Category Archives: HUMAN RIGHTS

USA: Women Rally for Abortion Justice Amid ‘Unprecedented Attack’ on Reproductive Rights

. HUMAN RIGHTS .

An article from Common Dreams (licensed under Creative Commons – CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. )

Amid an escalating Republican assault  on reproductive rights and a looming U.S. Supreme Court reckoning, women and allies across the United States and around the world took to the streets Saturday to #RallyForAbortionJustice and defend Roe v. Wade.



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Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in Washington, D.C, New York City, Los Angeles, and more than 600 other cities and towns, according to Women’s March, the event organizer.

“No matter where you live, no matter where you are, this moment is dark—it is dark—but that’s why we’re here,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood, told  participants at the Washington, D.C. protest. “It is our job to imagine the light, even when we can’t see it. It is our job to turn pain into purpose. It is our job to turn pain into power.”

At the Houston rally—where signs read “Abort Abbott” in protest of S.B. 8, Texas’ draconian abortion law signed earlier this year by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott—more than 10,000 people turned out, with many chanting, “Our bodies, our choice.”

In Washington, D.C., Women’s March executive director Rachel O’Leary Carmona described the wave of GOP anti-choice laws in at least 16 states as an “unprecedented attack” on reproductive rights.

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Questions related to this article:

The struggle for human rights, is it gathering force in the USA?

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“For a long time, groups of us were ringing the alarm bell around abortion access and many of us were told we were hysterical and Roe v. Wade will never be overturned,” Carmona told  USA Today. “But now it’s clear that our fears were both rational and proportional.”

Women’s March  says  that by refusing to block the Texas law—which bans abortions after six weeks  without  exceptions for rape or incest, and offers $10,000 bounties for vigilantes who successfully sue anyone who “aids or abets” the medical procedure—the Supreme Court “effectively took the next step towards overturning Roe v. Wade.”

In May, the Supreme Court announced it will hear a challenge to Mississippi’s near-total abortion  ban , a case that author Lauren Rankin  warned  “may very well be the death knell for Roe v. Wade” given the high court’s conservative supermajority.

 Nearly all  House Democrats  came together  last week to pass the  Women’s Health Protection Act  (WHPA) in response to the Texas law and amid  mounting fears  that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe.  According to  the advocacy group Equal Access to Abortion, Everywhere, the WHPA would establish “a statutory right for health care providers to provide, and their patients to receive, abortion care free from medically unnecessary restrictions, limitations, and bans that delay, and at times, completely obstruct, access to abortion.”

However, the bill faces an uphill battle in an evenly split Senate in which anti-choice Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.)  oppose  the measure.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted Saturday that Americans “support the right to a safe, legal abortion.”

Speakers at Saturday’s rallies emphasized the harm caused by anti-choice laws. Planned Parenthood of Illinois senior director of public policy Brigid Leahy  told  the Associated Press at the Springfield march that women started traveling to Illinois two days after the Texas law took effect.

“They are trying to figure out paying for airfare or gas or a train ticket, they may need hotel and meals,” she said. “They have to figure out time off of work, and they have to figure out childcare. This can be a real struggle.”

“Week for Peace 2021” Initiative for the consolidation of peace in Colombia

. . HUMAN RIGHTS . .

An article from Area Cucuta

The increase in femicides, domestic violence, murders against social leaders and the growth of poverty, indicates that the struggle in Colombia to achieve a healthy territory is still a challenge. For this reason, it is important that between September 5 and 12, version 34 of the “Week for Peace” will be held. The initiative of peace-building organizations of Colombian civil society, has, since 1987, made visible the daily effort of people , collectives and institutions that work in the construction and consolidation of peace, the redignification of the victims, the care and respect of life in and from the regions of the country.

The initiative invites people to find ways of reunion and solidarity for reconciliation with life and biodiversity. It includes the participation of the Truth Commission, National Secretariat for Social Pastoral, United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, Center for Memory, Peace and Reconciliation (CMPR), Redepaz, Universidad Javeriana, the National Network of Regional Development Programs and Paz (Redprodepaz) and for the fourth consecutive year Compensar, among other organizations. The slogan is “The Truth we can !”
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(click here for the article in Spanish.).)

Question related to this article:

Truth Commissions, Do they improve human rights?

Can festivals help create peace at the community level?

What is happening in Colombia, Is peace possible?

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According to statistics from the Database of Collective Actions for Peace (Datapaz) of the Center for Popular Research and Education (CINEP / PPP), this is the month that historically presents the highest levels of mobilization and that between 1987 and 2016, most of the mobilizations (86%) were oriented to the promotion of peace. For this reason, this year it emphasizes the practices developed by individuals, groups, families, social organizations and communities, focused on truth and reconciliation. It shows how people organize themselves to re-signify and overcome the factors that generate violence, enable peaceful coexistence and commit all the actors in the conflict and civil society in improving the living conditions of the community.

“We are convinced that reconciliation is the best way to rebuild the social fabric, in a year impacted by the pandemic and by historical social demands. For this reason, in order to make visible the different collective initiatives of integral well-being that are had, Compensar is committed to the development of the country with different programs to attend early childhood in rural territories, complementary school days in Bogotá, Soacha, Caparrapí, Yacopí, La Palma and La Peña or programs for the elderly in Caparrapí. In this way, it will be possible to consolidate a culture of peace ”, assured Margarita Añez, director of Compensar’s Welfare and Social Development Unit.

In this line, the Week for Peace aims to describe the main tasks of peacebuilding and defense of human rights that must be promoted at the moment in the country, in accordance with the moment of legitimate social protest that Colombia is experiencing, the The Covid-19 pandemic, the final report that the Truth Commission has been preparing, and the progress and difficulties in the implementation of the Peace Agreement, both in public institutions and in civil groups of ex-combatants, victims and society in general. .

In this way, it will be recognized as a process that requires commitments and agreements, which are woven in a differential and multiscale way from the different social, community and territorial processes committed to the defense of human rights, human dignity and the comprehensive implementation of the agreement. of peace, having as a fundamental axis the work carried out by the Truth Commission.

Thus, the formation of a more equitable society will be achieved for the construction of a plural, participatory and lasting peace, with a view to national reconciliation.

58 Years After Historic Rally, Thousands March on Washington for Voting Rights, DC Statehood

. HUMAN RIGHTS .

An article by Julia Conley from Common Dreams (licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). to republish and share widely)

A summer marked by rallies, motorcades, and pressure campaigns targeting lawmakers standing in the way of voting rights legislation culminated on Saturday in the 2021 March on Washington, where thousands demanded that Congress pass far-reaching measures to protect and expand the right to vote. 
Demonstrators traveled  from across the country to mark the 58th anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

As groups including the Poor People’s Campaign, Stand Up America, and Public Citizen have for months, thousands of protesters called on Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and to eliminate the legislative filibuster to do so if necessary.

The  For the People Act  would grant statehood to Washington, D.C.; ban partisan gerrymandering; implement automatic voter registration for federal elections, and take other major steps to expand voting rights.
 

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Questions related to this article:

The struggle for human rights, is it gathering force in the USA?

How should elections be organized in a true democracy?

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The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore full anti-discrimination protections to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
 
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, was among  those who spoke  at the event—officially  called  “March On for Washington and Voting Rights”—as well as Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), relatives of the late Rep. John Lewis, and family members of George Floyd.
 
Addressing the crowd about statehood for Washington, D.C., Barber said the district’s nearly 700,000 residents have “been robbed” for more than 200 years.
 
“I didn’t say a thief came in,”  said  the reverend. “A thief is different than a robber. A thief is sneaky. But a robber takes your rights right in front of you.”
 
While right-wing Democrats including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are threatening the passage of far-reaching voting rights legislation with their support for the filibuster and claims that the bills are too “partisan,” Republican state legislators have  introduced  more than 360 bills restricting the right to vote, and dozens are moving towards passage. 
 
Speakers including the Rev. Liz Theoharis, who co-chairs the Poor People’s Campaign with Barber, connected ongoing attacks on voting rights to the climate emergency, economic justice, and the recent actions of the right wing-led Supreme Court—which gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013 and this week  blocked  the Biden administration’s extended eviction moratorium.

“We must protest, we must rally, we must organize and mobilize and sit in and stand up,” said Theoharis. “Not just for a day. Not just for a summer. But until all people are housed, until all people are fed, until all people earn a living wage.”

It’s Apartheid, Say Israeli Ambassadors to South Africa

. . HUMAN RIGHTS . .

A article by Ilan Baruch and Alon Liel from Transcend Media Service

 During our careers in the foreign service, we both served as Israel’s ambassador to South Africa. In this position, we learned firsthand about the reality of apartheid and the horrors it inflicted. But more than that – the experience and understanding we gained in South Africa helped us to understand the reality at home.

For over half a century, Israel has ruled over the occupied Palestinian territories with a two-tiered legal system, in which, within the same tract of land in the West Bank, Israeli settlers live under Israeli civil law while Palestinians live under military law. The system is one of inherent inequality. In this context, Israel has worked to change both the geography and the demography of the West Bank through the construction of settlements, which are illegal under international law. Israel has advanced projects to connect these settlements to Israel proper through intensive investment in infrastructure development, and a vast network of highways and water and electricity infrastructure have turned the settlement enterprise into a comfortable version of suburbia. This has happened alongside the expropriation and takeover of massive amounts of Palestinian land, including Palestinian home evictions and demolitions. That is, settlements are built and expanded at the expense of Palestinian communities, which are forced onto smaller and smaller tracts of land.

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Question related to this article:

Israel/Palestine, is the situation like South Africa?

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This reality reminds us of a story that former Ambassador Avi Primor described in his autobiography about a trip that he took with then-Minister of Defense Ariel Sharon to South Africa in the early 1980s. During the visit, Sharon expressed great interest in South Africa’s bantustan project. Even a cursory look at the map of the West Bank leaves little doubt regarding where Sharon received his inspiration. The West Bank today consists of 165 “enclaves” – that is, Palestinian communities encircled by territory taken over by the settlement enterprise. In 2005, with the removal of settlements from Gaza and the beginning of the siege, Gaza became simply another enclave – a bloc of territory without autonomy, surrounded largely by Israel and thus effectively controlled by Israel as well.

The bantustans of South Africa under the apartheid regime and the map of the occupied Palestinian territories today are predicated on the same idea of concentrating the “undesirable” population in as small an area as possible, in a series of non-contiguous enclaves. By gradually driving these populations from their land and concentrating them into dense and fractured pockets, both South Africa then and Israel today worked to thwart political autonomy and true democracy.

This week [June 8, 2021], we mark the fifty-fifth year since the occupation of the West Bank began. It is clearer than ever that the occupation is not temporary, and there is not the political will in the Israeli government to bring about its end. Human Rights Watch recently concluded that Israel has crossed a threshold and its actions in the occupied territories now meet the legal definition of the crime of apartheid under international law. Israel is the sole sovereign power that operates in this land, and it systematically discriminates on the basis of nationality and ethnicity. Such a reality is, as we saw ourselves, apartheid. It is time for the world to recognize that what we saw in South Africa decades ago is happening in the occupied Palestinian territories too. And just as the world joined the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, it is time for the world to take decisive diplomatic action in our case as well and work towards building a future of equality, dignity, and security for Palestinians and Israelis alike.
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Ilan Baruch served as Israeli Ambassador to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.
Dr. Alon Liel served as Israeli Ambassador to South Africa and as Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

#NowIsTheTime – A global call to President Biden

. HUMAN RIGHTS .

A statement from the Now Is the Time Coalition

A global coalition of leaders – from civil society through to academia, politics and Nobel laureates – have joined together in signing an open letter to call on President Biden to help bring an end to Israel’s institutionalized domination and oppression of the Palestinian people and protect their fundamental human rights. See the statement and the full list of signatories below.


(Click on image to enlarge)

14 June 2021
 
Dear President Biden,

We, the undersigned global coalition of leaders – from civil society to business, the arts and faith communities, politics and Nobel laureates – call for U.S. leadership to take action to help bring an end to Israel’s institutionalized domination and oppression of the Palestinian people and protect their fundamental human rights. A sustainable and just peace – for all people – will remain elusive if U.S. policy holds to a political status quo devoid of justice and accountability.

Your administration has committed to a foreign policy “centered on the defense of democracy and the protection of human rights.” More recently, you stated, “I believe the Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely, and enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and democracy.” For Palestinians, the space between these statements and their daily lives could not be wider.

Even after a formal ceasefire, Israeli police and settler violence against Palestinians continues. The forced dispossession of Palestinians across the occupied West Bank, including families living in the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, and aggressive actions by Israeli forces against peaceful protesters and worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, are the latest evidence of a separate and unequal governing system. These policies unravel the social fabric of communities and undermine any progress toward a democratic, just and peaceful future. The logic driving them has led to the recent displacement of 72,000 Palestinians in Gaza who must also survive the ongoing humanitarian crisis caused by a 14-year blockade. “

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Question related to this article:

How can a culture of peace be established in the Middle East?

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Moving forward, the United States must address the root causes of the violence which successive administrations have neglected. Your administration must apply concerted diplomatic pressure to help end the ever-expanding discrimination and systemic oppression and ensure accountability for Israeli authorities that violate Palestinian rights.

Only a consistent application of a rights-centered foreign policy can signal to Israel’s leaders that violations of international law will no longer go unaccounted for. Mr. President, now is the time to set a new benchmark in American foreign policy that leads with justice and paves the way toward lasting peace.

Signatories:

Political Figures

Academia

Global Icons

Lawyers and Jurists

University Associations

Media

Faith Leaders

Civil Society Organizations

Civil Society Leaders

Activists

Business Leaders

Creatives

Entertainment Industry

Medical Professionals

(Thank you to Phyllis Kotite, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

Ceasefire can’t hide scale of destruction in Gaza, UN warns, as rights experts call for ICC probe

. . HUMAN RIGHTS . .

An article from the United Nations

The humanitarian community has welcomed the ceasefire agreed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel but warned that the destruction in Gaza will take years, if not decades, to fix.

Speaking from Gaza, Matthias Schmale from the UN relief agency for Palestinians UNRWA, said that there was no “going back to normal” in the enclave, after more than 10 days of rocket fire and airstrike exchanges between the warring parties that have killed more than 250 people and injured thousands.


© UNRWA/Mohamed Hinnawi A tower block lies in ruins in Gaza city following an Israeli air strike.

“Going back to normal life means having to watch very carefully where we are going; unexploded devices, we know that at least one school, one of our 278 schools, where we have established two deeply buried bombs, and we have alerted the Israeli authorities”, he said. “Obviously we cannot just rush back into our buildings and schools, we have to make sure they’re safe.”

The senior UNRWA official also noted that the Kerem Shalom crossing was due to open for several hours on Friday but that for the duration of the clashes, it had not been possible to get people out for medical treatment, or aid reinforcements in.

Mr. Schmale noted that UNRWA staff who are mainly residents of the region said that the violence had been “worse in intensity and terror than 2014”, before echoing the UN Secretary-General’s call  for a meaningful political process to resolve the grievances of both Palestinians and Israelis.

War still looms

“Normality here also means 50 per cent employed and rising…I’m convinced after being here two and a half years that we will be back in war unless underlying causes are not addressed; and from a Gaza perspective that means giving people and especially young people a dignified perspective of a dignified life”, he said.

“If you have your own money and take home your own money to buy food instead of depending on handouts from the UN”, the top UN official added, “you’re less likely to run into groupings like Hamas”.

The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, allocated $4.5 million towards the cost of meeting rising needs across Gaza on Friday. The money comes from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which is in addition to $14.1 million allocated on Thursday. It is expected that an inter-agency Flash Appeal for the occupied Palestinian territory will be issued next week. 

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(click here for the article in Spanish.).)

Question related to this article:

Israel/Palestine, is the situation like South Africa?

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UNICEF delivers aid containers

The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, delivered 18 containers of aid on Friday following the resumption of relative calm in the Gaza Strip, through the Kerem Shalom crossing, to support children and families in need.

Among the items delivered were first-aid kits, blood supply bags and solution, fire extinguishers, antibiotics and other infection-control kits, together with 10,000 doses of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine.

“We are extremely thankful that a ceasefire agreement in the Gaza strip came into effect at 2am this morning, because the human toll there has been huge”, said Lucia Elmi, UNICEF Special Representative in Palestine. “This will allow families to have much-needed respite and allow for the delivery of much-needed humanitarian assistance and personnel to the Gaza Strip”, she added.

UN rights experts call for ICC probe

UN independent human rights experts on Friday called on all parties  to the conflict in Gaza and Israel to respect the ceasefire, and urged an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into the attacks on civilian populations and other “gross violations of human rights”, according to a statement released through the UN rights office (OHCHR).

The experts pointed to the forced evictions of Palestinian families living in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, in Occupied East Jerusalem, as the spark that set off a full-blown war.

They said that at least 222 people, including 63 children, were killed in Gaza and 12 people died in Israel as a result of the fighting.

More than 450 buildings in the Gaza Strip were completely destroyed or damaged by missiles, the statement continued. Among them were six hospitals, nine healthcare centres and a water desalination plant, supplying around 250,000 Palestinians with clean drinking water, as well as a tower which housed media outlets including the Al Jazeera network, and Associated Press (AP). 

‘Asymmetry of power’

“Owing to the vast asymmetry of power, the victims of this conflict are disproportionately Palestinians in Gaza, of whom over 74,000 have been forcibly displaced and made homeless, mostly women and children”, the experts said. 

“The conflict has led to a new wave of unprecedented mass destruction of civilian homes and infrastructure, including electrical grids in Gaza, and indiscriminate or deliberate missile attacks on civilians and residential areas in Israel and Gaza, that violate not only international human rights standards, but amount as well to crimes under international law for which there is individual and State responsibility”, the experts continued.

The experts said that all “indiscriminate or deliberate bombardment of civilians and towers housing civilians, media organizations and refugee camps in Gaza and Israel are war crimes that are, prima facie, not justified by the requirements of proportionality and necessity under international law. All parties who engage in such attacks must bear individual and State responsibility as appropriate.”

Independent Special Rapporteurs, are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor specific countries or thematic issues.  They serve in their individual capacity and are not UN staff, nor are they paid by the Organization. 

Amnesty International: Pattern of Israeli attacks on residential homes in Gaza must be investigated as war crimes

. . HUMAN RIGHTS . .

An article from Amnesty International

Israeli forces have displayed a shocking disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians by carrying out a number of airstrikes targeting residential buildings in some cases killing entire families – including children – and causing wanton destruction to civilian property, in attacks that may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity, said Amnesty International today [May 17].


Lamya al-Atar and her three children were killed in an Israeli air strike on their home in Gaza on 14 May 2021©Private

The organization has documented four deadly attacks by Israel launched on residential homes without prior warning and is calling for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to urgently investigate these attacks. The death toll in Gaza continues to climb with at least 198 Palestinians killed including 58 children and more than 1,220 injured. Ten people in Israel, including two children, have been killed and at least 27 injured by Palestinian attacks.

“There is a horrific pattern emerging of Israel launching air strikes in Gaza targeting residential buildings and family homes – in some cases entire families were buried beneath the rubble when the buildings they lived in collapsed.  In the cases documented below, no prior warning was given to the civilian residents to allow them to escape. Under international humanitarian law, all parties must distinguish between military targets and civilian objects and direct their attacks only at military objectives. When carrying out attacks, parties must take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians,” said Saleh Higazi, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“Although the Israeli military has given no explanation of what military objectives it was targeting in these attacks, it is hard to imagine how bombing residential buildings full of civilian families without warning could be considered proportionate under international humanitarian law. It is not possible to use large explosive weapons, like aircraft bombs that have a blast radius of many hundreds of meters, in populated areas without anticipating major civilian casualties.

“By carrying out these brazen deadly attacks on family homes without warning Israel has demonstrated a callous disregard for lives of Palestinian civilians who are already suffering the collective punishment of Israel’s illegal blockade on Gaza since 2007.”

The Israeli army claims that it only attacks military targets and has justified airstrikes on residential buildings on that basis. However, residents told Amnesty International that there were no fighters or military objectives in the vicinity at the time of the attacks documented.

“Deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian property and infrastructure are war crimes, as are disproportionate attacks. The International Criminal Court has an active investigation into the situation in Palestine and should urgently investigate these attacks as war crimes. States should also consider exercising universal jurisdiction over those who commit war crimes. Impunity only works to fuel the pattern of unlawful attacks and civilian bloodshed, which have we have repeatedly documented in previous Israeli military offensives on Gaza,” said Saleh Higazi.

At least 152 residential properties in Gaza have been destroyed since 11 May, according to the Gaza-based human rights organization, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Public Works and Housing in Gaza, Israeli strikes have destroyed 94 buildings, comprising 461 housing and commercial units while 285 housing units have been severely damaged and rendered uninhabitable.

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(click here for the article in French or click here for the article in Spanish.).)

Question related to this article:

Israel/Palestine, is the situation like South Africa?

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According to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) more than 2,500 people have been made homeless due to the destruction of their homes and more than 38,000 people have been internally displaced and have sought shelter in 48 UNRWA schools across Gaza.

Indiscriminate rocket-fire by Palestinian armed groups towards civilian areas of Israel has also killed and injured civilians and damaged homes and other civilian properties. The rockets fired from Gaza into Israel are imprecise and their use violates international humanitarian law which prohibits the use of weapons that are by nature indiscriminate. These attacks should also be investigated by the ICC as war crimes.

Amnesty International has previously published evidence that the Israeli military had a deliberate policy of targeting family homes  during the 2014 conflict.

