HJfP Newsletter 33: 16–31 January 2016

Petitions

Palestine Action Network

We call on the President of the UN Security Council to pass a resolution urging all members to impose economic and political sanctions on Israel until it lifts the siege..

If Hanan Ashwari Can Quietly Sign – So Can You!  Once again we ask: If you haven’t signed please take this opportunity to sign now. If you have, urge yet again to please try to recruit others who haven’t signed to sign by sharing this update with your own personal appeal. We need 3,232 more signatures before we can close this petition and send a hard copy in as an addendum as referenced in the original letter to the UN sent back in June 2015… Read more

Action

CALL on EU to develop independent Gaza seaport.

Every single person who joins strengthens our call for action. Send the email below to friends and family.

Let’s make change together. Here’s the petition for forwarding to your friends:

Federica Mogherini: Call on the EU to develop an independent Gaza seaport
More than a million Palestinians in Gaza have been mired in a miserable limbo for 10 years now—unable to make a living by freely fishing, farming or trading goods, or to leave for study abroad, medical care, work or family visits. Israel imposed the blockade in response to a democratic election in which the Hamas party won a majority of parliamentary seats. As a result, of the 1.9M population:

43% are unemployed (62% among youth and women—the highest in the world).
40% fall below the poverty line.
60% are food insecure.
55% suffer from clinical depression.
40% receive water just 5-8 hours every 3 days due to insufficient power supply.

A few other sobering facts:

Gaza’s per capita income is 32% lower than in 1994.
Exports are fewer than 4% of their pre-blockade levels.
The manufacturing sector has shrunk by 60%.
Power outages reach 12-16 hours every day.
90-95% of the water is unfit for drinking.
The waiting time for some surgeries at Gaza’s largest hospital is up to 18 months.

What’s the quickest way to bring some lasting freedom to Gaza? A seaport.
The Palestinians want the blockade to be lifted, with unrestricted travel and trade through the Erez (Israel) and Rafah (Egypt) crossings. But but of those countries tend to abrogate any agreements at any bump in the road. Thus, the only solution that has a chance for offering reliable independence for the people of Gaza is its own seaport. This would provide Palestinians in Gaza with a secure and dignified passageway to and from the outside world, free from dependence on the usually absent goodwill of Israel and Egypt.

A detailed plan already exists for implementing such a project (visit here), and both the French and Dutch governments had committed to funds and other resources to make it happen—until Israel refused to allow construction materials and other needed goods in. We call on the European Union to apply serious pressure to Israel to remove the roadblocks! This will require far more than words–including trade sanctions if necessary. Want to do more than just sign and share? Tweet directly:
https://twitter.com/FedericaMog
https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Donald_Tusk_European_Council_President_Call_on_the_EU_to_develop_an_independent_Gaza_sea_port/?tfrJWcb
Source:  Avaaz, 18.01.2016

Events

Censorship & Facebook

Facebook censors cartoon critical of Israel

Interesting that this extremely offensive, anti-Semitic cartoon by Mossad was not censored!
https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/asa-winstanley/mossad-proxy-faked-violent-facebook-anti-semitism

YouTube screenshot shows a violently anti-Semitic statement Shurat HaDin posted to a fake pro-Palestinian Facebook page the Mossad-linked group had created. An Israeli legal group with intimate ties to the state’s intelligence agencies has admitted to faking an ostensibly pro-Palestinian Facebook page and using it to post anti-Semitic statements including “Death to all the Jews.” The Israeli group has also filed a lawsuit against Facebook, for allegedly permitting Palestinian “incitement.”Shurat HaDin claims to be a “civil rights organization.” Various media reports have described it as an “Israeli non-governmental organization,” an “advocacy group,” or even a neutral-sounding “law center” – the group’s self-description also adopted by The Guardian and PBS.
But US embassy cables leaked by Chelsea Manning and published by WikiLeaks tell a very different story. Shurat HaDin director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner privately told a US embassy official that her group “took direction” on which court cases to pursue. She claimed that she “receives evidence” from Israel’s international espionage and assassination agency Mossad and from Israel’s National Security Council.

Mossad anti-Semitism

In a video published to YouTube last week, Shurat HaDin claimed responsibility for the creation of a Facebook page titled “Stop Israelis” on 29 December. A screenshot from Shurat HaDin’s YouTube video shows the “pro-Palestinian” Facebook page the Mossad-linked group faked. At some point soon after, the page posted a cartoon about the Israeli threat to al-Aqsa mosque, along with the statement: “Revenge against the zionist enemy that threatens Al Aqsa! Death to all the jews! [sic]”. Shurat HaDin says the faking of the page was done as a “Facebook experiment,” supposedly to demonstrate that the social media giant is biased against Israelis. Shurat HaDin claims it created a second racist page, but called “Stop Palestinians,” and then reported both pages to Facebook at the same time, but that only the latter was immediately removed. In fact, the fake Shurat HaDin page containing the anti-Semitic statement was also deleted within days of when Shurat HaDin claims it was reported to Facebook.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Gilad Ravid of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev criticized Shurat HaDin’s actions, saying he was “not convinced that the conclusions drawn from this experiment are the correct ones.” Ravid also said Shurat HaDin’s anti-Semitic postings on Facebook would have caused “significant discomfort” to those who read them before the page was closed down. Media later reporting on the “experiment,” including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, were sent a statement from the social media giant: “Facebook does not tolerate hate speech, including against people on the basis of their nationality. We review all reports and take down such content. Both these pages have now been removed from Facebook.” Facebook did not reply to a request for further comment.

Violent incitement

Ironically, use of Facebook and other social media by Israelis for violent incitement against Palestinians and Muslims is pervasive. The Electronic Intifada has documented this phenomenon over several years. A perusal through our “Israelis on Facebook” tag lists too many disturbing examples to list in full here. Some of the more notable cases include Mor Ostrovski, the Israeli soldier who posted a photo of a Palestinian child in the crosshairs of his rifle to his Instagram account; an outbreak of violent racist fantasies (“Castrate them!” “Burn them!” “Bullet in the head!”) against a group of young Palestinian children who had joined a peaceful protest camp in 2013; and a July 2015 viral campaign in which Israelis posted photos of their children holding signs demanding the execution of Palestinian “terrorists.” Even more notable is the fact that this racist incitement against Palestinians stems from the very top of the Israeli establishment.

Current justice minister Ayelet Shaked in 2014 approvingly posted a genocidal article to her Facebook page which declared that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy” and justified its destruction, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.” One month later Moshe Feiglin, then deputy speaker of Israel’s parliament, used his Facebook page to publish his own detailed plan for the total destruction of the Palestinian people in Gaza. The plan called for the “conquest of the entire Gaza Strip, and annihilation of all fighting forces and their supporters,” and called for the civilian population to be “concentrated” in special camps on the border with Egypt. All of these instances of Israelis using Facebook for violent and genocidal incitement against Palestinians took place long before the current Palestinian uprising began in October – the subject of a recently-launched Shurat HaDin lawsuit against Facebook.

Mossad vs. Facebook

The reason for the Mossad-linked group to want to generate such negative publicity for Facebook is no mystery. Lakin v. Facebook was filed in a New York state court at the end of October on behalf of some 20,000 Israelis against the social media giant. It is an attempt to get Facebook to crack down on Palestinians who Shurat HaDin claims use it to praise or organize armed resistance against Israeli soldiers and civilians. The suit calls for the court to issue “an injunction requiring the defendant to stop allowing Palestinian terrorists to incite violent attacks against Israeli citizens.” But according to Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor who blogs at The Washington Post, the case “is going nowhere.” Volokh argues that Shurat HaDin’s suit relies on “Israeli laws that restrict speech” in a way which would be “unconstitutionally overbroad” under the First Amendment which prohibits federal, state and local government in the US from restricting free speech. “American courts don’t enforce foreign speech restrictions that would be inconsistent with the First Amendment,” Volokh observes. He says that “many of the examples that the complaint offers thus wouldn’t even qualify as ‘incitement’ under US law.” Volokh says that Facebook “has no obligation under US law to censor its content” as Shurat HaDin and the Israeli government clearly want it to do.

“Covert” online units

This is not the first time that Israel, or groups engaging in government-backed propaganda, have engaged in such deceptive online tactics. In 2013, it was reported that the Israeli prime minister’s office was organizing students in “covert” and “semi-military” style units to tweet and post pro-Israel messages on social media without revealing they are doing it as part of a government propaganda campaign. During the 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza, which killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 551 children, one Israeli student union set up a “Hasbara war room” – using the Hebrew word for propaganda. “We want people abroad who don’t know our reality to understand exactly what is going on here,” one of the organizers explained. The “war room” itself drew on earlier similar efforts. Also in summer 2014, The Electronic Intifada revealed how pro-Israel website Israel21c planned to use interns to infiltrate online communities with its puff-piece stories about the supposed wonders of Israeli technology. “You wouldn’t directly reference that you’re interning for Israel21c,” one of the men behind the project admitted to our undercover reporter, “that would sort of defeat the point of posting it.” And only last month the Center for Public Diplomacy and Israeli Hasbara announced it would plant secret operatives within Israeli human rights groups in order to discredit and undermine their work in support of Palestinian human rights.

