Joe Biden’s love affair with Israel will pick up where it left off

11 Nov
Two men smile and embrace
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has every reason to expect Joe Biden will deliver for Israel, just as the Obama administration did. (US Embassy Jerusalem)

With Donald Trump still disputing his loss of the US presidential election, there has been a lot of attention to which foreign leaders congratulated the winners after the race was called on Saturday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took his time, waiting until well after other world leaders had recognized Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the victors.

But finally, on Sunday, Netanyahu joined the club.

“Joe, we’ve had a long and warm personal relationship for nearly 40 years, and I know you as a great friend of Israel,” Netanyahu wrote in a tweet addressing President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris.

“I look forward to working with both of you to further strengthen the special alliance between the US and Israel.”

It was undoubtedly another awkward momentfor Netanyahu, whose close identificationwith Trump’s ultra-nationalist, white supremacist populism has been a hallmark of the last few years.

But Netanyahu is right about Biden’s unconditional, career-long commitment to Israel.

Back in 1986, Biden told the Senate that Israel is “the best $3 billion investment we make.”

“Were there not an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect our interests in the region,” Biden asserted.

It’s a theme he returns to time and again.

“Israel is the single greatest strength America has in the Middle East,” Biden told an interviewer in 2007.

“When I was a young senator, I’d say, ‘If I were a Jew I’d be a Zionist,’” Biden added. “I am a Zionist, you don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist.”

Lovers’ quarrel

Biden’s love for Israel has survived everything that has been thrown at it. This includes the public humiliation Netanyahu’s government inflicted on Biden in 2010, when he was vice president.

Israel apparently timed the announcement of a new colony in occupied East Jerusalem specifically to embarrass Biden, who was visiting Israel in an effort to advance the Obama administration’s “peace” efforts.

Obama had been urging Israel to pause settlement construction to give the initiative a chance.

Yet the lovers’ quarrel was quickly forgotten.

Israel went on to build almost as many settlement homes on occupied Palestinian land during the Obama years as it did during the George W. Bush administration.

Not only that, but as Israel killed an average of 11 children per day during its summer 2014 assault on Gaza, the Obama-Biden administration resupplied Israel with munitions.

True friends don’t let friends run out of missiles when they are bombing an impoverished, defenseless refugee population caged in a ghetto.

During its 51-day assault, Israel killed more than 2,200 Palestinians.

The Obama-Biden administration sprung into action to thwart Palestinians from seeking justice for Israeli war crimes at the International Criminal Court.

Anyone hoping for something different this time around should prepare for quick disappointment.

Biden adopts Trump policies

Biden has already endorsed some of Trump’s signature pro-Israel policies.

He has welcomed the normalization deals the Trump administration brokered between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Biden has pledged not to move the US embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv.

Harris also has her own long history of support for Israel.

Yet there is a slight shift in tone.

In a pre-election interview, Kamala Harris pledged that the Biden administration would restore humanitarian aid for Palestinians cut by Trump, and re-open the US consulate in East Jerusalem.

Restoring aid to East Jerusalem’s hospitals or the refugee agency UNRWA would be welcome – to the extent that it actually helps Palestinians in need.

But at best it would mark a return to a status quo where Palestinians are kept on life support while Israel continues to aggressively steal their land and violate their rights with impunity.

“Joe and I also believe in the worth and value of every Palestinian and every Israeli, and we will work to ensure that Palestinians and Israelis enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity and democracy,” Harris said.

“We are committed to a two-state solution, and we will oppose any unilateral steps that undermine that goal. We will also oppose annexation and settlement expansion,” she added.

Leaving aside that the two-state solution is dead and buried, there’s no reason to take even these minimal commitments at face value.

Democrats always say they oppose settlements and want to see a two-state solution, but as eight years of the Obama-Biden administration demonstrated, that never translates into action.

In his 2018 memoir, Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser under the Obama-Biden administration, staunchly defends his boss against accusations that he was too supportive of Palestinians.

Rhodes writes that the critics who accused Obama of being not sufficiently pro-Israel “ignored the fact that he [Obama] wasn’t doing anything tangible for the Palestinians.”

Record aid package

Indeed, one of the Obama-Biden administration’s final acts was to reward Israel’s settlement spree and massacres with the biggest military aid package in history – a minimum of $38 billion over 10 years.

Now, according to The Jerusalem Post, “Israel plans to reach out to US President-elect Joe Biden’s administration in the coming months to begin discussing the formulation of a new long-term military aid plan.”

“We will want to talk about a new package and program,” a senior Israeli official told the newspaper. “The new plan will need to take into account the changing threats and challenges we face in the Middle East.”

In other words, Israel plans to increase its demands on US taxpayers.

Whenever a new administration comes in, there is a flurry of speculation and misplaced optimism about who it will appoint and what it will do to revive the “peace process.”

No one should be distracted by these parlor games.

Netanyahu’s words of welcome for Biden are sincere, because he knows the incoming American president will do all he can to deliver for Israel, just like every Democrat and every Republican before him.

Under cover of US elections, Israel wipes entire Palestinian community off the map

8 Nov

BY YUMNA PATEL, Mondoweiss, 6 November 2020

As the world was engulfed in the unfolding US elections on November 3rd, Israel quietly demolished an entire Bedouin enclave in the northern Jordan Valley, leaving more than 70 Palestinians of Khirbet Humsah homeless just as temperatures started to drop in the occupied West Bank.

CHILDREN’S TOYS LIE AMONG THE RUBBLE OF THE VILLAGE OF KHIRBET HUMSAH IN THE NORTHERN JORDAN VALLEY. 41 CHILDREN WERE DISPLACED AS A RESULT OF THE ISRAELI DEMOLITION. NOVEMBER 4TH, 2020 (YUMNA PATEL/MONDOWEISS)

We need new directions in foreign affairs and defence after NZ First indifference

5 Nov
Nanaia Mahuta should start her role as foreign affairs minister by recognising the state of Palestine, says John Minto.
Nanaia Mahuta should start her role as foreign affairs minister by recognising the state of Palestine, says John Minto. [CHRISTEL YARDLEY/Stuff]

OPINION: By John Minto, Christchurch Press and Dominion Post, 5 November 2020

Appointing Nanaia Mahuta as foreign minister and Peeni Henare in defence is a welcome relief and brings fresh pairs of eyes to long-neglected issues.

In the previous term of government, several important foreign policy issues took a back seat after Labour contracted out those roles to NZ First. Winston Peters as foreign minister and Ron Mark as defence minister were left to run their portfolios unchallenged – and Palestine, West Papua and Western Sahara were the biggest losers.

Winston Peters marked time on the Middle East. He stayed silent when Israeli soldiers shot dead hundreds of unarmed Palestinian protesters – many of them children – in the Great March of Return protests in Gaza. He refused to speak out against Israel’s racist nation-state law​, and managed only some tepid opposition to US/Israeli plans to annex vast areas of the Occupied Palestinian Territories earlier this year.

The previous National-led government showed stronger support for Palestine when it co-sponsored UN Security Council resolution 2334 which targeted illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

In the first 100 days of the new Government, New Zealand should finally join the right side of history and the majority of humanity by recognising the state of Palestine.

Secondly, New Zealand should make its relations with Israel conditional on Israeli compliance with international law. This means insisting Israel end its brutal military occupation of Palestinian territories, revoke racist laws that discriminate against Palestinian Israelis, and allow the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

It’s gone on too long. There is no more time for pious words.

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New Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Defence

4 Nov

What can you do to help Palestinians right now?

Send an email to Nanaia congratulating her on her appointment. You can copy and paste the email below OR adapt it to suit yourself OR write your own message. 

Nanaia Mahuta
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Parliament Buildings
Wellington

n.mahuta@ministers.govt.nz

 Kia ora Nanaia,

A fresh start on policy for Palestinian human rights

Congratulations on your appointment as the new Minister of Foreign Affairs.

I hope through your appointment the new government will look at the struggle of the indigenous people of Palestine with a fresh pair of eyes.

The entire area of historic Palestine is under the longest military occupation in modern history as Israel repeatedly and blatantly defies international law and continues the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from East Jerusalem and the theft of Palestinian land.

The shear “brutality with impunity” of the Israeli occupation and siege of Gaza demands action.

In the first 100 days of the new government I want you to place New Zealand proudly on the right side of history and finally join us to the majority of humanity and recognise the State of Palestine (138 countries out of 193 at the United Nations already recognise Palestine)

We also want you to make our relationship with Israel conditional on Israeli compliance with international law and United Nations resolutions. In particular Israel must:

a.       End the brutal military occupation of Palestinian territories

b.       Repeal racist laws which discriminate against Palestinian Israelis

c.       Allow the right of return for Palestinian refugees

d.       End the inhumane siege of Gaza

Until Israel abides by international law New Zealand should start by suspending its bilateral relationships with Israel, banning importation of products from illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land and withdrawing Superfund and ACC investments from the 112 companies cited by the United Nations Human Rights Council as being in breach of international law.

Yours sincerely,

Yours sincerelyI appreciate you have not Yyet “got your feet under the table” yet but the issue of Palestine is pressing and I’m keen to hear from you as soon as possible.

Nā,

(your name)

Firing Zone 918 – An Exercise in War Crimes

3 Nov

In the early 1980s, Israel declared an area of about 3,000 hectares in the South Hebron Hills known as Masafer Yatta a restricted military zone and dubbed it ‘Firing Zone 918’. Dozens of Palestinian families had been living in the area for years, since before Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967. They lived in 12 small villages, in natural or man-made caves, some all year round and others only seasonally, and earned a living as farmers and shepherds. In 1999, the military expelled all 700 or so residents of these communities on the official grounds that they were “illegally living in a firing zone”. In response, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Attorney Shlomo Lecker filed a petition to Israel’s High Court of Justice on behalf of 200 families. The Court issued an interim injunction permitting the villagers to return to their homes and cultivate their land pending a ruling in the case, yet forbade them from new construction. New petitions have since been filed and the state has updated its position, yet the interim injunction remains in place. This has left the residents’ lives on hold for 20 years, as they are barred from any development, including building homes and essential public structures or connecting to power or water networks. Since 2006, Israeli authorities have demolished 64 homes in these communities, in which 346 people, including 155 minors, lived. The High Court of Justice chooses to overlook the goal of Israel’s policy: forcible transfer of these residents, which constitutes a war crime under international law. If the residents do leave their homes, the judges will bear personal liability for the commission of this crime.

Video published 18 Oct 2020 by B’Tselem – an Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories “strives to end Israel’s occupation, recognizing that this is the only way to achieve a future that ensures human rights, democracy, liberty and equality to all people, Palestinian and Israeli alike, living on the bit of land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.”

10 years ago: Kia Ora Gaza solidarity team in Gaza

27 Oct

‘The day that Gaza is free’

International Aid Convoy to Gaza

Days 35-37: 22-24 October 2010

Momen Faiz Qraiqea lost his legs in an Israeli helicopter strike 21 months ago

Momen Faiz Qraiqea could be the face of Gaza. With both legs shot off by an Apache helicopter crew from across the border during Israel’s bloody mauling of Gaza 21 months ago, the photojournalist is still doing his job from a wheelchair.

Kia Ora Gaza volunteers meet Momen at an official reception the day after the international aid convoy reaches the besieged Palestinian enclave. 

“Momen thanked our Kiwi Team for coming to Gaza with the convoy,” reports team captain Roger Fowler. “He was deeply appreciative of the international support, and looked forward to the day that Gaza is free.”

Kiwi captain Roger Fowler greets Momen Qraiqea

The day that Gaza is free. That’s a universal motif in the comments of everyone in Gaza, whether they’re top politicians or grassroots people. And no wonder. 

“Behind every door there’s a horror story,” says Roger. 

The Kiwi captain and a UK volunteer knock randomly on the door of a refugee house near the bombed-out port of Gaza. They meet Deyab Mohammed and his mother, wife and two young sons.

Deyab Mohammed at his front door with Roger Fowler

Deyab was smashed in the head with an Israeli rifle butt during Tel Aviv’s last invasion of Gaza. Severe brain injuries left him unable to talk and walk properly, or to concentrate. His mother moved in to help care for the kids so his wife could do the paid work that Deyab was now incapable of doing.

The family receives a small pension from the Ministry of Social Affairs, which Deyab’s mum describes as “never enough”. They have no drinking water, since the dribble that oozes from their tap is too salty.

“This was one of the first areas hit,” the old lady says of Israel’s military blitz. “The attacks have affected all of us, especially the children. We still feel threatened.”

Roger Fowler with Deyab Mohammed and his mother, wife and sons

Lying alongside the beautiful Mediterranean Sea and its picturesque beaches, Gaza is a land of the legless, the armless, the eyeless and the emotionally ravaged. A land of cripples who refuse to give in to their injuries.

Typical is Sayid Saber Salem, whose house was shelled twice by the Israelis, leaving him without a left arm and right eye and with crippling injuries to his right trunk. Yet Sayid remains active in the political movement to free Gaza.

Sayid Saber Salem and Roger Fowler

Gaza is also a land of shabby ruins. Everywhere are derelict or damaged homes, health centres, schools, mosques, sewage and water facilities, drinking wells, roads, bridges, power grids, factories, orchards, greenhouses, farms and other infrastructure.

At least 50,000 people were left homeless by missiles and bombs, tank shells, artillery fire, armoured bulldozers and other high-tech barbarities during Israel’s three-week invasion of Gaza in early 2009. 

Running water was cut to half a million Gazans, while one million were deprived of electric power.

Gaza graveyard dug up and destroyed by Israeli military bulldozers

They were the lucky ones. 1,390 Gazans were killed by Tel Aviv’s onslaught, 759 of them civilians, including several hundred children. War was even waged upon the dead, with Israel demolishing graves in a bid to wipe out the historical memory of the people they oppress.

Seeing a cement factory bombed into ruins leads Malaysian team leader Asra Banu to comment: “Gaza’s economy is specifically targeted by Israel.”

That’s why all Gaza’s exports are banned by Israel to this day. The only way to export products is through 1,500 illegal tunnels under the border to Egypt, frequently bombed by the Israeli air force.

Gaza tunneler at work. Some of the 1,500 tunnels to Egypt are big enough to transport cars.

Despite the inventive genius of its people, Gaza’s economy remains in a coma. Unemployment is around 40% of the labour force, while dire poverty stalks at least 80% of the population. Israel controls Gaza’s tax system, denying the Hamas government its rightful levies needed to kickstart the economy.

Yet Israeli propaganda pretends things are rosy in Gaza.

On Friday, in response to the international aid convoy breaking the siege of Gaza, the Israeli Embassy in Wellington declares that “there is no lack of any goods in Gaza and certainly no humanitarian crisis whatsoever”.

Israel’s siege of Gaza fosters humanitarian crises

The embassy claim is as silly as it is outrageous. Let’s take the example of water, a basic necessity for human survival. 

Here’s what Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said about Gaza’s water in August 2010: “Almost 95% of the water pumped in the Gaza Strip is polluted and unfit for drinking. This warning was recently issued by the UN Environment Programme, the Palestinian Water Authority, the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility and international aid organisations.”

And why can’t this humanitarian crisis be fixed? B’Tselem reports: “Since it began its siege of the Gaza Strip, in June 2007, Israel has forbidden the entry of equipment and materials needed to rehabilitate the water and wastewater treatment systems there. The prohibition has remained despite the recent easing of the siege.”

This example can be multiplied many times over. Acute crises bedevil the power grid, sewage system, health and education services, housing stock, job market and many other areas of Gazan society. It’s all well documented by believable experts.

Gaza City at night, with lights run off generators because the power supply is so erratic. On the horizon are the well-powered lights of Israel.

The main factors keeping outright collapse and starvation at bay are large-scale smuggling through illegal tunnels, illicit funding by other Middle East states, aid supplies from UN-aligned organisations and equalising distribution by Gaza’s government.

Tel Aviv’s severe import embargos have been sporadically eased following global outrage at Israel’s murderous terrorism on the Gaza aid ship Mavi Marmara last May. Nine Turkish civilian volunteers were shot to death, some execution style, and another 50 wounded in a blaze of gunfire from Israeli commandos.

Despite receiving a faster trickle of imports through Israeli-controlled gateways, Gaza remains a land of the imprisoned. 

Inhabiting a mere 250 square kilometres after factoring in Israel’s free fire zone, the entire population of 1.5 million souls is locked in by bleak walls and razor wire, automated machine guns, militarised border crossings, maritime blockade and aerial siege. 

Jewish children’s advocate Lillian Rosengarten is appalled by “the prosperous Jewish state that lives alongside a walled, collectively punished society of Palestine, under siege, in deplorable despair”. It’s “pure racism”, she declares on Saturday, a “state of apartheid”.

