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A ridiculous, insulting number!

Feb 08,2024 - Last updated at Feb 08,2024

Four! Four is the number of violent West Bank Israeli settlers the Biden administration has decided to sanction. Most Western press headlines do not make this clear. Instead, they say, "The US sanctions Israeli settlers". Readers learn that only four are sanctioned only if they bother to read an article covering this issue. US sanctions target Israeli settlers who terrorise or inflict violence on Palestinians and destroy their property. As there are scores of settlers who indulge in these crimes, sanctioning four is a joke.

The sanctioned settlers are Yinon Levi, David Chai Chasdai, Einan Tanjil and Shalom Zicherman. The liberal Haaretz daily has reported that Bank Leumi has suspended the account of Levi and the Postal Bank has blocked Chasdai’s account. Other banks are obliged to "comply with any [international] legal order".

Four is a ridiculous, insulting number! Israel has systematically planted 750,000 illegal Israeli settlers (colonists) in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank since they were conquered by Israel in 1967. At least 160,000 are of US background and most hold US passports.

Colonists are declared illegal by Article 49 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention which states: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

The Convention also prohibits the “individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory". This provision is relevant to Israel's threat to promote "voluntary" Palestinian emigration from Gaza as its bombers and bulldozers make the narrow coastal strip "uninhabitable”, to use a term employed by senior UN officials and international humanitarian organisations.

Numbers matter. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) reported on January 31st on the prospects for Gaza following the October 7th Israeli military offensive. UNCTAD wrote, "if the current military operation were to end immediately with reconstruction starting right away and the 2007-2022 growth trends were to persist with an average growth rate of 0.4 [per cent], it would take Gaza until 2092 just to restore the GDP levels of 2022, with GDP per capita and socioeconomic conditions continuously declining.

"However, even with the most optimistic scenario that GDP could grow at 10 [per cent] annually, it would still take Gaza’s GDP per capita until 2035 to return to its pre-blockade level of 2006."

While Israel controlled Gaza's economy since the 1967 occupation, Israel began its blockade of Gaza after Hamas won the majority of seats in the Palestinian legislative election early that year. Israel tightened its siege from land, sea and air after Hamas took control of Gaza in June 2007. This accelerated economic de-development in Gaza, in line with a policy Israel had adopted years earlier to ensure that the strip's economy would be dependent on Israel and Palestinian labour would assume menial, agricultural and construction jobs in Israel.

UNCTAD said, "The recovery of Gaza's economy from the current military operation will demand a financial commitment several times more than the $3.9 billion that resulted from the 2014 military operation in Gaza and will require a concerted international effort to restore pre-conflict socioeconomic conditions."

More UNCTAD numbers. By December last year, unemployment had soared to 79.3 per cent, 37,379 buildings had been "damaged or destroyed by [Israel's] military operation". UNCTAD continued, "The Gaza Strip, half of whose population are children, is now rendered almost uninhabitable, with people lacking adequate sources of income and access to water, sanitation, health or education."

UNCTAD argued that Gaza's economy could improve only if the destroyed airport reopens, a seaport is built, and Palestinians are allowed to develop offshore natural gas fields discovered in the 1990s. In the meantime, Gaza will need tens of billions in international aid to provide housing, food, water, electricity, medical aid and jobs for the Palestinian population, 85 per cent of whom having been displaced by the Israeli campaign. The UNCTAD report has, naturally, not found many takers in Western media.

Key numbers in the ongoing post-October 7th debacle are cited frequently by both sides.

Israel's liberal daily Haaretz reported that there were 1,151 total deaths from Hamas' October 7th attack; 827 civilians, 485 soldiers, 59 police, and 31 emergency staff. Some were killed in Israeli attacks and crossfire with Hamas. The total army death toll is 562 and at least 540 soldiers have been wounded. The US foreign aid bill includes $14.1 billion in military aid for Israel on top of the $3.8 annual military contribution which helps Israel finance its occupation of the 1967 territories.

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, more than 27,500 Palestinians have been killed and 67,000 wounded, 70 per cent of whom are women and children. Thousands are said to be dead and buried beneath the rubble; 1.9 million have been displaced.

Of the 2.3 million Gazans, 47 per cent is children and before the Israeli assault 1.7 million lived in refugee camps. Al Jazeera reports that 360,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed; 386 schools and universities damaged, 221 places of worship damaged, 13 out of 35 hospitals are "partially functional", 122 ambulances damaged, and 11 bakeries destroyed. One million of the displaced are camping in UNRWA schools. The US and its proxies have suspended — and perhaps cancelled — a total of $400 million in donations to UNRWA, which provides for 5.7 million Palestinian refugees in Gaza, East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. The European Union policy chief Josep Borrell has distanced himself from bloc members who have suspended funding to UNRWA and called this “collective punishment” which could cost lives. Independent-minded Ireland, Norway, Spain and Portugal have refused to accept US dictation.

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