Saturday, October 7, 2006

Bleak Ramadan in Palestine

By Khalid Amayreh

"Normally, the holy month of Ramadan is a festive season of heightened spirituality and good will. It is also an occasion where family members share the usually exquisite Iftar meals immediately after sunset at the end of the day-long fast. However, for many Palestinian families, hard-hit by extremely harsh Israeli-western sanctions, this Ramadan has the smell of real penury. Abject poverty is also becoming increasingly apparent among the traditionally weak sectors of society, such as day-laborers.

“I really don’t know what to tell you. Would you believe me if I told you that last week we didn’t have bread for three days?” said Suleiman, with a clearly subdued voice. Suleiman, like the rest of the estimated 170,000 Palestinian public employees and civil servants, has not received his salary for the seventh consecutive month due to the financial blockade imposed by Israel, the US and EU on the Hamas-led government.

Palestinian families who don’t have the basic foods, such as flour and sugar, are normally helped by the local Zakat (Alms) committees. However, the assistance is getting more meager and more irregular and can hardly make up for the unpaid salaries which nobody knows when they will be paid in full.

And the rich Arab states prefer to heed America’s demands rather than shield Palestinian children from the ghoul of starvation.” He pointed out that the US, acting on Israel’s behalf, has bullied the Gulf states , including Saudi Arabia , to prevent Muslim donors from sending their charity to the occupied territories. “Now we mostly rely on local sources which are scarce, meager and can’t really meet the huge and growing demand.”

Another Zakat official in Bethlehem , who wouldn’t give his name for security reasons, urged Muslims to bypass government control mechanisms and help the Palestinians face “this criminals and cruel siege by the enemies of Islam.” “Please, send your charity money and donations to your brothers and sisters in Palestine . Don’t wait for your governments’ approval because your governments are likely to be mere puppets of the United States and Israel ." “ We must never reach a situation where we need a permission from the Americans to practice our religions. If helping a starving child in Rafah or Nablus is terror, then let all of us be terrorists.”

This week, visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, instead of treating the situation in Gaza in particular and the occupied territories in general as a humanitarian disaster, congratulated her Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni on the “success” and “effectiveness” of the Israeli-American sanctions against the prisoner Palestinian population.

With this moral depravity and criminal hypocrisy, unseen since Hitler’s armies surrounded Ghetto Warsaw during the Second World War, Palestinian suffering is even likely to exacerbate. And the world is also likely to keep silent, just as did then.

This is how Ramadan looks like in Gaza in 2006."

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