Sunday, August 31, 2008
Gush Shalom in Action
Barkan Wineries left Barkan settlement
The Gush Shalom Movement congratulates the Barkan Wineries for moving away from the industrial zone of Barkan settlement in the northern West Bank, to Kibbutz Hulda within the internationally-recognized territory of Israel. This is an important act, removing one of the major economic mainstays of the settlements. We hope and expect that additional companies will follow the Barkan Wineries out of the Occupied Territories.
The Barkan Wineries had figured prominently on the Gush Shalom Settlement Boycott List since this list was first published some ten years ago. Gush Shalom activists had distributed leaflets, calling upon the public not to purchase the Barkan wines, at the entrances to supermarkets as well as at public gatherings such as the annual memorials to Yitchak Rabin held in Tel Aviv every November.
About four years ago the Barkan Wineries started a process of moving their operations over to Kibbutz Hulda, a process monitored by Gush Shalom. The soft drinks company "Tempo" which holds ownership of the Barkan Wineries entered into a close partnership with the large Dutch beer company "Heineken" , became part of the worldwide Heineken Group and created a new company called "Tempo Drinks" of which the Dutch Heineken holds 40% ownership.
As is well-known, the Dutch government is firmly opposed to Israeli settlement in the Occupied Territories and therefore was far from happy about a close partnership between a Dutch company and one based at a settlement. Moreover, continued links with a settlement company might have exposed the Heineken Company to considerable criticism in the Dutch public opinion and to a boycott campaign, in the Netherlands themselves as well as in other countries.
The Gush Shalom monitoring indicated that the Barkan Wineries were systematically reducing their activity at the Barkan settlement – moving the wine production to Kibbutz Hulda, within The Green Line (Israel's pre-'67 border) and leaving only warehouses at Barkan. By the end of 2007, the warehouses were moved away, too, and the winery's lease on the Barkan premises terminated.
The company directors' report to their stockholders stated: "In the past, the location of the company's winery at the Barkan area caused a negative image and made difficult the exporting of the Barkan brands. The company is acting to change this image, especially in light of moving production activity to Kibutz Hulda. (…) Due to severe limitation caused by the size of the Barkan location, as well as due to problems connected with operating a winery beyond the Green Line, the company decided to remove the winery from the Barkan Industrial Zone and relocate it to the Hulda site".
Nevertheless, while the Barkan Wineries have completely cut off any association with West Bank settlement ativity, the company - which owns many vineyards in various locations - still owns a vineyard at Avney Ethan on the occupied Golan Heights. Therefore, the Gush Shalom Boycott Committee decided, for the time being, to retain the company on its boycott list. "Since this is one vineyard out of many owned by this company, and since its general trend of dissociation from settlement activity is very clear, we hope that this last connection would be severed shortly. We could then wholeheartedly remove the company from our boycott list.
We have no problem with their retaining 'Barkan' as a brand name, as long as they completely disconnect themselves from the Occupied Territories, as is not yet completely the case.
Contact: Adam Keller 03-5565804 or 0506-709603
Gush Shalom settlement products boycott list :
The New York Times
August 30, 2008
Israel tightens grip on West Bank's Jordan Valley
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 2:38 p.m. ET
MASKIYOT, West Bank (AP) -- They live just a couple of miles from each other along a country road winding through parched fields, but they are worlds apart.
Avinadav Vitkon, an Israeli freelance writer, is putting down roots in this strip of West Bank land known as the Jordan Valley, helping to establish a new Jewish settlement with his government's backing. Palestinian farmer Jasser Daraghmeh is barely hanging on to the 10 acres he says have been in his family for years.
Vitkon, 29, lives in a trailer, but will eventually move with his wife and four young children into one of 20 homes to be built on an adjacent hill. Daraghmeh, a 34-year-old father of six, expects the Israeli military to demolish his family's wooden shack because it was built without a permit.
Their differing fortunes are the product of a struggle for control of this valley alongside the Jordan River -- biblical terrain which Israelis and Palestinians both say they need for national survival.
Human rights groups say Israel has systematically fostered Jewish communities at the expense of Palestinian growth in several areas of the West Bank it wants to keep, and the Jordan Valley is among the hardest hit. Israelis move freely through the valley, while Palestinians are hampered by building restrictions and roadblocks, one of which even keeps them from nearby Dead Sea beaches.
The West Bank was captured by Israel from the kingdom of Jordan in the 1967 war. The Jordan Valley is ill-defined geographically, but by some measures is roughly one-fourth of the West Bank. Palestinians regard it as the breadbasket of the state they hope to achieve, and the only place big enough to absorb large numbers of refugees.
Israel says it needs the Jordan Valley as a buffer against Arab attack.
Today, the valley has a distinctly Israeli feel, with Jewish settlements, Hebrew billboards, war memorials and a Jewish seminary lining a sleek highway packed with Israeli motorists.
Some 6,000 Israeli settlers live in 25 communities sprinkled across the area, whose West Bank sector stretches about 60 miles north to south, ending at the Dead Sea.
Dubi Tal, a settler leader, says Israelis in the region are confident enough in the future to be investing in date palms, which take years to bear fruit.
