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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
6 February, 2009

Jayyous under attack this week: olive trees destroyed, demonstrators shot
Mohammad Othman, Palestine News Network 2/6/2009
Jayyous - Since Thursday evening the village of Jayyous has been the site of intense repression at the hand of Israeli forces who have been firing tear gas, rubber coated steel bullets and live ammunition at villagers. On Friday afternoon there were between 20 and 30 military jeeps in the Qalqilia area village that is encircled by the Wall. Soldiers have been firing for nearly 24 hours straight. Three groups of soldiers forced their way into three houses near the south gate of the village, where the heaviest shooting is occurring. They have overtaken the rooftops as sniper towers to fire into the crowds of demonstrators and stone-throwers. Israeli soldiers shot a 22 year old at close range with live bullets. After shooting the man the soldiers detained him for an hour and a half. All medical personnel and his family were prevented from reaching him.

IAF strikes in Gaza
Reuters, YNetNews 2/6/2009
Air Force bombs tunnels near Rafah after two rockets were fired at Israel Friday morning -The Air Force (IAF) fired several missiles in the southern part of the Gaza Strip on Friday, causing no injuries, Hamas and residents said. Residents said a series of air strikes targeted open areas near the town of Rafah and smuggling tunnels along the border with Egypt. An Israeli military spokesman confirmed the air strikes but gave no further details. Israel warned this week that it would respond "disproportionately" to any occasion of fire from Gaza. Israel and Hamas declared separate ceasefires on Jan. 18, ending a 22-day Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.

UN halts aid to Gaza until Hamas returns seized goods
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/7/2009
GAZA CITY: A UN agency said on Friday it halted aid imports into Gaza after hundreds of tons of food assistance were seized, but Hamas indicated the goods would be returned, saying the incident was a mistake. "UNRWA has suspended all imports of aid into the Gaza Strip following the confiscation of hundreds of tons of food aid," the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said. Hamas promptly indicated the aid would be returned, blaming the incident on confusion at the border crossing where the supplies had been brought into Gaza. Hamas Social Affairs Minister Ahmad al-Kurd ordered that "any supplies belonging to UNRWA must be returned," said Fawzi Barhum, a spokesman for the Islamist movement that rules Gaza. "The aid supplies were loaded onto trucks by mistake as no government representative was present. The drivers did not know which supplies were UNRWA’s and which were the government’s,". . . -- See also: US Congress introduces bill to punish UNRWA

Israel expels Gaza aid ship crew
Al Jazeera 2/6/2009
Israel has expelled 10 activists and journalists after detaining them for hours and seizing their cargo ship that was trying to deliver aid to Gaza. Al Jazeera’s Salam Khoder, who was among the group, said she and some of the others on board were beaten by Israeli forces before being taken to a police station in Ashdod and interrogated. Minutes after being escorted across the Israeli border to southern Lebanon on Friday, Khoder reported on her capture. "At about 11pm last night. . . the Israeli ship intercepted the ship, fired at the ship and more than 30 soldiers came on to the boat and started beating the passengers," she said. "They blinded our eyes, bounded our hands, kept us in uncomfortable conditions for one hour. . . they also told us not to communicate with each other in Arabic. "She said that the whereabouts of some of the 18 people who were on board the ship was unknown.

US Congress introduces bill to punish UNRWA
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/6/2009
A bill has been introduced in Congress criticizing the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza. The bill accuses the Agency of providing support to so-called ’terrorists’ in the Gaza Strip. Laila al Quttami, of the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, says that this bill is actually an attempt to punish the Agency for speaking out against the Israeli invasion of Gaza last month. The committee has called on Congress to vote against Congressional Resolution 29, and vote instead for HR 66, which would provide much-needed humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people. Some US groups have even called on President Obama to dispatch the Navy’s Hospital ship, the USNS Mercy, to help provide medical care to the besieged population of Gaza. -- See also: URGENT: Act Now To Defend UNRWA In Gaza

Two injured and dozens suffered teargas inhalation during the Bil’in Weekly Demonstration
International Middle East Media Center News 2/6/2009
The residents of Bil’in, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, gathered after the Friday prayer in a protest joined by international and Israeli activists and groups. The protesters carried Palestinian flags and banners calling to stop crimes against civilians, break the siege on Gaza and stop settlement building. The protest left from the center of the village, calling for national unity and resisting the occupation, and headed towards the apartheid wall which is built on Bil’in’s land. An Israeli army unit was situated behind the wall and prevented the crowd from going through the gate, the army fired tear gas canisters to disturb the crowd, causing dozens to suffer gas inhalation and two was injured. The two are Adib Aburahma and Abdullah Aburahma. The Israeli army has been raiding the village at night almost on a daily basis.

Jordanian delegate from Gaza held without charge in Rafah following exit from area
Ma’an News Agency 2/6/2009
Cairo - Ma’an - Secretary of the Nurses Union Salman Al-Masa’id was arrested by Egyptian authorities following his departure from Gaza Friday morning. He was still in prison at press time according to Syndicate Head Dr Mohamed Hatamleh. The Jordanian delegation of which Al-Masa’id was a part, was able to enter the Gaza Strip during the Israel war on the area to assist in the hospitals and clinics. The delegation left Gaza earlier this week, but Al-Masa’id stayed behind and left Friday. He was arrested was kept in the facility without being charged. The Palestinian Nurses Union and the head of the nursing department in the Palestinian health ministry condemned the arrest, saying it would hamper the attempts to reconstruct Gaza. Dr Hatamleh called for the release of the secretary general who is accused of staying in Gaza after his delegation’s departure from the area.

Indefinite curfew imposed on Jayyous
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 2/5/2009
This evening, Occupation forces imposed an indefinite curfew on the village of Jayyous. Soldiers entered the village and began firing tear gas, sound bombs and rubber bullets at youth and into homes. Live bullets have also been used extensively. It is unclear as to why soldiers chose to storm the village at this particular time. It may have been in response to some youth throwing stones at Jayyous’ south gate, or it may have simply been an effort to intimidate the village and discourage them from holding their weekly demonstration on Friday. Jayyous has been the site of escalating repression in recent weeks, with forces regularly occupying homes and not hesitating to use live bullets against the villagers. Several youth have been shot by live bullets over the course of the past month, and have had to be taken to hospital for medical treatment.

Israeli warships injure fisherman off southern Gaza coast
Ma’an News Agency 2/6/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – A Palestinian fisherman was injured as Israeli naval boats opened fire on the man’s craft Palestinian medical sources said on Friday. The man was in the Al-Mawasi area off the coast of southern Gaza, and was transferred first to the Rafah Hospital, then on to Khan Younis for treatment. Israeli ships are deployed off Gaza shores and have shot at civilian areas on land and at sea for months before, during and following the Gaza war. [end]

One shot, several trees uprooted during Jayyous demonstration
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 2/6/2009
Today’s demonstration in Jayyous was met by intensified force, with soldiers quickly invading the village and firing live ammunition. A huge number of soldiers occupied the village, bringing with them a bulldozer that was used to destroy trees and farmland. Clashes have lasted into the evening, and are ongoing in separate parts of the village. Several people have been wounded, one by live bullets. The clashes began after the midday prayer, when some 200 youth led a demonstration from the centre of the village to the south gate. As they approached the gate chanting slogans and waving flags, Occupation forces began firing tear gas and rubber bullets. The situation escalated quickly, as youth responded by throwing stones, and soldiers began firing live bullets. A large contingent of soldiers, eyewitnesses counted some 20 jeeps, then invaded the village. -- See also: Indefinite curfew imposed on Jayyous

Israeli army arrests six in northern West Bank Friday morning; confiscates fertilizer
Ma’an News Agency 2/6/2009
Jenin – Ma’an – The Israeli army arrested four men from Jenin, Qabatiya and Kafr Dan village, and another two from the village of Al-Liban Ash-Sahrqiyah in the northern West Bank Friday morning. Troops also confiscated agricultural materials from Dir Abu Da’if. The men were taken to an unknown location for questioning. Palestinian security sources told Ma’an that Israeli soldiers invaded Jenin, broke into several homes and arrested Muhammad Khaled A’rqawi. Troops south of the city invaded Qabatiya north of Jenin and arrested Dhafer Jamal Abu Zeid and A’wni A’dnan Ikmeil, again after breaking into several homes. Eyewitnesses said Israeli forces forced residents out of their homes for several hours, fired sound bombs and live artillery. To the east Israeli forces then invaded Kfar Dan and arrested Muhammad Mazen A’bed after breaking into his family home and ransacking its contents.

Israel optimistic over truce; Hamas: Israeli draft 'needs a lot of clarification'
Ma’an News Agency 2/6/2009
Gaza - Ma’an - The Israeli proposal Hamas received in Egypt “needs a lot of clarification,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum Friday. Several articles are unclear and Hamas has presented questions to Egypt, who is meeting with Israeli negotiator Amos Gilad. One example, said Barhoum, is Israel’s proposed “partial lifting of the siege” which would leave 30% under Israeli control. There was also some issue over what parties would guarantee Israel’s compliance with the agreement. Israeli media reported Friday evening that officials felt an agreement was close at hand. According to one source the agreement will include the full opening of Gaza’s border crossings with Israel and Egypt, though the latter will have Palestinian Authority security officials supervising the border. The truce, according to the Israeli source, will have an 18-month duration with an option for renewal.

Jenin area still reeling from assassination is hit again
Ali Samoudi, Palestine News Network 2/6/2009
PNN exclusive -- Kafr Dan and Qabatiya villages were besieged today. The northern West Bank was the scene of a targeted assassination yesterday followed by an afternoon funeral. The town of Qabatiya is in the midst of observing a three day open house for mourning. On Friday the assaults continued with Israeli forces arresting six Palestinians, including lawyers. Eyewitnesses report large contingents in both Kafr Dan and Qabatiya with several homes being broken into. Young men were blindfolded and dragged away. Their whereabouts are currently unknown. Lawyer Mohamed Khalid Al Aqrqawi was among those arrested. His mother told PNN that soldiers broke into their home and rounded up the family. They were forced into a small space while soldiers ransacked their belongings, taking a computer and a mobile phone.

Israelis impose curfew, detain four in northern West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 2/6/2009
Qalqiliya - Ma’an - Israeli forces imposed a curfew on Thursday night in the northern West Bank town of Jayous, near Qalqiliya, according to witnesses. Four Palestinians were detained by Friday morning, sources said. Palestinians in the area told Ma’an Israeli vehicles raided the area, imposing a curfew via loudspeaker and confiscating keys to an area school for undisclosed reasons. The town has hosted weekly demonstrations against the Israeli constructed separation barrier being built on confiscated land, but it was not immediately clear if the curfew is in response to the Friday protests usually taking place in the area. [end]

Israeli air strikes hit Gaza
Al Jazeera 2/7/2009
Israel has launched several air raids against targets in southern Gaza near the border with Egypt, causing damages but no injuries, Palestinian security sources have said. The strikes targeted "open areas" near the town of Rafah and tunnels along the border with Egypt, residents said. An Israeli military spokesman confirmed that the "Israeli air force intervened in the Gaza Strip," late on Friday. "Our planes attacked four tunnels that were dug under the border with Egypt and used for weapons smuggling," the spokesman told AFP news agency. "An arms depot was also targeted and the explosives that were stocked there exploded," he said. The raids came hours after Palestinian fighters fired two rockets at southern Israel without causing damage or victims, according to a military spokesman. Shalit talks failThe strikes also came after reports that indirect talks between. . .

2 rockets hit south Israel
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 2/6/2009
Projectiles fired by Palestinians in north Gaza land in open areas in Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, south of Ashkelon; no injuries, damage reported. Council head: Israel must take some sort of military or political action - A rocket fired from northern Gaza on Friday at around 9:30 am landed in an open area south of Ashkelon. No injuries or damage were reported. Earlier a Qassam landed within the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council’s limits, but caused no injury or damage. The rocket landed near a kibbutz in which not all of the houses have been fortified. Israel has made it clear that it would respond "disproportionately" to any rocket fire emanating from the Hamas-controlled territory. "Israel must take some sort of military or political action to resolve this issue," Council head Alon Schuster told Ynet after the attack, "but we’ve grown accustomed to this policy where nothing gets done.

IOF says its troops killed Palestinian near Sofa crossing
Palestinian Information Center 2/6/2009
KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- The IOF has announced that its troops killed a Palestinian man near the Sofa crossing to the east of the southern Gaza Strip at a late hour Thursday night. An IOF spokesman said that the Palestinian man tried to hurl a hand grenade towards a group of IOF soldiers who fired at him killing him. Local sources told PIC correspondent that the heard intensive firing near the Abu Daqqah lagoon east of Khuza’a, but had no idea what was going on. The sources added that in the IOF troops continued random firing on Friday morning preventing local teams from searching of the body of the man who the IOF says its soldiers have killed. [end]

Two Gaza projectiles fired into Israel
Ma’an News Agency 2/6/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Israeli sources said Palestinian militants fired two projectiles from the Gaza Strip Friday morning. The projectiles landed near what Israeli authorities described as a “communal farm,” which was not damaged, nor were any injuries reported. No armed groups had claimed responsibility for either attacks by late Friday morning. [end]

Two injured and dozens inhale teargas at weekly Bil’in demonstration
Ma’an News Agency 2/6/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Two Palestinians were injured as the residents of Bil’in and several international activists participated in the weekly demonstration against the Israeli siege on Gaza, occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the continued building of settlements. The group marched from the village center to the outskirts where the Israeli separation wall cuts off dozens of dunnums of village land. As the approached the wall the ISraeli army fired tear gas canisters in an effort to disperse the peaceful protest. Adib Aburahma and Abdullah Aburahma were identified as those injured. As a consequence of the continued peaceful protests staged in the village, the Israeli army has repeatedly entered the area. The aggressive tactics have resulted in clashes between soldiers and youth. Several residents have also been kidnapped; taken by the Israeli army and their whereabouts has not been made public.

Local organizer in nonviolent resistance arrested
Najib Faraj, Palestine News Network 2/6/2009
PNN exclusive -- Demonstrations went on throughout the West Bank on Friday in protest of Israeli occupation. This week at the anti-Wall and settlement march in southern Bethlehem Israeli forces arrested a major figure in the local nonviolent resistance. The President of the Village Council and Chairman of the Committee against the Wall, Mahmoud Zoahara is now a political prisoner. Beginning late this morning some 150 people gathered in Al Masra and Um Salamuna villages. Among them were southern Bethlehem residents and those who came down from the city. Carrying Palestinian flags and placards calling for justice and an end to land confiscation, imprisonment and assassinations, demonstrators began at the school. Along with several foreign supporters, the march walked the town streets and memorializing the victims in Gaza, along with the President Arafat.

Israeli troops attack a nonviolent protest near Bethlehem and detain two
International Middle East Media Center News 2/6/2009
Scores of villagers from Al Ma’ssara, located near the southern West Bak city of Bethlehem and their international supporters protest the Israeli illegal wall on Friday. The protesters gathered at the village school then marched towards the location where the Israeli military is building the Wall. People held Palestinian flags. Israeli troops stopped the people from reaching their lands where the army is building the wall and attacked some of them using rifle buts and batons, a scuffle ensued the army attack. Troops then kidnapped an Israeli peace activist and the local committee against the wall and settlement coordinator Mahmoud Zawahra, and took them to unknown location. [end]

Two people shot and olive threes uprooted during the weekly demonstration
International Middle East Media Center News 2/6/2009
On Friday around 200 youth from Jayyous organized the weekly demonstration after the Friday prayer. The youth marched to the South Gate, protesting against the new path of the Apartheid Wall. As always the Israeli soldiers tried to stop the youth from demonstrating. This Friday more than 10 Israeli army Jeeps entered the village. So far they have shot two male students. One of them in the leg with a rubber coated bullet. The other one was shot in the hand with a live bullet and kept by the Israeli soldiers next to the gate. Neither the ambulance nor his family was allowed to help stop the bleeding. [end]

Three injured as Israseli soldiers shoot at Hebron protesters
Ma’an News Agency 2/6/2009
Hebron – Ma’an – Three Palestinians were shot with live bullets and others inhaled teargas during confrontations with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron on Friday. Clashes erupted between residents and soldiers in Tareq Ibn Ziad Street in the southern quarter of the city. Israeli soldiers responded to angry youth with live bullets. Three were moderately injured during the clashes and transferred to Muhammad Ali Al- Muhtaseb hospital in the city. The Palestinian Red Crescent offered on-site treatment for those suffering the effects of tear gas. [end]

Delegation of Jordanian nurses stage sit-in at Rafah border
Mohammad Ben Hussein, Jordan Times 2/5/2009
AMMAN - A delegation from the Jordan Nurses Association (JNA) on Wednesday started an open-ended sit-in near the Rafah border crossing after being prevented from entering the Gaza Strip on a humanitarian mission. According to JNA President Mohammad Hatamleh, head of the delegation, the group has been waiting at the Rafah border for nearly 24 hours as of yesterday, because Egyptian officials insisted the nurses could only enter Gaza via the Israeli-run Karm Abu Salem crossing." We refuse to enter from the border controlled by Israel as we are against normalisation," Hatamleh told The Jordan Times in a telephone interview yesterday. He vowed to continue the sit-in until the group is allowed to enter the war-torn enclave. Hatamleh blamed officials at the Jordanian embassy in Cairo for their situation, adding that diplomats granted them permission to enter through Karm Abu Salem rather than the Rafah crossing.

Whereabouts of Jordanian medic detained in Rafah unknown
Abdel-Rahman Hussein, Daily News Egypt 2/6/2009
“Salman was kidnapped in front of us and we don’t know where he is now,” Secretary General of the Arab Nurses Union Mohammed Hatamla told Daily News Egypt, “but we will not leave without him. ” - CAIRO: A Jordanian medic who was detained at the Rafah border crossing Thursday was moved later that night, but his current whereabouts remain unknown. Salman Mesaid was taken from in front of the Egyptian gate of the crossing at noon Thursday in a car and driven beyond the gate where he remained detained until 9 pm. He was then also transported by car from the Rafah crossing to an undisclosed location. Mesaid is part of a five-strong Jordanian contingent representing the Arab Nurses Union which has been trying to enter the Gaza strip through the crossing at the Egypt-Gaza border since Monday.

Jordanian nurse disappears on Rafah border’
Jordan Times 2/6/2009
AMMAN (JT) - A Jordanian nurse identified as Salman Masaeed disappeared as he was entering the Rafah crossing border with Egypt, a source said. The nurse was one of a group of Jordanian nurses who volunteered to work for hospitals in Gaza to help treat thousands of Palestinians injured during the 22-day Israeli onslaught on Gaza. The source, who requested anonymity, said Masaeed remained behind his colleagues who had left for Egypt. It is believed that he was arrested by the Egyptian authorities, he said. Meanwhile, Jordanian doctors representing the Jordan Medical Association remained stranded on Rafah border Thursday, reports said. They are trying to enter Gaza to join colleagues volunteering in hospitals there. [end]

Jordanian nurse ’disappears’ at Rafah crossing while doctors stranded
People’s Daily China 2/6/2009
A Jordanian nurse disappeared as he was entering the Rafah crossing border with Egypt, local daily The Jordan Times reported on Friday. The nurse, identified as Salman Masaeed, was one of a group of Jordanian nurses who volunteered to work in Gaza to help treat thousands of Palestinians injured during a 22-day Israeli onslaught on Gaza, the press quoted a source who requested anonymity as saying. It is believed that he was arrested by the Egyptian authorities, said the source, adding that Masaeed, however, remained behind his colleagues who had left for Egypt. Meanwhile, Jordanian doctors dispatched by the Jordan Medical Association remained stranded on Rafah border on Thursday, reports said. They were trying to enter Gaza to join their colleagues volunteering in hospitals there.

Israeli army take 13-year-old from outside home near Tulkarem
Ma’an News Agency 2/6/2009
Tulkarem – Ma’an- Israeli forces took a Palestinian boy from Ash-Shuweikah near Tulkarem after invading the northern suburb which abuts the separation wall on Friday. Palestinian Security sources identified the boy as 13-year-old Ahmad A’dnan Ash-Sheikh Yousef. He was taken while playing in front of his family as soldiers invaded the area and fired ammunition and sound bombs. The boy was transferred in an Israeli military jeep to unknown location. [end]

UNRWA halts Gaza aid, cites Hamas theft
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 2/6/2009
UN agency suspends operations after Hamas ministry steals 10 truckloads of food from crossing -The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) announced Friday that it was suspending all import of aid into the Gaza Strip because Hamas had seized the supplies for the second time this week. According to the agency’s press release the recent looting involved hundreds of tons of food. "During the night of February fifth 10 truckloads of flour and rice were taken from the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom Crossing into Gaza," the statement from spokesman Christopher Gunness said. He said the food "had been imported from Egypt for collection by UNRWA today," but was "taken away by trucks contracted by the Ministry of Social Affairs. "The ministry is run by Hamas. "UNRWA’s suspension of imports will remain in effect until the aid is returned and. . . "

UN halts Gaza aid over ’thefts’
Al Jazeera 2/6/2009
A major UN relief agency has stopped importing aid into the Gaza Strip, after its supplies were allegedly stolen for a second time this week. The UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) said that 10 lorries loaded with humanitarian supplies were seized by Hamas members at Gaza’s Kerem Shalom crossing on Friday. "Unrwa has suspended all imports of aid into the Gaza Strip following the confiscation of hundreds of tonnes of food aid," a statement from the Unrwa said. "Unrwa’s suspension of imports will remain in effect until the aid is returned and the agency is given credible assurances from the Hamas government in Gaza that there will be no repeat of these thefts. "Hamas has said the seizure was a mistake and that they are working to return the lorries. But according to Unrwa, it was the second time this week that Hamas members had seized aid supplies.

Hamas battles UNRWA over aid; admits one theft, one mixup - UN halts supplies into area
Ma’an News Agency 2/6/2009
Gaza- Ma’an - UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called on Hamas to return all confiscated UNRWA aid Friday, following the announcement that the agency would halt all aid imports until the supplies were returned. Ki Moon said the events of the past week and their final outcomes would affect the situation of hundreds of thousands of Gazans in need of aid. De facto minister of Palestinian social affairs Ahamd Al-Kurd, however, claimed “There is no problem or issue between the de facto government and UNRWA. ”The comments came in response to UNRWA’s announcement that aid deliveries into the Strip would be halted after two thefts attributed to the de facto police and ministry. In a statement Al-Kurd insisted that “The de facto government did not stop any of the UNRWA tucks. ” And rather that the problem was some confusion over who was supposed to pick up the goods, the UNRWA. . .

Barhoum: Role of UNRWA is appreciated, its accusations against Hamas unfounded
Palestinian Information Center 2/6/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Hamas has stressed on Friday that none of its members has confiscated aid shipments to UNRWA which distributes this aid to Palestinian refugees, saying that such accusations were unfounded. Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, said in a press statement on Friday that UNRWA should have made sure of what took place before taking a decision to halt its operation in Gaza as such action exacerbates an already dire situation. Barhoum explained that a mix-up took place at the Owja crossing, through which aid is brought in where some lorry drivers loaded aid they thought was bound for the Gaza government, which does not have a representative at the crossing, the aid turned to be bound for UNRWA. He added that as soon as the Minister of Social Affairs, Ahmad al-Kord, learned of the mix-up, he ordered the matter to be investigated and to handover any aid that belongs to UNRWA immediately.

