Green MP to join Women’s Peace Flotilla

22 Jul

MaramaDavidsonMarama Davidson, Green MP, Spokesperson for Maori Development, Social Housing, Human Rights and Pacific Peoples

Marama Davidson MP, Press Release, greens.org.nz, Friday 22 July, 2016

Green Party MP Marama Davidson will be joining a women’s peace boat in late September which will highlight the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the Green Party said today.

Israel has blockaded the Gaza strip by land, sea, and air since 2006, resulting in plummeting living standards and health services, high unemployment, and severe food insecurity, according to the United Nations.

“I am participating in the Women’s Boats to Gaza flotilla to highlight the crucial role of women in keeping their communities afloat, particularly in post-conflict situations,” said Green Party human rights spokesperson Marama Davidson.

“The people of Gaza are still living with the terrible impact of the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, which resulted in the death of 2,300 civilians and the destruction of hundreds of thousands of homes, schools and hospitals.

“As an indigenous woman myself, I want to stand alongside the women of Gaza and to draw attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis there.

“Women around the world bear a disproportionate burden in caring for people and keeping communities together in times of hardship, and the women of Palestine are no different. Women’s role in navigating oppression and working for peace and justice has long been under-valued.

“More aid is urgently needed to ensure the fundamental human rights of the Palestinian people in Gaza and to help rebuild the homes, public services and livelihoods that were destroyed in 2014.

“We are calling on Israel to end the collective punishment of the people of Gaza by lifting the inhumane blockade and allowing more critical supplies to go where they are needed the most,” said Ms Davidson.

Video: ‘Gaza In Context’

21 Jul

Video: ‘Gaza In Context’, narrator: Noura Erakat. Produced by http://www.GazaInContext.com 19 July 2016

Gaza in Context is a fantastic educational instrument, conveying in 20 minutes what it would take most people a lifetime to learn. It gives an accurate and visually brilliant portrayal of the tragedy that has befallen not only Gaza, but the entire Palestinian people.”

– Dr. Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of International law, Princeton University, former United Nations Special Rapporteur to the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Video documentary: ‘The Survivor’s Guide to Gaza’

20 Jul

 

VIDEO DOCUMENTARY: ‘The Survivor’s Guide to Gaza’ published July 2016

Gaza will be unliveable by 2020 according to the UN, with daily life already a struggle to find food and shelter, but Dateline finds the people bringing innovation and inspiration to the fight for survival.

This SBS Dateline documentary, ‘The Survivor’s Guide to Gaza’ is by Brett Mason, Will West, Georgine Davies and Ana Maria Quinn. [Although this video has some shortcomings, it does offer a glimpse of some of the conditions Palestinians currently endure in the besieged Gaza Strip. Ed]

For more on Brett Mason’s story, go to the SBS Dateline website… http://bit.ly/29qC9X4

 

Dr Mads Gilbert: We Must Hold Israel Accountable

20 Jul

Shifa-Hospital-Gaza-July-17-18-2014-Photo-Mads-Gilbert-DSC07700-1024x683Mads Gilbert treats a wounded Palestinian woman at the Shifa hospital in Gaza, July 2014. Photo: Private

By Dr Mads Gilbert, Tromsø, Norway

An appeal from Dr Mads Gilbert: We Must Hold Israel Accountable

Two years have passed since Israel’s most brutal attack on Gaza and the Palestinian people which started on July 8th 2014. It lasted fifty days and nights and most of the holy season of Ramadan. While we remember the 2251 Palestinians with deepest sorrow – including 299 women and 551 children – we also recall the bravery and dignity the people of Gaza showed in their united opposition to Israeli aggression.

An Attack On Us All

One thing that stands out in my mind from my weeks at Shifa Hospital, is how everyone –  whether paramedics, surgeons, nurses, family dependents or survivors, neighbours who came with food to Iftar  [the meal people eat when fasting ends at sunset under Ramadan], or the many people working around the clock at the hospital, volunteers, journalists or young students – they all said the same thing.

“We are all a part of the resistance now. This is not Fatah or Hamas, Christians or Muslims – this is the Palestinian people standing up against the occupation army and the aggression of the Israeli state. This is an attack on us all.”

More than 11,000 people were wounded – many lost arms and legs – and 500,000 or 28% of the Gaza population were forced from their homes. Israeli forces attacked the civilian health and paramedic services in Gaza and damaged 17 hospitals, 58 primary health centres and 56 ambulances. They killed 23 health workers – most of them paramedics – and wounded 83.

What would the world have said if these numbers were the result of Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians, health services and health workers? There are outrageous international double standards on display – also from the Norwegian government. And then there is Israel’s apparent immunity from prosecution. No Israeli politicians or military leaders have been held accountable for what clearly are war crimes.

Planned Starvation

Gaza is now in its tenth year of a relentless Israeli siege. The blockade makes any meaningful reconstruction of everything the Israelis bombed in 2009, 2012 and 2014 virtually impossible.

Close to two million Palestinians still live under a brutal blockade that deprives them of fundamental human rights such as the right to food, water, freedom of movement and the right to security.

The deliberate, measured, man-made, sinister starvation of Gaza residents, who are mainly children and young people, is unparalleled in modern history. Israeli forces have killed over 1,000 Palestinian children in Gaza since 2006.

What other government or head of state would be allowed to get away with such a comprehensive, systematic violation of international law and crimes against humanity?

The state of Israel must be held accountable for its colonization policies and horrendous war crimes against the Palestinian people. We need to make stronger demands for sanctions and boycotts directed against Israel, its leaders and generals – a boycott of government finances, imports, exports, sports, academic, cultural and state institutions.

Israel not only escapes international prosecution, but also receives billions every year in direct economic and military support from the United States government and billions in investment from the Norwegian Petroleum Fund. Israel’s apparent immunity is the result of a huge and historic imbalance in dealing with heads of state and military forces that violate international law – bombing civilians and killing women and children by the thousands.

It would seem that might is right or as the father of 17-year-old student Asil Abu Mohsen, who was killed by Israeli forces in Rafah August 1st 2014, told Amnesty:

“Having no justice shows that the world works according to the logic of power, it proves that Israel is above the law. We need people from around the world to raise their voices on behalf of the wretched and oppressed. We need them to ask why innocent people, like my daughter Asil, were killed.”

Strengthen Every Single Voice.

The Palestinians need us and people around the world who can raise their voices on behalf of the persecuted and oppressed Palestinians, amplify their voices and show in action that they are not alone.

“Solidarity is not an act of charity: It is an act of unity between allies fighting on different terrains toward the same objective. The foremost of these objectives is to aid the development of humanity to the highest level possible.” – Samora Machel, the first President of  liberated Mozambique.

Let us increase and strengthen international solidarity work. Actions speak louder than words. Let us increase and strengthen the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). All boycotts make a difference. Let’s increase our demands on national authorities at all levels. Let’s make Israel accountable. Let us strengthen every single voice that can raised against the injustice in Palestine.

Sign the petition: Raise the blockade of Gaza!

Please read this letter from Dr. Mads Gilbert, Dr. Erik Fosse and Dr. Mohammed Abou-Arab to the United Nations Secretary-General on 4th August 2014.

Article from Palestinakomiteen.no [July 2016]

 

To end ISIS, we must end war and foreign occupations.

20 Jul

ISIS-or-Daesh-1-1

File photo of Daesh (ISIS) fighters

By Ramzy Baroud, Middle East Monitor, 19 July 2016

I visited Iraq in 1999. At the time, there were no so-called ‘jihadis’ espousing the principles of ‘jihadism’, whatever the interpretation may be. On the outskirts of Baghdad was a military training camp, not for ‘al-Qaeda’, but for ‘Mojahedin-e-Khalq’, an Iranian militant exile group that worked, with foreign funding and arms, to overthrow the Iranian Republic.

At the time, the late Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, used the exiled organization to settle scores with his rivals in Tehran, just as they, too, espoused anti-Iraqi government militias to achieve the exact same purpose.

Iraq was hardly peaceful then. But most of the bombs that exploded in that country were American. In fact, when Iraqis spoke of ‘terrorism’, they only referred to ‘Al-Irhab al-Amriki’ – American terrorism.

Suicide bombings were hardly a daily occurrence; in fact, never an occurrence at all, anywhere in Iraq. As soon as the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 followed by Iraq in 2003, all hell broke loose.

Continue reading

Gaza’s rich history is potential tourism draw

19 Jul

Palestinian employees work at the new archaeological site in Beit Lahia northern Gaza Strip on September 24, 2012. The French government is financing the restoration of the archaeological site which dates back to 329 AD and consists of two churches, a burial site and a baptism hall, a public cemetery, an audience hall, and dining rooms. Photo by Ashraf Amra

Man wearing baseball cap uses broom to sweep mural featuring a geometric pattern on the ground. Palestinian workers excavate a mosaic in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza. Photo: Ashraf Amra

By Rami Almeghari, Gaza Strip, The Electronic Intifada 18 July 2016

Gaza has “the potential to be one of the foremost tourist destinations in the region”

On a sandy Rafah hilltop in mid-April, a few workers were digging carefully into the dry land.

The excavators, their tools basic, were from Gaza’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. The site they were digging — at 40 acres, Tel Rafah is among the largest of Gaza’s 30-odd archaeological sites — is believed to contain evidence of human settlement going back more than 4,000 years.

It is sites like these that make Gaza unique, a treasure trove for archaeologists, historians and, potentially, the local economy. Military occupation, economic warfare, violence and a blockade going back nearly a decade mean that potential lies untapped even as it points to a possible way forward for one of the world’s most impoverished areas.

A crossroads for civilizations trading with each other for thousands of years, Gaza’s history is storied. Palestinians in Gaza will proudly tell you that no one has managed to rule them long. They will cite the Ottomans, the British, the Egyptians and now the Israelis.

Continue reading

How the Israeli government whitewashes the Gaza blockade

15 Jul

week-in-pictures_49_004

Gaza City: A rainbow shines over the city after heavy rains cease.(MEMO)

Ben White, Middle East Monitor, 14 July 2016

‘Dateline’, a show on Australian television station SBS One, broadcast a report on Tuesday night called ‘The Survivor’s Guide to Gaza’. The segment was based on a week-long visit to the Gaza Strip by correspondent Brett Mason and producer Will West.

Dateline has published, in full, a response they received from the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli state body that manages the day to day civilian affairs of the military occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

COGAT’s statement – poorly written and sometimes barely comprehensible – is an instructive read in what it distorts, and omits, with regards to the ongoing, internationally-condemned Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The response begins by stating that “despite of Hamas’ terror regime that calls clearly for the destruction of the State of Israel, we promote extensive civil policy towards the Gazan residents.” But Israel is an occupying power; it has obligations towards the occupied civilian population, regardless of the actions or views of Hamas or any other political factions.

The standard with which to evaluate COGAT’s so-called “civil policy” is not ‘goodwill’ or ‘generosity’, but Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law. In fact, of course, this ‘civil policy’ is rather less than civil. Let’s put some of COGAT’s statistics into context.

“Over 1000 crossings are registered every day at the Erez Crossing for medical treatments, business affairs, conferences and more.”

This sounds impressive – but before the Second Intifada broke out, about 26,000 labourers alone crossed via Erez daily. In May 2016, there were less than 15,000 exits of Palestinians via Erez; the monthly average January-September 2000 was more than half a million.

The vast majority of the 1.8 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, excluding traders with longer-term permits and medical patients and their companions, are still barred from travelling to the West Bank for the purpose of work, study, or to see relatives (other than “exceptional humanitarian” cases).

“Every day, over 850 trucks loaded with medical supply, construction materials, food and so on into Gaza. As of today, over 2 million tons of goods enter Gaza since the beginning of 2016.”

These are not donations by Israeli authorities; they are goods and materials purchased by the United Nations, NGOs, and businesses in the Gaza Strip. While the amount of goods entering Gaza in 2016 to date is certainly an improvement on recent years, it is still below pre-blockade figures.

The more important point is that the spike in the number of trucks entering Gaza is the result of the monitored entry of construction materials into the Gaza Strip, mostly designated for repairing the massive damage to buildings and infrastructure caused by Operation Protective Edge.

In other words, most of what enters Gaza is construction materials to repair the destruction wrought by Israeli offensives, or humanitarian aid to offset the economic consequences of blockade.

“All sorts of goods enter Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing. Following credible information, Hamas exploits those goods for terror purposes. The entry of dual use material, which may be used for terror purposes, requires the examination of the security forces.”

According to Israeli NGO Gisha, Israel maintains an “extensive” list of ‘dual-use’ items, including items “whose use is overwhelmingly civilian and critical for civilian life.”

Last year, the Israeli authorities added items to the list of dual-use materials, including uninterrupted power supply (UPS) components (vital given the grave shortages of electricity supply), x-ray machines, and fiberglass (used to repair fishing boats).

In August 2015, COGAT reduced the thickness of permissible wood, as well as adding wood glue and lacquer to the list, a decision that “had a very negative impact on…temporary housing solutions” for displaced Palestinians, in the words of the UN.

“Many international officials, including the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, have expressed their impression by the progress of the reconstruction [since 2014].”

According to COGAT, “over 100,000 houses are in different stages of the reconstruction process”, citing a “UN assessment.” The statement adds: “Israel allows the entry of construction materials in accordance with the demand and the need.”

What COGAT omitted – and they must know the figures, given that they clearly read UN publications – is that just 3,000 of the 18,000 destroyed or severely damaged homes have been “rebuilt or otherwise rendered habitable” (UN OCHA report, April 2016). 75,000 Palestinians remain displaced.

That April report described “progress on reconstruction” for displaced Palestinians as “slow”, citing factors that included “ongoing Israeli restrictions.” The most urgent measure needed? “The removal of [Israeli] restrictions on the import of building materials, towards a full lifting of the blockade.”

Finally, COGAT’s statement says nothing about the quantity of goods exiting the Gaza Strip. Before the closure, 85 percent of Gaza made-goods were sold in its natural markets – the West Bank and Israel. In 2016 to date, however, an average of just 181 truckloads of goods per month have exited the Gaza Strip – just 23 percent of the equivalent figure in 2005.

Responding, Chris Gunness, spokesperson for UNRWA, said it was “important to see this from the point of view of the victims of the 2014 conflict, those who two years on are still homeless, living in the ruins of their damaged and destroyed homes, those displaced, living rough or living in sub-standard rented accommodation.”

“More generally, the blockade on air, land and sea on Gaza entered its tenth year in June 2016; together with recurrent cycles of conflict and armed violence, it has a profound socio-economic and psychosocial impact on the lives of the people in Gaza.”

Gunness added: “Most significantly perhaps, Secretary General Ban recently condemned the Gaza blockade as a collective punishment for which he said there must be accountability.”

 

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