Hundreds of people gathered near to the Bullring in central Birmingham in protest against the ongoing killings in Gaza. Two MPs spke, Richard Burden, Labour and John Hemming Lib-Dem. Selma Yaqoob a local Respect Councillor also spoke passionately about the dire situation.
There have been regular stalls and gatherings to draw attention to the situation Palestinians face but the support this meeting drew was significantly stronger and is the first of others planned here. A nationwide protest has been called in London on 3rd January which is likely to attract wide support.
It is a member of the Israeli administration who used the word, a word usually reserved to underline the horrors that the Jewish people faced last century. It has been insisted there was one “Holocaust” in history, but the word was used to threaten the people of Gaza. This would happen to them.
The attack on Gaza was premeditated. It was going to happen with only a pretext needed to justify it. That came when the brittle ceasefire ended and crude rockets were sent from Gaza into Israel.
There have been protests across the globe, including in Tel Aviv, and in the West Bank where a young Palestinian man was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier.
I received this statement from Jewish Voice for Peace on the catastrophe of Gaza:
December 28, 2008
Jewish Voice for Peace joins millions around the world, including the 1,000 Israelis who protested in the streets of Tel Aviv this weekend, in condemning ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza. We call for an immediate end to attacks on all civilians, whether Palestinian or Israeli.
Israel’s slow strangulation of Gaza through blockade has caused widespread suffering to the 1.5 million people of Gaza due to lack of food, electricity, water treatment supplies and medical equipment. It is a violation of humanitarian law and has been widely condemned around the world.
In resisting this strangulation, Hamas resumed launching rockets and mortars from Gaza into southern Israel, directly targeting civilians, which is also a war crime. Over the years, these poorly made rockets have been responsible for the deaths of 15 Israelis since 2004.
Every country, Israel included, has the right and obligation to protect its citizens. The recent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza shows that diplomatic agreements are the best protection for civilian life.
Moreover, massive Israeli air strikes have proven an indiscriminate and brutal weapon. In just two days, the known death toll is close to 300, and the attacks are continuing. By targeting the infrastructure of a poor and densely populated area, Israel has ensured widespread civilian casualties among this already suffering and vulnerable population.
This massive destruction of Palestinian life will not protect the citizens of Israel. It is illegal and immoral and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. And it threatens to ignite the West Bank and add flames to the other fires burning in the Middle East and beyond for years to come.
Having been brought up as a Christian focus has been on the land of its origin. This led to the belief that those who lived and rules the lands were steeped in religion, which meant having the highest moral thinking and actions gained through years of deep experience. Of course very many people of all faiths given birth in that region are horrified at what they see acted out daily. At the same time they see the Israeli government backed to the hilt by powerful western nations.
Gaza has been under siege and we have continued to be horrified to see basic human needs denied by a powerful bully. “They are firing rockets at our people” they cry. Yet, as an article in the Observer (28/12/2008) shows, the situation was largely of Israel’s making. Hamas was encouraged by Israel to undermine Yasser Arafat. Western nations bawl and shout “democracy” and to their horror find Hamas elected to power in Palestine. But they are “terrorists” is the cry. The response to Gaza has been the Israeli version of “Shock and Awe”. It was planned some months ago at the same time as peace discussions were supposedly taking place.
Peace will never some from one side dominating the other, and as soon as this is recognised internationally the better. Yet President-elect Obama’s priorities only specify a cessationof hostility in Iraq, otherwise there is only a blanket “foreign policy”.
Does Israel imagine that this will be a solution. Do they think their people are safe behind monstrous concrete barricades built on stolen land? In reality they are stoking the fire of hostility and hatred. A member of the Israeli government has already threatened that a “holocaust” will be inflicted on the Palestinian people. This was their choice of language. Hitherto its has always been insisted that there is only one Holocaust in history.
WMPSC NEWSLETTER 28 DECEMBER 2008 follows:
Christmas e-mail from Bil’in.
ffj-Friday 28\12\2008-Bil’in residents left after the Friday prayer in a march joined by international and Israeli peace activists. Waving Palestinian flags, and banners against the Israeli occupation. The protest today was solidarity with Palestinian families inside Israeli jails especially Juma’a Muosa’s family and Ahmad Saʼdat and Ofers’ detainees. The Popular committee condemned the violence against the detainees inside Israeli prisons.
The protesters marched, chanting slogans of the same substance, and another calling the Israeli activists to refuse serving in the military. The protest also condemned the arrest of Israeli refuseniks and demanded their release.
The demonstrators carried banners calling for the end the occupation and stop settlements and checkpoints, release of all detainees, and national unity among the Palestinians. Santa Clause also joined the protest today and congratulated Muslims for the Al-adha Eid and Christians for Christmas.
When the demonstrators approached the fence, the army prevented them from crossing the main gate where soldiers standing behind concrete blocks. when the protesters attempted to cross the gate, the army began firing stun grenades, gas and rubber-coated metal bullets. Dozens suffered teargas inhalation, and two were injured: Waʼel Fahmi Nasser and Adeeb Abu Rahma.
Thank you for you continued support,
Iyad Burnat- Head of Popular Commitee in Bilin
Head of Friends of Freedom and Justice in Bilin
Mobile- (00972) (0) 547847942
Office- (00972) (2) 2489129
Fax- (00972) (2) 2489129
The matter is urgent. But it’s Christmas and there’s no one there to appeal to. The die is cast and so the Zimbawean family will be forcibly deported on Monday, 29th December. Their father is dead, killed by Mugabe’s regime, so the family will not be recognised by Zanu PF. At the moment they are held at Yarlswood detention centre – a prison by any other name – a place quite unsuited to to anyone, particularly those not guilty of any crime, particularly women and children.
The following letter was sent to the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, with a copy to Tony Wright MP:
Today the Independent (24/12/2008) runs an article on Bethlehem 2008. As the town once again becomes the focus of attention for Christmas the story and today’s reality sit together uncomfortably. I have just been editing film I took on 31st January, 2004 which shows the Church of the Nativity, virtually empty apart from seven of us, City Councillors from Birmingham, UK. We were witness to the damage caused during the siege when families took refuge there two years earlier. Yasser Arafat had said to us that we should make sure that the damage to age old paintings was restored. However this is not the only threat as the condition of the roof is allowing rain water to run down the walls. The three churches with oversight of the church cannot, it seems, come to an agreement to organise repairs.
This year there is a webcaste from the church. The Guardian article points out that Greek Orthodox monks have banned Bush and Blair from the place for life because of their conduct of the Iraq war, so this will be their only opportunity to see these events.
A Turkish shoe manufacturer has employed 300 extra to cope with the demand for the shoe that was aimed at George W in his recent whirlwind tour to Iraq. The shoes, probably to be renamed “Bye bye Bush”, are wanted not only in the Arab world, but in the US while a British supplier has offered to act as agent for the UK.
Shoe protests have taken off, with Palestinians using theirs to vent their feelings against Israeli soldiers who return rubber coated steel bullets and tear gas in response. The following report comes from Bil’in:
Protesters Threw Shoes at Israeli Soldiers in Bil’in
ffj-bilin -Friday 19\12\2008 Demonstrators marched today after the Friday prayer carrying Palestinian flags and banners calling to end the Israeli occupation, stop the wall and settlement building, stop land confiscation and settler attacks, closures and roadblocks, and the release of all detainees. The demonstration was joined by internationals and Israeli activists. Members of the Peoples’ Struggle Front also joined the protest today and carried banners.
Protesters carried pictures of U.S President George Bush having shoes thrown at him. They also carried their own shoes as a symbolic refusal of the Israeli occupation.
The protest today marched towards the wall singing slogans and attempting to reach the confiscated land behind the wall. The Israeli army was stationed behind concrete blocks and fired teargas and sound grenades when the protesters tried to reach the gate. Dozens suffered gas inhalation and eight demonstrators were shot with rubber coated steel bullets, two journalists, one of them from Israel, his name is Israel, and the second, Issam Arrimawi working in Wafa Media. Two others were taken to the Ashshikh Zaid Hospital in Ramallah : Mohammad Abu Rahma and Baseb Abu Rahma .and the others we treated in the village: Adeed abu Rahma, Sabri Abu Rahma,Jehad Alhaj, and Mohammed Imran. The demonstrators responded to these attacks by throwing their shoes at the army.
The Israeli High Court accepted an appeal by the residents of Bil’in two days ago against the route of the Israeli Annexation Wall which is confiscating a lot of farm lands from the village. The court ruled that the Israeli authorities should change the path of the wall according to the July 4, 2007 High Court decision and that the Israeli government should pay a fine of 10,000 NIS.
With foreign policy looking depressingly like the old in Afghanistan it has not been too easy to discern the long promised changes the world cries out for. Both Observer and Independent on Sunday agree on their leader (21/12/2008) that appointees on climate change issues make it look like a major change from Bush.
The term “green revolution” is used but as we have seen with so much said about becoming eco-friendly to make changes to our life-style is no simple matter. We are on a tread mill which can’t be turned back, and in spite of a totally discredited and dysfunctional economic system the remedies put forward for its solution are largely more of the same.