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Posts

Newsletter 20 Jul 2008

large-newsletter-headalt

CONTENTS

1. The Gaza Crisis and the ceasefire – an update
2. Israeli army harassment in Nablus
3. Settler Violence
4. Regional perspectives
5. Non-violent resistance
6. The water crisis in Palestine
7. ‘This is like apartheid': ANC veterans visit West Bank
8. Israeli government to respect its own High Court

1. The Gaza Crisis and the ceasefire

a) Free Gaza Movement – Breaking into Gaza
b) Three more patients die in Gaza from lack of access to medical treatment
c) Academic freedom trashed by Israel – Gisha reports
d) Uri Avnery, All Quiet on the Gaza Front, 21/06/08

a) Breaking into Gaza – the Free Gaza Movement
Ramzi Kysia records that: ‘Israel maintains complete control over Gaza’s airspace and territorial waters, near complete control over travel into or out of Gaza, near complete control over Gaza’s imports and exports, and near complete control over Gaza’s own tax revenues. Little is allowed in. As a result, Gaza’s economy has completely collapsed.’
As part of an attempt to undermine the siege his article Breaking into Gaza tells of the Free Gaza Movement’s plans to sail from Cyprus to Gaza next month, carrying much needed medical supplies. The aim is to raise international awareness about the prison-like closure of Gaza and to put substantial moral pressure on Israel and the international community.

b) Three more patients die in Gaza from lack of access to medical treatment
A brief update on the International Middle East Media Centre websit:
‘Medical sources reported that the number of patients who died due to the Israeli siege on the Gaza strip reached 208 as three patients were announced dead on Monday morning.
‘Medical sources reported that Latifa Kafina died on Monday morning of leukemia. she couldn’t get the permission to leave the Gaza Strip and get treatment. The patient’s family reported that they tried for over ten days to get permission, but they got it only after she was dead.
‘Moreover sources in Gaza reported that 36 year old Suhaila Abu Hweshel died of cancer on Monday after being banned to leave the Gaza strip to outer hospitals for medical treatment.
‘In addition Ahmad Abu Ajwa, an old man with diabetes, was pronounced dead on Monday for being unable to get life saving medical treatment out of The Gaza strip because the army banned him from getting the permission.’

c) Academic freedom trashed by Israel
Gisha, the Legal Centre for Freedom of Movment has produced an updated account of Israel’s ongoing violation of the right to education in Gaza under the title Held Back: Students Trapped in Gaza June 2008. It says simply that ‘The closure that Israel has imposed on Gaza is preventing these [hundreds of young Palestinian] students from exercising their right to freedom of movement, to access education and to develop their potential, and it is devastating the Palestinian academic community.’

The full report is exceptionally well-written and succinct, well worth reading. It can be downloaded from Gisha.

d) The Ceasefire
Belatedly, here is Uri Avnery’s moving account of the muted Israeli reactions in the immediate aftermath of the cease-fire last month, All Quiet on the Gaza Front. Here’s an extract:

“AND SUDDENLY: quiet. No Qassams. No mortar shells. The tanks are not rolling. The aircraft are not bombing.
In Sderot, sighs of relief. Children venture out. Inhabitants who have exiled themselves to other towns return home.
And the reaction? An outburst of jubilation? Dancing in the streets? Applause for the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense, who at long last have come to their senses?
Not at all. The expression on the nation’s face is a grimace of disgust. What kind of thing is that? Where is our victorious army?
The people of Sderot are really angry. OK, so there are no Qassams, but this was supposed to happen only after the army had entered Gaza and wiped it out.
Haaretz headed its front page with the mendacious headline: “Israel pays with deeds – and gets promises”.
“It’s fragile,” Ehud Olmert soothes us, it can come to an end any minute. And the other Ehud, Barak, who pushed for the cease-fire, has an excuse: we have to go through the motions before starting the Big Operation in Gaza. For the sake of Israeli and international public opinion.
And nobody says: Thank God, the killing has stopped!”

2. Israeli army harassment in Nablus

Israeli army shuts down six Hamas-affiliated associations in Nablus
Just as the ceasefire on the gaza border seems to be holding, Israel appears to be stepping up its incursions in to the West Bank. On 8 July the Ma’an News Agency reported that its inervention in Nablus:
‘the Nablus Mall has 50 shops and offices, including the Al-Itiman company, which has a capital of 4 million Jordanian Dinars (5.64 million US dollars). Israel says this company funds Hamas and “encourages terrorism”. The head of the Mall administration Adli Yayish has been in Israeli custody for a year and a half, accused of being affiliated to Hamas. The Israeli army commander in Nablus issued an order that anyone who now enters the Nablus Mall will be imprisoned for five years ( sic! ). The order will come into effect on August 15. The Israeli army issued a statement transferring the ownership of the Nablus Mall to the Israeli authorities from August 18.

3. Settler Violence
a) Ahmad Jaradat and Sara Venturini, Settler Violence Report: May and June 2008
b) Breaking the Silence under increasing harassment from settlers in Hebron

a) Settler Violence Report: May and June 2008 by Ahmad Jaradat and Sara Venturini is published by the Alternative Information Center
The first entry for Hebron and the southern West Bank is on 3 May, when settlers from Negohot settlement in the western Hebron District placed new mobile houses 600 meters to the southwest of the settlement, with the intention to build a new outpost in the area – on land which belongs to families from the Dora village. On 10 May, settlers from Efrat and additional settlements in the south of Bethlehem took over a Palestinian house which belongs to the Arts Church located in the south of the city. On 15 May, during Palestinian commemorations of the Nakba, approximately 60 settlers, some bearing weapons, entered Oush Ghrab, eastern Beit Sahour. They arrived with journalists and began drawing Jewish stars and racist slogans everywhere. They claimed the place is part of Israel and that Jews must therefore remain in Oush Ghrab…
These are the first three of 14 reports of settler violence listed in the Southern West Bank. In the Northern West Bank, on 3 May, 15 armed settlers from the Itshar settlement in the Nablus District attacked a Palestinian in Asera al-Qebliyya. On 9 May, tens of settlers returned to the place where the Homesh and Sanour settlements, in the Jenin district, were located before being dismantled by the military in the summer of 2005. On 26 May, settlers attempted to set up mobile houses on confiscated land in the village of Bili’in, west of Ramallah. These are merely three of 15 reports from Nablus and the Northern West Bank

The full listing.

b) Breaking the Silence has been under increasing harassment in Hebron
Many JfJfP signatories have been on Breaking the Silence tours of occupied Hebron. The last two, on 17 June and 27 June, were severely disrupted by settlers.

Anne Paq, a freelance photographer and member of the Israeli collective Activestills (activestills.org), gives a chilling account of her visit in Photostory: Breaking the Silence’s tour disrupted (14 July 2008). It deals with settler intimidation, and with the police effectively allowing the settlers to run riot, blocking the tour at every turn. For example:
‘They verbally abused us, calling us “Nazis” and “traitors.”
People on the tour filming and photographing were harassed and it became impossible to document what was happening. The police made a rather timid attempt to remove the settlers from the road but they failed. The police then asked the tour to go back to the bus, and it drove away to the settlers’ dancing and cheering the end of the Breaking the Silence tour in Hebron.’

And Jerry Haber on his great MagnesZionist blog comments acidly on the situation in Hebron in a piece entitled Police: Leftists in Hebron More Dangerous than Right-Wing Counterparts
‘The police/settlers don’t want this [the BtS tours], of course, And can you blame them? I mean, if you lived in a town like Tombstone, where the bad guys are in charge, and can do what they like with impunity, would you want to allow the good guys to have tours for the world to see what you are doing?’

4. Regional Perspectives

a) Ali Abunimah, Palestine amidst a Region in Flux: Signs of Accommodation and Fears of War, Electronic Intifada
b) Uri Avnery, Why Not? 12 July 2008

These two articles provide an interesting regional perspective.

Ali Abunimah in Palestine amidst a Region in Flux: Signs of Accommodation and Fears of War argues that ‘regional actors who staked all on support from the Bush administration now recognize how vulnerable this strategy has left them, they are trying their best to rearrange the political furniture and shore up their internal positions. Having failed to dislodge their rivals, U.S.-backed regimes are coming to terms with them. The direction of events points to an erosion of the U.S. effort to corral client states into an anti-Iran coalition anchored by Israel and Saudi Arabia and a realignment according to local interests and compromises.’

And veteran reporter and peace activist Uri Avnery gives a convincing analysis as to why the US and Israel will not attack Iran in his article Why Not? 12 July 2008
He comments wryly on his own analysis:
“As I write these lines, a little red light turns on in my head. It is related to a memory: in my youth I was an avid reader of Vladimir Jabotinsky’s weekly articles, which impressed me with their cold logic and clear style. In August 1939, Jabotinsky wrote an article in which he asserted categorically that no war would break out, in spite of all the rumors to the contrary. His reasoning: modern weapons are so terrible, that no country would dare to start a war.
… President Bush is about to end his career in disgrace. The same fate is waiting impatiently for Ehud Olmert. For politicians of this kind, it is easy to be tempted by a last adventure, a last chance for a decent place in history after all.
All the same, I stick to my prognosis: it will not happen.”

5. Non-violent resistance

a) Neve Gordon, A West Bank Town’s Fight to Survive (on the struggle in Ni’lin)
b) Bassam Aramin, The Palestinian Bar-Mitzvah
c) Seth Freedman , A few good men, Guardian, July 8, 2008

a) In A West Bank Town’s Fight to Survive, Neve Gordon tells the story of resistance in Ni’lin (the Nation, 17 July 2008) where construction of of the Wall now threatens the confiscation of 2,500 dunams of land.
In May the villagers launched a popular campaign to stop the dispossession. Non-violent, as the struggle at Bil’in, the IDF has responded brutal attempts to suppress the uprising–which has included a curfew and shootings that have left close to 200 people injured. And like at Bil’in Israelis and internationals are involved on the villagers’ side.
Gordon points out how limited mainstream coverage of the reistance has been: ‘The reason is straightforward: covering the struggle in Ni’lin would shatter the stereotypical perception of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict provided by mainstream news sources. Unlike the bulldozer attack, which reinforces the pervasive understanding of this conflict, the events in Ni’lin uncover a much more complex reality. This story does not involve Palestinians perpetrating terrorism against a civilian population but rather popular acts of civil disobedience that persist despite the ruthless repression of an occupying power…
‘The story of Ni’lin is, in other words, the story of a colonized people resisting colonization. This is not the way the mainstream media has been accustomed to portraying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

b) In The Palestinian Bar-Mitzvah, Bassam Aramin, co-founder of Combatants for Peace, gives a moving account of the ill-treatment and humiliation of his 14-year old son, Arab, on returning home with friends after a day on the beach at Tiberias – and of the growing maturity of Arab’s responses:
‘Then he said something even more surprising. “I want you to take me with you when you go to one of your lectures in Israel so I can tell the Israelis about the practices of their soldiers on that night.” I asked him if he was serious – Arab has always questioned my willingness to talk with the other side and sit down with Israelis in forums like those Combatants for Peace provides. But he insisted, saying, “They have to know what happened so the parents of those soldiers can forbid their children to act that way towards women and children again.”‘

c) The Villages Group
Under the title A few good men, the Guardian’s Comment is Free, July 8, 2008, carries an article by Seth Freedman about ‘Ehud, Noam and Elad [who] disprove the myth that Jews who venture into the West Bank are putting their lives in danger.’ Freedman, in a moving description of the Villages Group and the work they do among the villagers of the South Hebron hills, under increasing threat from Jewish settler encroachment, describes their presence “an oasis of humanity in a sea of malice.”
For instance, ‘The Villages Group volunteers raised funds for solar panels and a wind turbine [for Abu Sami’s family], providing the basic electrical needs for the family, such as lighting and refrigeration. Their efforts have borne fruit, both in terms of bettering the family’s standard of living, as well as breaking down the wall of silence that exists between the majority of Israelis and Palestinians.’
‘”We don’t talk politics [when we come to visit],” said Ehud. “We’re here to help with the everyday situation; if we think of politics, then there’s no motivation to carry on with our work.”‘

The Villages Group, incidentally, are supported in their work by the British Shalom Salaam Trust.

6. The water crisis in Palestine

Alice Gray, Thirst In The Palestinian Territories, 13 July 2008
In our last mailing we carried a report that B’Tselem was warning of a grave water shortage in the West Bank this summer. Alice Gray is a co-founder of LifeSource, an initiative to stimulate grassroots movements for water access and sustainability in the Palestinian Territories and Israel. In Thirst In The Palestinian Territories (13 July 2008), she writes that, in a year of extremely severe drought, while Palestinians wait gasping for the first rains ‘on the other side of the Wall, in Israel and in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, it is another story. Sprinklers play over green lawns, flowers bloom in well-kept gardens, children play in swimming pools, people are able to take two showers a day, and for the vast majority, the water crisis does not exist, or exists only in an abstract sense, as a hazy awareness that Israel is located in one of the most arid regions on earth.’ And, in Gaza, a ‘shocking 90% of water… does not meet World Health Organization drinking water standards.’

See the LifeSource website.

7. ‘This is like apartheid': ANC veterans visit West Bank

a) Gideon Levy Twilight Zone / ‘Worse than apartheid’, Ha’aretz 12/07/2008
b) Donald Macintyre, The Independent, 11.7.08

There have been long and vigorous debates about whether or not the term ‘apartheid’ can be appropriately applied to the situation either in the occupied territories or in Israel. But what is not in doubt is that South African visitors routinely describe the situation under occupation as ‘worse than apartheid’.

Gideon Levy (Ha’aretz, 12 July) and Donald MacIntyre (Independent, 11 July) both describe the visit of a high-powered delegation of 21 human-rights activists from South Africa in early July. The group included members of the African National Congress; at least one of whom took part in the armed struggle and at least two who were gaoled. There were also two South African Supreme Court judges, a former deputy minister, members of parliament, attorneys, writers and journalists – blacks and whites, about half of them Jews.

Levy describes where they went and how the reacted to what they saw.
He quotes, among many others, the editor-in-chief of the SA Sunday Times, Mondli Makhanya:
‘The apartheid regime viewed the blacks as inferior; I do not think the Israelis see the Palestinians as human beings at all. How can a human brain engineer this total separation, the separate roads, the checkpoints? What we went through was terrible, terrible, terrible – and yet there is no comparison. Here it is more terrible. We also knew that it would end one day; here there is no end in sight. The end of the tunnel is blacker than black.’

It may or may not be apartheid (and many on the trip stressed the differences as well as the similarities) but none would seem to dissent from the quotation in MacIntyre’s account of the visit
“The daily indignity to which the Palestinian population is subjected far outstrips the apartheid regime. And the effectiveness with which the bureaucracy implements the repressive measures far exceed that of the apartheid regime.”

8. Israeli government fails to respect its own High Court

B’Tselem (9 July 2008) reports that Israel has not dismantled a single section of the Separation Barrier that was nullified by the High Court.

In descriptions of Israel’s ‘vibrant democracy’ much is made of the ‘bravery’ of the High Court in standing up for justice against the state and the military. This was very effectively challenged by Gideon Spiro in an article published on the retirement of Supreme Court President Aharon Barak in January 2007, describing him as ‘to a large extent, the judicial designer, enabler and backer of the regime of human-rights abuses in the Occupied Territories.’

Nevertheless, on occasion, the Court has stood up – not against the occupation, but what it has considered the ‘disproportionate’ harm to the Palestinians, caused for example by the route (not the fact) of the Wall in a number of places. B’Tselem finds that these decisions have simply been ignored by the state: ‘Four years after the Hague advisory opinion, the Separation Barrier has not been moved in any of the sections that were built and later nullified by the Israeli High Court of Justice.’

9. The case of Mohammed Omer

John Pilger tells the story of Gazan journalist Mohammed Omer recent treatment at the hands of the Israeli state on returning to his home in Gaza after a trip to London, in From triumph to torture, the Guardian July 2, 2008.
Omer, at 24, is the youngest-ever winner of the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism which he received in London in June. Getting Omer to London was a minor triumph in its own right, Israel only allowing him out with a Dutch embassy escort. Getting back proved even more problematic. At the Allenby bridge crossing he was surrounded by eight armed Shin Bet officers, undressed and tortured:
“As they ridiculed me, they took delight most in mocking letters I had received from readers in England. I had now been without food and water and the toilet for 12 hours, and having been made to stand, my legs buckled. I vomited and passed out. All I remember is one of them gouging, scraping and clawing with his nails at the tender flesh beneath my eyes. He scooped my head and dug his fingers in near the auditory nerves between my head and eardrum. The pain became sharper as he dug in two fingers at a time. Another man had his combat boot on my neck, pressing into the hard floor. I lay there for over an hour. The room became a menagerie of pain, sound and terror.”
As Pilger points out this is not an isolated incident, though the venom underlying this attack -with a Dutch official waiting on the other side of the crossing to receive Omer – is breath-taking.

You can sign a petition of protest organised by the Washington report on Middle East Affairs addressed to Condoleezza Rice.

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