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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
15 April, 2009

News

International Middle East Media Center

Hamas; "Kidnapping Israeli soldiers, a strategic vision"
16 Apr 2009 - In a press release marking April 17, the Palestinian Prisoners Day, Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, said that kidnapping Israeli soldiers is a strategic vision that the movement believes in for the sake of releasing Palestinian detainees. 

27 detainees in Al Ramla prison hospital without proper treatment
16 Apr 2009 - A legal group in defense of the Palestinian detainee reported that there are 27 detainees who are living in Al Ramla Prison hospital that lacks the basic equipment, while the detainees are not receiving proper treatment. 

PPS releases a report on Palestinian detainees
16 Apr 2009 - The Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) issued a detailed report on the Palestinian detainees imprisoned by Israel as the Palestinian prepare for commemorating the Palestinian Prisoners Day on April 17. The report revealed that Israelis still holding 10500 Palestinians captive. 

Israeli official: “Israel will most likely not cooperate with UN investigation committee”
16 Apr 2009 - A senior Israeli government official stated on Wednesday that it is very unlikely that that Israel would cooperate with the United Nations committee investigating war crimes, committed by the Israeli army during the offensive against the Gaza Strip. 

Abu Al Gheit: “Lieberman not welcome in Cairo”
16 Apr 2009 - Egyptian Foreign Minister, Ahmad Abu Al Gheit, stated Wednesday that his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman is not welcome in Egypt and will not be allowed to step into the country as long as he maintains his hostile positions towards the Egyptian President. 

Tension mounts in Jerusalem as settlers threaten to invade the Al Aqsa mosque
15 Apr 2009 - Tension is mounting in the old city of Jerusalem as Israeli settlers and right-wing groups announced on Wednesday that they are planning to invade the courtyard of the Al Aqsa mosque some time on Thursday. 

Marwan Bargouthi most trusted politician
15 Apr 2009 - According to an opinion poll conducted in the Palestinian territories at the end of March, Marwan Bargouthi commands the most trust within the Palestinian population. 

Israeli military kidnaps Palestinian man at checkpoint in northern West Bank
15 Apr 2009 - A Palestinian man was kidnapped by Israeli troops at a military checkpoint near the northern West Bank city of Tubas on Wednesday. 

Report: 700 patients waiting for Rafah crossing to open
15 Apr 2009 - At least 700 Palestinian patients are waiting for the opening of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip so they can access medical treatment, according to the department  responsible for border crossings.

Iran files complaint against Israel over threats
15 Apr 2009 - Following the recent comments by Israeli President Shimon Peres that Israel would use military force to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, Iran has filed an official compliant to the United Nations. 

Hamas: “Fateh forces still holding 600 political detainees ”
15 Apr 2009 - Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, has said that Palestinian security forces, loyal to president Mahmoud Abbas, are still conducting arrest campaigns against Hamas members and supporters in the West Bank, and that there are 600 political prisoners currently being held by Fateh. 

Egypt confiscates fuel meant for Gaza
15 Apr 2009 - Egyptian sources reported on Tuesday that Egyptian border police confiscated 19.000 litres of fuel which were meant to be smuggled into the Gaza Strip via underground tunnels. 

Ha'aretz Defense page

Barak: Israel to weigh response to Qassam attack
15 Apr 2009 - Gaza militants fire rocket into Israel after two-week lull; no casualties as Qassam explodes in west Negev. 

Egypt police find 900 kg of explosives near Gaza
15 Apr 2009 - Sources: 3 Palestinians held on suspicion of entering Egypt illegally, TNT found hidden in sacks. 

Russia denies selling Iran anti-aircraft missiles
15 Apr 2009 - Possible sale of S-300 systems to Iran is a sensitive issue in Moscow's relations with U.S. 

Egypt fears Hezbollah bid to infiltrate Israel from Sinai
14 Apr 2009 - Egypt boosts security on Israel border; report: Hezbollah targeted 3 Israeli tourist spots in Sinai. 

Fatah, Hamas to resume unity talks on April 23
14 Apr 2009 - Chief Fatah negotiator: Egyptian mediators want moderate Abbas of Fatah to form government. 

Iran plans to launch new satellite into orbit
14 Apr 2009 - Ahmadinejad: This one will go higher than the previous satellite; official news agency gives no details about when the launch will happen. 

Top Lebanese ex-officer admits to spying for Israel
14 Apr 2009 - Beirut-based newspapers report former officer headed spy ring that passed information to Israel. 

U.S. to provide Lebanon with unmanned drones
14 Apr 2009 - Washington hopes a strengthened Lebanese military could be a counter to Hezbollah's weapons. 

Ma'an News

US Envoy Mitchell arrives in Israel on Wednesday 
4/15/2009 - Bethlehem – Ma’an – US Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell will arrive in Israel on Wednesday for his first meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since the leader took office. Mitchell is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman before travelling to Ramallah to meet Palestinian Authority leaders. He is expected to push the peace process forward with all parties. Mitchell said late on Tuesday that he supports the two-state solution as the only resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. A former US senator and peace broker in Northern Ireland, Mitchell was tasked by US President Barack Obama with reinvigorating an official Israeli-Palestinian peace process that appears moribund. Recent news reports indicated that the Obama administration is gearing up for a showdown. . . 

Egyptian police seize fuel bound for Gaza 
4/15/2009 - Bethlehem – Ma’an – Egyptian forces seized large quantities of fuel and arrested four smugglers on their way to the Gaza Strip, according to Reuters. Egyptian security sources said police confiscated more than 19,000 liters of fuel, arrested four truck drivers, and were pursuing two others who managed to escape. The sources identified those arrested as Samir Sulaiman, Nasser Abdul-Wahhab, Dusuki Dusuki, and Rashid Hasan. The sources added that police also seized clothes, concealed under a pile of sand, from a truck driven by Adel Uweid, who was also arrested. Egyptian officials then seized cement from the mouth of a tunnel along the border with Gaza, they noted that there were likely smugglers inside the tunnel. ***Get breaking news from Palestine: Click to follow Ma'an on Twitter. 

