The Ongoing Dread in Gaza: So Many Names, So Many Lives

Kathy Kelly, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, July 23, 2019

“I felt shaky and uneasy all day, preparing for this talk” – Jehad Abusalim, a Palestinian from the territory of Gaza

Jehad Abusalim, a Palestinian now living in the United States, grew up in Gaza. In Chicago last week, addressing activists committed to breaking the siege of Gaza, he held up a stack of 31 papers. On each page were names of 1,254 Palestinians living in Gaza who had been killed in just one month of Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” attacks five years ago.

“I felt shaky and uneasy all day preparing for this talk,” he told the group. He described his dismay when, looking through the list of names, he recognized one; of a young man from his small town.

“He was always friendly to me,”Abusalim said. “I remember how he would greet me on the way to the mosque. His family and friends loved him, respected him.”

Abusalim recalled the intensity of losing loved ones and homes of seeing livelihoods and
infrastructure destroyed by aerial attacks of being unable to protect the most vulnerable. He said it often takes ten years or more before Palestinian families traumatized by Israeli attacks can begin talking about what happened. Noting Israel’s major aerial attacks in 2009, 2013, and 2014, along with more recent attacks killing participants in the “Great March of Return,” he spoke of ongoing dread about what might befalal Gaza’s children the next time an attack happens.

Eighty people gathered to hear Abusalim& and Retired Colonel Ann Wright, of US Boats to Gaza, as they helped launch the “Free Gaza Chicago River Flotilla,” three days of action culminating on July 20 with a spirited demonstration by “kayactivists” and boaters, along with onshore protesters, calling for an end to the siege of Gaza. Wright resigned from her post as a U.S. diplomat when the United States launched the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing of Iraq. Having participated in four previous international flotillas aiming to defy Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza’s shoreline, Wright is devoting her energies preparing for a fifth in 2020.

Another organizer and member of US Boat to Gaza, Elizabeth Murray, who like Wright formerly worked for the U.S. government, recalled being in a seminar sponsored by a prestigious think tank in Washington, D.C., when a panel member compared Israeli attacks against Palestinians with routine efforts to “mow the lawn.” She recounted hearing a light tittering as the D.C. audience members expressed amusement. But, Murray said, “Not a single person objected to the panelist’s remark.” This was in 2010, following Israel’s 2009 Operation Cast Lead, which killed 1,383 Palestinians, 333 of whom were children.

Abusalim’s colleague at the American Friends Service Committee, Jennifer Bing, had cautioned Chicago flotilla planners to carefully consider the tone of their actions. A colorful and lively event during a busy weekend morning along Chicago’s popular riverfront could be exciting and, yes, fun.

But Palestinians in Gaza cope with constant tension, she noted. Denied freedom of movement, they live in the world’s largest open-air prison, under conditions the United Nations has predicted will render their land uninhabitable by 2020. Households get four to six hours of electricity per day. According to UNICEF, “sewage treatment plants can’t operate fully and the equivalent of forty-three Olympic-sized swimming pools of raw or partly treated sewage is pumped into the sea every day.”

Facing cruel human rights violations on a daily basis, the organizers urge solidarity in the form of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions. U.S. residents bear particular responsibility for Israel’s military attacks against civilians, they note, as the United States has supplied Israel with billions of dollars for military buildup.

U.S. companies profit hugely from selling weapons to Israel. For example Boeing, with headquarters in Chicago, sells Israel Apache helicopters, Hellfire and Harpoon missiles, JDAM guiding systems and Small Diameter Bombs that deliver Dense Inert Metal Explosive munitions. All of these weapons have been used repeatedly in Israeli attacks on densely populated civilian areas.

During the 2009 Operation Cast Lead, I was in Rafah, Gaza, listening to children explaining the difference between explosions caused by F-16 fighter jets dropping 500-pound bombs and Apache helicopters firing Hellfire missiles.

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Hundreds Lose Shelter as Israeli Forces Destroy Housing Units in occupied East Jerusalem

Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Ref: 89/2019, July 22, 2019

On Monday morning, 22 July 2019, Israeli military forces launched a large-scale destruction operation against civilian property in Wadi al-Humus neighborhood, in Sour Baher, south of occupied East Jerusalem. Hundreds of Israeli soldiers and machinery carried out the destructions that resulted in hundreds of civilians losing their shelter. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns this crime against civilians and considers it on par for ethnic cleansing, and holds the Israeli government accountable for escalating the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). PCHR calls upon the international community to hold its legal and moral responsibility and intervene effectively to stop Israeli crimes against Palestinian civilians and to provide necessary protection.

According to PCHR’s documentation, at approximately 2:00 on Monday, 22 July 2019, hundreds of Israeli soldiers moved into Sour Baher village with dozens of construction vehicles. They stationed in Wadi al-Humus neighborhood, closed its entrances and cut all power supplies. Israeli soldiers then forcefully vacated buildings in the neighborhood, used physical violence against them and banned them from taking any of their belongings with them. At approximately 06:00, destruction machinery took to work and preliminary numbers assert that at least 8 houses and buildings were destroyed, and explosives were planted in a 10-story building in order to destroy it. The destroyed houses include:

  1. Isma’il ‘Ebeidiyah: a 2-sotry house built on 250 square meters and sheltering a 7-member family, including 5 children;
  2. Ghaleb Hawan and his son Monther: a 2-story house built on 210 square meters and sheltering a 10-member family, including 6 children;
  3. Belal al-Kiswani: a 1-story house sheltering a 5-member family, including 3 children;
  4. ‘Alaa’ ‘Amirah: a 2-story house built on 400 square meters (uninhabited)
  5. Mohammed Idris Abu Teir: a 7-story building comprised of 40 residential apartments (under-construction)
  6. Ja’afar Abu Hamed: a 1-story house (under-construction);
  7. Mohammed Salem al-Atrash: a 4-sotry building (under-construction); and
  8. ‘Ali Khalil Hamadah: a 4-sotry building (under-construction)

It should be mentioned that on 13 June 2019, the Israeli High Court approved the Israeli military’s decision to demolish 16 residential buildings comprised of 100 apartments in Wadi al-Humus neighborhood under the pretext of being near the annexation wall which was established on the village’s lands.  On 20 June 2019, the Israeli forces handed tens of residents notices to self-demolish their property by 18 July or the Israeli forces will later do so.  On 21 July 2019, the Israeli High Court rejected the appeal filed by the residents to freeze the demolition orders, and within hours the Israeli forces stormed the neighborhood and started the demolitions.

Wadi al-Humus neighborhood (area: 3,000 dunums; population: 6000) is located on the edge of Sour Baher, south of occupied East Jerusalem.  The neighbourhood is not within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries and most of its lands are classified in Area A that is under full control of the Palestinian Authority according to the Oslo Accords; thus, the buildings’ owners obtained construction licences from the Palestinian Ministry of Local Governance.  Following the construction of the annexation wall in 2003, the neighbourhood was split as some houses ended up in the Israeli side but not under jurisdiction of the Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem.

PCHR deeply condemns the Israeli forces’ violations against Wadi al-Humus neighbourhood and affirms that:

First: the international community’s silence towards the Israeli violations, especially the destruction of an entire neighbourhood and displacement of its residents, reflects the inability of international bodies to protect international humanitarian law, as well as hundreds of United Nations resolutions issued over the past seven decades relevant to the Palestinian cause.

Second: PCHR reiterates that the Israeli judicial system, including the High Court, acts in support of the occupation and legitimizes its violations of IHL when the issues concern Palestinian victims.

Third: PCHR stresses that East Jerusalem is an occupied territory, and all measures taken by Israel since 1967 do not change its legal status as an occupied territory.

Fourth: Article (49) of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention prohibited the Individual or mass forcible transfer or deportation of persons from their places of residence, unless it was for their own interest, such as protecting them from the dangers of armed conflicts. Article 7.1.d of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court stipulates that Deportation or forcible transfer of population be considered a crime against humanity when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population. This is also emphasized in articles 6, 7, and 8 of the Rome Statute.

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Gaza’s Little Chef



Khuloud Rabah Sulaiman, We Are Not Numbers, May 20, 2019

“I want to be one of the best chefs in the world,” says Mahmoud Abu Nada. That, despite the fact that he lives in the blockaded Gaza Strip, is just 12 years old and suffers from leukemia.

And…while he is not yet known to the world, Mahmoud has become the first child chef in Palestine, regularly working in one of Gaza’s most well-known restaurants. 

Mahmoud was diagnosed with blood cancer at the age of 8, and physicians determined he needed a bone marrow transplant. But, although the first children’s cancer department in the Gaza Strip opened in February to treat blood cancers and related diseases (which make up roughly 80 percent of malignancies among local children), bone marrow transplants and radiation still are available only outside. Experts in Italy offered to perform the procedure free of charge, and Mahmoud’s parents applied for a medical exit permit. However, Israel rejected it without any explanation.

Exit permits hard to get

The al-Mezan Center for Human rights estimates there are about 9,000 persons with cancer in Gaza, including 600 children. According to the center, more than 40 percent of these children would receive better care outside of Gaza. Yet the World Health Organization says 61 percent of permit applications for medical treatment were approved on time last year, 31 percent were answered too late or not at all, and the rest were rejected.

Mahmoud’s father cannot afford care in Egypt, and the treatment there is often substandard. Thus, Mahmoud must rely on regular pain killers, blood transfusions and chemotherapy treatments every two weeks. The boy also must stay home from school, since his body cannot fight off the infections to which he would be exposed by other pupils.

“I was overwhelmed with sadness when I had to leave school,” Mahmoud says. “But I decided not to give up, so I started homeschooling. With the help of my mum, but I do my school exams.”

Mahmoud has loved watching his mother cook since he was old enough to walk, and when he began spending so much time at home, he discovered cooking programs online. They became a way to break the boredom, and he watched them for hours. He practiced in the kitchen–imitating his mother making sandwiches and fresh juices but with his own variations. His first creation was a spin on the traditional sandwich: For his 17-year-old sister, Yasmeen, he rolled traditional taboon bread with his own tomato sauce mixed with egg, peppers, olives, mushrooms and a blend of spices.

“My siblings also always ask me to make noodles and shakshuka because they like the way I prepare them,” he adds. Shakshuka is a Palestinian dish a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers and garlic.

A chef is born

When Mahmoud first started cooking at such a young age, his father was afraid he would burn himself. But he soon changed his mind.   

“My father thought about locking the kitchen at first, but then he encouraged me to keep up with my talent,” he says with a big grin.

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Two Congressional Resolutions That Won’t Advance Israeli-Palestinian Peace

Dr. James J. Zogby, July 13, 2019

In the coming week, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs will move on four bills – all of which, I believe, drive more nails in the coffin of Israeli-Palestinian peace. While two of the proposed bills are blatantly pro-Israel, it is the two more benign pieces of legislation that cause me real concern.

House Resolution 246 (HRes246) “Opposing efforts to de-legitimize the State of Israel and the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” is a non-binding resolution putting Congress on record in opposition to BDS. Unlike earlier versions, HRes246 does not impose penalties on BDS supporters nor does it conflate Israel and “areas under Israeli control” – a not too clever way designed to recognize Israeli sovereignty over West Bank settlements. For this reason, this resolution has won the support of several liberal groups and is currently co-sponsored by a bi-partisan group of 338 Members of Congress.

HRes246 also includes language calling for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “both the Israeli and Palestinian people should be able to live in safe and sovereign states, free from fear and violence, with mutual recognition.” And it “urges the Israelis and Palestinians to return to direct negotiations as the only way to achieve an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The bulk of HRes246, however, is devoted to a series of “Whereas” and “Resolved” clauses opposing BDS. These clauses mischaracterize the goals of the BDS movement, misquote the co-founder of the BDS movement; and falsely claim that BDS targets not just the State of Israel but individual Jews “who support Israel.”

HRes246 concerns me for two principal reasons:

– far from being a benign resolution, HRes246 has been correctly described by the Arab American Institute as a “transparent ploy” that delegitimizes a legal and non-violent movement that advocates for Palestinian human rights – and secures the blessing of an overwhelming majority of Congress in this effort. While this non-binding resolution does not criminalize BDS, by defaming the practices advocated by this movement and putting Congress on record in opposition to it, HRes246 opens the door to current state laws and future Congressional efforts to do so.

– HRes246’s profession of support for a two-state solution and its implication that the BDS movement is an obstacle to reaching that goal can only be described as naïve, at best, or even disingenuous. Nowhere in the resolution is there any mention of any of the obstacles posed by the Israeli Government: the 620,000 settlers living in settlements that have, by design, carved the areas West Bank open to Palestinians into non-contiguous “Bantustans”; the aggressive land grabs, demolition of Palestinian homes; the brutal behavior of the occupation authorities; the policies of both the current Israeli Government and its opposition, both of which see no place for the “viable” Palestinian State called for in HR246; or the annexationist policies currently underway in the area referred to “East Jerusalem,” having a profoundly negative impact on the lives of the 320,000 Palestinian citizens who live there.

All of this is ignored, as is Congressional complicity in these Israeli policies. Despite several past US Administrations calling on Israel to stop settlement construction, not only do they continue, but they continue with Congress’ blessing in the form of increased aid and not only no US sanctions, but not even a rebuke.

When the Palestinians have appealed to the United Nations or other international bodies like the International Criminal Court, the response of US Administrations or Congress has been to punish the Palestinians and/or the international organizations, in question.

As a result, the only recourse Palestinians have had is in the court of public opinion, hence, the BDS movement. Their successes have been greeted by Israel and now the US Congress with hysteria. Hence, the effort to delegitimize and defame the movement – with criminalization sure to follow.

The second bill before Congress is House Resolution 326 (HRes326) “Regarding efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a negotiated two-state solution.” This is also a non-binding resolution. It is currently sponsored by 144 Members of Congress and has a companion bill before the US Senate (Senate Resolution 234) that is sponsored by nine Democrats – including two presidential aspirants: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

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Occupation vacation: Palestine, settlements, and Airbnb

Diala Shamas and Ziad Alwan, The Activist Files, Episode 16

Did you know that in Palestine, Israeli settlers and companies profit off of stolen land? That’s what our Advocacy Director Nadia Ben-Youssef discusses with Staff Attorney Diala Shamas and client Ziad Alwan in the 16th episode of “The Activist Files,” where we speak about  our intervention into a case filed by Israeli settlers against Airbnb.

Diala discusses the responsibility of corporations like Airbnb to respect human rights principles and international law, as well as the status of the case now that Airbnb has decided not to de-list properties in settlements. Ziad recounts his family’s history on and personal connection to the land and explains why he decided to intervene on behalf of other Palestinian landowners in the West Bank.

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Touring the Israeli Occupation: Young U.S. Jews Get an Unflinching View


At Har Gilo, a Jewish settlement overlooking the southern West Bank, American college students get a history lesson. (Ilia Yefimovich for The New York Times)

David M. Halbfinger, The New York Times, July 10, 2019

PSAGOT, West Bank — The fun was over before the tour bus rolled into Har Gilo.

For the past week, 28 college students from the United States had been taking part in a traveling experiment billed as an alternative to Birthright Israel, whose free trips to the country have become a rite of passage for hundreds of thousands of young American Jews.

Birthright’s avoidance of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank has made it the target of angry protests by left-leaning Jewish activists. But for sheer ambition, no critique has approached this week’s attempt by the liberal lobbying group J Street to map out an alternative route for Birthright’s tours.

The organizers said they embraced Birthright’s goal of helping young American Jews connect with Israel and with their Jewishness, but that they also needed to be exposed to the realities of the occupation.

On Sunday, after several upbeat days hiking in the Galilee, learning about the kibbutz movement and bonding over buffets and Israeli pop songs, the J Street cohort took a sharp left turn into territory where Birthright does not go.

In the West Bank settlement of Har Gilo, they received a harsh history lesson from a veteran opponent of the occupation. Then they toured an impoverished, water-starved Palestinian village that Israeli settlers want to demolish, and visited the city of Hebron, where repeated outbreaks of violence have turned an entire Palestinian business district into a ghost town.

Adam DeSchriver, 21, a clarinet student at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., said he had been wowed on the trip’s first few days by the “renaissance of Hebrew culture” he discovered in Israel.

“What breaks my heart,” he said after Sunday’s eye-opening itinerary, “is seeing it at the expense of others.”

More. . .