Zionist anti-Semitism

There is also a pre-Internet age precedent for the “significant discomfort” that Shurat HaDin’s current Facebook deceptions would have caused Jews and others reading the “Stop Israelis” page. In the 1980s, undercover Anti-Defamation League agent Roy Bullock (who worked for both Israel and the South African apartheid regime) infiltrated Palestine solidarity and Arab civil rights groups in the US. One of Bullock’s tactics was to try and make it look as if the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) had neo-Nazi links. He did this by trying to manufacture those links himself. On one occasion, Bullock attended a conference of the Holocaust-denying “Institute for Historical Review” to distribute ADC literature and recruit members. We know that Israel and its allied groups around the world are still involved in keeping close tabs on Palestine solidarity activists. Incidents like Shurat HaDin’s fabrication of an anti-Semitic “pro-Palestinian” Facebook page show some of the lengths to which Israel’s propagandists will still go.
Source: electronicintifada.net

Tiffany’s Removed From Ethical Corporation Summit

When Ethical Corporation published a slushy interview with Tiffany’s Chief Sustainability Officer on January 4th  – a promo for their Responsible Business Summit USA 2016 at which Tiffany’s was due to give a presentation – I posted a comment asking why, given the recent disclosures, the interviewer didn’t ask about Tiffany’s links to BSGR.  EC subsequently asked Tiffany’s to comment and posted their reply – the same cut & paste response they posted on their Facebook page.  I responded pointing out the inadequacy of the reply and asking EC if they were satisfied with Tiffany’s response.  (see the comments at the bottom of the interview).

Greg Cohen form EC then emailed me asking for further info “ fully-backed by academics, NGOs, other professionals, etc. which could potentially be published.”   I sent him the links to my recent articles and spelled out the linkage between Tiffany’s diamonds and Israeli atrocities saying “ Those figures should shock and appal everyone, especially anyone doing business with BSGR who is genuinely concerned about their integrity of their supply chain. Tiffany’s were well aware of this connection but took no action – apart that is from protecting themselves from authorities and investors by slipping in an new risk factor to their 2014 Form 10-K filing to the SEC.

While it would no doubt be convenient for some if this could just be brushed under the carpet and Tiffany’s allowed to continue pulling the wool over everyone’s  eyes with their impressive looking but very deceptive sustainability reports.  To do so would severely undermine the credibility and work that so many people and organisations have invested to enhance the ethical credentials of supply chains. I hope that you and Ethical Corporation agree that it would be a travesty if companies are allowed to use an ethical umbrella to conceal human rights violations in their supply chain. “

I got no response but a few days ago I noticed that Tiffany’s no longer feature prominently in the line-up of speakers for the Responsible Business Summit USA 2016.  I emailed Greg Cohen last night to enquire why Tiffany’s were dropped from the line-up and if it had anything to do with their links to BSGR.  He responded this morning saying – “Tiffany’s removal from the event was owing to their having other travelling commitments at the time of the summit.”

Smell the bullshit anyone?

Further actions to keep pressure on Tiffany’s until they end their relationship with BSGR are in the pipeline. If anyone is interested in helping to raise awareness about the linkage between the jewellery industry and Israeli crimes ahead of Valentine’ Day please get in touch.

My most recent article highlighting the importance of Israel’s diamond exports to the Israeli economy and the Zionist project in Palestine was published by MEM

How the global jewellery industry is funding Israeli crimes My most recent article highlighting the importance of Israel’s diamond exports to the Israeli economy and the Zionist project in Palestine was published by MEM
Source:  @wardiamonds, 18.01.2016

Desist from illegal torture of force feeding Palestinian Detainee

URGENT APPEAL: Ref: UA 01/ 16                        

Take Action

NAME: Mohammed al-Qeeq, 33
In an unprecedented step on Tuesday, 12 January 2016, Israeli forces applied the force-feeding law against the administrative detainee, journalist Mohammed al-Qeeq, who has been on a hunger strike for about 50 days. Al-Qeeq was handcuffed and then forcibly administrated intravenous fluids. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) is gravely concerned over the risks that may result from force-feeding which is considered as a form of torture and degrading treatment under international law.

VIOLATIONS: Imposed illegal torture of force feeding
Please press the TAKE ACTION LINK to send letter of protest to H.E. DANNY DANON, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations,  H.E.  ZAID RA’AD  AL-HUSSAIN,  UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, H.E. RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Ambassador,  Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine
and please request your mailing lists click Current Urgent Appeal on www.palestinematters.com

Israeli violations against journalists in Occupied Palestine

The Israeli Supreme Court will hold a hearing regarding Palestinian hunger striking journalist Muhammed Al-Qeq’s detention on 25 February, MEMO reports. The Saudi Arabian TV satellite channel reporter was arrested by the Israeli occupation forces after his house was attacked in the town of Abu-Qash , north of Ramallah, on 21 November 2015. He has been subject to administrative detention for 6 months and is in his 57th day of hunger striking.

This issue has gained the widespread solidarity from journalists and human rights organisations which are calling for Qeq’s release before his health condition becomes fatal. This is the latest in many Israeli violations against Palestinian journalists in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israeli violations against political prisoners and arbitrary detainees, in breach of international and human rights law. In addition to injuring and killing them, Israel’s attacks on journalists include detention, threats and destruction of equipment.

It was reported that Israeli occupation forces committed 574 rights violations against Palestinian journalists and their facilities in the Palestinian Occupied Territories during 2015. Last year two journalists were killed, 190 wounded, 85 arrested in addition to 144 recorded assaults against staff of media organisations by the Israeli Occupational Forces and Israeli settlers. Dangerous types of violations include live ammunition shot directly at journalists, inciting hatred on social media platforms, creating live threatening situations with slander, and preventing journalists from reaching the medical attention they need. According to the Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA), there has been 154% increase in Israeli assaults on journalists over the last three years. In 2014 Reporters Without Borders listed Israel as the second most lethal country in the world for journalists.

According to the report by Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), the Israeli occupation uses “excessive and lethal force” against journalists, in its effort to suppress the freedom of the media work in occupied Palestine, as well as targeting the Palestinian journalists and media outlets in order to ban them from media coverage which exposes Israel’s crimes.

Many journalists have been banned from covering incidents in a number of locations and are deliberately attacked by the Israeli Occupation Forces. Al-Haq says that Israel’s deliberate attacks on journalists may amount to a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Source:  EuroPal Forum 22.01.2016

Death toll continues to rise in Palestine.

As the Palestinian death toll continues to rise on an almost daily basis, Palestinians across the West Bank are holding memorials and solidarity events alongside ongoing protests. Israel’s policy of punitive house demolitions is also continuing.   In the central city of Ramallah, activists have been raising funds to rebuild the house of Muhannad al-Halabi. On October 3rd, 19 year old al-Halabi was shot dead by Israeli forces after allegedly carrying out a stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Old City. Earlier this month Israeli forces demolished al-Halabi’s family home in the village of Surda near Ramallah.

Israel’s policies of carrying out punitive house demolitions was halted in 2005 after more than 650 houses (B’Tselem statistics) were demolished during the Second Intifada, but these ‘revenge’ demolitions were resumed again in late 2014. The collective punishment of civilians in occupied territory is absolutely prohibited under customary international law.  According to the Palestinian Authority, more than 160 Palestinians have now been killed by Israeli forces and settlers over the last four months and more than 15,000 injured.

Marches and other solidarity actions are being held in Ramallah and other cities in the West Bank remembering those who have been killed. Activists and youth groups have been lining the streets carrying posters that bear photographs and names of recent martyrs.
Source: Rich Wiles, click here

EU Concerned over Cycle of Violence, Calls for Action, Calm

Council of the European Union Monday expressed deep concern over the ongoing cycle of violence, which led to the death of 162 Palestinians and 29 Israelis and described it as “a serious loss of human life”.  In a press statement, the EU firmly condemned “the terror attacks and violence from all sides and in any circumstances, including the death of children.”  It called on political leaders to work to contribute to calm and address the underlying causes of the tensions, while recalling the special significance of the holy sites and upholding the status quo put in place in 1967 for al-Aqsa Mosque compound with respect to Jordan’s special role.  It further urged involved parties to abstain from actions that would aggravate the situation while at the same time commended both sides for upholding security coordination in the light of an extremely challenging situation.

The progress on the Duma crime investigation, in which Israeli settlers burned a family of four alive killing three, was welcomed by the EU. It called on Israel to hold all perpetrators of settler violence accountable and on both sides to establish a mechanism to consult on incitement along the lines of their previous commitments to fight incitement and hate speech. Affirming that security measures alone cannot stop the cycle of violence, the EU said it is convinced only the reestablishment of a political horizon and the resumption of dialogue can stop the violence. “The EU reaffirmed its support to the Quartet calls for significant transformative steps to be taken, consistent with the transition envisaged by prior agreements, in order to restore confidence and rebuild trust.”

The implementation of these measures was pushed for by the EU and a fundamental change of policy by Israel with regard to the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly in Area C, is thought to help in increasing economic opportunities, empowering Palestinian institutions and enhancing stability and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.  Asserting its commitment to achieving the two-state solution, the EU said the solution should meet Israeli and Palestinian security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty. It should also end the occupation that began in 1967, and resolve all permanent status issues in order to end the conflict, the EU stated.

The EU strongly opposed actions, which undermine the viability of the two-state solution and urged Palestinians and Israelis to demonstrate commitment to a two-state solution in order to rebuild trust and create a path back to meaningful negotiations. It pledged to continue to monitor developments on the ground and their broader implications and consider further action in order to protect the viability of the two-state solution.  “Securing a just and lasting peace, ending all claims, will require an increased common international effort. The EU, including through the action of its Special Representative, will work actively with all relevant stakeholders, including partners in the Quartet, notably the United States, in the region and in the United Nations Security Council, towards a renewed multilateral approach to the peace process.”

The EU called for the protection of children, including ensuring the right to education in a safe and secure school environment, while the council highlighted the importance of unhindered work of civil society both in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory and follows recent developments in this regard with concern.  It confirmed strong opposition to the Israeli policy of settlements, saying they are illegal and “constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two state solution impossible.”
The council said they also oppose building the separation barrier beyond the 1967 line, demolitions and confiscation – including of EU funded projects – evictions, forced transfers including of Bedouins, illegal outposts and restrictions of movement and access.

