Sunday, June 8, 2008

Archbishop Desmond Tutu statement on Beit Hanoun May 29, 2008

I have nothing to add and there is nothing I need to add to what Archbishop Desmond Tutu says below.

From Wikipedia

Beit Hanoun is a city on the north-east edge of the Gaza Strip
with a population of 32,000. It is administered by the Palestinian Authority. It is located by the Hanoun stream, just 6 kilometers (4 mi) away from
the Israeli town of Sderot.

This town is also notable for the
Beit Hanoun November 2006 incident where 19 Palestinians were killed by IDF shelling. According to Israeli authorities it
was in response for its use as a base from which Palestinian militant groups
have fired Qassam rockets into the northern Negev towns like Sderot, as well as the former Gush Katif settlements.

In December 2006, the UN appointed a fact-finding commission led by Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu to investigate the attack. However, Tutu and the other members were not granted permission to travel by Israel and the investigation was cancelled.

Statement by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Leader of the High Level Fact-Finding Mission into events at Beit Hanoun on 8 November 2006

Press Conference, Gaza, 29 May 2008

We were appointed by the Human Rights Council as a fact-finding mission to investigate the attack on November 8 2006 in Beit Hanoun which left 19 people dead. We have a three point mandate: the assessment of the situation of victims, addressing the needs of survivors and to make recommendations on ways and means to protect Palestinian civilians against any further Israeli assaults. The mission returns to Geneva tomorrow and we will be reporting to the Human Rights Council at its session in September, so these are impressions on our part for it is to the Council first that we are obliged to present our report.We have tried three times in 18 months to secure the cooperation of the Israeli Government to no avail, and in the end we were forced to come to Gaza through Egypt.
We want to begin by thanking the Government of Egypt for their facilitation of our mission. We also want to thank all of the United Nations personnel for their logistical support. We want to say thank you also to the UN in Egypt and to the Secretariat of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for their efficient and friendly help, as well as to the interpreters who have assisted us. We want to thank all the people we have met here in Gaza, members of NGOs, but especially the survivors and victims of the attack itself. I also want to express my deep appreciation to Professor Christine Chinkin, my co-expert on this mission.
All we had heard about the conditions in Gaza - the deprivation, the sense of despair, the lack of economic activity – had not prepared us for the stark reality we saw. We saw a forlorn, deserted, desolate and eerie place. Hardly any pedestrians as would be the case in a more normal setting.

We were struck particularly by the absence of the sounds of children shrieking and playing. Usually, when there is a convoy in a normal situation, children will rush out to wave, to be funny and to laugh. We saw none of this. There was no hustle and bustle as in a normal urban setting. There are hardly any vehicles on the road because of the scarcity of fuel. We saw more donkey and horse-drawn carts.
We are in a state of shock, exacerbated by what we subsequently heard from the victims and survivors of the Beit Hanoun massacre. For us, the entire situation is abominable. We believe that ordinary Israeli citizens would not support this blockade, this siege if they knew what it meant for ordinary people like themselves. No, they would not support a policy which limits fuel supplies or automatically cuts off the electricity supply. They would not support a policy which jeopardizes the lives of ordinary men and women in hospital, that cuts off water and food from hospitals jeopardizing the lives of babies. No, they would not support a policy that results in what happened in Beit Hanoun on 8 November 2006, when a mother scooped up the brains of her baby lying with its skull cracked open by an Israeli shell, the same mother rushing out into the street to find her son staring at his bowels hanging out and then seeing him scoop them up and shove them back into his abdomen. No, they would not.
As a matter of principle, Profesor Chinkin and I wanted to go to Israel to hear directly from the Israeli authorities their version of the events. We wanted to meet any other interested parties and NGOs. But we also wanted to go to Sderot to meet with victims and survivors of the Qassam rockets. We care about all people. That is why we told Mr Haniyeh that the firing of those rockets is a gross violation of human rights, and asked for them to stop the firing.
We are the descendents of Abraham: Jews, Christians and Muslims. We revere the teaching of scripture. And so we call on Israel to end the siege, the blockade.
First, because it is a gross violation of human rights. In terms of the scripture that Jews and Christians alike invoke, the blockade is contrary to the teaching of those scriptures. Those scriptures speak about a God: a God of the Exodus, a God notoriously biased in favour of the weak, of the oppressed, of the suffering, of the orphan, of the widow, of the alien. And this God will not be mocked! The God who sided with the slaves against the Pharaoh, the God who sided with Naboth against King Ahab, who sided with Bathsheba's husband against King David. The God who came down to deliver the Israelites from their bondage, who was not deaf to their cries, not blind to their plight, who knew their suffering, is the same yesterday, today and forever!
The siege is contrary to the Jewish tradition of siding with the oppressed. In South Africa, the most outstanding stalwarts in our fight against apartheid were often Jews. People like Helen Suzman, people like Joe Slovo. Almost instinctively, Jews must be on the side of freedom, justice and peace.
The siege must stop because it is not in the interests of Israelis. There can be no justice, no peace, no stability, not for Israel, not for the Palestinians, without accountability for human rights violations. This includes accountability for the human rights violations which occured in Beit Hanoun on 8 November 2006. Israel has admitted that it made a mistake, but this falls far short of accountability and due redress for victims and their families. Accountability applies also to those firing rockets into civilian areas of Israel. The culture of impunity on both sides must end!
True security and peace will not come from the barrel of a gun. It will come through negotiation: negotiation not with your friends. Peace can come only when enemies sit down and talk. It happened in South Africa. It happened more recently in Northern Ireland. It will happen here too.
Please, please, Israelis and Palestinians: for the sake of your children, for the sake of your future, for your sake , for God's sake, for all our sakes. Please, please end the injustice and sit down and talk to one another. It is possible for Israelis and Palestinians to live amicably side by side in two sovereign, viable states.
There can be no peace, there can be no security, there can be no freedom in isolation. Israelis and Palestinians will be free, will be secure, will prosper only together.
My message to the international community is that our silence and complicity – especially on the situation in Gaza - shames us all. It is almost like the behaviour of the military junta in Burma.
Gaza needs the engagement of the outside world, especially of its peacemakers.

Finally, to you our brothers and sisters in Gaza: you will be free. Your isolation and loneliness will end. We want you to know that we are with you, and we will come back to celebrate with you your freedom!

Friday, June 6, 2008


Here is a message I received from Richard Colbath-Hess.

I would like to encourage you to visit , the website home we have created for an anti-apartheid campaign. We hope to heighten awareness of, and eventually end, the current apartheid existing in the Israeli Occupied Territories.

To give you some context for this campaign, the Sabeel Conference on "The Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel: Issues of Justice and Equality” was held in Boston last fall. The keynote speaker was Archbishop Desmond Tutu, an internationally acclaimed Nobel Peace prize laureate.

You can read some comments and thoughts about this conference elsewhere in this blog including the following:

“But saying that it is similar to South Africa misses an important point - the Government of Israel's form of Apartheid is WORSE than what the white Africaaners imposed on the blacks; i.e., in South Africa there were no collective punishments (like destroying a power plant), there were no separation barriers (walls, fences), no destruction of land, no destruction of trees (olive or others), there were no closures and roadblocks, there was freedom of movement, there were no separate roads, no separate license plates, the Africaaners hired the blacks to work for them allowing them to earn a living whereas the Government of Israel uses laborers who are brought in from other countries, and there was a benign condescending attitude of the ruling class for the oppressed and no concerted effort to work towards their eventual removal from the land.”

The conference was an amazing success – it sold out with over 900 attending. You think there would have been extensive coverage from the press (there was a small article buried in the Globe). The fact is, if the media covers anyone who speaks out about the Israeli government’s human rights abuses, they are attacked as anti-Semitic. The Nation Magazine recently wrote an article on how this stifling of dissent is tantamount to the new McCarthyism.

"When Israel does occupy this territory deep within the West Bank, and connects the 200-or-so settlements with each other, with a road, and then prohibits the Palestinians from using that road, or in many cases even crossing the road, this perpetrates even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa." Jimmy Carter 2006
It is in this context that campaign was created. The purpose of the ITISAPARTHEID.ORG web site is to use the tools of the internet and ingenuity of its readers to spread the word about Apartheid in the Israeli Occupied Territories. Web savvy people sometimes refer to this as Viral Marketing or a Guerrilla Marketing campaign. Since the media by and large ignore or are afraid to print the truth, the job of the web site is to get the word out in other ways. You can help by putting ITISAPARTHEID.ORG everywhere you can think of.

“Israel has created in the Occupied Territories a regime of separation based on discrimination, applying two separate systems of law in the same area and basing the rights of individuals on their nationality. This regime . reminiscent of .. .the apartheid regime in South Africa.” Israeli Human Rights Group B’tselem, 2002

I hope you are impressed with the web site. The facts on the web site are meticulously researched. The site is based on getting good info out to the public. When the conservatives (in the US) started to label the media as “liberal”, it stuck because they said the lie enough. So by putting the truth -- everywhere we can think of -- it will make the truth as available as the air we breathe. I really encourage you to check out the site and join the campaign.

“Apartheid is a crime against humanity. Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty and property. It has perpetuated a system of gross racial discrimination and inequality. It has systematically incarcerated and tortured thousands of Palestinians, contrary to the rules of international law. It has, in particular, waged a war against a civilian population, in particular children.”Nelson Mandela 2001

Thank you for your anticipated interest and support. If you would like any further information, I invite you to contact me.

Richard Colbath-Hess, LICSW

79 Amory Street
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 354 6471