Ynet reported today that Haifa District Court judge rules that there is no causal link between Kishon River’s pollution and the illness of more than 70 Israeli Navy seal divers, despite expert claims that ‘exposure to one molecule’ could lead to illness.
For more than 25 years, the Israeli elite Navy seals used to dive and train in the Kishon River in the Haifa Bay, apparently, the most polluted river in Israel. Authorities were warned about the lethal concentrations of cancerous substances in the river for years.
The divers’ suit was filed against the Haifa Municipality, Haifa Chemicals, oil refineries, and the Haifa Region Association of Towns, claiming they are responsible for the pollution and toxic waste in the river, including arsenic, nickel, chromium, cadmium, lead and benzene.
Seemingly it took 2000 years for the Jews to come back to their so-called ‘promised land’ but just a few years to pollute the rivers and contaminate the land.
Gaza City – The past few days have been harrowing, yet still deeply inspiring in Gaza as people in the strip must carry on with their lives after the Israeli army’s deadly 8 day offensive operation “Pillar of Cloud” which killed at least 160 Palestinians and left over 1000 wounded, many of them severely. To “carry on” in Gaza does not mean returning to predictable routines or a reasonable set of expectations of calmness in what amounts to everyday life in most parts of the world. This is exceptionally true for Palestinian fishermen who return to the daily struggle with the Israeli Navy to fish in waters that are rightfully theirs.
There has been no ceasefire for these men who bravely attempt to exercise not only their legal rights, but perhaps more urgently, the human right to fulfil the most basic of needs, such as feeding their families and paying rent. Since November 26th, 2012, 15 fishermen have been arrested and 6 boats destroyed. As participants in an emergency delegation to Gaza, we have had the opportunity to speak to several of the fishermen arrested, members of their families, and a Palestinian activist, Maher Alaa, who was documenting the situation while aboard one of the adjacent boats, which also received heavy gunfire. We spoke with concerned relatives in the afternoon after the attacks, but we did not get the full story until Maher returned in the evening.
Israeli gunboat off coast of Gaza.
The scene Maher described was chaotic, but not uncommon. Only one boat sailed the full length of six nautical miles, the distance supposedly conceded by Israel as a term of the ceasefire, before it was attacked. Israeli Navy and helicopters assaulted the others boats, most far inwards of six miles, with live fire periodically from the early morning until evening. (It’s also essential to keep in mind that Gazans were guaranteed 20 nautical miles for fishing in the Olso Accords.) The boat of Jamal Baker (20) was completely destroyed. Others had engines destroyed from bullets. Five men from the al-Hessi family were ordered to take off their clothes and jump into the water, which is a common humiliation tactic deployed by the Israeli Navy. They were then forcefully arrested at gunpoint and their boat impounded for the second time in one year. The al-Hessi’s boat alone was the main source of income for the twenty-five person crew and the families depending on them.
Another brave Gazan fisherman, Mohammed Morad Baker (40), was fired upon and ordered to strip his clothes and leave his boat. According to Maher, he looked directly at the Israeli gunboat captain and responded loudly “You can put a bullet in my head before I will jump into the water.” He then draped his body over the engine to protect it. This brave act apparently caught the Israeli soldiers off guard as he was then able to navigate another course and avoid being detained.
In the aftermath of an eight day war and what Dr. Khalil Abu-Foul of the Palestine Red Crescent describes as a “chronic, acute and protracted state of emergency” in Gaza, the heroic acts of fishermen like Mohamed Baker are often left out of the broader mainstream media’s discussion of military and diplomatic victory or defeat.
It has often been said that “existence is resistance” in Palestine. From what I have seen here, Gazans are doing far more than just existing. They are standing up with dignity and ingenuity to a slow and inhuman process of destabilization and colonization that many feel is intended to gradually force Gaza to become uninhabitable for Palestinians. Mohamed Baker and the other fishermen’s refusal to acquiesce to the destruction of their livelihoods is a victory over the cowardly conscience of Israeli soldiers who make sport of shooting at unarmed men, most of whom are very poor and supporting families with over ten children.
It’s also heartening to witness that after such a traumatic eight days where many people did not leave their houses for fear of their lives, Gaza’s streets are alive. Just across from our apartment at Al-Bakri Tower, families are filling a wedding hall. Dozens of youth pile into the back of trucks, enthusiastically beating on drums. Adults and children alike laugh and hold hands as they perform Debke, a traditional wedding dance. Though Khalil Shahin, director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, has spent long nights taking only as little as two hours of sleep while documenting and double checking the casualties and injuries from the conflict to avoid duplication, he still smiles brightly as he tells of reviving plans for his daughter’s upcoming wedding, which had been postponed due to the fighting.