It urged “Israel to end all settlement activity and to dismantle the outposts erected since March 2001, in line with prior obligations. Settlement activity in East Jerusalem seriously jeopardizes the possibility of Jerusalem serving as the future capital of both States.”  “The EU and its Member States are committed to ensure continued, full and effective implementation of existing EU legislation and bilateral arrangements applicable to settlements products.”  Meanwhile, the EU expressed commitment to ensure that “all agreements between the State of Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967. This does not constitute a boycott of Israel which the EU strongly opposes.”  The EU called to achieve the reconciliation process and democratic elections and pledged support to Palestinian aspirations for Statehood. It further urged the Palestinian sides to make the reconstruction of Gaza an overarching national priority especially as regards to health, energy and access to water, saying “the Palestinian Authority must fully resume its governmental functions in Gaza, as it is an integral part of a future Palestinian state.”

Concerning the Gaza reconstruction process, the EU called on Israel to lifting restrictions on movement of people, services and goods – particularly those designated as ‘dual-use items’ – to allow reconstruction efforts and basic service delivery. The EU called all parties, state and non-state actors to guarantee unimpeded humanitarian access to Gaza and to swiftly honour their pledges.
Source:  EuroPal Forum 20.01.2016

EU to demand Israel pay for damages following demolition of Palestinian homes

The head of the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s European Organisation department, Avivit Bar Ilan, said: “We are aware that the EU is considering requesting compensation from Israel for the destruction of EU-funded projects and all other issues related to accusing Israel of violating humanitarian law with regard to the same matter.”  Haaretz newspaper said Ilan was speaking before the Knesset Foreign and Security Committee regarding what was referred to as the “illegal building” by Palestinians in the region.

The data that was presented before the commission revealed that there are about 12,000 people living in the area in question, mostly Bedouins.  The deputy head of the so-called Israeli army’s Civil Administration, Colonel Uri Mendes, said that 974 building were built in 2014, of which 408 have been demolished so far, five in the last week. Meanwhile, some of tents set up to provide shelter to those newly displaced are often confiscated the day following the houses are demolished.
Source:  Memo, EuroPal Forum 18.01.2016

Netanyahu seeks Balkan states’ help against the EU decision to distinguish settlements and Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to convince the countries of Eastern Europe and the Balkans to oppose a decision expected to be taken by the European Union’s foreign ministers on Monday distinguishing between Israel and the settlements.  The Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Monday quoted senior government officials as saying Netanyahu spoke to officials in Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Hungary and the Czech Republic, asking them to oppose the current version of the draft resolution, saying the text was unbalanced and biased against Israel.

According to Haartez, Netanyahu is critical of “the ostensibly anti-Israel bureaucrats in Brussels”.  Netanyahu focused his efforts, according to the paper, on these countries, not only because their pro-Israel orientation is greater, but because their foreign ministers were set to hold a separate meeting before the other meeting takes place.  The European Union foreign ministers discussed on Monday a draft law making a distinction between Israel and the 1967-occupied Palestinian territories.

The European Union passed a bill in 2015 to label Israeli goods produced in settlements and sold in EU markets.
Source:  Memo, EuroPal Forum 20.01.2016

Rights group: Israel violates laws aimed at protecting children in Gaza

Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights has said that Israel is escalating the targeting of children in Gaza and continues its “violations” of international laws aimed at “protecting children during armed conflicts”, Anadolu Agency reported on Sunday.
In its annual report, Al-Mezan said that Israel did not respect international and UN laws regarding Palestinians in Gaza, stressing that children are the most vulnerable as a result of Israeli violations.

The report said that the Israeli army killed seven children and wounded 213 in Gaza during 2015. In addition, 34 children were arrested during repeated invasions of the farmlands across the eastern border or during their attacks on the fishing boats off the Gaza coast.  Al-Mezan warned that the restrictions imposed by Israel on the coastal enclave constitute a “violation of international humanitarian law”.

On June 2014, Israel launched a 51-day offensive on Gaza that killed 2,322 Palestinians, including 578 children, and wounded more than 11,000 others.
Source:  Memo, EuroPal Forum 20.01.2016

Israel spraying toxins over Palestinian crops in Gaza

On January 7, a low-flying agricultural aircraft sprayed herbicides on to Palestinian farmlands along the eastern border, eradicating or damaging up to 162 hectares of crops and farmland along the Israeli border fence. “Herbicides are sprayed in high concentrations. Thus, they remain embedded in the soil, and then find their way to the water basin. This constitutes a real hazard for the population,” said Anwar Abu Assi, manager of the chemical laboratory at the Ministry of Agriculture.

The sprayed areas belong to Israel’s unilaterally imposed and poorly delineated “buffer” or “no-go zone”.  The zone, which amounts to an estimated 17 percent of the entire territory of the Gaza Strip and a third of its agricultural lands, erodes into the Strip’s most vital and fertile soils.  Yousef Shahin, 40, was having enough trouble sustaining his farmland when, last week, an Israeli raid targeted the water tank that supplied his farm and neighbouring farms in the al-Faraheen area east of Khan Younis.

The tank and collection system had cost Shahin and his neighbours some $15,000. Shahin said governmental support was lacking.”Without support, we can never reconstruct the system again. We don’t have running water for irrigation; I think we lost this season.”

The Israeli army’s move had added another element to the suffering of Shahin and his fellow farmers.  With the Strip being merely five kilometres wide in some areas, a few hundred metres prove essential to the Strip’s food security. Over the past few months, Israeli soldiers have killed at least 16 Palestinians who entered the zone, most of them protesters who were shot at by snipers while participating in demonstrations near the fence.  Furthermore, scores of casualties have been reported among farmers who were merely tending to or approaching their lands. “We had to jeopardise our lives daily growing these crops; now all our efforts are in vain,” said Shahin while examining a new implant of spinach.

He lost crops that included spinach, peas, parsley and beans. Whether or not his new endeavours to cultivate will succeed remains unknown.  Farmers confirm that the damages of the latest spraying extend beyond the so-called “buffer zone”, as the winds carried the chemicals further inside the Strip. They also fear consequences of such materials may affect their lands in the long run.

Abu Assi explained that each herbicide or pesticide has a safety period that needs to be observed before attempting to grow new crops. At such high concentrations, he fears the lands are likely to constitute a hazard for a long time.  An Israeli army official cited “security reasons” as justification.  During the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza, the agricultural sector sustained losses and damages of up to $550m. Some 14,000 hectares were razed and destroyed; thousands of hectares of crops were also lost because farmers were unable to reach their lands amid the fighting.

A few days ago, Israeli warplanes bombed Gaza’s main agricultural experiment station, causing $300,000-worth of damages and destroying the station’s building, laboratories, vehicles and a large power generator.  The station developed new seeds and strains for use by local farmers. Bombed and completely destroyed during the 2014 war, Israel seems insistent on keeping the station out of service, effectively stifling every Palestinian attempt to attain self-sufficiency or independence, even agriculturally.
The station’s manager, Shaher al-Rifi, says that the facility is currently 70 percent out of service. With the Israeli restrictions on imports of tractors and agricultural machinery, it is likely to remain so for a long time to come.

Adel Atallah, a general director at the agriculture ministry, explains that the whole agricultural sector has for years been running on old machines. “Domestic farmers face problems trying to replenish anything that goes out of service. What isn’t banned is stalled at the crossings by Israel.” The troubles facing the agricultural sector in Gaza span a wide myriad of difficulties. Irrigation is disturbed by the continuous power interruptions, which sometimes last more than 12 hours a day. Farmers depend on power generators to pump water, and the costs of fuel add another factor to their economic vulnerability.
Source:  Al Jazeera, 21.01.2016

EU Parliamentary delegation to Jordan 2016

Between the 23rd and 27th January, EuroPal Forum coordinated a delegation visit to Jordan, attended by British and Irish MPs and high profile individuals. The visit to Jordan comes in light of the increase of Israeli violations in Jerusalem and the West Bank that have resulted in the deaths of more than 130 Palestinians and thousands injured. The delegation aimed to highlight on the current situation in Jerusalem and Jordan’s’ role contributing to achieving peace in the region.

The Palestine Committee in the Jordanian Parliament hosted the delegation visit. Delegation members attended a number of meetings with officials in the Jordanian government in addition to meeting with His Majesty Abdullah || King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The delegation also met with heads of Palestinian camp committees and the Palestinian National Council in Amman. The Palestine Committee in the Jordanian Parliament hosted the delegation visit. Delegation members attended a number of meetings with officials in the Jordanian government in addition to meeting with His Majesty Abdullah || King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The delegation also met with heads of Palestinian camp committees and the Palestinian National Council in Amman.

The delegation was briefed on Jordan’s concerns regarding violations against the Palestinian people and Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. In the meeting with the King at Al Husseina Palace on Monday, he highlighted the role of concerned international parties, mainly Britain, to achieve progress that leads to a just and comprehensive peace in the region.
Source:  EuroPal Forum, 27.01.2016

British doctors have called for the removal of Israel from the World Medical Association

408 British doctors have called for the removal of Israel from the World Medical Association (WMA) over claims of “medical torture” on Palestinians seeking treatment.

Some 71 UK doctors have started to pressure the WMA to revoke the membership of the Israel Medical Association over claims that “our doctors perform medical torture on Palestinian patients,” said Ze’ev Feldman, the representative of the Israeli doctors, during a Knesset meeting held on the subject of boycotts against Israeli academic institutions on Wednesday.

If the British physicians succeed, the Tel Aviv regime will be banned from taking part in international medical conferences and publishing in journals.  The move follows similar measures launched by scholars around the world over the past few months.    In December, over 200 South African scholars released a statement announcing their support of an academic boycott of Israel.
In November, the American Anthropological Association, the largest professional organization of anthropologists in the world, approved a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

Moreover, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, known as BDS, is gaining momentum in US college campuses and churches as well as in many places in Europe. The BDS movement seeks to end the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands.
Source:  EuroPal Forum, 25.01.2016

EU shuts down pro-Israel congressional hawks

The European Union’s top diplomat has made it clear to Congress that the EU has no intention of reversing its policy of labelling Israeli settlement goods.  Congressional accusations that the EU policy is akin to a boycott of Israel are “not only misleading, but also unjustified,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini wrote to House and Senate lawmakers in identical letters obtained by Al-Monitor. The letters, dated Dec. 23, stress that “there is no EU boycott of any product” and that trade between the EU and Israel has doubled over the past two decades.

“Allow me first to state in the clearest possible terms that the European Union is a friend of Israel and has never advocated or condoned a boycott of Israel, of its citizens, of its companies or of its products,” Mogherini wrote.  The high representative for foreign affairs goes on to assure lawmakers that she has discussed the EU’s concerns about continued Israeli settlement construction with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and remains “confident that the EU and Israel will continue to have excellent relations.”

Mogherini’s missives are a direct response to November letters from pro-Israel lawmakers in the House and Senate that compared the labeling policy to an illegal, “de facto” boycott of Israel. The congressional letters were spearheaded by Republican presidential candidate and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and by Republican Reps. Doug Lamborn of Colorado and Randy Weber of Texas.  “Faced with this reality of escalating anti-Semitism,” Lamborn and 35 of his House colleagues wrote Nov. 10, “we believe it would be ill-advised to endorse a policy that likewise singles out Israel and holds it to different standards than any other country.”

The Senate letter, for its part, opens by stating the lawmakers’ “unequivocal opposition” to the EU labeling guidelines.  While they were eager to trumpet their opposition to the EU policy, the lawmakers have not been nearly as keen to showcase their inability to effect any change, as evidenced by the month-old response. Cruz and Lamborn did not immediately respond to requests for comment about possible next steps.

The exchange is but the latest in a series of skirmishes as Israel and its allies push back against the Palestinians’ boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign. Already in June, Congress passed trade legislation that conditions a potential US-EU trade pact on Europe not discriminating against Israel, prompting the Obama administration to reiterate that it, too, has concerns with the settlements.  In her response, Mogherini largely repeats EU justifications for its labelling policy. She says it simply seeks to codify existing EU trade law that covers Israel proper but not its settlements, which the EU and a UN panel consider to be illegal.

“The EU,” she writes, “has decided to make the necessary distinction between Israeli settlements in the occupied territories on the one hand and Israel within its pre-1967 borders on the other, which has allowed the development of our bilateral relations within the framework of the 1995 Association Agreement.”  Mogherini’s response does not address accusations that the EU policy could fuel anti-Semitism. Nor does she respond to accusations that it is discriminatory, since it singles out Israel while the EU does not require special labelling for Moroccan products from the Western Sahara, for example.

She does, however, counter the congressional argument that labelling settlements “prejudges” the outcome of negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians by arguing that, in fact, the opposite is true.  On the contrary, the guidelines enable the continued access to European markets of products from both Israel and Israeli settlements in territories occupied by Israel since 1967, but requires a distinction between them in terms of ensuring a correct indication of origin of those products,” Mogherini wrote. “To do otherwise might be seen as prejudging the outcome of future negotiations on borders, which would be contrary to both European and US policy.”
Source:  EuroPal Forum, 23.01.2016

Mohammed al-Qeeq in critical condition; Palestinian prisoners launch solidarity strikes

The Israeli Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday, 27 January that Mohammed al-Qeeq, the imprisoned hunger striking Palestinian journalist, must remain detained despite his critical condition and over two months on hunger strike. Held without charge or trial under administrative detention, al-Qeeq has consumed only water since 25 November 2015. He is currently held in HaEmek hospital, where he has been denied access to independent medical care.

Support and solidarity with al-Qeeq is growing; on his 63rd day of hunger strike, protests across Palestine and internationally are organized to demand his immediate release. Inside Israeli jails, 45 prisoners affiliated with the Palestinian leftist party, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, launched a two-day hunger strike in solidarity with al-Qeeq, demanding his immediate release.

The PFLP prisoners in Megiddo and Gilboa prisons launched the hunger strike, saying that this is part of an escalating campaign of protest and struggle within the prisons. They demanded al-Qeeq’s freedom as well as an end to the isolation of Palestinian prisoner Bilal Kayed, who is being held in solitary confinement and denied winter clothing and blankets by the Israeli prison administration.

Samidoun will be organizing a protest in New York City on Friday, 29 January, and Inminds will hold a protest in London on the same day. Further protests elsewhere are expected to be announed in the coming days. Protests will also take place in various cities in occupied Palestine on Friday, following rallies in Nablus, Ramallah, Gaza City and outside the hospital where al-Qeeq is held.

Download this flyer for distribution about the case of Al-Qeeq:

alqeeq-flyer

Former hunger striker Muhammad Allan raised his voice to demand al-Qeeq’s freedom, urging action on the Palestinian and international levels to free him before it is too late. On Wednesday, the Israeli supreme court deferred any action on al-Qeeq’s case, requiring daily reports on his health – Palestinian lawyers said that the decision amounts to a “rejection of his appeals and disregard for his life.” Al-Qeeq himself was not brought to court due to the severity of his health situation.

Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International and the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate have expressed the urgency of Al-Qeeq’s situation: he could die at any minute. Meanwhile, the U.S. and other governments are silent on the imprisonment of Al-Qeeq and other Palestinian journalists, while supporting Israel militarily, financially and politically.

Take Action:

1. Contact government officials and demand that they break their silence on Al-Qeeq and support for Israeli violations of Palestinian rights. In the United States, call the Israel Foreign Service Desk
1-202-647-3672 and the White House – 202-456-1111. Demand action on al-Qeeq’s case and an end to aid to Israel. In the UK, call UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Philip Hammond, MP, +44 20 7008 1500. In Canada, call Foreign Minister Stephane Dion: 613-996-5789.

2. Protest at an Israeli consulate or embassy (or federal building or public square) and demand freedom for Mohammed al-Qeeq. Raise the issue of this case publicly and distribute information – this flyer is available for you to distribute at protests in your community. Find your closest Israeli consulate: http://embassy.goabroad.com/embassies-of/israel.  Please email us atsamidoun@samidoun.net to inform us of your action – we will publicize and share news with the prisoners.

3. Boycott, Divest and Sanction. Palestinians have urged an international boycott of Israeli goods and institutions – and corporations that profit from occupation , like G4S, the world’s largest private security company, that sells security equipment to Israeli prisons, checkpoints and police training centers – directly profiting from the occupation that destroys Palestinian lives. At the same time G4S profits from occupation, institutions like the United Nations continue to do business with it. Go to addameer.org/UNdropG4S to take action!

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Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network is re-publishing here the statement of the Free the Hares Boys Campaign on the sentencing and imprisonment of five Palestinian teens, from the village of Hares. These five young men, Ali Shamlawi, Mohammed Kleib, Mohammed Suleiman, Ammar Souf and Tamer Souf, were accused of throwing stones near their village and causing a settler’s car accident with a truck. The claim of stone throwing did not even arise until days after the accident, and became an occasion for Israeli occupation forces terrorizing the village, rounding up teen boys and torturing five into false confessions. We urge all to join in actions called by the Free the Hares Boys Campaign and draw attention to these five Palestinian youth and the massive injustice against them:

hares

Five Palestinian Teens Blackmailed Into Accepting 15 Years Prison Term and Exorbitant ‘Fines’ for a Crime That Never Happened

PRESS RELEASE

by Free The Hares Boys campaign

12 December 2015

It is with great sadness and anger that we hereby inform you of the outcome of the Hares Boys case: the five teenagers are being sentenced to 15 years in prison and are to pay a total of NIS 150,000 (~US $39,000 or €35,000) to the Israeli authorities. Failure to provide the exorbitant sum would, it is implied, result in more years of prison added to the boys’ sentences.

Ali Shamlawi, Mohammed Kleib, Mohammed Suleiman, Ammar Souf, and Tamer Souf have been kept in prison for 2 years and 8 months and are now being sentenced for a crime that never happened.

The five teenagers (16-17 years old at the time) from the village of Hares (Salfit governorate, West Bank, occupied Palestine) were kidnapped from their homes by the Israeli army in March 2013. The teens were accused of throwing stones at illegal settler cars, one of which drove under a truck that was parked along Route 5 near the village of Hares. The driver’s children were injured during the accident and one of them died two years later after pneumonia complications. The boys denied throwing stones but were forced to sign ‘confessions’ following torturous interrogations at the hands of Israeli secret services. There was never any evidence of the boys’ guilt but it is sadly a reality in the Israeli military court system that does not comply with due process and convicts Palestinians at a 99.7% rate.

After almost 3 years of routine hearings at Israeli military courts, where the boys were initially accused of ‘attempted murder’, they were told on 26 November 2015 that they are now being charged with manslaughter and are being sentenced to prison terms of 15 years, provided their families pay ‘fines’ of NIS 30,000 [US $7,750 or € 7,100] each by the deadline of 28 January 2016. Failure to pay the amount requested by the Israeli military court would, it is understood, result in each boy’s sentence being prolonged, possibly to at least 25 years in prison.

There is no other way to describe this situation the five teens and their families have endured other than as criminal activity on behalf of the Israeli system of ‘justice’. Pressing the families to agree to a court ‘deal’ and threatening them with harsher sentences if they don’t accept is nothing less than extortion. Demanding that families pay large sums of money as a ‘fine’ or a ‘compensation’ to the occupying power is nothing less than a demand for ransom.

On behalf of the Free the Hares Boys campaign we condemn such acts of injustice committed by the Israeli military court.

We invite local and international human rights organizations, the world’s democratic government institutions and people of conscience to stand up to this injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people by the Israeli occupation and to demand justice for the Hares Boys. Please consider contacting your country’s diplomatic representatives in Tel Aviv or occupied Jerusalem; the Israeli Ministry of Justice; your local politicians; asking them to intervene and condemn such injustice and disrespect for the rule of law. Organize events in your community to highlight the Hares Boys case and the situation of hundreds of other Palestinian children who are being kept in occupation prisons.

Do not stay silent in the face of what is not right.

PDF VERSION: PRESS HERE

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