The situation in Palestine, particularly in Gaza, remains critical. The Shministim (Refusenik) resistance in Israel needs support
What you can do:
1. Write to your MP outlining the crisis in the Gaza Strip and ask them to call on the Foreign Office to support the UN’s calls for an immediate end to the siege on Gaza.
You can send an email to your MP using http://www.theyworkforyou.com
2. Urge your MP to support Richard Burden’s Early Day Motion calling for Justice for Palestinians and People in the Middle East at http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=37222&SESSION=899
3. Support the Shministim NOW by going to http://www.december18th.org
Summary of the reading
1. On Gaza
a) The Guardian published a devastating editorial under the head “Gaza: On life support” on 12th December. It is reproduced below in full.
b) In “A psychological siege” Safa Joudeh writes of the psychological devastation the siege has brought.
c) Richard Falk, recently appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, in place of John Dugard, writes of Gaza that “Silence in Not an Option”.
d) In “Amira Hass returns to Gaza after a two-year absence” the noted journalist reports movingly on the situation on the ground and the tensions between Hamas and Fatah
e) The Gaza blockade was broken for a fourth time by the SS Dignity. It carried some medical supplies from Islington Friends of Yibna and included two academics Mike Cushman and Jonathan Rosenhead of Bricup, returning to Cyprus with 11 students previously unable to leave Gaza to study.
2. Human rights issues in the occupied Palestinian territories
Support the EDM on justice for Palestinians and people in the Middle East. Here are some recent reports on human-rights issues in the area
a) The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) campaigns internationally on housing and related issues. It has just issued a report on access to water in the occupied Palestinian territories
b) The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) is demanding the attorney general order a criminal investigation to determine whether any crimes were committed in the planning and execution of past targeted assassinations.
c) The highly respectable and cautious Association for Civil Rights in Israel (Acri) has issued a report on human rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories to coincide the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In it, it says that the situation in the occupied territories is “in many ways reminiscent of the Apartheid regime in South Africa…”
d) Al-Haq has published “Peace and Human Rights: Palestine as a Case Study”, a paper on the case of Palestine 60 years after the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
e) Frank Barat’s film made earlier this year, “Life under occupation – Testimonies from an occupied land”, provides a useful visual complement to the reports above.
3. Support the Shministim and read 19-year old Omer Goldman’s letter
a) “Gaza: On life support”,Guardian editorial, 12th December
“Anyone who thinks that the status quo in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is acceptable should talk to a doctor from Gaza. There is an acute shortage of all drugs, and a complete lack of all cancer and cystic fibrosis medication. The hospitals have generators, but often no fuel, and switching from mains to an emergency supply wrecks the equipment. One of the strip’s three CT scanners is bust because of fluctuations in current. This also makes the temperature control of incubators for newborn babies unreliable. There have been some transfers of the sick to Israeli hospitals, but none to Egypt. According to one source, more than 230 patients died last year waiting for a permit to leave.
“The list goes on: the majority of Gaza’s children present the symptoms of mild or severe post traumatic stress disorder. About 45% of children under five have iron deficiency from lack of fruit and 18% of children have stunted growth. There is one other statistic: 71% of children interviewed at a school recently said they wanted to be a “martyr”.
“A six-month ceasefire, or a period of “quiet” between Israel and Hamas, exists in name only. The current volley of raids and rockets started on November 4 when Israel said it uncovered a tunnel Hamas was planning to use to capture soldiers. Israeli forces have killed at least 10 Hamas gunmen, and as the rockets rained down on Sderot and Ashkelon, the gates of Gaza were locked. They were opened on Tuesday when 45 trucks of food, medical supplies, cooking gas and fuel were let through. Israel says it will stop its blockade the moment the rockets cease and defends itself from the charge that its actions amount to collective punishment by drawing comparisons with other sanctions regimes. But Israel is not the only player. Conditions in Gaza are daily news in the Arab media and Egypt is coming under pressure to open its border with Gaza. British ministers may protest about the border closures, but the whole world community is complicit with the policy of punishing Palestinians for having elected Hamas.
“There is no defence for Hamas’ use of rockets against Israeli civilian targets. Making Israeli children cower in concrete shelters is not “resistance”. But nor can one justify the policy of keeping 1.5 million Palestinians on life support and then turning the ventilator off from time to time. Even less should it be tolerated by the incoming Obama administration. One cannot point, as Dennis Ross has done, to the dangers of Gaza becoming a failed state, while supporting policies which ensure the state continues to fail. Keeping Gaza perched on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe should not appeal to a US president who intends to use his middle name to reach out to the Arab world.”
b) Safa Joudeh, “A psychological siege”
A report from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 3 December 2008
“Israel’s siege on Gaza, now in its 19th month, has wreaked havoc on all aspects of life and significant attention has been paid in particular to the economic consequences of border closures and blockade. However, an overlooked epidemic threatens the social and familial ties that bond the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. Living under a constant state of crisis in which their livelihoods have been denied, the people of Gaza’s once exemplary resilience and determination are giving way to an unfathomable sea of depression and psychological illnesses.”
See full report
c) Richard Falk, “Gaza: Silence is not an option”
The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk, issued a statement on 9 December
“Last week, Karen AbyZayd, who heads the UN relief effort in Gaza, offered first-hand confirmation of the desperate urgency and unacceptable conditions facing the civilian population of Gaza. Although many leaders have commented on the cruelty and unlawfulness of the Gaza blockade imposed by Israel, such a flurry of denunciations by normally cautious UN officials has not occurred on a global level since the heyday of South African apartheid..
And still Israel maintains its Gaza siege in its full fury, allowing only barely enough food and fuel to enter to stave off mass famine and disease…
It is a criminal violation of international law for elements of Hamas or anyone else to fire rockets at Israeli towns regardless of provocation, but such Palestinian behavior does not legalize Israel’s imposition of a collective punishment of a life- and health-threatening character on the people of Gaza, and should not distract the UN or international society from discharging their fundamental moral and legal duty to render protection to the Palestinian people.
Karen AbyZayd’s first-hand report
d) “Amira Hass returns to Gaza after a two-year absence”
After a 2-year absence Israeli journalist Amira Hass returned to Gaza on the Dignity in early November. She was expelled by Hamas on 1st December. In an extended, moving account of people she met and conversations she had, she paints a complex picture of realities on the ground in Gaza and of the conflicts and tensions between Hamas and Fatah.
The chaos and anarchy under Fatah rule (‘there were 60,000 security personnel “and no security…”’) has been replaced by a much smaller, and efficient, Hamas security force. But the regime is coercive:
“The suspicion that the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah is doing and will do everything in its power to disrupt order in Gaza is the main justification offered for the coercive measures taken against Fatah activists. The trade union leadership in Ramallah, which is identified with the PLO, has enforced a general strike on health and education ministry workers in Gaza since August of this year (employees in other government ministries, including the security apparatuses and the legal system have been required, since Hamas took over security in June 2007, to boycott their workplace if they wish to continue receiving a salary from Ramallah).”
The strike is opposed by the PLO and by Fatah within Gaza
Hass asks lots of questions about Hamas, and leaves many questions about the nature of the regime and the internal conflict open…
e) Yael Kahn, Chair of Islington Friends of Yibna (in Gaza) writes:
“This week, the Free Gaza Movement successfully sent another boat to besieged Gaza. The boat, ‘Dignity’, arrived in Gaza on Tuesday, on the 21st anniversary of the first Palestinian uprising in 1987 against the Israeli occupation.
The Dignity cargo included £500 of high-protein baby formula sent by Islington Friends of Yibna (IFY), in response to the evidence given by Lauren Booth at Islington Town Hall.
Ms Booth showed a film about the dramatic increase in severe malnutrition among babies in Gaza (it can be viewed at www.humanrightstv.com/series/124).
Because the Israeli siege has been blocking even aid sent by UN agency UNRWA, IFY is now planning to continue sending high-protein baby formula by the boats commissioned by the Free Gaza Movement.
The next boat is due to leave later this month and another boat in early January. The aid IFY can send depends on donations. Please send cheques to IFY, PO Box 58246 N1 2UE or direct payment to IFY HSBC 40-03-33 71582704.
PS: On December 12, ‘Dignity’ returned to Cyprus. Aboard the boat were eleven Palestinian students who had been denied exit by Israel to attend their universities abroad.
2. Ask your MP to sign EDM 224 and follow-up on human-rights issues in the occupied Palestinian territories
JUSTICE FOR PALESTINIANS AND PEOPLE IN THE MIDDLE EAST
That this House welcomes statements by the Government recognising that justice for the Palestinians is an essential component in achieving a lasting peace in the Middle East for both Israelis and Palestinians; further welcomes the acknowledgement by Ehud Olmert, the outgoing Israeli Prime Minister, that the decision facing Israel is something Israeli governments have refused to face with open eyes for 40 years and his recognition that a peace agreement with Palestinians depends upon Israel ending its occupation and withdrawing from Occupied Palestinian Territories including East Jerusalem; notes with alarm that since the Annapolis Conference intended to introduce a final status agreement, the number of housing units in illegal settlements in the West Bank has actually increased; believes that the wide international acknowledgement of Palestinian human, national, legal and political rights as reflected in UN resolutions, the Geneva Convention and ICJ opinion must urgently be acted upon and realised; urges the Government to ensure that the UK, EU and UN policy reflects this urgency; and also urges both the incoming US President and the next Israeli leader not to wait until the end of their terms of office to recognise their own responsibilities to achieve a just settlement in line with these principles, and in negotiation with the Palestinians, to secure an independent state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.
Support the EDM
a) The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) has released a report “Policies of Denial: Lack of Access to Water in the West Bank”.
The report documents violations of the right to water and sanitation resulting from Israeli policy and practice in the occupied West Bank, particularly in relation to lack of Palestinian access to water resources and water and sanitation services and facilities. The report calls for Israel, as an occupying power, to assume responsibility for ensuring that the right to water and sanitation, and other internationally recognized human rights, are respected, protected and fulfilled for Palestinians in the West Bank, and not to obstruct the Palestinian Authority from carrying out its duties and responsibilities in relation to the water and wastewater sector.
b) The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel is demanding an Attorney General investigation.
“The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel is demanding the attorney general order a criminal investigation to determine whether any crimes were committed in the planning and execution of past targeted assassinations.
“Attorneys Avigdor Feldman and Michael Sfard wrote Attorney General Menachem Mazuz a letter, asking him to clearly and unconditionally prohibit assassinations when detention is an alternative, and to prohibit giving advance approval to harming innocent bystanders…”
More in the report by Tomer Zarchin “Rights group to Mazuz: Probe IDF targeted killings in West Bank”, Haaretz 9th December.
c) Association of Civil Rights in Israel (Acri), “The State of Human Rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories: 2008 Report”
“On 10 December 1948, still gripped by the trauma of the atrocities committed during World War II and the brutal violations of human rights for millions of people, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Most countries voted to endorse the Declaration, and December 10 has ever since been commemorated as “International Human Rights Day” throughout the world and, in recent decades, in Israel as well.
“A decade ago, marking half a century to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ACRI examined the status of human rights in Israel in light of those cited in the Declaration. The report then written revealed some troubling phenomena and trends:… now from a perspective of sixty years. It is disturbing to note that not only have the troubling trends that we cited a decade ago not diminished, they have in fact grown worse.”
On the situation in the Occupied Territories the Report remarks:
“In the same territorial area and under the same administration live two populations who are subject to two separate and contrasting legal systems and infrastructure. One population has full civil rights while the other is deprived of those rights. The absolute separation between the populations is purely on the basis of national origin. The settlers’ lives, although they live in an area under military rule, are in almost every respect the same as those of Israeli citizens living in Israel. This is in stark contrast with the local population in the same area, the Palestinians, who continue to live under the regime of a military occupation…
This state of affairs in which all the services, budgets, and the access to natural resources are granted along discriminatory and separatist lines according to ethnicnational criteria is a blatant violation of the principle of equality, and is in many ways reminiscent of the Apartheid regime in South Africa (even if in South Africa it was a case of a racist separation criterion as against the ethnic-national one applied in the Occupied Territories).”
Full report downloadable at http://www.acri.org.il/pdf/state2008.pdf
d) Al-Haq, “Peace and Human Rights: Palestine as a Case Study” – A paper on the case of Palestine 60 years after the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This paper was due to be delivered by Al-Haq’s Director, Shawan Jabarin at the international conference on “The Local Relevance of Human Rights” in Antwerp, in 17 October. The Israeli government refused permission for him to attend and it was presented in his absence.
It “provides an analysis of how efforts to achieve peace have met with failure after failure, due to continuous disregard for the human rights of the Palestinian people… The notion that peace and human rights must coexist is widely accepted. The issue becomes much more complex and divisive when we ask, which has to come first?”
Paper downloadable here
e) Frank Barat’s film “Life under occupation – Testimonies from an occupied land” provides a useful visual complement to the reports above.
It “tells the story of people (Palestinians and Internationals) living under a strict occupation. It mainly takes place in Nablus, biggest city of the West Bank, surrounded by checkpoints, facing Israeli army incursions day and night, where the unemployment rate has skyrocketed in the last few years and where many people now live under the poverty line.”
You can watch it online
3. Support the Shministim
A note from Shministit Omer Goldman.
My name is Omer Goldman. I am 19 years old. I am one of the Shministim. I need your help.
I first went to prison on September 23 and served 35 days. I am lucky, after 2 times in jail, I got a medical discharge, but I’m the only one. By the time you read this, many of my friends will be in prison too: in for three weeks, out for one, and then back in, over and over, until they are 21. The reason? We refuse to do military service for the Israeli army because of the occupation.
I grew up with the army. My father was deputy head of Mossad and I saw my sister, who is eight years older than me, do her military service. As a young girl, I wanted to be a soldier. The military was such a part of my life that I never even questioned it.
Earlier this year, I went to a peace demonstration in Palestine. I had always been told that the Israeli army was there to defend me, but during that demonstration Israeli soldiers opened fire on me and my friends with rubber bullets and tear-gas grenades. I was shocked and scared. I saw the truth. I saw the reality. I saw for the first time that the most dangerous thing in Palestine is the Israeli soldiers, the very people who are supposed to be on my side.
When I came back to Israel, I knew I had changed. And so, I have joined with a number of other young people who are refusing to serve – they call us the Shministim. On December 18th, we are holding a Day of Action in Israel, and we are determined to show Israelis and the world that there is wide support for stopping a culture of war. Will you join us? Please, just sign a letter. That’s all it takes. [http://december18th.org/]
Many have asked me about what it was like for me during this time. Of course I got scared while in prison. But also, it’s frightening that my country is the way that it is, locking up young people who are against violence and war. And I worry that what I am doing may damage my future. It’s hard to go from being a free girl who can decide things for herself — what to wear, who to see, what to eat — and then go back to having every minute of the day time-tabled.
Last time I was out of prison, I went to see my dad. We tried not to talk politics. He cares about me as his daughter, that I am suffering, but he doesn’t want to hear my views. He never came to visit me in prison. I think it was too hard for him to see me in there. He is an army man.
I suppose, actually, we have similar characters. We both fight for what we believe in.
I understand from our friends at Jewish Voice for Peace that you are also someone who fights for what you believe in. Believe in me. Believe in Omer Goldman. Believe in the Shministim.