Thursday, November 20, 2008

Who profits off of occupation?

The news item below was published by IPS, Inter Press Service News Agency, "a communication institution with a global news agency at its core … [which] raises the voices of the South and of civil society … brings a fresh perspective on development and globalization." (quoted from the IPS website:

In the following item, IPS journalist Ida Karlsson reports on one of the findings of a data base project of the Coalition of Women for Peace ( "CWP," she writes, "… an Israeli feminist peace organization … has built a database with information about companies in industrial zones within the occupied territories," companies that, in other words, make profits off of occupation. The database, in fact, is still under construction, to be officially launched in the near future.

Activist Merav Amir, of the Coalition of Women for Peace, explained to Karlsson that Israeli companies operating in the Israeli-occupied West Bank are granted "reduced taxes, little or no enforcement of labour laws, a captive labour market, very cheap real estate prices and lax enforcement of environmental regulations." (This is a further example of Israel's land-use practices – the topic of a recent JPN posting; part of what makes "real estate prices" "very cheap" in the occupied territories are government handouts of illegally appropriated Palestinian land.)

Karlsson reports that among the companies listed in the CWP database, Plasto Polish, an Israeli firm situated in the West Bank "Barkan" industrial zone, is a sub-contractor of Vileda, an international manufacturer of household products. However, she notes, Vileda also belongs to the U.N. Global Compact, whose member companies worldwide pledge to advance social responsibility and sustainability. This blatant inconsistency could lead in future to Vileda's "delisting". Other companies, she remarks, including the Dutch Heineken have recently decided to "move their facilities from the occupied territories, primarily to avoid negative publicity".

"Negative publicity" is partly up to individuals and the public worldwide. Transparent, responsible and detailed data about the firms profiteering on occupied lands offers each of us the option for relatively simple, direct intervention; for letting firms know that consumers consider their practices unacceptable. Such a channel for broadening consumer resistance to the occupation is a new, unprecedented opportunity.

The movement I am active with in Israel, New Profile, is a member group of the Coalition of Women for Peace. The CWP, like numerous other non-profits today, is now facing severe financial problems (see the CWP statement, appended below). These endanger the whole breadth of CWP activity, including the research still in progress towards establishing and publishing this groundbreaking database. While privately owned Israeli companies have profited for years from the benefits of occupation, many of those working (often for years) to resist the occupation in Israel are struggling hard to stay afloat.

Rela Mazali


Corporate Vows Tested in the West Bank

Ida Karlsson

A company that is a member of the U.N. Global Compact for corporate social responsibility has ties to production in an Israeli settlement on the West Bank considered illegal by the United Nations.

A spokeperson for the company, Vileda, an international household products firm, said he was unaware of the contract with a manufacturer in the West Bank, Plasto Polish. However, a representative of Plasto confirmed in a telephone interview with IPS that the company was a subcontractor for Vileda.

"Companies have a social as well as a legal responsibility and must therefore take no part in the illegal occupation," Merav Amir of the Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP), told IPS. "In order to comply with international human rights law, companies should make sure that their businesses have nothing to do with the occupation."

CWP is an Israeli feminist peace organisation that carries out grassroots research, and has built a database with information about companies in industrial zones within the occupied territories. An IPS investigation revealed that Vileda appeared in both that database and the list of U.N. Global Compact participants.

Amir says companies located in the territories benefit from reduced taxes, little or no enforcement of labour laws, a captive labour market, very cheap real estate prices and lax enforcement of environmental regulations.

The U.N. Global Compact is intended to encourage businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies, and to report on their implementation. It stresses 10 principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption.

The corporate responsibility initiative sets out standards of behaviour for companies that are closely corresponding to the international legal obligations of states. This includes, as a minimum, a duty for companies to fully respect international humanitarian and human rights law.

According to the Global Compact, companies should "support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights."

Vileda, whose French division is a member of the Global Compact, subcontracts business to Plasto Polish, which manufactures and exports household cleaning products, mainly scouring sponges and cleaning pads. Plasto is located in the Barkan Industrial Zone, which is an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.

