Status

SWIFT sanctions against Israel

It is called the “ultimate sanction that would really hurt”. It worked in South Africa. It can work in Israel too. Swift sanctions against Israeli banks will isolate Israel from the world system of trading. Israeli banks will be unable to pay for imports or receive payment for exports.

Fellow Capetonian activist Terry Crawford-Browne used to be an international banker. Yet when South Africa was on the brink of a civil war in the 1980s, he became an activist. At the time he used his expertise to implement Swift sanctions against South Africa.

The importance of this intervention cannot be underestimated. The SWIFT sanctions were a game-changer. They were powerful, effective, immediate and they gave impetus to the non-violent resistance in South Africa. Now Terry advocates for a smiliar step against Israel.

The Belgium-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication system, known as Swift, is a secure messaging system used by more than 10,500 banks for international money transfers. Swift sanctions are also considered against Russia – as a “the ultimate sanction that would really hurt”. Read the article here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFour South African ecumenical accompaniers who served in the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). From left to right: Marthie Momberg, Terry Crawford-Browne, Corbin August and Carol Martin. The photo was taken in the South African Parliament on 6 February 2014.

You can listen to Terry explaining his plan on YouTube, and/or you can read a shorter version of his recent talk in Istanbul at the IPRA conference:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

SWIFT SANCTIONS AGAINST ISRAELI BANKS

by Terry Crawford-Browne

The international banking sanctions campaign launched in October 1985 by Bishop Desmond Tutu, Dr Allan Boesak and Dr Beyers Naude became the tipping point in South Africa’s relatively peaceful transformation from apartheid to constitutional democracy. It was a nonviolent strategy intended to avert a looming civil war. International trade and sports boycotts and numerous resolutions at the United Nations had created conscientiousness about apartheid, but in themselves could not defeat the system. The critical factor was the role of the US dollar as settlement currency in foreign exchange markets. Without access to the New York bank payment system, apartheid South Africa would be unable to pay for imports or receive payment for exports even from third countries such as Germany or Japan.

Under the “adopt-a-bank” strategy, the church leaders applied their influence with American churches to pressure the major New York banks to choose the banking business of apartheid South Africa or the pension fund business of the respective Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian and other denominations. The City of New York later added the choice between the City’s payroll accounts or the banking business of apartheid South Africa. Even the Bush (senior) administration in October 1989 surprisingly issued an ultimatum to demand compliance by the apartheid government by February 1990 of the first three of five conditions, namely: (a) the end of the state of emergency, (b) release of political prisoners and (c) unbanning of political organisations.

That was the background to President FW de Klerk’s announcement on 2 February 1990. Mr de Klerk has subsequently conceded that the threat contained in that ultimatum to close off all South African access to the American financial system motivated his decision to release Nelson Mandela and to begin constitutional negotiations. The fourth and fifth objectives of the banking sanctions campaign were: (d) repeal of apartheid legislation and (e) constitutional negotiations towards a democratic, non-racial and united South Africa.

[…]

Three decades later, banking technology has advanced dramatically. The pressure point in the international payments system is no longer in New York, but is now at the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) which is headquartered in Belgium. In essence, SWIFT is a giant computer cooperatively owned by 10 500 international banks in 215 countries that daily authenticates interbank payment instructions for more than 20 million international financial transactions. SWIFT’s function has been to replace the cumbersome and labour-intensive authentication system traditionally known as “testing,” which verifies the payment instructions of correspondent banks.

SWIFT is overseen by the central banks of the G10 countries, with the National Bank of Belgium being the lead overseeing authority. Every participating bank has a SWIFT code, the fifth and sixth letters of which identifies the country of domicile. As examples, South African banks are identified by the letters ZA; Israeli banks by the letters IL.

The impact of SWIFT is such that a bank that is not part of the SWIFT network is essentially excluded from the international financial payments system. Banking is the lifeblood of any economy. Just as all South African banks were complicit in funding and upholding the apartheid system, so too the role of Israeli banks is fundamental to the Israeli government’s illegal occupation of Palestine. Money laundering and financial crimes are now regarded as serious international threats, and thanks to forensic auditing can increasingly be traced and identified. In fact, given the advances in technology, Israel is much more vulnerable to a banking sanctions campaign than was apartheid South Africa during the 1980s.

Israeli banks fund the construction both the “apartheid wall” and the settlements, which the International Court of Justice in 2004 found to be illegal in terms of international law. The banks provide heavily subsidised mortgages to induce over 700 000 Israelis to live in illegal settlements such as Ma’ale Adumin, Har Homa and Zufrim as well as providing regular banking services in those communities. Israeli banks are also a critical factor in repatriating the financial proceeds to Israel of blood diamonds, drug trafficking and Israeli arms exports, all of which are crucial to the Israeli economy.

Just as South African banks during the apartheid era were actively engaged in “sanctions-busting,” so too Israeli banks all blatantly participate in illegal transactions under the guise of “national security.” It is impossible to separate legitimate transactions of Israeli banks from illegal transactions that violate international laws on money laundering and war profiteering. Accordingly, all transactions to and from Israeli banks must be deemed to contravene banking protocols such as international obligations imposed on financial institutions to “know your customer”(KYC) and other due diligence procedures to mitigate financial crimes.

