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15 Dec: Chanukah: Celebrating the miracle of holy oil not military power

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29 November: JfJfP, with many others, signs a "UK must protest at Bedouin expulsion" letter

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2nd June: A light unto nations? - a leaflet for distribution at the "Closer to Israel" rally in London

24 Jan: Letter re the 1923 San Remo convention

18 Jan: In Support of Bab al-Shams

17 Jan: Letter to Camden New Journal about Veolia

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Posts

Newsletter 30 Nov 2008

large-newsletter-headalt

3 0 / N o v e m b e r / 2 0 0 8

Israelis and Palestinians: two peoples, one future

The reading here confines itself to only two topics in order to highlight their importance:
the ongoing deterioration of the situation in Gaza; and
the resistance of school-leavers to recruitment into an army of occupation.
Other reports on the situation in Israel and the West Bank are being held over for the next mailing.

It is astonishing how easily people becoming inured to suffering when it becomes an everyday reality. Such is the case with Gaza. We give some extracts from statements made in recent years and a series of analytical and anecdotal updates on the reality of life in Gaza today.

We first reported the new wave of Shministim Refuseniks in our mailing of 31 August. Their resistance continues unabated despite increasing state repression. An update, coverage of the Jewish Voice for Peace campaign of solidarity in the US, and of how to support them is included here.

1. Gaza – the crisis deepens

Since we first took up the issue of Gaza publicly in 2004 things have got steadily worse. Here are some extracts of what has been said:

* In June 2004 the newly-formed British Shalom-Salaam Trust launched an ‘Urgent Rafah Appeal’:
‘For the world at large the tragedy in Rafah is already sliding off the front pages. But as Chris McGreal’s devastating interviews (Guardian 4 June) underlined, the nightmare has only just begun for the thousands of Palestinians whose homes have been bulldozed around them. They have nowhere to live, no work, often no possessions other than the clothes they were wearing at the time. For women – whose homes were their lives – the trauma of losing everything, but somehow having to hold their families together, is unimaginable…’

* A month later JfJfP organised a letter to the Board of Deputies of British Jews and signed by 347 Jews from Britain, including Israeli citizens living in the UK: ‘An Israeli withdrawal from Gaza would be a welcome start to Israel meeting its international obligations; but such a withdrawal must be on terms that allow the people of Gaza the chance of constructing a life of peace with dignity. The only lasting solution will be a negotiated one.’

* In July 2006 we organised an advert in the Times with 300 signatories: ‘We watch with horror the collective punishment of the people of Gaza. Everything reasonable must be done to secure Corporal Gilad Shalit’s safe release but nothing Israel is doing contributes to that aim. Instead, it is using its enormously superior military might to terrorise an entire people.

Destruction of the fragile Gaza infrastructure will not release Shalit. Bombing power stations and cutting off fuel supplies deprives people of electricity, refrigeration, pumped drinking water and sewage disposal services. It holds hostage hospital patients on life support systems, or undergoing dialysis. It brings the threat of epidemics and starvation…’

* And a couple of months (6th September 2006) later we posted a statement saying that: ‘The invasion of Lebanon has hidden the invasion of Gaza. The Israeli Army is reducing the buildings to rubble, the population to homelessness and penury. There is hardly any water or power, few supplies of food or clothing. Crossings – nominally EU controlled – are closed by Israel. Where fishing was restricted before, now it is banned altogether…’

* A year later we published an Open Letter to David Miliband in The Times with 318 signatories
‘In your address to the UN today, we urge you to oppose Israel’s sanctions against the people of Gaza. Amnesty International, Israeli organisations and distinguished Israeli writers have all condemned this move, announced on September 19th, to extend sanctions. As British Jews and voters, we call on the UK government to stand against this collective punishment, a direct violation of international law. The Israeli Deputy Prime Minister described the proposal as cutting off ‘infrastructural oxygen’. In fact, the threat is to the real water and real electricity supplies to the entrapped population of Gaza. Euphemisms cannot disguise the genuine danger to health and lives…

* Our Pesach advert (18th April 2008) with 400 signatories included the following: ‘As we tell this story of our liberation, the people of Gaza remain locked in an open-air prison, enduring severe deprivation of food, electricity, medical treatment and supplies. This collective punishment is illegal under international law and intensifies week by week.’ The blockade of Gaza will simply perpetuate the vicious cycle of terror rooted in the long Israeli occupation and settlement of Palestinian land. It can only serve to distort values in Israeli society and breed yet more hatred.’

This mailing presents a number of recent accounts of the reality of life in Gaza. Nothing in them is new…

a) The slow death of Gaza
“The collective punishment of Gaza’s civilian population is illegal. But international law was tossed aside long ago”Andrea Becker, Head of advocacy for Medical Aid for Palestinians, writes in Comment is Free, Monday November 24 2008

b) Gaza Update from ISM volunteer Donna – some extracts from a message of 21 November:
Please stress in the press conference the desperate situation here in Gaza Strip:
* the last shipment of fuel was 420,0000 liters was not even enough to power the Gaza Power Plant for one day
* electricity is off in many places at least 12 hours a day and in some places 20 hours a day
* some areas are without running water 12 hours a day
* the last flour mill closed on Thursday 20th November, they ran out of wheat to mill, this will impact the bakeries which make the various types of bread. There were 72 bakeries in Gaza Strip and many of them had already closed, it could be they are now all closed.
* director of emergency ambulances said that 300 kinds of medicines are lacking here
* 18 Palestinians have been killed by invading Israeli occupation force soldiers in the past 3 weeks, the last one was yesterday, 20th November
* farmers living along the “Buffer Zone” can’t farm, they are shot at by the Israeli occupation force soldiers when they go to their farms. Some of them haven’t been able to farm for 5 – 15 years…
* fishermen can’t fish – they are limited to a 6 mile limit – which has already been over fished. Every day the fishermen are shot at by the Israeli occupation force navy. I have witnessed it every time I go out with the fishermen…
* 500 students with scholarships can’t get out to their universities, they are losing their scholarships
* 3000 students who have been accepted to universities can’t get out and are losing their ability to go study abroad
* education is a human right – Israel does not have the right to deny education
* access to food is a human right – Israel does not have the right to deny food, or water or medicine, etc. Something MUST be done to stop these crimes, these War Crimes against an entire population of 1.5 million Palestinians

c) ‘The Gaza Strip: Drifting into Deeper Darkness under the Silent Gaze of the International Community’.
Al-Haq Alert, 20 November 2008
‘As an organisation dedicated to the protection and promotion of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), Al-Haq is compelled to yet again raise a voice that has been consistently and wilfully ignored by the international community over the last three years…
Full text

d) Chronic malnutrition in Gaza blamed on Israel
Donald Macintyre in the Independent, 15 November 2008, reveals the contents of an explosive report by the Red Cross on a humanitarian tragedy.

‘The Israeli blockade of Gaza has led to a steady rise in chronic malnutrition among the 1.5 million people living in the strip, according to a leaked report from the Red Cross…’

Full report

e) From: Sonia Robbins
Sent: 24 November 2008 06:43
Subject: Fwd: International humanitarian and development agencies demand unimpeded humanitarian access to the Gaza Strip
most aid workers and other medical such as myself have now been denied entry for 2 -3 weeks. i have 60 patients at least waiting in one hospital and post-op patients not being reviewed. we are told – ‘only humanitarian, yes we know you have permission, but not today…the situation is severe’. no information on what that means… also an unprecedented refusal to allow press entry…


f) This is Gaza By Amira Hass (Ha’aretz, 27 November)

