Joint Fast and Vigil with Scottish Islamic Foundation

Candlelit vigil for Gaza

On a very cold December evening in Glasgow over 70 people gathered to mark the 1st anniversary of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead – the 22 day assault on Gaza which resulted in the deaths of over 1400 Palestinians, thousand of injuries and the wholesale destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure. The candlelit vigil was jointly called by the Scottish Islamic Foundation and SJJP and supported by many other groups and individuals. The day coincided with the Muslim festival of Ashura when Sunni Muslims believe that Moses freed the Jews from Egypt and is marked by fasting from sunrise to sunset. Given the continuing oppression of Gazans through Israel’s blockade and Egyptian support, the symbolism (and indeed, irony) of the event was not lost on those present. In time honoured tradition, the Ashura fast was broken with the breaking of Samosas and Matzoh!

Speakers at the event included MSPs Sandra White and Pauline McNeil, both staunch supporters of the Palestinian cause alongside speakers from the Muslim community and support groups. Our own speaker rounded off the event and focused on the impact the war and blockade is having on children in Gaza – particularly relevant given the time of year when children are very much in our minds. This was a sombre and powerful event; and significant, perhaps not in terms of numbers, but both symbolically and practically. Joint initiatives like this involving Jews, Muslims and other sections of civil society demonstrate a number of things – that criticism of Israel is not anti-semitic as others would have us believe; that there is a joint will for peace and justice in the Middle East and that strong constructive relationships can be built here and now between our communities – a real building block for the future. We should actively pursue further opportunities to engage with the Muslim community and develop a real dialogue over how we can work towards a just peace. We can maybe sometimes underestimate the impact of our network and what our collective activity can achieve.

Action on Gaza blockade

Here’s some armchair activism for you, in protest of the Gaza blockade.

For everyone: sign a petition urging an end to the blockade and a free flow of supplies:

To the United Nations, the European Union, the Quartet, the Arab League & Israel: We demand that you end the blockade and growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, ensure the free flow of supplies by land, sea or air, and help to broker the ceasefire which civilians on both sides desperately need.

For Scots: there is currently a motion before the Scottish Parliament condeming the fuel blockade:

S3M-1188 Bashir Ahmad (Glasgow) (SNP) : Gaza Strip Blackout– That the Parliament condemns the Israeli fuel blockade of the Gaza Strip; believes that both Israel and Palestine have a right to defend their citizens from aggression within international law; agrees with both UN and EU officials that the fuel blockade, which has led to the shutting down of the Gaza Strip’s power stations, equates to collective punishment; expresses grave concern that hospitals are being adversely affected which will undoubtedly result in the loss of further innocent life, and calls on the state of Israel to resume fuel supplies to Gaza immediately.

Find out if your MSP supports the motion by following the link, or write to your MSP asking them to support the motion.

US and Israel to boycott UN meet on Gaza blockade, while Gazans rush to Egypt

Border crossings into the Gaza Strip have been closed for a week, stopping shipments of all imports except “emergency supplies”, resulting in shortages of fuel, food, and medicines.

A section of the fence at the Rafah crossing was toppled early this morning, and some 200,000 Gazans crossed into Egypt to get supplies.

From the NYTimes article:

Aid officials had warned earlier this week that Gaza, gripped by fuel and electricity shortages, was two or three days from a health and food crisis.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which provides assistance to Palestinian refugees and their descendants, announced Monday that it would have to suspend its food aid to 860,000 Gaza residents by Wednesday or Thursday if the crossings from Israel into Gaza were not reopened, because the group was running out of the nylon bags it uses to measure and distribute staples, like flour.

Fuel shortages in Gaza will quickly precipitate a health crisis, since electricity is relied upon for pumping water — power cuts mean disruption in clean water supply. At present, 40% of Gazans lack running water.

In the meantime, the US and Israel are expected to boycott a special meeting of the UN Human Rights Council on the Gaza blockade. I’m not sure how Israel expects to maintain any moral credibility when claiming it has no partner for a negotiation dialogue when they themselves cut off Palestinian supplies and then refuse to engage in a dialogue regarding the humanitarian situation that the blockade precipitates.

British Jews on Gaza

Jews for Justice for Palestinians published a full-page advert in the Times on Thursday, in a statement titled “What is Israel doing?”, expresses opposition to the Israeli response to the capture of Gilad Shalit, and which calls for opposition to the blockade. The statement was signed by 300 Jews in Britain, and you can view the formateed statement with a full list of signatories at their webpage. Here is the text of the statement.

See also Gideon Levy’s Haaretz op-ed piece, and the BBC article.

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More on collective punishment

The Gaza blockade continues. The UN warns that the Isrealis are will be worsening a humanitarian crisis if they do not restore the fuel and electricity supplies to Gaza that have been suspended for the last four days, depleting emergency supplies. Electricity and fuel are necessary to power water pumps, so failure to restore them will result in thirst and disease due to lack of clean drinking water. The Red Cross is negotiating with Israel to pursuade Israel to allow humanitarian aid, especially medicines and food into Gaza.

‘Under international law, Israel has the obligation to allow humanitarian supplies into Gaza. It also has the duty to ensure that the vital supplies for the population, including food and medicine, are adequate’

Yesterday, Israeli troops seized a third of the Palestinian cabinet and a further 23 legislators, (democratically elected, remember) all of whom are members of Hamas. The Israelis claim that this is the response to a captured Isreali soldier and Hamas’s declaration of the end of a ceasefire.

Why don’t the Israelis and the international community see how disproportional and unjustified this response is? The blockade has created a situation where Gazans access to food, drinking water, medicine, electricity, and their salaries, has been cut without justification, as collective punishment for the election of Hamas. As predicted, the crisis that the Israelis caused did not result in “security”, but in a Hamas response to the occupation.

To put the Hamas response in perspective, the raid that the Isrealis are citing as cause for this latest closure of Gaza resulted in the death of one soldier and the capture of another. Compare this to the number of people who have died and will die as a result of malnutrition and illness that are directly caused by the blockade. For all that the Israelis cry “security reasons”, they are killing far more civilians than Hamas is, and all as part of illegal collective punishment.

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Those who live in glass houses…

…should not threaten to sue Ahmadinejad.

‘A group of Israeli diplomats wants to sue Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for incitement to genocide.

Lawyers are preparing to send a file on Mr Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel, to the International Court of Justice.

… The UN convention defines genocide as the intent or actual destruction, in whole or in part, of a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.’

Incitement to genocide? Look, anti-semitism, like any other form of racism, is never ok. That said, Israeli dioplomats should check out the activities of their government and the IDF. If you represent a government that routinely and systematically ennacts anti-Arab policies and violence, is “incitement to genocide” something you should be so eager to cry?

‘In 2004 the court ruled that parts of Israel’s West Bank “security barrier” that ran through Palestinian land were illegal.’

Quite.

On a separate note, JVP informs me that the “Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Bill of 2006” (HR 4681) passed the US House of Representatives and is now headed for the Senate. The bill would stop all funds that go to Palestinians, but as the PA has not directly received US funds for some years, the funds being stopped are not funds that would go to Hamas anyway — they’re funds that would go towards humanitarian aid for Palestinians. Cutting funds for humanitarian aid will on worsen the shortages in Gaza and the West Bank.