Major international banks such as JP Morgan Chase, BNP Paribas, HSBC, Barclays Bank, Credit Suisse have recently been heavily fined for failures to meet such obligations. Seventeen European governments, including the Belgian government, in June 2014 warned their citizens of the reputational and other risks involved in financial transactions to and from the settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. All countries, even including the United States, regard the Israeli settlements as illegal.

Norwegian, Danish and Dutch pension funds and banks are already blacklisting Israeli banks. SWIFT declares itself to be “neutral” in respect of sanctions. Since sanctions often only apply in certain but not all jurisdictions, SWIFT cannot voluntarily suspend transactions unless regulations are enacted by laws of its home jurisdiction, namely Belgium and the European Union (EU). To date, the EU government statements about financial transactions with the settlements are warnings rather than regulations, but the “writing is increasingly on the wall.” The image of the banking industry is currently poor, and SWIFT and its 10 500 members would certainly not wish to be publicly identified as complicit with Israeli war crimes.

Given these developments. SWIFT earlier this year has expanded its operations to include compliance management registry, including sanctions screening and testing. To this purpose, SWIFT will conduct a two day conference in Boston, USA during 30 September to 1 October to establish standards to assist banks in addressing financial crime compliance regulations. This registry is expected to go live at the end of 2014.

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RToP) — which met in Barcelona, London, Cape Town, New York and Brussels between 2010 and 2013 – has already collated a huge volume of evidence on Israeli government violations of international law, including that its behaviour towards Palestinians meets the legal criteria of apartheid as a crime against humanity.

The recent Israeli bombardment of Gaza prompted the United Nations Human Rights Council on 23 July 2014 to establish a commission of inquiry on Israeli war crimes. Similarly, the RToP has now decided to establish an extra, extraordinary session to be held in Brussels during 24 and 25 September 2014 to investigate the implications of the latest Israeli war crimes in Gaza. Just as the campaign against apartheid was driven by international civil society, so too it is now imperative for civil society to apply pressure upon EU governments to meet their obligations in respect of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Given the outrage over the disproportionate and illegal Israeli government actions in Gaza, there is increasing recognition of the need for a permanent resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indisputably, just as the international community judged apartheid in South Africa to be a threat to world peace, so too is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Israeli government is a repeated violator of international law including the Geneva Conventions. SWIFT sanctions against Israeli banks offer a nonviolent instrument in the cause of peace in the Middle East to balance the scales between Israelis and Palestinians so that, unlike the failed US “peace process” and the Egyptian-brokered ceasefires, meaningful negotiations become possible.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign, which is supported by the broad spectrum of Palestinian society, has endorsed a proposal of SWIFT sanctions against Israeli banks. The proposal calls upon the EU governments and other members of the international community to require SWIFT to suspend transactions to and from Israeli (IL) banks until the Israeli government:

1. Agrees to relinquish its nuclear weapons, and to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty,
2. Agrees to release immediately all Palestinian political prisoners,
3. Agrees to end its occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem, plus Gaza, and that it will dismantle the “apartheid wall,”
4. Recognises the fundamental rights of Arab Palestinians will full equality in Israel-Palestine,
5. Acknowledges the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

Being directed at Israeli banks, SWIFT sanctions are targeted at the financial and political elites who have the influence and clout to alert and warn the Israeli government of the consequences of financial isolation from the international community. The intention is not to destroy the Israeli economy but, instead, to bring the highly militarised Israeli government to its senses. Once the Israeli government agrees to these conditions, SWIFT sanctions can immediately be reversed in order to minimize economic damage to the Israeli economy.

Terry Crawford-Browne
19 August 2014

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SA Muslims on an Islamic State (IS): This is not Islam.

To South African Muslims the possibility of an Islamic State (IS) threatens not only non-Muslims, but also vigilant and conscious Muslims. All of us can live together in peace and in respect for one another they say.

I fully agree with their position whereby we as people from different faiths can share the same values.

Here is South Africa’s Islamic Unity Convention’s press statement:

image004PRESS RELEASE
September 2014

The core tenets of Islam include love, peace and unity and justice. These values however are not reserved for Muslims. It is therefore with abhorrence that the Islamic Unity Convention witnesses the crimes of the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (IS).

How can a group claiming to act in the name of Islam (the religion of peace) build a Caliphate on mass murders and human rights abuses?

The IUC condemns not only these actions but also the fundamentals of this so-called Islamic State.

While we are aware that some Muslim groups (including in South Africa) have at times supported, endorsed and even defended the actions of IS and other groupings which share its motives and methods; the IUC cannot condone such brutality, which is based on the foundation of sectarianism.
Inasmuch as the emergence of IS poses a concern to our brethren of other faiths, it is one of the biggest challenges being faced by vigilant and conscious Muslims. The IS while viciously targeting Christians, Druze and other communities has massacred scores of Muslims. We also note that despite attempts to characterise IS as a Sunni-interest group; this is inaccurate as the majority of this rabid group’s victims have been Muslims of the Sunni trend. The IS, al-Qaeda and other such groupings which preach sectarianism therefore cannot claim to act in the name of Islam.

We also have to remember that this militant group did not appear from thin air; it was militarily, financially and logistically bolstered for several years, with aid and protection of Arab regimes and the West.

The crimes of IS affect South Africans as much as they do the people of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and the broader Middle East. A number of Muslim South African youth have been swept up by this phenomenon and some are even active in the IS’ army.

As the IUC, our position is clear:

  • The South African government should halt such elements from going over to create mayhem in the world.
  • The Muslim community bears the tough responsibility of educating, directing and guiding its youth such that they do not fall prey to the vices of the IS or any other groups (local ones included) which work to sow social discord and hatred.
  • Conscious South African Muslims need to stand up to and challenge those elements who for over three years now have been trying to create conflict among Muslims themselves.

The history of Islam demonstrates that Muslims, Christians, Jews and those of other persuasions can live together in a mutually productive and prosperous society founded on respect, sincerity and love. Our prayer is that all communities will recognise who the real enemy is and not be swayed by infighting and minor differences.

For comment, contact:
IUC Public Relations Officer: Magboeba Davids 083 746 4040
IUC Chairperson: Mansoora Africa (072 716 7772)

The original press statement is available here:
IUC Press Statement on IS September 2014.

Status

South African Muslims reject violence in the name of Islam

 

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It is increasingly important and urgent for people of different faiths to stand together against a destruction of the sacredness of humanity. Let us who share the same values, take hands. As a Christian I support and have signed this petition by South African Muslims.

You too can sign their petition by clicking on this link.

Here is their full statement:

As South African Muslims, we reject the actions of groups that have adopted murder, kidnapping and violence against innocent people, the destruction of schools, sacred spaces and forced conversions, in the name of Islam. These include Boko Haram, Al Shabab, Al Qa’eda, and more recently, the “Islamic State”.

We stand in solidarity with Christians, Yazidis, Jews and Muslims who have been forced to leave their homes, and have experienced terror and trauma at the hands of those who claim to speak for Islam, but are behaving in a manner contrary to the tenets of our faith.   We are proud Muslims who stand for justice. We stand with communities that have been divided, with women who have been raped, with churches that have been razed. We stand with children that have known nothing but war, and death. We condemn the action of groups that use the religion of Islam to justify their brutality against innocent men, women and children of all faiths.

We acknowledge the legitimate concerns of groups that have been economically and politically marginalised, but call for political reform based on inclusivity. We also believe that military intervention, led by the U.S government, is inappropriate and more harmful. We call for the responsible use of terms like “jihadist” or “Islamist”. The human rights abuses perpetrated by these terrorists and killers have nothing to do with the concept of Jihad which is to “struggle” or “strive” for goodness. Their behaviour is contrary to Islam’s teachings, and are repugnant to Muslims worldwide.

The Islam that we know and love is centred on values of justice, mercy and compassion. It stands in solidarity with all people facing persecution.    These organisations – and the states that sponsor them – do not act in our name. We reject this hijacking and misrepresentation of Islam’s teachings. We further reject all forms of sectarianism – in the South Africa that we love, and in majority Muslim countries.      “Remember that people are of two kinds; they are either your brothers in religion or your brothers in mankind.” –  Ali ibn Abu Talib, Muslim caliph and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad.

Sign the petition by clicking here.

Jewish Holocaust survivors respond to Wiesel and call for justice in Gaza

40 Jewish survivors of the Nazi Holocaust and 287 descendants of survivors and victims issued a letter this weekend condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza. The letter, with signatories from 26 countries representing four generations of survivors, runs in the Saturday, August 23rd edition of the New York Times:

As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine.

Elie WieselElie Wiesel

Their letter is in reponse to a statement by Elie Wiesel, the Nobel prize-winning author, and Shmuley Boteach, an outspoken American-born Orthodox rabbi. An advert jointly written by Wiesel and Boteach called on David Cameron and other political leaders “to condemn Hamas‘ use of children as human shields”:

Elie wieseA part of the advertisement

The advertisement by Wiesel and Boteach was carried in US newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and the New York Observer. It compares the murder of children during the Holocaust to Hamas’ actions in Gaza. The Times of London declined to run it and the Guardian published a response for free. In an open letter on its website, the Stop The War coalition, the UK anti-war organisation, described the advert as a “wildly inaccurate and inflammatory advert from supporters of the state of Israel branding Palestinians opposing Israel in Gaza as ‘child killers’.”

The Holocaust survivors in turn expressed their dismay over Israel’s assault and misrepresentation of their shared history. Liliana Kaczerginski, daughter of a Vilna ghetto resistance fighter, said:

What Israel is doing goes against everything that my father fought for; it is a violation of my family’s memory and I am proud to honor them with my signature.

Hajo Meyer, a survivor of Auschwitz who lives in the Netherlands expressed outrage at the racism coming out of Israel:

The dehumanization of Jews is what made possible the Nazi genocide. In the same way, we are witnessing the escalating dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society.

 In their response letter, the survivors write:

We are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children.

Dr Hani Jamah, a Palestinian living in California who lost 30 family members in an Israeli bombing said:

When Israel started it’s bombardment of Gaza, I turned on the news and discovered that 30 of my aunts and cousins had died in a single bomb blast. Joining my voice with 40 survivors of the Nazi genocide adds power to our call that we must work together to bring justice to Gaza.

Said Monadel Herzallah, who is part of the US Palestinian Community Network and has family in Gaza:

With the growing number of people around the world holding Israel accountable for its genocidal crimes, I applaud the courageous statements by holocaust survivors and their families being on the right side of justice,”  “Our children and grandchildren inside of Gaza deserve a life of believing that Never Again means Never Again for Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime.

