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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
4 March, 2009
Palestinians set up protest camp against demolition of their homes in Jerusalem
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/4/2009
Palestinians from Ras Khamis neighborhood, near Jerusalem’s old city, set up a protest camp near their homes in protest against Israel’s decision to demolish their neighborhood. The Israeli municipality says that there are 55 homes in the Palestinian Ras Khamis neighborhood that are built without the required permissions. Hatem Abdel al-Qader, the Palestinian Prime Minister’s advisor for Jerusalem affairs, stated that lawyers managed to stop the demolition until March 10th, by court order. He added that the camp is one in a number of actions that home owners and local activists are organizing to counter the Israeli plans. Abdel al-Qader said that there will be public and popular events of solidarity with the home owners, stressing that the Israeli plans will displace hundreds of Palestinian families. Since Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, it has rarely given Palestinian. . .

Clinton meets Abbas, calls Israel’s plans to raze Palestinian homes ’unhelpful’
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 3/5/2009
OCCUPIED RAMALLAH: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Israel to allow more aid into Gaza, blasted its plans for razing houses in Occupied East Jerusalem and vowed to work toward a Palestinian state as she met with President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday. "The United States aims to foster conditions in which a Palestinian state can be fully realized," she said after talks with Abbas in the Occupied West Bank on the second day of a maiden trip to the region. "Time is of the essence," the top US diplomat said. US President Barack Obama has vowed vigorously to pursue Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which were relaunched in November 2007 but were frozen during Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip in December and January. Clinton urged Israel to allow more aid into the war-shattered Gaza Strip. "We have obviously expressed concerns about the border crossings.

Israel Prize laureates call for end to demolition of E. Jerusalem homes
Nir Hasson, Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
Twenty-one Israel Prize laureates have called for an end to the razing of homes in East Jerusalem, blaming official policy for the abundance of illegal construction in that part of the capital. In a letter to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, the laureates write about the "deep sense of fear that one morning a family will wake to the presence of police forces and municipal inspectors coming to destroy their homes, leaving the family members with only the clothes on their back. "They say more than half the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem feel this daily. Among the laureates signing the letter are renowned authors Amos Oz, David Grossman and A. B. Yehoshua. The signatories say the residents of East Jerusalem have for decades been forced to build illegally because of the policy of the city planning authorities. This policy, they say, left most of East Jerusalem without a blueprint for issuing building permits.

Palestinian held in Israeli investigation dies without medical attention
PNN, Palestine News Network 3/4/2009
Nablus -- A Palestinian died waiting to cross a checkpoint. This is not the first time. Just a month ago a taxi driver, Nidal, pointed out a Palestinian ambulance on the side of the road surrounding by Israeli soldiers. "By the time it gets permission to pass, the patient will be dead. " There are also numerous stories of checkpoint babies, including the East Jerusalem case where the father could not visit the hospital. Today’s case regards medical neglect in a holding cell. The Palestinian Prisoners Society reports hundreds of cases of medical neglect of Palestinians in Israeli prisons, but this recent case resulted in death. Now the Palestinian police linked to the Palestinian Authority are conducting an internal investigation with the Israeli Justice Ministry to indict an Israeli officer and policeman at the Rehovot police station.

IAF Gaza strike kills top Islamic Jihad militant
Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
An Israel Air Force missile attack killed a senior Islamic Jihad militant in the northern Gaza Strip after dark on Wednesday, and critically wounded another, Palestinian security and health officials said. The Israel Defense Forces confirmed the attack, saying the target wassenior Islamic Jihad gunman Khaled Shalan, who was involved in firing rockets at the Israeli city of Ashkelon, north of Gaza. Islamic Jihad, a smaller faction than Hamas, said Shalan had overseen its rocket launches and other attacks on Israel from northern Gaza. This is the second time since the end of Operation Cast Lead that the IDF has conducted targeted killings against Palestinian militants. Palestinian security officials said the two militants jumped out of their car when they heard the IAF jet approaching.

Britain boycotts tycoon over Jewish settlements
Middle East Online 3/4/2009
TEL AVIV - The British embassy in Israel has scrapped plans to move into a building owned by an Israeli magnate because of his support for illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, the press said on Wednesday. The embassy had planned to lease a floor in a high-rise office tower owned by Africa-Israel, a company belong to Lev Leviev. But the plans sparked controversy because Leviev’s company is engaged in construction in several settlements in the West Bank, one of the main obstacles to a Middle East peace deal and considered illegal under international law. "Ambassador Tom Phillips requested details from Africa-Israel about the nature of its activities in the settlements, and a week ago, the British embassy in Tel Aviv received the information. As a result, plans to move into the tower were frozen," said the Haaretz daily.

Israel reports bombing nine Gaza tunnels; six Palestinians wounded
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/4/2009
Israeli sources reported that the Israeli Air Force shelled six tunnels along the Gaza/Egypt border on Tuesday, and three more tunnels on Wednesday at dawn. The Israeli Army claimed that the shelling came in retaliation to homemade shells fired into Israel. A spokesperson of the Israeli Military stated that secondary explosions were seen after the Israelis shelled one of the tunnels, and added that this is an indicator that the tunnel had ammunition in them. Meanwhile, medical sources in Gaza reported that six Palestinians were wounded in the Israeli shelling. On Monday, the Israeli Army stated that Palestinian fighters fired a rocket into Ashkelon, and that parents in the city closed down schools after arguing that school buildings were not protected from rocket attacks, Israeli online daily Haaretz reported.

Israeli troops beat father, two sons at Beita checkpoint
Ma’an News Agency 3/4/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – A truck driver and two of his sons were injured on Wednesday after Israeli forces beat the three men at a checkpoint south of Nablus, witnesses said. All three had bruises on their bodies following the alleged beatings near the Beita checkpoint. Several Israeli soldiers beat 55-year-old Mahmoud Ghassan Odeh after he stopped his truck near the Beita crossing, as well as his two sons who tried to intervene in the reported assault. After the assault Odeh was taken, his face bloodied, to the Huwwara military installation. Witnesses told Ma’an on Wednesday evening that Muhamad, 20, and Ghassan, 23, were taken to a hospital in Nablus “with bruises all over their bodies” as Israeli soldiers detonated sound grenades at crowds rushing toward the scene. The Beita checkpoint was set up several months earlier, and is typically used to check cars and identity cards of Palestinians passing through the area.

Israeli forces destroy property, beat teenager east of Qalqiliya
Ma’an News Agency 3/4/2009
Qalqiliya – Ma’an – Israeli forces raided the town of Jit, east of Qalqiliya, at dawn on Wednesday. The forces stormed a number of houses there and searched them, claiming they were looking for “wanted” Palestinians. Local sources reported that the forces stormed the houses of Ali As-Sidda, Taysir Yamin and Nasser As-Sakhen before searching them. Soldiers also destroyed property and beat 17-year-old Mahmoud Ali As-Sidda, witnesses said. Civilians reported that the soldiers claimed Palestinians threw stones at the settlers’ cars driving near the town and demanded that the alleged attackers turn themselves in. [end]

Military forces seal off village near Salfit
Ma’an News Agency 3/4/2009
Salfit – Ma’an – Israeli forces on Wednesday morning closed entrances to the northern West Bank village of Haris, west of Salfit. Soldiers reportedly piled dirt to block a road before arresting a young man from the Shamlawi family. Eyewitnesses said that Israeli bulldozers dug up large piles of earth, closing the village’s three main entrances and preventing anyone from entering or exiting the area. [end]

Nine Palestinians seized overnight across West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 3/4/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an/Agencies - Israeli forces seized nine "wanted" Palestinians across the West Bank on Tuesday night, according to news reports. An M-16 rifle was reportedly found at the house of one of the arrestees. All of the detainees were transferred to undisclosed locations for questioning, according to Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth’s online, English-language website. [end]

Israeli forces storm Jenin camp and nearby Arraba
Ma’an News Agency 3/4/2009
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces on Wednesday morning stormed the northern West Bank refugee camp of Jenin and the nearby town of Arraba, Palestinian security sources said. Soldiers also ransacked several homes including that of jailed Hamas leader Jamal Abu Al-Hayja, they added. Meanwhile, Israeli forces entered houses in the refugee camp, firing gunshots and percussion grenades into the air as military vehicles patrolled the streets. Local sources asserted that amongst the homes ransacked was the home of Jamal Abu Al-Hayja, a senior Hamas leader in the camp. The family was ordered to leave the home for several hours as troops ransacked the interior of the house, firing percussion grenades inside. Abu Al-Hayja has been jailed in Israel since the 2002 Israeli invasion and “massacre” in Jenin, sources added.

Military forces patrol West Bank city of Tulkarem
Ma’an News Agency 3/4/2009
Tulkarem – Ma’an – Israeli forces patrolled the streets and neighborhoods across the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem on Wednesday morning, witnesses said. While in the city, forces "provoked" Palestinian policemen in the streets and frustrated civilians, according to witnesses. Ma’an’s correspondent in Tulkarem reported that three patrols stopped for five minutes in front of a compound "just to provoke security personnel. " No arrests were immediately reported. [end]

Primary school food poisoning
PNN, Palestine News Network 3/4/2009
Gaza -- With the crossings closed in the Gaza Strip and the siege ongoing, food production is severely disturbed. Much of the needed material is brought in through the tunnels while other sources, including aid, are stored in substandard conditions. At least 100 students in the southern Gaza Strip are suffering food poisoning today, sources told PNN. The Khan Younis School of Hope served rotten food to its primary students, report doctors. This is a United Nations Relief and Works Agency school to which the Israeli administration claims it allows humanitarian aid to pass the crossings. Many reports however show trucks stuck at the crossings until deliveries rot. An entire load of bread, as example, was reported to have molded before it was allowed to pass. The UNRWA is charging the agent who delivers food to the school with negligence, this time so severely corrupt that 100 children fell ill.

Tulkarem man sentenced to prison for Jihad ties
Ma’an News Agency 3/4/2009
Tulkarem – Ma’an – An Israeli military court sentenced Kayed Ne’man Rabah Tholthin, a resident of the West Bank city of Tulkarem, to 20 months in prison on Wednesday for alleged activity with the Islamic Jihad movement. Tholthin will also be made to pay a 3,000 shekel fine. Israeli forces seized Tholthin from his house in January 2007. He is being held in Israel’s Megiddo prison. [end]

Israel opens commercial crossing points into Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 3/4/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli authorities on Wednesday morning opened the Gaza Strip commercial crossing points for the entry of humanitarian aid. “Israeli authorities opened the Kerem Shalom crossing south of the Gaza Strip to let in 110 truckloads of aid sent by the UN and other organizations, said Nasser Sarraj, assistant undersecretary of the Palestinian Ministry of National Economy. Israel also permitted the entrance of 35 truckloads of food products imported by the Gazan private sector, and 10 truckloads of fruit imported by the private agricultural sector, he said. Sarraj added that the Karni crossing in eastern Gaza was also opened in order to let in 70 truckloads of wheat and fodder. Furthermore, the Nahal Oz crossing north of the Gaza Strip will be opened to deliver 450,000 litres of industrial diesel needed to fuel the electric station, as well as 170 tons of cooking gas, which was banned over the past two days.

Quds Brigades says fighter killed in Jabalia
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/4/2009
The Al Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad confirmed that one of its fighters was killed in an Israeli strike that took place near Al Tawba mosque, in the Jabalia refugee camp, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. The Brigades stated that Khalid Sha’lan, one of its leaders died of his wounds, and that five Palestinians were wounded in the attack. The Brigades vowed retaliation. Al Quds Brigades: "Two fighters seriously wounded in Israeli attack" Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agecnies, Wed, 04 Mar 2009 23:07:30The Al Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, stated Wednesday that two of its fighters were seriously wounded after being targeted by the Israeli army in the northern part of the Gaza Strip on Wednesday evening. Sources in Gaza said that the two fighters were killed but Abu Hamza, spokesperson of the Brigades said that the assassination. . .

Israeli warplanes launch three raids on Palestinian-Egyptian borders
Palestinian Information Center 3/4/2009
RAFAH, (PIC)-- Israeli warplanes launched three air raids on the Palestinian-Egyptian borders at an early hour on Wednesday in a fresh escalation of military strikes against the Gaza Strip. Local sources told PIC reporter that three missiles at least were fired at the Rafah border strip, south of Gaza, but no casualties were reported. Israeli military sources said that the raids targeted three tunnels, claiming that one of the raids led to a series of explosions, which indicated that combat means and ammunition were hidden in the place. The local sources, however, strongly denied the allegation. Nine Palestinians were wounded on Tuesday evening in the Israeli air raids that targeted the same border strip area; one of them was seriously injured. Adel Zu’rub, the spokesman of the Palestinian crossings and borders administration, told PIC that medical and civil defense squads. . .

Israeli warplanes bomb Egypt-Gaza border
Ma’an News Agency 3/4/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli warplanes on Wednesday morning bombed the tunnel area at the Gaza-Egypt border in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Director of Ambulance and Emergency Services in the Palestinian Health Ministry Muawiya Hassanein told Ma’an that there were no casualties amongst Palestinians there. Meanwhile, Palestinian medical sources at Abu Yousif An-Najjar Hospital in Rafah said 12 Palestinians were injured in Tuesday’s shelling of the same tunnel area. Israel’s security cabinet is scheduled to convene Wednesday at the Israeli prime minister’s office to discuss the continuation of fired projectiles from the Gaza Strip toward towns in southern Israel. Defence Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and other military commanders are expected to attend the meeting.

Two Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in northern Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 3/4/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – An Israeli airstrike killed two Palestinians and injured five others in Jabaliya Refugee Camp in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday evening. The strike targeted a car near the At-Tawba Mosque in the camp. The two fatalities were members of the Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad. Mu’awiya Hassanein, the director of Ambulance and Emergency Services in the Health Ministry in Gaza, said that the wounded were taken to Kamal Udwan Hospital in northern Gaza. The Israeli military has confirmed the strike. [end]

Islamic Jihad: We will retaliate against Israel for airstrike in Gaza Staff, Jerusalem Post 3/4/2009
The Islamic Jihad vowed that it would retaliate against Israel for the IAF air strike earlier Wednesday evening which targeted a senior commander in the group as he was driving in Gaza. "The [attempted] assassination points to the fact that the Zionist entity is not interested in calm," the group said in a statement. "Therefore, [Israel should] expect our reaction, and more rockets. " "This crime will not pass without a response," the group warned. [end]

Hezbollah Brigades launch four projectiles at western Negev
Ma’an News Agency 3/4/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The Hezbollah Brigades in Palestine claimed responsibility for launching four homemade projectiles at the western Negev late on Tuesday. The Brigades said in a news release that the strikes came "in retaliation for the sake of Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. " Israeli sources reported that two projectiles landed in an open area in Ashkelon on Tuesday evening. No injuries or damage were reported. [end]

Danish, American activists among four seized by Israeli forces in Hebron area
Ma’an News Agency 3/4/2009
Hebron – Ma’an – Israeli soldiers seized two solidarity activists, one American and one Danish, near the West Bank city of Hebron on Wednesday night along with two Palestinians in the Hebron area. The two international activists were detained during a raid on the village of Beit Ummar, north of Hebron. The two intervened to try to protect a Palestinian family who were imprisoned in their house by the invading soldiers, according to sources in the Palestine Solidarity Project in the village. Israeli forces also seized Raed Musa An-Najjar, 24, from the town of Yatta, south of Hebron, and burned down a house belonging to Muhammad Hammad Abu Haniyeh in Arroub Refugee Camp, north of Hebron. Palestinian Civil Defense officials said the fire started when Israeli soldiers fired tear gas canisters and sound grenades during a raid in the camp.

Israel begins evacuating military checkpoint near Tulkarem
Ma’an News Agency 3/4/2009
Tulkarem – Ma’an – Israeli authorities began on Wednesday morning evacuating Jbara military checkpoint south of Tulkarem in the northern West Bank. Israeli forces began evacuating the checkpoint by morning and the cement blocks and guard towers surrounding it. Jbara checkpoint was erected at the end of 2002. According to local residents of Jbara, a small village near the checkpoint, Israeli officers told the residents a few days ago that the checkpoint would be evacuated and there would be an alternative plan for entrance through an iron gate, which was erected nearby. An Israeli officer said local residents of Jbara will now enter their village through a bottleneck turnstile at the eastern side of the village, and it will be monitored by Israeli troops. After a month and a half, entry will be permitted via the old crossing point in the south, also through a. . .

Southern Tulkarem checkpoint removed
PNN, Palestine News Network 3/4/2009
Tulkarem -- After seven years Israeli forces removed a barrier in southern Tulkarem. The Kafriyat blockade had kept Tulkarem and Qalqilia in the northwestern West Bank separated since 2002. Eyewitnesses said that the process of removal of the barrier started early this week with heavy machinery working to take out massive watchtowers and concrete blocks. The barrier was put in place in 2002 in coordination with the imposition of the Wall in the southern Tulkarem area. Several barriers remain surrounding the city and governorate, including the Inab Checkpoint to the east. Israeli forces keep over 600 barriers and checkpoints in the West Bank. [end]

Israeli forces detain PFLP leader at Huwwara checkpoint
Ma’an News Agency 3/4/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli troops arrested on Wednesday a high-ranking leader in the Popular Front for the leftist Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) at the Huwwara checkpoint south of the West Bank city of Nablus. Witnesses said that soldiers stopped Hussam Ar-Ruzza, 45, at the checkpoint and transported him to an unknown destination. The Huwwara checkpoint blocks the road leading south of Nablus to Ramallah and Jerusalem. Palestinians are barred from passing through the checkpoint in cars or busses, and are forced to walk through metal detectors. [end]

Israel reopens checkpoint between Bethlehem and Abu Dis
Ma’an News Agency 3/4/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an/Agencies - Israel’s army reopened a military checkpoint between the West Bank cities of Abu Dis and Bethlehem on Wednesday. The central West Bank checkpoint was undergoing renovations to expand its capacity "to ease the passage of the Palestinian population," according to Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth’s English-language website. The new checkpoint is equipped with a new humanitarian crossing point on both sides, as well as new construction for poor weather. [end]

PLO Report: In February, Israeli military kills 17 Palestinians including four children
Maram Isid & Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/4/2009
The International Relations Department of the Palestinian Liberation Organization issued a report on Wednesday documenting Israeli military attacks on Palestinians during the month of February 2009. The report shows that 17 Palestinian, including four children, were killed last month by Israeli military fire in the West Bank and Gaza. In addition, 320 Palestinians have been kidnapped by Israeli forces, and eight Palestinian-owned homes demolished by the Israeli Authorities in Jerusalem, the PLO reported. The report also shows that the Israeli Army continued its siege on the Gaza strip for the 19th straight month. Moreover, the report documents a number of cases in which the Israeli army did not allow patients to leave Gaza for treatment in outside countries, bringing the number of patients who have perished due to the siege to 300.

Armed wing of Hamas says ready to resist 'any Israeli aggression'
Ma’an News Agency 3/4/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The Hamas-affiliated Al-Qassam Brigades said on Tuesday that Israel’s repeated threats to attack Gaza "confirm their loss" in the recent assault there. In a statement sent to Ma’an, Al-Qassam spokesperson Abu Ubaidah said that Israel’s failure to achieve its aims has been "shown to the world" and that Israel wants to justify its losses by making new threats. He insisted that "resistance forces" will remain ready "to stand against any aggression. " The Hamas spokesperson also addressed Israel, saying, "Performing another attack against Gaza will record another failure in your collapsed history. " [end]

Palestine Today 030409
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 3/4/2009
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 3 m 00s || 2. 75 MB ||Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www. imemc. org, for Wednesday, March 4th, 2009. three Palestinians injured as army shells the Gaza-Egypt borders and Palestinian President Abbas meets the U. S. Secretary of State in the West Bank, These stories and more coming up - stay tuned. The News Cast The Israeli Air Force shelled three tunnels at dawn on Wednesday along the Gaza/Egypt border. The Israeli Army claimed that the shelling came in retaliation to homemade shells fired into Israel. A spokesperson of the Israeli Military stated that secondary explosions were seen after the Israelis shelled one of the tunnels, and added that this is an indicator that the tunnels had ammunition in them.

Egypt supports Palestinian right to Silwan
Maisa Abu Ghazaleh, Palestine News Network 3/4/2009
PNN exclusive - The Egyptian ambassador to Palestine, Ashraf Aql, pledged his solidarity with the hundreds of families being deported from East Jerusalem. The occupying Israeli administration is continuing with its cleansing policy of the Silwan neighborhood and specifically the Al Bustan area. During a visit last night with his deputy Tariq Abdel Hamid Hussein, Aql described the Israeli attack on Jerusalem as heart-rending. "The city holds a special place in the heart of every Arab and these attacks aim at the eradication of any Palestinian presence on this earth," the Egyptian ambassador said. Egypt is providing material support to the people of Silwan who have lived in their homes since before 1948. Putting his faith in patience Aql said, "Steadfastness is a weapon and the strength of the Palestinian people comes from the justness of their positions, and their right to an independent state.

Top PA negotiator suspends talks over Jerusalem demolitions
Ma’an News Agency 3/4/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Negotiations with the Israelis are suspended and frozen until there is a major shift in Israel’s aggressive policies, the Palestinian Authority’s top negotiator said Wednesday. Actions taken by Israeli soldiers in Gaza, in particular, and at West Bank checkpoints, in general, lead to PA Negotiations Affairs Department head Ahmad Qurei’s decision on Wednesday. He also said the decision stems from the Jerusalem Municipality’s "assaults" on residents there, which he called "unprecedented. " Israel’s Jerusalem Municipality is moving to demolish over 100 houses and remove the 140 families who live in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem. The decision is expected to lead to the forced displacement of more than 1,000 Palestinians from their family residences. “Palestinian leaders and negotiators would feel ashamed to go ahead with negotiations. . .

IOF notifies 55 house owners in occupied Jerusalem of demolishing their homes
Palestinian Information Center 3/4/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation authority has delivered notifications to the Palestinian owners of 55 homes in Sha’fat refugee camp north of occupied Jerusalem informing them that their homes would be flattened, local sources reported. They said that the demolition process would start on Thursday at the pretext of lack of construction permits. They warned that the IOA was embarking on a systematic expulsion of Arab Jerusalemites in a bid to judaize the holy city amidst Arab and international silence. Meanwhile, an Israeli woman on Tuesday deliberately ran over a Palestinian man in Nabi Elias village, Qalqilia district, wounding him all over his body. Eyewitnesses said that an Israeli ambulance rushed to the scene believing that the man was an Israeli but when its crew found that it was a Palestinian they refused to carry him to Israeli hospitals for treatment.

Israeli writers urge scrap of Palestinian evictions
Middle East Online 3/4/2009
JERUSALEM - Twenty Israeli recipients of the country’s top honour urged the government on Wednesday to rescind orders to evict people from their homes in annexed Arab east Jerusalem, media reported. In a letter addressed to Mayor Nir Barkat the group of writers and researchers, all winners of the Israel Prize, stressed the "distress of families that can any day find themselves without shelter after the destruction of their homes," the Haaretz daily said. The signatories also slammed the low number of construction permits handed out to Palestinians in east Jerusalem, which forces them "to build without authorisation. " "The city authority’s policies over the past decades have created a situation in which thousands of people are not able to have a roof over their heads in land that belongs to them," they wrote.

VIDEO - Clinton voices concern over Israeli demolition plans
The Guardian 3/4/2009
Israel’s plans to bulldoze dozens of homes in Arab East Jerusalem have been criticised by the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, during a joint news conference with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. [end] -- See also: Clinton condemns Israel's demolition of Arab East Jerusalem homes

Housing Min. slams ’baseless’ report of 73,000 new settlement homes
Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
Housing Minister Ze’ev Boim on Wednesday called a report released earlier this week over a government plan to build more than 73,300 new housing units in the West Bank "delusional and baseless. ""There are a total of 11,530 housing units in Judea and Samaria that were approved by Housing and Construction institutions," Boim told Knesset. "The report about 73,000 housing units is delusional and baseless. " Peace Now’s report released on Monday estimates that if 73,000 units werebuilt, it would mean a 100-percent increase in the total number of Israeli settlers. The report says that some settlements, including the two largest Ariel and Ma’aleh Adumim, would double in size. According to the report, approval has already been granted for the construction of 15,000 housing units, and is pending for a further 58,000 units.

Settler & three Palestinians arrested for forging land ownership documents
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/4/2009
The Israeli police reported Tuesday that an Israeli settler from Givat Ze’ev settlement, along with three Palestinians from East Jerusalem, were arrested for forging land ownership documents, and selling Palestinian lands to Jewish agencies that support settlements in the occupied territories. The Israeli Radio reported that the settler and three Palestinians focused their forgeries on lands located close to Givat Ze’ev settlement, in north Jerusalem. The three used forged documents and fake names to sell Palestinian lands. Several similar cases have been revealed in recent years regarding Palestinian lands in and around Jerusalem, and in different areas in the West Bank. [end]

Clinton meets Palestinian leaders in West Bank
Sue Pleming and Mohammed Assadi, Reuters, The Independent 3/4/2009
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held talks today with Palestinian leaders concerned over whether Israel’s next government will commit to a US-backed peace process leading to a Palestinian state. A day after pledging the new Obama administration would always protect Israel’s security, Clinton visited the Israeli-occupied West Bank to deliver a message of support for President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority. " We are very committed to your efforts in this leadership of President Abbas," Clinton told Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, pointman in Western-backed reconstruction plans for the Gaza Strip that freeze out the territory’s Hamas Islamist rulers. Hamas, which won a parliamentary election in 2006, violently wrested control of the Gaza Strip from Abbas’s Fatah faction in 2007. The West shuns Hamas over its refusal to recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept existing interim peace deals.

Clinton ’condemns’ Israel’s demolition of Arab East Jerusalem homes
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 3/4/2009
Move was a violation of international obligations, US secretary of state says at press call with Palestinian president, Mahmoud AbbasHillary Clinton criticised Israel’s plans to demolish dozens of homes in Arab East Jerusalem today, during a joint news conference with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. The US secretary of state said the move was a violation of Israel’s international obligations, and the US would raise the matter with the country’s leaders. " Clearly this kind of activity is unhelpful and not in keeping with the obligations entered into under the ’road map’," she said, referring to the long-stalled peace plan. "It is an issue that we intend to raise with the government of Israel and the government at the municipal level in Jerusalem. " Clinton made the comments during her first trip to the Palestinian territories in her new role. -- See also: VIDEO - Clinton voices concern over Israeli demolition plans

Netanyahu: Clinton and I Found Common Ground
Barak Ravid, MIFTAH 3/4/2009
Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu met with U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Jerusalem on Tuesday, saying following their meeting that he had "found common ground with Clinton in attaining the common goals of our two countries. " "We need to think creatively in order to move forward and create a different reality, both in terms of security and politically, and this is a common goal for both sides," Netanyahu added. Clinton met with Netanyahu after having met with President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni earlier in the day as part of a 36-hour visit, her first trip to Israel in her new capacity as secretary of state. Netanyahu did not offer details on his meeting with Clinton, but mentioned that the conversation between them "was deep, important and good. " "We spoke about the Iranian issue and the Palestinian issue and we promised to meet again after the establishment of a government [in Israel].

Hamas slams Clinton’s statements
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/4/2009
Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas said that comments by US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, on her visit to Israel are statements of incitement, as she expressed understanding to Israel’s shelling of Gaza. He added that Clinton is justifying the "crimes of the Zionist occupation". Fazwi Barhoum, spokesperson of Hamas, said that Clinton’s statements are considered a direct invitation for more violence against the Palestinian people and a cover-up for Israeli crimes. Barhoum added that "if such racist incitement policies persist, we will lose any hope in Hillary Clinton as an unbiased mediator". He added that such statements are a continuation of American policies supporting the occupation, and are justifying Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians. The Hamas spokesperson added that Clinton’s statements could be interpreted by the occupation as a green light for targeting Palestinian civilians.

Clinton: Israel’s demolition of East Jerusalem homes harms peace efforts
Barak Ravid and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday blasted Israel’s plans to demolisg Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem as a violation of its international obligations and "unhelpful" to Middle East peace efforts. "Clearly this kind of activity is unhelpful and not in keeping with the obligations entered into under the ’road map’," Clinton said, referring to the long-stalled peace plan. It is an issue that we intend to raise with the government of Israel and the government at the municipal level in Jerusalem," she added at a joint news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Clinton said she planned to take up the issue with the incoming Israeli government, which is expected to take office in the coming weeks. Israel has in recent days issued orders for the demolition of 80 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem it says were built illegally.

Abbas meets US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Ramallah
Ma’an News Agency 3/4/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas began his meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday afternoon in Ramallah. The two met at the Ramallah-based headquarters of the Palestinian National Authority, where a news conference will take place shortly after the talks. Clinton met earlier with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at the headquarters of the Council of Ministers in Ramallah, but no remarks were immediately available from that meeting. Clinton arrived in Israel on Monday, where she met with the Israeli president, prime minister-designate and foreign minister, and insisted that America’s policy remains a two-state solution to the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. The US secretary of state said America’s assessment is “that eventually, the inevitability of working towards a two-state solution is inescapable.

MP Mousa: Clinton’s statements bear out lack of seriousness to bring peace
Palestinian Information Center 3/4/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- MP Yahya Mousa said Wednesday that the recent statements of US secretary of state Hillary Clinton about the White House’s understanding of Israel’s need to bomb the Gaza Strip in response to the rocket attacks are clear evidence that the US is not serious about restoring peace to the Middle East and that it is still biased in favor of the oppressor against the victim. In a press release received by the PIC, MP Moussa, a member of the Hamas parliamentary bloc, underlined that the US is not qualified to oversee the peace process in the region  because it puts itself on the side of the criminal and supports him politically and financially. The lawmaker expressed his disappointment over these statements which entirely contradict with the slogans of US president Barack Obama about his commitment to achieving peace and improving damaged relations with Arabs and Muslims.

President Abbas to meet Clinton in Ramallah and demand a halt to Israeli settlement activities
Ghassan Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/4/2009
The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, is to meet with the U. S. Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, on Wednesday in the central West Bank city of Ramallah. At the press conference following the meeting, Abbas told reporters that he is hoping for a major U. S role in the peace process, reiterating that any Israeli government must stop all settlement activities in the West Bank and open Gaza borders to allow aid supplies into the besieged region. For her part, Clinton reaffirmed the U. S commitment to peace in the region, and also criticised Israel’s latest decision to demolish scores of Palestinian-owned homes in Jerusalem. She deemed the decision as "unhelpful" to the peace efforts, and in violation of the Road Map Peace plan. Clinton also met with Palestinian government officials, and later is expected to meet businessmen, Palestinian sources reported.

Clinton meets Palestinian leaders
Middle East Online 3/4/2009
RAMALLAH, West Bank - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday met Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad in the occupied West Bank as part of her "aggressive" diplomacy in working towards a Palestinian state. Clinton arrived in the territory’s political capital, Ramallah and held talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. The Palestinians urged Clinton to press Israel to open border crossings into Gaza, stop settlement activity in the West Bank and rescind eviction orders in annexed east Jerusalem, officials said. "Any Israeli government that will be formed must accept the two-state solution, all agreements signed and stop settlement activity," senior negotiator Saeb Erakat said. "Border crossings must be opened into Gaza. . . and eviction orders for (Arab east Jerusalem neighbourhoods of) Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah must be stopped.

Clinton: Israel’s East Jerusalem home demolitions 'unhelpful'
Ma’an News Agency 3/4/2009
in RamallahRamallah – Ma’an – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday said Israel’s plan to demolish dozens of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem is “unhelpful. ”"Clearly this kind of activity is unhelpful and not in keeping with the obligations entered into under the Road Map," Clinton said at a Ramallah news conference on Wednesday afternoon. Israel’s Jerusalem Municipality is moving to demolish over 100 houses and remove the 140 families who live in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem. The decision is expected to lead to the forced displacement of more than 1,000 Palestinians from their family residences. "It is an issue that we intend to raise with the government of Israel and the government at the municipal level in Jerusalem," she added, shortly after meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

US ’denounces’ Israeli demolitions
Al Jazeera 3/4/2009
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, has criticised Israel’s plans to demolish dozens of Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem, describing the move as "unhelpful". In a news conference with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, in Ramallah, Clinton said the demolition showed that Israel was not committed to its obligations towards the "road map" peace plan. "It is an issue that we intend to raise with the government of Israel and the government at the municipal level in Jerusalem," she said on Wednesday. The US secretary of state also reaffirmed what she called the Obama administration’s "vigorous engagement" in the Middle Eastern peace process, but added: "The US supports the Palestinian Authority as the only legitimate government of the Palestinian people. In the end, it is up to the parties themselves to make peace. "

The PNI is outraged regarding the current Israeli campaign of ethnic cleansing carried out in East Jerusalem
Palestine Monitor 3/4/2009
173 Palestinian homes under demolition threats while the illegal Israeli settlements are currently expanding around the Holy city. Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, the Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative, expressed outrage at the recent Israeli announcements to demolish 55 more Palestinian homes in and around East Jerusalem. “They are currently in the process of destroying 90 homes in the neighbourhood of Silwan, a further 28 in Sheik Jarrah, and have announced today plans to destroy 55 homes in the Shufat Refugee Camp”, he said. “It is clear that a low scale campaign of ethnic cleansing is being carried out against the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem in order to change the Holy City’s demographic character. It is a continuation of brutal and racist policies – right in front of visiting American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other foreign envoys and diplomats.

E. J’lem teens seek Israeli IDs despite Gaza op anger
Abe Selig, Jerusalem Post 3/4/2009
A government program to distribute identity cards to high school pupils continues to enjoy surprising success in east Jerusalem, where anti-Israel sentiments periodically flare up, and where violent demonstrations were a near-daily occurrence during Operation Cast Lead. A total of 1,920 east Jerusalem high school pupils from 20 schools have applied this year for the "To Be A Citizen" project, taking advantage of the joint Interior and Education Ministry effort to ease teens’ acquisition of their first ID cards by having them delivered to the schools themselves. The program began about seven years ago. During the first year, 355 east Jerusalem teens applied for ID cards through the program, but in the second year, participation jumped to 1,897.

