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Gazans make rare visit to Masjid al Aqsa

Gazan at Aqsa

Gazans visit to Al Aqsa: Ad hoc Israeli gestures can’t airbrush the pain

Gazans at Aqsa

In the face of Israel’s occupation, which has turned the blockaded Gaza Strip into a killing field by the Netanyahu’s administration, Tel Aviv’s decision to let 1,500 subjugated Palestinians to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque to mark Eid ul-Adha was viewed as a gesture of goodwill. Palestinians haven’t been allowed to visit this mosque, by the occupying regime, since 2007, in the wake of the democratically-elected Hamas seizing control in Gaza.

This goodwill gesture shouldn’t deflect focus from real issues such as the fact that it is the same siege and occupation that rob Palestinians of their freedom of movement. Al-Aqsa Mosque, for one, sits in East Jerusalem – itself an occupied area. Palestinians living in the West Bank constantly endure Israeli terror and notorious apartheid checkpoints designed to de-humanise this group. In Gaza, 2,150 Palestinians were massacred recently. Gaza residents couldn’t flee Israel’s rockets because Tel Aviv and Cairo have turned this territory into the world’s largest open-air prison.

Hamas has been repeatedly but unfairly lambasted and eventually ousted by right-wingers in Tel Aviv and Washington, for maintaining the struggle against occupation and apartheid.

That is the big picture that the Netanyahu regime – which won’t be tried for the Ramadaan Massacre or any other terror attack or gross violations of human rights – seeks to mask by allowing 1,500 Palestinians, aged 60 and older (yet Gaza, due to Israel’s genocidal project, is a young population), to congregate and pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the occupied East Jerusalem.

“It really is a drop in the ocean in terms of the needs of the population of Gaza and when one considers the overall restrictions that are imposed on them,” Gisha CEO Eitan Diamond told Sabahul Khair. Gisha is an Israeli NGO specialising in freedom of movement issue. “There hasn’t been a permit for residents of Gaza to visit Al-Aqsa Mosque since May 2007.”

It’s not by coincidence that Israel, whose firepower recently pushed its genocidal project a step further by massacring scores of Palestinians (including 500 children), displaced thousands more and turned Gaza into rubble, is playing nice now.

“Something that we’ve noticed is that these kinds of gestures – when I say gesture of goodwill, that’s the way the Israelis authorities themselves presented this – these all too often happen against the backdrop of recent hostilities. It’s as though it’s a sort of… active kindness after brutality whereas the overall policies of severe restrictions remain in place,” Diamond said, adding that the distance from the besieged Gaza Strip to East Jerusalem is short but in reality the journey arduous due to the restrictions imposed by Israel.

“One of the problems that we raised was that the fact that the announcement that these permits would be given was made very close to Eid ul-Adha. So, people had very little time to prepare to apply and submit these requests to be given access,” Diamond explained to Cii listeners. “On the first day only 360 people actually went through, not, of course, because there wasn’t a desire but because by the time people heard of the permits and were able to submit their applications – it took a while – and only 360 people were able to take advantage of the 500 permits that theoretically could have been available.”

But, like the subjugated Palestinians and members of the world community who want to see the end to Israeli apartheid and Nazist atrocities, Diamond feels that more ought to be done. “What really is needed is not short-term ad hoc gestures but the change of policy. The overall policy remains a policy of closure whereby residents of Gaza are not allowed to travel to the West Bank,” he said. “That has to change”

 

Maan | 06 October 2014/11 Dhul Hijjah 1435

Hundreds of elderly Gazans paid a rare visit to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Sunday after Israel eased tight restrictions on movement over the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

It was the first time since 2007 Palestinian worshipers from Gaza were granted permission to travel to the ancient shrine in Jerusalem’s Old City, an Israeli rights group said.

The move to ease access over the Muslim feast of sacrifice was announced by Israel just over a month after a ceasefire ended a 50-day war in Gaza which killed almost 2,200 Palestinians and 73 on the Israeli side, mainly soldiers.

Under the terms of the deal, Israel agreed to ease restrictions limiting Palestinians’ freedom of movement.

The Israeli army said in a statement it had given permits to a total of 500 Gaza residents over the age of 60 to visit the plaza over the course of three days until the feast ends on Tuesday.

The first group arrived at the Al-Aqsa mosque plaza during the morning and were allowed to stay there until 3 p.m., after which they were taken back to the Gaza border, an AFP correspondent said.

Many hadn’t visited the shrine — the third holiest site in Islam — in decades, kissing the ground as they entered.

“I haven’t been here for 35 years. Everything has changed,” smiled Umm Dallaleh Fayyad, a woman in a black abaya and a vibrant blue headscarf.

“It’s like being in paradise.”

The move was hailed by Gisha, an Israeli NGO which calls for freedom of access and movement for Palestinians, which had repeatedly petitioned the courts over the matter, without success.

“This hasn’t happened since 2007. Christians could leave (for religious holidays) but not Muslims,” said Gisha spokeswoman Shai Grunberg.

Gazans’ freedom of movement has been restricted since 2007 when Hamas seized control of the territory, prompting Israel to significantly tighten a blockade imposed a year earlier after fighters there seized an Israeli soldier.

Israel also granted permits to 500 Gazans to visit relatives in the West Bank and said it would allow some exports — predominantly fish — to be shipped from Gaza to the West Bank.

Agricultural exports to Israel and the West Bank have also been subjected to an almost total ban since 2007.

Before then, the two markets accounted for 85 percent of Gaza’s export revenues. Today, that figure stands at two percent, Gisha said.

“It’s a good first step to allow goods from Gaza to reach the West Bank,” Grunberg said.

But Gisha said it was concerned such moves were being presented as “a gesture for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, rather than a permanent change.”

Buttu: Negotiations the ultimate Israeli ‘time-buying mechanism’

Shoks Mnisi Mzolo – Cii News | 08 October 2014/13 Dhul Hijjah 1435

Palestinian human rights lawyer and activist Diana Buttu, in South Africa, until October 14, to raise awareness about the plight of the subjugated people back home, told Cii this morning that the years she has spent in her occupied land have been punctuated by Israeli state-driven terror and violence. Amid this, the protracted talks between Tel Aviv and the people of Palestine were never about ending apartheid but meant to create an impression that the parties were both committed to freedom, Buttu asserted.

The talks that began in the early 90’s – when the late Yasser Arafat and the now-assassinated Yitzhak Rabin (slain by right wing Israelis – have not ended Nazism, the siege, occupation and acts of terror against the people of Palestine. Just two months ago, the Israeli Defence force massacred 2,150 people in Gaza.

In fact, Buttu said in an interview with Sabahul Khair, things have worsened since this “time-buying mechanism” kicked off as South Africa’s embraced freedom after decades of institutionalized apartheid. “Our lives have gotten worse, not better. There hasn’t been a single tangible benefit to these negotiations despite the promises to the contrary. So, we’ve seen, within this 21-year period, a tripling of the number of settlers living in the occupied West Bank. We’ve seen more demolitions post-1993 than we saw from 1967 to 1993,” she said. The economy is a mess and the apartheid checkpoints pock-mark the West Bank.

From Tel Aviv’s perspective, Buttu explained, the occupying regime has also gone on to grab more Palestinian land. Externally, the process has given Israel a “nice and good face” and removed its stain as an occupier. It’s paid off. Over the past 21 years, the occupying forces were able to establish diplomatic ties with 34 countries, inked trade treaties with several countries and even a peace agreement with Jordan.

“The main problem with negotiations was that the Israelis held all of the cards. It’s not as though these are two equal parties coming to the table and able to negotiate,” she said, arguing that Israel, which projects itself as a democracy, is an ethnocracy that exclude indigenous Palestinians on the basis of their ethnicity.

“This is a situation which one party – the Israelis, have much more power and is backed by the world’s superpower, the United States – holding a gun to the heads of the Palestinians with the choice being: either you sign, and commit yourself to perpetual subjugation, or, this military occupation, in other words, subjugation, is going to remain in place,” the human rights lawyer told Cii and moaning how the world egged Palestinians on but neglected to acknowledge that Israel, which she said no state was brave enough to confront, wasn’t playing fair. Going forward, she reckons now is the time for the world to isolate Israel to force it to give up Nazism and apartheid.

From an ordinary Palestinian’s angle, she said the protracted invasion or terrorist attacks, which facilitate “ethnic cleansing” or genocidal project that’s been part of the plan since at least the 1800s, Tel Aviv has consistently inflicted physical and psychological injuries on the subjugated Semitic ethnic group. Buttu, who previously served as a negotiator, has also been a subject of Tel Aviv’s terror.

“I have been able to bear witness to what it is like to grow up and live in a society where you’re constantly battling, every day, to try to stay alive,” Buttu said. “The sheer terror of what it was like to have the Israeli army literally come into my house and kick me out of my home, in 2002, and send me into a gun battle. That is something that I hope that nobody around the world has to prepare themselves for. It certainly remains one of the most jarring examples of things I lived through.”

There are many other examples. But the untold extent of psychological trauma will haunt the Palestinians for generations. “How do you explain to a three-year old that house next door is being bombed?”

LISTEN to Diana speak to Cii Radio HERE

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