Still, the fate of the settlements is on the table again in peace talks. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says Israel appears willing to cede the settlements while keeping troops in the area, possibly to be replaced by international border monitors.
''They don't want to keep the Jordan Valley, but they want certain arrangements,'' Erekat said of his Israeli counterparts, who would not speak publicly about plans for the region.
After the 1967 war, Israel adopted the view that the valley was vital to deter Arab attack from the east. But today Israeli strategists are divided.
Proponents of compromise note that Israel and neighboring Jordan have been at peace for 14 years and that Iraq is not the formidable foe it was under Saddam Hussein. Besides, they say, the bigger threat comes from ballistic missiles, not the conventional ground forces that fought in 1967.
Also, any peace deal would entail a land swap, and given how small Israel and the West Bank are to begin with, the valley may be too large to trade.
However, some warn that giving up the strategic area and with it direct control over the West Bank's border crossings would allow weapons and militants to reach the Palestinian territories, as happened after Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005.
''In all likelihood, were Israel to abandon the strategic barrier of the Jordan Valley, shoulder-fired missiles capable of taking down a 747 jumbo jet would soon appear on high ground in the West Bank that dominates (Israel's international) Ben Gurion Airport,'' said Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations.
All the same, peace is preferable, counters Shaul Arieli, an Israeli former negotiator.
''Strategic depth is very important for Israel, but Israel can have better security with a peace agreement than by keeping the West Bank,'' he said.
Israel hasn't built a settlement in the valley since the 1980s, according to the Israeli settlement watchdog group Peace Now. So why build Maskiyot?
Some think it has less to do with security than with internal maneuverings between the Israeli government and the powerful settler movement now that peace talks with the Palestinians have resumed.
At the moment, talk of peace sounds wishful because leadership is lacking on both sides.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is largely paralyzed by his rivalry with the Islamic militant Hamas, while Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, plagued by corruption scandals, says he will step down next month.
Vitkon and his family headed to Maskiyot, 25 miles south of the Sea Of Galilee, after being evacuated from Gaza, along with some 8,500 other settlers, in 2005. In February, the Vitkons and eight other settler families, all but two from Gaza, moved into trailers at Maskiyot.
Construction of permanent homes is to begin in the fall, said Tal, the settler leader. The government will pave an access road, and hook up the homes to water and electricity.
Just two miles away, Farsiyeh has dwindled from about 100 families before 1967 to about 20 living in far-flung shacks, according to Daraghmeh, the farmer.
Some 53,000 Palestinians live in the Jordan Valley, about half in the ancient city of Jericho where Palestinians run their own administration. The rest live under full Israeli control, squeezed between settlements, military zones and off-limits nature reserves.
Daraghmeh says it's getting harder to water his crops. He points to a pile of black plastic pipes, remnants of his irrigation system. The Israeli military says it destroyed the pipeline running from a nearby spring to his fields because it was illegal.
His legal aid lawyer, Abdallah Hamad, said farmers in the area have traditionally used the spring and are allowed by Israel to draw water but can't use pumps and pipes.
Daraghmeh said he is determined to stay because, with his siblings gone in search of better jobs, he's the last of his family to farm the land. He said he is switching to crops he can grow with brackish water from nearby hot springs.
The farmer unfolded a piece of paper -- an order in Hebrew to demolish the shack he built two years ago.
''People know that even if they apply for a permit, they won't be able to obtain it,'' said Hamad, his lawyer. ''That's why they keep building ... without applying for permits.''
Associated Press Writer Dalia Nammari in the Jordan Valley contributed to this report.
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Friday, August 29, 2008
August 25, 2008
Fledgling Settlements Grow by Stealth
Israeli Outposts Seal Death of Palestinian State
By JONATHAN COOK
Migron, West Bank
Yehudit Genud hardly feels she is on the frontier of Israel’s settlement project, although the huddle of mobile homes on a wind-swept West Bank hilltop she calls home is controversial even by Israeli standards.
Despite the size and isolation of Migron, a settlement of about 45 religious families on a ridge next to the Palestinian city of Ramallah, Mrs Genud’s job as a social worker in West Jerusalem is a 25-minute drive away on a well-paved road.
Mrs Genud, 28, pregnant with her first child, points out that Migron has parks, children’s playgrounds, a kindergarten, a daycare centre and a synagogue, all paid for by the government -- even if the buildings are enclosed by a razor-wire fence, and her husband, Roni, has to put in overtime as the settlement’s security guard.
From her trailer, she also has panoramic views not only of Ramallah but of the many communities hugging the slopes that gently fall away to the Jordan Valley.
Long-established Palestinian villages are instantly identifiable by their homes’ flat roofs and the prominence of the tall minarets of the local mosques. Interspersed among them, however, are a growing number of much newer, fortified communities of luxury villas topped by distinctive red-tiled roofs.
These are the Jewish settlements that now form an almost complete ring around Palestinian East Jerusalem, cutting it off from the rest of the West Bank and destroying any hope that the city will one day become the capital of a Palestinian state.
“These settlements are supposed to be the nail in the coffin of any future peace agreement with the Palestinians,” said Dror Etkes, a veteran observer of the settlements who works for the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din. “Their purpose is to make a Palestinian state unviable.”
The majority of the half a million settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to Mr Etkes, are “economic opportunists”, drawn to life in the occupied territories less by ideological or religious convictions than economic incentives. The homes, municipal services and schools there are heavily subsidised by the government.
In addition, the settlements -- though illegal under international law -- are integrated into Israel through a sophisticated system of roads that make it easy for the settlers to forget they are in occupied territory surrounded by Palestinians.
But Migron, with its supposed links to the Biblical site where King Saul based himself during his fight against the Philistines, attracts a different kind of inhabitant.
“This place is holy to the Jewish people and we have a duty to be here,” Mrs Genud said. “The whole land of Israel belongs to us and we should not be afraid to live wherever we want to. The Arabs must accept that.”
Unlike the 150 or so official settlements dotted across the West Bank, Migron is an example of what the Israeli government refers to as an “illegal outpost”, often an unauthorised outgrowth from one of the main settlements. Today there are more than 100 such outposts, housing several thousand extremist settlers.
Mrs Genud, however, argues that Israel’s refusal to turn Migron into an authorised settlement, as it has done with many other established outposts, reflects pressure from Washington.
Back in 2003, Israel committed itself to dismantling the more recent outposts under the terms of the Road Map, a US-sponsored plan for reviving the peace process and creating a Palestinian state. Two years later the cabinet approved the removal of 24 outposts, although barely any progress has been made on dismantling them. Israel confirmed its pledge again in January when George W Bush, the US president, visited.
Established six years ago by a group from the nearby settlement of Ofra, Migron is now the largest of the outposts. Two residents -- Itai Halevi, the community’s rabbi, and Itai Harel, the son of Israel Harel, a well-known settler leader -- have demonstrated their confidence in Migron’s future by each building permanent homes.
“We are connected to the water grid, we have phone lines from the national company Bezeq, we have been hooked up by the electricity company and have street lighting,” Mrs Genud said. “We also have a kindergarten paid for by the state and a group of soldiers stationed here to protect us. How can we be ‘illegal’?”
Daniella Wiess, a leader of the most extreme wing of the settlers, agreed. Like the inhabitants of Migron, she said the outpost was first suggested by Ariel Sharon when he was housing minister in the 1990s. It was also among the first outposts to be set up after he became prime minister in 2002.
An official report published in 2005 found that more than $4 million was invested in Migron in its first years, with the money channelled through at least six different ministries.
There is good reason for official complicity in such outposts as Migron. “This place is very strategic,” Mrs Genud said. It looks down on Route 60, once the main road serving Palestinians between Jerusalem and Jenin in the northern West Bank.
Today, even those Palestinians who can get a permit to travel the road find regular sections obstructed by checkpoints or closed for the protection of neighbouring settlements.
“We can also see all the Arabs from here and keep an eye on what they are doing,” she said referring to her Palestinian neighbours. “And in addition, we can see the other settlements and check on their safety.”
But despite its significance to the settlement drive, Migron is under threat. Last week, the Israeli government agreed that the outpost must be destroyed, although it was tight-lipped about when. Few are expecting such a reversal to happen soon. The government’s decision was largely foisted upon it by a series of unforeseen events.
In 2006, several West Bank Palestinians, backed by Israeli peace groups, petitioned Israel’s supreme court claiming that Migron had been built on their private land.
Over the past four decades, Israel has declared nearly two-thirds of the West Bank as “state land”, seizing it on a variety of pretexts and transferring much of it to the jurisdiction of settler councils. According to the figures of the Israeli group Peace Now, the settlers are in direct control of more than 40 per cent of the West Bank.
Land belonging to Palestinians who hold the title deeds, however, has been harder to confiscate. As a result, a dubious industry of front companies both inside Israel and in the occupied territories has been spawned to transfer private Palestinian land to the settlers.
One such company appears to be behind the sale of the land on which Migron was built. A police investigation has revealed that one of the Palestinian owners, Abdel Latif Hassan Sumarin, signed over his power of attorney to an Israeli real estate company in 2004, even though he died in the United States in 1961.
During the court hearings, Israel has been dragging its feet. According to its own figures, there are a dozen outposts built entirely or partially on private Palestinian land -- and the true number may be higher still.
The settlers believe that the decision to destroy Migron, if carried out, would set a dangerous precedent. “They are very afraid that this will become simply the first of many settlements to fall,” Mr Etkes said.
Last week, faced with another hearing before the court, the government finally conceded on Migron -- but only after striking a deal with the main settlement lobby group, the Yesha council. Israel promised that the outpost would go, but not before new homes had been built for Migron’s settlers and they had been relocated en masse to a newly created -- and authorised -- settlement. According to reports in the local media, Migron’s families may be moved only a few hundred metres from their current location to an area of the West Bank designated as “state land”.
“The settlers know that preparation of an alternative site could take years,” said Yariv Oppenheimer, the head of Peace Now, fearful that this was simply a delaying tactic.
Others believe that relocating Migron may, in fact, set back the struggle against the settlements. There is already talk of moving the settlers to the jurisdiction of a neighbouring settlement, Adam.
“The danger is that Migron will be destroyed only to be resurrected in ‘legalised’ form by the government as a new settlement close by Adam,” Mr Etkes said.
Such a suspicion is confirmed by the main settler council, Yesha, which issued a statement last week: “We believe it is possible to find a solution for the outposts that will strengthen the settlements.”
Nonetheless, the residents of Migron, backed by hardline settler groups, are talking and acting tough for the time being. In a show of defiance, they moved another mobile home into the outpost last week. For several months the residents have also been erecting a large stone building close by the outpost that will become a winery.
The settlers’ rabbinical council denounced the threatened loss of the outpost, as did settler leader Gershon Masika, who warned of a bloody confrontation to save it.
Mrs Genud is not sure what she will do if the crunch comes and she has to give up her home and life in Migron. “All of this land is Jewish,” she said. “It would be a big mistake if we give up what is rightfully ours.”
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.
This article originally appeared in The National , published in Abu Dhabi.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2008
The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition
Israel Radio bans anti-Gaza policy ads
Aug. 27, 2008
Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST
Israel's national broadcast authority has rejected radio ads criticizing the government for stranding Palestinian university students in the Gaza Strip, a broadcasting official said Wednesday, calling them too controversial.
Submitted by a group working for freedom of movement for Palestinians, the ads target Israeli sanctions that have trapped hundreds of Gaza students who hoped to study abroad. The group, Gisha, is appealing the decision.
The ads feature two prominent Israeli authors and a former Cabinet minister calling on the government to let the students out.
In one, author Yonatan Geffen recounts how as a young man he was given a scholarship to study English literature in Cambridge, England and met his first girlfriend there - "Anne, an incredibly beautiful blonde."
"The right to study crosses borders and conflict. We all have the right to study," he says in the banned spot.
Israel imposed the blockade after the Islamic group of Hamas seized power in Gaza, and tightened the sanctions because of ongoing rocket fire at Israeli towns. Egypt has also sealed its crossing with the territory.
Israel and Hamas are currently observing a truce. Israel has increased the trickle of goods entering the territory and has allowed some Palestinians in for medical treatment. But most Gazans are still not free to leave.
"The spot was not approved for broadcast in the format the advertiser requested because it contains a controversial political message," Linda Bar, a spokeswoman for the Israel Broadcasting Authority, said in a statement. She cited regulations according to which "commercials with controversial political messages cannot go on the air." The step is not unusual. Another ad submitted earlier this month by a hardline hawkish group criticizing the government's removal of Jewish settlers from Gaza in 2005 was also rejected for the same reason, another official at the authority said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment beyond the official statement.
The Israel Broadcasting Authority, a government-appointed but independent body, supervises radio broadcasting in Israel. The service offers several national radio channels in Hebrew, one that broadcasts in Arabic and another in foreign languages for immigrants. Also, regional stations broadcast under the umbrella of the authority. Most of the stations broadcast commercials.
The group that submitted the ads, Gisha, is fighting the decision in an appeals panel. The ad campaign, the appeal claims, "articulates uncontroversial norms, acknowledging the supreme importance of higher education as well as the duty of the state of Israel to facilitate the realization of aspirations for those seeking to pursue education."
Around 1,000 students left Gaza to study abroad every year before the blockade was imposed, according to Sari Bashi, Gisha's director. Today, she said, Israel allows out only several dozen who have scholarships at Western universities. The majority of the students study in Asia and the Middle East, she said, and are not allowed to leave.
Some of the students began their studies abroad and were back in Gaza visiting their families in the summer of 2007, when Hamas came to power and the territory was sealed off.
"There's also a chilling effect, because the longer students are prevented from leaving, the fewer apply," Bashi said.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said Israel is allowing out only students studying in the West because it believes that "exposing Palestinians to a pluralistic and democratic academic environment can only have a positive impact upon the students, who could help bring such values back to Palestinian society."
"If someone is studying chemistry at the University of Teheran or advanced religious texts at an extremist madrassah in south Asia, these are not the kind of things we want to facilitate," he said.
The plight of Gaza's university students made headlines in May, after US officials announced they had revoked the prestigious Fulbright scholarships of seven Gazans because of the Israeli travel ban. The scholarships were eventually restored, but the US ended up denying visas to three of the students on security grounds.
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Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Police detain Israeli for entering Gaza in blockade-busting boat
By Ofri Ilani, Haaretz Correspondent and Reuters
Police on Tuesday detained an Israeli activist who had sailed to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip to challenge Israel's blockade of the coastal region.
They accused Jeff Halper, who also holds United States citizenship, of violating a ban on Israelis entering Gaza.
Halper was among 44 "Free Gaza" activists from 17 nations who sailed in two boats from Cyprus to the Gaza Strip on Saturday in defiance of the blockade.
He spent three days in the Gaza Strip before entering Israel through the Erez border crossing, where police detained him.
According to Halper, Israeli forces at the crossing initially told him that if he came with the boat - he should return the same way. However, he said, they allowed him to cross into Israel shortly afterward.
"He is being questioned at the police station in Sderot for entering the Gaza Strip in defiance of a military decree banning Israeli citizens from doing so," Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
Halper told Haaretz on Tuesday that he expected to be interrogated upon his return to Israel. He expressed satisfaction with his success in entering and leaving Gaza, and said he did not fear harassment by Israeli security forces.
Israel allowed the activists to sail to the Gaza Strip, the first foreigners to reach the territory by sea since travel restrictions were tightened after Hamas's takeover more than a year ago, saying it wanted to avoid a public confrontation.
The activists brought with them a symbolic shipment of hearing aids.
As part of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that took effect in June, Israel has eased its blockade of the territory, allowing in more humanitarian goods and medical equipment.
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--> They still need our support to cover the costs: http://www.freegaza.org/
Detroit Free Press
Sailing into Gaza
By Huwaida Arraf • August 25, 2008
On Saturday, after 32 hours on the high seas, I sailed into the port of Gaza City with 45 other citizens from around the world in defiance of Israel's blockade. We traveled from Cyprus with humanitarian provisions for Palestinians living under siege. My family in Michigan was worried sick.
They are not naïve. They knew that Israel could have attacked us — as Israeli forces did in 2003, killing nonviolent American witness Rachel Corrie (Editor’s note: Corrie, also of the International Solidarity Movement, was run over by a bulldozer operated by Israeli Defense Forces during a protest against the destruction of Palestinian homes; an Israeli military investigation ruled the death accidental) and Brit Tom Hurndall (an ISM representative who died nine months after being was shot in the head in Gaza by an IDF sniper; the sniper was convicted of manslaughter) as well as thousands of unarmed Palestinian civilians over the years.
My family members, though, remember that 60 years ago part of our own family was uprooted and driven from their homes in Palestine by Israeli forces. This loss no doubt fueled my decision to risk my safety and freedom to advance the human rights of innocent men, women and children in Gaza. Advertisement
Our two boats were greeted upon arrival by thousands of jubilant Palestinians who in 41 years of occupation had never witnessed such a scene. To get there we braved anonymous death threats and the Israeli military interfering with our means of communications despite rough seas that jeopardized our safety. Before our departure, the Israeli foreign ministry asserted its right to use force against our unarmed boats.
We nevertheless resolved to act, to symbolically end the siege of Gaza – and to do as civilians what governments have lacked the compassion or courage to do themselves. Once here, we delivered critical supplies such as hearing aids, batteries for medical equipment, and painkillers.
When a massive earthquake rocked China and cyclones ravaged Myanmar, the world responded. Governments and civilians alike rallied to help. Yet world governments have witnessed a manmade humanitarian catastrophe unfold before our eyes in Gaza. Karen Koning Abu Zayd, head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), has asserted that "Gaza is on the threshold of becoming the first territory to be intentionally reduced to a state of abject destitution, with the knowledge, acquiescence and – some would say – encouragement of the international community."
Israel claims that its occupation of Gaza ended three years ago with its pullout of soldiers and settlers. But because Israel objected to the outcome of a 2006 Palestinian election that the Carter Center deemed free and fair, it has blockaded Gaza, severely restricting movement of goods and people. Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, was quoted shortly before the swearing in of the new Hamas government as saying, "It's like a meeting with a dietitian. We need to make the Palestinians lose weight, but not to starve to death."
More than 200 Palestinians have died in the past year according to Physicians for Human Rights – Israel because they could not exit Gaza for needed medical care. Over 80% of Gaza's population now depends on food aid from UNRWA and the World Food Programme. Unemployment is up to an astonishing 45%. And hundreds of young people are being intellectually starved by Israel's decision to prevent them from taking up overseas academic opportunities.
Now that we have made it into Gaza, we intend to assist Gaza's fishermen. We will sail with them beyond the six nautical mile limit illegally enforced by the Israeli navy. Palestinian fishermen are routinely harassed and attacked as they ply the waters to eke out a living. We hope our presence will keep the Israeli military at bay.
We do this because we are horrified that this siege of 1.5 million men, women and children is allowed to continue. We are saddened for the state of our world when decision-makers can sit back and watch an entire people being slowly and purposefully starved and humiliated.
We know that with our two small boats we cannot open all of Gaza to the outside world. We could not bring with us the freedom of movement, access to jobs, medical care, food and other critical supplies that they are denied today. But we brought with us a message to the people of Gaza: they are not alone. With our successful journey we show them that American citizens and others from around the world have been moved to advance humanitarian principles and human rights. Our efforts this week are undertaken in that spirit and with the hope that our elected representatives will one day follow our example.
Huwaida Arraf, a human rights advocate from Roseville, is a lecturer at Al-Quds University School of Law in Jerusalem and co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement. This essay was sent to The Free Press on her behalf by the Institute for Middle East Understanding .
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Friday, August 22, 2008
Watch the news...
The ships (names SS Free Gaza and SS Liberty) have left Cyprus and are now on the way to Gaza shores. They are planned to arrive Saturday. A face off at sea with the Israeli Occupying Navy is expected.
All the info about the trip and how to help is at:
20 Gaza fisherman's boats will be heading to sea to meet them.
ACTION: I just made my donation as a expression of support, please consider making yours.
ACTION: Ask your local media to make phone contact with the ships. Satellite phone numbers available on the boats are: a) 00 870 773 160 151; b) 00 870 773 160 156 c) 00 881 651 442 553; d) 00 881 651 427 948.
Free Gaza NOW,
Activists sail to bust Israeli sea blockade on Gaza
Fri 22 Aug 2008, 7:16 GMT
By Michele Kambas
LARNACA, Cyprus (Reuters) - International activists departed from Cyprus by boat on Friday in an attempt to run an Israeli sea blockade on 1.4 million Palestinians in Gaza.
The 44 activists sailed from the port of Larnaca in two wooden boats at 9:50 a.m. (7:50 a.m. British time). Hailing from 14 countries, they said they expected to reach the shores of Gaza, patrolled by the Israeli navy, on Saturday.
"It has been 41 years since any boat has travelled in those waters, and we plan to be the first," said U.S. citizen Paul Larudee, one of the organisers of the "Free Gaza" campaign.
A previous attempt by the Palestinian Liberation Organisation to sail to Haifa from Cyprus with Palestinian deportees failed in 1988, when a limpet bomb blew a hole in the hull of a ferry boat they had chartered.
An Israeli army spokesman declined to say whether the navy had plans to intercept the ship before it reached Gaza.
"We are following the developments," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said.
The activists include an 81 year old Catholic nun, the sister in law of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and a member of the Greek parliament. Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, 84, initially scheduled to go, could not for medical reasons.
They say they plan to deliver some aid to Palestinians in the Gaza strip, but that the main purpose is to highlight the living conditions of people suffering shortages of everything from food to fuel since an Israeli crackdown.
"The siege that the Israelis have imposed on Gaza is not only illegal in terms of international law, it is also immoral," said Huwaida Arraf, a Palestinian with Israeli and U.S. citizenship.
"Global institutions and the governments of the world know what is happening and are not doing anything about it," she said.
Cyprus, which lies some 240 nautical miles west of Gaza, could not legally stop the departure of the boats. A Cypriot official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters there had been "soundings" by Israeli authorities on whether the vessels could be prevented from sailing from Cypriot shores.
"Provided documentation was in order they could sail. That's the law and we cannot break it," the Cypriot source said.
Israel pulled troops and settlers out of Gaza in 2005 but has tightened security restrictions on the territory since the militant Islamic movement Hamas seized control there a year ago from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' security forces.
The Israelis completed a wall around the Gaza strip in 1996, and they credit the barrier with virtually halting suicide attacks from the coastal territory.
Activists say their mission is a peaceful one. "There is this slow genocide going on in Gaza and nobody is taking any notice," said Yvonne Ridley, a British journalist and author.
"When the Holocaust happened the whole world looked the other way while this atrocity against humanity was unfolding and it was often said we cannot allow this to happen again."
(Additional reporting by Nassos Stylianou)
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Drought and Israeli Policy Threaten West Bank Water Security
by Stephen Lendman / July 16th, 2008
Fresh water is precious everywhere but especially in one of the driest, hottest places on earth: the Middle East. Water is a strategic resource and the reason countries like Israel do everything possible to secure a reliable supply. In the words of former prime minister Moshe Sharett: “Water to us is life itself.” It shapes Israeli policy going back to the early Mandate period.
A Brief History
Post-WW I, Zionists wanted the Sykes-Picot borders altered to include the Jordan River, Lower Litani, east coast of the Sea of Galilee and Lower Yarmouk headwaters and tributaries. These affect Palestine, southern Lebanon, Syria and the Jordan Valley. Efforts to secure them fell short because French opposition blocked them. But it didn’t prevent further regional hydrological studies. They were needed because by WWII’s end accommodating a growing Palestinian and Jewish population grew acute.
Israel’s “War of Independence” followed in 1947-48. It assured water sovereignty as well. Israel was free to act unilaterally — to tap and develop all available resources plus whatever it could seize later on. They’d be needed after Israel’s 1950 Law of Return was passed. It granted Jews worldwide special rights — to emigrate freely and become citizens of the land of Israel. It brought in waves of new immigrants requiring considerable water resources for them, but Israel’s supply was inadequate. At the time, four states shared the Jordan- Yarmouk watershed. Developing it was essential. Each had growing needs so securing a dependable supply was vital.
Several regional water-sharing proposals failed in part because Israel linked them to recognizing the Jewish state. It also rejected solutions not in its strategic interest and acted unilaterally instead. Take its National Water Carrier project. Construction began in the late 1950s and early 1960s and became the country’s largest water project — to transfer Sea of Galilee northern water to highly populated areas in the center and south and to facilitate efficient water use. To neighboring Arab states, however, it was a hostile act, and they responded with their own diversion plans. Israel viewed them as a national security threat.
Confrontation followed. The National Water Carrier was targeted. Israel retaliated against Syrian construction sites. Skirmishes broke out, and the 1967 war resulted. Officially it began on June 5, 1967. Others, including Ariel Sharon, said it started two and a half years earlier when Israel acted against diverting the Jordan River. Earlier, Ben-Gurion warned that Jews and Arabs would battle over strategic water resources and determine Palestine’s fate; its people as well. Aside from other strategic aims for land and regional control, Israel secured water rich lands in southern Lebanon, Jordan, the Golan, and West Bank.
It fully exploited them and is a key reason why the Golan was never returned. West Bank water is another issue. It has three principle aquifers supplying about one-quarter of Israel’s needs, including for its settlements and nearly all of what West Bank Palestinians get. They are:
* the Yarkon-Tanninim Aquifer supplying Israel with about 340 million cubic meters (mcm) of water annually — to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv mainly; Palestinians get far less — about 20 mcm a year;
* the Nablus-Gilboa Aquifer supplying about 115 mcm annually, largely for agricultural irrigation in Galilee-based kibbutzim and moshavim cooperative settlements;
* the Eastern Aquifer supplying about 40 mcm a year to Jordan Valley-based settlements; another 60 mcm go to Palestinians.
Water also comes from the upper Jordan River and its tributaries — the Sea of Galilee, the Yarmouth, and lower Jordan River. Palestinians are denied most of it. As their population grows, shortages have become more acute because of Israel’s restrictive policies.
Israel’s Water Policy in the Territories
The policy works this way — to preserve an unequal division of western, eastern, and northern West Bank aquifer supply. It was the same for Gaza’s aquifer prior to disengagement. The result is a hugely disproportionate distribution policy causing growing shortages for Palestinians. Israel does little to alleviate it. It invests little in infrastructure leaving 20% of West Bank Palestinians unconnected to a running-water system:
* around 227,000 in 220 West Bank towns and villages;
* another 190,000 only partially connected; and
* even in towns and villages with a water network, most often supply is irregular - only on some hours of the day and sometimes rotationally; in distant areas, supply may be disconnected for days or weeks; it’s part of Mekorot’s (Israel’s National Water Company) discriminatory policy to assure settlers are adequately supplied.
In addition, Israeli maintenance (for Palestinians) is shoddy. Water pipes are old and leak, and in some cases more than 50% of fresh water is lost. Qalqiliya and Tulkarm have been especially affected.
Consider the disparity between Israeli and Palestinian supply. For Palestinians, per capita West Bank consumption is 60 liters a day — for domestic, urban, rural, and industrial use. It’s far below the minimum 100 daily liters required according to the World Health Organization. In contrast, look how much Israelis get — 280 liters a day per capita for domestic, urban and rural use or about four and a half times more than Palestinians, including industrial use, and its 330 liters or five a half times Palestinian consumption.
Israeli Violations of International Law on Water in the Occupied Territories
By integrating Occupied Territory water resources into its legal and bureaucratic system and denying Palestinians the right to develop them for their own use, Israel violates international law under Articles 43 and 55 of the 1907 Hague Regulations. Also Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention relating to treating “all protected persons….with the same consideration by the Party to the conflict in whose power they are….”
Then there’s Article 6 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses. It requires water division between states to be reasonable and equitable. Not according to a specific formula but with regard to seven factors:
* the watercourse’s shared natural features - its geography, climate, hydrology, and so forth;
* each state’s social and economic needs;
* its population;
* how watercourse use in one state affects another;
* watercourse existing and potential uses;
* watercourse resources conservation, protection and development and the cost of measures to assure them; and
* planned or existing use alternatives.
Taking international law and all the above factors into account, Palestinian rights are severely compromised.
Water security is crucial for Israel. Securing and preserving supply essential. In the occupied West Bank, Arabs are prohibited from drilling new wells without special permission, but it’s practically impossible to get and won’t likely change. Many existing wells were also sealed to restrict Palestinians to a very low quota, far below Israelis. Most West Bank water goes to Israel and the expanding settlement population. Jordan River water is also diverted — from 50 to 75%. As its population grows, so does its water needs. It was one among other factors behind the 1982 Lebanon invasion — to control the Litani River in the country’s south. It remains out of reach today, but a richer resource would be to secure access to major rivers like the Nile, Euphrates or Seyhan and Ceyhan in Turkey.
Since the 1990s, water and other environmental issues were among the most important in Israeli bilateral relations. Its October 1994 peace treaty with Jordan included five annexes. Two addressed water and environmental concerns.
The water rich Golan has been a stumbling block toward a similar deal with Syria. It’s much the same in bilateral Palestinian talks. The Territories’ water resources have been over- exploited for years, but precious little of it for Palestinian use. It’s a major destabilizing factor and obstacle to real peace and security. So many issues are at stake. One rarely discussed is the inequitable distribution of scarce and valued water resources.
Summer 2008 Drought Compounds the Problem
Israelis nearly always have enough water for their needs — agricultural, drinking, bathing, watering lawns, washing cars, and filling swimming pools for those who have them. In contrast, Palestinians have precious little. In summer it’s always worse, but this year the most severe draught in a decade made it grave. In the northern West Bank, consumption is at about one-third the minimum required. It’s because rainfall this year has been less than two- thirds normal. In southern areas, it’s barely over half. Cities like Tubas, Jenin, Nablus and the Southern Hebron hills have been especially impacted.
According to Palestinian Water Authority estimates, the West Bank’s water shortfall is from 42 to 69 mcm. Its consumption is 79 mcm making emergency supplies needed. Throughout the West Bank, per capita consumption is about 66 liters (for domestic, urban, rural and industrial use), far below the World Health Organization’s 100 liter minimum for personal needs.
Making matters worse is the price of privately purchased water that constitutes 50% of West Bank supply — from 15 to 30 shekels or three to six times higher that Israelis pay. Because of this year’s shortfall, it’s heading higher and putting an impossible burden on impoverished Palestinians to buy enough of it. The alternative is drinking from questionable sources after amounts collected in cisterns run dry — stagnant water or from dirty springs that may expose users to frequent and serious illnesses.
Oslo II’s Broken Promise
The 1995 Oslo II agreement assured “the equitable utilization of joint water resources for implementation in and beyond the interim period.” It never happened because Israel’s Palestinian dealings are nearly always duplicitous. It sets traps and uses devious language to assure interpretations go its way.
Post-Oslo II, a Joint Water Committee (JWC) was established to approve new West Bank water and sewage projects. It’s composed of an equal number of Israeli and Palestinian representatives, but that’s where equality ends. All decisions are by consensus, but no procedure is in place to settle disputes when agreement can’t be reached. As a result, Israel can veto Palestinian requests for new wells - even though Oslo II assured it.
The publication New Scientist has covered “the latest science and technology news, reports, developments and research” for over 50 years. In May 2004, it reported that Israel had a “secret plan for a giant desalination plant to supply (privatized) drinking water to (Palestinians in) the West Bank.” It was to preserve fresh water supplies for Israelis, but here’s the catch. Israel won’t fund it nor can Palestinians. It means the world community or possibly the US would have to do it. Just as bad, if it’s ever completed, is the cost as leading hydrologists point out: “desalinating seawater and pumping it to the West Bank….would cost around $1 per cubic meter,” an impossible amount for Palestinians to pay at an exchange rate of 3.3 shekels to the dollar, and many if not most Israelis as well.
Nonetheless, Alvin Newman, USAID’s Tel Aviv head of water resources, supported the project, and with good reason. If funding is secured, it would mean lucrative business contracts for favored USAID contractors. Palestinians, on the other hand, are fearful. They object to desalinization plans dependent on their abandoning claims to West Bank water — resources beneath their own land. Ihad Barghothi, Palestinian Water Authority’s head of water projects said at the time: “We cannot do that (nor do we) have the money or expertise for desalination.”
Gaza is another issue. It depends almost exclusively on small wells tapping the coastal aquifer. But as the water table falls, it’s being increasingly polluted by salt sea water. UN scientists conclude that within 15 years (from 2004) Gaza will have no drinkable water and will have to import its needs. But even now the World Health Organization reports that Gaza’s water quality falls below its acceptable standards due to the aquifer’s degradation. Besides that, 40% of Gaza homes lack running water, according to the Palestinian Water Authority.
Another possible solution is an approved and apparently funded so-called ocean depth reverse osmosis plant to provide the Territory’s supply. It’s another method of desalinating sea water, but here again there’s the cost.
New Scientist points out that if these two projects become reality they’ll make “Palestine more dependent on desalination than almost any other nation in the world.” And given the cost of desalinated water, it will be out of reach for the great majority of impoverished Palestinians.
Palestinian Resilience and Nonviolent Resistance
Palestinian resilience is impressive despite overwhelming obstacles. Take Nahhalin village, 20 kilometers southeast of Bethlehem where the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ) is active. For the past 17 years, it’s represented Palestinian interests — economic, social, natural resources management, sustainable agriculture, politics, and water management.
In 2007, it began a waste water treatment project it will replicate in other rural areas to provide new sources of water for irrigation. In Nahhalin, ARIJ’s water and environment research unit will install on-site waste water treatment systems for about 180 homes accommodating 1800 people. The project is scheduled for completion in 2010. Wherever else it’s used, it’ll manage waste water and improve access to fresh supplies. ARIJ believes its plan is one of the most feasible and economical ways to provide a sanitary use for household waste water. When in place, it’ll increase agricultural productivity and food security, a vital Palestinian concern.
ARIJ sees other benefits as well. Treatment units will be manufactured locally to provide much needed jobs. In addition, these type projects further peace and are powerful nonviolent resistance acts.
The Palestinian Hydrology Group (PHG) complements ARIJ’s efforts with its own projects. It’s an NGO “promot[ing] the role of women in civil societies in managing local water and its related environmental resources to ensure transparency, good water governance and just and equal provision of water and sanitation services to the rural and marginal communities in the West Bank and Gaza.”
One of its projects is in the northern West Bank villages of Jayyus and Karr Jammal near Qalqilya where Israel’s Separation Wall cuts off off farmers from their lands. PHG is helping them maintain pumps and irrigation systems so they have greater control of their natural resources despite overwhelming Israeli restrictions. It’s another expression of their nonviolent resistance and it’s spreading.
International law is supportive. It recognizes non-discriminatory access to adequate fresh water as a fundamental human right and requires occupying powers to assure it. The UN General Assembly also affirmed Palestinians’ right to self-determination and control of their natural resources — in Resolutions 1803 (1962), 2672C, (1970), 2787 (1971) and 3098D (1980).
In December 1966, it adopted the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Article 1(1) affirms self-determination, and Article 1(2) states: “All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic cooperation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law. In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.” It’s now up to the international body to enforce its own rulings.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. Contact him at: email@example.com. Also visit his blog site and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM-1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening. Read other articles by Stephen .
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