Monday, 30 June 2008

UK supermarkets sell illegal Israeli settler products under misleading labels

Press Release

Palestinian General Delegation to the UK

London, 30 June 2008: The Palestinian General Delegation to the UK has been pursuing the issue of illegal Israeli settlements’ products being exported to the UK (branded as the produce of the West Bank).

A number of British organizations and activities brought to our attention that Tesco, Sainsbury and Waitrose sell products described as the produce of the West Bank. Upon investigating the matter, we found no evidence that these are Palestinian products.

In December 2007, we wrote to the three stores to seek clarifications (please find a copy of the letter below*). As of today, we have not received a satisfactory answer. We therefore would like to bring this issue to the public and call upon our friend and supporters to take note of this issue and help us by writing to the three stores and by ensuring that Israel does not profit from its illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

The Israeli military occupation spares no efforts or time to forcibly and illegally confiscate Palestinian privately and publicly owned land as evident by the numerous UN and international bodies’ reports. Whilst encouraging, protecting and providing economic incentives for illegal settlers in the occupied territory to steal and farm Palestinian land, the Israeli authorities have been applying unjust policies aiming at strangulating Palestinian economic activities, particularly the agricultural sector. Among other policies, the confiscation of land; the building of the Wall; creeping annexation and expansion of settlements; construction of hundreds of bypass roads for Israeli settlers only; denying access to natural resources, particularly water; movement restrictions; and siege – all these meant that the Palestinian economy is near collapse and the Palestinian people are being imprisoned in an ever shrinking bantustans.

We commend our many British friends who are standing firm in defending the laws of the UK that safeguard the right of British consumers to accurate information and in upholding international law. The growing number of forces that are siding with justice, freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people and fighting all attempts to profit from occupation give us greater hope for a better future for our people and for the human family.


*Subject: Herbs showing the origin “West Bank”

Date: 05.12.2007

Dear Sir/Madam,

It has come to my attention that herbs showing the origin “West Bank”are now being sold in your stores. This, I understand, will cover all produce coming from the cccupied Palestinian territory, regardless of whether this produce comes from Palestinian farms or Israeli illegal settlements.

This is an extremely disturbing practice, and it is very misleading for the following reasons:

The vast majority, and in fact very probably all produce that comes from the West Bank, comes from illegal Israeli settlements. Very little, if any, produce that comes from Palestinian farms makes it to supermarket shelves in the UK.

The West Bank has become synonymous with Palestine in the public mind. Consumers buying these products believe that they are supporting the Palestinian economy, while in fact they are supporting the economy of the occupier.

The settlements are illegal under international law. The Geneva Convention states that the transfer of a civilian population into occupied territory is a war crime, to be ancillary (complicit) in this crime is also a crime in English law under the terms of the International Criminal Court Act 2001. The settlements are built on stolen land and are irrigated by water stolen from the Palestinians. It is no secret that they are projects that exploit the Palestinians and employ child labour.

Tesco must not sell these products and thus be party to this unethical and illegal operation. If you feel you want to continue selling illegal settlement products despite all of the above, then they must be labelled in a way that clearly shows their origin and sets them apart from Palestinian produce, so that consumers can make ethical choices.

We are also aware that most settlement products, the dates from the Jordan Valley for example, show Israel as country of origin. This is also misleading as the Jordan Valley is occupied territory and not part of Israel. Profiting from military occupation, we believe, is the most
unethical act and must be stopped immediately.

We would highly appreciate your clarifications for this matter that we deem of utmost importance to the national interest of the Palestinian people and to the vast majority of the British people who wholeheartedly support our quest to end one of the longest foreign military occupation in the history of mankind.

Thank you in advance for your kind considerations

Yours sincerely,

Ambassador Manuel Hassassian

Head of Mission, Palestinian General Delegation to the UK

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Israelis assault award winning Palestinian journalist

By Mel Frykberg

GAZA CITY, Jun 28 (IPS) - Mohammed Omer, the Gaza correspondent of IPS, and joint winner of the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, was strip-searched at gunpoint, assaulted and abused by Israeli security officials at the Allenby border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank on Thursday as he tried to return home to Gaza.

Omer, a resident of Rafah in the south of Gaza, and previous recipient of the New America Media's Best Youth Voice award several years ago, was returning from London where he had just collected his Gellhorn Prize, and from several European capitals where he had speaking engagements, including a meeting with Greek parliamentarians.

Omer's trip was sponsored by The Washington Report, and the Dutch embassy in Tel Aviv was responsible for coordinating Omer's travel plans and his security permit to leave Gaza with Israeli officials.

Israel controls the borders of Gaza and severely restricts the entrance and exit of Gazans allegedly on grounds of security. Human rights organisations accuse the Israelis of using security as a pretext to apply collective punishment indiscriminately.

While waiting in Amman on his way back, Omer eventually received the requisite coordination and security clearance from the Israelis to return to Gaza after this had initially been delayed by several days, he told IPS.

Accompanied by Dutch diplomats, Omer passed through the Jordanian side of the border without incident. However, after arrival on the Israeli side, trouble began. He informed a female soldier that he was returning home to Gaza. He was repeatedly asked where Gaza was, and told that he had neither a permit nor any coordination to cross.

Omer explained that he did indeed have permission and coordination but was nevertheless taken to a room by Israel's domestic intelligence agency the Shin Bet, where he was isolated for an hour and a half without explanation.

"Eventually I was asked whether I had a knife or gun on me even though I had already passed through the x-ray machine, had my luggage searched, and was in the company of Dutch diplomats," Omer said.

His luggage was again searched, and security then proceeded to go through every document and paper he had on him, taking down the names and numbers of the European parliamentary officials he had met.

The Shin Bet officials then started to make fun of the European parliamentarians, and mocked Omer for being "the prize-winning journalist".

The Gazan journalist was repeatedly asked why he was returning to "the hell of Gaza after we allowed you to leave." To this he responded that he wanted to be a voice for the voiceless. He was told he was a "trouble-maker".

The security men also demanded he show all the money he had on him, and particular attention was paid to the British pounds he was carrying. His Gellhorn prize money had been awarded in British pounds but he was not carrying the entire sum on him bodily, something the investigators refused to believe.

After being unable to produce the prize money, he was ordered to strip naked.

"At first I refused but then I had an M16 (gun) pointed in my face and my clothes were forcibly removed, even my underwear," Omer said.

At this point Omer broke down and pleaded for an end to such treatment. He said he was told, "you haven't seen anything yet." Every cavity of his body was searched as one of the investigators pinned him down on the floor, placing his boot on Omer's neck. Omer began vomiting, and fainted.

When he came round his eyelids were being forcibly opened and his eardrums probed by an Israeli military doctor, who was also armed. He was then dragged along the floor by his feet by the Shin Bet officials, with his head repeatedly banging on the floor, to a Palestinian ambulance which had been called.

"I eventually woke up in a Palestinian hospital with the doctors trying to reassure me," Omer told IPS.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry at the Hague told IPS that Foreign Minister Maxime Zerhagen spoke to the Israeli ambassador to The Netherlands and demanded an explanation.

The Dutch embassy in Tel Aviv has also raised the issue with the Israeli Foreign Ministry, which in turn has promised to investigate the incident and get back to the Dutch officials.

Ahmed Dadou, spokesman from the Dutch Foreign Ministry at the Hague told IPS, "We are taking this whole incident very seriously as we don't believe the behaviour of the Israeli officials is in accordance with a modern democracy.

"We are further concerned about the mistreatment of an internationally renowned journalist trying to go about his daily business," added Dadou.

A spokeswoman at the Israeli Foreign Press Association said she was unaware of the incident.

Lisa Dvir from the Israeli Airport Authority (IAA), the body responsible for controlling Israel's borders, told IPS that the IAA was neither aware of Omer's journalist credentials nor of his coordination.

"We would like to know who Omer spoke to in regard to receiving coordination to pass through Allenby. We offer journalists a special service when passing through our border crossings, and had we known about his arrival this would not have happened.

"I'm not aware of the events that followed his detention, and we are not responsible for the behaviour of the Shin Bet."

In the meantime, Omer is still traumatised and in pain. "I'm struggling to breathe and have pain in my head and stomach and will be going back to hospital for further medical examinations," he said. (END/2008)

Monday, 16 June 2008

International day of action in support of Gaza fishermen

Press Release from Luisa Morgantini Vice-President, European Parliament

"The right to live. The right to fish. End the siege of Gaza”

Rome, 16 June 2008

Today 16th June, fishermen of Gaza took to the sea to claim the “Right to live. Right to fish. End the siege on Gaza” – a mobilization organized by the “End the siege campaign”, a Palestinian and international campaign ( ) carried out by intellectual, physicians, lawyers and representatives of Palestinian civil society.

On the occasion of the international day of action in support of fishermen in Gaza, the Italian Lega Pesca, the oldest and largest organization of 13,000 Italian cooperatives representing more than 400,000 fishermen, expressed its "solidarity with the fishermen in Gaza, regarding the very serious human, social and economic conditions in which they are illegally forced to live".

In a press release, Italian fishermen expressed “that the international community should take charge of this injustice and remove all obstacles preventing the thousands of fishermen from exercise their undeniable right to work and be free".

Many initiatives of solidarity with fishermen in Gaza took place in different coastal locations in Italy. In Pozzuoli, Naples, Italian civil society asked for the end of the siege and the right to fish in Gaza.

“Civil society's demands are the salt of the earth, as they call for freedom and justice," stated Luisa Morgantini, Vice-President of the European Parliament, who organized the initiative in Italy, as she also demanded the immediate end of the siege.

Please see below photos of the initiative by fishermen in Gaza Strip and in Italy (Pozzuoli, Naples)

Further information
Contact Luisa Morgantini
Tel: + 39 348 39 21 465 or + 39 06 69 95 02 17