Studies show that US coverage is Israeli-centric. The main bureaus for CNN, Associated Press, Time, etc. are located in Israel and often staffed by Israelis. The son of the NY Times bureau chief is in the Israeli army;"pundit" Jeffrey Goldberg served in the IDF; Wolf Blitzer worked for AIPAC. Because the U.S. gives Israel over $8 million/day - more than to any other nation - we feel it is essential that we be fully informed on this region. Below are news reports to augment mainstream coverage.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Letters, Packages en Route to Gaza via Israel Go "Missing"

Washington Report - ...The Rafah post office is eerily quiet. Instead of reflecting its location in the most densely populated area on the planet, the post office looks and feels more like a remote outpost from America's Old West that hasn't seen a courier in months...

The shortage of goods that is the intended result of Israel's four-year blockade of Gaza has forced many residents to rely on care packages sent by relatives living abroad and purchases made over the Internet. Yet these attempts to live above the "lowest level possible" are only intermittently successful.

Imad Abuel Khair, 44, is one of many Palestinians in Gaza whose life revolves around a post office box. Afflicted with chronic rheumatism, he relies upon medication his brother sends from Italy. Every work day for two months he has arrived at Rafah Post Office, stood at the window and asked postal employee Hani Abu Helal if his package has arrived. Abu Helal's answer never varies: "You don't need to come. We'll call you when the mail arrives."

While postman Abu Helal speaks with Abuel Khair, Imad Fouda arrives looking for a document he has been expecting for months: a signed copy of his letter of acceptance to a Ph.D. program at a German university. His letter has not arrived, either—and if he does not receive it within the next 60 days, he will not have time to apply for a German visa. Fouda's future hangs in the balance—and he is only one of many scholars in Gaza who continue to face obstacles in sending and receiving academic materials, including books and research documents.

"It takes a very long time for mail to come, if it arrives at all," explains university professor Mohammed Meqdad. "Otherwise we must depend on travelers to bring books and magazines with them."

Disappearing packages, late packages, damaged packages, expired packages—if they're going to or coming from Gaza, notes postman Abu Helal with frustration, "priority stickers are given no priority by Israeli officials."

For those awaiting much-needed medicines and perishable supplies, this means that even if the medicine does arrive, it has expired, or is about to—assuming, that is, that it has not already been destroyed due to inadequate storage conditions while in transit.

Abu Helal's job is mainly delivering bills and cell phones from the Paltel Telephone Company to homes in Rafah. "We deliver internal packages within Gaza in less than 24 hours upon arrival," he explains.

In 2009, the Postal Service of the Palestinian Authority was awarded an International Mail Processing Center Code by the Universal Postal Union. This designation allows the Palestine Postal Service to send and receive mail directly to and from other postal services around the world, rather than having to go through Israel. Unfortunately, such legitimization has not improved the situation, according to postal officials in Ramallah, who note that local deliveries within the West Bank are made promptly, but that Israel still controls international mail into and out of the occupied territories.

Yousef Al Mansi, minister of post and telecommunications with Gaza's de facto Hamas government, says that he and his staff are launching an international campaign to alert concerned postal services worldwide about the situation, in the hope of generating pressure on Israel to let the people of Gaza send and receive mail freely. "The continuous Israeli restriction on the mobility of Gaza's mail is a violation of international and humanitarian law, which protects and guarantees the individual right to send and receive mail," he emphasizes.

The situation in Gaza has created a burden on other nations as well. In August 2010, for example, the Canada Post decided to no longer accept mail destined for the Gaza Strip, as the bulk of it is returned to the sender. The only other place to which letters or packages from Canada cannot be sent is Somalia. Not all Canadians agree with the cessation, however. In a show of solidarity, the Canadian Postal Workers Union announced plans to symbolically deliver mail to Gaza on a Canadian aid ship. The union cited international law guaranteeing the safe delivery of stamped mail—even if the state of Israel refuses to comply.

The delay and non-delivery of mail is detrimental not only to individuals, but to commerce as well. Laments an importer-exporter in Gaza who prefers to remain anonymous, "People lost confidence in us because we simply could not be relied on." He has lost several clients due to the restrictions, he added. While his branches in the West Bank and Jerusalem are able to send and receive parcels, Israel allows only documents into Gaza, and their arrival is unpredictable at best. This has caused tremendous difficulties with inventory management, he says, as well as customer service...
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