October 7, 2021
“Gaza is Palestine” Hearing

The Peoples’ Inquiry, sponsored by Adalah Justice Project and MPower Change, is an opportunity for the U.S. public to hear the accounts of Palestinians from Gaza on the massacres carried out by Israel in May 2021. It will culminate in a clear call to action for people in the U.S. to exercise personal power to disrupt Israeli and American violence on Palestinians in Gaza and a recommitment to end the blockade and siege of the Gaza Strip.

Featured guests include Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Abier Al-Masri, Issam Adwan, and Jehad Abu Salim.

Ben & Jerry’s: Stop supporting apartheid in Palestine

SumOfUs, June 28, 2021

Last month, during the eleven-day assault by Israeli military on the Gaza Strip, 256 Palestinians, including 66 children, died. And last week, thousands of right-wing nationalists paraded around Jerusalem shouting ‘death to Arabs’.

The only way to stop the never-ending cycle of settlement expansion and violence is to make the economic cost of this illegal occupation too high to bear. 

Ben & Jerry’s has been one of the world’s most progressive companies since its inception, but they continue to sell and operate on stolen Palestinian land. 

And if we can get them to stop supporting the apartheid regime, other global companies like Puma and Motorola will be forced to follow suit.

Tell Ben & Jerry’s: stop supporting the brutal occupation of Palestine.

The recent violence in the region is just the latest in the chapter of oppression of Palestinians — a conflict that is marked by decades of apartheid, colonization, land theft, forced evictions, demolitions, and displacement of Palestinians by settlers waving Israel’s flag.

While Israeli settlers on stolen Palestinian land use freezers to store Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, people in Gaza have no choice but to use them to store the bodies of dead Palestinians babies as was the case after the deadly assault when close to 2,000 were killed in 2014.

The company’s normally active social media has been silent since the eleven-day assault. We know from inside sources that Ben & Jerry’s is deciding right now whether to pull out of Israel for good.

Call on Ben & Jerry’s and other companies to end its complicity in the apartheid of Palestinian people.

After decades of silence, the world is speaking out against the apartheid of Palestinian people in a real way — in London alone, 100,000 people marched the streets in solidarity with Palestinians last month.

And we know when SumOfUs pushes corporations on the issue of Palestine, they listen. When close to 200,000 SumOfUs supporters called on Airbnb to pull its listings from illegally occupied Palestine we got it to temporarily agree to delist.

More than 150 organizations around the world have called on Ben & Jerry’s to leave Israel. Let’s join them and make this happen.

Call on Ben & Jerry’s to end its association with the apartheid regime in Israel now.

More information

A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution, Human Rights Watch, 27 April 2021.

Why are some community members boycotting Ben and Jerry’s? Here’s what we know., Burlington Free Press, 12 June 2021.

Ben & Jerry’s freezes when it comes to Palestine, Middle East Eye, 4 June 2020.

Gaza: No place to bury the dead, Al Jazeera, 5 August 2014.

Israeli nationalists march in East Jerusalem, raising tensions with Palestinians, Reuters, 15 June 2021.

How a West Bank Trip Turned This Congressman Into One of Israel’s Strongest Critics

Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan tells Haaretz why he welcomes a new Israeli government, even one led by a right-winger like Naftali Bennett who has renounced the two-state solution

Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan. Andy Manis / AP

Ben Samuels, Haaretz, Jun. 7, 2021

WASHINGTON – How does a lawmaker go from surface-level familiarity with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to being one of the most vocal proponents of Palestinian rights in the history of Congress?

It starts with Humpty Dumpty.

Rep. Mark Pocan had visited Israel on congressional trips since entering office in 2013, where he spent a bit of time in the West Bank. But it was always through an Israeli lens. After learning more about the conflict from the pro-Israel left-wing J Street organization, the progressive Wisconsin Democrat went again in 2016 on the first-ever congressional trip to Palestine organized by the Humpty Dumpty Institute.

Despite being organized by an NGO that Pocan jokingly admits has “one of the worst names in Washington,” it provided him with a first opportunity to see the land from a Palestinian perspective.

“Having a chance to see things from that perspective opened my eyes about what was going on, and the barriers in getting to a two-state solution that I have advocated for,” he tells Haaretz. “Seeing and talking to people in Palestine firsthand and walking through all the different issues really mattered a lot.”

Pocan, 56, and colleagues Reps. Hank Johnson and Dan Kildee were slated to visit Gaza, only to be verbally denied access 24 hours prior to their visit. They attempted to go anyway, demanding the denial in writing.

“In Wisconsin, we’re common-sense people. When someone says ‘No you can’t go in that room,’ I think there’s something going on and I should check out that room,” Pocan explains. “That was a giant red flag for me.”

He rejects any Israeli justification based on security grounds. “I don’t need anyone telling me they’ve got some faux concern for my security; I’m an adult and I can take care of myself,” he says, recalling a past incident where he was detained for five days by FARC guerrillas while backpacking through the Darién Gap in Colombia. “I woke up to machine-gun fire with paramilitaries on the river and guerrillas on the land,” he recounts.

For Pocan, it’s “imperative” that he can see and talk to people like those in Gaza firsthand. “It’s long overdue,” he says, noting that then-Rep. Keith Ellison was the last member of Congress to visit Gaza, in 2009.

“We know all the statistics: 2 million people; 98 percent of the water’s undrinkable; overt majority of people are on food assistance; people can’t get in or out – calling it an open-air prison is apt,” Pocan says.

Palestinian rights is far from the first human-rights cause Pocan has dedicated his attention to in recent years. “I’m wired to believe we have to support human rights across the board for everyone – and that doesn’t exclude any countries or regions,” he says. “This is just an expansion of what I’ve worked on for decades.”

When he first got into county government 30 years ago, his then-colleague and now U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin helped form a sister-city relationship between his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, and Apartadó, Colombia. He also visited Arcatao, El Salvador (another Madison sister city), several times and was also one of the more outspoken advocates in Congress for ending the war in Yemen.

Since his failed attempt to enter Gaza, however, the former Congressional Progressive Caucus chairman has fashioned himself into both a leading voice for Palestinian rights and critic of Israeli behavior, whether through bills, resolutions, letters or public posture.

“I have tremendous respect for Mark Pocan. He came to Congress not being known as someone particularly engaged on Israel-Palestine. Instead of taking the path of least resistance and just going along, he is blazing a progressive trail,” says Americans for Peace Now President and CEO Hadar Susskind.

J Street Vice President of Communications Logan Bayroff echoes those sentiments, saying that Pocan “has become a true leader in pushing back against the injustices of occupation, recognizing how harmful the status quo is for both Palestinians and Israelis. He’s among the growing number of Democrats making clear that rhetorical support for peace just isn’t enough – U.S. foreign policy needs to confront de facto annexation and hold both sides accountable for their actions.”

A workman recycling salvaged construction materials in Gaza City last weekend, following the flare-up between Israel and Hamas. MAHMUD HAMS – AFP

Overwhelming support

Pocan admits the journey has been “a bit lonely” since the 2016 Gaza incident, but he has recently found himself surrounded by a new cohort of lawmakers placing a premium on human rights.

“The Black Lives Matter movement in the United States clearly has made people be more focused on human rights and outward discrimination – both here and abroad,” Pocan says. “Many of the newer members of Congress, especially, have been very vocal on this. They’ve come out of these movements and we’ve got a greater presence of folks working on these issues.”

Pocan also credits social media for allowing people to see events firsthand, including testimonies from Gazans. “We received over 1,000 emails from constituents supporting what I was doing,” in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “and about 165 on the other side – so about a seven-to-one ratio. And the same was true of phone calls, though there are far more emails,” he notes.

The lawmaker has been a central figure in every notable development on this front during this session of Congress. Prior to last month’s flare-up between Israel and Hamas, he co-led a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the U.S. to push Israel to better facilitate COVID-19 vaccinations for the Palestinians. He also co-sponsored Rep. Betty McCollum’s bill specifying various actions Israel may not finance with U.S. taxpayer money, while also calling for additional oversight of how that military aid is distributed.

More recently, he co-led an unprecedently harsh letter concerning Israel’s pending evictions of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, organized a remarkable special-order hour on the House floor that cast a spotlight on the Democratic Party’s opposing factions on Israel-Palestine, and co-sponsored a joint resolution of disapproval concerning a $735-million arms sale to Israel.

He did not, however, sense he was part of a real-time paradigm shift.

“I was simply advocating for what I believe: that the only beneficiaries from the Gaza war were Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas. Now I’m questioning whether Netanyahu calculated correctly given what may be happening with the formation of a new government,” he says.

Pocan doubles down. “Look at what really led to the Gaza war: The [Israeli police] attack on the [Al-Aqsa] mosque during Ramadan, the situation with people losing their housing in East Jerusalem. Then start going even farther back: illegal settlements making it harder and harder to get to a two-state solution with land swaps, because even more people will be displaced,” he says.

“Go back years and even decades, and you start to really see – especially in the last eight-and-a-half years – what’s happening isn’t working and getting us any closer to peace. In fact, just the opposite.”

Rep. Mark Pocan speaking at a rally in support of Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential bid last year. Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

He is similarly critical of Hamas. “They purport to support the people of Gaza, but I don’t know how you support the people of Gaza when you have the hunger and the lack of clean water and the other situations you have there. It was unfortunate because I truly believe the vast, vast majority of people in both Israel and Palestine want peace.”

‘A different lens’

Pocan believes it is self-evident that support for Palestinians among members of Congress is growing, both in word and deed: “By not only joining letters but being very vocal on the floor of Congress, it helps to give a voice to more members to be able to express similar concerns that they previously had not expressed them,” he says.

He has shared “offline conversations” with at least one colleague whom he considers a close friend and who has traditionally been a pro-Israel advocate. “They understand what my goal is, we just approach it from different ways,” Pocan says. “At the end of the day, all of our efforts are to get to peace in the region and a two-state solution.

“Some of us who aren’t Jewish or Muslim, or particularly religious, can perhaps look at this with a different lens and see a situation where the current conditions are not at all pointing toward a path to peace, and you have to do something different,” he adds.

Pocan, however, rejects “overly simplistic statements” of a supposed Democratic Party divided over Israel, calling these attempts to make the matter black and white. He adds that he “completely agrees” with much of the Biden administration’s approach.

“I was on a call with the State Department about the region several days ago with a few other members of Congress. The administration said themselves that they’ve had conversations with Israel discouraging any unilateral unprovoked actions because that would be a potential problem with the cease-fire and moving toward peace,” he says.

The Wisconsin congressman says his real goal, along with fellow Democrats, is having the U.S. take a more active peacemaking role in the region: “We didn’t see that happening during the last four years, and we want to get back to that point where the United States can help to be a force for good.”

He does acknowledge, however, that he is “perhaps a bit more provocative in putting out some of these ideas that I truly believe, but maybe haven’t been discussed before, to try to show what some of the other consequences or paths to getting to peace are.

“The approach of the Biden administration, especially with the State Department, is diplomacy through direct conversations and perhaps not in public, and that’s something Joe Biden very strongly believes in. Both of our roles help,” he says. “The more I put pressure on the administration, the more likely they are to have private conversations, putting pressure to get peace in the region. We’re taking different roles in what I really believe is a common effort.”

A Palestinian man walking past the site of a building being demolished in Gaza City last weekend, following the latest Israeli-Hamas flare-up last month. MAHMUD HAMS – AFP

Deescalation tool

Pocan is hopeful that a new Israeli coalition government could adopt a different approach in the best interests of both Israelis and Palestinians, but welcomes any change in government at this point (“Many of the problems that have occurred are because of Benjamin Netanyahu putting Benjamin Netanyahu first and foremost”) – even one led by Naftali Bennett, a right-wing proponent of annexation.

“I’m open to seeing what the next results are. I understand how interesting a coalition and how diverse this is, even by U.S. standards. What I do know is that almost to a person that I talked to, whether it be in Israel or Palestine, they want peace. Having new leadership can maybe move that forward,” he says.

A member of the House Appropriations Committee, Pocan could not provide a specific answer on whether he would support the reported Israeli request of $1 billion in emergency aid. He does, however, advocate for some restrictions on dollars while supporting the Iron Dome missile defense tool explicitly as a tool of deescalation.

“If a missile is coming in and you take it out, no one should be killed on either side. But then I watched the response to the Gaza war from Israel where dozens of [Palestinian] children were killed, 100,000 people were displaced, media buildings and roads to hospitals were taken out. That no longer seems like a tool of deescalation to me,” he says.

“Reasonable restrictions ensuring we’re advocating with U.S. dollars for peace is important – I don’t want anyone to die in Israel or Palestine. Iron Dome should operate as a deescalation tool, but if it doesn’t, that’s where some of us are starting to ask questions,” he adds.

Pocan is unsure when he will next visit the region, but he is certain of one thing: “I’m going to get into Gaza somehow.”

Israeli warplanes destroy 12-story residential building in Gaza

Palestinian factions threaten to target capital Tel Aviv in response

Israeli warplanes destroy 12-story residential building in Gaza
Smoke rises from buildings as Israeli fighter jets continue to pound a Palestinian building called "Hanady" at Al-Rimal neighbourhood in the Gaza Strip, on May 11, 2021. The death toll in Israel’s deadly ongoing air offensive increased to 28 by Tuesday evening, including one woman and 10 children, while 152 more people have been injured since the air raids started on Monday, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Photo: Ashraf Amra – Anadolu Agency

Anadolu Agency, May 11, 2021

GAZA CITY, Palestine

The Israeli army destroyed a residential building late Tuesday in western Gaza City.

Anadolu Agency reported that warplanes struck the 12-story Hanadi Tower located in the al-Rimal neighborhood.

The reporter from Turkey’s top news source said the entire building was destroyed and the airstrike also caused damage to nearby homes.

Witnesses told Anadolu Agency earlier that the army asked residents of the tower to vacate the premises in preparation for the strike.

The Qassam Brigades and Al-Quds Brigades have threatened to attack the capital Tel Aviv as a result.

Israeli jets continue to strike blockaded Gaza

July 1 & 14, 2021

Eyewitness Palestine

Join us for a Virtual Delegation to the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip with We Are Not Numbers, Palestinian youth telling the human stories behind the numbers in the news. The camp was established in 1949 and is now home to more than 125,304 refugees according to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Join us to walk around the camp and understand more of its particular challenges.

More Information Coming Soon!

Israeli Authorities Close Gaza Sea and Ban Palestinian Fishing

Deterioration of Living Condition For 4860 Fishermen and Workers in Associated Professions

Ref: 45/2021
Date: 26 April 2021
Time: 10:30 GMT

On Monday, 26 April 2021, Israeli authorities closed Gaza Sea completely and prevented fishermen from sailing and fishing. These Israeli measures are part of the Israeli collective punishment policy practiced against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip that aims to harass fishermen and prevent them from sailing and fishing freely in areas where fish breed.

According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)’s follow-up, the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) declared the complete closure of Gaza Sea, starting from 06:00 on Monday until further notice. The Israeli Coordinator stated that, “This decision came in response to the launch of rockets towards Israeli settlements adjacent to the Gaza Strip.”

This decision is part of Israel’s policy of inhuman and illegal closure and collective punishment against the Gaza Strip. As a result, the livelihoods of 4,160 fishermen and 700 workers in professions associated with the fishing sector; the main providers for their families (a total of 27,700 persons) are threatened with further deterioration. Even before this decision, Gazan fishermen already suffered and were unable to fish and sail freely in the allowed fishing area due to the recurrent Israeli attacks at sea, the entry ban of equipment and necessary supplies for fishermen. Consequently, hundreds of fishermen are effectively unable to provide their families’ basic needs, such as food, medicine, clothing, and education.

Furthermore, the impact of the new Israeli decisions would deepen the humanitarian and living crises in the Gaza Strip, especially raising unemployment, poverty and food insecurity. Statistics pre-recent restrictions indicate a dangerous unemployment rate at 45%, i.e. 217,100 unemployed workers; this rate is highest among youth at 63%. Also, more than half of the Gaza Strip population suffers poverty, as data from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) indicate that the prevalence of poverty among the Gaza Strip population exceeds 53%, and more than 62.2% of the Gaza population is classified as food insecure according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

PCHR emphasizes that the Israeli decision to close the Gaza Sea violates the economic and social rights of Palestinian fishermen and violates their right to work stipulated in Article (6) of the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The ongoing Israeli attacks against fishermen also constitutes a flagrant violation of the international humanitarian law.

Therefore, PCHR:

  • Calls upon the Israeli authorities to reverse the decision to close the sea immediately and to enable fishermen to fish and sail freely, especially that they do not pose threat to the Israeli naval forces;
  • Calls for an immediate end to the constant chasing of fishermen and allow them to fish and sail freely; and
  • Calls upon the international community to pressure the Israeli authorities into ending the naval blockade, which led to the deterioration of fishermen and their families’ living conditions, and stopping all violations against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip.
  • Progressive U.S. Lawmaker: ‘We Need to Be Able to See What’s Happening in Gaza’

    Wisconsin Democrat Rep. Mark Pocan tells Americans for Peace Now that Israeli policies funded by U.S. tax dollars form an obstacle to realizing the two-state solution

    Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) at a conference in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2017. Credit: CHRISTOPHER ALUKA BERRY/REUTERS

    Ben Samuels, Haaretz, Apr. 22, 2021

    WASHINGTON – Rep. Mark Pocan, one of the most vocal supporters of Palestinian rights in Congress, called on the Israeli government on Wednesday to immediately allow U.S. lawmakers entry into the Gaza

    WASHINGTON – Rep. Mark Pocan, one of the most vocal supporters of Palestinian rights in Congress, called on the Israeli government on Wednesday to immediately allow U.S. lawmakers entry into the Gaza Strip.

    The Wisconsin Democrat told a webinar for Americans for Peace Now, a nonprofit whose stated aim is to help find a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that he is particularly concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Strip. He described the coastal enclave as an “open-air prison,” and lamented the conditions he says are radicalizing Gazan residents.

    Pocan decried both the general ignorance of the humanitarian crisis as well as the Israeli government for preventing U.S. lawmakers from entering Gaza. He said he is “almost obsessed” with the situation; in 2016, he, along with Reps. Hank Johnson and Dan Kildee, attempted to enter the Gaza Strip during a 2016 trip to Israel, but was denied access. The Israeli government did not give him a reason why.

    “The last member of Congress to enter Gaza was Keith Ellison more than a decade ago. That is crazy. That is completely unacceptable,” he said. “They can’t block American policymakers, especially with the friendship and assistance we give. We need to be able to see what's happening and we need to be able to share those stories.”

    Pocan, who is currently in his fifth term, said that he believes in the two-state solution, but that it is unfeasible “under the current steps that are being taken in the region – whether it be in continued settlements, the demolishing of homes in the West Bank or the conditions in Gaza.”

    The possibility of such a solution is slowly vanishing on multiple fronts, he said. “When you see the continued settlement encroachment within the West Bank and you see the continued demolition of homes, often with U.S. taxpayer dollars being involved, I see all those as hindrances,” he said. Another obstacle to peace, he added, is the Israeli detention of Palestinian youth through military courts.

    “I don't personally use the word apartheid, but people have to be careful because when you see big walls and different roads that people can travel on, you're going hear things like apartheid mentioned,” he cautioned.

    Pocan credited the wave of progressive Democrats elected for the evolving conversation on Capitol Hill, saying that the current political breakdown empowers progressives to help dictate the agenda.

    He described Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's 2015 speech to Congress on the Iran nuclear deal as a turning point in U.S. lawmakers’ questioning of unqualified support for Israel, and gave way to the partisanship regarding the conflict seen in Congress today. “That was a pivotal moment of stopping these bipartisan blinders on not looking at what was happening in the region, and now more of us are willing to look and try to be objective.”

    He highlighted Rep. Barbara Lee’s chairing of the Foreign and State Operations appropriations subcommittee as a notably positive development in achieving substantial change. He described her as a key policymaker and a tremendous advocate for peace and human rights, and believes she will be willing to diverge from the status quo regarding regional issues.

    Pocan recently co-lead a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the U.S. government to push Israel to better facilitate COVID-19 vaccinations for the Palestinians. He also co-sponsored Rep. Betty McCollum’s recent bill specifying various actions Israel may not finance with U.S. taxpayer funding, as well as calling for additional oversight of how aid is distributed.

    “We can't just sit back and do nothing, you can't just pick a side and move forward,” Pocan said, noting that he supports Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system and general security funding to Israel.

    Pocan, who is openly gay, praised Israel’s treatment of its LGBTQ community while drawing a contrast with Palestinian treatment of its LGBTQ community. But, he noted, “That doesn’t stop me as a human being from caring about whether a kid who throws a rock should be shot or if we should take out someone’s home so we can have settlers encroaching into the West Bank,” he said. “You can’t expect me to flutter my eyes because of this one issue.”

    He has spoken with Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr, Biden's point person on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, on a number of issues including U.S. equipment being used in demolitions and renewed U.S. aid for Palestinians. Pocan is quick to praise him, saying Amr understands that peace cannot be reached via a one-sided approach.

    “This is a person who is a professional, not a political appointee. We’re in agreement on priorities toward peace. When they said they were going to release funds, they did release funds,” he said, saying that the move bolstered his confidence in Amr. “I came away from our conversation feeling like we have someone who truly listens and understands.”

    Egypt ‘indefinitely’ opens Rafah border crossing with Gaza Strip

    Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas agree to ‘respect and accept’ upcoming polls at Cairo talks

    A girl looks on through the window of a vehicle while waiting at the Rafah border crossing’s departure area to travel from the Gaza Strip into Egypt [Said Khatib/AFP]

    Al Jazeera, 10 Feb 2021

    For the first time in years, Egypt has “indefinitely” opened its Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip, the only passage to the outside world for the residents of the coastal enclave that is not controlled by Israel.

    The move on Tuesday came as Palestinian factions concluded a two-day meeting in Egypt’s capital in which they agreed to “respect and accept” the results of long-delayed legislative and presidential elections – set for May 22 and July 31, respectively.

    The Palestinian embassy in Cairo said Egypt had decided to open the crossing as a result of “intensive and bilateral talks between the Palestinian and Egyptian leaderships to facilitate the passage of Palestinians to and from the Gaza Strip”.

    Palestinian sources attending the talks said they had been told by Egyptian intelligence officials that the move was designed to create a better atmosphere at the negotiations.

    Reporting from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim said some were linking it to the Cairo summit and suspected it was “a gesture from the Egyptians”.

    “Thousands have already been registering their names with the interior ministry in Gaza, hoping they can make their way into Egypt – it’s their only lifeline to the outside world,” Ibrahim said.

    “Many are still concerned that … they’re not going to be treated greatly, specifically due to security concerns by the Egyptians.”

    The Rafah border is the main exit point for the majority of Gaza’s two million population.

    The Gaza Strip does not have an airport and has been under an Israeli land, sea and air blockade for more than a decade.

    Israel controls Gaza’s airspace and territorial waters, as well as two of the three border crossing points, making it extremely difficult for Palestinians, who must get hard-to-obtain permits, to pass through.

    For the majority of Palestinians who wish to travel, study or seek medical care abroad, they must cross into Egypt before being able to take a flight to their destination.

    The Rafah crossing has been largely closed in recent months as part of efforts to rein in the coronavirus pandemic, although it has intermittently opened for short periods.

    An Egyptian security source told AFP news agency that “this isn’t a routine or normal opening. This is the first time in years that the Rafah border crossing is opening indefinitely. It used to open only three or four days at a time.”

    The Egyptian government has recently cited the COVID-19 pandemic threat to keep the border closed [Said Khatib/AFP]

    Gaza resident Yasser Zanoun urged political leaders to negotiate a permanent arrangement to ease the Mediterranean enclave’s worsening humanitarian plight, compounded by the pandemic.

    “This crossing must be open 24 hours a day, throughout the year,” the 50-year-old Palestinian told AFP news agency. “There are lots of humanitarian cases that are extremely dire.”

    The Gaza Strip has been administered by Hamas since 2007, the year Israel imposed the blockade on the enclave, while the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority has limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

    Hamas won an unexpected landslide in the last elections in 2006, a victory not recognised by Fatah. This led to bloody clashes the following year and a split in Palestinian governance. Since then, Egypt has largely closed the Rafah crossing.

    The Egyptian government has recently cited the COVID-19 pandemic threat to keep the border closed.

    Gaza has reported more than 50,000 confirmed cases, including some 530 deaths, while Egypt has registered about 170,000 infections, including almost 9,700 fatalities.

    UNRWA USA’S Virtual Gaza 5K & Art Auction

    Announcing the First-Ever
    Nationwide Virtual Gaza 5K

    Digital Festival Art Auction!

    Everyone’s mental health is being tested as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but we won’t all suffer the same.

    From the United States to Palestine, no person should have to suffer constant distress.

    And while the global pandemic has caused events, travel, and even people to be canceled, you can join UNRWA USA for an interactive Gaza 5K + Digital Festival on Saturday, September 12, 2020, bringing together community, running, music, and entertainment for a good cause — providing mental health for refugee kids in the Gaza Strip. And now, due to the crisis in Lebanon, a portion of the proceeds from the Gaza 5K will be dedicated to our urgent relief fund for Palestine refugees in Lebanon.

    More on the Gaza 5k!

    More on the Virtual Art Auction!

    Your participation in and fundraising for UNRWA USA’s signature 5K walk/run event plays a vital role in our efforts to provide refugee children in the Gaza Strip with life-changing mental health care. given the increased needs, A portion of the proceeds from the gaza 5k will also be dedicated to our urgent relief fund for palestine refugees in Lebanon.

    Children Die in Home Fire During Power Outage

    Ref: 85/2020, 02 September 2020

    Three siblings from al-Nuseirat refugee camp, Central Gaza Strip, died after fire broke out in their house caused by a lit candle used for light during power outage on Tuesday, 01 September 2020; a manifestation of Gaza’s chronic electricity crisis. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) expresses its deep grieve and sorrow for the death of the three children and reiterates its warning that the electricity crisis will lead to more catastrophic repercussions on the lives of the Gaza Strip residents, including their right to life, security and personal safety, unless urgent and permanent solutions are founded for this prolonged crisis.

    According to PCHR’s investigations, at approximately 21:15 on Tuesday, 01 September 2020, a fire broke out in Omar Mahmoud al-Hazin’s house in al-Nuseirat refugee camp, Central Gaza Strip, caused by a candle lit for light during the power outage in his children’s bedroom. As a result, Yusuf (6), Mahmoud (5), and Mohammed (3) burned to death. The three children were transferred via an ambulance to al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah and were pronounced dead upon arrival, according to medical sources. The competent authorities opened an investigation into the incident. The death of the three children increases the number of victims who lost their lives in fires that could have been avoided were it not for the power crisis to more than 30, the majority of which are children.

    The Gaza Strip suffers a chronic power crisis since 2007, wherein the best case scenario available power reaches 180 Megawatts (120 MW from Israel, and 60 MW from the Gaza Power Plant), a far cry from its 500 MW minimum need. The power crisis exacerbated due to the shutdown of Gaza’s only power plant since 18 August 2020, after the Israeli authorities banned the entry of fuel needed for its operation. As a result, the power deficit reached 75%, forcing citizens to use alternative means to light their homes due to the power outrage for more than 20 hours a day.

    Although the Israeli authorities allowed the re-entry of fuel into the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, 01 September 2020, after a Qatar-brokered understanding was reached between Israel and Hamas Movement, and despite that the Gaza Power Plant resumed its operations and power supply hours witnessed an improvement; the power crisis continues with a 64% power deficit.

    PCHR expresses its deep sorrow and mourns the death of 3 children, and calls upon:

      • The international community to force the Israeli authorities to abandon the policy of collective punishment imposed on the population of the Gaza Strip, and to abide by its responsibilities, as the occupying power of the Gaza Strip to its population, under the rules of international humanitarian law (IHL); and to pressure Israel to allow the entry of all the Gaza strip population’s basic needs, including fuel required to operate the Gaza Power Plant;

      • All competent authorities to launch awareness campaigns on alternative power options during power outages to reduce the catastrophic impact of their misuse; and

      • Parents and families to adhere to public safety standards and keep children away from the risks of alternative lighting methods.

    Israel Bans Fuel Entry to Gaza

    Warning of Gaza Power Plant Shutdown

    Ref: 75/2020, 17 August 2020

    The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) expresses its deep concern over the repercussions of the Gaza Power Plant scheduled shutdown on Tuesday, 18 August 2020, on all basic services for the Gaza Strip population, especially health and sanitation services, industrial, commercial and agricultural facilities and other services. PCHR reiterates that the Israeli systematic policy of tightening the closure on the Gaza Strip as declared on 10 August 2020, is a form of collective punishment and inhuman and illegal reprisals against Palestinian civilians since 2007.

    According to PCHR’s follow-up, the Palestinian Energy And Natural Resources Authority and the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCO) declared on Sunday, 16 August 2020, its decision to suspend the power plant at full capacity on Tuesday morning, 18 August 2020, as the fuel required to operate the Plant ran out due to the Israeli authorities’ suspension of fuel entry for the seventh consecutive day. The Israeli authorities alleges that their decision to tighten the closure and ban entry of fuel was in response to the launch of incendiary balloons at Israeli outposts adjacent to the Gaza Strip. This will increase the shortage of electric supply by more than 75%.

    The shutdown of the power plant will have implications for basic services received by the Gaza Strip residents and will increase the hours of power outage at civilians’ homes to 16 – 20 per day. The power outage will most significantly impact the quality of health and sanitation services, including drinking water supply, sanitation and other services, such as reduction in diagnostic and treatment services at both governmental and private health facilities. Additionally, drinking water supply will be interrupted for long periods, and the power shortage will result in untreated sewage water being pumped into sea. Furthermore, the Gaza Strip’s economy will suffer huge losses as work is suspended in industrial, commercial and agricultural facilities that depend on electricity in their production mechanism, putting them at risk of being shut down and collapse.

    PCHR expresses its grave concern over the catastrophic consequences that may result from the disruption of public utilities if power outages continue, which will affect all basic services provided to the public, especially hospitals, water and sanitation facilities; Thus, PCHR:
    • Calls upon the international community to force the Israeli occupation authorities to stop using collective punishment policy against the Gaza Strip population and urgently intervene to guarantee import of fuel and all other needs for the Gaza Strip population; and
    • Reminds Israel of its obligations and responsibilities as an occupying power of the Gaza Strip under the rules of the international humanitarian law.

    8-month-old baby with heart problems needed to exit Gaza


    Celine Jaber, Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI), August 16, 2020

    Dear friends,

    A month ago, I checked my inbox, and my stomach sank. An older woman from Gaza wrote to me: “Please, I have an urgent appointment at a hospital in the West Bank – radiation therapy for uterine cancer.  Civilian coordination has stopped. I don’t know how I’m going to get out of here. The disease is eating away at my body. I grow weaker every day. I feel death is coming, that it’ll be here any minute. Please help.”

    The Palestinian Authority cut off ties with Israel in response to the annexation plan. They’ve disbanded the Civilian Affairs Committee – a Palestinian Authority agency that was responsible for coordinating Palestinians’ exit permit applications with the Israeli military.

    Since then, Haneen, my Gaza permit intake colleague, and I have been coordinating exit and ambulance transportation for patients. These are things the Civilian Affairs Committee  used to do. This situation is impossible. There are only two of us. The phone starts ringing at 8:00 A.M. and doesn’t stop until nighttime – dozens of patients in critical condition from Gaza – cancer, brain and heart disease, people who have to get out, who need coordination.

    In our conversations, the patients keep saying: “The treatment isn’t available in Gaza.” They send me medical documents, and I reassure them and say, “I understand.” It’s very difficult for me when they try to prove they are sick, that they’re getting worse, that they have a right to exit, because it’s their most basic right, the right any patient has to get proper treatment.

    A father called me. His son is eight months old, a cute boy. He has heart problems. His name is Omar, and he needed to exit for a surgical procedure that isn’t available in the Gaza Strip. He had an appointment for June. I sent a request to the military’s Civil Liaison Administration (CLA) to arrange for his exit, but I received no response. It went on for two weeks. I sent the request again and again and still no answer. In other requests I made, the CLA wrote back: “The Civilian Affairs Committee has to coordinate exits.” I said: “But there is no committee anymore. The Palestinian Authority disbanded it.” They said: “No committee, no exit.” 

    The child had already missed his May appointment because there was no coordination. He missed his June appointment because the CLA did not respond to his request.  Three days before the appointment, he died.

    Since his death, I’ve been in a very hard place. My stomach keeps hurting from the stress. When I take a break and don’t answer the phone, I feel guilty. For some reason, I think a lot about his father, who called me after and thanked me. I didn’t understand him. How did he find time to thank me? And for what? His baby died.

    It gets worse every day. Two weeks ago, I got a call from parents of three different children, less than a month old, also with heart conditions. They needed an ambulance to get to Erez Crossing. In the past, the Civilian Affairs Committee would arrange for ambulances, but now there’s no committee, so there’s no one to coordinate.

    At first, we tried to coordinate through the ICRC, but we found out that the Palestinian Authority decision has caused chaos, and there were no clear instructions on coordinating ambulances. In the past, in most cases, transportation was coordinated by the Civilian Affairs Committee. In any case, I made the arrangement, and the children left. 

    My dream is for the Gaza closure to be lifted and that I’ll be able to go there, for there to be freedom. The Palestinian Authority should have found another arrangement for patients before making such a big decision, but I don’t criticize the decision itself. Israel is responsible for the crossing and for the millions of people living in Gaza, because, ultimately, it’s the ruling power in the area, at the border crossings. Israel is preventing them from exiting.

    I feel like I won’t be able to go on like this for much longer. It’s mentally grueling. Right now, most patients aren’t exiting because of coronavirus, so we handle only the urgent requests. After coronavirus, there will be many more requests, and then what?

    Since June 10th, just a few weeks after the decision made by the Palestinian Authority to halt civilian and security coordination with Israel, including requests by patients from the Gaza Strip to travel to East Jerusalem and Israel, PHRI has been receiving calls from patients in the Gaza Strip who need urgent life-saving treatments or ambulance transportation using the back-to-back system (where one ambulance takes the patient to the crossing, and another completes the journey to the hospital and vice versa). Calls have come from cancer patients, heart patients, humanitarian cases involving babies and adults and more. Over the course of June and July, PHRI provided assistance in 195 urgent applications, most from cancer patients. This is five times our normal caseload, which now comes with added work as while previously PHRI intervened in cases of rejected or unanswered applications, we now manage the bureaucracy of the application process and liaise between the CLA and the patients.

    Ultimately – regardless of the coordinating body involved – Israel is responsible for the lives of these patients as it wields power over their ability to access treatment. To safeguard the lives and health of Gaza’s residents, the closure has to be lifted, and patients should be given safe free passage between Gaza and the West Bank.

    Best regards,

    Celine Jaber,
    Permit coordinator
    Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI)