Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Juan Cole: Gaza by the Numbers: Who the People are, how They got There // Hanna Baumann - Palestinians attack Jerusalem Rail to Protest Annexation of Arab East

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Population of Palestinians of Gaza: 1.7 million

Number of Palestinians in Gaza whose families were expelled as refugees from their homes in what is now southern Israel: 1.2 million

Number of Palestinians in Gaza still living in the 8 recognized refugee camps, “which have one of the highest population densities in the world”: over 500,000

Compensation Palestinians of Gaza have received for the billions of dollars of property taken from them by Israelis in Beersheva, Sderot, etc.: $0

Years since Israel allowed Palestinians of Gaza to export what they produce: 7

Unemployment in Gaza as a result of Israeli blockade on civilians: 38.5%

Estimated unemployment rate in US during the Great Depression: 25%

Percentage of children in Gaza suffering from acute malnutrition: 13.2%

Rate of anemia in Palestinian Children in Gaza: 18.9%

Percentage of water in Gaza that is potable: 10%

Years, according the the UN, before Gaza becomes “uninhabitable”: 6

Number of airports in Gaza rendered inoperable by Israeli airstrikes: 1

Number of airports working in Gaza: 0

Number of ports allowed by Israelis to operate on Gaza’s Mediterranean coast: 0

The destruction of tram stations during the protests in East Jerusalem is much more than vandalism, it shows that Palestinians are not quietly acquiescing to the ‘unification’ of the city, which they understand as the annexation of occupied land. The clashes between Palestinian youth and Israeli security forces in East Jerusalem triggered by the killing of 16-year-old Mohammad Abu Khdeir, who was buried yesterday, were explosive in a way that the city hasn’t seen in years. The murdered boy was a member of one of the biggest families in Shuafat, a relatively affluent neighbourhood on the northern outskirts of Jerusalem. Since the murder, assumed to have been carried out as a reprisal for the killing of three teenage settlers in the West Bank, residents of this usually quiet area have taken to the streets in anger, and protests have spread across the city and beyond.With over 178 protestors were injured in Shuafat alone, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

Apart from throwing stones, fireworks and Molotov cocktails at the police – who responded with sound bombs, rubber-coated bullets, and live fire – the protesters attacked the three Jerusalem Light Rail stations in Shuafat, the only ones in serving Palestinian areas of Jerusalem. Every conceivable surface of tram shelters and signage has been smashed, ticket machines dismantled, stones pulled out of the newly-laid pavement to use as projectiles, train tracks set on fire. During the third night of clashes, protesters even attempted to cut the tram’s electricity poles

Tram service to Shuafat and to the stations north of it has been suspended until further notice, and the operator, Citypass, says repairs may take months. The question of why Palestinian Jerusalemites would wreck infrastructure that has ostensibly made their lives more comfortable in recent years is worth posing. The destruction was not mere vandalism carried out in blind rage, but instead a highly symbolic act. Despite nominally representing an improvement of services for the area, to Shuafat’s residents, the tram is closely linked to the Israeli municipality and to the expansion of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land, implicated in the racism that killed Mohammad Abu Khdeir. Residents heard his mother shouting that she hoped the train would never run in Shuafat again, so that settlers – the people assumed to have killed her son – would no longer pass through the neighbourhood.

The tram connects the Jewish settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev in the North of Jerusalem to the centre of the city and passes through Shuafat on the way. During the early planning stages of the tram, Palestinians strongly opposed its construction, much of which was carried out on occupied land. They argued that it – quite literally – cements the presence of settlements in East Jerusalem, making their presence more permanent and perhaps irreversible.

Like other major infrastructure projects, the tram serves to inextricably tie the East of the city (annexed according to Israeli law, but considered occupied by the international community) to the Israeli West, making a future division or shared capital for Israelis and Palestinians increasingly unlikely – ‘linking Jerusalem with itself’ is what the Israeli Prime Minister calls this approach. Based on this understanding of the role of the tram, an international boycott campaign targeted the two French multinational companies involved in its construction and operation, leading to losses of contracts for both firms, and causing them eventually to pull out of the project entirely. .. read more: