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Egypt claims to have brokered ceasefire agreement; Palestinian factions say they were not consulted

By Celine Hagbard | IMEMC News | July 15, 2014

The Israeli security cabinet reportedly agreed to a ceasefire agreement on Tuesday proposed by the Egyptian government, but leaders with the Palestinian resistance said that no one had contacted them to negotiate any ceasefire.

According to Israeli military reports, the alleged ceasefire proposal would require the Israeli military to end its aerial and naval bombardment of the Gaza Strip that has been constant for the past week, while Palestinian armed factions would be required to stop firing homemade shells into Israel.

Despite claims of having agreed to a ceasefire, Israeli bombardment continued to pound Gaza on Tuesday morning.

The armed wing of the Hamas party, the Izz-al Deen al-Qassam Brigades, claimed that the ceasefire agreement amounted to a ‘surrender’, and that no representative of Hamas or any other armed resistance group had been involved in the negotiations. Therefore, the group said, they would continue their resistance to Israeli aggression in Gaza.

The supposed agreement does not meet the four key elements reiterated by Hamas leaders in recent days. These requirements include the lifting of the Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip, which has led to the unemployment rate of 80%, the sealing of all borders and the prevention of aid, construction materials and fuel, as well as staple goods, from entering Gaza.

Ismail Haniyeh, the elected Prime Minister of the Palestinians people who has not been recognized by Israel because of his association with the Hamas party, said on Monday, “The Gaza blockade must be lifted so that our people live in freedom like all other peoples around the world.”

Egyptian officials negotiated with Israel, apparently without involving Palestinians in the negotiation of the proposed ceasefire. Despite the lack of involvement, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with the Fateh party urged rival parties to accept the agreement.

Hamas officials stated over the weekend that Egypt was an unacceptable negotiator for any ceasefire negotiations, and only Turkey or Qatar could be considered as potential negotiators of a ceasefire.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has kept the Egyptian border with Gaza closed over the last week, apart from one opening to allow critically wounded patients through. This has led to widespread disapproval of Egypt as a negotiator among the Palestinian populace of Gaza, who have not had any way to escape the near-constant bombardment that began on July 8th.

In the two weeks prior to July 8th, 13 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers.

In the week since, 195 Palestinians have been killed, including three babies under age two, and several families that were totally wiped out.

2 Israeli girls were wounded on Monday night by a Palestinian shell, the first such injuries in the week of escalation. One of them, age 10, was wounded critically, according to Israeli sources.

Over the past week of escalation, at least 1,385 Palestinians have been wounded, many with head injuries, amputated limbs, permanent disabilities and embedded shrapnel. They include a four-day old infant, who was critically wounded by Israeli forces on Tuesday morning.

More than 180 Palestinians have been killed and 1,385 injured since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge against Gaza exactly a week ago.

Early on Tuesday evening, as Operation Protective Edge entered its second week, Israeli air strikes and rocket continued to strike Gaza even while reports of the ceasefire began to emerge.

Hamas rockets also continued to fly toward Israel where they have largely caused minor injuries and damage. Monday evening saw the most serious incident of the week-long conflict so far with two sisters – aged 10 and 13 – being hospitalised following a rocket attack. The younger sister, 10-year-old Maram Wakili remains in critical condition.

July 15, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | Leave a comment

CALL FROM GAZA CIVIL SOCIETY: ACT NOW!

July 12, 2014

made-in-illegalityBesieged Gaza, Occupied Palestine – We Palestinians trapped inside the bloodied and besieged Gaza Strip call on conscientious people all over the world, to act, protest, and intensify the boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it ends this murderous attack on our people and is held to account.

With the world turning their backs on us once again, for the last four days we have in Gaza been left to face massacre after massacre. As you read these words over 120 Palestinians are dead now, including 25 children. Over 1000 have been injured including countless horrifying injuries that will limit lives forever – more than two thirds of the injured are women and children. We know for a fact that many more will not make it through the next day. Which of us will be next, as we lie awake from the sound of the carnage in our beds tonight? Will we be the next photo left in an unrecognizable state from Israel’s state of the art flesh tearing, limb stripping machinery of destruction?

We call for a final end to the crimes and oppression against us. We call for:

- Arms embargoes on Israel, sanctions that would cut off the supply of weapons and military aid from Europe and the United States on which Israel depends to commit such war crimes;

- Suspension of all free trade and bilateral agreements with Israel such as the EU-Israel Association agreement; (1)

- Boycott, divestment and sanctions, as called for by the overwhelming majority of Palestinian Civil Society in 2005 (2)

Without pressure and isolation, the Israeli regime has proven time and time again that it will continue such massacres as we see around us now, and continue the decades of systematic ethnic cleansing, military occupation and apartheid policies. (3)

We are writing this on Saturday night, again paralyzed in our homes as the bombs fall on us in Gaza. Who knows when the current attacks will end? For anyone over seven years old, permanently etched on our minds are the rivers of blood that ran through the Gaza streets when for over 3 weeks in 2009 over 1400 Palestinians were killed including over 330 children. White phosphorous and other chemical weapons were used in civilian areas and contaminating our land with a rise in cancers as a result. More recently 180 more were killed in the week-long attacks in late November 2012.

This time what? 200, 500, 5000? We ask: how many of our lives are dispensable enough until the world takes action? How much of our blood is sufficient? Before the Israeli bombings, a member of the Israeli Knesset Ayelet Shaked of the far-right Jewish Home party called for genocide of the Palestinian people. “They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes.” she said. “Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.” Right now nothing is beyond the murderous nature of the Israeli State, for we, a population that is mostly children, are all mere snakes to them.(3)

As said Omar Ghraib in Gaza, “It was heart shattering to see the pictures of little boys and girls viciously killed. Also how an elderly woman was killed while she was having her iftar at Maghreb prayer by bombing her house. She died holding the spoon in her hand, an image that will need a lot of time to leave my head.” (4)

Entire houses are being targeted and entire families are being murdered. Early Thursday morning the entire Al-Hajj family was wiped out – the father Mahmoud, mother Bassema and five children. No warning, a family targeted and removed from life. Thursday night, the same again, no warning, 5 more dead including four from the Ghannam family, a woman and a seven year old child amongst them. (5)

On Tuesday morning the Kaware family did get a phone call telling them their 3 storey house would be bombed. The family began to leave when a water tank was struck, but then returned with members of the community, who all came to the house to stand with them, people from all over the neighbourhood. The Israeli jets bombed the building with a roof full of people, knowing full well it was full of civilians. 7 people died immediately including 5 children under 13 years old. 25 more were injured, and 8 year old Seraj Abed al-Aal, succumbed to his injuries later that evening. (6) Perhaps the family was trying to appeal to the Israeli regime’s humanity, surely they wouldn’t bomb the roof full of people. But as we watch families being torn apart around us, it’s clear that Israel’s actions have nothing to do with humanity.

Other places hit include a clearly marked media vehicle killing the independent journalist Hamed Shehab, injuring 8 others, a hit on a Red Crescent rescue vehicle and attacks on hospitals which caused evacuations and more injuries. (7)

This latest session of Israeli barbarity is placed firmly in the context of Israel’s inhuman seven-year blockade that has cut off the main life-line of goods and people coming in and out of Gaza, resulting in the severe medical and food shortages being reported by all our hospitals and clinics right now. Cement to rebuild the thousands of homes destroyed by Israeli attacks had been banned and many injured and ill people are still not being allowed to travel abroad to receive urgent medical treatment which has caused the deaths of over 600 sick patients.

As more news comes in, as Israeli leaders’ give promises of moving onto a next stage in brutality, we know there are more horrors yet to come. For this we call on you to not turn your backs on us. We call on you to stand up for justice and humanity and demonstrate and support the courageous men, women and children rooted in the Gaza Strip facing the darkest of times ahead. We insist on international action:

- Severance of diplomatic ties with Israel

- Trials for war crimes

- Immediate International protection of the civilians of Gaza

We call on you to join the growing international boycott, divestment and sanction campaign to hold this rogue state to account that is proving once again to be so violent and yet so unchallenged. Join the growing critical mass around the world with a commitment to the day when Palestinians do not have to grow up amidst this relentless murder and destruction by the Israeli regime. When we can move freely, when the siege is lifted, the occupation is over and the world’s Palestinian refugees are finally granted justice.

ACT NOW, before it is too late!

Signed by

Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions

University Teachers’ Association in Palestine

Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (Umbrella for 133 orgs)

General Union of Palestinian Women

Medical Democratic Assembly

General Union of Palestine Workers

General Union for Health Services Workers

General Union for Public Services Workers

General Union for Petrochemical and Gas Workers

General Union for Agricultural Workers

Union of Women’s Work Committees

Pal-Cinema (Palestine Cinema Forum)

Youth Herak Movement

Union of Women’s Struggle Committees

Union of Synergies—Women Unit

Union of Palestinian Women Committees

Women’s Studies Society

Working Woman’s Society

Press House

Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel

Gaza BDS Working Group

One Democratic State Group

References:

(1)    http://www.enpi-info.eu/library/content/eu-israel-association-agreement

(2)    http://www.bdsmovement.net/call

(3)    http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.599422

(4)    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/why-im-on-the-brink-of-burning-my-israeli-passport-9600165.html

(5)    http://gazatimes.blogspot.ca/2014/07/day-2-of-israeli-aggression-on-gaza-72.html

(6)    http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=711990

(7)    http://dci-palestine.org/documents/eight-children-killed-israeli-airstrikes-over-gaza

(8)    http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/07/palestinian-journalists-under-israeli-fire-201471011727662978.html

July 12, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

No, Israel Does Not Have the Right to Self-Defense In International Law Against Occupied Palestinian Territory

Jadaliyya | July 12, 2014

In view of Israel’s assertions that it’s current attacks on the Gaza Strip are an exercise in legitimate self-defense, Jadaliyya re-posts an analysis of this claim by Co-Editor Noura Erakat initially published in 2012.

On the fourth day of Israel’s most recent onslaught against Gaza’s Palestinian population, President Barack Obama declared, “No country on Earth would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.” In an echo of Israeli officials, he sought to frame  Israel’s aerial missile strikes against the 360-square kilometer Strip as the just use of armed force against a foreign country. Israel’s ability to frame its assault against territory it occupies as a right of self-defense turns international law on its head.

A state cannot simultaneously exercise control over territory it occupies and militarily attack that territory on the claim that it is “foreign” and poses an exogenous national security threat. In doing precisely that, Israel is asserting rights that may be consistent with colonial domination but simply do not exist under international law.

Admittedly, the enforceability of international law largely depends on voluntary state consent and compliance. Absent the political will to make state behavior comport with the law, violations are the norm rather than the exception. Nevertheless, examining what international law says with regard to an occupant’s right to use force is worthwhile in light of Israel’s deliberate attempts since 1967 to reinterpret and transform the laws applicable to occupied territory. These efforts have expanded significantly since the eruption of the Palestinian uprising in 2000, and if successful, Israel’s reinterpretation would cast the law as an instrument that protects colonial authority at the expense of the rights of civilian non-combatants.

Israel Has A Duty To Protect Palestinians Living Under Occupation 

Military occupation is a recognized status under international law and since 1967, the international community has designated the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as militarily occupied. As long as the occupation continues, Israel has the right to protect itself and its citizens from attacks by Palestinians who reside in the occupied territories. However, Israel also has a duty to maintain law and order, also known as “normal life,” within territory it occupies. This obligation includes not only ensuring but prioritizing the security and well-being of the occupied population. That responsibility and those duties are enumerated in Occupation Law.

Occupation law is part of the laws of armed conflict; it contemplates military occupation as an outcome of war and enumerates the duties of an occupying power until the peace is restored and the occupation ends. To fulfill its duties, the occupying power is afforded the right to use police powers, or the force permissible for law enforcement purposes. As put by the U.S. Military Tribunal during the Hostages Trial (The United States of America vs. Wilhelm List, et al.)

International Law places the responsibility upon the commanding general of preserving order, punishing crime, and protecting lives and property within the occupied territory. His power in accomplishing these ends is as great as his responsibility.

The extent and breadth of force constitutes the distinction between the right to self-defense and the right to police. Police authority is restricted to the least amount of force necessary to restore order and subdue violence. In such a context, the use of lethal force is legitimate only as a measure of last resort. Even where military force is considered necessary to maintain law and order, such force is circumscribed by concern for the civilian non-combatant population. The law of self-defense, invoked by states against other states, however, affords a broader spectrum of military force. Both are legitimate pursuant to the law of armed conflict and therefore distinguished from the peacetime legal regime regulated by human rights law.


When It Is Just To Begin To Fight 

The laws of armed conflict are found primarily in the Hague Regulations of 1907, the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949, and their Additional Protocols I and II of 1977. This body of law is based on a crude balance between humanitarian concerns on the one hand and military advantage and necessity on the other. The post-World War II Nuremberg trials defined military exigency as permission to expend “any amount and kind of force to compel the complete submission of the enemy…” so long as the destruction of life and property is not done for revenge or a lust to kill. Thus, the permissible use of force during war, while expansive, is not unlimited.

In international law, self-defense is the legal justification for a state to initiate the use of armed force and to declare war. This is referred to as jus ad bellum—meaning “when it is just to begin to fight.” The right to fight in self-defense is distinguished from jus in bello, the principles and laws regulating the means and methods of warfare itself. Jus ad bellum aims to limit the initiation of the use of armed force in accordance with United Nations Charter Article 2(4); its sole justification, found in Article 51, is in response to an armed attack (or an imminent threat of one in accordance with customary law on the matter). The only other lawful way to begin a war, according to Article 51, is with Security Council sanction, an option reserved—in principle, at least—for the defense or restoration of international peace and security.

Once armed conflict is initiated, and irrespective of the reason or legitimacy of such conflict, the jus in bello legal framework is triggered. Therefore, where an occupation already is in place, the right to initiate militarized force in response to an armed attack, as opposed to police force to restore order, is not a remedy available to the occupying state. The beginning of a military occupation marks the triumph of one belligerent over another. In the case of Israel, its occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai in 1967 marked a military victory against Arab belligerents.

Occupation Law prohibits an occupying power from initiating armed force against its occupied territory. By mere virtue of the existence of military occupation, an armed attack, including one consistent with the UN Charter, has already occurred and been concluded. Therefore the right of self-defense in international law is, by definition since 1967, not available to Israel with respect to its dealings with real or perceived threats emanating from the West Bank and Gaza Strip population. To achieve its security goals, Israel can resort to no more than the police powers, or the exceptional use of militarized force, vested in it by IHL. This is not to say that Israel cannot defend itself—but those defensive measures can neither take the form of warfare nor be justified as self-defense in international law. As explained by Ian Scobbie:

To equate the two is simply to confuse the legal with the linguistic denotation of the term ”defense.“ Just as ”negligence,“ in law, does not mean ”carelessness” but, rather, refers to an elaborate doctrinal structure, so ”self-defense” refers to a complex doctrine that has a much more restricted scope than ordinary notions of ”defense.“

To argue that Israel is employing legitimate “self-defense” when it militarily attacks Gaza affords the occupying power the right to use both police and military force in occupied territory. An occupying power cannot justify military force as self-defense in territory for which it is responsible as the occupant. The problem is that Israel has never regulated its own behavior in the West Bank and Gaza as in accordance with Occupation Law.

Israel’s Attempts To Change International Law 

Since the beginning of its occupation in 1967, Israel has rebuffed the applicability of international humanitarian law to the  Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Despite imposing military rule over the West Bank and Gaza, Israel denied the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (the cornerstone of Occupation Law). Israel argued because the territories neither constituted a sovereign state nor were sovereign territories of the displaced states at the time of conquest, that it simply administered the territories and did not occupy them within the meaning of international law. The UN Security Council, the International Court of Justice, the UN General Assembly, as well as the Israeli High Court of Justice have roundly rejected the Israeli government’s position. Significantly, the HCJ recognizes the entirety of the Hague Regulations and provisions of the 1949 Geneva Conventions that pertain to military occupation as customary international law.

Israel’s refusal to recognize the occupied status of the territory, bolstered by the US’ resilient and intransigent opposition to international accountability within the UN Security Council, has resulted in the condition that exists today: prolonged military occupation. Whereas the remedy to occupation is its cessation, such recourse will not suffice to remedy prolonged military occupation. By virtue of its decades of military rule, Israel has characterized all Palestinians as a security threat and Jewish nationals as their potential victims, thereby justifying the differential, and violent, treatment of Palestinians. In its 2012 session, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination described current conditions following decades of occupation and attendant repression as tantamount to Apartheid.

In complete disregard for international law, and its institutional findings, Israel continues to treat the Occupied Territory as colonial possessions. Since the beginning of the second Palestinian intifada in 2000, Israel has advanced the notion that it is engaged in an international armed conflict short of war in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  Accordingly, it argues that it can 1) invoke self-defense, pursuant to Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, and 2) use force beyond that permissible during law enforcement, even where an occupation exists.

The Gaza Strip Is Not the World Trade Center

To justify its use of force in the OPT as consistent with the right of self-defense, Israel has cited UN Security Council Resolution 1368 (2001)and UN Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001).  These two resolutions were passed in direct response to the Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001. They affirm that those terrorist acts amount to threats to international peace and security and therefore trigger Article 51 of the UN Charter permitting the use of force in self-defense. Israel has therefore deliberately characterized all acts of Palestinian violence – including those directed exclusively at legitimate military targets – as terrorist acts. Secondly it frames those acts as amounting to armed attacks that trigger the right of self-defense under Article 51 irrespective of the West Bank and Gaza’s status as Occupied Territory.

The Israeli Government stated its position clearly in the 2006 HCJ case challenging the legality of the policy of targeted killing (Public Committee against Torture in Israel et al v. Government of Israel). The State argued that, notwithstanding existing legal debate, “there can be no doubt that the assault of terrorism against Israel fits the definition of an armed attack,” effectively permitting Israel to use military force against those entities.  Therefore, Israeli officials claim that the laws of war can apply to “both occupied territory and to territory which is not occupied, as long as armed conflict is taking place on it” and that the permissible use of force is not limited to law enforcement operations.  The HCJ has affirmed this argument in at least three of its decisions: Public Committee Against Torture in Israel et al v. Government of Israel, Hamdan v. Southern Military Commander, and Physicians for Human Rights v. The IDF Commander in Gaza. These rulings sanction the government’s position that it is engaged in an international armed conflict and, therefore, that its use of force is not restricted by the laws of occupation. The Israeli judiciary effectively authorizes the State to use police force to control the lives of Palestinians (e.g., through ongoing arrests, prosecutions, checkpoints) and military force to pummel their resistance to occupation.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) dealt with these questions in its assessment of the permissible use of force in the Occupied West Bank in its 2004 Advisory Opinion, Legal Consequences on the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The ICJ reasoned that Article 51 contemplates an armed attack by one state against another state and “Israel does not claim that the attacks against it are imputable to a foreign state.” Moreover, the ICJ held that because the threat to Israel “originates within, and not outside” the Occupied West Bank,

the situation is thus different from that contemplated by Security Council resolutions 1368 (2001) and 1373 (2001), and therefore Israel could not in any event invoke those resolutions in support of its claim to be exercising a right of self-defense. Consequently, the Court concludes that Article 51 of the Charter has no relevance in this case.

Despite the ICJ’s decision, Israel continues to insist that it is exercising its legal right to self-defense in its execution of military operations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Since 2005, Israel slightly changed its position towards the Gaza Strip. The government insists that as a result of its unilateral disengagement in 2005, its occupation has come to an end. In 2007, the government declared the Gaza Strip a “hostile entity” and waged war upon the territory over which it continues to exercise effective control as an Occupying Power.  Lisa Hajjar expounds on these issues here.

In effect, Israel is distorting/reinterpreting international law to justify its use of militarized force in order to protect its colonial authority. Although it rebuffs the de jure application of Occupation Law, Israel exercises effective control over the West Bank and Gaza and therefore has recourse to police powers. It uses those police powers to continue its colonial expansion and apartheid rule and then in defiance of international law cites its right to self-defense in international law to wage war against the population, which it has a duty to protect. The invocation of law to protect its colonial presence makes the Palestinian civilian population doubly vulnerable. Specifically in the case of Gaza,

It forces the people of the Gaza Strip to face one of the most powerful militaries in the world without the benefit either of its own military, or of any realistic means to acquire the means to defend itself.

More broadly, Israel is slowly pushing the boundaries of existing law in an explicit attempt to reshape it. This is an affront to the international humanitarian legal order, which is intended to protect civilians in times of war by minimizing their suffering. Israel’s attempts have proven successful in the realm of public relations, as evidenced by President Obama’s uncritical support of Israel’s recent onslaughts of Gaza as an exercise in the right of self-defense. Since international law lacks a hierarchical enforcement authority, its meaning and scope is highly contingent on the prerogative of states, especially the most powerful ones. The implications of this shift are therefore palpable and dangerous.

Failure to uphold the law would allow states to behave according to their own whim in furtherance of their national interest, even in cases where that is detrimental to civilian non-combatants and to the international legal order. For better or worse, the onus to resist this shift and to preserve protection for civilians rests upon the shoulders of citizens, organizations, and mass movements who can influence their governments to enforce international law. There is no alternative to political mobilization to shape state behavior.

July 12, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Israel Lobby and French Politics

By Evan Jones | CounterPunch | July 9, 2014

Pascal Boniface is a specialist in what the French call ‘geopolitics’. His output has been prodigious, traversing a wide variety of subjects. His latest book was published in May, titled: La France malade du conflit israélo-palestinien. For his literary efforts in this arena, Boniface has moved from respected commentator to being persona non grata in the mainstream media.

This story begins in 2001. Boniface was an adviser to the Parti Socialiste, with the PS then in a cohabitation government under RPR President Jacques Chirac and PS Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. In April 2001, he wrote an opinion for PS officials. The Party’s approach to Israel is based on realpolitik rather than on ethical principles, and it was time for a reappraisal.

Boniface published an article to the same effect in Le Monde in August 2001, which led to a response and rebuke by the then Israeli ambassador. Boniface then became fair game for the Israel lobby (my term – Boniface assiduously avoids it). Boniface was accused, via selective quotation, of urging the PS to cynically cater to the French Arab/Muslim community, more numerous than the Jewish community, to gain electoral advantage. As recently as January 2014, Alain Finkielkraut (rabble-rouser on the ‘Islamist’ problem in France) denounced Boniface on the same grounds.

The 1300 word 2001 note is reproduced in Boniface’s latest book. In a prefatory note to the reproduction, Boniface notes: “How many times have I not heard that one can’t move on the Middle East because of the ‘Jewish vote’ (sic) which of course does not exist but which nevertheless is largely taken on board by the elected of all sides.” Again, “It is not because there are more Arabs than Jews that it is necessary to condemn the Israeli Occupation; it is rather because the Occupation is illegal and illegitimate, contrary to universal principles and to the right of peoples to govern themselves.”

In the note itself, Boniface opines: “The intellectual terrorism that consists of accusing of anti-Semitism those who don’t accept the politics of Israeli governments (as opposed to the state of Israel), profitable in the short term, will prove to be disastrous in the end.” Paraphrasing Boniface: ‘… it will act to reinforce and expand an irritation with the French Jewish community, and increasingly isolate it at the national level.’ Boniface concludes:

“It is better to lose an election than to lose one’s soul. But in putting on the same level the government of Israel and the Palestinians, one risks simply to lose both. Does the support of Sharon [then Prime Minister] warrant a loss in 2002? It is high time that the PS … faces the reality of a situation more and more abnormal, more and more perceived as such, and which besides does not serve … the interests in the medium and long term of the Israeli people and of the French Jewish community.”

As Boniface highlights in 2014, “This note, alas, retains its topicality.”

Then comes 9/11 in September. There is the second Intifada in Palestine. Boniface wanted an internal debate in the PS, but is accused of anti-Semitism. The glib denunciation of terrorism brings with it a prohibition against the questioning of its causes.

Not content to be silenced, Boniface wrote a book in 2003, titled Est-il permis de critique Israël ?. Boniface was rejected by seven publishing houses before finding a publisher. In 2011, Boniface published a book titled Les Intellectuels Faussaires (The Counterfeit Intellectuals). In that book he called to account eight prominent individuals, not for their views (virulently pro-Israel, Neo-cons, Islamophobes) but because he claims, with evidence, that they persistently bend the truth. Yet they all regularly appear on the French mainstream media as expert commentators. The point here is that the 2011 book was rejected by fourteen publishers; add those who Boniface knew would be a waste of time approaching. Belatedly, Boniface found a willing small-scale publisher for Faussaires, and it has sold well in spite of a blackout in outlets that Boniface had expected some coverage.

Boniface also notes that Michel Bôle-Richard, recognized journalist at Le Monde, experienced a rejection for his manuscript Israël, le nouvel apartheid by ten publishing houses before he found a small-scale publisher in 2013. Boniface’s La France malade was rejected by the house that published his 2003 book. By default, it has been published by a small-scale Catholic press, Éditions Salvator. As Boniface notes, ‘this is symptomatic of the climate in France and precisely why this book had to be written’. It’s noteworthy that much of the non-mainstream media, including Marianne, Le Canard Enchainé and Mediapart, steers clear of the issue.

Boniface’s book is not about the Israel-Palestine conflict. Rather, it is about the parlous influence of the domestic Israel lobby on French politics and French society more broadly. Boniface claims that one can criticize any government in the world (one can even mercilessly attack the reigning French President), but not that of Israel.

After 2001, the PS was pressured to excommunicate him. Two regional presses ceased to publish his articles. There were attempts to discredit his organization – the Institut de Relations Internationales et Stratégiques – and to have him removed. He has been slurred as an anti-Semite.

At the peak of French Jewish organizations is the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France. CRIF’s formal dominant concern is the combating of anti-Semitism. At its annual dinner, its President cites the yearly total of recorded anti-Semitic incidents, berating the assembled political elite (‘the turn up of Ministers rivals that of the 14th July’) who don’t dare to reply.

There are indeed recurring anti-Semitic events, and there was a noticeable surge for several years in the early 2000s. Prime Minister Jospin was blamed for not keeping a lid on troublemakers (read Arab/Muslim) from the banlieues. The Socialists were ousted in 2002 and CRIF became a vocal advocate for and supporter of the new Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy’s domestic hard-line against civil disorder.

But Jospin was ‘guilty’ of more. One of the PS’s most ardent supporters of Israel, Jospin visited Israel and the Occupied Territories in 1999. Experiencing the latter first hand, his government’s policy towards Sharon-led Israel becomes less ardent. For CRIF, France’s less than a 100% plus pro-Israel stance puts French Jews at greater risk, so CRIF maintains as its imperative to influence both foreign and domestic policy. After the Merah murders of (amongst others) three Jewish children and an adult at a Toulouse school in 2012, CRIF was still laying blame on Jospin. As Boniface notes, CRIF perennially attempts to influence France’s policies but refrains from attempting to influence Israel’s policies.

When the publisher of Boniface’s 2003 book rejected the latest proposal (originally planned as a revised edition of the earlier book), the excuse was that it was over-laden with statistics. Statistics there are (helped by French infatuation with surveys and polling), and they ground Boniface’s cause.

Boniface highlights a change in attitudes after the 1960s. Anti-Semitism was still observably prevalent in the 1960s (would you accept Jews as in-laws?, a Jewish President?, etc.) but has since been consistently in decline. At the same time, popular support for Israel has experienced consistent decline. Until 1967, support for Israel, as the ‘underdog’, in France was high. Gradually attitudes have changed. Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 is a turning point. Increasingly the manifestations of conflict – the intifadas, the failures at Camp David and later of Oslo – are blamed on Israel. Increasingly, the sympathy is more in favor of the occupied rather than the occupier.

In 2003, a European-wide survey produced the result that the greatest percentage of those surveyed thought that, of all countries, Israel was a threat to world peace – ahead of the US, Iran and North Korea, and so on. If the facts are ugly then bury them. There has been no subsequent comparable survey.

With anti-Semitism down and dislike for Israeli government policies up, the main agenda of CRIF has been to become a ‘second ambassador’ for Israel under cover of the supposed omnipresent pall of anti-Semitism in France. Other organizations like the Bureau national de vigilance contre l’anti-sémitisme (BNVCA) and the Union des étudiants juifs de France (UEJF) are part of the Israel cheer squad.

Boniface cites CRIF President Roger Cukierman in 2005: “Teachers have a demanding task to teach our children … the art of living together, the history of religions, of slavery, of anti-Semitism. A labor of truth is also essential to inscribe Zionism, this movement of emancipation, amongst the great epics of human history, and not as a repulsive fantasy.” And CRIF President Richard Prasquier in 2011: “Today Jews are attacked for their support of Israel, for Israel has become the ‘Jew’ amongst nations.” After 2008, following the ascendancy of Prasquier to the CRIF presidency, CRIF institutionalizes the organization of trips to Israel by French opinion leaders, and the reception in France of Israeli personalities.

Boniface finds it odious that anti-Semitism should be ‘instrumentalized’ to protect Israeli governments regardless of their actions. There is the blanket attempt at censorship of all events and materials that open Israel’s policies to examination.

Representative is a planned gathering in January 2011 at the prestigious École normale supérieure of 300 people to debate the ‘boycott’ question. Among the participants were the Israeli militant peacenik Nurit Peled, who lost her daughter in a suicide bombing, and the formidable Stéphane Hessel. The ENS’s director cancelled the booking under direct pressure. The higher education Minister and bureaucracy were also lobbied, in turn putting pressure on the ENS.

In February 2010, Sarkozy’s Justice Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie issued a directive criminalizing those calling for a boycott of Israeli products. The formal reason given was that such a boycott militates against the freedom of commerce. The directive imposes a jail sentence and a heavy fine, and the Justice Minister instructed prosecutors that it is to be vigorously applied. Even the magistrature has criticized the directive, noting that its claimed dependence on a 2004 anti-discrimination law is inadmissible, and that it involves ‘a juridical assault of rare violence’ against a historic means of combating crimes of state. The directive remains in force under the Hollande Presidency.

The most striking reflection of the wholesale censorship agenda of the Israel lobby is the abuse of Jewish critics of Israel.

April 2010, under the banner Jcall.edu, a group of respected European Jews criticize the Occupation in defense of a more secure Israel, urging ‘two peoples, two states’ – they are attacked. March 2012, Jacob Cohen, Jewish critic of Israel, is physically menaced by the Ligue de défense juive (LDJ) during the launch of his book. November 2012, the mayoralty of the 19th arrondisement is attacked by the BNVCA for supporting an exhibition on the Negev Bedouins. Its sponsors, the Union juive française pour la paix (UJFP), are characterized as fronts for Palestinian propaganda. December 2012, Israeli Michel Warschawski is awarded the ‘prix des droits de l’homme de la République française’ – he is demonized. Other prominent Jewish intellectuals – Franco-Israeli Charles Enderlin, Rony Brauman, Edgar Morin, Esther Benbassa, members of the UJPF – are demonized.

July 2014, three young Jewish Israelis have been murdered. Charles Enderlin reports from Israel. The television channel France 2 mis-edits Enderlin’s reportage of ‘three young Israelis’ as ‘young colonists’. Widely respected for his sober reporting, Enderlin has been subsequently subject to a volley of abuse – thus: ‘it’s time to organise a commando to bump off this schmuck’.

April 2012, at the first Congress of friends of Israel. Israeli Ofer Bronchtein, President of the Forum international pour la paix, arrives as an official invitee. The LDJ attack him; the organisers, including CRIF, ask him to leave. Bronchtein later noted:

“If I had been attacked by anti-Semites in the street, numerous Jewish organisations would have quickly called for a demonstration at the Bastille. When it is fascist Jewish organisations that attack me, everybody remains silent …”

February 2013, Stéphane Hessel dies. Hessel’s life is an exemplar of courage and moral integrity; in his advanced years, this life was brought to our attention with the publication of his Indignez-vous ! in 2010. Hessel, part Jewish, was a strong critic of the Occupation and of the 2008-09 Gaza massacre. His death is met with bile from the lobby. CRIF labelled him a flawed thinker from whom they had little to learn and a doddery naïf giving comfort to the evil of others. A blogger on JssNews ranted: ‘Hessel! The guy who stinks the most. Not only his armpits but his inquisitorial fingers regarding the Jews of Israel.’ The LDJ celebrated – ‘Hessel the anti-Semite is dead! Champagne! [with multiple exclamation marks].’

Peculiarly in France, there is the LDJ. Its counterparts banned in Israel and the US (albeit not in Canada), the LDJ represents the strong-arm end of the Israel lobby. CRIF looks the other way. Boniface notes that it has been treated leniently to date by the authorities; is it necessary to wait for a death to confront its menace? On the recent murder of the three young Israelis, an LDJ tweet proffers: ‘The murders are all committed by the apostles of Islam. No Arabs, no murders! LDJ will respond rapidly and forcefully.’

As a de facto ambassador for Israel, the lobby has long attempted to influence French foreign policy. Boniface notes that in 1953 the new Israeli ambassador was met by Jewish representatives with the claim that ‘we are French citizens and you are the envoy of a foreign state’.  That was then.

At successive annual dinners, CRIF has called for France to acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel’s ‘eternal’ capital, and to incorporate Israel as a member state in the Francophonie (with the associated financial benefits and cultural leverage). On those fronts, CRIF has been unsuccessful. But it has had success on the broader front.

The turning point comes with President Chirac’s refusal to sanction the coalition of the willing in its criminal rush to invade Iraq in March 2003. The lobby is not amused. Now why would that be? In whose interests did the invasion and occupation occur? Chirac’s reluctance is met with a concerted strategy of the French lobby in combination with the US Israel lobby and US government officials to undermine the French position. Thus the ‘French bashing’ campaign – not generated spontaneously by the offended American masses after all. In his 2008 book, then CRIF President Roger Cukierman notes his gratitude for the power of the US lobby, and its capacity to even pressure the French leadership over Iraq.

Boniface claims that Chirac falls into line as early as May 2003. There is the establishment of high level links between France and Israel. After that … Sharon is welcomed to France in July 2005. France denies acknowledgement of the Hamas electoral victory in January 2006. France demurs on Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 2006 (in spite of the historic ties between Beirut and Paris). France remains ‘prudent’ regarding Israel’s Operation Cast Lead against Gaza in late 2008 and the murderous assault on the Turkish-led flotilla in May 2010. France did vote ‘yes’ to a Palestinian state at the UN in November 2012, but in general French foreign policy has become captive to Israeli imperatives, thanks in particular to the domestic lobby.

* * *

In February 2006 a young Jew Ilam Halimi is tortured and murdered. The shocking event becomes a cause célèbre in the media. Halimi’s killer was an anti-Semite. The killer’s hapless gang members receive various sentences, but parts of the Jewish community complain of their inadequacy, want a retrial and lobby the Élysée. The Halimi murder has since been memorialized with a school prize for the guarding against anti-Semitism, and several films are being produced. At about the same time an auto worker had been murdered for money (as was Halimi). The latter murder received only a couple of lines in the press.

Boniface produces summary statistics that highlight the violent underbelly in French society. A shocking count of conjugal murders, large-scale infanticide and rampant child abuse. Tens of thousands of attacks on police and public sector workers. A string of shocking gang attacks with death threats against members of the Asian and Turkish communities – those presumed to keep much liquid cash in their homes. Boniface notes that the anti-Semitic attacks (some misinterpreted in their character) need to be put into perspective.

And then there’s the Arab/Muslim communities. A survey was desirably undertaken in schools to combat racism. A student innocently notes that any tendency to display anti-Semitism is met with a huge apparatus of condemnation. (The 2002 Lellouche Law raised the penalties for racism and explicitly for anti-Semitism.) On the other hand, noted the student, tendencies to racist discrimination against blacks or Arabs are ignored or treated lightly.

There is, as Boniface expresses it, deux poids, deux mesures – two weights, two measures. It is widely felt and widely resented. TWTM could be the motif of Boniface’s book.

Arabs and blacks often refrain from reporting abuse or assaults with the prospect that the authorities will not pursue the complaint. Women wearing the veil are perennially harassed and physically attacked. A young pregnant woman is punched in the stomach; she loses her child. There is perennial use of the term ‘dirty Arab’. Arabs and blacks are perennially harassed by police because of their appearance and presumed ethnicity. Islamophobia escalates, with implicit support from CRIF and from pro-Israel celebrities such as Alain Finkielkraut. (Finkielkraut was recently beamed up to the celestial Académie française; his detractors were labelled anti-Semites.)

Salutary is the perennial humiliation experienced by Mustapha Kessous, journalist for Le Monde. Boniface notes that Kessous ‘possesses a perfect mastery of social conventions and of the French language’. Not sufficient it appears. On a cycle or in a car he is stopped by police who ask of him if he has stolen it. He visits a hospital but is asked, ‘where is the journalist’? He attends court and is taken to be the defendant, and so on.

In 2005, a Franco-Palestinian Salah Hamouri was arrested at a checkpoint and eventually indicted on a trumped up charge of involvement in the murder of a rabbi. In 2008 he took a ‘plea bargain’ and was given 7 years in jail. He was released in 2011 in the group exchange with the release of French IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. In France, Shalit is treated with reverence, though a voluntary enrolee of an occupying force. Hamouri’s plight has been treated with indifference. TWTM.

In March 2010, Said Bourarach, an Arab security guard at a shop in Bobigny, is murdered by a group of young men, Jewish and known to the police. They get off, meanwhile alleging that the murdered guard had thrown anti-Semitic insults. In December 2013, young Jews beat up an Arab waiter for having posted a quenelle (an anti-authority hand gesture ridiculously claimed to be replicating a Nazi stance and thus anti-Semite) on a social network. The event received no coverage.

TWTM. The media is partly responsible. The authorities in their manifest partisanry are partly responsible. The lobby is heavily responsible.

Boniface is, rightly, obsessed with the promise of universalism formally rooted in Republican France. He objects to the undermining of this imperative by those who defend indefensible policies of Israeli governments and who divert and distort politics in France towards that end.

For his pains, Boniface is denigrated and marginalized. Evidently, he declines to accept defeat. Hence La France malade

Evan Jones is a retired political economist from the University of Sydney. He can be reached at:evan.jones@sydney.edu.au

July 9, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Islamophobia, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Updated – Protests around the world respond to assault on Palestine

Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network

sfp12-250x250Protests are being organized in cities around the world to respond to the ongoing assault on Palestine and the Palestinian people, including the murders of Palestinians (including 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, murdered brutally by Israeli settlers), the bombing of Gaza, the mass arrests of over 600, and the raids, attacks, tear-gassing, invasions and closure that Palestinians are being subjected to. If a rally you know of is not listed, please email samidoun@samidoun.ca to have it posted!

Updated July 21st

List your protest here

Stockton, CA, US
Monday, July 21
1:00 PM
5151 Pacific Avenue, Stockton

Portland, OR, US
Monday, July 21
11:30 AM
Ron Wyden Office
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1474894066083705/

Toledo, Ohio, US
Monday, July 21
5:00 PM
West Central Ave and Secor Road

Nicosia, Cyprus
Monday, July 21
6:15 PM
Israeli Embassy

Baltimore, MD, US
Monday, July 21
5:00 PM
Mckeldin Square
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1463894830535947/

Vienna (Wien), Austria
Monday, July 21
6:00 PM
Museum Square/Ecke Mariahilferstrasse
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/747000545358212/

Padova, Italy
Monday, July 21
12:30 PM
Piazza Delle Erbe
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1444380655825994/

Wexford, Ireland
Monday, July 21
7:00 PM
Wexford Lockout Memorial Gates
More info: http://www.ipsc.ie/event/wexford-rally-in-solidarity-with-gaza-amnesty

Naas, Ireland
Monday, July 21
7:00 PM
Court House
More info: http://www.ipsc.ie/event/naas-vigil-for-gaza

Beirut, Lebanon
Monday, July 21
6:00 PM
Ramlet el Bayda
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/321536421345190/

Berlin, Germany
Monday, July 21
4 pm
Israeli Embassy in Berlin
more info: http://www.palaestina-solidaritaet.de/2014/07/berlin-stoppt-die-aggression-israels-und-voelkermord-in-gaza/

Boston, MA, US
Tuesday, July 22
5:30 PM
Copley Square
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/256379791223750/

Seattle, WA, US
Tuesday, July 22
7:00 PM
1533 Summit Ave
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/256676734518336/

Honolulu, Hawa’ii
Tuesday, July 22
4:00 PM
Corner of Ala Moana and Atkinson Boulevards
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/820420004643883/

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, July 22
12:00 PM
Prime Minister’s Office
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/699207926818047/

Newcastle, UK
Tuesday, July 22
5:30 PM
Newcastle City Centre
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1502986956604578/

Berlin, Germany
Tuesday, July 22
4 pm
Berlin, Potsdamer Platz
more info: http://www.palaestina-solidaritaet.de/2014/07/berlin-stoppt-das-massaker-an-palaestinensischen-kindern-frauen-und-zivilisten-in-gaza/

London, UK
Tuesday, July 22
5:30 PM
Israeli Embassy
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/243842022491577/

Reims, France
Tuesday, July 22
7:00 PM
Mairie de Reims

Rimini, Italy
Tuesday, July 22
8:30 PM
Arco d’Augusto
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/320363844807775/

Athens, Greece
Tuesday, July 22
7:00 PM
Syntagma Square, march to EU
More info: http://www.shiptogaza.gr/%CE%94%CF%81%CE%AC%CF%83%CE%B5%CE%B9%CF%82/%CE%94%CE%B5%CE%BB%CF%84%CE%AF%CE%B1-%CE%A4%CF%8D%CF%80%CE%BF%CF%85/item/1273-%CE%A3%CF%85%CE%B3%CE%BA%CE%AD%CE%BD%CF%84%CF%81%CF%89%CF%83%CE%B7-%CE%B4%CE%B9%CE%B1%CE%BC%CE%B1%CF%81%CF%84%CF%85%CF%81%CE%AF%CE%B1%CF%82-%CE%BA%CE%B1%CE%B9-%CF%80%CE%BF%CF%81%CE%B5%CE%AF%CE%B1-%CF%80%CF%81%CE%BF%CF%82-%CF%84%CE%B1-%CE%B3%CF%81%CE%B1%CF%86%CE%B5%CE%AF%CE%B1-%CF%84%CE%B7%CF%82-%CE%95%CE%95-%CE%B3%CE%B9%CE%B1-%CE%93%CE%AC%CE%B6%CE%B1-%E2%80%93-%CE%A4%CF%81%CE%AF%CF%84%CE%B7-22-%CE%99%CE%BF%CF%85%CE%BB%CE%AF%CE%BF%CF%85,-7-%CE%BC%CE%BC,-%CE%A3%CF%8D%CE%BD%CF%84%CE%B1%CE%B3%CE%BC%CE%B1

Besancon, France
Tuesday, July 22
6:00 PM
Place du 8 Septembre
More info: http://www.france-palestine.org/Rassemblements-Besancon-et-Belfort

Bari, Italy
Tuesday, July 22
10:00 AM
Sala Consiglio Regione Puglia
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/330270007097910/

Oakland, California, US
Tuesday, July 22
7:30 AM (Standing meditation)
2121 Harrison Street
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1432277720387399/

Bonn, Germany
Wednesday, July 23
5:00 PM
Hofgarten
More info: http://abedkhattar.com/

Bremen, Germany
Wednesday, July 23
6:00 PM
Hauptbanhof
More info: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=477245202410205&set=a.117576195043776.19312.100003741896281&type=1&ref=nf

Genova, Italy
Wednesday, July 23
6:00 PM
Piazza De Ferrari
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/787893081260856/

Jersey City, NJ, US
Wednesday, July 23
7:00 PM
Washington Blvd (Counter-protest to Zionists)
More info: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=533596803407863&set=p.533596803407863&type=1&theater

Des Moines, IA, US
Wednesday, July 23
10:00 AM
Federal Building
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/759801407403864/

Minneapolis, MN
Wednesday, July 23
5:00 PM
Lake Street/Marshall Avenue Bridge
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1507530086126085/

Austin, TX, US
Wednesday, July 23
5:00 PM
Texas Capitol
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/687476544621848/

Durham, NC, US
Wednesday, July 23
5:30 PM
Chapel Hill St and Main St
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1396765573879366/

Berlin, Germany
Wednesday, July 23
3 pm
Egyptian Embassy in Berlin
more info: http://www.palaestina-solidaritaet.de/2014/07/berlin-solidarity-with-gaza/

Marseille, France
Wednesday, July 23
7:00 PM
Vieux Port (sous l ombriere)
More info: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10203422387352555&set=gm.326234950864687&type=1&relevant_count=1

Bordeaux, France
Wednesday, July 23
6:30 PM
Place de la Victoire
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/300072606839831/

Paris, France
Wednesday, July 23
6:30 PM
Republique-Opera
More info: http://www.france-palestine.org/Manifestation-mercredi-23-juillet

Lyon, France
Wednesday, July 23
6:00 PM
Lyon Place des Terreaux 1er
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/443830102420565/

Bradford, UK
Wednesday, July 23
10:30 PM
Centenary Square
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/673603086066156/

Los Angeles, CA
Thursday, July 24
5:00 PM
Los Angeles City Hall
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1447066265562967/

Oakland, California, US
Thursday, July 24
4:00 PM
Ron Dellums Federal Building
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/234129970130060/

Nottingham, UK
Thursday, July 24
5:30 PM
BBC Centre
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/667353843356046/

Roma, Italy
Thursday, July 24
6:00 PM
Piazza Vittorio
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/809035842462292/

Des Moines, IA, US
Thursday, July 24
4:00 PM
MLK & Ingersoll Ave
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/759801407403864/

New York City, US
Friday, July 25
4:30 PM
Times Square, Corner of 42nd and 7th
More info: https://m.facebook.com/events/743760239016219/?ref=22

Houston, TX, US
Friday, July 25
3:30 PM
Corner of Westheimer and Post Oak, Houston, TX

Vancouver, Canada (unceded Coast Salish territories)
Friday, July 25
6:15 PM
Vancouver Art Gallery
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/691825760852651/

Montreal, Quebec
Friday, July 25
5:30 PM
Israeli Consulate
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1473846162855504/

Pretoria, South Africa
Friday, July 25
1:30 PM
428 Kings Highway
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1444600715801889/

Durban, South Africa
Friday, July 25
1:30 PM
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1444600715801889/

London, UK
Friday, July 25
3:00 PM
Duchess Street (behind BBC Broadcasting House), March to US Embassy
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/269233609944348

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Friday, July 25
6:00 PM
Alberta Legislative Grounds, 10820 98 Ave, Edmonton

Sacramento, CA, US
Friday, July 25
4:00 PM
16th & J Streets

Atlanta, Georgia, US
Friday, July 25
4:00 PM
190 Marietta St NW, CNN Center
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/748517295214968/

Chicago, IL, US
Friday, July 25
4:00 PM
Richard J Daley Center
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1441089229490097/

Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Friday, July 25
6:00 PM
City Hall
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1505147226381900/

St. Catharine’s, Ontario, Canada
Friday, July 25
2:30 PM
61 Geneva Street
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/520410698060109

Seattle, WA, US
Friday, July 25
4:00 PM
4th and Pine
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1507021212842999/

Kortrijk, Belgium
Friday, July 25
4:00 PM
Kortrijk St-Jansplein

San Francisco, CA
Saturday, July 26
1:00 PM
United Nations Plaza
More info: http://answersf.org

Dearborn, MI
Saturday, July 26
3:30 PM
Dearborn City Hall
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/765422090146963/

Swansea, UK
Saturday, July 26
11:30 AM/2:30 PM
Castle Sq. Swansea 11.30 AM – 1 PM Info Stall & Protest
Cardiff City Hall 2.30pm for March
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/314564288701081/

London, UK
Saturday, July 26
12:00 PM
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/263148077211393/

Rome, Italy
Saturday, July 26
2:30 PM
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1475889822651141/

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, July 26
2:00 PM
Queens Park Legislative Building
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/910802972279851/

Edinburgh, Scotland
Saturday, July 26
1:00 PM
The Mound
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1458548851064221/

Lecce, Italy
Saturday, July 26
8:30 PM
Lecce
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/263385293867765/

Memphis, TN, US
Saturday, July 26
4:30 PM
Poplar and Highland
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/952367888122598/

Paris, France
Saturday, July 26
2:00 PM
Trocadero
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/264410057078457

Gießen (Germany)
Saturday, July 26
2:00 PM
Seltersweg (Drei Schwätzer)

Seattle, WA, US
Saturday, July 26
401 Pine Street
12:00 PM
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/665212870225672/

Ennis, Ireland
Saturday, July 26
12:00 PM
O’Connell Square
More info: http://www.ipsc.ie/event/ennis-vigil-in-solidarity-with-palestine-ipsc

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
Saturday, July 26
7:00 PM
222 Copland Crescent
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/673239206100688/

Brussels, Belgium
Sunday, July 27
2:00 PM
Bruxelles Gare Du Nord
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1434646573481952/

Montreal, Quebec
Monday, July 28
2:00 PM
Israeli Consulate
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/335745323246105/

New Orleans, LA, US
Friday, August 1
7:30 PM
Carrollton and Canal Streetcar Stop
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1445302115744961

Washington, DC, US
Saturday, August 2
1:00 PM
White House
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1505340756367346/

Austin, TX, US
Saturday, August 2
1:00 PM
Texas State Capitol
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/869959109698145/

Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, August 9
6:00 PM
Celebration Square
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1480697442177557/

 Albany, NY, US
Saturday, August 9
1:00 PM
NY State Capital Building
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/617078228390029/

 

 

July 9, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , | 2 Comments

Israeli universities establish committee to fight “growing” BDS campaign

MEMO | July 8, 2014

Israeli universities have established a new joint committee to fight the academic boycott campaign, described by Hebrew University president Menahem Ben-Sasson as an “increasingly growing phenomenon”.

The forum was announced Tuesday by the Committee of University Heads, a body representing the country’s seven research universities on matters such as budgeting and wages, and currently chaired by Ben-Sasson.

The committee will be headed by Zvi Ziegler, an academic at The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and active in opposing boycotts since at least 2006. Its activities will include mapping out “the scope of the threat, gathering information on future potential boycotts as well as coordinating with relevant parties and institutions in Israel and abroad to minimize the damage”.

Ziegler stressed the importance of intelligence-gathering in fighting BDS, saying that “foreknowledge of boycott endeavours” would help “thwart the initiative before it stews”. He also said the committee would seek “information regarding cases of discrimination against Israeli researchers”.

According to The Jerusalem Post, while academic boycotts have so far “surfaced primarily in the humanities disciplines” there “remains great concern among Israeli universities and officials that the phenomenon will spread to encompass the sciences”.

July 8, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , | Leave a comment

Palestinians protest the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir and destroy apartheid tramway

International Solidarity Movement | July 6, 2014

Shu’afat, Occupied Palestine – On the 4th July 2014, at least 2,000 Palestinian mourners gathered in Shu’afat for the funeral of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was kidnapped last week.

His mutilated body was later found in a forest on the outskirts of Jerusalem.  The autopsy indicates that he was burnt alive.  It is widely believed that the murder was carried out by extremist Israeli settlers.

Mourners gathered by the mosque and marched carrying the body to the burial ground.  Initially the funeral organisers formed a human chain to separate mourners and the police to prevent violence.  Later on, Israeli police clashed with Palestinians for around 12 hours.

It has been reported that at least 30 Palestinians were hurt by rubber-coated bullets while dozens more were treated for the effects of tear gas.  13 Israeli police officers were also injured. A field of wheat was also partly destroyed by fire, probably caused by tear gas canisters.

Throughout the demonstration, undercover police agents, who were also acting violently towards the police, abducted and violently assaulted at least 11 Palestinians, including Tarek Abu Khdeir, Mohammed’s cousin, who was filmed being beaten by police.

Later in the evening, local Palestinian residents took steps to remove the illegal light rail system which runs through their neighbourhood.  Two French companies, Veolia and Alstom, are subject to an international boycott and divestment campaign due to their involvement in the project. The tram primarily services illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied East Jerusalem and thereby facilitates Israel’s illegal policies of colonization and ethnic cleansing.

Local Palestinian’s pulled up bricks and cement that hold the tracks in place and damaged the tracks using an angle grinder.  Many local residents gathered round to express their support for this act of civil disobedience.  One Palestinian resident in his 60′s said that the tram “is for the illegal settlements. Israel takes our land and kills our people…we want them [the Palestinian protesters] to rip it up and take it away completely…we want rid of it”.

July 6, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Farming under siege: Working the land in Gaza

By Tom Anderson and Therezia Cooper | Corporate Watch | July 5, 2014

Corporate Watch researchers visited the Gaza Strip during November and December 2013 and carried out interviews with farmers in Beit Hanoun, Al Zaytoun, Khaza’a, Al Maghazi and Rafah, as well as with representatives from Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), Palestine Crops and the Gaza Agricultural Co-operative in Beit Lahiya. This is the first of two articles highlighting what their experiences show: that Palestinians face significant and diverse difficulties when it comes to farming their land and harvesting and exporting their produce under siege, and that Israel enforces what amounts to a de facto boycott of produce from the Gaza Strip.

The land and the buffer zones

“There is a 300 meter ‘buffer zone’ in our area. It is common that people get shot at directly if they enter it. Within 500 meters people often get shot at. It is unsafe within 1500 metres of the fence”

Saber Al Zaneen from the Beit Hanoun Local Initiative

IMG_0251

Since the withdrawal of settlers and the end of a permanent presence of ground troops from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Israel insists that the area is no longer under occupation. However, as well as still controlling Gaza’s air space, coastline and exports, Israel effectively occupies the area commonly referred to as the ‘buffer zone’, located all the way down the strip along the border with Israel. A buffer area has existed in Gaza since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993, when 50 meters on the Gaza side of the border was designated a no-go area for Palestinians. Since then, Israel has unilaterally expanded this zone on numerous occasions, including to 150 metres during the Intifada in 2000 and to changeable and unclear parameters since 2009.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (OCHA) the buffer zone takes up 17% of Gaza’s total land, making up to 35% of available farmland unsafe for Palestinians to use, with the areas nearest the border fence being the most restricted. Calling the boundaries of the zone ‘vague, unpredictable’ and ‘uncertain’, OCHA has divided the the zone into two danger grades: ‘no-go’ areas where Palestinians risk their lives if they enter as they are considered free fire zones by Israel (within 500 metres of the fence) and ‘high-risk’ areas, where the restricted access still has a severe consequences for farmers and where property destruction and levelling of the land occurs on a regular basis (within 500 and up to 1500 meters of the fence). These areas are kept under heavy surveillance by Israel, through the use of military border patrols and equipment as well as surveillance balloons and drone technology. There are regular incursions by Israeli troops into the buffer zone, sometimes as often as a few times a week.

In the ceasefire agreement during Operation Pillar of Cloud in 2012, Israel agreed to ease restrictions on some Palestinian farmland and allow access up to 100 meters from the fence but this promise appears to have had limited impact on Palestinians. There has been no official announcement regarding the easing of the restrictions and as the Israeli human rights organisation Gisha (part of Legal Center for Freedom Of Movement) has pointed out, advice from Israeli sources is often contradictory, citing the no go areas as sometimes 100 meters, sometimes 300 meters with no way for farmers to be sure. What is clear, however, is that Palestinians keep getting shot at from a greater distance than 300 metres and that anyone going closer than 500 metres from the border is putting themselves in danger. It is also clear that with so much of their land being out of bounds, farmers have no choice but to continue to work, at least partly, in areas which are unsafe.

Since 2008 over 50 Palestinians have been killed in the buffer zone and, although things have calmed down slightly since the truce in 2012, four Palestinian civilians have been killed and over 60 wounded by Israeli forces in the buffer zone so far this year, with five killed and approximately 60 wounded in 2013 according to Human Rights Watch. Most of these deaths have occurred when farmers have been trying to reach their land within, or near to, the buffer zone, or during demonstrations where communities have tried to assert their right so reach their fields. One role of international solidarity activists in the Gaza Strip is to accompany farmers wanting to access and farm their land. Sa’ad Ziada from UAWC estimates that the number of agricultural workers in Gaza has decreased from 55.000 to 30.000 as a result of the siege, with many of the remaining farmers unable to earn enough to survive from their crops.

As well as threatening life, the buffer zone has had a disastrous impact on Palestinians’ ability to make a living in the Gaza Strip, with not only fields but also property and water resources heavily affected. The Diakonia International Humanitarian Law Resource Centre states that since Israel’s supposed disengagement in 2005 ’305 water wells, 197 chicken farms, 6,377 sheep farms, 996 complete houses, 371 partial houses, three mosques, three schools, and six factories have been destroyed within the “buffer zone”’, and a total of 24.4 square kilometres of cultivated land has been levelled.

Destroying livelihoods in Khuza’a

“We can see the Israelis farming the land, and we cannot farm our land”

Hassan, farmer from Khuza’a

Surveillance of the barren fields in the Khuza'a buffer zone, occupied Gaza Strip. Photo by Corporate Watch, November 2013

Khuza’a is a village in the southern Gaza Strip, just east of Khan Younis. It is located only 500 metres from the border fence with Israel and 70% of the population are farmers. The town has suffered greatly from the Israeli Occupation Forces’ enforcement of the buffer zone and from repeated air attacks. During Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, the village was targeted with white phosphorous, leaving farmland temporarily contaminated. During Corporate Watch’s visit to Khuza’a we talked to farmers representing several generations: Osama, Ahmed, Mohammed, Jihad, Salam and Hassan.

Hassan is 51 years old and has been a farmer in Khuza’a for over 30 years. He owns three different pieces of land, two dunams next to the border fence, two and a half dunams 400 metres from the fence and four dunams 620 metres from the border. He used to have olive trees on the plot by the border, but the land was levelled during an expansion of the buffer zone in 2000. In 2008 his other two pieces of land were bulldozed, including his greenhouses. In 2009 his house was partially burned by white phosphorous, which also affected the land next to him. “The farmers are the victims here” Hassan told us, “when resistance fighters are targeted on the farmland it destroys everything”.

Hassan is now trying to grow tomatoes and olives on the two pieces of land furthest from the fence with the support of Unadikum and other international volunteers, who accompany farmers in in the hope that their presence will make the work less dangerous. However, all the Khuzra’a farmers reported that they frequently get shot at even when working on land over 500 metres away from the border. “We have no choice, when the Israelis shoot we have to leave the land”, Hassan said.

According to the men we talked to in Khuza’a the economic situation for farmers in the Gaza Strip is the hardest it has ever been -not only are none of them making any money, but the siege is slowly killing their ability to be agriculturally self sufficient. Hassan used to earn approximately $1000 a month from his fields before he lost his first bit of land in 2000. Now he has got debts of $60.000 instead and no way of making money. We were told that farmers generally get seeds to plant from the traders which they then pay for after harvest season, but harvests in the Gaza Strip are highly unpredictable: land anywhere near the buffer zones can become impossible to farm at any point and some years whole crops are destroyed during Israeli attacks.

None of the farmers in Khuza’a are currently able to export the produce they do succeed in growing. There has been a near total ban on exports from the Strip since the tightening of the siege in 2007 with only a minimal amount of agricultural produce being allowed for export through Israeli companies every year. No Gaza produce is allowed to be sold in Israel or the West Bank, which has traditionally been Gaza farmers’ biggest market. Salam told us that he used to be able to market his produce for sale in Europe but that it had to be done through Agrexco and Arava, Israeli agricultural export companies, and that the last time he managed to export anything was almost ten years ago.

“I have been farming here for 30 years and all the lands have been destroyed” Hassan said with a shrug. “I used to produce 20 tanks of olive oil from my trees every year, but now I have to buy oil even for myself. Should we have to constantly rebuild everything? What will the future for my sons be? I am always arguing with my sons. They want to go to Algeria to find work, and then I will lose my sons too”. All these farmers want is the chance to have a future on their land.

Surveillance tower in the buffer zone in Khuza'a, occupied Gaza Strip. Photo by Corporate Watch, November 2013

Standing in the middle of the fields of Khuza’a, looking past the barren Palestinian land next to the fence and past the military watch tower, you can clearly see healthy looking green crops on the Israeli side of the border. The Israeli fields are close enough for us to hear the low humming of their fertilising plane as we leave.

Uprooting families in Beit Hanoun

Beit Hanoun has been one of the towns hit the hardest by Israel’s enforcement of the buffer zone. Located in the far north east of the Gaza Strip, only six kilometres from the Israeli city of Sderot and close to the Beit Hanoun (Erez) border crossing to Israel, the population is exposed to frequent incursions by the Israeli Occupation Forces and it shows. Approaching the buffer zone you walk past a big crater in the ground, the result of a 2012 F16 strike, and house rubble can be seen in the distance. The area is under constant heavy surveillance by Israel and several surveillance ‘balloons’ monitor everything that goes on on the ground. According to Saber Al Zaneen from the Beit Hanoun Local Initiative Israel bulldozed 9000 dunums of Beit Hanoun’s land between 2001 and 2009 including 70 houses. Most of it was farmland. As a result over 350 people living in the area have been displaced from their land. The Beit Hanoun Local Initiative, set up in 2007, is a grassroots group working with, and supporting, marginalised families and farmers living close to the buffer zone with the aim of helping them remain on their land.

Damaged building in the Beit Hanoun buffer zone, occupied Gaza Strip. Photo by Corporate Watch, November 2013

In the past farmers in the area used to grow olives, lemons and oranges close to the border but all the trees haven now been bulldozed. “Communities now grow potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and watermelons on the outskirts of the buffer zone” Saber told us. “You can not grow anything tall at all, no trees are allowed. If plants get higher than about 80 centimetres they will be levelled”. Shortly after we visited the area, the Local Initiative assisted the planting of some new wheat fields nearer the fence, challenging the restrictions in the buffer zone.

On top of the access restrictions and the personal danger involved, farmers working the land face the big challenge of being able to access water for their crops. Approximately 60 water wells in the vicinity of the Beit Hanoun buffer zone were bulldozed or bombed between 2001-2009 and finding enough water to grow healthy produce is now a constant struggle for the community. The area we visited had one small mobile water tank for the fields but locals told us that as it requires either electricity or fuel to run they were not always able to use it. Instead they relied on a makeshift pit dug in the field and lined with tarpaulin in order to collect rain water. Gaza suffers from a severe and drawn out fuel crisis which, during our visit at the end of 2013, resulted in mains electricity only being available around 12 hours a day on a six hour off/six hour on basis at best. As a result fuel for personal use is both expensive and hard to come by (for an expanded explanation of the fuel crisis in Gaza see Corporate Watch’s briefing Besieging Health Services in Gaza: A Profitable Business)

Pit collecting rain water for crops in Beit Hanoun, occupied Gaza Strip. Photo by Corporate Watch, November 2013

House demolitions in Al Zaytoun

“We plant our plants here to claim our rights to the land. We are not making a profit, we are working for nothing”

Ahmad from Al Zaytoun

We met the farmers Ali, Rafat, Nasser, Ahmad, Jawad and Ishmael outside Ahmad’s house next to the Malaka intersection area of eastern Al Zaytoun just south of Gaza City. There used to be a three storey family home on this plot, but there is now a much smaller house next door. This is the result of continuous targeting of the area by the Israeli Occupation Forces, who have a military base close by. Ahmad, who was born on this land, told us that his family’s house had been demolished three times: in 2004, 2005 and during Operation Cast Lead in 2008.

“In 2008 they destroyed everything around here”, Ahmed said, “they even destroyed my jars of olive oil. We did not have time to bring hardly any of our things. The Israelis came through a gate in the fence in the buffer zone with 14 tanks and four military bulldozers. They were shooting a lot to make us leave before they arrived. We have had to rebuild our home three times”.

As in other buffer zone communities, it is not only property which is frequently targeted by Israel -it is anyone who attempts to farm the land. All the farmers we talked to in Al Zaytoun had some land within 300 metres of the fence. The last shooting incident had occurred just four days before our visit. When there is instability happening in the area, everyday activities for farmers become even more precarious.

Preparing to re-cultivate land near the buffer zone in Al Zaytoun, occupied Gaza Strip. Photo by Corporate Watch, November 2013

The story of the farmers in Al Zaytoun is a familiar one: before the tightening of the siege in 2007 they all used to be able to make a decent profit from their land, with some farmers getting close to $30.000 a year but now they make no profit at all. Some of them used to export part of their produce, albeit through Israeli companies, but now none of them are able to export anything and all their goods go to the local Gaza market. “No-one has any money so we hardly make anything” said Ahmed. “Sometimes we have to feed some of the vegetables to the animals”.

Mustapha told us that farmers in this area have had some help from Norwegian People’s Aid who provided them with an irrigation system for the fields, and they also have a tractor but even with equipment taking care of the land is a challenge under siege. Just like the farmers in Beit Hanoun, they rely on access to electricity for the water pump and petrol for the tractor and those things are often not available. “The water is so salty here that we can only plant very specific plants like aubergines olive trees, potatoes, cabbage and spinach. Cucumbers and tomatoes can’t be planted”, said Mustapha. The salty water is the result of the Gaza aquifer having been contaminated by sea and sewage water, partly through a decline in ground water levels and partly as a result of infrastructure damage during Israeli air attacks in 2009. According to the UN 90% of the water from the aquifer, Gaza’s only water resource, is not safe to drink.

After the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in the middle of 2013, life for Gaza’s farmers has become even harder. The men in Al Zaytoun said that they used to be able to be able to buy cheap fertilizers which had come through the tunnels from Egypt at the local market. However, since the tunnels were destroyed this is no longer possible. Products are now both harder to get hold of and more expensive as they have to come through Israel which means that there are no cheap choices and that tax will be added.

Despite all the problems they face the people of Al Zaytoun continue to work their land, they have no other option. As we walked around their fields they showed us how they have started to re-cultivate land nearer and nearer the fence, moving the area of cultivation forward by around ten metres per week. In Gaza simply farming the land has turned into an act of resistance.

Uprooting history in Al Maghazi

“It is not the uprooting of the trees themselves that is the worst, it is the uprooting of our history”

Abu Mousab from Al Maghazi

Abu Mousab on his family's land in Al  Maghazi, occupied Gaza Strip. Photo by Corporate Watch, November 2013

For Palestinians, the buffer zones do not only create financial hardship and humanitarian crises, they also sever people’s connection with their history. In Al Maghazi, a primarily agricultural community in the central Gaza Strip, we met Abu Mousab, a farmer who also holds down a job as an iron wielder in order to make a living. Al Maghazi is a refugee camp established in 1949 and according to Mohammed Rasi el Betany from the Al Maghazi refugee council approximately 95% of the population are refugees. However, Abu Mousab’s family have lived on the same piece of land for generations. When we visited, his father, who is in his late 90′s and who used to work for the British Mandate before the creation of Israel, was asleep in the room next door.

Staying steadfast on the farmland has not been easy for Abu Mousab and his family. Their land is located approximately 300 metres from the border fence and, despite the fact that conditions have become a little bit safer since 2012, working the land is dangerous. “We have to play a kind of cat and mouse game with the soldiers” Abu Mousab said. “When the soldiers go away we turn on the water and quickly irrigate our plants, but as soon as they start shooting we have to leave”. Only a week before our visit Abu Mousab’s nephew Medhat had been shot at with live ammunition warning shots when he was trying to weed some crops on the part of the family’s farmland nearest the fence. Some years the family have been able to access their land so infrequently that the crops have failed, leaving them with no income from their land. During good years when they do manage to harvest their barley, wheat, almonds, citrus fruits, olives and apricots they sell their produce to the local market in the Gaza Strip.

However, many people do not feel able to risk their life to work on the land. One of them is Mousa Abu Jamal, another farmer from Al Maghazi. He used to have ten dunums of farmland planted with olive trees within the buffer zone, all of which have been uprooted by Israel. When he tried to go back to re-cultivate his land in the middle of 2012 he was shot at. He has not been back since.

“I was always told by my father that he who has been raised on his farmland must stick with his farmland until he dies and that is what we are doing” Abu Mousab said. His family are so determined not to give up their heritage that during the bombardment of the Gaza Strip in 2012 they made a decision not to leave the area for relative safety further away from the border. “Ten years ago the Israelis came with Caterpillar bulldozers and destroyed olive trees and several 200 year old sycamore trees on my land. Those were trees my grandfather used to sit under”, Abu Mousab said. “They had to use two of their bulldozers to uproot just one tree, they were so rooted in our history.”

Boycott Divestment and Sanctions

Israel’s siege of Gaza is slowly strangling life in the Strip. It affects farmers’ access to land, crops, water and electricity. It also limits people in Gaza’s ability to buy food grown in Gaza and makes people more reliant on imports of Israeli goods. The situation for exporters is even worse: only a tiny amount of agricultural produce gets exported each year, all of which has to go through Israeli companies. The ban on Gaza produce being sold in Israel and the West Bank amounts to a de facto boycott of Gaza’s export industry by Israel.

What can the solidarity movement do?

During Corporate Watch’s visit to the Gaza Strip the people we interviewed made their hopes very clear: they want boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel, but they also want opportunities to trade and make a living. This presents a challenge to the BDS movement. As the tiny amount of Palestinian produce that is being exported from the Gaza Strip is currently exported through Israeli companies it means that any boycott of, for example Arava, will boycott Palestinian produce too. When asked about this implications of this, farmers were still supportive of a boycott, as they hoped the pressure would be more beneficial to them in the long term than the minuscule benefits the current export levels achieve. “What we need is people to stand with us against the occupation”, said Mustapha from Al Zaytoun. “By supporting BDS you support the farmers, both directly and indirectly and this is a good thing for people here in Gaza”.

Farmers all over the Gaza Strip were particularly keen on getting the right to label their produce as Palestinian, ideally with its own country code, even if they have to export through Israel. Country of origin labels for Gaza goods is something the solidarity movement could lobby for.

There was strong support amongst farmers for increased action against Israeli arms manufacturers, as they are often on the receiving end of their weapons.

Mohsen Aby Ramadan, from the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network suggested that one good way forward could be to engage farming unions across the world and get them to endorse the BDS call in solidarity with Palestinian farmers -an avenue that has not as yet been properly explored.

Part two of this series of articles will look at the problems faced by Gaza’s export industry.

July 5, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Leave a comment

Protests around the world respond to assault on Palestine

Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network

sfp12-250x250Protests are being organized in cities around the world to respond to the ongoing assault on Palestine and the Palestinian people, including the murders of Palestinians (including 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, murdered brutally by Israeli settlers), the bombing of Gaza, the mass arrests of over 600, and the raids, attacks, tear-gassing, invasions and closure that Palestinians are being subjected to. If a rally you know of is not listed, please email samidoun@samidoun.ca to have it posted!

Updated July 21st

List your protest here

Stockton, CA, US
Monday, July 21
1:00 PM
5151 Pacific Avenue, Stockton

Portland, OR, US
Monday, July 21
11:30 AM
Ron Wyden Office
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1474894066083705/

Toledo, Ohio, US
Monday, July 21
5:00 PM
West Central Ave and Secor Road

Nicosia, Cyprus
Monday, July 21
6:15 PM
Israeli Embassy

Baltimore, MD, US
Monday, July 21
5:00 PM
Mckeldin Square
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1463894830535947/

Vienna (Wien), Austria
Monday, July 21
6:00 PM
Museum Square/Ecke Mariahilferstrasse
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/747000545358212/

Padova, Italy
Monday, July 21
12:30 PM
Piazza Delle Erbe
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1444380655825994/

Wexford, Ireland
Monday, July 21
7:00 PM
Wexford Lockout Memorial Gates
More info: http://www.ipsc.ie/event/wexford-rally-in-solidarity-with-gaza-amnesty

Naas, Ireland
Monday, July 21
7:00 PM
Court House
More info: http://www.ipsc.ie/event/naas-vigil-for-gaza

Beirut, Lebanon
Monday, July 21
6:00 PM
Ramlet el Bayda
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/321536421345190/

Berlin, Germany
Monday, July 21
4 pm
Israeli Embassy in Berlin
more info: http://www.palaestina-solidaritaet.de/2014/07/berlin-stoppt-die-aggression-israels-und-voelkermord-in-gaza/

Boston, MA, US
Tuesday, July 22
5:30 PM
Copley Square
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/256379791223750/

Seattle, WA, US
Tuesday, July 22
7:00 PM
1533 Summit Ave
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/256676734518336/

Honolulu, Hawa’ii
Tuesday, July 22
4:00 PM
Corner of Ala Moana and Atkinson Boulevards
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/820420004643883/

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, July 22
12:00 PM
Prime Minister’s Office
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/699207926818047/

Newcastle, UK
Tuesday, July 22
5:30 PM
Newcastle City Centre
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1502986956604578/

Berlin, Germany
Tuesday, July 22
4 pm
Berlin, Potsdamer Platz
more info: http://www.palaestina-solidaritaet.de/2014/07/berlin-stoppt-das-massaker-an-palaestinensischen-kindern-frauen-und-zivilisten-in-gaza/

London, UK
Tuesday, July 22
5:30 PM
Israeli Embassy
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/243842022491577/

Reims, France
Tuesday, July 22
7:00 PM
Mairie de Reims

Rimini, Italy
Tuesday, July 22
8:30 PM
Arco d’Augusto
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/320363844807775/

Athens, Greece
Tuesday, July 22
7:00 PM
Syntagma Square, march to EU
More info: http://www.shiptogaza.gr/%CE%94%CF%81%CE%AC%CF%83%CE%B5%CE%B9%CF%82/%CE%94%CE%B5%CE%BB%CF%84%CE%AF%CE%B1-%CE%A4%CF%8D%CF%80%CE%BF%CF%85/item/1273-%CE%A3%CF%85%CE%B3%CE%BA%CE%AD%CE%BD%CF%84%CF%81%CF%89%CF%83%CE%B7-%CE%B4%CE%B9%CE%B1%CE%BC%CE%B1%CF%81%CF%84%CF%85%CF%81%CE%AF%CE%B1%CF%82-%CE%BA%CE%B1%CE%B9-%CF%80%CE%BF%CF%81%CE%B5%CE%AF%CE%B1-%CF%80%CF%81%CE%BF%CF%82-%CF%84%CE%B1-%CE%B3%CF%81%CE%B1%CF%86%CE%B5%CE%AF%CE%B1-%CF%84%CE%B7%CF%82-%CE%95%CE%95-%CE%B3%CE%B9%CE%B1-%CE%93%CE%AC%CE%B6%CE%B1-%E2%80%93-%CE%A4%CF%81%CE%AF%CF%84%CE%B7-22-%CE%99%CE%BF%CF%85%CE%BB%CE%AF%CE%BF%CF%85,-7-%CE%BC%CE%BC,-%CE%A3%CF%8D%CE%BD%CF%84%CE%B1%CE%B3%CE%BC%CE%B1

Besancon, France
Tuesday, July 22
6:00 PM
Place du 8 Septembre
More info: http://www.france-palestine.org/Rassemblements-Besancon-et-Belfort

Bari, Italy
Tuesday, July 22
10:00 AM
Sala Consiglio Regione Puglia
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/330270007097910/

Oakland, California, US
Tuesday, July 22
7:30 AM (Standing meditation)
2121 Harrison Street
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1432277720387399/

Bonn, Germany
Wednesday, July 23
5:00 PM
Hofgarten
More info: http://abedkhattar.com/

Bremen, Germany
Wednesday, July 23
6:00 PM
Hauptbanhof
More info: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=477245202410205&set=a.117576195043776.19312.100003741896281&type=1&ref=nf

Genova, Italy
Wednesday, July 23
6:00 PM
Piazza De Ferrari
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/787893081260856/

Jersey City, NJ, US
Wednesday, July 23
7:00 PM
Washington Blvd (Counter-protest to Zionists)
More info: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=533596803407863&set=p.533596803407863&type=1&theater

Des Moines, IA, US
Wednesday, July 23
10:00 AM
Federal Building
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/759801407403864/

Minneapolis, MN
Wednesday, July 23
5:00 PM
Lake Street/Marshall Avenue Bridge
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1507530086126085/

Austin, TX, US
Wednesday, July 23
5:00 PM
Texas Capitol
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/687476544621848/

Durham, NC, US
Wednesday, July 23
5:30 PM
Chapel Hill St and Main St
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1396765573879366/

Berlin, Germany
Wednesday, July 23
3 pm
Egyptian Embassy in Berlin
more info: http://www.palaestina-solidaritaet.de/2014/07/berlin-solidarity-with-gaza/

Marseille, France
Wednesday, July 23
7:00 PM
Vieux Port (sous l ombriere)
More info: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10203422387352555&set=gm.326234950864687&type=1&relevant_count=1

Bordeaux, France
Wednesday, July 23
6:30 PM
Place de la Victoire
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/300072606839831/

Paris, France
Wednesday, July 23
6:30 PM
Republique-Opera
More info: http://www.france-palestine.org/Manifestation-mercredi-23-juillet

Lyon, France
Wednesday, July 23
6:00 PM
Lyon Place des Terreaux 1er
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/443830102420565/

Bradford, UK
Wednesday, July 23
10:30 PM
Centenary Square
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/673603086066156/

Los Angeles, CA
Thursday, July 24
5:00 PM
Los Angeles City Hall
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1447066265562967/

Oakland, California, US
Thursday, July 24
4:00 PM
Ron Dellums Federal Building
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/234129970130060/

Nottingham, UK
Thursday, July 24
5:30 PM
BBC Centre
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/667353843356046/

Roma, Italy
Thursday, July 24
6:00 PM
Piazza Vittorio
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/809035842462292/

Des Moines, IA, US
Thursday, July 24
4:00 PM
MLK & Ingersoll Ave
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/759801407403864/

New York City, US
Friday, July 25
4:30 PM
Times Square, Corner of 42nd and 7th
More info: https://m.facebook.com/events/743760239016219/?ref=22

Houston, TX, US
Friday, July 25
3:30 PM
Corner of Westheimer and Post Oak, Houston, TX

Vancouver, Canada (unceded Coast Salish territories)
Friday, July 25
6:15 PM
Vancouver Art Gallery
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/691825760852651/

Montreal, Quebec
Friday, July 25
5:30 PM
Israeli Consulate
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1473846162855504/

Pretoria, South Africa
Friday, July 25
1:30 PM
428 Kings Highway
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1444600715801889/

Durban, South Africa
Friday, July 25
1:30 PM
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1444600715801889/

London, UK
Friday, July 25
3:00 PM
Duchess Street (behind BBC Broadcasting House), March to US Embassy
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/269233609944348

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Friday, July 25
6:00 PM
Alberta Legislative Grounds, 10820 98 Ave, Edmonton

Sacramento, CA, US
Friday, July 25
4:00 PM
16th & J Streets

Atlanta, Georgia, US
Friday, July 25
4:00 PM
190 Marietta St NW, CNN Center
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/748517295214968/

Chicago, IL, US
Friday, July 25
4:00 PM
Richard J Daley Center
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1441089229490097/

Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Friday, July 25
6:00 PM
City Hall
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1505147226381900/

St. Catharine’s, Ontario, Canada
Friday, July 25
2:30 PM
61 Geneva Street
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/520410698060109

Seattle, WA, US
Friday, July 25
4:00 PM
4th and Pine
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1507021212842999/

Kortrijk, Belgium
Friday, July 25
4:00 PM
Kortrijk St-Jansplein

San Francisco, CA
Saturday, July 26
1:00 PM
United Nations Plaza
More info: http://answersf.org

Dearborn, MI
Saturday, July 26
3:30 PM
Dearborn City Hall
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/765422090146963/

Swansea, UK
Saturday, July 26
11:30 AM/2:30 PM
Castle Sq. Swansea 11.30 AM – 1 PM Info Stall & Protest
Cardiff City Hall 2.30pm for March
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/314564288701081/

London, UK
Saturday, July 26
12:00 PM
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/263148077211393/

Rome, Italy
Saturday, July 26
2:30 PM
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1475889822651141/

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, July 26
2:00 PM
Queens Park Legislative Building
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/910802972279851/

Edinburgh, Scotland
Saturday, July 26
1:00 PM
The Mound
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1458548851064221/

Lecce, Italy
Saturday, July 26
8:30 PM
Lecce
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/263385293867765/

Memphis, TN, US
Saturday, July 26
4:30 PM
Poplar and Highland
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/952367888122598/

Paris, France
Saturday, July 26
2:00 PM
Trocadero
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/264410057078457

Gießen (Germany)
Saturday, July 26
2:00 PM
Seltersweg (Drei Schwätzer)

Seattle, WA, US
Saturday, July 26
401 Pine Street
12:00 PM
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/665212870225672/

Ennis, Ireland
Saturday, July 26
12:00 PM
O’Connell Square
More info: http://www.ipsc.ie/event/ennis-vigil-in-solidarity-with-palestine-ipsc

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
Saturday, July 26
7:00 PM
222 Copland Crescent
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/673239206100688/

Brussels, Belgium
Sunday, July 27
2:00 PM
Bruxelles Gare Du Nord
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1434646573481952/

Montreal, Quebec
Monday, July 28
2:00 PM
Israeli Consulate
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/335745323246105/

New Orleans, LA, US
Friday, August 1
7:30 PM
Carrollton and Canal Streetcar Stop
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1445302115744961

Washington, DC, US
Saturday, August 2
1:00 PM
White House
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1505340756367346/

Austin, TX, US
Saturday, August 2
1:00 PM
Texas State Capitol
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/869959109698145/

Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, August 9
6:00 PM
Celebration Square
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1480697442177557/

 Albany, NY, US
Saturday, August 9
1:00 PM
NY State Capital Building
More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/617078228390029/

 

 

July 5, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

‘We want to work without being treated as slaves’

Greenhouses in Beqa'ot settlement, photo by Corporate Watch February 2013

By Tom Anderson and Therezia Cooper | Corporate Watch | June 27, 2014

During January 2013, Corporate Watch conducted interviews with Palestinians who work in the illegal Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley. Part one to three of our findings can be read here, here and here.

We met 44 year old Rashid* and 38 year old Zaid* in their hometown of Tammoun in the northern West Bank. They both work in the illegal Israeli settlement of Beqa’ot. A colony with 171 residents situated close to the Palestinian community of Al Hadidya in the Jordan Valley.

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Palestinian bedouin close to Beqa’ot are prevented from building permanent structures by the Israeli military, photo taken by Corporate Watch in February 2013

Tammoun is situated just outside the Jordan Valley. Like thousands of other Palestinian workers Zaid and Rashid travel into the Jordan Valley in search of work on a daily basis. To cross into the valley they have to pass through the Israeli military checkpoint at Tayasir or Al Hamra.

Rashid has worked in Beqa’ot since the early ’90s whereas Zaid worked in Israel until 5 years ago. Zaid tells us: “Now it is impossible for me to get a permit to work outside the West Bank.”

For Israeli companies, sourcing their goods from the settlements in the Jordan Valley allows them to circumvent workers rights and health and safety regulations. According to Zaid: “Inside Israel the workers have contracts and the conditions are better. This is because in Israel there are some controls on companies, unlike in the West Bank.”

Both men work all year round except for September-November when there is no work available. They have no contracts and tell us that none of their workmates do either. Their job is to plant grapes and tend to the vines, pruning them and spraying them with fertilisers and chemicals. At harvest time they cut and collect the grapes.

Grapevines in the settlement of Beqa'ot, photo taken by Corporate Watch, February 2013

Grapevines in the settlement of Beqa’ot, photo taken by Corporate Watch, February 2013

Zaid and Rashid both work in the fields outside the boundaries of Beqa’ot. They do not have a permit to enter the settlement itself.

Paid below the minimum wage

Palestinian workers in Israeli settlements have been entitled to the Israeli minimum wage since an Israeli Supreme Court ruling in 2007 (see here). In 2010 Corporate Watch conducted over 40 interviews with settlement workers showing that Palestinians are consistently paid as little as half the minimum wage. These conditions remained largely unchanged when we returned in 2014.

The current hourly minimum wage is 23.12, NIS (New Israeli Shekels),the equivalent of 184.96 NIS for an eight hour working day, having risen from 20.70 NIS in 2009. However, for Palestinian workers on Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley these conditions seem an impossible dream.

Zaid and Rashid are employed directly by the settlers in Beqa’ot and speak to them directly to arrange their work. Both get paid 82 New Israeli Shekels (NIS), 18 of which goes towards daily transport.

They have no insurance provided by their employer. Rashid explains: “Last year one of the workers died, but the settlers did not help his family at all.

The men do not receive any paid holiday, even for religious holidays. This is despite the fact that an Israeli government website advises that workers are entitled to 14 days paid holiday and must receive a written contract and payslips from their employer (see here).

Both men are members of the General Palestinian Workers Union (GPWU). However, they are unable to represent workers in Beqa’ot or negotiate with their bosses. According to Rashid: “We organise trainings for agricultural workers but we are not recognised by the settlers, we do not receive any representation from Histradrut”.

Histradrut is the Israeli trade union organisation. Many campaigners for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli apartheid have called for a boycott of the Histradrut because of its failure to represent Palestinian workers and its overt support of Israeli state policies. For example, in 2010 the British University and College Union broke ties with the Histradrut; a UCU spokesperson said the Histradrut, “supported the Israeli assault on civilians in Gaza” and “did not deserve the name of a trade union”.

Companies sourcing produce from Beqa’ot

Mehadrin Tnuport boxes ready to be packed with grapes, photo taken by Corporate Watch in February 2013

Mehadrin Tnuport boxes ready to be packed with grapes, photo taken by Corporate Watch in February 2013

Carmel Agrexco boxes ready to be packed with grapes, photo taken by Corporate Watch in February 2013

Carmel Agrexco boxes ready to be packed with grapes, photo taken by Corporate Watch in February 2013

STM  boxes ready to be packed with grapes, photo taken by Corporate Watch in February 2013

STM boxes ready to be packed with grapes, photo taken by Corporate Watch in February 2013

Export label on a box in Beqa'ot statying that these grapes are shipped by Carmel agrexco, Photo taken in Febuary 2013 by Corporate Watch

Export label on a box in Beqa’ot statying that these grapes are shipped by Carmel agrexco, Photo taken in Febuary 2013 by Corporate Watch

Rashid tells us: “We label the grapes ‘Made in the Jordan Valley’ and mark them with the name and phone number of the Israeli settler.

“Each of the settler has his own packing house. When we harvest the grapes they are taken first of all to packing houses in Beqa’ot owned by individual settler, then transported to a central refrigeration unit owned by the Moshav [a Hebrew word for a cooperative farm]. Then a refrigeration truck takes them to be exported.”

The men tell us that the majority of the grapes they harvest are exported through Mehadrin.

Corporate Watch visited Beqa’Ot in February 2013 and photographed several packing houses displaying Mehadrin signage. Israeli company Mehadrin Tnuport Export (MTEX) is a part of the huge Mehadrin Group which owns a 50% of STM Agricultural Exports Ltd – another Israeli company dealing in vegetables. MTEX export around 70% of all their produce to outside Israel and are one of the largest suppliers for the Jaffa brand world wide. Sainsburys confirmed to Corporate Watch in August 2013 that the supermarket sourced fresh vegetables from Mehadrin. Mehadrin is also certified to supply fresh produce to Tesco (see here).

Corporate Watch also photographed boxes and export labels for Carmel Agrexco in Beqa’ot. Carmel Agrexco was the Israeli state owned fresh produce export company. In 2011 the company went into liquidation, due in part to the international boycott movement. The brand has since been bought by Gideon Bickel of Israeli firm Bickel Flowers and has been fighting to regain lost contracts.

Working for poverty wages on land stolen from their families

Rashid and Zaid refer to Beqa’ot by its Palestinian name, Libqya. Rashid tells us: “Before the occupation in 1967 Libqya was owned by Palestinians who used it for planting crops and raising animals. All of the families around here owned land in Libqya.

“I remember when my mother passed Libqya when I was young she told us how she used to play there with her brothers and sisters. Our family owned 70 dunums of land there.

“This reality is too painful. When I was older I tried to reach the land my mother told me about. But a settler told me I was forbidden to go there.”

‘We will get back our land’

Both men are supportive of the call for a boycott of Israeli agricultural companies. When it was pointed out that if the boycott was successful then their employers would not be able to pay them a wage any longer Zaid responded: “We support the boycott even if we lose our work. We might lose our jobs but we will get back our land. We will be able to work without being treated as slaves.”

* Names have been changed at the authors’ discretion

June 27, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | 1 Comment

UN calls for dialogue over Malvinas Islands

Press TV – June 27, 2014

A United Nations committee has approved a resolution calling on Britain and Argentina to negotiate a solution to their dispute over the Malvinas Islands, also known as the Falkland Islands.

On Thursday, the UN Decolonization Committee approved the new resolution, calling for a negotiated solution to the 200-year dispute.

This comes as the world body refuses to recognize the outcome of a 2013 referendum on the political status of Malvinas. According to the vote, the territory claimed by both Argentina and the UK, would remain a British colony.

The British government has so far rejected several UN resolutions and repeated calls from Argentina for negotiations on the sovereignty of the region.

Britain argues that it is up to the islands to decide. But Argentina says the English-speaking islanders are an implanted population kept stagnant for the purpose of occupying the territory.

Argentina’s foreign minister said the dispute is not with the people living in the Malvinas but with the British government.

“Argentina has no problem with citizenship. Our problem is that the United Kingdom is occupying Argentinean territory against international law and the United Nations expressly rejects applying to the Malvinas the principle of self-determination,” Hector Timerman said on Thursday.

Argentina and Britain fought a 74-day-long war in 1982 over the islands. The conflict ended with the British side claiming victory.

Located about 480 kilometers (300 miles) off Argentina’s coast, the Malvinas Islands have been declared part of the British overseas territories since the UK established its colonial rule on the territories in 1833.

June 27, 2014 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli forces demolish structures, road pavement in South Hebron Hills

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Photo by Operation Dove
Operation Dove | June 20, 2014

Khallet Forem, Occupied Palestine – On June 18th, the Israeli army, along with border police officers and DCO (District Coordination Office) officers entered in the Palestinian village of Khallet Forem, in South Hebron Hills, and demolished seven houses, a bathroom, and a shelter.

No demolition orders were delivered for these structures.

According to Palestinian witnesses, a woman was injured by the soldiers during the operation.

The seven houses, the shelter, and the bathroom were owned by the Abu Dahar family. These demolitions involved at least 26 people, 12 of them are children.

In the same day, Israeli forces demolished the main road of Ar Rifa’Iyya Ad Deirat and built a roadblock in order to prevent the access from that road to the bypass road 356.

According to PHROC (The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council), the recent wave of demolitions, arrests, attacks, killings, and total closure of large parts of the West Bank following the disappearance of three Israeli settlers is a form of collective punishment against the Palestinian people. This is in direct violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that forbid reprisals against protected persons and their property, as well as collective punishment.

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Photo by Operation Dove

June 21, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | 1 Comment

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