Monthly Archives: May 2008

Lecturer union urges moral review of Israeli college links (Guardian)

The Guardian

Lecturer union urges moral review of Israeli college links

The University and College Union voted overwhelmingly at its Manchester conference to call on colleagues to “consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions, and to discuss the occupation with individuals and institutions concerned, including Israeli colleagues with whom they are collaborating”.

Academics argued that it was not a new boycott, but a show of their right to debate the issues facing Palestinian colleagues and, separately, links with Israeli institutions.

Tom Hickey of the NEC and Brighton University, which proposed the motion, told delegates: “Being a student or teacher in Palestine is not easy … we are talking about not just impediment but serial humiliation and that’s the order of the day in Palestine.

“In the face of accusations of anti-semitism and legal threats we refused to be intimidated. We will protect the union from legal threats but we will not be silenced.”

Lorna Fitzsimons, joint head of the Stop the Boycott campaign, said: “Boycotts of any kind do nothing to promote peace and moderation in the Middle East, as well as undermining the academic freedom and integrity of British academic institutions.

“A boycott has never been the right answer for those looking to genuinely help Palestinians and Israelis. The way forward must be to build bridges, encourage dialogue and allow ordinary Israelis and Palestinians the opportunity to engage with each other.”

In a statement, the vice-chancellors’ umbrella group, Universities UK, said: “We believe a boycott of this kind, advocating the severing of academic links with a particular nationality or country, is at odds with the fundamental principle of academic freedom.”

Palestine: Nakba Digest (NYCLAW)

Palestine: Nakba Digest



    David Ben-Gurion, the first Israeli prime minister, once confessed that he, too, would wage perpetual war with Israel if he were a Palestinian. Morris quoted Ben-Gurion as saying:  ”Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: We have come here and (have) stolen their country.” No one can deny the victimhood of the Jews through the ages. But that does not entitle them to take it out on the Palestinians.


    President Bush used a speech to the Israeli Parliament on Thursday to liken those who would negotiate with “terrorists and radicals” to appeasers of the Nazis — a remark widely interpreted as a rebuke to Senator Barack Obama, who has advocated greater engagement with countries like Iran and Syria. . . .  As for Hamas, Mr. Obama’s aides said his position on engagement was not different from that of the administration; the group would have to renounce terrorism, recognize Israel and agree to abide by all pre-existing Palestinian treaties with Israel. . . . Mr. Obama has likened his foreign policy approach to that of the so-called pragmatists in the administration of the first President George Bush, which carried out the first American invasion of Iraq, in 1991, and he has shared those sentiments recently as he has sought to woo independent voters in swing states.  “I have enormous sympathy for the foreign policy of George H. W. Bush,” he said. “I don’t have a lot of complaints about their handling of Desert Storm. I don’t have a lot of complaints with their handling of the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

    Today one in four Palestinian citizens of Israel is either a refugee or descended from one. Not only have they been denied the right ever to return to their homes, like the other refugees, but many live tantalisingly close to their former communities. The destroyed Palestinian villages have either been reinvented as exclusive Jewish communities or buried under the foliage of national forestation programmes overseen by the Jewish National Fund and paid for with charitable donations from American and European Jews.

    Over the last sixty years, thousands of homesick Palestinians have attempted to cross Israel’s barriers, just to see their homes one more time; and thousands have died on Israeli fences, their homes still waiting for them. Between 1948 and 1951 alone, the Israeli army killed 3,000 Palestinians as they tried to cross the border. Nowadays, Israeli soldiers are instructed to shoot Palestinians who attempt to cross the separation wall, a wall that is being built, day by day, on private Palestinian land.

    Weaving elements of his own story of dislocation into the Palestinian collective narrative, filmmaker Nasri Hajjaj reverses the usual focus of Nakba documentary by exploring the denial of the Palestinian right to death in the homeland. Why can a Jew from any part of the world decree that their body be brought for burial in Israel while a Palestinian even a few kilometers away in the West Bank or Lebanon cannot choose eternal rest in the homeland?

    Israel ruled out all debate on letting Palestinian refugees return in any peace deal, as U.S. President George W. Bush ended a visit on Friday that left Arabs dismayed by his outspoken support for Israel’s “chosen people”. . . .  As Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and in camps abroad held protests on the 60th anniversary of their exile from cities and farmlands that are now in Israel, Bush spoke of European Jews in 1948 “arriving here in the desert”. . . .  [Olmert’s spokesman said,] “The so-called right of return is antithetical to a two-state solution … I would question someone’s commitment to peace and reconciliation if they believe that the so-called right of return must be implemented.”

    Danny Carmon, Israel’s deputy ambassador to the UN, told Israel Radio that the term “‘nakba’ is a tool of Arab propaganda used to undermine the legitimacy of the establishment of the State of Israel, and it must not be part of the lexicon of the UN.” Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Thursday said that the Palestinians will be able to celebrate their independence day on the same day that the word “nakba” or catastrophe is erased from their lexicon. Livni was referring to the Palestinians’ “Nakba Day” which is commemorated on May 15, the day Israel was founded in 1948.

    At least nine Palestinian children and a woman were wounded on Thursday after IOF troops stationed at the Beit Hanon (Erez) crossing point north of Gaza Strip opened their fire at thousands of Palestinian citizens demonstrating near the crossing to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Nakba and protest against the Israeli economic siege on the Strip. . . .  IOF troops stationed at the border crossing opened fire at the Palestinian demonstrators and Palestinian youth replied with stones. There were a number of casualties and . Palestinian ambulances were dispatched to the clashes scene, and immediately rushed the wounded Palestinians to nearby hospitals.


    LARGEST DEMONSTRATION SINCE THE START OF THE SECOND INTIFADA ACROSS PALESTINE Over 50,000 people filled the streets of Ramallah today, marking the 60th anniversary of the Nakba with the largest protest since the start of the second Intifada. Other actions were held across Palestine and in Palestinian communities in Jordan and Lebanon.

    An Nakba (the catastrophe) commemorations continued in Nablus on Thursday 15th May, with approximately 500 people gathering in the main square of the city to demand their right to return home. Organised by the National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba at 60, in conjunction with many Nablus organisations, the official statement of the demonstration was “There can be no alternative to our return to our homes and properties” . . . .  Speakers emphasized the refugees’ connection to the land, with statements such as: “I am Palestine; I am Jaffa; I am Haifa; I am Lid,” and reaffirmed their determination to continue to fight for their rights. As the Nablus coordinator for the Nakba Committee reiterated: “Ay adoun, ay adoun, ay adoun” — We will return; we will return; we will return.”

    Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, their political and social leaders conducted a general strike in the occupied city of Jerusalem in commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the Nabka, while Israeli soldiers and policemen were intensively deployed in the area. . . . The residents stated that the participation of Bush and other leaders violate the Palestinian right and all international legitimacy resolutions. They confirmed their steadfastness and determination to return to their homeland and land of their fathers and forefathers.


    With Israel continuing the process of annulling whatever prospects still remaining for a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, many Palestinians are quietly turning to the one-state option. In reality, the one-state solution has been the Palestinians’ unconscious and undeclared baseline for years. . . . This week, the Palestine One State Forum formulated a manifesto for the one-state solution, which calls for the creation of a unitary democratic state in all of mandatory Palestine from the Mediterranean to the River Jordan, and where Israelis and Palestinians would live as equal citizens. . . . “An entity created on any part of the territories, even if called a Palestinian state, will simply be a dependent unviable entity whose purpose is to prolong Israel’s life. There is the possibility that unilateral withdrawals by Israel from here or there will leave the Palestinians with no option but to emulate statehood, but that prospect can never be a viable state.”

    NAKBA AT 60
    Israel’s discriminatory practices, within its borders and in the Palestinian territories, are not accidental, nor are they justified by security. Rather, they flow from the goal of creating a Jewish state in a land that was not, and is not, exclusively Jewish. . . . The Nazi holocaust -unspeakably cruel as it was – did not grant Israelis a permanent license to discriminate against and oppress another people. Rather, Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews must live together under a regime of equal rights for all.

    It’s not just the checkpoints. Palestinians and U.N. officials complain that continued expansion of Jewish settlements, the wall and barrier Israel is building in and around the West Bank — what Israel calls the security fence — and the checkpoints continue to slice the West Bank and villages around Jerusalem into separate cantons that undermine chances for a viable two-state solution. . . . “There is no basis for the two states now. Gaza is divided from the West Bank. The wall, the settlements and the economic situation here means there is no opportunity for the two states to live together,” he says. . . . As Hazem Kawasmi, an economist and former Palestinian Authority official, puts it: “The one-state solution is the solution, and the two-state solution is a dream.”

Palestine: Nakba Digest (NYCLAW)

Palestine: Nakba Digest (NYCLAW)

The following digest is in connection with worldwide commemoration of the Nakba. It supplements previous NYCLAW postings on Palestine, located at:


“One morning in September 1953 we heard the explosions. We thought a new war had started. We climbed a hill to see what was happening,” Maghzal says. “They bombed our village. I cannot describe the sadness and anger on the faces of our people.”  As the state of Israel celebrates six decades, the elderly Arab Christian says he still holds on to the hope of the right to live again in his village. “For us Biram is holy land,” Maghzal said, “more sacred than Jerusalem.”

A monument in Kufr Qassem’s center commemorates the events of 1956 when nearly 50 villagers – unaware that a curfew had been imposed on Israeli Arabs on the eve of Israel’s Sinai Campaign – were shot to death by Israeli border police as they returned home after the deadline. Every year, thousands of Arab Israelis gather at the monument, and local residents frequently refer to the massacre by way of emphasizing that they will stay in their village, regardless of what happens.,7340,L-3540821,00.html

Today, as Israel celebrates “60 years of independence”, the Al Nakba of the Palestinian people continues. On May 5, the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz published a report which noted that since the creation of the Israeli state 60 years ago, there have been 1,634 Israeli civilians killed and 14,000 injured by “acts of terror”. What the article did not mention, however, was that in the much shorter period of 7.5 years (from September 2000 to March 2008 since the beginning of the Al Aqsa intifada) that more than 3615 Palestinian civilians have been killed by Israeli state “acts of terror” and 25,650 Palestinian civilians had been wounded. The Haaretz article, also failed to mention that since its creation 60 years ago, the Israeli state has continued the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people via a war of attrition and in the name of “security”.

The past and current Israeli dispossessions of Palestinians represent grave violations of human rights. However, it is arguable that the U.N. partition resolution was an even greater crime. In a misguided effort to atone for the horrific human tragedy of the Holocaust, the U.S. led the effort that forced Palestinians to pay the price for atonement.

While Israelis celebrated the 60th anniversary of their nation’s birth with fireworks and barbecues, sirens wailed across the Palestinian territories today in mourning. It was a day of grief for Palestinians, who refer to the founding of Israel as the Catastrophe, or al-Nakba. Thousands took to the streets to commemorate those exiled or killed in the conflict that followed the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. More than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled, their property was expropriated and they have not been allowed to return.

[F]or me the Nabka is more than fleeing your homeland and losing your identity; it is, in point of fact, not having one single memory of the homeland from where your grandparents and your parents came from. It is not having anything to tell your children about the taste of your land’s fruit, the smell of its sand, the times spent with the people there.

The Israeli Jewish woman of Austrian origin who let her in was surprised by how my grandmother quickly found the bathroom with no directions.”This is my home, where my children were born and where I planted the fruit trees whose fruits you now arrange in the bowl on the kitchen table,” explained my grandmother. Defensively, the woman replied, “This is a sad story but the same thing happened to us in Austria. In any case, I bought this house from the Israeli government.” My grandmother replied, “Madam, you bought stolen property that should be returned to its rightful owner. And given what you have suffered in Austria at the hands of the Nazis, you should be the last ones to do this to us.” My grandmother left her home in tears.


Wafer Shaker al Daghma, 34, a teacher at a local UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) elementary school, was killed last Wednesday as she stood preparing to open the wooden door of her home to the troops. According to UNRWA and relatives who found her body, the military used an explosive device on the door which blew most of her head from her body. They then confined the traumatised children — aged from two to 13 — for five hours while the body lay outside the door of the room where they were held.

As the grueling Gaza fuel crisis continues, so does the strain on local public transport services, including ambulances, across the Gaza Strip. Approximately 15 percent of local public services are operating across Gaza, whilst up to 90 percent of private cars remain off the roads, and all of Gaza’s 450 fuel stations remain closed. For ambulance drivers, the situation is particularly fraught, as demands for their services have soared over the last two months due to an almost complete lack of alternative transport to hospitals.

Sixty years ago many Palestinians fled or were forced to leave their homes in what is now Israel and some of those people found their way to refugee camps such as Shatila in Lebanon.

All Palestinians hold ID cards that essentially dictate where they can live, work and move.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is reported to have believed while in office that “the bantustan plan was the most suitable solution to [Israel’s] conflict.”15 Yet Israeli leaders rarely speak publicly of Bantustans, instead using euphemisms like “separation,” “disengagement” or “convergence.” While emphasizing their goal of a “two-state solution,” they continue to support construction of walls, Jewish-only settlements and roads and other infrastructure across the West Bank that are incompatible with full withdrawal, viable Palestinian statehood or territorial contiguity.

The ethical choice, surely, is a single state with Jews living alongside their Arab neighbours as equal citizens and sharing the land within a common legal and democratic framework. That, after all, was the original intention, and the developments of the last 60 years are a gross perversion and betrayal. Only the Palestinians themselves have had the courage to resist it.

[M]any Jews who once might have considered emigrating to Israel – making their Aliya – have in the past few years been choosing to head to Germany instead. . . . Israel lobbied hard – and ultimately successfully – to persuade Germany to end its generous immigration laws for Jews which encouraged hundreds of thousands to head to the reunited European state after the collapse of communism.

Praising Israel in a speech about racism is like praising the history of White South Africa in a speech about civil rights. Has the fact that Israel is a Zionist state completely escaped the minds of all the Obamakins?


Thousands of Islamic Hamas movement’s supporters demonstrated on Thursday against the ongoing Israeli blockade near Erez crossing on the border between northern Gaza Strip and Israel. Witnesses said that several dozens of demonstrators tried to reach the crossing area of Erez, adding that Israeli soldiers stationed at the crossing opened warning shots to prevent them from approaching the crossing area. Paramedics said that several teens were shot and wounded by Israeli soldiers’ gunfire, adding thatPalestinian ambulances present at the area took them to nearby hospitals in northern Gaza Strip.

Thousands of Palestinians converged in the center of the West Bank city of Ramallah under the midday sun on Thursday for a demonstration to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba and to demand the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in what is now Israel. . . . . A press release sent to media before the demonstration predicted “the largest demonstration in the West Bank since the outbreak of the Second Intifada.” Jamal Juma’, coordinator of the Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign and organizer with the National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba said, “The enthusiastic mobilization in the last week among Palestinians all over their homeland and in the Diaspora has shown that 60 years of ongoing Nakba, massacres, assaults and repression have not been able to subdue the Palestinian call for their rights. Ben Gurion’s expectation that ‘the old will die off and the young will forget’ has been proven wrong.”

The National Campaign to Implement the Right of Return organized nonviolent marches throughout the West Bank on Wednesday in memorial of Al Nakba. All began in the morning and headed for the demarcation lines. . . . Jericho marched, as did Ramallah and Al Bireh, and Hebron in the south. As most of these cities are surrounded by checkpoints or the Wall, they did not have far to go. But a massive demonstration taking place throughout the entire West Bank at the same time sends a message. “It is our right and we will not give it up, nor will we be deterred,” the organizers wrote.

Thousands of people attended a rally marking 60 years since the Palestinian Nakba in the village of Kfar Qana on Friday. The event was organized by the Islamic Movement’s northern branch. . . . According to the sheikh, the fact that the Holocaust failed to destroy the Jewish people should serve as proof to Israelis that their attempt to “perpetrate genocide of the Palestinian people” was bound to fail.,7340,L-3541373,00.html

Some 300 Palestinians marked 60 years since Israel’s founding in May 1948 with a protest walk through affluent Jewish parts of west Jerusalem that were once home to many Arabs. They wore black T-shirts with “This is my House” printed on the back. . . . The demonstrators pointed at houses, many decorated with Israeli flags marking the 60th anniversary of independence, and recalled their former Palestinianowners: “This is the Dajani house. That is the Nammari house. This is the Halaby house.”

To the People of Palestine, Whether you live within the “Green Line,” in Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, or in exile, you shall return, there is no doubt that you shall return.. . .  [W]e refer to the Palestinians who managed to stay within the part of Palestine occupied in 1948 as the “Palestinians within the Green Line” or the “Palestinians in 1948 occupied Palestine” when referring to them, instead of phrases that deny them their Palestinian identity. Also to refer to “Historic Palestine” when referring to the Palestine’s borders during the British mandate, as well as stressing that the right of return is to the refugees’ “original homes and properties”. . . . [A] person or organization’s stance on the right of return as the litmus test that determines our relationship with Israeli institutions and entities, and a measure for differentiating between projects as ones aimed at normalization or not.

Palestinians are commemorating the start of our ongoing tragedy this Thursday, but we are also looking forward. We are at an important turning point, where two things are happening. First, despite ritual declarations of international support, the prospect of a two-state solution has all but disappeared as Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are caged into walled reservations by growing Israeli settlements and settler-only roads – a situation that resembles the bantustans of apartheid South Africa. Second, despite Israel’s efforts to keep Palestinians in check, the Palestinian population living under Israeli rule is about to exceed the 5 million Israeli Jews. . . . [M]ore Palestinians, recognising statehood is unrealistic, debate and adopt the one-state solution, offering Israelis and Palestinians equal rights in the land they share.


Yes, the Israel lobby seeks to silence opponents of Israeli Apartheid. All the more need for trade unionists to break that silence by speaking out against Israeli military occupation, for the right ofPalestinian refugees to return, and for the elimination of apartheid throughout historic Palestine.

This May Day, we call upon the workers of the world and the international labor movement to supportPalestinian workers in our struggle for liberation. The solidarity of working class forces around the world, particularly the workers of the United States, is needed. The Histadrut, a racist arm of the Zionist state that has done nothing but aid in the exploitation of Palestinian workers, should be boycotted and unwelcome at all labor functions. Israel Bonds are not a fit investment for a labor organization – they are an investment in a racist, colonial state. The U.S. labor unions hold billions of dollars in such bonds; now is the time to divest from Israel Bonds and make it clear that racism is the common enemy of all workers, around the world. In addition, the labor unions of Europe have key roles to play in fostering solidarity withPalestinian workers.


As North American Jews, we stand together with Palestinians in mourning 60 years of al-Nakba and in honoring 60 years of vibrant resistance. We will celebrate when Arab and Jew live as equals in a peaceful Middle East.
Endorse at:

We cannot celebrate the birthday of a state founded on terrorism, massacres and the dispossession of another people from their land. We cannot celebrate the birthday of a state that even now engages in ethnic cleansing, that violates international law, that is inflicting a monstrous collective punishment on the civilian population of Gaza and that continues to deny to Palestinians their human rights and national aspirations.
Endorse at:

Israel’s assault on the people of Gaza is so horrendous that it will not soon be forgotten. This vicious attempt by Israel to destroy an entire nation has tipped the scales for good and Zionism will forever be remembered as a blemish in the history of the Jewish people. The people of Gaza, however, give us hope and they will forever be remembered for their courage and resilience during these trying times.

National Demonstration for Palestine (Palestine Solidarity Campaign)

National Demonstration for Palestine

Saturday 10th May 2008


Assemble 1pm Temple Underground station/ Victoria Embankment, rally in
Trafalgar Square.

Organised by: BMI, PSC, PFB. Supported by UNISON, Public and
Commercial Services Union (PCS), Association of Palestinian Community
UK, Friends of Al Aqsa UK, War on Want, Jewish Socialist Group, Pax
Christi, Stop the War Coalition, Britain Palestine Twinning Network,
Midlands Palestinian Community Association.

Please make sure to put this date in your diary right now and start
booking transport to London. Contact your local PSC branch for coaches
and to find out how you can help.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Tel: 020 7700 6192
Fax: 020 7609 7779


London protest calls for Free Palestine

PSC Media Release Saturday 10 May 2008

London protest calls for Free Palestine

Thousands marched through London, sixty years after the Palestinian Nakba, to demand an end to the siege on Gaza, an end to Israeli occupation, and for the right of return of refugees.

The demonstration, organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, British Muslim Initiative and the Palestinian Forum in Britain, was supported by trade unions UNISON, Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), Unite the Union, Communication Workers Union, GMB, TSSA, RMT, Fire Brigades Union, and the National Union of Miners, who joined organisations such as the Association of PalestinianCommunity UK, Amos Trust, Friends of Al Aqsa UK, Palestinian Return Centre, War on Want, Jewish Socialist Group, Pax Christi, Stop the War Coalition, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Britain Palestine Twinning Network, ICAHDUK, Friends of Lebanon, Federation of Student Islamic Societies, and Midlands Palestinian Community Association.

Dr Mustafa Barghouti, elected Palestinian Legislative Council member, told the rally of the situation of Apartheid existing in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories: “Israeli citizens make 30 times what Palestinians do, settlers take 48 times the water of Palestinians, Palestinians are denied entry to Jerusalem…” He said that the ‘peace process’ of Annapolis was an illusion: “Since then Israeli attacks have tripled and even more checkpoints have been set up.” He stressed the importance of re-establishing Palestinian unity and accused western governments of hypocrisy, in undermining democracy in Palestine, but supporting an Apartheid state.

Speakers also included Richard Burden MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Palestine, who reminded people of the ongoing plight of the refugees from 1948, especially those in Gaza: “Gaza is dotted with masses of cesspits of raw sewage, as deadly as any bomb or missile.” Like many speakers, he called for the lifting of the siege of Gaza and withdrawal from all the Occupied Territories: “The peace process cannot work while people are imprisoned in their own land.” Both he and Caroline Lucas stressed Israel cannot continue to enjoy a privileged trading relationship with Europe while it persists in violating international law.

Referring to the founding of Israel, Tony Benn said: “Nothing that happened in the WWII can justify Israel’s seizure of Palestinian land.” He found room some optimism: “Wherever you go you find people understand increasingly what is happening to the Palestinian people. There will never be peace in the Middle East till the Palestinians are treated decently.”

Manuel Hassassian, the General Delegate to the UK said: “Our problem is not a humanitarian problem, it is a political problem, which must have a political solution.” He also said: “The right of return is a sacred right for the Palestinians. Jerusalem is our capital, and we will never compromise on Jerusalem.”

Respect MP George Galloway reminded the crowd of Britain’s historic responsibility for the tragedy inflicted on the Palestinian people, from the time of Balfour onwards, and remembered the “thousands upon thousands of martyrs” created over decades; he also demanded the release of Marwan Barghouti and other political prisoners, and declared: “If there is no justice in Palestine there can be no peace in Palestine, and peace in Palestine is the key to peace throughout the Middle East.”

Video messages came from a PLC member from Gaza, Dr Jamal Al-Khoudary, and from Ismail Haniyeh.

– END –


For more information please call:

Jenny Najar or Sarah Colborne: 0207 700 6192

Or Email:

Or visit:


The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) aims to raise public awareness about the occupation of Palestine and the struggle of the Palestinian people. PSC seek to bring pressure on both the British and Israeli government to bring their policies in line with international law. PSC is an independent, non-governmental and non-party political organisation with members from communities across the UK.


Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Tel:   020 7700 6192
Fax:  020 7609 7779



No holiday for Gaza’s labor sector (Electronic Intifada)

Electronic Intifada

No holiday for Gaza’s labor sector



Palestinians hold a May Day rally in front of theUN headquarters in Gaza City, 1 May 2008. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)

“Closed because of the siege,” a sign reads on the front door of the Al-Yazji factory on the main Salah al-Din road in Gaza City. Al-Yazji, the largest producer of soft drinks in the Gaza Strip, and numerous other manufacturers were forced to shut down due to the Israeli closure of the Gaza Strip since June 2007.

In Gaza City, owners of 3,800 local factories recently established a symbolic cemetery for their devastated businesses. The graves do not contain dead bodies, but rather the remains of factories, canneries, workshops and other businesses.

More than 33,000 of Gaza’s laborers have been laid off recently as industries are now working at around 20 percent of their normal capacity.

“The garment industry, for example, used to employ more than 16,000 laborers, yet as long as the Israeli blockade goes on, the Palestinian garment sector won’t be able to convince any Israeli companies to weave clothes, thus the situation will remain worse for such a significant sub-sector”, stated Amr Hammad, the executive director of the Federation of Gaza’s Industries.

Hamad added that local industries used to import 95 percent of raw materials from Israel and abroad, and 80 percent of the equipment used in the factories was bought from Israel.

“As long as this situation persists, Gaza’s industries won’t be able to operate even at 20 percent of their capacities. However, we made many appeals to concerned bodies like the European Union to pressure Israel for lifting the siege, but it seems that the Israelis do not listen to anyone but themselves,” explained Hammad.

In the central Gaza Strip refugee camp of al-Bureij, the seven-member family of Nasser al-Btaran lives under extremely poor economic conditions. Like thousands of other families, the al-Btaran family used to rely on salaries provided by the garment sector.

“I am now staying idle, spending much of my time out of the house. You know why? Simply because I can not afford to meet my family’s basic needs. I prefer to stay away rather than being depressed every single moment,” he explained.

Al-Btaran has two sons and three daughters, and also suffers from cardiac complications after a stroke he suffered two years ago. Sighing, he added, “A few days ago, my daughter asked me for 10 shekels ($3 US), to take part in a school trip, but I couldn’t, I couldn’t.”

Nasser al-Btaran and two of his children outside their home in the al-Bureij refugee camp. (Rami Almeghari)

Voicing his frustration, al-Btaran appealed “to the Palestinian [Fatah] Presidency in Ramallah and the Palestinian [Hamas] Government in Gaza to pay attention to the laborers at a time when those employed by the presidency and those employed by the government get their monthly salaries, while laborers are abandoned. Can you imagine? One hundred dollars, that either the presidency or the government gives us once a year, would be enough to meet our needs, can you imagine?”

Since the Israeli government enforced the crippling closure of Gaza, the majority of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents have become unable to afford basic commodities. The World Food Program estimates that 80 percent of Gaza’s population is now dependent on food aid.

In the local market of the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, Mohammad Ibrahim Mohareb, a fish seller complains of the people’s inability to buy fish in Gaza, a region that has always had a rich fishing industry.

“The situation is so miserable. In the past we used to sell about 100 boxes of fish a day, but now we hardly sell less then 20. As you see, we are showing our goods while very few people come and buy. We now lose much more than we gain!” exclaimed Mohareb.

Israel’s closure of Gaza’s border crossings as well as the Hamas’s takeover of the coastal territory, have also impacted the public sector in Gaza. Following Hamas’ seizure of Gaza from forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction, Abbas boycotted the Hamas government. This action left at least 40,000 government employees without any income, according to the Hamas-run Chamber of Employees, as those who did not follow the order had their monthly Palestinian Authority-paid salaries withheld. The Gaza-based Al Mezan Center for Human Rights considers the move as illegal and demands an investigation into this situation.

Mohammad al-Saftawi, 28, whose salary has been withheld for the past five months, complained of the move, arguing that he has nothing to do with any political affiliation and that he only belongs to the Palestinian Authority’s ministry of justice, where he works. “I’m a father of two children and my salary is my children’s sole source of livelihood. Actually, I have been suffering a lot because of this, especially since everyone knows I have no political affiliation,” stated al-Saftawi.

In addition, Israel has recently tightened its siege by further restricting the entry of essential supplies such as fuel and food items into Gaza. Hamas says the Strip is on the verge of exploding while at the same time maintaining that it is determined to break up the siege.

Israel, the United States and the European Union boycotted Hamas after its surprise victory in the January 2006’s parliamentary elections, demanding that it recognize Israel and adhere to previously-signed peace agreements. However, Hamas has refused to participate in peace talks as long as Israel maintains its blockade and continues to take military actions against Palestinian civilians.

Meanwhile, as the siege continues, Gaza’s civilian population remains trapped behind border-walls and the sea, with access to few of life’s basic necessities.

Rami Almeghari is currently contributor to several media outlets including the Palestine Chronicle, IMEMC, The Electronic Intifada and Free Speech Radio News. Rami is also a former senior English translator at and editor in chief of the international press center of the Gaza-based Palestinian Information Service. He can be contacted at rami_almeghari at

Related Links

Longshoremen Proceed with May Day Walk Out (Indybay)

by David Roknich ( roknich (at) )
Thursday May 1st, 2008 9:10 AM

Minutes ago, I spoke with Clarence Thomas of the ILWU executive board. “The rank and file action against the war is indeed happening right now”, he said. And today the workers will write history.

In an attempt to head this off last night the PMA went to court, but the judge refused to take any action, until there is concrete action by the union in violation of their contract. This is a rank and file action by union members who are united by their opposition to the war, and the disagree with the decision of the arbitrator who has dis-allowed the choice of May Day, by the ILWU, as a “day for union business” for workers at all 29 ports on the west coast. A “day for union business” is allowed by their contract. Their original intent was to use this day as their official protest, but official or not, the protest is on.Thomas affirmed that this is not to be confused with the negotiations between the union and their employers. The hard-won contract of 6 years ago is set to expire, and talks are going well. But on the issue of taking a day off for union business, the rank and file of Local 10 is going their own way and will close down the ports in protest of the ongoing wars of the Bush administration. This may be the beginning of a record setting anti-war action, since the vast majority of supplies and munitions for our current wars are shipped from the 29 ports on the West Coast, in california, Oregon, and Washington. All 29 will close today.

David Roknich 9:05 AM PST

Here is some background from union procedings which I’ve archived at my site:

The wars currently fought by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan have become a war against working people. This is why the Bay Area Longshoreman of ILWU Local 10 were the first American union workers to condemn the war.

On October, 2007, ILWU Local 10 passed the following resolution, which eventually led them to vote, along with local 34, to shut down all shipment from the west coast to asia on May 1, 2008. (story continues after the shaded area below)


Mobilize the Labor Movement Through Workers’ Actions to Stop the War!Whereas, the overwhelming majority of people in the U.S. and around the world oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and

Whereas, both major American political parties, Democrats and Republicans, have continued to vote to fund these wars, and

Whereas, the international labor movement through workers action has the power to stop the war, and

Whereas, the people of Iraq and Afghanistan are being killed and those countries destroyed, as U.S. imperial might and its regional allies, the Zionists and puppet Arab monarchists and generals threaten to expand attacks to Iran and Syria, while Palestinian rights are blatantly denied, and

Whereas, the bloody war abroad is waged against Iraqis and Afghanis, while the “war on terror” at home is targeting American working people, oppressed minorities and immigrants,

  • 1. One of the first targets of government repression since 9/11 was the ILWU, which during longshore contract negotiations in 2002 was threatened by the Bush administration with a military occupation of the docks.
  • 2. Recently, under the guise of Homeland Security two black longshoremen were attacked by police in the port of Sacramento, victims of racial profiling and police brutality, while at the start of the war scores of antiwar protesters and longshore workers were shot by police during a demonstration in the port of Oakland.
  • 3. Victims of Hurricane Katrina, mostly black and the poor, in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast died needlessly as the world witnessed a callous and racist disregard for their lives by the U.S. government. And the hanging noose from the schoolyard tree in Jena, Louisiana shows how deeply rooted racism is in America.
  • 4. People here are victims of government repression- spying, extraordinary rendition, attacks by police against antiwar protesters, — all violations of civil liberties supposedly protected by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The rights of women to equality in the workplace, freedom from sexual violence and harassment and control over their own bodies, have all been eroded.
  • 5. As the great anti-imperialist American labor leader, Eugene V. Debs said from prison during World War I, “It is the master class that declares war. It is the subject class that fights the battles.” And it is true today as working class youth are used in a bloody imperial quest for oil and power in the Middle East.
  • 6. And both political parties threaten to expand the war to Iran, Syria and Lebanon, while repressing Palestinians and denying their fundamental rights as a people.

Therefore be it resolved that this conference calls for participants to go back to their unions committed to the urgent task of organizing actions, including strikes where possible, at the workplace against the war, recognizing that only an independent mobilization of labor can stop these wars and withdraw the troops immediately.

Addendum: From the workshop “Middle East: The War for Oil and Empire” a motion was passed “calling for educating and mobilizing rank and file workers in union locals and in organized forums about the false nature of the Category of Terror, to expose the role of our rulers in using state power to stage terror events as a pretext for repression, imperial war and the massive destruction of our rights as part of a heightened class war on working people everywhere.”

According to the striker’s website:

The Longshore Caucus passed an antiwar resolution to stop work in all U.S. West Coast ports on May 1, 2008 for 8 hours to protest the Democrats’ and Republicans’ continuing to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The resolution from Local 10 encountered vigorous debate. In the end the overwhelming consensus to take dock action to stop the war prevailed. It was Vietnam veterans who turned the tide in the debate overwhelmingly in favor the resolution, “For Workers’ Action to Stop the War”. As the President of Local 34 Richard Cavalli stated this resolution follows ILWU Local 10 and 34’s successful Labor Conference to Stop the War held in San Francisco Oct. 20, 2007, as reported in the ILWU’s newspaper, The Dispatcher. (The Dispatcher as a PDF file)

The original plan was to schedule a stop work meeting for May 1st, which is allowed by their contract for the conduct of union business.

“The caucus has spoken on this important issue and I’ve notified the employers about our plans for stop-work meetings on May 1,” ILWU President Bob McEllrath stated on the union’s Web site.

Employers, represented by the Pacific Maritime Association, will not agree to it, and threatened union leaders with court action under Taft-Hartley if they don’t call it all off. But the show will go on. With a press release on April 23rd, the gauntlet has been thrown down. As the day fast approaches, no court action has been announced:

Clarence Thomas and Jack Heyman, Co-Chairs
Phone: 510.333.4301 * Fax: 510.215.2800
Email: news [at]


April 23, 2008The Port Workers May Day Organizing Committee is proud to announce that Cynthia McKinney, former Congresswoman from Georgia; Danny Glover, renowned actor and political activist; and Cindy Sheehan, Gold Star mother whose son Casey was killed in Iraq four years ago, will be among the featured speakers at our “No Peace, No Work” Holiday mobilization in San Francisco on May 1st.

The West Coast longshore workers have voted to stop work to protest against the ongoing war and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. The Port Workers May Day Organizing Committee and the other rank-and-file committees in ports up and down the West Coast have received pledges of support from labor councils, local unions and anti-war, anti-racist, immigrant and other social justice organizations across the country and around the globe.

The “March with Longshore Workers” will assemble at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 1st, at the Longshore (ILWU) hall at Mason & Beach, and will march down the Embarcadero for a noon rally at Justin Herman Plaza.

David Roknich,