For the third day in a row, Israeli bulldozers are demolishing historic arches and facades of Islamic buildings dating back to the Mamluk and Ottoman eras on the north side of Buraq Square. The site lies just 50 metres from the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa.
Details of the architectural vandalism by the Israeli occupation authorities were provided by Al-Aqsa Foundation for Religious Endowments and Heritage in a press statement. The Israeli demolition work is a prelude to the establishment of a centre promoting the state’s Judaisation policies in the occupied Palestinian territories. The buildings in question formed part of the Moroccan Quarter of the Old City, which was demolished by the Israelis in 1967 at the start of the occupation of Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The foundation said that it will use exclusive maps and documents to show how the Israelis plan to establish a synagogue, a police station, a reception area and show rooms on the site, all of which will be linked to tunnels under Al-Aqsa Mosque. A press conference will be held on Sunday for that purpose which will be attended by the head of the Islamic movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah. Among the other speakers will be the Chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council and the Imam of Al Aqsa Mosque, Dr Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, and Hatem Abdel Qader, who deals with the Jerusalem file for Fatah, as well as the foundation’s director, Amir Khatib.
According to the documents held by Al-Aqsa Foundation, the development will necessitate the destruction of noted Islamic landmarks. It is worth noting that the State of Israel pledged in its Declaration of Independence that it “will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations”. The State of Israel regularly breaks both pledges with apparent impunity.
- Palestine: Occupation continues to falsify al-Aqsa’s history, protest villages continue & violations against Gaza’a fishermen (realisticbird.wordpress.com)
- Palestine: Hundreds of Israelis storm Nabi Yusuf tomb, part of Buraq Square destroyed, a crime against Al Aqsa & demolitions (realisticbird.wordpress.com)
AL-KHALIL — The Israeli occupation authorities have stopped issuing permits for Palestinian West Bankers to enter occupied Jerusalem or 1948 occupied Palestine, sources in the Palestinian liaison office said Saturday.
They noted that no permits were issued for more than a month except for patients, adding that the ban started after the UN accepted Palestine as a non-member observer state.
An official at the chamber of commerce and industry in Al-Khalil affirmed the news saying that 1800 permits were tabled with the Israeli civil administration but no response was made to any of them.
He said that the arbitrary measure obstructed economic and commercial life for the Palestinians, adding that officials at the Israeli administration told them that the reason was the admission of Palestine at the UN.
- IOF arrests 320 Palestinian workers within ten days (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
Occupied Palestine – 5am in Homsa in the northern Jordan Valley. Abdullah Ghanni, his family and his livestock are on the move under the watchful eyes of the Israeli Army. Two days earlier Ghanni had received a visit from soldiers informing him that military training would take place on land belonging to him and his fellow villagers. Ghanni and five other families were evicted from their land for the duration of the training – 7am to 5pm on the 9th December and 5am to 1pm the following day. All people in the village and their animals were required to leave.
Palestinians in the Jordan Valley of occupied Palestine are long-suffering. Ghanni has been farming this land for 40 years, primarily raising sheep. For all that time the Israeli Army has exercised total control over life. Temporary evictions for the purpose of military training are frequent here. Just three weeks ago the inhabitants of Homsa and two other nearby villages were evicted for two days to accommodate large-scale training manoeuvrers performed jointly by the Israeli and US armies. In the past, unexploded ordinance has been left after such drills, resulting in death and injury to children.
A visit to the northern Jordan Valley is a study in contrasts with the inequalities of the occupation laid out in the starkest terms. On the one hand, Israeli settlements are tidy villages of concrete houses. They are surrounded by plantations of grape vines, neat fields of vegetables, rows of greenhouses; a rich fertile green enclosed by double layers of barbed wire fences and floodlights.
