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Trump plan “strips Palestinians of their rights and protects Israel from accountability”

31 Jan

Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor press release 31 January 2020

GENEVA – The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor followed the US President Donald Trump’s announcement of a plan to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict entitled “Peace for Prosperity” which was celebrated by Israel and rejected by the Palestinians.

The Geneva-based Euro-Med Monitor highlighted in a press statement on Wednesday the American plan, which reveals striping Palestinians of their rights in violation of international law, which may cause more suffering and violations in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Chairman of the Euro-Med Monitor, Ramy Abdu, considered that the main points of the plan suggest that it is one-sided in favor of Israel, in particular granting it the full sovereignty over Jerusalem and giving it the green light to annex large areas of the West Bank and imposing its sovereignty on the major settlement blocs in violation of international resolutions that consider settlements illegal and call for their removal, including United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 in December 2016.

Abdu stressed that the failure to address the issue of more than five million Palestinian refugees in a responsible and fair manner reveals how this American proposal is faulty, which makes the chances of achieving peace under this plan unlikely.

Abdu emphasized that any plan that is not based on international law and guarantees the Palestinians’ right to self-determination, based on ending the Israeli military occupation, the right of Palestinian refugees to return, and the dismantling of Israeli settlements, is doomed to fail.

Abdu pointed out that the American plan constitutes a violation of the United Nations resolutions regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict, in which the proposed Palestinian state has been transformed into an isolated cantons, giving the Palestinians a state without borders or crossings, as everything in this state remains subject to Israeli sovereignty and control, thus violating the principles of the International humanitarian law.

The Euro-Med Monitor called on the international community, especially the European Union, to reject the American plan, especially with regard to giving Israel the green light to annex more Palestinian land, which constitutes a violation of international law and a dangerous indication of more violence in the region.

The Euro-Med Monitor called on the international community… to reject the American plan, especially with regard to giving Israel the green light to annex more Palestinian land, which constitutes a violation of international law and a dangerous indication of more violence in the region.

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‘There shall be no right of return’:

30 Jan

…What you need to know about Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’

Palestinians protest against the ‘Deal of the Century’, plan by US. (Photo: via Twitter)

The Palestine Chronicle, 29 January, 2020

US President Donald Trump has finally unveiled his Middle East plan on Tuesday, during a press conference in Washington, as right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood by his side. 

The entire plan consists of 80 pages, 50 of which outline possible political scenarios, while the rest details an economic proposal that Washington had already introduced last July, during a conference in Manama, Bahrain.

(Full Text: ‘Deal of the Century’ PDF)

The economic plan vowed to set up a $50 billion fund to help revive the Palestinian economy, with Jordan, Egypt, and Israel also receiving shares of the proposed financial aid. However, media reports indicate that little funding has been pledged so far to turn the Bahrain plan into action.

Trump’s Washington announcement is considered the political component of what has largely been termed as “Deal of the Century”.

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Call for NZ to forthrightly reject “Deal of the Century”

30 Jan

John Minto, National Chair, Palestine Solidarity Network Aoteraroa [Photo: Kia Ora Gaza]

The Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa Media release 29 January 2020

Call for New Zealand to be forthright in rejecting “Deal of the Century”

The Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa is calling on the New Zealand government to reject outright the US’s so-called “deal of the century” which claims to bring peace to the Middle East.

The sheer absurdity of the US proposal is astonishing.

Among other things it proposes to:

  • Accept illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land
  • Approve Israel annexing (stealing) most of the occupied West Bank
  • Approve the ongoing brutal military occupation of Palestinian land and the siege of Gaza
  • Refuse Palestinian refugees the right to return to their land and homes
  • Legalise the on-going ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem

The deal is based on injustice, theft, race-based brutality and denial of human rights to the Palestinian people.

It seeks to overturn numerous UN resolutions and turn international law on its head.

The “deal” is rejected by Palestinians, progressive Jewish groups in Israel and around the world and by the vast mass of humanity.

In the 1980s New Zealand did not accept white South African attempts to maintain its racist oppression of black South Africans. Instead we intensified out efforts to boycott the South African regime till the pressure became unbearable and apartheid in South Africa was abandoned.

We must take the same successful path to force Israel to abandon its racist, apartheid policies towards Palestinians.

Intensifying the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign against Israel is the only viable way forward.

John Minto, National Chair, Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa

johnminto@orcon.net.nz

The worst deal of the century?

30 Jan

By Neil Ballantyne, Wellington Palestine, 29 January 2020

The worst deal of the century?

The question of Palestine and Palestinian statehood has been one of the most significant issues in the Middle East for over seventy years.  But yesterday President Trump declared the problem solved with his “Deal of the Century”. Describing his vision of the deal, President Trump, flanked by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, but with no Palestinian leaders present or involved in the preparation of the deal, stated that it “…presents a win-win opportunity for both sides, a realistic two-state solution that resolves the risk of Palestinian statehood to Israel’s security”.

In this incredibly one-sided deal, the only real winner is Trump’s closest ally, the Israeli State. The aspirations of the Palestinian people, and the focus of UN resolution after UN resolution, has always been for a settlement based on the 1967 borders, before the Israeli Defence Forces illegally occupied Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In the “Deal of the Century” pivotal issues of concern to the Palestinian people – the illegal settlements, their entitlement to East Jerusalem, the right to return of refugees and the apartheid wall – are all waived away.

Instead the deal proposes giving Israel complete control of Jerusalem, allows its annexation of the Jordan valley and Israeli settlements in the West Bank and offers no right of return for Palestinian refugees. In return for an economic incentive of $5 billion the proposed Palestinian entity is to have no military, no air force and no control over its borders, airspace or seas. The proposals include a map of the new State of Palestine depicted as a collection of isolated Palestinian enclaves connected by roads, bridges and tunnels, including a tunnel between Gaza and the West Bank.

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Trump unveils his ‘ultimate deal’ for Middle East peace

29 Jan

Video: Trump unveils ‘realistic two-state solution’ for Middle East peace

By Oliver Holmes, The Guardian, in Ramallah, Sufian Taha in Jerusalem and Hazem Balousha in Gaza, 29 January 2020

 Trump unveils ‘ultimate deal’ for Middle East peace – Palestinians absent as plan offers route to statehood but recognises Israeli settlements in West Bank

Donald Trump has unveiled his vision for Middle East peace in a White House launch that gifted Israel a wishlist of its long-held demands while promising Palestinians a potential “state”, but with severe restrictions.

Standing next to the smiling Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump announced details of the 80-page plan to cheers and applause. Palestinians leaders were absent from the launch, having pre-emptively rejected his proposal, citing flagrant bias.

“Today, Israel takes a big step towards peace,” Trump said on Tuesday. “I was not elected to do small things or shy away from big problems.”

The Guardian understands that Washington does not intend to press the Palestinians too hard to accept the plan. However, the publication of a set of ideas seen as strikingly favourable to Israeli ultranationalists is likely to embolden the country’s rightwing government to take steps long seen as taboo.

A copy of the plan, released by the White House, said the proposal intended to:

  • Establish Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided” capital, with a potential Palestinian capital in districts to the east and north of the city.
  • Recognise the vast majority of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory as part of the country.
  • Recognise the Jordan Valley, which makes up about a third of the occupied West Bank, as part of Israel.
  • Offer a path to some form of Palestinian statehood but with no army, and overarching Israeli security control in some areas, including over the sea.
  • Recognise sections of the desert bordering Egypt as part of any future Palestinian state.

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This is what racist terror looks like…

29 Jan

Settlers set fire to the Sharafat village mosque, south of occupied Jerusalem

Middle East Monitor, 29 January 2020 

58 arson attacks on Palestinian churches and mosques

Israel’s Tag Meir organisation revealed on Monday that extremist Jewish settlers have carried out arson attacks on 46 mosques and 12 churches in the occupied West Bank and Israel over the past decade, Al Sabeel has reported.

Tag Meir, which was established 15 years ago to counter settlers’ hate crimes and racism in Israel and the West Bank, said that the perpetrators of these crimes generally went unpunished. It pointed out that most of these arson attacks were committed by an extremist settler group called Price Tag, and that the criminals spray graffiti such as “Death to Arabs” and other hate messages on the walls of the buildings they burn down.

The last of these attacks was the on a mosque in the Beir Safafa neighbourhood of occupied Jerusalem. The fire started by the illegal settlers caused severe damage to the building.

READ: Israeli soldiers kick Palestinian in the head in Al-Aqsa Mosque

 

Israeli settlers torch Palestinian school in latest ‘price tag’ attack

Students and teachers rattled after finding classroom a charred mess on Tuesday morning

A Palestinian stands in the classroom torched by Israeli settlers in a ‘price tag’ attack in Einabus, south of Nablus (Screengrab)

By Shatha Hammad, Middle East Eye, Einabus, occupied West Bank, 29 January 2020

Israeli settlers set fire to a classroom last night in the occupied West Bank village of Einabus, in the latest apparent “price tag” attack on Palestinian communities, students and teachers told Middle East Eye.

Rateb Nassar, the deputy headmaster of the affected school, told MEE that Israeli settlers came from the nearby illegal settlement of Yitzhar, and threw burning materials inside one of the classrooms.

The assailants also spray-painted racist and anti-Arab slogans on the walls, threatening to kill Palestinians and burn their properties, he added.

“This is the most dangerous attack the school has witnessed, and it indicates that more settler attacks are to come,” Nassar said.

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Public talk tomorrow: Creating a future of hope

28 Jan

A special presentation by Brother Peter Bray FSC, Vice-Chancellor of Bethlehem University.


Bethlehem University is a Catholic University in the Holy Land, established in 1973 as a joint venture between the De La Salle order and the Vatican. With a student population that is 25% Christian and 75% Muslim, the University strives to be a place of peaceful coexistence, an oasis of peace and a beacon of hope.

