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At-Home with Gila Svirsky
13 January 2001
Subject: Destroyed homes how you can help
Your letters, faxes & phone calls to pressure Israel to end the home demolitions are of crucial importance the US administration and others have already reprimanded Israel, and Shimon Peres declared these demolitions to have been a public relations disaster clear testimony that the public protest is being heard. Keep your letters coming! (See end of this letter for how.)
Meanwhile, some of you have asked how to give direct help to the hundreds of Palestinians now homeless. Throughout this past year, the Israeli (Arab-Jewish) organization Taayush has mobilized such support, and is now rallying to help the families of Gaza whose homes and belongings have recently been destroyed.
Please read their update below, and extend a hand, if you can.
In October 2001 Taayush launched a donation campaign for families living in the southern Gaza Strip who had lost their property and means of livelihood as a result of the killings, siege and destruction of the past year. We wish to update you on the current condition in this area, to report the results of our campaign to date, and to appeal for your continued support.
Since October 2000, the Gaza Strip has been under total siege. Moreover, the IDF repeatedly divides the Strip into three separate zones, preventing passage from one area to the other. Even when this is not the case, movement from one area to the other within the Strip involves lengthy waiting and humiliating checks at numerous roadblocks, causing many to avoid travel entirely. As part of the closure policy, Israel prevents Gaza laborers from entering Israel to work or from traveling to the West Bank to work there, and prevents the export of local agricultural produce to the West Bank, Israel and overseas markets. All these are joined by the razing of cultivated fields, the massive uprooting of plantations, the destruction of hotbeds, and the restrictions on fishing. As a result of all this, the unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip is currently 50 percent. According to the latest UNESCO report, 46 percent of the Palestinians now live on a budget of $ 2 a day, or less.
The areas of Rafah and Khan Yunis, in the southern part of the Strip, where most of the Jewish settlements are located, are among the most severely hurt by the occupation. In Rafah alone, the IDF has demolished some 250 houses, most of them with all their belongings still in them. Some 4,400 people lived in these houses. In addition, some 320 more houses were badly damaged, 1,749 dunams of agricultural fields were destroyed, and three main water-wells were destroyed. These actions alone have left 192 families (some 1,700 people) without their main source of livelihood. The unemployment rate in these areas is over 60 percent.
Detailed and updated information on the conditions in the Gaza Strip can be found on the Web site of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, at www.pchrgaza.org.
Donation collection update
Over two months ago we launched a donation collection campaign to help families in Rafah, whose homes were destroyed and were in critical condition. More than 100 people, from Israel and abroad, sent us their donations, and money was also collected from groups and communities, amounting to a total of some NIS 40,000 ($ 9,000). Approximately one-quarter of that sum came from overseas. We transfer the aid money to Khalil Shahin, a Gaza human rights activist. At his initiative, a committee of five human rights activists from various organizations advises and helps him draft criteria for distributing the money. To date, Khalil has given out some NIS 21,000 ($ 4,500), and is now about to hand out the remainder of the sum we collected. He regularly gives us full reports, which include details of the families and the sums they received, and signatures from family members confirming the donations. At the moment, 35 families, or some 320 people, have benefited from our campaign. Each family received between 500 to 1,000 shekels ($ 110-220).
To date, the money has gone mainly to families from Rafah, Tel al-Sultan and the Shabura refugee camp, but future donations will also go to residents of Khan Yunis and the area. Khalil distributed the last donations just before the Id-al-Feater holiday, and emotionally reported the sense of gratitude expressed by the families who could suddenly buy a little food and clothes for the holiday. The family members send their thanks to Taayush, and note that in addition to the much-needed physical aid, they are encouraged by the knowledge that there are other Israelis and support from people around the world.
The total siege of the Gaza Strip keeps it not only out of sight but out of our consciousness as well. The total ban on the entry of Israelis prevents us from meeting with residents of the Gaza Strip and transferring food and clothes to them, as we in Taayush do in the West Bank. The donation campaign is a possible substitute for this, since it is also a political-humanitarian act, which expresses our sense of support and solidarity with the Palestinian people, living under the Israeli occupation, and also our protest against the crimes committed by the occupying forces.
Cheques can be sent to Anat Matar, 33 Bernstein Cohen St., Ramat Hasharon, 47213, Israel (made out to Anat Matar), or you can deposit your contribution directly into a special bank account we have opened. If you choose the latter, we would appreciate you also notifying Anat, by snail-mail or e-mail, of your contribution. The bank account is at the First International Bank (031), Neve Amirim branch (064), account number 246980, name of Anat Matar.
WHAT YOU CAN DO (Gilas appendix):
Fax or call any of the following with a brief message Tell Israel to stop demolishing Palestinian homes!
Please note: Printing out and faxing your letter (or personally making a phone call), whenever possible, is more effective pressure than e-mail.
President George W. Bush
Phone: (202) 456-1414
Fax: (202) 456-2461
Secretary of State Colin Powell
Phone: (202) 647-4000 (202-647-5150) Bureau of Near East Affairs
Fax: (202) 261-8577
Ms. Mary Robinson
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Mr. Kofi Annan
Secretary General of the UN
Phone: (212) 963-5012
Fax: (212) 963-4879
Mr.Terje Rod Larsen
Representative of the UN in Palestine
Tel: + 972 8 282 2914
Fax: + 972 8 282 0966
Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres
Israeli Defense Minister, Benyamin Ben Eliezer
Fax: +972-3-6916940, 6976990
Letters from Jerusalem, 2001
Letters from Jerusalem, 2002
Letters from Jerusalem, 2003
New & recent letters from Jerusalem (2004)
Resources and Links