Archive for July, 2010

Palestinian civil society salutes Olympia Food Co-op’s decision to boycott Israeli goods!

Posted in BDS Success, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions on July 28, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Occupied Palestine, 26 July 2010 – Palestinian farmers unions, agricultural organizations and popular committees struggling against Israel’s colonial Wall and settlements warmly salute the historic decision taken on July 15th [1] by the Olympia Food Co-op to remove all Israeli products from its shelves. The Olympia Food Co-op has set a historic precedent by becoming the first US grocery store to publicly join the global grassroots campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it ends its human rights violations and oppression of the Palestinian people. Coming a few short weeks after Israel’s lethal attack on the Freedom Flotilla and in light of its ongoing illegal siege on Gaza, the Co-op’s decision to boycott all Israeli products reflects the growing sentiment in international civil society, including in the US, that ending Israel’s impunity and pressuring it to comply with its obligations under international law have become of undeniable urgency [2].

Through its ever growing colonial settlements, the Wall and hundreds of military checkpoints in the occupied Palestinian territory, Israel has systematically dispossessed Palestinians of their most fertile lands or separated them from them, expropriated the most important water aquifers and denied millions of Palestinians the right to move or trade freely, thereby rendering development impossible and stifling the growth of Palestinian agriculture in particular.

Not only so, but Israel’s illegal Wall, settlements and military zones have confiscated and/or restricted Palestinian use of most of the land in the occupied West Bank. Israeli checkpoints and Jewish settler roads have dissected the West Bank and turned Palestinian cities and villages into Bantustans isolated in effect from one another. Trucks shipping Palestinian produce are constantly subjected to long hours of “security” checks and other bureaucratic measures to obstruct their timely access to markets, while Israeli produce is allowed to pass freely. Currently, 266,442 Palestinians in 78 communities are forced to abandon their homes as a result of mass demolition orders, as well as being entirely isolated by the Wall [3]. This is in addition to Palestinian refugees who were forcibly displaced from their lands in the 1948 Nakba — and ever since — and have been denied by Israel their UN-sanctioned right to return to these lands, perpetuating their dispossession and miserable living conditions.

Israel’s lethal siege on Gaza has almost completely destroyed the agricultural sector there. As of June 2009, a total of 46% of agricultural land in the Gaza Strip was assessed to be inaccessible or out of production owing to Israel’s wanton destruction of these fertile lands during its war of aggression on Gaza in 2008-2009 or its marking of large agricultural areas as “security buffer zones.” [4] Moreover, water resources in Gaza are critically insufficient, mainly due to Israel’s destruction of infrastructure during its Gaza attack, forcing farmers to use salty and polluted water from agricultural wells for irrigation. This and the fact that 90-95% of the Gaza water supply has become polluted to the extent that is not suitable for human consumption have caused major health problems to Gaza’s population, especially among children and other vulnerable sectors of society [5]. While the agricultural sector in Gaza has the potential to export 2300 tons of strawberries, 55 million carnation flowers and 714 tons of cherry tomatoes per annum, there has been close to zero export activity in Gaza as a result of Israel’s blockade. Even with such high agricultural potential, Israel’s lethal siege has left the people of Gaza with a 61% prevalence of household food insecurity [6].

The destruction of Palestinian livelihoods and the denial of supply of essential goods to Gaza are not a side effect, but rather a tool consciously used by Israeli policy makers. In fact, the siege of Gaza is “a central pillar”[7] of the Israeli policy. Dov Weissglass, top political advisor to former Israeli prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert stated that “the idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet but not to make them die of hunger”[8].
While Israel continues to ravage Palestinian livelihoods with full impunity the Olympia Food Co-op’s decision to boycott Israeli products presents a moral, effective and timely response that promises, if emulated across the US, to significantly challenge Israel’s criminal impunity, furthering the chances for respect for human rights and a measure of justice for the Palestinians.

The Palestinian-led global BDS movement, which is inspired by the South African anti-apartheid struggle and the U.S. civil rights movement, has proven over the past five years of its existence that it is the most effective way to gradually and consistently mobilize concerted international civil society efforts to support the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and sustainable peace [9]. This can only be achieved by compelling Israel to end its occupation, apartheid, and persistent denial of the right of return for the Palestinian refugees.

The Olympia Food Co-op has demonstrated its courage and commitment to human rights by adopting a concrete and courageous measure in a show of genuine solidarity with the indigenous Palestinian people. We sincerely hope that their decision to stand with justice will not waver under the immense intimidation and bullying that Israel lobby groups will undoubtedly unleash against them. We believe that the most effective support conscientious individuals and groups across the U.S. can provide to the Olympia Co-op is by starting their own local BDS campaigns that follow Olympia’s lead, branding Israeli products and services everywhere as stained with injustice and war crimes, just as South African products were treated during apartheid . Only thus can justice prevail and peace be attained and sustained.

Endorsed by:

General Union of Palestinian Peasants and Co-op Groups
Union of Palestinian Farmers
Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (STW)
National Committee for Popular Resistance
Popular Committees against the Wall and settlements in Nil’in, Bil’in, Al-Maasara, Nabi Saleh, Budros, Beit Jala and Wadi Rahal
Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees
Union of Palestinian Agricultural Engineers
Union of Agricultural Work Committees

[1] http://www.olympiabds.org/2010/olympia-food-co-op-removes-israeli-goods-from-shelves-first-us-store-to-institute-boycott.html

[2] For more information, see the Palestinian BDS National Committee’s statement underlining the urgency of intensifying BDS after Israel’s attack on the Flotilla: http://bdsmovement.net/?q=node/728

[3] Factsheet: Threatened Villages – Palestinian population centres between isolation and expulsion, http://stopthewall.org/factsheets/1632.shtml

[4] OCHA report: http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900sid/MDCS-85SHU3?OpenDocument&rc=3&cc=pse

[5] Amnesty international report: www.amnesty.org.uk/uploads/documents/doc_19771.pdf

[6] OCHA report: http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900sid/MDCS-85SHU3?OpenDocument&rc=3&cc=pse

[7] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8654337.stm

[8] http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article9276.shtml Dov Weissglass was advisor to Israeli prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert.

[9] BNC statement celebrating 5 years of BDS: http://bdsmovement.net/?q=node/755

Advertisements

Oakland boycott inspires letter from Gaza, provokes Teamster anger

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Labor Organizing on July 28, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Report by Mona El-Farra, Eyad Kishawi, Teamsters
Published: 26/07/10

ILWU Local 10

Dear ILWU Local 10 members

I am writing to you from Gaza, to thank you for your union action in refusing to unload an Israeli ship, and to tell you a little bit about our life here. Like everyone in Gaza, I have lived through the siege and military attacks from Israel. That is why your solidarity touches me.

Huda Ghaliya (aged 12 at the time) repeatedly shouted, heartbreakingly,“Daddy, Daddy,” while searching for the rest of her family after Israeli forces shelled the beach in northern Gaza. It was 9 June 2006, while she was on a picnic with her mother, father, brothers and sisters. The entire family was wiped out, and dozens more were injured. The casualties were brought to Al Awda hospital, where I was working. Some of my colleagues, including seasoned emergency healthworkers, could not bear to go to the child’s room. Huda kept telling me “mum and dad did not pass away, they are in another hospital”. When the TV crew arrived, the cameraman collapsed at the scene. I burst into tears.

What happened to that child, which will follow her for the rest of her life, was to see all her family members disappear on a lovely sunny morning, meant to be a joyful day. It was not the first or the last time that Palestinian children, living under the occupation and the siege of Gaza, lost family members. Many parents lost their children, and many children lost one or two parents, or siblings.

The latest assault against Gaza on December 2008, was frankly an act against humanity, in a preplanned, systematic, destructive way. Israel should be held responsible for war crimes, and the UN report by Judge Goldstone proved that these were crimes against humanity.

What followed recently on board the flotilla was another act of terrorism and yet another proof that Israel does not abide by international laws . Even though this act recalled previous war crimes against the Palestinian population in Gaza, people were shocked and in disbelief that Israel could commit this aggression against internationals in international waters. It showed again that Israel is above the law as long as the people of the world stay silent.

