HJfP Newsletter 32: 01 – 15 January 2015

HJFP Future Actions

HJFP is preparing a campaign against Hewlett-Packard and will be organising a number of meetings and actions.

If you are interested in joining us, please contact secretary @ hjfp.org.uk

HP graphic

Overview

Hewlett-Packard (HP) is a global provider of computer products, including PCs, printers, servers, software, and IT services and solutions. HP provides ongoing support and maintenance to a biometric ID system installed in Israeli checkpoints in the occupied West Bank, which deprive Palestinians of freedom of movement in their own land and allow the Israeli military occupation to grant or deny special privileges to the civilians under its control. HP also provides the israeli military with other equipment and services to help it maintain the illegal occupation. In the United States, HP is one of the government’s top 25 defense contractors.

What Company Does:
Hewlett-Packard Company (HP) is a U.S. American multinational information technology corporation headquartered in Palo Alto, California, United States. It provides products, technologies, software, solutions, and services to consumers, small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), and large enterprises, including customers in the government, health, and education sectors.
In the United States, HP is one of the top 25 defense contractors with the Pentagon/U.S. Department of Defense. HP also provides products and services to the Department of Homeland Security for enhanced immigration status checks. According to Washington Technology, well over half of HP’s revenue from contracts with the federal government comes from the defense sector; additionally, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute includes HP among the top arms-producing and military services companies in the world.

Egregious Practices

Checkpoints
The BASEL System
Palestinians wishing to enter Israel must apply for a magnetic biometric ID card with the Israeli occupation authorities; each electronic ID card contains biometric, personal, and security information. While only a fraction of Palestinians who apply for permits actually receive them, each applicant’s information is kept and stored in a database held by the Israeli authorities. Over the years, Israel has accumulated this information into a population registry that contains information about every Palestinian in the occupied Palestinian territory over the age of 16. The biometric data is also collected as part of the BASEL system (see picture), a biometric access control system, which is installed in major Israeli checkpoints in the occupied West Bank. This system is used to restrict Palestinian movement across checkpoints inside the West Bank and to grant or deny special movement privileges (see for example this UN Report). EDS Israel, now part of HP Enterprise Services, is responsible for developing, integrating and maintaining the BASEL system.

Palestinians wishing to enter Israel must apply for a magnetic biometric ID card with the Israeli occupation authorities. Each electronic ID card contains biometric, personal, and security information. While only a fraction of Palestinians who apply for permits actually receive them, each applicant’s information is kept and stored in a database held by the Israeli authorities. Over the years, Israel has accumulated this information into a population registry that contains information about every Palestinian in the occupied Palestinian territories over the age of 16. The biometric data is collected as part of the BASEL system, a biometric access control system, which is installed in major Israeli checkpoints in the occupied West Bank. This system is used to restrict Palestinian movement across checkpoints inside the West Bank and to grant or deny special movement privileges (see for example this UN Report). EDS Israel, now part of HP Enterprise Services, is responsible for developing, integrating, and maintaining the BASEL system.The BASEL system is installed in checkpoints deep inside the occupied territory, and is used as part of the separate road system in the West Bank, restricting all Palestinian movement. Although the checkpoints system is often portrayed by Israel as a “security measure,” the main checkpoints are deep inside the occupied territory, restricting movement between Palestinian cities. Palestinians wishing to go into Israel, mostly as day workers, are still able to avoid these and find their way. The checkpoints system, and the BASEL system in it, is a control mechanism used to repress and submit the Palestinian civilian population in the occupied West Bank. See our Separation Wall and Checkpoints page to learn more about how these obstructions deny Palestinian’s freedom of movement in their own land, restrict their access to medical care, employment and educations services, and decimate their commerce and economy.

Israeli ID System
In 2008, the Israeli Ministry of the Interior announced a contract with HP to manufacture five million Israeli biometric ID cards. Through its subsidiary EDS, HP also won a contract to systemize the collection of biometric and photographic data for these ID cards. See more about the way these contracts were obtained by HP in the latest Who Profits report: Technologies of Control: HP’s involvement in the Israeli Occupation. The Israeli ID system is stratified by ethnicity and religion, and the new biometric database and ID cards system are a part of the state’s systemized and tiered control of ethnic and national minorities.

