Feb 23, 2009

Support the student occupations against the illegal occupation in Palestine!

Amnesty International urges freeze on arms sales to Israel: Ha’aretz

More than 20 countries sold Israel weapons and munitions whose use during Operation Cast Lead could constitute war crimes and might pose serious infractions of international law, according to a report to be released by Amnesty International on Monday.
The United States is at the top of the list of arms exporters to Israel, but France, Romania, Bosnia and Serbia are listed as well. Amnesty’s report, entitled, “Fueling Conflict: Foreign Arms supplies to Israel/Gaza,” details arms sales to Israel between 2004 and 2007, and publishes some of the organization’s findings on the use of such weapons against civilians and civilian targets.
“Direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects, disproportionate attacks and indiscriminate attacks are war crimes,” the report states, describing such attacks during the war in Gaza. The organization recommends that all arms sales to Israel be frozen until “there is no longer a substantial risk that such equipment will be used for serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses.”
The report further noted that Hamas and other Palestinian groups also used weapons indiscriminately against civilians. Although Amnesty cannot determine the direct supplier of non-homemade weapons (which are manufactured in Iran and Russia), it also calls for a moratorium on weapons sales and shipments to the Palestinians. The report also mentions that the types and quantity of weapons in Hamas’ hands are much smaller than those in Israel’s possession.
“Even before the three-week conflict, those who armed the two sides will have been aware of the pattern of repeated misuse of weapons by the parties. They must take some responsibility for the violations perpetrated with the weapons they have supplied and should immediately cease further transfers,” the report states.”

CUPE union votes for academic boycott of Israel: The Star

University workers in the Canadian Union of Public Employees have passed a controversial motion calling for an academic boycott of Israel, and union members from at least one Toronto university are planning to pressure their school to cut any financial ties with the country.
Although the motion didn’t call for a boycott of individual Israeli academics – as some union members had suggested last month – it encourages union locals to publicly discuss boycotting Israeli universities and to push Canadian universities to end any research or investments that could benefit the Israeli army.
Members of Jewish organizations say the motion sets a dangerous precedent by singling out Israel and vow to keep fighting it.
Delegates representing university workers in CUPE’s Ontario branch, which represents 200,000 government and other public sector workers, voted on the motion at a meeting in Windsor.
The committee, which represents the union’s university workers, called on the union to develop an education campaign on what its proponents label Israel’s “apartheid” practices, such as building a wall around Palestinian territory and invading the Gaza Strip in December; asks the union to back an international campaign of sanctions and boycotts against the country and asks the national union to start researching Canadian connections to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.
The boycott, however, stopped short of calling for Canadian universities to ban Israeli academics, an idea previously floated by CUPE Ontario President Sid Ryan.
“(We want to) do what we can in a peaceful way to end the occupation of Palestine,” Ryan said, adding that the idea of the motion is to boycott research that helps the Israeli military and to investigate any ties between Canadian universities and Israel, not to ban individual Israeli professors.
How the motion is put into place will be left up to individual union locals, he said. At least one Toronto local was planning to support the boycott.

Smoke screen over assault on Gaza: The Guardian Letters

The Guardian, Monday 23 February 2009
Clive Margolis (Letters, 18 February) provides a smoke screen analogous to that produced by white phosphorus munitions. Both our letter opposing Israel science days at UK museums, and the facts of Israel’s assault on Gaza, are misrepresented. The signatories were not “a few academics”. They were 381 strong, of which two out of three are everything from schoolteacher to taxi driver.
He throws doubt on the bombing of a UN school by Israel. This issue was authoritatively dealt with by Channel 4 News on 5 and 6 February. More than one UN school was damaged by Israeli fire. On 6 January 43 civilians in the street just outside one school were killed by Israeli mortars. On 17 January at another UN school just 800 yards away, children sheltering there were killed and injured in a multiple strike by airburst white phosphorus shells, as well as a conventional artillery shell. This incident was vividly captured on video. Using white phosphorus in this way is a war crime.
Mr Margolis says we can’t accuse a country of war crimes until it has been found guilty in a court of law. Usually, however, the accusation comes before the verdict. Israel’s offences against a population they kept prisoner have been seen by and shocked the world. Its universities help to provide the weapons, design the policies and supply the justifications. Our museums should be ashamed to give them house room.
Professor Jonathan Rosenhead
London School of Economics

Both sides of Israel’s story: The Guardian/CiF

Israeli blogger Seth Freedman shows us that dialogue is about both listening and talking in his book Can I Bring My Own Gun?

The first article I ever read by Seth Freedman was about whether or not Jews should publicly criticise Israel. At one level the answer to his question is easy and obvious. But, by posing it as a personal dilemma, he showed a rare openness and honesty.
When Comment is free was first launched, it soon became apparent that the debate about Israel/Palestine was one of the most contentious for a large section of the Guardian’s online readers. The sheer nastiness with which it was conducted, however, caught many of us by surprise. As blogger Dave Osler remarked:
In all the long years I have taken an interest in politics, I have never come across any debate remotely as characterised by wilful distortion, obfuscation, over-emotionalism, deliberate bad faith, polarisation, ill-tempered malicious mudslinging and widespread playing of the man rather than the ball than the Israel/Palestine issue.
Freedman’s article recalled a family argument in which one person had maintained that the only time when it was legitimate for Jews to voice their disagreement with the actions of the government of Israel was when its image in the rest of the world was good. When Israel is “under attack” then Jews are under attack, went the logic, and it was time to circle the wagons. But that means that “the worse Israel behaves, the less you’re allowed to criticise it?” retorted Freedman, who maintained that it was the “duty” of “true Zionists” to point out Israel’s failings when necessary.

Amnesty calls on US to suspend arms sales to Israel: The Guardian

Hellfire missiles and white phosphorus artillery shells among weapons used in ‘indiscriminate’ attacks on civilians, says human rights group

Detailed evidence has emerged of Israel’s extensive use of US-made weaponry during its war in Gaza last month, including white phosphorus artillery shells, 500lb bombs and Hellfire missiles.
In a report released today, Amnesty International listed the weapons used and called for an immediate arms embargo on Israel and all Palestinian armed groups. It called on the US president, Barack Obama, to suspend military aid to Israel.
The human rights group said those arming both sides in the conflict “will have been well aware of a pattern of repeated misuse of weapons by both parties and must therefore take responsibility for the violations perpetrated”.
The US has long been the largest arms supplier to Israel; under a 10-year agreement negotiated by the Bush administration the US will provide $30bn (£21bn) in military aid to Israel.
“As the major supplier of weapons to Israel, the USA has a particular obligation to stop any supply that contributes to gross violations of the laws of war and of human rights,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa programme director. “To a large extent, Israel’s military offensive in Gaza was carried out with weapons, munitions and military equipment supplied by the USA and paid for with US taxpayers’ money.”

Brian Views Destruction in Gaza – Calls for Immediate Relief and Change in Policy: Congressman Brian Bird

Washington, D.C. – Two members of Congress, Brian Baird (D-WA-03), and Keith Ellison, (D-MN-05), visited Gaza on Thursday to view firsthand the destruction from recent Israeli air and ground attacks and to meet with international and local relief agencies.  This visit, which did not have the official sanction of the Obama Administration, is the first time anyone from the U.S. government has entered Gaza in more than three years.
Prior to Gaza, both Congressmen met with the chief negotiator of the Palestinian Authority, Dr. Saeb Erekat, as well as with Dr.  Riad Malki  Foreign Minister of the Palestinian Authority.  On Friday, Baird and Ellison will tour the Israeli towns of Sderot and Ashkelon, which have been the target of numerous rockets before and throughout the recent attacks launched from within the Gaza strip.
“Staff from the U.S. State Department advised us of security concerns for our own safety, and we are well aware of the sensitive political issues involved in this visit,” said both Congressmen in an official release.
“We believe it is important to be here to see what happened for ourselves, to meet with people who have been affected, and to express our concern and support,” said Congressman Baird.
“We also want to better understand what can and must be done to recover from the destruction, address the underlying issues, and work toward a lasting, just and peaceful resolution,” added Congressman Ellison.
After spending the day visiting various locations within Gaza and meeting with civilians and relief workers, Baird and Ellison were deeply affected by what they had seen and heard.
“The stories about the children affected me the most,” said Ellison.  “No parent, or anyone who cares for kids, can remain unmoved by what Brian and I saw here.”
“The amount of physical destruction and the depth of human suffering here is staggering” said Baird, “Entire neighborhoods have been destroyed, schools completely leveled, fundamental water, sewer, and electricity facilities hit and relief agencies heavily damaged.  The personal stories of children being killed in their homes or schools, entire families wiped out, and relief workers prevented from evacuating the wounded are heart wrenching – what went on here, and what is continuing to go on, is shocking and troubling beyond words.”

Gideon Levy / ‘Antiwar’ film Waltz with Bashir is nothing but charade: Ha’aretz

Everyone now has his fingers crossed for Ari Folman and all the creative artists behind “Waltz with Bashir” to win the Oscar on Sunday. A first Israeli Oscar? Why not?
However, it must also be noted that the film is infuriating, disturbing, outrageous and deceptive. It deserves an Oscar for the illustrations and animation – but a badge of shame for its message. It was not by accident that when he won the Golden Globe, Folman didn’t even mention the war in Gaza, which was raging as he accepted the prestigious award. The images coming out of Gaza that day looked remarkably like those in Folman’s film. But he was silent. So before we sing Folman’s praises, which will of course be praise for us all, we would do well to remember that this is not an antiwar film, nor even a critical work about Israel as militarist and occupier. It is an act of fraud and deceit, intended to allow us to pat ourselves on the back, to tell us and the world how lovely we are.
Hollywood will be enraptured, Europe will cheer and the Israeli Foreign Ministry will send the movie and its makers around the world to show off the country’s good side. But the truth is that it is propaganda. Stylish, sophisticated, gifted and tasteful – but propaganda. A new ambassador of culture will now join Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua, and he too will be considered fabulously enlightened – so different from the bloodthirsty soldiers at the checkpoints, the pilots who bomb residential neighborhoods, the artillerymen who shell women and children, and the combat engineers who rip up streets. Here, instead, is the opposite picture. Animated, too. Of enlightened, beautiful Israel, anguished and self-righteous, dancing a waltz, with and without Bashir. Why do we need propagandists, officers, commentators and spokespersons who will convey “information”? We have this waltz.

Israel-Hamas arms embargo urged: BBC

Amnesty International has called for a freeze on arms sales to Israel and Palestinian groups such as Hamas following the recent Gaza conflict.
The human rights group said it had evidence both Israel and Hamas had used weapons sourced from overseas to carry out attacks on civilians.
It called for the UN Security Council to impose the embargo on all parties. Both Israel and Hamas have rejected the conclusions of the report, in which Amnesty accuses each of war crimes. In the report, Israel is accused of illegally using white phosphorus and other armaments supplied by the US in Gaza, while Hamas is condemned for launching unguided rockets into Israel.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told the BBC that Israel had used white phosphorus but not as an anti-personnel weapon.
The substance, which is used to lay smokescreens, is legal for use on open ground but its use in built-up areas where civilians are found is banned under international conventions. “We tried to be as surgical as humanly possible in a difficult combat situation,” he said. Mr Regev criticised Amnesty’s methodology, saying the report’s authors used what he called “tainted” data provided by Hamas. He said Israel was conducting its own investigation into whether any of its munitions were used outside international law. Hamas also criticised the report’s findings as “unjust and unfair”. “It [the report] equates between the criminal and the victim,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.

Global boycott movement marks its successes: Jeff Handmaker, The Electronic Intifada

Responding to the many calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, solidarity movements around the world have marked many successes. It is important for human rights advocates to build on this momentum and seize the opportunity to do what is within their power to try and hold Israel accountable for its abuses of human rights and other international laws.
Since the initial BDS call by Palestinian intellectuals and academics in October 2003, which was followed by separate calls for sports, arts, economic and other calls for BDS, there has been a seismic shift in the global solidarity movement for human rights in Israel-Palestine. Lawyers, doctors, academics, students, trade unionists, school teachers and many other activists have marked successes around the world. Their efforts are an inspiring reflection of the South African anti-apartheid movement, where BDS was also used very effectively.
In first few weeks of 2009 alone, European, North American and South African solidarity movements have made remarkable progress:
A growing number of politicians in Europe and North America have put forward uncomfortable, probing questions to their governments and clearly want to do more. One example is the “Break the Silence” campaign within the Dutch Labor Party.
Numerous letters and opinion pieces have been published by prominent figures in major national newspapers, including statement by prominent lawyers and professors published by The Sunday Times on 11 January 2009.
The global “Derail Veolia” campaign has grown in leaps and bounds. An important success was the decision by the Stockholm municipality to cancel an agreement with Veolia Transport, on the basis of its involvement in the Jerusalem light-rail project, to the tune of several billion euros.
There have been calls for international investigations of war crimes from the UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the UN Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the head of UNRWA (the UN agency for Palestine refugees) and the UN Secretary General as well as scores of high-profile international lawyers around the world.
The European Parliament managed to halt negotiations on strengthening the trading relationship between the EU and Israel in the framework of the Association Agreement and there are new, emboldened efforts to try and get the Association Agreement suspended altogether.

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