22 Jan, 2009 – Part 2

Breaking News:Broadcasters refuse to air Gaza charity appeal: The Guardian

BBC declines to show DEC appeal under agreement dating back to 1963, leading to other outlets following suit

The BBC has refused to broadcast a national humanitarian appeal for Gaza, leaving aid agencies with a potential shortfall of millions of pounds in donations. The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an umbrella organisation for 13 aid charities, launched its appealtoday saying the devastation in Gaza was “so huge that British aid agencies were compelled to act”.
But the BBC made a rare breach of an agreement dating back to 1963 when it announced it would not give free airtime to the appeal. Other broadcasters then followed suit. Previously, broadcasters have agreed on the video and script to be used with the DEC, with each station choosing a presenter to front the appeal, shown after primetime news bulletins. The BBC said it was not the first time broadcasters had refused to show a DEC appeal. The corporation said it had been concerned about the difficulties of getting aid through to victims in a volatile situation. The BBC, which has faced criticism in the past over alleged bias in its coverage of the Middle East, said it did not want to risk public confidence in its impartiality. The DEC’s chief executive, Brendan Gormley, said the decision could have a big impact on its appeal. “We are used to our appeal getting into every household and offering a safe and necessary way for people to respond. This time we will have to work a lot harder because we won’t have the free airtime or the powerful impact of appearing on every TV and radio station.”

How despicable of the BBC, but how unsurprising, and in line with its systematic support of Israel

Self-defence is no defence: The Guardian

As more testimony emerges from the ruins of Gaza, evidence is stacking up that Israel has a war crimes case to answer
Under Article 51 of the UN Charter, a state can take military action without the prior authorisation of the Security Council if it is acting in self-defence. Yet, as CNN has reported, it was Israel – and not Hamas fighters – that broke the ceasefire. On the November 4 2008, Israel shelled the villages of Wadi al-Salqa and al-Qarara, killing six Hamas activists.

It is true that Israel has suffered from Hamas rocket attacks. Insofar as these attacks indiscriminately target civilian areas, Hamas would be guilty of war crimes under the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Yet, in the past eight years, Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza have killed around 20 people in southern Israel. Israel’s response is neither necessary nor proportionate.

At the time of writing, after 23 days of bombardment, more than 1,300 Palestinians have been killed by Israel, including 410 children and 104 women, while 5,300 are seriously injured, of whom 1,855 are children and 795 women. Israel has shelled three clearly marked UN schools, the existence and GPS coordinates of which Israel had been repeatedly notified. Israel has shelled the headquarters of UNRWA, the UN’s relief agency (which is responsible with providing aid to 750,000 Palestinians), and it has shelled and bombed hospitals, ambulances, and medical personnel. In typical Israeli fashion, it has bulldozed homes without warning in an attempt to bury the inhabitants alive. Recent UN human rights reports expose that the Israeli army has deliberately used white phosphorus on civilians, which is prohibited “in all circumstances” under Protocol III of the Convention on Conventional Weapons, and evidence has emerged that Israeli snipers have deliberately targeted civilians.

Israeli army investigates use of white phosphorus in Gaza: The Guardian

Inquiry amid mounting evidence that incendiary munitions were used in invasion
The Israeli army is investigating its forces’ widespread use of white phosphorus during the Gaza offensive, the daily paper Ha’aretz has reported. The inquiry comes as more visual and medical evidence is being accumulated about the deployment of the highly incendiary munitions. The Israeli army has insisted white phosphorus shells were only used to provide smoke screens for their advancing ground troops. Around 200 of these shells were fired in the northern Gaza Strip in the latter stages of the war. Two Palestinian children were killed and 14 people suffered severe burns on January 17 when Israeli shells landed in a UN-run school in the northern Beit Lahiya area, medical officials said. Amnesty International has accused Israel of war crimes over its use of highly incendiary munitions in heavily-populated areas. “Amnesty International delegates visiting the Gaza Strip found indisputable evidence of widespread use of white phosphorus in densely-populated residential areas in Gaza City and in the north,” the organisation said.

Don’t hold your breath for the results…

Video Clip – Ban Ki-moon outraged at Gaza devastation: The Guardian

UN secretary general visits Gaza Strip and city of Sderot, in southern Israel, as part of Middle East peacekeeping tour

Israel and the white heat of justice: The Guardian CiF

A political solution for Gaza must not preclude the investigation of war crimes, including Israel’s use of white phosphorus

Amnesty International has now joined the United Nations and Human Rights Watch in accusing the Israeli government of breaking international law outlawing the use of white phosphorus shells in the middle of highly populated areas of Gaza. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, has condemned Israeli attacks on UN humanitarian centres in Gaza as “outrageous” and has called for an independent, international inquiry.
Meanwhile a senior minister in the Israeli government has been quoted in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz as saying that when the full extent of the destruction brought on Gaza becomes known “I will not be taking my holidays in Amsterdam”. This possibly “humorous” observation referred to the possibility that leaders of the Israeli government may yet be arraigned before the International Criminal Court in The Hague – or a similar tribunal – to answer charges of war crimes.
Indeed some 300 human rights organisations have already prepared an initial 37-page dossier to be presented to the court. At the same time, in a move which could be equally damaging to the international standing of the Israeli government, a number of United Nations humanitarian agencies have insisted that there must be an independent, internationally approved, legal inquiry into the prima facie evidence of crimes committed. It is clear now that Israeli shelling and missile attacks – including those on UN facilities used as shelters for civilians during the war – have taken many hundreds of innocent civilian lives.

How Israel drowns dissent: The Guardian CiF

Firefighters turned their hoses on a peaceful anti-war protester last week. Their attitude reflects a worrying shift in public opinion

Last week, at the height of Operation Cast Lead, a group of Israeli firemen threw their hats into the political ring, albeit in somewhat undiplomatic and uncivilised fashion. During a peaceful anti-war vigil outside a Tel Aviv air force base, several members of the fire brigade turned on one protester, drenching her relentlessly with water from their hoses, before approaching her and ordering her into the station in order to “give us all head”.

Their actions were, while wholly illegal, none the less emblematic of a massive shift in Israeli public opinion over the last few years, according to Sharon Dolev, the woman on the receiving end of the assault. A veteran activist, Dolev has suffered a great deal during her 20 years of campaigning in the Israeli peace camp (“death threats, being shot with rubber bullets, hate mail, beatings”), but said that this incident was “the first time that the establishment felt safe in [taking action such as this]”.

“It used to be a big deal if bus drivers criticised protests and vigils in public,” she recalls, “since as employees of the state, they were not allowed to express political opinions in uniform.” Now, however, the firemen felt so secure of escaping punishment that they even bombarded her with firecrackers during the attack, telling her “now you know what it’s like to live in Sderot”.

PCHR: Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

Press Release

The offensive launched by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) on the Gaza Strip, between 27 December and 18 January 2009, has caused total destruction in many parts of the Gaza Strip, making these parts look like earthquake zones. In its offensive on Gaza, IOF employed its full-fledged arsenal and used its air, ground and sea forces. Some areas were almost completely razed, while many houses and civilian establishments became hills of dust. IOF offensive claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent unarmed civilians, including a large number of children and women. The casualties included entire families (for more information, please see press releases that had been published by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) during IOF offensive on the Gaza Strip). Following the IOF withdrawal from Gaza in the early morning of 18 January 2009, PCHR field workers could observe closely the humanitarian crisis that has been caused by IOF offensive. It was obvious that IOF intended to erase any civilization features in the Gaza Strip. They deliberately and systematically destroyed the entire vital facilities to make Gaza go decades back. Through the data and statistics that PCHR has been able to collect so far, PCHR will show to all the war crimes that IOF committed against Palestinian civilians and their property. PCHR recruits a qualified team of field workers and lawyers to observe and document the real damages that had been caused by IOF during their offensive on the Gaza Strip.

700 Have Been Detained in Demonstrations Held in Israel against War Crimes in the Gaza Strip: MR Magazine

Over 700 citizens and residents of Israel, mostly Arab-Palestinian, have been detained since Israel began its military attacks on the Gaza Strip on 27 December 2008. Detentions were made in the wake of public demonstrations, held primarily in northern Israel, Tel-Aviv-Jaffa, and also in the southern city of Bee-Sheva, against Israel’s war crimes in the Gaza Strip.

In addition to the detention of demonstrators, Israel conducted interrogations and preventative detentions of Palestinian leaders in Israel. The Chairperson of the National Democratic Assembly (Balad), Awad Abd al-Fatah, spent a night in detention and was subsequently released without charges. The Secretary of the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash), Ayman Odeh, was interrogated by the GSS (Shin-Bet), as were leaders of the Abna al-Balad, Muhammad Canaane and Raja Aghbariya.

The violation of the right to freedom of expression of citizens and residents in Israel is part of two separate but interrelated campaigns being waged by the Israeli government: the (further) marginalization and de-legitimization of Arab-Palestinians, a national minority in Israel, and the concealment of protest within Israel against the attacks on Gaza.

Protests over Gaza spread to eight English universities: The Guardian Education

LSE director Howard Davies issues joint statement with demonstrators

As student protests over the bombing of Gaza spread to eight universities across England today, the director of the London School of Economics, Sir Howard Davies, issued a joint statement with student protesters saying he understood their concerns and backing a fundraising drive for scholarships for Palestinians. LSE protesters ended their week-long occupation of the institution’s Old Theatre peacefully last night, after Davies, former chairman of the Financial Services Authority, agreed to meet some of their demands. But he refused to issue an official university statement condemning the Israeli bombardment of Gaza or to publish regular financial statements spelling out LSE’s investment in companies involved in supplying arms to Palestine and Israel. The LSE will waive scholarship application fees for students affected by the conflict, help students organise a fundraising day, and donate surplus computers and books to institutions in Gaza. The joint statement quoted Davies as saying: “I well understand the concerns felt by many students about the events in Gaza. It is painful to observe the suffering of the civilian population. Like Professor [Rick] Trainor of Universities UK, who speaks for the sector as a whole, I supported calls for an end to the conflict. As he has said, many of the casualties have occurred in educational establishments. Wherever in the world scholars or their institutions are threatened, or their lives are disrupted by conflict, I believe all parties should respect the integrity of scholarship and intellectual and academic freedom, and should work to minimise suffering”.

King’s students stage sit-in over Gaza: The Guardian Education

Protesters demand university revoke doctorate bestowed on Shimon Peres, Israel’s president

Students at King’s College London are staging a sit-in protest on campus over the treatment of Palestinians in Gaza and the honorary doctorate bestowed on the Israeli president, Shimon Peres. In the latest of a flurry of occupations at English universities in response to Israel’s actions in Gaza, more than 100 students took over a lecture theatre in the university yesterday. Kings students are demanding that the university issue a formal statement condemning Israel’s bombing of Gaza and revoke the honorary doctorate Peres was awarded in November last year. The protesters also want King’s, and its vice-chancellor, Rick Trainor, to provide five fully funded scholarships for Palestinian students, help organise a cross-campus fundraising day, establish links with educational institutions in Gaza, and donate any surplus educational resources to them. In addition, they are calling for King’s to publish a list of any links it has with the arms trade. In a statement, the students said: “We stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza and refuse to let our university, one which we are very proud of being a part of, award a doctorate to a man who has not only been an advocate of the recent brutality in Gaza, but also a protagonist in the history of bloodshed that has scarred the Middle East.”

Things are moving on! Organise in your own university!

Final statement of a mission of prominent lawyers and activists: International Federation for Human Rights

Important new statement by Human Rights leading experts

The One-State Solution: NY Times Op ED

THE shocking level of the last wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence, which ended with this weekend’s cease-fire, reminds us why a final resolution to the so-called Middle East crisis is so important. It is vital not just to break this cycle of destruction and injustice, but also to deny the religious extremists in the region who feed on the conflict an excuse to advance their own causes. But everywhere one looks, among the speeches and the desperate diplomacy, there is no real way forward. A just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians is possible, but it lies in the history of the people of this conflicted land, and not in the tired rhetoric of partition and two-state solutions. Although it’s hard to realize after the horrors we’ve just witnessed, the state of war between the Jews and Palestinians has not always existed. In fact, many of the divisions between Jews and Palestinians are recent ones. The very name “Palestine” was commonly used to describe the whole area, even by the Jews who lived there, until 1948, when the name “Israel” came into use. Jews and Muslims are cousins descended from Abraham. Throughout the centuries both faced cruel persecution and often found refuge with one another. Arabs sheltered Jews and protected them after maltreatment at the hands of the Romans and their expulsion from Spain in the Middle Ages. The history of Israel/Palestine is not remarkable by regional standards — a country inhabited by different peoples, with rule passing among many tribes, nations and ethnic groups; a country that has withstood many wars and waves of peoples from all directions. This is why it gets so complicated when members of either party claims the right to assert that it is their land.

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