Boycott israHell!

Boycott israHell!
Бойкот на израел и печелещите от окупацията! Boycott israHell and those who profit from occupation!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

ООН: Мнозинството млади палестинци са в депресия

Огромното мнозинство от палестинската младеж са депресирани, но не вярват, че насилието помага за разрешаването на близкоизточния конфликт, се казва в доклад на ООН, разпространен днес, предаде АФП. "Над 80 % от младите палестинци са депресирани а 47 % се самоопределят повече като мюсюлмани отколкото като палестинци", се казва в доклад на Програмата на ООН за развитие (UNDP). Депресията е по-ясно откроена в Ивицита Газа, където 55 % заяввяват, че са "изключително депресирани", се казва в документа. 69 % от участвалите в проучването "смятат, че употребата на насилие като средство за разрешаване на конфликта не е от полза, докато едва 8 % са на мнение, че то е важно средство. На въпрос да определят своята идентичност, 47 % се самоопределят като мюсюлмани, 28 % като палестинци, 14 % като човешки същества и 10 % - като араби. "Младите хора са изключително уязвими в конфликтна ситуация. Те са по-вероятни жертви на наранявания, арести или да бъдат въвлечени в опасни ситуации", посочва Йенс Тойберг-Франдзен, специален представител на Програмата за подпомагане на палестинския народ на UNDP. Докладът се основава на интервюта с 1200 палестинци на възраст от 17 до 24 години на Западния бряг и в в Ивицата Газа. /БГНЕС /

Monday, March 30, 2009

List of actions in Palestine for Land Day and Global BDS Day

The people in Palestine are mobilizing for the 32nd annual commemoration of Land Day, happening March 30. Land Day marks the date of the Palestinian demonstration that occurred in the Galilee against a wide-scale land confiscation, when Israeli forces killed 6 Palestinians, injured 96 and arrested 300.

Today, the Land Day protests of the people in Palestine and around the world are focused on the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. The call for a global day of action on March 30 came out of the World Social Forum in Belem (Brazil) and aims to promote BDS as the most effective tool to stop Israeli policies of land theft and colonization and the discrimination, massacres and ethnic cleansing that have been carried out against the Palestinian people in pursuit of these goals.

Actions all across historic Palestine tie the ongoing defense of Palestinian land and agriculture from the Wall and settlement project to the call for boycott of Israeli products and institutions. Where farming becomes a form of resistance, choosing Palestinian over Israeli products is an essential part of the Palestinian struggle for justice, freedom, and return. Where a people is besieged, bombed and starved with the complicity of governments around the world, the call for global BDS becomes an essential tool to break the siege.


Galilee (’48 Palestine) - organized by the Higher Follow Up Committee of the Arab citizens of Israel

March 30, Deir Hanna: Demonstration against Israeli racism and fascism. Gathering at 3 pm.

March 30, Kufr Kanna: Demonstration at 10 am

March 30, Sakhnin: Demonstration at 10 am


March 30, Rumaneh: Tree planting along with a workshop entitled “Land Day, BDS and the struggle against the Wall”.


March 27, Jayyous: Demonstration against the Wall and for the boycott of Israeli products.

March 29, Qalqiliya city: BDS district meeting. Activists, political representatives and students will discuss the boycott strategies in the district to work towards a ‘Qalqiliya district free of Israeli products’.

March 30, Jayyous: Demonstration against the Wall and for BDS along with the planting of olive trees.

March 30, Qalqiliya city: Demonstration against against Israeli occupation and for BDS

April 6 and 7, Qalqiliya city: Workshop in al Quds Open University Qalqiliya on economic and academic boycott as a form of resistance.


March 27, Ni’lin and Bil’in: demonstrations against the Wall and for BDS

March 27, al-Lubban: A day for voluntary work and painting of murals for the children, political workshop on BDS, and a film screening.

March 28, Shuqba: A day for voluntary work and painting of murals for the children as well as political workshop on BDS.

March 28, Sinjil: A day for voluntary work and painting of murals for the children, political workshop on BDS, and a film screening.

March 30, Qalandiya: Demonstration at Qalandiya checkpoint against the isolation of Jerusalem and for BDS.

April 3, Ni’lin and Bil’in: Demonstrations against the Wall and for BDS.

April 4, Beit Liqiya: A day for voluntary work and painting of murals for the children, political workshop on BDS, a film screening, and a dabke festival.

Saffa, April 4: A day of voluntary work, painting of murals for the children and the planting of olive trees.


March 27, al Ma’sra: Demonstration against the Wall and for BDS.

March 30, Qubbet Rahel (Bethlehem): Women’s demonstration against the Wall and for BDS.

March 30, Beit Sahour: Workshop at the Palestinian Center For Rapprochement Between People covering the topics of communication for western audiences about Palestine and activism on Palestine and abroad, including BDS. (9 am – 12am).

April 3, Irtas: Planting olive trees.

April 3, al Ma’sra: Demonstration against the Wall and for BDS.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Global Action

1. International Call for Global Day of Action

Boycott Israel! Make it account for its crimes in Gaza!
30 March 2009 - Today, the Palestinian people scattered across the globe mark Land Day, commemorating the events of 33 years ago, when Israeli security forces shot and killed six young Palestinian citizens of Israel and injured many.

These brave youth were among the thousands protesting Israel’s expropriation of Palestinian land to build new Jewish colonies and expand existing Jewish cities. Today, Land Day symbolizes Palestinian resistance to Israel’s ongoing land expropriation, apartheid, colonization and occupation. It marks as well the first Global Day of Action for Palestinian rights and for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), launched at the 2009 World Social Forum in Brazil.

Israel's racist policies of confiscating Palestinian land and forcibly displacing Palestinians have gained in intensity since the original Land Day. The policies of incremental ethnic cleansing that Israel calls “Judaization” are proceeding apace in Palestine's historic cities, including Jerusalem, Jaffa, Acre, Lydda and Ramla, with daily home demolitions and forced evictions. Israel's aggressive land grab continues with the construction and expansion of the Apartheid Wall and colonies on occupied Palestinian land. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians face imminent displacement as their villages are slated to be erased from the map in their entirety.

Click here to read the full Palestinian BDS National Committee's Land Day 2009 Statement

Click here to see the full call for March 30 in English, Spanish, Italian and French.
Click here to see our guide to BDS action.

Palestine - Many demonstrations are planned to commemorate March 30 as the Palestinian Land Day with a special focus on the national BDS campaign.
Worldwide - Activities are already planned in over a dozen countries around the globe.

All social movements, organizations, networks and political parties around the globe are invited to join us by endorsing the Palestinian civil society Call for BDS.
Sign on at:


EDINBURGH, Saturday 28 March, 12-2pm
Lloyds TSB branch, Leith Walk

EDINBURGH, Monday 30 March, 5.30pm
outside TESCO, Nicolson Street

Bring banners, placards - join us: leaflet and raise awareness; let TESCO know we don't want Israeli goods in our supermarket shelves!

GLASGOW, Sunday 29 March, 2pm
outside TESCO, in Trongate, near Argyll Street

Bring banners, placards - join us: leaflet and raise awareness; let TESCO know we don't want Israeli goods in our supermarket shelves!

List of Global Actions
March 30:
Palestinian Land Day celebrated as the First Global BDS Action Day


Glasglow, March 29: Supermarket boycott action organized by the PSC.

Edinburgh, March 30: Supermarket boycott action organized by the PSC.

Across the UK, March 30: Mass call to Waitrose and Tesco supermarkets’ customer service to complain about the sale of Israeli products on March 30 across the UK.

Spain and the Basque Country

Bilbao: details to come


Milan, Turin, Pisa, Bologna, Rome, and Naples, March 28: Sit in at various shopping centers in the listed cities. Organized by Forum Palestina.

Rome, March 30: Palestine contingent joining trade union demonstration. Organized by Forum Palestina.


Kristiansand, March 30 Debate: "How to sanction Israeli human rights violations? Boycott, divestment, sanctions and other mechanisms." Organized by the Socialist Youth of Norway at the University of Agder.

Oslo, March 30: Three BDS events will be held in Oslo. The Norwegian Association of NGO's for Palestine (FuP) will hold a debate and workshop entitled, “Boycott, divestment and sanctions – which tools can we use to pressure Israel?” In selected neighborhoods of Oslo, the Socialist Youth will engage in a face to face boycott action, going door to door and informing inhabitants about the BDS campaign, which products to boycott, and how they can get involved. Finally, the Palestine Committee and others will hold a joint BDS demonstration at the Israeli embassy in Oslo.


Nantes, March 26: Film screening of " The Iron Wall" and debate organized by Young Muslims in France

Lille, March 28: Demonstration at 3.30 pm at Euralille organized by AFPS

Manosque, March 28: Conference for the Land Day with Nidal Shiwani and Rene Brackman organized by AFPS

Le Mans, March 28: Day of solidarity with the Palestinian People organized by AFPS

St Brieuc, March 28: Film screening of "The Iron Wall" and debate organized by AFPS

St Denis (near Paris), March 28/29: Conference on the Right to Return

Paris, March 28: Demonstration à 2 pm, Place du Chatelet organized by a coalition of organizations

Paris, March 28: Concert at 7.30 pm at the Palais des Congrès de Paris. (Métro : Porte Maillot Périphérique : sortie Porte Maillot, St Denis (near Paris) organized by AFPS

Marseille, March 30: Panel discussion at 7 pm at the CRDP, Amphi Paul Cezanne (Metro Saint-Charles)
. Speakers: Mme Alima Boumediene-Thiery, Maitre Gilles-Devers, spokesperson of the NGO coalition that has brought a case against Israel in front of th International Criminal Court , M.Nabil El Haggar, vice president of the university in Lille.
Press conference with the speakers at 5 pm.


