Saturday, February 28, 2009
Abu E'ida stood a good chance of being awarded rebuilding contracts. The only problem is that his company's plants were destroyed by Israel Defense Forces tanks and bulldozers sometime between January 5 and January 18. The pumps and the conveyor belts were demolished, along with the silo and the laboratory, the control rooms and the cement scale, the ventilation, electricity and water systems, the cement mixers and the trucks and cars. His four factories (two family-owned, two in partnership) were located in the northeast part of the Gaza Strip, in an industrial zone that sprang up on both sides of the eastern road, on the slopes of the hill on which stands I'zbet Abed Rabbo, the easternmost neighborhood in the city of Jabalya.
Over the years, about 60 workshops, industries and packing houses were built along this road, manufacturing a wide array of products: concrete, iron, cinderblocks, tiles and electrical appliances. Interspersed among the industries were cowsheds, sheep and goat pens as well as chicken coops. The whole area was greened by orchards, groves and fields. Some of the industries, such as the plant that produced biscuits and ice cream, owned by the al-Wadeya family - who are also the exclusive distributor in Gaza for Tnuva, the giant Israeli food company - date back to the late 1950s and early '60s.
Now, both sides of the eastern road are littered with ruins: piles of smashed concrete, mangled steel, broken planks. Protruding from beneath the wreckage are crushed trucks, cement mixers and shattered pumps, lacerated rolls of sheet metal, overturned power generators, scorched cars, torn pipes and puddles. There is a lingering smell of death emanating from the carcasses of animals crushed to death here....
No ordinary destruction
According to Ali al-Hayek, head of the Palestinian Union of Businessmen and the owner of factories that manufacture cinderblocks, "It was not an ordinary soldier that blew up and destroyed all these buildings." Hayek, who has taken dozens of photographs of the different arenas of destruction, added: "Only an engineer knows how and where to attack a building made of concrete so that it will collapse completely, and not fall on the destroyers. A simple soldier will be afraid. This is an army that spent about three hours in every factory and demolished it or blew it up without coming under attack. It's not a five-minute wrecking job."
Hayek and his counterpart in the Palestinian Federation of Industries, A'mer Hamad, are convinced that the destruction was directed against Gaza's economy and also against the prospects of reconstruction. "The army knew the location of every plant, every workshop, every cowshed, and with all its soul set out to destroy them," Hayek said.
Hayek and A'mer Hamad are among 17 Gaza businessmen who will attend Monday's conference of donor countries for the reconstruction of Gaza, as part of the delegation put together by the Palestinian Authority, in Ramallah. With the conference in mind, they are busy making final calculations of the extent of the destruction. They will report that the IDF destroyed 600-700 factories, small industries, workshops and business enterprises throughout the Gaza Strip. Some were destroyed completely, others seriously damaged.
Of the 255 Gaza plants connected to the construction industry (concrete, tiles and sidewalk stones, asphalt, marble, cinderblocks), 63 were hit directly - 29 were reduced to rubble and 34 partially damaged. "Partial" damage ranges from $6,000 to $1.5 million. Total damage ranges from $300,000 to $12 million (the latter sum was sustained by Abu Jiba's cement factory). The total damage done to the 63 enterprises is estimated at $36 million. Hayek and Hamad will tell the conference that even if all political obstacles are removed, the fact that the leading plants of the construction industry were destroyed will in itself delay the rebuilding process....
Friday, February 27, 2009
Issue 64, March-April 2009
GAZA LIES in ruins. After 22 days of ruthless Israeli aerial bombardment and ground assault, a survey1 of the carnage is as enraging as it is numbing: at least 1,285 Palestinians have been killed; 895 were civilians, including 280 children and 111 women. Another 167 of the dead were civil police officers, mostly killed on the first day of the bombing as they were graduating from a training course. Twenty-four hundred houses were completely destroyed, and 20,000 partially. Other infrastructure destroyed includes 28 public civilian facilities (ministries, municipalities, governorates, fishing harbors, and Palestinian Legislative Council buildings), 29 educational institutions (including Gaza's Islamic University and American High School), 30 mosques, 10 charitable societies, 60 police stations and 121 industrial, and commercial workshops. There are reliable reports that Israel used the banned chemical weapon white phosphorus, which on contact with skin burns all the way to the bone.2
If one statistic reflects the cruelty of what happened in Gaza, it is this: at least 50 people were killed in various United Nations facilities, where they had gathered to find refuge from the shelling because their own refugee camp was already too unsafe.
The harrowing tales from beneath the rubble are almost too endless and heartbreaking to document the Abed Rabbo family, who came out of the rubble of their home in Jabalya waving a white flag after the Israelis ordered them to leave, only to have three of their children cut down by an Israeli soldier; the doctor in Gaza who called in regularly to an Israeli television station to report on the invasion, whose home was hit by a tank shell and three of his children killed before his eyes while he was on the air; and the extended Samouni family in Zeitoun, 100 of whom were herded from their houses into one building, after which the building was deliberately strafed and bombed, killing 30 family members. The Red Cross, who were not allowed by Israeli forces into the area for four days, found four emaciated children left to starve among their dead relatives.
But two factors make these atrocities all the more disturbing. First, what happened in Gaza, including its destructive targeting of civilians and their infrastructure, was entirely premeditated, planned, and organized months in advance, and with explicit U.S approval. Second, the Gaza attack is only the beginning of an even bloodier escalation of the violent means Israel plans to employ against the Palestinian people and its national movement. If this new escalation is not steadfastly resisted, the level of destruction Israel will inflict will only grow, both locally and regionally, assuming genocidal proportions.
Now is the time for a patient assessment of how Israel's campaign came about, before discussing what can be done to stop it from happening again.
Read the full article here
Toufic Haddad is editor and co-author, with Tikva Honig-Parnass, of Between the Lines: Readings on Israel, the Palestinians, and the U.S. War on Terror (Haymarket Books, 2007). He is currently freelance writing in the West Bank, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The International Tribunal of Conscience which convened in Argentine reported to the international community to the First ruling against Crimes against Genocide and on Palestinian Children in the Gaza Strip during Israeli massive offensive.
The International Tribunal of Conscience, composed of 14 prosecutors on Human Rights, 11 countries, 9 in Latin America, Africa and Asia denounces heinous crimes and the systematic advancement of infanticide against children in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli army.
The International Tribunal over the Childhood Affected by War and Poverty of the Mission Diplomatique Internationale Humanitaire RWANDA 1994 was led by its International President, Sergio Tapia and International Human Rights Prosecutor of the International Tribunal of Conscience, reported Palestine News Network.
Gaza is the most densely populated place on the planet has only 360 km2, where 1,500,000 people live in which 50 percent are children and 80 percent are below the poverty level, , where Israel has violated the Geneva Conventions Humanitarian all international declarations on Human Rights, and has as a method of warfare since the attack on civilians.
"The Moral and Ethical Decision in memory of Palestinian children killed in Gaza, at least to restore the dignity that you have stolen these barbaric crimes of the human, together with over 2000 signatures and requests from organizations and citizens from over 50 countries around the world who support the International Tribunal of Conscience, and request the ICC and international justice and human rights in the European Union and Latin America, the opening of the facts and research and condemnation of perpetrators of crimes against children in Gaza, application accompanied by more than two thousand signatures and requests for Latin America, European Union, Africa and Asia violations of international humanitarian law must be investigated and prosecuted by States, especially by the States parties to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 if whatever nationality."
"Israel is part IV of the 1950 Convention for the protection of civilians, but does not investigate or pursue the facts are br ought before military courts and criminal courts fail When Israeli state with jurisdiction over violations of humanitarian law can act the courts of other states (universal jurisdiction), and that all States are obliged to respect and ensure respect for the Conventions to do so, universal jurisdiction may be an appropriate mechanism, but to avoid diplomatic conflicts would be most convenient for the Court International Criminal had jurisdiction on these facts," report said.
Officials of Health Ministry in Gaza said that 1340 Palestinians which 492 were children and 106 women.
The court said that the wounded, amounting to 5320, among which there are 1855 children and 795 women, in addition to 55,000 other Palestinians have been displaced from their homes by the evidence: perpetrating the worst atrocities that children have lived in Palestine Gaza Strip, a concentration camp, a field of carnage, which added more than 280 children killed and injured over a thousand.
Read the full report here
Thursday, February 26, 2009
The emerging landscape of "lawfare" allows military operations to remake international humanitarian law. Israel's assault on Gaza both exposes the dangers and suggests the need for a response that subjects this law to critique, says Eyal Weizman.
The scale of Israel's twenty-two-day attack on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009 - which killed 1,300 people and damaged or destroyed about 15% of all its buildings - led to widespread international accusations that Israel has committed war crimes. A prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague is currently considering a Palestinian group's petition to indict Israeli commanders. Israel has demonstrated its resolve to challenge these allegations by launching an international campaign to argue its legal position; at the same time, and revealingly, its censors have taken to striking off the names in written reports and to masking the faces in photographs of military personnel involved.
These legal aftershocks of the attack on Gaza expose a paradox: the attack was not only one of the most violent and destructive of Israel's wars on the Palestinian people, but also the one in which Israeli experts in international humanitarian law (IHL) - the area of the law that regulates the conduct of war - were most closely involved.
Israeli military lawyers claim that the extensive harm to the civilian population is not, in and of itself, proof of violations of the laws of war; they would also like to think that contemporary Israeli military operations and the mechanisms of the occupation are legal institutions in the sense that they are shaped by IHL.
IHL is a restrictive legal regime. It limits who can be attacked in war and how. Its function is to reduce rather than to eradicate suffering. Has the law, in the case of this attack on Gaza, contributed to the proliferation of violence rather than to its containment?
