5-minute Guide to Gaza

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Get fast facts about the desperate situation facing children and their families in Gaza.

Caught in the conflict between Israel and Hamas are the families of Gaza. Here is a quick summary of the challenges faced by many Gazan children and their families.

Minute 1: Gaza’s History

  • The Gaza Strip is a sliver of towns, villages and farmland at the southeast end of the Mediterranean. It’s located between Israel to the north and east, and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula to the south.
  • Gaza city, the region’s capital, has been continuously inhabited for more than 3,000 years and was a crossroads of ancient civilizations.
  • The Israeli military occupied Gaza from 1967-2005.
  • Today, more than 40 per cent of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza are refugees, many of whom live in crowded camps.
  • An 18-month blockade by Israel has driven most families in Gaza into dire poverty. Closed borders and restricted movement has hampered aid from reaching those in need.

Minute 2: Socio-economic Conditions

  • 49.1 per cent of Gazans are unemployed.
  • More than 50 per cent of families in Gaza live below the poverty line.
  • Most Gazans live on less than $2 a day

Minute 3: Food and Water

  • Socio-economic conditions in Gaza, which is subject to severe restrictions, have deteriorated sharply, causing nearly 80 per cent of Gaza’s residents to rely on food aid.
  • 46 per cent of all Palestinians are either food insecure or in danger of becoming so.
  • In Beit Lahya, North Gaza, most households have access to water, but the quality is so poor that 95 per cent have to buy drinking water.

Minute 4: Gaza’s Children

  • More than half of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents are children.
  • 50,000 children in Gaza are malnourished. About half of children under two are anemic and 70 per cent have vitamin A deficiency. Current malnutrition rates rival levels seen in drought-stricken regions of Africa
  • Nearly half of all students in the Palestinian territories have seen their school besieged by troops, and more than 10 per cent have witnessed the killing of a teacher in school.

Minute 5: World Vision’s Work in Gaza

  • There are two World Vision communities in Gaza.
  • World Vision supports 23,893 children in the West Bank and Gaza, including 6,000 children sponsored by Canadians.

by World Vision Canada
Please donate now to World Vision’s relief efforts in conflict ridden regions.

Israel’s Sonic Booms Terrifies Gaza Children

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Deafening Sound Considered Retaliation for Palestinian Attacks
By WILF DINNICK, Dec. 29, 2005

It’s Israel’s latest weapon: Without notice, an Israeli jet fighter flies low over the densely populated Gaza Strip, breaking the sound barrier.

The massive sonic boom often breaks windows, shakes entire apartment buildings and terrifies the people of Gaza.

Shaul Mofaz, Tzipi Livni, Ehud Olmert

Just about every night for the last five months, 10-year-old Basma Abid Adiam has had trouble sleeping.

Her father says during the day she often seems distant. Basma’s problems started when the Israeli air force began breaking the sound barrier almost nightly over her home.

On the fourth floor of her family’s apartment building, surrounded by her brothers and sisters, Basma said shyly, “We are afraid when we hear the boom. I wet my bed. During the day when we go to school, we are afraid and try to hide.”

An international activist waves to Palestinians after arriving to Gaza in an attempt to break an Israeli blockade August 23, 2008. Israel said on Saturday it would allow seafaring activists seeking to challenge its blockade on the Gaza Strip to enter the Hamas-controlled territory. From Reuters Pictures by REUTERS.

Responding to Rocket Attacks Against Israelis

Since Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip last September, a small group of Palestinian militants has been using the northern Gaza area to launch homemade rockets at Israel.

The Palestinian authority has either been unable or unwilling to stop the attacks. The Israel army says it has to take action.

The almost nightly sonic booms are the Israeli air force’s attempt to turn the Palestinian population against the militants in Gaza and help stop the attacks.

Targeting innocent civilians violates the Geneva Conventions. Both Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups have asked the Israeli High Court to stop the air force from this practice.

Dr. Eyad Sarraj, a psychiatrist in Gaza, says it is the children who are harmed the most.

