Newsletter 1 Feb 2008
1. Open Letter – Remember The Holocaust – from Some Concerned Jewish People on Merseyside
2. The Convoy: Monday passed, the goods did not
3. Appeals by human rights groups
4. Reports of the Gaza convoy
There has been an outpouring of comment about the situation since the fall of the Wall. Here are some useful and insightful articles:
5. Financial Times leader, Gaza’s Misery
6. An interview with Eyad Sarraj, Bitter Lemons
7. Amira Hass: Finally, a popular uprising, Ha’aretz
8. Uri Avnery: Worse than a crime
9. Phyllis Bennis: The Gaza Wall comes Tumbling Down
10. Gary Kamiya: Bush’s delusions die in Gaza, Salon online
As people who were brought up in Jewish families and had grandparents and other relatives who were killed in the Holocaust by the Nazis, we ask our fellow Jews, at this time of remembrance, not to avert their eyes from the terrible injustices being done in our name to the Palestinians by the Israeli government:
- house demolitions
- indiscriminate attacks on civilians
- illegal appropriation of land
- control of water supplies
• economic and physical blockades causing malnutrition and denial of vital medicines and treatment leading to a humanitarian crisis particularly in places like Gaza.
We must keep in mind that one gross injustice does not bestow rights to perpetrate injustices on others. Without such understanding we lose our soul.
Some Concerned Jewish People on Merseyside
For more information contact miriam
Time for protests
Saturday the army representatives at the Erez checkpoint indicated that Monday our truckloads of relief would go through. We didn’t rely on this vague promise too much but gave it the benefit of the doubt. After all, we also heard from KM Dov Kheinin (Hadash) that PM Olmert had told him personally that our relief would be let through.
Meanwhile, Monday passed and the goods did not go through.
While we are still in negotiations with the army and busy mobilizing Knesset members we would very much want activists abroad to strengthen the demand of “Let the convoy pass.”
We also prepared an appeal to the Supreme Court, but still hope to save the money it would cost and instead buy more water filters and add these to the convoy. But if all other means would fail we are prepared to go to court.
You can help in the campaign in many ways, by organizing protests but let’s start already by phoning, faxing and emailing. You may use the following sample letter or make a text of your own.
1) To Prime Minister Ehud Olmert through the PM’s Press office:
E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org , email@example.com, PM_ENG1@it.pmo.gov.il (please, send to all)
Fax: +972-2-6233388 (NB: Fax is more likely to be noticed than an email message)
(You can personalize your letter making use of the following data:
The Director of the GPO is Daniel Seaman. The Director’s direct telephone number is 02-5007502, and his direct fax is 02- 6257886. The Director’s secretary is Noa Arazi.)
2) To Defence Minister Ehud Barak
Ministry of Defense
Hakirya, Tel Aviv 61909,
the Defense Ministry spokesperson
Tel: 972-3-6975546, 972-3-6975339
3) To the Government of Israel via the embassy/Consulates in your country – for the embassy address look in:
With copies –
1) To the Delegation of the European Commission, delegation head Ramiro Cibrian – firstname.lastname@example.org
2) To the highest-ranking politician in your country whose address you can get, and/or which you have reason to think might act on it.
3) To MEP Luisa Morgantini email@example.com
4) And also cc to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am writing to urge you to authorize without further hindrance the entry into the Gaza Strip of the humanitarian goods carried in the convoy of Saturday 26, 2008, and held up near the Gaza Strip border ever since then. The goods held up consist of sacks of flour, rice and other basic food-stuffs, purchased with donations from Israel and all over the world*; of water filters, likewise purchased by donations, which are desperately needed due to the extreme pollution of Gaza’s water supply; and of parcels and packages which Israeli families bought as a gesture of goodwill to families in Gaza. All these goods are urgently needed in Gaza, and the passage of none could in any conceivable way endanger Israel’s security in any way. The continued holding up of these goods, as well as the continuation closing of passage of vital goods into Gaza in general, is a shame which must be ended.
*If you were yourself among the donors, you can include a reference to that in your text.
24th January 2008
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme call for an immediate cessation of collective punitive measures against the civilian population in Gaza.
30th January 2008
In response to the Supreme Court’s Rejection of Petition against Fuel and Electricity Cuts:
Gisha and Adalah: “This decision sets a dangerous legal precedent that allows Israel to continue to violate the rights of Palestinians in Gaza and deprive them of basic humanitarian needs, in violation of international law.”
Israel’s Supreme Court today rejected a petition by human rights organizations to stop Israel from cutting supplies of fuel and electricity to the Gaza Strip, as part of a governmental decision authorizing punitive measures against the population of Gaza.
At the last hearing held Sunday, Jan. 27, Israel’s military prevented utility officials from Gaza from attending the hearing, in violation of a previous commitment to the court. The state attorneys offered oral testimony by a military official, unsubstantiated by affidavit as required, claiming that the cuts would not harm humanitarian needs.
According to Sari Bashi, Director of Gisha: “This is an unprecedented decision authorizing collective punishment in its most blatant form. The court ruling relies on unsubstantiated declarations by the military and ignores the indisputable and well-documented evidence of harm to civilians caused by the fuel and electricity cuts – with no legally valid justification.”
According to Hassan Jabarin, Director of Adalah: “”According to the Supreme Court’s decision, it is permitted to harm Palestinian civilians and create a humanitarian crisis for political reasons. This constitutes a war crime under international criminal law.”
The organizations who petitioned the court are:
Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement
HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel
Gaza Community Mental Health Programme
B’Tselem – The Israeli InformationCenter for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
MezanCenter for Human Rights
Maher Najjar, Deputy Director of Gaza’s Coastal Municipalities Water Utility and a farmer from Beit Hanoun also joined the petition
Full statement available on the Gisha website.
“We are all under the same sky”
Adam Keller’s report of the aid convoy to Gaza
GAZA: LIFT THE BLOCKADE” – The Relief Convoy on its way
(report + photos)
Alternative Information Center, 27 Jan: Thousands of Palestinian and Israelis Demonstrate on Both Sides of the Gaza Border Against Blockade
TV footage of the relief convoy to Gaza and demonstration at the Erez crossing.
Ha’aretz report Umm al-Fahm turns out lights, Israelis rally against Gaza siege
The Israeli-Arab town of Umm al-Fahm shut off its electricity for one hour on Saturday night in an intentional blackout, and a torch-lit march was held in solidarity with the residents of the Gaza Strip to protest an Israeli blockade of goods entering the coastal territory.
Earlier, more than 1,000 people in Israel demonstrated the sanctions on the Erez Crossing on the Gaza border. The demonstration was coordinated with the police, and organized by both Jewish and Arab groups, including Ta’ayush, the Coalition of Women for Peace, Gush Shalom, and the Balad and Hadash political parties. The protest was dubbed a “relief convoy” aimed to transfer food, blankets and other basic needs to Gaza.
5. Financial Times leader, Gaza’s Misery, 25th January 2008
This siege is not only wrong; it is almost wholly counterproductive.
First, Israel’s tactic of “collective punishment” is illegal. Targeting a civilian population is prohibited by international law: there is no debate to be had about it.
Second, however, two decades of using this tactic, in the occupied territories and in Lebanon, should have taught Israel that it does not work. It actually strengthens organisations such as Hamas and Hizbollah.
Indeed, this siege is visibly increasing Gazans’ dependence on Hamas as the only source of the means of subsistence.
It is time that Israel, its Arab neighbours such as Jordan and Egypt, the US and the Fatah nationalists they are all backing against Hamas rethought their position.
Full text at http://www.jfjfp.org/background3_gaza-crisis_2007-08/ft_080125.htm
6. An interview with Eyad Sarraj Bitter Lemons 28th January 2008
Some brief extracts:
a) On the changes on the ground:
Everything is available in the market now. From NIS40 a packet, cigarettes are now down to six. There is chocolate for the children. People are almost euphoric since they can get out of the prison, even if it is only for a short respite. People go to El Arish for a picnic, eat fish there and spend a couple of hours. Families sometimes go for the day and come back at night. Gaza is quite a dynamic place now.
b) On Hamas
I think whether Hamas planned it or not, the movement was instrumental in what happened. Hamas has now again proved that it is a power to be reckoned with and that if you want to talk about rockets, about [captured Israeli soldier Gilad] Shalit, about the crossings or relations with Egypt, then you have to talk with Hamas.
c) On Israel
The problem for Israel is the potential security risk and I think Israel will have to come to terms with the fact that Hamas is here to stay and that it has to deal with the movement, maybe through Egypt. I doubt Israel will, but maybe it can forge a deal to at least have a ceasefire.
bitterlemons: Does this include the rocket fire?
Sarraj: If you sit with Hamas and recognize that Hamas is a major player in the game, the question of the rockets can be resolved. But if you don’t, and continue to isolate the movement, the rockets will continue. There is no popular movement against the firing of rockets. How can people oppose this kind of resistance, if there is no hope of ending the occupation? Israel perpetrated a massacre last week in which 19 people, including [Hamas leader] Mahmoud Zahar’s son, were killed. People cheer rockets against Israel and will continue to do so until there is hope that Israel will end the occupation and give Palestinians back their land, their rights and their freedom.
On Fatah & Hamas
Even if Palestinians want reconciliation, I think there is strong American resistance to the idea of any dialogue with Hamas. Only if there were leaders of courage and wisdom on both sides and real belief that unity alone would help the Palestinian cause, would reconciliation be possible.
(Reprinted as “Gaza is quite a dynamic place now”: an interview at http://opendemocracy.net/article/conflicts/gaza_is_quite_a_dynamic_place_now_an_interview )
7. Amira Hass Finally, a popular uprising Ha’aretz 30th January 2008
According to Hass: “The fall of the Rafah wall was a fitting combination of planning and the precise reading of the social and political map by the Hamas government, mixed with a mass response to the dictates of the overlord, Israel.
Quite a few people in Rafah knew that “anonymous figures” had secretly been destablizing the foundations of the wall for several months, so that it would be possible to knock it down easily when the time came – but the secret didn’t leak. The hundreds of people who began leaving Palestinian Rafah right after the wall was breached did so despite the risk, and the precedent of the Egyptians shooting at those who infiltrate through the border.
The leadership and public of Gaza, as two elements of the occupied people, were partners in the courageous and necessary step of breaking the Israeli rules of the game. The breach of the wall is a clear manifestation of the conception and temperament of a popular resistance among the Palestinian people, which for various reasons, were dormant in recent years.”
The rest of Hass’s article discusses where to from here focusing on the need to end the Qassam rockets and for Abbas to cease the boycott of Hamas.
8. Uri AvneryWorse than a crime 26th January 2008
“What is being hidden from the embittered [Israeli] public is that the launching of the Qassams could be stopped tomorrow morning.
Several months ago Hamas proposed a cease-fire. It repeated the offer this week.
A cease-fire means, in the view of Hamas: the Palestinians will stop shooting Qassams and mortar shells, the Israelis will stop the incursions into Gaza, the “targeted” assassinations and the blockade.
Why doesn’t our government jump at this proposal?
Simple: in order to make such a deal, we must speak with Hamas, directly or indirectly. And this is precisely what the government refuses to do.
Why? Simple again: Sderot is only a pretext – much like the two captured soldiers were a pretext for something else altogether. The real purpose of the whole exercise is to overthrow the Hamas regime in Gaza and to prevent a Hamas takeover in the West Bank.
In simple and blunt words: the government sacrifices the fate of the Sderot population on the altar of a hopeless principle. It is more important for the government to boycott Hamas – because it is now the spearhead of Palestinian resistance – than to put an end to the suffering of Sderot. All the media cooperate with this pretence.”
9. Phyllis BennisThe Gaza Wall comes Tumbling Down 30th January 2008
“The breaching of the Israeli-built wall dividing the Gaza Strip from Egypt brought some critical relief for the population of 1.5 million Palestinians whom Israel had kept locked into a kind of prison since January 2006
But the collapse of the Gaza-Egyptian border wall also set in a motion a range of significant power shifts in the international, regional, and internal Palestinian political scenes, shifts which hold the potential for both positive and dangerous consequences”
10. Gary Kamiya Bush’s delusions die in Gaza Salon online, 29th January 2008
“Even the most progressive candidate, Barack Obama, went out of his way to take Israel’s side… [But] Obama’s claim that Israel was “forced” to impose a total siege on the population of Gaza to try to end rocket attacks by Palestinian militants is simply false. Israel was not “forced” to do that any more than America was “forced” to invade Iraq. Yes, Israel has the right to defend itself against the Qassam rocket attacks. But it was not forced to cut off power, medicine and food to do that. It chose to impose that siege (with Bush’s obvious, if unspoken, blessing) because it hoped that by punishing the people of Gaza, they would overthrow their Hamas-led government…
“The Rafah breakout shows the limits of Washington’s policy of trying to cajole and bully “moderate” Arab regimes into doing our bidding. Right-wing commentators are fond of disparaging the “Arab street,” but people power, it turns out, can still make a decisive difference in the Middle East. When popular outrage gets too great, even bought-and-paid-for despots like Mubarak have to yield to it…
“In the end, the road to peace remains the same. The United States and Israel need to accept Hamas’ offer of a cease-fire. Then they need to bite the bullet and accept that even though Hamas refuses to recognize Israel and renounce terror, it is a rational actor and can be persuaded to accept a two-state deal so long as the final goal of a viable Palestinian state, as described in the Arab League plan, is clearly on the table. And they need to bring Fatah and Hamas back together and negotiate final-status issues — Jerusalem, security, borders, refugees — with both at the same time…
The recent Gaza jailbreak showed that a deal is urgently necessary. The pot just boiled over. It hasn’t exploded yet, but if it does, it won’t just be the Palestinians and Israelis who get burned.”