Across Brazil, March 30: Various BDS actions and demonstrations

Sao Paulo, March 30: Demonstration in support of BDS and against the Mercosur – Israel FTA organized by Frente de Solidariedade ao Povo Palestino


March 30, Caracas:
Morning - Demonstration before the UN representation in Venezuela, in order to express popular discontent with the UN's failure to defend the right to self determination and the human rights of the Palestinian people. A letter condemning the lack of action taken to enforce UN resolutions and 2004 ICJ advisory opinion will be handed over.

Afternoon - Global action day activity will be held in the Teatro Municipal, Caracas, with music, film and speeches. The Event will show solidarity with peoples oppressed by war and imperialism, particularly in Iraq and Palestine, and promote the Global BDS Palestinian call in Venezuela.

Organized by the local solidarity movement with Palestinian people's struggle.


San Diego (California), March 30: Commemoration of Land Day and film screening of Wounds of the Heart: An Artist and Her Nation sponsored by San Diego Coalition for Justice in Palestine and the San Diego Chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

New York (New York), March 30: New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel (NYCBI) launch of a city-wide boycott Motorola campaign.

Los Angeles (California), March 30: “From la Frontera to Gaza: Chicano-Palestinian Connections.” Focuses on links between Mexico and Palestine, History of Palestine, Boycott as a Non-Violent Tool, and The Right to Education. USACBI event sponsored by the USC Department of American Studies and Ethnicity, Chicano and Latino American Studies, and USC Students for Justice in Palestine.

Santa Cruz (California), March 29: “We are all Gazans” program consisting of screening Dispatches: The Killing Zone, speakers recently returned from Gaza, and discussion of BDS actions in Santa Cruz.

Kentucky, March 28: 'What Really Happened in Gaza?' The Louisville Committee for Peace in the Middle East organizes an afternoon with plays, spoken word and testimonies on the siege and attack on Gaza.

New Jersey, March 30: Street action to support the March 30 Day of Global Action on Boycott Divest and Sanction Israel. Meet at Corner George & Albany St from 5 to 7 pm.


Toronto, March 30: “Resisting War from Gaza to Kandahar” George Galloway talk organized by the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War (note: Galloway has been banned by Canadian authorities from entering the country).

Montreal, March 30: Demonstration in front of the Israeli consulate organized by CJPP.


Crete, April 2: Demonstration in support of sports boycott and protest of the Greece – Israel soccer match in Heraclion.


March 28 – 31, The Hague – Brussels: Cycling event calling for suspension of the EU – Israel Association Agreement. Bicyclists will begin at the International Courts of Justice at The Hague on the 28th and arrive at European Parliament in Brussels on the 31st to deliver petition to European MPs. Organized by The Peace Cycle


Delhi, March 30: Exhibition, poetry and film commemorating Land Day.


The Hague, March 28: Start of The Peace Cycle in The Hague at the International Court of Justice, passing by the International Criminal Court. That cycling event from The Hague to Brussels calls for suspension of the EU – Israel Association Agreement. Support the petition and see

Utrecht, March 28: Conference from Friends of Sabeel.

Vlaardingen (near Rotterdam), March 29: Memorial meeting from Al Awda, Netherlands Palestine Committee and others.

Utrecht, March 30: Political debate GreenLeft Party.


March 30, Melbourne: The launch of the “The Sack Connex, Boycott Israel” campaign will be launched by the Coalition of Palestine support groups.

** You can list your event on the Scottish PSC website. Just register to submit your event. **

Join Scottish PSC- we are all volunteers with no paid staff - or make a financial donation to help us continue campaigning work:
Send a cheque to:

Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign

c/o Peace & Justice Centre
2 Princes Street
Edinburgh EH2 4BJ
SPSC is affiliated to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (UK)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

More evidence of six decades of Israeli war crimes.

Stephen Lendman
Date: March 26, 2009
Subject: Incriminating Evidence of Israeli War Crimes in Gaza - by Stephen Lendman

Throughout its history, Israel has willfully and repeatedly committed crimes of war and against humanity, always with impunity. Yet under customary legal standards and norms (including Geneva, Hague, the UN Charter, S.C. and G.A. resolutions), it's lawless, a serial abuser, a threat to the region and humanity, mostly as an oppressive occupier. Attacking Gaza is the latest episode in its six-decade reign of terror satisfying the definition of genocide against defenseless Palestinian civilians. This article covers more evidence from some disturbing but unsurprising newly published information.

On March 19, in the first of a series of articles, Haaretz headlined: "IDF killed civilians in Gaza under loose rules of engagement." Military correspondent Amos Harel revealed Israeli soldier and pilot ("dirty secret") testimonies of being ordered to kill unarmed civilians and destroy their property - accounts at variance with official claims that only military targets were attacked and that "Israeli troops observed a high level of moral behavior during the operation." Defense Minister Ehud Barak calls the IDF "the most moral army in the world."

"Moral" examples included an infantry squad leader recounting the shooting of a mother and her two children: "There was a house with a family inside....We put them in a room. Later we left the house and another platoon entered it, and a few days after that there was an order to release the family....The platoon commander let the family go and told them to go to the right. One mother and her two children didn't understand and went to the left," after which a rooftop sniper "shot them straight away....I don't think he felt too bad about it, because after all, as far as he was concerned, he (followed orders, and, besides, Palestinian lives are) less important" than our own soldiers.

Other incidents included:

-- a squad leader telling of a company commander ordering an elderly Palestinian woman to be shot and killed;

-- soldiers saying "we should kill everyone (in the center of Gaza); everyone there is a terrorist;"

-- soldiers writing "death to the Arabs on walls" and spitting on family pictures;

-- a squad leader saying: "At the beginning, the directive was to enter a house with an armored vehicle, break the door down, (and) start shooting inside - I call it murder - to shoot at everyone we identify;" commanders called it OK "because everyone left in the city is culpable because they didn't run away;"

-- soldiers ordered to indiscriminately destroy property and farmland;

-- orders given to enter a house, "switch on loudspeakers and tell (occupants) you have five minutes to run away and whoever doesn't will be killed;"

These and other accounts typify regular incidents in occupied Gaza and the West Bank. When revealed, official denials follow or in response to clear evidence, officers, like military advocate general Avichai Mendelblit, say the incidents will be investigated, after which everything is whitewashed, quietly forgotten, none of the guilty are prosecuted, and security forces keep using disproportionate force against defenseless Palestinian civilians.

In a March 19 analysis, Harel concluded that this "happen(s) in the field most of the time (and) as usual, reality is completely different from the gentler version provided by the military commanders to the public and media during (an) operation and after. The soldiers are not lying, for the simple reason that they have no reason to" and every reason to stay silent. The rule is: "You don't ask, we won't tell," but these soldiers, squad leaders, pilots and commanders did.

Further, there's a "continuity of testimony from different sectors that reflects a disturbing and depressing picture" of a rogue military willfully committing war crimes because they know they can get away with them. Harel concluded: "The IDF's ethical problems did not start in 2009." They go back decades, but according to some, military "deterioration" has been continuous from the 1967 war to Operation Cast Lead. Worse still is that Israeli history reveals six decades of relentless and continuous terror. Attacking Gaza for 22 days is just the latest episode.

On March 21, the London Independent's Donald Macintyre wrote: "Israelis (were) told to fight a 'holy war' in Gaza....a religious war" against Arabs, according to a soldier citing "the martial role of military rabbis during the operation." In rabbinate literature distributed to the troops, the message was: "We are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle, God brought us back to this land, and now we need to fight to expel the Gentiles who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land."

According to the Israeli human rights group, Yesh Din, IDF head chaplain, Rabbi Avichai Rontzki, a brigadier general, distributed booklet material saying that it was "terribly immoral" to show mercy to a "cruel enemy" and that soldiers were fighting "murderers." Imagine rabbis claiming to be men of God, yet violating core Jewish dogma by preaching hate, premeditated murder, and lying about innocent civilians they're vilifying. Another example of the viciousness of a so-called civilized state, acting like barbarians (in the name of God) and calling it just.

There's more. On March 22 in Haaretz, Amira Hass headlined: "IDF soldiers ordered to shoot at Gaza rescuers" in citing a Hebrew handwritten document, "Rules of Engagement - Open fire also upon rescue." It confirms numerous reports and testimonies like the above that soldiers shot Palestinian civilians in cold blood, murdered them (and their rescuers), or in cases where they were still alive prevented their evacuation and let them bleed to death.

Hass stated: "The (above-mentioned) document provides written proof that IDF commanders ordered their troops to shoot at rescuers" besides ordering the killing of unarmed civilians and destruction of their property.