“For children under the age of 6, large noise means danger, a danger to life,” he said. “This is definitely a form of collective punishment, which under international law is prohibited and considered a war crime.”

An activist tosses roses into the sea as part of a memorial service in memory of 14 Palestinian fishermen killed since the Israeli siege of Gaza and 34 U.S. sailors killed by Israeli fire during an attack against the USS Liberty 41 years ago in the Cypriot port of Larnaca on Thursday, Aug. 21, 2008. About 40 activists from 16 countries will set sail aboard the boats from the Mediterranean island for the estimated 30-hour trip to the Palestinian territory. They say they will "non-violently" resist any attempts by Israeli authorities to arrest them. From AP Photo by PHILIPPOS CHRISTOU.

But Rannan Gissim, an adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, defends the tactic. “The inconvenience that it causes the Palestinian population cannot be measured against the question of life or death for Israelis on the other side.”

Seattle Activists Aim To Put Israel Divestment on City’s Agenda

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By Rebecca Spence
Wed. May 21, 2008

Los Angeles – If a local activist group has its way, Seattle could soon become the first major American city to divest from companies that provide material support to Israel.

Seattle Divest From War and Occupation, a citizens group, is angling to get an initiative on the ballot that would mandate city pension funds to divest from businesses that profit from the Iraq War, as well as from Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. Since late March, when initiative I-97 was approved for petition circulation by the City Attorney’s Office, local Seattle Jewish groups have coalesced to beat back the nascent effort.

The ballot initiative comes as Jewish groups and their supporters emerged victorious in recent weeks from a hard-fought Israel divestment battle with The United Methodist Church. Mainstream Jewish groups undertook a major lobbying effort – at both the grass-roots and leadership levels – to keep five anti-Israel divestment measures from passing at the Methodists’ plenum early this month. Previous efforts to stymie Israel divestment measures proposed by another mainline Protestant church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), also proved successful.

This latest battle, dealing at the local level, could prove to be a different sort of testing ground. While passage of the Seattle ballot initiative would not have significant economic consequences for the Jewish state, Jewish groups fear that its repercussions could be far-reaching.

“Its symbolic impact would be fairly large, because it’s a public body of civic employees taking a stand on an unresolved issue,” said Rabbi Anson Laytner, executive director of the Greater Seattle Chapter of the American Jewish Committee. “It could snowball to other cities, to other institutions. That is why we pushed very hard when first the Presbyterian Church, and later The United Methodist Church, also considered similar divestment activities.”

Already, Seattle-area Jewish groups have met with some initial success. A lawsuit filed May 13 by the Washington Israel Business Council, a statewide group, and StandWithUs, a national pro-Israel activist group that has been active on college campuses, resulted in the initiative’s language being amended. The coalition of Jewish groups – which also includes the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and the AJCommittee – raised concerns that the language of the initiative’s title and preliminary text did not adequately make clear that I-97 targeted Israel in addition to Iraq.

“They clearly put Iraq up first, with the recognition that the Iraq War was very unpopular,” said Robert Jacobs, regional director of StandWithUs Northwest. “And they downplayed the anti-Israel aspect because they would get fewer signatures if people knew they were signing a petition against Israel.”

But the initiative’s backers contend that their intent was not to mislead. A spokeswoman for the group, Judith Kolokoff, who is Jewish, said that the initiative’s aim is simply to divest Seattle pension funds from companies turning a profit from the Iraq War and from Israel’s occupation.

“It is a single issue,” Kolokoff said. “It is really an issue of stopping investing in companies that are directly involved in the wars and occupations in the Middle East that have not been authorized by the United Nations.”

The initiative specifically targets Halliburton, the military contractor that has reaped billions from its work in Iraq, and Caterpillar, which has famously provided Israel with bulldozers, some of which have been used in the destruction of Palestinian homes, Kolokoff added. The proposed measure also calls for the city to withdraw any investment in Israeli bonds in the event that the Jewish state attacks Iran.

The initiative’s backers have six months to collect 18,000 signatures in order for the initiative to appear on the ballot. If sufficient signatures are collected quickly enough, I-97 could potentially appear on the November general election ballot. Thus far, Kolokoff said, the group has collected “several thousand” signatures.

Local Jewish leaders say that if the initiative makes it to the ballot, they are prepared to launch a large-scale campaign to defeat it. Already, StandWithUs is collecting donations to go toward such a campaign. “We’re hoping that the initiative supporters are unable to get their 18,000 signatures and that Seattle residents, by not signing the petition, make a statement that the Seattle community supports Israel,” Jacobs said. “But if they do get their signatures, then the community here is fully prepared to respond to the challenge and will try to make a case in opposition to the ballot.”

Moving on to ‘stage-two Zionism’ – Zionism Version 2.0

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‘Make a decision – are you citizens of Israel, or of the Palestinian Authority?” Yisrael Beitenu MK David Rotem challenged the Arab citizens of Israel in a recent Israeli news interview. Sadly, on the eve of Israel’s 60th celebration of independence, ongoing Israeli policy is pushing almost one-fifth of our citizenry – the Arab Israelis, or Palestinian citizens of Israel – into the corner of choosing between being Israelis or being Palestinians; when, in fact, they are both. This impossible choice plagues not only the million Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel – living in Ramle, Lod, the Galilee and the Negev. Rather, it poses an existential dilemma to the basic vision of our country.

I IMMIGRATED to Israel, in 1980, to be part of building a society of which I, a liberal Jew from America, could be proud. Often, I am proud of being an Israeli. When my kids and I push through the Hebrew Book Week crowds, eagerly choosing from among thousands of works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, written in a language that was unspoken 100 years ago. When I go to my Kupat Holim HMO in Jerusalem, and my doctor is Armenian, our pediatrician is a Mizrahi Jew, and the eye doctor is a Russian immigrant. When I walk through the Knesset, and see ultra-Orthodox MK Eli Yishai, secular-Jewish MK Zahava Gal-on, and Muslim Arab MK Jamal Zahalka – all legislating for the State of Israel.

Today, Israel stands among the developed nations as a world leader in health care and technology. There is a lot to be proud of in Israel. A lot to be ashamed of, as well.

In the Negev, the Israeli government continues to refuse 70,000 Beduin citizens the right to settle on lands they have inhabited for centuries. In Israel’s mixed Jewish-Arab cities, building permits are denied to rehabilitate Arab homes, while adjacent Jewish neighborhoods flourish. In the Galilee, rather than investing in developing Arab towns, the government continues to constrict their lands in order to expand Jewish towns. As a result, in modern, successful Israel, over 50% of Israeli Arab families live under the poverty line.

SIXTY YEARS ago, the young State of Israel, using the Absentee Property Law, appropriated hundreds of thousands of dunams of land, owned by Arabs who had fled their homes – in the Galilee, the Negev, the mixed cities of Ramle, Lod, Jaffa, Haifa and Acco. Over the coming decades massive government (and international Jewish) investment gave birth to scores of new Jewish development towns, kibbutzim and moshavim throughout the country – consolidating possession of the land. Meanwhile, the Arab towns and neighborhoods that remained continued to be restricted, receiving little public investment, and facing labyrinthine planning systems designed to limit their development, or even re-allocate their remaining lands.

In 2008, this ethnic approach – draconian, yet necessary in the 1950s and 1960s – still dominates national land use and development policy in Israel. Today, if we continue this approach to building the “Jewish democratic state” we doom ourselves to a non-democratic state, known to the world as “Jewish.” But such a state will not be Jewish in ways of which we can be proud.

the gaza strip occupied terrorities 2003 map

AFTER 60 years, it is time to re-design our current path, with the aim of building a society that fully belongs to both its Jewish and Arab citizens. This aim is not only just; it is in the overall Israeli interest. It also affects, and is affected by, any effort to achieve a two-state solution.

