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Open letter to Radio New Zealand

Open letter to Radio New Zealand

Dear Sir,

I refer to this morning's Radio New Zealand World Watch report on Gaza (26 August 2012). According to a recent UN report, 90% of Gaza's water is unsafe for drinking. Between 30% and 40% of the Gaza population is unemployed. Over 1.2 million Gazans depend on food aid from the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Unemployment stands at around 31%, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs occupied Palestine Territory (OCHA http://www.ochaopt.org/) Protection of Civilians' report for 8-14 August informs us that power cuts in Gaza are reaching up to 16 hours a day. A 31 May UNICEF report informs us that, in 2011, home visits revealed over 60% of mothers were found to be anaemic.

In June this year, six UN agencies joined a group of international charities in unanimously calling for the lifting of Israel's blockade. See UN agencies join in shared call for end to Israeli blockade of Gaza The UN agencies involved were the Office of the Humanitarian Co-ordination/Resident Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Due to Israel's blockade, more than 80% of families in Gaza are dependent on humanitarian aid. According to the UN agencies, the severe restrictions imposed by Israel on imports, exports and the movement of people by land, air and sea collectively punish the whole population of Gaza and is a denial of basic human rights, in contravention of international law.

Yet the World Watch report was positively light-hearted and gave no hint of the degree of suffering the Gaza population endures, especially the children. Already traumatised from Israel's Cast Lead onslaught, the children of Gaza are at times further terrorised by Israeli jet fighters, sometimes creating sonic booms, overflying their homes. In June this year, Dr. Evan Kanter, University of Washington School of Medicine Professor and President of Physicians for Social Responsibility, cited studies that revealed 62% of Gaza’s inhabitants reported having a family member injured or killed, 67% saw injured or dead strangers and 83% had witnessed shootings. The vast majority of Gaza children suffer moderate to severe symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The World Watch report dismissively referred to the Hamas government as 'Islamist', whatever that means, but did not inform listeners that Hamas has agreed to open-ended ceasefires with Israel based on Hamas recognition of the 1967 border with Israel. World Watch also avoided informing listeners that Hamas was elected (in what have been universally described as exemplary full and fair elections) as the legitimate government of the Palestinian people. In the past, both Radio New Zealand News and World Watch have referred to Hamas as having “seized power”.

This morning's misleading World Watch report on Gaza and its blockade resistance tunnels was a grave disservice to Radio New Zealand's listeners. The impression given was of a thriving economy that was suffering a temporary set-back. The Gaza fishing industry is on its knees because Israel illegally enforces an over-fished three-nautical-mile fishing zone on Gaza fishermen. The restriction is brutally enforced, with the Israeli Navy frequently opening fire on fishing boats, occasionally hijacking them and taking away valuable fishing gear. Sometimes fishermen are wounded or kidnapped and, on occasion, crew members have even lost their lives in attacks by Israeli gunboats. It is not only the Gaza fishing industry that is attacked, Israeli forces also frequently shoot their way onto Gaza farmland and bulldoze crops – again sometimes inflicting injuries and even death.

Besides the blockade suffered by the people of Gaza, Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are forced to endure life under belligerent military Occupation. The daily violations of international humanitarian law experienced by the captive and defenceless people in these territories should also be newsworthy. Radio New Zealand listeners are scarcely ever informed of them. The daily news from all these areas is readily available.

Alongside Radio New Zealand's seemingly preferred sources, truth and justice might better be served if listeners were also allowed to hear direct from Palestine. For instance in Gaza, there are people such as New Zealander Julie Webb-Pullman (http://www.scoop.co.nz/our-woman-in-gaza/) and in Palestine as a whole there are UN agencies and rapporteurs, besides many other local sources of news.

More balanced coverage by Radio New Zealand would better inform listeners, enabling them to judge for themselves the credibility of differing reports. They would no doubt certainly thank you for that.

Yours faithfully,

Leslie Bravery

Palestine Human Rights Campaign www.palestine.org.nz


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