Israel shuts down Gaza crossings 
4/15/2009 - Gaza – Ma’an – The Israeli military decided to close three key crossing points into the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, blocking deliveries of food, fuel, and other vital goods. Palestinian border crossings official Raed Fattuh told Ma’an: “We were informed that the crossings will be closed on Wednesday due to the religious holidays and will reopen on Thursday morning. ”On Tuesday Israel allowed a minimum shipment of food, some consumer goods, and grain through two crossing points. A third crossing was closed, preventing the delivery of fuel. Wednesday is the last day of the Jewish Passover holiday. Israel has maintained a land, sea, and air blockade of the Gaza Strip since June 2007, causing the territory’s economy to collapse and trapping 1. 5 million Palestinians inside. 

"Secret Special Units" claim attack on Israeli warship 
4/15/2009 - Bethlehem – Ma’an – A previously unknown Palestinian group blew up a small boat near an Israeli warship off the coast of Gaza on Tuesday evening. Al-Jazeera satellite TV broadcasted a video showing a small boat exploding near the Israeli ship. A group calling itself the Secret Special Units (Wahdad Siriyya Hassah) claimed to have used a remote control to set off explosives in the boat. The group, according to Al-Jazeera, threatened to carry out more attacks against Israel in retaliation for the ongoing Israeli assaults on the Gaza Strip. According to Israeli army, another boat exploded on Monday morning about 600 meters from an Israeli sea patrol. The Palestinian Agriculture Ministry and Palestinian witnesses said the boat exploded only when it was shelled by an Israeli ship. No casualties were reported in relation to either incident. 

US confirms boycott of UN conference against racism 
4/15/2009 - Bethlehem – Ma’an – The US will not reverse a decision to boycott the upcoming UN conference on the elimination of racism in spite of the removal of a clause from a document that identified Israel as a perpetrator of racist policies. Senior White House officials informed American Jewish leaders in a conference call on Wednesday that the US would not change its position on the conference, according to news reports. The US State Department earlier released a statement saying that “progress” had been made on the text of the document guiding the aims of the Durban Review Conference, which opens on 20 April. “Substantial improvements have been made, including shortening the document, removing all language that singled out any one country or conflict, and removing language that embraced the concept of “defamation of religion” and that demanded reparations for slavery,” the State Department said. 

Gaza officials: More than 700 patients waiting to travel through Rafah 
4/15/2009 - Gaza – Ma’an – More than 700 Gazan patients are waiting for Egypt to open the Rafah border crossing so they can travel abroad for medical treatment, the de facto government said Wednesday. Among the hundreds registered to travel are many wounded during the Israeli onslaught on Gaza in December and January, the Interior Ministry in Gaza said. “My left hand sustained a critical injury after Israeli forces stormed my home during the last war,” said 35-year-old Hani Hammouda from Gaza City. “After two months of treatment at local hospitals, doctors decided that I needed further treatment either in Egypt, or in Saudi Arabia. ”Though he was told all necessary travel documents were prepared and he was set to travel he was “surprised to find the crossing closed. ” So, he said, “I came back to Gaza City, and have been waiting patiently, suffering chronic pain, hoping Rafah will be open. 

Islamic Jihad claims attack on Israeli forces in Gaza 
4/15/2009 - Gaza – Ma’an – The armed wing of Islamic Jihad said it attacked Israeli military forces near the Nahal Oz military base in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday night. The Al-Quds Brigades said in a statement that it used rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, and machine gun fire in the attack. The group said the ambush was “in response to the continued aggression against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and an affirmation of the choice resistance. " The Israeli military did not confirm the events. [end] 

De facto government: Israeli infringement on Al-Aqsa could spark confrontation 
4/15/2009 - Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Palestinian de facto government based in Gaza warned that Israeli settler incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem could drag the region into a “confrontation. ”After the weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the government led by Ismail Haniyeh said recent settler visits to the Mosque were "provocative. " The de facto government said Israeli policy in Jerusalem is consistent with the strategy of “transfer,” a euphemism for ethnic cleansing, advocated in the past by Israel’s new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman. Right-wing settlers have entered the Al-Aqsa compound at least twice in the last week. Last Friday some 50 settlers entered the area during a time-slot normally reserved for foreign tourists. The second Palestinian Intifada (Uprising) was sparked by a visit to the mosque by right-wing Israeli leader Ariel Sharon in September 2000. 

Former PA intelligence chief: Hamas will lose in new elections 
4/15/2009 - Bethlehem – Ma’an – A former top Palestinian Authority (PA) security official challenged Hamas to run in new elections on Wednesday, predicting that the Islamic movement would lose. “They know in advance they will fail after they sank in a quagmire after they committed criminal acts against Palestinian citizens. That is why they requested two-year delay to complete Shalit deal. They just want to try and improve their image,” said Tawfiq Tirawi, the former director of Palestinian General Intelligence and a Fatah leader. Hamas and Fatah agreed in Egyptian-brokered negotiations to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in January 2009. While Hamas’ popularity may have declined after its takeover of Gaza in 2007, support for the movement has surged, especially in the West Bank, since the Israeli war against Gaza this year. 

Israeli ad campaign links marijuana to Hizbullah 
4/15/2009 - Jerusalem – Ma’an – The Israeli Anti-Drug Authority launched an ad campaign linking smoking marijuana with support for Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah. In one poster, Nasrallah’s head appears rising like a genie on smoke from a bong. The poster reads: (In red) “Nasrallah aims at destroying Israel entirely. ”The campaign is based on the allegation that Hizbullah funds its activities in Lebanon and alleged activities in Palestinian areas through drug trafficking. In white font the poster reads: "Hizbullah has the obvious purpose of flooding Israel with venom which forms a strategic danger against Israel. We should not give him the chance to destroy Israel and we should counter drugs internally and externally. ”Hizbullah is the Lebanese resistance group thought to be responsible for forcing Israel to end its decades-old occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000. 

Jailed leader Marwan Barghouthi chides Hamas, Fatah for failing to unite 
4/15/2009 - Bethlehem – Ma’an – Jailed Palestinian lawmaker and Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi criticized Palestinian factions for failing to reach an agreement to end nearly two years of political division on Wednesday. In an interview marking his 7th year in Israeli prisons, Barghouthi said he was “saddened and irritated” at the failure of Fatah, Hamas, and the other factions to unite. After failing to achieve a breakthrough during several rounds of meetings, Hamas and Fatah negotiators suspended talks in early April and now plan to resume talks at the end of the month. Barghouthi insisted that the Palestinian Prisoners’ Document was still valid as a draft for national agenda, calling for reform of the Palestine Liberation Organization rather than creating a new entity to replace it. The Prisoners’ Document, signed by Barghouthi and other jailed leaders from Hamas and Fatah. . . 

UNDP, Germany sponsor school for deaf; vocational training centers in West Bank 
4/15/2009 - Bethlehem - Ma’an - Two training institutions sponsored by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Government of Germany were opened Wednesday. In Qalqiliya a vocational training centre for the deaf, including dormitories and classrooms for 120 students, was built and outfitted with a 250,000 euro grant. The Al-Amal Association for the Deaf will run the facility which has ten permanent staff, hired with the grant. The second training facility is the Salfit Industrial School, bringing together 14 facilities previously scattered throughout the area. The training and vocational centers are now able to share costs and materials as well as expertise. The 300,000 euro project will be operated by the Salfit municipality. Both projects were undertaken with the aim of rejuvenating the Palestinian economy. 

Jordanian court sentences three ‘Hamas spies’ to five years in prison 
4/15/2009 - Bethlehem – Ma’an – A Jordanian court sentenced three Jordanians to five years in prison for conducting espionage for Hamas on Wednesday. A Jordanian judicial source said that Thabet Abu Al-Haj, 37, Azzam Jaber, 36, and Salim Al-Husani, 27, were accused of collecting information about Jordanian military and government installations for Hamas. The three were convicted of spying on military posts along the Israeli border and the Israeli embassy in Amman. The court reduced what was originally a ten year sentence, taking into consideration that the three are relatively young and have families. Two other suspects, Muhammad Al-Khujah, 43, and Taleb Abdallah, 46, were charged in connection to the same activities, but were released in early October. The five were arrested by Jordan between early August and 25 September 2007. 

Gaza: Agricultural Development and Credit Bank closed; clients must empty accounts by 1 June 
4/15/2009 - Gaza – Ma’an – The Palestine Security Exchange agreed to withdraw license of the main branch of the Agricultural Development and Credit Bank in Gaza starting 1 June 2009 at the bank’s request on Wednesday. The bank’s board of directors decided on 11 March to close its only branch in Gaza City. The Security Exchange explained in a statement that the closure was “out of care for public interest and for clients’ rights,” and has asked that clients clear out their accounts by 1 June 2009. There was no indication as to whether or not the current cash crisis in the Gaza Strip would affect the ability of clients to remove or transfer cash. ***Get breaking news from Palestine: Click to follow Ma’an on Twitter. 

PA: Israel must act to end colonization if it wants peace 
4/15/2009 - Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israel must take bold steps toward ending its occupation of Palestinian land in order to convince the Palestinian Authority to return to peace negotiations, said caretaker Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Wednesday. “If there is to be any two-state solution to speak of, the Israeli government must take immediate and bold steps towards ending its colonization and occupation of Palestinian territory,” said Fayyad during a speech at the Best Eastern Hotel in Ramallah. “After Israel spent the past year engaging in peace negotiations while simultaneously intensifying settlement activity in the West Bank and launching a military operation on Gaza, nothing less will do,” he said. “A return to peace-making requires immediate action in,” Fayyad said, in the areas of freezing settlement activity, including construction of the wall, bypass roads, land confiscations, and house demolitions. 

Israel unlikely to comply with UN Human Rights probe in Gaza 
4/15/2009 - Bethlehem - Ma’an/Agencies - Israel is “very unlikely” to cooperate with a UN probe investigating violations of human rights and international law during the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip in December and January, AP quoted an Israeli official as saying Wednesday. The investigation, launched by the UN Human Rights Council, runs in parallel to a UN investigation on “several incidents in the Gaza Strip between 27 December 2008 and 19 January 2009 in which death or injuries occurred” according to a UN statement. The Human Rights probe has been welcomed by dozens of international organizations as well as Hamas, which said it was ready to work with the investigators on the probe. Dozens of local organizations in the Gaza Strip have been collecting testimonies from citizens over the human rights violations carried out by the Israeli army during their war. 

Hamas leader Mashal holds talks with British MPs 
4/15/2009 - Bethlehem – Ma’an – Top Hamas leader Khalid Mashal met with a delegation of British lawmakers in his office in Damascus on Tuesday in a sign of Europe’s increasing willingness to open communication with the Islamic movement. The MPs were led by Roger Godsiff, a member of the Labour Party. Sources present in the meeting said the British MPs expressed the view that peace cannot be achieved without including Hamas in the peace process. The lawmakers also expressed support for the Palestinians in the wake of the Israeli offensive on Gaza and the ongoing siege of that territory. Mashall, who lives in exile in Syria, also met a group of visiting Italian and Greek MPs last month. Mashal praised the parliamentarians for visiting and explained Hamas’ criticism of the international community for connecting the reconstruction of Gaza with political condtions. 

Mr President, your silence on the murder of Palestinian women is complicity
4/15/2009 - Mr President, I understand the political burdens you shoulder. I know how busy your schedule is; the stubbornness of our occupier and the disaster and over disagreements with our brothers in Gaza. I know our unceasing fears and questions about when we will get Gaza back and when we might stop defeating ourselves must take up a great deal of your time. I am writing to you on behalf of myself and on behalf of many women, though I am not by any means an appointed representative. I am writing on behalf many many women so that I can stop feeling responsible as my society stands chained and watching as women are killed on the cheap, though we all say we know killing is illegal and violates our religious teachings. Mr President, less than two weeks after you sighed the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women on International Women’s Day this March, 

Fatah delegation returns from Gaza, calls meetings with Hamas "productive" 
4/15/2009 - Gaza – Ma’an – Fatah has agreed with Hamas to continue talks in Gaza in advance of scheduled talks in Cairo, senior Fatah official Abdallah Al-Ifranji said Wednesday following his return from meetings with Hamas and factional leaders in Gaza. Al-Ifranji entered the Gaza Strip last week on orders from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas along with his colleague President of the Gaza Development and Reconstruction Committee Marwan Abd Al-Hamid. The two returned to Ramallah on Tuesday. Al-Ifranji called his mission in Gaza an “ice breaking” one that would prevent factional members from “using weapons against each other. ” He also confirmed that the talks in Gaza were not a replacement for the 26 April talks in Cairo but rather a parallel process. “Dialogue with Hamas has created chances to continue discussions that began in Cairo,” Al-Ifranji said. 

Hamas considers Egyptian proposal for interim coordinating committee instead of transitional government 
4/15/2009 - Gaza – Ma’an – Hamas is studying an Egyptian proposal that suggests the construction of a national committee charged with hashing out the vision of a new transitional government, defining its mission and clearing political issues in advance of its creation. Word of the Egyptian proposal surfaced last week when Hamas’ Salah Al-Bardawi leaked the information last week. Another Hamas leader Ismail Radwan denied receiving the proposal the following day. On Wednesday official Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum confirmed that the party has received the proposal and is drafting questions about it that will be addressed at the next round of conciliation talks in Cairo on 26 April. Barhum said the party had rejected the idea of the proposal after hearing several Egyptian media reports, saying Hamas felt the proposal would have resulted in a confederation between the West Bank and. . . 

Spanish FM meets Fayyad and Al-Maliki; condemns settlement construction 
4/15/2009 - Ramallah – Ma’an – Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos was in Ramallah Wednesday where he met with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and his local counterpart Riyad Al-Maliki. Moratinos confirmed the Spanish stance against the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel in accordance with the Road Map and the Arab Peace Initiative. Spain and the European Union must deliver a “strong message to Israel” and said a “total halt of settlement construction will be a real and right kick start to the peace process,” he said. Fayyad and Al-Maliki communicated the urgency behind the desired halt to settlement construction to Moratinos, stressing that West Bank and Jerusalem settlements must be included. During their meeting Fayyad told the FM that the “key to peace in the region is through. . . 

Israel: Gaza projectile hits western Negev 
4/15/2009 - Bethlehem - Ma'an/Agencies - Israeli media outlets reported Wednesday night that a projectile fired from Gaza landed in the western Negev. The reported projectile was the first to land in Israel in two weeks. No injuries or damage were reported. [end] 

Palestine Telegraph

PRC: Gaza Refugees "Perpetual" suffering 
15 Apr 2009 - April 15th, 2009, (Pal Telegraph) - Palestine Return Center (PRC) expresses deep anxiety over the conditions of Palestinians in Gaza, especially refugees who are the majority. A harsh siege followed by a deadly war has destroyed the lives of people there. PRC...

Resistance Fighter, Suha Bshara, meets the youth of Lebanon
15 Apr 2009 - “We had a dream of resistance, of a country to liberate and build. Palestine was in our minds all of the time.” Suha Bshara said at a meeting with her comrades in the Union of Lebanese Democratic Youth.

Human rights Watch urges Israel - Palestinians to comply with UN investigation
14 Apr 2009 - USA, April 15th, 2009 (Pal Telegraph) - Human Rights Watch, a New York based organization, urged Israelis and Palestinians to comply with a UN investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity communited during the IOFs recent Gaza invasion that left more...

IOF Limits family attendance to Palestinians funeral
14 Apr 2009 - Jerusalem, April 14th, 2009 - (Pal Telegraph) - Israeli Occupation authorities limited attendance to the funeral of a 20 year old Palestinian from Jabal Al-Mukabbir killed by border police to 15 family members. The boy was killed last week in an area...

Settlers plan Al-Aqsa invasion
14 Apr 2009 - Jerusalem - April 14th, 2009 - (Pal Telegraph) - Israeli settlers are planning a demonstration march ending with prayers at Al-Aqsa in spite of Israeli police warnings against it. A planned Palestinian protest against the action also drew warnings. Occupation police accused...

Aljazeera

US says Iran conditions remain
15 Apr 2009 - Clinton welcomes dialogue with Iran but demand for halt to enrichment remains.

Jordan jails 'Hamas spies'
15 Apr 2009 - Men convicted after allegedly photographing Israeli embassy and border posts. 

US journalist put on trial in Iran
14 Apr 2009 - Case of Iranian-American journalist accused of spying heard behind closed doors. 

Egypt group denies 'spy cell' links
14 Apr 2009 - Assertion casts doubt on claim by two suspects of Muslim Brotherhood affiliation.

Netanyahu pledges Palestinian talks
12 Apr 2009 - Israel's new PM says he 'intends to resume' negotiations with Palestinians.

IRIN

OPT: Hamas-Fatah rift leaves Gaza patients stranded 
GAZA CITY Thursday, April 09, 2009 (IRIN) - The rift between the two main Palestinian movements - Fatah which controls the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Hamas which controls Gaza - has impeded the availability of health care in Gaza, say officials. 

ISRAEL-OPT: Over 150,000 Gazans still without tap water 
GAZA CITY Tuesday, April 07, 2009 (IRIN) - Over 150,000 Palestinians in Gaza (around 10 percent of the population) are struggling without tap water as a result of the damage caused to wells, pipes and waste water facilities during the recent 23-day Israeli offensive which ended on 18 January. 

Inter Press Service

Q&A: 'Ignore Jerusalem, At Everyone's Peril' 
JERUSALEM, Apr 13 (IPS) - A new spate of demolitions of Palestinian homes by the Israeli authorities near Jerusalem's walled Old City, plus resuscitated plans for a new major Jewish settlement building project on the outskirts of occupied East Jerusalem, threaten to spark fresh tension between Israelis and Palestinians.

U.S.: Early Friction with New Israeli Govt 
WASHINGTON, Apr 11 (IPS) - If the past week was any indication, the U.S.-Israeli relationship, which could scarcely have been smoother during the eight-year presidency of George W. Bush, appears headed for choppy waters.

IRAQ: Virtual Therapy Treats Real Agony 
BERLIN, Apr 10 (IPS) - "Oh, dear Lord, what I am going through," 'N', a 25-year-old Iraqi from Baghdad wrote several months ago. "Am I going to see my family again? Sometimes, I even see my own dead body, lying somewhere. And I imagine the pain my death would cause...

ISRAEL-PALESTINE: One-State Supporters Make a Comeback 
WASHINGTON, Apr 10 (IPS) - President Barack Obama has spoken out forcefully - including this week, in Ankara, Turkey - in favour of building an independent Palestinian state alongside a still robust Israel. However, many Palestinians have noted that President George W. Bush also, in recent years, expressed a commitment...

Stop The Wall

New checkpoint another obstacle for isolated residents in ‘Azzun 'Atma
14 Apr 2009 - The siege on 75 isolated villagers of ‘Azzun 'Atma has tightened in the past weeks, and permit restrictions continue to make life difficult for children, business owners and workers. Occupation forces appear to be expanding the checkpoint that the isolated residents must pass through to reach their village, indicating that movement restrictions will tighten further. [

Youth break through the Wall in Jayyus
13 Apr 2009 - Last night youth from the village of Jayyus broke through the Wall in the village. A small group then proceeded to the site where the new path is being constructed, destroying and setting fire to building materials. Occupation forces responded by raiding the village, where they remained into the early hours of the morning. [

PCHR Latest

Military Court in Gaza Sentences 4 Palestinians to death
PCHR

In Spite of Persistent Efforts to the Solve the Problem of Access to Medical Treatment Outside the Gaza Strip
PCHR

PCHR Weekly Report

(02 -08 April  2008)
15 Apr 2009 - During the reporting period, IOF killed two activists of the Palestinian resistance in the Gaza Strip and one civilian in the West Bank. They also wounded 16 Palestinian civilians, including two children and two journalists,

International Solidarity Movement

‘I was born Palestinian'
ISM - 4/15/2009 - “Its not very comfortable in there is it?” said the stony faced official, cigarette smoke forming a haze around his gleaming oval head. “Its OK. We’re fine” I replied wearily, delirious after being awake for a straight period of 30 hours. “You could be in there for days you know. For weeks. Indefinitely. “So, tell me, you are taking a plane tomorrow morning to the US?” It was our journey home that began with the standard packing frenzy: squeezing everything precious and dear and useful into two suitcases that would be our sustenance for the course of 3 months. The trips to the outdoor recreation store- in preparation for what I anticipated to be a long and tortuous journey across Rafah Crossing to Gaza. The inspect repellent; the mosquito netting; the water purifier; the potty toppers for my kids and the dried fruit and granola bars and portion sized peanut butter cups. This time, I wanted to be ready, I thought to myself-just in case I got stuck at the Crossing. The Crossing. My presumptuousness is like a dull hit to the back of my head now. In addition to all the packing of suitcases, we were also packing up our house- my husband was finishing up his residency at duke University and set to start a medical fellowship at Johns Hopkins in July. In the meantime, we were “closing shop”, putting our things in storage, selling the rest, and heading overseas: me to Gaza, he to Lebanon to visit his family.

Ha'aretz Diplomacy page

Officials say Hamas and Fatah no nearer to reconciliation
15 Apr 2009 - Despite popular expectations that Hamas and Fatah would overcome their differences, there is concern in Gaza that the next round of reconciliation talks between Fatah and the Islamic movement will not take place. ... 

ANALYSIS / Iran treating Obama declarations as policy
15 Apr 2009 - It appears Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has begun treating the declarations of U.S. President Barack Obama as policy, and this is a substantive response to the new American strategy, coordinated with the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Contrary to previous Iranian declarations, Ahmadinejad is dropping the precondition to dialogue that the United States first change its policy. ... 

Clinton: U.S. has not dropped demands on Iran nuke program
15 Apr 2009 - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday the United States welcomes dialogue with Iran but has not dropped or added any conditions on a nuclear deal with Tehran. ...

Blair: Netanyahu wants to build Palestinian state 'from the bottom up' 
15 Apr 2009 - Middle East envoy Tony Blair stated in an interview in the current edition of Time Magazine that in talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli premier suggested to Blair that a Palestinian state be established from the bottom up. ... 

U.S.: Progress in peace talks will help contain Iran nukes
15 Apr 2009 - The U.S. administration will seek to persuade Israel that progress in reaching a regional peace treaty will also have an impact on efforts to contain Iran's nuclear ambitions. ... 

The Guardian

Israeli Eurovision duo stand firm to wave flag of co-existence
15 Apr 2009 - Jewish Israeli and Christian Palestinian Israeli admit ups and downs but vow to go ahead with controversial Eurovision performance It was only ever supposed to be a shared project between two friends; a very public but...

According to Tony Blair, Binyamin Netanyahu will build a Palestinian nation 'from the bottom up'
14 Apr 2009 - Against all the evidence, Tony Blair claims that Binyamin Netanyahu will build a Palestinian nation 'from the bottom up' Tony Blair, who now serves as the Middle East Quartet 's envoy, has told Time magazine he...

Seth Freedman: Those shocked by T-shirts worn by Israeli forces should be equally outraged by a new Palestinian T-shirt
14 Apr 2009 - Those shocked by Israeli army T-shirts should be equally upset by a Palestinian T-shirt that suggests firing rockets is acceptable The back cover of the latest issue of Red Pepper magazine is devoted to a full-page...

From the archive: Big convoy battle in Jerusalem
14 Apr 2009 - Jerusalem, April 13 British army two-pounders went into action to-day against strong forces of Arabs who were slowly destroying a Jewish convoy on the slopes of Mount Scopus, Jerusalem. The British then forced a truce with...

Ha'aretz National page

Lawyer accused of swindling Palestinians, migrant workers
15 Apr 2009 - In practice, this is not a "temporary residence permit," rather a petition that was discussed by the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, requesting that Abu Abid and three family members be granted Israeli residency for the purpose of family unification. The Supreme Court turned down the appeal, but that did not prevent Abu Abid's attorney, Mohammed Fukra, from presenting the appeal to the family, who do not understand Hebrew, as a temporary residence permit he secured for them via legal process. ... 

Police to restrict entry to Temple Mount over fear of violent protests
15 Apr 2009 - Jerusalem Police on Wednesday announced they will limit the number of worshippers entering the Temple Mount for Muslim prayers on Thursday due to fears of disturbances, Army Radio reported. ...

Israeli killed in Australia parachuting accident
14 Apr 2009 - An Israeli residing in Australia was killed on Wednesday in a parachuting accident. ...

Man suspected of stabbing father to death in Tel Aviv
14 Apr 2009 - Police suspect a 41-year-old man is behind the murder of his father, 68, whose body was found Wednesday morning in a south Tel Aviv apartment bearing stab wounds. ...

Twelve injured as strong winds batter the south
14 Apr 2009 - At least 12 people were injured as exceptionally strong winds and sandstorms battered southern Israel Tuesday. ...

Relief Web

WFP hunger hotspots: occupied Palestinian territory - 15 Apr 2009
15 Apr 2009 - Source: World Food Programme

CERF Newsletter Apr 2009
15 Apr 2009 - Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

OPT: Israel to refuse cooperation with UN probe of Gaza war
15 Apr 2009 - Source: Agence France-Presse

United Nations seminar on assistance to the Palestinian people - International response to the humanitarian and economic needs of the Gaza Strip
15 Apr 2009 - Source: NGO Development Center

Israel/Gaza: cooperate with goldstone investigation
14 Apr 2009 - Source: Human Rights Watch

The role of UNRWA and the Palestine refugees
14 Apr 2009 - Source: UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

OPT: ActionAid rebuilds lives in Gaza
14 Apr 2009 - Source: ActionAid

OPT/Gaza: Hamas and Israeli military respond to Reporters Without Borders report on Operation Cast Lead
14 Apr 2009 - Source: Reporters sans Frontières

YNet News

Gaza: Portrait of Shalit in 30 years
15 Apr 2009 - During protest calling for release of Palestinian prisoners jailed in Israel – Hamas depicts cruel image of what will happen to captive soldier unless deal finalized

Egypt: We'll talk to Israel, but not to Lieberman
15 Apr 2009 - Tensions between Cairo, Jerusalem seem far from abating as top Egyptian minister warns his country will not welcome Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman so long as he retains his current positions

Qassam hits Negev, first attack in weeks 
15 Apr 2009 - Palestinians fire rocket from Gaza into southern Israel scant hours before crowds gather for Mimouna festival celebrations. Last attack was in late March

Egypt finds 900 kilograms of TNT on Gaza border
15 Apr 2009 - Egyptian police detain three Palestinians in early morning raid on town near Sinai border, confirm massive amount of TNT found concealed in sacks 

Iran blames Israel for tensions with Egypt
15 Apr 2009 - 'The Zionist regime will not succeed with this political plot,' says Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki as Tehran pins blame for escalating tensions with Cairo on Israel. Meanwhile Hizbullah also takes swing at Egypt, saying its accusations are lies intended to discredit the group ahead of the general elections in Lebanon 

Israel 'unlikely' to cooperate in Gaza probe
15 Apr 2009 - 'It's clear to everybody who follows (the UN Human Rights Council) and the way that it treats Israel that justice cannot be the outcome of this mission,' says Israel's ambassador to UN organizations in Geneva 

Iran prepares new proposals for nuclear dispute 
15 Apr 2009 - Ahmadinejad tells mass rally in Kerman that Tehran welcomes dialogue with world powers but will not allow the US, its allies to 'rule world by force'

Egypt: Hizbullah will pay heavy price for plotting attacks
15 Apr 2009 - Official says Cairo has 'all the means, options' to punish Shiite group for attempting to 'undermine Egyptian sovereignty'; Jordan raises alert level following terror threats 

B'tselem

Israel and the Palestinians must assist the UN mission
5 Apr 2009 - B'Tselem welcomes the appointment of the jurist Richard Goldstone to head the fact-finding mission, called for by the UN Human Rights Council, to investigate the recent fighting in Gaza. Particularly welcome is the delegation’s mandate, which covers viola

IRIN

OPT: Hamas-Fatah rift leaves Gaza patients stranded 
GAZA CITY Thursday, April 09, 2009 (IRIN) - The rift between the two main Palestinian movements - Fatah which controls the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Hamas which controls Gaza - has impeded the availability of health care in Gaza, say officials. 

ISRAEL-OPT: Over 150,000 Gazans still without tap water 
GAZA CITY Tuesday, April 07, 2009 (IRIN) - Over 150,000 Palestinians in Gaza (around 10 percent of the population) are struggling without tap water as a result of the damage caused to wells, pipes and waste water facilities during the recent 23-day Israeli offensive which ended on 18 January. 

Daily Star

Mitchell begins fresh round of Middle East diplomacy 
15 Apr 2009 - President Barack Obama's Mideast envoy began a new round of diplomacy Wednesday aimed at bridging the growing divide between a right-wing Israeli government and a weak Palestinian leadership. His first challenge will be a series of meetings with Israel's new government that is seemingly at odds with the Obama administration.

Iran to offer new nuclear package to West soon 
15 Apr 2009 - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday Iran had prepared proposals to end a stalemate over its nuclear ambitions with six world powers, state television reported. "We have prepared a package that can be the basis to resolve Iran's nuclear problem. It will be offered to the West soon," Ahmadinejad said.

World War II mines still a threat on Egypt's coast 
15 Apr 2009 - It has been more than 65 years since the guns fell silent, but the World War II desert battlefields where Allied forces defeated German General Erwin Rommel's Afrika Corps are still claiming lives. Each year the casualty count grows, as bedouins planting crops, herding livestock and collecting scrap metal are killed.

British MPs meet Hamas chief in Damascus 
15 Apr 2009 - Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal met a group of visiting British lawmakers in Damascus for the second time in a month, the Palestinian Islamist movement said on Wednesday. The delegation headed by Labor MP Roger Godsiff held talks with Meshaal on Tuesday following a similar meeting with another group of British.

Iran wants UN response to Israeli threats 
15 Apr 2009 - Iran demanded on Tuesday that the UN Security Council respond firmly to what it described as Israel's "unlawful and insolent threats" to launch an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, have suggested the Zionist state could use military force.

Los Angeles Times

Iran's Ahmadinejad offers new start with West 
15 Apr 2009 - The president says he will unveil proposals to resolve international concerns about Iran's nuclear program. Iran's hard-line president said Wednesday that he would soon unveil proposals to resolve the international impasse over his country's nuclear program, and he offered a fresh start with the West, an announcement that comes as he struggles to shore up domestic support ahead of the presidential election in June. 

Trial of Iranian American journalist over, officials say 
15 Apr 2009 - Roxana Saberi has been in prison since January, accused of spying for U.S. intelligence. A judicial spokesman says she had her day in court Monday and can expect a verdict in the next three weeks. The trial of an Iranian American journalist facing espionage charges is over and her fate rests in the hands of a judge who will deliver a verdict in the next three weeks, a judiciary official in Tehran told reporters Tuesday. 

Israel turns to robotics to boost students' interest in high-tech industry 
15 Apr 2009 - With technology in a deep slump, Israeli schools and corporate sponsors are helping students build robots for international competitions. 'Hands-on experience captivates these kids,' official says. It looked like high school basketball with high-tech bumper cars. 

New York Times

American Journalist Stands Trial in Iran
14 Apr 2009 - The trial of Roxana Saberi, a U.S. journalist accused of spying, comes at a difficult time in U.S.-Iran relations. 

U.S. May Drop Key Condition for Talks With Iran
14 Apr 2009 - New proposals would allow Tehran to continue enriching uranium during negotiations, officials say, a sharp break from the Bush administration’s approach. 

Egypt Accuses Hezbollah of Plotting Attacks and Arms Smuggling to Gaza
13 Apr 2009 - The case has complicated efforts to reconcile differences among Arab states over how to deal with Iran’s rising influence and the Palestinian problem. 


Articles


’I was born Palestinian’ 
Laila El-HaddadA Mother from Gaza, ISM 4/15/2009
      “Its not very comfortable in there is it?” said the stony faced official, cigarette smoke forming a haze around his gleaming oval head.
     “Its OK. We’re fine” I replied wearily, delirious after being awake for a straight period of 30 hours.
     “You could be in there for days you know. For weeks. Indefinitely. “So, tell me, you are taking a plane tomorrow morning to the US?”
     It was our journey home that began with the standard packing frenzy: squeezing everything precious and dear and useful into two suitcases that would be our sustenance for the course of 3 months.
     The trips to the outdoor recreation store- in preparation for what I anticipated to be a long and tortuous journey across Rafah Crossing to Gaza. The inspect repellent; the mosquito netting; the water purifier; the potty toppers for my kids and the dried fruit and granola bars and portion sized peanut butter cups. This time, I wanted to be ready, I thought to myself-just in case I got stuck at the Crossing. The Crossing. My presumptuousness is like a dull hit to the back of my head now.
     In addition to all the packing of suitcases, we were also packing up our house- my husband was finishing up his residency at duke University and set to start a medical fellowship at Johns Hopkins in July. In the meantime, we were “closing shop”, putting our things in storage, selling the rest, and heading overseas: me to Gaza, he to Lebanon to visit his family.

Solving Palestine While Israel Destroys It 
Kathleen And Bill Christison, CounterPunch 4/15/2009
      Obama’s Bubble of Ignorance
     To a greater degree than perhaps ever before, Washington today is engulfed in denial about Israel and its stupefying behavior, about its murderous policies toward the Palestinians, about the efforts of Israel and its U.S. defenders to force us to ignore its atrocities. Blinders have always been part of the attire of U.S. policymakers and politicians with regard to Israel and Israeli actions, but in the wake of the three-week Israeli assault that laid waste to the tiny territory of Gaza -- an assault ended very conveniently just before Barack Obama was inaugurated, so that he has been able to act as though it never occurred -- the perspective from which Washington operates is strikingly more blinkered than ever in the past.
     At a symposium on Capitol Hill sponsored by the Middle East Policy Council just days before Obama took office, Ali Abunimah, a sharp Palestinian-American commentator who runs the website ElectronicIntifada.net, declared frankly that Washington exists in a bubble of ignorance and denial. While the rest of the world, particularly at the level of civil society, is talking about war crimes tribunals for Israeli leaders and about sanctions against Israel, Abunimah observed, Washington and those world leaders beholden to it are trying to move ahead as if nothing had changed. “We have to expect,” he said, “that the official apparatus of the peace-process industry -- the Hillary Clintons, the Quartets, the Tony Blairs, the Javier Solanas, the Ban Ki-Moons, the whole panoply of official and semi-official Washington think tanks -- will carry on with business as usual, trying to make believe that, through their ministrations, a Palestinian state will come into being.” But in the real world, this state won’t happen, he said, and the time has come to speak frankly about what is going on.
     So far, three months into the Obama administration, there is little evidence that Obama sees clearly or is ready to speak frankly. Another very savvy Palestinian political commentator and activist, Haidar Eid, who lives and endures Israel’s constant punishments in Gaza, recently told an interviewer that the international reaction to Israel’s Gaza assault was like the reaction to some kind of natural disaster -- as if no human hand had had a role in the destruction and nothing but money and aid was required to resolve the problem. As if, he said, the disaster had not been “created by the state of Israel to annihilate the Palestinian resistance and Palestinian society.


Electronic Intifada
The rhetoric of "peace"
15 Apr 2009 - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's "economic peace" proposal should be seen as the beginning of a new stage of colonization. Israel has been successful in dividing the Palestinians into different groups, separated politically and geographically. Israel has also been successful in creating a collaborating political class. Israel failed however to squash their desire for freedom and their right to resist aggression. In other words, Israel was successful in the physical colonization of the land, de facto controlling the whole of historic Palestine, but failed to colonize Palestinian minds, for the most part, at least. This new stage will target the latter. Ziyaad Lunat comments for The Electronic Intifada. 

Punitive house demolitions as "deterrence"
15 Apr 2009 - By the time we arrived in Sur Bahir, a Palestinian village near Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on the afternoon of 7 April, it was calm. At 6am, some 2,000 Israeli border police and special forces and other personnel descended on the village to demolish a wing of a house that belonged to the family of a Palestinian construction worker who allegedly went on a rampage while operating a bulldozer last July. Marian Houk reports. 

Finding a sense of home in "Salt of this Sea"
15 Apr 2009 - Annemarie Jacir's Salt of this Sea (2008) is the first full-length feature film by a Palestinian female director. Since its world premier at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, it has toured the world and is scheduled to screen at this year's Tribeca Film Festival in New York at the end of the month. Maymanah Farhat reviews for The Electronic Intifada. 

Photostory: Hip-hop for Gaza
14 Apr 2009 - On 12 April 2009 GAP brought together world-renowned hip-hop artists to Chicago's Logan Square Auditorium to perform in solidarity with Gaza. The event, which aimed to raise funds and gather support for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, brought out a diverse crowd of hundreds from around the city. The following images are by Matthew Cassel. 

In Gaza
chickens, and maybe a donkey
14 Apr 2009 - * new chicken coop During a visit to the Zarka street extended al Bateran families today I stopped by Hamsa’s modest one-room home , to see how he and his pregnant wife were doing.  In the small entrance space where a bicycle had been leaning on the last visit was now a blue tent-like shelter. “Chickens!” Hamsa told me, pulling up a corner of the blue cover to reveal 3 hens and a rooster.  “I used some of the money you gave me to buy these, 200 shekels altogether.” He pointed to the corner of the pen where 3 eggs lay.  Each hen produces 2 or 3 eggs a day.  So...

Palestine Chronicle
The 'Invaluable' Chronicle Must Continue
15 Apr 2009 - The 'Invaluable' Chronicle By Noam Chomsky The Palestine Chronicle has been an invaluable source of information and analysis about Palestine and related issues, drawing from a wide range of sources, including many that are otherwise inaccessible to the concerned public. An independent voice, it has been trustworthy and reliable. It is now entering its 10th year, and continues to be funded completely by readers. I hope that you will contribute to helping this unique publication to flourish. - Noam Chomsky is professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is an honorary editorial board member of the Palestine Chronicle. Consistency By Franklin Lamb For the past decade, the Palestine Chronicle has consistently delivered to those of us who have come to rely on it, vital and objective information about Palestine, Israel, and the Middle East region. There is not, in my view, a better online journal or one that is more deserving of our gratitude and support during this historic watershed period. I urge all its readers to support Palestine Chronicle, as best they can, and keep it on the job doing its excellent work. - Franklin Lamb, The Sabra Shatila Foundation, Beirut and Washington, DC. Independent By Kathy Kelly Most people I know who want to become better peacemaking activists realize they must consistently work to find their own position on issues of significance. We need media sources guided by people who aren't deferential to the ‘military-industrial-congressional-media’ complex which has maintained a stranglehold on education about...

Investigating Israeli War Crimes in Gaza
15 Apr 2009 - By Stephen Lendman Independent investigations and convincing testimonies, on both sides, provide compelling evidence of Israeli war crimes in Gaza. It's time to hold the guilty accountable. In February, the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights showed conclusively how Israel violated core international law principles by indiscriminately attacking civilians in spite of IDF claims such instances were justified. Amnesty International accused Israel of war crimes and called on the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has a long record of acting as an imperial agent even while at times fulfilling its mandate "to protect the human rights of people around the world....stand with (them) and uphold political freedom (by) bring(ing) offenders to justice." It partly did this in a report titled "Rain of Fire" by citing "Israel's Unlawful Use of White Phosphorous in Gaza....over populated areas, killing and injuring civilians, and damaging civilian structures, including a school, a market, a humanitarian aid warehouse and a hospital." The IDF also used "missiles, bombs, heavy artillery, tank shells, and small arms fire in densely populated neighborhoods, including downtown Gaza City (in violation of) international humanitarian law (and laws of war) which require taking all feasible precautions to avoid civilian harm and prohibits indiscriminate attacks." HRW called the use of white phosphorous "indiscriminate, deliberate (and) reckless." It said America supplied the weapons and needs to answer for its actions. It called on the UN Security Council or Secretary-General to appoint an independent international commission to investigate...

Solving Palestine While Israel Destroys It
15 Apr 2009 - By Kathleen and Bill Christison To a greater degree than perhaps ever before, Washington today is engulfed in denial about Israel and its stupefying behavior, about its murderous policies toward the Palestinians, about the efforts of Israel and its U.S. defenders to force us to ignore its atrocities. Blinders have always been part of the attire of U.S. policymakers and politicians with regard to Israel and Israeli actions, but in the wake of the three-week Israeli assault that laid waste to the tiny territory of Gaza -- an assault ended very conveniently just before Barack Obama was inaugurated, so that he has been able to act as though it never occurred -- the perspective from which Washington operates is strikingly more blinkered than ever in the past. At a symposium on Capitol Hill sponsored by the Middle East Policy Council just days before Obama took office, Ali Abunimah, a sharp Palestinian-American commentator who runs the website ElectronicIntifada.net, declared frankly that Washington exists in a bubble of ignorance and denial. While the rest of the world, particularly at the level of civil society, is talking about war crimes tribunals for Israeli leaders and about sanctions against Israel, Abunimah observed, Washington and those world leaders beholden to it are trying to move ahead as if nothing had changed. “We have to expect,” he said, “that the official apparatus of the peace-process industry -- the Hillary Clintons, the Quartets, the Tony Blairs, the Javier Solanas, the Ban Ki-Moons, the whole panoply of official...

Let's Skip Gaza: Pope's PR Blunder
15 Apr 2009 - By Stuart Littlewood – London So the Pope won't be visiting Gaza on his trip to the Holy Land next month. The Holy Father's spokesman has told the Israeli press that he’ll refrain from visiting Gaza regardless of attempts to persuade him otherwise. ‘Refrain’ is a telling choice of words: "the Pope will refrain from visiting Gaza...." It smacks of abstinence, as in abstaining from having sex. Setting foot in Gaza would be so sinful that it is forbidden. Gaza's isolated and besieged Catholic community are none too happy judging by the reaction of their redoubtable priest Fr Manuel Mussallam, who feels the Holy Father’s trip is miss-timed. "We will ask him why he came, what he intends saying to the Christians, the Jews, the Muslims and why he isn't coming to Gaza," he said. "We'll tell him that this is not the right moment to come and visit the holy places, while Jerusalem is occupied." Bad timing or not, if the Pope arrives in Palestine he must visit Gaza or it’ll look as if he doesn’t give a damn about the human condition in the very land where Christianity was born. He might as well hammer one more nail into Christendom’s coffin. We've seen quite enough wishy-washy conduct by Christian leaders in the face of Israel’s defilement of the Holy Land. Last November, while the Israeli regime was planning its knockout blitzkrieg against Gaza's Muslims and Christians after blockading and starving them for 2 years, we in the West...

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