Raphael Cohen, grandson of survivors who lives in the United States, called on people to take action to demand justice for Palestinians:

It is my own government paying for this violence. When governments won’t do what’s right, individuals and communities must speak out. That’s why I support the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions.

The signatories hope that their letter will strengthen the claim that the legacy of Jewish suffering must mean never again for anyone, least of all, to be used in defense of Israeli violence.

Signatories will be hosting a press conference on Monday, August 25th, 2014 at 11:00 am Eastern Time

[8/22/14 San Francisco, CA]
Press Contact: Lee Gargagliano – survivorsletter@gmail.com

UPDATE ON CHILDREN IN GAZA:

A UNICEF field officer in Gaza reported that to date, 469 chjildren died as a result of violence against Gaza since early July. The report added “there is not a single family in the tiny enclave that has not been touched by the current violence.”

“The impact is has truly been vast, both at a very physical level, in terms of casualties, injuries, the infrastructure that’s been damaged, but also importantly, emotionally and psychologically in terms of the destabilizing impact that not knowing, not truly feeling like there is anywhere safe place to go in Gaza,” Pernilla Ironside, Chief of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Gaza field office told a press conference at UN Headquarters.

UNICEF has 50 psychologists and counsellors in Gaza reaching out to children directly impacted by loss. They have reached 3,000, but the needs are “staggering” as parents are also in a state of trauma, Ms. Ironside said, noting that today 373,000 Palestinian children need “immediate psycho-social first aid.”

Meanwhile, Defence for Children International Palestine reported how a Palestinian child was used as a human shield by Israeli forces:

humanshield.profile2.21august2014_0Ahmad Abu Raida was only 16 when Israeli soldiers repeatedly used him as a human shield for five days in Khuza’a, southern Gaza

Ramallah, August 21, 2014—Israeli soldiers repeatedly used Ahmad Abu Raida, 17, as a human shield for five days while he was held hostage during Israel’s ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.

Ahmad, from Khuza’a, near the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, was just 16 years old when he was taken from his family on July 23. He was forced at gunpoint to search for tunnels for five days, during which time he was interrogated, verbally and physically abused, and deprived of food and sleep. Ahmad told DCI-Palestine in a sworn testimony that Israeli soldiers attempted both to extract information from him regarding Hamas members, and recruit him as an informant, before releasing him on July 27.

“The Israeli military has consistently accused Hamas of using civilians – particularly children – as human shields, but this incident represents a clear case of their soldiers forcing a child to directly assist in military operations,” said Rifat Kassis, executive director of DCI-Palestine. “Israeli officials make generalized accusations while Israeli soldiers engage in conduct that amounts to war crimes.”

Ahmad’s ordeal began on July 21, when Israeli tanks entered Khuza’a, a town where Israeli forces allegedly committed war crimes during the the ground invasion of the Gaza Strip. After two days of hiding at home, Ahmad’s family and neighbors attempted to flee intense artillery fire. As they tried to leave, however, Israeli soldiers assembled civilians, separating young men from others.

Ahmad was singled out, detained with his hands tied behind his back, and kicked and insulted by a soldier. His family was released, but lost sight of him as they fled the area.

In the days that followed, despite not being associated with Hamas, Ahmad was interrogated about his political affiliation and the location of Hamas tunnels. He managed to sleep for just two hours on the first night, sitting in a chair with his hands tied behind him. Every day he was made to search for tunnels, including at one point digging under the afternoon sun.

Speaking to DCI-Palestine, Ahmad said, “[The Captain and the soldiers] were walking behind me, with their rifles pointed at me. “Get in and see if there are tunnels or not,” [the Captain] ordered me. They made me search all the rooms for tunnels. Whenever I told them there were no tunnels, they would take me out and search the room themselves.”

The world’s writers, poets and journalists condemn Israel’s targeting of specific journalists in Gaza

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As a member of PEN Afrikaans who is affiliated with PEN International, I welcome the following statement:

pen gazaSince 8 July 2014, when the Israel Defence Force (IDF) began ‘Operation Protective Edge,’ Israeli forces have reportedly killed seven journalists and media workers.

PEN International condemns the killings and the reported deliberate targeting of certain journalists, media organizations and their infrastructures that have taken place during Israel’s offensive in Gaza.

“Freedom of expression has an invaluable role to play in time of war,” said John Ralston Saul, president of PEN International. “Only through a wide spectrum of reporting can the public come to understand and form opinions on what is happening.”

This wide spectrum of reporting is dependent upon the ability of journalists and writers to function in conflict situations. All governments are obliged to ensure that journalists are afforded their right to protection as civilians in a war zone.

Since 8 July 2014, when the Israel Defence Force (IDF) began ‘Operation Protective Edge,’ Israeli forces have reportedly killed seven journalists and media workers and wounded another fifteen, six of whom were reporting on protests in the West Bank.

The most recent killings occurred on 29 July, when – in separate attacks – the IDF struck the home of Ezzat Abu Duhair, a young correspondent with the Al-Huriya Media Network; he and four members of his family were killed. That same day, Bha’a al Graieb, the manager of the Hebrew news department of Palestine TV was killed by an aerial strike whilst taking his daughter to a hospital in Rafah City.

Media outlets have also been attacked or destroyed during the bombardment, including the offices of the National Media Agency, the offices of Wattan Radio station, the offices of Aljazeera TV and three offices belonging to the Hamas Al-Aqsa TV channel and radio station.

Israel has issued a press release saying that it would not accept responsibility for injury to journalists or damage to equipment suffered during reporting from the field.

International journalists can often alert the IDF to their positions – and so avoid some danger. Not all Palestinian journalists have the means to do this.

The fact that some media serve as propaganda tools does not justify making them a military target. The deliberate targeting of journalists and media outlets is a violation of international law and denies reporters their right to protection as civilians in a war zone.

For more information contact Sahar Halaimzai, Communications and Campaigns Manager: sahar.halaimzai@pen-international.org +44 (0) 207 405 0338

Pen International promotes literature and freedom of expression. Founded in 1921, the global community of writers now spans more than 100 countries. PEN International is a non-political organisation which holds Special Consultative Status at the UN and Associate Status at UNESCO.

To see the article on PEN International’s website, click here.

For more, click here.

Hiroshima to Israel: Stop indiscriminate killings in Gaza

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We the citizens of Hiroshima, the city that was completely destroyed by indiscriminate atomic bombing 69 years ago, demand that the Israeli Government immediately stops indiscriminately killing and injuring Palestinian civilians. So far more than 500 people have been killed and about 3,600 injured as a result of continuous aerial bombing and bombardment on the ground, which started on July 8 and July 18 respectively. More than 80 percent of these casualties are ordinary civilians, in particular, women and children, not members of Hamas that Israel calls terrorist Islamic fundamentalists. Clearly such indiscriminate killing and injuring of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli military forces are crimes against humanity and war crimes. More than 60,000 people are now displaced within the Gaza Strip and struggle to survive under intense fear for their lives. Yet, the Israeli government is planning to further escalate indiscriminate attacks on the Palestinians. We strongly condemn such actions, which cannot be rationalized in any way.

The reason for the present mass killing is said to have been the discovery of the dead bodies of three missing Israeli boys near Hebron in Palestinian territory on June 30. Hamas denies responsibility, but Israel’s Prime Minister, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, claims they were murdered by Hamas, hence the retaliation. On July 7, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy was abducted and killed after his body had been doused in kerosene and set alight. Yet, it should be remembered that one month before the murder of the three Israeli boys, two Palestinian boys were cold-bloodedly killed by Israeli soldiers. This incident is also related to the vicious cycle of escalating violence.

According to one source, during the search for the above-mentioned three Israeli boys, Israeli occupation soldiers murdered 7 Palestinians (including a 13 year old child), injured dozens, kidnapped nearly 400 people, demolished many houses, destroyed the contents of hundreds of homes that they invaded in the middle of the night and blocked travel attempts by hundreds of thousands of people. They continue to imprison thousands of others, many of whom are on hunger strikes for being held without charge for months.

In retaliation for such actions by Israeli soldiers, Hamas began launching rocket bombs at Israel, thereby intensifying the reciprocal military violence. The recent attempted rocket attack on the Dimona Nuclear Power Plant in southern Israel by Hamas is of particular concern. It is extremely lucky that this attempt failed. As Japanese citizens, we are well aware of the devastating consequences of the use of nuclear weapons and nuclear power accidents, due to our personal experience of such disasters on our home soil. It is this knowledge that causes us to strongly condemn both the possession of nuclear weapons by Israel and the rocket attack on the Israeli nuclear power plant by Hamas.

To date, Israel has repeatedly violated international law by indiscriminately attacking Palestinian civilians and their domains. From the year 2000 until immediately before the recent onset of aerial bombing, 1,407 Palestinian children were the victims of indiscriminate attacks by Israeli forces. In other words, over the past 14 years on average two children were killed every week. In May this year alone, 214 minors were arrested, detained and tortured without charge or trial. For years many children in the Gaza Strip have suffered malnutrition, resulting in anemia, due to the shortage of food and medicine as a result of the blockade by the Israeli government. In addition, many children suffer serious psychological problems caused by intense and long-lasting fear, due to repeated aerial bombing and bombardment.

We urge Israeli politicians, military officers and soldiers, as well as civilians to imagine the pain and sorrow of Palestinian children and parents, in particular those of parents who have lost their children because of your indiscriminate and inhumane attacks. Such horrific acts upon Palestinians will only cause them to hate Israel more, and thus produce no solution at all. This logic is self evident from your past actions repeated over many years.

It is crystal clear that the real cause of the present tragedy is not the recent reciprocal killing of boys, but the illegal occupation and colonization of the Gaza Strip and the grave violation of Palestinian human rights by Israel over the last half-century. A situation where 1.8 million people are confined to an area of 360 km square, suffering from acute poverty and intense violence, cannot be called an “autonomous region.” It could more appropriately be called a “detention camp.” It is indeed tragic to see a nation, which suffered so badly as a result of the horrendous holocaust by the Nazis during World War II and which lost so manly lives as a consequence, committing “crimes against humanity” against a neighboring nation over the past 50 years or so. As citizens of the city, which became the victim of a nuclear holocaust, we urge you to take the following actions. These are based on our commitment to non-military violence or any other form of violence, in particular the killing or injuring of others. We beg you to

1) Immediately stop the indiscriminate aerial bombing of Palestinian civilians
2) Immediately stop the ground targeted bombardment of Palestinian civilians
3) Immediately stop killing Palestinian civilians, in particular children
4) Stop violating the human rights of Palestinian civilians
5) Stop the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories

We strongly urge you to cease your on-going illegal actions, to respect basic human rights of all people including Palestinians, and to establish and implement new policies based on peace and justice as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely
July 21, 2014

Yuki Tanaka, a citizen of Hiroshima, on behalf of the following 14 organizations in Hiroshima:

  • The August 6 Peace Assembly in Hiroshima (Representative: Dr. Yuki Tanaka)
    Tenma-Cho 13-1-810, Naka-Ku, Hiroshima City, 733-0022, Japan
  •  Kure YWCA (Representative: Ms. Hiroko Kimura)
  • Saiwai-cho, Kure City, Hiroshima Prefecture 737-0028, Japan
  • The Northeast Asian Information Center (Representative: Mr. Yukio Yokohara)
    Itsukaichi Chuo 4-14-1-205, Hiroshima City, 731-5128, Japan
  • The Peace Link Hiroshima, Kure and Iwakuni (Co-Representatives: Mr. Hideki Nitta, Mr. Yukio Nishioka, Mr. Jungen Tamura) c/o Kure YWCA, Saiwai-cho, Kure City, Hiroshima Prefecture 737-0028, Japan
  • The Hiroshima Association of Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution (Representative: Ms. Sumiko Fujii) Ujina Miyuki 1-9-26-413, Minami-Ku, Hiroshima City, 734-0015, Japan
  • The Hiroshima Civil Association for No Nuclear Power (Representative: Mr. Shoji Kihara)
    Ebizono 2-17-9, Saeki-Ku, Hiroshima City, 731-5135, Japan
  • The Hiroshima Association for the Establishment of the Future with Friendly Environment (Co-Representatives: Ms. Maki Tokioka, Ms. Noriko Yumiba, Ms. Ayako Nagahashi) Phone: +81-80-1934-0866
  • The Hiroshima Cooperative Center for Japan’s Constitution and Peace (Representative: Mr. Kazuyuki Senko) Ote-Machi 4-2-27, Naka-Ku, Hiroshima City, 737-0051, Japan
  • The Hiroshima Association for the Establishment of Peaceful, Democratic and Reformed Japan (Representative: Mr. Katsumi Toshimoto) Ote-Machi 4-2-27, Naka-Ku, Hiroshima City, 737-0051, Japan
  • The Hiroshima Committee of AALA Solidarity (Representative: Ms. Noriko Hayashi)
    Ote-Machi 4-2-27, Naka-Ku, Hiroshima City, 737-0051, Japan
  • The Committee of Social Concerns, West Chugoku Area, the United Church of Christ in Japan (Representative: Yoshihiro Jinbo) Minami Sakae 3-1-29, Otake City, Hiroshima Prefecture 739-0602, Japan
  • Hiroshima YWCA (Representative: Ms. Yasue Nakarai) c/o Hiroshima Shujo Church, Wakakusa Cho 6-7, Higashi-Ku, Hiroshima City 732-0053, Japan
  • The Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (Co-Representatives: Dr. Katsuaki Aoki, Dr. Yuki Tanaka, Ms. Haruko Moritaki) c/o Adachi Shuichi Law Firm, Jyohoku Building 2F, Hakushima 18-4, Naka-Ku, Hiroshima City, 730-0005, Japan
  • The Religious Association of Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution (Representative: Mr. Shozo Muneto) c/o Nobori Machi Catholic Church, Hiroshima City, 730-0016, Japan

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A Norwegian doctor in Gaza in pain, in grief, in fear, screaming to world powers: THIS cannot continue!

Now, once more treated like animals by “the most moral army in the world” (sic!). My respect for the wounded is endless, in their contained determination in the midst of pain, agony and shock; my admiration for the staff and volunteers is endless, my closeness to the Palestinian “sumud” gives me strength, although in glimpses I just want to scream, hold someone tight, cry, smell the skin and hair of the warm child, covered in blood, protect ourselves in an endless embrace – but we cannot afford that, nor can they.

These are the words of a Norwegian doctor who volunteers in Gaza. Dr Mads Gilbert is screaming for help to the world powers who stand by.

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Here is his devastating, full account:

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Dearest friends –

The last night was extreme. The “ground invasion” of Gaza resulted in scores and carloads with maimed, torn apart, bleeding, shivering, dying – all sorts of injured Palestinians, all ages, all civilians, all innocent.

The heroes in the ambulances and in all of Gaza’s hospitals are working 12-24hrs shifts, grey from fatigue and inhuman workloads (without payment all in Shifa for the last 4 months), they care, triage, try to understand the incomprehensible chaos of bodies, sizes, limbs, walking, not walking, breathing, not breathing, bleeding, not bleeding humans. HUMANS!

Now, once more treated like animals by “the most moral army in the world” (sic!). My respect for the wounded is endless, in their contained determination in the midst of pain, agony and shock; my admiration for the staff and volunteers is endless, my closeness to the Palestinian “sumud” gives me strength, although in glimpses I just want to scream, hold someone tight, cry, smell the skin and hair of the warm child, covered in blood, protect ourselves in an endless embrace – but we cannot afford that, nor can they.

Ashy grey faces – Oh NO! not one more load of tens of maimed and bleeding, we still have lakes of blood on the floor in the ER, piles of dripping, blood-soaked bandages to clear out – oh – the cleaners, everywhere, swiftly shovelling the blood and discarded tissues, hair, clothes,cannulas – the leftovers from death – all taken away…to be prepared again, to be repeated all over. More then 100 cases came to Shifa last 24 hrs. enough for a large well trained hospital with everything, but here – almost nothing: electricity, water, disposables, drugs, OR-tables, instruments, monitors – all rusted and as if taken from museums of yesterdays hospitals.But they do not complain, these heroes. They get on with it, like warriors, head on, enormous resolute.t

And as I write these words to you, alone, on a bed, my tears flows, the warm but useless tears of pain and grief, of anger and fear. This is not happening!
And then, just now, the orchestra of the Israeli war-machine starts its gruesome symphony again, just now: salvos of artillery from the navy boats just down on the shores, the roaring F16, the sickening drones (Arabic ‘Zennanis’, the hummers), and the cluttering Apaches. So much made and paid in and by US.

Mr. Obama – do you have a heart?

I invite you – spend one night – just one night – with us in Shifa. Disguised as a cleaner, maybe.

I am convinced, 100%, it would change history.

Nobody with a heart AND power could ever walk away from a night in Shifa without being determined to end the slaughter of the Palestinian people.

But the heartless and merciless have done their calculations and planned another “dahyia” onslaught on Gaza.

The rivers of blood will keep running the coming night. I can hear they have tuned their instruments of death.

Please. Do what you can. This, THIS cannot continue.

Mads
Gaza, Occupied Palestine

Mads Gilbert MD PhD
Professor and Clinical Head
Clinic of Emergency Medicine
University Hospital of North Noura Erakat

Source: E-mail from Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor who is in Gaza right now, to Tony Gratrex, posted on Facebook by Dr Rita Giacaman. Saturday, 19 Jul 2014 15:17:25 +0000

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Kairos Southern Africa on Syria

Once again, the drums of war are sounding in our region. Once again, the US is leading the campaign for this war, this time on Syria. And once again, the US and some European and Arab countries are justifying it in the name of democracy, human rights, and humanity itself.

These are the opening words from Kairos Palestine’s Statement on Syria (issued in Bethlehem, 2 September 2013). They close their strong statement with an appeal:

We call upon churches worldwide, as well as other civil society organizations and networks, to take a stand in opposition to this intended war which will not herald any just peace.

We commend the UK House of Commons’ decision to refuse participation in the possible war on Syria, and we urge the US Congress to do the same.

A Free Syrian Army fighter mourns at the grave of his father in a public park that has been converted into a makeshift graveyard in Deir el-ZorKhalil Ashawi/Reuters: A Syrian rebel fighter mourns at the grave of his father who was killed in a shelling by government forces

In response to the Kairos Palestine Statement on Syria, Kairos South Africa issued a press release last night:

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PRESS RELEASE:

Urgent appeal to President Obama and US Congress to uphold international law on Syria and the rest of the Middle East

3 September 2013

We note the two decisions President Barack Obama’s announced on Sunday 1 September 2013: his “decision as President of the US” (as he phrased it) to launch a targeted attack on Syria; and his decision to seek approval from the US Congress. In the same address, President Obama referred to his concern for “national security”.

We also hear the urgent “call upon churches worldwide, as well as other civil society organizations and networks, to take a stand in opposition to this intended war which will not herald any just peace” in Kairos Palestine’s statement on Syria (see attached).

As a Christian movement with inclusive and pluralistic values that honour the human dignity of all, and as citizens of a country that knows the pain of violence and oppression in the name of ideology, we cannot suffice with silence in this dire situation. We are gravely concerned for the Syrian people and for the potential impact on the region and on the rest of the world and want to say the following:

  1. We agree that the use of chemical weapons such as on Wednesday, 21 August 2013 in Ghouta should be condemned unequivocally. It is against international law, it is inhumane and it does not reflect the kind of world we choose. Those who are responsible for instigating the use of chemical agents should be held accountable. As such we shall welcome a thorough analysis resulting in credible intelligence on this matter.
  2. We interpret President Obama’s logic as contradictory and his application of international humanitarian law as inconsistent. He referred to the fact that chemical warfare is illegal and therefore requires a response. Yet a military intervention such as the one Obama suggests without the sanction of the United Nations will also be illegal. We cannot accept such blatant hypocrisy.
  3. Moreover, an illegal military strike by the US on Syria may deepen and broaden the conflict in the region and trigger the involvement of more countries resulting in a long and bloody war that can spill over to the rest of the world. The approximately two million refugees (which include thousands of Palestinians who were displaced during the 1948 Nakba) place an unprecedented strain on communities, infrastructure and services in host countries. What is at stake here is not only the national security of the US, but also (and at the very least) the security of the Syrians and those in the region.
  4. We call on President Obama and the US Congress to adhere to all international humanitarian and human rights laws in their interaction with Syria, to not hide or misrepresent these aspects in their political arguments and to not regard military intervention as the only option. To us, one more casualty will be one too many. Moreover, we urge President Obama and the US Congress to not desert the Syrians, but to urgently implement legal initiatives to condemn the use of chemical and other illegal warfare in Syria.
  5. We are appalled that when recently more than 1000 Egyptians were killed by the Egyptian army, the USA did not express its abhorrence. Another glaring example of Washington’s selective application of human rights and humanitarian laws in the Middle East applies to Palestine and Israel. Here the US attempts to broker a peace settlement without, for example, enforcing Israel to stop building settlements that are in clear violation of international law. Therefore we ask President Obama and the Congress to also uphold all international humanitarian and human rights laws and all rulings of International Courts and the United Nations in their international relations and peace negotiations with Egypt, Israel, Palestine and all other countries.
    1. Like Kairos Palestine, we condemn any calls for war. We call on all parties involved to do all in their power to reach a negotiated, peaceful and just settlement and we suggest that such negotiations take place under the auspices of the United Nations.
    2. We support Pope Francis’ calls for prayers and fasting on 7 September for peace in Syria.

