and about the war in Gaza and after the war, exactly. I just came out of Gaza Strip directly after the war, and I managed by a miracle to get out of Gaza.

I am 23 years old, my name is Sameh Habeeb, I'm a journalist and a humanitarian in the Gaza Strip. I gave up everything and came out to England to speak with the PSC, I have toured most of the cities here, more the English people themselves. When I came into the country, I was denied by your government first, and then I applied and applied and I got the visa, and then when I tried to leave Gaza, I had not managed successfully to go out quickly, but after a time I have left Gaza and I'm here. And the problem, I don't know how to get back to Gaza. If I get back to Egypt, they will deport me back to the UK, and the UK will not accept me as a refugee. So I don't know where to go after I finish, my visa is to be finished by August. I'm not speaking about my own problem, but I'm speaking about the people. It's the story of the people. I managed to get my freedom but a million and a half are still trapped, experiencing the economics and mayhem imposed by the Israelis.

The siege was imposed really now more than 3 years. The siege was imposed 3 years ago and it's the basis of the total collapse now, including the health sector, the industrial sector, the agricultural sector, construction, infrastructure, crossings, transport. These things and many other things are destroyed in the Gaza Strip. Health sector, when I came I have written this number but now this number 370 people killed, sentenced to slow death because Israel is not allowing to leave for treatment, and not allowing enough medications to get into the Gaza Strip, they are sentencing people to slow death. And imagine where a woman tries to leave and she has a cancer, and they tell her she is a security threat in Israel, a patient with a cancer is a security threat.

The economy is totally collapsed. We don't have an economy in the Gaza Strip at all. Most of our manufacturing systems, factories totally rely on Israel in terms of bringing the goods and raw materials. Luckily, maybe you are because you have a chance to pressure Israel and make this BIG campaign, with the PSC and other people, but in Gaza we are obliged to get their bullets, to get their shells, and we don't have any choice because we would love to put this pressure, but we cannot.

We have more than 4,000 factories totally stopped at the moment, not operating, in which thousands of people turn to be jobless, they don't have any kind of income at the moment, and totally dependant on the UNRWA. The unemployment rate is more than 67% at the moment, and the poverty rate is more than 85% in the Gaza Strip, and the rest of the people do face severe troubles in getting their days. More than 1,100,000 of them totally rely on the UNRWA in getting their food supply. And the UNRWA itself is not finding easy access to its goods and humanitarian aid coming through, because you will notice the statement in my presentation that the UNRWA is always under the attack of the Israeli state. As for our imports and exports, we are not allowed to export our goods, but we are allowed to import their goods. For example the flowers, strawberries and other small products in the Gaza Strip, we are not allowed to export these things. And when we managed for example to export something of the flowers, at the end of the day the cartons, they are written Made in Israel. They steal even our goods, inside, when its in Gaza.

The construction and infrastructure sector, for 3 years, a house is never built, a road is never built, a school is never built, a hospital is never built, nothing is being built, until this moment, and after the war we have more than 60,000 refugees, living in the mosques, in public places, and in camps, and Israel is not allowing at the moment the construction materials to enter the Gaza Strip, causing a big problem for these people, UNRWA is supplying food because some of them didn't have an alternative, some of them went to live in the mosques. These mosques were hit already, so they want to leave them, because they have taken this mosque as a refuge, but they didn't know that this mosque was hit.

Spare parts not allowed for the water, fresh drinking water, so we have a big problem to drink water. More than 100,000 people do face big troubles in getting fresh drinking water. And sewage water is leaking into the Mediterranean because Israel is not allowing spare parts for the sewage system to get into the Gaza Strip, even they have destroyed some of these sewage water wells in time of war, and more than 77 million litres of sewage water is leaking into the Mediterranean, killing the fish resources destroying the sea. And the sea is something else. It's not only killing fish, it's also taking control of the whole Gaza shore. And now they're bringing your troops, bringing the Nato, bringing the British troops, they're already circulating in the sea off Gaza.

The power blackout is still taking place in Gaza. Gaza has 3 main sources of power, one is from Egypt, one is from Israel, and one is our key power plant. This key power plant was hit in 2006 when the soldier who came to fight the Palestinians was captured by some Palestinian fighters. This was hit, and resulted in a big power shortage in the Gaza Strip, so we relied on electrical generators and the share we were getting from Israel. Israel tried to control the share we were getting, sometimes they give us power, sometimes they do not give us power, and Egypt, what we get from Egypt is not enough, we have troubles, so most of the Gaza Strip is facing big troubles in terms of power. Imagine a hospital with no power, imagine a school with no power, an institution, all these things cause severe trouble and we are still not able to deal with this trouble.

For example, a hospital, the Shifa hospital in Gaza was in bad need, in time of war, because a power blackout hit most of the Gaza Strip. So the guys there tried to bring some of the fuel for the generators but they didn't find fuel. So they were forced to take fuel from the ambulances to the generators.

Fuel, they allow some tens of thousands of litres, and the others they do not allow. And the crossings, they were taking control of the fuel crossings, another crazy policy imposed on us. Crossings and fuel removing, this is something that we never experienced in the Gaza Strip.

