End U.S. Aid and Support for Israel
For the second time in two weeks, President Barack Obama is remaining silent while humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza is blocked. The first time, the Israeli Navy seized the aid boat Spirit of Humanity and prevented her from reaching Gaza. All twenty-one people on board were detained by Israel and then deported without cause (see VOR update July 2, 2009). Now more than $1 million in aid raised by Viva Palestina in the U.S. — vehicles, medical supplies, wheelchairs and more — are being blocked at the Egyptian border with Gaza.
The various delays make it very clear that it is the U.S. government that is standing behind the delays rather than acting to insure the large delegation and the vital supplies get into Gaza. The delegation of more than 100 people from the U.S. first made every effort to meet U.S. and Egyptian government demands before leaving. Even so, they were blocked at the border into Gaza. After two days of protests and organizing to again meet yet more obstacles, the delegation now is required to secure a Gaza affidavit signed and notarized by an official at the U.S. Embassy for each member of the delegation. And officials are saying participants can only remain in Gaza for 24 hours. While it is Egypt that is making the demands, it is the U.S. that is refusing to back and support the delegation and very likely pressuring Egypt to keep the aid out. Certainly a direct statement by president Obama would go a long way toward getting the supplies through. But again, he remains silent.
The aim behind these U.S.-Israeli efforts to block humanitarian aid is to impose collective punishment on Gaza and prevent any rebuilding. Much as occurred to the people of New Orleans following Katrina, where the government repeatedly blocked their rebuilding efforts and their ability to return also blocked, the U.S. is attempting to show by example that resistance is futile. That it will dictate the government of Palestine and it will dictate whether building materials can enter and now whether any humanitarian aid can enter.
The people of Gaza remain steadfast in their resistance and the Vive Palestina delegation and that of the Spirit of Humanity show that Americans and the world’s people stand with them. Now is the time to end the siege of Gaza and end the U.S.-Israeli occupation of Palestine!
$1 Million in Vehicles and Medical Supplies Blocked at Gaza Border
The Viva Palestina U.S. convoy has been facing barrier after barrier in recent days despite having initially hoped to cross into the Gaza Strip this morning, July 13. The Egyptian government, collaborator in Israel’s severe blockade for the past 2 years, has set up a course of administrative obstacles which will again delay the group’s entry into Gaza.
George Galloway, the British Member of Parliament (MP) who organized this effort [along with U.S. anti-war Vietnam Veteran Ron Kovic] sent a letter to President Mubarak of Egypt prior to the departure of the U.S. convoy. This letter informed the president that over a million dollars had been raised with the intention of purchasing vehicles, medical supplies and other humanitarian aid to bring to Gaza. Viva Palestina was also in contact with the Egyptian ambassadors in London, Washington, DC and Tripoli, Libya, who, at their request, were provided with a list of the names and passport numbers of all convoy participants.
Yet when the first contingent attempted to cross the Mubarak Peace Bridge to the Sinai Peninsula Saturday evening, they were denied entry. That group spent 12 hours at the checkpoint and entered into a standoff with authorities as they negotiated the length of their stay in successive increments. Members of the delegation demonstrated at the bridge, obstructing access to the vehicles, and also held keys and occupied driver’s seats in order that the 4 buses could not be moved. Although Egyptian officials first stated that the convoy could not pass due to unrest in the region and potential danger to the delegates, ultimately Viva Palestina was informed that each of its members required a Gaza affidavit signed and notarized by an official at the U.S. Embassy in order to pass. That contingent decided to return to Cairo to obtain the affidavits and regroup with other delegates, thereby strengthening their numbers for the next crossing.
The Gaza affidavits are essentially indemnity agreements asserting that the individual has signed away the inalienable right to the protection of the U.S. government. Previous delegations of U.S. citizens to Gaza have not been required to sign these, and these were not requested prior to reaching the Mubarak Bridge checkpoint, despite Viva Palestina’s well-publicized plan. The Egyptian government refused to accept one group affidavit on behalf of the entire convoy. Each individual affidavit will cost convoy members $30 USD.
Yesterday, Egyptian officials asked for a detailed inventory of all aid items, which has now been compiled and will be submitted to border officials at the Rafah crossing.
Late this afternoon, the Head of the Palestine Desk of the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who has been tasked by the Foreign Minister with logistical planning, informed convoy leadership that only the 2 ambulances, of the 47 total vehicles which were purchased earlier in the day at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, would be allowed to enter Gaza. The people of Gaza, with whom MP Galloway has been in frequent contact, have indicated that new vehicles are sorely needed in Gaza for various public services.
Viva Palestina organizers were also informed that convoy members would be permitted to spend only 24 hours in Gaza. Individuals overstaying that time period will not be permitted to leave until the next general opening of the Rafah crossing, which has been continuously closed since June 2007.
New York City Council member Charles Barron, who is traveling with the convoy, believes the reason behind these new requirements and restrictions is clear. “They don’t want this to be successful because they don’t want any more convoys,” Barron said. “They want to set an example with us. They were hoping that they would discourage. That’s why the delays, that’s why adding on stipulations. Because they want us to implode.”
Viva Palestina leadership has emphasized that these tactics will not dissuade the group from its avowed purpose of breaking the siege on Gaza, nor will future convoys be canceled. MP Galloway has announced that he intends to lead caravans this year from Venezuela and Moscow, as well as a second U.S. convoy in December to commemorate the first anniversary of Israel’s brutal attack.
At a private meeting of the Viva Palestina delegation this evening, an agent of the Egyptian government was found to be present taking notes. His notes were confiscated and he was escorted out of the room by MP Galloway.
Convoy members Barron and Cynthia McKinney, former U.S. Representative and 2008 Green Party Presidential candidate, will be contacting President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tomorrow to pressure the Egyptian government to allow additional vehicles through the border and a longer stay in Gaza for convoy members. Additionally, Viva Palestina is calling for supporters to organize demonstrations at Egyptian consulates in the U.S. and to call on the White House and the State Department to support Viva Palestina’s effort in bringing medical supplies to what Obama called the “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza during his June 4 speech in Cairo
July 9 marked the fifth anniversary of the unanimous decision by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that the Israeli Apartheid Wall in Palestine is illegal and must be destroyed. The Wall is being used to confiscate Palestinian land, farm and water resources, and segregate and repress Palestinian villages. Israel has continued Wall construction and the U.S. has continued to back and support this illegal activity, through its massive funding to Israel, supplying the bulldozers and equipment needed and its silence in the face of continued Israeli crimes. There has been persistent non-violent resistance to the Wall, met repeatedly by Israeli repression and brutality, including killing, injuring and jailing demonstrators and leading organizers. President Barack Obama has issued no statements against this repeated violence, just as no statement was issued when the Israeli Navy seized a humanitarian boat delivering aid to Gaza, detaining all 21 people on board. This double standard of the U.S. government – to condemn those governments where it seeks to justify aggression, such as Iran, while remaining silent and funding governments like Israel – makes clear that the U.S. has no concern for democracy and defending protesters. On the contrary, the aim is to hide U.S. aims for aggression and domination. We vigorously oppose these double standards and demand that the Obama administration act to End All Aid to Israel and Stop the Siege of Gaza Now!
New Report Documents Israeli Repression
We reprint below the executive summary of a new report from the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign on Israeli repression against the resistance to the illegal apartheid wall. The full report is available at stopthewall.org.
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It has been five years since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued its advisory opinion on the Apartheid Wall in occupied Palestinian territory – where they held in a unanimous opinion that it was illegal and should be dismantled. The Wall construction continues relentlessly and no significant advance in its removal has been achieved. Instead, since the Court started its hearings in February 2004, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have intensified repression of the affected villages struggling against the Wall, killing the first activists. The gaze of the international community must now turn not only to the illegality and injustice of the Wall, but also to those still resisting its construction. In villages across the West Bank, local residents have formed committees and taken on a campaign of mass popular resistance to the Wall, engaging in weekly, and even daily, demonstrations. These communities have faced a staggering level of repression and violence from the Israeli authorities. It is the aim of this report to investigate that repression and to determine its extent and nature.
That a blanket of fear and repression should be imposed on protesting communities largely defenseless against it is a logical extension of Israel’s security narrative. The fear felt in the communities discussed in this report are not an isolated phenomenon, but rather the mirror image of the ideologies at work in the Israeli discourse. The narrative of security and self-defense can be seen both in the Wall’s construction, and in the Israeli military’s statements on fatalities and injuries at Wall protests. Deliberate killings are narrated as accidents and misdemeanors under fire from rocks and chanting, grievous injuries as unfortunate byproducts of effective crowd control. Too often this version of events is accepted and projected by the international media.
In the course of this report we provide evidence to show that injuries and deaths inflicted by the Israeli military at protests and activity surrounding them are intentional, not accidental. The reintroduction and heavy use of live ammunition and fragmenting bullets is a clear indicator that Israeli policy is designed to harm and kill, as is the regular firing of metal tear gas canisters directly at demonstrators.
