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Open letter on the current Gaza crisis

Global and Arab CSO’s appeal to United Nations officials
 
Full Text: 
 
Note: An open letter dated July 17, 2014 has been drafted by several global civil society formations and representatives based in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), expressing sympathy with the people of Gaza and the rest of the Palestinian people, condemning the unjustified attacks by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on defenseless civilian communities, and calling on the United Nations and its human rights agencies to take urgent steps to safeguard the Gaza communities and uphold its people’s basic human rights and welfare.
 
The open letter is now being circulated as the basis for an urgent international signature campaign. The letter and the list of gathered signatories will be forwarded to the offices of the UN Secretary General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.
 
The initiators are the Arab Group for the Protection of Nature (APN), Arab Network for Food Sovereignty (ANFS), and People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS), with the help of FoodFirst Information and Action Network (FIAN) and Habitat International Coalition (HIC).
 
IBON International, as a member of the PCFS, is helping circulate this open letter and gather signatures as our modest contribution to the global effort to address this human rights and humanitarian crisis in war-torn Palestine.
 
If you want to add signatures to the letter, please indicate the name of your organization or of officials representing your organization, or your names as persons signing in their individual capacity, followed by relevant postal and email addresses and other contact information.
 
Please email the said information to apnature.org@gmail.com and rvillaluna@foodsov.org at the soonest possible time.
 
The full text of the letter follows:
 
Dear Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations
 
Dear Mr. José Graziano da Silva, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization
 
Dear Ms. Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
 
Dear Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
 
 As the world watches Israel drop its wrath on the defenceless population of Gaza, farmer movements, agricultural communities and international civil society organizations are calling on the UN to take a stance and demand that Israel be held accountable for its deliberate and systematic destruction of human life, natural resources and civil infrastructure in Gaza and the rest of Palestine.
 
This current military attack on Gaza is the latest in a decade's long campaign that embodies itself in the systematic robbing of Palestinian lands, the uprooting of millions of trees that provide sustenance and connection to the land, the imprisonment of thousands of Palestinians without trial, the stealing of Palestinian water sources, and the building of the separation wall that has reduced the Palestinian communities into divided Bantustans (deemed criminal by the International Court).
 
The grand targets of Israel's massive and disproportionate force in Gaza are not the militants; but the collective economic, agricultural and social apparatus that makes up the Palestinian society.
 
This is evident from the current Israeli invasion that has resulted so far in: 
  • 227 casualties, a minimum of 75% are civilians including 49 children, 36 women and 30 elderly
  • 1685 Injuries, including 445 children
  • 20,000 displaced people with 100,000 people being warned to evacuate their houses
  • 1370 houses fully or partially damaged, including 2 hospitals and a center for disabilities.
  • 1230 Donums of agricultural lands and 17 livestock farms totally or partially damaged
  • 3600 fishermen denied access to the sea and left without livelihood. In addition to 1000 fishing nets and 32 boats destroyed
According to "The Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict", also known as the Goldstone Report (2009), Israel deliberately and with premeditation carried out the "demolishing" or the "significant destruction" of sewage installations, the Gaza wastewater treatment plant, cow farms, green houses, egg factories, food processing plants, water wells, schools and government buildings, reported not to be justified as military targets. The following are some examples:
 
Flour mills, chicken farms and food processing plants, which "the Mission found no reason to believe..had been used for purposes that would render them in any way military objectives" (1020).
 
30 hectares of greenhouses. According to the report, "the Mission found that the large-scale and systematic destruction of greenhouses was not justified by any possible military objective." (1021)
 
Water installations. Again, "the Mission found that the targeting of water-related installations was not justified by any possible military objective." (1025)
 
Israel's long siege of Gaza and its ongoing military offensive are in violation of international humanitarian laws, including but not limited to (IHL) Article 54 (1) and (2) of Additional Protocol I:
 
1. Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited.
 
2. It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive.
 
Also, Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention provides:
 
"Grave breaches to which the preceding article relates shall be those involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the present Convention: … extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly."
 
To sum up Israel's true intentions, the report states that "The Mission … found that the systematic destruction of food production, water services and construction industries was related to the overall policy of disproportionate destruction of a significant part of Gaza’s infrastructure." (p. 218)
 
Today, Israel is repeating its consistent and aggressive policy of collective punishment with dire violation of any moral sense and of international human rights conventions, with the clear objective of pressuring the Palestinians to surrender their dignity, humanity and right of self-determination.
 
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has just declared, with regards to the Israeli offensive against Gaza, that "Every alleged breach of international law must be promptly, independently, thoroughly and effectively investigated, with a view to ensuring justice and reparations for the victims." In this line, we strongly demand that:
 
  • The UN General Assembly issues a condemnation of Israel's transgressions, calling to pursue all legal measures to hold Israel accountable for its blatant violations of moral codes and international human rights and humanitarian laws and treaties.
  • Request the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Special Rapporteur on The Right to Food to conduct a fact-finding mission on the right to adequate food and the impact of the current transgression on the enjoyment of this right and other economic, social and cultural rights. This UN fact-finding mission should be ready to enter Gaza after the aggression has ceased to assess the damage to agriculture and food security in Gaza.
  • Request FAO to take the lead in establishing a task force with the other UN Rome based agencies on food and agriculture to assess the damage on food security and plan the post-conflict rehabilitation process, as part of the implementation process of the upcoming CFS Agenda for Action on food security in protracted crisis.
Initiators:
 
Arab Group for the Protection of Nature (APN), Arab Network for Food Sovereignty (ANFS), and People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS), with the help of FoodFirst Information and Action Network (FIAN) and Habitat International Coalition (HIC).
 
Kindly send your signatures soonest to apnature.org@gmail.com and rvillaluna@foodsov.org

 

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