Archive for 09/02/2010

Narratives Under Siege (14): Gaza’s 700 Stranded Students

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, IDF, Israel, Israel politics, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Siege, War crimes on 09/02/2010 by 3071km

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Date Published:February 10, 2010

Source: The Palestine Telegraph

Hadeel Abu Kwaik is one of 7 students whose Fulbright scholarships were recently withdrawn, then swiftly reinstated by the US State Dept. But almost 700 other students remain stranded in Gaza

Three days ago, on 1 June, Hadeel Abu Kwaik was sitting in her computer lab at Al-Azhar University in Gaza looking worried, and perplexed. Today, having just been told her Fulbright scholarship has been reinstated, she says she is “Happy but still worried. I’m still not sure we will [all] be able to leave for the US.”

Hadeel is one of seven Gaza students who, on 29 May, all received letters from the US Consulate in Jerusalem, informing them that their Fulbright scholarship applications would not be finalised. The US consulate letter gave no reason for the sudden withdrawing of the 7 scholarships: instead all seven students, three women and four men, were “Strongly encouraged” to re-apply for the same Fulbright scholarships the following year, and assured they would receive “Priority consideration.”

The withdrawing of these Fulbright scholarships caused international uproar, momentarily focusing the world’s attention on the plight of the seven Gaza Strip students. US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice intervened, saying she was “Surprised” by the decision, and adding “If you cannot engage young people and give complete horizons to their expectations and their dreams, I don’t know that there will be any future for Palestine. We will take a look.”

In the face of mounting criticism from both within the US and Israel, the US State Department swiftly reinstated the seven Fulbright scholarships, and on 2 June assured the students they were “working closely” with Israeli officials to secure permits for the students to leave Gaza. Hadeel is now waiting to travel to Jerusalem, where she will be interviewed at the US Consulate in order to secure her US visa. Then she will return to Gaza in order to prepare for her departure at the end of summer. She hopes to study her MBA in software engineering at Minnesota University.

For the mainstream press, this story “moved quickly” and has now concluded with a positive ending for the Gaza Fulbright seven. But hundreds of other Palestinian students remain stranded inside the Gaza Strip, and the number is expected to rise this summer. According to data from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), almost 700 Palestinian students are still waiting to leave Gaza in order to pursue studies, and scholarships, abroad. “This number will increase within the next month, after the schools announce their exam results and Gaza students want to move onto universities” says Khalil Shaheen, a senior PCHR researcher. “All of these students are stranded inside the Gaza Strip because of the Israeli siege and closure, and they are being denied their rights to pursue their education, and their futures.”

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights both explicitly confirm the rights of all people to freely travel to and from their own state. The Israeli closure of the Gaza Strip, which is about to enter its third year, is systematically and deliberately destroying the Gazan economy, its health and education services, and crushing the future of its people. Gazan students who want to pursue specialist education abroad, many of whom intend to return to Gaza afterwards and assist in rebuilding their country, are being denied this right because Israel remains intent on its illegal policy of collective punishment. An Israeli human rights organization, GISHA, has just gone to the Israeli Supreme Court to petition for 2 Gaza students, Wissam Abuajwa and Nibal Nayef, to be permitted to leave Gaza and study their Masters in the UK and Germany.

Meanwhile, 29 year old Said Ahmad Said Al-Madhoun has been waiting more than a year to pursue his Master of Law abroad. After being awarded a fellowship by the Open Society Institute in January 2007, he was accepted onto a Masters program at the American University, Washington College of Law, but has been unable to reach the US. “I managed to get out of Gaza in December 2007 and to travel to the Egyptian border” says Said. “It was a complex journey – because of the closure we were forced to travel through Erez Crossing (in northern Gaza) and then via another Israeli crossing, at Kerem Shalom, to the Egyptian border. But I was turned back at the [Egyptian] border because I had no US visa.” Said could not obtain a US visa, because, like the vast majority of other Gazans, he is not permitted to travel to Jerusalem, where the US Consulate issues its visas. He attempted to leave Gaza once more in early January, and was turned back at the Egyptian border again. His academic career, and life, suspended, Said is still waiting. “This is so frustrating for me, and for all of us students in Gaza” he says wearily. “We want to work and to learn. We want to enjoy our freedom of movement. We want to determine our future.”

