Boycott israHell!

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

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hebron's living hell

Alice Rothchild writing from Hebron, occupied West Bank, Live from Palestine, 23 February 2010

Israeli soldiers detain Palestinian youths in the old city of Hebron.

On 12 January, we drove to the southern West Bank city of Hebron. This city is drowning in a complex, traumatic and violent history that has given birth to the outrageous situation we see today. Hebron is known from biblical stories as the burial place of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their wives several thousand years ago. This was famously followed by multiple invasions, the Arab massacre of Jews in 1929 one week after Zionists raised a Jewish flag at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall (with many questions regarding the role of the British in this catastrophe), and Baruch Goldstein's massacre of Muslims praying at the Ibrahimi Mosque in the middle of Ramadan in 1994.

We toured Hebron with Hisham Sharabati, the uncle of our local co-leader, Lubna. He explained that he went "to the college of the Israeli prison during the first intifada," and that after a barrage of tear gas and rubber bullets, he was shot in the leg and sustained a fracture, requiring crutches for one and a half years. He is articulate and educated; suffering has made him strong.

We started in a central open area of the market, old stone buildings with green metal doors on the ground floor, a small square with palm trees, women in colorful headscarves sitting on poured concrete seats under umbrellas, and a steady circle of traffic and rambunctious young boys, racing around playing, and harassing us, with unrelenting requests to purchase a variety of Palestinian trinkets. On quick inspection, I noticed multiple security cameras and a few guard towers mounted on the tops of the buildings as well as an Israeli army checkpoint with a swinging yellow metal gate and a solid metal gate guarding the entrance to a Jewish settler area with a soldier perched above. All the ground floor doors, formerly markets, were closed, some welded shut by the Israeli army, and there was a second floor Palestinian apartment completely encased in wire to protect the windows as well as the inhabitants from rocks thrown by Jewish settlers.

As we sat down for the usual lunch of falafel, hummus, pita and a collection of vegetables, Hisham began to speak, his style sincere and serious with an ironic sense of humor. Shortly, we noticed a commotion at the checkpoint site and it appeared that a number of the teenage boys had been apprehended by the soldiers with their intimidating automatic weapons ready, and were being taken one by one inside the metal door for questioning after their bags were checked. We moved closer and could only peek through a crack in the tall concrete blocks around the checkpoint. The local population did not seem to pay much attention to this encounter, clearly an everyday affair. I do not know what happened to the boys, although several were released and came out, tucking in their shirts and resuming a slightly subdued teenage swagger. The little boys watched with curiosity and at one point, two Israeli soldiers came out from their bunker, wearing what appeared to be a significant amount of battle gear, hands always on their weapons, and spoke with the little boys. I suspected this is the only kind of interaction these children have with Israeli Jews.

An Israeli army watchtower atop a home in the old city of Hebron.

Hisham explained that after 1967 a group of very right-wing Jewish settlers came to a hotel in Hebron and declared they would never leave. A deal was struck with the Israeli army that they could settle next to a military facility. There were further deals and expansions and ultimately the settlement of Kiryat Arba was officially established in 1971. These settlers have a history of particularly violent, racist, ugly attacks against their Palestinian neighbors, often observed and sometimes even promoted by the Israeli soldiers. These are the settlers that spray paint "Death to the Arabs!" or "Gas all Arabs" on the walls of Palestinian homes and taunt children and women, calling the women whores. Much of this has been well-documented by Palestinians with video cameras, many provided by the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem as part of their "Shoot Back" campaign. It is soldiers from Hebron who started "Breaking the Silence," when they felt guilty and haunted by their violent racist behavior patrolling this city. The local Palestinians have responded with repeated nonviolent resistance, including strikes and demonstrations, and according to Hisham some of the local leadership have been arrested by Israeli authorities and forcibly transferred and deported. In the 1970s and 1980s there were also armed attacks against the settlers as well as an attack on a nearby settlement called Beit Hadassah.

In the 1990s, a group of 400 settlers (which included 250 yeshiva students) decided to move into the Old City, into homes that they claimed were originally Jewish and these settlers have repeatedly attacked the local Palestinians and destroyed their market and ability to live a normal life. There are 150,000 Palestinians in all of Hebron and 35,000 in H2, the area of the city under strict Israeli control, "taken hostage on behalf of the settlers." The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has documented 98 different kinds of restrictions of movement in an area that is just one square kilometer. Five hundred and twelve Palestinian stores, spray painted with red and black dots, have been closed by military order and there have been repeated prolonged closures and curfews. Palestinians are only allowed to walk on certain streets, and some can only access their homes by traipsing through other backyards or by walking from roof to roof, up and down ladders. The central bus station was taken for "security" and given to settlers and the yeshiva was built above the Palestinian market on top of a Palestinian school.

We wandered through much of the market, some of it ghostly quiet, some bustling with vegetables, fruit, clothes and crowds of people. Above the market Hisham pointed out metal wiring creating a protective barrier as settlers living above throw garbage, bricks, stones, plastic bags of urine and feces and other offensive items down upon the Palestinians. At one point he gestured to a plastic covering with a ragged hole above the market area. Here the Jewish settlers threw acid which burned the plastic and caused havoc below. Suddenly we saw see three Palestinian young men spread eagle against the wall, one kicked by a solder, and several soldiers patting them down. We moved closer, hoping our presence might contain the violence, and after what felt like an endless harassment, the young men were set free. Welcome to the daily Hebron patrol and as one delegate said, the mass psychology of fascism.

Hashem Aza standing in front of his home with its caged windows to protect from settler violence.

The most painful part of this tour was the visit to Hisham's friend, Hashem Aza, who not only cannot access his house from the main street, but also lives next to one of the most rabid anti-Palestinian settlers. He has been told, "If you want peace, go to Gaza, Egypt, Saudi Arabia," been cursed viciously, and particularly after the severe curfews from 2000 and 2003, many of his neighbors gave up and left. He stated that there is a 90 percent poverty rate and minimal available employment. We clambered up a rocky hill, through several back yards and back stairs until we reached his home. He pointed to the stone stairs and garden that once were his backyard, but this has been repeatedly destroyed by his Jewish neighbors who not only have attacked his home and his family, but they have also cut his fruit trees, water and electricity lines. They too throw garbage and once hurled a washing machine that we see rusting amongst the trees. Only recently has he acquired water again and we see a new bright blue pipe snaking through the various backyards. His little boy came scampering outside chasing a pink ball, watched carefully by his wife. In his home he shared more horrifying personal stories, showing us a series of videos documenting racist, violent attacks against Palestinians, primarily women and children, often by settler women and children, with no response from the nearby Israeli police or army. A committed nonviolent activist, he and his wife and nephew have been personally attacked, their home repeatedly trashed, his children suffer from bed-wetting and other signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, and he has unsuccessfully pursued his case in Israeli courts. He is determined to persevere, to document the realities in his beloved city, and bring this to the attention of the international community. We listened, stunned and drowning in shame, outrage and heartbreak.

Our sobering taste of life in Hebron included other devastating stories and the presence of Israeli guard towers, camouflage netting, checkpoints, a wall spray-painted with graffiti that included a tribute to the Golani brigade, one of the Israeli army's most aggressively violent units, and to Betar, a right-wing youth organization. I passed a concrete block obstructing the road, spray-painted with an arrow and the words "This is apartheid." There were occasional Palestinian Authority police, but the consensus was that they are mostly useless.

So what do we do with this shameful reality? While most Israelis do not support these settlers, they receive full support, protection and encouragement from the Israeli government and military, and this has not changed in the past 42 years, no matter who is in power. They have made the lives of the Palestinians in Hebron a living hell, and they have never been held accountable. This does not happen by accident. From the moment Goldstein massacred the Palestinians in the mosque, it was a political decision by the Israeli government to put the Palestinians under curfew and protect the Jewish settlers who now celebrate his murderous actions. While these settlers are clearly the most racist, religiously fanatic, possibly deranged, and fascistic element in Israeli society, they both use and are used by the government as a wedge in the never ending land grab and Judaization of the West Bank.

