|We are inspired by the resiliance of the Palestinian people|
Friday, December 19, 2014
The crisis caused by the tremendous destruction of homes and infrastructure in July is now compounded by severe flooding, the onset of winter, and an unconscionable delay in the movement of reconstruction materials across the Israeli-Gaza border.
Quoting from the letter: “Despite the much-touted Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) . . . just 2.9 percent of the materials needed for reconstruction and recovery plans have entered thus far, with fewer reconstruction materials entering Gaza in November than over the past three months. . . The Popular Committee for Monitoring the Reconstruction of the Gaza Strip estimates that at the current pace it will take at least 20 years to rebuild the Gaza Strip.” This “clear result of policy inaction and failure,” the letter continues, is repairable if certain steps are taken. The organizations ask, among other things, that:
· the U.S. increase its financial commitment to the reconstruction effort, and ensure that these funds are disbursed immediately to relevant United Nations agencies and NGOs
· the U.S. urge Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza, allowing full freedom of movement of people and goods and lifting restrictions on import and export, “a crucial step for recovery and development of the local economy”
· the U.S. urge Egypt to open the Rafah crossing
· the U.S. work with the U.N., Israel, and the Palestinians to “resolve problematic aspects of the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism,” such as requiring homeowners receiving building materials to register in a database accessible to Israeli intelligence agencies
· the U.S. help ensure that “Israeli companies that operate in settlements or are complicit in violations of international humanitarian law do not profit from reconstruction efforts”
We are heartened to see that Quaker organizations have joined the United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church, the Mennonite Central Committees in the U.S. and Palestine, among many others, in proposing specific ways that the U.S. can work to ease the suffering in Gaza. Friends can respond personally by writing a letter to Secretary Kerry and President Obama; posting on social media or telling a friend about the situation in Gaza; and/or by donating badly needed funds for emergency relief to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Gaza Appeal.
Posted by Helen at 10:53 AM
Saturday, November 15, 2014
Friends, as we learned in the South African struggle, the boycott is a nonviolent tactic that pressures the occupying government as well as individual companies to end their support of illegal occupation and repression.
SODASTREAM – This gadget converts tap water into a carbonated drink. Its main manufacturing plant is located in Ma’ale Adumim, an Israeli settlement that is illegal under international law. Sodastream is sold in Staples, Costco, Ace Hardware and Bed Bath and Beyond.
AHAVA beauty products, made with minerals and mud from the Dead Sea, are manufactured in Mitzpe Shalem, another illegal settlement. Ahava products are sold in high-end department stores and pharmacies and are carried by TJ MAXX, Marshall’s and Ulta.
KETER PLASTIC PRODUCTS – Keter makes tool boxes, storage containers, laundry baskets, inexpensive patio furniture and the like in the illegal settlement of Barkan. These products are sold at Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target, and other stores.
RAM QUALITY TOYS are also made in the illegal settlement of Barkan. They’re sold by Edushape as “Interstar Toys” and by Toys R Us as part of its Imaginarium Discovery line.
ROYALIFE LINENS are sold as Williams Sonoma and Pottery Barn brands. The labels on the sheets say “Made in Israel,” but some are manufactured in the illegal settlement of Barkan inside the West Bank.
SMART-FAB disposable art and craft fabric is used in schools for art projects. It is also made in the Barkan settlement and is sold online by Staples, Wal-Mart, and Amazon, and can be found in local school supply stores.
Posted by Helen at 10:59 AM
Sunday, November 09, 2014
Monday, October 27, 2014
After the latest Israeli offensive into Gaza last August, living conditions have worsened considerably. Families and communities are still grieving the 500 children killed by Israeli airstrikes. Another 400,000 children have been severely traumatized: nightmares, inability to concentrate, anger, and deep sadness continue to haunt children long after the bombs stopped falling. Daily life has become untenable. Water and sewage treatment plants are nearly non-functional, heightening fears of an impending public health crisis. At least 175 businesses were destroyed in the bombing, putting thousands out of work. Unemployment has reached record levels: 50% among adults and over 60% among youth. More than 57,000 displaced persons are being sheltered in schools administered by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees. An additional 40,000 to 50,000 remain with host families.
It has been estimated that the reconstruction of Gaza will cost the international donor community at least $7.8 billion. Yet, this figure may be far too low. Should only the destruction from last summer’s offensive be repaired, or should it include the damage from Israeli military operations of 2000, 2003, 2005, and 2006? Some experts believe that the cycle of military offensives and rebuilding cannot continue.
At some point, the area will become such a wasteland – economically, ecologically, psychologically – that the residents will simply leave. The wounds of war will have become too deep to heal.
Palestinian families have already begun to take this step, says historian Sara Roy. For the first time in history, a true exodus is taking place. Hundreds of Gazans have already been smuggled through tunnels to Egypt where they have boarded ships to cross the Mediterranean. Palestinians from all social strata and all political camps are leaving. Even members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad are sending their children abroad to give them a chance at a better future.
Cynics might say this has been Israel's goal all along -- to reclaim all of historic Palestine by any means necessary. Through settlement building, humiliating checkpoints, imprisonment, torture, restriction of food and medicine, and recurrent military terror, Israel will force Palestinians to give up what remains of their homeland. And within their new borders, perhaps, Israelis will finally feel secure.
