Posts Tagged ‘gaza’

Making Gaza a ‘European ghetto’

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Lamis Andoni opinion piece for AJE’s Focus

While most Israeli leaders are resistant to fully lifting the blockade of Gaza, Avigdor Lieberman, the right-wing foreign minister, is advocating that Israel abandon the Strip to international monitoring and economic rehabilitation.

The proposal, recently leaked to the Israeli press, does not amount to freeing Gaza but rather to placing it under European sea and land inspections and a reconstruction plan.

If implemented, it will permanently sever the Gaza Strip from the West Bank, transforming the Strip into an internationally supervised ghetto – with the dual purpose of ensuring Israeli security and reigning in the Palestinian population.

The isolation of Gaza would further undermine the vision of a contiguous Palestinian state or any form of equitable coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis. It would also divide those families with members in the West Bank, creating a permanent schism in Palestinian society and deepening the sense of fragmentation.

Hamas would effectively be ruling a development project with no meaningful ties to the rest of the Palestinian people.

Read the rest at more at AJE…

Expired medicine donated to Gaza

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AJE reports on aid deliveries…

There is no doubt that hospitals in the Gaza Strip are in dire straights, desperately in need of medicine and technology.

However, millions of dollars worth of useless, out-of-date or expired medicine is being sent to the enclave as aid. The expired medicine is ending up in landfills, which are not properly equipped to deal with medical waste.

Gaza’s hospitals and clinics relay on international donations, and no one is accusing donors of acting with malice.

But doctors and health officials in Gaza say they want to be consulted before new donations are sent to the Strip to ensure that patients in Gaza are getting what they actually need.

Yorkshire Woman’s Freedom Flotilla Experience

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“A woman from Huddersfield has been speaking today of her determination to return to Palestine to complete the aid mission she never completed. Paveen Yaqoob was on board the ship stormed by Israelii troops back in May. She now vows to continue humanitarain work in memory of her nineteen year old friend who was among the nine Turkish people killed.” — ITV Yorkshire Regional News, Sat 31 July ’10

In the clip, Paveen can be seen reading the recently published report from IHH about the Freedom Flotilla. Download here…

[Thanks to Jim for sending the video link]

David Cameron: Gaza Strip a ‘prison camp’

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Strong word during his visit to Turkey, The Guardian reports:

David Cameron: Israeli blockade has turned Gaza Strip into a ‘prison camp’

Prime minister intervenes in Middle East dispute and hopes Turkey can stop Iran’s nuclear weapons programme

Cameron & Erdogan

David Cameron used a visit to Turkey to make his strongest intervention yet in the intractable Middle East conflict today when he likened the experience of Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip to that of a “prison camp”.

Although he has made similar remarks before, his decision to repeat them on a world stage in Turkey, whose relations with Israel have deteriorated sharply since it mounted a deadly assault on the Gaza flotilla, gave them much greater diplomatic significance.

Cameron’s comments, in a speech to business leaders in Ankara, prompted the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to issue another strong condemnation of how Israel dealt with the flotilla.

Erdogan likened the behaviour of Israeli commandos, who shot dead nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists, to Somali pirates.

Cameron’s criticism of Tel Aviv came when he called for Israel to relax its restrictions on Gaza. “The situation in Gaza has to change,” he said. “Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp.”

He strongly condemned Israel after the assault on the Gaza flotilla. “The Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable,” he said. “I have told prime minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu we will expect the Israeli inquiry to be swift, transparent and rigorous. “Let me also be clear that the situation in Gaza has to change.”

Cameron defended his remarks at a press conference with Erdogan. “My description of Gaza is something I said in the House of Commons several weeks ago. Perhaps this is final proof that if you want to keep something completely secret you should announce it in the House of Commons.”

Hansard, the House of Commons’ official record, shows Cameron said on 28 June: “Everybody knows that we are not going to sort out the problem of the Middle East peace process while there is, effectively, a giant open prison in Gaza.”

His choice of the words “prison camp” instead of “open prison” is likely to be seized upon. But a Downing Street source later tried to play down Cameron’s comments. “This is not an elevation of the rhetoric. This is equivalent language. The prime minister remains concerned.”

Cameron said Britain remained opposed to the blockade of Gaza. “The fact is we have long supported lifting the blockade of Gaza, we have long supported proper humanitarian access. Even though some progress has been made we are still in the situation where it is very difficult to get in, it is very difficult to get out. So I think the description is warranted.”

Read more at The Guardian… (including the objections)

BBC has video… & report

UN Names Flotilla Inquiry Panel

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UN Human Rights Council release…

AJE reports:

UNHRC

The United Nations Human Rights Council has appointed a team to investigate Israel’s deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May.

The team will consist of three independent experts: Sir Desmond de Silva of Britain, Karl Hudson-Phillips of Trinidad and Tobago, and Mary Shanth Dairiam of Malaysia, the UN body said on Friday.

The council voted to establish the inquiry in June, after nine Turkish activists were killed when Israeli troops boarded the Mavi Marmara, the largest ship in the flotilla.

“The expertise, independence and impartiality of the members of the mission will be devoted to clarifying the events which took place that day and their legality,” Sihasak Phuangketkeow, the Thai ambassador to the UN, said.

Thailand currently holds the presidency of the human rights council.

De Silva is a former chief war crimes prosecutor at the UN-backed special court for Sierra Leone. Hudson-Phillips is a former judge at the International Criminal Court and Shanthi Dairiam is a women’s rights activist.

Israeli co-operation

The team is expected to travel to Israel, Turkey and Gaza next month to interview witnesses and gather information. It will report its findings in September.

It is unclear whether Israel will co-operate with the inquiry; Israel has said that its soldiers acted in self-defence, and has rejected calls for an international investigation.

An internal Israeli army inquiry completed earlier this month recommended no disciplinary action against senior officers, and concluded that “the use of live fire was justified” on board the Mavi Marmara.

A separate civilian panel, chaired by former Israeli supreme court judge Jacob Turkel, is also investigating the raid.

Israel’s defence ministry announced on Friday that it would return seven ships from the flotilla to Turkey, including the Mavi Marmara.

The ships have been sitting in Israel’s Ashdod and Haifa ports for more than a month, despite repeated requests from the Turkish embassy that the ships be returned.

The ministry said it will co-ordinate with Turkey to arrange for the return of the ships, a process which could take several weeks.

Gaza’s Only FisherWOMAN

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In Gaza, traditional industries like fishing are dominated by men but one 16-year-old girl is changing that.

She has taken charge of her father’s fishing boat and the family’s livelihood after he suffered an injury to his leg.

Gaza’s Youngest Potter

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A six-year-old boy has attracted much attention in Gaza by being the youngest potter in the area.

He started learning when he was four and spends most of his school holidays working on the potter’s wheel. Mahmoud, who is determined to carry on his family’s craft tradition.

7,500 Basketball Record Breakers in Gaza – UPDATED

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Today, as part of UNRWA‘s Gaza Summer Games programme, 7,500 Gazan children broke the World Record for the number of basketballs bounced simultaneously!

UNRWA’s Press Release:

Thousands of children in the Gaza Strip will attempt to smash the world record for the number of basketballs bounced simultaneously in one of the more novel activities that are part of an annual sporting event organized by the United Nations agency assisting Palestinian refugees.

Tomorrow [July 22], at the Summer Games, these children will seek to break the current world record, which was set in the United States in September 2007. The number of balls dribbled then was just over 3,000, a figure they hope to double.

“I have total confidence that the kids of Gaza will break this world record,” said John Ging, the Director in Gaza for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, in a press release issued by UNRWA. “With their extraordinary determination and capacity to rise to a challenge, the children here can do anything.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also expressed his support in a video message. “I want to congratulate the children of Gaza for taking part in this great event. You are showing the world that if you are given the opportunity… you can be number one!”

Later this week, the children are expected to set a separate world record for the number of kites flown simultaneously – a record they themselves set during the Games last year.

“Two world records in a week is surely another world record in itself,” said Mr. Ging, “and I invite children everywhere to go to our blog and send support.” He was referrring to a Facebook page set up by UNRWA where, for the past month, bloggers from around the world have been invited to send messages of support and hope to the children of Gaza.

UNRWA’s Summer Games, now in their fourth year, engage more than a quarter of a million refugee children across Gaza in such activities as sports, arts and crafts, theatre and drama. As the largest recreation programme for Gaza’s children, it is providing 1,200 summer camps for the duration of the Games, which run from 12 June through 5 August this year.

Send your messages of support: http://www.facebook.com/unrwa

Last year children attending UNRWA summer camps shattered the world record for simultaneous kite flying, sending some 5,000 kites aloft over the Gaza seashore – this is the record they hope to break tomorrow:

Israeli Soldier Who Killed Tom Hurndall Granted Early Release

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Tom Hurndall

We have to agree with Tom’s mother: ‘Israel doesn’t care about justice’, and his father who has called for a meeting with William Hague.

21-year old Tom Hurndall was shot in the head in April 2003 as he was helping Palestinian children to cross a street in Rafah, Gaza. In 2005 the Israeli soldier, Taysir-al-Heib, was jailed for eight years for manslaughter.

Read ISM’s press release: Early release of Tom Hurndall’s killer symptom of wider Israeli crimes

The Foreign Office gave a typically weak response, from the Guardian:

“Taysir was part of a policy and was not the principal culprit,” Anthony Hurndall said. “The issue is that the Israeli army are uncaring of civilian safety.”

In a statement the Foreign Office said: “We note the court’s decision to release Taysir Hayb and recognise the grief this decision will cause to the Hurndall family. We have the deepest of sympathies for the Hurndall family. Tom’s death was a tragedy.”

Hurndall described the statement as tame. He said: “I would like them to say that this is not just a tragedy but that the Isreali government is directly responsibility for Tom’s death and should acknowledge this and take steps to put matters right by changing policies to ensure that civilians are not shot or killed indiscriminately. I’m disappointed they could have said it more forcefully.”

He added: “We would now like a meeting with William Hague and the attorney general. That rather weak response should act as a trigger to a meeting. We want the British government to help ensure that senior officers are bought to account and prosecuted.”

Speaking for the Hurndall family, he said: “We are not anti-Israeli or pro-Palestinian. Our deep concern here is that nothing is going to happen to resolve issues between the Israel and the Palestinians unless there is a degree of honesty and fact-facing and balance restored.

“War crimes have been committed and continue to be committed in Gaza.”

Hurndall’s sister Sophie told Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper that she was “angry and shocked” by the early release of Hayb.

But she said she blamed the Israeli military rather than Hayb.

“It’s about the system. Not the man himself,” she told Haaretz. “This man who shot Tom was the same age as him. He is both the victim and the killer. He is part of a system that proactively encouraged soldiers to target civilians.”

Read more: Family of Briton killed by Israeli soldier demand meeting with ministers

UK readers should watch Channel 4‘s documentary: The Shooting of Thomas Hurndall

Tom’s mother, Jocelyn, has written a book My Son Tom: The Life and Tragic Death of Tom Hurndal and the family has a website, Tom Hurndall Foundation.

Chris Patten: Gaza blockade “an immoral failure”

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Harriet Sherwood writes in The Guardian about the former EU commissioner’s comments during a visit to Gaza on Sunday:

Chris Patten urges bolder EU approach over Middle East conflict

Former EU commissioner Chris Patten calls Gaza blockade an immoral failure and says bloc must be more independent

The European Union must shake off US dominance and take a bolder approach in pressing for a settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the former EU commissioner Chris Patten said today on a visit to Gaza.

Israel’s policy of blockading Gaza had been a “terrible failure – immoral, illegal and ineffective”, he said, which had “deliberately triggered an economic and social crisis which has many humanitarian consequences”.

In an interview with the Guardian, the former Conservative cabinet minister suggested it was time to reassess the isolation of Hamas, saying that approach had failed to weaken it.

Patten’s visit, his first since 2002, coincided with a lightning second trip by the EU foreign policy chief, Lady Ashton, who called on Israel to open Gaza’s borders rather than merely allow in more consumer goods.

Ashton’s second visit since her appointment last December “showed a preparedness to be more independent-minded,” said Patten. “The default European position should not be to wait to find out what the Americans are going to do, and if the Americans don’t do anything to wring our hands. We should be prepared to be more explicit in setting out Europe’s objectives and doing more to try to implement them.”

He implicitly criticised US dominance of the Middle East quartet – the US, EU, UN and Russia – by saying he concurred with the description of it by the leader of the Arab League as the “quartet sans trois”.

Patten, who found it “easier to get into a maximum security prison in the UK than to enter Gaza”, said Israel’s relaxation of its blockade had not gone far enough. “It’s moved from about minus 10 to about minus eight. It doesn’t do anything to help restore economic activity in Gaza.

“It’s difficult to understand what preventing exports has to do with security. It has everything to do with the view that Gaza should be collectively punished to discredit Hamas. Unfortunately there are some centuries, if not millennia, of history that show that does not work. Presumably the international community as well as Israel wants at some stage – sooner rather than later – to be able to persuade Gaza and its political leadership to take a course which will lead to reconciliation and peace and stability. It’s difficult to know how you accomplish that if you deny the people of Gaza any social or economic progress.”

On earlier visits, he said, he had observed “a community that was poor, but at least economic activity was taking place”. Since the blockade, “economic and commercial life has been squeezed out of Gaza in what looks and feels and is like a medieval siege”.

Israel’s change in policy was not a “fundamental shift in its position but it has plainly deflated some of the criticism” following the lethal assault on the aid flotilla on 31 May. That, he added, was “a terrible own goal” for Israel.

On negotiations with Hamas, Patten referred to his involvement with the Northern Ireland peace process, which “would not have been successfully concluded if we hadn’t – with considerable American encouragement – agreed to talk to Sinn Fein/IRA.

“You don’t always agree with people you talk to – indeed sometimes you find them despicable – but you need to ease them out of the corners into which they’ve painted themselves rather than lay on the paint much thicker.

“I think it’s wholly reasonable to say we couldn’t deal with Hamas unless they agreed to a comprehensive and complete ceasefire. But do we need to insist on them accepting all past agreements? Has Israel accepted all past agreements? If you simply isolate them, do you weaken them?” In fact, he said, “you strengthen people who are even more extreme than they are”.

Before crossing to Gaza with the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians, of which he is president, Patten visited the West Bank and was shocked by the “huge new settlements”.

“We’re told there is an ‘unprecedented freeze’, but I saw large numbers of houses and flats being built as we speak. One of the key elements of a final agreement [between Israel and the Palestinians] will be how you cope with settlements. The more difficult it is to secure a viable and contiguous Palestinian state, the more difficult a final agreement will be.”

If two states were no longer possible, then there would have to be one state on the land, he said. “But can you have that and retain a Jewish state which is democratic? I haven’t heard anyone argue that convincingly.”

He said public opinion in Europe and Britain was moving in favour of a change in Israeli policy towards Palestinians, but that could be endangered by growing demands for a boycott of Israel.

“I don’t think a boycott would help,” he said. “It could have the reverse consequences to those intended.”

BBC News quotes Baroness Ashton during her second visit to Gaza in six months:

The position of the European Union is very clear: that we want the opportunity for people to be able to move around freely or to see goods, not only coming into Gaza but exports coming out of Gaza [..] and that is the position that we will be discussing with the Israeli government, as well as of course making sure that we’re putting the right kind of pressure out to the international community.

Read the report at BBC News: “EU envoy urges Israel to open Gaza borders”

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