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An open letter to the people of Gaza


An open letter for the people in Gaza

This letter is published under the Freedom of Information Act: “Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”

Paola Manduca aEmail AddressIain Chalmers bDerek Summerfield cMads Gilbert dSwee Ang eon behalf of 24 signatories

We are doctors and scientists, who spend our lives developing means to care and protect health and lives. We are also informed people; we teach the ethics of our professions, together with the knowledge and practice of it. We all have worked in and known the situation of Gaza for years.

On the basis of our ethics and practice, we are denouncing what we witness in the aggression of Gaza by Israel.

We ask our colleagues, old and young professionals, to denounce this Israeli aggression. We challenge the perversity of a propaganda that justifies the creation of an emergency to masquerade a massacre, a so-called “defensive aggression”. In reality it is a ruthless assault of unlimited duration, extent, and intensity. We wish to report the facts as we see them and their implications on the lives of the people.

We are appalled by the military onslaught on civilians in Gaza under the guise of punishing terrorists. This is the third large scale military assault on Gaza since 2008. Each time the death toll is borne mainly by innocent people in Gaza, especially women and children under the unacceptable pretext of Israel eradicating political parties and resistance to the occupation and siege they impose.

This action also terrifies those who are not directly hit, and wounds the soul, mind, and resilience of the young generation. Our condemnation and disgust are further compounded by the denial and prohibition for Gaza to receive external help and supplies to alleviate the dire circumstances.

The blockade on Gaza has tightened further since last year and this has worsened the toll on Gaza’s population. In Gaza, people suffer from hunger, thirst, pollution, shortage of medicines, electricity, and any means to get an income, not only by being bombed and shelled. Power crisis, gasoline shortage, water and food scarcity, sewage outflow and ever decreasing resources are disasters caused directly and indirectly by the siege.1

People in Gaza are resisting this aggression because they want a better and normal life and, even while crying in sorrow, pain, and terror, they reject a temporary truce that does not provide a real chance for a better future. A voice under the attacks in Gaza is that of Um Al Ramlawi who speaks for all in Gaza: “They are killing us all anyway—either a slow death by the siege, or a fast one by military attacks. We have nothing left to lose—we must fight for our rights, or die trying.”2

Gaza has been blockaded by sea and land since 2006. Any individual of Gaza, including fishermen venturing beyond 3 nautical miles of the coast of Gaza, face being shot by the Israeli Navy. No one from Gaza can leave from the only two checkpoints, Erez or Rafah, without special permission from the Israelis and the Egyptians, which is hard to come by for many, if not impossible. People in Gaza are unable to go abroad to study, work, visit families, or do business. Wounded and sick people cannot leave easily to get specialized treatment outside Gaza. Entries of food and medicines into Gaza have been restricted and many essential items for survival are prohibited.3 Before the present assault, medical stock items in Gaza were already at an all time low because of the blockade.3 They have run out now. Likewise, Gaza is unable to export its produce. Agriculture has been severely impaired by the imposition of a buffer zone, and agricultural products cannot be exported due to the blockade. 80% of Gaza’s population is dependent on food rations from the UN.

Much of Gaza’s buildings and infrastructure had been destroyed during Operation Cast Lead, 2008—09, and building materials have been blockaded so that schools, homes, and institutions cannot be properly rebuilt. Factories destroyed by bombardment have rarely been rebuilt adding unemployment to destitution.

Despite the difficult conditions, the people of Gaza and their political leaders have recently moved to resolve their conflicts “without arms and harm” through the process of reconciliation between factions, their leadership renouncing titles and positions, so that a unity government can be formed abolishing the divisive factional politics operating since 2007. This reconciliation, although accepted by many in the international community, was rejected by Israel. The present Israeli attacks stop this chance of political unity between Gaza and the West Bank and single out a part of the Palestinian society by destroying the lives of people of Gaza. Under the pretext of eliminating terrorism, Israel is trying to destroy the growing Palestinian unity. Among other lies, it is stated that civilians in Gaza are hostages of Hamas whereas the truth is that the Gaza Strip is sealed by the Israelis and Egyptians.

Gaza has been bombed continuously for the past 14 days followed now by invasion on land by tanks and thousands of Israeli troops. More than 60 000 civilians from Northern Gaza were ordered to leave their homes. These internally displaced people have nowhere to go since Central and Southern Gaza are also subjected to heavy artillery bombardment. The whole of Gaza is under attack. The only shelters in Gaza are the schools of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), uncertain shelters already targeted during Cast Lead, killing many.

According to Gaza Ministry of Health and UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA),1 as of July 21, 149 of the 558 killed in Gaza and 1100 of the 3504 wounded are children. Those buried under the rubble are not counted yet. As we write, the BBC reports of the bombing of another hospital, hitting the intensive care unit and operating theatres, with deaths of patients and staff. There are now fears for the main hospital Al-Shifa. Moreover, most people are psychologically traumatized in Gaza. Anyone older than 6 years has already lived through their third military assault by Israel.

The massacre in Gaza spares no one, and includes the disabled and sick in hospitals, children playing on the beach or on the roof top, with a large majority of non-combatants. Hospitals, clinics, ambulances, mosques, schools, and press buildings have all been attacked, with thousands of private homes bombed, clearly directing fire to target whole families killing them within their homes, depriving families of their homes by chasing them out a few minutes before destruction. An entire area was destroyed on July 20, leaving thousands of displaced people homeless, beside wounding hundreds and killing at least 70—this is way beyond the purpose of finding tunnels. None of these are military objectives. These attacks aim to terrorize, wound the soul and the body of the people, and make their life impossible in the future, as well as also demolishing their homes and prohibiting the means to rebuild.

Weaponry known to cause long-term damages on health of the whole population are used; particularly non fragmentation weaponry and hard-head bombs.45 We witnessed targeted weaponry used indiscriminately and on children and we constantly see that so-called intelligent weapons fail to be precise, unless they are deliberately used to destroy innocent lives.

We denounce the myth propagated by Israel that the aggression is done caring about saving civilian lives and children’s well-being.

Israel’s behavior has insulted our humanity, intelligence, and dignity as well as our professional ethics and efforts. Even those of us who want to go and help are unable to reach Gaza due to the blockade.

This “defensive aggression” of unlimited duration, extent, and intensity must be stopped.

Additionally, should the use of gas be further confirmed, this is unequivocally a war crime for which, before anything else, high sanctions will have to be taken immediately on Israel with cessation of any trade and collaborative agreements with Europe.

As we write, other massacres and threats to the medical personnel in emergency services and denial of entry for international humanitarian convoys are reported.6 We as scientists and doctors cannot keep silent while this crime against humanity continues. We urge readers not to be silent too. Gaza trapped under siege, is being killed by one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated modern military machines. The land is poisoned by weapon debris, with consequences for future generations. If those of us capable of speaking up fail to do so and take a stand against this war crime, we are also complicit in the destruction of the lives and homes of 1·8 million people in Gaza.

We register with dismay that only 5% of our Israeli academic colleagues signed an appeal to their government to stop the military operation against Gaza. We are tempted to conclude that with the exception of this 5%, the rest of the Israeli academics are complicit in the massacre and destruction of Gaza. We also see the complicity of our countries in Europe and North America in this massacre and the impotence once again of the international institutions and organizations to stop this massacre.

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We declare no competing interests.

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References

1 United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)Occupied Palestinian Territory: Gaza emergency situation report (as of 21 July 2014, 1500 hrs)http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_sitrep_22_07_2014.pdf(accessed July 22, 2014).
3 Gilbert MBrief report to UNRWA: The Gaza Health Sector as of June 2014.http://www.unrwa.org/sites/default/files/final_report_-_gaza_health_sector_june-july_2014_-_mads_gilbert_2.pdf(accessed July 22, 2014).
4 Naim AAl Dalies HEl Balawi M, et alBirth defects in Gaza: prevalence, types, familiarity and correlation with environmental factorsInt J Environ Res Public Health 201291732-1747PubMed
5 Manduca PNaim ASignoriello SSpecific association of teratogen and toxicant metals in hair of newborns with congenital birth defects or developmentally premature birth in a cohort of couples with documented parental exposure to military attacks: observational study at Al Shifa Hospital, Gaza, PalestineInt J Environ Res Public Health 2014115208-5223PubMed
6 Ma’an News Agency4 killed, over 50 injured as Israel targets al-Aqsa hospital.http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=715087(accessed July 22, 2014).
a New Weapons Research Group and University of Genoa, Genoa, Italy
b James Lind Library, Oxford, UK
c Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College, London, UK
d Clinic of Emergency Medicine, University Hospital of North Norway, Tromso, Norway
e Barts and the Royal London Hospital, London, UK

Iraq urged to end executions amid ratification of death sentences


Posted On December 20, 2012 by  Akashma Online News

Source Amnesty International/Huff Post

Death sentences are being flung out after grossly unfair trials relying on ‘confessions’ obtained under torture.

Iraq must impose an immediate moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition Amnesty International said, amid yesterday’s reported ratification of further death sentences.

Iraq has executed nearly 100 people so far this year, a big increase over previous years that has intensified concern about whether defendants are receiving fair trials in a country where the United States has spent billions of dollars trying to reform the judicial system after decades of dictatorship.

The executions in 2012 of at least 128 people, all by hanging, amount to more than a quarter of all convicts who have been put to death in the last eight tumultuous years under leaders who struggled to stabilize a country at war after  Saddam Hussein was ousted after US invaded Iraq.

Christof Heyns, the U.N. investigator on arbitrary executions, described the government-sanctioned executions as “arbitrary killing” that is “committed behind a smokescreen of flawed legal processes.” He warned that the ” continued lack of transparency about the implementation of the death penalty in Iraq, and the country’s recent record, raise serious concerns about the question of what to expect in the future.”

He made the remarks in a statement in August after more than two dozen people were executed in one week.

Death sentences for 28 people accused of terrorism-related offenses were reportedly ratified on 17 December by one of the vice-Presidents, the last step in the judicial process. They are at risk of imminent execution.

Earlier this month it has been reported that about 40 death row prisoners were transferred to al-Kadhemiya Prison in Baghdad where executions are carried out.

Iraq has executed at least 129 people in 2012, the highest number since 2005.  As in previous years, hundreds were estimated to have been sentenced to death, or had death sentences upheld by the courts.

“Death sentences are being flung out after grossly unfair trials relying on ‘confessions’ obtained under torture,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme’s Deputy Director.

“Instead of carrying out executions, the Iraqi authorities should prioritize fixing its deeply flawed criminal justice system.”

On 16 December, Iraqi vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi and his son-in-law were sentenced to death in absentia for the fifth time in a highly politicized trial by the Central Criminal Court, for possession and use of weapons. They have received four other death sentences on terrorism-related offences.
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Since the death penalty was reintroduced in Iraq in 2004, the death sentence and executions are being imposed and carried out extensively, after procedures that violate human rights standards.

Many trials of those sentenced to death failed to meet international standards for fair trials, including by using “confessions” obtained under torture or other ill-treatment as evidence against the defendants.

Some Iraqi television stations continue to broadcast self-incriminating testimonies of detainees even before the opening of a trial, undermining the fundamental right of defendants to be considered innocent until proven guilty.

Amnesty International last week urged the Iraqi authorities to quash death sentences against four men sentenced on 3 December in Anbar province, western Iraq, following the broadcast of ‘confessions’ given while reportedly being tortured in pre-trial detention.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, as a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

More than two-thirds of the countries in the world have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

Palestinians Right of Return is not Debatable: UN Resolution 194 In Force and Enforceable

September 4, 2011 12 comments

Posted on September 03, 2011 by Marivel Guzman

Continuing Relevance of International Law:

by Phyllis Bennis

UN Resolution 273 of 11 May 1949, welcoming Israel into the UN, established that the new state’s entry was based on Israel’s representations regarding its ability and willingness to implement 194.

Right of Return

International law regarding Palestinian refugees was essentially abandoned during the Camp David talks. After the 1948 war, the UN passed General Assembly Resolution (UNGA) 194, which mandated compensation for the Palestinian refugees and assured their right to return home. The UN made Israel’s own membership in the world body contingent on Israeli acceptance of 194 and the rights it granted to the Palestinians. UN Resolution 273 of 11 May 1949, welcoming Israel into the UN, established that the new state’s entry was based on Israel’s representations regarding its ability and willingness to implement 194.

The Palestinians’ right to return to their homes, despite a 52-year delay in realizing that right, is no less enforceable, no less compelling, than the same right of the Albanian Kosovars, in whose name the United States led NATO into war. It is no less than the right of Rwandans returning home from the Congo, or East Timorese going home from Indonesian refugee camps.

In fact, as law professor Susan Akram and others have noted, the Palestinian right of return has an even stronger legal basis. United Nations Resolution 194 was consciously designed to provide privileged protections for Palestinian refugees, with the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol serving as a safety net. Those special rights were not granted to other refugees, whose rights are determined solely by broader international laws.

25 August 2000—Considering that most observers of the Camp David negotiations called the contention over the Palestinian right of return “irresolvable,” it was no surprise that this issue was one of the summit’s deal breakers. Yet what most left out was the explanation of why this issue was a sticking point: Palestinian rights and international law have been overshadowed by Israel’s power.

Israel controls the land of the 530 Palestinian villages destroyed during and after the 1948 war, from which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled or fled more than 50 years ago. The Palestinians have few cards to put on the table. Instead of power, they have only their roughly five million exiles; most of them are stateless. Meanwhile, the United States accepts this vast disparity of power between Israel and the Palestinians, as if Camp David were a level playing field on which an honest broker could referee a fair game.

Continuing Relevance of International Law:

International law regarding Palestinian refugees was essentially abandoned during the Camp David talks. After the 1948 war, the UN passed General Assembly Resolution (UNGA) 194, which mandated compensation for the Palestinian refugees and assured their right to return home. The UN made Israel’s own membership in the world body contingent on Israeli acceptance of 194 and the rights it granted to the Palestinians. UN Resolution 273 of 11 May 1949, welcoming Israel into the UN, established that the new state’s entry was based on Israel’s representations regarding its ability and willingness to implement 194.

The Palestinians’ right to return to their homes, despite a 52-year delay in realizing that right, is no less enforceable, no less compelling, than the same right of the Albanian Kosovars, in whose name the United States led NATO into war. It is no less than the right of Rwandans returning home from the Congo, or East Timorese going home from Indonesian refugee camps.

In fact, as law professor Susan Akram and others have noted, the Palestinian right of return has an even stronger legal basis. United Nations Resolution 194 was consciously designed to provide privileged protections for Palestinian refugees, with the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol serving as a safety net. Those special rights were not granted to other refugees, whose rights are determined solely by broader international laws.

Demographics:

Despite the requirements of international law, Israel specifically rejects the “right” of return, maintaining that allowing the Palestinian refugees to come home would alter the demographic balance of the Jewish state. The claim is accurate: it would more than double the number of Palestinians in Israel, which now comprises about 20 percent of Israel’s population. However, concern regarding the ethnic composition of the country is not an acceptable basis for rejecting international law. The equivalent would be a post-war Rwandan government refusing—with U.S. support—to recognize the right of indigenous refugees to return home because of fears that it would somehow change the Hutu-Tutsi demographics.

Israel apparently offered a “humanitarian compromise” at Camp David which would allow a small percentage of Palestinians to return home based on Israeli-regulated family reunification. Yet Israel continued to reject UN 194, the Palestinian right of return, and any Israeli legal or moral responsibility for the plight of the refugees. At most, one rumor held that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s team offered a passive-voice recognition that “pain was caused” to the Palestinians.

Third Generation Refugee Movement:

After the 1948 war, the families who lost their homes—many still holding their house keys in the expectation of a quick return—clung tightly to their memories. Their children grew up on the romantic vision of Palestine as a paradise where everyone was rich, everything was beautiful, everyone was happy. That second refugee generation created the intifada 40 years later, fighting for a new state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem; the unlikely possibility of actually returning to their parents’ idealized vision of Palestine inside the Green Line was not at the top of their agenda.

Now, the third generation is growing up in the fetid refugee camps of the still-occupied territories and in surrounding Arab countries. This Oslo generation, these young refugees now in their teens and early twenties, are bringing a new passion and a new realism to their right of return.

On a recent visit inside Israel, teenagers from the Ibda’ Cultural Center of the Dheisha refugee camp traveled to the villages their families had left behind in 1947 or 1948. At that time, Israeli forces ransacked many Palestinian villages, leaving most completely destroyed, with fast-growing pine trees planted over the ruined foundations. Only the rows of cactus that once marked property lines are still visible. A few walls and minarets were damaged but left standing. In most, only the ancient olive trees remain.

As part of an extraordinary oral history project, the Dheisha children have interviewed their grandparents who were expelled in 1948, and then studied the culture, architecture, and history of the villages, as well as where their residents ended up. Now, traveling to the destroyed villages, the children themselves proudly explain to visitors where the school was, where the mosque stood, how the residents made their living, where their own grandparents’ houses were located.

This third generation of children is preparing for a real, not romantic or idealized, return. They discuss what kind of houses they will build, how they will get water, from where their homes might get electricity. They debate whether and how they can live with the Israeli families who have built new houses on and around some of their land.

Compromise:

Is compromise possible? Absolutely. But only if it is based on a recognition of return as a real, fundamental right. The kind of compromise that will not work includes Israel’s proposal for a “humanitarian” family reunification program that would benefit only a few tens of thousands of the millions of stateless Palestinians. Another sure-to-fail “compromise” is the proposal being quietly banded about in the corridors of U.S. and Middle Eastern capitals. This plan envisions a quid pro quo in which Baghdad would settle most of the Palestinian refugees now living in Lebanon—with or without their consent—in Kurdish areas of Iraq from which equally unwilling Kurds are already being expelled, in exchange for a lifting of the crippling economic sanctions against Iraq.

Real compromise might be possible in determining how, not whether, the right of return will be implemented. The Palestinians’ return could be organized to minimize the effects on existing Israeli lives in the area. Palestinian refugees might agree to return to their lands and villages but leave negotiable which plots of land will be reclaimed. Returning refugees may work with Israeli officials to insure an orderly repossession. Certainly not all Palestinian refugees will ultimately opt to return at all. But the right to return is absolute, and cannot be compromised away.

Refugee Involvement in Decision-Making:

The question of who decides is fundamental. Palestinian refugees must be allowed to make their own decisions, accept or reject their own compromises. Current camp dwellers must themselves be represented on the negotiating teams. The starting point of any agreement must be Israeli acknowledgement of the binding legal commitment their government made in 1949 to implement Resolution 194, and to recognize the absolute right of Palestinian return.

In the destroyed village of Zakhariya, as Ibda’ children picked lemons from the prolific trees scattered across what was once their families’ land, one of the adult coordinators who was himself born in Dheisha camp said quietly, “I can close my eyes and see it, see the people coming to the mosque, to the market. They cannot play with this history.”

Phyllis Bennis is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. The above text may be used without permission but with proper attribution to the author and to the Palestine Center. This Information Brief does not necessarily reflect the views of the Palestine Center or The Jerusalem Fund.

This information first appeared in Information Brief No. 45, 25 August 2000.

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