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
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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!

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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.

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Israel no longer bothers with the illusion of legal proceedings

Israel is so confident of its ability to expel Palestinian communities that it no longer even bothers to create the illusion of legal proceedings

B’Tselem, November 22, 2017

Over the past month, the state has informed three Palestinian communities that it intends to expel them from their homes and land. The notification was made by leaving orders on the roadside.

In the northern Jordan Valley, on 9 November 2017 the state notified two communities – Umm a-Jamal and Ein al-Hilweh – that they must leave their homes within eight days. These communities total 20 families, five of whom live in the area on a seasonal basis. The total number of residents is 130, including 66 youths and children under the age of 18.

In the Ma’ale Adumim area, on 16 November 2017 the state informed the residents of Jabal al-Baba that they must leave their homes within eight days. This community numbers about 60 families, and has a total of 284 residents, including 151 youths and children under the age of 18.

Israel has acted for years to expel communities around the West Bank. In the past, its efforts were based mainly on military orders concerning planning and building. However, the proceedings concerning such orders are protracted and require the precise mapping of the land and buildings, as well as the issuing of separate demolition orders for each building.

Now the state has found a new mechanism it hopes will enable it to circumvent such proceedings and accelerate the expulsion of residents: the “Order concerning Unauthorized Buildings (Temporary Provision) (Judea and Samaria) (No. 1539), 5744-2003.” This order was originally intended for the expulsion of settlers from “outposts” established around the West Bank, although the state very rarely used it for this purpose. The order allows the Military Commander to declare an area in the West Bank a “confined area,” and to order the eviction of all property in that area. On this basis of this order, GOC Central Command Major-General Roni Numa signed the new orders concerning the Palestinian communities.

It seems that Israel is so confident in its ability to expel entire villages without incurring judicial or international criticism that it is no longer bothering to create even the illusion of legal proceedings. However, the difference between the proceedings is purely technical. The planning and building proceedings never stopped the state; even if they managed to postpone expulsion, they never removed the threat of expulsion from thousands of people. Over many years, thousands of Palestinians in dozens of communities have lived under a constant and real threat. The state has refused to regulate their status, allow them to connect to the water and electricity infrastructure, establish educational institutions for their children, pave roads to their living areas, and maintain a reasonable living routine.

The state has recently declared its intention to expel two additional communities over the coming months – Susiya in the southern Hebron Hills and Khan al-Ahmar close to Ma’ale Adumim. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced that in the absence of opposition from the American Administration, these communities will be expelled by April 2018. The expulsion proceedings against these communities have continued for years before the Supreme Court, which has refrained from prohibiting their expulsion.

Whatever the proceedings used by the state in its attempt to expel Palestinian residents from their homes, the crime is the same: the forcible transfer of a protected population, which amounts to a war crime. This is the case whether the violence used is direct or indirect, physical or administrative. Whether the expulsion is undertaken by force or by creating an intolerable reality that forces the residents to leave their homes and land – the essence is the same. All those involved in committing this crime – including the Prime Minister, Defense Minister, the justices who approve the expulsion, and the GOC who signs the orders – bear personal liability.

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Children are starving in Yemen

The White House should intervene

A Yemeni woman takes the clothes off her malnourished child. (Yahya Arhab/Epa-Efe/Rex/Shutterstock)

Editorial Board, Washington Post, November 20, 2017

IT HAS been two weeks since Saudi Arabia imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Yemen, a country already devastated by two and a half years of Saudi bombing. Before the embargo, Yemen was suffering from the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations, with 7 million people on the brink of famine and another 900,000 stricken by cholera. Those conditions have now grown far worse — and yet the Saudis persist with their siege. It is time for the Trump administration, which has indulged the Saudi leadership for too long, to intervene.

Yemen’s 28 million people depend on imports for up to 90 percent of their basic needs, including food, fuel and medicine. The vast majority of those imports come through the port of Hodeida, in northern Yemen, which along with the capital, Sanaa, is under the control of Houthi rebels. Saudi Arabia imposed the blockade after a missile allegedly fired by the Houthis came close to its capital, Riyadh. The Saudis blamed Iran for supplying the weapon, though U.N. monitors in Yemen say they have not seen convincing evidence of that.

U.N. humanitarian officials warned that the shutdown would quickly lead to an emergency. Now their predictions are coming true. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Sanaa, Hodeida and three other crowded cities — with 2.5 million people in all — have lost access to clean drinking water because of a lack of fuel. One million children are at risk from an incipient diphtheria epidemic because vaccines are out of reach on U.N. ships offshore. According to Rasha Muhrez, Save the Children’s director of operations in Yemen, several governates are down to a five-day supply of the fuel needed to operate flour mills, without which the millions dependent on food handouts will starve. “This blockage has cut off the lifeline of Yemen,” Ms. Muhrez told us.

Last week the Saudis began allowing limited humanitarian imports through the southern port of Aden, which is controlled by their Yemeni allies. But that is not adequate access. That’s why three U.N. agencies — the World Health Organization, the World Food Program and UNICEF — issued a joint statement last Thursday saying that the continued shutdown of other ports and airports “is making an already catastrophic situation far worse.” A confidential report by U.N. monitors, seen by Reuters, went further, saying the Saudis were violating a 2015 U.N. Security Council resolution on Yemen by obstructing humanitarian assistance.

The Trump administration, through the State Department, has objected to the ongoing blockade and called for “unimpeded access” for humanitarian supplies. But many in Yemen suspect, with some reason, that the White House is tolerating, if not encouraging, the crime. Shortly before the siege was announced, Jared Kushner paid a visit to Saudi Arabia and reportedly met late into the evening with Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince. Even if it was unaware of the subsequent crackdown, the White House has the leverage to put a stop to it. It should act immediately, or it will be complicit in a crime against humanity.

December 5, 2017
Rabbi Arik Ascherman speaks on “A Torah of Justice for Israel”

First Unitarian Society
Landmark Auditorium
900 University Bay Drive, Madison
7:00 pm

Rabbi Arik Ascherman has dedicated his life to upholding the Jewish tradition of universal human rights, winning victories for Palestinians and unemployed Israelis alike, and sometimes placing himself in physical danger. After leading Rabbis For Human Rights for 21 years, Rabbi Ascherman recently founded Torat Tzedek/Torah of Justice.

In addition to speaking generally about Torat Tzedek, he will focus on some of the communities in Israel and Palestine that are in immediate danger, and reflect more broadly on the challenge of power, and whether Israel can still be called a democracy.

Free & open to the public. Donations will be graciously accepted to support Torat Tzedek.

Co-sponsored by First Unitarian Society, J Street Madison, the Bethlehem Project of the Wisconsin Conference, United Church of Christ; Jewish Voice for Peace Madison Chapter; Shaarei Shamayim Inclusive Jewish Community; Bright Stars of Bethlehem; and Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

December 10, 2017
Moving Past Hate

United-Against-Hate-flyer-FINAL

 

It’s been five years since the attack on the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, when the calm of a Sunday on August 5, 2012, was shattered by a White Supremacist Gunman killing six innocent people and wounded others. This gunman was a member of a hate group founded by Arno Michaelis.

Please join us on December 10, 2017 at the Monona Terrace from 1:30 to 4:30 pm (door opens at 1:00PM), to hear how Arno and the victim’s son and family members came together for peaceful reconciliation and humankind.

Protect the right to boycott Israel in Wisconsin

Barbara Olson and Tsela Barr, Wisconsin State Journal, November 11, 2017

Barbara OlsonTsela Barr
Gov. Scott Walker just issued an executive order prohibiting current or future state contracts with any “business entity” that engages in the constitutionally protected right to boycott Israel for its human rights violations.

Republicans are pushing two similar bills in the state Legislature that would compel individuals as well as companies to support Israel if they want to do business with local or state government agencies. The provisions against boycotts, divestment and sanctions (often referred to as BDS) are to be written into contracts, and long-standing low-bidder requirements are to be superseded.

Our state politicians are not alone in singling out Israel — including the Palestinian territories it illegally occupies by military force — for this special status. In Congress, the proposed “Israel Anti-Boycott Act” would make it a felony to choose not to engage in commerce with companies doing business in Israel and its illegal settlements. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, violations would be punishable by a civil penalty that could reach $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.

Such laws, resolutions and executive orders have been sprouting like mushrooms after the rain. Twenty-four U.S. states now have them on the books. Nationally, Republicans and some Democrats have gotten on board thanks to well-funded efforts by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Bipartisanship may be dead when it comes to things the American people really need, but not when it comes to government overreach on behalf of the foreign state of Israel.

The absurd and dangerous consequences are becoming increasingly clear. Last month, people in a Houston suburb were required to sign an anti-BDS pledge to receive hurricane relief. (Individuals, but not companies, were eventually freed from this requirement after protests.)

And a Kansas math teacher who refused to sign an anti-BDS pledge was de-selected from a position in a state-funded teacher training program. A Mennonite, she follows her church policy to avoid purchasing goods and services from Israeli companies and those doing business with Israeli settlements. (Apparently, religious freedom exempts you from the law to provide women’s reproductive health services, but not from the duty to support Israel.) She is now suing the state of Kansas.

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November 9 – Global Day of Action: A World without Walls

Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall)

From Israel’s apartheid Wall on Palestinian land to the US Wall of Shame on indigenous land at the border with Mexico – Walls are monuments of expulsion, exclusion, oppression, discrimination and exploitation. As people affected by these walls and as movements that pose justice, freedom and equality as our tools to resolve the problems of this planet, we join the call for the 9th of November as a Global Day of Action for a World without Walls.

 

Read and endorse the Call for Action below. 


Follow us on facebook to keep updated about the global mobilisation.

Click here to endorse the Global Call for Action. 


Register here for a FOSNA livestream of two workshops November 10 and 11 from the SOA Watch Border Encuentro in Tucson.

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