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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
3 February, 2009

Across West Bank, villages hit with confiscation orders
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 2/4/2009
During the month of January, Palestinian villages across the West Bank were hit with a wave of confiscation orders. In the Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron districts, Occupation forces closed or confiscated land for the construction of new segments of the Wall or military infrastructure. Collectively, thousands of dunums have been confiscated, and thousands more will be isolated. In the Jerusalem district, 506 dunums of land were confiscated from the village of Abu Dis and the areas of Abu Wadi Hindi and al-Khan al-Ahmar. A new segment of the Wall will be constructed on Abu Dis and al-Khan al-Ahmar lands, running east of Abu Dis and enclosing Ma’ale Adummim, Qedar and the Mishor Adumim factory bloc. The route of the Wall in the Abu Dis area will isolate tens of thousands of dunums. In addition to the confiscation of land, a 200 strong Jahalin Bedouin community lives only meters from Qedar in Wadi Abu Hindi and will either be isolated or expelled.

Egypt to close Rafah crossing on Thursday
Ma’an News Agency 2/4/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Egypt may close the Rafah crossing point into Gaza on Thursday, according to a de facto government spokesperson. Adel Zurub told Ma’an on Wednesday that Egyptian authorities decided to close the crossing in both directions on Thursday, sealing Palestinians inside. Later, however, a Hamas spokesperson said that the de facto government had not been "officially informed" that the crossing would be closed. Egypt has tried to open the Rafah crossing uninterruptedly during Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip so as to transfer injured people to Egypt and to let in medical delegations and humanitarian aid, but some say Cairo’s efforts have not been enough. Egypt closed the crossing point shortly before two unilateral ceasefires between Israel and Hamas went into effect in mid-January, in what appears to be an Egyptian attempt to control traffic into and out of Gaza.

Elections 2009 / Netanyahu: Lieberman will be pivotal minister in my government
Barak Ravid and Ora Koren, Ha’aretz 2/5/2009
A week before general elections, the front-runner in the polls Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that he plans to appoint Yisrael Beitenu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman to a pivotal ministerial position in the government that he will establish once elected. Speaking at a conference attended by some 1,000 people, Netanyahu refrained from attacking Lieberman, his main rival for the Russian sector’s vote, and tried to send a message to Israel’s Russian immigrants that only he, as prime minister, will be able to address their needs. This policy of not attacking Lieberman is not entirely acceptable among the Likud’s Russian members, who criticized the attempt to pass the Likud off as a "central" party rather than right wing. Asia Antov, the head of the volunteer headquarters and the coordinator. . .

US study: IDF didn’t violate laws of war
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 2/4/2009
Israel pursued legitimate military objectives in Gaza despite humanitarian cost, study says - WASHINGTON- Israel did not violate the laws of war during its recent Gaza operation, a new US study says, while praising the IDF’s "impressive improvements" since the war against Hizbullah in 2006. Israel "deliberately used decisive force to enhance regional deterrence and demonstrate that it had restored its military edge," wrote Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "These, however, are legitimate military objectives in spite of their very real humanitarian costs. " The study notes that "political efforts to manipulate the laws of war and humanitarian considerations have become a key weapon in asymmetric warfare, and are often used as a basis for propaganda and gaining political leverage in this type of conflict. -- See also: THE “GAZA WAR”: A Strategic Analysis

Palestinian boycott committee salutes S. African dock workers
Press release, Secretariat of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, Electronic Intifada 2/4/2009
The following press release was issued on 3 February 2009: The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, BNC, warmly salutes the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), a member of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), for its decision today not to offload an Israeli ship that is due to arrive in Durban, South Africa, on 8 February. Coming weeks after the massive Israeli massacre in Gaza, this distinguished expression by SATAWU of effective solidarity with the Palestinian people in general, and with Gaza in particular, sets a historic precedent that reminds us of the first such action during the apartheid era taken by Danish dock workers in 1963, when they decided not to offload ships carrying South African products, triggering a similar boycott in Sweden, England and elsewhere.

Abbas: 90,000 Gazans left homeless
Al Jazeera 2/4/2009
Abbas told the European parliament that Israel should not be allowed to act ’above the law’ - At least 90,000 Palestinians have lost their homes as a result of Israel’s war on Gaza, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has told the European parliament in France. Abbas told politicians gathered in Strasbourg on Wednesday that Israeli blockades and illegal settlement expansion have continued, and called for Israel to answer for its activities. "We should no longer deal with Israel as a state above the law, above all accountability, above international law," Abbas said. "We should put an end to this policy. Israeli leaders should be held accountable for their violations of international and humanitarian law," he added, to applause from European parliament members. Abbas’ speech came shortly after he held talks with the president of the European parliament.

UN says Hamas seized Gaza aid
Al Jazeera 2/4/2009
A United Nations aid agency has accused Hamas of seizing hundreds of food parcels and thousands of blankets destined for civilians in the Gaza Strip. In a statement issued on Wednesday, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency(Unrwa) said the aid supplies had been confiscated from a distribution store by policemen. "The police subsequently broke into the warehouse and seized the aid by force. The aid was due to be distributed to five hundred families in the area. ""This took place after Unrwa staff had earlier refused to hand over the aid supplies to the Hamas-run ministry of social affairs," the statement said. Ahmed al-Kurd, the Hamas government’s social affairs minister, confirmed that the aid had been seized. He said it should be distributed to a wider section of the Gaza population and not. . .

Olmert, Barak, considering further strikes in Gaza
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/4/2009
Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, and his Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, stated that they intend to strike hard against Hamas in the Gaza Strip in retaliation to what they described as homemade shell-fired into nearby Israeli towns. Olmert said that Israel will retaliate "against any provocation", even if the "provocation" is limited, and that the country will not allow Gaza gunmen to keep firing homemade shells into Israel. The statements of Olmert came as he toured Akka Arab town in the north of the country. He added that "calm did not prevail in the south, but it will happen no matter what". Meanwhile, Ehud Barak stated that if Israel realizes that there is no other alternative, it will strike Hamas when and how "the Jewish state sees fit". He added that this strike would be harsher and more devestating than any other previous strike.

No territorial concessions to Palestinians, says Netanyahu
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 2/4/2009
Israel’s rightwing opposition leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, who leads the polls before next week’s parliamentary elections, warned today against giving up any occupied territory to the Palestinians, saying it would be "grabbed by extremists". Under Netanyahu, leader of the Likud party, Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are likely to grow more rapidly, putting Israel at odds with the new US administration. In a speech, Netanyahu said that rather than peace talks with the Palestinians about giving up territory, he favoured economic development - a plan of "economic peace". He has stopped short of endorsing a two-state solution that would see the creation of an independent Palestinian state. It is a stance that is likely to draw criticism from Washington, particularly from new Middle East envoy George Mitchell, who wrote a report in 2001 explicitly calling for a halt to all settlement growth.

Israel: Tuesday’s airstrikes hit five tunnels, 'Hamas outpost'
Ma’an News Agency 2/4/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Three airstrikes on the Gaza Strip on Tuesday were retaliatory, an Israeli military spokesperson said in a statement sent to Ma’an. “In response to the barrage of Qassam rockets, mortar shells, and Grad missiles fired at Israel in recent days, the Israel Air Force attacked a number of targets throughout the Gaza Strip,” the statement said. “The targets included five smuggling tunnels, a rocket launching site and a Hamas outpost,” it added, charging Hamas with “full responsibility” for any attacks originating in Gaza. [end]

Palestinian youth from Gaza dies of wounds sustained in last month’s Israeli offensive
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/4/2009
A Palestinian youth from Gaza was reported dead on Wednesday at an Eygptian hospital after succumbing to wounds he sustained during Israe’sl attacks on Gaza last month. The Palestinian Embassy in Egypt reported that Mithqal Al Rabee, age 23, was moved to Egypt for treatment earlier this week, adding that he is the 31st Palestinian to die in Egyptian hospitals after sustaining wounds in the latest Israeli attacks ’s "Operation Cast Lead". Israel embarked on its latest full-scale military operation on December 27th, 2008, where for 22 days military sea, air and ground forces shelled homes, schools, UN centers, mosques, and Media Agencies, killing nearly 1,341 Palestinians and wounding more than 5,500.

Israelis abduct five Palestinians from Ramallah-area village
Ma’an News Agency 2/4/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Israeli soldiers seized five Palestinians from a village near the central West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday morning. Witnesses told Ma’an that Israeli forces stormed Bil’in village at dawn, ransacking a number of homes before abducting Haytham Abu Rahmah, his brother Ali, Husam Hamad, Qasim Hamad and Fahd Al-Khatib. They were taken to an undisclosed location. On Tuesday, Israel seized at least seven Palestinians from Bethlehem, Jenin and Nablus. [end]

Israeli kidnaps five young men from the village of Bil’in near Ramallah
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/4/2009
Five young men from the village of Bil’in located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah were kidnapped on Wednesday by the Israeli military. Troops stormed the village then raided several houses and searched them. During the search troops took five men away, including: the brothers, Ali and Haitham Hamdan Abu Rahma, and Hosam Mohamed Hamad, Qasim Hassan Hamad, Fahad Jalal Al-Khatib, and they took the detainees to unknown place. Since nearly four years, Bil’in village is the scene of weekly nonviolent protest aginest the Israeli illegal wall being built in the West Bank [end]

Palestinian teenager arrested during clashes with Israeli soldiers near Jenin
Ma’an News Agency 2/4/2009
Jenin – Ma’an – One Palestinian youth was arrested on Wednesday during clashes with Israeli troops in the village of Bartha’a, near the West Bank city of Jenin. According to Tawfiq Qabha a member of the local municipal council, stone-throwing youths confronted Israeli soldiers who had invaded the town, blocking traffic in and out. Specifically, groups of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship were barred from the town. Qabha said that Israeli opened fire on the demonstrators with bullets and tear gas. The clashes were concentrated near a local industrial area. He said that Ziyad Qabha was arrested. [end]

IDF strikes Hamas targets after Grad hits Ashkelon
Yanir Yagna and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 2/5/2009
The Israel Defense Forces hit Hamas positions throughout the Gaza Strip yesterday, after a Grad rocket fired by Gaza militants struck downtown Ashkelon yesterday morning. Meanwhile, Hamas representatives and Egyptian officials continued discussing a cease-fire with Israel in Cairo. No Palestinians were killed in the IDF attacks, which included Israel Air Force strikes on Hamas positions in Beit Lahiya and Khan Yunis, and on tunnels along the Egypt-Gaza border at Rafah. Three people were treated for shock after the Grad strike in Ashkelon, which damaged cars in the area. "Hamas is playing with fire, and if there is an escalation now, Hamas has no one to blame but itself," said Mark Regev, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s spokesman. The Grad that struck Ashkelon was the first such rocket to be fired at the city since a cease-fire ended Israel’s 22-day offensive in Gaza last month.

Gaza militants fire mortar shell at western Negev
Yanir Yagna, Ha’aretz 2/4/2009
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday launched a mortar shell at southern Israel, which exploded in the Eshkol Regional Council. There were no casualties reported in the incident, which came a day after Gaza militants fired the first Grad rocket at Israel since the end of the Israel Defense Forces’ 22-day offensive against the Hamas-ruled coastal territory. Three people were treated for shock after the attack, which also caused damage to property. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the IDF to launch reprisal attacks against Hamas targets following the Tuesday morning attack. Olmert vowed the "smallest provocation would bring the harshest reaction" until the rocket fire on Israel ceased. Hours later, an Israel Air Force aircraft bombed smuggling tunnels connecting Gaza with Egypt, as well as Hamas training position in the central strip. There were no casualties in those incidents.

IDF to doctor: Mistakes happen
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 2/4/2009
Army presents conclusions of inquiry into death of Gaza doctor’s three daughters; IDF says troops fired at from nearby site, adds that it does not intend to take action against forces involved in incident - The IDF presented Gaza doctor Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish Wednesday with the conclusions of an inquiry into the death of his three daughters during Operation Cast Lead. The army’s investigation, approved by Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, revealed that an IDF tank fired two shells at the house after fire was opened at troops from a nearby area. The probe also showed that troops spotted figures at the top floors of the building helping to direct Palestinian fire at Golani forces. Abu al-Aish was briefed on the findings Wednesday morning by the Coordination and Liaison Authority at Erez crossing. The IDF said it regrets the death of innocents.

Army admits to killing family members of a Palestinian physician in Gaza
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/4/2009
The Israeli army admitted on Wednesday that three of the daughters of Dr. Abu Ammash, and his niece, were killed by an artillery shell fired by the soldiers during the latest war on Gaza. The Doctor, Iz Ed-Deen Yaish, works at an Israeli hospital. The Israeli army had no choice but to admit to the crime since it occurred while the Doctor was in a live interview with the Israeli TV -- Channel 2. The Israeli army claimed that Palestinian sharpshooters opened fire at troops invading the area and that the soldiers fired a shell at a home believed to be used as a surveillance point by Palestinian fighters. The army also claimed that military helicopters dropped leaflets in the area ordering the residents to leave their homes. The slain family members of the Gazan Doctor were identified as his three daughters, Bissam, 20, Mayar, 15, and Aya, 14, in addition to his niece Nour.

Ten Israeli NGOs mount call for investigation into ’war on Gaza’
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/4/2009
Tel Aviv - Ten Israeli human rights organizations are investigating the course of aggression of their own military against the Gaza Strip. Part legal, part public perception, the campaign began with a declaration in a Hebrew daily. Published in Haaretz, the campaign focuses on shedding light on the realities of the Gaza Strip during the 23 days of major attacks that killed more than 1,330 Palestinians and injured over 5,000. "We must take responsibility and investigate what happened in Gaza," the group of 10 wrote, citing a declaration in the Israeli Supreme Court made by officials in January that equated the state with democracy and human rights. The current call for investigation into what was referred to by many as "war on Gaza" focuses on the three week attacks on Gaza, and not other major and daily aggressions of the occupation.

ICC Investigating Israel War Crimes Charges
Daniel Luban, Inter Press Service 2/5/2009
NEW YORK, Feb 3(IPS) - The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague announced a preliminary analysis Tuesday into whether Israel committed war crimes during the recent Gaza war, following the Palestinian National Authority’s (PNA) move to recognise the ICC’s authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Whether the ICC has jurisdiction in Gaza is expected to be a highly contentious legal issue, and the ICC investigation comes at a time of heightened debate over the legality of Israel’s Gaza campaign under international law. This renewed debate has come about in large part due to statements made by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday, in which he appeared to enshrine "disproportionate" response to provocations as official Israeli government policy. On Tuesday, ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo made public a Jan.

Gaza War Crimes Probe Mulled
Aaron Gray-Block, MIFTAH 2/4/2009
The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor in The Hague has launched a "preliminary analysis" to establish whether Israel committed war crimes in its offensive in the Gaza Strip, the prosecutor said on Tuesday. Documents also showed that the Palestinian National Authority has recognised the jurisdiction of the ICC, in a move designed to allow investigations of alleged crimes in the Palestinian territories. The ICC prosecutor’s office said it had received 210 communications from individuals and non-governmental organisations regarding events in Gaza. " The office of the prosecutor will carefully examine all relevant issues, including on jurisdiction," the prosecutor said in a statement. The Israeli army waged a three-week war in Gaza against Hamas militants, but Israeli officials deny accusations of war crimes arising from the fighting.

International court investigating war crimes in Gaza
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/4/2009
Bethlehem - The International Criminal Court has taken under advisement requests to try Israeli leaders for the commission of war crimes during several attacks on Gaza. ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo says that an official decision to prosecute will not come quickly. Studying "the legality will take some time," he said last night. Moreno-Ocampo reports that some 150 communications of various charges of war crimes committed against Gaza have been received. Palestinian and international human rights groups are demanding action by the ICC and local courts. Among the major cases pending include that in the Spanish National Court of an attack in Gaza dating back to 2002. Charges of war crimes are notoriously difficult to prosecute due, but the recent Israeli attacks left clear evidence such as the use of white phosphorus bombs in heavily populated neighborhoods of Gaza City.

U.N. Chief Sets Bar High in Aftermath of Gaza
Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service 2/5/2009
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 4(IPS) - When Ban Ki-moon visited Gaza after the destructive bombing of a U. N. compound last month, the usually reticent secretary-general lashed out at the Israelis, accusing them of using "excessive force" and describing the assault as "an outrageous and totally unacceptable attack against the United Nations". The harsh comments came as a surprise because a day earlier he had told reporters in Jerusalem that Israel "is a responsible member of the United Nations"- despite the continued violations of humanitarian law by the Israelis and the killings of over 1,300 Palestinians, mostly civilians, in the 22-day conflict. But the overwhelming devastation of the U. N. compound - considered a safe haven for refugees fleeing the conflict - probably left a lasting negative impression on the secretary-general.

UN backtracks on claim that IDF strike hit Gaza school
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 2/5/2009
The United Nations has reversed its stance on one of the most contentious and bloody incidents of the recent Israel Defense Forces operation in Gaza, saying that an IDF mortar strike that killed 43 people on January 6 did not hit a United Nations Relief and Works Agency school after all. The UN apparently has been under pressure to correct the record, after doubts arose over whether the school actually had been targeted. Maxwell Gaylord, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Jerusalem, said Monday that the IDF mortar shells fell in the street near the compound, and not on the compound itself. Gaylord said the UN "would like to clarify that the shelling and all of the fatalities took place outside and not inside the school. " UNRWA, an agency whose sole purpose is to work with Palestinian refugees, said in response yesterday that it had maintained from. . .

Mandela Institute: Israel uses prohibited interrogation means against prisoners
Palestinian Information Center 2/2/2009
NABLUS, (PIC)-- The Mandela institute for human rights revealed Monday that Israeli interrogators use prohibited investigation means with the Palestinian prisoners in the Jalame prison including the intensive use of lie detector tests, adding that the prisoners are denied any visits by lawyers and the Red Cross, and some of them are isolated and threatened with punishing and detaining their relatives. In a report received by the PIC, the institute said that the prison administration prevented its lawyer from meeting prisoners Shaker Abu Awwad and Tayseer Nubani at the pretext that their visit was prohibited by the Israeli intelligence and told him that other prisoners had been taken to the Megiddo prison. The report touched on the suffering of prisoner Fadi Al-Barri who had been exposed to various forms of harsh interrogation since his arrest on 12/1/2009.

Two Palestinians freed after 18-year terms in Israeli prison
Ma’an News Agency 2/4/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Thousnds of Palestinians from the northern West Bank town of Kafr Thulth welcomes two Fatah-affailited prisoners who were released from Israeli prison after 18 years on Tuesday. The two prisoners, Amjad Audah and Theib Audah, were welcomed by relatives and traditional Palestinian songs, a celebration one onlooker described as “like a wedding party. ”Upon arrival, Amjad’s mother hugged him, joining in the singing. Theib headed to the town’s cemetery to visit the graves of his mother, who died in 2002, and his brother, who was killed by Israeli forces during the first Intifada. Thousands of Palestinian citizens from the northern West Bank town of Kafr Thulth along with representative on Monday welcomed two Fatah-affiliated prisoners Amjad ‘Audah and Theib ‘Audah who were released from Israeli jail after serving 18-year sentence.

Political prisoners to record experiences under interrogation to help others survive
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/4/2009
Gaza -- Palestinian factions are re-accounting the culture of resilience in the cellars of interrogation, says expert on the affairs of political prisoners, Abdel Nasser Ferwana. Through the adoption of a clear strategy with consistent aims, victories could be won by sheer tenacity, Ferwana said today, but preparation is lacking. "At the hands of Israeli interrogators hundreds of cases reveal that there is great steadfastness among those who are subjected to detention or arrest and just as many who falter," said the former Palestinian Authority official. A mistake was made, he said, in emphasizing the culture of fierce resistance and sacrificial operations. Ferwana said this was blown out of proportion in the press due to statements made and written by factions that attempted to make more out of that one aspect of the Al Aqsa Intifada that proportionally was minor.

Israel-Hamas War Deals Blow to Schools in Gaza
Karin Laub, MIFTAH 2/4/2009
The jewel of Gaza’s bare-bones education system — a U. S. -style school on lush grounds overlooking the Mediterranean — is now a mound of broken concrete. The territory’s only laboratory for genetic testing, at a Gaza university, lies in ruins. With 37 primary and secondary schools destroyed or damaged by air strikes, and 18 others still serving as refugee shelters, learning in Gaza has become even more of a struggle. Israel says the attacks on schools struck militants and a weapons lab during its three-week war against Hamas. Gaza educators say Israel hasn’t provided proof to back up its claims, adding the strikes on some of its best educational institutions set back efforts to develop the impoverished territory. Even before the offensive, overcrowding had forced most of Gaza’s 380 primary and secondary schools to run morning and afternoon shifts of no more than four hours each to accommodate 450,000 students.

1,373rd victim of Israel’s assault on Gaza succumbs to wounds
Ma’an News Agency 2/4/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Palestinian medical sources reported that 23-year-old Mithqal Jamal Ata Ar-Rabi died on Wednesday morning of injuries sustained during Israel’s assault on Gaza. He died at an Egyptian hospital, where hundreds of injured Palestinians have been taken during and after the three-week onslaught. Mu’awiyyah Hassanein, head of the de facto Health Ministry’s Ambulance and Emergency Services Department, told Ma’an that Ar-Rabi’s body will be returned sometime on Wednesday. His death brings the overall toll of Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip since 27 December to 1,373. Some 5,000 others were injured, as well. Hassanein added that about 30 Palestinian patients have been transferred through the Rafah crossing into Egypt on a daily basis, as well as other Arab and European hospitals. On Thursday, Egypt will close the Rafah crossing point into Gaza, according to a de facto government spokesperson.

PRC: Fighters ready to oppose any attack on Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/4/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, the An-Nasser Salah Ad-Din Brigades said on Wednesday that they are prepared to oppose Israeli attacks on Gaza ‘at any time. ’Abu Mujahid, the spokesman for the Brigades, made this pronouncement on the one-year anniversary of one of the movement’s leaders named Abu Musa’ed. Abu Mujahid said that right of Palestinians to resist occupation “flows from the blood of the martyrs. ”He pointed out that throughout Israel was unable during its three-week offensive on the Gaza Strip, to stop Palestinians from firing homemade rockets into Israel. [end]

Hamas: Damascus leadership to study Gaza ceasefire proposal
Ma’an News Agency 2/4/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Egypt’s proposal for a ceasefire between Gaza and Israel needs further scrutiny and explanation before it can be approved, Hamas said on Wednesday. A Hamas spokesperson in Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum, told Ma’an that Egypt’s proposal needs to be reviewed by the Hamas leadership in exile. A delegation of Hamas leaders are in Cairo where they are engaged in indirect negotiations with Israel regarding the ceasefire proposal. The Hamas movement’s top leaders are based in Damascus, Syria. In the same regard, other Palestinian factions say they will not oppose a ceasefire on the condition that Egypt guarantees that Israel will lift its crippling blockade of gaza. Senior Islamic Jihad leader Khalid Al-Batsh told Ma’an that his movement and other factions would not oppose a ceasefire if Israel opens Gaza’s borders and stops attacks against the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Mubarak rebukes Hamas over Gaza war
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 2/4/2009
Egyptian president slams Hamas for objecting to efforts to prolong Gaza ceasefire -Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak condemned Hamas and Iran in a speech Wednesday, and hinted that Hamas was responsible for the fighting in Gaza. "Why did the resistance factions object to our attempts to prolong the ceasefire? And why did they not heed our warnings that their positions constitute an open invitation for an Israeli assault? Was this planned and deliberate? For whose benefit? "Mubarak said. Hinting at Hamas Politburo Chief Khaled Mashaal, Mubarak said, "For how long will Arab blood be shed, only to listen to those who admit their mistakes later, because they didn’t calculate Israel’s response correctly; and to those who wave resistance slogans over the corpses of casualties, the ruins, and the destruction? " "The resistance does not entail slogans that. . .

Egyptian president: Hamas miscalculated Israeli response
Ma’an News Agency 2/4/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak leveled scathing criticism against Hamas on Wednesday, blaming the Hamas movement for underestimating the Israeli response to attacks from Gaza. "How long will Arab blood continue to be spilled, only to hear those who admit to miscalculating the scope and scale of Israel’s response? "Mubarak asked in a speech marking Egypt’s national day to honor its police force. Mubarak’s comment came in reference to remarks reportedly made by Hamas political leader Khalik Mashal, who admitted at the end of the three-week Israeli war on the Gaza Strip that he did not expect Israel to retaliate on such a massive scale. Mubarak said that Hamas should have extended its six-month ceasefire with Israel when it expired in December, heeding Egypt’s warnings. "The resistance must take into account victories and losses.

South African dock workers refuse to unload Israeli cargo
Ma’an News Agency 2/4/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – South African dock workers announced their refusal to offload cargo from a ship carrying goods from Israel scheduled to arrive in Durban on Sunday. It follows the decision by dock workers there to strengthen the campaign in South Africa for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against “apartheid” Israel, a statement said. The pledge by union members in Durban “reflects the commitment by South African workers to refuse to support oppression and exploitation across the globe,” the workers said. Last year, Durban dock workers refused to offload a shipment of arms that had arrived from China and was destined for Zimbabwe to prop up the Mugabe regime. Now, the union’s members are committing themselves to not handling Israeli goods, according to General Secretary Randall Howard. In 1963, just four years after the Anti-Apartheid Movement was formed, Danish dock workers refused to offload a ship with South African goods.

Report: South African ports to reject Israeli ships
Ynetnews, YNetNews 2/4/2009
Congress of South African Trade Unions vows to close ports to ships carrying goods to, from ’apartheid Israel,’ local daily reports. Jewish Board of Deputies says decision election stunt - The Congress of South African Trade Unions has vowed to close ports to cargo ships from "apartheid Israel," the South African Daily News reported on Wednesday. The Congress has already announced it would refuse to offload a vessel scheduled to dock in Durban on Sunday. According to the report, this will be the second time COSATU’s affiliate, the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU,) refuses to unload goods from or destined to "dictatorial and oppressive rogue states," which include Israel, Zimbabwe and Swaziland. A statement issued by COSATU said "This follows the decision by COSATU to strengthen the campaign in South Africa for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against apartheid Israel.

Asylum-seekers detained, harassed
Tamar Dressler/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2/5/2009
TEL AVIV, 4 February 2009 (IRIN) - Several African asylum-seekers with temporary documents issued by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) have been detained by the Israeli immigration police over the past few months, prompting fear and agitation. The temporary papers state that the person carrying them is in the process of status determination and should not be detained. Marie from Côte d’Ivoire told IRIN: “They are arresting people in the streets, even those who have [valid] papers; we are afraid to leave our homes. ”B. , a Ghanaian foreign worker, told IRIN: “This is just like it was four years ago. They [the immigration police] are hunting down asylum-seekers. ”Immigration police were established in 2002 to handle the large migrant workers’ community in Israel. They were criticised by rights groups and sections of the media for their brutal methods in 2003-2005 during which nearly 50,000 illegal migrant workers were deported.

Rabbi Eliezer, a Filipino fifth-grader, faces deportion
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 2/5/2009
Rabbi Eliezer Cruz, age 11, is a fifth-grader at Bialik High School in Tel Aviv. He does his homework in Hebrew, watches Hebrew-language television and, since his school specializes in the children of foreign workers, speaks Hebrew to his friends from Spain, Ghana, France and Russia. Christopher Cruz says he named his son Rabbi Eliezer after one of the heroes in the Second Book of Maccabees, because "I wanted to give him an Israeli name. "One language Rabbi Eliezer does not speak is Tagalog, the native tongue of his Filipino parents. Nevertheless, he and family, along with 35 others, are soon to be deported, because the children do not meet all the legal criteria for residency. They meet most of them: All were born here or have lived here long enough, all speak Hebrew and attend Israeli schools.

Pray for rain: huge losses in agriculture
Hiba Lama, Palestine News Network 2/4/2009
PNN exclusive - Hazem Shaaban has 45 square dunams of land in Jalame. From this the farmer normally supports his family with food and the proceeds from sales. This year is different, however. The drought that seized the West Bank last year continues to cripple with this northern town receiving almost no water. "This is registering as the worst year in at least 10," says the Palestinian Water Authority. Farmers throughout Palestine have necessarily changed their usual crops to those that require little moisture. "We expect rain every day, and pray for it, but it is still absent from our land. This is our livelihood, our source of living. "Fear is seeping in throughout the West Bank as farmers watch heavy losses mount with a continuing dry season. At just 45 percent of the rain of last year, this winter has proven so dry that monetary losses in the agriculture sector alone are estimated in the tens of thousands of shekels.

Cost of living raises for Gaza Strip and West Bank
Ali Samoudi, Palestine News Network 2/4/2009
PNN exclusive -- Prices are spiraling out of control with families unable to keep up. The unions are trying to take care of the workers they represent, but the Palestinian economy was struggling under closure and occupation long before the global market failure that became pronounced in 2008. Bassam Zakarneh delivered good news to public sector employees today, including civil service and military personnel. The Palestinian Ministry of Finance will issue January payments on Sunday and within them will be a cost of living increase. "Based on an agreement with the Government and the Ministry of Finance, salaries will be disbursed for the first time since beginning the national application of the Law of Civil Service with cost of living raises included for the month," the head of the Union of Civil Service announced.

UN accuses Hamas of seizing Gaza aid
Ma’an News Agency 2/4/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The United Nations’ relief agency for Palestinian refugees on Wednesday accused the Hamas-run government in Gaza of seizing thousands of blankets and food parcels from a warehouse. In a statement the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) said that Hamas-allied police confiscated 3,500 blankets and 406 food parcels from a distribution center in the Beach refugee camp in Gaza at 2:30pm on Tuesday. “This took place after UNRWA staff had earlier refused to hand over the aid supplies to the Hamas-run Ministry of Social Affairs. The police subsequently broke into the warehouse and seized the aid by force. The aid was due to be distributed to five hundred families in the area,” the statement said. The de facto government has "categorically denied" the accusations, according to a statement that appeared on the Palestinian Information Center, a Hamas-linked news service.

UN: Hamas stole from Gaza warehouse
Brenda Gazzar And Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post 2/4/2009
Armed Hamas policemen broke into a Gaza City warehouse and took thousands of blankets and hundreds of food packages intended for UNRWA refugees, an official from the relief agency said on Wednesday. The incident took place on Tuesday after the Social Affairs Ministry tried to confiscate food and other supplies that were being transported to UNRWA’s storage facilities and the agency’s staff resisted, said John Ging, the organization’s operations director in the Gaza Strip. A few Hamas policemen took 3,500 blankets and more than 400 food packages prepared for distribution from an UNRWA warehouse on Tuesday afternoon, he said. "They took it under gunpoint," Ging told The Jerusalem Post from the UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City. "My staff had resisted earlier the confiscation of the convoy, as they are absolutely instructed to do. "

UNRWA: Palestinian Police in Gaza confiscates aid supplies
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/4/2009
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees "UNRWA" reported on Wednesday that the Palestinian police have confiscated aid supplies from the Agency’s warehouse in Gaza City on Tuesday. [end]

Fatah lawmaker: Media exposed Israel’s war crimes in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/4/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Fatah lawmaker Ashraf Jum’ah on Wednesday applauded media coverage of the three-week Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip for exposing “war crimes” committed by Israeli forces. During a visit to Ma’an’s office in Gaza City, Jum’ah lauded local journalists for fulfilling a patriotic duty to report on the war in spite of the danger to them. During the visit, Jum’ah pointed out that serious diplomatic progress could be made towards consolidating a ceasefire and reopening Gaza’s border crossings. He said that Palestinian national unity through dialogue is a necessity, in order to bring the Palestinian cause back to the forefront of the international agenda.

Abbas asks EU to send peacekeepers to Middle East
Ma’an News Agency 2/4/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday urged the European Union to send peacekeepers to the Middle East. "The time has come for the international community to bear its legal, political and moral responsibilities and provide it with adequate international protection," Abbas told the European Parliament in Strasbourg. "I would like to stress again our request to send international forces in order to protect our people," he said. He also called on the EU to assist in future elections in the Palestinian Authority, and support any national unity government that may emerge in the future. "I hope you will help us organize such elections and oversee them," Abbas told European lawmakers. He also urged the international community to press Israel to open the Gaza Strip’s borders, and to prevent a repeat of Israel’s massive assault on the territory.

