Monday, 30 April 2007

Prevention of Demolition of Centre for Autistic and Special Need Children in East Jerusalem

April 29, 2007
from ICAHD

Prevention of Demolition of Centre for Autistic and Special Needs Children in East Jerusalem

The Jerusalem Municipality is planning, during the coming days, to demolish a building in Wadi Joz in East Jerusalem which is used by the Iyat amuta, (an amuta for advancement of children with special needs) and the amuta Kochavey Jerusalem. Prevention of demolition will help the children and families of a particularly vulnerable sector of the community, in very real need of urgent help.

Tomorrow morning (Monday), from 7.00 a.m. onwards, activists will be present at the centre’s site in Wadi Joz to try to prevent the demolition. In order to get there, go to Wadi Joz, in Suwani, after the wholesale market continue straight down, 50 metres, to the entrance to the industrial area, and then turn right onto a rough track and you will see the centre (Palestinian public transport goes to that area from nearby Damascus Gate). The centre is within walking distance of Augusta Victoria and the Hebrew University.

The demolition is being carried out according to the final decision of the district court. The centre hosts children for 2-week special stays, and is an afternoon daycare centre.

It is important to state that all special education schools in the east of the city are located in the Wadi Joz area, near the centre’s address. This is something which affects access and transport to the centre. The Iyat amuta searched for a long time for suitable premises for the school, but didn’t manage to find such a place, because of the scarcity of available buildings and sky-high rents charged in the area.

At the premises of the centre they already undertook various renovations to serve the children’s special needs and are involved in ongoing work there for that end. Iyat is the only service provider in the entire East Jerusalem area providing for the special needs and therapy for autistic children, handicapped or challenged children and on many occasions has to refuse to accept any more children for treatment, with all the anguish involved in such refusal.

Please come to help.

For further information, or directions contact:

Abdul Rahman, of Iyat: 0548-121 925, Shai Haim (ICAHD): 0506-986 964, Meir Margalit (ICAHD): 0544 345 503


Israeli army demolishes a Palestinian disabled children’s society in Jerusalem
May 8th, 2007
Ghassan Bannoura

Israeli army bulldozers demolished a Palestinian owned building that host disabled children’s society located in Wadi Al Joze neighborhood in east Jerusalem on Tuesday morning.

Palestinian sources reported that Israeli army troops stormed the neighborhood in the morning then two bulldozers destroyed a building that belongs to Hanni Totah from Jerusalem. The building was used by a Palestinian NGO called Al Nojom ( stars) society that works with physically challenged children.

Israeli authorities used the same excuse that the building was built without needed documents; documents that after Israeli occupied the city of Jerusalem in 1967 rarely gave to Palestinians living in the city.

Human rights organizations in the city stated that since the beginning of the year Israeli have destroyed 48 Palestinian owned buildings and houses under the pretext of built without permits.

Sunday, 29 April 2007

Children tried as adults in the Middle East

VIDEO: Children tried as adults in the Middle East
TV3 News, New Zealand - 27 Apr 2007
Young Palestinian stone-throwers in the Middle East are treated as adults, tried in military courts and held in adult jails – some of them as young as 12.

Israel's treatment of these children is a violation of international law, something Israeli authorities do not even deny themselves.

Their trials are rarely seen, but an ITV reporter was given exclusive access to one court's proceedings.

What Cease-Fire?

What Cease-Fire?
Amira Hass, Ha'aretz, 26 April 2007
On the Saturday and Sunday before the Palestinians "broke the cease-fire," Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed nine Palestinians. Among them was a 17-year-old girl, a 15-year-old boy and a policeman who was on the roof of his house and was not involved in any "battle."

A New Era of Settlement Expansion in Jerusalem and Environs Begins

A New Era of Settlement Expansion in Jerusalem and Environs Begins
Settlement Report Vol. 17 No. 2 March - April 2007
Israel is stepping up its effort to enclose Jerusalem with a ring of barriers and settlements designed to sever Palestinian East Jerusalem from the West Bank. Recent announcements of significant settlement expansion in the areas in and around Neve Ya'acov and the former siteof the airport at Atarot signify a major push by Israel to link East Jerusalem area settlements on both sides of the separation barrier, to establish an unbroken belt of settlement along East Jerusalem's northern perimeter, and perhaps of most significance, to tie Road 60 settlements--from Ma'ale Adumim north to Shilo and Eli--to the Tel Aviv metropolis and the coastal plain.

Nobel Peace Prize Winner shot by Israeli army in Palestine

Footage showing Irish Noble Peace Prize recipient, Mairead Maguire getting shot by Israeli army who opened fire at peaceful demonstrators in the West Bank village of Bilin on April 20, 2007, following the international conference on popular resistance (April 18-20, 2007).Maguire was shot by a rubber-coated-metal bullet in the leg. Maguire speaks after she received first aid.


All we had for breakfast was tear gas
April 21st, 2007

"Thanks to the media here for telling the truth…Bring this truth to whatever country you come from!"

These were Mairead Maguire’s words, a Nobel Peace Prize winner from Northern Ireland, just one hour before she was shot with a rubber-coated steel bullet by Israeli Occupation Forces.


Irish Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire Shot With Rubber Bullet
by Israeli Military at Nonviolent Protest

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

Israeli troops fired rubber bullets and tear gas at a non-violent protest against the separation wall near the West Bank village of Bilin. Several protesters were injured including the Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Maguire who was shot with a rubber bullet. She joins us on the line from Ireland.

We turn now to Israel and the Occupied Territories. Israeli forces have killed eight Palestinians over the past two days including a 17-year-old girl and a Palestinian police officer. Meanwhile Israeli troops fired rubber bullets and tear gas at a non-violent protest against the separation wall near the West Bank village of Bilin. Several protesters were injured including the Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Maguire who was shot with a rubber bullet. Mairead has just returned to Ireland.

Antony Loewenstein's Ha'aretz interview

Shmuel Rosner, the Chief U.S. Correspondent of Ha'aretz interviews Antony Loewenstein.

Dear Antony,
Your book is a harsh criticism of Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, but also of the American and Australian Jewish community. So let's start with this general question: What is it that bothers you about the support Jewish Diaspora gives to Israel - or maybe you think that no support is needed?
Thank you,

Thanks Shmuel,

Although it's not unique to the Jewish community, an unhealthy tendency has developed within many Jewish Diaspora communities since the birth of Israel. An ethno-centric and racially superior mentality has flourished that places the lives and concerns of Israel and Jews above all others. In this worldview, Israeli lives are always more precious than Palestinian ones. Israel's "security" is far more important than the existence or safety of a future Palestinian state. Such thinking, in my home country of Australia and elsewhere, has long troubled me. Is this what Zionism was destined to become?

When it relates to Israel, far too many Jews are able to defend, justify and explain the Jewish state's behavior, no matter how illegal or immoral. A recent letter published in the Australian Jewish News succinctly articulated the problem: "I have always believed that whatever Israel does is always right for the Jews." This uncritical and anti-intellectual stance completely contradicts the noble Judaic tradition of rigorous thought and dissent.

Since I started writing extensively on the Israel/Palestine conflict in the last years, I've been astounded by the reactionary response of some Jews to the idea of justice for all. Hate-mail and death-threats, by fellow Jews, has sadly become a fact of life. It is as if the overwhelming evidence of Israel's crimes in the occupied territories is always issued by "biased" media, NGOs or governments. Are only Israeli foreign ministry press releases worth respecting?

I have long thought that it is not the duty of all Jews to support Israel. If they want to engage with the Jewish state and improve its international standing, so be it. If Jews want nothing to do with a state that has no direct impact on their daily lives, this position should be respected. If they want to become unofficial spokespeople for the Israeli cause, good for them.

Personally speaking, I may be a harsh critic of Israel's policies (and Palestinian intransigence) but I still call myself a true friend of Israel, the kind the country needs to survive in the long-term, not "yes-men" only concerned with even-greater military reprisals against the Palestinians. After decades of these failed policies, why do many Jews still think that the Jewish state can thrive through force alone?

In my experience, Diaspora Jewish communities regularly prefer to ignore the true reality of the now 40-year occupation and the myriad of ways in which their beloved homeland has persecuted another people for generations. Is this something Jews should really be proud of?

These Diaspora communities need to ask themselves some tough questions, namely how their complicity in the current morass can be reversed. It's never too late to expect an Israeli government of any political stripe to behave morally and legally and rediscover the true Jewish soul.

Looking for alternatives to failure: An answer to Uri Avnery

Looking for alternatives to failure: An answer to Uri Avnery
Ilan Pappe, The Electronic Intifada, 26 April 2007

We need to wake up. The day Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush declared their loyal support for the two-state solution, this formula became a cynical means by which Israel can maintain its discriminatory regime inside the 1967 borders, its occupation in the West Bank and the ghettoization of the Gaza Strip. Anyone who blocks a debate over alternative political models allows the discourse of two states to shield the criminal Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories.

Moreover, not only are there no stones left in the occupied territories with which to build a state after Israel ruined the infrastructure there in the last six years, a reasonable partition is not offering the Palestinian a mere 20 percent of their homeland. The basis should be at least half of the homeland, on the basis of the 181 partition route, or a similar idea. Here is another useful avenue to explore, instead of embroiling forever inside the Sodom and Gomorrah stew that the two-state solution has produced so far on the ground.

And finally, there will be no solution to this conflict with a settlement of the Palestinian refugee problem. These refugees cannot return to their homeland for the same reason that their brothers and sisters are being expelled from greater Jerusalem and alongside the wall and their relatives are discriminated against in Israel. They cannot return for the same reason that every Palestinian is under the potential danger of occupation and expulsion as long as the Zionist project has not been completed in the eyes of its captains.

They are entitled to opt for return because it is their full human and political right. They can return because the international community had already promised them that they could. We as the Jews should want them to return because otherwise we will continue to live in a state where the value of ethnic superiority and supremacy overrides any other human and civil value. And we cannot promise ourselves, as well as the refugees, such a fair and just solution within the framework of the two-state formula.

Jerusalem’s apartheid tramway

Jerusalem’s apartheid tramway
By Philippe Rekacewicz and Dominique Vidal

The politics of urban planning

Two French companies are involved in the construction and operation of a light rail system from the centre of Jerusalem to a northern terminus. It is promoted as a unifying project: in fact, it will be yet another way to isolate the Palestinians.


THE tram will not operate before 2009 but it’s already a presence across Jerusalem, and garish ads show it running beside the walls of the Old City. The strangest ad features a pensive Theodor Herzl; in his book Altneuland, published two years before his death in 1902, Herzl dreamed of an electric tram system as a symbol of the Jerusalem of the future.

A century later this ecological and economic solution is a necessity. “Our city is in gridlock,” said Shmulik Elgarbly, Israeli spokesman for the mass transit system. “Ever since cars got cheaper, we’ve had terrible congestion in Jerusalem. By 1980 the percentage of urban dwellers using public transport dropped from 76% to 40%.” New roads jam up almost as soon as they are finished. Most streets are too narrow for bus lanes. The geological structure under the city would be ideal for the construction of a subway system, but why not let passengers see the most beautiful city in the world?

Ten years ago those arguments convinced Jerusalem’s mayor, then Ehud Olmert, of the need for a light rail system. The project would be financed by the private sector under a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) contract and the network would be handed over after 30 years. An international tender was put out in 2000 and the French company Alstom won the construction bid. Two years later Connex, the subsidiary of another French company, Veolia, won the operating rights. They formed a consortium called Citypass with two Israeli companies, Ashtrom Construction and Pollar Investment, as well as two banks, Hapaolim and Leumi. The contract was signed in July 2005. The initial aim is to carry 500 passengers by 2009 on each of 25 trains running between the terminus points of Pisgat Ze’ev and Mount Herzl.

According to Elgarbly, the project will be profitable if two conditions are met: “It must be perfectly safe and not a target for suicide attacks; and the route must meet the needs of the greatest possible number of inhabitants. We based our projections on 150,000 passengers a day. That is why the tram must serve the Jewish quarters [Israel’s politically correct term for settlements] such as Pisgat Ze’ev, as well as Arab quarters like Shu’fat. At present there are two separate bus networks serving those areas but there’s no room for two separate tramlines in Jerusalem. We’re building a single, peacetime tramway.”

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, even in the holy city. This project has raised many urban and, more important, political objections. It uses a stretch of Route 60, depriving Palestinians of a vital artery to the city and, beyond it, between the north and south of the West Bank. Yet Elgarbly insists that: “We will serve both populations in Jerusalem.” That seems doubtful. The fare, which is reasonable for Israeli passengers at $1.37, will be expensive for those Palestinians currently using the small buses, on which the fare is just 82 cents. There is also the question of how the continuing safety of the tram can be assured. How will the settlers react to seeing Arabs travelling on the tram? One person we spoke to wondered whether there should be separate carriages for Arabs and Israelis.

Who will park and ride?At the North Shu’fat stop, planners have designed park-and-ride lots for suburban commuters, especially Palestinians. The Israeli project director, Shmulik Tsabari, who came with us on our site tour, seemed oddly unaware of the fact that a large number of potential passengers, such as the inhabitants of Ras Khamis, or the Shu’fat and Anata refugee camps, live behind the separation wall. One checkpoint in the wall is open at present, but that doesn’t mean it will remain so in the future. The army already often closes it during the rush hour so that settlers can circulate more easily.

So who will use the park-and-ride lots — if they are built? “The 50 dunum (5 hectare) plot belongs to dozens of Palestinian families and the town hall has stymied negotiations,” explained lawyer Mahmud al-Mashni. “But a permit is required to build on the land since it’s in a green zone. The city authorities plan to use part of the area for the parking lot and allow the owners to build a shopping centre and homes on the remainder. But the owners can’t afford to do that — they won’t be able to pay the taxes, which are far higher on building land. According to Israeli law, the owners should get 60% of the land’s value in the event of state expropriation. Instead they’re being offered a ‘generous’ 25%.”

Many observers believe that at the first security threat the trams will cease to go via Shu’fat. Instead they will follow the safer roundabout route inside the wall. It will mean explaining away the expensive infrastructure that may already have been built, but that is not the point. According to international law, the route currently planned is illegal. It brings the Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem closer to the city centre in West Jerusalem: French Hill, then Pisgat Zeev, then Neve Yaakov in the north, and later, with eight more routes planned, many more. The tram facilitates colonisation.

This goes against the Fourth Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949, ratified on several occasions since by the United Nations Security Council. Resolution 465 of 1 March 1980 stipulates: “All measures taken by Israel to alter the physical character, the demographic composition, the institutional structure or status of the Palestinian territories including Jerusalem, have no legal validity.” So if this new project is to be used specifically for colonisation, Israel should not get assistance from other countries.

For a long time the Palestinians did not react, but now they are sounding the alarm. In October 2005 President Mahmoud Abbas raised the issue with a visibly embarrassed President Jacques Chirac. A month later the French foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, sent a carefully worded letter to the chairman of the Association France-Palestine Solidarité, which is campaigning against the tram, saying: “Private companies bidding for international tenders in no way reflect a change in France’s well-known stance on Jerusalem.”

He went on to stress France’s attachment to Jerusalem’s international status as laid down when partition was declared in 1947: “France and the European Union have a clear and consistent position on the illegal nature of the settlements in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 as well as the security wall that Israel is building, which violates international law” (1).

Occupation entrenchedThis clarification did not prevent Nasser al-Kidwa, then the Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister, from writing to Alstom CEO Patrick Kron on 6 January 2006, to criticise Alstom’s involvement “which is not purely commercial, but carries extremely important implications in terms of aid to Israel in its illegal settlement policy in and around East Jerusalem, and which is viewed [by the Palestinian Authority] as an attempt to legitimise this policy”. This, he claimed, runs counter to “the principles that have long been held in France”. In Jerusalem two advisers from the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Fouad Hallak and Wassim H Khazmo, confirmed this view: “Ultimately, the tramline will connect West Jerusalem with the Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem. It is therefore entrenching the occupation. Without East Jerusalem, there cannot be a Palestinian state.”

Meanwhile, the Arab League condemned the illegal construction of the tramline at its March 2006 summit in Khartoum. Alstom and Connex were invited to withdraw immediately from the project to avoid steps being taken against them, and the friendly French government was urged to adopt a position on this issue in accordance with its responsibilities and international law.
Never has there been a greater divide in the official and unofficial positions of French diplomacy.

This is a far cry from “business is business”, which is what an economic adviser to the French embassy in Tel Aviv (2) was quoted as having said. The consortium for the $518m Jerusalem tramway had also hoped to win the $1.29bn contract for Tel Aviv (in December 2006 it found out that it hadn’t). Even before Douste-Blazy, there were other French ministers, including Nicolas Sarkozy, who had talked about the profits to be made.

Yet there are laws behind the money. According to international lawyer Monique Chemillier-Gendreau: “A state is accountable for the actions of its country’s major companies if they break international law and if the state does not do what it can to prevent them.” Doubtless aware of the risk, a French consulate official in Jerusalem stressed that neither Alstom nor Connex benefited from any export credits or guarantees from Coface, the official French export guarantee department.

A diplomat in Paris, who wished to remain anonymous, went further: “The French foreign office has always discouraged companies from taking part in this venture.” Maybe. But in that case why did Gérard Araud, France’s ambassador to Israel, take part in the official contract-signing ceremony in the offices of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon?

The diplomat confirmed that the foreign ministry “always had strong reservations about French companies taking part in this project”. In the event of confrontation “it would give rise to a crisis on the scale of the Muhammad cartoons row”. France would be in violation of international law. He added “That tram is the tram of apartheid” and claimed that the lawyers hired by Alstom and Connex are “dubious”, which confirmed recent comments by the two companies.

Despite all this, the contract was signed. Our diplomat saw that as an expression of “the climate in 2004 when there was a reconciliatory mood in Tel Aviv. But even so, that goal doesn’t justify stupidity. And that’s exactly what this tramway is. Pure stupidity”. He added that the stupidity owed much to the personality of the then French ambassador, Gérard Araud, who was “a firm believer in the project. He certainly asked to take part in the contract-signing ceremony.”

The light rail system may be a good solution for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but why did the Israeli government not discuss it with the Palestinian Authority first? Since they made no attempt to do so, the Israeli government is open to accusation, at home and abroad, of using the tram to strengthen its policy of occupation, colonisation and annexation.

Having Theodor Herzl as the tramway’s poster boy may be a Freudian slip. Herzl certainly extolled modernity. But first and foremost he was the founder of Zionism.

Weekly Report on Human Rights Violations

Weekly Report on Human Rights Violations
Report, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, 26 April 2007

* Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Continue Systematic Attacks on Palestinian Civilians and Property in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT)

* Nine Palestinians, including two children, were killed by IOF in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

* Four of the victims were extrajudicially executed by IOF.

* Eighteen civilians were wounded by IOF gunfire in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

* Thirteen of these civilians, including a journalist, four women and four international human rights defenders, were wounded when IOF used force to disperse a peaceful demonstration against the construction of the Annexation Wall in Bal'ein village near Ramallah.

* Two children were wounded as a result of the explosion of a mysterious object of the remainders of IOF.

* IOF conducted 30 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank.

* IOF arrested 44 Palestinian civilians, including eight children and a girl.

* IOF transformed a Palestinian house into a military site.

* IOF have continued to impose a total siege on the OPT.

* IOF positioned at various checkpoints and border crossings in the West Bank arrested six Palestinian civilians.

* IOF have continued settlement activities in the West Bank.

* IOF demolished a house in occupied Jerusalem.

* IOF demolished seven houses to the south of Hebron, rendering 48 Palestinians homeless.

* Israeli settlers moved back to the evacuated "Homseh" settlement near Nablus.

* Israeli settlers have continued to occupy a house in Hebron for the fifth consecutive week.

Norman Finkelstein & As'ad Abukhalil on Dennis Ross

The Camp David II Negotiations: How Dennis Ross Proved the Palestinians Aborted the Peace Process
Issue 142 (Winter 2007) Journal of Palestine Studies Abstract
by Norman G. Finkelstein

This article, excerpted from a longer essay deconstructing Dennis Ross's book on the Palestinian-Israeli peace process from 1993 to 2000, focuses on the Camp David summit.

In particular, it examines the assumptions informing Ross's account of what happened during the negotiations and why, and the distortions that spring from these assumptions. The article demonstrates that, judged from the perspective of Palestinians' and Israelis' respective rights under international law, all the concessions at Camp David came from the Palestinian side, none from the Israeli side. In reflecting on Ross's narrative, the author explores what he considers its "main innovation": the subordination of the normative framework of rights to the arbitrary and capricious one of "needs."


The Note-Taker as A Historian: The Pain of Reading the Account of Dennis Ross
Monday, April 23, 2007
by As'ad Abukhalil

I normally would not have recommended Dennis Ross' The Missing Peace especially that he has the literary skills of, well, note takers. His book is no more than a compilation of his notes on US negotiations as part of the so-called "peace process."

I may not recommend that you read the 800 pages of this book, but students of political science should read it (to see the deception and lies of diplomats), as should all Arabs. They should see how their leaders--all their leaders, Hafidh Al-Asad and `Arafat included--negotiate away the rights and aspirations of the Arab peoples if it meant keeping themselves in power, or solidifying their rule.

I certainly left this book with more contempt for Hafidh Al-Asad (who was busy sending laudatory secret messages to Israeli leaders while maintaining his empty Ba`thist rhetoric in the Syrian media) and for `Arafat--not that I ever respected those two, not to mention the rest of the Arab tyrants. I singled out those two leaders because some Arabs, especially Palestinians, may still harbor some illusions about the two.

And it is rather funny that Ross thinks that he is very intelligent, while he is, well, not. Extremely not, I mean. You read this book and realize that the author was not able to even provide an interesting profile of any of the leaders that he met and negotiated with. He is just not capable of that; he is not even capable of providing any new insights or interesting analysis. He can only take notes, and notes were taken, and compiled in this tedious book. Ross tells everything, but keeps many important things out: like how `Arafat and Asad constantly asked that he be removed for his obvious bias against Arab interests.

Ross only rarely mentioned this complaint, and only in passing. But you read this book (and you read everything he has said and written since he left office) and realize how right Asad and `Arafat were in asking that this man is not qualified (not in knowledge and not in terms of objectivity) to be a neutral negotiator. He tells you where he stands on p. 6 (he says that he "identifies" with the Israeli people). It is also clear in the rest of the book: he mentions his friends in Israel right-and-left, but has not a single Arab friend, not even the puppets.

And his references to Arabs are consistently patronizing: and when an Israeli prime minister compared Arabs to children (something David Ben Gurion also had done) he seems to agree. It was quite incredible--or maybe not--that `Arafat told Clinton (the most pro-Israeli president until Bush) that he had "blind trust" in him (p. 10).

And look at his generalizations about the Palestinian people: "Victimization has deep roots in the Palestinian mind."(p. 42). Well, could that victimization be due to...well, victimhood" And please, Mr. Ross. Tell us more about the "Palestinian mind." As for Arab charge that US holds double standards regarding the implementability of UN Security Resolutions, he expresses surprise. He says that there is "a difference betweeen the Security Council Resolutions."(p. 43). Exactly. That was the point of the Arabs, Mr. Ross.

I did learn in this book that the lousy PLO leadership, under the lousy `Arafat, allowed US officials to censor, edit, and "refine" the text that was read by Haydar `Abdushafi in the Madrid conference. I was not surprised to learn about the role of Rejje Larsen: he remains to this very day a tool of the US (he also is a good friend of Ross). (p. 118).

But there is one amusing section in the book. It was when Ross waxes poetic. He told his friend (the deputy chief of Mossad): "Ephraim, we have just watched a field of mines transformed into a field of dreams" (p. 164). Is there better poetry than this?

Like a good drama, you will laugh and cry reading his book. I mean, will you not cry when you read that when Rabin died, Ross writes: "I was devastated and started to cry."(p. 210). And it was quite amusing how the US government deals with Arab leaders: with all the contempt and condescension that they so deserve.

Before meeting with Mubarak, Clinton asks his aides: "What do you want me to do with him?" (p. 213). Abu Mazen told Ross that he liked "Bibi" "personally." (p. 392) And it is not true that the Syrian negotiators insisted on full withdrawal of Israel from Syrian lands. Gen. Omar agreed to an adjustment in the hills over the river "as much as 50 meters", or so says Ross. (p. 560).

And so submissive was Arafat's leadership to US and Israeli officials that he agreed to remove Palestinian flags in Ramallah before meeting with Barak (p. 597).

And please Ross: as it is well-known that you know no Arabic, so refrain from using Arabic words. He even misspelled a simple word like Ra'is (he misspelled it in a way akin to spelling "president" as preaeakekajdf;ajd;flkjad;fj).

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Remember Deir Yassin

Remember Deir Yassin
Monday April 09, 2007, Palestine News Network


The Ghosts of Deir Yassin - Sonja Karkar, Women for Palestine, April 09, 2007

A new 'working definition' promoted by Israel lobbyists seeks to confuse anti-semitism with anti-Zionism

A new 'working definition' promoted by Israel lobbyists seeks to confuse anti-semitism with anti-Zionism
Arthur Neslen, The Guardian, April 5, 2007

Cyclists ride for freedom

Cyclists ride for freedom
ET Staff, Peterborough Evening Telegraph, 12 April 2007
City people are being urged to use pedal power to help secure the freedom of a scientist who blew the whistle on Israel's nuclear secrets.

On Tuesday, April 17, cyclists who set off from Scotland will stop off in Peterborough.

They will be joined by city peace campaigners for the next leg of their journey to the Israeli Embassy in London.

The Freedom Ride, organised by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, aims to draw the world's attention to the plight of Mordechai Vanunu, who was jailed for blowing the lid on Israel's nuclear weapons plan.


Vanunu Freedom Ride - Mission Accomplished!
The intrepid Vanunu Freedom Riders complete the last leg of their gruelling 600-mile bicycle journey from Faslane in Scotland to Downing Street and the Israeli Embassy in London.


The Ongoing Trials of Mordechai Vanunu
Eileen Fleming 22.04.2007 14:29 History World
On April 30, 2007 Mordechai Vanunu will learn if he will return to jail for speaking to the media in 2004.


Comment from: eileen fleming [Member] ·
On 18 April 2007, Vanunu wrote:





[The JC is for John Crossman, NOT Jesus Christ]

A study of Palestinian working conditions in Israeli settlements

Back to the wall: a study of Palestinian working conditions in Israeli settlements
by Simone Korkus, Ma'an News Agency

04/04 /2007

Back to the wall

It's six o' clock on a cold winter morning in Tulkarem, a major Palestinian city in the West Bank.

In front of a narrow iron door in the long concrete wall, that runs along Taybeh street, opposite the garage of Adjib, hundreds of Palestinians in overalls and sweaters with sandwich bags in their hands, have gathered and are waiting patiently for the door to open.

They slap their arms around their bodies to keep warm and in the light of the projectors on top of the wall their breath makes little clouds.

Behind the iron door lies the Israeli industrial estate with the poetic name 'Nizzane Ha Shalom' (literally: buds of peace) and for many Palestinians this name symbolizes their last chance for work.

Nizzane Ha Shalom, which is situated between Tulkarem on one side, and the separation wall and the Israeli Highway 6 on the other, was established in 1995 as one of nine planned industrial estates in the West Bank. There are seven factories, which provide jobs for some 700 Palestinians in various industries such as the production of cartons, plastic spare parts, pesticides and poisonous liquids.

"It's better than no work at all", comments M. (35) on his job at the carton factory 'Tal El Iesoef Ve Mihzoer Ltd'. M. urges not to publish his name. This father of five comes here every day – six times a week, nine hours a day – for an hourly wage of 11 shekels; that is more than 7 shekels under the Israeli minimum wage. And for this salary M. literally works himself to death.

Why? Because he is a privileged man, he says.

"Of course I know the situation is bad, but at least I have a job. I can feed my family and send my children to school".

But sometimes M. is overwhelmed with fear. Will his boss dismiss him if he asks for a raise or if he'll be late at work or becomes ill? It happened before. Latecomers are punished and do not get work nor salary for at least a week. Rebels and the ill and weak are fired on the spot.

"In my place the boss can find ten others immediately", M. explains. And therefore he leaves his home by five in the morning, does not ask for the minimum salary, works when he is ill or during the holiday of Id Al Adha and he has never heard of vacation.

His ten years older colleague J. knows what happens if you protest.

"I have worked already ten years in the Israeli wood factory here. The company doesn't have a name and I doubt that it is even registered. I get 100 shekels per day for 9 hours of work. We work here with 30 employees. There's hardly any protection against the sun or rain and the factory hall has no flooring. In the winter we stand all day in the mud. There is no toilet and we are not allowed to go out, because this iron door only opens at four. Can you imagine how dirty it gets, with thirty men? Two years ago I finally found the courage to complain. You know what happened? I was sacked on the spot and sent home without pay. Two weeks later the phone rang. It was my boss. He said he would give me a last chance, but I had to shut up". And that's what J. does. He doesn't complain about the lack of protective clothes and he was silent when the boy Namer incidentally shot himself in the abdomen with the electric stapler and was sent home without pay.

But he admits he's furious. "The worst thing is that the manager doesn't really care. It's not that he treats us as animals. He just doesn't see us at all".

The last straw

As a matter of fact, the construction of the barrier has made Nizzane Ha Shalom – as well as Israeli settlements and other estates near the barrier - more attractive for Israeli businessmen, says Shahiye Yacub, representative of the Palestinian ministry of labor in Tulkarem.

"From one side, the building of the fence has worsened the already chronic problem of Palestinian unemployment; 150,000 Palestinians who worked legally or not in Israel before 2000 can no longer go there. And tens of thousands of farmers are separated from their own lands by the wall. Today only an average of 10,000 – this depends on the security situation – can enter Israel. Therefore the number of cheap Palestinian laborers is growing. These people are desperate and willing to take any job at practically any price. From the other side, Israeli businesses feel confident about estates near the wall because of the high level of security".

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate reached 28.4% in the fourth quarter of 2006. This might seem relatively low, but one should bear in mind that more than half of the Palestinian population is children and therefore the number of dependents is high. Sometimes a worker has to provide for as many as ten persons.

Yacub: "Officially there are about 18,000 Palestinians working in Israeli factories and settlements in the West Bank, but I cannot even estimate how many are working without a license, especially in the agricultural sector".

Injuries and amputations

Meanwhile, a group of 15 workers have gathered around us in front of the iron door in Tulkarem. They are whispering and nodding.

Abdelatif Abu Raye, a young man with bright blue eyes, is brave enough to tell me his story. Several months ago his hand was sliced in two when he was operating a cutting machine in the carton factory. After the accident, the employer sent him home and stopped paying his salary.

Because of this accident Abu Raye is paralyzed on one side .The hospital in Tulkarem couldn't perform the rather complicated operation that could have saved the motion in his hand and he is not allowed to go to an Israeli hospital that could help him.

Abu Raye: "My employer didn't pay me any indemnification and because of my injury I can't find work elsewhere. My magnetic card [the permit to work in Israeli areas] was revoked. I talked to a lawyer who started court procedures in Israel, but I cannot even meet him, because I'm not allowed to cross the checkpoint".

Another worker, Mohammed Abu Harma, cannot repeat his story anymore. Five years ago he was asked to make a fence around the factory plant of 'Rational Systems' in Nizzane Ha Shalom, recalls his son, Majed.

"They used plastic barrels with chemical waste to support the fence. One of these barrels exploded and my father was injured in the head. He died four days later from his injuries, leaving my mother with eight children to fend for themselves. We never received any pension or indemnification".

Majed, then 22, had to break off his studies and find a job to provide for the family.

"We have been in court procedures with my father's employer for the last couple of years, but the judges haven't reached any conclusions yet".

Others join in with stories about amputated fingers, injuries and breathing problems occurred during their work in one of the factories. Listening to these Palestinians it seems that work accidents because of occupational, safety and health hazards at the places of employment are common practice here.

At exactly half past six the iron door opens and the mass of men disappears. The door closes by seven and will remain closed for the next nine hours.

The symbiosis

It's a strange sensation to enter the estate a little later from the other, Israeli side. Here no locked iron doors, no long queues of workers, no separation barrier. At the junction with Highway 6 you turn to the right and pass a sleepy guard at the entrance gate. The high walls around the estate hide the view of Tulkarem and give the impression that you're in Israel.
We try to arrange meetings with two owners of companies, but we do not get further than the secretary who politely tells us off.

Gil Letterman, the owner of Rational Systems – a company in polyurethane parts for printers and medical equipment – is willing to talk and invites us to come and have a look for ourselves.
He started his company 25 years ago in the coastal city of Netanya, but with the outbreak of the Intifada it became more and more difficult for his Palestinian workers to come to work and therefore Letterman moved part of his activities – the casting of parts, painting, inspection and packing – to this area.

"Because of its location beside the wall, it's easy to get here. An additional advantage is that this estate is declared a so-called 'C zone' and we do not pay 'arnona' [Israeli tax]," explains Letterman.

Some factories might have had other motives as well to move to this area. Letterman's neighbor "Geshuri Industry" for instance, which is probably the largest factory on the Tulkarem industrial estate and specializes in pesticides and other chemical products, was until 1985 located in Kfar Saba, but local residents complained of its horrible fumes and it was moved to the West Bank. Also neighboring residents from Tulkarem and 'Lev Ha Sharon' on the Israeli side complained but were unsuccessful to move Geshuri away from Tulkarem.

The factory plant of Rational Systems looks well organized and workers wear protective clothing. Letterman insists that there are no problems with salaries and safety requirements.

But what about the accident with Abu Harma we heard of?

He admits that he had problems with subcontractors in the past, like Abu Harma, but these were solved legally.

"There are Palestinian workers who have been with us since the establishment of the company and now I even employ the second generation, their sons. I know their families; I was at their wedding parties. These are decent reliable people, who are well paid. You should understand that Palestinians benefit from the Israeli factories here, at least they have work, and I bet you that they earn more in Nizzane Ha Shalom than with a Palestinian employer in Tulkarem".

With 50% of the Palestinian population living below the poverty line - that international organizations put at $2.10 a day - Letterman might be right and Palestinians might indeed be glad to be able to work and feed their families. But the question is under which conditions and for which price?

Here, between the separation barrier and the Palestinian city of Tulkarem, the Israeli-Palestinian paradox suddenly becomes painfully clear. Occupation and conflict have created an intense symbiosis between Israeli employers, who under favorable conditions moved to the West Bank, and Palestinian workers, in need of work. If you liquidate the employers by economic sanctions or closure, you also kill the Palestinian employees, and if Palestinian employees are not allowed to work, the Israeli companies cannot exist.

Structural problem

In the year 2007 these stories seem incredible, but they are not unique.

Salwa Alinat, representative of Kav La Oved, an organization which protects workers' rights, started an information and aid program for Palestinian workers in Israeli employment in the West Bank one and a half years ago and heard similar and worse stories everywhere.

"I talked to date pickers from Jericho, who were employed in an Israeli settlement and - during the harvest period in April and May – had to sit for nine hours nonstop on a palm tree in the burning sun, without even a toilet break. And they didn't even get the minimum wage.

"A Palestinian woman who is cleaning houses of settlers endures the harassment of the guards at the entry of the settlement, in order not to lose her work. I found factory workers who work long hours with insufficient protection against hazardous circumstances and receive 10 shekels or less. The worst of it all are the stories about child labor. During the summer months, children as young as 12 or 13 work in two shifts of 12 hours each. I met a boy of only 10 who works in a warehouse in the Jordan Valley during the summer break but also in the evenings after school, because his father is unemployed and his family need the money."

The West Bank has been divided through barriers, checkpoints and roadblocks into three large economic centers – north, middle, and south. As a result, the production and interests are localized, Alinat explains. Palestinians cannot travel freely between these centers and therefore also the information remains limited to local data.

"People do not understand that we have a structural problem in the West Bank", says Alinat.

A system of permits and cards

It is not easy to legally obtain a job in one of the settlements or industrial estates, because you have to have a permit from the military authority – the so-called 'magnet card ' – to enter the settlements and the estates, explains Alinat. Some workers therefore work on the 'black' market with no contract or insurance at all.

You only receive the card after thorough screening for possible security risks by the 'Shabak', the Israel Security Agency.

Alinat: "The motives for granting or refusing the permit are not clear. There are workers whose permits were rejected for security reasons whereby they had no criminal record or connections to what Israel would describe as terrorist organizations".

Subsequently, the employer has to apply for a work permit (Ishur Avoda). The costs for this permit, around 1,200 shekels, have to be paid upfront by the employee and even before starting his job, he already spends a small fortune.

Alinat: "This permit is worth gold for the Palestinians and forms an important trump card for employers and sometimes leads to blackmail. If he doesn't act according to the boss's instructions, he loses his card and his job".


It is still hard to believe that this, almost colonial, system takes place right under our nose and nobody seems to know, or change it.

We decide together with the Palestinian guide, the human rights activist Zakaria Sadea, to do some small field research.

Our first stop is at the industrial zone of Karnei Shomron, a settlement from 1978 with 6,500 inhabitants, south of Tulkarem. In the industrial area we count ten Israeli factories.

In front of the steel factory 'G.T.', which is surrounded by high walls - according to the Palestinians, it produces parts for the army - we bump into Hakan (46). Hakan has already worked for nine years for 'G.T.' but he can't stand it anymore.

"I work ten hours a day and earn 100 shekels. My boss is very tough. The other day a block of 200 kilos fell on the foot of my colleague and the boss told him to continue working, because the pain would pass. I'm not insured and I'm worried what will happen to my family should I get hurt here. It is just not worth it".

We try to talk to Hakan's employer, but the gate remains closed. Snoopers are not welcome here.

At the parking of the neighboring factory in metal refuse bins – we didn't find its name – a peculiar incident occurs.

A young Palestinian boy approaches our car and whispers through the half open window, while his eyes go restlessly from us to the factory entrance: "I'm working here and I earn 9 shekels per hour but I can't prove it because I don't get a pay slip or any other document".

When an older man walks towards us – later we understand that he's the supervisor - he hisses, "Don't tell him anything", and suddenly disappears between the parked cars.

But Faleh - the Palestinian supervisor – insists that the working conditions are perfect.

"Palestinians should be grateful to have a job here. Everybody earns a fair wage. I get for example 11,000 shekels a month".

Puzzled by the discrepancy in the stories, we leave the plant. Who knows who's wrong and who's right?

Are all these workers just telling stories or is this an indication of a phenomenon Alinat told me exists within some factories: a kind of colonial 'divide and rule' system, whereby certain 'good' Palestinians get favors – better salaries and conditions – in exchange for information about the conduct of other workers and the daily control?


Via the industries in Alfei Menashe and Emanuel, where we hear similar complaints from workers, we drive to Barkan, in the east of the West Bank, situated on the top of a hill near Ariel.

Barkan has existed for 25 years and is, with its 120 factories, one of the major industrial estates in the West Bank. Obviously Barkan has plans for further extension, because down the slope we notice construction work.

The factories produce products varying from plastic, metal, to food and textiles and employ some 5,000 workers.

Some of the products are exported to the European market, according to report released in 2006 by United Civilians for Peace.

The European multinational Unilever has a majority share in Beigel & Beigel, where some 50 Palestinians work and Ketter Plastics sells its products in Holland and Belgium.

The streets are empty. Most factories lie behind walls and fences.

Via the intercom at the gate we try to talk to several employers, but we're sent away.

At "Oram Joram Arizot", a factory in plastic wrapping material, the director, Ronnie Kaufman, invites us into his office. We're not allowed to enter the factory hall, says Kaufman, because we're not insured.

This factory with an annual turnover of $ 5,000,000 employs 20 workers, half of them Israeli and half Palestinian.

We hear the same story. According to Kaufman, the relations are good and he calls a Palestinian to confirm it.

Ibrahim, an elderly man with lines around his eyes, has already worked here for 18 years and says he's satisfied with the job. "I earn 5,000 shekels and there is a good atmosphere. What more could one want?"

But when we return to our car, another employee who recognized Sadea calls him on his cellular phone and warns: "Don't be deceived by Ibrahim's story. We get only nine shekels and work ten hours a day".

Legal chaos

Our confusion is complete when we try to check which law governs the relation between an Israeli company and a Palestinian worker on Palestinian soil. Is it Israeli labor law or maybe military law? Or even Palestinian law?

According to Juval Livnat, am attorney specialized in labor law and legal advisor of Kav La Oved, it is unclear.

"The industrial estates and the settlements are usually situated in so-called 'C zones', which means that they fall under Israeli jurisdiction. You would expect that also Israeli labor law applies, but the labor court decided that Jordanian law is applicable for Palestinian workers, unless it violates public interest. Such a decision is multi-interpretable and open-ended.

Moreover, the Jordanian law dates back from 1967 – before the Six Day War – and gives workers very limited rights and protection regarding working hours, safety regulations and vacations. The result is that Palestinian workers are legally discriminated against compared to their Israeli colleagues at the same workplace, and this is unacceptable".

The Palestinians do seem to have a right to the Israeli minimum wage, according to an Israeli military order from the past, but the Minhal Izrahi, the civil Administration for Judea and Samaria, who has to supervise this order, is failing.

Livnat: "I sent complaints about false remuneration forms – the employer declared for instance less days than the worker worked – and falsified pay slips to the Minhal Izrahi, but they did not follow them up".

In a democratic state the solution seems obvious. Why don't these Palestinians sue their employers in an Israeli labor court?

But if they have the courage to do so, these Palestinians are confronted with yet another barrier. They are considered foreign residents in Israel who might evade paying their debts and as such they have to deposit large sums of money to guarantee payment of court expenses, which could mount up to 5,000 shekels even before procedures have started.

And international law cannot help them either, explains a representative of the UN organization ILO (International Labor Organization), because there is legal uncertainty as to whether Israel is bound to apply international treaty obligations relating to labor standards in the occupied territories.

The authority

Legal chaos, insecurity about rights, lack of information because witnesses are afraid to talk and a total dependency between employers' and employees' stories seem to have transformed the West Bank into a legal 'no-man's land' where everything is possible and nothing forbidden.

We turn to the only independent institution that should and could know all the facts: the Minhal Izrahi.

According to the State of Israel's 'Measures to improve the welfare of the population of the territories,' this institution is responsible: "(…) for the administration of civil activities (…) for the welfare and in the better interest of the Arab population" and one of the measures that is mentioned is "establishment of the minimum wage".

But the responsible representative for labor cases, Itzhak Levi, is not authorized to give us any information about the number of Israeli factories in the West Bank, their number of employees, or if the 'Minhal' knows about similar complaints and what they plan to do about it.

He refers us to Capt. Tzidki Maman, who promises a prompt reply. This was on February 18. We have not heard from him since.

And while Maman is looking for answers, the Palestinian worker M. in the industrial estate of Tulkarem keeps on working in silence.

For him there is no other solution.


Simone Korkus is a Dutch journalist and lawyer who has been working in the Palestinian territories since 2002.

The Legend of the Removed Checkpoints

The Legend of the Removed Checkpoints
Ran HaCohen, April 19, 2007
In this exceptional case, it took less than a week to expose the dirty deal between the government and the army. Scores and dozens of such deals – among the government, the army, and the settlers – are never exposed; the entire Israeli colonial project is based on such deals, made behind the back of all democratic mechanisms.
But this was an exception.

On Jan. 22, following an embarrassing UN report, the army had to admit:

"The Israel Defense Forces admitted yesterday that the 44 dirt obstacles it said had been removed from around West Bank villages did not actually exist.


But why bother to tell the truth when a lie is just as good?

Three months later, Israel is again counting on our short memory. In an official meeting between the Israeli prime minister and the Palestinian president, no less, the army airs once again the legend about the 44 "removed checkpoints."

The lie exposed in January is recycled as truth in April, and everybody is happy: Israel can claim it kept its promise, the Americans can claim progress in the "peace process," even President Mahmoud Abbas can claim an achievement.


IDF source admits 44 barriers allegedly removed did not exist
Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent, 22/01/2007

The Temples of the Occupation
Meron Benvenisti, Ha'aretz, 01.01.2007
So far, of the dozens of checkpoints promised to be removed from the West Bank in a "gesture" to Mahmoud Abbas, not a single checkpoint has been dismantled.

Monday, 2 April 2007

Zionism in the Age of the Dictators

Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism Part 3 : Zionism in the Age of the Dictators
Stephen Crittenden interviews Lenni Brenner,
The Religion Report, Radio National, 21 March 2007
Which Israeli Prime Minister in his youth was a member of an organisation that offered to collaborate with the Nazis at the height of World War II, because of their shared racial ideology of blood and soil? This question is answered by American civil rights activist and Anti-Zionist Lenni Brenner, the author of "Zionism in the age of the dictators"

Nablus Invasion Diary : Occupied Homes and Minds

Nablus Invasion Diary : Occupied Homes and Minds
Anna Baltzer writing from Nablus, occupied Palestine, Live from Palestine, 14 March 2007

Refusing to be Effective

Refusing to be Effective
Harry Clark, Counterpunch, March 28, 2007
While Ariel Sharon's army reconquered the West Bank in "Operation Field of Thorns," while Rachel Corrie was murdered by an Israeli bulldozer driver, while Israel built the monstrous Wall around the Palestine ghetto, the Zeitounas dialogued.

Olmert: Time not right for Gaza invasion

Olmert: Time not right for Gaza invasion
Karin Laub, Associated Press, Sat Mar 31, 2007
In an interview broadcast Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was asked whether a large-scale Israeli invasion of Gaza was needed to halt an arms buildup in Gaza.

"The question is if it has to be a military operation, if it has to be a military operation by us and if it has to be now," Olmert told Channel 2 TV. "We won't shy away from a military operation if we reach the conclusion, after a thorough check, that it is possible, based on logic and level-headedness and no exaggerations, that there is no better way than this."

Asked whether this was the case now, he said: "This is not the case."


What May Come After the Evacuation of Jewish Settlers from the Gaza Strip
A Warning from Israel - July 15, 2005
We believe that one primary, unstated motive for the determination of the government of the State of Israel to get the Jewish settlers of the Qatif (Katif) settlement block out of the Gaza Strip may be to keep them out of harm's way when the Israeli government and military possibly trigger an intensified mass attack on the approximately one and a half million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, of whom about half are 1948 Palestine refugees.

Palestine Mozart Festival 2007

Palestine Mozart Festival 2007
Tim Moore, This Week in Palestine
Two hundred local and international musicians will be performing works by Mozart throughout the West Bank this month, during a festival whose top-bill artists include two young Palestinian musicians who are enjoying great success abroad.

For Edward Said, Mozart’s gifts ‘bordered on the supernatural’ - and indeed, dedicated festival-goers will be able to enjoy works ranging from the most intimate of solo piano pieces to religious works sung by a chorus of 60 people. For light relief, there will even be three performances of Mozart’s enchanting comic opera, The Magic Flute.

During the first two weeks of April, the Palestine Mozart Festival will reach venues in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Nablus, and Ramallah. Fifty of Mozart’s compositions will be performed. The festival opens with a recital for organ, with Mozart revelling in his ‘king of instruments’. There follows a fascinating week of the composer’s smaller-scale works - melancholy and introspection lurking alongside sunny folk melodies in a series of chamber concerts taken from all periods of his life. The second week begins with two playful recitals of operatic arias, which lead up to the full-scale performances of The Magic Flute - before the festival suddenly wheels back round once again to close with the Requiem, the often-terrifying choral work on which the composer was feverishly working when he died.

These two weeks will be an excellent way for newcomers to Mozart to learn whether they enjoy this famous music; they should consult the superbly detailed festival website (see below) for brief summaries of all of the pieces being performed. At the same time, the festival offers experienced listeners an opportunity to thread their previous enjoyment together. A small series of lectures and documentaries, which focus on the composer and his relationship with the Near and Middle East, will accompany the performances.

The music promises to be top-rate. The festival has been organized by the Choir of London, a large group of young professional musicians from Britain who are returning for their third volunteer tour of the region. Their debut CD, Sir John Tavener’s Lament for Jerusalem, recently spent many weeks at number one on the UK classical music charts.

When not performing, choir members will offer a number of workshops and master classes in schools. This supplements their grassroots commitment to Palestinian musical education, which has led them to host a number of gala concerts in the UK to raise money for a bursary scheme to fund residential music training in Britain for four Palestinian students a year.

During the festival, the choir will be joined by tireless local music organizations, including al-Kamandjâti and the Edward Said Conservatory, as well as other local choirs. They will also welcome two of the hottest young Palestinian music talents abroad.

Dima Bawab, a 25-year-old soprano singer, was born in Amman and currently resides in Paris. Since 2004, when the jury of the Toulouse Conservatory unanimously awarded her their gold medal with distinction, Ms. Bawab has been performing with a number of European orchestras and also appeared last year at the Jerash Festival. She will be performing a duet recital of Mozart songs and arias, and singing solo before the Requiem.

Saleem Abboud Ashkar was born in Nazareth and studied piano at the Royal Academy in London. He has already performed in the most celebrated musical venues in the world under the batons of the most challenging conductors; his debut CD release (EMI label, 2005) includes one of the Mozart piano sonatas that he will be performing in this festival.

For him, the festival counters the political isolation felt by many Palestinians. ‘The more we are politically isolated, the more we must fight to find our voice on the international cultural stage. But to have that voice, you can’t just deal with your own folklore. You have to produce art beyond that. In poetry and literature, we have. But our music has yet to find a world stage. I suspect that classical music may offer a route. So we must be part of this festival - both as performers and as audiences’.

The Palestine Mozart Festival runs from March 31 to April 14. Complete listings are available on the internet at

Palestinians Mark 31st Anniversary of Land Day

Palestinians Mark 31st Anniversary of Land Day
March 29, 2007
Friday, March 30 marks the 31st anniversary of Land Day for Palestinians inside the Green Line, the West Bank and Gaza and in theDiaspora. Thirty-one years ago in 1976, six Palestinians from the Galilee were shot and killed by Israeli security services during peaceful demonstrations protesting the impending confiscation of their land. One hundred others were injured and 300 arrested that day.

Amnesty flays Israel for keeping foreign spouses out of Occupied Territories

Amnesty flays Israel for keeping foreign spouses out of Occupied Territories
The Daily Star, 22.03.07
Amnesty International condemned Israel on Wednesday for barring tens of thousands of foreigners who are married to residents in the Occupied Territories from living with their spouses, describing the measure as "discriminatory and collective punishment."

The West Bank Village of Yanoun: Serenity Occupied

The West Bank Village of Yanoun: Serenity Occupied
Cara Loverock, Alternative Information Center (AIC)
Sunday, 25 March 2007
It is easy to overlook the Palestinian town of Yanoun, southeast of Nablus in the occupied West Bank. With a population only nine families, roughly one-hundred inhabitants and a small cluster of old houses in the middle of a deep valley, it is not hard to miss. Yet town has a rich history and breathtaking beauty. Perhaps that's why settlers have chosen to set up on the hilltops surrounding the village and attempted to force the residents out.

A Grieving Mother’s battle with the IDF

A Grieving Mother’s battle with the IDF
Jocelyn Hurndall from The Sunday Times
March 18, 2007
After her son’s quest for answers led to his being gunned down, Jocelyn Hurndall faced a bitter battle with the Israeli army to get at the truth.

Ilan Pappe: The History of Israel Reconsidered

The History of Israel Reconsidered
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Professor Ilan Pappe is an Israeli historian and senior lecturer of Political Science at Haifa University. He is the author of numerous books, including A History of Modern Palestine, The Modern Middle East, The Israel/Palestine Question and, most recently, The Ethnic
Cleansing of Palestine, published in 2006.

On March 8, he spoke at a small colloquium in Tokyo organized by the NIHU Program Islamic Area Studies, University of Tokyo Unit, on the path of personal experiences that brought him to write his new book. The following is a transcript of his lecture, tentatively titled "The History of Israel Reconsidered" by organizers of the event.

The crime of being born Palestinian

The crime of being born Palestinian
Anna Baltzer writing from the occupied West Bank, Live from Palestine, 25 March 2007
Almost two weeks ago, my friend Dawud, a high school English teacher from Kufr 'Ain, called me nearly in tears to report the checkpoint hold-up that had cost him his six-month-old son.

Normalising injustice

Arthur Neslen, The Guardian, March 28, 2007
Beneath the pretty flowers of Israel's propaganda machine lie some ugly facts on the ground in Jaffa.

No country, no pool, but Palestinians take the plunge

No country, no pool, but Palestinians take the plunge
Greg Baum - The Age - March 23, 2007
THERE is no swimming pool at the University of Jenin, so Zakia Nassar must go home to Bethlehem to train. The journey should take two hours,she said yesterday, but because of delays at checkpoints it sometimes takes eight.

Nassar, 19, a dental student, gets home for two days at a time. She said she could train at most for an hour on each of those days. "For a swimmer, it's nothing. It's like a shower."

The pool is 18 metres long. The only other pool in the West Bank and Gaza strip is 25 metres. "A 50-metre pool is like the sea for me," shesaid. "When am I going to get to the other end?"

On Wednesday, Nassar and her Palestinian teammates trained in the Richmond municipal pool.

"Unbelievable," said chef de mission Ibrahimal-Tawil. "This is our dream, to have something like that in Palestine. We need to move Richmond to Palestine."

There is a bit of a history in those parts of improbable feats involving water. One bloke walked on it, another parted it.

In that intrepid spirit, a Palestinian team is gathering in Melbourne to do its darnedest in the world championships. Four — all teenagers —have arrived (unsurprisingly, all specialise in 50-metre events). Another is on his way from the US, where he is on a scholarship.

But two others were detained at the only border crossing from the Gaza Strip into Egypt, said liaison officer Moammar Mashni. They missed connecting flights and will not make it. The crossing, he said, was opened or shut at the whim of Israel.

Mashni, a son of one of the original Palestinian emigrants to Australia, works full time as an advocate for the Palestinian cause. Welcoming The Age, he bade us to sit anywhere we liked. "A good thing about not having a country," he said, "is not having formalities!"

Mashni made no apology for introducing a political note, saying it was unavoidable in matters Middle Eastern. He sought not to raise hackles, but awareness.

Tawil said sanctions imposed on the Palestinian Authority since the election of Hamas last year had hamstrung the country. "We're here to swim for Palestine, but we cannot forget what is happening back home,"he said.

The swimmers made it clear they were here to swim, but also to make asplash. "I'm proud to be here and represent my country," said Nassar."It's the best thing anyone can do."

One of the swimmers is Fadi Awisat. His brother, Raad, momentarily became a cause celebre while training for the Athens Olympics in 2004 when CNN reported that he had been given a choice: join the Israeli swimming team or pay for facilities that were previously freely available at the YMCA pool in Jerusalem.

Two other reports dismissed the first as propaganda. Tawil said yesterday it had been a classic case of misunderstanding. Drowning or waving; who can say in the Middle East?

Najer Toutanji, the head coach, said he was not surprised to be asked how a Palestinian developed an interest in swimming. "We've barely got enough drinking water, let alone enough to get people interested in swimming," he said.

Nassar said that when she and her brother Sami — who is also here —were taken to a pool in London as children, they simply stood in the water. Their father, a basketballer and footballer, but never a swimmer, resolved to teach them to swim. "He didn't want us to be like him," she said.

Now, she lives for swimming. "Whenever I swim, I forget everything,"she said, "especially if I'm sad or mad."

In Melbourne, she hopes to right a wrong: when she previously met Michael Phelps, her hero, she said she was so overcome she forgot to smile!

The Palestinians travelled via Dubai, where an affluent expat organised a pool for a week, and bought suits for officials. "Our medal is just to be here," said Tawil.

Quietly, the foursome demurred, saying they were excited rather than intimidated by the chance to swim against the world's best. "We are here to be competitors, not participants," Nassar said.