Why is Mahmoud Abbas letting children die in Gaza?

Palestinians hold placards condemning PA leader Mahmoud Abbas for his complicity of Israel’s blockade of Gaza, at a rally in Gaza City, 9 July.

Mohammed Asad APA images

The deeply unpopular Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas is helping Israeli occupation authorities inflict horrendous suffering on people in the blockaded Gaza Strip, as part of a cruel and cynical political game.

It is a campaign that in recent weeks has led to the deaths of more than a dozen Palestinians denied medical treatment outside Gaza – the most recent, a little girl called Yara Ismail Bakhit.

Israel and Abbas are doing this with the complicity of a so-called international community that remains silent about the unfolding catastrophe.

Closely allied with Israel, Abbas has long defined collaboration with its occupation forces as a “sacred” duty.

This collaboration has included encouraging Israel, from the very start, to tighten its blockade of Gaza.

The decade-long siege has brought the 2 million residents caged into the territory to perhaps their most dire crisis in a period that has included successive military assaults that have killed thousands of people.

On Thursday, Gaza’s only power plant shut down after emergency fuel supplies ran out.

The territory is now dependent on just 70 megawatts of power supplied from Israel, a fraction of the 500 megawatts it needs each day.

A “power watch” feature in the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz shows that Gaza City received just three hours of electricity on Wednesday, while some areas received four hours.

But with the power supply now below the all-time low it reached earlier this week, most residents face long stretches without any power at all amid the sweltering summer heat.

On top of the darkness and the heat, many in Gaza face a cut off of any contact with the outside world: the PA telecom company Paltel said that internet and telephone services to thousands of customers in Gaza have been severed as generators fail.

Unheeded warnings

On Wednesday, UN human rights officials emphasized that the latest power cuts “have deepened the humanitarian crisis with hospitals in precarious conditions, water shortages growing and untreated sewage being dumped into the Mediterranean.”

Their warnings will likely go unheeded, just like so many in recent months, including from the International Committee of the Red Cross that said in May that Gaza was on the brink of “systemic collapse.”

For months, health facilities across the territory have been in crisis and Gaza City’s main hospital has slashed vital surgeries because there isn’t enough power to run life support systems.

As treatment plants fail, the territory is swimming in sewage.

Yet the European Union, which never rests from trumpeting its alleged commitment to “human rights,” has maintained a determined silence which can only be interpreted as full support for the measures inflicting such suffering on Gaza.

Instead, the EU’s embassy in Tel Aviv as well as a top UN official, touted Abbas’ authority for collaborating with Israel to increase the electricity supply to Jenin, a town in the northern occupied West Bank.

The timing of the announcement, along with a grotesque ribbon-cutting ceremony in which PA officials appeared alongside Israeli military officers, looked calculated to rub salt into the wounds of people in Gaza.

Finally, on Thursday, after months of ignoring Gaza, the EU, as part of the so-called Quartet, issued a vague statement of “concern” that said nothing about Israel’s responsibilities.

Israel’s responsibility

The UN experts emphasized that while Israel’s power cuts were nominally implemented at the request of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, Israel remains legally responsible.

Previously, senior UN officials have attempted to play down Israel’s responsibility, shifting the blame to an internal dispute between the Abbas-run PA in Ramallah, and Hamas authorities that control the interior of Gaza.

In April, the PA told Israel it would no longer pay the full bill for electricity Israel supplies to Gaza, as part of Abbas’ campaign to oust Hamas by inflicting additional hardship on the population in Gaza.

Over the last month, Israel has sharply reduced the power it supplies to Gaza – the territory’s main source of electricity.

“Israel, as the occupier controlling the entry and exit of goods and people, bore the primary responsibility for the deterioration of the situation,” the UN human rights experts said on Wednesday, according to a UN press release.

Human rights groups previously affirmed that it is illegal for Israel, as the occupying power, to cut the electricity to Gaza no matter what Abbas says.

Despite the Israeli cabinet’s decision to accept the Palestinian Authority’s “cruel plan to further reduce the power supply to Gaza,” B’Tselem said last month, the situation in Gaza “is the result of Israel’s handiwork, achieved by its decade-long implementation of a brutal policy.”

