On 29th October 2008, the 60th anniversary of massacres in the Palestinian villages of Safsaf, al-Dawayima and Kafr Qasim, British activists were aboard the Dignity which sailed into Gaza. The boat which set sail from Cyprus the day before, was the second succesful attempt by the Free Gaza Movement to break the siege of Gaza, which has been imposed since last year. Carrying a contingent of doctors and medicines ,including cough mixtures which are no longer available in Gaza, the activists are set to meet up with fellow activists who have been in Gaza since the first sailing in August 2008.
In the West Bank, a delegation from the Brighton Tubas Region Friendship and Solidarity Group had arrived in the Tubas Region of the Occupied West Bank a week earlier. Reports sent home from the delegation record incidents such as attacks by Settlers, continued land theft, and enforced water shortages. The group which aims to highlight Israeli war crimes against Palestinians in the region, raise awareness about life under occupation and create practical solidarity links between grassroots organisations in Brighton and Tubas region, is currently assisting with the olive harvest at the village of Al Masra.links:Free Gaza Movement |News from the Brighton-Tubas Friendship and Solidarity Group in the West Bank| Jordan Valley Solidarity| Palestine Solidarity Campaign | International Solidarity Movement in Palestine | Boycott Israeli Goods Campaign | Stop the Wall in Palestine
By travelling to Occupied Palestine, activists have been able to foster links with beleagured communities, to show practical solidarity and to report on the increasingly appalling conditions which go virtually unnoticed in the corporate media. The visits have also played a vital part in the growth of UK based campaigns to show solidarity with Palestinians. Activites amongst such groups in the last month are the Smash Edo Campaign with its Shut ITT demonstration in Brighton, the ongoing blockades of Carmel Agrexco.
IMC UK Features
Through the first boats to break the siege, ISM Rafah has been restarted, with people living in the refugee camp there in Gaza and doing ISM direct action & solidarity work.
The Free Gaza Movement was originally called Break the Siege, but there were more US citizens than Brits involved, so the name got changed to something that works better over there than here - I still stick with Break the Siege!
There's another boat due to go to Gaza from Cyprus hopefully within 2 weeks, so if you've been doing Palestinian solidarity work and want to go with them, contact them and see if there's space - especially if you'd like to stay behind for a while to do ISM stuff there, or go out with fishing boats. Or, if you can do fundraisers or fundraising, they're still much in debt from the journeys so far.
The article will be archived here in due course:
If you don't know about the siege of Gaza, I'm guessing that you might be a zionist in denial. I think the article explains some of the effects of the siege well. It is however a year old, and the results are now far worse. If you want more info I'll be happy to post it up for you :-). The siege can be seen to be a good example of how the West only supports democracy when people vote for quislings approved by the West.............
Campaign: End the siege on Gaza
Statement, End the Siege, 10 November 2007
On 25 October, a Palestinian patient died at Erez crossing while awaiting being allowed to cross to an Israeli hospital. A week ago, a woman died in Gaza hospital with her newly born baby, while awaiting a permit to be transferred to Israel for medical treatment.
These are not the first victims, and will certainly not be the last should the current situation continue to prevail.
Last week, the operation rooms in Gaza's main hospital were shut down due to the lack of medical gases, which were not allowed in by Israel. Today Israel does not allow except 12 basic items to enter Gaza, out of over 9,000 commodities. From soap to coffee, from water to soft drinks, from fuel to gas, from computers to spare parts, from cement to raw materials for industry, all and hundreds of other items are not allowed into Gaza today.
The Israeli cabinet declared Gaza a hostile entity, and has declared its intentions to further intensify the collective punishment by cutting the electricity power and entry of fuel products. Banks in Israel are also threatening to cut off all financial cooperation with Palestinian banks in Gaza.
Given all this, we have adopted the initiative of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme to launch the Palestinian-International Campaign for Breaking the Siege on Gaza, which has been intensified lately by the strict siege imposed on the Gaza Strip since June 2007.
The aim of this humanitarian, non-partisan campaign is to put pressure on the Israeli government to lift the siege imposed on the population of Gaza. By raising the awareness of the international community on the deteriorating living conditions resulting from the siege, we aim at mobilizing the efforts of the various international community organizations and governments to stop the boycott of Gaza. We call for the implementation of the recent European Parliament resolution calling on the Israeli government to end the siege.
It is important to declare that "End the Siege" is a non-partisan campaign, initiated and managed by representatives of the civil society, business community, intellectuals, academics, women activists, and advocates for human rights and peace from the West Bank and Gaza. We are all guided by our commitment to peace and our respect to human dignity.
We believe that it is a moral and ethical duty to rescue the lives of human souls living under bitter circumstances that sabotage their right to exist. People in Gaza are deprived of the simplest requirements for a decent life. We are determined to move hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder with all people who believe in freedom, human dignity and peace.
We need the support of all people who believe in justice all over the world, to contribute to the success of this campaign. We also call upon all Palestinians, whether in Gaza, West Bank, inside the green line, or anywhere else in the Diaspora to support our efforts and join our activities. It is a genuine call to rescue people, not governments or political parties. It is time to put aside any partisan conflicts and unite people in the pursuit of freedom, justice, and peace. We particularly call upon Jews whose history of trauma, discrimination and suffering should guide them to stand up today against the suffering of others.
Planned activities of the campaign
The campaign is planned to take place from November 2007 until the siege is broken. We will hold a press conference to announce the launching of the campaign.
Media and information technology methods will be our main tools to lobby supporters and contributors from around the world.
The first major event of the campaign will be organizing an international symposium entitled "Breaking the Siege on Gaza: Together for a United Front for Peace" in Gaza.
The campaign will also include inviting friends from around the world for ongoing individual or group visits to Gaza. The visitors will have first-hand information on Palestinian life in order to disseminate such information in their own country. Visitors will be hosted in Palestinian homes in order to be closely get acquainted with the Palestinian hardship realities and their living conditions. Media coverage of the activities in Gaza will be documented.
We will rely on our Israeli friends to host and help our friends from abroad who, if not allowed to enter Gaza, are expected to stage nonviolent protests.
We will arrange for a peaceful march to Erez checkpoint from both the Israeli and Palestinian sides of the checkpoint. It will include peace activists from all over the world.
Throughout the campaign, solidarity meetings, cultural activities, and discussion will take place not only in Gaza, but in Tel Aviv, Ramallah, and different cities around the world.
The campaign will include a major event in May, which is the arrival of 120 human rights activists including Noble Prize winners to Gaza on a boat coming from Cyprus. This event will be titled "Free Gaza Movement Day" and is planned by the "Free Gaza" solidarity group based in the US.
The campaign will have special posters as well as a website where all relevant materials will be published. The site will give opportunity for people to exchange information, ask questions, and give their comments.
Throughout the campaign, close contact with the media will be maintained with regular feeding of information and news updates.
The Impacts of the Siege on Gaza
The Gaza Strip has two main crossings that connect it to the whole world, Rafah in the south (To Egypt) and Erez in the north (to Israel). There are three other crossings that are used to exchange goods and bring in food to the Gaza Strip; today all are closed partially or completely.
Since the winning of Hamas in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in 2006, the Israeli government, with the support of the US administration, has imposed a siege on all the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), declared its boycott on the new Palestinian government, and refused to transfer customs revenues to the Palestinian government. After taking these measures, several donor countries, including major donors in Europe, have severely cut off their development assistance offered to the Palestinian people. The result of that form of collective punishment has been a gradual deterioration of life in the OPT.
Following Hamas' military take-over of the Gaza strip in June 2007, the siege imposed by Israel was tightened to an unprecedented level. Citing the continuing home-made rockets from inside Gaza, the Israeli government has recently declared Gaza as a hostile entity and threatened to cut electrical power, fuel supply to Gaza and to substantially decrease the number of people allowed in and out, as well as the amounts of goods and food supplies, and money needed for the daily life of people of Gaza.
