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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
24 February, 2009

UK sued over arms sales to Israel
Al Jazeera 2/24/2009
A Palestinian human rights group has filed a lawsuit at the High Court in London over the United Kingdom’s continuation of trade with Israel following that country’s offensive in Gaza. Al-Haq, which is based in Ramallah in the West Bank, said that in trading with Israel, including supplying arms, Britain is breaking international law. The organisation said that Israel had violated international law during its assault on Gaza and that Britain should therefore suspend all financial, military or ministerial assistance to Tel Aviv. It also said that that the UK should "insist that the European Union suspend [its] preferential trading agreement with Israel until it demonstrates full respect for its human rights obligations". The lawsuit names three UK ministers, David Miliband, foreign minister, John Hutton, defence minister and Peter Mandelson, business minister.

PLO asks Obama to intervene personally to stop Israeli destruction of southern mosque neighborhood
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/24/2009
Jerusalem - The Arab League condemned the decision of the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem Municipality to demolish another 90 Palestinian houses in occupied East Jerusalem. As reported by PNN’s Maisa Abu Ghazaleh evacuation orders were distributed in the Al Bustan area of the Silwan neighborhood to the south of Al Aqsa Mosque. A call was issued to the United Nations and the Quartet today to intervene and prevent the Israelis from implementation. In a statement sent to the Arab League demanded, "the United Nations and specifically the UN Security Council to assume its responsibilities" regarding the Israeli practices. It also called on "the Quartet to take responsibility to prevent Israel from carrying out this plan. "The Arab League said that the Quartet Committee of the United States, United Nations, Russia and European Union must "force the [offending party] to comply with UN resolutions on the city of Jerusalem.

PPS demands medical attention for Palestinian detainees
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/24/2009
The Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) stated that several detainees at the Ofer Israeli detention facility are suffering from different health problems due to torture and medical negligence, while the administration refuses to provide them with the needed medical attention. Detainee Mohammad Salah, age 19, from al-Khader town near Bethlehem, is currently facing a deteriorating health condition as he was violently attacked by Israeli soldiers when he was kidnapped on January 16, 2009. The soldiers kicked him in various parts of his body, mostly in his chest, and struck him with batons and rifle-butts. Salah said that during his interrogation he was cuffed, and the soldiers kicked and clubbed as they tried to make him sign a forced confession. He was later moved to the Hadassah Ein Karem Israeli hospital in Jerusalem, and the doctors had only given him pain-killing pills for infections and bruises.

Israeli forces shoot Palestinian teenager in southern Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 2/24/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Seventeen-year-old Wafa An-Najjar was shot in the leg by Israeli forces on Tuesday near the borderline in the town of Khuza’a in the Southern Gaza Strip. Medical sources at Nasser Hospital in the nearby city of Khan Younis reported that the girl had a bullet in her leg. On Tuesday morning, international volunteers reported that Israeli forces opened fire on farmers near Khuza’a, about 300 meters from the Green Line. The volunteers, with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), were accompanying farmers on their lands. “One old woman was so paralyzed by fear that she couldn’t move off of the ground before we were finally able to accompany her out of the fields,” Bartlett added in a statement circulated by ISM. No one was reported injured in this earlier incident. Four Palestinian farmers have been shot on their lands near the Green Line in three weeks.

PA official: Peace process dead
Ali Waked, YNetNews 2/24/2009
Senior official close to Abbas says given expected Israeli government, no serious progress can be made toward agreement on two-state solution - Israel’s impending new government indicates that the peace process "has died," a senior Palestinian Authority official told Ynet on Tuesday. "Given the government that is going to lead Israel, it’s clear that there won’t be any serious process and that, at the most, it will be a process for appearances’ sake only that is intended to quiet the international community and primarily to let the Palestinians know that the option of peace still exists," he said. According to the official, the Palestinians understand that the Oslo process no longer exists. Those close to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas don’t think there is any way to salvage it. "People are thinking of how to prevent the PA from humiliating itself in a process that is not serious and will not bring peace.

Israeli forces raid school, TV station, houses in Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 2/24/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces invaded the West Bank city of Nablus early on Tuesday, raided a school and a local television station, and seized two people. Witnesses told Ma’an that more than 30 Israeli military vehicles entered the Old City and the surrounding neighborhoods at 12:30am. The soldiers destroyed the front doors of stores on An-Naser Street and other areas. The soldiers also raided the Thafer Al-Masri School near Ras Al-Ein in Nablus. Israeli troops stormed the Asia TV station and imprisoned the director of the station, Ayman Al-Qadiri, and two employees in one room. Al-Qadiri said more than 25 soldiers also raided his home, which is in the same building as the television studio, and detained his family along with him and the employees until the soldiers left in the morning.

Israeli Army kidnaps five civilians from Hebron
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/24/2009
Five Palestinian civilians were reported kidnapped by the Israeli military during pre-dawn home invasions, targeting the southern West Bank city of Hebron, and nearby villages on Tuesday. Local sources stated that Israeli troops attacked and searched homes in the old part of Hebron, in the nearby Sa’er and Ithna villages. Witnesses said that Israeli soldiers searched homes and damaged belongings during the search. Five Palestinian men were all taken to unknown locations, the sources added. [end]

Israeli troops seize retired teacher near Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 2/24/2009
Hebron – Ma’an – Israeli troops seized a Palestinian man during an overnight raid in the West Bank village of Edna, west of the city of Hebron, on Thursday. Palestinian security sources said that Israeli troops detained Hatem Mahmoud Al-Kharuf and also vandalized the interior of his house. Al-Kharuf is a retired teacher at a local school. Israeli troops also raided houses in the nearby village of Sa’ir. Attorney Mustafa Ahmad Jabarin, a resident of the village, said that Israeli soldiers raided his house, interrogating each of his five brothers and summoning them for further questioning by the Israeli intelligence. Jabarin said Israeli forces also ripped up the pavement outside his house, and raided three other houses belonging to his relatives.

Israeli forces raid Nablus-area village
Ma’an News Agency 2/24/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli troops raided the West Bank village of Deir Sharaf, west of the city of Nablus, at midnight on Thursday. Sources in the village told Ma’an that Israeli troops handed out documents summoning eight people for interrogation by the Israeli intelligence services at the Huwwara military base on Wednesday. Omar Issa, Iyad Tabary, Rami Tabary, Imad Faqha, Nassar Faqha, Diya’ Faqha, and others were summoned. No arrests were reported. [end]

Israeli soldiers install checkpoint south of Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 2/24/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli troops erected a checkpoint on Tuesday morning at an intersection at the village of Beita, south of the West Bank city of Nablus. Witnesses reported to Ma’an that soldiers are stopping and searching Palestinians’ cars, before they reach another checkpoint farther down the road, in the village of Za’tara. [end]

US picks Ross as Gulf envoy in move some say aims to soothe Israeli fears
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/25/2009
WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has named Dennis Ross to the post of special adviser to the Gulf and southwest Asia, effectively making him Washington’s pointman on Iran. Clinton "is pleased to announce the appointment" of Ross, spokesman Robert Wood said in a statement quietly released late Monday. Although the announcement did not mention Iran, the appointment, which had been expected for several weeks, is set to impact US efforts to contain Tehran’s influence. "This is a region in which America is fighting two wars and facing challenges of ongoing conflict, terror, proliferation, access to energy, economic development and strengthening democracy and the rule of law," said Wood. "In this area, we must strive to build support for US goals and policies," he added. "To be successful, we will need to be able to integrate our policy development and implementation. . .

Gaza’s Bunian Association launches project for women’s grassroots organisations to reduce poverty
Bassam Jouda, Palestine News Network 2/24/2009
Gaza City -- Jerusalem Haifa Siam - With the first EU grant awarded to a Palestinian NGO under the "Non State Actors" programme, the Bunian Association for Training, Evaluation and Community Studies (BATECS) will empower five women’s community based organisations (CBOs) from the most marginalised areas of Rafah and Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip. The project will focus on capacity-building for the five selected partner organisations in order to improve their administrative, financial and technical abilities. This in turn will make them better able to implement their own poverty reduction projects in their respective communities. The five partners will receive training in the essentials of running a non-profit organisation, such as managing human resources, working within communities and developing strategic planning. Hands-on training in the field will also take place.

’Re-education’ for West Bank mosque preachers
Ali Waked, YNetNews 2/24/2009
Palestinians Authority fearful mosque preachers incite against Fatah-run body. Their solution: Switch out or arrest Hamas preachers, or write sermons for others as part of three-tiered front against Hamas - Last Friday’s sermon in one of the mosques near Ramallah, the sheikh opened with the words, "Today we won’t talk politics; we will talk about issues of religion. "As basic as this comment may seem to an outsider, those familiar with internal Palestinian politics understood that this was a veiled attack aimed at Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s government and his policy on religion, sermons, mosques, and the way they are run. Ever since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip, the PA has taken a series of steps against their religious rivals. PA officials are waging an all-out war against anyone suspected of belonging to Hamas’ armed organizations, either directly or through providing them monetary support.

Israeli military attacks school and a local TV station in Nablus and kidnapps two civilians
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/24/2009
Two civilians were kidnapped from a local Television station and school, as the Israeli military invaded the northern West Bank city of Nablus on Tuesday. Local sources stated that at least 30 military vehicles stormed the city, searched homes and local shops, then later troops took over a building in the city. The building hosts Asia Television station, a local station in Nablus. According to employees of Asia Television, soldiers forced them into a room and kept them there until soldiers left. Sources added that the soldiers used the studio as a military post during the pre-dawn invasion. Witnesses said that soldiers also attacked a school, searched it, as well as nearby homes, and caused causing damage. The military left the city early in the morning after kidnapping two civilians.

Israeli forces seize two teens from Jayyus
Ma’an News Agency 2/24/2009
Qalqilia – Ma’an – Israeli troops detained two teenagers from the West Bank village of Jayyus, near the city of Qalqilia, early on Thursday. Local sources told Ma’an that several Israeli vehicles invaded Jayyous at dawn and raided several houses, arresting Sa’ed Abdel Hafiz Khaled, 16, and Mu’nes Abdullah Khaled, 18. Last Wednesday, Israeli soldiers imposed a 15-hour curfew on the village while they interrogated dozens of people in a school. The town’s mayor said the raids were in response to weekly peaceful demonstrations that are held in the village over the construction of the Israeli separation wall. [end]

Israeli troops seize Palestinian man in Jenin
Ma’an News Agency 2/24/2009
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli troops on Tuesday morning seized a young Palestinian man in the West Bank city of Jenin. According to Palestinian security sources, Israeli troops raided the home of Zahi Abdel Karim As-Sa’di in the Jabal Abu Thahir area. As-Sa’di’s son, Abdel Karim, 22, was detained. Witnesses said Israeli troops surrounded the house at 1:30am, ordering its inhabitents to evacuate into the street. The soldiers then raided the house and seized Abdel Karim, leaving the interior of the house in shambles. [end]

Israeli military kidnaps two civilians near Qalqilia
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/24/2009
Two Palestinian teens where kidnapped on Tuesday by Israeli forces that invaded the village of Jayous, located near the northern West Bank city of Qalqilia. Witnesses stated that Israeli forces invaded the village and searched scores of homes. During the search, witnesses added that Israeli troops took Sa’ed Khaled, age 16, and Mo’anas Khaled, age 18, to unknown location. The village of Jayous witnessed a kidnapping operation by the Isralei military last week, in which 30 men from the village were taken. [end]

Three more arrested in Jayyous raid
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 2/24/2009
February 24th, 2009 Early this morning, Occupation forces continued their crackdown on the village of Jayyous and raided several more homes where they arrested three youth. This comes in the wake of last week’s rampage in which some 75 people were detained in a village school, some for as many as 17 hours. The raid began at two in the morning when seven military jeeps entered the village. Soldiers first forced their way into one house, where they arrested six brothers. After interrogating them, they released five of the brothers and abducted the sixth. They then moved on to two more homes, arresting one person from each. The three have been taken to a nearby military camp, where they are being held indefinitely. Sixteen youth from the village who were arrested in last week’s incursion are still being held there.

IOF troops round up 11 Palestinians, raid private radio station
Palestinian Information Center 2/24/2009
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Israeli occupation forces have rounded up 11 Palestinians overnight Monday and at dawn Tuesday in various West Bank areas and raided a local radio station in Nablus city. The Hebrew radio reported that the IOF troops rounded up 8 Palestinians last night in the suburbs of Jenin, Qalqilia and Bethlehem cities, adding that they would be interrogated by the Israeli intelligence. It added that a ninth Palestinian was kidnapped from his home in Jenin after midnight Monday after ransacking his family home. Local sources in Nablus said that IOF troops stormed the village of Deir Sharaf west of Nablus city and summoned 8 Palestinians to the intelligence premises in Hawara army camp on Tuesday. In Nablus city, the IOF soldiers raided a number of suburbs at dawn Tuesday and retreated after kidnapping two young men.

Israel considering lifting ’security bans’ from Nablus residents
Ma’an News Agency 2/24/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – Israel is reconsidering a policy that bans thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank city of Nablus from working in Israel or travelling, the Israeli Liaison Office at the Huwwara military base has told locals. Recently the Liaison Office has summoned dozens of Nablus residents to Huwwara, south of the city, to inform them that they can once again apply for permits. The Palestinian Liaison Department, responsible for communicating with the Israeli side, said that initial reports that Israel was considering reversing the “security ban” policy were exaggerated. Sources at the Liaison Department said Israel has formed a committee to examine the issue. The committee is first meeting on Thursday to consider a trial stage in which security bans would be lifted from residents of the village of Qusra, south of Nablus.

Palestine Today 022409
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 2/24/2009
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 3 m 00s || 2. 75 MB ||Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www. imemc. org, for Tuesday, February 24th, 2009. The Israeli army kidnaps civilians from the West Bank and attacks a local media agency, these stories and more coming up stay tuned. The News Cast Two civilians were kidnapped by the Israeli army as it invaded the northern West Bank city of Nablus on Tuesday and searched homes, a local TV station and a school there. Local sources said that at least 30 military vehicles stormed the city and searched homes and local shops, later troops took over a building in the city. The building hosts Assia TV station, a local TV Station in Nablus, according to the employees of the TV soldiers forced them to a room and kept them there until they left.

Five children killed by fire in Yatta
Ma’an News Agency 2/24/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Five children were killed by a fire in the West Bank city of Yatta early on Tuesday morning after they lit candles in their house during a power outage. The Palestinian Civil Defense department told Ma’an that the candles had set fire to the house, killing Lana Abu Hamid, 16, Maryana Abu Hamid, 14, Balqis Abu Hamid, 12, Muhammad Abu Hamid, 10, and Nagham Abu Hamid, 3. According to the Civil Defense, the children were suffocated by smoke. Their father, Abdel Aziz Musa Abu Hamid, and their mother survived. The Civil Defense said wax from the candles dipped onto blankets, causing the fire. The father was outside the house and the mother in another room. By the time they noticed the fire it was too late. Firefighters rushed to the scene and were able to contain the fire to one room of the house.

Palestinian child hit with IOF bullets
Palestinian Information Center 2/24/2009
KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- A Palestinian child was hit with Israeli occupation forces’ gunfire east of Khan Younis district, south of the Gaza Strip, on Tuesday, medical sources said. They told the PIC reporter that Wafa’a Al-Najjar, 16, was hit with a bullet in her left leg and that she was carried to Nasser hospital where her condition was described as "moderate". The sources noted that IOF soldiers fired indiscriminately at citizens’ homes east of Khuza’a town injuring the young girl in the process. Wafa’a’s brother Tha’er was killed in IOF shooting during the Israeli war on Gaza last month. [end]

Jerusalem: No plans yet to raze Arab homes in area designated for park
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
Jerusalem officials said on Tuesday they had no immediate plans to demolish scores of Arab homes in the east of the city, but confirmed that they had designated the area for a park. Palestinians said on Monday the Israeli-controlled municipality of Jerusalem was preparing to evict 1,500 Palestinians and demolish 88 homes in East Jerusalem’s Silwan district, to convert it into an open public space. The dispute is part of a wider conflict over Jerusalem. Israel regards all of the city as its capital, including East Jerusalem and adjacent parts of the West Bank captured in the 1967 Six-Day War. Ahead of next week’s visit by new U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Palestinian officials are seeking support against what they say are Israeli plans to drive Arabs from the city and cut off occupied Arab. . .

PLO Protests against Israeli Decision to Demolished Silwan Neighborhood
Palestine Media Center 2/24/2009
The Palestinian Liberation Organization called on Monday for protests against the in Jerusalem. At a press conference yesterday in the central West Bank city of Ramallah, Yasser Abed Rabo, the head of the executive committee of the PLO called for a general stick next Saturday as a first step of actions to be taken by the Palestinians against the latest Israeli decision. Israeli announced on Sunday that it has plans to evacuate the entire Silwan neighborhood and demolish 80 houses that is the home to 1500 people. A park of flowers and trees, breezeways and cafes: this is the Israeli blueprint to cover the ruins of Silwan, Israeli sources on Sunday said. The issue is not new as reported by Fakhri Abu Diab, a member of the Committee for the Defense of the Territory of Silwan and Director of Al Bustan Center. In 2000 Israel issued demolition orders for all of the houses on grounds of no licensing. However the popular resistance confronted the order including with a solidarity tent, media campaign and demonstrations.

Ashqar: We will confront Israeli schemes in J’lem by mobilizing the Arab street
Palestinian Information Center 2/24/2009
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Dr. Osama Al-Ashqar, the executive director of the popular campaign for celebrating Jerusalem as capital of the Arab culture, said Tuesday that the campaign will confront the Israeli action of issuing demolition notices against 88 Palestinian homes in occupied Jerusalem by mobilizing the Arab public opinion against it. In an exclusive statement to the PIC, Dr. Ashqar underlined that this Israeli policy is aimed to vacate the holy city of its indigenous Palestinian citizens, obliterate its Arab and Islamic identity, make the Jews a dominant majority and turn Jerusalem into the united capital of Israel. He noted that the campaign is a popular movement unable to engage in political or military confrontation with Israel in defense of the holy city and its mission is confined now to rallying an Arab and Islamic support for Jerusalem and raising the awareness of the Arab street about the impossibility of making peace with Israel.

Israel says no plans yet to demolish Jerusalem homes
Reuters, YNetNews 2/24/2009
Palestinians in east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan protest alleged planned eviction of neighborhood; municipality says park to be built in area but they have no plans to destroy Arab homes there - Israeli authorities in Jerusalem said on Tuesday they had no immediate plans to demolish scores of Arab homes in the east of the city but that they had designated the area for a park. Palestinians said on Monday the Israeli-controlled municipality of Jerusalem was preparing to evict 1,500 Palestinians and demolish 88 homes in Jerusalem’s Silwan district, in order to convert it into an open public space. Ahead of next week’s visit by new US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Palestinian officials are seeking support against what they say are Israeli plans to drive Arabs from the city and cut off east Jerusalem from territory on which they hope to establish a Palestinian state.

Palestine’s chief judge calls for 'day of anger' over Jerusalem
Ma’an News Agency 2/24/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – High Court Justice Sheikh Taysir At-Tamimi called on Arabs and Muslims to make this Friday a “day of anger” for demonstrations against Israeli practices in Jerusalem. At-Tamimi said in a press conference in Ramallah that “what is going on in Jerusalem is a cleansing policy of everything Arab,” calling on Arabs and scholars in the Islamic world to “defend Jerusalem and break their silence. ”The demonstrations would come just days after news that Israeli authorities ordered 1,500 Palestinians to leave their homes in the Bustan neighborhood of Jerusalem. At-Tamimi called on other sheikhs to sacrifice Friday prayers “for the sake of Jerusalem” and to encourage their congregants to act in defense of Jerusalem and its residents. The High Court justice called for an urgent Islamic conference to oppose Israel’s “threatening plans” and to force Israel to be more committed to international agreements.

Haneyya gov’t deplores Israeli intent to demolish 88 Palestinian homes in J’lem
Palestinian Information Center 2/24/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Palestinian government headed by premier Ismail Haneyya on Monday strongly denounced the Israeli decision to demolish 88 Palestinian homes in occupied Jerusalem and displace more than 1,500 Palestinians from Al-Bustan neighborhood near the Aqsa Mosque in the context of the Zionist schemes to judaize the holy city. "The government condemns this crime and considers it part of the ethnic cleansing exercised against our people in occupied Jerusalem," spokesman for the government Taher Al-Nunu told a news conference. The spokesman held the IOA fully responsible for the consequences of this crime, warning that the Aqsa Mosque and its surroundings are a red line and any harm done to it would lead to the outbreak of an all-out war against Israel inside and outside Palestine. He stressed the need for high-level Arab and Muslim moves to protect the Aqsa Mosque and save. . .

Hamas: All options are open for the Palestinian people to defend the Aqsa Mosque
Palestinian Information Center 2/24/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, has urged Tuesday all military wings of the Palestinian resistance factions to prepare themselves to defend the Aqsa Mosque and Muslim sacred shrines in the occupied city of Jerusalem against the Zionist schemes. Hamas’s spokesman in Gaza Strip Fawzi Barhoum asserted, in press conference he held in Gaza city, that the Zionist entity will pay for the crimes they had and still are committing against the Aqsa Mosque, and against Palestinian citizens in the occupied city of Jerusalem. "We will not accept that the Israeli settlers and soldiers live in peace and security while our Palestinian people are denied them, and thus all means to defend the Palestinian Jerusalemites, and to protect the Muslim holy shrines are legitimate", he stressed. He also accused the Israeli governments of using programmed and well-planned schemes and. . .

One year on, horror of yeshiva terror attack still fresh
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 2/24/2009
A memorial will be held Tuesday afternoon marking one Jewish calendar year since a terrorist attack at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem killed eight yeshiva students. The memorial gathering will include a ceremony marking the conclusion of the work of scribes who are completing eight new Torah scrolls in memory of the eight victims. Netanel Furman, 21, who attends the Jerusalem yeshiva, still remembers the scene from a year ago. He was the first one to see the terrorist, who was wearing a black stocking cap and carrying a large carton, which looked like a box for a television set. "In passing him, I thought to myself that it was strange that someone would have ordered a television for the yeshiva. And after I had walked a matter of six or seven meters past him, I heard the shots, but it was only after I started running and saw the. . .

Hamas stages Gaza rally in solidarity with Jerusalem Christians
Ma’an News Agency 2/24/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The Hamas movement staged a rally in Gaza on Tuesday in solidarity with Palestinian Christians and residents of Jerusalem. Hamas said the rally, which took place in front of the Al-Awda Mosque in Jabaliya, reaffirmed the holiness of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, and was in protest of repressive Israeli policies in Jerusalem. The demonstration was attended by Hamas officials from the northern Gaza branch of the movement. Hamas spokesman Tal’at Al-Majdalawi said, “The movement will always defend the religions and God’s prophets, and will always stand by the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem. ”The demonstration comes days after news that Israeli authorities ordered 1,500 Palestinians to leave their homes in the Bustan neighborhood of Jerusalem.

State Department: Special U.S.-Israel ties will no doubt stay strong
Natasha Mozgovaya and Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
The State Department on Tuesday reaffirmed its support for Israel, telling Haaretz that the U. S. viewed its relations with Jerusalem as "special" and lasting. When asked whether Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s declaration that "There will be no pigeion-holing, no exclusivity, we’re reaching out to the entire world" could affect the U. S. ’ ties with Israel, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said: "U. S. has special relations with Israel, it will continue strong with no doubt. "Meanwhile, U. S. special Middle East envoy George Mitchell has embarked on his second trip to the region to further President Barack Obama’s pledge to work for Arab-Israeli peace, the State Department said on Tuesday. Mitchell was in London on Tuesday for talks with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and would also visit the Turkish capital Ankara, the United Arab. . .

’Hamas letter’ not yet delivered to Obama
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/25/2009
WASHINGTON: A letter to President Barack Obama, reportedly from a top member of Hamas, is yet to be brought to the United States and is in the hands of US diplomats in Occupied Jerusalem, the White House said Monday. The letter was passed to Democratic Senator John Kerry by a United Nations official in Gaza who did not tell him it was from Hamas, the veteran lawmaker’s office said last week. Kerry in turn, passed the letter, which the New York Times reported was from Hamas deputy Foreign Minister Ahmad Yousef, to the US consulate in Occupied Jerusalem, where it remains. "As I understand it, some letter was passed - conflicting reports from whom - to Senator Kerry, and that letter is with the consulate in Jerusalem," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs. "That’s the only update I have on that," Gibbs said, declining to say whether Obama, who labels Hamas as a terrorist group, would read such a letter if it reached his desk.

Ahmad Yousef’s letter to President Obama not yet delivered
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/24/2009
Spokesperson of the White House in Washington stated yesterday that a letter sent by a former Hamas advisor, Ahmad Yousef, from Gaza to President Barak Obama, has not been delivered yet. The spokesperson confirmed that such a letter is still at the American Consulate in Jerusalem and that it is uncertain whether President Obama would read it, even if it were delivered. Last week,Mr. Ahmad Yousef, deputy-foreign minister of the Hamas government in Gaza, delivered a letter to the UN headquarters in Gaza. The letter was handed by UN officials to John Kerry, a U. S senator who visited Gaza concurrently. Hamas commented that such a report has nothing to do with Kerry’s surprise visit, but welcomed any additional visits by U. S officials to the coastal territory, which lies under Hamas control. Kerry visited Gaza very briefly, and did not meet with any Hamas officials.

White House: Hamas letter to Obama still in Jerusalem
Ma’an News Agency 2/24/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – A letter to US President Barack Obama from a top Hamas leader has yet to be brought to the United States and is in the hands of US diplomats in Jerusalem, the White House said Monday. The letter was passed to Democratic Senator John Kerry by a United Nations official in Gaza. Kerry in turn, passed the letter, which the New York Times reported was from Hamas Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmed Yousif, to the US Consulate in Jerusalem, where it remains. "As I understand it, some letter was passed -- conflicting reports from whom -- to Senator Kerry, and that letter is with the consulate in Jerusalem," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, according to AFP. "That’s the only update I have on that," Gibbs said, declining to say whether Obama, who regards Hamas as a terrorist group, would read such a letter if it reached his desk.

US to give ’$900m in Gaza aid’
Al Jazeera 2/24/2009
The US is set to offer more than $900m to help rebuild Gaza following Israel’s military assault on the Palestinian territory, officials say. Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, is to formally announce the funding at a donor conference in Egypt next week, one US official told the Reuters news agency on Monday. The money, which would need to be approved by the US congress, is to be distributed through the UN and other bodies and not via Hamas, the Palestinian group which governs Gaza, said one of the officials, who asked to remain anonymous. The same official said the pledge was a mix of money already earmarked for the Palestinians and some new funding. Rob Reynolds, Al Jazeera’s senior Washington correspondent, said the administration of Barack Obama, the US president, had not moved towards engaging directly with Hamas but had modified some of its language towards dealing with Palestinians in Gaza.

Obama seeks to send funds to Gaza
Ran Dagoni, Washington, Globes Online 2/24/2009
"The New York Times": The money will go to NGOs, not Hamas. "The New York Times" reports today that the Obama administration intends to provide some $900 million to help rebuild Gaza after the Israeli incursion that ended last month. The paper quotes an administration official as saying that he aid would not go to Hamas but that it would be funneled through nongovernmental organizations. "The New York Times" adds, "By seeking to aid Gazans but not Hamas, the administration is following the lead of the Bush administration, which sent money to Gaza through nongovernmental organizations. In December, it said it would give $85 million to the UB agency that provides aid to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. " The officials added that the aid would include new spending as well as money already set aside. . .

Minister Herzog urges US to shun Durban 2
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/24/2009
Labor minister calls on US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to team with Israel, form united front against anti-Semitism by announcing US will not attend Geneva meeting; says will push for a decision during Clinton’s upcoming Mideast visit - Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog urged US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to shun the UN’s World Conference against Racism, scheduled to he held in Switzerland in April. Clinton is scheduled to arrive in the Middle East next week and Herzog, who was tasked by the government to head its counter anti-Semitism efforts, wants to use Clinton’s visit in order to create a united front against the conference. The first World Conference against Racism was held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001 - just days before the attack on New York’s World Trade Center.

Baird wants US to reassess aid to Israel
Hilary Leila Krieger, Jerusalem Post Correspondent, Jerusalem Post 2/23/2009
A US congressman plans to brief fellow members of Congress and the Obama administration about his recent trip to Gaza, saying the US should pressure Israel regarding border closures and reassess its military support for the Jewish state. Rep. Brian Baird, a Democrat from Washington state, visited Gaza last week with fellow Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota and was struck by "the level of destruction, the scope of it, specifically the civilian targets - schools, hospitals, industry. " Baird also said Israel had "apparently willfully destroyed any capacity of the Palestinians to rebuild their own infrastructure. "The trip to Gaza by Baird and Ellison coincided with a separate visit there by John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations. Their presence marked the first time members of Congress had visited Gaza since US personnel were killed in a roadside bomb in 2003.

Dennis Ross appointed special U.S. adviser to Persian Gulf
Natasha Mozgovaya and Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/24/2009
U. S. foreign policy veteran Dennis Ross has been appointed special adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the Gulf region, including Iran, and southwest Asia, the State Department announced on Monday. "This is a region in which America is fighting two wars and facing challenges of ongoing conflict, terror, proliferation, access to energy, economic development and strengthening democracy and the rule of law," State Department spokesman Robert Wood said in a statement announcing the appointment. Wood emphasized that Ross was appointed to provide advice on the region, but was not to be involved in negotiations for peace. "Let me be clear he is not a envoy, he won’t be negotiating he is not going to be involved in a peace process," Wood said. "He’s going to provide strategic advice on the whole region, where Secretary Clinton will need it.

US appoints Gulf aide for Clinton
Al Jazeera 2/24/2009
Dennis Ross, a foreign policy veteran, has been appointed special adviser to Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, on the Gulf region, the US state department has announced. Ross, a veteran of Arab-Israeli negotiations when Clinton’s husband, Bill Clinton, was president, will advise on Iran, the broader Middle East region and southwest Asia. "This is a region in which America is fighting two wars and facing challenges of ongoing conflict, terror, proliferation, access to energy, economic development and strengthening democracy and the rule of law," Robert Wood, the state department’s spokesman, said in a statement announcing the appointment on Monday. The administration of Barack Obama, the US president, is reviewing US policy towards Iran. It is looking into ways of engaging Tehran on a broad range of issues from seeking co-operation in Afghanistan to giving up sensitive nuclear work that the West suspects is aimed at building an atomic bomb.

Dennis Ross appointed special US advisor on Iran
Reuters, YNetNews 2/24/2009
Veteran of Arab-Israeli negotiations ’brings a wealth of experience not just to issues within the region but also to larger political-military challenges that flow from Gulf region,’ State Department says - US foreign policy veteran Dennis Ross has been appointed special advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the Gulf region, including Iran, and southwest Asia, the State Department announced on Monday. "This is a region in which America is fighting two wars and facing challenges of ongoing conflict, terror, proliferation, access to energy, economic development and strengthening democracy and the rule of law," State Department spokesman Robert Wood said in a statement announcing the appointment. Ross, a veteran of Arab-Israeli negotiations when Clinton’s husband, Bill Clinton, was president, will advise on both Iran and the broader Middle East region.

Don’t get down on Durban II
John Boonstra, The Guardian 2/24/2009
By attending a planning session for the anti-racism summit, the US signals a welcome willingness to engage the world - To forestall any potential conniptions from those for whom "Durban II" conjures up all sorts of fervid demons, the US decision to send a delegation to a planning session of the contentious anti-racism summit last week emphatically does not mean that it has decided to participate in the summit itself in April. What it does mean is that the Obama administration intends to actually interact with the rest of the international community, rather than to rashly erect walls and issue pre-emptive boycotts (not to mention other sorts of pre-emptive action favoured by its predecessor). Durban II is the shorthand used, mostly by its opponents, for the upcoming follow-up to the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, held in Durban, South Africa and frequently denounced as an "Israel-bashing hatefest".

GOP Jewish group blasts U.S. role in lead up to Durban II
Natasha Mozgovaya, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
The Obama administration has already drawn fire from a number of U. S. Jews for its intention to try to influence the agenda of the United Nation’s second World Conference Against Racism, also known as Durban II. The Republican Jewish Coalition announced its strong opposition to U. S. participation in the preparatory Durban Review Conference, and issued a national action alert to its members, calling on them to contact the White House and their representatives in the House and Senate to demand an immediate withdrawal. RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks called the White House’s decision to send a U. S. delegation to the planning sessions for Durban II "an extremely disturbing change in American foreign policy regarding Israel". "Like the original Durban conference in 2001, the upcoming conference is based on a document which is specifically anti-Israel," he said.

Palestinian legislator sentenced to 19 months imprisonment
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/24/2009
The Israeli Military Court in Ofer prison sentenced on Monday Palestinian legislator, Ahmad Abdul-Aziz Mubarak, from al-Jalazoun refugee camp in Ramallah, to 19 months imprisonment. In a press release, Hamas legislators in the occupied West Bank slammed the court’s decision, and considered it another Israeli violation that targeted elected Palestinian officials, including legislators and mayors. The legislators demanded different human rights groups and international parliaments to intervene and ensure the release of all Palestinian legislators and officials illegally detained by Israel. It is worth mentioning that Mubarak was arrested on April 17, 2007, only a month after he was released from another Israeli detention facility. Israel is currently holding 49 legislators and ministers captive without legal basis.

Al-Qassam denies progress over captured Israeli soldier
Ma’an News Agency 2/24/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The militant wing of Hamas denied reports on Tuesday that progress had been made on the issue of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. “Nothing new has happened with this case,” said Abu Obeida, a spokesperson for the Al-Qassam Brigades. In a statement to Ma’an, Obeida said, “The news spread by mass media regarding the prisoner swap and the Shalit file is just predictions by the Israeli media. ”“If anything new had happened regarding the case we would have sent statements,” he added. Quoting Palestinian sources, Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz had previously reported on Monday that significant progress had been made over the captured soldier. The sources supposedly reported that a deal would be struck by the time Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had left office, calling the proposition “realistic,” Haaretz said.

Progress reported in Prisoner-swap talks
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/24/2009
Israeli online daily, Haaretz, quoted Palestinian sources as stating that significant progress had been made in prisoner-swap Egyptian mediated talks between the Palestinians and Israel. The Palestinian sources said that the captured Israeli corporal, Gilad Shalit, would be freed in the framework of a swap deal that would see the release of Palestinian detainees, before the outgoing Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, leaves office. On Sunday, Olmert suspended the Israeli chief negotiator for a Gaza truce, Amos Gilad, after failing to move forwards in talks over the release of Shalit. Olmert said that ousting Gilad would not affect talks for Shalit’s release, Israeli online daily Haaretz reported. Yet, several officials in Israel have stated that ousting Gilad hinders a possible deal, and could cause damage to Israel’s relations with Egypt.

Olmert pledges Israel still making every effort to free Shalit
Barak Ravid Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 2/24/2009
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday said Israel was continuing to make every effort to free abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, despite having suspended Israel’s chief negotiator in talks for a truce in Gaza on the preceding day. "We have been dealing with the Shalit issue over the course of the last three years with all our force and contacts," said Olmert, speaking at a Jewish Agency conference in Jerusalem. Some officials fear that Olmert’s ousting of Amos Gilad, the mediator, will scuttle efforts to secure Shalit’s release and damage Israel’s relationship with Egypt. Olmert added: "If only I could speak irresponsibly about the subject of Shalit as others are doing, but I am prime minister and I cannot reveal all the efforts we are making - because I have responsibility. "

Shock as Olmert fires his key negotiator
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 2/24/2009
Egyptian-brokered talks in doubt as defence official sacked over policy row - Israel’s outgoing Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, has demanded the release of an Israeli corporal before a ceasefire deal with Hamas is agreed. The Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, triggered a political and diplomatic shockwave yesterday by summarily removing Amos Gilad, the defence ministry’s top official, from his leading role in delicately balanced Egyptian-brokered negotiations with Hamas. The move was in response to angry criticism by Mr Gilad in a newspaper last week after Mr Olmert insisted any ceasefire deal with Hamas would have to await the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli corporal seized in 2006 by Gaza militants. Mr Olmert’s office issued a formal complaint to the Civil Service Commission seeking disciplinary action against Mr Gilad, for making public his “embarrassing and significantly harmful” criticisms of the government strategy.

Egyptian policeman shot, wounded near Gaza border
Reuters, YNetNews 2/24/2009
Policeman guarding warehouse of goods seized en route to smuggling tunnels in stable condition after being shot in the shoulder -Gunmen shot and wounded an Egyptian policeman guarding a warehouse of goods seized en route to tunnels near the Gaza border, security sources said on Tuesday. The 21-year-old policeman, named as Fathi Salman Mohamed, was taken to hospital in the border town of Rafah on Monday night with a wound in his right shoulder and is in a stable condition, they said. The gunmen escaped but police assume they are smugglers, who have attacked similar warehouses in the past, they said. The hundreds of tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border were among the targets in Israel’s recentoffensive against Gaza. Palestinians in the coastal enclave use them to smuggle in weapons and commercial goods, circumventing an Israeli-led blockade.

Egyptian policeman shot, wounded near Gaza border
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/24/2009
Gunmen shot and wounded an Egyptian policeman guarding a warehouse of goods seized en route to tunnels near the Gaza border, security sources said on Tuesday. The 21-year-old policeman, named as Fathi Salman Mohamed, was taken to hospital in the border town of Rafah on Monday night with a wound in his right shoulder and is in a stable condition, they said. The gunmen escaped but police assume they are smugglers, who have attacked similar warehouses in the past, they said. The hundreds of tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border were among the targets in Israel’s recent offensive against Gaza’s Hamas rulers. Palestinians in the coastal territory use them to smuggle in weapons and commercial goods, circumventing an Israeli-led blockade.

Egypt says ’tiny Islamist cell’ behind bombing
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/25/2009
CAIRO: Egyptian security services believe a tiny Islamist cell carried out a nail-bomb attack near a popular tourist site in Cairo that killed a French teenager, a government newspaper said on Tuesday. The investigation into Sunday’s bombing near the famed 14th century Khan al-Khalili bazaar is focusing on an isolated group of three or four Islamists, Al-Ahram newspaper reported. Police said they arrested three suspects and were questioning another 15 but as yet no one has claimed the attack, the first targeting Westerners in Egypt since 2006 and casting a shadow over the country’s vital tourism industry. Al-Ahram said the homemade bomb weighed up to 1. 5 kilograms, contained nails and metal fragments and an explosive material similar to the kind used in fireworks. A timer was used to detonate the device, which had been placed on a marble bench, the newspaper said, contradicting witness statements that it had been thrown from a rooftop.

Hamas and Fateh meeting in Cairo for reconciliation
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/24/2009
Ramallah -- The Hamas leadership decided yesterday evening to participate in meetings with Fateh today and tomorrow in Cairo, sources from the Al Hayat daily reported Tuesday. All factions are slated to undertake the national dialogue Thursday hosted by Egyptian mediators. As part of ongoing efforts toward national reconciliation, specifically that between the Fateh and Hamas parties, the five committees organized in November to undertake specific issues will convene. Sources close to the Cairo dialogue were reported by Al Hayat as saying that new setbacks arose when Hamas accused the Palestinian Authority of attempting to thwart reconciliation through the recent arrest of 80 of its members in the West Bank. The second setback came after the parties failed to uphold their agreement to stop negative media campaigns Hamas noted that Fateh’s Samir Mashharawi accused the party during a televised interview of being unwilling to dialogue.

Hamas delegation to Cairo to initiate bilateral meetings with Fatah
Palestinian Information Center 2/24/2009
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Hamas deputy representative in Syria Ali Baraka stated that a delegation from the Movement will leave for Cairo on Tuesday to hold bilateral meetings with Fatah representatives only days before holding the comprehensive inter-Palestinian dialog in order to eliminate all obstacles that may adversely affect the national reconciliation process. In an exclusive statement to the PIC, Baraka revealed that a comprehensive meeting between heads of Palestinian factions will be held on Thursday after the bilateral meetings between Hamas and Fatah in order to form five committees on the PLO, the government, elections, the rebuilding of the security apparatuses, and the Palestinian reconciliation. He pointed out that when these committees finish their duties and reach agreements on all the five files, a package agreement will be signed in a ceremony attended by seven Arab countries in Cairo.

Interior ministry unveils information about spy ring
Palestinian Information Center 2/24/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The interior ministry in Gaza unveiled Monday that it discovered a spy ring affiliated with the PA security apparatuses in the West Bank which collaborated with Israel during its war on the Strip, where it provided information about places, tunnels, Palestinian leaders and most importantly the resistance. Spokesman for the ministry Ihab Al-Ghussein and director of the analysis and information office in the internal security Abu Abdullah displayed videotaped confessions during a news conference of some members of this spy ring which confirmed that they were officially assigned to scout and reveal the movements of the Palestinian resistance fighters and the security apparatuses in Gaza. Ghussein noted that the Hamas Movement committed itself to what had been agreed upon and stopped media campaigns, but it was surprised to hear the statements of a senior Fatah leader called. . .

Hamas leaders leave Damascus for Cairo talks with Fatah
Ma’an News Agency 2/24/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Hamas leaders left Damascus on Tuesday morning for talks in Cairo with their rival, Fatah, in spite of tensions over alleged arrests of Hamas members in the West Bank. Hamas told Ma’an that the delegation from Damascus is led by Mousa Abu Marzouq, the deputy head of the movement’s politburo. Only one official from Gaza will attend the talks, which are scheduled to begin on Wednesday. Hamas spokesperson Ismail Radwan said the name of the Gaza-based official will be announced later after security precautions have been taken. Radwan pointed out that senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Az-Zahhar has returned to Gaza from Egypt after days of meetings with Egyptian officials. Hamas lawmaker Mushir Al-Masri told Ma’an that Hamas will go to Cairo with “open hearts and good intentions,” but reiterated that the success of the talks would hinge on the willingness of the. . .

PA releases three prisoners in gesture to Hamas
Ma’an News Agency 2/24/2009
Nablus – Ma’an Exclusive – As a good will gesture before Palestinian national dialogue begins in Cairo, the Palestinian Authority began on Tuesday releasign Hamas-affiliated detainees in Nablus in the northern West Bank. Knowledgeable Palestinian sources told Ma’an’s reporter that the Preventive Security Seervice in Nablus released three prisoners affiliated to Hamas on Tuesday afternoon from Juneid detention center. The sources identified the newly-freed detainees as Shadi Mansour, Yasser Abu Hamada, and Taha Bishtawi. Commenting on the release of the prisoners, senior Hamas leader Isma’il Radwan told Ma’an, “It is a step in the right direction towards releasing all political prisoners in the West Bank. ”“This,” he said, “will lay the groundwork for serious dialogue through which national unity could be restored, and so the Palestinian people can dedicate time to. . .

PA releases 30 Hamas members in hopes of success at national dialogue
Najib Farrag for PNN, Palestine News Network 2/24/2009
Bethlehem -- The Palestine News Network learned Tuesday that the Palestinian general intelligence service released 30 detainees from the Hamas party. The members of the Hamas party released this morning were arrested from various cities throughout the West Bank several weeks ago. A Palestinian security source told PNN that the release of those detained was part of a gesture of goodwill for the success of the Palestinian national dialogue to be held in Cairo on Thursday. [end]

Security Source: 30 Hamas prisoners released from PA prisons
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 2/24/2009
A Palestinian security source told the Palestine News Network that the Palestinian Security forces have released 30 Hamas members on Tuesday midday. The 30 prisoners were released in several West Bank cities. The sources added that all of them were Hamas members, arrested several weeks ago. Some of the prisoners have served several months. According to the source, this step is part of Fatah’s efforts to ease tension with the rival Hamas party before the internal deluge meeting that is planed to take place this weekend in Egypt. [end]

Abbas frees 42 Hamas prisoners ahead of reconciliation talks
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ security officials released 42 Hamas detainees in the West Bank in a good-will gesture ahead of reconciliation talks with the rival group. More prisoners would be released on Wednesday, said Ayman Daraghmeh, a Hamas legislator. He said some 400 Hamas activists are being held in the West Bank. Abbas said Tuesday a new national unity government that includes rival Hamas must be in place and internationally recognized to manage humanitarian aid for Gaza and the West Bank. Abbas said he hopes the upcoming round of reconciliation talks would lead Hamas to accept deals with Israel agreed to by previous Palestinian administrations even if they are not in line with the group’s own political platform. "When governments come, they respect and honor the obligations of. . .

Gaza journalists urge PA to release two West Bank reporters
Ma’an News Agency 2/24/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Dozens of Palestinian journalists staged a sit-in in Gaza on Tuesday in solidarity with two reporters for the Hamas-affiliated Al-Quds TV who have been jailed for four weeks by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. The journalists are Sami Khweira and Ahmad Al-Beikawi. The protestors raised signs calling on Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to intervene and release the reporters. Representing the Palestinian Journalists’ Forum, Muhammad Al-Qishawi delivered a speech during the sit-in. “The arrest of journalists in the West Bank is an obstacle before the Cairo reconciliation efforts,” he said, calling on human rights organizations in the West Bank for immediate action of protest in order to free detained journalists. “We feel ashamed of the number of times we had to call on our brothers in the West Bank to free their brothers and sons.

West Bank government school strike
Ali Samoudi for PNN, Palestine News Network 2/24/2009
Jenin - The General Union of Teachers announced another day of strike. This is part of a series of events to protest the policy of the Palestinian government. Secretary of the Teachers Union in the Jenin Governorate Public Schools, Mohammad Faisal Arqawi, says the decision to strike Thursday was made yesterday. The Secretariat of the Federation of Teachers held an emergency meeting at union headquarters in Ramallah. Secretary-General Jamil Shehadeh headed the session. Of issue is the failure of the government to respond to demands that include cost of living increases. Also not met is the obligation to pay compensation awarded all teachers by the Council of Ministers for damages caused in 2008, the autumn during which the strikes first began. Salary delays have also surpassed by two days the period approved by the Union.

Fayyad says PA completed Gaza reconstruction plans
Ma’an News Agency 2/24/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad asserted on Tuesdaythat the Palestinian Authority had completed plans for reconstruction in the Gaza Strip. Speaking at a news conference in the central West Bank city of Ramallah after meeting with EU Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering, Fayyad said the plan would be announced Wednesday or Thursday. “Reconstruction can’t take place without crossing points being open, and without enough support,” Fayyad said at the conference in Ramallah. With regard to the Cairo dialogue, the prime minister said, “We are happy that talks will begin in Cairo in two days as scheduled. ”For his part, President Pöttering asserted that the EU had been following up attentively with the Middle East peace process, pointing out that any proposals for economic solutions should be within the framework of the two-state solution.

CUPE passes academic boycott resolution
Stop The Wall 2/24/2009
The CUPE Ontario University Workers Coordinating Committee (OUWCC) has passed an important BDS resolution calling for an end to institutional links between Israeli and Canadian universities that serve to perpetuate apartheid. This comes despite considerable effort on behalf of Zionist organizations to stifle Palestine solidarity in Canada. The recent resolution, which was passed on February 23, moves the academic boycott forward, calling on campus representatives to work with local unions in ensuring that Ontario universities cut research or investment ties with the Israeli military. Additionally, local unions are encouraged to dissuade universities from forming new ties, including collaborations, corporate partnerships and investments, which would directly or indirectly benefit the Israeli military or research. Finally, the resolution includes awareness raising measures, including possible funding for an education campaign on boycott. -- See also: CUPE: Questions and Answers 1 - 2008

Gaza tensions force spectator ban at Israel-Sweden tennis match
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
A Davis Cup tennis match between Sweden and Israel will go ahead without spectators after an attempt to move the venue to Stockholm fell through, organizers said Tuesday. They cited security concerns for the closed-door policy in the city of Malmo because anti-Israeli demonstrations are expected during the best-of-five series on March 6-8. But the volley of words between the two Swedish cities, which comes after the United Arab Emirates stopped an Israeli player attending a tennis tournament in Dubai, has an unmistakable political dimension. Malmo, Sweden’s third largest city, has a left-leaning local government and a large Muslim minority. Its leaders have strongly criticized Israel over the Gaza invasion, and some have called for the Davis Cup match to be dropped altogether.

Davis Cup Tennis: Israel/Sweden tie may move to Stockholm for fans
Allon Sinai, Jerusalem Post 2/24/2009
Israel’s Davis Cup World Group first round tie in Sweden next weekend may be played in front of local fans after all. Stockholm may replace Malmo as host city of the match, the Swedish Tennis Association said on Monday, after the original venue decided that it would ban spectators due to security reasons. The secretary general of the Swedish Tennis Association, Henrik Kallen, said that Stockholm had offered to step in as an alternative venue for the March 6-8 tie. Several anti-Israeli demonstrations were planned in Malmo during the best-of-five series. City of Stockholm spokeswoman Anna Waglund-Soderstrom said officials are investigating all aspects of moving the match and will make a decision shortly. In other Israeli tennis news, Dudi Sela jumped 21 places to number 65 in the world on Monday, his highest ranking since June of last year, after reaching the semifinals in Memphis last week.

Protest fears over Davis Cup
Al Jazeera 2/24/2009
The Davis Cup match between Sweden and Israel will go ahead as planned - without spectators in the Swedish city of Malmo -- after an attempt to move the venue to Stockholm fell through. Swedish organisers on Tuesday cited security concerns for the closed-door policy because anti-Israeli demonstrations are expected during the best-of-five series on March 6-8. But the volley of words between the two Swedish cities, which comes after the United Arab Emirates stopped an Israeli player from attending a tennis tournament in Dubai, has an unmistakable political dimension. Left-leaning Malmo - Malmo, Sweden’s third largest city, has a left-leaning local government and a large Muslim minority. Its leaders have strongly criticised Israel after the Gaza invasion, and some have called for dropping the Davis Cup match altogether. Stockholm has a centre-right majority that is more pro-Israeli.

MIDEAST: The Ball Could be in Israel’s Court
Analysis by Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler, Inter Press Service 2/24/2009
JERUSALEM, Feb 24(IPS) - Israel’s outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rode roughshod over those who piously argue that sport and politics ought not to play in the same arena. At the start of the weekly Israeli cabinet meeting, Olmert pulled no punches: "I was astonished to hear that Andy Ram intended to play in Dubai. He really should be advised to demonstrate patriotism and solidarity; he should have boycotted the tournament. " Olmert was lashing out at the decision of the Dubai authorities to ban Israeli woman tennis player Shahar Peer from last week’s championships in the Gulf state. Doubles specialist Ram is playing in this week’s men’s tournament after Dubai bowed to a torrent of outrage, and to pressure from international tennis authorities, and granted him the visa they had earlier denied the Israeli woman star.

Hamas says it reserves right to bring arms into Gaza
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
Gaza-based Hamas strongman Mahmoud Zahar declared Tuesday that his Islamist militant group reserves the right to bring arms into Gaza. "It’s our right to bring in everything - money and arms. We will not give anyone any commitment on this subject," Zahar toldin an interview in the Egyptian town of Ismailia. One the goals of Israel’s recent offensive against Hamas in Gaza was to stem the flow of weaponry into the coastal strip. Zahar, who served as Palestinian foreign minister in the government Hamas formed in Gaza after winning elections in 2006, also said Hamas had asked Egypt to let it import 1,000 containers into Gaza for use as temporary housing for Palestinians displaced during the Israel Defense Forces campaign, which ended in mid-January.

Mishaal confers with Yemeni president on Palestinian conciliation efforts
Palestinian Information Center 2/24/2009
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh on Monday evening met with a delegation of the Hamas Movement led by its leader Khaled Mishaal for a discussion on inter-Palestinian reconciliation efforts. Well informed sources told PIC reporter that the discussions tackled the national Palestinian dialog scheduled to kick off in the Egyptian capital on 25/2/2009. They added that the talks also covered the calm issue and the changes in the Israeli position through trying to link the calm agreement to the issue of the captured Israeli soldier. For his part, Saleh asserted the importance of ending the inter-Palestinian rift to face the challenges facing the Palestine cause and the Arab world at large. The Yemeni head of state said that the Palestinian reconciliation would carry positive impact on efforts to achieve inter-Arab conciliation and to boost Arab solidarity especially. . .

Abbas says world should recognize Hamas in unity government
Ma’an News Agency 2/24/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The international community should recognize a Palestinian unity government comprising representatives of Hamas, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday. Speaking at a news conference in Norway, Abbas said, “This recognition is necessary for addressing the humanitarian crisis in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. ”The president also expressed hopes that negotiations between Palestinian factions, scheduled to begin Wednesday in Cairo, would lead to a Hamas recognition of agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He also expressed hopes that the new Israeli government would also recognize previously signed agreements, so negotiations could continue with positive results. The meeting in Oslo was attended by chief Palestine Liberation Organization negotiator Saeb Erekat, the president’s spokesperson, Nabil Abu Rdeinam,. . .

Hamas: We appreciate Russian efforts
Palestinian Information Center 2/24/2009
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Khaled Mishaal, the political bureau chairman of Hamas, on Monday night received in his office in Damascus the Russian ambassador to Syria who conveyed a message from foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to the Movement. A Hamas statement said that the two men exchanged views over a number of Palestinian developments, and noted that the Russian ambassador stressed the strength of relations between Russia and Hamas. Mishaal, for his part, appreciated Lavrov’s efforts and Moscow’s role in dealing with Middle East issues. Mohammed Nasr, political bureau member of Hamas, told PIC that the Russian message reflected a number of positive stands towards the Palestine cause and included proposals on a number of political questions in the Palestinian arena. He underscored that Hamas maintains constant positive relations with Russia.

Bahar embarks on foreign tour to rally support for Palestinian issues
Palestinian Information Center 2/24/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Ahmed Bahar, the acting speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, on Tuesday crossed the Rafah border terminal from Gaza Strip to Egypt at the onset of an Arab, Islamic tour to explain Palestinian developments and to rally support for Palestinian issues. Bahar, in an exclusive statement to the PIC, prior to his departure from the Rafah terminal, said that the tour was prepared a long time ago, adding that he would try to secure backing to the issue of the detained PLC members in Israeli occupation jails topped by PLC speaker Dr. Aziz Dwaik. He added that he would inform the Arab countries and their parliaments on the brutal Israeli war on Gaza. The PLC top official said that the PLC had received several invitations from Arab and Islamic parliaments and would try to respond to all invitations.

Israeli president urges Europeans to shun Hamas
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 2/25/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli President Shimon Peres on Tuesday urged Europeans to shun Hamas, telling the European Parliament’s president the Islamist government in Gaza was a "murderous terrorist" administration. "Europeans must understand that Hamas is a dangerous and murderous terrorist organization and must stop immediately showing any sympathy and support as this attitude prevents the continuation of the peace process," Peres told Hans-Gert Poettering. Poettering on Monday led a delegation of European parliamentarians to the Gaza Strip, which was devastated by a 22-day Israeli military offensive in which more than 1,300 Palestinians, two-thirds of whom were civilians and including over 400 children, were killed. Following his visit, the European official expressed grave concern about the situation in the Palestinian enclave that is reeling under an Israeli blockade imposed after Hamas won legislative elections in 2006.

BBC chief criticises ’external pressure’ in Gaza appeal row
Anil Dawar, The Guardian 2/24/2009
Lyons backs broadcaster’s editorial independence • Director general urged to explore wider lessons - The chairman of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons, last night defended the corporation’s editorial independence against the criticism it came under after deciding not to broadcast a charity appeal to help the people of Gaza. Lyons said the BBC had faced "undue external pressure" over its refusal to show an appeal by Disasters Emergency Committee appeal following the war between Hamas and Israel. Speaking to the Cardiff Business Club, in Cardiff Bay, he declared his support for director-general Mark Thompson’s decision last month. He said: "I began to feel that some of the political criticism of his decision was crossing the delicate line between fair comment and undue interference in the editorial independence of the BBC. " At that point I thought, and still do, that a red card was in order. "

Europe’s approach to Gaza hindering peace, Peres says
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 2/24/2009
In meeting with European Parliament head Pöttering, Israeli president says ’by expressing compassion for the situation in Gaza and compassion for Hamas’ acts of terror, Europe is not helping to improve the situation’. Livni: We cannot allow European anti-Semitism rear its ugly head - Unfortunately the international community, and particularly Europe, is oblivious to the reality in Gaza, which is that Hamas is a terror group that is acting mercilessly and irrationally towards its own people," President Shimon Peres said Tuesday. During a meeting with visiting European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering, Peres said "Europe and the international community, by expressing compassion for the situation in Gaza and compassion for Hamas’ acts of terror, is not helping to improve the situation, but is deceiving the Palestinians – and this severely hinders peace and the bolstering of moderate elements in the region. "

Israel’s president says EU backing of Hamas hinders peace
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 2/24/2009
Israeli president, Shimon Peres, was reported Tuesday as saying that EU backing of the Hamas party is hindering peace in the region. According to the Ma’areef Israeli Daily newspaper, Peres communicated his concern to the president of the EU parliament, Hans Grat, during a meeting in Jerusalem. "Europe needs to be aware of the fact that Hamas is a terrorist and assassination-oriented movement, and, therefore, Europe should immediately stop rapprochement with Hamas," Peres was quoted as saying. The meeting in Jerusalem tackled the current political atmosphere in Israel, the recent Israeli war on the Gaza Strip, and other regional concerns, in particular, so-called Iranian nuclear threats. Peres’ remarks came after a number of EU parliamentarians visited the Gaza Strip, which Hamas controls, and met with Hamas counterparts within humanitarian missions in the wake of Israel’s three-week attack on the coastal territory.

Solidarity with Palestinians grows internationally, Amsterdam protests Israeli military
PNN, Palestine News Network 2/24/2009
Nazareth -- Israeli reports indicate that one of its officers was hit by flying shoes at an Amsterdam hotel. Israeli officials have been warned against travelling due to the possibility of arrest for war crimes committed against the Gaza Strip. At the same time acts of solidarity with Palestinians have increased. Popular international campaigns condemning Israeli occupation are becoming more widespread. An Israeli military official, Ron Edelheit, was the speaker Sunday in Holland on the issue of the major attacks on Gaza. Demonstrators were outside. Inside, three people threw shoes before the Israeli began speaking. The lecture had already changed venue due to protests. Organizers launched a letter writing campaign against the event, calling to demonstrate in front of the hotel during the lecture that they said aimed to justify the recent killing and destruction in the Gaza Strip.

POLITICS: Rights Group Calls for Israel/Hamas Arms Embargo
Daniel Luban, Inter Press Service 2/24/2009
NEW YORK, Feb 23(IPS) - A prominent international human rights organisation has called for an arms embargo against both Israel and Hamas after finding evidence that both sides used foreign-supplied arms to commit war crimes during the recent conflict in Gaza. In a report released Monday, Amnesty International found that weapons produced in the U. S. and Europe, including white phosphorus shells, were used in "indiscriminate" Israeli attacks that killed civilians in Gaza. In addition to a U. N. -backed embargo, the group called on states to unilaterally suspend arms transfers to all parties in the conflict, and to take steps to hold perpetrators accountable for war crimes committed during the three-week war. While critics of the Israeli military campaign have made similar charges since it began on Dec. 27, the Amnesty International report is likely to carry special weight due both to. . .

UK ministers sued over arms sales to Israel
Ma’an News Agency 2/24/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq filed what it called a historic lawsuit against senior UK officials over British arms exports to Israel. The lawsuit argues that the British government is obligated underinternational law not to render assistance to a state that is violating the law, citing Israel’s alleged violations of international humanitarian law during the three-week war in Gaza. Al-Haq said in a statement that it is filing the legal proceedings at the High Court of Justice in London on Tuesday morning. The suit names Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs David Milliband, Defense Secretary John Hutton and former Secretary of Trade & Industry (now Secretary of State for Business Enterprise), Peter Mandelson. Solicitor Phil Shiner of the group Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) is filing the application for legal review on behalf of Al-Haq.

Palestinian NGO seeks UK human rights justice:
Al Haq Press Release, International Middle East Media Center News 2/24/2009
Government taken to court for breaking international law - Palestinian NGO seeks UK human rights justice: Government taken to court for breaking international law. A press conference will be held outside the Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2A 2LL, on Tuesday 24 February at 11am. Present will be Solicitor Phil Shiner and Gaza Legal Aid Fund trustee Mary Nazzal-Batayneh. Al-Haq, an independent Palestinian non-governmental organization will tomorrow, Tuesday 24 February 2009, begin historical legal proceedings against the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, David Milliband, Defense Secretary, John Hutton and Trade & Industry (now the Secretary of State for Business Enterprise, and Regulatory Reform), and Peter Mandelson. Al Haq are making an application for judicial review of a policy decision by the three Secretaries of State that they will not. . .

Bahrain’s crown prince: Britain is too pro-Israel
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/24/2009
The crown prince of Bahrain said on Monday Britain was too pro-Israel in its outlook, but its contribution to the Middle East peace process was still needed. "If we are to solve the Arab-Israeli issue then you cannot approach it as a friend of one side at the expense of another," Sheikh Salman Bin Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa told Sky television. When asked if he felt Britain had been too pro-Israeli he replied: "I think we all feel that. " "But that doesn’t mean we don’t want Britain’s involvement, we need Britain’s involvement and we need Britain to be more impartial, sure. " Solving the Arab-Israeli issue was "challenging but imperative" if extremists were to be deterred, he said. The crown prince said Britain should work with moderates in the region and avoid adding fuel to extremists’ fire.

Dutch protesters throw shoes at visiting IDF reservist
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 2/24/2009
In another shoe-throwing incident against Israelis in Europe, Amsterdam police on Sunday arrested three people who hurled footwear at an Israeli army officer while he was lecturing at a hotel in the Dutch capital. The officer, Captain (res. ) Ron Adelheit, told Haaretz he filed a criminal complaint against the suspected assailants - two men and a woman - whom police arrested at the hotel. "I was on a private visit to see my mother. As an IDF Spokesman reservist I volunteered to speak before the Dutch Jewish community about Operation Cast Lead," said Dutch-born Adelheit, who immigrated to Israel many years ago. "Fifty demonstrators waited for me outside the Apollo Hotel, chanting nasty slogans," he told Haaretz. "Three entered the room, shouting and throwing four shoes at my direction.

Jewish groups: Leniency for UK alleged anti-Semitic university employee unacceptable
Jonny Paul, Jerusalem Post 2/24/2009
Jewish groups condemned what they felt was a British university’s lenient response this week to a member of staff who made use of an anti-Semitic image on the social networking site Facebook. Andrew Collingwood, a supply manager in the Biology department at the University of York in northern England, posted a caricature of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni wearing a witch’s hat and holding a wand with the Star of David, declaring, "Anti-Semitic! Anti-Semitic! Anti-Semitic!" A thought bubble reads, "They no longer hear the magic word. " Collingwood is also a university council member and a harassment adviser to students, as well as an active member of the fringe group Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The university has defended the action, saying the school "adheres strongly to the principle of freedom of speech" and that it responds only in cases in which the rights of individuals or groups are violated.

VIDEO - Shimon Peres Interview - How do you sleep at night?
YouTube, Palestine Think Tank 2/24/2009
Thanks very much to one of our attentive [Palestine Think Tank] readers, Rodney, who sent this video from Australian TV, where Shimon Peres makes one outrageous claim after another, including that the Gaza checkpoints have always been open. If you can stand someone lying through their teeth, this is the man for you. Part 1 of 2. [end] -- See also: Shimon Peres - Interview with Dateline Part 2 of 2

Lebanon renews demand for compensation from Israel for damage inflicted during 2006 war
Daily Star 2/25/2009
BEIRUT: Lebanon on Tuesday renewed its demand that Israel pay compensation for damage inflicted during the summer 2006 war. Lebanon’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Nawwaf Salam, passed on an official letter to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon outlining repeated Israeli violations of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora demanded in the letter that Israel compensate Lebanon for inflicting "unimaginable losses" on the country’s infrastructure, which has not yet fully recovered. The letter also accused the Jewish state of hindering efforts to demarcate the Blue Line border, and demanded Israel withdraw from the occupied Shebaa Farms and the northern side of Ghajar, which sits on the Israel-Lebanon border. Israel has continued to occupy the Lebanese side of Ghajar north of the UN designated border demarcated in 2000, despite a December 2006 Cabinet decision to hand it over to UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL.

Gaddafi: Israel, not Sudan, to blame for crisis in Darfur
Reuters, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the current African Union president, on Tuesday accused "foreign forces" including Israel of being behind the Darfur conflict. Judges from the International Criminal Court are due to announce on March 4 whether they will issue a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir over allegations that he masterminded genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region. UN diplomats have toldthe warrant will be issued. But Gaddafi, addressing a meeting on ways to expand cooperation between the United Nations and African Union, urged the Court to stop its proceedings against Bashir:"Why do we have to hold President Bashir or the Sudanese government responsible when the Darfur problem was caused by outside parties, and Tel Aviv [Israel], for example, is behind the Darfur crisis? ". . .

Turkish PM: Israel must recognize Palestine
Ynet, YNetNews 2/24/2009
Recep Tayyip Erdogan reveals to the Guardian newspaper that Tehran asked Ankara to help it out of the diplomatic mud with America; compares Netanyahu’s rejection of two-state solution as similar to Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel - Turkish Prime Minsiter Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tehran has sought Anakara’s help in finding a solution for its diplomatic crisis with the United States, the Guardian newspaper reported. Erdogan told the paper that Iran requested Turkey’s help while George W. Bush was still in office, and the message was relayed to Washington at that time. He added that he is considering whether to broach the matter with President Barak Obama, who has said he hopes to hold talks with Iran at the G20 summit, scheduled to be held in London this April. Responding to a question on Turkey’s future role in any Washington-Tehran talks, Erdogan said: "Iran does want Turkey to play such a role.

For Gaza news, Israeli Arabs watched Al Jazeera
Dafna Harel-Kfir, Globes Online 2/24/2009
The top three channels watched by Israeli Arabs for news were foreign channels. A survey conducted by Shiluv Millward Brown for "Globes" on Israeli Arabs’ viewing habits during Operation Cast Lead in January has raised findings that some people might consider worrying. Both Israeli Jews and Arabs watched more television during the war, but Shiluv Millward Brown found that the most watched channel for news among 80% of Israeli Arabs was Qatar-based "Al Jazeera", followed by 34% who watched Saudi-based "Al-Arabiyeh", and 27% who watched Hizbullah’s Al Manar. The top three are foreign, non-Zionist channels. 26% of Israeli Arabs watched Israeli news broadcasts on Channel 2, 25% watched Channel 10, and 12% watched Israel Broadcasting Authority’s Channel 1. 9% watched Lebanon’s MBC, 4% watched Abu Dhabi Television, 2% watched Jordan Television, and 7% did not watch news broadcasts.

Televised Turkish opinion poll: 68 percent of the Turkish people support Hamas
Palestinian Information Center 2/24/2009
ANKARA, (PIC)-- An opinion poll aired Monday on a Turkish TV show attended by Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, revealed that 68 percent of the Turkish people support the Hamas Movement opposed to 32 percent for the Israeli occupation. During the show, Dr. Abu Zuhri briefed the Turkish viewers on the reality of the Israeli war on Gaza and the crimes committed against children, women and civilians. He also talked about the steadfastness and fortitude demonstrated by the Gaza people during the war. Turkish media sources told the PIC reporter that there is a growing awareness among the Turkish people of the dimensions of the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip and an understanding of the fact that Hamas is a resistance faction defending the Palestinian people and its democratically-elected government is the legitimate representative of the Palestinians.

Israel swears in new parliament
Al Jazeera 2/25/2009
Israel is swearing in a new parliament following the country’s tightest general election in years. The swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday for 120 Knesset members came as Benyamin Netanyahu, the leader of the right-wing Likud party, continued efforts to form a coalition cabinet. Netanyahu, who was asked to pull together a ruling coalition by Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, has just under six weeks to complete his task. Speaking at the parliament’s inaugural session, Peres said politicians should make peace efforts with the Palestinians its main priority. "To conclude negotiations with the Palestinians during this parliamentary tenure" is the biggest challenge facing Israel, he said. "Distinguished Arab leaders have told me that a peace accord with the Palestinians would be recognised as a regional peace agreement that includes Israel," he said.

BOI chief rejects Netanyahu offer to be finance minister
Moti Bassok and Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
Bank of Israel governor Stanley Fischer on Tuesday turned down an offer from Prime Minister-designate and Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu to serve as finance minister in the upcoming coalition. Netanyahu, who met earlier with current finance minister, Roni Bar-On, made the offer to Fischer during a meeting at the Bank of Israel in Jerusalem. Fischer briefed Netanyahu on economic issues currently preoccupying the state in the shadow of the global financial crisis. The governor also gave Netanyahu a run-down of the challenges facing the Israeli economy. When offered the job, Fischer told Netanyahu that he has no interest in a political post. The Bank of Israel refused to respond to the report. Netanyahu, who on Tuesday named a negotiating staff to handle coalition talks with the various parties expected. . .

18th Knesset sworn in today
Lilach Weissman, Globes Online 2/24/2009
The new Knesset has more Arabs and women, but fewer observant Jews and professors. The 120 members of the 18th Knesset were sworn in today. The new Knesset includes more lawyers, women, and Arabs, but fewer observant Jews and professors than the 17th Knesset. The 18th Knesset has 24 lawyers and people with law degrees compared with 18 in the 17th Knesset. Four MKs have the title of professor: Avishai Braverman and Yuli Tamir of the Labor Party, Daniel Hershkowitz (Jewish Home), and Arieh Eldad (Yisrael Beiteinu). It also has three former IDF chiefs of staff: Ehud Barak (Labor), Shaul Mofaz (Kadima), and Moshe Yaalon (Likud). The 18th Knesset has five former journalists: Shelly Yacimovich and Daniel Ben Simon (Labor), Uri Orbach (Jewish Home), Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), and Anastassia Michaeli (Yisrael Beiteinu).

ANALYSIS / Livni, Barak avoided Netanyahu like the plague
Yossi Verter, Ha’aretz 2/24/2009
Benjamin Netanyahu will sit back today into his temporary seat, and observe new and old-new MKs taking their oaths. He will be proud, but perhaps despondent, too. He had garnered fifteen new seats and brought the power back to Likud. But he went out of his way to share power with his election rivals, Livni and Barak; they, on the other hand, avoided him like the plague. Netanyahu will be surveying a kind of a small Likud-state as he sits. Kadima is clearly a Likud tributary. Most of its MKs come from the very top of the Likud slates: Livni, Bar-On, Mofaz, Hanegbi, Sheetrit, Boim. And what is Yisrael Beiteinu if not another offshoot of his party? It’s headed by Yvet Lieberman, formerly Likud director-general, flanked by Uzi Landau. On the list is also Orly Levy, daughter of David Levy, the Likud’s own flesh and blood.

Olmert’s request to enlarge future office rejected
Lilach Weissman, Globes Online 2/24/2009
The next Finance Committee can take up the request again. The Knesset Finance Committee has defered a request by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to increase the size of the office that he is entitled to after his retirement. He has rented space on the 15th floor of the Platinum Tower in Tel Aviv. Finance Committee chairman MK Avishai Braverman (Labor) said today that the committee decided not to discuss the request submitted by Prime Minister’s Office director general Raanan Dinur for an extra 30 square meters of office space. The new Finance Committee will take up the request after the next government is formed. Former prime ministers are eligible for a 140-square meter office. However, Dinur stated in his letter that this size did not take into account the security needs for former prime ministers.

Netanyahu plans to make Livni another offer for unity coalition
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 2/24/2009
Likud chair Benjamin Netanyahu still hopes to form a unity government with Kadima, and is planning to offer its leader Tzipi Livni to help him draft the criteria that other parties must accept in joining the coalition. In doing so, Netanyahu is signaling to Livni that he is willing to be flexible regarding his own policies, as well as obligations he has made to potential right-wing coalition allies. Netanyahu and Livni are scheduled to meet for the second time Friday, but sources close to the Kadima leader expressed skepticism Monday over whether the meeting could bear fruit. "We do not have high hopes," one said, adding that it is unlikely a party like Shas, which opposed the Annapolis summit between Israel and the Palestinians, is likely to support continuing peace talks.

Netanyahu assembles team of negotiators
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 2/24/2009
With coalition talks officially commencing on Wednesday, Prime Minister designate Benjamin Netanyahu has appointed the Likud’s team - to be headed by MK Gideon Sa’ar. Meanwhile, Livni and Barak continue to rebuff Netanyahu’s offers. However some voices in Kadima are publically pushing Livni to reconsider -Likud Chairman and Prime Minister designate, Benjamin Netanyahu, announced on Tuesday evening that he has appointed a team of negotiators for the upcoming coalition talks as he attempts to form a new government. Netanyahu held meetings earlier this week with Kadima Chairman Tzipi Livni and Labor Chairman Ehud Barak, and has said he urges them to join a broad coalition under his leadership. Livni and Barak have so far rejected Netanyahu’s offer.

VIDEO - Ehud Olmert bids farewell
The Guardian 2/24/2009
Outgoing Israeli prime minister gives final speech to Jewish leaders, while incoming leader, Binyamin Netanyahu, meets the president of the European Union. [end]

Mofaz: No need to sanctify sitting in opposition
Ynet, YNetNews 2/24/2009
Minister says Kadima should join Netanyahu-led coalition if its basic guidelines include pursuing peace process on Syrian, Palestinian tracks and changing system of government. ’Voters gave us 28 Knesset seats not so that we will sit in the opposition,’ he adds - "Citizens of the State of Israel did not give us (Kadima) 28 Knesset seats so that we can sit in the opposition. I am not against opposition. Just so that it is clear – if we ultimately do not arrive at an agreement about the basic guidelines and changing the system of government, we will go to the opposition," Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz said Tuesday. "(Kadima Chairwoman) Tzipi Livni is making the right move in examining, checking, and clarifying the basic guidelines on which it is possible to form a coalition," Mofaz, placed second on Kadima’s Knesset roster, said in an interview with Army Radio.

Mofaz says Kadima should strive for unity government
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 2/24/2009
Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz on Tuesday refused to rule out the possibility of Kadima joining a Likud-led coalition, despite his party leader Tzipi Linvi’s recent rejection of an offer to do so. "I said during the Kadima [faction] meeting that running towards the opposition is not a sacred matter and that while we must make a supreme effort to form a unity government, we must do so without violating Kadima’s basic principles," Mofaz told Army Radio. The minister, who is placed No. 2 on Kadima’s Knesset, has kept close watch over Livni’s moves during recent days, convinced that her apparent partiality to joining the opposition is a mistake, but wary of being perceived as subversive. Over the weekend, Mofaz held talks with several Kadima members who have publicly voiced support for Livni’s stance on joining the opposition.

Lieberman voters ’feel cheated’
Daniel Adelson, YNetNews 2/24/2009
The daughter of a Jewish father and Christian mother, Victoria voted for Yisrael Beitenu hoping they would push through legislation allowing her to marry in Israel. But with Lieberman now willing to give up on civil marriage as a concession to Shas - she feels betrayed - Yisrael Beitenu voters have voiced mixed feelings following the report that party chairman, Avigdor Lieberman, is willing to compromise on civil marriage to join a coalition with Shas. Victoria, a 25-year-old Israeli who has a Jewish father and Christian mother, says she feels betrayed. "I voted for Lieberman because this was one of his cornerstone promises. Now I really feel cheated," she told Ynet. Victoria says she can not understand why a law-abiding, tax-paying citizen is barred from marrying in a country that declares itself democratic.

Peres tells new Knesset to reach peace deal by end of term
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/24/2009
The president called for parliamentary unity in order to deal with the manifold challenges facing Israel. "The newly elected Knesset counts twelve parties, but that does not mean that we have to be divided along those lines. The demands of the hour must unite us," Peres told lawmakers. He listed the main challenges facing Israel concluding negotiations with the Palestinians, improving education, advancing Israel scientifically and presenting Israel as an enlightened nation. Peres also mentioned the global economic crisis that has been wreaking havoc on Israel. "Like the rest of the world, we too are enduring an acute economic crisis," he told the Knesset. "We have to find creative solutions to overcome the crisis," he said. "The weak, elderly, and young cannot wait. "We have to do it right away, despite the critical issues that menace us, like Iran’s. . .

Letter from Amnesty International to US Secretary of State
Daily Star 2/25/2009
Over the last few weeks, I have read with increasing concern many reports about Israel’s military tactics in Gaza, aimed at mitigating indiscriminate attacks into Israel from Palestinian armed groups in Gaza. While Israel has a right to protect itself, I am deeply disturbed by Israel’s apparent disproportionate use of force and disregard for civilians using US made weapons. I encourage you to call for a US government investigation into Israel’s potential misuse of US made weapons in Gaza. According to many eye-witness accounts and investigations, for example, the Israeli military systematically fired white phosphorus munitions, including those made by the United States, over or near heavily populated areas of Gaza, killing and injuring scores of civilians and damaging residential buildings. Although these munitions, which can easily burn through skin, are not strictly prohibited by international

ADL: Amnesty denying Israel the right to defend itself
Natasha Mozgovaya, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
The Anti-Defamation League on Monday blasted Amnesty International as denying Israel the right to defend itself after the human rights organization urged a global freeze on arms sales to Israel. "In calling for an arms embargo of Israel, Amnesty International is doing nothing short of denying Israel the right to self-defense, an internationally accepted right of every sovereign nation," said ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman in a statement. Amnesty called for the embargo in a report released Monday that claimed more than 20 countries sold Israel weapons and munitions whose use during its offensive in Gaza could constitute war crimes and might pose serious infractions of international law. "Indeed, with this pernicious and biased report, Amnesty International has now become the research arm for. . .

ISRAEL: African asylum-seekers must quit Tel Aviv
Tamar Dressler/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2/24/2009
TEL AVIV, 24 February 2009 (IRIN) - Some 3,000 African asylum-seekers have to leave Tel Aviv because of an August 2008 ruling by the Israeli Ministry of the Interior. The ruling permits asylum-seekers to reside and work only in towns and cities north of Hadera and south of Gedera, about an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv, where they now live. The ruling was initially imposed only on newcomers but in recent months asylum-seekers living in Israel for longer periods have experienced the same constraints on their work permits, forcing them to leave their homes. Unemployment is rife in Israel’s south and north while in Tel Aviv asylum-seekers can find menial jobs as street-sweepers or restaurant workers and are able to support their families. Tel Aviv also has the one school in Israel that caters to the special needs of asylum-seekers’ children - the Bialik Elementary and High School in southern Tel Aviv.

Settler soldier receives harsher sentence
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 2/24/2009
Soldier who protested eviction of his West Bank home has jail sentence increased from 4 to 6 months, after military prosecution says original sentence too lenient - An Israeli soldier who was detained for his behavior during the eviction of the northern West Bank outpost of Adei-Ad was sentenced on Tuesday to half a military year in prison by an IDF appeals court. Prior to an appeal by the prosecution, he had been sentenced to four months in prison. Private Menachem Bakush, who serves in the military rabbinate, was accused of disobeying orders and damaging the image of the IDF when he protested a military eviction of the settlement in late December 2008. Bakush, married and father to a baby girl, had been on the way to his base near Jerusalem when he received a message that IDF forces were clearing out the outpost where he lived. Still wearing his uniform and armed with a military-issue rifle, he entered the area, which the IDF’s Central Command Chief had temporarily decreed to be a closed military area.

Openly gay MK submits bill to legalize civil marriages
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
First-term Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz submitted a bill for the legalization of civil marriages and divorces in Israel, just minutes after the 18th Knesset kicked off its opening session on Tuesday. The bill would "enable every Israeli citizen the freedom to choose between a religious or civil marriage, and between a religious and civil divorce," Meretz wrote in a statement. Former Meretz whip Zahava Gal-On and a number of other MKs have submitted a similar bill in the past. "This is about a basic freedom of choice for every human being, as is accepted in every developed country of the world," said Horowitz. " In 2009 Israel, there is no reason we should have to force people to get married on the steps of the rabbinate or on the steps of a city hall," he added.

Self portraits balance Ramallah artist
Lovisa Farrow for PNN, Palestine News Network 2/24/2009
Ramallah - The focus was on the personal when Ramallah’s Al Mahatta Gallery opened its doors to the "Monologue" exhibit yesterday evening. West Bank artist Bashar Alhroub worked for a year to produce the 13 piece suite of the self that hangs in the Art Station until next month. Self-portraits allow the soul to communicate, says Bashar. "We are living in a situation where the outside world is constantly present. I try to find a quiet place for myself in art," he told PNN. The abstract paintings hang in chronological order and are a study of personal development. The early paintings are reminiscent of dark fireworks while the later move more toward egg figures, concentrating the dark colors in a core and bringing to mind a child in the womb. "That’s a way of seeing it. My soul is pregnant with the siege," Alhroub commented on last night’s observation.

’Waltz with Bashir’ crew lament Oscar defeat
Nirit Anderman, Ha’aretz 2/24/2009
The small screening room of the Third Ear music store in Tel Aviv was chock full of cameramen. As the declaration of the winner of Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award drew near, the dark auditorium was suddenly immersed in flashes, much to the surprise of the audience, composed of the animators and crew of "Waltz with Bashir," who had wanted to watch the ceremony together. If a few minutes earlier you could still catch a yawn or a nodding head among the crowd, everyone was at full alert now. The naming of each of the contending nominees brought gentle boos from the crowd. Only the title of the Israeli candidate was met with an uproar of approval that made two specially prepared champagne bottles rattle slightly where they stood. Director Ari Folman’s gang crossed its fingers and stared fixedly at the screen.

Cartoon of the day
Mr Fish, Palestine Think Tank 2/23/2009

More than 100,000 will lose jobs this year, says labor leader
Haim Bior, Ha’aretz 2/24/2009
More than 100,000 Israelis will lose their jobs this year, predicts labor leader Ofer Eini. Addressing a convention of civil servants in Ramat Gan yesterday, Histadrut labor federation chairman Ofer Eini referred to the escalating violence of protestsat Pri Galil. Yesterday workers barricaded themselves into the food processing plant in the northern Israeli town of Hatzor Haglilit to protest the factory’s all-but-certain collapse due to mounting debt. Eini called the events at Pri Hagalil "the spark that would ignite social struggle throughout the country. The government must heed it," he said. Fifty of the plant’s employees barricaded themselves inside the canning factory and prevented goods from entering or leaving. The company’s 500 workers had gone on strike to protest the request by banks Leumi and Discount to put the company into receivership.

Tourist overnights down sharply in January
Orli Peleg-Mizrahi, Globes Online 2/24/2009
Hotel Association head Shmuel Zuriel: The fighting in Gaza reversed the growth trend. TheIsrael Hotel Association reports that there were 18% fewer hotel overnights in January 2009, compared with January 2008. During the month, hotels within a 40-kilometer radius of the Gaza Strip, including in Ashkelon and Beersheva, were occupied only by media people and security personnel, during Operation Cast Lead. Hotel overnights in Herzliya totaled 6,000 in January, down 51% from a year earlier, the steepest decline. Hotel overnights fell 42% in Haifa to 12,000, and fell 34% in Tel Aviv to about 100,000. Hotel overnights at kibbutz guesthouses totaled 30,000 in January, down 28% from January last year. Hotel overnights in Jerusalem fell 19% to 197,000, and they fell by 4% in Eilat to 75,000.

Workers in Galilee town protest possible closure of food factory
Eli Ashkenazi, Ha’aretz 2/24/2009
About 700 employees of the Pri Galil processed-food company on Tuesday protested the possible closure of their factory in the Galilee town of Hatzor Haglilit. The Haifa District Court was due to determine Tuesday if a receiver will be appointed for Pri Galil’s parent company Vita Pri Galil, which owes NIS 160 million to the Bank Leumi and Israel Discount Bank. The workers fear that such a step could lead to closure of the factory and firing of workers. Many farmers and students including members of Hanoar Haoved ve Halomed, a socialist youth movement, joined the rally, which took place along the town’s main road. Several heads of nearby regional councils also came to show their support for the workers. Residents of Hatzor Haglilit have also launched a general strike in the town.

Intel Israel exports fall
Tzahi Hoffman, Globes Online 2/24/2009
The company attributes the decline to the closing of its Jerusalem fab. Exports by Intel Israel Ltd. fell 10% to $1. 39 billion in 2008 from $1. 54 billion in 2007. The company’s workforce fell to 7,300 from 6,470. Intel Israel general manager Maxine Fassberg attributed the drop in sales to the closing of Intel’s Fab 8 in Jerusalem, and the drop in employment to the sale of Fab 18 in Kiryat Gat to Numonyx Inc. Commenting on future layoffs at Intel Israel, Fassberg said that Intel Corporation had already released announcements on this issue, and that they made no mention of plans concerning Intel Israel. In 2008, Intel Corporation (Nasdaq: INTC) made $640 million in reciprocal procurements from Israeli suppliers. The company’s reciprocal procurements have exceeded $3 billion since 2006.

Experts: Israelis among most overworked people in world
Nir Hasson, Ha’aretz 2/24/2009
Avi Himi, one of Israel’s best-known criminal lawyers, leaves his house at 6 A. M. every morning to go the office. He returns "at 9 P. M. at the earliest, and often at 10 or 11 P. M. "Moreover, he works from noon until 7 or 8 P. M. on "90 percent of Saturdays. " Himi’s insane schedule is characteristic of a growing number of Israeli employees. In fact, apart from South Korea, Japan, Mexico and (for women) the United States, Israel is the country with the largest number of people working 60 hours a week or more. These statistics worry many experts, who say that overwork is imperiling family life. Even the Bank of Israel addressed this issue in a report issued in March 2008: "Addiction to work is liable to increase workers’ tension and anxiety, damage their health (exhaustion, high blood pressure and more) and, in exceptional cases, even lead to death.

Interest rate is really almost 3%
Avi Temkin, Globes Online 2/24/2009
Prices are dropping as fast as the interest rate. At Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer’s press conference earlier this month, he spoke about the minimum interest rate, below which it is not possible to go. He quoted Governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King who said that the UK could not reduce interest rates below 1%. Judging by Fischer’s actions, in his opinion the shekel interest rate is very close to its minimum level. As a result, the Bank of Israel will switch to implementing the alternative measures to its interest rate policy, which he spoke about at that same press conference. In effect, we can say that the Bank of Israel is implementing the mental transition to an era of zero interest. Fischer mentioned three steps, which could assist the management of liquidity in the Israeli economy, and help the credit market recover.

Economist says Bank of Israel should not hold back
Moti Fogel, Globes Online 2/24/2009
Dr. Yacov Sheinin: We need to weaken the shekel. "The interest rate cut was the right thing to do, but a larger cut would have been better," says Economic Models CEO Dr. Yacov Sheinin in response to yesterday’s 25-basis point interest rate cut by Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer to 0. 75%. Sheinin says that one of the worst problems facing the economic has been the strong shekel over the past three years. "If we want to encourage domestic manufacturing and exports, we need to weaken the shekel, and cutting interest rates is the right thing to do," he added. Sheinin does not dispute the logic behind the interest rate cuts, but says that it would be better to reach the minimum rate as soon as possible. "The faster we reach the end of the interest rate cuts, the better. There’s no point in saving for the future a weapon that could be used now.

EMG reaches new gas price deal with Egypt
Lior Baron, Globes Online 2/24/2009
EMG will likely now renew negotiations with potential Israeli customers and private electricity producers. East Mediterranean Gas Co. (EMG) partner Ampal-American Israel Corporation(Nasdaq: AMPL; TASE: AMPL) has announced that EMG has reached an agreement in principle with the Egyptian authorities to revise the price of natural gas to EMG. EMG still has to finalize the deal through an amendment to the Gas Sales and Purchase Agreement (GSPA) with its upstream supplier, the Egyptian National Gas Company. Ampal’s share jumped 26. 4% to NIS 6. 43 in early trading on the TASE following the announcement. The share closed at $1. 29 on Nasdaq yesterday. The agreement comes after months of negotiations. Sources believe that, on the basis of the new agreement, EMG will renew negotiations with potential Israeli customers and private electricity producers.

Gaydamak to return to Israel for France verdict
Noam Sharvit, Globes Online 2/24/2009
The French judges are due to announce their verdict on the "Angola-gate" affair on March 4. "We have reasonable grounds for assuming that Arcadi Gaydamak will be in Israel on March 3," his lawyers, David Narodetsky and Lea Sigler-Hanan, told the Tel Aviv Magistrates Court yesterday in the private criminal complaint filed against him by Uri Shani. Sources inform ’’Globes’’ that Gaydamak has instructed that his plane, car, and guards be ready for this date. Gaydamak will apparently return to Israel from Russia on March 3 because a French court is due to give its verdict in the "Angolagate" arms smuggling case against him and others the next day. The French prosecutors are asking for six years in prison and a €5 million fine against Gaydamak. Although Gaydamak carries a diplomatic passport in his capacity as economic advisor to the Angola. . .

’Syria built missile facility on nuclear site bombed by IAF’
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 2/25/2009
Diplomats said Tuesday that Syria has indicated it has built a missile facility on the site of an alleged nuclear reactor that Israeli warplanes attacked in September 2007. The diplomats cited Syrian nuclear chief Ibrahim Othman as telling a closed meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency about the facility. The diplomats said the facility appeared to be either a missile control center or an actual launching pad. They demanded anonymity for reporting on the closed meeting. According to the U. S. , the Israeli air strike in 2007 destroyed a nearly completed reactor that would have been able to produce plutonium once completed. Syria denies conducting secret nuclear activities. It had previously only said the site was military in nature and that it was being rebuilt.

Syria denies graphite found at nuclear site
Ron Ben-Yishai, YNetNews 2/24/2009
Damascus reported to be building missile facility on bombed site of alleged nuclear reactor; Syrian nuclear chief says IAEA’s evidence of graphite traces doesn’t prove site was nuclear - Diplomats say Syria has indicated it built a missile facility on the site of an alleged nuclear reactor that Israeli warplanes bombed. State representatives maintain that assessments by the International Atomic Energy Agency of probable nuclear matter at the cite are false. The diplomats cited Ibrahim Othman, the head of Syria’s Atomic Energy Commission, as telling a closed meeting of the IAEA about the facility, which appeared to be either a missile control center or an actual launching pad. Ynet’s security affairs analyst, Ron Ben-Yishai, estimates that such missiles are grade D scuds, based on the shape and height of the fledgling structure, as well as testimony by UN inspectors who had visited the area.

Syria seeks to boost Riyadh ties
Al Jazeera 2/24/2009
Walid Muallem, Syria’s foreign minister has visited Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, in a bid to improve relations with Saudi’s King Abdullah. The visit on Tuesday comes ahead of an Arab League summit scheduled for late March in Qatar, amid criticism that Arab countries did not show a united front over the three week Israeli offensive on Gaza that ended in January. Muallem would bring suggestions on how rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas could be reconciled, an Arab diplomat told the AFP news agency. During Israel’s war, Syria was widely regarded to have supported Hamas while Saudi Arabia backed Fatah. ’Major role’ - Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said: "These two countries represent two different strategic political moods in the Arab world. One is more accommodating to the United States and diplomacy, and one is more critical of Israel and supports resistance.

’Kurdish activists detained in Syria no longer at risk of torture’
Daily Star 2/25/2009
LONDON: Two political activists detained in Syria are no longer at risk of torture, human-rights group Amnesty International said in a statement on Monday. Kurdish political activists Sadun Sheikhu and Mohammad Said Omar are now being detained at Adra prison in the capital, Damascus, where they are awaiting trial, the group said. According to sources in Syria, on February 8, 2009, Sheikhu and Omar were transferred to Adra prison from the Palestine Branch, an interrogation and detention center in Damascus which is infamous for torture. Reports from Syria suggest that neither man was tortured or otherwise ill-treated while in custody there, but that both were verbally insulted and intimidated, the statement added. On February 10, the public prosecutor charged both men with "weakening national sentiments," establishing an "organization with the aim of changing the financial or social status of the state" and "inciting sectarian strife.

Iraq says police killed four US soldiers
Middle East Online 2/24/2009
BAGHDAD - An interior ministry official said Iraqi policemen shot dead four US soldiers and their local interpreter in the main northern city of Mosul on Tuesday. But the US military, in an initial report, said three soldiers and an interpreter were wounded and a second interpreter killed, although its information was yet to be confirmed. "Four US soldiers and their Iraqi interpreter were killed by two Iraqi policemen who opened fire at them in the Dawasa district of (central) Mosul and then fled," the official said, declining to be named. The incident took place during a US army visit to the Mosul headquarters of the Iraqi police in charge of protecting the city’s bridges and tunnels, local police said. The bullet-riddled body of the interpreter was taken to the local mortuary. But the US military confirmed only the death of one interpreter, stressing that its report was pending investigation.


Palestinian Women Photojournalists
Iqbal Tamimi, Palestine Think Tank 2/23/2009
      Palestinian women photojournalists: from taking photos of holy places to documenting burned babies.
     The first woman photojournalist in the Arab world was the Palestinian Karimeh Abbud (1896-1955)  
     Palestinian women started taking photographs of families and holy places, ceremonies and weddings, but ended up taking pictures of bodies of killed young children, shelled schools ruined homes, and lots of blood.
     The difficult circumstances in Palestine facing journalists in the occupied West Bank and Gaza forced many media establishments to choose employing local journalists who know the nature of the area, besides minimizing the amount of risks reporters and photojournalists face when covering clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza.
     This Essay will focus on Palestinian women photojournalists working within the Palestinian territories; thus excluding hundreds of Palestinian women journalists who are working all over the world after their families became refugees, or forced to exile.
     Early photography in Palestine
     Photojournalism started after photography was introduced to Palestine in the late-nineteenth century by the British who undertook the first archaeological excavations in the Holy Land and tried to document their findings and the areas they investigated by pictures as Rachel Hallote reported (2007 pp 26-41). The British were followed by the Germans, and eventually by the Americans. Photography was introduced by people who came searching for evidence about biblical subjects and connections. Some elder Palestinians claimed that these excavations were part of a planned agenda to pave the way for the Jews to occupy Palestine well ahead the Nazi’s aggression on the European Jews. Americans were deeply involved in the archaeological photography in Palestine, but the British Palestine Exploration Fund dominated the photography activities in Palestine since the 1860s.

'They killed me three times'

Eva Bartlett writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 2/24/2009
      Amer al-Helo smiled wanly while saying he is broken inside. Twenty days after Israeli soldiers shot dead his 55-year-old father and his one-year-old daughter in front of him, also shooting his oldest daughter in the elbow and his brother in the shoulder, the pain of the 29-year-old had not diminished. Then again, he’d only just recovered the rotting corpse of his father six days earlier; his entire area of Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighborhood had been cut off from ambulances and emergency teams until Israel unilaterally declared an end to the extensive bombing of Gaza and pulled ground troops out of occupied areas on 18 January.
     "It was a nightmare," al-Helo said of the experience. From the afternoon of 3 January until 5am the next day there was "non-stop shelling in our area. We had F-16 firing missiles out front, tanks shelling all around."
     Al-Helo explained how the family endured the early days of air and land shelling, remaining in their home as they believed it was the safest place to stay. Nonetheless, they’d taken precautions.
     "We were sleeping there," al-Helo said, pointing at a tight space under the stairwell on the west side of the house. "It was the most protected place from the shelling. There are no windows there, and everywhere else in the house our windows had shattered. But we didn’t expect the Israeli ground troops to enter."

Crime and accountability in Gaza

Toufic Haddad, Electronic Intifada 2/24/2009
      Now that the smoke has at least temporarily cleared from Gaza’s skies, credible human rights reports have filtered in describing the utter devastation that took place throughout the course of Israel’s 22 day assault "Operation Cast Lead." The figures are truly shocking. According to statistics by the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, at least 1,285 Palestinians were killed, of which 895 were civilians, including 280 children and 111 women. Another 167 of the dead were civil police officers, most of whom were killed on the first day of the bombing when they were graduating from a training course. More than 2,400 houses were completely destroyed, as were 28 public civilian facilities, (including ministries, municipalities, governorates, fishing harbors and the Palestinian Legislative Council building), 29 educational institutions, 30 mosques, 10 charitable societies, 60 police stations and 121 industrial and commercial workshops.
     Casualty statistics by Palestinian military groups appear to corroborate the number of civilians killed versus militants. According to their respective Arabic-language websites, Hamas lost 48 fighters, Islamic Jihad, 34, the Popular Resistance Committees, 17, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, one. It is not known how many fighters Fatah lost, though their participation in the resistance was certainly less than that of Hamas, which clearly led the Palestinian side. These reports should also be considered credible because it is highly unlikely a group would suppress its casualty figures given that their fighters’ deaths are perceived as acts of martyrdom, for which the faction proudly advertises its sacrifices. Family members of dead fighters would also not accept any other classification. We can safely assume therefore that the remaining killed militants were Fatah members, former or current security force personnel, or individuals who took up arms when the fighting erupted.

Palestinian olive oil bucks UK recession

Mark Tran, The Guardian 2/24/2009
      Sales expected to double this year after Gaza conflict • Product gets Fairtrade certification for first time.
     In an unintended consequence of Israel’s offensive in Gaza last month, sales of Palestinian olive oil in Britain are soaring, importers have said.
     The devastating conflict, in which 1,300 Palestinians were killed, has prompted a surge in demand for the product in apparent sympathy for the Palestinians. Equal Exchange, a seller of Fairtrade products, reported a threefold increase in sales of olive oil from the West Bank in January compared with a year ago.
     "We have run out of one-litre bottles and we expect sales to double to 400 tonnes this year compared to 2008," said Barry Murdoch, the sales director of Equal Exchange.
     The company Zaytoun, also established to sell Palestinian olive oil in the UK, reported a fourfold rise in sales last month instead of the usual post-Christmas lull. Zaytoun, established by two Britons, Heather Masoud and Cathi Pawson, takes its name from the Arabic word for olive.
     The surprise sales increases coincide with a publicity drive for Palestinian products during Fairtrade fortnight, which runs from 23 February to 8 March. Nasser Abufarha, the chairman of the Palestinian Fairtrade Association, is touring the UK to support the launch of the world’s first Fairtrade Palestinian olive oil.

Hamas: Welcoming the Americans

Tariq Alhomayed, MIFTAH 2/24/2009
      Hamas considered the visit of a US delegation to Gaza a step in the right direction and it asked the delegation to convey a true image of Israel’s crimes in the Gaza Strip to the US administration. There is no problem with that at all; however, the question is why did Hamas and the Iranian alliance in the region kick up a fuss when an Arab delegation visited New York to embark upon a difficult battle in the United Nations for the sake of reaching a resolution that called for an immediate ceasefire, which Hamas, just like Israel, rejected, in spite of the horror of Israeli atrocities carried out against innocent, defenseless people in Gaza?
     During that period, people argued that an Arab summit should have been held before heading to New York and the efforts of Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal were met with suspicion and criticism from the Iranian alliance in the region. Ironically, this alliance said: let the moderate alliance go visit its American allies and leave us [to deal] with the resistance.
     And now, shortly after a delegation made up of US members of Congress visited Gaza, Hamas has come to praise the US for this visit describing it as a step in the right direction. Why, when only yesterday it considered moderate Arabs traitors and attacked them as part of a campaign in which all kinds of mobs participated?

New Orleans intifada

Jordan Flaherty, Electronic Intifada 2/24/2009
      In neighborhoods around New Orleans, there’s a buzz of excitement gathering among this city’s Arab population. A new wave of organizing has brought energy and inspiration to a community that is usually content to stay in the background. The movement is youth-led, with student groups rising up on college campuses across the city, but also broad-based, with mass protests that have included more than a thousand persons marching through downtown’s French Quarter. Activists say that their goal is to fight against what they see as a combination of silence and bias from local media, and -- more broadly -- for a change in US policy towards the Middle East. They take inspiration from other movements in the city -- joining in the struggle against the continued displacement of much of the city as well as the slow pace of recovery -- while also following activism across the US and around the world.
     New Orleans’ immigrant communities are often ignored or under-represented. But through grassroots organizing, legal action and political lobbying, Asian and Latino organizations in the city have won some important victories. Activists from New Orleans’ Arab population -- which is largely Palestinian -- have expressed hope that they can follow these examples.

The Palestinian Perspective: Prime Minister Faya’d in Conversation with TML’s Felice Friedson

Felice Friedson, The Media Line, MIFTAH 2/24/2009
      The Media Line’s Felice Friedson conducted an exclusive interview with Prime Minister Faya’d in his Ramallah office on February 19, 2009. Among the issues they discussed were the current state of the Palestinian Authority, the crisis in Gaza, Fatah vs. Hamas, and the future of relations with Israel.
     TML: Mr. Prime Minister, what is the most serious problem caused by the division of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank: in effect the creation of two Palestinian states?
     Faya’d: You just mentioned one key dimension to the problem. It’s a political dimension, associated with continued separation or apartness, which was set in June 2007 and since then unfortunately, became deeper. The political dimension, simply put, is as follows: with the separation in place, it is very difficult for me to see how our dreams can be realized in terms of getting to the point where we can enjoy that which is an absolute right for people all over the world: to live as free people in a country of our own, that’s Palestine. In fact, with Gaza continuing to be the way it is, and viewed as a different Palestinian entity, I think the biggest risk that entails in my view politically, and given our national aspirations, is that the entire Palestinian cause, after decades of struggle to get to the point of freedom, would be put unfortunately on the path of liquidation. What has happened over the past year and a half, and more so now, there is extreme suffering to which our people in Gaza have been exposed. But in addition, while that was going on, the situation in the West Bank – in terms of settlement activity, expansion, confiscation of land and what have you – activity totally inconsistent with the prospect of an emergence of an independent, viable Palestinian state of which the West Bank including East Jerusalem would form an integral component, that prospect diminished even more....

Study: Israel 'retaliates' to Palestinian 'provocation' in UK press

Shipra Dingare, Electronic Intifada 2/24/2009
      A new study by Arab Media Watch demonstrates a strong tendency in the British press to represent Israel as "retaliating" in coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The study, the first to investigate this aspect of British press coverage of the conflict, examined a period from January to June 2008. It found that when the British press represents a party as retaliating or responding in the conflict, that party is Israel 72 percent of the time. The tabloid press showed a particularly marked bias, representing Israel as retaliating in 100 percent of all representations of "retaliation."
     Among broadsheets, The Independent portrays Israel as retaliating in the highest proportion at 80 percent, followed by the Times at 68 percent, the Daily Telegraph at 67 percent, and the Guardian at 59 percent. Not a single newspaper, and only 20 percent of reporters and columnists, portrays the retaliating party as the Palestinians more often than Israel.
     Among reporters and commentators, only 20 percent portray the retaliating party as the Palestinians more often than Israel. Of those reporters and commentators who write frequently on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and who represented a party as "retaliating" at least five times in the period under study, only Rory McCarthy in the Guardian portrays the Palestinians as retaliating more often than Israel (71 percent of representations). The others portray Israel as retaliating more often: Toni O’Loughlin (Guardian and Observer) 86 percent, Donald Macintyre (The Independent) 75 percent, James Hider (Times) 70 percent, and Tim Butcher (Telegraph) 58 percent.

Israeli Paralysis Calls for Arab Action

James Zogby, Middle East Online 2/24/2009
      Some elections serve as clarifying moments in a nation’s history, others resolve little and serve only as a reflection of internal division. The former provide direction, the latter create paralysis.
     The recently completed Israeli elections and ongoing deliberations over to the shape of the next government serve to demonstrate the profound divisions that exist in Israel and the dysfunctional state of its political system.
     As is widely known, the current governing coalition lost its mandate.The lead party, Kadima led by Tzipi Livni, a centrist configuration (by Israeli calculations), was comprised of an amalgam of individuals spun-off from Likud and Labor. They declined from 29 to 28 seats. Kadima’s coalition partner, Labor, dropped from 19 seats to 13. And Meretz, a more leftist party (not in the coalition but supportive of peace efforts), lost support, going from 5 to a mere 3 seats.
     This gives the Zionist center-left a total of 44 seats - far short of the 61 needed to form a government. But this is only part of the story. Post-election analysis suggests suggested that while Kadima was initially seen as Likud-lite (after all, its founder was Ariel Sharon), it was viewed by voters in this election as a horse of a different color. It is estimated that about 70% of the last-minute support garnered by Livni’s grouping came from Labor and Meretz voters hoping to block a Netanyahu victory. All this may be academic, but is still useful in order to understand the constraints that this will impose on Livni and the strong push that will be made to merge Kadima and Labor as an opposition bloc.

Be Fair to Hamas, Mr Obama

Stuart Littlewood, Middle East Online 2/24/2009
      Looking through the list of Hamas ministers published shortly after their election victory in 2006, many have professional qualifications and are better equipped for office than their western counterparts. Can it be true? This week in the High Court in London, lawyers acting for an independent Palestinian organization will start proceedings against the British government.
     They seek a judicial review of policy decisions that have brought the UK’s relations with Israel into conflict with international law.
     "The UK has clear international law obligations to do something effective to stop Israel’s attacks on Palestinian civilians,” says Phil Shiner who leads the case. “It must co-operate with other states using all lawful means to bring the situation to an end and it must stop giving aid and assistance to Israel. This means that the UK’s continuing policy of arms trading with Israel is completely out of bounds, as is our role in continuing with the EU preferential trading agreement. The point of this case is to make the Government focus on what it is legally obliged to do, beyond ineffective hand-wringing.”
     At the same time an adviser to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has written to US President Barack Obama asking him to “treat Palestinians fairly and be open-minded in dealing with Hamas”.
     His plea will be echoed by millions who are sick of the hypocrisy and double standards that are at the root of the West’s failure to deliver justice in the Holy Land.

’Hurricane Israel Approaches’ in Silwan, East Jerusalem

Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 2/24/2009
      The small Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, in the Eastern side of Holy City of Jerusalem, is facing imminent destruction. Only Yesterday, Sunday, we were warned that this disaster would affect up to 1,500 Palestinian through the destruction of nearly ninety homes and apartment buildings.
     We are able to warn you about this impending carnage because it is not a ‘natural’ disaster which will wreak havoc on these lives, rather a wholly human one. ‘Hurricane Israel’ is scheduled to make landfall in Silwan in the coming days, and rather create on its rubbles a public park.
     Can any of you imagine watching your home, and the homes of your neighbors, torn down in front of you – often with most of your possessions still inside? Can you imagine being made a refugee twice or thrice over – starting your lives again with only the shirts on your back? Can you imagine rebuilding your life with the knowledge that ‘Hurricane Israel’ could return again at any moment reducing your efforts to shambles?
     Perhaps it is difficult to imagine such things from the Europe and the United States, where decency and Human Rights are championed and heralded. Yet here in Palestine, destruction and utter disregard of our lives and dignity is only too common. Many times ‘Hurricane Israel’ has visited our lives; and if the international community does not begin to take decisive action, this scenario will only be repeated again and again.

Al-Haq commences legal proceedings against UK Government over breach of legal obligations in relation to the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Al-Haq 2/23/2009
      Al-Haq, in cooperation with solicitor Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), and the support of the Human Rights Legal Aid Trust, will be filing a claim in the UK High Court for judicial review on Tuesday 24 February 2009, challenging the UK government over its failure to fulfill its obligations under international law with respect to Israel’s activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). These obligations arise in the context of Israel’s breaches of peremptory norms of international law, namely interference with the Palestinian right to self-determination, de facto acquisition of territory by force, and breach of “intransgressible” principles of international humanitarian law. Those violations of international law, and the obligations they entail for third states, existed well before Israel’s most recent attacks on the Gaza Strip but the widespread civilian death and destruction caused during “Operation Cast Lead” and the distinct failure on the part of the international community to take any concrete action to stop Israel’s violations have forced Al-Haq to challenge third states directly, starting with the UK, in order to seek an end to the “business-as-usual” approach in relations with Israel.
     On 3 February 2009 PIL submitted, on behalf of Al-Haq, a pre-action protocol letter for the purposes of a claim for judicial review. Al-Haq called on the relevant Secretaries of State for the UK Government to set out in clear terms what evidence or action they point to if their position is that the UK has complied with its international obligations both before and after Operation Cast Lead, with particular emphasis on the UK’s responsibility to investigate whether war crimes have been committed by Israel in Gaza pursuant to Operation Cast Lead, where there is a causal link between the commission of those war crimes and acts within the UK’s jurisdiction. The failure by the UK Government to satisfy the request has led us to proceed with the filing of the claim. -- See also: Palestinian NGO seeks human rights justice and Human Rights Legal Aid Trust