On its website, Vileda says, "Our company and its family shareholders together are committed to protecting the environment and being responsible corporate citizens in all countries and communities in which we do business."

Other companies have recently decided to move their facilities from the occupied territories, primarily to avoid negative publicity. The Dutch beer company Heineken has closed down its facility in the area Barkan and the Swedish lock company Assa Abloy also announced that its production unit on the West Bank will be moved after eight years of production.

According to international humanitarian law, all Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory are illegal, whether built on state or private land. The settlements also constitute a major constraint on the peace process. This has been underscored by the international community through U.N. Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.

Matthias Stausberg, the Global Compact spokesperson, told IPS that the initiative is not in a position to monitor the member companies.

"Of course we want the companies to reflect the values and policies of the United Nations, but we need more information on this case to be able to comment it further," he said.

"We do not expect the companies to be perfect when they join the Global Compact," Stausberg explained. "It is more important that they are a part of the initiative so they can improve in the long run."

He said that information about the companies is put in in a public database and then the public at large, civil society and the media can read and report when companies are not adhering the Global Compact principles.

"We could delist a company for human rights violations if it is brought to our attention and if the company is not willing to engage in dialogue. We do have that possibility," he stressed.

The Global Compact currently has more than 6,200 participants, including over 4,700 businesses in 120 countries. In June, the Global Compact announced that 630 companies had been delisted for "failure to communicate progress".

Israeli industrial zones within the occupied territories hold hundreds of businesses and factories, ranging from small businesses serving the local Israeli settlers to large factories which export their products worldwide.

In 1979, the U.N. Security Council determined that "the policy and practice of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East."

The Middle East Quartet -- the European Union, the United Nations, Russia and the United States -- has also expressed its collective opposition to the settlements and has, on 18 occasions since its inception, warned of the dangers of continued expansion to the process.




Dear friends,

As we wrap-up 2008 and look forward to continuing our groundbreaking feminist activism for peace in 2009, we would like to share with you some of the highlights of 2008 and invite you to become an active partner in the international network of the Coalition of Women for Peace.

With the global financial crisis, we can not continue counting only on traditional funding sources such as foundations. We need the support of all women and men who share our commitment to a social and political change in the Middle East region. We need you!

Mobilizing Women's Peace Activism
This year we mobilized hundreds of women and men in a demonstration in Tel Aviv in June marking 41 years of occupation. Throughout the year we campaigned to end the cruel siege on 1.5 million residents in Gaza.

Exposing the Economy of the Occupation
Our newly established information centre on direct corporate profit from the occupation has provided critical information to several successful campaigns around the world. For example, the Swedish corporation Assa Abloy announced that they will move their factory from illegal settlements in the West Bank. See our continuously updated online database (soon to be officially launched).

Engaging Youth and Women - Reaching Out to Diverse Communities in Israel In our long-term outreach program "Reframing Security as Human Security" and our political education and empowerment program in Russian for women immigrants we engaged over 1,200 community leaders, predominately youth and women, in social justice, peace education and activism.

We need your support TODAY to continue our work tomorrow

How To Give

1. Write a check to "Coalition of Women for Peace" and mail it to: P.O Box 29214 Tel Aviv 61292, Israel

2. For a US-tax deduction, please make out a check to "New Israel Fund". Write in the memo line "For the Coalition of Women for Peace", and mail it to NIF, 1101 14th Street NW, 6th Floor, Washington, DC 20005-5639 (minimum they will accept - 100$)

3. For more ways to give and to give online please enter
4. Thank you for your solidarity and support!

Contact Us
Email: || Visit us at P.O.Box 29214 Tel Aviv-Jaffa 61292, Israel || Tel: (+972)-508575777

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and blog:
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Land Use and Home Demolitions in Israel

Land use in Israel is both a symptom and a mechanism of Israeli militarization. Israel's security establishment exercises virtually unchecked control of many, if not all, public resources. In the case of land, however, the virtually unquestioned and unsupervised appropriation of land by the military has also been integral to Israel's still ongoing dispossession of Palestinians. Earmarking huge tracts as designated "for security purposes" has served as a means of criminalizing the presence of the people living on, and off of, these lands. This is one of the major implications of the fact, reported in passing in the following item by Zafrir Rinat, that "the army is going south". In doing so (while exploiting, as the item points out, relative land shortages in heavily populated Jewish areas) the military is once again criminalizing, and undermining subsistence for, a large population of Bedouin from the environs of these new military bases. The hugely disproportionate land use allowed
the "defense forces", accordingly joins the state-created legal maze known as the "Israel Land Administration" (Minhal Mekarke'ei Yisrael), in evicting and dispossessing Arabs, barring them from living on and off of the land, and making most of the land – both in Israel and the occupied territories – available to Jews only. A close look at the matrix of practices, regulations and legal tools allocating lands in Israel reveal a compound of militarization and racism that, in my view, epitomize the nature of the so-called Jewish democracy.

Rela Mazali

As a current example of this phenomena, last week, in the unrecognized village of Wadi Na'am, a unique and environmentally sustainable straw bale mosque which would double as a community center, received a demolition order. Mahmoud Jarbeau, a resident of Wadi Na'am, active duty Israeli soldier, and builder of the mosque, was informed that it will be destroyed on Thursday, November 19th.

Wadi Na'am is located right next to Romat Chovav, the enormous petro-chemical plant referred to in the article. This demolition order is part of an ongoing effort on the part of the Israeli state to reclaim Wadi Na'am's land. However, despite the noxious conditions, the residents refuse to leave unless they receive another piece of land. They refuse to be unwillingly urbanized.

BUSTAN (the organization I work for) and the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages (RCUV) are coordinating an on-site vigil and protest against the demolition. Appended below is the press release, including how to contact officials to protest this demolition.

--Rebecca Vilkomerson


w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m


Last update - 04:27 17/11/2008
How did IDF gain control over half of the country?
By Zafrir Rinat, Haaretz COrrespondent

Some countries have an army, and some armies, like the Israel Defense Forces,have a country. According to a recent study on the defense establishment and land in Israel, various defense bodies lord over half the land. The army tops the list, but they all largely do as they please with respect to planning and development.

The result is that while the rest of the country adopts orderly processes, starting from national and regional master plans, much of the state land remains managed separately. The existence of this kingdom may be essential, but its size and management methods have yet to face serious public scrutiny. The study, "A Land in Khaki: Geographic Dimension of Defense in Israel," was written by geographers Amiram Oren and Rafi Regev and published by Carmel Publishing. Oren has been researching how the defense establishment's activities affect the planning of land use, the environment and the property sector.

In Israel's infancy, they write, the defense establishment built on the foundation of the British army bases. It expanded its land holdings by turning areas into training zones and by building new bases. The Knesset allowed this expansion to proceed practically unfettered. It did set up a planning procedure by committee - whose deliberations were confidential, and whose membership was limited.

After the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Israeli defense forces substantially increased, and the army built a great many more installations and training zones. Even after the withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, it continues to spread out. In addition to the small and medium-sized bases, the defense establishment has several mega bases and operational areas, each covering tens of thousands of dunams, mostly in the south.

Close to 9 million dunams (about one third of Israel's land area and two thirds of the Negev) are used for training and equipment trials. Army bases and training zones occupy a quarter of Judea and Samaria.

The upshot is that over the years, Oren and Regev write, there was no civilian supervision over the size, location and number of regions allocated to the defense establishment. The planning authorities know nothing of the true needs of the defense establishment but tends to approve requests anyway.

Yet in this small, densely populated country, is the army making optimal use of the land? Over the past 20 years, the army has vacated several bases in population centers, to reduce costs - and prevent friction between the army and the civilian population in cities that are expanding toward the army's facilities.

One example of the army's approach to property is the IDF's plan to transfer training facilities at Tzrifin, near Tel Aviv, to a new base being built in the Negev. The new base is beside the Ramat Hovav industrial zone.

The army did everything in its power to oppose the development plans for Tzrifin, and ultimately caused the land to be rezoned from agriculture to urban development. That move boosted the property value of the land, a move the army evidently hoped would at least pay for relocating the gigantic base.

"In this case, one can say unequivocally that the Defense Ministry deviated from the lawmakers' intentions concerning how it might protect army assets," states the new study. "When opposing plans, the defense establishment's motives should be pragmatic, relating to a plan's infringement on a defense installation - and not in order to upgrade a plan."

"A Land in Khaki" also discusses the assumption that Israel is direly short of land. In fact, the researchers say, the defense establishment actually has vast available land resources, and tremendous freedom in its use of that land.

"In keeping with the decisions of the Israeli government," responded a Defense Ministry spokesperson, "the defense establishment operates within the framework of its authority, in coordination with the Israel Lands Administration, the Finance Ministry and other ministries, for the relocation of IDF bases from city centers."

The Open Landscape Institution, which operates under the wing of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, promotes the preservation of open areas. Its latest report on the status of open areas in Israel, published this month, cites the case of Shooting Range 24, south of Rishon Letzion. This land is practically the only natural sandy area in the region.

"The land being vacated should be earmarked for environmental purposes," states the report. But it won't be, because it's going to be developed to finance moving the bases.

The defense establishment also influences land beyond its direct control and can thwart plans by invoking its on special planning status. Usually the army gets antsy about civilian plans next to its installations.

For instance, the defense establishment objects to a commercial company adding floors to a building next to a defense installation in the Dan region. People on the company's upper floors could spy on the army installation, the army argues. A compromise was reached: The wall facing the installation would have no windows and no antennas would be installed above it.

In another instance, the defense establishment objected to a developer building a high-rise apartment building because the top four stories would encroach on the microwave communication band between the Defense Ministry building in Tel Aviv and other army installations.

Again a compromise was found. The building has a communication relay station on its roof, to prevent the disruption of military communication, and IDF technicians have free access.

During the last two decades, as land prices climb, the army has been abandoning the cities, and pressure has mounted on the defense establishment to stop ignoring the planning systems and to coordinate with the planning authorities in zoning. The courts, which have also addressed several motions against the construction of military installations, also urge coordination.

"A Land in Khaki" concludes that in the near future, most training areas will remain their current size. But along the coast, and in high demand areas, military facilities may shrink as the cities expand. The bases will serve as land reserves for urban development.

Anyway, the army is moving south. This study's main recommendation is that the army adapt to the reality of Israeli civilian society, which is in dire need of land. The public is well aware of Israel's security needs, but coordination is possible.

The study also urges change to the anachronistic clauses in the law that give the defense establishment uncontrolled freedom of action.

The amendments should safeguard the needs of the defense establishment and serve transparency, too. In other words, the army will have to prove that it is using the land efficiently and for some genuine need.

The Knesset has already begun this amendment process, but so far no bills have been passed.

Press Release

Contacts: Mahmod Jarbeau at 057-466-2331 (Hebrew, Arabic) —resident of Wadi Na'am, served nine years in the Israeli military, director of the project
Ra'ed Al Mickawi 052-371-1801 (Hebrew, Arabic, English)—Director of BUSTAN
Dr. Yeela Livnat Ra'anan 054-748-7005 (English, Hebrew)—RCUV

Wadi Na'am, Israel-- The first mud and straw-bale built mosque in Israel received demolition orders late last week in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Wadi al Na'am. On Tuesday, Mahmoud Jarbeau, who lives in Wadi Na'am and has served in the Israeli Army for nine years, received notice that the mosque/community center which he is building will be destroyed on Thursday, November 19th.

BUSTAN ( and the Regional Council for Unrecognized Villages ( are coordinating protests against the demolition. Israeli and international volunteers will be on site to protest and witness the demolition if it occurs.

There are 80,000 Bedouin Arabs currently living in 45 unrecognized villages in Israel that lack basic infrastructure, health care, electricity, and water access. Local Bedouins as well as Christian, Muslim, and Jewish volunteers from Israel, the United States, Europe, Latin America, and Africa have contributed to building the mosque over the last four months.

The mosque, which was built with environmentally sustainable materials, cost approximately 140,000 shekels to build, according to Jarbeau. He built the mosque both as a place of worship and as a center for the preservation of Bedouin heritage that is threatened by Israel's policies of forced urbanization, as exemplified by the threatened demolition.

please fax or call the following officials to protest the demolition:

Itzhak HaKohen, the Minister of Religious Service
Fax: 02 6706157.

Meir Shitrit, the Minister of Interior
Fax: 02 6408920.

Zeev Boim, the Minster of Housing and Construction, and Minister responsible for the Israeli Land Authority, and the Bedouin Minority.
Fax: 02-6496062.


Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and blog:
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Monday, November 17, 2008

Jeff Halper on the Obama Administration and the Occupation

This article by Jeff Halper, the American- born Director of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, clearly lays out the consequences to the United States of its support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and makes a clear and compelling case that the new Obama administration must make ending the occupation a priority.

--Rebecca Vilkomerson

Jeff Halper

Even before the voting began, Israeli politicians and pundits were asking: Will an Obama Administration be good for Israel? "Be good for Israel" is our code for "Will the US allow us to keep our settlements and continue to support our efforts to prevent negotiations with the Palestinians from ever bearing fruit?" For Americans the question should be: Will the Obama Administration understand that without addressing Palestinian needs it will not be able to disentangle itself from its broader Middle Eastern imbroglios, rejoin the community of nations and rescue its economy?

The Israel-Palestine conflict should be of central concern to Americans, near the top of the new Administration's agenda. It may not be the bloodiest conflict in the world – its minor when compared to Iraq – but it is emblematic to Muslims and to peoples the world over of American hostility and belligerence. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not merely a localized one between two squabbling tribes. It lies at the epicenter of global instability. Go where you may in the world and you will encounter the same phenomenon: a sense that the suffering of the Palestinians represents all that is wrong in an American-dominated world.

As Obama comes into office, he will encounter a global reality very different from that of eight years before: a multilateral one in which a weakened and isolated US must find its place. He will discover that much of America's isolation comes from the view that the Occupation of the Palestinian territories is, in fact, an American-Israeli Occupation. If restoring a weakened American economy depends on repairing relations with the rest of the world, he will learn that without resolving the Israeli-Palestine conflict he will not create those conditions in which the US will be accepted once more into the wider global community.

To be more specific, the Israel-Palestine conflict directly affects Americans in at least five ways:

· It isolates the US from major global markets, forcing it to embark on aggressive measures to secure markets rather than peaceful accommodation;

· It thereby diverts the American economy into non-productive production (tanks not roads), making it dependent upon deficit spending which only increases dependency upon foreign financing while diverting resources into the military rather than into education, health and investment;

· Support for the Israeli military costs US taxpayers more than $3 billion annually at a time of deepening recession and crumbling national infrastructure;

· It leads to an American involvement in the world that is mainly military, thus begetting hostility and resistance which produce the threats to security Americans so greatly fear; and

· It ends up threatening American civil liberties by encouraging such legislation as the Patriot Act and by introducing Israeli "counterinsurgency" tactics and weaponry developed in the West Bank and Gaza into American police forces.

For many peoples of the world, the Palestinians represent the plight of the majority. They are the tiny grains of sand resisting what most Americans and privileged people of the West do not see. They are a people who are denied the most fundamental right: to a state of their own, even on the 22% of historic Palestine that Israel has occupied since 1967. For the majority of humanity that lives in economic and political conditions unimaginable in the West, the suffering caused by Israel's occupation – impoverishment and a total denial of freedom that can only be sustained by total American support – is emblematic of their own continued suffering. Israel's oppression of the Palestinians with the active backing of the US shows demonstrably the existence of a global system of Western domination that prevents others from achieving their own dreams of political and economic well-being.

Like a bone in the throat, the issue of Israel's occupation can be neither ignored nor by-passed. To make things even more difficult, it is doubtful if a two-state solution is still possible, since Israeli settlement activity has largely eliminated that option. Whatever the eventual solution, if this most destabilizing of conflicts is not addressed, the US – even under Obama – will remain mired in conflicts with Muslim peoples and reviled by peoples seeking genuine freedom. Neither the US nor Israel will find the security they claim they seek. We live in a global reality, not a Pax Americana. The logic of the Bush Administration has run its course. No longer can the US throw its weight around in a War Against Terror. No longer can its involvement be purely military. The new logic that will accompany Obama into office can be summarized in one word: accommodation. And the US will not get to first base until it achieves accommodation with the Muslim world, which means ending the Israeli
Occupation. What happens to the Palestinians takes on a global significance. Clearing the bone in the throat – that is, ending the Israeli Occupation and allowing the Palestinians a state and a future of their own – should be a top priority of the next American administration. Indeed, America's attempt to restore its standing in the world depends on it. In the global reality in which we live, the fate of Americans and Palestinians, it turns out, are closely intertwined.

(Jeff Halper is the Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. He can be reached at <>.)

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions is based in Jerusalem and has chapters in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Please visit our websites:

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Amira Hass: Haniyeh: Hamas willing to accept Palestinian state with 1967 borders / Ha'aretz

It's not the first time that an official of Hamas makes a declaration that amounts to accepting Israel
within pre-67 borders, and it's not the first time that mainstream media completely ignores it, preferring
to keep pushing the idea that Hamas is wishing to throw all Jews (or at least those living West of the
Jordan) into the sea.
Amira Hass, a renowned Israeli journalist, was one of the passengers on the boat Dignity which had sailed
from Cyprus to Gaza - as a part of the Free Gaza campaign - for the third time in 3 months.

Racheli Gai.

Haniyeh: Hamas willing to accept Palestinian state with 1967 borders
By Amira Hass

The Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, said on Saturday his government was willing to accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

The Hamas leader spoke at a meeting with 11 European parliamentarians who sailed from Cyprus to the Gaza Strip to protest Israel's naval blockade of the territory. Haniyeh told his guests Israel rejected his initiative.

Clare Short, who served in the cabinet of former British prime minister Tony Blair, asked Haniyeh to repeat his offer. He said the Hamas government had agreed to accept a Palestinian state that followed the 1967 borders and to offer Israel a long-term hudna, or truce, if Israel recognized the Palestinians' national rights.

In response to a question about the international community's impression that there are two Palestinian states, Haniyeh said: "We don't have a state, neither in Gaza nor in the West Bank. Gaza is under siege and the West Bank is occupied. What we have in the Gaza Strip is not a state, but rather a regime of an elected government. A Palestinian state will not be created at this time except in the territories of 1967."

The parliamentary delegation was led by Baron Nazir Ahmed, who was born in Pakistan and is a member of the British House of Lords. Ahmed, Britain's second Muslim peer and the only one born Muslim, related how, 10 years ago, he was sworn into the House of Lords using a Koran. "And now you represent us," Haniyeh told him on Saturday.

Ahmed asked Haniyeh about Hamas' relations with Iran and requested his response to the claims of "our Zionist friends" that Hamas, like Iran, seeks to destroy the State of Israel and throw the Jews into the sea.

"Our ties with Iran are like those with other Muslim states. Does a besieged people that is waiting breathlessly for a ship to come from the sea want to throw the Jews into the ocean? Our conflict is not with the Jews, our problem is with the occupation," Haniyeh said.

The protest boat Dignity anchored at Gaza port Saturday morning, carrying nine MPs from Britain and Ireland, one from Switzerland and one from Italy. The parliamentarians sought to express their opposition to the Gaza blockade and see for themselves its effect on Gaza's population. The 11 were among a few dozen members of European parliaments who about two weeks ago were refused entrance to Gaza at the Rafah crossing by Egyptian officials.

This was the Dignity's third voyage from Cyprus to Gaza in 10 days, and the third time in three months the Free Gaza Movement organized a protest sail and visit to Gaza.

The peak of the group's first day in Gaza was their meeting with Haniyeh at his official guesthouse in Gaza City's exclusive Rimal area - formerly the guesthouse of Yasser Arafat. The two-hour meeting was a good-natured affair, at the end of which the parliamentarians noted their host's pleasant manner.

"Your visit proves that the Palestinian people is not alone in its struggle against the blockade and that many of the peoples of the free and cultured world support us," Haniyeh told his guests.

He explained to them why Hamas boycotted the talks with Fatah that were scheduled to begin on Sunday in Cairo. "We had 17 political detainees [from Fatah, held without trial and without being charged] being held in harsh conditions - I'm not proud of that," Haniyeh said. "They were released. We expected a similar measure from our brothers in Ramallah, but unfortunately the situation only worsened ahead of the meeting in Cairo."

According to Haniyeh, about 400 Hamas activists are being held in Palestinian Authority jails in the West Bank, and all requests to release them have fallen on deaf ears.

Haniyeh said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' statements to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her visit prove that the United States won't allow the two Palestinian factions to reach a reconciliation. He said the PA must shake off the "American fist" gripping it.

The European politicians took with them a ton of medical supplies and three medical scanners used for spinal injuries, said Arafat Shoukri, 37, a doctor based in Britain.

"We are taking very basic medical supplies like paracetamol and painkillers. We were shocked when we got the list from the Health Ministry in Gaza - it means they don't have anything," Shoukri said.

International aid agencies, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, have said virtually no medical supplies were reaching Gaza.

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and blog:
Jewish Peace News sends its news clippings only to subscribers. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or manage your subscription, go to

Friday, November 7, 2008

Try this address to send emails to Obama

A reader provides an improved address for emails to Obama:

Here's the address of the contact page of the new Office of the
President Elect.


Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and blog:
Jewish Peace News sends its news clippings only to subscribers. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or manage your subscription, go to

Ali Abunimah: Obama picks pro-Israel hardliner for top post / The Electronic Intifada

Obama's first pick - of Rahm Emanuel - for White House chief of staff, is not an indication of "change", but rather of more of the same, when it comes to Israel/Palestine.
In addition to being a pro-Israel hardliner, Emanuel has been known, according to Abunimah, as a "prominent supporter of neoliberal economic policies on free trade and welfare reform."

If this early choice is any indication, Obama will need a lot of pressure from the grass roots level for serious change to occur.
Cynthia Peters has written a wonderful article that brings home this point:

Here is the email address for Obama's Transition Office. Let's flood it with letters and phone calls beginning today. Obama Transition.
I heard yesterday of difficulties in accessing the above site, so while
Obama is still a US Senator, one could contact his office:
713 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
(202) 224-2854
(202) 228-4260 fax
(202 228-1404 TDD


Ali Abunimah: Obama picks pro-Israel hardliner for top post

The Electronic Intifada
5 November 2008

During the United States election campaign, racists and
pro-Israel hardliners tried to make an issue out of
President-elect Barack Obama's middle name, Hussein. Such
people might take comfort in another middle name, that of
Obama's pick for White House Chief of Staff: Rahm Israel

Emanuel is Obama's first high-level appointment and it's
one likely to disappointment those who hoped the
president-elect would break with the George W. Bush
Administration's pro-Israel policies. White House Chief of
Staff is often considered the most powerful office in the
executive branch, next to the president. Obama has offered
Emanuel the position according to Democratic party sources
cited by media including Reuters and The New York
Times. While Emanuel is expected to accept the post, that
had not been confirmed by Wednesday evening the day after
the election.

Rahm Emanuel was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1959, the
son of Benjamin Emanuel, a pediatrician who helped smuggle
weapons to the Irgun, the Zionist militia of former
Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, in the 1940s. The
Irgun carried out numerous terrorist attacks on
Palestinian civilians including the bombing of Jerusalem's
King David Hotel in 1946.

Emanuel continued his father's tradition of active support
for Israel; during the 1991 Gulf War he volunteered to
help maintain Israeli army vehicles near the Lebanon
border when southern Lebanon was still occupied by Israeli

As White House political director in the first Clinton
administration, Emanuel orchestrated the famous 1993
signing ceremony of the "Declaration of Principles"
between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli prime
minister Yitzhak Rabin. Emanuel was elected to Congress
representing a north Chicago district in 2002 and he is
credited with a key role in delivering a Democratic
majority in the 2006 mid-term elections. He has been a
prominent supporter of neoliberal economic policies on
free trade and welfare reform.

One of the most influential politicians and fundraisers in
his party, Emanuel accompanied Obama to a meeting of
AIPAC's executive board just after the Illinois senator
had addressed the pro-Israel lobby's conference last June.

In Congress, Emanuel has been a consistent and vocal
pro-Israel hardliner, sometimes more so than President
Bush. In June 2003, for example, he signed a letter
criticizing Bush for being insufficiently supportive of
Israel. "We were deeply dismayed to hear your criticism of
Israel for fighting acts of terror," Emanuel, along with
33 other Democrats wrote to Bush. The letter said that
Israel's policy of assassinating Palestinian political
leaders "was clearly justified as an application of
Israel's right to self-defense."

In July 2006, Emanuel was one of several members who
called for the cancellation of a speech to Congress by
visiting Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki because
al-Maliki had criticized Israel's bombing of Lebanon.
Emanuel called the Lebanese and Palestinian governments
"totalitarian entities with militias and terrorists acting
as democracies" in a 19 July 2006 speech supporting a
House resolution backing Israel's bombing of both
countries that caused thousands of civilian victims.

Emanuel has sometimes posed as a defender of Palestinian
lives, though never from the constant Israeli violence
that is responsible for the vast majority of deaths and
injuries. On 14 June 2007 he wrote to US Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice "on behalf of students in the Gaza
Strip whose future is threatened by the ongoing fighting
there" which he blamed on "the violence and militancy of
their elders." In fact, the fighting between members of
Hamas and Fatah, which claimed dozens of lives, was the
result of a failed scheme by US-backed militias to
violently overthrow the elected Hamas-led national unity
government. Emanuel's letter urged Rice "to work with
allies in the region, such as Egypt and Jordan, to either
find a secure location in Gaza for these students, or to
transport them to a neighboring country where they can
study and take their exams in peace." Palestinians often
view such proposals as a pretext to permanently "transfer"
them from their country, as many Israeli leaders have
threatened. Emanuel has never said anything in support of
millions of Palestinian children whose education has been
disrupted by Israeli occupation, closures and blockades.

Emanuel has also used his position to explicitly push
Israel's interests in normalizing relations with Arab
states and isolating Hamas. In 2006 he initiated a letter
to President Bush opposing United Arab Emirates
(UAE)-based Dubai Ports World's attempt to buy the
management business of six US seaports. The letter, signed
by dozens of other lawmakers, stated that "The UAE has
pledged to provide financial support to the Hamas-led
government of the Palestinian Authority and openly
participates in the Arab League boycott against Israel."
It argued that allowing the deal to go through "not only
could place the safety and security of US ports at risk,
but enhance the ability of the UAE to bolster the Hamas
regime and its efforts to promote terrorism and violence
against Israel" ("Dems Tie Israel, Ports," Forward, 10
March 2006).

Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish
Democratic Council, told Fox News that picking Emanuel is
"just another indication that despite the attempts to
imply that Obama would somehow appoint the wrong person or
listen to the wrong people when it comes to the US-Israel
relationship ... that was never true."

Over the course of the campaign, Obama publicly distanced
himself from friends and advisers suspected or accused of
having "pro-Palestinian" sympathies. There are no early
indications of a more balanced course.

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is
author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-
Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan Books, 2006).

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
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