Freedom is a right that we have to practice, like other countries. But in Palestine, not just in Gaza but in West Bank, everywhere in Palestine we are not allowed to practice this freedom. And immediately they said that they have pulled out from the Gaza Strip and we gave you this freedom. I was on the BBC yesterday debating with an Israeli professor yesterday, and he said "you are sending rockets to Israel, you are killing our people, and we have pulled out." And I told him how they have pulled out of Gaza. "You have taken some of the settlers from the inside of Gaza and you have encircled the Gaza Strip, you have destroyed the airport, the seaport, took control of the crossings, and the air, and nothing, there is no freedom they are speaking about." They are trying to exaggerate by a policy of lies and propaganda against those poor people in Gaza. Israel has control of the 6 crossings, in which nothing gets in or out, except by their will. Even the goods that they are allowing, they are not allowing the quantity of aid to Gaza, in the normal time before the siege there was a need for more than 5,600 trucks of humanitarian aid, food and secondary things. But in time of siege, they started to decree this, and sometimes the crossings were totally closed, and then they allowed 15, 40, up to 150 maximum out of 600 trucks. So the price of the commodities went high, and people are not affording that, because they are jobless, hundreds of thousands of them are jobless at the moment.

And there is a very ironic story of the goods getting into the Gaza Strip. When they didn't allow the goods to get into the Gaza Strip, they gave them a kind of a choice. If you apply to have 10 trucks of flour, then you have to forget about 5 trucks of stationery, and this really happened and the UNRWA is a witness about that. People at the schools, last school year, because Israel is not allowing clothing or allowing stationery, they were asking and the UNRWA intervened, to allow clothing and to allow stationery, but didn't, they said "we can send you some 10 trucks if you forget about some other 10 trucks from other committees."

The Gaza tunnels, why the Gaza tunnels? They have blockaded the borders, they have taken control of the crossings, they didn't allow the goods. We were forced to dig the tunnels. We have more than 13,000(?) tunnels. It's not for smuggling weapons. Maybe some of these tunnels are being used to smuggle weapons and it's the right of the Palestinians to resist the occupation


Most of those, most of them who work in the tunnels are well educated people, most of them got BA and Masters. More than 200 of those digging in the tunnels died through the attacks from Egypt, from Israel, and from other problems while digging into these tunnels.

The war in Gaza, it wasn't a war, but a genocide, an entire genocide against everything. There was a big psychological war, no shelters, no food, no water, no power, no fuel, no medicines, nothing in time of war in the Gaza Strip. And they have launched a psychological war from Day 1, in which they have dropped tens of thousands of leaflets. They have asked the people to leave the border areas to other areas but unfortunately they didn't tell the people where to go, because the border is totally closed and the sea is totally controlled by the Navy forces, and the soldiers came into the Gaza Strip. So the people tried to flee inside the Gaza Strip. But they were hit and they were killed. And when they tried to kill some of the commanders of Hamas, they have killed many other people. When they have hit the Hamas Interior Minister, and as you know the assassination policy is even forbidden, it is not allowed, they have killed that guy, and they have killed more than 20 people with him, they have killed ... from Hamas, they have killed his family, the children and the people around him. If you are going to travel with him you are going to have the highest hi tech... They were targeting everybody. They are not targeting Hamas people as such, they have targeted all the people.

Attacking the United Nations, they have attacked the United Nations with phosphorus bombs, they have killed the people, massacred the people, at Fakhoura school more than 45 people had fled their houses, destroyed houses in the North, to Jabalia. But they were destroyed and they were killed, more than 45, most of them women and children were killed in that school. And another school, I went to the story and made the story, was hit, 3 people were going to the toilet, 10 people were going to the toilet at midnight, they were hit by the drone and killed. The drones, by the way, it�s being supported by your government.

Israel by the way, after they attacked the school, they have attacked the UNRWA. They were saying, Israel�s Foreign Minister was saying you do not have a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. But she did not speak about how it works in there. Because they were allowing 150 trucks a day in time of war, and not allowing the crossings to open totally as before the siege. And they have allowed some trucks but they have stored these trucks as you see in the UNRWA compound. This is a bag of flour burning in the UNRWA compound.

They have destroyed hospitals, schools, everything. Ok, I'm trying to finish now, a small story. This guy had 3 children, female children, hit by the Israelis. Two of them were killed and the third is totally paralyzed, and his mother as well, when the paramedics tried to rescue him the ambulance was blown up.

Samouni massacre, it was a family, it was a massacre in which more than 29 people were killed, they were calling on the radio stations, calling on the UNRWA, calling "please save us" while they were shelled by 3 shells, most of the people were killed and most of them who were sick they are still having some troubles.

My last story, he fled to the school but he didn't die there like some of his comrades. But when he went back to his area to bring some clothing and food he got hit by the drone in which he is totally blind and his brother was killed, his father was injured.

And it's not only humans. Others suffered from the Israelis. It's cows. They have killed the cows. But it's by snipers, it's not by rockets. As you see, these cows were hit by the bullets.

It's not only about cows. They have massacred and destroyed a big farm of more than 60,000 chickens in the Gaza Strip.

So they have destroyed the sea, by the sewage water, and they have killed the people of Gaza. They have killed the animals, they have killed the birds, they have killed everything, they have destroyed the schools.

Thank you indeed for giving me this chance.