To the BBC – please allow freedom of speech on Palestine
Open letter to Janice Hadlow | Controller BBC Four - From Leslie Bravery | 21 August 2013.
The British Broadcasting Corporation's silencing of Nigel Kennedy's voice is deplorable. Please ask the BBC to allow freedom speech – which is, after all, the cornerstone of democratic freedom. There is a growing, uncomfortably Orwellian feel to the BBC's constant censoring of anything that Israel and its supporters may find disagreeable. Among the Corporation's attempts to justify itself we have been told that the suggestion that Palestine is not free is “contentious”. It should be blindingly obvious that the belligerent military occupation of one people by another would be contentious. One side will want to justify it and the victims will want to expose it and appeal for justice. People should be free to hear both sides of any argument and make up their own minds.
PS: By setting itself up as both judge and jury, the BBC is exhibiting what seems to be contempt for the public's intelligence – not to mention the hard-won provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention. If the BBC genuinely believes that Palestine is in any way free, please ask the Corporation to give some thought to the following everyday realities of life for Palestinians under Israeli military occupation - LB :
Life under Israeli military occupation
Every area of Israeli Occupied Palestinian territory experiences arbitrary restrictions of movement imposed by the Israeli Army. The lack of freedom of movement is the frustrating and humiliating background to daily life for the Occupied Palestinian people whose suffering includes a variety of human rights abuses from night home invasions to wanton acts of agricultural and economic sabotage. The Israeli Occupation Army enforces a permit system for the benefit of settlers that determines where Palestinians may live in their own land.
Across the Occupied West Bank, Israel's illegal settlements have completely free access to water. Settler homes enjoy full swimming pools and well-watered gardens while Palestinian access to their own water is severely restricted. Israel compounds this crime in two ways: The Zionist state forces Palestinians to pay the Israeli government public water supply company Mekorot for what little water they are allowed and, at the same time, Israel forbids Palestinians to sink wells or even build water storage facilities. Palestinians living under Israeli occupation are restricted to about 70 litres a day per person – well below the 100 litres per capita daily recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – whereas Israeli daily per capita consumption, at about 300 litres, is about four times as much. In some rural communities Palestinians survive on far less than even the average 70 litres, in some cases barely 20 litres per day, the minimum amount recommended by the WHO for emergency situations response.
In addition, reports by both the World Bank and the United Nations Environment Programme show that the water crisis in Gaza is likely to be both critical and irreversible by 2020. The reports show that Gaza is almost completely dependent on a coastal aquifer that has now become filled with undrinkable sea water. Both international bodies express concern that Israeli military occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip means severe limitations on people's access to essential water supplies.
Israel places checkpoints at the entrances to towns and villages to prevent people entering or leaving. Interference with people attempting to move around towns and villages consists of blocking roads with concrete blocks, barbed-wire and/or earth mounds on roads. People attempting to transport farm produce and other goods find obstacles placed on the roads by the Israeli Army. Trucks have to be unloaded by hand and similarly re-loaded onto vehicles brought from beyond the obstructions. Road closures are used to isolate areas wherever the Israeli Army considers the presence of Palestinians to be ‘illegal’. When the Israeli Army declares a curfew, anyone appearing in the street or at a window is liable to be shot dead. There are instances of Palestinian mothers giving birth at checkpoints, having been denied ready access to hospital.
Agricultural and economic sabotage
Both the Israeli Army and illegal settlers, terrorise Palestinian farmers, often preventing them from working their land as well as frequently uprooting or setting fire to Palestinian olive trees and bulldozing their crops. The Gaza fishing industry is being crippled by the enforcement of a draconian fishing limit. The Israel Navy forces Palestinian fishing boats to remain within a three-nautical-mile, over-fished zone, sometimes at the cost to crews of life, limb and property. Gaza City's ruined international airport is permanently closed. Palestinians needing to enter or leave Palestine can do so only with Israeli permission. In addition to Israel's occasional massive bombing raids, Gaza residents are forced to live with the constant fear of overflying drones and the traumatising effects of sonic booms created by Israeli war-planes. The effects on the children of Gaza are particularly distressing.
House demolitions and evictions
The Israeli Army destroys Palestinian houses when they are built without Israel's permission. Israeli troops frequently invade Palestinian homes (often at dead of night) and abductions of Palestinian minors are commonplace while at the same time homes are often vandalised. Israeli soldiers frequently terrorise the youngsters with threats and/or by blindfolding them and tying their wrists behind their backs. Many children are illegally taken to prison in Israel, where more terror is practised against them, such as solitary confinement and shackling in painful positions for long periods. http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/23E460133DD0B4A285257B90004E995A
Israel’s toxic hazard weapon
Israel has devised yet another technique designed to to drive Palestinians from their land and weaken their resolve to resist. It is a direct assault on their health that carries the menace of further agricultural and economic sabotage. For instance, activity at Israel's Barkan industrial complex generates growing quantities of polluting waste-water from the production of plastics, lead and other commodities that endanger human health. Pollution from Barkan flows into the streams that run through valleys or wadis where there are Palestinian farms as well as towns. Israeli Occupation settlements discharge their untreated waste to add to the pollution. This practice poisons Palestinian land, crops, farm animals and essential, if meagre, water supplies. Settlers – with Israeli Army assistance – release wild pigs, that reproduce rapidly, into Palestinian areas, spoiling agriculture and damaging olive trees, fencing and small buildings. The pigs cannot be controlled because Israel will not allow the people to own or use firearms, or even knives to kill the pigs. Poison cannot be used because of the danger to Palestinian farm animals.
Israeli Army checkpoints feed semi-wild dogs to release at night in Palestinian areas. Even in towns like Beit Sahour, the sound of dogs continually barking during the small hours makes sleep difficult and discourages people from moving around during the late evening or early morning. In addition, when conducting home invasions, the Israeli Army often uses dogs to terrorise residents.
Forced evacuations of homes to facilitate Israeli Army military exercises
An example of this practice is contained in an International Women's Peace Service (IWPS) report on the Israeli Army's terrorising of a Bedouin community in the Jordan Valley. The report tells of a continual programme of Israeli military training in the village of ‘Atuf that traumatises the population. Every week 22 families amounting to 172 individuals, are displaced from their homes from 4am to 5pm by Israeli military live-fire exercises. Since 1967 Israeli troops have been forcing the Bedouin people to leave their houses each week. Whole families and their livestock are displaced to outlying fields to the sound of gunfire and explosions. The entire area is designated area “C” and there is a 'closed military zone' where nothing is allowed to be built or improved. An entire valley of fertile farmland lies uncultivated while the nearby Occupation settlement of Beqa constantly expands. In both ‘Atuf and Tamun countless houses have been demolished by the Israeli Army and many more are under demolition orders. Since 1970, 14 people have been killed and 30 have lost limbs due to exploding abandoned Israeli Army ordnance. The explosives can be as small as a pen, easily mistaken by children as harmless. The continual sound of explosions and gunfire results in many cases of psychological trauma, especially to children, and the only school in the district is within earshot of the weekly Israeli military exercises.
In addition to all of the above, Palestinians citizens of Israel as well as those living under occupation have to contend with more than 50 discriminatory Israeli laws. These affect all areas of life, including rights to political participation, access to land, education, state budget resources and criminal procedures. Some of the laws also violate the rights of refugees.
Israeli Army violence
The Israeli Occupation Army enforces many of the above restrictions with the threat, or actual use, of military action as well as personal physical assault. Thus, daily life for Palestinians is conducted in an all-pervasive atmosphere of violence and fear.
The Israeli Knesset has approved a plan for the mass expulsion of the Arab Bedouin community in the Naqab (Negev) desert in the south of Israel. When fully implemented, the Prawer plan will result in the destruction of 35 'unrecognised' Arab Bedouin villages with the forced displacement and dispossession of up to 70,000 Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel.