Update: Dr. Clint Le Bruyns on the Gaza Flotilla, and why we hear nothing

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Dr. Clint Le Bruyns describes how Israel tries to prevent his team from boarding the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and why they have to limit their communication.

Click on the link below to read his blog:

Public Activism

I also received the following update this morning (29 June 2015):

“4 hours 49 min ago:
News: The Israeli military (IDF) announces on their blog that they have boarded the fishing vessel Marianne of Gothenburg on it’s way to Gaza. All passengers will be transported to the Israeli seaport Ashdod within 12 to 24 hours. The fishing trawler Marianne of Gothenburg, a rebuilt trawler loaded with medical equipment and solar panels, was boarded in international waters. Ship to Gaza had last contact with the crew onboard 00.57AM (GMT+2).”

and further:

“Statement by Ship to Gaza Sweden
Press release Created Today at 09:32

Ship to Gaza’s Swedish-flagged fishing trawler Marianne of Gothenburg has been boarded by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) about 100 nautical miles from Gaza. Last contact with Marianne took place 00:57 Swedish time. According to information from the IDF, who does not deny that the attack took place far out in international waters, is the hijacked ship in this moment, along with the captured crew and passengers, brought to the Israeli seaport Ashdod, which they expect to reach during the day. Also this time there were active MPs among participants of the flotilla, as well as Tunisia’s former president.

Ship to Gaza Sweden protest against this flagrant abuse of the freedom of navigation. Israel’s repeated acts of piracy in international waters are worrying signs that the occupation and blockade policy extends to the entire eastern Mediterranean.

We demand that Marianne be returned, and that her crew and passengers will be immediately released, so that they can continue their journey to their destination in Gaza.

We urge our government and the international community to take immediate action against daily violations of international law and human rights under Israeli blockade and occupation.

The three boats Rachel, Vittorio and Juliano II who followed Marianne has now according to plan turned back towards Greek ports.”

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2015 Gaza Flotilla: A Cry for Peace, a Plea for Justice

Why does someone like fellow activist Clint le Bruyns* risk his life by sailing to Gaza? Did Israel not kill nine unarmed activists in a similar attempt?

When reading the news of Israel’s horrific attack on the 2009 Gaza Freedom Flotilla I was sitting at a desk in Berlin where I studied at the time. Then I had no idea that I would become involved in the plight of the Palestinians and that six years later the very person who introduced me to the matter would be on his way to Gaza in another Flotilla.

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Dr Clint le Bruyns – theologian, scholar, Kairos colleague and human rights activist – is one of the more than 50 crew and passengers on his way to be part of yet another attempt to break the siege on Gaza and to provide much needed humanitarian aid. With him are a former Tunisian president, athletes, academics, parliamentarians, diplomats, journalists and a Catholic nun who want to reach the port of Gaza and call on the international community to open it:

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According to the official website of Freedom Flotilla III their purpose is not to act against Israel, but against occupation:

Our actions would not be needed, if governments worldwide and international bodies like the EU and the UN would take steps to ensure accountability of Israeli governments for war crimes and collective punishment against the 1.8 million Palestinian population in Gaza Strip. We welcome voices from Israel who publicly state that the State of Israel is not threatened by the action against the blockade.

The international community should stop turning a blind eye on the blockade and occupation and take steps urgently towards the direction of ensuring the opening of the port in Gaza, the only port of Palestine to the rest of the world.

The Israeli-Arab Knesset member Basel Ghattas from the Arab Joint List, before boarding a converted fishing trawler the Marianne of Gothenburg, which is leading the convoy, said: “It is my right and moral obligation to tell the world, ‘Behold, look, in Gaza there is a closure and two million people are on the brink of explosion'”:

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Israel’s right-wing is now moving to penalize MK Ghattas for his participation in a legitimate political action of people from all around the world.

The activists are not alone. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of activists from all over the world, sail with them in spirit.

shipThe Marianne of Gothenburg, which is preparing to set sail for Gaza. Photo: Press TV.

