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Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem

Chair of West Midland PSC

Dear Friends,

This evening, all the radio and TV news commentary focused heavily on Goldstone’s seeming retraction of his well known report about war crimes in Gaza during Israel’s military campaign there in 2008-9.  While Lieberman and Netanyahu ‘I told you so-ed’ to the Israeli public, at least one commentator was sufficiently intelligent to ask ‘what made him retract’?  Good question, which I, however, will not deal with.  But will have one or two comments when we come to the retraction or partial retraction, which is item 5.

Of the 8 items below, the final 2 are action requests.  Please read them, distribute widely, and help if you can.

Item 1 relates that IAF air strike killed 3 militants in Gaza—just another sign that Israel’s leaders do not care about Israeli citizens or others who reside here, because it is obvious that the killing (and serious wounding of a 4th) will bring retaliation, which most likely means that Israelis whose communities border on Gaza, and even further away, are likely to have a sleepless night, waiting for the missiles to fall.  Was the killing necessary?  Even if Israel’s excuse is correct that the group was planning to kidnap Israelis over the Passover holiday, was there no way to handle the situation besides one that puts a large number of Israel’s citizens in potential danger?

In item 2, Amira Hass takes a pot shot at “Mighty Israel” and the money and energy it spends trying to quash non-violent protest.  I suspect that the IAF killing in Gaza and ‘mighty Israel’s’ heavy hand in the West Bank against Palestinian non-violent protest against the theft of their lands and homes, demolitions, and the rest all have a goal of forcing Palestinians to trade non-violence for violence.  With violence Israel knows how to deal!  Use force and more force.

Following Amira’s heavy commentary, comes a surprise:  a decent judge who has the sense to tell the police that they are overstepping their bounds, and who additionally apparently values freedom of expression.

Item 4 shows that the judge’s remarks to the police had little influence on their acts.  More arrests of activists protesting peacefully occurred today.

Item 5 is Richard Goldstone’s remarks.  What he says is that had he known when he wrote his report what he knows today, the report would have been very different from the one that now exists.  How different?  Mainly, apparently, it would have not accused Israel of war crimes, or at least with regard to fewer instances.  I cannot say that I find Goldstone’s turn-about entirely convincing.  To mention a few points: he takes much too much for granted that Israel is performing (has performed) a transparent and thorough investigation.  Hamas’s crimes, he says, were intentional—Israel’s not, at least not in all cases, for example the one in which 21 members of a single family were killed.  Goldstone claims that Israel has the right to defend itself, but not a word about Gaza having that same right.  He goes so far as to say that the fact that Hamas managed to kill only comparatively few Israelis does not relieve it of accountability, but says nothing about Israel having killed so many—intentionally or not—being accountable for their deaths.  Really!  Just to claim that Israel did not kill intentionally does not relieve it of responsibility!  Goldstone should have read testimonies of soldiers who participated in the killing fields of Gaza that are gathered in Breaking the Silence (the link to it follows Goldstone’s retraction).

And also it might have been useful for him to have seen a video showing how technologically advanced Israel is in the field of drones used to kill, but which nevertheless hit civilians—in one case a family in their yard having tea, in another 2 young women walking down the street (the link also follows the report).  And I hardly need remind you of the doctor’s 3 daughters and niece who were suddenly killed by tank shells while sitting in their room.  Do we say that a driver who killed a pedestrian is not responsible because he/she did not do it intentionally?  Goldstone’s report (the original one) was fair-handed.  His comments now sound as though he feels that his report conflicted with his support for Israel.  Read and see what you think.

Item 6 is pleasant reading for a change.  Gideon Levy meets an old friend from Gaza and spends the day with him.  Just goes to show how easily we could live together in peace.

Items 7 and 8, as I have said, are requests.  Please do your best to help.

Thanks,

Dorothy

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1. The Independent,

2 April 2011

Israeli air strike kills three militants in Gaza

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/israeli-air-strike-kills-three-militants-in-gaza-2260387.html

By Maayan Lubell, Reuters

Israeli aircraft killed three Palestinian gunmen in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday, medical officials and the Israeli army said.

Residents said the planes fired on a car in which the three men were travelling near the town of Khan Younis.

An Israeli military spokesman said the air strike was aimed at “a Hamas terrorist squad planning to kidnap Israelis over the upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover.”

