Palestinian Choices and an action alert on Gaza
It has been 57 years since Israel was admitted to the United Nations after
it gave assurances that it would comply with International law and UN
resolutions including resolution 194 (calling for return of Palestinian
refugees). It has not complied. It has been 39 years since Israel occupied
the West Bank and Gaza after further violations of International law
("inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by war" per UNSC resolution
242, need to withdraw from the areas occupied). It has not complied. It has
been nearly two years since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled
on the illegality of the Apartheid wall and all settlements and colonies in
the occupied Palestinian territories. The UN voted overwhelmingly to support
the ruling. Israel refused to comply.
It has been ten months since a decaying distraction was packaged and sold as
"withdrawal from Gaza" even as it was clear from its sight and smell (and
even from Israeli leaders statements) that it is repackaging occupation in
Gaza while intensifying occupation and colonization in the West Bank. Nearly
$100 million worth of additional Zionist and Israeli government propaganda
(called "hasbara") was pitted against human rights organizations, the UN,
and Palestinian exile communities on this issue alone. Gaza became a large
open-air prison with Israeli controls on all borders subject to policies of
starvation. The recent skirmish between Palestinian resistance forces and
the Israeli occupation soldiers stations at the southern gate of this large
prison was an amazing act of daring in the midst of constant atrocities of
the Israeli occupation. Two resistance fighters and two occupation soldiers
were killed and one Israeli soldier was captured. Israeli newspapers (even
right wing ones) could not really use the usual PR language of terrorism and
"cowardly acts". Gaza had been subjected in the last three months to a
barrage of bombardment by US supplied weapons including 155 mm canons, F-16s
and apache gunships that killed 40 Palestinian civilians in May alone. While
the world was focused on the World Cup games, June saw even further
massacres of Palestinian civilians (including many children and women,
sometimes of whole families).
According to UN reports, Palestinian poverty in the occupied areas (living
at less than $2 per day) increased to over 70% (it was less than half of
that during the Great Depression in the 1930s in America). The capturing
of the Israeli soldier by the resistance was called "kidnapping" by the spin
machine (the 8000+ Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are not called
kidnapped even though most of them are snatched in the middle of the night
in their homes and lands). The Palestinian resistance faction holding this
soldier was willing to negotiate a trade for Palestinian women and children
illegally held prisoners in Israeli jails (International law prohibits
taking citizens out of the areas illegally occupied). Israeli leaders
refused such negotiations and with US government support engaged in more
war crimes and crimes against humanity. First came the "hermetic sealing" of
Gaza (per Israeli army lingo). When no one goes in or out and people are
starved literally, it is a crime against humanity. If there was any proof
needed that Gaza occupation never ended by the PR of 10 months ago, this
would alone suffice. But then came bombings of infrastructure: three
civilian bridges and the electric power plant). Some 750,000 Palestinians
are now without electricity or water. In International law, these are
called war crimes and crimes against humanity (they were also violations of
Israel's own commitment not to target infrastructure). Third came Israeli
invasion into Southern Gaza. The Israeli government itself stated that such
a ratcheting up of pressure is its strategy. This has always been a failed
strategy of occupation and colonization: squeeze the Palestinian population
until the resistance caves in.
Even without further escalation by Israel, already 150,000 Palestinians
(teachers, health workers, civil servants etc) including my own mother (a
retired school teacher) do not get their salaries/pensions because of the
siege and Israel's refusal to give back Palestinian taxes it collects (some
$60 million per month). Israel also continues to steal not only Palestinian
money, but Palestinian land in East Jerusalem and the rich agricultural
lands in the Jordan Valley and the Western Water aquifer in the West Bank.
Over 100,000 Palestinians are at risk of being "relocated" (ethnically
cleansed) in the next few months as part of what Israeli Prime Minister
Olmert calls the "hafrada" plan (this Hebrew woerld literally means
segregation or separation but is some times mistranslated as "convergence").
Now nearly 70% of the 9.5 million Palestinians are refugees or displaced
people and more get added everyday to these ranks. The remaining
Palestinians continue to be squeezed into ghettos/cantons/Bantustans (or
Palustans). The future for Israelis and Palestinians are held by fanatical
racists who still harbor the old Zionist illusion of either "a people
without a land for a land without people" or the chosen people reclaiming
the promised land from those they deem non-human. While 22 Arab countries
agreed to recognize Israel on 78% of Palestine (only if it withdraws from
the 22% that is Gaza and the West Bank), Israel with support of its patron
the US has never accepted to recognize the rights of Palestinian natives
(even the simplest right of existing on their own land).