On the other side of these fences, the nearby Palestinians struggle to cling to the remnants of their homeland. Villages here are often little more than a collection of makeshift tents yet, despite appearances, the Palestinians here were never nomadic Bedouins. They had homes, farm buildings, wells and water tanks. Designated Area C, large swaths of the Jordan Valley are under direct Israeli governance and military control. Building is forbidden and home demolitions are a common occurrence. The village neighbouring Homsa – Hadidia – had their stone houses demolished just last year.
If losing their homes wasn’t hard enough, the Israeli settlements and soldiers confiscate water resources. Valuable springs have been taken over and fenced off for the exclusive use of Israelis. Ghanni must travel 40km, past the Hamra checkpoint at the entrance to the Jordan Valley, to get the water he needs for his farm. This is despite the fact there is a spring less than 2km across the valley from his farm, in the Hadidia village. That water is forbidden to the Palestinians, despite it existing far outside the boundaries of any settlement or army base.
An elder in Hadidia pointed out two large tents his village erected to house the people of Homsa over the past two days. The Israeli Armydo nothing to assist the people they displace. No temporary housing, no assistance moving large herds of animals in the early morning. The army do, however, trail behind the villagers in jeeps on their trek across the valley, honking at the animals to hurry their progress,making the herding harder still. They also threaten Ghanni that they will create problems for his family with the settlements if they do not move as told. The frequent evictions disrupt normal family life. Each time, Ghanni is forced to send five of his eleven children to stay with another family close to the Hamra checkpoint so they can continue attending school.
Disturbingly, for Ghanni and the Palestinians in the valley, these incursions and disruptions of life, despite the feelings they provoke, have come to be accepted as normal. Since their 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Israel has deliberately made life in the Jordan Valley as difficult as possible in an attempt to force Palestinians from their land. The Palestinian population of the Jordan Valley prior to 1967 was 320,000. Now it hovers at 56,000. Despite the hardship involved in remaining, Ghanni and his family refuse to leave the land he has known all his life. A move elsewhere holds no promise of any kind of certainty, the fact he remains means his everyday life is a living resistance.
- Israel Evacuates Hundreds Of Palestinians To Conduct Army Training (eurasiareview.com)
- Israeli Settlement expansion in the northern Jordan valley (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
Haniya, in her home in al Nussairat.
On Monday, 10 September, 2012, Israeli warplanes launched 2 missiles at a vast tract of land in the west of al-Nussairat refugee camp in the Middle Area of the Gaza Strip. As a result, 2 rooms and a container on the land were destroyed. 10 olive trees and 23 houses were also damaged. Additionally, 7 Palestinian civilians, including 4 children and 2 women, were wounded. This attack targeted civilian objects which is a violation of international law.
Haniya Abdul Hadi Kabaja (60) is one of the women who sustained minor injuries on the night of the attack. She recounts that: “At around 2.00am in the night, we woke up to the sound of shelling. We were all very scared but we went back to sleep. 15 or so minutes later, we heard more shelling and shrapnel hitting surfaces outside. Something hit my face and, when I touched it, I felt myself bleeding. My son, Anas, saw this and he started screaming for his brothers to come and help me. After they offered me first aid, we heard my ten-year-old granddaughter, Reema, crying, and that is when we noticed that she had also been wounded, in her leg.”
An ambulance arrived after a while, and Haniya and her granddaughter were taken to Al Aqsa Martyrs hospital. Their wounds were moderate and they were discharged soon after.
Until now, Haniya and her family have unanswered questions with regard to the attack. They do not know what the exact target was: “All of us were terrified, because the missiles were launched about 100m from where we live. Other people in the neighborhood also got injured by the shrapnel from the missiles. Some windows were smashed and there is clear damage to some of the asbestos roofs. In this area, there have been no incidents since Cast Lead. Nobody really knows why they launched missiles on an empty piece of land, and so close to where people live.”
Since the attack, Haniya’s family has been living in constant fear of further attack. This has had a particularly negative impact on the children: “The attack has really frightened the children. They used to go out after dark to play or to visit relatives who live in neighboring houses. Now, they do not even step outside after darkness falls because they are too scared. They are not the only ones who are scared. Even we, the adults, feel the same way. At the same time, we know that there is nothing we can say against the Israeli occupation. We cannot do anything about it either.”
Haniya’s son, Mohammed (32), hopes to see an end to the attacks on unarmed civilians and calls for the respect of everyone’s rights. “I just want to see the situation change and an end to the Israeli occupation. We are unarmed civilians, yet they follow us and continue to attack and terrorize us in our homes. They hurt my mother and my daughter, yet they had not even done anything. We have not caused problems for anyone and the only thing we demand is our rights, our land and our freedom. We are peaceful people and we want it to remain that way. After all these years of being attacked, we will not stop demanding our rights. Even if they kill all of us and only 10 people remain, we will still demand for those rights.”
The direct targeting of a civilian object constitutes a war crime, as codified in Article 8(2) (b) (ii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Similarly, under Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the destruction of private property is prohibited unless rendered absolutely necessary by military operations. Intentionally launching an indiscriminate attack constitutes a war crime as defined in Article 8 (2) (b) of the Rome Statute of the ICC. Furthermore, according to the principle of proportionality, which is codified in Article 51 (5) (b) of Additional Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions, an attack that may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects or a combination thereof is considered excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.
- Occupied Lives: I have no future (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- OCHA: Israeli occupation destroys 13 houses weekly in West Bank (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- PCHR Weekly Report: 2 Palestinians executed; 3 wounded by Israeli forces this week (imemc.org)
- Occupied Lives: Nothing Left To Hope For (imemc.org)
A group of extremist Israeli settlers used electric pumps to empty a Palestinian irrigation well and flooded Palestinian farmlands in as-Seer area, east of Sa’ir town, near the southern West Bank city of Hebron.
Resident Yassin Mohammad ash-Shalalda, told the Land Research Center that settlers of Esfir and Mitzad settlements carried out their attack on Tuesday at night. The settlers reportedly used a motor pump to empty the well and flooded the nearby Palestinian farmlands.
He added that several hundred cubic meters of land were wasted in the attack, and that the residents use this water for both irrigation and as a source of drinking water for their livestock.
Ash-Shalalda further stated that the residents filed a complaint to the Israeli police in Keryat Arba’ settlement in Hebron, but are not hopeful that there will be any affirmative action by the police due to the fact that numerous previous assaults, carried out by the settlers, were never investigated
The area in question is subject to frequent attacks especially since the settlers of both the illegal settlements of Mitzad and Esfir have been trying to expand their colonies at the expense of privately-owned Palestinian lands. The two outposts were also built on privately-owned Palestinian land.
Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including in and around occupied East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention to which Israel is a signatory.
Israel’s settlements in the West Bank are turning Palestinian cities, towns and villages into isolated ghettoes, while Israel and the extremist settlers continue to focus on fertile Palestinian lands, mainly in the Jordan Valley. Most Israeli settlements and outposts are also built on hilltops surrounding different parts of the occupied West Bank.
- Jewish settlers spray toxic substance, kill herd of sheep (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- 8 injured as settlers stone bus carrying worshipers (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Number of Jewish settlers in West Bank doubled in 12 years (alethonews.wordpress.com)
This film, produced by the Union of Agricultural Work Committees in Palestine, explores the role of the olive in Palestinian farmers’ lives, and in the Palestinian economy, and the struggles of farmers to remain on their land and continue to harvest their olives in the face of the construction of the Apartheid wall, military occupation, settlement building, and land confiscation at the hands of the Israeli occupation. Includes numerous interviews with Palestinian farmers.
