For 11 days, Israel relentlessly bombarded the Gaza Strip, one of the most crowded places on earth, killing 232 Palestinians. Almost a quarter of those killed were minors, and more than half were not taking part in the hostilities. Many were killed at home, with nowhere to run or hide. Thousands were injured and thousands lost everything they owned. A year on, B’Tselem’s field researchers in Gaza talked to people who lost their loved ones and homes. These are their testimonies.
Enjoy our tour in the historical sites in Gaza city. Meet Abo Hanfi A-Sawwaf, Abu-Zuhair, Om-Anwar Al-Kassab; and see Omary Mosque, Al-Thahab (Gold) Market, Al-Alami’s house, and Al-Hasary herb’s shop.
We Are Not Numbers, a Project of Euro-Med Monitor, pairs Palestinian writers from across Palestine and the diaspora with international mentors who support them in writing their stories behind the numbers.
Standing Together is a grassroots movement mobilizing Jews and Palestinians from all over Israel in pursuit of peace, equality, social and climate justice. While the minority who benefit from the current status quo of occupation and inequality seek to keep us divided, we know that we — the majority — have far more in common than that which sets us apart. When we stand together, we are strong enough to fundamentally alter the existing socio-political reality. The future that we want to see — with peace and independence for Israelis and Palestinians, full equality for all citizens, and true social, economic and environmental justice — is possible. Because where there is struggle, there is hope.
Sally Abed is a staff member and an elected national leader at Standing Together. In recent years, she has become a prominent progressive Palestinian voice in Israel. Sally is a recurring guest on the Promised Podcast and the Co-host of the new podcast Groundwork – a mini series about Palestinians and Jews refusing to accept the status quo and working together for change. Here is a recent post from The Nation.
Alon-Lee Green is the National Director and a founder of Omdim Beyachad (Standing Together), the Jewish-Arab grassroots movement that mobilizes people around issues of peace, equality and social justice. He got his start organizing Israel’s first trade union of waiters in a chain of coffee-shops and went on to found Israel’s first National Waiters Union. Alon-Lee emerged as a prominent leader of Israel’s social protest movement in the summer of 2011, and subsequently served as a political adviser to Dov Khenin in the Knesset. Here is more from an interview with the American Jewish Peace Archive.
media release: Congregation Shaarei Shamayim is sponsoring this talk.
No one should go to bed with the fear that their children might drown or float away in the middle of the night. But that was the reality for many families in the besieged Gaza Strip this winter, which saw heavy rain and snowstorms across Palestine.
It was the middle of January, and a heavy rainstorm was gripping Gaza. Khadijah Abukarsh, 30, a mother of five, was only asleep for a few hours when she felt water around her.
She jumped up and ran to her kids’ room, where she found her kids soaked in water, and her youngest, Hassan, 2, almost completely submerged under water that had overtaken the house.
“I lifted him up as fast as I could, the water was coming out of his ears,” Abukarsh said, shivering as she remembered the night that her family was forced to flee their flooded home in Beit Lahia in northern Gaza for the nearest shelter, a local school a few blocks away.
“The water was over 50 centimeters high. Our house was completely flooded,” Abukarsh said. “We stayed at the shelter for two days, and slept on the floor of a classroom. It was very difficult.”
‘Our house was like a swamp’
After 13 years of siege, and four devastating wars, being in a state of crisis or disaster has become familiar for many Palestinians in Gaza.
In recent years, however, a more unfamiliar disaster has crept into the homes of many Gazan families.
As the global climate crisis continues to worsen, many Gazan families, like the Abukarsh’s, are feeling the devastating effects of climate change, which are compounded by Israel’s siege.
With an infrastructure that’s been crippled by the siege and Israeli offensives, most recently in May 2021, most Palestinians in Gaza are not prepared for what the climate crisis has brought to their doorstep.
“During the last war, due to airstrikes on our neighborhood, the foundation and walls in our house have cracked,” Abukarsh told Mondoweiss from her modest 60 square meter home.
When it rains, she said, water seeps easily through the cracks in the walls, and the tin sheet roof that covers the house.
“Every time it rains, our home becomes uninhabitable, and we have no other place to go except the nearby school,” Abukarsh said, admitting that her family’s home, despite housing seven people, is not really fit for living.
Abukarsh said that the heavy storms and floods that slammed Gaza this winter were particularly nasty for her family.
“We could not move in the house, it was like a swamp inside our rooms,” she said. “We went to seek shelter in the school just like during the war.”
Amnesty International’s new research report, Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime Against Humanity, shows that Israeli authorities impose a system of domination and oppression against the Palestinian people in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), and against Palestinian refugees. Laws, policies, and institutional practices all work to expel, fragment, and dispossess Palestinians of their land and property, and deprive Palestinians of their human rights. We conclude this treatment amounts to an institutionalized regime of oppression and domination defined as apartheid under international law.
Amnesty’s research, campaigns, advocacy, and statements pertaining to Israel are focused on the actions of the Israeli government — they are not, and never will be, a condemnation of Judaism or the Jewish people. Antisemitism is antithetical to everything Amnesty represents as a human rights organization.
On 23 February 2022, Al-Haq launched its report titled “Cultural Apartheid, Israel’s Erasure of Palestinian Heritage in Gaza”. The report builds from an investigation by the London-based research agency Forensic Architecture using advanced technologies and ‘open-source’ techniques to reconstruct one of the most significant archaeological sites in the occupied Gaza Strip.The report draws on Israel’s strategic bombing of the Gaza coastline to exemplify the erasure of Palestinian cultural heritage and the denial of the relevant human rights. Israel’s bombardments not only breach the principle of military necessity in violation of the laws of armed conflict, but also aim at gradually erasing Palestinian cultural heritage to deny the Palestinian people of their right to self-determination over their cultural resources, and by extension threatens their existence as a people. Such bombings are a gross violation of the Rome Statute, constituting war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
In the report, Al-Haq outlines that the bombing of the site may amount to a war crime and contributes to the crime against humanity of apartheid. The targeting of Palestinian cultural heritage, fundamentally affects the core of their identity and existence as a people. For example, the International Criminal Court underlines the nexus between destruction of cultural heritage and crimes against humanity, especially when the former occurs within the context of an attack against the civilian population, forms part of a state policy and is carried out in a widespread or systematic manner. Additionally, under the Rome Statute, the crime of apartheid when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against the civilian population, with knowledge of the attack, amounts to a crime against humanity.
During Israel’s military offensive on the Gaza Strip between 8 July and 26 August 2014, Al-Haq reported the complete and partial destruction of 61 and 120 mosques, in addition to the partial destruction of one church. Similarly, during the May 2021 military offensive, antiquities and cultural heritage sites were both directly targeted and indirectly damaged due to their close proximity to affected areas. In the latest military assault on the Gaza Strip between 10 and 21 May 2021, Palestinian human rights organizations reported damage to public and private properties including 124 places of worship, of which 7 were completely and 117 partially destroyed, one market which was partially destroyed, and damage to 37 tourism facilities – 6 completely and 31 partially destroyed.Al-Haq has warned of the ongoing deterioration of the situation in the Gaza Strip as a result of 14 years of prolonged closure, and four major military offensives carried out against the civilian population by Israel, the Occupying Power. The attacks on the Gaza Strip have resulted in serious humanitarian crises rendering the territory uninhabitable, and amounts to unlawful collective punishment.
Israel’s criminal enterprise in dealing with Palestinian cultural heritage is once again reflective of its overall apartheid regime perpetrated against the Palestinian people as a whole: under the veil of international legal instruments that it ratified without implementing them, Israel sets up two distinct standards tailored upon their added value to the entrenchment of the Zionist narrative over Palestinian lands. On one hand, cultural heritage sites that serve this narrative and are directly controllable by the Israeli Occupying Forces are appropriated and exploited to reinforce this narrative. On the other hand, cultural heritage sites that conflict with this narrative are, straightforwardly or not, targeted, damaged and destroyed, in an attempt to erase them from memory of people.
In light of the report and the investigation by (FA), Al-Haq call on:
• The UN Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights, Alexandra Xanthaki, to use her good offices to preserve and protect the Palestinian people’s ability to preserve, protect and develop their cultural heritage, and more specifically to request a country visit to Palestine and report on Israel’s violation of Palestinian cultural rights;
• For the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and the UN Commission of Inquiry to take into particular account Israel’s practices of indiscriminate and systematic attacks on Palestinian cultural heritage artefacts, properties and sites;
• The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and the UN Commission of Inquiry to consider attacks on cultural property as amounting to war crimes, and evaluate their crucial contribution to inhumane acts of apartheid under the Rome Statute and where relevant, the Apartheid Convention and international human rights law;
• For the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and the UN Commission of Inquiry to include Israel’s targeting of cultural heritage into the ongoing investigations, establishing links with other alleged violations under scrutiny, and to request a fact-finding mission to gather evidence of targeting of cultural heritage;
• The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to use their good offices to organize the protection of Palestinian cultural property, as per Article 33(1) of the Second Protocol to the Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict;
• Third States to recognize Israel’s unlawful destruction of Palestinian cultural heritage, primarily in Gaza, as a fundamental element that enables Israel to further its colonial project in Palestine, and to entrench its apartheid regime over the Palestinian people as a whole and their lands by erasing their cultural identity as a people;
United Nations community of States to exhort Israel to respect Palestinian cultural heritage and the Palestinian people’s cultural rights;
For international civil society to further support the Palestinian people’s struggle to preserve their cultural identity by augmenting Palestinian voices.
Judge issues an arrest warrant against Israeli anti-Apartheid activist Neta Golan
For Immediate Release
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21.2.2022, Ashdod, Israel/Palestine. An arrest warrant was issued by the magistrate court in Ashdod against Neta Golan, an Israeli antizionist activist, following her refusal to appear before the Israeli court in solidarity with Palestinian administrative detainees.
Neta Golan, an Israeli citizen and anti-apartheid activist, wrote a letter to the court in which she stated: “I do not intend to appear at the hearing to which I have been summoned regarding an indictment against me. This act is in solidarity with the 500 Palestinian administrative detainees who are currently detained without a time limit, without an indictment and without their or their lawyer’s access to the suspicions against them, who have not attended the hearings about their cases since January 1st. I join the detainees’ demand that Israel stop its extensive and cynical use of administrative detention against Palestinians. The court that allows me rights as a Jew by virtue of my ethnic origin, and does not offer the same rights to indigenous people of another origin, is part of a discriminatory system that aims to encourage the preservation of a Jewish majority between the river and the sea. The same system commits criminal acts for the purpose of maintaining a regime of control by one racial group over another racial group and their systematic oppression. This is the definition of the crime of apartheid. And I’m not willing to cooperate with this crime.”
The Judge responded by issuing an arrest warrant for Golan’s arrest and set a new hearing date for 30.5.22
“If the court imposes a prison sentence against me, during the imprisonment no physical violence will be used against me and at the end of the detention period I will be released. Even these basic rights are not given to Palestinians; for example, the two million people imprisoned for the last fifteen years in the besieged Gaza Strip, including about a million children under the age of fifteen who were born and have lived all their lives under siege and under constant threat of deadly violence. Tragically, unlike me they cannot expect to be released soon,” Neta Golan wrote.
The court case is following Neta Golan’s peaceful protest at the Gaza border as part of “Return Solidarity”, a group of Israeli anti-Zionist activists that were demonstrating at the barrier fence besieging the Gaza strip in solidarity with the Great March of Return in 2020.
Tens of thousands of donated books have started to arrive at the new location of a Gaza bookshop that was destroyed by Israeli air strikes last year, and owner Samir Mansour now plans to reopen its doors next month.
Mansour is now preparing to reopen as both a bookshop and library, in a new location less than 100 metres from the original site. The new building, which cost $340,000, needed to be gutted and remodelled, and Mansour spent $70,000 of his personal savings building wooden shelves, tiling and installing electrical supplies. All funds generated by the campaign, which was launched by human rights lawyers Mahvish Rukhsana and Clive Stafford Smith, have gone towards the project, with the blockade imposed on Gaza sending costs spiralling.
Rukhsana, an American human rights lawyer working at 3DC in London, said that book donations had flooded in from around the UK, as well as from abroad, with the first cargo container of 50,000 books arriving in the Gaza Strip last week. Shipping of the remainingbooks will follow.
“I was so happy when I saw the first shipment had arrived … I felt like a reborn phoenix,” said Mansour. “I did not expect all this support. But it was something beyond imagination and something more than wonderful.”
“He lost approximately 90,000 books in the bombing and our goal was to collect 100,000,” said Rukhsana. “We were immediately flooded with books and volunteers who wanted to donate time, vans, cargo trucks, money, and lots of books.”
A volunteer from Peterborough, Rabea Zia, helped Rukhsana manage 70 regional book drives across the UK; there were 20 book drop-off locations in London alone.
“It started in volunteers’ homes. This became a challenge because garages, kitchens and living rooms were fast flooded with books. Some people held drives in restaurants and coffee shops, which also were flooded quickly and had to be cleared regularly,” said Rukhsana. “We made an appeal for vans. Volunteers borrowed cargo vans and began clearing homes. Central storage units were rented to accommodate the growing number of books. Our garage in Ascot was fast filled with about 30,000 books. Another 20,000 came in from Scotland. Another 20,000 from Leicester, Manchester, Croydon. And small publishing houses donated new books.”
The lawyer said that any time it started to feel like too much for the volunteers, they would find a solution. “A cargo company approached us via social media and volunteered to put the books on pallets and stack them with forklifts in a warehouse. From there, another wonderful company called Awesome Books volunteered trucks to pick up from storage locations around the country. They sorted by genre and packed into storage containers,” she said. “It was challenging because of the Brexit-related trucking shortage, but everyone worked together patiently. It was amazing to see how a global community came together and wanted to support this project. Over 4,800 donors gave money from around the world to support his fund.” Rukhsana also explained how donors were encouraged to write messages inside the books, leaving their email addresses so that the books’ new owners can get in contact should they wish.
The only request Mansour made was for Harry Potter books, because they are so popular with children in Gaza. Many people bought new Harry Potter box sets for the drive, said Rukhsana, with one volunteer selling cupcakes and baked goods for a month to raise money to buy JK Rowling and Roald Dahl book sets.
One man from Santa Barbara spent over $300 shipping three boxes of books to the drive, and more books were shipped in from Greece, France, Italy, UAE, various US cities and Singapore. “There were multiple requests to hold book drives internationally. We had to decline drives because we exceeded our target fast,” said Rukhsana. “Volunteers worked until 1am driving and collecting books and then thanked us for the opportunity to be involved in a tangible way.”