Fatah condemns alleged theft of UN aid by Hamas
Ma’an News Agency 2/6/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – Fatah on Friday condemned allegations against Hamas that the Islamic movement had seized a United Nations aid shipment bound for Gaza, according to a statement. According to Barakat Al-Farra, a Fatah official, forces affiliated with Hamas attacked a convoy of humanitarian aid from the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) on Thursday. The UN confirmed the reports, saying the theft occurred at 2:30pm on 3 February, when over 3,500 blankets and 406 food parcels were confiscated from a distribution store at Beach Camp in Gaza by police personnel. 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.

UN halts aid into Gaza after ’Hamas theft’
Associated Press, The Guardian 2/6/2009
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said today it has halted all aid shipments into the Gaza Strip after the Hamas government seized thousands of tonnes of food and other provisions. The UN Relief and Works agency said it made the decision after Hamas personnel intercepted an aid shipment for the second time this week. In a statement, the agency said 10 truckloads of flour and rice delivered into Gaza yesterday were taken away by trucks affiliated with the Hamas-run social affairs ministry. Earlier this week, Hamas police took away thousands of blankets and food parcels meant for needy residents. The UN said the suspension would remain in effect until the aid is returned and the agency receives credible assurances from the Hamas government that such thefts will end. There was no immediate reaction from Hamas.

European Union funds for UNRWA in Gaza
Palestine News Network 2/6/2009
EU contributes €66 million to UNRWA, reiterates calls for Gaza crossings to be fully open The European Commission has today provided a contribution of €66 million to the General Fund of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Mr. Christian Berger, the European Commission Representative in Jerusalem, today signed the agreement along with Mr. Filippo Grandi, UNRWA’s Deputy Commissioner General, in the main UNRWA Jerusalem warehouse, against a backdrop of in-kind donations destined for Gaza. Both Mr. Berger and Mr. Grandi used the opportunity to express grave concerns regarding the humanitarian situation in the Gaza strip, noting that the situation cannot be adequately addressed until all crossings into the beleaguered Gaza strip are opened to meet the basic needs of the people of Gaza. The €66 million contribution from the European Union will go to UNRWA’s core. . .

PCHR Weekly Report: 2 Palestinians killed, 44 injured by Israeli forces
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/6/2009
According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, over the week of 29 Jan. - 04 Feb. 2009, Israeli forces killed 2 Palestinians, and another 2 Palestinians died of previous injuries. Forty four Palestinians, mostly civilians, including 22 children, a pregnant woman, and an international human rights defender, were wounded by Israeli gunfire in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces carried out intensive air strikes on the border area between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, forcing local residents to evacuate the area. Also, Israeli forces conducted 28 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. Israeli forces have continued to impose a total siege and have isolated the Gaza Strip from the outside world. Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip: In the Gaza Strip, on 2 February 2009, Israeli forces extra-judicially executed a Palestinian resistance fighter and wounded two others. -- See also: Weekly Report: On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory 29 Jan. - 04 Feb. 2009

This Week in Palestine -Week 06 2009
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 2/6/2009
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 13 m 0s || 11. 9 MB ||This Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www. imemc. org, for January 31st through to February 6th 2009. As Israel continues to besiege the Gaza Strip the Hamas negotiating team returned to Gaza from Cairo this week with no clear truce deal agreement, These stories and more, coming up, Stay tuned. Nonviolent Activities Let us begin our weekly report with the nonviolent activities in the West Bank with IMEMC’s George Rishmawi: Ramallah The residents of Bil’in, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, joined by international and Israeli activist groups protested against the Israeli annexation wall being built on their land. The protest started after the Friday prayer and head to the construction site of the wall, raising and chanting slogans calling for national unity and resisting the Israeli.

PLO report: '980 Palestinians, including 380 children, 108 women killed in January'
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/6/2009
A report published by the National and International Office of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) revealed that the Israeli army killed more than 980 Palestinians in January, including 380 women and 108 children. 3982 Palestinians were injured, including 2700 children and women. The report also includes information on Israeli violations in the West Bank. The report stated that the Israeli forces destroyed and shelled thousands of homes, while thousands of residents took shelter in UNRWA schools, yet the army shelled the schools, killed and wounded hundreds of civilians. According to the report, civilian casualties of Israel’s latest war constitute 85%, 40% of them were children and women. The army also killed 20 medics, 5 reporters and 120 elderly people. 500 of the 3982 wounded residents are in serious conditions, the report added.

Haaretz reports a slight progress in indirect Hamas-Israel talks
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/7/2009
Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, reported Friday that a slight progress had been achieved in indirect talks between Hamas and Israel under Egyptian mediation. An agreement is being formulated but it remains conditioned by the acceptance of senior Israeli security leaders and senior leaders of Hamas. Haaretz said that Amos Gilad, of Israel’s Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau, will be travelling to Cairo in the coming days in an attempt to boost the talks. Gilad returned to Israel on Thursday after visiting Cairo and holding talks with Egyptian security officials. Media reports said that Gilad returned to Israel carrying a draft agreement. Haaretz said that unofficial sources stated that the possible deal here is about opening the crossings between Gaza and Israel and includes a phrase about deploying Presidential Security Forces, loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, at the Rafah terminal. . .

Hamas delegates to Cairo Sunday
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/7/2009
Salah Al Baradweel, member of Hamas’ Change and Reform Parliamentarian Bloc, stated Friday that delegates of the movement will be heading back to Cairo on Sunday to receive answers delivered by Israel to the Egyptian leadership regarding truce agreement. In an interview with the Al Aqsa Radio, affiliated with Hamas, at the Rafah Border Terminal, Al Bardaweel said, as he was heading back home from Cairo on Thursday evening that the talks are still ongoing in an attempt to reach a deal that secures lifting the Israeli siege on Gaza. He described the talks as tough due to Israeli preconditions. He stated that Israel wants to link the issue of the captured soldier, Gilad Shalit, with opening the border terminals, and that Israel insists on creating a "security line" along the northern and eastern borders of the Gaza Strip.

Mashaal: No truce without lifting of siege
Ali Waked, YNetNews 2/6/2009
Hamas leader tells rally of supporters in Damascus that Israel cannot dictate terms for ceasefire after losing war in Gaza. ’For first time Palestinians have won a direct war with the enemy,’ he says -While Cairo continues efforts to consolidate a ceasefire in Gaza, Hamas’ politburo chief reiterated warnings that his organization would not accept an agreement that did not lift the blockade on the Strip and initiate the opening of all border crossings. Khaled Mashaal spoke before thousands of supporters at a Damascus rally. He repeated claims that the Palestinians had won the war in Gaza. " It is impudence to try to reverse the results of the war, and to try to dictate the terms for negotiations on the ceasefire, as if the loser won and the winner lost," the exiled leader declared. " If we had lost," he wondered, "would these thousands have arrived. . .

Hamas promises decisions by Sunday
Ali Waked, YNetNews 2/6/2009
Hamas official says group wants truce agreement granting it control over crossings, rebuilding Gaza -Hamas officials said Friday the organization expects to achieve progress in ceasefire talks by the end of the weekend. The Hamas delegation is expected to return to Cairo Sunday with answers on the issue of the opening and closing of the border crossings, and the amount of goods allowed in by Israel. A Hamas official told Ynet that the issues still being debated are fundamental but small, and that the organization would strive to prevent a relapse into fighting. "The goal is to allow people to rehabilitate. What’s said in speeches is one thing, but what leads the delegation in private is the true interest of the public," he said, adding that the chances of reaching a truce were greater than the odds of another outbreak in violence.

Report: Turkey holding talks on Shalit
Ynet, YNetNews 2/6/2009
CNN-Turk reports delegation in Damascus meeting with Hamas leaders over release of captive soldier -While Egyptian negotiations over a ceasefire in Gaza stall, reports from Turkey announce that a Turkish delegation is attempting to form an agreement with Hamas on the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. CNN-Turk reported Friday that the delegation is currently in Damascus, where it is holding talks on Shalit with Hamas leaders. The report has not yet been confirmed by an official source. Turkey has previously offered to assist Israel with the kidnapped soldier’s release, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently reiterated this offer. However the report is surprising as Israel’s relations with Turkey have recently soured over the IDF operation in Gaza and an incident that occurred at the Davos Economic Forum.

Bardaweel: We rejected linking Shalit’s issue to issue of crossings
Palestinian Information Center 2/6/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Salah Al-Bardaweel, the spokesman of Hamas’s parliamentary bloc in the PLC, disclosed that the Hamas’s delegation will return to Cairo on Sunday to get Israel’s reply to a couple of clarifications regarding the proposed truce. Although he acknowledged that the negotiations are "difficult and complicated", Bardaweel explained that the negotiations would continue till we reach and agreement that would lead to complete lifting of the siege and opening the crossing points of Gaza. He attributed the complication in the negotiations to the Israeli "stubbornness" as Israel wanted to link the issue of the crossings to that of releasing Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier in captivity since 2006, in addition to Israel’s desire to create a security buffer zone in northern and eastern parts of the Gaza Strip.

ANALYSIS / Olmert wants Shalit deal before he leaves office
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 2/6/2009
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been making great efforts in recent weeks to clinch a deal with Hamas for the release of Gilad Shalit, and recently said privately that he is determined to try to bring Shalit home before he leaves office. People who have spoken to him told Haaretz that Olmert wants to "clear his desk" before the end of his term by resolving the Shalit case. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in contrast, told Channel 2 television last week that he believes there is a better prospect of bringing Shalit home after the elections than before. But Thursday he seemed to backtrack, saying the results of the military campaign in the Gaza Strip "can help us accelerate the decision-making process to bring Shalit home. It will require tough and painful decisions, but I believe there will be cabinet members who will do these things.

Protestors urge Olmert to ’bring Shalit home’
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 2/6/2009
’The PM must keep in mind that the day will come when he will stand before God, who will ask him what he did for Gilad’s release,’ protestor says. Bereaved father: Release terrorists behind attack that killed my son in exchange for Shalit - Dozens of people gathered outside Ehud Olmert’s Jerusalem residence Friday morning and called on the prime minister to act during the remainder of his term to bring about the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. The protestors blocked traffic and carried signs reading "Gilad is still alive. "Passing cars honked in support. "I’ve been going to all of the rallies for the past six months," Hani Bar-Nes said, "Israel must release all of the (Palestinian) prisoners in exchange for Gilad. Olmert must keep in mind that the day will come when he will stand before God, who will ask him what he did for Gilad’s release. He hasn’t done enough. "

Report: Shalit deal may be reached by Tuesday
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff and Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/7/2009
Turkish news channel CNN Turk reported on Friday that a deal to secure the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit may be reached by Tuesday. The TV channel said that Turkish officials were currently holding talks on the issue with Hamas officials in Damascus, the base of the Islamist militant group’s political leadership. Reuters Friday quoted a Palestinian official as saying that Turkey and Qatar have taken a lead role in the negotiations over Shalit in recent months. The CNN Turk report came after Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Friday said that Israel’s leadership was making "supreme" efforts to bring Shalit back home. "Supreme efforts are being made in order to hurry the moment when Gilad Shalit will come home," Barak told Channel 1. "We know that he is well, alive, breathing and okay, but we need to bring him here from there. "

France and US freeze out Hamas while Egypt tells Israelis to drop intransigence
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/6/2009
Gaza - The ceasefire talks in Cairo are stuck between Israeli intransigence and Palestinian reservation. The trepidation of Palestinian factions who have been burned in nearly every case on record is contributing greatly to the holdup of completing the Egyptian brokered negotiations. For a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip to be meaningful it must include an Israeli exit, an end to the aggression and an opening of the crossings. The United Nations continues to refer to the Strip as "hell" under the ongoing siege. UN Relief and Works Agency spokesperson Adnan Abu Hasna told yesterday that a limited amount of basic aid is being allowed through, but that it is not nearly enough. He also said that he preferred to not talk about the rumors that the Hamas party commandeered an aid shipment as the possibility of such a reality is explosive in numerous directions.

Ma’an readers say Rafah opening rests on Palestinian unity
Ma’an News Agency 2/6/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A Ma’anArabic readers’ poll saw 66. 7% of reader-respondents say that for the Rafah border to be opened a united Palestinian decision on the issue is necessary. Another 19. 8% said the opening will be dictated solely by and Israeli decision and 13. 4% believed that Egypt would have the final say. The poll, on the Ma’anArabic page for one week, was answered by 22,540 readers. [end]

Denmark hosts summit on arms smuggling into Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 2/6/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – International experts met in Denmark on Thursday to discuss illegal arms trafficking into Gaza, vowing to meet again next month to finalize a strategy. The recommendations by international experts from 10 separate countries will be presented on trafficking, according to Danish State Secreatry for the Foreign Ministry Michael Zilmer-Johns at a news conference. Reuters reported that the workshop, hosted by Denmark, included experts and diplomats from the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Israel and Hamas were not party to the talks in Copenhagen, although Israel attended as an observer. Zilmer-Johns told Reuters that Egyptian and Palestinian experts had declined to participate. According to a senior Western diplomat, every NATO member country had agreed on “a number of. . . "

Swedish pair throws shoes, book at Israeli ambassador
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 2/6/2009
Stockholm Police yesterday arrested two people who threw a shoe and two books at Israel’s ambassador to Sweden, while he was delivering an address at Stockholm University. A spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry said Ambassador Benny Dagan was speaking in the afternoon about the upcoming elections in Israel, when the objects were hurled at him from the audience of 50 people. In a famous incident last December, an Iraqi journalist hurled both shoes at former U. S. President George W. Bush when he was on a farewell visit to Iraq. When contacted by Haaretz, Dagan said he could not comment on the case since it is the subject of a police investigation. Dagan had been invited to speak by a student organization. The two alleged perpetrators are suspected of battery or attempt of battery, police said, and were questioned by the police at Sodermalm station.

Steep rise in number of anti-Semitic attacks across Holland
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 2/7/2009
Since Israel began Operation Cast Lead on December 27, the Dutch Jewish community has recorded six violent incidents against Jewish institutions and buildings. Unknown assailants Thursday fired two gunshots at a mental health clinic run by the Amsterdam Jewish community, in what some Dutch Jews are describing as the worst anti-Semitic attack in the Netherlands since Israel invaded Gaza in December. Staff from the Sinai Jewish center in Amstelveen near the Dutch capital found two bullet holes in a window. A previous attack targeted the liberal synagogue in Haaksbergen, where assailants threw stones at the windows. Another incident was an attempted arson against a Jewish institution in Arnhem, followed by the throwing of a Molotov cocktail at an Amsterdam Jewish-owned building. Another Jewish-owned building was pelted with stones in Oss.

VIDEO - Protestors disrupt Barcelona – Israel basketball match
Stop The Wall 2/6/2009
In Spain a dozen protestors disrupted the Barcelona – Maccabi (Tel Aviv) basketball game. During the game, a number of people waved Palestinian flags as well as balloons and banners reading “Boycott Israel” and “Stop the massacre in Gaza. ” At the end of first quarter, several protestors jumped onto the court, halting the match before being tackled and dragged out by security. There was a popular upsurge of anger during the destruction of Gaza, with mass mobilizations occurring throughout Europe. In Spain, hundreds of thousands demonstrated in more than a dozen cities across the country during the bombardment. A growing number of people and organizations are now actively working to further the international BDS movement, with various actions and campaigns springing up across Europe. -- See also: Video

Basketball / Barca trashes Maccabi as protesters rush court
Oren Kessler and Agencies, Ha’aretz 2/6/2009
FC Barcelona trampled over a visiting Maccabi Tel Aviv squad 85-65 last night in a Euroleague Top 16 contest nearly overshadowed by spectators’ political protests. The defeat is Maccabi’s first in the round and leaves its playoff record at 1-1. The beefed-up security force present at the game had its hands full nearly from the start. Only a few minutes into the first quarter, a spectator ran toward the court toting a Palestinian flag and shouting condemnations at the Maccabi players over last month’s Israeli military operation in Gaza. Last week a Spanish court ordered an investigation into Israel’s 2002 targeted killing of a senior Hamas operative in Gaza. After the protester was seized and removed by security, no fewer than six other spectators followed suit in what appeared to be a pre-planned demonstration.

Israel deports members of Lebanese ship’s detained crew
Ma’an News Agency 2/6/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Ten members of a Lebanese aid ship bound for the Gaza Strip and carrying humanitarian supplies were released and deported by Israeli forces on Friday, military officials said. Nine Lebanese aid workers and journalists, as well as one Palestinian refugee in Lebanon, were aboard the ship when Israeli naval forces boarded and arrested them. They were permitted to cross the border into Lebanon with the help of United Nations officials near Naqoura, Israel. Eight others of varying nationalities remained in Israel after the ship was seized and towed into an Israeli port on Thursday. They will be expelled to other countries, sources said. A Catholic archbishop of Jerusalem, 86-year-old Hillarion Capucci, was taken to the Golan Heights for transfer to Syria, according to Lebanese broadcaster Al-Jadiid.

Israel deports passengers from impounded Gaza-bound ship
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/6/2009
Israel deported activists from an aid ship it intercepted in the Mediterranean en route from Lebanon to the Gaza Strip, but allowed blood donations that were on board to enter Gaza on Friday, the Israel Defense Forces said. The aid ship was docked Friday at the Ashdod port, where it was towedof the supplies on board were being examined and would also be sent to Gaza, he said. Despite Israeli concerns, no weapons were found on board. The organizers of the aid ship, Lebanese political and human rights activists, said the cargo comprised medicine, food, toys and basic humanitarian supplies such as mattresses and blankets. Fifteen of the people on board, Lebanese and Syrian nationals, were deported overnight to Lebanon and Syria through Israel’s borders with those two countries, the IDF said.

Growing number of Palestinian officials condemn Israeli attack on aid ship
Ma’an News Agency 2/6/2009
Nablus/Bethlehem - Ma’an - Palestinian condemnations for the Israeli attack on and deportation of the crew of the Lebanese aid ship are growing. Member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization Taysir Khalid and Palestinian Liberation Front in Lebanon Central Committee member Abbas Al-Jum’a added their voices to that of Abdallah Abdallah, head of the political committee in the Palestinian Legislative Council, who condemned the attack Thursday. The ship, called The Brotherhood” was attempting to deliver humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip when it was attacked, boarded and its crew members, including the elderly Jerusalem patriarch Elarion Kaputchi, arrested. Khalid sent his thanks to the ship’s crew and organizers, and condemned the international silence around the harsh treatment of the benevolent ship.

Piracy in Palestinian territorial waters
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/6/2009
Gaza -- The Israelis committed blatant piracy says the European Campaign to Lift the Siege on Gaza. The reference is to a Lebanese ship carrying aid to the Gaza Strip which Israeli naval vessels commandeered yesterday. Not only did the Israelis take the ship, the humanitarian aid, including blood, they took the passengers. Gaza City’s Jamal Al Khudari, an independent member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the Chairman of the Popular Committee against the Siege, issued an urgent call to release the crew. He also noted that the Israelis had put their lives in danger while still at sea by knocking out communications. A Among the 20 passengers was an Al Jazeera correspondent who reported Israeli forces opening fire at the ship, climbing aboard and then beating passengers. Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said of the Israelis, "those who commit massacres against. . . "

IDF lets blood units brought aboard Lebanese ship into Gaza
Meital Yasur-Beit Or, YNetNews 2/6/2009
Magen David Adom Blood Bank team transports 1,100 blood units to Strip. Medical supplies found on Lebanese ship stopped by Israeli Navy after trying to sneak into Gaza waters - The IDF has transferred 1,100 blood units into the Gaza Strip Friday, via the Erez crossing. The blood was brought aboard the Lebanese aid ship which was detained by the Israel Navy off the Strip’s coast Thursday. The units were transferred into Gaza by Magen David Adom blood Bank teams. Head of the Blood Bank Prof. Ayelet Shenhar said that "the ship was carrying 1,100 frozen (blood) units. Magen David Adom was asked to assist in transferring them to the Erez crossing. A Blood Bank team was sent to the Ashdod Port and transported the blood in special containers, meant to keep the units at a temperature of -20 degrees Celsius (-68 Fahrenheit) to the crossing. "

Ship activists held by Israel return to Lebanon
Associated Press, YNetNews 2/6/2009
All 18 people aboard ship carrying aid to Gaza expelled to different destinations, apparently according to nationality; ’ It was a long and difficult ordeal,’ Al-Jazeera reporter says - Ten activists and journalists detained by the Israeli navy on a cargo ship carrying humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip have returned to Lebanon, security officials and activists said. The nine Lebanese and a Palestinian resident of Lebanon arrived early Friday, with the help of the UN peacekeeping force, across the Lebanese-Israeli border at the coastal town of Naqoura. The 10 were among 18 activists and crew held for several hours after their ship was seized by the Israeli navy enforcing a blockade of the Palestinian territory. All 18 people aboard were expelled to different destinations, apparently according to nationality.

Turkey probes Israel on ’war crimes’ in Gaza
Associated Press, YNetNews 2/6/2009
Ankara chief prosecutor’s office says investigation following complaint filed by Islamic human rights organization against Peres, Olmert and Livni - Turkish prosecutors said Friday that they were investigating whether Israeli leaders should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity over the recent military offensive in the Gaza Strip. The Ankara chief prosecutor’s office said the probe was opened after Mazlum-Der, an Islamic-oriented human rights organization in Turkey, filed an official complaint against Israeli leaders. The group alleges that genocide, torture and crimes against humanity were committed by President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and the country’s army and military intelligence chiefs. Mazlum-Der has also asked that the Israeli officials be detained if they enter Turkey, prosecutors said. Turkish prosecutors are required to open an investigation whenever an official complaint is filed. A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Ankara declined comment.

Turkey prosecutor to probe whether IDF Gaza op was ’genocide’
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/7/2009
A Turkish prosecutor’s office says it has launched a probe into whether Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip counts as genocide, torture and crimes against humanity. The Ankara chief prosecutor’s office said Friday that the investigation was opened after an Islamic human rights organization filed an official complaint against Israeli leaders, including the president, prime minister and foreign minister. The prosecutor’s office said the rights organization has also asked for the Israeli officials be detained if they step foot in Turkey. Turkish prosecutors are required to open investigation any time an official complaint is filed. Turkish laws allow trials against people accused of genocide and other crimes against humanity committed in other countries.

Mussa defends staying at Davos debate
Middle East Online 2/6/2009
CAIRO - Arab League chief Amr Mussa on Thursday defended not joining Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s walk-out from a debate with Israeli President Shimon Peres at an economic forum last month. Mussa, who was sitting next to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the discussion in Davos, Switzerland, looked flummoxed for a moment as he stood to shake Erdogan’s hand as he walked out. "I didn’t withdraw with Erdogan because I know that his withdrawal was not in objection to Peres, but because of his rejection of how the conference was organised," Mussa told the Qatar-based Arabic satellite channel Al-Jazeera. "The opportunity to present an Arabic viewpoint in confronting Israeli slanders and lies must not be missed," he said, adding that his and Erdogan’s comments visibly perturbed Peres. Opposition commentators in Egypt had said Mussa should also have left the discussion, which was about the 22-day war in Gaza.

Turkey probes Israel ’war crimes’ in Gaza
Middle East Online 2/6/2009
ANKARA - A Turkish prosecutor has launched an investigation into whether Israel committed genocide and crimes against humanity in its offensive in Gaza, his office said Friday. The investigation follows a complaint lodged by the Islamist-leaning human rights association Mazlum-Der against several Israeli officials, including President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defence Minister Ehud Barak and army chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi. "Every complaint merits an investigation," the spokesman said when asked whether a probe had been launched into Mazlum-Der’s complaint. Under Turkish law, prosecutors are obliged to look into all complaints to determine whether there are grounds to initiate a full-scale investigation that could lead to formal charges. If the prosecutor decides the complaint does not merit a case, it will be dismissed.