Fayyad: PA seeking 600 million dollars in international funds to rebuild Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/4/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – The Fatah-run Palestinian government based in the West Bank city of Ramallah announced on Wednesday a 600 million dollar reconstruction and aid program for the Gaza Strip. Fayyad said that most of the funds would come from foreign donors, adding that the details of the program will be announced in the coming days. Egypt is to host an international conference in coordination with the Palestinian Authority on 2 March to raise funds for the reconstruction process. It has been estimated that 2 billion US dollars will be needed. In a press conference in the Best Eastern Hotel in Ramallah in the central West Bank, Fayyad announced that the PA would pay 67 million US dollars for Gaza relief and reconstruction. According to Fayyad’s plan the PA itself will provide 50 million dollars for temporary housing and other immediate needs, and another 17 million dollars to repair electricity, water, and sanitation networks.

Kingdom Asks Palestinians to Be ’Realistic’
Abdul Ghafour, MIFTAH 2/4/2009
Saudi Arabia yesterday urged the Palestinians to adopt a new and realistic concept of resistance that would realize their unity, strengthen their legitimate organizations, protect their lives and properties and ensure their legitimate rights. The Council of Ministers, chaired by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, also emphasized the need to strengthen Arab unity and cautioned against certain countries that hide their regional ambitions under the cover of supporting Arab and Muslim causes. The Cabinet told Palestinian factions that there was no option except their unity. It also gave a new direction to Arab and Islamic communities, saying they should follow the way of economic, social and cultural development, stick to the highest Islamic goals and be ready to have dialogue with other cultures and peoples. The Kingdom called for joint legal, political and economic endeavors to confront the policies of Israel and its supporters.

U.S.-allied Arab states take Abbas’ side in row with Hamas
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/5/2009
ABU DHABI - Foreign ministers of U. S. -allied Arab states meeting in Abu Dhabi yesterday said they were seeking to consolidate Arab support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in his row with Islamist group Hamas. "Our aim is to boost Arab solidarity, to mobilize our backing for the Arab peace initiative and to bolster support for the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas," the United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan told. Sheikh Abdullah said ministers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen and the Palestinian Authority also backed the Palestine Liberation Organization as the "sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people," after Hamas called for it to be replaced by a body less dominated by allies of Abbas.

Fayyad: PA delaying payment of salaries in order to finance Gaza aid
Ma’an News Agency 2/4/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – The Palestinian Authority has delayed the payment of public employees’ salaries this month in order to finance aid to the Gaza Strip, saidPalestinian caretaker Prime Minister Dr. Salam Fayyad on Wednesday. Fayyad announced the “short” delay at a conference in Ramallah on integrity and accountability in the Palestinian Authority. [end]

Fatah leader: Revolutionary Council to convene soon
Ma’an News Agency 2/4/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Fatah’s Revolutionary Council could convene on 15 or 16 February in the central West Bank city of Ramallah, an official said on Wednesday. Abu An-Naja, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and Higher Committee, on Wednesday described an upcoming session as one of “great importance, as critical issues will be discussed. ”Abu An-Naja told Ma’an that on the agenda is the current political situation, as well as Fatah’s sixth conference, which will be scheduled soon. Other discussions will resolve financial and political practicalities, he said. With regard to the current situation in Gaza, Abu An-Naja said a committee appointed by the Palestinian Legislative Council has not yet completed its investigation, but the results are expected to include a number of new revelations.

Poll: 57% of Palestinians see Hamas strengthened by Gaza war
Ma’an News Agency 2/4/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – Fifty-seven percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza believe that Hamas is stronger now than it was before the Israeli offensive in December and January, a new opinion poll suggests. The poll, released on Wednesday by researchers at An-Najah National University in the West Bank city of Nablus, was conducted between 1 and 2 February with a sample size of 1361 people in the West Bank and Gaza. Other key findings of the poll:39. 9% of respondents supported military operations by Palestinian resistance factions even after agreeing on a truce. As to whom the funds for rebuilding the Gaza Strip should be given, 19. 8% said that the Palestinian Authority should be in charge of these funds, 18. 1% said Hamas, 22. 3% said a national committee from all Palestinian factions, and 21. 1% said the UNRWA should be in charge.

Where is Mahmoud Az-Zahhar?
Ma’an News Agency 2/4/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Az-Zahhar has made only one appearance since Israel’s assault on Gaza began on 27 December. Since the sole television interview during the first few days of the war, Az-Zahhar seems to have disappeared. Some Israeli officers say he was injured during the war, though no one is quite sure how seriously. According to Hebrew-language newspaper Ma’ariv, Az-Zahhar was smuggled into Egypt in an ambulance after being wounded, although the Israeli sources did not comment on the extent of his alleged injuries. Az-Zahhar, who also reportedly shaved his beard, is currently at his mother’s home in Al-Arish, the Israeli officers believe. But the newspaper speculated that his disappearance likely will not affect the negotiations underway in Cairo on a potential ceasefire, saying that if Az-Zahhar really fled to Egypt while 1.

Palestine Today 020409
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 2/4/2009
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| 4 m 00s ||3. 66 MB || Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center www. imemc. org, for Wednesday, February 4th, 2009. Israel destroys homes in Jerusalem while a Palestinian in Gaza is reported dead due to wounds sustained by earlier military attacks, these stories and more coming up stay tuned. The News Cast A Palestinian youth from Gaza was reported dead on Wednesday at an Egyptian hospital after succumbing to wounds he sustained during Israel’s attacks on Gaza last month. The Palestinian Embassy in Egypt reported that Mithqal Al Rabee, 23, was moved to Egypt for treatment earlier this week, adding that he is the 31st Palestinian to die in Egyptian hospitals. Israel embarked on its latest full-scale military operation on December 27th, 2008.

Israel minister calls for killing of Hamas leader
Middle East Online 2/4/2009
TEL AVIV - An Israeli cabinet minister publicly called on Wednesday for the assassination of senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniya, whose democratically elected government controls the Gaza Strip. "The next step in our operations should be the elimination of the terrorist Haniya," Housing Minister Zeev Boim of the centre-right Kadima party told military radio. "This is the only way to end the rocket fire against Israel," said Boim, who has no authority on security decisions. Israel has assassinated a large number of Hamas officials in the past, most notably its spiritual guide and founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was handicapped in a wheelchair, in 2004. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert threatened on Tuesday "the severest riposte" against Gaza after a rocket was fired on an Israeli town, which was in retaliation to Israeli attacks after the new ceasefire.

Lieberman was involved in radical right Kach movement
Lily Galili, Ha’aretz 2/5/2009
Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman was once a member of the outlawed far-right party Kach, Haaretz learned yesterday. Former Kach secretary general Yossi Dayan said he issued Lieberman, a prime ministerial candidate whose current electoral campaign against Israeli Arabs has provoked outrage, with a party membership card when he was still a new immigrant to Israel. " I don’t recall to what extent he was active in the movement, but if he denies [this], I am ready to testify in any forum that Lieberman was indeed a member for a short amount of time," said Dayan. Kach was banned from the 1988 Knesset elections for inciting to racism. Ultra-nationalist activist Avigdor Eskin, meanwhile, remembers meeting Lieberman at Kahane’s office on Ussishkin Street in Jerusalem. "I remember this very well, because I arrived there one day after I immigrated to Israel in 1979," he said.

Avigdor Lieberman: Harnessing the Russians of southern Israel and beyond
Peter Beaumont, The Guardian 2/4/2009
Ultra-rightwing leader’s security views strike chord beyond immigrants from former USSR to Israelis across nation - They are people who are attracted by Lieberman’s harsh talk about transferring Israeli-Arab towns such as Umm al-Fahm out of Israel; insisting on a loyalty test for Arabs, and an ultra-hardline take on security issues regarding Palestinians. -- The first thing I notice is the nails. I’m in the campaign office of Yisrael Beiteinu, the ultranationalist party of Avigdor Lieberman, in the Mediterranean city of Ashdod. Most of the volunteers are women of a "certain age". And I’m fixated on their nails. There are nails in two colours. Built-up false nails. And long, pampered nails that curve to dull points like the unsheathed claws of cats. They tick-tick-tick on keyboards of the office’s computers. Pick at stickers on the campaign board.

Netanyahu attempts to woo back voters from Israel Beiteinu
Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 2/4/2009
Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu, whose return to the Prime Minister’s Office is being threatened by the meteoric rise of Israel Beiteinu in the polls, began an effort on Wednesday to return voters who have left the Likud in recent days. The Likud’s lead over Kadima has fallen to as little as three seats, even though Kadima has remained stagnant, because, according to a Ma’agar Mohot poll broadcast on Channel 2 last night, the Likud has lost six seats, including three to Israel Beiteinu, since the police intensified its investigation of Israel Beiteinu leader, Avigdor Lieberman, last week. The poll showed Israel Beiteinu receiving 19 seats. The Likud led with 26 mandates, followed by Kadima at 23 and Labor with 13. Netanyahu reached out to voters who intend to cast their ballots for Israel Beiteinu by reassuring them that a vote for the Likud would guarantee Lieberman a senior ministry. He spoke to Lieberman’s core constituency at a massive rally at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds in which his speech was translated into Russian.

National security again to dominate Israeli elections
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 2/4/2009
[Includes audio report] With less than a week to go before Israel holds elections, the rival candidates are locked in fierce debate not about whether the devastating war in Gaza went too far, but whether it went far enough. Once again the challenge of national security will dominate the vote at a time when, as far as opinion polls predict, the country’s political mood has shifted dramatically to the right. Binyamin Netanyahu, leader of the opposition Likud party, is ahead in the polls and widely predicted to be the next prime minister. Three years ago the public elected the centrist Kadima party to head a government that talked boldly of drawing up final borders for the Jewish state. It was to be a decisive, unilateral act that would allow Israel to embrace its major settlement blocs, effectively colonies in the occupied West Bank, while dividing itself off once and for all from Palestinians.

Settlers pin electoral hopes on Israeli far right
Middle East Online 2/4/2009
HEBRON, West Bank - Noam Arnon has little faith in Israeli politicians but hopes next week’s election will yield a shift to the right and ease what he says is the plight of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank. "The reality in the settlements is worse than ever before. The government does not allow for natural growth," says Arnon, a Jewish settler in the Palestinian West Bank city of Hebron. He sat in a Jewish restaurant by the steps that lead to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, holy to both Jews and Muslims. A few metres (yards) away is the Jewish enclave where some 600 illegal settlers live under heavy Israeli military occupation protection, surrounded by 170,000 Palestinians (the original inhabitants of the land). "We hope the elections will make a difference," says Arnon, a leader of Hebron’s Jewish settlement, one of the most contentious in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Lieberman was a member of the Kach Terrorist Group
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/4/2009
Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported Tuesday that Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Betinu Party and a current candidate for Prime Minister in the upcoming elections, was a member of the Kach terrorist group which is outlawed by Israel. Yossi Dayan, secretary-general of the movement, said that when Lieberman first immigrated into Israel, he joined the movement, and Dayan himself was the person who issued his membership ID card. At the time, Lieberman emigrated from Moldovia, and became an active member in the movement. Dayan added that he is willing to testify in front of any committee to confirm his statements, and added that Lieberman was a Kach member for a short period. Also, Ultra-nationalist activist, Avigdor Eskin, said that he met Lieberman several times at the movement’s office in Jerusalem, Haaretz reported.

