Israel’s blockade of Gaza is cracking

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Fatah, Gaza, Hamas, International community, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, Siege, USA foreign policy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 09/05/2011 by 3071km

Written by: Noura Erakat

Date published: 9th May 2011

Source: Al Jazeera English

_____

Sealing coastal territory undermines past diplomacy – and siege is likely to be broken by post-revolution Egypt.

Egypt has announced that it will open its border crossing with Gaza on a permanent basis, thereby reversing Egypt’s collusion with Israel’s blockade regime. The interim Foreign Minister, Nabil al-Arabi, has described support for the blockade by the previous Egyptian regime as “disgraceful“. While Israeli officials have responded to this announcement with alarm, they have limited capacity to undermine the new Egyptian government’s prerogative.

Since the capture of Israeli soldier Corporal Gilad Shalit in June 2006, the Rafah crossing has been closed to Palestinians in Gaza, except for “extraordinary humanitarian cases”. In June 2007, after Hamas’ ousting of Fatah, Israel imposed a naval blockade on Gaza and sealed its five border crossings with the territory. Egypt’s closure of Rafah made the siege comprehensive, and effectively cut off the 360sq mile Strip from the rest of the world.

The devastating impact of the blockade on Gaza’s 1.5million population, where food aid dependency has risen to 80 per cent,  has been defined as a humanitarian crisis by a broad range of international human rights and humanitarian aid organisations – including Human Rights Watch, UNRWA, Amnesty International, and the World Health Organisation.

Under the presidency of deposed leader Hosni Mubarak, Egypt only opened the Rafah border in response to exceptional crises, including during Israel’s Winter 2008/2009 offensive against Gaza and in the aftermath of Israel’s fatal raid on the humanitarian flotilla in June 2010. Rafah’s closure demonstrated Mubarak’s shared interest with Israel in undermining Hamas’ leadership.

Egypt’s post-revolution government is eager to reverse this policy – as evidenced by its successful brokering of a unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas and, shortly thereafter, its announcement that it will end its closure of Rafah. Egypt’s decision comports with enduring border-crossing agreements that have been suspended since 2007.

Egypt’s decision is a resumption of the status quo ante

According to the Agreement on Movement and Access(AMA), brokered by the US and the European Union to facilitate the transfer of authority for crossings from the Government of Israel to the Palestinian Authority following Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza, Egypt is authorised to control the Rafah crossing on its side of the border, in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority.

Following internecine fighting in 2007, in which Hamas forces were routed from the West Bank but took control of the Gaza Strip, the border crossing agreement, along with Egyptian and EU participation was suspended -but not terminated.

The European Union’s Border Assistance Mission to Rafah (EUBAM), deployed to support a smooth transfer of authority at the border, has conditioned its presence on cooperation with Mahmoud Abbas’ Force 17, or the Presidential Guard.  Since Fatah’s ousting from the Strip the EUBAM has “maintained its operational capability and has remained on standby, awaiting a political solution and ready to re-engage“.

The EUBAM has extended its mission four times since suspending it in 2007, indicating the EU’s willingness to cooperate with the PA, should a political solution be reached between the rival Palestinian political parties. As recently as late March, the EUBAM Chief of Mission reaffirmed to Egypt’s ambassador to Israel the mission’s readiness to resume its tasks at Rafah.

Arguably, the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation removes impediments to EU and Egyptian cooperation at the Rafah crossing.

Vague though it may be, the agreement between Fatah and Hamas stipulates the rehabilitation of Palestinian security forces and a mandate to end the siege and blockade of Gaza. Although hostilities between the rival parties are ongoing, in theory, technical hurdles undermining the opening of the Rafah crossing have been overcome.

Accordingly, Egypt’s decision to open the Rafah crossing is commensurate with existing agreements and signals a resumption of the status quo ante. Israel can do little to challenge this policy on legal grounds and it lacks the political credibility to maintain the comprehensive siege by force.

Israel lacks political credibility to maintain Gaza blockade 

While 29 Democratic Senators have urged President Barack Obama to suspend US aid to the Palestinian Authority should Hamas join the PA government, European and international support for the unity government is robust.

On May 6, the EU announced that it will provide an additional US$85million in aid to support the PA in light of Israel’s withholding of $105million of tax revenue belonging to the Palestinian Authority. Similarly, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon – along with a coalition of donor nations – have urged Israel to release the Palestinian funds. Meanwhile, the United Nations’ envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry, has described the unity government as “overdue“, demonstrating general international support for the unity government that includes Hamas.

Similar international support exists for ending the siege on Gaza. Especially since Israel’s raid on the Gaza flotilla in May 2010, support for the debilitating siege has steadily dwindled. In the aftermath of the fatal attack in international waters, even the US described Israel’s blockade as “untenable” and called on Israel to change its policy toward Gaza.

The White House not only supports an easing of the siege, but it also supports Egypt’s post-revolution government. Shortly after Mubarak’s departure, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Egypt to congratulate the new government – and promised it diplomatic support as well as economic aid. Although not impossible, it is unlikely that the US will challenge Egypt’s decision, which reflects the US’ blockade policy as well as the US-brokered AMA, and risk undermining the government’s nascent development.

Finally, within Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lacks the political support necessary to take any significant risks. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni has accused Netanyahu of isolating Israel and stated that her Kadima party would not join a Netanyahu-led coalition even in the face of September’s “political tsunami”. Livni also opposes the Palestinian unity government, but explains “there is a difference between defending Israel and aiding the survival of a prime minister that only damages the country”.

In light of broad support for the Palestinian unity government, frustration with the ongoing blockade, enthusiasm for Egypt’s new government, and Netanyahu’s tenuous domestic standing, it is neither likely that Israel can mobilise significant political opposition to Egypt’s new policy, nor use force to respond to opening of the Rafah crossing.

Buoyed by impunity, the cover afforded by turmoil in the region, and the desire to establish its qualitative military edge in the region, Israel may nevertheless employ a military option to respond to the reopened crossing. Even if it does not use force at Rafah, it may brandish its military prowess by targeting the forthcoming Gaza flotilla, which will set sail for Gaza’s shores in late June. In light of the political balance, Israel’s choice to use force without a tangible military threat will exacerbate its already waning legitimacy.

Escaping this political trapping leaves Israel with little other choice than to urge the US to act on its behalf. Whether the Obama administration is willing to do so (the US Congress has already demonstrated its willingness) remains unclear in light of a fast-transforming Middle East, where US interests continue to hang in the balance.

Noura Erakat is a Palestinian human rights attorney and activist. She is currently an adjunct professor at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies in Georgetown University. She is also a co-editor of Jadaliyya.com.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Nicely done “iGaza” iPhone app just released

Posted in Activism, Gaza with tags , , , on 07/05/2011 by 3071km

Written by: Ali Abunimah

Date published: 6th May 2011

Source: Ali Abunimah’s Blog

_____

I just downloaded a brand new free iPhone app called iGaza. I was pleasantly surprised by how good this is. It brings a stream of news about Palestine, more specifically Gaza and activism to break the blockade of Gaza right to your phone.

It draws from wide range of sources including mainstream media and human rights groups and has buttons that give you all the latest news on a number of specific topics. The application presents a short summary of an item and a link to the original, and allows easy sharing via social media.

iGaza also finds and plays Palestine-related videos from many sources. One of my favorite features is an instant library of major UN resolutions relating to Palestine. Always handy in a debate!

There’s even a button that will allow you to instantly send a protest email to a representative of the Israeli state. iGaza is designed by UK-based developer Gary McFarlane.

UN urges Israel to unfreeze Palestinian funds

Posted in Fatah, Hamas, Israel, Palestine, Peace process with tags , , , , , , on 06/05/2011 by 3071km

Date published: 6th May 2011

Source: Al Jazeera English

_____

Israel blocked transfer of $105m in customs duties and other levies it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel should not withhold tax revenues from the Palestinian Authority following its unity deal with Hamas.

In telephone talks with Netanyahu on Friday, Ban reaffirmed UN support for Palestinian unity under the leadership of Abbas and called on the Israeli prime minister to give the deal a chance to lead to an historic peace accord.

“The Secretary-General … noted that Palestinian unity is a process which is just beginning now, and thus, it would be best to assess it as it moves forward,” the UN press office said in a statement summarising Ban’s telephone call with Netanyahu.

“He also urged Israel not to stop transferring tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority,” it said.

Israel on Sunday blocked the transfer of $105 million in customs duties and other levies it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, following a deal to reunite the two rival wings of the Palestinian independence movement.

Palestinians see reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas as crucial for their drive for an independent state in territories Israel occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Israel has condemned the unity pact as a “tremendous blow to peace.”

Ban told Netanyahu “he hoped Israel will make decisive moves towards a historic agreement with the Palestinians,” said Nesirky.

“The secretary general said it was urgent to overcome the impasse in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Continued drifting will not serve the interests of both parties.”

“(Ban) said he was convinced that realizing a negotiated two-state solution as soon as possible is in the best interest of both the Israeli and Palestinian people,” the statement added.

Palestinian factions in reconciliation bid

Posted in Fatah, Gaza, Hamas, International community, Israel, USA foreign policy, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 28/04/2011 by 3071km

Date published: 28/04/2011

Source: Al Jazeera English

_____

Fatah and Hamas agree to form interim government and fix general election date following talks in Cairo.

Fatah, the Palestinian political organisation, has reached an agreement with its rival Hamas on forming an interim government and fixing a date for a general election, Egyptian intelligence has said.

In February, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and a member of Fatah, called for presidential and legislative elections before September, in a move which was rejected by Hamas at the time.

Abbas signalled on Thursday that peace talks with Israel would still be possible during the term of a new interim government formed as part of a unity deal with Hamas.

Abbas said the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which he heads and to which Hamas does not belong, would still be responsible for “handling politics, negotiations”.

He was speaking for the first time since the unity deal was unveiled in Cairo on Wednesday.

The deal, which took many officials by surprise, was thrashed out in Egypt and followed a series of secret meetings.

“The consultations resulted in full understandings over all points of discussions, including setting up an interim agreement with specific tasks and to set a date for election,” Egyptian intelligence said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The two sides signed initial letters on an agreement. All points of differences have been overcome,” Taher Al-Nono, a Hamas government spokesman in Gaza, told the Reuters news agency.

He said that Cairo would shortly invite both sides to a signing ceremony.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Gaza, Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official, said: “I think we are optimistic because … there is [an] official agreement between Hamas and Fatah, and I think we now have [an] impressive jump to the Palestinian unity.

“Maybe it does not come as a shock because I think it came as a fruit of long talks and discussion.

“I think that today we became very close to this agreement, we have finished some points. It is like [an] outline draft and I think it will be a good beginning.

“Maybe after that we will start on how to implement this agreement to be translated and practised on the ground.”

‘Geopolitical situation’

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said: “It is important news … the geopolitical situation wasn’t exactly helpful [to reconciliation] and then we went through six months of upheavals, certainly sweeping through Egypt.

“At the end, you could say that President Abbas has lost his patron in Egypt, which is President Mubarak, and Hamas is more on less facing almost similar trouble now, with Bashar al-Assad [Syria’s president] facing his own trouble in Damascus.

“So with the US keeping a distance and Israel not delivering the goods on the peace process and the settlements, it was time for Palestinians to come together and agree on what they basically agreed on almost a year and a half ago.”

Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, said on Wednesday that Abbas could not hope to forge a peace deal with Israel if he pursued a reconciliation accord with Hamas.

“The Palestinian Authority must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There is no possibility for peace with both,” he said.

In his televised statement, Netanyahu said Israel could not accept Hamas as a negotiating partner because it “aspires to destroy Israel, it says so publicly, it fires rockets on our cities, it fires anti-tank rockets on our children.”

He said that the surprise announcement of a reconciliation deal “exposes the Palestinian Authority’s weakness”.

And on Thursday, Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister said the deal marks the “crossing of a red line”.

Lieberman warned that the accord could lead to the militant group’s takeover of the Fatah-run West Bank.

But top Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdaineh said the reconciliation did not concern Israel.

“The agreement between Fatah and Hamas movements is an internal affair and has nothing to do with Israel. Netanyahu must choose between a just peace with the united Palestinian people … and settlements,” Abu Rdaineh said.

Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros reported from Ramallah that “a lot of people would say that this was really an empty kind of ultimatum – what peace process, or what peace deal, is prime minister Netanyahu actually talking about?

“The peace process very much took a hit in the last few months. There has been no peace process taking place between the Palestinian Authority and Israel because of Israel’s insistence on building on land that is being negotiated on.

“So I think many months back, the PA and Fatah decided to take their own route, away from this peace process, away from US mediation and try to really go it alone.”

The US is reviewing further reports on details of the reconciliation, and while it supports Palestinian reconciliation, Hamas remains “a terrorist organisation which targets civilians”, Tommy Vietor, US National Security Council spokesman, said.

“To play a constructive role in achieving peace, any Palestinian government must accept the Quartet principles and renounce violence, abide by past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.”

Hamas does not recognise Israel as a state.

‘Bitter split’

Fatah holds power in the occupied West Bank while Hamas, which won the last parliamentary election in 2006, routed Abbas’ forces in 2007 to seize control of the Gaza Strip.

Rawya Rageh, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Cairo, said: “This effectively will be ending a bitter split that Palestinians have been witnessing since 2007.

Rageh said the deal was expected to be signed next week and would be attended by Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who is based in Damascus.

Nicole Johnston, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Gaza, said: “One of the main civil society groups here is calling on all Palestinian factions to head down to the main square in Gaza City, the square of the unknown soldier, to begin the celebrations.

“It seems certainly in Gaza that there’s a need for some good news. It’s been a pretty rough month here in a lot of respects, an escalation of violence with Israel, the kidnapping and murder of a foreigner.

“So really, this kind of news … is a call for celebration.”

Wednesday’s accord was first reported by Egypt’s intelligence service, which brokered the talks.

In a statement carried by Egyptian state news agency MENA, the intelligence service said the deal was agreed by a Hamas delegation led by Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of the group’s politburo, and Fatah central committee member Azzam al-Ahmad.

Al-Ahmad and Abu Marzouk said the agreement covered all points of contention, including forming a transitional government, security arrangements and the restructuring of the Palestine Liberation Organisation to allow Hamas to join it.

Speaking on Egyptian state television, al-Ahmad said a general election would take place within a year.

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior member of Hamas, said all prisoners with a non-criminal background would be released.

Egypt FM: Gaza border crossing to be permanently opened

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Hamas, Palestine, Siege with tags , , , , , , on 28/04/2011 by 3071km

Date Published: 28/04/2011

Source: Haaretz

_____

Egyptian FM tells Al-Jazeera that preparations are already underway to permanently open Rafah border crossing, which would allow goods and people in and out of Gaza with no Israeli supervision.

Egypt’s foreign minister said in an interview with Al-Jazeera on Thursday that preparations were underway to open the Rafah border crossing with Gaza on a permanent basis.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi told Al-Jazeera that within seven to 10 days, steps will be taken in order to alleviate the “blockade and suffering of the Palestinian nation.”

The announcement indicates a significant change in the policy on Gaza, which before Egypt’s uprising, was operated in conjunction with Israel. The opening of Rafah will allow the flow of people and goods in and out of Gaza without Israeli permission or supervision, which has not been the case up until now.

Israel’s blockade on Gaza has been a policy used in conjunction with Egyptian police to weaken Hamas, which has ruled over the strip since 2007. The policy also aims to reduce Hamas’ popularity among Gazans by creating economic hardship in the Strip.

Rafah’s opening would be a violation of an agreement reached in 2005 between the United States, Israel, Egypt, and the European Union, which gives EU monitors access to the crossing. The monitors were to reassure Israel that weapons and militants wouldn’t get into Gaza after its pullout from the territory in the fall of 2005.

Before Egypt’s uprising and ousting of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak, the border between Egypt and Gaza had been sealed. It has occasionally opened the passage for limited periods.

Israel is behind Juliano and Vik’s murder

Posted in Activism, Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Non-violent resistance on 18/04/2011 by 3071km

Date published: 17th April 2011
Source: In Gaza
_____

excerpts from Lauren Booth on the killing of Vik:

The killing of Vittorio (Vik) Arrigoni in Gaza this week follows (too) closely, the murder of pro-Palestinian peace activist Juliano Mer Khamis in the West Bank. Juliano, 52, was shot dead outside the Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp on the West Bank on the 4th April. His documentary Arnas’s Children detailed the work of his mother in helping Palestinian children deal with the trauma of living under Occupation through the use of drama and self – expression.

