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

VTJP Archives | VTJP 2009
29 January, 2008

Israeli raid injures Gaza children
Al Jazeera 1/29/2009
At least nine people, seven of them school girls, have been injured by an Israeli air attack in the southern Gaza Strip, sources tell Al Jazeera. The raid on Thursday in Khan Younis also injured a Hamas policeman, the AFP news agency reported, quoting witnesses and medics. Israel seemed to be targeting a Palestinian fighter on a motorcycle, witnesses told Al Jazeera. The raid came several hours after Israeli jets attacked what witnesses said was a metal foundry in Rafah, a town near Gaza’s border with Egypt. "An aerial attack took place against a site used to manufacture weapons in an area of the city of Rafah following the firing of a rocket into southern Israel in [Wednesday] evening," an Israeli army spokesman told AFP.

Fate of Gazans taken during attacks remains unknown
Ali Samdoui, Palestine News Network 1/29/2009
PNN exclusive -- Some 300 Palestinians were taken during the attacks on Gaza, but for many their fate remains in limbo. President of the Palestinian Prisoner Society, Qaddura Fares, told PNN today that the Israeli administration refuses to disclose their names. It is unknown know exactly who was taken or to where. Tens have been released and report the existence of many remaining, including those with untreated medical conditions. Approximately 40 people were put in Al Naqab Prison where they are being held without access to the Red Cross, lawyers or winter blankets. The Israelis are referring to these political prisoners as "enemy combatants. " On Thursday Fares expressed an ongoing concern. "Israeli occupation authorities continue to refuse to disclose the names of citizens who were detained during the war of aggression on Gaza and refuse to give an announcement. . .

Fear that sewage may contaminate drinking water
Iyad El Baba/UNICEF-oPt, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1/30/2009
GAZA CITY, 29 January 2009 (IRIN) - With Gaza’s sewerage system on the verge of collapse, a top water engineer has warned of the risk of groundwater contamination in the enclave, making clean water scarcer than it already is. Gaza is particularly vulnerable to groundwater contamination since its sandy desert soil easily absorbs water - or sewage from leaking sewage pipes. Compounding the risk is the fact that groundwater is relatively near the surface, and wells dug to access it tend to be shallow. The aging, ill-maintained and unsafe sewerage system has suffered from an acute lack of investment. At least one waste water treatment plant at Sheikh Ajleen is also poorly sited, in a flat and sandy area, increasing the risk that sewage could seep into the water table. Many pipes were damaged by the Israeli bombardment, meaning that when water is delivered under pressure to. . .

Spanish judge’s writ names seven Israeli figures as ’war crime’ suspects
Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik. "I have never seen Shimon Peres so passionate as he was today. I think he felt Israel was being attacked by so many in the international community. He felt isolated. ""I was very sad that Erdogan left," he added. "This was an expression of how difficult this situation is. " In Spain, Judge Andreu’s writ named seven Israelis as suspects: then defense minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who is currently national infrastructure minister; then Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon; then air force commander Dan Halutz; then GOC Southern Command Giora Eiland; Dorog Almog, who headed the national security staff at the time; Mike Herzog, then Ben-Eliezer’s military secretary; and Avi Dichter, then head of the Shin Bet security service, who is today public security minister.

Amnesty International says Israel used dart weapon in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 1/29/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Apart from white phosphorus, the Israeli army used a variety of other weapons in densely populated civilian areas of Gaza in the three-week conflict, Amnesty International alleged on Wednesday. In the assault that began on 27 December, Israel used flechettes, 4cm-long metal darts that are sharply pointed at the front, with four fins at the rear, the international human rights organization said in a statement sent to Ma’an. The weapon contains between 5,000 and 8,000 flechettes packed into 120mm shells, which are generally fired from tanks. The shells explode in the air and scatter the flechettes in a conical pattern over an area about 300m wide and 100m long. An anti-personnel weapon designed to penetrate dense vegetation, flechettes should never be used in built-up civilian areas, Amnesty explained.

While Gaza Burns, the West Bank Remains in the Pressure Cooker
Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 1/29/2009
While Gaza burned under the weight of thousands of tons of bombs and missiles, the hardships of Palestinians in the West Bank were all but forgotten. While the sat fixated upon the systematic destruction of the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army further tightened the levers of occupation in the West Bank. Settlements have expanded incredibly during the year 2008, despite the signature of the so-called "˜Annapolis Peace Process’ that entitled Israel to freeze the settlement building in the West Bank. Within the past weeks, hundreds Palestinians West Bankers have been arrested and detained by Israeli forces, darkening the latest Israeli prisoner release of last December. While non-violently demonstrating against the massacre in Gaza, 6 Palestinians throughout the West Bank were shot dead by the Israeli forces during the past few weeks.

VIDEO - Gaza: Families in the rubble of Jabal al Rayas
The Guardian 1/29/2009
Peter Beaumont, in Gaza, meets the Salaam and Khader families, struggling to survive in homemade shelters without food, clothes or any belongings. Everything they need is buried beneath the rubble. [end]

HRW Demand Investigation into Violations of International Law by Israel in Gaza
Palestine Media Center 1/29/2009
An impartial international investigation into serious violations of the laws of war by Israel and Hamas should be undertaken, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday. “It is essential to establish key facts and to recommend mechanisms for holding violators accountable and providing compensation to victims,” the group wrote in a statement. Human Rights Watch renewed its call for the establishment of “an independent, international commission of inquiry” and said that UN institutions should urgently take the necessary steps to achieve this. “The Security Council and the secretary-general should both work to establish an independent investigation into alleged violations by both sides,” said Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division. “Since Human Rights Watch first made this call, our on-the-ground investigations have shown that the need for such a comprehensive inquiry is all the more apparent and pressing,” he added.

Rights experts say Israel grossly violated international law in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 1/29/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A group of prominent human rights and legal experts accused Israel of “grossly” violating international law, according to a statement sent to Ma’an on Wednesday. “We are appalled at the horror of the war launched in the Gaza Strip, the major loss of civilian lives and the wide scale destruction of civilian property and infrastructure in the context of the operation,” the group of professors, lawyers and ambassadors said. “Based upon the information our delegation received from Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations, who have been monitoring the armed conflict, we have strong reasons to believe that Israel has grossly violated international humanitarian law,” the statement said. Among the accusations was that Israel violated the Fourth Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Populations in Times of Conflict, as well as customary international law governing the conduct of hostilities.

Abu Zayd urges UNSC to investigate Israel’s violations in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 1/29/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Karen Abu Zayd, the UNRWA commissioner in Gaza, said Tuesday that the UN Security Council must investigate violations against the international humanitarian law committed by Israel during its three-week war on the Gaza Strip. Abu Zayd told the UNSC members during a meeting held Tuesday evening that they bear the burden of helping one and a half million Palestinians in Gaza to restore their lives to normal , adding that this includes conducting a war crime probe into violations of international law especially direct attacks on UN staff and facilities. She also reported to the council that she had seen in Gaza systematic destruction of schools, universities, apartment buildings, factories, shops and farms. Dr. Mustafa Al-Barghouthi, the secretary-general of the Palestinian national initiative, called for forming an international committee to investigate Israeli war. . .

Israel plans more 'pinpoint strikes' against Hamas in Gaza
Haaretz Staff, Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
The decision to carry out further pinpoint strikes against Hamas emerged after consultations between the security cabinet and top Israeli defense officials. The hostilities were necessary to let Hamas know that strikes against Israel would not go unanswered, one source said. During the deliberations, intelligence officers said Hamas was trying to contain its radical elements because it was interested in cementing a cease-fire agreement. This, the intelligence officers said, was why the organization is delaying its response to recent strikes by the Israel Defense Forces. The first IDF strike against Hamas after Operation Cast Lead came on Tuesday, after the death of one Israeli soldier in an explosion near the border with Gaza. Since then, the Israel Air Force carried out several retaliatory raids.

MECA Retracts Story of Mother Told to Choose Five of Her Children to Die
Phil Weiss, Mondoweiss 1/29/2009
Gaza hospitals overwhelmed by care needs of children shot in the head - I respect the Middle East Children’s Alliance. Two days after putting out a story of a Palestinian woman forced to choose which five of her 10 children were to die at Israeli soldiers’ hands, MECA has expressed regret for doing so and says it is seeking confirmation of the story. I am sure Barbara Lubin could never have anticipated the response to her original report. I gather that in Bahrain Monday night she also apologized for passing along the rumor. Here is MECA’s retraction, which of course emphasizes the truth of the situation: hundreds of children died, and many hundreds are badly injured and need your help. That is the horrifying truth of the matter. MECA Statement: Barbara Lubin and all of us at the Middle East Children’s Alliance believe that we should have confirmed the story about the Gaza woman who was told by an Israeli soldier to choose which five of her ten children should die, and then witnessed their murder.

Gaza mother fears for children hurt in Israeli drone strike
Peter Beaumont in Khan Younis, The Guardian 1/29/2009
Target was Hamas member riding motorbike past bus stop • Tit-for-tat clashes test ceasefire as US envoy meets Abbas - Abdel Majid, 12, was waiting for the bus to take him home from school when the Israeli drone struck. Its target was a Hamas member riding a motorbike past a bus stop crowded with children. " I could hear the zanana [drone] above me," Majid said today from his bed in Naser hospital, in Khan Younis, Gaza. "Then it fired a rocket. " The shrapnel from the drone peppered his legs as it knocked him down. It also hit Ola and Yahyeh al-Farah, aged 10 and nine, as well as Insherah al-Wan, eight. Lying in bed, their lower limbs were bandaged and bloodied. "What kind of criminals do this? " asked Rewaa al-Farah, clutching her daughter’s hand where the child lay in her bloodied gingham school dress. "They can see what they are doing [when they launch the missile] but they don’t care.

Khan Younis: Unmanned Israeli plane fires a missile at civilians, injuring six
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/29/2009
Six Palestinian were injured when an unmanned Israeli plane fired a missile at a group of civilians in Khan Younis city, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip on Thursday morning. Witnesses said that the missile targeted a motorcyclist driving on the road near al-Nasser hospital. Doctors said that the driver and five children, from a nearby UN run school, where injured by the attack. Meanwhile, Palestinian resistance groups said that they fired two home-made shells at Israeli targets near the Gaza Strip in response to Israel’s continue attacks on Gaza. Israeli sources said that Palestinian shells landed in open areas in northern Israel, causing no injures. Last week, Israeli naval boats violated the declared ceasefire in Gaza on a number of occasions. On Thursday of last week, Israeli Navy forces opened fire on Palestinian fishermen just off the shore of Gaza City, injuring seven civilians.

Nine Palestinians wounded in IOF raid
Palestinian Information Center 1/29/2009
KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)- Nine Palestinian citizens were wounded on Thursday including eight school children who were on their way back home when an Israeli reconnaissance plane fired a missile at two Qassam fighters in Khan Younis city, south of the Gaza Strip. Eyewitnesses said that the schoolchildren were carried to the nearby Nasser Hospital. Earlier today an Israeli F-16 warplane shelled a foundry at the pretext it was used in manufacturing locally made missiles. In another development, the Egyptian authority refused to allow entry of a delegation of Jordanian engineers into Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing. The chairman of the Jordanian engineers’ syndicate, who is leading the delegation, said that his team was carrying relief material and medical assistance. He added that the team members intended to evaluate the destruction in Gaza as a result of the Israeli bloody. . .

Nine injured as Israeli warplanes strike Khan Younis, Rafah
Ma’an News Agency 1/29/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Nine Palestinians, most of them children were wounded when an Israeli warplane fired a missile aimed at two Palestinian fighters in the city of Khan Younis, in Southern Gaza on Thursday morning. Witnesses said that the strike was aimed at two An-Nasser Brigades gunmen who were on a motorcycle in front of the Nasser Hospital. Eight young students were injured and were taken inside the hospital for treatment. Medics said some of the eight are seriously injured, and others moderately. The Israeli military has not yet confirmed the report. The attacks, along with an overnight airstrike, are the most severe Israeli actions in Gaza since a unilateral ceasefire was declared nearly two weeks ago. Also on Thursday a Health Ministry official said that the corpse of a woman from the Abu Sultan family returned from Egypt after doctors failed to save her life.

Israeli warplanes raid Gaza-Egypt border
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/29/2009
Israeli warplanes on Thursday dawn hit the Gaza-Egypt border line in southern Gaza and a metal workshop in the area. Witnesses said that Israeli warplanes shelled the Assalam neighborhood in the area, and that a metal workshop in the city was also hit during the air strikes. Meanwhile, Israeli tanks that invaded the eastern parts of Deir Elbalah in central Gaza Strip yesterday pulled back after Israeli bulldozers razed vast areas of Palestinian-owned lands. Gaza-based resistance factions resumed homemade shell-fire into nearby Israeli towns, as the Israeli attacks continued in the area despite the ceasefire declaration on January 18th in the wake of a three-week Israeli massive attacks on the coastal region. Israeli media reports that a number of homemade shells landed in nearby southern Israeli areas. No causalities have been reported.

Gaza truce under fire as Israel continues offensive
Middle East Online 1/29/2009
GAZA CITY - Spiralling violence near Gaza threatened on Thursday to shatter ceasefires that ended a war in the enclave as US envoy George Mitchell headed for talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. Israeli warplanes bombed tunnels on Gaza’s border with Egypt and resistance fighters in the coastal strip fired two rockets into Israel. The attacks, which did not injure anyone, further stoked tensions that have been rising. Israeli officials, in the midst of an election campaign ahead of February 10 legislative polls, vowed that they would hit back hard at any resistance strike and warned Gaza’s borders would remain closed if attacks continued. "It is clear that we will react, but we need patience and we have no intentions of showing our plans to the enemy," Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai told army radio.

IOF air raid blast foundry, IOA levels flat for 2nd time
Palestinian Information Center 1/29/2009
RAFAH, (PIC)-- An Israeli F-16 warplane blasted a metal workshop east of Rafah city south of the Gaza Strip at an early hour on Thursday with at least one missile, local sources said. They told PIC reporter that the explosion greatly damaged the foundry owned by Joda family. The raid followed threats by Israeli leaders to launch more aggression on the Strip and one day after a series of raids that targeted the Rafah border strip with Egypt coupled with an incursion in central Gaza. The IOF command claimed that a Palestinian homemade missile was fired from Gaza at the settlement assembly of Eshkol adjacent to the south of the Strip. Meanwhile, the Israeli occupation authority on Wednesday flattened a Palestinian apartment in occupied Jerusalem for the second time at the usual pretext of lack of construction permit.

Israeli air strike wounds schoolchildren in Gaza
Middle East Online 1/29/2009
GAZA CITY - Eighteen Palestinians, including 11 schoolchildren, a policeman and a pregnant woman, were wounded in an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday, witnesses and medics said. The raid struck Mohammed al-Sumeiri, a policeman, and his passenger as they rode a motorcycle in the town of Khan Yunis, the sources said. Eleven schoolchildren and a pregnant woman passing by in the street were among those also wounded, they said. The air strike was the latest incident of spiralling violence in and around the enclave that is threatening to shatter ceasefires which ended the 22-day war on January 18. Israel’s war on Gaza killed 1,330 Palestinians, mainly civilians, and wounded 5,450 others. Among the dead were 437 children, 110 women, 123 elderly men, 14 medics and four journalists.

Leftists drawing up ’blacklist’ of officers who fought in Gaza
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
Israeli leftists have begun drawing up a "blacklist" of army officers involved in the recent operation in Gaza, in response to the military censor’s decision to ban the publication of their names, pictures or other identifying details. Until 10 days ago, the censor had permitted officers’ names to be published. However, on orders from Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, it then changed its policy for all officers below the rank of brigade commander, due to fears that any officer publicly identified as being involved in the operation could be vulnerable to prosecution overseas in any of several European countries that claim universal jurisdiction. By then, however, many names and pictures of lower-ranking officers had already been published, and these reports are still available on the Internet.

Palestinian men bear trauma of war
Zeina Awad, Al Jazeera 1/29/2009
The war on Gaza has taken a heavy emotional and mental toll on the people of the Gaza Strip. Doctors say that at least half of the population need professional help to come to terms with the war. Palestinian men have been hit especially hard. Many of them have spent the last two years struggling to find work under Israel’s blockade of the territory and the horrors of the war have made things harder and more traumatic. Fouzan has four children, no job, and constant anxiety about the future. He lost everything when Israeli missiles struck his home, his sewing factory, and his garden. He says he has lost his will to live and he finds it hard to get out of bed. He describes his life as a "dark tunnel, with no light in sight. I spent years working hard and saving money to buy my sewing machines, one by one, to build up my business. It was all gone, just like that, in a second," he said.

Israel planned Gaza attack nearly one year ago, says academic
Habib Toumi, Gulf News 1/27/2009
Manama: Israel launched its attacks on Gaza to foil a peaceful offensive by Hamas, said American academic Norman Finkelstein. Finkelstein dismissed claims that Hamas was responsible for the onslaught, saying that there was no evidence that supported the "misconceptions"." There is no evidence in my opinion to support this claim. The records show very clearly that, as Israeli newspapers themselves reported, the attack on Gaza had been planned as early as March 2007," said Finkelstein, ahead of two lectures he is delivering in Manama on "the real motives behind Israel’s massacre in Gaza" and on the power of the Israeli lobby in the US. Finkelstein, the son of a Holocaust survivor, has often accused Israel of using the genocidal Nazi campaign against Jews to justify its actions against Palestinians.

VIDEO- Gaza 2009: We Will Never Forget
YouTube 1/24/2009
Montage documenting the genocide commited by Isreal in "Operation Cast Lead".

First evidence of damage to Gaza’s cultural sites emerges
Lauren Gelfond Feldinger, The Art Newspaper 1/28/2009
JERUSALEM. After a 3,500-year history of invasions, the latest war on the beleaguered coastal strip of Gaza has once again put historic sites at risk. With the fragile ceasefire still in force, The Art Newspaper has learned that Gaza’s only museum has been damaged and other heritage sites and buildings may also be at risk. The Antiquities Museum of Gaza, privately founded and run by Gazan contractor and collector Jawdat Khoudary, was badly damaged during Israel’s 22 days of air and land strikes. The glass doors and windows have been shattered and the roof and walls have been damaged. Roman and Byzantine pottery, Islamic bronze objects and many amphorae have been destroyed, initially during shooting 20m to 200m away, and later because of nearby shelling, with one direct hit to the museum’s conference hall, Mr Khoudary said.

Forgotten men of Gaza pickaxe through garbage
Middle East Online 1/29/2009
GAZA CITY - Father of five Jallal Madi earns at most two dollars a day digging with his bare hands and a pickaxe through tonnes of stinking garbage in the Gaza Strip. His face is dirty, his hands are black and he says he’s fighting just to survive. "Everyone has forgotten us," the 30-year-old Palestinian spits. After 22 days of brutal war on top of 18 months of an Israeli blockade, the enclave’s economy is as devastated as many of its residential homes and buildings, and unemployment is breaking all records. For the poorest of the poor, daily life is all about survival. Recycling garbage or scrap metal is all Madi and many more have found to do to supplement the UN handouts which now keep alive 900,000 of Gaza’s 1. 5 million population. At Yarmuk, the biggest dump on the strip, about 20 men and children are clawing through the mountains of muck.

Israeli troops seize four, injure two in Hebron-area raids
Ma’an News Agency 1/29/2009
Hebron – Ma’an – Two Palestinians were injured and two others seized by the Israeli military during n arrest raid in the West Bank town of Beit Ummar, near the city of Hebron, on Thursday, officials said. Two others were arrested in separate raids in the Hebron area. According to the municipal government of Beit Ummar, Israeli troops opened fire at a house belonging to 63-year-old Fathi Jamal Al-Alamah, injuring him in the chest. His 55-year-old wife Fahima Khalil Abu Ayyash was injured in the leg. Israeli troops seized Ayed Ali Ibrahim Ady, 25, and Sa’id Muhammad Mahmoud Al-Alamah, 21, from their houses, the municipality said. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society also reported that the Israeli troops detained the Sheikh of the Al-Fawwar Mosque in Hebron Sulaiman Ahmad Hussein, 37, and Hussam Amer Haddoush, 24, from the village of Surif, north of Hebron.

Military forces attack Hebron area: Two civilians injured and four others kidnapped
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/29/2009
During an Israeli pre-dawn attack, targeting the southern West Bank city of Hebron and nearby villages on Thursday, the Israeli Army injured two civilians and kidnapped four others. In Beit Omer village near Hebron, Israeli troops attacked people’s homes and searched them. During the search, witnesses said that soldiers opened fire at their homes, Jamal AL Allamah, age 62, and his wife Fahmia, age 55, were injured by the Israeli Army fire. Doctors said that the two sustained moderate wounds. Al Allamah sustained wounds in his chest, while his wife was hit in her legs. Soldiers left Beit Omer after kidnapping two civilians identified as Sa’ed Al Allamah, age 21, Ayed Addi, age 25. Meanwhile, another Israeli force stormed and searched homes in the village of Sourif near Hebron, and kidnapped two civilians, local sources reported.

Elderly couple targeted in southern West Bank
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/29/2009
Hebron - Israeli forces struck the southern West Bank district of Hebron this morning, breaking into several homes. In Beit Ummar a witness reports that an elderly married couple was injured. "Dozens of Israeli soldiers and enhanced military units launched raids in different districts in the town. "The witness continued, "Several houses were broken into, and there was shooting and attacks on the owners of targeted houses. " Also attacked were Sureif and Fawar Refugee Camp. Two people were injured and four others arrested during Thursday’s violent raids. In Beit Ummar Israeli forces fired on the home of 62 year old Jamal Fathi Abu Ayash who was wounded by shrapnel to the chest. His wife, 55 year old Fahima Khalil Abu Ayash was struck in the foot by shrapnel. Both were taken to the government hospital in Hebron.

Israel seizes 14 Palestinians during overnight raids
Ma’an News Agency 1/29/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Israeli military said on Wednesday that it seized 14 Palestinians during overnight raids across the West Bank. Palestinians were taken from their homes inBethlehem and Hebron. Seven were taken from the village of Bet Suweif. According to the military “the detainees were taken for questioning. ”[end]

Israel and Hamas attacks undermine Gaza ceasefire
Mark Tran and agencies, The Guardian 1/29/2009
Rocket fire and air strikes come as US envoy George Mitchell meets Palestinian Authority leader in effort to reinforce truce - Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli air strikes today threatened to undermine efforts by the US Middle East envoy to reinforce a fragile Gaza ceasefire as he held talks with the leader of the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip fired a rocket into Israel late yesterday – the first since the 18 January ceasefire – and another today. No one was hurt. Israeli aircraft struck in southern Gaza, hitting and wounding a man on a motorcycle, and attacking a metal workshop that the Israeli military said was a weapons factory. Two militants and 10 youths were injured, medical workers said. The violence provided a sombre backdrop for talks between George Mitchell and Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

East Jerusalem residents vow to rebuild after destruction
Maisa Abu Ghazaleh, Palestine News Network 1/29/2009
PNN exclusive -- From Sawahreh to Beit Hanina’s town center Israeli forces set out demolishing East Jerusalem homes just weeks after destroying the houses of Gaza. Soldiers, police and special forces surrounded and cordoned off neighborhoods late this week. For the second time, bulldozers went after the home of Talal Shouhki yesterday morning. Located at the Sawahreh Bridge, 30 people were pulled from the three story apartment building. Bulldozers smashed into the side of the 140 square meter home until it was a pile of rubble on the same site that the Israelis had destroyed the Shouhki home a year and a half ago. The family of six, the eldest child 18 and youngest three years old, first built the home three years ago and then rebuilt it after the destruction. Regarding rebuilding this time Shouhki says the family will not give up its rights.

Livni denies involvement in reported concessions to Palestinians
Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 1/29/2009
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni suffered a blow from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday when Yediot Aharonot revealed concessions that he and Livni allegedly made to the Palestinians. According to the report, Olmert told US envoy George Mitchell that he and Livni agreed to divide Jerusalem, maintain only settlement blocs in the West Bank and uproot 60,000 Jews from their homes. The revelations of the concessions less than two weeks before the February 10 election reportedly upset Livni, who told confidants that she believed Olmert, her predecessor as Kadima leader, was purposely harming her. In a speech to Tel Aviv-Jaffa College students, Livni denied that Olmert was speaking for her when he talked to Mitchell. "The headline does not represent me or what I am advancing," she said. "I will only advance an agreement that represents our interests of maintaining a. . ".

Obama’s envoy meets Abbas, urges PA role in Gaza borders
Ma’an News Agency 1/29/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – US President Barack Obama’s envoy to the Middle East, former Senator George Mitchell, visited the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters in Ramallah on Thursday for a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Mitchell said that in order to combat the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip, the territory’s borders must in fact be opened. "To be successful in preventing the illicit traffic of arms into Gaza, there must be a mechanism to allow the flow of legal goods, and that should be with the participation of the Palestinian Authority," he said. The Western-backed Palestinian Authority currently holds power only in the West Bank. At a press conference with Mitchell following the meeting, the PLO’s the chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said that “the US envoy was listening all the time to what President Abbas said regarding humanitarian aid to. . .

Olmert tells Mitchell: Gaza should return to Abbas’s rule
Palestinian Information Center 1/29/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Ehud Olmert, the Israeli premier, has told the American envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell that the PA leadership in Ramallah led by Mahmoud Abbas, the former PA chief, should return to rule the Gaza Strip. An Israeli official quoted Olmert as saying that following the Israeli war on Gaza the Hamas authority should be eliminated and the PA in Ramallah should restore power in the Strip. Olmert also told Mitchell that permanent opening of all Gaza crossings was hinged on releasing the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is held captive in Gaza by Palestinian resistance factions. The Israeli premier said that the ceasefire that went into effect as of 18/1/2009 would be evaluated in accordance with the halt in firing of locally made rockets on Israeli targets and a halt to the smuggling of weapons. He said that if Hamas fired

Mitchell: Opening Gaza borders would help choke off Hamas smuggling
Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
U. S. envoy George Mitchell said yesterday that opening the Gaza Strip to commercial goods would help to choke off the smuggling that Israel fears could replenish Hamas’s weapons stocks. But he said the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas must help to supervise the crossings, a demand that has been a major sticking point in Egyptian-brokered negotiations with the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers for a long-term cease-fire. " To be successful in preventing the illicit traffic of arms into Gaza, there must be a mechanism to allow the flow of legal goods, and that should be with the participation of the Palestinian Authority," Mitchell said after meeting Abbas. Abbas’ Western-backed Palestinian Authority holds sway only in the West Bank after Hamas wrested control of the Gaza Strip from his Fatah movement in fighting in 2007.

U.S. envoy to UN calls on Israel to investigate Gaza war crimes claims
Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
Israel must investigate allegations that its army violated international law during its three-week war against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, the new U. S. envoy to the United Nations said on Thursday. "We expect Israel will meet its international obligations to investigate and we also call upon all members of the international community to refrain from politicizing these important issues," Ambassador Susan Rice said in her debut speech before the UN Security Council. Rice said that Hamas had been guilty of violating international law "through its rocket attacks against Israeli civilians in southern Israel and the use of civilian facilities to provide protection for its terrorist attacks. " "There have also been numerous allegations made against Israel some of which are deliberately designed to inflame,". . .

UN launches appeal for $613m in aid for Gaza victims
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
The United Nations yesterday launched an emergency appeal for $613 million to help Palestinians recover from Israel’s three-week offensive on the Gaza Strip. At the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that aid for Gaza victims was urgently needed. He said he was deeply moved by his visit to Gaza and gave his word that the UN would help recruit funds. According to Ban, the appeal covers the requirements of UN and other aid organizations for the next six to nine months and will help provide everything from medical care to clean water. The Israeli offensive in Gaza killed nearly 1,300 Palestinians. The UN estimates at least 5,300 people were wounded and 21,000 homes were destroyed or badly damaged. Ban told reporters at the World Economic Forum that an appeal for longer-term needs would be launched later.

UN seeks $613m in urgent aid for Gaza
Alexander G. Higgins, AP, The Independent 1/29/2009
The United Nations launched an emergency appeal today for $613 million to help Palestinians recover from Israel’s three weeks of military operations in Gaza. Donations will enable the UN and other aid organisations to jump into action, meeting critical needs for food, clean water, shelter, medicine and restoration of basic services, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. "Help is indeed needed urgently," he told reporters at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. Ban — the first world leader to enter Gaza since an Israeli blockade of the territory in June 2007 — said the failure to act quickly will lead to even greater humanitarian calamity among the 1. 4 million civilians who suffered because of the offensive launched in December to crush Hamas rocket squads. "More than one-third of the 6,600 deaths and injured were children and women," Ban said.

UN makes 613 million dollar appeal for Gaza
Middle East Online 1/29/2009
DAVOS, Switzerland - The United Nations will launch a 613 million dollar appeal to meet the "massive" needs of those hit by Israel’s 22-day war on Gaza, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Thursday. The money is needed to provide food, water, shelter, health care and other assistance after the Israeli offensive which left at least 1,300 dead – mainly civilians - and caused widespread destruction in the Palestinian territory, UN officials said. "These needs are massive and multi-faceted," Ban told a press conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, adding that the money could "help overcome at least some measures of this hardship. " UN agencies have been critical of Israel’s conduct during the conflict and Ban and John Holmes, who heads the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), called for Israel to end its blockade of the Palestinian territory of. . .

UNRWA: Reports of stolen Gaza aid completely false
Ma’an News Agency 1/29/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The UN’s relief agency for Palestinian refugees said on Wednesday that reports that its aid convoys had been hijacked in Gaza were completely false. “These reports are entirely baseless,” the agency said in a statement. “UNRWA has a system of closely monitoring our aid pipeline,” the statement continued, “from the port of Ashdod in Israel, our warehouses in the West Bank and the aid arriving in Gaza from Egypt and Jordan, through the crossings into the Gaza Strip, to our storage facilities in Gaza itself and finally to our distribution centers where recipients with authorized cards receive our assistance. ”“At every stage our aid is checked by UNRWA officials. Israeli officials with whom we meet regularly have not raised concerns about UNRWA aid being diverted. Where there are credible reports of our aid being stolen, we always investigate. "

Palestinians treated for burns from fire in Rafah tunnel
Ma’an News Agency 1/29/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – A number of Palestinians were treated for burns after a fire broke out in a tunnel underneath the Gaza-Egypt border on Thursday morning, Palestinian medical officials said. Witnesses said a tunnel in the Yebna area of southern Rafah caught fire. A medical source at Abu Yousef Najjar Hospital in Rafah said that “many casualties were taken to the Hospital, and some are seriously injured. Other injured Palestinians were treated at the European Hospital in the city of Khan Younis. [end]

Ship bound for Gaza to depart 1 February
Ma’an News Agency 1/29/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A new blockade-breaking vessel will depart for the Gaza Strip on 1 February, according to the National Committee Against the Siege. The Brotherhood Ship, carrying aid from health, humanitarian and social organizations, will provide Palestinians in Gaza with desperately needed food and medicine, a statement said. The Brotherhood is expected to depart from the Lebanese port city of Beirut, along with representatives from health, media and legal groups. The National Committee expressed its gratitude to participants and organizers, calling for individuals to donate funds for the voyage over the remaining days leading up to the 1 February departure date.

Rights groups challenge Israeli detentions of captured Gazans
Ma’an News Agency 1/29/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israel held many Gaza prisoners in harsh and humiliating conditions and threatened their lives and their health, according to an investigation released on Wednesday. Seven Israeli human rights organizations appealed to the Military Judge Advocate General, Brigadier General Avichai Mandelblit and to Attorney General Meni Mazuz concerning the “appalling conditions” in which Palestinians arrested during the fighting in Gaza were held, Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem said in a statement. The group’s investigation brings to light the “humiliating and inhuman treatment to which [detainees] were subjected” from the time of their arrest until their transfer to the custody of the Israel Prison Service, the statement said. The complaint, written by attorneys Bana Shoughry-Badarne, from the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), Lila Margalit,. . .

Gaza detainees suffer from ’inhuman’ Israeli actions
Middle East Online 1/29/2009
TEL AVIV - Seven Israeli human rights groups demanded an inquiry on Wednesday into the "inhuman" treatment meted out to Palestinians taken prisoner during Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip. Evidence collected from detainees provided a "shocking portrayal of the harsh, inhuman and degrading conditions in which Palestinian prisoners were held during the initial days of their incarceration," they said in a statement. "Many detainees -- minors as well as adults -- were held for many hours, sometimes for days, in pits dug in the ground, exposed to bitter cold and harsh weather, handcuffed and blindfolded. "These pits lacked basic sanitary facilities. . . detainees went hungry. "Some of the detainees were held near tanks and in combat areas, in gross violation of international humanitarian law. " The groups submitted a complaint to Israel’s attorney general and the military. . .

Hamas stresses conditions for Gaza ceasefire: End Israeli attacks and open borders
Ma’an News Agency 1/29/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Hamas will reject any truce agreement with Israel that does not completely halt Israeli attacks on Gaza and open the territory’s borders, a Hamas official reiterated on Thursday. In particular, Hamas says it will not back down on its demand that the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing be opened. Ismail Al-Ashqar, a member of the Hamas bloc in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), also said now is the “right time” for Palestinian political factions to reunite, but stressed that Fatah and the Palestinian Authority should release Hamas political prisoners, and cease security coordination with Israel in order to make efforts at unity successful. He said that Hamas views unity as a “strategic choice. ”He specifically denounced the killing of 230 civilian police officers and the assassination of de facto Interior Minister Said Siyam.

Islamic Jihad: Proposed Gaza ceasefire to begin 5 February
Ma’an News Agency 1/29/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Egypt has relayed Israel’s demands for an 18 month ceasefire and a demand for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for an end to the Israeli siege of Gaza, a senior Islamic Jihad leader said on Thursday. Jamil Yousifsaid that Egyptian intelligence chief Umar Sulieman laid out these suggestions during a meeting in Cairo with an Islamic Jihad delegation on Wednesday. Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, has rejected both demands, but Yousif’s remarks suggest that Israel is still pressing its conditions. Yousifsaid that Sulieman “presented Cairo’s feeling that the Gaza Strip reached a dangerous stage where there is a need to for resolutions and have a truce that lasts for a year or a year and a half, with a partial opening for borders. ”The officials discussed a plan for a truce in which Israel would open Gaza’s borders partially, allowing. . .

Mash’al: we are working towards a political organization that represents all Palestinians
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 1/29/2009
Khaled Mash’al, head of Hamas’ political bureau, said last night that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in its current situation does not represent all Palestinians. The Hamas leader made his comments during a meeting in the Qatari capital of Doha at a conference called "celebrating the Gaza victory". He added that the PLO serves to divide instead of reconcile. Moreover, he announced that he is working to reconstruct the factional body into what can be in called, by today’s terms, "the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. ""We must build a national reference to represent the Palestinians at home and abroad, including all national forces, the Palestinian people and the national trends. "Mash’al said. During his speech, the Hamas leader sent a message to George Mitchell, the newly appointed US envoy to the Middle East, saying that political, security. . .

Hamas political bureau: PLO does not represent the people
Palestine News Network 1/29/2009
PNN - The head of the political bureau of Hamas said last night that the Palestine Liberation Organization is no longer a real representative of the people. Saying that in its current form the PLO serves to divide inside of reconcile, Khalid Meshal is working to reconstruct the factional body into what can be in today’s terms "the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. " The Hamas leader spoke from Doha Wednesday night of the move undertaken by some factions and that will come as a surprise to others. "We must build a national reference to represent the Palestinians at home and abroad, including all national forces, the Palestinian people and the national trends. "Meshal stressed the essence of his point, "The Palestine Liberation Organization in its current state is no longer a reference to the Palestinians and it brings division to the Palestinian house.

Fatah downplays Hamas attacks on members during Gaza assault
Ma’an News Agency 1/29/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A senior Fatah official on Thursday played down estimates that dozens of its members were executed by Hamas for alleged collaboration with Israel. Ibrahim Abu An-Naja, a senior official within the Fatah movement, said the actual number is probably around four to eight members killed by Hamas during the Israeli onslaught, although he refused to name them. But he did confirm that while some Fatah members were killed, most of the people targeted by Hamas in Gaza were shot in the legs or feet or put under house arrest, at least one as recently as Wednesday. He was identified as Ahmad Naser, a Fatah leader in Gaza. An-Naja demanded an end to such arrests, as well as media campaigns against one party or another and the release of any political prisoners, saying, “These acts do not help in reaching a unity government or achieving reconciliation. "

Dozens believed dead in reprisal attacks as Hamas retakes control
Rory McCarthy in Gaza City, The Guardian 1/30/2009
Suspected collaborators shot during and after war • Escaped criminals killed by relatives of their victims - Evidence is emerging of a wave of reprisal attacks and killings inside Gaza that have left dozens dead and more wounded in the wake of Israel’s war. Among the dead are Palestinians suspected of collaborating with the Israeli military. Others include criminals who were among the 600 prisoners to escape from Gaza City’s main jail when it was bombed as the war began. Their attackers are thought to be their victims’ relatives. During and after the war, there have also been attacks on security officials from Fatah, the bitter rival of Hamas, the Islamist movement in control of the Gaza Strip. One witness told the Guardian how her brother, a Fatah military intelligence officer, was shot three times in the legs in an apparent punishment attack by gunmen from Hamas’s armed wing. -- See also: Fatah downplays Hamas attacks on members during Gaza assault

Hundreds of West Bank Palestinians commemorate Holocaust
Maan News, Palestine Monitor 1/29/2009
Palestinians on Tuesday erected a memorial site near the West Bank city of Ramallah to commemorate Nazi Germany’s crimes against the Jewish people. Hundreds of Palestinians were estimated to have attended the event in Ni’lin, which coincided with the United Nations-declared World Holocaust Remembrance Day with photographs purchased from an Israeli museum. "The Holocaust was a horrible and methodical murder of six million innocents, which affects all of the citizens of Israel even today," said Khaled Mahmid, who heads the Nazareth-based Arab Institute for Holocaust Research and Education. "The Koran orders us to acknowledge the Holocaust and understand it," Mahmid added. "The Jews must remember that many of them were saved during the Holocaust thanks to their brothers in the Arab lands," he said. -- See also: For some young visitors, Holocaust exhibit on righteous Muslims calls up thoughts of Gaza and Naalin holds Holocaust exhibit

Arab parties disappear, center-left still weakening
Lilach Weissman, Globes Online 1/29/2009
The latest "Globes" poll finds that many Arab voters intend to stay at home. No-one took the threats of the Arab parties to boycott the elections seriously. However, the latest "Globes" poll in collaboration with Geocartography, managed by Prof. Avi Degani, paints a worrying picture: the Arab community is staying at home, and the Arab parties are failing to get above the minimum vote threshold. The poll, conducted yesterday evening (Wednesday) among a representative sample of 800 people, shows Arab parties Ra’am Ta’al and Balad (National Democratic Assembly) disappearing, sinking below the level of a single seat. 28% of the Arab community say they will not vote in the coming elections, and another 40% have become floating voters and have not yet made up their minds how to vote. A simple calculation gives a problematic result: 70% of the Arab community is starting to lose faith and is considering foregoing participation in the democratic process [sic].

Netanyahu: I won’t evacuate settlements, keep Olmert’s promises
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
Likud Party Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday said he would not be bound by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s commitments to evacuate West Bank settlements and withdraw from the territories. "I will not keep Olmert’s commitments to withdraw and I won’t evacuate settlements. Those understandings are invalid and unimportant," Netanyahu said. Together with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Olmert arrived at these understandings in final status talks with the Palestinians, which included settlement evacuation, dividing Jerusalem and returning to 1967 borders. After Netanyahu and senior Likud officials blasted Olmert and Livni’s "promises" and accused Livni of agreeing to divide Jeruslem, she was forced to disassociate herself from the understandings. "I will advance only an agreement that represents our interests.

Mishaal: We’ll build national authority for the Palestinians at home and abroad
Palestinian Information Center 1/29/2009
DOHA, (PIC)-- Khaled Mishaal, the head of the Hamas political bureau, stated Wednesday in Qatar that his Movement would embark on building a national authority referred to by the Palestinian people at home and abroad and involving all national forces and trends. During a ceremony held in Doha to celebrate the victory of Gaza, Mishaal said that there could be no reconciliation while the Palestinian people inside and outside are left without a national authority representing them, adding that the PLO, which Hamas is banned from joining or rebuilding, is impotent and an instrument of division.    He underlined that Hamas and other Palestinian resistance factions welcome dialog and reconciliation but on the basis of the national constants and not according to foreign agendas. The Hamas leader said that any invitation for reconciliation would lose its credibility in light of the political. . .

Human rights center: The EU does not meet its humanitarian obligations in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 1/29/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Palestinian center for human rights said Wednesday that the EU’s abstention from voting for the resolution issued by the UN human rights council (UNHRC) against Israel highlights the fact that the EU states never meet in any way their humanitarian obligations, as high contracting parties to the fourth Geneva convention, towards protecting the Gaza people. 27 EU states had refused to vote for a resolution issued on January 12 by the UNHRC condemning Israel’s human rights violations in Gaza. In a statement received by the PIC, the center also deplored the irresponsible statements made by senior European officials such as Czech foreign minister Karel Coarzenberg who had said that the EU presidency could not act as a referee towards the IOF troops’ violations against the international humanitarian law in Gaza.

EU sends positive signals to Hamas
Middle East Online 1/29/2009
JERUSALEM – EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told reporters in Jerusalem on Wednesday that the bloc would be prepared to work with a new coalition, should Hamas and Fatah manage to agree to one. Solana said that a new Palestinian government that included Hamas should commit to pursuing a two-state solution. Solana said: "Whenever that (reconciliation) takes place, it has to be a team of people that will continue trying to obtain what is the desperation of so many people, which is two states, and two states that can live together. " He cited an Arab League proposal for a comprehensive regional peace that is conditional on creating a Palestinian state and an Israeli withdrawal from the territories it occupied in 1967. "Those who can work in that direction, of course, they have to be helped and supported," Solana said.

Gaza Strip academics, journalists: BBC out of Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 1/29/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Palestinian academics and media personnel, as well as international activists, demanded the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) leave the Gaza Strip over its refusal to air an appeal for aid on the network. Academics organized a sit-in near the entrance to the BBC’s office in Gaza, accusing it of bias toward Israel and “its crimes,” as well as denouncing its stance on rejecting to publish an appeal for humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip on its satellite channel. The BBC said it would not play the appeal due to its policies on neutrality. Protesters demanded that BBC reporters Paul Wallet, Andrew Herill and Paul Martin leave Gaza immediately, threatening to “use the shoes of those killed on them” if they remain in the Strip. Other demonstrators chanted slogans against the BBC’s administration, including General Manager Mark Thompson, accusing him. . .

Gaza City human rights organization asks EU to step up
PCHR, Palestine News Network 1/29/2009
Gaza City - European Union Failing its Obligations to Protect Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory:The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) demands that European Union (EU) immediately take action in order to protect human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The EU is currently failing in its obligations to effectively intervene in order to protect the lives of civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), especially civilians in the Gaza Strip, whose human rights are being massively violated by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). PCHR is dismayed by recent statements made by, and actions taken by, EU states regarding human rights violations in the OPT. Since launching its widespread military offensive against the population of the Gaza Strip on 27 December, 2008, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have killed 1,285 Palestinians in Gaza, and injured at least 4,336 others.

Large European delegation to visit Gaza to report about Israeli war on Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 1/29/2009
BRUSSELS, (PIC)-- The European campaign to lift the siege reported that a large European parliamentary delegation is due to visit the besieged Gaza Strip in mid-February to eyewitness and report on the impact of the three-week Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip. Dr. Arafat Madi, the head of the European campaign, said that this visit is a continuation of the efforts exerted by the campaign and the London-based Palestinian Return Center (PRC) to get the western officials informed about the reality of humanitarian situation in Gaza especially after the Israeli war. For his part, Majid Al-Zeer, the director of the PRC said that the aim of such visits is to form a lobby to put pressure on European governments in the hope that they would play their role in helping the besieged Gaza Strip. Zeer added that such moves raised significantly the awareness of the European public opinion on the reality of the Israeli aggression and siege on Gaza.

Spanish judge probes Israeli 2002 attack on Gaza
Middle East Online 1/29/2009
MADRID – A Spanish judge on Thursday began an investigation into seven current or former Israeli officials over a 2002 bombing in Gaza that killed a Hamas fighter and 14 other people, including nine children. Judge Fernando Andreu said he sees a possible crime against humanity in Israel’s attack targeting Salah Shehadeh with a one-ton bomb dropped from an F-16 warplane in densely populated Gaza City. The judge is acting under a doctrine that allows prosecution in Spain of crimes against humanity or crimes such as terrorism or genocide, even if they are alleged to have been committed in another country. Spanish magistrates have used the doctrine to go after a number of current or former government leaders and terror suspects, even indicting Osama bin Laden over the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

Israel outraged by war crimes probe
Herb Keinon And Rebecca Anna Stoil, Jerusalem Post 1/29/2009
Israel reacted furiously to a decision by a Spanish judge on Thursday to open a probe of seven former top security officials for alleged war crimes in the 2002 bombing in Gaza that killed top Hamas terrorist Salah Shehadeh and 14 other people. "Someone who calls the assassination of a terrorist a crime against humanity lives in an upside-down world," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said. The investigation has been ordered against National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who was defense minister at the time; Likud Knesset candidate Moshe Ya’alon, who was chief of General Staff; Dan Halutz, then commander of the air force; Doron Almog, who was OC Southern Command; then-National Security Council head Giora Eiland; the defense minister’s military secretary, Mike Herzog; and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, who was head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights Welcomes Decision of Spanish Court to Investigate War Crimes Committed by IOF in Gaza
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 1/29/2009
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) welcomes the decision by the National Court of Spain to launch an investigation into seven Israeli former senior Israeli military officials suspected of having committed war crimes in the Gaza Strip. The decision issued by the Spanish National Court, the highest Spanish judicial council, on Thursday, 29 January, 2009, instructs the seven suspects; former Defence Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (who is now the Israeli Infrastructure Minister), his [former] military advisor, Michael Herzog, former Israeli Army Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon, Dan Halutz, former Commander of the Israeli Air Force, Abraham Dichter, Former Head of the Israeli Intelligence Service, Doron Almog, former Head of the Israeli Southern Command, and Giora Eiland, former Head of the Israeli National Security Council, to present themselves to the court in Spain within the next thirty days.

Spain investigates claims of Israeli crimes against humanity in Gaza
Giles Tremlett in Madrid, The Guardian 1/29/2009
Former defence minister and six others accused over 2002 bombing that killed 15 people, mostly babies and children - A Spanish judge today opened preliminary investigations into claims that a bomb attack on Gaza in 2002 warranted the prosecution of a former Israeli defence minister and six senior military officers for crimes against humanity. Judge Fernando Andreu agreed to ­investigate the deaths of 15 Palestinians, mostly babies and children, who died when the Israeli air force bombed a target in Gaza City. He named the former defence minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer, the former defence chief-of-staff Moshe Ya’alon, the former air force chief Dan Halutz, and four ­others. Andreu, an investigating magistrate at the national court in Madrid, said evidence presented to his court showed the seven men may have committed the sort of crimes against humanity which Spain was bound by international laws to prosecute.

Legal analysis / On dangerous ground
Ze'ev Segal, Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
A Spanish judge’s decision to begin investigating the assassination of Salah Shehadeh in 2002 should come as no surprise. Several countries (Britain is another) have assumed the right of universal jurisdiction. The general rule is that a country’s laws apply only to that country, but international law does not forbid a country to assert its authority over acts committed outside its borders. And this includes cases of people who, in the view of the country doing the judging, have committed serious crimes, albeit with no connection to that country. Dr. Robbie Sabel, a former legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry, published a book in which he wrote that "there is apparently an obligation" to first give the countries involved a chance to try the suspects. Hence the argument is now being made that the Spanish writ was issued because the suspects were not tried in Israel, and the High Court. . .

Stormy debate in Davos over Gaza
Al Jazeera 1/29/2009
The Turkish prime minister has stormed out of a heated debate at the World Economic Forum in Davos over Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip. Recep Tayyip Erdogan walked out of the televised debate on Thursday, after the moderator refused to allow him to rebut the Israeli president’s justification about the war that left about 1,300 Gazans dead. Before storming out, Erdogan told Shimon Peres, the Israeli president: "You are killing people. " Peres told Erdogan during the heated panel discussion that he would have acted in the same manner if rockets had been falling on Istanbul. Moderator David Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist, then told Erdogan that he had "only a minute" to respond to a lengthy monologue by Peres. Erdogan said: "I find it very sad that people applaud what you said. There have been many people killed. And I think that it is very wrong and it is not humanitarian. "

Lessons from Bibi
Julian Glover, The Guardian 1/29/2009
David Cameron sat stern-faced this morning while his fellow Davos panellist Benjamin Netanyahu denounced Iran in fiery terms. The session was supposed to be about leadership, and the financial crisis. That did not stop the former Israeli prime minister launching into what diplomats term frank language and others call a rant. His target was President Obama too, reported this morning to want face-to-face talks. The Likud leader said that if he won elections in 12 days’ time he would stop Iran’s fanatical 100-yard dash to acquire the bomb. Though he did not say how he planned to do it, the threat of military action was obvious. Cameron spotted the trap and turned down an invitation to respond. He said he was saving his response for a private meeting with Netanyahu later today. But the Tory’s body language spoke of discomfort. As the man who may soon run Israel described Gaza as "Hamastan", the Conservative leader looked away, leaning forward stiffly, crossing his feet and staring up at the ceiling spotlights.

’You are killing people,’ Erdogan tells Peres
Haaretz Staff and Agencies, Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stalked off the stage yesterday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland after sparring with President Shimon Peres over the fighting in Gaza. The incident occurred hours after a Spanish investigative judge decided to open a criminal investigation into seven Israeli officers and government officials who were involved in the assassination of Hamas master terrorist Salah Shehadeh in July 2002. In addition to Shehadeh, the operation killed 14 civilians. Therefore, Judge Fernando Andreu declared, it might constitute a crime against humanity. In Davos, Peres and Erdogan engaged in a lengthy debate about the Gaza operation, during which both men raised their voices and shouted - highly unusual behavior at this elite gathering. "You are killing people," Erdogan told Peres at one point.

Factions study formation of new body to represent the Palestinian people
Palestinian Information Center 1/29/2009
DAMSCUS, (PIC)-- Palestinian factions based in Damascus are currently studying the establishment of a new body that would represent the Palestinian people within and outside Palestine, a well informed Palestinian source told the PIC. The source noted that the higher follow up committee formed by the Palestinian national conference that was held in Damascus in January 2008 had studied the formation of a united national leadership that would represent the Palestinian people and would live up to the aspiration of that people in preserving national constants and in regaining rights. He underlined that the new body would group all Palestinian resistance factions along with national figures who believe in the resistance option, noting that the step was announced in the Hamas political bureau chairman Khaled Mishaals’s speech in Doha on Wednesday.

Without return of dignity teachers to reinstate strike
PNN, Palestine News Network 1/29/2009
Gaza -- After suspending the strike during the major Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, the Teachers Union says it will reinstate the action if all members are not treated with dignity and allowed to return to work in full. Some teachers describe the return as "humiliating," but undertaken in solidarity with the entirety of the Palestinian people who were under such brutal assault. Hamas had asked the Union to submit a petition of remorse upon returning "to the national interest," as the party reportedly said. The orignal strike further divided the fighting Ramallah and Gaza governments in late August. A statement issued officially today by the Teachers Union said it had agreed to suspend the strike because of the "abundance of blood that flowed in the Gaza Strip from the brutal occupation. " But with the return the teachers had expected some reciprocal changes from Hamas which did not come.

Ethiopian immigrants protest forced move from Tiberias absorption center
Vered Lee, Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
Some 300 new immigrants from Ethiopia protested earlier this month after being told that their home, the Tiberias Recital absorption center, would be closing and they would be forced to move. The immigrants are stunned and bewildered at the prospect of having to move so suddenly from the Jewish Agency absorption center and find new homes, jobs and schools for their children. "She [the manager, Hava Sternberg] gave us no time to prepare, nobody talked to us. Our children are already in school here, and the recession is no time to look for new jobs or a place to stay," says Aveka Adis, 35, the immigrants’ representative. After a long search, Adis found work washing dishes at Kibbutz Lavi nine hours a day - earning NIS 20 an hour. He and his wife, who does not work, have two children, aged 6 and 3, and have been staying at the absorption center for a year and three months.

Tunnel vision
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
The almost hermetic closure of the Rafah border crossing since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 may have inflicted great suffering on the Palestinians, but thanks to it, Egyptian tunnel owners were able to add a new wing to their homes or buy a new car. - The smuggling routes under Philadelphi are back in operation and Egyptian-born Salah, for one, is back in business. Salah is perturbed: He has not yet managed to buy himself a house or a plot of land along the border. "Do you have any idea how much it costs? "he says, eyes glittering, calculating how much money he could make if he were not only a middleman for goods moved from the Egyptian side of Rafah to the Palestinian side, but also owned a tunnel under the Philadelphi Route. He would dig it deep, and plaster its walls with concrete so it would not collapse under air force bombing.

Peres promotes Dell center in Jerusalem
Irit Avissar, Davos, Globes Online 1/29/2009
Peres to Michael Dell: I invite you to set up a world-class laboratory in this field in Jerusalem. Dell to Peres: Mr. President, I pick up the gauntlet. Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL) founder and CEO Michael Dell may soon decide to expand the company’s operations in Israel. Dell today met President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos, and Peres invited him to set up an R&D and business center in Jerusalem that will focus on interactive learning methods. Dell told Peres, "Mr. President, I pick up the gauntlet. " Dell and Peres agreed that the President’s office will submit to Dell a list of the Israeli companies in the sector, and Dell will then examine how to promote the idea. One of Dell’s largest recent projects is the computerization of classrooms in Mexico at a cost of $800 million.

Nasrallah vows to avenge commander’s killing
Middle East Online 1/29/2009
BEIRUT - Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah vowed on Thursday to avenge the killing of top commander Imad Mughniyeh who died in a Damascus car bombing last year which is widely blamed on Israel. "The Israelis live in fear of our revenge," Nasrallah said in a rare news conference via video link. "The decision to respond to the killing is still on. We decide the time and place. " Nasrallah said it was clear Israel was behind Mughniyeh’s killing in a car bomb blast last February. "A probe by Syria indicates that (Israel’s spy agency) Mossad was behind the assassination," he said. In his wide-ranging news conference that touched on a number of subjects, Nasrallah said DNA tests on the remains of four fighters handed over by Israel in a 2008 prisoner swap failed to prove their identity. "We sent DNA samples of the remains to a laboratory in France.

Hezbollah chief Nasrallah: Mossad behind Mughniyah assassination
Yoav Stern and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Thursday that Israel’s Mossad espionage agency was behind the 2008 assassination of the Lebanese militant group’s deputy leader Imad Mughniyah. The reclusive Nasrallah said this was the conclusion of an investigation into the car bombing in Damascus that killed Mughniyah, who was on the U. S. most-wanted list for attacks on Israeli and Western targets. "The day won’t come when we’ll put the blood vengeance for the martyr Mughniyah behind us," said Nasrallah, vowing that his organization would avenge the assignation. Nasrallah made the comments via a video link from his hiding place. The Hezbollah leader also said there was no difference between United States President Barack Obama and his predecessor George W.

Consent and advise
Yotam Feldman and Uri Blau, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
On the first day of Operation Cast Lead, the air force bombed the graduation ceremony of a police course, killing dozens of policemen. Months earlier, an operational and legal controversy was already swirling around the planned attack. According to a military source who was involved in the planning, bombing the site of the ceremony was authorized with no difficulty, but questions were raised about the intent to strike at the graduates of the course. Military Intelligence, convinced the attack was justified, pressed for its implementation. Representatives of the international law division (ILD) in the Military Advocate General’s Office at first objected, fearing a possible violation of international law. "This was a very large group of people who at that moment were ostensibly civilians and the next day would become legitimate military targets," says an operational source.

Report: West Bank settlements grew 60 percent in 2008
Ma’an News Agency 1/29/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israel accelerated construction in illegal settlements in the West Bank during 2008, a report by an Israeli monitoring group said on Wednesday. The Israeli group Peace Now reported that 1,257 new structures were built in settlements during 2008, compared to 800 in 2007, an increase of 57 percent. Building more than doubled in “outposts,” — unauthorized settlements that are not officially recognized by the Israeli government — with 261 structures built, compared to 98 the year before, the report said. Despite a pledge to dismantle outposts, “not a single real outpost was evacuated,” the report said. Israel pledged to freeze settlement activity in late 2007 before a peace conference in Annapolis in the US. The document also says that settlers exploited the media frenzy over the war in Gaza to intensify their efforts in the West Bank.

Palestine Today 012909
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 1/29/2009
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 3 m 00s || 2. 75 MB ||Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center www. imemc. org, for Wednesday, January 28th, 2009. The Israeli army continues to attack Gaza, while two Palestinians in the West Bank are injured. These stories and more coming up stay tuned. The News Cast At least six Palestinian were injured when an unmanned Israeli plane fired a missile at a group of civilians in Khan Younis city, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip on Thursday morning. Witnesses said that the missile targeted a motorcyclist driving on the road near al-Nasser hospital. Doctors said that the driver and five children from a nearby UN run school were injured by the attack. Meanwhile, Palestinian resistance groups said that they fired two home-made shells at Israeli targets near the Gaza Strip in response to Israel’s continued attacks on Gaza.

In move to preserve heritage Ramallah students boycott colored scarves
Hiba Lama, Palestine News Network 1/29/2009
PNN exclusive -- Roving the streets of the West Bank it becomes clear that the traditional kaffiya is going the way of falafel and hummus. Under an occupation that targets to cleanse all aspects of Palestinian life, including the cultural and economic, heritage is under attack. The Israelis already took the traditional Arab falafel and hummus and now market them as "the national Israeli dish," a Birzeit University student told PNN today. The kaffiya, a symbol of Palestinian resistance, is facing a similar fate. The traditional Palestinian black and white is slowly being replaced in shops by a dye washed kaffiya that becomes nothing more than a fashionable scarf. The original colors are being muted and bled into pinks and greens, brown and blue dies. "The colors are endless," the Birzeit University student notes.

Israel compensates Palestinian farmers for destroyed land
Ma’an News Agency 1/29/2009
Qalqiliya – Ma’an – Israel reimbursed Palestinian farmers in the West Bank city of Qalqiliya on Thursday for damages incurred to their farmlands by flooding from Israel in 2004. The Palestinian farmers had filed a lawsuit claiming damages after a water line on the Israeli side of the separation wall spilled over into farmland in the area. Compensations were distributed to Jonathan Kuttub, a Qalqiliya district attorney, and Governor Sameeh An-Naser, who expressed his gratitude on behalf of farmers affected by the flooding. Kuttub noted that Israel originally denied the allegations, but evidence documenting the incident eventually swayed the court toward awarding damages.

Turkey urges Obama to redefine Mideast terrorism
Edith M. Lederer - DAVOS, Switzerland, Middle East Online 1/29/2009
Turkey’s prime minister had a message Thursday for US President Barack Obama: redefine terror and terrorism in the Middle East and use it as the basis for a new American policy. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country has played a key role in trying to mediate among Israel and Syria and the Palestinians, said Obama’s new Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, will be in Turkey for talks Sunday. "President Obama must redefine terror and terrorist organizations in the Middle East, and based on this new definition, a new American policy must be deployed in the Middle East," Erdogan told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The Turkish leader appeared to be referring to the US position toward Hamas and Hezbollah, which the United States considers terrorist organizations. While both have military wings, Hamas [democratically elected] seized control of Gaza in 2007 and remains in charge following the recent Israeli invasion.

Secret US State Department documents sold at Israel auction
Times of London 1/29/2009
The US State Department today announced a formal investigation into how its consulate in Jerusalem sold a filing cabinet - containing hundreds of sensitive or secret documents - at a local auction. It is reported that for more than three years no one noticed the files, listing private details of Marines and State Department staff stationed in Israel, were missing. The documents, including a report labelled "secret" that described an encounter between a Marine and an Israeli woman at a bar in Jerusalem, were eventually returned after police threatened the recipient with prosecution. Robert Wood, a spokesman for the State Department, said: "There is an investigation under way. I believe the components of the file cabinets have been returned. I believe they were purchased from - this was an auction that the consulate in Jerusalem held in December of 2005..."

US envoy for lasting Gaza peace
Al Jazeera 1/29/2009
George Mitchell, the US special envoy to the Middle East, has called for a durable ceasefire in Gaza and vowed Washington would sustain an "active commitment" to achieve lasting peace in the region. Mitchell met Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, on Thursday in the Israeli-occupied West Bank as part of a wider regional tour. "It is important to consolidate a sustainable and durable ceasefire and encourage efforts in that regard," Mitchell told reporters after holding talks with Abbas in Ramallah. "[US] President [Barack] Obama, has expressed his deep concern about the loss of Palestinian life and the humanitarian needs in Gaza and I have repeated those concerns on behalf of President Obama to President Abbas," he said. "President Obama has also underlined our commitment to a better future for all Palestinians. "

Carter says Hamas must be included
Al Jazeera 1/29/2009
Jimmy Carter, the former US president, has said any future permanent Israeli-Palestinian agreement has to include Hamas, the Palestinian movement that controls the Gaza Strip. Carter also told Al Jazeera’s Riz Khan on Wednesday that US presidents were unable or unwilling to take on Israel’s supporters in the US, but said he had high hopes for George Mitchell, the new US Middle East envoy. The former US leader said there was "no way to have a permanent peace in the Middle East without the inclusion of Hamas". "Hamas has got to be involved before peace can be concluded. "Carter said reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, the faction led by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, had been "objected to and obstructed by the US and Israel".

Peres in Davos: I’m a licensed optimist
Haggai Golan, Shlomit Lan, and Irit Avissar, Globes Online 1/29/2009
The president has held meetings on setting up investment funds, including with Russia’s Putin. Even in the midst of the most severe global economic crisis for 70 years, President Shimon Peres remains optimistic. "There has been a puncture, but even if your best friend dies, you don’t have to get into the coffin," Peres told "Globes" at the World Economic Forum in Davos. "It seems as though this year they only invited pessimists, but I received permission to be optimistic," Peres added. "Today, it’s the fashion, to be miserable and pessimistic, but in my opinion the crisis is also an opportunity for us," he said. At the World Economic Forum, Peres has held a series of meetings with business people, with the aim of setting up joint investment funds with Israel. "You have to remember that the brain fills the wallet, not the other way round.

Priest in Italy defends bishop who denied Holocaust, use of gas chambers
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
ROME - A priest in an ultraconservative society recently rehabilitated by Pope Benedict XVI has defended a bishop in the group and joined him in expressing doubts about the Holocaust. While making more cautious remarks than Bishop Richard Williamson, the Rev. Floriano Abrahamowicz echoed, in an interview published yesterday by an Italian daily, the prelate’s doubts that Jews were gassed during World War II. "I know gas chambers existed at least to disinfect, I can’t say if anybody was killed in them or not," Abrahamowicz told La Tribuna di Treviso, a newspaper in northern Italy. Contacted by phone in Treviso, Abrahamowicz said the report of his interview was accurate, but declined to comment on his remarks. Benedict lifted Williamson’s excommunication and those of three other members of the Society of St.

A letter from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel to the Holy See
The Guardian 1/29/2009
’Without a public apology from Bishop Williamson it will be very difficult for the Chief Rabbinate of Israel to continue its dialogue with the Vatican as before’ - Your Eminence, I am writing to you on this very important day, the 27th of January, which was declared by the UN as the international day of commemorating the Holocaust. I am sure that you will understand our sorrow and pain concerning the recent events. The reactions to the news of the pope’s lifting the excommunication ban on the member of the Society of Saint Pius X has caused great consternation here in Israel and throughout the Jewish world, in particular because of the fact that one of the four bishops involved, Richard Williamson, is an open Holocaust denier. Even if the move in itself was not intended in any way to relate to the Church’s relationship with the Jewish people, when it involves the embrace of someone who

German Jews break ties with Catholics over Bishop who denied Holocaust
Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
Germany’s Central Council of Jews is breaking off contact with the Catholic Church due to Pope Benedict’s rehabilitation of a bishop who has denied the scale of the Holocaust, its president said on Thursday. Last weekend, the pope lifted the excommunication of four traditional Catholic bishops, including British-born Richard Williamson who has made statements denying the full extent of the Holocaust of European Jews. Williamson told Swedish television in an interview broadcast a week ago he believed there were no gas chambers and no more than 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, rather than the six million widely accepted by historians. "Under these conditions, there will certainly be no talks between myself and the church for time being - I stress the words ’for the time being,’" Charlotte. . .

’Terrorist state’ or not, Israel expected to sell drones to Turkey
Zvi Bar'el, Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
Turkey is expected to receive its first shipment of attack drones from Israel next month, despite the comments by its prime minister during the Gaza offensive that Israel was a terrorist state. Turkey is also expected to receive another shipment of Heron drones from Israel. According to Turkish sources and reports in the Turkish media, the predominantly Muslim country under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to buy drones known as the Harpy. This armed UAV, developed by Elbit and Israel Aerospace Industries, participated in the Gaza offensive and killed Hamas militants. Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul was reportedly impressed with the Harpy’s performance on his visit to Israel in October. Another factor in Turkey’s decision to buy from Israel may be the delay in a final decision by the United States on whether to sell Turkey Predator drones.

Qatari Emir discusses Palestinian developments with Mishaal
Palestinian Information Center 1/29/2009
DOHA, (PIC)-- The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, on Wednesday afternoon,  received Khaled Mishaal, the political bureau chairman of Hamas, and his accompanying delegation on the occasion of their visit to Qatar. The Qatari news agency said that they reviewed latest Palestinian developments in the presence of a number of Qatari notables. Mishaal and the other delegates visit Qatar within a tour of a number of countries that supported resistance and stood by it during the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip. The delegation started the tour with a meeting with Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad last Saturday. [end]

Israel expels Venezuelan diplomats from Tel Aviv, Ramallah, angering PA
Ma’an News Agency 1/29/2009
Tulkarem – Ma’an – Israel expelled Venezuela’s diplomats from Tel Aviv and Ramallah on Wednesday, angering the Palestinian Authority. Israel declared Venezuela’s envoys to both Israel and Palestine persona non grata, effectively barring them from the country, in response to the expulsion earlier in January of the Israeli ambassador from Venezuela in protest of Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip which killed more than 1,350 Palestinians. The deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Hassan Khreisheh, said that “dismissing the ambassador is an insult to the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinians. ”Bolivia, a close ally of Venezuela, also expelled its Israeli ambassador over the war in Gaza. The PA has no control over its borders, and Israel maintains control over all entry and exit points into Palestinian territory and the issuance of visas.

Mazuz to Court: No need to rush decision on Lieberman probe
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz said Thursday that the discovery of new evidence meant there was no immediate need to decide on the future of a corruption probe into Yisrael Beiteinu chair MK Avigdor Lieberman. The investigation against Lieberman into suspicions of bribery, money laundering and falsifying corporate documents has been underway for the past 10 years. Mazuz told the Supreme Court that it would be difficult to reach a decision within a short timeframe due to the complexity of the case, its severity and the newly attained evidence, which dates from 2006. Despite the recent prominence given to the probe in the media, a new poll shows that Yisrael Beiteinu has overtaken Labor and now has 15 Knesset seats compared to Labor’s 14. In September some 2,500 documents were sent to Israel from Cyprus that. . .

Livni addresses gender, Likud in T.A. college speech
Ido Solomon, Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni devoted much of her speech yesterday at the Tel Aviv Academic College to gender issues. "There’s a twisted logic, which says that defense issues belong to men," Kadima’s candidate for the prime minister’s seat told a crowd of 270 students. "But decision making is connected to one’s ability to analyze the existing situation, to look ahead, to ask the chief of staff what needs to be done, to hear more opinions, to get the support of the world and to then make the decision. ""No man, including any general, has an advantage over me in this process," she said, adding that when she sits down with the prime and defense ministers, she makes decisions - "and not coffee. "In a further reference to gender issues, Livini said, "I went into politics, because of my involvement in diplomacy and regional issues.

Police to question Olmert for 13th time in corruption probe
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
Israel Police say they will question outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Friday for the 13th time over corruption allegations that forced him to resign. Detectives are investigating suspicions that Olmert accepted cash-stuffed envelopes from Jewish-American businessman Morris Talansky and claimed false travel expenses before he became prime minister in 2006. Olmert denies any wrongdoing. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Thursday that Olmert would face questions for about two and a half hours on Jan. 30 at his Jerusalem residence. Olmert stepped down over the accusations but remains caretaker prime minister pending a general election scheduled for Feb. 10. United States authorities said Sunday that they were prepared to offer partial immunity to Talansky, the key witness in a corruption probe currently underway against Olmert.

Centrists must unite to block fascist Lieberman’s march on J’lem
Yossi Sarid, Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
Twin demons scuttle within us - the ethnic demon and the nationalist one. In the current elections, the nationalist has the upper hand. Lieberman’s campaign broadcasts convey one message - "we, the patriotic Jews, will beat the Arabs to a pulp" - and it’s working. Haaretz’s poll Thursday put Yisrael Beiteinu ahead of Labor and in third place among the parties. Haider is dead in Austria and living in Israel. Who will lie on the road to stop fascism’s advance to conquer Jerusalem? Netanyahu? What, is he crazy? Lieberman is his historic, natural ally. The Likud list itself boasts several Liebermans, even if they’re called Feiglins. Will Livni stop it? "We can work with Lieberman," she said Thursday. Wasn’t it Kadima that joined Labor that joined Yisrael Beiteinu in an attempt to bury Israel’s. . .

Israel Prize-winning Andalusian Orchestra sends musicians home
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
"The absurdity is that a ticket to the orchestra’s concerts costs NIS 130, while a musician gets NIS 120 per performance" - Two and a half years after winning the Israel Prize and being defined as an Israeli cultural icon, the Ashdod-based Israel Andalusian Orchestra fired all 50 of its musicians and lyricists yesterday and closed up shop. Nine months ago, the orchestra members had declared a labor dispute in an effort to improve what they termed "degrading" work conditions and persuade the orchestra to sign a collective agreement. However, negotiations failed to produce satisfactory results. A few days ago, therefore, the orchestra members declared a full-scale strike and canceled scheduled concerts, hoping that someone would respond to their distress signal. But yesterday, they were shocked to learn - from the media - that instead, they were being fired and the orchestra was being closed down. "It’s not possible to continue in this situation," said a senior official at. . .

Netanyahu optimistic in Davos
Haggai Golan, Irit Avissar, and Shlomit Lan, Globes Online 1/29/2009
"If we act right, Israel will be one of the first countries to emerge from the crisis. "- "I call on companies not to fire employees in this period. When growth returns, you’ll really need them," Likud chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu told "Globes" today at the World Economic Forum in Davos. "I want us to exploit the economic crisis, and Israel can grow from it. There are many opportunities in the current crisis. " "Globes": So you don’t share in the general pessimism we hear here? Netanyahu: "I’m optimistic about Israel. I don’t accept the assumption that Israel is dependent on the global economy and nothing can be done about it. Israel was one of the last countries to enter the crisis, and if we act right, Israel will be one of the first countries to emerge from it. "

Victims forever
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
A new study of Jewish Israelis shows that most accept the ’official version’ of the history of the conflict with the Palestinians. Is it any wonder, then, that the same public also buys the establishment explanation of the operation in Gaza? A pioneering research study dealing with Israeli Jews’ memory of the conflict with the Arabs, from its inception to the present, came into the world together with the war in Gaza. The sweeping support for Operation Cast Lead confirmed the main diagnosis that arises from the study, conducted by Daniel Bar-Tal, one of the world’s leading political psychologists, and Rafi Nets-Zehngut, a doctoral student: Israeli Jews’ consciousness is characterized by a sense of victimization, a siege mentality, blind patriotism, belligerence, self-righteousness, dehumanization of the Palestinians and insensitivity to their suffering.

White House: Obama believes U.S. should keep all options open on Iran
Reuters, Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
U. S. President Barack Obama believes that the United States should preserve all its options on Iran, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Thursday. "The president hasn’t changed his viewpoint that he should preserve all his options," Gibbs said in response to a question on whether Obama’s view was that the military option remained on the table. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, had always insisted that all options, including military action, remained on the table in dealing with Iran, though he said he was seeking a diplomatic solution. Gibbs also dismissed a British newspaper reportthat the Obama administration was drafting a letter to Iran from the president aimed thawing relations between the two arch-foes.

Source: Cyprus detained Iran arms ship en route to Syria
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
Cypriot authorities on Thursday detained an Iranian arms ship en route to Syria, a European diplomatic source said. The move apparently came after Israel and the United States requested that Cyprus stop the ship. It is carrying a large amount of weaponry, including artillery rounds and rockets that Israel believes are destined for either Hezbollah or Hamas. The vessel left the Persian Gulf a few weeks ago and reached about 60 miles from Cyprus’ port city of limassol on Wednesday. Since the ship was flying Cyprus’ flag, the Cypriot authorities were the only ones authorized to confiscate its cargo. According to the diplomat, Cypriot customs officials had contacted the Iranian boat and demanded that it sail to limassol to be checked.

A world turned upside down
Avi Temkin, Globes Online 1/29/2009
Zero interest rates are also an alarm signal. The latest interest rate cut decided on by Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer at the beginning of this week has brought the Israeli economy close to an unprecedented position. The central bank’s key interest rate fell to 1%, and the prospect of the interest rate being zero, or close to zero, looks real. It isn’t just the low level of the interest rate that should provoke public debate, but also the speed at which the economy has reached its current position. Until September, the interest rate was 4. 25%, and the world looked completely different less risky, less crisis-stricken. But then, at the end of September, Lehman Brothers collapsed, confidence crumbled, the bottom fell out, and the world, and Israel along with it, hit an unprecedented crisis. The rapid fall in interest rates is a sign of the alarm that gripped the world’s. . .

Iraq bans US security firm accused of civilian killings
The Independent 1/30/2009
Iraq will not renew the licence of Blackwater Worldwide, a private security firm accused of killing Iraqi civilians while protecting US diplomats. " The operating permission for Blackwater will not be renewed," said Alaa al-Taie of the interior ministry. "The firm is unacceptable. They killed Iraqis with their weapons. "The US embassy confirmed it had been informed, and said it was making new security arrangements. "We are working with the government of Iraq and our contractors to address the implications," said an official. Blackwater employs hundreds of armed guards with a fleet of armoured vehicles and helicopters to protect US diplomats. The firm boasts that no American official has been killed under its protection. But Iraqis have been furious with the firm since its employees fired on civilian vehicles in traffic in 2007, killing 14 people.

Bank of Israel official: 50,000 newly unemployed
Adrian Filut, Globes Online 1/29/2009
Dr. Karnit Flug: The unemployment rate will rise, but won’t reach the levels seen in 2001 recession. "The unemployment rate will rise, but won’t reach the levels seen in 2001 recession. Nonetheless, an additional 50,000 unemployed can be expected in 2009, which is a significant and very worrying number," Bank of IsraelResearch Department director Dr. Karnit Flug told “IDF Radio" (Galei Zahal) today. Flug added, "We have plans to minimize unemployment. "She also noted that experience showed that salaries would probably be eroded as the recession puts downward pressure on wages. When asked when Israel will emerge from the recession, Flug replied that that depended on the global economy. "If global growth resumes during the second half of 2009, as international financial institutions predict, this will be reflected in the Israeli economy, and we’ll see an improvement.

Russian officials: Still no plans to sell long-range missiles to Iran
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
Russia has no intention at this point of supplying Iran with long-range S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, Russian foreign ministry officials told their Israeli counterparts this week. They also said that if Russia had come under rocket attack, it might have responded in a way similar to Israel’s Gaza operation. "Before criticizing Israel we must answer the question whether we wouldn’t do the same thing in its place," a senior official told Foreign Ministry deputy director-general Yossi Gal in Moscow. Gal met first deputy foreign minister Andrei Denisov and the Russian president’s special envoy for Middle Eastern affairs, Alexander Sultanov. The Russian officials said it was necessary to stabilize the cease-fire in Gaza. They displayed understanding for Operation Cast Lead instead of criticizing it.

Fragile hope ahead of Iraqi elections
Dahr Jamail, Asia Times 1/30/2009
BAGHDAD - Uncertainty and tension are running high in Baghdad ahead of provincial elections scheduled for January 31. But this time fears are also tempered with new hope. " Iraq is under transition into a more stable [country]," former Iraqi interim prime minister Iyad Allawi told Inter Press Service (IPS). "The US is pulling out soon because of the new administration, so Iraqis need to take matters into their own hands," said Allawi, speaking at the headquarters of the Iraqi National Accord party in Baghdad. Allawi, who was said to have provided "intelligence" about alleged weapons of mass destruction to the British MI6, is a former exile, and a controversial figure disliked by many in Iraq. Nevertheless, he speaks for many of the leading political figures running in the upcoming elections. " The first grave mistake of the Americans was to dismantle the Iraqi Army and intelligence services,"

Blackwater says it could leave Iraq with 72 hours
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 1/30/2009
Blackwater Worldwide, which guards American diplomats in Iraq, said Thursday it would be prepared to leave that country within 72 hours after Iraqi officials denied the North Carolina-based company an operating license because of a deadly shooting spree in Baghdad. But Blackwater founder Erik Prince told The Associated Press that while losing the State Department contract would hurt the company, the move would cause more harm to the diplomats it has protected since soon after the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. "Our abrupt departure would far more hurt the reconstruction team and the diplomats trying to rebuild the country than it would hurt us as a business," Prince said Thursday in an exclusive interview with the AP. Iraqi officials said the lingering outrage over a September 2007 shooting in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead led to its decision.

IRAQ: Elections Dawn on Changed Political Landscape
Ali Gharib, Inter Press Service 1/30/2009
WASHINGTON, Jan 28(IPS) - Despite the possibility of isolated violence and other problems, close watchers of Iraq’s upcoming provincial elections say that a relatively smooth process there could be a bellwether for better days ahead, according to a new report. "Whereas the January 2005 elections helped put Iraq on the path to all out civil war, these polls could represent another, far more peaceful turning point," said the report from the International Crisis Group (ICG) released Tuesday. The report postulates that at least some of the wrangling of the two-year sectarian war (2005-2007) has now been put aside in hopes of nationalism and good governance. The most poignant example of this is Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, who has effectively reached out, made concessions, and won important military victories in the past year.

Blackwater banned from Iraq
Al Jazeera 1/30/2009
Blackwater, a US private security firm, has been barred from providing security for US diplomats in Iraq for its alleged involvement in the deaths of at least 17 civilians in 2007. The Iraqi interior ministry on Thursday said the measure followed the firm’s "improper conduct and excessive use of force". Five former Blackwater guards are awaiting trial in the US for the incident that took place in September 2007. One Blackwater guard has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and attempt to commit manslaughter over that incident. A US embassy official in Baghdad and Major General Abdul-Karim Khalaf, an Iraqi interior ministry spokesman, gave no exact exit date for Blackwater employees. They also did not clarify whether the Blackwater guards would be allowed to continue guarding US diplomats until a date is decided.

Iraqi women in uphill struggle at election campaign
Middle East Online 1/29/2009
BAGHDAD - Women candidates are facing an uphill struggle in Saturday’s provincial elections in strongly conservative Muslim Iraq. "There are no photos of women on posters or in leaflets," complained Jumana Mal Allah, a candidate for Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress in the Shiite holy city of Karbala south of Baghdad. In other areas, posters with photos of women have been pulled down, prompting one candidate on the Iraqi Teachers’ List in the province of Diwaniyah, Hanaa Kazem, to complain to the electoral commission. "This type of misfortune has happened to several candidates," said children’s doctor Maha al-Bedairi, a Communist candidate in Diwaniyah. Some women opted not even to try to have their pictures used in election material. "Samarra is a very conservative town, and to avoid gossip I did not include my photo," admitted Ban al-Samarrai, a 37-year-old teacher standing for the secular Iraqi National List.

Poll candidates killed in Iraq
Al Jazeera 1/29/2009
Unidentified gunmen have killed three candidates ahead of provincial elections to be held in Iraq on Saturday. The three, all from the Sunni Arab minority, were killed by assailants in separate incidents on Thursday. Hazem Salem Ahmed, a National Unity List party candidate, was shot outside his home in Mosul, the unstable capital of Iraq’s northern Nineveh province. Another gunman killed Omar Faruq al-Ani, an Iraqi Islamic Party candidate, near his home in the Ameriya district of Baghdad. Abbas Farhan, another candidate from the National Movement of Reform and Development, was shot near the town of Mandili in Diyala Province, north of Baghdad. Two other candidates were killed in recent weeks but Iraqi and US authorities say that violence has not increased in the run up to the polls.


My terror as a human shield: The story of Majdi Abed Rabbo
Donald Macintyre in Jabalya, Gaza, The Independent 1/30/2009
      As battle raged in Gaza, Israeli soldiers forced Majdi Abed Rabbo to risk his life as a go-between in the hunt for three Hamas fighters. This is his story...
     After yet another fierce, 45-minute gun battle, Majdi Abed Rabbo was ordered once again to negotiate his perilous way across the already badly-damaged roof of his house, through the jagged gap in the wall and slowly down the stairs towards the first-floor apartment in the rubble-strewn house next door. Not knowing if the men were dead or alive, he shouted for the second time that day: "I’m Majdi. Don’t be afraid."
     All three men – with Kalashnikov AK-47 rifles, wearing camouflage and headbands bearing the insignia of the Izzedine el Qassam brigades – were still alive, though one was badly injured and persuaded Mr Abed Rabbo to tighten the improvised bandage round his right arm. The youngest – perhaps 21 – was taking cover behind fallen masonry from where he could see the Israeli troops who had sent the visitor. Nervously, Mr Abed Rabbo told them: "They sent me back so I can take your weapons. They told me you are dead." It was the youngest who replied defiantly: "Tell the officer, ’If you’re a man come up here’."
     When the soldiers had arrived at about 10am, Mr Abed Rabbo, 40, had no inkling that over the next 24 hours he would make four heart-stopping trips, shuttling across increasingly dangerous terrain between the Israeli forces and the three besieged but determined Hamas militants who had become his unwelcome next-door neighbours. He would recall every detail of an episode which, in the telling, resembles the more melodramatic kind of war movie, but which was all too real for a man who by the end had lost his house and thought (wrongly) that his wife and children were dead. He had also witnessed at too close quarters the last stand of the men from the Qassam brigades in the face of relentless Israeli ground attacks and Apache helicopter fire.

Palestinian orgs. call for boycott and end of Gaza siege
Press release, Palestinian NGO Network, Electronic Intifada 1/29/2009
      The following position paper was issued on 28 January 2009 by the Palestinian NGO Network:
     On 27 December 2008, Israeli occupying forces launched a full-scale military offensive on the Gaza Strip from the sea, land and air. For 22 days the Israeli military indiscriminately shelled homes, mosques and schools, leaving no area of Gazan society untouched. During Israel’s barbaric military campaign, approximately 1,300 Palestinians were killed. According to Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, almost four of every five persons killed was a civilian. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, more than one of every three fatalities was a child. Practices and tactics adopted by the Israeli military during its offensive, which included bombing and shelling densely populated areas, strongly indicate that civilians were deliberately targeted.
     The goal of the Israeli military was clearly to leave an indelible imprint in the minds of the Palestinians, both the current and future generations -- an image of unprecedented destruction -- in the hope of erasing the memory of resistance and struggle amongst the people of Gaza. In doing so Israel would be free to impose its goals, and instill a culture of obedience, and compliance with the occupying power.

Siege against ‘Azzun Atmeh tightened as 75 residents are further isolated
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 1/29/2009
      Occupation forces have intensified the closure of ‘Azzun Atmeh, reinforcing the Wall on the southern edge of the village. At least 75 residents are isolated to the east, in addition to agricultural land and structures. Soldiers have also been impeding the movement of isolated residents through the access gates, putting additional strain on the already encircled village.
     On 25 January Occupation forces completed a fence, which extends across the southern side of the village, beginning from the Oranlit settlement and terminating at the settlement of Sha’are Tiqwa. Soldiers added barbed wire to the 5 km of fencing, erected military watchtowers and replaced the gate with a newer model. Land for this had been confiscated by military order November 2008.
     This procedure has heightened isolation of nine homes from the village, home to 75 persons, in addition to a number of workshops and farms. Isolated residents are forced to walk on foot for not less than 200 meters in order to enter or exit the village. They are prohibited from using cars and animals for transportation and are subjected two checks; once when entering the village from the south and once again if they wish to continue out of the village to other parts of the West Bank.

Boycott the BBC
Terry Lacey, Palestine Chronicle 1/29/2009
      The decision of the BBC to refuse to broadcast a humanitarian appeal for the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) made of up British NGOs working in the Gaza Strip to help the wounded and homeless of Gaza is one of the most craven acts of political and legal cowardice in the history of British television broadcasting.
     In all my years as General Secretary of War on Want, as Chairman of the International Broadcasting Trust, as Patron of the One World Broadcasting Trust, and as a member of the previous Educational Advisory Committee of the Independent Broadcasting Authority, I never came across such a huge political misjudgement as that made by Mark Thompson, the Director General of the BBC. He must resign or the damage to the Corporation will be cumulative and global.
     During the Thatcher years when War on Want was in a constant battle with the Charity Commission on politics and charity law there was no parallel to this.

The plowshare over the sword
Ilmas Futehally, Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
      Israel’s 22-day war against Hamas in Gaza was incredibly destructive. Any reader of the local or international press will by now have been inundated by horrific images of lost lives and physical destruction in Gaza, as well as crowded bomb shelters and terrified children in southern Israel. Yet there are broader, possibly more enduring costs to the conflict. Beyond the wartime impact on the Gazan economy in real terms is the long-term unrealized potential of both the Israeli and Palestinian economies. Just as the November Mumbai terror attacks destroyed human lives, while also erasing untold millions in future Indian tourism revenues, the Gazan war is another rung on the ladder of what has been a series of disappointments for anyone interested in the possibilities of a flourishing and vibrant economy in Israel-Palestine.
     Since the outbreak of the second intifada, in 2000, the conflict has destroyed a lot of regional economic productivity. There have been unquantifiable Palestinian losses due to closures, checkpoints and power blackouts, but the larger trends are also disturbing, according to our research at the Strategic Foresight Group.
     In 1998, 673,662 Palestinians were considered to be officially poor, according to a per capita poverty line of $2.40 per day; in 2005, that figure stood at 1,307,355, nearly double - a significant jump, even taking into account the high Palestinian population growth rate. As a result of Israeli military operations between 2000 and 2006, there was an estimated loss of $42,846,895 in Gazan agricultural productivity, due to the destruction of land, trees, vegetables and greenhouses, based on the value of the ruined agriculture....

U.N. Debates Duty to Halt War Crimes, Genocide
Nergui Manalsuren, Inter Press Service 1/30/2009
      UNITED NATIONS, Jan 29 (IPS) - After the recent turmoil in Gaza, ongoing mass killings in Darfur, and the failure to timely intervene to aid survivors of last year’s Cyclone Nargis in Burma, civil society groups are calling on U.N. member states to fully commit to the so-called "Responsibility to Protect" (R2P) concept.
     R2P was adopted at the U.N. World Summit in 2005 and gives the international community the authority - in principle - to take "collective action", including force, when national governments fail to protect the most vulnerable from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
     The new International Coalition on the Responsibility to Protect was launched Wednesday at U.N. headquarters, and includes the East African Law Society (Tanzania), the West African Civil Society Institute (Ghana), the International Refugees Rights Initiative (Uganda), Initiatives for International Dialogue (Philippines), Coordinadora Regional de Investigaciones Economicas y Sociales (Argentina), and Human Rights Watch and Oxfam International.
     All share the belief that R2P has the potential to become a powerful new tool for averting humanitarian disasters, especially when there is a concerted effort between governments and civil society.

Stop the deceit and whitewashing
Haaretz Editorial, Ha’aretz 1/30/2009
      Almost four years after attorney Talia Sasson published a report exposing the cooperation, by commission and omission, of successive Israeli governments in the establishment of dozens of settlement outposts, an internal defense document reveals that even settlements deemed legal by Israel are in part, and sometimes in large part, effectively illegal outposts.
     The Defense Ministry’s database documents illegal construction in more than 30 settlements, including such veteran settlements as Ofra, Elon Moreh and Beit El. Worse, the document - which is being revealed today for the first time in an article by Uri Blau in Haaretz Magazine (in Hebrew) - details a scandalous amount of land theft by the "legal" settlements. Schools, synagogues and even police stations have been built on private Palestinian land.

A suffocating consensus of self-congratulation
Seth Freedman, The Guardian 1/29/2009
      According to the constitution of the World Jewish Congress, the association’s purpose is to "foster the unity, and represent the interests, of the Jewish people"; a weighty mantle to assume, especially given the sheer diversity of the various strands of world Jewry. Despite all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the WJC’s 13th Plenary Assembly in Jerusalem, it was clear that the body had no chance of living up to such lofty expectations, precisely because of the make-up of the delegates and their failure to adhere to their own code of practice.
     Instead of staying "politically non-partisan and represent[ing] the plurality of the Jewish people", the gathering was simply an opportunity for out-and-out posturing, from the top down. Ron Lauder, scion of the cosmetics family and WJC president, made it his mission from the off to express unambiguous support for the Israeli government, an example repeatedly followed by the rest of the delegates.
     While the WJC is a fairly toothless and unrepresentative organisation, the high profile of its leadership means it has the pulling power to attract guests from the uppermost echelons of Israeli politics. Thus, in the space of eight hours, delegates were treated to live performances by the cream of Israeli politics: Shimon Peres, Bibi Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, all appearing before an adoring crowd of disciples.

Gaza, the Reckoning Day
Sameh M. Brill, Palestine Think Tank 1/29/2009
      Soon after we had seen a unilateral ceasefire from Israel followed by the withdrawal of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) after a 22-day assault on the Gaza Strip, we hear the usual two sides of the story, from both Israel and Hamas, each one claiming that Victory was on its Side and all goals were achieved. Either by "Eliminating Hamas Infrastructures and putting an end to the weapon smuggling through underground tunnels" or by "Showing that Hamas Militants stood still facing the state-of-the-Art destructive ’American-made’ technology by the hands of the Zionists" and how it was able with it’s humble capabilities to push IDF back with bare hands renewing the memory of Israel Defeat in the minds of those who witnessed the Lebanon War in 2006.
     Whether Hamas or Israel won, it would matter no more. After all, thousands of Civilians have paid the price in this war, fed their innocent blood to the barrels of the Israeli machine guns and the Zionist bloodthirsty grenades and missiles.
     While War Crimes were committed in Gaza, Countries were silently watching it on the media screens and when they decided to act positively towards this horrible situation, they decided to watch some more. Each country (whether, Arab or non-Arab) carrying its hidden agenda, shutting every spokesmen’s mouth from speaking out the truth supporting the weak Gazans.

Need, not politics
Jane Cocking, Oxfam, The Guardian 1/29/2009
      The political aspects to the conflict in Gaza, as elsewhere, must not stop aid reaching those who need it.
     The bitter row over the aid agencies’ appeal for Gaza has at its heart the assumption that the conflict in the Middle East is unique amongst humanitarian emergencies.
     The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unusually "political", the argument runs, so doing aid work in Gaza is difficult and contentious, unlike helping the victims of a tsunami, a famine or a war in a despotic African country.
     Yes, it is more political than many emergencies, but it’s a matter of degree. All conflicts are intensely political in their own way. The questions that divide the Israelis, Palestinians and their supporters – who started it? Who’s at fault? Whose suffering counts for more? Who’s fighting dirty? – are asked in every conflict. When Israel and Palestine clash, British people understand and care about the answers. They are far less engaged when the CNDP and the FDLR fight in the Congo.
     Oxfam deals with complex, violent political situations every single day, from Afghanistan to Darfur to Colombia. The difficult politics of Sudan or Zimbabwe don’t stop the delivery of aid in those countries, and for 60 years Oxfam has learned to respond impartially to humanitarian emergencies in very difficult circumstances, based on need.

Waltz with history
Tom Segev, Ha’aretz 1/29/2009
      The film "Waltz with Bashir" belongs to the kvetch genre: "Oy, how traumatic that massacre in Sabra and Chatila was for us." The Jewish Agency is afraid that the tender soul of American Jewry might be hurt by the film and therefore it is offering them psychological relief on the Internet (
     It is not clear what the Agency sees as the main problem: Is it the psychological difficulty of remaining "pro-Israel" after watching the film, or is it that viewers will not remain "pro-Israel"? Whatever the case may be, a single solution has been found for both these problems: to disassociate the film from the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to transfer it to the most distant possible realms, as though it were just a work of art.
     This is not a "pro-Israel" film and it is not an "anti-Israel" film, the Web site reassures us: "Life in modern Israel is far more complicated than ’good or bad.’" The site proposes discussions in forums that resemble support groups, and instructs their moderators to avoid making any binding statements: "Don’t expect to know the ’answers’; in fact, don’t expect there to be ’right answers’ at all!" In other words, it is an absolute no-no to criticize anything that was done under the aegis of Israel, even if it is a crime against humanity.

The Myth of Disengagement
Abu Yusef from Occupied Palestine, Palestine Monitor 1/29/2009
      "˜Gaza is a prison; and Israel seems to have thrown away the key." - John Dugard, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights
     In 2004, former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced to the world his plan to unilaterally "˜disengage" from the 37 year occupation of the Gaza Strip.
     According to Sharon, protecting the small number of Israeli settlers within one of the world’s most densely populated and hostile environments was becoming far more trouble than it was worth.
     Underneath this seemingly pragmatic discourse though was the growing belief/fear inside of Israel over the explosion of the ‘demographic bomb’ in historical Palestine – in which Palestinians would soon outnumber their Jewish counterparts leading to charges of Apartheid. By ‘disengaging’ or supposedly ‘de-occupying’ the Gaza Strip, Israel was able to cleanly shave off nearly 1.4 million Palestinians from under its perceived control.
     Sharon’s decision led to the breakdown of Likud’s coalition and eventually the Likud party itself. Sharon forged on by picking up rare support from the Israeli left and forming the more centrist Kadima party to carry out his unilateral plan under a new governing coalition.

Were chickens firing rockets?
Sameh A. Habeeb writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 1/29/2009
      Israel’s devastating war on Gaza claimed the lives of more than 1,335 persons and left at least 5,500 other wounded. In addition tens of thousands of utilities, houses, businesses, and factories were partially or totally destroyed. The war caused psychological damage for thousands of people especially children. I reported on the war daily and my focus was on the human toll. However, I recently came across a story that changed my focus completely a revealed to me the true nature of Israel’s soldiers and their intent in invading Gaza.
     Since the ceasefire was enacted, I have toured throughout Gaza to document some stories and accounts. Although I wrote many articles, I decided to focus on the untold stories of the war: the brutal massacre of thousands of chickens.
     On 5 January, many Israeli tanks, troops and bulldozers advanced into the al-Zeitoun neighborhood south east of Gaza City. In this area, called al-Samouni, Israel killed 49 members of the Samouni family, after soldiers ordered them to gather into a single home, which was shelled several hours later.

Jesus in Gaza – A Poem
The Palestine Chronicle is pleased to feature a new poem, Palestine Chronicle 1/29/2009
      I met Jesus in Gaza last night
     Nailed to a concrete wall
     Impaled by shrapnel
     Through hands and feet
     Wearing a crown of barbed wire
     And a countenance of sorrow
     At his feet
     A bloodied child
     Tattered were her clothes
     Ugly were her wounds
     I wept for her
     He wept for us....

The South at war -- in Gaza
Facing South 1/7/2009
      Israel’s military campaign in Gaza -- which has led to a death toll of 595 civilians, including 130 children under age 16 -- may seem a world away to many Southerners. But in reality, people in Southern states -- especially Florida and Texas -- have a very direct link to the bloody conflict, since many of the weapons being used by Israel are made there.
     It’s no secret that the U.S. is the largest provider of military aid to Israel. As a December 2008 report by the New America Foundation documented, Israel has been the largest recipient of U.S. security assistance since the 1970s, a trend that will continue:
     [D]uring [the Bush administration] Israel has received over $21 billion in security assistance funding, an average of more than $2.7 billion a year (see table 15). Beginning with the FY2010 budget, to be introduced in February 2009, Israel is slated to receive an increase in security assistance of up to $3 billion a year over a ten-year period.
     Much of this money comes back to the U.S., because Israel turns around and uses it to buy arms from U.S companies. And a number of the weapons being used by Israel in its latest offensive can be traced back to the South, especially Florida and Texas....