Tuesday, May 09, 2006

On the way..

Well, this is just a quick post to say that Yousuf and I have made it safely out of Gaza-currently in Cairo after a pleasant and quick trip through Rafah Crossing and Sinai (I can't believe I'm actually using "pleasant" and "Rafah Crossing" in the same sentence)... the new Egyptian terminal is running very smoothly, and the Palestinian side impressed with its efficiency-and hey, Yousuf even got a toffee and a "how are you" in what I think was swedish from one of the European monitors. I couldn't help but think though of the thousands of Palestinian families who were split apart, unable to travel to Gaza because they lacked Israeli-issued ID cards.

We stopped by al-Arish for a fish lunch before continuing our journey through Sinai.

We left so quickly that I hardly had time to think about leaving Gaza...I keep thinking I'll step outside and see the ice cream place, and when I hear planes from nearby Cairo airport overhead my instinct is to take cover.

I feel lonely here. And yet, somehow, as a Palestinian, it seems lonely everywhere.

I hope to write more soon but I am still drowning in leftover work (brought my laptop with me) and of course the mandatory shopping here in Cairo... so more soon

33 Comments:

Blogger I love Munich said...

Laila, I am happy for you that you are out of there - at least for a while to be able to sleep quietly without sonic booms and the danger of getting shelled or otherwise blasted at any time!! Enjoy your trip, have a GREAT time together ... and WATCH THE TWO OF YOU!!

12:07 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

Any comment on this Laila?
U.S. to give Palestinians $10 million in medical aid

Tuesday, May 9, 2006; Posted: 3:41 p.m. EDT (19:41 GMT)


Condoleezza Rice was expected to announce the medical assistance program Tuesday.


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States will provide $10 million in new medical assistance to Palestinians, State Department officials said Tuesday.

The $10 million will come from money the United States took back from the Palestinians after Hamas, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization, won Palestinians elections this year.

A senior State Department official said the money includes $4 million in medicine and medical equipment for clinics run by nongovernmental organizations, which could start to be delivered as early as Wednesday. The remaining $6 million will be delivered through UNICEF, the U.N. children's fund.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was expected to announce the program Tuesday after meeting with representatives of Russia, the European Union and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Meetings with representatives from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan also were scheduled. Arab states are concerned the cuts in aid made earlier this year will lead to a collapse of the Palestinian Authority and increase violence in the territories.

In April, the United States cut off all nonhumanitarian assistance in the Palestinian territories after Hamas' unexpected victory. In all, $411 million was canceled or suspended out of concern the money could help the new Hamas-led Palestinian government.

At the same time, the United States more than doubled money for basic humanitarian needs, such as health, food and education, to $240 million over several years. It is to be funneled through nongovernmental organizations and U.N. agencies.

The United States, the European Union and other Palestinian donors have said they won't deal with the Hamas-led government unless it recognizes Israel, renounces violence and adheres to agreements with Israel brokered by the previous Palestinian government.

CNN's Elise Labott contributed to this

12:26 AM  
Blogger I love Munich said...

Robert .. if you allow me -
a) it's a drop in the bucket and
bsssogw) I believe it only when I see it!

12:40 AM  
Blogger tomer said...

Laila,

Have a safe journey.

1:30 AM  
Blogger Abu Shaar said...

Mabruuk, Um Yousuf!

May your journey be restful

2:09 AM  
Blogger Fatima said...

Bisalaamah! I always look forward to my trips back to the States.

12:20 PM  
Anonymous cayman said...

Regarding Robert's post about medical aid from the US being channeled through aid agencies, this is the view of Medicins Sans Frontieres, the medical charity that operate in many conflict zones, on the plans to replace aid to the Palestinian Authority with aid channelled through charities - not positive to say the least.

MSF is concerned about the socio-economic future of this population already sorely tested by years of conflict and occupation. There is a real danger that the hardships will worsen, particularly in the Gaza Strip where nearly half of the 1.4 million residents are already living below the poverty line. The shelling by the Israeli army is intense (100 to 300 strikes a day since last Friday), causing serious civilian casualties. Furthermore, the frequent closing of Karni, the main transit point for supplies, has resulted in shortages of some basic commodities.

Although it is up to governments to decide whether to suspend aid, humanitarian actors cannot be “social palliative” of retaliatory measures that impact on the entire population. Furthermore, humanitarian aid actors do not have the competence, the means or the responsibility to act as a substitute for the Palestinian Authority, to ensure provision of social services, to run ministries or public systems or to pay civil servants. It is not the role of humanitarian aid agencies to ensure that the basic needs of the civilian populations living in the occupied Territories are covered. This responsibility, in accordance with the fourth Geneva Convention, is that of the occupying power, namely the State of Israel.

1:47 PM  
Anonymous cayman said...

And here's the statement from Oxfam International on the same subject:

Oxfam International, the international confederation of development organizations, is deeply concerned that the already serious humanitarian situation facing the Palestinians may become far more acute with some donors considering cutting funding to a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, and with the impact of continuing Israeli restrictions on social services and economic activity.

Oxfam International believes that international aid should be provided through the Palestinian institutions and local authorities charged with delivering essential services, including health and education, regardless of which party is in power. The Palestinian Authority was created by the international community to meet the needs of Palestinian civilians and is a legitimate channel for humanitarian funds.

We believe that this is the worst possible time to cut funding. The recent elections in both the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel represent significant changes in the political context and therefore an opportunity to move the peace process forward, one that the international community should seize. To cut funding risks squandering the positive potential that may exist in the new governments and risks making an already fragile situation more dangerous. Whatever the politics of such a decision, it would be ordinary people who would suffer the consequences.

Donor aid to the Palestinian Authority accounted in 2005 for about one quarter of Palestinian gross disposable income and pays the salaries of 152,000 employees, providing vital support to almost one million people, or one in four of the Palestinian population. Stopping this aid would clearly have a major impact on ordinary people.

Palestinians are already on the edge of survival, with over 60 per cent of the population living on less than $2.10 per day. Their plight will now worsen if international donors withhold aid to the Palestinian Authority. Such a step would weaken the Palestinian Authority and deprive Palestinians of critically needed health and education services at a time when the Palestinian economy is suffering a serious reversal of development because of Israel’s occupation and the ongoing conflict.

Suggestions that, in response to the Hamas election victory, international donors channel humanitarian assistance through international non-government organizations are not the answer. This would further undermine Palestinian institutions that are vital to both immediate assistance and any prospects for longer-term development. Moreover, few international NGOs have the capacity to channel such funds and essential services would suffer.

Other vital measures are also needed to ensure the capacity of the Palestinian Authority to provide essential services and also keep the Palestinian economy afloat. Palestinian tax revenues, which last year totaled approximately half of the Palestinian Authority revenue, have been withheld by Israel in violation of the internationally agreed Oslo Accords and the Paris Protocol. They should be transferred by Israel without delay.

Palestinian livelihoods are threatened because farmers are prevented from reaching their fields, water supplies or sources of inputs and from selling their produce in nearby markets, as a result of the Separation Wall and restrictions on movement under occupation. In addition, Israel’s repeated and often lengthy closures of the Karni crossing into the Gaza Strip, amounting to two out of every three days so far this year, have had a devastating impact on Gaza’s 1.3 million people. Essential food supplies including bread, sugar and yogurt have become extremely scarce.

The Karni closures have also been catastrophic for Palestinian agriculture, costing Palestinians up to $500,000 a day, according to UNOCHA estimates, and coinciding with the main growing season for cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers for the European market. It is vital that Israel allows Palestinians free access to markets, in line with obligations under the Paris Protocol.

Civilians suffer the most from conflict and urgently need protection under International Law. The protection of civilians will only come through a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis. Any framework for negotiations must include UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which call for Israeli withdrawal from lands occupied since 1967, and reaffirm the right of Israel and a future Palestinian state to exist within secure borders.

Israel, as the occupying power, has legal responsibility under the 4th Geneva Convention to ensure access to basic services for Palestinian civilians. The international community also has the legal responsibility to hold Israel accountable for any violations against the Palestinians under International Law.

While the Quartet discusses the status of the new elected Palestinian representatives, the current and growing pressure on Palestinian civilians demands urgent action by the international community to bring all actors to the conference table to seek a durable solution to the conflict in accordance with International Law. Oxfam has consistently called on all parties to pursue a negotiated peace settlement.

With the worsening humanitarian crisis facing Palestinians and the potential opportunity offered by new governments in both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, we urge you not to cut funding to the Palestinian Authority and to redouble your diplomatic efforts to address the humanitarian situation so that civilians are protected.

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not have any problem with sending medicine and food. On the contrary and I hope that it reaches the real people in need. But I have a problem with Hamas having the money to buy 100000 bullets.........As usual plain people are being abused by both sides (Hamas and Fateh or Iran, or whoever.....)Do not blame Israel. Take responsibility of the leaders that you choose.....................

5:47 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

Someone please tell me why is it that the money from the US isn't receiving good comments. One comment calls the millions of dollars a drop in the bucket. Another notes that the actual funds will be channeled through aid agencies, as if that in itself is a problem. And before anyone responds with a "reason," first consider how the parents of a child who is in need of kidney dialsis or other life saving medical attention (in Gaza) will respond to the help. Has humanity become so cynical that it can't say thank you once in a while?

8:10 PM  
Blogger Khaled said...

Safe trip Emm Yousef...

9:45 PM  
Blogger Abu Shaar said...

Perhaps because that USD 10 million is about the amount the US gives to Israel every 12 hours.

9:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i say thank you. I am sick and tired of the bullets and the bullies

10:09 PM  
Blogger Christopher Brown said...

Have a safe trip Um Yousuf

12:56 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Robert,

The non-governmental organizations and the UN don't run the hospitals; they only run clinics and schools.

I've visited two major hospitals in Palestine, Shifa Hospital in Gaza and Bethlehem Hospital, which is a psychiatric hospital. Both are run by the PA. Without the PA to run them I'm not sure if they could stay open. That would mean people would die, in the case of Shifa Hospital, and as for Bethlehem Hospital, the severely mentally ill would be released I guess without their medications...possibly ending up killing themselves or others...

1:45 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

And $10 million is a drop in the bucket compared to the $3 billion annually we give to Israel, most of which is used for the military, not for healthcare.

1:46 AM  
Blogger الفلسطينية said...

Laila--

i think you will be interested to read this:)... this an email i got from my mom today:

Hey my Kids, check this girl she is coming to New York to give a talk .Go to her blogger. I was so impressed Harvard and Duke University! Plus a baby and now she is a journalist .
Smart people those Palestinian women.
Mommy

2:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Asalaamualaikum Laila
I have visited your blog a number of times before and feel extremely sad and angry about israeli occupation of palestine. I am a young muslim living in south africa and would like to know of anything we south africans can do to help our brothers and sisters over there? For the time being the palestinian people are always in my duas.

4:30 AM  
Blogger azanian said...

All the Best Laila

6:13 AM  
Blogger Heba from Gaza said...

"I feel lonely here. And yet, somehow, as a Palestinian, it seems lonely everywhere"

You can't imagine laila how I correspond with you in this. I really feel LONELY and INSECURE. My husband tells me let's go and dine in a restaurant...you know what? I can't go and spend money in a restaurant while people in Gaza can't get their salaries...they started selling their jewelry(DAHAB) for God sake ..I can't but hear the name of a former classmate in aljazeera news, whose car was bombed the other day ..I can't but remember how we –six graders-used to play together in the school playground before he somewhat ( 17 years later) turned into a militia. I can't but hear that people stopped going to their workplaces because they can't afford transportation fees. I can't but see Gaza as a city of ghosts. .empty streets ..empty shops ..lower prices ..
You know laila.. you are lucky to be out ...because emotionally i have this void ..this hole inside that keeps me sleepless at night. .you are lucky because you won't get emotionally blackmailed every second by seeing people's agony around!!!

10:54 AM  
Anonymous cayman said...

Robert,

I think you'll find you read my posts that its the aid agencies that say its a problem. Don't your think they might know what they're talking about.

3:38 PM  
Anonymous Krista said...

Robert,

If you carefully read the article that you posted you will note that "The $10 million will come from money the United States took back from the Palestinians ..."

This is not $10 million in new aid, this is aid that has been reallocated. So what do you want Palestinians to say, "thanks for taking away the aid you were giving us and returning a bit of it, much later, in the form of basic humanitarian aid?"

Please don't be offended that people disagree with you or express negative feelings about the US. It is the political entity, not some kind of essential "American identity" that they are upset with.

9:03 PM  
Blogger Abu Shaar said...

I'm always surprised more Americans aren't outraged by Olmert withholding the millions of NIS in taxes that the Palestinians under occupation have already paid because Hamas won't "recognize Israel".

I want to say to the Americans:
Didn't you dump a lot of tea in one of your harbors and start a war with the King a couple of hundred years ago over taxation without representation?

9:35 PM  
Anonymous annie said...

gosh abu shaar- your comment about the boston tea party strikes me as a perfect letter to the editor- find a mainstream American newspaper- repsond to a recent article on the subject with that comment- far too good not to at least try : )

3:10 AM  
Blogger Zak said...

Have fun in Cairo!

3:31 AM  
Blogger shlemazl said...

Abu Shaar,

The difference is that Arafat started the war (intifada) a few years back.

Oh, silly me! Let me fall in line:
"Those damn Zionist and Imperialist Amerikans!!! How awful, they won't hand the cash to our brave Hamas Government!

Wonderful Hamas PA! Real clever to blockade its own people by targeting border crossings and refusing to renounce the objective to kill the Jews! And the crux: US and Jews are still to blame!

6:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

as long as you blame somebody else for your actions you will not be able to correct your situation. STOP THE VIOLENCE and start negotiation. Arafat would say one thing in arabic and a completely different thing in english. He was a failed leader that kept you in poverty and despair to create martirs out of you, while Suha and his daughter live in splendor in Paris. The children of the Hamas leadership get educated in Europe and your children get indoctrinated to become shahids......You started a war and in a war there are winners and loosers..........where there is money for bullets, there is money for food.........and i can go on and on.......DEMAND FROM YOUR LEADERS TO STOP THE VIOLENCE.........

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to say to the Americans:
Didn't you dump a lot of tea in one of your harbors and start a war with the King a couple of hundred years ago over taxation without representation?


Countries typically break agreements when war is declared. During WWI, America refused to recognize Bayer's patent on aspirin.

The Oslo accords cited previously require the recognition of Israel. If the PA wants to go back on that point of the accords, it makes it that much harder for them to push for the other points to go forward.

Hamas calls for the destruction of a country and then expects its cordial cooperation. It defies logic. And the Palestinians voted for this insanity.

7:14 PM  
Blogger joy_in_palestine said...

Hello Laila,
I just want to thank you for maintaining this blog. I very much enjoy reading it, so much that I choose to "advertise" it on my blog. Thanks for helping more people, like me, understand "normal" (ha) life in Gaza.

Happy travels!

1:47 AM  
Blogger Marcy / مارسي said...

Mabrouk and safe travels, Laila. I'd love to hear more about the Rafah crossing experience--about the surveillance cameras and UN soldiers who are (were?) stationed there.

Salam--
Marcy

2:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Salam

the first time I have read your "diary".
I am really moved by what you write. I will definitely come back.

you are a great writer!!!All the best isA.

Esther

10:44 PM  
Blogger Abu Shaar said...

Just yesterday two international activists were shot in the head by some brave Israeli soldier.

When Palestinians make nonviolent demonstrations they are met with deadly force by the Israeli occupying army

11:02 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

It is now May 14 here in the U.S. Happy Mother's Day Laila; peace to you and your family.

4:25 PM  

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