- Take Action: Free Palestinian farmers and agricultural workers targeted for imprisonment (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Report details Israeli violations and seizure of West Bank land (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- The Silent Ethnic Cleansing: A Glimpse Into the Plight of an “Invented” People (alethonews.wordpress.com)
RAMALLAH — Israeli occupation authorities renewed the administrative detention of the MP for the district of Salfit Dr. Omar Abdel Razek for six months for the third time in a row and three days before his release.
Ahrar center for prisoner studies and human rights denounced the renewal decision, where the Centre’s Director, Fouad Khuffash, told PIC that Razek was arrested in 2011 without charge or trial, and that he spent more than four years in occupation prisons after he was elected as a member of the legislative Council and during his time as Palestinian Minister of Finance.
The former lecturer at al-Najah university, Razek’s administrative detention has been renewed for three times, in addition to the arrest of his son Mohammed, a student at al-Najeh University, without trial or charge at Megiddo prison few days before his final exams.
Furthermore, the occupation has also arrested his daughter’s fiancé 22 days ago, just one month before his wedding.
Ahrar center quoted the detainee’s wife as saying that the prison administration prevented her and the detainee’s mother from visiting him under security pretexts.
Um Said, the prisoner’s wife, urged human rights organizations and members of legislative assemblies in the world to intervene immediately and urgently for the release of her husband and all the Palestinian MPs.
- Israeli occupation authority renews administrative detention of MP Rejoub for fourth time (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- IOA extends illegal administrative detention of MP Fuqaha (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- An Hour Before Release, Prisoner Transferred to Administrative Detention (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Mansour: Safadi’s administrative detention renewal is a violation of agreement (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- Occupation renews MPs’ administrative detention (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- IOA extends administrative detention of municipal council member (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- Take action for Palestinian prisoner Akram Al-Rikhawi! (windowintopalestine.blogspot.com)
- Outrage as Israel breaks prisoner agreement (altahrir.wordpress.com)
RAMALLAH — The Israeli occupation authority (IOA) arrested 50 Palestinians and blocked the travel of 450 others at the Karame crossing between occupied West Bank and Jordan since the start of 2012.
The Palestinian prisoner’s committee said in a statement on Friday that most of those arrested in the first half of this year were young men or university students.
It noted that students and sick and elderly people were among the 450 citizens banned from travel.
The committee charged that the measure ran contrary to laws and norms, noting, meanwhile, that those allowed to travel are almost always delayed for no justified reason while some of them are questioned by the IOA intelligence.
The committee asked world organizations and human rights groups to intervene and put an end to such practices that violate the freedom of movement.
- #Norway | Israeli Occupation troops block entry of Norwegian solidarity delegation into Jenin (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- CPR calls for an international investigation into death of Palestinian prisoners (altahrir.wordpress.com)
Jerusalem, Palestine – “Yes, Israel does violate international law and is far from perfect,” concedes the “enlightened liberal Zionist, “But it is nowhere near as brutal or contemptible as the Assad regime.” The notion that Israel is somehow more tolerable than Arab tyrannies just because it does not bomb Palestinians in the West Bank or (gasp!) does not mass-murder demonstrators is virtually universal. This assumption, however, underlines a disturbing lack of understanding of the Israeli military occupation and the system of racial segregation governing the occupied west Bank. It goes without saying that those repeating this mantra have never lived under military occupation and have never experienced the constant fear of being abducted from their bedrooms and arrested without warrant, charges or trial.
In an attempt at refuting this notion, it’s necessary to explain the reasons for this shockingly pervasive ignorance. The vast majority of Israelis consistently and unashamedly clasp the charade that Israel is a democracy even if that means living in perpetual frugality, shrugging off horrendous crimes as singular incidents that do not represent the “most moral army in the world” and defending the indefensible under the guise of security. For a colonial society that thrives on a counterfeit sense of moral, intellectual and cultural superiority over an “invented” people, admitting culpability or complicity in the systematic annihilation of a defenseless, far less privileged community is unthinkable. So profound is the sense of denial enveloping Israelis that they take great offence at the very labeling of Israel as an apartheid state or, God forbid, condemning it in the same breath as Arab dictatorships. There is little to no outrage by Israelis about Israel’s atrocities because, remember, they are unrepresentative, rare – and for many they do not exist – no state is “perfect” and because human rights organizations are “biased” against Israel and want to wipe away the island of democracy surrounded by an ocean of oppressive, vulgar third world tribes.
The maligned genius of the Israeli occupation lies in its success to squeeze the lifeblood out of entire communities silently, gradually but brutally. Practices such as the rapidly increasing home demolitions; ceaseless construction and expansion of illegal settlements; blocking access to schools and agricultural fields; the frequent destruction of basic infrastructure like water wells and solar power plants; and the theft of land, identity and collective memory are hardly reported in the mainstream media. The discriminatory legal system and the racist bureaucracy that controls the tiniest minutiae of Palestinians’ daily life, including traveling to neighboring villages and even marriage, murder the soul of Palestinian society, but will never capture the headlines of the New York Times or CNN. The silent, invisible ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian population does not possess the flash of missiles and explosions or the booming sound of mortar shells, but it is even more devastating and effective.
Such is the regularity of Israel’s human rights abuses that even Palestinians have normalized them, at times to the extent of desensitization. When asked whether she would like to write about her experience as a prisoner’s wife, a woman from Beit Ummar said no-one would be interested to read about it, likening the experience to cooking chicken.
The Palestinian victims of the Israeli occupation are often nameless and faceless. We read that there are over 4500 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli occupation jails but very few of us recognize their names, their faces or their stories. If it were not for the heroic hunger-strikes, the suffering of thousands of prisoners languishing in Israel’s dungeons would remain untold. We only heard of Khader Adnan because of his inspiring 66-day huger-strike. If it were not for her incredible 43-day hunger-strike, we would never know that Hana Shalabi spent the best years of her life detained in Israel without charges or trial. It is only thanks to his astonishing 78-day hunger-strike that we knew about Thaer Halahleh who, prior to his release on 5 June, had never kissed his beloved daughter Lamar. Even Palestinian national team footballer Mahmoud Sarsak, who has been detained in Israel without trial or charge since July 2009, would have never gained the support of FIFA and world renowned footballers if it had not been for a miraculous 92 days without food. Mind you, even that was not sufficient for the Palestinian Football Association to raise an eyebrow. All of us, on the other hand, are familiar with the Israeli occupation soldier who was captured by Palestinian resistance 6 years ago today. He did not have to go on for days without food to garner the world’s attention and sympathy.
We might scroll through news about the demolition of Palestinian-owned houses, tents, huts and animal shelters while drinking our morning coffee, but little do we know about the actual victims, the hundreds who are forcibly displaced every month for the crime of being Palestinian.
Have you ever heard of Sawsan Hamamdeh? She does not blog nor does she have a Twitter account; she does not introduce herself as an “activist” but she perfectly personifies the Palestinian struggle. Born in the cave-dweller village of Mfaggara in South Hebron Hills, Sawsan became the first girl from her village to attend collage in the city of Yatta. Denied access to electricity or running water like the overwhelming majority of South Hebron Hills’ residents, Sawsan studied for her Tawjihi exams under the light of an old lantern she inherited from her grandfather. On a dreary, rainy November afternoon last year, private Israeli contractors, hired by the “civil” administration, came to demolish her home. The pretext, as usual, is building without permit. Israel sweepingly and systematically refuses to grant residents of Area C, which comprises 60% of the West Bank, permits to build homes or tents to accommodate the natural growth. Sawsan’s father Mahmoud put up two rooms on top of his cave in 2002 after applying and failing to get a permit. Needless to say, the residents of the illegal, Jewish-only, nearby settlement of Avigail face no such problems. Settlers can expand, build parks and enjoy all the privileges that the indigenous Palestinians can only dream of. As this video shows, Sawsan’s punishment for trying to nonviolently prevent the demolition of the cave, wherein the best memories of her childhood reside, was brutal arrest, pepper-spray and a week in the infamous “Russian Compound”, a detention camp in occupied Jerusalem. “I’ve always dreamt of visiting Jerusalem,” Sawsan told me, “but not like that. They dragged me to the vehicle along with my 17-year-old cousin Amal. We were hand-cuffed and blindfolded. The week I spent in detention in Jerusalem was the worst in my life.”
Fighting back tears, Sawsan showed me the rubble of her demolished home. “I felt like an olive tree that was violently uprooted.” She said with agony. “The Israelis want all of us to leave Mfaggara and go to Yatta, but I would never leave my village even if I had sleep on the street.”
Budour Hassan, originally from Nazareth, is a Palestinian anarchist and Law student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. You can follow her on Twitter here.
- Susiya: Another Casualty of Israeli Occupation? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli kills 2 Palestinians near Hebron (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Samah Sabawi responds to Liberal Zionists (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli occupation authorities demolish well near Hebron (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel destroys Palestinian commercial stores in Beit Hanina (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Conservative minister Jason Kenney is to receive an award for “diversity” from the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in London, Ontario this Sunday. It is hard to say which does more harm to the true values of diversity: the “honouring” organization or the politician being “honoured.”
The JNF covenant reserves the 13 per cent of Israeli land it owns for the exclusive benefit of Jews. It plays the same discriminatory role in the Israeli Lands Authority: together, these two interlocking institutions control 93 per cent of land in Israel, which (with a few short-lease exceptions) is not available to Palestinians. Many of these lands, originally belonging to Palestinians expelled in 1948, were expropriated and then sold to the JNF.
In 1998, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights reported that the “large-scale and systematic confiscation of Palestinian land and property by the State and the transfer of that property to these agencies constitute an institutionalized form of discrimination because these agencies by definition would deny the use of these properties by non-Jews.”
Segregation and exclusion are incompatible with diversity, but fine with Minister Kenney. Since the robo-call election of 2011, Ottawa Conservatives have pushed through measures that discriminate against migrants and refugees. Last November they completely halted applications for immigration sponsorships of parents and grandparents until 2014.
The JNF creates forests and parks on the ruins of destroyed Palestinian villages to hide the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians and to prevent Palestinian refugees from returning. Canada Park, built on top of the ruins of the Palestinian villages of Imwas, Yalu and Beit Nuba (deliberately destroyed by Israel in 1967), was funded through Canadian tax-deductible donations to the JNF Canada.
The destruction of the Palestinian villages and the denial of the villagers’ right to return to their homes are grave violations of the 4th Geneva Convention. Former Israeli Knesset member Uri Avnery calls this destruction a “war crime under international law.”
War crimes (even those subsidized through our tax system) do not promote diversity but they are OK with Kenney and other Conservatives, whose unconditional support for Israeli crimes matches their complete disdain for our own national obligations under international humanitarian law. Just last week, they passed Bill C-31, a law that will result in the arbitrary detention, intimidation and re-victimization of highly vulnerable asylum-seekers in Canada, especially women and children. As of next week, refugees in this country will be denied vital medical services by the same Conservative government.
Like Indigenous peoples elsewhere, Palestinians Bedouins in the Negev have been and continue to be dispossessed of their land, their resources and their livelihoods by occupying populations. While countries like Canada move slowly towards reconciliation with aboriginal peoples through land settlements and compensation, funds raised through JNF dinners and Canadian tax deductions contribute to further dispossession of Bedouins and other Palestinians.
Indigenous dispossession does not help foster diversity, but that doesn’t bother Conservatives like Kenney. In April 2012, they pushed through a policy allowing employers pay “temporary” foreign workers up to 15 per cent less than the prevailing local wage.
The JNF’s exclusionary practices and policies in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories are not well known in North America, but recently in the U.K. major political party leaders (including the current Prime Minister) have begun distancing themselves from this discriminatory organization.
It is time more Canadians demanded the JNF’s charitable status be revoked – in the name of diversity (and international law), while we work to reverse the damage done to vulnerable migrants by Kenney and other Conservatives.
We may not get any awards for “diversity,” but we will be helping build a more just world for all.
UWO Faculty for Palestine member David Heap is a Steering Committee member of works with community groups including People for Peace and No One is Illegal in London. He gratefully acknowledges help from allies and colleagues in preparing this column.
- Protests against racist group’s participation in ‘Earth Summit’ (bdsmovement.net)
- Jason Kenney, sociopath (yayacanada.blogspot.com)
- JNF to forest-depopulate Bedouin village in Naqab on Wednesday (altahrir.wordpress.com)
Palestine human rights campaigners today welcomed news that the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer, The Co-operative Group, will “no longer engage with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing from the Israeli settlements”.
The Co-op’s decision, notified to campaigners in a statement, will immediately impact four suppliers, Agrexco, Arava Export Growers, Adafresh and Mehadrin, Israel’s largest agricultural export company. Mehadrin sources produce from illegal settlements, including Beqa’ot in the Occupied Jordan Valley. During interviews with researchers, Palestinian workers in the settlement said they earn as little as €11 per day. Grapes and dates packaged in the settlement were all labelled ‘Produce of Israel’.
Mehadrin’s role in providing water to settlement farms and its relationship with Israeli state water company Mekorot makes the company additionally complicit with Israel’s discriminatory water policies. Other companies may be affected by the Co-op’s new policy if they are shown to be sourcing produce from Israel’s settlements in the Occupied Territories.
Hilary Smith, Co-op member and Boycott Israel Network (BIN) agricultural trade campaign co-ordinator, said “we welcome this important decision by the Co-op to take steps toward fully realising their policy of support for human rights and ethical trading. The Co-op has taken the lead internationally in this historic decision to hold corporations to account for complicity in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights. We strongly urge other retailers to follow suit and take similar action”.
The announcement by the Co-op came just before their Regional AGMs, due to take place over the next two weeks, and where motions on this issue have been submitted for discussion. For months Co-op members have been highlighting their concerns about trade with complicit companies through co-ordinated letter-writing and discussions with local offices.
A spokesperson from the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work Committees, which works to improve the conditions of Palestinian agricultural communities, said:
“Israeli agricultural export companies like Mehadrin profit from and are directly involved in the ongoing colonisation of occupied Palestinian land and theft of our water. Trade with such companies constitutes a major form of support for Israel’s apartheid regime over the Palestinian people, so we warmly welcome this principled decision by the Co-Operative. Other European supermarkets must now take similar steps to end their complicity with Israeli violations of international law. The movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law is proving to be a truly effective form of action in support of Palestinian rights”.
Campaigners say that this widening of the Co-op’s human rights and trade policy represents a victory for the BDS campaign, called for in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian civil society organisations. Actions across Europe to highlight the issue of complicit agricultural trade companies have included co-ordinated popular boycotts, pickets of supermarkets, lobbying and blockades of company premises.
Last year Agrexco, formerly Israel’s largest agricultural goods exporter, was ordered into liquidation after posting record losses and failing to pay its creditors. Shir Hever, Israeli economist and commentator who researches the economic aspects of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, said that one factor was “the fact that Agrexco has been the target of an international boycott campaign, in protest at its role in repressing Palestinians”.
All other major supermarkets in the UK continue to trade with the companies that are now barred under the Co-op’s human rights and trade policy.
Israeli settlers attacked and chased a group of Palestinian farmers last Thursday, causing a tractor to flip over during the chase, causing the death of the Palestinian driver.
On Thursday, April 5th, armed settlers from the illegal Israeli colony of Itamar attacked a group of Palestinians en-masse. In haste and in fear for his life, twenty-eight year old Fadi Abu Zeitoun’s tractor tipped and crushed him as he fled from the pursuing settlers.
The villagers who own olive groves near Itamar rarely get “permission” from the Israeli District Coordination Office to access their own land. During the harvest season, they are permitted a few days, but in the spring when the land needs to be tended they have more difficulty acquiring permission. During this spring harvest, the villages of Hawarta, Yanoun, Aqraba, and Beita were told they had only four hours to access their land. The area to be tended is approximately 1000 dunums so the villagers collected forty tractors to work as much land as possible in the shortest possible time. Israeli activists from the movement Peace Now, and a group of international activists were present in solidarity. Prime Minister Salam Fayad joined them to make a statement re-affirming their right to utilize the stolen land that they were standing upon.
During the Prime-minister’s visit, Israeli authorities were positioned nearby and prevented the settlers from passing. However, shortly after Fayad left the area, Israeli soldiers permitted a mob of settlers to converge upon the Palestinian farmers tending to their land. They began by throwing stones, causing the group to separate and begin descending the hill. The settlers then proceeded to fire M-16 assault rifles in the direction of the unarmed farmers before releasing dogs. In the ensuing chaos, and as Fadi desperately attempted to escape, his tractor flipped over and fell on him, mortally wounding the young man.
Palestinians witnessing the incident ran back towards the scene to offer assistance. The settlers promptly dispersed as they rushed him down the hill to the road, unfortunately he was already dead.
Fadi is of the village of Beita . With a population of only 12,000, this death resonates among all the residents. As Fadi’s father-in-law, Isam Bani Shams says, “This is not our first martyr nor our last, we have been in this situation for sixty-four years. Our village has lost some seventy martyrs.”
On the same date, twenty-four years ago, two men from the village of Beita were also murdered by settlers from Itamar.
In the gathering following the funeral, Fadi’s father, Sleman Abu Zeitoun, sat with his head down. Beside him sat three other men who have had a son murdered by Israeli soldiers or settlers.
Fadi was newly married to nineteen year-old Fida’ Bani Shams who is left widowed and six months pregnant. Her brother was killed at the age of sixteen by Israeli soldiers during the second intifada, and as her father says, “She has lost a brother and a husband so what can I say of her emotions? She is in grief. She is exhausted.” Fida’ sat slouched in a corner of the room, her eyes closed and blankets covering her feet.
Fadi’s sister has had a nervous breakdown since the death of her brother. She does not recognize her husband or her daughters. Their mother, Mona Fihmeh says, “in terms of how I feel, I have patience, but my back has been broken from the burden.” Mona spent last night praying over her feverish body, and today she sent her daughter to the hospital. Her husband was on the way back from a funeral in Jordan when the accident occurred. He returned to Beita to find that his son had been killed.
Throughout the funeral, political talk arose about the various results of Israeli occupation and apartheid on Palestine. At first, the unemployment rate among Palestinians does not seem relevant to the death of Fadi Abu Zeitoun, but one soon realizes that Israel’s apartheid policies are to blame for both the impunity with which settlers are treated, and the numerous other negative consequences on livelihood.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory reported that over 90% of complaints regarding settler violence filed by Palestinians to the Israeli police in recent years have been closed without indictment. OCHA’s report on settler violence notes that “the root cause of the settler violence phenomenon is Israel’s decades-long policy of illegally facilitating the settling of its citizens inside occupied Palestinian territory. This activity has resulted in the progressive takeover of Palestinian land, resources and transportation routes and has created two separate systems of rights and privileges, favouring Israeli citizens at the expense of the over 2.5 million Palestinian residents of the West Bank. Recent official efforts to retroactively legalize settler takeover of privately-owned Palestinian land actively promotes a culture of impunity that contributes to continued violence.”
Rana H. is a volunteer with International Solidarity Movement.
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