Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Video: Red Cross film exposes inhumanity of Israel's Gaza siege

ICRC - from the field - Civilians are counting the cost of the three-week conflict in January 2009, which claimed more than a thousand lives and dealt a heavy blow to the economy of Gaza, a territory already shattered by decades of conflict and deprivation. The international community pledged billions of dollars in aid, but restrictions on essential raw materials going into Gaza will have to be lifted if Palestinians are to rebuild their lives.

Professor at UCSB cleared of improper conduct as anti-Palestinian attacks backfire

From the LA Times
In a case that triggered national debate about academic freedom, a UC Santa Barbara investigation has cleared a sociology professor of improper conduct for e-mailing students images that compared Palestinian casualties of Israel’s Gaza offensive this year to Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

However, professor William Robinson said Thursday he was not satisfied with faculty and administrative findings that he should not be disciplined. Robinson wants a campus apology and an investigation of what he said were improper efforts to silence him.

In January, Robinson sent his class the images, along with a statement in which he described Israel’s policies in Gaza as a slow-motion genocide. Two Jewish students dropped the class, saying that they felt intimidated by the e-mail. They also said that Robinson had violated campus policies.

Some Jewish activists alleged that Robinson’s e-mail was anti-Semitic. Many academics and civil libertarians defended the professor, who is Jewish, and called the accusations and investigation an attack on academic freedom.

Cyndi Silverman, the Anti-Defamation League’s Santa Barbara regional director, said the campus decision "creates a disturbing message that only the rights of faculty are to be respected, not the rights of individual students."

Larry Gordon
The Committee to Defend Academic Freedom at UCSB has led the campaign to defend Robinson. More info at their website

UN public testimonies re-tell the horror of Israel's war crimes

The UN fact-finding mission sent to the Gaza Strip has held its first public hearings with victims of the Israeli war and listened to testimonies of two of them. The public hearings lasted two days.

Moussa Al-Sailawi, 91, presented his testimony about the Israeli bombing of a Mosque in Jabaliya which killed 17 civilians including his son and four other members of his family.

The mission intends to listen to testimonies of dozens of other victims in addition to international experts and eyewitnesses in order to be able to report about the Israeli war crimes committed during 22 days in Gaza.

The mission headed by South African judge Richard Goldstone is expected to finish its report at the beginning of August and to publish the investigation results the following month.

The mission visited 40 different sites in Gaza and talked to dozens of witnesses and relatives of victims including the family of Al-Sammouni who lost 29 of their members.

The Guardian also has a report on the unprecedented hearings here

Palestinian man dies as bomb-damaged house collapses

GAZA, (PIC)-- A Palestinian man was killed and five others were wounded in the preliminary report on the collapse of a building in Gaza city that was bombed by Israeli occupation forces during their 22-day war on Gaza.

Col. Yousef Al-Zahhar, the head of the civil defense squad, said in a press release on Monday that the building is owned by Hassan Al-Jaro and was bombed during the war.

He added that 8 pillars in the 4-storey building were destroyed but its occupants used to live in the undestroyed section of the building, which caved in today.

He said that medical and civil squad teams were digging the rubble in search of more possible victims.

Zahhar appealed for the people of the world with a conscience to help expedite an end to the siege of Gaza so that residents can rebuild destroyed homes and to avoid recurrence of such tragedies in which innocent people are killed under the debris because of the housing problem.

Thanks to the Palestinian Information Center

He said that many old and/or bombed buildings were cracked and their collapse would lead to a human tragedy.

Red Cross: Gazans trapped in despair and struggling to survive

Download the ICRC report here
Gaza: 1.5 million people trapped in despair

Six months after Israel launched its three-week military operation in Gaza on 27 December 2008, Gazans still cannot rebuild their lives. Most people struggle to make ends meet. Seriously ill patients face difficulty obtaining the treatment they need. Many children suffer from deep psychological problems. Civilians whose homes and belongings were destroyed during the conflict are unable to recover...

No reconstruction allowed, public health at risk

...Gaza neighbourhoods particularly hard hit by the Israeli strikes will continue to look like the epicentre of a massive earthquake unless vast quantities of cement, steel and other building materials are allowed into the territory for reconstruction. Until that happens, thousands of families who lost everything will be forced to live in cramped conditions with relatives. Others will continue to live in tents, as they have nowhere else to go.

Emergency repairs carried out after the military operation have made it possible to restore water and sanitation services, but only to the already unsatisfactory level prevailing before December 2008. The infrastructure is overloaded and remains subject to breakdown. Although chlorine is used to disinfect the water, the risk of sewage and other waste matter seeping into the water supply network represents a major threat to public health.

Every day, 69 million litres of partially treated or completely untreated sewage – the equivalent of 28 Olympic-size swimming pools – are pumped directly into the Mediterranean because they cannot be treated. more at the Red Cross website

Free Gaza ship threatened by Israeli Navy

Activists aboard Gaza justice boat demand they be allowed to visit their friends & family in besieged Gaza, and deliver their cargo of medical supplies, children's toys, and reconstruction kits. They invite the world to join them.

(At Sea, 60km off the coast of the Gaza Strip) - Human Rights activists aboard the Free Gaza ship, the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, today demanded that the Israeli Navy immediately stop threatening them.

“This aid is desperately needed by the people of Gaza,” said Mairead Maguire, winner of the Noble Peace Prize and Pacem in Terris Award for her work in Northern Ireland. “President Obama has called upon the Palestinians to abandon violence but Israel is denying them the right to non-violently resist the siege of Gaza.”

The unarmed justice ship departed Larnaca Port in Cyprus at 7:30am Monday with its crew of 21 human rights activists, humanitarian workers and journalists from 11 different countries, including Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. The boat, a converted ferry, hopes to arrive in Gaza Tuesday afternoon, following a grueling 30 hour sea voyage.

At 1:30am, Israeli warships surrounded the small civilian boat and threatened to open fire if they did not turn around. When the activists refused to be intimidated, Israeli Occupation Forces began jamming their instrumentation, blocking their GPS, radar, and navigation systems. This jamming was in direct violation of international maritime law, threatening the welfare and safety of the civilian ship.

Responding to this intimidation, Congresswoman McKinney declared, "I am extremely angry. We demand that the Israeli government call off their attack dogs. We are unarmed civilians aboard an unarmed boat delivering medical and reconstruction aid to other human beings in Gaza. Why in God's name would Israel want to attack us?"

Huwaida Arraf, Chairperson of the Free Gaza movement and delegation co-coordinator for this voyage, said, "All we want is to reach Gaza. We want to visit our friends and deliver our cargo of medical supplies, children's toys, and reconstruction materials. Our ship was searched and received security clearance from the Port Authorities in Cyprus before we departed."

Arraf continued, "We do not seek a confrontation. We have traveled from Cypriot waters to international waters and will enter Gazan waters. We've never gone anywhere near Israel. Israel’s closure of Gaza is an act of collective punishment and a blatant violation of international law. We call upon our governments to take action to uphold their obligations under the Fourth Geneva Conventions. If they won’t or until they do, we will act. We will come to Gaza again and again until this brutal siege is broken. We invite the good people of the world to join us."

Free Gaza boats are the first international ships in 41 years to sail to the Gaza Strip. Since August 2008, the Free Gaza Movement has organized 8 sea missions, successfully arriving to Gaza on 5 separate occasions. One two earlier occasions, Israeli Occupation Forces used violence to stop the ships, physically ramming and almost sinking the DIGNITY boat in December 2008, and threatening to fire on and kill unarmed passengers in January 2008. The fate of this, the eighth mission to Gaza, is still uncertain.

CALL or FAX Major Liebovitz from the Israeli Navy at:
Tel + 972 5 781 86248 or +972 3737 7777 or +972 3737 6242
Fax +972 3737 6123 or +972 3737 7175

CALL Mark Regev in the Prime Minister's office at:
Tel +972 2670 5354 or +972 5 0620 3264
mark.regev@it.pmo.gov.il This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

CALL Shlomo Dror in the Ministry of Defence at:
Tel +972 3697 5339 or +972 50629 8148
mediasar@mod.gov.il This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

More info at Free Gaza Movement website
Live mission updates available here

Israel threatens Free Gaza aid boats

BRUSSELS, (PIC)-- The European campaign for ending the siege stated Monday that the Free Gaza boats which were supposed to sail for the Gaza Strip at the end of last week left this morning the Cypriot port of Larnaca, adding that this delay was caused by the Israeli threats to intercept them at sea.

Spokesman for the European campaign Rami Abdo said that the Free Gaza movement notified the ministry of foreign affairs and the ministry of war in Israel that the boats would sail on a humanitarian mission and asked not to intercept them.

more at PIC