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  1. 1. Aqsa News FOR FREE DISTRIBUTIONQUARTERLY | ISSUE 43 | APRIL 2010 Gaza Protestors Given Disproportionate Jail Sentences During Israel’s war on Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009, hundreds of thousands of protestors took to the streets to demonstrate against Israel’s brutal and disproportionate war. While peaceful in the main, pockets of violence were seen and the police responded us- ing brute force against demonstrators. During the clash- es, there was dam- age to some proper- ties around the Israeli embassy in London, and some demonstra- tors threw objects such as placards and bottles towards the embassy and in some cases, towards the police. In a series of arrests taking place months after the demonstra- tions, 119 young peo- ple were taken into custody, all but two of whom were young Muslims mainly be- tween the ages of 18-22. A number of the arrests took place during dawn raids on the defend- ants’ family homes, where members of their families were hand- cuffed by police. Com- mentators have lik- ened these arrests to terror arrests, being to- tally disproportionate to the crime that the suspects were being accused of and com- pletely unnecessary. Of those arrested, 78 were charged with violent disorder of- fences and convinced by duty solicitors to plead guilty to lesser offences in order to get a reduced sentence, as would be the case in the normal course of jus- tice. However, de- spite many of them being at college or university, and be- ing first time offend- ers, the presiding judge passed prison sentences ranging from eight months to two and a half years in duration. Continued on Page 4 18 Months in Prison for Throwing a Bottle Following the mur- der of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Al Mabhouh in Dubai by what was widely believed to be a Mossad hit squad, the British government took the unprecedented step of expelling an Israeli Diplomat from the UK. This move came as ten- sions between Israel and its other ally the USA were also spiralling out of control towards the end of March. I n v e s t i g a t i o n s launched in Britain by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) discovered that 12 British passports were cloned by Israeli agents in order to undertake the murder plot. Reports suggest that the Israeli Diplomat who was ex- pelled was the Chief of security in the UK, him- self a Mosad agent. Is- rael also stands accused of cloning passports belonging to citizens of Australia, France, Ger- many and Ireland, and the responses of these governments are still forthcoming. This was not the first time Israel has come into conflict with the British government over the cloning of passports. In 1987, a diplomatic wrangle over illegal cloning of a passport led to an apology from Israel and an undertak- ing that it would not be repeated. This promise was reneged on. In his statement to Parliament, David Miliband stated that the “misuse of British passports is intolerable” adding: “It presents a hazard for the safety of British nationals in the region. It also represents a profound disregard for the sovereignty of the United Kingdom.” British travellers to Israel are now be- ing warned by the For- eign Office that their passports could be at risk. New travel guide- lines state: “UK pass- port holders should be aware of a recent Seri- ous Organised Crime Agency investigation into the misuse of UK passports in the murder of Mahmud al-Mabhuh in Dubai on 19 Janu- ary 2010. The SOCA investigation found cir- cumstantial evidence of Israeli involvement in the fraudulent use of British passports. This has raised the possibili- ty that your passport de- tails could be captured for improper uses while your passport is out of your control. The risk applies in particular to passports without bio- metric security features. We recommend that you only hand your passport over to third parties in- cluding Israeli officials when absolutely neces- sary.” Many commenta- tors have suggested that Israel’s arrogance is to blame for the current rift between Israel and its staunch allies, the UK and the USA. Some supporters of Israel on the other hand have taken the feeble line that the UK is immaterial to Israel and therefore the expulsion will have no impact. Britain Expels Israeli Diplomat Friends of Al-Aqsa Update Comments from Jonathan Cook and Arwa Aburawa Page 2 > Page 7 > Page 8 > Page 12 > Inside... Cracks in Al-Aqsa Masjid Page 2 Israeli Hit Squad in Dubai Murder Page 4 European Parliament Endorses Goldstone Report Page 5 Book Reviews Page 11 Friends of Al-Aqsa hosts ‘Crisis in Jerusalem’ Meeting at House of Commons Following rising tensions in Jerusalem attributed to Israel’s continued settlement building and compromising of Christian and Muslim holy sites, Friends of Al-Aqsa, in conjunction with Martin Lin- ton MP and Labour Friends of Palestine hosted a meeting at the House of Commons to discuss the issue of the crisis in Jerusalem. Full Story on Page 8 Special Feature: The Gaza Strip - An Israeli Experiment in Human Despair Justice Still Illusive for Victims of Operation Cast Lead
  2. 2. International human rights organisation Human Rights Watch have report- ed that Israel has failed to confirm that it will conduct fair and impartial investi- gations over allegations of war crimes during the Gaza offensive early last year. Whilst the Israeli Mili- tary is currently carrying out its own investigations over the actions of soldiers, it has failed to provide evidence that such investigations will be conducted with imparti- ality. The meeting between military lawyers from the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and Human Rights Watch on 4 February 2010 also made clear that the broader issue of the policy decisions themselves which often lead to huge numbers of civilian deaths was not specifically referred to as the subject of investigations. “Israel claims it is conducting credible and impartial investigations, but it has so far failed to make that case,” said Joe Stork, Deputy Middle East Director for Hu- man Rights Watch. “An in- dependent investigation is crucial to understand why so many civilians died and to bring justice for the victims of unlawful attacks.” Investigations of the Israeli Military have already been found to have ‘overlooked’certain pieces of evidence. One such instance is the bombing of the al-Badr flour mill outside Jabalya. Israel denied targeting the mill by air; however, the apparent remains of an Israeli MK-82 500-pound aerial bomb were found at the location. Human Rights Watch have obtained video footage showing this. The death and destruc- tion inflicted during the December-January offen- sive of Operation Cast Lead left over 1,400 dead and nearly 3,500 homes and 280 factories destroyed. After investigations, Human Rights Watch identified 53 civilian deaths in 19 circumstances in which Israel appears to have violated international law. This includes the use of white phosphorus munitions, civilian attacks by drone- launched missiles in addition to soldier’s shooting civilians carrying white flags. The Israeli military have argued that they are investi- gating the cases put forward by Human Rights Watch. However, up until now, just one soldier has been convicted of wartime abuse during the offensive. The crime – theft of a credit card. “The Israeli investiga- tions so far have looked mostly at soldiers who disobeyed orders or the rules of engagement, but failed to ask the crucial question about whether those orders and rules of engagement them- selves violated the laws of war. For those decisions and policies, senior military and political decision-makers should be held responsible,” Stork added. Israeli Prime Minis- ter Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans in Febru- ary to include the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron (also known as Masjid-e- Khalil) and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem on a list of Israeli ‘national heritage’ sites. The decision came despite warning from the Palestinian Authority that such a move would “wreck” peace efforts. Both of these sites are located in the West Bank and therefore constitute part of the Occupied Palestinian Ter- ritories. By claiming them as Israeli national heritage sites, their Palestinian herit- age is being threatened which has led to unrest across the Territories. There have been strikes and protests in both Bethlehem and Hebron to which Israeli forces respond- ed with stun grenades and tear gas. In Bethlehem, there was a call for a three day walk out for businesses, schools and universities. Palestinian leader Ismail Haniyyah said the move “aims to erase our identity, alter our Islamic monuments and steal our history.” The Israeli decision came on the sixteen year anniversary of the attack on Masjid-e-Khalil by US- born Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein in 1994. Goldstein opened machine-gun fire on the congregation praying the early morning Fajr prayers, killing 29 people. On the international front, the US State Depart- ment has sharply criticised the move and spokesper- son Mark Toner said the administration saw it as “provocative” and unhelp- ful. The UN also expressed disapproval suggesting that this may now threaten the resumption of peace talks. Robert Serry, the Unit- ed Nations Envoy to the Middle East explained that the two sites “are in Palestin- ian territory” which precludes them from being Israeli national heritage sites. Palestinians fear that the decision will result in limited access to the sites in what is already a tightly controlled area. Israeli officials have denied this; however, Palestinians say that past experience shows that these promises are likely to be meaningless. The Israeli move is suspected as be- ing part of the overall agen- da to further consolidate a stranglehold on Palestinian territories. Israel Claims Masjid-e-Khalil as National Heritage Site Justice Still Illusive for Victims of Operation Cast Lead AQSA NEWS 02 Inside Palestine Journalists covering a major military operation in the Shu’fat Refugee Camp in East Jerusalem on 8 and 9 February this year were tar- geted by Israeli soldiers. The soldiers opened fire with tear gas, stun grenades and rub- ber bullets causing injuries to a number of the journalists. Photographer Diala Jweihan was taken to the hospital unconscious after being hit in the stomach by a stun grenade. It was reported that the Israeli soldiers ap- peared to have “deliberately fired on the journalists” and Reporters Without Borders further urged the Israeli Military to “investigate and punish those responsible”. A newly formed activ- ist group in Lebanon, ‘The Campaign to Stop the Wall of Shame’ has disclosed the involvement of Arab Con- tractors in the building of an underground steel wall between Gaza and Egypt. The decision for the con- struction came following a rise in smuggling through tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. These tunnels have been described by many Gazans as a life line since the closure of the Gaza Strip in 2006, bringing in desperately needed supplies of food and medicine. Is- rael accuses Hamas of using them to smuggle in weapons. The construction of the ‘wall of shame’ will weaken and block off the tunnels, thereby cutting off this lifeline for Gazans. Cracks as long as seven metres in length have been discovered along the walls of buildings within the Al Aqsa Masjid, following ongoing Israeli excavations in the area. The Al-Aqsa Founda- tion for Waqf and Heritage found that excavations under the Al Omaria School, which is within the boundaries of the Al Aqsa Masjid, have in- creased and large quantities of earth are being removed by occupation forces. NEWS IN BRIEF Cracks in Al-Aqsa MasjidJournalists under Fire Arab Contractors Complicit In Egyptian ‘Wall of Shame’
  3. 3. Dozens of Palestin- ians were injured when clashes erupted at theAlAqsa compound in early March. With tensions rising following the announcement of Israeli settlement plans and the opening of the Hurva Synagogue, Israeli forces entered the mosque after Friday prayers firing rubber coated bullets, tear gas and stun grenades. 60 worship- pers were injured, among them a woman shot in the eye with a rubber bullet. Forces were seen beat- ing protestors with batons, thereby injuring a great number of people including some elderly worshippers. Red Crescent medics were then prevented from reach- ing the injured. Israeli news reports claimed that 15 Israeli police were also injured by stones thrown by Palestinians. Earlier clashes were witnessed following an announcement from extrem- ist settlers to gather at the Wailing Wall and then to march on the Al Aqsa Compound. In response, Palestinians defending the Al-Aqsa spent the night in the mosque in order to prevent the extremist set- tlers from entering. National and religious leaders in both Jerusalem and Israel also urged Palestinians to prevent such a takeover by gathering at the mosque. Palestinians continue to be weary of the poten- tial threats posed to the sacred Al-Aqsa compound by Israel, especially in light of the extremist voices from Israeli society calling for the demolition of the mosque. Despite Israeli reports laying the blame for the clashes upon Palestinians, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) has verified eyewitness accounts and local news coverage that shows hundreds of Israeli settlers accompanied by Israeli forces enter the mosque thereby sparking a response from Palestinians. PCHR criticised Israel’s “use of excessive force” against Palestinian civilians who gathered inside the mosque in order to prevent “the provocative entry of settlers”. Israeli Forces Storm Masjid Al-Aqsa Israel Plans to Outlaw Nakba Commemoration An Israeli Parliamentary Law Committee unveiled plans to impose economic sanctions on anyone who organises Nakba commemo- ration events. The proposal for the Parliamentary Bill was approved in March. This move is viewed as an effort to make Arab/Pal- estinian citizens of Israel identify with ‘Zionist values that negate their Palestinian national identity’. The ‘Nakba’ or Catastrophe is the term used by Palestinians when referring to the events of 1948 when approximately 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes or fled in order to escape the violence of Zionist militias. These militias committed massacres against civilians causing widespread panic. 531 villages were completely cleansed of their Arab popu- lations. Nakba commemora- tions are of huge importance to all Palestinians, and these laws would impact on the Arab/Palestinian-Israelis who remained within the borders of Israel in 1948, of whom 350,000 continue to live as internally dis- placed people within Israel. If the bill is allowed to pass, the Israeli govern- ment will be forbidden from supporting organisations that spend money on organising events commemorating the Nakba. The Israeli Human Rights group Badil have said: “In effect, the bill requires that Palestinian citizens of Israel deny their history and identity… It requires that Palestinians sanction their own historical disposses- sion and accept their current status as second-class citizens in the ‘Jewish state’ and their detachment from the Palestinian people.” On Thursday after- noon, 4 March, in the Old City of Hebron, Amir al-Mohtaseb, a ten-year-old boy with freckles and long eyelashes described in painful detail his arrest and detention -andthejailingofhis12-year- old brother Hasan by Israeli occupation soldiers on Sunday, 28 February 2010. Hours after our interview, at 2am, Israeli soldiers would break into the house, snatch Amir from his bed, threaten his parents with death by gunfire if they tried to protect him, and take him downstairs under the stairwell. They would beat him so badly that he would bleed internally into his abdomen, necessitating overnight hospitalization. In complete shock and distress, Amir would not open his mouth to speak for another day and a half. In our interview that afternoon before the brutal assault, Amir said that on the 28th, he was playing in the street near the Ibrahimi Mosque, on his way with Hasan to see their aunt. “Two of the soldiers stopped us and handcuffed us,” Amir said. “They brought us to two separate jeeps. They took me to the settlement and put me in a corner. I still had handcuffs on. They put a dog next to me. I said that I wanted to go home. They said no, and told me I would stay here forever. They refused to let me use the bathroom. They wouldn’t let me call my mother. They blindfolded me and I stayed there like that until my father was able to come and get me late at night.” Amir’s deten- tion inside the settlement lasted nearly ten hours. Amir and Hasan’s mother, Mukarrem, told me that Amir immediately displayed signs of trauma when he returned home. Amir revealed that he hadn’t been able to sleep in the nights following his detention, worried sick about his brother in jail and extremely afraid that the soldiers would come back (which, eventually, they did). Today, approximately 350 children are languishing inside Israeli prisons and detention camps, enduring interrogation, torture and indefinite sentences, some- times without charge. Israel designates 18 as the age of adulthood for its own citizens, but through a mili- tary order, and against inter- national law, Israel mandates 16 as the age of adulthood for Palestinians. Additionally, Is- rael has special Military Or- ders (No.1644 and No.132) to be able to arrest and judge Palestinian children - termed “juvenile delinquents” - as young as 12 years old. “This way, they have a ‘legal’ cover for what they are doing, even though this is against international laws,” said Abed Jamal, a researcher at Defence for Children Inter- national-Palestine Section’s (DCI-PS) Hebron office. I asked Amir and Hasan’s father, Fadel, to describe how one is able to parent ef- fectively under this kind of constant siege. “It’s not safe for the children to go outside because we’ve faced constant attacks by the settlers and the soldiers,” he explained. “This by itself is unimaginable for us.And now, we have one son in jail and another trauma- tized ... they’re so young.” Consumed by their sons’ situations, Mukarrem and Fadel say they are trying to do the best for their family under attack. “What can we do?” asked Fadel. “We lock the doors. We lock the windows. We have nothing with which to protect our family and our neighbours from the soldiers or the settlers. If a Palestin- ian kidnapped and beat and jailed an Israeli child, the whole world would be up in arms about it. It would be all over the media. But the Israe- lis, they come into our com- munities with jeeps and tanks and bulldozers, they take our children and throw them into prison, and no one cares.” Amir slowly began speak- ing again 36 hours after the beating by Israeli soldiers. Zahira Meshaal, a Bethle- hem-based social worker specializing in the effects of trauma in children, said that Amir’s “elective mutism,” a symptom of extreme psy- chological shock caused by his beating and detention, is a common response, but that it is a good sign that he began talking again. “This is a reac- tion of fear on many levels. Amir’s house and his family are his only source of secu- rity,” said Meshaal. “This was taken away from him the moment the soldiers invaded his home. It’s easy to attend to the immediate trauma, but the long-term effects will undoubtedly be difficult to address. He’ll need a lot of mental health services from now on.” By Nora Barrows-Friedman Electronic Intifada Amir, Ten Years Old, Abducted by Israeli Soldiers from his Bed AQSA NEWS 03 Israeli occupation forces opened fire on two Palestin- ians, including one child on Saturday 20th March, killing both. The incident took place south of Nablus where the civilians Mohammed Ibrahim Abdul Qader Qadous, 16, and Usaid Abdul Naser Qadous, 20, were shot at close range. Qader was shot in the heart and was pronounce dead on arrival at Nablus Specialized Hospital. Naser, a student at An-Najah University, was shot in the head and under- went prolonged surgery on arrival at the hospital. How- ever, he died the following day. Israeli warplanes hit Gaza’s disused International Airport in the southern part of the Gaza Strip twice in February. Several buildings were destroyed and runways shattered. The airport, near the border city of Rafah opened to business in 1998 but had to be shut down following the Second Intifada in late 2000, after damage arising from re- peated Israeli shelling and air strikes. Israel Bombs Gaza AirportPalestinian Child and Student Killed
  4. 4. Following the assassina- tion of senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai on 19 January by ap- parent suffocation, fresh evi- dence from the Dubai Police surfaced in mid-February, linking the assassination to the Israeli Secret Service, Mossad. Israeli complicity in the killing became widely sus- pected though Israel persist- ed to adopt a policy of “am- biguity”, saying “Israel never responds, never confirms and never denies,” a comment made by foreign minister Av- igdor Lieberman. Members of the hit squad were seen entering a hotel lift with Mabhouh, waiting for his departure from his room, after which they broke in, and then awaited his arrival later in the evening. Mabhouh re- turned at 8.24pm. Police re- port that he was killed a short while later. Deeper controversy arose and diplomatic tensions flared after it was found that the operation had made use of forged passports of citi- zens from the UK, Ireland, France, Australia and Ger- many. The use of forged passports was met with glo- bal condemnation and British foreign secretary David Mili- band described their usage as an “outrage”. Miliband called for the Israeli Ambassador to explain the use of British forged passports. However, the response was less that helpful as he said that he was “unable to add information”, a similar response to that given by the ambassador to Ireland. Israel tried to deflect some of the blame by impli- cating other countries in the controversy. Claims that the UK was aware of possible complications in the illicit use of British passports have been denied by the British government. Miliband met with Lie- berman in Brussels where he demanded full co-operation with an ongoing investiga- tion conducted by The Seri- ous and Organized Crime Agency (SOCA) as to how British passports came to be used. The MI6 are conduct- ing a parallel investigation examining alleged Israeli in- volvement. The Ministry of Justice announced in early March that proposals to amend the British law allowing Univer- sal Jurisdiction for the prose- cution of certain crimes, were to be postponed until after the General Elections. The pro- visions of the law have been used by citizens in the UK to obtain arrest warrants for Is- raeli politicians and military personnel accused of War Crimes. Britain was put under pressure by Israel to amend the laws following the issuing of an arrest warrant against former Israeli Foreign Minis- ter Tzipi Livni in December 2009. Justice secretary Jack Straw explained that the Government recognised the controversy surrounding the subject since it involves the right to private prosecution. He said in a written statement to MP’s that “rather than leg- islating now, we are going to seek views on the proposals we are minded to make.” The decision has sparked criticism from the Israeli Government particularly fol- lowing comments from Livni demonstrating that she would be prepared to travel to the UK “within weeks” in order to pressurise the British Gov- ernment to quicken the law changes. Livni, who was the Is- raeli Foreign Minister at the time of the Gaza offensive in 2008-2009 which resulted in the death of over 1,400 Pales- tinians, stated that she aimed to take the step in order to protect