Friday 22 February 2013

The One-Sided Ceasefire

What a 'period of calm' looks like in the Occupied Territories
Ben White for Al Jazeera

"Three months have passed since the ceasefire that brought an end to Israel's eight-day attack on the Gaza Strip known as Operation "Pillar of Defence". This infographic depicts the number of attacks on the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military during this three-month period, as well as the number of Palestinian attacks emanating from Gaza. Since late November, Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have averaged over one a day, everyday. These include shootings by troops positioned along the border fence, attacks on fishermen working off the Gaza coast, and incursions by the Israeli army.

This data is important for three reasons. First, it is a response to the Western media's failure to cover the vast majority of Israeli attacks. This fits with a familiar and disturbing pattern, where a regional "period of calm" is exclusively defined in terms of attacks on Israelis. "Calm" from this perspective means security for Israelis - but more dead and injured Palestinians.

Second, data of this nature lay bare the daily reality for Palestinians and the power imbalance between the occupier and an occupied, colonised people fighting for their basic rights. It is instructive that the Israeli army refers to the entry of its forces into the Gaza Strip as "routine activity". Meanwhile, Israeli soldiers continue to snatch Palestinians from their homes in the West Bank, enforce segregation, and protect settler land theft. We have included numbers for Palestinians killed and wounded in the West Bank over this same period because developments there and in Gaza ought not to be viewed as isolated from one another.

Third, if or when there is another assault by Israel on the Gaza Strip, the Israeli government and many in the West will seek to emphasise the "rockets" narrative once again. So remember this data, and note what the Israeli army has been doing when - in the words of Israel's own consul general in Los Angeles - "for the last three months, there hasn't been a rocket fired from Gaza"."

Illustration and design -  Rachele Richards

Sunday 17 February 2013

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Unemployment in Gaza is overwhelming so finding work is a huge challenge. Those with any kind of income are amongst the lucky ones. However, for some workers carving out a basic living, their attempts to feed their families can be life threatening if their work takes them into the proximity of the Israeli army - even when the Israeli authorities have granted authorisation.

On 14th February 2013, Kamil Al-Kafarna (20) was working as a labourer scavenging construction materials near the Erez crossing in the very north of the Gaza Strip. He and his cousin Hosam Al-Kafarna, both from Beit Hanoun, were working in the area with permission from the Israeli authorities when they were shot by an Israeli sniper. A bullet entered through the right side of Kamil's abdomen, causing tears in his stomach, diaphragm and liver. The doctors believe that due to the damage inflicted upon his internal organs, he will never fully recover.

Hosam Al-Kafarna (21) was wounded along with Kamil as they were working near Erez. He was hit by two bullets. The first hit his right hand and the second one went through his left arm and then hit Kamil. Hosam will need to undergo surgery due to the bone damage in his arm caused by the bullet.

Kamil and Hosam happen to be cousins of Mamdouh Al-Kafarna who was shot in the leg by Israeli forces on 29th January, 2013 while he was farming in the east of Beit Hanoun.

Photos courtesy of Desde Palestina

Thursday 14 February 2013

Free All Palestinian Detainees - Save the Hunger Strikers

Supporters holding posters of Samer Issawi on his 205th day of hunger strike in an Israeli jail

A letter delivered to the United Nations today at the UNDP office in Gaza City:

We request an immediate end to Israel's policies of detention of Palestinians in Israeli jails. Endless United Nations resolutions describe Israel's occupation of Palestine, the longest-running military occupation in modern history, as a violation of international law. The General Assembly has also affirmed and re-affirmed "the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, particularly armed struggle" in Palestine.

Yet the same United Nations continues to allow Israel's colonial domination and occupation of Palestinian land, as well as Israel's incarceration of anyone resisting against it. For many Palestinians forced from homes taken by Jewish Israeli families, merely existing as Palestinian Arabs in their native land was deemed a crime by Israeli forces. In reality, the crime would be to not resist such acts of ethnic cleansing, clearly defined in past precedents where the United Nations has intervened.

Most recently the United Nations Human Rights Council called for sanctions, detailing Israel's denial of the Palestinian right to "self-determination, non-discrimination, freedom of movement, equality, due process, fair trial, not to be arbitrarily detained, liberty and security of person, freedom of expression, freedom to access places of worship, education, water, housing, adequate standard of living, property, access to natural resources and effective remedy," as well as its continued "dispossession, evictions, demolitions and displacement" of Palestinians.

Samer Issawi, Jafar Azzidine, Tariq Qa’adan and Yousef Yassin are four Palestinians detained by Israel whose only option to win dignity and justice is to refuse food. Arrested and held without charges, they have hunger struck for as many as 205 days and are reportedly "close to death." 4,700 more political prisoners abducted from the West Bank and Gaza Strip face a harsh and discriminatory Israeli military judicial system, which frequently jails people for years for throwing rocks at tanks of an occupying military force. The laws of an illegal occupier are themselves illegal.

ADDAMEER, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented Palestinian detainees' routine subjection to torture and ill-treatment, isolation, denial of family visits, and medical negligence, among other violations of international norms.

