Palestine – the view from Korea (May 27, 2013)

Palestine Peace & Solidarity in South Korea set up a booth at the 18th Seoul Human Rights Film Festival in order to promote our campaign to pressure Hyundai Heavy Industries to commit to making no future sales of its products to Israel to be used for the illegal demolition of Palestinian homes in the occupied Palestinian territories, hand out our report on ROK-Israel relations (online version available here) and meet people interested in supporting human rights. We sold some of our new T-shirts and handmade jewelry as well. If you’re interested, you can check out our online store. It was great fun and we’re so grateful to everyone who helped out in different ways, from grabbing a T-shirt to support us or jumping behind the counter to get your hands a little dirty. We were very fortunate to have lots of friends join us this year! (Please email your photos to so I can post them here.)

hr film fest 2 hr film fest 3 hr film fest 4

In its Weekly Report On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory for May 16 – 22 the Palestinian Center for Human Rights is reporting that 14 Palestinian civilians (including 12 children) sustained injuries at the hands of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) at a protest in front of al-Jalazoun refugee camp, north of Ramallah. The IDF also carried out 65 incursions into the occupied West Bank in this period during which a further three Palestinians sustained injuries. Another 32 Palestinian civilians were arrested inside the occupied West Bank. In occupied East Jerusalem where Hyundai’s equipment has been documented being used, the IDF demolished 8 houses and forced a man to demolish his own home. The Israeli Committee to End Home Demolitions puts the total Palestinian structures demolished by the IDF for 2013 at 237 with 397 people displaced. It also puts the total number of Palestinians injured by the IDF for this year at 2,233. Homes are demolished to make way for the growth of Jewish-only settlements, illegal under international law and the UN has consistently called for the withdrawal of, were expanded by nearly 8,000 dunams last year (one dunam equals 1,000m2).

Bulldozers demolish a residential home in the Jabal Mukabbir neighborhood in East Jerusalem, May 21, 2013. From ActiveStills/Tali Mayer.
Bulldozers demolish a residential home in the Jabal Mukabbir neighborhood in East Jerusalem, May 21, 2013. From ActiveStills/Tali Mayer.

Furthermore, Hyundai construction equipment is being used in the development of a six-lane settlement highway that will cut through the middle of the Palestinian community of Beit Safafa in East Jerusalem which is home to over 9,000 residents. The construction project has been condemned by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights Richard Falk who recently issued the following statement: “Companies taking part in the construction of the illegal highway in Beit Safafa, under the auspices of the Moriah Jerusalem Development Company and their implementing partner, D.Y. Barazani Ltd., must be held responsibleEarth moving equipment of Volvo, CAT, Hyundai and JCB has been seen at the construction sites.” [Emphasis mine.]

House demolition, Abu Tur, East Jerusalem, 02/10/09

Back on the peninsula, there is still concern that South Korea may decide to purchase Israel’s Iron Dome “defense” system despite missing out on a deal that would ensure Israel purchase South Korean made fighter jets and ships. While the deal has been on the cards for a couple of years now, there is no clear indication of whether any acquisition will be made. The South Korean military has recently deployed a number of Israeli made satellite guided Spike missiles along its borders islands that could be used to strike North Korea’s artillery guns along its border despite reservations from inside the South Korean military establishment that the missiles may not be suitable and have not yet been adequately tested.

Palestine: the view from Korea (April 29)

ROK-Israel Free Trade Agreement in the Works

A free trade agreement (FTA) between Israel and South Korea has been in pipelines for a number of years and a final deal was expected to be agreed upon by April of last year. While no formal agreement has yet been reached, it is hard to follow progress given that these deals are rarely brokered with public consultation. While the Ministry of Foreign Affairs lists the agreement as still being under consideration, a feasibility study was launched in August of 2009 and completed in August of 2010.

Korea Israel

It’s the “Creative Economy”, Stupid

Another important aspect of South Korea-Israel relations is the influence of the so-called “creative economy” that is currently the buzz word in the Blue House. The term comes from Israeli economic policy in which investment is focused on small startup companies which in turn is said to lead to overall economic growth. It came to popularity in Korea by former Yonsei University professor Yoon Jong-lok through his translation of the book ‘Start-Up Nation’. After gaining the ear of the Korean president, Yoon has now been appointed as the second vice minister of the Ministry of Future Planning and Science which has set up the Office of Creative Economy Planning. Following suit, the Ministry of Security and Public Administration established the Office of Creative Government Strategies, and it appears that other ministries are eager to adopt the new trend.

The fact that the Israeli economy relies in part on U.S. aid, which in turn goes into maintaining the military occupation of Palestinian land, seems not to have been a major consideration with the new buzz word floating around. The authors of ‘Start-up Nation’ explain how  Israeli struggled against the odds to achieve its economic miracle despite being “surrounded by enemies, in a constant state of war since its founding, with no natural resources”. Interestingly, this perpetual “state of war” has been used to imprison, kill and maim scores of Palestinians since 1948 and the lack of natural resources is in part made up for by illegally diverting water resources from the occupied Palestinian territories. Presumably these tidbits didn’t make it into the text.

In reality, the catch phrase appears to have little substance to it. No dramatic changes have been put into place since the change in administration that saw Park Geun Hye, daughter of former military dictator Park Chung Hee, come to power in South Korea. In one article that reads like satire an analyst was quoted as saying that, “The creative economy is a magic wand that can resolve all the problems. But the problem is that nobody knows where it is and how to control it.”

Samsung Expanding its Investment in Israel

One company that is caught up the hype is Korea’s largest chaebol or conglomerate, Samsung. The company is increasing its activity in Israel and earlier this month set up a benchmarking team to investigate the Israeli model in which some 500 ventures are launched each year by young Israelis. In February of this year the South Korean company launched a 100 million dollar venture capital fund to invest in early stage high tech start-ups in the U.S. and Israel. An innovation center is being established under the Samsung Semiconductor’s R&D center in Ramat Gan which already employs 200 workers. Apart from investing in startup companies, the center will also invest in Israeli academia and local venture capital funds investing in Israeli startups. Samsung also operates another R&D center in Yakum which it acquired in 2007.

The Most Recent Human Costs of the Military Occupation

The latest United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs occupied Palestinian territory (OCHAOPT) report for the week ending April 22 offered the following figures for 2013 thus far: 9 fatalities at the hands of the IDF, 2,032 Palestinians injured by the IDF, 119 incidents resulting in Palestinian casualties or property damage (20 incidents relating in Israeli casualties or property damage), 170 Palestinian structures (including homes) demolished with 327 people displaced. For the week ending April 26, the International Middle East Media Center is reporting that at least 98 military invasions were made by the IDF into Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. At least 52 Palestinians including 6 children were arrested. In addition, claiming to be in response to a rocket attack from Gaza on civilian communities in Southern Israel, the IDF bombed three sites in Gaza, two belonging to the military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and another belonging to the military wing of Islamic Jihad. No injuries were reported.

Home demolition in Al Tur, occupied East Jerusalem, 24 April 2013. From
Home demolition in Al Tur, occupied East Jerusalem, 24 April 2013. From

Palestine: the view from Korea (April 22, 2013)

Apologies for missing last week’s update. As Palestine Peace & Solidarity has been busier than usual, I was unable to offer an update last week. By way of making up for this, this week I want to focus on some achievements made by the solidarity movement after a quick review of PPS’ recent actions.

Palestine Peace & Solidarity Action Review

Hyundai Flash Mob (April 12): PPS activists and friends gathered in front of Hyundai Heavy Industries’ main building in Jongno and in locations in Gwanghwamun, downtown Seoul, on April 12 to call on the company to make a commitment to end all sales of its products for use by Israel to carry out illegal activities in the occupied Palestinian territories. We were met by a representative of the company who agreed to pass on our complaint and get back to us. We are still waiting on their reply and have promised to return in the future if no such commitment is made. You can read our statement on Hyundai here and see a video of our action below.

GDAMS (April 15): April 15 was the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) and PPS teamed up with 23 other anti-war/peace groups and other civil society organizations to demand that both Koreas put down their arms for peace. A promotional video was made which won the Craziest GDAMS Video award which I hope you will take a few minutes to watch.

As the day coincided with the reopening of the National Assembly, a press conference was held in front of the assembly building with members from the different groups as well as 15 parliamentarians in attendance. The full press statement can be read here. In addition, a Korea-Japan Civil Society Joint Statement was endorsed by participating groups and published and activists donned Teletubby costumes and gathered messages of peace from the public throughout the day. It is interesting to see how these larger-than-life creatures can disarm even the most pro-war of pedestrians! The day ended with a talk titled ‘Sorrows of Empire: Confronting U.S. Military Imperialism’ by U.S. Veterans for Peace activist Dud Hendrick at which he discussed the impact of the U.S. empire of bases around the world.

We encourage you to join the photo petition by taking a photo of yourself calling for peace on the Korean peninsula and uploading it here onto the GDAMS Tumblr page.

 Palestinian Prisoners’ Day (April 17): PPS prepared a street action a day before the official day, on April 16, in front of the Israeli Embassy in downtown Seoul. Focusing on the practice administrative detention widely employed by Israel on Palestinians including many children, we handed out a bilingual information leaflet from Addameer and demanded an end to this cruel practice. You can read our short report on administrative detention here.

Palestine Peace and Solidarity activists In front of the Israeli Embassy, Seoul (April 16)
Palestine Peace and Solidarity activists In front of the Israeli Embassy, Seoul (April 16)

The human costs of occupation

The Palestine Center for Human Rights reports that during the week of April 11 – 17 the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) made a total of 71 incursions into the occupied West Bank in which four civilians (including two children) were wounded. A Palestinian shepherd was also shot and wounded by the IDF in the Gaza Strip and fisherman continued to be shot at by Israeli forces imposing the 3-nautical mile limit off Gaza’s western coast. 40 Palestinians were arrested in the West Bank, seven of whom were children.

Resistance and Hope

Palestinian Tent Villages: A new form of protest is gaining popularity in Palestine in which Palestinians are establishing what are referred to as ‘tent villages’ throughout the occupied West Bank in opposition to the development of new illegal, Jewish-only Israeli settlements. In a sense, the use of tents to form villages can be seen as an inversion of the illegal Israeli appropriation of Palestinian land. While not a completely new tactic, the recent use of tent villages as a protest space for Palestinians and international activists supporting their struggle began in January and gained momentum during President Obama’s recent visit. The aim is to build a national movement to occupy land from which Palestinians have been dispossessed.

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions: Momentum appears to be increasing in the U.S. for the BDS campaign. The Student Senate at the University of California – Berkeley debated through the night of April 17 and into the morning of April 18, finally passing a resolution to divest from companies profiting from the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza.

In addition, the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS) recently adopted a resolution in support of the boycott of Israeli academic institutions at its annual meeting. The US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel is stating that it is the first U.S. academic organization to boycott Israeli institutions.

In another success for the BDS movement possibly driven by the concerted effort of Palestine-based Addameer and other Palestinian prisoner support organizatons, G4S, the world’s largest security company in the world has signaled that it will end some of its contracts with Israel. The company currently operates in 125 countries hand has supplies security systems to all of the major Israeli prisons and detention centers where Palestinians are detained. The company claims it will end its contracts which provide security systems for Israeli military checkpoints, one prison and a police station in the occupied West Bank, but will continue to service prisons inside Israel where thousands of Palestinians are held.

Refuseniks: the courage to say No!: 19-year-old Israeli Natan Blanc is the latest brave Israeli to face jail time as a conscientious objector after refusing to serve in the Israeli military in opposition to its brutal occupation of Palestinian territory. He has already racked up 120 days in prison but refuses to abide by anything but his conscience. Other refuseniks, as they are known in Israel, include the nephew of current Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, Bibi Netanyahu who views Israel as an apartheid state. Below is a short interview with Natan which is quite inspiring.