Archive for April, 2011

Palestinian factions in reconciliation bid

Posted in Fatah, Gaza, Hamas, International community, Israel, USA foreign policy, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 28/04/2011 by 3071km

Date published: 28/04/2011

Source: Al Jazeera English

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Fatah and Hamas agree to form interim government and fix general election date following talks in Cairo.

Fatah, the Palestinian political organisation, has reached an agreement with its rival Hamas on forming an interim government and fixing a date for a general election, Egyptian intelligence has said.

In February, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and a member of Fatah, called for presidential and legislative elections before September, in a move which was rejected by Hamas at the time.

Abbas signalled on Thursday that peace talks with Israel would still be possible during the term of a new interim government formed as part of a unity deal with Hamas.

Abbas said the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which he heads and to which Hamas does not belong, would still be responsible for “handling politics, negotiations”.

He was speaking for the first time since the unity deal was unveiled in Cairo on Wednesday.

The deal, which took many officials by surprise, was thrashed out in Egypt and followed a series of secret meetings.

“The consultations resulted in full understandings over all points of discussions, including setting up an interim agreement with specific tasks and to set a date for election,” Egyptian intelligence said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The two sides signed initial letters on an agreement. All points of differences have been overcome,” Taher Al-Nono, a Hamas government spokesman in Gaza, told the Reuters news agency.

He said that Cairo would shortly invite both sides to a signing ceremony.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Gaza, Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official, said: “I think we are optimistic because … there is [an] official agreement between Hamas and Fatah, and I think we now have [an] impressive jump to the Palestinian unity.

“Maybe it does not come as a shock because I think it came as a fruit of long talks and discussion.

“I think that today we became very close to this agreement, we have finished some points. It is like [an] outline draft and I think it will be a good beginning.

“Maybe after that we will start on how to implement this agreement to be translated and practised on the ground.”

‘Geopolitical situation’

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said: “It is important news … the geopolitical situation wasn’t exactly helpful [to reconciliation] and then we went through six months of upheavals, certainly sweeping through Egypt.

“At the end, you could say that President Abbas has lost his patron in Egypt, which is President Mubarak, and Hamas is more on less facing almost similar trouble now, with Bashar al-Assad [Syria’s president] facing his own trouble in Damascus.

“So with the US keeping a distance and Israel not delivering the goods on the peace process and the settlements, it was time for Palestinians to come together and agree on what they basically agreed on almost a year and a half ago.”

Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, said on Wednesday that Abbas could not hope to forge a peace deal with Israel if he pursued a reconciliation accord with Hamas.

“The Palestinian Authority must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There is no possibility for peace with both,” he said.

In his televised statement, Netanyahu said Israel could not accept Hamas as a negotiating partner because it “aspires to destroy Israel, it says so publicly, it fires rockets on our cities, it fires anti-tank rockets on our children.”

He said that the surprise announcement of a reconciliation deal “exposes the Palestinian Authority’s weakness”.

And on Thursday, Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister said the deal marks the “crossing of a red line”.

Lieberman warned that the accord could lead to the militant group’s takeover of the Fatah-run West Bank.

But top Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdaineh said the reconciliation did not concern Israel.

“The agreement between Fatah and Hamas movements is an internal affair and has nothing to do with Israel. Netanyahu must choose between a just peace with the united Palestinian people … and settlements,” Abu Rdaineh said.

Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros reported from Ramallah that “a lot of people would say that this was really an empty kind of ultimatum – what peace process, or what peace deal, is prime minister Netanyahu actually talking about?

“The peace process very much took a hit in the last few months. There has been no peace process taking place between the Palestinian Authority and Israel because of Israel’s insistence on building on land that is being negotiated on.

“So I think many months back, the PA and Fatah decided to take their own route, away from this peace process, away from US mediation and try to really go it alone.”

The US is reviewing further reports on details of the reconciliation, and while it supports Palestinian reconciliation, Hamas remains “a terrorist organisation which targets civilians”, Tommy Vietor, US National Security Council spokesman, said.

“To play a constructive role in achieving peace, any Palestinian government must accept the Quartet principles and renounce violence, abide by past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.”

Hamas does not recognise Israel as a state.

‘Bitter split’

Fatah holds power in the occupied West Bank while Hamas, which won the last parliamentary election in 2006, routed Abbas’ forces in 2007 to seize control of the Gaza Strip.

Rawya Rageh, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Cairo, said: “This effectively will be ending a bitter split that Palestinians have been witnessing since 2007.

Rageh said the deal was expected to be signed next week and would be attended by Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who is based in Damascus.

Nicole Johnston, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Gaza, said: “One of the main civil society groups here is calling on all Palestinian factions to head down to the main square in Gaza City, the square of the unknown soldier, to begin the celebrations.

“It seems certainly in Gaza that there’s a need for some good news. It’s been a pretty rough month here in a lot of respects, an escalation of violence with Israel, the kidnapping and murder of a foreigner.

“So really, this kind of news … is a call for celebration.”

Wednesday’s accord was first reported by Egypt’s intelligence service, which brokered the talks.

In a statement carried by Egyptian state news agency MENA, the intelligence service said the deal was agreed by a Hamas delegation led by Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of the group’s politburo, and Fatah central committee member Azzam al-Ahmad.

Al-Ahmad and Abu Marzouk said the agreement covered all points of contention, including forming a transitional government, security arrangements and the restructuring of the Palestine Liberation Organisation to allow Hamas to join it.

Speaking on Egyptian state television, al-Ahmad said a general election would take place within a year.

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior member of Hamas, said all prisoners with a non-criminal background would be released.

Egypt FM: Gaza border crossing to be permanently opened

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Hamas, Palestine, Siege with tags , , , , , , on 28/04/2011 by 3071km

Date Published: 28/04/2011

Source: Haaretz

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Egyptian FM tells Al-Jazeera that preparations are already underway to permanently open Rafah border crossing, which would allow goods and people in and out of Gaza with no Israeli supervision.

Egypt’s foreign minister said in an interview with Al-Jazeera on Thursday that preparations were underway to open the Rafah border crossing with Gaza on a permanent basis.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi told Al-Jazeera that within seven to 10 days, steps will be taken in order to alleviate the “blockade and suffering of the Palestinian nation.”

The announcement indicates a significant change in the policy on Gaza, which before Egypt’s uprising, was operated in conjunction with Israel. The opening of Rafah will allow the flow of people and goods in and out of Gaza without Israeli permission or supervision, which has not been the case up until now.

Israel’s blockade on Gaza has been a policy used in conjunction with Egyptian police to weaken Hamas, which has ruled over the strip since 2007. The policy also aims to reduce Hamas’ popularity among Gazans by creating economic hardship in the Strip.

Rafah’s opening would be a violation of an agreement reached in 2005 between the United States, Israel, Egypt, and the European Union, which gives EU monitors access to the crossing. The monitors were to reassure Israel that weapons and militants wouldn’t get into Gaza after its pullout from the territory in the fall of 2005.

Before Egypt’s uprising and ousting of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak, the border between Egypt and Gaza had been sealed. It has occasionally opened the passage for limited periods.

Israel is behind Juliano and Vik’s murder

Posted in Activism, Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Non-violent resistance on 18/04/2011 by 3071km

Date published: 17th April 2011
Source: In Gaza
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excerpts from Lauren Booth on the killing of Vik:

The killing of Vittorio (Vik) Arrigoni in Gaza this week follows (too) closely, the murder of pro-Palestinian peace activist Juliano Mer Khamis in the West Bank. Juliano, 52, was shot dead outside the Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp on the West Bank on the 4th April. His documentary Arnas’s Children detailed the work of his mother in helping Palestinian children deal with the trauma of living under Occupation through the use of drama and self – expression.

Juliano was untimely, bloody, end was one he had predicted three years ago on Israeli television.

Vittorio Arrigoni was found, this week, hung, by armed ‘fanatics’ in an apartment in Gaza. An end he would never, ever, have predicted.

There was worldwide condemnation for the killing of both men.

That a man dedicated to non violent resistance should die in violence is bad enough.

Worse, far worse is this; That his avowed enemies the ‘Fascisti’ in Israel (as he would call the government there) seek to make political gains from a life lived in direct challenge to them. This, as much as the sight of that last, dreadful film showing his eyes taped and his face bruised, is a knife in the heart of all who loved or knew of him.

The headline ‘Italian peace activist killed by Palestinian extremists’ is an Israeli propagandists wet dream. A gift as potentially large in its political implications as the now inevitable retraction by the UN of the Goldstone report.

Why?

Two reasons. firstly, if nothing is done, and fast, Israel will use the momentum of these two machinated events, as an excuse to re invade the Gaza Strip under the auspices of ‘terrorism and security’ issues.

Secondly, Israeli is seeking to end the growing momentum of the siege breaking movement and the increasing appeal of the ISM (International Solidarity Movement).

Which brings us to timing of both Juliano and Vittorio’s murders. Both men were respected for their creative work. Juliano, for inspiring a new generation of actors and writers in Jenin and for his film making on the subject of life under Occupation.

Vik for his award winning writings and broadcasts, on the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza.

Both men were part of a new uprising, arguably, the most successful yet. The uprising that hurts Israel where it hurts most – in the TV studios of Europe and the US, right in the intelligentsia. Their impact on the Israel ‘fascisti’ machine was a phenomenon in the expanding worlds of twitter and facebook. They had voices like no others in this movement.

More though. Vik was pivotal in the reformation of the ISM Gaza Group, the non violent resistance team, put on hold after the murders of two of its members by Israeli forces ; Tom Hurndall and Rachel Corrie. After it became clear that Israel’s leaders had taken the decision not only not to ignore the human rights of internationals in the West Bank and Gaza (thus putting them on a par with Palestinians), but to actively target them. The ISM in Gaza took time to consider whether it could encourage, young activists to join them on the ever increasingly mission to accompany Gazans about their daily business. Human shield work. Tom Hurndall and Rachel Corrie’s deaths were part of a dedicated attack by Israel on the work of the increasingly effective ISM.

More recently, IOF commanders have been focusing their attention on the Freegaza Movements efforts to break the siege of Gaza by sea.

It is no coincidence then that both Juliano and Vittorio should die within two weeks. Both, at the hands of unknown Palestinian ‘cells.’ As they say on children’s TV – tell us boys and girls what’s wrong with this picture?

Still unsure who was behind Vittorio’s murder? Well, how often have the Israeli press lauded and applauded ‘covert ops’ in the Occupied Territories? Want some examples? Fine. In 1952, Shin Bet agents were sent undercover to spy inside Palestinian villages. Ten Jewish men assimilated into Arab communities in the early 1950s, marrying local women and starting families with them, were, all the while serving in the Shin Bet as “mistaarvim,” literally- masqueraders. The men learned the Palestinian dialect, studied the Quran and espionage techniques in an Intelligence Corps base near Ramla. With a detailed cover story, they were sent into Palestinian villages and cities pretending to be refugees from the Nakba returning home.

Just this year, Israel has carried out an assassination in Dubai of a Hamas member (or as it was known in the British media – the ‘passports scandal’). Mossad operatives have kidnapped a Palestinian engineer from the Ukraine, who is now, illegally held in an Israeli prison.

And what of the sadistic coercion that Palestinians with chronic illnesses have been subjected to by Shin Bet? Known in Gaza as treachery for treatment? A Palestinian patient requests a permit from the Israeli- Palestinian Civil Liaisons Department to be allowed to travel from Gaza to the West Bank or Israel for an operation. After exhausting efforts, patients receive permits and go to Erez. Prominent human rights centres report that Shin Bet officers,then attempt to coerce and entrap patients, to do dirty work for them in their home towns and villages in return for rapid and/or ongoing medial treatment.

Yes folks, spies-for-health.

Israel then, ‘has form’ when it comes to lying, murdering, and coercion, for its own ends.

As Hamas rounds up the perpetrators of this most recent, deadly crime, the Gaza grapevine is buzzing with the news that they will indeed be found to be, (as suspected from the get-go), Israeli collaborators.

Statements of denial from the ‘Salafis’ accused of the murder have already been issued. Despite the fact the Western media is still running with the story of their guilt.

There were statements from Tawid wal – Jihad and Ma’sadat al- Mujahedin An excerpt from a statement read, “we strongly deny any responsibility for or connection to the kidnapping of the Italian (Vittorio Arrigoni)… Our statements are distributed exclusively through Shoumouk al – Islam, Attahadi Network and the Ansar al-Mujahideen Network…Any statement attributed to us that are not released through these channels, have nothing to do with us, even if they are published on Jihadi websites…”

So, who benefits from the killing of Vittorio Arrigoni? And what is the significance of the timing of his murder?

Well, if it smells like s***t and looks like s**t it almost certainly is – Israel.

Sure, the kidnappers’ video looked genuine at first. It had all the customary layout of the kind of ‘Jihadi’ videos that the tabloid press loves: the black flag of Islam, the Quranic verse in the introduction, footage of the kidnapped victim. But a small detail on the black flag, underneath the precious, Islamically untouchable phrase ‘There is No God, but God’ raises questions about the authenticity of the groups grasp on Islam. The extra words read something like “the Brigades of Muhammad Ibn Maslama.” This has been hard for experts to verify because the video is being systematically pulled off YouTube. But one thing is certain;

‘Jihadis’ never write ANYTHING on the flag besides La Ilaha Ila Allah.

Also unusual, was the lack of customary logos of the Jihadi media distribution channels: Shoumoukh al-Islam, Ansar al-Mujahideen, Global Islamic Media Front, etc. (See the statement of denial above).

You know what, right now, who cares?

Vik; friend, solidarity activist, hero, author, is dead and his enemy is making gains from his life. A life dedicated to the opposition of Israeli Fascism.

We know all to well, the bloody massacre that took place last year on the Mavi Marmara, committed by Israeli forces.

Now, as the second Armada plans to chart the same course on or near the anniversary of that sailing, Israel is pulling out all the stops, in its efforts to stop, frighten, threaten and deter, hundreds more activists from taking action against their Apartheid state.

Israel’s ambassador to Turkey, Gaby Levy, has just asked the Turkish government to help halt the flotilla movement saying their sailing would be a “provocation.” Asked about the pressure, a Turkish foreign ministry official told Reuters: “We listened to the message given by the Israeli side and told them this is an initiative by civil society.”

The official did not elaborate.

Strike one, for Israel.

But the efforts continued.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on EU ambassadors in Jerusalem saying “This flotilla must be stopped.”

And there’s more. On April 1, Netahyahu’s office asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to stop the flotilla setting sail.

Netanyahu told Ban Ki-moon that the mission of ships was being organized by (guess who folks?) “Islamic extremist elements” intent on bringing about “a flare-up.”

Then, on Wednesday, the morally bankrupt, Silvio Berlusconi, told Israel Radio, that he would work to prevent the next flotilla bound for Gaza, from sailing.

Berlusconi said that a peaceful Middle East is farther from reality now than it ever has been before, adding that Israel has no viable peace partner. He even asserted that Israel is the only Middle Eastern country that the West can trust, and that Israel should join the European Union.

The next day, Vik was kidnapped.

The same night, before any realistic negotiations could take place for his release, Vik was murdered.

Feeling sick yet? Yeah, me too.

Because this was a hit. A hit carried out to intimidate, to frighten off those who have already signed up for the next flotilla to Gaza and may be traveling there for the first time, Those unsure of the exceptional good will and generosity of the people there. A good will Vik would tell you about.

We mustn’t let the Israeli ‘fascisti’ succeed in their latest terror tactic. Early signs are that for all the pain Vik’s death has caused, all the tears that have flowed. that we, in the solidarity movement will only grow more determined, in light of this crime.

Since his death the ISM has reported a sharp rise in people wanting to go to Palestine.

Meanwhile, a Freegagza Movement contact, tells me that no one from the next convoy expected to include Turkish, Algerian, Scottish, Spanish, Dutch, Irish, Italian, Swedish, Norwegian, Jordanian, Malaysian, Indonesian, Swiss, US, Canadian, British and French nationals, has pulled out as a result of Vik’s murder.