Category Archives: Occupation News

Occupation News

Co-existence vs. Co-resistance: A case against normalization

In this article Omar Rahman makes one of the best  arguments against normalisation I have ever read, hear hear Omar > FGA – This article was first published Tuesday, January 3 2012 on +972 Magazine

Although the “anti-normalization” debate has been around a long time, its resurgence in public discourse can likely be attributed to two things: the rise of the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement and the beginning of a transitional period in internal Palestinian politics.

Due to the very nature of the BDS movement, everything pertaining to Israel is put under the microscope and scrutinized. Subsequently, any relationship between Palestinians and Israelis is done so in spades. BDS encourages its adherents to look critically at everything they do and everything that is happening around them. It is important to distinguish what works in the service of achieving Palestinian rights and what does not, or even works against it. This is why the BDS movement has produced strict and coherent guidelines for what can be considered worthy of boycott and what constitutes normalization.

Secondly, the era in which Palestinians and Israelis engaged in dialogue under the wider auspices and example of governmental-led negotiations is coming to an end—at least for the time being. We are now at the cusp of a transitional period in Palestinian politics where the lack of a clear strategy and path forward on the diplomatic and resistance fronts is forcing Palestinians to look internally at the state of their own society and political situation. Reconciliation and reform within their fractured political system are desperately needed in order to move cohesively in a new direction. Thus many Palestinians have started to re-examine the logic of their relationships with Israelis and criticize those Palestinians who have benefited immensely from it over the years while others around them have suffered.

When we consider the resurgence of anti-normalization, we must also remember that the post-Oslo period witnessed an explosion in normalization programs and projects between Israelis and Palestinians. Any organization, group or program that had “joint” or “co-existence” in reference to Israelis and Palestinians was instantly given credibility and financing on the world stage. Such programs became extremely lucrative and many people profited with little regard to the actual state of the conflict and its overall deterioration. Even prior to the breakout of the Second Intifada, but largely afterwards, normalization programs lost their relevance. We were no longer in the post-conflict transitional period we thought Oslo had ushered in, and things got worse, not better.

FEELING COMFORTABLE WITH OPPRESSION

It has become senseless for Israelis and Palestinians to act like nothing is wrong with the status quo and carry-on with such projects. Normalization may be fine for those bridging the gaps between people in India and Pakistan or Venezuela and Colombia—where the two sides are on equal footing—but not in Israel/Palestine where one side lives under the yoke and chain of the other. When we seek to normalize this relationship by giving each other equal standing and equal voice, we project an image of symmetry. Joint sports teams and theatre groups, hosting an Israeli orchestra in Ramallah or Nablus, all these things create a false sense of normality, like the issue is only a problem of recognizing each other as human beings. This, however, ignores the ongoing oppression, colonization, and denial of rights, committed by one side against the other.

Moreover, normalization creates a false sense in the mind of Israelis that they are working for peace, while in actuality, though maybe unwittingly, they are contributing to the calcification of the status quo. Their energy is misdirected away from root causes and channeled into making the current situation more tolerable—largely for themselves—by helping them to cope with wider injustices occurring in their name. Many Israelis who participate in normalization projects believe that they are detached, that they are not part of the problem, because they have some Palestinian friends or colleagues, even if they are doing nothing to rectify the actual injustices that have been committed by their society daily for over half a century. In the words of Israeli architectural theorist Eyal Weizman in his monumental work on the architecture of occupation, Hollow Land: “The history of the occupation is full of liberal ‘men of peace’ who are responsible for, or who at least sweeten, the injustice committed by the occupation. The occupation would not have been possible without them.”

Likewise, these normalization projects are put on display for all the world to see, so that they may all feel comfortable and say: look, the moderates are resolving the differences in a civilized manner. This is probably why the largest contributors to normalization projects are not Israelis and Palestinians themselves, but rather the international community. These programs work in much the same way as endless negotiations, offering a semblance of progress so that the world may deceive itself without having to take real action.

I do not discount the authenticity of Israelis who desire to see a just peace. Nor do I overlook the importance of meeting your enemy on a human level, of the power of these efforts in defusing tension, mistrust, and misunderstanding. But we can’t ignore the negative impact of normalization given the ongoing occupation and colonial enterprise. We must ask ourselves, what did all the normalizing get Palestinians after Oslo except for deterioration in their circumstance? For all the money pumped into these programs why are there no statistics or data showing they work? Why does no one think to question the effectiveness of normalization, including its proponents, in the case of Mr. Abu Sarah’s article? We can sit back and comfort each other that we are not fanatics or extremists, and that may be all well and good, but the fanatics are determining the reality on the ground while liberals and moderates provide a veneer of normality and progress.

The truth is when we “normalize” relations with Israel and Israelis without bearing to the political situation, we legitimize Israel despite its continued oppression of Palestinians and its colonial policies on Palestinian land. We must remember that the greatest boon in Israeli history came after the Oslo Accords were signed. Many countries around the world that had refused to have “normal” relations with Israel reversed their policies. This false peace opened Israel up to the wider international community, spurring unprecedented growth and trade. By reversing the normalization trend, we strip the conflict of many illusions and niceties in favor of exposing the raw truth.

Mr. Abu Sarah portrays anti-normalization like it is based purely on hate for the “other.” In order to do this he ignores the strongest arguments against normalization in exchange for obscure notions that take anti-normalization to the extreme; such as any instance in which a Palestinian and an Israeli come together constitutes normalization. In my own experience meeting people who are against normalization, I came to understand that Israelis are valued and encouraged to take part in the resistance movement to occupation. As long as an Israeli is working for Palestinian rights and the end to occupation, the cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians is perfectly legitimate and justified. This is the concept of “co-resistance” as opposed to “co-existence,” and should hardly be described as radical.

Yet, Mr. Abu Sarah’s article chooses to harp on these extreme cases at the expense of a serious argument over the topic. In what constituted an extensive blog post, there is little argument discussing why normalization activities are valid and beneficial; rather the entire piece is devoted to portraying anti-normalization as irrational. Some of his claims are true, such as those who use “normalization” as a character attack for dubious ends. But none of that still gets to the heart of the matter. I simply want to know, are we better off today because of normalization projects?

THE KIDS RETURN HOME

I wish to conclude this piece with an example of normalization from my own history. When I was fifteen years old, I was a participant in the Seeds of Peace program, which brings young teenagers from conflict zones together to a summer camp in the northeastern United States. Although originally set up for Israelis and Arabs, the program expanded over the years to include Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Indians and Pakistanis, and others. In each session there was also a delegation of American teenagers, of which I was a part. This was still prior to the breakdown of the Oslo Accords and the outbreak of the Second Intifada and most believed we were on the path to peace. Teenagers, who for the most part had never met someone from the other side before, would tell stories from their own experience in the hope of making their enemy understand them. Yet, I can still remember feeling at the time that the effort would be somehow wasted when these kids returned home because even I knew that, despite pretenses, there was no real peace on the ground. During my trips to the West Bank to visit my extended family, I would see and feel the military presence that continued to persist in the still-occupied territories. And in the “co-existence” sessions at Seeds of Peace, I would hear from those Palestinians what life still held for them.

The most poignant moment for me, however, was when a Palestinian teenager near the end of the program asked an Israeli teenager if he would still join the army and serve in the occupied territories, to which the answer was “yes”. To me, this said it all. What did this whole program mean if in a few years that Israeli teenager would be sitting at a checkpoint in the West Bank and shoving his M-16 in the face of a Palestinian while asking for his ID? Would it make him a more compassionate soldier serving in an inherently unjust system? When all the fun and games were over, we each returned to our respective societies and things stayed the same.

If these teenagers had returned to a cold peace, it may have been different. They could continue to work to establish more friendly relations between their respective peoples. But for Palestinians and Israelis, they live everyday in a system of imbalance and injustice where one side is oppressing the other through an engineered structure of superiority and subjugation. That is it. Normalization can try to make you forget that fact, but the next time a gun barrel is pointed in your direction, or a cousin is arrested and thrown in prison, or the home of a neighbor is bulldozed, or your relatives in Gaza fall under the bombs, you will be hard pressed to do so.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter
Occupation News

Gaza: The End of Tunnelnomics

Is Hamas’s lucrative underground trade about to come to a screeching halt? May 4, 2011

RAFAH, Egypt — “I recently lost one of my tunnels,” Abu Jawad told me nonchalantly. “An Israeli drone flew by, identifying its coordinates, and within minutes an IDF jet had dropped a precision-guided missile, destroying its exit.”

To Abu Jawad, a Palestinian tunnel entrepreneur and owner/operator of several tunnels, this was another workplace hazard. He cut an imposing figure at over 6 feet tall, with a glaring black moustache and a high-tech hunting vest worn over his traditional galabiyya, with several walk-talkies, pulley grips, and other bits of equipment stuffed in it. “I would fix it for about $10,000, but it’s not worth the re-investment as the Israelis already have its coordinates,” he concluded with a shrug. “I might just have to build another.”

My friend and I had set off from Cairo to the Egyptian-Israeli border hoping to cross into Gaza to report on the state of the border after the Egyptian revolution in January, and to show our solidarity with the Palestinian people. We were now receiving a crash course in Tunnelnomics — the unique capitalist math behind the smuggling tunnels connecting Egypt with Gaza.

Since Israel’s 2008 assault on Gaza, which it termed Operation Cast Lead, there has been a virtual blockade on the territory. Israel and former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s regime allowed only minimal humanitarian supplies into Gaza, and prohibited all other shipments. Israel controls the airspace, sea passageways, and all the land crossings into Gaza — except for the one at Rafah, which straddles the border.

Since the Egyptian revolution, tunnel owners have indicated that it is still “business as usual” along the border. However, there are indications that Egypt’s current rulers, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), are loosening the blockade on Gaza. Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil El Araby said in late April that the Rafah crossing would soon be open on a permanent basis, describing Egypt’s previous policy on Gaza as “shameful.”

But while Egypt sorts out its post-revolutionary politics, Gaza continues to suffer. A report by the World Food Program and the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that, since the 2008 offensive, more than 61 percent of Gazans now suffer from food insecurity and rely on humanitarian aid agencies to feed their families. “Restrictions imposed on the civilian population by the continuing blockade of the Gaza Strip amount to collective punishment, a violation of international humanitarian law,” the report argued.

Tunnels, or “lines” as they are known locally, are a profitable business in an otherwise economically impoverished area, both on the Egyptian and the Palestinian side of the border. In Gaza, the tunnels are the lifeline of both Hamas and the approximately 1.5 million people living there. They are used to smuggling supplies, cars, weapons, fuel — even livestock.

But the tunnels at Rafah are an equally precious asset for the impoverished residents on the Egyptian side of the border. The Bedouins who inhabit the Sinai Peninsula were furious that Mubarak, after reassuming control from Israel in 1982, continued to neglect the economic development of the region. Instead, the former president directed billions of dollars of investment toward seaside resorts such as Sharm El Sheikh, where he kept a chic modern seaside residence, while completely neglecting the less glamorous parts of Sinai. The Bedouins, therefore, see the tunnels as a golden opportunity to improve their livelihood in an otherwise economically stagnant area.

“What other opportunities do I have here?” asked Abu Mukhtar, an Egyptian tunnel part-owner. “Open a grocery? Work in a hotel in Sharm El Sheikh? Neither option will make much money. I can partner in a tunnel and make a decent living for myself and my family.”

Like any industry, there are start-ups and well-established businesses. According to Abdel Jawad, the cost of a tunnel can start at $15,000 for a four foot-high by three foot-wide tunnel used to smuggle cartons of cement (resembling more of a hole than a tunnel), and can reach up to $150,000 for a state-of-the art, 10 by 6-foot tunnel used to smuggle cars.

As Rafah is effectively one city divided between two sides, Palestinians and Egyptians enter into partnerships to build and operate the tunnels. Tunnels usually start under a house in Egypt, and end up in a house in Gaza. Each side is manned by an “operations manager” who is in close contact via cell phones and walkie-talkies with his counterpart on the other side. When a delivery comes through, it is either carried or pulled through tunnels with a pulley system. Some tunnels use ropes to lift the cargo up on the Palestinian side, while others even make use of electric elevators.

An entrepreneurial Egyptian or Palestinian can pocket a tidy profit from a tunnel.

A ton of cement can cost between $200 and $300. Cars assembled locally in Egypt, such as the Hyundai Elantra and Chevrolet Cruise, can cost around $2,000. More luxurious sedans like the Honda Accord — several of which we observed cruising around Rafah with no license plates, presumably destined for the tunnel trade — could cost more than $3,000.

The operation is a closely regulated industry, with Hamas appointing a “head of Tunnels Authority” to oversee the operation, maintain quality standards, levy taxes, and impose fines for “illegal” transport of goods and people, meaning transfers unauthorized by Hamas. According to Yezid Sayigh of King’s College London, Hamas earned an estimated $200 million from tunnel taxes in 2009.

The dangers are as great as the potential rewards. Smugglers risk tunnel collapses, Israeli strikes, as well Hamas’s wrath should they attempt to smuggle unauthorized and unregistered cargo. Nonetheless, considering the economic situation on both sides of the border, it is a risk many are willing to take. Material passes through during the night and day; I have witnessed trucks laden with construction materials, such as cement and iron bars, cross Egyptian Rafah’s central plaza only to appear later, empty, having discharged their cargo.

Non-Palestinians trying to get into Palestinian Rafah are vetted by Hamas, which charges a $100 fee to cross. To have our visit approved, we had to submit an email application to our contact in Gaza, who then presented it to the Tunnel Authority. It explained who we are, what we do, and why we were attempting to enter the strip. Our contact returned with a negative response: The authority refused our application out of fear of jeopardizing Hamas’s relations with Egypt’s new government.

Hamas is hoping that its improving ties with the new military government in Cairo will finally bring an end to the blockade on Gaza. High-ranking Hamas officials have been shuttling in for meetings with Egyptian authorities since the revolution, signifying an end to Mubarak’s hostility toward the group. These talks recently culminated signing of a reconciliation accord between Hamas and Fatah, the dominant party in the West Bank.

The shifting political terrain in Egypt may indeed convince the government to reopen the Rafah crossing. Egypt’s newly empowered Muslim Brotherhood is set to make major gains in upcoming future elections. The Brotherhood, which enjoys close historical ties to Hamas, has long championed the Palestinian cause and supports a full reopening of the border.

One potential motive for opening the border, then, may be to take away one of the Brotherhood’s campaign issues and gain popular support by reversing Mubarak’s detested policy on Gaza. El Araby’s announcements have been hailed in the media and have so far resonated very well with the Egyptian people. The prime minister, Essam Sharaf, also visited Sinai at the end of April to apologize publicly for years of neglect toward the region.

The moment may be approaching when Egypt opens the Rafah border unconditionally to cargo and people, thus bringing an end to the tunnel industry. The Bedouin, however, have been promised many things, only to see the government fail to deliver. “We have heard a lot of talk of this before. I will believe it when I see it,” Abu Mukhtar said. “If it happens, I will have to find another job.”

Until that day, tunnelnomics continues to rule in Rafah.

This article was written by Adel Abdel Ghafar, and first published on Foreign Policy on May 4, 2011.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter
Occupation News

PCHR Condemns Israeli Escalation of Attacks against Palestinian Fishermen in the Gaza Strip

Palestinian Center for Human Rights, October 27, 2011<

/strong>

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns the Israeli Navy’s escalation of attacks against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip that resulted in damages to fishing tools and equipment, detention of two fishermen and confiscation of their boat. Besides, the two fishermen were questioned, cruelly and degradingly treated and prevented from sailing and working freely. PCHR calls upon the international community to immediately put an end to these violations and exert pressure on the Israel to stop the policy of fighting civilians, including fishermen, in their livelihood.

According to investigations conducted by PCHR and testimonies of eyewitnesses, at approximately 03:30 on Thursday, 27 October 2011, Israeli warplanes targeted a “container”, which is used to store fishing equipment and tools. As a result, the container was completely destroyed and fishing nets and a water tank were burnt. The container belongs to Mohammed Mahmoud Abu Shammala, 56, from Khan Yunis. This attack took place when Israeli gunboats surrounded two fishermen on board of a boat, two nautical miles off Khan Yunis shore.  The Israeli naval troops opened fire at the boat and arrested Mosa Ibrahim Isma’il Abu Jayyab, 42, and Ahmed Omar Isma’il Taneera, 21, from Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, after forcing them to stop fishing, jump into the water and swim towards the Israeli gunboat. The Israeli troops confiscated the boat and fishing equipment and transported them to Ashdod Seaport in Israel, while the two fishermen have been detained so far.

The Israeli Navy has escalated attacks against the Palestinian fishermen in Gaza since the beginning of this year. These attacks have remarkably increased in terms of number and kind. Since the beginning of this year, PCHR has documented 67 attacks against fishermen, including 40 firing incidents, five of which resulted in wounding eight fishermen who were transferred to hospitals for treatment. Additionally, PCHR has documented five incidents of chasing fishermen that resulted in arresting 18 fishermen, and 14 incidents of confiscation of boats and / or damaging fishing equipment.

It should be noted that the Israeli Navy has imposed restrictions on fishermen at sea, including denying then the right to sail and fish since 2000. The Israeli Navy also minimized the area allowed for fishing in Gaza sea from 20 to 6 nautical miles in 2008; however, the Israeli naval troops keep preventing Palestinian fishermen from going beyond three nautical miles in Gaza sea since 2009, and sometimes chase them in this area as well. As a result, Palestinian fishermen are denied access to areas beyond the three miles, due to which they have lost 85% of their subsistence.

In light of the above, PCHR:

1- Condemns the recurrence of such attacks against the Palestinian fishermen, and believes that they are part of the escalation of collective punishment against civilians. Besides, they have been carried out in the context of fighting the civilians in their livelihood, which is prohibited under the international humanitarian law and international human rights law;

2- Calls upon the Israeli Navy to immediately release the detained fishermen and their boat, to stop the policy of chasing and arresting fishermen and to allow them to fish freely in Gaza sea;

3- Calls for reparations to the victims for the physical and material damages caused to fishermen and their property;

4- Calls upon the international community, including the United Nations agencies, to assume their legal and moral responsibility through an immediate and prompt intervention to stop all the Israeli violations, including the ongoing naval blockade and deprival of fishermen of over 85% of their livelihood by limiting the area allowed for fishing to three nautical miles.

This article was first published by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights on October 27, 2011.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter
Occupation News

UN official calls on Israel to end the blockade of Gaza

Middle East Monitor, October 26, 2011.

A senior United Nations official has called on the Israeli government to lift the siege that has been imposed on the Gaza Strip for five years. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe told a Security Council meeting on the Middle East and the Palestine Issue that the prisoner exchange agreement should lead to further steps towards ending the closure of Gaza, where a significant portion of the population are food insecure and dependent on humanitarian assistance.

“We reiterate our call on Israel for more far-reaching steps to ease its land closures and facilitate the entry of construction materials into Gaza, free movement of people in both directions and exports from Gaza, with due consideration for Israel’s legitimate security concerns,” he said.

“We have seen political will brought to resolve a humanitarian issue, and a readiness in that context to take difficult decisions.

We call for this same determination to be displayed regarding the most important issue – the quest for a lasting peace. The parties must rise to this challenge,” added Mr Pascoe, voicing the deep concern of the United Nations at the ongoing impasse between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

He said that the parties must refrain from provocations and should stand ready to offer serious proposals on borders and security for negotiation. “We urge them to approach their meetings with the Quartet envoys later this week in this spirit. Otherwise, the impasse will only deepen, and with it, the level of confrontation and the scale of the mistrust.”

This article was first published on Middle East Monitor on October 26, 2011.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter
News Occupation News

I wish to tell you about Gaza

The Palestine Chronicle, 24 October 2011

Gaza life exists in a cage, an open air prison that has been kept mostly isolated from the world. Its citrus trees have been uprooted. Flowers are no  longer exported. Nor are vegetables, fruit or olives, formerly a thriving  export business.

Since 2000, the Israeli army destroyed 114,000 olive trees. The rest were destroyed during the 2008-9 war, much of it uprooted from white phosphorous and other chemicals. Farming is now difficult and in some areas impossible.

Much of Gaza looks like a war zone, bullets holes visible on the sides of  buildings. Gaza is without proper sewage pumps, bombed as they are rebuilt.  Mediterranean waters are infested with raw sewage, while a 3 mile limit, closely watched by the Israeli navy collectively destroys a once flourishing fishing industry, the waters now stagnant from sewage and overfishing.

It is the grimmest of war stories, unimaginable horror where tunnels, miles of mazes function to alleviate the suffering as goods are brought in from Egypt. Dangerous the tunnels for they are regularly bombed by rockets and missiles. Many of the young brave men who work in the tunnels to bring needed goods to Gaza take a daily chance on their lives. Articles to sustain life come through the tunnels. Diesel oil and gasoline are pumped through the tunnels at 1/3 the prices the Israelis charge. In addition, building materials, cement, medicines, bandages, first aid, even cars and washing machines find their way into Gaza. Articles sent through Ashdot, Israel, often must wait months before they are inspected and often never arrive in Gaza.

Electricity remains scarce and backed up generators used in hospitals can turn on 12 times a day. They consistently break down often during surgery. Repair of generators and equipment in general is a difficult problem since replacements take months to arrive from countries that have donated the generators. The same is true of new imaging equipment that stand idle when often the smallest repair is needed. Once something breaks down, one must wait often more than a year for replacements which come from participating NGO countries who support the Palestinians. Sadly (as far as I can learn) the US no longer contributes and congress recently defeated the use of funds for NGO agricultural development.  This is a tragedy for the Palestinians in
Gaza who feeds its own population.

Many who are ill are unable to receive advanced treatments. 40% of
medications for necessary treatment are not available. Chemotherapy drugs do not exist for they are too expensive. Also missing are gloves, needles sutures, antibiotics and frequently the most basic necessities. Some wheelchairs are donated from participating countries. They are in working condition for the many young people who have had limbs blown off. I was told a wheelchair sent by Israel was not usable as many parts were missing. How can this be? Hospitals are bombed and rebuilt. Without the tunnels, there would be a total paralysis in rebuilding construction.

Only the sickest who need advanced treatments, the most vulnerable patients have been sent to Israeli hospitals. The trip is long and arduous with many checkpoints. Some cannot survive. Children must go unaccompanied for parents are not given permission to accompany and comfort. Now patients are more readily sent via Rafah to Cairo for treatment, also an arduous undertaking but preferable since border restrictions create more of a possibility to arrive at an Egyptian hospital for treatment.  It remains however still difficult and lengthy. I have seen the crowds wait for hours at the border to have their passports and documents approved, a tedious procedure even for
those who are physically well.

Al-Shifa Hospital (translates as “Healing” in Arabic) is the largest and main referral hospital in the Gaza Strip. It has 700 beds and sees 1200 patients a day. The effect of the Israeli Siege on Health has been nothing less than devastating. I am exceedingly impressed with the commitment of the Hospital staff workers who care for the sick and wounded with limited equipment. Palestinian men and women work side by side.

I am impressed by the beauty of the Palestinians and their drive towards dignity and freedom. I am impressed by the parents of their sick children who tend them with love and much tragedy etched on their faces. So much of what I saw and heard in Gaza has left a deep black hole in my consciousness for I am aware that the crimes committed by the Zionists of Israel and completely complicit with the US are one of the greatest crimes against a population that fails to be seen as human beings. Instead Palestinians are demonized, dehumanized in an attempt to obliterate their history, their dignity and their right to exist in safety and peace. From my perspective, this is nothing short of the final chapter of the Holocaust, a tragedy from which there is no forgiveness.

I will continue to write about the land of sad oranges, the land where citrus plants have been pulled out of the earth and trees have been exported to Israel for their profit. Everything is for profit and greed while human beings cease to be human.

I wish to tell you about the depleted uranium and white phosphorus found after the war, three weeks of endless bombings night and day. I have seen teachers in the “Save Our Children” project work with 2 eight year old boys who to this day are not able to speak after operation Cast Lead. Still to this day one finds the continued use of chemicals in the soil and in the bodies of the children who are born prematurely with cancer and disfigurement. Yes and 33 additional toxic chemicals that change with each round of bombings have been isolated. In case you do not know this, over 55% of the population of Gaza are under 18. I shudder to think of what the continuous brutalization of this young generation will lead to in the coming years. Still the Palestinians with the help of the NGO’s are trying to preserve the well being of the Palestinian children who are crowded in refugee camps and have the most beautiful faces.

There must be hope as the children come up to me with peace signs and we chant Viva Palestina together.

My work has just begun. I too must hang on to hope. The world must listen and resist.

Lillian Rosengarten, a refugee from Nazi Germany is a Buddhist practitioner, poet, writer and a pacifist. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact her at: truthpoem@gmail.com.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter
News Occupation News

UNRWA: Israel becoming ‘more efficient’ at displacing Palestinians

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israeli demolitions affected 990 Palestinians in the West Bank in September, showing that Israeli authorities “are becoming more efficient,” UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said.

The latest report from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees shows a dramatic rise in the number of people displaced or affected by Israeli demolitions. In July, the figure stood at 247.

“These figures show that the Israeli authorities are becoming more and more efficient in their demolitions, affecting and displacing ever growing numbers of Palestinians,” Gunness told Ma’an.

In September, Israeli bulldozers targeted water cisterns in the West Bank, affecting a greater number of people than the demolitions of homes.

The demolition of one water cistern in Khirbet Atuf affected 300 people, Gunness said.

The Diakonia resource center for international humanitarian law says Israel’s demolition of water cisterns in the West Bank has directly affected the lives of 13,602 Palestinians since 2009.

Israel’s civil administration routinely destroys Palestinian structures built without Israeli permission in the 62 percent of the West Bank designated Area C under the Oslo Accords.

“Systematic and widespread administrative destruction of a range of civilian structures in area C, including homes, schools and cisterns, has been taking place since the end of 1980s,” Diakonia said in its recent legal brief on West Bank demolitions.

The report highlights that the destruction of any civilian object during occupation is prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention “except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations” and even then, only if the structure is used solely by militants.

When structures such as water cisterns are destroyed, civilian populations are forced to leave the area. Diakonia notes that the forced transfer of a population is absolutely prohibited under international humanitarian law.

Gunness called for “an end to all practices and policies that lead to the forced displacement of Palestinians.

“With at least three thousand outstanding demolition orders in the rural parts of the West Bank, affecting tens of thousands of people, whole communities are living with the daily trauma and anxiety of losing their homes and livelihoods.”

 
* First published Tuesday 11/10/2011 Maan News Agency
Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter
News Occupation News

UN refugee agency marks 5 years of Gaza siege

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — “If the aim of the blockade policy was to weaken the Hamas administration, the public employment numbers suggest this has failed,” a UNRWA spokesman said Tuesday as the UN marks Gaza’s fifth year under intense Israeli siege.Commenting on a report released by the UN agency charged with providing care and services for the one million refugees living in the Gaza Strip, on the fifth anniversary of the siege, spokesman Chris Gunness added “it has certainly been highly successful in punishing some of the poorest of the poor in the Middle East region.”According to UNRWA, wages in Gaza fell 34.5 per cent since the first half of 2006, while unemployment reached 45.2 percent in the second half of 2010.

“These are disturbing trends,” Gunness said, “and the refugees, which make up two thirds of Gaza’s 1.5 million population were the worst hit in the period covered in this report. It is hard to understand the logic of a man-made policy which deliberately impoverishes so many and condemns hundreds of thousands of potentially productive people to a life of destitution.”

In June 2006, Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections. At the end of July that same year, militants in Gaza captured an Israeli soldier. In retaliation for the capture, and spurred by distrust for Hamas following its election win, Israeli forces entered the West Bank and abducted eight Hamas ministers and 21 party lawmakers from their homes and offices. Imports and exports into and out of Gaza were scaled down to a fraction of normal levels in an attempt to pressure the ruling party Hamas to return the soldier.

Hamas, negotiating on behalf of the factions which captured the soldier, are demanding the release of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in return for his release.

Israel tightened the siege, restricting access to coastal fishing waters in October 2006, reducing the fishing limit from 20 nautical miles down to six. Then following Israel’s offensive on Gaza in the winter of 2008-9, the fishing limit was reduced to three nautical miles, effectively quashing the industry.

Imports between 2006-2010 were restricted to a short list of goods, with reports suggesting calculations had been made to import only the minimum necessary food supplies to sustain the population. After an international aid flotilla sailed to Gaza in June 2010 and Israeli commandos shot and killed nine of the activists on board, world outcry against the siege prompted a slight easing, with more commercial goods permitted in.

Prohibitions on industrial goods and building materials remain, however, making reconstruction of the 6,000 homes destroyed during Israel’s winter offensive impossible without intervention from international agencies.

Israel says materials used in construction of homes could be used to manufacture weapons.

A massive tunnel import industry grew in the southern Gaza Strip after the blockade was imposed, allowing building materials, cars foodstuffs and weapons to be brought into Gaza. The goods are too expensive for most Palestinians in the Strip to afford.

Exports of goods and produce from Gaza have effectively been stopped, with only a few hundred loads of strawberries and carnations having been exported to Europe under a Dutch government program since the imposition of the siege.

During the past five years, UNRWA noted in its report, that the private sector had been hit particularly hard in comparison with the public sector. While private businesses were forced to cut nearly 8,000 jobs in the second half of 2010, the Hamas dominated public sector grew by nearly three percent over the same period.

“Our research indicates that since 2007, Hamas has been able to increase public employment by at least one-fifth,” said Gunness. “Even more striking, in what should have been a relatively good year for the Gaza private sector with the supposed easing of the blockade, the public sector generated 70% of all net job growth as between second-half 2009 and second-half 2010.”

UNRWA has stated that it will continue to operate in the health and education sectors in Gaza, with some 213,000 children currently attending UNRWA run schools. However, the report stated that since the start of the blockade, the number of people living on less than one dollar a day has tripled to nearly 300,000 since the blockade was imposed.

“With many reconstruction projects still awaiting approval, the future looks bleak” Gunness said.

 
* Frist published Tuesday 14/06/2011 (updated) 23/06/2011 20:11 Maan News Agency
Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter
Occupation News

After Gaza, Israel Grapples With Crisis of Isolation

The New York Times, March 18, 2009

JERUSALEM — Israel, whose founding idea was branded as racism by the United Nations General Assembly in 1975 and which faced an Arab boycott for decades, is no stranger to isolation. But in the weeks since its Gaza war, and as it prepares to inaugurate a hawkish right-wing government, it is facing its worst diplomatic crisis in two decades.

Examples abound. Its sports teams have met hostility and violent protests in Sweden, Spain and Turkey. Mauritania has closed Israel’s embassy.

Relations with Turkey, an important Muslim ally, have suffered severely. A group of top international judges and human rights investigators recently called for an inquiry into Israel’s actions in Gaza. “Israel Apartheid Week” drew participants in 54 cities around the world this month, twice the number of last year, according to its organizers. And even in the American Jewish community, albeit in its liberal wing, there is a chill.

The issue has not gone unnoticed here, but it has generated two distinct and somewhat contradictory reactions. On one hand, there is real concern. Global opinion surveys are being closely examined and the Foreign Ministry has been granted an extra $2 million to improve Israel’s image through cultural and information diplomacy.

“We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibits,” said Arye Mekel, the ministry’s deputy director general for cultural affairs. “This way you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”

But there is also a growing sense that outsiders do not understand Israel’s predicament, so criticism is dismissed.

“People here feel that no matter what you do you are going to be blamed for all the problems in the Middle East,” said Eytan Gilboa, a professor of politics and international communication at Bar Ilan University. “Even suicide bombings by Palestinians are seen as our fault for not establishing a Palestinian state.”

Of course, for Israel’s critics, including those who firmly support the existence of a Jewish state, the problem is not one of image but of policy. They point to four decades of occupation, the settling of half a million Israeli Jews on land captured in 1967, the economic strangling of Gaza for the past few years and the society’s growing indifference toward the creation of a Palestinian state as reasons Israel has lost favor abroad, and they say that no amount of image buffing will change that.

Israel’s use of enormous force in the Gaza war in January crystallized much of this criticism.

The issue of a Palestinian state is central to Israel’s reputation abroad, because so many governments and international organizations favor its establishment in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. And while the departing government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert negotiated for such a state, the incoming one of Benjamin Netanyahu says that item is not on its immediate agenda.

Javier Solana, foreign policy chief for the European Union, said in Brussels on Monday that the group would reconsider its relationship with Israel if it did not remain committed to establishing a Palestinian state.

Moreover, Mr. Netanyahu is expected to appoint Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, as his foreign minister. This alone has Israelis and their allies in Europe and the United States worried because of Mr. Lieberman’s views of Israeli Arabs that some have called racist.

Mr. Lieberman had campaigned on the need for a loyalty oath in Israel so that those who did not support a Jewish democratic state would lose their citizenship. One-fifth of Israeli citizens are Arabs, and many do not support defining the state as Jewish.

Mr. Lieberman also has few fans in Egypt, which has acted as an intermediary for Israel in several matters. Some months ago Mr. Lieberman complained that President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt had not agreed to come to Israel. “If he doesn’t want to, he can go to hell,” he added.

“Imagine that Hossein Mousavi wins the Iranian presidency this spring and he names Mohammad Khatami as his foreign minister,” said Meir Javedanfar, an Iran analyst in Israel, referring to two Iranian leaders widely viewed as in the pragmatist camp. “With Lieberman as foreign minister here, Israel will have a much harder time demonstrating to the world that Iran is the destabilizing factor in the region.”

Of course, all of this is being seen in the context of a new, Democratic administration in the United States that has announced a desire to press for a two-state solution. Secretary of StateHillary Rodham Clinton has already criticized Israeli plans to demolish Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, and her department has criticized Israel’s banning of certain goods from Gaza.

This represents a distinct shift in tone from the Bush era. An internal Israeli Foreign Ministry report during the Gaza war noted that compared with others in the United States, “liberals and Democrats show far less enthusiasm for Israel and its leadership.”

The gap between Israelis and many liberal American Jews could be seen Tuesday in a blog by Bradley Burston, who writes on the Web site of the left-leaning newspaper Haaretz. He said that while visiting Los Angeles he faced many questions that amounted to “What is wrong with these people, your friends, the Israelis?”

He quoted an article by Anne Roiphe, an American Jewish liberal, which said that witnessing the popularity of Mr. Lieberman in Israel made her feel “as if my spouse had cheated on me with Mussolini.”

She added: “We here in America are waiting as of this writing for a government to emerge in Jerusalem, and most of us keep on hoping that its shape will not preclude the peace process, will not doom a two-state solution, will not destroy the hope that our new president brings to the table.”

Mr. Burston pointed to the thousands of rockets fired from Gaza into Sderot and other Israeli cities and towns and titled his piece “The Racist Israeli Fascist in Me.”

Some Israeli officials say they believe that what the country needs is to “rebrand” itself. They say Israel spends far too much time defending actions against its enemies. By doing so, they say, the narrative is always about conflict.

“When we show Sderot, others also see Gaza,” said Ido Aharoni, manager of a rebranding team at the Foreign Ministry. “Everything is twinned when seen through the conflict. The country needs to position itself as an attractive personality, to make outsiders see it in all its reality. Instead, we are focusing on crisis management. And that is never going to get us where we need to go over the long term.”

Mr. Gilboa, the political scientist, said branding was not enough.

“We need to do much more to educate the world about our situation,” he said. Regarding the extra $2 million budgeted for this, he said: “We need 50 million. We need 100 million.”

This article was first published in the New York Times on March 19, 2009.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter
Occupation News

Red Cross: Israel’s Gaza Blockade Breaks International Law

Voices of America, June 14, 2010

The International Committee of the Red Cross says Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip breaks international law.

The humanitarian agency said Monday that the blockade violates the Geneva Convention, which bans “collective punishment” of a civilian population. The ICRC called on Israel to lift the blockage.

In another development, Middle East envoy Tony Blair meets with European Union foreign ministers Monday. The former British prime minister says he hopes to see movement in the next few days on easing

the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Cabinet is voting Monday on a proposal to set up what it calls an “independent public commission” to examine last month’s raid on a convoy of Gaza-bound aid ships.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that former Israeli Supreme Court Judge Yaakov Turkel will head a panel to look into events surrounding the takeover of the flotilla on May 31, when Israeli commandos killed nine pro-Palestinian activists.

Israel had previously rejected a U.N. proposal for an international panel.

But in his announcement Sunday, Mr. Netanyahu agreed to include two high-ranking foreign observers in its own inquiry.

The panel’s two international participants, Irish Nobel Peace Prize winner David Trimble, and Canada’s former chief military prosecutor, retired Brigadier General Ken Watkin, will not have voting power.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported Sunday that Mr. Netanyahu’s government is in talks with officials from the U.S. and several European governments to ensure broad support for the committee’s mandate and membership.

The United States welcomed Israel’s announcement that it will conduct its own investigation of the flotilla raid, calling it “an important step forward.”

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Sunday that Israel’s panel is capable of conducting a “prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation” into the incident.

This article was first published by the Voices of America on June 14, 2010.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter