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Home arrow Blog arrow November 2011 arrow November 5, 2011: Churches for Middle East Peace on UNESCO and back to Gaza

November 5, 2011: Churches for Middle East Peace on UNESCO and back to Gaza
November 5, 2011: Churches for Middle East Peace on UNESCO and back to Gaza

November 4, 2011

A New Member at UNESCO
Israel Reacts
What Next at the UN
Violence Erupts in Gaza, Southern Israel
Beyond Gaza Violence
Settlers Destroy Olive Trees

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A New Member at UNESCO

The abstract debate over recognition of a Palestinian state continued this week when the UN’s educational and culture agency, UNESCO voted to admit Palestine as a full member state. But while the debate about statehood is taking place at an existential level, the impact of the vote is quite tangible.

With Monday’s announcement that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
admitted Palestine as a full member, the Obama Administration announced that it will not pay its contributions to the agency – about $60 million due this month.

The overwhelming support for Palestinian membership in the agency (the vote was 107 to 14, with 52 abstentions) was tinged by the dire economic consequences for UNESCO, which provides a broad range of services from Tsunami early warning system to clean water programs in developing countries. The United States contributes approximately 22 percent of the agency’s funding but those funds are conditioned on two laws from the early 1990s that prohibit funding for any UN agency that recognizes the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), or any state without the “internationally recognized attributes of statehood,” as a member state. 

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters the vote was, “regrettable, premature, and undermines our shared goal of a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace in the Middle East.” When challenged by a reporter about what real detrimental impact Palestinian membership would have,
Nuland further explained, “Again, we are trying to get both of these parties back to the table. That’s what we’ve been doing all along… and we are concerned that we exacerbate tensions with this, and it makes it harder to get the parties back to the table.”

Israel Reacts

In response to UNESCO’s vote on Palestinian membership, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a meeting with top cabinet ministers to discuss how to
react to the vote to admit Palestine. Among the reactions, the Israeli government announced it would expedite the construction of 2,000 housing units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank settlements of Gush Etzion and Ma’aleh Adumim.

official announcement of the expedited building also stated, “These are thousands of residential units, in areas that will, under any future agreement, remain part of Israel.”

Israel also has frozen the transfer of taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. Totaling approximately $100 million per month, the sanctioned funds are a key part of the PA’s budget used to pay salaries to security personnel, government officials, and civil servants.

The United States was quick to
express its displeasure over the Israeli government’s response.  White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters in his daily press briefing, “We are deeply disappointed by yesterday’s announcement about accelerated housing construction in Jerusalem and the West Bank.  As we have said before, unilateral actions work against efforts to resume direct negotiations and they do not advance the goal of a reasonable and necessary agreement between the parties. ” In addition, U.S. diplomats in Israel David Hale and Amb. Daniel Shapiro are urging Israel to unfreeze tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority, in accordance with previous agreements and to avoid a crisis.

What Next at the UN

Despite the consequences, Palestinians are not abandoning their efforts at the United Nations. Mixed news reports over the past week reveal an uncertain strategy on the part of the Palestinians. Some sources indicate that the Palestinians will seek membership in at least
16 additional independent UN agencies like the World Health Agency and the World Intellectual Property Organization. Other reports indicate that the PLO leadership is focused on their application for full membership in the General Assembly pending a vote by the UN Security Council.

The Security Council is expected to meet November 11 to discuss and vote on the Palestinian application for full membership in the international organization. UN diplomats said this week that
France and Britain will abstainfrom voting, leaving the Palestinians short of the nine votes needed to secure membership or prompt a U.S. veto. Germany, Portugal and Bosnia are also expected to abstain.

News of the expected abstaining votes follows a
call by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moonearlier this week on Palestinians to abandon efforts to join UN bodies before acceptance as a member in the UN itself. Citing the impact that likely cuts in funding would have on millions of people around the world, Ban said that further efforts “are not beneficial for anybody.”

Given the uncertain strategy at the United Nations, Palestinian leadership is looking beyond the UN to what might come after the November 11 Security Council vote.
According to news reports, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has appointed a committee to examine the future of the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In addition the committee will also look to reconciliation efforts between political factions Fatah and Hamas.

Violence Erupts in Gaza and Southern Israel

Following a spike in violence in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel, Egypt
brokered a truce between the warring parties that seemingly took hold Monday. The fragile truce will hopefully prevent a full-scale Israeli invasion into the Gaza Strip – a move that Israel authorized in the midst of the five-day escalation in violence. Rocket fire from Islamic militants and Israeli airstrikes began over the weekend and resulted in 11 casualties. Ten members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad were killed by Israeli fire in the Gaza Strip and one Israeli was killed in the Israeli port city of Ashkelon by a rocket from Gaza. 

Each party blames the other for the continued violence.  On one hand, Dawud Shehab a senior
member of Islamic Jihad said, “When all jet fighters leave the skies of Gaza we will stop firing rockets.” On the other, Netanyahu warned,  “I promise that the other side will pay an even heavier price than it has up to now, until it stops firing.”

While Israeli officials are placing the onus of halting the violence on Hamas, Amor Harel and Avi Issacharoff of
Ha’aretzwrote this week that, “Hamas has an interest in halting the rocket fire due to its increasingly close relationship with Egypt and the fear that fighting will prolong the second phase of the Shalit deal.” The renewed violence in this Mediterranean enclave is a sign of internal power struggles and a desperate attempt by Islamic Jihad to say relevant in the public perception.

Beyond Gaza Violence

The news out of Gaza is not just about violence though. This week saw a promise from Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza to protect the security and freedom of religion of Gaza’s Christian community. Haniyeh told the chargé d'affaires for the Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem, Father Hammam Ashzoz, that it is Hamas’ “right and our obligation,” to ensure the safety of
Gaza’s 3,000 Christians

Haniyeh’s comments and interfaith commitments come at a time when evidence of the trials shared by all who live in Gaza continues to emerge. Last month, the vice chancellor of Bethlehem University,
Peter Bray wrote in the Miami Herald that current Israeli restrictions on travel are harming an entire generation in Gaza.  He argues that investing in education will benefit Palestinians, Israelis and the greater global community. In the context of a stalled diplomatic process Bray’s comments have particular poignancy; he writes, “Whether a Palestinian state is created or negotiated this year or next, or ten years from now, should not have any bearing on our ability to invest in our most valued assets and our best hope for the future — our young people and their education.”

Settlers Destroy Olive Trees

The Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees report that settlers destroyed
2,602 olive trees in October, amounting to $150,000 in losses for Palestinian farmers.  13 farmers were also injured as a result of settler attacks.

A statement from the NGO said, "Israeli violations against Palestinians and their property and livelihood continue to increase with little or no action by the Israeli authorities to hold people to account under the rule of law."

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Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace is a coalition of 24 national Church denominations and organizationsincluding Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant traditions. It works to encourage U.S. government policies that actively promote a just, lasting and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ensuring security, human rights and religious freedom for all people of the region.


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 Haaretz Friday, November 04, 2011


Latest update 16:22 04.11.11


Israel Navy intercepts Gaza-bound aid vessels; no injuries reported



By Anshel Pfeffer, Jack Khoury and News Agencies




The Israel Navy on Friday afternoon intercepted two boats that approached the coast of the Gaza Strip with the intent to violate Israel 's naval blockade of the territory.


After the boats failed to heed calls to turn around or dock in Egypt or Israel , Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz ordered naval forces to board the ships. Nobody was injured during the boarding of the ships, a military source said.


" The Israel Navy soldiers operated as planned, and took every precaution necessary to ensure the safety of the activists onboard the vessels as well as themselves," an IDF statement said.


The boats were carrying supplies and 27 international pro-Palestinian activists.


Activists in Gaza and Ramallah said they lost radio contact with the ships shortly after 1 p.m.


The IDF said that the navy had contacted the Gaza-bound ships and informed them that Gaza is under a maritime security blockade. The IDF told the ships they could turn around or dock in the Egypt or at Ashdod , where the goods they were carrying would be transferred to Gaza after being inspected.




The ships did not heed that call and continued towards Gaza


IDF forces did not expect to face violent resistance from the activists on the ships.


Israel's navy has intercepted similar protest ships in the past, towing them to Ashdod and detaining participants. Israel says its naval blockade of Gaza is necessary to prevent weapons from reaching militant groups like Hamas, the Iran-backed group that rules the territory. Critics call the blockade collective punishment of Gaza 's residents.


Israel's government has said the activists can send supplies into Gaza overland.


In May 2010, nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists were killed when they resisted an Israeli operation to halt a similar flotilla. Each side blamed the other for the violence.


The incident sparked an international outcry and forced Israel to ease its land blockade on Gaza , which was imposed in 2006 and tightened, with Egyptian cooperation, after Hamas seized control of the territory the following year.


Militants in Gaza have fired thousands of rockets into Israel in the past decade, and now have much of southern Israel in range.


Speaking after prayers at a Gaza City mosque, Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister, addressed the passengers aboard the boats, saying, "Your message has been delivered whether you make it or not."


"The siege is unjust and must end," Haniyeh said.


On Thursday, the Obama administration warned U.S.­citizens on the boats that they may face legal action for violating Israeli and American law. The activists include Americans and citizens of eight other countries.


State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S.­was renewing its warning to Americans "not to involve themselves in this activity."


The U.S. , like Israel and the European Union, considers Hamas a terrorist organization.


קראו כתבה זו בעברית: חיל הים השתלט על שתי הספינות שהיו בדרכן לעזה והן מובלות לנמל אשדוד




Haaretz Friday, November 04, 2011


Latest update 01:48 04.11.11


Gaza flotilla activists planning series of aid ships over coming months


In light of the previous flotilla's failure earlier this year, organizers have been operating quietly in an effort to avoid bureaucratic delays and Israeli efforts to stop the operation, says Huwaida Arraf.




By Anshel Pfeffer, Jack Khoury and Natasha Mozgovaya


The two-ship flotilla heading for the Gaza Strip is the first in a series of small flotillas scheduled to arrive over the next few months, according to one of the organizers.


Huwaida Arraf of the Free Gaza movement, speaking yesterday from Ramallah, where she is staying temporarily, said that in light of the previous flotilla's failure to reach Gaza earlier this year, organizers have been operating quietly in an effort to avoid bureaucratic delays and Israeli efforts to stop the operation.


"We want to let the world know that the people of Gaza are still suffering under a cruel and criminal blockade," Arraf said. "The name Freedom Waves indicates that we will keep coming, wave after wave, by air, sea, and land, to challenge Israel 's illegal policies towards Gaza and all of Palestine . Our movement will not stop or be stopped until Palestine is free."


Two boats carrying 27 activists and journalists (12 from Ireland and the rest from the United States , Canada , Morocco and other countries) left Turkey Wednesday and reached international waters yesterday. Most of their cargo consists of medical supplies.


Majd Kyal, a political activists from Haifa and the only Palestinian on the flotilla, said yesterday in a conversation with Radio Alshams that both ships are small and are bringing to the world a clear message about the need to lift the blockade on Gaza. He said that the passengers cannot give an accurate estimated time of arrival due to weather conditions and other issues.


"For now we're in international waters. Our intention is to go straight from international waters to the Gaza beaches," Kyal said. He emphasized that the organizers are aware of the possibility of being stopped by the Israel Navy and are not looking for a confrontation.


Ehab Lotayef, one of the Canadian organizers, said yesterday that the ship is "halfway to Gaza " and should arrive at its destination "within the next two days." Speaking with Haaretz via satellite phone onboard the ship named Tahrir, Lotayef said the activists are still contemplating their strategy in the event they are contacted by the Israel Defense Forces.


"We might speed up a bit, we might slow down a little, but there will be no violence from our side," he said.


"I don't have illusions that our mission will end all the problems tomorrow, but we are using any tool to call attention to the suffering of people in Gaza . We came to deliver a clear message : The blockade of Gaza is illegal and inhumane. It should end," Lotayef added.



Canadian and Irish ships sailing with Freedom Waves to Gaza have been illegally boarded by the Israeli military in international waters a short while ago.

The Israeli military stated that “Upon arrival of the vessels at the Ashdod port, the activists will be transferred to the custody of the Israel Police and immigration authorities in the Ministry of Interior”.

Freedom Waves to Gaza organizers have been unable to communicate with the ships since soon after the vessels were approached by Israeli warships earlier this afternoon.

The Canadian boat ‘Tahrir’ (Liberation) confirmed that the Israeli navy had contacted them asking for their destination at around 13:00 (Gaza time) to which Ehab Lotayef, an activist on board the ship, replied ‘The conscience of humanity’. When the Israelis again demanded to know the destination of the ship Lotayef replied; ‘The betterment of mankind’. ’

Huwaida Arraf, spokesperson from Freedom Waves to Gaza, said “It’s clear that 27 civilians on two small boats, carrying only medicine, constituted no security threat to the Israeli state, and that the determination to keep them out is only a furtherance of Israel’s policy of collective punishment, a crime against humanity. Despite this Israeli aggression, we will keep coming, wave after wave, by air, sea, and land, to challenge Israel’s illegal policies towards Gaza and all of Palestine. Our movement will not stop or be stopped until Palestine is free.”

The Israeli military reported that the navy has been ordered by IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz to board the ships after “attempts to contact them failed.” The Israeli military has offered to unload the boats’ supplies at Ashdod, Israel.

Anatolia News Agency, Turkey, has reported that the boats were offered the choice to go to Egypt or return.

At 13:00 both ships were around 51 nautical miles from the coast of Gaza in international waters.

Israeli commandos boarded a previous Gaza Freedom Flotilla on 31 May 2010, killing nine Turkish activists and wounding many more.

The Freedom Waves to Gaza initiative is a non-violent, civil society movement to challenge the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza Earlier this morning, activists aboard both ships were preparing for possible attack by the Israeli navy by training in nonviolent resistance tactics. The two ships, carrying a total of 27 passengers and $30,000 worth of medicine and supplies, set off from Turkey on November 2.

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The Paradoxical Commandments
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People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith

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The age of warrior kings and of warrior presidents has passed. The nuclear age calls for a different kind of leadership....a leadership of intellect, judgment, tolerance and rationality, a leadership committed to human values, to world peace, and to the improvement of the human condition. The attributes upon which we must draw are the human attributes of compassion and common sense, of intellect and creative imagination, and of empathy and understanding between cultures."  - William Fulbright

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