Gaza Strip

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

The Society for Islamic Awareness hosted Canadian rights activist and journalist Eva Bartlett to speak of her experience living in and reporting from the Gaza Strip since November 2008, and to explain the type of human rights violations committed by the Israeli Defense Forces that she witnessed during her stay.

Bartlett went to the Gaza Strip with the International Solidarity Movement, a grassroots organization that works to aid the Palestinian population. Bartlett said she directly worked with citizens and witnessed firsthand the nature of the situation, saying the United Nations and other organizations argue that, because Israel controls the Gaza Strip, it has an obligation to support the well being of
its people.

“Instead of looking after the well being of Palestinians in Gaza, [Israel’s] policies are designed to find and attack every aspect of life in Gaza and make it literally unbearable,” Bartlett said.

According to Bartlett, Israeli forces fire live ammunition at fishermen and farmers near Israeli borders, regardless of the fact that they operate within the legal boundaries. During her presentation, Bartlett showed a number of videos of these events, all of which she was present for.

The Gaza Strip spans 140 square miles, with a population of 1.7 million. In 2013, its unemployment rate was 31 percent. Bartlett said Israeli forces impose tight restrictions on the region’s imports and exports, severely affecting the health of Palestinians. According to Bartlett, 80 percent of the population relies on food aid — a 70 percent increase from 2001.

“Until mid 2010, Israeli authorities were banning everything from entering Gaza, except for 40 items,” Bartlett said. “This is how sadistic their policies are.”

Bartlett said she believes Western media does not show the hardships experienced by Palestinians.

“A scene you will never see in our corporate media is a Palestinian suffering,” Bartlett said.

Tracy Frydberg, Middle Eastern studies and journalism junior and president of Texans for Israel, referred to the conflict as a complex and emotional issue, saying the Israeli policies were put in place to protect the people of Israel.

“The Israeli Defense Force is an incredibly moral army, based on defending the state of Israel and its people,” Frydberg said.

Christina Noriega, journalism junior and member of Palestine Solidarity Committee, said the conflict has been inaccurately portrayed to the public by the media.

“This is not a war of equal sides but, rather, a blatant Israeli occupation involving the systematic displacement of the indigenous Palestinian community,” Noriega said.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israel expelled a Palestinian prisoner Sunday to the Gaza Strip as part of a compromise deal that persuaded her to end her 43-day hunger strike.

Under the terms of her release, Hana Shalabi, a 30-year-old from the West Bank, must remain in the seaside strip for the next three years.

Shalabi went on hunger strike to protest Israel’s policy of “administrative detention,” under which it holds some Palestinian prisoners for months — even years — without charges.

Shalabi launched the strike after being placed in administrative detention on Feb. 16. She ended it on Thursday.
The Israeli prison authority said she was in custody for unspecified terror activity.

Shalabi was initially released last year in a prisoner swap that freed Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit from captivity in Gaza in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Thousands of Gaza children sent a sea of colorful kites soaring into the sky Thursday in an attempt to break a world record.

Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for the U.N. agency that runs the camp that hosted the event in northwest Gaza, said the unofficial count stood at more than 13,000 children flying kites, which would break the previous world record of nearly 10,500 set earlier this year in China.

Earlier Thursday, vandals torched a stage, burned a U.N. flag and damaged a billboard at the camp. Gunness said nobody was hurt and he had no information on who vandalized the facility.

Similar attacks have taken place in the past at U.N. summer camps in Gaza, where boys and girls mix.

The damage was repaired in time for the Gaza children to make their attempt at breaking the record for the largest number of children flying kites.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry urged the U.S. attorney general to take action Wednesday against Americans who plan to take part in a pro-Palestinian protest by sailing to the Gaza Strip to challenge an Israeli naval blockade.

Perry wrote that he had information that American citizens were aboard two U.S.-flagged ships that plan to challenge the blockade on the Gaza Strip. He urged U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to take legal steps to stop them from taking part, or to prosecute them if they make the attempt.

“The state of Israel is a friend and critical ally of the United States, and the only stable democracy in an increasingly unstable and hostile region,” wrote Perry, a vocal supporter of Israel who is considering a run for president in 2012. “These initiatives to breach Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip is an unacceptable provocation.”

Under federal law, anyone who “prepares a means for, or furnishes the money for, or takes part in, any military or naval expedition” against a friendly country can be fined or jailed for three years. Perry also suggested that Holder prosecute the protesters for providing materials or assistance to a terrorist organization.

Israel has enforced a Gaza border blockade since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized the territory in 2007. Last year, an Israeli raid on a similar flotilla killed nine activists on a Turkish vessel. Each side blamed the other for
the violence.

Pro-Palestinian activists operating from Greece were preparing Wednesday to launch what are reported to be 10 ships carrying medical and construction supplies for Gaza sometime this week. Israeli Information Minister Yuli Edelstein called on organizers to deliver their cargo via an Israeli port, but the protesters rejected that
option Wednesday.

Greece is the flotilla’s base of operations, but activists won’t disclose the exact location of the boats because of
security concerns.

In his letter, Perry identified two of the ships as “The Audacity of Hope” and the “The Challenger II,” both of which he said were registered in Delaware. Perry also wrote that the ships will depend on U.S.-based Inmarsat for communications and navigation, suggesting that the organization could be held responsible for
the protesters’ actions.

“I write to encourage you to aggressively pursue all available legal remedies to enjoin and prevent these illegal actions, and to prosecute any who may elect to engage in them in spite of your pre-emptive efforts,” Perry wrote.

There was no immediate response from the Department of Justice. The State Department has warned Americans against participating in such a flotilla.

The Israeli consulate in Houston thanked Perry for
his involvement.

“Israel appreciates Governor Perry’s support and appreciates his bringing this to the U.S. Attorney General’s attention,” wrote Eric Cohn, the academic affairs officer at the consulate.