The recently celebrated dream as expressed by Martin Luther King Jr is a dream of dignity for all people. However, creating and sustaining more and more division in order to serve ideological interests will not serve to realise this dream, but will increase the instability and tension for the women and children and minorities of the region. We want the realisation of this dream to apply to all as we believe that our spiritual task is not to be religious with the purpose to advance fundamentalism and exclusive narratives, but rather to become more human since all are created in the image of God.

Issued by:

Marthie Momberg, Rev Moss Nthla, Dr Stiaan van der Merwe and Rev Edwin Arrison,  on behalf of Kairos Southern Africa.

 Reuters
Reuters: Activists inspect bodies they say were killed in a toxic gas attack.
PS For Obama’s confidence about violating international law – click here.
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Obama’s confidence on violating international law

So military intervention and yet another violation of international law is the only option according to President Obama? More war for peace?  I usually try to avoid anger, but I find his position outrageous.  We as global citizens need to reject his position unequivocally!

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I am not the only one to think so.  Click on the link below to listen to a short extract from Obama’s shocking announcement on Sunday 1 September, with commentary from an American who does not agree with his president:
Obama is confident about violating international law.

This is not the first or only example of how the US (and therefore Obama) willingly violates international law. The US administration currently tries to broker a peace settlement between Israel and Palestine without, for example, enforcing Israel to stop building settlements that are in clear violation of international law.

How does one make sense of a president of a major world power (also awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace) who says he is confident to ignore the United Nations?  Is it because he and his administration has vetoed the UN so many times in the past and get away with breaking the law in forging their relations with Israel?  What is the source of this confidence?

PS To read the strong statement by Kairos Palestine and Kairos South Africa’s response, click here.

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EU takes a stand on Israeli settlements

What seems so logic – for the EU to act in accordance with international law in its business with Israel – will only take effect early in January 2014.

Yet for the first time ever Israel now has to acknowledge in writing that the West Bank settlements are not part of Israel….

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This means that EU member states may no longer issue grants, scholarships, funding, and prizes to Israeli organizations operating in settlements on Palestinian land.

The European Union’s “territorial clause,” will be a binding rule on all negotiations with Israel. In effect, it determines that all agreements between Israel and the EU will be valid only within Israeli borders recognized by the European Union, meaning the borders prior to the 1967 Six-Day War.

All settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank are illegal according to international law as an occupier may not transfer any of its civilian population to the land of the occupied party (Geneva Convention, Article 49, Paragraph 6).

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That the European Union now officially recognizes that Israeli settlements on Palestinian land are illegal comes as a shock to Israel.

Israel does not agree with the law or with the EU.

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According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz a senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the new ruling, which was published on June 30 2013, as an “earthquake”:

This is the first time such an official, explicit guideline has been published by the European Union bodies…Until today there were understandings and quiet agreements that the Union does not work beyond the Green Line [the pre-1967-war border]; now this has become a formal, binding policy.

Says the article in Haaretz:

In the Prime Minister’s Office and Foreign Ministry there is great tension and anxiety over the new regulation and its implications for Israeli-EU relations. The efforts of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin to stop the move have all failed.

When I watched the news on Aljazeera last night (16 July 2013) Elkin said that this new ruling will slow down the “peace process”.

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In my opinion this kind of remark makes people think that the world (and Palestine) does not want peace between the two countries…..and “as Israel wants peace, they are brave and good”.  It also creates the impression of “complexity” – whereas the law is quite clear.  The kind of peace the Israeli government has in mind, is the kind where Palestinians will not be equal citizens in neither their own nor in a shared country.  Peace in Israel’s language does not imply adherence to international law.

Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi embraced the EU’s decision, saying that:

“[this] is the beginning of new era. Israel should listen carefully and should understand that this occupation cannot continue without any kind of accountability.”  (IMEMC).

The legally binding directive will come into effect in January 2014.  It is a step in the right direction, but it has taken too long to arrive at this point.  We shall one day have to look back and acknowledge that the world (that’s us) failed Palestine (and therefore human rights).

For peace in Israel and in Palestine, both countries and all world players (including the USA) should uphold human rights not only in their talk, but in their deeds.  It starts with each individual as politicians’ decisions are strongly influenced by what their voters push for.