Vice-Chancellor Brother Peter Bray FSC, a New Zealander, will offer a presentation on what is happening at the University; its context in the Holy Land and the challenges faced; and real-life stories of the students and the impact the University is having on their lives.

Hosted by Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa – PSNA

Location and time

  • 7:00 – 9:00 pm
  • Wednesday 29th January
  • Pompallier Centre
  • 30 New St, St Marys Bay, Auckland
  • Parking at venue

Minto calls for anti-war mobilisation

27 Jan

VIDEO REPORT by Café Pacific, 25 January 2020

AUCKLAND, NZ (Café Pacific): Human rights campaigner John Minto calls for mobilisation by the general public in New Zealand for opposition against a possible war on Iran by the US “aggressors”. He reminded the cheering crowd in downtown Auckland of the millions of people across the world who had opposed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Story: Speaker: John Minto (CC) Creative Commons | David Robie | Café Pacific http://www.cafepacific.blogspot.com

By PMC Editor 25 January 2020

Minto calls for ‘mobilisation’ backing peace, justice in Middle East

John Minto praises Iraqi protests against US aggression in the Middle East and calls for NZ troops to be recalled at a rally in Auckland’s Aotea Square today. [Video: David Robie/Cafe Pacific– Pacific Media Centre]

Veteran campaigner John Minto, UNITE union national director Mike Treen and other speakers today called on New Zealanders to “mobilise” against involvement in any war on Iran.

Hundreds were at the rally in Aotea Square in Auckland followed by a march to the United States consulate in protest over its “warmongering” in the Middle East.

Protests also took place in Wellington and Waihopai, the NZ spy base for the Western “Five Eyes” communications network led by the US.

READ MORE: ‘We want them out call’ Iraqi call over US troops

 “Make Love Not War” placard at today’s Aotea Square rally. Image: David Robie/Cafe Pacific

Protesters at No War on Iran event in Aotea Square, 25 January 2020. Image: David Robie

“Don’t Attack Iran”, “No war with Iraq or Iran!”, “NZ Troops out Now!” and “Shut down the Waihopai Spy Base!” and other slogans featured on placards at all three protests.

“All foreign troops – including New Zealand soldiers – need to leave Iraq now,” said Minto.

“We need to mobilise much bigger numbers than we did in 2003 – and I think we will.”

Minto said for NZ and other foreign soldiers to remain there in defiance of the Iraqi government’s recent request for them to leave was an “act of war”.

Minto, a co-founder of GPJA, now lives in Christchurch.

Peace and justice protesters at the Aotea Square rally today. Image: David Robie/Cafe Pacific

Protest support

Support for the Auckland protest came from the Green Party, First Union, Unite Union, Love Aotearoa Hate Racism, Radio Inqilaab, Migrant Workers Association of Aotearoa, Anti-Bases Campaign and Socialist Aotearoa.

“Since calling this protest we have received endorsements from across New Zealand and as a result, GPJA has changed its name to Global Peace and Justice Aotearoa,” said Treen.

“We seek to link activists from around the country to build a strong movement for peace and justice.”

Those backing the protest include Iranian-born MP Golriz Ghahraman, Green Party foreign affairs, defence, and human rights spokesperson. who was unable to attend in person.

“My apologies and huge appreciation for the kaupapa of the anti-war march in Auckland, especially as a victim of American war profiteering in Iran and Iraq,” she told the organisers in a message of support.

 

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Israel floods hundreds of acres of farmlands in Gaza

27 Jan

VIDEO REPORT: PressTV Plus, 21 January 2020

Israel has opened the gates of its rainwater harvesting dams near the besieged Gaza Strip, flooding more than 100 hectares of Palestinian farmland in less than two weeks.

Middle East Monitor report, 21 January 2020

Israeli authorities have “for days now” been opening rainwater stores near the besieged Gaza Strip drowning Palestinian land, the enclave’s agriculture ministry reported yesterday.

The ministry added that the occupation forces were “controlling the opening and closing of the rainwater stores in Gaza,” noting that it had damaged Palestinian farmers’ crops.

Two million Palestinians live in the enclave which has been under a strict Israeli-led siege for 13 years. As a result, unemployment has soared with the farming industries providing an income for thousands of Palestinians.

Poverty rates in Gaza reached 75 per cent in 2019, with 34 per cent of Gaza residents living in abject poverty, Deputy Welfare Ministry in Gaza Ghazi Hamad said in October last year.

Gaza farmers: ‘Israel destroyed all of our crops’ 

 

Israeli warplanes strike several targets in Gaza

27 Jan

One of the sites hit by an Israeli airstrikes in Khan Younis in the southern of Gaza Strip. (Photo: via Twitter)

The Palestinian Chronicle, 27 January, 2020

Israeli warplanes and drones carried out multiple airstrikes on Saturday night, targeting several locations in the southern Gaza Strip district of Khan Younis.

Drones struck with three missiles two locations east of Khan Younis city. A few minutes later, F16 fighter jets bombed the two locations with two missiles causing huge damage there and partial damages to neighboring facilities.

No casualties were reported.

Israel has been enforcing a blockade of the Gaza Strip since 2007.

(Sources: The Palestine Chronicle, WAFA, Social Media)

Opposing racism is not anti-Semitic

27 Jan

John Minto speaking at the anti-war rally in Auckland on Saturday.

The Press (Christchurch daily), published 27 January 2020

Letter to the Editor by John Minto, (Chair of Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa.)

David Zwarts (Chair, Wellington Regional Jewish Council – letter to The Press, 24 January 2020. Ed) is right to say we must learn the lessons of the Holocaust in which six million Jews were murdered by Nazi Germany.

And he is right to call on all of us to challenge and condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms. But he is wrong to suggest anti-Semitism today is a “largely anti-Israel” version.

Racism and oppression are racism and oppression wherever they come from and opposition to racist Israeli policies is just that – opposition to racist Israeli policies. It is not anti-Semitism.

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VIDEO: Surf’s up in Gaza

24 Jan

VIDEO REPORT by We Are Not Numbers, 21 January 2020.

A father teaches his son how to become the youngest surfer “star” in Gaza.

Anti-war protest rallies this weekend

22 Jan

Auckland…

Wellington…

Book launch: ‘These Chains Will Be Broken’…

21 Jan

…Palestinian stories of struggle and defiance in Israeli prisons

Palestine Chronicle, 20 January 2020

On Monday, January  20, Clarity Press, Inc. of Atlanta announced the launch of These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons, by Palestinian author and journalist, Ramzy Baroud, and The Palestine Chronicle Editorial Team. 

Bookended by a Foreword by Khalida Jarrar Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and an Afterword by Richard Falk, former UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, the collection conveys in prisoners’ own words, Palestinian suffering in Israeli jails and their enduring resistance to the occupation of their historic homeland.

“These are the stories of Palestine’s true organic intellectuals,” said Baroud, “women and men, mothers and fathers, children and teens, teachers, fighters and human rights’ advocates, united by a single motive that transcends region, religion and ideology: resistance. Regardless of the cost, they are taking a brave, moral and internationally defensible stand against injustice in all of its forms.”

“It has been wrong and inaccurate to label Palestinian prisoners as either victims or terrorists, because both classifications obfuscate the reality of an entire nation facing the onslaught of colonialism, military occupation and the entrenched Israeli apartheid.”

In her Foreword to the book, member of the Palestine Legislative Council, Khalida Jarrar—who has been detained and imprisoned by the Israeli occupation since her contribution to it—wrote that These Chains Will Be Broken will allow readers to “delve into the lives of men and women, read intimate stories that they have chosen to share with you, stories that may surprise you, anger you and even shock you. But they are crucial stories that must be told, read and retold.”

Terming the book “a remarkable work,” award-winning Australian journalist, author and broadcaster/documentary maker, John Pilger, testified to its impact:

“With each story, there is a roll-call of the best of humanity: courage, struggle, determination, generosity, passion, humility and, above all, defiance of injustice. Everyone, especially those of us in the West subjected to unerring propaganda, should read this searing and beautiful book. Then understand all over again that peace and justice are not possible in the world until the Palestinians are free.”      John Pilger

In his Afterword, former UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk addressed the international legal rectitude of the prisoners’ struggle thus:

“The rationale for Palestinian resistance is heightened by having law and morality on the side of demands for an end to the oppressive Israeli occupation and the persistent abuse of fundamental Palestinian rights…”

Baroud, who is also the author of four other books on Palestinian people’s history, said that These Chains Will Be Broken is yet another serious attempt aimed at reclaiming the narrative of our people.

Leading the research in its early stages from the besieged Gaza Strip, Palestinian journalist, Abdallah Aljamal, played an important role in conducting interviews and collecting material with scores of freed Palestinian prisoners and the families of those who are still in prison.

“We worked very hard to achieve this book,” said Aljamal from Gaza. “Two things made the workload manageable: one, knowing that you are fighting for a good cause and two, remembering that no matter how tough our mission is, it doesn’t compare to the suffering of our prisoners and their families”.

Other Palestine Chronicle editors participated in the composition of the book, including Romana Rubeo and Yousef Aljamal. The intensity and beauty of each story is amplified by intricate and exquisite illustrations by Palestinian artist, Dalia Alkayyali.

Mohammed al-Deirawi, a freed Palestinian prisoner whose story is included in the book under the title “Ghadeer”, said, “This book exposes the ugliness of the Israeli occupation and its sadistic practices against Palestinian prisoners – the daily humiliation, the medical neglect, the administrative detention, the imprisonment of minors, the solitary confinement, the killing of prisoners”.

Al-Deirawi added, “What we have witnessed in prison cannot be truly be comprehended by anyone who hasn’t lived these harrowing experiences. This is why These Chains Will Be Broken is a crucial work. It carries our voices and our stories to the world, confronting it, especially civil society, with its legal and moral responsibility towards Palestine, Palestinian prisoners, and the Palestinian people”.

“We urge you to read this book. Our voice, that of pain and resistance, deserves to be heard”.

Further Praise for These Chains Will Be Broken:

“In this must-read ‘history from below’, the Palestinians who tell their stories show prison to be a microcosm of life under conditions of occupation and colonization… powerful and searingly beautiful…” — CYNTHIA FRANKLIN, Professor, University of Hawaii, Member USACBI

“This book is essential in helping us develop a compassionate understanding of the plight of Palestinian prisoners and the Palestinian people.” — MARYUM ALI, Social Worker, Public Speaker, Daughter of Legendary Muhammad Ali:

“The lively, beautiful, and painful narratives recited in “These Chains will be Broken” are a must-read for anyone with a burning conscience and a determined will to see that oppression is not forgotten, freedom will be gained, and justice will ultimately prevail.” — Prof. Dr. SAMI A. AL-ARIAN. Director and Public Affairs Professor, Center for Islam and Global Affairs.

For media inquiries and interviews, contact: 

Ramzy Baroud (English & Arabic): info@ramzybaroud.net

Abdallah Aljamal (Arabic): abdallahaljamal1987@gmail.com; tel: 00972599810200

Mohammed Dirawi (Arabic): ibrahemhamada25@gmail.com; WhatsApp: 00905523796334

Order your copy of ‘These Chains Will Be Broken’ from Clarity Press, Amazon.com or Barnes & Nobles

2020: Gaza is now officially uninhabitable

9 Jan

Tear gas canisters are fired by Israeli forces at Palestinians during a protest near the Israel-Gaza border fence, east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 27, 2019. [AFP]

By Ramzy Baroud, Special to Gulf News, 8 January 2020

A new year is upon us, yet the siege on the Gaza Strip persists, only to be interrupted by a massive war, like the one of 2014, or a less destructive one, similar to the latest Israeli onslaught in November. And with each war, more dismal statistics are produced, more lives shattered, and more painful stories told and retold.

In 2012, a United Nations report indicated that Gaza will become unlivable in 2020. When the report was first released, many had hoped that the unprecedented and grim warning by the world’s largest international body would create the needed momentum to push Israel to end its hermetic siege.

Nothing followed that report, however, except a tighter siege, accompanied by several wars that killed and wounded thousands. And now, 2020 has arrived where nearly 2 million people are still incarcerated in the “world’s largest open-air prison”, the uninhabitable Gaza Strip.

For years, civil society groups across the world laboured to destabilise this horrific status quo. They rallied, held vigils, wrote letters to their political representatives and so on. To no avail. Frustrated by government inaction, a group of activists sailed to Gaza in a small boat in August 2008, succeeding in doing what the United Nations has failed to do: they broke, however fleetingly, the Israeli siege on the impoverished Strip.

By the end of 2017, 53 per cent of Gaza’s population lived in poverty, two-thirds living in “deep poverty”. This appalling number includes over 400,000 children.

– Ramzy Baroud, editor of The Palestine Chronicle

This symbolic action of the Free Gaza movement had a tremendous impact. It sent a clear message to Palestinians in occupied Palestine: that their fate is not only determined by the Israeli government and military machine; that there are other actors who are capable of challenging the dreadful silence of the international community; and that not all Westerners are as complicit as their governments in the prolonged suffering of the Palestinian people.

Since then, many more solidarity missions have attempted to follow suit, coming across the sea atop flotillas or in large caravans through the Sinai desert. Some have successfully reached Gaza, delivering medical aid and other supplies. The majority, however, were sent back or had their boats hijacked in international waters by the Israeli navy.

Second Palestinian Intifada

The outcome of all of this has been the writing of a new chapter of solidarity with the Palestinian people that went beyond the occasional demonstration and the typical signing of a petition.

The second Palestinian Intifada, the uprising of 2002, had already redefined the role of the “activist” in Palestine. The formation of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) allowed thousands of international activists from around the world to participate in “direct action” in Palestine, thus fulfilling, however symbolically, a role that is typically played by a United Nations protective force.

ISM activists, however, employed non-violent means of registering civil society’s rejection of the Israeli occupation. Expectedly, Israel did not honour the fact that many of these activists came from countries deemed “friendly” by Tel Aviv’s standards. The killing of US and British nationals Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall in Gaza in 2003 and 2004 respectively, was just the precursor of Israeli violence that was to follow.

In May 2010, the Israeli navy attacked the Freedom Flotilla consisting of the Turkish-owned ship MV Mavi Marmara and others, killing ten unarmed humanitarian workers and wounding at least 50 more.

It must be understood that Israeli violence is not random nor merely a reflection of Israel’s notoriety and disregard of international and humanitarian law. With every violent episode, Israel hopes to dissuade outside actors from getting involved in “Israeli affairs”. Yet, time and again, the solidarity movement returns with a defiant message, insisting that no country, not even Israel, has the right to commit war crimes with impunity.

Freedom Flotilla

Following a recent meeting in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, the International Coalition of the Freedom Flotilla, which consists of many international groups, has decided to, once more, sail to Gaza. The solidarity mission is scheduled for the summer of 2020, and, like most of the 35 previous attempts, the Flotilla is likely to be intercepted by the Israeli navy. Yet, another attempt will likely follow, and many more, until the Gaza siege is completely lifted. It has become clear that the purpose of these humanitarian missions is not to deliver a few medical supplies to the nearly two million besieged Gazans, but to challenge the Israeli narrative that has turned the occupation and isolation of Palestinians to a status quo ante, to an “Israeli affair”.

According to the United Nations Office in Occupied Palestine, the poverty rate in Gaza seems to be increasing at an alarming speed of 2 per cent per year. By the end of 2017, 53 per cent of Gaza’s population lived in poverty, two-thirds living in “deep poverty”. This appalling number includes over 400,000 children.

An image, a video, a chart or a social media post can never convey the pain of 400,000 children, who experience hunger every day of their lives in order for the Israeli government to achieve its military and political designs in Gaza.

True solidarity should aim at forcing Israel to end the protracted occupation and siege on the Palestinian people, by sailing the high seas, if necessary. Thankfully, the good activists of the Freedom Flotilla are doing just that.

— Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons.

Why child labour is common in Gaza

8 Jan

Growing numbers of children have to work as Gaza’s economy deteriorates. [Anne Paq ActiveStills]

By Isra Saleh el-Namey, Gaza, The Electronic Intifada, 2 January 2020

It is cold and windy outside but Anas keeps himself busy.

The 12-year-old has to get drinks ready for people on the Gaza City seafront. In the summer, he sells fruit juices and ice cream; in the winter, tea, coffee and sahlab – a hot milk pudding.

Anas performs this task – along with his older brother – each afternoon. He attends school in the morning.

“I usually don’t do my homework until the evening,” he says. “But if I have an exam the next day, I bring my books with me to work. I study when I have ten minutes off.”

“Better than begging”

Though still a child, Anas has to earn money for his family.

He has five siblings. Their father Adham is in poor health and has long been unemployed.

“I am thankful that my two sons can do some work so that we can survive in very difficult circumstances,” Adham said. “It is hard for them. But it is better than begging for money.”

The UN monitoring group OCHA has stated that child labor is a “commonly used mechanism to alleviate poverty” in Gaza.

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ICC takes legal push against Israel to a new level

8 Jan

Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC)

By Ramzy Baroud, Arab News, 7 January 2020

Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), has at long last come to the long-anticipated conclusion that “all the statutory criteria under the Rome Statute for the opening of an investigation (into alleged war crimes by Israel in the Occupied Territories) have been met.”

Bensouda’s verdict has been in the making for a long time and should, frankly, have come much sooner. The ICC’s preliminary investigations into Israeli war crimes began back in 2015. Since then, many more crimes have been committed, while the international community has persisted with its moral inertia.

The ICC statement, issued on Dec. 20, asserted that the court saw “no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice.” But can the “interests of justice” be served while the US government continues to wield a massive stick, using its diplomatic, political and financial clout to ensure Israel emerges unscathed from its latest legal scuffle?

There is little doubt that Michael Lynk, the UN special rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, was absolutely right when he said that a formal ICC investigation into war crimes in Palestine was a “momentous step forward in the quest for accountability.” He was also correct in his assessment — published on the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights website — that “accountability has, until now, been largely missing in action throughout the 52-year-old occupation.”

I would go even further and expand the timeline of the missing accountability to include the two decades prior to the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Otherwise, how is one to account for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1947-48, the numerous massacres and other wanton killings that accompanied and followed those defining years, or the fact that Israel was never held accountable for its violations of international and humanitarian laws between 1948 and 1967?

That issue notwithstanding, the Palestinian Authority and all political parties in Palestine should exploit this unprecedented opportunity to hold Israel accountable.

All political parties in Palestine should exploit this unprecedented opportunity to hold Israel accountable.

Ramzy Baroud

As soon as the ICC issued its statement, reports conveyed a sense of “panic” among Israel’s leaders. The Times of Israel reported that an Israeli government meeting to discuss the ICC decision was held shortly after the announcement with the aim of considering a proper response, including the possibility of preventing ICC investigators from reaching Israel. This is eerily familiar. Israel has denied entry to — or refused to cooperate with — international investigators and observers on many occasions in the past. 

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Embracing Palestine: How to combat Israel’s misuse of ‘Anti-Semitism’

8 Jan

Jeremy Corbyn, UK Labour Party leader. (Photo: File)

By Ramzy Baroud, Palestine Chronicle, 4 January 2020

At a talk I delivered in Northern England in March 2018, I proposed that the best response to falsified accusations of anti-Semitism, which are often lobbed against pro-Palestinian communities and intellectuals everywhere, is to draw even closer to the Palestinian narrative.

In fact, my proposal was not meant to be a sentimental response in any way.

“Reclaiming the Palestinian narrative” has been the main theme in most of my public speeches and writings in recent years. All of my books and much of my academic studies and research have largely focused on positioning the Palestinian people – their rights, history, culture, and political aspirations – at the very core of any genuine understanding of the Palestinian struggle against Israeli colonialism and apartheid.

True, there was nothing particularly special about my talk in Northern England. I had already delivered a version of that speech in other parts of the UK, Europe and elsewhere. But what made that event memorable is a conversation I had with a passionate activist, who introduced himself as an advisor to the office of the head of the British Labor Party, Jeremy Corbyn.

Although the activist agreed with me regarding the need to embrace the Palestinian narrative, he insisted that the best way for Corbyn to deflect anti-Semitic accusations, which have dogged his leadership since day one, is for Labour to issue a sweeping and decisive condemnation of anti-Semitism, so that Corbyn may silence his critics and he is finally able to focus on the pressing subject of Palestinian rights.

I was doubtful. I explained to the animated and self-assured activist that Zionist manipulation and misuse of anti-Semitism is a phenomenon that has preceded Corbyn by many decades, and will always be there as long as the Israeli government finds the need to distract from its war crimes against Palestinians and to crush pro-Palestinian solidarity worldwide.

I explained to him that while anti-Jewish racism is a real phenomenon that must be confronted, “anti-Semitism”, as defined by Israel and its Zionist allies, is not a moral question that is meant to be solved by a press release, no matter how strongly-worded. Rather, it is a smokescreen, with the ultimate aim of distracting from the real conversation, that being the crimes of military occupation, racism, and apartheid in Palestine.

In other words, no amount of talking, debating or defending oneself can possibly convince the Zionists that demanding an end to the Israeli military occupation in Palestine or the dismantling of the Israeli apartheid regime, or any genuine criticism of the policies of Israel’s right-wing government are not, in fact, acts of anti-Semitism.

Alas, the activist insisted that a strong statement that would clarify Labour’s position on anti-Semitism would finally absolve Corbyn and protect his legacy against the undeserved smearing.

The rest is history. Labour went into a witch-hunt, to catch the “true” anti-Semites among its members. The unprecedented purge has reached many good people who have dedicated years to serving their communities and defending human rights in Palestine and elsewhere.

The statement to end all statements was followed by many others. Numerous articles and arguments were written and made in defense of Corbyn – to no avail. Only a few days before Labour lost the general election in December, the Simon Wiesenthal Center named Corbyn, one of Britain’s most sincere and well-intentioned leaders in the modern era, the “top anti-Semite of 2019”. So much for engaging the Zionists.

It doesn’t matter whether Corbyn’s party lost the elections in part because of Zionist smearing and unfounded anti-Semitic accusations. What truly matters for me as a Palestinian intellectual who has hoped that Corbyn’s leadership will constitute a paradigm shift regarding the country’s attitude towards Israel and Palestine, is the fact that the Zionists have indeed succeeded in keeping the conversation focused on Israeli priorities and Zionist sensibilities. It saddens me that while Palestine should have occupied the centre stage, at least during Corbyn’s leadership years, it was still marginalized signifying once again that solidarity with Palestine has become a political liability to anyone hoping to win an election – in the UK and anywhere in the West as well.

I find it puzzling, indeed disturbing, that Israel, directly or otherwise, is able to determine the nature of any discussion on Palestine in the West, not only within typical mainstream platforms but within pro-Palestinian circles as well. For example, I have heard activists repeatedly questioning whether the one-state solution is at all possible because “Israel simply would never accept it”.

I often challenge my audiences to base their solidarity with Palestine on real love, support, and admiration for the Palestinian people, for their history, their anti-colonial struggle, and the thousands of heroes and heroines who have sacrificed their own lives so that their people may live in freedom.

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The Freedom Flotilla to Gaza will sail again

30 Dec

The international Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) has announced that the next Freedom Flotilla will sail again in May 2020 to challenge the Israeli blockade. [Photo: via Twitter]

By Ramzy Baroud, Palestine Chronicle, 26 December 25, 2019

What is Gaza to us but an Israeli missile, a rudimentary rocket, a demolished home, an injured child being whisked away by his peers under a hail of bullets? On a daily basis, Gaza is conveyed to us as a bloody image or a dramatic video, none of which can truly capture the everyday reality of the Strip – its formidable steadfastness, the everyday acts of resistance, and the type of suffering that can never be really understood through a customary glance at a social media post.

At long last, the chief prosecutor of the International Court of Justice (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, has declared her ‘satisfaction’ that “war crimes have been – or are being –  committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip”. As soon as the ICC statement was made on December 20, pro-Palestinian groups felt a rare moment of relief. Finally, Israel will stand accused, potentially paying for its recurring bloodbath in the isolated and besieged Gaza Strip, its military occupation and apartheid in the West Bank, and much more.

However, it could take years for the ICC to initiate its legal proceedings and render its verdict. Moreover, there are no political guarantees that an ICC decision indicting Israel would ever be respected, let alone implemented.

Demonstrators from many countries, including Aotearoa/NZ, gathered outside the International Criminal Court [ICC] in The Hague, Netherlands, on 29 November, urging the court to prosecute Israel’s army for war crimes. The protest also demanded the ICC prosecutor reconsider her decision to not pursue charges in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla case. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Meanwhile, the siege on Gaza persists, only to be interrupted by a massive war, like the one of 2014, or a less destructive one, similar to the latest Israeli onslaught in November. And with every war, more dismal statistics are produced, more lives shattered, and more painful stories are told and retold.

For years, civil society groups across the world labored to destabilize this horrific status quo. They organized, held vigils, wrote letters to their political representatives and so on. To no avail. Frustrated by government inaction, a small group of activists sailed to Gaza in a small boat in August 2008, succeeding in doing what the United Nations has failed to do: they broke, however fleetingly, the Israeli siege on the impoverished Strip.

This symbolic action of the Free Gaza movement had a tremendous impact. It sent a clear message to Palestinians in occupied Palestine, that their fate is not only determined by the Israeli government and military machine; that there are other actors who are capable of challenging the dreadful silence of the international community; that not all Westerners are as complicit as their governments in the prolonged suffering of the Palestinian people.

Since then, many more solidarity missions have attempted to follow suit, coming across the sea atop flotillas or in large caravans through the Sinai desert. Some have successfully reached Gaza, delivering medical aid and other supplies. The majority, however, were sent back or had their boats hijacked in international waters by the Israeli navy.

The outcome of all of this has been the writing of a new chapter of solidarity with the Palestinian people that went beyond the occasional demonstration and the typical signing of a petition.

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ICC to investigate Israel for War Crimes in Palestinian Territories

21 Dec

Amnesty: the use of force by Israeli military against protestors in Gaza is a war crime.(Photo: via AA)

Palestine Chronicle, 21 December 2019

BREAKING NEWS: The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has said she will launch a full investigation into alleged war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The announcement by Fatou Bensouda on Friday was welcomed by the Palestinian leadership as a “long overdue step” but prompted an angry response by Israel.

Bensouda said in a statement:

“I am satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Palestine”.

“In brief, I am satisfied that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip,” she added, without specifying the perpetrators of the alleged crimes.

VIDEO: Situation in Palestine: Statement of the ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, IntlCriminalCourt, 21 December 2019

Bensouda said before opening a full probe, she would ask The Hague-based tribunal to rule on the territory over which it has jurisdiction, as Israel is not a member of the court.

She urged judges to rule on the court’s jurisdiction “without undue delay”. The prosecutor added however that she did not require any authorization from judges to open a probe as there had been a referral from the Palestinians, who joined the court in 2015.

Bensouda has been under growing criticism for failing to move forward with legal procedures regarding Israel’s misconduct in the Occupied Territories.

As South African writer Iqbal Jassat wrote in The Palestine Chronicle on December 17:

“Unsurprisingly the most likely reason for it would be fear of retaliation from Israel and the United States.”

The Palestinian government welcomed Bensouda’s announcement.

“Palestine welcomes this step as a long-overdue step to move the process forward towards an investigation, after nearly five long and difficult years of preliminary examination,” a statement from the foreign ministry said.

Netanyahu lashes out

Following Bensouda’s announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at what he called “a dark day for truth and justice”.

Netanyahu said in a statement:

“The court has no jurisdiction in this case. The ICC only has jurisdiction over petitions submitted by sovereign states. But there has never been a Palestinian state”.

Bensouda launched a preliminary probe in January 2015 into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Israel and the Palestinian territories, in the wake of the 2014 Gaza war which left 2,251 dead on the Palestinian side, the majority civilians, and 74 on the Israeli side, most of them soldiers.

Israel and its ally the United States have both refused to sign up to the court, which was set up in 2002 to be the only global tribunal trying the world’s worst crimes, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Palestinians, who signed up to the ICC in 2015, have already accepted the court’s jurisdiction but have repeatedly urged the court to move faster.

A full ICC investigation could possibly lead to charges against individuals being brought. States cannot be charged by the ICC.

. . . .

[NOTE: Unfortunately this landmark decision does not include an investigation into the deadly Israeli commando attack on the Mavi Marmara in 2010.

Earlier this month, the ICC prosecutor refused to press charges over a deadly 2010 Israeli raid on a flotilla bringing aid to Gaza, and urged that investigation to be shut.

Nine Turkish citizens died in May 2010 when Israeli marines stormed the Mavi Marmara, which was among eight ships trying to break a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. One more died in hospital in 2014. Ed]]

(Sources: Al Jazeera, PC, ICC, Social Media)

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