Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Action Alert!: Tell Israel to Free Humanitarian Workers Aboard Free Gaza Boat

On June 30th, the Israeli Navy attacked and captured the unarmed humanitarian aid boat The Spirit of Humanity. This is the second time that the Israeli navy has attacked a Free Gaza Movement boat while it was attempting to deliver medical supplies, building equipment, and children's toys to the Port of Gaza.

Take action to demand the release of The Spirit of Humanity's crew and passengers!

Learn about the movement behind the Free Gaza Boats and Gaza

Learn more about the movement that is organizing boats sailing to Gaza by taking a look at their website.

Also, take a look at the new short video produced by Israeli Human Rights groups calling for lifting of the border closures in Gaza.

If you want to learn more about the Gaza Strip, take a look at B'Tselem's information page about this area.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Support Sheikh Jarrah: International day of actions against house demolitions in Palestine

The community of Shiekh Jarrah calls on the international community to set up tents outside of Israeli embassies worldwide in solidarity with the neighborhoods threatened with eviction or demolition in occupied East Jerusalem.

Tents have become a powerful symbol of the struggle of Palestinian people living in occupied East Jerusalem. They have been set up as centres of protest in neighbourhoods threatened by numerous eviction and demolition orders, part of Israel’s wider policy to ethnically cleanse Jerusalem of its Palestinian population. Ultimately this would destroy any hope of East Jerusalem becoming the capital of a future Palestinian state. A number of the tents, notably the one in Sheikh Jarrah, have been built by Palestinian residents forcibly evicted from their homes as a result of Israel’s racist policy. Palestinians, who became refugees in 1948 & 1967 are, once again, facing dispossession from their homes and land as our governments stand by and do nothing.

The neighbourhoods most severely affected are Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, Ras Khamiis, Al Tur and Sur Beher however house evictions and demolitions are not uncommon in the Old City itself. In Silwan, 88 homes in the al Bustan quarter are facing immediate destruction in order to create space for a planned national park. In addition, two apartment buildings housing 34 families in the adjacent al Abbasiyya quarter have also received demolition orders. When completed, up to 2,000 Palestinians will be uprooted from their homes.

The local communities are calling for international activists to organise symbolic protests and set up tents outside of Israeli embassies or Zionist organisations worldwide to stand in solidarity with the protest tents in the neighbourhoods of Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, Ras Khamiis, Al Tur and Sur Beher.

The case of Sheikh Jarrah

The neighbourhood consists of 28 families, and is facing a number of eviction orders which are part of a plan to implant a new Jewish settlement in the area, close to the Old City. After the Al Kurd family has been forcibly removed from their home in November 2008, it is now the turn of the al-Ghawe and Hannoun families to face imminent eviction, while others are awaiting further eviction orders.

The families have gone through 37 years of legal battles, fighting for the right to stay in their houses where many of them have been born and which they legally own. To date, the Israeli courts, including the High Court, decided in favour of the Jewish settler organisations, which claim the ownership of the land based on falsified documents. The courts have not only ignored all the documents produced by the Sheikh Jarrah community which clearly prove their legal status and the ownership of the land, they have also shown that their decisions are not based on law and justice, but are clearly political decisions, serving the goal of cleansing the Palestinian people from Jerusalem.

The latest court hearing, held on the 17th May, ordered the families to sign a guarantee for 50,000 NIS and present a further guarantee for $50,000 from the bank. The court has ruled for this money to be taken if the families refuse to hand in their keys and leave their houses voluntarily by noon on the 19th July. After this date, the settler organisations have permission to enter the houses and the fathers of the families will be sent to prison, charged with contempt of court.
Now that all legal avenues have been exhausted, the families last hope is that media attention & international pressure can help stop the evictions taking place

Maher Hannoun, resident from Sheikh Jarrah faced by imminent eviction order and imprisonment, said:
As refugees and people living under occupation, we are asking people to help us with our struggle for our rights. It is unbelievable that in the 21st century, Israel’s authorities can get away with demolishing the homes of Palestinians in order to build settlements or national parks. The price we and our neighbours have to pay is too high, we are faced with two impossible choices – either we throw our kids out on the street or we go to prison. If we lose our homes, there is nowhere else for us to go, the only option we have is to live in tents.

International solidarity gives us more power and strength to continue in our struggle and stay in our homes. We need support from people around the world to let everybody know about our story and pressure their goverments to help stop this racist policy of house evictions and demolitions.

What you can do – suggestions for further actions:

* Contact your MPs and other political representatives to tell them about this story. Ask them to raise the issue of East Jerusalem in the Parliament and Government meetings and put diplomatic pressure on the Israeli authorities.

* Contact media representatives in your countries and ask them to cover the story of Sheikh Jarrah and the ongoing ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem.

* Organise demonstrations, talks, film nights or photo exhibitions in your countries. Email sheikh.jarrah@hotmail.co.uk to receive updates, tell us about your ideas for actions, events and the co-ordination of an international day of actions.

* Set up a contigency plan with your organization or affinity group in the event that these evictions are carried out or Maher Hannoun is arrested. Send your email to Sheikh.jarrah@hotmail.co.uk to recieve alerts and co-ordinate your actions.

We ask for people to stand in solidarity with the residents of Sheikh Jarrah and support their fight for justice.

Settlements ARE an obstacle to peace!

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has authorized the building of 300 new homes in the West Bank, defying U.S. calls for a halt to settlement growth according to an article in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz today.

Interestingly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists that international concerns regarding settlement activity are impeding the Middle East peace process. However, the EU and the United States view Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank as an OBSTACLE to peace.

Israeli Human Rights Organization, BTselem, explains exactly why settlement activity in the occupied West Bank is an obstacle to peace:

As part of the regime, Israel has stolen thousands of dunams of land from the Palestinians. On this land, Israel has established dozens of settlements in which hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians now live. Israel forbids Palestinians to enter and use these lands and uses the settlements to justify numerous violations of Palestinian rights, such as the right to housing, to earn a living, and freedom of movement. The sharp changes Israel made to the map of the West Bank make a viable Palestinian state impossible as part of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.

BTselem goes on to argue the illegality of the settlements within the framework of international humanitarian law:

The establishment of settlements in the West Bank violates international humanitarian law which establishes principles that apply during war and occupation. Moreover, the settlements lead to the infringement of international human rights law.

The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from transferring citizens from its own territory to the occupied territory (Article 49).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A wave of morally responsible investment victories

Advocates for morally responsible investment around the world achieved a wave of victories in the past week!

It started Monday, June 8 with Veolia's announcement that it would pull out of the East Jerusalem light rail project that would connect illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem with Israel. (For those of you who have visited Sabeel's office in Jerusalem, this is the light rail that is being built right through the middle of Shou'fat road in front of the office). Veolia has lost some $7 billion in contracts due to sustained efforts in Europe, including campaigns and law suits against Veolia contracts in France; Dutch and Swedish divestment efforts, which included the participation of the Sabeel partners such as the Church of Sweden and Diakonia; and by British solidarity groups.

(Light rail in front of Sabeel Jerusalem office; photo by Tina Whitehead)

Next came the announcement that the Belgian-French financial group Dexia will no longer finance Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories through its Israeli branch Dexia Israel. This decision follows a months-long Belgian campaign to expose the company's connections to the settlement 'enterprise.'

Then came news that Motorola, which provides the Israeli military and settlements with surveillence and communication equipment, is considering selling off its Israeli subsidiary. his decision comes after our April victory in which Motorola sold off its bomb fuse department, one of the primary demands of human rights advocates working on the Motorola campaign.

Most recently, shareholder resolutions and protests at the Caterpillar shareholder meeting called on the company to end its military sales to Israel. Caterpillar bulldozers are used to demolish Palestinian homes, uproot olive and fruit trees, build settlements and the apartheid Wall, and have even been used to kill Palestinian and international civilians. Faced with questions about Caterpillar's human rights record, CAT CEO Jim Owens repeatedly said that those shareholders who don't agree with CAT's practices shouldn't own CAT shares--exactly what morally responsible investment advocates have been saying all along!

In other MRI news, the Toronto Conference of the United Church of Canada passed a resolution calling for all churches affiliated with the United Church to support Palestinian human rights through divestment efforts.. The resolution will be discussed and voted on by the United Church General Council in August. And a Canadian court is set to rule on whether companies can be sued for constructing settlements in a suit brought against two Canadian companies by the Palestinian village of Bil'in, one of the sites of weekly protests against the Apartheid Wall. To watch Al Jazeera's report on this case, click here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Netanyahu's Conditions without Preconditions for a Palestinian State

Last night, in an internationally televised speech, Netanyahu stated that he was willing to enter into negotiations with the Palestinians without preconditions...and then proceeded to state his conditions!

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator stated,"He announced a series of conditions and qualifications that render a viable, independent, and sovereign Palestinian state impossible."

Netanyahu demanded that any future Palestinian state not have a military (a right that every sovereign country has) or the ability to ask for military assistance from neighboring Arab states -- thus leaving it dependent upon the state of Israel. Palestine would also not be allowed control of its airspace.

Netanyahu also made a commitment to a united Jerusalem, a commitment which is in contravention to International Law according to the Israeli Human Rights Organization, BTselem. East Jerusalem is considered occupied territory and is home to over 208,000 Palestinians.

Take a look at BBC's key points of the speech
Check out the Guardian's analysis of the speech

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Silencing the Palestinian narrative in Israel

Check out the below excerpt from Israeli newspaper, Ha'aretz. A bill proposed forbidding the commemoration of the Nakba was approved. The commemoration of the Nakba does not mourn the establishment of the state of Israel but mourns the dispossession of 700,000 Palestinians and the fragmentation of Palestinian society:

Ten days ago, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved a bill proposed by MK Alex Miller of Yisrael Beiteinu, "forbidding by law the commemoration of Independence Day or the establishment of the state as a day of mourning." The bill was supported by Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar. As a result of the ruckus that resulted from the proposal, a compromise bill is being prepared, which would ban government bodies or any organization benefiting from state funding, from organizing or funding activities related to the Nakba.

One of the teachers who began using the kit [an educational kit teaching about the Nakba], Avital Spivak, says that "the Palestinian side of the story is missing completely from the educational system." She teaches civics to 11th and 12th graders at the Reali School in Haifa, and says "there is a complete blind spot, which leads to ignorance and racism and blocks the possibility of understanding and dialog. There is no need to agree to the right of return to talk about the Nakba, and there is no contradiction between being a Zionist and refusing to be blind and deaf to the pain and the story of the other side."

Read the entire article

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Gaza still requires attention from the international community!

According to the UN, Israel destroyed 3,500 homes in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead. Some of the displaced persons now live in tents, in harsh conditions. Participants in B’Tselem’s video project documented life in one encampment.

Watch a clip from the footage