Israel intends to continue in its nearly 60 year failing strategy of making
the Palestinians disappear from the political map. As no people in history
gave up their rights unless completely decimated. For Palestine this is not
an option. There are nearly ten million Palestinians and millions of them
remain in Palestine (albeit in refugee camps, in ghettos, or as "Arab
Israelis" highly discriminated against). The remaining choices are limited
but increasingly this is becoming an internationalized conflict where all
have a stake in it. Palestinians and their supporters I talk to regularly
seem coming down to a consensus on what could change the dynamics (beyond
the strategies tried in the past and which likely will continue).
Getting the Palestinian house in order:
Essentially all Palestinian factions agreed to the political prisoner
document with minor modifications. Only Islamic Jihad (a very tiny faction)
still had reservations about three of its 19 parts. The compromises were
significant. For example, the Islamic Resistance Movement (known by its
acronym Hamas) agreed to limit resistance to the areas occupied and
colonized since 1967 (22% of Palestine) and except a reformed PLO as
representative of the Palestinian people. The Palestine Liberation Movement
(known by its acronym Fatah) agreed to revive the PLO to be more inclusive
of all Palestinians (including those in exile) and join Hamas in a national
unity government. A developing consensus around minimalist Palestinian
rights/constants emerged (minimalist because it actually gives up
significant Palestinian rights including liberating all of Palestine).
Also in the past year, there had been already conferences and discussions
for getting Palestinian exile communities mobilized. One conference in
Sweden last month had over 5000 Palestinians. Even in the US, a politically
inclusive Palestinian meeting was held in Detroit last weekend to start
preparations for a large inclusive US conference.
Growth of the BDS (Boycotts, Divestment, Sanctions) movement
In Apartheid South Africa, the movement for BDS was called for by the South
African people nearly 15 years before it emerged in Europe and later North
America and then many more years before it started to really impact the
Afrikaner white political elites. In the case of Palestine, within less
than 5 years the BDS movement has made significant strides. It was
bolstered two years ago by ICJ ruling on the illegality of the Apartheid
wall and all settlements and colonies in the occupied Palestinian
territories. One year after the ICJ ruling, over 170 Palestinian civil
society organizations called on the International community (including
Palestinians in exile) to engage in programs similar to those applied
against apartheid South Africa until it complied with International law. See
http://www.badil.org/Boycott-Statement.htm In the 11 months since then,
organizations, church communities, and hundreds of thousands of individuals
joined the BDS campaign. Just in the past few weeks alone, groups ranging
from the European Coordinating Committee on Palestine to the American-Arab
Anti-Discrimination Committee (largest Arab American organization) have
adopted the BDS call to action. Some background is posted at
The Zionist movement, antagonistic to human rights of native people, had to
divert millions of dollars to simply try to subvert this movement here and
there. Meager returns can be shown for the very significant resources they
spent to obfuscate and lie in a failed effort to stem the rising tide. It
was almost comical to see the hiring ex-CIA chief James Woosley and putting
up very expensive billboards in Birmingham costing many thousands to try and
get the Presbyterian church to forget moral church principles. The few
human rights activists engaged working with perhaps a few hundred dollars of
their own money showed how much Zionist resources can be taken off the table
fighting these growing movements.**
Looking forward, the divestment movement is spreading among churches (e.g.
United Methodists, Quakers), unions (e.g. the largest higher education
teacher union in England), among political parties (e.g. the US Green
Party), progressive organizations, and much, much more.
We should not ofcourse minimize the growing siege, starvation, and
atrocities committed against a largely defenseless Palestinian population.
Nor should we minimize the power of a lobby that, having pushed the US into
a devastating and illegal war on Iraq is now pushing for conflict with Iran.
But many Palestinians I talked to are optimistic. Many believe two
strategies need to be explored moving forward:
1) Most now agree on the need to revive the PLO as a negotiating partner.
Even the US/Israel axis of control who pushed for removing power from the
Palestinian president (then Yasser Arafat) and vesting it in an "empowered
Prime minister" now have to eat their words after the recent elections of
people in the occupied areas. So now the themselves claim the PLO needs to
negotiate. So a strategy would be to mobilize a media campaign around this
issue to educate and push for the US to allow Palestinians to revive the PLO
as a representative body for ALL Palestinians. Since the US pushed
countries like Jordan and Syria to allow Iraqi expatriates to vote in Iraqi
elections, it would be seen as pur hypocricy if the same can't be done for
Palestinians. Even if this campaign does not succeed in convincing the US
administration, its educational value would be priceless in garnering public
opinion to bring peace based on justice and human rights. Other options can
then be entertained (even dissolving the so called "Palestinian authority"
which has no real authority under occupation).
2) After the agreement on the political prisoner document, it would be good
to follow it up with a practical program such as the one supported by the
Palestinian civil society call to action
( http://www.badil.org/Boycott-Statement). It is after all a program of
non-violent resistance to human rights violations, it is based on human
rights and International law, and it is a program that EVERYONE can engage
in (Palestinians in exile and in the occupied areas, Internationals, and
even Israeli citizens).
We should be guardedly optimistic and fully engaged in this fluid and still
very dangerous situation for all concerned. If we want a road map to peace,
let us push to implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1949) in
Palestine/Israel. Peace and economic progress (for Palestinians but also for
Israelis and Americans) will be the fruit of working for human rights. The
core issue among these rights is the right of Palestinians to return to
their homes and lands. In the meantime we could also all take actions like
the ones suggested below by Haitham.
* "Politicide" is a term coined by Israeli professor Baruch Kimmerling to
describe the process of destroying Palestinian political or sovereign rights
in their own lands. This includes the systematic and ongoing process of
ethnic cleansing of native Palestinians that Zionists engaged in to create a
majority Jewish Zionist state in a land whose population was predominantly
Muslim and Christian.
**Presbyterian divestment still on the table Casey Currie
Understanding the Presbyterian Vote: Divestment, Corporate Engagement and
Israel By Eill Youmans and Noura Erakat
Presbyterian business deliberations on divestment
2) GAZA UNDER ASSAULT: REPORT & ACTION ALERT
(Ramallah, June 28) Despite Israeli claims and Western reporting, the
Israeli Occupation Forces' (IOF) assault on Gaza was not "launched to free
an Israeli soldier." If anything, this assault obviously endangers his
life. The purpose is to intensify Israel's barbarism against the
Palestinian people and, as admitted frequently by Israeli officials, to
"break their spirit." The primary victim is, as usual, Gaza's civilian
IOF forces were being amassed along Gaza during the past couple of days, and
have begun their offensive at midnight, including air raids breaking the
sound barrier, sonic booms, and bombardment. The IOF has destroyed three
bridges in central Gaza that connect the southern part of Gaza with the
Northern part, including Gaza city (population 420,000).
US-made and supplied F-16 warplanes have also fired at least nine rockets at
Gaza's only power station, resulting in a blackout for much of Gaza. The
station went ablaze, and firefighters were unable to control the fire.
Israeli missiles have also destroyed a water main that supplies the central
Gaza strip, and water pumps that are powered by electricity have been
In the southern part of Gaza, the IOF has sent in its ground troops and
tanks. Al-Jazeera footage has shown families fleeing their homes in the
middle of the night.
Israel, ofcourse, is justifying their barbaric attack on the basis of one of
their soldiers being captured. They refer to the capture as a "kidnapping"
and a "terrorist attack," and have turned down a prisoner exchange offer.
Ramallah is now under threat of invasion and attack, due to claims of a
missing Israeli settler being here (this seems to be unverified, and it is
unknown whether he is dead or alive). There is a state of confusion and
panic that can be felt in Ramallah's streets, stores are closing, and
foreign nationals have been instructed by their embassies to immediately
evacuate the city.
*** RECOMMENDED ACTIONS ***
- MEDIA: Please contact your local media and request that they do not act as
a mouthpiece for Israel by asserting that the aim of the Gaza invasion is to
rescue the captured (not "kidnapped") soldier. At the very least, they can
say that this is what Israel claims, or they can use the word "allegedly."
It should also be made clear that the primary victim of this assault is the
civilian population, and that this constitutes collective punishment of a
captive population, which is a direct (and repeated) violation of the Geneva
- LOBBYING: Please contact your elected representatives and ask them whether
they support Israel's barbaric crimes against innocent Palestinian
civilians. If they are in support of such atrocities, well, then they're
not different than the Nazis. If they oppose these atrocities, ask them
what they're doing about it. Make your voice heard.
- PROTEST: Protests are needed at Israeli embassies and consulates
throughout the world. Even a one-person protest with a simple sign such as
"Stop Israeli Terrorism" is good at bringing attention to the situation and
letting Israel know that there is widespread opposition to its continued and
escalating crimes against the Palestinian people. Believe it or not, Israel
does care about its image, and if the government receives reports of a
number of protests, they will feel pressured to limit the operation. Please
take action on this TODAY - for the sake of the innocent civilians in Gaza.
Doing nothing will only help Israel get away with continued and escalated
crimes against the Palestinian people. I trust that you will not be silent
in the face of such oppression.
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