Given the blather that mostly passes for news about the settler issue in the US, and Israeli leaders Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Leiberman's blatant support for the settlement project and utter disregard for the welfare of Palestinians, the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel is looking more and more like a reasonable imperative. I take my inspiration from the nonviolent activists who shared their painful reality with us. Such is the impact of a day in Hebron.

All images by Alice Rothchild.

Alice Rothchild is a Boston-based physician, activist and writer. A second edition of her book, Broken Promises, Broken Dreams: Stories of Jewish and Palestinian Trauma and Resilience (Pluto Press, 2007) will be released in February 2010.

Harvard center condemns, then defends, fellow's pro-genocide statements

Report, The Electronic Intifada, 23 February 2010

Leaders of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University (WCFIA) have condemned and then defended statements by Martin Kramer, one of the center's fellows, which endorsed a cut off of UN food and other humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugee children besieged in the Gaza Strip as a means to reduce the Palestinian birthrate and thus the Palestinian population.

In a 22 February article about Kramer's comments made in Israel earlier this month, The Electronic Intifada (EI) observed that "The 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, created in the wake of the Nazi holocaust, defines genocide to include measures 'intended to prevent births within' a specific 'national, ethnic, racial or religious group'" ("Harvard Fellow calls for genocidal measure to curb Palestinian births").

In an initial response to an email from EI's Ali Abunimah, Professor Beth Simmons, the director of WCFIA, wrote, "I agree with your assessment of the appalling nature of these [Kramer's] statements," but added, "the WCFIA does not have a policy of censoring or censuring our affiliates on the basis of their opinions." Simmons also stated, "I very much hope you bring these [Kramer's] words to the attention of others affiliated with the WCFIA, Harvard and the broader community, where I hope they will garner their just reaction." She encouraged individuals to make their concerns known to Professor Stephen Rosen, who is in charge of the National Security Studies Program of which Kramer is a fellow.

A short time later, however, a statement jointly signed by Simmons and Professors Jeffry Frieden and James Robinson (who are acting directors while Simmons is on sabbatical) appeared to reverse course.

The statement read: "Over the past several days, we have heard from several members of the public, and of the Harvard community, who object to the statements of Martin Kramer at a recent conference."

The statement continues, "Accusations have been made that Martin Kramer's statements are genocidal. These accusations are baseless. Kramer's statements, available at express dismay with the policy of agencies that provide aid to Palestinian refugees, and that tie aid entitlements to the size of refugee families. Kramer argues that this policy encourages population growth among refugee communities. While these views may be controversial, there is no way they can be regarded as genocidal."

The statement then goes on to implicitly criticize those who have criticized Kramer: "Those who have called upon the Weatherhead Center to dissociate itself from Kramer's views, or to end Kramer's affiliation with the Center, appear not to understand the role of controversy in an academic setting. It would be inappropriate for the Weatherhead Center to pass judgement on the personal political views of any of its affiliates, or to make affiliation contingent upon some political criterion. Exception may be made for statements that go beyond the boundaries of protected speech, but there is no sense in which Kramer's remarks could be considered to fall into this category."

For his part, in a response to EI's initial article, Kramer superficially denied the allegation of supporting measures to prevent births among Palestinians, but went on to reaffirm and amplify the views expressed in his speech in Israel that food and schooling from UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, was a "pro-natal subsidy" encouraging the production of "superfluous" Palestinian children whom he shockingly characterized (quoting a German scholar) as an "extreme demographic armament" against Israel. Kramer wrote, "UNWRA [sic] assures that every child with 'refugee' status will be fed and schooled regardless of the parents' own resources, and mandates that this 'refugee' status be passed from generation to generation in perpetuity. Anywhere in the world, that would be called a deliberate pro-natal policy" ("Smear Intifada," 22 February 2010).

In his letter to WCFIA director Simmons, Abunimah had asked, "I wonder how long Mr. Kramer's views would be tolerated if -- all other things being equal -- he were an Arab scholar who had called for Jews to be placed in a giant, sealed enclosure which virtually no one is allowed to leave and enter, and deprived of food and schooling for their children in order to reduce their birthrate?"

If calls for the deliberate starvation of a blockaded refugee population, in front of an audience made up substantially of Israeli military and political officials responsible for the siege of Gaza, does not cross any line, the Weatherhead Center has yet to provide any indication of what forms of extremism and racism it would not consider to be appropriate academic "controversy."

Full text of statement from WCFIA

Over the past several days, we have heard from several members of the public, and of the Harvard community, who object to the statements of Martin Kramer at a recent conference. Kramer is a Visiting Scholar at the National Security Studies Program, which is a program of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (WCFIA). (Kramer is not, contrary to the understanding of some of our correspondents, an employee of the Center or of Harvard University.) Many of those who have written us have called upon the Center to dissociate itself from Kramer's remarks, or to end his affiliation with the Center.

The WCFIA has many hundreds of affiliates: faculty members, graduate students, undergraduates, post-docs, visiting scholars and others. They represent the widest possible range of opinion on almost every subject. The Center takes no position on any issue of scholarship or public policy, nor does it attempt to monitor or control the activities of its affiliates.

Accusations have been made that Martin Kramer's statements are genocidal. These accusations are baseless. Kramer's statements, available at, express dismay with the policy of agencies that provide aid to Palestinian refugees, and that tie aid entitlements to the size of refugee families. Kramer argues that this policy encourages population growth among refugee communities. While these views may be controversial, there is no way they can be regarded as genocidal.

Those who have called upon the Weatherhead Center to dissociate itself from Kramer's views, or to end Kramer's affiliation with the Center, appear not to understand the role of controversy in an academic setting. It would be inappropriate for the Weatherhead Center to pass judgement on the personal political views of any of its affiliates, or to make affiliation contingent upon some political criterion. Exception may be made for statements that go beyond the boundaries of protected speech, but there is no sense in which Kramer's remarks could be considered to fall into this category. The Weatherhead Center's activities are based upon a firm belief that scholars must be free to state their views, and rejects any attempts to restrict this fundamental academic freedom.

Beth Simmons, Director, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (on leave 2009-2010)

Jeffry Frieden, Acting Director, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (Fall 2009)

James Robinson, Acting Director, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (Spring 2010)

Up against the wall: challenging Israel's impunity

Jamal Juma', The Electronic Intifada, 24 February 2010

Israeli soldiers guarding a settlement built on the land of the West Bank village of Nilin (Ahmad Mesleh/Stop the Wall)

Six years ago, we were busy preparing for the start of the hearings of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. The world's highest court was to decide on the legal consequences of Israel's wall in the occupied West Bank, which together with the network of settlements, military zones and Jewish-only roads annexes around 46 percent of Palestinian West Bank land. The court's decision, months later, was clear: Israel's wall is illegal, it needs to be torn down and the international community has an obligation to ensure that it is dismantled.

A victory? Not quite. Until today, neither foreign governments nor the UN have joined the Palestinian communities who have been destroyed by Israel's wall in their efforts to dismantle it. Still, Palestinian villages show incredible perseverance and creativity in protesting the theft of their land and tearing down pieces of the cement blocks or iron fencing. They do so in the face of overwhelming repression.

The year 2004, when the court was deliberating the case, marked the first wave of repression aimed at the grassroots movement mobilizing against the wall. The key features of the Israeli attacks consisted of killings, mass injuries, arrests and collective punishment measures such as curfews, the closing of access to the villages protesting the wall and the denial of permits for farmers and workers to reach their jobs and lands beyond the wall or the "green line," the internationally-recognized boundary between Israel and the occupied West Bank. The villages in northwest Jerusalem bore the brunt of Israeli violence.

Today the movement against the apartheid wall is once again in the crosshairs of Israeli repression.

A wave of serial arrests of well-known grassroots human rights defenders began this past summer and escalated in September 2009. A vocal advocate of Palestinian rights, Mohammed Othman, youth coordinator of the Stop the Wall Campaign, was arrested in September when he returned from a speaking tour in Norway. At the beginning of December, Abdullah Abu Rahmah, a key figure in organizing the weekly protests against the wall in the Palestinian village of Bilin, was arrested during a night raid at his home. In mid-December, I was arrested from my home by Israeli forces and taken to an interrogation center where I was kept for one month and then released without charge -- a reprisal for my public outcry against Israel's policies that have reduced Palestine to a number of isolated Bantustans behind cement walls.

We were all interrogated, threatened and intimidated while held in the deplorable conditions of Israeli jails. Othman was released just a day after me, but Abu Rahmah remains in detention.

Similar scenes are playing out in all villages protesting against Israel's wall across the occupied West Bank. In the Palestinian village of Nilin, to date, Israeli soldiers have shot five persons dead, including a 10-year-old boy, and severely injured almost 500 individuals. Since the beginning of 2010 more than 20 have been arrested.

The arrests do not just focus on active members of the popular committees. Children and minors are particularly targeted because their arrest puts pressure on their families and the community at large. Further, being more vulnerable, Israeli intelligence officers often arrest children to recruit them as collaborators. Lately, in a number of cases, family members of wanted activists have been arrested to pressure those activists to turn themselves in.

Neither I nor other activists in the Stop the Wall Campaign have ever attempted to hide our longtime work as critical voices against Israeli apartheid and the architecture of its occupation. Based on the efforts of the popular committees in each Palestinian village, the Stop the Wall Campaign has been a public and central force of research, analysis and regular news dispatches from our "front line" -- our bodies, our voices and our villages up against the wall.

Popular committees have been the basic structure of Palestinian social and political organizing for generations. The creeping criminalization of this social organizing structure therefore not only infringes our right to freedom of expression and association but risks creating a "politicide" and would, if successful, destabilize Palestinian society at its core. During the last six months, this has become Israel's goal.

In September 2009, at the time when the UN-commissioned Goldstone report was to be officially adopted by the UN Human Rights Council, Palestinian civil society showed its strength in front of Israel and an all-too-compliant Palestinian Authority (PA). The report also contains a chapter describing the sharp increase in Israeli use of force against Palestinians in the West Bank -- especially at demonstrations against the wall -- during and after the Gaza assault.

The Goldstone report also describes the brutal tactics with which the PA attempted to beat down Palestinian internal dissent at the time. Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Ramallah-based PA, attempted to suppress the findings of the Goldstone report, which corroborates Palestinian and international eyewitness testimonies of war crimes committed by Israel during its invasion of Gaza last winter. After the PA's action at the Human Rights Council in September 2009, Abbas was met by a hefty uproar within Palestinian society and, eventually, pressured by its own constituents, the PA redacted its position on Goldstone.

Especially now that the president's mandate is expired (since 26 January -- which itself was extended for a year under emergency measures), the PA is keenly aware that it is not strong enough to challenge a united Palestinian society, calling for Israel to be held accountable for its crimes. It is clear that Israel also understands this balance of power and has concluded that Palestinian civil society is a force to be reckoned with and therefore should be weakened, if not eliminated.

In a situation where our top leadership is both de jure out of office and de facto too weak to stand up to Israeli and international pressure to defend our interests, such a weakening of civil society would allow Israel even more room to continue its crimes with impunity.

From the bombs dropped in Gaza on an entrapped civilian population, the repression against human rights defenders and the expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, to the broad-daylight theft of land and construction of the wall, Israel remains a state that is not held accountable to international law.

Yet there is a window of opportunity opening up in defense of law and Palestinian human rights. In the coming months, the European Union (EU) and its member states will negotiate a new "Action Plan" to implement the EU-Israel Association Agreement.

The fact that this agreement is enacted at all sheds doubts over the acumen of the EU decision-makers: the agreement with Israel seems a contradiction in terms, as article two renders the agreement conditional upon compliance with human rights law and democratic principles. However, to keep a veneer of respect for its own rules and regulations, the EU has started up a "political dialogue" with Israel on its violations of human rights. The result of more than five years of discussions is not only disheartening for Palestinians but also embarrassing for the EU as the only result ever recorded for this "dialogue" is the "willingness" of Israel to talk about the issues.

At last, there seems to be some discontent within EU diplomatic circles about the fact that Israel not only disrespects all human rights and international legal obligations but even imprisons those who try to defend these rights, at a national level and through international advocacy. Yet without sustained civil society pressure, this change in perception will be absorbed into meaningless expressions of "concern," and no action will be taken.

Member states of the EU have given valuable support to the campaign to release Mohammed Othman and myself. Yet far more decisive pressure from Europe needs to be forthcoming, not just from governments but also from European civil society, to force Israel to change its policies. As long as the EU member states uphold their cooperation agreements with Israel, hide the 2004 International Court of Justice decision against the wall under the carpet, and are unwilling to implement the recommendations of the Goldstone report -- even at risk of losing their own credibility -- more Palestinian human rights activists will be arrested, detained, tortured, or killed.

An active civil society is a key component of any democratic society and without it justice in Palestine and the rest of the region will remain as elusive as ever.

Jamal Juma' is a coordinator of the Stop the Wall Campaign. For more information on the campaign visit

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

ISM Palestine needs help!

The email from Hisham below is an emergency appeal for funds from ISM Palestine. Almost all of the ISM's media equipment was stolen in the recent Israeli army raids. We urgently need to raise money so we can continue our work.

The easiest way for you to send money to Palestine if you are in the UK is to transfer it to our Coop bank account. The account number is here:

Please email us at to let us know how much you sent, so we can thank you!

Scandinavian financial institutions drop Elbit due to BDS pressure

Adri Nieuwhof, February 2010

Despite Israel's oppressive tactics against it, the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement has marked additional victories with many institutional investors divesting from or blacklisting Israeli military contractor Elbit Systems. One of the largest Dutch pension funds told The Electronic Intifada today that it is selling off its shares in Elbit.

The wave of divestment follows campaigning by Palestinian organizations and international solidarity activists to divest from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation.

A crucial role was played by the Palestinian Stop the Wall Campaign in convincing the Norwegian State Pension Fund to divest from Elbit Systems last September. In response, Israel detained campaign activist Mohammad Othman after he returned from a trip to Norway where he met Minister of Finance Kristin Halvorsen. Subject to office raids and its activists arrested, Stop the Wall has become a key target of Israeli attempts to suppress the nonviolent movement BDS. However, these repressive tactics haven't stopped the BDS momentum.

In early September, Norway's Minister of Finance Kristin Halvorsen announced that the Norwegian State Pension Fund had sold its shares in Elbit, worth $5.4 million. The pension fund's Council on Ethics assessed that investments in Elbit constitute an unacceptable risk of contributing to serious violations of fundamental ethical norms because of the company's involvement in the construction of Israel's wall in the occupied West Bank. "We do not wish to fund companies that so directly contribute to violations of international humanitarian law," Halvorsen explained.

According to the Who Profits from the Occupation? website, a subsidiary of Elbit also supplies the Israeli army with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to the Israeli army. These UAVs, better known as drones, are used during Israeli military attacks in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Following the decision by the Norwegian State Pension Fund, Kommunal Landspensjonkasse (KLP), one of the largest life insurance companies in Norway, also divested from Elbit. The move by heavyweights Halvorsen and KLP to divest led Danwatch, the Danish financial watchdog, to add last month Elbit to its blacklist of 35 companies that are disqualified from investments due to ethical considerations.

The largest bank in Denmark and a leading player in the Scandinavian financial markets, Danske Bank followed suit a week later. "We handle clients' interests, and we do not want to put customers' money in companies that violate international standards," said Thomas H. Kjaergaard, the staff member responsible for socially responsible investment at Danske Bank. The bank also blacklisted Africa-Israel, a company led by diamond mogul Lev Leviev which has been involved in the illegal construction of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Kjaergaard noted that the bank is determining whether other companies with activities in the Israeli settlements qualify for exclusion.

