Monday, August 25, 2008

Video: Boats break Gaza siege

Boats reach Gaza strip

The Free Gaza Movement released the following statement:

GAZA (23 August 2008) - Two small boats, the SS Free Gaza and the SS Liberty, successfully landed in Gaza early this evening, breaking the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The boats were crewed by a determined group of international human rights workers from the Free Gaza Movement. They had spent two years organizing the effort, raising money by giving small presentations at churches, mosques, synagogues, and in the homes of family, friends, and supporters.

Read the statement here >

This story appeared in the LA Times:
JERUSALEM -- The two boats, named Free Gaza and Liberty, chugged into Gaza City on Saturday with quite an escort: a flotilla of fishing boats, sailboats, skiffs and even a swimmer carrying a Palestinian flag.

Arriving to a boisterous reception, the international activists aboard the boats said they hoped their symbolic breaking of the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip was just the beginning.
Read the story here >

Stripped of a Fulbright by "Secret Evidence": Blocking a Gazan's Path to San Diego

Fidaa Abed wrote the following story on her experience trying to study in San Diego:
As a young Palestinian from Gaza, I had been eagerly anticipating the opportunity to study at the University of California San Diego on a Fulbright scholarship. The chance to escape Gaza's confines and immerse myself in an American education was deeply thrilling. With Israel controlling Gaza's border exits, air space and sea access – notwithstanding its "pullout" of 2005 – I imagined the long, open roads of the United States and its people's unchallenged freedom of movement.

I love my people and my homeland, but a young person needs opportunities. These are far more abundant in the United States than in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Last week, I landed in Washington, D.C., brimming with optimism. Upon arrival, I was whisked into a separate room. An American official informed me that he had just received information about me that he could not reveal. However, it required him to put me on the next plane home. I was shocked. And I was taken aback at the cruelty of snatching away my educational dreams at the last possible moment.
Read Fridaa's whole story here >

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

BBC Guide on the Blockade

The BBC has published a very useful guide on Israel's siege of Gaza. The guide includes an overview of the siege, data on how it has impacted Gaza's residents, and links to stories it has published on humanitarian conditions in the Strip.

To access the guide, visit this link >

BBC: Truce barely eases Gaza embargo

From a BBC news article published today:

In the dank basement of one of Gaza's sewage pumping stations, raw sewage sprays out of leaks in the rusting metal work.

The Strip's sewage system is one of many things affecting Gazans' quality of life that urgently needs updating.

"It took months and months of negotiations to get Israel to allow some spare parts through the borders," says Maher al-Najjar, an engineer at the Gaza Emergency Water Project...

Read the story >

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Gaza's shocking devastation: A Canadian Jew's visit to the territory left him ashamed by what he saw

Harry Shannon, a professor of clinical epidemiology and bio- statistics at McMaster Universityand a member of Independent Jewish Voices, writing in the Hamilton Spectator:

I had expected conditions in Gaza to be bad, but I was still shocked at the devastation when I went there in July.

Last month my companion and I entered Gaza at the Erez crossing through a modern building reminiscent of an airport terminal. After questioning by the Israeli border police, we left the building and had a kilometre walk to pick up transportation.

It was as if we had travelled to another planet. The sandy track is surrounded by the blown-up remnants of Gaza's former industrial district. Rubble stretching for hundreds of metres lines the route. . .

We went first to a children's hospital on the edge of Gaza City. The hospital director and doctors described the conditions. Of 100 beds, 40 were occupied by children with bacterial meningitis, an extremely serious disease.

There's a shortage of basic medicines and supplies, even simple things such as alcohol swabs.

The hospital has three ventilators; only one is working. Israel won't let in spare parts for the others.

The working machine is for a "hopeless case" who can't be taken off. Meanwhile, patients who could benefit have no working machine.

There are many cases of malnutrition -- for example, children nearly a year old weighing 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds). Their families can't afford the special formula they need to improve.

Because of lack of equipment and qualified personnel, there is no radiotherapy and limited chemotherapy in Gaza. . .

My sister and her husband are Orthodox Jews living near Tel Aviv. They are outraged at Israel's behaviour, especially the restrictions on sick patients needing to leave Gaza. My brother-in-law, a former chair of family medicine at Tel Aviv University and a specialist in medical ethics, has complained publicly about this.

As a Jew, I, too, am ashamed and disgusted at what is happening. Yes, Israel needs security. But what is happening goes far beyond security needs.

Israel's actions amount to collective punishment, forbidden under international law.

I am ashamed that the Harper government has tilted toward unconditional support for Israel against the Palestinians.

The current policy is unconscionable, as anyone who visits Gaza can see only too well.

Read the entire article here >

Friday, August 15, 2008

Observers Write About Delegation to Sderot

The delegates traveled to Sderot and Kibbutz Zikim, both just a few miles from the Gaza Border. This is a picture of Gaza from the Kibbutz. (IFPB/US Campaign)

U.S. Campaign and Interfaith Peacebuilders have sponsored a two week delegation to Israel-Palestine. Two delegates wrote about their experiences in the Israeli town of Sderot:

Denise Yarbrough wrote:
Today we travelled south to Sderot, an Israeli town right on the border of the Gaza Strip. Sderot is well known as a town which regularly is bombarded with Kassam rockets shot from the Gaza. We met with representatives from two different kibbutzim, and one representative of a community organization that tries to work with marginalized groups in Sderot...

We ended our travels today by visiting the Erez Checkpoint, the only border crossing that is “open” between Israel and the Gaza strip. Almost no one gets through at this point – usually only people who can prove some humanitarian reason for needing to go across. The checkpoint is a fortress, heavily guarded and the guards shouted at us to stop photographing the checkpoint when we got out of the bus. A few Palestinians were going through the checkpoint, but they had been driven there by a United Nations vehicle, so we assumed that they had somehow enlisted UN assistance in getting across into Gaza for some family reason. The checkpoint was yet another vivid symbol of all that is wrong in this terrible conflict – as if cement and barbed wire and armed guards could possibly bring peace or security to either side.

Read the report >

David Lamarre-Vincent wrote:

“Swords to ploughshares” is a concept in which military weapons or technologies are converted for peaceful civilian applications. The plowshare is often used to symbolize creative tools that benefit mankind, as opposed to destructive tools of war, symbolized by the sword, a similar sharp metal tool with an arguably opposite use. The common expression "beat swords into plowshares" has been used by disparate social and political groups.

The most famous sculpture of this phrase can be found at the United Nations, A less famous, folk art version was seen upon our visit to a kibbutz at Sderot on the border with Gaza. Here they have made a menorah from kassam rockets fired from Gaza that landed upon the kibbutz. This kibbutz is the target of numerous rocket attacks. The juxtaposition of the images of the kassam and the menorah captures the two realities of Israel and Palestine. Is security based upon military might, walls and fences, checkpoints and prisons, ethnic cleansing and apartheid, terrorist attacks and suicide bombers? Or is stability and security achieved through dialogue, conflict resolution, economic development?
Read the report >

Challenging the siege from Rafah to Cyprus

Video from Dubai TV and LinkTV/Mosaic:

This post from EI:
On Sunday, hundreds of Hamas supporters, many stranded Gaza patients, students and travelers, took part in a rally at the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing terminal in southern Gaza, against the continued closure of the terminal for the past 14 months and calling on Egypt to reopen it. Organized by the ruling Hamas party, the attendees blamed the Egyptian leadership for the terminal closure, saying that this crossing, Gaza's sole outlet to the outside world, should be opened under joint Palestinian-Egyptian control.
Read the entire report here >

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Nobel Laureates Endorse and Blair Relative Joins Attempt to Break Blockade

From the Guardian:
A group of activists including Tony Blair's sister-in-law Lauren Booth plans to break Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip by sailing into the Palestinian territory.

Some 46 campaigners, among them several Britons, a Holocaust survivor and an 81-year-old retired Catholic nun from the US, will make the 241-mile crossing from Cyprus in two wooden vessels at the end of the week, carrying medical supplies. The journey takes about 20 hours.

The California-based Free Gaza movement wants to open unrestricted international access to Gaza while delivering a "symbolic" shipment of 200 hearing aids and batteries for a society for deaf children and other supplies such as painkillers. Organisers say they will not pass through Israeli waters and have therefore not notified Israeli authorities of their plans.
Read the article here >