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Today in Palestine

Pacusa + El Taller International (Tunis)

Wednesday 2 April 2008

Israel announces new West Bank construction plan after Rice departs

Jerusalem’s city hall announced it would build 600 new apartments in Pisgat Zeev, a Jewish neighborhood in the eastern sector of the city. Shortly after, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish party said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised to build 800 additional homes in one of Israel’s largest West Bank settlements, Betar Illit. Palestinian officials weren’t immediately available for comment. Olmert spokesman Mark Regev had no comment on the new construction plans. But earlier in the day, the prime minister pledged that Israel would build in east Jerusalem and heavily Jewish areas of the West Bank – land Israel expects to keep in a final peace agreement. Palestinians insist that construction on contested lands is the greatest obstacle to peace. But Olmert insisted the building would not disrupt peace negotiations. Because it annexed east Jerusalem after the 1967 war, Israel does not consider construction there to be settlement activity. The Palestinians and the international community do. Israel also maintains the right to build in West Bank settlements to account for “natural growth” of the population there, even though the road map specifically bans such activity.

Peace Now: Settlement construction increased since Annapolis

(Video) Group publishes report claiming Israeli construction in West Bank, east Jerusalem continues in full swing since US-sponsored peace conference, in which Olmert committed to freeze settlement expansion – All in all, the government is currently promoting the building of 3,648 new housing units in Jerusalem’s neighborhoods located east of the Green Line, the report stated. Meanwhile, 101 settlements are currently being expanded, and thousands of housing units are under construction. About 20 of the projects are being carried out east of the separation fence’s route. Peace Now also claims that instead of removing outposts, the government has enabled their ongoing expansion. Construction has been registered in 58 outposts over the last three month; 36 new caravans have been placed in outposts and 16 permanent structures have been erected. The building of an additional eight permanent structures is currently underway.

PM to Shas: I’ll authorize construction in Arab areas around Jerusalem

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday promised the spiritual leader of the Shas Party, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, that he will authorize construction on “Jerusalem envelope” lands which have been thus far frozen. The sources added that the rabbi had made clear to Olmert “with conviction” that the issue of construction in the ultra-Orthodox towns in Arab areas surrounding Jerusalem “are Shas’ top priority,” and that he will ask party chairman Eli Yishai to continue updating him on the matter. Meanwhile, the Yesha Council of Settlements said Monday it would continue to build in West Bank settlements, even without the necessary government authorizations. “Whoever thinks that an administrative step can smother the settlement enterprise and prevent it from flourishing is mistaken,” said a Yesha council statement. “Either the government will approve construction in the settlements, or the natural development of the settlements will continue to grow, even without government permits.”

New home for ex-Gaza settlers: deep in West Bank – by Akiva Eldar

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently approved the construction of 48 new apartments in Ariel, deep inside the northern West Bank. Barak’s office said in a statement that the new construction was meant to allow evacuated Gaza settlers, who had relocated to Ariel with the government’s consent, to move from temporary to permanent housing.

Palestinian Land Day – Breaking the Israeli myth ’a land without people for a people without a land’

Bethlehem / Najib Farrag - Four citizens were wounded and bruised as a result of various abuses committed by Israeli occupation in the village of Umm Salamuna, south of Bethlehem during the march mass rallies commemorating Palestinian Land Day. Banners were raised condemning Israeli policy which includes continued settlement expansion at the expense of Palestinian land. “The policy of annexation and racism will not frighten the people from Rafah to the West Bank.” Other sign read, “Settlement policy will only increase our courageous and steadfast defense of our land.”

MP Mona Mansour affirms insistence on historical Palestine

NABLUS, (PIC)— MP Mona Mansour on Sunday affirmed that Palestinians would never give up their right to the historical land of Palestine and would never recognize the Hebrew state. Mansour in a statement on the occasion of the land day said that accepting the de facto presence of an occupation state on the lands occupied in 1948 does not mean surrendering those lands and does not mean forsaking the Palestinian refugees’ right of return to their indigenous lands."We will never acquiesce to giving up an inch of our lands to the occupiers," she asserted. The lawmaker underlined that the historical land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf (endowment) land that could not be wholly or partially ceded, Mansour explained.

Poll: ’Transfer Israeli Arabs to Palestine’

76 percent of Israelis support transferring Israeli Arabs to a future Palestinian state, a poll commissioned by the Knesset Channel revealed Monday. The poll asked participants whether as part of an agreement to establish a Palestinian state there would be justification to demand that Arabs with Israeli citizenship relocate to Palestinian territory. Only 24% were totally against the idea. Of the remaining 76%, 29% said all Israeli Arabs should relocate. An additional 19% said only Arabs living in close proximity to the Palestinian state should relocate, and 28% said transfer should be decided based on loyalty or disloyalty to the State of Israel.

Backs to the demolished wall – by Hadash MK Hanna Swaid

Protest tents against the demolition of houses have recently become part of the landscape surrounding Arab communities and Arab neighborhoods in mixed cities. The authorities are conducting the campaign to demolish houses, which is accompanied by very heavy fines on their owners, in the name of the rule of law. But as long as the rule of law works in a selective way, it becomes an instrument of discrimination and revenge. The vast majority of buildings in Arab communities under the threat of demolition are residences and not shopping centers or structures for industry and trade. The need for a roof over one’s head is an elementary human need, where one cannot compromise. The solution to the current distress comes in two stages. First, suspending the house demolitions that have been gathering momentum of late, and carrying out the necessary planning, and second, expanding the approved building zones in the communities, in an accelerated procedure, by 20 percent of the existing area.

Mashaal offers to stop civilian attacks

(with video) Hamas has offered Israel a deal to only attack military targets, the group’s Damascus-based leader Khaled Mashaal said. In an interview with Sky News broadcast Monday, Mashaal said the offer was identical to one made to Israel 10 years ago. “We renew our offer to Israel to let the civilians on both sides not be a part of this conflict,” he said. “We renew this offer today.” Mashaal asserted that if the IDF refrained from killing any Palestinian civilians, Hamas would only carry out attacks against Israeli military targets . . . Mashaal also told AP that Israel exaggerates Hamas’s military strength . . . He claimed that suicide bombings only began after Jewish terrorist Baruch Goldstein shot 29 people dead in Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994. “Israel killed during prayers in the Mosque and as an ordinary reaction the Palestinian people started defending themselves. As a response to the Israeli crimes. I want to tell you there was no suicide bombing before in Israel,” he said.

Hamas supremo invites Abbas for talks in Gaza

LONDON - HAMAS supremo Khaled Meshaal made an unconditional offer on Monday to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to travel to Gaza for talks on their divisions, in an interview with Sky News television. ’We invite Mr Mahmud Abbas to come to Gaza to talk directly without any conditions... to work together to find a solution to the problems in Gaza and the West Bank,’ he said in an interview with the British broadcaster. The aim of the talks would be ’get back our Palestinian union and find the reasons for our problems and to solve the security problem’, he added.

IOF troops advance into southern Gaza

KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)— A number of IOF armored vehicles on Monday advanced into eastern Khan Younis, south of the Gaza Strip, amidst intensive firing at citizens’ houses and bulldozed agriculture lands. PIC correspondent reported that the IOF soldiers’ limited advance was covered by Apache choppers and escorted a number of bulldozers. He said that the choppers also fired at civilian neighborhoods. Palestinian resistance fighters confronted the IOF advance as the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas Movement, took the credit for firing five mortar shells at the invading troops.

Barhoum: No excuse for Arab leaders not breaking the siege on Gaza

GAZA, (PIC)— Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, on Monday said that there was no excuse for the Arab leaders for not taking a decision to break the siege on the Strip. In a press release, Barhoum said that the summit adopted a decision declaring Gaza a ’disaster area’ but did not translate this decision into practical measures on the ground. He said that there was no justification for the Arab leaders not to break the siege on Gaza and send assistance to its inhabitants.

