Thursday 25 December 2008

Sanctions Now – Upgrading, Hell No!

“Gaza is burning,” writes French activist Liliane Cordova Kaczerginski, using the very words of a famous song of a Jewish village destroyed by the Nazis. Like sixty years ago, Gaza is burning and the world is silent, waiting for the outcome of a non-existent peace process. “A hostile entity” —this was the way the Israeli leadership defined, a year ago, a territory in which one and a half million civilians, women, the elderly and children, are trying to survive. As such, the Israeli state has the right, in fact the duty, to launch a war of annihilation.

Several years ago, the late Tanya Reinhart used the word “genocide” to describe the harsh repression of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories by Israel; I was among those who criticized her for using too strong of a concept. From where you are now, forgive me Tanya, because you were right and saw the true nature of the Israeli plans, and I was dead wrong: the State of Israel is conducting a rampant genocide against the people of Gaza, using the weapon of near-starvation, electricity cuts and deprivation of drinking water, provoking epidemics and preventing basic health-care. Gaza is under siege, and the war criminal Ehud Barak has just ordered a halving of even the emergency humanitarian aid conveyed by the United Nations.

When Sarajevo was victim of the criminal siege initiated by the Serbian army and militias, the international community retaliated with severe sanctions, a boycott of the Yugoslav regime and the bombardment of Belgrade. When Iraq occupied Kuwait, the international community launched a military offensive against Iraq and a radical embargo that provoked the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent children. Today, that same international community is completely silent in the face of the martyrdom of Gaza. It is our duty, the duty of civil societies all over the world, to demand from international institutions and governments urgent and drastic actions against Israel, a state that is violating the basic rules of international law, hundreds of United Nations resolutions and each and every convention aimed at protecting human rights.

The war crimes committed by the Israeli state against the population of Gaza exclude it from the community of nations. Like apartheid South Africa, it should be sanctioned and boycotted, and not rewarded with an upgrading of the partnership agreement with the European Union.

As an Israeli citizen, I expect from the European Union to help us pressure our government to stop the crimes against the Palestinian population of Gaza. By rewarding Israel with an upgrading of its relations with the European community, the message of EU is a disgrace that should be condemned and fought by all Europeans who care for human dignity.

ACTION ALERT- Urgent call for Action on upgrade of the EU- Israel Association Agreement!!


Haitham Sabbah

The recent postponement of the vote in the European Parliament on the extension of existing EU programmes with Israel has been attributed to the great mass of letters received by MEPs, MPs and Ministers, showing the growing influence of civil society on attitudes towards Israel.

We now need you to write again about an even more crucial and urgent issue relating to the upgrading of EU relations with Israel.

Although the postponement was important, the vote was not related to the upgrade agreement recently signed by the foreign ministers of all the Member States (the EU Council) This was a crucial step in the upgrading of relations with Israel and one over which the European Parliament has no control.

The new EU-Israel Action Plan is currently being drafted by the European Commission for discussion by the Member States at the beginning of the next year. So far, it does not include any concrete actions that will end Israel’s blatant disregard for human rights and International law. It does not even require Israel to meet its own obligations under the so-called ‘peace process’.

Inside the EU, it is feared that the Commission will not face sufficient objections from the public, MEPs and NGOs and will draft a weak document without any reference to human rights.

It is therefore vital to use this brief opportunity during late December/early January, while the document is being drafted, to use all means possible to force the EC to include concrete objectives regarding human rights and International Law

Please write urgently to your MEPs urging them to make your objections to the Action Plan known to the External Relations Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner (, and/or write to her yourself copying your letters to your MEPs.

You will find a briefing document attached that explains more about the process of the upgrading and its significance and a sample letter. Below is a list of additional points you may want to include.

To find your MP and MEPs, go to

Please do let the Palestine Solidarity Campaign know the details of any replies you receive.

It is vital that the European Commissioner in charge receives scores of letters from MEPs, MPs and Ministers of Member States pressing her to include detailed points on human rights and the peace process by early January.

To see the current EU-Israel Action Plan, and those of other governments like Egypt, Morocco, Eastern Europe, go to the European Commission's webpage

Additional Points

- Include Article 2 of the Eu-Israel Association Agreement, which says that "Relations between the parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement"

- Include specific concrete actions that should be included (remove the settlements, end the siege of Gaza, signing up to the Additional Protocols of the Fourth Geneva Convention etc)

- Refer to the fact that agreements with other countries under the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) include extensive actions that these states have to take on issues like human rights. For example, the EU-Morocco Action Plan devotes more than two pages to democracy, rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms and includes concrete objectives to be achieved in the short term and in the medium term.

- The new EU-Israel Action Plan will have a knock-on effect on the other ENP members. It will be difficult to convince them to improve their human rights records, if the EU does not require the same from Israel.

- The 1948 Declaration of Universal Human Rights is being weakened by EU’s refusal to apply the same standards on human rights to all the states within the ENP

- The current EU-Israel Action Plan initiates almost no concrete actions related to resolving the Israel/Palestine conflict and does not require Israel to abide by its obligations under the current peace process. The new EU-Israel Action Plan therefore demonstrates the EU’s failure to deal with both sides in an even handed way.

- The agreed establishment of the subcommittee for human rights between EU and Israel does in no way substitute for human rights commitments in the Action Plan that should provide the basis for effective functioning of the subcommittee.

- The Action Plan also needs to include a safeguard clause is necessary to prevent Israel’s application of the benefits of cooperation to settlement activities

Haitham Sabbah is an uprooted Palestinian blogger. He is the webmaster and editor of Palestine Blogs, also webmaster and co-editor of Palestine Think Tank. His personal blog is Sabbah's Blog:

Israel prevents transfer of humaniterian aid to the Gaza Strip

Gaza – Ma’an – Israel decided on Wednesday to cancel its decision to temporarily open the Gaza Strip border crossings of Kerem Shalom and karni on Wednesday to transfer humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, said the Assistant Undersecretary of the Palestinian Ministry of National Economy Nasser As-Sarraj.

As-Sarraj told Ma’an, “The Israelis informed us early on Wednesday morning that the decision to open Kerem Shalom and Karni crossings has been cancelled. They gave no reasons, neither did they mention opening Nahal ‘Oz crossing for fuel deliveries.”

According to As-Sarraj, 20 truckloads of flour, rice, sugar and cooking oil were supposed to enter the Gaza Strip in addition to 39 truckloads of wheat and fodder and 25 truckloads of food products for the UNRWA.

For his part, Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak gave directives to cancel the planned transfer of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip following the rocket and mortar barrages which hit southern Israel on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, according to the electronic website of Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronot.

Jerusalem patriarch slams Israel during Gaza Christmas address

Gaza – Ma’an – The top Catholic leader in Palestine on Tuesday called on Israel to lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip, where he prayed with Christian Palestinians on Sunday.

Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal met with Christians during his visit on Sunday, and on Tuesday called on Israel to “put an end to the occupation and the injustice."

The Christian leader delivered his seasonal address to the Gaza Strip early this year due to Israel's refusal to allow Gazan Christians to attend Christmas mass in Bethlehem on 25 December.

He also reportedly called on the international community to reach a “just and final peace in the Holy Land.”

Only about 4,000 of Gaza’s 1.5 million Palestinians are Christians, but the Catholic leader’s message was focused on the plight of the besieged Strip’s population, in general. He also called on Palestinians, themselves, to seek unity in light of the current divides between Hamas and Fatah.

"We also call upon the Palestinians themselves to return to unity in the context of a recognized Palestinian legal structure, and in this way to spare the people the continuing and degrading siege," Twal said.

Israel has isolated the Gaza Strip from aid deliveries and news coverage for over two months in response to Palestinian rocket fire. On two separate occasions, the United Nations’ chief Palestinian aid agency had to close down its operations for lack of supplies. The agency feeds 750,000 Palestinians on a daily basis, roughly half the population of the Gaza Strip.

Twal also criticized Israel for barring Gazan Christians from visiting Bethlehem during Advent and Christmas. He called visiting the Holy Land a right granted by God, and said neither state nor any person had the right to prevent worshipers from making such a holy pilgrimage.

He said both the Church and the Christian community had strong feelings for the people of Gaza, adding that, “What hurts Muslims hurts Christians,” and vice versa.

The Patriarch expressed his hope that peace will prevail between all countries and between the Palestinians. “Mutual love,” he said, will be what reunites Palestinians. But for now, he told Gazans, “a disastrous situation dominates this good land, whose people are suffering badly.”

“Where are the peacemakers?” Twal asked, lamenting a situation where “the Child of Bethlehem, Jesus Christ” would not be able to “walk in the streets without fear or walk in confiscated lands without seeing closed shops.”

“We need you [Jesus Christ] to come back and let us hear your voice in Palestine,” Twal said to the crowd, “Oh Child of Bethlehem, how badly we need you to resume the innocence of childhood, and follow your mother Mary’s courage. Our world today is tough and merciless and right seems to come from might, rather than right surpassing all else.”

He said that Christians in Palestine are awaiting Jesus’ return to deliver “us from those fears, hardships and internal divisions that beset this land.”

Race to the Bottom

Khalid Amayreh

The upcoming Israeli elections appear set to be a competition in racist extremism.

As Israeli political parties and factions choose their lists of candidates to contest the 10 February elections, extremism and anti-Palestinian discourse are becoming the name of the game.

Last week, the Likud Party elected a list of 41 candidates, including Moshe Feiglin, an extreme right-wing religious fanatic who openly calls for violent ethnic cleansing of non-Jews from Israel-Palestine.

Feiglin got the 20th slot on the list, causing more than a small amount of anxiety within the Likud leadership, especially after the Israeli media began portraying the party as moving towards the far right.

Sensing potential damage to the party's image, especially in the United States where the new US administration is viewed here with a certain amount of caution and even a modicum of suspicion, Likud leader Benyamin Netanyahu used legal tricks to demote Feiglin from slot 20 to slot 36.

Feiglin protested at the "undemocratic feat", but eventually refrained from contesting his grievances in court, saying that he doesn't have faith in the Israeli justice system.

Regardless, even with the demotion of Feiglin, the Likud remains an extreme right-wing party as most of the "newcomers" and the so-called "returnees" espouse decidedly extreme political views vis-à-vis the Palestinian issue and the peace process.

Indeed, those previously dubbed as Likud "rebels" (i.e. who were to the right of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and who resigned from the party in protest against Sharon's decision to withdraw the Israeli army from the Gaza Strip in 2005) occupy the first 10 slots on the Likud list. To be sure, Netanyahu had made strenuous efforts to get his close allies — like Assaf Hefetz and Uzi Dayan — elected to the first 10 slots on the party list, but to no avail.

Now, with clear-cut extremists like Gideon Saar, Gilad Erdan, Beni Begin, Silvan Shalom, Moshe (Bogi) Yalon and Yisrael Karts and like-minded Likudists occupying the first 10 slots in the party, there are real fears that any government formed by Netanyahu would inevitably pursue extremist policies vis-à-vis the peace process with the Palestinians.

Seeking to depict himself as the leader of a moderate party, Netanyahu has been meeting with foreign ambassadors and other diplomats in Israel as well as making a plethora of statements and interviews, stressing that his expected government would be committed to the peace process with the Palestinians. Netanyahu has also been saying that the entire Likud was behind him and that he, not anybody else, was in the driving seat.

Very few Palestinian observers give Netanyahu the benefit of the doubt, especially with regard to his often-repeated theme of "economic peace", which Netanyahu is now saying would augment and supplement, not replace, the political process.

Veteran Israeli journalist Akiva Eldar recalled this week that in 1996, on the eve of his election victory, Netanyahu promised that the Likud would recognise the facts created by the Oslo Accords and would conduct negotiations to reach a final-status agreement with the Palestinians. "What happened next is well-known. Netanyahu used Palestinian 'terrorism' as an excuse for his refusal to negotiate a final status agreement after talks officially began in the spring of 1996. Today, he can bet that the Qassam [rockets] will do the same job."

Eldar's prophecy seems to be fully vindicated by Netanyahu's own website ( where the Likud leader states the following: "The present peace talks focusing on a hasty settlement miss the point entirely. We don't believe that the Palestinians are ready for any historical compromise that would truly put an end to the conflict. There is no evidence that the Palestinians are prepared to accept even the least of any of Israel's demands [as] proposed by its leaders."

In other words, the Palestinians, according to Netanyahu, would be worthy peace partners only if and when they accept Israeli demands, including leaving the bulk of the territories occupied in 1967 under perpetual Israeli military control and the liquidation of the paramount right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees uprooted from their homes when Israel was created 60 years ago. In other words, Netanyahu expects total Palestinian capitulation to Zionism, which, according to him, would qualify them as ready for peace.

Kadima leader and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is Benyamin Netanyahu's main rival in the upcoming Israeli elections. She has been trying to project herself and her party as moderate and pragmatic, especially when compared to the jingoistic Likud and its hawkish leadership. However, Livni last week revealed, not for the first time, her own tendency and hawkish mind-set when she told Israeli Jewish high school students in Tel Aviv that the estimated 1.5 million Palestinians who are Israeli citizens would have to seek their "national aspirations" in a future Palestinian state on the West Bank.

Livni didn't use the terms "uprooting" and "expulsion", but it was sufficiently clear from the tone of her words that this was exactly what she meant. While Jewish public opinion reacted with absolute silence to Livni's outrage, Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line angrily condemned the statements, coming from the woman who is trying to acquire the image of "peacemaker".

"With moderates like Livni, why need people like Feiglin," remarked Palestinian Knesset member Ahmed Teibi. Teibi challenged Livni to "unmask her face" and tell the public if she is advocating the ethnic cleansing of the Arab minority of Israel. "I want to remind Livni that we were here hundreds of years before her family immigrated to this country a few decades ago, and I assure her that we will remain here long after she has gone."

A stronger reaction came from Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of the Hamas-led government in the Gaza Strip, who wondered how the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority leadership was continuing to negotiate with a woman who wants to finish what the Hanaga and Irgun gangs started in 1948. "I want to tell our brothers in the occupied land of 1948, 'You will not come to us, we will come to you.'"

Faced with an angry outcry within Israel's Arab community, and fearing that her remarks might eventually prove a public relations disaster, especially with regards to her party's election prospects in the Israeli Arab sector, Livni later issued a terse statement saying that her remarks had been misunderstood and that she wasn't calling for the ethnic cleansing of Israeli Arab citizens.

Seeking to foster the image of a tough leader, mainly to counter Netanyahu's reputed hawkishness, Livni has also been calling for "crushing the Hamas regime", and for "responding with strength to every projectile fired on Israel from the Gaza Strip".

Her statements, especially about crushing Hamas, however, are not being taken seriously by her other lesser rival, Labour Party leader and Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak. Barak said this week that those who call for conquering Gaza might know how to enter the coastal enclave, but they have no idea how to get out once in.

Israel against the United Nations

By Yusuf Fernandez, Press TV, Madrid

In recent weeks, numerous voices around the world have started to denounce the Israeli apartheid system and the crimes against humanity that the Zionist state has been committing against the Palestinian people in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem (Al-Quds).

The response of the Zionist state has been to multiply its insults, provocations and attacks on international organizations, such as the United Nations, and its officials.

The last one of these offences has been the detention at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv and subsequent expulsion of Richard Falk, the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian Territories. Falk was on his way to the Palestinian occupied territories to carry out his officially mandated functions.

Falk's mobile phone was confiscated in order to prevent him from contacting other officials of the United Nations before his deportation. He was also forced to spend 20 hours in a small room in the Ben Gurion Airport before being put on a plane bound for Los Angeles.

The UN Human Rights Council condemned the Israeli decision on December 16 by calling it 'unprecedented and deeply regrettable'.

"It is the responsibility of States to cooperate with the independent United Nations experts appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay said.

The detention of Richard Falk meant a clear violation of UN immunities, which protect UN envoys and their activities. Falk had been invited by the Palestinian Authority to visit the occupied territories in order to check the numerous and continued violations of the legal and humanitarian rules by Israeli authorities.

However, the Israeli authorities were probably very worried about the facts that Falk could find out or check during his visit to Palestine. He had previously published a statement in which he said that the UN must "implement the agreed norm of a responsibility to protect a civilian population being collectively punished by policies that amount to a crime against humanity." He added that it would seem "mandatory" that the UN's International Criminal Court investigate Israeli policies with regard to the Palestinians.

In other words, the civilized world and its institutions cannot continue to look the other way while Israel is committing all kinds of awful crimes against the Palestinian people.

Many politicians in the West have been taking a cowardly approach on Israeli policies due to their fear of the Zionist lobby operating in some Western countries.

In this way, they have supported strong measures to confront the government of Serbia, or more recently, have denounced the situation in Zimbabwe, but they have sustained a suspected silence relating to Israeli crimes, although these latter ones are much more terrible than anything that Serbian or Zimbabwean governments have been able to do.

Falk has also been outspoken when he denounced the siege of Gaza. "Israel maintains its Gaza siege in its full fury, allowing only barely enough food and fuel to enter to stave off mass famine and disease." The Israeli army has prevented food, fuel and humanitarian aid from entering the Strip in order to starve the Palestinian population into surrender. Falk pointed out that the Palestinian population was being collectively punished by Israeli policies 'that amount to a crime against humanity'.

Falk said it was "mandatory" that the United Nation's International Criminal Court investigate Israel's policies towards the Palestinians. "The court could determine whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders responsible for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law," he said.

He has not been the only UN official who has publicly clashed with Israel.

According to the Washington Post, the United Nations' General Assembly President, Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, who condemned Israel's treatment of Falk and blamed Israeli diplomats for inciting death threats against him, has compared Israel's policies with regards to the Palestinians to South Africa's treatment of blacks under apartheid.

He added that it was important for the United Nations to use the heavily-charged term since it was the institution itself that had passed the International Convention against the crime of apartheid. "We must not be afraid to call something what it is," he said.

It is noteworthy to point out that the Israeli Foreign Minister; Tzipi Livni has also threatened Arab-Israelis with expulsion after saying that Israel should be exclusively a 'Jewish state'.

What would the international community have said if the South African apartheid regime, in a similar way, had demanded recognition of its country as a 'white and democratic state', thus de facto accepting the racist system that considered non-whites as inferior people?

Another UN official, Karen Abu Zayd, an American who is commissioner-general of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the agency that is responsible for the welfare of 4.7 million of Palestinian refugees, has denounced Israel preventing UN humanitarian staff from using their diplomatic pouch, according to the Independent.

Israeli officials have given no reason for the move, which is a clear breach of international law. "We can't send the mail out or get any mail in. I don't think they could give a reason because there is no way they could justify it," Mrs. Abu Zayd told the British newspaper. UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon himself has recently complained that Israel had refused his request to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

According to the Independent, the Israelis "issued for the first time a written list of goods that cannot be sent into Gaza for UN humanitarian needs. The list, which has baffled UN officials, includes spices, kitchenware, glassware, yarn and paper."

"UN cars are lying idle for lack of tires and oil, office photocopiers cannot be mended and computers are not allowed into Gaza," Abu Zayd said. "And we are supposed to have privileges and immunities."

The British newspaper pointed out that until now the UN had privately protested against the Israeli measures but Mrs. AbuZayd's decision to speak out openly about the crisis was a sign of the level of frustration within the international organization.

Some prominent public figures such as the 1976 Nobel peace prize laureate, Mairead McGuire from Ireland, are promoting a popular movement demanding that the United Nations revoke Israel's membership. The international community appears to be willing to put pressure on the Israeli regime in order to stop its war crimes. McGuire has also reminded that Israel holds the infamous world record of ignoring UN resolutions.

The recent attacks of the Zionists against the UN officials show its desperation and isolation. Israel is a rogue state that has been violating uncountable international rules and an increasing number of world personalities and leaders have already said that it is time to stop the Israeli crimes. However, this will only be possible if the international community approves harder measures against Israel.

Lift Travel Restrictions on Palestinian Journalist: PETITION TO BE SIGNED!

To: Israeli and Palestinian Authorities

Palestinian journalist Khalid Amayreh, who lives in the West Bank, has been invited to attend a media conference in Germany. As required, he set about to request all of the necessary travel documents, including a visa that needs to be granted from the German representative office in Ramallah. After routine questioning regarding his political affiliations, it was not only determined that he was not a member of any party, nor formally associated with any organisation, but it was clear that he had never been arrested or detained by Israeli authorities. Mr Amayreh was granted an entry visa to Germany. However, the Israeli military authorities have refused to give him a permit to leave the West Bank. No Palestinian can travel abroad without receiving such a permit beforehand, otherwise he or she would be turned back once arriving at the Israeli-controlled border terminal at the Allenby Bridge.

Mr Amayreh then went to his local District Coordination Office in Dura, where he was informed that his information was forwarded to the Shin Bet (General Security Services) of the Israeli government. Then two days later, the GSS informed the Palestinian office that Amayreh was “barred from leaving the West Bank for security reasons.” No further explanation was given.

His fortune in obtaining the required travel permission did not change as he applied to the Civil Administration Headquarters in Hebron, a metallic pen holding persons seeking the mandatory permission even to go to East Jerusalem for medical treatment, where it is not unusual to find them huddled and waiting their turn for ten or more hours, under the watchful eye of Israeli military watchtowers.

The Palestinian Civil Affairs Coordination Office in the West Bank was also unable to mediate on his behalf, as they too are entirely dependent upon the decisions, without clarification, evidence or justification, made by the Israeli Security division.

There is indeed no justification for the violation of this man’s civil and human rights, and along with him, the rights of all others who are denied freedom of movement with no justification whatsoever. The Occupation authorities, while they have no sovereignty over citizens of the Palestinian Authority, dictate what must be done with those citizens and the world seems to consider the violation of their rights acceptable and normal praxis. These people are not pawns on a chessboard, but are individuals who seek the basic liberties that all democracies are obligated to provide for their people. The Palestinian Authority does not exercise its duty of guaranteeing civil liberties to its own citizens, and treats them as if they shall be subject to the whims of the Occupier.

We ask for the immediate revision of the decision regarding Mr Amayreh, so that he is granted the documents necessary for him to exercise his freedom of movement allowing him to continue to provide for himself and his family in the work that he is employed in, as well as for the Palestinian Authority to assume a position that sets the freedoms of its citizens as a priority that is greater than the perceived “security” risks declared by the agency of the State of Israel.

Yours Sincerly

The Undersigned.

Sign Petition here: