Yearly Archives: 2007
May 12, 2007
April 12 – May 3, 2007
“A Bitter Harvest” Speaker and Film Series
Palestine, Israel and Lebanon 40 Years after 1967
“Hizbullah, Israel and Lebanon: The Summer War, 2006”
Fawwaz Trabulsi, Lebanese-American University, Beirut, Lebanon
April 12th • 1351 Chemistry • 7:30 pm
“Jerusalem Women Speak: Three Women, Three Faiths”
Huda Abu Arqoub, Muslim Palestinian and consultant for the Palestinian Ministry of Education; Tal Dor, a Jewish Israeli community activist; and Amal Nassar, Christian Palestinian grassroots organizer and nurse.
This “Three Women of Jerusalem” tour will also appear at three local high schools.
April 16 • 2650 Mosse Humanities • 7:00 pm
“Democracy, Disengagement and Destruction: The United States, Israel and the Rise of Hamas”
Laila El-Haddad, freelance journalist, Gaza
April 19th • 105 Psychology • 7:30 pm
“On Dignity and Dissent: Reflections on Palestine by a Child of Holocaust Survivors”
Sara Roy, Harvard University
April 26th • 105 Psychology • 7:30 pm
“The Threat from Within: Democracy & Demography in Israel and the Modern Zionist Ideology”
Jonathan Cook, journalist, Nazareth, Israel; formerly of the London Guardian
May 3rd • 105 Psychology • 7:30 pm
Sponsored by the University of Wisconsin Middle East Studies Program, Comparative Literature, the Havens Center, and Religious Studies; Partners for Peace, and the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.
Soros and Media Heavyweights Attack Pro-Israel Lobby’s Influence on U.S. Policy
Washington – The simmering debate over American policy toward Israel and the role of the Jewish community in shaping it exploded with near-nuclear force this week. Several of the nation’s best-known international affairs commentators fired salvos at pro-Israel lobbyists and defenders of Israel fired back with unprecedented fury.
In the space of three days, major critiques of Jewish lobbying were published by controversial billionaire George Soros, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Nicholas Kristof, the respected British newsmagazine The Economist and the popular Web site Salon.
The replies were furious. The New York Sun accused Kristof and Soros of spreading a “new blood libel.” The American Jewish Committee’s executive director, David Harris, wrote in a Jerusalem Post opinion article that Kristof had a “blind spot” and had “sanctimoniously lectured” Israel.
The editor of The New Republic, Martin Peretz, renewed an attack on Soros that he began a month ago when he called the Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor a “cog in the Hitlerite wheel.”
The outburst over Middle East policymaking was triggered in part by the annual Washington conference last week of the pro-Israel lobbying powerhouse, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a highly publicized event that put the issue of pro-Israel influence in the media spotlight. A parade of politicians and presidential candidates came to the conference to declare their unwavering support for Israel, while the lobby itself reaffirmed a hard-line agenda that included cutting all American ties with the new Palestinian government.
At the same time, the latest attacks and counterattacks were also a continuation — and an escalation — of an ongoing debate in Washington over the purported role of the pro-Israel lobby in shaping American policy in the Middle East and stifling debate. Those attacks reached a peak of venom last year with the publication of a contentious document by two senior political scientists, Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, who charged that a sprawling, powerful “Israel Lobby” had pushed the United States into war with Iraq.
Among the latest group of critics, Soros, the billionaire philanthropist and currency trader, was the harshest. In an article in The New York Review of Books, published
Monday, he argued that the United States is doing Israel a disservice by allowing it to boycott the Hamas-Fatah Palestinian unity government and to turn down the Saudi peace initiative. But, he wrote, there is no meaningful debate of such policies.
“While other problem areas of the Middle East are freely discussed, criticism of our policies toward Israel is very muted indeed,” Soros wrote. He added that pro-Israel activists have been “remarkably successful in suppressing criticism.”
Soros singled out Aipac as a key source of the problem, accusing the lobby of pushing a hawkish agenda on Israeli-Palestinian issues. “Aipac under its current leadership has clearly exceeded its mission, and far from guaranteeing Israel’s existence, has endangered it,” he wrote.
Soros’s article was noteworthy in part because it broke his longstanding practice of avoiding public identification with Jewish causes. While he has given hundreds of millions of dollars in the past decade to democratization in the former communist bloc, he has given almost nothing to Jewish causes. In this week’s article, however, he stated — apparently for the first time — that he has “a great deal of sympathy for my fellow Jews and a deep concern for the survival of Israel.”
He said that while he has disagreed with Israeli policies in the past, he has kept quiet because he “did not want to provide fodder to the enemies of Israel.” However, he said, the mishandling of recent events by Washington and Jerusalem now demanded greater public debate, which he said was stifled by groups like Aipac.
He also sprang to the defense of his fellow Jewish liberals, criticizing a recent essay on “Progressive Jewish Thought,” written by Indiana University historian Alvin Rosenfeld and published by the American Jewish Committee, for its attack on critics of Israel.
Soros wrote that he is “not sufficiently engaged in Jewish affairs to be involved in the reform of Aipac” and called on the American Jewish community “to rein in the organization that claims to represent it.”
A spokesperson for Aipac said the group will not comment on Soros’s remarks.
An argument echoing Soros’s was posted a day later on the popular Web site Salon, in an article titled “Can American Jews unplug the Israel lobby?” The writer, Gary Kamiya, called on American Jews to “stand up and say ‘not in my name’,” and to challenge the notion that Aipac’s views are representative of the broader Jewish community.
Less pointed, but far more widely circulated, was a critique of American policymaking published Sunday by New York Times opinion columnist Nicholas Kristof. The much-decorated journalist, famous for his determined coverage of the Darfur genocide, argued that American politicians have “muzzled themselves” when it comes to Israel and that “there is no serious political debate among either Democrats or Republicans about our policy toward Israelis and Palestinians.”
Brandeis Donors Exact Revenge for Carter Visit
Major Givers Reportedly withholding Funds from School, Sparking Fierce Free-Speech Debate on Massachusetts Campus
Larry Cohler-Esses, The Jewish Week (New York), February 16, 2007
Major donors to Brandeis University have informed the school they will no longer give it money in retaliation for its decision last month to host former President Jimmy Carter, a strong critic of Israel.
The donors have notified the school in writing of their decisions–and specified Carter as the reason, said Stuart Eizenstat, a former aide to Carter during his presidency and a current trustee of Brandeis, one of the nation’s premier Jewish institutions of higher learning.
They are “more than a handful,” he said. “So, this is a concern. There are evidently a fair number of donors who have indicated they will withhold contributions.”
Brandeis history professor Jonathan Sarna, who maintains close ties with the administration, told The Jewish Week, “These were not people who send $5 to the university. These were major donors, and major potential donors.”
“I hope they’ll calm down and change their views,” Sarna said.
Sarna indicated he knew the identity of at least one of the benefactors but declined to disclose it. He said only that those now determined to stop contributing include “some enormously wealthy individuals.”
Eizenstat said his information came from discussions Tuesday with university administrators, who did not disclose to him who the donors in question were, or how much was involved.
Kevin Montgomery, a student member of the faculty-student committee that brought Carter to Brandeis, related that the school’s senior vice president for communications, Lorna Miles, told him in a meeting the week before Carter’s appearance that the school had, at that point, already lost $5 million in donations.
Asked to comment, Miles replied, “I have no idea what he’s talking about.”
Miles said that university President Jehuda Reinharz was out of the country and unavailable for comment. The school’s fundraising director, Nancy Winship, was also unavailable, she said.
“I have not heard anything from donors,” said Miles. “I don’t know where Stuart’s information is coming from. I don’t think there is any there there, in your story.”
The apparent donor crisis comes on the heels of a series of Israel-related free speech controversies on the Waltham, Mass., campus, of which Carter’s January appearance is only the latest and most high-profile. Critics of Israel last year protested Reinharz’s removal of an art exhibit from the school library containing anti-Israeli paintings–denounced by some as crude propaganda–by youths from Palestinian refugee camps.
The university got flack from the other side when it awarded an honorary doctorate in June to renowned playwright and frequent Israel critic Tony Kushner, who once referred to Israel’s founding as “a mistake.”
The run-up to Carter’s appearance was also punctuated by acrimony when the former president declined an initial invitation to appear in a debate format with Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz. Instead, Dershowitz appeared only after Carter left the hall.
Yet, the school has also won notice for a course it offers on the Middle East conflict co-taught by Shai Feldman, a prominent Israeli strategic analyst, and Palestinian Khalil Shikaki, a leading West Bank demographer. It also conducts an exchange program with Al Quds University, a Palestinian school in East Jerusalem. The Brandeis student body of about 5,000 is about 50 percent Jewish but also contains a significant population of Muslims.
Nevertheless, the free-speech controversies seemed to pit Brandeis’ commitment to maintaining its status as a top-tier, non-sectarian university–with all the expectations of untrammeled discourse this brings–against its determination to remain, in Reinharz’s words, a school under “continuous sponsorship by the Jewish community.”
The alleged action by some top donors has now sharpened the tensions between those two goals, intensified by the school’s commitment to the ideals of its namesake. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, a founder of American Zionism and one of the judiciary’s fiercest free speech defenders.
“The American Jewish community understands the visit by Carter to Brandeis to be reflecting a heksher”–a stamp of approval–“from the university,” said Sarna, whose field is American Jewish history. “They see it as a statement that Brandeis certifies him as kosher.”
“The faculty views it very differently,” he said, “that Brandeis is a forum; that views are uttered in that forum, some of which we agree with and some of which we don’t. But the faculty does not view his appearance as a heksher.”
“It’s that gap in perception that seems to require greater dialogue between the two entities so at least one understands the other,” said Sarna.
But the Carter event may have instead opened the door to greater tensions. Emboldened by it, a group of left-wing students are now seeking to bring to campus Norman Finkelstein, a controversial Holocaust scholar who charges that Jewish leaders exploit the tragedy to fend off and silence criticism of Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians. He charges, too, that Jewish organizations have inflated the number of Holocaust survivors to inflate reparations payments.
Amira Hass: What a Strange ‘Abroad’
Amira Hass, Haaretz, Feb 14, 2007
The Gaza Strip is ‘abroad’ in a strange way. Israelis need a passport to get there, and Palestinian Jerusalemites need a laissez passer – the same one they need to present when they fly to Paris via Ben-Gurion International Airport.
Now it is official: The Gaza Strip is “abroad.” As of February 1, the few Israelis whose entry into the Strip is approved by the army have had to present a passport at the Erez crossing, and they are listed on the Interior Ministry’s computer as having crossed the country’s borders.
The Gaza Strip is “abroad” in a strange way. Israelis need a passport to get there, and Palestinian Jerusalemites need a laissez passer – the same one they need to present when they fly to Paris via Ben-Gurion International Airport. But when these same Jerusalemites go to Jordan via the Allenby Bridge, they use a Jordanian passport. And the Palestinians who live in that “abroad” – the Gazans – are, for the meantime, exempt from crossing with a Palestinian passport; this exemption also applies to residents of the West Bank, by order of the interior minister.
The confusing multiplicity of procedures is still more remarkable in light of the fact that Israel allows only a few people to enter and leave the Strip. Only a small number of Israelis receive this permission – mainly those with relatives in Gaza or people, primarily women, who have been married to Gaza residents for years. Receiving a permit requires prior coordination, which is very cumbersome, and it sometimes takes days until the request for a permit or a permit extension finds a fax line without a busy signal at the “office for Israeli affairs” in the Civil Administration, a military body to which the interior minister has granted the authority to continue operating the crossing.
Crossing the approximately half a kilometer that separates the Palestinian side from the Israeli one requires additional coordination, on the phone, and an hours-long wait until the soldiers and clerks on the Israeli side allow permit holders to walk through. But this is not what makes the strangeness of the Gazan “abroad” unique; to many, this is simply reminiscent of the difficulties that totalitarian regimes imposed on travel between countries in Eastern Europe.
The “abroad” of Gaza is strange primarily for a different reason, a more fundamental one: All its residents are listed in the same population registry as residents of the West Bank, which is not “abroad,” and the entire list is controlled by Israel’s Interior Ministry. This control gives Interior Ministry representatives in the Civil Administration authority that the Palestinian interior minister lacks. This control allowed Israel to deprive hundreds of thousands of Palestinians of their residency status after 1967. It allowed the continuation of marital, social, economic, religious and cultural ties between Gaza and the West Bank until 1991 – and then, it severed those ties. This control allows Israel to prevent the addition of foreign residents to the population registry; it allows Israel to intervene in, and even decide, the choice of a partner, place of study, type of medical treatment, address, quality time with children, participation in celebrations and funerals, the writing of wills and distribution of family property. Israel has the authority to ban the entry of friends or family members who are not Palestinian residents – not just their entry into Israel, but also into the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Since October 2000, the ban has been comprehensive.
Only Palestinians registered as residents in the Israeli computer system can cross at the Rafah terminal, when it is open. Israel has the authority to ban Gazans from traveling to the West Bank or living there, and has been doing so with increasing fervor since 1991, when it began implementing the closure policy. This is the “abroad” that Israelis require a passport to enter. This is the “abroad” for which Israel argues that it has no responsibility. And this is the greatness of the Israeli occupation: It manages to present itself as nonexistent, while its authority reaches all the way to the bedroom.
No, this is not a recommendation to take another unilateral step and erase the Gazans from the Palestinian population registry, which is under Israeli control, in addition to the geographic and human separation. On the contrary! It is preferable for Israel to continue snooping around in their bedrooms than to take a step that would finally complete the separation between Gaza residents and their brothers in the West Bank.
There is reason for concern. A move such as erasing the Gazans from the registry fits the thought process that has characterized Israeli policy toward the Strip since 1991. Over the past 16 years, residents of the crowded, 360-square-kilometer Strip have been ordered to get used to its transformation into a kind of isolated autarkic economy and make do with the little it produces: increasingly little (and increasingly polluted) water; diminishing land; declining sources of income; industry and agriculture with no markets; and inferior educational and health institutions, due to their isolation from the world and the West Bank.
The peak of this policy, so far, was the disengagement in 2005. This is a policy that contradicts what is written in the Oslo Accords, which call the Strip and the West Bank a single territorial unit, as well as international resolutions about the solution for peace. But evacuating a few thousand settlers from the Strip was successfully marketed as Israeli moderation, even as Israel strengthened all its methods of control over the West Bank. Israel is also liable to market the deletion of Gazan names from the population registry as some kind of goodwill gesture. But such a move would only intensify the human distress of Gaza’s 1.4 million residents, as well as their separation from the world. And that is a proven recipe for keeping a reasonable peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians at a distance.
Its Time to Visit Gaza
Miko Peled, The Electronic Intifada, 13 February 2007
Palestinians wait at the Rafah Crossing in Gaza to pass through to the Egypt, 6 February 2007. (MaanImages/Hatem Omar)
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one area where liberals and neo-conservatives in America find common ground. From Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton all the way to George Bush and Condoleezza Rice one and all are united in supporting Israel’s assault on the Palestinian people and their land.
The criticism of Jimmy Carter’s book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid is a case in point. The hysteria on the Right is not worthy of repetition, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi outdid herself by issuing a statement that: “It is wrong to suggest that the Jewish people would support a government in Israel or anywhere else that institutionalizes ethnically based oppression.” Wrong to suggest? Here is something right to suggest: Madam Speaker, it is time for you to visit Gaza.
In The Tribes Triumphant, arguably one of the best books ever written about the Middle East, journalist Charles Glass describes children in Gaza on their way to school: “… little girls with white fringe collars, boys leading their younger brothers … with canvas bags of books on their backs, hair brushed back and faces scrubbed … Thousands and thousands of children’s feet padding the dusty paths between their mother’s front doors and their schools … Beautiful youngsters so innocent that they could laugh even in Gaza.”
Glass reveals that 56.6 percent of the 1.4 million people living in Gaza (if you can call it living) are under the age of 18. That means 792,400 children; Gaza has no cinemas, no theatres, no concert halls, and no space for entertainment or amusement. Where then do these children play? Israel controls all access to, from and within Gaza, never allowing these children to see the world outside this tiny crowded strip of sand they call home. If this, Madam Speaker, is not ethnically based oppression, what is?
“Gaza First” was the slogan that got the Oslo accords off the ground in the early 1990s. Today, as innocent, unarmed men, women and children in Gaza are imprisoned, starved and killed by Israel in broad daylight, its obvious that it, meaning the Oslo agreement, was another nail in the coffin of a just and lasting peace. Then came Sharon’s Gaza disengagement, which was a disingenuous claim by Israel to make “concessions for peace”. Pretending to pull out of Gaza for the sake of peace, Israel tightened the noose around Gaza and its people while freeing itself from any obligation for the welfare of the people of Gaza.
People call Gaza a hotbed of terror, neglecting, or perhaps refusing to see that people in Gaza are attempting, albeit in all futility, to resist the terror under which they are forced to live. Close to one million of Gaza’s 1.4 million residents are refugees or descendents of refugees forced out of their homes from other parts of Palestine only to be imprisoned and impoverished in Gaza. In The Roadmap to Nowhere Tanya Reinhart writes: “Since 1967, 280,000 people in Gaza have passed through Israeli prisons, detention cells and interrogation rooms.” The connection cannot be overlooked: Residents of Gaza have made a name for themselves in resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestine even before 1967 and they have paid dearly for this resistance.
On 11 December 2006 Jan McGirk described in The Independent the effects of Israeli terror on the children of Gaza: “No sane child can remain unaffected by the mayhem of Gaza Strip. Playmates frequently are killed or maimed: at last count, Israeli guns had slain 88 Gazan children and wounded another 343 between mid-June and December, 2006” She further writes that “In Gaza’s grim conditions, mothers find it hard to tell if their offspring are crying out of fright, pain or misery. But when normally bickering brats fall silent, it’s the first sign of mental scars from being constantly scared.” She adds, “Muhammad, who would hit smaller children or shatter cups when he did not get his way, eventually revealed in an after school meeting that two IDF soldiers had executed a young man right in front of him.”
In America people still speak of a “peace process”, and the situation in Gaza and in the West Bank is characterized as a conflict between two people who can’t find a fair compromise. Few dare to mention that the only process that is taking place is oppression for the sake of expansion. Palestinian children are imprisoned, traumatized, starved and murdered so that Israeli can maintain its hegemony over the: “Land of Israel”.
Gaza is collateral damage, the children of Gaza are of no consequence and the leaders of the enlightened, democratic Western world could not care less. But in spite of its enormous military might Israel’s authority over life in Gaza can be must be defied. People conscience must act so that the ethnically based oppression, of which House Speaker Pelosi says it is wrong to accuse Israel, must be brought to an end.
Miko Peled is an Israeli living in San Diego. He is the son of Israeli General Matityahu Peled.
A Plea for Peace From a Bereaved Palestinian Father
Bassam Aramin, The Forward, February 9, 2007
I fought with my daughter on the day she was shot.
On her way out the door to school, Abir announced, in that way children have of doing, that she would be playing with a friend that afternoon rather than coming straight home to study for an exam scheduled for the next day. She was 10 years old, smart, dedicated to her schoolwork and still a little girl.
She wanted to play. I told her to not even think about it.
If I could tell her anything now, it would be: Go. Do whatever you want. Play.
Because now, she never will. She will never laugh again, never hear her friends calling her name, never feel the love of her family wrapped around her at night like a warm blanket.
Abir, the third of my six children, was shot in the head as she left school January 16, caught in an altercation between Israel Border Guard troops and older kids who may or may not have been throwing rocks. She died two days later.
I know what the Israeli army has said about the incident, and I know what Abir’s older sister Arin saw with her own two eyes: Abir was running away from the troops when she suddenly stopped and fell, and blood splattered onto the ground. An independent autopsy confirms the most likely cause of death: a rubber bullet, through the back of Abir’s head. I have that bullet in my house, because poor Arin, watching her sister get shot, picked up the bullet and brought it home. I was not surprised when the Israeli army tried to blame Abir for her own death. First we were told that she was among the rock throwers; then we were told that “something” blew up in her hands — though her hands remained miraculously in tact— before she could toss it at the Border Guard jeep.
I was not surprised, but the anguish that such fabrications cause my wife and me is hard to express. Our baby was killed — must her name and innocence be desecrated, as well?
It would be easy, so easy, to hate. To seek revenge, find my own rifle, and kill three or four soldiers, in my daughter’s name. That’s the way Israelis and Palestinians have run things for a long time. Every dead child — and everyone is someone’s child — is another reason to keep killing.
I know. I used to be part of the cycle. I once spent seven years in an Israeli jail for helping to plan an armed attack against Israeli soldiers. At the time, I was disappointed that none of the soldiers was hurt.
But as I served out my sentence, I talked with many of my guards. I learned about the Jewish people’s history. I learned about the Holocaust.
And eventually I came to understand: On both sides, we have been made instruments of war. On both sides, there is pain, and grieving, and endless loss.
And the only way to make it stop is to stop it ourselves.
Many people came to support and comfort us as Abir lay dying, her small face chalk white, her eyes forever closed. Among those who never left my side were a number of men I have recently come to love as brothers, men who know my past, and who share it. Men who, like me, were trained to hate and to kill, but who now also believe that we must find a way to live with our former enemies.
Israeli men. Every one of them, a former combat soldier.
These men and I are members of Combatants for Peace. Each of us, 300 Palestinians and Israelis, was once on the front lines of the conflict. We shot, bombed, tortured and killed. We believed it was the only way to serve our people.
Now we know this not to be true. We know that to serve our people, we must fight not each other but the hatred between us. We must find a way to share this land each people holds in the depths of its soul, to build two states side by side. Only then will the mourning end.
I will not rest until the soldier responsible for my daughter’s death is put on trial, and made to face what he has done. I will see to it that the world does not forget my daughter, my lovely Abir.
But I will not seek vengeance. No, I will continue the work I have undertaken with my Israeli brothers. I will fight with all I have within me to see that Abir’s name, Abir’s blood, becomes the bridge that finally closes the gap between us, the bridge that allows Israelis and Palestinians to finally, inshallah, live in peace.
If I could tell my daughter anything, I would make her that promise. And I would tell her that I love her very, very much.
Bassam Aramin lives in Anata, just outside of Jerusalem.
February 22, 2007
Ali Abunimah in Madison
Ali Abunimah is coming to Madison to speak on his new book, One Country — A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.
A Palestinian-American, Abunimah is a co-creator and editor of the The Electronic Intifada web site and more recently, of Electronic Iraq and Electronic Lebanon. A graduate of Princeton University and the University of Chicago, he has written for the Chicago Tribune, among numerous other publications.
One Country presents a provocative approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is sure to touch nerves on all sides. Clear-eyed, sharply reasoned, and compassionate, the book proposes a radical alternative: the revival of an old and neglected idea of one state shared by two peoples.
One reviewer had the following to say about the book: “Ali Abunimah shows how the two [peoples] are by now so intertwined—geographically and economically—that separation cannot lead to the security Israelis need or the rights Palestinians must have. He reveals the bankruptcy of the two-state approach, takes on the objections and taboos that stand in the way of a binational solution, and demonstrates that sharing the territory will bring benefits for all. The absence of other workable options has only lead to ever greater extremism; it is time, Abunimah suggests, for Palestinians and Israelis to imagine a different future and a different relationship.”
Abunimah will be appearing at the Wisconsin Historical Society Auditorium at 7:00pm on Thursday, February 22nd. A reception and book signing will follow at the Memorial Union.
Sponsored by the Distinguished Lecture Series of Wisconsin Union Directorate and the Associated Students of Madison. Co-sponsored by Al-Awda Wisconsin, Campus Anti-War Network, Four Lakes Greens, Madison Area Peace Coalition, Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, Rainbow Bookstore, UW Middle East Studies Department, and WORT radio.
For more information contact DLS at 262-2216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A doctors call
Victoria Brittain, Guardian Unlimited, January 30, 2007
Mona el-Farra, a Palestinian doctor working in Gaza should have been in London this evening, launching a campaign for peace between Israelis and Palestinians based on recognition of international law.
The campaign, simply called Enough, is backed by various aid organisations, trade unions, faith and other campaign groups.
Dr Farra was invited before Christmas, and planned to leave Gaza around January 15 to allow plenty of time to get through the difficult Rafah border with Egypt. But she is not in London today because – along with hundreds of other Palestinians – she was refused the right to cross the border. For a week, with her suitcase packed, she thought she would be able to come. But in the end the border was only opened one way – into Gaza from Egypt, not out of it.
Last week, in an attempt to get an exemption for Dr Farra, two eminent British doctors – Derek Summerfield and David Halpin – faxed new invitations to her to come to London. But these health professionals invitations also cut no ice with the Israelis.
For almost a year or more Dr Farras blog, From Gaza, With Love, has been giving a uniquely vivid idea of the day-to-day desperate poverty and total unpredictability of life in Gaza, and the work of a doctor in that place where everything is lacking.
Dr Farra coordinates incoming aid, and organises three doctors and dozens of women volunteers to distribute food parcels, milk, meat, blankets, money vouchers, medicines for sick children and cancer patients, university fees for needy students, etc.
The border was opened 14 times in six months, electricity was off for four months, she wrote. Patients died waiting at the border, women gave birth on the road waiting for permission to travel to hospital, ambulances have been restricted, four emergency health workers died in December.
Is this why the Israelis dont want people in Britain to hear her speak?
It is her blogs, as well as personal experience of working in the occupied Palestinian territories on and off for 14 years that has brought Dr Derek Summerfield and many of his colleagues to support the call of Palestinian health professionals like Dr Farra, last November, for a boycott of links with the Israeli universities and hospitals which support the occupation, and stronger links with Israeli institutions and organisations which defy it. They joined the boycott call by 60 Palestinian trade union and civil society organisations.
Dr Summerfield, South African by birth, honorary senior lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College, London, makes the parallels with the academic isolation of apartheid South Africa (which was much contested at the time):
This rightly included a boycott of the medical profession for collusion of a very similar nature to what we see today in Israel. For instance, the Medical Association of South Africa was for a time suspended from membership of the World Medical Association. On visits there in recent years I have heard it said more than once that the boycott played a distinct role in bringing the profession to its senses.
The Gaza Strip Situation Report, 30 Jan 2007
Ceasefire between Palestinian factions enters into force after five days of intense inter-factional fighting
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 30 Jan 2007
The ceasefire between Palestinian factions announced by Palestinian Foreign Minister, Mohammed al Zahar in the early hours of this morning is holding. The ceasefire follows the heaviest loss of life from interfactional fighting recorded by OCHA with at least 34 deaths and 133 injuries (Palestinian Ministry of Health) between the evening of 25 January and the evening of 29 January.
Field reports at 7.15am today from UN area staff indicate that all fighting has ceased, Palestinian gunmen have withdrawn from the streets and unofficial checkpoints are no longer present. Negotiations are currently underway to secure the release of hostages that were seized by both sides over the previous five days. A number of roads remain closed in Gaza city notably around military installations including the Sarayia and Preventive Security Force Head Quarters in Tal al Hawa. Checkpoints are still in place under the control of the National Security Forces however traffic is moving freely.
Recent internal violence
On the evening of 25 January, Palestinian gunmen detonated a roadside bomb targeting a jeep carrying members of the Hamas-affiliated Executive Support Force (ESF) in Jabalia (northern Gaza Strip). Two ESF members were killed, triggering an escalation in internal violence which saw attacks and counterattacks by members of Hamas and Fatah throughout the Gaza Strip with the exception of Rafah.
Fighting occurred in densely-populated areas leading to deaths and injuries among civilian bystanders. The Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH) reported that five of the 34 dead are children while 34 children and four women are among the 133 injured. The fiercest fighting took place in Jabalia and also in the Tel al Hawwa area of Gaza city where the headquarters of the Preventive Security Force (PSF) are located.
Militias have laid siege to houses with heavy machine gunfire and rocket launchers while gunmen entered Al Heda’ya mosque in Tel al Hawwa during prayers last Friday evening. In the clashes that ensued five worshippers were killed and another four were injured. Kidnappings by both Fatah and Hamas were a regular occurrence with at least 31 such abductions reported. In five instances the abductees were shot in the legs before being released.
Against the backdrop of spiralling violence, Gazan families took refuge in their homes with significant disruption to their daily lives. A number of roads in central Gaza city were closed or subject to check point control by the National Security Forces (NSF). Elsewhere in the Gaza Strip, impromptu checkpoints were erected by masked militias. Movement of people and vehicles was minimal and many shops remained closed throughout the period of the conflict. Ministry of Education (MoE) and UNRWA schools are currently closed due to the annual winter vacation.
The Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights reported four separate attacks on ambulances and medical crews. Two MoH ambulances were hijacked by gunmen in Gaza city on the evening of 28 January for several hours and the drivers were reportedly beaten before being released along with their vehicles. In another incident on the evening of 28 January, an UNRWA ambulance was hit by a stray bullet while driving in Gaza city.
Throughout January to date 53 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip, including seven children, and 244 injured in Palestinian internal violence. This compares with 135 Palestinians killed throughout 2005 and 2006 during internal violence in the Gaza Strip, the majority since October 2006 when violence escalated.(1) Inter-factional violence has spiked over three periods since this time: October and December 2006 and January 2007.
Three Palestinians, including a 17 year-old boy, were killed and 15 injured by the IDF in January. The majority of casualties occurred in the northern Gaza Strip. One Israeli was injured by mortar shells fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip. A fragile ceasefire between the Israelis and Palestinians brokered on 26 November 2006 after five months of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) military operations largely continues to hold.
Overall, Palestinian access in and out of the Gaza Strip remains severally restricted. Rafah crossing continues to fail to operate continuously as envisaged under the November 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA). Travelers have not been able to exit the Gaza Strip through Rafah crossing since 8 January. The crossing has opened on only three days since this time and for arrivals only (365 people crossed into the Gaza Strip on 9 January and a further 2,546 on 22 and 23 of January according to EU BAM). In total, the crossing has only opened for eight days in 2007, almost exclusively for pilgrims. Regular planned movement by traders, workers, students and others is impossible.
Karni commercial crossing continues to operate on all scheduled days but for only half of the scheduled number of hours and not at full capacity (not all bays are used). Since the beginning of 2007 an average of 205 truckloads of goods (excluding aggregates) has been imported (compared to the daily average in 2006 of 156). An average of 43 trucks of exported goods has been recorded during the same period.
Erez crossing operates well for the few senior traders with permits (for example, 415 traders crossed on 23 January) but remains closed to Palestinian workers. Sufa crossing has been open for the import of aggregates on all scheduled days in 2007.
Regular power outages lasting between two and 36 hours have occurred in the northern Gaza Strip and parts of Gaza city since the last week of December 2006. These cuts have come as a result of a seasonal increase in demand as temperatures fall and people turn to electrical heaters. In addition, the deteriorating security situation has meant that the number of illegal connections has increased and so the network has been short-circuiting on a more regular basis due to overloading.
The extent of the power outages during the 2006- 2007 winter period is unprecedented and follows the bombing of the Gaza power plant on 28 June 2006 by the Israeli Air Force (IAF). The air strike targeted and destroyed all six transformers. While replacement transformers arrived in the Gaza Strip from Egypt in November 2006, the current capacity remains insufficient by approximately 40 Mega Watts (MW) or approximately 30% less of its original output. The south of the Gaza Strip, including Khan Younis and Rafah, which receive most of their power supply from Egypt and Israel have been unaffected.
The Palestinian Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (MoENR) is considering three options which could run simultaneously to resolve the lack of capacity. The first option involves the purchase of five additional transformers and would take three to four months from sourcing to installation. The second and third options entail increased the capacity from Egypt and/or the Israel Electrical Company. The priority of the MoENR is to resolve this issue in the coming weeks to ensure sufficient capacity for the next seasonal peak during the summer months.
(1) Casualties resulting from internal violence have only been systematically reported since May 2006. Internal violence includes casualties caused by factional violence or family feuding and internal demonstrations (that are linked to the conflict/occupation).
OFFICE FOR THE COORDINATION OF HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS
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