Rabbi describes Goldstein as a saint
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/4/2009
Zionist Rabbi Shlomo Aviner stated Tuesday that Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli who murdered 29 Muslim worshipers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron in 1994, was a righteous man and a saint who knew that what he was doing was dangerous, even though what he did was wrong, Israeli Ynet News reported. Shlomo added that Goldstein was a righteous man who did something wrong when he killed 29 Palestinians, and wounded 125 others by firing at them while they were praying at the Ibrahimi mosque. Aviner is a spiritual leader for Jewish settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Ynet added that the statements of Shlomo came as he was replying to a question by a reader who posted on Ma’ale website. The reader asked the Rabbi whether the act of Goldstein was justified, or if it would be considered a heinous crime because he killed many civilians praying at the mosque.

12 British Physicians still stuck at Rafah border terminal
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/4/2009
Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip reported that twelve British doctors of Arab and Pakistani descent, members of the Pakistani Islamic Medical Association (PIMA), have been stuck at the Rafah border terminal since Sunday. The delegates left Manchester Airport in the UK last Saturday carrying medical equipment essential for saving the lives of wounded and sick residents in Gaza. On December 26 of last year, PIMA sent several physicians to observe the devastating effects of Israel’s war on Gaza, and vowed to send more delegates to treat the wounded. Dr. Awni Mer’ey, head of the International Medical Aid in the UK, said that while conferences and summits are being held, and vows to rebuild Gaza are made, relief teams are being barred from entering Gaza. Mer’ey demanded that the Egyptian Authorities facilitate entry of these delegates in order to relieve the suffering of sick and the wounded Palestinians.

Ex-Shin Bet official: Egypt not blocking Gaza arms smuggling
Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
Egypt’s failure to stop the arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip from Sinai "almost ensures an eventual resumption of hostilities in Gaza," the former deputy chief of the Shin Bet security service warned recently. The former Shin Bet deputy head, who is currently a visiting fellow at a research institute in the United States, published a paper on the subject in which he charged that "Egypt is averse to recognizing the severity of the issue. "While Egypt does periodically expose smuggling tunnels and seize arms shipments, he said, it does not destroy the tunnels to put them out of commission. Instead, it either blocks the tunnel’s entrance or posts a guard there, enabling Hamas to dig a new exit with relatively little work. "There is no evidence that Egyptian forces are taking steps to arrest and punish smugglers," he continued, and without such steps, "there is little deterrence.

Hamas official said to receive letter from Shalit
Jack Khoury and Yanir Yagna, Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
Palestinian sources say Mussa Abu Marzuk, the deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, has received a letter from captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida reported yesterday. Abu Marzuk, who is based in Damascus, reportedly received the letter while in the Gaza Strip over the weekend, where he met with several leaders of Hamas’ military wing, including Shalit’s abductors. The newspaper said the letter, whose contents were not divulged, will be handed over to the Syrian foreign ministry. Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida refused to either confirm or deny the report. Abu Marzuk’s visit to Gaza, which was conducted in secret, took place with Egypt’s agreement, apparently as part of efforts to win Shalit’s release and get Hamas and Fatah to reconcile. Shalit’s father, Noam Shalit, had requested a meeting with U.

Abu Obeida: War on Gaza proved Israeli vulnerability to defeat
Palestinian Information Center 3/4/2009
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Abu Obeida, the spokesman for Al-Qassam Brigades the armed wing of Hamas, stated Tuesday night that the victory achieved by the Palestinian resistance during the Israeli war on Gaza is proof that the Israeli occupation is susceptible to defeat when confronting those who enjoy good faith and sincerity. In a televised speech aired during a ceremony held by the Hamas Movement in Damascus in celebration of the victory achieved in the Gaza war, Abu Obeida said that Al-Qassam Brigades started the resistance project not to beg for a "crumb of bread dipped in humiliation", but to liberate the occupied land and the holy places, and make the Palestinian refugees return to their homes. The spokesman underlined that the defeat of the Israeli occupation, which mobilized its troops in order to suppress Gaza and used all means of technology to eliminate its resistance fighters, is best evidence that it was on the path to its final demise.

Lawyers demand better treatment for detainees at remand hearings
Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
The Israel Bar Association is demanding that the police, Prisons Service and Courts Administration address the flaws Haaretz revealed in how detainees are handled at magistrate’s court remand hearings around the country. "What is particularly worrisome in terms of preserving basic human dignity is the failure to remove handcuffs inside detention rooms," contrary to the law, the IBA stated. On Thursday, Haaretz reporters checked detention procedures at the magistrate’s courts in Haifa, Acre, Petah Tikvah, Tel Aviv, Be’er Sheva, Jerusalem and Ashdod. They found that police representatives and Prison Service officials are late for hearings, while the detainees are left to wait handcuffed in the hall, and cannot meet with their lawyers in a suitable venue. IBA criminal forum head Rachel Toren sent a letter to Police Commissioner David Cohen, Prison Service Commissioner Benny Kaniak and courts director Judge Moshe Gal two days ago.

Arab-Jewish kindergarten is bubble among Be’er Sheva social troubles
Or Kashti, Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
At the bilingual Arab-Jewish kindergarten in Be’er Sheva, teacher Rada Alubra calls the children to order. About half of the 25 children are Jewish, while the others are Arab. Alubra reads them a story in Arabic, while Jewish teacher Hanita Hadad interjects periodically in Hebrew. The classroom is festooned with pictures of animals, letters of the alphabet and the days of the week, all in both Hebrew and Arabic. The bilingual kindergarten curriculum lets Jewish and Arab children learn side by side, generally with equal numbers of Arabic- and Hebrew-speaking children, and with both an Arab and a Jewish teacher in each classroom. Each teacher generally speaks his or her native language, in order to reenforce the children’s connection with their mother tongue. The Arab children at the Be’er Sheva school generally become bilingual before their Jewish peers.

PA Official Warns Peace Process at Risk of Crumbling
Ali Waked, MIFTAH 3/4/2009
Should rightist government being formed in Israel abandon notion of two-state solution, Palestinian moderates will likely lose public’s support while Islamic forces gain in strength, senior PA official saysShould the two-state solution fail to become viable in the near future," the entire notion of the two states and the diplomatic process in general will collapse," a senior Palestinian official told Ynet Tuesday. Peace Process Clinton reiterates need for two-state solution / Roni SoferIn meeting with President Peres Tuesday, US secretary of state says US will work with government that represents the democratic will of the people of Israel. Peres assures Clinton Israel will remain committed to peace process Full StoryThe Palestinian leadership will stress this to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her planned visit to Ramallah on Wednesday, he said. Clinton is scheduled to arrive in Ramallah for talks with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and President Mahmoud Abbas.

Ministry of prisoners slams Abbas’s decision to disburse money to PLO prisoners
Palestinian Information Center 3/4/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The ministry of prisoners’ affairs stated Tuesday that ex-PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to disburse 200 dollars to each prisoner affiliated with the PLO is an indication that the PA lacks seriousness about ending the division and restoring the Palestinian unity. In a press statement received by the PIC, the ministry said that all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, regardless of their political affiliations, are strugglers for freedom and homeland and were imprisoned against the background of resisting the Israeli occupation, adding that those who claim to represent all the Palestinian people should not discriminate between prisoners. The ministry also underlined that the IOA implements a malignant policy against prisoners, where it separates Fatah prisoners from their mates affiliated with Hamas in most of Israeli jails in order to entrench division among prisoners,. . .

Nazzal: 'Some Arab and Palestinian leaders asked Israel not to release Barghouthi'
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/4/2009
Mohammad Nazzal, member of the Political Bureau of the Hamas movement, stated on Tuesday night that some Palestinian and Arab officials asked Israeli officials not to release Marwan Barghouthi, a former legislator and Fatah official. According to Nazzal, the officials said that releasing Barghouthi, a Fatah strong man, will weaken the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and boost the political and popular power of Hamas. In a speech during a Hamas celebration in al-Yarmoul refugee camp in Syria on Tuesday night, Nazzal stated that, "it is weird, obnoxious and unbelievable to know that Arab and Palestinian leaders are asking Israel not to release Barghouthi". He added that the officials claimed that Abbas’ power would be hindered by the release of Barghouthi, and they believe that Barghouthi’s release would boost the power of Hamas.

Nazzal: Palestinian, Arab officials asked for retaining Barghouthi behind bars
Palestinian Information Center 3/4/2009
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Mohammed Nazzal, political bureau member of Hamas, has revealed that a number of Palestinian and Arab officials have asked Israel not to release Marwan Al-Barghouthi, a Fatah leader in the West Bank, at the pretext that his release would weaken Mahmoud Abbas, former PA chief and the Fatah supreme leader. Nazzal, in a statement in the name of his Movement delivered in a celebration over Gaza victory in Damascus Tuesday night, said that the issue was met with surprise and dismay at the part of his Movement. He said that the request was also made at the pretext that Barghouthi’s release would strengthen the position of Hamas on the political and popular levels. The Hamas leader expected that Palestinian officials would deny the matter altogether, but he added that anyone could ask Barghouthi’s wife, lawyer or friends who know the same information.

Stipends for PLO-member political prisoners
Ali Samoudi for PNN, Palestine News Network 3/4/2009
Jenin -- Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails will again receive stipends from the Palestine Liberation Organization. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reinstated the public service for PLO-member prisoners, which do not include members of the Hamas or Islamic Jihad parties. The Palestinian Prisoners Society is now working to ensure that all families have registered their children who are imprisoned and that the Society has up-to-date lists from all Palestinian provinces. With a branch in every governorate, the PPS is working locally before submitting the lists regionally. The stipend that Palestinian political prisoners will receive from the PLO amounts to 800 NIS, or about 200 USD. This allocation is for each prisoner of the factions that belong to the Organization.

Abbas: Palestinian Unity Government must Support Two-State Solution
The Jerusalem Post, MIFTAH 3/4/2009
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday said that a Palestinian unity government with Hamas must support a two-state solution. In a Ramallah speech, Abbas went on to say progress was being made toward establishing a Palestinian unity government "that will be committed to our values and will respect agreements previously signed by the Palestinian Authority," Israel Radio reported. However, Hamas official Aiman Taha stressed that his group rejects any kind of preconditions and noted that Abbas’s speech was lowering the prospects that the reconciliation talks between the Fatah and Hamas will succeed. " Hamas will never agree to sit in a government that recognizes Israel," he reportedly said.

U.K. embassy nixes move to offices of company behind West Bank construction
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
The British embassy in Tel Aviv has stopped negotiations to lease a floor in Africa-Israel’s Kirya Tower because of the company’s role in West Bank settlement construction. The British embassy had been expected to move from its current Hayarkon Street location into the office tower on the corner of Kaplan and Begin. The lease would have cost $162,000 a year, the British press reported. Africa-Israel is owned by Lev Leviev, a tycoon who recently left Israel and settled in Britain. After the planned move was publicized in the daily Globes about a year ago, British pro-Palestinian groups began protesting. The press ran several pieces detailing the activities of Africa-Israel and its subsidiary Danya Cebus, and its role in three West Bank construction projects: Matityahu East, Har Homa in Jerusalem, and in Ma’aleh Adumim.

Israelis react with fury to British boycott call
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 3/4/2009
Israeli scientists and officials reacted angrily yesterday to calls by more than 400 British academics for the Science Museum to cancel educational workshops planned to promote Israeli science tomorrow. The cancellation call and claims that Israeli universities are "complicit" in the occupation of Palestinian territories and this year’s "disastrous" offensive in Gaza, reported in The Independent yesterday, were condemned as "absurd" by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Its spokesman, Yigal Palmor, said: "These calls cannot but be motivated by extreme blindness and silly ideology. This of course does not promote the good causes which the boycotters are presumed to promote -- not peace, understanding, nor compromise. "The British academics, among them 40 professors, include many of those behind the eventually unsuccessful campaign to impose a full-scale boycott of Israeli academics.

UK drops plan to move embassy to settlement-linked building
Ma’an News Agency 3/4/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an/Agencies - The embassy of the United Kingdom in Tel Aviv will not be moved to a building partially owned by a company with links to the illegal settler movement. According to British news reports, the UK’s Foreign Ministry has ended negotiations to lease a floor in Tel Aviv’s Kirya Tower due to the owner, Africa Israel’s, role in the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank. The plan to move the UK’s embassy was publicized in a British newspaper about a year ago, when British rights organizations began to protest. Subsequent reports about Africa-Israel’s projects in the settlement enterprise increased criticism of the move. A few of subsidary Danya Cebus’ construction projects in the West Bank were highlighted as well, in the illegal settlements of Matityahu East, Har Homa near Bethlehem, and in Ma’aleh Adumim.

Protests against Batsheva Dance Company
Stop The Wall 3/4/2009
Protests and boycott calls have followed the Batsheva Dance Company as it makes its way across North America. Actions in Vancouver, Ann Arbor, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles all served to draw attention to Occupation crimes in Gaza and raise awareness about the growing BDS movement. From early to mid February, Batsheva toured in the northeastern part of North America and was met by organized protests. Actions were held in Vancouver, Ann Arbor, Chicago and Pittsburgh. In Chicago, some 75 people staged a noisy action outside the performance, highlighting the destruction of Gaza and calling for boycott. In Pittsburgh, a similar protest was organized by a coalition of progressive organizations. On the West Coast, the U. S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel underit’s first planned action, holding a demonstration. . .

Hamas reiterates rejection of politicizing reconstruction issue
Palestinian Information Center 3/4/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- Yousef Farahat, a Hamas spokesman, reiterated Tuesday his Movement’s rejection of politicizing the reconstruction issue, charging that some parties try to achieve political and financial gains at the expense of the war victims. Farahat said during a public meeting organized by the information office of Hamas in Al-Bureij refugee camp, central Gaza, that his Movement welcomes all the efforts that are intended for helping the Gaza people away from any preconditions or political blackmail. He criticized, in this regard, the reconstruction conference held in Sharm Al-Sheikh, saying that the conference overrode the Palestinian legitimate addresses that were chosen democratically by the Palestinian people and tried to impose a new reality. The spokesman pointed that the Israeli war was given an American cover-up with the participation of some parties to eliminate Hamas. . .

Delegation from IPU visits bombed PLC headquarters
Palestinian Information Center 3/4/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- A delegation from the inter-parliamentary union (IPU) headed by its secretary-general Anders Johnson visited Tuesday the bombed headquarters of the PLC and witnessed the size of destruction caused by Israeli air strikes during the war on the Gaza Strip. The delegation was received by Palestinian lawmakers Salah Al-Bardawil and Sayed Abu Musameh who in turn briefed the visiting team about the Israeli war crimes committed in Gaza in addition to the imprisonment conditions that the kidnapped Palestinian MPs live in, and handed the members CDs with information of the jailed MPs. For their part, the delegates expressed shock at seeing the magnitude of destruction and the brutality of aggression which affected all walks of life in Gaza and expressed great sympathy with the Palestinian people and their MPs imprisoned in Israeli jails.

EU step ups opposition to ’Muslim agenda’ at ’Durban II’
Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
GENEVA - European Union countries yesterday stepped up their opposition to Muslim attempts to shield Islam from criticism and attack Israel through a UN conference on racism. EU members were unusually outspoken in appearances before the UN Human Rights Council, saying they were worried about preparations for a global racism conference to be held next month because attention was being diverted from the real problems of racial discrimination. "I am deeply disturbed by the turn this event is taking," Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Verhagen said. "The thematic world conference is used by some to try to force their concept of defamation of religions and their focus on one regional conflict on all of us," Verhagen told the 47-member council. "References to Israel and protection of religion in the current draft conclusion being negotiated for the so-called Durban II conference are unacceptable," Verhagen said.

Senior EU delegation to meet with Hamas leadership soon
Palestinian Information Center 3/4/2009
LONDON, (PIC)-- The London-based Quds Press on Wednesday quoted what it described as "special sources" as saying that a senior delegation of the European Union is to travel to Damascus within the few coming days to meet with the Hamas leadership. The sources said that the EU delegation would group deputies of various European parties and would have a meeting with Khaled Mishaal, the Hamas supreme leader, along with members of the Movement’s leadership in a bid to reformulate the EU-Hamas relations. They said that the European team would listen to Hamas’s views regarding current issues such as internal Palestinian dialog, calm with Israel and future moves in the light of the numerous changes taking place in the region. Many European notables including parliamentarians and other figures have been lately calling for lifting Hamas from the European list of "terrorist" organizations, which bans holding talks with the Movement.

Arab League secretary-general: Arab fund to rebuild Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 3/4/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Donations collected from Arab countries to rebuild the Gaza Strip will be deposited in Arab funds, said Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League, on Tuesday. Moussa’s comments came in a joint news conference with Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Ahmad Karti following the end of the 131st session of a conference of Arab League foreign ministers. “In the Sharm Al-Sheikh conference we discussed how to coordinate between European, American, and international mechanisms for implementing reconstruction projects,” Moussa said. He asserted that it would be much better to have a Palestinian government which encompasses all sides. However, he added, everything is dependent on opening Gaza’s border crossings and lifting the crippling siege, something he said could only come through Palestinian unity.

Lieberman wants Sharon aide as Foreign Ministry special envoy
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman is considering appointing attorney Dov Weissglas as his special envoy if Lieberman is appointed foreign minister. Weissglas, who served as bureau chief to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and as Sharon’s special envoy to the United States, has been friendly with Lieberman for many years and also served as Lieberman’s lawyer for a considerable time. In his various ministerial positions in the Sharon and Olmert cabinets, Lieberman received extensive support from Weissglas. Just prior to last month’s Knesset elections, Weissglas published an article in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper in which he came to Lieberman’s defense following harsh criticism of the Yisrael Beiteinu party leader. Lieberman is also considering appointing newly-elected Knesset member and party colleague Danny Ayalon as deputy foreign minister.

Could Netanyahu be an Israeli Maverick?
Mel Frykberg, MIFTAH 3/4/2009
Kadima chairwoman and Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, has lashed out at prime minister-designate and leader of the hawkish Likud party, Benjamin Netanyahu, for being an extremist and unwilling to compromise with the Palestinians. " Netanyahu is more extreme than Lieberman, who doesn’t rule out a two-state solution. Netanyahu isn’t even willing to discuss it," said Livni on Friday after meeting with him to discuss the possibility of Likud and Kadima joining forces in a unity government. " The meeting ended fruitlessly," said Livni. "Based on that meeting, I am not going to be part of a Netanyahu government. " Livni was referring to Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party which won 15 seats in last month’s Israeli elections making it a kingpin in the formation of the next government. Lieberman is a far-rightist who lives in an illegal Israeli settlement

Average term of a minister in Israel: 2.2 years
Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
Cabinet ministers serve an average of only 2. 2 years heading a given government ministry, a turnover rate that appears to support arguments that Israel’s political system is inherently unstable. The science portfolio (currently part of the Science, Culture and Sports Ministry) is particularly hard-hit, getting a new minister every 1. 3 years on average. Since the Science and Technology Ministry was established in 1982, 21 ministers have headed it. The National Infrastructure Ministry, which was established as the Energy Ministry in 1977, hasn’t done too well either, with 19 ministers at an average turnover rate of 1. 6 years. And the Environmental Protection Ministry has had 12 ministers - an average turnover rate of 1. 7 years - since it was created in 1988. High turnoverIn general, the ministries with the highest turnover are those that were established in the last. . .

Religious parties have billion-shekel fee for joining coalition
Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
United Torah Judaism Shas and United Torah Judaism are demanding that a Likud-led government increase funding for yeshivas by hundreds of millions of shekels a year as one of their conditions for joining the coalition. A senior Shas official said the two Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties had presented coordinated positions in the coalition talks. He said that in light of the economic crisis, which has caused donations to yeshivas to plunge, the parties are demanding that the yeshiva budget "not fall below NIS 1 billion a year. "In 2008, this budget stood at about NIS 800 million. Shas officials also said that during the party’s abortive coalition talks with Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni last fall, she offered them a NIS 300 million increase in the yeshiva budget. They will accept no less from Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, they said.

Herzog: No one actually wants social welfare ministry
Lilach Weissman, Globes Online 3/4/2009
"Predictions of an unemployment rate of 7. 5% should be a warning light. " Minister of Social Welfare and Services Isaac Herzog today expressed his concern, in view of the high unemployment figures, that no one has asked for the portfolio in the coalition negotiations. "No one really wants to head this ministry," he said in a speech from the Knesset podium about the ministry’s activities. Herzog added, "We’re about to have a new government. There are negotiations about the allocation of the foreign affairs, defense, and finance portfolios, with all due respect. But no one, and I emphasize, no one, really wants the welfare portfolio, even though this is the first portfolio in this house that the parties should demand. " Herzog expressed the hope that a minister would demonstrate some responsibility and ask for the social welfare portfolio.

Israel’s Lieberman mulled for FM
Middle East Online 3/4/2009
TEL AVIV - Controversial ultra-nationalist extremist Avigdor Lieberman is being considered for the job of foreign minister in the cabinet being assembled by hardline Benjamin Netanyahu, an official in Netanyahu’s Likud party said on Wednesday. "There is a serious possibility that Avigdor Lieberman will take the helm of the foreign ministry," the official said, adding that "nothing has been decided for the moment. " Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu is the third-largest party in parliament after winning 15 seats in the 120-member chamger in February 10 elections. For the moment, it is expected to be the second-largest party in a coalition Netanyahu is forming, and is laying claim to a senior portfolio, such as foreign affairs, finance or defence. Netanyahu has excluded giving him the defence job because he lacks experience.

Barak’s coalition feelers cause rift among top Laborites
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
Senior Labor party officials are accusing their party’s chairman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, of going behind their backs in an effort to lay the groundwork for the Labor party to join Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government. The officials have warned Barak of the danger that this would create a split in the party. Efforts in the party to block Labor from joining a Netanyahu-led government have been gaining momentum. On Tuesday the party’s young guard held an emergency meeting on the issue. At the conclusion of the meeting, they called on Barak to stop all contacts with Netanyahu on joining the government, with the added caveat that if there was no response to their request within 48 hours, they would act to try to depose Barak as party leader.

Berri supports Palestinians’ right to armed resistance
Daily Star 3/5/2009
TEHRAN: Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri voiced his support for the Palestinian people’s right to establish their own state, while slamming Israel’s self-exclusion from UN resolutions. Berri addressed an international summit organized by Tehran, "In Aid of Gaza and the Palestinians" Wednesday, saying: "The Israelis are less capable of making peace among themselves today, following their recent elections, so how could they make peace with others? " "We will always support the resistance and its policies and we call on the Palestinian Authority to adopt the path of revolution rather than that of tyranny and monopoly so that it can regain its role as a representative of the Palestinian people," Berri said. He reiterated his stance that the "best and strongest" weapon for Palestinians was their unity. "Excellent" Syrian-Saudi-Egyptian relations, together with good Iranian-Turkish. . .

Lebanon elite turns out to celebrate terrorist Samir Kuntar’s engagement
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
Convicted terrorist Samir Kuntar announced his engagement this week in a highly-publicized Beirut ceremony. Kuntar was jailed in Israel for his role in a 1979 cross-border terror attack that killed three members of the Haran family and a policeman. He was freed last year in exchange for the bodies of abducted soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. Kuntar will be marrying Zeineb Barjawi, the daughter of a prominent Lebanese family. A range of Lebanese dignitaries attended their engagement ceremony at her Beirut home, including former Lebanese president Emile Lahoud and the father of assassinated Hezbollah deputy Imad Mughniyeh. Lahoud reportedly called the event "dear to my heart. I view Samir Kuntar as one of my sons and I wish the couple a happy life. "Other guests are said to have included the head of Al-Jazeera television’s Lebanese bureau, Ghassan Bin Jiddu.

UN: Lebanon ups military efforts to prevent rocket fire into Israel
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
The Lebanese army has deployed an addition brigade of soldiers as well as elite special forces units to the south of the country in an effort to aid in the prevention of rocket fire into Israel, according to a United Nations report. The document, which details the agency’s monitoring of the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701 which was adopted following the Second Lebanon War in 2006, says close to 5,500 Lebanese army soldiers are manning positions in the south. In recent weeks, Lebanese forces, in conjunction with UNIFIL peacekeepers, have discovered dozens of rockets, some of them ready for activation and launch while others were uncovered in secret bunkers and concealed caches. In addition, large stores of ammunition were uncovered. The report also reveals that UNIFIL and the Lebanese military have. . .

Nasrallah reportedly travels to Teheran Staff, Jerusalem Post 3/4/2009
Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has traveled to Teheran, via Damascus, to participate in a Palestinian solidarity conference, Channel 10 quoted Iranian sources as saying Wednesday. According to the report, Nasrallah was accompanied by Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Beri and child killer Samir Kuntar, who was released by Israel last year in a prisoner swap deal for IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. If the report is true, it would mark the first time Nasrallah has left Lebanon since the Second Lebanon War. [end]

US lawmakers look to halt Syrian ’meddling’
Daily Star 3/5/2009
BEIRUT: Several US lawmakers have allegedly presented a draft law to the Senate that would hold Syria more accountable for meddling in Lebanon, including the possibility of international sanctions against it, Al-Mustaqbal daily reported on Wednesday. It said the draft bill - titled "Accountability Law and Syria’s Liberation" - is a revision of the previously issued law against Damascus that dates back to October 2002. The daily added that the new draft suggests harsher sanction measures against Syria "for its continuous support for terrorism, upgrading long-range missiles and meddling in Lebanese affairs. "The draft also calls on US President Barack Obama to recommend that the UN Security Council adopts "international sanctions" against Syria as per Article 41 of the UN Charter.

US envoys to be sent to Damascus as relations with Syria begin to thaw
Donald Macintyre, The Independent 3/4/2009
The United States will send two officials to Syria soon for "preliminary conversations" which could mark the beginningof a thaw in the three-year-old freeze in relations between thetwo countries. Hillary Clinton, the new US Secretary of State, who briefly met the Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid al-Moallem, in Egypt on Monday, announced the decision to send an official delegation to Damascus after meeting the Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, in Jerusalem. She told a news conference: "We have no way to predict what the future with our relations concerning Syria might be. There has to be some perceived benefit of doing so for the United States and our allies and our shared values. But I think it is a worthwhile effort to go and begin these preliminary conversations. Shortly afterwards, the US embassy announced in Damascus that Jeffrey Feltman, the top State Department official dealing

Clinton sending top envoys to Syria in bid to rebuild ties
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
The United States will send two senior administration officials to Damascus this week to work on bilateral ties, U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Jerusalem yesterday, in a further sign of thawing U. S. -Syria relations. Also yesterday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert updated Clinton on details of Israel’s Turkish-mediated negotiations with Syria over the past year. "We’re going to dispatch a representative of the State Department, a representative of the White House, to explore with Syria some of these bilateral issues," Clinton said, announcing another step that could help Damascus improve its standing in the West after years of tensions. The move comes after several years in which top American officials have avoided going to Damascus. "We have no way to predict what the future with our relations concerning Syria might be," she told a news conference with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Syria willing to continue indirect talks with Israel
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/4/2009
Turkish sources reported Wednesday that Syria is interested in indirect Turkish-mediated talk between Damascus and Tel Aviv. The ATV network reported that the Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid al-Moallim, met with his Turkish counterpart, Ali Babacan, on the sidelines of the Sharm al-Sheikh Summit for rebuilding Gaza. The two officials discussed efforts and details for the resumption of indirect talks with Israel and the United States. The network said that Turkish Foreign Ministry officials stated Tuesday that before Israel and Syria engage in renewed indirect talks, a new government should be formed in Israel and the crisis in Gaza ended. Turkey hosted four indirect Israel-Syrian talk sessions before Israel carried out its latest offensive against the Gaza Strip. Several Turkish leaders had criticised the Israeli offensive, while the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip. . .

Saudi FM on visit to Syria
Middle East Online 3/4/2009
CAIRO - Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal left for Syria on Wednesday, one day after attending an Arab League meeting in Egypt, a Cairo airport official said. Ties between Damascus and Riyadh became particularly strained after the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri, a Saudi citizen and protege, in a bombing widely blamed on Syria but denied by Damascus. Prince Saud said last month that he hoped for a reconciliation between the two countries, after Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem visited Riyadh. "We hope for a reconciliation between Syria and Saudi Arabia on healthy foundations," Prince Saud said at the time. "Divergences on Arab issues are behind us, buried. " Tensions between the two countries had been strained after differences over the Middle East peace process and efforts to secure a long-term truce between Hamas and Israel.

U.S.: Evidence mounts of Syrian nuclear cover-up
Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
The United States said on Wednesday that United Nations inspectors had found growing evidence of covert nuclear activity in Syria, and European allies said a lack of Syrian transparency demanded utmost scrutiny. The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, is looking into U. S. intelligence reports that Syria had almost built a North Korean-designed, nuclear reactor meant to yield bomb-grade plutonium before Israel bombed it in 2007. Last month, the IAEA said inspectors had found enough traces of uranium in soil samples taken in a trip to the bombed site granted by Syria last June to constitute a "significant" find, and satellite pictures taken before the Israeli bombing revealed a building resembling a reactor. But the IAEA report said Syria, citing national security reasons, had ignored many agency. . .

ISRAEL: Bedouins shunning FGM/C - new research
David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 3/4/2009
TEL AVIV, 4 March 2009 (IRIN) - Recently published research shows Bedouin tribes in Israel’s southern Negev area no longer practice female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). R. H. Belmaker, a professor of psychiatry at Ben Gurion University of the Negev who researched the issue 15 years ago and saw evidence of FGM/C, has returned to the same tribes in the Negev to discover a different reality. The research was published in the January 2009 issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine, Vol 6. "Our initial research in 1993 began after I gave a lecture" - about human sexuality, when a Bedouin student raised the subject of ritual female genitalia surgery," said Belmaker. A team of two Israeli Arab male doctors and one female Bedouin social worker, set to work, Belmaker said. "After much research and investigation, we were able to reach women in the six tribes who allegedly performed the procedure. . . "

ISRAEL: Slowly Beating Back the Persecution Psyche
Analysis by Daan Bauwens, Inter Press Service 3/4/2009
TEL AVIV, Mar 4(IPS) - A new study shows that Israelis are moving towards an understanding of the Palestinian position on the conflict, even though a vast number still hold on to simplistic notions about good Israelis and bad Arabs. Political psychologist Prof. Daniel Bar-Tal at Tel Aviv University together with researcher Rafi Nets-Zehngut examined formal and popular collective memory in Israel. Formal collective memory is representations of the past in official government documents, books and textbooks; it is the ’official’ explanation of events. Popular collective memory is the repertoire of memory, representations and narratives of events people carry with them. The study points to important positive elements that keep hope for peace alive, as biased and victimised narratives begin to make room for critical, unbiased perspectives.

Consumer confidence shows further drop
Gil Shlomo, Globes Online 3/4/2009
The Consumer Confidence Index has reached a five year low. Anxieties caused by the Knesset election results and the ongoing global economic crisis saw the Consumer Confidence Index fall slightly in February 2009 by half a point to 62. 8 points. This followed a plunge of 7. 2 points in January. The Consumer Confidence Index has reached a five year low. The Consumer Confidence Index, compiled by Globes Research and Kesselman and Kesselman - PricewaterhouseCoopers Israel, showed that the public is prepared to give the new government a grace period in handling the economic crisis and is awaiting its first economic policy steps to assess whether the new government can cope with the crisis. Most of the pessimism reflected in the CCI deals with the public’s concerns about the current state of the economy where confidence resembles levels reminiscent of the recession in 2001-03.

WATCH: Waltz with Bashir animator creates short-film on Gaza blockade
Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
An animator of the celebrated Israeli war film "Waltz with Bashir" has illustrated a new film depicting the life of a fictional boy in the Gaza Strip during the Israeli blockade of the coastal territory. Yoni Goodman’s short film "Closed Zone" runs only a minute and a half and was created for the NGO Gisha, a group devoted to freedom of movement. A spokesman for Gisha said that "though the use of a single animated character, Goodman tries to cause the viewer to feel empathy for the people of Gaza and see them as they are - a million and a half people who only want to live out their ambitions and dreams, something they cannot do because of their ability to move freely. "Goodman said that when making the film, "it was very important for me to create a character that anyone can connect to. . . "

West Bank yeshiva calls in bomb squad over students’ explosives trophies
Yuval Goren, Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
Students at the yeshiva high school in the West Bank settlement of Elad have been collecting potentially dangerous explosives as trophies after picking them up in Israel Defense Forces firing ranges near the school, police discovered on Tuesday. The police got involved when a yeshiva official reported that several students had brought back weapons found near the school. "We immediately called the Sharon district sapper unit, and when we got to the yeshiva, it turned out the youths who had gone for a walk in the area had found a 52-millimeter mortar shell," said Elad police commander Dekel Ra’anan. The dozens of other finds - some of which had been hung on dormitory walls as decorations - include a grenade launcher, missile remnants and additional mortar shells.

Cartoon of the day
Bendib, Palestine Think Tank 3/3/2009

Dreaming of Finland
Aluf Benn, Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
There are many reasons why Israeli students do poorly on international math and science exams, but one sticks out because it is so simple: Doing well on these exams is not our education system’s goal. "Advancing educational achievement" is only 12th on the Education Ministry’s list of goals. Israel’s education system is like the team that walked onto the field without practicing, and was surprised it didn’t win the championship. The low marks are not evident only in international competitions: The education system is having trouble increasing the matriculation rate (which is less than half the number of students eligible to take the exams), despite the continuous lowering of educational standards and requirements. In the debate over education quality, two sides are facing off: The "business management" advocates, who want to. . .

Jewish World / Muslim-Jewish dialogue could be Lod’s ticket out of poverty
Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
On a recent morning at the market in Lod an Ethiopian woman sat on the curb surrounded by her shopping bags while Muslim women in hijab, black-hatted Jews, and casually dressed seculars perused the stalls behind her. The local church, synagogue, and mosque rose in front. Shopping together doesn’t necessarily mean talking together in this city of 75,000, just 20 minutes from Tel Aviv. A past of war, neglect, and shifting populations has left historic sites uncared for and diverse residents living in poverty and tension. "Lod is very, very tribal," said Aviv Wasserman, executive director of the Lod Community Foundation. Members of these "tribes" rarely mix, he explained, even when they live in the same apartment building. LCF was established last June with hopes of revitalizing the city for residents and visitors by drawing. . .

Khamenei urges Muslim resistance against Israel
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 3/5/2009
TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged world Muslims on Wednesday to join the Palestinian "resistance" against Israel, "The only way to save Palestine is resistance," Khamenei said in his address to open a two-day global summit Tehran organized in aid of Gaza and the Palestinians. "Support and help to Palestinians is a mandatory duty of all Muslims. I now tell all Muslim brothers and sisters to join forces and break the immunity of the Zionist criminals," he said. Khamenei said any attempts at resolving the Israel-Palestinian issue via negotiations would be fruitless, adding that the United States and Britain committed the "crime of creation and supporting this cancerous tumor [Israel]. ""Even the new president of the United States who came to power with the motto of changing the [George W.

Iran holds own global summit to aid Gaza
Middle East Online 3/4/2009
TEHRAN - Iran on Wednesday is to begin a two-day international conference to help rebuild the Gaza Strip and support the Palestinians, just days after a global donors meeting in Egypt. The summit in Tehran is attended by by officials from neighbouring countries. "The conference will discuss the issue of aiding Palestinians and also find a solution to the Zionist regime’s adventures against Palestinians," Ali Larijani, speaker of Iran’s parliament, told FARS news agency. He said Iran’s solution to the Israel-Palestinian issue, which is based on a "democratic principle", has already been outlined by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Khamenei has called for the return of all Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel followed by a referendum on the future of the territory. Tehran, a supporter of a democratic one-state solution, is firmly opposed to a two-state solution to solve the Israel-Palestinian issue.

Six powers ready for direct nuclear talks with Iran
Middle East Online 3/4/2009
VIENNA - The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany said Tuesday in a rare joint statement that they were ready for direct talks with Iran to resolve a long-running nuclear standoff. "We remain firmly committed to a comprehensive diplomatic solution, including through direct dialogue," the so-called P5+1 nations said in a joint statement read to a closed-door meeting of the IAEA board of governors. The countries -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- called on "Iran to take this opportunity for engagement with us and thereby maximise opportunities for a negotiated way forward. " The International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-member board of governors, meeting all this week, began its debate on Iran’s disputed nuclear programme on Tuesday afternoon. It was the first time in years that the P5+1 has issued a joint statement at a meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog.

PA urges Iran to stop 'interfering' in Palestinian affairs
Ma’an News Agency 3/4/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged Iran not to meddle in internal Palestinian affairs on Wednesday. "We are sending a message to the Iranians and others: stop interfering in our affairs …They are interfering only to deepen the rift between Palestinians. " Abbas was responding to a journalist’s question about “attacks against” the president leveled by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Khamenei’s comments, made at a conference in Tehran earlier on Wednesday, did not refer directly to Abbas, but rather urged Muslims worldwide to join the “resistance” to Israeli oppression of Palestinians. "The only way to save Palestine is resistance," Khamenei said in his address to open an international summit Tehran organized in support of Gaza and the Palestinians. The Iranian government is thought to be aligned to Abbas’ rival, the Hamas movement, which holds power in Gaza.

Iran: We can hit Israeli nuclear sites
Jerusalem Post 3/4/2009
Iranian missiles can reach Israeli nuclear sites, Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander-in-chief of the Islamic republic’s Revolutionary Guards, said Wednesday. Ayatollah Khomeini: Obama is no different from Bush - "All the nuclear facilities in different parts of the land under the occupation of the Zionist regime are in the reach of Iran’s missile defenses," Jafari was quoted by the ISNA news agency as saying. Iran’s Shahab-3 missiles have a range of up to 1,250 miles, putting Israel within striking distance. Jafari was quoted as saying that Iran is now a mighty military power to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki said Wednesday that its Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant would definitely become active in the summer of 2009. Speaking in parliament in Teheran, Mottaki said it was the government’s duty to finish the project,. . .

Iran: US on wrong path over Israel
Al Jazeera 3/4/2009
Iran’s supreme leader, has said that Barack Obama, the US president, is pursuing the same "wrong path" as George Bush, his predecessor, in supporting Israel. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made his comments on Wednesday at the beginning of a two-day summit in support of Gaza and the Palestinians, held in Tehran. "Even the new president of the United States who came to power with the motto of changing the Bush administration’s policies talks about unconditional commitment to secure Israel," Khamenei said. "This is defending terrorism by a government. "Khamenei also said that "resistance" was the only way to save Palestine and called for the Israeli leaders behind the recent assault on Gaza to be put on trial. ’Zionist criminals’ "The political and military leaders of the occupying regime that played the role in the disaster of Gaza must be put on trial.

Iran military chief: Our missiles can hit Israeli nuclear sites
Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
Iranian missiles can reach Israeli nuclear sites, a top military commander said on Wednesday, amid persistent speculation that Israel could target facilities involved in Iran’s atomic work. "All the nuclear facilities in different parts of the land under the occupation of the Zionist regime are in the reach of Iran’s missile defenses," the commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari, said according to Iran’s ISNA news agency. Iranian officials often refer to Israel’s government, which Tehran does not recognize, as the "Zionist regime. "Last month, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran would welcome talks with the U. S. - but only if there was mutual respect. Iranian officials have said that means the U. S. needs to stop accusing Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons and supporting terrorism, charges Tehran has denied.

Iran commences Crimes in Gaza conference
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/4/2009
The Fares Iranian news agency said that the conference aims at exposing Israeli war crimes against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The conference is headed by supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and will focus on gathering financial support to rebuild Gaza. Several officials from Islamic and other countries will be participating in the conference. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmad Nijad will also be attending. Iranian officials said that the Sharm al-Sheikh Conference held in Egypt was a hypocrisy "as it included countries that supported the Israeli offensive on Gaza", and was "even held in a country [Egypt] that did not open its borders to the besieged residents on Gaza". The Fares agency added that the office of the Iranian General Prosecutor demanded Interpol to issues arrest warrants to 34 senior Israeli political leaders and 114 military leaders.

Britain’s PM calls on Iran to halt nuclear program
Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
In a formal address to Congress on Wednesday, Brown says the U. S. and Britain are ready for Iran to rejoin the world community after it stops threatening peace. He says the nations’ leaders will work tirelessley with the international community to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation. Iran denies it wants to build a bomb. It asserts its program is intended to provide the country with the ability to generate electricity from nuclear reactors. A top Iranian military commander on Wednesday said the Islamic Republic’s missilescan reach Israeli nuclear sites, amid persistent speculation that Israel could target facilities involved in Iran’s atomic work. "All the nuclear facilities in different parts of the land under the occupation of the Zionist regime are in the reach of Iran’s missile defenses," the commander-in-chief. . .

Clinton says U.S. diplomacy unlikely to end Iran nuclear program
Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times 3/3/2009
In a Mideast meeting, the secretary of State says a rejection by Iran could strengthen the U. S. position. - Reporting from Sharm El Sheik, Egypt — The Obama administration has already concluded that a diplomatic overture to Iran, one of the central promises of the president’s election campaign, is unlikely to persuade Tehran to give up its nuclear ambitions. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates in a private meeting Monday that it is "very doubtful" a U. S. approach will persuade Iran to relent, said a senior State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity under customary diplomatic rules. But Clinton, in Egypt for a conference to raise money for the war-scarred Gaza Strip, said an Iranian rebuff could strengthen America’s diplomatic position. She told Foreign Minister Sheik Abdullah ibn Zayed al Nuhayyan that the

Iran Looms Over Clinton’s Mideast Agenda
Mark Landler, New York Times 3/3/2009
RAMALLAH, West Bank — Iran is not on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s itinerary in her first swing through the Middle East and Europe as secretary of state. But it is clearly, and constantly, on her mind. After three days of meetings in Egypt, Israel and the West Bank, Mrs. Clinton said she was struck by the depth of fear about Iran and the extent to which officials say it meddles in their affairs. “There is a great deal of concern about Iran from this whole region,” she said to reporters on Wednesday. “It is clear Iran intends to interfere with the internal affairs of all of these people and try to continue their efforts to fund terrorism, whether it is Hezbollah or Hamas or other proxies. ”Mrs. Clinton specifically mentioned the Palestinians, saying that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was trying to undermine the Palestinian Authority by exhorting Muslims to resist Israel.

Hamas condemns international warrant for the arrest of Bashir
Palestinian Information Center 3/4/2009
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Hamas on Wednesday strongly condemned the international criminal court’s decision to arrest Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir for alleged war crimes in Darfur region west of the Sudan. Hamas in a statement commenting on the decision said that the Arab, Islamic and foreign countries should refuse to deal with it. It declared full support for Bashir and the Sudan in confrontation with this "American-Zionist targeting", pointing out that the UN was once again proving that it had turned into a tool in the hands of the super powers topped by the USA. The decision proves that the court is biased in favor of the colonialist powers and its double standards, the Movement charged. Hamas said that the international court should have rather issued warrants of arrest against the Israeli war criminals such as Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak, Shimon Peres and Benjamin. . .

Libya’s veteran diplomat to chair UN assembly
Middle East Online 3/4/2009
UNITED NATIONS - Veteran Libyan diplomat Ali Triki is set to be the next president of the UN General Assembly, Libya’s charge d’affaires to the international body Ibrahim Dabbashi said Tuesday. Triki "will preside over the General Assembly during its 64th session and I think he will be elected president sometime in the middle of June," said Dabbashi at a press briefing. "His candidature has been endorsed at the highest level in the African Union, so there is a consensus on that," he said of Triki, who serves as Libya’s African Affairs minister. The United Nations General Assembly elects a chairman annually, and the position rotates between five geographic groups. This year it switches from Latin America to Africa. Libyan leader Moamer Gathafi is currently the chairman of the 53-nation bloc African Union, a position he was elected to earlier this month.

Two Jordanians charged over plot to kill Israeli
Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
Jordan’s military prosecutor on Wednesday charged two militants for plotting to kill an Israeli factory owner in the Jordanian city of Irbid. Loay Shehadah, 37, and Mohammed Odatallah, 36, were charged with planning a murder and the illegal possession of two automatic weapons. The indictment sheet said the men were looking to kill Jews living in Jordan. They had located a factory owned by the Israeli businessman, whose name was not revealed, and began monitoring his movements. In January, the militants headed to the factory to kill the man but failed as a security patrol passed by the place at the same time. The intelligence services uncovered the plot and arrested the two men.


The Israel donors conference
Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
      The extent of the funding pledged to the Palestinian Authority by donor countries reflects the extent of their support for Israel and its policies. The American taxpayers’ contribution to the Ramallah government’s bank account is dwarfed by the large sums the U.S. government donates to Israel every year. It’s impossible to get excited over the American pledge of $900 million (two-thirds of it for strengthening Salam Fayyad’s government and the rest for Gaza’s recovery) and forget the $30 billion the United States has promised Israel in defense aid by the end of 2017, as last week’s Amnesty International report noted.
     The $900 million pledged to the Palestinians in Sharm el-Sheikh should be seen as part of the regular American aid to Israel. As an occupying power, Israel is obligated to assure the well-being of the population under its control. But Israel is harming it instead, after which the United States (like other countries) rushes to compensate for the damage.
     The Clinton and Bush administrations - and Barack Obama appears to be following in their footsteps - erased the phrase "Israeli occupation" from their dictionaries and collaborated with Israel in ignoring its commitments as enshrined in international law. The billions of dollars that Israel receives from the United States for weapons and defense development - which played a significant role in the destruction in the Gaza Strip - are part of Israel’s successful propaganda, which presents the Rafah tunnels and Grad rockets as a strategic threat and part of the Islamic terror offensive against enlightened countries.

Palestinian astrophysicist in US reunited with family from Gaza

Middle East Online 3/4/2009
      PACIFICA – Suleiman Baraka is a Palestinian astrophysicist working at Virginia Tech with NASA. His eleven-year-old son Ibrahim was killed in an air strike during Israel’s three-week assault on Gaza.
     After he first told his story on Democracy Now!, the US consulate in Jerusalem contacted him and got his surviving family members out of Gaza.
     This weekend, at Washington, D.C.’s Dulles Airport, he was reunited with his wife and three remaining children.
     Below is the bittersweet reunion.
     SULEIMAN BARAKA: The reunion is very special, and I’m sorry that the reunion comes after a tragedy. It would be much better if we have this reunion without any sad stories, the destruction of houses, killing of my son. But there is always a bright side of the story.
     SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: You may remember Suleiman Baraka. He’s a Palestinian astrophysicist who came to the United States in October to work with Virginia Tech and NASA. His wife and four children stayed behind in Gaza. Then, on December 29th, day three of Israel’s assault on Gaza, tragedy struck. Israeli warplanes bombed Suleiman’s house. His eleven-year-old son Ibrahim was critically wounded in the attack. Shrapnel was lodged in his brain, hand and leg. He was evacuated to Egypt for medical treatment. Suleiman immediately left for Cairo to be with his son. On January 5th, Ibrahim died of his injuries. Unable to return to Gaza to mourn with his family, Suleiman returned to the United States. Days later, he told his heart-wrenching story for the first time in an interview on Democracy Now! -- See also: Palestinian Astrophysicist in US Reunited with Wife & Three Remaining Children After Story of His 11-Year-Old Son’s Death in Israeli Air Strike Broadcast on Democracy Now! and Palestinian Astrophysicist in US Recounts How His 11-Year-Old Son Died When Israeli Warplanes Bombed His Family’s House

UK gov’t boycotts settlement financier Leviev

Press release, Adalah-NY, Electronic Intifada 3/4/2009
      The government of the United Kingdom has decided to boycott Israeli diamond and real estate mogul Lev Leviev over his companies’ construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported today. The decision by the UK government followed a coordinated advocacy campaign by human rights advocates in New York, the UK, Palestine and Israel demanding that the UK government end plans to rent the new UK Embassy in Tel Aviv from Leviev’s company Africa-Israel.
     The UK’s Tel Aviv Ambassador notified Leviev of the decision by letter, following a British parliamentary debate, and inquiries with Leviev’s company Africa-Israel over its activities in the West Bank, Haaretz reported. According to Haaretz, "The embassy in Tel Aviv confirmed the details of the story."
     The Haaretz article did not note the construction of the settlement of Zufim on the land of the village of Jayyous by Leviev’s company, Leader. The Israeli army has recently intensified efforts to crush Jayyous’ protest campaign against the construction of Leviev’s settlements and Israel’s wall on village land. Sharif Omar, the head of Jayyous’ Land Defense Committee, commented, "We feel heartened by the UK government decision opposing Leviev’s settlement construction, and we expect our brothers and sisters in the UAE to follow the UK government’s example by banning Leviev from selling his diamonds in Dubai. We need more pressure in order to end Israeli repression, return our land, and restore our rights."

Opening eyes in Israel

Seth Freedman, The Guardian 3/4/2009
      The dominant strand of Zionism does not make a comfortable bedfellow with core Jewish values.
     In the wake of the devastating earthquake of 1927, the early Zionist pioneers were quick to come to the aid of the local Arab community, regardless of the political schism between the two camps. Millionaire Nathan Straus sent an unsolicited $5,000 to the residents of Nablus, where scores of homes had been levelled, while the impoverished Jews of Tel Aviv immediately despatched three truckloads of food aid to the battered city. "This is the way we are," noted Chaim Shalom Halevi in a letter to his family in the Diaspora, referring to the millennia-old Jewish adherence to the commandment "love thy neighbour as thyself".
     As has been proved throughout the build-up to the state of Israel and in the decades since its inception, the dominant strand of Zionism does not make a comfortable bedfellow with core Jewish values, thanks to the callous way in which all those frozen between the headlights of the Zionist juggernaut are treated. Nationalism has trumped religious values to the point (seemingly) of no return, and as every year passes, the malaise seeps deeper into the collective Israeli psyche.
     In order to challenge the attitudes prevalent in the camp of mainstream Zionism, the best way forward is to search for the chink in the armour – the soft underbelly where can be found those whose politics and ideologies are not fully formed, and who are open to considering a new way of thinking in relation to Israel and Zionism.

Recommendations to the ’International Community’

Abu Yussef from Occupied Palestine, Palestine Monitor 3/4/2009
      The aim of these recommendations is to advise world leaders of what needs to be done or changed if the dream of regional peace is to be realized in the near future. It is a plea for understanding, engagement and a rejection of practices which have already failed so many times before.
     If the time for peace is in fact upon us, these recommendations must be taken into account. Failure to do so will only result in more death and violence on our Israeli-Palestinian part – and more wasted time on your own. 1. Stop Politicizing Aid to Gaza
     For nearly two years the world has watched while Gazans suffer and starve under the weight of Israel’s siege. They have been denied every basic right and nearly every basic necessity in an internationally sanctioned collective punishment on one of the world’s youngest, poorest and most densely huddled populations only for the sin of having voted democratically.
     Even after the bombs have stopped devastating the Gaza Strip, the siege continues. Despite the fact that every window in the Strip was shattered, glass or plastic are not allowed in to make repairs as the cold winter months set in.
     Food trickles through, but never enough - and then only what is allowed. Not only our lives, and our borders and the suitability of our leaders are determined by Israel, even our diets have been under their control, with devastating consequences.

Did Clinton sabotage a Palestinian reconciliation?

Hasan Abu Nimah and Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada 3/4/2009
      Still reeling from the Israeli massacres in the occupied Gaza Strip, Palestinians have lately had little to celebrate. So the strong start to intra-Palestinian reconciliation talks in Cairo last week provided a glimmer of hope.
     An end to the schism between the resistance and the elected but internationally-boycotted Hamas government on the one hand, and the Western-backed Fatah faction on the other, seemed within reach. But the good feeling came to a sudden end after what looked like a coordinated assault by United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, European Union High Representative Javier Solana, and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas whose term as president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) expired on 9 January.
     On Friday 27 February, the leaders of 13 Palestinian factions, principal among them Hamas and Fatah, announced they had set out a framework for reconciliation. In talks chaired by Egypt’s powerful intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, the Palestinians established committees to discuss forming a "national unity government," reforming the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to include all factions, legislative and presidential elections, reorganizing security forces on a nonpolitical basis, and a steering group comprised of all faction leaders. Amid a jubilant mood, the talks were adjourned until 10 March.

What Bibi faces in liberated Washington

Gershom Gorenberg, Ha’aretz 3/4/2009
      Washington at the beginning of the Obama era has the feel of a city that has just been liberated from foreign occupation, or of a person who just snapped out of an inexplicable psychotic episode. The paranoia of the Bush days has passed. The world is no longer divided into children of light and children of darkness.
     The standard assessment says that after his return to power, Benjamin Netanyahu will have a tense time when he visits Washington - just as he did during his first term when he faced a president who demanded that he advance a peace process. That assessment isn’t quite right - because this time, Netanyahu is likely to have an even more tension-fraught time than he did in the 90s. In his new term, he won’t be able to count on Congress as a counterweight to the administration in his relations with America.
     During his first visit to Washington as prime minister in 1996, Netanyahu spoke before Congress to repeated applause. The part of his speech praising deregulation and tax cuts helped him by warming the hearts of the Republican majority. Today that economic approach is correctly seen as the cause of a worldwide disaster, and the Republicans are a defeated minority. Economic spin won’t help Netanyahu build a responsible image.

After Gaza War, a Harder Coexistence for Jews and Arabs

Joshua Mitnick, MIFTAH 3/4/2009
      The Hagar bilingual kindergarten was founded as a rare cocoon from ethnic alienation for children and parents in Israel. But even this place of innocence and coexistence isn’t immune to the deeper divisions between Jews and Arabs here that has followed the Gaza war.
     "When Assin came back from her first day [after the war] she said, ’Mommy, today we played war between Israel and Gaza,’ " says Suha Farhat, about her 5-year-old daughter.
     The school intended to meet Tuesday, in part to address students’ and parents’ feelings following the battle between Israel and Hamas, but discussing it may have proved too painful. Few parents came.
     Groups that focus on Jewish and Arab coexistence are just beginning to wrestle with the fallout from the war but despite an ideological commitment to living together in peace, the search for political common ground has been largely seen as too controversial.
     "I wasn’t against the war. I think that we have a right to defend ourselves, but that isn’t something I bring up," says Debra Mathias, whose has sent two children to the kindergarten. "I don’t expect [the school] will change the world, but I at least hope for my children to be open minded, and to really understand the complexity of living here."

Washington ends its diplomatic embargo on Syria

Jim Lobe, Electronic Intifada 3/4/2009
      WASHINGTON (IPS) - Ending a four-year diplomatic embargo on Damascus, the administration of United States President Barack Obama Tuesday confirmed that it is sending two high-level officials to Syria this week for "preliminary conversations," presumably on improving relations.
     The trip, which will be undertaken by Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Jeffrey Feltman and Daniel Shapiro, a senior staffer on the National Security Council who also served as one of Obama’s top Middle East advisers during his presidential campaign, was announced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Jerusalem.
     "It is a worthwhile effort to go and begin preliminary conversations," she told reporters after meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. "We have no way to predict what the future of our relations with Syria might be."
     The announcement of the trip drew praise, particularly from organizations and individuals here who were disappointed by former US President George W. Bush’s refusal to become involved in what they felt were promising Turkish-mediated peace talks between Damascus and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Israel boycott movement gains momentum

Mel Frykberg, Electronic Intifada 3/4/2009
      RAMALLAH (IPS) - "Standing United with the People of Gaza" is the theme of this week’s Israel Apartheid Week (IAW), which kicked off in Toronto and another 39 cities across the globe Sunday.
     A movement to boycott Israeli goods, culture and academic institutions is gaining momentum as Geneva prepares to host the UN’s Anti-Racism Conference, Durban II next month amidst swirling controversy.
     Both Canada and the US are boycotting the Durban II conference in protest over what they perceive as a strongly anti-Israel agenda.
     The first UN Anti-Racism conference, held in the South African city Durban in 2001, saw the Israeli and US delegates storm out of the conference, accusing other delegates of focusing too strongly on Israel.
     United States and Canadian support might have offered some comfort for Israel. However, international criticism of Israel’s three-week bloody offensive into Gaza, which left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead and thousands more wounded, most of them civilian, has breathed fresh life into a boycott, divest, sanctions (BDS) campaign.

As Dangerous as Netanyahu

Hasan Afif El-Hasan, Palestine Chronicle 3/3/2009
      The Palestinians in the occupied lands and the refugee camps must have been puzzled by those Palestinian leaders’ declarations and commentators’ peppy articles lamenting the loss of the butchers of Gaza, Kadima-Labor coalition, to the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu coalition. Have the Palestinian leaders in the West Bank established mystical bonds with the butchers of Gaza who became their only accepted partners for peace? I can’t see the teensiest difference between the policies of the two camps. If there is any difference, it is that unlike Kadima and Labour leaders, Netanyahu practices what he preaches. Netanyahu is a dangerous leader but Olmert, Livni, Peres and Barak are no less dangerous. The only competition among these leaders is the level of the horrors inflicted on the Palestinians and the blood wantonly spilled under their leaderships.
     When Peres was the minister of defense under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin he helped Gush Emunim movement followers launch several settlements next to the Arab population centers in the West Bank. For the Gush Emunim members, the right of the Jewish people to Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) is nonnegotiable. At Peres order, the Israeli army provided water and electricity for Elon Moreh settlers and the military invited the settlers to establish a settlement at the military camp inside the Arab village of Kufur Qadum. The Israeli military declared the main road to the village as Jews-only-road and its Arab residents had to build new road leading to their homes and schools.

Back home in Zaytoun

Eva Bartlett, