Quarterly | Issue 40 | April 2009
For Free Distribution
Gaza The Aftermath
Israel’s indiscriminate bombing and shooting during its 22 day military assault on the Gaza strip in December/January left 1,434 people dead. Dozens of bodies were discovered under rubble following the declaration of a ceasefire. The number killed includes 446 children, 110 women, 108 elderly people, and 14 medical personnel. This assault has been described by many as the worst brutality inflicted upon the occupied Palestinian people by Israel since 1967. 5,320 Palestinians were injured; amongst them were 1,855 children and 795 women. The Occupation Forces also left 4,000 civilian homes completely destroyed
and 1,600 homes are sitting partially destroyed, many of which are uninhabitable. Thus, once again, Palestinians have been made refugees, living in makeshift camps using tents until their homes can be rebuilt. The UN estimates that 35,500 civilians are now being housed in shelters for internally displaced civilians and losses in the Palestinian economy has reached 2 billion USD according to Palestinian sources. Every aspect of Palestinian life in Gaza has been affected by the war, including its health sector. twenty one health facilities in the Gaza Strip were partially or completely destroyed. Attacks on medical personnel were widely reported,
UN staff & buildings attacked by Israel
including attacks on personnel attempting to evacuate injured civilians to hospitals. Several ambulances were targeted by direct gunfire as witnessed by Physicians for Human Rights. On another front, Amnesty International has reported on the near total unemployment and bankruptcy within Gaza. At present, 95% of industrial operations are suspended due to lack of materials and the inability to export arising from the border closures. 15,000 factories, shops, and markets were damaged during the air, land and sea bombardment. The Aftermath In the aftermath of the attack, international efforts to bring aid to the People of Gaza
Syria ready to talk to Israel
have been impeded by border closures. However, this has not hindered efforts to raise awareness about the situation and the international collection of aid. The UN efforts to bring aid to the desperate population have been ongoing and many Palestinians in Gaza now rely on this aid for their survival. Israeli troops targeted civilians On 20th March, an article appearing in the Independent newspaper revealed how Israeli troops had been allowed to shoot civilians, and in some cases, even ordered to do so. These revelations pulled into focus Israel’s claims that the war was conducted with great efforts to avoid civilian
International Conference to rebuild Gaza held in Egypt
casualties. One soldier described an incident where a Palestinian mother and her children were gunned down by an Israeli sniper when they turned down the wrong street. He described an “atmosphere” among the Israeli troops where Palestinian lives were viewed as “very, very less important than the lives of [Israeli] soldiers.” These confessions have revealed that the Israeli army is far from the most ‘moral army in the world’ as claimed by Israeli statesmen. Calls for investigations into the revelations of indiscriminate killings have come from both within Israel and human rights organisations globally.
2 TESTIMONIES FROM GAZA We were hit. We fell down, and I couldn’t see or hear anything. Then I started hearing again. I heard combat helicopters and gunfire, and I didn’t know where they were firing…. My father and uncle came there and took us to an ambulance. They told me that Husam had been killed and Mahmoud was wounded. My eyes were hurt, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to see again. Lu’ai Osama Rajab Subuh, pupil and resident of Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza Strip We heard the sound of bombings and gunfire. Around 4 P.M., there was a huge explosion next to us, and smoke covered the yard. I couldn’t see my brothers or their children. My body hurt all over. Hussein Shafiq ‘Abd al-Hamid, resident of Jabaliya refugee camp The army started to shell our area. A few minutes later, shells landed on our house. Fire broke out in the house and several members of the family burned to death: my father-in-law, his baby daughter Shahd, and three of his sons. Ghada Riad Rajab Abu Halima, resident of Beit Lahiya
UN staff and buildings attacked by Israel The United Nations Refugee and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza suffered numerous attacks during Israel’s bombardment, affecting 80 of its buildings. One of UNRWA’s main compounds holding essential food and medical supplies was substantially destroyed by heavy Israeli shelling. Two UNRWA workers were also killed when their aid convoy was targeted by IDF. In one of the worst offences during the war, on January 5th and 6th, bombings of UN Schools being used for shelter resulted in over 100 civilian deaths. This was not the first time that Israel targeted UN workers/buildings. In June 2007, two UNRWA members were killed in crossfire in Khan Younis and Beach Camp. In August 2006, an UNRWA staff member was killed in the Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp in Saida. In November 2006, two school children were shot and wounded inside UNRWA’s Beit Lahiya Elementary school in northern Gaza strip, and in December 2006, a 13 year old schoolgirl and an UNRWA teacher were injured by gunfire. It is evidence of such attacks that have prompted worldwide calls for Israeli military leaders to be investigated by the International Criminal Court on charges of War Crimes. Following the end of hostilities in January 2009, UN Secretary
Ban Ki-Moon addresses reporters outside the devastated UN compound in Gaza
General Ban Ki-Moon visited the UN compound on January 20th and witnessed the devastated and smouldering ruins for himself. He described feeling ‘appalled’ by the scene, and further stated: “I have come to Gaza to see for myself
She thought that maybe if we lifted white flags they might have some mercy on us and not kill us. She said the white flag represents peace so they won’t harm us ... But they didn’t respect the white flag.
The anti-settlement group Aseel was asked to write a letter ‘Peace Now’ has discovered to children around the world. through the analysis of Israeli government data that there are plans to increase the number Be part of Friends of Al-Aqsa. of housing units in the West Join our mailing list. To Bank dramatically. According to their report, “At least 15,000 receive updates and information about our events, housing units have already been approved and plans for an register your email on our additional 58,000 housing units website www.aqsa.org.uk are yet to be approved. Out of
this difficulty.” The Secretary General professed to be “deeply grieved” by the post war scenes that he witnessed, feelings that have been echoed by many aid workers and human rights activists in the area.
Plans to increase West Bank settlers discovered
Nasser al Najar from the village of Khuza’a talking about his wife who was shot by an Israeli soldier as she carried her baby and a white flag My name is Aseel and I am 8 years old, I have the right to live, study and play, the Israeli’s took all of that away from me.
the extent of the damage caused by the last three weeks of fighting and to demonstrate my solidarity to the population of Gaza, and to assure you of the United Nations’ and the international community’s full support to help you overcome
the units already approved, nearly 9,000 have been built.” This will mean that after implementation of the plans, the number of Israeli settlers living on stolen Palestinian land will be doubled. Israeli settlements violate international humanitarian law and infringe international human rights law. An occupying power under no
Left: A View of the Qedumim settlement in the West Bank built on stolen Palestinian land near Qalqiliya.
circumstances is allowed to transfer its civilian population to the occupied territory, as stated in the Fourth Geneva Convention. Doubling the number of settlers will clearly lead to more anger and frustration among the local Palestinian population, whose land continues to be stolen by Israel with impunity. There is also concern about
the increase in settler violence against Palestinians, which has resulted in innocent Palestinians being killed. Despite Israel’s commitment under the ‘roadmap for peace’ to dismantle all settlements built since March 2001, Israel continues to violate international law and ignore it’s responsibilities as an occupying power.
Israel fails to open Gaza borders
Movement in and out of Gaza has been severely restricted since June 2007. The result has been a lack of even basic necessities such as food, medical supplies and electricity from getting through. Following the collapse of Gaza’s economy, food prices shot up and many became aid
dependent even before Israel launched its war in December 2008. The tightened blockade meant that humanitarian essentials were not getting through, and even with the disastrous post-war situation, aid is being restricted. The international aid group Mercy Corps tried to send
ninety tons of macaroni to the Gaza strip to help the 1.4 million Palestinians in need, however Israel repeatedly refused entry. Israel has also prevented other aid groups from sending in supplies including paper, crayons, and lentils. Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
Palestinians waiting at the Rafah border crossing linking Gaza to Egypt
Olmert said: “We want to make sure that the reconstruction for Gaza is not the reconstruction for Hamas.” US state department spokesman Robert Wood said on 25 February that “aid should never be used as a political weapon. We will try and push to get in as much aid as possible.” Palestinians have called for Gaza’s borders to be opened to allow free passage of goods, especially medical supplies and other essentials, and free movement of medical patients. However, Israel is still controlling borders and continues to refuse to allow open access to Gaza. The recent convoy of humanitarian goods to enter Gaza was the Viva Palestina convoy which left the UK on 14 February 2009 and travelled via Europe and Africa, to Gaza. The 200 strong convoy encountered immense difficulties in crossing into Gaza, although after 3 days of wrangling, most of the vehicles were allowed to enter.
Israel accused of War Crimes in Gaza
Following the cessation of hostilities in Gaza, international human rights organisations were quick to begin investigating the scene in order to ascertain whether Israel had committed war crimes during its 22 day offensive against a largely civilian population. However, further efforts to enter Gaza have been resisted by Israel. An application made by Human Rights Watch for investigators to enter Gaza was refused by Israel on trivial grounds. “Israel’s refusal to allow human rights groups access to Gaza raises a strong suspicion that there are things it doesn’t want us to see or the world to know about its military operation there,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “If Israel has nothing to hide, why is it refusing to allow us in?” Human Rights Watch senior military analyst Marc Garlasco managed to access Gaza in late January, but was forced to leave on 5 February due to border closures. He inspected the remains of Israeli weapons used in the war in on-going investigations. There was support for the allegations made against Israel for unlawfully using white phosphorous chemical weapons in civilian areas.
Some of the other accusations being investigated include alleged breaches of the Geneva Conventions (1949), including wilful killing and extensive destruction of homes and other civilian property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly. Israel’s lack of regard for International law was also made apparent when 13 days into the conflict, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1860 on January 8th, calling for “an immediate ceasefire in Gaza leading to a full Israeli withdrawal, through the lack of food, fuel and medical treatment, and intensified international arrangements to
prevent arms and ammunition smuggling.” Despite Article 25 of the United Nations Charter which requires all Member states to “agree, accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council,” Israel ignored the Resolution and continued its bombing. On March 16, Human Rights Watch addressed a letter to EU Foreign Ministers calling for accountability for the violations of Humanitarian Laws in Gaza. The letter presented the findings of Human Rights Watch into violations committed by both sides. Regarding Israel, Human Rights Watch’s primary concerns were said to be the ongoing closure of Gaza, amounting to collective
punishment; the use of high-explosive heavy artillery as well as of air-burst white phosphorus munitions in densely populated areas; the shooting of unarmed civilians holding white flags; the targeting of civilian structures; inadequate warnings to civilians of impending attack; and the wanton destruction of civilian property. Regarding Hamas, Human Rights Watch’s key concerns were the firing of rockets deliberately and indiscriminately into civilian areas of Israel and the shooting of rockets and the conduct of military operations from within populated areas in Gaza.
3 TESTIMONIES FROM GAZA After the Israeli attack began, I was at the school I teach in. Someone called me and said that Khaled, my 14-year-old son, had been injured and was in hospital. I went to the hospital, and when I arrived, they told me he was dead. I couldn’t do anything but cry. He was hit directly, and his body was torn apart. They didn’t even let me see him and hug him. Sami al-Astal, teacher and resident of Khan Yunis Suddenly, I heard a loud explosion and saw white smoke and lots of dust in the air. Gradually they cleared a bit and I was totally confused. At first, I didn’t see the children, but a few seconds later I got over the shock and began to call to them. I ran toward where they had been and couldn’t believe what I saw. The three children were lying on the ground, next to each other, not moving. The bomb had been aimed right at them. Muhammad Hassan Musa al-Astal, resident of al-Qarareh in Khan Yunis district When the missile struck, I lay down with my daughter under me. Everything filled up with smoke and dust, and I heard screams and crying. After the smoke and dust cleared a bit, I looked around and saw 20-30 people who were dead, and about twenty who were wounded. Maysa’ Fawzia-Samuni, resident of Gaza City Living in Gaza became so difficult and complicated, and I believe that if the situation continues like this, the Palestinian economy in Gaza will completely collapse and poverty will hurt every individual. Palestinian economist Omer Sha’ban talking about the siege I have been working on that profession for long years. I have been growing my business by all efforts. Israelis came then left causing an earthquake in the area. They have killed these chickens, they are equal to human souls. They were suffocated and died due to hunger. I wonder why the Israelis killed these chickens? Were they firing rockets into Israel?
Human Rights Watch Analyst Marc Garlasco inspects remains of Israeli weapons in Gaza
Abu Ahmed al-Sawafari, owner of a chicken farm.
4 NEWS IN BRIEF
Syria ready to talk to Israel
Israeli Apartheid Week The 1st to 8th of March marked this year’s annual and global Israeli Apartheid Week. It was first launched in Toronto in 2005, and last year more than 25 cities participated in the week’s activities. The aim of the week is to build upon and strengthen the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement at a global level. Activities included holding talks about the realities of the Palestinian cause, film showings and musical concerts. It has been successful in creating awareness of the human rights abuses committed by Israel and that the latest massacres in Gaza further confirm the true nature of Israeli apartheid. Marriage in Gaza tent The newly erected al-Rayyan refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip town of Jabaliya witnessed an unusual celebration for such conditions. Ahmad al-Hersh and Eman held their wedding celebrations in a small tent in the camp, after Israeli warplanes destroyed Ahmad’s home and newly furnished apartment. The tent where the newly married Palestinian couple will live has a bed, table, cupboard and a small bathroom. Although not ideal, the couple had the help from family and friends to make the event a special one. Ahmad explained; “I look forward to the reconstruction of Gaza soon, so I and many others like myself get relief. I am a victim of the Israeli war.” Interpal cleared of allegations The Charity Commission has published a report in response to the allegations made by the BBC against the charity Interpal. The Panorama programme Faith, Hate and Charity made an allegation in July 2006 that Interpal has links with the so-called ‘terrorist’ group Hamas operating in the occupied territories. The report concluded that there was insufficient evidence to back the allegations and that the charity had maintained “clear financial audit trails in their delivery of aid for humanitarian purposes”.
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The sea of Galilee in the shadow of the Golan Heights.
Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad has said that he is willing to hold negotiations with Israel provided the US acts as a mediator. Al-Assad stressed that Syria wants a full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, an area captured during the Six-Day War in 1967. But this is a strategic occupation for Israel, as the Golan Heights provides
direct access to the Sea of Galilee; Israel’s main source of fresh water. The Syrian President is also wary about the new Israeli government, which may hinder the progress of any negotiations. He also mentioned that peace with Israel would be very unlikely as long as the issue of Palestinian refugees and their right to return to their homes remains
unresolved. Syria’s request for US mediation in direct talks with Israel also comes after US President Barack Obama’s new administration launched an attempt to mend ties with Syria by sending envoys and US senators to the country for meetings. Under the Bush administration relations
between the two countries deteriorated with America accusing Syria of supporting terrorists, and Syria’s criticisms of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The Syrian president also said that in order to achieve regional peace major parties including Hamas and Hezbollah must be included in the talks.
Israeli elections creates right-wing government The parliamentary elections held in February to determine the next Israeli Prime Minister resulted in no clear victory for any one party. A minimum of 61 seats were needed to form a Government. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s Kadima party gained 28 seats while Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party won 27 Knesset seats. Following meetings with both leaders, President Shimon Peres chose the latter to form a new Israeli government, but rivals Kadima said they would not join a coalition but run as an opposition party instead. The decision was made following the endorsement of Netanyahu by Avigdor Lieberman, who heads the far-right extremist Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) party. Lieberman based his campaign on requiring Israeli Arabs to swear allegiance
to the Jewish state or lose their citizenship. It was then Netanyahu’s job to form what was predicted be a hard-line government with factions opposed to peacemaking with the Palestinians and Israel’s other Arab neighbours. Netanyahu’s right-wing policies do not emphasise the creation of a Palestinian State, which he has said should not be the guaranteed outcome of any negotiations. Forming such a far-right Israeli government was likely to sour relations with the US which has vowed to make Middle East peace a priority. In late March, Netanyahu announced that he had persuaded Ehud Barak to join the new government, which would ensure an element of moderation. Left: Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu
Global boycott achieving success Since October 2003, the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, supported by many solidarity movements, has gained momentum and attained some success. A global solidarity movement has been created through the call for BDS in the fields of academia, sports, arts and economics; being joined by lawyers, trade unionists, doctors, academics and students. Some of the
recent successes include the cancellation of an investment of several billion euros by Stockholm into the company Veolia Transport, on the basis of its involvement in the Jerusalem light-rail project. Academic boycotts have been taking place at universities around the UK involving students occupying halls or lecture theatres until demands to boycott Israel are met. Other achievements include obtaining
sponsorship for Palestinian students to study in the UK and sending old IT equipment to the occupied territories. There have also been calls for international investigations of war crimes from the UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the UN Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the head of UNRWA (the UN agency for Palestine refugees) and the UN
Secretary General. This call has been echoed by scores of highprofile international lawyers around the world. The pressure now needs to build in order for human rights advocates to seize the opportunity to do what they can to ensure Israel is held accountable for its human rights abuses. Information on the boycott of Israel is widely available.
International Conference to rebuild Gaza held in Egypt An international donor conference to rebuild Gaza after the 22 day Israeli war on the besieged Strip was held in the Red Sea resort of Sharm ElSheikh in Egypt in early March. International donors including the US, Britain, Saudi Arabia and the European Commission pledged 4.481 billion dollars for the reconstruction of the battered Strip, and for the Palestinian economy. The Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said the donations would be paid over a period of two years. The much needed aid is intended to be used to repair the thousands of homes which were damaged and destroyed by Israel, as well as factories, government buildings, mosques and water and sewage pipes. Hamas has however accused some of the international donors such as the US of politicising the donations by stating that the money would only be funneled
through Hamas’ rival president Mahmoud Abbas’ government. The Foreign Minister also called for the opening of the borders, stating that: “Participants at the international conference to rebuild Gaza called for the immediate, total and unconditional opening of all of Gaza’s borders with Israel.” It was emphasised that the opening of the borders is vital to ensuring the flow of aid into Gaza, especially construction materials and spare parts if the donations are to be put to good use. One concern which many fear could be an obstacle to the rebuilding of Gaza is the differences between the rival Palestinian factions. Political construction was called for, hand in hand with physical re-construction; with David Miliband stressing the importance of a single unified government across the occupied Palestinian territories.
5 NEWS IN BRIEF
Gaza Waste Management causes health risks Increased pollution due to the lack of means to dispose of solid waste in Gaza has led to further deterioration in health, especially among children. The problem has occurred due to the inability to transport the waste to the main waste station near the Gaza-Israeli border, as there is no means to do so. As a result, the sewage lies in rubbish dumps near people’s homes, attracting insects and causing serious health risks. Many people have developed breathing problems because of the stench. Al-Haq awarded human rights award The Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq, together with the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem have been awarded the prestigious Dutch Geuzenpenning award for human rights defenders. In February, Al-Haq, in cooperation with solicitor Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers, challenged the UK government over its failure to fulfill its obligations under international law with respect to Israel’s activities in the OPT. Both organisations have been working to defend Palestinian human rights for many years. Mauritania severs ties with Israel
Mauritania’s military ruler General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz announced in January their decision to freeze relations with Tel Aviv due to the siege being imposed upon the people of Gaza. Following the decision, in March the Israeli emA Family in Gaza keeps warm by an open fire in a make-shift home bassy in Nouakchott was closed and staff were ordered to leave the country. Venezuela and Bolivia had earlier severed diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv expelling the Israeli ambassadors to their countries.
Israel labelled as Apartheid State by University Students’ Union
The SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) university in London passed a motion last month to label Israel as an Apartheid State. The Students’ Union noted six points which led to the conclusion that Israeli actions in Palestine amounted to apartheid policies and continue to do so. The first issue was Israel’s responsibility for ethnically cleansing 750,000 Palestinians in 1948, on whose lands and properties the state of Israel was later established. Next, in 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem
and the Gaza Strip; the occupation of which remains until today. Israel continues to build an eight meter high wall on Palestinian land inside the post-1967 occupied West Bank, contravening the July 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice. Within the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israel continues a policy of settlement expansion in direct violation of the fourth Geneva Convention. Finally, the official ideology of the state of Israel is Zionism, embodied in the state’s laws which grant special rights to Jews and thereby structurally
discriminating against its Palestinian citizens. The Union also mentioned a statement made by Archbishop Desmond Tutu where he stated “I’ve been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa .” In consideration of these issues, SOAS Student’s Union declared Israel to be an apartheid state which should be opposed as it is based on the ideology of racism. SOAS strongly condemns the occupation, to which it calls an end, and supports the right
of return of the Palestinian people. This step forward by a prominent university is likely to set a precedent for other universities to consider taking similar action.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Short film made on Gaza siege One of the creators of the Oscarnominated animation Waltz with Bashir has released a short film about the recent Israeli war on Gaza. Yoni Goodman from Israel shows in the 90-second Closed Zone a Palestinian boy trying to chase a bird but being prevented by a huge hand. The message signals the tight blockade which Israel has imposed on the people of Gaza. Goodman commented “I’m very much against the Israeli blockade policy, and the last war was just a mistake.” The video for the Gaza siege is available on YouTube.com.
6 Viva Palestina 1 On Saturday 14th February a record-breaking aid convoy of over 100 donated vehicles packed
MP George Galloway and Yvonne Ridley were among the volunteers who made up a convoy of vehicles over a mile long carrying in excess of £1 million worth of aid for the people of Gaza.
with practical aid for the people of Gaza left from the Houses of Parliament in London, making it the largest British land convoy to cross Europe and North Africa since the Second World War.
George Galloway MP and journalist Yvonne Ridley arrive in Gaza
Just a few days into the journey the volunteers realised that this was not going to be easy. But it was the motivation and altruism they had for the people of Gaza that spurred them on.
The nearly 5,000 mile journey took the volunteers through France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, and many other north African countries. After a day’s stop in Egypt with much tension and some violence, the convoy crossed the border at Rafah into Gaza on Monday 9 March. Here we will take you through this spectacular journey of the ‘lifeline’ from London to Gaza.
The convoy included a fire engine, 25 ambulances, a boat and 120 trucks filled with medicines, tools, clothes, blankets, and shoe-boxes filled with gifts for children. All this and more was donated by communities across the country.
From London to Dover, the historic journey turned from a 4 dream in to a reality as it made its way via a freight ferry to France on Sunday 15 February. The night journey was a good time for all the volunteers to get to know each other. The volunteers came from all walks of life; students to accountants, engineers, mechanics and housewives, all on the same mission of mercy to Gaza. As the convoy set off, money was still being donated online back in England through TV appeals from charities like Islamic Help and the Al Khair Foundation.
Driving from Bordeaux in France to Madrid via San Sebastian in Spain was in the words of Yvonne Ridley “back-breaking”. Some of the vehicles even broke down, but tool kits and spare parts were at hand, and everyone was ready to help get things up and running again. Despite the GPS system going down momentarily, and the convoy relying on their map skills, they arrived on the outskirts of Madrid at 3am GMT on Tuesday 17 February.
The convoy arrived at the Tarifa ferry terminal in Southern Spain early Wednesday morning ready for the journey to Morocco. On Friday 20 February the convoy made its way through Morocco. The group gained an extra boost of energy when they received the news that the three men from Burnley who were arrested by Manchester police before they could set off, were released and were setting off to join the convoy. A slight setback occurred when the lead fire engine broke down. 6
After passing through Tunisia and then on to Libya on Monday 2 March, the convoy arrived in Egypt on Saturday 7 March. However, four of the activists were denied entry to Egypt due to Israel’s pressure on the Egyptian government and were consequently sent back to Libya and forced to return to London. They arrived at Manchester airport to a Heroes’ welcome on Sunday 8 March. More aid and man-power was awaiting the convoy in Egypt.
As the convoy headed towards the Rafah crossing to reach its final destination, tension began to rise. On Sunday 8 March a row erupted between riot police and Viva Palestina members in the port city of al-Arish after Egyptian authorities started to divide the convoy into two parts to force one part into passing The drive from Morocco to Algeria on Saturday was not an through an Israeli checkpoint. Israeli officials were insisting ordinary passage. The two countries decided to open their that some of the convoy’s trucks should pass through the land crossing for the first time in 15 years for the sake occupied territories to be inspected by Israeli troops. Yvonne of Palestine; something which even Condoleeza Rice was 7 Ridley commented that “Israel is putting huge pressure on unable to pull through before she left office. Egypt to force the convoy which is now doubled in size, a British-Libyan venture, through Israeli territory.” Viva Palestina vehicles which entered Gaza loaded with desperately needed aid.
The activists, however, refused to give in to Egypt’s demands and tried to remain as a single convoy. Riot police were then deployed to the scene. Several activists were injured after the attackers - claiming to be members of the Palestinian Fatah faction - vandalised some of the cars in the convoy, including the media van and satellite cable (preventing the images of the scene being broadcast through Press TV). Some of the peace activists were taken to hospital to be treated for minor head injuries. Angered by the turn of events and lack of security from the Egyptian authorities, George Galloway said “They are blocking us inside, but they don’t protect us.”
10 Despite these efforts to prevent the convoy reaching the desperate people of Gaza, it succeeded in crossing the Rafah border on Monday 9 March. The activists were met by a crowd of cheering Palestinians. The members of the convoy were treated as heroes and a special trip was planned for them to visit many of the damaged and destroyed sites as a result of Israel’s aggression. The aid was transferred via the Egyptian Red Crescent as well as direct transport by the volunteers themselves.
Viva Palestina convoy volunteers celebrate in Gaza
Comment and Opinion 7 US might have delayed in salvaging a two-state solution Jonathan Cook Peace Now’s revelation that Israel plans to build more than 70,000 homes in the West Bank is the latest in a string of troubling disclosures about settlement expansion. The plans were released with a transparent goal in mind: embarrassing the Israeli leadership as Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, arrived on her first visit to the region since her appointment. According to the report, about 73,000 homes, most still on the drawing board but 9,000 of them already built, would double the current population of nearly 300,000 settlers in the West Bank (an additional 220,000 are in East Jerusalem). Of those homes, nearly 20,000 would be built beyond the limits of the steel and concrete barrier Israel is erecting mostly inside the West Bank and which is widely assumed to be Israel’s vision of its future political border with a Palestinian state. Another 3,000 would be built in a corridor of land known as E1
that would seal off Palestinian access to East Jerusalem, and about 6,000 are planned for East Jerusalem itself, the only viable capital for a future Palestinian state. Mrs Clinton has made clear that she wants to push negotiations with the Palestinians “vigorously” in the direction of a two-state solution, despite the expected establishment of one of the most rightwing governments in Israel’s history, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud leader. The Israeli media have already reported that panicked officials are worried US President Barack Obama’s envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, will threaten a Netanyahu government with economic sanctions if it further undermines hopes of Palestinian statehood by expanding the settlements. Mr Netanyahu, concerned about his standing in Washington, has suggested vaguely that he will restrict settlements to what is called “natural growth”, or
expansion to cope with the housing needs of the existing settler population. But he is publicly opposed to a two-state solution. While Mr Netanyahu and his officials are the ones discomfited by revelations of a West Bank construction boom, it should be remembered that these plans were drawn up while the Likud leader was sitting in the opposition. It was Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni, the leaders of the centrist Kadima party, backed by Ehud Barak, the leader of the Labor party and their powerful defence minister, who either sanctioned or turned a blind eye to much of this planned orgy of illegal construction. British newspapers, meanwhile, reported that Israeli companies were selling cut-price homes in West Bank settlements at London property exhibitions. There has been barely a pause in the drip-drip of such revelations since. Mr Barak has personally overseen the failure to dismantle
even the most patently problematic settlements of all, about 100 so-called “outposts” that are illegal under Israeli law but which are used by settlers to take up yet more land for their benefit. Far less has been achieved with the 120 official settlements which, rather than fighting for survival, are growing at a rate not seen since the Oslo process of the late 1990s. Last week another human rights group, B’Tselem, revealed that Israel’s military government in the West Bank, known misleadingly as the civil administration, was preparing the infrastructure, including water and sewage lines, to cope with thousands of new settler homes in the West Bank. At the same time, reports surfaced that Israel had seized some 330 acres near Bethlehem, declaring it state land, to build a new settlement eventually expected to house 10,000 settlers. Details of an internal defence ministry database of the settlements were leaked in
January showing that officials had been allowing settlers to build on vast areas of land not confiscated by the state but ostensibly still in private Palestinian hands. The consequences, as Mr Etkes pointed out, are that, whereas 97 per cent of Palestinian building permits were approved by Israel in 1972, early in the occupation, today that figure has fallen to just five per cent. There is no “natural growth” for Palestinians, even when it is on their own land. Allowed a free hand, Mr Netanyahu would probably advocate a policy on West Bank settlement not much different from that pursued by his immediate predecessors. But paradoxically, it is likely to be Mr Netanyahu’s very hawkishness that offers Washington a pretext to finally crack down on the settlements. The question is whether such intervention has arrived too late to salvage the two-state solution.
Democratically elected governments should be respected Zeenat Ghumra Gaza is still recovering from the devastation left by Israel after its three-week offensive. However, it is not just the aggression from Israel that the people of Gaza and the West Bank have to deal with but also the divisions and tensions arising from within. The lack of a united Palestinian government means that there is no single unified voice for the Palestinians from which to negotiate their rights and freedom. Hopes were raised for an end to the internal conflicts when talks were held in late February between Palestinian factions, chaired by Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. An announcement followed detailing a framework for reconciliation, through the formation of a national unity government and reformation of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). However, it was not long before these hopes of reconciliation were shattered, little by little, by conjecture and
criticisms acting as blows to the fragile Palestinian body politic. The main attack came from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was questioned by Voice of America just before she boarded her plane to attend the Gaza summit in Sharm al-Sheikh to pledge billions in aid to rebuild the battered strip. She was asked whether she was encouraged by the Cairo unity talks to which she responded that Hamas “must renounce violence, recognise Israel, and abide by previous commitments”, otherwise, she stated, “I don’t think it will result in the kind of positive step forward either for the Palestinian people or as a vehicle for a reinvigorated effort to obtain peace that leads to a Palestinian state.” Her comments were clearly politicising the distribution of aid, wanting to keep Hamas out of the picture; “We want to strengthen a Palestinian partner willing to accept the conditions outlined by the Quartet,” and, “our aid dollars will flow based
on these principles.” Clinton was patently referring to her support for Fatah and its leader Mahmoud Abbas. Statements made by the latter didn’t help the situation either, with Abbas insisting that any humanitarian aid should be channelled through the Western-backed, but financially bankrupt Palestinian Authority. Before any reconciliation can even begin, Clinton has already set out the rules of engagement which exclude Hamas, as they have stated “Hamas will not recognize Israel or the Quartet’s conditions.” A rejection of such demands by Hamas will clearly reinforce the beliefs that they are an extremist organisation and anti-peace. However, an assessment of the context of these comments belies a differing reality. Despite the acts of aggression from the state of Israel during and after the 22 day war, Western diplomats are still calling on Hamas to renounce violence without invoking similar hardline demands on Israel. Israel
has not been asked to renounce violence (despite killing over 1,300 Palestinians in a 3 week period) nor are they required to recognise the democratically elected Palestinian government. Most pertinent of all, they have not been asked to make a commitment to peace. Hamas raises the issue of the hypocrisy of such demands on them, especially in light of the fact that many of the weapons used by Israel, (some of which were illegal under international law), were supplied by countries such as the US. Despite the civilian death toll on the Palestinian side, there was no hint of disapproval to the degrees of that witnessed against Hamas. Hamas views renouncing violence at the current time as equating to giving up the fight to defend the Palestinians and relinquishing all hopes for a future Palestinian state. Quartet envoy Tony Blair recently stated, “[w]e have to work with whoever the Israeli people elect, let’s test it out not
just assume it won’t work.” This principle must also be applied to the Palestinians, whomever they elect into government. The demands set upon Hamas are exceedingly biased. Hamas and their supporters are being asked to recognise the entity that has stolen their land, that has exiled thousands of their people and that has continued to oppress them for over 40 years. In effect, these demands mean the Palestinian people are being told to accept that they are being occupied and to quietly get on with their lives as best they can. Any struggle for freedom, they are told, is illegitimate. If peace is the real agenda, then we must respect the democratically elected parties from both sides of this conflict. Most of all, humanitarian aid should not be politically exploited to rally support for, or undermine, any Palestinian faction.
Message from Friends of Al-Aqsa
The war on Gaza has ended after three weeks of bloodshed and destruction, but the fighting has not stopped despite the apparent ceasefire. Israeli helicopters still fly over the coastal strip, occasionally dropping bombs and injuring civilians. Rockets continue to be fired in retaliation into Southern Israel. But a ray of hope did arrive for the Gazans on Monday 9 March when the Viva Palestina convoy of trucks over a mile long broke the siege and entered Gaza through the Rafah border crossing. It is not just our Government who speaks for us, but the ordinary people who unite for the cause of humanity can send a powerful message under the banner of truth and justice. This is a clear example of putting our words into action, which is what the Palestinian people are in need of from the international community. Let’s hope this is the beginning of the end of the siege on Gaza. The momentum is high for Israeli war criminals to be brought to justice. Various human rights groups as well as world leaders are continuing the pressure for Israel to be brought to account for countless violations of international law and human rights in Gaza. It is time to speak out against Israel and treat its military leaders with the same yardstick as other war criminals. But hopes from within the region seem doubtful. The recent Israeli elections have put the rightwing Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party in the position of forming a new government for whom the formation of a Palestinian State is not top of the agenda. Dialogue between Jews, Christians and Muslims around the world is hugely important at this time in order to facilitate a just and lasting peace in the region. For this reason, Friends of Al-Aqsa has been involved in many inter-faith discussions and events.
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Friends of Al-Aqsa, P.O.Box 5127, Leicester, LE2 0WU, Tel: 07711 823 524, (0116) 2125441, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Web: www.aqsa.org.uk Ismail Patel was also the key-note speaker at the Jewish-Muslim Forum in Helsinki to facilitate much needed dialogue (pictured above). The way forward lies with open discussions and respect for each other.
Al Nakba Week Friends of Al Aqsa are pleased to announce Al Nakba Week 11th - 17th May 2009
Al Nakba means the ‘catastrophe’ and marks the anniversary of destruction of Palestine and the establishment of the state of Israel. For more info contact: email@example.com
9 Bishop Riah visits Friends of Al-Aqsa
Lord Mayor of Leicester Manjula Sood, Roger Wilson, Ismail Patel, Bishop Riah Hanna and Canon Barry Naylor
Friends of Al-Aqsa had the special privilege of hosting former Bishop of Jerusalem, Bishop Riah Hanna Abu ElAssal on Tuesday 24th March 2009. Three events were held in Leicester for the Bishopâ€™s visit to the city, including a meeting with local dignitaries, an open public meeting and a fundraising dinner. All of the events drew sizeable crowds and the Bishopâ€™s visit to the city was celebrated by a cross-
section of the community. At a reception held in the Friends of Al-Aqsa offices and attended by local councillors, religious leaders and other dignitaries, Vice Chairman of the County Council Roger Wilson stated that the gathering was â€œone of the bestâ€? he had ever attended. He referred to the multi faith gathering of 50 people, and stated that it reflected how Leicester as a community could claim
to be â€œone.â€? This integrated community together welcomed Bishop Riah. Lord Mayor of Leicester, Councillor Manjula Sood followed by thanking Friends of Al-Aqsa for hosting an event which reflected diversity through spirituality. In addition, Canon Barry Naylor added a welcome address to Bishop Riah, reflecting in his view that we are all the children of Abraham, and that our common
understandings and values help us to work for peace. Bishop Riah used the gathering as an opportunity to bring a message from Palestine; that of â€˜salaamâ€™ or â€˜peaceâ€™ from a people who wish that â€˜salaamâ€™ will come to them. Bishop Riah stated his belief that once peace comes to Jerusalem, it will allow peace to come to the whole world. His resounding message was that Muslims, Christians and
Jews have lived in Palestine in peace for centuries. They have more in common than separates them and their energies should be put to living with each other, not against each other. The events were a show of cross-community solidarity with the Palestinians from the people of Leicester, and they presented the opportunity to forge greater links with the people of Palestine.
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2. Who first built Masjid Al-Aqsa? Adam (AS) Sulaiman (AS) Muhammad (SAW) 3. What was the name of the son of Daud (AS) who was also a prophet? Sulaiman (AS) Yahya (AS) Ishaq (AS) 4. Which direction is Jerusalem from Makaah and Medina? North South East West 5. Which sea borders the Gaza Strip? The Mediterranean The Red Sea 13 – 18 years old?? Answer these questions and send us your replies for a chance to win! 1. When was the West Bank and Gaza Strip occupied by Israel? 1948 1967 1997 2. How many UN Security Council Resolutions has Israel Ignored? 10 45 Over 100 3. How many settlers does Israel have in the West Bank and Jerusalem? 100,000 250,000 over 500,000 4. What does the Arabic term ‘Al-Nakba’ mean? The Invasion The Catastrophe The War 5. How many Palestinians has Israel killed since the year 2000? 100 1,000 over 5,000
Deadline for both competitions: 29th May 2009. Send your answers with your name, age and address to: Friends of Al-Aqsa, PO Box 5127, Leicester LE2 0WU. Or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Life in Gaza After the Bombing .
By Ghazala Caratella
After the Israelis left Gaza, we went back to our house and it was completely destroyed by the bombs.
We searched through our damaged homes and schools to find things that could still be used.
Although our school is destroyed we still want to learn, so outdoor schools have been set up.
There isn’t enough food or water in Gaza so we share what we have with each other.
Some of us live in outdoor shelters that we have made. But there is no electricity, so we use candles and lanterns.
Other people who have nothing at all, have to sleep outside in the darkness and cold.
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To join in you simply need to raise a minimum of £100 sponsorship and be able to run 100 metres in or around 20 seconds. For registration and further information, please visit www.ifcharity.com Email: email@example.com / Tel: 020 8963 9262 / Media Enquiries: 07956 398739 or firstname.lastname@example.org
UN urged to ‘find truth’ about Gaza conflict A group of 16 of the world’s leading war crimes investigators and judges, backed by Amnesty International, has urged the United Nations to launch a full inquiry into alleged gross violations of the laws of war committed by both sides during the recent conflict in Gaza and southern Israel. An open letter, entitled ‘Find the truth about Gaza war,’ was sent to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday. The letter’s signatories include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson and Judge Richard Goldstone, formerly Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. A UN inquiry is currently investigating attacks which were carried out against UN facilities and personnel in Gaza during the threeweek conflict. “The UN investigation is not sufficient as a response to the grave violations that were committed during the conflict. Hundreds of civilians were killed or injured, and it is vital that the circumstances in which they were
attacked are fully investigated,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. “Those responsible for war crimes or other serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses must be held to account.” “What is needed is a comprehensive international investigation that looks at all alleged violations of international law, by Israel, by Hamas and by other Palestinian armed groups involved in the conflict.” The letter’s signatories - who have led investigations of crimes committed in former Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Darfur, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, East Timor, Lebanon and Peru - say that they have been “shocked to the core” by events in Gaza. Prof. William A. Schabas, former member of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said: “The international community must apply the same standard to Gaza as it does to other conflicts and investigate all abuses of the laws of war and human rights.”
AQSA NEWS Join the Gaza 100 World Record Run Friends of Al-Aqsa have pledged to bring 100 participants to the Gaza 100 event (see advert on page 11). If you would like to join on behalf of FoA, and run a 100 metre relay and pass the baton to help break the world record for the number of batons passed in 24 hours, please contact Shamiul@aqsa.org.uk Manchester day Conference Organisers: Olive Cooperative Date: 4 April Time: 10.15am-3.45pm Venue: Denton Methodist Church, Manchester Details: An event to present fair trade from the producer’s perspective Palestine Conference Organisers: Kettering New Muslims in Association with Muslim Poverty Relief Date: 26 April Time: 2.30 – 4.30 pm Venue: Melton Community Centre, Kettering, Northants, NN16 9DS Details: A conference with stalls, aimed at creating awareness about the Palestinian issue, speakers include Ismail Patel (Friends of Al Aqsa), Ibrahim Hewitt (Interpal, to be confirmed). Refreshments provided. Friends of Al-Aqsa Challenge - Sponsored Walk Peak District 15km Walk (Approx. 4-6 hours) 24th May 2009 (for more info please see advert on page 9)
British MPs speak of Gaza devastation The Britain-Palestine all party parliamentary group visited the Gaza Strip and West Bank in February after Israel’s military assault and reported back on the devastation they witnessed. At an event which coincided with a national lobby day on 9th March supported by Friends of Al-Aqsa and the PSC amongst others, the MPs made statements in the House of Commons drawing attention to the suffering in Gaza. Gaza’s tented cities housing thousands of refugees were discussed, and Richard Burden MP spoke of the need for Israel
to be held to account for what had happened as the only way to prevent a repeat of the massacres. The MPs described the Palestinian psyche after the devastating attack and stated that Palestinian politicians felt the state of Israel was too extreme for them to deal with any further. Sarah Teather MP described seeing whole villages razed to the ground and total destruction “as far as the eye could see.” She viewed the refugee crisis as comparable to the one that occurred in 1948. She confirmed that the Liberal
Democrat policy is now to impose an arms embargo on Israel and a suspension of the EU-Israel Association agreement if Israel does not allow rebuilding materials in to Gaza. Jamal el Khoudary, an Independent MP from Gaza addressed the meeting to draw attention to the facts of the war, namely, that the term ‘war’ suggests a fight between two armies, and that what had happened in December 2008 and January 2009 was not war, but a “massacre of the innocent.” He also described
the tremendous spirit of the people of Gaza, and the fact that after the bombing, the first relief provided for the destitute was from the people of Gaza themselves, who showed their “steadfastness” by sharing what they could to try to survive. Jamal reiterated the fact that Rebuilding Gaza requires the borders to be opened, the end of the Israeli siege and aid promised for rebuilding by international donors to be sent as a matter of urgency. Martin Linton MP also focussed on the West Bank, describing the cantons and
settler only roads criss-crossing Palestinian land, and the issue of the ever expanding Israeli settlements. The residents of the West Bank were not spared Israeli violence and numerous young Palestinian men and women have been killed for peacefully protesting against the expansion of settlements and the building of the wall. The clear and resounding message from the meeting was that Palestinians require help now more than ever, in their struggle for freedom from Israeli occupation.
Published on Jul 31, 2013