Archive for the Israel’s separation wall Category

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.

Israeli forces besiege Prisoners Day commemoration

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, IDF, International community, Israel, Israel politics, Israel's separation wall, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, Peace process, War crimes, West Bank on 22/04/2010 by 3071km

Source: Electronic Intifada

BEIT UMMAR, occupied West Bank (IPS) – A young Palestinian man died in Israeli custody as hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets of villages and towns across the West Bank and Gaza to commemorate Palestinian Prisoners Day on Friday, 16 April.

Raed Abu Hammad, 31, was found dead in his prison cell late on Friday after spending the last 18 months in solitary confinement.

The Hamas member was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2005 for attempted political assassinations.

His lawyer Tareq Barghouti told the media that Hammad was on medication and psychologically ill.

The exact cause of his death is still being investigated after the Israeli authorities announced an autopsy was being carried out.

However, rights groups and fellow Palestinian prisoners, both current and former, have accused the Israeli Prison Services of maltreatment and neglect.

“Hammad is the 198th Palestinian prisoner to die in Israeli custody since 1967 when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza,” said Shawan Jabarin from the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq in Ramallah.

“Many of the deaths have been from natural causes. However, Israel has carried out a deliberate policy of maltreatment and neglect by denying appropriate medical treatment to ill Palestinians. This has aggravated their physical condition and hastened unnecessary deaths,” Jabarin told IPS.

“Several prisoners died from force feeding when they embarked on a hunger strike. Tubes were forced through their noses which subsequently caused damage to their livers.”

“Furthermore, approximately 20 Palestinians have died during Israeli interrogation from beatings and torture since the outbreak of the first Palestinian intifada in December 1987,” explained Jabarin.

Israeli human rights organizations forced the domestic intelligence agency, the Shin Bet or General Security Services, to change its methods of interrogation after taking the torture of Palestinian prisoners to Israeli courts.

There are now limits to the amount of physical abuse Israeli interrogators can apply to Palestinian prisoners during interrogation.

Palestinian prisoners and their families also accuse the Israelis of forcing the prisoners to endure unhygienic conditions, substandard food, beatings and the denial of family visits.

There are currently approximately 10,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody. Hundreds are being held in administrative detention or without trial.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military sealed off the village of Beit Ummar in the southern West Bank, north of Hebron, where a prisoner commemoration ceremony was taking place.

Several photographers working with IPS took photos of Israeli soldiers using a young boy as a human shield despite being shot at by the soldiers.

IPS managed to enter the village prior to the exits and entrances being blocked by soldiers as clashes broke out between Palestinian youths and Israeli soldiers.

The confrontations broke out after military jeeps entered the agricultural village and attempted to break up the commemoration.

The village committee had laid out hundreds of chairs and organized music for the celebration when it was stormed by the Israeli military.

Youngsters in the village had spent months rehearsing and preparing for the event which included speeches, dances, plays and music.

“You’ve got five minutes to evacuate the area,” barked the Israeli military commander to the organizers who tried to negotiate the peaceful withdrawal of the soldiers. “If you don’t leave we will arrest you all. This is not open to negotiation.”

“I tried to negotiate with the soldiers. I told them if they withdraw from the village we will control the youngsters. The place where the celebration was taking place is far from the main road and the settlements,” Mousa Abu Maria, an activist leader from the village, told IPS.

But the youths remained defiant and sat down on the ground and refused to move. After the Israeli soldiers withdrew to the entrance of the village, the commemorations continued.

Military jeeps then returned and were met with a hail of stones. They responded with tear gas, rubber-coated metal bullets and some live ammunition.

Sabri Ibrahim Awad, 15, was left bruised and limping after he was used as a human shield by the Israeli soldiers as he rode his bike past them. He was not involved in the clashes.

He was grabbed by the scruff of the neck and marched in front of the soldiers as rocks showered down. He was then cuffed and arrested and thrown into the back of a jeep.

Several hours later a traumatized Awad was released.

Israel security forces have used Palestinians as human shields both in Gaza and the West Bank despite international law and Israeli courts ruling this illegal.

The UN-commissioned Goldstone report admonished the Israelis for endangering the lives of Palestinian youngsters during Israel’s assault on Gaza in winter 2008-09.

While the Gazan youths faced live fire and Awad “only” faced rocks, Abu Maria said it represented a dangerous escalation in Israeli tactics.

“The soldiers have abused many youths in the village. But to take a completely innocent youngster and expose him to this danger is totally unacceptable,” Abu Maria told IPS.

In another development, the Israeli military has placed the West Bank under a complete lock-down for several days as Israel celebrates its independence.

This is the third time since the beginning of March that Palestinians from the West Bank have been sealed off from Jerusalem for days.

All rights reserved, IPS — Inter Press Service (2010). Total or partial publication, retransmission or sale forbidden.

El Al sued for racial profiling

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Everyday life in the West Bank, Gaza, IDF, Israel, Israel politics, Israel's separation wall, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, War crimes on 22/04/2010 by 3071km

Source: The Electronic Intifada, 20 April 2010

Two Palestinian citizens of Israel have won $8,000 in damages from Israel’s national carrier, El Al, after a court found that their treatment by the company’s security staff at a New York airport had been “abusive and unnecessary.”

Brothers Abdel Wahab and Abdel Aziz Shalabi were assigned a female security guard who watched over them at the airport’s departure gate for nearly two hours, in full view of hundreds of fellow passengers, after they had passed the security and baggage checks.

Later, El Al’s head of security threatened to bar Abdel Wahab, 43, from the flight if he did not apologize to the guard for going to the toilet without first getting her approval. Abdel Aziz said he had been humiliated and “cried like I’ve never cried before in public.”

Although surveys of Palestinian Arab citizens, who comprise one-fifth of Israel’s population, show that most have suffered degrading treatment when flying with Israeli carriers, few bring cases to the Israeli courts.

The brothers are now planning to sue El Al and its New York staff in the United States over Israel’s racial profiling of passengers in a country where the practice is illegal.

“I’d rather go to New York by donkey than fly with El Al again,” said Abdel Aziz, 44. “We will keep fighting this case until Israel is embarrassed into stopping its policy of discriminating against its Arab citizens.”

The brothers, who live in northern Israel, were the only Arabs in a party of 17 Israeli insurance agents on a two-week business trip to Canada and New York in 2007.

They arrived four hours early at John F. Kennedy airport in New York for their return flight with Israir, an Israeli charter company, to allow time for the additional checks they expected from El Al’s security staff.

El Al has special agreements with most countries’ airports to carry out its own security checks for passengers flying with Israeli airlines.

The brothers said they were questioned, searched and had to wait two hours while their bags and carry-on luggage were subjected to lengthy inspections.

“The Jews with us went through in minutes,” said Abdel Aziz, in his home in the village of Iksal, near Nazareth. “The difference in treatment was very clear.”

After they had passed the checks, an El Al security guard, Keren Weinberg, was assigned to them until they boarded the plane. They were told to make sure she could see them at all times.

When Abdel Wahab visited a toilet without her permission, a noisy argument broke out between the two, with Weinberg accusing him of “roaming freely.” He said he told her to “either arrest me or go away.”

Ilan Or, the head of El Al security, was then called and issued him an ultimatum that he apologize or be prevented from catching the flight. Abdel Wahab told a magistrate’s court in Haifa this month that he broke down in tears and finally said he was sorry.

“I was in shock. One minute I was made to feel like a terrorist and then the next like a naughty child,” he said.

Judge Amir Toubi said the security staff had admitted that neither brother was deemed a security threat and that Israeli law did not allow checks to continue after passengers had passed the security area.

“With all due understanding of security needs, there is no justification for ignoring the dignity, freedom and basic rights of a citizen under the mantle of the sacred cow of security,” the judge ruled.

El Al told the court that it had been “asked by the state to conduct security checks abroad on behalf of [charter companies] Arkia and Israir airlines, and is acting under the security guidelines set by official bodies of the state.”

Abdel Wahab praised the court’s decision but said the damages were minor and would not act as a deterrent against El Al repeating such behavior in the future. He said the brothers would appeal to a higher court in Israel and were planning to initiate a legal action in New York, too.

“I will not rest until we get an apology from El Al and they acknowledge that what they did is wrong,” he said. He called on all Arab citizens to boycott El Al until it committed to stop its discriminatory policy.

A 2007 report on racial profiling by Israeli carriers, published by the Arab Association for Human Rights and the Centre Against Racism, concluded: “This phenomenon is so widespread that it is hard to find any Arab citizen who travels abroad by air and who has not experienced a discriminatory security check at least once.”

The two groups found that Arab and Muslim passengers typically faced long interrogations and extensive luggage searches, and were also regularly subjected to body and strip searches, had items including computers confiscated, were kept in holding areas and were escorted directly on to the plane.

The report noted that foreign countries that allowed Israel to carry out its own security checks at their airports failed to supervise them and preferred to “ignore their discriminatory nature and the human rights violations committed on their own soil.”

New York’s JFK airport was one of the airports that refused to answer questions from the groups about incidents of discriminatory treatment of Arabs and Muslims.

Israel has also come under harsh criticism for the standard racial profiling policies it uses against its own Arab citizens and foreign Arab nationals at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv.

The practice of putting different color-coded stickers on Jewish and Arab passengers’ luggage ended three years ago. However, airport guards still write a number on uniform white stickers indicating the level of security threat. Critics say higher numbers are reserved for non-Jews.

Faced with a lawsuit from Israeli human rights groups, Menachem Mazuz, the attorney general at the time, instructed the airports authority in early 2008 to implement “visible equality” by ending discriminatory screening policies.

However, observers have noticed no change in practice. “This was a very cynical exercise. ‘Visible equality’ simply means making it look like there’s equality when the inequality persists,” said Mohammed Zeidan, director of the Association for Human Rights, based in Nazareth.

In December an airport official told the right-wing Jerusalem Post newspaper: “Profiling makes the biggest difference. A man with the name of Umar flying out of Tel Aviv, whether he is American or British, is going to get checked seven times.”

Two years ago Israel’s racial profiling policy made headlines when a member of an American dance troupe with a Muslim-sounding name was forced to dance at the airport to prove he was who he claimed.

The incident with the Shalabi brothers follows on the heels of a diplomatic crisis between Israel and South Africa over revelations that spies posing as El Al staff have been operating at Johannesburg airport, gathering information on non-Jewish passengers visiting Israel.

El Al has threatened to close the route after South African officials stopped providing the airport guards with diplomatic immunity.

South African TV reported last month that two of the Mossad assassins suspected of killing a Hamas commander in Dubai in January may have used Johannesburg airport to fly back to Israel.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

A version of this article originally appeared in The National, published in Abu Dhabi.

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.

Obama doubtful on Middle East peace

Posted in International community, Israel politics, Israel's separation wall, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Non-violent resistance, Palestine, Peace process, USA foreign policy, West Bank on 15/04/2010 by 3071km

Source: Aljazeera English

Barack Obama, the US president, has admitted that Washington’s power to influence stalled negotations between Israel and the Palestinians in limited.

Speaking to reporters after hosting a nuclear security summit on Tuesday, Obama said he had little hope for swift progress towards Middle East peace, more than a year after taking office and declaring it a high priority for his administration.

US-led peace efforts have been stymied by a dispute over Jewish settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land that has strained ties between Washington and its close ally Israel.

Internal rifts among the Palestinians have also posed challenges to the process.

“The truth is in some of these conflicts the United States can’t impose solutions unless the participants in these conflicts are willing to break out of old patterns of antagonism,” Obama told a news conference on Tuesday.

‘Constantly engaged’

The US president recently acknowledged he had underestimated the obstacles to a renewed peace process, and some critics have called his approach naive.

“The Israeli people, through their government, and the Palestinian people, through the Palestinian Authority, as well as other Arab states may say to themselves: ‘We are not prepared to resolve these issues no matter how much pressure the United States brings to bear’,” Obama said.

IN DEPTH
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White House split over settlements
Will the US tackle settlements?
Netanyahu firm on Jerusalem
Focus:
Jerusalem: A city divided
Jerusalem’s religious heart
Q&A: Jewish settlements
Israelis divided over settlements
Riz Khan:
A partner for peace?
Middle East peace process
Battle over settlements
Inside Story:
US and Israel poles apart
Programmes:
Israel: Rise of the right
Holy Land Grab

But he said that the US would press on, “constantly present, constantly engaged”.

“It’s going to take time, and progress will be halting,” Obama said. “And there will be frustrations.”

Despite shuttle diplomacy and unusual pressure on Israel, the Obama administration has been unable to reach even the modest goal of reviving talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Last week, Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, acknowledged that his government had yet to resolve its differences with the US over Israeli construction in occupied East Jerusalem – a major sticking point that torpedoed indirect talks before they could even start.

Netanyahu said both countries were still working to find a solution but staunchly defended his government’s continued settlement building in Jerusalem as a “long-standing Israeli policy”.

“There are things we agree on, things we don’t agree on, things we are closing the gap on,” Netanyahu said.

“We are making an effort.”

The breakdown in US-Israeli ties began after Israel announced plans to build 1,600 new housing units in occupied East Jerusalem during a visit by Joe Biden, the US vice-president, drawing sharp condemnation from Washington.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestinian state in any two-state solution to the situation and have demanded that all settlement acticity is halted before talks can resume.

Negotiations between Israel and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority have been stalled since Israeli forces began a 22-day military offensive in the Gaza Strip, controlled by the rival Hamas movement, more than a year ago.

Yishai moves to legalize Jewish ownership of East Jerusalem building

Posted in Everyday life in the West Bank, History, Israel, Israel politics, Israel's separation wall, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, USA foreign policy, War crimes, West Bank on 08/02/2010 by 3071km

Date Published: February 8,2010

Source: Harretz

Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Monday moved toward legalizing Jewish ownership of an East Jerusalem building, authorizing the district planning commission to take on the matter without first notifying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he was not involved in the matter. 

Yishai’s move was exposed by Israel’s Channel 1 hours after the Jerusalem Municipality canceled the distribution of evacuation orders for Beit Yonatan, a residential building erected by nationalist Jews in the heart of an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem. 

   
 

Yishai confirmed the that he had ordered the move and had received assurance that a majority of the council would vote in favor of the move. 

The interior minister also said that the residents of Beit Yonatan agreed to move their occupancy two floors down, making it legal. Yishai added that the council was expected to approve a similar move on other contentious buildings in the area. 

Less than a week ago, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat bowed to pressure from legal officials and said he would uphold the court order to evacuate and seal Beit Yonatan. 

In a letter to State Prosecutor Moshe Lador, Barkat pledged to enforce the court order to evacuate the structure, though he added that he was doing so under protest. Barkat also wrote that the municipality would tear down some 200 Palestinian homes slated for demolition in East Jerusalem. He warned, however, that enforcing the court order fully is liable to trigger a violent response from the Palestinian community. 

The Jewish-owned building, named for convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, lies in Silwan, an Arab part of East Jerusalem. A court ruling declared the home was built without the proper permits. 

In his letter to Lador, Barkat said the court orders sabotaged a municipal plan to resolve the matter of illegal construction in East Jerusalem. The plan would have allowed the buildings and their residents to remain in place, he said. 

Barkat also criticized the Jerusalem municipality’s legal consultant, Yossi Havilio, who was the most vocal official in favor of enforcing the court orders. 

Last week, Lador sent a letter to Barkat reprimanding him for his refusal to shutter Beit Yonatan. 

“Acceptance of the situation in which court orders are not carried out expresses a biting failure,” Lador said, adding that “Israel is a law abiding country, and in lawful countries court orders must be carried out.

Israeli forces raid West Bank camp

Posted in Everyday life in the West Bank, IDF, Israel, Israel politics, Israel's separation wall, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, Peace process, War crimes, West Bank on 08/02/2010 by 3071km

Date Published: Febraury 07, 2010

Source: Aljazeera English

Israeli forces have raided a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank, arresting at least 40 people.

The arrests on Monday at the Shuafat camp in annexed east Jerusalem were part of an operation that Israeli police said was aimed at “putting order” in the area.

Al Jazeera’s Elias Karram, reporting from the camp, said: “The raid was divided into two parts: the first of which ended on Monday when Israeli army and intelligence forces invaded the came and detained around 40 poeple based on their political affliation – either to Hamas or Fatah.

“The second part is still under way and it targets Palestinian workers who have come from various parts of the West Bank to work in the camps without necessary working permits.”

Israeli troops also stormed shops and hospitals in the camp, Karram said.

Rights group targeted

In a separate incident, Israeli military officials raided offices of Stop the Wall, a human-rights group that campaigns against the construction of the West Bank separation barrier.

Stop the Wall released a statement on Monday saying that at least 10 military vehicles invaded the city of Ramallah before officials searched through the offices, “confiscating computer hard disks, laptops, and video cameras along with paper documents, CDs, and video cassettes”.

Jamal Jumaa, the co-ordinator of Stop the Wall, said in the statement: “This is part of the continuous targeting of the popular grassroots movement and the struggle of the Palestinian human rights defenders for Israeli accountability.

“Palestinians will not be intimidated by this. The struggle against the Wall will only stop once the decision of the International Court of Justice, which calls for the Wall to be torn down, is implemented.”

Jumaa said: “We call on the international community and in particular the European Union to step up pressure on Israel to ensure it respects international law and human rights and ends its repression of Palestinian and international human rights defenders working on the ground.”

The raid came after Jumaa was arrested along with Mohammad Othman, a youth co-ordinator from Stop the Wall. Both activists were released on Monday.

Arrest campaign

In recent months, Israel has intensified its arrest campaign against those involved in the anti-barrier protests. Two pro-Palestinian foreigners were arrested on Sunday.

The activists were employed with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), one from Spain and the other from Australia.

Israeli forces routinely enter the territory to arrest Palestinians accused of “militant activity”.

However, Sunday’s raid marks only the second time troops have seized foreigners there on suspicion their visas had expired.

The ISM is involved in protests against the separation barrier.

Omer Shatz, the activists’ lawyer, says he believes his clients were targeted because of their political activity.

Is it just the calm before the storm in Israel?

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Everyday life in the West Bank, Gaza, History, IDF, Israel, Israel politics, Israel's separation wall, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, Peace process, Siege, USA foreign policy, War crimes, West Bank on 08/02/2010 by 3071km

 

Date Published: February 6, 201

Source: The Palestine Telegraph

 It’s been a year since the election that brought Benjamin Netanyahu to power in Israel and, for most Israelis, it’s been the best year in recent memory. There has been almost no violence or breaches of security, and the country’s economy weathered the world recession remarkably well.

Israelis, for the most part, feel safe and secure, and the Prime Minister’s rating in public opinion surveys reflects that satisfaction: Netanyahu is retaining his hold on his centre-right supporters and is gaining support among voters in the centre and on the left. The only drop he has suffered is among voters of the far right who reject his temporary freeze on construction in some Israeli settlements on the West Bank.

Now, it seems, 2010 is supposed to be even calmer. The country’s annual intelligence assessment released this week spoke of “low probability of war” and little likelihood of serious clashes.

But as veteran Israeli observers will tell you, when you hear such rosy forecasts, it’s time to head for the shelters.

“Experience in the Middle East shows that calm can turn into tension, and tension can turn into war, in an instant,” wrote Aluf Benn in yesterday’s Haaretz newspaper.

A flare-up in sabre-rattling with Syria is the exception that proved the rule. Syrian officials warned that, if there were a war, Israeli cities would become targets, and that drew a bellicose response from Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said that, in that event, the Assad regime would be toppled.

Netanyahu moved swiftly to calm the waters and return matters to their previous quiet. Israelis were left scratching their heads about where all the rhetoric had come from.

It came, in fact, from an apparent misinterpretation by Damascus of remarks made earlier this week by Ehud Barak, the former Israeli prime minister and the current Defence Minister. Mr. Barak had told an audience that, if peace with Syria is not achieved, Israel could face an unnecessary war that would leave issues between the countries exactly where they are now.

It was intended as a cautionary note to Israelis not to be complacent, but it so surprised the regime of Bashar al-Assad that they took it for a threat. Perhaps it’s one of the consequences of not having a channel of communications between the two countries’ leaders.

Barak’s warning has fallen on deaf ears in Israel, where most people can’t imagine a peace that would entail giving back to Syria the Golan Heights, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.

“Why would we want do that?” people ask. “There’s no chance of war with Syria, and the Golan has become part of Israel. It’s a great place to visit during Passover.”

Barak is not alone in warning of the danger of complacency.

Jordan’s King Abdullah and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also have cautioned Israel about being too smug.

“Israel should give some thought to what it would be like to lose a friend like Turkey in the future,” Erdogan said this week.

It was Ankara that provided the good offices through which Israeli and Syrian officials conducted negotiations aimed at a peace agreement more than a year ago.

But the once-valued ally – Turkey and Israel even carried out joint military exercises – has been snubbed by the Netanyahu administration for having criticized Israel’s assault on Gaza early last year.

As for the Palestinians, with whom Netanyahu has yet to enter into peace talks, Barak also warned: “A deadlock will lead to another round of violence that will serve Hamas.”

Up to now, there has been little public pressure on Mr. Netanyahu to change things.

Most Israelis never encounter Palestinians, though most Israelis live within a few kilometres of them. Few Palestinians can enter Israel, including east Jerusalem, and almost no prudent Israelis ever journey into the Palestinian territories. Israelis are more likely to visit Rangoon than Ramallah.

Most of the Israelis who do come into contact with Palestinians are settlers, and that contact usually is through their car windows, as they whisk past Palestinians on the sides of the roads that carry Israelis to their settlements in the West Bank.

It is true that life is better these days for many Palestinians, as the Netanyahu government has removed many internal checkpoints and the Palestinian economy has blossomed.

But the comforts that have arrived in the West Bank’s major cities have yet to trickle down to the hundreds of Palestinian villages and smaller towns.

As well, the dream of statehood remains elusive, and the Palestinian Authority has a president whose term expired more than a year ago. The elected Palestinian Legislative Council has been suspended for almost three years.

President Mahmoud Abbas stands firm in his refusal to negotiate with Israelis until they cease construction in all settlements, including those in east Jerusalem. This position wins him a measure of respect, but the settlements continue to expand, and the rival Hamas organization grows stronger.

Rather than trying to find a solution in peace talks, the Palestinian Authority harasses Hamas officials and keeps some 600 Hamas members in jail. The result of such heavy-handedness is to distance many of the people from their rulers and to generate more support for Hamas.

Few Israelis, however, feel the need to press Mr. Netanyahu into ending this situation by agreeing to Abbas’s demand for a real halt to settlement construction.

To most Israelis, security is measured in whether they feel safe taking the bus or sitting in a popular café, both of which had been targets of suicide bombers in the past. By such measures, Israelis feel very safe. The last suicide bombing was five years ago and, for every warning from a King Abdullah or a Recep Tayyip Erdogan, there’s a Silvio Berlusconi or a Mike Huckabee to reassure Israelis they’re doing everything right.

Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad has taken his case to the enemy’s camp, speaking this week at the annual Herzliya Conference, at which Israeli leaders regularly attend. He told his audience that, if Palestinians didn’t achieve statehood through negotiations, they would opt for a unilateral declaration of independence. His biggest task, he said, is constructing the infrastructure for such a day.

Fayyad is dead serious, and the prospect of a unilateral declaration and a campaign to win world support for the Palestinian state should jar Israelis out of their complacence. But the fact that he spoke in such a gathering of elite Israelis suggests he is more friend than enemy, so why worry?

President Barack Obama’s recent admission of failure to get Israeli-Palestinian peace talks started, meanwhile, has left the Netanyahu government gloating and the Israeli peace camp marginalized.

History, however, suggests this smugness could be the calm before the storm. In 1973, recalls Gideon Rafael, a former director general of foreign affairs, Israelis were brimming with confidence from their victory in the 1967 war and didn’t see the coming of the Yom Kippur War that would almost defeat them.

Similarly, in the wake of the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty and the successful routing of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon in 1982, Israel was blind to the advent of the Palestinian intifada in 1987 and the potency that campaign would have.

second_intifada

And in the late 1990s, Israel was basking in the glow of the Oslo peace process and was blind to the second, more violent intifada on the horizon.

Israelis aren’t likely to heed Ehud Barak’s warnings right now; they have been conditioned to reject criticism. And who can blame them? For 62 years, their little country has been mostly isolated and often at war. They don’t want to hear bad news just when things seem quiet.

But it’s got so that even great supporters of Israel can’t criticize it with impunity.

This week, a right-wing movement, Im Tirtzu, has launched a campaign against the New Israel Fund, a 30-year-old organization that supports various human-rights groups in Israel. It blasts the NIF for assisting Richard Goldstone, the South African judge whose report on the Gaza campaign raised questions about possible war crimes and crimes against humanity, and for supporting the idea of an independent inquiry into the Gaza assault.

On Thursday, NIF president Naomi Chazan was told by The Jerusalem Post that it was dropping her weekly column.

One more critical voice is quieted, and the rest of the country goes back to planning its Passover vacation.

This commentary originally appeared in Toronto’s Globe and Mail.