For more on ongoing protests visit: www.stopwar.org.uk

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I understand there are at least nineteen people dead. Guardian article on global protests: World wide protests on Israeli attack on aid flotilla. How and where to protest see this Stop the War Coalition link. Rod Cox – who travelled with the first Viva Palestina convoy to Gaza – gives us insights on what happened here: Rod Cox and Gaza.

Update: Wednesday 2nd. June. The respected organisation “Fairness and Accuracy in reporting” published an important analysis of the often biased ways in which this tragic incident has been reported”. Read it here: Fairness and Accuracy in reporting Israeli Ship Attack.

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The morning of the first session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine opened with a focus on the Palestinian right to self determination as enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1956.

The session was opened by Stephane Hessel, a co-author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Ambasador de France. He said,´We are acting in the name of every individual which has a responsibility to put pressure on international bodies to uphold international Law. We cannot allow for the impunity of those responsible for violations of international law to remain unchallenged’.

Pierre Galand from the organising committee for the Russell Tribunal on Palestine explained, a solution can come about through the mobilisation of public opinion, as was the case with civil society organisation against the Vietnam war and dictatorships in Latin America during the 70s.

The purpose of the tribunal is to show the complicity of international states in the perpetuation of the ongoing violations of the rights of the palestinian people and to mobilise public opinion to end this Felicia Langer, Vicky Peña, Gustave Massiah, Pilar Sampietro, ánd Lluis Llach outlined international laws applicable to the Palestine-Israel context such as the Fourth Geneva Conventions 1949, and European Union Law including the articles enshrined within the EU-Israel Association Agreement signed in 1995, which places an obligation on Israel to respect human rights and democratic principles as well as adhere to economic production within 1967 borders.

 Elementary principles of distinction between civilian and military objects, civilians and combatants and proportionality were represented. The Jury for the Tribunal, comprised of eminent figures from the field of human rights law and campaigning, heard from Madjid Benchikh, Professor of International Law and Former Dean at the Faculty of Law, Algiers.

Asked by Jury Member barrister Michael Mansfield how states can legally respond to Israels wilfull and persistent non-compliance with international law, he responded with a suggestion of refering Israel to the UN Security Council for non-restitution of territories acquired by force following the 1967 war.

 David Bondia, an Expert witness and Professor of Public International Law and International Relations at the University of Barcelona, presented on Israels use of domestic law to contradict and violate international law, including the use of military orders, prison policy and the use of military courts as a different and non-IHL compliant judicial system which violates the prohibition of Apartheid and negates the right to life. He advocated for a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions strategy to pressure Israel into compliance with International Law, as was practised by grassroots movements around the world and mainly Eastern and African states with regards to Apartheid South Africa.

 Daragh Murray from Ireland and recently returned from 18 months in Gaza, is a legal advisor for the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) in Gaza. Murray was representing the Director of PCHR Raji Sourani for this session as Raji was prevented from leaving Gaza by the closure regime imposed by Israel and enforced by Egypt and the international community.

Daragh defined the denial of the right of self determination as a fundamental denial of the right to human dignity, choice and freedom, and Israels denial of this right as absolute. He suggested applying the conditions demanded of Palestinian liberation movements by the Quartet (USA, EU, Russia, and the UN) onto Israel: Recognition of past agreements, recognition of Palestine and an end to attacks on civilians.

 Describing the conditions in Gaza he said 85% of the population is dependent on food aid, 80% live in poverty, unemployment is at 42% and the population of industrial workers has dropped from 65,000 in 2007 to 35,000 before Israels Operation Cast Lead in 2008 to 1878 now in 2010. The number of people which PCHR has been able to establish clearly died due to Israels blockade is 26 although the figure has been estimated at much higher due to other variables such as chronic diseases and cancers which may have been pacified if treatment had been accessed.

 The international boycott of the democratically elected government of the Hamas movement was cited as a striking example of the violation of the right to self deterrmination. The UN was also critiqued for possibly violating the principles of its own charter through its conduct within the quartet.

 Making the violations of International Law with regards to Palestine a domestic issue – an electoral issue – in non-International Law compliant states within the EU was described as a key means to change policy. The European Court of Human Rights, Domestic Courts and Universal Jurisdiction were cited as mechanisms to enforce international law.