On March 22, London Observer writer Peter Beaumont headlined: "Gaza war crime claims gather pace as (still) more troops speak out." He cited a yet to be published "Breaking the Silence" report containing statements from 15 former soldiers. From their contacts with Operation Cast Lead participants, they corroborate the above claims of random killings and vandalism. According to the group's Mikhael Manekin:

"We have spoken to a lot of different people who served in different places in Gaza, including officers. We are not talking about some units being more aggressive than others, but underlying policy. So much so that we are talking to soldiers who said that they were having to restrain the orders given." According to one, Amir Marmor, orders from a Lt. Col. who briefed the troops were: "Shoot and don't worry about the consequences."

On March 20, Haaretz reporter Uri Blau disclosed that IDF soldiers ordered T-shirts marking the end of Operation Cast Lead featuring grotesque images of dead babies, mothers weeping at their children's graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosque, and a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull's eye depicted on her stomach with the English slogan, "1 shot, 2 kills."

These aren't just anecdotes from what Ehud Barak calls "the most moral army in the world." On March 22, Haaretz correspondent Gideon Levy wrote: "IDF ceased long ago being 'most moral army in the world.' " Moreover, imagining the military will investigate the charges is "propagandistic, ridiculous (and) meant not only to deceive the public, but also to offer shameless lies" as part of a cover-up the way these revelations are always handled.

These practices have gone on for decades. Orders come right from the top - to kill Arabs and commit atrocities and vandalism, and according to one Operation Cast lead soldier: "That's what is so nice, as it were, about Gaza - You see a person on a road....and you can just shoot him." This message is ingrained in young recruits, to see Jews as superior, Arabs as sub-humans, so it's "morally" OK to slaughter them.

Yet on March 22, Haaretz published GOC Home Front Command General Yair Golan's reply saying: "The reports were exaggerated and any deviations from the IDF's moral standards will be dealt with."

Then on March 23, it added IDF Chief Gabi Ashkenazi's claim that he did not believe Israeli soldiers harmed Palestinian civilians in "cold blood." He and Golan lied the way top commanders and government officials always do.

Yet Ashkenazi echoed Ehud Barak saying that "the IDF is the most moral army in the world" despite volumes of clear evidence to the contrary. He added that any "incidents" were "isolated," but Haaretz stated:

"The soldiers' testimonies run counter to the IDF's claims throughout the operation that troops observed a high level of moral behavior. A number of officers told Haaretz....that the testimonies did not surprise them, as 'anyone with eyes in his head knows that these things happened during the fighting in Gaza,' and they weren't 'isolated' incidents."

Gaza Civilian Testimonies

Documented by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), they recount Operation Cast Lead's horror - highlighted by an Israeli soldier's message on Abu Hajaj's bedroom wall: "Death will find you....Soon."

PCHR noted the importance of finding "sanctuary in the comfort of one's home" at times of trauma, but Gazans lost it for 22 days and still suffer the effects. Briefly some examples:

-- the IDF occupied Mos'ab Dardona's Jabal Al Rayes northeast Gaza home, leaving behind wall drawings of soldiers urinating on toppled mosques and "devouring Palestinians villages;"

-- next door in Ibrahim Dardona's home, instead of using the bathroom, they left behind dozens of bags of feces and crude sexual diagrams on walls;

-- the defacing and other actions show a disturbing picture of racial hatred throughout Israeli society, according to PCHR's democratic development director, Hamdi Shaqqura; PCHR says thousands of Gazans are homeless, displaced, and forced to find shelter with relatives or move back to partially destroyed homes and cope as best they can;

-- in the agricultural area of Johr-ad-Dik, the IDF took over homes, displaced half the 2500 population and maliciously destroyed hundreds of olive and citrus trees;

-- the IDF ordered local residents near Saleh Abu Hajaj's home to leave; Saleh's daughter tied a white scarf to a stick, led out a group of civilians, then along with her mother was shot dead by the military;

-- in the Zeytoun district, IDF desecrated walls with messages like: "Die you all..Make war not peace..Arabs need to die," and on a gravestone "Arabs 1948 - 2009;"

-- inside Rashad Helmi Al Samouni's home, soldiers wrote: "There will be a day when we kill all the Arabs....Bad for the Arabs is good for me....A good Arab is an Arab in the grave (and) Peace now, but between Jews and Jews, not Jews and Arabs."

PCHR's conclusion was that whatever war crimes investigations reveal and what, if anything, follows from them, "it will do little to comfort the thousands of civilians whose sense of safety (in their own homes was) so categorically violated," something they no longer feel and for many never did.

PCHR published the names of 1417 Gazans killed by Israeli forces. It said 926 were civilians, 236 fighters, and 255 others civilian security forces, mostly police. Israel disputes the list claiming most targets "legitimate" despite clear evidence to the contrary, including from its own soldiers. In response, it's preparing its own list identifying most of the slain as "combatants or legitimate targets" without a shred of evidence for proof and plenty to disprove it.

PCHR also reported that in the week ending March 18:

-- IDF forces shot and injured 19 Palestinian civilians, including nine children and a US human rights activist;

-- the Israeli air force bombed selected Gaza sites, forcing civilians to abandon their homes and property in the areas;

-- Israeli forces conducted 39 incursions into West Bank communities, a practice occurring nearly daily; 39 Palestinian civilians were arrested, including six children for the crime of being Arab under Israeli occupation;

-- additional IDF arrests occurred at West Bank checkpoints, and measures to remove East Jerusalem Palestinians continue to make room for new Jewish settlements;

-- five West Bank homes were demolished leaving 49 Palestinians homeless; three other families were ordered from their homes in preparation for demolition;

-- West Bank settlement construction goes on unabated as part of an ethnic cleansing process;

-- settlers regularly attack Palestinians with impunity, and the Mossawa Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens reported (on March 21) a 1000% rise in 2008 crime rates over 2007 on Israeli Arab citizens; its leader, Jafar Farah, called it a "moral collapse;"

-- Gaza remains under siege with no progress made to end it; and

-- on March 23, PCHR reported that the IDF violated medical ethics during Operation Cast Lead by preventing Palestinian and ICRC medical teams from reaching the wounded; it also said Israel attacked 34 medical facilities, including eight hospitals, killing 16 medics and wounding 25 others.

Meanwhile on March 19, Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, said: "If the (IDF) cannot (distinguish between civilians and military targets), its attack becomes unlawful and constitutes a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law." He added that the UN (and human rights groups like Amnesty International) has clear evidence to support this conclusion and called for a formal investigation of IDF shelling of schools, mosques, ambulances, educational facilities, and homes as well as use of illegal weapons like white phosphorus.

Whatever follows, Gaza remains under siege. Allowed in humanitarian aid falls way short of supplying 1.5 million people with the barest subsistence they need. Through March 2, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that Israeli violence continues and "authorities (still) limit the amount and range of goods allowed into Gaza....A range of essential goods, including supplies and equipment needed for rebuilding, are not being allowed into the territory." They're still kept out.

Basic items like medical equipment, veterinary supplies, macaroni, chickpeas, and lentils were suspended or delayed, and border crossings remain closed, except for brief periods. Like before, everything is in short supply or not available, including essential medical care, food and fuel. Earlier Amnesty International said "Gaza (was) reduced to bare survival." Today, it's no better under a continuing Israeli siege, illegal and brutal in the extreme, yet not denounced by world leaders to give Israel cover to maintain it.

The Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel's Position Paper on Israeli Civilian Killings in Gaza

Adalah (meaning justice in Arabic) is a 1996-established independent, non-profit, human rights organization serving Arab Israeli citizens' rights on issues of land, civil, political, cultural, social, religious, and economic matters among others. In February 2009, it examined the legality of Israel's 22 day Gaza attack, specifically the killing of civilian police and bombing of government buildings and Hamas institutions.

In citing the laws of war, it identified four central principles:

-- military necessity - that only those targets intended to "weaken or overcome the enemy or bring the battle to an end may be attacked;"

-- distinction - that must be drawn between combatants and military targets on the one hand, and civilians and non-military objects on the other; international law prohibits attacking the latter; doing so is a war crime; non-combatant civilians are protected by law under all circumstances; also, targets must clearly be military ones and nearby civilians must be warned in advance so they may leave;

-- proportionality - that prohibits disproportionate force likely to cause damage to or loss of human lives or objects; in other words, disproportionate to an intended military objective or that in any way is indiscriminate; and

-- the prevention of unnecessary suffering, especially for non-combatant civilians.

Beginning December 27 and continuing for 22 days, the IDF attacked uniformed police cadets and officers killing them and other civilians. During the period of fighting, non-combatant civilian Hamas members were also struck, including from its government.

International law prohibits attacking non-combatant civilian security forces, especially police whose role is to maintain law enforcement and public order.

Further, and despite using "rocket attacks" as a pretext, Israel attacked preemptively and aggressively, not in response to Hamas-initiated hostilities, and most initial targets were civilian ones. The IDF erroneously claimed that attacking uniformed police was legitimate because their role for 22 days changed from enforcers to combatants. By this logic, all civilians are legitimate targets because under attack they may defend themselves. That, in fact, is what Israel claims.

Under international law, civilians may only be harmed accidently or inadvertently as a result of attacks on legitimate military targets but never for reasons of military necessity, even when large numbers of combatants are present.

Adalah concluded:

"Members of a civilian police should benefit from the protection which is conferred upon them as civilians under customary international law. Given that the conditions for the exception to this rule - i.e., taking a direct part in hostilities at the time of the attack - were not met, the attack ran counter to customary international humanitarian law" and was illegal.