Hamas, Gaza’s Islamist rulers, confirmed the men were members of its armed wing, but denied they were planning a kidnapping and threatened reprisal. “The enemy will pay for this assassination crime,” a statement said.

The air strike raised to 15 the number of people killed since a flare up of violence last month.

Israel and the Palestinians have signalled a readiness to return to a de facto ceasefire which has kept the border mostly quiet since the end of the December 2008-January 2009 Gaza war.

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2.  Haaretz,

March 28, 2011


Mighty Israel and its quest to quash Palestinian popular protest

The military has delegated its best soldiers, investigators and judges to safeguarding Israel against the organizer of Nabi Saleh’s popular uprising.

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/features/mighty-israel-and-its-quest-to-quash-palestinian-popular-protest-1.352248

By Amira Hass

Tags: Israel news Palestinians

“Now that Abdullah Abu Rahma has been released from jail, the Israeli soldiers and the honorable military tribunal judges will have time for Bassem Tamimi.” Thus Tamimi, the coordinator of Nabi Saleh’s Popular Committee, was introduced to guests who came to congratulate Bil’in resident Abu Rahma on his release after serving 16 months on charges of incitement and organizing illegal demonstrations. Twenty-four hours later, late Thursday morning, Tamimi was arrested.

The truth is, though, that regardless of Abu Rahma’s release, the military has delegated its best soldiers, investigators and judges to safeguarding Israel from 44-year-old Tamimi and from the spreading virus of popular uprising.

Bassem Tamimi arguing with soldiers at Nabi Saleh.

Photo by: Bilal Tamimi

We met several times in the past two weeks – in Ramallah, not in Nabi Saleh. Facing the suppression of that village’s weekly demonstrations is a challenge best reserved for the experienced. Huge quantities of tear gas, rubber-coated bullets flying between buildings, gas canisters with (illegally ) extended ranges, beatings, shovings and home invasions – this is what the Israel Defense Forces employs against the small village of 500. Since the demonstrations began in 2009, 155 of the residents have been injured, 40 percent of whom are children. Thirty-five houses have been damaged in the process of dispersing demonstrations, and seven caught fire.

The Civil Administration does not shy from taking action. It has distributed 11 demolition orders for home additions in Area C (about half of the village is in that area, meaning it is under full Israeli administrative and security control ).

In straightforward terms, that is where Israel forbids Palestinians from building and developing. On the other side of the road, also in Area C, the settlement of Halamish is expanding and building houses on land belonging to the villages of Nabi Saleh and Dir Nizam.

Some 13 percent of Nabi Saleh’s residents – 63 people – have been arrested and jailed since the end of 2009. All but three were tried for participating in demonstrations against the army. Bassem Tamimi is number 64. Of those imprisoned, 29 were minors. Four were women, including Nariman Tamimi, Bassem’s wife.

To complete the picture there are night raids on homes, access to the village is blocked and scores of others have been detained for a few hours at a time.

Tamimi had not been staying at home for almost two weeks – he knew the army wanted to arrest him. As a Fatah member, he had been arrested repeatedly since his youth.

Now he hoped to postpone this predicament. He had spent three years in administrative detention (without a trial ). During an interrogation in 1993, he was shaken and lost consciousness for eight days. Paralyzed, he was taken from the hospital to jail. After 40 days in solitary confinement, he was released.

“I didn’t kill so I didn’t have anything to admit,” he said.

We met for a long talk a few days after the Fogel family members were murdered in the settlement of Itamar. His colleagues in Bil’in’s Popular Struggle Committee had published a statement condemning the murder. Tamimi did not think it was right to initiate a condemnation of “something that never has represented us. But if I’m asked, I obviously respond that murdering children is murdering children, whatever their nationality, color, religion or race. It doesn’t matter if the child is named Hadas Fogel or Iman Hijju or Abir Aramin. The murder of Hadas Fogel, even without knowing who the murderer is, goes against our humanity. The occupation has occupied our reason and consciousness. Due to the conflict we started to make excuses for acts that are not humane, that harm the Palestinians more than they harm the Israelis.

“Our strategic choice of a popular struggle – as a means to fight the occupation taking over our lands, lives and future – is a declaration that we do not harm human lives. The very essence of our activity opposes killing. Therefore there is no need to condemn something that from the start does not represent us and is contrary to our way of thinking.

“The popular uprising is not a reaction. The problem is not expropriated land or a spring the settlers took over – that is merely an expression of the problem, which is foreign rule. If Benjamin Netanyahu genuinely wanted to save lives and end the conflict, he would not declare that houses are being built in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, houses that are actually graves for Palestinians and Israelis.

He would announce that homes are being built to move the settlers to Tel Aviv, within Israel, on 78 percent of our historical land that we have agreed will be the State of Israel, so that we will have a state in the remainder of the territory. As members of Fatah, we supported peace negotiations. But it merely led to more settlements and settlers. During the peace process, we lost more than at any other time.

“We want to offer our people an example and model of popular struggle. From the start of the revolution (the establishment of Fatah ) and the armed struggle, we committed cumulative mistakes that the Israelis exploited against us, even though they were merely reactions to Israeli repression. We don’t have a military response to Israel. History has taught us that only popular uprisings were successful, albeit partially: in 1936 and 1987. Through a popular struggle we can prove our moral superiority.”

On Thursday, March 24, Tamimi thought that a visit by European diplomats to his village would protect him from arrest.

He left Ramallah and had 10 minutes to spend at home and embrace his children. Just when he asked his wife to “prepare a delicious meal that I miss so much,” the IDF with all its resourcefulness sent five jeeps and 15 soldiers. We’ve got Tamimi.

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3.  Haaretz,

April 01, 2011

HomePrint EditionNewsPublished 00:52 01.04.11


Court releases Israeli leftist activists, slams police for limiting free speech

Leftist activists were detained while demonstrating near the Havat Maon outpost on Saturday to protest the stabbing of a Palestinian days earlier.

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/court-releases-israeli-leftist-activists-slams-police-for-limiting-free-speech-1.353402

By Chaim Levinson

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court released on Sunday leftist activists detained while demonstrating outside a West Bank outpost, stressing specifically that police had no authority to limit their freedom of speech.

The activists were detained after a demonstration near the Havat Maon outpost on Saturday to protest the stabbing of a Palestinian days earlier. Police and Army forces presented them with a document declaring the area a closed military zone, leading to an argument in which 15 people were arrested.

After questioning them at the Hebron police station, police offered to release the activists in exchange for a promise to stay away from the area, which they refused.

Representing the detainees, attorney Nery Ramati told the court they were not met with any opposition by the settlers and that therefore there was no risk to anyone.

“Their stated purpose was a quiet, non-violent vigil against the non-enforcement of the law on the Jewish settlers in the area,” the lawyer said.

Judge Yoel Tsur decided to immediately release all the detainees. “The release of detainees must not be based on conditions that may harm the right for freedom of opinion and freedom of expression,” he wrote.

Police took flack from the right as well yesterday for taking a resident of the settlement of Itamar in for questioning at 5:30 A.M. to investigate the killing of a Palestinian in Arak Borin.

Yesha Council chairman Danny Dayan accused the police of insensitivity.

A police spokesman said that after investigating the complaint, he had found that the officers acted properly.

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4.  Ynet,

April 02, 2011


Protesters on road near village Photo: Elior Levy

IDF arrests leftist protesters

Demonstrators protest blocking of entrance to Beit Ommar following stone-throwing incidents

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4051026,00.html

Yair Altman

The IDF detained for questioning Saturday 17 left-wing activists from the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement who protested at the West Bank village of Beit Ommar. Four of the activists remain in custody.

The activists were rallying in honor of the Palestinian Land Day and protesting against the army’s blocking of the entrance to the village.

They claimed the soldiers at the checkpoint had refused to show them orders declaring the village a closed military zone and that they had beaten them.

The IDF said in response that no closure had been imposed on Beit Ommar but that “precautions are being taken in order to lessen stone-throwing at Israeli vehicles in the area”. The village is located close to Hebron.

The villagers claimed earlier this week that the IDF had closed off the entrance to Beit Ommar, effectively imposing “collective punishment” on its residents due to a number of stone-throwing incidents on a nearby road.

“This is a policy of an army that imposes collective punishment on all the residents,” Biet Ommar council head Nasri Sabarna told Ynet Thursday.

“It is true that there is a small group of youngsters who throw stones, and we are vehemently against this,” Sabarna said, “But why do all of Beit Ommar’s residents have to suffer because of it? Also, blocking the entrance only increases the hostility… We are trying to lower the level of violence, but when a settler throws stones at Palestinians does the army block the entrance to his settlement?”

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5.  Washington Post,

April 1, 2011

Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and war crimes

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/reconsidering-the-goldstone-report-on-israel-and-war-crimes/2011/04/01/AFg111JC_story.html

By Richard Goldstone,

We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council that produced what has come to be known as the Goldstone Report. If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.

The final report by the U.N. committee of independent experts — chaired by former New York judge Mary McGowan Davis — that followed up on the recommendations of the Goldstone Report has found that “Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza” while “the de facto authorities (i.e., Hamas) have not conducted any investigations into the launching of rocket and mortar attacks against Israel.”

Our report found evidence of potential war crimes and “possibly crimes against humanity” by both Israel and Hamas. That the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying — its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets.

The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion. While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.

For example, the most serious attack the Goldstone Report focused on was the killing of some 29 members of the al-Simouni family in their home. The shelling of the home was apparently the consequence of an Israeli commander’s erroneous interpretation of a drone image, and an Israeli officer is under investigation for having ordered the attack. While the length of this investigation is frustrating, it appears that an appropriate process is underway, and I am confident that if the officer is found to have been negligent, Israel will respond accordingly. The purpose of these investigations, as I have always said, is to ensure accountability for improper actions, not to second-guess, with the benefit of hindsight, commanders making difficult battlefield decisions.

While I welcome Israel’s investigations into allegations, I share the concerns reflected in the McGowan Davis report that few of Israel’s inquiries have been concluded and believe that the proceedings should have been held in a public forum. Although the Israeli evidence that has emerged since publication of our report doesn’t negate the tragic loss of civilian life, I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes.

Israel’s lack of cooperation with our investigation meant that we were not able to corroborate how many Gazans killed were civilians and how many were combatants. The Israeli military’s numbers have turned out to be similar to those recently furnished by Hamas (although Hamas may have reason to inflate the number of its combatants).

As I indicated from the very beginning, I would have welcomed Israel’s cooperation. The purpose of the Goldstone Report was never to prove a foregone conclusion against Israel. I insisted on changing the original mandate adopted by the Human Rights Council, which was skewed against Israel. I have always been clear that Israel, like any other sovereign nation, has the right and obligation to defend itself and its citizens against attacks from abroad and within. Something that has not been recognized often enough is the fact that our report marked the first time illegal acts of terrorism from Hamas were being investigated and condemned by the United Nations. I had hoped that our inquiry into all aspects of the Gaza conflict would begin a new era of evenhandedness at the U.N. Human Rights Council, whose history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted.

Some have charged that the process we followed did not live up to judicial standards. To be clear: Our mission was in no way a judicial or even quasi-judicial proceeding. We did not investigate criminal conduct on the part of any individual in Israel, Gaza or the West Bank. We made our recommendations based on the record before us, which unfortunately did not include any evidence provided by the Israeli government. Indeed, our main recommendation was for each party to investigate, transparently and in good faith, the incidents referred to in our report. McGowan Davis has found that Israel has done this to a significant degree; Hamas has done nothing.

Some have suggested that it was absurd to expect Hamas, an organization that has a policy to destroy the state of Israel, to investigate what we said were serious war crimes. It was my hope, even if unrealistic, that Hamas would do so, especially if Israel conducted its own investigations. At minimum I hoped that in the face of a clear finding that its members were committing serious war crimes, Hamas would curtail its attacks. Sadly, that has not been the case. Hundreds more rockets and mortar rounds have been directed at civilian targets in southern Israel. That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality. The U.N. Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms.

In the end, asking Hamas to investigate may have been a mistaken enterprise. So, too, the Human Rights Council should condemn the inexcusable and cold-blooded recent slaughter of a young Israeli couple and three of their small children in their beds.

I continue to believe in the cause of establishing and applying international law to protracted and deadly conflicts. Our report has led to numerous “lessons learned” and policy changes, including the adoption of new Israel Defense Forces procedures for protecting civilians in cases of urban warfare and limiting the use of white phosphorus in civilian areas. The Palestinian Authority established an independent inquiry into our allegations of human rights abuses — assassinations, torture and illegal detentions — perpetrated by Fatah in the West Bank, especially against members of Hamas. Most of those allegations were confirmed by this inquiry. Regrettably, there has been no effort by Hamas in Gaza to investigate the allegations of its war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

Simply put, the laws of armed conflict apply no less to non-state actors such as Hamas than they do to national armies. Ensuring that non-state actors respect these principles, and are investigated when they fail to do so, is one of the most significant challenges facing the law of armed conflict. Only if all parties to armed conflicts are held to these standards will we be able to protect civilians who, through no choice of their own, are caught up in war.

The writer, a retired justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and former chief prosecutor of the U.N. International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, chaired the U.N. fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict.

—————

Links

a. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/23/israel-gaza-war-crimes-guardian

the 3rd video about 7 minutes

———–

b.  link to soldiers’ testimonies about Cast Lead

http://www.shovrimshtika.org/UserFiles/File/ENGLISH_oferet.pdf

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6.  Haaretz,

April 1, 2011


Twilight Zone / Return to Shuk Hatikva

Munir Dweik, our regular taxi driver in Gaza, spent his teen years working in the Hatikva quarter’s chicken market. This week he paid a return visit

http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/magazine/twilight-zone-return-to-shuk-hatikva-1.353503

By Gideon Levy

A great miracle happened here: Munir Dweik, our devoted taxi driver in Gaza, received a permit to visit Israel, for the first time in 18 years. He and his friend Said al-Kalut used to drive us around in their ancient Mercedes – through the alleyways of Jabalya, to the killing fields of Beit Hanoun, to the wretched homes of Dir al-Balah and the bereaved families in Khan Yunis. We roamed together between Gaza City and Rafah, chasing the stories of the Gaza Strip.

Munir and Said both grew up as laborers in Tel Aviv, and that’s where they spent the best years of their lives. They had a dream: to return, even for just a short visit, just once, to the landscapes of their childhood, to the chicken-plucking machines of Hatikva market, to the watermelon stalls of the Carmel market, to the long-gone Jaffa-to-Gaza taxi stand, to their old friends and bosses.

The visitor: Munir Dweik at the Hatikva market this week.

Photo by: Miki Kratsman

We had not seen them since November 2006, when the gates of Gaza were closed to us. We remained in touch by phone, though, in times of calm and times of blood and destruction. Last week, Munir called me in great excitement: He had obtained an entry permit to come to Israel for a few days, thanks to an Italian aid organization he works for. This past Sunday we met in Lod, and together we set out to visit the Hatikva market and spend the day in Tel Aviv. It was an incredibly moving day, for him and for us, this visit to Altneuland, the old-new land, his and ours.

Massive hugs between friends who haven’t seen one another in more than four years, Munir all dressed up, and this time it’s we who are driving him, in a hybrid vehicle – he’s never seen anything like it. The ensuing hours would be ones of wonder, excitement, embarrassment, turmoil, distress, joy, and suspense, all mixed up and all under control.

Would they remember him at the market? How would they treat him today, at a time when Qassams are raining down? Back then they called him “Avi” or sometimes “Abed.” He was a kid then, but he’s not anymore.

It has been more than 20 years since he saw Yigal the Persian, Motti the Yemenite and Rimon, whose phone numbers he has kept since then. He still remembers the kapparot prayer – “zeh halifati, zeh temurati, zeh kaparati” he recites, swinging his hands over his head in imitation of the ritual, as he did then, on Yom Kippur eve in the Hatikva market, for customers who took him for a Jew.

Ben-Gurion Airport 2000 to the right, the new “Fast Lane” to the left, the Hiriya dump has become a park – it’s all new to him. The country is developing in huge strides. Quietly drinking in the views through the car window, he says that in the five days he’s been in Israel he’s felt calm, in a way he hasn’t felt in Gaza for years – even though a bomb went off in Jerusalem the day he arrived last week. “Here I’m not nervous. In Gaza, I’m nervous 24 hours a day.”

His friends in Gaza gave him a shopping list, the way we used to do back in the 1950s and 1960s to the lucky few who sailed for Cyprus. Sandals for Said, hot peppers for a neighbor, sweets for the kids, cigarettes for everyone and above all – bread, hubz al-yahud, the “Jews’ bread,” i.e., our rye bread, which doesn’t exist in Gaza. Since the last time we met – at the Indira Gandhi kindergarten in Beit Lahiya, the day after the teacher was killed in front of the children – his first granddaughter was born. He would prefer to forget Operation Cast Lead – how his wife sent him to buy flour, and a missile fell right by his taxi. Though we did share a laugh recalling the times when he used to fuel his Mercedes with cooking oil. At the end of the day he would get home and vomit from the smell.

The Tel Aviv skyline comes into view. “I don’t recognize anything, I don’t even know where I am,” he says, just two blocks from the Hatikva market. He spent 10 years here, formative years as an adolescent. “I was a kid here. Everybody here loved me then. I was a good boy, a cool kid. But then the first Gulf War happened and I’ve been stuck in Gaza ever since. But I can’t forget, I just can’t.”

He calls Rimon, his boss from back then. It’s been 25 years since he last saw him. Great joy. “Twenty-five years is not like 25 days or even 25 months.” Soon they will meet again.

At the beginning of Ha’Etzel Street, an image becomes clear. This is where the drugstore was, and this is where we used to come when we got hurt, he says. It wasn’t that unusual for their bosses to beat them, but Munir-Avi was a good boy. And here is where he used to park his Peugeot 404. “Ya salam, ya salam, the Hatikva neighborhood. Right here, where it says Or Shalom, on the third floor, that’s where we had a room.” Merkaz Hakeves (Lamb Center ) used to be Merkaz Ha’of (Chicken Center ), where Munir plucked feathers from morning till night.

Now he musters his courage and goes over to the merchants. “You won’t remember me,” he says to Avraham Naim. “I used to work for Rimon on the machine.” A passerby interjects: Why wasn’t there enough room in Haaretz to cover the terror attack in Itamar, and why do we write about Bibi when the whole country is burning? But Munir is absorbed in his memories: This is where Ovadia’s watermelon stand was. “I used to unload them for him from the truck every day. This is the store where Said worked, cleaning fish.”

Not everyone remembers, not everyone is immediately happy to see him. It’s the Hatikva market, and he is from Gaza. Someone took him for a Jew at first, someone else made a face, but with most people the ice was quickly broken and the memories began to surface. He pulled out his entry permit and proudly showed it to everyone, an especially touching gesture that was basically saying: I’m okay, you have nothing to fear from me, even though I come from Gaza.

Motti invited us to his tiny apartment at the back of the market. He used to beat his Arab workers, but not “Abed” – Munir. Rimon used to leave Abed to tend the cash register while he went off to watch soccer, trusting him completely. Rimon shows up eventually. He says Munir is “a good and reliable fellow. … If all the Arabs were like him, there’d be peace already.” They tell each other about their families, how many children and grandchildren have been born since then. And the inevitable Jewish question: How many children have you married off? They remember the Sheraton cigarettes they used to smoke together through the long days and nights. Motti still smokes, but only “light” cigarettes now, and Munir quit smoking in 2000. “To be honest, I really loved him,” Motti admits. “Long live the Messiah” says the graffiti on the wall. That wasn’t there then either. “Bye bye, Hatikva neighborhood,” Munir waves, trying to hide his feelings.

His eyes light up again at the sight of the used taxi lots in south Tel Aviv. In Gaza, their cost is astronomical. If only he could take one of these with him. And if only he had listened to a friend in the market who told him he should get married then, in the 1980s, to an Israeli Arab woman, and get an Israeli ID card and stay here. If only he’d listened. The friend told him the day would come when Gaza would be completely closed off. But Munir couldn’t believe it: They’ll only keep the bad people out, not everyone. If only he’d listened to his friend.

At the Benny Hadayag restaurant in the Tel Aviv port, he calls the waitress “motek” (honey ). Then he asks if it’s obvious that he’s an Arab, and what would happen if people in the restaurant knew he was from Gaza. Passing by the caravillas of the Gush Katif evacuees in Nitzan, he is quiet, looking at the signs the settlers brought with them, signs he knew well from the years he traveled with Israeli journalists: Welcome to Rafiah Yam, Welcome to Morag. “They’ll never forget Neve Dekalim and Netzarim, just like I’ll never forget the Hatikva market and the Carmel market.”

Across from the power station in Askhelon he stares in astonishment: Is this the station we can see even from Dir al-Balah?

Munir practically empties the supermarket shelves at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, packing up loaves of bread for everyone and sweets for the kids. As we approach the Erez Checkpoint he murmurs to himself: “Five days passed like five minutes. How warmly everyone greeted me, despite the hatred and the rockets and the siege. Did you see the way they received me? Now I’m going home and I don’t know what will be. I was in Egypt once and I didn’t feel anything, but Tel Aviv, a city you grew up in, a city you love – now that’s something else.”

And then Munir collects his bags, all his numerous packages, gets out of the car and slowly makes his way toward the first checkpoint, on his way home. He walks in silence, all his purchases threatening to slip from his hands, until he is stopped by the first guard at the checkpoint. See you, Munir. When the madness is over.

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7. Dear Dorothy.

I am writing to ask for your help. You might have heard that Yonatan Pollak has recently served a 3 monthprison sentence for riding a bicycle in Tel-Aviv. Several months ago I was imprisoned and so were Adi Winter and Oshra Bar.

These sentences are part of a well-orchestrated effort to stop our activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. When beating and detaining us did not stop our resistance, scores of legal indictments were issued against us. Currently, about 60 indictments are still standing. None of the human rights NGOs in Israel are representing us, and so Gaby Lasky, our brilliant and dedicated lawyer, has taken on the cause and we pay her a relatively small retainer fee. This not only includes representing us in court, but also releasing activists who have been detained, sometimes in the middle of the night.

We have no office, no paid staff, and no fund raiser. The state knows that legal representation costs money and is using the fact that we do not have funding resources to undermine our activities by filing more and more indictments. We have consequently decided to try to undercut this strategy by asking people to contribute a recurring donation of $5 or $10 a month. Our objective is to reach $2,500 per month to cover the legal fees and thus to ensure that all our activists receive good representation when they need it. Donations (which are tax deductible in the US) can be made through our website http://awalls.org/donations. Please consider lending a hand.

All the best,
Kobi Snitz

http://www.awalls.org
P.O. Box 5046
Tel-Aviv, TA 61050
Israel

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8,

3 easy ways to take part in Right to Education Month

1.  Send an email to five students or teachers, asking them to sign the petition online

2.  Sign up to get involved in campaign organizing—bring the campaign to life in your local communities and campuses.

3. Attend the Education Tour in your area.

Dear Dorothy,

Watching the coverage of the Egyptian Revolution last month, I was moved and inspired by the way young leaders set up classrooms in Tahrir Square, ensuring students would not lose access to education while waging their historic struggle for freedom and democracy. It was a great reminder to me that educators and students are always at the heart of the struggle for justice, and that no such struggle is complete without access to education, for all.

“We Divest,” the campaign led by Jewish Voice for Peace demanding that retirement fund TIAA-CREF divest from the Israeli Occupation, honors the legacy of educators and students in struggles for justice, and the urgency of the Palestinian fight for access to education by naming April “Right to Education Month.”

We will offer many ways for you to learn about access to education in Palestine/Israel, including firsthand from a group of young Palestinian activists who will be coming to a city near you. We also hope you’ll reach out to the educators and students in your life to let them know about the vital role they could play in this campaign.

We all know the struggle for education and justice continues in Palestine/Israel. Students trying to attend classes are targeted for armed harassment at checkpoints. Teachers trying to teach in Gaza know building materials wait at the border while their decimated schools remain in rubble. The structure of Israeli Occupation systematically destroys Palestinian access to education: students and teachers face unlawful detention, armed harassment, curfews, checkpoints, closed schools, dorm raids, an apartheid Wall, separate and unequal roads, illegal arrest, and bombed schools and universities.

So why is the premiere retirement fund of educators—TIAA-CREF—playing a role in denying Palestinians their right to education? TIAA-CREF prides itself in providing “financial services for the greater good,” yet they invest in companies that make their profit from the economy of the Israeli Occupation.  In just two examples: Northrop Grumman makes the bombs that destroyed Gazan schools during Cast Lead and Elbit produces the cameras and other equipment outfitting the wall as it carves a path between students and schools.

Throughout April: Right to Education Month, Jewish Voice for Peace is proud to bring three young Palestinian activists from the West BankMira Bishara Dabit, Amer Shurrab, and Hanna Qassis—to share with educators, students, and activists nationwide the challenges facing young people who live under Israel’s military occupation. They will also share their inspiring struggle to put an end to the injustice by holding companies like TIAA-CREF accountable for the impact of their investments in Occupation.

The Palestinian students’ stories about their struggles for human rights, including the right to an education, focus on the tried and true non-violent tactics of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS). We hope you’ll use this month to jump more fully into the BDS action as well.Start organizing in your community today— the time is now to fight for education and justice for all.

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