Monday 3 January 2011

Kia Ora Gaza: A new year, a new convoy

Why apartheid Israel is getting more brutal, 
and how Gaza aid convoys bring real hope

By Grant Morgan
Co-organiser of Kia Ora Gaza
1 January 2011

Israel’s ‘genocidal act’ two years ago

A ground invasion by massed regiments from the Middle East’s strongest military power. Plus aircraft and helicopter missile strikes. And tank and artillery barrages. Even the widespread use of white phosphorus, an internationally banned terror weapon, in high-density suburbs.

Such was the hellfire that, two years ago, Israel rained down on Gaza’s 1.5 million people, many of them refugees from lands ethnically cleansed by Zionist terrorists in decades past.

Breaking a longstanding ceasefire deal with the Hamas government, politicians in Tel Aviv unleashed total war against Gaza two days after Christmas 2008. Codenamed Operation Cast Lead, this one-sided slaughter lasted for 22 terrible days, and was only then called off due to public outrage around the world.

Among the Palestinians killed were 352 children. They included infants like Farah Ammar al-Helu, one year old, of al-Zaytoun. And school kids like Islam Khalil Abu Amsha, 12, of Shajaiyeh, and Mahmoud Khaled al-Mashharawi, 13, of al-Daraj.

Among Gaza’s 1,065 adults killed were elders like Kamla Ali al-Attar, 82, of Beit Lahiya, and Madallah Ahmed Abu Rukba, 81, of Jabaliya.

In total, 1,417 Palestinians died in what they call a “genocidal act”, compared to just 13 Israelis, four of them lost to their own “friendly fire”. Untold thousands more Gazans were maimed.

Destroyed were most of Gaza’s factories, along with water treatment, power generation and sewage plants, roads and bridges, water wells and farm greenhouses, teaching and health institutions, mosques and churches, and block after block of residential dwellings.

As if this “genocidal act” wasn’t bad enough, Gaza’s people and their economic means of survival have been savaged by a relentless siege both before and since Israel’s 2008 war. Over recent weeks, Israel appears to be revving up aircraft strikes and tank incursions inside the battered enclave, fueling fears of another invasion.

With the possible exception of trusted allies in the United States, Israel’s main diplomatic, military and financial backer, nobody outside Tel Aviv’s political and state elites are being informed about what future cruelties they are planning to inflict on Gaza.

Long reign of terror by Zionist state

Sadly, the horrors inflicted on Gaza over the past decade are nothing new.

Since arising in 1948, the Zionist state of Israel has inflicted a reign of terror on Palestinians everywhere which includes:

Wars of conquest.

Enforced mass exile.

Seizures of land and property.

Laws embedding racial discrimination.

Abductions, jailings and torture.

Ethnic separation.

Housing demolitions and evictions.

Economic blockades.

Daily harassment by police and army.

Denial of national statehood.

This blood-stained history is “the logical outcome of the racism that forms the inseparable core of Zionist ideology and practice”, notes Palestinian analyst Ali Abunimah.

Apartheid in Israel and South Africa
The racist record of Israel bears a close resemblance to the apartheid state of South Africa. Here blacks and Asians were “legally” denied the economic, political and social rights of the ruling white minority. Suffering under a reign of racist terror, “non-whites” were forcibly separated into impoverished Bantustans and slums.

Several days ago, on the 2nd anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, 37 civil society organisations in Gaza wrote an Open Letter asking the world to help them resist what they called “Apartheid Israel”. Signatories include trade unions, women’s groups, student movements, cultural associations, business federations, medical societies and children’s charities.

Kia Ora Gaza’s leadership agrees with Gaza’s civil society organisations that Israel is an apartheid state.

Roger Fowler, who captained Kia Ora Gaza’s team on the biggest international aid convoy to enter Gaza during 2010, was active in huge protests against the 1981 tour of New Zealand by a racially selected Springbok rugby team.

“Because South Africa was then practicing legalised discrimination against non-whites in the name of white privilege, it was fairly called an apartheid state,” says Roger. “Since legalised discrimination is today practiced by Israel against Palestinians in the name of Jewish privilege, the Zionist state is fairly called apartheid.”

At the very time that Roger and hundreds of thousands of other Kiwis were protesting against the 1981 tour, racist governments in South Africa and Israel were collaborating on the covert construction of nuclear weapons. Like attracts like.

Ismail Waja, co-organiser of Kia Ora Gaza, spent much of his life in apartheid South Africa, allowing him to make realistic comparisons with the state of Israel. “While both are apartheid regimes, Israel is much worse than South Africa ever was,” Ismail reports.

‘Security’ justifications ignore racist crimes

The six decades of Zionist apartheid led into Operation Cast Lead in 2008. This devastating war was the end product of a racist state punishing Palestinians for refusing to be crushed into silent slavery and written out of history.

Politicians in Tel Aviv, however, try to justify such brutality as “security measures” against “terrorist attacks”. Any act of Palestinian resistance, whether violent or peaceful, is condemned as “terrorist” by Israeli leaders, and is met by hugely disproportionate state force.

At the same time, Israeli leaders cover up their racist state’s crimes against humanity which inevitably spark acts of resistance by the victims of apartheid.

Only by ending the injustices of Zionist apartheid can there be security for everyone in the region, Jews and Palestinians alike. The central issue is justice for all.

Anyone who talks of Israeli “security” while ignoring justice for Palestinians is part of the problem, not the solution.

Sea change in world public opinion

Some days ago, a detailed report by Human Rights Watch titled “Separate and Unequal” denounced Israeli policies as “apartheid”.

Yesterday the Israeli-based Jewish human rights group B’Tselem warned that the continuing siege of Gaza, West Bank settler colonisation and restrictions on peaceful demonstrations “prevent any real human rights improvement” across the region.

And many other widely respected agencies, such as the United Nations, International Red Cross, Save the Children, Amnesty International and Christian Aid, have issued reports condemning the injustices inflicted on Palestinians by the Israeli state.

These reports are part of a sea change in world public opinion. The Zionist state is feeling besieged by growing international opposition to its apartheid policies on three levels:

Fraying of traditional state-to-state alliances. For instance, Turkey is turning from friend to foe, European powers are openly critical of Tel Aviv, Egypt is admitting Gaza aid convoys across its territory and South American governments are recognising the state of Palestine. Even the United States is showing some shakiness as an ally.

Civil society protests against Israeli policies. A recent decision by the Methodist Church in Britain to divest from companies operating in the occupied West Bank illustrates how an international grassroots campaign to isolate Israel has picked up steam over the past year. Meanwhile, Gaza aid convoys are riding a wave of public opposition to Israel’s collective punishment of an entire people.

Jewish protests against Zionist extremism. While a sizeable portion of Jews inside Israel and around the globe have traditionally opposed Zionist extremism, their numbers and profile are clearly rising. At last November’s General Assembly of North American Jews, for instance, a group stood in front of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu with banners reading “The siege of Gaza delegitimizes Israel” and “Silencing dissent delegitimizes Israel”.

Existential threat of ‘de-legitimization’

This weakening of Israel’s state-to-state alliances, international goodwill and Jewish support base stems from a loss of legitimacy.

Israel now faces the existential threat of “de-legitimization”. That is the stark warning contained in two reports published in December 2010 by a couple of Zionist think tanks, the Tel Aviv-based Reut Institute and the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs.

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s far right foreign minister, is so worried about the Zionist state’s loss of legitimacy that he has engineered a global media campaign to improve his country’s shattered image.

Lieberman, however, is doomed to fail. Why? Because his government refuses to scrap the agenda of apartheid which delegitimizes the Israeli state.

Therefore, the foreign minister’s media spin cannot go much beyond the character assassination of anyone who opposes Israeli policies. Widening circles of people get tagged with false labels, such as “terrorist supporter”, “Islamic extremist” and “anti-Semite”. Such verbal brutality against Israel’s critics merely alienates growing numbers of citizens.

To compensate for its erosion of legitimacy, Israel must now employ state force against even mild forms of dissent. For instance, peaceful protests against the Separation Wall on the West Bank are being broken up with shock grenades, teargas, beatings, shootings and intimidatory arrests, usually followed by torture, even of children, and long prison terms.

Israel’s increasing reliance on force rather than legitimacy is the same road to ruin trodden by South African apartheid in the dying days of white rule.

Challenging the siege of Gaza

Gaza has emerged as a centre piece of the international campaign against Zionist apartheid.

In a 2006 poll certified as free and fair by international observers, Hamas was elected as the government of Gaza. After Hamas survived an armed coup sponsored by Israel and the United States, politicians in Tel Aviv announced a blockade of Gaza to isolate its “terrorist” government.

Israel’s announcement was part propaganda, since Gaza had actually been under siege from the Zionist state for many years before the election of Hamas. The announcement was also part fact, since Israel tightened the blockade of Gaza to halt all exports, ban most imports and imprison the entire population.

But two years of tightened blockade failed to topple the Hamas government and reimpose Tel Aviv’s rule on Gaza. So, just after Christmas 2008, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead.

The global response to Israel’s total war on Gaza was electric. The Free Gaza Movement organised several sailings of Gaza aid vessels, which were blocked by the Israeli Navy. Meanwhile, UK charity Viva Palestina led the first land convoy which successfully drove aid into Gaza through Egypt’s back door.

Since then, a series of land and sea convoys involving a diversity of movements in many countries have challenged the siege of Gaza.

Global response to aid ship killings

Sensing the seriousness of this challenge, the Zionist state decided to sink last May’s Freedom Flotilla.

On the open seas, under cover of darkness, the Gaza aid ship Mavi Marmara was stormed by Israeli commandos in a barrage of gunfire. Killed were nine civilian volunteers, some executed by close range shots to the head. Dozens more were wounded by commando bullets.

Again, the global response was electric. Viva Palestina led the way with an international convoy of 150 vehicles staffed by 500 volunteers from 30 countries. They overcame great odds to enter Gaza through Egypt’s Rafah Gate in October 2010.

Taking part in this convoy was a six-person aid team from Kia Ora Gaza who were funded from a successful public appeal for NZ$100,000.

Our grateful thanks go to all the good people who donated money and helped in other ways towards a Kiwi contribution to this Gaza convoy. Kia Ora Gaza helped to deliver NZ$7 million worth of medical supplies and other humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.

Even more important, said the people of Gaza, was how the convoy broke through the siege to reconnect them to the rest of the world.

By busting the siege, the convoy delivered hope as well as aid. That hope helps to sustain the intergenerational bravery of Palestinians in Gaza, and elsewhere, whose struggle for justice in turn fuels global opposition to Zionist apartheid.

The siege has not been ‘eased’
Following international outrage at Israel’s murder of civilian volunteers on the Mavi Marmara, politicians in Tel Aviv claimed that their siege of the Palestinian enclave has been “eased”.

Their claim is rubbished in the recent Open Letter from 37 civil society organisations in Gaza, which notes: “The Palestinians of Gaza under Israeli siege continue to live in the same devastating conditions.”

And that’s confirmed by a reputable independent observer, John Ging, who heads the United Nations Relief & Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East.

“There’s been no material change for the people on the ground here,” Ging reported in November 2010. The so-called “easing”, he declared, “has been nothing more than a political easing of the pressure on Israel and Egypt”, Tel Aviv’s longtime ally in the blockade.

The Israeli commandos who raided the Mavi Marmara have received public praise and state medals from their prime minister. Benjamin Netanyahu has also refused to apologise to Turkey, homeland of the nine slain aid volunteers.

Clearly, Israel’s rulers are continuing their inhumane and illegal siege, and feel no remorse at killing anyone who brings relief to the suffering people of Gaza.

How you can help another convoy in 2011

In their Open Letter, Gaza’s civil society organisations appeal to people around the world to take actions that help in “immediately ending the siege”, such as blockade-busting aid convoys.

In line with their appeal, Kia Ora Gaza has begun working towards a substantial engagement with another international aid convoy to Gaza in 2011.

The key to success is active participation by good people across our land.

Here’s how you can help another Gaza convoy in this new year:

Volunteer to join the Kia Ora Gaza team on another convoy.

Donate towards Kia Ora Gaza’s new fundraising appeal. You can make a direct payment to our bank account: Kia Ora Gaza, 03-0211-0447718-000, Westpac Bank, Onehunga branch. Or you can send a cheque made out to “Kia Ora Gaza” to PO Box 59-007, Auckland.

Offer to promote Kia Ora Gaza among your own networks.

If you can help in any of these ways, could you email or txt/call Grant on 021 2544 515.

Thank you for reading this message. And please go to for regular updates throughout 2011.

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