The same holds for attacking government buildings and institutions - a total of 68 buildings plus 31 offices belonging to NGOs, completely destroyed or damaged during the conflict. According to Major Avital Leibovitz, Head of International Communications Section in the IDF's Spokesperson's Office: "Anything affiliated with Hamas is a legitimate target," meaning all 1.5 million Gazans, the vast majority being non-combatant civilians, including women, children, and infants.

International law refutes Israeli policy, including under the principles of military necessity and distinction. These principles demand that military targets be differentiated from civilians and civilian objects (including government ones) to prevent deliberate attacks on them.

The only allowed exceptions relate to narrowly defined "vital and immediate military need" to defeat the enemy and end the battle, matters to which Israel didn't comply. Also, Israel ignored the requirement "to take all feasible precautions in attack, in particular the obligation to verify that objects (and individuals) to be attacked are military objectives," legitimate targets under international law.

Again Adalah: "Thus it is apparent that the attack on government buildings and institutions (as well as non-combatant civilians) on the basis of the claim that they formed part of the Hamas regime is illegal" under international law.

"Attacks that fail to distinguish between combatants and military targets and civilians and civilian objects constitute grave breaches of customary international law and are considered as war crimes. Attacks perpetrated against a civilian population may also be considered crimes against humanity if they are committed 'as part of a wide or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.' "

Planned months in advance, Israel's attack was premeditated, and under Article 8(2)(a)(1) and Article 8(2)(b)(1) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) constitutes a war crime. It's also a crime against humanity under the statute's Article 7(1) relating to the deliberate killing of civilians or deliberately attacking non-combatant ones.

Further, attacking government buildings and institutions is also a war crime under Article 8(2)(a)(1), Article 8(2)(b)(8), and Article 8(2)(b)(13) of the Rome Statute that prohibits the destruction of property and civilian objects for non-military necessity reasons.

Even though Israel is not party to the Statute, its Articles 7 and 8, relating to crimes of war and against humanity, reflect customary international law under which Israel, its officials, and military commanders at all levels may and should be held accountable.

Under international law, responsibility relates to perpetration, planning, inciting, and/or ordering a crime to be committed as well as "vicarious" (indirect) responsibility of civilian leaders and commanders for crimes committed by their subordinates. These conditions apply in the case of the 22 day Gaza attack - planned well in advance by high-level government and military officials and launched with overwhelming force against multiple targets on December 27.

Again, the evidence is clear, unequivocal, overwhelming, and conclusive that high-level Israeli government and military officials planned and willfully committed systematic crimes of war and against humanity of such gravity that justice demands they be held to account in an international court of law - either the ICC in the Hague or a special International Criminal Tribunal for Israel (ICTI).

Doing so will warn future Israeli governments and all others that no one is exempt from the law and they, too, will be prosecuted if evidence provides justification. The rule of law is sacrosanct, especially for wanton killing that when ongoing for sustained periods satisfies the definition of genocide. Israel long ago passed that threshold. No longer can its lawlessness go unpunished.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to The Global Research News Hour on Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Divestment campaign gains momentum in Europe

Adri Nieuwhof, The Electronic Intifada, 24 March 2009

The tramway under construction in Jerusalem, February 2008. (Anne Paq/ActiveStills)

The Swedish national pension fund AP7 is the latest institution to follow the socially responsible investment example of Dutch ASN Bank by excluding the French transportation giant Alstom from its portfolio. Alstom was excluded because of the company's involvement in Israel's occupation of Palestinian land.

Activists and researchers claim that the French companies Alstom and Veolia are directly implicated in maintaining illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and are playing a key role in Israel's attempt to make its annexation of Palestinian East Jerusalem irreversible. For this reason Dutch ASN Bank decided in 2006 to exclude Veolia from its portfolios, also excluding companies that benefit from the Israeli occupation. Other banks have since followed ASN Bank's example towards socially responsible investment.

Swedish activists informed the public about the role of companies in benefiting from the occupation through several actions. The Swedish non-governmental organization Diakonia's research on Mul-T-Lock factory in the Barkan Industrial Park in a West Bank settlement led to the October 2008 decision of owner Assa Abloy to divest from the company. At that time Veolia was bidding for an eight-year, $4.5 billion contract to run the subway in Stockholm county. Swedish journalists questioned politicians about Veolia's role in an Israeli tramway project that links Israeli settlements and normalizes the illegal situation of the settlements. At the Give Veolia the Red Card event on 15 November 2008, passengers on the Stockholm subway were asked to attach a red card to their clothes to protest Veolia's involvement in the the Jerusalem tramway on occupied Palestinian territory.

The protests are thought to have contributed to the decision of Swedish national pension fund AP7, one of the most important investors in Sweden and well-known for its highly ethical profile, to blacklist Alstom. AP7, which manages pension savings worth around 90 billion kronor ($15 billion), listed in its annual report for 2008 the companies it has to exclude from investment for ethical reasons. Alstom is pointed out as a company AP7 would have liked to invest in. However, the report said Alstom's involvement in reported human rights abuses regarding the company's participation in a railway project in Jerusalem made it not suitable for AP7's investments.

Additionally, in mid-2008 AP7 decided to sell all its holdings in companies making cluster bombs and nuclear weapons. Chief executive Richard Grottheim told the press, "I expect other pension funds will follow my initiative." The fact that AP7 diagnosed Alstom as a company not suitable for investments will most likely have the same effect.

On 16 March, Sandwell Council in the UK announced that Veolia failed to reach the shortlist of three companies bidding for a 25-year waste collection and recycling contract worth 1 billion pounds ($1.43 billion). The Palestine Solidarity Campaign started the Sandwell Bin Veolia Campaign, asking the public to sign a petition requesting that the council remove Veolia from the list of contractors approved. The petition argued that Veolia be removed because the company accepted contracts in Jerusalem in contravention of international law and United Nations resolutions.

Asked for the reasons for excluding Veolia from the shortlist, a Sandwell Council press officer responded that Veolia's alleged activities played no part in the council's decision-making process. "By law, the council is not permitted to allow non-commercial factors to influence the choice of a partner for its plans to improve waste, recycling and street cleansing services in Sandwell." However, in a 10 Feburary 2009 article published by The Electronic Intifada this author along with attorney Daniel Machover asserted that UK law makes it perfectly legal to exclude Veolia from public contracts due to its "grave professional misconduct."

In Melbourne, Australia the Veolia campaign will take off with the Dump Connex campaign to be launched on 30 March, focusing on the Veolia subsidiary that runs the train service in Melbourne. Activists will distribute 100,000 pamphlets to Melbourne's train commuters. The pamphlets explain that riders should not only be angry because the company is providing an unsatisfactory transport service in Melbourne, but also because Veolia has signed a 30-year contract with Israel to operate a tramway that runs also in occupied Palestinian land. Commuters are asked to sign the card in the pamphlet and post it to Victorian State transport minister Lynne Kosky.

Adri Nieuwhof is a consultant and human rights advocate based in Switzerland.

UN tracks rising violence against women in Gaza

UN tracks rising violence against women in Gaza
Report, The Electronic Intifada, 25 March 2009

GAZA CITY, occupied Gaza Strip (IRIN) - The UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in Gaza, local Palestinian non-governmental organizations and mental health professionals are reporting increased incidents of domestic violence and sexual assault against women in Gaza since the beginning of 2009.

An unpublished UNIFEM survey of male and female heads of 1,100 Gaza households conducted between 28 February and 3 March indicates there was an increase in violence against women during and after the 23-day war which ended on 18 January.

"According to our staff, and through clinical observation, there was increased violence against women and children during and after the war," said public relations coordinator for the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP), Husam al-Nounou.

"We can attribute this to the fact that most people were exposed to traumatic incidents during the war, and one way people react to stress is to become violent."

GCMHP, which runs six clinics and treats an estimated 2,000 mental health patients a year, carried out a post-war assessment, interviewing about 3,500 Gaza residents, said al-Nounou.

"This war was extremely harsh, people felt insecure, vulnerable and unable to protect themselves, their children and their families; when people were trapped at home this increased the stress and anxiety," said al-Nounou.


Sahar (who wanted her family name omitted), 36, divorced her husband in February due to the physical and psychological abuse she endured leading up to and during the war.

"He beat me severely and I was fainting from the stress," said Sahar. "He forced me to engage in sexual intercourse against my will."

Sahar brings her two-year-old daughter to the Palestinian Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution (PCDCR) to visit the daughter's father. The court ordered supervised visits after Sahar's ex-husband and his brothers tried to take her daughter away by force.

"Before the war the center was facilitating supervised visits for 30 families, but now it is doing this for 60 families," said Bakr Turkmani, an attorney at the PCDCR.

"The number of divorce and separation cases has increased significantly since the war, and domestic violence played a role in the increase," he said.

"My husband beat me and insulted me," said another victim of domestic violence from Gaza City who preferred anonymity. Recently divorced, she also brings her nine-month old son to PCSCR for weekly supervised meetings with his father.

"If I do not accompany the victims to the police station, their reports of abuse are not accepted," said Turkmani.

Human rights center

Director of the women's unit at the leading Palestinian human rights organization, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), Muna al-Shawa, said the center had received reports of increased domestic violence and sexual assault during and after the hostilities. The unit had counseled over 600 women.

"During and after the war women struggled to fulfill their roles as mothers, and care for their children without electricity and water, while under attack," said al-Shawa, "and if the husband died, sometimes the father-in-law took the inheritance and tried to take custody of the children."

PCHR is providing legal advice to widows.

The Women's Affairs Centre (WAC) in Gaza said it had organized meetings with 200 women across Gaza after the war.

"Many women who never experienced violence at home, were beaten during the war," WAC director Amal Siam told IRIN.

Scores of women who lost their husbands came to WAC seeking assistance after their fathers-in-law tried to take custody of their children, said Siam, adding that there had been an increased number of divorce cases during the hostilities.

According to UNIFEM, the results of the first UN interagency gender needs assessment are due in May.

This item comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian news and information service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. All IRIN material may be reposted or reprinted free-of-charge; refer to the copyright page for conditions of use. IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Euros do not buy the Palestinians political rights

Pepijn van Houwelingen, The Electronic Intifada, 23 March 2009

EU's approach: Israel suffers no consequences for its actions and the Palestinians are generously granted the right to barely survive. (Pepijn van Houwelingen)

The carnage of Israel's recent invasion of Gaza spurred great numbers of dismayed Europeans to participate in demonstrations against the war. In major cities such as Madrid, Brussels, Rome, Berlin and London, tens of thousands took part in demonstrations to make clear to their governments that what was happening was unacceptable. Yet, their objections to Israel's massive use of deadly force were not reflected in the declarations and actions of their countries, as represented by Europe's most significant political body, the European Union, which did not alter its policy of status quo relations with Israel.

It is true that the EU did condemn Israel's conduct (always mentioned in conjunction with Palestinian rocket fire) and called for an immediate ceasefire, something which the United States unsurprisingly fell short of. In addition, various members of the European Parliament expressed their outrage over the destruction of Gaza. British liberal-democrat Chris Davies, for example, said during a 14 January parliamentary debate that the war was "evil" and that Israel had "turned Gaza into hell" with its "21st-century killing machines."

Despite these and other remarks, however, the EU undertook no action that could have been perceived as even vaguely critical of Israel and much effort was put into not "singling out" the country. This apparent ambiguity is typical of the EU's approach. In early December last year, the European Parliament suspended voting on whether or not to upgrade relations with Israel. Yet, only a few days later this decision was bypassed by the EU's Council of Ministers, where all 27 European foreign ministers voted in favor of the upgrade, allowing Israeli ministers to meet with their European counterparts on a regular basis so as to enable dialogue on various strategic issues. Even though plans to make Israel a "privileged partner" have been put on hold, it has been emphasized that this is not a sanction and constitutes merely a "pause" (see Ian Traynor Europe stalls on closer Israel links in Gaza protest Guardian, 14 January 2009). It is therefore likely that talks will be resumed at a later time, which in effect means that Israel is still on its way to become part of the single European market as a sort of semi-member of the EU.

Access to European markets and the ability to influence European decision-making are extremely important to Israel. While the EU lacks the moral authority of the UN and the political visibility of the US, it is, indeed, an important player in the region. Currently the EU constitutes Israel's biggest market for exports as well as its second-largest source of imports (after the US). Furthermore, the EU is a member of the so-called Middle East "Quartet" -- with the hardly credible Tony Blair as its envoy -- which supports a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Practically speaking, the EU's dedication to this solution has primarily been expressed through the medium of euros. In 2008, 486 million euros ($666 million) were donated to the Palestinians, most of it (258 million euros) directly to the Palestinian Authority (see European Commission External Relations, EC Assistance to the Palestinians 19 January 2009). Other beneficiaries include the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) and various Israeli and Palestinian civil society organizations.

The EU has always strived to appear impartial and even-handed in its dealings with Israel and the Palestinians. Certainly, it does not openly favor one party over the other and it has proved more willing than the US to grant the Palestinians a degree of sympathy. However, a closer inspection of where the donated euros really go reveals that European policy has only contributed to the ongoing politicide of the Palestinians. By solely supporting politically impotent organizations such as the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA, the EU has failed to truly stand up for the political rights of the Palestinians. The PA's purview is, after all, severely limited, and the inherently flawed Oslo accords of the mid-1990s have led to a situation where the Palestinians are mostly policing their own occupation. In addition, UNRWA's main task is keeping alive and making somewhat bearable the lives of the millions of Palestinian refugees registered with it, but its explicitly apolitical mandate and the existing "protection gap" (the fact that Palestinian refugees within UNRWA's sphere of operations are not eligible for protection and assistance from the more powerful UN High Commissioner for Refugees) has left the majority of Palestinian refugees with no political or legal protections.

Now that Gaza's infrastructure has been leveled by Israel's advanced weaponry, the EU has focused its attention on reconstruction. It is of the utmost importance that enough money is made available to allow Palestinians in Gaza to survive their hardship and rebuild their homes. At the same time it is grimly ironic that international donors such as the EU, a "friend" of Israel, should pay for the recovery of an area that has been destroyed by Israel with weapons sold to it by some of the EU's own member-states. Again, the situation is illustrative of the EU's approach: Israel suffers no consequences for its actions and the Palestinians are generously granted the right to barely survive.

Evidently, large numbers of Palestinians presently rely on European aid for their survival, which is why the EU has a responsibility to deliver the needed support. But when the EU decided in 2006 to suspend its payments to the PA after the electoral victory of Hamas, it became apparent that the EU does not appreciate the full extent of its responsibilities. Most of all, its decision revealed clearly how the EU prefers to finance politically harmless actors, enabling only the most basic form of survival, rather than provide true support for full Palestinian rights.

Being the largest donor of aid to the Palestinians and Israel's main trading partner, the EU has the potential to play a much more significant role in supporting and protecting Palestinian rights. This would give substance and credibility to its discourse on defending human rights and acting as a "force for good." Yet, by taking a seemingly neutral approach and abiding by the positions of the Quartet, which typically represent the lowest common denominator imaginable, EU member-states reveal a disinterest in protecting Palestinians from anything other than starvation. Ultimately an "even-handed" approach such as the EU's is fairly meaningless when one party is a well-developed industrial state with a very large and highly mechanized military, while the other is a systematically oppressed, occupied and impoverished people. Thus, "objectivity" logically prejudices the oppressor over the oppressed. Obviously the latter would require a range of protective measures in order to guarantee its rights. Since these are nonexistent, the Palestinians' politicide continues unabated, with the silent consent of the EU.

For those Europeans who believe that their countries and the EU should take a firmer stand against Israel, the quintessential question is: what can they do? It is important to realize that the tragedy of Palestine lies not exclusively in singular outbreaks of violence, but also consists of the ongoing incremental injustice that is being inflicted upon the Palestinians, such as through the expansion of settlements in the West Bank -- a fact very well-known to the EU. Accordingly it should be understood that demonstrating (through protests or by other means) only against the gravest instances of Israeli aggression does not suffice. Israel's upgrade in relations with the EU and the fact that it may become a "privileged partner" are not widely known amongst European citizens. These are very significant issues, though, and effort should be put into bringing them to attention and communicating to European leaders that rewarding Israel for its misbehavior is not the way forward. Surely it will be difficult to counter the vast economic interests that are at stake, but there is no excuse to idly stand by while the EU becomes a passive accomplice in the perpetuation of the Palestinians' ordeal. Ongoing boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns may serve as a vehicle to convey these points.

Furthermore, what is needed is a more active policy to protect and strengthen Palestinian political rights. The most important step for the EU is to take seriously the will of the Palestinians by accepting the results of their elections, whichever party may come out victorious. This would prove that "democracy" and "human rights" are more than meaningless platitudes which are valid only when it is politically safe. Although this seems quite obvious, the EU has so far failed to prove that it is serious about promoting the rights it so often speaks of. Ultimately, the Palestinians themselves must attain their political goals, and no one expects the EU to just deliver this to them. But in the current situation, Europe could and should play a role in enabling Palestinians to exercise their right to have a say in their own destiny.

Altogether, Javier Solana, the representative of EU Foreign Affairs, was quite right when he said that "the parameters for a solution are known," but what is needed is "the political will" (see European Parliament Press Release, Highlights of Brussels plenary session, 18 February 2009). This certainly applies to the EU itself, and Europeans who are concerned about their role in the oppression and occupation of Palestine would do well to consider this.

Pepijn van Houwelingen is a Dutch PhD candidate at the department of Politics and International Relations of Royal Holloway, University of London. He is affiliated with the department's Centre for European Politics ( His PhD research is concerned with the impacts of European Foreign Policy towards the Middle East. Previously he has worked in Bethlehem for BADIL research and resource centre ( and can be reached at P.M.J.Van-Houwelingen A T rhul D O T ac D O T uk

Lieberman is no abnormality

Nimer Sultany, The Electronic Intifada, 24 March 2009

It would be mistaken to think of the rise of Avigdor Lieberman as a major development or as the main source of concern for the Palestinians. (Levine/SIPA)

One can easily detect a generally superficial, and convenient, analysis of the outcomes of Israeli elections in western media outlets thus far. Indeed, the far right-wing of the Zionist continuum has strengthened its hold on the Israeli political system in the recent Israeli elections. Yet, it would be misleading to see these results as mainly the direct product of the onslaught on Gaza and the popular sentiment that followed, and to isolate them from processes that were underway years before the war. Indeed, the right-wing has been in a better position than the left within the Jewish vote since 1977, and its power has been steadily increasing since Ehud Barak destroyed the so-called Zionist left in Camp David 2000 and its aftermath.

Likewise, it would be mistaken to think of the rise of Avigdor Lieberman and his party, Yisrael Beiteinu, as a major development or as the main source of concern for the Palestinians. Focusing on Lieberman (charitably called by the Guardian a "hardliner") distracts the discussion from the real issues to the person of one unpleasant politician who says ignominious things others are generally unwilling to say. This logic seems to suggest that the political disappearance of Lieberman will bring about a serendipitous resolution of major problems in the Middle East. Lieberman, however, only exacerbates an already existing problem, and he cannot be easily dismissed as a marginal case of excess or abnormality of the Israeli political system.

First, one needs to be reminded that among Yisrael Beiteinu's elected members of the Knesset are men who come from the establishment, for example, a former ambassador to the US and a former senior commander in the police force.

Second, in the negotiations that followed elections day there was a wide range of agreement not only between the Likud of Benjamin Netanyahu and Lieberman, but also the Kadima party of current Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Lieberman. Both sides were trying to convince him to join their own coalition. Needless to say, both Lieberman and Kadima emerged in the last decade as an offspring of the Likud.

Third, Ehud Barak of the Labor party rejected before the elections some of his senior party members' demand to promise not to join a coalition that would include Lieberman. Even worse, Barak claimed that Lieberman talks the talk but does not walk the walk as he never "shot anyone" thereby implying that he himself is the tough guy since he did actually kill Arabs in his past.

Fourth, Lieberman's central idea of land swap or population swap that would include Palestinian citizens of Israel and his view of this minority as a demographic and strategic threat to the self-proclaimed Jewish state are actually not controversial among the major parties and elites in Israel. The question of Palestinian citizenship in a Jewish state started long before Lieberman emerged on the scene and used incitement against the Palestinian citizens to gain more votes. Indeed, many prominent Israeli academics and politicians have expressed support of these ideas including Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu, Elie Yishai of the Shas party, Ephraim Sneh of Labor, journalist Dan Margalit and historian Benny Morris. To give one example, Ehud Barak said in his June 2002 interview with Benny Morris in The New York Review of Books that the Arab citizens will serve as the "spear point" of the Palestinian struggle, and that this would require changes in the rules of the "democratic game" to guarantee the "Jewishness" of the state. He also expressed support for a land swap that would include large Arab concentrations inside Israel because it makes "demographic sense."

To give another example, on 23 January 2002 Livni urged members of the Knesset to reject an "equal protection clause" according to which equality is the right of every citizen in the state regardless of his or her nationality or religion or views. Indeed, the proposed bill was rejected and formal equality remains outside the Israeli book of laws. She also supported "settlement and allocation of land for Jews only" bills in the Knesset. Finally, she repeatedly argued that Israel will never be the national home for its Palestinian citizens, and if they have a collective aspiration they should look for it somewhere else.

Fifth, this is not the first time that Lieberman has become a cabinet minister in Israel. In fact he served as the minister of national infrastructure (2001-02), minister of transportation (2003-04), and then more recently as the minister for strategic affairs (2006-08).

Sixth, Lieberman is not the first or only outspoken proponent of expulsion of the Palestinians to serve in the government. In fact, Rehavam Ze'evi of the racist Moledet party was a minister without portfolio (1991-92), and then again as a minister of tourism (2001) in the Sharon government until he was assassinated by Palestinians, only to be replaced by Benjamin Elon of the same party and with the same views. Ze'evi was more principled in this issue than Lieberman. Notable in this context is that the Israeli legislator enacted a law to commemorate Ze'evi's "legacy" after his assassination.

Other fascist politicians have also served in the Israeli government in recent years. Effie Eitam of the National Religious Party (HaMafdal), for instance, is another proponent of expulsion who famously called the Palestinian citizens of Israel a "ticking bomb" and a "cancer." That did not prevent the former general from being appointed as a minister of housing (2003-04) and minister of national infrastructure (2002).

In Theodor Herzl's novel Altneuland, published in 1902, Rabbi Dr. Geyer ran in the elections on the platform of disenfranchising the Arab citizens. The mainstream Zionists, on the one hand, and the good Arab who welcomed the Zionists, on the other hand, rejected Geyer as a troublemaker and Geyer was defeated in the elections in the novel. Lieberman currently plays the role of Rabbi Geyer with the difference that he actually won in the elections and he is a kingmaker. This state of affairs seems to have misled many of the commentators who are focused on the danger that the emergence of Lieberman poses. That would be tantamount to focusing on Rabbi Geyer and forgetting Herzl and the Zionist project itself which entailed not only the displacement of the Palestinian people but also the unequal status for those who remained as citizens inside Israel.

The movement to the right wing within Zionism cannot be reduced to Lieberman, and what is troubling about Zionism cannot be reduced to its right-wing side only.

Nimer Sultany is a Palestinian citizen of Israel and currently a doctoral candidate at Harvard Law School. He has worked as a human rights lawyer in the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and as the head of the political monitoring project at Mada al-Carmel (the Arab center for applied social research)

Turkey's fallout with Israel deals blow to settlers

Jonathan Cook, The Electronic Intifada, 25 March 2009

A sign put up by Palestinians refusing to leave their homes and their supporters in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem, March 2009. (Anne Paq/ActiveStills)

A legal battle being waged by Palestinian families to stop the takeover of their neighborhood in East Jerusalem by Jewish settlers has received a major fillip from the recent souring of relations between Israel and Turkey.

After the Israeli army's assault on the Gaza Strip in January, lawyers for the families were given access to Ottoman land registry archives in Ankara for the first time, providing what they say is proof that title deeds produced by the settlers are forged.

On Monday, Palestinian lawyers presented the Ottoman documents to an Israeli court, which is expected to assess their validity over the next few weeks. The lawyers hope that proceedings to evict about 500 residents from Sheikh Jarrah will be halted.

The families' unprecedented access to the Turkish archives may mark a watershed, paving the way for successful appeals by other Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank caught in legal disputes with settlers and the Israeli government over land ownership.

Interest in the plight of Sheikh Jarrah's residents peaked in November when one couple, Fawziya and Mohammed Kurd, were evicted from their home by an Israeli judge. Mohammed Kurd, who was chronically ill, died days later.

Meanwhile, Fawziya Khurd, 63, has staged a protest by living in a tent on waste ground close to her former home. Israeli police have torn down the tent six times and she is facing a series of fines from the Jerusalem municipality.

The problems facing Kurd and the other residents derive from legal claims by the Sephardi Jewry Association that it purchased Sheikh Jarrah's land in the 19th century. Settler groups hope to evict all the residents, demolish their homes and build 200 apartments in their place.

The location is considered strategic by settler organizations because it is close to the Old City and its Palestinian holy places.

Unusually, foreign diplomats, including from the United States, have protested, saying eviction of the Palestinian families would undermine the basis of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The help of the Turkish government has been crucial, however, because Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire when the land transactions supposedly took place.

Israel and Turkey have been close military and political allies for decades and traditionally Ankara has avoided straining ties by becoming involved in land disputes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. But there appears to have been an about-turn in Turkish government policy since a diplomatic falling-out between the two countries over Israel's recent Gaza operation.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, accused his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Olmert, of "lying" and "back-stabbing," reportedly furious that Israel launched its military operation without warning him. At the time of the attack, Turkey was mediating peace negotiations between Israel and Syria.

Days after the fighting ended in Gaza, Erdogan stormed out of a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, having accused Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, of "knowing very well how to kill."

According to lawyers acting for the Sheikh Jarrah families, the crisis in relations has translated into a greater openness from Ankara in helping them in their legal battle.

"We have noticed a dramatic change in the atmosphere now when we approach Turkish officials," said Hatem Abu Ahmad, one of Kurd's lawyers. "Before they did not dare upset Israel and put us off with excuses about why they could not help."

He said the families' lawyers were finally invited to the archives in Ankara in January, after they submitted requests over several months to the Turkish consulate in Jerusalem and the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv.

Officials in Turkey traced the documents the lawyers requested and provided affidavits that the settlers' land claims were forged. The search of the Ottoman archives, Abu Ahmad said, had failed to locate any title deeds belonging to a Jewish group for the land in Sheikh Jarrah.

"Turkish officials have also told us that in future they will assist us whenever we need help and that they are ready to trace similar documents relating to other cases," Abu Ahmad said. "They even asked us if there were other documents we were looking for."

That could prove significant as the Jerusalem municipality threatens a new campaign of house demolitions against Palestinians. Last week, Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, called the recent issuing of dozens of demolition orders in Jerusalem "ethnic cleansing."

Palestinian legal groups regularly argue that settlers forge documents in a bid to grab land from private Palestinian owners but have great difficulty proving their case.

Late last year the Associated Press news agency exposed a scam by settlers regarding land on which they have built the Migron outpost, near Ramallah, home to more than 40 Jewish families. The settlers' documents were supposedly signed by the Palestinian owner, Abdel Latif Sumarin, in California in 2004, even though he died in 1961.

The families in Sheikh Jarrah ended up living in their current homes after they were forced to flee from territory that became Israel during the 1948 war. Jordan, which controlled East Jerusalem until Israel's occupation in 1967, and the United Nations gave the refugees plots on which to build homes.

Kurd said she would stay in her tent until she received justice.

"My family is originally from Talbiyeh," she said, referring to what has become today one of the wealthiest districts of West Jerusalem. "I am not allowed to go back to the property that is rightfully mine, but these settlers are given my home, which never belonged to them."

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is

A version of this article originally appeared in The National, published in Abu Dhabi.

Waiting to enter Gaza

Kris Petersen writing from Ramallah, occupied West Bank, Live from Palestine, 25 March 2009

The Israeli-controlled Erez crossing terminal, where most foreigners who wish to enter the Gaza Strip must pass through, August 2007. (Kris Petersen)

If there is a single act that characterizes the plight of the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation, it is waiting: waiting in lines to pass through the hundreds of checkpoints scattered across the West Bank, waiting for Israel to issue an identification card, waiting for permission to travel to the next village or out of the country, waiting for loved ones languishing in Israeli prisons to be released -- waiting for peace, waiting for justice.

And for nearly two months, I found myself sharing the experience of waiting -- for Israel to allow me into Gaza.

Last year, I spent an extended period of time in Gaza working with the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), helping them to document human rights abuses in the occupied territories. But the abuses I documented then now seem tame in comparison to the recent heights of atrocity Gaza has endured.

Applying for entry into Gaza through the Israeli military authorities is a Kafkaesque and constantly evolving process. One is not allowed to even approach the Erez military checkpoint on the boundary between Gaza and Israel without prior security clearance and already within a year's time, the application for such clearance had changed dramatically.

Because I had been approved without difficulty in the past, I felt confident that my application would be successful this time as well. The process should have taken no more than five working days, but assuming the situation might be unpredictable, I applied for clearance nearly one month in advance of my arrival in the region. How naive I was.

To my dismay, the Israeli military had not yet reached a decision by the time I flew to Tel Aviv weeks later. The bored, adolescent voices of Israeli soldiers at Erez informed me that there had been no definitive response from security officials and that my application was "still in process."

Undaunted, I began calling daily -- only to receive the same laconic phrase: "still in process." On more than five occasions, I was instructed to call back later that day, sometimes at a specific hour, and when I did my call inevitably went unanswered. Most often, the response at Erez was nothing more than a friendly hang up, often in mid-conversation. When I was able to pry some information from my friendly military interlocutors, the response was mechanical and scripted:

"Because of the security situation, it is difficult to process applications at this time. Some people have been waiting for months, but try calling tomorrow."

Apparently Israel was in no mood for quixotic Westerners with a penchant for human rights. But was there any evidence of Israel intentionally prolonging my application process? Looking into the matter, I soon found that I was just one among many human rights and humanitarian workers that have been systematically blocked from entering Gaza by the Israeli military following the invasion.

In early March 2009, the Israeli human rights groups B'Tselem and Hamoked announced that they had petitioned the Israeli high court demanding their staff members be allowed to enter Gaza for the purposes of human rights monitoring. They derided what they called Israel's "constant foot-dragging" and ultimate "rejection without sufficient explanation." The two organizations, joined by the US-based group Human Rights Watch, reported late last month that their employees "faced continuous delays from the IDF [Israeli army] unit reviewing the applications."

As Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director of Human Rights Watch, explained, "Israel's refusal to allow human rights groups access to Gaza raises a strong suspicion that there are things it doesn't want us to see or the world to know about its military operation there."

Contacting friends in Gaza, I discovered that scores of human rights workers have been waiting months for a response from Israel. Some of them are now illegally working in Gaza because Israel's delays have lasted longer than the validity of their original clearance.

For the lucky few that have received any kind of response at all, Israel has apparently instituted a new policy of requiring organizations to be registered with the Israeli Ministry of Social Affairs -- a previously unknown requirement and one that is not explained on the official application for security clearance. The process of registering with this governmental ministry is an obstacle that could potentially take months and even then without the guarantee of being permitted to enter Gaza.

Forced to explore other options, my focus turned to the potential of crossing into Gaza via Egypt, Gaza's frequently sealed backdoor. In the weeks following Israel's assault, Egypt opened the Rafah crossing point in coordination with Hamas and small groups of humanitarian workers, activists and journalists made their way into Gaza -- most notably, British MP George Galloway and American author Alice Walker. But this method is unpredictable; according to a 2005 agreement following Israel's unilateral disengagement, those who do not hold a Palestinian ID are technically forbidden to cross at Rafah. More significantly, Israel's continuation of the military siege prevented the crossing from being open for more than 57 days in 2007 and figures are similar for 2008. Although the border has been opened more frequently so far in 2009, Israel typically requires one to exit Gaza the same way one entered, so this raises the very real possibility of being trapped in the coastal territory if the crossing happens to be sealed upon entering. Unfortunately, I was not in a position for this to happen so my only option remained with the Erez checkpoint.

The reality of Israel's current policy is that by not giving a definitive "no," it avoids the negative public relations of explicitly denying human rights workers access to the Gaza Strip. By prolonging applications indefinitely, it becomes difficult for activists to accuse Israel of systematically blocking access to Gaza, but this is precisely what they are doing. Israel permits most UN employees to enter Gaza as it does some of the larger international groups like CARE or Amnesty International (not to do so would unnecessarily inflame international tempers), but who will raise a cry over the hundreds of smaller organizations effectively banned from entering a territory Israel claims to have quit?

From the rooftop of my Ramallah hotel I could just barely see Tel Aviv beyond the pastoral West Bank landscape. If I was lucky, I could even catch a glimpse of the sea, shimmering in a kaleidoscopic pink and orange as the sun ritually descends into it. This placid scene was frequently shattered by the screams of Israeli fighter jets, tearing mercilessly across the sky -- south towards Gaza -- and the feelings of powerlessness became almost too much for me to take.

My heart aches for Gaza: for the fresh sea air and the desert breeze, for the sweet smell of orange groves and the bitterness of unripe pomelo, for the hospitality offered by those who have lost everything but their lives, for my friends suffering indescribable horrors and for the indomitable spirit of a people who refuse to be extinguished in spite of it all. As I catch my flight out of the region, I am acutely conscious of the fact that Israel has scored a minor success by preventing me from entering Gaza. I could not wait there indefinitely. But I know that there are many other ways to fight Israeli oppression. And through it all, Gaza will endure.

Kris Petersen is a graduate student who worked for the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in the Gaza Strip between September 2007-January 2008. He blogs on issues related to Palestine at and can be contacted at

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Israel's Most Revolting Law?


The most important sentence written in Israel this week was lost in the general tumult of exciting events.

Really exciting: In a final act of villainy, typical of his whole tenure as Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert abandoned the captive soldier, Gilad Shalit.

Ehud Barak decided that the Labor Party must join the ultra-right government, which includes outright fascists.

And this, too: the former President of Israel was officially indicted for rape.

In this cacophony, who would pay any attention to a sentence written by lawyers in a document submitted to the Supreme Court?

* * *

THE JUDICIAL debate concerns one of the most revolting laws ever enacted in Israel.

It says that the wife of an Israeli citizen is not allowed to join him in Israel if she is living in the occupied Palestinian territories or in a “hostile” Arab country.

The Arab citizens of Israel belong to Hamulas (clans) which extend beyond the borders of the state. Arabs generally marry within the Hamula. This is an ancient custom, deeply rooted in their culture, probably originating in the desire to keep the family property together. In the Bible, Isaac married his cousin, Rebecca.

The “Green Line”, which was fixed arbitrarily by the events of the 1948 war, divides families. One village found itself in Israel, the next remained outside the new state, the Hamula lives in both. The Nakba also created a large Palestinian Diaspora.

A male Arab citizen in Israel who desires to marry a woman of his Hamula will often find her in the West Bank or in a refugee camp in Lebanon or Syria. The woman will generally join her husband and be taken in by his family. In theory, her husband could join her in Ramallah, but the standard of living there is much lower, and all his life – family, work, studies – is centered in Israel. Because of the large difference in the standard of living, a man in the occupied territories who marries a woman in Israel will also usually join her and receive Israeli citizenship, leaving behind his former life.

It is hard to know how many Palestinians, male and female, have come to Israel during the 41 years of occupation and become Israeli citizens this way. One government office speaks of twenty thousand, another of more than a hundred thousand. Whatever the number, the Knesset has enacted an (officially “temporary”) law to put an end to this movement.

As usual with us, the pretext was security. After all, the Arabs who are naturalized in Israel could be “terrorists”. True, no statistics have ever been published about such cases – if there are any – but since when did a “security” assertion need evidence to prove it?

Behind the security argument there lurks, of course, a demographic demon. The Arabs now constitute about 20% of Israel’s citizens. If the country were to be swamped by a flood of Arab brides and bridegrooms, this percentage might rise to – God forbid! – 22%. How would the “Jewish State” look then?

The matter came before the Supreme Court, The petitioners, Jews and Arabs, argued that this measure contradicts our Basic Laws (our substitute for a nonexistent constitution) which guarantee the equality of all citizens. The answer of the Ministry of Justice lawyers let the cat out of the bag. It asserts, for the first time, in unequivocal language, that:

“The State of Israel is at war with the Palestinian people, people against people, collective against collective.”

* * *

ONE SHOULD read this sentence several times to appreciate its full impact. This is not a phrase escaping from the mouth of a campaigning politician and disappearing with his breath, but a sentence written by cautious lawyers carefully weighing every letter.

If we are at war with “the Palestinian people”, this means that every Palestinian, wherever he or she may be, is an enemy. That includes the inhabitants of the occupied territories, the refugees scattered throughout the world as well as the Arab citizens of Israel proper. A mason in Taibeh, Israel, a farmer near Nablus in the West Bank, a policeman of the Palestinian Authority in Jenin, a Hamas fighter in Gaza, a girl in a school in the Mia Mia refugee camp near Sidon, Lebanon, a naturalized American shopkeeper in New York – “collective against collective”.

Of course, the lawyers did not invent this principle. It has been accepted for a long time in daily life, and all arms of the government act accordingly. The army averts its eyes when an “illegal” outpost is established in the West Bank on the land of Palestinians, and sends soldiers to protect the invaders. Israeli courts customarily impose harsher sentences on Arab defendants than on Jews guilty of the same offense. The soldiers of an army unit order T-shirts showing a pregnant Arab woman with a rifle trained on her belly and the words “1 shot, 2 kills” (as exposed in Haaretz this week).

* * *

THESE ANONYMOUS lawyers should perhaps be thanked for daring to formulate in a judicial document the reality that had previously been hidden in a thousand different ways.

The simple reality is that 127 years after the beginning of the first Jewish wave of immigration, 112 years after the founding of the Zionist movement, 61 years after the establishment of the State of Israel, 41 years after the beginning of the occupation, the Israeli-Palestinian war continues along all the front lines with undiminished vigor.

The inherent aim of the Zionist enterprise was and is to turn the country – at least up to the Jordan River – into a homogeneous Jewish state. Throughout the course of Zionist-Israeli history, this aim has not been forsaken for a moment. Every cell of the Israeli organism contains this genetic code and therefore acts accordingly, without the need for a specific directive.

In my mind I see this process as the urge of a river to reach the sea. A river yearning for the sea does not recognize any law, except for the law of gravity. If the terrain allows it, it will flow in a straight course, if not – it will cut a new riverbed, twist like a snake, turn right and left, go around obstacles. If necessary, it will split into rivulets. From time to time, new brooks will join it. And every minute it will strive to reach the sea.

The Palestinian people, of course, oppose this process. They refuse to budge, set up dams, try to push the stream back. True, for more than a hundred years they have been on the retreat, but they have never surrendered. They continue to resist with the same persistence as the advancing river.

* * *

ALL THIS has been associated, on the Israeli side, with an obstinate denial, using a thousand and one guises, pretexts, self-serving slogans and sanctimonious untruths. But from time to time an unexpected flash of light shows what is really going on.

That happened this week, when one of the pre-military preparatory schools, set up to educate future officers, convened a meeting of alumni, most of them on active service or in the reserves, and encouraged them to speak freely about their experiences. Since many of them had just returned from the Gaza War, and the things were burning in their bones (as the Hebrew expression goes), shocking details were disclosed. These quickly found their way to the media and were published at length in newspapers and on television.

To the readers of this column they would not come as a surprise. I have written about them before, e.g. in my article “Black Flag” (January 31, 2009). Amira Hass and Gideon Levy have collected eye-witness reports from Gaza inhabitants, telling much the same stories. But there is a difference: this time the facts are disclosed by the soldiers themselves, those who took part in the events or saw them with their own eyes.

The army was Shocked. Surprised. Revolted. The official Army Liar, who bears the title of Army Spokesperson, had previously denied anything of the kind. Now he promises that the army will investigate every incident “as the case may require”. The Military Advocate General ordered the investigative arm of the military police to open an inquiry. Since the same Advocate General bragged in the past that his officers had been embedded throughout the war in every front-line command post, one would have to be more than naïve to take his statement seriously.

One can rely on the army to ensure that nothing tangible emerges from the investigation. An army investigating itself – like any institution investigating itself – is a farce. In this case it is even more than farcical, since the soldiers must testify under the eyes of their commanders, while their comrades are listening. In the alumni meeting, they spoke freely, believing that only those present would hear. Even so, they needed a lot of courage to speak out. And since each of them could speak only about what had happened in his immediate vicinity, only a few cases were brought up. The army intends to investigate only those.

But the picture is far wider. We have heard about many cases of the same kind, and they clearly were a widespread phenomenon. A woman and her children were evicted by soldiers from their home in the middle of the fighting and immediately afterwards shot dead at close range by other soldiers who had orders to shoot everything that moved. Old people and children walking on open ground were shot in cold blood by snipers who saw them clearly through their telescopic sights, who had orders that everybody moving should be considered a “terrorist”. Homes were destroyed for no reason, simply because they were there. Belongings inside apartments were vandalized just for fun, “because they belong to Arabs”. Soldiers slit open sacks of food intended by UNO agencies for the hungry population, because they “go to Arabs”.

I know that such things happen in every war. A year after the 1948 war I wrote a book about them called “The Other Side of the Coin”. Every fighting army has its share of psychopaths, misfits and sadists, side by side with decent soldiers. But even some of the normal soldiers may go berserk in battle, lose their sense of right and wrong and conform to the “spirit of the unit”, if it is such.

Something has happened to our army. Its commanders never tire of calling it “the Most Moral Army in the World” and this has become a slogan like “Guinness is Good For You”. But what happened during the Gaza operation testifies to a massive deterioration.

This deterioration is a natural result of the definition of the war as used in the document submitted to the Supreme Court. This document must arouse shock and condemnation and serve as a wake-up call for every person to whom the future of Israel is dear.

This war must be ended. The river must be channeled into a different bed, so that its waters will make the earth fertile - before we become irreversibly bestialized in our own eyes, and in the eyes of the world.

Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch's book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

PCHR Warns of Gaza Patients’ Being Denied Treatment Abroad

On the afternoon of 22 March 2009, the Ministry of Health in Gaza took control of the Department of External Medical Treatment. Officials from the Gaza Ministry of Health demanded that the director of the Department relinquish control of all offices in the Gaza Strip. The Director, Dr. Bassam al-Badri, had been appointed by the Government in Ramallah with the approval of the Gaza Government. Overall authority for the Department was placed in the hands of Dr. Basem Na’im, the Gaza Minister of Health. In the aftermath of the takeover – which included the seizure of the Department’s stamps – approximately 30 departmental employees left their offices.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) warns of the potential consequences of this takeover, and the impact it may have on the lives of hundreds of patients who require urgent medical care unavailable in the Gaza Strip.

According to information made available to PCHR, Mr. Fayez al-Shaltouni, director general of the Health Insurance Department in the Gaza Ministry of Health, arrived at the headquarters of the Department of External Medical Treatment at approximately 13:30 on 22 March, accompanied by approximately ten other persons. Mr. al-Shatouni informed Dr. al-Badri that he had been instructed to take control of all the Department’s offices in Gaza, showing him a letter to that effect signed by Dr. Hassan Khalaf, Assistant Undersecretary at the Gaza Ministry of Health. Dr. Al-Badri did not contest the takeover, and asked al-Shaltouni to sign an acknowledgement of receipt of all the contents of the offices.

At the time of the takeover there were dozens of civilian patients waiting in the offices of the Department. They were informed that the Gaza Ministry of Health had taken control of the department in Gaza, and that all applications for medical treatment abroad should be coordinated with the Gaza Ministry. The patients expressed their complaints, and the fear that this development would negatively impact on their applications, risking their lives.

In early January, the Ramallah Ministry of Health ceased referring Palestinian patients to Israeli hospitals. This decision was taken in light of the requirement – imposed by Israeli occupation authorities – that the Palestinian Authority cover all treatment expenses. As a result, hundreds of Palestinian patients, especially cancer patients who are in need of chemotherapy, radiology and bone marrow transplants, found their treatments interrupted without any suitable medical alternatives.

PCHR, Physicians for Human Rights, Gisha and B’Tselem have protested the politicization of medical treatment. The decisions taken by the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli authorities use Palestinian patients as tools in the conflict, violating their right to life and the right to access medical treatment. The exploitation of patients, including patients with dangerous diseases, for political or economic aims is a grave violation of human rights and medical ethics.

Following this decision, Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations demanded that Israel recognizes its ultimate responsibility, as an Occupying Power, to ensure that all the civilians in the occupied Palestinian territory have access to appropriate healthcare centers, regardless of the financial cost associated with their treatment.

PCHR is extremely concerned that Palestinian patients may suffer the consequences of the political conflict between Fatah and Hamas, and calls upon:

* The Ministry of Health in Gaza Government to cancel its decision to take over the Department of External Medical Treatment. The Ministry is required to let the Director and staff of the Department return to their work immediately, in order to serve the hundreds of patients in need of medical treatment abroad.

* The Ramallah Ministry of Health to immediately cancel its decision to stop the financial coverage for the hundreds Palestinian patients who need to complete life-saving treatment in Israeli hospitals. Amongst these patients are 57 children who need to complete their long-term treatment in Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. Stopping medical referrals in the context of the ongoing siege of Gaza represents a death sentence. The Government in Ramallah must accept responsibility for this situation.

* The authorities of the Israeli military occupation to fulfill their obligations, as an Occupying Power, with respect to the care and protection of the Palestinian population in the occupied Palestinian territory as codified in, inter alia, the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, and the two Additional Protocols of 1977.

* The authorities of the Israeli military occupation to fulfill their obligations in accordance with international human rights law, to ensure, inter alia, the right to life and the right to the highest attainable standard of health.