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Palestinian Choices and an action alert on Gaza

by Mazin Qumsiyeh Saturday, Jul. 01, 2006 at 2:40 AM

...a luta continua





It has been 57 years since Israel was admitted to the United Nations after

it gave assurances that it would comply with International law and UN

resolutions including resolution 194 (calling for return of Palestinian

refugees). It has not complied. It has been 39 years since Israel occupied

the West Bank and Gaza after further violations of International law

(“inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by war” per UNSC resolution

242, need to withdraw from the areas occupied). It has not complied. It has

been nearly two years since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled

on the illegality of the Apartheid wall and all settlements and colonies in

the occupied Palestinian territories. The UN voted overwhelmingly to support

the ruling. Israel refused to comply.

It has been ten months since a decaying distraction was packaged and sold as

“withdrawal from Gaza” even as it was clear from its sight and smell (and

even from Israeli leaders statements) that it is repackaging occupation in

Gaza while intensifying occupation and colonization in the West Bank. Nearly

0 million worth of additional Zionist and Israeli government propaganda

(called “hasbara”) was pitted against human rights organizations, the UN,

and Palestinian exile communities on this issue alone. Gaza became a large

open-air prison with Israeli controls on all borders subject to policies of

starvation. The recent skirmish between Palestinian resistance forces and

the Israeli occupation soldiers stations at the southern gate of this large

prison was an amazing act of daring in the midst of constant atrocities of

the Israeli occupation. Two resistance fighters and two occupation soldiers

were killed and one Israeli soldier was captured. Israeli newspapers (even

right wing ones) could not really use the usual PR language of terrorism and

“cowardly acts”. Gaza had been subjected in the last three months to a

barrage of bombardment by US supplied weapons including 155 mm canons, F-16s

and apache gunships that killed 40 Palestinian civilians in May alone. While

the world was focused on the World Cup games, June saw even further

massacres of Palestinian civilians (including many children and women,

sometimes of whole families).

According to UN reports, Palestinian poverty in the occupied areas (living

at less than per day) increased to over 70% (it was less than half of

that during the Great Depression in the 1930s in America). The capturing

of the Israeli soldier by the resistance was called “kidnapping” by the spin

machine (the 8000+ Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are not called

kidnapped even though most of them are snatched in the middle of the night

in their homes and lands). The Palestinian resistance faction holding this

soldier was willing to negotiate a trade for Palestinian women and children

illegally held prisoners in Israeli jails (International law prohibits

taking citizens out of the areas illegally occupied). Israeli leaders

refused such negotiations and with US government support engaged in more

war crimes and crimes against humanity. First came the “hermetic sealing” of

Gaza (per Israeli army lingo). When no one goes in or out and people are

starved literally, it is a crime against humanity. If there was any proof

needed that Gaza occupation never ended by the PR of 10 months ago, this

would alone suffice. But then came bombings of infrastructure: three

civilian bridges and the electric power plant). Some 750,000 Palestinians

are now without electricity or water. In International law, these are

called war crimes and crimes against humanity (they were also violations of

Israel’s own commitment not to target infrastructure). Third came Israeli

invasion into Southern Gaza. The Israeli government itself stated that such

a ratcheting up of pressure is its strategy. This has always been a failed

strategy of occupation and colonization: squeeze the Palestinian population

until the resistance caves in.

Even without further escalation by Israel, already 150,000 Palestinians

(teachers, health workers, civil servants etc) including my own mother (a

retired school teacher) do not get their salaries/pensions because of the

siege and Israel’s refusal to give back Palestinian taxes it collects (some

million per month). Israel also continues to steal not only Palestinian

money, but Palestinian land in East Jerusalem and the rich agricultural

lands in the Jordan Valley and the Western Water aquifer in the West Bank.

Over 100,000 Palestinians are at risk of being “relocated” (ethnically

cleansed) in the next few months as part of what Israeli Prime Minister

Olmert calls the “hafrada” plan (this Hebrew woerld literally means

segregation or separation but is some times mistranslated as “convergence”).

Now nearly 70% of the 9.5 million Palestinians are refugees or displaced

people and more get added everyday to these ranks. The remaining

Palestinians continue to be squeezed into ghettos/cantons/Bantustans (or

Palustans). The future for Israelis and Palestinians are held by fanatical

racists who still harbor the old Zionist illusion of either “a people

without a land for a land without people” or the chosen people reclaiming

the promised land from those they deem non-human. While 22 Arab countries

agreed to recognize Israel on 78% of Palestine (only if it withdraws from

the 22% that is Gaza and the West Bank), Israel with support of its patron

the US has never accepted to recognize the rights of Palestinian natives

(even the simplest right of existing on their own land).

Israel intends to continue in its nearly 60 year failing strategy of making

the Palestinians disappear from the political map. As no people in history

gave up their rights unless completely decimated. For Palestine this is not

an option. There are nearly ten million Palestinians and millions of them

remain in Palestine (albeit in refugee camps, in ghettos, or as “Arab

Israelis” highly discriminated against). The remaining choices are limited

but increasingly this is becoming an internationalized conflict where all

have a stake in it. Palestinians and their supporters I talk to regularly

seem coming down to a consensus on what could change the dynamics (beyond

the strategies tried in the past and which likely will continue).

Getting the Palestinian house in order:

Essentially all Palestinian factions agreed to the political prisoner

document with minor modifications. Only Islamic Jihad (a very tiny faction)

still had reservations about three of its 19 parts. The compromises were

significant. For example, the Islamic Resistance Movement (known by its

acronym Hamas) agreed to limit resistance to the areas occupied and

colonized since 1967 (22% of Palestine) and except a reformed PLO as

representative of the Palestinian people. The Palestine Liberation Movement

(known by its acronym Fatah) agreed to revive the PLO to be more inclusive

of all Palestinians (including those in exile) and join Hamas in a national

unity government. A developing consensus around minimalist Palestinian

rights/constants emerged (minimalist because it actually gives up

significant Palestinian rights including liberating all of Palestine).

Also in the past year, there had been already conferences and discussions

for getting Palestinian exile communities mobilized. One conference in

Sweden last month had over 5000 Palestinians. Even in the US, a politically

inclusive Palestinian meeting was held in Detroit last weekend to start

preparations for a large inclusive US conference.

Growth of the BDS (Boycotts, Divestment, Sanctions) movement

In Apartheid South Africa, the movement for BDS was called for by the South

African people nearly 15 years before it emerged in Europe and later North

America and then many more years before it started to really impact the

Afrikaner white political elites. In the case of Palestine, within less

than 5 years the BDS movement has made significant strides. It was

bolstered two years ago by ICJ ruling on the illegality of the Apartheid

wall and all settlements and colonies in the occupied Palestinian

territories. One year after the ICJ ruling, over 170 Palestinian civil

society organizations called on the International community (including

Palestinians in exile) to engage in programs similar to those applied

against apartheid South Africa until it complied with International law. See

http://www.badil.org/Boycott-Statement.htm In the 11 months since then,

organizations, church communities, and hundreds of thousands of individuals

joined the BDS campaign. Just in the past few weeks alone, groups ranging

from the European Coordinating Committee on Palestine to the American-Arab

Anti-Discrimination Committee (largest Arab American organization) have

adopted the BDS call to action. Some background is posted at

http://www.qumsiyeh.org/boycottsanddivestment/

The Zionist movement, antagonistic to human rights of native people, had to

divert millions of dollars to simply try to subvert this movement here and

there. Meager returns can be shown for the very significant resources they

spent to obfuscate and lie in a failed effort to stem the rising tide. It

was almost comical to see the hiring ex-CIA chief James Woosley and putting

up very expensive billboards in Birmingham costing many thousands to try and

get the Presbyterian church to forget moral church principles. The few

human rights activists engaged working with perhaps a few hundred dollars of

their own money showed how much Zionist resources can be taken off the table

fighting these growing movements.**

Looking forward, the divestment movement is spreading among churches (e.g.

United Methodists, Quakers), unions (e.g. the largest higher education

teacher union in England), among political parties (e.g. the US Green

Party), progressive organizations, and much, much more.

We should not ofcourse minimize the growing siege, starvation, and

atrocities committed against a largely defenseless Palestinian population.

Nor should we minimize the power of a lobby that, having pushed the US into

a devastating and illegal war on Iraq is now pushing for conflict with Iran.

But many Palestinians I talked to are optimistic. Many believe two

strategies need to be explored moving forward:

1) Most now agree on the need to revive the PLO as a negotiating partner.

Even the US/Israel axis of control who pushed for removing power from the

Palestinian president (then Yasser Arafat) and vesting it in an “empowered

Prime minister” now have to eat their words after the recent elections of

people in the occupied areas. So now the themselves claim the PLO needs to

negotiate. So a strategy would be to mobilize a media campaign around this

issue to educate and push for the US to allow Palestinians to revive the PLO

as a representative body for ALL Palestinians. Since the US pushed

countries like Jordan and Syria to allow Iraqi expatriates to vote in Iraqi

elections, it would be seen as pur hypocricy if the same can’t be done for

Palestinians. Even if this campaign does not succeed in convincing the US

administration, its educational value would be priceless in garnering public

opinion to bring peace based on justice and human rights. Other options can

then be entertained (even dissolving the so called “Palestinian authority”

which has no real authority under occupation).

2) After the agreement on the political prisoner document, it would be good

to follow it up with a practical program such as the one supported by the

Palestinian civil society call to action

(http://www.badil.org/Boycott-Statement). It is after all a program of

non-violent resistance to human rights violations, it is based on human

rights and International law, and it is a program that EVERYONE can engage

in (Palestinians in exile and in the occupied areas, Internationals, and

even Israeli citizens).

We should be guardedly optimistic and fully engaged in this fluid and still

very dangerous situation for all concerned. If we want a road map to peace,

let us push to implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1949) in

Palestine/Israel. Peace and economic progress (for Palestinians but also for

Israelis and Americans) will be the fruit of working for human rights. The

core issue among these rights is the right of Palestinians to return to

their homes and lands. In the meantime we could also all take actions like

the ones suggested below by Haitham.

----------

* “Politicide” is a term coined by Israeli professor Baruch Kimmerling to

describe the process of destroying Palestinian political or sovereign rights

in their own lands. This includes the systematic and ongoing process of

ethnic cleansing of native Palestinians that Zionists engaged in to create a

majority Jewish Zionist state in a land whose population was predominantly

Muslim and Christian.

**Presbyterian divestment still on the table Casey Currie

http://www.arabamericannews.com/newsarticle.php?articleid=5615

Understanding the Presbyterian Vote: Divestment, Corporate Engagement and

Israel By Eill Youmans and Noura Erakat

http://www.counterpunch.org/youmans06232006.html

Presbyterian business deliberations on divestment

http://72.54.6.218/Business/Business.aspx?iid=90

===================

2) GAZA UNDER ASSAULT: REPORT & ACTION ALERT

(Ramallah, June 28) Despite Israeli claims and Western reporting, the

Israeli Occupation Forces' (IOF) assault on Gaza was not "launched to free

an Israeli soldier." If anything, this assault obviously endangers his

life. The purpose is to intensify Israel's barbarism against the

Palestinian people and, as admitted frequently by Israeli officials, to

"break their spirit." The primary victim is, as usual, Gaza's civilian

population.

IOF forces were being amassed along Gaza during the past couple of days, and

have begun their offensive at midnight, including air raids breaking the

sound barrier, sonic booms, and bombardment. The IOF has destroyed three

bridges in central Gaza that connect the southern part of Gaza with the

Northern part, including Gaza city (population 420,000).

US-made and supplied F-16 warplanes have also fired at least nine rockets at

Gaza's only power station, resulting in a blackout for much of Gaza. The

station went ablaze, and firefighters were unable to control the fire.

Israeli missiles have also destroyed a water main that supplies the central

Gaza strip, and water pumps that are powered by electricity have been

paralyzed.

In the southern part of Gaza, the IOF has sent in its ground troops and

tanks. Al-Jazeera footage has shown families fleeing their homes in the

middle of the night.

Israel, ofcourse, is justifying their barbaric attack on the basis of one of

their soldiers being captured. They refer to the capture as a "kidnapping"

and a "terrorist attack," and have turned down a prisoner exchange offer.

Ramallah is now under threat of invasion and attack, due to claims of a

missing Israeli settler being here (this seems to be unverified, and it is

unknown whether he is dead or alive). There is a state of confusion and

panic that can be felt in Ramallah's streets, stores are closing, and

foreign nationals have been instructed by their embassies to immediately

evacuate the city.

Haithem El-Zabri

contact@palestineonlinestore.com



*** RECOMMENDED ACTIONS ***

- MEDIA: Please contact your local media and request that they do not act as

a mouthpiece for Israel by asserting that the aim of the Gaza invasion is to

rescue the captured (not "kidnapped") soldier. At the very least, they can

say that this is what Israel claims, or they can use the word "allegedly."

It should also be made clear that the primary victim of this assault is the

civilian population, and that this constitutes collective punishment of a

captive population, which is a direct (and repeated) violation of the Geneva

Convention.

- LOBBYING: Please contact your elected representatives and ask them whether

they support Israel's barbaric crimes against innocent Palestinian

civilians. If they are in support of such atrocities, well, then they're

not different than the Nazis. If they oppose these atrocities, ask them

what they're doing about it. Make your voice heard.

- PROTEST: Protests are needed at Israeli embassies and consulates

throughout the world. Even a one-person protest with a simple sign such as

"Stop Israeli Terrorism" is good at bringing attention to the situation and

letting Israel know that there is widespread opposition to its continued and

escalating crimes against the Palestinian people. Believe it or not, Israel

does care about its image, and if the government receives reports of a

number of protests, they will feel pressured to limit the operation. Please

take action on this TODAY - for the sake of the innocent civilians in Gaza.

*** Reminder:

Doing nothing will only help Israel get away with continued and escalated

crimes against the Palestinian people. I trust that you will not be silent

in the face of such oppression.





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