Newsletter 19 Nov 2008
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Israelis and Palestinians: two peoples, one future
Hamas has indicated – again – that it is willing to accept Palestinian state with 1967 borders
The humanitarian crisis in Gaza deepens as Israel turns the screws
Interpal, a charity ‘helping Palestinians in need’ has been deprived of its banking facilities by Lloyds TSB.
Architects and Planner for Justice in Palestine have added their voice of protest against the proposed Museum of Tolerance, to be built over a Muslim heritage cemetery of great historical importance in the centre of Jerusalem.
The last JfJfP Newsletter reported on concerns about the appointment of Rahm Emanuel as Obama’s Chief of Staff. Here are some rather more optimistic accounts of possible futures; and an analysis of Jewish opinion in the US which is far more progressive than the self-appointed guardians of Jewish interests there.
The UK is maintaining a surprisingly robust attitude towards mislabeling of goods from Israel and the Occupied Territories as a UK ‘non-paper’ shows. Plus a report of the meeting at the Amos Trust with Charles Shamas from to discuss the campaign against settlement products
But meanwhile the expulsion of Palestinians continues in East Jerusalem
We start with this story from Amira Hass simply because it appears to have been reported nowhere in the mainstream media.
On 9th November Ha’aretz carried an article by Hass which said:
‘The Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, said on Saturday his government was willing to accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.
The Hamas leader spoke at a meeting with 11 European parliamentarians who sailed from Cyprus to the Gaza Strip to protest Israel’s naval blockade of the territory. Haniyeh told his guests Israel rejected his initiative.
Clare Short, who served in the cabinet of former British prime minister Tony Blair, asked Haniyeh to repeat his offer. He said the Hamas government had agreed to accept a Palestinian state that followed the 1967 borders and to offer Israel a long-term hudna, or truce, if Israel recognized the Palestinians’ national rights.
In response to a question about the international community’s impression that there are two Palestinian states, Haniyeh said: “We don’t have a state, neither in Gaza nor in the West Bank. Gaza is under siege and the West Bank is occupied. What we have in the Gaza Strip is not a state, but rather a regime of an elected government. A Palestinian state will not be created at this time except in the territories of 1967.”
The parliamentary delegation was led by Baron Nazir Ahmed, who was born in Pakistan and is a member of the British House of Lords. Ahmed, Britain’s second Muslim peer and the only one born Muslim, related how, 10 years ago, he was sworn into the House of Lords using a Koran. “And now you represent us,” Haniyeh told him on Saturday.
Ahmed asked Haniyeh about Hamas’ relations with Iran and requested his response to the claims of “our Zionist friends” that Hamas, like Iran, seeks to destroy the State of Israel and throw the Jews into the sea.
“Our ties with Iran are like those with other Muslim states. Does a besieged people that is waiting breathlessly for a ship to come from the sea want to throw the Jews into the ocean? Our conflict is not with the Jews, our problem is with the occupation,” Haniyeh said.
2. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza deepens as Israel turns the screws
On 14th November the BBC carried a report under the heading “Blockaded Gaza ‘faces disaster'”
It reported that Oxfam has ‘warned of catastrophe for Gaza and nearby areas of Israel if a truce agreed last June is not maintained…
Oxfam said both sides would suffer if fighting continued.
“If Israelis and Palestinians alike don’t exert every effort now to maintain the truce which has held since last June, the result could be catastrophic for civilians both in Gaza and in nearby Israeli towns,” the agency’s executive director, Jeremy Hobbs, said in a statement. “Failure of the international community to act decisively will only exacerbate human suffering and could further endanger chances for peace,” Mr Hobbs added.’
On Sunday 16 November the Ma’an News Agency reported from Gaza
Seventy percent of the Gaza Strip is blacked out on Sunday night after Israel blocked deliveries fuel for Gaza’s power plant for the fifth consecutive day, a high-ranking Palestinian energy official said.
Kan’an Ubeid, the deputy chief of the Palestinian Energy Authority, said in a press conference in Gaza that in addition to the shutdown of the diesel-fueled power plant, the electric network bringing in power from Israel collapsed due to increased pressure on the system.
There have been rolling blackouts in Gaza since the power station shut down on Thursday. Israel has sealed its borders with Gaza virtually every day since 4 November, blocking deliveries of food, fuel, and medicine. The United Nations was forced to suspend a food program serving 750,000 Palestinians on Friday due to the blockade.
On Monday 17th November the Jerusalem Office of Oxfam sent out an urgent press release
“Oxfam is greatly concerned that Foreign Secretary David Miliband neglected to address the Gaza blockade during his visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. Only the bare minimum of goods have entered Gaza in the past couple of days and Oxfam fears a serious worsening once again of the humanitarian situation if urgent action is not taken. David Miliband and the UK government must not continue to remain silent in the face of such human desperation.” said Barbara Stocking, Oxfam Great Britain’s Chief Executive.
