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PALESTINE: Gaza-Israel: Letter to my Palestinian friend from Gaza

By Eric Gozlan

 

The Time of Israel (24.05.2021) – HTTPS://BIT.LY/3I06EFY

 

Dear Friend

 

Finally, a ceasefire was reached on the night of May 20-21 after 11 days of fighting in which unfortunately too many people died.

 

Once again parents will mourn their children; sons and daughters will mourn their parents; men and women will mourn their loved ones.

 

I am sad because a life lost, whether Palestinian or Israeli, is a tragedy. We should never forget that in the Qur’an it is written “Whoever kills a human being has killed all mankind” (Qur’an 5/32) and the Old Testament commands us in Exodus 20-13 “You shall not kill. ”

 

Dear Friend, I am your brother in humanity and it is in this capacity that I am taking the liberty of giving you ideas so that the Gaza Strip becomes a haven of peace where your children will be able to conceive a true future.

 

For too long I have known that you live in poverty. Your average salary is 135 dollars a month, which is not much, and you would be right to revolt, especially when you read the Forbes study which calculated that Hamas has a working capital of one billion dollars a year.

 

The Palestinian Authority, which is based in Ramallah, and the rulers of Gaza receive hundreds of millions per year and you, an ordinary citizen, are given only crumbs.

 

Dear Friend, the day when finally, there will be democratic elections in Gaza, I hope you will ask the different candidates where that money went.

 

You know, I have the chance to travel to some Arab countries and you can’t imagine how much luxury is there. It’s true that they talk about you, that they pity you, but when it comes to putting their hand in the wallet, it’s another story.

 

In 2019, they gave your leaders 229 million dollars. Seeing that your leaders forgot to share this manna, they reduced their aid in 2020 to 38 million dollars.

 

At the same time, Israel, considered as the Satan by your leaders, provides you with electricity, water and has sent over 140,000 truckloads of goods to Gaza.

 

2020 was a tough year with Covid. I don’t know if you can watch American and European televisions, but that was all they were talking about. The Middle East conflict was no longer in the news. The world had forgotten you. There were also the Abraham Agreements. You realize that finally Arab countries and Israel signed a peace agreement. Immediately after those agreements, there were many economic exchanges, thousands of Israelis visited the Gulf countries, and you could see in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem many tourists from the Gulf. That gave the impression that peace had always prevailed.

So yes, between Covid and the Abraham Agreements, you were forgotten. I  wish so much I could have seen your leaders in the White House sign an agreement too.

 

My Friend, I want you to be free, I want you to be happy and I want us to be able to discuss the future together. To achieve that, your leaders must finally have courage. They must recognize Israel because, as you know, Israel will never be destroyed.

 

I know that peace is built by two people. I know that you, a man of the people, aspire to this, but do you really think that a country can accept that 4,630 rockets be launched towards its territory?

 

Those same rockets also killed your children. Your leaders may not have told you that 630 of those bombs fell on your territory.

 

I know Israelis and I know that they do not like war. In fact, Golda Meir, who was Prime Minister, once said to the Arab countries, “What I reproach you for, you will be surprised to hear it, is not so much killing our own children, but forcing us to kill yours. ”

 

You may know it, but you and Israelis have common enemies. Those enemies have a name: extremism. Israelis have the extreme right that claims to be Rabbi Kahana’s, and you have Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Those enemies are using you to satisfy their hatred. Just as many Israelis fight the extreme right, you must also fight Hamas and Islamic Jihad. You will see that, if they realize the majority wants peace, then, like good politicians, they will have to change their tune or leave.

 

My Friend, if you can convince your leaders to talk with the Israelis, explain to them that it is useless to go through intermediaries. Tell them to talk directly with the Israelis.

 

After the Israeli and Palestinian leaders have spoken together, they can invite other heads of government who will fund joint projects.

My friend, I know that the road to this longed-for peace will be difficult and long, but you should copy the Israeli groups that work for peace. Unfortunately, similar groups do not exist in your country.

 

If some people read this letter, they will surely say that our exchange is utopian, that we are dreamers. Don’t listen to them because history shows that they are wrong. How many countries have fought and then become the best of friends? Think instead of Edouard Herriot who wrote that “a utopia is a reality in the making.  ”

 

Shalom, Salam

 

Eric Gozlan

 

Co-Director International Council for Diplomacy and Dialogue (www.icdd.info)

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Gozlan is Government Counselor and co-director of the international Council for diplomacy and dialogue. He works in civic diplomacy in the Middle East and in Africa. He has received numerous awards for peace and gives numerous lectures. He served in the IDF for several years.

 

Photo credits : The Time of Israel





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ISRAEL-GAZA: EU conference of ministers

Israel-Palestine: EU informal video conference of foreign affairs ministers

Main results of the discussion on 18 May

Picture: Anas Baba/ AFP/ Getty Image

EU Council (18.05.2021) – https://bit.ly/2T2CF63 – EU foreign affairs ministers exchanged views on recent, grave upsurge in violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and discussed the elements of the EU response.

 

The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, summarised the overall sense of the discussion as follows:

  • the priority is the immediate cessation of all violence and the implementation of a ceasefire, in order to protect civilians, and give full humanitarian access in Gaza
  • the upsurge in violence in the last days has led to a high number of civilian deaths and injured, including a high number of children and women. This is unacceptable
  • the indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups on the Israeli territory is to be condemned
  • we fully support Israel’s right to self-defence. This has to be done in a proportionate manner and respecting international humanitarian law
  • the status quo of the Holy Sites must be fully respected, and the right to worship upheld
  • it is important not to proceed with evictions in Sheikh Jarrah, in line with the EU position on settlements
  • real security for Israel and Palestine requires a true political solution that will bring peace. In order to do so, we need to restore a political horizon, explore space for re-engagement between the parties, develop confidence-building measures, improve the people’s living conditions, and open the path towards the potential relaunching of the peace process
  • the holding of Palestinian elections must be considered a priority
  • the EU will renew its engagement with key partners like the new US administration, and a revived Quartet
  • the EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process, Sven Koopmans, will travel to the region to engage with the Quartet, other partners and the parties themselves.




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PALESTINE: How one woman with a disability builds a life in Gaza

People with disabilities find strength despite discrimination.

 

By Paul Aufiero

 

HRW (03.12.2020) – https://bit.ly/3gn4RYS – “I think I wouldn’t have achieved so much in my life without my disability,” said Doaa Qashlan, a university graduate and disability rights activist living in Gaza. Doaa, who was born with a physical disability and uses a wheelchair or an electric mobility scooter to move around, has a supportive family. She even became the first in her family to travel abroad. But back home in Gaza, life has been increasingly difficult.

 

Doaa uses her mobility scooter to get around the inaccessible streets of Gaza. “They’re my legs,” she says of her assistive devices. A few months ago, Doaa’s scooter was damaged. She has still not been able to fix it, she says, as many necessary parts can’t be found in Gaza and there’s a lack of expertise to repair damaged devices. In part this stems from sweeping Israeli restrictions on the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza. Today, Doaa says, she feels trapped at home.

 

Doaa nonetheless maintains a sense of humor, resiliency, and a hope to see things change. She is a member of the Public Relations and Media Board of the Palestinian General Union for People with Disabilities and has collaborated with international and local organizations in Gaza to raise awareness on disability rights. Her work is a testament to her perseverance. Still, life in Gaza can be hard.

 

New research released on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities describes how Israel’s 13-year closure and Hamas authorities’ lack of services or efforts to make public spaces accessible contribute to making life extraordinarily difficult for tens of thousands of Palestinians with disabilities in Gaza. “The situation [in Gaza] is already dire,” Doaa said. “You see how people in Gaza suffer? People with disabilities suffer double.”

 

Electricity outages are Doaa’s biggest daily worry. She must keep her mobility scooter charged. But Gaza’s chronic power outages, a product of restrictive Israeli policies and squabbles between Palestinian authorities, leave residents with as little as five hours of electricity per day and up to 15 hours on the best days. For Doaa and other people in Gaza with disabilities, these electricity cuts present serious obstacles to daily life – especially for those who rely on equipment powered by electricity, such as elevators and electric mobility scooters.

 

Even when she can leave home, Doaa struggles with living in a relatively inaccessible area where it can be difficult for her to move about, and many in her community do not understand her needs. “Our neighbor built a speedbump in our area to slow cars down. He wasn’t aware that this could injure us.”

 

Doaa, like others with disabilities in Gaza, particularly women, faces deeply entrenched stigma. There are little to no job prospects and their social circles run small. Even things society places high value on, like marriage, are largely out of reach. For Doaa, this stigma is a constant source of frustration. “One day, a group of girls were speaking about marriage. They mentioned that a girl with a disability got married. One of them jokingly asked, ‘I wonder how she got married?’ I got angry and asked her, ‘Has anyone asked you how you would get married?’ The girl did not reply.”

 

Even getting an education presented challenges for Doaa, each step of the way. By grade five, Doaa’s muscles had begun to severely weaken and walking became challenging. She recalls an incident in grade six, when she used a walker. “I wanted to go to the bathroom. In order to reach the toilet, I had to walk a long distance on an unpaved, rocky path. Some students pushed me while I was walking, and I fell down and wet myself.” When her father came to get her, he took her out of school. It was only at her mother’s insistence – her mother even left the house until her father relented – that Doaa returned to school.

 

Doaa’s mother is a constant source of strength for her and her younger sister Abeer, who also has a physical disability and uses a mobility scooter. When Doaa went back to school, she would arrive early to change from her mobility scooter to her wheelchair, and sometimes her mother would go over schoolwork with her while they waited for class to begin. One day, a group of people saw them, and one of them said to Doaa’s mother, “Why are you teaching her, you think she will succeed? She’s half human, go and give birth to a complete human.” Doaa says that when she used to feel depressed and didn’t want to go to school at all, sometimes counselors would visit her for psychosocial support. Later Doaa found out her mother had been arranging for that herself.

 

Doaa received an opportunity to attend a training program in the United Arab Emirates through a United Nations program for young people with disabilities. But after two years, Doaa made the difficult decision to return home. She was distraught coming back to Gaza but enrolled in a university program in office administration. At one point, Doaa had to leave university for a year because she and Abeer had to share one mobility scooter between them, and Abeer needed it to finish secondary school.

 

Having a disability in Gaza can sometimes be life-threatening. During the war in 2014 between Israel and Palestinian armed groups, Doaa was constantly afraid of being unable to escape danger in the event of an Israeli airstrike. “Each time I got into the bathroom, I was afraid if a nearby escalation took place and I needed to flee quickly, I couldn’t. I was already slow.” Doaa and her sister would sometimes even hear family members say things like, “Your family might flee and forget you at home.”

 

During the war, Doaa’s and Abeer’s family did have to evacuate from their home. They went to live with their aunt, whose home was not accessible. Doaa was not able to use her wheelchair in the house and had to crawl to move about. But she was embarrassed to do so in front of her male relatives in the house, so would avoid moving when they were home.

 

And what if she and her sister needed to flee or quickly escape a building that came under attack? The stress of the fighting, compounded with not knowing what would happen to her and Abeer should their family have to evacuate, weighed on her emotionally. “The most difficult thing was when I heard my sister say, ‘I don’t want to die and leave you on your own. I don’t want you to die and leave me on my own.’”

 

Today, Doaa draws hope from her friends, all of whom also have disabilities, and from her desire to see the situation change in Gaza. Before her scooter was damaged, Doaa would spend her time at the General Union to work on disability rights-related activities or attend training sessions. She is excited about efforts by local organizations that can help people with disabilities, specifically women and girls. “Focus on youth and a double focus on girls. Girls need support because they’re incredibly marginalized. They need to get a space to speak out.”

 

One organization has made a huge difference in her life already. Recently, the nongovernmental group Humanity and Inclusion enhanced Doaa’s home to make the kitchen and bathroom more accessible. “Now I am able to get into the kitchen and make food for me and my family.” This small improvement left an enormously positive mark on Doaa’s life, highlighting how such modest efforts to improve accessibility can go a long way to relieving the immense barriers that people with disabilities face just trying to live independent lives.

 

When asked what Israeli and Palestinian authorities should do for the tens of thousands of people with disabilities in Gaza, Doaa had one simple message: “Remember we are humans.”

Photo: Doaa Qashlan is photographed during an interview with Human Rights Watch in Gaza, November 18, 2020. © 2020 Yousef Mashharawi.





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Israeli government considering ban on LGBTQ ‘conversion therapy,’ but bill put on hold

Coalition sources say the fact the bill to ban the widely discredited, harmful practice is even being considered is an achievement, but members of the opposition argue it wasn’t immediately disqualified only to minimize potential backlash against two openly gay ministers.

 

By Jonathan Lis

 

Haaretz (21.06.2020) – https://bit.ly/2BvjU2k – The Israeli government will examine legislation that would prohibit so-called conversion therapy, which aims to change the sexual orientation of LGBTQ people, but is widely discredited by experts worldwide and is used despite no scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be altered.

 

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation will likely delay the bill proposal brought forward by Meretz Chairman Nitzan Horowitz in order to consider a more “moderate” version of the law that would be accepted by ultra-Orthodox parties, according to a government source.

 

The proposed legislation would ban “conversion therapy” and sanction so-called therapists with jail time, a fine, and revocation of their professional license.

 

The government source said that the fact the bill is being considered even though the coalition is made up in part by ultra-Orthodox parties, who oppose pro-LGBTQ legislation, is seen as an achievement.

 

Sources in the opposition, however, said the law was not immediately disqualified not in order to pass it at a later date, but to minimize offense to two openly gay ministers serving on the committee for legislation, and avoid criticism from Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party, which promised it would advocate for the LGBTQ community in its election campaign.

 

Previous attempts at writing into law a ban on “conversion therapy” have failed, including for bills proposed for former Health Minister Yael German, which never passed even a preliminary Knesset vote.

 

“‘Conversion therapy’ is murder,” Horowitz said at the meeting of the legislative committee. “It’s murder of the soul and often times the body too. These procedures result in self-harm to the point of suicide. What therapy means here is mental and physical abuse of teenagers.”

 

Horowitz said that professionals don’t believe the procedure can convert a person’s sexual orientation, and that it results in great harm. “The purpose of this law is to save lives,” he added.

 

“It’s our duty to locate the businesses of abuse, to revoke their licenses and charge them with a crime. Just as we would with a murderer or any person who causes the death of another person.”

 

Horowitz appealed to “all who see themselves as part of the fight against homophobia.” He named members of Kahol Lavan ‒ including Benny Gantz, Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn, and Tourism Minister Asaf Zamir ‒ as well as Likud MK Amir Ohana, who is gay, in his appeal.

 

“It’s our legal and moral duty to save the next victims of ‘conversion therapy.’ It’s an opportunity for the Knesset to give a clear message ‒ it doesn’t matter if you’re straight, gay, lesbian, or trans, we don’t want to change you. You are beautiful and whole just as you are.”





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ISRAEL: Court rules against Beersheba print shop that refused to serve LGBT group

Judge says that when one’s religious beliefs conflict with a necessity to provide service to all, the latter value holds superior; minister slams decision.

 

By Jacob Magid

 

The Times of Israel (21.04.2020) – https://bit.ly/2VKwX7X – The Beersheba Magistrate’s Court ruled Tuesday that a local print shop must compensate an LGBT rights group after it refused to print its posters.

 

The Aguda Association for LGBT Equality in Israel filed a NIS 100,000 ($28,134) lawsuit against the business, Rainbow Color, three years ago after its owners refused service to the Ben Gurion University LGBT chapter.

 

“We do not deal with abomination materials. We are Jews!” the shop had said in response to the chapter’s request for an estimate on the posters.

 

Aguda argued that Rainbow Color had violated the Prohibition of Discrimination in Products, Services and Entry into Places of Entertainment and Public Places Law Act passed by the Knesset in 2000.

 

Rainbow Color claimed that its owners, who are religious, are barred from providing assistance to offenders of religious law. In its defense, the owners added the rulings of two Orthodox rabbis who wrote that according to Jewish law the publication of such posters is prohibited.

 

Judge Orit Lipshitz rejected the defendant’s claim and ordered that it pay NIS 50,000 ($14,071), in addition to legal expenses.

 

“The court does not seek to enter into the consciousness of service providers… when it comes to their subjective opinions with regard to others,” Lipshitz wrote. “The legislature also does not seek to interfere with the freedom of religion and worship reserved for them as human beings.”

 

“When their beliefs conflict with a necessity of providing service to all in a public space, the last value holds superior,” she concluded.

 

Lauding the ruling, Aguda CEO Ohad Hizki said in a statement that, “it is unacceptable for a business that provides a public service to decide to discriminate against an entire population of Israeli society simply because of its sexual orientation or gender identity.”

 

“To this day, thousands of companies and community members suffer discrimination, hatred and violence just because of who they are. We applaud this clear and just ruling that prohibits unfair discrimination and [will] continue to fight for anyone and everyone to receive full equality of rights,” he added.

 

Menashe Yado, of the right-wing Honenu legal aid organization representing Rainbow Color, called the ruling a form of “secular coercion.”

 

“If in the State of Israel a religious Jew cannot run a business according to his lifestyle, [then] where can he? Every religious Jew knows that the people of Israel have managed to survive thousands of years [sic] thanks to the Torah teachings of Israel. The court has forgotten this or perhaps never learned this lesson,” Yado said in a statement.

 

Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich called the ruling “outrageous” and “secular coercion.”

 

“[The court] is forcing a religious and mitzvah-keeping man to act against his belief at his private business,” he said.

 

Smotrich has called himself a “proud homophobe” and was involved in organizing an anti-gay “Beast Parade” in Jerusalem in response to the capital’s annual Gay Pride parade.


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