Meal a Day for Most Palestinians
November 13, 2003
Palestinians living in the Israeli-occupied territories of Gaza and the West
Bank are eating only one meal a day, leading to malnutrition at levels found in
sub-Saharan Africa, according to a new United Nations report.
area is "on the verge of humanitarian catastrophe," adds the document
released Wednesday by the UN Human Rights Commission's special rapporteur on
the right to food, Jean Ziegler.
report, based on a visit to the territories in July, as well as statistics
accumulated over the past year by UN and US agencies, describes the ongoing
conflict between Israelis and Palestinians as a "horrifying tragedy,"
and stresses that Israel has the right to take defensive measures to protect
its citizens against attacks.
Ziegler, a recognized authority on international law and human rights from
Switzerland, charges Israel with failing to uphold its legal obligation to
ensure the right to food of the civilian Palestinian population.
result – more than one-half of Palestinian households are currently eating only
one meal a day and are fully dependent on international food aid.
Palestinians who the special rapporteur met spoke of trying to subsist on
little more than bread and tea," Ziegler wrote in his 24-page report.
malnutrition reported in Gaza is now equivalent to levels found in poor,
sub-Saharan (African) countries, an absurd situation as Palestine was formerly
a middle-income economy" with a rich agricultural base.
consequences of the ways in which current security measures are applied in the
OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories) are entirely disproportionate in the
sense that they jeopardize the food and water security of the great majority of
the Palestinians and thus amount to collective punishment," it added.
called on Israel to "immediately lift internal closures within the
OPT" that restrict movement and access to food, and to end "the
regime of closures and curfews where these are causing an increase in the
malnutrition and poverty levels of the civilian Palestinian population."
report was released just one day after another UN study by the Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned that Israel's construction of a
barrier separating Palestinian from Israeli populations around and within the
West Bank will cause major additional hardships for Palestinian civilians,
separating some 680,000 of them from their fields, jobs and schools.
completed, the 640-km-long fence will also effectively expropriate or render
useless some 14.5 percent of the West Bank, it added.
Israeli government, which says the wall is necessary to prevent Palestinian
suicide bombers from infiltrating into Israel and Jewish settlements, responded
that no more than four percent of the land will be cut off by the barrier, and
that the number of Palestinians to be affected will run into the thousands, not
the hundreds of thousands.
rejected an overwhelming vote by the UN General Assembly last month to cease
work on the wall and tear down what has already been built.
four countries voted against the resolution: the Marshall Islands, Micronesia
and the United States, as well as Israel itself. Washington earlier vetoed a
similar Security Council resolution condemning the barrier's construction.
the same time, the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon also
appears to be increasingly concerned about the humanitarian situation in the
occupied territories, particularly since armed forces chief of staff,
Lieutenant General Moshe Yaalon, told reporters late last month that Israel
risked a social explosion if the situation remain unchanged.
cumulative impact of curfews, roadblocks and crackdowns, he warned, are
"tactics that operate against our own strategic interests," and are
only increasing hatred for Israel among the Palestinian population that would
translate into greater support for terrorism.
war," Yaalon said, "is taking place on the backs of civilians."
Tuesday, Sharon announced an easing of restrictive measures in advance of
Wednesday's investiture of a Palestinian government under its new prime
minister, Ahmed Qurei.
have a strong desire to implement humanitarian measures rapidly but our problem
is that as we take important steps to ease the situation and open the
roadblocks, terrorist actions will increase," he said.
statement came after Sharon reportedly told his fellow Likud Party members
Monday he was increasingly concerned that a collapse of the Palestinian
Authority would force Israel to assume responsibility for the welfare of
Palestinians in the occupied territories.
in his report Ziegler insists that "the vast majority of the OPT is under
the effective control of the occupying army," thus Israel has the
responsibility under international humanitarian law to ensure that the civilian
population receives adequate supplies of food and water.
also criticized building of the barrier, which he referred to as "the
security fence/apartheid wall," in a reference to the racial separation
policies implemented by the National Party government in South Africa.
noted, "many Israeli and Palestinian intellectuals and non-governmental
organizations" believe the barrier is intended to further a strategy of
"Bantustanization" of the Palestinian territory that will make it
impossible for any future Palestinian state to "realize the right to food
of its own people."
confiscation of land, extension of settlements and settler-only roads, and the
building of the security fence/apartheid wall, where this deprives thousands of
Palestinians of their lands, homes, crops and means of subsistence, is a
violation of the right to food," says the report.
many Palestinians, the inability to feed their families is leading to a loss of
human dignity, often heightened by bullying and humiliation at
checkpoints," said Ziegler, who noted that during his nine-day visit to
the territories a soldier at one checkpoint "deliberately took aim with
his weapon at very short range at the special rapporteur's vehicle."
the soldier did not fire his weapon, but the special rapporteur noted that
these types of incidents are occurring far too frequently."