Edith Garwood is the Amnesty International USA Country Specialist for Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Palestinian Authority. She's a long time human rights activist that acted as Country Coordinator for AIUSA on Israel and the Occupied Territories during the first intifada as well (1987-1993). She has lived, studied and traveled in the Middle East throughout the past two decades and was recently awarded the 17th annual International Human Rights Award by the Human Rights Coalition of North Carolina.
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The media has gone crazy these past couple of days announcing that the UN-appointed panel of inquiry into the flotilla raid last summer, known as the Palmer Commission, found that the Israeli imposed blockade on Gaza is legal and that Israel used excessive force during the raid.
From the Jerusalem Post to the BBC, headlines scream that Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip is legal. This is not only completely false, it distracts from the main point of the inquiry which was to determine if excessive use of force was used by Israeli forces during the raid on the flotilla in international waters and how to avoid a similar incident like this from happening again.
The contents of the Palmer Report were made public Thursday by the New York Times. The report itself, which was completed last February, was being delayed at the UN while Turkey and Israel negotiated over language and played behind-the-scenes politics.
Although this video was produced one year after operation ‘Cast Lead’ ended, former AI researcher, Francesca Burke, speaks about the difficulties in getting in materials to rebuild and recover from the devastation of the military conflict as well as the blockade which still holds true and relevant today.
Even if all the humanitarian needs of the population were relieved, the Israeli-imposed Gaza blockade would still violate the Gazans’ basic human rights.
Corporal Gilad Shalit was only 19 years old when he was captured on June 25th 2006 by armed Palestinian groups, including Hamas’s military wing.
He is 24 years old now. On June 25th, it will be over five years since Aviva and Noam Shalit, Gilad’s parents, have been able to touch their son or speak to him directly – even by mail. It has been nearly two years since they’ve even seen him on video or received any other proof of life.
“As the days go by, we begin to despair of the day when we will see our son again. I know neither where he is held nor how he fares … or whether he is even alive.” (Noam Shalit, Gilad Shalit’s father, addressing the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, July 6, 2009)
Goldstone’s opinion piece simply stated that in light of evidence presented by Israel through military investigations, he does not believe Israeli forces intentionally targeted civilians “as a matter of policy” during Operation ‘Cast Lead,’ Dec. 27, 2008 – Jan. 18, 2009. The original report initially asserted that in certain cases, Israeli forces carried out “direct intentional strikes against civilians.”
Assessing whether specific Israeli attacks on civilians during the conflict were deliberate is extremely difficult because the Israeli military has not released the evidence that would allow independent parties to evaluate its conclusions. Amnesty has not argued that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) targeted Palestinian civilians “as a matter of policy”, but that IDF rules of engagement and actions during the conflict failed to take sufficient precautions to minimize civilian casualties. Justice Goldstone’s recent comments do not dispute this assessment.
UPDATE Friday, 3/18/11, 7:35pm: The UN appointed Committee of Independent Experts released their updated assessment of the Israeli and Palestinian domestic investigations into violations of international law committed by Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups during the 2008-2009 Gaza conflict. It is this assessment which is going to be reviewed and debated by members of the Human Rights Council Monday, March 21st. (See below).
UPDATE Friday, 3/18/11, 7:25pm: Amnesty Int’l just released their updated assessment of the Israeli and Palestinian domestic investigations.
Original Post: Next Monday, March 21st, the Human Rights Council (HRC) will consider a critical report. The report assesses the Israeli and Palestinian investigations into serious violations of international law committed by Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups during the 2008-2009 Gaza conflict.
This report is expected to match a similar assessment submitted to the HRC last September that concluded that both the Israeli government and the Palestinian side have failed to carry out investigations that are credible, independent and in conformity with international law.They have also failed to demonstrate a commitment to prosecuting perpetrators. AI’s assessment concurs with these findings.
Despite clear documentation last September that both Israel and Hamas, the de facto administration in Gaza, were falling short of their obligations, Amnesty was shocked and dismayed to see the Human Rights Council fail to outline a clear plan for accountability and instead opt for delay.
Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) issued a press release late Friday (2/18/2011) after the United States, a permanent member of the UN Security Council vetoed a UNSC resolution reaffirming that Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) are illegal and demanding that Israel cease all settlement activities in the OPT, including East Jerusalem.
Amnesty believes the U.S. veto gives Israel a ‘green light’ to continue building settlements in the OPT. Israel welcomed the veto while Palestinians were disappointed, angry and frustrated saying the veto has set back the peace process.
This past December 27th marked the second year anniversary of the Israeli air strikes over the Gaza Strip that killed and injured hundreds, including over 300 children as the initial attacks took place as children were leaving school.
More Palestinians were killed in that one day than in all 60 years of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories; it also was the first day of 22 long, torturous days of death and destruction.
Over 1400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed during the conflict in Gaza and southern Israel – three of the Israelis and the majority of the Palestinian fatalities were civilians. In September 2009, a UN-mandated Fact-Finding Mission (UN FFM) led by Justice Richard Goldstone published its findings that found both Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups had committed grave violations of international law, including war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during the conflict. The report recommended that the relevant authorities should investigate the crimes it identified and that, if they failed to do so, the UN Security Council should refer the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
A coalition of student groups from the Arizona university system invited me recently to talk to the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) about Caterpillar, Inc’s role in violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Although an unusual setting, I accepted for a number of reasons.
Although Amnesty International (AI) hasn’t focused on Caterpillar (CAT) in an action since our 2004 report, there has been a frightening surge in home demolitions and forced evictions in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem recently, as well as demolitions in ‘unrecognized’ villages like Al-‘Araqib inside Israel – which has a current AI Urgent Action in effect. Over the past 3 weeks, the IDF has demolished dozens of structures in the OPT and the Israeli authorities continue to use CAT equipment regularly to carry out these demolitions, so AI continues to have longstanding and ongoing concerns.
Grandfather and grandchild watch home in Sur Baher east Jerusalem being demolished by CAT machinery March 2007. Keren Manor/ActiveStills.org
The day before I left for Arizona, the IDF demolished 10 residential structures and the village school in the West Bank village of Khirbet Tana. Sixty-one (61) people including 13 children were left without shelter.
Want to help a student who has worked hard both academically and in his community? Someone who has gone through the madness of applying and being accepted at a university in the United States even earning a partial scholarship? (Not an easy task.) Want to help someone that has already had to miss fall semester and is in danger of missing spring semester and losing his scholarship?
Abed earns his degree in 2008.
Abed Al Hadi Basheer is 24 years old and trying to better himself so he can continue to help children in his community and better care for his blind father and family. He has been accepted into Washington State University’s College of Education Cultural Studies and Social Thought program in Pullman, WA with a partial scholarship and has received letters of support from professors who live in Pullman that met Abed when they travelled to the Gaza Strip on a Fulbright-Hays project. He also has letters on his behalf from both Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington state.
What is wrong with him? Or, what has he done wrong? Nothing. Well, he was born in the Gaza Strip.
Amnesty International was born out of the injustice of the forgotten prisoner. In 1960, a British lawyer, Peter Benenson, read a story about the imprisonment of two Portuguese students, who had raised their wine glasses in a toast to freedom, but had been overheard and imprisoned. Benenson wrote an article, ‘The Forgotten Prisoner’ for The Observer which started the worldwide movement, Amnesty International, which works on behalf of prisoners and in support of basic human rights for all.
Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit is completing his fourth year of isolated captivity June 25th, 2010.
Although Hamas has asserted that Gilad is alive and being well treated, the only communications that Gilad has had with the outside world, and indeed the only real proof of life that have been put forward, are a videotape and letter written by him in 2007, a year after he was captured, and another videotape passed on to the Israeli government in October 2009.
Amnesty International members have been campaigning on behalf of Gilad Shalit since 2006 and to also end the misuse of administrative detention of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories by Israel and for family visits. Amnesty has condemned the use of prisoners as political bargaining chips as a violation of international law by both Israel and Hamas, the de facto administration in the Gaza Strip, noting both Israel’s detention of Palestinian parliamentarians as well as the detention of Gilad Shalit.
As Gilad’s captivity closes in on the fifth year of secret imprisonment, Amnesty International urges Hamas to abide by its international obligations. Gilad should be afforded his rights to regular visitation by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), regular communication with his family and to be treated humanely. He should also not be used as a ‘bargaining chip’.
Don’t let Gilad become a ‘forgotten prisoner’. Join Amnesty in its call for Gilad to be treated humanely by taking action online now.
Action for Human Rights. Hope for Humanity.