Sunday, 30 September 2007

Settlers attack the Abu Eisha family in Tel Rumeida, Hebron

In the center of the city of Hebron lies the "Tel Rumeida" neighborhood. In 1986, a new settlement was established at the heart of the neighborhood. The settlers of Tel Rumieda, who known as particularly extreme, live on one side of a dead-end street... The Abu Eisha family lives on the other side.

Commentary on recent video showing Hebron settler woman harassing Abu Aisha family
CPT, Wednesday January 24 2007

B'Tselem - Testimony of Taysir Abu 'Ayesha, January 2007
Daily attacks by settlers on the Abu 'Ayesha family, Tel Rumeida, Hebron

Yifat Alkobi leads colonist trespass on Tel Rumeida Hill
ISM Hebron, February 19th 2007
Today at 4 pm human rights workers (HRWs) decided to pass by local resident Issa Amro’s house on Tel Rumeida hill. In the past week colonists had occupied this Palestinian property several times.

When the HRWs arrived at the house, they noticed a group of colonists, 2 men, 5 women and 15 children, had entered the house and garden again. It was only yesterday that they were sent away by the police. The colonists took pictures of the HRWs and one of the women, Yifat Alkobi, videotaped them. Yifat Alkobi is notorious from the “Sharmouta video”.


International observers to open new office in Hebron's old city
Ma'an News, 17 / 09 / 2007
The Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) is opening another office in the old city of Hebron this week. The organization says the new office on Salah Al-Din Street, just next to the municipal square, will serve Palestinians in the Old City to reach TIPH more easily.

Head of Mission Karl-Henrik Sjursen says the new office demonstrates TIPH's commitment to Hebron's people to observe and report on the abuses committed by Israeli settlers and military forces.

Hebron's old city has been mainly abandoned by its former Palestinian residents due to settler violence. A tiny minority of residents continue to live there despite the ongoing harassment from the militant settler compounds nearby.

Created in the Oslo peace agreement, TIPH is a civilian observer mission in the West Bank city of Hebron. According to the group, TIPH "reports on breaches of regional agreements on Hebron and human rights law to the Israeli and Palestinian parties both on a local level and on a national level."

Diplomatic representatives of all the six member countries of TIPH - Norway, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Turkey and Switzerland – will be present at an opening ceremony for the new office on the 18th of September.


"CPT: Dealing with threats on your life"
Nigel Parry, Hebron Diary, 23 January 1998
My e-mail in-box was busy this last week, with reports and updates from the violence reduction presence of the red-capped Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) in Hebron, all relating to recent death threats against three of their members.

I've read CPT reports for some time now, and both these and the CPT archives represent an oasis of information coming out of a desert of silence. In Hebron we had endured both the "we work with the authorities and cannot comment" silence of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the "Our reports are passed on to committees [somewhere]" silence of the mostly Norweigen Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH). TIPH unfortunately means "spit" in Arabic, and silence - which is what ultimately results from no-publish human rights mandates - is what keeps the violators happy and makes you want to make the same sound as the name.

Report on the Educational System in East Jerusalem

Alternative Information Center Publishes Research on Dismal State of Education in East Jerusalem
Shir Hever, Alternative Information Center (AIC)
Tuesday, 04 September 2007

The report does not purport to cover the entire educational system in East Jerusalem. Rather, it presents, as much as possible, an up-to-date and extensive picture of education, and recommends several alternative actions to change and improve the current situation. It goes without saying that none of these recommendations can be realized without the help of the Israeli educational system, since Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem by military force created a responsibility for the Israeli government to provide for the civilian services to the local population.

This report is based on research that Niv Hachlili conducted and wrote between September 2005 and January 2006. For the purpose of the study, extensive bibliographical research, onsite tours, meetings and personal interviews were conducted. Shir Hever edited and expanded the report. Rima Essa helped in preparing the research.


The Education System in East Jerusalem – Summary
Shir Hever, Alternative Information Center (AIC), 4.9.07
When Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, it assumed responsibility for the well-being of East Jerusalem’s population and for fulfilling their rights, regardless of religion or ethnicity. The right to education is one of the most basic rights, and is an essential prerequisite for the plural democracy Israel claims to be.

Education is especially important because in the long term it determines a population’s ability to deal with the rest of society on a par. The education system in Israel maintains and expands gaps between the Jewish and the Palestinian Arab sectors. In East Jerusalem the differences and discrimination are especially stark and apparent.

The economic situation in East Jerusalem is a testament to years of inequity and neglect. Sixty-six percent of Palestinian families and 76% of Palestinian children live below the poverty line. While Palestinians make up 34% of the total population in Jerusalem, they make up 56% of the poor and about 58% of poor children, despite the fact that the percentage of Muslim men in Jerusalem employed in the civilian workforce is greater than that of Jews.

While Palestinian school pupils make nearly 42% percent of the pupils in the whole of the Jerusalem education system, they receive little more than 20% of the education budget (this figure is provided by the official statistics: the real amount of money that ends up in the hands of the Palestinian schools is even smaller than that). As a result, the infrastructure is hazardous and studying conditions are unbearable in many of the schools.

Classroom density and the ratio of pupils per teacher are alarming and the situation is worsening. Apartments are converted to classrooms, creating unsuitable conditions for teaching. The shortage in classrooms has also led to the adoption of a “double-shift” system, in which many pupils go to school in the afternoon instead of the morning, causing a decline in performance and cutting tuition hours for both shifts.

About 18,000 Palestinian children of school age have dropped out of the education system altogether because of these conditions and due to the lack of resources to supervise their studies and bring them back to school. On top of all this, the Separation Wall blocks the path of tens of thousands of Palestinian schoolchildren who live east of the city on their daily route to school.

About 14,500 pupils in East Jerusalem are unknown to the Israeli authorities, and as there is no place for them in the official schools, they must make do with private schools that are largely unsupervised and often fail to provide basic learning conditions. The situation is even more critical among children at kindergarten age. Ninety percent of children aged between three to five years receive no kind of preschool education at all.

Even those pupils who succeed in overcoming and pulling through the harsh conditions of the education system are taught a curriculum that is different from the Israeli schooling system and prevents integration of the Palestinian students in Israeli society, higher education and the job market. This policy goes hand in hand with the policy that prevents residents of East Jerusalem from obtaining Israeli citizenship.

In the general picture of the economic aspects and mechanics of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the education system of the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem and its many serious problems is only one of many cases that must be addressed and researched, but it is a stark example of the discrimination and inequality that are a direct and intentional result of the Israeli policy towards the Palestinian population since 1967.

Joined-up solution

Martin Woollacott is impressed by Ghada Karmi's eloquent argument for a single Israeli-Palestinian state, Married to Another Man.
The Guardian Saturday September 15, 2007
This is an important book that demonstrates with relentless lucidity how terribly exhausted the diplomatic and political pursuit of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become. The title is taken from an 1897 report to the rabbis of Vienna on the prospects for a Jewish state in Palestine. The report concluded that "the bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man". Palestine's spouse was of course the Palestinian society rooted in its soil. The existence of any significant number of Palestinians within the Jewish state, or under its authority, Ghada Karmi argues, ultimately threatens a Zionist unravelling. Hence the Zionist dilemma: how to keep the territory without the people or to keep it while somehow negating the people.

The author's alternative is a return to the idea of a single state for both Arabs and Jews, bi-national or, preferably, integrated and non-sectarian. It is, she readily admits, an alternative canvassed only on the margins of both Israeli and Palestinian society, one widely dismissed as utopian, impractical, and, of course, subversive of Zionist intentions. Yet, operating on the same principle as Sherlock Holmes, that when you have eliminated every other possibility what remains must be the truth, Karmi steers the reader toward serious consideration of the idea, or at least of the vision it represents.

She does so not by any particularly convincing explanation of how a single state might come about but by showing how bankrupt are the policies that have so far shaped efforts to end the conflict. No other account of Israel's history and its impact on the Palestinians that I know of shreds with such efficiency the hypocrisies, cruelties and inanities of what amounts to a systematic international attempt over the decades to deny the obvious and delay the inevitable. The author's argument is that Israelis, Americans, Europeans and Arabs - including, although haplessly and unwillingly, many Palestinians - are sustaining a dangerous edifice of nonsense. Nonsense, because we can now see more clearly than most did in the more hopeful Oslo years that there is no logical way of reconciling Israel's purposes and its massive sense of entitlement with justice for the Palestinians.

