Israel Above the Law: Collective Punishment

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It has been ten years since the strict, harsh and inhumane Israeli, blockade on the Gaza Strip. During the siege, the Israeli occupation has launched four major military offensives against the people of Gaza, in 2006, 2008/9, 2012 and 2014; the latter was the most deadly and destructive. It lasted for 51 days and whole areas of Gaza were flattened by Israeli bombs. More than two thousand Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed and tens of thousands of people were displaced. About 170,000 homes and 360 factories in Gaza were damaged or lost. Key infrastructure was also targeted and destroyed. The strict siege and wars have shattered the Palestinian economy in Gaza. Since the siege on Gaza tightened in 2007, almost no construction materials have entered Gaza. Although some resourceful individuals have built homes despite the ban on cement, reports show that the continued Israeli-led siege has prevented reconstruction or repair of tens of thousands of homes, including homes damaged or destroyed in earlier Israeli military operations. For now, homeless Gazans stay with relatives or live in overcrowded rented accommodation, donated caravans or the ruins of their properties. This documentary looks into the appalling situation of these homeless families and their plight to rebuild their lives from rubble.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

SOUNDBITE [English] Ban Ki-moon, UN Security General: “I am here to bring solidarity of United Nations and International community for people of Palestine. You now …destruction in Gaza. It is a sort of pain to me personally and it is a shame to the international community. No amount of a security council sessions report could have prepared me for what I witness today. I saw whole community completely destroyed, more than 500 children were killed during the conflict. What they have done wrong? Being born in Gaza is not the crime”.

SOUNDBITE [English] Robert Serry, Former UN Special Coordinator Middle East Peace Process: “After hearing their voice you cannot forget Gaza, you cannot forget the line for political issues in Gaza and you need to have international consensus to be empowered in Gaza otherwise you are investing again maybe in a political black hole, you need the most stable seas fire which we can go for the deconstruction.”

Narration: More than a year after the war waged by the Israeli regime on the Gaza Strip and approximately a year over Cairo donors Conference for rebuilding Gaza, the rebuilding issue is still teetering between cruelty the siege and procrastination of occupation that destroyed tens of thousands of housing units and displaced more than 100,000 people living displacement and housing crisis in its wake.

SOUNDBITE [English] Ban Ki-moon, UN Security _General: “Despite the destruction there are sorts of hope, international community has mobilized 5.4 billion dollars in aid for Gaza with construction, in addition to this we are asking the authorities of Israel to open whole the crossings and release restrictions so then you can be free, movement in and out of this Gaza.”

SOUNDBITE[Arabic]Ayman Al Najjar, Bombing Victim, Gaza, and Palestine: “We abandoned our houses and took shelter in the schools. As the war ended, we came back to our homes. As soon as we arrived, we saw scenes we could hardly believe, When we looked at the city, we couldn’t locate our houses, About 58 houses had been destroyed completely They had been reduced to rubble. Nothing could be seen beneath the rubble. There was nothing to replace what we had lost. The only thing was the school we had taken shelter in when we had to leave our homes. When we found our houses ruined, we formed a group made up of 58 families whose houses had been destroyed in the attack. We all went back to the school. Some families set up tents there. My brother, for instance, had no properties left. He had lost everything. You can go and see his life with your own eyes. He has a difficult life right now.”

SOUNDBITE[Arabic] Wael Al Najjar, Bombing Victim, Gaza Palestine: “We stayed here for 45 days after we came out of the school. The government agent came here and prepared a report saying that we had been here for 45 days. Then, I told him that I would like to build a hut for my family to live in. He just listened. I myself lay the foundation of the hut. This is my house, with mud and stone foundation. This is a hut where I am living with ten other people. There is no partition inside the hut. It’s been made of mud and stone, the roof is leaking. The roof is useless when it’s raining. I have uses nylon to make the roof. That’s not fair. Why should ten people live in such a place? This is the entrance to the house. First, I was in that tent, a tent the city hall had given me. There were ten people living in it. We used to live in it. We were given empty promises. We were promised to have new houses of our own. I want the Ministry of Work and Social Affairs to help me build my house before the rain season begins.”

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

SOUNDBITE[Arabic] Najy Sarhan, Deputy Minister of Housing at Gaza: “The problem is that we have received no funding yet, that those who have promised us money and funding keep reneging on their promises because nowhere else in the world can you see such a case as here. Nowhere else in the world is a war launched for two months and 12,000 residential units are destroyed completely leaving 17,000 more damaged; and yet, we are not allowed to have access to construction materials. We have to sweat our guts out to put an end to the hardship our fellow countrymen and countrywomen are experiencing.”

SOUNDBITE[Arabic] Adnan Abu Hasna, UNRWA media Advisor: “I am not defending the donors or the international community, at the day of conference I was there you know they talked about…the put some conditions to rebuild Gaza, they need political stability and they talked about, you know, they need grantees that why they are building Gaza again and not being destroying again. Now you have hundreds of shelters, the same shelters, the same people that their shelters have been destroyed in 2008 and we rebuilt them and the same shelters in the 2014 also had been destroyed.”

Narration: The international community requested assurances from the Israeli regime not to target the strip after being reconstructed. To many the displaced people have been living under unacceptable conditions. First they dwelt in UNRWA schools then were evacuated with the beginning of the academic year. Some of them had to rent houses they were unable to afford. So, most of them had no option but to live in tent shelters as a temporary solution.

SOUNDBITE[Arabic]Ayman Al Najjar, Bombing Victim, Gaza, and Palestine: “This is the shelter I’m living in. It’s about 30 meters. As you can see, the shelter cannot accommodate us. That’s why we have added this part to it. We had to build this part with our own money. As you can see, this is the way we live here; this is a life we and our families have to lead and endure here. When we turn on the fan to get cold, we just feel hot air coming out of it.”

SOUNDBITE[Arabic] Mariam Al Najjar, bombing Victim of Gaza: “You see how miserable our life is here. When we returned here, we lived in the ruins of our houses for 14 days. We found our houses razed to the ground. We couldn’t find a house to rent. In addition, we had no income, even a meager one to rent a house with. I personally couldn’t afford it. I heard that people were registering for shelters. I had no other option too. So I registered for it as well. When we received the shelter, it had no wiring. There was just a bundle of bare wires. When I wanted to connect them to each other, I had an electric shock and got unconscious. But thank God I survived. I feel the hardship of living in a homeless shelter and I see the sorrow and suffering of the people living here. In the winter, we have to bear the cold and in the summer, we have to endure the scorching sun. How long do we have to live here in these shelters?”

Narration: Those who could to takeshelter in wooden houses which will be less dangerous and more comfortable than the tin caravans.

SOUNDBITE[Arabic] Yosef Al Sharat’ha, Carpenter at Beit Hanun of Gaza: “It’s very difficult to live in these metal shelters; some people have electric shock for the very bad wiring inside the shelters; some drown in the winter floods. People prefer to have wooden houses because they are warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Life is rather easy in wooden houses.”

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

SOUNDBITE[Arabic] Atif Al Sawarka, Bombing Victim at Gaza: “We paid for these houses from our personal accounts. We had been displaced for three months and had to live in schools. Then, we had to pay for everything from our personal accounts. That’s while we have no cattle; we have lost them all. Once, the construction team came here to see the situation. They promised to build us houses but all their promises were empty and they haven’t taken any steps in this regard. We hope something will be done before winter.”

Narration: Officials and expert believe, the Gaza reconstruction does not take a long time. However, the obstacles imposed by the Israeli regime prevented what was planned for reconstruction and for citizens who are still waiting to return to their homes as soon as possible.

SOUNDBITE[Arabic] Najy Sarhan, Deputy Minister of Housing at Gaza: “We designed a three-year plan under normal circumstances; the plan would be viable if everything was OK and the funding was available. However, things didn’t turn up as we expected; we haven’t received the funding yet. Moreover, it’s not easy to have the construction materials. At the moment, there is only one way open for transportation. That’s while, five ways used to be open before the blockade. Today, only the Abu Salem Way is open, which is not enough for reconstruction projects in the Gaza Strip.”

SOUNDBITE[Arabic] Nabil Abu Muaileq, Construction Union Chairman of Gaza: “According to what some private and public organizations have released, we need about 1.5 million tones of cement. That’s while, only 10 percent of this amount has been provided, that is about 150 thousand tones. It’s shameful that after the destructive war that lasted for 51 days, only 10 percent of the required cement has been delivered. We need the rest 90 percent if we want to reconstruct the demolished area.”

Narration: After negotiations between the Israeli regime and the United Nations, the regime managed to convinced the international community to pass of resolution about the siege in Gaza through the Gaza reconstruction plan when the so-called "Serry" plan was agreed upon by the United Nations and the Israelis Strangely enough the United Nations announces after months of the agreement on the Gaza plan that strip needed 100 years to be reconstructed.

SOUNDBITE [English] Ban Ki-moon, UN Security General: “We made an agreement among UN, Palestine and Israel, I had a very serious discussions on this issue with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel that all the deliveries for reconstructions I should be delivered timely or without any….and United Nation’s system will fully engage in this Mr. Robert Serry will continue to very closely discuss with authorities about concerns.”

SOUNDBITE[Arabic] Nabil Abu Muaileq, Construction Union Chairman of Gaza: “Today, we are facing a new version of blockade under the banner of the UN and not the Israeli regime. As a Palestinian citizen and the head of Constructors Union in the Gaza Strip, I think it’s shameful that the UN is playing the role of the Israeli occupiers in blockading the Strip.”

SOUNDBITE[Arabic] Najy Sarhan, Deputy Minister of Housing at Gaza: “The citizens are required to register their names first; their names are then sent to the Social Affairs Organization. The organization sends the names to the Israeli side for further investigation. This is kind of throwing a spanner in the works.”

SOUNDBITE[Arabic] Local resident in Gaza: “I think that inspection must be carried out for a nuclear shipment not for cement. If a bag of cement goes missing, I have to answer for. Every day, they inspect and count the bags. I have to distribute 1,000 tones of cement every day, but given the current circumstances, I cannot distribute this amount of cement even in five months.”

SOUNDBITE [English] Robert Serry, Former UN Special Coordinator Middle East Peace Process: “I will be going to reconstruct Gaza for the third time which was destroyed again that is why I was so much involved in particular in the last months with Gaza, we have brought the agreement , which was on y name which can bring the construction materials that is not enough it is going too slow and indeed if we don’t change the dynamics in Gaza then I am worried again, pessimistic, that what we have seen happening every time again, that Gaza explores that would happen again”

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00

Narration: Although owners of the ruined have no problem with the Serry plan, nothing has been done so far because first of all the rubbles has to be cleared away statistics show the war left nearly 2.2 million tons of rubble. It's impossible to get rid of enormous amount but by machineries all out of order.

SOUNDBITE[Arabic] Najy Sarhan, Deputy Minister of Housing at Gaza: “One year has passed since the war on the Gaza Strip and nothing has entered here. All the machineries are temperamental at best. They don’t work. That’s why you still see the rubble in the city. Every day, a group of citizens gather here and voices their complaints. They say that their houses have been ruined and the city is infested with rodents and pests and everyone’s safety is in danger. However, we are not able to clear the rubble because our machineries are old and don’t work properly.”

SOUNDBITE[Arabic] Nabil Abu Muaileq, Construction Union Chairman of Gaza: “The Israeli regime is the one that doesn’t allow new machineries in the Strip. In fact, it has prevented new machineries from entering since 15 years ago. So, the machineries we have date back to the Intifada time, that is, the latest one date back to the 1990s, that is, about 20 years ago. They are the latest one, as I said. So we need new modern machineries so as not to only clear away the rubble but also reconstruct the area and begin new projects.”

Narration: Some owners of these totally destroyed houses have not given up removing the rubble hoping they would be rebuilt them new meanwhile those whose houses were partially destroyed managed to repair them although the cash they received did help them much.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Um Mohammed Shamaly, Bombing Victim of Gaza: “The reconstruction team paid us a visit. They registered both the upper floors as residential but register the floors we were living on as non-residential. Another team came and registered the upper floors and said because the pillars of the building had not been damaged, it could be reconstructed. They said that after a complete reconstruction, we could live in it again. They told us to sign a paper that read we had received 4,000 dollars and then they gave us only 80 percent of it. The kitchen, the bathroom and the rooms have not been reconstructed yet. I put some money on that amount. I spent more than 8,000 dollars for the upper floor. They must inspect the situation and respect the people’s rights. This is our only demand.”

SOUNDBITE[Arabic] Mariam Al Najjar, bombing Victim of Gaza: “The Ministry of Labour announced that it would issue separate licenses for each of us in order to clear away the rubble. So we went to the Ministry and asked for a license. But nothing has been done so far. I swear to God that many people have to borrow to clear away the rubble. Suppose that I was managed to get a license for reconstruction, how could I begin it while my house is stilled buried among the rubble? I had to reconstruct my home, so I borrowed to clear the rubble first and thank God, I managed to do so. My four-story building lies in ruins while a reconstruction license has been issued for it. So why don’t they help us clear the rubble?”

Narration: All agreed that slowdown in reconstruction is due to the slow process of transferring funds pledged by the donor countries at the Cairo Conference where the UNRWA received only $ 270 million while the required budget is much more.

SOUNDBITE[Arabic] Adnan Abu Hasna, UNRWA media Advisor: “We ask for 724 million dollar in Cairo conference but we got 270 million dollars only, part of it went for the rent of some…for those who has shelters had been completely destroyed or severely damaged and the other part went for tens of thousands of the families to repair their shelters, minor repair and the other part which is very tiny part about hundreds only will go for totally damaged shelters through the Ministry of Housing and public affairs”

TIME CODE: 20:00_25:19

SOUNDBITE[Arabic]Ayman Al Najjar, Bombing Victim, Gaza, and Palestine: “After eight months, they issued a license for us and told us to bring them the blueprint for our old houses. We did so and thank God, they announced our names. They brought us cement and gave us the required money.”

Narration: The first phase for the rebuilding of entirely destroyed houses began with some amount of money pledged by some States at the Cairo Conference. However, that was hardly enough for a few hundred whose houses being totally destroyed. Thousands of families are still displaced and homeless.

SOUNDBITE[Arabic]Ayman Al Najjar, Bombing Victim, Gaza, and Palestine: “As you can see, thank God, we reached an agreement with the constructor not to stop the reconstruction project and give me the new house as soon as possible.”

SOUNDBITE[Arabic] Mariam Al Najjar, bombing Victim of Gaza: “I’ve started the job but the other members of my family including my brother, my brother-in-law and my uncles haven’t managed to build their houses. I’m happy for myself but the rest of my family members are still displaced.”

SOUNDBITE[Arabic] Wael Al Najjar, Bombing Victim, Gaza Palestine: “Some built their houses and some didn’t; some are ahead and the rest lag behind. I want all countries to help us and care about the way we live. I want to complete my home before winter so as to have a decent life like other people.”

SOUNDBITE[Arabic] Adnan Abu Hasna, UNRWA media Advisor: “We afraid that you know that trust of people or other organizations are not like before because after Cairo Conference people’s expectations are very high, you know among the people that we expect that they will see their house will being built again.”

Narration: If the reconstruction of what was destroyed by the Israeli regime was completed the housing prices could still remain, with the growing population on the small geographical spot, called the Gaza strip , there are tens of thousands of houses in need to housing while the infrastructure is devastated, vulnerable and in need of rehabilitation.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Najy Sarhan, Deputy Minister of Housing at Gaza: “As we know, the Gaza Strip has been under a blockade. Statistics show that we lack about 120,000 residential units in the Strip. We have to build between 13 and 14 thousand residential units so as to meet the needs as a result of demographic changes. For this purpose, the private sector and the citizens must shoulder the largest share.”

SOUNDBITE[Arabic] Adnan Abu Hasna, UNRWA media Advisor: “It never happened in such tiny place that there are 2 million of people in nearly 300 square meters and no sport no live no water no job, nearly 60% of the young people from age 20-29 are unemployment. The poverty lines are 70% of the population, working under the siege and blockade are go to noting actually, What they are doing here is just keep people surviving. We are not talking about quality of the life here, just we are talking about life, If you look deeply, in what is going on in Gaza you will find out that there is no tomorrow for Gaza.”

SOUNDBITE [English] Ban Ki-moon, UN Security General: “Perhaps that things are so powerfully symbolizes suffering and one of the most important issues that lifting siege and easing movement and restriction and this is the basic human rights of the Palestinian people , so they can be no peace in the Middle East, no security for Israel while the crisis for Gaza …. Build the destroy, build the destroy cycle must be broken.”

Narration: The Gaza Strip does not need only the reconstruction, the blockade and guarantees which is imposed by Israel has to be leave it. The regime also ahs to promise that it will not wage the another war to bring about more displacement and destruction.


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