Furthermore, it is now increasingly clear that a significant proportion – if not a majority – of fatalities recorded in this report were the result of a qualitatively more extreme form of intent. The recorded shooting of fleeing demonstrators, the use of snipers and silencers, undercover soldiers opening fire with live ammunition, and the chasing down and assassination of children within a demonstration display an intent that is not only generally lethal, but precise and calculated. Such calculations are often racially selective. Violence at demonstrations is deliberately softened when internationals are present, and the brunt of the lethal measures are reserved for Palestinians.
Israel is engaged in low intensity warfare against Palestinian communities resisting the Wall. By targeting the entire community as well as individuals within it, the Israeli military aims to break and undermine the popular resistance. Collective punishment, which manifests itself in curfews, sieges, and destruction of property, aims at sowing divisions within communities, breaking villages’ support for resistance to the Wall. This layer of repression is accompanied by a campaign of threats, and the intentional injury and killing necessary in order to follow them through.
The effects of this campaign have been at once both devastating and counterproductive. It has wrecked the lives of innocent people, paralyzed communities, shut down livelihoods and taken the lives of villagers barely into their teens. Nonetheless, the popular protest movement has shown a remarkable ability not only to survive, but to grow and spread, cultivating a new generation of activists and leaders, and taking root in new areas. How this phase of the popular protest movement will end depends in no small way upon the resolve of the villagers and willingness of global forces to take action as laid out in the recommendations at the end of this report. The international community has a duty to bear witness to the crimes being perpetrated with the construction of the Wall, and to act to protect and aid those who resist it.
Key findings of this report can be summarized as follows:
● The killing, maiming and punitive attacks are systematic and premeditated, not sporadic and accidental. They are tactically intended to create a highly visible spectacle, rendering victims as examples.
● Entire villages are targeted with the aim of inflicting damage on the community as a whole. Collective punishment complements spectacular violence and sowing divisions between villagers.
● Occupation forces consistently target protestors, predominately youth, with the stated intent of causing serious, at times permanent, injury. This involves the use of beatings, lethal ammunition, “non-lethal” ammunition and, more recently, 40mm high velocity tear gas canisters, in addition to threats, denial of permits, curfews and tear-gassing.
● The IOF explicitly inform villagers of the rationale behind their violence in order to maximize the effectiveness of these measures.
● Between 2005 and 2009, at least 1,566 Palestinians were injured in weekly demonstrations in four villages, namely Bil’in, Ni’lin, Ma’sara and Jayyous. Evidence suggests, however, that more injuries have occurred in other villages that were not included in this report. A further 16 people, half of them children, have been killed in villages protesting against the Wall since 2004.
● We have documented the cases of 171 Palestinians who have been arrested by the IOF in relation to Wall-related protests and activities in five villages since 2002: Budrus, Bilin, Nilin, Jayyous and Ma’sara. Interviews with activists suggest that many more activists are likely to have been arrested in other villages. Further research is needed to expose the extent of Israel’s arrest and detention policies.
● Children and youths are particularly targeted by the IOF during raids and arrest campaigns, usually under the false pretext of being stone throwers and “trouble-makers,” although they are by no means the only ones arrested.
● Members and heads of the Popular Committees in respective villages were also initially targeted by IOF during the first years of the Wall’s construction, in order to break up protests and create disunity, especially since these committees have been the most vocal in their non-violent protest and have been instrumental in coordinating and mobilizing weekly protests.
As of March 2009, there have been 129 indictments of Israeli activists protesting against the Occupation. Out of these, at least 41 were Israeli members of Anarchists Against the Wall who were directly involved in protests against the Wall, either in Israel or the West Bank.
Lastly, this report offers practical recommendations to: the United Nations; the international community, with a special focus on the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention; Palestinian and international human rights NGOs; and, international and local media. The aim of these recommendations is to establish protection mechanisms for inhabitants of Wall-affected communities, and, most importantly, Palestinian human rights activists leading the resistance against the Wall.
Out of a list of recommendations, we wish to emphasize that it is crucial for the international community to finally:
● Take real action to ensure that Israel complies with the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice, as a step to fulfilling its wider obligations under international law. This would mean: (1) stopping the construction of the Wall in the occupied Palestinian territories; (2) dismantling the sections built to date; and (3) providing compensation for all damage, including for land confiscation caused by the construction of the Wall.
