Friday, June 30

MCC Palestine Update #123

MCC Palestine Update #123

30 June 2006

Atrocities in Gaza

Following a series of bloody June attacks on Gaza by Israeli forces, including the weekend shelling of a beach that killed 8 Palestinian civilians, including 7 members of the same family and injured a further 32 civilians, including 13 children (9 June); a missile attack on a Gazan highway that killed eleven and injured 30 (13 June); and another missile attack that killed 3 children and wounded 15 others (20 June), Palestinian militants carried out a raid on Israeli military positions near Gaza on June 25th.

The raid resulted in the killing of two soldiers and the capture of one, Cpl Gilad Shalit. Israel threatened an assault and the assassination of top Hamas leaders if the soldier was not freed, and began deploying tanks along Gaza’s borders. Late evening this past Tuesday, Israel launched a large-scale military assault on Gaza, as Israeli fighter planes carried out three airstrikes on Gazan bridges, rendering travel north to south for vehicles by road impossible. Further strikes took place against Gazan power plants, which provide electricity to half of Gaza’s 1.5 million Palestinians, sending most of Gaza into darkness. The damage to the power plants is estimated at about $16 million, and will require six months to repair—more than a daunting figure for the residents of Gaza, considering what they already see as the international community’s economic boycott of the Palestinian people following Palestinian Legislative Council elections earlier this year. And early into Wednesday morning, Israeli forces began moving into Gaza to take control of the open areas east of Rafah. Israeli fighter planes began flying low over Gaza, causing intentional sonic booms. Israeli threats of targeted assassinations have been stepped up, as they have already kidnapped dozens of democratically elected Palestinian officials ministers in the past day alone, including 20 MP’s and 8 cabinet members.

This recent and ongoing Israeli attack on Gaza has created incredible uncertainty (“Israeli tanks turn screw on besieged Gaza Strip,”,,1808456,00.html; “Israeli missiles pound Gaza into new Dark Age in ‘collective punishment,’”
article1129750.ece; “Bracing for the worst: Electricity cut off, bridges bombed, sonic boom attacks resume,” The targeting and destruction of civilian infrastructure has already created a humanitarian situation on the brink of disaster (“UN aid chief warns that Gaza is on the verge of humanitarian crisis,”; “Israel strikes new Gaza targets,”; “Gaza’s infrastructure suffers,” With much of the water supply and sewage system dependent on electricity, this damage to civilian infrastructure raises serious medical concerns. Echoing the concerns of the UN agencies in Gaza that “going after civilian installations, targeting and attacking electricity, only hurts the civilian population,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has strongly condemned this collective punishment of the Palestinian people—actions clearly in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israeli is a signatory (“Collective Punishment, Occupation, and the Palestinians,” ).

For more on Israel’s invasion of Gaza, visit, for more on the June massacres in Gaza, visit, and for more on the “One Big Prison” status of Gaza following last year’s disengagement, visit


Mennonite Central Committee currently supports a women's health center in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, a women's food processing center in Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza, and a children’s center in the Khan Younis refugee camp. MCC partners with the Culture and Free Thought Association (CFTA; in Khan Younis through MCC’s Global Family Program, supporting CFTA’s Shoroq wa-Amal (Sunrise and Hope) children’s club (
palestine/shoroq.html). At Shoroq wa-Amal, over 500 refugee children engage in before or after school activities, such as art, dance, music, sports, drama, reading, science and play. CFTA’s children's programs stimulate intellect and creativity and provide safe, secure places for children who are growing up in the midst of poverty and violence.

Talking earlier today with Majeda al-Sakka, program manager for CFTA, she shared a little about what they are experiencing. “This is a very bad situation,” Majeda tells me. Shelling and Israeli aircraft-created sonic booms that go on day and night at the least disrupt sleep for the residents of Gaza, but in more cases traumatize young children.

