Palestinian, Jewish, and Other Local Activists Shut Down Israeli Consulate
SAN FRANCISCO – A group of nine activists – Palestinian, anti-Zionist Jewish, and immigrant rights activists – blocked the entrance of the Israeli Consulate beginning at 8:30am today, in nonviolent protest of Israeli apartheid and its current attacks on Gaza. The activists chained themselves together using handcuffs and locks, locked the doors to the building, and were joined by a diverse rally of over 40 supporters. The action was organized jointly by local Palestinians and Jews in support of: an immediate ceasefire; the opening of land, sea, and air borders to allow in emergency supplies; and an end to US financial and political support for Israel.
"For the past sixty years, Israel has tried to eliminate the Palestinian people by forcing them out of their homes and off their lands, starving them, and killing them," said Maria Poblet, an immigrants' rights organizer. "The recent blockades and attacks in Gaza are not an exception, but a brutal reminder that killing civilians is a regular part of Israeli strategy."
Linked arm in arm, Bay Area Jews, Palestinians and social-justice activists aim to increase pressure on Israel and its supporters in the face of the 21-day siege on Gaza and the growing humanitarian crisis. All nine activists were arrested after about two hours, charged with trespassing, and allowed to leave. This action is one in a series that has moved from Toronto, to New York, to Los Angeles.
Organizers assert that the current situation in Gaza is not a conflict between two peoples of equivalent capacities, nor is Israel's motive self-defense. "For the past year and a half, Israel has enacted strangling sanctions under the guise of targeting Hamas, collectively starving the entire population of food, water, medicine, and other vital resources," stated Monadel Herzallah of the United States Palestinian Community Network. "The recent air and ground strikes are another brutal blow to Gazans who are already trapped in a concentration camp of despair and growing poverty."
Activists also spoke out against the US pledge of more than $3 billion each year in unrestricted aid to Israel. "Israel's use of US aid and military equipment violates our own laws. We can choose to uphold US and international laws, or ignore them as we are now doing at the peril of our conscience and our place among all of humanity," said Nadeen Elshorafa of the General Union of Palestinian Students.
Organizer Sara Kershnar of the International Jewish anti-Zionist Network summed up the sentiment: "Today, as Palestinians, Jews, and our united allies, we make our position clear: we are on one side, the side of justice; Israel, an apartheid state, is on the other."
Fact Sheet on Gaza and Israeli Apartheid
THE PEOPLE OF GAZA: Nearly 1.5 million Palestinians live in Gaza, many of them concentrated in one-half of the territory. In this area, the population density is nearly 20,000 people per square mile, one of the highest in the world. More than three quarters of Gaza's residents are refugees who were driven from their homes during past wars with Israel (in 1948 and 1967), and their descendants. Israel has permanently barred their return. Over half of these refugees still reside in Gaza's eight refugee camps. (BBC, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5122404.stm)
THE OCCUPATION OF GAZA: The Gazans have lived under Israeli occupation since the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel is still widely considered to be an occupying power, even though it removed its troops and settlers from the strip in 2005. Israel still controls access to the area, imports and exports, and the movement of people in and out. Israel has control over Gaza's air space and sea coast, and its forces enter the area at will. As the occupying power, Israel has the responsibility under the Fourth Geneva Convention to see to the welfare of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. ("What You Don't Know About Gaza", Rashidi Khalidi, New York Times, January 7, 2009).
THE BLOCKADE of GAZA: Israel's blockade of the strip, with the support of the United States and the European Union, has grown increasingly stringent since Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006. Fuel, electricity, imports, exports and the movement of people in and out of the Strip have been slowly choked off, leading to life-threatening problems of sanitation, health, water supply and transportation. This amounts to the collective punishment — with the tacit support of the United States — of a civilian population for exercising its democratic rights. (Khalidi, New York Times).
THE CEASE-FIRE: Lifting the blockade, along with a cessation of rocket fire, was one of the key terms of the June cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. This accord led to a reduction in rockets fired from Gaza from hundreds in May and June to a total of less than 20 in the subsequent four months (according to Israeli government figures). The cease-fire broke down when Israeli forces launched major air and ground attacks in early November; six Hamas operatives were reported killed. (Khalidi, New York Times).
WAR CRIMES: Israel's current assault on the Gaza Strip cannot be justified by self-defense. Rather, it involves serious violations of international law, including war crimes. Senior Israeli political and military leaders may bear personal liability for their offenses, and they could be prosecuted by an international tribunal, or by nations practicing universal jurisdiction over grave international crimes. ("Israel is committing war crimes." George Bisharat, Wall Street Journal, January 10, 2009.)
ISRAELI APARTHEID: Former South African President Hendrick Verwoerd observed as far back as 1961 that "Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state." In Palestine, the Zionist goal of controlling as much land as possible without Palestinians led to the large-scale expulsions of 1947-48 and 1967. Today, 92 percent of Israel's land is defined as the "inalienable property of the Jewish people." Jews anywhere in the world have a "right to return" and claim citizenship, while Palestinians who were expelled from their homes are denied the "right to return" guaranteed by international law. Former President Jimmy Carter defines apartheid as the "forced separation of two peoples in the same territory with one of the groups dominating or controlling the other." This accurately describes the situation in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, where Israeli settlers and soldiers totally dominate the indigenous Palestinian population. The policies Israel has implemented to carry out its 40-year-old occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and expropriate Palestinian land closely mirror the "inhuman acts" that make up the UN Convention on the "Crime of Apartheid." (US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, "Why Apartheid Applies to Israel")