This makes the genuine act of the Oakland dock workers who refused to handle the “Zim Shenzhen” ship so important for us in Gaza. We were so impressed by this act of solidarity, as well as many other acts that have been done continuously to support our struggle to reach our inalienable rights, we who live under the siege and continuous hardships. We feel that the majority of the world is silent. We appreciate this sort of activity, and we feel that there is hope, that we are not alone and forgotten. One day the people who act against all types of injustice will ring the bell, and injustice will come to an end. Alone we cannot reach our goal, but with your solidarity, we will.

This act of solidarity gives us hope, together we defeated South Africa’s apartheid regime and with your support we can defeat the Israeli apartheid and occupation.

At the moment, we are running a supportive, educational, and (for them) entertaining project, for the children of the Zaytoun neighborhood. We named our project LEARNING ON THE RUBBLE. Even 18 months since the attack against Gaza, Israel does not allow essential building materials to enter Gaza. They allow ketchup and fizzy drinks into Gaza, and tell the world that there is no siege!!!! They deny entry of many essential materials, including medications (chemotherapy ) for cancer patients, and spare parts for medical equipment, as well as a suitable amount of dairy products. The list is too long to mention. Unemployment has reached 60%, and 80% of the population is living on international aid.

When I visited the site of LEARNING ON THE RUBBLE, I could see the shadow of trauma on the kids’ faces, as well as the physical scars of their bodies, either directly caused by the Israeli soldiers, or from being trapped under the rubble when the bulldozers demolished their homes. They became homeless in a matter of minutes.

Some of these children were trapped next to the dead body of a family member. I met one woman who lost her husband and son. Tearfully, she told me that her son, aged 13, slowly and agonizingly bled to death in her lap over 12 hours.

The army did not allow health workers to enter the area to evacuate the casualities, and when the International Red Cross workers were first allowed into the area, they were shocked and horrified by the scene, especially those children who were trapped in the rubble, injured, hungry, cold, and terrified .

Israel’s violation of health human rights became a routine act. I witnessed dozens of such incidents during my work, which show how Israel has no respect for human rights, including health human rights, even though the 4th Geneva convention guarantees those rights. In the last assault against Gaza, more than a dozen health workers were killed while on duty.

We continue our life under the siege, which deprives us from freedom of movement outside and into Gaza, despite the partial lifting of the siege, which is not enough. What we need is a complete lifting of the siege.

Gaza’s population suffers many hardships. Electricity is frequently off, making it harder to write to you. Water is not suitable for drinking and is completely unavailable in some areas. This has a great impact on people’s health, as does the inadequate sewage system for such a densely populated area.

On this small piece of land and with the mentality of people who live under siege, we were so impressed and empowered to learn about the courageous act of the Oakland dock workers who refused to load or unload the “Zim Shenzhen”. This act is an effective tool against Israel to pressure them to lift the siege and end the occupation.

We simply felt that these workers and your union expressed their membership of the international family, and refused to accept state aggression and injustice inflicted on other nations, even though we live far away on the other side of the globe.

The is the time for all of us shout and say,“enough!” to Israel’s brutal acts against humanity.

With love and solidarity,

Mona Elfarra

Jack Heyman writes

Brother Eyad,

Thank you for sending me this letter [below] to the leadership of the Teamsters union in response to their letter which mentions ILWU Local 10 and the June 20 Zim protest action. Also I appreciate the moving letter from Dr. Mona Elfarra to Local 10 describing the Zionist atrocities and thanking our union for acting against this bloody repression and demanding an end to the blockade of Gaza which is causing so much suffering . I’ll forward it to our officers and Labor Council delegates.

In solidarity,

Jack

Eyad Kishawi writes:

[Please forward to the IBT.]

To the IBT leadership,

We, the Palestinian and social justice communities, were dismayed by your awful letter supporting Israeli racism and apartheid and your distancing yourselves from the heroic actions of the ILWU local 10, for their boycott of Israeli Zim lines at the Port of Oakland on 6/20/2010. Yours was a position that celebrated unjust power over equality and solidarity. Yours was a position that stood squarely on the wrong side of history.

Please read the attached letter from Dr Mona Elfarra who was compelled to respond to your insensitive statements by documenting life in Gaza, and by expressing solidarity with the heroic actions of local 10. We hope you read and learn how callous your statements were to the families of the 1, 440 people murdered in 2009, on the hands of the government you chose to cheer on.

