73 European Parliament Members Call on EU to End Support to Israeli Military Companies

Published by WAFA Palestinian News and Info Agency

About 73 members of the European Parliament issued a letter to European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini and Jan Robert Smits – Director-General of DG Research and Innovation asking the EU to end its support to Israeli military companies trough Horizon2020.

The unique cross-party initiative is the first time many MEPs from across the political spectrum have called on the EU not to award money to the Israeli military companies.

“Elbit Systems is one of Israel’s biggest military companies and a major producer of drones, weapons and other technology that is a key part of Israel’s military apparatus. Funding technological development and research to Elbit Systems or any similar company would at the very least infringe the EU’s policy against the funding of dual use projects.’

‘Beyond this, Elbit’s technologies have been developed during the course of Israel’s military actions that have been severely condemned by EU member states and provoked mass mobilizations throughout Europe.” the MEPs from the 5 biggest parties in the European Parliament stated.

The EU “has repeatedly condemned Israeli settlements and policies in Area C. It therefore seems in clear contradiction to established EU policies to award funds for research and development to any Israeli company involved in the settlements or the Wall and that may use its technology to further these policies or improves technologies developed for these purposes”, the MEPs said.

They added, “We believe it is our duty to ensure public money is spent on projects that promote the values and principles of the European Union and respect its general commitment to upholding and promoting international law, as set out in the Treaty of the European Union.”

This unique cross party initiative marks the first anniversary of Israel’s 2014 bombardment of Gaza and echoes an appeal made in May by 30 Palestinian coalitions, trade unions and civil society organizations who wrote to Mogherini with demand to exclude Israeli military companies from EU research programs.

BDS: A Global Movement for Freedom and Justice

By Omar Barghouti

Published by Al-Shabaka (originally published in May 2010)

Editor’s note

The Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) was launched 10 years ago, providing Palestinian leadership and strategic guidance to what had been a disparate set of ad hoc boycott actions around the world. Al-Shabaka takes this occasion to republish Policy Advisor Omar Barghouti’s policy brief,which addresses the basic principles and strategies underpinning the BDS movement that have remained constant since its founding.

The brief tackles the reason why the movement has not specified a political outcome; highlights the “unambiguous invitation” to Israelis of conscience to support the Call and the efforts of the Zionist left to undermine it; and points to a key reason for the movement’s success – the freedom to design BDS actions that are context specific, gradual, and sustainable. While BDS opponents accuse the movement of seeking to “destroy Israel” Barghouti makes it clear that the aim is simply to hold Israel accountable to international law, and that Western civil society bears a unique responsibility to do so given Western governments’ complicity in enabling Israel’s rights violations.

Overview

While media attention over the past few months has focused on a brewing third Palestinian intifada in response to the expansion of Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Al-Shabaka policy advisor Omar Barghouti argues that a far more widespread, nonviolent grassroots movement originating in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has been building and spreading around the world. He reviews the formation and evolution of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, including its rights-based (as opposed to solutions-based) approach, its collective leadership, its call to Israelis of conscience, and its promotion of context-specific strategies.

Not only friends of Palestinian rights recognize the potential of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign; foes do too. In May 2009, at AIPAC’s policy conference, Executive Director Howard Kohr warned that BDS was reaching the American mainstream and “laying the predicate for abandonment [of Israel].” (1)

Kohr added, “This is a conscious campaign to shift policy, to transform the way Israel is treated by its friends to a state that deserves not our support, but our contempt; not our protection, but pressure to change its essential nature.”

BDS does indeed challenge Israel’s “essential nature.” Rooted in almost a century of civil resistance to Zionist settler colonialism, the Palestinian Civil Society Campaign for BDS against Israel was launched on 9 July 2005, (2) ushering in a qualitatively new phase of resistance to Israel occupation, dispossession and apartheid against the indigenous people of Palestine. (3)

The global campaign in response to the Palestinian BDS Call, which is guided by its Palestinian leadership, has made significant inroads into the Western mainstream over the past few years. The global BDS Campaign asserts a new, rights-based discourse in dealing with the question of Palestine. By so doing, it decisively exposes the double standard and exceptionalism with which the United States and most of the West have to varying degrees treated Israel ever since its establishment through the carefully planned and methodically executed campaign of forcible displacement and dispossession of the majority of the Palestinian people in the 1948 Nakba. (4) The official western collusion reached its height when Western states collectively ignored the historic advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice on 9 July 2004, which affirmed that Israel’s colonial Wall and settlements were contrary to international law – at a time when Palestinians were still reeling from Israel’s violent take over of cities and refugee camps in the occupied West Bank in 2002. This factor was the direct trigger for the BDS Call a year later.

Rights-Based Approach

The BDS Call identifies the fundamental rights that correspond to the three main segments of the indigenous people of Palestine. Based on international law and universal principles of human rights, the Call urges various forms of boycott against Israel until it fully complies with its obligations under international law by:

  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

The BDS Call, signed by over 170 Palestinian organizations, political parties, trade union federations, and mass movements, expresses the collective aspirations of the Palestinian people by asserting that only the fulfillment of the Call’s three basic demands would satisfy the minimal requirements for the people of Palestine to exercise the inalienable right to self determination.

