SIR – Christians in the Gaza Strip were not to be allowed to visit holy cities such as Bethlehem and Jerusalem to celebrate Christmas this year, Israeli authorities said.
Gazan Christians were granted permits to travel abroad, but none were allowed to go to Israel and the occupied West Bank, home to many sites holy to Christians, a spokeswoman for Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians said.
Israel controls everything in and out of Gaza through its border crossing and tightly restricts movements out of the Gaza Strip where at Christmas, some were approved to travel abroad but not to visit cities in Israel or the West Bank.
This separation of Palestinians from each other using walls and travel restrictions is part of the Israeli strategy to make life unbearable for Palestinians and the fact that it was willing to extend such restrictions during the period of Palestinian Christians holy pilgrimages and family reunions is intended to increase despair and separation. The separation walls and imposed movement restrictions of Palestinians are of course part of Israel’s plan to deny them a separate viable state.
Palestinian Christians are often better connected to and supported by their fellow Christians abroad and this accounts for the fact that their escape through migration to other countries is more possible than their Muslim neighbours.
Israeli propaganda loves to insist that Hamas (a resistance movement against settler colonial oppression) and neighbouring Muslim countries are persecuting the original indigenous Christian community. The facts are clearly at odds with that propaganda and this Christmas ban on movement is part of the truth about illegal Israeli occupation and oppression.
Today, 97% of drinking water in the Strip is not drinkable by any recognised international standard says a study by the RAND Corporation which shows that water pollution accounts for more than a quarter of illnesses in Gaza and that more than 12% of child deaths are linked to gastrointestinal disorders due to water pollution.
Illness caused by water pollution is a leading cause of child mortality in the Gaza Strip. Even the isolated sources of water used today will cease to operate without proper maintenance. Immunisation programmes by UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East) have been all that has prevented a cholera outbreak in Gaza due to the polluted sewage system.
The Trump administration, close allies of the Netanyahu government, recently announced a halt to funding of UNRWA indicating that the co-ordinated oppression of Palestinians continues unabated.