Occupation Map

Occupation Map

Friday, 22 October 2010

Mission accomplished: Convoy enters Gaza

The Viva Palestina convoy has entered Gaza, breaking the illegal siege imposed on the Palestinians there. The convoy has been met with jubilant scenes on the way to and in Gaza City itself.
Medicines and vehicles, including the PSC vehicle filled with aid bought by members, entered the Rafah crossing yesterday. The total aid is valued at $5million.
Although PSC's driver Amena Saleem was one of the 17 people not allowed in by Egypt, look out for a report of what happened in Gaza on our ‘PSC to Gaza' blog.
PSC EVENT: Gaza public meeting Eye-witness reports: Tuesday 2nd November, 7pm, House of Commons

Listen first hand about the situation in Gaza from members on the Viva Palestina convoy, MP's, architects and others.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Five Countries Boycott Jerusalem Tourism Conference

An OECD ‘High Level Roundtable’ on tourism due to take place in West Jerusalem has been thrown into chaos by the decision of five countries not to attend and the disclosure by several others that only low-level delegations will take part. 
Following attempts by Israel to use the conference to further its territorial claims on Jerusalem and concerns raised by Palestinian civil society and its international supporters that the conference serves to whitewash Israeli violations of international law, the UK, Sweden, Ireland, Turkey and South Africa announced that they would be not be taking part. Although the UK denied that its refusal to attend was politically motivated , Sweden and Turkey openly stated that their withdrawals are political in nature.

In a further blow to the credibility of the ‘high level’ conference at which ‘senior government officials’ were expected to discuss tourism policy , a number of countries will not send tourism ministers and instead low-ranking officials will represent member country governments. The Greek delegation to the OECD told campaigners during telephone calls that no officials from Athens will make the trip and instead a staff member from the Greek tourist information centre in Tel-Aviv will represent Greece. During other telephone calls to OECD offices, campaigners learnt that Denmark will only send a statistician and that Belgium and Norway are still considering what level of representation will attend. France will be represented at a “technical level” only. A number of countries are yet to decide whether Ministers should attend, campaigners understand.

The withdrawals come following comments made by Israeli tourism minister Stas Misezhnikov that the situating of the meeting in Jerusalem – the first OECD meeting hosted by Israel since it became a member in May and only the second time an OECD tourism conference has been held outside of Paris - was in effect recognition by OECD members of Jerusalem as Israel's undivided capital. In a strongly worded letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, OECD General Secretary Angel Gurria called the comments “factually incorrect and quite unacceptable”.

Palestinian opposition to the tourism conference being held in Jerusalem has been consistent. In a letter to Mr Gurria last month, the Palestinian Boycott,Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), a broad Palestinian civil society coalition, called upon the OECD to move the conference. “Organizing this tourism conference in Israel sends once again a strong signal that OECD members are perfectly willing to be complicit with Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and actively support Israel’s PR efforts to whitewash its colonial and apartheid policies,” the letter said. The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) both issued statements thanking UK and Turkey for boycotting the conference and calling on other countries follow suit.

“We warmly salute all of the countries who have decided not to attend this conference. We urge OECD member states to make a principled stand for justice, international law and human rights by refraining from attending the OECD Tourism Conference to be held in Jerusalem. We are also asking citizens of OECD member countries to put pressure on their governments not to attend” said Hind Awwad, coordinator with the Palestinian Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), a broad Palestinian civil society coalition.

“Israel is using its membership of the OECD to whitewash its violations of international law and further its processes of occupation, colonization and apartheid, just as Palestinian civil warned it would. Attending the conference can only be seen as a seal of approval for Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing policies in Jerusalem” she added.

Spain had originally been declared as boycotting the conference, but it has since emerged that a low-level delegation will attend.

Veolia to sell shares in Jerusalem Light Railway?

Veolia has signed a principled agreement to sell its shares in the Jerusalem Light Rail to the Israeli transportation cooperative Egged, reports TheMarker today (15 October). This sale marks a substantial victory for the Palestinian-led international campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

According to the agreement, Veolia will receive NIS 45 million (approximately EURO 9 million) for its shares, which will be gradually transferred to Egged over a five year period from the first day of the light rail's operation. This gradual transfer ensures compliance with conditions of the initial tender, which mandate that the light rail operator must have a minimum of five years experience in operations. Egged will also pay increasing percentages of the sale as the light rail becomes increasingly profitable.

The EUR 9 million to be received by Veolia is miniscule compared to the almost EUR 5 billion of contracts that Veolia has lost around the world due to the BDS movement in the past two years, most prominently a EUR 3 billion tender in Sweden.

Finalisation of the sale requires confirmation of various Israeli authorities and the other partners in the light rail. The biggest threat to finalization of the sale, however, was liable to come fromIsrael's anti-trust laws, as this sale would make Egged the monopoly holder of public transportation in Jerusalem. According to AIC economist Shir Hever, "It seems probable, however, that the Israeli Anti-Trust Authority signaled it would approve the sale, most likely due to Israeli concern over the detrimental impact of the BDS campaign on the rail's burgeoning costs and never-ending delays."

Veolia has been a target of the Palestinian-led international campaign for Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) against Israel until the latter recognizes Palestinian human and national rights and fulfills its obligations under international law. Veolia has been trying to find a buyer for two years already, as a result of the boycott pressure. This political pressure has caused numerous delays in operation of the rail, which was supposed to begin functioning in 2008 and now will not begin before 2011.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Viva Palestina Aid Convoy Cleared to Sail

After a tense ten day stand off in Syria, the Viva Palestina aid convoy to Gaza has now been cleared to sail. The convoy started out from London on Saturday 18th September and drove down through France, Italy, Greece and Turkey before arriving in the port of Latakia, Syria, on Saturday 2nd October. In Latakia, the convoy has been joined by two other convoys. One came from Morocco and Algeria, the other originated in Doha and came through the Gulf states and Jordan.

There are now 147 vehicles about to board two ships together with 380 people from some 30 countries stretching from New Zealand and Australia to Canada and the United States carrying aid worth some 5 million dollars. This includes 40 people who were on the Mavi Marmara flotilla which was attacked by Israeli commandos murdering ten human rights activists from Turkey.

Over the last ten days in Syria, the convoy has taken on medical supplies urgently needed in the besieged Gaza Strip. Simultaneously negotiations have been conducted with the Egyptian authorities to allow passage into the port of Al Arish and then on to the Rafah Crossing.

The support of the Syrian authorities and others has been vital in the successful negotiations. Last night word finally came through that the Egyptian authorities would allow the ships to dock, unload and passage through to the Rafah Crossing and Gaza would be guaranteed. The ships will now sail past the place where the Mavi Marmara was attacked and flowers will be laid in memory of the victims.

When the convoy reaches Gaza the soil from the graves of some of those who were murdered will be used to plant trees as a memorial to the Mavi Marmara victims. The convoy hopes to reach Gaza this Saturday or Sunday.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Lobby your MP - Britain must not become safe haven for war criminals

Following the issuing of an arrest warrant for Tzipi Livni last December, and the threat of arrest warrants against other Israelis accused of war crimes, the Conservative government responded to Israeli government pressure and made an election pledge to change the law on Universal Jurisdiction. 

In July, the Ministry of Justice announced that proposals would be brought forward to change the current legislation to give the Director of Public Prosecutions power over issuing private arrest warrants against alleged international criminals who visit Britain. 

Currently, for a magistrate to issue an arrest  warrant, serious  evidence must be presented against the person concerned. The proposed  change adds a political dimension to a legal decision and introduces a  source of delay when urgent action may be required to stop a suspect  escaping justice. Britain has a duty to seek out and prosecute those  responsible for war crimes – tell your MP not to allow Britain to become  a safe haven for war criminals. 

There are two things you can do today: 
  1. Check if your MP has signed EDM 108 Law and Human Rights – if not, ask them to*
  1. Arrange a meeting with your MP in your constituency at their next surgery in October – find out who your MP is and how to contact them via: http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/  (Look out for a briefing paper on PSC website next week).
*note: parliamentary convention means ministers do not sign EDM’s.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Ahava closed temporarily by actvists

The central London branch of Israeli settlement company Ahava was occupied by Pro-Palestine activists from 11.30am until 3pm yesterday, shutting the shop for business for entire time.  Two activists managed to bring a concrete slab with tubing going through the middle into the shop and lock their arms together inside it, thus blockading the shop. The shop assistant attempted to remove them from the shop but gave up when she realised they had locked their arms inside.

The police arrived on the scene after 15 minutes and moved supporters carrying a banner outside the shop, where they proceeded to engage with a generally supportive  public about the Palestinian issue and the nature of Ahava’s business.
Instead of waiting for the trained lock on cutting team, at 2pm the police began to dismantle the lock on themselves with a hammer, risking injury to the activists whose arms were locked inside. Luckily no one was hurt and by 2.30pm they had removed the activists from the lock on and arrested them for aggravated trespass; committing trespass with the intent to stop a lawful activity. The aggravated trespass charge will of course be challenged by asserting that Ahava’s business is not lawful and so no lawful activity was halted.
When action supporters left the scene at 3pm the store was still closed, bringing the total closure time to at least 3.5 hours, over half of the trading time on the day on which Ahava generally receives the most business, Saturday.
Ahava sell beauty products from that are manufactured in the illegal Israeli West Bank settlement of Mitzpe Shalem, on the Dead Sea shore 6 miles north of the green line. Despite operating from a settlement Ahava label their goods ‘made in Israel’, and so are not only guilty of breaching international law by operating on occupied land, but are dodging British tax by taking advantage of tax breaks offered as part of Israel’s enhanced EU trading agreement, tax breaks that the European High Court confirmed in February do not apply to settlement goods after a case involving settlement company Soda Club Inc .
An international campaign has been growing against Ahava for the last three years. Actions have taken place in London, Tel Aviv, New York, Las Vegas, Paris, Washington DC, Santa Monica, Chicago, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Austin, Montreal and the Czech Republic. The American protest group CODEPINK launched an official campaign against Ahava called ‘Stolen Beauty’ in July 2009.
Just in London three other direct actions have taken place against the company in the last two years, with the prosecution for the last two collapsing in August after the store manager failed to turn up for court, possibly afraid of having to defend the legality of her business in a court of law. A regular picket of the shop takes place every other Saturday, the next will take place again next Saturday (9th October) between 12 and 2 pm.
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