● Until then, establish mechanisms aiming to protect the popular resistance against the Wall in their rightful protests against the Wall’s construction and land confiscation by (1) ensuring a permanent and institutionalized presence of international monitors in wall-affected villages to prevent the use of indiscriminate force – including arbitrary arrests – during weekly demonstrations as well as acts of collective punishment at night – including raids, curfews, cases of threats and intimidation against protestors, and (2) intervening with the Israeli authorities in cases of arbitrary detention of Palestinian protestors. (Full report available at stopthewall.org)
The weekend of July 11-12 saw demonstrations in Palestine and around the globe to mark the fifth anniversary of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) verdict saying construction of the Apartheid Wall was illegal.
At Bil’in the weekly protest began with a march, with two hundred demonstrators proceeding to the Wall and successfully opening the first set of gates. Occupation forces immediately set off sound bombs and opened fire with tear gas and rubber coated steel bullets. The military also deployed a Border Police vehicle with a water cannon that fires high-pressure imitation sewage and causes vomiting, nausea and disorientation. Dozens were treated for tear gas inhalation as well, and two youth were kidnapped by the military. The demonstration saw speeches calling for a continued grass roots effort to resist the Wall and the settlements on the fifth anniversary of the ICJ ruling, in spite of an increasing campaign of violent repression against Wall-resisting communities.
In the village of Al Ma’sara protesters blocked the settler road to commemorate the anniversary. Villagers and international supporters marched toward their land and were stopped my military vehicles and force back toward the village. There, protesters stood against the soldiers, delivering speeches in Arabic, Hebrew and English.
In Ni’lin midday prayers were followed by a three hundred-strong protest that marched to the Wall. Here it was met with tear gas and sound bombs. Youth with wire cutters removed razor wire and cut sections of the fence. Two villagers – Baheh Mohamed Abed Al Karder, 17, and Ala’ Adnen Il-Khaweja, 18 – were beaten with sticks and dragged into a jeep after two demonstrators turned out to be undercover operatives. These operatives threw sound bombs and shot live ammunition into the air, dispersing the crowd.
This week also saw a new demonstration at Nahalin, Bethlehem district, where dozens of villagers held prayers on their land, some of which is threatened by a path for settler electricity pylons. With little showing by Occupation forces, the protest concluded with speeches about the ICJ judgment and the theft of Palestinian land.
Meanwhile, protests around the world called for an end to the Apartheid Wall. In Dublin, activists unfurled banners in front of the Israeli Embassy, only to find that the staff had been given a half-day off. Frustrating as this may have been – many of the protestors had traveled considerable distances – the fact that the ICJ ruling, and protests surrounding it, are disrupting Embassy business is a victory. Attention also turned to the EU offices in Dublin. War on Want, the British-based charity, asked its supporters to write to their MP to remind them of the ICJ’s ruling on the illegality of the Wall and its disastrous effects on Palestinian communities.
News of protests came from as far away as Australia and Korea. In Seoul the day was marked by a vigil outside the Israeli Embassy, and in Melbourne five thousand flyers inviting people to write to the Foreign Minister were distributed at a demonstration in the city center.
Illegitimate Coup Government Assassinates Two Honduran Leaders, Expels Journalists and Hires Top Democrats as Lobbyists
Things are getting worse each day inside Honduras. Over the weekend, two well-known social leaders were assassinated by the coup forces. Roger Bados leader of the Bloque Popular & the National Resistance Front against the coup d'etat, was killed in the northern city of San Pedro Sula. At about 8pm on Saturday, July 11, Bados was assassinated by three gun shots. Bados was also a member of the leftist party, Democratic Unity (Unificación Democrática) and was president of a union representing workers in a cement factory. His death was denounced as part of the atmosphere of fear and repressive actions taken by the coup government to silence all dissent.
Ramon Garcia, another social leader in Honduras, was also killed on Saturday evening by military forces who boarded a bus he was riding in Santa Barbara and forced him off, subsequently shooting him and wounding his sister. Juan Barahona, National Coordinator of the Bloque Popular & the National Resistance Front against the coup, stated that these actions were committed by the coup government "as the only way to maintain themselves in power, by terrorizing and killing the people."
Despite statements made by representatives of the coup government, the national curfew remains in place. Different social organizers from Honduras have been reporting that the curfew is still in effect and denouncing the coup government for lying about lifting it, so as to seem less repressive to the international community.
However, over the weekend, foreign journalists from Telesur, Venezolana de Televisión (VTV - Venezuelan State TV) and EFE, were detained by military forces and expelled from Honduras. The Venezuelan journalists returned last night to Venezuela, while Telesur is still trying to find a way to maintain its correspondents on the ground. For now, they are all in Nicaragua after being forcibly expelled from the country. This means few, if any, international media are left in Honduras covering the reality on the ground, of a coup d'etat now 15 days in the making.
Honduran media, which supports the coup, reported on the journalists' detention stating that the police arrested and deported them due to "car theft." The massive repression and censorship inside Honduras by the media and coup government is already taking an extraordinary toll on the people of Honduras who each day are finding it more difficult to resist.
Meanwhile, the coup government has hired top notch Democrat lobbyists in Washington to make their case before Congress and the White House and convince the U.S. people to recognize the coup government as a legitimate government. The New York Times has confirmed that Clinton lobbyist Lanny Davis, former Special Counsel for President Bill Clinton from 1996-1998, and close advisor to Hillary's campaign for president last year, has been hired by the Latin American Business Council — an ultraconservative group of Latin American businesses — to represent the coup leaders in the U.S. Davis arranged a series of meetings with congress last week, including a hearing before the House Foreign Relations Committee, where he testified in favor of the coup government alongside Iran-Contra propaganda man Otto Reich, as well as several private meetings in the State Department and interviews with U.S. media. Another lobbyist, Bennett Ratcliff of San Diego, another close friend and advisor of the Clinton's, was also hired by the coup government in Honduras to advise them on the negotiations taking place in Costa Rica.
Ratcliff actually accompanied the coup representatives and dictator Roberto Micheletti to Costa Rica, presenting the "conditions" of a negotiated return for President Zelaya to Honduras.
So what is up with the Clinton advisors and lobbyists hanging out with the coupsters? Obviously, it is a clear indication of Washington's support for the coup regime in Honduras, despite the rhetoric we heard last week "condemning the coup." The real actions show just the opposite: clear, undivided support for Micheletti and a definite rejection of President Zelaya's return to the presidency in Honduras.
Ratcliff's conditions for the negotiation — approved by Secretary of State Clinton in Washington — included the following five main terms:
1. Zelaya can return to the presidency, but not to power. The presidency and the exercise of power are two different things.
2. Zelaya must not pursue any plans to reform the Constitution or promote polls or referendums that give voice to the people.
3. Zelaya must distance himself substantially from President Hugo Chávez of Venezeula. "This is essential," they said.
4. Zelaya must share governance with the Congress and those in the coup regime until the elections in November.
5. Zelaya must give amnesty to all those involved in the coup.
Well, there you have it! Obama's first coup and Clinton's first use of "smart power" to achieve the ouster of a left-leaning president that was further opening the doors of Central America to Latin American integration and sovereignty. There is no doubt that this coup has been executed to cease the expansion of socialism and Latin American independence in the region.
FLMN Representative to Tour U.S.
Audelia Lopez, a long-time leader of El Salvador's FMLN (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front) party, will visit the U.S. from July 11-19 as a representative of the new progressive Salvadoran government. President Mauricio Funes was inaugurated on June 1, becoming the first leftist president in the history of El Salvador. Ms. Lopez will meet with members of community groups with ties to El Salvador, leaders of the local immigrant rights movement, and women’s organizations. Ms. Lopez will speak at various public events and is available for interviews.
Ms. Lopez’s tour of the eastern United States includes stops in Boston, New York and Washington DC. Ms. Lopez will reflect on the historic victory of the FMLN in El Salvador's March 2009 presidential election, including the role that U.S. activists played in counteracting the electoral intervention of Congressional Republicans in the days before the election. She will also comment on the recent military coup in Honduras, it’s damaging effects on the “rule of law” in the region and efforts by Central American governments to prevent such undemocratic power-grabs from taking place in the future. Finally, she will focus on certain initiatives of the new Salvadoran government, including efforts to support Salvadoran immigrants living in the United States.
Ms. Lopez was a founding member of the FMLN, which was created in 1980 as a political-military organization that fought the repressive Salvadoran government in a 12-year civil war. During the armed struggle she served as a combatant with the FMLN and has continued to be a leader in the local politics of her home state of Chalatenango. Ms. Lopez currently serves in the National Assembly as an alternate and is a prominent leader of the FMLN’s Women’s Secretariat.
To schedule an interview, please contact CISPES – Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador: firstname.lastname@example.org, 617-820-3008
For tour dates and events see www.cispes.org.