On Nakba day, Palestinian civil society in besieged Gaza decries collective failure to ensure accountability for Israeli massacre
As Palestinians commemorate the Nakba, the catastrophe in 1948 when more than 700,000 indigenous Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their homes by Zionist militias and later the State of Israel, life in the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip is reaching a fatal tipping point, as the UN has warned.
Close to 2 million Palestinians are incarcerated by Israel in a small space condemned to a life of misery, where not even water, the source of life, is fit for human consumption. The provision of basic services such as health and education faltering and the alarm must be sounded. This is an Israeli-made “tsunami” that can be stopped if enough people of conscience around the world would hold Israel to account and pressure their institutions and governments to do so. Israel must pay a heavy price for its criminal behaviour.
If ever there was a right time to isolate a rogue regime to prevent it from committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, it is now. We, the undersigned Palestinian civil society organisations in Gaza, call for urgent and effective measures of accountability, including boycotts, divestment and meaningful sanctions, against Israel and the corporations that are complicit in its serious violations of international law to save hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians in Gaza from a fate of unspeakable suffering and slow death.
Israel’s massacre in Gaza in the summer of 2014 left more than 2,300 of our people dead and damaged or destroyed our schools, hospitals, UN shelters and thousands of our homes. Eight months on, Gaza remains in ruins, yet at least 100,000 people remain homeless. Of the 12,600 houses that were totally destroyed, not one has yet been rebuilt. To Palestinians everywhere, and in Gaza in particular, the 1948 Nakba is ongoing.
Despite the so called cease-fire, Israel’s often deadly attacks on Palestinians in Gaza are continuous, especially on fishers in the access restricted areas (ARA) along the border with Israel and off the Gaza coast. ARA were among the most hit during the massacre and still continue to suffer from Israeli violations of international law and Palestinian human rights.
At the root of this grave human suffering is Israel’s ongoing occupation and illegal eight-year siege, which severely restricts movement of people, goods and reconstruction materials. Health and education services have been severely impaired as well. The Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt has been open for just a handful of times so far this year. On average, just 198 people have been able to leave Gaza through the Rafah crossing each week during 2014, down from 955 during 2014. As of February 2015, just 1,661 trucks (containing around 105,307 tonnes) of the 800,000 trucks of material needed to reconstruct destroyed homes and other buildings have been allowed to enter Gaza. The failure of international donors to release pledged funds has exacerbated severe energy shortages. Electricity is still only available for a few hours per day.
The UN Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), the international community’s main response, is fundamentally flawed in a way that deepens the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza. The GRM makes the international community, and the UN in particular, the enforcers of the Israeli siege and makes aid to Palestinians conditional on Israeli approval.
As much as 71% of the aid pledged by international donors is expected to benefit the Israeli economy, effectively rewarding Israel for its massacre of Palestinians. Many of the companies supplying the construction efforts are illegally involved in the crime of pillage of Palestinian natural resources and/or participate in the construction of illegal settlements.
Many western governments are seeking to prevent Palestinians from taking cases against Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Last July, the US voted against and several EU member including France, Germany and the UK abstained from voting on the establishment of a UN Gaza Commission of Inquiry.
The US and Germany look set to continue their vast military support for Israel, while the European Union has maintained its Association Agreement with Israel, affording Israel access to EU markets and programs, and the Canadian government has even signed a raft of new agreements with Israel. Even those countries in the global south that speak in clearer terms of their support for the Palestinian people’s right to self determination have failed to translate their symbolic gestures into ending their military links and preferential trade agreements with Israel.
Given the human catastrophe that Gaza is facing and Israel’s threats of more atrocities, we call on governments and international bodies to take immediate action to:
- Ensure Israel is held to account for its war crimes against Palestinians in Gaza, including by supporting Palestinians in seeking justice at the ICC.
- End direct support for Israeli war crimes, including by imposing a comprehensive military embargo and suspending free trade agreements and other bilateral agreements until such time as Israel complies with international law, including lifting the siege on Gaza.
- Provide immediate international protection to civilians in Gaza, including by providing financial and material support to help Palestinians to cope with the immense hardship they continue to experience.
We warmly thank the countless people of conscience and principled organisations across the world who stand in solidarity with our struggle for freedom, justice and equality, and call on international civil society, including trade unions, NGOs, grassroots networks, political parties and parliamentarians to:
- Join and build the Palestinian-led, global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as a key tool to ensure Israel is held to account for its violations of international law in Gaza and against Palestinians everywhere, including by pressuring universities, banks and pension funds to divest from companies profiting from Israel’s occupation and war crimes.
- Pressure governments to impose military embargoes and trade sanctions.
Palestinian BDS National Committee
Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU)
Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO)
University Teachers' Society in Palestine
Palestinian Medical Relief Society
Palestinian Association for Development and Reconstruction (PADR)
Medical Democratic Assembly
Palestinian Student Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)
Medical Initiative Assembly
Arab Center for Agricultural Development (ACAD)
Union of Health Work Committees
One Democratic State group
Herak Youth Center
Badr Campaign for Boycott of Israeli Goods