Occupied: Headlines From Palestine

Blogging From Gaza, Palestine

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Palestinian President Abbas Urges African Countries To Boycott Israeli War Crime Settlement Products

PNN/ Bethlehem/

During his visit to South Africa, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Sunday urged African countries to boycott goods produced by Israeli-owned companies in the occupied West Bank, The Times of Israel reported on Monday.

Speaking at the 25th African Union assembly in Johannesburg, Abbas called on state leaders to require the labeling of settlement products as a means of informing consumers that such items are produced in occupied land.

The Palestinian leader added that the sale of Israeli goods produced beyond the Green Line violated international legal standards.

“We must boycott the settlements which were established on Palestinian land, contrary to international law and resolutions,” Abbas said, according to the WAFA news agency.

The call on African leaders follows after the European Union is expected to soon begin rolling out rules that require the labeling of goods from the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, diplomats said recently.

During a previous visit to South Africa in 2013, Abbas stated that Palestine does not support a general boycott of Israel, but a boycott of the products made in occupied lands.

“We ask everyone to boycott the products of the settlements. Because the settlements are in our territories. It is illegal,” he said.

The PA president’s comments at the time conflicted “with the Palestinian national consensus that has strongly supported BDS against Israel since 2005,” one of the founders of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, Omar Barghouti, told Electronic Intifada at the time.

The BDS movement calls for boycotts of Israel, not just Israeli settlements, with the stated goal of ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and granting a right of return to all Palestinian refugees.

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Disgusting! Israel To Pay Rwanda Millions To Take Unwanted African Refugees

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israel and Rwanda are working to finalize a multimillion dollar deal that would relocate hundreds of African asylum seekers living in Israel to Rwanda, Israeli media reported Friday.According to Israeli news site Ynet, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said on Thursday that a deal was being worked out, and Israeli Interior Minister Gilad Erdan later confirmed the report.

Through the agreement, Israel will deport hundreds of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to both Rwanda and Uganda, with Rwanda receiving millions in grants and sales from Israel.

The deal comes after a new policy was unveiled last week by the Israeli Population and Immigration Authority that would enable the state to deport Eritrean and Sudanese refugees to third party countries in Africa against their will.

Up until now, asylum seekers were required to sign a document indicating voluntary departure from Israel, as Israel is a signatory to the Refugee Convention, which prohibits a state from deporting individuals whose lives are in danger in their home countries.

However, the Population and Immigration Authority, which is promoting the policy, argues that there is no law preventing Israel to deport asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan to a third party country where their lives are not in danger.

International human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report in September 2014 criticizing Israel’s response to an inflow of Eritrean and Sudanese refugees fleeing human rights abuses in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in 2006.

The report revealed systematic discrimination of refugees, with the intent of coercing them to leave Israel. It said that Israeli authorities tended to perceive Eritreans and Sudanese refugees as a “threat” and brand them as “infiltrators.”

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Nigerian Parliament Questions Abstention On UNSC Statehood Vote

RAMALLAH, January 14, 2015 (WAFA) – The Nigerian parliament Wednesday summoned Foreign Minister Aminu Wali to question the abstention to vote in favor of ending the Israeli occupation during a UNSC motion on December 30 2014, which failed to advance the Palestinian bid, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).

Nigerian members of parliament earlier rebuked Wali’s abstention to support the motion, which they said “obstructed the way to democracy” and hindered the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

The MOFA quoted Member of Parliament Amin Sulaiman as saying the abstention was a “weird” decision, calling on his country to recognize the Palestinian right of statehood.

Two days ago, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), a political and cultural association of leaders in northern Nigeria, said the abstention came as a result of the Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s immediate intervention after receiving a phone call from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, without consulting with his advisers or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The forum also asked the Nigerian Parliament to urgently open an investigation into the move which prevented the Palestinian people from being recognized as an independent state. The Form’s statement stressed that this abstention is contrary to the Nigerian foreign policy.

To be noted, the United Nations Security Council on December 30 2014 failed to adopt a draft resolution calling for the end of the Israeli occupation and the establishment of an independent state of Palestine, following a US veto. The resolution also failed to receive the required majority among members.


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Nigerian Government Reaffirms Support for Palestinians’ Rights to Self-determination, Statehood

ABUJA, December 20, 2014 – (WAFA) – The Nigerian Government reaffirmed its support for the Palestinian people’s rights to self-determination and statehood.

In an official statement on the occasion of International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Nigerien Minister of Foreign Affairs reiterated his government’s “profound support for the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and the establishment of its sovereign state.”

Affirming his country’s ‘solid’ commitment to the peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, he noted that such a commitment “stems from the deep faith in the sanctity of man’s natural right to freedom and dignity.”

“Nigeria supports the right of the Palestinian people to an independent sovereign state within the framework of the UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 while also recognizing Israel’s right to exist.”


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Israel Secretly Bans Citizens of Ebola-Stricken West Africa From Visiting Country

In extremely irregular move, Foreign Ministry sends classified telegram instructing Israeli missions not to issue visas for citizens of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea; missions warned to keep instructions secret.

By Barak Ravid for Haaretz

The Foreign Ministry relayed classified instructions on Thursday to all Israel’s missions worldwide not to issue entry visas to citizens of three Ebola-stricken African countries.

A source in the Foreign Ministry said that the classified telegram was sent by the head of the consular department, Igal Sarfaty, who instructed the missions not to issue visas to citizens of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

The instructions also said to avoid giving visas to foreign nationals who recently visited these three countries, where thousands infected by the Ebola virus have died. Serfaty wrote in the telegram that the instructions ought to be kept secret and not publicized.

The instructions to ban citizens from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea from entering Israel are extremely irregular. Most Western governments, and among them the U.S., have so far avoided taking such a step. Canada and Australia, however, did issue a visa ban.

This is the most serious step Israel has taken in the course of its efforts to prevent Ebola carriers from entering the country. .

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has held several discussions in recent weeks over the scenario of the virus spreading to Israel. In the course of the discussions Netanyahu presented Ebola as one of the three threats over Israel’s border, alongside “illegal infiltrators and terror.” Netanyahu noted that “the state of Israel is preparing to prevent as much as possible the entry of Ebola carriers inside its borders, as part of the efforts we make to protect the borders…”

In August, the Foreign Ministry issued a travel warning calling on Israelis to avoid visiting Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, due to Ebola concerns. In early October it was decided to screen Israelis and tourists arriving in Israel from these three countries on the Israeli border crossings. Travelers will be questioned, their temperatures will be taken and they will be required to fill out forms with their personal information.

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Update on African Asylum Seekers Illegally Expelled by Israel

Smiles hide lost hope of Israel’s asylum seekers in Uganda

Some South Sudanese asylum seekers ‘voluntarily returned’ by Israel to Africa say they would rather die in Sudan than wake up every day in prison in Israel. So they go back to Sudan, and some do die. We help them die.
By Jenn Isackov for Haaretz

In the pictures, everyone is smiling. I had held my camera and told them to smile, so they did. Now, I must explain to family and friends and strangers that my trip to Uganda was filled with tears followed by deep breaths. When there was laughter, it was always shadowed by loss.

I followed my friend, Moran, to Kampala in order to find out what has happened to Israel’s asylum seekers who were sent to Africa. Moran had gone to Kampala in order to visit her friends. One of them, Bol, joined us there for the length of the trip. Originally from South Sudan, Bol had sought asylum in Israel and had lived in Arad for six years serving as chairman of the South Sudanese community in Israel. Following South Sudan’s independence and Israel’s decision to repatriate the entire community, Bol volunteered to be on the first plane home. He has lived to regret that decision.

Bol is two meters tall, skinny, with an extremely warm smile. He is kind, funny and smart, and I understood why his community chose him as their leader. But underneath Bol’s smile there was a story that I wished I hadn’t heard. As he sat on his bed in our hostel and spoke about the horrors that he had witnessed in South Sudan, I looked at the door contemplating escape. I have heard many Holocaust survivors tell their story but this was much harder to hear. Holocaust survivors speak about history; Bol was reciting current events. Holocaust survivors were abandoned by the world; Bol was abandoned by us.

From 2006 until 2013, asylum seekers mainly from North and South Sudan, Darfur, and Eritrea, crossed the Israel/Egypt border into Israel resulting in an approximate total of sixty thousand asylum seekers. Up until 2006, asylum seekers were few and far between and because no Israeli refugee law was ever drafted, Israel’s response to these asylum seekers has been inconsistent. On the one hand, Israel has given people from Sudan and Eritrea “group protection”- a status that prevents refoulment (sending them back to their country of origin), while on the other hand, the government has created harsh policies of deterrence in an effort to rid itself of all African migration. In 2012, these harsh policies came to a head when Israel rushed to cancel the group protection of South Sudanese asylum seekers with the sole purpose of sending men, women, and children back to a volatile region.

That region is now entrenched in civil war, and Bol had been caught in the middle of the fighting. Part of his escape from South Sudan included jumping over the bodies of his dead friends. His trauma is still fresh and as he relived his memories, I tried to not visualize his words because it was too hard to hear: They shoot mothers in front of their children, and then force the children to drink the blood of their mothers.

Ironically it was Bol who had to comfort both Moran and I: “It’s okay. It’s okay.”

And then I had to ask: Did children – South Sudanese children from Israel – also witness this? Did those children, who had once attended school with our children, who spoke our language, who sang our songs, witness this? I knew the answer before I asked it.

It’s not okay. It’s definitely not okay.

I have uploaded pictures to Facebook of smiling South Sudanese children who attend the Trinity School in Kampala. These children all speak Hebrew, but you cannot hear that in the pictures. Some came before the civil war in South Sudan and some came after and some are still missing and some are still waiting for sponsors.

But all the children are smiling in the pictures.

Some of the children’s parents have also sought refuge in Kampala. In the pictures, they smile with their children. The other parents are in Juba or are still missing. Many have stories like Bol’s.

It is anything but okay.

In 2012, we rushed to put these families on planes. We did not care that children would die of malaria and other diseases. We did not care that there was a chance of civil war. We cared that there would be 1200 fewer Africans on our soil.

I wish I could say that this is the end of a tragic story, but it is only the beginning. Despite the fact that in 2013, Israel closed the Sinai/Israel border, resulting in only a trickle of asylum seekers entering each year, the government has continued to embitter the lives of those who already in Israel with the hope that they will “voluntary return” to Africa like the South Sudanese. Our government calls it “voluntary return” because people, young people who are my age with similar goals and aspirations, have to choose between indefinite detainment in prison and going back to Africa.

Some have said that they rather die in Sudan than wake up every day in prison in Israel. So they go back to Sudan, and some do die. We help them die.

Some who haven’t died are in Kampala smiling in the photos with me. One of them, a Darfuri, was advised by Israel’s Ministry of the Interior as to where he could obtain an illegal passport (answer: south Tel Aviv’s Neve Shaanan neighborhood). Another, an Eritrean, obtained a ticket to Uganda from the Ministry of Interior; however, it was a return ticket through Uganda to Eritrea. He was told by the Ministry to enter Uganda on his layover and to overstay his visa. Other Darfuris were granted travel documents to fly to Uganda only to have Ugandan officials take away those same documents on arrival.

Despite our government assurances that there is an agreement with Uganda regarding asylum seekers, all of the asylum seekers I spoke with live in Uganda without a visa, jobs, security or stability. However, they are all smiling in the photos.

Except for Bol. Dearest Bol, you were with us in Kampala almost 24/7 for over a week. That’s too many hours of pretending that “it’s okay.” So sometimes, just sometimes, I would snap my camera when you didn’t notice. You weren’t smiling in those photos. Your eyes were focused on nothing in particular, your body slightly hunched over, your forehead strained, and your smile gone.

If it were considered okay for South Sudanese men to cry, we would have cried together: you, me and Moran. We could have cried for all the lives lost; for the community that was and now isn’t; for the traumas that children have endured; for endless bloodshed; for lost hope; for lives that Israel wasted. We should have cried together.

But instead, we smiled in the photos.

Jenn Isackov lives in Beer Sheva and studied for her MSW at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev having made aliyah from Canada 8 years ago. She recently completed a law degree from Sapir College and works as a social worker at Amutat Be’er Sova, and has volunteered with asylum seekers for several years.

For more information on the Kampala Trinity School project, a tuition and boarding scholarship program in Kampala for South Sudanese children deported from Israel managed by the Israeli organization Become, click here.

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Human Rights Watch Blasts Israel Over Its Treatment of African Migrants

Report says authorities coerced almost 7,000 Eritrean and Sudanese to return to their homes, where they may face serious abuse.

(AP) An international watchdog has slammed Israel for its treatment of thousands of African migrants, saying it is forcing them to leave the country at grave personal risk.

In a report issued Tuesday, Human Rights Watch says Israeli authorities have coerced almost 7,000 Eritrean and Sudanese to return to their homes, where they may face serious abuse.

Israel’s Interior Ministry had no comment on the report.

Israel places thousands of Eritrean and Sudanese migrants in hardscrabble detention centers in the Negev desert. Human Rights Watch says the aim is to make life so intolerable that the migrants leave on their own volition.

In recent years some 50,000 Eritreans and Sudanese have entered Israel illegally via the Sinai desert, causing great consternation in the mainly poor Israeli neighborhoods where they have settled.