Palestine: Profiting from Occupation
Israel’s occupation of Palestine is propped up with the help of international corporations and financial institutions. This project profiles international and UK-based companies complicit in the occupation and analyses the role of international trade projects in institutionalising the Israeli apartheid regime.
1. Israeli companies: Since the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights in 1967, Israeli companies, hand in hand with the Israeli state, have exploited the Palestinian economy and workforce. Agricultural companies have set up farms on land expropriated from Palestinian communities and have crippled Palestinian agriculture, already decimated by the military occupation and closures, by flooding Palestinian markets with cheap Israeli goods. These companies have taken advantage of the EU-Israel Trade Agreement to export large quantities of their produce to the European market.
2. International Corporations: Many international companies have taken the opportunity to profit from the suffering of the people of Palestine. Arms companies sell weapons to Israel in full knowledge of Israel’s ongoing war crimes; construction companies accept contracts for the building of illegal settlements; and multinationals open branches on illegal settlements. Some settlement produce is also marketed as ‘organic’ on European supermarket shelves.
3. States: Several foreign governments plan to set up new industrial areas inside the West Bank on territories under Israeli military occupation. In the occupied Jordan Valley, the Japanese government plans to facilitate the setting up of an industrial area where Israeli and international companies will take advantage of the desperate Palestinian workforce. The construction of this industrial area will entail further entrenchment of the Israeli apartheid system through the development of settler roads linking the zone to 1948 Israel. The German, British and French governments have expressed interest in setting up similar industrial areas elsewhere in the West Bank. These zones will exploit Palestinian workers, whose livelihoods have been destroyed by the Israeli military occupation and who often have no choice but to work for settler companies for low wages and with no protection or right to unionise.
There is an established and growing movement in solidarity with Palestine. Since 2004, the focus of this movement has been a Palestinian call for ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions‘ (BDS). The call was made by hundreds of Palestinian civil society organisations and all major Palestinian trade unions. Campaigners around the world have engaged in diverse forms of solidarity action in line with this call. Corporate Watch’s research intends to strengthen and provide a resource for the growing BDS movement and the wider international solidarity movement.
GAZA – They have almost all left: Bachar for Sweden, May for Spain, Imad for Tunisia, Mohamed for Qatar, Assad for Egypt, Adham for Belgium. Moustapha, Asmaa’s brother also left for Belgium, while Mohamed Matar, aka Abou Yazan, the leader of the short-lived March 15 Movement, that tried to bring the Arab Spring to Gaza, has gone to Germany.
Too much repression from Hamas, too much disappointment from waiting for an intra-Palestinian reconciliation that never came. Too much suffering, too many wars and hardships, but most of all – the Israeli blockade.
A hope that has died and a future that is dead-ended, especially for young graduates. So many young people have left, but Asmaa stayed — determined, courageous, as combative as ever.
If there should only be one person left, it should be her. “I could have gone too, but I love Gaza, and Europe bores me. Over there, I am nothing, and there is nothing to change. I need challenges, fights to fight and causes to defend.”
Asmaa leaves our meeting like she arrived, by foot, her hair uncovered, wearing a jean and not caring one bit about what others think. While she was telling me her story, she chain-smoked and pointed to the beach below the hotel.
This is where everything happened, during the summer of 2009. She was walking on the beach with a group of young men and women. The morality police arrived, took the boys to jail. Asmaa was released, but her passport was confiscated.
In 2007, shortly after the Palestinian civil war, Asmaa, a journalist since 2001, was in South Korea for a journalism course. During her stay, she wrote an article in the form of an open letter to her uncle, a senior military leader for the Hamas. The article, entitled “Dear Uncle, Is This The Homeland We Want?” criticized the movement’s extremist Islamist views. In response, her uncle threatened to kill her.
In Oct. 2009 “before the Arab Spring,” she says, she founded the Iss Ha (Wake Up) movement with around 20 friends. “Our objective was to fight against the Hamas’ Islamization of the Gaza strip.”
The next year, the group of young activists walked the streets of Gaza carrying a huge ballot box demanding Palestinian elections – which are still eagerly awaited.
The number of arrests increased, and so did harassment. In Jan. 2010, Asmaa was arrested with others. “We were guilty of demonstrating our support to the revolution against Mubarak!” She spent eight hours in jail, humiliated, beaten by policewomen who accused her of “not being Muslim.”
In Nov. 2010, the police closed the Gaza offices of the Sharek Youth Forum, a UN-funded NGO that organizes camps and after-school programs for Palestinian children and youths. Eighteen activists were arrested and severely beaten. From then on, protests and arrests became a regular thing. In March 2011, Asma is thrown in prison and violently beaten by police officers.
Too many threats
Asmaa El-Ghoul is a 30-year-old free-lance journalist and writer. She writes for the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam but mostly, she blogs relentlessly, with absolutely no taboo. She writes about forced islamization, the “honor crimes”, corruption, human rights violations and about woman rights. “If you want to be able to write about these subjects honestly, you have to be in the streets too,” she says.
The arrests and punishments keep coming. Death threats, by phone, by mail and on her blog continue to increase. “We will kill you, we will break your bones, burn you with your son.”
But the awards keep coming too. Last October she was given honored with a “Courage in Journalism” award by the International Women’s Media Foundation.
Before that one she received a similar prize given by the Dubai foundation and an award by the Anna Lindh Foundation for her “commitment to freedom of expression and her courage in facing repression.”
Asmaa El-Ghoul uses this international recognition to find fortitude, to give her strength in her new fights. The latest of these fights is emblematic of the rampant islamization of Gaza.
In Jan. 2013, the board of the Al-Aqsa University in the Gaza strip decided that social and family pressure to insure that all women dress “properly” wasn’t enough. The board voted to impose a dress code on female students – saying that from the next semester it would be mandatory for them to wear “clothes that respect the customs and traditions of the Palestinian society.” These clothes include a headscarf (hijab), and a loose-fitting ankle-length robe (jilbab).
Asmaa does not feel concerned by this – she got rid of her headscarf in 2006. However, she feels responsible for the girls of Gaza who refuse to wear the Islamic uniform.
She has stopped blogging for a while now. She received too many threats. “If after my son, they start threatening my six-months old daughter, I will go nuts.”
She also now tries to be less provocative – has stopped smoking on the beach or in the street. “Sometimes I feel like I am alone in the middle of a storm,” she says.
She is writing a book on Gaza and continues to write articles, mostly for Al-Monitor. Talking about freedom, it’s like an illness for her, she says. “An illness I’ll have all my life, but an illness I love.”
Read the article in the original language.
Photo by – Asma Al Ghoul
All rights reserved ©Worldcrunch – in partnership with LE MONDE
“Hello Everybody, I would like to thank the Irish congress of Trade Unions and all the other organisations for inviting me to speak today and for organising this rally and I would like to thank each and every one of you for coming along today. We heard that the ceasefire has been declared but we know that this is not the end of the siege of Gaza or the occupation of the people of Palestine. We witnessed yet again on our television sets this week inhumanity that we cannot believe is allowed to exist. It was called ‘self-defence’. But how can you call self-defence the massacre of women and children in Gaza and the destruction of their infrastructure, this is a war, these are crimes against humanity, we declare that Netanyahu is a war criminal and we can do something about this.
We can ensure that when any of the Israeli leaderships such as, Perez, Netanyahu and their military war executive, try to leave their country and come to any civilized country, we as the people will issue our own indictments of war crimes. We as the people have to stand up for human rights, for international law, for democracy, for a future for our world, because if we don’t do this, our world will plunge into war and to destruction and to barbarity and we will not have such a thing as a civil or political or religious liberty or right. We elect politicians to serve the people, to stand up for our right to food, education, safety and security.
Obama’s dismal failure
Our politicians are failing us dismally; we have no real political leadership with any moral courage in our world today. We supported Obama when he came in and said ‘there is a new way’. President Obama stood in Burma this week and he said: ‘ There is no excuse for violence against innocent people’, what was his message about the violence against the people of Gaza? What has his message been about the violence, occupation,destruction, persecution, apartheid regime against the Palestinian people for the last 60 years? His message was (and the minutes are available from the White house two weeks ago) ‘ We will uphold Israel’s right to self-defence and anybody who questions that, we will not accept’.
What kind of political leadership is that to our people in the world today? The biggest block to real change is not Israel but the United States of America continually vetoing and supporting the murder of children in Gaza and war against civilians.
What Israel is about
We have to know what Israel is about. Jimmy Carter gave an interview last week, and in this interview Jimmy Carter said the policy of the Israeli government is to confiscate Palestinian land. The policy of the Israeli government is to take more and more Palestinian land, they want a greater Israel and not only do they want a greater Israel, they want the 20% of the Arab people who live within Israel proper to acknowledge Israel as a ‘Jewish state’. They want a Jewish state for a Jewish people. When do they think we’re living? Do they think we’re living in the dark ages? Every person has a right to their statehood. Every person has a right to their freedom, a right to dignity. But it’s about the land stupid, it’s about the land as Bill Clinton would say, it’s about the territory stupid. Let’s wake up, this is not about Hamas, this is not about the fact that Israel has no partner for peace. I sat with Yasser Arafat in his little compound before he was killed and he cried out for peace. I sat in Gaza with Hamas in 2008 and they cried out for peace. What was Israel’s answer? Israel’s answer was war against them, and not only dropping one or two bombs but the policy of the Israeli government, and look it up, is that when they go to war, they do the utmost damage. They don’t kill one or two, they destroy a people.
There’s a new concept available now, it’s called ‘Sociocide’, you know our Philosophers and our Professors, too many of them who sit behind university walls, if it’s not going out to new links with other universities so they can get more money for military experiments. Sociocide means another country destroys a people’s whole ability to live – and this is what’s happening in Gaza. The Gazan people: their identities are being destroyed as Palestinians, their country is being destroyed as Palestine, their children are being killed, their spirit is being dampened, they’re being demonised by the Israelis as if they were nothing. Who are the Palestinians? The Israelis created another lie in 1948 when they said they went to ‘a land without people’, they went to a land that was full of the very best of people, good people, kind people, people who opened their hearts to them coming in, in 1948, people who gave them homes and supported them and what did the Israelis do? What did the Zionists do? In 1948, they cleared over 400 Palestinian villages, putting the people out of their homes. The Palestinians had to flee their land, this was ‘The Nakba’ of the Palestinian people. It was genocide as important as the genocide of the Holocaust. I’ve been to Auschwitz, I am not an Anti-Semite. I’ve been to Auschwitz, I’ve seen the suffering and in Auschwitz I swore the next time I saw people suffering like this I would not remain silent and we must not remain silent.
We must stand up against Israeli aggression
It is a myth that The Nakba and the ethnic cleansing that went on in 1948 by the Israeli’s is over. It’s happening today as we stand. The Israelis are clearing villages in the Negev desert so they can take over the very best of Palestinian land. We must up stand up against this. This is not acceptable and we’re not powerless. We’re not powerless, the people of Northern Ireland, no they’re not powerless because we know what it’s like for bombings and shootings and killings and fear and division. And we stood up and we said this is not acceptable. So the people of Israel and Palestine together can stop this. They have to do it, because the world leaders are not going to do it. The people have to do it and do it together, because Israeli’s too are suffering.
Boycott, Divest, Sanction
We must support the Israeli Peace Activists. They are on a hard road but their message is right. Their message is non-violence, dialogue and solving this problem. It’s not who will start this problem; it’s who will end it. Boycott all Israeli goods. Boycott Israel and the companies that trade with them. Divest from Israel and the countries that support Israel. We must applaud the Co-op, because the Co-op, one of the first retailers has come out with a very strong Boycott campaign and we send out from this platform our thanks to the Co-op and we implore more and more to follow their example. But, you know, also sanctions, sanctions against the arms that are flowing into Israel. We must say to America, you are breaking your own laws because every day you have 8 million dollars going to support the militarism of Israel. They are being used illegally by Israel and America has to stop this. Europe too has a lot of work, Europe funds Israel, Israel gets more money out of the European kitty – and that’s our money – to do military research so it can remain a nuclear weapons country with the fourth biggest army in the world.
We’re paying for that, so they use these to destroy a country and destroy the buildings that our tax money built in Gaza. This is not acceptable.
Lies from the Media
I thank you all for coming. We are powerful but the most important thing, our greatest enemy is cowardice, our greatest enemy are those who refuse to speak the truth because of their own fear. Our greatest enemies are people like the BBC and the media who tell lies about what is happening . Where are the media reporting exactly what is happening? We demand, we’re paying tax, we’re paying our license and we want the truth. Thank you very much for all you’re doing. There’s great hope because I have met with the Israeli activists and I have met with the Palestinian people and witnessed their message of non-violence, Palestine has a great non-violence movement, tragically a lot of them are in Israeli prisons. So we together can solve this and help our Palestinian people. We did it in Northern Ireland and we are a model. People said it couldn’t be done, we said it will not be done through militarism, arm struggle and violence. It will be done with truth and courage and love and forgiveness and we can do it. That’s our message to the Israeli and Palestinian people. You can do it another way.’
The suffering of Sderot: how its true inhabitants were wiped from Israel’s maps and memories -Robert
I think I found the village of Huj this weekend – but the road sign said “Sederot”. The world knows it as Sderot, the Israeli city where the Hamas rockets fall. Even Barack Obama has been there. But Huj has a lot to do with this little story.
By my map calculations, it lies, long destroyed, across the fields from a scruffy recreation centre near the entrance to Sderot, a series of shabby villas on a little ring road where Israeli children were playing on the Shabat afternoon.
The inhabitants of Huj were all Palestinian Arab Muslims and, irony of ironies, they got on well with the Jews of Palestine. We have to thank the Israeli historian Benny Morris for uncovering their story, which is as grim as it is filled with sorrow.
Huj’s day of destiny came on 31 May 1948, when the Israeli Negev Brigade’s 7th Battalion, facing an advancing Egyptian army, arrived in the village. In Morris’s words, “the brigade expelled the villagers of Huj … to the Gaza Strip”.
Morris elaborates: “Huj had traditionally been friendly; in 1946, its inhabitants had hidden Haganah men from a British dragnet. In mid-December 1947, while on a visit to Gaza, the mukhtar (mayor) and his brother were shot dead by a mob that accused them of ‘collaboration’. But at the end of May, given the proximity of the advancing Egyptian column, the Negev Brigade decided to expel the inhabitants – and then looted and blew up their houses.”
So the people of Huj had helped the Jewish Haganah army escape the British – and the thanks they got was to be sent into Gaza as refugees. According to Morris, three months later the three headmen from the nearest Jewish kibbutzim even complained about the treatment of their former neighbours to David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister. He wrote back: “I hope that the HQ will pay attention to what you say, and will avoid such unjust and unjustified actions in the future, and will set right these things in so far as possible with respect to the past.” But Ben Gurion did not instruct the new Israeli army to allow the villagers of Huj to return.
The following month, they pleaded to go back. The Israeli Department of Minority Affairs noted that they deserved special treatment since they had been “loyal”, but the Israeli army decided they should not go back. So the Palestinians of Huj festered on in the Gaza strip where their descendants still live as refugees.
But the present day Sderot, writes the Palestinian historian Walid Khalidi, was built on farmland belonging to another Palestinian Arab village called Najd, its 422 Muslim inhabitants living in 82 homes, growing citrus, bananas and cereals. They shared the same fate as the people of Huj. On 12 and 13 May 1948, the Negev Brigade of the Israeli army – again, according to Morris – drove them out. They, too, were sent into exile in Gaza. Thus did the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, as another Israeli historian, Illan Pappé, calls it bluntly, wipe from history the people who farmed the land on which Sderot would be built.
You can see Huj and Najd on Munther Khaled Abu Khader’s reproduced map of Mandate Palestine. Sderot was founded in 1951 but Asraf Simi, who arrived there in 1962 and later worked in the local library, knows nothing of this. She shrugged her shoulders when I asked about them. “We didn’t hear anything about Arabs around here. My uncle came near the beginning, around 1955, and was living in a tent here – and we all thought this would be one of the most modern cities in Israel! I’m not frightened – but I’m not happy about the ceasefire. I think we should have gone in there to finish it all forever.”
Another irony. Asraf Simi was born in Morocco and learned Moroccan-accented Arabic before she left for Israel at the age of 17. And she does not know that today, in the squalor of Gaza, live well over 6,000 descendants of the people of Huj. Thus does the tragedy of the Palestinian Nakba – the “catastrophe” – connect directly with the Israelis of Sderot.
That is why they cannot “finish it all forever”. Because the thousands of rockets that have fallen around them over the past 12 years come from the very place where now live the families that lived on this land. Thus does Sderot have an intimate connection with a date that President Obama may have forgotten about when he came visiting: 1948, the year that will never go away.
The death of civilians on either side in the Israel-Gaza conflict is tragic – especially when children are among the casualties. The BBC correspondent in Gaza, Jon Donnison, witnessed just such a tragedy at close quarters.
My friend and colleague Jehad Mashhrawi is usually the last to leave our Gaza bureau. Hard-working but softly spoken, he often stays late, beavering away on a laptop that is rarely out of arm’s reach.
He has a cool head – unflappable, when others like me are flapping around him. He is a video editor and just one of our local BBC Arabic Service staff who make the office tick.
But on the Wednesday before last – only an hour or so after Gaza’s latest war erupted with Israel‘s killing of Hamas military commander Ahmed al-Jabari – Jehad burst out of the editing suite screaming.
He sprinted down the stairs, his head in his hands, his face ripped with anguish.
Most fathers will tell you their children are beautiful.
Omar was a picture-book baby.
Standing in what is left of his burnt-out home this week, Jehad showed me a photo on his mobile phone.
It was of a cheeky, chunky, round-faced little boy in denim dungarees, chuckling in a pushchair, dark-eyed with a fringe of fine brown hair pushed across his brow.
“He only knew how to smile,” Jehad told me, as we both struggled to hold back the tears.
“He could say just two words – Baba and Mama,” his father went on.
Also on Jehad’s phone is another photo. A hideous tiny corpse. Omar’s smiling face virtually burnt off, that fine hair appearing to be melted on to his scalp.
Jehad’s sister-in-law Heba was also killed.
“We still haven’t found her head,” Jehad said.
And his brother is critically ill in hospital with massive burns. His chances are not good.
Jehad has another son Ali, four years old, who was slightly injured. He keeps asking where his baby brother has gone.
Of course every civilian death on either side – not just Omar’s – is tragic ”
Eleven members of the Mashhrawi family lived in the tiny breezeblock house in the Sabra district of Gaza City. Five people slept in one room.
The beds are now only good for charcoal. The cupboards are full of heaps of burnt children’s clothes.
On the kitchen shelves, there are rows of melted plastic jars full of Palestinian herbs and spices, their shapes distorted as if reflected from a fairground mirror.
And in the entrance hall, a two-foot-wide hole in the flimsy metal ceiling where the missile ripped through.
Despite the evidence pointing towards an Israeli air strike, some bloggers have suggested it might have been a misfired Hamas rocket.
But at that time, so soon after the launch of Israel’s operation, the Israeli military says mortars had been launched from Gaza but very few rockets.
Mortar fire would not cause the fireball that appears to have engulfed Jehad’s house.
Other bloggers have said that the damage to Jehad’s home was not consistent with powerful Israeli attacks but the BBC visited other bombsites this week with very similar fire damage, where Israel acknowledged carrying out what it called “surgical strikes”.
As at Jehad’s home, there was very little structural damage but the victims were brought out with massive and fatal burns. Most likely is that Omar died in the one of the more than 20 bombings across Gaza that the Israeli military says made up its initial wave of attacks.
Omar was not a terrorist.
Of course every civilian death on either side – not just Omar’s – is tragic. The United Nations says its preliminary investigation shows that 103 of the 158 people killed in Gaza were civilians.
Of those, 30 were children – 12 of whom were under the age of 10. More than 1,000 people were injured.
The Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said every non-combatant death or injury was tragic and an “operational failure”.
In Israel, too, there were fatalities: four civilians and two soldiers. There were also many injuries. But the fact the Israeli Ambulance Service was also reporting those suffering from anxiety and bruises is an indication of the asymmetric nature of the conflict.
Jehad’s baby Omar was probably the first child to die in this latest round of violence.
Among the last was a six-year-old boy, Abdul Rahman Naeem, who was killed by an Israeli attack just hours before the ceasefire was announced.
Abdul Rahman’s father, Dr Majdi, is one of the leading specialist doctors at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital.
The first he knew of his son’s death was when he went to treat a patient, only to find it was his own boy.
Apparently, Dr Majdi had not seen Abdul Rahman for days. He had been too busy dealing with the wounded.
Before I left Jehad’s house, leaving him sitting round a camp fire with other mourners, I asked him – perhaps stupidly – if he was angry over Omar’s death.
“Very, very angry,” he said, his jaw tensing as he glanced at the photos on his phone.
This from a man who I cannot ever remember raising his voice in anger.
My thoughts, after a week where I have had little time to think, are with Jehad and his family.
Remarkably and unnecessarily, he told me his thoughts were with me and the rest of our BBC team.
“I’m just sorry, Jon, that I had to go and wasn’t there to help you with your work,” he said, before we hugged and said goodbye.
While attempts have been made by the Palestinians to create a better life for themselves, these refugee camps have been forced upon them to this day by American Taxpayer funding, and Anglo American, Europe backing and banking for Israel that has propped up the forced ‘state’ of Israel for more than fifty years.
Illuminati, New World Order elite have been at the forefront in protecting European and American settler people who stole the land and continue to steal the remaining few segments of land from the Palestinians, in essence taking away from the Palestinians piece by piece this land over these many years.
Pro-palestinian supporters, members of the National Collective for a fair peace between Palestinians and Israeli (Collectif National pour une paix juste entre Palestiniens et Israéliens), demonstrate in front of the Opera Garnier on November 17, 2012 in Paris to protest against Israel’s ongoing airstrike over Gaza