the freedom of move- ment of every Israeli citizen. Ironically, this is one of many rights that Israel unwarrant- edly denies Palestinians. The arrest warrant was issued in relation to her role in the war and allegations of War Crimes. The initial move to amend the law of Universal Juris- diction, a principle in which states can prosecute grave human rights violations com- mitted anywhere in the world (Amnesty International), came after Livni had sched- uled a trip to the UK last December. Following the is- suing of an arrest warrant on charges of war crimes, Livni cancelled her trip for fear of the ramifications of her en- trance into the UK. Embarrassed at such ac- tion and for fear of creating diplomatic tensions between Britain and Israel, the Brit- ish Government promised “urgent action” in order to re- solve the awkward situation. However, due to great oppo- sition and much debate, the law change has not yet been enacted. Israeli lawyer based in the UK and co-founder of Lawyers for Palestinian Hu- man Rights Daniel Machover stated, “If there were no case for Tzipi Livni to answer to then we could say that the le- gal system was being abused. But nobody, including Tzipi Livni, is addressing the ques- tion of whether or not there is a war crimes case for her to answer to.” Israeli deputy foreign minister and member of the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party, Danny Ayalon, was faced with a crowd of pro- Palestinian protestors as he arrived to deliver a lecture at the Oxford Students’ Union on 8 February. The protestors, made up of members of the Oxford Students’ Palestine Soci- ety, as well as other student groups and members of the public, felt it inconceivable that a person belonging to what they believe is a racist party advocating apartheid policies, be welcomed to de- liver a lecture. Whilst a dem- onstration continued outside the lecture theatre, numerous individuals inside interrupted Ayalon’s speech and chal- lenged the assertions made. One student stood and read an entire page of the Gold- stone report whilst another listed Israeli war crimes. However, the most shock- ing event of the day was the behaviour of Ayalon’s se- curity staff. As one protes- tor photographed the car in which he was travelling, Ayalon’s security staff drove straight into him causing bad bruising. No serious in- juries were reported. Whilst this sort of behaviour may be common for Israel in the Occupied Territories, such actions in the UK seemed un- thinkable. The incident is be- ing investigated by Thames Valley Police. Despite the violence, the protests were seen as a great success. The Oxford Univer- sity’s Palestine Society stated in a report released after the event that “..until Israel ends its illegal occupation and the Palestinians receive the jus- tice they have been denied for the last six decades, Israel’s representatives and propa- gandists will not be welcome at Oxford University.” AQSA NEWS 04 Global News Israeli Hit Squad in Dubai Murder Change in British Law on Universal Jurisdiction Postponed Oxford Students Protest at Ayalon Lecture Three Palestinian farm- ers were denied access to the UK after being invited by UK-based social enterprise Zaytoun to attend the Fairtrade Fortnight. The trio were set to take part in a packed schedule of events up and down the UK marking the annual event. Thedecisionwasreceived angrily by supporters of Fairtrade, exactly one year after the farmers became the first to hold recognised Fairtrade status. The three farmers, Lina Mahmoud, Belal Eid and Nahed Besharieh, were special guests of Zaytoun and were to meet thousands of school children, ethical shoppers and fair-trade supporters across the UK. However, the UK Borders Agency refused the visa applications requesting permission for the farmers to take part in “radio interviews, schools talks, shop samplings, faith gatherings and official receptions” on the grounds of insufficient proof of income andfamilyties.Thesegrounds were deemed to be baseless as the original visa applications clearly stated that expenses and other arrangements were to be covered by the host company Zaytoun and their NGO partner. Director of Zaytoun, Cathi Pawson expressed her bewilderment at the situa- tion, saying “We find it very strange that a Palestinian olive farmer, participat- ing in a multi- million EC funded food security project, invited by a UK company, accompanied by a leading British NGO, and hosted by groups across the country, cannot get a visa for Fairtrade Fortnight - especially when Gordon Brown announced he was ‘delighted’ about the Fairtrade certification of Palestinian olive oil, and Tony Blair was ‘inspired’ by his recent visit to a Fairtrade olive processing factory in Jenin.” After a campaign, the visas were eventually grant- edbut it was too late for the farmers to make the trip Palestinian Farmers Denied Visas to Enter UK for Fair Trade Event (From page 1) In the case of 18 year old Yahia Tebani who threw an empty Orangina bottle at the embassy gates, despite being commended by the judge for his good character, he was given a shameful 18 month prison sentence. 22 of those charged have been sentenced so far, with the remainder to be sentenced in the coming months. What is apparent is that the future for these young people will look very bleak as a prison sentence will hinder any prospects they may have. The judge called the sentences a deterrence measure. The disproportion- ate nature of the sentenc- ing has created great anger and apprehension within the Muslim community, as it is seen as a move intended to delegitimize and discour- age Muslim participation in public protests, the vast majority of which have always been peaceful. Further to this, the small pockets of violence at the Gaza demonstrations did not compare to other protests such as the G8, and in those instances protestors were merely given warnings if they were arrested at all. In response to the severe sentencing, a group of MPs came together in early March to bring the matter to the public’s attention and harsh- ly criticised the sentencing. Jeremy Corbyn MP intended totableamotioninParliament in opposition to the handling of the protestors. A campaign against the sentences has now been launched by the families of the young people, in order to have then over turned. In addition, on 24 March, one of the protestors, who refused to plead guilty, had all charges dropped at his court hearing when the prosecution failed to provide any evidence for the charges. This suggests that those who were convinced to plead guilty may not have had a case against them at all. This lead to renewed calls for all charges to be dropped and sentences over turned. Joanne Gilmore, an asso- ciate lecturer at Manchester University School of Law, has been extremely criti- cal of the sentences, stating: “When thousands of people took to the streets between December 2008 and Janu- ary 2009 in opposition to Israel’s brutal assault on the people of Gaza, the police responded with violence and brutality on a scale that had not been seen in the UK for years. However, despite the severity of injuries suffered by protesters, not one police officer has faced charges, or even disciplinary action, as a result of their behaviour at these demonstrations. In contrast, scores of young Muslims have been subjected to dawn raids, gruelling court processes and lengthy prison sentences their part in the demonstrations.” Joanna is urging people to sign a petition which supports the Gaza Protester Defence Campaign.
  5. 5. The family of peace activ- ist Rachel Corries have taken the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) to court over the killing of their daughter. 23-year old Rachel Corrie was crushed by a bulldozer in 2003 after trying to prevent the demoli- tion of a Palestinian home. Israeli prime minister at the time Ariel Sharon prom- ised that a “through, credible and transparent investiga- tion” would be carried out, looking at the circumstances surrounding her death. How- ever, despite all the evidence, the investigation that was carried out acquitted both the bulldozer driver as well as the commanders who oversaw the operation. They chose instead to blame Rachel Cor- ries for putting herself in a ‘dangerous’ situation. Three British and one American activist from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) who were present at the time of Rachel’s death gave evidence at the trial. Richard Purssell, one of the British activists described to the court how he watched in horror as the bulldozer dragged Corrie the distance of approximately four me- tres at a “fast walking pace.” He added that despite shouts and gestures to the bulldozer driver to stop, the bulldozer drove over Corrie’s body before reversing in the same line whilst Corrie was be- neath. First aid trained activ- ists rushed to her aid at which point she was still breathing. However, she died a short while later due to the extent of her internal injuries. Parents Craig and Cindy Corrie arrived in Israel on 7 March marking an incredibly long journey in seeking jus- tice for their daughter. Moth- er Cindy said, “My family and I are still searching for justice. The brutal death of my daughter should never have happened. We believe the Israeli army must be held accountable for her unlawful killing.” Whilst the four ISM ac- tivists were able to give evi- dence at the trial, Ahmed Abu Nakira, the doctor who treat- ed Corrie in Gaza was not granted permission to leave Gaza, nor was he questioned via video link. Following the presenta- tion of all the evidence by the Corrie family, the state of Israel will respond at the next trial in September 2010. The Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RTP), a tribunal of conscience that endeavours to hold the international com- munity to account over Israe- li violations of international law, was launched at the be- ginning of March, meeting for its first of four sessions in Barcelona. The initial session aimed to determine whether the EU has upheld its obli- gations under international law in recognition of the fact that without the support of international sponsors, Israel would not have been permit- ted to perpetrate the gross vi- olations it has done over the last 62 years. The tribunal, which was attended by judges, profes- sors, lawyers and former heads of states from around the world, concluded that the EU has defied international law due to its complicity in Israeli violations. Three sessions are to follow over the coming two years focussing on the fol- lowing areas: - Scrutinising the complicity of corporations in Israeli vio- lations of international law in addition to labour rights in Palestine /Israel in the Lon- don session, to be held at the end of 2010 - Examining the applicability of the charge of apartheid be- haviour on the part of Israel, symbolically to be held in South Africa in mid-2011 - Investigating the role of the US within the UN in deci- sion-making processes to be held in the US in late-2011 The tribunal is to fol- low the same tradition as the previous Russell Tribunal for war crimes in Vietnam. Bertrand Russell the Brit- ish Philosopher responsible for the creation of the body based the idea on the follow- ing principle: “If certain acts and viola- tions of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them. We are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal con- duct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.” Justice Robert H. Jackson, Chief Prosecutor, Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunals To date, Israel has vio- lated over 60 UN resolutions, with minimal criticism from the international community of signatory states. This Tri- bunal provides a platform for non-political opinion. Joe Biden, US Vice- president condemned plans approved by the Israeli Interior Ministry for the building of 1,400 homes in occupied East Jerusalem. The revelation infuriated the US as it came just