Elections 2009 / Poll reveals: The game is not over yet
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/4/2009
Less than a week ahead of the February 10 elections, Kadima has dramatically narrowed the gap between itself and chief rival Likud, a recent poll suggests. The poll, conducted by the Maagar Mohot Survey Institute and made public on Channel 2 Wednesday, reveals that Kadima is now only 3 Knesset seats away from Likud’s 26 seats. It appears that since the last Channel 2 poll, Likud has lost 6 seats. The poll predicts Labor Party, headed by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, will win 13 seats, while MK Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu is expected to win 19 seats. The poll was conducted among 1,894 participants over the course of the last three days. The current poll also takes into account two thirds of the undecided votes, which may account for the dramatic number changes since the last poll.

Tough-talking Lieberman offers southern comfort on successful road trip
Abe Selig, Jerusalem Post 2/4/2009
Taking a moment to regroup before setting out on a whirlwind tour of the South on Wednesday, Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman sat with his staff at a road stop near Yad Mordechai, casually sipping a cup of tea. Lieberman’s campaign workers were busy preparing their cars and minibuses - all covered in Israeli flags and party stickers - before the day’s journey, when a middle-aged woman approached and launched into an impassioned speech. "He’s the kind of leader we’ve been waiting for," the woman said, pointing at Lieberman. A news crew on hand, waiting to accompany Lieberman, began filming her. "He knows how to talk to them in their own language," she said. "They’ll understand him. " Given the proximity of Yad Mordechai to the Gaza Strip - just a few kilometers. . .

Election Day: Arab-Jewish clash brewing
Sharon Roffe-Ofir, YNetNews 2/4/2009
Umm al-Fahm’s municipal government decides to block all entrances to Arab town on Election Day to prevent far rightist Baruch Marzel from entering community; police to bear full responsibility for developments, local activist says - The National Union has appointed far rightist Baruch Marzel as an Election Day observer in Umm al-Fahm, but the Arab town’s municipal government says it will not let him enter the community. "We will block all the entrances to the town and the police will bear the full responsibility for what goes on that day," said Raja Agbaria of the Village Sons movement, following a unanimous city hall decision to prevent Marzel’s arrival. Responding to the reports, Marzel told Ynet that he will insist on arriving in Umm al-Fahm despite the objections.

Netanyahu vows to topple Hamas
Al Jazeera 2/4/2009
Benyamin Netanyahu, widely tipped to become Israel’s prime minister after elections next week, has vowed to topple the Hamas movement in Gaza, calling the Palestinian group an "Iranian proxy". Addressing the annual Herzliya security conference on Wednesday, Netanyahu said: "In the end of the day there will be no choice but to remove the Iranian threat in Gaza. "There will be no escape from toppling the Hamas regime which is the Iranian proxy in the Gaza Strip," he said. "This is the real threat we are facing. "If I’m elected, the biggest, most important task of my government will be to fend off the Iranian threat in all aspects," he said. "It will oblige us to work on all fronts, including harnessing the US administration to stop the threat.

Tibi compares Lieberman to Haider
YNetNews 2/4/2009
Arab MK says Yisrael Beiteinu head worse than Haider, Le Pen because while they directed their racism towards foreigners, he directs it towards his own people. Tibi says Livni worries him more than Lieberman - In a debate held at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem on Wednesday, National Union MK Arieh Eldad and United Arab List-Ta’al Chairman Ahmad Tibi discovered that they share a common enemy: Yisrael Beiteinu’s leader Avigdor Lieberman. Although the debate, which was attended by about a hundred students, focused mainly on the enormous ideological differences between the two parties, the MKs did not miss the chance to attack the current elections’ most controversial figure. "I’m unfazed by Lieberman’s blabber, I despise him," said Tibi.

Balad vows to fight Zionism from within
Sharon Roffe-Ofir, YNetNews 2/5/2009
Arab leaders mull elections boycott; activist says ’there is no such thing as Jewish democracy’ - To vote or not to vote? That was the dilemma confronted by members of Arab factions not running in the elections during a conference in Sakhnin Wednesday. The panel, summoned by the Sakhnin Municipality, was opened by the city’s mayor, who said that those who refrain from voting will be boosting far Right parties. Awad al-Fatah, secretary-general of Balad, said he is in favor of voting. "I would be the last to scorn the call to boycott (the elections. ) We are not arguing with the Village Sons about historical data. Israel was indeed established on the ruins of the Palestinian people evicted from their land," he said. "Yet what are our weapons when Israel is already an existing fact? " "The elections are part of the means available the us; we seek to fight Zionism within its own home," he said.

Jews who support Arab parties: We seek true equality
YNetNews 2/4/2009
Balad, United Arab List-Ta’al boast small but loyal Jewish electorate, which they hope to increase in upcoming elections. ’Balad’s platform talks of full civil equality and I believe this is the right track,’ says one supporter - Although their electorate is predominately Arab, the Balad and United Arab List-Ta’al parties also boast a loyal Jewish support base, which they are hoping to expand in the upcoming elections. Some 1,000 Israeli Jews voted for Balad in the previous elections, while United Arab List-Ta’al won the support of several hundred Jewish voters. Dr. Amnon Raz-Karkotzkin, a history professor at Ben Gurion University, plans to vote for Balad on February 10. "The ongoing incitement against Balad stems from a fear of equality, which is why Azmi Bishara is being persecuted," he stated.

Barak: Build Tunnel Linking West Bank and Gaza
Haaretz, MIFTAH 2/4/2009
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday proposed the construction of a 30-mile tunnel that would connect the northern Gaza Strip with the southern West Bank, thus enabling freedom of movement between the two disjointed Palestinian territories. While stumping on the campaign trail before students at Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva, Barak said it was possible to dig the tunnel, which would remain under Israeli sovereignty while the Palestinians would maintain authority over the corridor’s traffic. The defense minister and Labor Party chairman said the project would cost between $2-3 million, “a reasonable sum. ” Barak devoted a significant portion of his statements to politics, criticizing his main rival in the upcoming parliamentary election Kadima. “What new politics is Kadima bringing us? ” Barak said. “Kadima was unable to remake itself and so it will be unable to remake the entire country. The question is not who speaks more eloquently but who is capable of getting things done. ”

Elections 2009 / New Movement-Meretz poll shows it losing undecided women’s votes to Livni
Roni Singer-Heruti, Ha’aretz 2/5/2009
Recent polls for internal use by the New Movement-Meretz show that approximately eight Knesset seats worth of voters who define themselves as leftist are considering voting for Kadima, or more precisely, for Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni. The polls also show that most of the undecided are women - their choice could represent five Knesset seats. These women want Livni because they see her as a figure who is "fresh, clean and a woman," says Dr. Dan Miodownik of the Hebrew University’s Department of Political Science. Miodownik is coordinator of the strategic team of the New Movement-Meretz, and conducts the polls for the party. The finding is contrary to what had previously been believed - that the party’s potential voters would find themselves deciding between it and Labor.

Elections 2009 / Election candidates take their campaign to Tel Aviv night spots
Roni Singer-Heruti, Ha’aretz 2/5/2009
Major intersections were always an important arena in Israeli election campaigns, but this time around, distributing fliers to impatient drivers has been replaced by downing shots in popular pubs. It appears that every self-respecting bar in Tel Aviv has been visited by politicians, generally from the three largest parties. Last night, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni hit the dance floor at Tel Aviv’s Haoman 17 along with fellow Kadima members Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, Finance Minister Roni Bar-On and MK Tzachi Hanegbi. The head of the party’s youth campaign, MK Yohanan Plesner, is planning pub crawls for candidates locales including Jerusalem and Ashkelon. " There’s an electricity in the air" at these events, Plesner said. "It’s not pathetic, because no one tries to be something they’re not.

Elections 2009 / Likud to voters: Voting Lieberman may put Livni in prime minister’s seat
Yossi Verter and Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 2/5/2009
Likud is seeking a subtle way to warn rightist voters against voting for Yisrael Beiteinu, for fear that if Avigdor Lieberman’s party keeps stealing seats from it, Kadima could wind up forming the next government. The party with the most seats is usually given first chance to form a government, and so far polls show Likud in this slot. But Kadima is close enough behind that even a few seats moving from Likud to Yisrael Beiteinu could put Kadima in first. While some Likud members say the party should start attacking Lieberman openly, party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu is reluctant to do so, lest it hurt him among groups like Russian immigrants, where Lieberman is popular. Nevertheless, party officials are seeking a way to send wavering voters a clear message: "If you vote for Lieberman, you are liable to get Tzipi Livni as prime minister.

Elections 2009 / Shas responds to Livni feminist campaign with its own leading lady
Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 2/5/2009
In response to Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni’s feminist campaign, Shas has pulled out a leading lady of its own: Yehudit Yosef, daughter-in-law of the party’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Yehudit Yosef has long been known as the party’s strongwoman, an expert in pulling strings behind the scenes. But on Monday, she gave her first public appearance, to a packed hall of female Shas supporters in Jerusalem. Ever since Rabbi Yosef’s wife died, 16 years ago, Yehudit has assumed the place of the woman behind the throne. She, her husband Moshe - Yosef’s youngest son - and their nine children share Yosef’s Jerusalem apartment, but her job goes far beyond housekeeping. She also helps run the party, and within Shas, she is widely credited with having influenced her father-in-law to choose Eli Yishai to succeed Aryeh Deri as the party’s chairman.

Union refuses to cash ’smelly’ Hirchson check
Ofra Edelman, Ha’aretz 2/5/2009
A day after National Workers Organization chairman Abraham Hirchson sent the group post-dated checks totaling NIS 1. 6 million, the organization declared the move "did not smell right. " Hirchson sent the union checks on Monday, a day before he testified in court on embezzlement charges yesterday. This was his first time testifying. The union said it was not going to deposit the checks at this time, and has asked the State Prosecutor’s office for instructions. "You know that tomorrow there’s a court hearing so you try to return the money? Why didn’t you return the money five years ago? " union director general Yair Shalem said yesterday. Hirchson sent checks totaling the sum he has admitted to having received. In a letter he sent with the checks, Hirchson said the money had been given him in monthly installments against his retirement package, which he has not yet received.

Be’er Sheva state employees cry foul over electromagnetic radiation
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 2/5/2009
The workers’ committee at the Israel Mapping Center and the Histadrut labor federation declared a work dispute this week after employees at the Be’er Sheva government compound were exposed to electromagnetic radiation. The workers claim that in the seven years since the center’s offices have been at their current location, employees have been exposed to 30 times the legal level of radiation. According to the Environmental Protection Ministry, the maximum allowable level of electromagnetic radiation is 2 milligauss, but the workers say the level in some rooms is between 30 and 40 milligauss. They say it stems from the floor beneath the mapping center, where a room houses the transformers that process the electricity for the entire government office compound. "They knew [what was downstairs] when they assigned us these offices," says Amram Lida, director of the southern branch of the mapping center.

Netanyahu vows to end Hamas rule in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/4/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Israel’s prime ministerial frontrunner, Benyamin Netanyahu, vowed to remove Hamas from power in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, calling the group an "Iranian proxy. " Addressing the annual Herzliya security conference, Netanyahu said, "Hamas is not a terror organization that will stop if we deal it a few blows. It’s a fanatic religious movement supported by a fanatic religious Iranian regime. So if we want to stop rockets from Gaza, there is no choice but to uproot the Iranian regime in Gaza. " "If I’m elected, the biggest, most important task of my government will be to fend off the Iranian threat in all aspects," he said. "It will oblige us to work on all fronts, including harnessing the US administration to stop the threat," he added. Netanyahu is the leader Israel’s right-wing Likud party, which is leading in opinion polls going into next Tuesday’s parliamentary election.

Lieberman barrels into elections on strongman image
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/5/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel’s Avigdor Lieberman, much-needed iron fist to some, racist to others, is steamrolling into elections next week as the poll’s biggest spoiler, set to swing the balance of power sharply to the right. The Soviet immigrant’s ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu (Israel is Our Home) party is poised to become Parliament’s third-largest, nudging out center-left Labor, which ruled Israel for more than half of its 60 years, polls say. "The winning gimmick of the 2009 elections," "the new trend," is how the press has described the pudgy, bearded former nightclub bouncer, whose vitriolic harangues of Palestinian-Israelis have previously earned him monickers of "fascist," "racist" and "embarrassment to democracy. "Prior to the Gaza war, Lieberman’s party was expected to keep to its 11 seats in the 120-member Knesset, most of them thanks to its core support from "Russians," fellow immigrants from the ex-Soviet Union.

Mitchell to meet with Abbas on February 26 - Palestinian officials
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/5/2009
RAMALLAH, Occupied West Bank: US Middle East envoy George Mitchell will meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on February 26 on his second visit to the region in a month, a Palestinian official said Wednesday. "Mitchell will meet president Abbas in Ramallah on February 26," said the official, who asked not to be named. He had initially said the meeting would take place on February 22. "This second visit since his appointment in January confirms the real interest the administration of President Barack Obama has in a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. " Mitchell’s visit will come 12 days after Israelis vote in an election expected to return to power right-wing former premier Benjamin Netanyahu. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that Mitchell would return to the Middle East this month.

Clinton calls for ’viable’ Palestinian state
Middle East Online 2/4/2009
WASHINGTON - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised a sustained US diplomatic effort aimed at creating "an independent and viable" Palestinian state. Clinton, who stood next to her special envoy George Mitchell after his return from his first trip to the Middle East, said he would return to the region before "the end of the month. " "We are looking to work with all parties to try to help them make progress toward a negotiated agreement that would end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians," Clinton told a press conference. The chief US diplomat vowed to work with all the parties to "create an independent and viable (Palestinian) state in both the West Bank and Gaza, and provide Israel with the peace and security that it has sought. " She said: "We are going to work as hard as we can over what period of time is required. "

In defense of partition
Avirama Golan, Ha’aretz 2/5/2009
These days, when the leading campaign slogan is Avigdor Lieberman’s abominable "no loyalty, no citizenship," MK Dov Khenin stands out for his courageous support of full cooperation between Jews and Arabs in Israel. Even someone unenthusiastic about Khenin’s communist ideology and fearing the Hadash Party’s increasingly extremist nationalism cannot help being moved by his proposal to combine the blue and white with an olive branch on the flag (from an interview with Ari Shavit in Haaretz in Hebrew on January 30). No less stirring is his proposal to make "I Believe," the marvelous song by Shaul Tchernichovsky, a national anthem for both peoples. The line "for I still believe in man, and in his spirit, a mighty spirit" can instill hope even in the heart of someone who fears that the conflict, the ongoing oppression of Israel’s Arab citizens and the war in Gaza threaten to sever the last thread that connects Jews and Arabs in this country.

Israel intercepts Lebanese aid ship bound for Gaza Strip
DPA, Ha’aretz 2/5/2009
An Israeli gunboat late Wednesday intercepted a Lebanese ship carrying medical aid and other supplies bound for Gaza, said the organizer of the Lebanese delivery, Maan Bashour. "The Brotherhood Ship was fired on by an Israeli military boat 32 kilometers off the coast of Gaza and they were asked to divert course," said Bashour, and added that the ship remains in the water near the coast of Gaza. Bashour said the aid ship was loaded with 50 tons of medical supplies, food, clothing and toys and left the port city of Tripoli in northern Lebanon early on Tuesday. The aid ship was sent to support Gazans following Israel’s 3 week offensive in the coastal territry which was launched with the aim to halt Hamas’s rocket firing into southern Israel. On board the vessel dubbed the Brotherhood Ship were nine people, including the former Greek-Catholic archbishop of Jerusalem, Monsignor Hilarion Capucci, Bashour said.

Gilad: 'Israel is on a collision course with Syria'
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/4/2009
Head of the Diplomatic-Security Bureau of the Israeli Defense Ministry, Amos Gilad, stated Tuesday that Israel is on a collision course with Syria and added that only a peace deal with the country would alter the current security situation. During a speech given at the Herzliya conference, Gilad said that there is a high probability that Israel and Syria could be engaged in military confrontation if the current situation continues. He added that Israel has no option but to attempt to reach a peace deal with Damascus in the near future, and warned that the outcome of failing to achieve peace could be very dangerous for Israel, Israeli Ynet News reported. Gilad stated that within two years, the confrontation would include a nuclear Iran, a well equipped Syrain collection of missiles, and a well-equipped Hezbollah, Ynet added.

Discovery of five Katyusha rockets near Naqoura raise tensions
Daily Star 2/5/2009
BEIRUT: Five Katyusha rockets were discovered near Naqoura late Wednesday, hours after Israeli military officials said they believed Hizbullah had anti-aircraft capabilities that could threaten jets illegally violating Lebanese airspace. UNIFIL spokeswoman Yasmina Bouziane said the rockets were found in the area of Wadi Hamoul, 5 kilometers from Naqoura. "In the immediate vicinity was a launching pad and electrical wires. The area was cordoned off," she said, adding that the UN force was investigating alongside the Lebanese Army. The rockets are not believed to have been set for firing, but their discovery will cause concern at a time of heightened tensions on Lebanon’s border with Israel following the Jewish state’s military offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Israel is also becoming increasingly concerned about Hizbullah’s weapons capabilities, which it insists have developed. . .

Lebanon says five rockets founds near border with Israel
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/4/2009
A senior official from the United Nations peacekeeping force in south Lebanon says five rockets have been discovered near the country’s border with Israel. Milos Strugar says the rockets were discovered along with a launching pad by a patrol of peacekeepers Wednesday near the town of Naqoura where the UN force is headquartered. They were not set to be fired. Strugar said Lebanese army units were called in and an investigation was underway. The militant group Hezbollah, which has a strong presence in south Lebanon, has a large rocket arsenal, but is not believed to have used them against Israel since the end of the 2006 Second Lebanon War. Rockets from Lebanon were fired into Israel on two occasions during Israel’s Gaza offensive last month.

Deputy defense minister warns Hizbullah not to attack Israel
Ma’an News Agency 2/4/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – An Israeli military official warned Hizbullah not to attack Israel, promising a harsh response if it does. Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told Israel Radio that Hizbullah’s Hasan Nasrallah “is aware of Israel’s response” if the group attacks. “All means to disband the ‘axis of evil’ should be considered,” Vilnai said, referring to Hizbullah, Damascus and Tehran. He suggested a peace agreement with Syria might serve to isolate Hizbullah. Vilnai also commented on Iran’s Tuesday satellite launch, saying Israel and “the whole world” has a right to be concerned about the development. [end]

Gaza artist exhibits on war-scorched walls
Middle East Online 2/4/2009
GAZA CITY - Ghoulish blue figures reach skyward towards an elusive red spiral in an abstract rendering of Gaza life hung in the ruins of a cultural centre bombed and torched during the Israeli offensive. The paintings hang in the scorched depths of the Red Crescent cultural centre in Gaza City, which was destroyed at the height of the 22-day war. They are the work of Nida Badwan, an arts student who used to volunteer there. "I wanted to exhibit them here because the building itself speaks," Badwan says. "It tells the story of the paintings, and it speaks louder than they do. " Israel’s onslaught killed over 1,330 Palestinians (mainly civilians and a third of them children) and left behind vast fields of rubble, shattered homes and burned-out buildings. The red and blue paintings hang on a charred black wall, and the handful of visitors follows a trail shovelled through a drift of broken glass and concrete.

AUDIO - Processing peace: the Jaffa Photography Project
Haroon Siddique, The Guardian 2/4/2009
Based in the Israeli city, the Jaffa Photography Project teaches photography to Arab and Jewish teenagers, allowing them to document their homes, lives and communities for themselves, and aiming to lay a foundation for future peace. Haroon Siddique talks to founder Leila Segal and 19-year-old Sama Shakra about the pictures taken by the group [end] -- See also: Palestinian heritage being stripped from Jaffa

Merkel attacks Pope for Holocaust-denier’s pardon
The Independent 2/4/2009
Germany’s four-year love affair with its own Bavarian-born Pope was in tatters yesterday after Chancellor Angela Merkel accused the pontiff of giving the impression that Holocaust denial was "permissible" through his decision to pardon the British-born bishop, Richard Williamson. Ms Merkel’s extraordinary decision to wade in to a worsening row between the Vatican and Jewish and Catholic leaders worldwide came just over a week after the Pope formally rehabilitated Bishop Williamson, who said in a recent interview: "Not a single Jew died in a gas chamber. " The German conservative leader said it was not her custom to intervene in church affairs, but added: "This is different when it comes to matters of principle, and I believe it is a matter of principle when. . . the impression is created that denying the Holocaust could be permissible. "

Vatican tells bishop to retract Holocaust statement
The Independent 2/4/2009
A British-born Roman Catholic bishop who has said he does not believe that millions of Jews died in Nazi gas chambers has been told to publicly recant his views by the Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI has faced uproar in his native Germany and severe criticism from Jewish groups over his decision last week to lift the automatic ex-communication of Richard Williamson, who is understood to be based in Argentina. Bishop Williamson had his ex-communication lifted along with three other bishops who were ordained without Vatican permission by the renegade French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. He is reported to have claimed in a television interview last month that historical evidence was "hugely against six million having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler. . . I believe there were no gas chambers". He added: "I think that 200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, but none of them by gas chambers. "

Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No 37
Center for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies, MIFTAH 2/4/2009
Background - By the end of the truce period that was announced between Israel and Hamas through Egyptian mediation, Israel launched an unprecedented attack on Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip that targeted animate and inanimate objects bequeathing huge destruction the results of which will continue for years to come. No sooner had the aggression against Gaza ceased, than the talk about rebuilding Gaza began; the rebuilding of Gaza became another point of controversy added to the letters of Palestinian internal split. The Palestinian split did not end with the destruction of Gaza despite talks about a Palestinian-Palestinian debate; split is susceptible to be intensified as the declarations made by some Palestinian officials indicate. The Palestinian question, thus, is totally driven into the maze of Arab and regional differences and the Palestinian decision making process is no longer purely and genuinely Palestinian.

Vatican: Holocaust denier must recant
AP, YNetNews 2/4/2009
Day after German chancellor calls for clear rejection of Holocaust denials, Vatican demands bishop who denied Shoah recant before being fully admited to Roman Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI reportedly unaware of bishop’s views when lifting excommunication - The Vatican demanded Wednesday that a bishop who denied the Holocaust recant his positions before being fully admitted into the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican also said in a statement that Pope Benedict XVI didn’t know about Bishop Richard Williamson’s views when he agreed to lift his excommunication and that of three other ultraconservative bishops January 21. The statement was issued by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State a day after German Chacellor Angela Merkel urged the pope to make a clearer rejection of Holocaust denials, saying there hadn’t been adequate clarification from the Vatican.

UN to determine Cyprus’ handling of seized ship
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/5/2009
NICOSIA: Cyprus said Wednesday that it is waiting for UN guidance on what to do with a Cypriot-flagged ship docked off Limassol port, amid Israeli charges it is carrying illegal arms for the Hamas rulers of Gaza. "Due to the origin of the cargo, it needs to be examined whether this specific shipment falls within any specific [UN] resolution ban, and it’s from here we expect UN guidance," Cypriot Foreign Minister Marcos Kyprianou told reporters. "Depending on the UN reaction, we shall take decisions and act accordingly," he added. The government announced on Tuesday it twice inspected the Russian-owned cargo ship Monchegorsk on January 29 and February 2. A report on those findings was submitted to the "competent UN Security Council sanctions committee. "Cyprus has released few details of its investigation into what it has called a "sensitive and delicate" affair after the ship entered Cypriot waters Thursday.

Arab FMs object to foreign interference
Middle East Online 2/4/2009
Participants reaffirmed their support for the Palestinian Authority of Mahmud Abbas and of the Palestine Liberation Organisation "as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people". - ABU DHABI - The foreign ministers of eight Arab states meeting in the United Arab Emirates called on Tuesday for an end to "non-Arab" interference in regional affairs, their host said. "We are working to get beyond a difficult phase and create an Arab consensus on stopping unwelcome and unconstructive interference in our affairs by non-Arab parties," UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nayahan said, in an apparent allusion to Iran. Iran, a non-Arab Shiite Muslim player in a region dominated by Sunni Arabs, supports the democratically elected Hamas in its political struggle with Mahmud Abbas and his Fatah movement.

UK and US put Iran at heart of the agenda
The Independent 2/4/2009
Iran dominated Hillary Clinton’s first meeting as Secretary of State with another foreign minister, as she and David Miliband discussed ways of curbing its nuclear ambitions. The two leaders met shortly after Iran launched a satellite, using technology that the Pentagon indicated could one day be used to develop a nuclear, warhead-carrying, ballistic missile. Asked whether the launch of the satellite posed a threat, Mr Miliband declared that "anything which adds to international tension should be of concern. The focus of Mrs Clinton and Mr Miliband’s remarks to the media was on urging the Iranian leadership to take up last week’s appeal by President Barack Obama that Tehran "unclench its fist" and rejoin the international community. Mr Miliband described the Obama administration’s willingness to talk to Iran a "new dimension" in efforts to end Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and said that yesterday’s talks were "very positive indeed".

Barak calls for tighter sanctions on Iran
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/4/2009
Defense minister calls Tuesday’s satellite launching ’first stage of proof of Iran’s military, intelligence capabilities’, says threat is international problem, world running out of time -Defense Minister Ehud Barak commented on Iran’ launching of its first home-made satellite on Tuesday, calling it a "technological achievement for Iran and the first stage of proof of military and intelligence potential and capabilities". According to Barak, "This is another reason for the international community to increase and tighten sanctions on Iran. " The defense establishment expressed concern with Iran’s continued armament and its work towards technological capabilities that could bring it closer to military nuclearization. The Defense Minister’s Office estimated Iran’s primitive satellite launching capabilities were an indication of future nuclear weapon launching abilities.

World powers urge Iran to cooperate with UN over nuclear program
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/4/2009
Senior officials from world powers urged Iran on Wednesday to fully cooperate with the United Nations over its nuclear program and said there was a joint commitment to find a diplomatic solution on the issue. Senior officials from the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany also said they welcomed an offer by the new U. S. administration under President Barack Obama to talk directly with Tehran over its nuclear programme. "(We will) consult on the next steps as the U. S. administration undertakes a policy review," the powers said in a joint statement after a meeting in Germany. The six powers’ meeting was their first gathering on the Iran question since Obama took office. A European Union official said the world powers plan to meet agin on Iran once U.

Big powers discuss Iranian nuclear work in Germany
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/5/2009
BERLIN: Senior diplomats from six world powers met Wednesday for the first time under the new US administration to discuss Iran’s nuclear ambitions, two days after Tehran launched its first homegrown satellite. Political directors from the UN Security Council permanent members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - plus Germany met in Wiesbaden near Frankfurt, Berlin said. The directors said in a joint statement afterwards that they had "welcomed the willingness of the US administration, as expressed by President [Barack] Obama, to engage in talks with Iran. "They emphasised their common commitment to a "diplomatic solution" and urged Iran to cooperate fully with the UN atomic agency, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the statement said. They also agreed that the US, represented in the talks by Under Secretary of State William Burns, would. . .

Consumer confidence plunges
Noga Shavit-Raz and Avi Temkin, Globes Online 2/4/2009
The Consumer Confidence Index fell to a five-year low in January. Israelis have begun 2009 in a mood of deep pessimism. The Consumer Confidence Index fell to 63. 3 points in January - a five-year low. The drop was led by a plunge in the public’s assessment about the current economic situation and expectations about their personal economic situation in six month’s time. 64% of the public believes that the Israeli economy is in poor shape, while only 5% believe that it is in good shape. 46% of respondents believe that the economy will worsen over the next six months, while only 16% believe that it will improve. The Consumer Confidence Index has been indicating growing pessimism since mid-2007, following the outbreak of the sub-prime crisis in the US. The public anticipated the economic slowdown in Israel even before there were actual signs. . .

UBS downgrades Leumi, sees steep loss ahead
Globes' correspondent, Globes Online 2/4/2009
Analysts say problem debt provisions could surpass 2001-2002 levels. As poor macro-economic figures and forecasts continue to pile up, UBS has cut its recommendation on Bank Leumi(TASE: LUMI) to "Sell" from "Buy" and warns of a steep loss for the bank in its fourth quarter results. UBS analysts Darren Shaw and Rami Myerson said today that high doubtful debt provisions and write downs from unrealized losses on its large securities portfolio could lead to a "significant" profit warning for the fourth quarter results. The analysts see a NIS 1 billion hit on the income statement, in addition to a NIS 1 billion asset write-down on its balance sheet, on the bank’s fourth quarter report. As a result, UBS now expects a fourth quarter net loss of NIS 400 million, on top of the NIS 1 billion asset write-down through the balance sheet.

Report: Companies not punished for dumping waste in ocean
Zafrir Rinat, Ha’aretz 2/5/2009
Israel is a particularly comfortable country for companies such as Makhteshim-Agan, Oil Refineries and Dead Sea Works that profit from not being forced to comply with accepted international environmental quality standards. That is the claim advanced by the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam, Teva v’Din) in its annual "environmental poverty" report, which it submitted to President Shimon Peres yesterday. According to the report, every year large companies receive permits issued by an interministrial committee allowing them to dump waste into the Mediterranean Sea, despite the existence of technology for treating the waste on land. Furthermore, the Ministry of Environmental Protection has failed to set fees for dumping waste. As a result, the polluting companies save money both by not installing waste treatment facilities and by not being forced to pay for the cost of their legally-sanctioned pollution.

88% of Israeli travelers say Turkey dangerous
Globes' correspondent, Globes Online 2/4/2009
El Al CEO Haim Romano: We’ve returned to Antalya big time. 88% of Israelis travelling abroad believe that Turkey is now dangerous for Israeli tourists, according to a survey byEl Al Israel Airlines Ltd. (TASE:ELAL ) disclosed by “IDF Radio" (Galei Zahal) today. The survey also found that 55% of Israelis who have spent vacations in Turkey in the pastdo not intend to return again this year. Preferred alternative destinations are Cyprus, Greece, and Bulgaria. El Al CEO Haim Romano told “IDF Radio", "We deeply regret the results of the survey. We’ve returned to Antalya big time. It’s unpleasant to live in such a climate in a country to which we carry 700,000 Israelis. I hope that this attitude will dissipate and Israelis will feel very comfortable in Turkey and that El Al can fly them there. " Asked whether El Al is profitable,. . .

IBM: Less phishing, spam from Israel
Noa Parag, Globes Online 2/4/2009
6. 3% of phishing messages and less than 2% of spam worldwide originated in Israel in 2008. 6. 3% of phishing messages worldwide originate in Israel, compared with 2. 8% originating in the US, according to the IBM Internet Security System 2008 X Threat Force Trend Report. Israel is ranked sixth as a source of phishing attacks, behind Spain (15. 1% of attacks), Italy (14%), South Korea (10. 8%), Brazil (7. 2%), and France (6. 4%). About 90% of phishing attacks target financial institutions, mostly in North America. The figures indicate a fall in the proportion of phishing messages sent from Israel. In 2007, 8% of all attacks originated in Israel, which was ranked fourth worldwide. Phishing attacks from the US and France also declined. Spam originating from Israel was also down.


The Wounds of Gaza
Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah and Dr Swee Ang, Palestine Think Tank 2/4/2009
      Two Surgeons from the UK, Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah and Dr Swee Ang, managed to get into Gaza during the Israeli invasion. Here they describe their experiences, share their views, and conclude that the people of Gaza are extremely vulnerable and defenseless in the event of another attack.
     Israeli weapons - The weapons used apart from conventional bombs and high explosives also include unconventional weapons of which at least 4 categories could be identified: Phosphorus Shells and bombs, Heavy Bombs, Fuel Air Explosives, Silent Bombs. In addition: Executions, Targeting of ambulances, Cluster bombs...
     The wounds of Gaza are deep and multi-layered. Are we talking about the Khan Younis massacre of 5,000  in 1956 or the execution  of 35,000 prisoners of war by Israel in 1967? Yet more wounds of the First Intifada, when civil disobedience by an occupied people against the occupiers resulted in massive wounded and hundreds dead?  We also cannot discount the 5,420 wounded in southern Gaza alone since 2000. Hence what we are referring to below are only that of the invasion as of 27 December 2008,
     Over the period of 27 December 2008 to the ceasefire of 18 Jan 2009, it was estimated that a million and a half tons of explosives were dropped on Gaza Strip. Gaza is 25 miles by 5 miles and home to 1.5 million people. This makes it the most crowded area in the whole world. Prior to this Gaza has been completely blockaded and starved for 50 days. In fact since the Palestinian election Gaza has been under total or partial blockade for several years.

Gazans set up make shift exhibit of Israeli weapons used in Cast Lead

Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 2/4/2009
      The rocket creates a cloud of vapor above the target and the explosions within the cloud create shockwaves that cause the landmines below [sic] to detonate.
     Of all the Israeli weaponry displayed outside the Gaza police station, the Palestinian guards and policemen took greatest interest in the white wings they had never seen before.
     "This is new to us. All the rest we are familiar with from Israeli attacks over the last eight years," members of Human Rights Watch were told last week, as they examined the unexploded ordinance, landmines, and other forms of ammunition that survive on the sandy soil of the parking lot in the center of Gaza.
     The parking lot where the ordinance is displayed abuts the main police station in Gaza, the same one the Israel Air Force attacked on the 27th of December, in a strike that killed dozens of young police cadets who had just finished taking part in a graduation ceremony.
     Even today, under the rule of Hamas and weeks after the IAF attack, the entrance to the compound still displays its official name: Arafat City.
     The white wings it turns out come from a type of rocket developed by Israeli arms manufacturer "Rafael" to detonate minefields. The "carpet" rocket system is affixed to armored platforms, which fire the rockets at mine fields. The rocket creates a cloud of vapor above the target and the explosions within the cloud create shockwaves that cause the landmines below to detonate.
     The phosphorous bombs fired by the IDF were also new to the residents of Gaza. Nonetheless, every child in the Gaza Strip knows that the greenish containers and their fragments contain the white phosphorous that explodes over their heads like some sort of fireworks, causing thick smoke and setting fire to buildings, cars, and trees.

While the Cats Are Away…

Nadia W. Awad, MIFTAH 2/4/2009
      Of course, raids and arrests are the norm for Palestinians. What is more disturbing, however, is the amount of land, the thousands of dunums that were expropriated while Palestinians, Arabs and the world were looking towards Gaza.
     While the cats are away, it is guaranteed that the mice will go out and play. Of course, the analogy here refers to media, short-span attentions, and Israel’s latest occupation-cementing activities. While the world was focusing on Gaza and the devastation taking place there at the hands of a lethal Israeli army, other alarming events were going on largely unnoticed in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Israel may not have appreciated its forces being under critical limelight in Gaza, but they were certainly able to take advantage of a distracted media trying to cope with reporting on the rapidly rising death toll in Gaza.
     In the weeks during and immediately after Operation ‘Cast Lead’, Israeli occupation forces were very busy in the West Bank and east Jerusalem doing what occupation forces apparently do – conducting incursions and raids, arrests, demolitions and land confiscations. In the period just before December 27 and leading up to this week, Israeli forces have killed 10 Palestinians in the West Bank, including children, and arrested at least 214 others (also including children). Moreover, they arrested 584 Palestinians who were working without permits in Israel proper, along with some 16 Israeli employers. Troops also conducted a minimum of 138 incursions into various villages and towns around the West Bank.

Ongoing Displacement of Palestine’s Southern Bedouin

Hazem Jamjoum, Palestine Chronicle 2/4/2009
      The clearest method to displace Bedouin from ’unrecognised villages’ is house demolition.
     Following government orders, Israeli forces, demolition workers, and two bulldozers entered the village at 9:30 a.m. on 8 May 2007, while all the men of the village were at work. They destroyed every structure in sight, forcing the women, children, and elderly in the village out of the thirty homes before destroying them all, rendering one hundred more Palestinians homeless under the scorching summer sun.(1) This did not take place in the West Bank or Gaza but in the village of Twail Abu-Jirwal in the Naqab, and all one hundred Palestinians who were forcibly displaced were citizens of the state of Israel.
     The residents of Twail Abu-Jirwal have been subjected to home demolitions at least fifteen times since 2006, most of these times the whole village was completely flattened.(2) This village is not the exception, but the rule in the Naqab; Israel has systematically tried to squeeze these Palestinian Bedouin in the south of the country onto smaller patches of land while confiscating the rest of this forgotten half of Palestine.
     On the eve of the Nakba (1947–1949), more than 100,000 Palestinian Bedouin lived in the Naqab, and made up over 99 percent of the area’s inhabitants.(3) The particular lifestyle of the Bedouin in this large and partially fertile desert area was based on animal husbandry, which required vast grazing areas for goats, sheep and camels, and on agriculture in years of adequate rainfall....

Israeli army 'subcontracted' by extremist settlers

Jonathan Cook, Electronic Intifada 2/4/2009
      Extremist rabbis and their followers, bent on waging holy war against the Palestinians, are taking over the Israeli army by stealth, according to critics.
     In a process one military historian has termed the rapid "theologization" of the Israeli army, there are now entire units of religious combat soldiers, many of them based in West Bank settlements. They answer to hardline rabbis who call for the establishment of a Greater Israel that includes the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
     Their influence in shaping the army’s goals and methods is starting to be felt, say observers, as more and more graduates from officer courses are also drawn from Israel’s religious extremist population.
     "We have reached the point where a critical mass of religious soldiers is trying to negotiate with the army about how and for what purpose military force is employed on the battlefield," said Yigal Levy, a political sociologist at the Open University who has written several books on the Israeli army.

The Way of Izvestia: BBC as a Metaphor for State Propaganda

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, Palestine Chronicle 2/4/2009
      ’The BBC cannot be neutral in the struggle between truth and untruth, justice and injustice, freedom and slavery, compassion and cruelty, tolerance and intolerance.’ Thus read a 1972 internal document called Principles and Practice in News and Current Affairs laying out the guidelines for the BBC’s coverage of conflicts. It appears to affirm that in cases of oppression and injustice to be neutral is to be complicit, because neutrality reinforces the status quo. This partiality to truth, justice, freedom, compassion and tolerance it deems ’within the consensus about basic moral values’. It is this consensus that the BBC spurned when it refused to broadcast the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC)’s video appeal to help the people of Gaza.
     The presumption that underlies the decision is that the BBC has always been impartial when it comes to Israel-Palestine. An exhaustive 2004 study by the Glasgow University Media Group -- Bad News from Israel -- shows that the BBC’s coverage is systematically biased in favour of Israel. It excludes context and history to focus on day-to-day events; it invariably inverts reality to frame these as Palestinian ’provocation’ against Israeli ’retaliation’. The context is always Israeli ’security’, and in interviews the Israeli perspective predominates. There is also a marked difference in the language used to describe casualties on either side; and despite the far more numerous Palestinian victims, Israeli casualties receive more air time.

BBC’s 'impartiality' anything but

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, Electronic Intifada 2/4/2009
      "The BBC cannot be neutral in the struggle between truth and untruth, justice and injustice, freedom and slavery, compassion and cruelty, tolerance and intolerance." Thus read a 1972 internal document called Principles and Practice in News and Current Affairs laying out the guidelines for the BBC’s coverage of conflicts. It appears to affirm that in cases of oppression and injustice to be neutral is to be complicit, because neutrality reinforces the status quo. This partiality to truth, justice, freedom, compassion and tolerance it deems "within the consensus about basic moral values." It is this consensus that the BBC spurned when it refused to broadcast the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC)’s video appeal to help the people of Gaza.
     The presumption that underlies the decision is that the BBC has always been impartial when it comes to Israel-Palestine. An exhaustive 2004 study by the Glasgow University Media Group, Bad News from Israel, shows that the BBC’s coverage is systematically biased in favor of Israel. It excludes context and history to focus on day-to-day events; it invariably inverts reality to frame these as Palestinian "provocation" against Israeli "retaliation." The context is always Israeli "security," and in interviews the Israeli perspective predominates. There is also a marked difference in the language used to describe casualties on either side; and despite the far more numerous Palestinian victims, Israeli casualties receive more air time.

Israeli elections; an open season for racism

Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/4/2009
      As different political parties are heating up the debate for the upcoming general elections in Israel, several right wing parties started competing on which party carries more hatred towards the Arabs and Palestinians, and which party is capable of expelling them once and for all.
     Now, such debates are not something new in Israel, a state founded by expelling the indigenous Palestinians from their lands by carrying one massacre after the other, even years before Israel was officially established.
     But right now, in this new world order, racism against the Arabs is being used by some right wing factions in Israel as a means to win more seats in the upcoming elections.
     The Israeli right wing National Union party, one of the strongest parties among Jewish settlers in the West Bank, proposed an initiative to fight the Arabs and Palestinians by expelling them to Venezuela.
     The party said that the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, proved to be the political leader who is very loyal to the Palestinians “therefore, Arabs who do not accept to be transferred to the Arab world, will be comfortable in Venezuela, it will be better for them and more comfortable for us&rdquo.

The Israel Lobby?

Noam Chomsky, Palestine Chronicle 2/3/2009
      ’Do the energy corporations fail to understand their interests, or are they part of the Lobby too?’
     I’ve received many requests to comment on the article by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt (henceforth M-W), published in the London Review of Books, which has been circulating extensively on the internet and has elicited a storm of controversy. A few thoughts on the matter follow.
     It was, as noted, published in the London Review of Books, which is far more open to discussion on these issues than US journals -- a matter of relevance (to which I’ll return) to the alleged influence of what M-W call "the Lobby." An article in the Jewish journal Forward quotes M as saying that the article was commissioned by a US journal, but rejected, and that "the pro-Israel lobby is so powerful that he and co-author Stephen Walt would never have been able to place their report in a American-based scientific publication." But despite the fact that it appeared in England, the M-W article aroused the anticipated hysterical reaction from the usual supporters of state violence here, from the Wall St Journal to Alan Dershowitz, sometimes in ways that would instantly expose the authors to ridicule if they were not lining up (as usual) with power.

Chomsky on Oil and the Israel Lobby

M. Shahid Alam, Palestine Chronicle 2/3/2009
      ’Protestant Christians believe the ingathering of Jews .. will precede the Second Coming.’
     In the slow evolution of US relations with Israel since 1948, as the latter mutated from a strategic liability to a strategic asset, Israel and its Jewish allies in the United States have always occupied the driver’s seat.
     President Truman had shepherded the creation of Israel in 1947 not because the American establishment saw it as a strategic asset; this much is clear. "No one," writes Cheryl Rubenberg, "not even the Israelis themselves, argues that the United States supported the creation of the Jewish state for reasons of security or national interest."(1) Domestic politics, in an election year, was the primary force behind President Truman’s decision to support the creation of Israel. In addition, the damage to US interests due to the creation of Israel -- al-though massive -- was not immediate. This was expected to unfold slowly: and its first blows would be borne by the British who were still the paramount power in the region.
     Nevertheless, soon after he had helped to create Israel, President Truman moved decisively to appear to distance the United States from the new state. Instead of committing American troops to protect Israel, when it fought against five Arab armies, he imposed an even-handed arms embargo on both sides in the conflict. Had Israel been dismantled [at birth], President Truman would have urged steps to protect the Jewish colonists in Palestine, but he would have accepted a premature end to the Zionist state as fait accompli. Zionist pressures failed to persuade President Truman to lift the arms embargo. Ironically, military deliveries from Czechoslovakia may have saved the day for Israel.