Juliano was untimely, bloody, end was one he had predicted three years ago on Israeli television.

Vittorio Arrigoni was found, this week, hung, by armed ‘fanatics’ in an apartment in Gaza. An end he would never, ever, have predicted.

There was worldwide condemnation for the killing of both men.

That a man dedicated to non violent resistance should die in violence is bad enough.

Worse, far worse is this; That his avowed enemies the ‘Fascisti’ in Israel (as he would call the government there) seek to make political gains from a life lived in direct challenge to them. This, as much as the sight of that last, dreadful film showing his eyes taped and his face bruised, is a knife in the heart of all who loved or knew of him.

The headline ‘Italian peace activist killed by Palestinian extremists’ is an Israeli propagandists wet dream. A gift as potentially large in its political implications as the now inevitable retraction by the UN of the Goldstone report.

Why?

Two reasons. firstly, if nothing is done, and fast, Israel will use the momentum of these two machinated events, as an excuse to re invade the Gaza Strip under the auspices of ‘terrorism and security’ issues.

Secondly, Israeli is seeking to end the growing momentum of the siege breaking movement and the increasing appeal of the ISM (International Solidarity Movement).

Which brings us to timing of both Juliano and Vittorio’s murders. Both men were respected for their creative work. Juliano, for inspiring a new generation of actors and writers in Jenin and for his film making on the subject of life under Occupation.

Vik for his award winning writings and broadcasts, on the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza.

Both men were part of a new uprising, arguably, the most successful yet. The uprising that hurts Israel where it hurts most – in the TV studios of Europe and the US, right in the intelligentsia. Their impact on the Israel ‘fascisti’ machine was a phenomenon in the expanding worlds of twitter and facebook. They had voices like no others in this movement.

More though. Vik was pivotal in the reformation of the ISM Gaza Group, the non violent resistance team, put on hold after the murders of two of its members by Israeli forces ; Tom Hurndall and Rachel Corrie. After it became clear that Israel’s leaders had taken the decision not only not to ignore the human rights of internationals in the West Bank and Gaza (thus putting them on a par with Palestinians), but to actively target them. The ISM in Gaza took time to consider whether it could encourage, young activists to join them on the ever increasingly mission to accompany Gazans about their daily business. Human shield work. Tom Hurndall and Rachel Corrie’s deaths were part of a dedicated attack by Israel on the work of the increasingly effective ISM.

More recently, IOF commanders have been focusing their attention on the Freegaza Movements efforts to break the siege of Gaza by sea.

It is no coincidence then that both Juliano and Vittorio should die within two weeks. Both, at the hands of unknown Palestinian ‘cells.’ As they say on children’s TV – tell us boys and girls what’s wrong with this picture?

Still unsure who was behind Vittorio’s murder? Well, how often have the Israeli press lauded and applauded ‘covert ops’ in the Occupied Territories? Want some examples? Fine. In 1952, Shin Bet agents were sent undercover to spy inside Palestinian villages. Ten Jewish men assimilated into Arab communities in the early 1950s, marrying local women and starting families with them, were, all the while serving in the Shin Bet as “mistaarvim,” literally- masqueraders. The men learned the Palestinian dialect, studied the Quran and espionage techniques in an Intelligence Corps base near Ramla. With a detailed cover story, they were sent into Palestinian villages and cities pretending to be refugees from the Nakba returning home.

Just this year, Israel has carried out an assassination in Dubai of a Hamas member (or as it was known in the British media – the ‘passports scandal’). Mossad operatives have kidnapped a Palestinian engineer from the Ukraine, who is now, illegally held in an Israeli prison.

And what of the sadistic coercion that Palestinians with chronic illnesses have been subjected to by Shin Bet? Known in Gaza as treachery for treatment? A Palestinian patient requests a permit from the Israeli- Palestinian Civil Liaisons Department to be allowed to travel from Gaza to the West Bank or Israel for an operation. After exhausting efforts, patients receive permits and go to Erez. Prominent human rights centres report that Shin Bet officers,then attempt to coerce and entrap patients, to do dirty work for them in their home towns and villages in return for rapid and/or ongoing medial treatment.

Yes folks, spies-for-health.

Israel then, ‘has form’ when it comes to lying, murdering, and coercion, for its own ends.

As Hamas rounds up the perpetrators of this most recent, deadly crime, the Gaza grapevine is buzzing with the news that they will indeed be found to be, (as suspected from the get-go), Israeli collaborators.

Statements of denial from the ‘Salafis’ accused of the murder have already been issued. Despite the fact the Western media is still running with the story of their guilt.

There were statements from Tawid wal – Jihad and Ma’sadat al- Mujahedin An excerpt from a statement read, “we strongly deny any responsibility for or connection to the kidnapping of the Italian (Vittorio Arrigoni)… Our statements are distributed exclusively through Shoumouk al – Islam, Attahadi Network and the Ansar al-Mujahideen Network…Any statement attributed to us that are not released through these channels, have nothing to do with us, even if they are published on Jihadi websites…”

So, who benefits from the killing of Vittorio Arrigoni? And what is the significance of the timing of his murder?

Well, if it smells like s***t and looks like s**t it almost certainly is – Israel.

Sure, the kidnappers’ video looked genuine at first. It had all the customary layout of the kind of ‘Jihadi’ videos that the tabloid press loves: the black flag of Islam, the Quranic verse in the introduction, footage of the kidnapped victim. But a small detail on the black flag, underneath the precious, Islamically untouchable phrase ‘There is No God, but God’ raises questions about the authenticity of the groups grasp on Islam. The extra words read something like “the Brigades of Muhammad Ibn Maslama.” This has been hard for experts to verify because the video is being systematically pulled off YouTube. But one thing is certain;

‘Jihadis’ never write ANYTHING on the flag besides La Ilaha Ila Allah.

Also unusual, was the lack of customary logos of the Jihadi media distribution channels: Shoumoukh al-Islam, Ansar al-Mujahideen, Global Islamic Media Front, etc. (See the statement of denial above).

You know what, right now, who cares?

Vik; friend, solidarity activist, hero, author, is dead and his enemy is making gains from his life. A life dedicated to the opposition of Israeli Fascism.

We know all to well, the bloody massacre that took place last year on the Mavi Marmara, committed by Israeli forces.

Now, as the second Armada plans to chart the same course on or near the anniversary of that sailing, Israel is pulling out all the stops, in its efforts to stop, frighten, threaten and deter, hundreds more activists from taking action against their Apartheid state.

Israel’s ambassador to Turkey, Gaby Levy, has just asked the Turkish government to help halt the flotilla movement saying their sailing would be a “provocation.” Asked about the pressure, a Turkish foreign ministry official told Reuters: “We listened to the message given by the Israeli side and told them this is an initiative by civil society.”

The official did not elaborate.

Strike one, for Israel.

But the efforts continued.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on EU ambassadors in Jerusalem saying “This flotilla must be stopped.”

And there’s more. On April 1, Netahyahu’s office asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to stop the flotilla setting sail.

Netanyahu told Ban Ki-moon that the mission of ships was being organized by (guess who folks?) “Islamic extremist elements” intent on bringing about “a flare-up.”

Then, on Wednesday, the morally bankrupt, Silvio Berlusconi, told Israel Radio, that he would work to prevent the next flotilla bound for Gaza, from sailing.

Berlusconi said that a peaceful Middle East is farther from reality now than it ever has been before, adding that Israel has no viable peace partner. He even asserted that Israel is the only Middle Eastern country that the West can trust, and that Israel should join the European Union.

The next day, Vik was kidnapped.

The same night, before any realistic negotiations could take place for his release, Vik was murdered.

Feeling sick yet? Yeah, me too.

Because this was a hit. A hit carried out to intimidate, to frighten off those who have already signed up for the next flotilla to Gaza and may be traveling there for the first time, Those unsure of the exceptional good will and generosity of the people there. A good will Vik would tell you about.

We mustn’t let the Israeli ‘fascisti’ succeed in their latest terror tactic. Early signs are that for all the pain Vik’s death has caused, all the tears that have flowed. that we, in the solidarity movement will only grow more determined, in light of this crime.

