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Don’t Fall For Character Assassination – Marwan Barghouti is a Man of Peace

Read the article by Palestine’s most prominent woman politician Dr Hanan Ashrawi in Newsweek Thursday April 27th 2017:

Hanan Ashrawi

“When 1,500 Palestinian prisoners go on hunger strike to struggle for their rights, the jailer will use every diversionary tactic in the book to ensure that nobody asks the only relevant question: are their demands just and justified? Let me be the voice of the hunger strikers now, since many of them are in solitary confinement as punishment for having protested their detention conditions peacefully.”

Read more

Read more about the hunger strike:

  1. Don’t Fall For Israel’s Character Assassination—Marwan Barghouti Is A Man Of Peace, By Hanan Ashrawi  April 27, 2017 http://www.newsweek.com/marwan-barghouti-man-peace-israel-apartheid-591021
  2. Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz, April 19, 2017. “Palestinian Hunger-striking Prisoners’ Lawyers Call Boycott of All Israeli Court Sessions.” Available at: http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/palestinians/.premium-1.784148
  3. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, April 17, 2017. “Demands of the Strikers.” available at: http://samidoun.net/2017/04/1500-palestinian-prisoners-launch-largest-collective-hunger-strike-in-years-take-action-in-support/#demands
  4. Ma’an News, April 19, 2017. “Palestinian women join hunger strike, lawyers declare boycott of Israeli courts.” Available at: https://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=776498
  5. Marwan Barghouthi, New York Times, April 16, 2017. “Why We Are on Hunger Strike in Israel’s Prisons.” Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/16/opinion/palestinian-hunger-strike-prisoners-call-for-justice.html
  6. Ma’an News, April 19, 2017. “Activist group cries foul over Israeli outrage at Marwan Barghouthi op-ed.” Available at: https://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=776504
  7. Chaim Levinson, Ha’aretz, November 29, 2011. “Nearly 100% of All Military Court Cases in West Bank End in Conviction, Haaretz Learns.” Available at: http://www.haaretz.com/nearly-100-of-all-military-court-cases-in-west-bank-end-in-conviction-haaretz-learns-1.398369. Some sources cite the US State Department figure of an approximately 90 percent conviction rate. See: https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2015/nea/252927.htm In either case, the conviction rate reflects the lack of a fair trial process for Palestinians under occupation. Lisa Hajjar, “Courting Conflict: The Israeli Military Court System in the West Bank and Gaza.” University of California Press, 2005, p. 59.
  8. Defence for Children International – Palestine. “Issues – Military Detention.” Available at: http://www.dci-palestine.org/issues_military_detention
  9. United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, “Concluding observations on the second to fourth periodic reports of Israel, adopted by the Committee at its sixty-third session (27 May – 14 June 2013).” Available at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/docs/co/CRC-C-ISR-CO-2-4.pdf
  10. Defense for Children International – Palestine, No Way to Treat a Child: Palestinian Children in the Israeli Military Detention System, 2 (2016), http://bit.ly/29W41mB.
  11.  Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, 2012. “Eyes on Israeli Military Court: A collection of impressions.” Available at:
  12. http://www.addameer.org/sites/default/files/publications/eyes_on_israeli_military_court-_a_collection_of_impressions.pdf
  13. International Court of Justice. 9 July 2004. “Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”.
  14. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), art. 14, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/ProfessionalInterest/ccpr.pdf; UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 32, Article 14: Right to equality before courts and tribunals and to a fair trial, ¶ 22, UN Doc. CCPR/C/GC/32 (Aug. 23, 2007), http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=CCPR/C/GC/32.
  15. Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, “Administrative Detention. December 2015. Available at: http://www.addameer.org/israeli_military_judicial_system/administrative_detention
  16. UN News Centre, “Solitary confinement should be banned in most cases, UN expert says,” October 18, 2011. Available at: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=40097#.WPjiBtKGNPY
  17. Defense for Children International – Palestine, Palestinian children held in solitary confinement for longer periods, April 17, 2017. http://www.dci-palestine.org/palestinian_children_held_in_solitary_confinement_for_longer_periods
  18. Defense for Children International – Palestine, Palestinian children held in solitary confinement for longer periods, April 17, 2017. http://www.dci-palestine.org/palestinian_children_held_in_solitary_confinement_for_longer_periods
  19. Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, “Family Visits.” http://www.addameer.org/publications/families-family-visits-0
  20. Amnesty International, “Israel must end ‘unlawful and cruel’ practices towards Palestinian prisoners.” April 13, 2017. Available at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/press-releases/2017/04/israel-must-end-unlawful-and-cruel-policies-towards-palestinian-prisoners/

 

 

Israel tries to steal Bethlehem’s tourist industry

Friday May 5th 2017

Israel is making a blatant attempt to steal Bethlehem’s tourist industry by forcing tour groups to sign a form promising not to book hotels in the occupied West Bank.