Is it possible that the attack on Gaza was not restrained by an extensive use of IHL - but rather, that a certain interpretation and application of this law have enabled, not only the justification of atrocities, but crucially, the affliction of otherwise inconceivable levels of destruction? Has the chaos, death and destruction been perpetrated with the full force of the law? If this is so, should those who oppose Israeli violence use the language of international law?
The landscape of lawfare
The new frontiers of military development, which complement developments in the area of surveillance and targeting, are being explored via a combination of legal technologies and complex institutional practices. The former American general and military judge Charles Dunlap has called the result lawfare: "the use of law as a weapon of war." By lawfare Dunlap primarily meant to show how weaker, non-state actors were seeking to gain a moral advantage by claiming that war crimes have been committed by the stronger, state army; but lawfare could also be used by the state (see Charles Dunlap, "Lawfare amid warfare", Washington Times, 3 August 2007).
The legal scholar David Kennedy claims that lawfare "demonstrates an emergent relation between modern war and modern law" (see Of War and Law, Princeton University Press, 2006). It is exemplified in the way that, for example, military lawyers in the midst of a campaign "legally [condition] the battlefield" by poring over target-maps and informing soldiers in what way they are entitled to kill civilians. IHL then becomes the ethical vocabulary for marking legitimate power and justifiable death.
Military experts in law describe attempts to limit the death of bystanders as a pragmatic compromise that seeks to establish the supposedly "correct" relation between a necessary attack on militant targets and the number of civilians killed. The question is what is necessary, what ratio is correct, who is to decide that and who is to judge that. Although the claim that having laws of war is a good thing can still be accepted, it is necessary to be alert to the structural paradox they pose: for when they prohibit some things, they authorise others, and it is the border between the allowed and the forbidden that is the most intense legal battlefield.
International law can be thought of not as a static body of rules but rather as an endless series of conflicts over this border. The question is not which interpretation is right, but who has the power to force their interpretation into becoming authoritative. In this sense, international law does not merely legitimate violence but actually relies on it.
Read full article online
Eyal Weizman is an architect and director of the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths College. His books include Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation (Verso, 2007). His exhibition and catalogue with Rafi Segal, A Civilian Occupation: The Politics of Israeli Architecture were banned by the Israeli Association of Architects, but later shown in New York and Berlin.
The National Interest Online, February 26, 2009 - As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heads to Egypt next week to participate in an international donors' conference for Gaza, she would do well to be mindful of what she can and cannot accomplish there. Rebuilding Gaza after the three-week Israeli military assault is a humanitarian necessity, and Clinton should take the lead in order to demonstrate concern for Palestinians. The United States reportedly will promise some $900 million in assistance, to be channeled through NGOs and the Palestinian Authority, not Hamas.
But Clinton should not succumb to the illusion, whether in her public statements or private policy deliberations, that one can use economic assistance to solve political problems. Specifically, Clinton should be clear about two issues: economic assistance cannot create prosperity in Gaza—or the West Bank, for that matter—under current conditions, and economic assistance cannot reverse the ascendancy of Hamas and deterioration in public support for the Palestinian Authority headed by President Mahmoud Abbas.
Our skepticism about aid without political progress is based on hard experience. This Gaza reconstruction conference is only the latest of more than a dozen such events to mobilize international assistance for Palestinians. Since 1994, taxpayers in the United States, Europe and other countries have contributed some $14 billion to various programs in order to demonstrate to Palestinians that their lives will improve under a moderate leadership that cooperates with Israel. Those efforts pay off only when there is political and diplomatic momentum.
When that diplomacy collapses, the fruits of assistance do not merely collapse—they are targeted. In Gaza, the cycle of construction and destruction is a Sisyphean process: a port, an airport, a power plant and a set of government buildings have been built with international funds, and then bombed when war broke out, first in 2001 and again last month.
If we now step in again to rebuild without an accompanying political strategy, we may find ourselves doing the exact same thing a year or two down the road. Aid money can mitigate some of the worst effects of the conflict, but it can do no more as long as the conflict continues. Even in the absence of active fighting, there is—in the words of an International Crisis Group report released in July 2008—a “natural ceiling” to any genuine and sustainable economic recovery....
Nathan J. Brown directs the Institute for Middle East Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University and is a nonresident associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where Michele Dunne is a senior associate.
The other is a grief-stricken war zone in the Middle East run by a group listed as a terrorist organisation by both the EU and the U.S.
They may not seem best suited as twins, but Worcester, birthplace of Sir Edward Elgar, could become the first British city to be twinned with Gaza City.
A motion calling for the twinning association to consider the link was passed by 29 votes to nil, with six abstentions, at a meeting of the Tory-run council.
abour councillor Alan Amos, who first suggested the twinning, said: 'Like many I have watched the plight of the people of Gaza, seeing them get bombed and bombed by Israelis with advanced military weapons.
'But rather than sit there thinking, "Isn't that terrible" I really wanted to do something about it.
'We wanted to bring people together to show a gesture of solidarity - so Gaza could look at us and see that the whole world isn't against them, there are people who understand their plight and think what is happening to them is unacceptable.
'We are optimistic this will go ahead. And it is a humanitarian gesture and not a political move.'
Tory councillor David Tibbutt, who supported the move, said the link with Gaza City should be more than a gesture.
He added: 'It is important that we concentrate on how we can really make a difference in the areas of culture, mutual learning, social activity and in some cases humanitarian aid.'...
Islamism, as an idea and movement, has spread throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds. The Arab cause is no longer, not only because Iran and Turkey have become major players in a political equation that was always Arab in identity, but also because the prevailing ideology of the cause is no longer Arabist. "Palestine is an Islamic stance", a motto contained in the Hamas charter, is among the most potent ideas the movement has given the Palestinian struggle. It has made it possible to transcend nationalist and Arab frameworks. And when war in Gaza struck, Islamism dominated not only banners but also the outlook that governed the logic of the struggle.
Observers noted how battle cries such as "Remember Kheibar, Jews!" were raised during protests, not only in the Islamic world but also on the streets of European capitals. Kheibar was a rich and fertile oasis north of Al-Madina inhabited by Jews and destroyed by Prophet Mohamed in 628. The implication, then, is that the battle is a fight for existence between Muslims and Jews and the only solution is jihad -- holy war. As for the appeal to the West, or parts of the West such as the human rights and relief agencies, it played solely on the theme that in the face of Zionist brutality one can only sympathise with and support the Palestinians. There was little interest in formulating a more substantial rhetoric in addressing the West.
The war in Gaza brought the Palestinian cause back to the Muslim Brothers as much as it brought them back to a cause which a new generation of members of the Muslim Brotherhood appeared less aware of than the group's founders. Historically, the Brotherhood was instrumental in raising the Palestinian cause in the Arab and Muslim consciousness. The movement's founder, Hassan El-Banna, rallied the resources of his organisation behind it. The early Muslim Brothers' Fire and Destruction in Palestine was the first book on the cause and, during the 1948 war, Muslim Brotherhood volunteers were the first to declare a jihad in Palestine. From the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood advocacy of the Palestinian cause spread to the rest of the Arab and Islamic world and to other ideological and political movements. Gamal Abdel-Nasser, and the revolutionary government he founded in July 1952, not only championed it but made it the heart of their project for Arab unity. Nasser, who together with a group of Free Officers, had once joined the Muslim Brotherhood society in the Egyptian army, can in some ways be said to be Hassan El-Banna's heir in championing the Palestinian cause despite his subsequent violent clash with the Muslim Brotherhood. The rise of the Fatah movement in the 1960s gave the Palestinian revolution another major boost. Its founders, too, had emerged from the Brotherhood's fold before the tide of Arab nationalism and the sweeping changes it brought.
As the Muslim Brotherhood became evermore preoccupied with its struggle with the regime Palestine moved from the centre to the periphery of its agenda. For new generations of Brothers, who lacked their predecessors' awareness of the cause, it was regarded as an unwelcome inheritance. The Gaza war would radically change that and bring Palestine back to the fore in the Brotherhood's consciousness....
"Statements by Hamas and Egyptian officials made me think a truce was round the corner. I went off and signed a deal with the contractor. Now that the prospects for a truce have dwindled I realise I acted foolishly," he told Al-Ahram Weekly.
Osama was not alone. There are no inhabitants of Gaza whose domestic and business interests are not connected to the lifting of the blockade and the opening of the borders. Yet outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is insisting that Israel secure the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit first. On Wednesday, after a Security Cabinet meeting, Olmert repeated his condition that Shalit must be freed: "We will negotiate his release first and only then will we be willing to discuss things like the Gaza crossings and rebuilding" the Gaza Strip.
Ayman Taha, in Cairo to attend the truce talks, told the Weekly that the Hamas delegation, of which he is a member, felt it had been misled. Egyptian officials had told them that Israel had agreed to an 18-month truce under which Israel and the Palestinian factions would halt all military operations in addition to Israel reopening its border crossings into Gaza, and the Rafah border to Egypt being reopened in coordination with the Palestinian Authority (PA) security. He added that Hamas representatives had been told by an Egyptian intermediary that a deal in which Israel would release 1,400 Palestinian detainees in exchange for Shalit would follow once the truce had been signed. Later the delegation was told by head of Egyptian General Intelligence Omar Suleiman that Israel had changed its mind and was now insisting on the exchange deal first and finalising any truce afterwards.
"They want to get Shalit back and then say that they aren't interested in a truce," says Taha. "Both Likud leader Benyamin Netanyahu and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni have rejected the idea of a truce with Hamas."
He warns that Israel is making a grave mistake if it thinks Hamas will agree to a prisoner exchange before the blockade is lifted, suggesting that Israel will back down when it realises that Hamas "means what it says when it refuses any linkage between the truce and Shalit".
Israeli commentators Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel confirm Taha's reading of developments. Both report that Amos Gilad, head of the Israeli Defence Ministry's diplomatic-security bureau, had officially notified the Egyptian government of Israel's approval of the truce. In an article appearing in Haaretz last week they argued that the shift in Israel's position was a result of the collapse in support of the Labour Party whose leader, Defence Minister Ehud Barak, has been one of the most enthusiastic advocates of a truce.
The closing window of opportunity for a truce has cast a heavy shadow over efforts to reconcile Hamas and Fatah. Palestinian commentator Maamoun Amer says Hamas leaders feel that in the absence of a truce leading to the lifting of the blockade any pressure on Hamas would only serve to inhibit dialogue with Fatah.
"Hamas is eager to engage in a national dialogue to end the rift but prefers to reach an agreement with Fatah after the blockade is lifted. Otherwise, the blockade could be used to extort concessions," Amer told the Weekly. He added that as positive as the climate was no practical steps had been taken to create a climate conducive to dialogue, especially on the subject of political detainees, a major source of tension. Hamas leaders in the West Bank recently announced that Salam Fayyad government's security forces were continuing to round up Hamas activists there even during the Hamas- Fatah meetings in Cairo.
A Hamas source told the Weekly that as determined as the movement is to engage in talks after a truce agreement is concluded it will not allow this to obstruct opportunities for dialogue. He added that Egypt's latest proposals on national dialogue -- that it could begin with an inaugural session attended by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Chief of the Hamas Political Bureau Khaled Mashaal -- had taken Hamas's sensitivities into account. In the past Hamas has insisted that in any opening session Abbas would have to attend as head of Fatah and not as Palestinian president.
But it appears that not only Hamas, but Egypt too was also misled by the Israelis. President Mubarak has ruled out any linkage between a truce and completion of the prisoner swap. "The Shalit file is independent and cannot be linked in anyway with efforts to secure a truce," said Mubarak.
Six national dialogue subcommittees, charged with the creation of a national conciliation government, drawing up the guidelines for revamping the Palestinian security agencies on an occupational not factional basis, deliberating ways to restructure and reactivate the Palestine Liberation Organisation, and on the procedures of legislative and presidential elections, are expected to convene on 28 February. Representatives from Egypt, the Arab League and independent Palestinian figures will attend, tasked with helping resolve problems as they arise....
"I had to flee with the children. There was nothing we could do," Ghalia said from the United Nations (UN) school in Rafah where she took refuge during the conflict. "Now, I have nothing. How will we survive?"
Making up half of the coastal enclave's 1.5 million people, Gaza's women - and their children - bore the brunt of Israel's deadly Operation Cast Lead. They are the post-war period's most vulnerable population, says the UN.
According to Gaza's health ministry, 114 women were killed and nearly 1,000 wounded in the three-week Israeli assault. And countless women like Ghalia are now economically and psychologically wounded by the war. In all more than 1,300 people died in the assault, more than 5,300 are injured.
Having lost husbands and sons in the fighting, and living with an unemployment rate of 49 percent, women in the Gaza Strip will begin to rely increasingly on humanitarian assistance, the UN says.
Women faced relentless hardship and tragedy throughout the war, taking on the responsibilities of male relatives who had died, looking for food for their families while under assault, and digging for their children in the rubble.
Earlier this month, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women declared that "the human rights of women in Gaza, in particular to peace and security, free movement, livelihood and health, have been seriously violated during this military engagement."
Women and children were hit hardest by food shortages, while women encountered the greatest difficulty attempting to reach Gaza's besieged hospitals, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
"It's been days since my daughter has had her insulin, but it was too dangerous to leave our home," said Abu Haithem in the emergency room of the Al-Naser hospital in Khan Younis Jan. 16, just before the ceasefire. "Then a missile hit the house next to us and we had to run."
Abu Haithem was forced to leave her seven other children with a stranger in her village outside of Khan Younis to finally bring her 14-year-old diabetic daughter to the hospital. Her husband had died in the missile attack on her neighbour.
Pregnant women and their unborn and newborn children were one of the most underreported casualties of the war, says the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)....
The devastating conflict, in which 1,300 Palestinians were killed, has prompted a surge in demand for the product in apparent sympathy for the Palestinians. Equal Exchange, a seller of Fairtrade products, reported a threefold increase in sales of olive oil from the West Bank in January compared with a year ago.
"We have run out of one-litre bottles and we expect sales to double to 400 tonnes this year compared to 2008," said Barry Murdoch, the sales director of Equal Exchange.
The company Zaytoun, also established to sell Palestinian olive oil in the UK, reported a fourfold rise in sales last month instead of the usual post-Christmas lull. Zaytoun, established by two Britons, Heather Masoud and Cathi Pawson, takes its name from the Arabic word for olive.
The surprise sales increases coincide with a publicity drive for Palestinian products during Fairtrade fortnight, which runs from 23 February to 8 March. Nasser Abufarha, the chairman of the Palestinian Fairtrade Association, is touring the UK to support the launch of the world's first Fairtrade Palestinian olive oil.
Winning Fairtrade certification is an important breakthrough for Palestinian oil producers, as they will now have access to mainstream British supermarkets such as Co-op, which has been working closely with Equal Exchange to get Palestinian products on to the shelves. Fairtrade also means better prices for olive growers.
"We have been working for the Fairtrade certificate for four years," said Abufarha, who has campaigned against the building of Israel's security barrier. "Fairtrade will increase our sales, and bring us new markets and widen our reach."....
....In terms of taste, Palestinian olive oil is a hit with foodies. The River Café is so impressed with Zaytoun olive oil that it wants to try other Zaytoun products, from olives to almonds. And the food and wine writer Malcom Gluck described Zaytoun as "one of the least aggressive yet pungently attractive olive oils I have tasted", and ranked it alongside the best of the fruity Sicilian, Cretan and northern Spanish oils.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Al Haq Files Suit Against UK Government Officials, Charges UK is Not Meeting Intn't Obligations to Stop Israel's Attacks on Civilians
See also: Palestinian NGO Seeks UK Human Rights Justice (IMEMC, February 24, 2009).
The immediate consequence of the separation policy was to disconnect Gaza from the West Bank (and Palestinian East Jerusalem), from its population, its education centres and health services, from jobs in Israel and from family members and friends. No wonder Israel now defines Gazans who live in the West Bank as ‘illegal sojourners’ unless they have an Israeli permit to be there. The tight siege imposed in Gaza over the last two years has merely exacerbated the situation. The separation policy of the 1990s (along with the rapid expansion of Jewish colonies in the West Bank) was designed to destroy the foundation of a future Palestinian state.
Israel suppressed the second intifada with lethal means that it did not dare use in the first, not just because the Palestinians had now acquired guns, or because of the suicide bombings, but rather because since the creation of the Palestinian Authority, Israel has treated the ‘other side’ as sovereign and independent – when it wants to. As if the PA enclaves were not under occupation. Thanks to this very effective propaganda, most Israelis believe that the creation of the PA resembles the founding of an independent state – an ungrateful one at that, attacking little, peace-seeking Israel. They find it easy enough to ignore the fact that Israel continues to control – both directly and indirectly – all parameters of sovereignty and independence: land, borders, resources, water, population registry, economics, construction, education, health and medical services.
The unilateral disengagement from Gaza and the fact that Hamas spun it as a victory – the result of armed resistance – allowed Israel to claim that the occupation of Gaza had ended....
What the siege has done is reduce an entire society to the status of beggars, denying it nearly all productive activity, suffocating it in an open-air prison, disconnected from the rest of the world. The denial of the right to a livelihood, and the denial of freedom of movement: that is the essence of the siege, the foundation block of the separation policy. The closure policy is an assault on the human dignity of the Palestinians, and especially those in Gaza. Now, Israel has shown that the cage can also be a deathtrap.
Amira Hass, a journalist for Haaretz, is the author of Drinking the Sea at Gaza. She lives in Ramallah.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
"The evening’s programme included nasheeds from internationally renowned artist Zain Bhikha and Labbayk, inspirational talks by Dr Daud Abdullah (Palestinian Return Centre) and Anas Al-Tikriti (President of the Cordoba Foundation), recitations from Palestinian poetry by children, and a charity auction with a twist.
Muslim Aid also promoted Palestinian oil producers, Zaytoun: an ethical business established to support marginalized farming communities in Palestine.
Guests included Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Rt. Hon Stephen Timms and Baroness Uddin, the first Muslim, female member of the House of Lords."
Hundreds of Palestinians were able to cross in and out of the Gaza Strip two days after Egypt opened Rafah crossing point before Palestinian humanitarian cases, Palestinian officials said on Tuesday.
The three-day opening, started on Sunday, was the first Egyptian gesture towards easing Gaza blockade since the end of the Israeli major offensive in December and January....
....to [rapidly] provide local and international organizations, authorities, donors, and decision-makers with baseline information from a people’s perspective on the current living conditions, needs, damages, and destruction in the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the Israeli military operations....
The voices and views of the people in the Gaza Strip in the current context are of critical importance: although they are at the centre of events that are mostly beyond their control, they are currently facing the consequences, and they will be the core beneficiaries of the reconstruction efforts. Therefore, throughout this report, UNDP/PAPP aims to provide a comprehensive snapshot, from a human perspective, about the main issues and challenges faced by Gazans today. These issues range from poverty and unemployment, security, damages and needs for assistance to health-related issues, and main challenges faced by the youth.
The 7-chapter report is based on a large-scale public opinion survey of over 1,800 households conducted between 25 January and 1 February 2009. It covers:
- Needs for assistance
- Health-related issues,
- Main challenges faced by the youth
- Only 8% of households are still above the poverty line, however they are at high risk of falling into poverty.
- For 72% of families, coping mechanisms for dealing with poverty have been exhausted.
