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Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel
For those interested in keeping up with events in Palestine/Israel, there is no better digest than VTJP.

VTJP Archives | VTJP 2009
26 January, 2008

Kadima kicks off campaign with threat to bump off Hamas leaders
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 1/27/2009
Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz threatened to assassinate Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and other Hamas leaders, as Kadima kicked off its election campaign in Sderot Monday. Speaking about kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, Mofaz addressed Haniyeh. "As long as Gilad Shalit doesn’t see the light of day, you won’t see the light of day. As long as Shalit doesn’t go free, you and your friends will not be free. We won’t hesitate to send you on the the way we sent Yassin and Rantissi," he said, referring to previous Hamas leaders. Mofaz’s hard-line stance is part of Kadima’s efforts to improve its image in the campaign, following Kadima leader and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s decline in the polls after the war in Gaza. Livni, who is also trying to look tough, devoted a considerable part of her speech to the Gaza war’s accomplishments.

Ongoing operation: Israeli forces storm Husan near Bethlehem; arrest 30
Ma’an News Agency 1/26/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli forces stormed the southern West Bank village of Husan and imposed curfew early morning on Monday. Eyewitnesses said hundreds of soldiers in military vehicles and bulldozers entered the village, south of Bethlehem, and began house-to-house inspections assaulting citizens indiscriminately. Bulldozers dug up the main roads linking the village with neighboring areasInitial reports say 30 people have been arrested, and the operation was ongoing at press time. Palestinian security sources told Ma’an Israeli forces declared the village a closed military zone and refused to allow university students leave the village in order to attend classes.

UXO threat in Gaza
Iyad El Baba/UNICEF-oPt, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1/27/2009
TEL AVIV, 26 January 2009 (IRIN) - On 20 January two Palestinian children were killed by unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the Shaaf area, near Jabalia, east of Gaza city, highlighting a new threat to people’s lives in Gaza. "It is becoming clear that unexploded munitions in civilian areas represent another major new danger," said an ICRC assessment published on 21 January. "Most children stayed at home during the past three weeks because there was no let-up in hostilities. Now that the fighting is over they are venturing out onto the streets again, but they run the risk of being killed or maimed by these remnants of war," said ICRC staff member Imad Abou Hasirah. As the ceasefire in Gaza enters its ninth day, assessments are being carried out by aid organisations, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) to determine the extent of the damage inflicted by the Israeli offensive.

Al Walajeh resident resisting land confiscation
Najib Farrag, Palestine News Network 1/26/2009
PNN -- More than half of northwestern Bethlehem’s Al Walajeh Village is now in Israeli-controlled Jerusalem. The hills were confiscated decades ago and the lower village lands within the past several years. Today farmer Abdel-Fattah Abed Rabbo is losing five dunams. "The state of Israel wants to pounce of this land for its own," he said adding that the Israeli Interior Ministry attempts to drive him from his land are rabid. A few hundred yards from lands destroyed by the Israeli settlement of Gilo, the Al Walajeh farm land borders with what was once Beit Jala. The Israeli-controlled Jerusalem Municipality is part of a plan for what it refers to as "Greater Jerusalem" that includes the settlements surrounding Jerusalem in Bethlehem and Ramallah. Palestinian landowner Abed Rabbo said that all attempts to expel him from his home will not work.

Diplomatic effort stymies French push to lift Hamas boycott
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 1/27/2009
Using intense diplomatic pressure over the past two days, Israeli officials blocked a French attempt to weaken Jerusalem’s stance with Hamas at the pre-written closing statement of the meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels last night. France wanted the statement to say that the European Union would be prepared to hold talks with a future Palestinian unity government that agreed to honor the principles of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. In addition, the French delegation to Brussels proposed striking from the statement an article calling for reopening the crossing points between Israel and the Gaza Strip in accordance with the 2005 agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Instead France offered an ambiguous formulation that would make it possible to open the crossings without conditioning such a measure. . .

Livni: Gaza offensive chance for Mideast peace
George Rishmawi, International Middle East Media Center News 1/26/2009
Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni said on Monday that the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip opened new chances for peace in the Middle East, the AFP reported. Livni’s comments came as US President Barack Obama’s newly-appointed Mideast envoy George Mitchell is expected to arrive in the region. Livni argues that the offensive weakened Hamas and boosted what she described as the "Moderates among the Palestinians. " It is only two weeks until Israel’s general elections for which Livni is running for Prime Minister, which raises speculations about political achievements she is trying to make out of the gaza warfare. On the other hand, political analysts say, the offensive on the Gaza Strip strengthened Hamas and enhanced its popularity. The groups is still able to bring weapons to Gaza and until the last moement of Israel’s offensive, Hamas was still able. . .

Nine Israelis arrested in upper Nazareth on suspicions of attacking Arabs
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/26/2009
Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported that the Israeli police arrested on Sunday nine Israelis suspected of carrying nationally motivated attacks against Arab residents, and their properties, in the Upper Nazareth. Haaretz added that seven of the suspects are underage, between the ages of 15 and 18, and the other two are 22 years old. The Israeli police said that it had been conducting a probe since several months, and that the arrested suspects are believed to be responsible for torching Arab vehicles, and attempting to set Arab homes of fire. According to Haaretz report, Shimon Koren, police commander in Nazareth District, said that the police will do whatever it can to prevent attacks driven by race, religion or gender. There are approximately 50. 000 residents in Upper Nazareth, 10. 000 of them are Arabs.

Nine held for allegedly attacking Israeli Arabs in Upper Nazareth
Eli Ashkenazi, Ha’aretz 1/26/2009
Police on Sunday night arrested nine people suspected of nationally motivated attacks Arab residents of Upper Nazareth and their property. Seven of the suspects are between the ages of 15 and 18, and two more are 22 years old. The group is suspected of physically assaulting Arab residents of the city, torching cars belonging to Arabs and trying to set fire to their homes. Police said the investigation has been going on for several months. The suspects were expected to attend a remand-extension hearing Monday at a Nazareth court. Northern District Police commander Shimon Koren said police will do everything possible to prevent similar attacks, regardless of religion, race or gender. Upper Nazareth has a population of 50,000, out of which 10,000 are Arabs.

Four and five-year-old brothers hit by settlers’ stones in Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 1/26/2009
Hebron – Ma’an – Four and five-year-olds Amer and Yaseen Sadek Ikneebe were hit with stones thrown by Israeli settlers from the Abraham Afeno settlement in the heart of the Old City of Hebron. The stones hit the young boys and made direct hits on their heads, causing bruises. The boys’ parents said their family is constantly attacked by settlers, who live only a hundred meters away from their home. They added that settlers throw both garbage and stones at the children when they play outside. There are eight young children in the Ikneebe family, who live in the Al-Kasaba neighborhood. The youngsters are now afraid of playing in their yards. [end]

Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian shepherds in northern West Bank
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/26/2009
Palestinian shepherds reported on Monday that Israeli settlers attacked them on lands located near Tubas city in the northern part of the West Bank. According to the Shepherds a group of armed Israeli settlers attacked them then threatened to shot them and their sheep if they do not leave. The settlers said that next time they will shoot to kill, the shepherds reported. The land is located near by an Israeli settlement and it’s owned by local farmers. [end]

VIDEO - Reporter’s diary: Gaza’s tunnels
Al Jazeera 1/27/2009
The network of cross-border tunnels remains a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians - While Israel waged their bloodiest assault on Gaza in decades, their warplanes targeted tunnels on Gaza’s border with Egypt in an effort to halt alleged arms shipments. Now, Palestinians are busy restoring the bomb-damaged tunnels, and consumer goods are starting to flow into Gaza again. Al Jazeera’s Jeremy Young describes the process of filming inside them. The famous tunnels in the southern part of the Gaza Strip are easy to find. Everybody knows where they are, but getting inside is another story. Israel has maintained its blockade of Gaza, preventing goods from being imported, and Palestinians use the tunnels to transport every product imaginable from northern Egypt into the territory. The Israelis argue that the tunnels are used by Hamas to smuggle in weapons. -- See also: VIDEO - Gaza tunnels are open for business

VIDEO - Broken Dreams of Gaza
Al Jazeera 1/26/2009
In 2005 filmmaker Mariam Shahin recorded the hopes and aspirations of both ordinary and extraordinary people living in Gaza. From bright young high school graduates to an antiquities dealer. From an entrepreneur who had high hopes for a prosperous future, to Gaza’s only girls rowing team. Shahin met the people who saw a glimmer of hope for Gaza in the period following the Israeli withdrawal from the Strip in 2005. She returned to Gaza in 2007 and found a very different mood. The peace process had faltered, internal strife had erupted, and Israel had tightened its siege. Finally she caught up with some of the same characters to find out how they have coped under Israel’s recent war on Gaza. Where optimism once flowered briefly, dreams have been dashed and survival is now the main concern for Gazans.

Those left behind: Reda Al Daia tells PNN there is nothing left
Hiba Lama, Palestine News Network 1/26/2009
PNN -- "I have nothing left," Reda Al Daia tells PNN a week after Israeli forces declared they would cease their fire in the Gaza Strip. "I lost my family. There were 23 martyrs at home during the bombing of our house. My family lived in the same four story house, my brothers and their children. " The Gaza City resident echoes the sentiment of thousands. "Some people think the situation is fine now. Before when there were bodies flying around we didn’t know exactly who they were. Now we do. "Al Daia told PNN on Monday, "It was the sixth of January night, before dawn, a quarter to six. I had been sleeping in a nearby house and woke to the sound of heavy rocket bombardment from the F16s. My family’s house was demolished, completely, and cut into pieces. " Reda Al Daia is not counted in the numbers of victims from that night in southern Gaza City’s Al Zeitoun neighborhood.

Legal expert concerned over lives of Gaza prisoners
Palestinian Information Center 1/26/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Abdul Nasser Farwana, an expert on prisoners’ affairs and an ex-prisoner in Israeli jails, has expressed concern over the lives of Palestinians kidnapped during the Gaza invasion at the hands of Israeli occupation forces. He said in a statement on Sunday that those who are thought to have direct or indirect links to resistance were particularly prone to field execution as well as the wounded. The researcher recalled that the IOF had previous record of crimes against unarmed prisoners, and expressed concern that the Red Cross was not allowed access to visit those detainees or know the fate and number of them. He said that IOF refusal to disclose the exact number of those detainees could mean allowing the opportunity to execute some of them in cold blood, and called in this respect for investigating the circumstances that led to the death of Palestinians found under the rubble of their homes after the IOF withdrawal.

Israeli Army kidnaps 11 civilians, and clash with local youth near Bethlehem
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/26/2009
Palestinian sources reported that heavy clashes have erupted between local youth and invading Israeli troops at Hussan village, near the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem on Monday midday. Army vehicles and troops along side two bulldozers invaded the village on Monday at dawn. Villagers said that troops then started to search homes and took all men from the age of 15 to 45 to the local school, and then kidnapped 11 of them and took them to an unknown location. Mohamed Odeh, a local resident of Hussan, called local journalists and told them that troops had taken over his home, then forced his family in one room of the house and held them with out any food, water or electricity. Another resident of the village speaking under conditions of immunity told IMEMC that soldiers had stormed the villagers’ homes and counted family members and took measurements of their homes.

Prisoner’s Society in Hebron: Israeli forces arrested seven from Hebron area
Ma’an News Agency 1/26/2009
Hebron – Ma’an – Seven Hebron-area residents were arrested by Israeli forces overnight Saturday, and the homes of the detained men ransacked. The Palestinian Prisoner’s society in the West Bank district of Hebron condemned the detentions, saying “the Israeli occupation continues with its policy of arresting [West Bank] residents with or without a justification. ”The detentions cause harm to civilians and their families, as soldiers regularly ransack homes and intimidate family members, a statement said. The society identified the detained men as:Wisam Ar-Rajabi 31,Husein Muhammad Al-Atrash, 30,Ismail Abu Husein, 21,Ali Abd Al-Mutaleb, 16,From the nearby town of Ash-ShuyoukhYousef Ghassan Is’eifan, 20.

Egypt closes Rafah crossing for fear of Israeli bombardment of the area
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/26/2009
Rafah -- At the border crossing between the northern Sinai and the Gaza Strip Egyptian security hurriedly closed operations and evacuated the area. A threat had come in last night that Israeli forces were going to resume bombing the town of Rafah in an attack targeting the tunnels. The southern most Gaza Strip town suffers frequent ground and air attacks with some 1,000 Palestinians rendered homeless in a single weekend in 2003 due to the Israeli bulldozing of homes that claimed to target the tunnels. Without control of any of the crossings, and with them closed due to siege for a year and a half, citizens came to rely on the tunnels for the import of goods including medicine, cooking and heating fuel, candy, cigarettes and even cows for food. During the closure that preceded the major attacks, the Israeli administration called on Egypt to impose stricter border patrols. . .

Egypt urges EU to intervene to reopen Gaza crossings
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/26/2009
Egypt urged the European Union to intervene for pressuring Israel to reopen Gaza border crossings, so a reconstruction process of Gaza after the recent Israeli war begins immediately. Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmad Abuelgheit, was quoted as saying, "I would like to ask the EU to act very swiftly for the reconstruction of Gaza and helping the Palestinians recover from the current crisis". He told reporters, "we need to oblige Israel to negotiate and reopen border crossings in order to allow the Palestinians to live normally". British foreign minister, David Milinad, was quoted by Reuters as saying, "reuniting the Palestinians under the authority of President Abbas is considered an imperative. " Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jan Eselborn, has called for forming a Palestinian national unity government.

The Israeli Army kidnaps three Palestinians near Hebron
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/26/2009
Palestinian sources reported that the Israeli Army attacked several villages near the southern West Bank city of Hebron and kidnapped three civilians on Monday at dawn. Witnesses said that Israeli troops attacked and searched scores of homes in the village of Yatta and the nearby village of Dora. Witnesses said that troops forced men outside during the search. Local sources identified those kidnapped as Abed AL Ghani Bader, age 18, Amjad Qazaz, age 26, and Ahmad Nawajah, who works as an officer in the Palestinian President’s Gourds unit. [end]

Baby dies from white phosphorus inhalation
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/26/2009
Gaza -- Victims of the three week Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip continue to mount as more Palestinians succumb to injuries. Medical sources report the death of a baby girl on Sunday. The number of Palestinians killed from the 23 day operation has reached 1,335. Injuries numbered at approximately 5,400 with tens permanently disabled. Six month old Nancy Said died of complications resulting from the inhalation of gas emitted by white phosphorus bombs, report medical sources. The use of white phosphorus against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip has been well-documented by Palestinian human rights groups, international human rights groups and organizations, and by the United Nations. Amnesty International is among those who issued major reports. Medical sources describe the wounds from white phosphorus as continuing to burn into the bone long after exposure, including "lifting the bandages and finding smoking lesions.

Infant dies of wounds sustained in Israeli assault on Gaza
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/26/2009
Palestinian medical sources at al-Shifa Hospital, in Gaza City, reported on Sunday that a Palestinian infant died at the hospital of wounds sustained during the recent Israel war against the Gaza Strip. The infant, Nancy Sa’di Wakid, age 6 months, inhaled gas that was radiated by Phosphoric bombs dropped by Israel on Gaza. She suffered serious complications in her lungs and died of her wounds. Nancy is the youngest Palestinian killed in Israel’s war on Gaza. More than 1,335 Palestinians have been killed, and 5,000 injured, in the 23-day Israeli masacre of Gaza. Most of the casualties were women, children and elderly civilians. [end]

Palestinian man dies of wounds sustained earlier in Gaza
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/26/2009
A Palestinian man was reported dead on Monday in a hospital in Egypt after succumbing to wounds he sustained during the latest Israeli attack in the Gaza Strip. The man, Mohamed AL Burai, 29, was moved to Egypt several days ago, the Palestinian consulate in Cairo reported. Al Burai is the 30th Palestinian to die in Egypt after sustaining wounds in the latest Israeli attacks. The Israeli Army embarked on its military offensive on Saturday, December 27th, 2008. For 22 days, homes, schools, mosques, UN centers, and media agencies were attacked by Israeli air, sea, and ground forces. The Palestinian Ministry of Health this week has placed the death toll in Gaza due to the military offensive at 1,330 with at least 5,000 injured. Doctors say that of those 1,330 killed there are at least 400 children. Israel announced the unilateral ceasefire on Sunday 17th of Jan. 2009.

Unexploded munitions presenting new problem for children, aid workers
Ma’an News Agency 1/26/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an/IRIN - Sources in the international aid community told the UN that ordnance clearing NGOs are trying to enter Gaza to assess the risk of unexploded munitions in Gaza, but have not been granted access to the area by Israeli officials. Shortly after Israeli troops withdrew from Gaza, two children were killed when they came across some unexploded military munitions. ICRC staff member Imad Abou Hasirah explained that "Most children stayed at home during the past three weeks because there was no let-up in hostilities. Now that the fighting is over they are venturing out onto the streets again, but they run the risk of being killed or maimed by these remnants of war. ”Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, was quoted by the UN as saying "There is no problem as far as I know.

No school in western Bethlehem as Israeli forces impose curfew
Najib Farrag, Palestine News Network 1/26/2009
Bethlehem -- Western Bethlehem residents were ripped from sleep at three o’clock this morning by the shouts of Israeli soldiers. Through loudspeakers atop military jeeps came the curfew order, meaning that anyone in the street en route to early prayers or later to school and work was under threat of shooting. Three thousand Palestinians live in Husan Village where witnesses described dozens of soldiers deployed in the streets along with jeeps and larger military vehicles. "The ban on movement is very, very tight," a resident told PNN early Monday. Israeli forces have imposed additional checkpoints at the entrances to the village and at several points in between. Neighboring towns are also under closures. "No one can move from their homes, there are no cars in the streets except the army," another resident said via telephone.

US envoy to strengthen Abbas
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 1/27/2009
George Mitchell heads to meetings in Middle East, not intending to meet with Hamas, Syria; focus of visit appears to be delivering aid to Gaza - WASHINGTON - The United States’ new envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, will be working to secure a lasting ceasefire in Gaza, as part of an attempt to bolster Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. He does not intend to meet with Hamas representativeThe US perceives itself as being in a race with Hamas and, by extension, Iran, in the rehabilitation of Gaza. Mitchell’s entourage - state department employees responsible for humanitarian aid and rehabilitation efforts, rather than politicians specializing in negotiations - suggests that delivering assistance to Gaza will be the focus of his current visit. Mitchell flew to Europe, Monday, on his way to visit several states in the region.

Resurgent right dashes peace hopes as Mitchell flies to Israel
Patrick Cockburn in Jerusalem, The Independent 1/27/2009
Barack Obama’s new Middle East peace envoy, George Mitchell, arrives in Israel tomorrow charged with working towards an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. But the expected victory of the right in the Israeli election on 10 February may doom his efforts from the outset. Benjamin Netanyahu, who did much to bury the Oslo peace accords when he was last prime minister in 1996-99, will almost inevitably be the next prime minister, according to the latest opinion polls. His right-wing Likud party is likely to be the largest party, and the right-wing bloc of extreme religious and nationalist parties is likely to have a majority in the Israeli parliament. Mr Netanyahu would probably have won without the war in Gaza, but the conflict has shifted Israelis significantly to the right. "Prior to the war there was already disillusionment with negotiations and the peace process," says Galia Golan,. . .

Obama: Mideast peace is personally important to me
News Agencies and Natasha Mozgovaya, Ha’aretz 1/27/2009
U. S. President Barack Obama pledged on Monday his new Middle East envoy George Mitchell would engage "vigorously and consistently" in the quest for Israeli-Palestinian peace and would seek concrete results. "The cause of peace in the Middle East is important to the United States and our national interests. It’s important to me personally," Obama, who has made Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy a high priority for his new administration, told reporters while meeting with Mitchell and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Mitchell was scheduled to leave for the Middle East later Monday. Obama said he was dispatching Mitchell fully aware that there would be no overnight success, but with greater hope for progress in establishing an Israeli-Palestinian peace because the administration was engaging in an early fashion.

Haniyeh to Obama: Support our right to freedom
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 1/26/2009
In congratulatory letter to new US president, Hamas prime minister says ’Palestinians will never be content as long as they remain victims of terrorist and barbaric occupation’ -Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh sent President Barack Obama a letter in which he urged the US to "support the Palestinians’ right to freedom and independence," the Al-Jazeera TV network reported Monday evening. Haniyeh congratulated Obama and said his election was a "day of victory for the human struggle for freedom. "Your appointment expresses the triumph of egalitarian values over discrimination and humanity over extremism," the Hamas leader wrote. "The Palestinians are continuing along the path towards freedom and justice, as other nations in South Africa and America have in the past. However, they will never be content as long as they remain victims of terrorist and barbaric occupation.

Carter: Hamas can be trusted
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 1/26/2009
Former president, in interview with NBC, claims Palestinian group ’adhered to ceasefire’, adds ’ME peace not possible without Hamas involvement’ - Hamas can be trusted, former US President Jimmy Carter said Monday, in an interview on NBC’s ’Today’ show. Carter spoke with NBC’s Meredith Vieira about his perspective on the Middle East conflict, and his new book, "We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land. " According to the former president, Hamas never deviated from their commitments as per the ceasefire agreement. He said that, during his meetings with Hamas leaders in Damascus and Gaza, he was promised that Hamas would honor agreements between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israel, as long as they were supported by public referendum. Hamas did bad things. I’m not defending them. But they did adhere to the ceasefire fully, Carter maintained.

Mitchell sent to Mideast to shore up Gaza truce
Middle East Online 1/26/2009
WASHINGTON - US envoy George Mitchell will leave Monday for Israel, the Palestinian West Bank and Arab states to bolster a truce in Gaza, respond to humanitarian problems and "reinvigorate the peace process," a spokesman said Monday. Mitchell, representing an aggressive push for peace by President Barack Obama, will "meet with senior officials to discuss the peace process and the situation in Gaza," State Department spokesman Robert Wood said. Israel, which waged a 22-day long war on Gaza that killed at least 1,300 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have largely observed their unilateral ceasefires since the weekend of January 17 but have not agreed on a lasting truce. In his first trip to the region, Mitchell will also visit European countries, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, Wood added. US officials said the stops in Europe included Paris and London.

Carter: Israel to face 'catastrophe' unless it establishes Palestine
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 1/26/2009
Former President Jimmy Carter says that Israel will face a "catastrophe" unless it revives the Mideast peace process and establishes an independent Palestinian state. Carter pointed out in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday that Arabs will outnumber Jews in the Holy Land in the foreseeable future. "If we look toward a one-state solution, which seems to be the trend, I hope not inexorable, it would be a catastrophe for Israel," Carter said. Such a situation would mean Israel would have to expel many Palestinians, or keep them but deprive them of equal voting rights, or give them equal voting rights, which would give the Palestinians a majority. "And you would no longer have a Jewish state," Carter said.

Mitchell to stop in Paris on way to Mideast
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 1/26/2009
French President Nicolas Sarkozy will meet with the newly appointed US special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, before he flies to the region in his first bid to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Sarkozy’s office says the French leader spent a half hour on the telephone with US President Barack Obama on Monday for "substantial" exchanges on the Mideast and other issues. A statement says Obama told Sarkozy that Mitchell would stop in Paris and Sarkozy would meet him. Washington has not announced an official date for Mitchell’s first trip, but an Israeli Foreign Ministry official has said Mitchell is due in Israel Wednesday. [end]

Hamas delegation considers Israeli proposal as Mofaz threatens to assassinate Haniya
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/26/2009
Cairo -- A major Hamas figure from the delegation currently at the Cairo meetings said the party is flexible in its current negotiating position with the Israelis, but remains weary of political blackmail. Ayman Taha reported this morning following a meeting with Egyptian Security Minister Omar Suleiman that the party was considering an Israeli proposal. It includes a deal for a year and a half ceasefire with the partial opening of the border crossings which will remain in Israeli private management. The second part of the proposals contains an end to the issue of the Israeli soldier captured in June 2006. Gilad Shalit would be exchanged for 1,000 Palestinian political prisoners out of the 11,000 currently in Israeli prisons, however the Israelis would name who they are. The Hamas party had provided several drafts of names to be released, asking for only 300 however the Israelis routinely refused the names.

Hamas outlines proposed Gaza truce
Al Jazeera 1/26/2009
Hamas officials have proposed a year-long ceasefire with Israel in the latest round of peace talks brokered by Egypt. The proposal was made during a meeting in Cairo on Sunday between Palestinian factions and Egyptian mediators and contrasts with an 18-month truce called for by Israel. Hamas is also seeking an end to Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip and an opening of all border crossings, to be monitored by European Union and Turkish monitors. Israel has said under its plan there would only be a partial opening of the border. The two sides are engaged in indirect Egyptian-brokered talks in a bid to build on a fragile ceasefire in Gaza after the halt of more than three weeks of Israeli assault on the territory. Ayman Taha, a Hamas official, said the proposals would be discussed further with the group’s leadership in Damascus.

Hamdan: Hamas entitled to arm in face of occupation
Palestinian Information Center 1/26/2009
BEIRUT, (PIC)-- Osama Hamdan, the Hamas Movement’s representative in Lebanon, has asserted that his Movement was entitled to acquire arms to resist the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and to defend the Palestinian people in face of Israeli aggressions. He told a rally in Beirut on Sunday that the Palestinian resistance managed to acquire weapons even during the Israeli occupation forces’ invasion of the Gaza Strip. Hamdan acknowledged that acquiring weapons was not an easy job and that many have gone missing, were captured or killed during such missions. Israel and the USA signed an agreement on 16/1/2009 to combat the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip. [end]

Fatah: No Israel-Hamas truce until Palestinian factions reconcile
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 1/27/2009
"A lasting truce and reconstruction in the devastated Gaza Strip will only come once the rival Hamas and Fatah factions reconcile," a Palestinian negotiator said Monday. Saleh Rafaat, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee, spoke in Cairo shortly after the first official meeting between the two Palestinian factions since Hamas evicted Fatah from Gaza in a violent June 2007 coup. "In order to end the division a national consensus government should be formed to carry out [distribution of] aid to our people, the reconstruction and supervision of the crossings," said Rafaat, who is part of a small Fatah-allied Palestinian group. Egypt has been presiding over an effort to build a lasting truce in the Gaza Strip, hosting delegations from Israel and the many Palestinian factions.

PLO member: Hamas-Israel truce only after factions reconcile
Reuters, YNetNews 1/26/2009
Palestinian officials from the Islamist Hamas group and President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party held talks in Cairo on Monday to pave the way for possible reconciliation after Israel’s offensive in Gaza, Palestinian officials said. The officials said Jamal Abu Hashem of Hamas and Azzam al-Ahmed of Fatah held the talks, the first in 10 months, on the sidelines of meetings between Palestinian groups and Egyptian intelligence officials. "I have met with one of the leading members of the (Hamas) delegation in a long session to decide on dialogue," Ahmed told a news conference. "I agreed with him in a clear way to have another meeting. "Saleh Rafaat, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee, said in Cairo that "a lasting truce and reconstruction in the devastated Gaza Strip will only come once the rival Hamas and Fatah factions reconcile. "

Fatah, Hamas disagree on reopening Gaza border crossings
Middle East Online 1/26/2009
CAIRO - Fatah called Monday for the forming of a national unity government acceptable to the international community before Gaza’s crossings open, a position in apparent conflict with that of Hamas. "We want a government of national unity which will supervise reconstruction and crossing points so the crossing points are completely open, so that we can bring in products necessary for reconstruction," Azzam al-Ahmed, who heads Fatah’s parliamentary group, told journalists. Ahmed had met earlier in the day with Jamal Abu Hashim, a member of a Hamas delegation from Gaza, to discuss the resumption of reconciliation talks. "It was a consultative meeting to break the ice and to go forward toward reconciliation," Ahmed said. "We have agreed to follow up on the meeting. " Hamas and Fatah have been bitterly divided since Hamas, which won a majority in 2006 parliamentary elections,. . .

Ramallah government to provide aid to residents, help in rebuilding Gaza
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/26/2009
The Palestinian government in the West Bank, headed by Dr. Salaam Fayyad, held a meeting on Monday and decided to provide urgent aid to families that became homeless due to the latest Israeli offensive in Gaza, and also decided to provide financial aid to the families of wounded and killed residents. The government said that it decided to transfer 3. 5 M USD to a reconstruction committee in Gaza, and addition 1. 84 Million for relief and medical institution in Gaza. The decision came during a weekly ministerial meeting in Ramallah. The government also decided on a plan to ensure medical treatment for the wounded residents. The government thanked all countries that hosted wounded residents and the countries that sent medical relief to Gaza. It also thanked physicians from Arab and international countries who participated and are participating in treating the wounded residents.

Hamas offices in Gaza resume operations
Ali Waked, YNetNews 1/26/2009
Sources in Strip say Islamist group providing services related to all aspects of civilian life despite massive damage to government buildings during IDF offensive; dozens executed for allegedly cooperating with Israel -Hamas still has the capacity to govern Gaza despite the massive damage caused to the group’s institutions and security services headquarters during Israel’s recent military offensive in the coastal enclave. A human rights activist said Hamas security forces are making every effort to restore order and have detained a number of merchants suspected of having inflated prices during the war with Israel. The courts are continuing to operate as usual, as are all government offices, including the health, education and transportation ministries, he said. " Despite the bombing of dozens of police stations and several government. . .

Abbas’s security detains Quds TV reporter
Palestinian Information Center 1/26/2009
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Members of the preventive security apparatus in the West Bank, loyal to former PA chief Mahmoud Abbas, on Sunday detained Samer Khuwaira, the correspondent of the Quds TV channel in Nablus. Relatives of the reporter said that that the preventive security elements arrived at the channel’s office in Nablus on Thursday and questioned Khuwaira on his work and his channel and left. However, on Saturday the preventive security summoned Khuwaira to its headquarters and he did not return since then. The Palestinian media forum denounced the detention of Khuwaira, and expressed concern over the repeated summoning and arrest of Palestinian journalists in the West Bank recalling the detention of journalist Khaled Al-Amayareh from Al-Khalil and his detention for three days without any justification and the continued detention of others for long periods.

Fatah sits with Hamas over Gaza reconstruction; parties suggest Jenin model for projects
Ma’an News Agency 1/26/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an –Head of the Fatah delegation in Cairo Azzam Al-Ahmed, met with Senior Hamas Member Jamal Abu Hashim in Cairo on Monday to discuss models for the reconstruction of Gaza. Earlier in the week Fatah officials had announced that no side meetings on dialogue would be held while the sides were in Cairo, and Monday marked the first time representatives from the parties have met in an official capacity since November, when Hamas refused to attend unity talks, also in Egypt. According to reports, the two exchanged the views and the opinions of the two parties about the state of affairs in Gaza after the Israeli military operation there. They also discussed the need to find an appropriate way to overcome the political challenges, particularly the reconstruction of Gaza in parallel with the reconstruction of one Palestinian government.

Ramallah-Al-Bireh Governorate sends aid to Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 1/26/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Over 40 truckloads of medical supplies, flour, olive oil, blankets and milk were donated by the people of Ramallah and Al-Bireh and are on their way to the Gaza Strip, announced local Governor Dr Said Abu Ali. More than half of the supplies have already left for Gaza, and the food and flour will be shipped with UNRWA. The aid is being coordinated by the “Relief of Gaza” committee, which sent 18 trucks of medicine on Monday. Another hot item that the governor is hoping to send to Gaza is medical mattresses. Those wishing to donate cash, he said, will have their donations sent as mattresses. He also encouraged those who can help obtain such supplies to come forward. When contacted for their comment on whether aid from the West Bank was being allowed into Gaza, Israeli authorities declined to comment.

ICHR: De facto Hamas government must put halt to extra-judicial killings in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 1/26/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) has called for an end to extra-judicial attacks against citizens in the Gaza Strip. Documentation from the ICHR in Gaza has revealed the close-range shooting of a “number” of individuals. The perpetrators were often in official uniforms but sometimes masked, and “opened fire on people’s legs, severely beat others, imposed house arrests, and threatened to punish citizens along with their family members if they would not comply. ”The organization says such incidents occurred during and after the Israeli assault on Gaza. They did not specify, however, the identities or affiliations of the shooters, or the nature of their targets. Reports from Fatah, however, have said 16 of their affiliates were killed or injured in similar incidents during the Israeli invasion. -- See also: Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades: We were not attacked by Hamas-men

Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades: We were not attacked by Hamas-men
Ma’an News Agency 1/26/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades denied media reports that armed Hamas-men opened fire on a group of its members, injured two of them, and arrested the others as they were trying to launch rockets. "The goal of these malicious rumors is to derail the Palestinian objectives,” said a statement from the Brigades. It also called the media to be more accurate when reporting the news. The Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, further commented on their continued rejection of the unilaterally declared ceasefire, saying their actions would only be dictated by the higher interests of the Palestinian people. [end]

DFLP: Conciliation and reconstruction talks successful; return to dialogue soon
Ma’an News Agency 1/26/2009
Cairo – Ma’an – The delegation from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) declared Monday’s Cairo talks successful. The talks, which saw Hamas, Fatah, the PFLP, DFLP and other factions in the Palestinian Liberation Organization sit with the Arab Foreign Ministers in Cairo for three days of talks on Gaza reconstruction, the creation of a long-term ceasefire and a return to Palestinian national dialogue and unity. Head of the delegation and DFLP Secretary General Nayef Hawatmeh, called the talks promising. The delegation met with head of the negotiating team in Egypt Omar Suleiman following the official meetings in Cairo, where they discussed a “return to a comprehensive national dialogue in the coming days,” noted Hawatmeh.

Issue of political prisoners resurrected as Islamic Jihad calls for activists’ release
Ma’an News Agency 1/26/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and “Ramallah government” should release all political prisoners affiliated to both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad movements, Khalid Al-Batsh told the press on Monday. The Senior Islamic Jihad leader explained that politically-motivated detentions fuel rivalry and impede internal Palestinian dialogue, which only fuels Israeli actions against Palestinians. “Politically-motivated detentions during the course of the Palestinian revolution,” he said, were an obstacle in front of both “resistance and unity. ”All prisoners muse be set free “before discussing conciliation,” Al-Batsh insisted. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ calls for dialogue must be accompanied with on-the-ground-action that shows good intent, like releasing all the political prisoners.

Eurovision contenders withdraw from benefit concert for Gaza civilians, citing political tug-of-war
Noya Kohavi, Ha’aretz 1/27/2009
The dispute continues between a group of Arab and Jewish intellectuals and Israel’s Eurovision contenders, Ahinoam Nini and Mira Awad. The two singers were due to perform last Friday at a benefit in Tel Aviv to raise money for Gazan civilian victims of Operation Cast Lead, but canceled their participation at the last minute - just a day before the event. Their decision came after a series of letters published in the media criticized the singers against the backdrop of the fighting in Gaza, and called on the event’s organizers to bar them from performing at the concert. Friday’s concert was attended by about 300 people and starred such singers as Shlomi Shaban, the rapper Saz and Eran Zur. Actor Yosef Swaid read a letter from Nini and Awad to the audience, explaining why they had decided not to participate. -- See also: BAN Achinoam Nini (Noa) from participating at Gaza Charity Event!

Conference concludes: Gaza war legitimized equating Jews with Nazis
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 1/27/2009
The operation in Gaza put an end to the European taboo on equating Jews to Nazis. That message was one of the conclusions of the first international panel discussion on anti-Semitism following the Gaza invasion, which was held in Jerusalem Monday on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Speaking at the panel, which was part of the World Zionist Congress conference, Professor Dina Porat said, "the comparison has now become self-understood. "She added this applied not only to Muslims in Europe, but among "leftist circles. " Porat, an international authority on anti-Semitism and head of Tel Aviv University’s research body on this phenomenon, added that Operation Cast Lead has "left no doubt" that Muslims in Europe had, "prepared in advance a public campaign against Jews and Israel, which they see as one and the same. "

UNRWA: Israeli war on Gaza continuation of siege
Palestinian Information Center 1/26/2009
CAIRO, (PIC)-- Filippo Grandi, the deputy commissioner general of UNRWA, has told a conference in Cairo that the Israeli war on Gaza was not a new phenomenon but rather a continuation of the Israeli policy of besieging the Strip since mid 2007. Grandi, speaking at the inauguration of the 81st conference for supervisors of Palestinian refugees in host Arab countries that opened in the Arab League premises on Cairo on Sunday, said that the war was an escalatory step in the Israeli siege policy. He pointed to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to the Strip for the first time and his declared regret at the destruction caused to the UNRWA sites. Grandi stressed that the Israeli aggression had greatly harmed the infrastructure and all life utilities in the Gaza Strip including electricity and water and the losses reached unprecedented figures, and added that even UNRWA warehouses were targeted.

Israel to close clinic at Erez crossing
Meital Yasur Beit-Or, YNetNews 1/27/2009
Administrators say clinic set up just 10 days ago to treat wounded Palestinians to be shut down Wednesday due to small number of patients, apparently due to direct order from Hamas. Rights group: Israel opened the clinic for propaganda purposes -The Health Ministry and Magen David Adom have decided to close the emergency clinic at the Erez crossing, which was set up to treat Palestinians who were injured during the IDF’s three-week Israel. Israel initially set up the clinic due to the collapse of Gaza’s health system, but Hamas instructed civilians not to seek treatment there. Jordan has begun constructing a field hospital in Gaza to replace the Israeli clinic. "There are hundreds of Palestinians who want to come, but only a few actually arrived, and none of them were injured during the war inGaza," a source who was involved in the clinic’s activity told Ynet. . .

Peres blasts ’misrepresentation of facts’ on Gaza op
Greer Fay Cashman, Jerusalem Post 1/26/2009
Speaking on Monday at the opening session of the 13th plenary of the World Jewish Congress, President Shimon Peres sought to correct what he termed "misunderstandings" and the "misrepresentation of facts" about the disproportionate number of Palestinian casualties in Operation Cast Lead. During the period 2000-2009 there had been 5,792 Qassam rockets and 4,411 mortars launched from Gaza against Israel, the overwhelming majority in the last two years. "I don’t know of any other country that went through such an experience," said Peres. Citing statistics of Israeli casualties of Palestinian terrorism, Peres said 842 civilians and 325 soldiers had been killed in recent years, making a total of 1,167 fatalities. "So where is the disproportion? "he queried, making the point that more than a thousand Israeli lives were lost in attacks from Gaza, in addition to others from attacks in the West Bank.

Israel will back troops accused of war crimes
Reuters, The Independent 1/26/2009
International calls to investigate Israel over alleged war crimes in the Gaza Strip prompted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to promise military personnel state protection from foreign prosecution yesterday. "The commanders and soldiers sent to Gaza should know they are safe from various tribunals and Israel will assist them on this front and defend them, just as they protected us with their bodies during the Gaza operation," Olmert said. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said after meeting counterparts from the European Union, Egypt, Turkey and Jordan in Brussels that Olmert’s comments should not preclude action against Israeli military figures. "It does not mean there is an immunity against legal actions. . . More of such efforts will be seen also in the near future. " Last week, the military censor ordered local and foreign media in Israel not to publish. . .

Al Masry: 'No permanent truce with Israel; truce and Shalit are not interrelated'
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/26/2009
Moshir Al Masry, a Hamas member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, stated on Sunday that Hamas rejects any permanent truce offer with Israel, and that the movement is offering a one-year truce that would be evaluated and renewed every year depending on the situation. Al Masry added that resistance is a legitimate right as long as the land is occupied, and added that the issue here is about land, history and holy sites. He also said that Hamas rejects any association of the truce with the issue of captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. "Hamas is offering a one-year truce, this truce is to be evaluated when it ends", Al Masry stated, "this truce is based on lifting the siege on Gaza, opening the crossings, and we will not accept a truce that negates our right to resist the occupation and defend our land".

Gaza’s ’ghost’ suicide bombers unveiled
Abdul Hameed Bakier, Asia Times 1/27/2009
Recently, Islamic and jihadi Internet forums circulated an article entitled "The Ghost suicide bombers. Who are they? And how do they spend their day? "[1]. The posting, written by the Gaza correspondent for the influential Doha-based Islamonline website, included a short interview with the trainers of Hamas’ suicide bombers. Islamonline’s correspondent, Muhammad al-Sawaf, said the suicide bombers, known as "ghosts" to other Gaza militants, are the first line of defense in Gaza. They spend up to 48 hours at a time in ditches, reciting verses from the Koran while waiting for Israeli forces to pass by in order to blow them up. The bombers belong to the military wing of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam battalions of Hamas. Abu Moath, an al-Qassam leader supervising the suicide bombers, said the bombers are very determined individuals chosen carefully by Hamas: "They live like any other pious Palestinian youth.

Israeli soldiers: 'We shelled a house that had a wounded soldier in it'
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/26/2009
Israeli newspaper, Maariv, reported that soldiers who participated in invading Gaza said that one soldier was captured by the resistance in a home that was apparently wired, and that the army shelled the home while the wounded soldier was in it. The soldiers said that they broke into a home to search it and that a fighter who was apparently hiding there opened fire at them wounding one soldier. The unit commander then noticed a device that looked like an explosive charge and ordered the soldiers to evacuate the building immediately. All soldiers, expected the injured one, left the building. Soldiers then assumed that the wounded soldier was dead and fired three shells at the home. After firing the shells, soldiers broke into the building to find their comrade and a Palestinian man dead. Israeli TV, Channel 10, reported on Sunday evening, that army officials gave strict order to the soldiers not to be captured by the resistance.

Israeli soldiers told to avoid capture ’at all costs’
Middle East Online 1/26/2009
JERUSALEM - Israeli soldiers who fought in the Gaza offensive were given orders to avoid "at all costs" being captured by Palestinian resistance fighters, an Israeli military source said on Monday. Soldiers were told to open fire on anyone trying to capture them, even if this put their own lives in danger, the source said. A lieutenant-colonel of the elite Golani unit told his men: "You must avoid at all cost that one of you be captured alive by Hamas, even if that means blowing yourself up with your grenades. " But the army insisted in a statement there were no orders for soldiers to kill themselves in case of capture and that the words of the officer were "aimed at strengthening their fighting spirit. " Military sources said Palestinian resistance fighters sought on several occasions to capture Israeli soldiers during the December 27 to January 18 Operation Cast Lead.

Palestine Today 012609
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 1/26/2009
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 3 m 0s || 2. 74 MB ||Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center www. imemc. org, for Monday, January 26th, 2009. A Palestinian man from Gaza dies of wounds sustained earlier this month and Israeli troops kidnap civilians in the West Bank, these stories and more coming up. Stay tuned. The News Cast A Palestinian man was reported dead on Monday in a hospital in Egypt after succumbing to wounds he sustained during the latest Israeli attack in the Gaza Strip. The man, Mohamed Al Burai, 29, was moved to Egypt several days ago, the Palestinian consulate in Cairo reported. Al Burai is the 30th Palestinian to die in Egypt after sustaining wounds in the latest Israeli attacks. The Israeli Army embarked on its military offensive on Saturday, December 27th, 2008.

Last year’s water crisis continues into winter 2009
Palestine News Network 1/26/2009
Kristen Ess -- The water shortages experienced throughout the West Bank during summer 2008 have not drastically improved in provinces such as Bethlehem. For the first time in years winter water supplies have been cut. Residents of Bethlehem’s Al Azzeh Refugee Camp continue to go alternating weeks with running water, relying instead on what was collected in spare tin drums and plastic soda bottles. In other areas of the city, particularly in the University District near the reservoir, there is not enough pressure to force water into the rooftop tanks. Residents fortunate enough to have working wells are distributing supplies sparingly. In several outlying towns, including Artas, the crippling summer shortages remain as we reach mid-winter. In villages still not connected to the water network, and in some of those that were hooked in during the summer crisis, the decision whether. . .

Head of right-wing think tank: Settlements must be evacuated
Aluf Benn, Ha’aretz 1/27/2009
In light of the failure of efforts to realize the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue and the unlikelihood of creating a binational state, the most effective way to deal with the conflict is through a "controlled management" of the problem that includes the evacuation of isolated West Bank settlements. This, according to the director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, Prof. Efraim Inbar. His latest study, "The Rise and Fall of the ’Two States for Two Peoples’ Paradigm," whose publication coincides with the new eras in Washington and Jerusalem, Inbar writes that the best solution would be to repartition the country, with Egypt resuming control of the Gaza Strip and Jordan controlling the West Bank. But since such an arrangement would take time to implement, for now focus should be placed on managing the conflict in its current state.

Fayyad to EU Commissioner: 'It is time to tackle the problem at its roots'
Ma’an News Agency 1/26/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – “It is time to tackle the Israel-Palestinian issue at its roots” Palestinian Prime Minister for the caretaker government Salam Fayyad told the European Union’s Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel on Sunday. “We must bind Israel and prevent settlement expansion, we must secure international protection for the Palestinian people, and we must end the occupation that started in 1967,”For his part, Michel promised 52 million Euros in aid to Palestine. The funding will go to the West Bank and Gaza, affirming the commissioner’s stance on the urgency of conciliation between Fatah and Hamas. During his meetings with Fayyad, the commissioner was updated on the fallout from Israel’s three week offensive. Fayyad stressed the long term effects the war would have on the area, and the necessity to get basic services like water and electricity back up and running.

Time running out for a two-state Solution?
CBS / 60 minutes, Palestine Monitor 1/26/2009
Getting a peace deal in the Middle East is such a priority to President Obama that his first foreign calls on his first day in office were to Arab and Israeli leaders. And on day two, the president made former Senator George Mitchell his special envoy for Middle East peace. Mr. Obama wants to shore up the ceasefire in Gaza, but a lasting peace really depends on the West Bank where Palestinians had hoped to create their state. The problem is, even before Israel invaded Gaza, a growing number of Israelis and Palestinians had concluded that peace between them was no longer possible, that history had passed it by. For peace to have a chance, Israel would have to withdraw from the West Bank, which would then become the Palestinian state. It’s known as the "two-state" solution. But, while negotiations have been going on for 15 years, hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers have moved in to occupy the West Bank.

Americans turn to Al-Jazeera for coverage of Gaza conflict
The Guardian 1/26/2009
The most comprehensive coverage of Gaza came from Al-Jazeera’s English-language station. While international reporters were barred by Israel from freely entering Gaza during the fighting, Al-Jazeera had its Gaza correspondents on the ground. And Americans apparently took notice. According to the Associated Press, Al-Jazeera English saw a 600% jump in its online viewership, and 60% of that growth came from people watching in the US. The station is only available on three small cable stations in the US, so most people who want to watch it from America have to go on the internet. "Gaza. . . was a breakthrough opportunity to make an impact with people who are less aware of Al-Jazeera than we’d like," said Tony Burman, managing director of the English-language channel in Qatar. Meanwhile, Israel’s supreme court finally got around to ruling, one week after. . .

ANALYSIS / Recognizing that Israel’s effort to topple Hamas has failed
Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 1/27/2009
Hamas Monday rejected an Israeli offer that linked the opening of Gaza’s border crossings to the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told Haaretz that under no circumstances would the organization accept such a linkage. First, Israel must open the crossings, he said; then the parties can talk about Shalit. A senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, Ayman Taha, told the Egyptian paper Al-Ahram that Israel had offered to free 1,000 Palestinian prisoners and open the crossings in exchange for a cease-fire and Shalit’s release. The Lebanese paper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, citing Israeli sources, said the offer was for 1,050 prisoners, including 280 of the 350 senior terrorists whose release Hamas has demanded by name. Prior to the Gaza operation, Israel had agreed to release only some 220 people on this list.

Khudari: Opening crossings, ending siege only road to reconstruct Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 1/26/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- MP Jamal Al-Khudari, the head of the popular anti siege committee, has asserted that no reconstruction of Gaza is possible without opening all crossings and ending the siege. Khudari, during a meeting with a number of delegations from Turkey, Greece and other European countries, said that the world community should pressure Israel into opening crossings in its capacity as an inalienable Palestinian right and the only means to return life to normalcy in Gaza. He said that the declared estimates for the cost of reconstructing Gaza were preliminary, pointing to the huge devastation that engulfed the Strip on all levels. The MP noted that the Israeli shelling and aggression did not spare factories, infrastructure, houses, government buildings, schools, universities and agricultural lands. Israel is still continuing its violations of all international laws and doctrines through its closure of crossings and siege, Khudari underlined.

Popular resistance leader and PLC deputy: Gaza cannot be rebuilt if it remains under siege
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/26/2009
Gaza -- The process of reconstructing the destruction caused during 23 days of attacks remains at a standstill says Chairman of the Popular Committee against the Siege, Jamal Al Khudari. Also an independent member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Gaza City resident said that the year and a half embargo on trade must be lifted. "The crossings are still closed and raw materials are still banned. Rebuilding cannot even begin under these conditions. " The Palestinian Bureau of Statistics estimated as the 23 days of attacks came to an end that two billion dollars are required to repair the infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, including water and sewage, power, bridges, roads, production facilities, government buildings and houses. A week into the Israeli declaration that it would cease its fire Al Khudari says that the devastation of the Gaza Strip is too large "at all levels" to give anything other than preliminary figures.

Senior Palestinian figure: Armed factions very interested in truce with Israel
Ali Waked, YNetNews 1/26/2009
Source tells Ynet armed factions realize civilian population wants period of calm to recuperate from IDF offensive -"The Palestinian organizations are very interested in sustaining the truce with Israel, despite the power struggles we are witnessing during the negotiations in Cairo," a senior Palestinian figure told Ynet Monday. According to him, Islamic Jihad, as well as the other armed groups in Gaza, realize that the Palestinian civilian population expects a period of calm following the IDF’s recent offensive in order to return to normalcy. The source added that the Palestinian factions will be flexible during the negotiations in Egypt on the lifting of the Israeli blockade on Gaza and on the issue of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. "The (civilians) demand calm, and this will have an effect on the Palestinian delegations in Cairo," the source said.

Israeli border guards detain 250 Palestinian workers staying 'illegally' in Israel
Ma’an News Agency 1/26/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli border guards seized 250 Palestinian workers in Israel overnight on charges of staying in Israel without permits Israeli media outlets say. Most of those detained are West Bank residents, reports said, and five were “wanted” by Israeli intelligence. Border guards also detained 7 Israeli employers suspected of employing illegal workers. The incident mirrors the detentions made Sunday night, when 334 Palestinian workers were taken on the same charges. Some of the men have been released, but an unknown number are still in Israeli custody. [end]

Tamar find may send Gaza gas to Egypt
Lior Baron, Globes Online 1/26/2009
The VP of a Lebanese firm made a rare public statement commenting on the gas find off Haifa. The natural gas discovery at the Tamar prospect offshore from Haifa might result in an end to negotiations by the Israeli government to buy gas from Gaza. Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) VP Palestine Walid Salman said in an interview with Jordanian newspaper "Alad" that the company believes that the gas discovery off Haifa will reduce Israel’s dependence on importing gas from the gas field offshore from Gaza. Israeli shipping news portal Port2Port reported on the story. BG Group plc (NYSE: BRG: LSE: BG) owns 90% of the Marin natural gas concession offshore from Gaza, with the Palestinian Authority government Palestine Investment Fund and Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC), owned by Lebanon’s Khoury family, owning the rest. -- See also: Israeli Invasion and Gaza's Offshore Gas Fields and Deadly Gas in Gaza

Ramallah-based Ministry of Agriculture proposes Gaza projects to help with 224 million in damages
Ma’an News Agency 1/26/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Israel’s three week war on Gaza caused 224 million US dollars in damages to the agricultural sector of Gaza, the Minister of Agriculture in the caretaker government announced Monday. Dr Mahmoud Al-Habbash estimated losses of fruit trees, vegetables and field crops as about 81 million US dollars, the loss of cows, sheep, goats, chickens, beehives, and the value of the losses and damages at about 61 million dollars. The loss of agricultural infrastructure, such as greenhouses, water wells, ponds, veterinary hospitals, fishing boats, and irrigation equipment and barns is estimated at about 62 million dollars. For the de facto Ministry of Agriculture, damage to buildings, records, testing centers, machinery, etc, was estimated at 20 million dollars. Reconstruction will have to take many forms, noted the minister, from re-planting fields, to re-establishing livestock herds to rebuilding facilities.

Ramallah government transfers $259,000 to Gaza government accounts for reconstruction
Ma’an News Agency 1/26/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Two-hundred and fifty-ninethousand US dollars will be transferred from the Ramallah-based caretaker government accounts to thegovernment sector and the energy and water authorities in Gaza, with which the de facto government is expected to restore the electricity and water grids. The caretaker Ramallah government noted the de facto Hamas government in Gaza was expected to carry out their responsibility and use the funds as they have been designated. The decision was taken during the weekly cabinet meeting at the headquarters of the prime minister in Ramallah headed by Dr Salam Fayyad on Monday. The main item on the cabinet agenda was discussions over “urgent assistance of the homeless, the transferring of a three and a half million dollars to the families of the Gaza dead, the process of reconstruction, the accommodation of the homeless people in Gaza, and the transferring of 1.

Unknown group accuses An-Najah professor of being 'mouthpiece' for Iran; claim car burning
Ma’an News Agency 1/26/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – A previously unknown Palestinian group calling itself the “Gaza Martyrs Brigades” claimed on Monday to have vandalized and destroyed the car of An-Najah professor of political science Abed As-Sattar Qasim. Qasim’s car was burned after unknown attackers threw what was believed to be a Molotov cocktail in the vehicle while it was parked outside the professor’s home. Qasim is affiliated with Hamas, and many feared the attack to have been politically motivated. Several letters of condemnation were released following the attack. The group released a statement describing Dr Qasim as a “mouthpiece for the Iranian and the Syrian regimes. ”The statement accused the professor of “urging students to stage a coup against the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and against members of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Tulkarem police seize two men using forged ID cards
Ma’an News Agency 1/26/2009
Tulkarem – Ma’an – Palestinian police in the northern West Bank district of Tulkarem seized two men holding forged Palestinian identity cards. The car the men were driving was stopped at a police checkpoint where licenses and registration numbers were being checked, and several fugitives were being tracked. According to initial police reports, the suspects hid their real ID cards inside their car and used forged ID cards at the checkpoint. The IDs were confiscated and the suspects sent to investigation centers for further questioning and legal procedures. During the same period, the local police arrested six men and seized three unregistered vehicles. [end]

Shallah: The PLO lost its role in defending the Palestinian people
Palestinian Information Center 1/25/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Ramadhan Abdullah Shallah, the secretary-general of the Islamic Jihad Movement, affirmed Saturday that the Palestinian resistance wouldn’t surrender at all cost, adding that the PLO has lost its mandate in defending the Palestinian people. "The era of defeats has gone forever, and the Palestinian resistance and the Palestinian people have emerged victorious out of the war on Gaza after they foiled all the Israeli goals of the war", said Shallah in an interview with the Lebanese Al-Manar satellite TV channel. He also stressed that Palestinian unity and steadfastness played an essential role in this victory, adding that  "all the Palestinian people were absolutely ready to engage the Zionist enemy in another war". "They (Israelis) said they want to change the political system in Gaza, and to topple the rule of Hamas; but in fact, the war would strengthen Gaza,. . .

Hamas: Zahhar not hurt in IOF invasion
Palestinian Information Center 1/26/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Monday denied media allegations that the prominent Hamas political leader Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, was wounded in the Israeli occupation forces’ three weeks bloody war on Gaza Strip. Fawzi Barhoum, A Hamas spokesman, said that Dr. Zahhar was not injured and that he was working as usual. Zahhar’s son also denied the press claim, saying that his father was in good health and working. He added that the rumors were circulated by "his enemies". Fatah-affiliated websites had claimed that Zahhar was wounded in the final days of the IOF aggression and was taken in an ambulance to Egypt for treatment. Meanwhile, in Khan Younis, south of the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian man in his fifties was hit with an IOF bullet while in his home. Local sources said that Subhi Qudaih, 55, was hit with a bullet in his back when IOF troops shot at citizens’ homes in Najjar suburb in Khuza’a town east of Khan Younis.

Jordanian parliamentary delegation congratulates Mishaal over victory
Palestinian Information Center 1/26/2009
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Khaled Mishaal, the political bureau chairman of the Hamas Movement, on Sunday night received a delegation of the Jordanian parliament who arrived in Syria to congratulate him over victory of resistance in Gaza. A Hamas press release said that the Jordanian team representing "Parliamentarians for Gaza" included current and former MPs who came to express admiration over the Palestinian people’s steadfastness and the Palestinian resistance’s victory. It said that the lawmakers said that the Jordanian people were in support of their Palestinian brothers in face of the "Zionist occupation". Mishaal thanked the delegates for their visit, stressing that the Palestinian people would never forget the Jordanian people’s honorable stand in backing of their Palestinian brothers, which only reflected the unity of "blood and destiny between the two peoples", the statement said.

Military Court in Hebron Sentences a Palestinian to Death; PCHR Calls upon Palestinian President Not to Ratify the Sentence and Demands the Abolishment of Death Penalty from Palestinian Law
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 1/26/2009
On Sunday evening, 25 January 2009, the Military Court in Hebron sentenced Mahran Rashad ’Abdul Rahman Abu Jouda, 25, a member of Force 17 (presidential security) from al-’Arroub refugee camp north of Hebron, to death by firing squad. Abu Jouda was arrested nearly two years ago by the General Intelligence Service before ho was transferred to detention by the Military Intelligence Service. The court had held 10 sessions to consider his case before it issued its ruling. The court convicted Abu Jouda of treason in violation of article 131a of the Palestinian Military Penal Act of 1979, so it sentenced him to death. The court ruling can be appealed and it requires the Palestinian President’s ratification. It is worth noting that the Revolutionary Penal Code of Palestine Liberation Organization is unconstitutional in the Palestinian National Authority, as it has not been presented to nor approved by the legislature.

VIDEO - Channels air Gaza aid appeal despite BBC and Sky refusal
Leigh Holmwood, The Guardian 1/26/2009
Britain’s commercial terrestrial broadcasters this evening went ahead with a humanitarian aid appeal for Gaza, despite Sky News joining the BBC in refusing to screen it. Pressure mounted on the BBC throughout the day to back down on its decision to reject the appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee, an umbrella group of humanitarian charities including Oxfam, Save the Children and the Red Cross, but it resisted, saying to broadcast the film risked compromising its impartiality. The BBC confirmed it had received 15,500 complaints over its decision, while its own staff and broadcasting unions joined in the criticism. The two-minute appeal, which featured a professional voiceover on top of images of the recent conflict in Gaza, aired first on ITV1 at 6. 25pm, just before the channel’s main evening news. It was due to be followed by Channel Five at 7.

BBC staff protest over decision not to show Gaza aid appeal
The Guardian 1/26/2009
The BBC is facing a growing revolt from its own journalists over its decision not to broadcast the Gaza humanitarian aid appeal, with sources reporting "widespread disgust" within its newsrooms. BBC staff have said they have been told they face the sack if they speak out on the issue and MediaGuardian. co. uk understands that corporation journalists will tomorrow vote on a resolution put forward by the National Union of Journalists condemning the move. Sources have said there was "fury" at the BBC News morning meeting today about the decision, with news editors saying they had not been consulted on the move to not show the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal, which is to be broadcast tonight on ITV, Channel 4 and Channel Five. The NUJ and fellow broadcasting union Bectu both passed motions over the weekend condemning the BBC’s decision. NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear and his counterpart at Bectu, Gerry Morrissey, will also today send a letter to BBC director general Mark Thompson asking him to review it.

BBC refuses to broadcast emergency appeal for Gaza aid; 2,000 take to the streets in London
Ma’an News Agency 1/26/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - BBC Broadcasters refused to air an appeal for Gaza aid put together by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), and is now being accused of impartial coverage of the war on Gaza. The accusations brought more than 2,000 to the streets of London, protesting the BBC decision to refuse air time for the appeal. The DEC is an umbrella organization for British non-profits like the British Red Cross, Oxfam and World Vision, which aims at uniting resources to best serve populations in emergency situations. Many of their appeals for aid, including for victims of the Myanmar (Burma) Cyclone in December 20008, the Darfur and Chad Crisis Appeal in February 2008, and the Tsunami Earthquake Appeal in 2004, have been aired on the BBC. According to some analysis the BBC decision “raises fresh questions in the aftermath of Israel’s offensive as to the impartiality of reporting and the presentation of the conflict to the British public.

BBC chief defends Gaza appeal veto
Al Jazeera 1/26/2009
The director general of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has defended his decision not to air a Gaza charity appeal, saying it contravenes the channel’s position of impartiality. Mark Thompson said on Monday he would not reconsider the decision, despite growing calls on the UK-based broadcaster to do so. The BBC has been under fire from aid groups and politicians for its refusal to televise an appeal for funds for Palestinians in Gaza from the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC), an umbrella group of British charities. But in an interview on the BBC website, Thompson said the broadcaster could not give the impression it was "backing one side" over the other. "The public wants us to be very strict about our impartiality and it is my job to protect that impartiality," he said, denying that his " arm had been twisted" by pro-Israeli lobbyists.

Public gives £600,000 to Gaza appeal before broadcasts are aired
Jerome Taylor, The Independent 1/27/2009
The Gaza appeal which the BBC is refusing to broadcast raised £600,000 before it was shown. Donations flooded in to the Disasters Emergency Committee website before the initial transmission of the two-minute appeal on ITV1 last night. On previous occasions the DEC has not accepted donations until an appeal has gone out live but members of the public have been able to donate to the Gaza appeal since Thursday. Charity chiefs will be hoping that the controversy over the broadcast has increased public awareness that a way of donating to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is available. Yesterday, Sky News sided with its main newsgathering rival in refusing to broadcast the appeal for aid for Gaza as the head of the BBC ruled out any last-minute policy change over its own decision. The BBC director general, Mark Thompson, said the public broadcaster had a duty to cover the Middle. . .

The Zionist prince
Adar Primor, Ha’aretz 1/27/2009
Ever since January 1, the European Union has been ruled by a prince. This was stated recently by the French daily Le Monde, which also described that prince, scion of a noble Austro-Hungarian family, as a man of rare and courtly manners: He dresses elegantly, often wearing a bow tie, and smokes a wooden pipe; he nurtures a regal mustache and kisses women’s hands with archaic gallantry. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has been at the helm of the European Union’s agenda for nearly a month now in his capacity as current President of the EU Council of Ministers. He is 71 years old, a Catholic by religion, a conservative by habit, a liberal by leanings, identified with the left and a representative of the Green Party in the Senate of the Czech Republic. In Israel, they are pleased to add to this unique mix that he is "a true friend".

Cash for conflicts
DEC, The Guardian 1/27/2009
The BBC has broadcast many DEC appeals for disasters stemming from conflicts. 1967 Conflict in Middle East: The war turned 250,000 Palestinians - and more than 100,000 Syrians - into refugees. Raised £160,000 / 1970 War in Vietnam: Raised £360,000 / 1982 Lebanon appeal: Israel invaded Lebanon and the ensuing conflict killed 14,000. Raised £1. 03m / 1990 Gulf crisis appeal: Iraq war causing widespread destruction and sanctions led to increase in disease. Raised £3. 49m / 1994 Rwanda emergency appeal. An estimated 800,000 people were killed in the genocide. Raised £37m / 1999 Kosovo crisis appeal. Thousands of people displaced after fleeing ongoing violence. Raised £53m / 2007 Darfur and Chad appeal. More than 2 million people displaced due to conflict. Raised £13. 6 m

Saudi raises 59.8 million dollars of Gaza aid
Middle East Online 1/26/2009
RIYADH - An ongoing Saudi campaign to raise aid for the battered Gaza Strip has so far raised 59. 8 million dollars, including 10. 7 million dollars from King Abdullah and his crown prince. The campaign which was launched early in January in response to Israel’s onslaught on the impoverished territory has collected 224. 45 million riyals (59. 8 million dollars), SPA state news agency reported Monday. Saad al-Harithi, assistant to the interior minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, who heads the relief campaign, told local newspapers on Monday that around 70 shipments of humanitarian relief weighing some 770 tonnes have been sent by land to Gaza. The UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA signed an agreement with the organisers of the campaign on Sunday, whereby it will receive 24 million riyals (6. 4 million dollars) for reconstruction projects in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas condemns Commissioner Michel’s comments in what EU calls misinterpretation
Ma’an News Agency 1/26/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – EU Commissioner Louis Michel’s comments about Hamas “bearing full responsibility for the Israeli aggression,” are deplored and condemned by Hamas, a statement from the de facto government in Gaza said. Clarifying Michel’s position an EU Commissioner Spokesman Thorsten Munch noted that Michael had did not hold Hamas “fully” responsible for the war in Gaza, but did condemn the firing of projectiles at civilians. The projectiles, he continued, were “no excuse” for Israel to launch such a devastating military operation in Gaza. Munch noted that this was clear in the speech Michel made in Gaza. He added that the misinterpretation of Michel’s remarks was unfortunate, and stressed that Michel condemned the use of Israeli force in civilian areas of Gaza. An article in the Israeli English daily the Jerusalem Post, stated on Monday that Michel had said “Hamas bears full responsibility for the war in Gaza.

EU commissioner visits Gaza, confirms Israel violated international law; calls for long-term ceasefire
Ma’an News Agency 1/26/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – European Union’s Commissioner Louis Michel visited Gaza City on Monday, where he called for maintaining the ceasefire, opening border crossings and lifting the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip. Standing in front of the missiled UN storehouses, bombed by Israel during the three week onslaught, Michel expressed his astonishment at the damage caused by the Israeli offensive. Israel violated international and human rights, he said, and affirmed that civilians were directly targeted during the attacks. He expressed shock at the evidence that 50% of victims were civilians including women and children. “The most painful thing for me was the sizable of destruction in infra-structures, economic facilities and factories which used to provide work opportunities for the Palestinians. [The destruction of these] was an unjustifiable violation of international law,” he stated.

EU official: Hamas responsible for Gaza
Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post 1/26/2009
Hamas bears an "overwhelming responsibility" for the destruction of Gaza, a senior European Union official said Monday, as he toured the area to see the destruction caused by Israel’s 22-day military offensive there. But Louis Michel also leveled harsh words against Israel for killing civilians and bombing nonmilitary targets during the fighting. Both sides violated international humanitarian law, said Michel, who is the EU development and humanitarian aid commissioner. He estimated that at least half of the dead in Gaza were civilians. Even though he was "shocked" by what he saw in Gaza, he had uncharacteristically harsh words for Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since it staged a violent coup there in June 2007.

Our World: Defending freedom’s defenders
Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post 1/26/2009
Last week, the IDF issued an unprecedented directive. All Israeli media outlets must obscure the faces of soldiers and commanders who fought in Operation Cast Lead. Henceforth, the identities of all IDF soldiers and officers who participated in the operation against the Hamas terror regime in Gaza are classified information. The IDF acted as it did in an effort to protect Israeli soldiers and officers from possible prosecutions for alleged war crimes in Europe. The army’s chief concern is England. In England, private citizens are allowed to file complaints against foreigners whom they claim committed war crimes. Based on these complaints, British courts can issue arrest warrants against such foreigners if they are found on British territory and force them to stand trial. Over the past few years, a number of active duty and retired IDF senior officers were forced to cancel. . .

Is only the Israeli narrative ’the truth’ and all the others wrong?
Miri Eisin, Ha’aretz 1/27/2009
Israel has a national obsession with everything concerning hasbara (a Hebrew word for "explanation" and referring to information, spin, propaganda or a strategic public relations policy). Every time a warlike event takes place, the Israeli broadcasting networks turn to hasbara experts with the recurring question - what must we do to improve Israel’s international image? They really mean "how can we prove to everyone that we’re right, they’re wrong and everybody hates us and they’re anti-Semites? "In the 22 days of fighting in the Gaza Strip, as in the 33 days of fighting in Lebanon in the summer of 2006, the war was presented in very different ways - informed by three parallel narratives. The Israeli narrative focuses on us, our war, our suffering, the families and reserve soldiers, the home front and decision making.

Report: Gaza war reverses drop in anti-Semitism
Yael Branovsky, YNetNews 1/25/2009
While 2008 saw decline in anti-Semitic incidents worldwide compared to previous year, Israel’s military operation in Gaza triggered surge in anti-Jewish sentiment. Researchers believe situation will worsen in 2009 - The Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip has prompted a sharp increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents worldwide, after 2008 saw a drop in anti-Jewish sentiments globally. Western Europe, and mostly France, constituted the focal point for anti-Semitic events; while in the United States anti-Semitism has grown in light of the global financial crisis. The statistics were revealed in a report published Sunday by the Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism, a body sponsored by the Jewish Agency, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry for Diaspora Affairs. Protestors burn Israel flag in Madrid (Photo: Reuters)The. . .

Vatican: Comments by Holocaust-denying bishop unacceptable
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 1/27/2009
The Vatican has stressed that removing the excommunication by no means implied the Vatican shared Williamson’s views. Williamson and three other bishops were excommunicated 20 years ago after they were consecrated by the late ultraconservative Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre without papal consent - a move the Vatican said at the time was an act of schism. Benedict has made clear from the start of his pontificate that he wanted to reconcile with Lefebvre’s traditionalist Society of St. Pius X and bring it back into the Vatican’s fold. Lefebvre had rebelled against the Vatican and founded the society in 1969. He was bitterly opposed to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 meetings that brought liberal reforms to the church. One of the key documents issued by Vatican II was Nostra Aetate, which said the Church deplored all forms of anti-Semitism. The document revolutionized the Church’s relations with Jews.

Anti-Israel priest to open Shoah memorial service
Yaniv Halily, YNetNews 1/26/2009
Jewish organizations in New York urge UN chief to prevent General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann from speaking at Tuesday’s Shoah memorial service, for fear he might use event to compare Israel’s action to those of the Nazis - NEW YORK - Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, the UN General Assembly president and a figure known for his harsh anti-Israel views is expected to open the International Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony at the United Nations headquarters on Tuesday. D’Escoto, who took office in September, has repeatedly slammed Israel’s policy in the Palestinian territories and compared it to the apartheid regime in South Africa. The UNGA chief has extended a very different welcome to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whom he embraced during a General Assembly session and called "the president of a friendly nation that believes in dialogue.

Army rabbi ’gave out hate leaflet to troops’
Ben Lynfield in Jerusalem, The Independent 1/27/2009
The Israeli army’s chief rabbinate gave soldiers preparing to enter the Gaza Strip a booklet implying that all Palestinians are their mortal enemies and advising them that cruelty is sometimes a "good attribute". The booklet, entitled Go Fight My Fight: A Daily Study Table for the Soldier and Commander in a Time of War, was published especially for Operation Cast Lead, the devastating three-week campaign launched with the stated aim of ending rocket fire against southern Israel. The publication draws on the teachings of Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of the Jewish fundamentalist Ateret Cohanim seminary in Jerusalem. In one section, Rabbi Aviner compares Palestinians to the Philistines, a people depicted in the Bible as a war-like menace and existential threat to Israel. In another, the army rabbinate appears to be encouraging soldiers to disregard the international laws of war aimed. . .

A rabbinate gone wild
Haaretz Editorial, Ha’aretz 1/27/2009
The booklets distributed by the Israel Defense Forces rabbinate during the combat in Gaza, which Amos Harel wrote about in Haaretz yesterday ("IDF rabbi told troops fighting in Gaza: We must not cede a single inch of Israel), and the "Jewish Awareness" publications distributed by IDF Chief Rabbi Avichai Rontzki, prove once again that the rabbi is giving his position a new and alarming interpretation. From the start it was a mistake to appoint Rontzki, an extremist hozer b’tshuva (newly religious person), who often made harsh comments about secular people, particularly those in the IDF. Like every newly religious person, who has to prove that he is more devout than the Pope, he constantly flatters his mentors, the most extremist rabbis in the settlement community. The result is an uncontrollable escalation.

Rabbi Yosef describes Rachel’s ’manifestation’ in Gaza
Kobi Nahshoni, YNetNews 1/25/2009
Following widespread rumors biblical matriarch appeared before soldiers fighting in Strip, Shas’ spiritual leader tells of how young, beautiful woman warned troops of terrorists - After Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu already confirmed reports that Mother Rachel assisted IDF troops fighting in Gaza, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef also declared this week that the biblical matriarch was sent to help the soldiers. In his Shabbat sermon Shas’ spiritual leader described Rachel’s role in the recent war. "The soldiers arrived at a house and wanted to go inside. There were three armed terrorists waiting for them there. "And then a beautiful young woman appeared before them and warned: Don’t enter the house, there are terrorists there, be careful. - "Who are you? " - "What do you care who I am," she said, and whispered - "Rachel.

VIDEO - Talking with the Enemy
Al Jazeera 1/26/2009
In the summer of 2006, General Udi Adam - then Head of Israel’s Northern Command - ordered his troops on alert. He had received warnings that Hezbollah was planning to capture Israeli soldiers to exchange for its own prisoners held in Israel. On July 12, 2006, the Lebanese group did indeed seize two Israeli troops, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. The cross-border raid provoked a massive Israeli bombardment and incursion. Despite the death of as many as 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers, Israel failed to win the freedom of its soldiers. The subsequent negotiations and exchanges between Israel and Hezbollah over a possible prisoner exchange, beginning in 2006, reveal a high-stakes game of tough and tortuous bargaining between deadly foes over prisoners and corpses. The process eventually led to the return of the remains of the two dead Israeli soldiers in exchange for

Lebanon rivals adjourn thorny defence talks
Middle East Online 1/26/2009
BEIRUT - Rival political leaders in Lebanon on Monday adjourned for more than a month negotiations on a national defence strategy at the heart of which lies the thorny issue of Hezbollah’s weapons. A statement from the presidency said a team of experts will be formed to examine proposals on a defence strategy, and that another round of talks will be held on March 2 at the Baabda presidential place. It added that participants agreed to work on the implementation of previous agreements concerning the issue of Palestinian weapons outside the country’s 12 refugee camps which house an estimated 400,000 people. The camps are policed by the Palestinians themselves, but outside the camps weapons are also held by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and by Fatah Intifada. Pressure has been mounting in Lebanon to tackle the issue of Palestinian weapons. . .

Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, releases charity song for children of Gaza
Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/27/2009
The musician formerly known as Cat Stevens released a charity song on Monday to help the children of Gaza. The United Nations said the London-born Yusuf Islam recorded a rendition of the George Harrison song The Day the World Gets Round, along with the German bassist and former Beatles collaborator Klaus Voorman. All proceeds from the song will be donated to the UN agency in charge of Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, and to the nonprofit group Save the Children to be directed to aiding Gaza residents. Gaza officials say 280 of the 1,285 Palestinians killed in the three-weekIsraeli offensive were children. Children make up 56 percent of Gaza’s 1. 4million people. The offensive aimed at stopping rocket fire by Gaza’s Hamas rulers into southern Israel.

Yusuf Islam releases charity song for Gaza
Middle East Online 1/26/2009
JERUSALEM - Singer-songwriter Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, released on Sunday a charity song whose proceeds will go towards assisting Palestinians in the war-ravaged Gaza Strip. The new recording of the song ’The day the world gets round’, originally recorded by George Harrison, features Yusuf on vocals and Klaus Voorman, known to many as the fifth Beatle, on bass. The song can be downloaded online at different rates and its proceeds will go towards the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and Save the Children to aid children and families in the Gaza Strip, UNRWA said in a statement. Yusuf said on his website he hoped the recording will "help remind people of the immense legacy of love, peace and happiness we can share when we get round to looking at mankind’s futile wars and prejudices. " As Cat Stevens, Islam, now 59, recorded several major hits in the late 1960s and 1970s.

Israeli poll: Killing Palestinians shortest way to winning elections
Palestinian Information Center 1/26/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- An Israeli opinion poll has displayed that the shortest way to win general elections in Israel was to kill the biggest possible number of Palestinians. The poll published by Hebrew daily Ha’aretz on Sunday indicated that the right wing parties in Israel would secure 64 seats in any current elections, which would bring Benjamin Netanyahu to the premiership. The Israeli war minister Ehud Barak also enjoyed soaring popularity with 70% favoring him in the poll after the war on Gaza while before the war his popularity was only 53%, the paper noted. Israeli foreign minister and leader of the Kadima party Tzipi Livni had warned that a new Israeli government with Netanyahu as premier would be on a collision course with the new American administration. Meanwhile, the same paper said that a number of issues were not solved yet despite the end of the war on. . .

Olmert: Israel’s indirect talks with Syria will produce accord
Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/27/2009
Israel’s indirect peace talks with Syria will eventually produce an accord, outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Monday, adding that the Israeli assault on Gaza may have improved the chances for rapprochement. "We started negotiations with Syria and. . . at the end of the day, we will be able to reach an agreement that will end the conflict between us and the Syrians," he said in a speech. Olmert unveiled Turkish-mediated negotiations with Damascus last year before being forced to resign in a corruption scandal. The frontrunners to succeed him in a Feb. 10 election, centrist Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and right-wing opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, have been publicly cool to the Syria talks. Syria’s bedrock demand for any accord is the return of the Golan Heights, which Israel captured in a 1967 war and annexed in move not recognized abroad.

Syria wants dialogue with US without preconditions
Roee Nahmias and AP, YNetNews 1/26/2009
Assad tells Lebanese TV new American administration has already sent officials to Damascus to start a dialogue, praises ’victory of the resistance in Gaza. ’ On peace talks with Israel: We won’t accept anything less than full withdrawal from Golan -Syrian President Bashar Assad said he wants a dialogue with the United States but maintains that there should be no preconditions. Assad has told Lebanon’s Al-Manar TV that the new American administration has already sent officials to Damascus to start a dialogue. He did not name them but says they had visited Syria before. Assad said in Monday’s interview that despite the positive signals from Washington "we have learned to be cautious, as the relations have deteriorated significantly during George W. Bush’s term. "Washington pulled its ambassador out of Syria following the 2005 assassination in Beirut of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Netanyahu deal aimed at nat’l-religious camp
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 1/27/2009
Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu signed a deal with Effi Eitam’s Ahi faction yesterday to try to increase support of voters from the national-religious camp. But two national religious parties - Habayit Hayehudi and National Union - responded angrily to the declaration. In the deal, the two sides embrace the national-religious educational system and hope this will be reflected in the state budget. The agreement calls for a strengthening of the state’s Jewish identity and commits Likud to oppose another withdrawal like the Gaza disengagement of 2005. It also calls for quickly addressing the needs of the former residents of Gush Katif and protecting the unity of Jerusalem. Netanyahu called Likud religious Zionism’s "natural home". Habayit Hayehudi’s public relations head Uri Orbach said Likud wants the support of the religious camp now, only to ignore and hurt them after next month’s election.

Likud, Labor work to end Kadima
Roni Singer-Heruti, Ha’aretz 1/27/2009
A day after Likud officials said their goal is to see Kadima vanish after the elections, Labor Party officials said they share this goal. Speaking at a Labor Knesset faction meeting yesterday, several senior party officials spoke of the need to "destroy" Kadima - even before the election, as much as possible - and bring back to the party former Labor members who joined Kadima upon its establishment in 2005. One senior Laborite, Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, told Haaretz yesterday that following the recent Gaza operation, "the political map is once again starting to rest on right and left, without the center. "Kadima is built partly on rightists and partly on Labor members, and we must bring the latter home as soon as possible. "In particular, Labor is aiming to woo mayors affiliated with Kadima, as they are considered a major source of that party’s strength in the field.

Meretz memo: Compare Lieberman to Jorg Haider
YNetNews 1/26/2009
Internal document obtained by Ynet reads, ’We view Lieberman’s rise in popularity as similar to that of nationalistic movements such as Le Pen’s in France’, urges key figures to speak out against rightist leaders - An internal memo sent out to central Meretz figures obtained by Ynet on Monday revealed members were urged to compare Avigdor Lieberman’s party Yisrael Beiteinu to European fascist regimes. Lieberman himself, according to the memo, should be compared to extreme rightist leaders such as Austria’s late Jorg Haider. The recent war in Gaza, and the fact that poll results are not in the party’s favor, have led Meretz heads and campaign managers to deviate from the standard statements usually made by its representatives. Instead, the party’s strategic advisors decided it should present a more aggressive line, particularly in. . .

Netanyahu woos national religious sector
YNetNews 1/26/2009
Likud chairman, Achi MK Effie Eitam sign pact meant to solidify political relationship between rightist, Religious Zionism parties - The Likud is wooing the religious Zionist sector:Party Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Member Effie Eitam, who heads the Religious Zionist party Achi, signed an internal memorandum solidifying the relationship between the two parties; and stating that the Likud now sees Achi as a full-fledged political partner. In a joint press conference held Monday afternoon, Eitam called the pact "an ancient dream and a historic moment. "Netanyahu, meanwhile, pledged to include the funds needed to support of the sector’s school system in the State Budget. "The religious Zionist public is part of every major way of life in Israel and it is time it was part of the ruling party," said Netanyahu.

Major candidates court female votes
YNetNews 1/26/2009
Livni, Barak, Netanyahu speak at conference of women’s organizations, promise advancement if their party is elected; Livni encourages women to go vote - Major party leaders courted the female vote on Monday, at a conference of Israeli women’s organizations. Trying to mitigate the expected low female voter turn-out, candidates focused on different ways to promote egalitarianism in Israel. Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni protested against the marginalization of women in Israeli security decisions and vowed that she "won’t let us be pushed aside; Israeli government does not belong to the generals. "Expressing her concern that the majority of citizens expected to abstain from voting in the upcoming election are women, she told the female participants that the power for change was in their hands.

State Prosecutor: Lieberman probe not politically motivated
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 1/27/2009
State Prosecutor Moshe Lador on Monday vehemently rejected allegations that the timing of an investigation into the finances of Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman was politically motivated. Lador’s remarks came two weeks before the scheduled general elections. According to polls, Lieberman’s party has recently seen a boost in the polls. Lieberman earned more than NIS 2. 5 million as a salaried employee of his daughter’s company between 2004 and 2006, Haaretz has learned. During this time, he was neither a Knesset member nor a minister. On Sunday, police detained seven of Lieberman’s associates, including his daughter Michal and his attorney, Yoav Meni, for questioning. They are suspected of conspiring to funnel money from an as yet unknown source or sources to Lieberman.

Police: 2,500 documents strengthen case against Lieberman
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 1/27/2009
Some 2,500 documents sent to Israel from Cyprus in September have led to significant progress in the ongoing investigation of Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman. The documents, whose existence had been kept secret until now, provide information about the activities of various companies through which police believe that Lieberman and his associates laundered money. They include bank statements detailing financial transfers among a long list of accounts that police believe were opened by Lieberman’s associates as part of this effort. The documents’ arrival prompted a substantial boost in manpower for the fraud squad team handling the probe. Now, this team believes it has succeeded in linking Lieberman to the financial transfers in Cyprus. During a remand hearing on Sunday for three of the seven suspects arrested in the case this week, some of. . .

Barak seeking to ’Putinize’ image to attract Russian immigrants’ votes
Lily Galili, Ha’aretz 1/27/2009
In a bid to gain the vote of the Russian immigrants in the elections, Labor leader and Defense Minister Ehud Barak will quote Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s statement about killing Chechen terrorists "on the toilet. " "As you people say, they should be wacked when they’re on the toilet," Barak will say in a radio election broadcast intended for Russian speakers. Labor, which is launching its campaign among the Russian speakers this afternoon, will ask them to support him, as they did when he last ran for prime minister 10 years ago. The indirect allusion to Putin is Barak’s way of fashioning his image after that of an aggressive leader whom many Russian immigrants see favorably. In the coming weeks, he will try to identify with that as closely as possible. Ten years after winning the elections in 1999 with the support of 58 percent of the Russian. . .

Olmert eulogizes ’exceptional’ Ultra-Orthodox MK Ravitz
Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 1/26/2009
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday eulogized Degel Hatorah Chairman Avraham Ravitz, calling him a wise and practical figure who merged Jewish tradition with public life. Ravitz, who died on Monday at age 75, was laid to rest in the Givat Shaul cemetery in Jerusalem. Thousands of people attended the funeral. The veteran MK was one of the most dominant representatives and sharpest speakers of the Haredi community. Olmert said that Ravitz struck "a delicate balance between an uncompromising loyalty to Jewish tradition and a practical sense as befitted a man who knew that in the world of public life there is no single absolute truth but compromises regarding what is possible, correct, desirable and beneficial for the Jewish People. " Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu,. . .

Police close investigation against MK Sharoni
Vered Luvitch, YNetNews 1/26/2009
Probe reveals Pensioners Party member had merely changed the signatories on a document that allowed the party to withdraw funds from its bank account, but had done so with transparency and had not used the subsequent funds inappropriately -A police file for Knesset Member Moshe Sharoni (Pensioners Party) has been closed, the Tel Aviv prosecutor’s office announced Monday. The MK had been under investigation by the National Fraud Unit under suspicion of forging documents, false registration, fraud and breach of trust in regards to his faction’s bank account. Police investigators had previously recommended that Sharoni be indicted. In 2007 the national fraud unit launched the investigation following allegations of irregularities in the management of the PensionersParty’s bank account. The investigation centered on a complaint regarding a document that allowed. . .

Interest rate slashed to 1%
Adrian Filut, Globes Online 1/26/2009
Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer noted "a marked decline in demand and economic activity" as well as falling inflation. Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer cut the interest rate by 75 basis points to an all-time low of 1%. The move was in line with most economists’ forecasts, although as pessimistic economic indicators piled up in recent days, some economists saw room for a full 1% cut drop in the interest rate. Earlier predictions had been for a rate cut of 0. 5%. TheBank of Israel’s decision was based on reasons similar to those of its other rate cuts in recent months. The Bank of Israel said that falling inflation and a sharply lower economic growth forecast led to its decision, and it added that many central banks have cut their interest rates to unprecedentedly low levels while capital markets expect even more cuts in a number of leading economies.

Elbit UAV contract for IDF ground forces worth $40m
Globes Online 1/26/2009
The contract for the supply of Skylark I LE mini-UAVs was first announced in December. Elbit Systems(Nasdaq: ESLT; TASE: ESLT) has been awarded a contract worth approximately $40 million by the Israeli Ministry of Defense to supply the Skylark I LE mini-UAVs for all Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Ground Forces battalions, including training and logistics support. Elbit first announced on December 16, 2008 that it would supply Skylark UAVs to IDF ground forces battalions. At the time, the contract was estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars, an estimate that has now been confirmed. Elbit said the project would be delivered over the next few years, subject to the IDF’s requirements and procurement process. During its recent Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, the IDF used its already operational Skylark mini-UAV. . .

Israel faces driest January on record
Lilach Weissman, Globes Online 1/26/2009
The Water Authority’s emergency plan is proving inadequate. Despite emergency measures to combat the water crisis, Israel is still short of 100 million cubic meters of water this year, according to figures presented to the cabinet yesterday. Minister of National Infrastructures Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told ministers that rainfall so far in January was the lowest since records began. "Unfortunately, not only is our situation not improving, it is even worsening," Ben-Eliezer said. Israel Water Authority Director Uri Shani presented water supply and demand figures to the cabinet. He said the available volume of water in Lake Kinneret would be 45 million cubic meters this year, compared with 328 million in 2006-2007. "The amount of precipitation so far represents about 45% of the median for this period, particularly in the area of Lake Kinneret and the hills.

Treasury chief: I know of no Israeli bank at risk
Globes Online 1/26/2009
As for a public sector wage freeze, Yarom Ariav says, "We’re not there yet. ""As far as I know, no bank in Israel is at risk of collapse," Ministry of Finance director general Yarom Ariav told “IDF Radio" (Galei Zahal) this morning. In response to a question if the Ministry of Finance was planning a public sector wage freeze, Ariav relied, "We’re not there yet. We’re now trying to tell the public that although we’re in a difficult position, the right way to deal with it is by staying calm. We must continue driving the economy. " Ariav added, "It’s true that the business sector is suffering more and tightening its belt, and this could reach the public sector. However, we’re not there yet. Our goal is to minimize the damage and to try as much as possible to take action and find solutions for the unemployed in order to minimize the damage, and, as much as possible, to minimize the rise in unemployment.

Falling foreign tourism hit hotel industry in late 2008
Irit Rosenblum, Ha’aretz 1/27/2009
Hotel occupancy by foreign tourists was down 13% in the last three months of 2008, even though overall occupancy continued to increase in 2008, rising to 11 million rooms annually in the last quarter of 2008 compared to 9. 9 million in the previous quarter. Nevertheless, sinking tourist occupancy left its mark, and the brisk market of 2008 had cooled somewhat by the fourth quarter of the year. Occupancies, which had increased by 3. 7% in the third quarter, were up by only 2. 9% in the last three months of the year. Israeli hotels saw 21. 6 million occupancies in 2008, the highest level since 2000, with tourists accounting for 10. 2 million of these, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics report published on Sunday. Room occupancy reached 67% in 2008, up from 62% the year before.

Ashkelon woman held for stealing from group
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 1/27/2009
The Be’er Sheva Magistrate’s Court remanded Anat Dayan for four days yesterday on suspicion of having stolen over NIS 400,000 from a nonprofit organization, Gvanim, that assists residents of the town of Sderot. The 37-year-old Ashkelon resident was arrested on Sunday at the end of an undercover investigation. She denies the allegation. Dayan served as Gvanim’s bookkeeper in 2006 and 2007 and is suspected of embezzling donations to the organization. Police believe she deposited checks directly in various bank accounts of her own, which she set up for this purpose, and by transferring large sums from the organization’s account to her own. The undercover investigation was sparked by an audit of Gvanim’s books performed by an outside accountant. Independent of the current investigation, Dayan is also on trial in the Kiryat Gat Magistrate’s Court for allegedly embezzling NIS 1.

Police arrest woman suspected of bilking money from charity that helps Sderot residents
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 1/26/2009
An Ashkelon resident, 34, was taken in for questioning by Police on Sunday under suspicion that she bilked hundreds of thousands of shekels from a charity set up to help residents of Israel’s south. A Be’er Sheva court on Sunday extended the man’s remand by four days. The woman’s arrested came after a months-long investigation by undercover agents of the National Fraud Unit of the Israel Police. The investigation reportedly turned up evidence that from 2006 to 2007 the suspect worked as an accountant for the "Gvanim" charity, during which time she is suspected of funneling money from the charity’s coffers to her own pockets. The Gvanim association is a charity devoted to activities to help disadvantaged people in poor areas of Israel’s South, including delivering meals to disabled people.

Israel Bonds kicks off with NIS 500m
Adrian Filut, Globes Online 1/26/2009
Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On: The challenges facing the Israeli economy from the global crisis are many. Sources inform ’’Globes’’ thatDevelopment Corporation for Israel/State of Israel Bonds raised NIS 500 million at its opening bond drive in 2009 at Boca Raton, Florida. Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On attended the event. Commenting on the Bank of Israel’snew negative growth forecast for 2009, Bar-On said, "The challenges facing the Israeli from the global crisis are many, and there is no doubt that Israel faces a significant slowing in its growth rate. " In yesterday’s bombshell, the Bank of Israel slashed its 2009 growth forecast from 1. 5% to minus 0. 2%. This is the third time that the central bank has cut its growth forecast for 2009; just two months ago it cut the forecast from 2.

Envoy: US wants direct talks with Iran on atom work
Reuters, YNetNews 1/26/2009
’Dialogue and diplomacy must go hand-in-hand with a very firm message that Iran needs to meet its obligations as defined by the Security Council,’ Ambassador Rice says after talks with Secretary-General Ban -The US ambassador to the United Nations said on Monday the new US administration would make Iran’s nuclear program a top diplomatic priority and would pursue direct talks with Tehran. "We remain deeply concerned about the threat that Iran’s nuclear program poses to the region, indeed to the United States and to the entire international community," Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters after 45 minutes of closed-door discussions with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "We look forward to engaging in vigorous diplomacy that includes direct diplomacy with Iran," she said, in comments that were among the clearest indications that President Barack Obama wants to try a new approach in dealing with Iran.

EU agrees to take Iran group off terror list
News agencies, YNetNews 1/26/2009
European foreign minister approve decision to remove exiled opposition organization from list of banned terrorist groups that includes Hamas, after courts rule EU failed to explain why it froze Paris-based group’s assets - European states agreed on Monday to remove exiled Iranian opposition group the People’s Mujahideen Organization of Iran (PMOI) from an EU list of banned terrorist groups, an EU official said. The official confirmed that EU foreign ministers approved a decision to take it off a list that includes Palestinian Hamas and Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers. The PMOI is the group which exposed Iran’s covert nuclear program in 2002. It began as a leftist-Islamist opposition to the late Shah of Iran and has bases in Iraq. Western analysts say its support in Iran is limited because of its collaboration with Iraq during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

Iran group taken off ’terror’ list
Al Jazeera 1/26/2009
The European Union (EU) has removed an Iranian opposition group from its list of terrorist groups and lifted restrictions on the group’s funds. The decision by the 27-nation bloc’s foreign ministers means that as of Tuesday, the assets of the People’s Mujahedeen Organisation of Iran, or PMOI, will be unfrozen. It is the first time an organisation has been "de-listed" by the EU. Shahin Gobadi, a spokesman for the group, said $9m had been frozen in France alone, with "tens of millions of dollars" worth of assets also locked away in other EU countries. Court victoriesThe group had been blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by the EU since 2002, but waged a long legal battle in the EU’s court of justice to reverse that decision. Several EU court decisions went in the group’s favour.

’In Venezuela, anti-Semitism is endorsed by the government’
Nir Hasson, Ha’aretz 1/27/2009
[New Zionist disinformation campaign targets Venezuela - Ed. ] The president of the Jewish community in Venezuela on Monday accused Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez of promoting anti-Semitism and giving the phenomenon legitimacy. Speaking at the World Jewish Congress conference in Jerusalem on Monday, Abraham Levy Ben Shimol said "you probably hear of many anti-Semitic incidents, but where we live, the anti-Semitism is sanctioned; it comes from the president, through the government, and into the media. Since the government is very involved in the day-to-day lives of its constituents, its influence is much more effective. " Ben Shimol added that in recent days, swastikas have been spray painted on the walls of the Caracas synagogue and a Palestinian flag was waved during a parliament session. "We Jews are going through a difficult time. -- See also: Chavez 'providing aid to Hamas and Hezbollah', says new book

Archaeologists in Jerusalem unearth figurine from time of emperor Hadrian
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 1/26/2009
Archaeologists have unearthed a marble figurine they say dates back to the second or third century C. E. during an excavation in Jerusalem’s City of David. The marble bust of a bearded man’s head was discovered during the excavations that the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting in the Givati car park in the walls around Jerusalem National Park. Dr. Doron Ben-Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets, directors of the excavation at the site on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said that the figurine’s short curly beard and head tilted to the right is indicative of Greek influence and can be dated to the time of the emperor Hadrian or shortly thereafter (second-third centuries C. E. ). According to Ben-Ami and Tchekhanovets, "The high level of finish on the figurine is extraordinary, while meticulously adhering to the tiniest of details. "


Ceasefire Broken From Day One
Eva Bartlett, Inter Press Service 1/27/2009
      GAZA CITY, Jan 26 (IPS) - At 7.30 am Jan. 22, five days after Israeli authorities declared a ’ceasefire’ following their 22-day air, land and sea bombardment of the Gaza Strip, Israeli gunboats renewed shelling off the Gaza city coast, injuring at least six, including four children.
     Mu’awiyah Hassanain, director of Ambulance and Emergency Services, reported more shelling in the north-western coastal area As Sudaniya the same morning. Five fishermen were injured in the attacks, he said.
     About 9.45 am that morning in Sheyjaiee district to the east of Gaza city, seven-year-old Ahmed Hassanian was outside his house with friends when Israeli soldiers fired from the eastern border. A bullet lodged in his brain, causing brain haemorrhage. Dr. Fawzi Nablusi, director of the ICU at Shifa hospital, says the boy is not expected to survive.
     Three Palestinians have been killed since the ceasefire and 15 injured, including the ten injured Jan. 22, according to both Mu’awiyah Hassanain and Dr. Hassan Khalaf.
     Hours after the ceasefire was said to have come into effect Jan. 18, Israeli warplanes flew extremely low over areas of Gaza. Drones capable both of photographing and of dropping targeted missiles continued to circle overhead. At 8.30 am Jan. 18, one of these drones dropped two missiles in the Amal area east of Beit Hanoun, killing 11-year-old Angham Ra’fat al-Masri and injuring her mother.

'May God take revenge on those who did this!'
Rami Almeghari writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 1/26/2009
      Samira Qishta, a mother of 12, rushed to her house in the al-Brazil housing project of Rafah City, right after the Israeli army declared a halt to its attacks on the coastal region on 18 January.
     "My God, what has happened? was it an earthquake? I cant believe my eyes!" This was Samira’s reaction when she saw her devastated house.
     The three-week-long Israeli war on Gaza has ceased, yet the repercussions may be felt for years to come. There are thousands of grieving families, thousands of homes have been reduced to rubble and much of the infrastructure has been destroyed. The scale of the destruction caused by round-the-clock bombardment can be seen in Rafah City, on the Gaza-Egypt border.
     Inspecting the ruins that used to be her family home, Samira exclaimed, "May God take revenge on both Arabs and Israelis, for what they did to my house."
     "We have nothing to do with underground tunnels, as you see, our house is located more than 300 meters away from the Philadelphi Route [the name Israel gave to the border zone]," Samira says while inspecting the debris-covered sofa and broken window of her living room.

'Let me tell you about Palestine, the way it used to be'
Sumia Ibrahim writing from the United States, Electronic Intifada 1/26/2009
      I have never seen my grandmother without a large medallion hanging from her neck. As a child, I stared at the pendant’s engraving of a gold-domed structure, watched the turquoise walls glimmer as they caught light from the piercing Iraqi sun. When I asked Tata what the pendant depicted, she replied, "The place where I’m from." I thought of it as a palace towering in a far, mythic land, like the great emerald castle of Oz.
     I later understood that it was the Dome of the Rock, located at the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City. The city, a religious and at times economic and cultural hub of a predominately Arab Palestine for nearly 1,200 years, has been in modern times, hotly contested with the establishment of the State of Israel on Palestinian soil in 1948. With the birth of the Zionist state, came the destruction of Palestinian society, and Tata was forced to flee her home along with more than 700,000 other Palestinians. When I finally understood the pendant’s historical context, I realized that for Tata, it symbolized a land that she treasured but could not return to, an emblem of both beauty and tragedy.

Israel Killed Everything but the Will to Resist
Stephen Lendman – Chicago, Palestine Chronicle 1/26/2009
      ’Israel expects a wave of war crimes lawsuits and is reacting.’ (AP) "’Freedom or death’, is the popular Palestinian mantra," wrote Palestine Chronicle Editor-in-Chief Ramzy Baroud in his January 22 article titled "Breaking Gaza’s Will: Israel’s Enduring Fantasy."
     Three weeks of Israeli terror caused about 1400 deaths, over 5500 injured (many seriously), vast destruction throughout Gaza, and Physicians for Human Rights warning that large numbers of wounded may die because hospitals are overloaded and lack basic supplies. Yet Palestinians endure. Their spirit is unbowed and unbroken. Hamas is more popular than ever, and world outrage sustains them.
     Middle East analyst Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies believes Israel blundered badly. On January 9, he asked:
     "The War in Gaza - Tactical Gains, Strategic Defeat?" In spite of all the IDF’s might "The fact remains that the growing human tragedy in Gaza is steadily raising more serious questions as to whether the kind of tactical gains that Israel now reports are worth the suffering involved."

Israel Faces the Gaza Aftermath
Dan Lieberman, Palestine Chronicle 1/26/2009
      ’The attack on Gaza cannot remain an isolated incident that slowly fades into history.’
     Digging through the pulverized ruins of Gaza revealed the extent of damage to the Palestinian community. Still not revealed are exact reasons for Israel’s attack, its sudden willingness to halt the damage and what awaits a shaken Middle East in the future.
     Clues that contradict the given reason for the attack - rockets hitting Israeli soil -- are: (1) rockets have been hitting southern Israel since 2002, (2) the initial rocket barrage caused no casualties, and (3) the intensive emphasis on the rocket attacks as the reason for Israel’s overly aggressive counterpunch, with almost all Israelis and foreign newspapers reciting that theme, seemed too arranged, more like concerted propaganda, and an attempt to divert attention from more valid explanations.
     Regardless of the conflicting views of events, an inevitable drift to war was set in motion for one overriding reason; Israel, International institutions and western nations refused to talk with Hamas.

Unexploded bombs hold more deaths
Erin Cunningham, Electronic Intifada 1/26/2009
      GAZA CITY, occupied Gaza Strip (IPS) - At first the 44 children that live in the Zani family home in Beit Hanoun were wary of the unexploded F-16 rocket whose tail has protruded menacingly from their garden since it landed in the first week of the Israeli assault on Gaza. Now, they have grown used to it -- playing excitedly near it and even building fires next to it, a relative says.
     "What else are we supposed to do?" asks Mohamed Zani, father of 18 of the children living at the Zani home. "This is our situation, and we have to live with it."
     Zani says he has been calling Gaza’s civil defense force, which was targeted in the invasion and is now located at a makeshift headquarters in the al-Shifa hospital, to remove the missile.
     But the Gaza administration simply does not have the funds, equipment or know-how to discharge the weapons. "I don’t know who else to call," Zani said. "It seems that nobody is able to help us."
     While the major actions of Israel’s 22-day "Operation Cast Lead," which saw both air bombardment and a substantial ground invasion, have been halted, an unknown number of unexploded munitions threaten to set off another wave of maiming and killing in the impoverished Palestinian territory.

Martyrs vs. Traitors Myth Gains Currency in Gaza War’s Wake
Hussein Ibish, MIFTAH 1/26/2009
      The conflict in Gaza has the potential of becoming a transformative political event in the Middle East that allows Islamists to capture the Arab political imagination for at least a generation. Along with familiar appeals to religious and cultural "authenticity," and dubious claims regarding good governance and democracy, Islamists are beginning to consolidate an exclusive claim to the most powerful Arab political symbols: Palestine and nationalism.
     Few observers in the West evince a full understanding of the unprecedented cultural and political impact of Israel’s attack on Gaza. The extraordinarily high civilian death toll and perceived helplessness of the victims, combined with atrocities such as the reported massacres at a UN school, and Israel’s apparent use of phosphorus munitions in densely populated areas, paint the most enraging images Arab television audiences have witnessed.
     Although Arab public opinion has been aroused by several other conflicts in recent decades, until now no hegemonic narrative has given coherent shape and political focus to this anger. During the Gaza war, we seem to have been witnessing the consolidation in most Arab media and political discourse of a coherent narrative that contains a prescription and a diagnosis: the Martyrs versus the Traitors.

The Uncultured Wars – Book Review
Jim Miles, Palestine Chronicle 1/26/2009
      ’The Uncultured Wars comprises an excellent series of thought provoking essays.’
     The Uncultured Wars -- Arabs, Muslims, and the Poverty of Liberal Thought. Steven Salaita. Zed Books, New York, 2008.
     "The Uncultured Wars" comprises an excellent series of thought provoking essays, the excellence deriving from their ability to provoke thought that should be one of the hallmarks of academic works. As such Steven Salaita writes as an advocate of a position rather than pretending dispassionate objectivity, or "myth of disinterest" in Salaita’s own words. I will return to that idea later as for my own personal interests it is contained in one of his more interesting essays. Generally, these essays are well constructed, leading the reader to consider how subtle and yet how obvious racism is in the U.S., Arab/Muslim racism in particular.
     Salaita’s introduction discusses the medium of the essay as a format to represent ideas and helps define what I have always thought, but perhaps not with the same clarity: "’most newspaper columnists are corporate exhibitionists, not essayists. Or, to be fair, most of them are simply bad essayists." Salaita’s essays are mostly highly academic, using language that would be difficult for many readers, yet I would estimate that the targeted audience is that of academia, the liberal press, and others that are -- or should be -- discussing the ideas of liberal thought within the context of racism, terrorism, culture, and morality. Whether they would recognize themselves within that context is open to their own interpretations.

Book review: 'Cycles of violence,' US media and Palestine
Shervan Sardar, Electronic Intifada 1/26/2009
      In a brilliant new book, Pens and Swords: How the American Mainstream Media Report the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Marda Dunsky analyzes the politics, culture and theory of coverage of the conflict in the United States.Dunsky, a former Arab affairs reporter for The Jerusalem Post and editor at the national/foreign desk of The Chicago Tribune, examines a wide array of news reports from television and print media, focusing on the recent history of the conflict from the Camp David peace talks in the summer of 2000 to the April 2004 meeting between then US President George W. Bush and then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The time frame was chosen because it allows an opportunity to examine what could be a typical pattern in the conflict -- beginning with intensive negotiations between the parties, followed by an escalation of violence, and then initial efforts to renew diplomacy.
     Pens and Swords argues that "mainstream reporting of the conflict itself rarely goes much beyond superficial details of failed diplomatic initiatives and intercommunal violence in the field -- leaving the American public without important contextual information about why the conflict remains so intractable." Dunsky presents a detailed content analysis of media reports in order to demonstrate "how, time and again, the media bypass important contextual aspects of organic issues, such as the US role in the peace process, the Palestinian refugee question, and Israeli settlements." The study is driven by the central conviction "that if Americans had a fuller contextual understanding of the key issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict via the mainstream media, they would be better equipped to challenge US Mideast policy."

The Indian example
Radhika Sainath, Electronic Intifada 1/26/2009
      In Gaza, Palestinians have once again been blamed for their own deaths. The British made a similar argument 151 years ago when they killed thousands of Indian civilians -- 1,200 in a single village -- in response to the largest anti-colonial uprising of the 19th century. If Israel truly desires peace with the Palestinians and safety for its citizens, it should look back to one of the greatest, and misunderstood, independence movements in history.
     Most people believe India won its independence from the British exclusively through Gandhi’s famous strategy of nonviolence. They’re wrong; armed resistance has deep roots in India. During the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, also known as the First War of Independence, Hindus and Muslims serving in the infantry for the British East Indian Company revolted against the British Empire, killing British officers and civilians alike. While the majority of these cavalrymen were Hindu, Muslims also partook in the rebellion. These Muslim fighters called themselves "jihadis" and even "suicide ghazis."
     The British quashed the revolt, but for the next 90 years Indian violence, even terrorism, in response continued. In the early 20th century, Indian militants, frustrated with the Congress party -- the party of Gandhi and Nehru -- regularly resorted to acts of violence to overthrow the British. Official government reports note 210 "revolutionary outrages" and at least 1,000 "terrorists" involved in more than 101 attempted attacks between 1906 and 1917 in the state of Bengal alone (see Peter Heehs, "Terrorism in India During the Freedom Struggle," The Historian, 22 March 1993). One young revolutionary, Bhagat Singh, later referred to as "Shaheed" Bhagat Singh, bombed the Legislative Assembly in 1929.

Gaza mourns, as does the West Bank
Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 1/26/2009
      As the situation deteriorated in Gaza, Palestinians in the West Bank came out in force to demonstrate and show solidarity with the people. However even peaceful demonstrations can result in death here. 6 protesters, mainly teenagers, were shot dead by Israel whilst they raged their war against Hamas in Gaza.
     These protesters weren’t overtly political. These protesters weren’t necessarily Hamas. However in a country torn apart by war and occupation everybody becomes politicised. Everyone becomes a legitimate target in the eyes of Israel. These teenagers were guilty of little more than raising their hands in defiance. Some may have picked up stones. They were never a true threat though to the biggest recipient of U.S military aid in the world.
     Their stories went greatly unreported as the world’s eyes focused upon Gaza. Their deaths are now remembered only through the peeling martyr posters pinned against walls of the towns within which they lived, and sadly died. Many never got the chance to leave due to the restrictions of the occupation. They will be remembered as martyrs. A small part of the greater struggle for a free Palestinian state. Here is all we know about them...

Obama, Israel, and the Ideology of Difference
Roger H. Lieberman, Palestine Chronicle 1/26/2009
      Few American presidents have entered office with more daunting challenges to overcome, at home and abroad, than those Barack Obama now faces.
     Internationally, President Obama must facilitate the withdrawal of US troops and mercenaries from Iraq; avoid further escalation of the war in Afghanistan; resolve America’s diplomatic feud with Iran over its nuclear program; and stop the downward spiral of US-Russian relations toward the precipice of a new Cold War (or worse).
     Domestically, he must reverse the rapid deterioration of the US economy -- a deterioration brought on by years of bad credit and neglect of civic infrastructure. It is doubtful whether Obama can make substantive progress on any of these matters unless he is first willing and able to take on the overriding moral challenge of his presidency: ending Israel’s ruthless, illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territories, and reconfiguring America’s diplomatic and military role in the region. Alas, it is even more doubtful whether he is prepared to put principles over political expedience in order to achieve a just peace in the Holy Land.

The Palestinian Zionist
Mohannad El-Khairy, Palestine Chronicle 1/26/2009
      Picture this scene.
     A demonstration somewhere in the West Bank against occupation and Apartheid. The red, green, black and white colors flying in unison above the heads of hundreds gathered for a cause, as the heavily equipped riot-police form a barricade in a soul-less, mechanistic order, the chanting slogans for justice, freedom, and peace become louder as emotions run high; and frustrations run even higher. Then, suddenly, the beatings begin.
     You would expect the attackers to be from the so-called Israeli Defense Forces. Alas, ladies and gentlemen, you would be mistaken. Welcome everyone to the Palestinian Zionist.
     I am fully aware of what such a term implies. And it is implying what it says it implies. Yes, the Palestinian Zionist does exist and in his most elaborate characteristic comes in the form of a President. President Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinian Authority (PA) is run by Palestinian Zionists. Their operations are supported by Palestinian Zionists. Their policies aim to promote more Palestinian Zionists.

Operation Cast Ballot
Tom Streithorst, The American Conservative 1/26/2009
      The political calculation behind Olmert’s war
     According to the Israeli media, four days before Gaza was attacked, Hamas offered to extend the ceasefire and end all rocket fire into southern Israel. In return, they asked for a lifting of the blockade choking Gaza and an extension of the ceasefire to the West Bank—reasonable enough demands. But the Israeli cabinet rejected the offer and decided to go to war.
     Let us not forget who broke the ceasefire. Until Nov. 4, when the Israelis sent in commandos and killed six Palestinian militants near Khan Yunis, for the most part the ceasefire held. During the six-month truce, despite the Israeli stranglehold on Gaza’s borders, not one Israeli died or was wounded from rocket attacks.
     After the Israeli incursion in early November, retaliatory rocket fire naturally ratcheted up, providing the provocation that led to the Israeli invasion. Since the beginning of the Israeli bombing, four Israeli civilians have been killed by rocket fire, four more than died during the previous six months. More rockets have been fired out of Gaza just about every day since the war began than during the entire six months of the truce. It seems that if the Israeli goal was to protect their citizens, they aren’t going about it very well.
     I would suggest, from personal experience, that protecting the citizens of Sderot might not be the main motivation of the Israeli government.