The Israeli policy of unlawful collective punishment has always had its serious impact on the lives of the Palestinian civilians. Collective punishment is expressly forbidden under international humanitarian law. According to this principle, persons cannot be punished for offenses that they have not personally committed. In its authoritative commentary on Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the International Committee of the Red Cross has clarified that the prohibition on collective punishment does not just refer to criminal penalties, "but penalties of any kind inflicted on persons or entire groups of persons, in defiance of the most elementary principles of humanity, for acts that these persons have not committed."
The siege that was imposed on the Gaza Strip has created excessive loss and damage in the different aspects of Palestinian life. The Gaza Strip has turned into a huge prison with no access to the outside world.
The health sector has been dramatically affected by the siege. According to the latest humanitarian situation report of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released on 9 October 2007, fewer than five patients crossed into Israel/West Bank each day for medical treatment compared to an average of 40 patients per day in July. The World Health Organization has indicated that an average of 1,000 patients used to leave Gaza for treatment each month prior to the mid-June closures.
As a result of the continuous closures, the United Nations World Food Programme has reported significant increases in the costs of some food items. The price of one kilogram of fresh meat has increased form NIS 32 to NIS 40 (20 percent) while the price of chicken rose from NIS 8 to NIS 12 (33 percent). According to OCHA's report of 9 October, during the month of September, a total of 1,508 truckloads of goods crossed into Gaza. This compares to 2,468 truckloads in the month of August and 3,190 in July. There are no food stocks anymore and that contributes to the rising of prices.
The educational system in Gaza has also been affected by the siege. With the start of the new school year, there has been a serious lack of books and a shortage of the raw materials needed for printing. According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), one-third of students started the school year without the needed text books. The closures also deprived thousands of students from reaching their universities outside the Gaza Strip. Thousands of students are not allowed to join their universities in the West Bank or abroad due to the siege.
On the industrial level, preventing the import of raw materials essential for Gaza businesses and industry, and the export of final goods, has resulted in the shut down of many manufacturing businesses. According to Paltrade's assessment of 12 September 2007, over 75,000 private sector employees (around 60 percent of the total private sector workforce) have been laid off in the past three months, bearing in mind that private sector employees represent around 36 percent of the total work force in Gaza. According to the Palestinian Private Sector Coordination Council, the current restrictions have led to the suspension of 90 percent of Gaza's industrial operations.
The agricultural sector is also at risk. According to OCHA's report, the export season for Gaza's cash crops (strawberries, carnation flowers and cherry tomatoes) is expected to begin in mid-November. This year, 2,500 dunums of strawberries have been planted with an expected production of approximately 6,250 tons of strawberries including 2,500 destined for European markets. Additionally, 490 tons of cherry tomatoes are also expected to be produced. If exports are not allowed by this time, farmers will be exposed to tremendous losses in terms of production cost and potential sales.
According to the World Bank, 67 percent of the Gaza population live under poverty line which is estimated by World bank to be $2 per day. Since human beings are the products of the environment in which they live, the Palestinian environment today is a combination of deprivation, poverty, anger, feelings of powerlessness and despair. Such feelings will inevitably lead to simmering anger which will eventually brew into more violence and defiance.
Palestinians have gone through repeated traumas of death and destruction of home and life over the past few decades. The current siege provokes the previous traumas making people re-experience the negative feelings that they have previously encountered and passed through.
It is only to be expected that in such an environment extremist ideologies will flourish. This will impact on the Palestinian society internally as well as the political environment in the whole region, destroying the possibilities of peace and security.
Putting all this in a nutshell, with this immoral siege, Gaza is meant to become the place of death where everything is destroyed. It is our duty to rescue life.
As to why Internationals have been allowed in, do you think it might be because the Israeli state is racist and treats Palestinians as lesser human beings? Does that sound like Apartheid to you?
Anyway, heres why some students aren't studying at the moment:
Students trapped in Gaza
The following document seeks to answer questions and common misperceptions about the situation of Palestinian students who are residents of the Gaza Strip and have been prevented from leaving in order to reach universities abroad by the policy of closure. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
FAQ #1: Why can't students leave the Gaza Strip?
Following the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, Israel sealed Gaza's borders, preventing passage for 1.5 million people and allowing for only severely limited exceptions. A September 2007 Israeli Security Cabinet decision officially authorized, among other things, "restrictions on the movement of people into and out of Gaza", institutionalizing what human rights groups consider to be collective punishment. See the text of decision on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Despite the restrictions, in August-September 2007 and again in December 2007-January 2008, Israel arranged shuttle bus services which allowed some students in Gaza to leave for study abroad via the Erez Crossing (between Israel and Gaza) directly to the Nitzana and Kerem Shalom border crossings between Israel and Egypt. In total, however, only around 480 students successfully exited the Gaza Strip via the shuttles during the 2007- 2008 academic year – fewer than half of those who wanted to leave. Most reached their destinations late, missing the first semester of their studies. Beginning in January 2008, Israel said it would no longer allow students to leave Gaza, declaring that "only urgent humanitarian cases" would be permitted to exit. Hundreds of students were trapped. For background, see Gisha's report Held Back: Students Trapped in Gaza (pages 6-9)
FAQ #2: What is Israel's current policy regarding students from Gaza seeking to leave?
Following the public outcry over the cancellation of Fulbright grants to seven students destined for the United States, and pressure from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and important European officials, Israel partially relented and agreed in principle to permit a few dozen students to leave Gaza in possession of "recognized scholarships" as a gesture to "friendly countries". The general policy trapping students in Gaza has not changed.
According to Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (letter dated July 7, 2008):
"The policy of not permitting exit abroad for students from Gaza is part of the Security Cabinet decision from 19.09.07 which defined Gaza as a hostile entity and placed restrictions on the borders for passage of goods and movement of people from the Strip and to it except for humanitarian cases.
As of today, there is no change in this policy. At the same time, after consideration of particular cases, a few exceptions were approved, following, among other things, requests made by international actors".
Additional letters from the military make it clear that students without "recognized" scholarships to "friendly" countries, primarily Western countries, will not be permitted to leave. The military has declined to define what a "recognized" scholarship is (July 15, 2008 letter to Gisha, English translation available). Requests from students who do not have scholarships or are seeking to study in non-Western countries have been rejected or ignored by the military.
FAQ #3: How many students are trapped?
Each year, well over 1,000 Palestinian students from Gaza enroll in universities abroad and seek to leave Gaza in order to study. For example, at various points in time during the last academic year, when limited exit was available, 1,100 students and dependents had "registered" to leave Gaza, including by submitting supporting documentation – letters of acceptance and student visas.
At this time, there are hundreds of students who have been accepted to universities abroad and wish to leave the Gaza Strip in order to reach their studies. However, so long as the ban on students leaving Gaza remains in place, we will not know precisely how many students need to leave – because there is no way to "apply" to leave Gaza.
Last year, the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee in Gaza, which is subject to the authority of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, registered thousands of residents seeking to leave Gaza on the "shuttle" services, including well over a thousand students and their dependents. However, beginning in January, Israel refused to receive those requests, as part of the ban on students leaving Gaza. As a consequence and because there was no way to get them out of Gaza, the Civil Affairs Committee stopped registering students (see page nine of Gisha's report Held Back: Students Trapped in Gaza for more information). If Israel were to change the policy and permit students to leave Gaza, the Civil Affairs Committee could resume its registration, which includes a process of collecting supporting documentation.
The longer the policy stays in effect, the more severe the "chilling effect" will be on students who are discouraged from applying to universities abroad or paying registration fees and applying for visas. Many students have already forfeited their places at universities and the scholarships they were awarded to pay for their studies.
In addition, many students studying abroad who returned to Gaza for vacation during the summer of 2007 have been forced to interrupt their studies, because they have been unable to leave Gaza. The longer the interruption in their studies – the more difficult it will be to resume them.
FAQ #4: Hasn't Israel said it will let students leave Gaza?
Since the "exception" has been carved out (see FAQ #2), mostly in July and August 2008, Israel has permitted a few dozen students bound for EU countries with prestigious scholarships to leave; it has also permitted about a dozen students to leave for studies in the United States and a few students with European scholarships have been able to travel to Jordan, for a total of approximately 70 students. These students left via the Erez Crossing between Israel and Gaza, traveled through Israel into the West Bank, and from the West Bank crossed into Jordan for further travel. Israel has required that these students be escorted from Erez Crossing to the Allenby Bridge (between Jordan and the West Bank) by consular officials from the country "receiving" them. This is a burdensome and limited mechanism.
Hundreds of students remain trapped, including:
• Students seeking to reach European countries and the United States who are still waiting to be escorted out of Gaza;
• Students without scholarships;
• Students wanting to travel to countries which Israel does not define as "friendly" (this includes countries all over the world, including the countries where most students seek to study – in Asia and the Middle East);
• Students denied permission to leave Gaza by Israel for unspecified "security reasons" based on secret information that the students cannot review or challenge.
These students are at risk of losing their places and their financial support at universities around the world, as academic deadlines pass and classes start without them.
FAQ #5: Why can't they study in Gaza?
Opportunities for acquiring higher education throughout the Palestinian territory are limited. There are no doctorate-level programs at Palestinian universities, and the options for Master's-level programs are few.
The state of higher education within the Gaza Strip is particularly limited. Many medical and para-medical courses are not offered in Gaza, including occupational therapy, speech therapy, dentistry and physiotherapy. The limitations of the higher educational system in Gaza are due, among other things, to the restrictions on entrance to Gaza for nonresidents – a policy that Israel has enforced throughout the 41 years during which it has controlled Gaza's borders. Through these restrictions, Israel has impeded entry to the Strip for lecturers and academics from abroad and even from the West Bank. This includes both those who sought entrance to Gaza to participate in particular academic activities as well as those who wished to join academic faculties there for long-term positions.
Concurrently, Israel has limited the opportunities of lecturers and academics living in Gaza to travel abroad to pursue scholarly and research activities. These harsh restrictions were transformed into a total travel ban as of June 2007. Thus ties between the academy in the Gaza Strip and the academic community in the West Bank, Arab states, Western countries and the rest of the world have been severed.
The movement restrictions that Israel imposes on student residents of Gaza are even more intense. Since 2000, Israel has totally prohibited Palestinian residents of Gaza from studying in the West Bank and has banned Gaza residents accepted to Israeli academic institutions from entering Israel for their studies. Travel abroad is therefore the last remaining option for students wishing to pursue academic studies in the many fields not offered in the Gaza Strip.
FAQ #6: Aren't students being prevented from leaving because of concrete security threats?
No, students are being prevented from leaving Gaza pursuant to a decision taken by Israel's government on September 19, 2007 to restrict the freedom of movement of people into and out of Gaza as a response to the firing of rockets by militants in Gaza on civilian targets inside Israel. The policy places restrictions on passage of goods and movement of people into and out of Gaza with a narrow exception carved out for humanitarian cases. These restrictions are not in place to address a concrete security threat arising from the passage of people or goods; the stated intention has been to apply pressure on the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip by imposing restrictive measures on the civilian population in Gaza. Israel has also conditioned the opening of Rafah Crossing on the release of captured soldier Gilad Shalit. Punishing civilians for acts they did not commit violates the international legal prohibition against collective punishment. The July 7, 2008 letter from Israeli Foreign Minister Livni (see FAQ #2) makes it clear that Israel has decided to prevent students from leaving Gaza not because of claims of security risks, but rather as part of a policy of collective punishment that is trapping 1.5 million people in a narrow coastal strip whose borders are largely controlled by Israel.
International law forbids punishing students and other civilians for political circumstances out of their control. Students in Gaza are entitled to human rights under all forms of law which apply – including international humanitarian and human rights law, and Israeli law.
FAQ #7: Why is Israel responsible for letting students out of Gaza?
Israel is able to implement its closure policy due to its ongoing control of the borders between Gaza and the outside world, control that continues despite implementation of the “disengagement” plan in September 2005, in which Israel removed permanent military installations and civilian settlements from Gaza. Israel maintains full control of the Gaza Strip's territorial waters and air space, as well as all overland border crossings between the Strip and Israel. In addition, Israel maintains substantial control of the overland border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, because it holds veto power over the opening of the Rafah to regular traffic. Israeli control over movement, together with control over other significant aspects of life in Gaza, creates obligations for Israel under the law of occupation and under other international law provisions.
For more information, refer to Gisha's report Disengaged Occupiers: The Legal Status of Gaza, especially pages 29-32.
FAQ #8: Why can't the students leave via the Rafah Crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt?
Rafah Crossing has been closed for regular traffic since June 2007, and Israel's opposition to its re-opening is a central factor in keeping it closed. The operation of Rafah Crossing is governed by the November 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA) reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and brokered by the United States. Under the terms of the AMA, the Palestinian Authority is to operate Rafah Crossing on the Palestinian side, Israel is to monitor the terms of the agreement through closed circuit cameras and by reviewing passenger lists, and the European Union is to physically supervise the opening of the crossing through monitors posted at Rafah. Egypt then opens the crossing on its side. Without the participation of all these parties, Rafah cannot be opened under the terms of the agreement – and no new agreement for opening Rafah has been forthcoming. In the past several months, Hamas and Egypt have coordinated limited openings of Rafah, mostly for humanitarian cases and pilgrims, but there has been no regular traffic through the crossing.
FAQ #9: Why is pressure being applied on Israel and not on Egypt?
Israel, as the occupying power in Gaza, bears primary responsibility for facilitating freedom of movement for goods and people to and from Gaza, subject only to security restrictions which correlate to actual threats (and not as a pressure tactic). The Security Cabinet decision calling Gaza "a hostile entity" does not give the government legal authority to enforce a closure policy which has destroyed Gaza's economy and undermined the well-being of its civilian population.
Pressure is indeed being applied to Egypt from various sources – from authorities in Gaza, from neighboring countries, and internally. Recently 23 mainly Egyptian human rights organizations called on the Egyptian government to allow passage for students from Gaza via Rafah Crossing. Other regional human rights organizations are joining this call. Egypt has permitted a few sporadic "ad hoc" openings of Rafah to "relieve pressure", primarily for humanitarian cases. On August 30-31, Egypt permitted approximately 100 students to leave Gaza via Rafah, during one of these rare border openings. On September 20-21 another 60 students and their family members were able to cross. However, Egypt refuses to open the crossing for regular traffic. It is unlikely that Egypt will agree to open the crossing for regular traffic without approval by Israel, whose participation is required under the terms of the agreement governing the opening of the crossing.
FAQ # 10: Are only students being prevented from leaving?
No. The closure of Gaza is trapping 1.5 million civilians. It is preventing them from accessing medical care, jobs, and economic opportunities, uniting with family members, and traveling for the ordinary reasons that human beings need to travel, especially residents of a crowded strip of land that is dependent on contact with the outside world and with the West Bank. The West Bank and Gaza constitute a single and interdependent territorial unit. Students are just some of those whose human rights are being systematically violated by the closure – in ways that are harmful not only for them but also for the future of Palestinian society in Gaza
What can you do to help?
*Join Gisha's campaign by logging on to www.trappedingaza.org in order to call on Israel's leaders to respect the right of students in Gaza to travel and access education.
*Spread information by forwarding this message to others.
*Public pressure helps: Statements, letters, and op-eds by academics, students, journalists, and world leaders calling for immediate passage for all of Gaza's students