Archive for March, 2009

No one should live like this, no one period….

March 27, 2009

This is a small example of what the daily life of a Palestinian is like under the brutal Israeli occupation.
If there is a single act that characterizes the plight of the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation, it is waiting: waiting in lines to pass through the hundreds of checkpoints scattered across the West Bank, waiting for Israel to issue an identification card, waiting for permission to travel to the next village or out of the country, waiting for loved ones languishing in Israeli prisons to be released — waiting for peace, waiting for justice.

And for nearly two months, I found myself sharing the experience of waiting — for Israel to allow me into Gaza.

Last year, I spent an extended period of time in Gaza working with the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), helping them to document human rights abuses in the occupied territories. But the abuses I documented then now seem tame in comparison to the recent heights of atrocity Gaza has endured.

Applying for entry into Gaza through the Israeli military authorities is a Kafkaesque and constantly evolving process. One is not allowed to even approach the Erez military checkpoint on the boundary between Gaza and Israel without prior security clearance and already within a year’s time, the application for such clearance had changed dramatically.

Because I had been approved without difficulty in the past, I felt confident that my application would be successful this time as well. The process should have taken no more than five working days, but assuming the situation might be unpredictable, I applied for clearance nearly one month in advance of my arrival in the region. How naive I was.

To my dismay, the Israeli military had not yet reached a decision by the time I flew to Tel Aviv weeks later. The bored, adolescent voices of Israeli soldiers at Erez informed me that there had been no definitive response from security officials and that my application was “still in process.”

Undaunted, I began calling daily — only to receive the same laconic phrase: “still in process.” On more than five occasions, I was instructed to call back later that day, sometimes at a specific hour, and when I did my call inevitably went unanswered. Most often, the response at Erez was nothing more than a friendly hang up, often in mid-conversation. When I was able to pry some information from my friendly military interlocutors, the response was mechanical and scripted:

“Because of the security situation, it is difficult to process applications at this time. Some people have been waiting for months, but try calling tomorrow.”

Apparently Israel was in no mood for quixotic Westerners with a penchant for human rights. But was there any evidence of Israel intentionally prolonging my application process? Looking into the matter, I soon found that I was just one among many human rights and humanitarian workers that have been systematically blocked from entering Gaza by the Israeli military following the invasion.

In early March 2009, the Israeli human rights groups B’Tselem and Hamoked announced that they had petitioned the Israeli high court demanding their staff members be allowed to enter Gaza for the purposes of human rights monitoring. They derided what they called Israel’s “constant foot-dragging” and ultimate “rejection without sufficient explanation.” The two organizations, joined by the US-based group Human Rights Watch, reported late last month that their employees “faced continuous delays from the IDF [Israeli army] unit reviewing the applications.”

As Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director of Human Rights Watch, explained, “Israel’s refusal to allow human rights groups access to Gaza raises a strong suspicion that there are things it doesn’t want us to see or the world to know about its military operation there.”

Contacting friends in Gaza, I discovered that scores of human rights workers have been waiting months for a response from Israel. Some of them are now illegally working in Gaza because Israel’s delays have lasted longer than the validity of their original clearance.

For the lucky few that have received any kind of response at all, Israel has apparently instituted a new policy of requiring organizations to be registered with the Israeli Ministry of Social Affairs — a previously unknown requirement and one that is not explained on the official application for security clearance. The process of registering with this governmental ministry is an obstacle that could potentially take months and even then without the guarantee of being permitted to enter Gaza.

Forced to explore other options, my focus turned to the potential of crossing into Gaza via Egypt, Gaza’s frequently sealed backdoor. In the weeks following Israel’s assault, Egypt opened the Rafah crossing point in coordination with Hamas and small groups of humanitarian workers, activists and journalists made their way into Gaza — most notably, British MP George Galloway and American author Alice Walker. But this method is unpredictable; according to a 2005 agreement following Israel’s unilateral disengagement, those who do not hold a Palestinian ID are technically forbidden to cross at Rafah. More significantly, Israel’s continuation of the military siege prevented the crossing from being open for more than 57 days in 2007 and figures are similar for 2008. Although the border has been opened more frequently so far in 2009, Israel typically requires one to exit Gaza the same way one entered, so this raises the very real possibility of being trapped in the coastal territory if the crossing happens to be sealed upon entering. Unfortunately, I was not in a position for this to happen so my only option remained with the Erez checkpoint.

The reality of Israel’s current policy is that by not giving a definitive “no,” it avoids the negative public relations of explicitly denying human rights workers access to the Gaza Strip. By prolonging applications indefinitely, it becomes difficult for activists to accuse Israel of systematically blocking access to Gaza, but this is precisely what they are doing. Israel permits most UN employees to enter Gaza as it does some of the larger international groups like CARE or Amnesty International (not to do so would unnecessarily inflame international tempers), but who will raise a cry over the hundreds of smaller organizations effectively banned from entering a territory Israel claims to have quit?

From the rooftop of my Ramallah hotel I could just barely see Tel Aviv beyond the pastoral West Bank landscape. If I was lucky, I could even catch a glimpse of the sea, shimmering in a kaleidoscopic pink and orange as the sun ritually descends into it. This placid scene was frequently shattered by the screams of Israeli fighter jets, tearing mercilessly across the sky — south towards Gaza — and the feelings of powerlessness became almost too much for me to take.

My heart aches for Gaza: for the fresh sea air and the desert breeze, for the sweet smell of orange groves and the bitterness of unripe pomelo, for the hospitality offered by those who have lost everything but their lives, for my friends suffering indescribable horrors and for the indomitable spirit of a people who refuse to be extinguished in spite of it all. As I catch my flight out of the region, I am acutely conscious of the fact that Israel has scored a minor success by preventing me from entering Gaza. I could not wait there indefinitely. But I know that there are many other ways to fight Israeli oppression. And through it all, Gaza will endur.


Tell me who your friends are, I’ll tell you who you are…

March 20, 2009

History will show that Israel is the worst country has ever existed on the face of this earth. The American people must examine very closely our relations and alliances with the Zionist State. Every day new revelation shows Israel’s atrocities and genocidal treatment upon the Palestinian people. As the saying goes, ” tell me who your friends are, I’ll tell you who you are “. I assure you that, Israel is not only, not a real friend, but also a liability to the US. What Israel has subjected the Palestinians to for the last 60 years, no one can bear or endure. The Palestinian people have tried Peaceful means for many years to no evil. The UN has passed several resolutions to alleviate the sufferings of the Palestinian people, only to be vetoed by the US on behalf of our so called friend Israel. It is time for CHANGE, our corrupt and unbalanced foreign policies, must be even handed and fare for both sides. It is time for Justice and Happy time for those Palestinians who suffered for so long. It is time for the Gaza crossings to be opened once and for all, with proper monitoring by the international community to safe guard Israel’s interest. Gaza not only is bleeding, but dying slowly every day goes by, while the world is looking the other way. It is time to face up to our moral responsibilities and do what’s right, Justice and Peace with honor…

Kamal Hassan,

Palestinian Peace Activist,

Dear Hillary, Please Muzzle Your Pit-bull Israel…..And Keep Your Money….

March 12, 2009

Its’ so easy to ask the battered and devastated Palestinians, to recognize Israel, for our Aid. But we can not ask Israel, that we give billions more, the same demand….It is Hypocrisy at it’s best….Asking the Palestinians to recognize Israel, is asking the Palestinians to recognize the Israeli occupation, the Siege and all the Illegal Israeli Settlements….No Thank you.

Dear Hillary, the Palestinians do not need your stinking money, but the Palestinians need the US to muzzle it’s pit-bull Israel, that would be appreciated….Thank you.

Indeed, it was too good to be true! The United States has pledged around $900 million to the Palestinians after Israeli occupation army’s latest offensive against them in the Gaza Strip, killing over 1300 people, including 420 children, wounding more than 5300 others and destroying thousands of Gazan homes. However, Western and Israeli diplomats said Wednesday that the US donation will be withdrawn if the expected Palestinian Authority coalition government between Fatah and Hamas does not recognize Israel. During her visit to the region last week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas against forming a coalition with Hamas that will not meet the expectations of “the Quartet”. Clinton told Abbas that Congress will not approve funding of a Palestinian government that does not recognize “Israel’s right to exist” and “renounce violence”. She added that if those requirements are not met the U.S.-funded program under the supervision of General Keith Dayton training PA security forces would be the first to be axed. Fatah and Hamas are currently engaged in talks intended to reestablish ties between the Palestinian factions that were severed two years ago. Clinton discussed the issue of forming a Palestinian coalition with Fatah representatives, who told her that the new government would consist of non-affiliated officials whose chief task will be to prepare the Palestinian territories for new general elections. She reportedly told the officials she believed holding new elections was secondary to building the bureaucracy of the Palestinian Authority. The Obama administration is adamant in maintaining the previous U.S. presidential administration’s position of boycotting Hamas. Two weeks ago Clinton said lifting the boycott would damage attempts to reach peace in the region. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner recently supported an initiative aimed at easing sanctions against Hamas. Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabir al-Thani is also trying to promote dialogue between the West, Arab states and Hamas. Two weeks ago Clinton met with a number of Arab foreign ministers at the conference held at Sharm el-Sheikh aimed at raising donations for the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip, whose infrastructure was badly damaged during Israel’s operation there earlier this year. Talks between the U.S. diplomat and her Arab counterparts focused on means of distributing money to Palestinians in Gaza. During negotiations Clinton insisted that the money be placed solely under the Palestinian Authority’s supervision and strongly rejected offers by Arab states that they assume responsibility for distribution of the funds. In total, a record $4.4 billion was raised at Sharm, with Saudi Arabia making the largest single donation of $1 billion. The donations greatly exceeded the PA’s expectations of raising $2.5 billion total. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the total figure comes to $5.2 billion.

It Is The Siege And Occupation Stupid….

March 6, 2009

Is It Democracy Or Hypocrisy….

 Secretary Clinton, visited the Middle East few days ago, throwing American money around, money that we do not have for our own children.

The fact that we give Israel about 10 Million Dollars per/day, not per/month or year, should make every American stop, think and question our Foreign Aid program. Not only that Israel does not need the money, but what Israel do with the Money.

 What happened in Gaza is a small example of what Israel do with the money. Israel destroys what others gave money for rebuilding the shattered lives of the Palestinians under Israel’s brutal occupation. Few years ago, Israel did the same thing in Lebanon and the on going illegal settlements expansion,and on and on…

 The Secretary also said that, for the US to have a dialogue with Hamas, Hamas must recognize Israel and abide by previous agreements, That’s also fine and dandy, if the Secretary also asks Israel to do the same. Asking Hamas to recognize Israel is the same as asking the victim of rape to recognize the right of the perpetrator that committed the crime, another word, Hamas has to recognize and except Israel’s Siege and Occupation as legitimate course of action.

  Forgive me for not standing up and cheering for the secretary of state, the people in the Middle East, have been through a lot over the years, and can spot hypocrisy a mile away. Secretary clinton complains and often talks about Hamas’s rockets, that’s fine and dandy, if along side of that, talking about the daily killings of innocent Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli powerful military, in both Gaza and the West Bank.

 So, Mrs. Secretary, with all due respect, the People of the Middle East would like to remind you, remember “Its’ the Economy Stupid”,

 It’s the Siege stupid, It’s the Occupation Stupid. As long as those facts are ignored, nothing will be accomplished….

Gaza Still Under Siege…..

March 1, 2009

Peace With Respect and honor….

 Seemingly, the situation in Gaza is indeed calmer, but don’t be fooled. Gaza is still under lock and key by Israel, yes after the President of the USA, said that the Gaza situation is intolerable, and that ALL Humanitarian aide must flow freely and ALL Crossings must be open and stay open. Well that went on deaf ears as far as the Israelis were concerned. The situation in Gaza not only dyer but very catastrophic, because of all the destruction that Israel has inflected on Gaza, it is hard to fined any building or institution that has not been damaged. The Israelis have not allowed any building materials to inter Gaza, so how do people rebuild their shattered lives…. Israeli leaders are WAR CRIMINALS, in any definition. The mass killings of women and children was on such a magnitude that defied comprehension. It is hard to believe that those criminals can sleep at night, and go on their daily routine. The only explanation I can muster is that they’ve lost all their moral standards and humanity. I hope that the rest of the world is not in a coma, and can see the brutality of the Israeli leaders, so to bring them to Justice, on behalf of the voiceless and the unprivileged innocent Palestinians in Gaza and else were in the occupied territories. The time is now to keep the pressure on Israel to do the right thing and FREE ALL the Palestinian people from under their Iron grip. The Palestinian People have suffered enough and for so long, the Palestinian People are not willing to be Israel wiping boy, when ever Israel choose to punish for whatever reason. Enough is enough, it is time that the whole world stood behind the abused and stop the abuser, it is high time that the world communities stood up for what’s right and recognized the legitimate right for the Palestinian people that have gone ignored for so long. The Palestinian People are not willing to wait for yet another Israeli election or another sham Peace conference. It is time to change the Israeli mentality towards the Palestinian people, we are not your Enemy, what you are doing and have done to the Palestinian people makes you your own Enemy. So Please open your eyes and see the truth and the beauty in Peace and Justice….

Kamal Hassan,

Palestinian Peace Activist.