Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR)
By Mina Remy
December 18th, 2012
Globally, activists at the forefront of human rights protection are coming under increased scrutiny and attack by state and non-state actors. Although being a human rights defender is becoming dangerous work, the commitment to human rights promotion and defense amongst activist has not waned. Nowhere is this truer than in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt), where our partners have had their offices raided and equipment confiscated by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
Operation Pillar of Defense (Pillar of Cloud in Hebrew) is once again destroying Gaza missile by missile, building by building. Our partner Raji Sourani, the director of Palestinian Center for Human Rights, sees history repeating itself with each civilian casualty. As he makes clear in a recent article on Al-Jazeera (posted below), the world is standing by while scores of civilians lose their lives, Gazans human rights are violated and community infrastructure is destroyed.
Before I arrived at Grassroots International (nearly a year ago), I thought I understood the hardships imposed on Gaza. I knew about the imposed siege, had read and heard of the Turkish flotilla of 2010 and other humanitarian attempts to reach Gaza. I even knew about loss of acres of farmland, inadequate access to potable water, shortage of medicines, shortage of building materials, and periodic bombardment by the Israeli Defense Forces.
Today, a civil court in Israel issued a verdict in the 2003 death of Rachel Corrie. Judge Oded Gershon of Haifa District Court concluded that Rachel’s death was not caused by the negligence of the Israeli state or army. Rachel, a nonviolent 23-year-old activist, was killed by a Caterpillar bulldozer while trying to physically protect Palestinian homes in the Gaza strip from destruction by Israeli Defense Forces.
The tiny motorboat’s engine coughs a couple of miles offshore and whirls to a stop. Gazing out over the aquamarine Mediterranean waters, I feel high from the fumes of cheap Egyptian diesel and the smell of sea salt. “Let’s get in,” says Mahfouz Kabariti, a fisherman, stripping down to swim trunks and diving overboard. A Palestinian friend who is a medical student also came along for the ride. We eye each other cautiously. She winks, and we both jump in the water, fully dressed, our long pants weighing us down. It’s a perfect Friday afternoon. From out here, the ubiquitous bullet holes in buildings are invisible and Gaza City looks like a coastal resort town.
Waiting for my visa interview on a dusty embroidered couch at the Afghan Embassy in Cairo, minutes turned into hours. I had recently decided to spend International Women’s Day in the countryside outside of Kabul, to learn from women there as they work towards a better Afghanistan. My mind wandered as I prepared for the journey, and I found myself reflecting on the meaning of a day set aside to celebrate women. Memories drifted through the past few years where I had spent International Women’s Day with Grassroots International’s partners in Palestine and Haiti. Years apart and worlds away, the experiences were bound by song.
Gaza Strip, 2009
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) works to protect human rights and promote the rule of law. They have been recognized as an effective voice of the Palestinian people through awards such as the Human Rights Prize from France. PCHR has gained an international reputation as an independent voice on human rights vis-à-vis both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
By Mina Remy
December 27th, 2011
Three years ago today, on December 27, 2008, the Israeli Defense Force launched Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. The offensive left a trail of death and destruction in its wake, including hundreds dead, thousands displaced, and nearly the entire 1.5 million-person population traumatized and hungry. In the years since the bombing stopped and tanks rolled through agricultural fields, recovery has been slow.