But as Quakers are convinced, true security cannot be attained through violence. As the world sees ever more clearly the lives of the Palestinians under Israel's harsh rule, as more nations support Palestine's quest for statehood, and as Israel finds itself increasingly isolated through boycott, divestment, and sanctions, pressure is mounting on Israel's leaders to move beyond oppression, fear, and self-righteousness. Security for one can only be built on security for all.
Posted by Helen at 8:57 AM
Thursday, February 27, 2014
By Jonathan Cook
25 February 2014
The 24-hour visit by German chancellor Angela Merkel to Israel this week came as relations between the two countries hit rock bottom. According to a report in Der Spiegel magazine last week, Ms Merkel and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been drawn into shouting matches when discussing by phone the faltering peace process.
Despite their smiles to the cameras during the visit, tension behind the scenes has been heightened by a diplomatic bust-up earlier this month when Martin Schulz, the president of the European parliament and himself German, gave a speech to the Israeli parliament.
In unprecedented scenes, a group of Israeli legislators heckled Mr Schulz, calling him a “liar”, and then staged a walkout, led by the economics minister Naftali Bennett. Rather than apologising, Mr Netanyahu intervened to lambast Mr Schulz for being misinformed.
Mr Schulz, who, like Ms Merkel, is considered a close friend of Israel, used his speech vehemently to oppose growing calls in Europe for a boycott of Israel. So how did he trigger such opprobrium?
Mr Schulz’s main offence was posing a question: was it true, as he had heard in meetings in the West Bank, that Israelis have access to four times more water than Palestinians? He further upset legislators by gently suggesting that Israel’s blockade of Gaza was preventing economic growth there.
Neither statement should have been in the least controversial. Figures from independent bodies such as the World Bank show Israel, which dominates the local water supplies, allocates per capita about 4.4 times more water to its population than to Palestinians.
Equally, it would be hard to imagine that years of denying goods and materials to Gaza, and blocking exports, have not ravaged its economy. The unemployment rate, for example, has increased 6 per cent, to 38.5 per cent, following Israel’s recent decision to prevent the transfer of construction materials to Gaza’s private sector.
But Israelis rarely hear such facts from their politicians or the media. And few are willing to listen when a rare voice like Mr Schulz’s intervenes. Israelis have grown content to live in a large bubble of denial.
Mr Netantahu and his ministers are making every effort to reinforce that bubble, just as they have tried to shield Israelis from the fact that they live in the Middle East, not Europe, by building walls on every side – both physical and bureaucratic – to exclude Palestinians, Arab neighbours, foreign workers and asylum seekers.
Inside Israel, the government is seeking to silence the few critical voices left. The intimidation was starkly on display last week as the supreme court considered the constitutionality of the recent “boycott law”, which threatens to bankrupt anyone calling for a boycott of either Israel or the settlements.
Tellingly, a lawyer for the government defended its position by arguing that Israel could not afford freedom of expression of the kind enjoyed by countries like the US.
Illustrating the point, uproar greeted the news last month that a civics teacher had responded negatively when asked by pupils whether he thought Israel’s army the most moral in the world. A campaign to sack him has been led by government ministers and his principal, who stated: “There are sacred cows I won’t allow to be slaughtered.”
Similarly, last week it emerged that a Palestinian from East Jerusalem had been interrogated by police for incitement after noting on Facebook that his city was “under occupation”.
Outside Israel, Mr Netanyahu is indulging in more familiar tactics to browbeat critics. Tapping European sensitivities, he accused those who support a boycott of being “classical anti-semites in modern garb”. He justified the allegation, as he has before, on the grounds that Israel is being singled out.
It looks that way to Israelis only because they have singularly insulated themselves from reality.
Western critics focus on Israel because, unlike countries such as North Korea or Iran, Israel has managed to avoid any penalties despite riding roughshod over international norms for decades.
Iran, which is only suspected of secretly developing nuclear weapons, has been enduring years of savage sanctions. Israel, which has hidden its large stockpile of nuclear warheads from international scrutiny since the late 1960s, has enjoyed endless diplomatic cover.
Contrary to Mr Netanyahu’s claim, lots of countries have been singled out by the United States and Europe for sanctions – whether diplomatic, financial or, in the case of Iraq, Libya and Syria, military.
But the antipathy towards Israel has deeper roots still. Israel has not only evaded accountability, it has been handsomely rewarded by the US and Europe for flouting international conventions in its treatment of the Palestinians.
The self-styled global policemen have inadvertently encouraged Israel’s lawbreaking by consistently ignoring its transgressions and continuing with massive aid handouts and preferential trade deals.
Far from judging Israel unfairly, Mr Schulz, Ms Merkel and most other western leaders regularly indulge in special pleading on its behalf. They know about Israel’s ugly occupation but shy away from exercising their powers to help end it.
The reason why popular criticism of Israel is currently galvanising around the boycott movement – what Mr Netanyahu grandly calls “delegitimisation” – is that it offers a way for ordinary Americans and Europeans to distance themselves from their governments’ own complicity in Israel’s crimes.
If Mr Netanyahu has refused to listen to his external critics, western governments have been no less at fault in growing impervious to the groundswell of sentiment at home that expects Israel to be forced to take account of international law.
Both Ms Merkel’s diplomatic niceties and her shouting matches have proven themselves utterly ineffective. It is time for her and her western colleagues to stop talking and to start taking action against Israel.
Posted by Helen at 3:23 PM