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The Told And Untold Struggle Against Occupation

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Gush Shalom Billboard
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[Through billboard we forward about twice a week what is on the agenda, based upon our own material and on announcements received from others. We include articles and reports. For more information, turn first to the addresses appearing per item.]

*announcements*

[1] Gush Shalom in huge ad: Democratic elections? Certainly - but not under occupation!

[2] Peace Now Protest at Ben-Eliezer's residence, Sat night

[3] Ta'ayush convoy to Salfit on Saturday - update and more details

[4] Yesh Gvul: prison update

[5] Students and professors call for the opening of Birzeit

*reports*

[6] Israeli court rules to deport international peace workers

[7] What goes unnoticed in the many villages

[8] How Abd a-Samed became the 116th child killed in Gaza - Amira Hass

[9] Spreading the secret - a positive note from Gila Svirsky

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[1] Gush Shalom in huge ad:

Democratic elections? Certainly - but not under occupation!

[This special statement will be published tomorrow, Friday, as a full page ad in Haaretz. It is the start of a campaign.]

A NEW BEGINNING

Without hope for a solution, violence will go on. The two peoples will push each other into an abyss of destruction and bereavement. Life will be hell.

A new beginning is needed, a new step towards a solution that will allow both sides to live a normal life in peace and security.

President Bush's speech did not contribute much to the search for a solution, but it contained one positive component, on which all parties - the Palestinians themselves, Israel, the United States, Europe and the UN - now agree: the proposal to hold free elections for the Palestinian Authority as soon as possible.

Although President Bush put this proposal at the forefront of his demands his speech was accepted enthusiastically by the Sharon government and the majority of the Israeli people.

If all Palestinian parties are allowed to take part in the elections, all of them - even Hamas - will have a strong motive to halt attacks, so as not to sabotage the elections. This can be assured by direct negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and all the parties.

Therefore, we call upon the Government of Israel to take all the necessary steps to enable the Palestinian people to hold free and fair elections, without coercion, pressure or threats.

For this purpose, the following conditions must be met:

Freedom of Movement:

There can be no free elections if the candidates and voters cannot move freely inside the towns and between them.

Freedom of Association:

There can be no free elections if the public is not able to meet freely, to set up and maintain political parties and to move freely from place to place.

Freedom of Expression:

There can be no free elections if candidates and voters are not able to voice their opinions, hold debates and conduct publicity campaigns.

Therefore, the Government of Israel must order the IDF to withdraw from all Palestinian territories and to remove the checkpoints, closures and sieges within the towns and villages and between them.

Jerusalem:

Under the Oslo agreements, the inhabitants of Jerusalem have the right to vote and to be elected to all institutions of the Palestinian Authority. This right was exercised at the last elections. The Israeli Government must make all necessary arrangements for this purpose, such as allowing candidates to move freely between Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories and inside East Jerusalem itself, to set up political groups and to conduct campaigns.

Safe Passage:

For election purposes, the Wrest Bank and the Gaza Strip constitute one unit. Therefore, the safe passages provided for in the Oslo agreements must be opened.

The Chairman:

In free, democratic elections, every citizen has the right to be a candidate for any post. This, of course, applies also to the citizen Yasser Arafat. If Arafat is again elected as chairman, he will be the sole legitimate address for any peace negotiation.

We call upon the Government of Israel to declare publicly that it will respect the wish of the Palestinian people, as expressed in the elections, and negotiate with the elected leader - whoever he will be.

International Monitors:

In order to assure that the elections will be fair and free of any coercion, pressure and threats, there is a need for credible, neutral, international monitors, like those who oversaw the last election, headed at the time by former President Jimmy Carter. This time, too, it is appropriate that the monitors will be headed by a credible figure of internationally acknowledged stature, such as Nelson MANDELA, Bishop TUTU or Jimmy CARTER.

International Force:

In order to safeguard security, an international peace force should be deployed in the Palestinian territories after the withdrawal of the IDF. Such a force should be appointed by the United Nations and be composed of soldiers from countries that enjoy the trust of both sides, such as Sweden, Denmark and Holland, for example.

We call upon the international community to take this task upon itself, in order to put an end to the vicious bloody cycle and restore hope to the Israeli and the Palestinian people.

The bloodshed has destroyed the mutual trust between the two peoples. New elections within the Palestinian community can make an important contribution to the restoration of this trust and open a new page for negotiations, based upon the principle now accepted by President Bush: "Two States for Two Peoples".

An Israeli decision to make possible free and democratic elections in the Palestinian territories, by withdrawing the IDF and removing the hallmarks of occupation, will also improve Israel's position, which has been severely damaged in the wake of the IDF incursions in world public opinion,

Therefore, democratic elections are important, but -

There can be no democracy under occupation!

GUSH SHALOM

Please send expressions of support and checks to Gush Shalom, P.O.Box 3322, Tel- Aviv 61033. Telephone 972-3-5221732. www.gush-shalom.org, info@gush-shalom.org

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[2] Peace Now Protest at Ben-Eliezer's residence, Sat night

From: Didi Remez

Date sent: Thu, 04 Jul 2002 13:01:12 +0200

July 4, 2002

SATURDAY NIGHT:

PROTEST AT BEN-ELIEZER'S RESIDENCE

"GET OUT OF THE SETTLER GOVERNMENT"

On Saturday night, July 6 19:30, Peace Now and the Peace Coalition will hold a protest at Defense Minister Ben Eliezer's residence, 7 Tavor st., Mevaseret (a suburb of Jerusalem.) Activists will carry placards with the inscriptions "Get Out of the Settler Government" and "Ben-Eliezer is a Settlement Contractor".

Among the speakers will be Nurit Fink whose mother, Rivka Fink, was murdered in the bombing at the Jerusalem Ben Yehuda promenade on April 14. She is expected to sharply criticize the DM for remaining in the government.

Moria Shlomot, Director of Peace Now: "Ben-Eliezer and the Labor Ministers are a fig leaf for a settler government. Under their auspices 44 new settlement sites have been established, work has begun on a new neighborhood in Hebron and thousands of housing units have been constructed in existing settlements. Their partnership with the neo-fascist Effi Eitam is endangering Israel's future. We will hound them until they resign."

Map locating Ben-Eliezer's residence: www.peace-now.org/FuadHouse.jpg

TRANSPORT: Tel-Aviv, Rakevet Tzafon, 18:15 Jerusalem, Gan Hapaamon, 18:45

OTHER PROTESTS SATURDAY NIGHT: Haifa, Merkaz Hacarmel, 19:00 (Organized by the Peace Forum) Beersheva, Across from 'Big' shopping center, 20:00 Kefar Saba, Weizmann St. ('Arim' shopping center), 20:00

FURTHER INFORMATION: Press: Didi Remez, Peace Now Spokesman, 054-302796 or didi@peacenow.org.il Activists - to get involved in planning and organization of activities

contact:

[In Tel-Aviv] Ori Ginat, 054-405157 or ori@peacenow.org.il

[In Jerusalem] Shiri Iram, 054-687539 or shiri@peacenow.org.il

[Everywhere else] Noa Millman, 054-556052 or noa@peacenow.org.il

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[3] Ta'ayush convoy to Salfit on Saturday - update and more details

From: "Ta'ayush Arab-Jewish"

Date sent: Wed, 03 Jul 2002 11:21:29 +0300

Solidarity convoy to Salfit region, July 7 update

Early on Monday morning, July 1, the IDF invaded Salfit region, as it had done in other cities in the West Bank. Searches and arrests are being done in the town. The armed invasion to the Occupied Territories is carried out while the media is silent and the public is indifferent. Now is the time to express solidarity and maintain our protest.

The invasion to Salfit creates new (though not unexpected) difficulties to our upcoming convoy on Saturday; nevertheless, we have no intention to concede and surrender. Though under such constraints our chances to form an open gathering with the community are slender, we are determined to convey the medical equipment to its destination. As you know, the convoy is set to bring an ultrasound, photo-spectrometer and other auxiliary equipment to the regional medical center. We are expected to have a more complicated acticity, but its success is important more then ever.

The convoy is set to leave on Saturday, though its program may alter with the consequences. We need each and every one of you! Please follow the updates in the Ta'ayush voicemail (03-6914437) and on the e-mail.

We'll meet on Saturday, July 6th in the gas station at the southern entrence to Kufr-Kassem at 10:00. Meeting places: Tel-Aviv: 9:20 EL-AL checkpoint in Rakevet Tzafon. Info: Dan, 054-908107 Jerusalem: 9:00 Binyanei Hauma. Info: Karen 054-405777 Haifa: 8:30 (further notice to be sent soon)

Bring your IDs, cameras and cell-phones, and don't forget a hat, walking shoes, food and water.

Background Ta'ayush - Arab-Jewish Partnership will be holding its next solidarity convoy on Saturday, 6/7/02 to the Salfit region, east of Kufr Kassem. The convoy's immediate purpose is to bring essential medical equipment - ultrasound, photospectrometer, computers and auxiliary medical equipment ? to a medical center in the area. Sharon is leading us all to another round of bloodshed. In these times too, we wish to strengthen the Israeli-Palestinian solidarity and to point out, through our activity, an alternative to the circle of oppression, killing and hate.

For many months now, ill people in the Salfit region are unable to reach the hospitals of Nablus and Ramallah in order to receive adequate medical treatment. As in other places in the West Bank, pregnant women about to give birth are held at checkposts and the condition of chronically-ill patients is deteriorating. The continuing policy of encircling towns has turned the Palestinians into prisoners in their own towns. This policy is an important part in the campaign led by Sharon to undermine the Palestinian population's hold on its land and its determination to resist the occupation. This pressure is especially aimed at villages and towns near the Green Line (regions of Tul-Karem, Kalkilya, Salfit), some of which are in areas Sharon intends to annex.

To serve the population of the Salfit region, around 60,000 people, residents of the region have founded a medical center, intended to relieve the distress situation and to enable the provision of emergency medical treatment. The center has been built solely on the basis of funds provided by the community itself, without any external assistance. Ta'ayush has responded to the invitation of activists from the community and of persons from medical center, and took upon itself to strengthen it by contributing some expensive medical equipment which are essential to its operation - an ultrasound machine, a photospectrometer for the analysis of laboratory tests, and computers. We need your contributions to finance the purchase of this equipment. It is also possible to contribute computers and printers. Together we will bring the equipment, meet the residents of the area and protest against the policy of strangulation.

Contributions can be made to Ta'ayush bank account no. 396608, Bank Hapoalim, Ramat Aviv branch (no. 606), or by sending a check made out to Ta?ayush, P.O.Box 59380 Tel Aviv 61593. Contributions from abroad can be made to Bank HaPoalim, Swift code POALILITA (Ramat Aviv branch), 12-606-396608.

If you can contribute computers or printers, please write to Yaron at y.caspi@weizmann.ac.il

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[4] Yesh Gvul: prison update

From: "ram rahat"

Date sent: Tue, 2 Jul 2002 18:56:48 +0200

Dear Friend,

As the Israeli army continues to invoke “the war on terror” as guise for its Operation "Determined Path" in defence of the illegal outposts and settlements, resorting to emergency orders to call up ever more reservists, there are still those who have chosen the determined path of refusal. Four more reservists have been imprisoned during the past week for refusing to take part in the Occupation. New in Prison

- Lt. Udi Orr, (29) was sentenced on June 24th to 28 days at Prison 6. Udi, a student, is married and lives in Jerusalem. He serves in the infantry.

- Corporal Plato Melinovski, (30) was sentenced on July 1st to 28 days. Plato is married and a student in Tel Aviv. He serves in the armoured corps.

- Also sentenced were Gadi Sprukt and B.

Any groups interested in adopting one of these refuseniks should get in touch with Ram at rahat@isdn.net.il

Released

In the past week several refuseniks were released from prison: Sefi Sendik; R.B.; Itai Swirsky; Gilad Swirsky and Daniel Weinbach Still in Prison (and adopted) Guy Rozin and Amit Bar-Tzedeq A quick quiz: Which of these leaders was democratically elected by a minority of the electorate: George W. Bush or Yaser Arafat? --------------------- peretz kidron - ram rahat-goodman

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[5] Students and professors call for the opening of Birzeit

Israeli academics have been collecting signatures on a protest petition (so far 327 signed) which is soon due to be published as an ad. For further details contact: Jacob Katriel

Already several weeks before the present full-scale reoccupation of the whole West Bank, the army has effectively stopped academic activity at Bir-Zeit Univerity by blocking the only road leading to Birzeit village from Ramallah. As a result of the roadblock, all academic activities in Birzeit University have been completely paralyzed, and the University's authorities fear they will have to cancel the current semester. Birzeit is not only the most important research center in the occupied territories, but also a vital center of Palestinian civil society.

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[6] Israeli court rules to deport international peace workers

From: Huwaida Arraf

Date sent: Thu, 4 Jul 2002 03:59:27 -0700 (PDT)

INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT Thursday, July 04, 2002

For Immediate Release

ISRAELI COURT RULES TO DEPORT INTERNATIONAL PEACE WORKERS

[JERUSALEM] The district court of Jerusalem today ruled against the three international peace activists and human rights workers: Josie Sandercock (UK), Darlene Wallach (US) and Mikoto (Japan) and confirmed their deportation by the Israeli Ministry of Interior.

The judge in the case, who had appeared to be reasonable on the first day of the trial did not give the plaintiffs verbal reason for confirming their deportation and stated that it “was not [her] job to ascertain the facts.” Josie brought up the fact that the reason given by the soldiers for their deportation was the same lie used against another American and two Reuters journalists 3 days ago when they were detained by Israeli soldiers – that they were shown papers my the Israeli army, that they were in a closed military zone and they refused to leave (video footage clearly shows that the internationals were not denied entry into Nablus, from where they were detained/arrested.

Josie and Darlene are working on having the papers given to them in Hebrew translated and will decide whether or they will appeal the decision to the Israeli Supreme Court.

“It’s not about the decision or what’s being done to us, rather it’s about what the Israeli military is doing to the Palestinians and doesn’t want the world to see. They are shooting at seven-year old boys in the streets and think that if they prevent us (foreign civilians) from entering Palestinian areas, they can keep the world from knowing.”

Thus far the Israeli Ministry of Interior has deported upwards of 50 foreign peace and human rights workers and has denied hundreds entry into the country. The only way you can get to Palestinian cities, towns and villages (all under Israeli occupation) is through Israel. And yet, we will not by deterred. We will keep resisting the brutal and inhumane Israeli occupation and the illegal policies of the occupation forces. We reaffirm our call to all good people around the world not to stay silent. Keep coming to Palestine – We need you.

For more information on how to join us in Palestine – www.palsolidarity.org

To contact Josie or Darlene: Josie: +972-67-490-566; Darlene: +972-55-971-842

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[7] What goes unnoticed in the many villages

From: "hearpalestine"

Date sent: Wed, 03 Jul 2002 18:36:55 -0000

HEAR PALESTINE

Wednesday, 3 July 2002

*Ongoing Israeli Attacks in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip

*Israeli Army Invades More West Bank Villages and Carries Out Arrests

*Hundreds of Fruitful Olive Trees Destroyed near Bethlehem

Ongoing Israeli Attacks in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip*

Israeli soldiers based at al-Tuffah military roadblock attacked homes west of Khan Younis today with heavy machine gun fire. One residential building in the area was attacked with a missile.

The Israeli army also attacked Khaza'a, east of Khan Younis, once again today, wounding a young boy moderately while he was playing with a group of children on Al-Najjar Street.

On another front, Israeli bulldozers continued to demolish agricultural land today. Dozens of dunums (1dunum=1000m2) of land (northwest Khan Younis), cultivated with citrus and olive trees and vegetables were destroyed.

The Israeli army early this morning invaded al-Rabwat area (within a distance of 200 meters), north of Khan Younis under intense fire. Israeli soldiers raided and searched homes in the invaded areas.

Israeli soldiers at the same time continue to carry acts of destruction in other areas of the Gaza Strip.

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*Israeli Army Invades More West Bank Villages and Carries Out Arrests*

The Israeli army carried out arrests in Qibya, west of Ramallah during an invasion of the village and an imposed curfew on the residents. At least 12 civilians were arrested from the village. The Israeli army continues to impose a curfew on the village and the neighboring Shaqba village, which was invaded at an earlier stage of the day. Similar attacks were carried out in Shaqba where several of the residents were arrested.

In Ramallah, Israeli soldiers invaded the civil service building for the fifth time and arrested four workers after causing destruction to the building.

The Israeli army this morning invaded Sanirya village southwest Salfeet, imposed a curfew on the residents and carried out collective arrests. The Israeli army continues to occupy Salfeet and a number of its surrounding villages. The curfew was lifted in these areas today for a number of hours, however an intense Israeli military presence was reported in residential areas.

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*Hundreds of Fruitful Olive Trees Destroyed near Bethlehem*

The Israeli army devastated agricultural land near Wadi al-Nar route near Bethlehem. Over 500 fruitful olive trees, the source of living for several of the residents, were destroyed on the road, which links north and south West Bank.

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[8] How Abd a-Samed became the 116th child killed in Gaza - Amira Hass

Some 26 percent of those killed by IDF fire in the Strip are children, compared to 15 percent in the West Bank Ha'aretz, July 2

By Amira Hass The June 21 funeral of Abd a-Samed Shamalekh, 10 : "What did he do that they shot him? He didn't even throw stones." (Photo: Reuters ) GAZA - He loved nothing more than to go down to the sea, swim, and fly his home-made kite - but on Friday morning, June 21, Abd a-Samed Shamalekh, aged 10, went instead to his family's plot of land to pick eggplants and cucumbers.

This is how Abd a-Samed and his brother Mohammed, 12, spent their summer vacation - either by the sea, or working in the fields and selling vegetables. The family owns 4.5 dunams of land and the vegetables they grow on it support 15 people.

The Shamalekh family lives in the Sheikh Ajlin neighborhood, in the southern part of Gaza City. It is a crowded place of two-story homes built in the past two decades by people whose main livelihood comes from tilling the soil. The neighborhood sprawls over the sandy hill that rises from the beach. Red Bougainvillea sprout from the sand and climb over the iron gates and up the concrete plaster of the houses. The narrow, bottleneck of a coastal road separates the family's home from the sea. They ride in a donkey cart to the field, about 1.5 kilometers to the south.

As in most of Sheikh Ajlin, the land was once planted with vines but the Shamalekh family switched to vegetables. A vineyard produced grapes once a year, but vegetables provide work and income throughout the whole year.

On June 21, there was shooting early in the morning. Perhaps at 5, or maybe at 6 A.M. It's hard to remember exactly, the family says. When they looked outside, they saw the southbound traffic had come to a halt and realized it would be still impossible to get the field. Around 8:00 or 8:30, the cars began to move again and the family understood that the situation had calmed. Shooting, a traffic halt, more shooting, and then quiet again - it's a regular routine in the neighborhood.

Netzarim settlement is 2 km to the southeast, guarded by "half the Israeli army" as they say in Gaza. Most of the agricultural land in the sand dunes surrounding Netzarim has already been destroyed in the past 22 months. Fields and hothouses have been crushed, raked over, and flattened, with grape vines uprooted or cut down. Dry tomato plants and remnants of grapevines are scattered on the sides of the road. Nonetheless, some green patches have survived and they continue to be worked by their owners or by those who have leased the plots - on the eastern and western sides of the coastal road.

The asphalt road leading to Netzarim to the east is barred to Palestinian traffic and used only for tanks and jeeps. A single dwelling, belonging to the Abu Husa family, stands alone in the scorched earth. The IDF has taken up positions in this house for over a year, keeping close watch on the farmers returning to their fields and on the vehicles and carts on the road.

Lots of blood

Abd a-Samed and Mohammed went to the field that Friday morning to see what was happening - the curiosity of children. Rumors had reached the city that an Israeli bulldozer had begun to destroy and clear out the farm plots in the area. They also wanted to pick several kilos of vegetables and bring them in the cart to their father, so he could sell them in the market. Then they'd be able to return to the sea and play with the kite, the wind and waves.

Just after 9 o'clock in the morning, about half an hour after the children left the house, word reached the parents that Mohammed was wounded. Then they were told that it was Abd a-Samed and that he had been rushed to the hospital. The parents found his dead body at the hospital with a bullet in his head. On that Friday morning, Palestinians had fired an improvised anti-tank rocket against an IDF position adjacent to the Netzarim settlement. A Givati soldier was seriously injured.

Army sources told Ha'aretz that this had occurred at six or seven in the morning and that IDF forces "identified the sources of shooting and returned fire." Later, the IDF destroyed a nearby position of the Palestinian naval police. According to the IDF Spokesman, the rocket had been fired from this naval base. Did Palestinians also fire at an IDF post at 9 A.M.? The IDF Spokesman told Ha'aretz that it is reasonable to assume that there was and that the IDF had fired in response. Journalists who visited the spot, a researcher for the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and residents of the area said that the scene had already become quiet by 8:30 and there were no exchanges of gunfire. The fact is traffic had begun to move again, farmers had begun to hurry to their fields to see what had happened to their plots of land, and photographers came to take pictures of the bulldozer moving back and forth over the ground, crushing additional vegetable plants. Heavy fire suddenly broke through the quiet.

The reporters and residents said that the shooting came either from the positions in Netzarim or from a tank that had just crossed the road. Dozens of people, mostly women and children, clung to the ground in fear, their faces buried in the sand and soil. Mohammed and his brother Abd a-Samed had had almost reached their family's land already when the shooting began. Like everyone else, they lay flat on the ground - or at least Mohammed thought so.

After several minutes, he said to his brother that the shooting was apparently over and they could continue on. Abd a-Samed didn't answer and when Mohammed turned to look, he saw lots of blood. He called for help, but there was no ambulance in the area. Someone dragged Abd a-Samed to a donkey cart that somebody else brought. They took the child in this cart, not knowing whether he was still alive, until they reached an ambulance.

"He was already gone when they brought him from there," the father says. "What did he do that they shot at him? He didn't even throw stones. The soldiers have everything - cameras, binoculars - they always brag that they see everything. So they could know very well that this child didn't shoot at them. They could see very clearly that they were children and that they had no weapons. This was also in broad daylight, not in the dark."

Later, the bulldozer also plowed up the Shamalekh family's vegetable plot. All of the cucumbers, eggplants, and tomatoes were crushed. All of their livelihood for the summer and fall months was ruined in a matter of minutes. Three motorized pumps that brought water from the well were also destroyed. Since the days of the Turks, we have been working this land," the father said. "Now we'll go and sell lupine beans in the street," his wife said with a bitter laugh.

Their son Mohammed contributes a small pittance to the family - he helps his uncle in construction work, returning home with black and blistered hands. The family still has another half a dunam, where it grows tomatoes. But since it is now impossible to export vegetables from Gaza to the West Bank or Israel, there is a huge supply of tomatoes and their low price in the Gaza market does not cover the cost of cultivation. A carton of 17 kilos of tomatoes sells for only three shekels.

Killing Gaza kids

Abd a-Samed Shamalekh, who was supposed to start Grade 4 after the summer vacation, was the 116th Palestinian child the IDF has killed in the Gaza Strip since September 28, 2000. According to figures compiled by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, 450 Palestinians have been killed by the IDF during the intifada as of yesterday. These figures do not include those who mounted offensives against IDF positions or settlements and were killed during these attacks. The numbers do include armed Palestinian civilians or security personnel who responded to IDF attacks against residential neighborhoods in the Gaza Strip.

According to these strict criteria, 1,398 people were killed by IDF fire in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the intifada as of June 18. (Since then, 8 more were killed in Gaza and at least 15 in the West Bank.)

Of these 1,398 fatalities, 253 were children. This does not include Shamalekh, a 17-year old from Rafah, seven children killed by IDF fire during the past 10 days in the West Bank, and another child who died when his house collapsed after the IDF destroyed an adjacent home.

Among the Palestinian dead are 77 women, including 18 in the Gaza Strip. Since this data was compiled on June 18, another woman was also killed by the IDF in Dir al-Balah.

The proportion of children among those killed in Gaza is much higher than in the West Bank - 26 percent of the fatalities in Gaza were children, compared to 15 percent in the West Bank. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights attributes this to the higher population density in the Gaza Strip, to the fact that children make up over 50 percent of this crowded region, and to the close proximity of IDF bases to Palestinian communities. But the Center's analysts believe that the high number of child victims primarily indicates that IDF forces have often fired at civilians and residential areas without using the means at their disposal to confirm that their fire is indeed directed precisely "at the sources of [Palestinian] fire."

According to the Center, this high number of children killed also reflects the fact the IDF has sometimes responded to shootings hours after an incident, not as part of an exchange of fire. This is how Abd a-Samed Shamalekh was killed.

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[9] Spreading the secret - a positive note from Gila Svirsky

Date sent: Thu, 04 Jul 2002 02:35:23 +0200

From: Gila Svirsky

Spreading the Secret

One of the best kept secrets in Israel is that most Israelis are fed up with the occupation, and just want to get out.

According to June's findings by Mina Zemach, Israel's foremost pollster, 63% of Israelis are in favor of "unilateral withdrawal". In fact, 69% call for the evacuation of "all" or "most of" the settlements.

Mina's numbers are corroborated by everybody else: The Peace Index of Tel-Aviv University's Tami Steinmitz Center found that 65% of Israelis "are prepared to evacuate the settlements under a unilateral separation program".

A poll commissioned by Peace Now a month earlier revealed that 59% of Israelis support immediate evacuation of most settlements, followed by a unilateral withdrawal of the army from the occupied territories.

Here's another "secret" revealed by Mina Zemach: 60% of Israelis believe that Israel should agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state as part of a peace agreement.

Is this too much good news all at once? To temper it, here are a few more findings by Mina Zemach: 74% of Israelis say that Sharon is doing a good job and 60% believe that the Israeli army should be allowed to attack the refugee camps in Gaza.

To quote Mina Zemach's closing remarks (at a lecture I heard her give in Tel Aviv yesterday, sponsored by the New Israel Fund), "Similar trends appear on the Palestinian side in surveys conducted by my Palestinian colleagues. Both sides want their leaders to be very aggressive, but most are willing to have a peaceful, two-state solution."

Mis-perceptions and Manipulations

The findings alone are impressively pro-peace, but there are two more amazing aspects, in my opinion. The first is that most Israelis are not aware that the majority want the occupation to go away. To illustrate, I report an informal experiment conducted by peace activist Ron HaCohen in his Tel-Aviv University class. When asked what opinion the students believed was most common among Israelis, they guessed "dismantle most" or "dismantle only a few" of the settlements. Little did they suspect that the category "dismantle ALL the settlements" was the one most commonly chosen. Ron's students guessed that the Israeli public was much more pro-settlement than it actually is. Most people, I believe, feel this way.

The second amazing aspect relates to the fact that the government can get away with ignoring this information. To quote columnist Hannah Kim in yesterday's Ha'aretz, "This has been and still is one of the great mysteries: How is it that there is no political expression of the fact that most of the Israeli public is in favor of evacuating the settlements?" For months, I have been asking people their thoughts about this. The following answers seem to sum up the views I heard:

(1) First, Mark Mellman, one of the top political consultants in Washington, was not surprised. He said that it's not unusual for policymakers to ignore majority views, and that it's our job to get them to sit up and notice.

(2) Ron HaCohen said, "Our main source of information about what people think, feel or believe is the mass media. The media portray the Israeli people as much more pro-settlements than they really are."

(3) Hanna Kim suggests that the power of the settlements is a combination of their integration into the Israeli economy [Boycott settler goods! - GS] and the effectiveness of their Knesset lobby. This fits into what is generally known about the power of small, but determined lobbies...on many issues and in many countries.

To all the above, I would add the determination of the Sharon government to play deaf to this view. When asked about abandoning even remote, isolated settlements, Sharon sidesteps the question. When pressed, he recently responded that Netzarim - the Gaza settlement that everyone loves to hate - is as dear to his heart as Tel Aviv. In other words, not a single settlement is negotiable.

I was privileged to hear a great panel discussion this evening, sponsored by Bat Shalom, on the subject of the "fence" that Israel has begun to erect between Israel and Palestine. All the panelists (five Israeli and Palestinian women professors who are also peace activists) felt that the fence would conceal the real issue - the Palestinian suffering on the other side as a result of the occupation - and would replace a negotiated peace agreement. Galia Golan also pointed out that the fence was being used to grab more land, as it was not being built on the Green Line, and that it ultimately would provide little protection, as mortars and rockets could go right over it. Other speakers were Rima Hamami, Inas Haj, Naomi Chazan, and Tanya Reinhart.

The most impassioned plea of the evening came from Tanya, who begged the audience to listen to the polls and trust that people mean what they are saying. "Now is the time to call for leaving the territories immediately, unilaterally," said Tanya, "just as we did in Lebanon."

I think she's right.

Gila Svirsky Jerusalem

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Full transcript of the war crimes panel available on the Gush site For Hebrew http://www.gush-shalom.org/archives/forum.html For English http://www.gush-shalom.org/archives/forum_eng.html French available at request

Also on the site:

photo's - of action or otherwise informative the weekly Gush Shalom ad - in Hebrew and English the columns of Uri Avnery - in Hebrew, Arab and English (and a lot more) http://www.gush-shalom.org

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At The UN: Paris Climate Agreement Moves Closer To Entry Into Force

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Gordon Campbell: On The End Game In Spain (And Other World News)

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Amnesty/Human Rights Watch: Appalling Abuse, Neglect Of Refugees On Nauru

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Other Australian Detention

Gordon Campbell: On The Censorship Havoc In South Africa’s State Broadcaster

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Gordon Campbell: On A Bad Week For Malcolm Turnbull, And The Queen

Malcolm Turnbull’s immediate goal – mere survival – is still within his grasp... In every other respect though, this election has been a total disaster for the Liberals. More>>

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Gordon Campbell: On Bidding Bye Bye To Boris

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