JERUSALEM (May. 26)
A scathing indictment of Israel’s policies in the Gaza Strip was published over the weekend by the West Bank-Gaza Data Base Project here. The director of the project, Meron Benvenisti, said Gaza Arabs are far worse off than those in the West Bank and warned that unless massive development programs are instituted. the Gaza Strip would turn into the “Soweto of the Mideast.”
The report, prepared by Harvard University researcher Sara Roi, accused the Israeli authorities of neglect and stated that “if something is not done soon.” conditions will get worse. Sources at the Defense Ministry which is responsible for the Gaza Strip said they had not seen the report and could not comment on it.
The report called the Gaza Strip one of the most densely populated areas on earth. It noted that some 525,000 Palestinians live in 96 square miles. One-third of the territory, 46 square miles, has been reserved exclusively for Jewish settlements which have a population of only 2,200.
Infant mortality in the Gaza Strip is four times that in Israel and hospitals are woefully understaffed and undersupplied, the report said. It noted that the Shifa Hospital, the largest in Gaza, lacks basic medical equipment such as X-ray machines and its sanitary conditions are “at best abhorrent.” The report spoke of mice and roaches found in filthy rooms with broken windows where patients lay two to a bed on torn, blood-stained sheets.
Benvenisti said budgetary constraints are no excuse for the authorities not to grant the Gaza inhabitants proper services. He said Israel’s income from the Gaza Strip was greater than its expenditures there. He noted that 45,000 Gaza laborers work in Israel, pay local taxes as well as income tax and national insurance in Israel which amounts to “an occupation tax” of $35 million a year.
He said the report documents conditions “beyond disgrace.” It is no longer a political problem but a long neglected moral imperative which cannot be ignored. According to the report the population of the Gaza Strip is doubling every generation and could reach 900,000 by the turn of the century. (By Gil Sedan)