Newsletter 30 Nov 2008
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Israelis and Palestinians: two peoples, one future
The reading here confines itself to only two topics in order to highlight their importance:
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.
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’:
* 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
* 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
b) Gaza Update from ISM volunteer Donna – some extracts from a message of 21 November:
c) ‘The Gaza Strip: Drifting into Deeper Darkness under the Silent Gaze of the International Community’.
d) Chronic malnutrition in Gaza blamed on Israel
‘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…’
e) From: Sonia Robbins
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:
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
h) Severe bread shortage in Gaza
i) A note of optimism
j) “A Plea for Funds for Legal Support Work” – from the International Solidarity Movement and the Free Gaza Movement
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 email@example.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.
a) Who are the Shministim?
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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…”
d) Read the interview with Omer Goldman (daughter of a deputy head of Mossad!)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
* 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.’