Dangerous, because the edifice will one day crash down, and the chaos and bloodshed that will result could be on a cataclysmic scale. The American commentator Thomas Friedman, a man who generally leans well toward the Israeli side, once expressed the terrible possibilities of the future by envisaging a suicide bomber with a nuclear bomb in his backpack walking into Haifa or some other Israeli city. Would that, he asked his notional Israeli hardliner, be clear enough for you? It would be an answer of sorts, but not the sort of answer that anybody in Israel, Palestine and beyond could possibly want. Yet this is the Armageddon toward which they may be stumbling.

Karmi recalls Saad Hammami, the PLO's first representative in London, rebuking critics who attacked the organisation for its readiness to accept a "statelet" on a fraction of the original territory of Palestine. There would come a day, he said, when they would rend their clothes for failing to fight for it "because even this small thing will be denied to us, you will see". The years have shown his fears to be well grounded. The Palestinians have not even got the little state they were prepared, after agonised deliberations, to accept, because however much they have conceded it has always been less than enough for the Israelis.

On the face of it, Israel should have gratefully embraced a deal that would legitimise their hold over the bulk of historic Palestine, regularise their relations with all the Arab states, and at least limit any future claims on them by Palestinians. But, quoting the columnist Gideon Levy on the Israeli "national disease" of wanting to have their cake and eat it, Karmi shows how they wanted both to have peace and to keep almost everything of what they have in terms of power, territory and dominance. All too often they sabotaged Palestinian efforts at settlement because they positively wanted to say, in the Israeli phrase, that they "had no partner for peace".

There is no answer to the Zionist conundrum, Karmi believes, except expulsion or genocide. An unviable and truncated Palestinian state would satisfy no one, while political arrangements of the kind often canvassed in Israel and now being discussed anew, under which Gaza might be federated in some way to Egypt and a series of West Bank fragments somehow glued on to Jordan, would be short lived and fraught with trouble.

The single-state argument is not the essence of the problem. The essence is a change in the nature of Zionism. It was this change that the more hopeful proponents of a two-state solution thought would come with time as the two states cooperated, and their populations mingled on more equal terms. In other words, two states were not the end of the peace process but a stage in it, and even though Rabin's hafradah, or separation, was the Israeli starting point, it would not be their end point. One of the most appealing aspects of this book is the way it combines a hard eye on Israeli motives with empathy for their fears and for the contradictions in which the Zionist dream has entangled them. But it eloquently makes the point that those contradictions have got to be worked out, or they will bring disaster on Jews and gentiles alike.

Abdel Bari Atwan at the Brisbane Writers Festival

Al-Qa'ida expert arrives at right time
Rosemary Sorensen, The Australian, September 17, 2007
ABDEL Bari-Atwan has fallen in love with the Australian people, following his highly publicised delayed arrival at the Brisbane Writers Festival on Saturday.

The Palestinian-born, London-based newspaper editor and author of The Secret Life of al-Qa'ida praised the Australian media for their support, and said he had been overwhelmed by the attention he had received when Immigration delayed his visa.

"I am very moved by the reception, and it makes me more in love with this country," Atwan said yesterday.

"I don't want to be a hero, I don't pick a fight. I think letting someone like me, who has a very critical attitude towards the war (in Iraq), works to the Government's advantage to let me speak my mind."

Speaking publicly on Saturday and Sunday, Atwan told jokes about how scared he had been meeting Osama bin Laden in 1996, and warned the audience that the failure to capture or kill the leader of al-Qa'ida had meant the organisation was spreading "like a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise".

"There used to be just one address, like the first cave on the left, but now there are six or seven addresses.

"It's very clear that al-Qa'ida is a Hydra-headed monster."

He said both he and Mohamed Haneef, the Indian doctor working on the Gold Coast whose work visa was cancelled during an investigation into terror-link claims, were victims of Islamophobia. "His case and mine are known because they are publicised but imagine how many cases are not publicised," Atwan said.

His "visa saga" had now become "something to laugh about", and he praised the members of the ABC television satire team, the Chaser, for inviting him to take part in the festival.

We need groups like the Chaser," Atwan said. "We need to laugh at our politicians, and to highlight these kinds of mistakes."

During a panel session on Saturday, chaired by ABC radio's Rachel Kohn, Atwan had defused a situation that had threatened to become unpleasant, when audience members began shouting at Kohn's defence of the Iraq war.

"I was surprised that she entered into the argument when she was supposed to be a neutral moderator," Atwan said.

Instead, she was defending the undefendable."

Festival director Michael Campbell said Atwan's al-Qa'ida book was the best-selling title at the festival. "We had anticipated that there would be questions posed to him by audiences but I hadn't expected it from the Government," Mr Campbell said.


AUDIO: Abdel Bari Atwan and the history of al-Qa'ida
Paul Barclay, ABC Radio National, 18 September 2007
Palestinian-born journalist and author Abdel Bari Atwan has finally made it to Australia following a delay with the issuing of his visa. He will be on the program discussing his book The Secret History of al-Qa'ida.

VIDEO: "A Case for War" Iran Debate PBS
Richard Perle and Abdel Bari Atwan discuss the consequences and realities of the U.S. presence in Iraq from the upcoming PBS special, A Case for War.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Why Did Israel Attack Syria?

An Opening Shot for War on Iran?
Jonathan Cook, September 27, 2007
Israel's air strike on northern Syria earlier this month should be understood in the context of events unfolding since its assault last summer on neighboring Lebanon.

From the leaks so far, it seems that more than half a dozen Israeli warplanes violated Syrian airspace to drop munitions on a site close to the border with Turkey. We also know from the US media that the raid occurred in close coordination with the White House. But what was the purpose and significance of the attack?

It is worth recalling that, in the wake of Israel's month-long war against Lebanon a year ago, a prominent American neoconservative, Meyrav Wurmser, wife of Vice-President Dick Cheney's recently departed Middle East adviser, explained that the war had dragged on because the White House delayed in imposing a ceasefire. The neocons, she said, wanted to give Israel the time and space to expand the attack to Damascus.

The reasoning was simple: before an attack on Iran could be countenanced, Hizbullah in Lebanon had to be destroyed and Syria at the very least cowed. The plan was to isolate Tehran on these two other hostile fronts before going in for the kill.

But faced with constant rocket fire from Hizbullah last summer, Israel's public and military nerves frayed at the first hurdle. Instead Israel and the US were forced to settle for a Security Council resolution rather than a decisive military victory.

The immediate fallout of the failed attack was an apparent waning of neocon influence. The group's program of "creative destruction" in the Middle East -- the encouragement of regional civil war and the partition of large states that threaten Israel -- was at risk of being shunted aside.

Instead the "pragmatists" in the Bush Administration, led by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the new Defense Secretary Robert Gates, demanded a change of tack. The standoff reached a head in late 2006 when oilman James Baker and his Iraq Study Group began lobbying for a gradual withdrawal from Iraq -- presumably only after a dictator, this one more reliable, had again been installed in Baghdad. It looked as if the neocons' day in the sun had finally passed.

Israel's leadership understood the gravity of the moment. In January 2007 the Herzliya conference, an annual festival of strategy-making, invited no less than 40 Washington opinion-formers to join the usual throng of Israeli politicians, generals, journalists and academics. For a week the Israeli and American delegates spoke as one: Iran and its presumed proxy, Hizbullah, were bent on the genocidal destruction of Israel. Tehran's development of a nuclear program -- whether for civilian use, as Iran argues, or for military use, as the US and Israel claim -- had to be stopped at all costs.

While the White House turned uncharacteristically quiet all spring and summer about what it planned to do next, rumors that Israel was pondering a go-it-alone strike against Iran grew noisier by the day. Ex-Mossad officers warned of an inevitable third world war, Israeli military intelligence advised that Iran was only months away from the point of no return on developing a nuclear warhead, prominent leaks in sympathetic media revealed bombing runs to Gibraltar, and Israel started upping the pressure on several tens of thousands of Jews in Tehran to flee their homes and come to Israel.

While Western analysts opined that an attack on Iran was growing unlikely, Israel's neighbors watched nervously through the first half of the year as the vague impression of a regional war came ever more sharply into focus. In particular Syria, after witnessing the whirlwind of savagery unleashed against Lebanon last summer, feared it was next in line in the US-Israeli campaign to break Tehran's network of regional alliances. It deduced, probably correctly, that neither the US nor Israel would dare attack Iran without first clobbering Hizbullah and Damascus.

For some time Syria had been left in no doubt of the mood in Washington. It failed to end its pariah status in the post-9/11 period, despite helping the CIA with intelligence on al-Qaeda and secretly trying to make peace with Israel over the running sore of the occupied Golan Heights. It was rebuffed at every turn.

So as the clouds of war grew darker in the spring, Syria responded as might be expected. It went to the arms market in Moscow and bought up the displays of anti-aircraft missiles as well as anti-tank weapons of the kind Hizbullah demonstrated last summer were so effective at repelling Israel's planned ground invasion of south Lebanon.

As the Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld reluctantly conceded earlier this year, US policy was forcing Damascus to remain within Iran's uncomfortable embrace: "Syrian President Bashar al-Assad finds himself more dependent on his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, than perhaps he would like."

Israel, never missing an opportunity to wilfully misrepresent the behavior of an enemy, called the Syrian military build-up proof of Damascus' appetite for war. Apparently fearful that Syria might initiate a war by mistaking the signals from Israel as evidence of aggressive intentions, the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, urged Syria to avoid a "miscalculation". The Israeli public spent the summer braced for a far more dangerous repeat of last summer's war along the northern border.

It was at this point -- with tensions simmeringly hot -- that Israel launched its strike, sending several fighter planes into Syria on a lightning mission to hit a site near Dayr a-Zawr. As Syria itself broke the news of the attack, Israeli generals were shown on TV toasting in the Jewish new year but refusing to comment.

Details have remained thin on the ground ever since: Israel imposed a news blackout that has been strictly enforced by the country's military censor. Instead it has been left to the Western media to speculate on what occurred.

One point that none of the pundits and analysts have noted was that, in attacking Syria, Israel committed a blatant act of aggression against its northern neighbor of the kind denounced as the "supreme international crime" by the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal.

Also, no one pointed out the obvious double standard applied to Israel's attack on Syria compared to the far less significant violation of Israeli sovereignty by Hizbullah a year earlier, when the Shia militia captured two Israel soldiers at a border post and killed three more. Hizbullah's act was widely accepted as justification for the bombardment and destruction of much of Lebanon, even if a few sensitive souls agonized over whether Israel's response was "disproportionate". Would these commentators now approve of similar retaliation by Syria?

The question was doubtless considered unimportant because it was clear from Western coverage that no one -- including the Israeli leadership -- believed Syria was in a position to respond militarily to Israel's attack. Olmert's fear of a Syrian "miscalculation" evaporated the moment Israel did the maths for Damascus.

So what did Israel hope to achieve with its aerial strike?

The stories emerging from the less gagged American media suggest two scenarios. The first is that Israel targeted Iranian supplies passing through Syria on their way to Hizbullah; the second that Israel struck at a fledgling Syrian nuclear plant where materials from North Korea were being offloaded, possibly as part of a joint nuclear effort by Damascus and Tehran.

(Speculation that Israel was testing Syria's anti-aircraft defences in preparation for an attack on Iran ignores the fact that the Israeli air force would almost certainly choose a flightpath through friendlier Jordanian airspace.)

How credible are these two scenarios?

The nuclear claims against Damascus were discounted so quickly by experts of the region that Washington was soon downgrading the accusation to claims that Syria was only hiding the material on North Korea's behalf. But why would Syria, already hounded by Israel and the US, provide such a readymade pretext for still harsher treatment? Why, equally, would North Korea undermine its hard-won disarmament deal with the US? And why, if Syria were covertly engaging in nuclear mischief, did it alert the world to the fact by revealing the Israeli air strike?

The other justification for the attack was at least based in a more credible reality: Damascus, Hizbullah and Iran undoubtedly do share some military resources. But their alliance should be seen as the kind of defensive pact needed by vulnerable actors in a Sunni-dominated region where the US wants unlimited control of Gulf oil and supports only those repressive regimes that cooperate on its terms. All three are keenly aware that it is Israel's job to threaten and punish any regimes that fail to toe the line.

Contrary to the impression being created in the West, genocidal hatred of Israel and Jews, however often Ahmadinejad's speeches are mistranslated, is not the engine of these countries' alliance.

Nonetheless, the political significance of the justifications for the Israeli air strike is that both neatly tie together various strands of an argument needed by the neocons and Israel in making their case for an attack on Iran before Bush leaves office in early 2009. Each scenario suggests a Shia "axis of evil", coordinated by Iran, that is actively plotting Israel's destruction. And each story offers the pretext for an attack on Syria as a prelude to a pre-emptive strike against Tehran -- launched either by Washington or Tel Aviv -- to save Israel.

That these stories appear to have been planted in the American media by neocon fanatics like John Bolton is warning enough -- as is the admission that the only evidence for Syrian malfeasance is Israeli "intelligence", the basis of which cannot be questioned as Israel is not officially admitting the attack.

It should hardly need pointing out that we are again in a hall of mirrors, as we were during the period leading up to America's invasion of Iraq and have been during its subsequent occupation.

Bush's "war on terror" was originally justified with the convenient and manufactured links between Iraq and al-Qaeda, as well as, of course, those WMDs that, it later turned out, had been destroyed years earlier. But ever since Tehran has invariably been the ultimate target of these improbable confections.

There were the forged documents proving both that Iraq had imported enriched uranium from Niger to manufacture nuclear warheads and that it was sharing its nuclear know-how with Iran. And as Iraq fell apart, neocon operatives like Michael Ledeen lost no time in spreading rumors that the missing nuclear arsenal could still be accounted for: Iranian agents had simply smuggled it out of Iraq during the chaos of the US invasion.

Since then our media have proved that they have no less of an appetite for such preposterous tales. If Iran's involvement in stirring up its fellow Shia in Iraq against the US occupation is at least possible, the same cannot be said of the regular White House claims that Tehran is behind the Sunni-led insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. A few months ago the news media served up "revelations" that Iran was secretly conspiring with al-Qaeda and Iraq's Sunni militias to oust the US occupiers.

So what purpose does the constant innuendo against Tehran serve?

The latest accusations should be seen as an example of Israel and the neocons "creating their own reality", as one Bush adviser famously observed of the neocon philosophy of power. The more that Hizbullah, Syria and Iran are menaced by Israel, the more they are forced to huddle together and behave in ways to protect themselves -- such as arming -- that can be portrayed as a "genocidal" threat to Israel and world order.

Van Creveld once observed that Tehran would be "crazy" not to develop nuclear weapons given the clear trajectory of Israeli and US machinations to overthrow the regime. So equally Syria cannot afford to jettison its alliance with Iran or its involvement with Hizbullah. In the current reality, these connections are the only power it has to deter an attack or force the US and Israel to negotiate.

But they are also the evidence needed by Israel and the neocons to convict Syria and Iran in the court of Washington opinion. The attack on Syria is part of a clever hustle, one designed to vanquish or bypass the doubters in the Bush Administration, both by proving Syria's culpability and by provoking it to respond.

Condoleezza Rice, it emerged at the weekend, wants to invite Syria to attend the regional peace conference that has been called by President Bush for November. There can be no doubt that such an act of détente is deeply opposed by both Israel and the neocons. It reverses their strategy of implicating Damascus in the "Shia arc of extremism" and of paving the way to an attack on the real target: Iran.

Syria, meanwhile, is fighting back, as it has been for some time, with the only means available: the diplomatic offensive. For two years Bashar al-Assad has been offering a generous peace deal to Israel on the Golan Heights that Tel Aviv has refused to consider. This week, Syria made a further gesture towards peace with an offer on another piece of territory occupied by Israel, the Shebaa Farms. Under the plan, the Farms -- which the United Nations now agrees belongs to Lebanon, but which Israel still claims is Syrian and cannot be returned until there is a deal on the Golan Heights -- would be transferred to UN custody until the dispute over its sovereignty can be resolved.

Were either of Damascus' initiatives to be pursued, the region might be looking forward to a period of relative calm and security. Which is reason enough why Israel and the neocons are so bitterly opposed. Instead they must establish a new reality -- one in which the forces of "creative destruction" so beloved of the neocons engulf yet more of the region. For the rest of us, a simpler vocabulary suffices. What is being sold is catastrophe.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the author of the forthcoming "Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State" published by Pluto Press, and available in the United States from the University of Michigan Press. His website is

B'Tselem: Settlers harrassing Palestinians in Hebron

Videos from B'Tselem - September 2007

New settlement in Hebron - settler kids throwing stones
Settler kids throwing stones from road.

Hebron - Settlers at the door of a Palestinian house
Settlers stand in front of a Palestinian house opposite the new settlement, annoying the inhabitants.

Hebron - Children throwing stones from a window
Children throwing stones from a window of the new settlement.

Hebron - Palestinians attacked by settler kids
Palestinians on their way home attacked by settler kids in Tel Rumeida.


Nigel Parry's Hebron diary
17-18 January 1997

"A closer look at Hebron's 'Jewish community' "


VIDEO: Settlers attack the Abu Eisha family in Tel Rumeida, Hebron
In the center of the city of Hebron lies the "Tel Rumeida" neighborhood. In 1986, a new settlement was established at the heart of the neighborhood. The settlers of Tel Rumieda, who known as particularly extreme, live on one side of a dead-end street... The Abu Eisha family lives on the other side.

The Israel-Palestine Conflict: Causes and Consequences

The Israel-Palestine Conflict: Causes and Consequences
Sonja Karkar, 20 September 2007
The Citizenship and Gloablisation Research Priority Area at Deakin University hosted a forum in which advocates representing both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict debated the causes and consequences. The Israeli perspective was presented by Dr Danny Lamm, President of the State Zionist Council of Victoria and Mr Michael Shaik, Public Advocate for Australians for Palestine presented the Palestinian perspective.


Apartheid in the Holy Land - The Struggle for Peace in Israel and Palestine
with Mr Michael Shaik Public Advocate for Australians for Palestine
and Rev. Helen Cox Uniting Church Minister, Deep Creek - Victoria

Uniting Church Synod Annual Meeting
LaTrobe University

Moammar Mashni, 25 September 2007
On Tuesday, as part of the Uniting Church’s Synod meeting, Mr Michael Shaik and the Rev. Helen Cox delivered an extremely informative, and sometimes quite moving, depiction of the current state of affairs in the Holy Land. Synod 2007, Victoria and Tasmania was held from September 23 to 26 at La Trobe University’s Bundoora campus.

Friday, 28 September 2007

B'Tselem: Separation of Families

Since the beginning of the second intifada, Israel has frozen family unification in cases in which one of the spouses is a foreign resident. In addition, Israel has ceased issuing visitor's permits, which enabled families to live together legally in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

As a result of the freeze policy, tens of thousands of foreign spouses of Palestinians, mostly women, have faced a cruel choice: leave the Occupied Territories and not be allowed to return to their spouses and children, or stay illegally, without a status and under constant threat of deportation, making them prisoners in their own villages and homes.

Israeli policies target Palestinian families
Ida Audeh, The Electronic Intifada, September 18, 2007
Palestinian citizens in Israel are targeted by legislation that violates their rights in similar ways. In May 2002, the Israeli Knesset enacted Government Decision #1813, thereby freezing all unification applications for the West Bank or Gazan spouse of an Israeli citizen or permanent resident. The 2003 Law of Nationality and Entry into Israel (Temporary Order 2003) effectively denies Israeli citizens the right to marry Palestinians from the occupied territories and to live with their spouses in Israel. These laws violate international legal covenants which affirm the fundamental right to privacy and family life when Palestinian citizens of Israel are denied this on the basis of the ethnicity of their spouses.

Ramallah mon amour
Lily Galili, Ha'aretz, 21/09/2007
Like other women from abroad who have married Palestinians from the territories, Tatiana Yunis is an illegal resident in her own home, who lacks status in her new homeland, is persecuted and deprived of her rights.

Next week the High Court of Justice will discuss a petition filed by several such women against the State of Israel in the wake of the official freeze on the process of family reunification among residents of the territories, which has been explained as stemming from "diplomatic considerations."

B'TSELEM: 24.9.07: High Court orders state to reconsider freeze on family unification in the West Bank and Gaza
The State of Israel will inform its High Court of Justice within sixty days if it will change its policy on family unification in the West Bank and Gaza .

Currently, the authorities do not consider any requests made by Palestinians in these areas to live with their foreign spouses.


July 2006 - Joint report with Hamoked - Perpetual Limbo: Israel's Freeze on Unification of Palestinian Families in the Occupied Territories

Palestinian families forced to live in state of perpetual limbo, say Israeli human rights organisations
Ma'an News, 25 / 08 / 2006
Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Palestinian children are forced to live in single-parent households as a result of Israel's policy freezing Palestinian family unification in the occupied Palestinian territories. This is what the Israeli human rights organisations B'Tselem and HaMoked, that fight for the rights of Palestinians, concluded in a report entitled "Perpetual Limbo" on 15 August 2006.

The report is aimed at the Israeli public, who the organisations say are unaware of this widespread phenomenon.

The report states: "For almost six years, since the beginning of the second intifada, in September 2000, Israel has forbidden Palestinians of the Occupied Territories from living with their spouses who are foreign residents. Israel also prohibits the foreign family members from visiting the Occupied Territories. Israel refuses to process the more than 120,000 requests for family unification that have been submitted during this period".

This report deals only with family unifications in the occupied Palestinian territories, not in Israel. It directly affects Palestinians who wish to live with their foreign spouses in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

As the report continues, "Israel holds exclusive power over the ability of these families to live together. Only Israel can approve requests for family unification and visitor's permits, given its control over the Palestinian population registry, and its control over the border crossings into the West Bank.

Even following the disengagement, Israel retains complete control over family unification in the Gaza Strip as well. Israel continues to control the Gaza population registry, and spouses and children of Palestinians who do not carry a Palestinian identity card are forbidden from entering Gaza through the Rafah crossing. Instead they must enter through a border crossing controlled by Israel".

B'Tselem and HaMoked end the report by calling upon the Israeli government to immediately begin processing the requests for family unification and visitor's permits.

A conversation with Dr Victor Batarseh, Mayor of Bethlehem

‘Visit the cradle of Christianity’ – plea to world

16 September, 2007, The Catholic Weekly

The Catholic Mayor of Bethlehem, Dr Victor Batarseh, visited Sydney last month to 'twin' his ancient, multi-racial home city with the Sydney suburb of Marrickville, one of Sydney's most multi-cultural communities, and to invite Australians of all religions to visit Bethlehem. A retired surgeon, Dr Batarseh, 72, seeks in his world travels to highlight the sufferings of his city, to win as many friends as he can in an international campaign, Open Bethlehem, a core component of which is the "granting" of a Bethlehem 'passport'. His goal is to increase employment in the troubled city and to rebuild its tourist status. At the heart of the campaign is provision of free access to and from the city.

In a conversation with Brian Davies, Dr Batarseh explains the stress and hardships of life in the pilgrims' city and its first problem. “They (Israeli forces) come over looking for anyone who might do anything against Israel, try to imprison them and, if they do not give themselves up, then they take them by force or sometimes they shoot them. All this has had a terrible impact on the people of Bethlehem. It’s why tourism has come down to 10 per cent of normal tourism; even when the tourists come over they don’t stay overnight in Bethlehem. They just come to the Church of the Nativity and then go back to Jerusalem.”


Q. So it’s no wonder tourism has faded drastically?

Well, they used to stay in Bethlehem, but, you know, the bad propaganda propagated by outside travel agents linked with Israel puts them off. They say Bethlehem is unsafe, that it’s more expensive than Jerusalem. It has had a very bad effect on tourism to Bethlehem and with this wall Israel has built and its checkpoints – this wall is a big syndrome against tourism to Bethlehem. And, you know, tourism is the main source of income in Bethlehem, for its citizens. The other contours of income include labour in Israel proper, but this has come down, too, to about 15 per cent, because any person who wants to leave Bethlehem to go to Israel has to get a special permit from the Israeli authorities which is rarely granted to anyone; they can take days to be issued. Even on health, you have to change ambulances and that can still be a 24-hour delay. So labour in Israel for us in Bethlehem is also down to about 15 per cent. Our other income was agriculture and most of the agricultural land in Bethlehem is now cut off by the Israeli wall of separation. All of our olive trees are behind the wall so the citizens cannot go and harvest their olive trees. That’s why we have economic stress, very high economic stress. More than 55 per cent of the population in Bethlehem lives below the poverty line.