As a Palestinian-American I am very concerned that your position that preferences genocide over non-violent acts of international worker solidarity translates into internal racism and marginalization. One cannot help but wonder how you treat people of color and people of Arab and Muslim origins. I for one will encourage civil rights groups to keep a close tab on your record, given your unjustifiable and unconscionable support of Israeli acts of Genocide against the Palestinian indigenous people in Gaza. International outlook is an extension of domestic practices.

You stood squarely against the position of the PGFTU in its call for international solidarity and now you stand against the notable human rights doctor, Dr. Mona Elfarra. While ILWU’s action became famous worldwide in its making of history, your position will be renowned for its infamy and will be remembered.

Please reconsider your position as you read the attached letter,

Eyad Kishawi

Palestinian Activist against Racism and Apartheid

Brotherhood of Teamsters Local Union No. 70
Alameda County, California
Auto Truck Drivers, Line Haulers, Car Haulers and Helpers
Affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters

June 29, 2010

Akiva Tor
Consul General
State of Israel
456 Montgomery Street, Suite 2100
San Francisco, CA 94104

Dear Mr. Consul General

I am writing you regarding the incident that took place on June 20, 2010, in which a group of anti-Israel demonstrators picketed at the Port of Oakland resulting in members of ILWU Local 10 not unloading a Zim container vessel based on an arbitrator’s determination that the picket line present a “health and safety” risk. The vessel was unloaded the next day.

We want to make it perfectly clear to you and to the people of Israel that our union is fundamentally opposed to efforts to interfere with Israeli ships or cargoes and to the larger “boycott, divestment, and sanctions” effort being directed against Israel. We repudiate such tactics as antithetical to efforts to bring about real peace in the Middle East. We believe that the proper role of the US labor movement is to support efforts to bring about a just settlement that will enable Israel, the national homeland of the Jewish people, and a future Palestinian state to live side-by-side within safe and secure borders, free from war, terrorism, and in mutual respect and recognition.

It is our understanding that anti-Israel resolutions supporting this activity were passed in the Alameda and San Francisco Labor Councils. We wish to assure you that our union was never consulted about these actions and we repudiate them.

Moreover, we are very concerned that events such as occurred June 20 could result in the diversion of freight from the Port of Oakland to the Port of Los Angeles/Lon Beach or other ports along the Pacific Coast. We represent members who provide trucking and rail services for containerized shipping leaving the Port of Oakland and we do not believe that our members’ jobs should be placed in jeopardy because of the efforts of fringe groups to demonize Israel.

We hope what occurred at Oakland will be a one-time event that will never be repeated. We will be urging our brothers and sisters to insure that this is the case.

Marty Frates Secretary-Treasurer

cc: James Hoffa, International President, IBT
Rome Aloise, President, Teamsters Joint Council 7
Randy Cammack, President, Teamsters Joint Council 42
Art Pulaski, Exec. Secretary-Treasurer, CA Labor Federation, AFL-CIO
Bob Balgenorth, President, CA State Building and Construction Trades Council
Josie Camacho, Acting Exec. Secretary-Treasurer, Alameda Labor Council
Tim Paulson, Executive Director, San Francisco Labor Council
Bob McEllrath, International President, ILWU
Richard Mead, President, ILWU Local 10
Members, Executive Committee, Alameda Labor Council
Members, Executive Committee, San Francisco Labor Council
Omar Benjamin, Executive Director, Port of Oakland

International labor report’s omissions reveal pro-Israel bias

Posted in International BDS Actions, Labor Organizing on July 25, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Sarah Irving, The Electronic Intifada, 23 July 2010

Every June, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) releases its Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights. According to a press release that accompanied the 2010 publication (which reports on events in 2009), “the Middle East remains among the regions of the world where union rights are least protected.” The report describes repression meted out to Palestinian workers and trade unionists by both the Israeli authorities and the Palestinian factions. But ITUC’s omissions and brevity both disguise the complexity of life for Palestinian workers, and reveal some of the union confederation’s own biases.

The most violent repression of Palestinian trade union activities came, as in previous years, from the Israeli military. A May Day march of around 250 persons in Bethlehem was stopped by Israeli soldiers who fired sound grenades and tear gas canisters directly into the crowd, injuring demonstrators. Three workers and a journalist were arrested, according to the ITUC. Another march, in East Jerusalem, which was deliberately kept low-key by its organizers from the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions was also broken up. And in July of last year, Israeli soldiers surrounded and raided the Biddya home of Palestinian Workers Union head and Fatah campaigner Yasser Taha, detaining him for questioning as a “wanted activist.”

Among other events outlined in the 2010 Survey was the strike held by 16,000 workers with UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees and one of the largest employers in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, calling for the reinstatement of 312 West Bank colleagues fired for violating the organization’s “non-partisan” policy. UNRWA workers also went on strike to demand pay increases in line with Palestinian Authority (PA) staff and UN employees elsewhere in the world. Public sector workers in both the West Bank and Gaza had multiple disputes with both the PA and Hamas authorities over late payment of wages, mainly due to Israel’s withholding of revenues owed.

In September 2009, rising tensions between the PA and transport, education and health unions over late payment of overtime and transport costs culminated in the Health Ministry sacking Osama al-Najjar, head of the health professionals union, and a colleague. Al-Najjar had publicly accused the Ministry of “targeting union activities” and avoiding dialogue. During a radio interview, PA Health Minister Fathi Abu Moghli referred to the ensuing strike by health workers as “illegal.” Union leaders demanded an urgent meeting with appointed PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

In Gaza, meanwhile, the ITUC described conditions for trade unionists as “extremely difficult,” commenting that the exercise of freedom of association or collective bargaining was simply not possible, partly because trade union membership tended to be bound up in ongoing clashes between Hamas and Fatah. In 2008, Al-Jazeera reported Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) claims that its offices in Gaza had been seized by Hamas authorities and when staff refused to negotiate over their future role, several were subjected to assassination attempts and other harassment. Hamas spokesmen have made similar counter-claims against the largely Fatah-linked PGFTU in the West Bank.

According to Khaled Hroub, author of Hamas: A Beginner’s Guide, the association of trade unions with specific political factions is deep-rooted. “Initially, Hamas’ interest in trade unions stemmed from a Muslim Brotherhood culture that focuses on these institutions as hubs of cultivating support and popularity,” Hroub explained in an interview with The Electronic Intifada. “Hamas’ activism in trade unions is more political than professional — using unions as political platforms for higher goals. This doesn’t mean that Hamas-led unions have been entirely political, but what I mean is that the main impetus was driven by finding venues to express their political [and resistance] views.”

The ITUC’s has publically rejected Hamas, which it declared at its June 2010 congress in Canada as “extremist” and blamed for inciting the winter 2008-09 assault on Gaza through its rocket attacks on southern Israel. While he does not share that assessment, Hroub does agree with the confederation’s analysis that Hamas has dealt severely with trade unions which are not affiliated to it.

“Once in power, Hamas became the regime that put these unions under check and heat if they raise the ceiling of criticism against the Hamas status quo,” Hroub said. “Those unions that remained outside Hamas control in Gaza are subjected to harsh measures that are almost identical to those imposed on Hamas-controlled unions by the Palestinian Authority in the 1990s and until the 2006 elections.”

The Islamic trade unions with which Hamas works are almost entirely rejected by both the Ramallah-based Democracy & Workers Rights Center (DWRC), an explicitly non-affiliated labor rights organization which has campaigned against perceived inaction and corruption amongst the established trade unions, as well as by the PGFTU.

Salwa Alinat works with the Israeli labor rights nongovernmental organization Kav LaOved (Workers’ Hotline), supporting Palestinian workers employed in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. She describes a similar situation there to the one in Gaza outlined by Khaled Hroub. She reports that “in the past, the trade unions have not been interested in dealing with the workers. There are two or three trade unions divided according to political lines, and they are not really in contact with the workers, so there are problems of trust. To join a trade union, until recently, was a political act, like joining a party. It’s not like in the West where a trade union is something that looks after a worker’s interests.”

The political nature of trade unions also means that even if employers do not discriminate against workers as trade union members per se, they may discriminate against them on the basis of their political affiliations. This is a widespread problem, according to several reports by the DWRC.

As well as infringements of trade union rights by Palestinian employers and by the Israeli military and Palestinian faction authorities within the West Bank and Gaza, the ITUC’s Israel report also raises the issue of discrimination against Palestinian workers in Israel and in Israeli settlements. Here, the shortcomings of ITUC’s approach become apparent. The confederation has been accused of bias towards the Histadrut, literally the “General Federation of Laborers in the Land of Israel,” an ITUC member alongside the PGFTU. This accusation is likely to gain ground with the June 2010 appointment of Histadrut head Ofer Eini as an ITUC vice-president and executive member.

ITUC’s report on conditions for Palestinian workers in Israel — whether citizens of Israel or West Bank laborers working with or without permits in Israel — does acknowledge that “Palestinian workers in Israel, even with permits, are hounded by the authorities and are often subject to abuse, illegal detentions and deportations while Israeli Arabs [Palestinian citizens in Israel] are subject to extensive employment-related discrimination.”

The ITUC admits that “Palestinians who work in Israel enjoy freedom of association [but] they may not elect or be elected to trade union leadership bodies,” apparently referring to West Bank Palestinians working in Israel; the report seems to differentiate between these and Palestinian citizens of Israel by using the term “Israeli Arabs.” The ITUC report also notes that in November 2009 the Histadrut amended its constitution to allow migrant workers, brought to Israel in large numbers, mainly from southeast Asia to work in the domestic service and agricultural sectors, to join the union with “equal rights.” According to the ITUC, this explicitly does include Palestinian workers from the West Bank or Gaza working within Israel.

In 2008, the Histadrut finally started to repay union dues which since 1970 it had been docking from the pay of every Palestinian employee of an Israeli employer, claiming that half of this income would be handed to the PGFTU. This was the outcome of an agreement reached in 1995, but the 2008 move has remained controversial after it was used by Israeli sympathizers to argue against boycott calls.

The Progressive Labour Action Front, linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, issued a statement noting that “the Histadrut is engaging, as part of the world Zionist movement, in an international campaign designed to undermine international labor support for the Palestinian people and to oppose the Palestinian and international campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. As part of this campaign, the Histadrut issued a statement on ‘peace and cooperation’ posted on the [ITUC] website on 11 September 2009.”

The ITUC also reported specific abuses by Israeli employers of Palestinian workers in West Bank settlements. These included the sacking and suspension of Jahleen Bedouin workers at the Maaleh Adumim municipality after they went on strike demanding to be allowed to attend Friday prayers, and the illegally low pay, lack of medical benefits and threats of violence against mainly women workers in a textile factory at Barkan, near Ariel settlement. The report notes that “The situation of these workers is exacerbated by the fact that often Israeli authorities abandon the Palestinian workers to their employers by not inspecting their working conditions, especially in the West Bank settlements.”

Although it engages with accusations of discrimination by settlement-based companies, ITUC’s report neglects to mention the steady increase in discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel. The sacking of several dozen Palestinian employees by Israel Railways in March 2009, for instance, comes well within the report’s remit, but is ignored.

Israel Railways told Israeli newspaper Haaretz at the time of the sackings that “it would employ only army veterans in the positions these employees held.” The sackings became a high-profile story in Israel after Israel Railways was forced by Tel Aviv Labor Court to postpone the sackings, and then changed its story to claim that mistakes by the employees had caused the changes in recruitment policy. This is part of a growing trend of excluding Arab workers because Palestinian citizens of Israel do not serve in the Israeli army, which anecdotal evidence suggests stretches from informal employment such as restaurant jobs to major national corporations.

While Palestinian workers, whether inside Israel or in Israeli settlements in the West bank, are not properly represented by the Histadrut, Palestinian trade unions are also barred from offering them practical help.

Wael Natheef, general secretary of the Jericho branch of the PGFTU and a member of the union’s executive committee, told The Electronic Intifada: “As trade unionists we often cannot do anything. The settlements are forbidden to us and we cannot go to the Israeli courts.”

Unions are also hampered by small budgets because of their low membership rates, which have been used as an argument against their grassroots legitimacy. As a result, legal cases brought by Palestinian settlement workers against Israeli factories, such as Royalife in Barkan and Soda Club in Mishor Adumim, have often been dependent on support from Israeli organizations such as Kav LaOved.

“We established this branch [of the PGFTU] in 1993 after the Oslo agreement,” says Natheef. “We worked as unionists before then, but underground, because you had to get permission from the Israeli authorities at Beit El to hold a meeting or organize something. After Oslo we rented this building and continued, but it is still very difficult.”

Sarah Irving is a freelance writer. She worked with the International Solidarity Movement in the occupied West Bank in 2001-02 and with Olive Co-op, promoting fair trade Palestinian products and solidarity visits, in 2004-06. She now writes full-time on a range of issues, including Palestine. Her first book, Gaza: Beneath the Bombs co-authored with Sharyn Lock, was published in January 2010.

Thank you for standing with us on our path to freedom – A letter in support of ILWU Local 10

Posted in International BDS Actions on July 25, 2010 by Marcy Newman

July 25, 2010
Dr. Mona El-Farra

Dear ILWU Local 10 members,

I am writing to you from the Gaza Strip to thank you for your union action in refusing to unload an Israeli ship and to tell you a little bit about our life here. Like everyone in Gaza, I have lived through the 3-year siege and decades of Israeli military attacks. That is why your solidarity touches me.

I want to tell you one Palestinian child’s story. On 9 June 2006, 12-year-old Huda Ghaliya went for a picnic with her mother, father, brothers and sisters. After arriving on Gaza’s beach, Huda repeatedly shouted, heartbreakingly, “Daddy, Daddy, ” while searching for the rest of her family after Israeli forces shelled the beach in northern Gaza. The entire family was wiped out, and dozens more were injured. The casualties of the attack, including Huda, were brought to Al Awda Hospital where I was working. Some of my colleagues, including seasoned emergency healthworkers, could not bear to go to the child’s room. Huda kept insisting that “mum and dad did not pass away, they are in another hospital.” When a TV crew arrived, the cameraman collapsed at the scene. I burst into tears.

What happened to that child will follow her for the rest of her life. She saw her entire family killed on a lovely sunny morning that was meant to be the start of a joyful day. 9 June 2006 was not the first or the last time that Palestinian children, living under Israeli occupation and the siege of Gaza, lost family members.

The latest assault against Gaza in December 2008-January 2009, was a preplanned, systematic, and massively destructive attack on the people of Gaza. Israel should be held responsible for war crimes and the UN report by Judge Goldstone proved that these were crimes against humanity.

The recent events on-board the Freedom Flotilla was another act of terrorism and further proof that Israel does not abide by international law. Even though this act recalled previous war crimes against the Palestinian population in Gaza, people were shocked and in disbelief that Israel could commit this aggression against civilians in international waters. It showed again that Israel is above the law as long as the people of the world stay silent.

This makes the genuine act of the Oakland dock workers who refused to handle the “Zim Shenzhen” ship so important for us in Gaza. We, who live under the siege and continuous hardships, were so impressed by this act of solidarity, as well as the many other brave acts over the years to support our struggle to reach our inalienable rights. While the majority of the world is silent, we appreciate your action which gives us hope because we know that we are not alone and forgotten. One day the people who act against all types of injustice will ring the bell, and injustice will come to an end. Alone we cannot reach our goal, but with your solidarity, we will.

Your act of solidarity gives us tremendous hope. Together we defeated South Africa’s apartheid regime and together we can defeat the Israeli apartheid and occupation.

At the moment, we at Middle East Children’s Alliance are running a supportive and educational project for the children of the Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City. We named our project LEARNING ON THE RUBBLE because 18 months after Israel’s brutal attack against Gaza, they do not allow essential building materials to enter Gaza. Israel allows ketchup and fizzy drinks into Gaza, and then tells the world that there is no siege!!!! Meanwhile they deny us many essential materials, including medications like chemotherapy for cancer patients, and spare parts for medical equipment, as well as a suitable amounts of dairy products. The list is too long to mention. Unemployment has reached 60%, and 80% of the population is living on international aid.