The Gaza Freedom Flotilla is a public cry for peace and a plea for justice. It is a demonstration of all that is good in humanity. It celebrates unity across religious traditions, cultures, gender and race.

A year ago I sat nailed before my TV screen as Israel bombarded Gaza:

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According to the UN Human Rights Council report, there were 6000 airstrikes on the Palestinian Gaza Strip including “targeted attacks on [Palestinian] residential and other buildings.” These Israeli attacks resulted in 142 Palestinians families having “three or more members killed in the same incident”. The report says that “in many of the cases examined…there is little or no information as to how [Palestinian] residential buildings, which are prima facie civilian objects immune from attack, came to be regarded as legitimate military objectives [by Israel].

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Justice Mary McGowan Davisto, chair of the UN investigation commission said that Israel’s killing of thousands of Gaza civilians and their destruction to the lives of many more in the summer of 2014 were ”unprecedented and will impact generations to come.”

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The Israel of today is more right-wing than on 30 May 2009 when the nine activists on the Mavi Marmara were killed, and even more right-wing than in the summer of 2014. The newly elected Netanyahu regime and its allies cling neurotically to an unjust system of discrimination and neglect. They tighten the desperation of their grip by instilling fear amongst Jewish Israeli civilians; by claiming that God gives them the right to dispossess and extinguish Palestinians; and by feeding the greed of power-hungry political and business players as fast as they can.

Meanwhile Israel has the highest poverty rate among countries in the developed world (see the findings of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or OECD). In other words the Israeli government, with the financial and political help of the USA, spends billions of dollars on illegal, unjust warfare and occupation instead of building a just, sustainable society. Israel denies its own Arab citizens, the Palestinians in diaspora and those trapped in Gaza, the West Bank and in East Jerusalem decent lives and basic human rights. Who benefits? The politicians who for ever want more power and the business elites who militarize the world for profit. It is a shame. Then there are of course those who are led by the nose, or who are too self-absorbed or too scared to confront the injustices, and those who believe in a God who favours some lives more than others. This too is a disgrace.

Humanity can do better!  Clint and the other activists on the Freedom Flotilla represent the moral voice of the global civil society. They can do with our support. They have had very good non-violent training, but of course we know what Israel is capable of. Let us take hands with these activists who want the siege of Gaza to end in a just, non-violent manner. We can do it with our energy – wherever we are.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA* Dr. Clint Le Bruyns (second from the left) is Director and Senior Lecturer: Theology and Development Programme at the Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of Kwazulu Natal in South Africa. Ismail Moola of the Palestine Solidarity Alliance (SA) and others are providing logistical support for all activists on board the flotilla. (This photograph was taken at the Cape Town airport when comrades welcomed me home after Israel denied me entry without giving a reason.)

Some interesting findings from the newly released UN Gaza Report

…all rejected together with the rest of the report by Israel and its funder, the Obama Administration:

  • Paragraph 321 shockingly describes how Israel used Palestinians as human shields in the war of 2014.
  • Israeli supporters claimed that one of the reasons for the Israeli attacks was to destroy tunnels that were allegedly being used to conduct “terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians”. The report found that the Palestinian tunnels “were only used to conduct attacks directed at IDF positions in Israel in the vicinity of the Green Line, which are legitimate military targets.”
  • According to the UN investigators Israel refused to respond to any requests for information and barred the UN investigators from traveling to the occupied Palestinian West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Israel. Did Israel hide something?
  • In Israel six civilians and more than 60 soldiers died in fighting due to violations on the part of Palestinian resistance groups. Yet the scale and impact of Israeli violence dwarfs anything allegedly done by Palestinians.
Video

Gaza as seen by an Israeli soldier and street artist Banksy

A revealing interview

Everyone should hear how a former IDF soldier explains the similarities of what his grandmother experienced in Auschwitz and why he has to speak out against Israel and the USA. Eran Efrati is a former IDF soldier who recounts his experience, assignments and killing protocols along with what he witnessed as a soldier to Aby Martin:

Abby-MartinClick here for the YouTube interview.

 

When Banksy sneaked into Gaza

It is not the first time that Banksy, a street artist revered by millions for his socio-political commentary on the walls of the world, has been to the occupied Palestinian territories. His graffiti are on the segregation wall in Bethlehem and in Ramallah, and now also on the ruins of Gaza:

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Gallery

Is Israel guilty of Genocide in its assault on Gaza?

If viewed from the perspective of international law – is Israel guilty of genocide in Gaza or not? To prevent the crime of silence, the Russell Tribunal held a special hearing. Richard Falk provides an overview of the findings.

Gaza-7Palestinians clashes with Israeli troops following the protest against the Israeli operations in Gaza at the al-Jalazone Camp in Ramallah, West Bank. Photo: Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

On September 24, a special session of the Tribunal critically scrutinized Israel’s summer assault on Gaza, Operation Protective Edge, from the perspective of international law, including the core allegation of genocide. The process involved a series of testimonies by legal and weapons experts, health workers, journalists and others, some of whom directly experienced the fifty days of military assault.

Gaza-12Israeli soldiers rest next to artillery shells from an artillery unit near the Israeli border with Gaza; Photo:EPA/ABIR SULTAN

A jury composed of prominent individuals from around the world, known for their moral engagement with issues of the day, assessed the evidence with the help of an expert legal team of volunteers that helped with the preparation of the findings and analysis for consideration by the jury, which deliberated and debated all the issues raised—above all, the question of how to respond to the charge of genocide.

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine was inspired by the original Russell Tribunal, which was held in 1967 at the height of the Vietnam War. Convened by the great English philosopher Bertrand Russell and presided over by Jean-Paul Sartre, those original sessions assessed charges of war crimes committed by the United States in Vietnam. Subsequent tribunals included the Russell Tribunal on Latin America, which investigated the military dictatorships in Argentina, Brazil and Chile. The first Russell Tribunal proceedings on Palestine, convened in the wake of Israel’s 2008–09 assault on Gaza, were held in four sessions, from 2010 to 2012.

Gaza-11Palestinians paramedics lift the body of a man from the Al Shejaeiya neighbourhood, during a brief period of ceasefire requested by local rescue forces to retrieve dead and wounded from the Shuja’iyya neighbourhood in east Gaza City. Photo: EPA/MOHAMMED SABER

It should be acknowledged that this latest undertaking was never intended to be a neutral inquiry without any predispositions. The tribunal was held because of the enormity of the devastation and the spectacle of horror associated with high-technology weaponry attacking the civilian population of Gaza, which was locked into a combat zone that left no place to hide. The tribunal was also a response to the failures of the international community to do more to stop the carnage, or even to condemn Israel’s disproportionate uses of force against an essentially helpless civilian population that included the targeting of a variety of legally forbidden targets, among them UN buildings used as shelters, residential neighborhoods, hospitals and clinics, and mosques.

gaza2Southern Gaza Strip:Young relatives of four boys, all from the Bakr family, killed during Israeli shelling, cry during their funeral in Gaza City. Photo: MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images

Although the tribunal proceeded from the assumption that Israel was responsible for severe wrongdoing, it made every effort to be scrupulous in the presentation of evidence and the interpretation of applicable international law, and relied on testimony from people with established reputations for integrity and conscience. Among the highlights of the testimony were a report on damage to hospitals and clinics given by Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor serving in a Gaza hospital during the attacks; Mohammed Omer, a widely respected Gazan journalist who daily reported from the combat zone; Max Blumenthal, a prize-winning journalist who was in Gaza throughout Protective Edge and analyzed for the jury the overall political design that appeared to explain the civilian targeting patterns; and David Sheen, who reported in agonizing detail on the racist hatred expressed by prominent Israelis during the assault, which was widely echoed by Israelis in the social media and never repudiated by the leadership in Jerusalem.

v3-gaza-1Southern Gaza Strip: A Palestinian man cries as he holds the dead body of his young brother shortly after he got killed by an Israeli naval bombardment in the port of Gaza City in the morgue of the Shifa hospital in Gaza. Photo: Rex Features

The jury had little difficulty concluding that the pattern of attack, as well as the targeting, amounted to a series of war crimes that were aggravated by the commission of crimes against humanity. These included the imposition of collective punishment upon the entire civilian population of Gaza, in flagrant and sustained violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. A further notable legal finding was the rejection of the central Israeli claim that it was acting in self-defense against rocket attacks from Gaza. There are several reasons for reaching this conclusion: under international law, the claim of self-defense cannot be used in justifying response to resistance mounted by an occupied people, and from the perspective of international law, Gaza remains occupied due to persisting Israeli control despite Israel’s purported “disengagement” in 2005 (more properly characterized as a military redeployment). The rockets fired from Gaza were at least partly a response to prior Israeli unlawful provocations, including the mass detention of several hundred people loosely associated with Hamas in the West Bank and the incitement to violence against Palestinians as revenge for the murder of three kidnapped Israeli settler children. And finally, the minimal damage done by the rockets—seven civilian deaths over the entire period—is too small a security threat to qualify as an “armed attack,” as is required by the UN Charter to uphold a claim of self-defense. At the same time, the jury did not doubt that rocket fire by Palestinian militants into Israel was unlawful, as the rockets were incapable of distinguishing between military and civilian targets.

Gaza-9A picture taken from Israel at the southern border with the Gaza strip shows smoke billowing from behind a hill following an Israeli air strike on Gaza City. Photo: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images

The testimony made this issue complex and sensitive. It produced a consensus on the jury that the evidence was sufficient to make it appropriate to give careful consideration as to whether the crime of genocide had actually been committed by Israel. This was itself an acknowledgment that there was a genocidal atmosphere in Israel, in which high-level officials made statements supporting the destruction or elimination of the Gazans as a people. Such inflammatory assertions were at no time repudiated by the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or subject to criminal investigation, let alone any other official proceedings. Furthermore, the sustained bombardment of Gaza, under circumstances where the population had no opportunity to leave or to seek sanctuary within the Gaza Strip, lent further credibility to the charge. The fact that Operation Protective Edge was the third large-scale, sustained military assault on this unlawfully blockaded, impoverished and endangered population also formed part of the larger genocidal context.

gaza-2Southern Gaza Strip:Palestinian men help a local journalist who got injured during an Israeli airstrike on an office building hosting several media outlets in Gaza City. Photo:EPA/OLIVER WEIKEN

Despite these factors, there were legal doubts as to the crime itself. The political and military leaders of Israel never explicitly endorsed the pursuit of genocidal goals, and they purported to seek a ceasefire during the military campaign. The tribunal convincingly documented the government’s goal of intensifying the regime of collective punishment, but there was no clear official expression of intent to commit genocide. The presence of genocidal behavior and language, even if used in government circles, is not by itself sufficient to conclude that Protective Edge, despite its enormity, amounted to the commission of the crime of genocide.

What the jury did agree upon, however, was that some Israeli citizens and leaders appear to have been guilty in several instances of the separate crime of incitement to genocide, which is specified in Article 3(c) of the Genocide Convention. It also agreed that the additional duty of Israel and other parties to prevent genocide, especially the United States and Europe, was definitely engaged by Israeli behavior. In this regard, the Russell Tribunal is sending an incriminating message of warning to Israel and an appeal to the UN and the international community to uphold the Genocide Convention, and to prevent any further behavior by Israel that would cross the line.

1-Rescue-EPATwo Palestinian men flee their homes during a temporary ceasefire in the heavily-hit Shuja’iya neighbourhood in Gaza City. Photo:EPA

Many will react to this assessment of Protective Edge as without legal authority and dismiss it as merely recording the predictable views of a “kangaroo court.” Those allegations have been directed at the Russell Tribunal ever since its founding nearly fifty years ago. Bertrand Russell called the original proceedings a stand of citizens of conscience “against the crime of silence.” This latest session of the tribunal has a similar mission in relation to Israel’s actions in Gaza, although less against silence than indifference. Such tribunals, created almost always in exceptional circumstances and in response to defiance of the most elemental constraints of international law, make crucial contributions to public awareness—especially when geopolitical realities preclude established institutional procedures, such as recourse to the International Criminal Court and the UN Security Council and General Assembly.

When the interests of the West are at stake, as in Ukraine, there is no need to activate unofficial international law initiatives. However, in the case of Israel-Palestine, when the US government and most of Western Europe stand fully behind whatever Israel chooses to do, the need for an accounting is particularly urgent, even if the prospects for accountability are minimal. The long-suffering people of Gaza have endured three criminal assaults in the past six years, which have left virtually the entire population, especially young children, traumatized by the experience.

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The Russell Tribunal is filling a normative vacuum in the world. It does not pretend to be a court. In fact, among its recommendations is a call on the Palestinian Authority to join the International Criminal Court and present its grievance to the authorities in The Hague for their investigation and possible indictments. Even then, prosecution will be impossible, as Israel is not a party to the treaty establishing the ICC and would certainly refuse to honor any arrest warrants issued in The Hague. A trial could not proceed without the physical presence of those accused. It is notable that Hamas has joined in urging recourse to the ICC despite the distinct possibility that allegations against its rocket fire would also be investigated and its officials could be indicted for alleged war crimes.

As with the Nuremberg judgment, which documented Nazi criminality but excluded any consideration of the crimes committed by the victors in World War II, the Russell Tribunal process was flawed and can be criticized as one-sided. At the same time, I am confident that, on balance, this assessment of Israel’s behavior toward the people of Gaza will support the long struggle to make the rule of law applicable to the strong as well as the weak.

Gaza 13Palestinian mourners pray in a mosque during the funeral for those killed in a three-storey house belonging to the Abu Jamaa family the day before, in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo:MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images

For more information on the Russell Tribunal, click here: Russell Tribunal

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 Geo-Strategic significance of Gaza

Ordinary citizens in all parts of the world without exception, want radical changes in the way the global commons is governed: politically, economically, financially and socially. There is a deep discontent with the “the way the world is organized and works”.

Andre ZAAIMAN - MindSIGHT

PONDERING POINTS: Short, quick-and-dirty pieces of thinking out loud

PP1: The The Geo-Strategic Significance of Gaza

©Andre ZAAIMAN 2014

“Thus in the beginning the world was so made that certain signs come before certain events.”  

Cicero

The current violent assault by Israel on a territory (Gaza) and a people (Palestinians) that it has displaced and occupies – and on Hamas in particular – has, at a tactical level, its domestic roots in the 2005 unilateral “withdrawal” of Israel from Gaza by the then Government of Ariel SHARON. It signaled the end of the “peace process” which had already by then, especially following the 1995 murder of Yitzhak RABIN by a fellow Israeli Jew and the death of the Palestinian leader Yasser ARAFAT in 2004 – a year after the 2003 US invasion of Iraq – started to morph from a real peace process into a mere extension of war-by-other-means.

As…

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Status

South African march for Palestine: all expectations exceeded!

We hoped 100 000 people would join the march for Gaza on 9 August 2014. We were wrong!

While an accurate number of participants is not readily available, a Mail & Guardian photographer in attendance estimated there were “well over 100 000, possible even close to 200 000 people”. There is no doubt that the massive march was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, the city has ever seen.

People came from different parts of the country – Benoni, Lenasia, Johannesburg, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Port Elizabeth and many other places. When the first marchers were half way up Adderley Street in the city centre, the tail had still to leave the starting point in Keizergracht.

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What a day. Imagine all these women, men and children walking side by side, singing together….”we are marching, we are marching, we are marching…..” and chanting “free Palestine!”

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Whilst the city started to fill up with people hours before the march started, the organising committee gathered at the St George’s Cathedral in the city bowl to pray before the proceedings:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATwo members of the National Coalition for Palestine’s (NC4P) steering committee with the Palestinian Ambassador to South Africa. From left to right: Moulana Abdul Khalique Allie from the Muslim Judicial Council, Rev Edwin Arrison from Kairos Southern Africa, Abdel Hafiz Nofal from the Palestinian Embassy.

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As we left the St George’s Cathedral to join the procession in Keizergracht, the streets not earmarked to be part of the march, were already lined with protesters:

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Nobel Laureate, retired Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, talked to the audience in his own special way before we marched:

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He accused Israel of behaving like a “barbaric bully” in Gaza. He also said that violence leads to violence, and rejecting the oppressive Israeli regime does not mean rejecting Jews. “We are not against Jews” he said as the crowd cheered him.

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We were indeed joined by a group of Jews – also to the loud cheer of the crowd:

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The march was led by cyclists, a brigade and drummers.

“We’re from Burundi, but we’ve come to add our voices,” said the spokesman of the drummers, who wore a T-shirt with the words “Africans understand colonialism” emblazoned across the front.

 

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On our arrival at the South African Parliament, we handed our petition to Mr Mandla Mandela, a member of Parliament. We asked for decisive action from the South African government against the Israeli attacks, killings, displacement and destruction of the Gaza Strip; and an international inquiry into the conduct of the Israeli forces in targeting and destroying humanitarian infrastructure in Gaza. Several speakers also asked for the Israeli Ambassador to be expelled.

We as South Africans expressed our unity with Palestine. As a colleague said, maybe our government has not yet cut ties with Israel, but the people of this country have done so. The boycott of Woolworths also continues.

The peaceful, disciplined march was without any incidents. It was organised by the newly formed National Coalition for Palestine (NC4P) which consists of 30 religious and civil society organisations, trade unions and political parties.

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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.

Jews against Genocide: Compassionate people from across the globe must protest against Israel

We brought dolls to symbolise the children of Gaza, and tried to bring a glimpse of the horror that Gazans face, to Israel’s doorstep. We hope to show Israel, and the world, the absurd reality of using the memory of one genocide to justify another.

jews against genocide

Their full statement follows:

JEWS AGAINST GENOCIDE

We, Jews Against Genocide, came to Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial of the genocide committed against Jews, to honor the Palestinian children who are dying in a genocide committed by Jews.

We brought dolls to symbolise the children of Gaza, and tried to bring a glimpse of the horror that Gazans face, to Israel’s doorstep. We hope to show Israel, and the world, the absurd reality of using the memory of one genocide to justify another.

We invite compassionate people from across the globe to join the outcry by staging similar protests in front of Israeli embassies and consulates around the world. Please send pictures of your actions to jewsagainstgenocide1948@gmail.com.

Just as we honor the people who were murdered seven decades ago in Europe because they were Jews, we are here to honor the people who are being murdered at this very moment because they are the indigenous people of this land who are not Jews.

The UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines Genocide as, “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; […]“

The children of Gaza, who are being systematically murdered as we write this article, constitute 52% percent of the population under siege in the strip. The vast majority of these children are descendants of refugees from historical Palestine.

In the current round of atrocities committed by the Israel occupation army, so far dozens of children have been murdered in their homes, with Israel’s war-making leadership vowing “much higher costs” on the Palestinian side as the bombing and shelling continues.

The war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Gaza today are the latest stage of an ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide against the indigenous people of this land.

The Jewish State was founded on the Zionist principle of “maximum Jews on maximum land, and minimum Arabs on minimum land”, which was made reality through sixty-six years of continued assault against Palestinians, denying them the right to live freely and peacefully in their historical homeland.

The Israeli regime has turned the beautiful Gaza strip into a densely populated ghetto, with unsafe water, untreated sewage, and insufficient resources and electricity. This ghetto has become a concentration camp, through repeated Israeli massacres in what the Goldstone Report described as an effort to, “humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish[ing] its local economic capacity.”

We express our support and solidarity for the Palestinian civil society’s call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, until it complies with the three basic demands of:

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

Never Again for Anyone – End Israel’s Genocide of Palestinians
Jews Against Genocide (JAG)

Resources:
United Nations, preventing Genocide:http://www.un.org/en/preventgenocide/adviser/genocide_prevention.shtml
Palestinian civil society call for BDS: http://www.bdsmovement.net/call
United Nations, human rights in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories:http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/12session/A-HRC-12-48.pdf