Travel agents were informed in a letter from the Interior Ministry that from May 15 their groups will not be allowed to stay in Bethlehem hotels. There has now been some delay, but the change is still going ahead.

The letter includes a “clarification” stating that the groups are permitted to visit Bethlehem and are only being blocked from spending the night there.

An estimated 1 million tourist nights are spent in Bethlehem every year, including overnights by independent travelers. Most are three-star hotels that charge about $22 to $25 per person a night, which is 25% to 50% of what a three-star hotel in Jerusalem costs.

The form relates primarily to groups of Christian tourists that visit Israel who also spend nights in Bethlehem, and not individual tourists, who are not required to receive entry permits in advance.

Trump the unpredictable promises Abbas: “We will get this done”

Thursday May 4th 2017

To say it sounded surreal would be an understatement.  Trump was not just meeting the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in the White House, but was sounding positively effusive.

“I will do whatever is necessary to facilitate the agreement, to mediate, to arbitrate, anything they’d like to do,” he said. “I would love to be a mediator or an arbitrator or a facilitator and we will get this done.”

He went on: “Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve always heard that perhaps the toughest deal to make is the deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Let’s see if we can prove them wrong.”

Abbas, seasoned diplomat that he is, may have thought to himself: “I can’t believe this will  happen, but we’d better do everything we can to encourage him just in case it does.  You never know.”

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “the Palestinians have put Trump’s ego in their crosshairs, and they are emptying their entire arsenal of fawning phrases to hit their target. Everyone is in on the act, from Abbas all the way to Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, who also paid tribute on Wednesday to Trump the almighty.”

Trump has already laid claim to being the most unpredictable president ever, so it is no surprise that he is blowing hot and cold on the Israel-Palestine issue. He could switch back tomorrow to being the most pro-Israeli president of all time.

He may just be unrealistic about what he could persuade the Palestinians to accept. But what is clear is that he wants to try. According to Haaretz again, “in all the conversations that Netanyahu and Abbas’ advisers have had these past weeks with senior White House officials they were told the same thing – that the issue is a top priority for the president.”

Day of solidarity with Palestinian hunger strikers

Twelve things you should know about the strike

Over 1,100 prisoners have been on hunger strike for better prison conditions since April 17th. Marwan Barghouthi’s health is already in serious decline. He is taking only water and salt and refusing medical treatment.

Prisoners are demanding regular visits and an end to deliberate medical negligence, solitary confinement, administrative detention, and a long list of other demands.
hunger strike protest
Israeli prisons have punished hungers strikers by suspending family visits, preventing lawyers from visiting and putting leaders of the strike in solitary confinement.

Barghouthi has been threatened with prosecution for publishing an article in the New York Times setting out the prisoners’ demands. Yisrael Katz, Israel’s Minister for Intelligence, has called for his execution on Twitter.

In the article Barghouthi describes hunger striking as, “the most peaceful form of resistance available – it inflicts pain solely on those who participate and on their loved ones, in the hopes that their empty stomachs and their sacrifice will help the message resonate beyond the confines of their dark cells”.

Some members of Israel’s government have also suggested shutting down The New York Times bureau in Jerusalem as a punishment for publishing his article.

According to the human rights group Addameer, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned or detained by Israel — equivalent to about 40 percent of the Palestinian territory’s male population.

Today, about 6,500 are still imprisoned, among them some who have the dismal distinction of holding world records for the longest periods in detention of political prisoners – over 30 years.

According to the US State Department, these prisoners face harsher conditions than Israeli criminals, including increased use of administrative detention, restricted family visits, ineligibility for parole and solitary confinement.

Israel labels the prisoners as “terrorists” but their former prime minister Menachem Begin is regarded as a hero for his role commanding the militant Irgun movement which carried out the 1949 bombing of the King David Hotel that left 91 dead.

The Israeli court service boasted in its annual report that the conviction rate for Palestinian suspects charged in its military courts in the West Bank is 99.74 per cent – without explaining that suspects stay longer in jail if they plead not guilty than if they plead guilty.

The UK media has met the strike with an almost total news blackout. Even the Guardian has not reported on the strike since the day it started – April 17th.

On May 6th as the strikers entered the 19th day of the strike a day of solidarity was be marked by vigils and demonstrations in 20 cities across the UK, including the one pictured next to the Israeli Embassy in Kensington, London.

 

Why we are on hunger strike in Israel’s prisons

barghouti wall 2By MARWAN BARGHOUTI

APRIL 16, 2017

from the New York Times

HADARIM PRISON, Israel — Having spent the last 15 years in an Israeli prison, I have been both a witness to and a victim of Israel’s illegal system of mass arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners. After exhausting all other options, I decided there was no choice but to resist these abuses by going on a hunger strike.

Some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners have decided to take part in this hunger strike, which begins today, the day we observe here as Prisoners’ Day. Hunger striking is the most peaceful form of resistance available. It inflicts pain solely on those who participate and on their loved ones, in the hopes that their empty stomachs and their sacrifice will help the message resonate beyond the confines of their dark cells.

Decades of experience have proved that Israel’s inhumane system of colonial and military occupation aims to break the spirit of prisoners and the nation to which they belong, by inflicting suffering on their bodies, separating them from their families and communities, using humiliating measures to compel subjugation. In spite of such treatment, we will not surrender to it.

Israel, the occupying power, has violated international law in multiple ways for nearly 70 years, and yet has been granted impunity for its actions. It has committed grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions against the Palestinian people; the prisoners, including men, women and children, are no exception.

I was only 15 when I was first imprisoned. I was barely 18 when an Israeli interrogator forced me to spread my legs while I stood naked in the interrogation room, before hitting my genitals. I passed out from the pain, and the resulting fall left an everlasting scar on my forehead. The interrogator mocked me afterward, saying that I would never procreate because people like me give birth only to terrorists and murderers.

A few years later, I was again in an Israeli prison, leading a hunger strike, when my first son was born. Instead of the sweets we usually distribute to celebrate such news, I handed out salt to the other prisoners. When he was barely 18, he in turn was arrested and spent four years in Israeli prisons.

The eldest of my four children is now a man of 31. Yet here I still am, pursuing this struggle for freedom along with thousands of prisoners, millions of Palestinians and the support of so many around the world. What is it with the arrogance of the occupier and the oppressor and their backers that makes them deaf to this simple truth: Our chains will be broken before we are, because it is human nature to heed the call for freedom regardless of the cost.

Israel has built nearly all of its prisons inside Israel rather than in the occupied territory. In doing so, it has unlawfully and forcibly transferred Palestinian civilians into captivity, and has used this situation to restrict family visits and to inflict suffering on prisoners through long transports under cruel conditions. It turned basic rights that should be guaranteed under international law — including some painfully secured through previous hunger strikes — into privileges its prison service decides to grant us or deprive us of.

Palestinian prisoners and detainees have suffered from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, and medical negligence. Some have been killed while in detention. According to the latest count from the Palestinian Prisoners Club, about 200 Palestinian prisoners have died since 1967 because of such actions. Palestinian prisoners and their families also remain a primary target of Israel’s policy of imposing collective punishments.

Through our hunger strike, we seek an end to these abuses.

Over the past five decades, according to the human rights group Addameer, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned or detained by Israel — equivalent to about 40 percent of the Palestinian territory’s male population. Today, about 6,500 are still imprisoned, among them some who have the dismal distinction of holding world records for the longest periods in detention of political prisoners. There is hardly a single family in Palestine that has not endured the suffering caused by the imprisonment of one or several of its members.

How to account for this unbelievable state of affairs?

Israel has established a dual legal regime, a form of judicial apartheid, that provides virtual impunity for Israelis who commit crimes against Palestinians, while criminalizing Palestinian presence and resistance. Israel’s courts are a charade of justice, clearly instruments of colonial, military occupation. According to the State Department, the conviction rate for Palestinians in the military courts is nearly 90 percent.

Among the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians whom Israel has taken captive are children, women, parliamentarians, activists, journalists, human rights defenders, academics, political figures, militants, bystanders, family members of prisoners. And all with one aim: to bury the legitimate aspirations of an entire nation.

Instead, though, Israel’s prisons have become the cradle of a lasting movement for Palestinian self-determination. This new hunger strike will demonstrate once more that the prisoners’ movement is the compass that guides our struggle, the struggle for Freedom and Dignity, the name we have chosen for this new step in our long walk to freedom.

The Israeli authorities and its prison service have turned basic rights that should be guaranteed under international law — including those painfully secured through previous hunger strikes — into privileges they decide to grant us or deprive us of. Israel has tried to brand us all as terrorists to legitimize its violations, including mass arbitrary arrests, torture, punitive measures and severe restrictions. As part of Israel’s effort to undermine the Palestinian struggle for freedom, an Israeli court sentenced me to five life sentences and 40 years in prison in a political show trial that was denounced by international observers.

Israel is not the first occupying or colonial power to resort to such expedients. Every national liberation movement in history can recall similar practices. This is why so many people who have fought against oppression, colonialism and apartheid stand with us. The International Campaign to Free Marwan Barghouti and All Palestinian Prisoners that the anti-apartheid icon Ahmed Kathrada and my wife, Fadwa, inaugurated in 2013 from Nelson Mandela’s former cell on Robben Island has enjoyed the support of eight Nobel Peace Prize laureates, 120 governments and hundreds of leaders, parliamentarians, artists and academics around the world.

Their solidarity exposes Israel’s moral and political failure. Rights are not bestowed by an oppressor. Freedom and dignity are universal rights that are inherent in humanity, to be enjoyed by every nation and all human beings. Palestinians will not be an exception. Only ending occupation will end this injustice and mark the birth of peace.

Marwan Barghouti is a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian

 

Umm Al Hiran: the Arab village that Israel plans to demolish 

Villagers say: ‘Why evict us when we can both live here? There’s plenty of space.’

From Palestine Briefing February 2015

Umm Al Hiran is the village that the Israelis plan to demolish in its entirety and replace with a new village on the same site with the same name – Hiran – but with Jewish inhabitants instead of Arabs.

The 500 Arab residents of the village have lived in the village for nearly 60 years and were in fact ordered to move there by the Israeli military commander of the Negev who gave them a lease to build a village, farm the land and graze their sheep.

The village leaders say there is no need to evict them as the Jewish settlers can move onto a site nextdoor. “We are not against them living here, but we want to stay here too and live together with them as neighbours,” says Atwa Abu Alkia’n.

They point out that there is plenty of space – 3¼ million acres – in the Negev and the settlers don’t need to move to the one small acre of land where they have been living since 1956.

Thirty Jewish settler families are currently living in portakabins a couple of kilometers away waiting for the new houses to be built so they can move in.

The Israeli state has made it clear that the new village is for Jewish residents only and the Arabs must move out.

See the village on YouTube:

Villagers want coexistence but the Israeli government sends in the bulldozers

Two people were killed and several others wounded when large numbers of police officers entered the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, in southern Israel, to demolish the village at dawn on Wednesday January 18th. Police fired tear gas, sponge-tipped bullets, and there were reports of live ammunition as well.

Among those wounded was a Member of Parliament and leader of the Israeli Arab Opposition in the Knesset, Ayman Odeh, whom police shot in the head and back with sponge-tipped bullets. Odeh was brought to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba in stable condition at the time of this report. The other casualties were both local residents and security forces.

Police said officers killed a resident of Umm el-Hiran, Yaqub Al Qi’an, after his vehicle struck and killed at least one officer. The police officer who was killed was named as 34-year-old Erez Levy. Local residents and activists at the scene said that Qi’an’s car veered toward the officers only after he was shot and lost control of the vehicle.

Hundreds of fully armed police arrived at Umm el-Hiran around 5 a.m., pulling drivers out of vehicles, and attacking and threatening others, according to Israeli activist Kobi Snitz, who was in the village Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Shortly thereafter, shots were heard, Snitz said, adding that he saw a white pickup truck about 30 meters from police. “They started shooting at the car in bursts from all directions,” he said, adding that only after the driver appeared to have been wounded and lost control of his vehicle did it strike the police officers.

Police reportedly sealed the village off and barred any additional journalists from entering by mid-morning.

Snitz said that state authorities had been pressuring residents to sign an agreement to leave voluntarily up until around midnight Tuesday night, but that negotiations broke down.

MK Odeh showed up at Umm el-Hiran early Wednesday morning in order to stand alongside the villagers, who were told by Israeli authorities that the demolition would take place imminently.

By late morning, bulldozers, trucks, and demolition equipment had begun preparing to clear and demolish the village.

Umm al-Hiran is one of dozens of so-called “unrecognized villages” in Israel’s south, in which approximately 100,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel live without electricity, water, and other basic services the state refuses to provide.

Here is a quick summary of this history of Umm al-Hiran: Long before the establishment of the State of Israel, members of the Abu Qi’an family lived in an area of the western Negev desert called Khirbet Zubaleh.

In 1956, the Israeli military government forcibly moved the Qi’an family to the location where they live today. (Their former land was expropriated and given to the Israel Kibbutz Shoval as agricultural land.)

This forced land “swap” is well documented in state archives, but despite the fact that the Qi’an family was settled in its current location by the state itself, its homes have never been connected to the electricity or water grids.

In 2015 Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled that the state can change its mind and take back the land it gave to the al-Qi’an family. On the ruins of their village Umm el-Hiran, from which they are being expelled, a new township for religious Jews will be established.

For the past few years, Orthodox Jews who will be the future residents of the Jewish village of Hiran – to be built on Umm Al Hiran’s ruins – have been waiting for their new homes at an encampment in the adjacent forest of Yatir.

“The government has no problem with Jewish citizens living on this property – so why should they have a problem with us?” Raid al-Qi’an, a resident and activist from the village, told +972 in 2015. “They allow rural communities to be built for Jews across the Negev – why not us?”

“We have always said, and continue to say, that we have no objections to Jewish families living here or nearby us – but not in place of us. That is racism and injustice,” he added.

Read latest from Umm Al Hiran