"We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians." – Nelson Mandela

Archive for November, 2012

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights has apparently called for an international fact-finding mission “to investigate ware crimes committes by Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, and to take necessary measure to prosecute the perpetrators.”

Now, Israel is terrified that Palestine may join the International Criminal Court (ICC), if Palestine does decide to do so “they could file complaints with the court accusing Israel of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious crimes.”

U.N. envoys said Israel might not retaliate harshly against the Palestinians over the vote (of becoming recognized in the U.N.) as long as they do not seek to join the International Criminal Court.

However, Abbas did not mention the ICC in his speech. But Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told reporters after the vote that if Israel continued to build illegal settlements, the Palestinians might pursue the ICC route.

“As long as the Israelis are not committing atrocities, are not building settlements, are not violating international law, then we don’t see any reason to go anywhere,” he said

“If the Israelis continue with such policy – aggression, settlements, assassinations, attacks, confiscations, building walls – violating international law, then we have no other remedy but really to knock those to other places,” Maliki said.

Now, obviously Israel knows its in the wrong here, if they did not believe they were doing anything wrong then they would not be so terrified of the fact that Palestine could potentially join the International Criminal Court, which would essentially expose them of all their war crimes.


Gaza girl unable to speak after Israeli drone destroys her home

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An injured child is greated at Gaza City’s al-Shifa hospital after an Israeli airstrike, 16 November (Ashraf Amra / APA images)

The Electronic Intifada – Civilians are still paying the price of Israel’s blistering eight-day military assault on the Gaza Strip.

According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) more than 160 Palestinians lost their lives by 21 November, the last day of the bloody confrontation between Israel and Palestinian fighters. The dead included at least 103 civilians, 33 of them children. More than a thousand Palestinians were wounded, including 971 civilians — 274 of them children.

Three of the Palestinian civilians killed were journalists who died after repeated Israeli attacks on media buildings where Palestinian and foreign journalists were working.

But the attack and its consequences have been the hardest for Gaza’s children, unable to comprehend the volatility and the political intricacies in the place they call home.

“Mamma, mamma,” cried Muhammad Abu Zour, 7, in the al-Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City. His head is bandaged and one of his eyes is purple and badly swollen. His eyes flicker upwards and backwards.

“There is a possibility that he has severe brain damage as there is internal bleeding within his skull,” Sana Thabat, a 23-year-old nurse in Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital said.

Muhammad was wounded last week after Israeli F-16 fighter jets targeted his family home as the occupants slept. The shelling killed two women from the Abu Zour family; Sahar Fadi Abu Zour, 20, Nisma Helmi Abu Zour, 21; and Muhammad’s little brother Eyad Abu Zour, 5.

The Israeli jets had been targeting the home of an alleged militant next door. Al-Zaytoun is densely populated and far from any Hamas military compounds.

In another case of Israeli “collateral damage” several members of the al-Dalu family, including four children, were killed when an Israeli missile hit a four-story house belonging to Jamal Mahmoud Yassin al-Dalu, 52, in the north of Gaza City.

Head fracture

Alia Kalajar, 23, from Shojaiya in Gaza wept silently as she held the hand of her seven-year-old daughter Nisma. “Nisma has stopped talking and we don’t know if she will ever talk again. She has a head fracture and is bleeding internally too,” Kalajar said.

The little girl fell from her home on the third floor of a building that was struck by an Israeli drone. Nineteen Palestinian civilians were injured in that strike.

Abdel Aziz Ashour, 6, from al-Zaytoun has shrapnel injuries in both his legs. He was playing with his seven brothers and sisters last Tuesday when an Israeli drone targeted his neighborhood.

Low on medicines

His cousin was killed and five other civilians were injured. But the little boy remains cheerful despite the grim circumstances and the pain he is in. “I’m not afraid of the Israelis,” he said as he flashed the V for victory sign. Al-Shifa hospital staff have been forced to work long hours with limited medical equipment and dwindling supplies of medicines.

“I’ve seen so many dead and injured children. In the end one becomes a little numb to the situation,” Adnan Bughadi, a 22-year-old nurse from Shojaiya, said. “Most of us have been working double shifts to cope with all the wounded, and it is very tiring. At one stage the floors were covered in blood and there was a shortage of beds for the wounded.”

“The hospital is running low on some essential medicines and has run out of others,” Sana Thabat said. “I find it very distressing seeing the number of children and other civilians killed but what can we do? We have to keep going.”

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights has called for an international fact-finding mission “to investigate war crimes committed by Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, and to take necessary measures to prosecute the perpetrators.”

Source: www.councilforthenationalinterest.org


“Boycotting Israel works,” says Rachel Corrie’s dad

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Craig and Cindy Corrie at Gaza’s seashore, 6 November Ashraf Amra / APA images

The Electronic Intifada – A few days before Israel bombed it for eight consecutive days, Gaza hosted a visit by Cindy and Craig Corrie. Their daughter, Rachel, was murdered by an Israeli soldier in 2003 as she tried to prevent bulldozers from demolishing Palestinian homes in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza.

It was the Corries’ first visit to Gaza since an Israeli court ruling in August this year, which rejected a lawsuit they had taken over Rachel’s murder. The Haifa District Court declared that the Israeli state and military were not responsible for her death.

The Electronic Intifada contributor Joe Catron interviewed Craig Corrie on 11 November, the last night of the Corries’ latest visit to Gaza.

Joe Catron: You’ve been here in the Gaza Strip for five days. How have you found it?

Craig Corrie: It’s always kind of hard to take into your head. The last time we were here was in September 2009. That would have been about eight months after the attack on Gaza [Operation Cast Lead]. And we had been here one previous time, in March of that year.

Then, the destruction was obvious everywhere. You could see rubble, people living in the rubble, people living in tents. Every person was shell-shocked. If you talked to them, they all had a family member who was killed or maimed. The fear, of course, affected everybody. In a very real way, it was quite fresh on people’s minds.

As you come in this time, there’s construction going on. It seems to be happening on glossy, sort of big things. Part of that is to show off, I figure. I’m not totally against that. People, even the de facto government, have to have some means of pride.

One of the things we’ve noticed is the shops. Not only are shops open, but they have a lot on the shelves. But somebody pointed out that there aren’t very many people in those shops. There’s still a lot of unemployment. And I’m told that poverty’s actually getting worse instead of better.

We went to the Qattan Centre for the Child this morning, where we had been before, right after Cast Lead. In 2009, they were working vigorously on trying to get children drawing. All of the pictures were full of tanks, bulldozers, soldiers. They pointed out that there was also a sun in most of the pictures: some sort of symbol of something better.

The art we saw today was more sophisticated. So I think it was by older children, although it’s been some time; it might be the same children. But it wasn’t tanks and bombs all over the place this time. So maybe that’s better.

And yet, it was five days, as you said. You can’t get under the surface in five days, particularly when you’re here with a delegation [the Corries were part of an Interfaith Peace-Builders’ group]. And we’ve been very busy. We’ve gone from group to group to group, and that’s just skimming the top of the waves.

I’m really glad to be here. I’m glad to see the people we haven’t seen for so long. I hear their hurt, in so many different ways. A 13-year-old boy was shot and killed the day before yesterday. Seeing his father, with the pain so fresh, he doesn’t know what it is yet.

We couldn’t communicate well through an interpreter; maybe through the eyes. I’ve been there in a way. People here have all been there in some way or another, but it’s different for everybody.

JC: You recently took part in a similar delegation to the West Bank, and attended the verdict of your civil trial in Israel. What similarities and differences do you see in these three divisions of historic Palestine?

CC: One of the advantages of our trial is that my wife and I lived for nine months in Haifa. So we could know people better. We had a number of Jewish Israeli friends, and we couldn’t have done it without them or our Arab friends inside ’48 [present-day Israel].

On the trip we just did, the best day for me was when I skipped out for a few hours in Haifa, ran around, and happened into some of the guys I knew when I was there. They weren’t expecting me; they might have known I’d come back someday, but didn’t think it would be this year.

Those friendships are wonderful. That part I like. But there was so little emotional payback from the trial, it’s difficult. You know how after you burn yourself, as you get close to a hot stove, it starts to hurt more the closer you get to the heat? That’s the way I felt going back to Israel.

We had a little bit of time in the West Bank. But again, we were going from one group to another. So in a way, you normalize all of this. The people we traveled with, who hadn’t seen it before, were outraged and amazed. I’ve been there before.

But it doesn’t have as much impact as coming here does. Well, there’s probably not as much of an impact now. The first time was incredibly emotional, because I knew people had cared for Rachel. That was incredibly important.

When Rachel was killed, one of the messages I wanted to get through to the people of Rafah was to thank them: thank them for being a father to Rachel when I couldn’t be. I know they were because of the way she wrote about the people she met and how much they meant to her. She wrote that the most important thing she ever did in her life was to come to Rafah. And I needed them to know that.

It was her choice to come. Of course it was an unbelievable loss to us when she was killed. But she was doing something important, something she loved.

JC: You mentioned that while you may appeal your civil case, it will no longer require your regular involvement. What will your priorities, and those of the Rachel Corrie Foundation, be now?

CC: We’ve got a lot of ideas, so we’ll have to choose among them. Of course we’ll still stay active in the Rachel Corrie Foundation, and hopefully be a little more active. We have number of thoughts. What’s been great about this trip is getting to talk to some friends here on the ground. They’ve been giving us their ideas about some things we can do. I think it’s most important to listen to the people here.

I think the trial was really important. We went into it looking for accountability and some information. We’re not going to get any more information out of it. Now I think we have to figure out a meaningful way to get some of the information we have out to the world.

The overarching ruling by the judge was that Rachel was killed as part of a military action, and the State of Israel is not responsible for anything that happens in a war.

There are huge problems with that: you can’t be at war when you’re an occupying power, and other things. But having spent 11 months in the army in Vietnam, I know that they are responsible. That ruling alone is far larger than Rachel, and it needs to be challenged.

The verdict was so appalling that I think a lot of the world was appalled. We may have lost in that courtroom, but I think we made the best impression we could on the world. And I think we caught Israel somewhat by surprise with the media [coverage] that came out.

JC: The trial has been your main commitment for a while, but of course you’re familiar with other Palestine solidarity efforts. What are your insights on them?

CC: My wife doesn’t like me to share this part, but I was sort of slow coming to BDS[boycott, divestment and sanctions]. I’ve talked to some people, actually on this trip, who helped me with some of the well-thought-out ways, when you look at the actual call, how targeted it is.

I used to work in insurance, which involved some investing. So in terms of divestment, that to me was a no-brainer. If you own the stock, like in Caterpillar, then you’re profiting from things that are immoral.

It didn’t seem to me that it takes a discussion. It takes a call to your stockbroker to get out. Why talk about it? Especially if you’re a Christian church. You can’t have the values of a church, then go profit from people’s suffering.

What I worried about was group punishment. Israel, as well as the United States, does that sort of thing.

But I’ve had a lot of my questions answered about just how specific the boycotts are. Omar Barghouti, and some people I know, answered them when they were talking to our group.

I had a discussion with some friends who are Israeli academics. Of course they don’t like the academic boycott. One thing I found out is that if they go as individuals, not representing their institutions, they aren’t boycotted. That seems very sane to me.

I told them after dinner, “You know, the one thing I can tell you is that I’ve tried — I, personally, have tried — everything else. This works.”

There are a whole lot of other things my family and I have done to seek justice and change, not just for our family — that’s more symbolic — but for the Palestinian people. It’s not really anything to do with Rachel. We’re trying to work for the children who are here now, the children Rachel was trying to help.

We’ve tried every conventional way I know to do this. We’ve been going to courts in Israel. And we’re trying this, too. It’s one of those examples of things I thought were a little bit nuts, but turned out to work. It’s working.

And it’s getting a lot of pushback. That tells me it’s working, and helps it work, by the way. When somebody’s screaming like that, they bring a whole lot more coverage to it. So, thank you Israel for making it a little easier for us, at least.

JC:After all your recent experiences in Palestine, what’s the message about them you’ll take back to the United States?

CC: It’s hard for me to wrap it all up. What we’ve heard a lot is that the West Bank and Gaza Strip need to be united, and that they’re all one Palestine.

I kept hearing over and over that it’s worse than it’s ever been, more in the West Bank than here. And that seems strange if you’re in Ramallah, where the construction is really booming. But I think there’s a growing realization that they’re losing more and more of the land, and a fear that they’re going to end up in little bantustans.

It would be a two-state solution, but one of them wouldn’t really be a state and not viable at all, just bantustans. Will the world put up with that?

There’s a lot of discussion about one-state versus two-state solutions. I’m not the person to have anything to say about that. But I do think those of us who work on this issue — inside ’48, in the diaspora, in the West Bank, in Gaza — have to think about how we secure the rights of all the people in the area.

It may seem absurd, and most people will think there’s a very low chance Canada will come down and take my home in Olympia, Washington. But if they do, I have a right to it back. That’s my right of return. And it ticks me off that just because some legislator in Congress finds it inconvenient to recognize that for the Palestinian people, he’s going to take away my right.

When it comes to human rights, we all drink from the same well. And if you poison that well because you think it’s going to hurt your enemy, don’t cry to me when it’s your children that get sick.

There are lots of different ways to say that, but it’s a real, immediate thing for me when I come here.

What we’re fighting for here is everybody’s rights, the rights we’re all supposed to enjoy. Palestinians have those rights. They’re just not secured. We need to secure them for everyone in the region.

Joe Catron is a US activist in Gaza, Palestine. He works with the Centre for Political and Development Studies (CPDS) and other Palestinian groups and international solidarity networks, particularly in support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions and prisoners’ movements. He blogs at joecatron.wordpress.com  and tweets at @jncatron .

Source: www.councilforthenationalinterest.org


Gaza Won’t Be ‘Liveable’ By 2020, U.N. Report Finds

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA, Aug 27 (Reuters) – Gaza will no longer be “liveable” by 2020 unless urgent action is taken to improve water supply, power, health, and schooling, the United Nations’ most comprehensive report on the Palestinian enclave said on Monday.

“Action needs to be taken now if Gaza is to be a liveable place in 2020 and it is already difficult now,” U.N. humanitarian coordinator Maxwell Gaylard told journalists when the report was released on Monday.

Five years into an Israeli blockade supported by Egypt, and living under one-party rule, Gaza’s population of 1.6 million is set to rise by 500,000 over the next eight years, say the authors of the U.N.’s most wide-ranging report on the territory.

Gaza has one the youngest populations in the world, with 51 percent of people under the age of 18.

“Action needs to be taken right now on fundamental aspects of life: water sanitation, electricity, education, health and other aspects,” Gaylard said.

Israel partly eased restrictions in mid-2010, and Gaza’s crippled economy began to revive from rock bottom. Real GDP is estimated to have risen by 28 percent in the first half of 2011 as unemployment fell to 28 percent in 2011 from 37 percent.

But the report, involving expertise from more U.N. agencies and making projections further into the future than before, said growth over the next eight years would be slow, since Gaza’s current isolation renders its economy essentially non-viable.

RECONSTRUCTION BUT NO PEACE

The people in the narrow coastal strip live mainly on U.N. aid, foreign funding and a tunnel economy which brings in food, construction materials, electronics and cars from Egypt.

But the smuggling trade is no solution. Robert Turner, director of operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said Gaza by 2020 will need 440 more schools, 800 more hospital beds and over a 1,000 additional doctors.

Gaylard called on international donors to increase their aid to a population which is 80 percent aid dependent.

“Despite their best efforts the Palestinians in Gaza still need help,” he said. “They are under blockade. They are under occupation and they need our help both politically and practically on the ground.”

A lack of clean drinking water is the greatest immediate concern, said Jean Gough of the UNICEF. The report projects a 60 percent increase in the enclave’s water needs, while urgent action is already needed to protect existing water resources.

By 2016, Gaza’s aquifer may become unusable, she said. Palestinians are already drilling deeper and deeper to reach groundwater and there is a need for more desalination plants. A seawater plant costing about $350 million is planned.

The U.N. says only a quarter of Gaza waste water is treated. The rest, including raw sewage, goes into the Mediterranean Sea.

Gaylard said Gaza needs peace and security to improve the lives of its people. “It will certainly have to mean the end of blockade, the end of isolation and the end of conflict.”

There is as yet no sign of an end to the conflict between Hamas and Israel. The Islamist movement is shunned by the West as a terror organisation and there is no prospect of diplomatic contacts leading to peace talks as long as Hamas rejects Israel’s right to exist.

Analysts say much may depend on the future of relations with the new Egypt, whose Islamist leaders are sympathetic to Hamas but also committed to the 1979 peace treaty with Israel. Hamas is also supported by Iran, which is extremely hostile to Israel.

Aside from its tunnel network, Gaza imports via Israel. U.N. figures show, for example, that 46,500 tonnes of building materials came into Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel in September 2011, while 90,000 tonnes came via the tunnels.

It also gets electricity and fuel from Israel.

Rebuilding homes and factories smashed in the winter war of 2009 is Gaza’s biggest task, and construction is the source of most of its growth in employment in the past two years.     (Editing by Louise Ireland and Douglas Hamilton)

It already suffers from double-digit unemployment, frequent power outages and widespread poverty.

The U.N. report expects things to get worse due to rapid population growth and the poor condition of the territory’s already strained infrastructure.

Without stepped up investment in infrastructure and education, and an end to Gaza’s isolation, the report predicts “virtually no reliable access” to safe drinking water, lower health and education standards, and insufficient sources of energy.

Reuters

Source: Huffington Post

This statement really infuriated me:

“There is as yet no sign of an end to the conflict between Hamas and Israel. The Islamist movement is shunned by the West as a terror organisation and there is no prospect of diplomatic contacts leading to peace talks as long as Hamas rejects Israel’s right to exist.”

Why should Hamas recognize Israel’s right to exist?

They don’t have a right to exist.

They kicked the Palestinians off their land and are now forcing them to live in terrible conditions.

Israel has no right to exist.

Simple as that.


Contradiction at its finest…

So, when discussing Israel’s right to “defend” itself Obama stated that “no country on earth would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders”

However Obama is also the same person to authorize drone strikes going into Pakistan, Yemen, etc.

That is one heck of a contradiction.


Palestinians win de facto U.N. recognition of sovereign state

A Palestinian boy in traditional clothes waves a Palestinain flag during a rally in the West Bank city of Ramallah November 29, 2012. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas appealed to the U.N. General Assembly to recognize Palestinian statehood by supporting a resolution to upgrade the U.N. observer status of the Palestinian Authority from "entity" to "non-member state." REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Reuters/Reuters – A Palestinian boy in traditional clothes waves a Palestinain flag during a rally in the West Bank city of Ramallah November 29, 2012.

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The 193-nation U.N. General Assembly on Thursday overwhelmingly approved the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the world body to issue its long overdue “birth certificate.”

The U.N. victory for the Palestinians was a diplomatic setback for the United States and Israel, which were joined by only a handful of countries in voting against the move to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s observer status at the United Nations to “non-member state” from “entity,” like the Vatican.

Britain called on the United States to use its influence to help break the long impasse in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Washington also called for a revival of direct negotiations.

There were 138 votes in favor, nine against and 41 abstentions. Three countries did not take part in the vote, held on the 65th anniversary of the adoption of U.N. resolution 181 that partitioned Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states.

The assembly approved the upgrade despite threats by the United States and Israel to punish the Palestinians by withholding funds for the West Bank government. U.N. envoys said Israel might not retaliate harshly against the Palestinians over the vote as long as they do not seek to join the International Criminal Court.

If the Palestinians were to join the ICC, they could file complaints with the court accusing Israel of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious crimes.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the vote “unfortunate and counterproductive,” while the Vatican praised the move and called for an internationally guaranteed special status for Jerusalem, something bound to irritate Israel.

The much-anticipated vote came after Abbas denounced Israel for its “aggressive policies and the perpetration of war crimes” from the U.N. podium, remarks that elicited a furious response from the Jewish state.

“Sixty-five years ago on this day, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 181, which partitioned the land of historic Palestine into two states and became the birth certificate for Israel,” Abbas told the assembly after receiving a standing ovation.

“The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded quickly, condemning Abbas’ critique of Israel as “hostile and poisonous,” and full of “false propaganda.

“These are not the words of a man who wants peace,” Netanyahu said in a statement released by his office. He reiterated Israeli calls for direct talks with the Palestinians, dismissing Thursday’s resolution as “meaningless.”

ICC THREAT

Granting Palestinians the title of “non-member observer state” falls short of full U.N. membership – something the Palestinians failed to achieve last year. But it would allow them access to the ICC and other international bodies, should they choose to join them.

Abbas did not mention the ICC in his speech. But Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told reporters after the vote that if Israel continued to build illegal settlements, the Palestinians might pursue the ICC route.

“As long as the Israelis are not committing atrocities, are not building settlements, are not violating international law, then we don’t see any reason to go anywhere,” he said

“If the Israelis continue with such policy – aggression, settlements, assassinations, attacks, confiscations, building walls – violating international law, then we have no other remedy but really to knock those to other places,” Maliki said.

In Washington, a group of four Republican and Democratic senators announced legislation that would close the Palestinian office in Washington unless the Palestinians enter “meaningful negotiations” with Israel, and eliminate all U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority if it turns to the ICC.

“I fear the Palestinian Authority will now be able to use the United Nations as a political club against Israel,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the sponsors.

Abbas led the campaign to win support for the resolution, which followed an eight-day conflict this month between Israel and Islamists in the Gaza Strip, who are pledged to Israel’s destruction and oppose a negotiated peace.

At least 17 European nations voted in favor of the Palestinian resolution, including Austria, France, Italy, Norway and Spain. Abbas had focused his lobbying efforts on Europe, which supplies much of the aid the Palestinian Authority relies on. Britain, Germany and others chose to abstain.

The Czech Republic was unique in Europe, joining the United States, Israel, Canada, Panama and tiny Pacific Island states likes Nauru, Palau and Micronesia in voting against the move.

PALESTINIANS RALLY

Peace talks have been stalled for two years, mainly over Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which have expanded despite being deemed illegal by most of the world. There are 4.3 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

After the vote, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice called for the immediate resumption of peace talks.

“The Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed save that the prospects of a durable peace have only receded,” she said.

She added that both parties should “avoid any further provocative actions in the region, in New York or elsewhere.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said he hoped all sides would use the vote to push for new breakthroughs in the peace process.

“I hope there will be no punitive measures,” Fayyad told Reuters in Washington, where he was attending a conference.

“I hope that some reason will prevail and the opportunity will be taken to take advantage of what happened today in favor of getting a political process moving,” he said.

Britain’s U.N. ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, told reporters it was time for recently re-elected U.S. President Barack Obama to make a new push for peace.

“We believe the window for the two-state solution is closing,” he said. “That is why we are encouraging the United States and other key international actors to grasp this opportunity and use the next 12 months as a way to really break through this impasse.”

By Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols (Reuters)