The BDS Call has laid “the predicate” for transcending the failed official Palestinian policy of reducing Palestinian rights to the attainment of a Bantustan under Israel’s overall control.

It presents a popular Palestinian response to the incessant concessions by the so-called leadership over basic rights. Palestinian officials, lacking a democratic mandate and running after the trappings of power, narrow economic interests, and privilege, have through years of a US-Israeli designed and managed “peace process” effectively surrendered the right of return as it is defined by the UN; accepted Israel’s occupation and colonization of key parts of the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem; expunged the 1948 Palestinians, citizens of Israel, from the very definition of the Palestinian people, indirectly legitimizing Israeli apartheid; forsaken the moral high ground by accepting a symmetry between the “claims of both sides;” and played along Israel’s public relations campaign of portraying its colonial conflict with the Palestinian people as merely one over some disputed land.

By avoiding the prescription of any particular political formula, the BDS Call insists, instead, on the necessity of including the three basic, irreducible rights above in any just and legal solution. It presents a platform that not only unifies Palestinians everywhere in the face of accelerating fragmentation but also appeals to international civil society by evoking the same universal principles of freedom, justice and equal rights that were upheld by the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and the civil rights movement in the United States, among many others.

In this way, the BDS movement has dragged Israel and its well-financed lobby groups onto a battlefield where the moral clarity of the Palestinian struggle for self determination, justice, freedom and equality neutralizes — even outweighs — Israel’s military power and financial prowess. BDS is the classic right over might paradigm, with the international public increasingly recognizing that Israel’s criminality and impunity place a moral burden on all people of conscience to act fast, and with effectiveness, political suaveness and nuance.

Collective Palestinian Leadership and Reference

In 2008, the formation of the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the BNC, created a unified Palestinian referenceand guiding force for the global BDS movement. The BNC is a broad coalition of leading Palestinian political parties, unions, coalitions and networks representing the three integral parts of the people of Palestine: Palestinian refugees; Palestinians in the occupied West Bank (including Jerusalem) and Gaza Strip; and Palestinian citizens of Israel. (5)

An important component of the BDS Call that is often overlooked is the unambiguous invitation to conscientious Israelis to support the Call, recognizing the important role anti-colonialist, anti-racist – i.e., anti-Zionist — Israelis can and ought to play in ending Israel’s criminal impunity and apartheid.

A fast growing group of principled Jewish-Israeli supporters of BDS fully recognizes this Palestinian reference. (6) Some Zionist “left” voices, on the other hand, have recently presented their own versions of “BDS,” after the movement started having a palpable impact on the western mainstream. In several instances, these voices have ignored or undermined the Palestinian BDS Call and leadership as the reference for the global movement, in an attempt to project themselves as an alternative, Israel-centered reference. Their ultimate objectives are clear: salvaging their lost, unwarranted agency and inflated sense of entitlement to speak on behalf of the Palestinians; forestalling any challenges to Israel’s system of apartheid and denial of refugee rights by circumscribing Palestinian rights to the “ending the occupation” in return for dropping “all claims” paradigm; and restraining solidarity initiatives to conform to their selective and ideologically motivated agendas.

As in the struggle against South African apartheid, genuine solidarity movements recognize and follow the lead of the oppressed, who are not passive objects but active, rational subjects that are asserting their aspirations and rights as well as their strategy to realize them. (7)

Moral Consistency and Context-Specific Strategies

The BDS Call builds on many Palestinian and international initiatives for boycotting Israel and/or divesting from it, particularly since the UN Conference Against Racism in Durban in 2001. Whereas moral consistency and commitment to universal human rights are the overriding principles of the global BDS movement, operationally, BDS is based on three basic principles: context sensitivity, gradualness, and sustainability. Conscientious academics, intellectuals, human rights activists and civil society organizations in any given country, the movement recognizes, know best how to apply BDS most effectively in their particular circumstances, taking into consideration their respective political realities, constraints and potential.

Several BDS recommendations were adopted at a civil society forum held in Bilbao, the Basque Country (Spain), in November 2008, with the participation of tens of Palestinian, European and Israeli progressive organizations endorsing BDS. (8) Some of these recommendations are included in the following BDS campaign priorities, which reflect the collective experiences in the BDS movement since its inception in 2005:

  1. Promoting a general boycott of all Israeli products and services until Israel fully complies with its obligations under international law; (9)
  2. Promoting a boycott of all Israeli academic, cultural and tourist institutions that are complicit in maintaining the Israeli occupation and apartheid regime.  (10) This demands raising awareness among academics, artists and cultural workers about the role these institutions have played in perpetuating injustice and colonial oppression;
  3. Implementing ethical investment principles by trade unions, faith-based organizations, local councils and national pension funds, among others, by divesting from Israel Bonds and from all companies, banks and other financial institutions that profit from or are otherwise complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian rights. Major Christian Palestinian figures recently issued “A Moment of Truth,” a document by the Palestine Kairos group calling on churches around the world “to say a word of truth and to take a position of truth” and explicitly endorsing BDS “as tools of justice, peace and security;”  (11)
  4. Promoting divestment from and/or a realistic boycott of products of companies — whether Israeli or international — that are implicated in violations of international law and human rights, such as Elbit Systems, BAE, Veolia, Alstom, Eden Springs, Agrexco-Carmel, Ahava, Lev Leviev Diamonds, Motorola, Caterpillar, among others;
  5. Promoting ethical pilgrimage to the Holy Land by directly benefiting Palestinian hotels, restaurants, coach services, guides, etc., denying Israel, its airlines and its apartheid institutions the lucrative revenues that accrue from such pilgrimage;
  6. Applying public pressure to ostracize the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and deny it its current legal status in most western countries as a tax exempt, charitable organization;
  7. Lobbying local councils and regional governments to strictly apply domestic and international laws which urge them to preclude from public contracts companies that are involved in “grave misconduct,” especially at the human rights level;
  8. Applying effective pressure on public officials and political parties to heed Amnesty International’s call for an immediate arms embargo on all parties of the “conflict;”  (12)
  9. Calling for an immediate suspension of all free-trade and other preferential trade agreements with Israel due to its violations of international law and Palestinian rights;  (13)
  10. Applying pressure for the immediate and unconditional implementation of the recommendations included in the Goldstone Report, adopted by the UN Human Rights Council and backed by the UN General Assembly and almost every major international human rights organization, to hold Israel accountable for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In challenging Israel’s oppression, the global BDS campaign does not call for Israel to be treated according to higher or lower standards than those that apply to any other state committing similar crimes and violations of international law. Although Israel is by no means the most atrocious offender around the world, it is the only ongoing offender that has constantly been treated as an honorary member of the Western club of “democracies,” with the Holocaust cynically — and quite irrelevantly — summoned as a smokescreen to cover up this collusion. The virtually unparalleled state of exceptionalism and impunity that Israel enjoys today allows it to pursue its agenda of apartheid, ethnic cleansing and slow-genocide against the indigenous people of Palestine without any regard to international law or concern about possible punitive measures for violating it. As some progressive Jewish intellectuals have stated recently, “Never Again!” must always be understood to mean: never again to anyone.  (14)

Western civil society carries a unique responsibility to hold Israel accountable to international law due to the incomparable level of complicity of Western governments in sustaining Israel’s system of colonial and racial oppression through vast diplomatic, economic, academic, cultural and political support – all in the name of Western citizens and using their tax money. Deep complicity engenders profound moral responsibility. While several Arab regimes – including parts of the Palestinian Authority – are also colluding in the implementation of the Israeli-US agenda in the region, their impact is considerably less significant that that of Western states in sustaining Israel’s three-tiered system of oppression. (15)

Collusion and moral duty aside, the responsibility to promote and support the BDS campaign against Israel also derives from common interest. While the US and other Western states fund Israel’s endless wars and system of apartheid to the tune of billions of dollars every year, millions of children in the West are still left behind in substandard housing, inadequate or non-existent health care, poor education and an establishment that effectively disenfranchises them when they grow up from effectively participating in the democratic political process. A progressive transformation in US and European Union (EU) priorities from directing these nations’ great human and material resources into wars and imperial hegemony on the international scene to investing in universal health care, dignified housing, a school system that is conducive to critical and contextual learning and development, decent jobs, and reversing the fatal damage to the environment, is not only good on its own merits for the peoples of the West; it is also great for the world — for Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Latin America, Africa, and, most certainly, Palestine.

The global BDS movement for Palestinian rights presents a progressive, anti racist, sustainable, moral and effective form of civil, non-violent resistance for Palestinian human rights that is also fast becoming one of the key political catalysts and moral anchors for a strengthened, reinvigorated international social movement capable of ending the law of the jungle and upholding in its stead the rule of law, reaffirming the rights of all humans to freedom, equality and dignified living.

Indeed, BDS may well prove to be the most powerful form of popular Palestinian resistance ever.

Notes:

  1. http://www.aipac.org/Publications/SpeechesByAIPACLeadership/HowardKohr.pdf
  2. http://bdsmovement.net/?q=node/52
  3. For an in-depth analysis of Israel’s apartheid and colonial system see the strategic position paper published by the BDS National Committee (BNC), titled “United Against Apartheid, Colonialism and Occupation,” October 2008: http://bdsmovement.net/files/English-BNC_Position_Paper-Durban_Review.pdf
  4. For more on the systematic forcible displacement of the Palestinians see: Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Oneworld. (Oxford: 2007).
  5. BNC members include: Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine, General Union of Palestinian Workers, Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), Palestinian National Council for NGOs, Federation of Independent Trade Unions, Global Palestine Right of Return Coalition, Occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan Heights Initiative, General Union of Palestinian Women, Union of Palestinian Farmers, Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (STW), National Committee for Popular Resistance, Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba, Civic Coalition for the Defense of Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ), Coalition for Jerusalem, Union of Palestinian Charitable Organizations, Palestinian Economic Monitor, Union of Youth Activity Centers-Palestine Refugee Camps.
  6. See, for example: http://boycottisrael.info/ and http://www.alternativenews.org/
  7. The Cairo Declaration, produced and endorsed by representatives of solidarity groups from more than 40 countries who protested in Egypt as part of the Gaza Freedom March, provides a distinguished example of such principled solidarity: http://cairodeclaration.org/
  8. http://www.bdsmovement.net/?q=node/213
  9. For arguments against strategically restricting the boycott to “settlement products” see: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article9948.shtml
  10. For more on the academic boycott see: http://www.PACBI.org. Also a recent study published by the Alternative Information Center documents many aspects of the complicity of the Israeli academy in Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people: http://alternativenews.org/publications/econoccupation/2223-the-economy-of-the-occupation-23-24-academic-boycott-of-israel.html
  11. http://www.kairospalestine.ps/sites/default/Documents/English.pdf
  12. Regardless of the valid criticism against Amnesty’s morally and legally flawed equation between the occupying power on the one hand and the people under occupation and their resistance movement on the other, this call still includes a ban on arms trade with Israel and on shipping arms to Israel through any country’s ports and airspace.
  13. The EU-Israel Association Agreement and the MERCOSUR-Israel FTA are high priority targets.
  14. See, for instance, Naomi Klein’s statements in this regard at a lecture last year in Ramallah covered by Haaretz –Yotam Feldman, Noami Klein: Oppose the State Not the People, Haaretz, 2 July 2009: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1097058.html
  15. The PA as an entity plays an indispensable role in legitimizing Israel’s claims and in whitewashing its violations of international law and war crimes. Gradually dissolving the PA and the democratic, bottom-up take over and reconstruction of the PLO to reinstitute it as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people everywhere, inclusive of all major national and Islamist political parties, would deny Israel its most valuable asset and help undermine its regime of oppression against the people of Palestine.

US churches vote on joining BDS movement targeting Israel

Published by the Guardian

United Church of Christ joins Boycott, Divest and Sanction campaign in protest at treatment of Palestinians, with two other denominations due to decide.

The international movement to boycott Israel over its treatment of Palestinians has received backing from one of the largest Protestant churches in the US, as two other major denominations prepare to vote on whether or not to divest money from the Jewish state.

The United Church of Christ’s general assembly on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly in favor of divesting funds at its synod in Cleveland. Further votes by the Episcopal Church and the Mennonite Church USA were expected on Tuesday night and Wednesday.

Inspired by the sanctions campaign against apartheid South Africa, the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) campaign, encourages organizations and institutions such as universities and churches to divest from Israel until “the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel” have been recognized.

Anna Baltzer, a Jewish American national organizer with the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, was in Cleveland for the UCC vote.

“To me it’s very symbolic to see that this is not one church, this is not two churches, this is churches of the United States moving on this issue,” Baltzer said. “And in some it might take a few more years, it did for all those who have voted so far, it took many years, but they got there and they will get there and the message is clear that things have changed in this country.”

She said that organizations that support divestment show solidarity with Palestinian people. “It sends a message to our US leaders that they should stand on the right side of history because things are changing quickly in this country and we can see it as high up as mainstream US churches,” Baltzer said.

The United Church of Christ, a Protestant denomination with around a million members, unanimously approved a divestment resolution on Sunday night, but it did not become official until the general assembly voted in favor of divestment on Tuesday. The General Synod voted 508-124 in favor of divestment, 38 people abstained from the vote.

Rev James Moos, executive minister of UCC Wider Church Ministries and co-executive of Global Ministries, said that the vote was representative of the church’s commitment to peace in the Middle East.

“The United Church of Christ condemns all forms of violence and antisemitism, and affirms Israel’s right to exist within secure and internationally recognized borders,” Moos said in a statement. “We similarly assert the right of Palestinians to have a sovereign, independent and viable state within secure and recognized borders.”

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told the AP that the UCC’s vote “in no way reflect a moral stance or reality-based position”.

“People of faith ought to be acting to help Israel and the Palestinians to renew efforts to achieve peace, rather than endlessly demonizing one party in the conflict – in our view, the aggrieved party,” Nahshon said.

It has been nearly 10 years since the BDS campaign began in July 2005. Some pro-Israel groups have said that the movement is motivated by antisemitism, though movement leaders deny those assertions.

The Episcopal Church, which has around two million members, is likely to vote on divestment resolutions at its general convention in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. The church’s presiding bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in 2012 that the church does not support divestment.

On Wednesday the smaller Mennonite Church USA – which has around 97,000 members – will vote on divestment at its national convention in Kansas City.

In June 2014 the largest Presbyterian group in the US narrowly voted to divest from Motorola Solutions, Caterpillar and Hewlett Packard because the multinational corporations supply Israel with goods.

Palestine seeks to charge Israel with ‘apartheid’ and war crimes at the Hague

Published by Mondoweiss

Palestinian leaders seek to charge Israel at the International Criminal Court in The Hague with the crime of “Apartheid” and 22 other criminal counts, including seven war crimes. A thick set of documents containing evidence and arguments was ceremoniously handed over to the ICC today at its headquarters, according to Shawan Jabarin, the director of the Palestinian human rights group Al Haq.

Jabarin said he had seen the documents in Ramallah and that the case file covers three areas of Israeli violations under international law: the summer war in Gaza in 2014, settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and issues relating to Palestinian prisoners. Most of the pages are of “legal analysis and legal arguments” he said, in which Palestinians gave technical explanations to the court for how Israel broke specific regulations. 

The dossier is organized into sections, one for each of the 23 counts against Israel. Aside from asserting that Israel has violated the United Nations definition of “Apartheid,” Jabarin said the report also names specific crimes such as the “targeting of civilians” in Gaza, and violations of rights to due process for Palestinian detainees held in Israeli prisons who are then prosecuted under Israeli military code. 

Military courts boast a 99.9% conviction rate and trials last an average of five minutes. Palestinians rights groups say these courts violate their fundamental rights to a fair trial. Additionally, Israel transfers Palestinians from the occupied territory to a number of prisons inside Israel in what the Palestinian brief argues is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  

The evidence used to support each of the Palestinian claims is sourced from field investigations by the Palestinian government, and reports published by the human rights groups Al Haq, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Surprisingly Jabarin indicated the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) report published Sunday outlining “possible war crimes” committed by Israel and Hamas was not included, despite Palestinian leaders stating repeatedly over the past few months that they would courier a copy to the ICC. Even so, the court has the ability to solicit their own research materials including ordering the UN report. 

For the moment Palestinian officials are keeping quiet on the details. Jabarin’s account represents the most substantial clues as to what charges Palestine will seek against Israel. And while he was confident about what he had seen in the file, he noted that he had not read the entire file, and it may contain further charges.

“It’s not for public view,” Ashraf Khatib, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and an advisor to the negotiations team, told me. “We wanted to have an exclusive report made for the ICC.” Another source close to the Palestinian government indicated a directive had gone out to not disclose the contents of the brief. 

“Who is charged, it’s up to the court,” said Khatib. “The idea is to make sure Israel and Israeli decision makers will not commit more crimes like the ones that took place in Gaza last year.”

Last winter after Palestine joined the ICC, its leaders sought to compel the ICC to look into war crimes committed by Israel. However, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was barred at that time from calling for a criminal investigation. His hands were tied by a four-month waiting period for new members to the court.

All the same, Palestinian officials exploited a loophole in the ICC rules to initiate a “preliminary inquiry” against Israel within their first months of joining the ICC. Now that freeze against filing charges against Israel has elapsed, Palestinian officials hope that their documents turned over to the court today will upgrade the inquiry into a full investigation, giving the court the power to summons Israeli officials for a trial. 

Yet there is no guarantee that the court will charge Israel, and Israel can still take actions that would immobilize The Hague. 

The ICC can only move to charge Israel once its internal war crimes investigations closes. The ICC does not prosecute countries or leaders who are sanctioned by their own legal systems. Right now, Israel still has a handful of cases open that could lead to indictments. 

On the other hand, prosecution in the ICC could be nearing for Hamas for the alleged war crimes it committed during the war, including the targeting of civilians by rocket fire and the killings of so-called collaborators. The UN Human Rights Council report revealed the Islamic movement that rules Gaza does not have any system of internal review, which is the only mechanism that could outright block the ICC from opening charges. As a result, Hamas is currently more exposed to the long arm of the ICC than Israel.

UK actors, directors and writers demand immediate sanctions on Israel

Published by the Palestine News Network

Actors, authors, academics and architects have today called on the UK government to push for immediate sanctions on Israel until it abides by international law and ends its occupation of Palestinian land. 

They join other big names from the world of film and rock music, as well as 20,000 members of the public, who have signed a petition which will be delivered at the Houses of Parliament today.

The film directors, Ken Loach and Peter Kosminsky, actors Maxine Peake, Samuel West and Miriam Margolyes, musician Brian Eno, poet Benjamin Zephaniah and the writers and academics, Tariq Ali and Karma Nabulsi, are among those* who have put their name to the call.

Will Alsop OBE, the RIBA award winning architect, another signatory, said: “‘I have signed the petition as I object to the people in the Gaza Strip being forced to live in a prison camp.”

Miriam Margolyes OBE, who played Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter films, said: “To my immense sadness, I feel bound to sign the petition calling for sanctions against Israel.

“Netanyahu is clearly committed to the continuation of the occupation, the settlements and the blatant flouting of UN resolutions. Only international sanctions can perhaps percolate the Israeli sensibility and persuade them to halt the wickedness they perpetrate.”

Explaining his reasons for adding his name to the petition, the film director Ken Loach said: “We should no longer accept Israel’s brazen flouting of international law, theft of Palestinian land and oppression of the Palestinian people. When political leaders tolerate such brutality, civil society must take action. That means an international campaign of boycotts, disinvestments and sanctions to show the Israeli government that it cannot act in this manner with impunity.”

The petition has been organised by Palestine Solidarity Campaign, an organisation dedicated to campaigning for human rights and justice, in response to the hardline attitude of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his Cabinet, whose members have been vocal in voicing their opposition to a Palestinian state.*

Hugh Lanning, Chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: “One day before he was re-elected in March, Netanyahu stood in an illegal Israeli settlement and gave a televised interview in which he made it clear there would never be a Palestinian state on his watch.

“Since the election, members of his Cabinet have stated explicitly that they will not give up an inch of land to the Palestinians, and new settlement building has been announced in East Jerusalem.

“It is clear that this Israeli government, like others before it, has no commitment to international law or any kind of ‘peace process’. It is now imperative that our government pushes the EU to impose immediate sanctions on Israel, including a full two-way arms embargo.

“The Palestinians deserve a future free from occupation, apartheid and, in Gaza, crippling siege. The imposition of sanctions by our government and the EU will go a long way to achieving this.”

Lanning will join Richard Burden MP, Chair of the Britain-Palestine All Party Group, Haya Al-Farra from the Palestinian Mission in the UK, and Sarah Colborne, Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, to deliver the petition to the office of the Prime Minister.

The hand-in will take place at 2.15pm on 23rd June, during PSC’s National Lobby of Parliament for Palestine, during which up to 168 MPs will be lobbied by constituents on the subject of Palestine.

*Signatories to the petition include: Tariq Ali (writer, journalist, filmmaker), Will Alsop (architect), Jonathan Chadwick (theatre director, writer), Selma Dabbagh (writer),Brian Eno (musician),Peter Kosminsky (writer, director, producer), Paul Laverty (lawyer, scriptwriter),Ken Loach (director), Miriam Margolyes (actor), Karma Nabulsi (writer, academic), Maxine Peake (actor), Alexei Sayle (comedian, writer, presenter), Ahdaf Soueif (writer, commentator), Samuel West (actor), Benjamin Zephaniah (poet, writer, musician).

The bigger picture of the Negev’s Um al-Hiran

By Nadim Nashif and Dalal Hilou, published by the Huffington Post

For the past 60 years, Arab Palestinian Bedouin populations in the Negev desert in southern Israel have struggled to simply stay on their land in the face of discrimination and the threat of displacement. For residents of Umm al-Hiran in the southern Naqab — the Arabic term for the Negev — time is running out on a 12-year legal battle against demolition.

The fate of Umm al-Hiran matters to us at Baladna-Association of Arab Youth, just as it matters for the rest of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. We account for 20 percent of Israel’s population, yet our ability to build and live on our land is just one of the many rights being violated by successive Israeli governments, as documented by many human rights organizations, such as Adalah — The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

The inhabitants of present-day Umm al-Hiran were moved there by the Israeli military in 1956, eight years after the Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948, during which 700,000 Palestinians were driven from their lands. Towards the end of the 1960s, Israel adopted a policy of relocating Bedouins into seven towns established by the Israeli government, and 11 recognized villages, in order to clear the way for the development of Jewish-only communities and the infrastructure to support them. Several Bedouin communities, like Umm al-Hiran, refused to accept Israeli offers of land in the established townships designed for them. Umm al-Hiran’s government-issued lease to the land formed a basis for legal contestation against eviction and demolition orders issued in 2003 and 2004. The only move the villagers are willing to make is back to their ancestral lands to live next to the kibbutz since established there.

Umm al-Hiran is not alone in its struggle. Dozens of the Bedouin villages in the Negev are unrecognized by the state of Israel. For decades, these unrecognized villages have struggled on a day-to-day basis as well as within the court system for basic entitlements like electricity, water, enrollment at nearby schools, and for the construction of amenities such as playgrounds, parks and cemeteries. Arab Bedouin villages are collectively the poorest communities in Israel. There are few elementary schools and no high schools in the villages, access to health services is very difficult, and most villages are not accessible by paved roads. Even one of the largest villages, Wadi al-Na’am, does not have public transport, emergency services, or a high school despite its more than 10,000 inhabitants.

On May 5, 2015, Umm al-Hiran reached the end of the appeals process when the Israeli court system condemned the village to destruction. A Jewish-Israeli settlement named Hiran will be built in its place, and national-religious families wishing to live there will be provided with government subsidies.

Nearby Al-Araqib village has engaged in another form of non-violent resistance by rebuilding after demolition. Umm al-Hiran has a unique legal status among Bedouin villages in the Negev, but for villages like Al-Araqib, rebuilding is the only means they have to remain on their land: Al-Araqib villagers have faced intentional destruction of meager infrastructure and their entire community of homes around 83 times in five years. Yet they have rebuilt each time. Then in early May, the Israeli State sued Al-Araqib for $500,000 to cover Israel’s demolition costs. The persecution is relentless.

What is happening in Umm al-Hiran and Al-Araqib is also happening in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and in Arab towns in Israel, such as Dahmash and Kafr Kana. In a striking parallel, the West Bank village of Khirbet Susiya in Area C could be destroyed at any time, rendering its inhabitants homeless and making way for a Jewish settlement. Like many other unrecognized villages in Area C of the West Bank, its structures have already been demolished several times.

The State of Israel’s systematic policies have for decades perpetuated a pattern of displacement and discrimination that squeezes the Palestinian population into smaller and smaller confines of land. In other words, the ethnic cleansing of the Nakba lives on to this day.

The resettlement strategy for the Negev met a setback in 2013 when the infamous Prawer Plan was shelved, due in part to widespread protests and international criticism. The proposed bill aimed to forcibly evict tens of thousands of Bedouins and demolish dozens of villages. Young people organized demonstrations across the Palestinian territories and human rights groups coordinated international solidarity actions to put a stop to the plan. Yet, although it was put aside, the intentions of the Plan are still being carried out on a smaller and more discreet scale through home demolitions.

Although legal avenues of resistance have been exhausted by Umm al-Hiran, protest marches have already begun. If these are to succeed, their demands must be echoed in the world’s capitals, by governments and the international solidarity movement. Home demolitions, forcible displacement and dispossession are forms of ongoing ethnic cleansing. They continue to be among the most pressing Palestinian issues today and must be stopped.

Nadim Nashif is a Policy Member of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network and Director of Baladna: The Association for Arab Youth. Dalal Hillou is a Palestinian-American with a passion for law and social justice, and is currently interning at Baladna: The Association for Arab Youth

Palestinian jailed by Israel could die, says family

By Patrick Strickland

Published by Aljazeera

Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan’s family is worried for his life as he continues his already weeks-long hunger strike in protest against his imprisonment by Israel.

Adnan, who launched on an indefinite hunger strike on April 6, was placed under medical supervision at a clinic in Israel’s Ramla prison earlier this month.

“We are very concerned about his health right now,” his wife Randa told Al Jazeera. “It’s getting much worse. We know that he could die if something isn’t done quickly.”

As his health deteriorates, Adnan is refusing to undergo medical tests or take vitamins, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Society.

“We’ve been told he cannot stand on his own or walk and that he’s shackled to the hospital bed,” Randa explained. “There are guards watching him at all times.”

Adnan was arrested last July when soldiers took him from his home in Arrabeh, a Palestinian town in the northern West Bank. For the 10th time in his life, he was placed under administrative detention, a practise in which Israel holds Palestinians on “secret evidence” for renewable six-month intervals without trial or charges.

An estimated 426 Palestinians in Israeli lock-up are currently being held as administrative detainees, according to the Ramallah-based Addameer Prisoner Support Network.

Since that time, Randa and her four children have applied several times for Israeli permits to visit him in prison, but they have been denied on “security” grounds.

Randa dismisses Israel’s claim that her husband is a threat to that country’s security, arguing that “anyone that speaks out against the occupation is a target, especially influential people like Khader who are supported and loved by many”.

“My husband is supported by people from every political party, including Hamas, Fatah, and Islamic Jihad. Even people who aren’t politically active have protested in solidarity with him,” Randa continued. “But the Palestinian Authority has only released statements. We don’t want statements – we want action.”

First imprisoned in 1999 for membership in the Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian political party considered illegal by Israel, Adnan’s activism has landed him in both Israeli and PA prisons.  

Back in 2011, however, he became an icon of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement when he launched a 66-day hunger strike against his administrative detention that concluded with his release.

His 2012 strike, during which Randa says he nearly died, sparked a series of hunger strikes culminating in a mass hunger strike that drew the participation of more than 2,000 prisoners in Israeli jails.

In exchange for an end to the collective strike in April 2012, Israeli authorities were forced to agree to a number of the prisoners’ demands, including access to education, improved living conditions, more family visits for Gaza prisoners, and the use of administrative detention being limited to rare cases.

Yet Israeli authorities have since continued to use administrative detention on a regular basis and have sought various ways to crack down on hunger strikers.

Although administrative detention is permitted under international law if there are “imperative reasons of security”, Human Rights Watch researcher Sarah Saadoun says Israel “seems to exploit the exception as a routine way to avoid taking criminal suspects to trial”.

“According to human rights law, you have the right to know the reasons for your arrest and an opportunity to challenge the accusations made against you, as well as the right to a speedy trial,” Saadoun told Al Jazeera.

On Sunday, the Israeli cabinet approved a draft of a bill that, if passed by the Knesset, will enable the Israel Prison Service to force-feed hunger strikers.

Various versions of the bill have been floated in the past, but the current text stipulates that force-feeding orders will require the approval of a judge who is circuit president or deputy president.

“Security prisoners would like to see hunger strikes become a new sort of suicide bombing to threaten the state of Israel,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who proposed the bill, said Sunday.

“We won’t allow anyone to threaten us and we won’t allow prisoners to die in our prisons,” he added.

Israel’s attempts to legalise force-feeding have met with sharp criticism. In 2014, as the Knesset considered a similar bill, the World Medical Association said the practise is “tantamount to torture” in a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Amany Dayif, director of prisoners’ affairs for Physicians for Human Rights Israel, says the group’s doctors have only been allowed to visit Adnan once since he began hunger strike.

“He already has worrying symptoms caused by the hunger strike,” she told Al Jazeera. “He has been refusing examinations by the Israel Prison Service or public hospital doctors … and has refused vitamins and minerals that hunger strikers usually take.”

Regarding the proposed force-feeding bill, Dayif says that Israel has reintroduced it at a “strategic time”, adding that Ahmad Saadat, secretary-general of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, has also threatened to launch his own hunger strike if Israeli authorities continue to deny him access to family visits.

“We think the bill is likely to pass, particularly if Saadat and others join in a mass hunger strike,” Dayif commented. “We hope that if the bill passes, it will remain only ink on paper and not implemented by doctors.”

Israel Prison Service did not respond to a request to comment on the impending bill or Adnan’s declining health.

Meanwhile, Randa Adnan says her husband is committed to continuing his hunger strike until Israeli authorities charge him with an offence or release him. “Of course we are very worried about him, but if he dies it is God’s will. He wouldn’t be the first martyr or the last. We support him.”

explained. “There are guards watching him at all times.”

Detained Lawyer, Shireen al-‘Eesawy, Declares Hunger Strike

Published by International Middle East Media Centre

Imprisoned Palestinian lawyer, Shireen al-‘Eesawy, from occupied Jerusalem, and held in solitary confinement in the Ramla Israeli prison, has declared, Tuesday, an open-ended hunger strike.

The Palestinian Detainees’ Radio said al-‘Eesawy is demanding her right to family visits, in addition to being granted access to her clothes and belongings, including a mattress to sleep on, instead of the thin rubber mattress provided to her.

Al-‘Eesawy is also demanding to be allowed certain electrical equipment such as radio, TV and a fan due to excessive heat, in addition to having her Canteen account reopened, as Israel closed it after moving her into solitary confinement.

It is worth mentioning that the Israeli Prison Authority transferred the detained lawyer from the HaSharon Prison to solitary confinement in Neve Tirtza Prison, after accusing her of “inciting other detainees against the soldiers in prison.”

The Prison Authority also removed four female detainees from solitary confinement, after holding them for a week, when they intervened after an Israeli prison guard attacked detainee Ehsan Dababsa.

Al-‘Eesawy was kidnapped on June 3 2014; she is the sister of detainees Samer and Midhat al-‘Eesawy.

Israel issues administrative detention orders to eight Palestinians

Published by Wafa

The Israeli military court of Ofer Tuesday issued administrative detention orders against eight Palestinian prisoners, said the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club (PPC).

PPC said that three prisoners from Hebron received detention orders without charge or trial for a period of four months. They were identified as Hani Masalmeh, Khalil Abu Dwaish, and Rami al-Salamin.

Majd al-Sa’adi, from Jerusalem, and Yousif Salhab received similar sentences.

Meanwhile, Nimr Damj, from Jenin refugee camp, and Mohammed Abu Joma’a, from Jericho, received a three months detention sentence, while Mousa Ala’a Eddin, a resident of Jerusalem, received two months.

Under administrative detention, prisoners are held without charge or trial and for indefinite and renewable period of time.

The use of administrative detention dates from the “emergency laws” of the British colonial era in Palestine. Israel uses administrative detention routinely as a form of collective punishment and mass detention of Palestinians, and frequently uses administrative detention when it fails to obtain confessions in interrogations of Palestinian detainees.

According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, “Israel’s use of administrative detention blatantly violates the restrictions of international law. Israel carries it out in a highly classified manner that denies detainees the possibility of mounting a proper defense. Moreover, the detention has no upper time limit.”

“Over the years, Israel has placed thousands of Palestinians in administrative detention for prolonged periods of time, without trying them, without informing them of the charges against them, and without allowing them or their counsel to examine the evidence,” B’Tselem reports.

Palestinian detainees have continuously resorted to open-ended hunger strikes as a way to protest their illegal administrative detention and to demand an end to this policy which violates international law.

To be noted, several Palestinian prisoners, including senior Hamas official Khader Adnan, are currently on a hunger strike to protest their illegal detention without charge or trial.

Meanwhile, Israeli military courts have renewed the detention orders of around 55 prisoners, for different periods of time, under the pretext of completing investigations and judicial proceedings.

Khader Adnan: ‘The more they torture me, the more determined I become’

Published by Ma’an News Agency

Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan, who is now on his 42nd day on hunger strike against the Israeli practice of administrative detention, said Tuesday that “the more [the Israelis] torture me, the stronger and more determined I become.”

Adnan, 37, made the comments to the chief lawyer of the Palestinian prisoner’s society Jawad Bulous, who was visiting him at Israel’s Assaf Harofeh medical center.

Bulous said that “new dangerous symptoms” had appeared indicating that Adnan’s health has seriously deteriorated. “He suffers severe pains all over his body with blue spots on his shoulder and clear speaking problems.”

Bulous said that despite Adnan’s sufferings, there has so far been no discussion about his case, although he said officers from the Israeli prison service visited Adnan on Monday to see how dangerous his condition was. “Despite his complaints about detention conditions in hospital, wardens made these conditions worse by fixing a curtain at the outer door of his room and three wardens were sent to his room while his hand and his leg were tied to his bed,” said Bulous.

Adnan also told the lawyer that a delegation representing the International Committee of the Red Cross had attempted to visit him several days ago, but that they cancelled the visit after Israeli officers insisted on attending and keeping Adnan tied to the bed.

On Friday, the director of the prisoner’s society, Rafat Hamduna, said that Adnan’s weight was dropping to dangerous levels and he was no longer able to stand up or move.Adnan, a father of six children, was detained on July 8, 2014 and sentenced to administrative detention for the 10th time in his life.

Palestinians held in administrative detention can be held without charge or trial for months or years, and are denied access to the evidence that led to their detention.

In an open letter released last month, Adnan wrote that the goal of his strike is to resist Israel and prevent it from tarnishing the achievement of prisoners who secured their freedom by going on hunger strikes in the past, only to be rearrested by military forces.In 2012, Adnan took part in a 66-day hunger strike against his detention without trial or charge. The agreement that released him on April 18 of that year also ended a hunger strike of 2,000 Palestinian prisoners, who had called for an end to administrative detention.

Despite Israel’s agreement to the demand at the time, around 500 Palestinians are currently being held under administrative detention, out of a total of nearly 6,000 Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons.