Washington, D.C. | www.adc.org | November 18, 2019 – Moments ago Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Trump Administration will no longer view Israeli settlements as against international law. This is another step taken by the Trump Administration to thwart and bury the idea of a peace process, and further solidifying Israel as an apartheid state. This administration’s complete disregard for international law, and over four decades of American policy, undermines and delegitimizes the U.S. on the global stage – the international community overwhelmingly considers the settlements illegal.
ADC is committed to a just and lasting peace in the region, and any peaceful resolution of the conflict requires the cessation of expansion and dismantlement of all settlements; an end to the collective punishment imposed on the Palestinian population as a result of Israeli occupation policies; an end to the siege of Gaza; the exercise of the democratic rights of Palestinians in electing their government; the creation of a viable and independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and the upholding of the right of return of the Palestinian refugees under international law.
Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention explicitly states that “The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own population into the territories it occupies.” Israel has been illegally settling on Palestinian land since 1948 with impunity, and encouragement from the U.S. With his remarks today Secretary Pompeo did not address whether or not Israel violated international law, instead he indicated that international law is meaningless – which is a mark of an authoritarian regime.
The Trump Administration has given a green light to Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government to continue the annexation of Palestinian land. These actions are extreme positions that undermine any possibility of peace. These actions continue to legitimize violence and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. This will only lead to the furtherance of an Israeli apartheid state where Palestinians are treated as second class citizens.
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI). (Photo: AP/Lauren Victoria Burke)
Helena Cobban, Mondoweiss, November 14, 2019
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) recently told an audience in his Madison WI district that the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), of which he is co-chair, is planning (depending on how Israel’s government-forming works out) to send a delegation to Palestine.
“But,” he noted to applause, “the permission has to include Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.” The two first-term members are both members of the CPC.
Pocan added, “We’re also saying we have to go into Gaza. And we have some commitments from our leadership, who say they’re going to help us do this– which we never had when Paul Ryan was Speaker.”
Pocan made these comments on October 27 during the introduction he gave to Gaza-Palestinian Yousef Aljamal, who gave a speech, “Dreaming of Freedom: Palestinian Youth Under Siege and Occupation.”
The event was held at Christ Presbyterian Church in Madison, WI. The primary organizer was the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, and it had several other co-sponsors. This event was part of the nationwide speaking tour for Aljamal that Just World Ed organized under the title “Crisis in Palestine.”
Christ Presbyterian kindly made and posted a great video of the afternoon’s proceedings, which can be viewed in full here. (The images in the main part of this blogpost are all stills from the video.)
Rep. Pocan’s introductory remarks take up the first seven minutes of the video. They provide an informative indication of the degree to which support for the rights of all Palestinians is growing within the 98-member-strong CPC.
Pocan prefaced his remarks by noting that, “We get so little information out of Gaza! And under this administration, our government has caused so much damage there.”
He recalled, “Three years ago, I led the first congressional delegation ‘to Palestine’– that’s what we called it! We had five members that went with us and we saw everything we could see. And on the final day, we were set to meet up with UNRWA and go into Gaza for a day. But the night before, we had a phone call, telling us we were not allowed to go in…”
He said that he and some of the other members of the delegation decided to go to the Gaza crossing-point anyway, since their notification had not come in writing… “And while we sat there we saw some of the bulldozers and things going through to take out some of the cropland… Eventually we got our official ‘No’. But to me, an official no just means we want to go even more!”
He recalled that it had been more than a decade since Keith Ellison was the last member of Congress allowed by the Israelis to visit Gaza. (Ellison, who had been the first Muslim member of Congress, is now the Attorney General of Minnesota.)
Pocan made a point of noting a couple of positive developments. One was the CPC’s plan to organize another– probably bigger?– delegation to Palestine than the one he had led back in 2016. The other was a plan that he said is projected to launch later this month for a series of Skype sessions between members of Congress and various groups of citizens inside Gaza.
He recalled the strong impression the 2016 visit had made on him: “It really was alarming to go into downtown Hebron and other areas… But in Gaza, we don’t even have people getting in!”
Palestinian children in Gaza. (Lucy Duncan/AFSC)
Mike Merryman-Lotze, American Friends Service Committee, Nov 13, 2019
On Nov. 12, 2019 the Israeli military assassinated Baha Abu al-Ata, a leading member of Islamic Jehad in Gaza, and his wife—sparking more violence in Gaza. Shortly after the killing, Islamic Jehad fired rockets into Israel. In response, Israel has launched extensive bombing attacks on Gaza, killing at least 34 Palestinians and injuring many others. One Israeli has been injured as a result of Palestinian rockets fire. So far, Hamas has refrained from engaging in violence during this latest attack. A ceasefire was announced on Nov. 14, but bombing continued on the night of Nov. 14. If the ceasefire does not hold and Israel continues its disproportionate and deadly attacks on Gaza, there is significant risk of continued escalation.
Political action is needed now in the U.S. to protect this ceasefire and to ensure a halt to attacks on Gaza. But simply ending violence is not enough—there must be an end to the 12-year blockade of Gaza, the systematic inequality and human rights abuses faced by Palestinians, and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
Here’s what you need to know about the recent bombings:
Israel’s assassination of Baha Abu al-Ata was the start of the latest violence.
Israel has accused Abu al-Ata for a number of rocket attacks on Israel over the last several months, justifying his assassination as retaliation for those attacks. However, those attacks were carried out in the context of daily Israeli attacks on Gaza, including shooting across the boundary fence, shooting at protesters, ground incursions, shooting at fishermen, and shelling/bombing.
The Israeli government has noted that it expected a response from Gaza to the assassination, making clear that this particular escalation was purposefully started by the Israeli military.
The bombings follow more than a year of violence against Palestinians in Gaza.
Between January and September 2019, the Israeli military killed a total of 70 Palestinians in Gaza and injured 11,000 more. No Israelis were killed by Palestinians from Gaza during the same period.
Overall this year, the Israeli military has invaded Gaza on at least 54 occasions and carried out numerous airstrikes during the same period.
According to the United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs, between Oct. 15 and 28, the Israeli military opened fire toward Palestinians in the areas adjacent to Gaza’s perimeter fence and off the coast of Gaza on 28 different occasions, injuring at least two Palestinian laborers. During the same period, Israeli forces carried out four military incursions into Gaza.
In early 2018, Palestinians in Gaza began protesting in what is now known as the Great March of Return. Since the start of those largely peaceful protests, Israel has killed more than 320 Palestinians in Gaza and wounded over 36,000 more as they protested for their rights and against Israel’s occupation.
This violence is largely absent from the narratives that are already developing about this latest attack on Gaza, but it is critical that this context—and Israel’s ongoing blockade on Gaza and occupation of the Palestinian territory—be placed front and center when considering developments over the coming days or weeks.
Israel has indicated that new military actions in Gaza could last days or event weeks.
A man carries steel bars with bare hands in a yard filled with scrap metal. (Mohammed Al-Hajjar)
Amjad Ayman Yaghi, The Electronic Intifada, 15 October 2019
On 5 May, Israeli airplanes struck targets in Gaza.
The bombings came with the usual tragic consequences: 25 Palestinains were killed, among them 14 civilians. Four Israeli civilians also died in rocket fire from Gaza.
It was one of those “spikes in tensions” that for the briefest of moments shines a media spotlight on Gaza.
That spotlight didn’t stay long enough to see what else happened. As calm returned, a contractor, Muhammad Abu Jebah, gathered together a group of laborers to extract metal from the rubble of the Abu Qamar building, which was destroyed in one of the bombing raids.
Abu Jebah thinks of it as a new industry, one that arose after Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli attack on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009, and one that illustrates the lengths to which Palestinians in Gaza have to go to survive.
Trucks and bulldozers move in first to clear the rubble. Then a team of men filter through the building to smash concrete and extract the metal inside.
Once that is done, they realign the metal and reconstitute any large stones.
It is backbreaking hand-scarring work. It is also potentially toxic, according to environmentalists.
But it is necessary since Israel is prohibiting steel and other building materials from entering Gaza.
“Most of the men working for me feed a dozen or so relatives,” Abu Jebah told The Electronic Intifada. It is desperate work for desperate people, he conceded. “It is the economic circumstances that has driven people to do these jobs.”
Abu Jebah has been doing this work ever since the Israeli offensive which began in December 2008. Despite the inherent dangers, he considers his activities to innovative. They started as a clearing operation before morphing into a recycling business.
But the process is more than simply hard work. According to Ahmed Hilles, an environmental scientist at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, material from destroyed buildings can contain pollutants that are hazardous both to people and the environment.
Hilles has done some testing on samples of the concrete in the rubble. He found traces of nickel, lead and arsenic, as well as explosive materials
“These are dangerous to those working in recycling destroyed building concrete or extracting metal,” Hilles told The Electronic Intifada, though he qualified this by noting that due to import restrictions, screening abilities in Gaza are not entirely reliable.
Hilles, who is also in charge of the public awareness department at the Palestinian Authority’s environment quality office, monitors the harm caused by the Israeli occupation, especially in instances when buildings or agricultural land are shelled.
During the 2014 attack on Gaza, the Palestinian Authority’s environment department asked the UN to send a delegation to Gaza with equipment to test materials Israel was using to measure their impact on the environment and people.
US Boats to Gaza is committed to human rights for Palestinians
An International Coalition Of 14 Countries And Organizations Dedicated To Breaking The Illegal Israeli Blockade of Gaza
45% of the 2 million people who live in Gaza are children under the age of 15. 70% of Gazans are refugees from other parts of Palestine, forced from their homes in the West Bank 70 years ago by Israeli militias. Yet the world stands by as the illegal and inhumane Israeli blockade limits electricity to just a few hours a day, makes 90% of water undrinkable, and denies access to food and medical supplies.
US Boats to Gaza is dedicated to bringing international attention to the illegal Israeli blockade on Gaza, until the world stands for human rights for Palestinians.