Newsletter 31 Aug 2008
Big news of the week was the arrival, the celebrations and the successful return to Cyprus of the two Gaza boats, SS Free Gaza and SS Liberty, this time with some Palestinians seeking medical treatment or to be united with their families.
Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor couldn’t resist having a go in the Guardian at those who had worked so hard to break the Israeli blockade. A JfJfP letter in response was published, as was a Comment-is-Free piece by Mandy Turner, recently returned from a PSC trade-union delegation to Palestine.
Meanwhile Peace Now’s brilliant Settlement Watch has published a new report. The first sentence of the summary says it all:
‘Despite the Israeli government’s renewed commitment during the Annapolis Summit to freeze all settlement activity, the construction has continued and almost doubled in all of the settlements and outposts on both sides of the Separation Barrier. No outpost had been evacuated, and instead, many outposts were expanded. In East Jerusalem the construction increased dramatically.’
In response to complaints against War on Want, The Charity Commissioners were forced to launch an investigation. It entirely vindicates the charity. As War on Want reports:
‘[T]he Charity Commission has recognised that we are fully within our rights to campaign for an end to the poverty and human rights violations being faced by Palestinians as a result of the Israeli occupation, including through our support for sanctions against Israel and our participation in public demonstrations calling for justice for the Palestinian people.’
There is a new wave of shiministim (school-leaver) Refuseniks. They’ve issued a powerful statement and three of them have been imprisoned. They need support.
Meanwhile, the daily grind of oppression in the occupied territories continues. We carry extracts from Ocha’s weekly round-up of incidents and events as well as a disturbing report from Defence of Children International about administrative detention of Palestinians, including children.
1. The Arrival and Departure of the Gaza boats
This was reported in the last newsletter. You can read various accounts of the trip on the Free Gaza website – at http://www.freegaza.org/
Huwaida Arraf’s moving account ‘Sailing into Gaza’ http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=200880825045
And there are some photos of the boats arriving in Gaza at
The boats have now returned successfully to Cyprus with seven Palestinians, previously denied exit visas: ‘The Darwish family is seeking to be reunited with other family members, while the Mosleh father and son are going out for medical treatment.’ See: http://english.pnn.ps/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3437&Itemid=2
2. Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor on the Gaza Boats in the Guardian
The ambassador’s had an op-ed article in the Guardian on 28 August entitled ‘Showboating over Gaza’, snidely ascribing everything that had gone wrong in that besieged society to the actions of Hamas.
Read his article at
JfJfP had a letter published in response the following day:
‘We do not idealise Palestinian society, fractured and divided as it is, though this is in good measure the result of sustained Israeli policy over many decades of occupation (Showboating over Gaza, August 28). Nor do we recall Israel extending a great hand of friendship to the Palestinians under President Arafat when that society wasn’t fractured. Rather, he was routinely labelled a “terrorist”. Now, suddenly, we all have to “steer the Palestinians through the choppy waters to statehood”. The fact is that about half the West Bank is under the authority of Jewish settlements and the Israeli military, and that the Israeli government shows no signs of yielding up this occupied territory to the new Palestinian state Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor purports to want.
You do not have to be a fan of Hamas – we definitely are not – to recognise that they prosper as the result of the criminal and illegal policy of collective punishment that Israel insists on inflicting on the people of Gaza. Gaza is still occupied, still a prison, as evidenced by Israel’s land, air and sea blockade. The two boats of protesters that broke the Israeli blockade last week aimed specifically to draw attention to this. They have now set a precedent. May they be followed by hundreds of others bearing food, medicines and other desperately needed goods to the people of Gaza.
Richard Kuper, Jews for Justice for Palestinians
It is at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/aug/29/israelandthepalestinians
Mandy Turner, who has just returned from the PSC trade-union delegation to the occupied territories wrote a more extended comment-is free-piece ‘The Ambassador is Wrong':
‘The Israeli ambassador’s article yesterday was astonishing in its disregard for the facts. To argue that Israel is not to blame for the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza is an incredible attempt to rewrite history. Israel largely controls the purse strings of the Palestinian Authority, it controls goods and services into and out of the occupied Palestinian territories, and it controls all borders. This was enshrined in the Paris Protocols and the Oslo Accords. The PA was supposed to be the first step towards an independent state. The cruel truth is that it is more akin to a ship in a stormy sea with no engine or navigation tools…
Full article at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/aug/29/israelandthepalestinians.middleeast1
3. Peace Now Settlement Watch does sterling work
The new Settlement Watch Report, August 2008, is entitled “Israel Is Eliminating the Green Line And Continuing to Build in the Isolated Settlements”
Its summary is brief and to the point:
‘Despite the Israeli government’s renewed commitment during the Annapolis Summit to freeze all settlement activity, the construction has continued and almost doubled in all of the settlements and outposts on both sides of the Separation Barrier. No outpost had been evacuated, and instead, many outposts were expanded. In East Jerusalem the construction increased dramatically.
It seems that the government of Israel repeats the mistakes of the past, by on the one hand negotiating an agreement with the Palestinians and in parallel constructing in the settlements. This construction undermines the Palestinian partners and creating facts on the ground that might prevent the possibility of a peace agreement.
Here are the main figures it produces:
* Over 1000 new buildings are being constructed in the settlements, in which approximately 2,600 housing units, according to Peace Now’s calculations (aerial photographs and field visits). Approximately 55% of the new structures are located to the east of the constructed Separation Barrier.
* According to figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics, construction in the settlements has increased by a factor of 1.8 by comparison to the same period last year. The Housing Ministry initiated 433 new housing units during the period of January – May 2008, compared to just 240 housing units during the period January – May 2007 (construction initiated by the Housing Ministry accounted for 64% of all the construction counted in the West Bank by the CBS in recent months).
* 125 new structures have been added to the outposts, including 30 permanent houses.
* The number of tenders for construction in the settlements has increased by 550%. 417 housing units, compared to just 65 in 2007.
* The number of tenders in East Jerusalem has increased by a factor of 38 (1,761 housing units compared to 46 in 2007).
For the full report http://www.peacenow.org.il/data/SIP_STORAGE/files//5/3775.pdf
4. Charities are allowed to oppose the Occupation of Palestine
War on Want was reported to the Charity Commission for acting against the occupation in Palestine. Findings in favour of War on Want were made in May and an apology to War on Want has just been made public by the Charity Commissioners.
War on Want’s new Executive Director, John Hilary, writes:
‘I am pleased to say that the Charity Commission has now dismissed all complaints against us and closed the case. In addition, we have received a written apology from the Charity Commission regarding misleading comments they made to journalists while discussions were ongoing which suggested that we had in some way been censured for our campaigns. In fact, the Charity Commission has recognised that we are fully within our rights to campaign for an end to the poverty and human rights violations being faced by Palestinians as a result of the Israeli occupation, including through our support for sanctions against Israel and our participation in public demonstrations calling for justice for the Palestinian people…
We believe the result of this case is important because it clears the way for charities to continue campaigning on Palestine. The Charity Commission was compelled to recognise that charities must be allowed to pursue their charitable objects even in cases which attract political controversy. In light of the recent updating of the Charity Commission’s CC9 guidance on campaigning and political activity by charities, which further clarified the importance of charity campaigning, this decision sets a significant and welcome precedent.
The Jewish Chronicle reported accurately on the substance of the Charity Commissioners decision, even if its heading was overblown. (‘Charity’s anti-Israel stance sanctioned by watchdog’, 15 May; to find it, you have to go to http:www.thejc.com and search for “War on Want” – the urls of archived articles are no longer made public).
5. A new wave of Shministim (school-leaver) Refuseniks; solidarity and support called for
A group of school-leavers have issued a statement as to whey they will not serve in the IDF:
‘We cannot hurt in the name of defense or imprison in the name of freedom; therefore we cannot be moral and serve the occupation.’
An email from New Profile draws attention to the situation of CO Sahar Vardi, 18, from Jerusalem, who was sentenced on 25 August to 7 days in military prison (with more likely to follow).
Sahar is the third conscientious objector, and the first woman, to be imprisoned among a new group of high-school seniors, who signed a collective declaration of refusal to serve in the Israeli army of occupation, and in the work of organising which she has been very strongly involved.
While she stresses the importance of resisting the occupation of Palestine as a motive for her refusal, Sahar’s conscientious objection is also rooted in a wider pacifist position.
The email calls for solidarity action:
a) disseminate information about the situation widely
b) send letters of support
c) write to the relevant authorities
For more details of what to do see http://www.jfjfp.org/background4_israeli-dissent/shministim_0808.htm#what
For the Shministim on Facebook see http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=46805270728
6. Harassment and illegality in the occupied territories – an Ocha weekly report
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs produces weekly reports on the situation in the oPt. Here are some extracts from the report for the week 20-26 August. Remember, this was not an exceptional week. Incidents like these are routine:
Military activities affecting civilians
The IDF injured eleven Palestinians in the West Bank this week, including four children. Among the children, two were injured in anti-Barrier demonstrations, and two during an IDF search and arrest campaign in Tammun village in the governorate of Tubas. All four children were shot with rubber coated metal bullets (see also Barrier Demonstrations).
In the West Bank, 110 IDF search operations and 77 arrests/detentions of Palestinians were reported.
Two Palestinian children (ages 16 and 17 years) and six adults were injured with rubber-coated metal bullets shot by Israeli Security Forces during an anti-Barrier demonstration in Ni’lin village (Ramallah). One Israeli activist was arrested. Following one of the demonstrations on 21 August, a 20 year old Palestinian male was handcuffed and beaten by the IDF with batons and machine guns. Eyewitnesses at the site reported to OCHA that while handcuffed, the IDF shot the man in the head with a rubber coated metal bullet. Ramallah hospital confirmed that the Ni’lin resident, regained consciousness on 25 August and is receiving treatment for a fractured skull.
Also on 22 August, during the weekly anti-Barrier demonstration at Bil’in village (Ramallah), tens of cases of tear gas related asphyxia were reported, as well as cases of vomiting and nausea among Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists when the Border Police sprayed the crowd with chemically treated foul-smelling liquid.
Access Incidents in the West Bank
…In the West Bank, a total of 71 flying checkpoints were reported this week, approximately 18% fewer than the previous week. The highest numbers of flying checkpoints were seen in Qalqiliya, and Bethlehem governorates. Long delays and queues continued at checkpoints on major access roads to Qalqiliya City (Qalqiliya DCO), Nablus City (Huwwara and Beit Iba), the northern West Bank (Tappuah), the northern Jordan Valley (Tayasir and Hamra), Jerusalem (Qalandiya, Rafat and Jaba’), Ramallah (Jaba’), and the central and southern West Bank (Jericho DC).
PA teachers strike in the Gaza strip
The new school year for PA schools began on 24 August. However, the Teachers’ Union in Ramallah has called upon teachers in Gaza to strike for a period of one week to protest the Hamas de facto government decision to transfer approximately 30% of school head masters, and an unknown number of teachers, to schools in other areas.
Jerusalem school celebration raided and closed by Israeli Authorities
On 22 August, Israeli civil police, Israeli Border Police and IDF stormed the St.George’s Boys School in Jerusalem and forced all students and teachers out of the school playground where they gathered to celebrate the final results of the Tawjihi exam (end of high school exams). Israeli police detained one of the school teachers for three hours until the school was completely vacated, and all decorations dismantled. The Israeli Authorities claimed the celebration was operating under the auspices of the PA.
Settler related violence
On 22 August, a group of Israeli settlers entered the Historical Islamic cemetery (Ma’man Allah) in East Jerusalem and damaged over 20 graves, some of which were completely destroyed. According to Al Aqsa Organization (responsible for maintaining the cemetery), Israeli authorities have prohibited them from conducting any maintenance of the cemetery for the last year. A fence around the cemetery has been erected, with a notice that any organisation attempting maintenance of the cemetery will face legal consequences.
Full report downloadable here.
7. Q: And children? A: and children – Obaidah receives his fourth administrative detention order
Here are extracts of a Defence for Children/Palestinian section report:
“‘A 17 year old boy is detained in May 2007 and is given an administrative detention order in July 2007 for “security reasons”. The administrative detention order was renewed in December 2007, March 2008 and most recently, in July 2008.”
Administrative detention is detention without charge or trial.
Of particular concern to DCI/PS is that prior to receiving his first administrative detention order, two Israeli military courts found that there was insufficient evidence against Obaidah to justify his detention.
On 29 July 2007 Obaidah appeared in court… and was granted bail on the grounds of insufficient evidence. Before Obaidah could be released, the prosecutor appealed the decision and on 30 July, the Appeal Court also ordered Obaidah’s release on bail due to insufficient evidence. However, before Obaidah could be released, he was issued with an administrative detention order by the Israeli military commander, which authorises detention without charge or trial for up to six months at a time for undisclosed “security reasons”.
Most recently, on 31 July 2008, Obaidah received his fourth administrative detention order for being “a threat to the security of the area”. Obaidah has now spent more than 14 months in Israeli prisons, most of that time being held without charge or trial
…There are currently 691 Palestinians being detained in administrative detention, of which 13 are children. DCI/PS strongly condemns the frequent and excessive use of administrative detention orders by the Israeli authorities that unnecessarily deprive Palestinian children of their liberty. DCI/PS continues to be alarmed at reports it receives of Palestinian child detainees being abused by Israeli authorities during arrest and interrogation and calls on Israel to cease the practice of detaining Palestinians inside Israel in contravention of article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949).”
What you can do:
DCI asks for appeal in any language to be sent to Shimon Peres, President of the State of Israel, Ehud Olmert, Prime Minister and Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Tzipi Livni, MK
Contact details and the full report will be found at http://www.dci-pal.org/english/display.cfm?DocId=826&CategoryId=12