Hamas-allied police and students storm Al-Azhar university in Gaza, says president

University President Jabir Ad-Da’ur told Ma’an that the police, backed by students, broke into the campus at five in the morning, detained the security guards and seizing their mobile phones before raising green Hamas flags around the building. The students erected a platform to be used for an event marking the anniversary of the assassination of Hamas founder Ahmad Yasin, Ad-Da’ur said. He added that a number of faculty and students were attacked with clubs. Al-Azhar’s Monday classes have been suspended.

Haaretz video: Israelis reach out to Gazan mother in Ashkelon following TV report

A television report last week on Iman, a Gazan woman who give birth to twins in Israel, resulted in a rare show of cross-border humanism amidst bitter violence. While Iman gave birth several weeks ago, fierce fighting was taking place between Hamas and the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza, and rocket fire from the Strip reached the grounds of the Ashkelon hospital where she was hospitalized. After a television report on Iman, the Barzilai Medical Center became swamped by hundreds of offers from Israeli citizens who wanted to help.

Cairo to allow stranded Egyptians in Gaza back into Egypt

Palestinian media sources reported Sunday that Cairo has decided to allow tens of stranded Egyptians, who have been stuck on the Gaza side of border in January, back to Egypt. Spokesman of the ruling Hamas in Gaza, Ayman Taha, explained that those holding Egyptian ID cards will be allowed to cross the borders enroute to the the Egyptian territories.

Israeli forces seize eight Palestinians in West Bank

Sunday night and Monday morning, witnesses and security sources said. Israeli military vehicles invaded the towns of Beit Rima and Deir Nidham, near Ramallah on Monday, witnesses said. The Israeli forces entered at 1:00am, firing sonic bombs before seizing two young men. Four teenagers were seized in Tulkarem. In the city of Nablus, Palestinian security sources said the Israeli forces raided the city on Sunday evening and stormed several houses before seizing a young Palestinian man from the eastern neighborhood of the city. The Israeli military raids West Bank cities virtually every night, arresting Palestinians they suspected are involved in political or military activity.

Israeli army attacks several parts of the West Bank, kidnapping eight civilians

In the southern part of the West Bank, Israeli troops invaded and searched homes in the village of al-Shiyukh, Halul and Yatta located near Hebron City. Local sources reported that during the attack on the three villages, the army kidnapped three civilians, identified as Mussa Al Halika, 35, the Director of Al Shiyukh Charitable Society; Mohamed Rashid, the Director of Halul Charitable Society, and Mohamed Nawaj’ah, 30, from Yatta village. In the central part of the West Bank, the Israeli army attacked the village of Beit Reeam, near the city of Ramallah. Eyewitnesses said that troops surrounded the house of the al-Reemawi family, and forced the family out before searching and ransacking the house and kidnapping 30 year old Hussam al-Reemawi.

Israeli forces seize Palestinian teenager at flying checkpoint in Ramallah

Local sources said that Israeli troops stopped 18-year-old Ahmad Qaddura in his car at a flying checkpoint, and arrested him. Qaddura is from the town of Kafr Qalil, near the city of Nablus. In addition to more than 500 permanent checkpoints, gates, and other roadblocks in the West Bank, Israeli troops frequently impose “flying checkpoints” at will on roads throughout the West Bank.

Palestinians say two checkpoints removed in Jericho

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki says that Israel has removed two checkpoints in the West Bank town of Jericho as part of commitments made to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Malki says that Israel will also take down smaller barriers at different points around the West Bank. Malki told reporters Monday that Israel notified the Palestinians that the Jericho checkpoints were removed earlier in the day.

Israeli forces raid Al-Asakra, near Bethlehem

Palestinian security sources told Ma’an that Israeli troops broke into home of Fuad Dar Ali. Although Dar Ali was not home, the soldiers delivered a document ordering him to appear at the Israeli intelligence station in the Eztion bloc of Israeli settlements.

Walls, tunnels, and daily humiliations – by Mats Svenson

I see an old man coming through the tunnel. With his legs spread to either side he tries to hop along. Sometimes he supports himself on a cane that he drives into the sewer. In the other hand, he carries a little bag. He slips a little bit. When he comes out of the tunnel, he looks at me, sees my camera and says, “Thank you.” I follow him a few hundred meters. First, he removes a pair of black shoes from the bag, changes and puts the dirty ones in the bag. Looks at his trousers, sees that they have not been dirtied. Wipes off the cane with a napkin. Tells me that he is going to visit his wife who is in hospital. She has been there for a few weeks. His wife was put in hospital when there was an opening in the wall. He tells me that he has always lived in Jerusalem but that the wall that now goes through the northern part shuts him out of the city. He lives in the Al Ram district. He is soon on his way to have as much time as possible with his wife before he has to return in the evening. “I hope the water hasn’t risen by then,” he says.

Palestinian killed during stabbing attempt near West Bank settlement

Israeli medics said Monday afternoon that a Palestinian attacker has been shot dead after trying to stab a group of Israelis near the West Bank settlement of Shiloh. The medics said the man approached two Israeli hitchhikers, one of which was carrying a gun. the hitchhiker shot the attacker after the latter pulled out a knife. Magen David Adom emergency medical service medics pronounced the attacker dead at the hitchhiking stop. No Israelis were hurt in the attack. Earlier Monday, a Palestinian youth attacked a 65-year-old Jewish woman near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Army Radio reported. The young man snatched the woman’s head covering and fled with it to the Palestinian side of the city. The woman did not require any medical treatment.

Expired children’s food products from settlements seized in West Bank

Palestinian customs services seized 5,000 boxes of expired juice cans and other children’s food items in the West Bank cities of Nablus and Qalqilia on Monday afternoon, a customs official told Ma’an. Customs director Hatim Yousif said the expired products had been produced in Israeli settlements and were seized in the village of Audala, near Nablus, and Qalqilia. In a different regard, Yousif said that some of the 3,000 contraband cell phones that were confiscated from the car of former Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker Rawhi Fattouh earlier this month will be returned to their owners after they pay taxes and duties.

Eat, drink local only

Hebron / PNN - Preparations are under way Sunday to begin a collective boycott. The title is “Eat, Drink Local Products Only.” The implementing institution is the mobile “Library On Wheels,” a nonviolent campaign and organization in the southern West Bank city that put books in shared taxis to read while waiting at checkpoints, and that brings books to villages without libraries. Several local governmental and non-governmental organizations, and a number of local companies, are also organizing the boycott.

Palestinian high court suspends Fayyad’s utility bill rule

requiring Palestinians to pay back utility bills before receiving government services. Labor unions are angered over the rule, arguing that it is impossible for the majority of Palestinians, who live in poverty, to pay their bills all at once.

On Israel: 20 questions media interviewers fail to ask – by Stuart Littlewood

The abysmal performance of western TV and radio interviewers when dealing with issues surrounding Israel is not only embarrassing but a blot on the escutcheon of journalism. Have the nation’s truth-seekers fallen under some wicked spell? Are their researchers on strike? Did somebody nobble the programme editors? While we wait with mounting frustration for our broadcasters to get their act together, here are 20 simple questions the BBC and others seem anxious not to ask......

Three interlocking peace negotiations put Israel, Palestinians at impasse

JERUSALEM — The future of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is now bound up in three distinct sets of negotiations that are all interrelated, all vital for any hope of peace and all completely stuck. The first, U.S.-backed talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority aimed at creating a Palestinian state, have been knocked off course by violence in Gaza City and mutual accusations of broken promises. The second, negotiations mediated by Egypt between Israel and Hamas that are geared toward ending the Gaza attacks, began in earnest only this month but is already eliciting deep skepticism from both sides. And the third, efforts to reconcile Hamas with the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, could jeopardize the other two if they succeed, although that appears unlikely. “It’s like a puzzle. Each track is affected by the other two,” said Ali Jarbawi, a political science professor at the West Bank’s Bir Zeit University

A Gaza diary: Falling sick in Gaza – by Najwa Sheikh

I have been long wondered about the feelings, fears, concerns of those whose meant to fall sick in Gaza, real sick, and have denied access to treatment either because of lack of equipment in Gaza or by the arrogance and prejudice of other human beings who enjoy putting more suffering on the people of Gaza. However, I guess I have the chance to tell part of their pain now. A week ago I went to my doctor for regular pregnancy check, though the pregnancy was going well, my doctor suspected that I have a problem in my heart, therefore, he transferred me to another specialized doctor, who confirmed the diagnosis.