Under the Israeli ID system, blue IDs designate “Israeli citizens” and orange and green IDs are given to Palestinians in the oPt, provided they have a permit to enter Israel. Blue IDs are not granted to non-Jews in the occupied territory or to non-Jewish descendants of refugees from the area. Granting full citizenship to a small number of Palestinians who were present in the post 1948-war census in their own homes has allowed Israel to deny it to other Palestinians who fled or were forcibly removed during the creation of the state of Israel. As a 2007 UN Report states, over 250,000 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, which was annexed into the state of Israel, have not been granted citizenship, and thousands more have been denied citizenship within state borders based on technical restrictions that apply only to non-Jewish residents. In the state’s population registry, ethnicity/nationality is recorded and labeled on state IDs in various ways. The Israeli ID system reinforces the political and economic inequalities between Jewish and non-Jewish citizens, Arabs and non-Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, and restricts the mobility of select groups.

Contracts with the Israeli Army
HP has won a series of major contracts with various sections of the Army in the last two years. Among them are a two-year contract to supply all PCs to the army, a three-year virtualization tender, and a contract for the outsourcing of the Navy’s IT infrastructure, including the management and operation of its computer and communications centers, information security, and user support.

The Israeli army and navy are responsible for countless war crimes in Gaza, Lebanon and the West Bank. See the following Amnesty International publications related to: Operation Cast Lead, The Siege of Gaza and the attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.

Production in the Settlements
HP provided a computerized storage system to the illegal settlement of Ariel. A subsidiary of a main distributor of HP products, Matrix, has an offshore outsourcing project out of an illegal settlement in the West Bank.

U.S. Prisons and Immigration
HP also profits from the US prison system and aids Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In 2009, The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) awarded HP a contract to begin a multimillion-dollar effort to automate and streamline prisoner data systems. The project, called the Strategic Offender Management System (SOMS) replaced over 40 electronic and paper database systems, to create an “Electronic C-file” for inmates and provide the opportunity for electronic data exchange with Jails, Courts and the Office of Prison Healthcare Services. The HP website also describes their provisions for prisons across the country with offender, healthcare, visitor and administrative management and kiosk services through their HP Offender Management service.

Beginning in 2010, HP was awarded a contract by the US Department of Homeland Security ICE Law Enforcement Support Center (LESC) to speed up the internal process of deciding a person’s documentation status. Senior vice president Dennis Stolkey described in the HP press release: “HP has deep applications expertise as well as a long, solid history with ICE that will enable us to create the best solution possible for the agency.”

Surveillance Technology
HP is not blameless in other countries as well in regard to technological support of surveillance and population control tactics. In China, HP bid on a contract to be a main supplier of servers or storage equipment for a project called “Peaceful Chongqing,” a plan to install roughly 500,000 cameras throughout the city. The aim, according to officials, is to prevent crime although human-rights advocates warn that it could instead target political activists.

In Iran, a Reuters investigation reveals how HP products were used to create a “powerful surveillance system capable of monitoring landline, mobile, and internet communications.” Along with products from several other technology companies, the HP products were sold to a Chinese corporation, ZTE, which then created and sold the surveillance system to the Telecommunication Co. of Iran (TCI). HP has previously been investigated for using a third party to sell products in Iran, despite U.S. sanctions.

And recently in Syria, HP products have also been used to target political dissidents. As this article reveals, “Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) equipment worth more than $500,000 has been installed in computer rooms in Syria, underpinning a surveillance system being built to monitor e-mails and Internet use…” An Italian company bought the HP equipment in Italy through resellers.

BDS Initiatives

A number of grassroots organizations have been carrying out boycott and divestment campaigns against Hewlett-Packard for their complicity with the Israeli occupation. The Coalition to Stop HP – a grassroots campaign that is calling on HP to cancel its contracts with the Israeli state that violate international law and Palestinians’ human rights – has issued a petition to boycott HP products. Both the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches had resolutions in their 2012 conferences calling on the respective churches to divest from HP, along with Motorola Solutions and Caterpillar.  Though these resolutions were not passed, they garnered wide-ranging discussion and support mobilizing many activists. In 2012, the Quaker Friends Fiduciary Corporation (FFC) became the first U.S. national fund to divest from Hewlett-Packard, Caterpillar, and Veolia.

In a report to the General Assembly on October 25, 2012, UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk called on the GA and civil society to boycott a number of companies targeted by the We Divest Campaign including Hewlett-Packard, Caterpillar, Veolia Environment, G4S, Elbit Systems, Motorola, for their involvement in the establishment and maintenance of the Israeli settlements and as such their violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law.
Source: https://wedivest.org

Events

UN rapporteur on Palestine quits

The UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, Makarim Wibisono, has resigned.  Wibisono quit on Monday, accusing the Israeli authorities of failing to grant him access to Palestinian areas.   “Unfortunately, my efforts to help improve the lives of Palestinian victims of violations under the Israeli occupation have been frustrated every step of the way,” Wibisono said in a statement. The Indonesian diplomat claimed that throughout his mandate, Israel had failed to grant him access to Palestinian areas.