“Gazans have been stripped bare of ways of coping after 18 months of blockade and are extremely vulnerable to the latest clamp down. Not only is the flow of food, fuel and medicines at a trickle, but sewage and water systems could soon grind to a halt. The cycle of violence is causing harm to civilians on both sides of the Gazan border. It is vital that both unnaceptable attacks on Israeli towns like Sderot stop, and that ordinary Gazans are not punished by this crippling blockade. For this reason we urge David Miliband and the UK government to put more emphasis on resolving the crisis as a matter of urgency.”
OCHA (the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) issued an updated Gaza Humanitarian Situation Report on 17 November
Between 5 and 16 November, • Israel has blocked all commercial and humanitarian goods from entering into the Gaza Strip with the exception of two days when some industrial fuel was allowed in. Civilians continue to pay the price of conflict and violence and their access to humanitarian assistance is at stake.
• Today, 17 November , Israel allowed 33 truckloads including 21 for humanitarian aid agencies to enter Gaza. UNRWA, which was allowed to enter eight trucks, announced that as of Tuesday,18 November , it will resume its food distribution. The Agency needs a minimal of 15 trucks/day to sustain normal humanitarian operations.
• While this is a positive step, the amount entered is insufficient to meet the needs of all the civilians dependant on humanitarian assistance. Efforts need to be redoubled to ensure that humanitarian organizations have unimpeded access to enter and deliver assistance to all those in need in the Gaza Strip. Whatever the political or security consideration behind these measures, there is an obligation by all parties to preserve human dignity and to ensure the basic well-being of the Gazan civilian population, of which more than half are children.
• The average daily number of truckloads entering Gaza hit a new low in November – 30 trucks/day – compared to 123 truckloads/day during October 2008. The October average was already low (constituting only 37% of the amount imported in May 2007) and was almost the same daily average before the 19 June 2008 “calm” had been implemented.
• Because of the ongoing blockade and the shortages of stock, these thirteen days of total closures have already caused severe shortages, especially in fuel and electricity supply. The closure shut down the delivery of essential humanitarian assistance to hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries- mainly the most vulnerable- who are dependent on this critical source of aid.
• Israel’s closing came in response to the firing of more than 100 Qassam rockets and mortars into Israel injuring one Israeli civilian and causing property damage, by Palestinian militants. This was following an IDF military search operation which killed six Hamas operatives and demolished a house east of Deir al Balah and Khan Younis on 4 November.
Full report downloadable.
Gisha, the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, consistently monitors the situation in Gaza.
On 16th November it issued a statement which ends:
‘In response to the deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip, “Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement” has called on Israel “to immediately restore the transfer of fuel to the Gaza Strip, in order to prevent further electricity blackouts and harm to the civilian population. Israel’s policy of closure constitutes collective punishment, forbidden by international humanitarian law, which also prohibits the firing of rockets towards Israeli civilian areas. Both sides must refrain from harming civilians, instead of deliberately targeting them”.’
See also its 10 November statement ‘Israel Intensifies its Collective Punishment of Residents of the Gaza Strip‘;
and its ‘Frequently Asked Questions: Students trapped in Gaza‘, November 2008.
Gaza media blackout an unprecedented violation of press freedom, say journalists
On 17th November Ma’an reported from Gaza/Bethlehem :
‘Israel has continued to bar international journalists from the besieged Gaza Strip for at least a week in what media condemned on Monday as an unprecedented violation of press freedom.
Steve Gutkin, the AP bureau chief in Jerusalem and the head of the Foreign Press Association told Ma’an that he knows of no foreign journalist that has been allowed into Gaza in the last week.
Gutkin said that while Israel has barred foreign press from entering Gaza in the past, the length of the current ban makes it unprecedented. He added that he has received no “plausible or acceptable” explanation for the ban.
The AP itself moved two of its international staff into the Strip before the closure began.
The Foreign Press Association reiterated its condemnation of the closure on Monday: “We regard this as an unconscionable breach of the Israeli Government’s responsibility to allow journalists to do their jobs in this region…”
Lauren Booth reports back from Gaza
Islington Friends of Yibna report that the Ham & High, 13 November’s “The Page 4 Interview” is a full-page interview with Lauren Booth under the heading “The ‘awkward’ sibling”. It reports on her findings of horror and injustice in Gaza under the Israeli siege when she traveled there recently on the first boat trip to break the Gaza blockade. It includes photos of Lauren in Rafah refugee camp [possibly in the Yibna refugee camp]. The interview closes with the quote:
“I don’t condone any violence at all. Why am I talking about Palestine? Because they are under occupation and I have seen the suffering first-hand. I don’t want to talk about anything else – just the human rights abuses. I would invite anyone to look at what is going on in Gaza, go to the websites like www.btselem.org, www.icahd.org and freegaza.org. People should read up about that before they react to me. If Londoners went through what Gazan people go through for one day, we would commit massacres, we would riot. They’ve been going through it for 60 years. Millions of people are being denied human rights under international law. I don’t care who is doing it – that’s not an issue. It’s just time we observed people’s rights. It is time for the world community to make sanctions against occupying forces who trample over Geneva conventions and the human rights of the citizens whose lives are in its control.”
The full interview is expected to be available online at www.hamhigh.co.uk within a few days.
The Islington Tribune also carried an interview with Booth.
3. Interpal deprived of its banking facilities
Interpal is a non-political, non-profit making British charity that works with international funding partners and partners on the ground to provide relief and development aid to Palestinians in need, mainly in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan.
Lloyds TSB (the clearing bank of the Islamic Bank of Britain (IBB)) has served notice on IBB to cease all dealings with Interpal. The notice comes into effect on 8 December 2008. After this time “all transactions into or out of Interpal accounts will be blocked and IBB will be at further risk of all its customer payments being suspended.” Ibrahim Hewitt [Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Interpal] wrote that IBB has offered Interpal its total support but is apparently powerless in this situation.
The bank hasn’t even waited for the Charity Commission to publish its latest report on Interpal. No reason at all is given for this draconian and punitive measure, taken without any consideration of the thousands of contributors who assist Palestinians in need.
Interpal is mobilising all the support they can to try to persuade the banks to rescind this decision – and looking for guidance, advice and practical support at this critical time [Interpal, UK Registered Charity 1040094, PO BOX 53389, London NW10 6WT 020 8961 9993 email@example.com www.interpal.org]
Please contact Lloyds-TSB and the Islamic Bank of Britain to ask them to rescind this outrageous, unfair and arbitrary decision.
Islamic Bank of Britain plc,
3, Duchess Place,
Tel: 0121 452 7330 / 0845 6060786
Lloyds TSB Bank plc,
25, Gresham Street,
Tel: 020 7661 4778
Architects and Planner for Justice in Palestine add their voice of protest in a letter to the Guardian on 15th November:
‘ To pursue this divisive project that will include two museums, a library-education centre, a conference centre and a 500-seat performing arts theatre, would seem highly insensitive, a statement of Israel’s hegemony over the Palestinians, rather than any expression of “tolerance”. All the architecture in the world cannot engender harmony on the basis of trampling over people’s rights and history. It is inflaming passions in an already combustible Middle East and will push any peace accord further off the horizon.’
Uzi Mahnaimi in Tel Aviv and Sarah Baxter report that ‘Barack Obama links Israel peace plan to 1967 borders deal’ Sunday Times 16th November.
‘Barack Obama is to pursue an ambitious peace plan in the Middle East involving the recognition of Israel by the Arab world in exchange for its withdrawal to pre-1967 borders, according to sources close to America’s president-elect.
Obama intends to throw his support behind a 2002 Saudi peace initiative endorsed by the Arab League and backed by Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister and leader of the ruling Kadima party.
The proposal gives Israel an effective veto on the return of Arab refugees expelled in 1948 while requiring it to restore the Golan Heights to Syria and allow the Palestinians to establish a state capital in east Jerusalem.’
Jeff Halper describes the Israeli-Palestine conflict as ‘A Bone in America’s Throat’ (10 November)
‘To be more specific, the Israel-Palestine conflict directly affects Americans in at least five ways:
• The Israel-Palestine conflict is emblematic to the Muslim world. As such, it isolates the US from major global markets, forcing it to embark on aggressive measures to secure markets rather than peaceful accommodation;
• It thereby diverts the American economy into non-productive production (tanks not roads), making it dependent upon deficit spending which only increases dependency upon foreign financing while diverting resources into the military rather than into education, health and investment;
• Support for the Israeli military costs US taxpayers more than $3 billion annually at a time of deepening recession and crumbling national infrastructure;
• It leads to an American involvement in the world that is mainly military, thus begetting hostility and resistance which produce the threats to security Americans so greatly fear; and
• It ends up threatening American civil liberties by encouraging such legislation as the Patriot Act and by introducing Israeli “counterinsurgency” tactics and weaponry developed in the West Bank and Gaza into American police forces.