In yet another blow to Elbit, Danske Bank's decision was followed by PKA Ltd., one of the largest Danish pension funds, selling its shares in Elbit worth $1 million. The PKA's investment director Michael Nelleman was quoted by the Stop the Wall campaign explaining that "the International Court of Justice stated that the barrier only serves military purposes and violates Palestinian human rights" ("Two Danish funds exclude Wall-building companies," 27 January 2010).

Other major institutional investors in Scandinavia have also excluded Elbit from their portfolios due to ethical concerns. Folksam, Sweden's largest asset manager, responded to an inquiry regarding its investments in either Elbit or Africa-Israel, that the fund did not have holdings in either company. Folksam's Head of Corporate Governance Carina Lundberg Markow wrote to The Electronic Intifada: "We have a strict policy regarding activity on occupied land." She noted that KPA Pension, a leading Swedish pension company in the public sector, also did not have holdings with either Elbit or Africa-Israel. Lundberg Markow also referred to discussions with Swedish company Assa Abloy about these policies and the company's decision to remove a factory from the occupied West Bank in October 2008. Folksam influenced Assa Abloy's decision to remove the factory.

The movement by Scandinavian institutional investors to divest from or exclude Elbit Systems will influence other European investors to do the same. The two largest Dutch pension funds, ABP and PFZW are the focus of a coalition of Palestine solidarity activists, organizations and concerned citizens who are currently pressuring the two pension funds to follow the Scandinavian example and divest from Elbit and other companies profiting from the Israeli occupation.

This pressure seems to be paying off. ABP informed The Electronic Intifada today that it has sold its US $2.7 million shares in Elbit Systems.

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

Defending Palestinian children: An interview with Rifat Kassis

Adri Nieuwhof, The Electronic Intifada

Defence for Children International-Palestine Section aims to protect the rights of children and minors living in occupied Palestine. Rifat Kassis was elected as president of the executive council of Defence for Children International (DCI) in 2005 and is currently serving his second term. The Electronic Intifada contributor Adri Nieuwhof recently interviewed Kassis about DCI-PS's work and the special situation of Palestinian children growing up under occupation.

Adri Nieuwhof: Can you tell us about DCI-PS and your work there?

Rifat Kassis: DCI-PS is now in its nineteenth year of operation. I founded the organization with others. Seeing DCI now makes me proud -- what started as a simple, small organization and where it is now. Our main work is legal assistance, monitoring and documenting violations of the rights of children, and international advocacy. We represent 30 to 40 percent of the children held in Israeli detention and we are quite successful in lobbying the structures of the European Union and the United Nations. We have different programs for the rights of children who are under the jurisdiction of the Israeli military occupation and those under Palestinian jurisdiction and we work with the Palestinian police forces and relevant ministries and lawyers in Palestine to introduce juvenile justice standards.

DCI-PS also promotes the protection of children as victims of domestic violence. For example, we work with the [Palestinian] ministry of education on the banning of corporal punishment. With community-based organizations we work on how they can integrate child rights in their programs and invite children to participate in advocating for their rights to end domestic violence and corporal punishment.

AN: What are the main charges against Palestinian children in Israeli prisons?

RK: According to our records almost 700 children are detained each year under the Israeli military court system. Some children are as young as 12 years old. The majority -- around 26 percent -- of the children were charged with stone throwing. There are also some other reasons, for example participation in banned political activities or demonstrations.

AN: Can you describe the experiences of Palestinian children held in Israeli detention?

RK: You know, we found every time the same procedure described in affidavits from children, from their families and from their lawyers. Soldiers come during the night or in the early morning. They come with a lot of noise, entering violently into the house. They take the child away without any explanation given to the family. There are some other children that are arrested at the checkpoints. But when children are taken from their homes, soldiers shout, "Where is Mohammed?" And whether Mohammed is 12- or 13-years-old, they kick him, blindfold him, tie his hands painfully with plastic handcuffs, and put him in the back of the military jeep. There he will be beaten and kicked by soldiers. This creates a lot of psychological damage to the child. At the detention center they put the child in a cell or take him for interrogation. During the interrogation the same treatment continues of kicking and beating. There is verbal abuse, threatening the child that they will hurt his family, rape his mother.

In most cases children will confess after two or three hours of interrogation. The interrogator will give the child a piece of paper in Hebrew, a language they don't understand, and they will sign the confession. In the military court most of the children, almost 95 percent, will plead guilty, whether they committed the "crime" or not. The whole process is contrary to international law and conventions on the rights of the child. Last year, a military order was issued by Israel to establish a juvenile justice system in the military courts. It came into effect in October. This was in response to the accusations of the illegality of their system by all Palestinian lawyers. But my lawyers will tell you that it is still the same. Children continued to be transported with adults and they are still brought to adult military courts. There is no system of juvenile justice in the [Israeli] military courts.

AN: How many children have been killed due to the violence related to the Israeli occupation?

RK: From the beginning of the second Palestinian intifada [in September 2000] until now around 1,000 children have been killed, excluding the 348 children that were killed in Gaza during the Israeli invasion last winter. We have documented how these children were killed. It is either a direct targeted killing, when they are shot in their heads or [vital] organs, or they were killed because they were bystanders when Israel tried to assassinate somebody, and bombed a building or demolished a home. We should not ignore the fact that children are killed because they do not have quick access to hospitals. There are figures, but I hate figures, as if it is only about numbers -- children are human beings.

Now, with the blockade of Gaza, human rights organizations find it difficult to document the causes of death of children. For example, we do not document a child that was anemic and did not have sufficient food and died because of this. There are so many [ways] children are murdered by Israelis. Take for example settler violence. In 2008, more that 20 children were injured and even some were killed by the violence of settlers, by their aggression and atrocities. We wrote about this in a November 2008 report entitled "Under Attack: Settler Violence against Palestinian Children in the Occupied Territory."

AN: Can you discuss Israel's increasing criticism of foreign donors and governments for their support of human rights organizations?

RK: Israel is a country that relies on its military power, on the loyal blind support from the United States and the European Union and on its public relations [machine]. Israel's image as the "only democracy in the Middle East" is its justification for its existence. When Palestinian organizations write about human rights violations, Israel dismisses this by linking it to political factions. When there are international organizations or internationals working in local organizations it becomes tougher for Israel to dismiss criticism.

When Israel wants to show their power in the West Bank or Gaza, they form a media unit in the army to tell their story, and they forbid the foreign media to enter the area to report. The international organizations and the internationals in our organizations have helped us with the follow up on the Goldstone report. We "defeated" the Palestinian Authority that wanted to dismiss the report and we continued harassing Israel with the report. The international presence has to do with this. Israel does not want them to be here. It will make their life easier when the internationals are not here. Israel also wants to move international organizations out of Jerusalem. They don't want to negotiate over Jerusalem. I don't blame Israel. I blame the European Union which abides by Israeli pressure and betrays its own values. I hope international donors and governments do not give in to the pressure. I hope they stand for their beliefs and their support for human rights organizations.

Palestinians fight Jewish-only housing in Jaffa

Jonathan Cook, The Electronic Intifada, 16 February 2010

While Jewish settlers seek to takeover entire areas of Jaffa, the Israeli state commonly demolishes Palestinian homes. (Oren Ziv/ActiveStills)

Over the past few days graffiti scrawled on walls around the mixed Jewish and Arab town of Jaffa in central Israel exclaims: "Settlers, keep out" and "Jaffa is not Hebron."

Although Jaffa is only a stone's throw from the bustling coastal metropolis of Tel Aviv, Arab residents say their neighborhood has become the unlikely battleground for an attempted takeover by extremist Jews more familiar from West Bank settlements.

Small numbers of nationalist religious Jews, distinctive for wearing knitted skullcaps, have begun moving into Jaffa's deprived main Arab district, Ajami, over recent months.

Tensions have been simmering since a special seminary was established last year in the heart of Ajami for young Jewish men who combine study of the Bible with serving in the Israeli army. Many such seminaries, known as "hesder yeshivas," are located in the occupied territories and have earned a reputation for turning out extremists.