Killing babies

Three-year-old Yara Ismail Bakhit, who suffered from a heart condition, died because she was denied a medical transfer out of Gaza.

Dr. Ashraf al-Qidra, the spokesperson for the health ministry in Gaza, said on Thursday that the toddler, from the southern town of Khan Younis, is the 16th person to die in recent weeks because they weren’t able to secure a medical transfer.

Palestinian media have circulated these pictures of Yara:

Yara’s death is another sacrifice to Abbas’ campaign against the population in Gaza; it came about due to the delays his health ministry is imposing on requests for medical transfers to Israeli or West Bank treatment facilities.

The Ramallah health ministry must approve such requests before Israel does because it pays for any treatment provided in Israeli or West Bank hospitals.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights has documented a steady decline in medical referrals since April – when Abbas’ renewed onslaught against the population in Gaza began.

PCHR said on Monday that the PA health ministry had failed to approve or renew referrals for “hundreds of patients suffering from serious and chronic diseases without displaying the reasons behind this decision.”

According to PCHR, the number of referrals dropped from almost 2,200 in March to about 1,700 in April and fell below 1,500 in May. In June, the PA approved just 500.

As of early June, medical authorities in Gaza had approved some 2,500 patients “suffering from serious diseases that have no treatment in Gaza” for treatment outside the territory. But a month and a half later, the Ramallah authorities had only approved 400.

PCHR said it was “shocked” that West Bank hospitals have begun refusing to see patients from Gaza because there is no guarantor of payment.

Meanwhile, Abbas’ health ministry has also cut the budget for medicines for Gaza, leading to an acute crisis that is putting the lives of hundreds of people, including children with cystic fibrosis and cancer patients, in grave danger.

PCHR said: “Denying patients their right to receive medical treatment abroad, in view of the absence of a proper alternative in Gaza, is a clear violation of the right to health ensured in the Palestinian Basic Law” – in effect the Palestinian Authority’s constitution.

PCHR calls on world governments to put pressure on Israel “in its capacity as an occupying power” to guarantee the rights of people in Gaza under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

It also “calls upon the international community to pressurize the Palestinian Authority not to undermine the basic rights of Palestinians residing in the Gaza Strip” and to respect its obligations under international law to the Palestinian people it allegedly serves.

The problem is that the Palestinian Authority and its leader are tools in the hands of the so-called international community against the Palestinians and their cause.

Their role is to help Israel occupy and pacify the Palestinian population, even at the price of the lives of children in Gaza.

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It will be interesting to see how the Palestinians in Gaza and WB vote in the forthcoming elections. After all, the leadership must be held accountable to the people for what they do while in office, and must periodically renew their democratic mandate.

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Sure it is a shame at the eyes of most Palestinians and the activists in the World

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The PA/PLO are indistinguishable in cruelty to Palestinians from the zionist occupation govt and forces. That not one of them have gone public or resigned on the matter of the deprivation of electricity,medecines and medical referrals, meaning only, they all approve of the intensification of suffering of fellow Palestinians in Gaza.

I live in Sydney and last week I went into a local shop, detecting an Arabic accent , I asked the owner where he was from. He was an Armenian born in Al Quds. I mentioned that I am an activist for Palestine and he said the Palestinians ( Authority) don't want peace they want the tap of donor money keep running not their pockets. Yes, PA treason is lucrative and its reputation is filth.

One day there will be Palestinian Nuremberg trials and it will be a thrill to see every member of the PA/PLO in the dock.

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Respect please. You are talking about the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Democratic values have been sacrificed on the altar of an armed militia. The counterpart is Hamas. Hence the urgent need for free and fair elections in which there are multiple choices for representatives of the Palestinian people.

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Vacy Vlazna is not lacking any respect to anyone in his comment. He/she is expressing a personal opinion about the PA, which is an organisation and not a person. There is nothing wrong with labelling it as a treasonous organisation, and hoping to see the management in the dock, in other words being given a fair trial.

You, on the other hand, imply that Hamas has trampled on democratic values; let me remind you that Hamas won the last elections in Gaza fair & square, but that israel & the US did not like it so organised a coup using Fatah members, who subsequently messed up, forcing Hamas to take over goverment lock, stock, and barrel.

You further imply that Hamas is not fit to govern, thereby taking the line of certain Western powers that that is so because Hamas is labelled as a terrorist organisation. Those Western powers between them represent a maximum of 15% of the world's population, i.e. a minority. In other words the large majority of the world does NOT see Hamas as a terrorist organisation. But those same Western powers, supreme in their hypocrisy & double standards, would not dream of labelling israel as a state terrorist, even though the viciousness of its repeated attacks on Gaza have inflicted far greater damage on the defenceless Palestinians than Hamas ever inflicted on the israelis.

Some balance in your assessment of others' comments & your own would not be a bad thing, to put it mildly.

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Irony.

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You described the PA/PLO as "the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people." That hasn't been true since the 2006 elections - the last democratic election which was won by Hamas. Abbas is getting richer and fatter while Gazans suffer. Both the Israelis and Palestinians who are responsible for the torture of Gaza should be put on trial for what they're doing. The Israelis first because the greatest responsibility as the occupying power is theirs. Free Gaza! Free Palestine!

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Yes kid, if only all that could. But for any of that to come true, Palestinians will have to find a way to gain more influence in the world’s circles of power than Israel can neutralize.
By now it should be crystal clear that moral imperatives don’t quite cut it. Oh they’ll get a Scandinavian Shangri-La or the odd ecumenical council to call for BDS but most of the planet’s affective, potential support for justice in Palestine is at least for now, anti BDS.
True, those powers are ephemeral in their support, at best and at worst in league with the oppressor but that’s exactly why they must not be given more opportunity, than they already retain, to characterize the Palestinian struggle in a negative light. While the lobbying power behind the public politicos in unbeholden to the public, the leaders generally are and they will eventually be subject to its will.
I’m not saying BDS is wrong-headed or intrinsically counter-productive, just that it, just like every aspect of the struggle, should be mainstreamed as much as possible. I think Ali’s book, “One Country” is a powerful indictment of Israeli apartheid, genocide, colonial oppression, call it what you will. And it’s a beautiful treatise on democracy and human rights but in today’s light of nationalist perceptions, it’s a narrative that is far too easily cast as a call for the dissolution of “The Jewish State” and that is apparently something far more alarming, to the historic colonizers, than the actual cleansing of an indigenous people from their land.
That’s why you should have more respect kid. Not for Palestinian leadership or my opinion but for Israel. You and so many others in our privileged, bourgeois classes seem to not be acquainted with losing. Oh, you’ve lost a game and maybe your favorite political candidate lost but neither really affected your lives. I think wrestling is a good way for kids to learn a little humility, early on, if they can.

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More respect for israel???? Based on what? Its racist apartheid policies, its subjugation & slow extermination of the Palestinians? What on earth are you talking about?

Let me put it to you in clearer language: that nazi-onist "state" does not deserve any more respect from me or anybody else than Nazi Germany or Apartheid South Africa did. The zionists have turned it into a totalitarian-antisemitic-landgrabbing-colonising-terrorising-terror/sponsoring-butchering-blackmailing-apartheid-genocidal-jew/master race/Herrenvolk-ethnotheocracy that was founded fraudulently & is the only true travesty of democracy in the Middle East. Jewish & democratic is a contradiction in terms: domination by 1 ethnicity over another cannot be a democracy, nor can an Apartheid state be.

In its present form that racist "country" has absolutely NO LEGITIMACY, and should be dismantled to be rebuilt from the ground up into a real democracy, with EQUAL RIGHTS for ALL ETHNICITIES that are citizens there. Furthermore, the "country" should be forced to stop flouting international law & comply instead.

israel keeps whining about an existential threat & its right for self-determination, even though the aggressor is israel which is not just existing but has expanded its territory by theft, and the Jews living there have had their self-determination since the "state's" fraudulent creation in 1948. This in sharp contrast to the Palestinians who are being exterminated & denied their right (YES!!!! their right) to self-determination by the nazi-onist "state".

As for your bourgeois & wrestling BS, either look in the dictionary to learn their proper meaning, or go back to school (would do you more good), then report back here when you know what you are talking about, both about israel & about fancy terms. Oh, don't forget to ask your Hasbara masters to teach you to cover up your hasbara BS a bit better, right now it is very transparent.

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Unfortunately a part of my post didn't appear and my context for the word "respect" wasn't as clear as it would have to be for a self-indulgent hot head. So "FEAR" instead then. It's not the same, it doesn't express the urgency of not underestimating one's enemy but it won't make any difference. You and other's here, who are more about crusading than problem solving, are just not going to get it, no matter what. But you're not alone, I'm sure you're well represented in the Palestinian real world too. Hopefully though, enough of them have learned the lesson I tried to impart to you because they know that when they don't respect their enemy's capacity, it'll land on their heads. But there are fools in every corner of our house.

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Problem solving can only be achieved when both parties are prepared to negotiate in all honesty. Unfortunately that is not the case with your beloved "country", which has stymied all efforts since 1948 by its usual temporising. Whatever slight progress there was, like with the Oslo accords, was scuttled by 'yahu himself.

You have not imparted a lesson on me or anyone else, you have just spewed the usual hasbara garbage packaged to look like a lesson. israel's killing machine & its other methods have stopped instilling fear, the Palestinians are still there despite 70 years of oppression, dehumanisation, Apartheid, and incremental genocide.

So, next time, please spare us your condescending hasbara garbage packaged with a façade of civility, your pathetic attempts are very transparent.

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Despite your belligerence, I'd like to stay with this kid, if our host will allow. I would like to show you how your self-indulgent demonization of the enemy is a self-defeating approach to that struggle, for you and for many (here) with a seemingly more sophisticated approach.
You say "problem-solving can only be achieved when both parties are prepared to negotiate in all honesty" and that this cannot be because Israel stymies the process by "temporizing". "Unfortunately that is not the case with your beloved "country", which has stymied all efforts since 1948 by its usual 'temporizing'."
And that's fine and I basically agree BUT it is a fundamental error to entertain, for a moment, that Palestinians need rely on finding an honest 'partner in peace' in the mainstream of Israeli politics, to avoid radical responses, in my opinion. And as for "temporizing"; I believe that word represents a serious misunderestimation of Israel's tactics.
Despite your intolerance of my views and refusal to accept that there could be anything in what I say and the fact that I'm finding it difficult to like you, I think we're mostly on the same page. I would just like so see a more mature approach to the struggle firmly rooted behind a young and vital front ranks, with some respect for the civility you slight.
And I don't view BDS as a "radical response" either. It's just my view that the argument for "one country" doesn't need to be made, it's making itself. But of course that's not enough, so what?
Wait? Or rather argue against the rising tide of resistance with assurances about highly problematic inevitabilities? I say NO, I say history and the law say there is a Palestine and a Palestine there should be. Wouldn't birthing a bi-national state be as flawed as restoring one with fatal flaws, if it was done outside the law?

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John, I appreciate your response, although I don't see any proposal for a more "mature" approach in your discourse.

You reproach me of not solving the problem: on my own I can't. BDS is, I agree, of limited use, but in combination with pressure from governments it adds to the pressure on Israel. And I don't see why you discard the need for an "honest partner for peace", such a partner is the only way, I repeat: the only way, that a solution can be found that is acceptable to both sides. I have been around long enough, and negotiated many a commercial contract to know that that is the only way.

But that is exactly the problem: Israel is NOT interested in a win-win case, it only wants to get the Palestinians of its back & the world to stop talking about it. Israel is only ever interested in itself & is always trying to screw whoever else it can , even its most ardent supporter the US.

And as for slighting civility, I have seen enough about Israel to know that the country only understands violence, physically, mentally & verbally. So I will continue to treat it as such in my comments. It is the only country I treat as such, so am more indulgent towards other countries, in that sense Israel is exceptional, not in the way it likes to believe & pretend.

Lastly, what do you propose specifically to move this forward to get to the "Palestine there should be" as you say?

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I don't know kid. The occupation is the dynamic that suppresses progress and I'm not sure that we're all on the same page - that it must end - for the Palestinians to achieve positive change. So the way forward appears to be a little murky.
In my view, perhaps with a new President but not necessarily and certainly with less conciliation to Israel's strategy for realizing its Zionist goal, the struggle has to go on in Western power circles and also inside and outside Palestine, between Hamas and the PA and with whatever regional allies can be retained. It's difficult but not impossible (Ghandi did it) but international law must be made to mean what it says.
I think Palestine's future, to a large extent rises and falls with the success of movements against all types of state legitimized oppression everywhere. And I have attained a perfect balance between hope and confidence which leaves me with little of either.

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Seems to me we are in agreement about the principles, we differ on the tone surrounding it. I personally am sick & tired of Israel having been allowed to drag out the "process" for 50 years & reducing the chance of ever achieving Palestinian statehood. An important factor is the intense hatred that the zionist government has for the Palestinians, and has had it dating to before 1948, and that often prevents me from speaking/writing in a more controlled manner about the country. I know that is a shortcoming on my side, but I need to give expression to the deep revulsion I feel for the zionist project & its supporters/surrogates.

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I hear you and you're not alone but what I'm trying to get across is that actions and sometimes words have consequences.
This is from a man's perspective but it works for anyone, I think; if you were goaded into a confrontation with a group of punks, would you behave the same way if your significant other, or anyone, even a group you cared about, who might find themselves in a dangerous situation, would you act as you would if it was just you, your risk, your freedom to exercise your own fight or flight instincts with no repercussions for anyone else? I hope not, because that would be selfish behavior. Hopefully, there would be an option to avoid violence, injury and perhaps life altering events.
Granted, Israel is that group of punks who aren't looking for a way to avoid violence and injury. Israel is using those things to put you in a position where you give in to temptation, blow your stack and get your friends into a fight they're unprepared for.
I'm saying don't allow them to get to you publicly because if you don't, sooner or later it'll become too obvious to ignore, even by the Israelis and diasporic Jews watching from their seats on the fence, that it's Israel that's just a bully and there's no way around that pure and simple fact.
If, on the other hand, you are in with a group with the means to put and end to the bullying and so save our lunch money, then I'm with you.
Otherwise, as I said, BDS is great but it should shoot for the widest possible alliance, which leaves anything that can, justly or unjustly but successfully, be portrayed as anti-Semitic, OUT! Just my opinion and it is also that; no matter how weak the law appears and proves itself to be, ultimately it is still our only recourse to the jungle some would lead us into.

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A shocking & insightful article, Ali, but you have not answered your own question: Why is Mahmoud Abbas letting children die in Gaza?

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He wants to dystroy a more popular enemy and also keep the money Flowing to his own pockets
I have lived over a decade in Israel and Palestine, and watched PLO/ Fatah decline to limousine driving, privaldged special class, whizzing past their citizens who wait hours in the heat or rain to cross the checkpoints themselves. Hamas wn elections because they were honest, and committed tied to the Uslamic d al of Charity (cf. 'The Charitable Cresent.' ) The IDF realizing this started dystroying these charities ( I recall an IDF soldier interviewed for an Israel newspaper saying his job was to 'to close charities'. Hundreds of nternatiols came to these orphanages to protect the charities as IDF don't like Western eyes on their actions. Why are these stories never report d?

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I think Ali does answer the question: it's due to his collaboration with Israel and his desire to inflict damage on Hamas, never mind the ordinary citizens who live in Gaza. If I'm wrong, then it's a rhetorical question: a rhetorical question encourages the reader to think for themselves as to why.

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Abbas seem incompetent, and weak, when it comes to Israel. The Palestinians need a younger and stronger leader, who will be more active to help his people, and not Israel. It is time the political entities within Gaza put aside their political aspirations, and unite to achieve their goals. These groups like Hamas seem to hurt not help the cause.

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Blame Abbas but it's Palestine that's weak. And maybe Abbas is old and maybe he’s made some mistakes but he’s steadfastly tried to bring the clearly righteous aspirations of the Palestinian people into the mainstream of global politics and the minds of a broader public than can be reached by Haniyeh and Dahlan.

Making political infighting in Gaza center stage can only make Gaza the issue, to the exclusion of the WB and I think that’s just what Israel is brokering now, with its Gulf allies and our feckless leader.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.