In the afternoons, children pour out of the schools, many of which were used to shelter thousands during the recent bombings. They kick cans and soccer balls while approaching our delegation with openness, curiosity and playfulness. The shock they have just endured will likely remain with them in some ways for the rest of their lives, but the strong sense of community and family is evident. I cannot help but wonder how children and families from the United States would cope given such conditions, especially with the breakdown of the communal structure and obsessive focus on individualism in our culture.
Perhaps one of the most beautiful things I have seen throughout our short time here is that, despite the very legitimate anger, mourning and failure of the political process to provide scarcely any justice to Palestinians, the Gazans I have met know better than to waste their lives on hate. The suffering they have seen all around them is too great to wish upon others. Just today we sat with Dr. Anton Shuhaibar, a Palestinian physician and also one of Gaza’s 3,000 Christians, who described at length his hope for a solution that includes psychological healing for all parties involved, especially the youth, so that both Israel and Palestine’s children can live as neighbours. His sentiment was not without critique of long needed political changes that would have to be implemented for this vision to be a possibility. However, the intention I sensed from his words reminded me of what Mamie Till uttered so profoundly in response to the brutal and racist lynching of her son in Mississippi in the fall of 1955: “I have not a minute to hate. I’ll pursue justice for the rest of my life.”
Palestinian farmer in Johr Al-Deek.
Gaza’s farmers continue to pursue justice on the issue of land rights. Yesterday, November 29th at approximately 9:30 AM, members of our delegation accompanied other international solidarity activists and Palestinians from the Ministry of Agriculture to the farm of Ahmad Hassan Badawi who lives and farms along the border with Israel in an area called Johr Al-Deek. Mr. Badawi has remained on his land despite multiple incursions and direct attacks from the Israeli Occupation Forces, including attacks during the recent Israeli offensive which killed many of his sheep and chickens.
Much of Ahmad’s farmland has now been rendered useless by Israel’s arbitrarily declared buffer zone, which has confiscated around twenty -per cent of Gaza’s arable land. After the November 21st ceasefire, negotiations were supposedly in place that Hassan would now be able to farm within 300 meters of the fence. The allowed distance has often changed and has nothing to do with international law or any understandable pattern. After we heard from Hassan and other farmers about their situation, we approached the barb wire fence, which also separates residents of Johr al-Deek from their former water source. In a manner of minutes, multiple shots were fired in our direction by Israeli soldiers. Moments later, tear gas canisters were launched within a few feet of where we were standing. This treatment was mild compared to many other instances, including the killing of a young Palestinian named Anwar Abdul Hadi Musallam Qudaih (20) in Khan Yunis on November 23rd and the injury of 14 others.
One does not need to travel far in any direction to witness the destruction wreaked by the Israeli offensive. Yesterday in Tal al-Hawa we met with Ahmed Suleman Ateya. His entire house and a small olive grove were destroyed when Israel targeted an empty house across the street ostensibly used by militants. His was not the only other house flattened nearby by Israel’s “precision guided” missile strikes. A former farmer, Ahmed is sixty-six years old and has no money to rebuild and no permanent place to house his family who are staying with relatives in Al-Tufah while he searches for scrap metal from the rubble of his home to sell for a few shekels. As we talked with Ahmed, an Islamic relief agency arrived to provide him with a heavy blanket for the winter and a few other items. Mr. Ateya received them gratefully and with a dignity which escapes those who have not suffered such loss.
Ahmad Hassan Badawi amid ruins in Gaza City.
The wounds from operation “Pillar of Cloud” are obvious and the stories we have heard are tragic, but a spirit of resilience and determination is equally visible in the eyes of the families we have visited. Last night, Gazans were in the streets celebrating the UN General Assembly’s decision to upgrade Palestine’s status to a non-member observer state. The United States was one of only nine UN countries, including Israel and Canada, to vote against the resolution. Even so, Palestinians continue to extend hospitality to the members of our delegation as relentlessly as the fishermen who refuse to be pushed from their waters. It is my hope that residents of the United States will learn such strength based in friendship and resistance to inhumane policies, demanding that our government recognize the aspirations and political rights of Palestinians that have been ignored now for decades.
- PCHR Statement On Ongoing Attacks Against Palestinian Fishermen In Gaza (imemc.org)
- Palestine: More land taken in WB, two succumb to serious injuries, 70 year old farmer assaulted, & Gaza’s fishermen taken (realisticbird.wordpress.com)
- PCHR Statement On Ongoing Attacks Against Palestinian Fishermen In Gaza (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns continued Israeli violations against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip, and expresses concern about the escalation of these violations, which have resulted in the arrest of four fishermen and the confiscation of a fishing boat belonging to a fisherman from the Gaza Strip.
According to the findings of investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 10:00 on Monday, 22 October 2012, Israeli naval forces positioned off Al-Waha resort northwest of Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, opened fire on a group of fishermen and arrested four fishermen while they were fishing 2 nautical miles offshore. The arrested men were identified as: Ramez Izat Baker (41), Khamis Sobhi Baker (43), Arafat Mohammad Najib Baker (20), Bayan Khamis Baker (17). In his testimony to a PCHR fieldworker, ‘Eid Mohssen ‘Eid Baker (23) from the northern Rimal neighborhood in Gaza City, who was near the scene at the time of the attack, reported the following:
“At approximately 10:00 on Monday, 22 October 2012, I was fishing with my brothers on my father’s boat near al-Soudanya area, in the north of Gaza, nearly 2 nautical miles off the shore, while my cousins’ boat was fishing approximately 200 meters away from us, when I saw an Israeli gunboat approaching us. One of the soldiers used a speakerphone and told us to sail towards the north, however, we went south and continued fishing. 15 minutes later, the gunboat came again at great speed and suddenly they started shooting randomly at us. One of the soldiers ordered us to stop, but we kept sailing south in escape of the open fire. My cousin Ramez Baker’s boat suddenly stopped after a bullet hit the boat engine, and the Israeli gunboat approached it, to a distance of nearly 30 meters. I saw the four fishermen, Ramez, Arafat, Khamis and his son Bayan, take off their clothes, jump in the water amidst the continuous shooting, and swim towards the Israeli gunboat. The soldiers confiscated the fishermen’s boat and transported it towards the northern side.”
It should be noted that Israeli forces have recently imposed more restrictions on the work of fishermen in the Gaza Strip. Since 2000, fishermen have been denied their right to sail and fish freely. Israeli forces reduced the area of fishing from 20 nautical miles, which was established upon in the agreements signed between Palestinians and Israel, to 6 nautical miles in 2008. However, Israeli forces have continued to prevent fishermen from going beyond 3 nautical miles since 2009. As a result, fishermen are prevented from reaching areas beyond that distance where fish is abundant. Sometimes, Israeli forces also chase fishermen within the 3 nautical mile area. Consequently, Palestinian fishermen have lost 85% of their source of income, because they are denied access to Palestinian waters.
PCHR condemns the recurrence of violations committed by the Israeli naval forces against Palestinian fishermen. PCHR believes that these violations are committed in the context of a policy of collective punishment against civilians, and that they are aimed at preventing civilians from meeting their subsistence needs. Such actions are prohibited under international humanitarian and international human rights law.
PCHR holds that the closure imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip is illegal and constitutes a form of collective punishment, prohibited under Article 33 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. It is also a war crime, the recurrence of which must be prevented by all parties, including the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention. This view is maintained in legal opinions issued by many international legal experts and UN bodies concerned with human right and international humanitarian law.
In light of the above, PCHR:
- Calls upon Israel to immediately release the arrested fishermen, return the confiscated boat to its owners, and compensate the victims for any material or psychological damages caused by the attack;
- Calls upon Israel to respect the right to freedom of movement of fishermen in the Gaza Strip, to immediately put an end to its policy of chasing and arresting Palestinian fishermen, to allow them to sail and fish freely in the Gaza Sea;
- Calls upon Israel to put an end to the illegal closure of the Gaza Strip, which constitutes a form of collective punishment, prohibited under Article 33 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War; and
- Calls upon the international community and the High Contacting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfil their legal and moral obligations, apply the rules of international law, and put a just end to the suffering of the Palestinian people.
- Israeli Navy Chases Fishing Boats, Tries To Sink Them (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Army Opens Fire At Fishermen In Gaza (imemc.org)
- 13 Israeli attacks on Palestinian fishermen in past two months (alethonews.wordpress.com)
GAZA — The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) documented thirteen violations against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip perpetrated by the Israeli navy forces, during the past two months.
PCHR documented the Israeli violations against Palestinian fishermen during the reporting period 26 July to 01 August 2012 including 10 incidents in which the IOF fired at fishermen.
The center also confirmed the arrest of two fishermen by the Israeli forces while fishing at a distance of 300 meters from Gaza port.
The center considered the Israeli attacks against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip as a flagrant violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, especially the right to life and security of the person, in accordance with Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the State of Israel is a party.
The IOF perpetrated violations against Palestinian fishermen in the sea, when these fishermen did not pose any threat to Israeli naval troops. The fishermen were practicing their right to work and seek their livelihood within the territorial waters of the Gaza Strip when the IOF indiscriminately fired at them.
During the reporting period, PCHR documented 11 cases in which the IOF fired at Palestinian fishermen in the sea off the Gaza shore, and the arrest of 2 Palestinian fishermen, including a 16-year-old boy
These attacks took place within the 3 nautical miles allowed for fishermen to sail and fish in. PCHR also noticed that these firing incidents against fishermen and their boats took place in the context of seeking their livelihood, and the imposition of more restrictions to terrify and prevent the fishermen from practicing their work freely.
The report pointed out that Israeli gunboats fired on August 28 Palestinian fishing boats in front of the coast of northern Gaza Strip, causing damage to Palestinian boat, an issue that pushed the fishermen to go back to the shore.
Despite the fact that the fishermen were trying to steer their boats back to the shore, the Navy boats continued to target them.
- Israeli Navy Chases Fishing Boats, Tries To Sink Them (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- IOF gunfire targets fishermen and farmers in Gaza (altahrir.wordpress.com)
A Palestinian cameraman from the Gaza Strip managed to capture on tape, an attack carried out by Israeli Navi boats, on Wednesday, against small Palestinian fishing boats. The video shows the Israeli Navy boats encircling the boats flooding them with water, and even blocking their way as they tried to sail back to the shore.
The video was captured by Mohammad Al-Mash-harawy, of the Media Town News Agency in Gaza, during a field report documenting the ongoing Israeli assaults against Palestinian fishermen in the coastal region.
The Navy boats were sailing at fast speeds, and encircling the Palestinian fishing boats, and flooding them with water, an issue that pushed the fishermen to go back to the shore.
Despite the fact that the fishermen were trying to steer their boats back to the shore, the Navy boats continue to encircle them.
In related news, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) reported that, on Tuesday morning, 28 August 2012, two Palestinian fishermen were kidnapped and a Palestinian fishing boat was heavily damaged in two separate attacks carried out by the Israeli Navy in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.
Since 2000, fishermen have been denied their right to sail and fish and have been subject to frequent attacks that led to excessive damage and dozens of casualties.
Israel reduced the area of fishing from 20 nautical miles, which was established upon in the agreements signed between Palestinian and Israel, to 6 nautical miles in 2008.
“However, Israeli forces have continued to prevent fishermen from going beyond 3 nautical miles since 2009. As a result, fishermen are prevented from reaching areas beyond that distance where fish are abundant. Sometimes, Israeli forces also chased fishermen within the 3 nautical mile area. Consequently, Palestinian fishermen have lost 85% of their income, because of limiting the fishing area”, the PCHR reported.
- New Videos: Vancouver Delegation to Gaza Reportback + Palestinian Fishers Under Attack in Gaza (windowintopalestine.blogspot.com)
- IOF gunfire targets fishermen and farmers in Gaza (altahrir.wordpress.com)
GAZA — Israeli occupation forces (IOF) detained five Palestinian fishermen to the west of Gaza harbor on Sunday morning, fishermen syndicate chairman said.
Nizar Ayash told the PIC that Israeli navy boats intercepted the fishing boat of the Shurafi family less than two nautical miles off the Gaza coast, which is a permissible area according to the Oslo accords.
He said that the fishermen are three brothers and two of their cousins, charging the Israeli occupation authority with fighting the Palestinian fishermen in their sustenance.
Ayash noted that the Israeli navy more often than not detains the fishermen for a while then returns them without their fishing kit with the sole goal of humiliating those fishermen and breaking their will.
The chairman said that his syndicate addressed messages to various world powers and institutions to check the Israeli violations against the Palestinian fishermen but to no avail.
He said that the Oslo accords allow fishing at a distance of 20 nautical miles but the Israeli navy does not implement that article.
- Israeli gunboats fire at Palestinian fishing boats, destroy one – Video by @rosa_schiano (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- PCHR Weekly: Israel’s Army Carries Out 81 Invasions In W. Bank, 1 in Gaza (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)