Last week Ajami's residents were dealt a further blow when an Israeli court approved the sale of one of the district's few remaining building plots to B'Emuna (Hebrew for "with faith"), a construction company that specializes in building subsidized homes for religious families, many of them in West Bank settlements.

The Association of Civil Rights in Israel, the country's largest human rights law center, which petitioned the courts on the Arab residents' behalf, called the company's policy "racist."

B'Emuna, which is expected to complete 20 apartments in the next few months, is applying for approval for a further 180, as well as a second seminary and a synagogue.

"We have no problem living peacefully with Jewish neighbors," said Omar Siksik, an Arab councillor representing Jaffa in Tel Aviv's municipality. "But these Jews are coming here as settlers.

"Like in Hebron, their policy is to weaken us as a population and eventually push us out of our homes," he said, referring to a West Bank city where an enclave of a few dozen settlers has severely disrupted life for tens of thousands of Palestinians.

Jaffa's fortunes have changed dramatically since early last century when it was the commercial hub of Palestine, famously exporting its orange crop around the world. During Israel's founding in 1948, most of the town's Palestinians were expelled or forced to flee, with the few remaining inhabitants confined to Ajami.

Today, Jaffa's 18,000 Arab inhabitants are outnumbered two to one by Jews, after waves of immigrants were settled in empty homes during the 1950s.

Arab residents have long complained of being neglected by a municipality controlled from Tel Aviv. Ajami's crumbling homes, ramshackle infrastructure and crime-ridden streets were on show in this year's much-feted eponymous movie, nominated for an Oscar as best foreign-language film.

But the latest arrivals in Ajami are causing considerable anxiety, even from officials in Tel Aviv. Gilad Peleg, head of the Jaffa Development Authority, said he was "deeply concerned" at the trend of extremist organizations arriving "to shake up the local community."

Nasmi Jabali, 56, lives in a modest single-story home close to the olive grove where the new apartments will be built. "We've seen on TV how these settlers behave in the occupied territories, and don't want them living next to us," she said. "They'll come here with the same attitudes."

But despite widespread opposition, the Tel Aviv District Court last week rejected a petition from 27 residents who argued that the Israel Lands Authority had discriminated against them by awarding the land to B'Emuna, even though its policy is to build apartments only for Jews.

Yehuda Zefet, the judge, accused the residents of "bad faith" in arguing for equality when they wanted the interests of the local Arab community to take precedence over the interests of Jews.

Siksik said the judge had failed to take into account the historical injustice perpetrated on Ajami's population. "For six decades the authorities have not built one new house for the Arab population, and in fact they have demolished many Arab homes, while building social housing for Jews."

Fadi Shabita, a member of the local Popular Committee for the Defense of Jaffa's Lands, said the plots in Ajami being sold by the government originally belonged to Palestinian families, some of whom were still in the district but had been forced to rent their properties from the state.

"The land was forcibly nationalized many years ago and the local owners were dispossessed," he said. "Now the same land is being privatized, but Ajami's residents are being ignored in the development plans.

"For the settlers, the lesson of the disengagement [from Gaza in 2005] was that they need to begin a dialogue with Jews inside Israel to persuade them that a settlement in the West Bank is no less legitimate than one in Jaffa."

B'Emuna told Israel National News, a settler website, that it was developing Jewish-only homes in several of the half dozen "mixed cities" in Israel to stem the flow of Jewish residents leaving because of poverty and falling property values caused by the presence of an Arab population.

B'Emuna has said it is looking to buy more land in Jaffa.

A short distance from the olive grove that is about to be developed is the Jewish seminary established last year. An Israeli flag is draped from the front of the building and stars of David adorn the gate at its entrance.

The manager, Ariel Elimelech, who was overseeing two dozen young men on Sunday as they pored over the Torah, said he commuted daily to Ajami from his home in Eli, an illegal settlement deep in the West Bank south of the Palestinian city of Nablus.

Elimelech said he favored coexistence in Jaffa but added that the seminary's goal was to strengthen Jewish identity in the area. "We don't call this place Ajami; it's known as Givat Aliyah," he said, using a Hebrew name that refers to the immigration of Jews to Israel.

He said the students performed a vital service by visiting schools to help in the education of Jewish children before performing 18 months of military service.

Kemal Agbaria, who chairs the Ajami neighborhood council, said residents would launch an appeal to the high court and were planning large-scale demonstrations to draw attention to their plight.

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.

"At least there's food in prison!"

Joy Ellison writing from al-Tuwani, occupied West Bank, Live from Palestine, 17 February 2010

Palestinians in the south Hebron hills are subject to harassment by both Israeli soldiers and settlers. (ActiveStills)

"This morning," my neighbor Mona explained to me, "I told my husband that since the kids are out of school and he didn't need to go into town, I would cook something special and we would have a party." Mona has a wry sense of humor and I started to wonder what the punch line would be. "We were going to invite you, but instead we had a little party with the soldiers and the settlers." Mona cocked her head to one side and shrugged, smiling ironically. Mona lives in the Palestinian village of al-Tuwani located in the occupied West Bank's south Hebron hills.

The "party" we had in al-Tuwani wasn't nearly as fun as the party that Mona had planned. At about 9am on 26 January, a settler from the Havot Maon settlement outpost entered the village, accompanied by the Israeli army and the Maon settlement security guard. The settler then entered the homes of my neighbors and searched in their animal pens. "What is he looking for?" my neighbors asked the soldiers. "If he thinks we've stolen something, bring the police and conduct a normal search. Where's the rule of law?"

Between 15 and 20 settlers accompanied by more soldiers arrived. Mona's husband tried to convince the soldiers to make the settlers leave the village. "We'll go back into our houses if they leave," he said. But then the settlers started throwing stones at a group of Palestinian women and children. The next thing I knew, the soldiers were pointing their guns at my neighbors. One of them drew back his fist and punched someone in the face. It was Mfadi, the quietest, least imposing man in the village. His nose was bleeding. Another soldier raised his gun and fired. For a moment I was stunned and dumbly wondered why no one seemed to be shot. Then I realized that he had fired a sound bomb and the soldiers were likely to start using tear gas next. I saw the same soldier pull out another canister. "Don't do it," I started screaming. "There are women and children here. Don't shoot that!"

Later, when the soldiers and settlers had left the village, Mona told me that Mfadi's nose was broken and he would need an operation. She also said that the soldiers told her and the women that if they did not leave the area, they would arrest all of the men of the village and kill at least one. "We didn't leave," said Mona. "One of the girls told them they could take her whole family to jail if they wanted to. She said that there was no food in her house. At least there's food in prison!" Mona laughed.

Then Mona told me about the party she had wanted to have, until the settlers and soldiers prevented it. I started to wonder how many other parties were canceled because of the Israeli occupation that day. But then Mona smiled. "Maybe we'll have our party tomorrow," she said. Sure enough, the next afternoon I sat on Mona's front porch laughing and sipping tea. As we ate the food that Mona had promised, I imagined the celebration she will throw when the occupation is finally over. Soldiers and settlers won't be able to cancel that party -- they can only postpone it.

The names of individuals in this story have been changed for their protection.

Joy Ellison is an American activist with Christian Peacemaker Teams, an organization that supports Palestinian nonviolent resistance. She lives in al-Tuwani, which is nonviolently resisting settlement expansion and violence. She writes about her experiences on her blog, "I Saw it in Palestine" at

Israel subjecting rights groups to "McCarthy techniques"

Jonathan Cook, The Electronic Intifada, 22 February 2010

The Israeli government and its right-wing supporters have been waging a "McCarthyite" campaign against human rights groups by blaming them for the barrage of international criticism that has followed Israel's attack on Gaza a year ago, critics say.

In a sign of the growing backlash against the human rights community, the cabinet backed a bill last week that, if passed, will jail senior officials from the country's peace-related organizations should they fail to meet tough new registration conditions.

The measure is a response to claims by right-wing lobbyists that Israel's human rights advocates supplied much of the damaging evidence of war crimes cited by Judge Richard Goldstone in his UN-commissioned report into Israel's Operation Cast Lead.

Human rights groups funded by foreign donors, such as the European Union, would be required to register as political bodies and meet other demands for "transparency."

Popular support for the clampdown was revealed in a poll published last week showing that 57 percent of Israeli Jews believed "national security" issues should trump human rights.

In a related move, right-wing groups have launched a campaign of vilification against Naomi Chazan, the Israeli head of an American Jewish donor body called the New Israel Fund (NIF) that channels money to Israeli social justice groups. The NIF is accused of funding the Israeli organizations Goldstone consulted for his report.

Billboard posters around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and a newspaper advertising campaign, show a caricature of Chazan with a horn growing from her forehead under the title "Naomi-Goldstone-Chazan."

"We are seeing the evaporation of the last freedoms of speech and organization in Israel," said Amal Jamal, head of politics at Tel Aviv University and the director of Ilam, a media rights organization that would be targeted by the new legislation. The Israeli political system, he added, was being transformed into a "totalitarian democracy."

Leading the charge against human rights groups -- most of which are officially described as "nongovernmental organizations" -- has been a self-styled "watchdog group" known as NGO Monitor. Its activities have won support from the government following the international censure faced by Israel for its attack on Gaza.

The bill, approved by a ministerial committee last week, is the product of a conference staged in the parliament in December by Gerald Steinberg, NGO Monitor's director, and a settler-backed organization known as the Institute of Zionist Strategies.

A professor at Bar Ilan University, Prof Steinberg presented a report to MPs and ministers that referred to peace groups as "Trojan horses" and argued for imposing constraints on funding from European governments and the NIF.

In a statement at the time, Prof Steinberg said: "For over a decade European governments have been manipulating Israeli politics and promoting demonization by funding a narrow group of favored nongovernmental organizations."

He has reserved special criticism for advocacy groups for the country's Arab minority and for Jewish groups opposing the occupation, accusing both of promoting an image of Israel as an "apartheid" state that carries out "war crimes" and "ethnic cleansing."

According to his report, 16 Israeli peace NGOs received $8 million in European funding in the previous three years.

Pressure has been building in the government for action. This month Yuli Edelstein, the diaspora affairs minister and a member of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, told reporters the cabinet had been "concerned for a time with a number of groups under the guise of NGOs that are funded by foreign agents."

One of the MPs who participated in December's conference, Zeev Elkin, also of Likud, initiated the legislation.

Although the bill will need to pass a vote of the parliament, backing from the government has dramatically increased its chances of success.

According to the legislation, human rights groups will have to satisfy a long list of new conditions. They include: registering as political bodies; submitting ID numbers and addresses for all activists; providing detailed accounts of all donations from overseas and the purposes to which they will be put; and declaring the support of foreign countries every time an activist makes a speech or the organization stages an event.

Senior officials in NGOs that fail to meet the requirements face up to a year in jail.

Hagai Elad, head of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the country's largest human rights law center, said there was "a very hostile political climate" and that freedoms were being attacked "one step at a time."

"These are classic McCarthy techniques, portraying our organizations as enemies of the state and suggesting that we are aiding Hamas and terror groups."

He added that NGOs were heavily regulated under Israeli law. "Which leaves me with a troubling question: given that we are already transparent, what is the real motivation behind this legislation?"

Caught in the middle of the campaign against the NGOs has been Chazan, a former dovish MP.

Maariv, a populist newspaper, published a report last month by a right-wing group called Im Tirtzu that blamed Chazan and the NIF for funding human rights groups responsible for 90 percent of the criticisms of Israel contained in the Goldstone report that were from non-official sources.

A counter report last week suggested that in reality only about four percent of the citations were from NIF-funded groups, and many were unrelated to the Gaza operation.

But the attack on Chazan has rapidly gained traction, with commentators denouncing her in the media and the derogatory billboard posters springing up across the country.

The campaign against the NIF was backed this month by a petition signed by a long list of former generals, including Giora Eiland, the previous head of the National Security Council, and Doron Almog, a recent chief of the army's southern command.

Chazan has also been sacked by the right-wing Jerusalem Post newspaper after 14 years of serving as one of its few liberal columnists, while an article accusing Chazan of "serving the agenda of Iran and Hamas" was distributed to foreign journalists by the Government Press Office.

Chazan said: "They're using me to attack, in the most blatant way, the basic principles of democracy."

NIF has pointed out that Im Tirtzu's funders include Christians United for Israel, a group led by pastor John Hagee, who made the headlines in the US presidential race in 2008 when in a speech supporting contender John McCain he said "Hitler was fulfilling God's will."

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.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Rights orgs: Israel's Gaza investigation falls short of justice

Open letter, various undersigned, 12 February 2010

The following open letter was sent on 10 February 2010 by the undersigned human rights organizations to Dr. Ali Abdulssalam Treki, President of the United Nations General Assembly:

Your Excellency,

On the occasion of the submission of the initial findings of the Secretary-General on the domestic investigations conducted to date, as recommended in the Report of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (the Report) and endorsed by the General Assembly, we would like to draw your attention to our concerns about the effectiveness of the endeavors undertaken by the concerned parties.

As local and international human rights organizations committed to promote and ensure respect for human rights and justice, we are concerned that the investigations were not "independent, credible and in conformity with international standards [required for] serious violations of international humanitarian and international human rights law," as requested by the General Assembly resolution adopted on 5 November 2009.

Regrettably, the information and material available to date suggest that the parties responsible for investigating the violations committed during the Gaza conflict have not met the standards prescribed by international instruments, such the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions and the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law.

The investigations carried out by the Israeli military authorities fall short of complying with international standards of proper investigations into alleged violations of international law. These endeavors were carried out by persons who have hierarchical or institutional connections with the alleged perpetrators. The majority of incidents of alleged abuse have not been criminally investigated but only probed through operational debriefings. Criminal investigations are being conducted in other cases by members of the IDF [Israeli army] legal division, which was involved in targeting policies that may themselves require investigation.

After over a year from the conclusion of the military operation, these limited investigations have resulted in insufficient accountability measures. To date, only one soldier has been prosecuted for stealing a credit card and some others were merely reprimanded. According to the Israeli Government's Report, two officers have been disciplined for firing explosive shells into populated areas, in violation of superior orders; however, Israeli army statements contradicted this claim. Moreover, the investigations have neglected to scrutinize the policy of use of force, which would entail the examination of military planning and the means and methods in the execution of operations. Such measures fail to comply with Israel's legal obligations under international law.

The findings of the Israeli investigations, conducted under insufficient public scrutiny, have raised serious doubts about their credibility. For example, the indications that the only operating flour mill in the Gaza Strip was hit by ground shells are inconsistent with available visual material, which supports the Report findings that the attack was also conducted by aircraft. In light of the above, the Israeli investigations cannot be sanctioned as independent, effective, transparent and prompt as required.

Likewise, the information available on the investigations carried out by Palestinian representatives, both in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank, provides no evidence of compliance with the required international standards. The Gaza authorities issued a statement asserting that rocket attacks against Israel were directed only at military targets, a claim disproved by all available evidence. While their report was not made available in sufficient time to allow for a proper examination, we will provide further comments in due course. In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority has equally failed to comply with the requirements of the recommendations of the Report, its action to date having been limited to the appointment of a committee and some statements.

We welcomed the establishment of the UN Fact-Finding Mission and its Report as the response to the acute call for accountability in the region, not only to serve the cause of justice but also as an essential deterrent to prevent violations and consequent loss of lives and destruction from reoccurring. The mechanisms listed in the recommendations of the Report, including the establishment of an escrow fund for Palestinian victims, imply not only the responsibilities of Israeli and Palestinian authorities but also those of other actors, such as UN bodies and institutions, and the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions. We consider the meaningful implementation of the recommendations of the Report to be a crucial challenge for the entire UN system, which is called upon to demonstrate its effective power in advancing justice and the rights of victims, as an indispensable basis for peace in the region.

At the opening of the 64th Session of the General Assembly, you noted that "blockades [...] are fruitless: they exacerbate antagonism and rebellion." We share your views and we call upon you and the General Assembly you preside to take expeditious measures towards lifting the blockade that has been imposed on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip for more than two years. Deplorably, the protracted blockade, condemned as a form of collective punishment, and the extensive destruction of homes and industrial property carried out during the Gaza conflict have not been adequately addressed and investigated, despite the grave toll they are exacting on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.

We urge you to use all means at your disposal to hasten the process of accountability indicated in the Report of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict. The defective results of the internal investigations conducted to date coupled with the impossibility of the Secretary-General to provide conclusive assessments on the nature of such investigations would strongly support the need to promptly establish an independent committee of experts. The committee, mandated with the task of monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of domestic investigations, should be composed of international experts on international law and criminal investigations.

We thank you for your attention to this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Addameer - Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association
Aldameer Association for Human Rights - Gaza
Al Mezan
Arab Association for Human Rights - HRA
BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
Defence for Children International-Palestine Section
Housing and Land Rights Network - Habitat International Coalition
International Association of Democratic Lawyers
National Lawyers Guild - International Committee
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)
Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR)
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)
Physicians for Human Rights - Israel
Public Committee Against Torture Israel (PCATI)
War on Want
Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC)

UN called on to investigate repression of human rights defenders

Press release, Addameer, The Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign and the National Lawyers Guild, 12 February 2010

The following press release was issued by Addameer, The Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall) and the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) on 9 February 2010:

Special Rapporteurs of the UN Human Rights Council should intervene with relevant Israeli authorities in all cases of Palestinian human rights defenders arrested in relation to their advocacy work on the Wall and its associated, unlawful regime; demand the immediate cessation of the use of impermissible force by Israeli soldiers against Palestinian protestors and pressure Israel to put an end to its policy of arbitrary detention.

A joint report submitted by Addameer, The Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall) and the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) to Special Rapporteurs of the UN Human Rights Council examines the ongoing, systematic campaign of repression levied by Israel against Palestinian human rights defenders active against the Annexation Wall. Since June 2009, Israeli authorities have arrested nearly three dozen villagers involved in anti-Wall protests from Bilin, where weekly protests have been held every Friday since 2005, and more than 38 from Nilin, including 20 in the last month. At present, Addameer estimates that there are at least 56 Palestinian human rights defenders held in Israeli custody. Based on evidence collected in the villages of Nilin, Bilin, al-Masara, Beit Duqqu and Jayyus, the report concludes that charges levied against Palestinian human rights defenders and repressive policies are designed to criminalize legitimate human rights activities.

As international attention increasingly focuses on the communities in the West Bank that continue to oppose the Wall and the roster of accompanying human rights violations, Israeli suppression of such activity has been escalating in response. In a most recent event, on Monday, 8 February 2010, Israeli forces raided Stop the Wall's office in Ramallah. The Israeli soldiers invaded the area in ten military jeeps and proceeded with a thorough search of the NGO's [nongovernmental organization's] office, confiscating computer hard disks, laptops, video cameras, documents, CDs and video cassettes.

For Palestinian human rights defenders active against the Wall, Israeli intimidation efforts are pervasive: Israeli military orders ban all political activity and demonstrations in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territory], whether peaceful or not; Palestinians who exercise their fundamental human rights to expression and peaceful assembly and take part in the demonstrations anyway are harassed, threatened, arrested, detained, and prevented from traveling abroad to speak about their resistance efforts, or are harassed even more upon their return; those who are charged with offenses in the Israeli military courts face almost certain conviction and imprisonment by a military justice system that is heavily biased against them; those who are not charged are nonetheless often levied with administrative detention -- indefinite detention without charge or trial -- large fines and bans from participating in demonstrations of any kind, and are frequently subjected to increased threats and harassment by Israeli forces, both individually and with their community.

International human rights and humanitarian law recognize and codify a number of international standards applicable to the Palestinians involved in protests against the Wall, including freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, the right to life, humane treatment and freedom from discrimination, and protection as human rights defenders.

To avoid further arbitrary arrests, injuries and deaths in villages affected by the Wall, UN Special Rapporteurs should therefore intervene immediately and investigate all cases of repression of Palestinian human rights defenders and publicly report on their findings.

Path of the Wall in Bil’in to Be Moved

From the International Solidarity Movement in Occupied Palestine.

Popular Struggle Co-ordination Committee
11 February 2010

Two and a half years after an Israeli Supreme Court decision deeming the path of the Wall on the lands of Bil’in illegal, preliminary infrastructure work to reroute the barrier in accordance with the ruling has finally began. Since the ruling, the state has twice been found in contempt of the court, for not implementing the decision.

Mohammed Khatib, the coordinator of the West Bank-wide Popular Struggle Coordination Committee and a member of the the Bil’in Popular Committee, said today that “The Supreme Court had already ruled this should happen almost three years ago and it should not have taken so long. There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the only reason that this is finally happening now are the five years of persistent struggle and the scarifies the people of my village have made. While we are happy for the lands that do return, we do not forget the lands and crops that remain isolated behind the Wall. Our struggle will continue until all of our lands are returned and the Occupation is over.”

Following initial construction of Israel’s wall on Bil’in’s lands in February 2005, residents organized almost daily direct actions and demonstrations against the theft of their lands. Garnering the attention of the international community with their creativity and perseverance, Bil’in has become a symbol for Palestinian popular resistance. Almost five years later, Bil’in continues to hold weekly Friday protests.

In addition to grassroots demonstrations and nonviolent direct actions, Bil’in has held annual conferences on popular resistance since 2006; providing a forum for villagers, activists and academics to discuss strategies for the unarmed struggle against the Occupation.

Realizing the limitations of the appealing to Israeli court and the legal remedies possible to achieve through them, the village of Bil’in commenced legal proceedings before the Superior Court of Quebec In July 2008. The appeal was filed against two Canadian companies, Green Park International Inc. and Green Mount International Inc., for their involvement in constructing, marketing and selling residential units in the Mattityahu East section of Modi’in Illit.

As part of a recent campaign to quash grassroots resistance to the Occupation, 37 residents of Bil’in have been arrested in connection to anti-Wall protest since June last year. Among those arrested are also five members of the village’s Popular Committee, which organizes the demonstrations. They have all been arrested on suspicions of incitement – a blanket charge for organizing demonstrations. Similar arrest campaigns are carried by Israel across the West Bank, targeting grassroots organizers.

Recent Headlines
1) Despite increased repression, a victory

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3) Israel raids ISM media office for the second time

4) Israeli forces fire upon a demonstration in Gaza

5) Deported international activist appeals against her illegal arrest

Donate Today
The International Solidarity Movement has been supporting Palestinian nonviolent resistance since 2001. Since its creation, thousands of international citizens have volunteered with the ISM and communities across the West Bank and Gaza. The ISM is entirely funded by individuals around the world.

Please consider making a financial contribution to allow us to continue this important work!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Canadian organization attacking Palestinian rights groups

Canadian organization attacking Palestinian rights groups

Report: Israel stole $2 billion from Palestinian workers

Report: Israel stole $2 billion from Palestinian workers

Pressure continues on Veolia and Alstom to halt light rail project

ei: Pressure continues on Veolia and Alstom to halt light rail project

Israel slaps six-month travel ban on Palestinian map expert

Marian Houk, The Electronic Intifada, 5 February 2010

Citing "security reasons" -- the ubiquitous and unanswerable catch-all phrase against which it is almost impossible to mount any defense -- Israel's Ministry of the Interior has just issued a six-month travel ban on map expert Khalil Tafakji.

Tafakji, like almost all other Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem, is a "permanent resident," but not a citizen of Israel.

He is frequently interviewed as an expert on Al-Jazeera satellite channel, as well as on Palestinian television and other media. He said in a phone interview on 4 February that he had just returned 20 days previously from a tour of a number of countries, from Tunisia to Turkey to India, during which he spoke about the problems facing Palestinians because of Israeli policies in East Jerusalem. "You know I am not a political man," Tafakji said today. But, this is a place where even ordinary, everyday life becomes political.

However, Tafakji has been called the Palestinian Authority's chief geographer and said he did not know of any other person who has been handed such a travel ban.

Tafakji, surprised at the development, said that "Yesterday they [Israeli authorities] called me and said come to Moskobiyya [the "Russian Compound" security complex in West Jerusalem] -- Room 4. They said 'This is an order, sign it, you have 14 days to make an objection. It is forbidden for you to travel from today for six months.'"

When asked if he will contest the travel ban, Tafakji said that he has been in constant consultation with lawyers, who have all said that since the explanation he was given was only the generic -- but all-encompassing -- "security reasons," it is almost hopeless to contest.

Tafakji was not given any other restriction, he said.

"We are trying, through relations with Jordan and Egypt, America, Britain and France, to see if we can do anything" to remove the restriction, Tafakji said. He told the privately-owned and operated Maan News Agency in Bethlehem that "I am a peace man," and noted that he worked as a cartographic expert with Palestinian delegations to peace talks since they began in the early 1990s.

He also worked with the late PLO leader in Jerusalem, Faisal Husseini, who had set up the Arab Studies Society in 1983 and established an important center for services in the Orient House, the Palestinian headquarters in East Jerusalem forcibly closed by Israel in 2001. Tafakji heads the Arab Studies Society's Mapping and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Department, which has relocated to Dahiet al-Bariid, just beside Israel's wall, but with full access to Jerusalem.

Marian Houk is a journalist currently working in Jerusalem with experience at the United Nations and in the region. Her blog is

URGENT DEMO MONDAY: Israeli war criminal Daniel Ayalon in London

An urgent protest has been called at very short notice by the PSC to
call for Israeli war criminal Daniel Ayalon to be arrested. ISM London
is supporting this protest.

Outside the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Temple
Place , WC2 (opposite Temple tube)

There is a Facebook event here:

Ayalon is member of Yisrael Beitenu, a far-right party, well-known for
its racist policies, including its proposals to jail Palestinians in
Israel who commemorate the anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba.

Please come along and forward this email to your friends.

ISM London

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Palestinian Refugees Right to Return - Al-Awda Bulletin

Posted by Zahi Damuni

Educating, Advocating, and Organizing For The Return
Fifth Al-Awda West Coast Regional Conference

Hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine @ SDSU, UCSD and USD, and Al-Awda San Diego, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition

Where: La Mesa Community Center, 4975 Memorial Drive, La Mesa, CA 91942 (Please Note the Change of Venue)

LEARN about the Palestinian refugee crisis and what is happening here on the West Coast

SHARE IDEAS with fellow activists and help empower the right to return movement at large

ACT NOW! your participation is urgently needed in the months ahead! This is your chance!

One-Day Conference

When: Saturday February 13, 2010, 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

Program: Strategy & tactics discussions will include panels on Student Activism, Refugee Support, Media Activism, and preparations for the upcoming Al-Awda National Convention. Speakers will include Dr. Jess Ghannam, Chair of Al-Awda's National Coordinating Committee, Mazen Almoukdad, Al-Awda Refugee Support Activist, Adam Shapiro, activist filmmaker, among others. There will also be a special presentation of personal experience by a recent arrival from Al-Waleed camp in Iraq.

For a tentative schedule of the one day conference, visit this program page

Conference is free of charge!!

The conference will be followed by:

Dinner Banquet - Celebrating 10 Years of Al-Awda

The dinner banquet includes keynote address by Dr. Jamal Nassar, Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at California State University, San Bernardino; A Second West Coast Regional Dabke Competition; and Delicious Arabic Food (all Halal)

When: 6:30 pm - 10:00 pm (doors open 6:00 pm)

Banquet Dinner: General $25.00; Student $15.00; Children under 5 free

To get your tickets, please go to or contact 760-918-9441 Monday to Friday 9 AM to 5 PM

(Please note that attendance at the conference is not required for attendance at the dinner and vice versa)

Sponsorship: We welcome individual and organizational sponsorship of The Fifth Al-Awda West Coast Regional Conference. All Sponsors will be listed in the printed program of the conference and acknowledged at the Ten Years of Al-Awda Celebration Dinner unless otherwise requested. Underwriters will each also have a table for eight people reserved for them at the Dinner Celebration. For more information, please go to this sponsorship page

Suggested accommodation for out of town guests see: Hotel circle

Flyer: Fifth Al-Awda West Coast Regional Conference
Flyer Gray scale: Fifth Al-Awda West Coast Regional Conference

Directions: Take the Spring St exit from I-8 E toward El Centro (6.8 miles). Merge onto 13A (85 ft). Slight left to stay on 13A (315 ft). Continue onto Spring Street (0.1 mile). Turn left at University Ave (0.4 miles). Turn left at Memorial Dr.

Parking is free. Plenty available.

For more information, contact SJP @ SDSU, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, CA 92182; Tel: 661-992-3281 email: or Al-Awda San Diego:, Tel: 760-918-9441

Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
PO Box 131352
Carlsbad, CA 92013, USA
Tel: 760-918-9441
Fax: 760-918-9442

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"Humanity cannot be divided": Gaza shows solidarity with Haiti

Rami Almeghari writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, January 2010

The relatives of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails gather symbolic donations in solidarity with earthquake-stricken Haiti, 18 January 2010. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)

"We have been living a man-made disaster actually for the past 62 years," said Palestinian parliamentarian Jamal al-Khudari, a chairman of the Gaza-based Committee to Break the Siege. "We would like to send out a message of solidarity to the people of Haiti, who are now facing a natural disaster. Despite the harsh conditions Gaza people live under here -- the Israeli blockade and military actions -- people here sent symbolic assistance to their brothers and sisters in Haiti."

The committee collected a a symbolic amount of food and some cash donations for earthquake-stricken Haiti, where tens of thousands have been killed and countless others were injured and displaced.

Here in Gaza, the Israeli occupation's measures -- including the blockade that has been imposed for more than two and a half years now -- have had their own devastating impact.

"As a humanitarian worker here, I can say that it has been really amazing to see that some needy people including women and children wanting to deliver food, toys, clothes and cash to disaster-affected people in Haiti. The scene in front of the office for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza was really amazing," Gaza City resident Hussam al-Madhoun told The Electronic Intifada.

However, for some in Gaza, the lack of attention paid by the "international community" to their plight leaves a bitter taste.

Fatima al-Helou, a mother of three children, expressed her full solidarity for those currently suffering in the impoverished island but added, "I think that the world that is now supporting the Haiti region, should also help Gazans get rid of a three-year-old Israeli siege on Gaza. Humanity cannot be divided. I definitely sympathize with those currently suffering in Haiti, but I also call upon the international community to help me, for I am suffering as well."

Since June 2007, Israel has enforced a nearly hermetic closure of Gaza's border crossings, preventing the free movement of both people and goods, only opening the border intermittently. According to international aid agencies, Israel has allowed only 42 trucks of raw building materials into the coastal enclave during 2009, despite that several thousand homes, governmental buildings, schools and mosques were destroyed during Israel's attack on Gaza last winter. More than 1,400 were killed and thousands more were injured during the three-week-long attack.

Israel's siege has had a devastating impact on Gaza's economy. Ninety-five percent of local industries in the region have been forced to shut down, the unemployment rate has risen to more than 60 percent, while more than 80 percent of Gaza's 1.5 residents are dependent on food aid.

Despite Gaza's own dire situation, there are those anxious to show their solidarity and empathy with Haiti.

Yaser al-Yazji, a lawyer with the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, said, "We hope to collect [donations] as best as we can to help the people of Haiti. We do feel sad for the people of Haiti as they have been killed or displaced, the way we are being affected by the Israeli occupation. As earthquakes kill or displace thousands of people, the Israeli occupation does the same to us."

Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip.