Floods and Boycotts Direct U.S. to Address Occupation

December 20, 2013

While the rain and snowstorms in the Middle East continue to cause havoc indiscriminately, the response to conditions caused by the weather has been quite discriminate. On Monday, Israel opened the Wadi Sofa dam in the south Gaza Strip that flooded Gazan towns and displaced approximately ten thousand Gazans from their homes leading the United Nations to label it a “disaster area.”

The implications of the disaster area include an exacerbated energy and fuel crisis for Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, the UN has highlighted the need for rescue and evacuation assistance to hospitals for those trapped in flooded homes.

According to news reports, the flooding in Gaza is so severe some homes can only be accessed by boat and according to the United Nations Relief Works Agency, refugee camps in northern Gaza “have become a massive lake with two-meter high waters engulfing homes and stranding thousands.”

Since the Gaza Power Plant on Nov. 1, Gazans have experienced increased power outages from 12 to 16 hours a day. Officials from the Gaza Power Authority have stated that with a $10 million grant from Qatar, Gaza’s power plant will be able to provide electricity beginning this week. As a result of Egypt’s closing of the Rafah border and the stranglehold of transporting goods from Israel, the Gazan humanitarian crisis is severe with basic necessities scarce and at times, nonexistent.

In response to ongoing crises as a result of Israel’s blockade of Gaza and ongoing illegal settlements in the West Bank, the American Studies Association on Monday voted to endorse a boycott of Israeli universities as part of the larger international boycotting strategy against the occupation.

“The ASA condemns the United States’ significant role in aiding and abetting Israel’s violations of human rights against Palestinians and its occupation of Palestinian lands through its use of the veto in the UN Security Council,” the ASA said in its statement.

The resolution is significant because it comes at a time when human rights advocates’ responses to the occupation are relegated to largely symbolic gestures. In the words of one professor at Purdue University and member of ASA, the vote indicates that people are beginning to recognize the illegal occupation as one of the major civil rights issues of our time. The tragedy of the occupation is evident in the wretched reality of conditions for Palestinians struggling to live with dignity. The ASA’s vote indicates that more spheres of influence in the U.S. are beginning to take on the critical task of highlighting the devastating impact of the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine.

The U.S. is currently serving as the chief broker between the Israelis and Palestinians for this round of peace talks. The peace talks require honesty and frankness; dismissing the realities of the occupation as anti-Semitism is unhelpful just as dismissing Israel’s right to exist is unhelpful. There is much work to be done and many issues to be resolved. The U.S. should hold Israel accountable for the human casualties inflicted by its cruel decision to open the dam and unleash further misery upon the Palestinians. Anything less will hamper any possibility for hope from the peace talks. 

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