When I visited the site of LEARNING ON THE RUBBLE, I could see the shadow of trauma on the kids’ faces, as well as the physical scars on their bodies, either caused by the Israeli soldiers’ aggression or by being trapped under the rubble when Israeli bulldozers demolished their homes. The ones that survived became homeless in a matter of minutes.

Some of these children were trapped next to the dead body of a family member. I met one woman who lost her husband and son. Tearfully, she told me that her son, aged 13, slowly and agonizingly bled to death in her lap over 12 hours. Had ambulances and medical teams been able to reach them, her son would not have died. But the Israeli army did not allow health workers to enter the area to evacuate the injured for days. When teams from the International Red Cross were first allowed into the area, they were shocked and horrified by the sights of children and women trapped under the rubble, injured, hungry, cold, and terrified.

Israel’s violations of health human rights has become routine, it is the norm now instead of a terrible exception. In the last assault against Gaza, more than a dozen health workers were killed while on duty. I have witnessed dozens of incidents similar to the ones I’ve written about today. Israel has no respect for human rights, including health human rights, even though the Fourth Geneva convention guarantees those of us living in Gaza, or anywhere in the world, these fundamental rights.

Gaza’s population suffers many additional hardships. Electricity is frequently off, making it harder to write to you. Water is not suitable for drinking and is completely unavailable in some areas. This has a great impact on people’s health, as does the inadequate sewage system for such a densely populated area. We have endured decades of occupation and we need our freedom so we can begin the long process of rebuilding our society. Only freedom will repair the physical and psychological damage that has been done.

On this small piece of land where we all feel alone, isolated, and forgotten because of the Israeli siege, we were so impressed and empowered to learn about the courageous act of the Oakland dock workers who refused to load or unload the “Zim Shenzhen”. This act is an effective tool against Israel to pressure them to lift the siege and end the occupation.

With this act, your union proclaimed its membership in the international family and refused to accept state aggression and injustice inflicted on other people. Though the distance and the Israeli siege keep us physically apart, we thank you for standing with us on our path to freedom.

Now is the time for all of us to stand together and say “enough!” to Israel’s brutal acts against humanity.

With love and solidarity,

Dr. Mona El-Farra

Dr. Mona El-Farra is a physician by training and a human rights and women’s rights activist by practice in the occupied Gaza Strip. She was born in Khan Younis, Gaza and has dedicated herself to developing community based programs that aim to improve health quality and link health services with cultural and recreation services all over the Gaza Strip. Dr. El-Farra is the Director of Gaza Projects for the Middle East Children’s Alliance, the Health Chair of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society of the Gaza Strip, and a member of the Union of Health Work Committees. Dr. El-Farra has a son and two daughters.

BDS Tour: VANNES

Posted in International BDS Actions on July 25, 2010 by Marcy Newman

A partir du 10 juillet prochain, nous allons sillonner les routes de France et faire étape dans 16 villes, pour sensibiliser la population à la situation en Palestine, au blocus de Gaza, à la colonisation galopante, et à la nécessité d’une réaction citoyenne face à ces violations du droit international qui nous concernent tous, car leur impunité remet en cause les valeurs de liberté, d’égalité et de fraternité auxquelles nous sommes attachés.

H&M Flashmobs in Sweden on July 10th

Posted in International BDS Actions on July 23, 2010 by Marcy Newman

The fifth anniversary of the BDS call was marked in Stockholm and Gothenburg, Sweden, with BDS flashmobs visiting various shops that fund Israeli apartheid – including H&M. Activists were dressed in uniform coloured t-shirts with printed messages “Boycott Israel” and “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions”, and walked in line, silently, through the city streets and shops. More info at BDS Day of Action.

Interview About Johnny Rotten Protest Leeds O2 Academy Friday 7pm 23 July 2010

Posted in Cultural Boycott, International BDS Actions on July 23, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Leeds PSC’s Andy Brown interviewed on BBC Radio Leeds about the planned protest at Johnny Rotten’s PiL gig at Leeds’ O2 Academy on Friday night. Find out more at the Facebook page: http://tinyurl.com/jrotten and on our blog: http://readingpsc.org.uk/2010/07/johnny-rotten-protest-by-leeds-psc-7pm-23-july/

%d bloggers like this: