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Gaza: Stop the Siege! Stop the War! Protest Month

Gaza
Stop the Siege! Stop the War!
A month of protest: November 4 - December 2, 2006

Dear friends,

We would like to start this mail by expressing our outrage at the horrifying Israeli carnage of civilians in Bet Hanoun in Gaza Strip, that cost the lives of 20 civilians, among them 7 children and 6 women, and left many more injured. Since the end of June, Israeli military assaults on civilians in Gaza have resulted in the killing of 383 Palestinians, among them 68 children and 14 women.

The international response to the "End the Siege on Gaza Campaign" has been overwhelming, and we wish to thank all of you for your efforts. In our next mail we will give you a list of the actions planned for the weeks ahead. As there is still much work to do, and only 3 weeks until the end of the campaign, please let us know as soon as possible:

- Your plans for December 2, the last day of the campaign, and the day when we plan to hold demonstrations around the world. We want to publish the information on the website, and include it in the updates that we will send

- What you think you will need in the campaign activities. For starters, you will find both below and attached to this mail 4 WORD documents that we hope will make your work easier:

1. Question & answer sheet about the current situation in the Gaza Strip

2. Email addresses, fax numbers and other contact info for Israel's PM, Defense Minister and Chief of Staff, so that thousands of messages condemning their policies reach them from all over the world

3. Sample letter addressed to Israeli decision makers

4. Sample letter to elected parliamentarians and decision makers in the international community

- In the next few days we plan to send you a PowerPoint presentation with information on the situation in Gaza, and a poster designed by David Tartakover, a well known Israeli artist, that we would like to use as the main visual prop in all the actions and the demos worldwide, to show that all the activities are part of a coordinated, joint international campaign

Further to our first mail calling to "End the Siege on Gaza Campaign", we suggest that you use the month up to the big demonstration on December 2 to raise awareness in your communities. Some ways to do this are: organizing emergency delegations to the region that will witness and report on the situation on the ground, sending letters, faxes, and petitions to your elected representatives, holding vigils, public events, and hearings about the situation in Gaza, sending protest letters to Israeli decision makers, and distributing fact sheets and information on the situation in Gaza and on the campaign activities in Israel and the Occupied Territories..

These are the activities that took place during the past week in Israel: (all photos credit to: activestills.org)

- 4.11.06 Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, protest action and distribution of 12,000 flyers: during the annual event in memory of the murder of Yizhak Rabin we formed three human chains and distributed stickers, black balloons and flyers

- 6.11.06 Tzavta Hall, Tel Aviv, public event: Are war crimes taking place in Gaza? Speakers: Former Palestinian Minister of Prisoners` Affairs Sufian Abu Zayda (from Gaza), Writer Ronit Matalon, Sari Bashi (lawyer, head of "Gisha") and Haaretz journalist Danny Rubinstein.

- 7.11.06 Bat Shalom, Jerusalem, screening of the documentary "Red Fields": a film by Ayelet Heller and Osnat Trabelsi which portrays Palestinian strawberry growers that struggle to produce a crop, while simultaneously coming under attack from the Israeli army.

- 8.11.06 Defense Minister's Office and IDF Central Command, Hakirya, Tel Aviv, protest vigil

- 8.11.06 Haifa: Protest vigil to condemn the massacre in Bet Hanoun

- 9.11.06 Salon Mazal, Tel Aviv, screening of the documentary "Red Fields"

- 9.11.06 Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv: Protest vigil to condemn the massacre in Bet Hanoun

- 12.11.06 Car cavalcade to the Erez Checkpoint: A car convoy of more than 40 cars, about 200 people, with black ribbons, black flags and the Gaza poster that drove slowly south from Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem. There was a significant, though not large, Palestinian representation. During the demonstration by the checkpoint there were a few speeches, and some slogans chanted—with the Palestinian women leading them. At the end a minute of silence.

Please send us your photos and news items about the activities that are taking place where you live and we will publish then in the website: http://gazasiege.net/Campaign_info_eng.htm

We look forward to your mails

Debby Lerman

debbyl@actcom.co.il

for the organizing Committee of "End the Siege on Gaza Campaign"

(Coalition of Women for Peace; Gush Shalom; Hadash; Anarchists Against the Wall; The High School Seniors Letter; Taayush; Yesh Gvul; Rights; ICAHD,The Students Coalition - Tel Aviv )

1. Question & Answer Sheet About The Current Situation In The Gaza Strip

Compiled by the "End the Siege on Gaza Campaign"

The Campaign represents a coalition of groups from the Israeli peace movement: Coalition of Women for Peace; Gush Shalom; Hadash; Anarchists Against the Wall; The High School Seniors Letter; Taayush; Yesh Gvul; ICAHD,The Students Coalition - Tel Aviv.

Introduction

In the summer of 2005 Israel implemented its plan for "disengagement" from the Gaza Strip designed, among other things, according to the government of Israel at the time, to create "potential for the improvement of the Palestinian economy and living conditions". Ever since then, Gaza has been under siege, bolstered periodically by Israeli military attacks—overland, aerial and sea. The combination of violence and hunger now pose a dire threat to the lives of 1.4 million people who are living in the Gaza Strip—women and men, elderly and children, combatants and a vast majority of civilians. This policy has nothing to do with the security of Israel's citizens. On the contrary, turning the Strip into a giant powder keg means a threat to all Israelis, including, first of all, the Israeli residents of the areas adjacent to Gaza some of whom are among the most poverty stricken people in Israel.

"Israel evacuated the Gaza Strip and it didn't help—the violence didn't stop; what do the Palestinians want?"

Israel evacuated the settlements in the Gaza Strip unilaterally, without conducting negotiations with the Palestinian Authority or reaching an agreed settlement on the future of the Strip. The unilateral evacuation, as well as the failure to negotiate agreed accords, meant a missed opportunity to advance a political solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In addition, this combination worked to undermine the status of the Palestinian Authority.

"The occupation of Gaza is over. Israel is no longer responsible for what takes place in the Strip".

When Israel evacuated the settlements and the military forces from Gaza, it declared and end to the military government of the Strip. Today, however, while there is indeed no permanent military presence within the Gaza Strip, Israel continues to exert nearly full control over every aspect of life within the area. Gaza's shores, its airspace and the overland passage between the Strip and the West Bank are all fully controlled by Israel. Israel also retains complete control of the entry and exit of goods into and out of the Strip, as well as the entry and exit of people. In addition, Israel controls the registration of births, deaths, marriages and people's place of residence, including the administration of requests for family reunion. Under the Oslo Accords Israel also continues to control major portions of the taxation system of the Palestinian Authority.

"The Palestinians are firing Qassam rockets into Israel, aimed at killing civilians, while the Israelis are fighting a war on terror."

While armed Palestinian groups are indeed firing Qassam rockets at Israeli towns, a total of 480 rockets in all have been fired between June and November 2006, injuring a total of seventeen Israelis. At the same time, the Israeli military assault against the Gaza Strip since Corporal Gilad Shalit was taken prisoner has taken over 350 Palestinian lives, at least half of them civilians including 80 children, while injuring over 800 Palestinians. The Israel Defense Force has caused enormous damage to the infrastructure of the Strip—half of the power supply in Gaza has been cut since the bombing of the power plant, causing severe damage to the water pumping system and the sewage system. The summary executions referred to by Israel as "targeted assassinations", often carried out from helicopter gunships, as well as the recurring artillery fire place the lives of the 1.4 million citizens of the Gaza Strip in constant jeopardy. The sonic "booms" created by Israeli Air Force planes have no military justification whatsoever. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert himself described their intent precisely: "no one in Gaza will be able to sleep ".

"How can Israel be held responsible for the economic situation in Gaza?"

Since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967 and up until the Oslo Accords in 1993, development in the Occupied Territories was totally arrested. Over those years, Israel found it very convenient to exploit the Palestinians as a cheap labor force and therefore intentionally prevented economic development both in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank. In 1991, Israel began a process of gradually lowering the number of Gazan workers who were allowed access to Israel, finally blocking the entry of workers altogether. Some of the workers who were laid off in this process were then employed by the Palestinian Authority. However, since the elections that brought Hamas into power, Israel has stopped transferring the taxes that it legally owes the Palestinian Authority. Consequently, in addition to hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers, employees of the Palestinian Authority have received no salaries since March 2006, that is for 8 months now. Moreover, due to the economic blockade on Gaza the unemployment has soared to 40% and the number of families living in poverty has reached an unprecedented 80%. Seventy-five percent of the inhabitants of the Strip are currently suffering food shortages.

"There's no point in Israel conducting negotiations with a nation that elected a terrorist organization as its leader."

There is full international consensus that the elections held in the Palestinian Authority were truly democratic and that Hamas was legally elected. In past, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and it's largest component movement, Fateh, were also defined by Israel as terrorist organizations, a fact that Israel's government tends to ignore at its convenience. The leaders of Hamas have declared time and again that they are willing to conduct negotiations with Israel, under the direction of PLO leader and Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). It is clearly in the interests of the people of Israel to have their government negotiate with an elected Palestinian government that is enjoys full public trust. The Prisoners Document and the Saudi Initiative are excellent foundations for dialogue between Israel, the Palestinian leadership and the Arab countries. If Israel continues ignoring and sidelining the elected leadership of the Palestinian people, more and more Palestinians may arrive at the conclusion that the only way forward is armed struggle.

"What's the problem with closing the borders—isn't it simply a legitimate way to prevent terrorist attacks?"

Closing the borders has clearly failed to prevent the firing of Qassam rockets or the digging of tunnels. On the other hand, it imposes direct and severe damages upon the entire population of the Gaza Strip. It was intended to do so in order to exert pressure upon the government led by Hamas. Israel controls the closing and opening of the borders between Gaza and the outside world, including the operation of the Rafah border crossing into Egypt. Since the capture of Corporal Shalit, Israel has kept the borders closed most of the time, preventing the passage of people and goods, in contravention of agreements brokered by the U.S. and signed by Israel. The siege of the Gaza Strip is a form of collective punishment which is being imposed upon every resident of the Strip, turning the entire area into a huge prison and denying its residents work, vital goods, appropriate medical care and basic human rights.

"The only solution is a re-occupation of Gaza."

The military operations conducted by Israel in the Strip have not brought back the prisoner of war Gilad Shalit. They have failed completely to end the firing of Qassam rockets into Israel. As the recent war in Lebanon failed to provide a solution to the conflict with Hezbollah, in Gaza and the West Bank too, military actions will provide no solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The security of Israel's residents will only be ensured though a political settlement putting a true end to Israeli rule in the occupied territories and incorporating a recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people. Re-occupying Gaza will not solve anything and, moreover, its cost in terms of the lives of both civilians and soldiers will prove unbearable—both for Israeli society and for Palestinian society. At this moment, however, before all else, the siege of the Gaza Strip must end immediately.

2. Contact Info for PM, Chief of Staff, Defense Minister

1. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert

- • Address: 3 Kaplan St

Jerusalem 91919

- • Phone: +972 2 6705555

- • Fax: +972 2 -6705475

- • Email: pmo.heb@it.pmo.gov.il

2. Defense Minister Amir Peretz

- • Address: Defense Ministry

37 Kaplan St

Tel Aviv 61909

- • Phone: +972 3 6975349

- • Fax: +972 3 6976218 /691 6940 / 696 2757 / 691 7915/

- • Email: sar@mod.gov.il; pniot@mod.gov.il ; aperetz@knesset.gov.il

3. IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz

- • Address: Chief of Staff Office

Defense Ministry

7 A Street

Hakyria

Tel Aviv 61909

- • Phone: +972 3 6109898 / 6080200/19

- • Fax: + 972 3 691 6940 / 608 0343

- • Email: info@mail.idf.il

3. Sample petition to Israeli decision makers

Gaza: Stop the Siege - Stop the War!

I wish to express my outrage at the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, caused by the siege, and the constant bombardments and attacks by the IDF.

I call on you to immediately end the siege and the war on the civilian population of Gaza, to withdraw the armed forces, release the tax revenues confiscated from the Palestinian government, and embark upon negotiations with the legitimate Palestinian representatives.

Stop the destruction!
Stop the siege of the Gaza Strip!

4. Sample letter to elected representatives and official personalities

To: XXXXXX

Outraged by the silence and indifference of our elected officials/ country/ our government/ our organization/ the international community to the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, we turn to you to ask for your help.

The situation in Gaza has reached emergency levels - inadequate water, electricity, and medicine; widespread hunger, poverty, and unemployment; schools and other services rendered inoperative; constant bombardments and attacks by the Israeli military. On November 8, the bombardment of a building in Bet Hanoun cost the lives of 21 civilians, among them 8 children and 4 women, and injured many others.

The cause for this humanitarian catastrophe is the siege of the Gaza Strip by Israel and the sanctions imposed by the international community on the Palestinian people, made worse by ongoing IDF attacks. If this siege continues, we will see spreading disease, malnutrition, and more violence.

We call on you speak out and demand from our parliament and government to pressure the government of Israel to end the siege of Gaza and its war on the civilian population of Gaza, to withdraw its armed forces, release the tax revenues confiscated from the Palestinian government, and embark upon negotiations with the Palestinian legitimate representatives.

We also request your insistence that our government stop the political and economic sanctions imposed on the Palestinian people, by our country as well as the international community.

Please join us in the international campaign to end the siege on Gaza, called for the month of November, and in the activities planned for the international day of protest on December 2, 2006, by:

- Visiting the region as part of a delegation, to witness and report on events on the ground, and to meet decision makers in Israel and Palestine

- Hold a special hearing and debate on the siege on Gaza with the participation of other parliamentarians and decision makers.

- Send a letter to the Prime Minister and Defense Minister of Israel, condemning their current policy and demanding that Israel end the siege on Gaza and its war against the civilian population of Gaza, that it withdraw its armed forces from the Strip, that it transfers the tax revenues confiscated from the Palestinian government, and enter into negotiations with the legitimate Palestinian representatives.

For further details on the campaign and information on the situation in Gaza, please contact:

*************

GUSH SHALOM p.o.b. 3322 Tel Aviv 61033
info@gush-shalom.org For information, write to
w w w . g u s h - s h a l o m . o r g
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