Posted on May 23, 2006 in Press Releases

‘Starving Palestinian people into submission … ought not be a basic staple of Israeli foreign policy’

WASHINGTON – The Arab American Institute (AAI) is calling on President Bush and congressional leaders to press visiting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to address the developing humanitarian crisis his policies have engendered in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Olmert is in Washington, D.C. to seek support from the Administration for his unilateral policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians. Among other things, AAI is calling on President Bush and others to urge Olmert to release the $55 million a month allocated to the Palestinians as their share of tax and custom revenues.

“Those funds rightly belong to the Palestinian people and we would hope President Bush will push Olmert to release those funds as a means of providing aid to the Palestinians, the ones who are suffering the most under the aid blockage imposed by Israel and the U.S.,” said AAI President James Zogby. “We not only urge them to release those funds, but also to allow the import and export of agriculture and other goods into the Occupied Territories. Currently, Israeli policies are strangling the Palestinian economy.”

According to a recent World Bank report on the impending Palestinian financial crisis:

    -Unemployment has doubled to nearly 40 percent and 2/3 of the population is living below the poverty level

    -Personal incomes are likely to drop 30 percent this year

    -The economy has decreased by 27 percent

The Financial Times has reported that hospitals have suspended “non-essential surgery for lack of sutures, laboratory kits and anesthetics.” Agence France Presse reports that Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza expects to run out of essential supplies within two weeks. AFP quotes Dr. Jumaa al-Saqqa, spokesman for an impoverished main Gaza Strip hospital, as saying, “Our reserve supply of 200 medicines is almost depleted. We lack the most basic things like bandages and oxygen.”

“Starving the Palestinian people into submission is not and ought not be a basic staple of Israeli foreign policy,” Zogby said. “And that is exactly what Israel is doing with the complicit help of the United States.”


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