DUP mendacious in attacks upon Cooperative human rights policy: an open letter to Cllr. Peter Martin

SOCIETY_LOGO_DEC_2013

Dear Cllr. Martin,

In a recent DUP press release, mendaciously labelling the Cooperative group’s human rights and ethical trading policy as an “Israeli boycott”, I noticed a statement from you claiming that the Co-op “by continuing this divisive boycott” would only “further hurt the livelihoods of people working in the West Bank” (Palestinians) and you then further implied that if businesses had to “relocate away from that area” it might affect the “job security” that those settler businesses “currently provide for many Palestinian employees”.

Such claims are of course fallacious, demonstrating deliberate omittance on your part to draw upon documented and verifiable research such as the ‘Palestinian Workers in Settlements’ position paper from Israeli NGO Who Profits’ which refutes claims, such as yours, as being a “blatant attempt to distract public attention from the Israeli occupation and the daily hardships suffered by Palestinians, who are compelled to seek their livelihood in Israeli industries, usually in settlements.”

Reports, like the above mentioned often document the working conditions in the Settlements and postulate that the settlement industry can be likened to sweatshops which exploit a cheap labour force. Indeed the political reality of the occupation doesn’t really allow Palestinian workers to make a free and informed choice regarding their own livelihoods.

Another report from an Israeli organisation, Kav Laoved, entitled ‘Employment of Palestinians in Israel and the Settlements: Restrictive Policies and Abuse of Rights’ documents the obstacles and forms of exploitation faced by Palestinians.

Let us also not overlook your complete failure to even acknowledge, let alone highlight, the illegality of Israel’s settlements in occupied territory – settlement of occupied territory is illegal as per the 4th Geneva Convention and The Hague regulations.

Could it be that DUP representatives are shedding crocodile tears for Palestinian workers, people in truth they couldn’t care less about, in shameless efforts to obscure activities that the international community deem illegal?

Surely if the DUP did care then they would be outspoken about the formation of direct trade links between Northern Ireland and ethical Palestinian companies and business, thus helping to develop the Palestinian economy as opposed to propping up illegal settlements?

Why do the DUP uncritically support the right-wing policies of the State of Israel, as opposed to people of Israel, most of whom (58%) support a two-state solution?

These self-righteous and sanctimonious claims unveil the true agenda of these occupation apologists – one consistently against a just peace and in favour of a permanent continuation of oppressive military occupation.

I am certain many, including myself, would appreciate hearing your response to this letter.

Yours faithfully,

Mr Gary Spedding

Founder – QUB Palestine Solidarity Society

Palestine.Solidarity@qub.ac.uk

Mobile: 07749409147

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QUB Palestine Solidarity Society (QUBPSS) welcomes new EU guidelines that will exclude illegal Israeli settlements from EU-funded programs

The European Union shall – this Friday – publish guidelines on limiting all joint projects with Israel beyond the pre-1967 (green line) borders, severely restricting financial cooperation between EU institutions and illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz where the reports first broke, the EU Commission Notice sets out a demand that any agreement with an Israeli institution must include a clause restricting cooperation to within Israel’s recognised sovereign territory. In essence this means that cooperation between the EU, member states and Israel explicitly excludes Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian (and Syrian) territory which reflects longstanding European Union policy that doesn’t recognize the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem or the surrounding territories of the West Bank, or the Golan Heights.

The Palestine Solidarity Society executive has welcomed this news as a small but significant step towards Justice and an equitable peace for Israel and Palestine. Gary Spedding, Founder of the society, said:

“This is a significant and positive step forward in the push to promote a genuine, just and equitable peace between Israel and Palestine. Numerous European Union statements over the years have publicly condemned Israel’s continued settlement construction in territories it occupies but this is the first time robust action has been taken. By affirming the position that settlements over the green line are illegal this puts real pressure on Israel to end its unilateral activities in terms of the settlement enterprise. Continued illegal settlement activity by Israel is destructive, misguided and arguably one of the largest obstacles to peace in this conflict.

“European member states and third parties within the EU must understand that Israeli settlements beyond the green line are a deliberate attempt to create facts on the ground, which in turn tries to pre-empt or force the outcome of any future peace negotiations. We cannot ignore the legal fact that the 4th Geneva Convention and Hague regulations clearly stipulate settlement in territories that are occupied is illegal.