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News from the International Jewish Anti-Zionist network.  Together with the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign they have organised a  UK & Ireland tour with Hajo Meyer & Haidar Eid (Dr Eid via video link from Gaza) called:

“NEVER AGAIN.FOR ANYONE”. The IJAZ Network say:

“On January 27, Holocaust Remembrance Day, leading politicians from the U.S. and Europe will join in honoring the memory of Jews killed in the Nazi genocide. Yet the immensity of that tragedy is dishonored by the hypocrisy of the ceremonies: those who pay homage to the victims of yesterday’s silence are silent about today’s inhumanity. We say, “Never again!” For anyone. Never again for the people of Gaza. Never again for all those struggling against dehumanization, racism and genocide everywhere, every day”.

Hajo Meyer tells us: “My great lesson from Auschwitz is – whoever wants to dehumanise any other must first be dehumanised himself. The oppressors are no longer really human whatever uniform they wear”.

Dr Hajo G. Meyer was born in 1924 in Bielefeld, Germany. In 1944, after a year in the underground, he was caught and subsequently survived 10 months in Auschwitz. An IJAN member, Dr. Meyer is on the board of the IJAN.

Dr Haidar Eid is a refugee whose parents were expelled from the Zarnouqa village in 1948. Dr. Eid is a member of the PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel) Steering Committee and a co-founder of the One Dutch “A Different Jewish Voice”, of European Jews for a Just Peace. He is the author of three books on Judaism, Holocaust and Zionism. Democratic State Group.

He lives in Gaza, where he is an Associate Professor of Cultural Studies at Al-Aqsa University.

Tour Dates

♦ 21 Jan, 7.30pm: Sir Charles Wilson Building, University of Glasgow.

♦ 22 Jan, 7.30pm: D’Arcy Thompson Lecture Theatre, Tower Building, Perth Rd. Dundee

♦ 23 Jan, 2pm: Augustine Church Centre, Edinburgh.

♦ 24 Jan, 7.30pm: The Showroom & Workstation, Paternoster Row. Sheffield

♦ 25 Jan, 7.30pm: Quaker Meeting House, Liverpool.

 ♦ 26 Jan, 6pm: Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmiths, University of London.

♦ 27 Jan, 7pm: House of Commons (Portcullis House) Westminster, London.

♦ 29 Jan, 7.30pm: The Grosvenor Hall, Glengall Street, Belfast.

♦ 30 Jan, 6pm: Central Hotel, Exchequer Street, Dublin.

For the full schedule go to International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. Never Again or the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign for more information or to sponsor one of these events, please contact: uk@ijsn.net or campaign@scottishpsc.org.uk

The IJAN say: “We are urgently looking for sponsors for the tour. If you haven’t already, please consider  endorsing/sponsoring the tour now! And we are also looking for representatives form communities that have faced genocide to participate in the planning of the tour and to respond to the main speakers“. 

‘Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak out for me’ – Pastor Martin Niemöller

See this link. Sky news two hours ago.

Gaza one year on

January 1, 2010

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First of January. Janus the god of  gates, doors, doorways, beginnings and endings. Looking backwards and forwards at the  same time.

 In December last year anti-war protestors stood together on the streets protesting against the Gaza massacre. After closing and controlling its borders, we heard news of Israel brutally bombing and then invading Gaza.

This week an email from the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network reminds me of  the 1,417 Palestinians dead including 313 children and youth:

” Since the attack, which destroyed houses, wells, factories, schools, hospitals, police stations and other public buildings, the blockade has created conditions of genocide through contamination of water supplies due to white phosphorous, raw sewage pouring into the sea, and the prevention of food, medical and other humanitarian supplies from entering Gaza. People living in Gaza are already feeling the terrible long-term effects including a huge increase in birth defects and in cancers, especially in children”.

Over the past year many of us made trips to Palestine in solidarity. To bear witness. To bring food. To film and to write the reality.

 I would have wanted to be there too. For the present – and this time – family circumstances did not and do not allow me to go the distance. I had to travel to Palestinians online instead. 

Travelled in my head each day to the month-long protest that took place at the Rafah border organised by the International Movement to Open the Border. To speak to the women who sent me messages and photographs. Posted twice, three times a day – learning there were some things that would never see the light of the mainstream press. Began to understand why no-one would pay a writer to write about it. Followed the story anyway. Days and days and months of it.

