2 Million Palestinians Denied due to Closure of Gaza Border Crossing

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights, June 19, 2017

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) follows up with concern and sorrow the deterioration of humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip due to the ongoing Israeli closure imposed on the movement of persons from and to the Gaza Strip, in addition to the additional restrictions imposed at Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing that denies over 95% of the Gaza Strip population from traveling to the West Bank and abroad. The closure of Rafah International Crossing Point at the Egyptian borders has been ongoing for over 3 months, inflicting more suffering over the Gaza Strip population, especially thousands of humanitarian cases whose health conditions aggravated or their business obstructed. There are over 30,000 persons waiting for the crossing to reopen, most of them are patients who have no proper treatment at Gaza hospitals; university students in Egypt and abroad; and holders of residence permits or visas in countries abroad.

According to PCHR’s follow-up, the Rafah International Crossing Point has been closed for 156 days since the beginning of this year, while it was open for 10 days in both directions and for 4 days for persons only returning to Gaza. During this period, around 6,209 persons were able to travel while 9,052 persons returned to Gaza. The same period last year witnessed the closure of the crossing for 173 days, while it was open for 9 days. During that period, around 6,595 persons were able to travel via the crossing, while 2,822 persons returned to the Gaza Strip. As a result of the closure, the health conditions of hundreds of patients, who had received referrals for treatment in Egyptian hospitals, deteriorated. In addition, thousands of other persons and families, including university students, holders of residence permits in countries abroad, and businessmen, experienced hardships as a result.

PCHR realizes that the current suffering endured by the Gaza Strip population goes back mainly to the illegal and inhumane Israeli closure imposed on Gaza for the 11th consecutive year, which constitutes a collective punishment against 2 million Palestinians. The Gaza Strip is a part of the occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt) under the international humanitarian law. Therefore, Israel as an occupying power is responsible for the main obligations towards the population of the occupied territory. Accordingly, the Israeli occupying authorities should declare ending the illegal closure immediately and allow the freedom of movement of individuals and goods, as the closure constitutes a grave violation of the international humanitarian law and amounts to a crime against humanity. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions 1949 to oblige the occupying authorities to abide by the rules of international humanitarian law and to open all border crossings of the Gaza Strip, including Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing, without any restrictions like age restrictions, because Erez is the only crossing that gives importance to the geographical unity between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem, so it would allow the Gaza Strip residents to move freely between Palestinian cities and travel abroad.

PCHR is aware of the security situation in Sinai and understands the security measures taken by Egypt to preserve its sovereignty and national security. PCHR takes in consideration the significant role played by Egypt towards the Gaza Strip population to alleviate their suffering, including opening Rafah crossing and allowing them to move and travel freely. PCHR demands Egypt to respond to the humanitarian needs of the Gaza Strip population and to provide the necessary facilitations for their travel and transportation to and from the Gaza Strip via Egypt, especially in view of the illegal closure imposed on the Gaza Strip.

A letter from Gaza to the Natives of Standing Rock

Israa Suliman, WE ARE NOT NUMBERS, November 15, 2016

Dear Native Americans,

Although we are of different color, religion, culture and place, I have learned, as I read about the protests at Standing Rock, that we have much more in common than differences. When I read your history, I can see myself and my people reflected in yours. I feel in my core that your fight is my fight, and that I am not alone in the battle against injustice.

My ancestors were not the only ones who lived in Palestine. Jews, Christians and Arabs all lived side by side in my country. But my ancestors—including my grandparents and great-grandparents—were the indigenous people, just like you. And they suffered the same fate as your people. America's policy of occupation and displacement through forced marches like the Trail of Tears, and the gradual transfer of so many of your people to massive, impoverished reservations, hurts me deeply because it is so similar to the ethnic cleansing of my ancestors by the Israeli military occupation in what we call “al-Nakba” (the catastrophe). We know what you know: that our land is sacred.

In 1948, my ancestors—along with nearly a million other Palestinians—were frightened away or forced off their lands, in some cases at gunpoint. More than 10,000 others were massacred. Hundreds of our villages and cities were completely destroyed in a systemic plan to erase our identity—just as yours has been under continuing assault.

Native Americans' Trail of Tears
Trail of Tears

Palestine today is just 22 percent of our original homeland. Like you, some of my people (an estimated 1.5 million) must live in degrading “camps” (our word for reservations), where living conditions are "comparable to the Third World." Like your reservations, they are characterized by high rates of unemployment, poverty and suicide.

Many other Palestinians (about 6 million)—now including descendants of the original residents—are scattered elsewhere around the world, just as yours are around the United States. Today, not only has the military occupation taken over our land and declared it "the state of Israel," but it continues to carry on a policy of expulsion, demolishing Palestinian houses in the little bit of land we retain, building illegal settlements and preventing free movement with a network of “security checkpoints.”

Nakba
The Palestinian Nakba

Like you, we don’t control our natural resources. Just as you were not consulted about the Dakota Access Pipeline that will traverse your land and contaminate your water supply if installed, we are not consulted by Israel, which wants to mine the gas supply in our harbor for its own use and monopolizes the water supply in the West Bank for the green lawns of its own residents—leaving Palestinians parched and dry. In Gaza, where I live, only 10 percent of our water supply is drinkable due to the conditions in which we must live. We too know that “water is life.”

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Breaking Ground at Cinema Hebron

Rabbi Brant Rosen, Shalom Rav, July 17, 2016

This past Friday, I had the honor to participate in an incredible, unprecedented mass action of civil disobedience in the H2 section of Hebron – in the heart of Israel's unjust and illegal occupation.

I'll start with a little bit of history:

In 1968, a year after Israel conquered the West Bank, a group of radical religious settlers led by Rabbi Moshe Levinger, led a group of followers to a hotel in Hebron – with the government’s support – to observe a Passover seder. When it was over, they refused to leave; and following a negotiation with the government, they were allowed to create a settlement to the east of Hebron that they named Kiryat Arba Since that time, Jewish settlers gradually moved into Hebron proper. Over the years tension gradually increased in Hebron. Things changed drastically in 1995 after Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Muslim worshippers in the Ibrahimi mosque. Fearful of reprisals, the IDF imposed increasing curfews and restriction of movement on the Palestinian population.

In 1996, as part of the Oslo agreement, Hebron was divided into two sections: H1 and H2. H1 is locally governed by the Palestinian Authority and is home to approximately 120,000 Palestinians. Tens of thousands of Palestinians live in H2 along with 600 Jewish settlers. Since the Second Intifada, Israel increased their security crackdown on this part of the city, blocking off major streets to Palestinians – most notably the main commercial road, Shuhadah Street. (The army refers to them as “sterile roads”).

Virtually every Palestinian shop in H2 has been closed and their doors welded shut by the army. Because the Palestinian residents of Shuhadah St. are not allowed to walk on the road, they must enter and exit through the rear of homes because they cannot leave their own front doors. Because of these measures – and the ongoing harassment and violence at the hands of Jewish settlers – what was once the busting commercial center of Hebron has become a ghost town. 42% of its Palestinian homes are empty and 70% of its Palestinian business have been shut down.

We visited Hebron earlier this week and it was a truly chilling experience. Our group went on a tour led by Breaking the Silence, an organization of Israeli army veterans who are speaking out about the abuses the IDF are committing in Hebron. I did a BTF tour in 2008 during my first real foray into the reality of contemporary Hebron. Today, the situation there is even more dire if such a thing is possible.

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FREEDOM TO MOVE, FREEDOM TO BOYCOTT

Jewish Voice for Peace

On May 9th, 2016 the Israeli government confirmed that it has refused to renew travel documents for Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement — a nonviolent, Palestinian-led movement for equality, freedom, and justice.

This is a blatant act of political repression that effectively imposes a travel ban on Barghouti. Why? Because he publicly organizes for Palestinian human rights.

Send a message to Secretary John Kerry: the U.S. must intervene to stop attacks on human rights activists!

ADD MY NAME

Israel’s Global War Web and a One-State Solution

Jeff Spitzer-Resnick, The Progressive, May 10, 2016

Jeff Halper, anthropologist and Israeli peace activist, does not shy from unconventional positions. In his latest book, “War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification,” he argues that nations around the world allow Israel to continue its repression of Palestinians because they benefit from Israeli technology and security support to pacify their own people.

Halper lays out how Israel provides military and security technology across the globe and has developed an international military and security web that has engendered often unexpected support from around the world, including from China and India. He argues that Israel has used the Palestinian territories as a laboratory for this military and security technology, which it now proffers worldwide.

Halper still sees a way forward to peace.

Co-founder and Director of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolition (ICAHD), Halper was born in Hibbing, Minnesota, engaged in anti-Vietnam war protests, and then emigrated to Israel in 1973, where he has lived and engaged in peace activism ever since. He is currently on a book tour, which included a stop in Madison, Wisconsin.

Until about five years ago, Halper believed that the much-touted two-state solution, through which an independent Palestine would be created out of the West Bank and Gaza, was the pathway to a just and peaceful resolution. But he now believes Israel has intentionally made this solution impossible with its ever-expanding settlements in the West Bank.

At the time of the Oslo accords in 1993, he notes, there were 200,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank. That number doubled by the year 2000, and currently there are 600,000 settlers there. Israeli building plans project a settler population of about 1 million in the foreseeable future.

In Halper’s view, the current state of affairs amounts to the warehousing of Palestinians, and that most Israelis do not approve of the radical settlers (90 percent of settlers are not political, but merely seeking cheap subsidized housing). His proposed solution for the future of IsraelPalestine (he combines the name into one word): a bi-national democratic state that would recognize the importance and viability of both the Jewish and Palestinian people. He proposes that citizens would get two votes for members of a bicameral legislature, one vote for a democratically elected house, and the other vote for a house whose purpose would be to protect the rights of each people from a possible tyranny of the majority.

Israel does not currently have a constitution, so Halper believes that to make a bi-national state work, a constitution would need to be adopted to protect the integrity and rights of both peoples.

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