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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
14 February, 2009

No Gaza deal until soldier’s release, says Olmert
AP, The Guardian 2/14/2009
Outgoing Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert says militants must release soldier Gilad Shalit before truce can be reached - Israel will not sign off on a Gaza ceasefire without the release of an Israel soldier held in the Hamas-controlled territory, the outgoing Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said today, squashing speculation that a deal might be imminent. Egypt has been mediating indirect ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas for the past month, since Israel halted a fierce three-week offensive against Hamas targets in Gaza. Under an emerging deal, Israel would gradually ease its border blockade of Gaza in exchange for a halt to weapons smuggling and attacks by Gaza militants. In parallel, Egypt brokered talks on a prisoner swap involving hundreds of Palestinians held by Israel and the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was seized by Hamas-allied militants in June 2006.

Agriculture minister denounces continued IOF shooting at fishermen
Palestinian Information Center 2/14/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Mohammed Al-Agha, the Palestinian agriculture minister in Gaza, has denounced the Israeli occupation forces’ continued shooting at Palestinian fisherman and their boats off the Gaza coasts. Agha in a statement on Saturday said that the IOF gunboats on Saturday morning opened intensive fire at fishermen damaging ten fishing boats and scores of fishnets, which were left behind by the fishermen after they were forced to jump into sea. The minister said that the IOF troops reduced the distance allowed to fishermen from six to three miles only in Gaza territorial waters. The ministry will table its protest with the parties patronizing the former and coming calm agreements, Agha said, noting that the IOF kept on pestering Palestinian fishermen and farmers before and during the previous agreement. He stressed that any future calm should be fair for the Palestinian. . .

IDF: Large-scale destruction of Gaza homes presents legal difficulties
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 2/15/2009
Israel Defense Forces investigations into last month’s offensive in the Gaza Strip indicate the army could face significant difficulties justifying the scale of destruction of civilian homes during the fighting. A military source involved in the investigation told Haaretz, "It’s clear to us that in a small portion of the combat sectors immeasurable damage was caused, and that is very difficult to justify from a legal perspective, particularly if such justifications are called for in legal proceedings with international organizations. "In the course of fighting, the IDF destroyed hundreds of houses in different sectors, and Palestinian sources estimate several thousands of houses suffered damage. Some of the homes were struck as a result of aerial strikes, others during ground fighting in densely-built urban areas.

300 Israeli settlers under military guard invade Artas village in Bethlehem
Palestinian Information Center 2/14/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- About 300 Israeli settlers escorted by IOF troops and border guards invaded Friday several areas in the Artas village, south of Bethlehem, and set up several tents on these areas which are threatened with annexation. This Israeli escalation came after Israeli bulldozers established 800-meter road linking the area of Khalat Al-Nahl in the village with the Efrat settlement built on the territory of several villages in the area including Artas and Khadr. Villagers from Artas told the PIC that the Israeli bulldozers are working in this area around the clock even at night in order to finish quickly this settlement scheme. In another context, Arab Knesset member Ibrahim Sarsour deplored the blasphemous assault on the Bahar mosque in the Tabaria city at dawn Saturday through spraying satanic graffiti on the mosque’s wall in addition to red and black colors.

IOF troops quell Na’lin peaceful march
Palestinian Information Center 2/14/2009
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Israeli occupation forces on Friday quelled the weekly peaceful demonstration organized by the inhabitants of Na’lin village, along with foreign sympathizers, to protest confiscation of their lands. Local sources said that the IOF soldiers fired sonic and gas bombs at the participants, and added that 15 of them were treated for suffocation including five journalists and an international activist. In the West Bank, IOF troops arrested three citizens including a young woman in Nablus district at dawn Saturday, local sources reported. They noted that two other young men were rounded up from the Duma village to the southeast of Nablus at dawn Friday. The Israeli occupation authority renewed the administrative detention, without trial or charge, of former PA minister of prisoners’ affairs Wasfi Qabaha, 49, for six months despite absence of any charge against him since his detention on 23/5/2007.

UN urged to extend Gaza investigation
Amnesty International 2/13/2009
United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has been urged to broaden an investigation of attacks on UN installations in Gaza so that it becomes a comprehensive inquiry into all alleged violations of international law by all parties to the conflict. Amnesty International has described the planned investigation, announced on Tuesday, as "welcome yet insufficient"." The UN’s investigation must not be so limited as to look only at recent attacks by Israeli forces on UN schools, staff and property in Gaza. It is not only the victims of attacks on the UN who have a right to know why their rights were violated and who was responsible, and to obtain justice and reparation," said Secretary General Irene Khan." What is needed is a comprehensive international investigation that looks at all alleged violations of international law - by Israel, by Hamas and by other Palestinian armed groups involved in the conflict."

European MPs: Israel committed war crimes against humanity in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 2/14/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- A delegation from the European parliament met Friday with Palestinian lawmakers in a tent prepared to receive guests after the destruction of the PLC headquarters during the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip, where the visiting delegation affirmed that Israel deliberately committed war crimes against humanity in the Strip. Karikus Veldelevs, the head of the delegation, stated that their visit is intended for meeting the political leadership in Gaza in addition to witnessing the war crimes intentionally committed by the Israeli war machine. Veldelevs strongly condemned, on behalf of the delegation, Israel for bombing civil institutions and killing civilians, adding that what the delegation had seen proved that Israel intentionally bombed civilian buildings. He said that they would report about the witnessed scenes and the testimonies heard from victims to the European. . .

Israeli forces open fire on demonstrators in village south of Jenin
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2009
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces raided the West Bank village of Misliya, south of Jenin, on Saturday afternoon. Young Palestinian men threw stones at the invading soldiers, who responded with rubber-coated metal bullets, tear gas, and sonic bombs. No injuries were reported. According to Palestinian security sources, Israeli forces raided the house of Yousef Abu Na’im on the pretext that young men who threw stones were hiding in the building. Na’im was questioned but not arrested. The Israeli forces later withdrew. [end]

Israel shrinks Gaza fishing limit to three miles, down from six
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Israel has tightened the fishing limit off the coast of Gaza from six miles to just three miles, the Palestinian agriculture minister in Gaza said on Saturday. According to Agriculture Minister Mohammad Al-Agha, the Israeli Navy has enforced the restrictions since the end of the three-week assault on Gaza in January, firing on fishing boats that approach the three-mile boundary. Israel has enforced a six-mile limit since October 2006. The Olso peace agreement guarantees Palestinians the right to fish out to 20 nautical miles from Gaza. Al-Agha said that Israeli gunboats opened fire on Gazan fishermen on Saturday morning, damaging one boat and forcing fishermen to abandon their nets at sea when they fled the Israeli fire. “The Ministry of Agriculture complained to concerned sides that there are no limits that could prevent farmers and fishermen from. . .

IDF attacks ’weapons factories’ in Jabalia
Ynet, YNetNews 2/14/2009
Military says attack on Hamas-affiliated sites a response to Friday morning rocket fire on Israel - IDF forces attacked two weapons production factories affiliated with Hamas in the Jabalia refugee camp in the West Bank, in a late Friday night operation. Near midnight, Israel Air Force planes hit the two sites. According to the IDF, the aerial strike was a continuation of the military bombardment of tunnels in Gaza’s Philadelphi Corridor, which came in response to Friday morning’s rocket attack on Israeli towns. The IDF said Hamas is fully responsible for maintaining the ceasefire and that the military would continue responding to breaches of such. [end]

Students angered by Gaza revive sit-ins
Alexandra Topping, The Guardian 2/14/2009
A new wave of student activism sparked by events in Gaza has seen dozens of university buildings occupied in Britain, with some of the UK’s top educational establishments agreeing to set up scholarships for Palestinians or disinvest in arms companies linked to Israel. Though the assault on the territory ended three weeks ago, lingering anger over the attack has prompted students to stage sit-ins at 21 universities, many organised via blogs, Facebook and text messages. Students at Glasgow and Manchester are refusing to leave the buildings until their demands are met, after similar occupations at other universities provided tangible results in what is being seen as a new era of highly organised student activism. Katan Alder, 22, one of 50 Manchester University protesters who have occupied a university building for nine days, said students were abandoning diplomatic tactics in favour of direct action.

UK police seize Gaza aid vans
Al Jazeera 2/15/2009
The vehicles are carrying clothes, blankets and children’s toys - British police have seized three vans that were to form part of a 100 vehicle aid convoy headed for Gaza. Lancashire police said on Saturday that the seizure was made as part of an anti-terror raid in the northwest of England. The convoy had been organised by the pro-Palestinian organisation Viva Palestina and left central London on Saturday, the group’s website said. It said the vehicles, which include a fire engine and ambulances, were carrying clothes, blankets and children’s toys. It said volunteers planned to drive 8,000km through France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt where they had hoped to cross the border at Rafah into Gaza on March 2. Lancashire police said the cargo from the three seized vehicles was being "thoroughly checked by search officers who are working as quickly as they can to ensure that the parcels can be released and continue on to their destination". -- See also: IN VIDEO - UK aid convoy heads to Gaza

Deputy PLC speaker barred from leaving West Bank for second time
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2009
Tulkarm – Ma’an – Israel prevented the deputy speaker of the Palestinian parliament from leaving the West Bank on Saturday for the second time in three weeks. Hassan Khreisheh, the deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) was turned back at the Allenby Bridge (liking the West Bank to Jordan) by Israeli border guards. Khreisheh told Ma’an that he was on his way to a conference in the Jordanian capital, Amman, on Gaza issues. The two-day conference was to be attended by government officials from various countries. On 22 January, Khreisheh was barred from leaving the West Bank on his way to Cyprus for a conference on the future of political regime in Palestine with other Palestinian and Arab figures. Khreisheh is an independent from the West Bank city of Tulkarem.

In control of all borders, Israelis ban passage to prestigious conference in Amman
Ramallah, Palestine News Network 2/14/2009
PNN exclusive - Vice President of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Hassan Khreisheh, was prevented from travelling through the Al Karameh (Allenby) border crossing. As the occupying authority, Israeli forces hold complete control over all Palestinian borders that connect with the outside. Khreisheh was provided with no reason for the ban on his movement. During a telephone conversation with PNN on Saturday the PLC VP said that he was slated to arrive today in the Jordanian capital. He had intended to participate in a conference titled "Beyond Gaza" beginning Sunday morning in Amman. The conference was organized by the prestigious Center for Palestine Studies. The high-ranking Palestinian official was expected to deliver the opening address. It should be noted that MP Khreisheh is an independent who won on a ticket that supported Hamas during the Legislative Council elections in which Hamas won.

Israeli Air Force and Navy shell Gaza
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/14/2009
The Israeli Air Force and the Israeli Navy late on Friday at night bombarded three areas in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, including Gaza city and Rafah, causing several injuries and excessive property damage. Local sources reported that four residents were wounded, and were moved to Kamal Adwan hospital, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, after the Israeli Air Force fired at least one missile at a lumberyard near the Jabalia market. The lumberyard, which belongs to the Al Sharafy family, was destroyed due to the shelling. Furthermore, Israeli Navy gunships fired automatic rounds at open areas in the northern and western parts of Gaza city; no injuries were reported. The Israeli Air Force also carried out a series of strikes at areas along the border in Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, several injuries were reported The Israeli Army said that the shelling targeted the "tunnels area".

Islamic Jihad claims responsibility for Gaza roadside bomb
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, claimed responsibility for setting off a roadside bomb near an Israeli patrol on the Gaza-Israel border on Saturday evening. The Israeli military has confirmed that an explosive device was detonated near a patrolling jeep. No one was injured. Israeli soldiers are reported to be searching the area. Israeli military vehicles routinely patrol a buffer zone along the border inside the Gaza Strip. [end]

Hamas: Israeli escalation aims to terrorize Palestinians, blackmail resistance
Palestinian Information Center 2/14/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Hamas on Saturday held the Israeli occupation authority fully responsible for any consequences of the "serious escalation" in attacks on the Gaza Strip. Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, urged all parties that called for calm to pressure the IOA to stop its aggression and procrastination. He added in a press release that the recent IOA escalation, which coincides with the approaching conclusion of a new calm agreement, aims to terrorize the Palestinian people and to blackmail the Palestinian resistance and Hamas to accept Israeli conditions. Barhoum said that such intransigence reflects the IOA intention to put more hurdles before calm efforts, and asked the concerned parties to intervene to end such practice.

Roadside bomb, Grad rocket disrupt calm in south
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 2/15/2009
Explosive device set off against IDF troops patrolling fence along Gaza border after Grad lands in Hevel Yave region without setting off alarm - The Homefront Command on Saturday established a committee to investigate an apparent malfunction in the rocket alert system in Hevel Yavne Regional Council, after a Grad rocket exploded near a town in the area. In another incident Saturday, an explosive device planted near the security fence along the Gaza border was detonated just as an IDF patrol vehicle was passing on Saturday afternoon. No injuries were reported and no damage was caused. The Grad rocket reportedly struck the area of a town in Hevel Yavne around 8:00 pm Friday, and its remains were discovered and dismantled in an agricultural field by police sappers on Saturday morning. It constitutes the farthest-reaching rocket fired at Israel since the end of the IDF offensive in Gaza.

Israeli forces seize three Palestinians in Nablus, including a woman
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces seized three Palestinians from Nablus and the neighboring villages of Salem and Beit Wazan on Saturday morning. Thirty-two-year-old Imad Abu Eisha from Beit Wazan reported the detentions, saying Israeli forces stormed his village at 3:00am and ransacked several homes before arresting a 23-year-old woman identified as Rima Abu Eisha, a student at An-Najah National University in Nablus. Local sources in the village of Salem east of Nablus told said Israeli forces arrested 24-year-old Ali Ishtayya from his home after they raided the village. In Nablus, 22-year-old Abdullah Al-Ikir was seized on Asira Ash-Shamaliyya street after several Israeli military jeeps stormed the city.

IOF warplanes blast a number of targets in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 2/14/2009
RAFAH, (PIC)-- Israeli warplanes blasted a number of targets along the Gaza Strip borders with Egypt and in Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza late on Friday night. Security sources told PIC reporter that the Israeli warplanes launched four raids on the border area in the vicinity of Rafah crossings along with a number of suburbs in Rafah city. Six Palestinians were wounded in two Israeli aerial raids on Jabalia at midnight Friday after a warehouse containing wood was blasted in downtown Jabalia. The warehouse was completely burnt while nearby houses were damaged, security sources said. Another Israeli raid targeted an open area in Jabal Al-Rayes northeast of Gaza Strip while the Israeli army spokesman claimed that the raid targeted two workshops that manufacture "combat means".

Gaza health ministry distributes 27 ambulances to organizations
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza on Saturday distributed 27 ambulances donated during the war by Arab and Islamic organizations to 19 medical service providers. Program coordinator Usamah Al-Bal’awi said the ministry made this step out of its moral and legal responsibility towards Palestinian community. Health Minister Bassem Na’im said: “By this step the ministry confirms the strong relationship with the institutions aimed at serving the Palestinian civilians. ”[end]

PA planning minister: Salaries will be paid by Thursday
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – The Palestinian Authority (PA) will disburse salaries to its 170,000 employees no later than Thursday, the Palestinian minister of planning in Ramallah pledged on Saturday. The Minister of Planning in the caretaker government, Samir Abdallah, told Ma’an that the PA is able to pay its workers after it signed a 168 million Euro funding agreement with the European Union. Abdallah blamed the delay on the PA’s expenditures on war-ravaged Gaza. He said the PA had to allocate extra funds to the Gaza Strip “in order to avert a disaster. ”He said the PA has spent 50 million dollars on emergency housing for those whose homes were destroyed by the Israeli offensive in Gaza in December and January. He stressed that other PA funds are also channeled to Gaza to pay for electricity, water, fuel, and other services.

De facto government police announce new prison in ’secret location’
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – A new ‘secret’ prison in the Gaza Strip was announced Saturday by de facto government police personnel. The new prison is housing criminals and accused criminals awaiting trial following the destruction of the main prison during the Gaza war, said the spokesperson of the de facto government police, Islam Shahwan. The new facility is described as an “alternate location,” but Shawhan refused to reveal its location for “security reasons” and to ensure the safety of prisoners and wardens. Those in the new prison range from “dangerous criminals” to those charged with vandalizing public property or involvement in clan clashes. Shahwan was unable to verify whether the police headquarters would be rebuilt in the coming months, but said police personnel were prepared to operate out of tents and barracks if necessary.

Mishaal: The national reconciliation entails ending political arrest in W. Bank
Palestinian Information Center 2/14/2009
TRIPOLI, (PIC)-- Khalid Mishaal, the head of the Hamas political bureau, stated Friday that there can be no national reconciliation while the PA security apparatuses carry out political arrests against Hamas cadres in the occupied West Bank, denying at the same time the existence of political detainees in the Gaza Strip. In a press statement before leaving Libya, Mishaal called for holding bilateral meetings between the PA and Hamas to discuss the issue of detainees.  The Hamas leader denied in another context that there was an agreement with Israel on the file of its captive soldier Gilad Shalit, charging the IOA with attempting to link the prisoner swap deal to unrelated files. He also said at the end of his visit to Libya that he is currently on a tour of a number of Arab and Islamic countries in order to develop a common formula for the reconstruction in Gaza and the national reconciliation.

PA arrests 6 jailbreakers
Ali Waked, YNetNews 2/14/2009
Security forces catch 6 of 15 men, most of Fatah’s military wing, who broke out of Jericho prison -Palestinian Security Forces in Jericho arrested six of the 15 prisoners who escaped from a Palestinian Authority prison on Friday. The prisoners, most of them wanted operatives from Fatah’s military wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, dug a tunnel to escape from the jail. The PA heightened police deployment pursuant to the incident. Twelve of the prisoners were wanted men from different parts of the West Bank who had been imprisoned in order to maintain an amnesty agreement between Israel and the PA, which grants pardon to members of terror groups who sign contracts committing them to good behavior. The Palestinian Authority set up an investigatory committee on Saturday, based on the suspicion that the escaped prisoners had received help from security. . .

PA: Six of 13 escaped prisoners re-arrested
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2009
Jericho – Ma’an – Six prisoners of the 13 prisoners who escaped a Palestinian Authority prison on Friday have been rearrested, a high-ranking Palestinian security source said on Saturday. The source denied news reports claiming the escape had any political dimension, and asserted that those on the run were suspects of petty-criminal charges and those serving time for similar offences. He appealed to Palestinians to help police capture the fugitives and refuse to offer them transport or shelter. According to the Palestinian Authority, nine of the detainees who escaped are officers in the PA’s security services accused of petty crimes. Four others are “wanted by Israeli intelligence. ”The men escaped from a prison in the West Bank city of Jericho on Friday. According to some reports, some of the men are former fighters who signed "amnesty" documents in which they agree to spend a term in prison in exchange for a pardon from Israel.

UNRWA on strike
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/14/2009
Nablus -- The United Nations Relief and Works Agency has made headlines for months while trying to provide services to Gaza Strip refugees during the siege and closure. The UNRWA remained in the spotlight when it became the target of Israelis bombings during the major attacks and has remained there as war crimes cases are prepared. But today’s headlines stem from institutional problems. All employees of the institutions and facilities of the UNRWA in the West Bank are on strike "because of the refusal of the Agency’s management to respond to demands. "Media spokesman for the Federation of Arab Workers in the Relief Agency’s offices, Abu Junaid, said today’s closure comes as preparations are underway for a strike slated for the twenty-sixth of this month. UNRWA employees demand better working conditions and higher compensation.

West Bank UNRWA employees on strike
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – All UNRWA workers in the West Bank went on strike on Saturday after the UNRWA management rejected employees’ demands. The union and the management held a meeting on Saturday in an attempt to avert a strike, but the UN administration again refused the requests of the workers for a pay increase and other improvements. AsSpokesperson for the Arab employees at the UN, Basim Abu Jneid, confirmed the strike and noted a second strike is set for 26 February. If demands continue to be ignored, including a two day weekend for workers, an “open strike” is not out of the question. He named the demands of the 4,500 employee as follows:- Clarification on the status of the retirement savings plan instituted by UNRWA (a deficit in the find was announced earlier this year)- A salary adjustment taking into account the rising cost of living- A just agreement. . .

UNRWA opens first of six new school buildings to accommodate overflow of Palestinian students
Karah Byrns, Daily Star 2/14/2009
TALABAYA: The Bekaa Valley on Thursday saw the opening of "Al Jarmaq" school, a new secondary school building in Talabaya constructed by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians in the Near East (UNRWA) with EU funding. The impressive four-storey concrete building, freshly painted in blue and white and decorated with words of thanks to the EU, was built to accommodate the overflow of students from Talabaya’s existing UNRWA school. Previously limited to only half a day’s education due to the need for double teaching shifts to offer education to all children, students will now benefit from three additional hours of instruction. Patrick Laurent, head of the European Commission Delegation to Lebanon, and Salvatore Lombardo, director of UNRWA Affairs Lebanon, cut the ribbon together at the school’s entrance in a symbolic gesture representative of their collaboration in improving education for Palestinian children in Lebanon.

NGOs open public garden in Nahr al-Bared
Daily Star 2/14/2009
BEIRUT: With funding from European Commission Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), Mercy Corps and Najdeh Association opened a public garden in Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp under the program "Emergency Economic Recovery for people affected by the Nahr al-Bared Crisis - (Cash for Work)" on Wednesday. The ribbon was cut by Steven Haley, Country Director of Mercy Corps Lebanon, together with Nawal al-Hassan, branch coordinator for Najdeh Association, representatives of ECHO in Lebanon, UNRWA and community leaders. The public garden project takes part of the cash for work program that provides immediate assistance to improve the lives of 6,875 vulnerable people affected by the conflict in Nahr al-Bared while also repairing community infrastructure and beautifying public spaces. Around 1,375 labourers, including 350 women, have benefited from a temporary income generation opportunity with 30 days of work.

Israel passes threats to Lebanese government through UN envoy
Daily Star 2/14/2009
BEIRUT: Israel has reportedly passed a message to the Lebanese government, through United Nations envoy Michael Williams, that any Hizbullah-led efforts to shoot down Israeli aircraft violating Lebanese airspace or Lebanon-based attack on Israel would be met with a firm response. According to Israel’s daily Haaretz, Williams was informed by Aharon Abramovitz, director general of Israel’s defense ministry, that any attack launched from Lebanese soil or by Lebanese parties would be blamed on Hizbullah and Lebanon’s unity government, to which Hizbullah and its allies currently belong. Pascale Kassis, the media adviser to special coordinator Williams, did not confirm the report but said that visiting concerned regional parties was part of Williams usual diplomatic work. "He meets regularly, Mr. Williams, with all the concerned parties as part of the consultations on the implementation of UN Resolution 1701. . . " -- See also: UNIFIL chief accuses Israel of violating Resolution 1701

Lebanese committee calls for sending peaceful fleet to break the siege on Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 2/14/2009
BEIRUT, (PIC)-- The Lebanese national committee to break the siege on Gaza has called on all freedom loving peoples in the world to send a unified "peace fleet" to break the siege on the Gaza Strip. The committee in a statement on Friday said that it was ready to provide all its potentials along with those of the Free Gaza movement, which coordinates with it to lift the siege on Gaza, before all those who wish to contribute to that fleet. It said that the siege would not be lifted until all parties contributing to that siege sensed that the political, legal and media cost of such a siege was very "expensive". The committee said that ships joining that fleet should set sail at a specific agreed upon date to display Arab, Islamic and international solidarity with the besieged people of Gaza and to expose Israel’s aggressive nature and its "racist, terrorist mentality".

PA leaders press ICC for Gaza inquiry
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Palestinian leaders pressed prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague on Friday to investigate possible Israeli war crimes committed during the three-week assault on Gaza. PA Justice Minister Ali Khashan led the delegation. It was Palestinian officials’ second visit to the court in three weeks. Whether an inquiry will be launched hinges on whether the court grants the validity of a PA decision to recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction in January. Israel argues that since the ICC’s jurisdiction only applies to ‘sovereign nations,’ and that the Palestinian Authority is not a state. Israel does not accept the authority of the court itself. "The ICC charter is adhered to by sovereign states and the Palestinian Authority has not yet been recognized as one so it cannot be a member of the ICC," Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said earlier this month, according to AP.

Moroccan delegation: What we saw in Gaza was more atrocious than TV broadcasts
Palestinian Information Center 2/14/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Mohamed Guti, the head of the Moroccan health committee to support Iraq and Palestine, said that what he and the Moroccan delegation saw in the Gaza Strip was more hideous than what appeared on TV screens, adding that Israel destroyed everything in the Strip to force its people to surrender and raise the white flag. Dr. Guti, who headed the Moroccan delegation to Gaza, noted that the most prominent thing which drew his attention during his visit to Gaza was the continuity of life and the steadfastness of citizens despite the war and its repercussions. The delegation head described Gaza as the international university through which noble Islamic and humanitarian values can be learned, hailing the warm welcome received by any visiting delegates as well as the level of organization and facilitation of the delegations’ missions during their presence in Gaza.

AI urges Ki-moon to broaden a probe into Israeli attacks on UN buildings
Palestinian Information Center 2/14/2009
NEW YORK, (PIC)-- Amnesty International urged Friday UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to broaden an investigation of attacks on UN institutions in the Gaza Strip so that it becomes a comprehensive probe into all violations of international law committed by Israel and allegedly by other parties to the conflict. Amnesty pointed out that its researchers, who visited Gaza during and after the fighting, found compelling evidence of war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. "The UN’s investigation must not be so limited as to look only at recent attacks by Israeli forces on UN schools, staff and property in Gaza. It is not only the victims of attacks on the UN who have a right to know why their rights were violated and who was responsible, and to obtain justice and reparation," AI secretary-general Irene Khan said. -- See also: AI: UN urged to extend Gaza investigation

Join the Global BDS Action Day, March 30th
Palestine Assembly - (WSF, Belem) BNC, Stop The Wall 2/14/2009
In December 2008, Israel decided to mark the 60thanniversary of its existence the same way it had established itself: perpetrating massacres against the Palestinian people. In 23 days, Israel killed more than 1,300 and injured over 5,000 Palestinians in Gaza. The irony of history is that Israel targeted those Palestinians - and their descendants - whom it had expelled from their homes and pushed into refugee-hood in Gaza in 1948, whose land it has stolen, whom it has oppressed since 1967 by means of a brutal military occupation, and whom it had tried to starve into submission by means of a criminal blockade of food, fuel and electricity in the 18 months preceding the military assault. We cannot wait for Israel to zero in on its next objective. Palestine has today become the test of our indispensable morality and our common humanity.

Marking Four Years of Nonviolence
Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 2/14/2009
A commemorative protest, marking the four year anniversary of Bil’in’s weekly resistance against the construction of the Apartheid Wall and the confiscation of Palestinian lands, will take place next Friday after the Noon prayer. Palestine Monitor will be there and encourages other organizations to attend and lend their support. [end]

The Ma’aleh Adumim challenge
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 2/15/2009
At a time when everyone bandies about the word "unity" like some hackneyed phrase, here is a public-opinion challenge for the new government, even at the price of a showdown with the United States: the building of thousands of housing units in the corridor between Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem and linking the two cities as part of the much-discussed "E1 plan. "Every government - from Yitzhak Rabin’s to Ehud Olmert’s - has supported the plan but has not implemented it. Now the time has come to do so, before it’s too late, perhaps impossible. The outgoing defense minister, Ehud Barak, who asked us to consider "the moment of truth" during the election campaign, knows the lay of the land very well. He visited the area before the elections and thought that "without a willingness to build a contiguous link between Mount Scopus and Ma’aleh Adumim, Ma’aleh Adumim is in danger. "

U.S. expected to pressure Israel on settlement construction
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 2/15/2009
Even though the American administration would prefer an Israeli government that is committed to a two-state solution, the United States does not intend to take a stance on the composition of the next coalition. In view of the expected naming of Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu to form a coalition with the support of right-wing parties, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U. S. envoy George Mitchell will focus during their next visit to Jerusalem on efforts to preserve the West Bank under the control of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. The Americans will demand that Israel avoid creating new facts on the ground that may burden achieving an agreement in the future. Toward this end, the U. S. administration is preparing to put heavy pressure on the new government to freeze all settlement construction and keep its promises to lift roadblocks.

Israel concerned U.S. may agree to take part in ’Durban 2’
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/15/2009
Officials in Jerusalem expressed concern that Israel and Barack Obama’s administration are on a collision course over an expected U. S. decision to participate in "Durban 2," the second UN-sponsored World Conference Against Racism, scheduled in Geneva this April. The Foreign Ministry has sought to block efforts by senior U. S. officials to convince Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to alter American policy set during the Bush administration not to attend the conference, which is regarded by Israel as a forum of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli vitriol. Israel is boycotting the conference because a declaration equating Zionism with racism is expected to be made there. In addition, it is expected that the organizers and participants will charge that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians, and, like before in Durban, will make anti-Semitic statements.

Obama and the Israeli war cry
Kristen Ess, Palestine News Network 2/14/2009
United States envoy George Mitchell is slated to arrive on the twenty-seventh to reiterate his 2000 report that called to honor international law which deems all Israeli settlements illegal. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be here next month and may suggest the same but it is unclear the director the Obama administration will take. Obama, as his policy plans suggest, prefers the economic rather than military approach to engendering compliance. This does not hold in keeping with the results of the Israeli elections which were campaigned and won on the blood of Gaza and the extremist settler movement. Settlement activity is on the rise, not dwindling. Up 30 percent in November marking a year since Annapolis the leaps are now coming in bounds. Some 30,000 units are being placed on East Jerusalem and West Bank lands to complete the blocking of the two at Ma’ale Adumim.

ANALYSIS / Olmert in denial over Israel’s talks with Hamas
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 2/15/2009
There was something almost comical about outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s statement on the negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit. The announcement, which was released as a clarification in response to speculation, said that "Israel is not negotiating with Hamas and will not reach any understandings with Hamas. " So apparently there’s another explanation for the frequent visits by Amos Gilad, the defense establishment’s envoy, to Cairo. He just digs the pyramids. During Olmert’s three-year term, his bureau his challenged reality more than once in its announcements, with each defiance appearing to set a small, new record. After all, Israel has been engaged, though Egyptian mediation, in talks with Hamas for the past several years. It would be extremely difficult to agree on an extended cease-fire in the Gaza Strip without reaching an understanding with Hamas.

Hamas: Lull agreement imminent; Israel: No deal without Gilad Shalit
Barak Ravid Avi Issacharoff, Anshel Pfeffer and Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 2/15/2009
An announcement on a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas is expected in "the coming three days," Taher Nunu, spokesman for the Hamas delegation negotiating in Cairo, said yesterday. Meanwhile, Egyptian sources told the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat that there is a chance that captured soldier Gilad Shalit will be released in the coming weeks, possibly before Ehud Olmert concludes his tenure as prime minister. Olmert is insisting that unless there is progress on a deal for Shalit, Israel will not allow the reopening of the border crossings into the Gaza Strip. The Prime Minister’s Bureau denied yesterday reports in the Arab press about a pending agreement with Hamas. "Israel does not negotiate with Hamas and will certainly reach no agreement with it," a statement read. A spokesperson for Olmert emphasized that Israel will not agree to. . .

Olmert to consult with Netanyahu before agreeing on Shalit deal
Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 2/15/2009
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will hold consultations with Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu before any final decision is made on a prisoner swap for captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, Haaretz has learned. A source in the Prime Minister’s bureau said on Saturday that Olmert will ask for Netanyahu’s opinion in light of last Tuesday’s election results. Despite garnering less votes than the ruling Kadima Party, the right-wing camp’s majority in the upcoming Knesset gives the Likud leader the best chance to form the next governing coalition. Olmert will also huddle with Netanyahu before signing off on a renewed cease-fire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. " Netanyahu is updated every so often on developments and we will want to consult with him before making a decision on a matter that will be critical for the next government," the source said.

Hamas: Shalit stipulation just ’Israeli procrastination’
Roni Sofer and Reuters, YNetNews 2/15/2009
After Prime Minister Olmert issues statement vowing he will not open Gaza crossings until captive soldier returned, Hamas accuses Israel of stalling negotiations -Israel will not agree to open crossings into Gaza without the return of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, the Prime Minister’s Office reported Saturday. Meanwhile, a Hamas official reported that talks had hit a snag because Israel was pressing for a longer-term ceasefire. Osama Hamdan, a Hamas representative in Lebanon, told Al Jazeera television that Israel’s raising of the Shalit issue was "a programmed operation to make the deal fail". Hamdan said "we consider that this kind of Israeli procrastination is for the aim of achieving more objectives and wasting more time and effort. But our position is still as it was, and what was agreed has to be implemented fully.

PMO: There will be no ceasefire until Schalit is released
Herb Keinon, Khaled Abu Toameh And Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 2/14/2009
With rumors swirling that Israel and Hamas were just hours away from a cease-fire deal, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement Saturday pouring cold water on the reports, and making it clear for the first time that Israel will not accept a truce that does not include the return of St. -Sgt. Gilad Schalit. "It should be emphasized that what is on top of Israel’s priorities are the security of the residents of the South and the release of Gilad Schalit," the statement said. "Israel will invest all its efforts to further these two goals. "The prime minister’s position is that Israel will not reach an agreement on a calm before the release of Gilad Schalit. "Government sources said this was the first time Schalit’s freedom had been mentioned so unequivocally as a condition of a truce agreement, and pointed out that in the six-month cease-fire agreement reached last June the only

Hamas speaks of hitch in Gaza truce
Faisal Baatout - DOHA, Middle East Online 2/14/2009
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said on Friday that there had been a hitch in plans to announce a truce in and around Gaza after rocket fire by Palestinian militants drew renewed Israeli air strikes on the war-battered territory. The Damascus-based leader-in-exile of the Islamist movement that controls Gaza did not elaborate on the nature of the problem but said he no longer expected Egyptian mediators to announce a deal on Sunday as originally planned. "The Egyptians had told us that the announcement of this truce would be made on Sunday but there has been a complication and we don’t know if that date will be kept to," Meshaal said in the Qatari capital where he had flown in from a visit to Libya. Meshaal’s number two Mussa Abu Marzuq had told the Egyptian state news agency MENA late on Thursday that the mediators would announce an agreement on an 18-month truce within 48 hours after Hamas gave it its endorsement.

Mashaal denies hitch in truce talks
Ynetnews, YNetNews 2/14/2009
According to Hizbullah-affiliated television, quoting al Jazeera, Hamas chief claims Israel-Hamas truce on track for completion by Sunday - Hamas politiburo chief Khaled Mashaal denied French media reports that there were complications that may keep Egypt from announcing a Gaza truce deal on Sunday, Arab media reported Saturday. According to the Hizbullah-affiliated al-Manar agency in its website, the Hamas leader claimed in an interview with al-Jazeera that the deal between Israel and the Islamic group controlling the Gaza Strip will be signed Sunday in Cairo as planned, contrary to Associated French Press reports. He also said progress has also been made on the course of reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah movements, the report stated. The AFP reported Friday that the Damascus-based Hamas leader, who had just arrived in the Qatari capital after a. . .

Olmert: No truce without Shalit release
Claire Snegaroff - Jerusalem, Middle East Online 2/14/2009
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Saturday Israel would not agree to any truce with the Islamist Hamas movement without the release of an Israeli soldier seized by Palestinian militants in 2006. "The position of the prime minister is that Israel won’t reach any arrangement on a truce before the release of Gilad Shalit," Olmert’s office said in a statement. Egypt has been struggling to mediate a lasting truce between the two sides since a massive three-week war in Gaza was halted by separate ceasefires on January 18 that have since been strained by tit-for-tat exchanges of fire. One of the conditions being demanded by Hamas is that all the crossings into the enclave be opened, bringing an end to the Israeli blockade imposed when Hamas seized Gaza in 2007. Hamas has demanded that the release of Shalit -- captured by three militant groups in a deadly cross-border raid in. . .

Hamas: Israel stalling Gaza truce with demand to remove time limit
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2009
Israeli offensive in Beit LahiyaGaza – Ma’an – Israel is demanding an open-ended truce with no time limit, stalling a deal for a ceasefire with Hamas about which all other details have been agreed, Hamas said on Saturday. According to Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum, Israel has turned down an offer of an 18-month renewable ceasefire during indirect talks mediated by Egypt. According to Barhoum, the truce agreement is ready, and Egypt is waiting to announce the deal, but Israel is stalling the agreement at the last moment, demanding that the time limit be removed from the accord. A delegation of senior Hamas leaders is in Cairo negotiating the final version of the truce. Barhoum said that Egypt is attempting to persuade Israel from backing down from its “obstruction” of the talks. With regard to Palestinian reconciliation and internal dialogue,. . .

Hamas military commander reappears, declares victory
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2009
Al-Qassam Brigades, are estimated to have some 20,000 fighters - Gaza – Ma’an – In his first public appearance since the end of the Israeli assault on Gaza, the commander of Hamas’ military wing in the northern sector of Gaza exuded confidence on Saturday. Al-Qassam Brigades commander Ahmad Al-Ghandour said that he was “not surprised” by the size of the Israeli assault, but was surprised at the scale of the crimes committed against Palestinians. In remarks circulated by Hamas, Al-Ghandour said that the brigades conducted the battle ‘successfully’ until the minute Israeli forces left Gaza. “Israel has lost a lot but it is trying to fake and hide facts trying to hide the disappointment it achieved,” he said. He added: “Al-Qassam has the ability to stand fast and fight the occupation despite our weak abilities compared with the Israelis’. ”

Egyptian sources: Shalit part of ceasefire deal
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 2/14/2009
Sources tell London-based, Arab-language daily that Olmert has agreed to release a thousand prisoners in exchange for kidnapped soldier -A deal between Hamas and Israel to release kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit is almost complete and will be part of the ceasefire agreement between the two sides, Egyptian sources told the Arab-language, London-based al-Hayat daily on Saturday. "The deal to release kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit will be complete before Prime Minister Ehud Olmert leaves office and before a new government will be formed in Israel," the sources said. The sources said that the release of Shalit in exchange for Palestinian prisoners will be part of a ceasefire deal between Hamas and Israel and, as such, Israel will not agree to the full functioning of crossings into Gaza before his release is secured.

Israel: No truce without Shalit
Al Jazeera 2/14/2009
Israel’s prime minister has said that no long-term ceasefire will be agreed with Hamas unless an Israeli soldier captured in 2006 is released. "Israel will not reach any understandings regarding the calm before the release of Gilad Shalit," a statement from the office of Ehud Olmert said on Saturday. The call for the release of Shalit, who was seized in a cross-border raid by Palestinian fighters, cameafter Hamas accused Israel of undermining the chances of a long-term truce in the Gaza Strip by changing the conditions of a proposed deal. "The shelling and escalation has coincided with a backtracking in the Zionist position related to the length of the truce," Fawzi Barhum, a Hamas official, said. "[Israel] has demanded a long-term, open-ended truce and not an 18-month truce as had been established," he said.

Israel: No Gaza truce without Gilad Shalit;
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2009
PA: Linking Shalit with borders is ’blackmail’ - Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israel will not open the Gaza Strip’s border crossings until captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is released, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Saturday. A statement released by Olmert’s office said "The prime minister’s position is that Israel will not reach understandings on a truce before the release of Gilad Shalit. " The statement said that Olmert is committed to resolving the Shalit issue before a new government is formed. The statement said that recent reports that an agreement on Shalit was “close” are inaccurate and misleading. Egyptian sources say they have not been notified of any requested changes to the draft agreements by either Israel or Hamas.

Diplomatic offensive works
Dina Ezzat, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/12/2009
Dina Ezzat reports on Mubarak’s European tour and Egypt’s ongoing spat with Qatar - When President Hosni Mubarak arrives home later today, according to the original schedule, he might feel that his mission in the three-leg tour was accomplished. In Paris, Rome and Istanbul, Mubarak has been promoting Egypt’s high-profile involvement in managing the Palestinian file. The Egyptian call for a sustainable truce between Hamas in Gaza and Israel is now being pushed by these capitals whose relations with Israel could be useful in facilitating the conclusion of a deal Mubarak promised, following talks with his French counterpart, and could be in the offing in a few days. According to Egyptian diplomats, nonetheless, it is "one thing to strike a deal and another to keep it for a year or 18 months, as Egypt is hoping, and for this purpose we need the committed support of our partners in and around this region who share our faith that another breakout of hostilities is simply a disaster for the region and beyond. "

Nazif stands up to attacks
Gamal Essam El-Din, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/12/2009
Government policy towards Gaza and, closer to home, managing the economic crisis were the subject of this week’s parliamentary spats - The plight of Palestinians in Gaza and the government’s attempts to contain the impact on Egypt of the global financial crisis stirred a heated debate in parliament this week. In a statement before the People’s Assembly Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif emphasised on Monday that his government had done all it could to minimise the disastrous impact on Palestinians of Israel’s assault against Gaza. " In violation of an international agreement Egypt decided to open the crossing at Rafah to allow humanitarian help to reach the Palestinians," said Nazif. Five thousand tonnes of medical supplies and more than 6,000 tonnes of food products passed through Rafah. In addition, more than 800 Palestinians entered Egypt via the crossing for medical treatment.

Egypt: Buried explosives were bound for Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2009
Egypt recently installed cameras and high-tech sensors along its border with the Gaza Strip - Bethlehem – Ma’an – Egyptian security seized one ton of explosives from a hidden weapons cache in the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, the Israeli intelligence services reported. An Egyptian official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that security forces discovered 13 packages of explosives buried in the desert that are suspected to be bound for the Gaza Strip. He said the weapons were “remnants of war. ”[end]

Report: Nine arrested in England by terror police en route to Gaza
Haaretz Service and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/15/2009
Police in a counterterrorist operation arrested three men and seized three vehicles that tried to join a convoy organized by a British charity to carry aid to the Gaza Strip, authorities said Saturday. Lancashire Constabulary said the men were arrested Friday evening while traveling on a major highway near Preston, 220 miles (360 kms) northwest of London. The vehicles were seized in the same area, but police declined to say if the three men were traveling in them. Police also declined to say what the men - aged 26, 29, and 36 - were suspected of doing. The police said the contents of the three vehicles and five houses in the nearby town of nearby Burnley were being searched as part of the operation. They declined to disclose the contents of the vehicles. According to Sky News, the vehicles included an old ambulance that bore an image of the Palestinian flag and signs saying "Stop Killing Children, Free Palestine" and "From Blackburn (U. K. ) to Gaza.

As Gaza aid caravan leaves England, 9 supporters seized by ’anti-terror’ forces
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/15/2009
According to Israeli media, 9 British activists on their way to join a humanitarian aid caravan to Gaza were seized by British ’anti-terror’ police, along with the aid in their vehicles and the vehicles themselves. Most of them were released without charge, and three are still being held. The caravan they were trying to join left for Palestine from London Saturday morning, led by British Parliament Member George Galloway. The group calls itself ’Lifeline for Gaza’, and consists of over a hundred vehicles, including a dozen ambulances, fire trucks, a boat, and a million tons of humanitarian aid. They are driving from Britain to Gaza via France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, and plan to cross the Rafah border from Egypt into Gaza on March 2. Three vehicles which were travelling from Blackburn, north of London, to join the caravan, were stopped by British ’anti-terror’ police in a massive operation.

British aid convoy begins long trip to Gaza
Middle East Online 2/14/2009
LONDON - A convoy of more than 100 vehicles loaded with aid bound for the Gaza Strip left London on Saturday. The convoy, including 12 ambulances and a fire engine, is bearing more than one million pounds (1. 4 million dollars, 1. 1 million euros) worth of aid. The vehicles will travel 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometres) through France, Spain and North Africa, crossing from Egypt into Gaza at Rafah in early March. The convoy was organised by the Viva Palestine umbrella group. Hundreds of volunteers are driving the convoy, which includes a boat and trucks full of medicines, tools, clothes, blankets and shoe-boxes bearing gifts for children. "There is an intifada sweeping Britain. It is a massive and peaceful movement in support of the beleaguered population of Gaza and Palestine," said pro-Palestinian lawmaker George Galloway, who will help drive the convoy.

British aid convoy to collect Gaza donations on journey through Europe, North Africa
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an - Thirteen ambulances, a fishing boat, several tons of aid and medical supplies collected by British organizations will set out from London on Saturday at 11am London time. The journey to the Gaza Strip is expected to take 16 days as the trucks travel through France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and into Egypt. The convoy has room for further donations from people and organizations in each of the countries on the route. The journey has been given the moniker “lifeline” and is meant to both raise awareness of the siege being imposed on Gaza as well as collect donations for the people there. In France there will be an a reception at the town of Beaujolais, while in Spain Paz Ahora, a pro-Palestinian organization, will host the convoy in Saint Sebastian in the Basque region and then again in the capital Madrid.

Holyrood to give £400,000 in aid to Gaza
The Observer, The Guardian 2/15/2009
The Scottish government is to provide over £400,000 in emergency humanitarian aid to help the people of Gaza. The money is to be used by Christian Aid, Save the Children and Medical Aid for Palestine for food and to address the urgent hygiene requirements of malnourished children and families in the wake of the infrastructural damage caused by Israel’s three-week offensive. " The scale of the devastation in Gaza as a result of the recent conflict is staggering, with more than 1,400 Palestinians killed," said Michael Russell, minister for external affairs, announcing the allocation of £427,996 from the International Development Fund. [end]

Likud pressures Livni on unity gov’t
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 2/15/2009
Netanyahu says willing to include Kadima in unity government under his leadership, berates Livni for ’putting petty politics before the country’s interests’ -The Likud and Kadima are preparing for a fateful week as the elections dust settles and the day when President Shimon Peres decided on whom to bestow the responsibility of forming the new government steadily approaches. For now at least, that individual will likely be Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu. In anticipation of this the Likud has already begun wheedling Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni to enter a joint center-right coalition. " Netanyahu would be willing to accommodate Kadima in order to include it in a unity government led by him, but first Livni must set petty politics aside and place the country’s interests first," the Likud said in a statement issued Saturday evening.

Lieberman looks for a way into the Finance Ministry
Zvi Zrahiya, Ha’aretz 2/15/2009
Yisrael Beiteinu is proposing removing the tax and securities authorities from the jurisdiction of the Finance Minister to clear the way to appointing party chairman Avigdor Lieberman finance minister. The idea was raised last week by the party’s coalition negotiating team after Attorney General Menachem Mazuz voiced his objection to the appointment. As reported in Haaretz on Friday the Tax Authority was involved in the ongoing criminal investigation against Lieberman, focusing on allegations of money laundering and tax violations. The Tax Authority is subordinate to the finance minister, who also appoints the chairman of the Israel Securities Authority. It was created in 2004 by bringing together the divisions of income tax and of property taxation with the customs and VAT authority.

’Police have evidence of money laundering against Lieberman’
Yaakov Lappin, Jerusalem Post 2/15/2009
Police have amassed sufficient evidence to link Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman with money laundering charges, a former National Fraud Unit investigator told The Jerusalem Post Thursday, citing a senior police source. Police suspect Lieberman used Cypriot bank accounts registered to his daughter’s name for money laundering purposes, and possibly to also carry out fraud and bribery offenses. "The police source said there was no doubt about money laundering," Dep. -Cmdr. (ret. ) Boaz Guttman said. "But he refused to talk about bribery. " Guttman, who served in the National Fraud Unit for 21 years, said a future indictment would be a long way off, since prosecutors needed to overcome a series of complex hurdles before the case could reach trial. These include a legal hearing before an indictment, in which Lieberman could try to torpedo the proceedings or play for time, and

Israel: Land of the toxic kingmaker
Donald Macintyre, The Independent 2/15/2009
The controversial right-wing politician Avigdor Lieberman holds the balance of power after Israel’s election last week. Donald Macintyre visits his West Bank home of Nokdim - After some hesitation, Debbie Weinglass, a Jewish West Bank settler, finally decided not to vote for her neighbour, Avigdor Lieberman. She was worried he might tilt a little too far to the left. To be fair, Mrs Weinglass doesn’t put it quite like that. Instead, she says she was worried that Mr Lieberman, despite being routinely described as a neo-fascist by his more vociferous Arab and left-wing Israeli opponents, might deliver power to the centrist Kadima leader, Tzipi Livni, by joining her, rather than Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud, in a coalition. So she voted for the National Union, committed to a greater Israel stretching all the way from the Mediterranean to the Jordan river.

Peretz says will run for Labor chair
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 2/14/2009
Former Labor Chairman Amir Peretz says election results prove party must elect new leadership -MK Amir Peretz says that the Labor Party’s negligible gains in the recent elections should prompt it to hold a vote for a new chairman, and added that he plans to run for the spot. In an interview with Ynet Saturday Peretz warned that a decision by Chairman Ehud Barak to join the government as defense minister independently of his party would be "a total divorcement of Barak from the Labor Party", as well as "unethical and immoral". In Israel’s general elections this week the Labor Party won a measly 13 mandates, and were overrun as the country’s third largest party by the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu, chaired by Avigdor Lieberman. In his concession speech at Labor headquarters Barak was evasive on the party’s next step.

MK Amir Peretz: I will run for Labor Party chairman
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/15/2009
Labor MK Amir Peretz announced on Saturday that he will run for his party’s chairmanship. In an interview on Channel 2, in his first public response to the results of Israel’s general elections earlier this week, Peretz said Defense Minister Ehud Barak needs to resign from his position as Labor chairman, following the poor results the once leading left-wing party reached - just 13 Knesset seats. "If I were party chairman, I would draw a conclusion and resign," said Peretz, who led the Labor party during Israel’s previous elections in 2006. "Had I gotten 13 seats, it’s likely I would reach my personal conclusion. Either I would resign or I would be shown the way out," said Peretz. Labor is now the fourth party in size, following MK Avigdor Lieberman’s extreme-right Yisrael Beiteinu, whose 15 seats have positioned it as the Knesset’s third largest party.

Israel’s Broken Politics
The Boston Globe, MIFTAH 2/14/2009
ISRAEL has enough troubles without having to cope with a dysfunctional political system. Yet that is exactly what Israelis are now struggling to do in the aftermath of Tuesday’s general election. This was a democratic exercise in which the winner, Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni, is almost certain to end up the loser, while the loser, Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu, will likely form the next government with a melange of partners he would rather not have. This knot of contradictions is the result of some arcane rules: A political party needs only to surpass 2 percent of the votes cast to gain seats in the Knesset, so special-interest and extremist parties gain undue influence - sometimes enough to make or break a government. Using political blackmail, they can extract from the larger parties excessive budgetary favors or a veto over crucial national-security decisions.

With ’collectivism finished,’ many kibbutzniks choose Kadima over Labor roots
Eli Ashkenazi, Ha’aretz 2/15/2009
In last week’s election, 33. 25 percent of kibbutniks voted for Kadima compared with 33 percent for Labor, the first time the party that helped found the country did not carry this sector. "The Kibbutz Movement was the banner of the Labor Party, and the party was our home," said an activist at the party’s kibbutz division yesterday. The election results, however, seem to indicate that the banner has been brought down and the house is crumbling. The discrepancy between turnout for Kadima and Labor was just 219 votes and illustrates "an important crossroads," according to the former head of the Kibbutz Movement, Muki Tzur. At Tzur’s kibbutz, Ein Gev on the shore of Lake Kinneret, Kadima beat Labor by 10 percent. Ein Gev is also the home of the Kibbutz Movement’s current secretary, Ze’ev Shor.

Study: 50% of national-religious city residents support ’refuseniks’
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 2/15/2009
Half of all national-religious city residents support the right of soldiers to refuse orders to evict Jews from settlements, according to a Bar-Ilan University study. The doctoral thesis by Hanan Moses delineates a rift within the national-religious sector, which became apparent during the last election. The study observed 515 participants from three groups in the national-religious sector: Modern Orthodox, city residents and people who emphasize Torah observance. Many of the members of these groups used to vote for the now-defunct National Religious Party. Before the elections, it splintered into several factions before finally solidifying into two parties: Habayit Hayehudi, whose focus on Jewish education won it three seats in Knesset, and the more hardline National Union, which waved the flag of the Greater Israel and clinched four seats.

A recurring occupation
Jim Miles, Middle East Online 2/14/2009
Neve Gordon’s ‘Israel’s Occupation’ develops several themes about the occupation that keep recurring, with alterations, as it develops the history of the occupation from 1967 to the present. - There are many sources of information from websites through newspapers to books that carry significant referenced information about the history and context of the Israel/Palestine problem that, with the support of the US government and the ambitions of the Israelis, has become a global problem. There is much material that accounts for the misery and suffering and imposition of a military regime on an occupied territory, and it all supports the general idea of an occupied people suffering under the power of an invading military. Now added to this relatively strong list of materials is Israel’s Occupation, a book that is so well written and presented that it provides a captivating and amazingly powerful read.

Mahmoud Darwish’s mother, immortalized in poetry, dies at 96
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The mother of late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish died on Friday, six months after burying her son. The funeral procesion will begin Saturday after the noon prayer from her home at Jadeidi, five kilometers north east of Acre. Darwish’s mother was a central figure in his poetry, immortalized as a symbol for the earth of his homeland in his famous poem, “For my mother” turned into a song by Syrian singer Marcel Khalifah. I long for my mother’s bread / my mother’s coffee / my mother’s touch… / and childhood grows in me / one day on another day’s chest / I must be worth my life / at the hour of my death / worth the tears of my mother/ Take me, if I return one day, / as a veil for your lashes / and cover my bones with grass / baptized by your footsteps / bind us together / with a lock of your hair. . . . . .

Israel worried about U.S. delay in forging stance on Iran nukes
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/15/2009
Israeli officials are putting together a position paper on talks between the United States and Iran for the new administration in Washington, Israeli officials say. The paper will include a list of reservations about the state of international efforts against Iran’s nuclear program. One worry is that negotiations will go on for too long. The paper states that talks between the United States and Iran should be limited to a short period of time. It also recommends that harsh sanctions be imposed against the Islamic Republic if negotiations fail. U. S. President Barack Obama, who appointed envoys to the Middle East and Afghanistan within days of his inauguration, has not done so with Iran. An Israeli official in Jerusalem told Haaretz that "this procrastination is very disconcerting. Israel and several leading countries in the European Union are concerned about the delay in formulating a U. S. policy on Iran’s nuclear program.

Turkish army furious over IDF officer’s comments
Zvi Bar'el, Ha’aretz 2/15/2009
The Turkish military warned yesterday that relations between Jerusalem and Ankara are in a state that "could compromise the national interests of both Israel and Turkey. "The rare statement on foreign policy follows the diplomatic row due to Israel’s three-week offensive in Gaza. Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi - the recently appointed head of Israel’s ground forces - has questioned Turkish policies toward Kurds and Cyprus. Turkey yesterday called on Israel’s ambassador to Ankara, Gabi Levy, to explain Mizrahi’s remarks. Mizrahi, who previously served as a military attache to the United States, also accused Turkey of oppressing its Kurdish minority and massacring Armenians during World War I. The Turkish Armed Forces keep around 30,000 troops in northern Cyprus after having invaded the island in 1974.

Turkey protests Israel comment
Al Jazeera 2/15/2009
Turkey’s foreign ministry has summoned Israel’s ambassador to complain about a comment made by a senior Israeli general, accusing Ankara of killing Armenians in 1915, and of oppressing Kurds and occupying Cyprus. Major General Avi Mizrahi, commander of the Israeli army headquarters made the remarks at a military base in Israel on TuesdayHe was quoted as saying that the Turkish prime minister, who criticised Israel’s action in the Gaza Strip, "should first look in the mirror" and spoke about Ottoman massacres of Armenians during World War I and the Kurdish conflict in Turkey. The Foreign ministry said in a statement on Saturday that Israeli ambassador to Turkey was handed a note of protest, asking the Israeli authorities for an urgent clarification.

IDF renounces general’s comments
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 2/14/2009
Remarks made by Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi alluding to Turkish oppression of Kurds, Armenians rejected by army in statement. Comments were in reaction to Ankara criticism of Israel’s Gaza operation -The IDF Spokesperson’s Office published a statement Saturday evening renouncing views expressed by GOC Ground Forces Command Major-General Avi Mizrahi about Turkey. Mizrahi’s comment weighed heavily upon the already strained ties between Turkey and Israel, and Israel’s ambassador to Ankara, Gabby Levy, was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry for a discussion on the matter. During a speech at Gelilot military base the general condemned Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s actions at the Davos Economic Forum, where a spat between President Shimon Peres and Erdogan over Israel’s offensive in Gaza caused the latter to storm out.

Erdogan ’saddened’ by election results
Reuters, YNetNews 2/14/2009
Turkish PM says results of elections ’paint a very dark picture’ of Israel but agrees to continue mediating Mideast peace talks. Meanwhile the Israeli ambassador to Ankara has been summoned to clarify remarks made by IDF general regarding massacre of Armenians -Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in an interview withand two Turkish newspapers late on Friday, said the results of the Israeli elections this week had "painted a very dark picture" for the future of Middle East peace. However Turkey’s fierce censure of Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip will not end its role as a peace mediator in the region, Tayyip Erdogan said. Israel’s military campaign triggered protests from Turkey that culminated in a shouting match between Erdogan and President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Taking sides
Galal Nassar, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/12/2009
Many wonder whether the crisis in Turkish-Israeli relations has reached the point of no return. Did the show-down in Davos between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Shimon Peres permanently damage the once "special ties" between Israel and Turkey? Israel has been trying to play down the crisis. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, while admitting that some damage has been done, claimed that bilateral ties were too important for either side to allow them to be sacrificed over the Gaza squabble. Turkish officials, both in the Foreign Ministry and the army, were equally quick off the mark to draw a line between the Gaza crisis and the long-term interests of Turkey and Israel. European and US figures, including Jewish activists, also tried to mediate between the two countries. The success of these efforts depends largely on the reasons for the current strains in Turkish-Israeli relations. If it is all about Gaza, and Gaza alone, then perhaps it is a storm in a teacup. But I suspect there was more to the recent show of raw nerves than meets the eye.

Rebuilding regional bridges
Gareth Jenkins, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/12/2009
Abbas’s visit to Ankara last week makes it clear Turkey sees itself as a regional powerbroker - During his two-day stay in the Turkish capital, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with a string of high-ranking Turkish officials, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul. On Saturday, in a joint press conference with Abbas, Gul publicly called on Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) to reach an agreement with Hamas. "The priority is to form a government of consensus in Palestine. This is a day for being in unity without blaming each other," said Gul. Gul’s call for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas came after Erdogan’s ferocious condemnation of Israel’s brutal military offensive in Gaza and his outspoken support for Hamas culminated in his storming out of the World Economic Summit in Davos on 29 January. The moderator of a discussion panel had cut him short as he attempted to rebut Israeli President Shimon Peres, who defended the massacre in Gaza.

UK-based paper calls for boycott of Lieberman
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 2/14/2009
’Al-Quds Al-Arabi’ joins call issued by MK Ahmad Tibi to boycott any government that includes Avigdor Lieberman among its ranks. ’Lieberman is far more dangerous than Haider and the leaders of Nazi parties in Europe,’ says Tibi -United Arab List- Ta’al Chairman MK Ahmad Tibi’s call for the international community to boycott any Israeli government that included Yisrael Beitenu Chairman, Avigdor Lieberman received the backing of the London-based ’Al-Quds Al-Arabi’ newspaper on Saturday. The paper ran an editorial urging the world to refuse to deal with the Israeli government if it included Lieberman among its ranks. Although no coalition has been formed yet following the elections, various figures in the Arab world have been quick to slam the possibility of Lieberman joining any future government.

Disaster averted by neighborhood vigilance
Ramallah, Palestine News Network 2/14/2009
PNN exclusive -- Last night a supermarket fire was averted by neighbors in Ramallah’s sister city of Al Bireh. At 2:30 am, well after closing, the windows and doors were sealed. According to witnesses someone unknown tried to open the front door. Finding it shut tight, the person in question went around to the back where they poured fuel into a bottle and lit it on a window sill. This Molotov cocktail exploded and woke even more neighbors who immediately called the fire department. Why the attempted arson was committed is linked to the store owner’s position on a nearby village council where he holds several unpopular positions. Why it was unsuccessful was due to the closeness of residents in Al Bireh who, like in many towns, pride themselves are caring for their neighbors. Shop owner Alqad Khalifa said, "My neighbors played a major role in the prevention of disaster in the shop. . . "

Traffic accident in Ramallah wounds nine Palestinians, kills 3 Israelis
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/14/2009
Ramallah -- A traffic accident in eastern Ramallah left nine Palestinians injured and three Israelis dead. Israeli settlers in the West Bank drive on highways that cut through Palestinian governorates, and on some of those Palestinians are not forbidden. Saturday’s accident was described as "horrible" by sources that made the announcement early today. Palestinian medical sources said that four of the wounded Palestinians were taken to a Ramallah hospital. Ibrahim Abu Ghosh, Sofyan Ibrahim, Hassan Youssef, Abdel Mahmoud and Shehadeh Shaafa’i are undergoing treatment. The others were released while the Israelis were taken by their own crews. Ambulances arrived quickly and kept the street closed to traffic for hours. Accidents are routine on the settler bypass highways where speed limits are rarely enforced.

Three Israelis killed and nine Palestinians injured in West Bank road accident
Ma’an News Agency 2/14/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – Three Israelis were killed and nine Palestinians injured in a road accident in the West Bank on Saturday morning. The first accident occurred on the main road between Ramallah and Nablus when a private Israeli car careened into a line of Palestinian vehicles including a truck near the town of Sinjil. Three of the Israeli car’s occupants were killed and nine Palestinians injured. Eyewitnesses told Ma’an that the Ramallah-Nablus road was closed to traffic as Palestinian and Israeli ambulances evacuated the victims. Sources in the Palestine Red Crescent named four of the nine wounded Palestinians as: Ibrahim Abu Ghoush, Abed Ash-Shafi’I, Sufyan Shahadah and his brother Hasan. They were checked in at Khalid Hospital in Ramallah for treatment.

Lebanese mark death of al-Hariri
Al Jazeera 2/14/2009
Hundreds of thousands of people have gathered in Beirut, the Lebanese capital, to mark the fourth anniversary of the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. Members of the March 14 parliamentary majority bloc, which was formed in the immediate wake of al-Hariri’s death, addressed the crowd in downtown Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square on Saturday. The rally comes amid preparations for the launch of an international tribunal aimed at bringing al-Hariri’s killers to justice. "We have come to makes our voices heard," Khaled Omar, attending the rally said. " We want justice and we want the United Nations to watch us today. "Al-Hariri, also a prominent businessman, was killed along with 22 others in a car bomb blast on Beirut’s Corniche on February 14, 2005. The killings were widely blamed on Syria, Lebanon’s eastward neighbour, which at the time had troops and security officers stationed on Lebanese soil.

Investigators focus on possible Madoff accomplices
Stephen Foley in New York, The Independent 2/14/2009
The FBI has begun questioning low-level employees as it seeks to build a full picture of Mr Madoff’s operations and of which senior staff had the greatest access to the Wall Street grandee’s inner circle. Mr Madoff, 70, remains under house arrest at his Manhattan penthouse this weekend, two months after turning himself in, following a New York court ruling that granted prosecutors another month for their investigation and to pursue plea-bargain talks. It emerged this week that his wife, Ruth, withdrew $10m (£6. 9m) from a brokerage account on 10 December, the day Mr Madoff confessed to his sons that he was running a giant Ponzi scheme. Two weeks earlier, as her husband was desperately soliciting money from new victims to keep his fraud going, she also took out $5. 5m. Ruth Madoff, 67, agreed to a freeze on her assets as part of her husband’s bail conditions, and the FBI is examining how deeply involved she might have been in his business affairs.

Saudi woman becomes deputy minister
Al Jazeera 2/14/2009
Saudi Arabia has named a woman as deputy minister for education - the most senior role ever held by a female in the kingdom. Norah al-Faiz, currently an official at the Saudi Institute for Public Administration, was named as the deputy minister responsible for women’s education as part of a reshuffle of the cabinet, military and judiciary on Saturday. King Abdullah also ordered the replacement of the chief of the Supreme Council of Justice, Saleh al-Lihedan, who last year issued an edict saying it was permissible to kill the owners of satellite television channels deemed to show "immoral" content. The head of the commission is the kingdom’s second-most influential cleric. Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Humain was appointed as the new head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and. . .


Articles


New Settlement Approved East of the Apartheid Wall
Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 2/14/2009
      In 2006 Peace Now and Palestinian land owners petitioned the Israeli high court regarding the evacuation of the illegal outpost know as Migron. The high court finally heard the petition and in 2007 Ehud Olmert gave the defense Ministry two months to have the outpost evacuated. However, with the arrival of the new Defense Minister Ehud Barak, this process was delayed.
     Eventually at the beginning of 2008 Olmert and Barak had declared that Migron would be evacuated by August. It was proposed that 18 of the 26 outposts built since 2001 were to be demolished, and Migron was to be the first.
     Yet a year later and Migron is still standing. The settlers have agreed to evacuate but only if replacement housing is built. In February 2009 Barak agreed to a new 250 house settlement to be built close to Adam, to house the settlers. The first wave of construction will include 50 houses but before construction takes place a plan for 1400 housing units must be drawn up and approved. Planning and construction may take up to 2 to 3 years and in the mean time Eitan Broshi, Baraks advisor regarding settlements, has requested that the evacuation of Migron be left until this time, as to avoid violent conflict.
     The expansion of Israeli settlements east of the wall is considered illegal by international law and goes against agreements made by Ariel Sharon to George Bush in 2003 through the Roadmap. However, this has not halted their development and, while outposts are deemed illegal by the Israeli state, settlements are seen as the result of natural Israeli population growth and their expansion has not been frozen.

Who here speaks Arabic?

Zvi Bar'el, Ha’aretz 2/15/2009
      As if without Lieberman, it would be a simply splendid government, ready to negotiate to divide Jerusalem, evacuate the settlements and deal with the refugee issue and the sharing of water between Israel and the new Palestinian polity.
     The measure of Avigdor Lieberman’s being "right" on the political spectrum is not the fact that he lives in a settlement. There are many such MKs in other parties. Nor is it his political platform, which is not far from that of Benjamin Netanyahu. Nor is it his attacks on the legal system, in which he is joined by Shas and by the justice minister himself.
     No, it is a single clause in Yisrael Beiteinu’s platform that serves as Lieberman’s war paint: "Responsibility for areas populated by an Arab majority, such as Umm al-Fahm in the Triangle, will be transferred to the Palestinian Authority. In parallel, areas in Judea and Samaria and strongholds of Jewish settlement will be officially annexed to Israel." [The Triangle is the area roughly bounded by the Arab towns of Baka al-Garbiyeh, Taibeh and Tira.]
     This clause was translated into two frightful campaign slogans: "Only Lieberman understands Arabic," and "No citizenship without loyalty," thanks to which his party has been rewarded with 15 Knesset seats.
     Why the apprehension about Lieberman joining the government? It is due not to his policy toward Israeli Arabs, but his potential influence on the peace process, which has in any case virtually dissolved in the supposedly experienced hands of Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak.

Livni’s Punishment: Ms. Tantalus

Uri Avnery - Israel, Palestine Chronicle 2/14/2009
      ’Now Ms. Tantalus must choose between two bitter options.’
     Tantalus is punished by the Gods for reasons that are not entirely clear. He is hungry and thirsty, but the water in which he stands recedes when he bends down to drink from it and the fruit above his head continually evades his hand.
     Tzipi Livni is now undergoing a similar torture. After winning an impressive personal victory at the polls, the political fruit keeps slipping from her grasp when she stretches out her hand.
     Why should she deserve that? What has she done, after all? Supported the war, called for a boycott of Hamas, played around with empty negotiations with the Palestinian Authority? OK, she has indeed.. But such a terrible punishment?
     However, the results of the elections are not as clear as they might seem. The victory of the Right is not so unambiguous.
     Central to the election campaign was the personal competition between the two contenders for the Prime Minister’s office: Livni and Netanyahu (or, as they call themselves, as if they were still at kindergarten, Tzipi and Bibi.)

Between dream and reality

Rahim El-Kishky, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/12/2009
      Realism must always be equated with moderation, at least as far as the Arab-Israeli conflict is concerned, argues Last week it seemed obvious that the Arabs had split into two camps. On one side are the radicals meeting in Doha, surprisingly headed by Qatar and joined by countries like Iran, Syria, and by Hamas, all famous for publicly wanting to wipe Israel off the face of the earth or, at least for now, suspending diplomatic ties if any ever existed with Israel and the US. On the other side, and meeting simultaneously, is the moderate camp, headed by Egypt and joined by countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan, which are keen on negotiating a peaceful solution between Israel and the Palestinians. The general atmosphere was not encouraging. Never in our recent history have Arabs’ differences been so obvious. Although disagreements and fights have always existed -- both publicly and behind the scenes -- they at least occurred under one roof.
     The day before the moderates were to meet in Kuwait a local newspaper quoted Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa as saying he was depressed. Other newspapers offered similar headlines that reflected the general Arab mood. The opening note of the host, Sheikh Nasser Al-Sabbah, the prime minister of Kuwait, highlighted the horrible events and the destruction in Gaza, urging the Arabs to come together and end the Palestinians’ suffering.

Lurch to the right

Khaled Amayreh from occupied East Jerusalem, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/12/2009
      The results of the Israeli elections are a disaster for moderates.
     With most votes now counted the results of the Israeli general elections show a clear drift to the right and a collapse in support for centrist and leftist Zionist parties.
     The Kadima Party, led by Tzipi Livni, is expected to end with 28 seats, followed by Likud, led by Benyamin Netanyahu, with 27, though one, perhaps two Kadima seats may prove vulnerable once the votes of serving soldiers are counted.
     The extreme right Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is our Home), headed by Avigdor Lieberman, has won 14-15 seats, becoming the third largest party in the Knesset. Yisrael Beiteinu has called for the ethnic cleansing of Israel’s Arab minority (23 per cent of the population).
     Lieberman has said his party will refuse to join any government not committed to the destruction of Hamas. Dany Ayalon, former Israeli ambassador to the US who occupied the seventh position on the party list, voiced the hope that "in the next elections, we will be vying for national leadership".

Religious-Political Cults and Israel

Mary Rizzo, Palestine Think Tank 2/14/2009
      A long time ago, I obtained a degree in Psychology. While I never pursued work in that field, and opted instead for areas giving me greater personal freedom and less risk of falling into an area where there was danger of me controlling other people, becoming a professional art restorer and professional translator and editor to make a living, I have never abandoned my interest in all psychological phenomena, particularly those of a mass nature that are more readily classified as having sociological implications. I did most of my research based on my interest in finding a theory that would "explain" the apparently contradictory urge for personal liberty (individualism) and the need for being part of a mass (the theorised Crowd Instinct) in a post-industrial world based on transportation and communication by the combination of what I considered the best out of two schools of thought, that of Elias Canetti, (Crowds and Power) and that of Guy Debord and the other Situationists. I never quite found what I was looking for, but very often, I saw the paradigms of their viewpoints on crowd dynamics, which were about the power of persuasion to people who often were convinced they were acting independently, illustrated perfectly in religious cults and political movements, two areas that continue to interest me.
     ....One group that has piqued my interest for a long time is CUFI, and I wrote about their big show “A Night to Honor Israel”. I check them out from time to time, and this morning, I saw something that I think would be worthy of Cult watch, and that is, the campaign for a “Prayer Card for Israel”.
     To spare you having to actually give your personal information or visiting their site, I will show you the campaign. It starts out innocently enough, saying prayers for Israel (and America)....

Filmmakers hostage to Israeli occupation

Simon Coss, Daily Star 2/14/2009
      RENNES, France: Movies may be able to stimulate debate on the Middle East conflict but a lasting resolution can only be made in the real world, say leading Israeli and Palestinian film directors. Avi Mograbi, one of Israel’s most outspoken documentary makers and a harsh critic of his government’s military campaigns, said during a film festival in Rennes that he was well aware of the limits of his art.
     "I started making films thinking about changing the world," said the 53-year-old director. "Now I am not so sure about that possibility. Cinema can make a difference, but it’s an extremely minor difference."
     Mograbi’s latest documentary "Z32" is a hard-hitting work, the true story of a young Israeli soldier sent on a revenge mission that left two Palestinian police officers dead.
     Like much of his work, it highlights the brutality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is never any suggestion that the assassinated police officers had anything to do with the killings of Israelis. They simply represented "the enemy." Broadcast on Israeli television while Mograbi was in Rennes, the filmmaker said, "I hope that it will at least provoke a debate."
     Palestinian director Enas Muthaffar, who lives and works in Occupied Jerusalem, also stated there were limits to what cinema could do in the midst of a conflict as bitter as the one between her people and Israel.
     "You can’t have peace only with films. You need the real world as well," she said.
     Muthaffar was particularly wary of initiatives designed to encourage Israeli and Palestinian film directors to work together.

Waiting and hoping

Saleh Al-Naami, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/12/2009
      With every day that the politicians fudge and fumble, Gaza’s needs go unmet.
     Smoke rises after Israeli aircraft bombed tunnels that run under the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt in the city of Rafah Despite his failing health, Mohamed Abd Rabbo, 65, is attempting to lift stones in a corner of his demolished house in the Jabalya Refugee Camp in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. He is looking for some blankets for his family that lives now in a nearby tent. Abd Rabbo’s family of 10 has five blankets left, one for every two family members.
     Abd Rabbo cannot lift the big stones, and it is doubtful that, had he succeeded, he would have found anything. The bombs that were used in the shelling of his home have incinerated everything. By nightfall, Abd Rabbo and a group of neighbours gather around a fire. They exchange stories and trade jokes. Some say they heard that Israel and Hamas were coming close to a deal.
     A deal would mean a lot for them. You cannot build anything in Gaza unless you have the necessary material, and these have to come through the crossing points.

On a world so indifferent

Assem El-Kersh, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/12/2009
      The next carnage in Gaza may just be around the corner unless the Arabs understand why the world is always letting them down.
     Have we forgotten Gaza in such a short space of time? That is, except for some residual anger and grief, the occasional mention in the course of endless hours of chat shows on satellite channels, and the paltry dribbles of aid getting through the crossings. Everyone can breathe easy again -- apart from the people of Gaza, of course -- now that the subject is no longer front-page news. After all, the media only stirs into action when there is something sensational afoot and world attention is only riveted in moments of the inferno. So all the minor sparks surrounding the fragile ceasefire, tensions surrounding the Strip’s reconstruction, photos of the martyrs on the remnants of walls, and the desolation of the aftermath, are simply not big enough to grab the headlines.
     ... At times one will be confronted with some inverted logic mesh perfectly with Israeli propaganda: Were it not for the Qassam missiles, Gaza would not have been bombarded, the Israelis say. If the resistance had not bombed coffeehouses and buses, there would not be the "security wall"; the economic blockade is the answer to the tunnels and the smuggling of arms. Such are the skewed fictions that the West and the Western media swallow up like sleeping pills. They proceed from effect to cause, rather than from cause to effect. But our history did not begin with suicide bombers but rather with the theft of Palestine. When you adhere to the actual logic of causality you have to say were it not for the occupation there would be no oppression of an occupied people and hence no resistance.
     The solution to the rest of the puzzle is found in the fact that, in Israel, they are more sly, more shrewd, have greater manoeuvrability, and are more adept at lying, playing dirty, and distorting the truth. One cannot help but to grudgingly concede the diabolic acumen of an enemy that conceived, planned and put into effect an operation that propelled Hamas, step-by-step, towards the trap of 27 December while making the movement look the guilty party. It is no longer a secret -- Haaretz bears witness -- that Israel took the decision to mount this offensive a full six months ago. Working beneath a cloak of secrecy, it proceeded to make its preparations, gather information, shuttle diplomatically between important capitals, feint and parry with the resistance politically and provoke it in the field, while setting into motion a media campaign they call " Hasbara ". Literally meaning "the explanation", while in fact constituting propaganda, its purpose is to persuade global public opinion that Israel faces a life or death threat and is acting in self-defence.

Hamas’s albatross

Ayman El-Amir, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/12/2009
      Having avowedly chosen the path of resistance, Hamas faces tough choices as it tries to navigate the political terrain following Israel’s campaign of destruction in Gaza.
     The Palestinian Islamic resistance movement, Hamas, has emerged from the three-week-long battle against the Israeli invasion of Gaza with a bagful of challenges. It is caught up between two daunting choices: continued resistance against the Israeli occupation, which could escalate into another confrontation beyond tolerable limits, or pacification that would erode the resistance movement’s ra"son d’être. Pressure by national, regional and international players makes the situation more complex. The movement is hard put to make a choice that would ease the suffering of the people of Gaza as a priority. As there is no choice without consequences, Hamas will probably have to accept a combination of several. Whatever it chooses, the road will be full of hazards.
     Conflicting agendas are at play. Hamas’s urgent priority is to reach agreement on a long-term ceasefire accompanied by arrangements to open up access to the Strip, including the Rafah Crossing, and lifting the Israeli blockade. This is primarily in the hands of Israel, which does not want to give the resistance movement the benefit of claiming victory over the invasion and of ending the Israeli siege while retaining the option of military resistance. Israel has injected the additional factor of the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Egypt, the mediator, is keenly aware of the suffering of the people of Gaza but also wants to demonstrate that, in the face of Arab competitors, it is the only player that could arrange an acceptable compromise. With the exception of the release of Shalit, other issues are the easier part of the bargain. A longer-term ceasefire agreement in return for limited opening of Gaza’s crossing will be worked out to meet some of the demands of each party. The more serious challenges loom beyond.

Who won the war?

Mamdouh El-Adl, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/12/2009
      Israeli atrocities in Gaza will live on across generations, giving birth to new waves of resistance. This is the essence of defeat.
     Psychological warfare is as old as mankind but has developed over the years from a natural and simple human behaviour to an important weapon guided by science and technology. Mind control is a broad range of psychological tactics to subvert an individual’s control of his own thinking, emotions, behaviour and decisions. Propaganda is a deliberate and systematic attempt to influence perceptions, cognition and behaviour to achieve the response desired by the propaganda maker. Psychological warfare (PSYWAR) is defined by the US Defense Department as "the planned use of propaganda and other psychological action to influence the opinion, emotions, attitudes and behaviour of the enemy in such a way to support achieving national objectives."
     Propaganda or psychological warfare was used as far back as Alexander the Great. He used to leave some of his men in conquered cities to control them, introduce Greek culture, oppress dissident views, and to interbreed. This influenced the psyche of occupied people to conform. Genghis Khan, who conquered more territories than any other leader in the human history, placed as his top priority defeating the will of the enemy. When attacking a city or village he used to demand submission with the threat of total destruction if they refused to surrender. In modern times, Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill both made use of propaganda. Recently, psychological warfare was used in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and in the Israeli war on Gaza.

Innocence lost

Sameh Habeeb and Janet Zimmerman, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/12/2009
      Habeeb is a 23-year-old journalist based in the Gaza Strip, active to bring out the word of his people’s suffering. Zimmerman is a 21- year-old journalist and American citizen, determined to help after seeing the crimes perpetrated in Gaza by Israel. They became friends united in the struggle to open the eyes of the world to agonies before which they are often closed. One story that has caught their attention is the personal catastrophe of Khaled Abd Rabbo.
     We began our journey and were barely able to reach Abd Rabbo’s town. As we drove along, our car dipped to the right and to the left. The ground was rutted from the holes that the Israelis tore into the streets with their bombs, their bulldozing, and their fires. The land was also wounded. A once lush and tranquil neighbourhood had been transformed into hell on earth. Our eyes were filled with nothing but devastation, and masses of people covered the place like flies.
     Our car came to a halt and we walked down the street to Abd Rabbo’s shattered home. And there was Abd Rabbo himself, sitting in the rubble of happier times.
     "This house used to have four floors, and a nice garden. It brought us peace and tranquillity," he began to tell us. "The Israeli army came to this house many times before, but the last was in March of 2008."
     He explains how they invaded his home and investigated him and his family. "They found nothing. I am a police officer in the Ramallah government; I have nothing to do with Hamas."

America’s new foreign policy

Muqtedar Khan, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/12/2009
      The change has been announced, but it is one only of tactics.
     US Vice-President Joe Biden unveiled America’s new foreign policy at the 45th Munich Security Conference this weekend. Events preceding the conference underscored the challenging atmosphere the US faces in the world today.
     Just a few days earlier, Iran launched its first homemade satellite into space, advertising the rapid development of its rocket/ballistic capabilities. Iran, a state that has now emerged as America’s principle international rival, is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its Islamic revolution: a revolution that 30 years ago ended US imperial control of Iran’s politics and more recently is pushing to end US hegemony in the Middle East. For 30 years the US has imposed sanctions against Iran and threatened it with war, working diligently to overthrow its regime, without much success. Iran is a reminder of the continued failure of US foreign policy.
     Also just before the Munich Security Conference, Kyrgyzstan announced that it will be closing a vital US air force base in Manas, reportedly under pressure from Russia. Russia lately has begun rolling back growing US influence in Eastern Europe and Central Asia -- regions that Russia considers part of its sphere of influence.