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

VTJP Archives | VTJP 2009
7 February, 2009

Israel launches air strikes on Gaza
Middle East Online 2/7/2009
GAZA CITY - Israel launched air strikes in Gaza late Friday, an Israeli military spokesman said. "Our planes attacked four tunnels that were dug under the border with Egypt and used for weapons smuggling," the spokesman said. "An arms depot was also targeted and the explosives that were stocked there exploded," he said. Palestinian security forces and witnesses earlier said that Israeli planes had launched raids on targets in the Rafah sector, near the border with Egypt, without causing injuries. Meanwhile, UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Friday demanded that Hamas immediately release the UN aid supplies it seized in the Gaza Strip. "The Secretary General demands that Hamas immediately release the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) consignment of humanitarian goods it seized today, in the second such incident this week," his spokeswoman Michele Montas said in a statement.

Aqsa foundation: The IAA digs new tunnel south of the Aqsa Mosque
Palestinian Information Center 2/7/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Aqsa foundation for endowment and heritage revealed that the Israel antiquities authority (IAA) backed and financed by the right-wing Elad settlement organization started to dig a new tunnel located on the left of the mosque of Silwan neighborhood, south of the Aqsa Mosque. According to the foundation, the tunnel is part of a network of tunnels being dug in Silwan neighborhood throughout hundreds of meters reaching the southwestern corner of the Aqsa Mosque. The new excavations threaten the Silwan mosque and the nearby houses. The foundation said that the IAA is working quickly on this tunnel, where it increased manpower and the working days per week from five to six days. Israeli underground excavations had led an UNRWA school in occupied Jerusalem to partially collapse in Silwan this week and parts of nearby homes to crumble.

Hamas leader Zahar: Final word on Israel truce proposal soon
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
Top Hamas official Mahmud Zahar crossed into Egypt on Saturday for talks on consolidating a ceasefire with Israel in the battered coastal enclave, witnesses and a Hamas source said. It was the first time Zahar had been seen in public since Israel’s 22-day war against Gaza’s Islamist rulers which ended with both sides calling separate ceasefires on January 18. He is among a delegation of seven Hamas officials who crossed the Rafah border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip on their way to Cairo for talks with intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. The Hamas delegation crossed a day after Israeli warplanes struck four smuggling tunnels and a weapons depot in the area of the Gaza-Egypt border, the Israeli military said. The airstrikes came in response to two rockets fired from Gaza on southern Israel.

Report: Palestinian groups executed, abused opponents
Report, PCHR, Electronic Intifada 2/6/2009
Since the launch of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) military offensive in the Gaza Strip on 27 December 2008, there has been a significant increase in human rights violations perpetrated by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. For the past five weeks, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) has collected testimonies from victims and eyewitnesses regarding dozens of human rights violations perpetrated across the Gaza Strip by armed members of the Palestinian Security Services (PSS) and unidentified gunmen. According to PCHR documentation, at least 32 Palestinians have been killed by members of the PSS and unidentified gunmen during this reporting period. In addition, dozens of other people sustained injuries after being shot or severely beaten by unidentified gunmen who in some cases claimed to be members of the PSS.

Unofficial fact-finding mission from USA finds 'violations of international law' in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/7/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – An eight-lawyer fact-finding mission with the American National Union of Lawyers found evidence to charge and find guilty the state of Israel of committing massacres and violations of international law. The committee traveled to Gaza to investigate allegations of war crimes, Human Rights violations and crimes against humanity perpetrated during the Israeli war on Gaza, which lasted for 22 days and caused the death of 1,373 individuals more than half of them under 18-years-old. “We came to Gaza and listened to testimonies of eyewitnesses in order to report to the US Congress, to the American people and to human rights organizations,” said the committee at a news conference Saturday. The group toured Gaza for five days, visiting destroyed residential areas and medical centers. They collected testimonies from ambulance drivers and medics as well as civilians. -- See also: NLG Members in Gaza Document Executions of Civilians, Blocking of Humanitarian Aid, and Destruction of Civil Property

IOF soldiers bulldoze agriculture lands in southern Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 2/7/2009
KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- Israeli occupation forces advanced into Fakhari area east of Khan Younis district, to the south of Gaza Strip, at an early hour on Saturday amidst indiscriminate shooting. PIC reporter said that a number of IOF tanks and bulldozers advanced hundreds of meters in the area and bulldozed Palestinian cultivated lands. IOF troops in the West Bank kidnapped at dawn Saturday five Palestinian young men during incursions in a number of villages in the Nablus district. Other IOF units roamed the streets of Jenin villages but without any arrests made although tension is running high in those villages after the IOF claimed aborting a human bombing operation that was being planned by Palestinian resistance in Jenin to coincide with the Israeli general elections scheduled next Tuesday.

Early morning raids
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/7/2009
Nablus -- The sounds of doors being blown open and jeep engines in the streets remain a part of life in the West Bank. Early Saturday Israeli forces invaded the town of Beit Fureik in the Nablus Governorate and took four young men from the Khatatbeh family. To the east of the city in Azmut, another young man was arrested: 19 year old Amer Mohammad Murad. The village of Azmut has faced increased aggression this week while early Saturday Israeli forces fired live ammunition at residents. To the north Israeli forces arrested brothers from the Sadi family at Jenin’s Attara military checkpoint. There are some 11,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons. [end]

Border-area risks prevent medics from retrieving dead boy for two days
Ma’an News Agency 2/7/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The body of 22-year-old Fauad Hussein Hamdan, shot by Israeli fire on Thursday, was retrieved from the Gaza border area Saturday afternoon. Because of the dangerous situation and frequent Israeli attacks on the area medical crews were unable to reach the area to take the young man to hospital. Mu’wieyah Hasaneen , head of ambulance and emergency department in the ministry of health, identified the boy and said he would be delivered to his family. [end]

Israeli forces arrest six in Hebron as clashes break out
Ma’an News Agency 2/7/2009
Hebron – Ma’an- Israeli forces arrested six near Hebron when confrontations erupted in the area of Ras Al-Arud on SaturdayLocal sources told Ma’an that “a group of young men and children confronted the invading forces and threw stones. The soldiers responded by firing live bullets. ” No injuries were reported. The sources added that Israeli soldiers arrested four minors, all from the town of Sa’ir they were identified as Mumamad Idris Al-Mutawer, Sha’lan Zaradat, Wahid Nawaf Jaradat, 17, Mohamad Sa’eed Jarada, 15, Mohammad Ibrahim A’lam Jaradat, 15, and Murad Hani Al-Mutwer, 17. All six were taken to an unknown location. [end]

Israeli jets strike 15 targets across southern Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 2/7/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli F16 fighter jets and helicopters raided the border area between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip at midnight on Saturday, hitting targets in Rafah. No injuries were reported. A spokesperson for the de facto Crossings Authority said jets fired 15 missiles at Salah Ad-Din Gate, as well as targets in Qishta and Ash-Sha’ir neighborhoods, as well as other areas in southern Gaza. The windows of several homes were shattered, Crossing spokesperson Adel Zu’rub told Ma’an. [end]

NLG Members in Gaza Document Executions of Civilians, Blocking of Humanitarian Aid, and Destruction of Civil Property
National Lawyers Guild 2/5/2009
Gaza—On its second day in Gaza, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) delegation witnessed the rubble of the American International School in Gaza. An Israeli aerial attack killed the watch guard on duty and completely demolished the school at 2am on January 3, 2009. “Israel doesn’t want anything good or bright in Gaza. They want us to live in the dark ages, just waiting in line for gas and bread,” said Ribhi Salem the school’s Director, who previously spent 20 years living and teaching in Chicago. Salem noted that the school is modeled on American schools and teaches “American values. ” Because of that, he said, the school has been attacked on two previous occasions by local extremists since it opened in 2000. The American school was only one of thousands of buildings destroyed in the recent Israeli offensive. -- See also: Unofficial fact-finding mission from USA finds "violations of international law" in Gaza

A Truce Too Big to Fail?
Analysis by Helena Cobban, Inter Press Service 2/8/2009
WASHINGTON, Feb 6(IPS) - The tandem un-negotiated ceasefires that Israel and Hamas announced Jan. 18 across the Gaza-Israel front line remain fragile. Local and international efforts to consolidate the truce have stalled, and officials and analysts around the world warn of a high risk of further escalation. Further complicating the truce stabilisation effort, Israelis go to the polls Feb. 10 in a general election that Binyamin Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud Party, now in opposition, and allies further to his right may well end up winning. Israel has meanwhile refused to allow even basic construction materials into the Gaza Strip. With thousands of homes and much basic infrastructure in ruins, the situation of the Strip’s 1. 5 million people remains dire. Since Jan. 18, both Hamas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have sent emissaries to Egypt, where intelligence chief Omar. . .

Hamas sees accord with Israel in ’days’
Middle East Online 2/7/2009
GAZA CITY - Hamas expects to see an agreement with Israel over the reopening of border crossings into the Gaza Strip "within the next few days," a spokesman for the democratically elected movement said on Saturday. "If the Egyptian efforts are successful at this time, we expect to reach an agreement within the next few days," Fawzi Barhum said. His comments came as a delegation including senior Hamas official Mahmud Zahar left Gaza for Cairo for top-level talks about a lasting truce in the territory. Egypt has been acting as a mediator between Israel and Hamas to try to broker a lasting truce which would satisfy the Israel’s demand for an end to weapons smuggling and the Palestinian’s demand to reopen Gaza’s borders. Barhum said the talks were over an agreement "to end the siege, stop the aggression and reopen the crossings.

Hamas: Too early to talk about date for truce; Islamic Jihad: Truce could come within week
Ma’an News Agency 2/7/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – “It is too early to talk about a specific date…as everything is dependent on Israel’s stubbornness before Egyptian efforts,” said Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum about the progress of the truce negotiations Saturday. Islamic Jihad, however, sees an agreement likely by the end of the week. Indirect negotiations between Israel and Gaza factions have been ongoing since days after the end of hostilities in Gaza on 18-19 January. Initial reports aimed for an agreement by 5 February, though now reports say a deal should happen before the Israeli elections on 10 February. Hamas, however, says chances for a deal are weak, while Islamic Jihad has said a deal is likely. The latest sticking points for Hamas Barhoum said, are the issues of guarantees. He said there would be no demands on the Egyptians themselves, but noted that it was their “duty to provide guarantees. . .

Report: Chance for progress in Shalit case
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/7/2009
Amos Gilad, Israel’s representative in Cairo talks, presented to cabinet members, defense establishment recent developments in indirect contacts that show headway in Hamas truce talks, alongside progress in release of Gilad Shalit - Israel’s delegate to the Gaza ceasefire talks in Egypt, Amos Gilad, reported a sense of optimism over indirect talks with Hamas in a briefing to senior cabinet members Saturday. During the session at Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv, Gilad presented recent developments in the talks with Egyptian mediators revealing a chance for headway to be made in contacts for a long-term truce deal with Hamas and the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. The meeting was attended by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni as well as senior defense officials.

Report: Shalit deal could be reached as early as Tuesday
Ma’an News Agency 2/7/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit could be returned as early as Tuesday if Israel reaches Hamas’ immediate demands, according to a Turkish news agency. CNN Turk reported Friday that a deal to secure the release of Shalit is being discussed in Damascus, with Reuters reporting that Turkey and Qatar have taken over negotiations between the Palestinian movement and Israeli government. For its part, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Friday that Israel was making “supreme” efforts to retrieve the soldier that was captured in the summer of 2006. "Supreme efforts are being made in order to hurry the moment when Gilad Shalit will come home," Barak told Israel’s Channel One. "We know that he is well, alive, breathing and okay, but we need to bring him here from [Gaza].

Health ministry appeals for saving lives of hundreds of cancer patients in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 2/7/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The ministry of health in Gaza appealed to all concerned human rights organizations to urgently intervene to save the lives of hundreds of cancer patients who are languishing under the yoke of the Israeli siege and cannot find a single pill to ease their pains. In a statement issued on the occasion of the world cancer day and a copy of which was received by the PIC, the ministry said that more than 250 cancer patients including 100 children are deprived of their most basic rights to receive treatment and take medication. The statement noted that Israel imposes restrictions on the travel of Gaza patients for medical treatment outside Gaza and refuses to release medical supplies held at the crossings. It pointed out that the health ministry started years ago to establish a specialized center for diagnostic and therapeutic radiation (Prince Naif Center) inside the Shifa. . .

Palestinian Authority: Hamas used Gaza hospitals as detention centers
DPA, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
The Palestinian Authority’s health ministry on Saturday accused the militant movement Hamas of turning some of its medical facilities in the Gaza Strip into detention centers. After Israel stopped 23 days of aerial and ground attacks in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip last month, "Hamas unfortunately used several facilities, mainly a large number of hospitals, as stations for summons, interrogation, torture and detention," the Ramallah-based ministry said in a statement. The ministry also claimed Hamas sacked tens of employees, loyal to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement, who broke their general strike and returned to their work after Israel launched it assault on December 27. The Israel Air Force aerial bombardment, which preceded a large-scale ground invasion on January 3, destroyed. . .

PA Health Ministry: Hamas using hospitals as detention centers
Ma’an News Agency 2/7/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – The Palestinian Authority’s Health Ministry accused the Hamas-run de facto government’s security services of turning medical centers into virtual prisonso n Saturday. According to a statement from the Health Ministry, Hamas has used hospitals and clinics in Gaza as interrogation and detention centers, where medical staffers have been expelled. “After Israel ended its aggression in the Gaza Strip, the Health Ministry was surprised that Hamas militants returned to their old behavior, expelling medical staff and using medical centers as detention centers, and for torture and interrogation,” the statement said. Hospitals affiliated with the PA that were taken over include Al-Quds Hospital in Tal Al-Hawa, a Red Crescent initiative, parts of the Ash-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, the upper and lower floors of the An-NasserHospital, as well as the Psychiatric Hospital, according to the statement.

Abbas’s forces in West Bank arrest more Hamas supports despite Gaza wound
Palestinian Information Center 2/6/2009
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- US-trained PA security forces of Fatah leader and former PA chief Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank continued the frenzied arrest campaign in the ranks of Hamas supports across the West Bank despite the deep wound in Gaza Strip. According to local sources and eyewitnesses, Abbas’s forces arrested nearly 61 Hamas’s sympathizers in different parts of the West Bank since the end of the 23-day Israeli occupation aggression on Gaza. Most of the arrestees were university students, professors, PA officials, and lawyers, in addition to former captives in Israeli jails. Most of the arrests took place in Al-Khalil governorate, which is a stronghold for Hamas, in addition to other West Bank cities. According to human rights and local records, there were more than 600 Hamas political prisoners retained in Abbas’s jails out of more than 3500 arrested at the hand of those forces since Hamas took control of Gaza Strip.

Barhoum: West Bank arrests prove Abbas not sincere in dialog
Palestinian Information Center 2/7/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Hamas’s spokesman in Gaza Strip Fawzi Barhoum asserted Saturday that the continued arrest campaigns against Hamas’s supporters in the West Bank prove that calls of Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas for national dialog were deceptive. In a statement he issued in this regard, Barhoum pointed out that his Movement was monitoring the arrests in the West Bank with deep concern because they come at a time Palestinian and Arab efforts intensify to achieve national reconciliation. According to Barhoum, the arrests of Hamas’s sympathizers got wilder in the aftermath of the precious victory of the Palestinian resistance over the "Zionist entity" in Gaza, charging that more than 22000 political arrests were recorded since Hamas took over Gaza Strip on June, 2006. "We view these arrest campaigns as a programmed method to exterminate Hamas and marginalize it in the West Bank at the. . .

Abbas calls for urgent aid to Gaza
Associated Press, YNetNews 2/7/2009
Aid shipments must quickly reach Gazans in dire need, Palestinian leader says - The Palestinian president urged that more humanitarian aid be sent urgently to Gaza, saying Saturday that aid shipments were meeting only one-fifth of the actual need. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the three-week Israeli offensive targeting Hamas militants based in Gaza had left the people desperate. Turkey has complained, meanwhile, that Israeli surveillance was preventing its aid shipments from reaching Palestinians quickly. "The Palestinian people suffered from the most ruthless and barbaric onslaught for three weeks," Abbas told a joint news conference with Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul. "We want aid shipments to speedily reach the Palestinian people who are in dire need. So far, the shipments have met just 20 percent of the actual need.

Fayyad announces draft plan for PA role in Gaza reconstruction
Ma’an News Agency 2/7/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – The general features of the document outlining the reconstruction of Gaza have been completed, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told WAFA News Agency Saturday. The specifics of the document rely on a detailed survey of the destruction of the Gaza Strip, now nearly complete. The Cooperative Housing Foundation is performing the assessments. The PA has pledged 67 million US dollars for Gaza reconstruction, which will be distributed as follows:55 million US dollars for clearing rubble and reconstruction of government buildings, electrical and water systems22 million US dollars for rebuilding the homes of Gazans; this money will be distributed as follows:5,000 US dollars in cash will be given to the residents of homes totally destroyed3,000 US dollars to those whose homes were partially destroyedThe PA document looks to. . .

PA: Hamas converts hospitals into jails
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 2/7/2009
Hamas back to old ways: According to Palestinian Ministry of Health in West Bank, Hamas expels medical staff from Gaza hospitals, takes control of entire wards in order to use them for torture, imprisonment - The Palestinian Health Ministry, run by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, accused Hamas’ security apparatus Saturday of commandeering a number of hospital wards in the Gaza Strip for the purpose of converting them into interrogation and imprisonment compounds. According to Palestinian news agency Ma’an, the Palestinian Health Ministry claimed that Hamas members expelled them and full medical teams from hospital wards despite the serious security situation. A communiqué put out by the ministry said that "following the unilateral cessation of Israeli aggression against our people, the Ministry of Health, along with all the Palestinian people, was shocked. . .

Hundreds march in support of PLO in Ramallah
Ma’an News Agency 2/7/2009
Ramallah- Ma’an – Hundreds of Palestinians participated in a rally showing support for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)in the face of recent calls for the creation of a new “reference” body for Palestinians. “This rally confirms our support for the PLO as the legitimate and sole representative of the Palestinians. No one will take this legitimacy form PLO, which gained it [from us] over the past forty years,” PLC member of for Fatah Jihad Tmeiliah told supporters Saturday. The rally saw large crowds carrying yellow Fatah flags and chanting slogans march from the government headquarters to the center of the city and halted at the Al-Manara circle. Speaking for the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) Qais Abed Al-Karim, suggested the PLO reform its structure and empower itself with a new formula by “reviewing the policies based on negotiations that lack basics and the US follow up.

Abbas: We are not asking Hamas to recognize Israel
Ma’an News Agency 2/7/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – During his visit to Turkey Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the press that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is the sole representative body for Palestinians. Abbas was in Ankara speaking with his counterpart Abdullah Gul before he made the remarks at a press conference Saturday. Most of Abbas’ words were directed at the current hot topics, and he reasserted his position on the Palestinian Authority’s position on peace, about which he said, “We don’t deny the PLO needs some reform and has some cracks which should be repaired. These cracks were the result of our special circumstances, but we can’t accept any word on destroying the PLO. “Those who want to come under the umbrella of the PLO must recognize its programs and laws,” he added as a proviso, and that “and if they want to change these programs and laws, they have to join the PLO and then make changes based on unanimous agreement.

No wages for civil servants; PA decides to postpone payment to mid-month
Ma’an News Agency 2/7/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Despite earlier assurances to the contrary, Public Service workers will not be paid Sunday. Early rumors that salaries would not be paid on time so the Palestinian Authority (PA) could follow through on a 67 million US dollar aid promise for Gaza were quickly diffused by government officials, who promised salaries would be ready Sunday. An announcement Saturday by Head of the Union of Public Servant Bassam Zakarneh said that salaries could not be expected until the middle of February. He told Ma’an that a meeting between union and officials of the ministry of finance made the collective decision. The rationale was that the government is “unable to get bank loans to pay the salaries. ”Zakarneh said he rejected the government’s decision and the lack of coordination with the unions over this issue.

Political Divide Between Hamas, Fatah Deepens
Mel Frykberg, MIFTAH 2/7/2009
Hamas security men are back on the streets, directing traffic and trying to restore some semblance of law and order following isolated incidents of looting in the wake of Israel’s 23-day military assault on Gaza. Operation Cast Lead left over 1,300 Palestinians dead and nearly 500 wounded, most of them civilian, and also left the infrastructure of the coastal territory decimated. The smuggling of weapons, and everyday essential items, into Gaza and sporadic rocket fire on Israel has resumed. Israeli warships off Gaza fired at Palestinian targets the first day of the cease-fire provoking retaliatory missiles. While Israel might have left the Islamic resistance organization bruised and bleeding, it is far from broken. Much to the chagrin of its erstwhile foe and arch enemy, President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority (PA), which controls the West Bank. Tensions between the two main Palestinian political factions have increased following the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

UN halts aid to Gaza after Hamas seizure
The Independent 2/7/2009
The UN yesterday suspended food aid in Gaza after the seizure by a Hamas-controlled ministry of 10 truckloads of flour and rice intended for distribution to civilians in the Strip. The seizure was the second in 48 hours after Hamas police took thousands of blankets and food parcels destined for Gaza residents displaced by Israel’s 22-day military offensive last month. After the overnight seizure, Chris Gunness, chief spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency, which is responsible for the welfare of a majority of Gaza’s 1. 4 million residents, said: "Hamas has got to hand back all the aid that they have taken and they have to give credible assurances that this will not happen again. Until this happens, our imports into Gaza will be suspended. "He said that a complaint had been filed with the Hamas de facto government and added: "There is enough aid for days, not weeks. "

Haneyya government resolves misunderstanding with UNRWA
Palestinian Information Center 2/7/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Representatives of the Palestinian government in Gaza, led by Ismail Haneyya, on Friday resolved the misunderstanding between the government and UNRWA over the past couple of days, Taher Al-Nunu, the government spokesman said. He added in a press statement that the health minister, Dr. Basem Naim, and the cabinet secretary, Dr. Mohammed Awad, attended the meeting with UNRWA commissioner general Karin Abu Zaid. Nunu said that the government explained the situation and briefed the UN official on certain information that she was not accurately informed about. He underlined that a number of arrangements and mechanisms were approved to avoid recurrence of such misunderstanding in future, and asserted that UNRWA would resume operations in full in the Gaza Strip. Nunu had earlier told the PIC that his government was keen on maintaining strong relations with UNRWA, and denied that it impeded the agency’s work or seized its trucks.

UN to Probe Hamas for Use of Children
Ruth Eglash, MIFTAH 2/7/2009
The United Nations is ready to address Hamas’s use of children as human shields during last month’s IDF offensive in Gaza, the UN special representative for children and armed conflict told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. " We have not yet dealt directly with the human shield issue, but we will now mention it in our reports," Radhika Coomaraswamy said in an exclusive interview following a four-day visit to the region. " It is still very difficult for us to say that it was actually happening and we still need to conduct a full investigation into what exactly took place. . . but we are not denying that it happened; it is absolutely possible that Hamas was using its civilians as human shields," she said. However, Coomaraswamy said that the UN’s policy not to meet with leading members of the Hamas government - because it was officially considered a terrorist organization - seriously hampered all types of humanitarian relief work in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas party calls for investigation at the UNRWA
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/7/2009
Gaza -- While Hamas says it does not want the UNRWA to cease operations in Gaza, it also does not want the United Nations agency to work as an agent of those who seek to deepen the internal chasm. The controversy between the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and Hamas in Gaza is solved depending on who is speaking. The United Nations called on Hamas to "return the aid," while the Hamas party itself said today, "The crisis is over. "After the UNRWA announced it would cease operations in protest of 10 trucks being confiscated from a Gaza warehouse, Hamas said yesterday the decision was unjustified. The situation has been highly exaggerated in the media, but it is true that Hamas believes the UNRWA role in the Gaza Strip was politicized to become a part of the internal Palestinian strife. The Palestinian Authority remains the "face of Palestine" that the United States, European Union and United Nations prefer to deal with.

Convoy to Gaza travelling 16 days overland
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/7/2009
London -- Adding to efforts to break the siege on the Gaza Strip, a British convoy of one hundred trucks is beginning its journey on 14 February. Passing through France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt en route to Gaza, the 16-day journey was funded by a public donations drive. Relief material, medical equipment and food are part of the humanitarian aid package that will be led by ambulances when it takes off next week. Organizers hope to enter the besieged Strip through the Egyptian crossing with Rafah, however Cairo issued midweek new protocol for aid attempting to reach Gaza. It all must pass through the crossing of Karem Abu Salem which the Israelis keep closed to most imports. Organizer against the Gaza siege Rami Abdo said last night, "The journey is to bring a life line from Britain to the people of Gaza. . . "

UK convoy of aid for Gaza to leave Glasgow Friday
Ma’an News Agency 2/7/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an –Justice for Palestine Scotland will send a dozen- truck convoy of medical supplies through Rafah crossing. The supplies will leave Glasgow Friday. Several organizations in the UK participated in funding the aid and added that several Scottish parliamentarians were invited to accompany the convoy to ensure it made its way safely into Gaza, though none appear to have responded to the request. Palestinian activist Rami Abdu called the convoy a “lifeline” from the UK to Gaza, saying it was an “outstanding rejection of the unjust siege. ”[end]

Israeli forces provoke clashes; detain one in northern West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 2/7/2009
Salfit – Ma’an – Israeli forces arrested a young man from the northern West Bank village of Azmut on Sunday. Provocative Israeli incursions into the village increased recently, local sources said, and tension has been high between troops and villagers. Dozens accused Israeli patrols of deliberately provoking youth during their drives through the area. Sources identified the young man taken as 19-year-old Mahmoud Amir. He was handcuffed and taken to unknown direction. [end]

Israeli army arrests four young men from Nablus village
Ma’an News Agency 2/7/2009
Nablus – Ma’an - Israeli forces invaded the village of Beit Furik east of Nablus and arrested four Palestinian youth on Saturday. Local sources told Ma’an that three of the young men were from the Khatatiyah family, and the third from the Nasasreh family. Forces invaded and ransacked their homes. The youth were identified as Wael, Ahmad and Hamada Khatatiyah and Remah Nasasreh. [end]

’First’ Palestinian shells fired since ceasefire - after 3 weeks of truce violations by Israel
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/8/2009
Israeli sources report that three homemade rockets hit the Negev, in southern Israel, late this week (one on Wednesday and 2 on Friday), causing no injuries and minimal damage. The Palestinian shells were fired after multiple warnings by Hamas that Israeli forces must stop their daily violations of the ceasefire, in which 5 Palestinians have been killed, and more than 50 injured. The ceasefire violations by Israel include the following:* Israeli forces killed a Palestinian farmer in Khuza’a east of Khan Yunis on Jan 18 * Israeli forces killed a Palestinian farmer east of Jabalia on Jan 20* Israeli naval gunboats shelled the Gaza coast line, causing damage to civilian structures on Jan 21 * Israeli troops shot and injured a child east of Gaza City on Jan 22* Israeli gunboat fire injured 4-7 Palestinian fishermen on Jan 22 * Israeli shelling set a Palestinian house. . . [A brief review finds three reported post-ceasefire rocket launches prior to those mentioned in this story - Ed. ]

IOF troops escalate attacks, launch air raids on Rafah
Palestinian Information Center 2/7/2009
RAFAH, (PIC)-- Israeli warplanes launched a series of air raids on the border strip between the Gaza Strip and Egypt at midnight Friday wounding three citizens and inflicting big damage to a number of buildings in Rafah. Security and local sources told the PIC reporter that Israeli occupation forces used Apache gunships and F-16 warplanes in the raids that fired 15 missiles at the Palestinian-Egyptian borders at the pretext of blasting tunnels in a new escalation of IOF attacks on the Strip. The sources noted that two missiles fell in an open area in Rafah city wounding three citizens. They noted that a group of fighters escaped unharmed after two missiles targeted them east of Rafah. The IOF command claimed that the raids aimed at blasting four tunnels that were used for smuggling and for storing Hamas combat means, and added that the raids were also in reprisal to the firing of two homemade missiles from Gaza at Israeli targets.

Settlement Expansion Cutting Into Peace
Daan Bauwens, Inter Press Service 2/8/2009
TEL AVIV, Feb 6(IPS) - A secret government database revealed last week the real extent of settlement construction on the West Bank. In violation of the Road Map to peace agreed with the U. S. , Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, it turned out, agreed to the construction of another settlement on the West Bank. Many now question how devoted Israeli leaders really are to the idea of achieving peace. A comprehensive official database on settler activity, compiled systematically by order of the Israeli Ministry of Defence, shows that in 75 percent of the West Bank settlements, construction has been carried out without the permits that were issued, or contrary to them. Furthermore, the database reveals that in more than 30 settlements, extensive construction of roads, schools, synagogues and even police stations was carried out on private land belonging to Palestinian residents.

Shalit deal takes form
Amos Harel Avi Issacharoff Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
Significant progress has been made in the indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas regarding a new cease-fire formula in the Gaza Strip that will also include the reopening of the border crossings and the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit. However, much still depends on Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal in Damascus approving the deal. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak confirmed that "supreme efforts" are being made to secure Shalit’s release in the near future. Last night, Israel’s "troika" - composed of Prime Minister Olmert, Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni - held an unusual meeting at the Defense Ministry to discuss the negotiations for a cease-fire deal in the Gaza Strip, along the lines proposed by Egypt. The meeting also included Minister Rafi Eitan, whom Olmert recently asked to join the meetings involving information on Shalit.

Making things clear for Meshal
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
Anyone who has been burned repeatedly in the past needs to be extra careful, but over the weekend it seemed that for the first time some optimism was justified. A genuine opportunity is out there, not only for a long-term cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, but also, according to a variety of sources linked to the talks, for a deal to free captured soldier Gilad Shalit. The main obstacle to what sources have described as a "negotiated formula" remains Khaled Meshal and the Hamas politburo in Damascus. Even though details remain unclear, it appears that the most significant change occurred in Hamas’ "domestic" leadership. For the first time in weeks, senior figures of the organization, including Mahmoud al-Zahar, left the Strip to visit Cairo and then Damascus for talks. It seems they have reached the end of their tether, with Israeli military pressure and the. . .

Abu Marzouk: Hamas will not yield to the Israeli extortion regarding the calm
Palestinian Information Center 2/7/2009
CAIRO, (PIC)-- Dr. Mousa Abu Marzouk, the deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, stated Friday that his Movement would never yield to the Israeli blackmail regarding the truce, highlighting that the release of the Israeli captive soldier Gilad Shalit must only be within a swap deal ensuring the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Dr. Abu Marzouk underlined that Israel insists on opening the crossings partially by 75 percent until the release of Shalit despite the Movement’s rejection of linking between the calm issue and the prisoners’ swap deal. The Hamas leader pointed out that this intransigence and the unacceptable conditions Israel tried to impose made the Hamas delegation leave Cairo without giving a final answer regarding the truce, adding that the delegation handed the Egyptian side several questions regarding the Israeli proposals especially the 75 percent and would return later to receive the reply.

Zahhar: Calm is a unanimous Palestinian demand
Palestinian Information Center 2/7/2009
RAFAH, (PIC)-- Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, one of the prominent Hamas leaders, on Saturday said that calm with the "Zionist occupation" is a unanimously approved Palestinian demand to protect the accomplishments of the Palestinian people. Zahhar told reporters at Rafah crossing before departure for Egypt at the head of a Hamas delegation that his team members would meet with Hamas leaders from Damascus to crystallize a final position regarding calm. The delegation carries the position of all Palestinian factions, he said, adding that aggression must stop and siege lifted in order to allow for the reconstruction of destroyed homes and infrastructure. Zahhar would not comment on news reports that a prisoners’ swap agreement between Hamas and Israel with Turkish mediation was about to be concluded. The Hamas leader, in his first appearance after the war on Gaza, said commenting on. . .

Hamas delegation led by Zahhar leaves for Cairo
Palestinian Information Center 2/7/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- A delegation of the Hamas Movement led by its prominent leader Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahhar left Gaza Strip on Saturday evening heading to Cairo to resume talks on calm with Israel in return for lifting the siege on the Strip. MP Dr. Salah Al-Bardawil, the spokesmen of Hamas’s parliamentary bloc, said in a statement to the PIC that achieving Palestinian people’s interest was the main factor for reaching a calm agreement. He added that the delegation comprising himself with Dr. Zahhar along with Nizar Awadallah would resume consultations and talks with Egyptian officials on means of reaching a calm agreement that would end the Israeli siege of Gaza and open crossings. Bardawil hoped that a positive atmosphere would prevail over the talks, and added that Hamas was ready to sign a calm agreement immediately if it realized the people’s interests.

PFLP official: Unity before truce; Israel treating Hamas as defeated entity
Ma’an News Agency 2/7/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Israel is dealing with Hamas as a defeated body, which is a mistake for the truce negotiations and will only increase Palestinian suffering, said member of the politburo office of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Rabah Muhana on Sunday. Speaking QudsNet, Muhana called the Israeli stance towards Hamas a “big mistake,” and called on the party to form a unified resistance to decide the “who, what and where” of resistance acts and coordinating efforts. National dialogue, he added, should have come before the truce talks and called for all sides to activate independent committees to investigate the issue of political arrests so dialogue could move forward.

Hamas’ Al-Bardawil says ceasefire could come this week; contradicts earlier reports
Ma’an News Agency 2/7/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – An “honorable agreement” for a truce will be reached in the coming days, said senior Hamas leader and member of its Cairo truce talks delegation Salah Al-Bardawil on Saturday. Al-Bardawil’s statements contradict earlier comments from Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum, who said it was far too early to discuss a timeline for an end to the truce talks or a truce agreement. Al-Bardawil left for Cairo on Saturday afternoon where the Hamas delegation will discuss the Israeli response to their last amendments to the proposed truce. The delegation includes Mahmoud Az-Zahar, Nezar Awadallah and Salah Al-Bardawil.

Ceasefire stymied
Amira Howeidy, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/5/2009
Between Cairo and Abu Dhabi, a cache of issues is being placed on various negotiating tables, not just to address the post-war situation in Gaza but also to deliver messages to regional neighbours. A climate of vagueness and unconfirmed new initiatives is only adding to the air of uncertainty. As Al-Ahram Weekly was going to press Wednesday, round the clock talks between Egypt’s Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman and Hamas figures from Gaza and Damascus continued behind closed doors. The five-member Hamas delegation originally flew to Cairo to discuss the terms for a planned ceasefire agreement to be announced today, 5 February, but Israel’s decision to inject a prisoner swap deal further complicated already difficult talks. According to Hamas politburo member Mohamed Nazzal, in interview with the Weekly by telephone from Damascus Wednesday afternoon, "There are no signs of any progress

Report: Iran behind attempt to funnel millions of dollars into Gaza from Egypt
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
Iran is responsible for an attempt last week to funnel millions of dollars to Hamas in the Gaza Strip by way of Egypt, the Egyptian paper Al-Ahram reported on Saturday. The money was found in suitcases in the car of Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha. The suitcases reportedly contained $9 million along with 2 million Euros. An Egyptian official said the money represents "only a small portion of the large amounts of money Iran has funneled to Hamas over the last week. "Taha deposited the cash in a bank in the Egyptian town of El Arish last Thursday after Egyptian authorities stopped him taking it home to Gaza, police sources said. He later crossed into the Palestinian coastal strip without the money. The money is in an account at the state-owned National Bank of Egypt in El Arish in northern Sinai in the name of an Egyptian government body, Egytpian officials said.

The Israeli army storms the village of Bil’in and attack two journalists
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/8/2009
Israeli soldiers attack the village of Bil’in near the central West Bank city of Ramallah on Saturday midnight. Witnesses told IMEMC that Israeli soldiers searched a number of homes, when Haytham Al Khateeb and Samir Nazal, two local journalists, tried to take photos soldiers attacked them and detained them for two hours before releasing them. The army left the village after searching the homes, n kidnappings was reported. For nearly four years, Bil’in village has been the scene of weekly non-violent protests against the Israeli illegal Annexation Wall being built on privately owned Palestinian lands in the West Bank. [end]

Seventy Palestinian children from Gaza to visit Poland
Ma’an News Agency 2/7/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Polish President Lech Kaczyński on Friday agreed to host 70 Gaza children for some much-needed relaxation. The Republic of Poland’s ledaer agreed to the request made by Omar Faris, secretary of the Palestinian-Polish Friendship Committee and a Polish lawmaker representing the Law and Justice Party. According to the Palestinian Social and Cultural Committee in Poland, the young Palestinian guests will be involved in several activities, as many organizations in Poland expressed willingness to help those children affected by the 22-day Israeli offensive. [end]

West Bank tourism down sharply since start of Gaza assault
Ma’an News Agency 2/7/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israel’s offensive against Gaza has severely impacted Palestinian tourism, according to a report on Saturday by the Federation of Arab Hotels in Palestine. West Bank tourism has dropped, especially the historic Palestinian cities of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Jericho, the report indicated. Hotels in those cities, as well as in Ramallah, are mostly empty due to a decline in foreign tourists typically in the area for Christmas during this time of year. Palestinian visitors from within Israel have also stopped visiting in large numbers, Federation of Arab Hotels in Palestine representative Ilias Al-Arja told Ma’an, noting a 90 percent decline during Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. Al-Arja said the declines had led to a 25-30 percent decrease in the area’s overall income, particularly five-star hotels.

Israeli elections: Be afraid. Be very afraid
Donald Macintyre, The Independent 2/8/2009
Donald Macintyre reports from Jerusalem on an election campaign that is still too close to call, but one with ominous portents - Israel’s Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, last night launched a concerted final effort to become her nation’s first woman leader since Golda Meir, despite the rightwards shift in public opinion that has threatened to propel Benjamin Netanyahu back into the premiership. The leader of the centrist Kadima party, who began the closing stages of her campaign with a rally for Druze Arab voters in Galilee last night, issued a direct personal challenge to Mr Netanyahu to agree to the television debate which he has consistently refused. As polls showing the lead of Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party has narrowed to only two seats ahead of Kadima, Ms Livni’s campaign team believes she can overtake her rival by the time Israel goes to the polls on Tuesday.

Israel Heads Right
Analysis by Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler, Inter Press Service 2/8/2009
JERUSALEM, Feb 6(IPS) - And then there were four. Just days until Israel’s general election, the three front-running parties have been joined by an anti-establishment surge from the far right that has the Israel Beiteinu party vying for a major role in the next government. Led by Avigdor Liberman, Israel Beiteinu has actually overtaken the once powerful Labour party of Ehud Barak and is fast closing the gap on the top two contenders, Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud, which opinion polls give 26-29 seats compared to 24-27 seats for Tsipi Livni’s centre-right Kadima. There are 120 seats in the Knesset, so a viable coalition will need to be composed of at least three and, very possibly, more parties, all but Labour on the right of the political spectrum. Liberman’s party relies heavily on the immigrant vote of Russian-speaking Israelis (around 20 percent of the 5.

Police to block Marzel from Umm al-Fahm for poll
Tomer Zarchin and Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
Senior police officials said they would prevent exterme-right wing activist Baruch Marzel from entering the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm on election day. Police said they do so although the chairman of the Central Election Committee, Justice Eliezer Rivlin, rejected a request Friday by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to excludeMarzel from serving at the polling station staff in the town. Rivlin, who is vice president of the High Court of Justice, also told Mazuz it was his job to remind the authorities of their responsibility to maintain order, keep the peace and ensure smooth elections. A letter in Mazuz’s name, written to Rivlin by assistant district attorney Gilad Shickman, stated that the police and the Shin Bet security service predict a "near certain" disturbance of public order and the proper election process if Marzel is allowed to serve on the committee. . .

Likud fears last-minute loss to Kadima
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
After weeks of expecting a clear-cut victory, Likud is now locked in a struggle with Kadima and the outcome is "completely open," a close associate of Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday. Netanyahu has been fighting hard since Friday to win back voters who have unexpectedly been defecting to Yisrael Beiteinu over the past week, a trend that has narrowed the gap between Likud and Kadima. Likud is said to be feeling the pressure that it might lose to Kadima or win by a small margin that might lead Yisrael Beiteinu chief Avigdor Lieberman to recommend that Kadima’s Tzipi Livni form the next government. Netanyahu, his associates concede, is unsure what steps Lieberman will take after the election. The Yisrael Beiteinu chairman has been intentionally vague about his recommendation to the president. Netanyahu, who limited his media interviews during. . .

Kadima aims at Netanyahu as Livni seeks narrow win
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
Encouraged by recent poll results, Kadima campaign strategists plan to take aim at Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu in the days left before Tuesday’s election, Haaretz has learned. The last-ditch campaign slogan states "Only electing Tzipi will beat Bibi," referring to Netanyahu. Livni is said to have told close associates that she believes she can beat Likud by a small margin - "even one seat," she apparently said. Livni’s campaign is focusing on undecideds, particularly the under-30s and women. Kadima polls suggest most undecideds are deliberating between Labor and Kadima. Other parties that may attract potential Kadima voters include Meretz and smaller leftist parties. To attract younger voters, Livni’s campaign staff intends to send a convoy of vans mounted with loudspeakers on a cross-country drive from the north to the Negev.

Yaalon: Lieberman may recommend Livni
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 2/7/2009
Former IDF chief and Likud candidate says Yisrael Beiteinu chairman may tell president Kadima chairwoman should form new government in case of tie in elections. Lieberman states won’t rule out sitting in coalition with anyone, predicts his party will grow stronger in 2013 elections - Former IDF Chief of Staff and Likud candidate Moshe Yaalon slammed theYisrael Beiteinu party on Saturday, saying that its chairman, Avigdor Lieberman, "may recommend to the president that (Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi) Livni should be the one to form the next government" in case of a tie in Tuesday’s elections. Speaking at an event in the central city of Shoham, Yaalon said that "there are those who vote for Lieberman not intending her (Livni) to form the government. "He noted that Lieberman was part of theOlmert-led government in the past.

Rabbi Yosef: Lieberman voters support Satan
Ynet reporters, YNetNews 2/7/2009
Lieberman under attack: Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef tells followers Yisrael Beiteinu voters ’support Satan,’ Kadima’s Livni reassures Arab-Israelis, slams hate-based campaigns; Lieberman dismisses critics, says rivals panicking - Lieberman under attack:Shas’ spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosesaid during his weekly Saturday-night sermon at his house that whoever supports Yisrael Beiteinu "supports Satan. " "These are people who do not have Torah, people who want civil marriages, shops that sell pork, and the army enlistment of yeshiva students," Rabbi Yosef said. "My heart is heavy. Heaven forbid people support them. This is completely forbidden. Whoever does so commits an intolerable sin. Whoever does so supports Satan and the evil inclination. " Meanwhile, Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni Saturday sought to reassure Arab voters in the face of Yisrael Beiteinu’s aggressive campaign.

Shas’ Rabbi Yosef: Voting for Lieberman gives strength to Satan
Yair Ettinger, and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef once again lashed out at voters who plan on casting their ballots Tuesday for Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu faction. "Whoever votes for Lieberman gives strength to Satan," Yosef said in his weekly sermon late Saturday. "Whoever sits inside his home and does nothing [will] suffer a huge punishment," Yosef said. In an address that was televised and beamed via satellite to hundreds of Sephardic yeshiva students, he said: "You should know that this is your hour, the time to do for God, they have violated your Torah, go from house to house. " The spiritual leaders of United Torah Judaism also employed harsh words in an effort to rouse supporters to the polls during a pre-election gathering in Jerusalem. In an unusual development, two spiritual heads of the Lithuanian "Degel Hatorah" faction, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman, took part in the campaign rally. Also on hand was the head of the Belz Hasidic sect.

Ministry: Content of IDF rabbinate booklet ’unsuitable’
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
The Defense Ministry has conceded that a controversial booklet distributed by the Israel Defense Forces rabbinate during the fighting in Gaza "evidently contained certain content unsuitable for military publication. " The admission came in a letter by an aide to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, attorney Ruth Bar, who was writing to MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz). Vilan had requested that Barak’s office look into the matter and take steps against the chief military rabbi, Brig. Gen. Avichai Rontzki. The booklet included articles by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner explaining the need to sometimes show cruelty during fighting, and warned against giving up an inch of the Land of Israel. Bar wrote Vilan that the booklet had been distributed near the end of the Gaza operation and in limited numbers. She noted how IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi summoned Rontzki to discuss the pamphlet.

Israel moving right ahead of polls
Alex Sehmer in Jerusalem, Al Jazeera 2/7/2009
Right-wing parties are in clearly in the ascendance as Israelis gear up to elect a new government in the shadow of the nation’s war on Gaza. " If I do vote, I will probably vote for [Avigdor] Lieberman. . . because I don’t like Arabs," Orit Cohen, who is doing her national service in Israel’s armed forces, told Al Jazeera. Lieberman, the leader of the right-wing Yisrael Beitienu party who opposes peace with the Palestinians and who is reported to favour bombing Iran, has benefited greatly from the 22-day offensive in which more than 1,300 Palestinians died, most of them civilians. Yisrael Beitienu, founded in 1999 by Lieberman, a Russian immigrant, has traditionally drawn its support from among Israel’s Russian-speaking immigrants. But the party’s support-base has gradually widened to the point where his party is being talked about as a possible coalition partner.

Palestinian PM: No Israeli leader has ’reasonable solution’ to conflict
Haaretz Staff and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad downplayed hopes for a sea-change in the fortunes of the stagnant peace process Saturday, despite the imminent advent of a new Israeli prime minister. "I do not know of a single Israeli politician from any party who I would expect to offer a reasonable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," Fayyad told reporters at his Ramallah offices. "All of them want a partial solution, or they aim to improve the face and the conditions of the occupation while the settlements continue," he added. Israelis go to the polls on Tuesday to vote in general elections sparked by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s resignation over corruption accusations and by the failure of his successor as Kadima party leader, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, to form a government. Fayyad also Saturday proposed ways he said could make it easier for foreign donors to help pay for post-war reconstruction in the Gaza Strip.

Abbas meets Turkish president in Ankara
Ma’an News Agency 2/7/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with Turkish President Rajeb Tayyid Erdegan for a one-on-one meeting in Ankara on Saturday. According to the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency Wafa, Palestine Liberation Organization chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and Palestinian Ambassador to Turkey Nabul Ma’ruf joined the meeting later. The meeting, Wafa reported, focused on the latest developments within the Palestinian territories, including ongoing efforts to maintain the ceasefire in Gaza and efforts to achieve inter-Palestinian conciliation. The talks also included aid to the Palestinian people and reconstruction of the Gaza Strip following Israel’s devastating offensive there that ended in January.

Report: Obama will deal with the Palestinian cause in the interest of Israel
Palestinian Information Center 2/7/2009
BEIRUT, (PIC)-- A strategic report on the future of political settlement in the Middle East under the new administration of US president Barack Obama stated that the White House will adopt the method of direct and immediate involvement in the file of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but in a way serving the interest of Israel and its project in the region. The report which was prepared last December by the Zaituna center for studies and consultations said that Obama hastened on the first day of his tenure to deal directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict, which confirms the importance that the new US administration would give this file despite its busy agenda. It added that the appointment of George Mitchell as a special envoy to the Middle East bears out that Obama will adopt, but with some caution, his predecessor president Bill Clinton’s way of direct involvement in order not to repeat Clinton’s failure in eight-year marathon negotiations.

Biden calls for 2-state solution in Middle East
News agencies, YNetNews 2/7/2009
US vice president tells international leaders, security experts in Munich his country will work to achieve secure, just solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He adds US willing to talk with Iran, but will act to isolate and pressure Tehran if it does not abandon its nuclear ambitions, support for terrorism - US Vice President Joe Biden said on Saturday that the United States would work to achieve a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians. "It is past time for a secure and just two-state solution. We will work to achieve it, and to defeat the extremists who would perpetuate the conflict," he told a security conference in Munich. "And, building on the positive elements of the Arab Peace initiative put forward by Saudi Arabia, we will work toward a broader regional peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Spanish court to probe Israeli war crimes in 2002
Palestinian Information Center 2/7/2009
PARIS, (PIC)-- The international federation for human rights, the human rights association in Spain and the Palestinian center for human rights hailed the decision taken by the examining magistrate in the central Spanish court on the 29th of January which confirms the court’s eligibility to investigate a complaint about war crimes committed by Israel in the Gaza Strip in 2002. The crimes date back to July 22, 2002 when an Israeli warplane dropped a one-ton bomb on a densely populated area in the Gaza city killing a Hamas leader and 14 Palestinian citizens. In a statement received by the PIC, the three organizations said that the investigation targets seven Israeli security and military officials, namely, Benjamin Ben Eliezer, Dan Halutz, Doron Almog, Giora Eiland, Michael Herzog, Moshe Ya’alon and Abraham Dichter.

Visual art and written word intersect with Mahmoud Darwish
Osama Awad, Palestine News Network 2/7/2009
PNN exclusive -- Passport is the new exhibit in Ramallah honoring the late Mahmoud Darwish. Visual artists painted to the written work of the poet who died in summer 2008. The title "Passport" was chosen, says the Suraj Gallery, because the show combines work from Palestinians inside the Green Line, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. "Passport" artists are all separated by the confines of occupation. To bring the largest number of student viewers possible, organizers at the Birzeit University gallery in Ramallah are also taking the exhibit. Ramallah’s As-Siraj for Culture, Arts and Theatre is using the exhibit based on the work of the Palestinian national poet to explore the intersection of the traditions of poetry and visual art. "Passport" is also exploring the differing experiences of its artists depending on where they come from, opening discussion of ones relationship to Palestine.

Gazan’s paintings survive war, capture its horrors
Joseph Krauss, Daily Star 2/5/2009
Agence France Presse - GAZA CITY: Ghoulish blue figures reach skyward toward an elusive red spiral in an abstract rendering of Gaza life hung in the ruins of a cultural center bombed and torched during the Israeli offensive. The paintings hang in the scorched depths of the Red Crescent cultural center in Gaza City, which was destroyed at the height of the 22-day war. They are the work of Nida Badwan, an arts student who used to volunteer there. "I wanted to exhibit them here because the building itself speaks," Badwan says. "It tells the story of the paintings, and it speaks louder than they do. "The onslaught - which Israel’s leadership claimed aimed at halting rocket fire from the Islamist Hamas-run enclave - killed an estimated 1,330 Palestinians and left behind vast fields of rubble, shattered homes and burned-out buildings.

Pro-Palestinian lobby on facebook stimulates Australian Government to support Palestine
George Rishmawi, International Middle East Media Center News 2/7/2009
The Australian senate has approved $10 million USD aid to the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip. The senate’s decision was stimulated by a group of activists on Facebook who called themsleves "The Pro-Palestinian Lobby on Facebook. " The group, which was formed shortly after the war on Gaza started, consists of a number of networks that together amount to nearly one million people, including Palestinians, and internationals from different parts of the world. In a letter sent to the Australian Senate, through affiliated members of the Green Party in Australia, the group has requested the Senate to express concern and regret in relation to the deaths of 437 Palestinian children. They have also requested the Australian Government to commit to further financial aid in the sum of $15 Million to UNRWA for the purpose of delivering humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, and to facilitate. . .

Pro-Israel Swedish government worker fired for second time
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
A Swedish government employee who last year won a wrongful-dismissal suit after being fired for supporting Israel, was recently fired again - for "insufficient performance. "In November last year, the Molndal District Court ruled that the Swedish Migration Board had no acceptable reason for firing Lennart Eriksson, 51, in September 2007 from his position as head of an assessment unit processing applications by asylum seekers. Eriksson’s boss, Eugene Palmer, told Eriksson that the reason for his 2007 dismissal was Eriksson’s "unusual" support for Israel and the U. S. , which he expressed on his private blog. Immediately after his dismissal, Eriksson was hired to fill a less senior position in the Migration Board. The court ruled that this did not constitute a demotion, but a dismissal and reengagement.

World Jewish Congress asks Venezuela to protect Jewish community
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/7/2009
An international Jewish group is urging Venezuela to protect its Jewish community after a recent attack on a synagogue and amid reports of increasing incidents of anti-Semitism. The Washington-based World Jewish Congress is also asking the government to refrain from calling on Venezuelan Jews to oppose Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip. A delegation from the group met Friday with Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro. The group said in a statement Saturday he assured them authorities will find and prosecute those responsible for vandalizing the synagogue. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has forcefully condemned the offensive, calling the Israeli government genocidal. Local Jewish leaders fear such rhetoric has encouraged hate crimes.

Sky-high price of US fighter jet endangers Israeli purchase
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 2/7/2009
Recent hikes in the price of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the fifth-generation stealth fighter jet, are holding up the signing of a contract between the Israel Air Force and Lockheed Martin, a senior IDF source told The Jerusalem Post. Last month, the Pentagon acknowledged for the first time that earlier predictions that the plane would cost $50 million-$60 million were inaccurate and that the real cost of the plane would be closer to $100m. Air Force Maj. -Gen. Charles R. Davis, head of the JSF Program in the Pentagon, conceded in a talk at the Brookings Institution that the cost would likely be somewhere between $80m. -$90m. The IDF source, who is familiar with the project and the necessary budget, said the IDF believed the cost would pass the $100m. mark, making it very difficult for Israel to follow through with its initial intention to purchase 75 aircraft.

ADL sees ’pandemic of anti-Semitism’
Reuters, YNetNews 2/7/2009
US Jewish leader Abraham Foxman says Israel’s military offensive in Gaza answered with hatred, attacks against Jews ’from Austria to Zimbabwe. ’ Civilized world must stand up and say ’No’ to condemn ’this vicious, hideous violence,’ he adds - Israel’s recent war in Gaza has unleashed the worst outbreaks of anti-Semitism in decades, the US head of the Anti-Defamation League said on Friday. "This is the worst, the most intense, the most global that it’s been in most of our memories. And the effort to get the good people to stand up is not easy," Abraham Foxman told Jewish community leaders in a speech in this south Florida resort city. Foxman said Israel’s military offensive against the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which began in the Gaza Strip in late December, had been answered with hatred and attacks against Jews "from Austria to Zimbabwe. "

Qabalan says more development needed in south
Daily Star 2/7/2009
BEIRUT: Vice-president of the Higher Shiite Council Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan asked if Lebanon was done with Israel to close down the Council of the South. Qabalan said the Council has carried out many beneficial projects since its inception in 1970. "The Council has served the south and its people, it built schools, hospitals and drinking wells," he said. "I call on [Parliament Speaker) Nabih Berri to carry his pickax and head to the south and build more dams and work on increasing the level of Litani waters," he said, in reference to the work that remains to be done concerning the Litani River. "We must build in more public shelters, to protect the people from [Israeli attacks], especially these days when Israel continues to threaten us of destroying our homes," he said. "We must also ask Iran to build villages and workshops underground, for we are the ones that pay the price of every Zionist aggression. . . "

Passengers of freighter seized by Israel return home with tales of abuse
Daily Star 2/7/2009
BEIRUT: A group of activists arrested after the Israeli navy seized an aid ship bound for the devastated Gaza Strip were expelled from Israel on Friday, a day after being detained by the military. Fifteen of the Togolese-flagged Tali’s crew members were deported back to Lebanon and Syria early on Friday, and three others were preparing to fly to London. Nine Lebanese and a Palestinian were handed over at the border with Israel to the UN peacekeeping force responsible for monitoring stability in southern Lebanon. The freed crew told how they were beaten and handcuffed after Israeli gunboats fired on the ship and sailors stormed the vessel, arresting everyone on board. The boat was then towed to the Israeli port of Ashdod where it was searched. Salam Khodr, an Al-Jazeera journalist who was on board the vessel, said the Israelis had taken the crew’s possessions when they were arrested.

Cluster bomb wounds volunteer de-miner
Daily Star 2/7/2009
BEIRUT: A volunteer in the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) identified as Mustafa Kourani was injured due to the explosion of a cluster bomb on Friday in Yahmor al-Shqif area in Nabatiyeh. Kourani was transferred to Nabatiyeh Government Hospital. [end]

Army tut-tuts papers over fake rocket photos
Daily Star 2/6/2009
BEIRUT: Lebanese newspapers were criticized by the army on Thursday after publishing "fake" pictures of five rockets discovered near Naqoura by the UN peacekeeping force in south Lebanon. The rockets were discovered on late on Wednesday and a joint investigation between the army and the UN force was immediately launched. The news was reported in several Beirut newspapers, some of which ran a picture alongside the story showing rockets ready to launch. "The pictures that were published depicted rockets that were set to fire, even though the army command issued a statement that they were not meant to fire. The pictures that were published were old," a statement released by Lebanon’s military command said. "The army asks the media to adopt accuracy and objectivity in publishing news and pictures related to security and military matters," it added.

Special Tribunal ’won’t indict suspects right away’
Daily Star 2/7/2009
BEIRUT: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon would "only start administrative work" on March 1 and would not indict suspects in former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination case during that period, a UN source told An-Nahar daily in comments published Friday. The international tribunal "would be administratively ready to welcome the General Prosecutor" who is Daniel Bellemare, head of the UN commission probing Hariri’s February 2005 killing. The mandate of the UN panel expires end of this February and it is not yet clear if the Security Council would vote to extend the commission’s term as called for by Bellemare, An-Nahar said. It added that UN Undersecretary General for Legal Affairs and Legal Counsel Patricia O’Brien will inform reporters next Thursday about measures undertaken by the world body ahead of the start of the court’s operations.

Gemayel cites need to implement Resolution 1701
Daily Star 2/7/2009
BEIRUT: Phalange Party leader and former President Amin Gemayel, currently on a visit to Italy, stressed on Friday the importance of preserving stability through the proper implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which put an end to the summer 2006 war with Israel. He called on Italian officials to help resolve the issues of the occupied Shebaa Farms and the occupied half of the Ghajar village as well as to deal with the issues of the Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons and the normalization of Lebanese-Syrian relations. He added democracy could not be achieved with the presence of security zones and illegitimate weapons off-limit to the state. Gemayel called on the international community to be aware of "some groups’ attempts to hinder the Lebanese electoral process and its transparency. "He praised President Michel Sleiman and the national institutions’ "work toward building a powerful state.

Turkey on my mind
Kristen Ess, Palestine News Network 2/7/2009
Turkey is locally popular these days not only because of the comments of its Prime Minister at Davos. Its soap operas also made a major splash over the summer replacing the long-since out of fashion Egyptian fare and the overwrought Lebanese dramas. While President Abbas is in Ankara on the business of state, a West Bank psychologist has issued a warning to be wary of the effects of months of chronic viewing. The trials of Nadine who is estranged from her husband and in love with the gun-toting romantic hero who wears a perpetual five o’clock shadow are now standard fare in many West Bank households. With the loss of her baby Nadine holds a small doll rescued from the refuse after a fit of despair while slipping further into depression. There is another Turkish soap dubbed into Arabic that takes place on a university campus with students dealing with love triangles instead of classes.

Visitors ’appalled’ by exhibit on haredi world
Michel Dor, YNetNews 2/7/2009
Some visitors to Menachem Kahana’s photo exhibit ’Haredim’ outraged by subject matter: ’Why do I have to see Israel flags being burned down? ’ asks one visitor - An exhibit by photojournalist Menachem Kahana titled "Haredim" opened at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv this week, in cooperation with the Beit Avi Chai center for Jewish culture in Jerusalem. Kahana managed to penetrate into the heart of ultra-Orthodox society, and his photos - the product of a decade-long fascination with a world mostly unknown to secular Israelis - are intriguing, and at times disturbing. Some of the photos are particularly unsettling: One picture shows a crowd of worshippers sitting around the body of Rabbi Kadoury wrapped in a prayer shawl and placed on the floor of the Nahalat Yitzhak Synagogue in Jerusalem shortly before the funeral procession begins.

Biden: U.S. will to talk to Iran, will act if necessary
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
U. S. Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday said that the U. S. is willing to talk with Iran, but will act to isolate and pressure Tehran if Iran continues its current course and does not abandon its nuclear ambitions and support for terrorism. In a sweeping speech to international leaders and security experts at the Munich Security Conference, Biden said the "U. S. will strive to act preventively to avoid having to choose between the risks of war and the dangers of inaction. "However, the American vice president held out the option that the United States could take pre-emptive action against Iran if necessary to stop crisis before they start. "We are willing to talk to Iran, and to offer a very clear choice:continue down your current course and there will be pressure and isolation; abandon your illicit nuclear program and support for terrorism and there will be meaningful incentives," he said.

Iran sees US Mideast envoy as ’positive signal’
Middle East Online 2/7/2009
MUNICH - Iran’s parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani welcomed Friday President Barack Obama’s decision to despatch his new Middle East envoy George Mitchell. "Recently the US president said he would send people to listen and not to dictate," he told world decision-makers at an international security conference in Munich, Germany. "This is a positive signal. " "In the past the US burned many bridges, and the new US administration can replace them," Larijani said. But Larijani also attacked Washington’s "double standards" in supporting Israel’s "shameful" 22-day bombardment of the Gaza Strip that ended on January 18 and left 1,330 Palestinians dead, mainly civilians. Holding up photos of children killed in Gaza, Larijani said: "The shameful war against the proud people of Gaza was given the comprehensive support of the United States.

Iran: US must rethink policies for reconciliation
Associated Press, YNetNews 2/7/2009
Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani sternly dismisses decades of Washington policies targeting Tehran, declares new American administration must admit past wrongs - Iran sternly dismissed decades of US policies targeting Tehran and declared Friday that the new American administration had to admit past wrongs before it could hope for reconciliation. The comments by Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani at an international security conference in Munich appeared to be the most detailed outline yet of Tehran’s expectations from President Barack Obama’s administration. "The old carrot and stick policy must be discarded," he said, alluding to Western threats and offers of rewards to coax Iran to give up nuclear activities the West views as threatening. "This is a golden opportunity for the United States.

Merkel, Sarkozy threaten new Iran sanctions
Reuters, YNetNews 2/7/2009
German chancellor tells Munich Security Conference her country ready for tougher penalties against Tehran over its nuclear program if no diplomatic progress is made; French president says Russia must show it is ready help with such a move - Iran will face tougher sanctions if it does not meet the demands of major powers to rein in its nuclear program, the leaders of Germany and France said on Saturday. Chancellor Angela Merkel said Berlin hoped for a diplomatic solution to the dispute, referring to an offer by US President Barack Obama to hold direct talks with Tehran on the nuclear issue, an option his predecessor George W. Bush had ruled out. "I think the new US administration will make its approach towards Iran clear to us in coming months," Merkel told the annual Munich Security Conference in a speech.

US ’softens foreign policy stance’
Al Jazeera 2/7/2009
Joe Biden, the US vice-president, has struck a conciliatory tone with Iran and Russia in a wide-rangingspeech at a security conference in Germany. He told delegates in Munich on Saturday that Tehran would be isolated if it continues with its controversial nuclear programme. "We are willing to talk to Iran, and to offer a very clear choice: continue down your current course and there will be pressure and isolation; abandon your illicit nuclear programme and support for terrorism and there will be meaningful incentives," he said. Biden also said that Washington is prepared to work towards improved relations with Russia, suggesting that Moscow could be consulted over a US missile defence system planned for eastern Europe. "The last few years have seen a dangerous drift in relations between Russia and the members of [Nato]. . . "

UN: Cargo of Iranian ship seized en route to Gaza violates resolution 1747
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/7/2009
The sanctions department of the United Nations Security Council on Saturday informed Cyprus that the cargo of the Iranian ship seized en route to Gaza in late January violates UNSC resolution 1747, which forbids the trafficking of weapons with Iran. The ship will not be returned to Iran, Cypriot officials said Saturday, but they refused to say what exactly was found onboard the boat or whether the cargo contravened UN resolutions. Cyprus inspected the Monchegorsk twice after it arrived after it arrived Jan. 29 under suspicion of ferrying weapons from Iran to Hamas fighters in Gaza. The U. S. military stopped the ship last month in the Red Sea, and said it found artillery shells and other arms aboard. But it could not legally detain the ship, which continued to Port Said, Egypt, and then to Cyprus.

Iran’s anti-secularist backlash
Massoud Parsi, Al Jazeera 2/7/2009
Millions of jubilant revolutionaries greeted Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the senior Shia cleric, when he ended 14 years in exile and returned to Iran on a direct Air France flight from Paris on February 1, 1979. Upon arrival in Mehrabad international airport, Khomeini asked to be driven to the largest cemetery in Tehran, Beheshte Zahra. Why he chose this venue is a mystery, but it was also ominous. Beheshte Zahra was set to become one of the world’s largest cemeteries by the time Khomeini was laid to rest there in 1989, seen off by an even larger crowd than that which greeted him a decade earlier. An outspoken opponent of the Shah’s rule, Khomeini cultivated a national grassroots movement which rejected secularism and western-imposed modernity and would eventually anoint him the "supreme leader" of the Iranian revolution.

Here’s how to prepare for the showdown with Iran
Kenneth Weisbrode, Daily Star 2/7/2009
US President Barack Obama’s administration has lost little time in announcing that it will seek direct talks with the Iranian government. This means, at the very least, a tough confrontation over Iran’s quest for a regional strategic advantage in the form of a nuclear weapon. There is more at stake here than coming up with the right set of incentives and threats to change the Iranians’ minds. Rather, the time has come to approach the nuclear question in its full regional context rather than piecemeal and operationally. The entire world knows the risk posed by a nuclear Iran: a drastically altered balance of power in the Middle East and Central Asia, with Iran able to exert far more regional leverage - both overt and implicit - than it now possesses in pursuit of its interests. Moreover, nearby states are likely to launch or further their own nuclear programs in response, leading to. . .

Iraq’s Sadrists complain of vote fraud
Middle East Online 2/7/2009
BAGHDAD - Iraqi politicians backed by the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Saturday said they would lodge an official complaint about votes being excluded during last weekend’s provincial elections. Allies of Sadr said that preliminary results declared by election authorities were markedly different from estimates compiled by the party’s observers during the hotly-contested vote. "There is a big difference in some provinces between the figures we have, through our agents and observers, and those that were declared," said Amir al-Kinani, secretary general of the Free Independent Movement, backed by Sadr. "We will submit the appeal in the results of a number of Baghdad areas and other provinces, including Najaf, Maysan, and Diwaniyah," he said. The Free Independent Movement finished second in the capital Baghdad with nine percent of the vote, which left them 29 percent behind candidates backed by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Naming names: 13,500 clients on roster submitted to court
TheMarker Correspondent and Staff, by Lior Dattel, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
A list of 13,500 alleged victims of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme was publicized Thursday in bankruptcy court filings, yielding new information about the identities of his clients and creating new variations of the guessing game sparked by the original disclosure of his massive fraud. There is already a dedicated online search engine to make the "game" easier, MadoffSearch. com. Madoff operated mainly through agents, who found him investors, largely through their own social networks. The networking is clearly evident in the client list. It includes 2,167 people who live in New York, where Madoff also lives, and 2,776 from Florida, where Madoff recruited many of his Jewish victims. Palm Beach, where Madoff maintains a luxurious home, provided 569 investors, many of them individuals who joined the town’s golf club partly in order to rub elbows with Madoff and join his elite circle of investors.

Law official: Evidence against PM in appointments probe strengthens
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
The case against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on whether he made improper appointments when he was minister of industry, trade and labor has strengthened, a law-enforcement official said. The official spoke after Olmert was questioned on Friday for the 13th time; the session lasted three and a half hours at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem. "The prime minister has not managed to refute the main suspicions against him," the official said. After the questioning under warning, a police official close to the investigation added that the team had compiled a "proper evidentiary foundation" against Olmert. The police have asked the prime minister to set aside a number of additional sessions for questioning. "The investigation in this affair depends at the moment mainly on the frequency of meetings between the investigators and Olmert," a source close to the investigation said.


Articles


Gaza shakes American Arab and Muslim youth
Yasmin Qureshi, Electronic Intifada, Palestine Monitor 2/7/2009
      The most recent assault on Gaza has been an awakening for American Arab and Muslim youth.
     The attacks came at the most festive holiday season of the year. Instead of celebrating, many young American Arab and Muslim teenagers and kids spent their time protesting on the streets as they watched disturbing and devastating images streaming into their living rooms and onto their computers.
     This is a new generation of youth: a generation that grew up witnessing gross violations of US civil liberties, under the shadow of the Patriot Act. They grew up watching Iraq and Afghanistan being destroyed by US military weapons; they saw citizens of countries of their ancestors tortured and humiliated. They have not forgotten Israel’s unjustified attack on Lebanon only two years ago. Many youth have profound attachments to the lands that their parents or great-grandparents came from, and where many still have family.
     "We were very young when [the 11 September 2001 attacks] happened. We grew up under Bush’s presidency and witnessed our community being marginalized. We were often questioned about our religion and culture. This brought many of us closer and we started organizing awareness events on campus," said Billal Asghar, a senior global studies and health science major at San Jose State University.

Israel’s Subtle Propaganda Strategy

Dan Lieberman, Palestine Chronicle 2/7/2009
      Propaganda is most effective when subtly planted and the reader remains unaware that a commentary is actually indoctrination. Sometimes the writer is not cognizant that what he has published has been moved by its propaganda effect – sources for the material are actually misleading and publication is facilitated when the commentary fits a particular agenda.
     Two recent publications, a response by United States Senator Benjamin Cardin to an Amnesty International plea and an article in Newsweek magazine, A Plan of Attack for Peace by Daniel Klaidman, Jan. 12, 2009, demonstrate how far Israel’s supporters can reach to mislead the public. The former remarks, coming from a U.S. Senator, are particularly insidious – careless disregard for a defenseless Palestinian community and an excuse for those whom Amnesty International considers to have shown a lopsided response to the recent violence and who have exhibited lackadaisical efforts to ameliorate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

George Mitchell, a new face on an old sales pitch

Khader Khader, Daily Star 2/6/2009
      The Middle East peace process never depended on the personality of the occupant of the White House. Had it, we might have seen some progress over the past few decades. Some presidents have tried to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; others have ignored it under various pretexts. All have one thing in common: no one ever tried to impose a solution, and the current president, Barack Obama, is no different.
     The period between Obama’s official inauguration and the present moment has not yet witnessed any developments in terms of US policy on the peace process. Although Washington was quick to dispatch its new envoy, George Mitchell, to the region, the statements and foreign policy principles declared so far confirm the above-mentioned paradigm.
     The first indicator can be seen in the Obama administration’s agenda as published on the White House Web page under "Foreign Policy - Renewing American Diplomacy". This states that on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, "Obama and Biden will make progress ... a key diplomatic priority from day one. They will make a sustained push - working with Israelis and Palestinians - to achieve the goal of two states, a Jewish state in Israel and a Palestinian state, living side by side in peace and security.

Stay in the street

Azmi Bishara, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/5/2009
      The protest movement against Israel must be sustained, for Obama is not going to change the essence of America’s Middle East course.
     I will sum up the transition in US foreign policy as follows: in the Bush era, since September 2001, US foreign policy entailed the orchestration of crisis that played on the twin themes of the "war against terror" and "those who aren’t with us are against us." The Barack Obama era opened with the two central chords, "diplomacy first" and "those who aren’t with us could be with us, and those who can not be won over will be isolated and boycotted before recourse to force."
     Obama has taken pains to make it clear that the "us" involved is pretty much the same, only having changed insofar as to make it possible for him to become president. Nor is he the one who brought this change, and the change was hardly sudden. It required enormous sacrifices from African Americans and decades of sustained efforts on the part of civil rights movements in order to bring the White House within his grasp. The new president represents the Democratic wing of that "us". Yet he is promoting the greatest possible continuity with what went before and the greatest possible bipartisanship, to which testify keeping Robert Gates as secretary of defence and designating George Mitchell as special envoy to the Middle East (Mitchell was cosponsor of the Mitchell-Tenet plan that preceded the roadmap). The neoconservatives are out.

The unity imperative

Hassan Nafaa, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/5/2009
      Only unity in action can save the Arab order from imminent collapse, and the Arab world from new waves of colonialism and desolation.
     "The Arab role has disintegrated and vanished. The Arab position is weak and in tatters. Palestinian ranks are divided and in disarray. These factors combined have given rise to a policy borne of arrogance and contempt of riding roughshod over the Arabs. In Egypt we have a folk saying that goes, ’Once you know it will pay, wring out the last drop.’ Evidently Israel could see the Arabs as easy prey and set about wringing out the last drop by occupying their land, building settlements, imposing blockades and wreaking murder and destruction. This is the heart of the matter. We must change the way Israel looks at us. We must reassess our position in its entirety and forge a solid, respectable collective Arab position. The lives of nations in international relations are like the lives of individuals in society. Those that respect themselves will be respected. Those that abase themselves invite contempt. They might win some pity, or a feeble sympathetic smile, or even a bit of benefit, but they will also be dealt a large amount of mockery and scorn."
     With these moving words, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa opened the extraordinary session of the Arab foreign Ministers Council on 31 December in Cairo. The fiendish Israeli killing machine was thrashing through Gaza reaping a huge harvest of innocent Arab lives. On 19 January, on the fringes of the Arab economic summit in Kuwait, Moussa addressed a large assembly of representatives of Arab civil society and the business community saying: "The Arab League has been placed on the defensive in the face of this assault that may lead to the collapse of the entire Arab order if this uneven situation that we perceive and are experiencing even at this moment persists...."

Healing Gaza’s wounds

James Zogby, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/5/2009
      Though the drama of war has subsided, the world must not forget Gaza’s victims.
     Viewing the aftermath of the assault on Gaza and listening to the commentary coming from Israel, the Arab world and from Israel’s supporters in the US can be disturbing on many levels. Most troubling is the failure of apologists for both sides to even consider the human and social dimensions of the profound tragedy that has just occurred. What follows from this is their inability to understand the war’s long-term consequences.
     Because, in fact, Palestinians are fully human and, therefore, mourn their dead, feel their wounds and hold their hurt in their hearts as deeply as the rest of us, the impact of this calamity requires attention. It cannot be just passed over, objectified or reduced to faceless numbers, or dismissed with the stroke of an apologist’s pen.
     There is over 1,400 dead, more than 5,000 injured and thousands more (pregnant women, cancer patients, etc.) who suffered irreparable harm because they could not receive the hospital care they needed during this conflict. In addition, thousands of homes were destroyed, affecting the lives and fortunes of hundreds of thousands. Because of Gaza’s strong family ties and its population density, no one in that impoverished strip was untouched -- either by personal loss, or by the pain resulting from this assault.

Going for the jugular

Saleh Al-Naami, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/5/2009
      Meshaal’s call to replace the PLO is met by alarm, and not only among so-called moderate Palestinian and Arab players.
     There is no love lost between Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), but no one in Doha, Qatar, expected Khaled Meshaal to go for the jugular, at least not during a festive event to celebrate the Gaza "victory". But soon after the Hamas political bureau chief took the podium, it was clear that this wasn’t going to be just another run-of-the-mill speech.
     The Palestinians need to form a new umbrella organisation to speak for all of them, Meshaal told a stunned audience. Although he didn’t call this new umbrella organisation a substitute for the PLO, few doubted that this was his real aim. The PLO was no longer representing the Palestinian people and its leaders were Israeli collaborators, he stated.
     The next day, thousands of Hamas supporters took to the streets in Gaza, shouting anti-PLO slogans and calling for the key Palestinian organisation to be replaced with another one. The PLO’s leaders were conspiring against the nation and selling Palestinian rights down the river, Hamas supporters claimed. Some pointed out that Yasser Abed Rabbo, the PLO secretary who signed a document called the Cairo Agreement with Yossi Beilin, practically abandoned the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

Don’t undermine the PLO

Galal Nassar, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/5/2009
      Hamas’s suggestion of replacing the PLO would take the Palestinian struggle back to square one.
     The first Intifada, launched on 9 October 1987, was a concerted effort carried out by all resistance groups acting under guidance from their umbrella organisation, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). Less than two years after the Intifada broke out, a new group came onto the scene. It called itself the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas.
     Since its inception, Hamas disassociated itself from the PLO, refusing to join it, declining to coordinate with it, and generally acting as if it wasn’t there. It is no coincidence, therefore, that Hamas celebrates the Intifada on 8 October, not on 9 October as the rest of Palestinian groups do.
     Hamas sees itself as a group standing outside the mainstream of the resistance, with no obligation to the needs of Palestinian national unity. In fact, Hamas sees itself as an alternative to the mainstream, a force that should rise to the top, eventually replacing the PLO.

The Forbidden Debate

Sami Jamil Jadallah, Palestine Think Tank 2/7/2009
      In the US and the West, we are able and free to debate God and HIS/HER existence, debate Jesus, Moses, Mohamed, debate America, its failures and its successes, debate our constitution and its interpretations. We are free to debate George Bush and his stupidity, his crimes against America and the world, and his many failures. We are free to debate anything and everything except Zionism, Israel and Judaism. In Palestine and the Arab world, we are allowed to discuss few things but one thing no one dares to discuss is the PLO, its illegitimacy and its failures.
     Israel committed war crimes for over 20 days in Gaza, killing and murdering in cold blood women and children, destroying homes, schools, social centers, UN facilities, mosques and hospitals yet, no one in the US and the West dare to say anything let alone criticize Israel, its racist and criminal practices, as we have seen in the BBC’s refusal to air calls for aid to Gaza and in the attack on Paul Simon and CBC for its airing of the recent special of why a two state solution is not possible any more.
     Mahmoud Abbas, whose presidential term finished and expired a couple of weeks ago and who lost any and all legitimacy as president of Palestine and the Palestinian Authority stood up yesterday in Cairo and declared that under no circumstances will there be any dialogue with those who (Hamas) questions the legitimacy of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Upholding justice

Salama A Salama, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/5/2009
      At a time when the Arab League and the Egyptian Foreign Ministry are documenting Israel’s war crimes in the recent onslaught against Gaza, some European countries -- including Spain -- are thinking of changing their laws to ensure that Israeli war criminals are never brought to trial in their courts.
     Fouad Abdel-Moneim Riyad, one of Egypt’s top legal experts and a former judge at the International Criminal Court, says that available evidence indicates that Israel committed genocide in Gaza. His views are shared by fair-minded Israelis, including historian Ilan Pappe. Some of Israel’s crimes are believed to have exceeded in cruelty the crimes committed in the last decade in Bosnia.
     The problem, however, is that the procedures for trying war criminals in any particular country are subject to international calculations and political pressures, some of which are not necessarily in our favour as Arabs. It is therefore advisable for Arab countries to seek the help of civil institutions and appeal to conscientious individuals to assist in building the legal case and bringing Israeli criminals to justice.
     The atrocities that have been committed need to become public knowledge, for they constitute crimes against humanity and an impediment to efforts aiming to promote human rights.

A humanitarian offensive

Nicola Nasser, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/5/2009
      In tying humanitarian relief to the ceasefire, European and American diplomats are again taking sides against the Palestinians, inevitably sustaining the conflict.
     Stubbornly insisting on putting the cart before the horse as the approach to a "durable and sustainable" ceasefire in Gaza, US and European diplomacy is building on a misleading Israeli premise that the 22-day military operation dubbed "Operation Cast Lead" was a reaction and not a premeditated and long planned scheme that found in the change of guard in Washington DC perfect timing. It was "not simply a reaction", but "a calculation", Daniel Klaidman wrote in Newsweek on 10 January.
     American and European diplomats are reiterating Israel’s propagandistic justification: "What would any normal country do if they were threatened by rocket fire? They would act." US President Barack Obama was the last Western leader to uphold this Israeli claim, but he upheld it nonetheless. "But Israel is not a normal country, it is an occupying power," former Palestinian-Israeli member of Knesset Azmi Bishara said. Moreover what country would tolerate an eight- year siege and not consider it an act of war unworthy of a national reaction? Why should Western diplomacy judge Palestinians in Gaza as abnormal?

If not fascism, what is?

Khaled Amayreh, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/5/2009
      Without censure, a growing current in Israeli politics is calling for the outright killing of Palestinians.
     His name is Avigdor Lieberman and he is widely expected to be the main surprise of the Israeli elections, slated to take place 10 February.
     Many Israeli intellectuals dub Lieberman as the secular equivalent of Meir Kahana, the slain founder of the Kach terrorist group who advocated genocidal ethnic cleansing of non-Jews in Israel-Palestine. Kahana was assassinated in Manhattan, New York, in 1990 shortly after giving a speech in which he called for the annihilation and expulsion of Palestinians from "the Land of Israel".
     According to most opinion polls, Lieberman’s party, Yisrael Beiteinu, or "Israel is our Home", is projected to win 16-17 Knesset seats out of 120 making up the Israeli parliament. This would allow Yisrael Beiteinu to overtake the Labour Party, led by Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, to become the third largest party in the Israeli political system, after the Likud and Kadima parties. Lieberman’s party will likely be a chief coalition partner in the next Israeli government.

Kahane won

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
      Rabbi Meir Kahane can rest in peace: His doctrine has won. Twenty years after his Knesset list was disqualified and 18 years after he was murdered, Kahanism has become legitimate in public discourse. If there is something that typifies Israel’s current murky, hollow election campaign, which ends the day after tomorrow, it is the transformation of racism and nationalism into accepted values.
     If Kahane were alive and running for the 18th Knesset, not only would his list not be banned, it would win many votes, as Yisrael Beiteinu is expected to do. The prohibited has become permitted, the ostracized is now accepted, the destestable has become the talented - that’s the slippery slope down which Israeli society has skidded over the past two decades.
     There’s no need to refer to Haaretz’s startling revelation that Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman was a member of Kahane’s Kach party in his youth: This campaign’s dark horse was and is a Kahanist. The differences between Kach and Yisrael Beiteinu are minuscule, not fundamental and certainly not a matter of morality. The differences are in tactical nuances: Lieberman calls for a fascist "test of loyalty" as a condition for granting citizenship to Israel’s Arabs, while Kahane called for the unconditional annulment of their citizenship. One racist (Lieberman) calls for their transfer to the Palestinian state, the other (Kahane) called for their deportation. -- See also: Yaalon: Lieberman may recommend Livni

A shady deal on the West Bank

Haaretz Editorial, Ha’aretz 2/8/2009
      A protocol of discussions with settler representatives on the terms of evacuating Migron, the contents of which were reported in Haaretz last Wednesday, reveals that in exchange for the promise of evacuating the outpost without striking soldiers or abusing police officers, Barak is offering an incentive as a reward for this group of criminals.
     The Olmert government was elected on the basis of its promise to advance a "realignment" in the West Bank, at the center of which stood the evacuation of dozens of settlements. But it concludes its term without having upheld one of the commitments its predecessor made to the U.S. administration - the promise to dismantle all outposts built since March 2001.
     The fate of Migron, the largest illegal outpost, which was built on private Palestinian land near Ramallah, becomes clearer when considering the High Court of Justice’s sluggishness. The state promised to evacuate it, but repeatedly asked to postpone the evacuation in an attempt to reach a deal with the settlers, which would prevent a violent confrontation.

Hamas Is Not Going Away

Mel Frykberg, Inter Press Service 2/8/2009
      RAMALLAH, Feb 6(IPS) - Despite intensive efforts by Israel, the international community and a number of Arab leaders to weaken and destroy Hamas through economic, punitive and military action, the Islamist organisation continues to be a force to reckon with.
     Hamas won free and fair democratic elections in January 2006. The U.S. pushed for these elections, which were monitored by international observers including ex-U.S. president Jimmy Carter, and Israel permitted them to be held.
     Hamas has since then been dominant, though it took effective control in June 2007, more than a year after its election victory. The Gaza Strip, which the resistance group controls, took a serious battering during Israel’s 22-day military assault, codenamed Operation Cast Lead.
     The coastal territory has also been economically crippled by nearly two years of an Israeli embargo which has hermetically sealed Gaza off from the rest of the world, preventing the import of all but a tiny flow of humanitarian aid and goods.