Since his death the ISM has reported a sharp rise in people wanting to go to Palestine.

Meanwhile, a Freegagza Movement contact, tells me that no one from the next convoy expected to include Turkish, Algerian, Scottish, Spanish, Dutch, Irish, Italian, Swedish, Norwegian, Jordanian, Malaysian, Indonesian, Swiss, US, Canadian, British and French nationals, has pulled out as a result of Vik’s murder.

Due to Gisha’s Petition: Israel Reveals Documents related to the Gaza Closure Policy

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, International community, Israel, Israeli occupation, Siege with tags , on 11/11/2010 by 3071km

Date published: 21/10/2010

Source: Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement

_____

Thursday, October 21, 2010: After one and a half years in which Israel at first denied their existence and then claimed that revealing them would harm “state security”, the State of Israel released three documents that outline its policy for permitting transfer of goods into the Gaza Strip prior to the May 31 flotilla incident. The documents were released due to a Freedom of Information Act petition submitted by Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement in the Tel Aviv District Court, in which Gisha demanded transparency regarding the Gaza closure policy.  Israel still refuses to release the current documents governing the closure policy as amended after the flotilla incident.
“Policy of Deliberate Reduction”
The documents reveal that the state approved “a policy of deliberate reduction” for basic goods in the Gaza Strip (section h.4, page 5*). Thus, for example, Israel restricted the supply of fuel needed for the power plant, disrupting the supply of electricity and water. The state set a “lower warning line” (section g.2, page 5) to give advance warning of expected shortages in a particular item, but at the same time approved ignoring that warning, if the good in question was subject to a policy of “deliberate reduction“. Moreover, the state set an “upper red line” above which even basic humanitarian items could be blocked, even if they were in demand (section g.1, page 5). The state claimed in a cover letter to Gisha that in practice, it had not authorized reduction of “basic goods” below the “lower warning line”, but it did not define what these “basic goods” were (page 2).
“Luxuries” denied for Gaza Strip residents
In violation of international law, which allows Israel to restrict the passage of goods only for concrete security reasons, the decision whether to permit or prohibit an item was also based on “the good’s public perception” and “whether it is viewed as a luxury” (section c.b, page 16). In other words, items characterized as “luxury” items would be banned – even if they posed no security threat, and even if they were needed. Thus, items such as chocolate and paper were not on the “permitted” list. In addition, officials were to consider “sensitivity to the needs of the international community”.
Ban on Reconstructing Gaza
Although government officials have claimed that they will permit the rehabilitation of Gaza, the documents reveal that Israel treated rehabilitation and development of the Gaza Strip as a negative factor in determining whether to allow an item to enter; goods “of a rehabilitative character” required special permission (section g, page 16). Thus, international organizations and Western governments did not receive permits to transfer building materials into Gaza for schools and homes.
Secret List of Goods
The procedures determine that the list of permitted goods “will not be released to those not specified!!” (emphasis in original) (section j, page 17), ignoring the fact that without transparency, merchants in Gaza could not know what they were permitted to purchase. The list itemized permitted goods only. Items not on the list – cumin, for example – would require a special procedure for approval, irrespective of any security consideration, at the end of which it would be decided whether to let it in or not.
Calculation of product inventory
The documents contain a series of formulas created by the Defense Ministry to compute product inventory (pages 8-10). The calculations are presumed to allow COGAT to measure what is called the “length of breath” (section i, page 8). The formula states that if you divide the inventory in the Strip by the daily consumption needs of residents, you will get the number of days it will take for residents of Gaza to run out of that basic product, or in other words, until their “length of breath” will run out.
According to Gisha Director Sari Bashi: “Instead of considering security concerns, on the one hand, and the rights and needs of civilians living in Gaza, on the other, Israel banned glucose for biscuits and the fuel needed for regular supply of electricity – paralyzing normal life in Gaza and impairing the moral character of the State of Israel. I am sorry to say that major elements of this policy are still in place“.
*Pagination is counted in the order the documents were received by the Ministry of Defense.
For translated excerpts of the state’s response initially refusing to reveal the documents for “security reasons”, click here.
To view the documents revealed by the state (translated from the original Hebrew into English), click here.
To view the FOIA petition submitted by Gisha (in Hebrew), click here.