When Hadeel Abu Kwaik first heard that her Fulbright scholarship had been withdrawn, she said she felt angry and disappointed. “I wonder if Israel wants an educated neighbor or an angry one” she stated publicly. Like Said Al-Madhoun, Hadeel wants to pursue her studies overseas and then return to Gaza and work in her own community. Although she says she’s happy her Fulbright scholarships has been reinstated, she admits she is still worried about whether she will actually be able to leave Gaza, and her anxiety is clearly tainting her joy. “I won’t be relieved until we actually reach the United States (to start my studies),” she says.

 

Ref: PCHRGAZA.

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HRW: Israel failed to properly investigate Gaza war crimes

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, History, IDF, Israel, Israel politics, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Pictures, Siege, War crimes on 09/02/2010 by 3071km

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Date Published: February 9, 2010 

Source: The Palestine Telegraph

Human Rights Watch said Israel has failed to demonstrate that it will conduct an exhaustive and impartial investigation into violations of the laws of war by its troops during last year’s offensive on the Gaza Strip.

The organization added that there is a need for an independent investigation to hold accountable those who committed abuses, including senior military officials and politicians who set the policies.

Human Rights Watch interviewed lawyers from the Israeli army to discuss the situation. In the meantime, although Israel has investigated the allegations, officials did not provide any information showing that they can be fair and thorough, said HRW, or that it will change the decisions and policies of the leadership that led unlawfully to the death of civilians.

Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, said: “Israel claims that it was investigating credibly and fairly, but so far it has failed to prove this. There is a need for an independent investigation to understand why many civilians were killed in this manner, and to provide justice for victims of unlawful attacks.”

In one case, it appears that the military investigation did not pay attention to important evidence: the remains of a bomb found in the Al-Bader mill near Jabalya. According to the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza conflict, Israel denied targeting the mill from the air, despite the available videofootage obtained by Human Rights Watch showing what appeared to be the remains of a 500-pound MK 82 bomb.

Translated from WAFA

70% of Palestinian Youth Oppose Violence

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, History, IDF, Israel politics, Israeli politics, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Siege, War crimes on 09/02/2010 by 3071km

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Date Published: February 10, 2010

Source: The Palestine Telegraph

 More than 80 percent of young Palestinians are depressed and 47 percent identify themselves as Muslim rather than Palestinian, according to a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) report.The report, based on interviews with 1,200 Palestinians over the age of 17 from the West Bank and Gaza found that 39 percent were “extremely” depressed and 42 percent were depressed by their conditions. Depression was more marked in the Gaza Strip where 55 percent said they were “extremely” depressed.When asked to define their identity, 47 percent identified themselves as Muslims, 28 percent as Palestinians, 14 percent as humans and 10 percent as Arabs.The survey also revealed that the majority of Palestinian youth (69 percent) believe that the use of violence as a means to resolve the conflict is not very helpful, while only 8 percent believe it is an important tool.The survey of attitudes of Palestinian youth was part of a report, “The Mapping of Youth Organizations” commissioned by the UNDP and presented to a workshop designed to plan a strategy for youth development for the Palestinian Authority.Youth are exceptionally vulnerable to conflict, and unemployment rates for youth range from 35 percent in the West Bank to 51 percent in Gaza. UNDP commissioned the survey to understand the needs and expectations of youth organizations, levels of intervention, gaps to be filled, and set youth policies and strategies relevant to the needs of the Palestinian society and adopted by both the public and private sectors.

Is/was there a genocide in Palestine?

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, History, IDF, Israel, Israel politics, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, War crimes on 09/02/2010 by 3071km

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Date Published: February 8, 2010

Source: The palestine Telegraph, by Sameh Habeeb

 Having commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day with survivor Hajo Meyer and some other Jewish friends after a talk at Goldsmith University last week, it is clear to me that Palestinians have many common experiences with the survivors of the Holocaust.

Meyer’s imprisonment in the ghetto and ordeal at checkpoints is a stereotypical image in occupied Palestine. I was personally amazed to hear him admit that Palestinians’ suffering is close to that of the Holocaust. I was amazed because I heard it not from a Palestinian, but from a Jewish man who has suffered a lot.

For a long time, it has been widely argued that genocide has not been committed in Palestine. While some “left-leaning” media outlets say there was genocide, one that is still in progress, the Israeli narrative rejects the use of this term for the Palestinian experience. Without doubt, the Germans perpetrated genocide against the Jews in WWII. Around 6 million Jews were killed across Europe in an act that can never be tolerated by humanity. It was a huge crime.

There have, however, been genocides against many other people, such as the American Indians and the Armenians, which must also be remembered. Most of these genocides are on a smaller scale than the Holocaust, but surely the fact that genocide has occurred must be condemned no matter what the scale. Indeed, this seems to be the feeling of many Holocaust survivors themselves. They believe it is crucial to recognize, condemn and fight genocide wherever it is happening no matter whether it involves a few thousand or millions. 

The core question here is whether the Palestinians suffered genocide perpetrated by the government of Israel. Has Israel attempted to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from its land? Is the term genocide legally applicable? Readers must make their own judgment.

In 1944, Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin coined the word “genocide” by combining “geno,” from the Greek word for race or tribe, with “cide” from the Latin word for killing. He proposed that genocide consists of “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.”

Has this happened in Palestine? According to the history of the founding of Israel, thousands of violent actions have been committed against one group of people: Palestinians. More than 535 villages were destroyed, thousands of residents were massacred and around 800,000 people were driven from their homes by force or fear of force. This process is described by Israeli historian Ilan Pappé and others as ‘the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.’ If genocide is essentially the annihilation of a group, surely this is genocide.

On Dec. 9, 1948, the United Nations approved the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This convention establishes “genocide” as an international crime, which signatory nations “undertake to prevent and punish.” It defines genocide this way:  Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group:

Killing members of the group.
In 1948, thousands of Palestinians were exterminated by terrorist Jewish groups like the Stern, Haganah and Irgun. Other villagers were told to leave or they would be killed. The Deir Yassin massacre took place on April 9, 1948. More than 100 villagers, including women and children, were annihilated. Some were shot with live ammunition, while others burned to death as rockets rained down on the village. Prisoners were killed after being paraded through the streets in occupied Jerusalem. And it didn’t stop in 1948. In 1956, a massacre of 500 villagers took place in Khan Younis in the middle of the Gaza Strip. Others killed were Egyptians who were policing the area at that time.

Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.
The deadly siege in Gaza could easily be considered genocide according to this descriptor. Bodily harm has been caused not only during the siege or the last invasion (December 2008/January 2009), but since the beginning of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

The overwhelming majority of the victims have been civilians, whereas only a small minority were resistance fighters. Some international agencies claim that 93 percent of those victimized were civilian, while only 7% were resistance fighters. (See the report, “Failing Gaza.“)

Organized and systematic attacks against civilians in Gaza can also be considered to be part of the genocide. Several months before Operation Cast Lead, an Israeli minister even used the term “holocaust” to describe what is planned for the citizens of Gaza. On Feb. 28, 2008, the Guardian, BBC and other British media outlets reported the story under the headline, “Israeli minister warns of Palestinian ‘holocaust’.” The Guardian reported that “an Israeli minister today warned of an  increasingly bitter conflict in the Gaza Strip, saying the Palestinians could bring on themselves what he called a “holocaust”.

“The more Qassam [rocket] fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah because we will use all our might to defend ourselves,” Matan Vilnai, Israel’s deputy defence minister, told Army Radio.

“Shoah” is the Hebrew word normally reserved to refer to the Jewish Holocaust. It is rarely used in Israel outside discussions of the Nazi extermination of Jews during the second World War, and many Israelis are loath to countenance its use to describe other events.

Mental harm should also be considered. As pointed out in many UN agency reports, all Gazan children suffer mental and emotional problems. Stress and trauma make the children sick-minded due to constant fear. They have no opportunities for fun and joy, since the Israeli blockade even includes a ban on toys. It is not an exaggeration to say that a considerable number of the Gazan population are exhausted and mentally drained. They live with the constant realities of deprivation, war, restriction of freedom and death.

Inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.
This has been happening for years, ever since the establishment of the state of Israel. Focusing on the Gaza Strip today, the siege has impacted every aspect of life. Factories have stopped operating, and food just trickles in. Add to that the fact that people have no freedom of movement beyond their “concentration camp,” with just two gates that open irregularly.

The Israeli blockade on exports and on all but humanitarian imports has forced 98 percent of Gaza’s industry to close. Around 1.5 million Palestinians live in just 360 square km (139 square mile). More than three-quarters of the residents are refugees whose families were driven from their land in what is now Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

The remaining two characteristics of what constitutes genocide include imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group and transferring children of the group to another group. These remaining two characteristics were most evident in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and the 1967 war.