Devastating attacks on family homes

In one of the heaviest episodes of bombardment since the latest fighting began, between 1am and 2am on 16 May Israel carried out airstrikes against residential buildings and streets in Gaza City. The attacks completely destroyed two residential buildings belonging to the Abu al-Ouf and al-Kolaq families – killing 30 people – 11 of them children. 

Gaza’s Ministry of Labour building was also destroyed in the attacks. The attack blocked al-Wehda Street, one of the main roads leading to the main hospital in Gaza, al-Shifa.

The families residing in the four-storey al-Ouf building, which included residential apartments and shops, received no prior warning – they were buried beneath the rubble in the attack. 

Yousef Yassin, a medic from al-Shifa Hospital, was one of the first to arrive on the scene of al-Ouf Building after the attack and helped pull survivors from the wreckage with the Red Crescent. He described the scene to Amnesty International as one of “great destruction”.

“I helped get out four dead [bodies], but there were many more. It was very hard. There was no warning, so people were inside their home sitting together, and this is a lively, bustling area,” he said. 

Shortly before midnight on 14 May Israeli air strikes hit the three-storey building of the al-Atar family in Beit Lahia killing 28-year-old Lamya Hassan Mohammed Al-Atar her three children Islam, seven, Amira, six, and Mohammed an eight-month-old baby. 

Lamya’s father, Hassan Al-Atar, a civil defence officer told Amnesty International he headed to the scene of the attack with an ambulance and rescue team after a relative called him with news of the attack.  “He told me that our home had been bombed and [he was] stuck under the rubble [with his] wife and children,” he said.

“I arrived at the house, which is made up of three stories – 20 people live there – I tried to find people, but I could not. Then the rescue team arrived to help and we eventually found my daughter, a mother of three, with her children, one of whom was a baby, under one of the cement pillars of the house; all of them were dead. The other residents seem to have managed to escape from an opening after the bombing and got to the hospital. I was shocked,” he said.
 
Nader Mahmoud Mohammed Al-Thom, from al-Salatin neighbourhood in Beit Lahia, described how his home where he lives with eight others was attacked without any warning shortly after midnight on 15 May.

“There was no warning missile, no warning call, the house was bombed, and we were inside. Thank God that the civil defence and by sheer chance was close by and saved us from under the rubble, thank God no one died. We had injuries but not serious, when we got out I saw a fire at the gate of the house, then the ambulance took us to the hospital. I think this is when I lost consciousness. Thank God no one was badly hurt but we lost our house. We are now in the street; we do not know where to go what to do.” 

His family sought shelter at an UNRWA school but the school they arrived at was closed when they arrived and they had to sleep outside in the school yard. His entire home was destroyed including his clothes, money and paperwork and all their belongings.

In addition to residential homes, Israeli attacks have damaged water and electricity infrastructure as well as medical facilities and halted the operations of the North Gaza Seawater Desalination plant, which supplies water to more than 250,000 people.  

Amnesty International : End brutal repression of Palestinians protesting forced displacement in occupied East Jerusalem

. . HUMAN RIGHTS . .

An article from Amnesty International

Israeli security forces have used repeated, unwarranted and excessive force against Palestinian protesters in occupied East Jerusalem following four days of violence in which 840 Palestinians were injured, Amnesty International said today [May 10]. At least 21 Israeli police officers and seven Israeli civilians were also injured, according to Israeli police.

The organization calls on Israeli authorities to immediately halt forced evictions in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah and end the ongoing forced displacement of Palestinians from East Jerusalem.

In the latest escalation, Palestinian armed groups have fired rockets and missiles into Israel injuring at least one Israeli and there have been reports of several people killed in Gaza from retaliatory attacks by Israel. Amnesty International calls on all parties to respect international humanitarian law and take all feasible precautions to avoid harming civilians.

“Evidence gathered by Amnesty International reveals a chilling pattern of Israeli forces using abusive and wanton force against largely peaceful Palestinian protesters in recent days. Some of those injured in the violence in East Jerusalem include bystanders or worshippers making Ramadan prayers,” said Saleh Higazi, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

“The latest violence brings into sharp focus Israel’s sustained campaign to expand illegal Israeli settlements and step up forced evictions of Palestinian residents- such as those in Sheikh Jarrah – to make way for Israeli settlers. These forced evictions are part of a continuing pattern in Sheikh Jarrah, they flagrantly violate international law and would amount to war crimes.”

[See last month’s CPNN bulletin: Overcoming Israeli Apartheid]

Eyewitness testimonies – as well as videos and photographs taken by Amnesty International’s researchers on the ground in East Jerusalem –show how Israeli forces  have repeatedly deployed disproportionate and unlawful force to disperse protesters during violent raids on al-Aqsa mosque and carried out unprovoked attacks on peaceful demonstrators in Sheikh Jarrah.

Since the beginning of Ramadan on 13 April tensions have been steadily rising as Palestinians protested against Israeli restrictions limiting their access to Damascus Gate, a main entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem. On 26 April, Israeli authorities removed the restrictions in response to the continuous demonstrations.  Anger has also been rising over the imminent plans to forcibly evict four Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Israeli settlers.

Unlawful use of force

Tensions reached boiling point on 7 May, when more than 170 Palestinians were injured  as Israeli forces stormed the al-Aqsa mosque compound in dispersing worshippers along with protesters, firing 40mm kinetic impact projectiles (KIPs) and concussion grenades into crowds gathered there for prayers on the last Friday of Ramadan.  
 
A Palestinian journalist present at the scene described how Israeli forces went on the rampage firing projectiles and tear gas. He also said they stormed the clinic at the mosque and beat protesters. He told Amnesty International: “I’ve been covering events taking place in Jerusalem for the past 10 years… and I’ve never been this scared in my life.  Everyone was a target, I want to say that the shooting was random, but that would be a lie. They knew exactly who and where they were aiming their bullets and grenades at. Most of the people were targeted in their upper bodies (eyes, face, and chest).”

He was also shot in the back – while holding up his camera and attempting to leave the area.

In response, protesters at al-Aqsa threw stones and lit fires as Israeli forces on horseback and in riot gear used stun grenades to repel them.

On 10 May, more than 300 Palestinian protesters were injured when Israeli forces stormed the al-Aqsa compound for the second time in days. A Red Crescent spokesperson told Amnesty International that the violence led to the hospitalization of at least 250 Palestinians, with seven in a critical condition. 

 One eyewitness said Israeli forces began breaking windows and firing tear gas and stun grenades, leaving many people inside struggling to breathe. 

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(click here for the article in French or click here for the article in Spanish.).)

Question related to this article:

Israel/Palestine, is the situation like South Africa?

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Another witness on the scene said Israeli forces started firing tear gas from rooftops before more forces stormed al-Haram square from al Magharbeh gate. “They kept moving in pushing people into al-Aqsa mosque, locking [the doors] with metal chains… and then breaking a window to throw in tear gas at people literally locked up with not much room to breathe or get medical assistance… on top of it they started to  shoot rubber bullets at worshippers inside,” he said.

He also reported seeing Israeli forces beating passers-by and stopping cars evacuating the wounded to photograph the injured before letting them go. He himself was shot in the chest while he approached a medic on the scene who had been injured.  

Sheikh Jarrah

Over the past week Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood have held nightly demonstrations in response to the imminent threat of forced eviction.  Amnesty International has documented arbitrary arrests of peaceful demonstrators, the use of excessive force, arbitrary use of sound and stun grenades as well as the arbitrary spraying of maloderant (skunk) water canons at demonstrators and homes in Sheikh Jarrah.   

Four Palestinian families in the neighbourhood are under imminent threat of forced eviction after a Jerusalem court rejected their appeal against an eviction order. Nahalat Shimon International, a settler company, has filed lawsuits to seize the homes of dozens of families in Sheikh Jarrah using inherently discriminatory laws, such as the Legal and Administrative Matter Laws as well as the Absentee Property Law of 1950, to confiscate Palestinian land or property and transfer it to settler groups. Forcible transfer of the occupied population is prohibited under international humanitarian law and constitutes a war crimes according to the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court.

Amnesty International researchers witnessed an unprovoked attack by Israeli forces against a group of peaceful demonstrators in Sheikh Jarrah on 9 May. Israeli forces arrived shortly before iftar, the evening Ramadan meal. After the meal a tens of peaceful protesters formed a circle and began chanting against the imminent plans to evict Palestinian families from their homes. The demonstrators were at least 10 metres away from the Israeli forces who were stationed by a nearby Israeli settlers’ home. A short while later Israeli forces launched a coordinated attack to disperse the crowd of Palestinian protesters. Israeli forces on horseback began to sprint towards the crowd. One man limping in pain said he was trampled on by police horses as he tried to run away from the area. Residents were pushed into the walls of their homes and five men were arbitrarily arrested.

Israeli forces began to shove and hit the group -including an Amnesty researcher observing the protest. At around 10pm they brought the skunk water canons and sound grenades and began to arbitrarily fire at demonstrators.

Osama Dweik, was arrested during a nightly demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah on 6 May when Israeli police suddenly charged at the group of protesters and immediately detained him. At the police station he saw Israeli police kicking and beating with batons four Palestinians detained during the Damascus Gate clashes and Sheikh Jarrah protests. Seven other people were arrested at Sheikh Jarrah that night alone.

Gil Hammerschlag, an Israeli activist demonstrating against the forced evictions at Sheikh Jarrah on 7 May, was shoved and kicked by Israeli forces who threw sound grenades at peaceful demonstrators from less than 10 metres away. 

On the same day, a middle-aged Palestinian man was left badly bruised in the leg when Israeli forces threw a stun grenade that struck him in the thigh. A photographer also on the scene told how Israeli forces, including police on horseback, charged towards a crowd peacefully chanting after one of the protesters threw a plastic water bottle at them. 

“Amnesty International researchers witnessed deplorable conduct by security forces at Sheikh Jarrah including entirely unprovoked attacks on peaceful protesters standing up for rights and calling for respect of international law. Instead of further violating the rights of Sheikh Jarrah’s residents and solidarity activists, Israeli authorities must immediately scrap planned forced evictions,” said Saleh Higazi.

Amnesty International is calling on the international community to hold Israel accountable for its systematic violations under international law.

“Israel must not be allowed to continue its rampage against Palestinians who are simply defending their right to exist and protesting against their forced displacement. Mere expressions of concerns about Israel’s utter disregard for its obligations under international law are not sufficient.  There must be clear and strong denunciations of the flagrant violations, including forced displacement, the expansion of illegal settlements and the and the brutal repression of people protesting against such grave violations,” said Saleh Higazi.

 “As an immediate step we call on the United Nations Security Council members to convene an open session and for the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process to brief member states.”

Nabil el-Kurd, one of the residents under threat of forced eviction in Sheikh Jarrah, told Amnesty International:

“Sheikh Jarrah is sending a message to the whole world, including the US Congress, the UK Parliament, the French Parliament, the EU Parliament, the International Criminal Court, that what is happening to us is a war crime. It is not just an eviction, but a war crime. Remember that. I do not know why the entire world is watching what is happening and letting Israel get away with it. It is time they stopped spoiling Israel.”

Human Rights Watch : Abusive Israeli Policies Constitute Crimes of Apartheid, Persecution

. . HUMAN RIGHTS . .

An article from Human Rights Watch

Israeli authorities are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The finding is based on an overarching Israeli government policy to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians and grave abuses committed against Palestinians living in the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem.
 


Video

The 213-page report, “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution,” examines Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. It presents the present-day reality of a single authority, the Israeli government, ruling primarily over the area between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea, populated by two groups of roughly equal size, and methodologically privileging Jewish Israelis while repressing Palestinians, most severely in the occupied territory.

Prominent voices have warned for years that apartheid lurks just around the corner if the trajectory of Israel’s rule over Palestinians does not change,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “This detailed study shows that Israeli authorities have already turned that corner and today are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”



The finding of apartheid and persecution does not change the legal status of the occupied territory, made up of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza, or the factual reality of occupation.



Originally coined in relation to South Africa, apartheid today is a universal legal term. The prohibition against particularly severe institutional discrimination and oppression or apartheid constitutes a core principle of international law. The 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid and the 1998 Rome Statute to the International Criminal Court (ICC) define apartheid as a crime against humanity consisting of three primary elements:

1. An intent to maintain domination by one racial group over another.

2. A context of systematic oppression by the dominant group over the marginalized group.

3. Inhumane acts.

The reference to a racial group is understood today to address not only treatment on the basis of genetic traits but also treatment on the basis of descent and national or ethnic origin, as defined in the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. Human Rights Watch applies this broader understanding of race.



The crime against humanity of persecution, as defined under the Rome Statute and customary international law, consists of severe deprivation of fundamental rights of a racial, ethnic, or other group with discriminatory intent.



Human Rights Watch found that the elements of the crimes come together in the occupied territory, as part of a single Israeli government policy. That policy is to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians across Israel and the occupied territory. It is coupled in the occupied territory with systematic oppression and inhumane acts against Palestinians living there.



Drawing on years of human rights documentation, case studies, and a review of government planning documents, statements by officials, and other sources, Human Rights Watch compared policies and practices toward Palestinians in the occupied territory and Israel with those concerning Jewish Israelis living in the same areas. Human Rights Watch wrote to the Israeli government in July 2020, soliciting its perspectives on these issues, but has received no response.



Across Israel and the occupied territory, Israeli authorities have sought to maximize the land available for Jewish communities and to concentrate most Palestinians in dense population centers. The authorities have adopted policies to mitigate what they have openly described as a “demographic threat” from Palestinians. In Jerusalem, for example, the government’s plan for the municipality, including both the west and occupied east parts of the city, sets the goal of “maintaining a solid Jewish majority in the city” and even specifies the demographic ratios it hopes to maintain.



(continued in right column)

(click here for the article in French or click here for the article in Spanish.).)

Question related to this article:

Israel/Palestine, is the situation like South Africa?

(continued from left column)

To maintain domination, Israeli authorities systematically discriminate against Palestinians. The institutional discrimination that Palestinian citizens of Israel face includes laws that allow hundreds of small Jewish towns to effectively exclude Palestinians and budgets that allocate only a fraction of resources to Palestinian schools as compared to those that serve Jewish Israeli children. In the occupied territory, the severity of the repression, including the imposition of draconian military rule on Palestinians while affording Jewish Israelis living in a segregated manner in the same territory their full rights under Israel’s rights-respecting civil law, amounts to the systematic oppression required for apartheid.



Israeli authorities have committed a range of abuses against Palestinians. Many of those in the occupied territory constitute severe abuses of fundamental rights and the inhumane acts again required for apartheid, including: sweeping movement restrictions in the form of the Gaza closure and a permit regime, confiscation of more than a third of the land in the West Bank, harsh conditions in parts of the West Bank that led to the forcible transfer of thousands of Palestinians out of their homes, denial of residency rights to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and their relatives, and the suspension of basic civil rights to millions of Palestinians.



Many of the abuses at the core of the commission of these crimes, such as near-categorical denial of building permits to Palestinians and demolition of thousands of homes on the pretext of lacking permits, have no security justification. Others, such as Israel’s effective freeze on the population registry it manages in the occupied territory, which all but blocks family reunification for Palestinians living there and bars Gaza residents from living in the West Bank, use security as a pretext to further demographic goals. Even when security forms part of the motivation, it no more justifies apartheid and persecution than it would excessive force or torture, Human Rights Watch said.



“Denying millions of Palestinians their fundamental rights, without any legitimate security justification and solely because they are Palestinian and not Jewish, is not simply a matter of an abusive occupation,” Roth said. “These policies, which grant Jewish Israelis the same rights and privileges wherever they live and discriminate against Palestinians to varying degrees wherever they live, reflect a policy to privilege one people at the expense of another.”



Statements and actions by Israeli authorities in recent years, including the passage of a law with constitutional status in 2018 establishing Israel as the “nation-state of the Jewish people,” the growing body of laws that further privilege Israeli settlers in the West Bank and do not apply to Palestinians living in the same territory, as well as the massive expansion in recent years of settlements and accompanying infrastructure connecting settlements to Israel, have clarified their intent to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis. The possibility that a future Israeli leader might someday forge a deal with Palestinians that dismantles the discriminatory system does not negate that reality today.



Israeli authorities should dismantle all forms of repression and discrimination that privilege Jewish Israelis at the expense of Palestinians, including with regards to freedom of movement, allocation of land and resources, access to water, electricity, and other services, and the granting of building permits.



The ICC Office of the Prosecutor should investigate and prosecute those credibly implicated in the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution. Countries should do so as well in accordance with their national laws under the principle of universal jurisdiction, and impose individual sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, on officials responsible for committing these crimes.



The findings of crimes against humanity should prompt the international community to reevaluate the nature of its engagement in Israel and Palestine and adopt an approach centered on human rights and accountability rather than solely on the stalled “peace process.” Countries should establish a UN commission of inquiry to investigate systematic discrimination and repression in Israel and Palestine and a UN global envoy for the crimes of persecution and apartheid with a mandate to mobilize international action to end persecution and apartheid worldwide.



Countries should condition arms sales and military and security assistance to Israel on Israeli authorities taking concrete and verifiable steps toward ending their commission of these crimes. Countries should vet agreements, cooperation schemes, and all forms of trade and dealing with Israel to screen for those directly contributing to committing the crimes, mitigate the human rights impacts and, where not possible, end activities and funding found to facilitate these serious crimes.

“While much of the world treats Israel’s half-century occupation as a temporary situation that a decades-long ‘peace process’ will soon cure, the oppression of Palestinians there has reached a threshold and a permanence that meets the definitions of the crimes of apartheid and persecution,” Roth said. “Those who strive for Israeli-Palestinian peace, whether a one or two-state solution or a confederation, should in the meantime recognize this reality for what it is and bring to bear the sorts of human rights tools needed to end it.”

USA” BAmazon Union Vote: The Opening Salvo in a Long Struggle!

…. HUMAN RIGHTS ….

Statement from the Solidarity Center

In response to the election results, we send our full solidarity to the courageous Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama who opened a major struggle against the U.S.’s second largest corporation. We commend the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) for their efforts and are prepared to continue to mobilize solidarity as this struggle continues to unfold.

The workers in Bessemer have ignited a national movement to organize Amazon and all unorganized workers. This campaign, led by Black workers in the U.S. South, is just the opening shot by the working class in our struggle to rebuild power after decades of capitalist offensives.

Despite the current setbacks and enormous challenges, this struggle has been immensely successful.

Amazon has incredibly intimidating power, yet workers in Bessemer dared to initiate this struggle, inspiring workers around the world to organize and to build unions. This bold undertaking sparked hundreds of solidarity actions across the world and had a positive impact on Amazon workers striking in Germany, India and Italy, as well as job actions in Georgia, Illinois, and countless other places.

Amazon’s Union Busting: Unprecedented violations of worker’s rights

The reality is that this was always an uphill battle. Amazon, led by the world’s richest person Jeff Bezos, has at their disposal not only an unlimited amount of resources to bust workers’ organizing efforts, but also a set of rules and laws that are stacked to advantage the boss over workers expressing their basic demands for good wages, safe working conditions, and power on the job.

Amazon engaged in one of the most aggressive, dirty, and illegal union-busting campaigns in recent memory. Amazon was able to successfully appeal to the National Labor Relations Board to nearly quadruple the initial bargaining unit; they held captive audience meetings with workers daily; sent multiple texts every day to workers phones; installed a mailbox on company grounds in violation of an NLRB ruling an in an effort to intimidate workers; shelled out millions to bring on some of the most vile union busters from Morgan Lewis and elsewhere; changed the traffic light pattern to frustrate organizers’ ability to talk with workers going to and from work; among many other union busting tactics that they employed to prevent the workers from winning their union.

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Question(s) related to this article:

The right to form and join trade unions, Is it being respected?

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Due to Amazon’s outrageous violations of workers rights, the election results should be thrown out and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) should mandate that Amazon immediately recognize the union and begin negotiations.

We must demand NO RETALIATION against Amazon workers involved in union organizing.

Only continued struggle will make this happen.

Where do we go from here?

We must also think seriously about the strategy and tactics we employ to advance from here. There is ongoing discussion across the working class movement about the development of workers assemblies as a vehicle to organize the unorganized and to continue to build community and worker solidarity. This organizing will be critical to the future.

Many unions and progressive organizations are focusing attention on the necessity for the PRO Act, a set of labor legislation that would overturn right to work laws and severely restrict the kinds of union-busting tactics Amazon employed in Bessemer. We must build a mass movement to pass these laws and much more.

In the wake of the vote in Bessemer, we have initiated a petition calling on President Joe Biden to pass the critical reforms in the PRO Act by Executive Order. Every president has used their executive power to impose basic changes, forward or backwards, through Executive Orders. FDR issued 3,721 Executive Orders. The Emancipation Proclamation was an Executive Order that ended chattel slavery in the U.S. Biden must act now in the interests of all workers to pass the PRO Act – sign the petition here.

May Day – International Workers Day – is only a few weeks away. This will be a necessary point to mobilize around these next steps.

More assessment and discussion is needed that involves various forces to develop plans to open up a much broader struggle and collectively chart a course forward.

Despite the outcome of the vote, the new front these workers have opened up is a major advance for the working class movement as a whole. The movement that this struggle has given rise to obliges us to continue to press ahead and build off of what the workers in Bessemer began.

This fight is far from over! We will continue to do everything we can to mobilize solidarity with the workers in Bessemer as they fight for their union and challenge the outcome of this election in the weeks and months ahead, and as thousands of other workers across the country take inspiration from their heroic fight and engage in organizing drives in their workplaces.

Amazon: End Union-busting! No retaliation! Recognize RWDSU!

Expand worker’s rights to organize! Make the PRO Act Law immediately!

Let’s keep building worker power and community solidarity to organize the unorganized!