Q. How are they supported?

Non-government organisations have set up in Bethlehem and we have some international aid agency support.

Q. Just going back to the Open Bethlehem campaign and the message you take with you about the plight of Bethlehem, what sort of impact have you had elsewhere?

Well it has given a good result: we had one day in Italy where they brought along about 40 travel agents and we spoke to them for most of the day, stressing how safe Bethlehem is for tourists and how Bethlehem is much cheaper than Jerusalem. We really had a very good result after that, but a few months later the Israeli and Lebanese war started and everything went bad again.

Q. That sounds a bit like the mayor of any city wanting to promote his against rivals; what you don’t refer to is the political situation that gives rise to these problems. When do you talk to political leaders of influence?

I talk not only to travel agents, but to political leaders abroad. Some of these leaders say that it is unsafe to go to Palestine, unsafe to go to Bethlehem. This is due to the powerful Zionist lobby all over the world and you know also the media is biased all over the world against the Palestinians and this adds up to preventing tourists and pilgrims coming to Bethlehem.

Q. Can you foresee a point at which Israeli policies and the situation of Palestine will somehow or other resolve amicably or how else do we arrive at a resolution of the problems you’re describing?

We hope this conflict can be solved peacefully, resolved peacefully, because this is the only way. Palestinians do not have an army. Israel has the mightiest army in the Middle East; they are a nuclear power and the only way we can reach peace is through peaceful ways, but we have to have world support on the UN resolutions, the key words to force Israel to comply with the UN resolutions . . . if the world won’t pressure Israel to meet these resolutions then I don’t see a way to peace, the only way to peace we would have liked, the ideal solution – a one state comprising all three religions. The Israelis would not accept this; that’s why we now accept a two-state solution, but tell me, where is the Palestinian state going to be, with all these settlements dividing the Palestinian citizens among themselves and into by-roads? There is no more land to build a viable Palestinian state.

Q. What would it take to persuade Israel to make whatever concessions are appropriate – yours, too – to achieve the two-state solution?

We have given all our concessions as Palestinians. All our land has been taken by the Israelis. Whatever they are going to give in way of concessions they are giving us back part of what we owned in the historical time and this part is only 13 to 18 per cent of historical Palestine and we are ready to accept that small part of our original land, but, unfortunately, until now Israel is manipulating the whole world and playing with words and building something solid on the ground: these illegal settlements in the West Bank. And they’re still building, up and down. These settlements will be a hindrance to the future, a hindrance to peaceful solution..

Q. You obviously see the Palestinian-Israeli situation as the core of the Middle East? If it was resolved might much of the difficulties of the rest of the Middle East also be resolved? What’s your view?

The core and the centre really of this problem in the Middle East is the Palestinian-Israeli issue. If that was resolved then we would have peace in the Middle East and all over the world and I think the US and the European Union should think better; they should try to be more balanced in their policies. They should really make Israel accept all the UN resolutions. They should not use force of arms; there are other ways of forcing Israel to listen. Remember what happened to South Africa, how change was finally made there by boycotting? Boycotting Israel – this is the way. You might go for one year or so, but it is a way, a peaceful way of forcing Israel to adopt the UN resolutions.

Q. So you would turn to the UN and Europe and the Western world to follow that through ?

Yes, of course . . .

Q. Do you see a role for the Vatican and the Church generally?

A big role. Don’t forget Bethlehem for Christians all over the world is the ‘mainland’ of the faith – the cradle of Bethlehem. Bethlehem and Palestine are the cradle of Christianity so they should look after it and not abandon this land. They should use their powers, the Church’s powers, the Vatican’s powers, to try to make peace in the Holy Land. By powers, I mean moral powers – and political power.

Q. What’s your message to Australians Christians in general, Catholics in particular?

I send a message from Bethlehem that the star of Bethlehem always shines and always sends messages of peace and love to all the world. To all, I say of this small city, this cradle of Christianity, don’t abandon Bethlehem. Bethlehem is the city of all Christians all over the world – every Christian anywhere in the world is considered by us to be a citizen of this holy city. Don’t abandon your city; come over, visit the city, visit the holy Church of the Nativity, spend some time in this city. In this way you’ll stand in solidarity with the city of Bethlehem and with the citizens of Bethlehem. We need you, we need your help, we need your prayers, we need to see you among us. By coming in hundreds and thousands you will, psychological, break this wall of separation that has been built by Israel.

Q. Others would say Bethlehem is not entirely Christian; after all it’s also very important to Muslims and Jews.

We have them all living in the city of Bethlehem, OK? We have been living together as good neighbours and we will remain living together as good neighbours . . . living together in the city of Bethlehem – a model of co-existence between these religions. Palestine was a model of co-existence between the three religions before the existence of Israel, before 1948. That is what we care for. This is what we aim for – to have co-existence between all religions and all nations.

Copyright © 2007 The Catholic Weekly - Sydney

Sunday, 16 September 2007

VIDEO: Maysoon Zaid on Al Jazeera English

Maysoon Zaid says she needs a sense of humour. She is a woman, she's Muslim, she has cerebral palsy, and she is a Palestinian living in New York. She is also considered one of the most successful young comedians of her generation.

Atwan allowed to enter Australia

The Age - September 14, 2007
Controversial author Dr Abdel Bari Atwan will fly into Australia on Saturday after immigration authorities approved his visa.

Authorities notified Brisbane Writers Festival organisers on Thursday evening that Dr Atwan's visa had been granted, in the wake of concerns raised about a deliberate delay.

Festival director Michael Campbell said he was in the process of cancelling the Palestinian author's appearances this weekend when he received the news.

"We thought, given the stage it was at, there was no hope, and we started to organise other plans," he told AAP.

Mr Campbell said the festival attracted numerous international writers, but most had to wait only a matter of days before being granted a visa.

He believed the delays in approving Dr Atwan's entry into Australia were politically motivated and that controversy surrounding the visa application this week may have forced the immigration department's hand.

"It's very hard to know the reason why the delays occurred because without any hard evidence, we can only assume," he said.

Dr Atwan is the editor-in-chief of London based newspaper Al-Quds Al Arabi and has been vocal in his opposition to the Iraq war.

He is also the last Western author to interview terror mastermind Osama Bin Laden and is the author of The Secret History of al-Qaeda.

A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews said the writer's visa had gone through standard processing.

"It is false to suggest it's anything to do with the media campaign or conspiracy theories," she said.

"We had to seek some additional information.

"Dr Atwan's application was treated like everybody else's."

Dr Atwan could not be contacted but is expected to arrive in Australia on Friday morning.

He will address a crowd at the Queensland State Library from 3.20pm (AEST) on Saturday, followed by an hour-long session on his book from 11.20am on Sunday.

Mr Campbell said organisers were also negotiating to bring together the author and two other high-profile guests, Julian Morrow and Dominic Knight from ABC TV's The Chaser team, in a Sunday night session.

Critics, including Greens Senator Kerry Nettle, have accused the government of delaying processing Dr Atwan's visa to prevent him from attending the festival, which is now in its last days.

Mr Andrews' spokeswoman said claims Dr Atwan had to wait six weeks for his visa were untrue.

She said the wait was less than four weeks.

"That is not an unusual amount of time," she said.

© 2007 AAP

New UN report highlights conflict over resources in West Bank

HEBRON HILLS, WEST BANK, 11 September 2007 (IRIN)
Israeli settlements in the West Bank are having a severe humanitarian impact on rural Palestinian areas, according to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on 30 August.


The Humanitarian Impact on Palestinians of Israeli Settlements and Other Infrastructure in the West Bank
The report examines the humanitarian impact on Palestinians from the ongoing settlements in the West Bank and other Israeli infrastructure, such as the Barrier and the roads that accompany them.

The analysis shows that more than 38% of the West Bank is now taken up by Israeli infrastructure.

Roads linking settlements and other infrastructure to Israel – in conjunction with an extensive system of checkpoints and roadblocks – have fragmented the West Bank into a series of enclaves separating Palestinian communities from each other. The socio-economic impact has been profound.

Abbas' Village League

Arjan El Fassed - The Electronic Intifada - September 10, 2007
For as long Palestinians have resisted violent Israeli policies against them, successive Israeli governments have tried to undermine Palestinian unity and foment divisions. A principal strategy has been to try to foster alternative leaders willing to abandon fundamental Palestinian demands for justice and focus on an agenda with which Israel is comfortable.

Palestinian Diaspora: With or against collaboration?

Laith Marouf - The Electronic Intifada - September 14, 2007
In the past few months, Palestinians in the Diaspora have watched with horror the latest developments in their homeland. There has been a flurry of articles about what to do, but overall there is a feeling that they are helpless to affect the situation on the ground. What has been missing is an understanding that Palestinians in the Diaspora must undertake a clear assessment of their own situation if they are to have any impact at all.

The recent events have cast light on dark deeds: the collaboration between Mahmoud Abbas and associates like Mohammed Dahlan on the one hand, and Israel on the other; the transfer of weapons and training by the US and other countries to certain Palestinian militias whose mission was to overthrow the result of the January 2006 election. Palestinians see clearly that Abbas -- who embraces Israeli leaders while refusing to talk to other Palestinian factions -- was the author of the Oslo agreement that never even mentioned the word "occupation," and is now discussing a new "agreement of principles" that will cancel the right of return, legitimize Israeli settlements and threaten other basic rights.

In short, what we have now is a clique of collaborators in control of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority "presidency" and much of what is left of the PLO.

Palestinian Human Rights Worker Arrested at Qurtuba School in Hebron

ISM, September 12th, 2007: Tel Rumeida, Hebron
At 7.25pm 11.9.07 ISM activists received a phone call saying there was a disturbance outside Qurtuba school. The school is in Tel Rumeida, Hebron opposite the Beit Hadassah settlement.

A group of 10 settler girls were on the school pathway having a BBQ with a gas cylinder and a burner. A Palestinian Human Rights Worker was filming the situation to gain evidence of settler trespass on school land. The police turned up and told the HRW to stop filming. The HRW was then arrested at 7.30pm on a claim of assaulting a police officer. The police confiscated the HRW’s phone and bundled him into the back of a police van. He was taken to Kiryat Arba police station.

The arrest was caught on film by ISM activists. Attempts were made by adult settlers to prevent filming of the incident. One activist was spat at by a 10 year old settler girl. Four soldiers watched over the group of settler girls, who were making access for Palestinians to their homes difficult.

The army have consistently failed to prevent settler children from from stoning Palestinian kids as they use the pathway. A large presense of international HRW’s is needed daily to insure safe passage to the school. The school was attacked and set on fire on the 6th of August.

The spurious charges against the Palestinian HRW were dropped and he was released at 11pm. The trespass of land by settler girls and their protection by the army and police is further evidence of settlers advance onto Palestinian property and land in Tel Rumeida district, Hebron.


On Patrol at Qurtuba Girls School, Hebron
Christina Gibb, January 2006
Usually, it is members of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) who patrol for this school, which takes more people and more time than any other, but sometimes CPT is involved too. To make sure that both teachers and girls are getting through unharmed, there need to be internationals stationed at the top of the road down from the Tel Rumeida settlement, by the metal detector checkpoint, at the foot of the steps, on the track and at the school, for the hour before school and the half hour at the end of school.

Teachers (including pregnant ones) were hit by stones, thrown by settlers who had scrambled up onto the path, before term had even started. This led to all the international groups mustering about 10 people to patrol at the beginning of term. The settlers were outraged at this large non-violent quiet-spoken presence, and the army and police declared a ‘closed military zone’.

EAPPI negotiated with the army and police, who said that they themselves will protect the girls and teachers on their way to and from school every day. But they are not always there at the right times. So EAPPI with help from the rest of us internationals, maintain about four people there, to keep them to their word.

Those in sight of Beit Hadassah settlement need to be fairly inconspicuous, as the settlers consider our presence ‘provocative’. Sometimes the police, conspicuously armed of course, park their jeep at the foot of the steps, so the girls have to almost squeeze past. Soldiers stand on the upper track, weapons at the ready, so the girls look down the barrel of a gun as they walk by.

When I tried to talk to one young soldier – he had no English, and I no Hebrew, but finally I talked to a junior officer in French – he was quite oblivious of what this looked like from a child’s point of view. Though the girls are protected, it makes for a very scary scene.


Hebron's Theater of the Absurd
by: Kathleen Kern
January - March 1996
The Link - Volume 29, Issue 1

Children Under Siege: Assaults, Bottles, Garbage, and the Flag

September 10 was the first day of school for Palestinian students throughout the West Bank. Since the Israelis had handed over responsibilities for education to the Palestinian Authority over the summer, thousands of schools raised the Palestinian flag for the first time. Two hundred and twenty-one schools in Hebron did so without incident.

But when the flag was raised over Qurtuba school, settlers from Beit Hadassah charged onto the school grounds, seized the flag and burned it. They then attacked the school headmistress, Fariel Abu Haikel, striking her in the chest.

A half hour later, Abu Haikel, several teachers and about 150 students from the school marched to the Palestinian Education Department to make a complaint. As they passed Beit Hadassah, the settlers attacked again. One of the aggressors, an adult male, seized a Palestinian flag from the girls, swung it around and then ran at them with it. A female settler threw glass liter bottles at the girls.

Ten girls were taken in ambulances to the hospital and treated for minor injuries. Many others fainted. The newspaper the next day printed pictures of the girls with eyes rolled up in their heads lying limp in the arms of the men who had rushed to help them.

I thought of the many times I had seen settler boys making slashing motions across their throats when Palestinian children walked past them. I thought of the "Death to the Arabs" graffiti I had seen spray painted in dozens of places around the area of the school. And I concluded that the girls who had fainted thought that the settlers from Beit Hadassah were finally making good on their threats.

Olmert delays Palestinian prisoner release

ABC NEWS, Reuters : September 16, 2007
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert delayed a plan to release from prison scores of members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's secular Fatah movement, Israeli officials said.

Officials said Mr Olmert had planned to ask the Cabinet on Sunday to release more prisoners, but the item was removed from the agenda amid fears it would not garner enough support. Plans to release more prisoners have already been delayed once.

"The Cabinet is not going to vote on this tomorrow," a spokesman for the Prime Minister's office said.

One government official, who asked not to be named, said the vote had been delayed because a list of prisoners had not been agreed upon.

Mr Olmert told Mr Abbas at a meeting on Monday he would ask his cabinet to approve the prisoner release as a goodwill gesture for the Ramadan fasting month, which began this week, Palestinian officials said.

Israel had been expected to free around 100 Fatah prisoners.

Israel has already freed more than 250 prisoners, mostly Fatah members, as part of a plan to bolster Mr Abbas against Islamist rivals Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in June.

The issue of releasing prisoners is highly emotive for Palestinians, who see their some 11,000 brethren held in Israeli jails as fighters for freedom from Israeli occupation in the West Bank.


Israel's Olmert delays Palestinian prisoner release
Yahoo! Asia News: Sunday September 16, 2007
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert delayed a plan to release from prison scores of members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's secular Fatah movement, Israeli officials said on Saturday. Officials said Olmert had planned to ask the cabinet on Sunday to release more prisoners, but the item was removed from the agenda amid fears it would not garner enough support. Plans to release more prisoners have already been delayed once.

"The cabinet is not going to vote on this tomorrow," a spokesman for the prime minister's office said.

One government official, who asked not to be named, said the vote had been delayed because a list of prisoners had not been agreed upon.

Olmert told Abbas at a meeting on Monday he would ask his cabinet to approve the prisoner release as a goodwill gesture for the Ramadan fasting month, which began this week, Palestinian officials said. Israel had been expected to free around 100 Fatah prisoners.

Israel has already freed more than 250 prisoners, mostly Fatah members, as part of a plan to bolster Abbas against Islamist rivals Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in June.

It is unclear whether Olmert has enough support to push through the plan after a series of rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza in recent weeks rekindled calls within the Jewish state for tougher action against militants to curb the salvoes.

The officials said any prisoners to be released would have "no blood on their hands" and at least one year left on their sentences. They would be released on condition they signed a document promising not to be involved in violence.

Olmert is engaged in talks with Western-backed Abbas to prepare for a U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace conference expected in November.

The issue of releasing prisoners is highly emotive for Palestinians, who see their some 11,000 brethren held in Israeli jails as fighters for freedom from Israeli occupation in the West Bank.


Olmert delays Palestinian prisoner release
Cabinet support called uncertain
The Boston Globe: Reuters September 16, 2007
JERUSALEM - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel delayed a plan to release from prison scores of members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's secular Fatah movement, Israeli officials said yesterday.

Officials said Olmert had planned to ask the Cabinet today to release more prisoners, but the item was removed from the agenda amid fears that it would not garner enough support. Plans to release more prisoners have already been delayed once.

One government official, who asked not to be named, said the vote had been delayed because a list of prisoners had not been agreed upon.

Palestinian officials said that Olmert told Abbas at a meeting Monday he would ask his Cabinet to approve the prisoner release as a good-will gesture for the Ramadan fasting month, which began last week. Israel had been expected to free about 100 Fatah prisoners.

Israel has already freed more than 250 prisoners, mostly Fatah members, as part of a plan to bolster Abbas against Islamist rivals Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in June.

It is unclear whether Olmert has enough support to push through the plan after a series of rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza in recent weeks rekindled calls within the Jewish state for tougher action against militants to curb the salvoes.

The officials said any prisoners to be released would have "no blood on their hands" and at least one year left on their sentences. They would be released if they signed a document promising not to be involved in violence.

Olmert is engaged in talks with Western-backed Abbas to prepare for a US-sponsored Middle East peace conference expected in November.

The estimated 11,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails are viewed by Palestinians as fighters for freedom from Israeli occupation in the West Bank.

Separately yesterday, the Israeli Army arrested 12 protesters at a rally near the West Bank city of Nablus after they hurled stones at soldiers and tried to force their way through a checkpoint, an army spokesman said.

Two of those arrested were Palestinians and the rest were Israelis and foreigners. One protester was slightly injured and taken to a hospital, the spokesman said, adding that about 40 people attended the rally.

An Israeli newspaper website said the protesters were demonstrating against a roadblock planned for the area.

Also yesterday, a small Israeli force pushed into the northern Gaza Strip, clashing with militants and bulldozing farmland, the army and residents said.

Local medics said a 17-year-old Palestinian was in serious condition after being shot in his stomach in northern Gaza. The army said it had no reports of injuries.

An army spokesman said Israeli forces conducted a routine operation against what it called terror threats in the north of the coastal enclave.

Militants in northern Gaza fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the Israelis and exchanged fire with soldiers, he said.

Tensions between the Jewish state and Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in June, have increased sharply after a makeshift rocket fired into Israel by militants wounded at least 35 Israeli Army conscripts last week.

The Israeli Army frequently carries out operations in border areas to curb rocket attacks from Gaza. Israel has opted against a major offensive in the territory, but last week's rocket attack rekindled calls for tougher action.

Militants from major groups said they were on high alert in case Israel launched a major incursion into Gaza, and are deploying hundreds of fighters near the border at night.

© Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Bil’in Celebrates Victorious Court Decision

Bil'in 4/09/2007 - Celebrating Court Victory

Bil’in Celebrates Victorious Court Decision
September 6th, 2007


On Friday, September 7th, the villagers of Bil’in will be celebrating the victorious court decision made on September 5th concerning the Apartheid Wall on their land. Bil’in has been holding weekly demonstrations for the last two and a half years against the theft of over 50% of their land by the Apartheid Wall.

The Israeli Supreme Court recently decided the wall must be moved off the majority of village land in a reasonable amount of time, for now villagers are allowed access through a military-manned gate between the hours of 6am and 8pm.

The Israeli High Court decided on the same day that the Matityahu-East settlement, half built but recently squatted by settlers and illegal under the fourth Geneva Convention, should remain but that the state, the settlers, and the construction company must pay villager’s court costs.

Of the more than 120 cases brought to Israeli court about the Apartheid wall only four have been successful. Three of the four victorious cases (Budrus, Biddu, and Bil’in) have used joint non-violent struggle to help accomplish this.

The celebration on Friday will be held in full knowledge of the rarity of such a victory, and will keep in mind the villages who have had their cases rejected. The fact that the wall is still there, that it is still occupying Palestinian land, and that the illegal settlement will remain on Palestinian land also will not be forgotten. But this is still a victory for the village, and for the joint non-violent resistance to celebrate.

People will meet at the international house near the village mosque at 1pm.

Tear Gas and Sound Grenades replaced with Music and Dancing: Bilin Celebrates…
On Friday, September 7th, the villagers of Bil’in were joined by international and Israeli comrades. Normally they come together every Friday to express their outrage of the unacceptable Apartheid Wall. Normally the day is filled with military violence, tear gas, sound bombs, and billy clubs are common. Once the military begins to fire gas into the crowds, the non-violent protesters tend to back off eventually leaving only the Palestinian children throwing rocks in anger. A mild response in comparison to the rubber coated steel bullets used against them.

VIDEO: Israeli military wants to demolish Palestinian kindergarten

BBC World News, 6 September 2007 : View on BBC News Player or YouTube

Israeli ambassador furious over torture report

Aftenposten English Web Desk, 7 September 2007
Israel's ambassador to Norway is once again furious at her host country, and demanding that the Norwegian foreign ministry distance itself from a report that expresses concern over claims of torture in Israeli prisons. Ministry officials respond that they have nothing to disavow.

Israel's ambassador to Norway, Miryam Shomrat, is directing new fury at Norway and Norwegian concerns over alleged torture in Israeli prisons.

The Israeli ambassador, Miryam Shomrat, is angry that Norway's embassy in Tel Aviv sent a report home to the foreign ministry in Oslo asking officials there to take up the issue of alleged torture of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons.

The embassy's report was in turn based on reports written by three Israeli human rights groups that were based on surveys of Palestinian prisoners. The Israeli groups -- The Public Committee Against Torture, HaMoked and B'tselem, according to newspaper Aftenposten -- expressed concern that Israeli authorities went too far in their use of physical and psychic pressure on Palestinian prisoners, and that it too often turned into abuse and torture.

Ambassador Shomrat was furious that the Norwegians were concerned about the content of the reports, or the allegations of torture, and also claimed that Norway's own ambassador to Israel was "called onto the carpet" of Israel's foreign ministry and told that Norway was expected to distance itself from the report.

Norwegian officials have a different version, saying the meeting between Norwegian ambassador Jakken Biørn Lian and officials at the Israeli foreign ministry had been planned long in advance, and came at the initiative of the Norwegians.

Raymond Johansen, state secretary in the Norwegian foreign ministry, said the Norwegians had nothing to distance themselves from, because the Norwegian embassy's report was based on Israeli reports. The Norwegians are simply concerned about the torture allegations that those reports contained.

Shomrat nonetheless claimed that the Norwegians' use of the reports "damaged the relationship between Norway and Israel." It's not the first time she has taken offense at Norwegian criticism of Israeli policy. She was forced to apologize last year when her own criticism of Norway was viewed as being offensive to the Norwegian royal family.

Architects protest Brown's JNF patronship

Susannah Tarbush - The Electronic Intifada - September 10, 2007
When Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP) sent a letter to the new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown two weeks ago describing as "disturbing" his decision to become a patron of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), this was another example of the active campaigning of this international pressure group. The letter says: "Your becoming a patron of JNF-UK can be seen as a tacit acceptance of an unacceptable status quo, and also places you in the position of not being an unbiased mediator in the peace process."

Among those signing the letter were the chairman of APJP the Jewish architect Abe Hayeem, APJP's secretary the Palestinian architect Haifa Hammami, and a number of British and other architects. They include Israeli architect Eyal Weizman, director of the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths College, London University. He is author of the new book Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Oppression. Copies of the letter have been sent to the new Foreign Secretary David Miliband, and to the Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN Lord Mark Malloch Brown (former deputy secretary-general of the UN).

Its letter calls on Brown to withdraw his patronage of the JNF, and suggests he instead become patron of some of the non-governmental organizations that bring Israelis and Palestinians together, such as the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD).

Brown accepted to become a patron of JNF UK after its president Gail Seal wrote to him conveying her good wishes the day after he took office on 27 June. Brown said he that he was "delighted to accept your offer to become a patron of JNF UK." A spokesman for Brown told the weekly London-based Jewish Chronicle newspaper Brown had agreed to become a patron of the JNF UK "in order to encourage their work to promote charitable projects for everyone in Israel." But as the letter from APJP to Brown makes clear, the JNF benefits only Israeli Jews and not its Palestinian citizens.

VIDEO: News items from 1982

Public domain news items on the Israel Palestinian conflict and the first Israeli war on Lebanon in 1982.

Part 1:

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Part 6:

Sabra and Shatila Remembered

The Sabra and Shatila Massacres (16-18 September 1982)

Ellen Siegel, Middle East Policy Council, Volume VIII, December 2001, Number 4
Our captors led us down the road in front of the hospital and on to Rue Sabra, the camp's main street. As we were marched along, I heard gunshots being fired on the right, then the left, then the right. After each one, I instinctively ducked. Someone told me, "Keep walking." The militiamen themselves did not react at all; they completely ignored the sound. It was as if they had not heard it.

Some of the camp residents, including some of the cooks and cleaners who worked at Gaza, followed us. The militia stopped them. Along the way, a Palestinian had joined us; fearful, he begged for one of us to give him a lab coat. Someone did. He looked Arab, though, and was quickly confronted by a militiaman asking for his ID card. The Phalangist slapped his face with the card and made him take off the lab coat. I turned around and saw him on his knees begging. As before, someone told me, "Keep walking." The next thing I heard was a shot. I did not look back.

As we continued marching down Rue Sabra, we saw dead bodies lying along the sides of the street; some were old men, shot point-blank in the temple. As we moved on, we approached a large group of camp residents, mainly women and children, huddled together, with men in uniform guarding them. They were very scared. We were worried about them, and they were frightened for us, seeing us led past them at rifle point. A few of them gave us the "V" sign. It seemed that with their eyes and their lips they wanted to reassure us and thank us for coming to help them. One young woman, fearing she would not survive, stepped out of the crowd and handed her infant to one of the female doctors. Dr. Swee Ang was able to walk a few feet with the baby before a Phalangist stopped her. He took the baby away from her and handed it back to the mother. For a few seconds, I thought about the Holocaust, about mothers being sent off to concentration camps. I had read much about Jewish women in Germany and Poland handing over their babies to others in order to save them from extermination.

By now we were halfway down Rue Sabra into Shatila; the camps sit beside one another, with no visible line dividing them. The number of militiamen increased greatly; they were everywhere. These looked different from the ones who had escorted us out of the hospital. They were sloppy and unkempt; their uniforms were dirty and rumpled, without any identifying insignia. They seemed exhausted, edgy and ill-tempered. Throughout this ordeal, most of the uniformed men were in constant communication with someone. There were many walkie-talkies in use.

Our group began to tighten up. It was dawning on us that we might not make it out of these camps alive. A few of us were crying softly. As we reached the end of the camps, our captors began harassing us. They yelled, "You are dirty people, you are not Christians -- Christians don't treat terrorists who kill Christians." The ranting continued, "You are communists, socialists, Baader-Meinhof." They were closing in and encircling us. They collected our passports, ordered us to keep walking. The crackling sound of their walkie-talkies became a familiar noise.

As we reached the end of the camp, the landscape had changed dramatically. Where homes had stood were piles of rubble. A yellow bulldozer was moving earth back and forth in an area that had been dug up and greatly enlarged. The bulldozer was scooping up dirt, moving it, then dumping it back out. Back and forth. This spot was very busy, with lots of men in uniform. We had to stop many times in order to let the bulldozer go past and do its job. I noticed it had a large Aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, stenciled on its side.

When we turned the corner of Rue Sabra, our captors steered us out of the camps towards the Kuwaiti embassy. They asked those wearing white lab coats to remove them. They lined us up in a row in front of a bullet-ridden wall. Facing us were about 40 men in uniform: a firing squad. Their rifles were ready and aimed in our direction. Behind them was a pick-up truck carrying more militiamen and what looked like a piece of anti-aircraft equipment. After a short time, the men in the firing squad lowered their rifles and marched back into the camps.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Miriam Margolyes supports Enough! - End the Occupation


Miriam Margolyes at Dymocks, George Street * 6:00pm - Tuesday September 11

2007 Australian Tour Dates


Braced for a Dickens of a tour
Valerie Lawson, Sydney Morning Herald, 23 August, 2007

Then Margolyes says something totally unexpected. "The best part of being an entertainer is you feel you've made people happy. What does Tony Blair [then on the brink of retiring] think when he goes to bed? He may think, 'Fifty people died as a result of what I have done.'

"In my personal life everything is happy, but in public life it's shit, isn't it, it's absolutely shit."

A fervent anti-apartheid campaigner in the past, "I'm having my own personal crusade about Israel. I'm Jewish and I'm pro-Palestinian. I am deeply critical of Israel and ashamed by the Israeli Government's strategy.

"I can't support what is going on there, I'm Jewish and this is happening in my name, so to speak.

"I belong to various organisations and I am fronting one of them called Enough, a conglomeration of religious and political groups to try to bring pressure to bear on the British Government. There's little we can do, it's all pissing in wind, [but] I can publicly say what I think and ask people to think about what is happening. I want
Jews to change their attitudes.

"It's quite brave of me, because to criticise Israel is a dangerous business. When The Jewish Chronicle interviewed me they said, 'Why don't you just shut up?' I said, 'I'm 65, about to be 66.'

If I don't tell the truth now, what is my life for?"


Dickens' women
Daren Pope, Melbourne Star, September 5, 2007

But Margolyes' fervour for performance is equally matched by her passion for social justice. In her own words she's a "bit of a loud mouth on almost everything".

These days, the actor is most outspoken on the Israeli Government's policies in Palestine.

"Ordinary Jews and Arabs just want to get on with life," she says defiantly. "I went to Gaza about 15 years ago and I was very shocked by what I saw and so I do criticise Israel and that is very painful for someone who is a proud and observant Jew as I am," says Margolyes.

"Unfortunately, war suits some people – it becomes convenient, they make money, they have a sense of power and purpose and those are the people that we have to fight.

What Norman Finkelstein’s Denial of Tenure Tells Us About the State of Academia

Robert Jensen - Washington Report on Middle East Affairs - August 2007
Finkelstein has been a provocative scholar since graduate school, when he dared to critique Joan Peters’ 1984 book From Time Immemorial, a fraudulent attempt to discredit Palestinian claims to their land occupied by Israel. Displaying considerable courage in the face of those happy to use Peters’ book to justify undermining the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people, Finkelstein challenged the bogus factual claims of the book and embarrassed those in the political and academic establishment who had praised the book.

From there, Finkelstein has pursued research not only about the Israel/Palestine conflict but the Holocaust and the politics of reparations. His recent books and public comments have only increased the numbers who would like to silence him and the intensity of those campaigns. Finkelstein’s critique of the work of Alan Dershowitz has upped the ante; the media-savvy Harvard law professor has made it a point to torpedo Finkelstein’s career.

Jericho Governor Sami Musallam on Christianity in Palestine

Joel Carillet - The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs - September 8, 2007
Reaching the outskirts of Jericho, my vehicle stops for inspection at an Israeli military checkpoint. Once permission to pass is granted, we continue on to the town center of one of the oldest continually inhabited communities in the world. I have come to Jericho to learn more about the town’s small Christian community, comprising mostly Catholics and Orthodox, and to interview its governor, Dr. Sami Musallam, a nominal Lutheran.

At 7:30 p.m. an aide escorted me into a long rectangular office. Across the room a worn-looking man sat behind a desk, with a Palestinian flag to his right and a large framed poster of Jerusalem’s Old City on the wall behind him. I wondered why he appeared so tired. Perhaps it was due to the late hour. Perhaps because 40 years of military occupation will hang heavily on any leader trying to operate within its grip. Or perhaps it is because, even though Jericho holds great potential in terms of agriculture and tourism, the future seems grim.

A native Jerusalemite, Governor Musallam attended what in the 1960s was called Bir Zeit College. After two years he transferred to the American University in Beirut, where he earned a degree in political science. From there he moved to Germany to complete a Ph.D. at the University of Bonn, where he wrote a dissertation exploring the stereotypes of Arabs in the German press. Recalling this period, he said, "There was no separation between being an activist and a student. It was a seamless way of being."