Saturday, February 14, 2009

Higher Education Chronicle: War of Words on Investment in Israel

Higher Education Chronicle, February 13, 2009 - A pro-Palestinian student group and Hampshire College disagreed Thursday as to whether the Massachusetts institution’s withdrawal of investments from an index fund represented a rebuke of Israel, and a major first for the divestment movement. Any hope that this might stay a quiet campus disagreement — probably a slim hope given the topics involved — has evaporated with dueling press releases, media coverage from the Middle East and the entry of Alan M. Dershowitz into the dispute.

Dershowitz, a Harvard University law professor and well known supporter of Israel, threatened to unleash a campaign against the college, and issue a call for donors to withhold contributions, unless Hampshire resolves any ambiguities and clearly states that it rejects student efforts to divest from the Jewish state. “What they have to do is make it impossible for the students to plausibly be able to declare victory,” said Dershowitz, whose son went to Hampshire.

“They want me on their side, they want the anti-Israel students on their side, they want everybody on their side. But unfortunately the divestment campaign is a zero-sum game. Both sides can’t win, and Hampshire let the anti-Israel students win and they will pay a heavy price for that. Unless they withdraw it, they withdraw it and they make it clear they have rejected these efforts to divest from Israel.”

The students dominated the headlines on Thursday when, in a press release, the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter hailed Hampshire as “the first of any college or university in the U.S. to divest from companies on the grounds of their involvement in the Israeli occupation of Palestine.” The student group celebrated having successfully pressured the college to divest from six companies with connections to Israel’s military operations in the West Bank and Gaza.

Hampshire officials acknowledge they initiated a review of the specific State Street fund in question in response to a petition from Students for Justice in Palestine. However, Hampshire maintains that it transferred assets to another fund after finding much broader violations of its policy on socially responsible investing, including unfair labor policies, environmental abuse, military weapons manufacturing and unsafe workplace settings. In all, Hampshire says it found more than 200 companies in the fund that fell short of its standards. “[T]he decision expressly did not pertain to a political movement or single out businesses active in a specific region or country,” the college’s statement says.....

New SOAS Study Released: UK Economic Links with Israeli Settlements

School of Oriental and African Studies, The University of London, February 10, 2009 - This report [UK economic links with Israeli settlements in Palestinian occupied territory] was prepared by Profundo economic research for the Sir Joseph Hotung Programme. It is an empirical study forming part of a wider project which examines economic and trade issues arising from Israel's occupation of occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories.

The objective of this report to identify the roles played by UK companies - directly or indirectly - in supporting the existence and expansion of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.

The research has identified 68 British companies which have links with Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem: 49 have their Head Office in the UK and 19 are British subsidiaries of companies based in Israel or other countries.

The report is framed within the international legal context both of the settlements themselves and of the trade agreements between Israel and the UK and EU. It illustrates furthermore how the economy of Israel proper and that of the settlements in occupied territory have become intertwined.

Of Sorrow and Loss - Prince El Hassan Bin Talal

Jordan Times, February 9, 2009 (via Common Ground News Service) - As the world watches the anguish in Gaza continue, I am moved to reflect on the 10th anniversary of the death of my beloved brother, King Hussein, and my family’s historic involvement in all stages of the tragedy of Palestine.

For the Hashemite family, history is not a series of unconnected events, but a chain of responsibility handed to us by our forebears. The indissoluble interaction of events on both sides of the River Jordan demands positive pressure to resolve what has become a 60-year tragedy for the Palestinian people.

Today the Palestinian people exist in a state of limbo. They enjoy neither statehood nor the status of a protected community. Instead of the reciprocity of two states enjoying equal sovereignty as originally envisaged by the United Nations partition plan, one of these states – Israel – predicates the establishment of the other – Palestine – on its own security, and claims the right to determine whom among the Palestinians it accepts as a valid interlocutor and partner.

This asymmetrical position has unfortunately come to define the approach of those powers, great and small, which have substituted themselves for the United Nations as the ultimate source of legitimacy.

By dividing the Palestinians into two categories, “moderates” and “extremists”, they have effectively endorsed Israel’s position, thus denying the Palestinian people’s right to choose their representatives....

Prince El Hassan bin Talal, brother of the late King Hussein of Jordan, is chairman of several organisations in fields which include diplomacy, interfaith studies, human resources, and science and technology.

Innocence Lost

Al Ahram Weekly, February 12-18, 2009 - Habeeb is a 23-year-old journalist based in the Gaza Strip, active to bring out the word of his people's suffering. Zimmerman is a 21- year-old journalist and American citizen, determined to help after seeing the crimes perpetrated in Gaza by Israel. They became friends united in the struggle to open the eyes of the world to agonies before which they are often closed. One story that has caught their attention is the personal catastrophe of Khaled Abd Rabbo.

We began our journey and were barely able to reach Abd Rabbo's town. As we drove along, our car dipped to the right and to the left. The ground was rutted from the holes that the Israelis tore into the streets with their bombs, their bulldozing, and their fires. The land was also wounded. A once lush and tranquil neighbourhood had been transformed into hell on earth. Our eyes were filled with nothing but devastation, and masses of people covered the place like flies.

Our car came to a halt and we walked down the street to Abd Rabbo's shattered home. And there was Abd Rabbo himself, sitting in the rubble of happier times.

"This house used to have four floors, and a nice garden. It brought us peace and tranquillity," he began to tell us. "The Israeli army came to this house many times before, but the last was in March of 2008."

He explains how they invaded his home and investigated him and his family. "They found nothing. I am a police officer in the Ramallah government; I have nothing to do with Hamas."

"That day when they left us, they did not take anything or harm anyone," he continued. "I remember it was 12:50pm on the fourth day of the military ground invasion when the army took control of the region. A real battlefield was born and thousands of people were trapped. Nobody could leave due to the excessive fire from the Israelis, and the soldiers kept on coming, and coming, and coming.....

University of Manchester (UK) Passes Motion to Boycott Israel in Support of Gaza, Palestinians

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, February 11, 2009 - On Wednesday 11th Feb the University of Manchester Students Union passed a motion in support of the people of Gaza, which includes a resolve to boycott Israel, in an emergency general meeting. The meeting, which was attended by over 1000 students, was called in response to the crisis in Gaza. It follows a week long occupation of University of Manchester buildings by students. The University of Manchester Students Union is the biggest in Western Europe, and is also the first western students union to pass a motion includes an out and out boycott of Israel.

The policy that was passed compared Israel to apartheid South Africa and supported the global Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement. It called for the Union to divest from Israel, boycotting all companies which support or benefit from the Israeli occupation, and to lobby the University to adopt a similar boycott policy towards Israel. The motion also condemned the University for its lack of progress in divesting from arms companies. Following the meeting the union will send a letter to the BBC condemning their refusal to air the Disaster Emergency Committees (DEC) appeal for Gaza, as well as facilitating a day of fundraising with proceeds going to the DEC.

That Students at Manchester have a long history of showing solidarity with Palestinians, most notably in their affirmation of the “Palestine: Right to an Education” motion passed in 2007. This motion twinned our Union with the An-Najah University in the occupied West Bank, and committed the Union to campaign for the rights of Palestinian students. Similarly, the Students’ Union played an important role in the international solidarity campaign against South African apartheid by divesting the university’s funds from South Africa....

Writing Checks for Gaza is Easy; Politics is the Tricky Part - Chris Patten

The Guardian, January 27, 2009 - Shortly after I became a European commissioner in 1999 I visited Gaza and the West Bank to see how the European commission, under strong international pressure, could speed up disbursement of development assistance. I recall in particular visits to Gaza airport, subsequently ploughed up by the Israeli army, and to a general hospital. I visited the morgue that was under construction. It must have been badly overloaded in recent years.

After the second intifada began in the autumn of 2000, Israel stopped the transfer of tax receipts owed to the Palestinian Authority. In the following summer the commission began payment of direct budgetary assistance to the authority. There were tough conditions, overseen by international financial institutions. The infrastructure built by European money on the West Bank and in Gaza was systematically trashed by the Israeli Defence Forces in 2002. They were responding to horrific suicide bombings in Israel. Anything that might be seen to provide the sinews of government was destroyed - including the land registry, courts and police stations. This did not obviously advance the prospect of a two-state solution.

Throughout the period when budgetary support was provided, the European commission was accused by some Israeli lobby groups of bankrolling terrorism and corruption. We just about achieved our aim and managed to keep the Palestinian Authority afloat - even to reform it. As the responsible commissioner, I was privately encouraged by senior US state department officials to continue the support, and was never asked by Israeli officials to stop it. Europe was in effect fulfilling its now historic role of financing the terrible failure of policies laid down not in Brussels, but in Tel Aviv and Washington. Doubtless Europe is getting ready to do the same again....

Chris Patten (Lord Patten of Barnes), former European commissioner for external relations, is co-chair of the board of the International Crisis Group.

Opinion: Israel Sought "Politicide" Through Gaza Attack - Saree Makdisi

Bloomberg Press, February 10, 2009 - In three weeks of incessant bombardment, Israel killed or injured more than 6,000 Palestinians in Gaza, most of them civilians, and a third of them children.

It pushed the territory it has militarily controlled for four decades (and for the welfare of whose population international law holds it legally accountable) even deeper into deliberately engineered, even fine-tuned, misery.

It wrecked much of what was left of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure after months of siege and years of isolation from the outside world; it smashed thousands of family homes, schools, offices and mosques; it obliterated the personal property of tens of thousands of refugees -- many of whom have now lost two or three homes in succession to Israeli bombs.

Israel’s primary justification for the bombardment of Gaza was that it was intended to stop Palestinian rockets fired into Israeli territory.

But Israel failed to accomplish a single one of its declared objectives. It failed to stop the firing of rockets from Gaza. It failed to stop smuggling across the Egypt-Gaza border. And it failed, even in the short run, to bring security to Israel’s own population.

If anything, the bombardment of Gaza left Hamas stronger than ever, for having stood up to three weeks of bombardment and preventing the Israeli army from translating its overwhelming firepower superiority into actual accomplishments on the battlefield -- of which there were none, other than crude destruction....

Friday, February 13, 2009

Royal Court Theatre Gets Behind Gaza Headlines

Photograph: Tristram Kenton

The Guardian, February 11, 2009 - Where, at the moment, can you see plays about Israeli attitudes to Gaza.Muslim life in Britain and Germany's denial of its Nazi past? The answer is London's Royal Court. And, having bashed the Court last year for its bias towards American plays, I would now like to praise it for connecting with the big issues. I can't think of any more urgent task for a theatre such as the Court than that of addressing the world we live in.

I suppose Caryl Churchill's 10-minute play, Seven Jewish Children, is the most controversial of the Court's current trio. Some will say it's too soon to write about the invasion of Gaza; others will dismiss the play as propaganda. Both charges are easily refuted. If theatre fails to react rapidly to current events, whether it be the Middle East crisis or the global financial meltdown, it will be reduced to the role of an impotent bystander. What theatre can also do is delve behind the headlines. We've all been shocked by TV footage of the Israeli assault on Gaza. But Churchill's play reminds us that, in any conflict, children are always prime victims. Literally so in the case of Gaza, where 410 died during the 23-day bombing. But Churchill also shows us how Jewish children are bred to believe in the "otherness" of Palestinians and how, for generations to come, they stand to reap the bitter harvest of the military assault on Hamas.

Churchill's play pricks our conscience. Alia Bano's Shades, which plays at the Theatre Upstairs and has got scandalously scant coverage in the national press, is equally remarkable. It grew out of the Court's Unheard Voices programme, which last year brought together a group of young Muslim writers. Bano, as an English graduate and A-level teacher, was already well on the way, and what she has done in Shades is chart the experiences of a young woman torn between the party-fuelled London scene and love for someone who is a devout Muslim. You could call it a romcom with attitude. Bano gets behind the lazy media stereotyping of British Muslims and shows how they exist in the workaday world, here as accountants and events organisers, and fall in and out of love like anyone else....

Inside the Gaza Tunnels

The Guardian, February 10, 2009 - Barely a few paces from the Egyptian border stands a large white tent, fashioned from plastic sheeting and pockmarked with jagged shrapnel holes. Inside, as in the hundreds of identical tents dotted to the left and right, is a scene of energy and illicit industriousness: a dozen Palestinian smugglers sweating to overcome the punitive economic blockade on Gaza. A stone's throw away on the opposite side of the border is an Egyptian police post, with relaxed uniformed officers standing on the roof. They gaze down without a hint of concern.

One unanswered question of Israel's three-week war in Gaza is why the air strikes, artillery shells, tank fire, bulldozing and detonations that caused such devastation and loss of life across the territory did so little damage to the hundreds of smuggling tunnels under Gaza's southern border with Egypt .Those tunnels, which bring in food, clothes, machinery as well as weapons and ammunition, were supposed to be one of Israel's key targets. On the final day of the conflict alone, the Israeli military said it had hit 100 tunnels. Gazans in the border town of Rafah spoke of night after night of enormous air strikes that shook cracks into the walls of their houses and shattered their windows.

But while the sandy border is marked with many large craters, the damage caused to the tunnels was, in many cases, repaired within days. Already some are operating again and new tunnels are being dug under the close eye of Hamas officials, who walk from one tent to the next clutching their walkie-talkies.

The smugglers believe their tunnels were simply too deep to be badly damaged, even by the heavy 500lb or one-tonne bombs dropped by Israeli F-16s. In most cases, the serious damage was only to the entrances to the tunnels, which were soon uncovered again by the Palestinians using bulldozers and then rebuilt. It may be that the focus of the Israeli attacks was on the weapons tunnels, which are closely guarded by Hamas and other armed groups and not open to public view....

Salon Radio: Dr. Mustafa Barghouti on the Israeli Election Results, Glenn Greenwald's blog, February 10, 2009 - Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian physician born in Jerusalem and living in the West Bank, was the second-place candidate behind Mahmoud Abbas in the 2005 presidential election in the Palestinian National Authority (a BBC profile of him is here). Dr. Barghouti is my guest today on Salon Radio to discuss today's Israeli elections and the state of Israeli-Palestinian relations generally....

I found Barghouti's answers to be an extremely interesting expression of a Palestinian perspective on these issues.....

[Note: This interview was conducted before the Israeli elections of February 10. - Ed.]

Glenn Greenwald: My guest today on Salon Radio is Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, who was a former candidate for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority in 2005, finishing second to the ultimate winner, Mahmoud Abbas. He's also held various positions in the Palestinian Authority and is a physician as well. Dr. Barghouti, thanks so much for joining me today.

Mustafa Barghouti: Thank you. It's nice to talk to you.

GG: The Israelis are holding a national election tomorrow, and most polls, if not all, predict that the winner of the election will be Likud, or at the very least, that the next prime minister of Israel will be Benjamin Netanyahu.

You're a long-time advocate of a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians; what do you see as the implications for a Netanyahu victory in terms of Israeli-Palestinian relations?

MB: Well, unfortunately, I must say that the election of Netanyahu -- and Lieberman with him -- simply means one thing: that this is end of the peace process, and the end of the possibility of peace based on two-state solution. The problem is the timing. This election, this move to the extreme right wing comes at a time when the whole option of the two state solution is almost gasping due to the building of settlements in the West Bank and the creation of apartheid rule, and with such elections, this can be like the death sentence to two-state option, unless, of course, unless, there will be a different policy and a serious move from the side of the United States, which is probably the only country that has the leverage to pressure Israel to stop this terrible movement towards racism and apartheid....

[Read the full transcript, or listen to the audio, at the link.]

Glenn Greenwald is a former US Constitutional lawyer who blogs at

European MP Calls for EU to Cease Financial Cooperation with Israel in the Wake of Gaza

Wirral Globe, February 12, 2009 - Euro MP Chris Davies is calling for Israel to pay for damage caused in the Gaza strip by Israeli military action instead of relying on EU aid.

During his visit to Gaza, MrDavies has stated that the EU should cease financial co-operation with Israel until the state faces up to its legal, financial and humanitarian responsibilities. Speaking from Ramallah in the West Bank, Mr Davies said, "Europe should not be paying for the destruction wrought by the Israeli military, Israel should.

"There should be real economic consequences for Israel when infrastructure is destroyed in Gaza and at present EU aid is making sure that there are not.

"No incentives seem to exist for Israel to listen to the EU in return for economic aid and co-operation and Israel is not currently working with the EU on a clear path to peace.

"The EU is also at fault for not making clear to the Palestinians what the requirements are for forming a government that the EU can negotiate with. "The EU is helping no-one with its lack of clarity."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Irish Trade Union Announces Boycott of Israeli Goods in Wake of Gaza

Haaretz, February 12, 2009 - Irish trade unionists said this week that they plan to launch a boycott of Israeli goods in 2009....

In moving ahead with plans to boycott Israel, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) says it is relying on "evidence" left in the aftermath of the Israeli invasion into Gaza in December.

It also said to be drawing from a "fact-finding mission" to Gaza by a dozen of its senior members more than a year ago. Leaders within the Irish Congress of Trade Unions are to hold a conference this year to act as "a springboard" for their campaign....

Americans Rally Outside AIPAC in Protest Over Gaza

CODEPINK Press Release, Washington DC, - February 12 - Several organizations will rally today outside the offices of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to call for the United States to resist the Israeli lobbying group and reject its destructive aims on Gaza, and decry its enormous influence on Congress which prevented Congress from condemning the recent Israeli assault on the territory.

This move is especially crucial now, as the Israeli election earlier this week marked an even harsher line than ever toward Palestinians. The Obama administration must seize the opportunity to alert newly elected Israeli officials that American sympathies are veering away from unconditional support of Israel's positions.

"In the wake of the 22-day war on Gaza, AIPAC is pushing hard for even more aggressive policies against the Palestinians," said Joan Stallard, of CODEPINK, one of the participating groups. "But these policies must not be supported. Congress must instead call to open the borders to Gaza and the West Bank to allow humanitarian aide, a free flow of commerce, and establish a normal and secure life for all the people of Palestine and Israel."

The United States sends $3 billion in military aid to Israel each year, with AIPAC's pressure, making it the single largest foreign recipient of American military aid. The recent offensive On Gaza was carried out with U.S.-funded and manufactured helicopters, tanks, rockets and, most controversially, phosphorous bombs.

Tighe Barry, a Los Angeles-based activist who returned Feb. 8 from war-torn Gaza, will speak. Visuals and song will be included in the event, organized by CODEPINK, the Washington Peace Center and Activists for a Free Gaza.

For more information, please call Joan Stallard, CODEPINK, at 202-422-6275 or Polly Miller, 585-719-7614.

In Uxbridge, UK, Women Chain Themselves to Hayes Company to Protest Over Gaza

Uxbridge Gazette (UK), February 12, 2009 - Protestors chained themselves to the gates of the Israeli export company Carmel Agrexco in Hayes this morning (Thursday) to demonstrate about the continuing conflict in Gaza.

Fifteen people took part in the demonstration in the early hours of this morning at the warehouse in Swallowfield Way, Hayes, and three arrests were made.

The protestors say the company, which exports agricultural goods, is operating unlawfully by growing flowers and produce in illegal settlements on Palestinian land.

The feminist group are from across London and do not belong a specific organisation.

Charlotte Murphy, one of the protestors, said: "Obviously we wanted to make this protest in the run up to Valentine's day as flowers are a key part of Agrexco's exports. We understand they have an extra 13 flights just to bring in flowers here during this time.

Eva Cerne, another protestor, said: "The conflict obviously makes me angry and the worse thing is they say Israel is a democratic country but with all the dead bodies I've seen on video footage they are not democratic at all."

The protest has now been broken up and the people involved moved on peacefully.

Opinion: The End for the Palestinian Authority? - George Giacaman

Daily Star (Lebanon), February 13, 2009 - As usual, the future Israeli government will be a coalition, either a right-wing one composed of Kadima, Likud, and Labor, or an extreme right-wing one, including Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas, and others. Either way, this does not bode well for the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is entering the third stage of its turbulent life, and perhaps its last.

The first stage began with the Gaza-Jericho agreement of 1994, followed in late 1995 with expansion of the PA's authority over parts of the West Bank. This stage ended with Yasser Arafat's death in November 2004.

The promise of the Oslo process, as far as Palestinians were concerned, was that it would lead to a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. That was the meaning of the "interim stage" which was supposed to last for four years but is now entering its 14th year. Limited "self-autonomy" was never supposed to be a final stage, nor was it envisioned that the PA's raison d'etre was to function indefinitely as a large municipality to administer local Palestinian affairs. This remains true today.

The second stage ushered in Mahmoud Abbas, with his election as president of the PA in January 2005. From the beginning of the Second Intifada in 2000 until his election, Abbas was consistent in his opposition to the armed struggle and had the courage to say so in public. Negotiations were at the heart of his political, and the Palestinian public clearly wanted to give him a chance. However, for a whole year, until the elections of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in January 2006, in which Hamas won a majority, there were no negotiations to speak of. Instead, Israeli officials derided Abbas for being "weak", oblivious to the fact that they were responsible. Ultimately, the undoing of the PA, no matter who is in power, will come from a lack of political progress....

Dr. George Giacaman is co-founder and director of Muwatin, the Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy in Ramallah. He is also a faculty member in the Department of Philosophy and Cultural Studies, and in the MA Program in Democracy and Human Rights at Birzeit University. He writes frequently on public affairs in the Palestinian and Arab press, and is a regular political commentator for international TV and radio programs.

Gaza: Death's Laboratory

Foreign Policy in Focus, February 11, 2009 - Erik Fosse, a Norwegian cardiologist, worked in Gaza hospitals during the recent war."It was as if they had stepped on a mine," he says of certain Palestinian patients he treated. "But there was no shrapnel in the wound. Some had lost their legs. It looked as though they had been sliced off. I have been to war zones for 30 years, but I have never seen such injuries before."

Dr. Fosse was describing the effects of a U.S. "focused lethality" weapon that minimizes explosive damage to structures while inflicting catastrophic wounds on its victims. But where did the Israelis get this weapon? And was their widespread use in the attack on Gaza a field test for a new generation of explosives?

DIMEd to Death
The specific weapon is called a Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME). In 2000, the U.S. Air Force teamed up with the University of California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The weapon wraps high explosives with a tungsten alloy and other metals like cobalt, nickel, or iron in a carbon fiber/epoxy container. When the bomb explodes the container evaporates, and the tungsten turns into micro-shrapnel that is extremely lethal within a 13–foot radius. Tungsten is inert, so it doesn't react chemically with the explosive. While a non-inert metal like aluminum would increase the blast, tungsten actually contains the explosion to a limited area.

Within the weapon's range, however, it's inordinately lethal. According to Norwegian doctor Mad Gilbert, the blast results in multiple amputations and "very severe fractures. The muscles are sort of split from the bones, hanging loose, and you also have quite severe burns." Most of those who survive the initial blast quickly succumb to septicemia and organ collapse. "Initially, everything seems in order…but it turns out on operation that dozens of miniature particles can be found in all their organs," says Dr. Jam Brommundt, a German doctor working in Kham Younis, a city in southern Gaza. "It seems to be some sort of explosive or shell that disperses tiny particles…that penetrate all organs, these miniature injuries, you are not able to attack them surgically." According to Brommundt, the particles cause multiple organ failures.

If by some miracle victims resist those conditions, they are almost certain to develop rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS), a particularly deadly cancer that deeply embeds itself into tissue and is almost impossible to treat. A 2005 U.S. Department of health study found that tungsten stimulated RMS cancers even in very low doses. All of the 92 rats tested developed the cancer....

Hampshire College is First in US to Divest Companies Involved with Israel

Students for Justice in Palestine (Hampshire College), Press Release, February 12, 2009 - Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, has become the first of any college or university in the US to divest from companies on the grounds of their involvement in the Israeli occupation of Palestine

This landmark move is a direct result of a two-year intensive campaign by the campus group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). The group pressured Hampshire College's Board of Trustees to divest from six specific companies due to human rights concerns in occupied Palestine. More than 800 students, professors and alumni have signed SJP's "institutional statement" calling for the divestment.

The proposal put forth by SJP was approved on Saturday, 7 February 2009 by the Board. By divesting from these companies, SJP believes that Hampshire has distanced itself from complicity in the illegal occupation and war crimes of Israel.

Meeting minutes from a committee of Hampshire's Board of Trustees confirm that "President Hexter acknowledged that it was the good work of SJP that brought this issue to the attention of the committee." This groundbreaking decision follows in Hampshire's history of being the first college in the country to divest from apartheid South Africa 32 years ago, a decision based on similar human rights concerns. This divestment was also a direct result of student pressure.

The divestment has so far been endorsed by Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Rashid Khalidi, Vice President of the EU Parliament Luisa Morganitini, Cynthia McKinney, former member of the African National Congress Ronnie Kasrils, Mustafa Barghouti, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, John Berger, Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, among others.

The six corporations, all of which provide the Israeli military with equipment and services in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip are:

  • Caterpillar
  • United Technologies
  • General Electric
  • ITT Corporation
  • Motorola
  • Terex

Furthermore, our policy prevents the reinvestment in any company involved in the illegal occupation.

SJP is responding to a call from Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as a way of bringing nonviolent pressure to bear on the state of Israel to end its violations of international law. SJP is following in the footsteps of many noted groups and institutions such as the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education in the UK, the Israeli group Gush Shalom, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the American Friends Service Committee.

As well as voicing our opposition to the illegal occupation and the consistent human rights violations of the Palestinian people, we as members of an institute of higher education see it as our moral responsibility to express our solidarity with Palestinian students whose access to education is severely inhibited by the Israeli occupation.

SJP has proven that student groups can organize, rally and pressure their schools to divest from the illegal occupation. The group hopes that this decision will pave the way for other institutions of higher learning in the US to take similar stands.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How Economic Interests Fuel Israel's Occupation - Interview

Corporate Interests Fuel Occupation

Interview with Dalit Baum, project coordinator of Who Profits from the Occupation, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

Between the Lines Radio, distributed by Squeaky Wheel Productions, week ending February 13, 2009 - As more people around the world have become aware of Israel 's abuse of the rights of Palestinians -- both with its recent attack on Gaza and its violent, restrictive and humiliating occupation of the West Bank -- there is growing interest in targeting the economic underpinnings of Israel 's power and control.

A longstanding Israeli political organization, the Coalition of Women for Peace, has spent the past two years researching three issues related to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land: industries located within the illegal settlements of the West Bank, the economic exploitation of Palestinians, and the companies that help Israel enforce its brand of apartheid. The group has recently launched a website called "Who Profits from the Occupation," detailing the activities of some 200 Israeli and international companies.

Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with Dalit Baum, who teaches feminist theory at Haifa University and is project coordinator for Who Profits from the Occupation. She explains how members of her group became involved and what their research revealed. Baum expresses hope that the website will serve as an informational clearinghouse for individuals and groups, inside and outside Israel , working for corporate accountability, social justice and labor rights.

Dalit Baum: We understood that it is not only political or religious interests that fuel the occupation – not anymore. More and more over the years we found out there are economic interests involved. Not only that, but the occupation itself has an economic arm – it used economic tools to oppress and repress the Palestinian population. So even though we are a feminist organization that deals with public opinion and we are very adept working with words, we decided we wanted to know more about the economics of it, in order to try and change it, and influence the economic interests And that’s how we started. We started two years ago, and we are not economists or researchers – we’re just activists. And we started going out to the checkpoints in the West Bank – going out to the Wall, the fence, the settlements – taking pictures, asking questions, trying to see around us which are the logos or the companies or the corporate symbols we see around us, so we can see who’s involved, who has a stake in it. And now we came up with this website, which is just the beginning of the culmination of our work, because we actually have more than 1,000 companies in our database, and we’ve put online only 200 so far, because we’re trying to build a case against each and every one of them, and be very careful about documenting all our information and checking each and every fact, so this takes time.

Between the Lines: What are some of the most egregious things you’ve found, in terms of what companies are doing there?

Dalit Baum: You know, it’s very interesting.... [Full interview and audio available at the link.]

Homeless Gazans Struggle to Find Shelter

IRIN (reporting from Gaza City), February 9, 2009 - Thousands of Palestinians in Gaza are still seeking shelter after their homes were badly damaged or destroyed during the 22-day Israeli offensive which ended on 18 January.

Some 4,000 homes were destroyed and about 17,000 badly damaged, according to a recent UN Gaza flash appeal. Some 50,000 people took shelter in UNRWA (UN agency for Palestinian refugees) facilities during the height of the conflict and tens of thousands have been staying in very cramped conditions with family and friends.

About US$106 million of the US$613 million UN emergency appeal issued 2 February is for shelter and non-food items, like mattresses and blankets.

No'oman (who declined to give his family name) told IRIN he, his two wives and 10 children were given five minutes to evacuate their home in Neusarat on 8 January. His 16-year-old cousin was killed in the attack which completely destroyed his home.

“Our family lost everything - furniture, two cars, more than $500,000,” said No'oman, who reckoned his home was targeted because his brother works with Islamic Jihad.

Hamas has given the family $2,000 as emergency relief compensation.

The family has taken shelter in a nearby unfinished building. The bare-bones structure lacks heating or a decent water supply....

Interview with Franklin Lamb: Self-Defense or War Crime?


Palestine Chronicle, February 7, 2009 -
International Lawyers Sans Frontiers and Hokok, the International Coalition against Impunity, asked American international lawyer and researcher, Dr. Franklin Lamb, of the Sabra-Shatila Foundation, currently based in Beirut, to comment on Israeli claims. In the following interview Lamb offers his brief analysis of the conduct of Israel and Hamas, against a backdrop of continuing on-the-ground investigations in Gaza. Dr. Lamb was interviewed at UNESCO Palace in Beirut. A transcript follows.

International Lawyers Sans Frontiers: Good morning Dr. Lamb. Before we begin could you clarify one matter for us? You drafted the December 10, 2008 Hokok filing against Israel at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. What is the status of that Case and what is going on at the ICC? One hears conflicting reports....

Read the remainder of Part I of this long and very informative interview at the link.

Part II is here.

OCHA/UNRWA Video: Context and Outcomes of the Gaza War

The brief OCHA/UNRWA video below provides a little context around the conflict and depicts clearly the pain and emotional trauma suffered by all, most especially children, in its wake.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Students are Revolting: The Spirit of '68 is Reawakening

The Independent (UK), February 10, 2009 - They are the iPod generation of students: politically apathetic, absorbed by selfish consumerism, dedicated to a few years of hedonism before they land a lucrative job in the City. Not any more. A seismic change is taking place in British universities.

Around the UK, thousands of students have occupied lecture theatres, offices and other buildings at more than 20 universities in sit-down protests. It seems that the spirit of 1968 has returned to the campus.

While it was the situation in Gaza that triggered this mass protest, the beginnings of political enthusiasm have already spread to other issues.

John Rose, one of the original London School of Economics (LSE) students to mount the barricades alongside Tariq Ali in 1968, spent last week giving lectures on the situation in Gaza at 12 of the occupations.

"This is something different to anything we've seen for a long time," he said. "There is genuine fury at what Israel did.

"I think it's highly likely that this year will see more student action. What's interesting is the nervousness of vice chancellors and their willingness to concede demands; it indicates this is something that could well turn into [another] '68."

Beginning with a 24-hour occupation at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) on 13 January, the sit-ins spread across the country. Now occupations have been held at the LSE, Essex, King's College London, Birmingham, Sussex, Warwick, Manchester Metropolitan, Oxford, Leeds, Cambridge, Sheffield Hallam, Bradford, Nottingham, Queen Mary, Manchester, Strathclyde, Newcastle, Kingston, Goldsmiths and Glasgow.

Among the demands of students are disinvestment in the arms trade; the promise to provide scholarships for Palestinian students; a pledge to send books and unused computers to Palestine; and to condemn Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Technology has set these actions apart from those of previous generations, allowing a national momentum to grow with incredible speed. Through the linking up of internet blogs, news of successes spread quickly and protests grew nationwide.

Just three weeks after the first sit-in at SOAS, students gathered yesterday at Birkbeck College to draw up a national strategy. The meeting featured speeches from leaders in the Stop the War movement, such as Tony Benn, George Galloway MP and Jeremy Corbyn MP. There has also been an Early Day Motion tabled in Parliament in support of campus activism.....

See also: Protest Gone Wrong; Gaza Display Ruined (Cornell University, USA).

Opinion: A Checklist: Reasons for War and for Lies - Dominique Vidal

Le Monde (Paris), via Middle East Online (distributed by Agence Global) - The attack on Gaza has many reference points with the Lebanese war of Summer 2006, from which Israel’s leaders obviously learnt lessons. Not strategically, for to do that they would have had to take those infamous “painful decisions” -- in fact the straightforward application of international law -- as the basis of a lasting peace with their neighbours. But they avoided repeating military errors and were much more prepared for the communications battle. With internal sources tight-lipped, journalists were denied access to the Gaza strip, keeping images of victims from TV screens. A widespread propaganda offensive beyond Israel completed the package.

“A new information directorate was established to influence the media, with some success,” the Observer noted. “And when the attack began…a tide of diplomats, lobby groups, bloggers and other supporters of Israel were unleashed to hammer home a handful of carefully crafted core messages. The PR operation’s kingpin, former UN ambassador Dan Gillerman, said in the same report: “I have never seen… the foreign ministry, the defence ministry, the prime minister’s office, the police or the army work in such effective coordination.”

Self-defence The key word. Israel repeatedly stressed that no state would sit by and allow its population to live in fear of enemy rockets. It goes without saying that any government faced by such a situation would react -- but how? By starting a much bloodier war, or by negotiating a lasting truce? For the past 60 years Tel Aviv has been waging war stating “I have no choice” – in Hebrew, ein brera. Now, more than ever, the opposite is true: Palestinians formally recognised their neighbour in 1988, while the Arab world extended a hand of friendship in 2002, offering Israel total normalisation in exchange for leaving the occupied territories. And if the Israelis have the right to self-defence, so too do the Palestinians.

Tel Aviv’s spokespeople, diplomats and journalists repeated the mantra that Hamas had broken the truce -- forgetting that Operation Cast Lead was, according to Ehud Barak, planned six months before the attacks. Nobody, not even the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs, denies that Islamist militants had held fire until the end of October 2008. It’s true that rockets started again in November. The conveniently forgotten reason was that the Israeli army staged an operation on 4 November, which claimed the lives of six Hamas combatants. Another rarely mentioned fact: The cease-fire should have gone hand-in-hand with ending the Gaza blockade and reopening frontiers -- which Israel never accepted. Worse, the embargo became almost total in the final months to the point where, even before the 27 December offensive, four-fifths of Gaza’s population was dependant on UN food aid. Following the offensive, supplies of water, fuel, electricity and basic foodstuffs dwindled away.

[For the remaining messages--the blockade, lack of proportionality, balance, civilians, hatred, community impact, anti-Semitism, and peace, see the full article at the link.]

Dominique Vidal is a journalist with a special focus on the Middle East region -- translated by Robert Waterhouse.

Amnesty International Charges that Hamas is Carrying Out Abductions, Torture, and Executions of Palestinians They Believe Collaborated with Israel

Amnesty International Media Briefing, February 10, 2009 - ....There is incontrovertible evidence that Hamas security forces and armed militias have been responsible for grave human rights abuses and that the victims of such abuses and many others are being intimidated and discouraged from testifying about their ordeal. The Hamas de-facto administration has displayed a flagrant disregard for the most fundamental human rights norms, not only allowing such abuses to be perpetrated, but actually facilitating and encouraging the abuses by justifying them and by granting absolute impunity to the perpetrators.

Amnesty International calls on the Hamas de-facto administration to:
  • immediately end the campaign of abductions, deliberate and unlawful killings, torture and death threats in which Hamas forces and militias have been engaged since the end of December 2008;
  • agree to the establishment of an independent , impartial and non-partisan national commission of experts to investigate human rights abuses committed by its forces and militias and any other parties since December 2008, and pledge to cooperate with such a commission and allow it to carry out its work;
  • guarantee that victims, witnesses and others who testify or otherwise complain about human rights abuses will not be targeted, harassed or intimidated;
  • undertake to take the necessary steps to address the findings and recommendations of the investigation, which should be made public;
  • undertake to hold accountable those responsible for the abuses, accordig to internationally recognized fair trial standards and without recourse to the death penalty.

UN Lifts Suspension of Aid After Hamas Returns Stolen Items; Criticizes Israel's Ban on Basic Items

UN News Center, February 10, 2009 - February 2009 – The main United Nations relief agency responsible for feeding 900,000 Palestinian refugees in Gaza today lifted its suspension of aid imports after Hamas returned all the aid it had stolen last week.

But the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) warned that its distribution operation continued to be jeopardized by Israel’s refusal to let in materials for plastic bags, more than three weeks after the end of the devastating offensive it launched with the stated aim of halting Hamas and other rocket attacks against it.

UNRWA Director of Operations in Gaza John Ging said Hamas had returned all the aid stolen on two occasions last week, including 300 tons of food, and assured the Agency that there would not be a reoccurrence, a condition UNRWA had demanded to resume its import operations.

“Our confidence in those assurances is based on the return itself and the realization, I believe, among the leadership of Hamas that this is not acceptable to the people here in Gaza,” he told a news conference in New York by video-link from ground zero.

“We had extremely strong support from the community here who demand respect for UNRWA on the ground and have no tolerance for any theft from our resources or aid,” he said, adding that imports would resume on Wednesday since all crossings will be closed tomorrow due to Israel’s general elections.

Mr. Ging, who denied Hamas claims that some UNRWA aid was being given to Hamas rivals Fatah, voiced frustration at the limited access Israel is granting at the crossing points into Gaza, including the ban on the import of bulk plastic needed to package the food aid.

“We ran out of plastic today for the plastic bags to distribute the food so we had to go to the local market here; it’s of course an unreliable market and it’s also a very expensive market but we have to somehow keep going until sense prevails and they allow us to bring in the plastic pellets to make the plastic bags,” he said.

“We have 900,000 people queuing up for food at UNRWA, and we’re only getting through them at 30,000 a day because that’s all the food we can get in,” he added. “The plight of the people is extremely bad, as we should all know by now. We’re struggling to get in the quantities that are needed, and failing I might add.”

He voiced particular exasperation at the ban on importing paper which UNRWA needs for printing school text books and a new curriculum on human rights, calling it shameful, appealing for common sense to prevail, and stressing that the new rights programme would instill in the young how wrong it is to fire rockets....

UN Secretary General Orders Inquiry into Gaza Attacks

International Herald Tribune, February 10, 2009 - ....Ban said he was setting up a U.N. board of inquiry "into incidents involving death and damage at U.N. premises in Gaza."

The board will be headed by Ian Martin of Britain, who recently stepped down as the U.N. envoy to Nepal, and will include legal advisers and a military expert. Ban said it should start work immediately and report to him within a month.

John Ging, who heads operations in Gaza for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which helps Palestinian refugees, told reporters in a videoconference Monday that more than 50 U.N. installations were damaged during the Israeli air and ground offensive that began Dec. 27.

Ban has expressed anger at what he called "outrageous attacks against U.N. facilities" in Gaza, including several schools and the UNRWA compound in Gaza City. He said last month that he expects "a full explanation of each incident" from Israel and that those responsible be held accountable.

Ban said he informed both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority about the inquiry. "I do not have any doubt that they will cooperate fully," he said....

See also: Amnesty International: UN investigation should have a broader mandate.

See also: Statement by Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, upon her return from a tour of Gaza, February 9, 2009, "Children demand answers and we must deliver now."

Opinion: End the Double Standard in the Middle East - Lotte Leicht and Tom Porteous

Financial Times Deutschland (translated from German), February 10, 2009 - A failure by the EU to seek accountability for perpetrators of war crimes in the Middle East risks undermining international criminal law. This is equally valid for Israel and Hamas.

Now that the fog of war is lifting from the Gaza Strip, it is clear that both Israel and Hamas have perpetrated serious violations of the laws of war. The question is: will the impunity for war crimes that has long characterised the Israeli-Palestinian conflict persist? And if it does, how much damage will that do to the credibility of international justice and to institutions like the International Criminal Court. The EU worked hard to create this institution to secure accountability in other places where grave crimes have been committed such as Darfur.

From a laws-of-war perspective, the situation in Gaza is not a pretty one. Human Rights Watch is currently investigating a wide range of alleged violations by Israel and Hamas. These alleged violations include using weapons, such as heavy artillery, indiscriminately in densely populated areas; using civilians as human shields or otherwise placing them at unnecessary risk; firing on or otherwise preventing ambulances and emergency medical care from reaching persons in need; firing rockets deliberately or indiscriminately into civilian areas; targeting persons seeking to communicate their civilian status with white flags.

Every victim brutalized by this conflict has a name and so too do the individuals responsible for perpetrating and ordering atrocities. Justice for war crimes is not simply a moral luxury. Those whose lives the Gaza conflict has shattered have just as much a right to see justice done as victims of war crimes anywhere in the world.

Unacceptable double standard

Unfortunately, past experience shows that neither Israel nor Hamas can be counted on to conduct genuine investigations or to hold their forces accountable for war crimes.

Although the EU is not always consistent, it has taken leadership in pursuing accountability and justice for war crimes and invoking punitive measures for impunity around the world. However, past experience shows that the EU has been unwilling to apply those policies and mechanisms for crimes committed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This double standard has to change. There is a growing recognition that impunity entrenches and prolongs armed conflict and civilian suffering. There is also evidence from the Balkans, West Africa and Latin America that when nations come together to pursue accountability for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes-Charles Taylor, Radovan Karadic, Slobodan Milosevic, Augusto Pinochet-the results can be positive. Such prosecutions recognize the humanity of victims and send a strong message of deterrence. This message can in turn contribute to stabilizing an entire region....

Lotte Leicht is EU Director of Human Rights Watch. Tom Porteous is London Director of the same organization.

The original Op-Ed in German is here.

Opening of Exhibit in Brussels on Tel Aviv's History Delayed Due to Boycott Pressure, February 10, 2009 - An exhibit titled "The White City Tel Aviv", which was set to open in Brussels next week, has been postponed by the Belgian organizers in response to IDF's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

The hosts – the board of directors of the International Centre for Urbanism, Architecture and Landscape (CIVA) - informed the Tel Aviv Municipality three days ago of their decision to postpone the exhibit due to their belief that it would be "better appreciated at a different time."

"We received protests that were based on the claims that Israeli culture should be boycotted until the Israeli government changes its policy," the board said in a letter. On the other hand, the letter continued, there were those who demanded that the exhibition be held in order to portray Israel's history and image.

"We heard these stances and are convinced that both are valid, but we've decided to prevent any kind of debate on the objective of holding this exhibit," the letter stated....

A copy of the letter from CIVA (in French) is available at the link.

Human Rights Watch: Q&A on Accountability for Violations of International Humanitarian law in Gaza

Human Rights Watch News Release, February 6, 2009 -


What international law applies to the recent armed conflict in Gaza?

Why is accountability important?

What are the obligations of states generally to ensure respect for the laws of war?

...and 11 other sections. See the full report at the link below.

Gaza: The World Looks Away - Clare Short

The Guardian, February 10, 2009 - On top of the dreadful casualties from Israel's 22-day war in Gaza, we should add a further serious injury. It is longer-lasting and threatens the lives and wellbeing of very many people in the future. In the Israel/Palestine conflict, we are seeing a terrible undermining of international law and the principle that armies should adhere to minimum standards of humane behaviour, even during the heat of battle.

If they fall below this minimum, they should, according to the laws of war, be held responsible for their war crimes – first, by their own superiors or courts, but, if necessary, by other nations or international courts. This principle – of accountability, even in war – is now in a critical condition as the standards are being ignored by Gaza's warring parties. Then, it's being assailed afresh by pugnacious and irresponsible remarks from leaders in the region.

Both sides endangered civilian lives during the conflict, but obviously the behaviour of Israel was massively more destructive. There were reports from Amnesty International of Israeli Defence Forces units commandeering Palestinian homes, forcing families to remain in a ground-floor room while then using the property as a military operations point. In other words, Palestinian families were used as human shields or, at the very least, were exposed to quite unacceptable risk.

Hamas is also accused of using local civilians as human shields, but since this excuse was used for every Israeli attack on civilian targets, we must await objective reports on whether this allegation is true. Even more shockingly, evidence has been growing of the IDF's use of white phosphorous shells in residential areas – a clear war crime in exposing civilians to horrendous deep-burn injuries that have shocked and bewildered burns unit doctors in Gaza's overrun hospital wards. Moreover, as the new BBC Panorama programme on Gaza asks, was the colossal destruction of roads, houses, factories, farms and ordinary civilian infrastructure right across the Gaza Strip (creating what an Amnesty researcher called "total devastation") an act of "wanton destruction" and therefore itself a war crime....

Clare Short has been a British Member of Parliament since 1983. From 1997 to 2003, she was secretary of state for international development. She was a member of the Labour party's national executive committee (NEC) from 1988 to 1997. In 2003, Clare resigned from the government over the Iraq war, and, in 2006, she resigned the Labour whip. She now sits as an independent.

Editorial: the U.S. Assault on Palestinian Peace and Democracy - Ryan Acuff

Campus Times (University of Rochester), February 5, 2009 - As the smoke clears on the most recent phase of the Israel-Palestine conflict in Gaza, we find that more than 400 children perished under U.S. manufactured and supplied helicopters, jets, gunboats, missiles, bombs and other lethal weaponry. Thirteen Israeli and over 1,300 Palestinian lives were taken. Over 5,000 people remain injured and 50,000 are newly homeless in a Gaza strip already suffering from a humanitarian crisis before the war rocked the region. In the wake of this catastrophe, UR Students for a Democratic Society would like to highlight the larger context of the conflict which allows for these tragedies to occur. Specifically we would like to focus on the U.S. government’s role in supporting (or thwarting) the basic principle of SDS: participatory democracy....

The United States supports the occupation by giving Israel, a swath of land the size of New Jersey, more political, military and economic support than any other country in the world ($2.5 billion a year in direct handouts, according to Congress). The United States clearly has the leverage to end the occupation and the power to completely transform the Israel-Palestine conflict peacefully.

We call on the Obama administration to apply the same standards to Israel and Palestine by supporting both Israelis’ and Palestinians’ right to self- determination. In addition, we call on the Obama administration to stop its threats of Hamas without simultaneously ending support of the Israeli military occupation of Palestine which, according to President Obama’s statements, remains the elephant in the room.

In January 2006, the Palestinian Territories was internationally certified as having the first free and fair elections in the history of Palestine. The Palestinians spoke overwhelmingly in favor of Hamas by means of the ballot. Founded in 1987, Hamas is a multi-faceted Sunni Muslim grassroots movement in the territories that provides education and social welfare (its social wing), engages in armed resistance of the Israeli occupation (its military wing) and has political representatives who run in elections and create policy (its political wing).

Hamas, which is infamous internationally for engaging in suicide bombings in Israel, officially ended this terror tactic in 2005 due to its unpopularity in the territories. According to polling in the territories at the time, the reason for Hamas’ popularity in 2005 and 2006 was on account of its perception of incorruptibility in contrast to the deeply unpopular ruling elite of the Fatah party.

How were the Palestinians rewarded for their display of democracy? The United States immediately cut off aid to the Palestinian government.

But that wasn’t enough. According to recently declassified internal U.S. documents, the U.S. along with Israel, planned and backed a coup of the Hamas government in the summer of 2007 which degenerated into a Palestinian civil war. A meaningful and lasting peace in Gaza and the larger conflict will be impossible if the United States continues to systematically undermine popular democratic movements in Palestinian Territories....

Ryan Acuff is a graduate student at the University of Rochester.

Glasgow University (Scotland) is Occupied in Solidarity with Gaza

Glasgow University Student Occupation blog, February 9, 2009 - We have now been occupying for nine hours. The dealings with the security have been inconsistent. We have had varying reports as to whether the entire building will be locked down tomorrow. As it is, we are occupying a non-teaching room on the top floor of the computer science building, and it is unlikely that this will disrupt any classes. Therefore any disruption to University life would be the fault of the University itself.

Morale is good. We have been holding regular occupation meetings, and reaching decisions in a democratic manner. Earlier, however, the security were trying to isolate and intimidate members of the group in order to weaken our solidarity. We held strong.

A general history of the occupation:
Over the last week we have been collecting petition signatures (which can be accessed in electronic form at the bottom of this post) which on Thursday we handed to University Management to be in turn handed to the Principal. We received a wholly inadequate response to these petitions, and thus decided to enter into occupation and reassess and reassert our demands.

We decided on initial demands, such as freedom of movement, amnesty from repercussions, and access to amenities. We received no response from these. Then we drafted our occupation demands and sent them in e-mail form to the Principal, the Secretary of Court and the Student Representative Council. We received a generic statement from the University management, although it was not issued on University headed paper, nor was it signed. The statement can be read here.

We remain in occupation as it appears the University is unwilling to negotiate at this stage. We will remain in occupation until our demands are met....

Monday, February 9, 2009

Solidarity Occupation at University of Rochester Comes to Successful Conclusion

University of Rochester Students for a Democratic Society, February 7, 2009 - We spoke for peace and solidarity with the Palestinians and we were heard. UR-SDS and friends declared a victory to our occupation just before midnight Friday (Feb. 6, 2009) when we signed a joint statement of understanding/plan of action with the Dean of Students where we found common ground on addressing our demands in a substantive manner. This final statement was approved overwhelmingly by a vote of the general assembly of all those present to the occupation.

The rough wording of the signed Joint Statement of Understanding/Action Plan is as follows....

See also: Students' blog on the University of Rochester occupation as it happened, including video and discussions of negotiations!

Difficulties of Getting Aid into Gaza Persist

Irin, Gaza City, February 8, 2009 - Aid agencies are becoming increasingly frustrated with the difficulties of getting humanitarian supplies into the Gaza Strip.

“For us to move ahead with rehabilitation and repairs, we must get building materials into Gaza,” Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), told IRIN by telephone. “Two hundred and twenty-one schools for 200,000 children only have 40 percent of their books because we can’t get paper and glue into Gaza.”

Some US$93 million-worth of UNRWA construction projects have been on hold since before Israel’s military operation in Gaza began in late December due to a lack of cement, said Gunness....

We have had difficulties entering our education supplies, like paper,” Marixie Mercato, a UNICEF spokesperson, told IRIN from Jerusalem. “These are not problematic goods,” he added, referring to Israeli restrictions on goods entering the Strip that have security implications.

Several UN agencies and other aid organisations say Israeli authorities have a confidential list of items prohibited from entering Gaza. Certain items, such as cement and paper, are commonly denied entry....

40 Days After the Death of the First Child in the Gaza War, Beirut and 13 Other Cities Hold Vigils to Commemmorate Them

The Daily Star (Lebanon), February 9, 2009 - Hundreds of candles flickered on the seafront at Ramlet al-Baida on Sunday evening in commemoration of Gaza's fallen children. The vigil was one of 13 organized by Mothers Across the World for Gaza in cities across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and North America to mark the passage of 40 days since the first child was killed during the Israeli military's December-January offensive against the Gaza Strip.

The crowd of roughly 200 men, women, and children gathered on the small seaside walkway, most of them dressed at least partially in black, with many wearing the black and white keffiyehs that have become just as fashionable as they are representative of Palestine. Participants in the vigil held thin, white candles, each mounted on a brightly colored square of paper, with the name and age of a child killed in Gaza pinned to their chests. During the vigil, organizers passed megaphones to each participant, who read the name of the child and his or her age out loud for all to hear.

"The whole point is that these are not numbers, these are people with hopes, dreams, and lives that were brutally cut short" said Ramla Khalidi, one of the 10 organizers of Mothers Across the World for Gaza. "This is not just about those who died, but also about those who survived, and who continue to suffer on a daily basis."

For Joumane Barazi, this was the first vigil she has attended in Beirut "because it is not political ... because the right to live is not political. This is simply about the universality of the human right to life." As she held on to two candles, she added that "the flame is symbolic of the spirit, which doesn't die."

Other participants agreed that the message of the vigil differed from that of a protest in that it was a peaceful and apolitical way to express a humanitarian-based solidarity with Palestinians suffering under the current situation in Gaza....

Gaza Power Authority Warns: Sole Plant to Shut Down on Sunday

Palestinian Information Center, February 8, 2009 - The Gaza power authority has warned that the sole Gaza Strip power plant would come to a complete stop on Sunday after it ran out of fuel.

Kenan Obeid, the deputy chairman of the authority, said in a statement on Saturday that the plant was forced to close down one of the main generators due to the lack of fuel.

He added that the Israeli tight siege was the main cause of the crisis as it only allowed trickles of fuel into the beleaguered Strip.

Egyptian power lines supply the southern district of Rafah with electricity while Israeli power lines supply the northern areas of the Strip and the Gaza plant provides the rest.

Gaza's Children Still Traumatized, Despite Ceasefire

Haaretz, February 9, 2009 - Children in the Gaza Strip continued to suffer and feel insecure despite a ceasefire that has mostly ended three weeks of intense fighting between Israel and Hamas, the UN special envoy for children and armed conflict said Monday.

Radihika Coomaraswamy said grave violations of child rights had been committed during the fighting that began on December 27 when Israel Defense Forces launched airstrikes against Hamas militants who had been firing rockets and mortars into southern Israel.

She said those violations included killing and maiming, and denial of humanitarian access. Fifty-six per cent of Gazans are children under 18.

"During the recent hostilities, there were no safe space for children and the crossings out of Gaza were, and remain, virtually sealed," she said....

While the Cat's Away - Nadia Awad, February 4, 2009 - While the cats are away, it is guaranteed that the mice will go out and play. Of course, the analogy here refers to media, short-span attentions, and Israel’s latest occupation-cementing activities. While the world was focusing on Gaza and the devastation taking place there at the hands of a lethal Israeli army, other alarming events were going on largely unnoticed in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Israel may not have appreciated its forces being under critical limelight in Gaza, but they were certainly able to take advantage of a distracted media trying to cope with reporting on the rapidly rising death toll there.

In the weeks during and immediately after Operation ‘Cast Lead’, Israeli occupation forces were very busy in the West Bank and east Jerusalem doing what occupation forces apparently do – conducting incursions and raids, arrests, demolitions and land confiscations. In the period just before December 27 and leading up to this week, Israeli forces have killed 10 Palestinians in the West Bank, including children, and arrested at least 214 others (also including children). Moreover, they arrested 584 Palestinians who were working without permits in Israel proper, along with some 16 Israeli employers. Troops also conducted a minimum of 138 incursions into various villages and towns around the West Bank.

Of course, raids and arrests are the norm for Palestinians. What is more disturbing, however, is the amount of land, the thousands of dunums that were expropriated while Palestinians, Arabs and the world were looking towards Gaza....

Nadia Awad is an analyst and researcher at MIFTAH. In the past she has served as assistant producer at MBC/Al-Arabiya News.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Gaza Tent Camps Stir Memories of Past Exile

Agence France Presse (via Naharnet), February 8, 2009 - Majid Asamna lived in a refugee tent in Gaza after fleeing what became Israel in 1948 -- now a new war has left him homeless again, along with tens of thousands of other Palestinians.

The homes of some 30,000 Palestinians were destroyed during last month's devastating 22-day Israeli onslaught, which killed more than 1,330 people and carved a vast swath of destruction across the besieged territory.

In recent days Gaza's Hamas-run government has partnered with international aid groups and local charities to erect hundreds of tents in the most devastated areas, a sight that stirs deep memories for Gaza's 1948 refugees.

"I thought if I left I might never return, just like in 1948. And when I did come back, after the war, everything was destroyed," Asamna, 65, says as he surveys the sprawling ruins of six family houses crushed by Israeli troops.

"I'll never go back to(the Israeli town of)Ashkelon, and my children may never come back to this place. When they come in and kill people like this they make it impossible for anyone to live here."

Israel said the offensive was aimed at halting Palestinian rocket fire on towns and farms near the Gaza border -- including Ashkelon -- which have killed 21 civilians inside Israel since 2000.

But for Palestinians the war was the latest chapter in a tragedy that began 60 years ago, one in which bleak rows of tents are a recurring motif.

More than two-thirds of Gaza's 1.5 million residents are UN-registered refugees descended from the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled or were expelled from what is now Israel in the 1948 war.

Palestinian and some Israeli scholars have said Jewish militias expelled more than 700,000 Palestinians before and during the war that followed the creation of the Jewish state in a deliberate campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Palestinians refer to the expulsion as the Nakba, or catastrophe....

National Lawyers Guild: What We Found in Gaza, February 8, 2009 - GAZA CITY - We are a delegation of 8 American lawyers, members of the National Lawyers Guild in the United States, who have come here to the Gaza Strip to assess the effects of the recent attacks on the people, and to determine what, if any, violations of international law occurred and whether U.S. domestic law has been violated as a consequence. We have spent the last five days interviewing communities particularly impacted by the recent Israeli offensive, including medical personnel, humanitarian aid workers and United Nations representatives. In particular, the delegation examined three issues: 1) targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure; 2) illegal use of weapons and 3) blocking of medical and humanitarian assistance to civilians.... [see link for detailed findings]


This delegation is seriously concerned by our initial findings. We have found strong indications of violations of the laws of war and possible war crimes committed by Israel in the Gaza Strip. We are particularly concerned that most of the weapons that were found used in the December 27 assualt on Gaza are US-made and supplied. We believe that Israel's use of these weapons may constitute a violation of US law, and particularly the Foreign Assistance Act and the US Arms Export Control Act.

A report of our initial findings will be compiled and submitted to, among others, members of the United States Congress. We intend to push for an investigation by the United States government into possible violations by Israel of US law. We also hope to contribute our finding and efforts to other efforts by local and international lawyers to push for accountability against those found responsible for the egregious crimes that we have documented.

See also: National Lawyers Guild Press Blog: NLG Members in Gaza Document Executions of Civilians, Blocking of Humanitarian Aid, and Destruction of Civil Property (February 5, 2009) National Lawyers Guild Announces the Arrival of Fact-Finding Mission to Gaza (February 2, 2009).

South African President Motlanthe: Some of Israel's Actions are Worse than Apartheid

South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), February 8, 2009 - President Kgalema Motlanthe says some of Israel’s actions are worse than what happened during apartheid. He says the creation of new settlements within the West Bank which exclude Palestinians is one such example. Motlanthe was speaking in Cape Town at the fourth conference of the Coalition for the Good and Charity.

The president, who visited Gaza in May last year, says the construction of walls that divide Palestinians has resulted in some Palestinians travelling three hours to get to their businesses as opposed to the two minutes they took before. Motlanthe says Israel continues to change the physical facts in Palestine by constructing new settlements. As a result of these he says the land surface which used to be the West Bank has been dramatically reduced....

Israeli Animal Rights Groups Act to Protect Gaza's Zoo Animals

[Apparently the animals are more deserving of food and security than the human beings in Gaza. - Ed.]

Ynet, February 2, 2009 - An initiative of "Let the Animals Live" brought the minister of defense to allow the entry of trucks, loaded with food and medicine, into Gaza, in order to take care of sick and needy animals in distress.

"Let the Animals Live Israel" together with a Palestinian animals welfare organization with the Coordination and Liaison office in Gaza, and other international organizations, has arranged for a delivery of food and medicine supplies to benefit the animals in Gaza in general and specifically the Gaza Zoo....

Gaza War Deals Blow to Schools in Gaza

Miftah, February 4, 2009 - The jewel of Gaza's bare-bones education system — a U.S.-style school on lush grounds overlooking the Mediterranean — is now a mound of broken concrete. The territory's only laboratory for genetic testing, at a Gaza university, lies in ruins.

With 37 primary and secondary schools destroyed or damaged by air strikes, and 18 others still serving as refugee shelters, learning in Gaza has become even more of a struggle.

Israel says the attacks on schools struck militants and a weapons lab during its three-week war against Hamas. Gaza educators say Israel hasn't provided proof to back up its claims, adding the strikes on some of its best educational institutions set back efforts to develop the impoverished territory.

Even before the offensive, overcrowding had forced most of Gaza's 380 primary and secondary schools to run morning and afternoon shifts of no more than four hours each to accommodate 450,000 students.

The American International School of Gaza, near the northern town of Beit Lahiya, stood apart from the rest. Sitting on an 8-acre plot, it was an oasis in dusty and crowded Gaza, with its lawns, palm trees and roses....