“A mother’s broken heart keeps waiting to know something about her only son, whom she has not seen for 670 days. A new hope is born on every sunrise to see Dr Mohamed Arab once again with us.”
By Yonatan Gher, Executive Director, Amnesty International Israel
My brother and I are experiencing the current Israel-Gaza conflict quite differently. He is 20, serving out his military service and has been fighting in Gaza. I, on the other hand, am the Executive Director of Amnesty International Israel, an organization that is now heavily involved in documenting and campaigning on apparent crimes perpetrated by both sides of this conflict. I am also a conscientious objector.
My position does not diminish from the fact that I spend my days worried sick about him and other family members in similar situations. When you have such complexity in a family situation, humor is often the best approach, and so we joke sometimes that if the rest of the world heeds Amnesty International’s call for an arms embargo, I’ll be coming for his gun first.
Interview with a human rights fieldworker in Gaza
This morning as I brushed my teeth I could hear the familiar buzzing of a drone circling above our building. I ignored the sound. Drones circle overhead all the time – you never know whether it’s just for surveillance or an impending missile launch.
The uncertainty makes you feel helpless. What can anyone do?
This post was originally published in The Hill under the title: “Call An Occupation An Occupation.”
In his speech on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said much of what one might have expected at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. But what was most telling was the one word he didn’t utter: occupation.
It wasn’t just Netanyahu who steered clear of the word. So too did U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in his comments the night before. It is this act of repeated omission that adds so much confusion to the simple question of what concerned Americans must do to advance human rights in the region.
As a major supplier of arms and military aid to Israel, the U.S. government is not just a convener of “peace talks” and negotiations. It is also a major investor in the status quo, a state of affairs in which millions of Palestinian civilians face the risk of brutal violence from Israeli security forces simply for peacefully exercising their human rights. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
This article originally appeared on The Hill’s Congress Blog. Edith Garwood, Amnesty International USA’s Country Specialist on Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and the Palestinian Authority contributed to this piece.
Despite talk of a peace process, the Israeli army has ordered the eviction of some 1,000 Palestinians – men, women and children – from their homes in the occupied West Bank. Why? Because the military wants to turn eight Palestinian villages into a “firing zone” for military training. Even as President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry speak in favor of a peace agreement, the U.S.-subsidized Israeli military is subjecting Palestinians to ongoing human rights abuses.
As I write this, an Israeli checkpoint is fading into the distance behind me. In the past three days, I’ve been traveling between Israel and the occupied West Bank, learning about human rights conditions on the ground.
When I fly back to the United States, it will be with deeper insight into the experience of human rights defenders and activists in Israel and the occupied West Bank. Yet before I leave, there are three people who I know I won’t get a chance to meet: Azza, Suhair and Loujain.
The following post is by Ann Harrison, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme
It was dawn when we arrived in Israel to begin our investigation into rocket attacks from Gaza which by the end of the latest flare in violence had left six Israelis, including four civilians, dead, at least 40 injured and 300 more treated for shock.
Up in the sky oddly shaped vapour trails made us wonder if these were the remnants of the “Iron Dome” missiles – used to intercept the rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups which this time reached as far north as Tel Aviv.
One of the rooms in our apartment was the obligatory mamad – a bomb shelter which all new builds in Israel must have. Windowless, with reinforced walls, it’s there to protect residents during rocket attacks.
This morning, Amnesty International USA delivered thousands of signed postcards to the White House. The postcards call on President Obama to push for an end to Israel’s continuing blockade of the Gaza Strip. For over five years, the 1.6 million Palestinians of Gaza have lived under an Israeli military blockade that has left more than one million Palestinians dependent on international humanitarian aid.
The postcards, signed by thousands of Amnesty International supporters and members across the US, call attention to Israel’s near ban on exports from the Gaza Strip. The Gazan economy has been effectively crippled by this export ban and other aspects of the blockade.
As a result, massive numbers of Palestinians now live in a state of permanent unemployment. Our 2012 human rights report documents that over 70 percent of Gaza’s residents now depend on humanitarian aid. While imports into Gaza have increased since mid-2010, they are still far below the levels allowed before the blockade began in 2007.
Just one week after a global Twitter campaign by Amnesty International, Palestinian Waleed Hanatsheh walked free from an Israeli prison. Israeli officials had jailed him without charge or trial for periods totaling some 5 years of his life. But after facing the public spotlight, those same Israeli officials let Hanatsheh go home.
In this online campaign, Amnesty International members and staff targeted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (@IsraeliPM), the Israeli Defense Forces (@IDFSpokesperson), and the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC (@IsraelinUSA):
— Amnesty International (@amnesty) August 17, 2012
Since the 1960s, Amnesty International members have been using whatever form of communication it takes to reach governments, politicians, corporations and other targets. From mailing letters to prison cells (yes, we still do this!) to taking our demands in person to embassies, Amnesty International members have helped release tens of thousands of prisoners over the years.
The Internet has become more important to our advocacy in recent years, but does it actually work? Can electronic messages impact governmental policies or help free prisoners in far flung countries?
A few weeks before she died, Rachel Corrie wrote to her mother from Rafah, Gaza. ‘I still really want to dance around to Pat Benatar,’ she said, ‘and have boyfriends and make comics for my coworkers.’
As we know, she never had the chance to do any of those things again. Following this week’s verdict in the lawsuit filed by Rachel’s parents – accusing the Israeli military of unlawfully killing Rachel, either intentionally or through gross negligence – there has been much crucial discussion of the circumstances surrounding Rachel’s death. It is also imperative that we remember the human rights work of Rachel’s life.