Protests and Demos Against Israel’s Assault on Gaza

Please let us know of any being organised and we will add them to the list.

LONDON: Thursday 15 November: Opposite Israeli embassy 5.30-7pm (nearest tube High St Kensington)

EDINBURGH: Saturday 17 November: Assemble at Charlotte Square 12pm for march to the Scottish Parliament

MANCHESTER: Thursday 15 and Friday 16 November: Piccadilly Gardens 5pm

CARDIFF: Saturday 17 November: Aneurin Bevan Statue, Queen Street 2pm

WREXHAM: Saturday 17 November: solidarity vigil: Hope Street (near the entrance to Barclays Bank) 11am-12.30pm

 

 

 

Israel’s Latest Assault on Gaza: the Lie over Who Started It

by John Glaser

Antiwar.com

Israel has again attacked Gaza. In its aerial and ground assault that began on Saturday, November 10th, at least 7 Palestinians have been killed, 5 of them civilians, 3 of whom were children. Up to 52 others, including 6 women and 12 children, have been wounded.

As in every vicious military offensive Israel carries out in Gaza, the dominant narrative is that it is a response to rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel. This is how it’s being reported in the US, and this is how virtually every American understands it.

And it’s a lie.

It’s true that on Saturday, prior to the expanded Israeli bombardment, the military wing of the Popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine shot an anti-tank missile at an Israeli Defense Forces vehicle near the Gaza border, wounding four Israeli soldiers. But what prompted the firing of the anti-tank missile?

First, on Monday, November 5th, Israeli forces shot and killed 23 year old Ahmad Nabhani when he “approached the border fence with Israel.” According to at least one account, Nabhani was mentally challenged.

Then, on Thursday, November 8th, the Israeli Occupation Forces – eight tanks and four bulldozers, to be exact – invaded southern Gaza, shooting and killing a 13-year old boy. Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (via):

According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 16:30 on Thursday, as a result of the indiscriminate shooting by IOF military vehicles that had moved into the ‘Abassan village, 13-year-old Ahmed Younis Khader Abu Daqqa was seriously wounded by a bullet to the abdomen. At the time he was shot, Ahmed had been playing football with his friends in front of his family’s house, located nearly 1,200 meters away from the area where the IOF were present.

So, even if honest observers brush to the side the cruel and inhumane Israeli blockade on Gaza and refuse to let it influence the equation of exactly which side started this flare up of violence, it is clear Israel started this latest clash. And in response to the response, Israel has waged a harsh, disproportionate military assault.

This would be a simple thing to understand if, for example, Western media bothered to ask the other side what happened. Palestinian news media immediately reported that the anti-tank missile Israel was supposedly responding to was admitted to by the Popular Resistance Committees, who described it as “revenge” for preceding Israeli violence on Gaza. But that basic task of honest journalism is apparently out of the question.

Every single Israeli incursion or attack on Gaza is accompanied by the same narrative: Israel fairly responded to unprovoked Palestinian rocket fire. The last major war on Gaza, Operation Cast Lead in December ’08-January ’09, also carried this narrative. Israel committed war crimes in that one-sided conflict, targeting and killing hundreds of civilians, using indiscriminate weapons, and intentionally destroying civilian infrastructure. It has become an accepted fact – even among critics of Israel – that the offensive was a response to Hamas rocket fire. The rocket fire did indeed occur immediately before the assault, but it was in response to Israel’s breaking of the six-month cease-fire, which even Israeli officials in WikiLeaks cables admitted Hamas had kept to.

 

Operation Cast Lead Was a War Crime

On December 27th 2008 Israel launched a combined military attack on the Gaza Strip under the codename Operation Cast Lead. It began with an air attack employing US supplied F16 fighter jets to bomb a range of targets, including underground tunnels, used to defy a siege that had succeeded in hermetically sealing off 1.5 million people from the outside world, police stations, hospitals, schools, mosques, and even UN compounds.

The declared aim of this military operation was to stop rockets being fired from inside the Strip against adjacent Israeli towns and settlements. The truth is it was undertaken to crush a redoubt of Palestinian resistance to Israel’s colonisation of Palestinian land. This colonisation was and remains illegal under international law.

On January 3rd 2009 a ground invasion was launched by the IDF under cover of darkness. The troops were joined by tanks and their incursion was accompanied by a continuous artillery bombardment, utilising white phosphorous incendiary shells, which are prohibited under international law from deployment in urban areas. Offshore, Israeli navy vessels augmented the artillery bombardment, while the air attacks continued unabated.

The entire operation lasted 22 days. The devastation wrought, in terms of human life, injuries and the damage to homes and what infrastructure remained in Gaza after a siege which by this point had been in force four years, was catastrophic. 1400 Palestinians were killed, including 300 children, with an estimated 5,000 injured and many thousands more traumatised. Israeli casualties amounted to 13 dead, including three civilians.

The political fall out from the assault was huge. Condemnation poured in from around the world: Venezuela withdrew its ambassador and even close allies of Israel such as the United States and Britain criticised the assault. Allegations of war crimes were directed at the IDF when accounts emerged from NGOs on the ground, such as the Red Cross, of Israeli troops deliberately targeting civilians in their homes, using children as human shields, and actively inhibiting medical access to the injured.

A UN investigation, headed by Richard Goldstone, former South Africa Supreme Court Judge and former chief UN prosecutor in Kosovo and Rwanda, was initiated after the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed a resolution condemning Israel for human rights violations and called for an investigation. The findings of this investigation, produced in a document known as the Goldstone Report, were released on 15 September 2009. In the report, whose findings were endorsed by the UN, both sides were accused of human rights violations, though Israel came in for strongest condemnation. Goldstone later resiled from some of the report’s findings, though the rest of the UN Investigations Team involved in its compilation came out publicly to rebuke his decision to do so.

More important than the Goldstone Report has been the huge upsurge in sympathy for the Palestinian cause around the world over the three years since. The international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel has enjoyed a huge spike in active support, and on a state level the Turkish government, formerly a close ally of the State of Israel, has joined the ranks of those who’ve identified Israel’s policy of apartheid, occupation and siege against the Palestinians as the major cause of instability throughout the region.

Humanitarian aid convoys to Gaza have succeeded in breaking the siege. Numerous aid flotillas have  also attempted to reach Gaza by sea, undeterred by the Israeli Navy’s determination to block them by any means necessary, including mass murder.

Taken together, a military operation that was carried out with the objective of crushing the Palestinian will to resist has had the opposite effect of augmenting that resistance with an upsurge in international solidarity with the Palestinians. And even with the considerable resources of Israel’s propaganda machine brought to bear in an effort to associate support for Palestinian human rights as support for terrorism, this support continues to grow.

Israel’s policy of military aggression, siege and occupation has clearly failed in its objective of making conditions for the Palestinians so bad that they will leave the last tiny sliver of land – left them after 61 years of expropriation and ethnic cleansing – of their own accord. The latest round of US sponsored peace talks, which yet again have failed due to Israel’s bad faith in continuing its settlement expansion throughout the occupied West Bank, have shown the world the extent to which the international community via its respective governments possesses neither the political will nor the ability to resolve this seemingly intractable conflict.

Operation Cast Lead was a war crime. Those who were slaughtered join the long list of history’s victims of colonialism and state terrorism masquerading as human progress.

It’s Time to End This Siege for Good

viva-palestina.jpgViva Palestina

Viva Palestina is returning to Gaza with our sixth major international aid mission to bring an end to the illegal siege.

Much has changed for the Palestinian people and the wider region in the 11 months since our last convoy.

Dictatorship has fallen in Egypt. Palestine has moved up the international agenda. Yet the siege on Gaza remains. Israel recently blocked the second international flotilla. Major aid agencies report that the situation in Gaza is as bad as ever. Civil society organisation and NGOs in Gaza have issued an appeal to the transitional Egyptian authorities to open the Rafah crossing for the free movement of people and goods. A promised partial opening earlier this year did not go far enough and has largely been reversed. Meanwhile, the condition of Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank and Jerusalem continues to deteriorate with ongoing illegal settlement building and the construction of the apartheid/separation wall. Outside Palestine, conditions for three million Palestinian refugees living in camps remain desperate, despite UN and international recognition of their right to return to their homes.

The VP convoy will be highlighting the call to open Rafah and also the conditions facing Palestinians in exile and under occupation. It will aim to arrive just after Christmas, on 27 December, the third anniversary of the beginning of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead attack on Gaza. At this time of year, the world’s Christian communities and many others are particularly focused on Jerusalem and the crisis facing the inhabitants of that ancient city will also be part of our message. All four of VP’s previous convoy’s have successfully entered Gaza.

As well as bringing millions of pounds of desperately needed medical and humanitarian aid, we have been told by people in Gaza and by supporters of the Palestinians in Egypt that they have helped play a role in highlighting the unjust policy of the now ousted Mubarak regime in maintaining the siege. The democratic upsurge in Egypt opens the prospect of ending that siege for good. We will be working in partnership with humanitarian organisations in Egypt to help to bring that about before another year of unnecessary suffering is inflicted on 1.5 million people subsisting in what British prime minister David Cameron has described as the world’s largest open air “prison camp”.

We ask you to join us in this mission, which again will enjoy widespread international support. Experience has shown that successful missions to Gaza require a high level of organisation and planning. The VP management team has built up that experience with hundreds of volunteers who have taken part in our previous convoys and other events. So everything from decisions on what aid to bring to what volunteers should expect of themselves and the mission as a whole is based on those successful convoys and nearly three years of experience.

We believe the time is ripe to finally end this siege with a massive return convoy, with considerable Egyptian participation, and to raise the underlying reasons for the humanitarian suffering of the Palestinian people as a whole. We will be opening registration shortly. Please send an email to tony@vivapalestina.org to register your interest, and we will let you know when registration is open.

We will be heading off from London at the end of November to arrive in Gaza on 27 December. International participants will be joining en route. Further details will be coming out over the coming weeks, so make sure you are on our mailing list.

Not everyone can take part in the convoy directly. But tens of thousands have supported our efforts and without them the convoys would not have taken place. You can raise money and send it to us to purchase the medical and humanitarian supplies. You can spread the word about the convoy through your networks. You can volunteer to help with vehicles, fundraising, outreach and other areas. The people of Gaza deserve the highest quality materials and professionalism. What they need above all is the end to this blockade and the restoration of trade and commerce ties that can allow them to rebuild their economy.

With your help, we aim to assist them in achieving that – this Christmas.

Egypt Declares End to Gaza Blockade

Fast on the heels of the Egyptian brokered unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah has come the announcement by the interim Egyptian government that it is to permanently open the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza.

To describe this announcement as significant is to be guilty of understatement. Egypt’s participation in Israel’s illegal blockade will go down as one of the most shameful periods in Egyptian history, contributing to the collective punishment, suffering and despair of 1.5 million Palestinians whose only crime was to assert their democratic right to vote for a government of their choice. For this they have endured a siege medieval in scope and barbaric in its intent at the hands of the Israeli government.

Egypt’s interim Foreign Minister, Nabil al-Arabi, described the previous regime’s support for the blockade a disgrace, and with the interim government also talking about repairing relations with Iran and seeking closer ties with its African neighbours, clearly the Egyptian revolution is already bearing fruit.

This sharp turn in Egyptian foreign policy places the right wing coaliton government in Israel led by Benjamin Netanyahu under severe pressure by decimating Israel’s policy of divide and rule when it comes to the Palestinians. It also places the Obama administration under pressure to shift its stance from one of obeisance to the intractablility of the Israeli government to a more even handed approach and justice for the Palestinians.

In bringing Hamas in from the cold, the post revolution regime in Cairo also signals a change in the status of the Muslim Brotherhood within Egypt itself.

Long regarded as a fifth column by the Mubarak dictatorship, the Brotherhood existed in a state of illegality; its members harassed, arrested and molested on a regular basis. During the revolution the Brotherhood played only a supporting role, despite all the propaganda to the contrary that was spread by the Mubarak regime and its supporters both within and without the country. From the outset the MB declared that it supported the democratic aims of the revolution and eschewed the use of violence. In so doing it won the trust of the masses and there is no doubt that the new found harmony between the Islamic movement and wider Egyptian society has contributed to the radical change in direction taken by the interim government.

Those millions of Egyptians who took to the streets across Egypt and remained there however long it took, who braved in Tahrir Square an attempt by regime thugs to forcibly remove them, have ushered in a new day for the Arab world.

For the Palestinians what this means in the short term is that their long, agonising struggle for justice has just been joined by 80 million new adherents. In the long term hopefully it will mean the complete restoration of their right to dignity, security, and self determination. Most important of all it presages the restoration of their right to exist, a right denied them by every Israeli government over the past 60 years.

Finally, it is also to be hoped that the reverberations of the radical shift in Egyptian policy penetrates Israeli society, producing support for the small but growing Israeli peace movement and its calls for an end to the occupation and settlement expansion. 

With no justice there can be no peace, and justice for the Palestinians is long overdue.

  

  

John Wight on Vittorio Arrigoni

gaza12.jpg The abduction and murder of Italian Palestine solidarity activist Vittorio Arrigoni (pictured) in Gaza comes as a shock to the entire Palestine solidarity movement and its many supporters around the world. It will also come as a shock to the vast majority of Palestinians themselves, especially as the bonds of solidarity that have been forged between them and the thousands of international volunteers, delegations and activists who’ve travelled to and struggled alongside them over many long years are strong and unbreakable.

At any given time hundreds of these volunteers and solidarity activists, who come  from all over the world, live and work in both the West Bank and Gaza alongside the Palestinian people and are regarded as brothers and sisters in struggle by the vast majority they come into contact with. From this country alone in recent years five aid convoys have been organised and travelled to Gaza under the auspices of the Viva Palestina pro-Palestinian charitable organisation. Each has successfully broken the siege and been met with open arms by the authorities and the people of Gaza alike. However, we should not kid ourselves. In the conditions of a six year long unremitting siege, which it is worth recalling is an act of collective punishment in violation of international law, of which there is still no end in sight, and with the international community still as yet refusing to intercede in any meaningful way to end the suffering of the 1.5 million men, women and children who are impacted daily, it is inevitable that extreme views and actions will result. Indeed, given the conditions described, it should come as a surprise that there have been remarkably few incidents of cruelty such as the one committed in the case of Vittorio Arrigoni.

The last time a foreigner was kidnapped in Gaza was back in 2007, when BBC reporter Alan Johnston was abducted and held for four months before being freed unharmed by the local authorities, who proceeded to arrest and bring to justice those responsible. The expectation and hope is that those responsible for the abduction and murder of Vittorio will likewise be arrested and brought to justice. The statement issued by interior ministry spokesman Ehab al-Ghusseini in response to the killing suggests this will be the case. He described the Italian’s murder as a “heinous crime which has nothing to do with our values, our religion, our customs and traditions,” before going on to vow to hunt down and bring to justice those involved.

From a distance it is impossible to know with any degree of certainty what the state of local politics and factional rivalries is in Gaza. The group responsible for Arrigoni’s abduction and killing have been described as Salafist in orientation, an extreme current within Islamist politics. The group had claimed to have abducted the Italian in revenge for the imprisonment of one of its leaders and had demanded his release in exchange for their hostage. They also described Hamas, the democratically elected governing body in Gaza, as too moderate.

As yet it is unknown why the group responsible decided to kill their hostage before the deadline they had set for the release of their leader had elapsed, but it has been reported that the Italian’s body was found after the police were led to the house where he’d been held by one of the men involved.

Of course, and inevitably, this terrible crime will be exploited by those with a vested interest in justifying the daily barbarity of Israel’s siege. It will be thrown up as evidence of the moral turpitude and savagery of Hamas, even though Hamas were not responsible and have vowed to bring to justice those who were, and will be cited as proof that such people cannot be negotiated with or trusted when it comes to Israel’s security. Missing from this blizzard of anti not just Hamas but Palestinian propaganda will be of course any mention of the fact that when it comes to moral turpitude and savagery the Israeli government, with its ongoing and unremitting policy of collective punishment, apartheid and ethnic cleansing towards the Palestinians, has no peer.

This is why the only fitting tribute to Vittorio Arrigoni is to intensify efforts to end the siege of Gaza and bring the day closer when a free Palestine takes its rightful place among the nations.

In the words of Martin Luther King, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

Goldstone Report and Retraction: Members of Un Gaza Mission Respond

By Hina Jilani, Christine Chinkin and Desmond Travers

from the Guardian 

In recent days some articles and comments appearing in the press with respect to the report of the United Nations (UN) fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict of 2008-2009 have misrepresented facts in an attempt to delegitimise the findings of this report and to cast doubts on its credibility.

The mission that comprised four members, including Justice Richard Goldstone as its chair, came to an end when it presented its report to the UN human rights council in September 2009. The report of the mission is now an official UN document and all actions taken pursuant to its findings and recommendations fall solely within the purview of the United Nations general assembly which, along with the human rights council, reviewed and endorsed it at the end of 2009.

Aspersions cast on the findings of the report, nevertheless, cannot be left unchallenged. Members of the mission, signatories to this statement, find it necessary to dispel any impression that subsequent developments have rendered any part of the mission’s report unsubstantiated, erroneous or inaccurate.

We concur in our view that there is no justification for any demand or expectation for reconsideration of the report as nothing of substance has appeared that would in any way change the context, findings or conclusions of that report with respect to any of the parties to the Gaza conflict. Indeed, there is no UN procedure or precedent to that effect.

The report of the fact-finding mission contains the conclusions made after diligent, independent and objective consideration of the information related to the events within our mandate, and careful assessment of its reliability and credibility. We firmly stand by these conclusions.

Also, it is the prerogative of the UN to take cognisance of any evidence subsequently gathered under domestic procedures that it finds credible and in accordance with international standards. Over 18 months after publication of the report, however, we are very far from reaching that point.

The mandate of the mission did not require it to conduct a judicial or even a quasi-judicial investigation. The mission and the report are part of a truth-seeking process that could lead to effective judicial processes. Like all reports of similar missions of the UN, it provided the basis for parties to conduct investigations for gathering of evidence, as required by international law, and, if so warranted, prosecution of individuals who ordered, planned or carried out international crimes.

In the case of the Gaza conflict, we believe that both parties held responsible in this respect, have yet to establish a convincing basis for any claims that contradict the findings of the mission’s report.

The report recommended that proper investigations and judicial processes should ideally be carried out first of all at the domestic level, with monitoring by the UN. If these proved inadequate, it laid down a roadmap for the continuation of such processes at the international level. In line with these recommendations, the UN human rights council appointed a committee of independent experts to monitor the independence, effectiveness and genuineness of any domestic proceedings carried out to investigate crimes and violations of international law pointed out in the mission’s report.

Many of those calling for the nullification of our report imply that the final report by the follow-up committee’s two members, Judge Mary McGowan Davis and Judge Lennart Aspergren, presented to the human rights council in March 2011, somehow contradicts the fact-finding mission’s report or invalidates it.

In the light of the observations of this committee such claims are completely misplaced, and a clear distortion of their findings. The committee’s report states that, according to available information, Israel has conducted some 400 command investigations into allegations by the fact-finding mission and other organisations. Command investigations are operational, not legal, inquiries and are conducted by personnel from the same command structure as those under investigation. Out of these, the committee reports that 52 criminal investigations into allegations of wrongdoings have been opened. Of these, three have been submitted for prosecution, with two of them resulting in convictions (one for theft of a credit card, resulting in a sentence of seven months’ imprisonment, and another for using a Palestinian child as a human shield, which resulted in a suspended sentence of three months). The third case, related to allegations of deliberate targeting of an individual waving a white flag, is still ongoing.

The committee has expressed serious concerns about the late start and slow pace of the proceedings, their insufficient transparency and the participation of victims and witnesses. Out of the 36 incidents relating to Gaza described in the fact-finding mission report, more than one third remain unresolved or without a clear status over two years after the conflict. The committee concluded that the slow progress could seriously impair the effectiveness of the investigations and prospects of achieving justice and accountability. Therefore, the mechanisms that are being used by the Israeli authorities to investigate the incidents are proving inadequate to genuinely ascertain the facts and any ensuing legal responsibility.

In addition, with regard to the issue of the policies guiding Operation Cast Lead, the committee states that there is “no indication that Israel has opened investigations into the actions of those who designed, planned, ordered and oversaw Operation Cast Lead”. In other words, one of the most serious allegations about the conduct of Israel’s military operations remains completely unaddressed.

We regret that no domestic investigations at all have been started into any of the allegations of international crimes committed by members of Palestinian armed groups in Gaza which have fired thousands of rockets into southern Israel. The committee observes the same in its report.

We consider that calls to reconsider or even retract the report, as well as attempts at misrepresenting its nature and purpose, disregard the right of victims, Palestinian and Israeli, to truth and justice. They also ignore the responsibility of the relevant parties under international law to conduct prompt, thorough, effective and independent investigations. We regret the personal attacks and the extraordinary pressure placed on members of the fact-finding mission since we began our work in May 2009. This campaign has been clearly aimed at undermining the integrity of the report and its authors. Had we given in to pressures from any quarter to sanitise our conclusions, we would be doing a serious injustice to the hundreds of innocent civilians killed during the Gaza conflict, the thousands injured, and the hundreds of thousands whose lives continue to be deeply affected by the conflict and the blockade.

The report has triggered a process that is still under way and should continue until justice is done and respect for international human rights and humanitarian law by everyone is ensured.