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On 63rd Great March of Return & Breaking Siege..

24 Jun

..Israeli Forces wound 116 Palestinian civilians, including 34 children, 5 women and a paramedic

Injured paramedic

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights report, 22 June 2019

On Friday, 21 June 2019, in excessive use of force against peaceful protesters on the 63rd Friday of the Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege, Israeli forces wounded 116 Palestinian civilians, including 34 children, 5 women, a paramedic and a person with disability, in the eastern Gaza Strip. Four of those wounded sustained serious wounds.

According to observations by PCHR’s fieldworkers, the Israeli forces who stationed in prone positions and in military jeeps along the fence with Israel continued to use excessive force against the protesters by firing bullets and tear gas canisters at them. As a result, dozens of the protesters were  hit with bullets and teargas canisters without posing any imminent threat or danger to the life of soldiers.

On Friday, 21 June 2019, the incidents were as follows:

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Former Mossad Chief says: ‘Israel Does Not Want Peace’

24 Jun

Former chief of Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad, Shabtai Shavit. [Photo: File]

PalestinePost24, 22 June 2019

‘Talking about peace the mother of sins,’ former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit says.

Settlement in West Bank is based on religious myths, the Israeli official stressed.

Former Chief of Israeli Intelligence Agency Mossad, Shabtai Shavit, has said that Israel does not want peace and that, if it had, it would have made peace long time ago.

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Israel closes Gaza’s waters to Palestinian fishermen

13 Jun

Palestinian fishermen unload their catch at the seaport of Gaza City [File: Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

Associated Press report, 13 June 2019

Jerusalem – The Israeli military says it is taking the rare step of closing the Gaza Strip’s offshore waters to Palestinian fishermen until further notice in response to incendiaries launched into Israel in recent days.

COGAT, the Israeli Defense Ministry body controlling the crossings with the coastal enclave, announced Wednesday that “due to the continuous launching of incendiary balloons and kites from the Gaza Strip towards Israel,” Israel would bar Gazans from using the territory’s coastal waters.


Inside Israel’s million dollar troll army

13 Jun

 Act.IL’s Israeli headquaters in Herzliya. [Act.IL/Facebook]

By Asa Winstanley, The Electronic Intifada 12 June 2019

A global influence campaign funded by the Israeli government had a $1.1 million budget last year, a document obtained by The Electronic Intifada shows.

Act.IL says it has offices in three countries and an online army of more than 15,000.

In its annual report, from January, Act.IL says its goal is to “influence foreign publics” and “battle” BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights.

Through its app, Act.IL issues “missions” to this troll army in exchange for “cool prizes” and scholarships.

The app directs comments towards news websites in support of Israeli wars and racism, while attacking Palestinians and solidarity campaigners.

The leaked report claims Act.IL’s app completes 1,580 such missions every week.

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How could the government have let this happen?

12 Jun

NZ First or Israel First? NZ Minister of Defence, Ron Mark with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in January.

By John Minto, Opinion Daily Blog, 10 June 2019 

How could the government have let this happen? Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee run by pro-Israeli extremists

Under Winston Peters (Minister of Foreign Affairs) and Ron Mark (Minister of Defence) government policy on the Middle East has taken a great stride to the right. It was always pro-Israeli and never pro-Palestinian but Peters and Mark have taken New Zealand further to the right and closer to the US position.

Select Committees are usually run by the government of the day who would normally have a majority on the committee. Not so Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.

This Select Committee has four National MPs, three Labour MPs and one Green MP so there is no majority for the government but more surprisingly the Chair and Deputy Chair (Simon O’Connor and Tim Macindoe respectively) are both National Party MPs.

This mightn’t seem very important but becomes critical this Thursday when the committee will decide whether or not to conduct an inquiry into New Zealand government policy towards Palestine/Israel.

Details of their pro-Israeli extremism is at the end of this blog but first – where does our policy stand now?

Government policy towards the Middle East under Winston Peters and Ron Mark

Under Winston Peters (Minister of Foreign Affairs) and Ron Mark (Minister of Defence) government policy on the Middle East has taken a great stride to the right. It was always pro-Israeli and never pro-Palestinian but Peters and Mark have taken New Zealand further to the right and closer to the US position.