- Unemployment levels in the labour force increased from 36% to 43%.
- Of the fully employed, 28% belong to households with a monthly average income that falls below the poverty line.
- Over 1 million Gazans, 75% of the Gazan population, feel insecure due to (i) the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (42%); (ii) Israeli control over borders (27%) which prevents movement of persons and goods; and (iii) inter-Palestinian tensions.
- Nearly 40% of the surveyed households were displaced as a result of the war.
- Largest household needs: Security (by far), distantly followed by food, electricity, and employment
- Largest community-level needs: Security, followed by food, social cohesion, and employment
- Less than one-fifth of households in the Gaza Strip received assistance during the war
- Most important sources of assistance: UN agencies (39%); charities (19%);
Arab governments (13%); international NGOs (8%)
- Over 60% of the households in Gaza currently need assistance.
- The most-needed types of assistance are: psychosocial support (25% of households); financial (17%); food aid (16%)
45% of households across the Gaza Strip reported damages to their residences as a result of the recent Israeli military operations, including:
- Shattered windows (67%)
- Damage from bullets or artillery shells (16 %)
- Damage to main structure (12%)
- Complete collapse: (3%)
- 49% of survey respondents view psychosocial support as the most important need for children in their households. Reported signs of stress in children, such as anxiety, aggressive behaviour, lack of interest in socializing, bedwetting, and nightmares, have tripled and in some cases quadrupled since the recent Israeli military operations.
- 71% of Gazans consider the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to be the main source of violence against children in the Gaza Strip, while 17% continue to see the lack of internal security as the main source of violence.
- The inability of parents to meet the care and protection needs of their children has more than doubled since the Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip: from 26% to 64%.
- In 82% of households, most adults need psychosocial support.
- During the war, 37% of households were in need of primary health care but more than one-fourth could not access these services.
- 14% of households surveyed include at least one disabled member. Physical impairment is prevalent with 16% of reported disabilities being conflict-related. Households with disabled persons need: (i) rehabilitation and mobility skills (22%); (ii) financial assistance (20%); (iii) aids, devices, and technologies (17%); (iv) adapted employment (11%); (v) access to education for those with special needs (9%); and (vi) psychosocial support (6%).
Ahead of Clinton's visit, special U.S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell is expected to issue a sharply worded protest on the same matter when he arrives here Thursday.
"Israel is not making enough effort to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza," senior U.S. officials told Israeli counterparts last week, and reiterated Washington's view by saying that "the U.S. expects Israel to meet its commitments on this matter."....
Sources at the defense establishment confirmed last night that pressure is increasing on Israel to reopen the crossings to larger volumes of aid for the Gaza Strip. Defense sources said that Israel will find it increasingly difficult to counter the pressure, and may agree to more extensive use of the crossings for aid. Currently, fewer than 200 trucks carrying aid are allowed through daily. The U.S., the EU and the UN are demanding that at least 500 trucks carrying aid be allowed into the Strip daily.
Major General (res.) Amos Gilad, who heads the diplomatic-security bureau at the Defense Ministry, issued a statement yesterday denying European Union reports on the breadth of humanitarian aid being allowed to enter Gaza. "Contrary to EU reports, 116,400 tons of humanitarian aid was allowed into the Gaza Strip according to requests made by international organizations and private groups since the cease-fire went into effect on January 18. Any claim of food shortage [in Gaza] is false."
However, an incident occurred last week at a crossing into the Gaza Strip that gave a very different impression to a senior observer. When Senator John Kerry visited the Strip, he learned that many trucks loaded with pasta were not permitted in. When the chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee inquired as to the reason for the delay, he was told by United Nations aid officials that "Israel does not define pasta as part of humanitarian aid - only rice shipments."
Kerry asked Barak about the logic behind this restriction, and only after the senior U.S. official's intervention did the defense minister allow the pasta into the Strip. The U.S. senator updated colleagues at the Senate and other senior officials in Washington of the details of his visit.
The issue of humanitarian aid is central to a major debate between Israel's foreign and defense ministries. The former supports broadening the amount and types of aid, while the defense ministry opposes anything it considers "concessions" to Hamas.
A senior source dealing with humanitarian aid issues on the Israeli side said that Gilad has prepared a list of "humanitarian aid items" and refuses to broaden it. "Authority is in the hands of one person, and he is not willing to help," the source said. "This is outrageous. Why should a senior American official issue a protest on pasta in order for us to recognize that we need to allow it into the Gaza Strip?" ....
"Israel continues to obstruct independent investigations into allegations of laws of war violations by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas military forces in Gaza," the groups said in a joint statement to Ma'an.
After submitting applications for permission to enter via the Erez crossing in January 2009, the groups faced continued delays from the military unit reviewing the applications. In February, the army told Human Rights Watch that it had rejected its application. The Israeli military denied B’Tselem's first request to enter Gaza and has failed to respond to a second.
“Israel’s refusal to allow human rights groups access to Gaza raises a strong suspicion that there are things it doesn’t want us to see or the world to know about its military operation there,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “If Israel has nothing to hide, why is it refusing to allow us in?”
Human Rights Watch requested permission to enter Gaza on 5 January. After weeks of delay, the military rejected the application on 9 February, on the grounds that Human Rights Watch “was not registered with the [Israeli] Ministry of Social Affairs.” On all previous occasions, including several times in 2008, Israeli authorities permitted Human Rights Watch staff to enter and leave Gaza via the Erez crossing.
The army never previously suggested such a requirement for access to Gaza, and Human Rights Watch is not aware of any such Israeli law or regulation. The Israeli military has not responded to Human Rights Watch’s requests for clarification, they said.
Israel does not allow Jewish citizens of Israel, other than security forces, to enter Gaza on the grounds that their security would be at risk. B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, on 20 January requested permission from the military to allow the organization’s fieldwork director (a Palestinian citizen of Israel) to enter Gaza. The military refused the request nine days later.
B’Tselem submitted an additional request on 29 January for entry for three staff members and an international consultant. The Israeli military has not responded to this request....
Learn more on this issue from B'Tselem and Human Rights Watch.
Primary and secondary schools in Gaza run by the government and the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) report a shortage of drinking water and textbooks for students, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Restrictions on the amount and type of materials being allowed into Gaza by Israeli authorities are hindering the education system.
Many parents and children say they were afraid to return to school after the war. The first attack hit Gaza on a morning while school was in session....
Lack of books
Asma Co-ed Elementary School “A&B”, run by UNRWA, is still waiting for this semester’s textbooks, according to area officer Mohamed Abu Hashem.
“We have been waiting three weeks for paper to print the books to enter Gaza; meanwhile, students are sharing textbooks,” said Abu Hashem. “The main problem is the psychological effects of the war on the children.”
After the war he organised stress-relieving activities for the children, including group therapy session and plays produced by local NGOs, such as the Children’s Theatre Organisation.
“The children are frightened by loud noises and panic when they see an airplane in the sky,” said Abu Hashem.
Some 161 of UNRWA’s 221 schools are running psycho-social support programmes, he said.
The school operates without electricity two to three days a week, and about 1,800 students attend the school in two shifts....
Maan News, February 23, 2009 - EU Parliament leader and delegation on fact finding mission to Gaza
Kuwait News, February 24, 2009 - Another European Delegation to Visit Gaza - Luisa Morgantini, Vice President of the European Parliament (EP), will be leading a delegation of EU parliamentarians on a visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories from Wednesday till Sunday.
The delegation includes 15 EP Members belonging to different political groups, accompanied by officials, assistants and journalists, Morgantini said in a statement here today.
On Thursday, the delegation will go to Gaza Strip accompanied by UNRWA, the United NationS Agency for Palestinian refugees, to visit hospitals, schools and industrial areas in order to collect firsthand information concerning the destructions perpetrated by the Israeli Army and about the real life-conditions of Palestinians in the Strip.
The MEPs will also have meetings with members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and with Human Rights organizations in Gaza.
The Italian MEP said she considers "absolutely vital to bring our solidarity to the civilian population which was under military aggression by air, land and sea, and to witness the situation in Gaza in order to report it back to the European Parliament".
The EP delegation is also expected to visit Tel-Aviv, Jaffa, Ramallah, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, where they will have meetings with the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and PLC members, with representatives of political and human rights organizations and Israeli and Palestinian NGOs in the West Bank, as well as with Members of the Israeli Knesset.
A delegation of parliamentarians led by EP President Hans-Gert Pottering, visited Gaza on Monday while another EP delegation led by Cypriot MEP Kyriacos Triantaphyllides, who is the chair of the EP Delegation for Relations with the PLC, visited Gaza two weeks ago.
These visits, opine analysts, highlight the importance the EP is giving to the Palestine issue.
Haaretz, February 24, 2009 - Peres: EU Sympathy for Hamas Dimishes Chance for Peace
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, is to formally announce the funding at a donor conference in Egypt next week, one US official told the Reuters news agency on Monday.
The money, which would need to be approved by the US congress, is to be distributed through the UN and other bodies and not via Hamas, the Palestinian group which governs Gaza, said one of the officials, who asked to remain anonymous.
The same official said the pledge was a mix of money already earmarked for the Palestinians and some new funding.
Rob Reynolds, Al Jazeera's senior Washington correspondent, said the administration of Barack Obama, the US president, had not moved towards engaging directly with Hamas but had modified some of its language towards dealing with Palestinians in Gaza.
It was prepared to mention Palestinian suffering without directly linking it to the actions of Hamas, our correspondent said.
The US has repeatedly said it will not hold talks with Hamas unless it recognises Israel, renounces violence and recognises previous Palestinian peace agreements.
In December, the administration of George Bush, Obama's predecessor, said it would give $85m to the UN agency that provides aid to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria....