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Collective Punishment Leaves 500 Palestinians Home

GUSH SHALOM - pob 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033 - http://www.gush-shalom.org/

July 3, Action Alert: Collective punishment leaves 500 Palestinians homeless

Last night, an Israeli settler named Yair Har-Sinai was shot to death near the settlement enclave in the south of the West Bank. Fellow-settlers, who were today very extensively interviewed, told two things about him: that unlike other settlers, he did not carry a gun and claimed to be in favor of coexistence; and that more than any other settler, he was zealous in constantly staking a claim to "state lands", i.e. confiscated Palestinian lands, day and night herding his sheep on them so as "to make them into Jewish lands in practice" - which, from their point of view, is the highest praise possible.

One could feel sorry for this misguided man, as for the ever-increasing number of victims which are claimed by the violent whirlwind of the past nine months. But any impartial observer would have to admit that Har-Siani's two attributes were in flat contradiction to each other. You just can't be a seeker after coexistence, much less an unarmed pacifist, and at the same time actively engaged in dispossing your neighbors. Har-Sinai died of that contradiction. This happened last night. This morning, just hours after Har-Sinai's body was found, Israeli military forces entered into neighboring Palestinian villages, systematically blowing up houses and the caves in which many of the poor Palestinian peasants of this area have their dwellings, destroying terraces and filing up wells. Some 500 people were rendered homeless. Full details are as yet not available, since the army surrounds the whole area, allowing in neither human rights field workers nor even the Red Cross which offered to provide tents to the newly- dispossed families.

This was, clearly, an act of collective punishment, in flagrant violation of international law. It was also something even worse - using a killing as a pretext for continuing the implementation of a long-lasting, comprehensive plan of dispossesion. Already in 1982, the whole area - some 86,000 dunums - had been declared "a closed military zone" and the Palestinians residing in it ordered to leave, so as to make place for the creation of Israeli settlements.

They refused to live the string of small villages, often consisting of caves rather than houses, where their ancestors had lived for hundreds of years: Wad Rakhaim, Karbet al-Nabi, Imnaizel, al-Shatneh and Kharbet al-Sussia (the name of the last, as well as its lands, were appropriated for the Israeli settlement created nearby). For the past two decades they had been living precariously on the fragments left of their land, subject to harassment and constant encroaching by the settlers. Now, it seems, the killing is being used in order to complete the work of dispossession.

(For some of the above information we are indebted to the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq ).

This tragic and infuriating affair illustrates as nothing else the deadlock in which we are. The government of Israel demands a ceasefire - "complete, utter quiet, with not a shot fired and not a stone thrown" in the words of Prime Minister Sharon. At the same time, settlers are allowed to continue expanding their armed enclaves and dispossessing their neighbors, under the protection and with the active cooperation of the mightiest army in the Middle East.

Weary as you may be of our asking you again and again to send protest messages still it is needed again. You can by doing so give an immediate and powerfull starting signal to the further struggle from within. You may use the sample letter later in this message or make your own, and send it by email and/or by fax to your choice (or all) of the following addresses. (We have to warn you, that not all the email addresses may remain accessible during this campaign, but many of them will go through.)

Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres Fax: +972-2-5303704 e-mail: sar@mofa.gov.il

Israeli Defense Minister, Benyamin Ben Eliezer Fax: +972-3-6916940, 6976990 e-mail: sar@mod.gov.il

Prime Minister Sharon Fax: +972-2-5664838; email: webmaster@pmo.gov.il;

Copies to:

The Israeli embassy or consulate in your country;

President George W. Bush, Fax: +1-202-456-2461; E-mail: president@whitehouse.gov;

Secretary of State Colin Powell, Fax: +1-202-261-8577; E-mail: secretary@state.gov;

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, Fax: +1-212.963.5012; email: ecu@un.org;

Personal Representative of the Secretary General to the United Nations in Palestine Fax: + 972 8 282 0966 Email: unsco@palnet.com

Political Advisers to Mr Miguel Moratinos - Special EU Envoy to the M-E.: Fax: + 32 2 285 87 52; Mr/M. Bernardino ; Ms Karin Roxman ; Mr/M. Christian Jouret ;

Some Labour and Meretz Knesset Members amaor@knesset.gov.il, hramon@parliament.gov.il, nchazan@knesset.gov.il, pinespaz@knesset.gov.il, rancohen@parliament.gov.il, ydayan@knesset.gov.il, ykatz@knesset.gov.il, zgalon@knesset.gov.il

Dear Sir

I strongly protest the Israeli army's attacking, on July 3, of Palestinian villages near the Israeli settlement of Sussia on the occupied West Bank. The the systematic destruction of houses, inhabited caves, wells and terraces, leaving at least 500 people homeless cannot be justified by the however regrettable killing of an Israeli settler some kilometres away. This is not only collective punishment, this is brutal dispossession motivated by greed for land, and as such it is a violation both of international law and makes your speaking of ceasefire violations by the other side into mockery.

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For information about Gush Shalom visit the website: http://www.gush-shalom.org/ (including the Boycott List of Products of Settlements) email: info@gush-shalom.org;

Also on the website: Sign the "Our Jerusalem, Capital of Two States" petition full text in Hebrew, Arabic and English

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