Earlier this year Ron Mark visited the Middle East and made a point of meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Did he raise issues of human rights for Palestinians? Did he ask why Israel continues stealing Palestinian land for Jewish-only settlements? Did he ask why Israeli snipers can murder unarmed Palestinian children with impunity? No to all the above.

Look at this video of their meeting:

This video posted on Youtube by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s office on 27 January 2019 shows Netanyahu’s “warm welcome” for NZ Defence Minister Ron Mark. The NZ delegation included National MP and Associate Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Tim Macindoe.

It’s a grovelling sycophantic display by Ron Mark towards an avowed racist who openly proclaims “Israel is not a state for all its citizens”. (Instead it’s an apartheid state with full rights for people of Jewish descent but second-class citizenship for Palestinians with Israeli citizenship)

Ron Mark shows how thrilled he is to meet someone who gives the fingers to the United Nations, thumbs his nose at international law and continues daily murder and mayhem directed at Palestinians: cold-blooded killings, bulldozing homes and livelihoods and theft of land.

Ron Mark’s obsequious behaviour towards Netanyahu in our name is nauseating. (Standing on the other side of Netanyahu in the video is select committee deputy chair Tim Macindoe)

Did Ron Mark or Tim Macindoe meet with Palestinian leaders when they were in the Middle East? No again.

So what about Winston Peters? His position is summed up this letter to me:

I wrote this response:

Palestine Solidarity Network

31 May 2019

Winston Peters

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Parliament Buildings


Kia ora Mr Peters,

Renewed request to meet

Thank you for your letter of 24 May.

It is deeply disappointing to find the New Zealand government policy on the Middle East remains frozen in time 71 years after the Palestinian Nakba. It is a policy which adheres to US/Israel priorities but is unrelated to reality and is simply a recipe for the ongoing brutal oppression of Palestinians.

It leaves New Zealand on the wrong side of history. It is not acceptable.

The so-called “two-state solution” you espouse has been undermined by Israel to the point where it would be impossible to implement in any meaningful way. The land which could possibly have formed a Palestinian state has been stolen for Jewish-only settlements and the remaining fragments have been separated by Jewish-only roads. The two-state solution is dead.

Thank you for pointing out the government’s opposition to Israeli settlements but these are already illegal under international law and in defiance of United Nations resolutions.

It’s very difficult to take seriously your government being “deeply concerned about the significant numbers of civilian deaths and casualties in Gaza, particularly children and health workers” when the government has been silent when unarmed Palestinian children have been murdered by Israeli snipers – in plain sight – for daring to oppose the ruthless oppression they face every day.

In the context of Israel/Palestine it is offensive to ask Palestinians to exercise restraint. They are under military occupation. Would your government have asked the French resistance to exercise restraint in their fight against Nazi occupation of France in the 1940s?

We are all familiar with your much-repeated statement “while accepting Israel’s fundamental right to maintain its security, particularly in the face of provocation, any actions need to be proportionate.”

Why do Palestinians not have the same right to security?

The provocation you refer to is the firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza but you ignore the primary, massive provocation – the occupation of Palestinian land by a brutal, overwhelming military power which every day steals more Palestinian land, bulldozes Palestinian homes, murders Palestinian children and spreads the vilest of propaganda which attempts to erase Palestine and Palestinian existence.

Why does the government not demand the immense provocations of the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and the siege of Gaza be ended?

Your final statement that the government is “committed to building a closer relationship with Israel and with the Palestinians” is surprising because the facts of New Zealand engagement in the Middle East tell a very different story. Your government has a strong, growing relationship with the state of Israel but no practical, meaningful relationship with the victims of its apartheid policies.

Your government has welcomed an Israeli embassy in Wellington; sent a New Zealand cabinet minister to meet the Israeli Prime Minister this year; supports a visa free scheme for young Israelis to travel to New Zealand; supports a film co-production agreement with Israel; supports an aviation agreement with Israel; supports increasing trade with Israel and shortly you intend to extend this by signing up to an innovation agreement with Israel.

You are rewarding Israeli’s most appalling behaviour – illegal under international law and in defiance of UN resolutions – with greater contact and enhanced international credibility. In effect New Zealand is helping shield Israel’s most egregious behaviour.

Alongside this you have a pretend policy of engagement with Palestinians. 

Just in the last week your government’s reported intention to purchase military equipment from Israel sums up the reality of your policy priorities much better than the “diplomatic speak” in your letter which tries to imply an even-handed approach.

These issues are too important for New Zealand to leave here. We repeat our request for you to meet with a delegation from the Palestine Solidarity Network as soon as possible to discuss a positive way forward for New Zealand in relation to the Middle East.

We look forward to a positive and timely response.


John Minto

For the Palestine Solidarity Network

Back to the Select Committee:

This Thursday the Select Committee will consider a request from the Palestine Solidarity Network for the committee to investigate the stride to the right in Middle East policy under Ron Mark and Winston Peters.

We are not holding our breath.

The Deputy Chair of the Committee, Tim Macindoe, was just as awestruck to meet Netanyahu as Ron Mark and that’s not surprising because Macindoe has aligned himself with the Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group (run by Alfred Ngaro). Like Ron Mark he made no attempt whatever, that we are aware of, to visit the occupied territories or Gaza or speak with any Palestinians in leadership positions anywhere. In his comments before, during and after his visit there isn’t a single mention of the word Palestine or Palestinians despite these being at the heart of what many consider to be the most serious international conflict of our time. Instead Macindoe has only weasily comments about Netanyahu and Israel. It seems Palestinians do not exist in Tim Macindoe’s world.

Committee chair Simon O’Connor is just as bad. O’Connor has gone out of his way to meet the Israeli ambassador to New Zealand but has made no attempt to meet any Palestinian leaders. After his meeting with the ambassador he said on Facebook:

“Pleased to welcome and chat with HE Dr. Gerberg – Israel’s Ambassador to New Zealand. A lot in common to discuss including our countries respective interest in research and development, as well as recent developments in the Middle East. Of course, it was also a chance to acknowledge Israel’s 70th anniversary of independence.”

O’Connor has lots to say about Hamas terrorists firing rockets into Israel and says:

“There should be one attitude towards terrorism, it is unacceptable, regardless of who perpetrates it or who suffers from it.”

Fair enough. But O’Connor is silent – absolutely silent, not even a whisper – about Israel’s reign of terror through its brutal military occupation and murder of Palestinians.

Not surprisingly O’Connor is praised by local Zionists as “one of the few National MPs who expressed disappointment at the time Resolution 2334 (condemning Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian land) was passed.”

Elsewhere O’Connor says:

I wish to convey my condolences about the very sad news of an attack on a Jewish synagogue during a Passover celebration in San Diego on 27 April. Attacks on places of worship are increasing and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. My thoughts are very much with the families affected, both in America but also with our Jewish community here in New Zealand.”

But no word of criticism about the frequent Jewish attacks on Palestinian mosques throughout the occupied territories.

This is the man overseeing New Zealand government policy on Palestine/Israel.

O’Connor sees and condemns the micro-terrorism of those firing rockets into Israel but is an apologist for racism, oppression and brutality when Israel is the perpetrator.

There is a lot of work to be done to wrest control of New Zealand foreign policy from this small cabal of far-right extremists.


John Minto, is a veteran human rights activist, commentator and spokesperson for NZ Palestine Solidarity Network. See his earlier 5 June statement here: and his open letter to Winston Peters on 13 May 2019:

Gaza: Isolation and control

11 Jun

Palestinians in Gaza have been subjected to Israeli restrictions on movement for decades [Adel Hana/AP]

By Ben White, Al Jazeera, 11 June 2019

Restrictions on the Gaza Strip are part of a sequence going back decades predating Hamas control, analysts say.

This summer marks an important but often overlooked anniversary in the history of the Gaza Strip. Thirty years ago, in June 1989, Israel imposed for the first time a magnetic-card system to restrict the exit of Palestinian residents. Anyone denied a card would be prevented from leaving.