Turkey removes anti-Semitic article
Ynet, YNetNews 2/6/2009
Piece published on ruling party’s website denied Holocaust, said Hitler’s associates were Jews -An article rife with anti-Semitic commentary was removed from the website of Turkey’s ruling party Friday after receiving brief exposure, the country’s Hurriyet News reported. Another paper, the Radikal Gazetesi, featured printed screens proving the article had been posted on the Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s internet site under the heading: ’The Promised Land - Palestine’. In the piece, Jews were dubbed "a swarm of grasshoppers" among other derogatory terms. It also denied the Holocaust had happened. The author of the piece, who remains unnamed, claimed that a number of Adolf Hitler’s closest associates were Jews. "The claims that Hitler incinerated and carried mass killings against Jews do not abide with the historic facts. . . "

UNRWA Workers Union prepare for hour-long strikes over two-day weekend issue
Ma’an News Agency 2/6/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – The Union of UNRWA employees held its third conference in three West Bank districts on Thursday after their demands for a two day weekend were refused by UNRWA administration. On Thursday workers went on strike from 10-11am, and are preparing for successive one-hour strikes starting Saturday if demands are not met. The 5,000 West Bank and East Jerusalem workers met in Jericho teachers’ college, Askar Youth Center in Nablus, and the Duheisha Refugee Camp center near Bethlehem to discuss the employment situation and the status of continued negotiations. A central issue is the two-day weekend, which has become standard for Palestinian Authority workers. The Union reported that administration had offered to concede to the demand, but would dock pay accordingly. Head of the union, Shaker Ar-Resheq said the UNRWA administration should have taken the demands. . .

Hard man of the right is Israel’s kingmaker in waiting
Donald Macintyre in Umm el Fahm, The Independent 2/6/2009
The settler politician dubbed ’Le Pen of the West Bank’ wants Israeli Arabs to swear loyalty to the state -- or lose their vote - Avigdor Lieberman once suggested that Arab Knesset members who had talks with Hamas representatives should be executed - Avigdor Lieberman, the far-right politician campaigning on a platform that Israeli Arabs should pledge loyalty to the state or lose their right to vote, has become the pivotal figure in next week’s election after two polls showing his party has overtaken Labour. The Yisrael Beiteinu party headed by the Moldovan-born Mr Lieberman, who lives in a West Bank Jewish settlement and has been depicted by his critics as an Israeli version of Jean-Marie Le Pen or Jorg Haider, is in third place with a projected 19 or 17 seats in two newspaper polls yesterday. If the party did take that number of seats, it would mean it has performed well beyond its

Netanyahu: The leader who struts like a superpower
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 2/7/2009
Benjamin Netanyahu is favourite to win Tuesday’s Israeli election, and that could put him on a collision course with the Obama White House. - It was Bill Clinton who drily observed after meeting the newly elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that "he thinks he is the superpower and we are here to do whatever he requires. " If Mr Netanyahu emerges as victor in next Tuesday’s election and in the process of government formation that will follow, he is unlikely to treat President Barack Obama to a repeat of what Mr Clinton’s key Middle East aide, Dennis Ross, would later recall as that "nearly insufferable" performance in the White House in 1996. Mr Netanyahu, who has gone out of his way to be publicly flattering about Mr Obama in recent weeks, knows a little more about diplomacy than he did then; one of several reasons why he lost the election three years later was that the Israeli public was unhappy about how unwelcome their prime minister had become in Washington.

Elections Committee rejects bid to ban far-rightist from Arab city poll
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 2/7/2009
Central Elections Committee chairman Eliezer Rivlin on Friday rejected a request to ban far-rightist Baruch Marzel from serving as a poll supervisor in the Israeli-Arab city of Umm al-Fahm. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz earlier on Friday urged the Central Elections Committee to prevent Marzel, head of the far-right Jewish National Front party, from monitoring polls in the Arab city on election day. Mazuz said that Marzel’s presence in the city will harm the public order and the purity of the election process, and said that his request was based on information from security services and police. Justice Rivlin said he does not have the authority to disqualify Marzel, except in the event that there are disturbances at the polling station on election day. Mazuz said that Marzel’s presence in the city will harm the public order and the purity of the election process. . . -- See also: Knesset committee bans Arab parties from elections

Meretz leader to Haaretz: Two-state solution on last legs
Ari Shavit, Ha’aretz 2/7/2009
You gotta love Jumes. You can disagree with him and you can get mad [at] him, but in the end, you have to have great warmth for him. In the age of Lieberman’s nationalism and Eyal Arad’s spin, Meretz chair Haim Oron is like an antibody. Even when he goofs, he goofs with his heart in the right place. If any two numbers reveal just how awful this election is, it’s these: Lieberman 20, Meretz five. The Lieberman-Meretz gap raises serious questions about the future and the present of the state of Israel. From his Tel Aviv campaign headquarters, Jumes is still fighting to change both. Why Meretz? For half their lives, half of Haaretz’s readers have been voting Meretz and nothing good has come of it. Meretz is a kind of start-up. It tosses out ideas that catch on later and other people implement them.

Israeli polls show far-right gains
Alex Sehmer in Tel Aviv, Al Jazeera 2/7/2009
Israel’s election race has got much tighter, with the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party overtaking Labor, one of Israel’s Big Three political parties in the polls. The opinion polls, published in Israeli newspapers on Friday, show Yisrael Beiteinu, is likely to win 18 or 19 seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. A poll in the Maariv newspaper indicated that Kadima, led by Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister, had closed the gap with opposition party Likud, with Benjamin Netanyahu’s party now leading by only three seats. The Labor Party of Ehud Barak, who serves as defence minister in the coalition government with Kadima, was trailing in fourth position with just 17 seats, Maariv reported. Another poll in Yediot Ahronot showed that Likud was likely to win 25 seats in the 120-seat. . .

Rivlin rejects petition to bar Marzel from Umm al-Fahm ballot committee
YNetNews 2/6/2009
Attorney general asks Elections Committee to disqualify extreme right-wing activist from local ballot’s voting board due to concerns that move may spark riot; committee head rejects petition, says State responsible for maintaining public safety - Fears of Election Day riots in Umm al-Fahm are growing: Attorney General Menachem Mazuz sent and emergency appeal to the Central Elections Committee Friday, asking it exercise its authority and disqualify extreme right-wing activist Baruch Marzel from heading the ballot committee in the Israeli-Arab city of Umm al-Fahm. Mazuz’s appeal to the committee reportedly followed security concerns expressed by both Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin and Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen. Mazuz cited the concerns, saying that the move would cause "a near-certain disruption of public order and may infringe on both public safety and the purity of elections on the city. " -- See also: Knesset committee bans Arab parties from elections

Jews and Palestinians unite in basketball ’peace league’
Steve Klein, Ha’aretz 2/6/2009
Scores of teenage boys Thursday - Israeli and Palestinian -helped kick off the second season of the Jerusalem Peace Basketball League, a joint initiative of the Jerusalem municipality and PeacePlayers International - Middle East. The league is comprised of six integrated teams of Arab and Jewish youth, who participate in the Twinned Basketball Clubs program, and four other teams from across Jerusalem and a West Bank town. The league is actually in its second incarnation, according to Michael Cherubin, the organization’s operations manager and co-director of the league. The first, he explained Thursday, ran about six years before falling apart in the early days of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. Cherubin noted that the involvement of Americans helped to bring this league to fruition in a city entrenched in the heart of the conflict.

Book Review: Airport to nowhere
Tom Engelhardt, Asia Times 2/7/2009
Waltz With Bashir: A Lebanon War Story, by Ari Folman and David Polonsky, Introduction by Tom Engelhardt - A pack of ravenous dogs, a nightmare, a visit from a war-haunted friend, this was how film director Ari Folman’s period as an Israeli "grunt" in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon first returned to him. As a 19-year-old Israeli soldier, Folman was on duty in Beirut during the notorious massacres in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. But when he began to search for his own memories of that war, what he found instead was a puzzling, disturbing blank. Tentatively setting off in pursuit of those missing memories, horrors buried for almost a quarter of a century, he also launched himself on a path that would lead to his award-winning, Oscar-nominated animated film, Waltz with Bashir , and an accompanying graphic memoir of the same title, developed in tandem with it.

Study: Israel did not violate war laws
Jerusalem Post 2/6/2009
Israel did not violate the laws of war and made marked improvements in its fighting capability during the recent military operation against Hamas in Gaza, yet the gains from the conflict in the long term remain uncertain, a US study concludes. The analysis of the 22-day conflict in Gaza by Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies finds "impressive improvements in the readiness and capability" of the Israeli Defense Forces since the war against Hizbullah in Lebanon in 2006, and unequivocally states that Israel did not violate the laws of war despite the large number of civilian casualties among the Palestinians. "[Israel] did deliberately use decisive force to enhance regional deterrence and demonstrate that it had restored its military edge," the report states. "These, however, are legitimate military objectives in spite of their very real humanitarian costs. " Nearly 1,300 Palestinians were killed in the operation, including hundreds of civilians, according to Palestinian officials in Gaza. -- See also: THE “GAZA WAR”: A Strategic Analysis

Clinton reaching out to Muslims
Lachlan Carmichael - WASHINGTON, Middle East Online 2/6/2009
New US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has chosen to visit Indonesia on her first overseas trip because she wants to "reach out" to the Muslim world, a spokesman said Thursday. Indonesia is "an important country for the United States" as the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters who asked why she included Indonesia on her visit to Asia. "And the secretary feels it’s important that we need to reach out and reach out early to Indonesia," Wood said. Clinton will meet senior Indonesian officials in Jakarta to discuss "the close and growing partnership with Indonesia and prospectives on common interests in southeast Asia," he said. Her trip to Indonesia is scheduled for February 18-19, immediately after her stop in Japan and before her visits to South Korea and China.

Abbas’s forces in West Bank arrest more Hamas supports despite Gaza wound
Palestinian Information Center 2/6/2009
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- US-trained PA security forces of Fatah leader and former PA chief Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank continued the frenzied arrest campaign in the ranks of Hamas supports across the West Bank despite the deep wound in Gaza Strip. According to local sources and eyewitnesses, Abbas’s forces arrested nearly 61 Hamas’s sympathizers in different parts of the West Bank since the end of the 23-day Israeli occupation aggression on Gaza. Most of the arrestees were university students, professors, PA officials, and lawyers, in addition to former captives in Israeli jails. Most of the arrests took place in Al-Khalil governorate, which is a stronghold for Hamas, in addition to other West Bank cities. According to human rights and local records, there were more than 600 Hamas political prisoners retained in Abbas’s jails out of more than 3500 arrested at the hand of those forces since Hamas took control of Gaza Strip.

Mishaal: Institutes that contradict Palestinian resistance option not legitimate
Palestinian Information Center 2/6/2009
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Head of the political bureau of Hamas, Khaled Mishaal, said that no one argues against the PLO being the home for Palestinians inside and outside Palestine, stressing at the same time that its institutions such as the PLO’s executive committee and the Palestinian National Council have lost their legitimacy many years ago. Mishaal, who was speaking at a rally held in Damascus to mark the victory of Gaza, said that the Palestinian people have chosen the resistance option, thus any institute that contradicts this option is illegitimate. He criticised those who express doubt about the victory of Gaza and said that it was normal for the Israeli occupation to deny defeat, especially that it is the election season. He added that he finds strange that while some Israeli writers and intellectuals argue that Israel has lost the war on Gaza, some Arab and Palestinian parties insist that Israel did not lose.

Hamas, Fatah spokesmen spar on issue of prisoners and dodging unity talks
Ma’an News Agency 2/6/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Hamas and Fatah officials continued to argue over the issue of political arrests Friday, saying the issue stands in the way of any talks between parties. “Egypt had proposed a meeting of the general secretaries of the factions,” said Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhum. The meeting would be specifically to form special committees to discuss the Palestinian dialogue files, including that of political arrests. The meetings are set for 22 February. Fatah, however, denounced the claim that political arrests made talks difficult, saying “Barhum’s statements increase frustration among Palestinians looking forward to the moment when the two sit together and announce the end of the division. ”Speaking to Ma’an Fatah spokesperson Kamal Abu Shahwish insisted “we will not be dragged to these provocative statements that increase division.

Jihad, Hamas: assassinating Abul Rub fruit of PA-Israeli security coordination
Palestinian Information Center 2/5/2009
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- The Quds Brigades, the armed wig of Islamic Jihad Movement, on Thursday charged that the assassination of its commander in Jenin Ala Abul Rub at the hands of Israeli occupation forces was the fruit of security coordination between the PA in Ramallah and the Israeli occupation authority. The armed wing said in a statement that Abul Rub was also being chased by the PA security apparatuses in the West Bank, and added that his assassination was the fruit of this "damned security coordination". It held the PA security apparatuses responsible for Abul Rub’s assassination, adding that tens of resistance fighters in the West Bank were being persecuted by the PA security in line with that security coordination, which is rejected by all Palestinian forces. The Quds Brigades vowed strong reprisal to the murder of Abul Rub, pointing to the seriousness of concluding calm with the IOF not including the West Bank.

Hamas’ popularity soaring following Israel’s Gaza blitz
Khalid Amayreh in Ramallah, Palestinian Information Center 2/5/2009
The latest public opinion survey in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has shown a dramatic rise in Hamas’ popularity among Palestinians, with a significant decline in Fatah’s public standing. Moreover, the poll showed that a majority of Palestinians believed that the advent of the Obama administration in the U. S.   wouldn’t make a big difference with regard to American efforts to resolve the Palestinian issue. According to the poll, Turkey, Venezuela and Iran as well as Hezbullah are the most popular regional forces among Palestinians. The results of the latest poll, conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center (JMCC)  from 29-31 January, showed that nearly 48 % of respondents believed that Hamas came out of the Israeli blitz against Gaza victorious. Nearly 10 per cent opined that Israel won the war, while over a third of respondents, 37.

Palestinian judge delivers Friday prayer at Paris suburb mosque; condemns Israeli actions in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/6/2009
Paris – Ma’an – Senior Judge Sheikh Taysir At-Tamimi called the Israeli acts in Gaza “clear violations of the human rights guaranteed by all religions and international conventions. ”At-Tamimi made the comments during the Friday sermon at An-Nur mosque in the Drancy suburb north of Paris. He was invited to speak at the mosque by the local community and deliver lectures on the recent situation in Gaza. “The occupation authorities were not satisfied” with the destruction of homes, mosques and government buildings, he said, “but took advantage of the world’s being busy with the war on Gaza to speeding up its procedures in East Jerusalem; changing its features and expelling its Palestinian residents. ” He added that “they [Israeli authorities] also allowed the settlers to break into the Al-Aqsa mosque and tour its yards.

Jordanian popular demands to support steadfastness of the Palestinian people
Palestinian Information Center 2/6/2009
AMMAN, (PIC)-- Participants in the founding conference of "The Jordanian Socienty to Support the Resistance" called for continuation with popular action to support the steadfastness of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip against all the conspiracies being hatched against them. The participants called for real support for the resistance in the face of the aggression, the siege and the conspiracy, stressing that the resistance factions are defending the whole Ummah and form a stumbling block in the face of schemes that aim to liquidate the Palestinian cause. Jordanian MP Hamazah Mansour, who heads the follow up committee of the society, warned in his speech of political attempts to abort the achievements of the resistance. He condemned agreements that aim to besiege and blackmail the Palestinian people, pointing to leaked details, prior to the aggression on Gaza, about schemes. . .

Leaked settlement data puts Israeli peace drive in doubt
Daan Bauwens, Inter Press Service, Daily Star 2/7/2009
TEL AVIV: A secret Israeli government database revealed last week the real extent of settlement construction in the Occupied West Bank. In violation of the "road map" to peace agreed with the US, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, it turned out, agreed to the construction of another settlement on the Occupied West Bank. Many now question how devoted Israeli leaders really are to the idea of achieving peace. A comprehensive official database on settler activity, compiled systematically by order of the Israeli Defense Ministry, shows that in 75 percent of the Occupied West Bank settlements, construction has been carried out without the permits that were issued, or contrary to them. Furthermore, the database reveals that in more than 30 settlements, extensive construction of roads, schools, synagogues and even police stations was carried out on private land belonging to Palestinian residents. -- See also: Secret database shows Israeli government to be active partner in settlement land grab

Do it again: JA hopes economic crisis will help renewed English-teacher campaign
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 2/6/2009
In yet another attempt to fill a crippling shortage in English teachers in Israeli schools, the Jewish Agency and the Education Ministry this week announced a new recruitment drive in North America. Referring to similar past projects which yielded limited results, ministry officials said the new plan has a better chance of succeeding because of the world financial crisis, as well as the authority’s acquired experience in teacher retention. Dubbed ’Teachers for Israel," the initiative seeks to make up for a shortfall of roughly 220 English teachers in Israel, with the ministry seeking to recruit as many as 1,000 Jewish instructors. The only requirements for the program are that candidates be under 35 years of age and hold a BA degree. Participants will be placed in a 14-month program, which will include pedagogical training and Hebrew classes, followed by an internship and finally placement.

Livni narrows Netanyahu’s lead ahead of vote next week
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/7/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Benjamin Netanyahu will go into Tuesday’s Israeli election with centrist Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni breathing down his neck and a far-right party siphoning votes from him, according to final opinion polls on Friday. Four polls on the last day such surveys can be published showed Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud leading Livni’s Kadima party by two or three seats in the race for the 120-member Knesset, down from 4-5 last month and as many as 9 seats in December. A typical poll shows Likud on 26 seats to Kadima’s 23. By contrast, the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu (Our Home is Israel), led by Netanyahu’s Russian-speaking former aide Avigdor Lieberman, was on 18 or 19 seats. Just a month ago the party, which harnesses anti-Arab sentiment and supports a proposal to ethnically cleanse Israel of its Palestinian citizens, was scoring around the same 11 seats it secured in a 2006 election.

Elections 2009 / ’Lieberman is holding Netanyahu hostage’
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 2/7/2009
With five days to go until the election, Likud and Kadima both admit Avigdor Lieberman will determine who forms the next government, assuming the polls predicting Yisrael Beiteinu will be the third largest party. Lieberman’s meteoric rise and the narrowing gap between Likud and Kadima to a close battle, have transformed the sleepy 2009 race and made Lieberman into the critical axis, complicating coalition building. The next government will likely include Lieberman despite his extreme stance on Israeli Arabs and the criminal investigations. The only partner to officially rule out Lieberman as a coalition partner is Meretz. Labor lawmakers are battling party chair Ehud Barak, who refuses to publicly vow not to sit with Lieberman, as he understands that Likud chair Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima chair Tzipi Livni will have a hard time giving up Lieberman, if the most recent polls prove true.

Likud, Kadima in head-to-head race
YNetNews 2/6/2009
Last poll held before voting day gives Likud 25 mandates, Kadima 23. Numbers predict 19 seats for Yisrael Beiteinu, 16 for Labor, 10 for Shas - The race for the premiership seems closer than ever according to a poll conducted by Yedioth Ahronoth in conjunction with Dr. Mina Zemach and the Dahaf Polling Institute. Should the elections be held today, the Likud would win 25 mandates and Kadima – 23. Friday’s poll, which is the last one that can be published prior to Tuesday’s general elections, shows the political Right take a clear lead. The poll also indicated that Yisrael Beiteinu stands to become the third largest party in the 18th Knesset with about 19 seats. Labor will win some 16 seats, making it the fourth largest party; Shas stands to have 10 mandates, United Torah Judaism follows with six, Meretz with five, Hadash stands to have four seats, as does the National Union, Habayit Hayehudi and United Arab List-Ta’al follow with three seats each and Balad stands to win two mandates.

Elections 2009 / Pollsters: High voter turnout in Jewish sector will benefit right
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 2/6/2009
A high voter turnout in the Jewish sector would benefit the right and hurt the left, regardless of how floating voters ultimately break, pollsters agree. This is because turnout in the Arab sector is expected to be low, so a high Jewish turnout would increase the chances of one of the Arab parties - most likely Balad - failing to get enough votes to enter the Knesset and thereby depriving the leftist bloc of those seats. In the last election, Balad received 72,000 votes (and three seats), while the minimum needed to enter the Knesset was 63,000 (two seats). If, as expected, turnout in the Arab sector drops by about 10 percent this time around, while turnout in the Jewish sector is high, Balad could easily fall below the minimum, which is defined as two seats’ worth of votes - i. e. , the total number of valid votes divided by 60. Last election, turnout in the Arab sector was 56 percent, and this year, most experts expect it to fall to around 50 percent.

Elections 2009 / Harsh tone of election campaign due to desire to please Russian speakers
Lily Galili, Ha’aretz 2/6/2009
[Blame it on the Russians? - Ed. ] Two significant events have combined to shape the 2009 election campaign: This is the 20th anniversary of the start of mass immigration from the former Soviet Union, and the 10th anniversary of Yisrael Beiteinu’s establishment. And hence, it is also the year in which the entire campaign underwent a process of "Russification" that will not only affect the outcome of the vote, but has already affected its tone. The success that the polls are predicting for Avigdor Lieberman’s party is the electoral reflection of this process. But even more significant is the impact that 1. 25 million Russian speakers have had on the aggression level of the campaign rhetoric. If Lieberman’s campaign advertisements say he "understands Arabic," other candidates have tried to signal that they understand Russian.

Livni challenges Netanyahu to a debate
YNetNews 2/6/2009
’Public demands candidates present policies on threats Israel is facing,’ Kadima chairwoman tells Likud leader in letter. Bibi during tour of settlement: Kadima will continue withdrawals - Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni challenged Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu to a debate ahead of Tuesday’s general elections. "The Israeli public is eager for information on the candidates’ plan of action for the coming years," she said Friday, in a letter addressed to the Likud leader. "I am writing to you because thus far you haven’t responded to my calls for a public debate. I don’t understand what you’re afraid of. "I am certain that it is clear to you as well that a vote based on threats and anxieties is insufficient," the Kadima chair added, "There is a justifiable demand from the premiership candidates to present their policies regarding the threats Israel is facing and how they plan to lead the country towards peace and a better future.

’A higher regard for law enforcement’
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 2/6/2009
Yisrael Beiteinu candidates are divided over the question whether the police investigations against their chairman, Avigdor Lieberman, is undermining the party’s appeal to Anglo voters. The party’s Canadian-born 21st candidate in the upcoming elections, Danny Hershtal, describes the investigation as having the potential of being "seriously damaging. "But number seven, Danny Ayalon, says it couldn’t possibly affect the vote count. Alleging that people from the West have a lower tolerance to corruption than native Israelis, Hershtal said: "People who haven’t been in Israel too long have not had enough time to observe how criminal investigations peak and dissolve here in strange correlation to the popularity of some candidates. "He added: "We all know that long criminal investigations against politicians often end without an indictment, and we have a skeptical view of them. "

Israeli election too close to call according to latest polls
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 2/6/2009
Final opinion polls published today before next week’s Israeli elections suggest the race between the rightwing Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival Tzipi Livni, the centrist foreign minister, may be too close to call. Although all polls still put Netanyahu, leader of the Likud opposition party, ahead, his lead has shrunk and there are thought to be as many as 20% of voters who are still undecided before Tuesday’s vote. The latest polls suggest Netanyahu would take between 25 and 27 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, ahead of Livni’s Kadima party with 23 to 25 seats. As always in Israeli elections, the future prime minister would still need to build a sizeable coalition in order to lead a government. Netanyahu’s lead has slipped in part because of a sudden rise in support for the far-right leader Avigdor Lieberman, whose party, Israel Our Home, is now ranked third.

Poll: Likud slips, but on course for narrow win
Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 2/6/2009
The Likud will win an unexpectedly close race but the right-wing bloc will easily defeat the Left, according to a consensus of polls taken ahead of Friday, the last date polls can be published before Tuesday’s election. A Jerusalem Post/Smith Research poll found that the Right would win some 65 seats, led by the Likud’s 26 and Israel Beiteinu’s 17-18. The Left would win some 55 seats, led by Kadima’s 23 and Labor’s 14. Likud’s three-seat lead over Kadima is down from six mandates when the last Smith poll was published January 2. While Kadima has remained stagnant since then, Likud has lost three seats to Avigdor Lieberman’s resurgent Israel Beiteinu. Other polls showed similar trends. A Panels poll taken for Channel 2’s Web site found that the gap between Likud and Kadima had fallen to only one seat, and a Dialogue poll taken for Ha’aretz put the gap at two.

Politics: ’Post’ guide to the 2009 elections
Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 2/5/2009
The election campaign that culminates when voters cast their ballots Tuesday has had its share of surprises, ups and down in the polls and the usual political mudslinging. But the intensity of the public’s involvement in the political process has taken a step back in this election, with far fewer people attending political events, placing bumper stickers on their cars and hanging posters from their porches and rooftops. Yet what is most glaringly absent from this election is a debate among the three people running for prime minister. There has not been a full debate of all prime ministerial candidates since 1996, which has allowed the politicians to make it through an entire election campaign without clarifying their policies on key issues. That’s why The Jerusalem Post is presenting a guide to the 33 parties seeking your vote on Election Day and a synopsis on what they stand for.

VIDEO - Israeli election: from Gaza to Jerusalem
Peter Beaumont in Tel Aviv, The Guardian 2/6/2009
With Tzipi Livni dancing in nightclubs, politicians are anxious to court the cultural capital’s seemingly apolitical youth - Tel Aviv. The Bubble, locals call it: a city separate from Israel but indivisibly entwined with it as well. Here politics is seen through a different prism: youthful, sometimes apathetic, tolerant and secular. Creative and often left-field. It is not like Jerusalem – another country, Tel Avivians joke, with its growing domination by ultra-orthodox haredis. You need a passport to go there, one adds, ironically. Nor is it like the south, the sprawling cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon, less than half an hour’s drive away. The mood there is defined by their proximity to missiles fired from inside Gaza. Nor is it like the vast soulless settlement blocks, and modern satellite towns that have been grafted crudely onto the ribbed limestone hills. -- See also: Blogging in the Tel Aviv 'Bubble': sidestepping politics for life and love

Olmert questioned for 13th time
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 2/6/2009
National Fraud Unit investigators arrive at prime minister’s home yet again. Attorney General Mazuz to be briefed as soon as session ends - National Fraud Unit investigators arrived at Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s home Friday morning, for the 13th time. Olmert stands to be questioned for about 3 hours, after which Attorney General Menachem Mazuz will be briefed by police. Olmert was questioned last week as well, on alleged political appointments in Israel’s Small and Medium Enterprise Authority (SMEA) during his tenure as industry, trade and labor minister. The investigation into this matter was launched following a State Comptroller’s Office recommendation. The State Prosecutor’s Office previously stated that it believes it has a strong case against the prime minister in the Rishon Tours double-billing affair. In the Bank Leumi affair, Olmert was suspected of having intervened in

Olmert quits political life bruised
Ron Bousso - JERUSALEM, Middle East Online 2/6/2009
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will quit Israel’s political life after Tuesday’s election, bruised by graft scandals and three tumultuous years in office marked by two wars and a hobbled peace process. But experts believe the savvy 63-year-old might eventually seek to return to public life. Olmert assumed the interim premiership in January 2006, after taking over from his mentor Ariel Sharon, who had designated him as his successor before suffering a stroke and falling into a coma. He remained in office after his centrist Kadima party won the March 2006 elections on a promise to reshape Israel’s borders in the occupied West Bank following a withdrawal from Gaza engineered by Sharon the previous year. But he quickly had to abandon his plan. "From the outset, Olmert appeared a very promising, experienced and highly qualified leader, which he did prove at times.

Olmert’s travel aide recorded double-billing methods
Gidi Weitz, Ha’aretz 2/6/2009
In advance of a hearing scheduled for March on allegations of double-billing by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that purportedly paid for private travel for himself and his family, Haaretz has obtained the detailed travel records from 2003 to 2005 kept by Olmert’s aide, Rachael Risby-Raz. The allegations surfaced in June 2008 and have been dubbed the "Rishontours affair" after the agency which handled Olmert’s travel arrangements. Risby-Raz, who served as Olmert’s external affairs advisor, drew up a document detailing Olmert’s overseas trips - a clear and neatly-organized chart. Next to the entry regarding each trip, Risby-Raz noted the minister’s date of departure and return, his destinations, and most importantly, the names of the organizations that financed his globetrotting.

Case against Agriculture Minister Simhon closed
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 2/6/2009
Agriculture minister suspected of receiving illicit perquisites from local airline in 2006; State Prosecutor Moshe Lador closes cases due to lack of evidence -State Prosecutor Moshe Lador informed Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon (Labor) that the case against him has been closed due to lack of evidence. Simhon was under investigation for allegedly breaching sections of the Public Service Act pertaining to gifts and receiving illicit perquisites from Cargo Airlines Ltd. The State Prosecutor’s Office began its investigation in June of 2006, after State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss received a complaint from the Ometz group for proper administration, social Justice and moral strength, alleging that Cargo Airlines had paid for a trip Simhon and his family took abroad. Simhon denied the allegation and said he had documentation proving he paid for the trip and all its related expenses.

Court: Chief Rabbi Metzger’s explanation of hotel favors not credible
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 2/6/2009
The High Court of Justice Thursday questioned the credibility of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger in connection with allegations he received improper favors from Jerusalem hotels. The court also criticized the way Attorney General Menachem Mazuz investigated whether the case would disqualify Metzger from serving as a dayan, a religious court judge. In his ruling, High Court Justice Edmond Levy noted that some of the explanations provided on Metzger’s behalf and by Metzger himself appeared "surprising and even unfounded. "When Metzger was appointed chief rabbi in 2003, he was also appointed a judge on the Supreme Rabbinical Court. About two years later, a criminal investigation was opened against Metzger on suspicion, among other matters, that he had received improper favors from Jerusalem hotels while the state was paying his rent in the capital.

All three agree: ILA needs reform
Haim Bior, Ha’aretz 2/6/2009
There is at least one thing the three leading candidates for prime minister agrred on yesterday: The Israel Lands Administration and the country’s planning and zoning commissions suffer from "horrible" bureaucracy and do not properly serve the people. The three appeared one after the other at a conference of the Union of Local Authorities held in Tel Aviv. Kadima chairperson and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni even claimed that the ILA was tainted with signs of corruption. All three pointed out the problematic existence of "fixers" acting between the ILA and the citizen, and the need for deep reforms in city planning bodies. Livni, Labor chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Likud head MK Benjamin Netanyahu told the 150 heads of local authorities of their economic plans for after the election - if they are elected, of course.

I’m voting Meretz
Amos Schocken, Ha’aretz 2/6/2009
Meretz’s position during the war in the south is no reason not to vote for it. If anything, it’s a badge of honor for the party and its leaders, another one of many reasons to vote for the party in the upcoming elections. "The State of Israel has the right and the duty to see to the welfare and the security of its citizens," said party head Haim Oron during the special Knesset debate two days after the outset of the military operation. "This does not mean use of all available force, or justification of every action carried out in the past 48 hours," he continued. Meretz’s opposition to the ground operation was immediate and vigorous, and stated that "the Lebanese quagmire will be considered shallow compared to the anticipated quagmire in Gaza. A ground operation and entry into Gaza contradict a basic Israeli interest.

’Illegal’ wildcat strike shuts down nation’s railways
Avi Bar-Eli and Fadi Eyadat, Ha’aretz 2/6/2009
A wildcat strike shut down train traffic throughout the country for more than half the day yesterday until the strike was halted by court order. The strike, which was called by the northern chapter of the rail workers union, began at midnight Wednesday, though there were scattered disruptions had taken place even earlier. The union did not give any reason for its action, nor was the strike preceded by the declaration of a labor dispute, as required by law. Israel Railways immediately sought an injunction against the strike, but the Haifa Labor Court issued it only eight hours later, at 8 A. M. And though workers in the south and center of the country decided to honor the injunction, only three and a half to four hours later was train service in these areas finally running normally again.

Britain’s Miliband to Iran: Dispel nuclear fears or face new penalties
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/7/2009
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Friday urged Iran to work with the United Nations nuclear watchdog to disprove suspicions that its nuclear activities were geared toward producing weapons - and warned of new penalties if it does not. Miliband also criticized Tehran’s decision to launch a satellite this week, while Germany’s foreign minister urged the Iranian regime to engage in direct diplomacy with the United States. Iran launched an Omid satellite Monday - touching off concerns among experts in Europe, the United States and Israel about the potential for links between its satellite program and its work with missiles and nuclear technology. Speaking outside the Munich Security Conference - a gathering of a dozen world leaders and more than 50 top ministers - Miliband said that even if the launch. . .

’Intimidated’ British Council shuts Iran office
The Independent 2/6/2009
The British Council has suspended work in Iran because of what it described as intimidation by the authorities. The cultural arm of the British Government said yesterday that it had stopped operations after "cases of intimidation of our local staff in Iran". The council said all 16 of its local employees had been summoned to a meeting at the Iranian president’s office in December and told to resign. The British Council’s chief executive Martin Davidson said no British staff had been able to obtain visas to work in Iran for the past two years. He said the council’s offices were forced to close at the end of January. Mr Davidson called the actions of Iranian authorities unacceptable. "There are no winners here," he said. "Our members of staff in Iran have lost their jobs, our Iranian partners have lost opportunities to work with the UK, and young people in Iran and the UK have lost the chance to build links that can last a lifetime. "

Iran welcomes Obama’s envoy decision
Noah Barkin in Munich, The Independent 2/7/2009
President Barack Obama’s decision to send an envoy to the Middle East to sound out countries in the region is a "positive signal", according to a senior Iranian politician. "The US President has announced he will send someone to the Middle East to listen to people and not to dictate," Ari Larijani, the speaker of Iran’s parliament, told the annual Munich Security Conference. "This approach is a positive signal," he added. Mr Obama has named the former US senator George Mitchell as his envoy to the Middle East. Richard Holbrooke has been named special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The new administration promises a strong push to secure peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as a new approach in dealing with Iran and its nuclear programme. Mr Obama’s predecessor George Bush opposed direct talks with Tehran to resolve the nuclear stand-off but Washington is now reviewing its Iran policy.

J’lem: Stores to introduce sex segregation
Uri Gilhar, YNetNews 2/6/2009
After popular Jerusalem store institutes separation ahead of Tu B’Shvat, haredi sources estimate more businesses will follow suit - Last week, a popular nuts and seeds store at the Bucharim neighborhood in Jerusalem declared it plans to institute separation between men and women shoppers ahead of the Tu B’Shvat holiday during which dried fruit sales are on the rise. The owners of Pitzuchei Mizrahi said they would arrange separate entrances for men and women, after they were recommended to do so by a kashrut supervisor. He advised them to prevent a situation whereby men and women customers unintentionally touch each other during the busy shopping hours when the store is crowded. Not all residents of the neighborhood welcomed the idea, which to some seemed "radical and exaggerated. "But one resident, Avi, said that in his view "it would be more pleasant if on these busy days there is separation at the store and men don’t rub against women. "

Safety concerns raised over Russian military aid
Daily Star 2/7/2009
BEIRUT: Safety concerns have been raised over a batch of Russian jets promised to Lebanon as part of a military aid package after a report revealed that a third of Russia’s fleet of the planes are so corroded they cannot fly. Russia announced it would supply Lebanon with 10 MiG-29s as a gift during Defense Minister Elias Murr’s visit to Moscow at the end of last year. At the time, Russia made a point of saying that the aircraft were not new and suffered differing degrees of wear, although it promised they would be modernized to "normal export standards. " The gift was welcomed by Lebanon’s Defense Ministry as evidence of a new "professional military relationship" between the two countries. But a report published in the Kommersant business daily quotes Russian defense and military sources as saying that more than a third of country’s Mig-29s should be written off as obsolete because they are too rusty to take off without crashing.

Greece holding ship bound for Iran over missiles on board
Barak Ravid and Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 2/6/2009
Greece has been holding a ship bound for Iran for more than a month because its cargo was found to contain components for surface-to-surface missiles. Meanwhile, the Israel Navy Thursday intercepted a ship from Lebanon that was bound for the Gaza Strip. However, its cargo proved to consist of nothing but a few boxes of food and medicine and 150 bottles of water. Also Thursday, the United States and several European countries decided at a meeting in Copenhagen to establish an international forum to combat arms smuggling to Gaza. A U. S. State Department official will arrive in Israel today to discuss this issue. The detention of the Iran-bound ship was reported in the Greek paper Elefterotipia. According to the paper, the Susanna arrived at a port near Athens on December 10 and has been held ever since due to suspicions that it was carrying components for ballistic missiles.

Israel, Iran, Pakistan world’s least popular nations - poll
Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service, Daily Star 2/7/2009
WASHINGTON: Israel, Iran, North Korea and Pakistan are widely seen as exerting the most negative influence on world affairs, according to the latest in a series of annual global surveys by the BBC’s World Service on popular perceptions of the world’s most powerful or newsworthy nations. The survey, which questioned some 13,500 respondents in 21 countries around the world, found that perceptions of Russian and Chinese influence also became considerably more negative during 2008. At the same time, views of the United States, which rivaled those of Israel and Iran just two years ago, continued improving modestly last year but remained predominantly negative despite the victory of Barack Obama in the November 2008 presidential elections. "Though BBC polls have shown that most people around the world are hopeful that Barack Obama will improve US relations with the. . . "

UN chief, Maliki discuss lifting sanctions on Iraq
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/7/2009
BAGHDAD: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday that the United Nations is considering scrapping sanctions imposed on Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s regime before the 2003 US-led invasion. Ban, on a surprise visit to Iraq, met with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and senior officials to discuss the issue, one day after allies of the Shiite premier swept to victory in provincial elections. "The UN is in the process of reviewing all the resolutions and on my return I will discuss this issue with the Security Council," Ban said at a joint news conference with the prime minister. Maliki said: "We discussed the ending of UN sanctions on Iraq, which were [imposed] after the aggression of the previous regime. We asked for a review of all the resolutions imposed on Iraq so we can return to the rank of normal nations.

Iraq’s voters show faith in Maliki regime
Patrick Cockburn, The Independent 2/6/2009
Provincial election results put Prime Minister first and weaken religious opponents - Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has finished first in provincial elections, strengthening the central government and weakening the religious parties that dominated after the fall of Saddam Hussein. But Iraqis still voted along sectarian or ethnic lines with Mr Maliki’s successes all coming in Shia-dominated provinces. The election commission announced yesterday that the premier’s "State of Law" coalition had won 38 per cent of the votes cast in Baghdad and 37 per cent in Basra, Iraq’s two largest cities. It also finished first in seven other provinces south of Baghdad. Among the Sunni Arabs, nationalist and secular parties did well. Mr Maliki will be able to claim that his policy of strengthening the central government, which saw him confront at different times last year the Shia militia of the

Maliki: Iraq elections ’changed political map’
Middle East Online 2/6/2009
BAGHDAD - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said Friday that Iraq’s provincial elections had "changed the political map" and were a success for the country’s citizens. "It is a success for all Iraqis," he told reporters in Baghdad, in his first comments since results showed on Thursday that candidates backed by him had triumphed in fiercely contested polls held six days ago. "Sure, there are changes to the political map, because the citizens voted to see the changes," said the Shiite premier, who has adopted a notably secular political outlook. "Iraqis voted based on the programme presented by candidates and not on a sectarian affiliation," he said. "I am more happy for that than the fact that our list topped the vote. " Maliki did not stand in last Saturday’s elections but campaigned vigorously for candidates in the State of Law Coalition, who swept the poll in Baghdad and in eight of Iraq’s nine Shiite provinces.


Khirbet Tana to be razed, inhabitants expelled
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 2/6/2009
      The so-called High Court of Justice issued the final decision relating to Khirbet Tana, east of Nablus city, sanctioning the demolition of the village and the expulsion of the entire population.
     Khirbet Tana is east of Beit Furik and just west of the Mekhora settlement. The people of the village are primarily shepherds and farmers who established themselves in the area some time ago, and who rely on the nearby springs and shared water wells for their animals and crops. Around 75 families live in the area, residing in older homes as well as in caves. There are approximately 25 residential and agricultural structures in the village.
     The residents of Khirbet Tana have been in an ongoing struggle to remain on their land. Like all Palestinians in Area C, they are denied the right to construct new structures or expand their homes. Soldiers have made a point of constantly harassing the villagers, raiding homes, pursuing and detaining shepherds, destroying crops and allowing settlers to carry out attacks. In 2005, Occupation forces razed a group of homes, but families insisted on staying and rebuilt as best they could.

Deconstructing Israel’s ’Right to Exist’

Rannie Amiri, Palestine Chronicle 2/6/2009
      "There was no such thing as Palestinians ... They did not exist." - Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir (The Sunday Times, 15 June 1969)
     Gaza is abuzz with activity.
     Humanitarian groups and relief agencies are trying to squeeze through Israeli and Egyptian bottlenecks to deliver their much-needed supplies; fighter jets bomb tunnels and kill ‘militants’ as Ehud Olmert maintains he is abiding by the ceasefire; international human rights lawyers are busy recording eyewitness testimony and gathering evidence for future war crimes tribunals; Palestinian civilians are returning to their destroyed homes to sift through the rubble and mourn their dead; and intense negotiations underway in Cairo hope to broker an extended truce between Israel and Hamas.
     But even if all of Gaza’s outstanding issues were miraculously resolved to Tel Aviv’s satisfaction, Israel will still find pretext to continue agitating against Hamas and the people of Gaza.
     Because they have yet to recognize Israel’s ‘right to exist’.

A real Arab peace initiative

Ahmad Hijazi, Electronic Intifada 2/5/2009
      The Arab peace initiative, adopted by the Arab League at its 2002 summit in Beirut, misses fundamental ingredients that would make the blood of vitality flow through its weak veins.
     After long years of Arab marketing, repetition and explanations (often very boring), we are still at the starting line. Large segments of Arab public opinion view the initiative with suspicion and doubt, and the Israelis -- for reasons beyond my comprehension -- want to avoid it as much as possible.
     The initiative’s creators have already mourned its demise (or at least they keep threatening to mourn it). Sadly, the great compromises the Arabs offered did nothing to end the conflict, which cannot be ended without treating its root causes. How ironic that an initiative full of compromise was thrown back in our faces to intensify our humiliation.
     So it is time to withdraw the Arab Peace initiative -- indeed it is a duty to do so -- and put forward a new one that starts something like this:
     The Arab peoples and nations -- even though they understand the suffering of the Jewish people, and express their sincere wish to humanely find a peaceful solution -- will not agree to a solution that compromises their own rights and interests and negates the suffering caused by the conflict.

Fair trade, not aid, is the way forward

Gen Sander, Electronic Intifada 2/6/2009
      Some would argue that fair trade never really existed in the Gaza Strip -- at least not in the "certified" way. Needing to meet certain standards for present-day international export is reasonable enough, but fair trade can also exist domestically or internationally, without all the fuss and formalities. If we understand fair trade to be about dignity, empowerment, sustainability, justice and social responsibility, then any form of exchange that meets those criteria should be recognized as just that.
     Before the days of Israel’s crippling siege of the Gaza Strip, six women’s couscous processing cooperatives were in operation in Gaza, built on the foundation of the above criteria. Their products, however, did not bear a fair trade certification mark that made the product instantly and internationally recognized as being fair trade. They were, however, exported by the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC), a member of the International Federation for Alternative Trade (IFAT, recently renamed the World Fair Trade Organization), so there is no question as to whether or not the products were actually fair trade. With the help of the Fair Trade department of PARC, which also provided their founding infrastructure, these co-ops exported more than 100 tons of couscous in 2006 to fair trade organizations all over Europe. That initiative had so much potential and seemed like a viable and promising avenue for economic development -- "had" being the pivotal word.

Funding struggle slowing cluster bomb clearance in south

IRIN, Electronic Intifada 2/6/2009
      BEIRUT (IRIN) - Waning international interest and funding is harming efforts to rid southern Lebanon of its hundreds of thousands of remaining cluster bomblets, posing a continuing threat to farmers and children, according to mine clearance organizations.
     Israel dropped a large number of cluster bombs on southern Lebanon during the July 2006. Each bomb can release hundreds of individual bomblets, and about a quarter failed to explode on impact, effectively becoming landmines that can kill or maim.
     "For almost all the organizations, it’s a continuous struggle to generate enough interest and funding to keep the teams on the ground working, which obviously has an impact on the amount of cluster bombs [bomblets] they can clear," said Tekimiti Gilbert, the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre’s (UNMACC) acting program manager.
     This year started with 33 teams on the ground, down from 44 last year, he said. But six of those teams, hired by the UK-based non-governmental organization Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and Denmark’s DanChurchAid, have been dropped since then.

Justice for Palestinians vs. Balanced Reporting

Dina Jadallah-Taschler, Palestine Chronicle 2/6/2009
      It is relatively easy for many casual observers of Middle East events to be deceived by balanced and ostensibly objective reporting. Simplistic divisions and false dichotomies are often presented. Moderates are juxtaposed against extremists and their identities vary according to current hegemonic agendas. Alternatively, competing narratives are asserted, both of which are assumed to have equal degrees of validity. The aim, of course, is to shape worldviews. Instead of informing readers about asymmetric claims, the reports frequently hide the ugly truth by presenting competing arguments as equivalent.
     As consumers of this information, we must be more analytical and factual. It is time to do what mainstream reporting does not want the reader to do: to think. One must strip down the narrative and discover the basic truth. For Palestinians and beneath all the arguments, is a question of Justice. Without an acknowledgement of injustice, there is no truth in balanced competing narratives. Without it, there will be no solutions, no rights, and no peace.

No Israeli Goods: Victory for Worker Solidarity

Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and Palestine Solidarity, Palestine Chronicle 2/6/2009
      ’COSATU decided to intensify its efforts in support of the Palestinian people.’
     The Congress of South African Trade Union is pleased to announce that its members, dock workers belonging to the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) achieved a victory last night when they stood firm by their decision not to offload the Johanna Russ, a ship that was carrying Israeli goods to South Africa. This, despite threats to COSATU members from sections of the pro-Israeli lobby, and despite severe provocation.
     The Johanna Russ, flying an Antigua flag, is owned by M. Dizengoff and Co., an established "pioneer of the modern era of shipping business in the Middle East" and shipping agent for the ironically named Zim Israel Navigation Company. (Ironic because, last year, the same SATAWU members refused to offload the Chinese ship An Yue Jiang, which was carrying arms and ammunition destined for Robert Mugabe’s army.) The worker action last night took place despite attempted subterfuge on the part of the owners of the shipping company. There was an attempt to confound the plan by arriving earlier than originally scheduled, which was 8 February. Dates for the berthing of the Johanna Russ were changed constantly. Yesterday morning, SATAWU members were told that the ship would dock this morning (Friday) at 02:00. Thanks to the vigilance of the dock workers, SATAWU discovered that the ship had docked on Wednesday morning and was due to be offloaded last night at 21:00. But the vigilant workers were on guard and immediately they realised that it had docked, they then refused to handle it, despite pressures from management. SATAWU members maintained their refusal to offload the ship and also attempted to ensure that scab labour would not be used.