Volcanic ash: Gaza and freedom of movement

It’s been over a week since the environmental crisis began in Europe and other parts of the world such as the Middle East, North Africa Canada the US.  A cloud of volcanic ash drifting from Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano continues to keep airspace shut down; affecting millions of travelers around the world and causing a tremendous crisis in the aviation industry.

The ash drifting from the volcano is formed from dust, small atoms of glass, crushed rock, sand and other components. The plumes of dusty materials become stuck in the airspace and it makes aviation risky and dangerous since it could cause great damage by paralyzing aircraft engines thus risking people's safety and lives.

Hundreds of thousands of flights have been cancelled; millions of passengers are trapped and stranded. People are deprived of the freedom of movement. A loss of billions of dollars has been documented due to flight cancelations and the resultant consequences of shortages delivered by air as well as the losses from air travel.

Politicians are seeking a way out.

A meeting of European Union ministers met to discuss the issue as part of their moral and legal responsibility. The whole international community is troubled over the disaster. Even presidents and high profile politicians are trapped in their offices. They have turned to other means of transportation until the volcano stabilizes.

Not far from this crisis, another disaster has been taking place in the Middle East for the past 4 years. It’s an Israeli-made disaster against the people of Palestine, both in Gaza and in the West Bank.

Tens of thousands of normal civilians are being seized and imprisoned in an open jail called Gaza. These people have never tasted the meaning of freedom. Whenever they try to travel - they can’t. Not because of a volcanic ash crisis, but simply because Israel says NO. Families are shattered in Gaza and abroad they never get united. It's as if your family is being separated, you can’t see your dad, sister, brother or mother for years! Israel violates all human basic rights by preventing people from traveling.

In a phone call with one of the trapped people in Gaza, Ahmed Abu Ali, age 24, I heard frustration, sadness and despair.

Abu Ali said: “I have been trying to attend my college in Egypt but I can’t travel. Its 2 years now! I have no freedom at all. Very strange to see how the world upset about the crisis of volcanic ashes while they are silent about our imprisonment.  Europe, America, Britain are all partners in depriving us the freedom of movement. People who are trapped could feel us now, but their government could never.”

It’s shameful that the European Union is participating indirectly in imposing the siege on Gaza. The USA is backing and partially funding the Israeli siege as well, due to political reasons (collective punishment, which is illegal according to the Geneva Convention as well as unethical by all human standards). Innocent civilians are trapped, hungry and in need of life's basic, essential necessities.

Muneer Al Rifi, age 34, a teacher in Gaza, mockingly commented on the issue of volcanic ash. “People in Europe are confused just because they can’t travel as the airlines are suspended. They are lucky enough! They share us the feeling of imprisonment now - but they are lucky as they still have enough food, fuel, power, internet and all basics while we barely have these things."

Clarifying more of what he means as lucky, Muneer said, “They are lucky because they are granted food, education, freedom, and relaxation. But, we are unlucky as we live in fear, hunger and constant Israeli bombings.”

More than 10 thousand people who wish to travel and have visas are trapped in Gaza. The siege and closure of crossings and passenger terminals in Rafah and Iretz are forcing them to 'live' in an open air prison. A great number of them are students while the rest are families’ employers.

In addition to the infringement on freedom of movement, people in Gaza are barely getting goods and food. The Israeli army only allows a few trucks to get into Gaza now, in contrast to the 700 trucks per day that were streaming into Gaza prior the siege.

Around 505 people died in Gaza because they were denied freedom of movement for treatment. Some of them died due to lack of medicines. EU, US, Britain and other countries are calling on Israel to end the siege, however, it's only lip service since no actual pressure has ever been made.

In the case of Iceland, the cause of the disaster is from a natural source: the earth's fluctuating lava flow which is making the volcano spew plumes of toxic smoke and ash, whereas in Gaza, the disaster is man-made by Israel and its allies, and thus, reversible immediately. If only the world were to demand a stop to the desperate, humanitarian crisis.

Gaza, April 20, 2010 (Pal Telegraph)
by Sameh A. Habeeb
Palestinian Journalist

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About Sameh Habeeb

Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Palestine I am Sameh A. Habeeb. I'm a Palestinian born and raised in Gaza. I'm 23 years old. I have a bachelor degree in English Language and Literature. I have worked in several different fields’ pre and post of my university studies for almost 5 years. I have worked as volunteer in civil societies where I practiced tasks to help people and educate children. I worked as News Producer and a Journalist at the Ramattan News Agency which is Regional Media facility based in Gaza and the Middle East. After a year, I started to work in the relief sector with the International British NGO in my home country. I still work till now where I supervise around 350 orphans. I report their news, needs and life progress for them. In addition, I write features and photo stories about their life. In addition I contribute to implementation of projects and supervision. In December 2007, I started a brand-new stage of my life linked to peace activities, activism, tolerance and solidarity. I began to work as a peace activist with some Israeli friends to bring peace in the Middle East. This added much to my array of skills and furthered my leadership potential. I was even named as the "Barack Obama" of Palestine while I was speaking in a conference in Italy. I believe I have the quality’s associated with public speaking, research, photography and journalism to make positive changes and contributions in my career field. I am currently working as an Editor for _www.freegaza.ps/English_ (http://www.freegaza.ps/English) . I have launched many Facebook groups and other sites and organizations about peace, solidarity and outcome evaluations. I have conducted many dialogues and conferences in many countries such as Italy, Spain, Greece, UK and so forth. As a Photojournalist and writer I have my own blog: _www.gazatoday.blogspot.com_ (http://www.gazatoday.blogspot.com) . I go on site to locations as a journalist, visit families, take photos, write about the social issue or event and then publish them. I do that for free and I my work is published worldwide. I visited the European Union and was invited for a speaking session. I was invited to speak about Gaza for France, Spain, Luxembourg, Greece, Ireland and UK. I was invited to Canada last August after I was selected to participate in Quebec 400 Anniversary to speak about my experience as a journalist. Sameh A. Habeeb Photojournalist & Peace Activist Gaza Strip, Palestine Mob: 00972599306096 Tel: 0097282802825 E-mail: [email protected] [email protected] Skype: Gazatoday, Facebook Sameh A. habeeb Web: www.gazatoday.blogspot.com Daily Photos:http://picasaweb.google.com/sameh.habeeb

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