While Israel‘s blockade of Gaza is often seen to have originated in 2006-2007 as a response to Hamas’s rise to power, the isolation of the enclave in fact goes back three decades – and for many analysts, this historical perspective is essential for understanding today’s developments.

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Give Puma the Boot: International Day of Action

8 Jun

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)  invites you to join the international day of action to demand Puma end its support for illegal Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian land.

Palestinian sports teams and athletes are calling for a boycott of Puma over its support for illegal Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian land.

Global sportswear manufacturer Puma is the main sponsor of the Israel Football Association (IFA), which includes teams in Israel’s illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

June marks 52 years of Israel’s brutal military occupation. On Saturday June 15, join the #BoycottPuma International Day of Action!

When companies like Puma sponsor and profit from illegal Israeli settlements, they give a nod to Israel’s far-right regime that its criminal land grabs and attacks on Palestinian sports can continue unabated.

Across the world, groups are organizing campaigns and actions to demand Puma proves that its stated commitment to social justice isn’t just a marketing ploy.

Take the Pledge: Give PUMA the Boot Until It Ends Support for Illegal Israeli Settlements

Let Puma know you will respect the call from Palestinian athletes to #BoycottPuma until it ends support for illegal Israeli settlements pushing Palestinian families off their land. Here is a suggested message you can send to Puma New Zealand:

Puma sponsors the Israel Football Association (IFA), which includes teams in illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land in violation of international law.

Puma’s endorsement of the IFA gives legitimacy to Israel’s illegal settlements pushing Palestinian families off their land.

As long as Puma sponsors teams in illegal Israeli settlements, I will respect the call from Palestinian athletes to boycott Puma.

Puma New Zealand can be contacted at: Free call: 0800 800 094, or Email:

or via the Puma NZ website:

Puma has offices in Germany, the UK, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Austria, Netherlands, France, Czech Republic, Poland, Turkey, South Africa, UAE, the US, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Peru, India, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong.

Tweet the pledge to give Puma the boot!

Ex-Israel General: ‘Gaza can be successfully invaded’

8 Jun

Former head of Northern Command and once deputy chief of staff, Yair Golan with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. [Photo: File]

Palestine Chronicle, 8 June 2019

A former Israeli army general has declared that Israel can successfully invade the occupied Gaza Strip, reported Israel Hayom [Israeli daily newspaper]

Yair Golan, the former head of Northern Command and once deputy chief of staff, was speaking to the paper about his political ambitions and the state of the nation.

Criticizing the manner that the 2005 “disengagement” was implemented – Israel’s unilateral withdrawal of settlers from the Gaza Strip – Golan said it was nevertheless the right decision.

He said: “In the first five years of the Second Intifada, 147 Israelis were killed in Gaza. Since 2005, 121 Israelis have been killed there, including all the soldiers who died in all military operations.”

When asked why Israel does not invade the Gaza Strip, Golan replied: “They’re afraid to fight. Afraid of casualties. It wouldn’t mean 500 dead. We give the enemy too much credit. Fighting in Gaza doesn’t come without a cost – fighting in an urban setting is fighting on the ground.”

“The assumption is that if we go into Gaza, we’ll be bogged down there for years, is wrong,” he added.

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PSN calls for investigation into NZ govt policy on Palestine/Israel

7 Jun

PSN spokesperson, John Minto [File photo]

Palestine Solidarity Network (NZ), Media release, 5 June 2019

On Thursday next week (13th June) the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee will be discussing a request for it to hold an investigation into the government’s policy on Palestine/Israel. 

Palestine Solidarity Network has made the request as we are very concerned about the government’s stride to the right in support of Israel. (Below is pasted a copy of a letter received from Winston Peters a couple of weeks back and the response I sent last Friday).

This issue should be central to the New Zealand parliament’s concern for human rights internationally because it has gone on for 71 years as a festering sore. The 1948 “Nakba” continues as a daily experience for Palestinians. 

South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu – there is no better international expert on apartheid – has declared Israeli policies to be apartheid policies and says Palestinians face an even more brutal regime than black South Africans faced under apartheid in South Africa.

Like Archbishop Tutu, New Zealand should be supporting BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) against Israel to bring non-violent international pressure on the regime.

We have written to all MPs requesting they support the call for the investigation as a matter of urgency.

John Minto for the Palestine Solidarity Network, Christchurch

[Ed: See below for PSN’s recent correspondence with Winston Peters on this issue]

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WHO sanitizes Israeli responsibility for Gaza killings

7 Jun

Palestinian medics evacuate a critically injured protester during Great March of Return demonstrations in October 2018. [Mohammed Zaanoun ActiveStills]

By Maureen Clare Murphy, The Electronic Intifada, 6 June 2019

There were nearly 7,000 gunshot wounds among Gaza’s population of two million in the duration of a year.

Many of those injured have extensive and in some cases irreversible damage to their bones, neurovascular structures and soft tissue.

Among them, hundreds face amputations if they cannot access specialized tertiary treatment for their catastrophic wounds.

Three health workers have been killed and more than 700 others injured.

Thousands of elective surgeries were postponed as a health system already in crisis took in wave after wave of emergency casualties.

Cases of gender-based violence seen by service providers doubled as families struggled to cope with additional economic pressures and trauma.

These disturbing facts come from the World Health Organization’s review of trauma data related to the Great March of Return protests in Gaza which began in March 2018.


The data provided by WHO make for harrowing reading. But the report sanitizes the fact that this body-breaking and traumatizing violence is by Israeli policy and design.

Any effective treatment must correctly diagnose the cause and not just the symptoms.

In the year following the launch of the Great March of Return, more than 28,000 Palestinians in Gaza were injured and 277 killed, including 52 children, most of them slain during unarmed, mass protests along Gaza’s eastern and northern perimeter.

Despite the civilian nature of the protests, as was affirmed by a panel of UN investigators, WHO says the deaths and injuries happened “as a result of clashes with Israeli security forces.”

That is a gross mischaracterization of Israel’s use of force against peaceful and unarmed protesters, officially sanctioned by shoot-to-kill or maim orders against civilians who pose no plausible threat, even when they are children.

The killing of some 60 Palestinians during protests on 14 May 2018 was a massacre.

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Medical aid solidarity convoy arrives in Gaza

5 Jun

Palestine Chronicle, 4 June, 2019

The second group of the medical aid convoy, “Miles of Smiles 36” arrived in the Gaza Strip through Rafah Border Crossing, on Monday.

Khaled Al-Yousef, the coordinator of the Miles of Smiles convoy in Europe, said that the aid received by the Ministry of Health in Gaza include 100,000 units of intravenous feeding solutions that are enough for more than three months.

Issam Yousef, the head of the Miles of Smiles convoys, said that these medical aids are part of the humanitarian aid being brought into the “Miles of Smiles 36” convoy that arrived in Gaza in early May.

Yousef stressed that the convoy is working to introduce vital medicines to Gaza in the upcoming days, noting that the convoy delegation has been briefed on the tragic and challenging health conditions during its recent visit to Gaza.

Gaza health services are struggling due to severe lack of fuel. [ActiveStills]

The convoy is designed to support the health sector in Gaza. Just before its arrival, the caravan brought in large quantities of medical solutions and supplies and medicines into the Gaza Strip, along with vehicles and wheelchairs for people with special needs, as well as several ambulances.

The convoy has also carried out several charitable activities and projects. These include treatment for people wounded during the ‘marches of return’ and the recent attack on Gaza, as well as the distribution of quantities of foods to needy families and material and in-kind assistance to those affected by the attack and siege imposed on the Gaza Strip.

Ed: Kia Ora Gaza joined an earlier ‘Miles of Smiles’ international solidarity convoy to Gaza in 2012. See here for reports on that mission:


Eid in Gaza: Fading happiness over the years

5 Jun

Palestinian novelist Ibrahim Nasrallah spoke of Palestinians: “Despite all these years under occupation, we are still beautiful, as if we live above the occupation, and not under it.

By Yousef Aljamal, Just World, 4 June 2019

Every year, Muslims around the world and Palestinians under occupation and siege in Gaza (as elsewhere) celebrate Eid, the Muslim festival that comes soon after the end of the month-long Ramadan fast.

My memories of Eid in Gaza have always been of us children getting our “Eidiyya” gift-money from the elders of the family and buying toys, often gun-toys; of going out to eat at a restaurant and taking a photo together; of then squeezing all of us into my uncles’ two cars to go visit our extended family. For us, Eid meant eating big amounts of nuts and desserts as numerous mosque loudspeakers would announce the arrival of Eid, with worshipers echoing their calls in chorus as children fought to get closer to the microphones of mosques so their voices could be heard.

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US and Israel insult all who depend upon UNRWA

4 Jun

By Leslie Bravery, The Daily Blog, 2 June, 2019 

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), in response to the US Trump Administration’s withdrawal of funding for the agency, is launching a global fundraising campaign to protect the rights and dignity of Palestinian refugees. In New Zealand, the Israel Institute’s co-director, Dr David Cumin, on behalf of Israel and its US ally, is calling for “a moratorium on any further Kiwi taxpayer funding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)”. In trying to divert attention from Israel, Cumin makes unfounded allegations of “corruption, antisemitism and extremism” against the UN agency’s hard-working officials and frontline workers.

UNRWA was formed in 1949 to provide what was expected to be short-term relief for Palestinian refugees recovering from the ethnic cleansing and terror created by the Nakba or exodus of at least 750,000 native Palestinians during the creation of the State of Israel. The agency runs schools, hospitals and social services in the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. In Gaza, that since 2007 has been subjected by Israel to a total blockade by air, land and sea, the UN Agency struggles to help people survive. Gaza’s health and social services cannot cope in an environment with almost no access to clean water and scarcely four or five hours supply of electricity daily.

Zionist propaganda against UNWRA must be challenged. In one case, Israel’s popular TV news network, Channel Two, claimed that an UNWRA ambulance had been used to transport what it called ‘militants’ in Gaza. The UN agency responded by presenting incontrovertible evidence that the allegation was baseless and the TV Channel was forced to retract the story. No doubt, Israel hopes to exhaust UNRWA by heaping upon it endless accusations. Cumin has positioned himself on precarious ground here by going so far as to assert that Jacinda Ardern’s support for further funding of UNRWA was at odds with her wish to “pursue equal rights for all”. The central question of equal rights is Zionism’s Achilles Heel because it goes to the heart of the ideology’s purpose and draws attention to Israel’s dismal record of human rights abuses and disrespect for international law.

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Israel cannot escape International Criminal Court jurisdiction

4 Jun

The Chief Military Advocate General, Israeli army, Sharon Afek. [Photo: IDF]

Ramzy Baroud, Arab News, 4 June, 2019

The Chief Military Advocate General of the Israeli army, Sharon Afek, and the US Department of Defense General Counsel, Paul Ney, shared a platform at the International Conference on the Law of Armed Conflict, which took place in Herzliya, Israel, last week.

Their panel witnessed some of the most misconstrued interpretations of international law ever recorded. It was as if Afek and Ney were literally making up their own laws on warfare and armed conflict, with no regard to what international law actually stipulates.

Unsurprisingly, both Afek and Ney agreed on many things, including that Israel and the US are blameless in all of their military conflicts and that they will always be united against any attempt to hold them to account for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

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Israeli racism in quotes #17

31 May

If you can stomach it – see yesterday’s post for the previous 16 quotes from Israel’s leaders, in this series:

Kushner in Israel as US ‘deal’ faces new political hurdle

31 May

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner is in Israel ahead of the Bahrain conference [File: Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

AlJazeera News, 31 May 2016

US President Donald Trump‘s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on the final leg of a regional tour to boost support for a US-led economic conference in Bahrain, where the first part of the long-anticipated Israel-Palestine peace plan [‘The Deal of the Century”] is due be unveiled.

Kushner had been preparing the plan for months and said he was waiting for Israel’s April election and also the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, but Israel on Thursday scheduled a new election for September after Netanyahu failed to form a coalition government.