“Furthermore settlements deliberately punish the Palestinian people whose human rights are daily abused under the military occupation. I’m certain that this behaviour by the Israeli government can obviously be recognized as counterproductive, undermining any potential peace process and propping up a status quo that favours settlers whilst forsaking the basic rights of Palestinians.

“I sincerely hope that here in Northern Ireland – a place that receives many vitally needed grants and funding projects from the EU – our political leadership doesn’t run the risk of handicapping our own initiatives by funding or supporting Israel’s illegal settlements in any capacity through collaboration or cooperation. This has to be about justice, peace building and human rights in the first instance if peace is to be successful and Northern Ireland can play a big role by refusing complicity in activities deemed illegal according to the majority of the international community”

-ENDS-

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QUB Palestine Society disheartened by use of intimidatory ‘lawfare’ against Newry & Mourne Council by UK Lawyers for Israel

Society executive members have jointly expressed shock and disgust at the implicit legal threat made towards Newry and Mourne District Council yesterday, when it emerged correspondence from David Lewis, Director and Secretary of UK Lawyers for Israel was used to pressure the council regarding an allegedly “unlawful and discriminatory” motion due to be debated Monday 1st July.

Society founder, Gary Spedding said: “This is a clear attempt by an anti-Palestinian advocacy group to use a politicised interpretation of the law to deter legitimate democratic political processes at Newry and Mourne District Council.

“Having reviewed the contents of the correspondence and subsequently sought alternative legal opinion, I feel confident that UK Lawyers for Israel are using a form of lawfare as a scare tactic and that their attempt to frighten the proposers of this motion into abandoning it is without genuine legal substance. Unfortunately, the significance of using such a tactic is that it frightens Councillors who, if there were a legitimate legal issue, could be liable to pay surcharges to the sum of thousands of pounds.

“Such language as used by David Lewis is also deliberately manipulated to mislead readers into thinking the Ethical trading and Human Rights motion is a discriminatory boycott of the Jewish community in Israel simply for being Jewish. This is demonstrably not the case as the motion clearly identifies that it targets illegal settlement of occupied territories and cannot fall foul of the legalities surrounding a people groups’ protected characteristic status.

“The legal opinions our society have received so far this evening from sources in Belfast also suggest that the points made by UK Lawyers for Israel against the motion, particularly those relating to the possibility that the motion will be in breach of section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, are unsubstantial.

“There are legitimate considerations of the right of Councils to discuss and debate matters of politics amongst other things, in others word, Freedom of Expression and article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which applies in Northern Ireland through the Human Rights Act 1998.

“We should also consider the chilling effect that these types of letters/legal challenges from the likes of UK lawyers for Israel have on legitimate debate. It is plainly obvious that UK Lawyers for Israel follow a political agenda through which they apply their legal knowledge to protect Israel’s interests. These occupation-apologists seek only to defend the settlement of occupied territories in Western Sahara, the Palestinian West Bank and Syrian Golan by attempting to derail this motion.

“These hysteric attempts to prevent positive steps for equitable and just peace between Israel and Palestine seem to continually crop up and our society don’t intend to give in to bullying tactics used as a smokescreen to tacitly support anti-peace, right-wing Israeli government policies that are making peace less and less likely to achieve”

-ENDS-

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Newry and Mourne District Council Motion Banning Trade with Israeli Settlements is a Welcome Step

Society Founder and current Vice President Gary Spedding has welcomed an Ethical and Human Rights trading motion submitted to Newry and Mourne District Council and due to be debated on Monday 1st July. The hopeful outcome will result in the council banning trade and investment with companies complicit in unethical or illegal practices such as the settlement of occupied territories as is the case with Israel (Palestinian West Bank and Syrian Golan Heights) and Morocco (Western Sahara).

Such a move would allow the District Council to openly state their refusal to remain or in any event in the future to be compliant with human rights abuses, illegal settlement, forced displacement of indigenous peoples and the exploitation of those occupied and their resources by the occupier. Gary believes that motions such as this set a precedent and can be rolled out in city councils across Northern Ireland, setting the tone for a similar motion that will be before the Northern Ireland Assembly after the summer recess.

Welcoming the motion Gary Spedding Said:

“I am grateful, and would like to thank Councillor Connaire McGreevy for submitting this motion to Newry and Mourne District Council. Upholding ethical standards of trade, acting in compliance with human rights principles, is a significant and appropriate step for all levels of government.

“A targeted boycott of settlements’ products, and other occupation profiteering companies, should be obvious for anyone who cares for basic human rights and genuine conflict resolution. Any motion that actively promotes accountability, clearly identifying core issues that obstruct peace is very welcome from our society point of view.

“Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian and Syrian Territories and Moroccan ventures in the Western Sahara are illegal and recognised as a major obstacle to a just peace in those conflicts. These settlements’ make peaceful resolution to conflict less and less likely as they continue to expand and become more permanent.

“Those opposed to boycotting the illegal settlement enterprise are nothing more than occupation-apologists. By opposing the obvious need to encourage Israel to abide by its obligations as an occupying power under international law, any individual or group reveals their disingenuous approach to conflict resolution and their frequent lip service to the idea of a peace, bridge building and economic cooperation is frankly insulting.

“Northern Ireland has a unique opportunity to become a leading defender of human rights in this way. Our society actively encourages everyone in Northern Ireland to take a sensible, level-headed look at what can be achieved for conflict resolution in other places throughout the world by our actions locally. This is why even a council motion can have a significant impact towards the peace most of us seek for the Middle East.”

-ENDS-

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G8 Leaders could do more for genuine peace in the Middle East

Society founder Gary Spedding has called on G8 Leaders visiting Fermanagh this week to utilize the unique opportunity of being in a post-peace agreement Northern Ireland to actively promote genuine conflict resolution and avenues to peace in the Middle East.

Gary Spedding said: “I would call upon leaders of the G8 countries to reflect on where they are spending time this week in a post-peace agreement Northern Ireland. As powerful world leaders they have a unique chance to combine their efforts and those of their countries to promote robust and principled conflict resolution earthed in human rights, equality, justice and mutual trust.

“No conflict in the world is simple and G8 leaders need to approach situations such as Israel – Palestine with honest plurality and the give precedence to the optimistic promotion of peace.

“Unfortunately the G8 currently represents a deal of what is wrong with the present system. Typically they provide more obstacles rather than passages to peace in various parts of the world. They need to be convinced that preferring profit over the safety and well-being of humanity is wrong on so many levels.

“I’d like to see David Cameron and President Obama in particular discussing progressive ways forward in a genuine conflict resolution process that is based in human rights compliant principles, not self-interest and preferential treatment for foreign allies. This requires honest brokerage, something the G8 clearly lack in their current direction. Our governments cannot continue appeasing the State of Israel, pumping wasteful funding into a corrupt Palestinian Authority nor ignore the extremism and abuses of Hamas. There needs to be a frank discussion of how to end the polarized sectarian divisions which funnel hatred, mistrust and hysteria into an unbalanced conflict.

“As the G8 begins here in Northern Ireland I feel strongly moved to encourage the G8 to focus their efforts on genuine peace building that enshrines equality & basic human rights for both Israelis & Palestinians. Accountability for crimes and abuses is a robustly required feature in any peace process, we cannot continue turning a blind eye to the official and unofficial policies of the State of Israel that fuel tensions and will eventually make peace improbable. Provisions to support victims and a full method of dealing with legacies in the past that gives them acknowledgement and a voice in shaping the future must be discussed.

“As I have already said, no conflict in this world is simple and the G8 leaders, along with all other members of the International Community, have a responsibility to play a role in dealing with the nuances and complexities that simply must receive attention if we are ever to arrive at an equitable peace in the Middle East.

“I am mindful that the Israel – Palestine conflict is not the only issue that requires attention in the Middle East and I encourage Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama to come to an agreement over Syria so that we can see an end to the bloodshed that has seen tens of thousands of innocent victims slaughtered over the course of the last two years.”

“Our society shall always stand in solidarity with those who struggle for a just resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and advocate honestly about the reality on the ground. We also hope that peace throughout the Middle East becomes a palpable reality in the near future.”

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QUB Palestine Society Opposes DUP Whitewashing at Stormont Israel ‘Celebration’

Profile Pic for Media use on blogGary Spedding, founder of the QUB Palestine Solidarity Society, was disappointed to see an entirely one-sided event being held at Stormont this evening to ‘celebrate’ Israel’s 65th year as an independent state. For most Israelis, this anniversary marks independence and self-determination of the Jewish nation, but for many others, especially Palestinians, this is known as the Nakba where up to 700,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed by pre-state militias. Understandably such events remain highly controversial, perhaps highlighting the still continuing conflict in which Israel prevents them from claiming their own independent State. Representatives of Northern Ireland should appreciate the serious nature of opposing narratives in protracted conflicts and actively work to prevent further social cleavages between Israelis and Palestinians rather than giving uncritical long time support to Israel and making it sound like a football match!

David-McIlveen-291x275It would have been more appropriate to mark this occasion with frank, open discussion and debate conducive of building a discourse aimed at supporting a fair, just and human rights based peace process in the Middle East.

Discussing the wider context ignored by the DUP in their press statement, Gary Spedding said:

“Our society has previously criticised David McIlveen and the DUP for their entirely one-sided, bias approach when it comes to Israel. This kind of steadfast, unquestioning support, not just for Israel, but Israeli state policies reveals a problematic level of apathy from Mr McIlveen towards Palestinian human, civil and national rights.

“We are not opposed to events that highlight Israel’s positives being held in Stormont; however any event held by a political party in a government building should ideally reflect the auspicious platform being provided. This can be achieved with an honest review of the entire situation, providing an open, pluralistic discussion of the realities on the ground in Israel and Palestine.

“The DUP cannot continue ignoring the core issues of the Israel – Palestine conflict. They should be rightly criticised for their skewed presentation of Israel – effectively whitewashing the exploitative oppression faced by Palestinian people as part of the wider Israeli military occupation.

“Throughout the DUP press release, emphasis is placed on religious support for Israel and cross community dialogue with Jews, but what about engaging with the Jewish people in their entirety? What about engaging with secular Jews or even the tens of thousands of Israelis who disagree with their own governments destructive policies? Instead all we see is appeasement of Israeli government policies and giving a platform for officials to spew propaganda that fits a neatly into a decidedly anti-Palestinian agenda.

“Such an approach actually ignores human rights, the word Justice for example is mentioned only once in a press release that delivers the impression of there being no conflict or sensitivities at all. Not once does Mr McIlveen give any notion that he acknowledges Palestinians, Peace, Human Rights, International Law, a peace process, genuine conflict resolution, equality etc.

“Why does the scientific and economic developmental clout of a nation state seemingly override humanitarian concerns? If we weighed up states solely by their achievements, we may find that one could paint some of the greatest monsters in our history as a positive force for humanity.

“Having lived in Israel and Palestine for extended periods of time, I find that McIlveen’s romanticized revisionism, where Israel is concerned, to be deeply troubling. Presenting what is in essence Likud party propaganda in this, he discusses Israel avoiding the financial storm? This position ignores the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who themselves struggle to meet rising living costs and who have marched through the streets of Tel Aviv not even over a month ago when 10,000 took to the streets. McIlveen apparently doesn’t just ignore the Palestinian issue but also the adverse effect on the working class inside Israel itself, which the right-wing government has completely neglected. He is falsely portraying Israel as a paradise – in more ways than just economically.

“I am disappointed by the way in which the DUP continues to disingenuously look at the Israel – Palestine conflict through a pro-Israel lens. If they actually had genuine concerns for a group of people (Israelis), then they might try engaging with honesty and in a democratic way that doesn’t marginalise or further disenfranchise another people group (Palestinians)”.

-ENDS-

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A Question of Trading with Israel’s Occupation

Guest blogging for our society, Israeli journalist Haggai Matar discusses his experience and views on boycotting Israeli settlements

Haggai Matar at the Northern Ireland Assembly 25.02.2013. Photo: Saud Buhamdi

By spending more than a decade in demonstrating against and writing about the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories one gets to learn a thing or two about how the brutal reality of this 45 year old military regime works. However, the crazed reality of our region always has more in store to surprise even your average veteran activist. Preparing for a visit to the Northern Ireland Assembly, which discussed the question of trading with Israel’s occupation, I tried to catch up on my reading on settlement products, and ran into an amazing story, which I would like to share.

Our story takes place in the Jordan Valley, not far from where St. John was baptizing his followers. Although an inseparable part of the West Bank it is considered by many in the Israeli society as a “natural” part of Israel, control of which is necessary for the state’s security and future survival. In most peace negotiation talks Israeli delegations announced that the Valley would remain under Israeli control no matter what – a demand which was unacceptable for Palestinian representatives and was partly responsible for their collapse.

Like many activists I had often heard of the “Stolen Beauty” campaign of Palestinians and their supporters, focusing on the AHAVA cosmetics company, which sells Dead Sea minerals around the world. Based in the south of the Jordan Valley AHAVA, like so many other settlement companies, uses Palestinian lands and natural resources, taken from Palestinians by force and given to this Israeli company, and uses them for its own good without offering Palestinians any reparations. This is your classic pattern of colonialism, wherein natives are barred from entering their own lands which the occupier then openly uses to make a nice profit.

So just your classic military occupation with colonists taking advantage of the indigenous population’s natural resources and land – only here we see those indigenous people (the Palestinians) calling on the international community (That’s you guys) to boycott such activities and companies complicit in the occupation enterprise.

But the Jordan Valley, apparently, has much more to offer for anyone taking an interest in the economic angle of the decades’ long military rule. Along the valley one can find tens of thousands of dunams of lands, privately owned by Palestinian villagers’, yet farmed by Israelis. While AHAVA and most other settlement companies usually use state owned lands (which should according to international law be used to serve the occupied civilian population and not the occupying state), here Israeli farmers make their living by growing and exporting dates world wide, out of lands that even Israel recognizes are owned by Palestinians.

How can this possibly be justified? Following the 1967 Six Day War massive parts of the newly conquered Valley have been put under special military orders, barring Palestinians from entering them. Several years later these lands were “temporarily” transferred to safe keeping by the state’s legal guardian, with authorities making it clear that the lands were not confiscated in any way but rather protected by the guardian until such time that their owners may return. That time has yet to come. Instead, the guardian decided to rent the lands off to Jewish farmers from nearby illegal settlements. The result: Palestinians who had lived in the valley for generations are forced off their own land, kept away by the army, which is slowly banishing more and more Palestinians from the valley in quiet ethnic cleansing – and can only watch from a distance how others are selling the fruit of their trees. Ironically, the only chance they have of entering those very lands, are if military authorities give them special permits to work for the Israeli settlers. Working conditions in settlements, not surprisingly, are often reported to be harsh, and attempts at complaining or unionizing might lead to permits being revoked.

So what do Palestinians want when they call upon the international community to intervene on their behalf? They want to end the absurdities of situations such as the one in the Jordan Valley. Calls to boycott settlement produce are based upon a rejection of the crude Apartheid qualities of the Israeli military regime, which runs the occupied territories using two separate legal systems: one for Palestinians, another for Israelis. Any person aspiring to support and promote true democracy, real equality and a just peace in our parts must see the necessity in abiding such a call.

Haggai Matar is an award-winning Israeli journalist, blogger and activist who has been active in various groups working against the occupation, as well as in several class-based struggles within Israeli society. He writes frequently for +972 magazine.

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British MPs Do not let settlers expel Palestinians from their Homes in Sheikh Jarrah

16th May 2013

RE: Do not let settlers expel Palestinians from their Homes in Sheikh Jarrah 

Dear Honourable Members of Parliament,

We write to you today on behalf of a ten member family of Palestinians living in Um Haroun, Sheikh Jarrah, who have been ordered to leave their home after the property was released from the Israeli General Custodian into the hands of an Israeli settler organization, and headed by a man named Aryeh King. 

Sheikh Jarrah is one of the most contested strips of ground in occupied East Jerusalem. As many of you will know, East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel after the Six-Day War of 1967, though its future has remained hazy for many reasons, one in particular being that the International Community regards East Jerusalem as Occupied Palestinian Territory and subject to final status agreements in the “peace process”. This factor however has not stopped radical Jewish settlers making use of a 1970 Israeli law that allows Israelis to reclaim East Jerusalem properties that, prior to 1948, were owned by Jews and abandoned when the city was divided.

Under usual circumstances we are sure that all would agree that original land owners should be able to make legal claims and—theoretically—take back property and even evict current residents. However this false paradigm ignores the complexity of East Jerusalem and the wider political context that surrounds the situation today. 

Reviewing a brief history of the area reveals that in 1956 Palestinian families who had fled their homes in what became Israel during the 1948 Nakba were settled in Sheikh Jarrah and other areas by UNRWA and the Jordanian Government, on the condition that they renounce their refugee status.

Following on from the 1967 war East Jerusalem was occupied by Israel and the Israeli government enacted an ordinance which placed the properties in Sheikh Jarrah under the control of the Israeli Custodian for Absentees’ Property. This was then taken advantage of in 1970 when the Israeli Knesset enacted the “Legal and Administrative Matters” Law, which enabled Jews to make claims on property that they owned in East Jerusalem. 

The 1970 law makes it possible for Israeli settlers to claim that they hold prior rights to the land, and thus enable the eviction of Palestinian residents. However, this is a legal double standard, created so that the Palestinians living in East Jerusalem cannot reclaim their property in West Jerusalem and the rest of Israel yet Israeli settlers are able to claim property in Occupied Palestinian Territory.

All of this is part of a wider move to illegally settle East Jerusalem, creating facts on the ground to prevent Palestinians from having a capital city in East Jerusalem as part of a future state.

Now for the first time in more than three years, a Palestinian family in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah is facing immediate eviction and dispossession at the hands of the Israeli authorities and extremist Israeli settlers. According to the Jerusalem district court, the 10 members of the Shamanseh family must leave their home, which they’ve lived in for almost five decades – before the 1967 occupation of East Jerusalem. 

The Israeli General Custodian, which has claimed ownership of the property, was represented in the legal processes by private lawyers who are known to represent settler organizations, including Aryeh King’s “Israel Lands Fund”. This is the same group that is intent on taking over the Shamanseh family home to populate it with Jewish Israeli settlers. 

During and following the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah during 2009, the international community issued strong statements condemning Israel’s actions. US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton expressed opposition to the settlement of Sheikh Jarrah. A recent report issued by the EU Heads of Mission, described settlement activities as “systematically undermining the Palestinian presence” in Jerusalem.  They recommended potentially issuing sanctions on Israel in response to such occurrences in East Jerusalem. 

At the moment the eviction has been delayed due to the family’s appeal to the high court which shall be heard on 20th May 2013. This is the main reason we write to you today in order to add your voice of condemnation in the hopes of stopping the next eviction in Sheikh Jarrah and putting a halt to the on-going Israeli settlement of occupied East Jerusalem.

We must gather together to let the Israeli government and the settler organisations know that, across the globe, every family matters. Israel’s state policy in East Jerusalem enables and supports settler organizations to take over property, turning the Palestinians living there into refugees – some even for the second or third time. This policy has been many times based on institutionalised legal discrimination which allows one-sided actions, and evictions of Palestinian families throughout East Jerusalem.

Our society is calling for Members of Parliament, in particular those who are in government, to publicly condemn the eviction of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem. We further ask that MPs raise this issue as a matter of urgency with the foreign secretary and demand that the British government put pressure on Israel to prevent this forced home eviction. 

We only have a few days to act so please take this up as a matter of urgency, entire families depend on our ability to put their basic human rights first and take action on their behalf.

Yours faithfully, 

Mr Gary Spedding

Vice President – QUB Palestine Solidarity Society

Palestine.Solidarity@qub.ac.uk

07749409147

NOTES: 

You can gather further information from the following sources –

1.        http://settlementwatcheastjerusalem.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/sheikhjarrahhouse/

2.        http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/04/sheikh-jarrah-evictions-jerusalem-palestinians.html

3.        http://www.en.justjlm.org/ (Official site of Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity)

For updates via twitter – @justjerusalem

 

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QUB Students’ Union Council Votes to Stand with Israeli Conscientious objector Natan Blanc

Israeli conscientious objector Natan Blanc, a 19 year old Jewish Israeli from old Haifa has been imprisoned for the Ninth time for his refusal to become part of the Israeli army, and is held in Military Prison no. 6 near Atlit.

Blanc originally informed Israeli authorities of his conscientious objection to be part of the Israeli military on the 19th November 2012 stating that due to the on-going occupation of Palestinian territories and the constant militarization of the Israeli society which it entails he would not enlist.

On Monday 29th April 2013 a motion proposed at Queen’s University Belfast Students’ Union Council extending a message of solidarity to Natan Blanc was passed. The motion mandates the Executive Management Committee of our Students’ Union to write a letter on behalf of the membership to Natan Blanc at his address in military prison and via email to his inbox.

Society Vice President and Student Council member Gary Spedding stated that:

“The adoption of this motion and policy position by Student Council is an extremely positive step in terms of sending a strong message of solidarity from Northern Ireland to Natan Blanc and other conscientious objectors both presently and in any future instance.

Natan Blanc has been purposefully targeted by the Israeli military to be made an example out of and his imprisonment is unjust and against international law. In sending a message of solidarity from our society and Students’ Union we hope that it will demonstrate that conscientious objectors are not alone in their struggle and the deceptively sterile attempts to isolate them through repeated imprisonment by Israeli authorities shall not prevail.”

-ENDS-

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QUEEN’S STUDENT’S JOIN PALESTINE SOCIETY FOR TRIP TO ISRAEL – PALESTINE

-PRESS RELEASE-

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday 25th March 2013

QUEEN’S STUDENT’S JOIN PALESTINE SOCIETY FOR TRIP TO ISRAEL – PALESTINE

 

-STARTS-

A group of students from Queen’s University Belfast arrived today in Israel – Palestine for a planned 2013 visit.

The highly-commended student society trip was organized to allow students studying in Northern Ireland an opportunity to explore the reality on the ground from a multitude of perspectives. The diverse and exceptional range of meetings and tours that the student’s shall take part in will include a lecture from Rabbis for Human Rights, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and discussions with Israeli settlers and some right-wingers.

The trip will run from the 25th – 31st of March during which time the students will also have the opportunity to experience the rich cultures of both Israel and Palestine during the holidays of Easter and Passover which have coincided this year.

Gary Spedding, Vice President of the Palestine Solidarity Society who organized the trip said:

“For me this trip is an opportunity to gather students from a range of backgrounds here in Northern Ireland and immerse them in the full complexity of the Israel – Palestine conflict in easy to digest chunks. My view is that students, whether holding a passionate or passing interest deserve to have a new level of positive engagement opened up to them direct from the ground. By bringing students out to the Middle East my main hope is that it will allow them to make up their own minds free from the bias that surrounds the conflict internationally.”

Aisling Coyne, a third year studying philosophy and politics, added:

“I have always shared an affinity and sympathy with the Palestinian people. I also have Israeli friends and I felt conflicted with the information available on day to day life in Israel – Palestine. My idea is to put feet on the ground to gain a genuine, undiluted understanding of what daily life is like and what people go through here, both Israelis and Palestinians”

Callum Galloway Green, Secretary of the society, said:

“People get a lot of misinformation from all directions and I wanted to see for first hand for myself what is happening on the ground in order to put things in perspective.

I have family living in Tel Aviv and its very important to me that I get to witness and understand the different perspectives that make up the conflict first hand rather than in a news report on TV”

 

Emilie Searle, a second year student of fine art at the University of Ulster, added:

 

“There is only so much you can understand about the situation through literature and the media, by seeing the reality and injustices with my own eyes I hope to gain a better understanding of life for Israelis and Palestinians. I also love hummus”

 

Background:

 

The QUB Palestine Solidarity Society places value on students and potential future activists gaining a more in-depth knowledge of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict from firsthand experience and verifiable facts gathered by reputable NGO’s and individuals working on the ground.

 

Our vision is to push for a genuine conflict resolution that utilizes a strategic and sustainable approach that is rooted in International Law and human rights.

 

We hope to make this trip an annual event, with the support of the University so that in the future if this trial run is successful more students can benefit from the enriched experiences we provide by bringing them to where everything is occurring on a daily basis.

 

ENDS

Notes to editors:

Photographs available on request

To contact the group whilst in Israel – Palestine call Gary Spedding on +44 (0) 7749409147

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