Tag Archives: Israel

Gaza's Ark News News

Rachel Corrie’s humanity lives on in Gaza’s Ark

* Article by Michael Coleman, aka one half of the kayaktivists, edited by Greta Berlin and James Godfrey and first published on Green Left Weekly on Thursday, August 30, 2012http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/52095

Rachel Corrie, 2002

Rachel Corrie was born on 10 April 1979, and raised in Olympia, Washington, USA. She was the youngest of Craig and Cindy Corrie’s three children. Cindy describes their family as “average Americans, politically liberal, economically conservative, middle class”. However, even as a young girl, Rachel’s commitment to human rights was clear, when in grade five she stood in front of an auditorium full of adults and talked passionately about her dreams for the future, giving her now famous “I’m here because I care” speech.

After graduating from college at 23, Rachel’s commitment to human rights took her to the Palestinian enclave called Gaza, to a small city called Rafah  – about as far from Olympia as humanly possible. In Palestine, Rachel volunteered with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), bearing witness to Israel’s daily violations of international law against the 1.4 million people who lived there.

Rachel’s main purpose in Rafah was to try and prevent the Israeli Occupation Force [IOF], from demolishing Palestinian houses along the border with Egypt to create a “security” zone. At the time, the Israeli military had demolished 1,700 homes in Rafah, an action human rights groups claimed was collective punishment. On 16 March 2003, Rachel Corrie died trying to protect a Palestinian home from demolition, when she was crushed by an IOF bulldozer.

Rachel Corrie faces down a bulldozer in Gaza

Shortly before her death, Rachel said that “I feel like I’m witnessing the systematic destruction of a people’s ability to survive”. Unfortunately since 2003 the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip has only deteriorated, and the collective punishment now targets the entire population of the Strip. All of Gaza’s now 1.6 million residents, the majority of whom are children, have been under an Israeli blockade since 2007 ‘officially‘. However the restrictions on the movement of the population of Gaza began as far back as 1991 – when Gaza was first cut off from Israel and the West Bank. The blockade is clearly an act of collective punishment, something the International Committee of the Red Cross has pointed out, stating that “the whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility.”

The effects of the blockade are well documented. During the past five years when the blockade has been in full effect, the United Nations and the World Health Organisation have reported that the Israeli Military has killed or injured over 10,000 Palestinians residents. 70% of the population is now reliant on aid organisations for their basic human needs such as food, shelter or medical care. 90% of Gaza’s water is now undrinkable; due to a sanitation system that was rendered inoperable by the IOF during Operation Cast Lead. Gaza’s hospitals have faced constant chronic shortages of drugs and equipment for years, while fuel shortages cause power cuts of up to 18 hours a day.

Last Tuesday, the Corrie family’s decade long struggle for justice for Rachel was dealt a blow when the Haifa District Court ruled that her death was an accident, for which she was responsible. Despite the judge’s decision perpetuating the myth that her death was a tragic accident, the case shed light on Israel’s breaches of human rights and the impunity enjoyed by its military.

However people of conscience around the world have not been deterred by Israel’s murder of Rachel Corrie or the many murders that preceded and followed it. In fact as it has becomes blatantly clear that the only route to a free Palestine is through civil society initiatives like the ISM, the Free Gaza movement, the flotillas, flytillas and other global civilian projects, the numbers of people around the world standing in solidarity with the Palestinians, both in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, has only increased.

The latest creative strategy for challenging Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza is Gaza’s Ark. Gaza’s Ark will not only challenge the blockade physically – it will also build hope on the ground in Gaza by providing investment, training and employment. Gaza’s Ark will also promote Palestinian trade with the outside world through the only port on the Mediterranean that is closed to shipping. Indeed, as James Godfrey of Free Gaza Australia stated: “Gaza’s Ark affirms our belief that the Palestinians of Gaza can rebuild their economy through outbound trade that threatens no-one’s security.”

The legacy and spirit of Rachel’s humanity lives on in projects like Gaza’s Ark and always remember as Cindy Corrie stated following the verdict: “I don’t think that Rachel should have moved. I think we should all have been standing there with her”. The Corrie’s are a truly inspirational family who have both my condolences and gratitude.

Corrie Family awaiting the verdict
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
Flotilla News

Lee Rhiannon: Call for govt action on Australian detained in Israel

7 November 2011

Call for govt action on Australian detained in Israel

Greens NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon has called on the Israeli government to immediately release Michael Coleman, an Australian member of the Freedom Waves to Gaza Flotilla, who has been arrested by the Israeli Defence Force.

“I have also asked the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to work hard to ensure Mr Coleman is safe and is released without delay,” Senator Rhiannon said.

“It is the Israeli Defence Forces that have acted illegally as the boat Mr Coleman and other Freedom Waves participants were on was in international waters when intercepted.

“University of Western Ontario Professor David Heap has reported that he and Mr Coleman were transported to prison in handcuffs and leg shackles. I understand Professor Heap was tasered.

“I know Mr Coleman and congratulate him for his work in highlighting the destructive Israeli blockade of Gaza.

“I have spoken to Mr Coleman’s father who told me he is pleased with the contact he has had with DFAT but does request that every effort is made to have his son released immediately as he has done nothing wrong.

“Mr Coleman and his colleagues are to be commended for their efforts to deliver $30,000 worth of medical aid to Gaza,” Senator Rhiannon said.

“The United Nations Human Rights Council Inquiry Report of September 2010 found that the Israeli blockade of Gaza is illegal. It is time to end it once and for all,” Senator Rhiannon said.

Contact: 0487 350 880 // lee-rhiannon.greensmps.org.au/

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
Flotilla News

Request for Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd to support Australian delegate and condemn Israel’s threats

We emailed this letter to Australia’s Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd on Thursday 3 November:

Dear Mr Rudd

We are writing to ask that you to make direct and immediate representation to Israeli authorities on behalf of the Australian government supporting Australian citizen and Sydney-based youth worker, Michael Coleman who is currently on board the the vessel Tahrir in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Tahrir is headed toward Gaza as part of the Freedom Waves to Gaza flotilla initiative which seeks to challenge the blockade of Gaza and highlight the plight of the Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation in the region. There are 12 people in total travelling on the Tahrir. Also part of the Freedom Waves to Gaza initiative is a second boat, the MV Saoirse.

We also call on you as Foreign Minister to denounce Israel for its intention to “take any necessary action” to prevent the Tahrir and Saoirse from reaching their intended destination. The participants of this flotilla are unarmed peaceful activists and journalists.

We ask that you urge the Israeli government and military to desist from intervening, boarding or towing the boats to Israel, or redirecting the boats to any other location away from Gaza. We ask that you insist Israel does not board the vessels and does not use force or violence against any of the unarmed peaceful activists or journalists on board these vessels, and that they not be detained or interrogated by Israeli authorities.

We note that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has indicated it will provide consular support to our Australian delegate if necessary.

DFAT has however noted that it “strongly advises against travelling by sea to the coast of the Gaza Strip”.

Noting Australia’s recent decision at the United Nations to vote against admission of Palestine to UNESCO, we ask that the Australian Government use this opportunity to take a stand on the key issue of justice for Palestinians. We call on the Australian Government to condemn Israel’s ongoing illegal blockade of Gaza and the consequent collective punishment of the 1.5 million Palestinians who live in the region.

We appreciate your consideration and anticipate your prompt response to our concerns.

You can get in contact with Kevin Rudd too:
Email: kevin.rudd@dfat.gov.au
Phone: (02) 6277 7500
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/KRuddMP

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
Flotilla News

DFAT legitimises Israeli blockade of Gaza by urging against participation in Flotilla

This just in from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade:

We refer to your email of 3 November that raises issues about Mr Michael Coleman’s presence on a vessel that is currently sailing to Gaza.

The travel advice for Israel, Gaza Strip and the West Bank strongly advises against travelling by sea to the coast of the Gaza Strip in breach of Israeli naval restrictions or participating in any attempt to break the naval blockade.

Further information is available in our travel bulletin on “Flotillas to Gaza” at the following link:

http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/TravelBulletins/Flotillas_to_Gaza

DFAT is committed to providing a high level of consular service to all
Australians in difficulty overseas, in accordance with the consular
charter. This consular support has been provided to Australians
participating in flotillas in the past, and would again be offered to Mr Coleman if necessary.

In the event he is detained by Israeli authorities, the Government of
Israel is well aware of Australia’s expectation that we would be granted early access to him to offer consular assistance.

You can contact DFAT and request they make direct representation to the Israeli authorities urging Israel

to not intervene in the peaceful Freedom Waves to Gaza flotilla. Israel has indicated it intends to stop the boats reaching Gaza.

DFAT Telephone: 1300 555 135 (select option 6)
DFAT NSW Email: dfat.nsw@dfat.gov.au

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
Flotilla News News

UN independent panel rules Israel blockade of Gaza illegal

Report to UN Human Rights Council by five independent UN rights experts contradicts findings of Palmer Report that Israel used ‘unreasonable force’ in 2010 raid on Gaza flotilla, but that naval-blockade of Gaza legal.

Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip violates international law, a panel of human rights experts reporting to a UN body said on Tuesday, disputing a conclusion reached by a separate UN probe into Israel’s r aid on a Gaza-bound

aid ship.

The so-called Palmer Report on the Israeli raid of May 2010 that killed nine Turkish activists said earlier this month that Israel had used unreasonable force in last year’s raid, but its naval blockade of the Hamas-ruled strip was legal.

A panel of five independent UN rights experts reporting to the UN Human Rights Council rejected that conclusion, saying the blockade had subjected Gazans to collective punishment in “flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law.”

The four-year blockade deprived 1.6 million Palestinians living in the enclave of fundamental rights, they said.

“In pronouncing itself on the legality of the naval blockade, the Palmer Report does not recognize the naval blockade as an integral part of Israel’s closure policy towards Gaza which has a disproportionate impact on the human rights of civilians,” they said in a joint statement.

An earlier fact-finding mission named by the same UN forum to investigate the flotilla incident also found in a report last September that the blockade violated international law. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says the blockade violates the Geneva Conventions.

Israel says its Gaza blockade is a precaution against arms reaching Hamas and other Palestinian guerrillas by sea.

The four-man panel headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer found Israel had used unreasonable force in dealing with what it called “organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers.”

Turkey has downgraded ties with Israel over the incident.

Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and one of the five experts who issued Tuesday’s statement, said the Palmer report’s conclusions were influenced by a desire to salve Turkish-Israeli ties.

“The Palmer report was aimed at political reconciliation between Israel and Turkey. It is unfortunate that in the report politics should trump the law,” he said in the statement.
About one-third of Gaza’s arable land and 85 percent of its fishing waters are totally or partially inaccessible due to Israeli military measures, said Olivier De Schutter, UN special rapporteur on the right to food, another of the five.

At least two-thirds of Gazan households lack secure access to food, he said. “People are forced to make unacceptable trade-offs, often having to choose between food or medicine or water for their families.”

The other three experts were the UN special rapporteurs on physical and mental health, extreme poverty and human rights, and access to water and sanitation.

* First published 20:28 13.09.11 By Reuters

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