Palestinian orgs: Israel anniversary nothing to celebrate

How can you celebrate? The establishment of the state of Israel 60 years ago was a settler-colonial project that systematically and violently uprooted more than 750,000 Palestinian Arabs from their lands and homes. Sixty years ago, Zionist militias and gangs ransacked Palestinian properties and destroyed hundreds of Palestinian villages. How can people of conscience celebrate this catastrophe?

Crossing the Line interviews journalist Jonathan Cook

(podcast) This week on Crossing the Line: According to much of the international media, Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai was apparently “misunderstood” when he said that Gaza faced a “shoah,” the Hebrew word for “holocaust.” But was his comment really misunderstood? Host Naji Ali speaks with Nazareth-based journalist Jonathan Cook about Vilnai’s remarks and the Israeli government’s longer-term strategy for Palestinians in the occupied territories.

Anti-Arab racism and incitement in Israel – by Ali Abunimah

A prominent strategy of Israeli hasbara, or official propaganda, is to deflect criticism of its actions in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip by stressing that within the country’s 1948 boundaries, it is a model democracy comparable to the societies in Western Europe and North America with which it identifies and on whose diplomatic support it relies to maintain a favorable status quo. In fact, Israeli society is in the grip of a wave of unchecked racism and incitement that seriously threatens Israel’s Palestinian community and the long-term prospects for regional peace. This briefing examines societal and institutional racism and incitement by public figures against Israel’s Arab population and considers some policy implications.

Bjork, cancel your Tel Aviv concert!

You uttered one word ["Tibet"] in a concert in Shanghai that sent ripples across many disapproving seas. This time, say it louder, and support another just cause: that of the Palestinian people. Do not sing in Israel, so that your silence will prove to be more deafening. The concert you plan to give in July in Israel will coincide with the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of this state over the ruins of another country, Palestine. At Hayarkon park in Tel Aviv, where you plan to sing, the Palestinian village of Jarisha was wiped off the map by the Zionist forces 60 years ago.

US Jews for dovish AIPAC alternative

Several Jewish groups in the US are launching a new organization to offer an alternative, pro-peace voice to counter the influence of the hawkish American Israel Public Affair Committee (AIPAC). The new organization will be publicly launched by mid-April and its board of directors will feature prominent American Jews such as former chief of Israel’s Mossad Debra DeLee and political activist Marcia Freedman, the chief of Peace Now US. It will be headed by Ben-Ami, deputy domestic policy adviser in the Bill Clinton administration and media consultant of several Jewish groups. J-Street wants to represent a fresh political perspective that is closer to the consensus of American Jews and serve as a political contra of AIPAC’s far-right ideologies.

The senator, his pastor, and the Israel lobby

Since his early political life in Chicago, Barack Obama was well-informed about the Middle East and had expressed nuanced views conveying an understanding that justice and fairness, not blinkered support for Israel, are the keys to peace and the right way to combat extremism. Yet for months he has been fighting the charge that he is less rabidly pro-Israel than other candidates — which means now adhering to the same simplistic formulas and unconditional support for Israeli policies that have helped to escalate conflict and worsen America’s standing in the Middle East. Hence Obama’s assertion at his 26 February debate with Senator Hillary Clinton that he is “a stalwart friend of Israel.”

A day in a Guantánamo detainee’s life

Visitors to the Guantánamo Bay detention center get few, brief glimpses of the detainees. But in reporting trips over the last three years, details have emerged through tours of the camps, conversations with lawyers, chance encounters, and the military commission proceedings that offer outsiders their only sanctioned opportunity to see the prisoners . . . Once a man has refused nine consecutive meals, he is considered a hunger striker and brought to the detention medical center. His head, arms and legs are strapped to a ’restraint chair’ while a tube is threaded through his nose and throat into the stomach. A doctor-recommended quantity of Ensure is administered.