Travelled to the Palestine Trade Union solidarity conference in Liverpool. Heard the writer   Sameh Habeeb speak for the first time. He’s helping us to understand Obama, Afghanistan and Palestine:

 Obama’s failure will only increase over time. The troops in Afghanistan will be doubled, as well as the loss of lives of Americans due to this careless policy. The American-made Iraq will never exist. Palestinians will continue to be denied their inalienable rights granted by International law and a Palestinian state will not be realized in the near future.

Gazans will remain suffering under the internationally endorsed siege, with its children continuing to be killed and starved. All of this is due to American foreign policy, which is concerned with economic and material self-interest rather than humanitarian concerns. Indeed, neither Barack Obama nor the American government will solve such problems as they remain bias and supporters of the victimizers against the victims”.

Last year I started out thinking I had the freedom to write the truth as I saw and heard it.  A late night phone call from a government office shook me out of this particular day-dream.  It wasn’t that simple.

This month I read:  “the Gaza Freedom March coalition mobilised an international contingent of over 1,300 international delegates for a non-violent march alongside the people of Gaza which was planned to take place yesterday”.

I read: “The Egyptian Foreign Ministry informed the organisers on December 20 that the Rafah border will be closed over the coming weeks into January, and that they will not be able to enter Gaza.  Egyptian embassies and missions heard a clear message from supporters of the march by phone, fax and email. Let the delegation enter Gaza and let the Gaza Freedom March proceed”.

I’m thinking:  This place is familiar. The author of the blog GHAZAWIYYA has the following to say (see this link for the source – quote unedited).

“The Viva Palestina convoy should not have accepted to leave to Lathqiyyeh in Syria based on what Egypt demanded they do. This is not resistance. The convoy should have held on their demands despite the Egyptian regimes refusal to allow them to pass through Nweiba’.

What the Egyptian authorities are doing is to put off people, and they are succeeding in doing that as long as their is no persistence and resistance. Now, one other thing I would like to criticise Viva Palestina’s Alberawy for is his statement that the convoy is “humanitarian and in solidarity” that does not wish to pressure the Egyptian government! Not that I am for the humanitarian discourse, but, I mean isn’t it humanitarian enough for Mr. Alberawy to uncover the Egyptian regime’s injustice and corruption?

Couldn’t Viva Palestina have took advantage of this refusal by Egypt to defy this wicked and torturous regime? They should have kept the half a million dollars to support the solidarity workers in Aqaba and work on a movement to Jordan in support of a civil disobedience”. (Quote source: the blogger Natalie Abou Shakra  at GHAZAWIYYA)


Aljazeera comment: “Hamas says that it is on the verge of starting its own investigation into whether it committed war crimes during Israel’s war on Gaza.

The probe is one of the main requirements of the recent UN-backed Goldstone Report into the conflict, which took place during December and January. Most of the report’s criticism was reserved for Israel.

In a rare interview, Ismail Haniya, the deposed Palestinian prime minister, also told Al Jazeera’s Zeina Awad that he is still hopeful of exchanging Gilad Shalit, a captured Israeli soldier, for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.”

From a mailing received today;

“Mohammad Abu Eid, from the occupied West Bank, was 14 years old when he was detained by the Israeli forces in February 2008 and accused of throwing stones at the Wall. Mohammad was beaten, interrogated in the absence of a lawyer and family member, deceived into signing a confession, prosecuted in a military court and sentenced to four months imprisonment inside Israel. Whilst in prison, he received no education and no family visits”.

Mohammed, in the company of his mother, Somaya, will share their experiences with the audience to foster a better understanding of the situation facing Palestinian children. They will be joined by Gerard Horton, from Defence for Children International – Palestine, a lawyer working in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Abdelfattah Abusrour, President of Palestinian Theatre League; an at each meeting there will be additional testimony from our esteemed UK guests who have extensive knowledge of the region and the shocking situation facing vulnerable children.

 
All public meetings start at 7pm and finish at 9pm
Monday 2 November, Liverpool

Quaker Meeting House, School Lane, Liverpool L1 3BT
Chair: Betty Hunter
Guest: Dr. Derek Summerfield

Tuesday 3 November, London

Mander Hall, Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BD
Chair: Sir Geoffrey Bindman
Guests: Baroness Helena Kennedy and Christine Blower

Wednesday 4 November, Sheffield

Quaker Meeting House, 10 St James Street, Sheffield S1 2EW
Chair: Hugh Lanning
Guest: Bruce Kent and Musheir El-Farra

Thursday 5 November, Oxford

Oxford Town Hall, St Aldate’s, Oxford, OX1 1BX
Chair: Victoria Brittain
Guests: Danny Friedman and Karma Nabulsi

Here is a poem, received today. Written by Ehab Lotayef and inspired by the International Movement to Open the Rafah Border:Rafah

On the gates of Gaza
Fists are banging
and voices are getting louder
every day

At the gates of Gaza
the masses are gathering

Activists chanting
displaced people
aimless soldiers

Women insulted
enemies protected
A wailing grandmother
and frail old men

A young boy
weeping
A mother in tears
A paperless teenager

An army losing reason

Destruction
blockade
and no one to the aide
Are the children of Gaza
born to be slaves?

No medicine
No food
Barriers
and shackles

Bang your fists
on the gates of Gaza
and shout so your voice
shatters the blockade

Wipe out the darkness
wake up the sleeping
free the hostages
remove the barriers

The walls must fall

The walls will fall
and behind the walls
we’ll witness the sun
of a brighter day

In Solidarity – International Movement to Open Rafah Border

The International Middle East Media Centre reports:

 “U.S. officials have visited Egypt and the Rafah terminal to discuss “a detailed plan that includes high-tech equipment to uncover tunnels…the U.S. officials said that the congress-supported plan aims at securing the 13.5 border line between Egypt and Gaza. The congress approved allocating 50 million USD to secure the borders between Egypt and Israel”

Today I asked a spokesperson and member of the International Movement to Open the Rafah border IMORB for  a statement on this situation by email. They said:

“Israel and Egypt are maintaining an harsh blockade to the 1,5 millions people in Gaza Strip and the only way for them to get medicine, food, clothes, petrol, and all the basis products is through the tunnels. If US and Egypt close all the tunnels, life in Gaza will be unbearable. Many people will die, particularly the sick people.

As we are heading towards new general elections (presidential and legislative ones) which are expected to come on next January, USA, Israel and the international community want to force Palestinians in Gaza to make the right choice : to vote for the collaborator party and leader. And to insure they will do the right thing, they have to impose an hermetic siege without the help of the Egyptian people and tunnels!

Palestinians will be forced to collaborate with their occupier and to recognize its right to dispossess them. It is not only a shame, it is a crime ! Where is justice ?  Where is the right to freedom ? This is the kind of democracy westerners countries promised to the Palestinians (for the racist zionists : a subhumanity !!)”

According to the news section of the website Almasryonline

“Israel conducted an airstrike using F16 bombers on the Egyptian Gaza border yesterday morning. Egyptians living in Rafah were thrown into a state of fear and mayhem, many of them fleeing their houses in fear of the vibrations resulting from the near-by bombing.

The air raid resulted in the death of four Palestinians and the wounding of 9 others”.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has just released an important report:  Locked In – The Humanitarian Impact of two years of blockade on the Gaza Strip 

Much of it we know – but the publication is important – thirty pages long but very clearly written and illustrated with maps which show the extent of restrictions on fishing (crucial in a food crisis). Here is a extract:

“Following the Hamas takeover of the Gaza strip in June 2007, Israel has imposed an unprecedented blockade on all border crossings in and out of the Gaza strip. The blockade has ‘locked in’ 1.5 million people in what is one of the most densely populated areas on earth, triggering a protracted human dignity crisis with negative humanitarian consequences…

…The blockade, now it its third year, has taken place alongside recurrent cycles of violence and human rights violations, stemming from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Hamas’s rule over Gaza…it has been characterized by the U.N.’s most senior humanitarian official, John Holmes, as a form of ‘collective punishment’ on the entire Gaza population. The UN, the ICRC, many states and humanitarian organizations have repeatedly urged the Government of Israel to remove the restrictions on Gaza’s borders; to allow free access to agricultural areas within Gaza, and to allow unrestricted fishing in Gaza’s territorial waters. These are the urgent first steps needed to start the reconstruction of homes and infrastructure, the revival of the economy and the restoration of human dignity in Gaza.”