Palestinians suffer painful and penal restrictions in Covid-19 times

Palestine Update 361

Palestinians suffer painful and penal restrictions in Covid-19 times

Banking restrictions on Interpal risk ‘lifeline’ for Palestinians

HSBC to block donations to Palestinian aid charity Interpal


For almost a decade, Palestinians have received regular humanitarian aid provided by the Palestinian Relief and Development Fund, better known as Interpal, to support them in the besieged Gaza Strip.

In a huge blow to Interpal, British bank HSBC has told its customers in the UK that it will no longer process standing-order donations to the charity from later this month, without offering any explanation why. The threat to Interpal posed by such actions is serious enough that auditors noted in the charity’s latest accounts that the withdrawal of card processing services by credit card companies in 2018 and the potential loss of access to banking facilities were “key material uncertainties that may affect [Interpal’s] ability to continue as a going concern”.

Interpal is considered one of the main organizations helping to address the needs of a two-million strong population within which more than half live in poverty and a majority is dependent on humanitarian assistance. In the healthcare sector, Interpal provides medicines and medical supplies, with specific programmes of support for the elderly, the disabled and the poverty-stricken sick. In the development sector, it has helped to build desalination plants to address the enclave’s chronic water shortage, as well as distributing small plastic tanks to needy families, and providing public places such as hospitals, schools and nurseries with large metal tanks that are regularly filled with drinking water.  Interpal once supported about 400 to 500 students annually by paying their tuition fees as well as providing other support for the education sector. Interpal also supported a job-creation programme and made extensive contributions to health, education and relief projects within Gaza.

If Interpal is unable to continue its work, it would be people like his sick son who would suffer the most. “Why does a humanitarian charity that helps the poor and the needy get attacked, when it seeks the good of all?”
Full report in Middle East Eye

Femicide rates rise as coronavirus lockdown continues
The home is often cited as the most dangerous place for women, and with coronavirus lockdown laws sweeping the world and Palestine – this means domestic violence rates have skyrocketed as women and children are locked inside with their abusers. Since the Covid-19 quarantine measures were put in place, five women have been killed in Palestine due to domestic violence, with a total of 11 women murdered since the start of the year. In response to these murders, both women and men in Palestine and historic Palestine staged a protest within their homes  – standing in their windows banging pots and pans and waving handmade banners, to raise awareness for women’s rights and the prevalence of domestic violence due to the lockdown laws.

According to Tal’at, an independent feminist movement who organized the protests, four of the five femicides since the implementation of the lockdown laws succumbed to gunshot wounds. Tal’at activist Soheir Asaad said that while for many “quarantine” suggests being safe at home, for others it is “hell”. “It means living with someone who could end your life,” describing reality faced by some women. Women’s support groups reported a sharp increase in woman reaching out to help services, with NGO Assiwar reporting a 30 per cent uptick in helpline calls and a plethora of social media messages. The Palestinian Working Women Society received nearly 1000 just calls in21 days (March 22 to April 15).
Full report in Palestine Monitor

Israel and Palestine inflict sweeping lockdowns on collective prayers
Virus Outbreak Israel RamadanIsrael and the Palestinian Authority have both imposed sweeping Covid-19 lockdowns. Muslims in Jerusalem are praying outside in small groups during the holy month of Ramadan as measures aimed at curbing the coronavirus pandemic remain in place.  The restrictions include a halt to prayers at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam. Prayers at Jerusalem’s world-famous religious sites, sacred to Muslims, Christians and Jews, were halted or heavily restricted last month.
A full report in LBC News

Talking with a ‘forked tongue’
Good news has been in particularly short supply for Palestinians, who have seen the creation of an Israeli government that will continue its oppressive policies and illegal acts, including a commitment to annexing wide swathes of the West Bank. It was therefore heartening that the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), defeated the British government at the Supreme Court in its attempt to stop local pension schemes from divesting from companies complicit in Israel’s occupation and the UK defence industry.

The blind support of successive British governments for Israel is well documented. Every British prime minister in recent years has at some point hailed Britain as a friend of Israel, but never as a friend of the Palestinian people. In the British government’s quest for commercial opportunities after Brexit, Israel was among the top countries with whom it wanted to sign a trade deal at an early stage. Britain also recently ended its support for resolutions at the UN Human Rights Council condemning Israel’s occupation and settlement enterprise, even placing the UNHRC “on notice”.

Britain provides some aid to Palestinians and supports the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), but it has never taken any action to bring Israel to account for its many breaches of international law and its oppressive treatment of Palestinians. Britain repeatedly condemns illegal settlements, but has not taken any action to bring accountability to Israel. UK cautioned Israel against annexing wide swathes of the West Bank. It then proceeded to cheer to the new government, which has is manifestly announced its intent takes sides with Israel despite its barbaric attacks on Gaza. It even sells it arms as if offering a reward for pursuing what is one of the longest illegal occupations in history.
Excerpts from

May Day: Israel continues abuse of workers’ through pandemic
In Photos: Daily struggle of Palestinian workers at Checkpoint 300 ...

Palestinian laborers from the West Bank who work in Israel (with or without permits) do not have their rights as workers protected – a reality that leaves them vulnerable to exploitation by employers. Those with permits have to set out from home early in the morning, undergo the grueling, degrading experience of crossing crowded checkpoints into Israel, and return home after a long, exhausting work day. Many also have to pay brokers thousands of shekels a month for the permit. Those who do not have a permit have to take risky routes to enter Israel, often endangering their lives. None of these workers receive the social benefits to which they are entitled, and they are exploited by their employers – while the state refrains from supervising their work conditions.

After the corona pandemic began, Israel announced that Palestinians from the West Bank who wished to continue working in Israel would not be allowed to return home for fear of infection. However, the authorities did not issue any directives for accommodating them within Israel and some had to sleep at the construction sites themselves , in disgraceful conditions. In March, Israel declared it would allow some 70,000 workers to remain in its territory, but many chose to return to the West Bank, citing fear of infection and the difficulty of being away from their families as key reasons. About 20,000 stayed in Israel. These workers did not receive any compensation, such as unemployment wages or a grant, and many were fired without compensation. The laborers now remaining in Israel have no medical insurance and should they have to return to the West Bank for treatment, they risk losing their job. In three cases that B’Tselem documented, laborers suspected of contracting the virus were taken to a checkpoint in the West Bank and left there, with no medical assistance or coordination with any authority on the West Bank.

As of 3 May, some 50,000 laborers from the West Bank will be allowed into Israel to work in construction or agriculture. They will receive a one-time entry permit and will not be allowed to go home until Ramadan is over, in about three weeks’ time. The duty to provide them with fitting accommodation still lies with their employers – without any state supervision. Should they fall ill during this time, they will be sent back to the West Bank.
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