Middle East & Africa
"Malnutrition in Palestinian Similar to Africa"
But Israel Rejects UK Report as Biased
By Yasser AbuMoailek
Middle East Correspondent
Gaza City, Feb. 5, 2004 — A recent report released by a UK parliamentary committee revealed that the malnutrition rates in the Palestinian territories were similar to those in Africa, and that despite not having a famine yet, the Palestinians suffer from malnutrition. The report, which tackles the humanitarian situations in the Palestinian territories, was prepared by the British Parliament's Select Committee on International Development. As part of the report's recommendations, members of the British committee demanded that the government of British Prime Minister Tony Blair consider "economic pressure on Israel to ease movement restrictions which are crippling the Palestinian economy and causing soaring poverty." The committee held the Israeli government responsibility for the deteriorated humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories, expressing "serious concern over a range of policies adopted by the Israeli government and the negative impact they are having on living conditions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza."
The Israeli government, represented by the Israeli embassy in London, responded with typical tone, shifting the blame on the Palestinian leadership, and accusing the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat of focusing on the finance of terrorism rather than economy. "A report cannot be considered an appropriate document, and it certainly will not contribute to the peace process," a statement released by the Israeli Embassy said Thursday. However, the fierce response to the findings of the report came from inside Israel, as Israeli officials told the Yedioth Ahronoth Israeli newspaper, "it is time for those MPs who prepared this report to know that the British Mandate is over now, and that this report is one-sided and biased. It is an attempt to punish the victim and not the aggressor."
|Israeli tanks in town|
The Israeli forces have recently imposed full closures and lock downs on several districts in the Palestinian West Bank. Coupled with the construction of the separation barrier, which Palestinians call "Apartheid Wall," the movement of Palestinian merchants and consumers have been reduced to a near zero, crippling the economic life and market flow inside the Palestinian cities, towns and villages. The committee called for both the European Union and the British government "to take a stronger stance on these issues and to consider using economic pressure to persuade Israel to ease restrictions." According to the report, "malnutrition rates in Gaza and parts of the West Bank equal those in sub-Saharan Africa and regional unemployment stands at a staggering 60 to 70 percent." The authors of the report stressed that, although they are "highly sympathetic to Israeli safety concerns — it is hard to avoid the conclusion that there is a deliberate Israeli approach of putting the lives of ordinary Palestinians under stress as part of a strategy to bring the population to heel. Certain security measures, including the construction of the security barrier and movement restrictions imposed on Palestinians, are completely undermining the viability of a future Palestinian state."
|Apartheid Wall Courtesy AFP|
The report was the result of an intensive and comprehensive six-month inquiry, which included the gathering of written and oral statements, as well as conducting fact-finding visits to the region. "Our report is a balanced assessment of the humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territories," said committee chairman MP Tony Baldry. "It shows that Israel's security policy is having a marked impact on everyday life. Key measures, such as the construction of a security barrier higher than the Berlin Wall, may bring the mirage of immediate security to Israelis, but the level of despair felt by ordinary Palestinians at being denied an ordinary life can only increase the supply of suicide bombers. Nor is it likely to illicit any concessions from the Palestinian leaders."
|MP Tony Baldry|
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Yasser AbuMoailek, a journalist and feature writer working for the International Press Center in Gaza Strip. He contributes to many circulations inlcuding the Seoul Times, as well as monitoring the situation in the Middle East, especially the Palestinian territories.