After taking up the position in June 2014, Wibisono said he had repeatedly requested access to occupied Palestinian territories but had failed to receive a response from the Israel authorities.  “The Special Rapporteur voiced deep concern at the lack of effective protection of Palestinian victims of continuing human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law,” the UN statement said.
Source:  MEMO, 04 January 2016

Co-operative Bank closes FOA bank account

co-opOn Tuesday 15 December, the Co-operative Bank informed Friends of Al-Aqsa that it would close our bank account. No substantiated reasons have been provided, apart from the bank’s ‘risk appetite’ changing. The Co-op has refused to engage in any negotiations, and have called this ‘a business decision’. Following a successful 10 year long banking relationship, it is shocking for FOA to face a unilateral account closure with no consultation or engagement having taken place. This reflects the vulnerability that all politically active organisations now face, and represents a direct attack on legitimate political campaign work.  The Co-op’s actions are deeply concerning, especially in light of it’s closure of several other similar NGO’s bank accounts. Such actions are discriminatory based on the fact that they target those supporting justice, peace and freedom for the Palestinians. This is also evidence of the fact that anyone can face bank account closure without explanation, and it is clear that Muslim individuals and organisations are particularly vulnerable to this.

FOA suspects that the move has been precipitated by the sale of the Co-op, which is no longer a cooperative bank, but now part of a shareholder company. “We consider this to be institutional bullying and racism, betraying the Co-op’s historic ethical foundations” said Ismail Patel, chair of FOA.  FOA is urging all fair minded people to contact the Co-op, and request that they reverse their decision to close our account.

Take Action
Please call the Co-op Bank Customer Helpline DAILY during January on:
03457 212 212 (press 1 for a customer services agent)

Raise the following points:
1. Why have they closed the Friends of Al-Aqsa account?
2. Why are they punishing/bullying a legitimate organisation that works for peace and justice for Palestinians?
3. Request they re-open the account.

You can also tweet the questions to @CoopBankUK_help – tweets can be found here
You can also use the template letter here to email your complaint to: complaints@co-operativebank.co.uk

PSC Accounts
The account of the national PSC and HJFP’s own account with the Coop Bank have also been closed, using the same feeble justification given above.  HJFP is in the process of opening an account with another bank and will contact its supporters in due course.

The Israeli economy has to be hurting

Israel Export Institute: Israeli exports drop by 7% in 2015
Diamond exports down by 25%

Israeli TV Reveals Shady Dealings of Israel Diamond Exchange
Despite this “hard-hitting investigative programme on the Israeli Diamond Exchange”  being show on Israel’s Channel 10 a few days ago, apart from this article, it got no coverage in any Israeli or international media.  The cover-up and silencing of the media was part of the management  plan set in place by authorities in Israel when this scandal first broke in 2012.
@wardiamonds

Child Prisoners Debate in Parliament

Press Release – 6 January 2016 – for immediate release
Sarah Champion Labour MP for Rotherham today demanded the UK Government establish a watch list for those carrying out war crimes against Palestinian children

Today, 6th January 2016, Sarah Champion MP lead a Parliamentary debate on the illegal military detention, transfer and treatment of Palestinian children by Israel and made a series of demands, among them that the UK government establish a watch list of those involved and make a commitment to arrest and prosecute them should they enter the UK.

In her address Sarah said:
“The issue of transferring detainees en-masse from occupied Palestinian territory is a standalone issue because it is a war crime… and after nearly half a century, it requires decisive action in accordance with our international legal obligations. The 4th Geneva Convention makes it clear that the UK has a positive legal obligation to search for persons accused of committing grave breaches and to ensure that if such persons enter the UK, they are arrested and prosecuted with all speed.”  Sarah also raised serious concerns about the treatment of Palestinian children at every stage of the Israeli criminal justice system, including reports of systemic abuse by Israeli authorities and the continued use of night raids on Palestinian homes in making arrests.

There are currently 407 12-17-year-olds held in Israeli prisons and figures released by Military Court Watch (MCW), an organisation of lawyers based in the region, show that the detention of children is at its highest since March 2009 and has increased by 138 per cent since September 2015.  Repeated reports have condemned the treatment, transfer and detention of children and adults in prisons held inside Israel. A UNICEF report in 2014 and later in 2015 made 38 recommendations, namely that: “In accordance with international law, all Palestinian children detained in the Israeli military detention system shall be held in facilities located in the occupied Palestinian territory.”

The policy of transferring Palestinian prisoners into Israel began in 1967. MCW report that in November 2015 59 per cent of children detainees were transferred to Israel, along with 86 per cent of adult prisoners.   The forcible transfer of people from occupied territories is considered a breach of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and is now considered a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Article 8(2)(a)(vii).
ENDS

For more information contact: Bill Brown Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East (LFPME) at william.brown@parliament.uk

Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East (LFPME) is a voluntary group within the Labour movement that campaigns for peace and justice in the Middle East through the implementation of international law and respect for human rights. Web: lfpme.org – Email: info@lfpme.org – twitter:@lfpme

Notes to Editors:
MCW Palestinian ‘security’ prisoner figures
UNICEF updated report (Feb 2015) Children in Israeli Military Detention

Sarah Champion MP on Israel-Palestine
Gaza Is a Horrific Humanitarian Disaster That We Cannot Allow to Continue (29/9/2015)
How Israeli Settlements Are Impacting the Palestinians Rightfully Living There (2/10/2015)
What Can We Personally Do to Get Lasting Peace Between Palestine and Israel? (21/10/2015)
Link to debate.

Child prisoners and detainees – more harsh policies from Israel targeting Palestinian children

Yesterday, the UK Parliament held a non-legislative debate on ‘Child prisoners and detainees in the Occupied Palestinian Territories’ (OPT) at Westminster Hall, initiated by Labour MP Sarah Champion. The briefing summary for the debate states that a number of international and national – including Israeli-human rights organisations have investigated and reported on a range of issues impacting child prisoners including: random and night time arrests, arrests of young children, interrogation techniques, pre-trial detention, trial procedures, the military juvenile court, punishment and sentencing, conditions in military detention and aftercare. The most common charge levied against children is throwing stones, a crime that is punishable under Israeli military law by up to 20 years in prison. Children also face extrajudicial killings and unlawful use of intentional lethal force.

In the past few months, the situation has escalated as Israel have taken a number of further actions against Palestinian children amidst recent clashes. In November 2015, the Knesset plenum approved in a preliminary bill custodial sentencing for under 14s convicted of “nationalistic-motivated” offences. They additionally passed a series of amendments to the Israeli penal code and youth law, imposing 10-year prison sentences for throwing stones or other objects at moving vehicles and double the sentence for those convicted if they were deemed to be throwing stones with the purpose of harming others. The Knesset also amended the national insurance law to deprive children convicted of “nationalistic-motivated” and “terrorist activities” from social benefits during imprisonment and allowed Israeli juvenile courts to impose fines on their families for up to NIS 10,000 ( £1,731.60).
Read More
Source: EuroPal Forum Weekly Newsletter, 07.01.2015

Revenge Devoid of Purpose: Punitive Demolitions of Palestinian Homes. By: Jeff Halper

“Punitive” demolitions, which have become a trademark of Israel’s latest round of repression against the Palestinians of the Occupied Territory, are not only a pointless lashing out against defenceless families, but are downright counterproductive, even by Israel’s own standards. Since 1967 the Israeli authorities have demolished some 46,000 Palestinian homes in the OPT, either as “collateral damage” in military incursions (18,000 were destroyed in Gaza during the 2014 attack) or because, since 1967, Israel has refused to grant building permits to Palestinians, who are then forced to build “illegally” and face demolition. In virtually none of these cases was “security” the reason for demolition, as testified by the fact that none of the owners were ever arrested.

A third category of demolition is “punitive,” the idea being that Palestinians hold their homes sacred, so if a terrorist knew his or her family’s home would be destroyed if he or she committed an attack, it would act as an effective deterrent. In fact, it grew out of the British Emergency Regulations of 1945, referred to as “Nazi” regulations befitting totalitarian regimes by none other than Menachem Begin, who tried to have them cancelled during his years in the Knesset. When Prime Minister Moshe Sharett argued that “all laws are laws,” Begin replied:

Not so! There are tyrannical laws, there are unethical laws, there are Nazi laws…. The law which you have employed [the British Emergency Regulations] is Nazi, tyrannical and unethical. An unethical law is also an illegal law…. The existence of such regulations raises questions regarding the fundamental rights of every Israeli citizen. Nonetheless, hundreds of homes were demolished under this policy in the Occupied Territory, many of them while Begin himself was in power. Between 2001-2005, according to B’tselem figures, 664 Palestinian homes were demolished as forms of punishment. Some 4,182 innocent people were displaced, many of them neighbors of the suspect’s family, and this often on the basis of suspicion alone. This policy of collective punishment without any due process of law was blatantly illegal on both counts.

In February, 2005, a military committee convened by then-Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon and headed by Major General Udi Shani, concluded not only that the policy of punitive demolitions was ineffective in deterring terrorism, but it actually incited additional attacks. The Chief Military Advocate General, Brigadier General Avi Mandelblit, formally announced that the policy would be discontinued. Until today. Nothing has changed. Mandelblit has been nominated Israel’s next Attorney General (!), Yaalon is the Minister of Defence and no new information has come to light attesting to the effectiveness of punitive demolitions. After Yaalon ordered the demolition of entire apartment buildings housing the families of those accused of killing the three settler youth last year, Hamoked, an Israeli rights organization, filed three separate petitions in the Israeli High Court, arguing that “demolishing a family home was a cruel and inhuman act of doubtful efficacy, and that demolishing the homes of the suspects’ families constituted a deliberate attack against innocent people, in violation of international humanitarian law, which prohibits collective punishment and destruction of property.”

HaMoked also noted that the planned demolitions did not meet the test of proportionality even of the draconian Regulation 119 of the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945, which sanctions such punishment. Finally, HaMoked objected to the demolitions because the Israeli military only “uses the regulation only when the attacker is a Palestinian and the victim is a Jew, demonstrates extreme discrimination.” The High Court of Justice’s rejection of HaMoked’s arguments in favor of the Israeli military not only represented a continuation of collective punishment policies and the suppression of basic human rights granted to the Palestinians under international law, but also delivered a blow to the rule of law by setting dangerous precedents and perpetuating a dual-system of law for Israelis and Palestinians. The High Court Justices Yoram Danziger, Issac Amit, and Noam Sohlberg (the last a settler) ruled against all evidence, including that of the IDF itself, that the demolitions were essential to deter acts of violence – particularly given “the significant deterioration of the security situation.”

Of course, as the legal unit representing the Palestinians argued, the ruling is discriminatory in that Israel does not demolish the homes of Jewish terrorists, as evidenced most starkly by the case of those arrested for brutally murdering Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the Palestinian teenager who was kidnapped, forced to drink flammable liquids and burnt alive in early July. Yosef Haim Ben-David, an Israeli from the illegal settlement of Adam in the West Bank, explicitly stated in his confession to the kidnapping and murder that, “We planned to hurt a soul, meaning to kill… to torture him and kill him,” and continued on to say that, “to [let Muhammad Abu Khdeir know] that he was about to die as a sacrifice for the Jews that were murdered.” In reference to the demand to demolish the houses of the Jewish terrorists (an act, it should be noted, that ICAHD would also oppose), Justice Danziger responded, “I’m not overlooking the shocking case of the murder of the teenage boy Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a case that shocked the country and sparked wall-to-wall condemnations, but this was the rarest of rare occurrences.” Rare? Since 2006 there have been about 2,300 attacks on Palestinians by Israeli settlers in the West Bank.
Source: EuroPal Forum Weekly Newsletter, 07.01.2015

85 Percent of Palestinians killed by Israel were Extra-Judicially Executed

The Detainees and Ex-Detainees Committee, said in a report published on Sunday, that 85 percent of Palestinians who were killed by Israel since the beginning of 2015; 179 Palestinians, were killed in extrajudicial field executions. It maintained that Israeli forces executed Palestinians in ‘cold-blood’ and on the grounds of mere suspicion, maintaining that forces acted as both judges and executioners.  The committee noted that based on a series of documented and publicised incidents, the majority of Palestinians, who assaulted Israelis or were suspected of doing so, were executed by Israeli forces despite that fact that they posed no immediate danger to the latter’s lives, stressing that forces could have restrained and detained them instead.

The committee added that a large number of Palestinians were left to bleed to death, without providing them with the necessary first aid, or even allowing Palestinian ambulances’ access to them.  It said that the majority of killed Palestinians were shot from a very close range with the intention to kill.  It described Israeli politicians’ calls to kill Palestinians instead of detaining them, as a ‘war crime’, and intentional extrajudicial murders; which it affirmed, violates principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the four Geneva Conventions, and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
The committee noted that the Israeli authorities have not conducted any criminal investigations against soldiers who intentionally killed Palestinians, citing an incident where an Israeli sniper was praised for killing a number of Palestinians near Gush Etzion settlement bloc in Hebron.  It further pointed to previous remarks made by Israel’s minister of cultural, in which he called to change the open fire regulations and for the field execution of Palestinians.

“Politicians and senior police officials urged citizens to carry weapons and to shoot to kill. As a result, there were several instances of shooting in breach of the regulations, and innocent people lost their lives,” said the 2015 annual report published by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).  “Ministers, Knesset members, senior police officers and other public officials have explicitly called to take revenge on those who commit a stabbing, or are suspected of stabbing, by killing them,” added ACRI.

“The government and Knesset have an obligation to adopt effective measures in order to cope with these difficult events that create fear and undermine the routine of everyday life. However they must do so without deviating from the principles of criminal law and in full consideration of human rights.”  ACRI noted that, “When the suspects in an assault were Jews, none of them were shot (except for a young Jewish man who was apparently thought to be a Palestinian).”

“There is no dispute as to the severity of the incidents and the need to protect the public from stabbings and other assaults. However, it appears that in too many cases, rather than acting in a manner that was appropriate for each incident, police officers and soldiers were quick to open fire in order to kill.”  “The duty of the Israeli government in these times is twofold: It must respond to the reality that has transpired and protect the personal safety of every individual, regardless of his or her nationality; and at the same time, ensure that all of its actions uphold fundamental human rights principles, among them avoiding harm to the innocent, using enforcement measures in a proportional and appropriate manner and maintaining due process.”

ACRI stressed that, “The duty of the authorities to uphold human rights is not limited to routine and peaceful times; human rights are also intended to safeguard all of us in times of emergency, when both the risk of their infringement and the danger resulting from such infringements are multiplied.”  “Unfortunately, the response of Israeli authorities during this difficult time has been frequently characterised by a tendency to prefer extreme measures, unnecessary infringement on rights and liberties and excessive use of force,” added the report, citing the Israeli government’s decision to ‘allow the police to use Ruger bullets against stone-throwers even within Israel and in East Jerusalem.’
Source: MEMO, EuroPal Forum Weekly Newsletter, 07.01.2015

Israel Imposes New Rules for Taking Goods into Gaza

Israel has imposed new rules on trucks taking goods into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom Crossing, the only commercial border post with the territory,Palsawa has reported. The new rules were applied from Wednesday morning.   According to a local economic media source, the Israeli police set up a new checkpoint at the entrance to the crossing and insisted that the payload of every truck must not exceed 36 tons. The previous limit was 40 tons. The change, noted the source, will mean that the price of all goods will increase, creating even more hardship for the beleaguered Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The goods most affected will be construction materials, which are essential for the reconstruction of the enclave after the destruction caused by Israel’s 2014 military offensive. An increase of around $4.50 per ton of cement is expected, with the volume of cement allowed through being reduced by 10 per cent. It is also anticipated that the movement of goods at Kerem Shalom will be worse during 2016 than it was this year, especially if the Israelis insist on enforcing the new limits.

United Methodists Divest from Israeli Banks!

The United Methodist Church (UMC) has become the first mainline church to divest from Israeli banks that sustain Israel’s illegal occupation policies on Palestinian land.

The UMC’s $20-billion-dollar Pension and Health Benefits Fund is among the largest of its kind and has declared the five largest Israeli banks off limits for investment, divesting those it held in its portfolios according to a celebratory press release by member group United Methodist Kairos Response (UMKR). These banks — Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank, and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank — provide key financial infrastructure to sustain Israel’s illegal settlement industry.

Member group Jewish Voice for Peace just launched a petition to thank the UMC. Please CLICK HERE to sign the thank-you letter!

2014 and 2015 ushered in watershed decisions by the Presbyterian Church (USA) and United Church of Christ general assemblies to divest from companies involved in the Israeli occupation. The UMC also divested from G4S, and that’s not to mention almost 50 other key faith-based decisions by Quakers, the Mennonite Central Committee, and others in recent years, all listed here. These breakthroughs illustrate a tremendous shift in mainstream religious institutions and more broadly nationwide.

But 2016 could be the biggest year yet for church divestment, includingone denomination that may come as a surprise and needs your support! The following denominations are poised to pass further resolutions this year:

The United Methodist Church will consider divestment at their General Convention in May, led by UMKR.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) will consider new resolutions on the subject in June, after passing divestment two years ago, led by member group Israel Palestine Mission Network. Follow their efforts via emails, Facebook, and Twitter by visiting IPMN’s website, where you can also find their publication “Zionism Unsettled.”

SURPRISE! The Unitarian Universalists will be considering divestment from the occupation for the first time this year, and they need your help! This is an exciting campaign led by member group Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East (UUJME)
Source:  US Campaign to end the Israeli Occupation

Another half-hearted attempt by the EU to hold Israel accountable for destroying EU funded buildings

In another feeble attempt of pretending to take action against Israel, the European Union (EU) is considering demanding reimbursement from Israel for the demolition of buildings donated to Palestinian bedouins in the E-1 area, Haaretz reported today.  Israel has a history of destroying EU funded shelters for Palestinians whilst illegally expanding settlements in Occupied Palestine, but this is not news. It also isn’t news that Israel is breaking a number of European, Human Rights and International laws, UN Resolutions and Geneva Conventions. Yet it seems the EU are more concerned about going out of pocket for the approximately 110 million Euros they have spent on such projects than holding Israel accountable to uphold European and International Law.

As usual, the European Union enjoy pushing papers and throwing stern words around for appearances but fail to deliver or even try in some cases, as for example when they “consider” to take some type of futile action against Israel. Just like the recent hoo-ha that was made about the EU publishing guidelines to label illegal products from Israeli colonies, instead of actually banning them. This lovers dance between the EU and Israel for appearance doesn’t fool anyone. We know that regarding the matter of the E-1 area, a decision was made for an “informal technical dialogue” to “discuss the issue that will not be discussed publicly” between Israel and the EU Ambassador in Israel. Israel has destroyed 408 out of the 974 structures built in 2014 and still the EU are happy to have informal and secretive conversations about one of Israel’s many actions of blatant disregard for international law. It makes you wonder why the EU is tending to Israel like a mother tending to her children, whilst allowing the Palestinians to be killed, displaced and suffer. Of course, the answer is clear. The EU benefits from its relationship with Israel and on the side of the oppressor.

Omar Barghouti pointed out in the Politico, the EU have a lot of action to take to end it’s complicity with Israeli crimes. He states “Ignoring its obligations under international law and, in particular, the ruling of the International Court of Justice in 2004 against Israel’s illegal wall, the EU maintains a web of military relations, weapons research, banking transactions and settlement trade with Israeli companies, banks and institutions that are deeply implicated in human rights violations.” Not to mention war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.   Support for the Palestinians has grown within the EU as public opinion polls clearly show, but it’s also clear that it is the BDS movement that has any chance of making a dent at weakening Israel, not the EU’s half hearted attempts to keep up appearances and de facto prolonging Israel’s tyrannic reign.
Source: EuroPal Forum Media Hub, 14.01.2016

Erekat: ICC to start investigating Israeli crimes in 2016

PLO Executive Secretary and the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat said he expected the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into Israeli violations against the Palestinian people in 2016.  “The first step to open a preliminary investigation into the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was fulfilled last year,” Algerian Radio quoted Erekat saying yesterday.  “The files include the issues of prisoners, settlements, the aggression on Gaza, field executions, the burning of the Dawabsheh family and others,” he added.

Erekat explained that Israeli actions against Palestinians, including home demolitions, settlement construction, arrests and assassinations are all considered crimes under international law.  The senior official added that he heads a committee to follow up on the Palestinian file at the International Criminal Court. The committee includes 45 members from a number of factions.

He stressed that the establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem will bring peace, security and stability to the region.  On Sunday, Erekat started a four-day visit to Algeria during which he met Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Source:  MEMO, 14.01.2016

Major Irish firm CRH divests from Israel’s cement industry

One of Ireland’s largest companies has divested from Israel after coming under sustained pressure from Palestine solidarity activists.  In a statement, the Dublin-based building materials firm CRH confirmed that it has disposed of its Israeli assets.  For more than a decade, the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign has been urging CRH to cease its Israeli activities. Martin O’Quigley, the IPSC’s chairperson, described CRH’s announcement as an “important victory for Palestinians” living under Israeli occupation.

O’Quigley criticized CRH for taking so long to end its “shameful investment” but added that the decision was “better late than never.”  CRH is the second largest company in Ireland, according to a 2015 survey by The Irish Times.  It held 25 percent of the shares in Mashav, owner of Israel’s top cement manufacturer Nesher.  In 2004, CRH admitted that in “all probability” Nesher cement was used during the construction of Israel’s wall in the West Bank. The construction of that wall on occupied Palestinian land was declared illegal that year by the International Court of Justice.

Nesher cement has also been used in constructing Israeli settlements in the West Bank and in the light rail network serving Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem.  CRH is the latest major corporation to divest from Israel. The French firms Veolia and Orange have both taken similar decisions in the recent past.  Firms seeking to profit from Israel’s apartheid system have received a great deal of negative publicity because of the growing Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
The brand image of Israel has become “increasingly toxic,” said O’Quigley. “It appears that international companies are eventually learning that it doesn’t pay to do business with the apartheid state.”
Source: electronicintifada.net, 13.01.2016

Campaigners hail “inspiring” BDS victory as Orange quits Israel

Orange providing free service to Israeli soldiers deployed near Gaza during the assault in the summer of 2014 that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians. The Israeli affiliate of the French telecom company has “adopted” a military unit that was in action in locations where hundreds of civilians were killed.  Palestine rights campaigners are hailing a major victory after France’s Orange confirmed that it has met their key demand to end its relationship with its Israeli affiliate.

The news that the multinational telecomis ending its contract with Israel’s Partner Communications had been reported earlier this month in Israeli media.  It is now official that the Orange Israel brand will cease to exist.  “This news is a significant success for the BDS movement and shows that international companies and investors are waking up to the fact that being linked to Israel’s regime of colonization, occupation and apartheid is bad for business,” Guman Mussa, the Arab-world campaigns officer with the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the Palestinian coalition that leads the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, said.

“We congratulate and thank all of the activists and organizations involved in this inspiring six-year international campaign,” Mussa added.  The campaign calling on Orange to cut ties with Partner began in 2010 and involved unions and campaign groups in France, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, countries in which Orange or its affiliates have millions of mobile phone subscribers.  The campaign received a major boost last May when BDS Egypt called for a boycott of Orange subsidiary Mobinil, which has 33 million Egyptian customers.  Within weeks, Orange CEO Stéphane Richard announced in Cairo that he wanted to end his company’s agreement with Partner as soon as practicable.

“The termination of Orange’s relationship with Partner is a significant victory for the BDS movement,” said Abdulrahman Abou Salem of BDS Egypt, a coalition of trade unions, political parties and campaign groups.
Orange has denied that it was acting in response to the boycott and has said it was ending the relationship with Partner purely for commercial reasons.  But Abou Salem noted that just weeks before pressure on Mobinil escalated and CEO Richard rushed to Cairo, Orange had renewed its contract with Partner for a further 10 years.  With the prospect of mass boycott looming, Abou Salem asserted, “Orange had no choice but to realize that investing in occupation, profiteering from Israel’s colonization of Palestinian land and involvement in violations against Palestinian rights is a commercially bad investment.”

Partner Communications, which operated under the Orange Israel brand, built and operated extensive mobile telephone infrastructure in Israel’s settlements built on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank in violation of international law.
By aiding and profiting from this, Orange participated in systematic violations of Palestinian rights, according to an investigation published last year by a coalition of French and Palestinian human rights and labour organizations.  Orange Israel also provided free service and other support to Israeli soldiers during the summer 2014 assault on Gaza in which Israeli forces killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 551 children.

Orange Israel also sponsored two Israeli army units, one of which – the “Ezuz” tank battalion – took part in the attack on Gaza and was active in locations where hundreds of Palestinian civilians were killed in war crimes.  In France, the trade unions Solidaires and the Orange Sud PTT Federation, which represents Orange workers, have welcomed the end of Orange’s relationship with Partner.  Taoufiq Tahani, president of the Association France-Palestine Solidarité noted that the decision “followed the mobilization, over several years, of numerous organizations committed to solidarity with Palestine.”  FIDH, The International Federation for Human Rights, which co-authored the report into Orange’s complicity in Israel’s crimes, called the end of Orange’s deal with Partner “a victory for all defenders of international law and human rights.”
Among the many taking part in protests and actions, from high-street Orange stores in French cities to the company’s annual general meeting in Paris, were activists with BDS France.

“BDS France which, together with other partners, has waged this battle for years, celebrates this victory for ethics and for international law against a state that respects neither,” the group said.  The victory for a campaign focused on France and on a French company is all the more significant given the escalating repression BDS activists have faced at the hands of the administration of President François Hollande.
Source: electronicintifada.net, 13.01.2016

Video: Israeli sniper praised for shooting Palestinian protestors

A chilling video has been published by Palestinian activists on the Youtube page of Kareem Assakra, showing Palestinians being shot while protesting near Ramallah. The video includes the voices of Hebrew speakers, purportedly between an Israeli sniper and his commanding officer. The officer is heard praising, encouraging, and congratulating the sniper.

Palestinians say they found the camera with the footage, allegedly dropped by a soldier at the scene of the clashes.  Ma’an reports the video, the authenticity of which has yet to be confirmed, also shows soldiers “climbing into an Israeli military jeep, appearing to show the interior of the vehicle”, a view likely not accessed by a Palestinian.  The Israeli military is “looking into the reports”.  Palestinians, who are routinely shot and often killed while protesting the occupation, say the footage refutes the Israeli military claim “that Israeli forces only opened fire on Palestinians posing an imminent threat.”

There is no visual indication the Palestinians shot in the video were posing an imminent threat to soldiers. The Hebrew voices captured in the recording do not sound alarmed, scared or threatened.

Watch video, click here

Source:  mondoweiss.net, 14.01.2016

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