Gaza City in the spotlight: hesitant hope in a city where everyone still wants out

As the UN’s day of solidarity with Palestinians nears, Gazans have restored a hesitant bustle

Miriam Berger, The Guardian, Saturday 25 November 2017

Fishermen off the coast of Gaza City, which is home to a 5,000-year-old port. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian
Fishermen off the coast of Gaza City, which is home to a 5,000-year-old port. (David Levene, The Guardian)

Today Medinat Ghazzah, or Gaza City, is running on empty – and yet still going. Gaza City, the Gaza Strip’s principal urban centre, carries various scars of war. Since 2006, Gaza has endured one civil war between Palestinians, three wars between the ruling Hamas militant group and Israel, a decade of Hamas’ repressive rule, and a crushing blockade by neighbouring Israel and Egypt – all of which have crippled the economy and turned the tiny territory into a site of humanitarian crisis.

Gaza City’s dusty buildings and bumpy roads, many still damaged or half-rebuilt from the last war, are at times reminiscent of facades found in Egypt and the Palestinian West Bank. But it is the crushing monotony and suffocating limits of life that define the city for residents who have walked the same streets for a decade without a chance of getting out. Still, the city carries on, with coffee shops, traffic, clothes stores, restaurants and even a new upscale mall offering diversions for those who can afford them.

Palestinians attend Friday noon prayer beneath the fallen minaret during the 2014 war.Palestinians attend Friday noon prayer beneath the fallen minaret during the 2014 war.

The city’s framework, like the rest of Gaza, is innately tied up with politics. Gaza was once part of Britain’s Mandate Palestine. Then came Egyptian occupation in 1948, followed by Israeli in 1967. Now, for the last decade, Hamas, which the European Union has designated as terrorist group, has ruled the tiny territory while Israel controls most borders.

Limited visitors

This month – on 29 November – brings the United Nations international day of solidarity with Palestinians. Gazans, however, don’t see much of the international community these days. That’s in part because Israel strictly limits entry to the Gaza Strip, with mainly journalists (Israelis and Palestinians excluded) and aid and development workers allowed through. Even then, UN bodies and NGOs working in Gaza constrain much of the movement of their foreign staff due to security protocols. Along Gaza City’s highly polluted coast are two expensive hotels that are considered the “safe zone” where aid workers and many journalists stay.

The five-star Arcmed al-Mashta Hotel, built in 2011The five-star Arcmed al-Mashta Hotel, built in 2011

Facing an ineffective and corrupt government, the UN and NGOs have stepped in. Gazans are grateful – but know they can do better and mistrust the politics that dictates where funds are directed. Around much of Gaza are signs thanking Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates for funding reconstruction projects. But the Arab countries have pledged far more for reconstruction than they’ve actually delivered, while many Gazans feel acutely abandoned by the Arab states and international community, and know new buildings still go first to those with Hamas connections.

Gaza City in numbers

40 – rank of Gaza city in 2014 list of most densely populated cities worldwide. At the time, the population of Gaza City and surrounding area was estimated at 750,000.

360 – square kilometers covered by the Gaza Strip, about the size of Detroit.

80 – percentage of families in Gaza who receive some sort of aid.

44 – percentage official unemployment rate in Gaza; for those aged 15-29, the rate rises to 60%.

3 – number of hours of electricity generated by Gaza’s only working electricity plant at a severe low point this summer. For the last few years Gaza has averaged around at most eight hours a day of electricity.

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New Palestine 101 video! – US Campaign for Palestinian Rights

Anna Baltzer, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, 29 Nov 2017

Have you ever heard anyone say that the issue of Palestine/Israel is “complicated?” We have, and now there is a video to debunk it.

Today, on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and the 70th anniversary of the United Nation’s (UN) partition of Palestine, we are releasing a short video showing what Palestinians and their allies have known all along: it’s not that complicated.

Watch, and then share, Palestine 101: Not That Complicated on Facebook and Twitter.

The state of affairs – apartheid – on the ground in Palestine/Israel today is not too complicated to understand. It is, quite simply, a continuation of the ongoing and unwavering process of Zionist settler colonization.

70 years ago today, the UN proposed partitioning Palestine against the will of the native Palestinian population, emboldening Zionist militias to create a Jewish state by force, including through the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Today is just one of four significant anniversaries for Palestinians this year: 2017 also marked 100 years since the Balfour Declaration, 50 years since the beginning of Israel’s illegal military occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and ten years since the imposition of the siege on Gaza. All of those anniversaries point to the undisguised settler colonial nature of the Zionist project.

Palestine 101: Not That Complicated can help folks both familiar and unfamiliar with the issue understand the ongoing process of Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine, and the legacy of Palestinian resistance to the colonization of their homeland.

You can learn more about the dynamic history of that same Palestinian resistance on Dec. 9. On the 35th anniversary of the 1987 intifada, we are hosting a webinar that will cover the rich history of Palestinian resistance, from the general strike of 1936 to hiding cows from Israeli soldiers in 1987.

From the Arab Revolt to the Intifadas to BDS: 100+ Years of Palestinian Resistance
Saturday, Dec. 9 | 10:00 AM PT / 1:00 PM ET
Register here!

Featuring Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, author of Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment, Nadia Hijab of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, and Abdulrahman Abunahel, Gaza Regional Coordinator for the BDS National Committee

Both the video and webinar are part of Together We Rise: Palestine as a Model of Resistance, our political education curriculum designed to provide critical voices, context, and resources to strengthen liberation struggles from the US to Palestine. Together We Rise includes 101 resources on Palestine, skill-building tools, outlines how US and Israeli colonialism and racism are connected, and what we can learn from Palestinian, Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and other freedom struggles.

What was true in 1917 is still true in 2017: a Jewish state was made possible through the violent removal of native Palestinians and resettlement of Jewish people in their place. Today, educate yourself on the issue by watching and sharing Palestine 101, and registering for the Dec. 9 webinar outlining more than a century of Palestinians fighting for freedom, justice, and equality.

December 2, 2017
Fair Trade Holiday Festival

Monona Terrace Convention Center
1 John Nolen Drive, Madison
9 am to 4 pm

Come do your holiday shopping with Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, Playgrounds for Palestine-Madison and 54 other vendors selling fair trade products from around the world!

MRSCP and PfP will be selling Palestinian olive oil in several sizes, olive oil soap, zaatar, “Playgrounds” brand Fair Trade Coffee, a great NEW selection of ceramics from Hebron, Hirbawi kuffiyehs, earrings, our beautiful Palestinian embroidered scarves, shawls, purses, bookmarks, and more.

We will also be accepting donations to benefit a deaf children’s classroom at the Atfaluna Society for the Deaf in Gaza City, which produces many of our embroidery and wood crafts items.

The Festival will feature items from the SlaveFree Madison’s Fashion Show “Saving the World, One Accessory at a Time”.

FREE! Bring your friends & family to this one-of-a-kind event!
More info? Visit fairtrademadison.org/ or facebook.com/fairtradeholidayfestival/

Israel and the US are trying to prevent publication of a ‘blacklist’ of companies doing business in the West Bank

Israel West BankBusiness Insider/Julie Bort

Josef Federman, Josh Lederman, Jamey Keaten, Business Insider, November 27, 2017

  • Israel and the Trump Administration are working “feverishly” to prevent a database of companies that operate in Israel’s West Bank settlements from being published.
  • Dozens of major names are expected to appear on the list, including 100 local companies and 50 international companies, mostly from the US and Europe.
  • The UN’s top human rights body, the Human Rights Council, ordered the compilation of the database in March 2016.

JERUSALEM (AP) — Weeks ahead of the expected completion of a U.N. database of companies that operate in Israel’s West Bank settlements, Israel and the Trump Administration are working feverishly to prevent its publication.

While Israel is usually quick to brush off U.N. criticism, officials say they are taking the so-called “blacklist” seriously, fearing its publication could have devastating consequences by driving companies away, deterring others from coming and prompting investors to dump shares of Israeli firms. Dozens of major Israeli companies, as well as multinationals that do business in Israel, are expected to appear on the list.

“We will do everything we can to ensure that this list does not see the light of day,” Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Danny Danon, told The Associated Press.

The U.N.’s top human rights body, the Human Rights Council, ordered the compilation of the database in March 2016, calling on U.N. rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein to “investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on Palestinians.”

The international community overwhelmingly considers the settlements, built on occupied land claimed by the Palestinians for a future state, to be illegal. Israel rejects such claims, citing the land’s strategic and religious significance, and says the matter should be resolved in negotiations.

Israeli officials say that about 100 local companies that operate in the West Bank and east Jerusalem have received warning letters that they will be on the list. In addition, some 50 international companies, mostly American and European, also have been warned.

The companies have not been publicly identified, but one official said they include Israeli banks, supermarkets, restaurant chains, bus lines and security firms, as well as international giants that provide equipment or services used to build or maintain settlements. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

The only company to confirm receiving a warning letter has been Bezeq, Israel’s national telephone company. Bezeq’s chief executive, Stella Handler, posted a copy of the letter sent by Zeid’s office in September on her Facebook page. It accused Bezeq of using West Bank land for infrastructure, providing phone and Internet services to settlements and operating sales offices in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Handler angrily wrote that Bezeq provides service to all customers, regardless of race or where they live.

“The council’s bias against Israel is so extreme that it has lost all relevance in the world,” she wrote. “We will not cooperate with a move that is all in all anti-Israeli propaganda.”

But hours later, Handler removed the post, saying she had done so at the request of the government. The Israeli official confirmed the government has asked companies not to speak about the issue. Bezeq declined comment.

Israel has long accused the United Nations, and particularly the rights council, of being biased against it.

Israel is the only country that faces an examination of its rights record at each of the council’s three sessions each year. Some 70 resolutions, or about quarter of the council’s country-specific resolutions, have been aimed at Israel. That is nearly triple the number for the second-place country: Syria, where hundreds of thousands have been killed in a devastating six-year civil war.

Israeli leaders and many non-governmental groups also complain that some of the world’s worst violators of human rights, including Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Congo and Cuba, sit on the council.

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Stop Violence against Women and Girls,

PCHR’s Women Unit Starts 16 Days of Activism Campaign to End Violence

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), November 26, 2017

 

On Sunday, 26 November 2017, the Women Unit at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) has started the first activities of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign to end Violence against women and girls. The Unit held a legal awareness lecture on violence against women and girls in al-Jaleel High School for Girls, targeting the 11th Grade students.

Mona al-Shawa, Head of PCHR’s Women’s Unit, welcomed the students and reviewed PCHR’s work and the 16 Days of Activism Campaign to end Violence against women. The campaign starts on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and ends on 10 December, which marks the International Day for Human Rights. Al-Shawa explained the close link between women’s rights and human rights in general, and that this campaign is an international campaign that activates this time of year in most countries of the world to raise awareness of violence by moving it from private to public sphere and to call for providing protection women and girls. Al-Shawa also stressed the importance of raising girls and high school students’ awareness of violence, its forms and causes and how to eliminate violence.

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Majedah Shehahdah, Researcher at the Women’s Unit, explained the concept of violence against women and girls as defined in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, which was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1993. Shehahdah discussed the most significant forms of violence practiced in the Palestinian society against women and girls and the reasons behind it. She also highlighted the mechanisms to reduce violence against women and girls in the Palestinian society and the importance to provide protection for them.

The female Students interacted with the topic and recounted the most prominent forms of violence prevailing in the Palestinian society, including verbal and physical violence in addition to the early marriage phenomenon and depriving women of inheritance rights and etc.

By the end of the lecture, the students praised the importance of raising students’ awareness of violence against women and girls and called for holding further awareness lectures that would target young girls and students in secondary schools.

It should be noted that the Women Right’s Unit will hold more awareness lectures on violence in a number of secondary schools for girls in Gaza city over the next two weeks.