That the water supply in many places has been cut off or at least its availability is uncertain is itself a heavy concern. For the last twenty-four hours in Khan Younis there has been no water. “Water is the source of life,” Majeda tells me. And in the summer, in a hot climate such as Gaza, this water shortage carries with it even more health concerns and hospitals are worried about what the coming week will hold. Estimates that the Gaza infrastructure will not be repaired nor power supplies be available again before the end of the year creates more concern. People are being told to buy generators. But even for those who can afford a generator, there is a short supply. And for those who are fortunate enough to but generators, fuel supplies in Gaza are very limited.

Accessible water depends for many on electricity, and the loss of power means the loss of more water. The loss of power also means limited services at Gaza hospitals. Palestinians with medical conditions now face a very difficult time ahead.

Majeda emphasizes to me that the situation is very dangerous for everybody. Simple commutes within Gaza are no longer safe, due not only to the decimated infrastructure (bridges, roads, etc.) but to the constant threat of low-flying Israeli F-16’s, flying at speeds that break the sound barrier and create sonic booms, shattering windows, causing hearing damage. CFTA staff has sat down and worked out emergency plans to maintain the work of the center. But so far, Majeda tells me, “nothing is working.” Inconsistent power availability throughout the day prohibits consistent work, which is why many are shifting their work time to the evening, to adjust to the schedule of available electricity.

Sunday marks the beginning of CFTA’s summer camp program for the children of Khan Younis, many of whom live in the refugee camps around the city. And at this point, Majeda does not know if they can start on time. She is sure that they will have to cancel some of the activities. For example, there can be no visits to the beach. For years, the children of Khan Younis, and their parents, were not able to visit the Mediterranean Sea, or go to the beach for a family outing. Following the removal of Israeli settlers from Gaza last year, the residents of Gaza could freely go to the beach. But now, it is again too dangerous. The massacre of the Ghalia family last week on the shores of Gaza City was a sad indicator of this.

Majeda tells me that they will also find alternatives to activities that involve doing anything with the children in large groups. The fear is very real that Israel will target large groups, even if they are children playing at a summer camp. CFTA will organize more activities for smaller group of children, to avoid being noticeable targets for the Israeli military.

Regardless of all of this, the Palestinian people of Gaza are not showing signs of despair. “There are high spirits,” says Majeda. This has a lot to do with the history of Gaza and the experiences of the Palestinian people there. “Khallas, it’s a war,” she tells me, describing the sentiment of the people. This has happened to us before, “what do we have to lose?” Nor do there appear to be any signs of acquiescence to Israeli demands for the release of the Israeli prisoner being held, instead pushing for a prisoner exchange. “We want to see out families in prison.”

Finally, I ask Majeda about the response of the international community—of individuals, agencies, or governments. She asks, “Where is the solidarity?” Where are the actions of protest against what Israel is doing, for example, demonstrations at Israeli embassies? Where indeed?

Please keep Majeda and the people of Gaza in your thoughts and prayers right now. And prayerfully discern how you and your community should hear Majeda’s exhortation and consider how to respond.

MCC Palestine Online

Many of you have already noticed MCC’s new and improved website at Perhaps you have also noticed the updated MCC Palestine website at, containing additional links to MCC resources such as news service pieces and other publications we have mentioned in the past such as Sonia Weaver’s What Is Palestine/Israel?: Answers to Common Questions, MCC Peace Office Newsletters, a Common Place magazine, the “Bridges Not Walls” Campaign, DVD’s like Children of the Nakba, The Dividing Wall, and more. Check out to access these resources to assist in education and advocacy in your home communities on behalf of the people of this land. Also, for current and back editions of the MCC Palestine Update, as well as additional links to MCC partner organizations, you can also visit

MCC Palestine Transitions: Welcoming New Faces, Goodbyes to Good Friends

After eleven years of working in the Middle East with MCC, nine of which were here in Palestine, Alain Epp Weaver and Sonia Weaver, Regional Representatives for Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq, will be finishing up their time with MCC in August. They, along with their children Sam and Kate, will be moving to Chicago, where Alain will begin a PhD program in theology at the University of Chicago. Though we are all very happy for Alain and Sonia and Sam and Kate for this new opportunity, we will all miss them very much. They have contributed greatly to MCC’s work over the years and have been an incredible resource, and good friends, to us all. Blessings to you, Alain, Sonia, Sam, and Kate, in this new experience!