Samer Issawi is on his 205th day of hunger strike. His family in Issawiyeh has been attacked by the Israeli army for his resistance to unjust imprisonment. Doctors have said his condition is now critical. He represents the struggle of all Palestinian prisoners, incarcerated for resisting an illegal occupation, the colonial conquest of the land of an entire people.

Our meetings with families of detainees from the Gaza Strip inform us of ordeals too hard and heart-breaking for words to describe. No children have been allowed to visit their incarcerated relatives for nearly six years, while a blanket five-year ban on visits by spouses and parents only recently ended. Akram Rikhawi, released on 7 February after a 102-day hunger strike, couldn't recognize his ten-year-old son, whom he had not seen in nine years. He was allowed only two visits during his incarceration, and learned of his mother's death on the radio a month after it happened.

We demand the immediate release of Samer Issawi, Jafar Azzidine, Tariq Qa'adan and Yousef Yassin. We demand that the United Nations pressure Israel to release all Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails and call for an immediate end to the abominable treatment of Palestinian detainees. Resistance to a brutal military occupation is not a crime, but a duty.

Akram Al-Rikhawy, former political prisoner and hunger striker addressing a press conference in front of the UNDP building in Gaza City

A poetry recital in support of the Palestinian detainees

All photos courtesy of Desde Palestina

Saturday 9 February 2013

Palestinian Farmers Call for International Boycott

The International Day of Action for the Boycott of Israeli Agricultural Products - Day of Action in Zaytoun, Gaza and Madama, West Bank
On Saturday 9th of February in the Zaytoun district on the outskirts of Gaza City, hundreds of local farmers and fishermen were joined by the Union of Agricultural Work Committees and activists from International Action for Palestine as they participated in the International Day of Action for the Boycott of Israeli Agricultural Products. They marched to Palestinian farmland in the 'buffer zone' near the eastern border of the Gaza Strip and planted olive trees on razed farmland which had previously contained vast numbers of olive and citrus trees until they were bulldozed by the Israeli army in recent years.

Planting olive trees in the ´buffer zone´ in Zaytoun, Gaza 
Photo courtesy of Desde Palestina

Palestinian farmers attempting to work on their land in border areas such as Zaytoun, all the way down the eastern length of the Gaza Strip, endure Israeli military aggression on a daily basis. A similar situation is faced by Palestinian fishermen trying to earn a living in Gazan waters, where Israeli naval gunboats open fire on them and abduct them and their fishing boats. Many farmers and fishermen have been injured and some have even been killed whilst going about their daily work. Since the ceasefire that was announced on 21st November, 4 Palestinians have been killed and over 80 have been injured in Gaza. The vast majority of these violations have taken place in the 'buffer zone'.

Demonstrators in Zaytoun, Gaza, calling for the boycott of Israeli agricultural products
Photo courtesy of Desde Palestina

In the West Bank, the villagers of Madama near Nablus, along with supporters from the Billal Najar Centre in nearby Burin and activists from the International Solidarity Movement marched from Madama to land belonging to the village. They planted olive trees where illegal settlers had destroyed hundreds of olive trees.

The village of Madama faces frequent collaborated attacks between Israeli settlers and soldiers. Settlers from Yitzhar settlement are notoriously violent, regularly attacking Palestinian farmers and shepherds from Madama and surrounding villages whose land they want to take. When Palestinians try to defend themselves from these attacks Israeli occupation forces take over, attack the Palestinians and kill, injure or arrest them to keep them off their own land.

Today's demonstrations in Occupied Palestine affirmed the call by Palestinian agricultural organisations and the Palestinian BDS National Committee for worldwide campaigns to boycott Israeli agricultural products and Israeli agricultural export corporations. These companies are deeply complicit in Israel’s ongoing violations of international law and Palestinian human rights. Whilst they profit from stolen Palestinian land, Palestinian farmers are unable to export their own produce, thereby crippling the Palestinian agricultural sector. The demonstrators called on the thousands of people simultaneously demonstrating in over 30 countries around the world to strengthen international BDS campaigns against the Israeli apartheid regime.

Mustafa Arafat, a farmer from Zaytoun, Gaza:
"The daily aggression suffered by us the Palestinian farmers every day must be highlighted to the world, so people can understand the reality of the attacks and the suffering that has continued throughout the recent ‘ceasefire’. The boycotts of Israeli companies in agriculture are so important as the Israeli occupation has destroyed our farming production and denied us the possibility of exporting our own products. International pressure on Israel is the only way our own economy will be allowed to develop and for us to live normal lives."

Zakaria Bakr, a fisherman from Gaza City:
"As some of the remaining Palestinian fishermen still able to fish, we urge all those around the world to launch campaigns to boycott Israeli Agricultural products and companies. Negotiations have for years only been a cover for making our lives worse. Boycotts are a peaceful activity and something that everyone can participate in. We have called for the boycotts because while our fishing industry, our communities and livelihoods have been destroyed by Israeli aggression, all of their industries have benefited from destroying and confiscating our land and violently denying our access to the sea."

Mamun Nassar, a shepherd from Madama, Nablus:
"I have been attacked, injured and beaten by settlers many times while tending my flock. I was just imprisoned for six weeks because I was attacked by settlers on our land. The settlers hit my face so hard they broke most of my teeth. My brother was shot and then arrested for trying to help me. All we want is to tend to our sheep."

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Press Conference in Gaza Port

Today´s press conference in support of Palestinian farmers and fishermen held in the port of Gaza City launched several days of activities leading up to the International Day of Action for the Boycott of Israeli Agricultural Products on Saturday 9th February. Speakers were from the Boycott National Committee, the student boycott movement in Gaza, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, PNGO and International Action for Palestine.

"The boycott of Israeli agricultural exports will remain an essential strategy as long as Palestinian farmers cannot export their produce due to closure and blockade. It must continue as long as Palestinian farmers cannot access their own land and work on it in safety, whilst Israeli corporations profit from stolen Palestinian land." - International Action for Palestine

Photos courtesy of Desde Palestina

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Presenting the International Day of Action for the Boycott of Israeli Agricultural Products

A Day of Solidarity with Palestinian Farmers and Fishermen

On Wednesday 6th of February at 10 a.m. in the Gaza port, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees and International Action for Palestine, invite you to a press conference announcing the International Day of Action in solidarity with Palestinian farmers and fishermen on Saturday 9th February. The Day of Action, called by Palestinian agricultural organisations and the Palestinian BDS National Committee, will launch worldwide boycott campaigns of Israeli agricultural products and corporations, in light of their deep complicity in Israel’s ongoing violations of international law and Palestinian human rights. Thousands of people around the world in dozens of countries will participate on the 9th February and Gaza will host events to support the campaigns throughout the week. 
At the press conference several organisations, fishermen and farmers will speak first-hand on the impact of the incessant aggression and blockade on the livelihoods of Gazan farmers and fishermen, and ask people of conscience in Gaza and beyond to boycott, divest and sanction from Israeli agricultural products. We´ll also present the events that will be organized in the following days, prior to the International Day of Action on Saturday.
The conference will also include the public presentation of International Action for Palestine, a group formed by international volunteers that works closely with Palestinian organizations and individuals to support the rights of farmers, fishermen and ordinary citizens in the face of Israeli occupation.
After the press conference fishermen and activists will participate in an action in the port. Fishermen and farmers will be also available for interviews after the event is finished.

Events of the Week
Wednesday 6th February: Press conference in Gaza´s Port. Presentation of International Action for Palestine group to the public, and action with fishermen.
Thursday 7th February: Rally/march through Gaza City.
Friday 8th February: Interviews with local media (radio, TV).

Saturday 9th February: March with farmers near the buffer zone, planting of olive trees.

Friday 1 February 2013

A Day in the Life of a Gazan Farmer

Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip
29th January, 2013

In the far north of the Gaza Strip, in the rural border area to the east of Beit Hanoun, farmers continued their daily struggle to work on their land. International volunteers from Spain, Germany, France and the UK accompanied farmers and Palestinian activists from the Beit Hanoun Local Initiative as they harvested cabbages in the light drizzle, whilst singing Palestinian folk songs. It would have been an idyllic pastoral scene if it weren't for the military jeeps and watchtowers on the border 400 metres away.

Photo courtesy of Desde Palestina

At about 11.00 a.m. we heard shots fired from the border. Unknown to us at the time, a small group of farm labourers had been tending olive and lemon trees about 300 metres away from the cabbage patch. 21 year-old Mamdouh Al-Kafarna had been shot and wounded by Israeli soldiers.

The farm labourers said they saw two Israeli military jeeps stop at the border fence so they left their work fearing that the soldiers in the jeeps may begin shooting. After the jeeps drove away the labourers thought it would be safe to return and continue their work.

However, on their return they realised that the jeeps had left two soldiers on the ground between the trees near the border fence. Apparently they were wearing foliage as camouflage. The soldiers began shooting towards the labourers and Mamdouh was injured in both legs by the same bullet. It brushed his right leg then entered and exited his left leg.

As he fell, Mamdouh saw the soldiers cross to the Palestinian side of the fence and enter the Gaza Strip a short distance. At the sight of them running towards him, Mamdouh was afraid they might abduct or even kill him. He desperately tried to get away even though moving must have been incredibly difficult due to his injuries and by this stage he had become separated from his fellow workers.

Amazingly, he managed to escape to safety and was evacuated from the area by donkey cart. He was eventually transferred to Beit Hanoun Hospital. Mamdouh is the eldest son in his family and only he and his father have work, supporting 20 people at home.

 Photo courtesy of Desde Palestina

The farmers explained that last year it had been too dangerous for them to access this land but they had attempted it now believing it to be safe due to the ceasefire. Unfortunately this is not the case. According to staff at Beit Hanoun Hospital, nearly 30 civilians have been injured in the northern border areas since last November.