ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Palestine: Political Ecology of Disaster

On March 26, in Northern Gaza a river of raw sewage anddebris overflowed from a collapsed earth embankment into arefugee camp driving 3,000Palestinians from their homes. Five residents drowned, 25 were injured andscores of houses were destroyed.The New York Times, WashingtonPost and the television media blamed shoddy infrastructure. The Daily Alert(the house organ of the Presidents of theMajor American Jewish Organisations,PMAJO) blamed the Palestinians whothey claimed were removing sand tosell to construction contractors, thus undermining the earth embankment.The disaster at Umm Naser (the villagein question) is emblematic of everythingthat is wrong with US-Israeli politicsin west Asia. The disaster in this isolated village has its roots first andforemost in Washington where theAmerican Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its political allies havesuccessfully secured US backing forIsrael’s financial and economic boycottof the Palestinian governmentsubsequent to the democratic electoralvictory of Hamas. AIPAC’s victory inWashington reverberated throughoutEurope and beyond – as the EuropeanUnion also applied sanctions shuttingoff financing of all new infrastructureprojects and the maintenance ofexisting facilities. At the AIPAC conventions of 2005 through 2007, theleaders of both major American parties,congressional leaders and the WhiteHouse pledged to re-enforce AIPAC’sboycott and sanctions strategy.AIPAC celebrated its victory for Israelipolicy and claimed authorship of thelegislation. In addition to malnutrition,the policy undermined all publicmaintenance projects.Equally central to the disaster,Israel’s massive sustained bombingattack on Gaza in the summer of 2006 demolished roads, bridges, sewagetreatment facilities, water purificationand electrical power plants. Northern Gaza was one of its many targets, puttingsevere strain on already precariousinfrastructure, including themaintenance of sewage treatment plantsand cesspools.

The Israeli economic blockade of Gaza increased unemployment, povertyand hunger to unprecedented levels.Out of work Gazans reached over 60 per cent of the population; largefamilies with young children werereduced to one meal a day. Familyheads desperately looked for any wayto earn funds to buy a pound ofchickpeas, oil, rice and flour forbread. It is possible that forced by theAIPAC-induced US-EU boycott andIsraeli bombing and blockade, somedesperate workers removed some sandaround the cesspool.

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