Next month, we will welcome George and Pearl Richert from Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada to our program as the new Regional Representatives for the Palestine, Jordan and Iraq programs. They have worked in the past with MCC having done program evaluations for the Egypt and Syria programs, as well as having done some work for the Iraq program. Until his retirement five years ago, George was the President of Menno Simons College, in addition to teaching courses on International Development, and has recently been involved in contract work for Menno Simons College. Pearl and George come with a solid history in Mennonite church involvement, as well as MCC involvement. Along with our colleagues Sri Mayasandra, MCC Palestine’s Jerusalem Representative, and Bassem Thabet, Director of Administration, as well as Mark and Andrea Stoner-Leaman, English teachers at the Latin Patriarchate School in the village of Zebabdeh in the northern West Bank, we are excited about the arrival of our new colleagues!

On a final note regarding new MCCers, peace development workers Timothy and Christi Seidel welcomed their first child in May. Their son Kai Emanuel Hoover-Seidel was born in Bethlehem. He is a healthy boy and a delight to us all.

Peace to you all,

Timothy Seidel
Peace Development Workers
Mennonite Central Committee – Palestine

Attachments and Links:

· Chris McGreal, “Israeli tanks turn screw on besieged Gaza Strip,” The Guardian, 29 June 2006
· Tanya Reinhart, “A Week of Israeli Restraint,” The Electronic Intifada, 22 June 2006
· Jonathan Cook, “The truth lies buried in Gaza sands,” The Electronic Intifada, 21 June 2006
· Fareed Taamallah, “America deaf to Palestinian screams,” The Electronic Intifada, 19 June 2006
· Gideon Levy, “No Longer Asking,” Haaretz, 18 June 2006
· Chris McGreal, “The battle of Huda Ghalia - who really killed girl's family on Gaza beach?” The Guardian, 17 June 2006
· Gideon Levy, “The Uninvolved,” Haaretz, 2 June 2006
· Will Youmans and Nora Erakat, “Understanding the Presbyterian Vote: Divestment, Corporate Engagement and Israel,, 23 June 2006
· James Brooks, “On Boycotts, Activism and Moral Standards,” The Electronic Intifada, 16 June 2006
· Gideon Levy, “With a little help from the outside,” Haaretz, 4 June 2006
· James M. Wall, “Unilateral proposal,” The Christian Century, 13 June 2006
· BADIL Press release from, “2006 World Refugee Day: BADIL Survey of Palestinian Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons,” BADIL Press release from Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, 12 June 2006
· Al-Haq Press Release, “39 Years of Occupation,” Al-Haq, 5 June 2006


The Guardian
Israeli tanks turn screw on besieged Gaza Strip
Chris McGreal

29 June 2006

The army seized control of Gaza's international airport on the edge of Rafah - which last saw a flight five years ago, just before the army bulldozed the runway - and secured a large area of ground. The Israelis made their presence known to the rest of Gaza before dawn as air force jets let loose powerful sonic booms which sound unnervingly like very large bombs. Many Palestinians were shaken from their beds to find they had no electricity.

Twelve hours later, workers at Gaza's power station were still hosing down six wrecked transformers billowing smoke after each one was picked off by a single missile, leaving heaps of buckled metal.

The plant's operations manager, Derar Abu Sisi, predicted that it would not generate again before the end of the year, raising the prospect that more than half of Gaza's 1.4 million residents, including a large part of Gaza City, will be without power for months. "This plant produced 60% of the strip's electricity. Now it's completely shut down," he said. "What I know about war is that economics and infrastructure is usually the last target ... We're very sorry it's the first stage of war here. They [the Israelis] know very well the electricity sector doesn't have weapons."

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, called the destruction of Gaza's infrastructure "collective punishment and a crime against humanity". Human rights groups said it was in breach of the Geneva conventions which bar attacks on targets of no immediate military value and on reprisals against civilians.

The Israeli army seemed at a loss to explain the value of severing electricity to most of Gaza's population, and destroying bridges that will take weeks or months to repair, unless it is to make civilians suffer in order to pressure the armed groups holding Cpl Shalit. "This is part of an ongoing effort to cause disruption, it's all part of the same effort to get the soldier released," said aspokeswoman, Captain Noah Meir. "It's part of measures against those who are directly involved and those not directly involved." Asked about the impact on the civilian population, she said: "It was something we took into consideration. You do have to understand that we have to get the soldier back."

Gazans have not begun to think how they are going to get through the coming weeks and months without electricity. The wrecked plant was only fully on line for three years and it will cost about £8m to buy and install new transformers.

Please read more at,,1808456,00.html


The Electronic Intifada
A Week of Israeli Restraint
Tanya Reinhart

22 June 2006

In Israeli discourse, Israel is always presented as the side exercising restraint in its conflict with the Palestinians. This was true again for the events of the past week: As the Qassam rockets were falling on the Southern Israeli town of Sderot, it was “leaked” that the Israeli Minister of Defense had directed the army to show restraint.

During the week of Israeli restraint, the army killed a Palestinian family who went on a picnic on the Beit Lahya beach in the Gaza Strip; after that, the army killed nine people in order to liquidate a Katyusha rocket. But in the discourse of restraint, the first killing does not count, because the army denied its involvement, and the second was deemed a necessary act of self-defense. After all, Israel is caught in the midst of Qassam attacks, and must defend its citizens. In this narrative, the fact that Israel is content merely to bombard the Gaza Strip from air, sea and land is a model of restraint and humanity that not many states could match.

But what is driving the Qassam attacks on Israel? For 17 months, since it declared a cease fire, Hamas has not been involved in firing Qassams. The other organizations have generally succeeded in launching only a few isolated Qassams. How did this evolve into an attack of something like 70 Qassams in three days?…

At the beginning of last week (11 June), Olmert set out on a campaign of persuasion in Europe to convince European leaders that now, with Hamas in power, Israel definitely has no partner. The USA does not appear to need any convincing at the moment, but in Europe there is more reservation about unilateral measures. The Israeli army began to prepare the backdrop on the night of the previous Thursday (8 June 2006), when it “liquidated” Jamal Abu Samhanada, who had recently been appointed head of the security forces of the Interior Ministry by the Hamas government. It was entirely predictable that the action may lead to Qassam attacks on Sderot. Nevertheless, the army proceeded the following day to shell the Gaza coast (killing the Ghalya family and wounding tens of people), and succeeded in igniting the required conflagration, until Hamas again ordered its people, on 14 June, to cease firing.

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The Electronic Intifada
The truth lies buried in Gaza sands
Jonathan Cook

21 June 2006

If you keep lying long enough and with enough conviction, people start to believe you -- or at least doubt the evidence in front of their own eyes. And so it has been with the Israeli army’s account of how seven members of a Palestinian family were killed, and dozens of other Palestinians injured, during shelling close by a beach in Gaza.

This week, according to reports in the Israeli media, even Marc Garlasco, a Pentagon expert on the effects of battlefield weapons hired by Human Rights Watch to investigate the deaths, “conceded” that he could not contradict the findings of the Israeli army’s own inquiry.

Presumably that is because Israel is not letting him or anyone else near their evidence. But Garlasco’s slight change of tune -- even if it is not exactly a ringing endorsement -- leaves the door ajar just wide enough that the Israeli army will doubtless slip through it to escape being held accountable yet again.

The army has been claiming for more than a week, based on its own evidence, that the lethal explosion was not caused by a stray shell landing on the Gaza beach but most probably by a mine placed there by Palestinian militants to prevent an Israeli naval landing.

The army’s case could be dismissed outright were it not for the racist assumptions that now prevail as Western “thought” about Arabs and Muslims.

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The Electronic Intifada
America deaf to Palestinian screams
Fareed Taamallah

19 June 2006

The screaming of 11 year old Palestinian Huda Abu Ghalia from Gaza seems not to have reached American officials. Huda's parents and five siblings were killed before her eyes last week when Israeli artillery crashed onto the beach as they picnicked. The US was the only major power which not only refused to condemn the incident, but described it as "self defense." Afterwards, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called Israel's army the "most moral" in the world.

However, Amnesty International's 2006 Report criticizes Israel's excessive use of force: "Some 190 Palestinians[1], including around 50 children, were killed by the Israeli army in the Occupied Territories in 2005. Many were killed unlawfully, in deliberate and reckless shootings, shelling and air strikes in densely populated residential areas."

Following years of Israeli oppression, in July, 2005 171 Palestinian civil society organizations initiated a global campaign calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli apartheid. A growing number of international organizations have responded to the call…

Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has written, "Yesterday's South African township dwellers can tell you about today's life in the Occupied Territories....If apartheid ended, so can the occupation, but the moral force and international pressure will have to be just as determined. The current divestment effort is the first, though certainly not the only, necessary move in that direction."

In the West Bank, every day I see, feel and touch the segregation between the Palestinian and Israeli communities: on the roads, at checkpoints, and through collective punishment of Palestinians.

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No longer asking
Gideon Levy

18 June 2006

We've stopped asking. The press, whose job is to ask, almost doesn't ask questions; the Knesset doesn't ask questions; the attorney general doesn't ask questions; the Supreme Court doesn't ask; nearly all the teachers, doctors, students, and intellectuals don't ask questions; the heads of the army and the defense establishment certainly don't ask questions, they never asked. Nothing is more symptomatic of a society's ills than the fact that the society has stopped asking questions.

Even during a particularly bloody week like last week, when 14 innocent civilians were killed, nearly no questions were asked, and certainly not the real questions. In a feeble voice it was asked why it was necessary to fire missiles at a vehicle in the heart of Gaza, and why the second barrage was necessary when it was obvious that innocent civilians would gather around the car after the first barrage. But nobody asked about the difference between firing a missile into the heart of a city and a suicide bomber blowing himself up in the heart of another city. They asked who killed the Ghalia family on the beach and what Israel should do about the Qassams, but few asked what Israel should not do, under any circumstances, and what would happen if, heaven forbid, the GRAD missile in the vehicle were to blow up on a street bustling with people. Nobody, of course, even considered asking the commander of the air force or the chief of staff if they should take responsibility for this war crime…

Israel is waiting, silent and indifferent. Any glimmer of good news from the Palestinian side is immediately trampled by brutal military operations. We are pushing Hamas, really pushing, back into the cycle of terror, as a senior officer in the army, who of course refused to be identified, admits. In Gaza there is a prime minister who says he wants to reach an arrangement with Israel on the basis of the 1967 borders, a far-reaching statement as far as he is concerned, and Israel responds with threats on his life. In Ramallah is the most moderate of all Palestinian leaders, and Israel more or less is ignoring his existence. Four years ago the Arab world passed a brave decision--the Saudi Arabian plan--to normalize relations with Israel, but that didn't even get a serious discussion here.

Without asking questions, Israel is morally collapsing. African refugees are rotting in jail, an airline wanted to allow aboard only Jewish travelers, and in our backyard an entire nation is struggling against an Israeli boot that from year to year becomes more ruthless and brutal. And above it all hovers the horrible question: Do we really want peace? Do we really want to live in a just and sympathetic country? Or is the sad truth that the greed for territory and power has blinded and deafened us so that we are no longer able even to ask?

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The Guardian
The battle of Huda Ghalia - who really killed girl's family on Gaza beach?
Chris McGreal

17 June 2006

Guardian investigation casts doubt on Israeli claim that army was not to blame

Heartrending pictures of 10-year-old Huda Ghalia running wildly along a Gaza beach crying "father, father, father" and then falling weeping beside his body turned the distraught girl into an instant icon of the Palestinian struggle even before she fully grasped that much of her family was dead.

But the images of the young girl who lost her father, step-mother and five of her siblings as picnicking families fled a barrage of Israeli shells a week ago have become their own battleground.

Who and what killed the Ghalia family, and badly maimed a score of other people, has been the subject of an increasingly bitter struggle for truth all week amid accusations that a military investigation clearing the army was a cover-up, that Hamas was really responsible and even that the pictures of Huda's grief were all an act.

However, a Guardian investigation into the sequence of events raises new and so far unanswered questions about the Israeli military probe that cleared the army of responsibility. Evidence from hospital records, doctors' testimony and witness accounts challenges the central assertion that the shelling had stopped by the time seven members of the Ghalia family were killed.

In addition, fresh evidence from the US group Human Rights Watch, which offered the first forensic questioning of the army's account, casts doubt on another key claim - that shrapnel taken from the wounded was not from the kind of artillery used to shell Gaza.

Please read more at,,1799825,00.html


The uninvolved
Gideon Levy

2 June 2006

The faces of the news anchors last Saturday night were impassive as they announced another "targeted strike in Gaza." So was the face of the Israel Air Force commander, Major General Eliezer Shkedi, who said the next day, with appalling hardheartedness, that "we still have to check" what exactly caused the deaths in the Aman family during this targeted strike. What exactly was the major general hinting at? That perhaps it was not the missile launched by his pilot that killed the family?

And one wonders about the face of the pilot who pushed the button that launched the murderous missile into a crowded street in the heart of Gaza City on Shabbat afternoon - a missile that was meant to destroy Mohammed Dahdouh of Islamic Jihad, and in one blow killed off a grandmother, a mother and her small son and mortally wounded two other members of the family, including the little daughter.

Only the face of Hamdi Aman is contorted now, with tears welling up in his eyes, trying in vain to hold back his weeping: a 28-year-old man, limping from the injury to his leg from the shrapnel, who lost his 7-year-old son Muhand, his 27-year-old wife, Naima, and his mother, Hanan, 46. Mariya, his daughter, 3 and a half years old, is lying in the children's intensive care unit in Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, completely paralyzed and on a respirator.

"I don't hate the Israelis," says this young man, who grew up in the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, and whose family Israel has destroyed in this way. "Just put the pilot on trial." The words are uttered in the family home in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood in Gaza. The oppressive silence is broken only by Hamdi's silent weeping, and his tears fall onto the sand floor in the entry hall of the house. He embraces his 2-year-old son Muaman, who was saved from death, but wounded in the back by shrapnel, a toddler who is crying and calling to his mother, who is no longer alive.

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Understanding the Presbyterian Vote: Divestment, Corporate Engagement and Israel
Will Youmans and Nora Erakat

23 June 2006

America’s largest Presbyterian church voted to continue policies of economic engagement in the Middle East. It affirmed its willingness to use its investment policies to press for peace in Israel-Palestine. The vote came two years after it’s overwhelmingly support of a phased, selective divestment from Israel.

During its 217th General Assembly, the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to substitute the language of “divestment” for the precise concept of “corporate engagement.” Both concepts refer to the same process of moral responsible investment. They just refer to different stages. Corporate engagement is when the Church researches the companies, determines their compliance with its standards, and then pressures them to change. Divestment refers to the ultimate termination of investments from the targeted corporations if engagement fails to produce positive change.

Nothing in the amended resolution prevents the PC(USA) General Assembly from deciding to decide to divest. Rev. Gretchen Graf, moderator of the General Assembly said “this new statement clarifies the engagement process, which has not yet led to any recommendation for divestment,” she told the General Assembly. She specified that divestment could still occur in 2008…

However, a barrage of headlines and sound-bites suggest the Presbyterians have abandoned divestment totally. Pro-Israeli activists claim this is a victory for them and a defeat for the divestment movement – mainstream media are readily accepting this as fact…

There is no basis for claiming the Presbyterians surrendered their right to divest from companies profiting off of Israel’s military occupation. This vote did not let Israel and the companies helping it off the hook. Yet, the media have largely adapted the twisted version of events. It seems they all wish divestment would just go away

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The Electronic Intifada
On Boycotts, Activism and Moral Standards
James Brooks

16 June 2006

Boycott and divestment campaigns are grass roots efforts to publicize the extreme plight of the Palestinians and protest western nations’ support for Israel’s demands. They can become the nucleus of a growing public awareness that could eventually produce political change. In a “free market” economy, there should be no question as to the right of consumers and organizations to make and promote joint decisions about their purchases and investments…

In closing, I’d like to propose a settlement to the frothy debate over the “legitimacy” of the growing international campaign to boycott Israel and its accomplices. It can be stated in two elementary observations.

First, I assume we agree that the international embargo against apartheid South Africa was a morally sound and effective tool to hasten justice in that colonized land.

Second, veteran South African freedom fighters from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to labor organizers and SA government officials have been saying for several years that the situation in occupied Palestine is worse than the oppression they suffered under white South Africa. (And that was before the current economic siege, the draconian new permit systems strangling the West Bank and forcing Palestinians out of the Jordan Valley, the rising new tide of deaths caused by the spreading paralysis of the Palestinian health care system, etc. etc.)

Who will argue with the people who defeated South African apartheid and have experienced Israel’s version of the same system?

The South African boycott and the campaign to free the “terrorist” Nelson Mandela were international actions of conscience against a racist colonizing power that refused to change its ways. We would be applying a double standard if we did not act on the same conscience today, to boycott and cut off funds to Israel and pressure it into ending its own regime of ethnic supremacy.

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With a little help from the outside
Gideon Levy

4 June 2006

The laugh of fate: The state waging a broad international campaign for a boycott is simultaneously waging a parallel campaign, no less determined, against a boycott. A boycott that seriously harms the lives of millions of people is legitimate in its eyes because it is directed against those defined as its enemies, while a boycott that is liable to hurt its academic ivory tower is illegitimate in its eyes only because it is aimed against itself. This is a moral double standard. Why is the boycott campaign against the Palestinian Authority, including blocking essential economic aid and boycotting leaders elected in democratic and legal elections, a permissible measure in Israel's eyes and the boycott of its universities is forbidden?

Israel cannot claim the boycott weapon is illegitimate. It makes extensive use of this weapon itself, and its victims are suffering under severe conditions of deprivation, from Rafah to Jenin. In the past, Israel called upon the world to boycott Yasser Arafat, and now it is calling for a boycott of the Hamas government ? and via this government, all of the Palestinians in the territories. And Israel does not regard this as an ethical problem. Tens of thousands have not received their salaries for four months due to the boycott, but when there is a call to boycott Israeli universities, the boycott suddenly becomes an illegitimate weapon…

The occupation is not just the domain of the government, army and security organizations. Everything is tainted: institutions of justice and law, the physicians who remain silent while medical treatment is prevented in the territories, the teachers who do not protest against the closing of educational institutions and the prevention of free movement of their peers, the journalists who do not report, the writers and artists who remain mum, the architects and engineers who lend a hand to the occupation's enterprises ? the settlements and the fence, the barriers and bypass roads and also the university lecturers, who do nothing for their imprisoned colleagues in the territories, but conduct special study programs for the security forces. If all these boycotted the occupation, there would be no need for an international boycott.

The world sees a great and ongoing injustice. Should it remain silent?

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The Christian Century
Unilateral proposal
James M. Wall

13 June 2006

Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert traveled to Washington in late May to tell President Bush about his plans for Israel's future. There is no indication that those plans offer a viable solution to the humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories caused by the cutoff of funds to the Hamas government. Olmert blames Hamas for the crisis. Former president Jimmy Carter disagrees. In a column in the International Herald Tribune (May 7), Carter wrote:

Innocent Palestinian people are being treated like animals, with the presumption that they are guilty of some crime. Because they voted for candidates who are members of Hamas, the United States government has become the driving force behind an apparently effective scheme of depriving the general [Palestinian] public of income, access to the outside world and the necessities of life. A Hamas pledge against the use of violence against Israel civilians has been in place for more than 18 months, yet both Israel and the U.S. continue to describe Hamas as a terrorist organization and refuse to talk with Hamas until it accepts Israel's "right to exist"—a diplomatic demand that Virginia Tilley, professor of political science and international relations at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, finds less than compelling.

In the online newsletter Counterpunch (May 12), Tilley identifies a logical flaw in the "right to exist" demand that has led to the international isolation of Hamas. "Diplomatic recognition of a state routinely requires one bit of vital information: 'right to exist' where? Israel's borders are not set. Even its plans for those borders are not known; with impressive brashness, Mr. Olmert has announced that we will not know until 2010."

Hamas and the international community have a right, as well as an obligation to all the people affected, to demand specificity about the borders within which Israel plans to exist. "Otherwise," says Tilley, "recognizing Israel's 'right to exist' could be construed to mean that Israel has a 'right to exist' within whatever borders it chooses in coming years."

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Press release from BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
2006 World Refugee Day: BADIL Survey of Palestinian Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons
BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights

12 June 2006

In 2005, there were approximately 6.8 million Palestinian refugees and 400,000 internally displaced Palestinians representing 70 percent of the entire Palestinian population worldwide (9.7 million). The legal status of some 400,000 additional Palestinians is unclear, but they too are likely to be refugees. Palestinian refugees represent the longest protracted refugee situation worldwide [1]. Israel's denial of refugee return, combined with the lack of international political will to enforce international law and relevant UN resolutions and the absence of an effective protection regime continue to prevent durable solutions. New Palestinian refugees and IDPs are created by Israel's policies, in particular its illegal Wall under construction in the occupied West Bank (including eastern Jerusalem).

These and many more detailed findings about the current situation of Palestinian refugees and IDP are presented in the Survey of Palestinian Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons 2004 2005 released by BADIL on the occasion of World Refugee Day. The Survey is based on information released by UNWRA, UNHCR and a variety of other official and non-governmental sources [2].

Although most Palestinian refugees are registered with UNRWA (4.3 million) and/or with UNHCR (350,600), the lack of a systematic register for all Palestinian refugees continues to obstruct accurate assessment of the size and protection needs of this population. All data regarding internally displaced Palestinians are estimates as neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority or the United Nations are monitoring internal displacement in Israel and the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories (OPT).

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Al-Haq Press Release
39 Years of Occupation

5 June 2006

5 June 2006 marks the 39th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. It ends another year of suffering, human rights violations, and the denial of self-determination to the Palestinian people. Israel's occupation has continued to create "facts on the ground" through settlement expansion, the construction of the Annexation Wall, and increasingly severe movement restrictions. Combined with the refusal by Israel to transfer Palestinian revenues, and the withdrawal of support by major international donors, these measures have crippled the Palestinian economy. Incessant Israeli military incursions, arrest raids, targeted assassinations, and in Gaza, shelling, have maintained violence as a consistent backdrop to every day life in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

Israel's 2005 unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank diffused criticism and pressure from the international community, allowing Israel's occupation of the OPT, and associated violations of international law, to continue unchallenged. The withdrawal did not end the occupation of Gaza. Israel still controls Gaza's land borders, sea access, and air space, and has repeatedly launched military attacks in the region by air and land. Basic infrastructure in Gaza, such as electricity and water supply, is still controlled by Israel, as is the population registry.

Israeli Prime Minister Olmert's unilateral plans for the West Bank promise even less than the Gaza withdrawal. Under the current framework, as few as 20-30 settlements, out of over 150, would be dismantled. Settlers would simply be relocated to other settlements in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, which Israel has announced it will incorporate. It would also retain control of the Jordan Valley, one of the most important agricultural areas of the West Bank. Unlike Gaza, there would be no military withdrawal but rather a redeployment of Israeli forces inside the West Bank.

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