Category Archives: Human Rights

ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Thirty-five aid organizations & 150,000 people launch public call to end the Gaza blockade

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Reconstruction of Gaza could take 17 years with just 5% of building materials allowed in one year

NOTE: Pax Christi International is an endorser of this effort.

More than 150,000 people from around have today joined 35 aid, faith, development and human rights organisations in backing an unprecedented joint call urging world leaders to press the Israeli government to lift the blockade on Gaza and remove the restrictions on basic building materials needed to reconstruct the coastal strip.

With the number of people supporting the call increasing by the hour, this has quickly become the largest ever global public push to end the blockade on the Gaza Strip, with international organizations and the public petitioning world leaders to uphold promises made to rebuild Gaza one year ago.

On the anniversary of the end of the conflict between the government of Israel and Palestinian armed groups, the organisations are calling for construction materials like wood, steel bars and cement to be allowed into Gaza to end so that hospitals, schools and homes can be urgently rebuilt.

Last year’s conflict saw over 19,000 homes destroyed, and left 100,000 people homeless. Donor governments have pledged $3.5 billion to rebuild Gaza, but a year on, Israeli restrictions on building materials continue to cause delays. Reconstruction has started on just over 2,000 of the 19,000 homes destroyed last year, and not a single home has been fully rebuilt.

Speaking in support of the campaign, Fadi Quran, Senior Campaigner of Avaaz said:

“It’s outrageous that a year on from the last Gaza war, not one home has been totally rebuilt and the world has left families in the rubble. Governments are allowing Israel to violate the most basic humanitarian laws and since the start of the blockade there have been three wars with hundreds of children killed. This massive public outcry shows people everywhere want their governments to act now to end this illegal, inhumane and dangerous blockade.”

The campaign launched by the global citizens movement Avaaz and the organisations says: “By placing restrictions on the movement of people and goods, the blockade is punishing innocent civilians for acts for which they bear no responsibility. There can never be a justification for leaving families without a home and the sick without a hospital.”

Speaking from inside Gaza, Ibrahem El Shatali of Gaza City said:

“Many of my friends and family members have been homeless for months now — how can we live like this, surrounded by rubble with no hope, no future and no prospect of things getting better? All we need are basic building materials and a fresh start.”

According to research carried out in a recent joint international NGO report, the illegal Israeli blockade has obstructed reconstruction efforts, worsening the humanitarian crisis inside the Gaza Strip:

  • Only 5% of the urgently needed 6.7 million tons of reconstruction materials needed to repair what was destroyed last summer in Gaza have been allowed in one year since the ceasefire. At this rate, reconstruction could take 17 years.
  • 559,000 students have been denied a quality education, as 11 schools and universities were totally destroyed and an additional 253 were severely damaged during the war.
  • 120,000 people still do not have access to the water and sewage network, with slow repairs to the 35,000 meters of pipelines damaged or destroyed. The sewage situation in parts of Gaza is appalling, with overflowing lagoons and untreated waste running through the streets.
  • 81 hospitals and clinics were damaged or destroyed by the conflict. Despite allocated funds to rebuild some of these facilities, needed construction material has not been allowed in.

Tony Laurance, CEO of Medical Aid for Palestinians said:

“What Gaza needs more than anything is reconstruction, yet the government of Israel restricts the entry of even the most basic building materials. These severe restrictions prevent the rebuilding of even the most vital infrastructure in Gaza, including hospitals and clinics. People across the globe are now saying ‘enough is enough,’ and are urging global leaders to push Israel to end the blockade now.”

The government of Israel holds the primary responsibility to lift the blockade, although agencies signing on to the campaign also recognize that reconstruction is hindered by the failure of Palestinian political parties to reconcile and prioritize reconstruction, and by Egypt’s closure of its border with Gaza.

The government of Israel justifies the restrictions on security grounds. However, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross have repeatedly asserted that the blockade is a violation of international law. Indeed, there can never be justification for collective punishment of an entire population and leaving tens of thousands of families homeless and hundreds of thousands of children without a school or health centers.

William Bell, Christian Aid’s Policy and Advocacy Officer for Israel and the Palestinians said:

“With sewage spewing onto pavements, electricity and water supplies still severely limited and schools that look more like bomb-sites than places children get an education, hope is dwindling and Gaza’s future looks bleak.  The blockade has helped to create some of the highest unemployment and aid dependency levels in the world, making the lives of 1.8 million civilians miserable, and needs to end now.”

The full petition text supported by the organizations can be seen here and calls on the leaders of the US and EU, amongst others, to push for an end to the blockade and desperately needed building materials, including wood, aggregate, steel bar, and cement.

ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Action and prayer suggestions to protest destruction in Palestinian communities

from Jose Henriquez, Pax Christi International Secretary-General and Pax Christi UK

apartheid wallIsraeli authorities are undertaking new destruction in Palestinian communities in the Cremisan Valley and in Bedouin refugee communities near East Jerusalem. The reason? The continuation of the separation wall and more settlements! We have been posting news on our international website, but on behalf of Pax Christi UK, I want to share with you the materials below, asking you to invite your members to send messages to the Israeli embassy in your country. Advocacy for a just solution to the Palestine/Israel conflict has received special attention in our movement for many years and our World Assembly this year was an expression of this.

Thank you for your attention and for your local action. Let’s hope that common initiatives (the communities in Palestine are already demonstrating nonviolently) will stop this.

____________

From Pax Christi UK

In recent days we have heard that bulldozers, supported by the Israeli military, have started to clear olive trees and enter private lands in the Cremisan valley. The law, passed in the spring, to prevent the building of the Separation Wall has been overturned… New legal challenges are being made, but meanwhile the destruction goes on.

Please see here the action/prayer ideas we have put together and do what you can:

TAKE ACTION: NAACP March to DC – Our demands

from the NAACP

NOTE: Pax Christi USA has signed onto this effort.

Our lives, our votes, our jobs, and our schools matter.

These are more than words. More than a tagline. They are the reason we embarked on America’s Journey for Justice yesterday—an 860-mile march from Selma, Alabama, to Washington, D.C.

They are the guiding principles for our activism.

Racial inequality is not simply the product of individual prejudice. Over the past 250 years it has been written into our laws and into the very fabric of our society. We need your support to ensure this journey results in more than raised awareness. It must result in real positive change.

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Send a message to lawmakers: We won’t be ignored. Sign and share our advocacy agenda to support America’s Journey for Justice.

PETITION: Stop Congress from targeting sanctuary cities

from Church World Service

Children at our border

Children at our border

Faith leaders across the country are standing together in solidarity with immigrants and demanding that Congress oppose any legislation that would force local police to serve as immigration enforcement officers or repeal local community-based policing ordinances.

Join us in telling Congress to respect the efforts of local law enforcement to build trust and protect all members of our communities.

We cannot allow the tragedy in San Francisco to undo the intentional efforts of law enforcement to create trust and safety in all communities, regardless of immigration status.

Add your name and congregation so that we can demonstrate strong faith community support for our immigrant sisters and brothers.

Deadline to sign: 1PM EST Wednesday, July 22, 2015

ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Gaza one year later – the quest for accountability

from the U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation

This mural in Aida Refugee Camp in the Occupied West Bank lists children killed in Israeli's Gaza offensive in July 2014.

This mural in Aida Refugee Camp in the Occupied West Bank lists children killed in Israeli’s Gaza offensive in July 2014.

One year has passed since “Operation Protective Edge”, Israel’s attack on the Palestinian Gaza Strip which killed more than 2,200 Palestinians and devastated its infrastructure.

Today Gaza remains under Israeli blockade, unreconstructed, teetering on the verge of humanitiarian catastrophe.

Write and call your Members of Congress and ask them to support this “Dear Colleague” letter to Secretary of State John Kerry calling for the United States to hold Israel accountable for its use of U.S. weapons to kill Palestinian children and wantonly destroy Palestinian homes.

And ask your Members of Congress and their staff to attend this Capitol Hill briefing on July 29 examining Israel’s failure to hold itself accountable through domestic judicial proceedings, and the options and need for the United States and the international community to do so.

Click here to take action.

IMMIGRATION: Report on the abuse of solitary confinement in immigration detention in NJ

from New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees

NEWARK, N.J. – An investigation of the use of solitary confinement in New Jersey’s immigration detention centers finds an unnecessarily harsh and unfair system that violates state and international standards. The report “23 Hours in the Box, Solitary Confinement in New Jersey Immigration Detention” is released by New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees, a coalition of community-based groups that support immigration and detention reform, and NYU School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic.

23HoursInBox_1The investigation examined hundreds of documents from public record requests and found that solitary confinement is applied far too often and far too long to immigrant detainees in New Jersey. Investigators also found an unnecessarily harsh system severely limiting due process and fraught with violations of state regulations and international standards.

“This task force has done a good job bringing these complex issues to the forefront. I look forward to working with all of the interested parties to improve the overall system. These complex issues deserve proper attention,” said Assemblywoman Nancy J. Pinkin (D-Middlesex), a sponsor of an Assembly version of a legislation to reform solitary confinement in New Jersey, A. 4510.

“As we continue to advocate for change in the way counties use disciplinary confinement, we need to remind counties and the federal government that immigrant detainees are held on civil violation of immigration laws and that they should not be detained in the first place. We are calling for an end to the use of solitary confinement in immigration detention,” said Alix Nguefack, Program Coordinator for American Friends Service Committee Immigrant Rights Program and the New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees.

These initial findings include the analysis of data from hundreds of documents provided by Bergen, Hudson counties and the Department of Homeland Security in response to the investigator’s public records requests. A second set of findings will be published later this year based on Essex County’s recent compliance after six months of repeated refusals to comply with our records requests. The report also raises serious due process concerns, highlights the civil nature of immigration detention and the noncompliance with state regulation and prison’s hearing procedures related to solitary confinement.

“Using solitary confinement on immigrant detainees is an additional affront to the human dignity of people which the state has no legitimate interest in incarcerating. Further after reading the report one can only conclude that the county jails are engaging in torture which is an intrinsic evil,’’ said Kathy O’Leary Region Coordinator for Pax Chisti New Jersey, a region of Pax Christi USA.

Specific recommendations include the renewed call to remove these civil detainees from detention especially from county jails which are designed as short term penal facilities. Interim recommendations include the need to strengthen NJ law, which would further limit the use and duration of solitary confinement, implementing mental health screenings and providing meaningful and authoritative community and state oversight to the county jails.

“In 2015, solitary confinement should not and must not be used without proper justification” said Senator Peter J. Barnes III (D-Middlesex), a prime sponsor of legislation to reform solitary confinement in New Jersey, S. 2588. “There are too many cases where solitary is becoming the default punishment for relatively minor infractions, this is not justice, this is inhumane.”

The research for the report was conducted in New Jersey through open records requests to Hudson, Bergen and Essex County jails. While Bergen and Hudson timely responded to the requests, at the time the report was written, Essex had failed to comply with records requests.

“There are so many reasons not to use solitary confinement: the often permanent mental trauma, the increased violence, the added difficulties prisoners face upon reentry,” said Bonnie Kerness, director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Prison Watch Program. “The isolation and lack of human contact is considered no-touch torture, and for the sake of human rights, civil rights, and political rights, we must abolish it. The report contributes to the growing number of advocate organizations protesting the use isolated confinement.”

REFLECTION: Charleston church witnesses to a love stronger than death

schenkby Christine Schenk, NCR

Like much of the country, I have been transfixed these past weeks by the tragedy unfolding in Charleston, S.C. First, I groaned with despair as blatant, violent racism held me in its icy grip. I, who grew up in the midst of civil rights marches, assassinations — and hard-won victories, — mourned the reality that despite our hundreds of thousands of chanting voices, black and white together, we have yet to overcome.

People participate in a candlelight vigil at Marion Square near the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina(Brendan Smialowski/AFP)

People participate in a candlelight vigil at Marion Square near the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina (Brendan Smialowski/AFP)

And then I was transfixed by the triumph of a faith community grieving mightily but not destroyed. A community that loved, mourned and miraculously forgave the man accused of the shooting, Dylann Roof. This community — Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church — witnessed as powerfully as any second-century martyr that love is stronger than death, good more powerful than the worst evil imaginable, and that God’s love is greater than human hatred.

It began on June 19, when family members of victims spoke directly to Roof via video feed at a bond hearing in Charleston. Again and again, they gave voice to their pain and, miraculously, their forgiveness. Nadine Collier, the daughter of one of the victims, church sexton Ethel Lance, said:

“You took something very precious away from me. I will never get to talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you, and have mercy on your soul.”

To read this entire article, click here.