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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
22 February, 2009

Suspend military aid to Israel, Amnesty urges Obama after detailing US weapons used in Gaza
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 2/23/2009
White phosphorus shells traced back to America • Activists call for arms embargoes on both sides - Detailed evidence has emerged of Israel’s extensive use of US-made weaponry during its war in Gaza last month, including white phosphorus artillery shells, 500lb bombs and Hellfire missiles. In a report released today, Amnesty International detailed the weapons used and called for an immediate arms embargo on Israel and all Palestinian armed groups. It called on the Obama administration to suspend military aid to Israel. The human rights group said that those arming both sides in the conflict "will have been well aware of a pattern of repeated misuse of weapons by both parties and must therefore take responsibility for the violations perpetrated". The US has long been the largest arms supplier to Israel; under a current 10-year agreement negotiated by the Bush administration the US will provide $30bn (£21bn) in military aid to Israel.

Israel orders dozens of Palestinian homes razed in Occupied Jerusalem
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/23/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel has ordered hundreds of Palestinians to leave their homes in Occupied Jerusalem, saying their houses are illegal, officials and residents said Sunday. "The owners of 80 houses in the Al-Bustan neighborhood have received eviction notices saying that the structures will be destroyed because they are illegal," said Hatem Abdel-Kader, an official responsible for Occupied Jerusalem affairs in the Palestinian government. He added that 1,500 people were currently living in the threatened houses in the neighborhood abutting the Old City. He said that several of the houses served with demolition orders were built before 1967, when Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in a surprise attack but that numerous extensions have been built since. "The municipality used this as a pretext to issue the demolition orders despite appeals by the residents," he said.

Egypt opens Gaza border crossing
Al Jazeera 2/22/2009
The border between Gaza and Egypt, the sole crossing that bypasses Israel, has been opened for three days to allow the passage of students and the sick. The Rafah crossing was opened around 9am local time (0700 GMT) on Sunday and was expected to be open for three days, Adel Zurub, a Hamas border official, said. Al Jazeera’s Todd Baer, reporting form Rafah, said it was a day of celebration. "The mood here for the first time in an awful long time is one of great happiness for those few who are being able to cross the border," he said. However, many Palestinians in Gaza will not be able to enter Egypt, Baer said. "We are being told by officials here that some 200 people who desperately need to go to Egypt for medical treatment at better equipped hospitals than they have here in Gaza, do not have the correct paperwork," he said. Rafah has been largely closed since June 2006. . .

Isolation looms for Ni’lin and surrounding villages
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 2/22/2009
In Ni’lin Occupation forces uprooted 25 olive trees for the construction of the Karyat Safer terminal, precipitating clashes between soldiers and the people of the village. The construction of the Wall and terminal will completely isolate Ni’lin and five other villages between the Wall and settler road 446. On 15 February, a military patrol entered the village and announced that the southern area was a closed military zone. The area was sealed off, and those living there were prohibited from leaving their homes. About an hour later, military bulldozers were brought in and immediately began to uproot trees. The arrival of the bulldozers sparked off violent clashes between villagers and soldiers, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets. Three people were shot, one in the face, and needed to be transported to Sheikh Zaid hospital in Ramallah for treatment.

Death toll rises to four in southern Gaza tunnel collapse
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The death toll of Saturday’s Rafah tunnel collapse rose to four on Sunday as medics discovered three additional bodies under the debris. Workers found the first corpse on Saturday, and teams are still searching the rubble for a Palestinian missing since the collapse. According to medical sources, three bodies were taken to Abu Yousif An-Najjar Hosital in Rafah on Sunday after Palestinian civil defense staff searched the area. The Palestinian Health Ministry’s director of Ambulance and Emergency Services, Muawiya Hassanein, identified the victims as Rafi’ Al-Hawi, Ammar Abu Qura, Nihad ‘Ubeid, and Zeidan Al-Agha. A fifth man from the Sha’ath family is still missing. Hassanein highlighted that 63 people had died in tunnel accidents since the Israeli siege was imposed on the Gaza Strip, forcing Palestinians to use tunnels for smuggling goods from Egypt.

’Israel must change 'counterproductive' Gaza policies’
Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post 2/22/2009
Banning lentils and pasta from Gaza does not help the cause of peace, two visiting congressmen told The Jerusalem Post on Friday morning, after making a rare visit to Gaza the previous day. "When have lentil bombs been going off lately? Is someone going to kill you with a piece of macaroni? "asked Rep. Brian Baird (D-Washington). He and Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) called on Israel to end the economic isolation of Gaza and to open the crossings into the area, which have been closed since Hamas’s coup there in June 2007. Their call came two days after the cabinet agreed to link the full opening of the crossings to the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit, who has been held in Gaza since June 2006. Ellison said he had taken the efforts to free Schalit to heart and had a copy of his dog tags in his office.

Palestinians taken from Gaza held in torturous conditions
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/22/2009
Gaza -- The fate of Palestinians arrested from the Gaza Strip during the recent major attacks is being slowly uncovered. Several were found after being taken out of Al Naqab Prison under false pretences. The Palestinians were being held, according to the Israelis, as "illegal combatants" and therefore, they said, did not require the attention of the Red Cross or attorneys. The Palestinian Prisoner Society has followed the case closely while issuing reports when new information becomes available. Ghazi Sobhi Al Attar is among those taken from the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces kidnapped the young man, along with his father and 17 year old brother, from their home in the north’s Beit Lahiya on the third of January this year. It was just days after the major attacks began on 28 December. In an eventual meeting with PPS lawyers Al Attar was able to give some of the details of his family’s arrest.

Human Rights Watch calls on Israel to allow human rights groups into Gaza
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/23/2009
The international organization Human Rights Watch issued a report on Sunday calling for an end to Israel’s ban of international human rights groups n Gaza. The group said that such a ban raises concerns that Israel has something to hide about its military operations in Gaza. Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement to the media, "Israel’s refusal to allow human rights groups access to Gaza raises a strong suspicion that there are things it doesn’t want us to see or the world to know about its military operation there. If Israel has nothing to hide, why is it refusing to allow us in? " The group, which is known worldwide for its role in human rights observation and reports in virtually every conflict zone on earth, is especially concerned that the Israeli military is currently conducting its own ’investigations’ into the allegations that troops. . . -- See also: HRW - Israel: End Ban on Human Rights Monitors

Israel ’evicts Jerusalem families’
Al Jazeera 2/23/2009
More than 1,500 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem could be made homeless after Israel told them their homes are illegal and are to be demolished. "The owners of 80 houses in the al-Bustan neighbourhood have received eviction notices saying that the structures will be destroyed because they are illegal," Hatem Abdel Kader, an official responsible for Jerusalem affairs in the Palestinian government, said. Kader said that several of the houses served with demolition orders had been built before the 1967 war, when Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan, but that numerous extensions have been built since. "The [Jerusalem] municipality used this as a pretext to issue the demolition orders despite appeals by the residents," he said. No comment was immediately available from the city authorities.

Muslim-Christian group: Israel demolishing entire neighborhoods
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2009
Jerusalem – Ma’an – A panel of prominent Muslim and Christian leaders accused Israeli authorities on Sunday of “escalating their war against Jerusalem. " The group, Jerusalem’s Islamic-Christian Panel, called for Arab and international actors to “stand firm” against Israel and “rescue the holy city. ”Panel Secretary-General Hassan Khater said Israel is “expanding its persecution against Jerusalemites by targeting entire neighborhoods” with land confiscation and home demolitions. He added that residents of the Al-Bustan neighborhood, south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, “are now in real danger,” especially after the city’s Regional Committee for Planning and Construction cancelled a plan suggested by its residents. The committee rejected the appeal after approving another one for the same area presented by the Israeli municipality to remove the largest section of the neighborhood,. . .

IOA escalates judaization of holy city, plans demolition of 88 Palestinian homes
Palestinian Information Center 2/22/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation authority is planning to demolish 88 Palestinian homes in Bustan suburb south of the Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem and to dislodge its 1,500 inhabitants. Secretary general of the Islamic-Christian authority to support Jerusalem and holy shrines Hassan Khater said in a statement on Sunday that inhabitants of the Bustan suburb were in real danger after the Israeli municipality adopted a scheme that envisages removing the biggest section of the suburb to convert it into public parks. He charged that the scheme falls in line with a bigger plan that aims at judaizing the vicinity of the Aqsa Mosque or the so-called "Holy Basin" area, which includes the demolition of the 88 homes in Bustan. The secretary general asked the inhabitants not to accept the Israeli-controlled municipality’s attempts to persuade them to leave their homes. . .

IOA knocks down tent of displaced Palestinian widow
Palestinian Information Center 2/22/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation authority on Sunday knocked down the tent of Um Kamel (Fawzia Al-Kurd) in occupied Jerusalem for the fifth time. She had pitched her tent in the Sheikh Jarrah suburb after members of a Jewish fanatic group expelled her from her home in the same neighborhood. Israeli border policemen escorted the bulldozers that leveled the tent and assaulted a number of sympathizers including foreigners who tried to prevent the bulldozers from finishing the job. Um Kamel said that the IOA bulldozers, escorted by Israeli police, sealed the entire area surrounding the tent before starting to bring it down. She said that she asked the officer in charge to show her the demolition order but he said that orders were issued that the tent should be permanently destroyed and then tried to assault her.

New path of apartheid wall gobbles up more fertile lands in Qalqilia
Palestinian Information Center 2/22/2009
QALQILIA, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation authority has started recently to put marks across the lands of the Palestinian village of Wadi Al-Rasha, south of Qalqilia city, in preparation to modify the path of the apartheid, separation wall in the area. According to the IOA, the step comes in accordance with an order issued by the Israeli "Supreme Court" to "end the isolation of five Palestinian villages" namely: Ras Taira, Wadi Al-Rasha, Al-Dhaba’a, Arab Al-Rammadheen, and Arab Abu Fardah. But for the Palestinians, the new path puts them before two "bitter" options, either to accept the status quo and remain isolated and cut off from the city, or to agree to the new path that would gobble at least 2500 dunums (1 dunum= 1000 sq. meter) of their agriculture lands and pastures. According to the popular committee against the wall, the length of the new wall is three kilometers and. . .

Israel announces plans to demolish Palestinian homes near Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces on Sunday officially informed five Palestinian families from the Tana neighborhood in Beit Furik, east of Nablus, that their homes were slated for demolition. The head of Beit Furik’s local council, Abdul-Basit Haneini, told Ma’an that Israeli forces stormed the neighborhood and handed warrants to the families in question, ordering them to evacuate their homes as soon as possible for demolition. Haneini identified the families served with notices as Muhammad Nasasra, Dawood Khatatba, Abdul-Hamid Khatatba, Arafat Nasasra, and Radwan Khatatba. He highlighted that 25 other families were served notice in the past, and that 12,000 donums of agricultural land had been confiscated from the town, leaving just 6,000 donums for the land’s indigenous owners.

IDF confirms army dog bit Palestinian during West Bank raid
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/22/2009
The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday confirmed that an army dog bit an elderly Palestinian during a West Bank raid. Salem Bani Odeh said he was in his bed when he was bitten repeatedly. He remained hospitalized Sunday with a gash in his left ear. The 99-year-old’s relatives said he is paralyzed. The incident occurred before dawn Friday in the village of Tamoun. The army said Sunday that troops surrounded a house in Tamoun during a search for a Palestinian. The statement sais soldiers called on everyone to leave the house and that a resident of the house was subsequently bitten by a dog. The statement offers no further explanation, saying only the man eventually received medical treatment from soldiers and was then taken away by Palestinian medics.

300 olive saplings uprooted in Jab’a
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 2/19/2009
Bulldozers uprooted around 300 olive saplings in the village of Jab’a, western Bethlehem. Occupation forces have considered it “state land,” meaning that the owners are barred from cultivating or using it in any way. On February 18, bulldozers entered the targeted land and razed some 300 olive saplings. Two days prior, the owners had received military orders demanding that they remove all traces of agriculture, including trees and machinery, from the targeted land. The owners were expected to pay for the removal themselves. The land belongs to four large families, the Mash’aleh, Abu Loha, Abu Sbeha and Hamdan. It has been passed down from generation to generation, with the current owners inheriting it from their fathers. The lands are also located less than 200 meters away from a military base and terminal that has been under construction since 2006. Occupation forces have laid claim to land, despite the fact the inheritors posses official ownership papers, on account of its proximity to the base and terminal.

Cairo bombing kills French tourist, wounds 20 others
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
The Egyptian health ministry said on Sunday a bomb attack in a tourist area of Cairo had killed one French tourist and wounded 20 other people. Earlier, a security source told Reuters that four people had been killed in the attack, including two tourists. The ministry said in comments carried by the official state news agency MENA that the wounded included 13 French, three Saudis, and four Egyptians. Citing witness reports, the sources said at least one device exploded after being thrown from a motorcycle in a historic district near the city center. Witnesses said a second device was also thrown but did not appear to have exploded, the security sources said. A security official said the second bomb was discovered and safely detonated shortly after the attack.

Blast rocks Egypt tourist district
Al Jazeera 2/23/2009
A bomb blast at the heart of the Egyptian capital’s tourist district has left one person dead and 23 injured. Police said a French woman was killed in the explosion on Sunday outside Cairo’s historic Hussein mosque in the popular Khan el-Khalili tourist area. Egyptian, French, German and Saudi nationals were injured by flying stone and marble fragments, a police official at the scene said. "It was an explosive, perhaps a hand grenade," one police official said. Details remained sketchy but the interior ministry said in a statement that bombs were planted under a seat near a cafe just outside the al-Hussein Hotel. Timeline: Attacks in EgyptThe Egyptian Middle East news agency, quoting witnesses, earlier reported that explosive devices were thrown from the roof of a nearby hotel.

Timeline: Bombings in Egypt
Al Jazeera 2/22/2009
Egypt has seen a number of bomb attacks targeting civilians and tourists over the years, many of them claimed by Egyptian Islamic group Gamaa al-Islamiya. February 26, 1993: Two tourists - a Turk and a Swede - as well as an Egyptian, are killed in a bomb blast in a central Cairo cafe. Nineteen other people, including six foreigners, are wounded. June 8, 1993: A bomb thrown into a tourist bus near the pyramids in Cairo kills two Egyptians and wounds 15 others, including two British tourists. October 26, 1993: Two Americans, a Frenchman and an Italian are killed and two other tourists injured at the Semiramis hotel in Cairo. March 4, 1994: Gamaa al-Islamiya claims an attack against a Nile cruise ship in southern Egypt in which a female German tourist is killed. August 26, 1994: A young Spanish tourist is shot dead during an attack against a minibus on the road between the Nile towns of Luxor and Sohag.

Livni: We are headed for opposition
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima chief Tzipi Livni have agreed to meet again for talks in the next few days, but stressed that no coalition negotiations are underway. Speaking last night to reporters after their first meeting since the February 10 election, Livni said there are still "profound differences" between the two parties’ positions on the peace process and talks with the Palestinians. "I will be taking Kadima into the opposition," she said. "Netanyahu has asked for another meeting - and I agreed. As far as I am concerned, this meeting has changed nothing. "Also briefing reporters, Netanyahu said he told Livni, "I will continue to try to form a national unity government to counter the threats facing Israel. This is the will of the people. "Netanyahu listed the threats facing the country, adding that "it is incumbent upon us that we unite all of our forces for this common goal.

Netanyahu: Coalition talks with Kadima futile
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 2/23/2009
Following closed meeting with Livni, Prime minister-designate convinced Kadima won’t join Likud-led coalition; Kadima leader: Bibi did not respond positively to question of whether he would strive for a two-state solution - Prime-Minister designate Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni met at Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel Sunday night for the first time since the recent general elections and just two days after President Shimon Peres tasked the Likud leader with forming the next government. "Tonight and over recent days efforts have been made to establish a unity government before the challenges and dangers facing Israel. This is the will of the people," Netanyahu told reporters following the hour-and-a-half long meeting, which was held behind closed doors. "We must unite forces in honor of common goals - peace, prosperity, and security.

Netanyahu, Livni fail to reach coalition deal, but agree to meet again
Barak Ravid and Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
Likud chief Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni failed to come to agreement on various issues that would allow for the formation of a national unity government, though the two party heads did agree to meet again later this week following their sit-down in Jerusalem on Sunday. Speaking last night to reporters after their first meeting since the February 10 election, Livni said there are still "profound differences" between the two parties’ positions on the peace process and talks with the Palestinians. "I will be taking Kadima into the opposition," she said. "Netanyahu has asked for another meeting  and I agreed. As far as I am concerned, this meeting has changed nothing. ""In the coming days, I will make an effort to form a national unity government in light of the significant challenges the State of Israel faces," Netanyahu told reporters.

Netanyahu tries to woo Livni in bid to form broad coalition
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/23/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli hawk Benjamin Netanyahu was set to try to woo centrist rival Tzipi Livni into his government on Sunday in a bid to form a broad coalition in the notoriously unstable world of Israeli politics. A right-wing government led by Netanyahu, who wants to avoid core issues in peace talks with the Palestinians, is likely to completely halt the faltering Middle East peace process, observers warn. Netanyahu is thought to favor a broad alliance over a narrow right-wing coalition that would be unlikely to last a full term and would put Israel at odds with Washington, where US President Barack Obama has vowed to vigorously pursue peace talks. "Aware of the enormous challenges faced by the country, there is no doubt that forming a union should be our foremost goal," he told reporters ahead of his meeting with Livni scheduled for 1930 GMT.

National Union to demand Likud ’unfreeze’ settlement construction
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
National Union plans to demand in coalition talks with Likud that the government allow construction in all settlements where it is now effectively frozen, and to legalize most illegal outposts. Specifically, the party will demand the legalization of any outpost "located on land that does not pose a substantive obstacle" - meaning, primarily, any outpost not located on private Palestinian land. It also will ask for the incoming government to cancel four military orders that it says discriminates against settlers; abolish the Justice Ministry’s task force on enforcing the law against Jewish settlers; revive and provide adequate funding for the Jewish Agency’s settlement division, which used to carry out the lion’s share of construction in the territories; enact legislation that would enable West Bank lands to be restored to their pre-state. . .

Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu launches global charm offensive
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
Yisrael Beiteinu officials have launched a public relations campaign to tell the United States, Europe and the Arab world that there is nothing to fear from Avigdor Lieberman’s initiative to add an oath of allegiance to Israel’s Citizenship Law. Meanwhile, Israel’s ambassador to Italy, Gideon Meir, warned the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem that the Arab countries are conducting a campaign to demonize Lieberman in Europe. Meir called for special PR work to be devoted to this issue, as the Yisrael Beiteinu leader might be appointed to a cabinet post in the government Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to form. During his election campaign, Lieberman called for an amendment requiring citizens to take a loyalty oath. Yisrael Beiteinu’s PR efforts are being spearheaded by Israel’s former ambassador to the United. . .

Barak reportedly lobbying Laborites to back joining Netanyahu-led coalition
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
Labor Party Chairman Ehud Barak is lobbying the faction’s central committee members and activists for support for a possible entry into a government led by Likud chief Benjamin Netanyahu, Channel 10 reported on Sunday. Barak’s efforts come despite his statements indicating that Labor intends to remain in the opposition. Barak has initiated a series of meetings and consultations aimed at determining what the response of central committee members would be if Labor were to join the next government. Aides to Barak say most of the activists with whom they spoke expressed a willingness to take part in the ruling coalition provided that the party receive senior portfolios and that Netanyahu pledge to continue the diplomatic process.

Hundreds of Gazans head to Egypt as crossing opens
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/23/2009
GAZA CITY: Hundreds of people went into and out of the Gaza Strip on Sunday after Egypt opened the Rafah crossing, the enclave’s sole crossing that bypasses the Jewish state, a Hamas official told AFP. The Rafah crossing opened at around 9 a. m. and was expected to remain open for three days, said Adel Zurub. After seven hours, some 420 people had left Gaza and 230 entered the Palestinian coastal territory, he added. Rafah has been largely closed since June 2006, when Gaza militants seized an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid that followed arrests of scores of Hamas lawmakers, fresh from an election victory over Fatah earlier in the year. After the Islamists took power by force in what many have termed a pre-empting of an impending US-backed offensive by Fatah, the Israelis tightened their siege of the impoverished enclave.

Zu’rub: Egypt opens Rafah crossings for three days
Palestinian Information Center 2/22/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Adel Zu’rub, the spokesman of the Palestinian administration for crossings and borders, said that Egypt will open the Rafah border terminal with the Gaza Strip on Sunday for three days. Zu’rub told the PIC that the crossing would be open for holders of valid residence permits in Egypt or abroad along with students registered in 2008 and 2009 and patients. He said that the Palestinians were asked to gather in the Khan Younis stadium prior to their departure via the crossing. Cairo had closed the terminal on 5/2/2009 despite the presence of hundreds of patients and holders of resident permits who were hoping to cross into Egypt for treatment or to resume their jobs or studies abroad. The UN and other legal and human rights organizations had appealed for the opening of all Gaza crossings topped by Rafah terminal on permanent basis following the devastating Israeli. . .

Official: Egypt opens Gaza crossing
Associated Press, YNetNews 2/22/2009
Egyptian authorities let some 500 students, 500 third-country residents and medical patients stranded in Strip cross through Rafah crossing; 800 medical cases to be allowed to cross Monday, spokesman for officials at border says - Egyptian authorities started letting Gaza students, third-country residents and medical patients stranded in the territory cross the usually closed frontier into Egypt on Sunday, a spokesman for Palestinian officials at the Gaza-Egypt border crossing said. Spokesman Adel Zourab said Egypt had agreed to allow 500 students studying abroad and 500 other people with valid residency permits for Egypt or other countries to pass through the border crossing Sunday. He said 800 medical cases were scheduled to cross on Monday. Egypt sealed the border after Islamic Hamas militants seized control of Gaza in June 2007.

Rafah crossing opens for students, patients
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Egypt opened the Rafah crossing into and out of the Gaza Strip in both directions on Sunday, allowing passage of Palestinian patients and holders of valid foreign passports, as well as students. The crossing will remain open for two more days, according to an official. Adel Zu’rub, spokesperson for the Gaza crossing, students who attend universities during the 2008-2009 academic year, and holders of valid foreign passports, will be permitted to pass through the Rafah crossing on Sunday. Meanwhile, patients will be allowed through on Monday, he said. On Tuesday, the crossing will be open to Palestinians unable to make it on Sunday or Monday. As of press time, some 150 people managed to pass through, however he highlighted that Egyptian officials denied the entry of visa holders without explanation.

Patients and students allowed through Rafah crossing
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/22/2009
Gaza -- The Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and the Egyptian Sinai was opened today for a limited number of passengers. Beginning this morning at nine o’clock and lasting for three days students and medical patients will be able to leave the Strip. A bus load of students was the first to cross on Sunday morning after a nearly continuous closure that began in June 2006. Palestinians holding visas to foreign countries are also being allowed out of the Strip that suffered a particularly violent 23 day attack that killed at least 1,330 Palestinians. Operation of the Rafah crossing is part of stalled talks with the Israelis that are being brokered by the Egyptians. European observers say they are ready to return to the Rafah crossing after a cessation of 20 months.

Donations not meeting need in Gaza under siege
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/22/2009
Amman -- In ongoing efforts to aid the Gaza Strip after two years of siege and three weeks of major attacks, Jordan sent another 15 trucks today. Loaded with food and medical assistance the convoy passed the King Hussein (Allenby) Bridge between Jordan and the West Bank. The crossing, 55 kilometers west of Amman, is controlled by Israeli forces as all Palestinian borders are. According to a statement sent to PNN by the Jordanian Hashemite Charity Organization, the trucks are "carrying 117 tons of various relief materials. "Among the critical cargo is medical equipment for dialysis and rehabilitation. Medical supplies were critically low in the Gaza Strip due to the siege and closures, while hospital equipment was in need of replacement or repair with parts that were banned from entrance. The major attacks exacerbated the crisis which garnered alarm from organizations. . .

Two Arab League Committees entered Gaza Sunday
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/23/2009
A senior Egyptian security official at the Rafah terminal between Gaza and Egypt stated Sunday that two committees sent by the Arab League entered the Gaza Strip during the day to assess the damage caused by Israel’s latest offensive against the Gaza Strip, and to assess the needs of the residents in addition to planning reconstruction. Reuters reported that one of the two committees includes 19 members representing different organizations working with the Arab League and organizations that are specialized in industry, agriculture, Education, Media and civil flights. Head of the committee, Mohammad Mahmoud Al Hanan, stated that the committee will write reports based on its findings and that these reports would be discussed during the Donors Conference which will be held in the Egyptian resort of Sharm Al Sheikh on March 2nd.

Arab League looking into war crimes charges over Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – The Arab League is considering investigations into alleged Israeli war crimes in its three-week assault on Gaza. A mission from the League is headed to the Strip soon to investigate the allegations. The delegation will be composed of a number of high-ranking officials, set to arrive via the Rafah crossing from Egypt. A spokesperson for the Arab League, Hisham Youssef, said the delegation would prepare a detailed report for Secretary-General Amr Moussa, “and take the necessary legal measures. ”Youssef added that the mission left for Gaza on Saturday, and will be accompanied by a secondary committee to assess the humanitarian situation and reconstruction needs. Earlier, the Arab League held two committee sessions on Gaza, one reportedly comprised of international legal experts, according to Hebrew-language newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.

Arab League to send two committees to Gaza to probe war crimes, reconstruction
Palestinian Information Center 2/22/2009
CAIRO, (PIC)-- The Arab League is to send two committees into the Gaza Strip on Sunday to probe Israeli war crimes during the three weeks of aggression on the Strip that left 7,000 Palestinians either killed or wounded other than the destruction of thousands of homes, schools and other infrastructure using internationally banned weapons while the other would estimate Gaza reconstruction needs. Hisham Yousef, the director of the office of Arab League Secretary General Amr Mousa, said in a press statement that Mousa met with members of the two committees on Saturday for a review of their duties during their visit to the Strip. He added that the legal committee would group international legal experts headed by Jean Dugard, and explained that the committee would probe the conditions in Gaza and the crimes committed against the Palestinians there.

Hamas interior official: 200 Gaza patients deprived of travel for lack of passports
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/22/2009
Spokesperson of the Hamas interior ministry in Gaza, Ehab Elghosain, called on the Ramallah-based government to swiftly transfer passports to Gaza, as 200 Gaza patients are in need of medical care outside the coastal territory. Elghosain maintained that transferring such passport papers to Gaza would be a good-will gesture from the part of the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank toward an upcoming national dialogue in Cairo, slated for Wednesday. Palestinian passports have been issued in the framework of a Palestinian-Israeli peace accord in 1993. Hamas took over Gaza after 2006’s parliamentary elections, and since have been at loggerheads with the Abbas-led Fatah party. In June of 2007, Hamas seized control of the coastal territory, and since then has been outlawed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, for what Abbas termed a ’coup against legitimacy’, despite Hamas being democratically elected by the Palestinian people in 2006.

Mohammad Awad: Hamas runs Gaza within an emergency plan
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/22/2009
Secretary General of the Hamas-led cabinet in Gaza, Mohammad Awad, stated Sunday that his cabinet administers the Gaza Strip within the framework of an emergency plan, due to the last Israeli war, "Opertion Cast Lead", bombarded Gaza and killed more than 1,350 Palestinians. Awad maintained that despite current complicated circumstances following the "recent Israeli aggression", the Hamas government did not stop providing services to residents of Gaza. According to the emergency plan, Awad pointed out that two committees have been formed; the first is the higher committee and the second is a sub-committee. The sub-committee is divided into many local committees that follow up on daily matters, and report to the higher committee. Awad also explained that such an emergency plan allows constant contact among all bodies of government.

Scottish aid convoy heads to Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 2/22/2009
GLASGOW, (PIC)-- Tens of trucks loaded with medicine and medical supplies started their trek from Scotland to the besieged Gaza Strip on Saturday organized by Justice for Palestine organization in Scotland. The organization announced that the "Trip aims at providing aid to the residents of the besieged Gaza Strip, and that several institutions and organizations in Scotland and the UK are participating in this humanitarian mission". A statement on the occasion read: "The organizers said that this trip also aims at raising awareness on the issue of the ongoing Israeli siege which was imposed on Gaza three years ago. The group invited several Scottish parliamentarians to participate in the trip in order to increase the pressure on the Israeli occupation to end the siege on Gaza and open the Rafah Border Terminal, on the Gaza-Egypt border.

EU president to visit Gaza Strip on Monday
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering is scheduled to visit the Gaza Strip on Monday, along with a high-ranking delegation, to see the outcome of Israel’s offensive there. According to Jamal Hamad, director of the UN Relief and Works Agency’s information office in Gaza, the delegation will check up on destroyed areas in the Gaza Strip, accompanied by UN General Commissioner Keren Abu Zayd. After the tour, they will hold a news conference at Beit Lahiya Elementary School, which was used as a shelter for Palestinians whose homes were shelled during the onslaught. [end]

Gaza Strip runs out of passport applications
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – A spokesperson for the Hamas-run de facto government’s Interior Ministry on Sunday called on the Palestinian caretaker government in the West Bank to send passport applications to Gaza. The spokesperson, Eyhab Al-Ghussein, suggested sending the forms as “a goodwill gesture” in advance of talks planned later this month in Cairo. “More than 200 Gazan patients will be deprived of travel abroad for medical treatment because they don’t have passports,” the spokesperson said. “The Ramallah-based government should send passport forms to the Gaza Strip immediately if they want to lay the grounds for dialogue,” Al-Ghussein said. [end]

New Amnesty report calls for freeze on arms sales to Israel
Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
More than 20 countries sold Israel weapons and munitions whose use during Operation Cast Lead could constitute war crimes and might pose serious infractions of international law, according to a report to be released by Amnesty International on Monday. The United States is at the top of the list of arms exporters to Israel, but France, Romania, Bosnia and Serbia are listed as well. Amnesty’s report, entitled, "Fueling Conflict: Foreign Arms supplies to Israel/Gaza," details arms sales to Israel between 2004 and 2007, and publishes some of the organization’s findings on the use of such weapons against civilians and civilian targets. "Direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects, disproportionate attacks and indiscriminate attacks are war crimes," the report states, describing such attacks during the war in Gaza.

Amnesty: US assisted Gaza war crimes
Ynet, YNetNews 2/23/2009
Rights organization says Israeli army used white phosphorus in densely-populated civilian residential areas, calls for weapons embargo to be imposed on Israel, Hamas -Amnesty International condemned the IDF’s conduct during its military operation in Gaza in a report published Monday, and called for an arms embargo on both Israel and the terrorist Hamas group. "Amnesty International found that the Israeli army used white phosphorus, a weapon with a highly incendiary effect, in densely-populated civilian residential areas in and around Gaza City, and in the north and south of the Gaza Strip," the report says. "The organization’s delegates found white phosphorus still burning in residential areas throughout Gaza days after the ceasefire came into effect on 18 January - that is, up to three weeks after the white phosphorus artillery shells had been fired by Israeli forces.

VIDEO - The Fifth Annual Israeli Apartheid Week March 1 - 8, 2009
Israeli Apartheid Week 2/22/2009
Mark your calendars - the 5th Annual Israeli Apartheid Week will take place across the globe from March 1-8, 2009!First launched in Toronto in 2005, IAW has grown to become one of the most important global events in the Palestine solidarity calendar. Last year, more than 25 cities around the world participated in the week’s activities, which also commemorated 60 years since the expulsion of the Palestinian people from their homes and land in 1947-1948. IAW 2008 was launched with a live broadcast from the South African township of Soweto by Palestinian leader and former member of the Israeli Knesset, Azmi Bishara. This year, IAW occurs in the wake of Israel’s barbaric assault against the people of Gaza. Lectures, films, and actions will make the point that these latest massacres further confirm the true nature of Israeli Apartheid. IAW 2009 will continue to build and strengthen the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement at a global level. -- See also: YouTube: Israeli Apartheid Week 2009 Trailer

Time for accountability for human rights abuses in Gaza and southern Israel
Amnesty International 2/17/2009
Call for accountability for abuses of human rights and international law in Gaza and southern Israel - "The [Israeli] soldiers shelled the house and killed my mother, my father, my baby girl and 25 other members of my family. Why? We are not Hamas, we are not fighters. Why did they do this to us? " – Salah Sammouni, Gaza – January 2009"My five-year old son always asks where the closest bomb shelter is. Little children shouldn’t have such worries; they should worry about what to play next." – Geut Aragon, whose house in Sderot was hit by a Palestinian rocket – December 2008Some 1,300 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including more than 300 children, and 13 Israelis, three of them civilians, were killed during the recent three-week conflict in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel.

IDF opens fire at Gaza militants launching mortars at soldiers
Yanir Yagna, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip yesterday fired two mortar rounds at Israel Defense Forces soldiers near the border, Israel Radio reported. IDF troops operating in the Kissufim area identified the source of the rocket fire and opened fire in the direction of the launchers across the border. The strikes came amid an apparent stalemate in Gaza Strip truce negotiations, following Israel’s demand that a cease-fire be linked to the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Meanwhile, Egypt yesterday opened its Rafah border crossing with Gaza to let students, third-country residents and medical patients stranded in the Strip cross the usually closed frontier. Spokesman Adel Zourab said yesterday that Egypt had agreed to allow 500 students studying abroad and 500 others with valid residency permits for Egypt or other countries to pass through the border crossing.

Qassam hits open area in Negev
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 2/22/2009
Rocket alert system activated at around 9:10 am Sunday in Sderot, nearby communities. Qassam explodes near border fence in Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council; no injuries or damage reported - A Qassam rocket exploded Sunday morning in an open area near the border fence in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council. There were no reports of injuries or damage. The Color Red rocket alert system was activated at around 9:10 am in the southern town of Sderot and the nearby communities, following the launching of a Qassam rocket from the Gaza Strip. A loud blast was heard in the area shortly afterwards. And on Northern FrontKatyusha hits Galilee community; 3 lightly hurt / Hagai Einav Rocket fired from Lebanon lands near home in northern community, lightly injuring three members of the same family ; sources say second Katyusha landed in Lebanese territory, launching. . .

IDF finds its army bases not sufficiently protected against missiles
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
The Israel Defense Forces’ Operations Directorate last week established a new department in the General Staff, tasked with coordinating the security and protection of army bases. The decision to establish the department was made about a year ago, in the understanding that the bases could constitute a target in any future war, and also on the backdrop of the poor security situation in some of the camps. The establishment of the new department is part of a reorganization of the Operations Directorate, headed by Brig. Gen. Aviv Kokhavi. The department is supposed to identify the IDF’s security needs, following an analysis of the threat missiles and rockets pose for the home front. Both in the Second Lebanon War and in the recent Gaza campaign, the enemy (Hezbollah and later Hamas) attempted to aim the rockets at the bases.

Israeli sources: Homemade shell-fire from Gaza into nearby Israeli towns continues
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/22/2009
Israeli sources stated on Sunday that Palestinians continue to fire homemade shells from Gaza into nearby Israeli towns. As of today morning, the sources confirmed that a homemade shell was fired into the She’er Hanaigev area in southern Israel, with no causalities reported. Last night, sources reported that a Russian-made Grad rocket landed in the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon (the historical Palestinian town of Asqalan or Almajdal), with no injuries or damages reported. Earlier yesterday, a homemade shell also landed in southern Israel, with no causalities reported. Continued homemade shell-fire from Gaza into nearby Israeli towns comes after Egyptian-mediated truce efforts reached a deadlock over the weekend, as Israel insisted that captured Israeli soldier, Gi’lad Shalit, is released before it enters into any truce deal with Gaza-based resistance factions.

Homemade projectile hits western Negev; no injuries
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2009
Bethehem – Ma’an – A homemade projectile fired from northern Gaza struck near the separation barrier at Israel’s border, according to a Hebrew newspaper. Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Sunday morning that the rocket struck an open area near the wall, within Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council territory. No injuries or damage were immediately reported. [end]

Relatives of tunnel victims ask Egypt to open crossing
Palestinian Information Center 2/22/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- A grouping for relatives of victims of tunnel accidents on Sunday asked the Egyptian government to open the Rafah border terminal in stead of tightening the siege on the beleaguered Gaza Strip. The statement charged that Cairo was playing a major role in the siege imposed by the Israeli occupation authority on Gaza. Despite the Israeli "slap" to Egyptian calm efforts, yet the Egyptian security forces are still adamant on tightening the noose on the Strip through searching for and closing all tunnels that barely allow the minimal basic needs of the besieged citizens, it elaborated. The Egyptian "deadly" measures led to the death of one of the Palestinian workers in those tunnels on Saturday night and the injury of six others, who were treated for suffocation, the statement said, adding that Egyptian security forces were searching houses in El-Arish border town for entrances to tunnels.

One Palestinian man dead, six wounded and two missing in tunnel south of Rafah
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/22/2009
Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip reported on Saturday night that one resident was killed, and six others were wounded after inhaling gas that was reported to have been fired by Egyptian border police into a tunnel along the Gaza-Egypt border in Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Eyewitnesses said that Egyptian forces fired a gas bomb into a tunnel in the al-Salaam area, causing one resident to suffocate to death, while six others were wounded and treated for gas inhalation, the Maan News Agency reported. The eyewitnesses added that two residents are still in the tunnel; and that attempts to locate them were still underway. Medical sources at Yousef Al Najjar Hospital in Rafah, stated that the slain resident and the six wounded were all rushed to the hospital.

Five Palestinians found dead in Gaza-Egypt smuggling tunnel
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/22/2009
Gaza medics say five Palestinians have been found dead in a smuggling tunnel under the border with Egypt. Health official Dr. Moaiya Hassanain said the men suffocated in the cramped, makeshift tunnel. Local residents say they were smuggling food into the strip, which has been under a crippling blockade since the violent Hamas movement seized control there in 2007. Hassanain said the men died Saturday, but were only found on Sunday. The body of one man killed in the same incident was retrieved on Saturday making a total of five. Halting Gaza’s smuggling is a key issue in negotiations for a stable truce between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers. The tunnels are used to smuggle food and consumer products, but also to run arms.

Israeli forces detain young man in Jenin
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2009
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces detained a young man from Misliya village in southern Jenin on Saturday evening after breaking into his store. Local sources reported that Israeli soldiers stormed a number of stores in the area and detained 17-year-old Mohammad Abd Ar-Rahim Abu Arrob, taking him to an undisclosed location. The sources added that Israeli patrols stormed the village the same evening and clashed with youths who threw stones while Israeli forces fired live ammunition back. [end]

Palestinian Authority to free 80 Hamas prisoners in goodwill gesture
Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
The Palestinian Authority will release 80 Hamas operatives from West Bank prisons in the coming days in a gesture of goodwill ahead of unity government talks between the two factions slated for Cairo next Wednesday. Salah al-Bardawil, a Hamas member of parliament, said Fatah officials had already confirmed that the prisoners would be freed, but that in his view, this step is "not enough. "Another Hamas parliamentarian, Mushir al-Masri, encouraged the PA to free all Hamas-linked prisoners from its jails. The PA holds several hundred Hamas-linked prisoners in the West Bank, some of them because of their political ideologies and others for militant activity. Hamas also holds several hundred Fatah-linked prisoners in the Gaza Strip. During last month’s IDF offensive in the territory, several dozen were executed.

Unity Talks to Start in Egypt on the 25th of February
Palestine Media Center 2/22/2009
Egypt has rescheduled a conference aimed at restoring Palestinian unity to 25 February. Officials from Hamas, Fatah, and other factions said they welcomed the resumption of the dialogue. The head of the Fatah bloc in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), Azzam Al-Ahmad said, Egypt has informed president [Mahmuod] Abbas and the factions that it will launch a dialogue on February 25 with all Palestinian groups. " The meeting had originally been planned for 22 February, but was postponed. Egypt at fist said it wanted to broker a ceasefire in Gaza before pressing forward on the internal Palestinian track. Fatah spokesperson Fahmi Az-Za’arir said, “The movement welcomed this development and will attend the meetings of the dialogue out of the belief that the huge challenges faced by the Palestinians need unity and the empowerment of the internal front, recalling that Fatah had called for not connecting between truce and dialogue so that Israel will not control the Palestinian dialogue indirectly.

Abbas forms committee to address issue of political prisoners
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2009
Qalqiliya – Ma’an – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is planning a special security committee to study the issue of political prisoners, according to a senior Fatah member. Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Assam Al-Ahmas was quoted by Fatah-affiliated websites as saying that Abbas wants to “bring the issue to an end quickly. ”The Palestinian Authority will release a number of Hamas-affilated detainees ahead of talks in Cairo, scheduled to begin on Wednesday. Al-Ahmad added that Fatah’s delegation to the Cairo talks has not changed and will comprise 11 leaders from the West bank and the Gaza Strip, headed by Ahmad Qurei. Other Palestinian and Arab media outlets reported that not all Palestinian factions had been invited to the Cairo talks, as previously reported. Egypt invited just members of the Hamas and Fatah movements, hoping to quiet criticism from some of Palestine’s smaller parties and factions.

Palestinian factions receive Cairo invitation for national dialogue
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/22/2009
Gaza-based factions received invitations to Cairo for national unity talks, slated for Feb. 26, a number of such factions confirmed on Sunday. Saleh Zeidan, a political leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, asserted that the Front received an official invitation for the upcoming dialogue. Zeidan called for not placing any pre-conditions for the national unity talks, saying that reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah should be completed with the participation of all concerned parties. Kayed Alghoul, political leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLO), confirmed the same. " The PFLP has a vision of profiles for the expected unity conference for the best ending of current intra-Palestinian division". Walid Al-Awad of the Palestinian People’s Party commented that the next round of talks in Cairo will be focused on the factions’ ability to deal with the profile of political prisoners".

President Obama’s administration favors Fatah-Hamas dialogue
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/22/2009
The administration of U. S president Barak Obama okayed a renewed Fatah-Hamas national unity dialogue over the weekend. A top Palestinian Authority official in Ramallah stated that the dialogue is a good opportunity for stability in the regionIncluded with the U. S position is that Egypt is given the green light to accelerate intra-Palestinian talks for reconciliation between the rival Hamas and Fatah parties, the official maintained. According to the Israeli Online Daily, The Jerusalem Post, quoting the official in a condition of anonymity, "the new administration has a different policy than that of former U. S president Gorge W. Bush. President Barak Obama believes that Fatah-Hamas reconciliation is good for stability". Meanwhile, Cairo has set Wednesday, February 24th as the starting date of the Hamas-Fatah dialogue in the Egyptian capital, after Cairo had earlier called the conference. . .

Palestinian unity talks slated for Wednesday in Cairo
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/22/2009
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry reported on Saturday that the national unity and reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas, in participation with other resistace factions, will be held on Wednesday in Cairo. The talks are part of an Egyptian initiative for a ceasefire deal with Israel, and opening all six border terminals. Different Palestinian factions confirmed receiving invitations to participate in talks in Cairo on February 25. The Hamas movement stated that it is very interested in successful talks in order to achieve reconciliation and unity that would serve the best interests of the Palestinian people. Hamas sources said that previous Hamas-Fatah talks in Cairo paved the road for successful unity talks. The Fatah movement stated that it will participate in the talks in order to achieve unity and to counter all of the challenges that Palestinians are faced with on a daily basis.

Civil Servants Union: Hamas pressuring workers to ignore strikes
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – The head of Palestine’s Union of Civil Servants accused the Hamas movement on Monday of exerting various types of pressure on employees in Gaza, including threats and detention. In a statement, union chief Bassam Zakarna told Ma’an that Hamas “sometimes threatens employees by telephone, forcing them to go to their place of work. ”He also said Hamas members have forced employees to sign obligatory documents and “according to Hamas needs, refusing to allow employees to return to their work. ”Zakarna asserted that several employees’ unions “refuse an individual return to work and demands a collective return of all employees together,” he said referring to work strikes that Hamas is allegedly seeking to prevent. Hamas “has nothing to do with employees’ rights and salaries,” he added, calling on all civil servants “to remain at home until the union makes. . .

National dialogue held up by political detention
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/22/2009
Gaza -- The commencement of the internal Palestinian dialogue continues to be mired in obstacles despite the Egyptian invitation to begin on the twenty-fifth. The issue of detainees in Hamas and Palestinian Authority jails, held on the basis of political affiliation with the Fateh or Hamas parties, remains unresolved. This is where the final problem lies, sources in several parties say. The national dialogue to end the strife between the Hamas and Fateh parties that brought the political split between the Gaza Strip and West Bank has been rescheduled three times since November and several over the past three years. Political Bureau of the Palestinian People’s Party’s, Walid Al Awad said that a "push to make great efforts by both the Palestinians and Arabs is ongoing to overcome the obstacles that continue to block the start of the national dialogue.

A Gaza military court sentences a collaborator to death
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/22/2009
A Gaza-based military court of the ruling Hamas party, sentenced to death a Palestinian resident on Sunday, accused of collaboration with the Israeli occupation,. The Gaza high military court issued a verdict, sentencing Naser Abu Fraih to death after facing him with charges of collaboration with the Israeli occupation, advocates for the suspect said. The advocates however, voiced astonishment for the ruling, for what they considered lack of adequate evidence, asserting they would carry out appeals against the sentence. This episode comes on the heels of Human Rights groups’ concerns over what they described as random shooting at suspects throughout the Gaza Strip in recent weeks. The groups’ concerns emanated from many complaints filed by a number of Gaza families, in which they reported on the killing of their relatives at the hands of masked men.

Hamas sentences man to death
Associated Press, YNetNews 2/22/2009
Gaza military court convicts man of collaborating with Israel, sentences him to death by firing squad -A military court in Hamas-ruled Gaza has sentenced a man to death by firing squad for allegedly collaborating with Israel. Hamas spokesman Mohammed Nahal provided no other details Sunday. He did not know how many Gazans are on death row. The death sentence technically cannot be carried out unless Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas approves it. Abbas has not allowed executions to take place since he came to power in 2005. However, rights groups say Hamas militants executed 17 men who escaped jail during Israel’s three-week militaryoperation in Gaza last month. The groups say most of those killed were suspected collaborators. Hamas has ruled Gaza since seizing the territory from Abbas in June 2007.

Factions receive Cairo dialogue invitations amid calls for neutrality
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Palestinian national factions confirmed that they received official invitations to attend the national dialogue scheduled on Wednesday in Cairo. Saleh Zeidan, a leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, told Ma’an that the DFLP received an official invitation from Egypt to attend the dialogue scheduled for 26 February, and that it called for factions to arrive without preconditions. The invitation also urged parties not to attempt to influence the talks in any way. The DFLP said it would attend the meeting in Cairo. Kayed Al-Ghoul, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s Central Committee, confirmed that they received an invitation as well. The PFLP’s delegation will include leaders from home and in exile, and will be headed by Secretary-General Abd Ar-Rahim Mallouh.

PA bans Nablus panel on Palestine Liberation Organization
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – The Palestinian Authority banned a planned symposium on the Palestine Liberation Organization scheduled for Sunday in the northern West Bank city of Nablus. The panel was scheduled to be held at the Hawwa Center for Culture and the Arts, in association with the Federation of Civil Society Organizations in Nablus, which is the largest city in the occupied West Bank. The decision to ban the panel came from the PA’s Interior Ministry, based in Ramallah, under the pretext that the federation is an “unlicensed entity. ”According to the director of the Nablus Interior Minister Office, Ibrahim Salama, the decision “had no political dimensions at all, but had to do with [the federation] being an illegal entity. ” He also said the Hawwa Center should not be organizing political activities, according to its own bylaws.

Military court in Gaza sentences convicted collaborator to death
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – A high military court within the Hamas-run, de facto government in the Gaza Strip sentenced convicted collaborator Nasser Abu Freih on Sunday to death by firing squad. Defendants reported to Ma’an their surprise regarding the sentence, calling the evidence weak and insisting they will appeal the charges and sentence. Rights organizations have accused Hamas of liquidizing a number of collaborators during Israel’s three-week assault in Gaza, reports the de facto government promised to investigate. The main prison in the Gaza Strip, As-Saraya, was destroyed by Israel’s air force during the war, but the de facto Interior Ministry says it opened new one, although a spokesperson would not say where it is located, “for the safety of its prisoners. ”

Mayors, Kadima activists to Livni: Sit in opposition
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 2/22/2009
Mayors from Haifa, Ramat Gan, and Ramla join some 450 key Kadima activists in petition calling chairwoman not to join national unity government: ’We won’t make right-wing government kosher. ’ Livni and Netanyahu slated to meet Sunday evening - Some 450 key Kadima activists, along with a number of mayors from major Israeli cities, signed a petition in support of Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni’s decision to sit in the opposition. Kadima’s Petach Tikva headquarters reported that ever since tens of thousands of text messages were sent to party members about the decision no to join a national unity government with Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, hundreds of phone calls have been received showing their support for the step. The petition was distributed to Kadima supporters with the intention of signaling to Livni’s rivals that her decision enjoys broad support among Kadima’s central activists.

Feiglin: Unity government - bullet to democracy’s head
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 2/22/2009
Likud hardliner slams Prime Minister-designate Netanyahu’s attempts to form wide coalition with Kadima, says if Livni were able to form leftist coalition she would not urge Likud to join it -Likud hardliner Moshe Feiglin on Sunday slammed party Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu’s calls to Kadima and the Labor Party to join him in a unity government, deeming the move as hindering to democracy. Friday saw President Shimon Peres task Netanyahu with forming Israel’s next government and the prime minister-designate expressed his wish to form a wide coalition, one which would include his political adversaries. "It is perfectly clear to me that what Netanyahu is most afraid of is actually fulfilling the voters’ choice for a right-wing government," said Feiglin, whose Jewish Leadership Movement was ousted from the party’s Knesset roster. "This is a grave matter. I find that the entire concept of a unity government equals a bullet to democracy’s head. "

Netanyahu: Unity cannot abide dictates
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 2/22/2009
Prime minister-designate set to begin coalition talks, urges Kadima to join government. ’Agreements can’t be reached by wrestling,’ he says, stressing unity is his primary goal - Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu is set to begin his coalition deliberations later Sunday and has urged Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni to join his coalition, yet again. "Faced with challenges like Iran, Hamas and terror, we have to reach an agreement via negotiations and not through arm wrestling. Unity cannot abide dictates," said the Likud head, alluding to far-reaching stipulations set by Kadima ahead of the coalition talks. Unity, he added, is his primary goal at this time: "We will try to join hands with Kadima and then with the Labor Party. "Netanyahu and Livni are scheduled to meet Sunday evening in order to see if any common ground could be found between their two parties.

Netanyahu, Livni to meet
Globes Online 2/22/2009
The results of today’s meeting could decide the shape of the next government. Likud chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu will meet Kadima chairwoman and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni for an hour today, but it remains an open question whether they will sit at the same cabinet table. An answer may emerge tomorrow. On Friday, President Shimon Peres gave Netanyahu the responsibility for forming a new government, even though the Likud won one less Knesset seat than Kadima in the February 10 elections. Netanyahu has invited Livni to a meeting, where he will seek to soften the hard-line stance that Livni presented against joining a government he heads. The results of their meeting could decide the shape of the next government. The difficulties facing the Likud and Kadima as coalition partners are well-known, especially as both parties. . .

Livni sets hard tone before coalition talks
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 2/22/2009
Ahead of meeting with Netanyahu Kadima head says party would rather sit in opposition than together with Likud’s ’natural partners’ in coalition that would ’prevent Kadima from leading its way’ -Just hours before her scheduled meeting with Likud Chairman Benjamin Netnayahu, who has been assigned the task of forming Israel’s next coalition government, Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni said her party would be "a responsible opposition". In a speech before Kadima members Sunday, Livni said "The result between Kadima and the Likud is clear, but apparently there is a group of 65 natural partners for Bibi. " She said Kadima must not be dragged into a Rightist government. "The public is watching us. We’ve spoken of a test of substance and significance, and now the choice is between promotion of plans and losing our way," Livni added.

Likud offers Kadima two important portfolios
Palestinian Information Center 2/22/2009
OCCUPIEd JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the Likud party who was assigned by Israeli president Shimon Peres to form the new government, plans to offer his rival Kadima party two important portfolios in order to convince them join his coalition government. Hebrew daily ’Ha’aretz’ on Sunday said that Netanyahu was prepared to offer Tzipi Livni, the Kadima leader, two of the three portfolios of war, finance and foreign affairs in addition to the post of deputy premier in the event she agreed to join his coalition. Likud member Silvan Shalom told the Hebrew radio on Sunday that his party hopes to form the broadest possible coalition government, adding that understandings could be reached but all should offer concessions. Shalom hoped that even the Labor party led by Ehud Barak could join this government.

Olmert urges Netanyahu ’to form government fast’
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/22/2009
At of weekly cabinet meeting, prime minister congratulates Likud chairman on being tasked with forming new government, calls on all officials involved in coalition negotiations ’to do it quickly and efficiently’ - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that it was important to form a new government "fast" and called on all those involved in the future coalition negotiations "to do it quickly and efficiently. "Speaking at the of the weekly cabinet meeting, Olmert made it clear that "until the formation of a new government, the current Israeli government will continue to run the State’s affairs without relinquishing one gram of responsibility. " He congratulated Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu on being tasked by President Shimon Peres with forming the new government, and promised to hand over the responsibilities "in a much more organized manner than in the past".

Kadima ministers undecided on joining coalition
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/22/2009
Will Livni’s party join Netanyahu-led government? Boim says coalition talks between Kadima, Likud possible. Sheetrit: If Kadima joins a narrow rightist government it will disappear - Just hours before the meeting between Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima Chairman Tzipi Livni, slated to take place Sunday evening at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem, opinions for and against joining a national unity government were being voiced within Kadima ranks. Before the cabinet meeting Sunday morning, Housing Minister Ze’ev Boim (Kadima) spoke about the possibility for coalition negotiations between Kadima and Likud, but conditioned such talks on the fact that no agreement was signed between Likud and Shas on the issue of allowances on the eve of elections. " If, as (Shas Chairman) Eli Yishai says, there are no agreements from the Right on Benjamin. . .

Treasury officials blast Fischer conditions for second term
Adrian Filut, Globes Online 2/22/2009
Treasury officials: Fischer’s media appearances are overblown, and he’s zigzagged on growth forecasts. Top Ministry of Finance officials who read a "Globes" report on Thursday about Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer’s conditions for accepting a second term, were apparently taken aback. “IDF Radio" (Galei Zahal) reports that, at a meeting on Friday, senior Ministry of Finance officials lambasted Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer. “IDF Radio" quotes an official as saying, "There’s no limit to his audacity. This village lord from overseas comes here to teach us all about economics, and sets conditions: if I don’t get this, I’m going. It’s an honor to serve the State of Israel, and if he doesn’t want it, we don’t need him. He’s not doing us any favors. " Another official said, "He holds press conferences every other day so that everyone will praise him.

PMO files complaint against top defense official
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
The Prime Minister’s Office lodged a formal complaint yesterday with Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander, demanding disciplinary action against Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry’s political-security branch, for comments he made in an interview last week about Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. PMO Director General Ra’anan Dinur, who filed the complaint, wrote that the remarks published in Maariv constitute inappropriate criticism by a senior government official against an incumbent prime minister and his office. Gilad criticized Olmert’s handling of the ongoing negotiations with Egypt, in particular conditioning a cease-fire with Hamas on the release of captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit. Dinur wrote that after the interview’s publication, Gilad admitted to Olmert that he had in fact been the official quoted.

Extreme rightist banned from home of IDF West Bank commander
Yuval Goren and Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
The Tel Aviv Magistrates Court issued a restraining order on Sunday against far-right activist Noam Federman, who was arrested earlier this month for demonstrating in front of the north Tel Aviv home of Israel Defense Forces West Bank commander Noam Tibon. During the incident, police also arrested a young girl, 17, who is a relative of Federman’s. She has since been remanded to house arrest. For some time now right-wing activists and settlers have gathered near the homes of senior IDF commanders to protest their policies towards Israeli inhabitants of the West Bank. During the hastily arranged protest, Federman and others shouted derogatory statements against Tibon and his family and they also drew complaints from neighbors. Federman, his 17-year-old female relative, and two others were arrested during the course of the protest.

Olmert: Corruption probe against me is none of Diaspora Jewry’s business
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert went on a rampage during yesterday’s cabinet meeting, lashing out at targets as varied as tennis star Andy Ram, comedian Lior Shlein, Israeli rightists and the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute. The official topic of the meeting was the institute’s annual report assessing Israel’s situation and that of the Jewish people as a whole. But as institute director Avinoam Bar-Yosef was finishing his presentation of the report’s main findings, Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann passed a note to Olmert drawing his attention to page 31 of the document, which stated that Israel’s leadership was about to change due to "its ongoing corruption problem. "The report declared that Olmert’s resignation last fall constituted "a depressing climax to the parade of corruption in the senior echelons" of government and expressed hope that. . .

Israeli leaders discuss coalition
Al Jazeera 2/23/2009
Benyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister-designate, has met his rival Tzipi Livni, the Kadima party leader, in their first meeting to form a coalition government since the February 10 elections. The two leaders met for more than two hours on Sunday and afterwards appeared before the cameras separately. Netanyahu said he and Livni found many points of agreement and their disagreement could be "overcome with good will", but did not divulge any details from the meeting. "If we want to find what unites us, it is possible and it is necessary at times like these," he said. "I believe this is the will of the people and I think we all have to listen to the voices coming from the people asking for unity at this time. "The leader of the hardline Likud party added: "I believe that in the end, national sense of responsibility will prevail and we will find a way to join hands for the good of the state of Israel. "

Durban II drafts: Israel is racist, occupying state
Shlomo Shamir, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
Draft resolutions for the United Nations Durban II summit on racism brand Israel as an occupying state that carries out racist policies, Haaretz has learned. The resolutions appear to confirm concerns that the second World Conference Against Racism will be used by Arab nations and others to criticize Israel. Despite those concerns, the United States said last week it would participate in planning the summit. United Nations sources relayed on Friday that the resolutions, which will be voted upon at the summit, were formulated at a planning session held by a number of nations in Geneva last week. They refer to "the plight of Palestinian refugees and other inhabitants of the Arab occupied territories,"apparently meaning Israel itself. The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that under debate at the session. . .

Wiesel and other Jewish leaders to protest at ’Durban II’ in Geneva
Raphael Ahren, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
Elie Wiesel and a number of other high-profile Jewish leaders will take part in demonstrations in Geneva against the UN-sponsored Durban Review Conference, a Jewish leader said yesterday. Laurence Borot, a representative of the French Jewish community’s political arm, told Haaretz that the Nobel laureate and French lawyer and politician Simone Veil had both confirmed they would be at the demonstrations. Borot was speaking after a Jewish Agency panel on anti-Semitism. "Durban II," as the conference is widely called, will take place in April at the UN headquarters in Geneva and is expected to be highly critical of Israel. The governments of Israel and Canada are so far the only ones to officially declare a boycott of the meeting. Yet the chances that U. S. President Barack Obama will boycott a conference against racism are slim, said Richard Heideman, a Washington-based lawyer and honorary president of B’nai B’rith.

Palestinian Christians urge Pope to call off May visit to Israel
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
A group of Palestinian Christians has asked Pope Benedict XVI to call off his planned visit to Israel and the West Bank this coming May. The 40 community activists wrote to the pope that his visit would "help boost Israel’s image and inadvertently minimize Palestinian suffering under Israeli occupation. " The group urged the pope to link his visit to a series of Israeli measures, including improved access to Christian places of worship and halting taxation of church properties. Christians from the West Bank, like their Muslim counterparts, need special permits to reach Jerusalem and its holy places. The pontiff is to visit the Holy Land May 8-15, including stops in Jordan, the West Bank and Israel. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week confirmed the pope’s spring pilgrimage, avoiding any mention of. . .

Olmert apologizes for Virgin Mary television spoof
Barak Ravid , and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday said he feels regret, sorrow and disapproval for a comedy show that mocked Christian theology and offended the Vatican. Government spokesman Mark Regev said Olmert told ministers at a cabinet meeting Sunday the comedy segment was in stark contrast to good relations between Israel and Christians worldwide. Broadcast recently on a late-night show on the private Channel 10 TV station, the segment mocked the belief that Mary was a virgin and that Jesus walked on water. The skit was a sarcastic response to the Vatican’s rehabilitation of a Catholic bishop who denied the Holocaust took place. The host later apologized for causing offense. The Vatican issued a statement Friday calling the segment a vulgar and offensive act of intolerance.

Palestinian Christians join Vatican in protest
Mustafa Sabri for PNN, Palestine News Network 2/22/2009
Qalqilia -- Palestinian Christians and the Vatican are protesting an Israeli program that is said to ridicule Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. Palestinian Christians who live within the Israeli boundaries demonstrated last night, while the Vatican issued a statement condemning the program. Protestors are calling for the dismissal of the Israeli Channel 10 program host who refused to apologize for the offending material. A direct apology is also demanded of the Israeli President Shimon Peres. The program depicts Jesus as a gluttonous eater who sunk in water. He was caricatured as overweight and drew laughter. Not long ago the Pope, along with dozens of Christian leaders worldwide, personally apologized to Jews after a Bishop denied the Holocaust. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did issue an apology this afternoon for the Israeli program that "mocked Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.

Holy Land Christians urge pope to call off visit
Associated Press, YNetNews 2/22/2009
Palestinian Christians say pontiff’s scheduled visit to Israel will inadvertently minimize Palestinian suffering under occupation -A group of Palestinian Christians has asked Pope Benedict XVI to call off his planned visit to the Holy Land in May. The 40 community activists wrote to the pope that his visit would help boost Israel’s image and inadvertently minimize Palestinian suffering under Israeli occupation. The group urged the pope to link his visit to a series of Israeli measures. The letter said this must include improved access to Christian places of worship and halting taxation of church properties. Christians from the West Bank, like their Muslim counterparts, need special permits to reach Jerusalem and its holy places. Gazans have been cut off from the world for 20 months.

Hamas to Obama: Be fair to the Palestinians
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – A Hamas official claimed responsibility for a letter sent to US President Barack Obama via the United Nations earlier this week, according to the Associated Press. Ahmed Yousef, an advisor to de facto Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, reportedly asked Obama to “treat Palestinians fairly and be open-minded in dealing with Hamas,” the AP reported. Yousef said the letter that was endorsed by the Hamas government in Gaza. The letter was handed to UN officials in the Gaza Strip, who handed it over to US Senator John Kerry during his Thursday visit to the Gaza Strip. The United States considers Hamas a terrorist organization.

In a letter handed to Senator Kerry, Hamas asks Obama to deal fairly with the Palestinian cause
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/22/2009
Ahmad Yousef, a senior Hamas political leader, and an official of the Hamas-led government in Gaza, stated Saturday that Hamas handed U. S. Sen. John Kerry a letter to deliver to US President, Barrack Obama, asking him to deal fairly with the Palestinian cause as the United States Foreign policy is known for being biased in favor of Israel. During his visit to Gaza, Kerry did not meet with any officials of Hamas as the US considers it a terrorist organization. The letter was handed to United Nations officials who passed it on to Kerry. Yousef added that after he learned that Kerry was to visit Gaza, he wrote the letter quickly and handed it to UN officials. The Hamas official also stated that he asked Obama to be open in dealing with Hamas as the movement enjoys a broad support among the Palestinian people. Yousef did not provide detailed information about the contents of the. . .

Former US President Clinton calls for Palestinian state
Ma’an News Agency 2/22/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Former US President Bill Clinton said on Tuesday that he is hopeful about peace between Israel and Palestine. Speaking with the US-based Cable News Network (CNN), Clinton said the appointment of US Senator George Mitchell was a step forward in the prospects for a two-state solution. Asked by interviewer Larry King about “any chance of the Mideast having peace,” Clinton responded that Mitchell will have to “fill in the blanks” in negotiations between both sides, “however the Israeli government is constituted. ”Clinton also warned that Israel is running out of time it wants to remain a Jewish state. “Palestinians are having more babies than the Israelis. The Israelis have to decide whether they want to share the future in a positive way with a constructive Palestinian state,” Clinton said.

Netanyahu vows to work with Obama for peace
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu pledged on Sunday to work with United States President Barack Obama for Middle East peace by pursuing the formation of a broad coalition government. "I intend and expect to cooperate with the Obama administration and to try to advance the common goals of peace, security and prosperity for us and our neighbors," the U. S. -educated Netanyahu told reporters. Netanyahu was chosen on Friday by President Shimon Peres to try to forge a governing coalition and take on the premiership for the second time. Following a February 10 election, Netanyahu already has the backing of 65 rightist members of the 120-seat parliament, but a narrow government could put him on a collision course with Obama and his promise to move quickly on a Palestinian statehood deal.

Christian Zionist’s Crusade Bears Fruit
Bill Berkowitz, Inter Press Service 2/23/2009
OAKLAND, California, Feb 22(IPS) - During a recent appearance on the Fox News Channel’s "Fox and Friends" programme, Mike Evans accused former President Jimmy Carter of everything from helping overthrow the Shah of Iran to causing the Russians to invade Afghanistan and provoking the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. He also had words of warning for President Barack Obama: listen to Carter at your own peril. "Jimmy Carter has an ideological belief system that Obama has to understand because if he plays that game we are going to have hell to pay for it," Evans said. The long hard slog that former Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld often talked about in reference to the war in Iraq has been fully embraced by Evans. However, he is primarily consumed with Israel, the Palestinians and Iran. The media-savvy, well-connected and well-traveled conservative evangelical. . .

Court orders cops to pay rightist they beat at West Bank protest
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 2/22/2009
The Jerusalem Magistrates Court on Sunday ordered two elite Border Policemen to pay NIS 4000 compensation to a rightist whom they beat at a demonstration. The incident occurred about a year-and-a-half ago near the settlement of Hashmonaim, where right-wing activists were rallying to call on Israel to continue settling the West Bank. Raphael Cohen, a member of the Border Police’s Yasam special unit, slapped Nahum Greenblum, one of the demonstrators, and repeatedly tried to pad him down. Gal Segev, His commander, strangled the demonstrator and threatened him with further violence. In the court ruling, Judge David Mintz rejected the claim by the state prosecution that that the suit was unjustified since Greenblum was not substantially wounded in the incident.

Najjar: Hizbullah not responsible for rocket attacks
Daily Star 2/23/2009
BEIRUT/AL-MANSOURI: Lebanon’s Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar said Sunday that Hizbullah was not responsible for the two rockets fired at Israel from South Lebanon early Saturday morning, blaming instead poorly armed militants or a new armed group. Najjar, a Lebanese Forces politician in the majority government and a political rival of Hizbullah, said the Shiite movement, which heads the March 8 opposition, would not engage in such provocative measures in advance of parliamentary polls slated for June 7. The primitive nature of the attack, Najjar told the Voice of Lebanon radio, "indicates those who did this either belong to a militant group with no modern arms or are a new group that has emerged for a specific agenda. . . Hizbullah and its allies have no interest in launching rockets, especially when we are approaching the elections.

Siniora vows not to succumb to threats or blackmail
Daily Star 2/23/2009
BEIRUT: Premier Fouad Siniora said on Sunday that allowing the state of Lebanon to turn into a militia would be tantamount to dishonoring the blood of those who died for the country. Siniora added that he would not succumb to threats or blackmail. "Dialogue is the only key to solving our internal disputes. The use of intimidation and violence will not come out with any solutions," he said during a celebration in his honor in his hometown of Sidon. "We have not succumbed to intimidation in the past and we will not succumb now," he said. Siniora also stressed that the establishing of brotherly ties between Lebanon and Syria depended on addressing the issues of border demarcation, arms smuggling, and the fate of missing Lebanese in Syria. Addressing the issue of the international tribunal to try suspects in the murder of former Premier Rafik Hariri, Siniora said that the court,. . .

Divided we stand
Lucy Fielder, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/19/2009
In Beirut, it’s the season to commemorate assassinated leaders. Last week saw major rallies on both sides of Lebanon’s political divide - On Saturday, supporters of the 14 March anti-Syrian movement thronged in time- honoured tradition to Martyrs Square in downtown Beirut to commemorate the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri four years ago -- a show of strength that has become a fixture of Lebanese politics. Two days later, a sombre mass gathered in the southern suburbs to mourn the killing last year of Hizbullah military commander Imad Mughniyeh and listen to the Shia group’s charismatic leader, Hassan Nasrallah. A fickle February sun shone on the former; rain drenched the latter. But otherwise the two camps looked to be on an equal footing four months before the general elections scheduled for June.

Assad: US should move away from policy of dictating
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/23/2009
DAMASCUS: Syrian President Bashar Assad told visiting US members of Congress on Saturday that the US should "move away from a policy based on dictating decisions. "Assad’s guests on Saturday included US Senator John Kerry, who headed the third delegation this week to call on the Syrian president’s door as Washington reviews its policies toward countries the previous administration labeled as hostile. Assad told his visitors that future relations should be based on a "proper understanding" by Washington of regional issues and on common interests, SANA news agency reported. "Dialogue, based on the history of the region and the rights of its peoples, is the only way to understand and resolve problems," the Syrian leader said. Kerry, who lost the 2004 presidential election to George W. Bush and now chairs the Senate’s powerful foreign relations committee, met Assad on the same day. . .

SYRIA: Drought blamed for food scarcity
IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2/23/2009
DAMASCUS, 22 February 2009 (IRIN) - Two years of drought has left many farmers and herders without an income and has severely limited cereal production in Syria, pushing up local food prices and putting pressure on basic food supplies, according to UN and Syrian government officials. In 2008, Syria had to import wheat for the first time after a shortage caused by a second year of drought, which the Syrian government says has affected about a million people so far. Emergency wheat stocks have been depleted though adequate supplies remain. "There is still enough food in Syria to go round," Abdullah Mawazini, Public Information Officer for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Syria, said. "But we are worried about the provision of basic materials. It is a dangerous indicator for Syria that last year we had to import wheat.

US optimistic over Syria relations
Al Jazeera 2/22/2009
Syria has indicated it is willing to help achieve a Palestinian unity government that could restart peace talks with Israel, the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee has said. "Syria could be, in fact, very helpful in helping to bring about a unity government," Senator John Kerry told reporters after meeting Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, in Damascus on Saturday. "If you achieve that, then you have made a major step forward not only in dealing with the problems of Gaza, but you have made a major step forward in terms of how you reignite discussions for the two-state solution. . . I think that Syria indicated to me a willingness to be helpful in that respect. "Syria, which is under US sanctions, hosts the exiled leadership of Hamas and has influence on the Palestinian group. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, is expected to take part in Egyptian-sponsored unity talks between Palestinian groups on Wednesday.

Making up at last
Bassel Oudat, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/19/2009
For the first time in four years, the Syrian president played host to a high-level Saudi emissary - Saudi Intelligence Chief Prince Moqren bin Abdel-Aziz, who visited Damascus Saturday, conveyed a verbal message to the Syrian president from King Abdullah. No one expected such a move, despite the call for reconciliation made during an Arab summit in Kuwait last month. When Saudi King Abdullah, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa got together on the sidelines of the summit, most analysts missed the point. In hindsight, this may have been the turning point everyone has been waiting for. In Syria the visit of Prince Moqren was reported with restraint. The Saudi king was sending his greetings to President Al-Assad and the Syrian people, the press said. The Saudi chief conveyed a message "concerning the recent developments in the region and underlining the importance of achieving Arab solidarity to address the challenges facing the Arab people," a newspaper reported.

Rise in number of unemployed, needy in Ofakim
Yanir Yagna, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
Fourteen-hundred people unemployed, factories closing, businesses losing thousands of shekels a month, and residents in need of food donations. Such is life in 2009 in the hardscrabble city of Ofakim. Employment Services statistics for the city show it tops the unemployment list of predominantly Jewish cities; the rate of residents seeking help finding a job has risen to 8 percent. Haaretz has learned unemployment in the city is expected to rise in March and April to a record 2,000 people. Over 100 local factory workers were laid off in the past two months. The factories in the kibbutzim surrounding Ofakim that were once primary employers of its residents no longer need extra manpower, and the Employment Services remains powerless in the face of mounting stacks of employment requests.

Study: One-third of Israeli children live below poverty line
Dana Weiler-Polak, Ha’aretz 2/22/2009
One-third of Israeli children, some 777,400 in number, live in poverty-stricken families, according to statistics published on Sunday by the National Insurance Institute. The findings are part of a report commissioned by the NII to mark Family Day, which will be observed on Tuesday. The study finds that of the 2. 1 million households in Israel, 418,000 families live below the poverty line. One-fourth of all families with children ? 238,000 ? are classified as poor families. In addition, 39,000 single-parent families are listed as poor while 44 percent of all families received a stipend from the NII. In 2008, the number of families with children in Israel reached 994,753 which also include 2,372,515 children under the age of 18. The total amount of child allowances distributed by the state reached NIS 3.

Manufacturers expect sharpest drop ever in exports
Yossi Nissan, Globes Online 2/22/2009
However, the new Intel fab in Kiryat Gat is expected to cut the drop by about a third. The Manufacturers Association of Israelpredicts that Israeli exports will fall by 10% in 2009 to $35 billion. The prediction is based on projections of international trade in goods. Manufacturers Association Department of Economic Research and Strategy director Daphna Nitzan-Aviram said that Israel has never experience such a sharp fall in exports. She predicts that the drop in exports will ease to 2. 5% in 2010. Nitzan-Aviram says that global trade is expected to shrink by 3. 5% in 2009, far worse than the 0. 3% contraction experienced in 2001. On the basis of this figure, Israeli industrial exports can expect to fall by 16%. However, two factors will ameliorate this fall.

Military systems co Ashot shares double on deal talks
Globes' correspondent, Globes Online 2/22/2009
The firm, whose share price is up 800% this year, is in talks with the Defense Ministry on armored combat vehicles. Israel Military Industries Ltd. (IMI) subsidiary Ashot Ashkelon Industries Ltd. (TASE: ASHO) today announced that it is in negotiations with the Ministry of Defense on a NIS 90 million three-year contract for systems for armored combat vehicles. The contract may be expanded to NIS 260 million over five years. Ashot develops military systems and components. Ashot’s share rose 101% by midday on the TASE to NIS 6. 31 on the news. The share has risen nearly 800% since the beginning of the year and has a current market cap of NIS 63 million. IMI owns 85% of the company. The deal follows last Sunday’s announcement of a $80 million contract for jet engine shafts with a US manufacturer, whose name was not disclosed.

Finance Ministry officials attack Fischer
Moti Bassok and Tal Levy, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
The bad blood between the Finance Ministry and the Bank of Israel surfaced once again yesterday. Refering to the central bank’s plan to purchase government bonds, a senior treasury official declared yesterday: "The Bank of Israel’s goal is to cut the ribbon, not to help the economy. When we proposed the leveraged [investment] funds, the Bank of Israel objected, claiming there was no market failure and no reason to intervene. Now they are presenting their own grandiose plans. "Army Radio yesterday broadcast these and other comments, originally made during a recent meeting of Finance Ministry officials. The officials attacked the central bank governor, Stanley Fischer, and his policies on what was a very bad day for the local markets: "What Fischer is doing is against the law that prevents the printing of money.

IAEA says Iran cooperating after understating atom stocks
Reuters, YNetNews 2/22/2009
Nuclear watchdog says it ’has no reason at all to believe estimates of low-enriched uranium produced in Natanz facility intentional error by Iran,’ adding ’no nuclear material could have been removed from the facility without the agency’s knowledge’ -Iran is cooperating well with UN nuclear inspectors to help ensure it does not again understate the amount of uranium it has enriched, the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Sunday. The IAEA statement seemed aimed at quashing any impressions raised by its watchdog report on Iran’s disputed nuclear program on Thursday that the accounting shortfall might have been deliberate evasion. The issue is important due to suspicions, denied by Tehran, that it may put uranium enrichment to making atom bombs and concern about the ability of the IAEA’s restricted mission in Iran to keep track of nuclear advances there.

Iran cooperates after understating uranium stocks
The International News, Jang Group 2/23/2009
VIENNA: Iran is cooperating well with UN nuclear inspectors to help ensure it does not again understate the amount of uranium it has enriched, the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Sunday. The IAEA statement seemed aimed at quashing any impressions raised by its watchdog report on Iran’s disputed nuclear programme on Thursday that the accounting shortfall might have been deliberate evasion. The issue is important due to suspicions, denied by Tehran, that it may put uranium enrichment to making atom bombs and concern about the ability of the IAEA’s restricted mission in Iran to keep track of nuclear advances there..... “The (IAEA) has no reason at all to believe that the estimates of LEU produced in the (Natanz) facility were an intentional error by Iran..."

IAEA source: Iran far from point of no-return
PressTV 2/21/2009
The IAEA said in its latest report that Iran had actually slowed its expansion of uranium enrichment at Natanz. A UN nuclear watchdog official downplays a report by a Capitol Hill-based institute claiming Iran has a "break-out capacity" to build a bomb. After an Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) report claimed that based on the latest findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran’s nuclear program, the country had reached "nuclear weapons breakout capability" an official at the UN body cautioned against drawing such conclusions. The latest report by the IAEA states that Iran has produced a total of some 1,010 kilograms of low enriched uranium (LEU) hexafluoride as of January 31, 2009. The ISIS technical analysis of Iran’s nuclear program claims that the country has in theory stockpiled sufficient low-enriched uranium....

Iran to begin operation of first nuclear power plant
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
The long-delayed preliminary phase of operations for Iran’s first nuclear power plant will begin on Wednesday, the state atomic energy agency said Sunday. A nuclear official in Russia, which is helping build the plant, however, said no major milestone is expected on Wednesday. "The pilot stage operation of the power plant will start on Wednesday," Iranian atomic agency spokesman Mohsen Delaviz told the state news agency. He added that the preliminary phase will take place during a visit by Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russia’s state nuclear agency. The long-awaited 1,000-megawatt light-water reactor, which was built in the southern Iranian port of Bushehr with the help of Russia under a $1 billion contract, was previously scheduled to become operational in fall 2008.

Israel’s new Iran policy: Sway Obama on Tehran talks
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
The latest International Atomic Energy Agency report was greeted with ennui by the Israeli media, deemed not especially exciting compared to the twists and turns of coalition talks or the tongue-lashing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad. But the political and security echelons’ attitude to the report, which states that Iran has managed to accumulate a ton of enriched uranium and is heading quickly toward a nuclear bomb, is a different story. The report confirms the assumption, shared for some time by the intelligence services of Israel, the United States and Europe, that Iran is closer to the bomb, with mid-2010 as the likely date it will reach its goal. Iran was a major topic of conversation between Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, and U.

Iran offered nuclear deal to stop Iraq troop attacks - BBC
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/23/2009
LONDON: Iran offered to stop attacking troops in Iraq if the West dropped opposition to its nuclear program, a top British official said in comments to be broadcast Saturday. Sir John Sawers, Britain’s current ambassador to the United Nations, told the BBC that Iranian officials had privately admitted their role in supporting insurgents’ roadside bomb attacks on British and US troops. But the proposed deal, floated in teatime meetings at London hotels, was rejected by the British government. It was not clear exactly when the deal was suggested, according to pre-released extracts of the interview, which will appear in a documentary later Saturday. "The Iranians wanted to be able to strike a deal whereby they stopped killing our forces in Iraq in return for them being allowed to carry on with their nuclear program," Sawers said.

France to send envoy to Iran for nuclear talks
Barak Ravid , and Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/23/2009
While the Obama administration formulates its policy toward Iran, France will soon dispatch a senior emissary to the Islamic Republic for talks with officials in Tehran. Following a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency indicating that Iran had amassed sufficient quantities of enriched uranium to produce an atomic bomb, Israel this past weekend called on the international community "to ratchet up the pressure on Tehran so that it will abandon its nuclear program. " The French official to be tapped by President Nicolas Sarkozy to meet with the Iranians is Gerard Araud, who holds the title of political and security director-general of the French foreign ministry. Araud has been France’s point man in the six-power talks - which include the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany - with Iran.

France says Iran should allay Gulf Arab fears
Reuters, YNetNews 2/22/2009
Defense Minister Morin says France ’insists Iran play transparency card, cooperates internationally to make its nuclear energy program clear’ -France, set to open a military base in the United Arab Emirates this year, said on Sunday that Iran should take part in a dialogue with Gulf Arab countries to ally their fears over its nuclear program. France is among world powers trying to exert pressure on Iran to halt its atomic work, which has played into Gulf countries’ fears over the non-Arab power’s rising influence. French Defense Minister Herve Morin said France wanted to play a pivotal role in the region, adding its planned UAE military base would become operational in May. "France insists that Iran plays the transparency card, cooperates internationally to make its nuclear energy program clear," Morin told a news conference on the sidelines of a defense industry exhibition in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi.

Leading article: Renewed bloodshed shows peace remains elusive in Iraq
The Independent 2/23/2009
Killings and kidnappings in the Kurdish region threaten future of country - The better news out of Iraq recently is not, as becomes increasingly clear, unalloyed. Provincial elections passed off peacefully last month. British forces in the south are likely to return home in the next few months, and security across most of the country has improved to the point where President Obama’s draft timetable for the withdrawal of US troops no longer looksover-optimistic. As we report, today, however, trouble is brewing in the one part of Iraq that has been spared the worst of the conflict over the past six years: the borderlands of theKurdish autonomous region. In fact, the areas around Mosul and Kirkuk have long been less stable than the relatively low level of violent conflict might have suggested. They were peaceful only in contrast to other parts of the country.

Iraq faces a new war as tensions rise in north
Patrick Cockburn in Mosul, The Independent 2/23/2009
Violence between Iraqi Kurds and Arabs is threatening an all out conflict that could complicate US plans to withdraw troops - A new war is threatening Iraq just as the world believes the country is returning to peace. While violence is dropping in Baghdad and in the south of the country, Arabs and Kurds in the north are beginning to battle over territories in an arc of land stretching from Syria to Iranian border. A renewal of the historic conflict between Arabs and Kurds in Iraq, which raged through most of the second half of the 20th century, would seriously destabilise the country as it begins to recover from the US occupation and the Sunni-Shia civil war of 2005-07. The crisis between the government of the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and the Kurds, who make up 20 per cent of the population, is coming to a head now because a resurgent Iraqi army is beginning to contest control of areas which Kurds captured when Saddam Hussein fell in 2003.

IRAQ: NGOs call for a new strategy for displaced people
IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2/23/2009
BAGHDAD, 22 February 2009 (IRIN) - As Iraq observes the third anniversary of the bombing of a revered Shia shrine in the northern city of Samarra that set off nationwide sectarian violence and led to major displacement, the challenges of meeting the growing needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs) persist and must be addressed more effectively, experts have said. "We and others working on the ground are doing all that we can to help, but the needs are still so great and so diverse," Rafiq Tschannen, Chief of Mission in Iraq for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said in a new report issued on 20 February. "We urgently need a much greater level of humanitarian response and funding to meet the challenges. The future of Iraq depends on the resolution of the displacement crisis," Tschannen said two days before the bombing anniversary.

Obama denies terror suspects right to trial
Stephen Foley, The Independent 2/22/2009
Human rights groups shocked by refusal to reverse Bush policy in Afghanistan - Less than a month after signing an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, President Barack Obama has quietly agreed to keep denying the right to trial to hundreds more terror suspects held at a makeshift camp in Afghanistan that human rights lawyers have dubbed "Obama’s Guantanamo". In a single-sentence answer filed with a Washington court, the administration dashed hopes that it would immediately rip up Bush-era policies that have kept more than 600 prisoners in legal limbo and in rudimentary conditions at the Bagram air base, north of Kabul. Now, human rights groups say they are becoming increasingly concerned that the use of extra-judicial methods in Afghanistan could be extended rather than curtailed under the new US administration. The air base is about to undergo a $60m (£42m) expansion that will double its size, meaning it can house five times as many prisoners as remain at Guantanamo.


Articles


'Coexistence' and 'Mixed Cities': A Microcosm of Israeli Apartheid
Isabelle Humphries, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs Jan/Feb 2009
      "Acre is a national test. Acre today is Israel in 10 years’ time. What happens in Acre today is what will happen in Israel… Coexistence is a slogan." — Rabbi Yossi Stern, head of the Hesder Yeshiva in Acre
     FOR ONCE this writer finds herself agreeing with an Israeli settler. “Coexistence” between Israel’s Palestinian and Jewish citizens is an empty notion indeed, part of the “democratic” image Israel projects in its ongoing international public relations offensive. After the October events in Acre when Palestinian residents were attacked and their homes and property set on fire (see December 2008 Washington Report, p. 15), the media debate focused on how to return to the state of coexistence that the town supposedly once enjoyed. Yet any study of Israel’s “mixed cities” reveals that contrary to serving as models of coexistence, cities like Acre and Jaffa present a microcosm of the state as a whole—a space in which Palestinians are increasingly marginalized and excluded from the benefits of the state of which they supposedly are citizens.
     The vast majority of the 20 percent of the Israeli population who are Palestinian live segregated from Jewish residential areas. Because the country’s economic life is based in the Jewish sector, most Palestinian employees return at night to the few hundred Arab towns and villages which survived the nakba (catastrophe) of 1948. While the bulk of the Palestinian population was evicted that year from the coastal area cities of Haifa, Jaffa, Ramle, Lydd and Akka, in each town a small number remained. In the weeks and months after occupation they were joined by refugees fleeing from other villages destroyed in the area. Israeli policy was to push these Palestinians into one area of each city which became known by Jews and Arabs alike as the “ghetto”—neighborhoods like the Ajami in Jaffa, al-Jamal in Ramle, or the old city of Acre. For years Palestinians in these areas lived with several families crammed into each overcrowded house.

Long road to rehabilitation for Gaza’s amputees

Rami Almeghari, International Middle East Media Center News 2/22/2009
      Amidst the thousands of people injured during Israel’s three-week bombardment of the Gaza Strip are many whose lives will be permanently affected because they lost limbs.
     Suheir Zemo, a 47-year-old mother of seven, lost her right leg after an Israeli missile crashed into her home in the Tal al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City in mid-January, at the height of the Israeli attack.
     "I was in my bedroom when a rocket landed in the room. Suddenly my leg started bleeding severely. Then my husband risked his life and took me to hospital as ambulances were not allowed into the area, said Suheir sitting in a wheelchair at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza.
     At al-Wafa rehabilitation hospital in eastern Gaza City, a number of amputees recently began the rehabilitation process. Al-Wafa is the only private rehabilitation center in the Gaza Strip, but even it was not spared damage in the Israeli attack.
     In one of the hospital’s rooms lie two young men in their early twenties; the first had his right leg amputated, while the second had his lower limbs severely injured, preventing their use completely.
     "It was almost 1:15 pm, when an Israeli tank shell hit our home in the Shaaf area of Gaza city. Only my father, my friend and myself were inside the home when it was struck," said Maher al-Habashi.

Gaza truce held hostage

Saleh Al-Naami, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/19/2009
      As Netanyahu and Livni jockey for position it is the Palestinians who are paying the price for Israel’s domestic political impasse.
     Last week Osama Salman, a teacher, signed a contract to build an extra storey to his house in the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza. Friends and colleagues were dumbstruck -- Gaza ran out of building materials more than 18 months ago -- but Salman was confident that once the truce came into effect border crossings with Israel would reopen. Now he realises his signing was a precipitous action.
     "Statements by Hamas and Egyptian officials made me think a truce was round the corner. I went off and signed a deal with the contractor. Now that the prospects for a truce have dwindled I realise I acted foolishly," he told Al-Ahram Weekly.
     Osama was not alone. There are no inhabitants of Gaza whose domestic and business interests are not connected to the lifting of the blockade and the opening of the borders. Yet outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is insisting that Israel secure the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit first. On Wednesday, after a Security Cabinet meeting, Olmert repeated his condition that Shalit must be freed: "We will negotiate his release first and only then will we be willing to discuss things like the Gaza crossings and rebuilding" the Gaza Strip.

Containment continues

Dina Ezzat, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/19/2009
      With Hamas-Israel truce talks on hold, Cairo turns its focus on Palestinian reconciliation, reports Meetings bringing together representatives of the two main conflicting Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, are being hosted by Cairo in preparation for a soft launch to national reconciliation talks that President Hosni Mubarak promised to convene later this month.
     "Egypt is convinced that the Palestinian national reconciliation dialogue it will host 22 February will work," Mubarak said Monday evening in the Bahraini capital Manama following talks with the monarch of Bahrain.
     Egypt previously attempted to kick-start Palestinian national reconciliation dialogue last autumn, but attempts were blocked by the decision of Hamas to boycott the meeting at the eleventh hour due to un-met demands (the release of Hamas members held by the Fatah- controlled Palestinian Authority). This time, things seem to be different. Palestinian and Egyptian sources are not promising full- fledged reconciliation soon; nor is the Arab League, that is supposed to take over the reconciliation process once launched by Egypt. The prospect of a new hardline Israeli government is feeding doubt. However, as one Egyptian official said: "The Palestinian factions are showing a new sense of realism. Their attitudes are different than what they showed late last year."

Shifting sands

Hossam Tamam, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/19/2009
      Hossam Tamam examines ways in which the Israeli war on Gaza has redefined the contours of the Islamist scene.
     Recent events in Gaza have made it clear that Islamism is now the master of the moment. As an idea, as well as a political manifestation, Islamism occupied centre stage. The most active and influential components of the Palestinian resistance movement are now Islamist forces. Hamas and the Palestinian Jihad triggered the Israeli offensive and led Palestinian defence. Among political groups and movements to take part in protests are the Islamists that led and organised demonstrations. Even at the government level they are the strongest players. Think simply of Turkey’s Justice and Development government.
     Islamism, as an idea and movement, has spread throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds. The Arab cause is no longer, not only because Iran and Turkey have become major players in a political equation that was always Arab in identity, but also because the prevailing ideology of the cause is no longer Arabist. "Palestine is an Islamic stance", a motto contained in the Hamas charter, is among the most potent ideas the movement has given the Palestinian struggle. It has made it possible to transcend nationalist and Arab frameworks. And when war in Gaza struck, Islamism dominated not only banners but also the outlook that governed the logic of the struggle.

Out in the cold

Saleh Al-Naami, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/19/2009
      Weeks after Israel curtailed its massive offensive on Gaza, thousands remain homeless, including children, sheltering in fragile tents in the brutal winter.
     When heavy rain poured into the tent and awakened her, 38-year-old Hanan Al-Attar rushed out in a state of hysteria with her three children. Her husband Ahmed pulled at the tent poles, trying to secure them after fierce winds had knocked them over, and her oldest son filled bags with sand, placing them along the sides of the tent in a desperate attempt to keep it from collapsing. Hanan took refuge with her shivering children in the first house she came across.
     The situation this family was in late last week was shared by most of the other families living in Al-Karama Camp, near Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip. The camp is composed of tents that families erected after the Israeli army destroyed their homes in the Al-Atatira and Al-Salatin areas during the recent war on Gaza.
     Hajja Fatima Al-Attar, for example, was in the same situation as Hanan -- she couldn’t do anything to keep her tent up since she and her family were asleep when cold rains suddenly poured in. The only thing they could do, she told Al-Ahram Weekly, was to leave their belongings behind and head to houses nearest the camp, seeking refuge from the cold and the rain. Camp residents, who lack basic services, can see the ruins of their homes in nearby neighbourhoods.

Israel the exception

Shahid Alam, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/19/2009
      The normal rules governing state conduct do not apply to Israel, it appears.
     Critics of Zionism and Israel -- including a few Israelis -- have charted an inverse exceptionality, which describes an Israel that is aberrant, violates international norms with near impunity, engages in systematic abuses of human rights, wages wars at will, and has expanded its territories through conquest. This is not the place to offer an exhaustive list of these negative Israeli exceptions, but we will list a few that are the most egregious.
     As an exclusionary settler-colony, Israel does not stand alone in the history of European expansion overseas. But it is the only one of its kind in the 20th and 21st centuries. Since the 16th century, Europeans have established exclusionary settler- colonies in the Americas, Australia and New Zealand -- among other places -- whose white colonists displaced or nearly exterminated the indigenous population to recreate societies in the image of those they had left behind. By the late 19th century, however, this genocidal European expansion was running out of steam, in large part because there remained few surviving Neolithic societies that white colonists could exterminate with ease. In tropical Africa and Asia, the climate and present pathogens were not particularly kind to European settlers.
     The Zionist decision in 1897 to establish an exclusionary colonial-settler state in Palestine marked a departure from this trend. In 1948, some 50 years later, Jewish colonists from the West would create the only state in the 20th century founded on conquest and ethnic cleansing. Israel is also the only exclusionary colonial-settler state established by the modern Europeans anywhere in the Old World.

Lines already drawn

Khalil El-Anani, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/19/2009
      The Middle East is in the throes of a radical transformation and still no one seems to notice.
     The US did not need the bombardment of Pearl Harbour in 1941 in order to break out from its isolationism and end the ambiguity that had prevailed in the world order during the first decades of the 20th century. Nor did the Soviet Union need the collapse of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989 to underline that it no longer inspired respect and awe among its enemies and friends alike. In both cases indications of developments existed well beforehand. All that was lacking was the acknowledgement.
     Similarly, the Arabs did not need to be defeated three times by Israel to realise that a new regional order was being constructed, with international approval, aimed at giving Tel Aviv the upper hand in determining the direction of regional interactions for decades to come. This is precisely why Israel threw itself into three wars, determined to prove itself an emerging power that had to be heeded.
     The primary function of conventional Arab forces for five decades has been to try to reach strategic equilibrium with Israel. Egypt steered this process in the 1950s and 1960s, Iraq and Syria took over in the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1990s the entire process fell apart as the official Arab order, which had arisen essentially to confront Israel, crumbled. Yet many Arabs continue to refuse to acknowledge that a new regional order has been in the making during recent decades, or that what is happening today is more than battles of wills at a time of sudden tension. They close their eyes to the fact that what we are experiencing are the upheavals accompanying the birth of a new regional order built on the ruins of the old Middle East....

Perpetual stalemate

Khaled Amayreh, Al-Ahram Weekly 2/19/2009
      Any near future Israeli government is likely to be stymied by ideological and political contradictions.
     An indecisive elections outcome, coupled with rampant factionalism, is stalling and complicating the task of forming a new Israeli government.
     The 10 February elections gave the Israeli right, with its oft- inharmonious religious and secular camps, 65 seats in the 120- member Knesset. The so-called Zionist "left" took 44 seats, with the remaining 11 going to three Arab parties. The Zionist political establishment normally excludes non-Jewish parties from government, mainly due to racist considerations.
     Since the publication of the election results 11 February, Kadima and Likud leaders Tzipi Livni and Benyamin Netanyahu have been jockeying on the Israeli political arena, trying to woo potential coalition partners to their side. However, neither has been successful, an indication that both may be forced to form a national unity government of some sort.
     Such a government, however, would be one fraught with internal contradictions, given the incompatible platforms of both parties.