The Hong Kong march rally for Palestine:

Solidarity beyond color, race and religion
 

Hong Kong

 

Video clips on Gaza and West Bank

 

 

January 11, 2008

 

 

 

The march from Victoria Park to the US Console:

The sight was more than awesome. It was riveting. It was overwhelming. It was inspiring.

 

   
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Photos courtesy of Asia Pacific Students and Youth Association (ASA)/RA
           

 

An ASA marcher's report

 

The sight was more than awesome. It was riveting. It was overwhelming. It was inspiring.

Called for by students from Hong Kong University, the protest was attended by more than a thousand people coming from all walks of life, from all races, from all ages, from all faiths.

The Pakistani community in Hong Kong comprised the major bulk of the demonstrators. Some of them brought their families to the march.

The Hong Kong Chinese were also present, students from various universities, officers from the ASA-member HK Federation of Students and other groups were present.

Migrant workers of Indonesian, Filipino, Thai origins also joined the march. The International Migrants Alliance, Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, BAYAN Hong Kong, International League of Peoples' Struggle Hong Kong, UNIFIL-HK of the Filipinos and ATKI of the Indonesians were among the many groups present.

I found out later on that the HK Islamic Youth Association was one of the co-organizers and several groups were present as well. Indeed, it was a sight to behold. There were even groups of Helpers of Islam and Muslim Filipino Association.

What struck me most was the passion of those barely 12 year old Pakistanis and Indians who joined and sacrificed what could have been rest time for a more-than-3-hour march. They were not merely chanting slogans taught to them in schools or by their parents but were really meaning it.

At a young age, they already presented and expressed how much they value life, freedom, liberation and justice.

Solidarity did go beyond color, race and religion.

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A call for a meeting has been raised - for all involved organizations, individuals and other interested groups. The crisis in Gaza will not end so abruptly and for sure, the Israeli Zionist regime will not simply give the much-called-for liberation to the Palestinians in a silver platter (now that the US has admitted to be sending new artillery to them soon.)

There is a call for more coordinated actions during weekdays and weekends. There is a call for more planned activities that we can do beyond picket protests.

People have to be informed and involved.

There is no let-up in their aggression. Hence, there is no let-up in our condemnation to them as we tirelessly express solidarity with the people of Palestine.

STOP THE WAR IN GAZA!
ISRAEL OUT OF PALESTINE!
Location: Victoria Park to US Consulate
 

     
     
     
     
           
     
   
     
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VIDEO CLIPS ON GAZA AND WEST BANK
           
   

 Korea's Anti-Israel Protest: Buddhist Monks

and Protestors Chanting Slogans

US Financial Aid to Israel - (Occupation 101 Movie Clip)
   
Gaza's Reality (Occupation 101 Movie Clip) Historical Myths in Israel/Palestine (Occupation 101 Clip)
   
West Bank Illegal Settlements (Occupation 101 Movie Clip) Christian presence in Palestine (Occupation 101 Movie Clip)
   
           

 

Israel is Committing War Crimes in Gaza
By George Bisharat

Israel's current assault on the Gaza Strip cannot be justified by self-defense. Rather, it involves serious violations of international law, including war crimes. Senior Israeli political and military leaders may bear personal liability for their offenses, and they could be prosecuted by an international tribunal, or by nations practicing universal jurisdiction over grave international crimes. Hamas fighters have also violated the laws of warfare, but their misdeeds do not justify Israel's acts.

The United Nations charter preserved the customary right of a state to retaliate against an "armed attack" from another state. The right has evolved to cover nonstate actors operating beyond the borders of the state claiming self-defense, and arguably would apply to Hamas. However, an armed attack involves serious violations of the peace. Minor border skirmishes are common, and if all were considered armed attacks, states could easily exploit them -- as surrounding facts are often murky and unverifiable -- to launch wars of aggression. That is exactly what Israel seems to be currently attempting.

Israel had not suffered an "armed attack" immediately prior to its bombardment of the Gaza Strip. Since firing the first Kassam rocket into Israel in 2002, Hamas and other Palestinian groups have loosed thousands of rockets and mortar shells into Israel, causing about two dozen Israeli deaths and widespread fear. As indiscriminate attacks on civilians, these were war crimes. During roughly the same period, Israeli forces killed about 2,700 Palestinians in Gaza by targeted killings, aerial bombings, in raids, etc., according to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.

But on June 19, 2008, Hamas and Israel commenced a six-month truce. Neither side complied perfectly. Israel refused to substantially ease the suffocating siege of Gaza imposed in June 2007. Hamas permitted sporadic rocket fire -- typically after Israel killed or seized Hamas members in the West Bank, where the truce did not apply. Either one or no Israelis were killed (reports differ) by rockets in the half year leading up to the current attack.

Israel then broke the truce on Nov. 4, raiding the Gaza Strip and killing a Palestinian. Hamas retaliated with rocket fire; Israel then killed five more Palestinians. In the following days, Hamas continued rocket fire -- yet still no Israelis died. Israel cannot claim self-defense against this escalation, because it was provoked by Israel's own violation.

An armed attack that is not justified by self-defense is a war of aggression. Under the Nuremberg Principles affirmed by U.N. Resolution 95, aggression is a crime against peace.

Israel has also failed to adequately discriminate between military and nonmilitary targets. Israel's American-made F-16s and Apache helicopters have destroyed mosques, the education and justice ministries, a university, prisons, courts and police stations. These institutions were part of Gaza's civilian infrastructure. And when nonmilitary institutions are targeted, civilians die. Many killed in the last week were young police recruits with no military roles. Civilian employees in the Hamas-led government deserve the protections of international law like all others. Hamas's ideology -- which employees may or may not share -- is abhorrent, but civilized nadtions do not kill people merely for what they think.

Deliberate attacks on civilians that lack strict military necessity are war crimes. Israel's current violations of international law extend a long pattern of abuse of the rights of Gaza Palestinians. Eighty percent of Gaza's 1.5 million residents are Palestinian refugees who were forced from their homes or fled in fear of Jewish terrorist attacks in 1948. For 60 years, Israel has denied the internationally recognized rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes -- because they are not Jews.

Although Israel withdrew its settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005, it continues to tightly regulate Gaza's coast, airspace and borders. Thus, Israel remains an occupying power with a legal duty to protect Gaza's civilian population. But Israel's 18-month siege of the Gaza Strip preceding the current crisis violated this obligation egregiously. It brought economic activity to a near standstill, left children hungry and malnourished, and denied Palestinian students opportunities to study abroad.

Israel should be held accountable for its crimes, and the U.S. should stop abetting it with unconditional military and diplomatic support.

- George Bisharat is a professor at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco and writes frequently on law and politics in the Middle East. This article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal and is republished by PalestineChronicle.com with the author's permission.
 

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Is Gaza Testing Ground for Experimental Weapons?

By Jonathan Cook – Nazareth

Concerns about Israel's use of non-conventional and experimental weapons in the Gaza Strip are growing, with evasive comments from spokesmen and reluctance to allow independent journalists inside the tiny enclave only fuelling speculation.

The most prominent controversy is over the use of shells containing white phosphorus, which causes horrific burns when it comes into contact with skin. Under international law, phosphorus is allowed as a smokescreen to protect soldiers but treated as a chemical weapon when used against civilians.

The Israeli army maintains that it is using only weapons authorised in international law, though human rights groups have severely criticised Israel for firing phosphorus shells over densely populated areas of Gaza.

But there might be other unconventional weapons Israel is using out of sight of the watching world.

One such munition may be Dime, or dense inert metal explosive, a weapon recently developed by the US army to create a powerful and lethal blast over a small area.

The munition is supposed to still be in the development stage and is not yet regulated. There are fears, however, that Israel may have received a green light from the US military to treat Gaza as a testing ground.

“We have seen Gaza used as a laboratory for testing what I call weapons from hell,” said David Halpin, a retired British surgeon and trauma specialist who has visited Gaza on several occasions to investigate unusual injuries suffered by Gazans.

“I fear the thinking in Israel is that it is in its interests to create as much mutilation as possible to terrorise the civilian population in the hope they will turn against Hamas.”

Gaza’s doctors, including one of the few foreigners there, Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian specialist in emergency medicine working at Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City, report that many of the injuries they see are consistent with the use of Dime.

Wounds from the weapon are said to be distinctive. Those exposed to the blast have severed or melted limbs, or internal ruptures, especially to soft tissue such as the abdomen, that often lead to death.

There is said to be no shrapnel apart from a fine “dusting” of minute metal particles on damaged organs visible when autopsies are carried out. Survivors of a Dime blast are at increased risk of developing cancer, according to research carried out in the United States.

Traditional munitions, by contrast, cause large wounds wherever shrapnel penetrates the body.

“The power of the explosion dissipates very quickly and the strength does not travel long, maybe 10 metres, but those humans who are hit by this explosion, this pressure wave, are cut in pieces,” Dr Gilbert said in a recent interview.

This is not the first time concerns about Israel’s use of Dime have surfaced in Gaza. Doctors there reported strange injuries they could not treat, and from which patients died unexpectedly days later, during a prolonged wave of Israeli air strikes in 2006.

A subsequent Italian investigation found Israel was using a prototype weapon similar to Dime. Samples from victims in Gaza showed concentrations of unusual metals in their bodies.

Yitzhak Ben-Israel, the former head of the Israeli military’s weapons development programme, appeared familiar with the weapon, telling Italian TV that the short radius of the explosion helped avoid injuries to bystanders, allowing “the striking of very small targets”.

Israeli denials about using weapons banned by international law would not cover Dime because it is not yet officially licensed.

It will be difficult to investigate claims that non-conventional weapons have been used in Gaza until a ceasefire is agreed, but previous inquiries have shown that Israel resorts to such munitions.

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has recorded numerous occasions when the Israeli army has fired flechette shells, both in Lebanon and Gaza. The shell releases thousands of tiny metal darts that cause horrible injuries to anyone out in the open.

A Reuters cameraman, Fadel Shana, filmed the firing of such a shell from an Israeli tank in Gaza in April, moments before its flechettes killed him.

Miri Weingarten, a spokeswoman for Physicians for Human Rights, said they were watching out for use of a new flechette-type weapon the Israeli army has developed called kalanit (anemone). An anti-personnel munition, the shell sends out hundreds of small discs.

Israel appears to have used a range of controversial weapons during its attack on Lebanon in 2006. After initial denials, an Israeli government minister admitted that the army had fired phosphorus shells, and the Israeli media widely reported millions of cluster bombs being dropped over south Lebanon.

There are also suspicions that Israel may have used uranium-based warheads. A subsequent inquiry by a British newspaper found elevated levels of radiation at two Israeli missile craters.

Sarit Michaeli, a spokeswoman for B’Tselem, said her organisation had not yet been able to confirm which weapons were being used in Gaza in the current attacks. She added, however, that Israel’s denials about using non-conventional munitions should not be relied on.

“It is true, as the army spokespeople say, that weapons such as phosphorus and flechette shells are not expressly prohibited. But our view is that such weapons, which do not distinguish between combatants and non-combatants, cannot be used legally in a densely populated area like Gaza.”

Reports this month revealed that the United States has been organising massive shipments of arms to Israel, though a Pentagon spokesman denied they were for use in Gaza.

- Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest book is “Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit his website at: www.jkcook.net. (A version of this article originally appeared in The National, www.thenational.ae, published in Abu Dhabi.)

 

    

 

  

 

     
     
     
     
     
 
 
 
     
     
     
     
     
     
           
     
     
           

 

500 Citizens of Sderot Contradict the Israeli Government
By Janine Roberts


Much has been made of Hamas' reported failure to honour last year's truce. But, an extraordinary correspondence between Jewish residents of the much-rocketed town of Sderot, nearby kibbutz, and the Palestinians living within sight in the Gaza strip paints a very different picture of that truce from that repeatedly given by the Israeli government.

Barrack Obama was taken to Sderot last year to show him the effects of rocketing. He remarked on how Israeli towns looked like American from the air and offered his full support to the town’s citizens, promising to invite its representatives to the White House soon after taking office. At the time in mid-July Sderot was safe to visit. There had been no casualties from rockets since the ceasefire started 4 weeks earlier.

On July 12th 2008, a Gaza resident, using the pseudonym of “Peaceman,” emailed friends in Sderot to say. “The situation is calm … and this make people happy a lot, because there are no dead and wounded [but] the border is still closed… I myself have been waiting two years to go to Europe to study.’ Nevertheless ‘we have now a golden opportunity to try to build a new world without violence.’

His friends replied to say how much better it was now the rockets had stopped. They told how they cycled along the Gaza borders and were greeted with waves by Gaza residents. They revelled in the freedom from danger. A joint children’s holiday was planned and greetings cards exchanged. (See samples at end)

One such message read “I live with my family in Kibbutz Beeri, close enough to Gaza to see the houses and the sea. On weekends I ride my bike with my husband through the fields along the border … I hope the violence will come to an end and the Palestinian State will be established with peace between our peoples and peace within each of our countries between the extremists on each side. ”

Sderot is built on the lands of Najd, a Palestinian village ethnically cleansed by Jewish militia in 1948. Its residents probably fled into the Gaza strip. Most of Gaza’s population is descended from such refugees. However, this history was not allowed to prevent this growing friendship – nor were the deaths of people from both towns in the months preceding the ceasefire.

The ceasefire was still intact months after Obama’s visit. In October 2008 an Israeli in Sderot, using the pseudonym “Hopeman,” emailed his friend in Gaza to say: “We have lived for almost 5 months in a ceasefire situation. On my side of the border, things returned to normal and we once again felt safe. Kids played freely outdoors, streets filled once again with people, and the constant fear of the rocket alerts disappeared. My kids went to sleep in their room again, instead of the safe room, and I could walk out to the fields surrounding the town without the fear of being out in the open with nowhere to hide.”

On October 9th an Israeli newspaper, the Star, headlined: ‘Israeli town celebrates end to daily rocket fire. It reported: “Besieged residents of Sderot were relieved by the quiet start to Yom Kippur, thanks to the ceasefire with Hamas …Young boys horsed around on their bicycles, families hurried to make last-minute purchases at the downtown supermarket, and food stands did a steady business in shawarma and beer.”

“Everything is different," exulted Jasmine Aboukrat, 25, sales clerk at the Cochovit Dress Shop near Hagofer St, "People go out more." “Now you see all the children outdoors, playing," said David Coyne, 38, who owns a candy shop in the centre of town. "It's secure.”

The paper explained: “For seven years, local residents barely went out at all. But, late last June, under Egyptian mediation, the Israeli government reached a ceasefire agreement with the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Since then, with only a few violations, the rocket salvoes from Gaza have stopped.”

Sderot is “a rambling community of boxy bungalows and low-rise apartment blocks. interspersed by palm, cypress and eucalyptus trees” with a library with nearly as many books in Russian as Hebrew, reflecting its recent arrivals. Its people “say they are hugely pleased with the new air of tranquillity that now permeates their town.”

The newspaper also reported that there were no more “punitive Israeli military incursions into the neighbouring strip – attacks that had been a frequent and deadly feature of Palestinian existence prior to the laying down of arms in June.”

But Hopeman emailed from Sderok: “During this time I have been in touch with many friends of mine in Gaza, and from them I heard a very dark and troubling reality…The siege Israel had imposed on them continues. They have many power shortages and very little fuel and cooking gas.”

On the 4th November, the day when Americans were watching the results of the Presidential election, the Israeli army broke the ceasefire by raiding the strip. Six Palestinians were killed. Next day the Palestinians reacted as could be expected by sending a shower of rockets and Israel immediately slashed supplies of medicine, fuel, food, cooking gas for the 1.5 million people of Gaza. The number of truckloads fell from October’s daily average of 123 trucks to less than 5 trucks. Some families were reduced to easting bread made from animal feed. Others were reduced to eating grass.

An email was sent: “Peace Man and I talk every day. We support each other and worry for each other’s well being. I am in contact with others in Gaza and share my situation while hearing of theirs. Much fear and pain on both sides. Once again we should all call to end the violence, open the siege, start talking and bring back hope to us, civilians on both sides, pawns in the unbearable senseless political game.”

Then Hamas told Israel that a renewed ceasefire must be accompanied by an end to the increasingly cruel siege, but Israel refused to accept this.

The friends “realized that the situation was about to deteriorate into total chaos” said Arik Yalin, 43, of Sderot, the spokesman for this Israeli-Arab group. They put up a website that stated: “Up until now we have cried, called, demonstrated, and asked our leaders to do something about this insane reality in which we live. The leaders have tried every possible idea that involves violence and military force – with no success at all.

“We shoot at them and they shoot at us. We retaliate and they strike back.

“This is an endless and vicious cycle.

“Today we say: ENOUGH! It is our turn to take our destiny into our own hands and to ACT to stop the cycle of bloodshed.”

They sent a petition to the Israeli Government in the name of their group; ‘Kol Acher’ (The Other Voice). Five hundred citizens of Sderot signed it as well as another 1300 Israeli and Palestinian citizens. It read:

“Kol Acher from Sderot and the communities around Gaza calls on the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister to act urgently to restore calm in the area.

“The ceasefire changed the lives of the people of Sderot, Ashkelon and the region beyond recognition, allowing all of us to experience again a life that is more normal and sane. The continuation of this calm is essential and critical to the residents of the region from every possible aspect: physical, mental, spiritual and economic.

“Another round of escalation may break our already brittle spirit, and take us all to another round of self-destruction and pointless bloodshed. It is not certain that we will survive. And you must be aware of that, if you indeed care about the residents of this area. We’ve been through this movie too many years–and results speak for themselves: feeling trapped, abandonment, and hopelessness for our children and us!

“On the other side of the border live a million and a half Palestinians under unbearable conditions, and most of them want, like we do, calm and the opportunity of a future for themselves and their families.

“We live in the feeling that you have wasted that period of calm, instead of using it to advance understandings and begin negotiations, as well as for fortifying the houses of residents as promised.

“We call on the Prime Minister and the Defence minister not to listen to the voices of incitement and do everything they can to avoid another round of escalation, to secure the continuation of the calm and to work...towards direct or indirect negotiations with the Palestinian leadership in Gaza in order to reach long term understandings.

“We prefer a cold war without a single rocket to a hot war with dozens of victims and innocent fatalities on both sides.

“We ask you to offer us the possibility of political arrangement and hope and not an endless cycle of blood.”

Their petition had no effect. On December 27th, while politicians in the West were on holiday and the US had a lame duck President in his final weeks of office, Israel launched a savage assault.

That same day the Israeli Foreign Ministry changed its website, removing charts giving the numbers of rockets and mortars fired every month from the Gaza strip, perhaps because they revealed the near-total cessation of fire during the truce. These charts were based on statistics supplied by the Israeli Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center and provide striking evidence of Hamas’ good faith. Contrary to government statements made repeatedly since then, Israeli government statistics show Hamas kept the ceasefire.

Together with a similar graph for mortar fire, these reveal that the total number of rocket and mortar attacks launched from Gaza fell from over a hundred a month to just 12 in all from the start of July to the end of October. The Ministry has replaced these graphs with one that is harder to interpret. It claims ‘227 rockets were fired during the lull in the fighting’ but notes that 203 of these were fired after November 4th, the date when Israel broke the ceasefire. This is still on the Government website.

Credit for the 12 rockets fired during the ceasefire were reportedly claimed by Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Islamic Jihad or the "Badr Forces.’ Hamas condemned them.

It is worth going back to what else Obama said in Sderot: “I will not wait until a few years into my term or my second term if I'm elected, in order to get the process moving. I think we have a window right now that needs to be taken advantage of. I think you've got a set of moderate Palestinian leaders who are interested. I think the Israeli people are interested in moving this process along. But I also think there's a population on both sides that is becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress. And where there's hopelessness and despair that can often turn in a bad direction.”

Obama on January 11th said he would be ready to do all he can to bring peace from the day he takes office. But – has Obama heard these voices of Sderot? I doubt he did when he went to their town, but, if he did, then he will know that the Israeli government is wrong to claim that the only way they can stop the rockets is by physically destroying Hamas with all the slaughter this entails.

Perhaps Obama should also take advice, not already doing so, from the former UK Ambassador to Israel, Sir Jeremy Greenstock. January 9, 2009 he unhesitatingly said during a BBC interview: “Hamas is not a terrorist organisation,” adding he knows from talking to them that they are focussed on ending the decades of military occupation. He also affirmed; “Israel broke the truce by its actions on 4th November.”'

Perhaps Obama should also listen to the Catholic priest, Fr. Latham, who preached in Bethlehem on Sunday 4th January, saying the Palestinians are being “crucified everyday.”

Note:

Find two examples of the post cards sent from Sderot to Gaza Strip. Click here.

- Janine Roberts has written for many major Australian newspapers and both the Independent and Financial Times in the UK. Her investigative films have appeared on the PBS network in the USA and on the BBC and Australian television. She was invited to testify at a US Congressional Hearing on Human rights in Africa and the blood diamond trade. Her latest investigative books are “Glitter and Greed” and the “Fear of the Invisible.” She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact her at: jan@janineroberts.com, or visit her blog: www.speakingloudly.blogspot.com.

 

 

 

 

 

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
           
     
     
     
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