The US State Department said the the Bahrain conference would go ahead, despite Israel’s snap election.

Netanyahu brandished an official US State Department map, (signed by US President Trump with his penned comment:”Nice”) that had been altered to incorporate the occupied Golan Heights as part of Israel. [Ariel Schalit/AP Photo]

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Empty chairs at medical conference on Palestine: Gaza doctors denied permits

31 May

Renowned Norwegian surgeon, Dr. Mads Gilbert, addressed the Lancet Palestine Health Alliance conference in Jordan on how he seeks to describe reality using scientific tools, what he calls “evidence-based solidarity,” to strengthen advocacy and justice. As opposed to humanitarian work, this “medical solidarity” involves, “going there, working under Palestinian leadership. They say ‘When you come we are not alone.’” His goal is to do medical care, gather data, and tell the world what he has seen in a systematic way.  “As an activist, the tool is evidence; medicine and science may be more dangerous to the oppressor than slogans. We produce irrefutable evidence.”

By Alice Rothchild, Mondoweiss, 30 May 2019

In late March and early April 2019 I travelled to Jordan and the West Bank (Palestine) with two colleagues, Sonia Dettman and S. Komarovsky, first to attend the Lancet Palestine Health Alliance conference in Amman and then to explore and better understand the lives of refugees and the workings of UNRWA, with a focus on the status of refugee health.

The 10th Annual Lancet Palestine Health Alliance (LPHA) conference titled “Health of Palestinians inside and outside the occupied Palestinian territory” was part serious scientific meeting, part determined act of political and cultural resistance, and part joyous celebration.  The meetings were organized by the Institute of Community and Public Health at Birzeit University in collaboration with the Faculty of Health Sciences at the American University of Beirut and hosted by the Jordan University of Science and Technology. Professor Rita Giacaman, Director of the Institute of Community and Public Health at Birzeit, is the visionary spark that brings scientists from all over the world to present, critique, debate, and stand in solidarity, particularly over rather large amounts of excellent food, this being a Palestinian event, and a presentation of the Palestinian History Tapestry project.

The conference was held (like scientific meetings all over the world) in the Grand Hyatt in Amman, Jordan (which I learned after multiple attempts to communicate with the Uber driver is called the Grand Hy-yett with an accent on the second syllable – see cultural confusion).  After the formal opening speeches, the schedule included topics like “Appraising the methodological quality of the Clinical Practice Guideline for Diabetes Mellitus using the AGREE ll” (Mahmoud Radwan from Tehran University) and “Anti-D versus immunoglobulin for the treatment of Acute Immune Thrombocytopenia in children: A 10 year Palestinian experience” (Mohammed El-Habil from Al-Rantisi Pediatric Hospital, Gaza).  

But there was much that I would not see at a medical conference anywhere else in the world: “Health attacks and protection strategies during Gaza’s Great March of Return: A mixed methods study utilizing data from WHOs Surveillance System for Attacks on Healthcare” (Walaa Shehada and Hyo Jeong Kim from WHO West Bank and Gaza Strip).  Or “Executions and maiming of unarmed demonstrators during 30 weeks of the Great March of Return” (Khamis Elessi from Islamic University, Gaza). Or “Spatial Agency among children living in Dheisheh refugee camp: engendered space and place as risk and protection from political and military violence in a refugee camp in occupied Palestine” (Guido Veronese from University of Milan). The extensive poster sessions also reflected this broad look at health from a more traditional to a global/political/contextual lens. The researchers from Gaza were mostly not able to obtain permits and their absences were noted by empty chairs at the time of their presentations or blank walls at their poster sessions. Some were able to deliver their papers via the internet which was an act of resistance in itself, a symbolic breaking of the siege.

Some of the attendees at the 10th Annual Lancet Palestine Health Alliance conference in Amman, Jordan. (Photo: ICPH/LPHA)

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Israeli racism in quotes

30 May

A media campaign entitled ‘Israeli Racism in Quotes’, was launched recently by EuroPal Forum in the UK, to mark the 71st anniversary of the “Nakba” (Catastrophe) and focuses on using imagery to raise awareness about the extent of the discrimination against Palestinians in Israeli public life.

A key part of this initiative has consisted of the daily release of imagery and the sending of letters to human rights organizations and politicians, with the intention of fostering awareness about the discriminatory rhetoric that is rife in Israeli politics and among the country’s spiritual leaders.

Here is a selection of those images and direct quotes that reveal the deep-seated racism that permeates Israel’s leadership:

‘Deal of the century’ creates window for Palestinian unity

29 May

By Ramzy Baroud, Arab News, 29 May, 2019

Palestinian groups — Fatah, Hamas and others — should not confine themselves to simply rejecting the Trump administration’s so-called “deal of the century.” Instead, they should use their resistance to the new American-Israeli plot as an opportunity to unify their ranks.

Leaked details of the deal confirm Palestinians’ worst fears: It is a complete American acquiescence to the right-wing mentality that has ruled Israel for more than a decade. According to the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom, a demilitarized state, “New Palestine,” will be established on territorial fragments of the West Bank, as all illegal Jewish settlements would permanently become part of Israel. If the Palestinians refused to accept Washington’s diktats, according to the report, they will be punished through financial and political isolation.

This is certainly not an American peace overture, but an egregious act of bullying. However, it is hardly a deviation from previous rounds of “peace-making,” where Washington always took Israel’s side, blamed Palestinians and failed to hold Tel Aviv to account. Washington has never refrained from supporting Israeli wars against Palestinians or even conditioned its generous aid packages on the dismantling of the illegal Jewish settlements.

The only difference between the US “peace process” of the past and today’s “deal of the century” is in the style and tactics, as opposed to the substance and details.

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Understanding Hamas: a new political discourse

29 May

The Europal Forum recently hosted a seminar in London on Hamas’s politics and the future of Peace in Middle East, entitled: ‘Understanding Hamas: New Political Discourse in Theory and Practice.’ The above video by Al Hiwar TV presents the full panel discussion.

Zaher Birawi, chairman of EuroPal Forum said many politicians in the UK realised that alienation of Hamas has not helped in promoting peace and dialogue in the Middle East such as former Home & Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Former PM Tony Blair met with Hamas leaders many times during recent years.

Dr Daud Abdullah, director of Middle East Monitor said: “Consistent themes articulate the need of pluralism and inclusion of all political parties regardless of ideologies. It is an important display of recognition of the will of people.”

“The gap between Fatah and Hamas is a gap created by the methodology of the political parties. One believes in the right to resist, the other follows route of negotiations. Both parties have not been able to find a formula for common methodology. This presents a stumbling block”

Dr Atef Alshaer, lecturer at University of Westminster said: “Hamas’s new document had a certain positive reaction in taking Hamas out of the initial designation of being a terrorist organisation. Hamas cleared the accusations of anti-semitism as they declared their struggle is against Zionism and not against Jews. Hamas holding firmly its position and principles regardless of the immense pressures against it, is a testimony to its maturity. Ignoring Hamas’s efforts in trying to appease in its approaches and discourse leads to radicalisation.”

Dr Azzam Tamimi, an academic and broadcaster said: “Hamas came under immense pressure from its remaining allies… who advised them if they say a word here or there, it might open doors. That didn’t happen and the compromise did not open any doors.”

He added: “Hamas’s best choice would have been to remain steadfast and not give an impression of a slightest compromise. You do not make compromises when you are under pressure. None of their compromises have worked.”

[Ed: Although Kia Ora Gaza is totally independent and neither supports nor opposes Hamas, the movement plays a pivotal role in the quest for peace in the Middle East that needs to be understood. We have shared the EuroPal seminar video above to help expand this understanding.

As US/Palestinian author Ramzy Baroud has said: “Hamas is still understood within limited confines of an ever-redundant discourse obsessed with Israel’s security, and later with an imagined Iranian threat. A new understanding is desperately required, one that is sensible enough to take into account the uniqueness of the Palestinian narrative itself, Palestinian history, the struggle and rights, as opposed to Israel’s security – the cornerstone of western media reporting on Palestine and the Middle East.”]

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