One of many fishing boats beached at Gaza City because the Israeli Navy enforces a tiny fishing zone. Fishermen who stray outside this zone are fired on by the blockading navy, often with fatal consequences.

Farmers, fishermen and even children are frequently killed for coming too close to the invisible, and changeable, boundaries of a free fire zone that Israel has carved out of Gaza’s territory. According to UN figures, the free fire zone swallows up one-third of Gaza’s farmland.

Within Gaza’s dangerous borders, every newborn child gets an automatic life sentence, with no right of appeal. And here, life means life. There’s no remission for good behaviour.

In July 2010, Britain’s Conservative prime minister David Cameron criticised Israel’s blockade, declaring: “Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp.”

But the state of Israel scorned their traditional ally’s words. The Israeli Embassy in London responded: “The people of Gaza are the prisoners of the terrorist organisation Hamas.”

Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh (left) and his foreign minister Mahmoud Zahar discuss the situation in Gaza and questions of international solidarity with Kiwi convoyer Julie Webb-Pullman (right) and UK volunteer Pippa Bartolotti

In 2006, however, the people of Gaza had elected a Hamas government in a poll declared free and fair by overseas observers. Refusing to accept this democratic verdict, the Tel Aviv regime tightened its decades-old noose around Gaza into a life-sapping blockade. 

And Israel’s military blasted 14,000 heavy artillery shells into Gaza, while resistance forces returned fire with 3,000 homemade rockets. In this long exchange, the balance of casualties lay heavily in Israel’s favour. 

When the blockade and the shelling didn’t kill Gaza’s elected government, Israel without warning unleashed a full-scale ground, air and sea attack on 27 December 2008.

Parliament Buildings in Gaza City were bombed 13 times by Israeli F-16 jets

One target in Gaza City was Parliament Buildings, gutted by Israeli air force raids.

In the shadow of those ruined buildings, close to 400 volunteers from the Gaza aid convoy gather for a state welcome on Friday. They originate from 30 countries, and have driven thousands of kilometres in 150 vehicles to deliver medical supplies and other humanitarian aid worth NZ$7 million.

At the speaker’s podium, convoy director Kevin Ovenden highlights the hypocrisy of Western politicians who preach democracy, yet ignore Israel’s attack on Parliament Buildings in Gaza.

Convoyers flash peace signs on the steps of Gaza City’s main mosque

Gaza’s prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, had earlier welcomed convoyers in a mosque sermon. 

The “magnificent” convoy is a “blow to the Israeli siege and international organisations which remain silent,” Mr Haniyeh declares. “Gaza needs more convoys.”

On Friday evening, at a “convoy honouring festival”, the prime minister awards plaques and medals to convoy managers and team leaders.

Nicci Enchmarch, project director of Viva Palestina, receives a medal from prime minister Ismail Haniyeh

Here, in a shell-pocked municipal hall, Kevin gives a forward-looking speech.

“Events are heading in our direction,” notes the convoy director. “Our brothers murdered on the Mavi Marmara paid a terrible price, but it’s resulted in a change in world public opinion. We all know the military power of Israel. But their political capital is now lower than ever. Their friendly face has gone. They now have ugly faces.”

Kevin points to an intertwined factor. “The historical alliances that sustained Israel are breaking down. The Turkish people are now solidly against Israel. And Israel is becoming more of a liability to the US, rather than an asset. I’m not saying the US and Israel will divorce tomorrow, but it’s not a happy marriage.”

In these changing times, he continues, the international movement for a free Palestine needs to get cracking. “We need to build the movement with more convoys, flotillas and boycotts. This is the turning point.”

Kevin’s inspirational sentiments are greeted with chants from the packed crowd: “Free Palestine! Free Palestine!”

Kevin Ovenden (left) and Zaher Birawi, two of the convoy’s leaders

On Saturday, convoyers spread out in different directions to survey Gaza. 

Some Kiwis and other volunteers visit an orphanage, where a teacher pulls them into a scratch soccer game with his local club. Roger is hastily appointed as the convoy team’s “manager”. 

To roars of delight from hundreds of soccer-mad kids, Roger proclaims the match as evidence of international friendship for the people of Gaza. “You have friends all over the world,” he adds, as cheers from a growing crowd merge with the start-of-play whistle.

It’s a hard-fought match, and the 5-all draw seems a perfect finish to the first international game played by this little club in Gaza.

Kiwi volunteer Mousa Taher introduces convoyers to Gazan orphans

Kiwi volunteer Julie Webb-Pullman heads to a girls secondary school where she delivers letters from senior school girls in Auckland. 

“I’ve got a bunch of letters from the Gaza girls to bring back to the Auckland girls,” reports Julie. “We may have started a great exchange here.”

Other convoyers join an international conference about the 8,000 Palestinians being held in Israeli jails, often without fair trial or legal advice. Bestial tortures are inflicted upon many prisoners, including kids not yet in their teens.

Attending the conference are many women carrying photos of their loved ones killed or incarcerated by Israel. It’s a heart-breaking sight.

Gazan women with photos of loved ones killed or jailed by Israel

A few volunteers visit some of the 1,500 illegal tunnels from Gaza’s border settlement of Rafah into Egypt. These tunnels help Gaza survive the Israeli blockade which Cairo has long been helping to enforce.

Hosni Mubarak’s government in Egypt is on the way to building an underground steel barrier to block off Gaza’s tunnels. Yet strong winds are blowing in the opposite direction, evidenced by Cairo’s decision to grant the convoy free access to Gaza after a tense ten-day standoff. 

Suddenly Cairo’s longstanding policy on Gaza is starting to look as full of holes as the well-tunneled Egyptian soil. Is Egypt’s anti-Hamas pact with Israel breaking down? Just having to ask the question suggests that change is in the wind.

Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak

On Friday comes a bombshell revelation by Andrew Whitley, retiring director of the United Nations Refugee & Works Agency. He says that “all governments, whether they admit it or not, have had discrete contact with Hamas”.

A senior Hamas official, Musa Abu Marzouk, confirms that his movement has been talking to Western governments. It appears the official US stance of isolating Hamas as a “terrorist” organisation is failing badly.

And serious negotiations appear to be well underway between warring Palestinian factions. Fatah, dominant in the West Bank, and Hamas, stronger in Gaza, may be edging towards a historic common platform.

Walid Al-Awad, politburo of Palestinian People’s Party

On Saturday, Palestinian People’s Party politburo member Walid Al-Awad reports “intensified contacts by Palestinian factions and Arab figures”.

On the same day, Fatah spokesman Osama Qawasma says there is agreement between his faction and Hamas on pursuing a deal with Israel based on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as their capital and the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

The political legitimacy of Hamas appears to be on the rise, while Israel’s moral standing in the world has taken a self-inflicted beating.

Kiwi convoyer Pat O’Dea (hand raised) meets kids in Gaza

Behind these historic shifts lies a keystone constant: the persistence of Palestinians in their 62-year struggle for freedom.

“What the people of Gaza symbolise, together with the hundreds of humanitarians who have travelled from all over the world, is the persistence of resistance,” declares Jamal Elshayyal, an essayist with Al Jazeera English, on the day after the convoyers leave Gaza.

“The persistence to go to school in portacabins, the persistence to drive cars using cooking oil, the persistence to cross the seas despite the best efforts of the Israeli navy, the persistence to build houses out of mud, the persistence to hope for a better tomorrow. That is the persistence of resistance.”

That sense of Palestinian persistence is taken away by convoyers as they depart Gaza on Sunday. It’s a big part of their life-altering experience over the last 37 days on the long road to Gaza. And now they’re taking it home.

This bulletin was compiled by Grant Morgan from the field reports of Kiwi Team members, Viva Palestina Malaysia, Azra to Gaza blog, B’Tselem website, Aqsa Syarif blog, Ma’an News Service, Mondoweiss website, Middle East Monitor, Wikipedia, Jerusalem Post and the Israeli Embassy in Wellington, along with photos by Hone Fowler and Khaled Ayyad.

Roger Fowler locks up his Kia Ora Gaza vehicle in Gaza. It’s time to head home.

Dying alone: When we stopped caring for Palestinian prisoners

16 Oct
Gazans protest in solidarity with Palestinian prisoner Maher al-Akhras. (Photo: Fawzi Mahmoud, The Palestine Chronicle)

By Ramzy Baroud, Palestine Chronicle, 14 October 2020 |

“No one cares about the prisoners.” Over the past few years, I have heard this phrase – or some variation of it – uttered many times by freed Palestinian prisoners and their families. Whenever I conduct an interview regarding this crucial and highly sensitive topic, I am told, repeatedly, that ‘no one cares.’

But is this really the case? Are Palestinian prisoners so abandoned to the extent that their freedom, life and death are of no consequence?

The subject, and the claim, resurfaces every time a Palestinian prisoner launches a hunger strike or undergoes extreme hardship and torture, which is leaked outside Israeli prisons through lawyers or human rights organizations. This year, five Palestinian prisoners died in prison as a result of alleged medical negligence, or worse, torture.

Even international humanitarian aid workers, like Mohammed el-Halabi, are not immune to degrading treatment. Arrested in August 2016, el-Halabi is yet to be charged for any wrongdoing. News of his plight, which originally received some media attention – due to his work with a US-based organization – is now merely confined to Facebook posts by his father, Khalil.

As of October 1, el-Halabi has been paraded before 151 military trials, yet unaware what the charges are. The cherished Palestinian man, who has played a major role in providing cancer medicine to dying children in Gaza, now holds the record of the longest military trial ever carried out by the Israeli occupation.

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Mark Ruffalo calls out Israel’s Apartheid

10 Oct

VIDEO by Middle East Monitor 9 October 2020.

Palestine Chronicle, 10 October 2020

Hollywood A-lister Mark Ruffalo called out Israeli apartheid during an interview on the Mehdi Hasan Show aired yesterday.

Speaking to the British journalist, Ruffalo said: “My connection to Palestine came through Palestinians and hearing their stories and then watching this asymmetrical warfare being enacted upon them.”

“That kind of inequality, that kind of oppression, that kind of apartheid.”

The Avengers star has a long history of speaking out for Palestinian rights, during Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza, Ruffalo slammed the Israeli army for blowing up Al-Wafa Hospital killing dozens of patients.

There is no reason why an ally of America shouldn’t be held to the standards of any other country in the world, especially an ally. And what I see there is wrong,” he added.

 

6 Oct

Palestinians are not numbers

24 Sep

 On the future of the Palestinian discourse 

Palestinian youth posing in front of a graffiti “We Are Not Numbers” [Twitter]

By Ramzy Baroud, Opinion, Middle East Monitor, 22 September 2020

Palestine can never be truly understood through numbers, because numbers are dehumanising, impersonal, and, when necessary, can also be contrived to mean something else entirely. Numbers are not meant to tell the story of the human condition, nor should they ever serve as a substitute for emotions.

Indeed, the stories of life, death – and everything in-between – cannot be truly and fully appreciated through charts, figures, and numbers.  The latter, although useful for many purposes, is a mere numerical depository of data. Anguish, joy, aspirations, defiance, courage, loss, collective struggle, and so on, however, can only be genuinely expressed through the people who lived through these experiences.

Numbers, for example, tell us that over 2,200 Palestinians were killed during the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip between July 8 and August 27, 2014, over 500 of them being children. Over 17,000 homes were completely destroyed, and thousands of other buildings, including hospitals, schools, and factories were either destroyed or severely damaged during the Israeli strikes.

This is all true, the kind of truth that is summarised into a neat infographic, updated occasionally, in case, inevitably, some of the critically wounded eventually lose their lives.

But a single chart, or a thousand, can never truly describe the actual terror felt by a million children who feared for their lives during those horrific days; or transport us to a bedroom where a family of ten huddled in the dark, praying for God’s mercy as the earth shook, concrete collapsed and the glass shattered all around them; or convey the anguish of a mother holding the lifeless body of her child.

OPINION: We Are the Children of Gaza, the Poet, the Fashionista and the Footballer

It is easy – and justifiable – to hold the media accountable for the dehumanisation of the Palestinians or, sometimes, ignoring them altogether. However, if blame must be apportioned, then others too, including those who consider themselves ‘pro-Palestine’, must reconsider their own position. We are all, to an extent, collectively guilty of seeing Palestinians as sheer victims, hapless, passive, intellectually stunted, and ill-fated people, desperate to be ‘saved.’

When numbers monopolise the limelight in a people’s narrative, they do more damage than merely reduce complex human beings to data; they erase the living, too. Regarding Palestine, Palestinians are rarely engaged as equals; they persist at the receiving end of charity, political expectations, and unsolicited instructions on what to say and how to resist. They are often the fodder for political bargains by factions or governments but, rarely, the initiative takers and the shapers of their own political discourse.

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Palestinians face consistent COVID testing kit shortages

23 Sep

A health worker, affiliated to Palestinian Health Ministry, collects a nasal swab sample for a coronavirus (COVID-19) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test in Gaza City, Gaza on 21 September 2020 [Ali Jadallah – Anadolu Agency. MEMO]

By Yumna Patel, Mondoweiss, 23 September 2020

As the coronavirus continues to spread across the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), local news this week was inundated with warnings of testing kit shortages in the West Bank and Gaza, the latter of which has seen a worrying spike in cases recently. 

The Palestinian Minister of Health Mai al-Kalia told the Voice of Palestine radio on Tuesday that Israel “obstructed” the entry of 100,000 COVID-19 testing swabs that were destined for the West Bank in coordination with the United Nations (UN). 

As a result, she said, the MOH will only have enough swabs to last them for three days, after which time the West Bank would run out of the testing kits. 

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Remembering Sabra and Shatila

18 Sep

On September 16, in 1982, several thousand Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon were brutally massacred. (Photo: File)

Palestine Chronicle, 17 September 2020

On this day, September 16, in 1982, several thousand Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon were brutally massacred by the Lebanese phalange militias at the behest of the Israeli military, which had besieged and bombarded the area for days. 

The massacre took place during Israel’s occupation of Lebanon, soon after the Israeli occupation army, under the leadership of late Israeli leader Ariel Sharon, had occupied the Lebanese capital, Beirut. 

Working closely with Lebanese militants, the Israeli army allowed the militias access to the camps and, knowing fully that civilians were being massacred inside the camps, the Israeli military prevented any Palestinian from escaping. 

The massacre claimed the lives of at least 3,000 Palestinian refugees. 

For three days of constant killings, the Israeli military continued its siege and prevented international humanitarian workers and journalists from entering. At night, Israeli soldiers fired flares to keep the night sky lit so as to allow the militiamen to see their way through the narrow alleys of the camps.

The massacre went on from September 16-18.

As the bloodbath concluded, Israeli bulldozers began the task of digging mass graves with the hope of concealing the extent of the crime. 

In 1983, Israel’s Kahana Commission found that Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Defense Minister at the time, bore “personal responsibility” for the slaughter of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians.

The massacre at Sabra and Shatila was a direct consequence of Israel‘s violation of the American-brokered ceasefire and the impunity bestowed on Israel by the United States and the international community to do as it pleases in occupied Lebanon. 

This massacre, as well as other massacres against Palestinian and Lebanese civilians, went unpunished by the international community.

(The Palestine Chronicle, WAFA, Social Media)

Trump, Israel, Bahrain & UAE “normalise” relations

17 Sep

Dr Yara Hawari of the Middle East Institute summed up well yesterday’s signing of an agreement to “normalise” relations between the US, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Israel is a racist apartheid state with laws discriminating against Palestinian Israelisand an army renowned for its murderous brutality against any Palestinian resistance to its racist rule. The United Arab Emirates has no elections, no political parties. It’s a medieval regime which tortures anyone resisting its autocratic rule. Bahrain is another tinpot despotic regime. It has two houses of parliament – the lower house is elected but all 40 people in the upper house are appointed by the King who has the final say on everything. The US is a declining empire at war with itself.

These are the four countries making “peace” with each other.

It’s no surprise these four are joining together to betray the Palestinian people. The US and Israel have conspired to do so for over 70 years. The UAE and Bahrain are joining the betrayal because they need modern weapons to put down popular uprisings of their people.TDB Recommends NewzEngine.comnull

Meanwhile around the world the great mass of humanity supports the Palestinian struggle. Our weapon against today’s betrayal is BDS – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – against Israel until it abides by international law and United Nations resolutions.

BDS is growing in strength and it will be as important for the struggle against Israeli apartheid as it was for the struggle against South African apartheid.

John Minto is National Chair of the Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa.

Email: johnminto@orcon.net.nz

 

Palestinians stage ‘day of uprising’ against normalisation deal

17 Sep

 Palestinians protest against normalisation in Ramallah, the occupied West Bank, on 15 September 2020 (MEE/Shatha Hammad)

By Shatha Hammad, Mohammed al-Hajjar, Ramallah, Gaza City, Middle East Eye, 16 September 2020

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank launched protests denouncing the normalisation deals signed in Washington on Tuesday between Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Both the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Hamas movement, which governs the Gaza Strip, have condemned the US-brokered accords as a “stab in the back” to their people.

Starting early on Tuesday, protests in the occupied West Bank were held in Ramallah, Tulkarem, Nablus, Jericho, Jenin, Bethlehem and Hebron, among other smaller localities, as well as in Gaza City. 

Protesters chanted and held posters denouncing normalisation and calling for Arab unity against Israel’s occupation.  

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top diplomats from the UAE and Bahrain signed the agreements to normalise ties on Tuesday, without any progress on an Israeli-Palestinian settlement.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who was in Beirut for a meeting with secretaries of Palestinian factions on Tuesday, told President Mahmoud Abbas in a phone call that all Palestinian factions were united against the deal, and “will not allow the Palestinian cause to be a bridge for recognition and normalisation with the occupying power at the expense of our national rights, our Jerusalem and the right of return”.

On Monday, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh described the accords as another “black day” for the Arab world.

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How Israel lit match for deadly fire

17 Sep

The Nuseirat market fire ultimately cost 22 people their lives.[Ashraf Amra APA]

By Hamza Abu Eltarabesh, Gaza, The Electronic Intifada 16 September 2020

The Israeli siege of Gaza affects us in myriad ways.

It is not just about being starved of fuel and electricity, as we have been recently.

Of course, that is bad enough. The vulnerable are even more vulnerable, nights are dark, work is almost impossible to do – if you are lucky enough to have any – and there is no relief from sweltering summers.

But Israel’s blockade is all encompassing. It affects every aspect of our lives here, from our ability to travel and trade, to career prospects, to whether or not we will eat tomorrow.

And it has knock-on effects. Things happen that normally wouldn’t happen.

Things that shouldn’t happen.

In March, a fire broke out in Nuseirat refugee camp that ultimately would take the lives of 22 people.

The fire started in a bakery. It was the result of poor judgement from many local parties.

But while the authorities put the blame on those parties, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the match that really lit the fire was struck in 2006, when Israel decided that it would punish Palestinians for electing Hamas in parliamentary elections.

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Calls to end Gaza siege grow alongside new COVID cases

11 Sep

VIDEO REPORT: Israel has reopened its only border crossing with Gaza after reaching an agreement with its rulers, Hamas, to end two weeks of hostilities along the border. The ceasefire deal, brokered by Qatar, will allow for critical supplies, including fuel, to cross into Gaza. AlJazeera.

By Maureen Clare Murphy, Electronic Intifada, 9 September 2020

International development agencies working in occupied Palestinian territory are calling on Israel “to end all collective punitive measures against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.”

The Association of International Development Agencies warned that “Gaza’s existing deep and protracted humanitarian crisis now threatens to intensify rapidly” as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the territory continues to rise.

The capacity of Gaza’s health care system has eroded severely due to Israel’s blockade, imposed for more than 13 years.

Gaza’s hospitals have contended with multiple Israeli military offensives and Israel’s widespread use of live fire against protesters, causing thousands of catastrophic injuries.

Now medics are faced with a new crisis as the first cases of coronavirus outside of Gaza’s quarantine centers were detected late last month. As of Tuesday, there were nearly 1,200 active cases of COVID-19 in the territory – all but 30 of them community transmitted infections.

The sharp increase in infections has raised the specter of a “nightmare scenario” of an outbreak “beyond the coping capacity of Gaza’s healthcare system, long on the brink of collapse,” the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians stated on Monday.

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Urgent letter to PM from Alternative Jewish Voices and Wellington Palestine

11 Sep

Wellington Palestine, 10 September 2020

To the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern

Dear Prime Minister,

An appeal to intervene on behalf of the people of Gaza.

While Aotearoa New Zealand has been patiently managing the long tail of our second COVID-19 outbreak, the occupied Gaza Strip first identified community transmission of COVID-19 on August 24.  Today there are more than 1200 cases in its crowded cities and refugee camps.

We, the citizens of Aotearoa NZ, are failing a community in immediate danger. Why is Gaza our responsibility?  

The UN General Assembly and Security Council, the International Court of Justice, the International Committees of the Red Cross, human rights and legal NGOs all agree that International Humanitarian Law and the laws of occupation apply in full throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Occupied people are legally protected people.  The duty of states like New Zealand, and one of the first duties of the occupying power, Israel, is to uphold the rights of the occupied people of Palestine. 

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The New Zealand election and justice for Palestine

9 Sep

– some suggested questions for candidates

By Neil Ballantyne, Wellington Palestine, 7 September 2020

The upcoming New Zealand election gives citizens the opportunity to ask questions of prospective parliamentary candidates and stand a better than usual chance of actually getting an answer. Although election campaigns are often focussed on domestic matters, they are also times when the attitudes of candidates to global, human rights issues can be tested.

As someone who supports Palestinian human rights we urge you to use your own versions of the questions below to seek a clear commitment from prospective parliamentary candidates to justice for Palestine.

You should be able to ask one or more of these questions at a face-to-face meeting, or by email. If you are emailing we suggest that you personalise the email by letting the candidate know you are a constituent and saying why the issue is important to you. You might also want to let them know you are a member, or supporter, of Wellington Palestine.

It’s not just about knowing who supports Palestine, it’s also about the misunderstandings that we might be able to challenge and change in future.        https://www.facebook.com/wellingtonpalestine/

If you do ask a question please send us a note citing the candidates name, the questions asked and the responses made. Also, please let us know if you asked a question and no response was made.  Send your responses to: contact@wellingtonpalestine.co.nz

Q1. Opposing illegal settlement expansion and annexation.

In defiance of international law, Israel has continued to expand settlements on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It has also declared an intention to annex Palestinian territory. As an MP in the incoming parliament, would you agree to sanction Israel for its actions by, for example, banning the import of settlement goods into New Zealand and ensuring the Superannuation Fund is not investing in companies with business arrangements in the illegal settlements?

Q2. Lifting the blockade of Gaza.

Since 2007 Israel has maintained an illegal land, sea and air blockade of Gaza. The two million Palestinians who live there have been described as living in the largest open air prison in the world. With the number of COVID-19 cases in the territory climbing higher every day, and a humanitarian disaster now looming, how would you use your influence as an incoming MP to pressure Israel to lift the blockade? 

Q3. Opposing the use of Israeli military detention on Palestinian children. 

The reports of numerous international, human rights organisations have highlighted the mistreatment of Palestinian child prisoners in Israeli military detention. As an incoming MP how would you use your position to condemn Israel’s use of military courts and military detention for Palestinian children?  

Q4. Recognition of Palestinian statehood.

As an incoming MP, would you use your position to urge New Zealand to join the 138 states that already recognize the State of Palestine, and speak up for a just end to the military occupation?

Q5. Freedom of speech and the BDS movement

In several countries, the pro-Israel lobby has been successful in using false accusations of antisemitism to shut down criticism of Israel and to ban the peaceful, non-violent activity of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. As an incoming MP would you act to ensure freedom of speech and support the campaigning activity of the BDS movement?

Wellington Palestine website: https://wellingtonpalestine.nz/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wellingtonpalestine/

Image credit: Keith Miller

Gaza records 98 new COVID-19 cases in 24 hours

4 Sep

Using humble means, a refugee worker sterilizes the streets in Al-Shati refugee camp. (Photo: Fawzi Mahmoud, The Palestine Chronicle)

Palestine Chronicle, 4 September 2020

Some 98 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the Gaza Strip, a report by the Palestinian Ministry of Health said.

The report said that a total of 581 people have contracted the deadly virus in the Strip. They include 500 active cases, the report said, 463 of which are from the community and 37 from the quarantine centers.

Some 76 people recovered and five died, it added, all of whom suffered serious diseases prior to being infected with the coronavirus.

The ministry said it is still looking for possible cases in the community from those who mixed with infected people.

Authorities have imposed a full or partial curfew across the Gaza Strip since August 24, following the diagnosis of the first case of COVID-19 in the community.

Under pressure from the Palestinian resistance, Israel agreed to allow the entry of medical equipment necessarily needed for testing and treating COVID-19 patients.

Gaza, with a population of 2 million, has been under a hermetic Israeli siege since 2006, when the Palestinian group Hamas won the democratic legislative elections in occupied Palestine. Since then, Israel has carried out numerous bombing campaigns and several major wars, that resulted in the death of thousands of people. 

(Palestine Chronicle, MEMO, Social Media)

Break the government’s protective cone of silence

28 Aug

Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa, Newsletter Special, 28 August 2020

Break the government’s protective cone of silence around Israel

Protest:

  • 12 noon
  • parliament steps
  • Wednesday 2 September – the last sitting day of this parliament

(If you can’t make the rally, you can email the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters. Suggested text can be found below.)

For over a year the Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa has been trying to get the government to speak up for Palestine but we have met a blank wall. Winston Peters as Foreign Minister has maintained a protective cone of silence around Israel and its brutal military occupation and blockade of Gaza. The Labour leadership has refused to step in where Peters has failed.

Over the past year the government has:

  • Refused to speak up and pressure Israel to allow Palestinians to bring in medical supplies and equipment to deal with a coronavirus outbreak in Gaza – our 22 March letter to the Prime Minister, signed by many prominent New Zealanders, has been ignored. Within the last week Covid 19 has broken out with Community transmission within Gaza for the first time. Practising social distancing and frequent hand washing are impossible in this densely populated area where 97% of the water is unfit to drink. Gaza’s severely degraded medical facilities and lack of medical supplies caused by the Israeli blockade means GAZA is struggling.
  • Refused to stop buying military equipment from Israeli companies Elbit System and Roboteam by the New Zealand Defence Force under Ron Mark as Minister of Defence. Mark is a well-known apologist for Israel and demonstrated this in January last year in this nauseating display of fawning to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu – a person who should be facing war crimes indictments. Warning: Video is vomit inducing – viewer discretion advised.
  • Expressed serious concern about Israeli plans to annex further vast swathes of Palestinian land under the Trump so-called “deal of the century” but refused to announce any sanction on Israel in the event of annexation.
  • Refused to speak out against the frequent outrages committed by the Israeli military against Palestinians and Palestinian communities but has been quick to condemn Palestinians for rockets fired from Gaza in response to Israeli war crimes.

It’s time parliament stood up for Palestine and broke Winston Peter’s protective cone of silence around Netanyahu’s racist apartheid regime.

2 September is the last sitting day of parliament. Come to the protest. See the poster above for details.  Get your friends and family in Wellington to come. Spread the word. Be there if you can!

Speak up for Palestine!

Not in Wellington? You can still do your bit. . .

Please write to the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign affairs calling on New Zealand to speak up against the Vicious, Illegal Blockade of Gaza.

Below is the letter we sent to the Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister. If you can back this up with your own messages to this pair then that would be helpful and important.

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