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Help Us Help Ourselves - An Open Letter to Israel

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I am a member of the community of Sudanese refugees living in south Tel Aviv. Since 2007, I have been living in Israel, working for a living and doing everything in my power to help my people as a volunteer at the Darfur Association.
It is very important to the Sudanese community that Israelis understand us, our culture, and the circumstances that brought us here. For this reason, I decided to write this open letter to the Israeli people.
We are a group of asylum seekers, forced to flee our homeland and our families. Since 2003, Darfur has been under attack by forces allied with the Sudanese government. The Darfuri people have fallen victim to genocide, organized rape and looting and mass displacement, with millions forced to leave their homes. Since 2004, 400,000 Darfuris have been slain and 6,000 villages in the Darfur region have been burned.


On 13/4/2008 about 500 refugees from Darfur together with Israeli activists protested calling to put an end to the on going genocide in Darfur, Sudan.
The protestors also demanded from the Israeli movement to give an asylum to the refuges that are crossing the border into Israel.
Tel Aviv, Israel, 13/4/2008. Photo by: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org

To this day, almost 4 million people stagnate in refugee camps, surrounded by violence and fear and in desperate need of food and medicine. It was this situation in our homeland that drove many Darfuris to flee north, to Egypt.
But the Egyptian government received us with hostility and violence. In late 2005, Egyptian police raided a protest encampment set up by Sudanese asylum seekers across from the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Cairo. Dozens were killed, and hundreds were left homeless and penniless. In the wake of the attack, many decided to flee north once more, this time to Israel.
The journey to Israel is not an easy one. Egyptian forces police the border with orders to shoot at African refugees. Many of those who do manage to cross the border into Israel arrived injured by bullets or having lost family members en route. We do not know how many of our people have been killed trying to cross the border.
On the Israeli side, the army carries out a policy of “hot return,” turning back whomever they manage to catch. Those who are not caught in the act of crossing the border are sent to Israeli prisons, where they can stay for months on end.
Once released from prison, most refugees make their way to Tel Aviv, where they find themselves in a delicate and unstable situation. Homelessness is common, especially among people suffering from psychological trauma and injuries. Last winter, many Darfuri refugees had nowhere to spend the night, and were forced to sleep in Levinsky Park, across from the Central Bus Station.
In March 2008 our community began to organize itself, and we rented a shelter to house Sudanese refugees. The rent and bills cost us several thousand shekels a month, more than we could afford.
Although the shelter was originally meant to house only the injured and minors, we soon had about 100 people sleeping there. Over the course of the year we accommodated over 1,000 refugees, most of them only for a brief time until they managed to get on their feet and rent apartments. For most, this was their first stop in the country after being released from detention by Israeli authorities.
In September of 2008, the immigration police decided we were no longer permitted to stay in Tel Aviv. Many of us were detained. Others left Tel Aviv to seek work in Eilat. The shelter was kept open, but only the wounded and a handful of students, teenage boys who study at an ulpan in Jaffa, remained.
Since then, the shelter has filled up once again, and now houses around a hundred people. In late February of this year, we were again on the verge of closing the shelter due to lack of funds, when private individuals from the Sudanese community stepped in and offered us their support.
All that we ask from Israel is the right to work, so that we may take care of ourselves and live freely and in peace and security. The shelter is dependent on contributions from its residents for monthly rent and bills, but without work visas it is increasingly difficult to cover these expenses.
Several hundred Sudanese were granted official refugee status, and with it the right to work. Most, however, are still denied the right to work in Israel legally. This despite the fact that they are displaced refugees, and receive no support from the government.
Officially prohibited from working between Hadera and Gedera, many of us have tried to look for jobs outside of Tel Aviv, but there are few to be found. Darfuris are also forced to compete for jobs with migrant workers and other refugees, many of whom are allowed to work legally.
Unfortunately, the handful of organizations that are involved in helping us are limited in their resources and capacity to help. Also, education programs promised to us by the government have not materialized.
We are displaced people looking for peace and security. We live in Tel Aviv because it is the only place in Israel where we have access to jobs and health care. I believe that, given the right to work in Israel, we could take care of ourselves and be a benefit to the communities that we live in.
Our organization needs support. Our immediate need is for funds to cover the shelter’s rent, in order to have a place for injured people and minors to sleep. In the longer term, all we ask is the right to live and work in Israel and take care of ourselves while we are here.
Hamed Sadindin is Director of Humanitarian Affairs of the Darfur Association/Sudan Liberation Movement Israel Branch. He can be contacted at: shararanaar@yahoo.com

תגובות

Re: Re: Gaza Fears Impending Israeli Attacks

Qassams kill far fewer than Israel's precision weapons. Israeli defense officials warned that Collective Punishment directed at Gaza would intensify the violent response.

The Israeli Government is responsible.

How many, on both 'sides', will be dead as a result of the Olmert Extremists' plot to attack Gaza and portions of the W. Bank?

It seems the Annapolis event is serving as a smokescreen for the plot already drawn up by the Olmert Extremists.
Gaza fears Israeli push to smash Hamas
Donald Macintyre, Independent

Gaza, 27 November 2007

Big Israeli armoured bulldozers, guarded by a stationary escort of tanks and armoured personnel carriers half-hidden in the adjacent sandbanks, were operating all along the exposed walk south on the Palestinian side of the hi-tech Erez terminal separating Gaza from Israel yesterday.

As the great and good of the Western and Arab worlds were gathering in Annapolis, this no-man's land crossed on foot by the small privileged minority of Palestinians allowed to enter and leave since Hamas's enforced takeover in June, has been extended to almost three kilometres.

Yesterday the road seemed like a metaphor for the ever- deepening isolation of Gaza. Much of it is now rutted by the bulldozers seemingly working to destroy the cover afforded to mortar and Qassam rocket-launching crews by the eerie, bombed-out wreckage of what was once a clatteringly busy Palestinian-Israeli industrial zone. The core of women from the nearby town of Beit Hanoun, brandishing familiar Palestinian flags, demonstrating against what is universally called here the "siege" of Gaza, had to do so separated even from the forbidding border fence by a mile and half wide sterile zone controlled by the Israeli military, their remote-controlled drones buzzing overhead.

Just 75 minutes later at least one militant was killed in the area in an aerial strike on what the military said was a cell launching mortars. Another 15 minutes, and two more were killed by ground fire, this time, the military said, on a well-equipped Hamas unit trying to plant explosives by the vehicles.

The scene was a reminder that there may soon be a decision on whether to mount a full-scale military operation against Hamas inside Gaza – one some Israeli commentators have speculated was merely being postponed until Annapolis was out of the way.

Otherwise, Gazans were struggling yesterday to identify their hopes and fears with an Annapolis conference at which their own de facto Hamas government is not represented and much of whose immediate focus is on alleviating conditions in the West Bank. "What did Oslo do for us?" asked Sami Ayub, 40. "After 15 years of negotiations what are they going to be able to do in Annapolis in a single day?"

Mr Ayub was speaking at the Beit Lahiya cemetery, from which you could see the rising smoke and hear the thuds of perhaps four tank shells close to the northern border some two kilometres away, and where he and his four brothers have provided a full grave-digging and tomb-building service for the last bleakly busy seven years. But now, because of Israel's closure of the Karni cargo crossing, he has finally run out of the cement he needs even to cover the graves properly. Mr Ayub says that the desperate shortage of cement had already pushed the price of a sack up from around £2.50 to as much as £43. He has had to double the normal cost of his funeral service to £74. "At first people were very upset but now they understand. They have even brought concrete slabs from destroyed houses but that doesn't work. Now I don't know what I will do. The families will ask their Mufti if it is permitted to cover the bodies with sand."

Mr Ayub blames the Hamas takeover for the "siege," but adds that he feels "lost" between Hamas and the Ramallah-based government. "This has fallen on the head of the people," he said.

As if to rub home his point, Ahmad Shafi, head of the local farmers' co-operative, said last night he was now "very pessimistic" that Israel would implement its pre-Annapolis promise to release for export all of his members' highly perishable strawberry crop.

Neverthless, Mr Ayub added stoutly, he will be "following closely" today's proceedings in Annapolis on television. The unreal gulf between Gaza city and Annapolis was, if anything, heightened by the Hamas- promoted activists' conference in the very room in which President Bill Clinton had in 1998 attended the historic vote to take out references the elimination of Israel in the Palestinian National Charter. It was now decorated with banners proclaiming: "Our rights protected by resistance" and "Whoever gives up the Right of Return [for refugees] and Al Quds [Jerusalem] is not from us."

The Hamas hardliner Mahmoud Zahar told the conference: "The Land of Palestine ... is purely owned by the Palestinians. No person ... has the right to give up one inch of it."

Across the road in Tareq Abu Dayeh's "Chairman Arafat" souvenir shop, you could buy mugs commemorating "The Annapolis Conference for Peace" inscribed with an instruction "in the case of the conference's failure you are only asked to break this mug." Just 40 had so far been sold, said Mr Abu Dayeh. "People either say they have no money or they say 'what's the point of buying a mug I will have to break?'"

www.news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article3198888.ece

ALERT: Annapolis a Charade: Israel Plots Massive Aggression

In Germany, according to historian Richard Evans, in 1931-1932, if enough Germans of conscience had begun to say No -- history would have had an entirely diferent outcome.

If we go any further down this road the tears will be those of conservatives as well as progressives. They will be (Israeli) tears.

The time for weeping has to stop; the time for confronting must begin.

Adapted from "American Tears"
www.huffingtonpost.com/naomi-wolf/american-tears_b_68141.html
The timing is interesting, given the upcoming "Annapolis Conference", which serves to be about PR alone, as Olmert has already ruled out any Negotiations or Compromise in the name of peace.

If you follow the events surrounding Israel's "Disengagement" from Gaza, you will quickly understand that this was the plan all along. While Israel was making a public spectacle of "forcing Jews to leave their homes", it was quietly surrounding the Strip with artillery emplacements, in an operation ominously named "First Rain".

Under this operation, Gaza basically became a "Free-Fire Zone", and several artillery and gunship strikes killed a high number of civilians. Finally, when one of these batteries fired upon and murdered a Palestinian family - picnicking on a beach that had been Segregated "Jews Only" only weeks before, Hamas finally decided to call an end to its unilateral, two-year cease-fire.

(In essence, they took Israel's bait. After all, you can't excuse your Aggression and label it "defense" if you're not being intermittently attacked. Never mind the hypocrisy underlying the entire media's framing of that whole debate ...)

When the Palestinians responded by electing Hamas to power (yes, elected), Israeli Extremists and their Ideological, bought foreign co-conspirators imposed unilateral sanctions on Gaza, a bit of Collective Punishment which increased the hardship of those stuck in the world's largest Concentration Camp.

When they felt Gaza had been substantially weakened, the US and Israel undertook a Coup attempt, using corrupt elements within the Fatah Party, provoking a violent response by Hamas, which expelled the group. Most of the world's media ignored the events leading to this "crisis", and instead only repeated the Propaganda emanating from the US and Israel, which used this to further increase sanctions against Gaza.

Most recently, Israel stepped up its Collective Punishment, except that human rights groups and legal advisors to the Government halted some of its approved measures, because they run contrary to International Humanitarian Law.

This was sold as another "response to rocket attacks" (again highlighting the hypocrisy of the debate's Framing - are the Palestinians allowed to defend themselves from strikes which actually KILL people ... ?), even though high-ranking officials said that this was NOT, in fact, a response to these attacks, but a way to "distance Israel from Gaza's infrastructure".

The real reason for this whole episode, of course, has been to "soften up" the Gaza Strip for a long-planned military attack, a way to undermine the resolve, and hopefully rid this territory of Palestinians altogether.

www.israel.indymedia.org/newswire/display/7889/index.php

Barak: Attacks on Gaza, W. Bank Will Follow Annapolis
www.israel.indymedia.org/newswire/display/7881/index.php

Israel's Extremists Threaten Annapolis
www.israel.indymedia.org/newswire/display/7944/index.php

Israel: We Won't Negotiate at Annapolis
www.israel.indymedia.org/newswire/display/7941/index.php

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