hours after Biden pledged support for the Israeli government. In a statement issued at a dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netan- yahu to which he arrived one and a half hours late, Biden said in an unusually strong statement: “I condemn the deci- sion by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units.” He further explained that such a decision “undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the construc- tive discussions I’ve had in Israel.” Unsurprisingly, the Pales- tinians pulled out of indirect peace talks stating that such ‘proximity’ talks could not begin until Israel halted set- tlement expansion. The chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat clarified that the an- nouncement were detrimental and was “destroying” Pales- tinian efforts towards peace. Biden who later ‘fixed’ his earlier criticisms of Israel in stating that the US had “no better friend”, urged both the Palestinians and the Israeli’s to restart peace talks, citing it to be “..the only path to finally resolving the perma- nent status issues, including borders, security, refugees and Jerusalem.” Despite the collapse in this latest round of peace talks due to further proposed illegal Israeli settlement expansion, Israel’s latest rev- elation on 11 March disclosed that Israeli authorities are considering plans for at least another 8,000 new homes (including the previously revealed 1,400 homes) in illegal East Jerusalem settlements. The European Parlia- ment passed a vote endors- ing the Goldstone Report on 10 March in Strasbourg. The 335-287 majority vote in favour of endorsement came despite a heavy wave of lobbying from pro-Israel groups. MEP’s called for EU for- eign policy chief Catherine Ashton to “publicly demand the implementation of [the report’s] recommendations and accountability for all violations of international law, including alleged war crimes.” Ashton visited Gaza despite some resistance to the visit from Israel’s Foreign Ministry. The assembly, which is the second international body after the UN to support the re- port, called for its 27-member states to monitor the situation and ensure that both parties conduct fair and credible in- vestigations, in addition to urging Israel to open border crossings to alleviate the hu- manitarian crisis in Gaza. Israel has criticised the decision calling it “counter- productive” to peace efforts. This is a worrying develop- ment for Israel as the report accuses Israel of war crimes, a position which has now been endorsed by the EU par- liament – the most important international endorsement yet. AQSA NEWS 05 Civil Suit Filed over Rachel Corrie’s Death Russell Tribunal on Palestine Commences US-Israel Ties Strained An appeal by an inde- pendent Palestinian non- governmental human rights organisation to take the UK to court over its inaction in upholding by human rights obligations has been dis- missed. Al-Haq, based in the West Bank, stated that Brit- ain had the power to prevent much of the illegal activities perpetrated by Israel such as extensive settlement building and targeting of civilians in operations such as those in Gaza. Al-Haq calls for the sus- pending of arms-related ex- ports and the EU preferential trading agreements, as well as the handing over of evidence of war crimes to the British police. Al-Haq argued that if the UK were to stand by their international obligations, the result would be a great im- provement to the humanitar- ian situation in Gaza. The appeal came approx- imately six months after the original application for a ju- dicial review to hear the case was rejected late in 2009. The West Bank based group were represented by Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) who included in their case evidence from the UN sponsored Goldstone Report which highlighted a great number of human right violations, particularly breaches of the Geneva Con- ventions and the perpetration of War Crimes. One of the individuals present at the hearing was a representative from Friends of Al-Aqsa who commented: “The appeal was well re- ceived by the Judge in the Court of Appeal but was dismissed on the basis that the Court does not have the power to say whether Israel committed a breach in Inter- national Law nor does it have an influence on the Foreign Office’s response on these matters.” Action Against UK Government Dismissed European Parliament Endorses Goldstone Report
  6. 6. AQSA NEWS 06 Campaigns Update Leicester De Montfort University Twins with An-Najah University Ally Ackbarally is a stu- dent completing his MSc in Advanced Health Studies at De Montfort University in Leicester. He recently pro- posed a motion to the Stu- dents Union to twin the union with the Student Council of An-Najah University in Na- blus. The motion was passed. In this short interview, we find out how Ally went about starting the twinning initia- tive. How did you approach the project? I began by contacting oth- er universities who already have twinning initiatives in place and asked for advice. Then I submitted a proposal to the Students Union, and was asked to deliver a presen- tation to the assembly and an- swer any questions they had. The vote was passed over to the Annual General Meet- ing (AGM), which includes student representatives from across the university, and the motion was passed! Did you face any obstacles? There were a few difficult questions when I delivered the proposal to the Students Union, but other than that, no. What kind of response have you received from people? I’ve had a lot of help from friends. We had a cam- paign alongside submitting the proposal where we spoke to people about the twinning, sent around emails, messages on Facebook and that sort of thing. Really, it was so that we could explain what we were hoping to do and allevi- ate any worries. How do you think this twinning will help the Palestinians? I feel it’s a concrete way to offer our support. An-Na- jah University is almost on the frontline of the occupa- tion. Around 9,000 students have to pass checkpoints to get to the university. Hope- fully, having the twinning in place will offer them some sort of protection and contact with the outside world. Eve- ryone has the right to educa- tion, wherever they live. How will the project benefit students at De Montfort University? We hope to organise exchanges between the universities and we have an international conference planned for this October when we’ll be inviting stu- dents from An-Najah to the UK, God-willing. In terms of academics, we’re also hoping to start joint projects which will be a huge asset. Do you have any advice for anyone in a similar position, or who would like to set up twinning schemes at their own university? Yes, definitely set off on the right foot. Follow the rules of the university in terms of the procedure they use to enact these sorts of things. Most universities allow all students to propose a motion if they wish, so make use of the rights you have! Work together with the Students Union, they can give you a lot of support. Just a few days after this interview was conducted, reports emerged that Israeli soldiers killed a student from An-Najah University. Stu- dents involved in the twin- ning issued a statement of condemnation following the killing. A legal case against the group responsible for the de- commissioning of Brighton- based arms manufacturer EDO have made encourag- ing advances in their case. The prosecution put forward the argument that the decom- missioning of EDO prop- erty which resulted in over a quarter million pounds in damage could do nothing to prevent crimes or protect life and property of Palestin- ians in the occupied territo- ries. However, when asked to provide evidence for this, the prosecution were able to bring none. Judge Kemp ruled in fa- vour of the defendants and further denied permission to appeal to the prosecutors, though prosecutors are seek- ing to overturn the judge- ment. It is foreseen that the prosecution will go to the Court of Appeal. EDO is a trading unit of ITT Corporation, a US-based arms multinational, and makes weapon parts which are used by the Israeli army to conduct their military af- fairs, often resulting in large numbers of civilian deaths and casualties. Legal Victory for Protestors In an effort to project a more ‘peaceful’ global image of Israel a new government campaign has been launched calling for every Israeli citi- zen travelling abroad to be- come an ambassador. Partici- pating citizens, hailed as the ‘Israel Explanatory Force’ by Information Minister Yuli Edelstein require no training. Instead, they are to distribute leaflets and direct individuals towards a government site which explains the positive contributions Israel has made to the world – such as devel- oping the cherry tomato. However, former Knes- set member and head of the Israeli peace activism group Gush Shalom Uri Avery may have come up with a far better plan. “The only thing that can change the image of Israel is to make peace and stop assas- sinating people abroad.” Israeli Citizens Drive Global PR Campaign Bradford Students Union Twin with Gaza University The University of Brad- ford Students’ Union voted in January to twin the Union with the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG), which was bombed during the Gaza of- fensive last year. The motion was passed by a majority of council members and marks the first twinning initiative between the Students’ Union and a university in occupied Palestine. The twinning was celebrated through a video link up between Union mem- bers and officials and stu- dents from the IUG, live from Gaza. UN Hears Petition against ‘Museum of Tolerance’ on Muslim Cemetery Israeli plans to build a ‘Museum of Tolerance’ over a 7th Century Muslim Cem- etery in Jerusalem have been challenged by Palestinian descendants of those buried there. A petition against the plans was taken to the Unit- ed Nations in Geneva on 10 February 2010. The Mamilla Cemetery (Arabic Ma’man Allah) is an ancient burial ground in which numerous Muslim scholars, officials and right- eous predecessors are thought to be buried. The cemetery was declared a historical site in 1927 by The Muslim Supreme Council, however, came under Israeli control after the 1948 war. The land was then ruled as no longer being sacrosanct and desig- nated as public space after which a parking lot was built over part of the cemetery. The building of the “Center for Human Dignity– Museum of Tolerance” is a joint initiative between the Israeli Government and the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) in Los Angeles. It is intended to be built over a section of the cemetery. The initial construction work re- sulted in hundreds of graves being unearthed. The plans to build the museum will mean that the building will rest upon thousands more graves. Palestinian descendants were represented by The Center for Constitutional Rights in New York and the petition includes 60 signato- ries from 15 of the oldest Je- rusalem families. The action was in response to a ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court who stated that they would allow the construction to go ahead despite calls against it. This is the first time Pal- estinians have taken collec- tive action against Israel to bring the issue before a UN forum in Geneva. Confer- ences were also held simul- taneously in Jerusalem and Los Angeles, home of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. At the Jerusalem news con- ference, Jamal Nusseibeh, a local resident commented on the situation: “We have been fighting for years to preserve these graves. It’s a chain that goes back to 1432 when my ancestor was buried there and it is part of the rich fabric of Jerusalem that is a symbol of tolerance, so why destroy this to build a museum of toler- ance?” A response from the UN would carry moral weight but would not be legally binding upon Israel, and at the time of printing was still being awaited.
  7. 7. AQSA NEWS Comments 07 Reclaiming Palestinian Heritage Arwa Aburawa, March 2010 Arab Family Denied Right to Rent Home Jonathan Cook, March 2010 The Zakai and Tarabin families should be a picture of happy coexistence across the ethnic divide, a model for others to emulate in Israel. But Natalie and Weisman Zakai say the past three years – since the Jewish couple offered to rent their home to Bedouin friends, Ahmed and Khalas Tarabin – have been a living hell. “I have always loved Israel,” said Mrs Zakai, 43. “But to see the depth of the racism of our neighbours has made me question why we live in this country.” Three of the couple’s six dogs have been mysteriously poisoned; Mrs Zakai’s car has been sprayed with the words ‘Arab lover’and the windows smashed; her three children in school are regularly taunted and bullied by other pupils; and a collection of vintage cars in the family’s yard has been set on fire in what police say was an arson attack. To add to these indigni- ties, the Zakais have spent three years and thousands of dollars battling through the courts against the elected officials of their community of Nevatim, in Israel’s southern Negev desert, who have said they are determined to keep the Tarabins from moving in. Last week the Zakais’ legal struggle looked like it had run out of steam. The Supreme Court told the two families the Tarabins should submit to a vetting committee of local officials to assess their suitability – a requirement that has never been made before by the Negev community in the case of a family seeking to rent a home. “The decision of the committee is a foregone conclusion,” Mr Tarabin said. Chances for Jews and Arabs to live together, out- side of a handful of cities, are all but impossible because Israel’s rural communities are strictly segregated, said Alaa Mahajneh, a lawyer representing the Zakais. Israel has nationalised 93 per cent of the country’s territory, confining most of its 1.3 million Arab citizens, one-fifth of the population, to 120 or so communities that existed at the time of the state’s creation in 1948. Meanwhile, more than 700 rural communities, includ- ing Nevatim, have remained exclusively Jewish by requiring that anyone who wants to buy a home applies to local vetting committees, which have been used to weed out Arab applicants. But Mr Mahajneh, from the Adalah legal centre for the Arab minority, noted that legal sanction for such segregation was supposed to have ended a decade ago, when the Supreme Court backed an Arab couple, the Kaadans, who had been barred by a committee from the community of Katzir in northern Israel. Although the Kaadans were eventually allowed to move into Katzir, the case has had little wider effect. In fact, Mr Mahajneh said, the decision in the Zakais’ case suggests “we’re going backwards”. The Kaadans won the right to buy a home in a Jewish community, whereas the Tarabin family were seeking only a short-term rental of the Zakais’ home. The Zakais said they had been told by the officials of Nevatim, a community of 650 Jews a few kilometres from the city of Beersheva, that it would not be a problem to rent out their home. Mrs Zakai brought the Tarabins’ ID cards to the community’s offices for routine paperwork. “When I handed in the IDs, the staff looked at the card and said, ‘But they’re Muslims’.” Later, accord- ing to Mrs Zakai, the council head, Avraham Orr, rang to say the Arabs would be accepted in Nevatim “over my dead body”. Several weeks later, Mrs Zakai said, two threaten- ing men came to their door and warned them off renting to Arabs. Soon afterwards 36 cars belonging to Mr Zakai, who has a used car business, were set on fire. Then behind the Zakais’ back, Nevatim went to a local magistrate’s court to get an order preventing them from renting their home. The couple have been battling the decision ever since. Mr Mahajneh said the Tarabins had accommodated a series of “extraordinary conditions” imposed by Nevatim on the rental agree- ment, but still Nevatim officials were dissatisfied, insisting in addition that the Tarabins submit to question- ing by a vetting committee to assess their suitability. Although 40 other homes in Nevatim are rented, Mr Mahajneh said testimonies from past members of the vetting committee showed that this was the first time such a demand had been made. In 2008, a district court judge in Beersheva overruled Nevatim’s new condition, arguing that the vetting requirement would be “unreasonable and not objective”. The Supreme Court judges, however, sided with Nevatim in their concluding statements on March 10. Mrs Zakai said they had offered to rent their home to the Tarabins after the Bedouin couple’s home burnt down in their village in early 2007, killing one of their 10 children. The Tarabins have been living with relatives ever since, unable to afford a new home and were keen to move away from the site of the tragedy. The close friendship forged between the Za- kais and Tarabins is rare in Israel. The privileged status of Jews legally and economi- cally, communal segregation and the hostility provoked by a larger national conflict between Israel and the Palestinians ensure that Jewish and Arab citizens usu- ally remain at arm’s length. But Mr Zakai, 53, whose parents emigrated from Iraq and who speaks fluent Arabic, befriended Mr Tarabin in the late 1960s when they were teenagers in Beersheva. Later they served together in the Israeli army as mechanical engineers. Mrs Zakai said: “If Jews were being denied the right to live somewhere, it would be a scandal, but because our friends are Arabs no one cares.” Jonathan Cook is a journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. In February, Israel provoked anger and indignation when it listed two important Palestinian sites, the Tomb of the Patriarch’s (Ibrahimi Mosque) in Hebron and Rachel’s tomb (known as Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque) in Bethlehem, as “Israeli archaeological sites.” Not only are both of these holy sites within the Palestinian territories of the West Bank but they are also of signifi- cant religious and historic importance to both Muslims and Christians. Many commentators remarked that this deci- sion was simply a means to dispossess Palestinians of their religious heritage whilst elevating Israeli claims to the sites. Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister is reported as saying: “Our existence here doesn’t just depend on the might of the military or our economic and technological strength. It is anchored first and foremost in our national and emotional legacy.” Fourth Most Venerated Site in Islam The Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron is built on top of a cave believed to hold the tombs of Prophet Ibrahim and his family. In 635-7 AD, a mosque was built on the site making it one of the oldest mosques built in Palestine and the entire Levant area. In fact, the Ibrahimi mosque is widely held to be the fourth most sacred site in Islam after Mekkah, Medina and al-Har- am al-Sharif in Jerusalem. The cave is so sacred that it has not been entered by Muslims and the mosque contains six cenotaphs- or empty tombs- dedicated to the Prophet Ibrahim and others. Before it was captured by the Crusaders in 1099 and turned into a church, several improvements were made to the Ibrahimi mosque by the Muslim Ummayad rulers including the construction of steps to enter and leave and a defined entrance. Once Salaahaddin al- Ayyub recaptured the city in 1187, it was reconverted into a mosque although Christians retained the right to worship in the site for some years. Salaahaddin al-Ayyub contributed a minaret to each corner of the mosque, although only two remain intact, as well as a beauti- ful Mimbar which originally graced the main mosque of Ascalon until 1191. A Site of Beauty, Knowledge and Generosity Under the Mamluk Muslim dynasty the upper part of the walls of the mosque were crenellated, two additional entrances were built as well as the six cenotaphs that stand to this day. The cenotaphs are dedicated to Ibrahim, Ya’qub, Ishaq (pbut) and their wives and are covered with green rich tapestries which carry Qur’anic inscriptions. The city became a center for learning under the Ayyubids and Mamluks, and was even home to several active Sufi orders. Settlers, Clashes and Catastrophes Hebron (or Al-Khalil) is the largest city in the West Bank with a high Palestin- ian population but with ap- proximately 400-500 fanati- cal Israeli settlers living in the city’s Old Quarter. The 1970’s and 1980’s saw an increasing number of Jewish settlers move into the city and in 1997 the city was divided to create an Israeli security zone around the Old City for the settlers. The settlers are guarded by around 4,000 Israeli soldiers and various checkpoints where Palestin- ians are routinely harassed and repressed while settlers roam free and cause havoc. In 1994 during the month of Ramadan, an American Jewish Settler named Baruch Goldstein burst into the Ibrahimi mosque and opened fire on Palestinians as they were praying. Twenty nine were killed, 200 were wound- ed and another 12 Palestin- ians were killed by Israeli forces in the subsequent pro- tests and demonstrations. Today, the mosque is partitioned with one part converted into a synagogue for Jews to pray in. As the mosque is within the Old City which is an Israeli security zone, it is cut off from the Palestinian population by checkpoints and the intimidation of the settlers. The entire area is stifled by these tensions, Palestinians have closed their shops down, moved out and the place has the unshakeable air of conflict. Bethlehem and Encroaching Israeli Control The Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque or ‘Rachel’s Tomb’, is located on the northern borders of Bethlehem in the Palestinian West Bank. As well as the site of a mosque commemorating Islam’s first Muedhdin, it is believed to be the site where Rachel died in childbirth en route to Hebron. A pyramid-shaped mausoleum was present on the site until the Islamic pe- riod and the current building originates from the Ottoman period. In 1841, Anglo-Jewish philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore financed the renovation of the dome as a gesture to the Muslims who were uneasy about the dis- ruptive Jewish pilgrims. The site remained accessible to all Muslims, Christians and Jews until 1977 when it was under the administration of the Department of Islamic Affairs (Waqf). In 1995 an Is- raeli camp was setup and the Apartheid wall and a watch- tower were built to cut off the site from Bethlehem. The dome and entrance hall were later demolished by Israeli forces and the mosque is now completely inaccessible to Palestinians. Today, tourists and foreigners are allowed to enter the site but only un- der the permission of Israeli forces. Palestinians are usu- ally denied access. Israeli actions to under- mine Muslim and Christian Palestinian sites of religious and historical significance are nothing new. Since the war of 1967, Israel has been accused of deliberately attempting to erase all Palestinian heritage in Israel and the Occupied Territories in contravention of numerous international laws. Arwa Aburawa is a freelance journalist based in the U.K.
  8. 8. AQSA NEWS London The London branch of Friends of Al Aqsa has been working hard in building links with Members of Parliament and the House of Lords. Several meetings have taken place with MPs and peers, focussing on high- lighting the Palestinian issue and human rights abuses that have been committed within the Occupied Territories. Other activities have included speaking at an event at Redbridge Islamic Cen- tre where branch members were joined by individuals from the last Viva Palestina convoy, to highlight the dreadful situation in Gaza. Further meetings included a Kings College Action Pal- estine meeting with students from various universities around London where a plan of action was formulated for fortnightly protests outside Ahava in Covent Garden. In order to highlight the origins of their products from an il- legal settlement in the West Bank. The protest is to be held on alternate Saturdays from 12pm to 2pm beginning on Saturday 13th March. Shamiul Joarder, Head of Public Relations and the London Branch, appeared on Islam Channel’s Ummah Talk discussing the Policing at the Gaza Demonstrations, fol- lowing which over 100 peo- ple were arrested. He said that policing methods had to be challenged and that the com- munity must come forward and make official complaints if there were any grievances. The complaint can be taken through organisations such as the Muslim Safety Forum. The London Branch has been involved in voicing concerns against the sentences imposed on the Gaza protestors. Upcoming events for the branch include expanding the understanding of the importance of Masjid Al Aqsa to Muslims. This will be covered by a series of talks, the first of which was at Upton Lane Mosque on 28th March. Further talks will take place in Ealing, Tooting and North London. Anyone interested in joining the branch can email: arif@aqsa.org.uk Friends of Al Aqsa - London Dewsbury and Batley The Dewsbury and Batley branch are focussing on education, especially with the Ulema on the Islamic significance of Masjid Al-Aqsa. In a recent event, many local Ulema attended a workshop designed to encourage further exploration of the Islamic link to Jerusalem and Mas- jid Al-Aqsa. This knowledge would then be passed down to the people in the localities. A set of ‘roadshow’ type events are also being planned in order to galvanise locals into joining the branch and taking positive actions such as becoming active in boycotting Israeli goods, lobbying etc. A group of volunteers from the Liverpool branch of Friends of Al-Aqsa under- took the tough challenge of completing a half Marathon in order to raise funds. The Liverpool Half Marathon 2010 attracted over 5,500 runners in total and the 13 mile race lead amateurs and professionals alike through many of the scenic spots around the city. Two volunteers from the Preston branch also joined the efforts, all with the target fundraising sum of £7,500. Last year, £5,320 was raised. Above: The runners, after finishing 13.1 miles, right to left: Umar Ahmed, Anwar Ali, Abdul Rahman Bapu, Abbas Khalil & Amjad Yoosuf (rear) Walsall The 2ndAnnualAlAqsa Cup / Goals for Peace Tournament During March, we saw escalated tensions in Jeru- salem. A number of Israeli moves seen as undermining peace efforts were witnessed including an announcement that 1,600 new homes would be built in occupied East Je- rusalem, free movement was restricted for Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jeru- salem and men under the age of 50 were prevented from entering the holy al-Aqsa sanctuary, and demonstra- tions on the towns of Billi’in and Nilli’in were met with brute force from the Israeli military. These occurrences may seem like nothing new in the besieged Palestinian territo- ries, but they drew a strong response from the interna- tional community, essentially because it reflected unwill- ingness on Israel’s part to en- ter peace negotiations. At a time when we as a country are heading towards a General Election, it is es- sential to ensure that any in- coming government takes a fair and balances approach to the conflict. Israel has shown itself to be unwilling to rec- ognise the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people for over six decades. It has used ‘security’asaguisetoconduct the worst offensives against a largely unarmed popula- tion and as the international community becomes more and more critical of Israel, it is revealing its true colours as a state that cares little for its allies. By humiliating the USA and Joe Biden in a re- cent visit, Israel revealed that its musings about peace were little more than rhetoric. The British government has been speaking about changing British laws in or- der to allow Israeli Ministers and military personnel free- dom to visit without fearing arrest warrants. While La- bour delayed this and then announced no measures would be taken until after the elections, the Conservatives have gone out of their way to promise a change in the law. Shadow Attorney Gen- eral Edward Garnier said at a recent meeting with Friends of Al-Aqsa that Universal Ju- risdiction was being used as a political tool against Israel and therefore he supported a change in the law. But the fact is that the underlying reason why the arrest warrants have been issued is because of the question of War Crimes. Regardless of who is be- ing accused, if the evidences are there, then the law of Uni- versal Jurisdiction should be allowed to take its course. In the case of Tzipi Livni, ac- cusations of War Crimes are so prevalent that the political questions should be overrid- den in pursuit of justice for Palestinian victims who can never hope for justice in Is- rael or the Palestinian terri- tories. The situation in Jerusa- lem is reaching crisis point, with extreme right wing ele- ments of Israeli society open- ly calling for the destruction of Masjid al-Aqsa. On the other hand, there is a change emanating globally, with Is- rael being reprimanded for its crimes by even its own allies. This pressure must continue if we are to achieve peace for all the people in the region. Ismail Patel Update from Friends of Al-Aqsa Branches 08 Message from Friends of Al-Aqsa Friends of Al-Aqsa and LFPME Host ‘Crisis in Jerusalem’ Meeting at House of Commons On Tuesday March 23rd, Friends of Al-Aqsa and La- bour Friends of Palestine and the Middle Ease (LFPME) hosted a meeting at the House of Commons discussing the ongoing crisis in Jerusalem. The meeting was attended by over 70 MPs, organisations and members of the public. “The meeting was intend- ed to ensure that Jerusalem was not forgotten, and to call on our government in Britain to work towards imposing a just settlement to the con- flict,” stated Ismail Patel in his opening remarks. Speakers at the meeting included co-host Martin Lin- ton MP (leader of LFPME), Karen Abu Zayd Koning (Former Commissioner-Gen- eral of UNRWA), Sir Gerald Kaufman MP, Tony Benn, Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari (MCB), Brian Iddon MP, and Andy Slaughter MP, amongst others. The clear message that was sent out by most speak- ers reflected enragement at Israel’s massive acts of ag- gression against the Pales- tinian people. The issue of Jerusalem was considered to be the crux of the problem, and this meeting focussed on the escalation of settlement building and the disposses- sion of the indigenous Pales- tinians. The vision that most people shared was for an end to the occupation and for a shared Jerusalem for all of its people – Muslim, Christian, Jewish and others. “Verily this Qur’an does guide to that which is most right, and give the Glad Tidings to the Believers who work deeds of righteousness, that they shall have a magnificent reward.” Liverpool Following the tremendous success of last year’s Al- Aqsa Cup, Friends ofAlAqsa Walsall branch is in the midst of organising the event for the second year running. 5-a-side teams from all over the coun- try are invited to take part in the tournament to be held on Sunday 6th June at Goals Football Centre in Darlaston / Willenhall West Midlands. The aim of the tournament is to combine football with awareness raising, in order to reach a wider and more varied audience. The Inaugu- ral tournament held in 2009 attracted 20 teams from all over the country including Manchester and London. The tournament was eventually won by a team from Hackney in London. This year, the aim is to have 32 teams involved, which will enable a Cham- pions league format (with a group stage consisting of 4 teams each and then a knock out stage from the last 16 stage onwards.) Teams interested in entering the tournament which will kick off at 11am on the 6th of June should contact Javid on 07876 742251 or email Walsall@aqsa.org.uk.
  9. 9. AQSA NEWS 09 MERCHANDISE Name:.................................................................................................................................... Address:................................................................................................................................. ..............................................................................................Postcode:.................................. Tel:.........................................................Email:...................................................................... (Please add 10% of the total cost to cover postage expenses) I enclose a cheque for £............... (make all cheques payable to ‘Friends of Al-Aqsa’) Friends of Al-Aqsa, P.O Box 5127, Leicester, LE2 0WU 0116 212 5441 | www.aqsa.org.uk | info@aqsa.org.uk Leaflets A set of 20 information leaflets including the following: Books Free Qty:....... Complete set of information leaflets on Palestine Issues Forty Ahadith Concerning Masjid Al-Aqsa Free Qty:....... Dome of the Rock Free Qty:....... Palestine Beginner’s Guide £9.95 Qty:....... Madina to Jerusalem £5.95 Qty:....... A History of Palestinian Resistance £5.95 Qty:....... Virtues of Jerusalem £5.95 Qty:....... OFFER: All 4 books for £20.00 Qty:....... FLAG LAPEL BADGE £1.50 Qty:....... £1.00 Qty:....... RIBBON FLAG £3.00 Qty:....... £5.00 Qty:....... FREE Qty:....... FOOTBALL SHIRT £10.00 Qty:....... XL (46 X 31) ....... L (42 X 30) ....... M (40 X 29) ....... S (38 X 28) ....... XS (34 X 25) ....... XXS (31 x 21). ....... £5.00 Qty:....... XL (44 X 30) ........ L (42 X 29) ........ M (40 X 28) ........ S (38 X 27) ........ SCARF (SILK) T-SHIRT AL-AQSA KEYRING SCARF (SQUARE) SCARF (WOOL) £5.00 Qty:....... Large £99.00 Qty:...... Size: 300*210*150 mm Gross Weight: 7.8KG Medium £39.00 Qty:...... Size: 165*120*82mm Gross Weight: 1.6 KG Small £19.00 Qty:...... Size: 120*85*60 mm Gross Weight: 800 g Large £99.00 Qty:...... Size: 240*240*162 mm Gross Weight: 7.2 KG Medium £39.00 Qty:...... Size: 140*140*90 mm Gross Weight: 1.7 KG Small £19.00 Qty:...... Size: 95*95*62 mm Gross Weight: 660 g 3D Glass Models MASJID AL-AQSA DOME OF THE ROCK FOOTBALL £5.00 Qty:....... Carrier Bags (For Businesses) OFFER: 1,000 bags £15.00 Qty:....... Children’s Books Colouring Book £2.00 Qty:....... Activity Book £3.00 Qty:....... History of Masjid Al-Aqsa (for children) £4.99 Qty:....... History of Masjid Al-Aqsa Abu Huzayfa for children NEW
  10. 10. AQSA NEWS Wordsearch 12 years old or under? Find the following words in the word search below! There are 10 words to find, based on topics in this edition of the newspaper and the story of Jonah (as) above. Can you find them all? Send us your answers for a chance to win. JERUSALEM GAZA WEST BANK MUSEUM GOLDSTONE NEWSPAPER JUSTICE JONAH MESSAGE HOPE We have returned to the land and now we only grow crops like wheat and spinach. The land is damaged and dry. The Israeli army is always patrolling the border and watch from their towers, threatening to destroy our crops again. During harvest time we all work together, so that we can quickly collect our crops before we are attacked. The Israeli army tries to keep us away, but this land belongs to us and we will stay strong and keep coming back to farm and keep our family from poverty. Farming in Gaza. My family has a piece of farmland near the border between Gaza and Israel. We used to grow olive trees there. But the Israeli army destroyed everything. They bulldozed the trees, the farmhouse and the water supply. By Ghazala Caratella 10 Fun & Games COMPETITION WIN!£20ARGOSVOUCHER! Friends of Al-Aqsa Competition 2010 Design Write Produce Key Stage 2 Aged 7-11 Design a Poster Prize: £150 for the entrant and £300 for their school Key Stage 3 Aged 11-14 Write an Article Prize: £200 for the entrant and £300 for their school Key Stage 4 Aged 14-16 Produce a Leaflet Prize: £250 for the entrant and £300 for their school Get Creative Deadline: 30 April For more info on the competition: www.aqsa.org.uk The Story of Jonah A long, long time ago, God sent the Prophet Jonah (as), to a group of people in a place called Ninevah. The people did lots of bad things, even though Jonah (as) tried to tell them about the beautiful message that God had given him to share. After a while, Jonah became very upset. He decided to leave the people and so he set sail on a ship. One night, while he was on the ship, the sea become very rough and rocky and the Prophet Jonah (as) was thrown overboard into the raging dark blue seas! God wasn’t very happy because He wanted Jonah to be more patient with the people, so He commanded a great big whale to swallow Jonah! The whale did so and Jonah (as) thought he had died. When he realised that he was still alive and inside the belly of the whale, he began to pray to God to ask for forgiveness. The other animals in the sea heard him praying and so they began to praise God too, each in their own way and in their own language. God answered the prayers of Jonah (as) and commanded the whale to cast him out onto a shore. Jonah was sick for a while, but God made him better and he went back to the people, who welcomed him happily. Anagram 13 to 18 years old? Unscramble the letters to make a word. All of the words have something to do with the story of Jonah (as). Send us your answers for your chance to win! hewal _______________________________ tapience _______________________________ hojna _______________________________ haneniv _______________________________ erapyr _______________________________ eas _______________________________ shif _______________________________ esairp _______________________________ llaha _______________________________ runret _______________________________ Send your answers with your name, age and address to: Friends of Al-Aqsa, PO Box 5127, Leicester, LE2 0WU. You can also email us your answers on info@aqsa.org.uk but please put ‘competition’ as the subject heading. Deadline for both competitions is 31st of May 2010. Good luck inshallah! Storytime
  11. 11. AQSA NEWS Book Reviews 11 Women and War in the Middle East: Transnational Perspectives By Nadja Al-Ali and Nicola Pratt (eds), London & New York, Zed Books, 2009, ISBN 978 1848131866, pp 224, £17.99 The editors of this new and useful addition to the lit- erature on “women and war” in the Middle East have ap- proached their topic from the perspective of transnational feminism which, as they ob- serve, “suggests a conscious crossing of national bounda- ries and implies a shift from the nationally oriented sec- ond-wave feminisms and the clashes between ‘Western’ and ‘Third World feminists’”. The book’s objective, say the authors, is “to explore the significance of gender in un- derstanding processes related to conflict, reconstruction and peace-building”, although the case studies selected to high- light their concerns, Iraq and the Occupied Palestinian Ter- ritory, cannot realistically be considered in terms of “post- conflict” or “reconstruction”. Nonetheless, the con- tributors to this volume have succeeded, within their rela- tively restricted terms of ref- erence, in starting to move beyond, on the one hand, the notion of the nation-state as the primary focus of attention in understanding women’s complex and multi-layered experiences of conflict; and, on the other hand, the fre- quent linkage of women with peace, passivity and victimi- zation, which tends to essen- tialize constructions of femi- ninity and masculinity in the Middle East. The book is divided into three sections: “Gender- ing the Neoliberal Imperial Project”, “Revisiting Tran- snational Women’s Activism in the Conflict, Post-conflict Reconstruction and Peace- building” and “Gender, Citi- zenship and Post-conflict re- construction”. It devotes four chapters to Iraq, including Shahrzad Mojab’s interest- ing contribution on Kurdish women’s NGOs. The editors provide a helpful introduction and con- clusion on “transnational per- spectives”. Although there are similarities between the experiences of Iraq and the Palestinian Territories, there are also important differences and these are well explored in the various chapters. In her analysis of “gendering informal economies in Iraq”, Peterson considers informal economic activities within a framework of neoliberal globalization. She identifies the existence of three types of economy in the context of war: firstly, of survival needs or what she terms “coping economies”; secondly, mili- tary objectives or “combat economies”; and, thirdly in the absence of regulatory mechanisms, the emergence of “criminal economies”. All three are explored from the perspective of post-invasion Iraq. I was impressed by the depth and scholarship of the various contributions. There is evidence of careful and sympathetic ethnographic research. Clearly, the topic of “women and war” in the Middle East raises many questions and many compet- ing claims. The decision to situate the debate within a transnational feminist frame- work, while keen not to dis- regard the experiences of “or- dinary” Iraqi and Palestinian women, must inevitably ex- clude some dissenting voices or tendencies. Reviewed by Dr Maria Holt University of Westminster Gaza Beneath the Bombs By Sharyn Lock with Sarah Irving, PlutoPress (2010). ISBN 978 0745330242, pp240, £9.99 Sharyn Lock’s book is a priceless contribution to the library of literature detail- ing Israeli aggression dur- ing the attack on Gaza from December 2008-January 2009, known as Operation Cast Lead. The writer goes into great depths describ- ing events leading up to the attack as well as events fol- lowing this, from an eyewit- ness perspective. The reader is taken on a journey through the eyes of Lock herself as well as countless other Pal- estinians whom she interacts with as they struggle through a besieged and attacked land. Though both terrifying and heartbreaking in parts, the book still offers hope to the reader through the unbreak- able will and determination of the people in the face of intense violence. The book is divided into seven chronological chapters, beginning with a discussion on the breaking of the siege and escalation of violence before discussing the attacks in the following two chap- ters. The last three chapters describe life for Gazan’s af- ter the attacks. Disturbingly, daily injuries and deaths continue and are described as being “grindingly everyday”. However, Lock manages to remain upbeat, injecting her personality into the book and peppering the entire writing with personal anecdotes, hu- mour and sarcasm. Her daily interaction with fellow Inter- national Solidarity activists such as Caiomhe Butterly, as well Palestinians, is a source of inspiration to anyone who would like to pick up the book and transport themselves for a few short moments to live the life of a Palestinian, devoid of great political complexi- ties. The structure of the text is similar to a series of di- ary entries with the inclusion of specific dates and times in places. The text itself is preceded by an introduction by Sarah Irving who com- ments on the content of the book. Lock uses language that is very easy to understand and has infused her writing with a great deal of everyday language, which some may find off putting. However, her contribution is inspira- tional and her book is an in- valuable tool for the average person who seeks a better understanding of the impact of the attacks, upon the civil- ian population of Gaza. She sparks a desire in the heart of the reader to take an active role in the search for justice and rejects any excuse for complacency. The book itself is described as “a moving and understated account” by Richard Faulk, UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Territories who writes the af- terword. Reviewed by Shabaana Kidy, Leicester ASH-SHIFA LOCAL AND ONLINE ISLAMIC STORE www.ashshifa.co.uk | 0116 2104146 (HALF PRICE OFFERS NOW ONLINE) FREE DELIVERY ANYWHERE IN U.K GO ONLINE NOW OR VISIT THE STORE: 263 ST SAVIOURS ROAD, LEICESTER
  12. 12. The Occupation In 1967, following The Six Day war, Israel occupied the Gaza Strip (as well as the West Bank and land belong- ing to Egypt, Syria and Leba- non). Gaza was immediately declared a closed military zone and control of land and water resources were seized and later, illegal settlements began to be built. The tiny strip moved from an economy that previously was able to sustain itself, to one that was closed off from the outside world and wholly reliant upon Israel. Thus, once Israel closed its borders, the Gaza Strip became de- pendant upon foreign aid. Confiscation of land, house demolitions, extra- judicial killings and deporta- tions all became indicators of Israeli occupation. Up until 2005, Jewish settlers in Gaza numbered 8,000 in compari- son to 1.5 million Gazans; yet they occupied 25% of the strip and 40% of arable land and natural resources. Rising Up Against Occupation As time went on, popu- lar opposition to the occu- pation began to grow which culminated in an Uprising or ‘Intifada’. The Intifada gained momentum rapidly and spread. Civil disobedi- ence, refusal to pay taxes, strikes, demonstrations and unarmed confrontations were all utilised as methods to op- pose the occupation. Israel’s response was ruthless. Soldiers were com- manded to respond with brute force, resulting in the killing of 1,100 Palestinians of whom 159 were children below the age of 16. Curfews were imposed, schools and universities closed down, water supplies re-directed towards Israel, agricultural crops destroyed and homes demolished in the process. In 1993, the Oslo Accords were signed marking the end of the Intifada. In the eyes of the inter- national community, Oslo marked the beginning of Isra- el’s supposed retreat from the occupied territories. Howev- er, the reality was somewhat different. While troops did withdraw from the centre of Gaza city and refugee camps, soldiers remained in large ar- eas of the Gaza Strip – a clear indicator of occupier pres- ence. Settlement building increased, further land was confiscated, and freedom of movement was increasingly restricted. The Second Inti- fada ensued, and again, Is- rael responded to the uprising with brutality. After years of turmoil and shattered peace agreements, 2005 seemed to be a year of hope for Gazans. In February, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, announced plans for a ‘Unilateral Disengagement’ plan through which all illegal settlements in the Gaza Strip were to be dismantled. People on the streets of Gaza cele- brated, ecstatic at the thought of finally being in control of their own land, without threat of extremist settlers. How- ever, little did many realise that although the disengage- ment signalled the end of one chapter of Israeli aggression, another chapter, even more pitiless was about to begin. Israel erected a metal ‘se- curity’ barrier and blockaded the Gaza Strip, by land, air and sea effectively turning this small piece of land into an open-air prison. Accord- ing to international law, Is- rael is still in occupation of the Gaza Strip despite having ‘disengaged’as it controls the Strip overall. At the time of disengage- ment, Palestinian activist Raji Sourani envisaged the poten- tial negative impacts, saying: Siege on Gaza This suffocating grip on the Gaza Strip only tightened after the elections of 2006 in which Hamas won a 76-43 seat majority. The response from Israel, the US and the EU was to impose sanctions on the entire Palestinian population for electing a Hamas led government. Israel began withholding tax and customs revenues amounting to $50 million per month, and following suit, the US cut its $400 million per year in aid (in- stead directing some funds through UN aid agencies), and the EU failed to give its 500 million Euros per year. Inevitably, such sanctions have had a profound and miserable impact on Palestin- ians. Whilst withdrawing financial support and show- ing clear opposition to Hamas, Israel and the US began funding the Fatah opposition in an attempt to sow seeds of discord between the two parties. Devastatingly, the attempt was successful. Despite a Unity Gov- ernment being formed in March 2007 through which Hamas, Fatah and other factions were working together, the coalition col- lapsed just three months later following increasing tensions and pressure on Fatah from the US to cease participation. Chaos erupted 14 months after Israel’s bombing of the Gaza Strip, many would expect that rebuilding of the ruined infrastructure would be well under way. As Secretary General Ban Ki Moon discovered on his visit to Gaza in March 2010, this is far from the case. Expressing his shock at the situation, he stated that Israel was imposing ‘unacceptable hardships’ on civilians. He further reinforced a global opinion by stating that “I am confident the blockade can be lifted while addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns.” History Gaza has been a long fought over Strip of Land, bordering the Mediterranean Sea on the West and Egypt to the South. With idyllic weather conditions, the area should be a haven, but since Israeli occupation began in 1967, its population has lived through a nightmare. Going back in history, British forces occupied Gaza in 1917 and placed it under British Mandate, although Gaza’s tale of capture, occupation and recapture is a long one that predates this. The period, which lasted thirty years, was a period of rela- tive peace. However, the scene was in the meantime being set for the commencing of a nightmarish situation which would last for at least 6 decades. In 1948, immigrant Jews began an armed conflict against the native Palestinian population which culminated in the depopulation of 530 Palestinian villages and the establishment of the state of Israel on 78% of Palestinian land. The Gaza Strip was separated from the remaining Pales- tinian territories and Egyptian rule prevailed. “ “ The people you see on television celebrating on the streets of Gaza will also come to realise that Israel remains in control of the land borders (including the only access point from Gaza to the outside world), the sea (preventing fishing, pleasure boating or travel for work or holidays) and the air (ensuring that the airport runway remains bombed-out and inoperable). AQSA NEWS The Gaza Strip – An Israeli Experiment in Human Despair 12 Special Feature
  13. 13. and violence escalated in the Gaza Strip, leaving Hamas with little choice but to take control. The Unity Government was dissolved and an ‘emergency cabinet’ continues to rule over the West Bank whilst Hamas rules over Gaza. Historical- ly, the relationship between Hamas and Fatah had been one based on mutual respect. Gaza Treated as a Hostile Entity Since the Gaza take-over by Hamas, Israel labelled the entire territory as a ‘hostile entity’ and now deals with it as such. The suffocation of Gaza continued to intensify by land and sea and by the end of December 2007, Is- rael had cut all vital supplies to Gaza including essential medicines. The systematic closure of Gaza and restricted ac- cess to border crossings has meant that the strip is entirely closed off from the world. Palestinians desperate for basic supplies demonstrated at the Rafah crossing into Egypt, expecting the Egyp- tians to defy US instructions instigated by Israel. However, the Egyptian authorities paid no heed and on 23 January 2008, indicating nothing but sheer desperation, the border between Gaza and Egypt was torn down by Palestinians and hundreds of thousands of Pal- estinians poured into Egypt to obtain necessities denied to them by the blockade. 11 days later, the border was resealed, thereby push- ing Gazan’s back into their cage. Frequent electricity cuts and the limited power available to run hospital generators are of particular concern, as they disrupt the functioning of intensive care units, operating theatres, and emergency rooms. [The World Health Organisation] “ “ Health Conditions in Gaza Health conditions in Gaza are bleak. Children who are suffering from cancer are un- able to receive treatment as chemotherapy is not avail- able in Gaza, and they are rarely granted permission to cross the border into Israel or Egypt in order to seek the desperately needed treat- ment. The mortality rate for cancer in Gaza is much higher than elsewhere. You have to get a permit if you want to cross into Gaza and most of them are not granted. A lot of kids are dying as a result of the decisions being made by the people in charge, whether Hamas, the Egyptian government, the Israeli government. Steve Sosebee, president of the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund Those who have been granted the paperwork allow- ing them to cross, are often no better off. Eight year-old Wissam who suffers from Leukemia has been granted permission to travel to Egypt for treatment. However, he has been waiting for weeks for the border crossings to be opened. “Every day the child stays here is a danger to his life,” said his father, a wor- ryingly common cry of des- peration among Palestinian parents. “ “ The restrictions in trade and travel have meant that the requirements of the popu- lation of Gaza are not being met. The economy has suf- fered immeasurably. Lev- els of unemployment have reached 60% and poverty is now as high as 80%. In a serious attempt to seek a so- lution towards fulfilling their basic humanitarian needs, Gazan’s have resorted to uti- lising underground tunnels in order to access much need- ed essentials such as baby milk, medicines and home appliances. In some cases, even livestock have been shuttled in using the tunnels. Following his recent visit to Gaza, UN Secretary Gen- eral Ban Ki moon noted that the activities in the tunnels are being fuelled by Israel’s blockade, yet despite this, Egypt, at the behest of Israel, has declared that it is build- ing an underground steel wall and a network of water pipelines to flood the tunnels. Gaza is being squeezed from every angle, creating human misery and despair in untold magnitude. Gaza Timeline 1917 British forces occupy – British Mandate of Palestine 1948 Israel established on 78% of Palestinian land 1967 Six Day War – Israel occupies the remaining 22% 1987 Attack on Refugee Camp marks start of Intifada 1993 Oslo Accords marks end of Intifada 2000 Second (Al Aqsa) Intifada 2005 Disengagement Plan carried out Jan 2006 Election victory for Hamas March 2007 Unity Government formed June 2007 Unity Government dissolved, Hamas takes control Dec 2008 - Jan2009 Attack on Gaza 2010 Egypt begins construction of underground wall The Israeli attack on Gaza during December 2008 - January 2009 understood in this context now appears infinitely more ruthless. The mere notion that a state could besiege another people to this extent and then launch a colossal and indiscriminate military attack on what is essentially a civilian population is deplorable. Supply v Need (Above) Explosions seen in the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis as members of Hamas’security forces work with United Nations explosives experts on detecting and neurtralising unexploded ordnance left behind after Israel’s 2008-2009 military offensive. AQSA NEWS 13
  14. 14. Martin Linton is MP for Battersea, Balham and Wandsworth and was elected in 1997. Being a native to the area, having lived there for over 30 years, Martin has dedicated much of him time to local issues. In 2008, Martin took the extraordinary initiative of setting up Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East (LPF) following a trip to the region. While the Friends of Israel groups within both the Labour Party and Conserva- tive Party have been thriving for decades, this was the first initiative intended to focus solely on being a voice for Labour members and sup- porters who want to see the establishment of a viable and independent state of Palestine alongside Israel. In an interview with Martin Linton, Aqsa News uncovered the background to LFP and what it hopes to achieve. Q: Why was LFP set up? I’ve always thought there was a need for a Labour Friends of Palestine and when my wife and I visited Pales- tine in 2008, it came home to us how bad the situation had become. We were particu- larly shocked by the extent of Israeli settlements. We thought we shouldn’t wait for things to happen. We should take the initiative. Sir Gerald Kaufman put us in touch with two barristers, Mark McDon- ald and Michelle Harris, who were thinking along similar lines. This coincided with a move by two other MPs, Richard Burden and Phyllis Starkey, with the full support of the Labour party, to set up a Labour Middle East Group, mainly to campaign on the Palestine issue. The result was Labour Friends of Pales- tine & the Middle East. Q: What made you decide to take charge of such a signifi- cant initiative? I have always thought that the Palestinians were suffering a terrible injustice, ever since I visited Israel as a student, and since I have been an MP I have always fol- lowed the issue, asking ques- tions and signing motions, but it was only after our visit to the West Bank and Gaza in 2008 that I realised that the situation was deteriorating so rapidly and the chances for an independent Palestinian state were disappearing so rapidly that we had to set it up now before it was too late. Q: Since being founded, what do you think LFP’s main achievements have been? LFP has had meetings with the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and For- eign Office Ministers, as well as securing many debates and asking many questions in the Commons. As many as 98 Labour MP have signed up as supporters of LFP and we are becoming a popular force within the Labour Party at- tracting an increasing number of members and supporters. Phyllis Starkey MP, Vice Chair of LFP, secured an important step forward when, following a debate on labelling of goods from the Occupied Territories, the Government put in place stricter labelling guidelines – specifying whether they have originated from a settlement or not. We also have a number of Party Ministers who have pledged their support for LFP and the Prime Minister has welcomed its establishment and indeed attended our first reception at the Labour Party Conference. We hope to fur- ther strengthen this relation- ship. Q: Do you think something similar will be set up by the Conservative Party? The Conservatives have a small band of ‘Arabists’ who belong to the Conservative Middle East Council. CMEC is the nearest that the Con- servative Party are going to get though. Q: What is the vision for LFP for the next 5 years? We want to be a big enough organisation to run a website, publish regular newsletters and organise fre- quent delegations to Pales- tine. We want to ensure that all Labour MPs and candidates are lobbied strongly to sup- port an independent Pales- tine. We want to demonstrate that there is more support for LFP then there ever has been for Labour Friends of Israel. ‘www.labourfriendsofpalestine.co.uk’ By Shafik Firoz For Israelis, this has been an uneasy month; criticism from the United States over the timing of an announce- ment on settlement expan- sions and the deportation of its most senior Mossad officer from London over the pass- port cloning fiasco. For the optimist these events maybe a turning point, in which West- ern powers finally lose their patience with an uncontrolla- ble Israel. For some Zionists this was, like all criticism of Israel, evidence of the spread of anti-Semitism. But realists will see the former at least for what it is; a lovers’ tiff. The source of American rage during Vice President Biden’s trip to the region was not the content of Israel’s an- nouncement but rather the perceived insult of its tim- ing - whilst Biden was still in Israel. Biden was due to meet Mahmoud Abbas im- mediately after he met Israeli officials. By announcing set- tlement expansions whilst he was in the region the Biden delegation was left with the embarrassing task of con- vincing Palestinians that his efforts for peace were genu- ine. Earlier Biden delivered Israel its hardest truths- which only a friend could do- and one of these was the neces- sity of cessation of settlement growth. Israel’s immediate announcement that it will not stop settlement growth was a clear message as to where the Americans could stick their hard truths. The Israeli’s in one move had told the world who the big dog was in this friendship. American anger was sof- tened with the reality that there was nothing they could really do to reign in Israel’s activities. The most they could do was make a show of condemnation to appease Arab regimes, whose own stability hinges on the Pales- tinian issue. Many in the media have noted that this was the most severe deterioration in Amer- ican-Israeli relations since 1967. However, despite Is- rael apologising for only the timing of the announcement business seems to have re- turned to normal. A week af- ter Biden’s trip to the region, Netanyahu visited the US and was preceded in addressing AIPAC by Hillary Clinton. Here we heard a more famil- iar track from a senior Ameri- can official; more rhetoric on Iran’s nuclear programme and a plea to Israel that set- tlement building undermines the US’s role in the region- no demands on the cessation of settlement expansion. If this was American-Israeli relations on a bad day, Pales- tinians must fear the day both read from the same page. The Obama administra- tion has made a priority of a resolution to the Palestin- ian conflict and some sort of agreement would be a major coup for the President who marketed his Presidency on the basis of change. Change however, is as far a descrip- tion as one could apply to American policy on the con- flict. Compromise is expected from both sides but only the Palestinians are condemned for not playing ball. The fact that the Ameri- can response to Israel build- ing on occupied land is being lauded as such a big shift in its stance on the issue is dis- turbing to say the least. Set- tlement expansion forms just one of many Israeli viola- tions against the sovereignty of Palestinians, the most ob- vious being the existence of settlements in the first place. If the Americans cannot even prevent Israel from expand- ing settlements to kick start negotiations, what hope is there of ever reaching mean- ingful compromises in talks? Until the balance of power changes to address uncondi- tional support of Israel within America there is no hope for a functioning Palestinian state. A British journalist by the name of Paul Martin who was arrested by Hamas security forces in mid-Feb- ruary, after being accused of endangering state security, has been released. The free- lance journalist was arrested at a Gaza courthouse, where he was to testify in the de- fence of a militant accused of collaboration with Israel. Ehab Ghussein, Hamas interior ministry spokesman said: “We have confessions that the British journalist committed offences against Palestinian law, and that harms the security of the country.” Martin was found to be in violation of Palestinian law and security, and was handed over to the British Consulate to allow UK officials to con- duct a comprehensive inves- tigation into his activities. The first of six H&M stores to be launched in Is- rael opened on 11 March in the Malcha Shopping Centre in Jerusalem. Rolf Eriksen, CEO at H&M has said, “We believe that our business idea will work well in Israel. Through our franchise part- ner we will have access to many years of experience and networks in Israel.” Many organizations have demanded that H&M post- pone their business advances until Israel complies with international law and ceases to violate human rights. As a result of H&M’s move to open the stores regardless, a boycott movement is being initiated. H&M Launches in Israel British Journalist Accused of Collaboration in Gaza AQSA NEWS 14 Labour Friends of Palestine Israel and the US, Enduring Ties
  15. 15. info@youelect.org.uk AQSA NEWS 15

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