Archive for the History Category

Obama seeks Palestine state on 1967 borders

Posted in Gaza, Hamas, History, International community, Israel, Israeli occupation, Palestine, Peace process, USA foreign policy, West Bank with tags , , on 19/05/2011 by 3071km

Date published: 19th May 2011

Source: Al Jazeera Online

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US president says borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps.
Barack Obama, the US president, has laid out his vision for the Middle East and North Africa during a key speech in Washington.

On the issue of Palestine, Obama said: “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognised borders are established for both states.

“The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.

“As for security, every state has the right to self-defence, and Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat.”

Israeli reaction

Reacting to the address shortly afterwards, Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said a Palestinian state should not be established at the “expense of Israeli existence”. He appreciated the US president’s address but rejected any withdrawal tp “indefensible” 1967 borders.

Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh, reporting from Jerusalem, said: “In different parts of his speech Obama shifted from a view closer to the Israeli approach to negotiations and at other times closer to the Palestinian approach.

“He supported the Palestinian’s idea of territorial contingency – meaning that the Israelis would have to withdraw  from some of the settlement blocks in order for the Palestinian state to be viable and enjoy that contingency.

“He also talked about settlement construction had to stop. That is obviously another thing the Palestinians would like to hear from Obama.

“Obama more importantly talked about the status quo and how it was unsustainable. That is bad news for [Binyamin] Netanyahu [the Israeli prime minister].

“On the other hand, Obama supported other approaches of the Israelis that they share in common.

“In that Jerusalem will be discussed later … refugees will be discussed later … the Palestinian state has to be demilitarized … Israel must enjoy security.”

Obama’s speech came a day ahead of a visit to Washington by Netanyahu.

On Thursday, the Israeli interior ministry requested and received the approval of Netanyahu’s office ahead of his US visit to begin holding hearings on an additional 1,550 housing units in the settlements of Har Homa and Pisgat Ze’ev, both located beyond the 1967 borders.

Obama must take “concrete steps” not issue “slogans,” the Palestinian Hamas movement said on Thursday following the president’s speech.

Hamas response

“What Obama needs to do is not to add slogans but to take concrete steps to protect the rights of the Palestinian people and the Arab nation,” said Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman.

During his address to the US state department on Thursday, Obama said Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, must either lead his country through a democratic transition or “get out of the way”.

Obama said Syria’s brutal crackdown on pro-reform activists was unacceptable.

He said Assad could no longer rule through repression and must change course if he wants international acceptance.

More than 850 people are believed to have been killed in two months of unrest in Syria.

Obama’s speech came a day after he imposed sanctions on Assad and six other officials for human rights abuses during the crackdown.

The president said two leaders in the region had stepped down and that more may follow. The president also said the future of the US was bound to the region.

Iran ‘meddling’

Turning to Bahrain and Yemen, Obama said: “We must acknowledge that our friends in the region have not all reacted to the demands for change consistent with the principles that I have outlined today.

“That is true in Yemen, where President [Ali Abdullah] Saleh needs to follow through on his commitment to transfer power. And that is true, today, in Bahrain.

“We have insisted publically and privately that mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens, and will not make legitimate calls for reform go away.

“The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail.

“The government must create the conditions for dialogue, and the opposition must participate to forge a just future for all Bahrainis.”

The president also said that Iran had “tried to take advantage of the turmoil there”.

Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from Cairo, said the speech basically translated to “democracy good, repression bad”.

“He slapped a few American allies, saying if people want change you can’t stand in the way,” Fisher said.

Economic investment

Addressing the death of Osama bin Laden, the president said the al-Qaeda leader was a mass murderer, not a martyr, whose ideas were being rejected even before he was killed.

Turning to Libya, he said: “In Libya, we saw the prospect of imminent massacre, had a mandate for action, and heard the Libyan people’s call for help.

“Had we not acted along with our NATO allies and regional coalition partners, thousands would have been killed.”

Obama also laid out a major economic initiative in the Middle East to encourage democratic change in the region, beginning with Tunisia and Libya.