First, despite Yisrael Beitenu’s demand to choose, Arab citizens of Israel are Palestinians. In some cases, they are the sisters or cousins of those who left in 1948, who are now living in Jordan, in Lebanon, and in Gaza. In all cases, one million Palestinian citizens of Israel maintain a constant balancing act – between their identification with their Israeli citizenship, and their identification with their Palestinian peoplehood. When their attempts to build a legal home or develop their neighborhood are rebuffed, their identification with Israel weakens. When their country bombs or shoots their people the balancing act becomes intolerable.

Second, failure in building a two-state future increases the national conflict among citizens inside Israel. Since the beginning of the Oslo process in 1993, until its violent interruption in October 2000, most Arab citizens of Israel sought their own civic aspirations in achieving equality in the state in which they lived – Israel. They sought, for their stateless Palestinian brethren, a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

As the prospect of a Palestinian state dims, and Israeli government policies and proclamations continue seeking to “Judaize” the Galilee and the Negev, Arab citizens of Israel turn increasingly to the idea of achieving Palestinian self-determination within the State of Israel. The more that mainstream politicians regard Arab citizens as a foreign element to be contained and later jettisoned in a “land swap,” the more these same citizens withdraw from participation in Israeli democracy, and seek their future through increased autonomy – as a national minority within Israel.

AS WE celebrate Israel’s 60th birthday, we need to make a paradigm shift, and to re-envision our society. Sixty years after the founding of the state, we must declare an end to stage one of Zionism – state-building – and move to stage two of society-building. We need to redefine our Israeli civic enterprise, not as a Jewish State, but as a Jewish Homeland, in a state with shared citizenship. Otherwise, in clinging to the visions that have guided Israel in the past, we will destroy what has been built.

Israel – within its pre-1967 lines – is a shared home. It is a Homeland for the Jewish people; but it also a home for the descendants of the Arabs who were living here and became citizens in 1948. Over these 60 years they, too, have worked, paid taxes, and built their future and their children’s future here in the land of their birth.

At the same time, if our Homeland is to be genuinely democratic, with a Jewish majority, a viable Palestinian Homeland must be established alongside ours – with its own Palestinian majority and law of return for Palestinians. As Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the Annapolis conference in November 2007: without the two-state solution, Israel is “finished.” As long as only one state exists in this Land (between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River), our Jewish national home will not be sustainable. Sixty years after achieving statehood, our national home awaits this completion.

The immediate steps on the path to this vision are clear. Jettison the settlement enterprise – both within the Green Line (“Judaizing” the Galilee, the Negev, and the mixed cities of Ramle, Jaffa, Acre and Lod), as well as beyond it (in east Jerusalem and the West Bank). Dismantle institutional discrimination – particularly in land-use, planning, and resource allocation – and develop the country for all citizens equally. Teach Hebrew and Arabic as the official languages they are; and teach the histories, narratives and poetry of both peoples in our schools. Pursue “complete equality of social and political rights to all inhabitants” – as proposed in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.

After 60 years of independence, it is time to recognize that an Israel that attempts to neglect, dispossess or exclude its Arab citizens is not Jewish; and is not sustainable. It is time to stop defining the Jewishness of the state by the amount of land controlled by Jewish towns or citizens, but by the justice of our society. It is time to be guided by the vision of Israel as a decent, fair, democratic society for all Israelis -Arab and Jewish – as we pursue a two-state solution that will allow national fulfillment for both peoples.

The writer won the 2002 Prize of the Speaker of the Knesset for Contributing to the Quality of Life in Israel – for founding and co-directing the Center for Jewish-Arab Economic Development. She is currently writing a book based on 25 years of experience in the field of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel.

This article can also be read at

http://www.jpost.com /servlet/Satellite?cid=1208870524513&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

UNICEF Awards 2007 Photos of the Year

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UNICEF Awards 2007 Photos of the Year

The United Nation’s Children’s Fund recognized a handful of photographers with honors in their annual Photo of the Year contest. From Afghanistan to the Phillipines, their work exposes horrid conditions facing some of the world’s children.

The image is startling — a 40-year-old groom sitting beside his 11-year-old future bride. Photographer Stephanie Sinclair, who took the photo last year in Afghanistan, asked the pre-teenage bride what she felt on the day of her engagement.

“Nothing,” said the girl, according to Sinclair. “I do not know this man. What am I supposed to feel?”

The sobering image and the story behind it brought Sinclair top honors in the annual Photo of the Year contest sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).Awards were distributed to first through third place winners as well as eight honorable mentions. International judges considered 1,230 entries from 142 photographers in 31 countries.

Sinclair, an American photographer, produced her winning photograph as part of a series of pictures she took about child marriages between 2005 and 2007 in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Nepal. UNICEF estimates that about 50 percent of Afghani women are married before they turn 18.

Second place honors went to GMB Akash, of Bangladesh, whose winning photo shows a 12 year-old boy toiling in a Bangladeshi brickyard. UNICEF studies conclude that 4.7 million children between five and 14 years of age are involved in child labor in that country.

The third-place photograph was taken by German photographer Hartmut Schwarzbach. His picture depicts a nine-year-old girl jumping in glee on her birthday in the midst of a smoldering garbage dump outside of Manila.

Honorable Mentions
In 2007 honorable mentions were given to the following photographers:

  • Jonathan Torgovnik, Israel, Newsweek Magazin
  • Hatem Moussa, Palestine, Associated Press (AP)
  • Wolfram Hahn, Germany, Student FH Potsdam
  • Renée C. Byer, USA, The Sacramento Bee
  • Nir Elias, Israel, Reuters
  • Finbarr O`Reilly, UK & Canada, Reuters
  • Musa Sadulayew, Chechenya, Associated Press (AP)
  • Steven Achiam, Denmark, Student, Danish School of Journalism

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1st Place

This sobering image, showing a 40-year-old groom sitting beside his 11-year-old future bride in Afghanistan, brought Stephanie Sinclair top honors in the annual Photo of the Year contest sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

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2nd Place

Second-place honors went to GMB Akash, of Bangladesh, whose winning photo shows a 12-year-old boy toiling in a Bangladeshi brickyard. UNICEF studies conclude that 4.7 million children between five and 14 years of age are involved in child labor in that country.

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3rd Place

The third-place photograph was taken by German photographer Hartmut Schwarzbach. His picture depicts a nine-year-old girl jumping in glee on her birthday in the midst of a smoldering garbage dump outside of Manila.

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“A Mother’s Journey”: The American photographer Renee C. Byer took this picture as part of a series about a single mother with five children and a son suffering from terminal cancer. He died in 2006.

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Finbarr O’Reilly recieved an honorable mention for his photo “A House of Hope,” an image of Lopez Vidal, right, and Aron Masahuka, both afflicted with polio, languishing in an ill-equipped hospital in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Wolfram Hahn made a series of photos titled “A Disenchanted Playroom” to accompany a study about the television-viewing habits of German children.

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Hatem Moussa won an honorable mention for “Life in Gaza”: Palestinian children were rushed from a car into a hospital after their homes were hit by Israeli shelling in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya in April, 2006. An eight-year-old child was killed in the attack and 13 other children were injured.

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Joseline Ingabire, 37, an HIV-positive Rwandan woman, is pictured with her daughter Leah Batamuliza, 11. This photo by Jonathon Torgovnik accompanied a story in Newsweek magazine about women who were raped during the Rwandan civil war and their children today.

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Musa Sadulayew made this photo as a part of a series called “Chechnya’s Forgotten Children.”

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Boys hang from a bar for five minutes as part of a physical training exercise at the Gymnastics Hall of the Shanghai University of Sports. The photo was part of Nir Elias’s series “Pain Threshold — Sports Education in China.”

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“Sumo Boys in Japan”: Steven Achiam took a series of pictures depicting life in the Hiragaya sumo club, where boys train until they have beaten a strong opponent 10 times.