“This is Gaza in November 2008. Just as Gaza is the emptying of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency storehouses and the farmers who sowed and watered, but cannot market, their tomatoes, guavas and strawberries out of the Gaza Strip because Israel forbids it, it is also the calmness with which people receive the sudden darkness and the jokes that there is not much food in the refrigerator to spoil anyway…”
Full article

g) Eyad Sarraj, head of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, denied the right to attend a conference in Amman, writes to his friend Jessica on 20 November:
How much did I want to travel to see you and all the dear friends, to see the world and to breathe some fresh air, to reassure my senses that there are some normal things and normal people out there. How much painful it was to realize time and time again that I am not and we, people of Gaza, are not allowed to feel normal or think normal. Our right to our land, to freedom and to justice were systematically raped. Now they are after our sanity. The aim is to destroy what has remained — our identity. It is our identity that is so threatening: our humanity, our attachment to the family and the holly Jerusalem, to falafel and the music of Fairuz and women weaving traditional dresses. I was three months waiting for a medical permit or a travel permit. All attempts failed until Uri Hadar intervened and won for me a one-day permit to see my doctor in Tel Aviv and travel immediately to Amman to join you and the Cyprus group. The journey started at six in the morning. so at eight I was waiting at the Palestinian side of Beit Hanoon, “Eretz”. No computers are allowed, no electronics, no flash discs, no cameras, no radios. They speak through loudspeakers and look down at you through cameras.

Open your case, they shout in stupid Arabic. When the woman in front of me in the queue – we were five patients – questioned an order, she was ordered to take all the items in her suitcase out. In front of the camera she had to show all of her underwear, one by one. I was fuming, “Are we in a strip show?” I was punished by having to wait for three hours and to be checked by the x-ray machine three times. They knew it was harmful to my medical condition because I told them so. They are horrible. I am sure the woman was thinking how to get revenge. I hope she will not turn to suicide bombing because that is exactly what they wanted – they want us to lose our humanity and sanity, by turning us into death machines. The first human I saw was a Rambo with dark glasses and a grin carrying a huge machine gun across his massive body. He must feel the power of his muscles and his gun and the weakness of me with my frail body and obedience to his orders. But I could not escape the question, ” Who is frightened?” because I was not. I was angry but not afraid. When I crossed to the Israeli side of the border, I saw the BBC correspondents and few journalists waiting to cross into Gaza. They were not allowed for the eighth day running. On the same day twenty European diplomats were barred from coming into Gaza. On the same day Israel decided to cut the fuel supply to Gaza’s sole generator and to close the borders to UN food. On the same day the Israeli army kills four Palestinians in Gaza, while stressing their adherence to the truce. On the way back after a long round-trip journey I decided to buy some little plants with flowers to bring home. The soldier shouted at me, “Flowers are not allowed”.

Eyad El-Sarraj, 20 November 2008
www.gcmhp.net

h) Severe bread shortage in Gaza
According to B’selem: “Since 5 November, Israel has sharply reduced the entry of supplies into the Gaza Strip. The action, carried out in response to rocket fire into Israel, constitutes collective punishment, which is forbidden and aggravates the already harsh humanitarian situation in Gaza.”
Full report

i) A note of optimism
Gideon Spiro gives a long (c. 7,500 word) and moving account of his trip on the second boat to Gaza

j) “A Plea for Funds for Legal Support Work” – from the International Solidarity Movement and the Free Gaza Movement
On Tuesday 18th November, the Israeli Navy forcibly abducted 15 unarmed Palestinian fishermen and three International Human Rights Observers from the waters 7 miles off the Gaza coast. Although the fishermen were well within their rights to fish in their own waters, the Israeli Navy boarded and confiscated their boats, and illegally detained all of the civilians in Israel.

Under tremendous pressure, the Israeli government, released the 15 fishermen but are so far refusing to return the most precious possessions these men own – their boats.

The three Human Rights Observers, Andrew Muncie of Scotland, Darlene Wallach of the U.S., and Vik Arrigoni of Italy are currently in prison awaiting court dates. They are challenging their illegal detention and insisting that Israel release them back to Gaza.

The International Solidarity Movement and the Free Gaza Movement are asking for funds to help pay our attorneys;

1. To get the boats released from Israel’s grasp, or for them to pursue compensation to the fishermen for their loss; 2. To represent the three internationals in court; 3. For representation of the fishermen.

If you can help provide funds for these vital causes please consider these options for donation:

1. Donating via PayPal on the ISM website (http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/)

2. Transferring money directly into the ISM Palestine bank account;

ARAB BANK P.L.C RAMALLAH AL_BALAD BR PALESTINE SWIFT CODE; ARABPS22090 ACCOUNT #673589

When making a donation for these attorney fees please email palreports@gmail.com with the amount being donated and confirmation that the donation is for this purpose.

We will make sure this money goes directly to the attorneys representing the Palestinian fishermen and the internationals.

In Solidarity.

2. The Shministim

a) Who are the Shministim?
Shministim means “twelfth-graders” in Hebrew. Military service is mandatory after high school for young Jewish Israelis. The Shministim are Israeli youth who refuse to serve in the army because it enforces Israel’s 40-year occupation of the Palestinians.

Around a hundred young Israeli school-leavers have now signed a letter of refusal. It begins: “We, Israeli youth who have just graduated from high school, declare that we will work against the policy of occupation and oppression of the Israeli government in the occupied territories and in the area of the state of Israel, and will therefore refuse to take part in these actions, which are conducted in our name as part of the Israeli military. Our refusal to serve in the military comes first and foremost in protest of Israel’s state policy of separation, control, oppression and killing in the occupied territories, from an understanding that oppression, killing and the sowing of hatred cannot bring peace to the world, and which stand in contrast to the fundamental values of a society that purports to be democratic…”

The full letter can be downloaded at http://december18th.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/shministimletter.pdf

b) Jewish Voice for Peace in the US has established a website in their support.

c) Some of the Shministim are being sent to gaol.

Yuval Oron-Ofir, 19 “I believe that a person should take responsibility and feel reconciled to the way he chooses. This is why I shall not join an army behind whose actions I cannot stand and whose behavior I cannot justify.”
Sentence: 24th Nov. – 7th Dec. 2008 (14 days)

Raz Bar-David Varon, 18 “I wasn’t born to serve as a soldier who occupies another, and the struggle against the occupation is mine too… My responsibility is to refuse.
First Sentence: 3rd – 21st Nov. 2008 (18 days) Second Sentence: 24th Nov. – 30th Nov. 2008 (currently in prison)

Omer Goldman,19 “I believe in service to the society I am part of, and that is precisely why I refuse to take part in the war crimes committed by my country.”
First Sentence: 22nd Sept. – 10th Oct. 2008 (18 days) Second Sentence: 12th – 24th Oct. 2008 (10 days)

Sahar Vardi, 18 “I realize that the soldier at the checkpoint is not responsible for the wretched policy of the oppressor towards civilians, I am unable to relieve that soldier of responsibility for his conduct … I mean the human responsibility of not causing another human being to suffer.”
First Sentence: 25th – 31st Aug. 2008 (6 days) Second Sentence: 12th – 30th Oct. (18 days) Third Sentence: 3rd – 21st Nov. 2008 (18 days)

Mia Tamarin, 19 “I cannot become part of an organization the purpose of which is to fend off violence by violence, because it stands unequivocally contrary to everything I believe in and to my whole life…”
First Sentence: 28th Sept. – 10th Oct. 2008 (12 days) Second Sentence: 12th – 24th Oct. 2008 (12 days) Third Sentence: 5th – 23rd Nov 2008 (18 days)

d) Read the interview with Omer Goldman (daughter of a deputy head of Mossad!)
In the Financial Times of 22nd November here.

e) You can also support the Shministim by:

* joining their Facebook group. Invite your friends too and help spread the message.

* writing to them directly to support them in their refusal at shministim@gmail.com.

* supporting New Profile, an Israeli feminist anti-militarism group which provides support to the Shministim and other conscientious objectors. New Profile has come under serious attack from the Israeli government for its work on behalf of refusers.

* protesting to the Israeli Minister of Defence. Here is a proposed letter which you can send direct from the solidarity website:

‘I support the Shministim and their right to peacefully object to military service. I call for the release of those teenagers who have been jailed for their principled refusal to serve in an army which occupies the Palestinian Territories. The imprisonment of these conscientious objectors is a violation of their human rights and contrary to International Law. I am inspired by these caring students and their counterparts in Palestine, whose nonviolent resistance to the Occupation points the way to a just peace and security for all people in the region. They are our best hope for the future. I urge you to heed them, and not punish them.’

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