The president said the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a US government agency, “will soon launch a $2bn facility to support private investment across the region”.

“And we will work with allies to refocus the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development so that it provides the same support for democratic transitions and economic modernisation in the Middle East and North Africa as it has in Europe,” he said,

Palestinians killed in ‘Nakba’ clashes

Posted in Activism, Everyday life in Gaza, Everyday life in the West Bank, Fatah, Gaza, Hamas, History, Israel, Israeli occupation, Palestine, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 15/05/2011 by 3071km

Date published: 15th May 2011

Source: Al Jazeera English

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Several killed and dozens wounded in Gaza, Golan Heights, Ras Maroun and West Bank, as Palestinians mark Nakba Day.

”]Several people have been killed and scores of others wounded in the Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, Ras Maroun in Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as Palestinians mark the “Nakba”, or day of “catastrophe”.

The “Nakba” is how Palestinians refer to the 1948 founding of the state of Israel, when an estimated 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled following Israel’s declaration of statehood.

At least one Palestinian was killed and up to 80 others wounded in northern Gaza as Israeli troops opened fire on a march of at least 1,000 people heading towards the Erez crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

A group of Palestinians, including children, marching to mark the “Nakba” were shot by the Israeli army after crossing a Hamas checkpoint and entering what Israel calls a “buffer zone” – an empty area between checkpoints where Israeli soldiers generally shoot trespassers, Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston reported from Gaza City on Sunday.

“We are just hearing that one person has been killed and about 80 people have been injured,” Johnston said.

“There are about 500-600 Palestinian youth gathered at the Erez border crossing point. They don’t usually march as far as the border. There has been intermittent gunfire from the Israeli side for the last couple of hours.

“Hamas has asked us to leave; they are trying to move people away from the Israeli border. They say seeing so many people at the border indicates a shift in politics in the area.”

Separately in south Tel Aviv, one Israeli man was killed and 17 were injured when a 22-year-old Arab Israeli driver drove his truck into a number of vehicles on one of the city’s main roads.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the driver, from an Arab village called Kfar Qasim in the West Bank, was arrested at the scene and is being questioned.

“Based on the destruction and the damage at the scene, we have reason to believe that it was carried out deliberately,” Rosenfeld said. But he said he did not believe the motive was directly linked to the anniversary of the Nakba.

West Bank clashes

One of the biggest Nakba demonstrations was held near Qalandiya refugee camp and checkpoint, the main secured entry point into the West Bank from Israel, where about 100 protesters marched, Al Jazeera’s  Nisreen El-Shamayleh reported from Ramallah.

Some injuries were reported from tear gas canisters fired at protesters there, El-Shamayleh said.

Small clashes were reported throughout various neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem and cities in the West Bank, between stone-throwing Palestinians and Israeli security forces.

Israeli police said 20 arrests were made in the East Jerusalem area of Issawiyah for throwing stones and petrol bombs at Israeli border police officers.

About 70 arrests have been made in East Jerusalem throughout the Nakba protests that began on Friday, two days ahead of the May 15 anniversary, police spokesman Rosenfeld said.

Tensions had risen a day earlier after a 17-year-old Palestinian boy died of a gunshot wound suffered amid clashes on Friday in Silwan, another East Jerusalem neighbourhood.

Police said the source of the gunfire was unclear and that police were investigating, while local sources told Al Jazeera that  the teen was shot in random firing of live ammunition by guards of Jewish settlers living in nearby Beit Yonatan.

‘Palestinians killed’

Meanwhile, Syrian state television reported that Israeli forces killed four Syrian citizens who had been taking part in an anti-Israeli rally on the Syrian side of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights border on Sunday.

Israeli army radio said earlier that dozens were wounded when Palestinian refugees from the Syrian side of the Golan Heights border were shot for trying to break through the frontier fence. There was no comment on reports of the injured.

Meanwhile, Matthew Cassel, a journalist in the Lebanese town of Ras Maroun, on the southern border with Israel, told Al Jazeera that at least two Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon were killed in clashes there.

“Tens of thousands of refugees marched to the border fence to demand their right to return where they were met by Israeli soldiers,” he said.

“Many were killed. I don’t know how many but I saw with my own eyes a number of unconscious and injured, and at least two dead.

“Now the Lebanese army has moved in, people are running back up the mountain to get away from the army.”

A local medical source told the AFP news agency that Israeli gunfire killed six people and wounded 71 others in Ras Maroun.

‘End to Zionist project’

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu condemned Sunday’s demonstrations.

“I regret that there are extremists among Israeli Arabs and in neighbouring countries who have turned the day on which the State of Israel was established, the day on which the Israeli democracy was established, into a day of incitement, violence and rage”, Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting.

“There is no place for this, for denying the existence of the State of Israel. No to extremism and no to violence. The opposite is true”, he said.

Earlier Sunday Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of Hamas-controlled Gaza, repeated the group’s call for the end of the state of Israel.

Addressing Muslim worshippers in Gaza City on Sunday, Haniyeh said Palestinians marked this year’s Nakba “with great hope of bringing to an end the Zionist project in Palestine”.

“To achieve our goals in the liberation of our occupied land, we should have one leadership,” Haniyeh said, praising the recent unity deal with its rival, Fatah, the political organisation which controls the West Bank under Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’ leadership.

Meanwhile, a 63 second-long siren rang midday in commemoration of the Nakba’s 63rd anniversary.

Over 760,000 Palestinians – estimated today to number 4.7 million with their descendants – fled or were driven out of their homes in the conflict that followed Israel’s creation.

Many took refuge in neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and elsewhere. Some continue to live in refugee camps.

About 160,000 Palestinians stayed behind in what is now Israeli territory and are known as Arab Israelis. They now total around 1.3 million, or some 20 percent of Israel’s population.

Joint-Statement: Nakba at 63 – Confronting the Ongoing Nakba

Posted in Activism, Fatah, Gaza, Hamas, History, International community, Israeli occupation, Non-violent resistance, Palestine, Peace process, Siege, USA foreign policy, War crimes, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , , on 14/05/2011 by 3071km

Authors: various

Published: 14th May 2011

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After 63 years of the Palestinian Nakba, and despite 20 years of unsuccessful peace negotiations, the Palestinian people continue to be denied their most fundamental and inalienable rights to self-determination, national independence, sovereignty and return to the homes and properties from which they have been forcibly displaced. Living under the Israeli apartheid regime and in forced exile away from the towns and villages, hills and olive groves that they call home, the Palestinian people remain steadfast in their struggle to end the systematic human rights violations committed against them and return to their homes of origin.

Meanwhile, the international community, especially the USA and the dominant member states of the UN continue to shield Israel from accountability and maintain extensive economic and diplomatic ties which finance and subsidize the Israeli regime. This persistent support has taken place under the guise of a ‘peace process’ which has worked to embellish Israeli violations with the facade of peace; a situation Israel has exploited to increase its international and regional economic and diplomatic links. As the pretense of negotiations falls away, so too does the cover it provides Israel to continue its policies, a reality reflected in the growing civil society response insisting upon the application of international law to end Israeli impunity.

An accounting for the collapse of the peace process, a failure now a recognized reality by all parties involved in it for the past 20 years, inevitably leads to the need to establish a strategy which puts the realization of Palestinian rights at its center and focuses on the practical action needed to bring Palestinian rights into reality, combining grassroots, civic struggle on the ground with international pressure on Israel to respect the rights of the Palestinian people.

The latest agreement between the two main Palestinian factions is an encouraging first step towards establishing such a strategy. However, genuine national reconciliation and unity can only come about through the inclusion of the Palestinian people in their entirety in contributing to and deciding upon the way forward for the Palestinian people. It is in this vein that the campaign for direct elections to the highest decision making body of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian National Council (PNC) was relaunched, to ensure that the voice of all Palestinians, including those with Israeli citizenship and refugees living forced exile are included.

These attempts at national unity take place against the backdrop of political transformations in neighboring Arab countries which reassert the power of people to take their fate in their own hands in seeking freedom, justice and equality. In 2011, the year of revolutions, it is as clear as ever that the Palestinian people are at the centerpiece of a regional-wide yearning for rights, denied to them by powers concerned more with geopolitical influence than upholding the rule and values of international law. Ending the particular systematic denial of rights suffered by Palestinians as a result of Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid is therefore intrinsically tied in with fate of the millions of demonstrators on the streets of the Arab world.

On the 63rd commemoration of the Nakba and as part of activities to confront ongoing forcible transfer of Palestinians by Israel, We the undersigned organizations call:

On the Palestinian leadership to:
• To adopt a coherent strategy which places at its forefront a just and permanent solution for Palestinian refugees and IDPs, based on their right to return and in accordance with international law, universal principles of justice and UN resolutions 194 (1948) and 237 (1967);
• Ensure genuine national reconciliation and unity as a matter of urgency, and rebuild the PLO as a legitimate and credible platform representing the entire Palestinian people and its political organizations through initiating direct elections to the PNC;
• Support and activate popular resistance in all forms permitted under international law.
• Establish a consultative mechanism with professional civil society organizations to support the efforts of the PLO in international fora.

On Civil Society, Governments, UN Members States, Organs and Agencies to:
• Support civil society led direct actions in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle such as the Gaza freedom flotilla;
• Build and expand the civil society-led movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and exert stronger pressure on states to implement sanctions and adopt decisions and resolutions which support the global BDS Campaign;
• Redouble efforts for investigation of Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity and prosecution and punishment of those responsible, as well as efforts to prevent Israel’s accession and integration into international and regional organizations.
• Implement international protection standards for Palestinian refugees and IDPs.

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– BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
– The Occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI)
– Defense for Children International/Palestine Section
– Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association
– Housing and Land Rights Network: Habitat International Coalition
– Joint Advocacy initiative -The East Jerusalem YMCA and YWCA of Palestine-
– Kairos Palestine
– The Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign

Palestinians deported to Gaza

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Everyday life in the West Bank, Gaza, Hamas, History, IDF, International community, Israel, Israel politics, Israel's separation wall, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, Peace process, Siege, War crimes, West Bank on 23/04/2010 by 3071km

Source: Aljazeera English


Two Palestinians have been deported to the Gaza Strip from Israel, raising fears that more expulsions could follow under a controversial new Israeli military order.

After nine years in Israeli jail, Ahmad Sabah, a 40-year-old Palestinian, was sent to Gaza, instead of being released to the West Bank where his family was waiting for him.

Israelis sent him to Gaza because he had a Palestinian ID issued there.

His family said that Sabah, who was arrested in 2001 for “security offences” against Israel, has no connection to Gaza and he has refused to leave the border crossing in protest at his treatment.

“It is my right to return to my wife and family,” he said.

‘Inhumane policy’

The Israeli move drew condemnation from Palestinian political leaders, who denounced Sabah’s deportation as “inhumane”.

Issa Qaraqi, the minister of prisoner affairs in the government of  Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, said that Sabah should have been released to the West Bank.

“He has no connection to Gaza, no relatives there, nothing.”

He said that the deportation was an example of Israel invoking the controversial new military orders that allow “illegal” residents of the West Bank to be expelled.

But Israeli authorities denied the orders were behind the decision. “The individual’s release to the Gaza Strip was done in accordance with the Prison Service’s decision and in light of the location of his place of residence, and was not due to a repatriation order issued by any military commander,” the Israeli military said in a statement.

Sabah’s case follows that of Saber Albayari, who was deported to Gaza after seeking medical treatment in an Israeli hospital on Wednesday.

Albayari had been living in Israel for the past 15 years, but was returned to Gaza when Israeli authorities discovered that he had been born there.

Some fear that the expulsions could be the first in a wave of deportations of Palestinians from Israel and the West Bank.

Up to 70,000 Palestinians could be at risk of deportation under the military order, which has been roundly condemned by Arab politicians.

Last week President Abbas vowed to confront the order. “Israel has no right to deport any Palestinian, and the Palestinian Authority will not allow it and will confront it with various means.”

Al Jazeera’s Jackie Rowland, reporting from Jerusalem, said that the individual stories put a human face on what is a deliberate strategy by Israel to treat the West Bank and Gaza differently.

“It fits into a pattern of Israel’s strategy to treat Gaza and the West Bank as separate geopoliticial entities,” she said.

Palestinian PM blasts Israel ID law

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Everyday life in the West Bank, Fatah, Gaza, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, History, IDF, International community, Israel, Israel politics, Israel's separation wall, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, Peace process, War crimes, West Bank on 23/04/2010 by 3071km

Source: Aljazeera English

Israel has defended a new policy that critics say could allow the Israeli military to expel tens of thousands of Palestinians from their own homes.

The new legislation, signed off six months ago and due to be implemented on Tuesday, amends an existing order from 1969 to prevent infiltration into the country.

The military policy now stipulates that all Palestinians in the occupied West Bank not carrying what Israel deems a valid identity card can be classified as “infiltrators”, and as such, could face deportation or up to seven years in prison.

The Israeli military order does not specify what would be accepted as valid identification.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli government, denied that the amended measure was aimed at expelling Palestinians, but instead, said it would safeguard their rights.

“What we’ve done here is we’ve strengthened the rights of people who face such deportation by creating … an independent judicial oversight mechanism, which makes sure there are checks and balances and that the legal rights of people are protected,” he told Al Jazeera.

Under the old order, those served with deportation orders could be deported the same day, whereas the new amendments provide a 72-hour appeal period, he said.

Vague language

The controversial aspect of the measure, however, arises from the vague language now used to define an infiltrator, as reported by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper on Sunday.

“The order’s language is both general and ambiguous, stipulating that the term infiltrator will also be applied to Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, citizens of countries with which Israel has friendly ties [such as the United States] and Israeli citizens, whether Arab or Jewish,” Haaretz said.

“All this depends on the judgement of Israel defence forces commanders in the field.”

Palestinian leaders in the West Bank have condemned the policy, saying it contradicts international humanitarian law as well as UN Security Council decisions.

The measure “threatens the emptying of large areas of land from its Palestinian inhabitants,” Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, said in a statement on Monday.

“The order targets thousands of Palestinians from Gaza who work and live in the West Bank and could lead to their forced deportation to the Gaza Strip,” he said.

Palestinians who have identification papers from neighbouring countries and foreign women married to Palestinians residing in the West Bank could also be affected by the changes.

Beit Sahour: a microcosm of Israeli colonization

Posted in Activism, Everyday life in the West Bank, History, IDF, International conferences, Israel, Israel politics, Israel's separation wall, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, War crimes on 20/04/2010 by 3071km

Source: The Electronic Intifada, 19 April 2010

Recent construction in the Har Homa settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Forced by Israeli construction in East Jerusalem, the US president delivers a “rare rebuke” of an ally. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu begins “construction of a new housing project in East Jerusalem” despite the risk of drawing “fierce, and possibly violent, Palestinian protest, along with international denunciations,” as reported by The New York Times. While this may sound like a news summary from the last month, these are in fact news reports from 1997, as Israel began work on Har Homa colony.

A number of commentators have pointed out a sense of déjà-vu about Netanyahu’s current premiership. But while today’s gaze is fixed on colonies like Ramat Shlomo — home to the 1,600 new housing units announced during US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit — or right-wing settler expansion in Sheikh Jarrah, little has been said about what has since happened to Har Homa, the colony which caused a stir during Netanyahu’s previous time in office.

Har Homa’s impact on the Palestinian community has been devastating, with the town of Beit Sahour now dominated by the ever-expanding settlement. While many are aware of Beit Sahour’s famous nonviolent resistance during the first Palestinian intifada (1987-1993), less well-known is how Israeli rule continues to choke the town. Har Homa has been instrumental in that respect, and it plays a role in the latest settler-driven attempts to take over more land at Ush al-Ghrab, the site of a vacated Israeli military base. Located on the edge of Beit Sahour, the Israeli military has returned to the site while right-wing settlers campaign for the area to become the new settlement of Shdema.

A strategic colony

After 1967, Israel moved quickly to unilaterally and illegally expand the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, expropriating land from West Bank villages in order to do so. As reported in the Israeli daily Haaretz on 13 February, Beit Sahour lost 1,200 of its 7,000 dunams (a dunam is the equivalent of 1,000 square meters), or 17 percent of its total land. Moreover, a May 2009 report by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) entitled “Shrinking Space: Urban contraction and rural fragmentation in the Bethlehem governorate,” found that the Bethlehem governorate, which includes Beit Sahour, lost around 10 square kilometers to Israel’s land confiscation.

In his book, City of Stone: The Hidden History of Jerusalem, Meron Benvenisti, the ex-deputy mayor of Jerusalem, stated that for Israel the “determining consideration” in the “delineation of the borders” of occupied East Jerusalem was “‘a maximum of vacant space with a minimum of Arabs.” He argues that this logically led planners to Palestinian land “on the outskirts of the city and surrounding it” (154-55). Further land loss would follow — meaning that the amount of non-built-up land available for Beit Sahour for development and growth has been reduced to around 600 dunams.

Israel’s creation of the Har Homa colony in the 1990s and its ongoing expansion has been instrumental not just in the direct expropriation of land from Beit Sahour residents, but also in restricting the community’s ability to naturally expand. According to Separate and Unequal: The inside story of Israeli rule in East Jerusalem by Amir S. Cheshin, Bill Hutman and Avi Melamed, the allocation of land for the establishment of Har Homa — a third of which was owned by Palestinians from Beit Sahour and nearby Um Taba — was “never connected with the planning of the neighborhood.” Instead, the goal was to “expropriate as much undeveloped land as possible in the area, to prevent Palestinians from building.” In particular, Israel was “concerned that Palestinian construction would eventually link up Palestinian villages in southern Jerusalem with the nearby West Bank towns of Beit Sahour and Bethlehem” (p. 58).

Separate and Unequal also reveals that in April 1992, a senior official close to then-mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek wrote to then housing minister Ariel Sharon, explaining how the land confiscated for Har Homa would “‘straighten the line’ of the Jerusalem municipal border.” The letter explained that the “immediate battle” was over connecting the Jewish settlements of Gilo, East Talpiot and Givat Hamatos. Otherwise, it warned that Beit Sahour and the nearby Palestinian town of Sur Baher would be connected (p. 59).

Indeed, Har Homa has continued to expand over the years, with further residential units being added. Currently, a new expansion of hundreds of homes referred to as “Har Homa C” is awaiting implementation, having been submitted for public review in 2008.

Settler graffiti in Ush al-Ghrab.

The same strategy to connect Israeli settlements and deny Palestinian villages the ability to expand is now being applied in Ush al-Ghrab. Establishing a settlement at Ush al-Ghrab will serve to consolidate Israel’s Judaization of the area between Jerusalem and the Bethlehem-Beit Jala-Beit Sahour urban triangle and prevent the possibility of Palestinian territorial contiguity.

Nor is the strategy a secret.Haaretz reported on 4 February that Herzl Yechezel, the leader of the Har Homa “local committee,” spoke at a settlers’ ceremony about the importance of contiguity of Shdema, and Har Homa in order to prevent “the spread of Arab construction.” Yechezel has previously described Har Homa “as a thorn” sitting between Palestinian villages and towns.

An apartheid regime

The loss of land and establishment of settlements has been “complemented” by Israel’s wall in the occupied West Bank, checkpoints and bypass road 356. This matrix of control has further defined the boundaries of this Palestinian enclave. According OCHA’s “Shrinking Space” report, the path of Israel’s wall has placed olive groves belonging to Palestinians from Beit Sahour on the “wrong side.” It stated that these groves are “now only accessible through two gates” that are opened “for limited periods during the annual olive harvest.” According to an 11 April 2009 Reuters report, Israel’s wall has also meant that residents in a Beit Sahour housing project — having narrowly avoided outright demolitions — will be completely encircled, thus “forcing residents to enter and leave via a gate controlled by Israelis.”

Like the wall, bypass road 356 is designed to contain the growth of Beit Sahour. The road connects Har Homa and occupied East Jerusalem with the Israeli settlement of Teqoa in the southeast. Opened in 2007, the road stretches for 19 kilometers in the Bethlehem governorate and onwards to Israeli settlements in the southern West Bank near Hebron. As Nate Wright described in a 7 October article for the Middle East Report, bypass road 356 is “effectively demarcating the city limits” of Beit Sahour while strengthening the eastern Gush Etzion settlements. Therefore, it is imposing limitations on “prospects for growth and the larger socio-economic future of the Bethlehem area.”

Beit Sahour is emblematic of the situation across the occupied Palestinian territories. According to a May 2008 report by OCHA entitled ”Lack of Permit: Demolitions and Resultant Displacement in Area C,” two-thirds of the Bethlehem governorate remains designated as “Area C” under the Oslo accords signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Under total Israeli control, Palestinian construction and development is almost completely impossible in “Area C.” Moreover, “Area C” accounts for over 60 percent of the occupied West Bank’s territory.

While settlement expansion — or creation — announcements make the news for a few weeks, before being forgotten, the impact of Israeli colonization continues devastate Palestinian communities. Diplomatic gestures mean nothing for towns like Beit Sahour, struggling to breathe under an apartheid regime that forces Palestinians into increasingly small, unsustainable pockets of land, policies intended to make normal life — and a continued Palestinian presence — untenable.

Images by Ben White.

Ben White is a freelance journalist and writer whose articles have appeared in the Guardian’s “Comment is free,” The Electronic Intifada, the New Statesman, and many others. He is the author of Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide(Pluto Press). He can be contacted at ben A T benwhite D O T org D O T uk.

Israel’s manufactured outrage over a presidential palace

Posted in History, International community, International conferences, Israel, Israel politics, Israel's separation wall, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, Peace process on 20/04/2010 by 3071km

Source:The Electronic Intifada, 15 April 2010

Israel has gone out of its way in recent months to goad the Palestinians into confrontation. (Anne Paq/ActiveStills)

The headlines were ablaze last week after the Palestinian Authority (PA) announced that it would build the new presidential compound on a street named after Yahya Ayyash. Ayyash, whose nickname was “The Engineer,” was a Hamas military commander who orchestrated several attacks against Israeli civilian targets in the mid-1990s in response to the 1994 massacre of Palestinian worshipers at Hebron’s Ibrahimi mosque by an Israeli-American settler named Baruch Goldstein. In 1996, Ayyash was assassinated by Israel in Gaza City.

“This is a shocking incitement to terrorism by the Palestinian Authority,” boomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement. “Arch-terrorist Ayyash,” as Netanyahu called him, had “murdered hundreds of innocent Israeli men, women and children,” and so building the presidential compound on this street was an act of “wild incitement by the Palestinians for terror and against peace.” The United States reacted with strong support for the Israeli position. “Honoring terrorists who have murdered innocent civilians, either by official statements or by the dedication of public places, hurts peace efforts and must end,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.

The hysterical reaction of the Israeli government, and US support for it, is hardly surprising. Of note however is the double-standard exhibited by Israel and its patron, the US. The assumption throughout is that Israel’s actions are just, defensive and in pursuit of peace for all. Conversely, Palestinian actions are aggressive and evil, and worthy of worldwide condemnation. The strength of this narrative allows the US and Israeli governments to make the construction of a new government building on a street whose name Israel disproves of into a major incident, worthy of outrage and international condemnation, while grotesque Israeli crimes and far more flagrant provocations go unquestioned.

Jerusalem Post editorial headlined “Glorifying Terrorism” exemplifies this point. The “inescapable message is that such crimes are the PA’s ideal,” the editorial stated, since it “acclaims malevolence instead of denouncing it.” The Jerusalem Post declared that the act was “an affront to the very notion of coexistence,” and yet another example of the PA’s “consistent policy” of “deception” and “insincerity” which has undermined “the Oslo promise.” “Our misfortune,” The Jerusalem Post lamented, “is that the world’s outrage is very selective and very misplaced.”

That such manufactured outrage could be delivered without a hint of irony is startling in light of recent events. This includes a series of internationally-condemned deliberate Israeli provocations — supported by Washington — in reaction to the UN-commissioned Goldstone report.

Investigated and published in the wake of Israel’s invasion of Gaza last winter, the Goldstone report documents the deliberate targeting of civilians, including the “systematically reckless” use of white phosphorous, showering densely-populated and impoverished refugee camps with the burning chemical, resulting in horrific burns and death. It also describes deliberate Israeli attacks on mosques, hospitals, schools, ambulances, UN facilities and indiscriminate bombardment of crowded slums. “You feel like an infantile little kid with a magnifying glass looking at ants, burning them,” one Israeli soldier said of the attack, which killed more than 1,300 Palestinians and left thousands more injured, mutilated and homeless.

In a shocking example of “acclaiming malevolence instead of denouncing it,” the US and Israel have attacked the report relentlessly and attempted to marginalize it, and Israel has refused to even conduct a credible investigation into its findings. While concerned citizens in cities around the world took to the streets to express their anger at the horrific atrocities documented in the report, the US called it “unbalanced” and “flawed” and moved to block its consideration at the UN, promising to veto any action in the Security Council if necessary. Likewise, Israeli President Shimon Peres referred to the report as “a mockery.” The US and Israel then pressured PA President Mahmoud Abbas to defer action on the report in the General Assembly (though overwhelming popular pressure later forced him to reverse that position).

Israel has gone out of its way in recent months to goad the Palestinians into confrontation, including naming two places deep in the West Bank “Israeli Heritage Sites,” sparking days of protests. Israel has also escalated its provocations around the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam. Along with the Dome of the Rock, the mosque sits inside the Haram al-Sharif, which is known as the Temple Mount to Jews. In addition to repeatedly deploying soldiers around the compound, Israel has announced that it will expand the Jewish prayer area at the Western Wall, despite a Jerusalem court’s decision that such a move would violate the status quoagreement that has governed Jerusalem’s holy sites since Israel seized the Old City in the June 1967 War.

A further escalation was the reopening of the “Hurva,” a Jewish synagogue just a few hundred meters from the al-Aqsa Mosque. With growing numbers of Jewish fundamentalists insisting that they be allowed to pray inside the Haram al-Sharif, many of whom advocate demolishing the al-Aqsa Mosque and building a third Jewish temple in its place, the reopening was universally condemned in the Muslim and Arab world. It was also reported in the Israeli press that according to a 300-year-old rabbinical prophecy, the reopening of the synagogue foretold the construction of the third temple in the place now occupied by the al-Aqsa Mosque. Yet when Palestinian leaders called for a “day of rage” in response to these provocations, the US sharply criticized them for overreacting. Yet only weeks later, Israel opened another synagogue in East Jerusalem 100 meters closer to the Haram, and Washington was silent.

Despite all this, the Israeli and American governments jointly denounce the Palestinians’ choice of which street on which to construct a new presidential palace as “wild incitement.” Are the Palestinians allowed to be outraged when Israel names streets, every inch of which lie on land that was taken from them, after the commanders that masterminded and executed the cleansing of 70 percent of Palestinian Arabs in 1948? What would the consequences be if Mahmoud Abbas started referring to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who presided over a campaign that “punished and terrorized” the 1.5 million residents of Gaza last winter as an “arch-terrorist”?

Given recent Israeli provocations, and the American response to them, the operative principle is clear: the Israelis are justly defending their democracy, while the Palestinians are savage, uncompromising terrorists. Those fighting for justice and peace in the Middle East must relentlessly confront this narrative, spreading truth and awareness, the only basis on which the conflict can finally come to an end.

Stephen Maher is an MA candidate at American University School of International Service who has lived in the West Bank, and is currently writing his Masters’ thesis, “The New Nakba: Oslo and the End of Palestine,” on the Israel-Palestine conflict. His work has appeared in Extra!, The Electronic Intifada, ZNet and other publications.