… What happens to the Palestinians takes on a global significance. Clearing the bone in the throat – that is, ending the Israeli Occupation and allowing the Palestinians a state and a future of their own – should be a top priority of the next American administration. Indeed, America’s attempt to restore its standing in the world depends on it. In the global reality in which we live, the fate of Americans and Palestinians, it turns out, are closely intertwined.
The Jewish vote in the US was overwhelmingly for Barack Obama.
It is clear that Jewish opinion is well to the left of those mainstream organisations like AIPAC, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, or the ADL who so often claim to speak for Jews. The emergence of the Washington lobby group J-Street, in explicit opposition to AIPAC, is one sign that Jews are trying to reassert control over who claims to speaks in their name, something Jewish Voice for Peace and more recently Btzedek v Shalom, have been engaged in for a long time.
‘Bad for the Jews’ by Eric Alterman appeared in the Nation at the beginning of this year. It has not been widely reported. Here are some extracts:
‘According to the American Jewish Committee’s 2007 survey of American Jewry, released December 11, a majority of Jews in this country oppose virtually every aspect of the Bush Administration/neocon agenda…
Jews are also impressively sensible when it comes to Israel/Palestine, all things considered…
…polls of American Jews demonstrates that Jews have remained remarkably faithful to the values of liberal humanism. These views, however, have been obscured in our political discourse by an unholy alliance between conservative-dominated professional Jewish organizations and neoconservative Jewish pundits, aided by pliant and frequently clueless mainstream media that empower these right-wingers to speak for a people with values diametrically opposed to theirs.
Take a look at the agendas of some of the most influential Jewish organizations, like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Anti-Defamation League, the Zionist Organization of America and the American Jewish Committee itself; each has historically associated itself with the hawkish side of the debate–and some have done so even when Israel took the more dovish side (the Jewish equivalent of being holier than the Pope). Forget for a moment the argument over whether what some call “the Lobby” is good or bad for America. My point is that it’s bad for the Jews.
In large part the trouble lies with the antidemocratic structures of these organizations and the apathy of most Jews with regard to organized Jewish life. Major Jewish groups respond to the demands of their top funders and best-organized constituencies. Most American Jews, however, have little or nothing to do with these groups. According to the AJC survey, while 90 percent of Jews say being Jewish is either “very important” (61 percent) or “fairly important” (29 percent) in their lives, exactly half say they belong to a synagogue or temple. A fraction of this number belong to Jewish political organizations, and the number of major funders is but a tiny percentage of that. As with so much of American life, the far-right minority is better funded and better disciplined than the liberal majority.’
6. The UK is maintaining a surprisingly robust attitude towards mislabeling of goods from Israel and the Occupied Territories (see 10th November Newsletter)
According to Ha’aretz Livni has told Miliband that the “U.K. plan to label West Bank goods is ‘exaggerated'”
‘…Miliband arrived in Israel on Sunday, where he met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Livni, for a two-day visit aimed at advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
A senior official in Jerusalem described the talks as “not simple,” and said that in addition to dissonance over the state of settlements, the two also butted heads on the issues of Syria and the indictment being handed by Britain to Israeli defense officials…
Miliband was expected during his visit to express strong opposition to settlement in the West Bank and to press European partners for tighter control of imports to the European Union from the settlements.
Some of these imports are admitted at European ports as the produce of Israel and therefore enjoy tariff benefits under an Israel-EU treaty, British officials said…
European diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity as a fresh economic offensive on the West Bank settlements has not been officially approved, said Miliband has been trying to muster support in Brussels for tougher implementation of existing customs regulations in the hope that settlements, a core issue in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, could be placed under a siege that could help hasten their dismantlement.
A single-page ‘non-Paper’ [i.e. unofficial] prepared by UK officials has been circulated.
‘The UK is looking at practical steps that could be of interest to Member states and the Commission, We are particularly focused on goods from settlements, and are keen to look at how UK and Commission policies can avoid inadvertently supporting or encouraging settlement activity…This non-paper suggets some actions that the EU might consider by way of further activity aimed at curbing settlement building…
There are two key issues:
1. Customs: We are concerned that settlement goods may be entering the UK without paying sufficient duty, by illegally using the preferential trade arrangements under he Association Agreement between the EU and Israel…
2. Customers should be empowered to make informed choices regarding goods from settlements…
Full non-paper downloadable here.
Charles Shamas from Ramallah participated in a meeting at the Amos Trust to discuss the campaign against settlement products.
A report of the meeting by Diana Neslen is available here.
‘Acts speak louder than words. Few hours after peace speeches by Peres, Barak and Livni at the Rabin Square, police expelled the Al-Kurd Family from their home, on behalf of extreme-right settlers.’
Adam Keller of Gush Shalom reports.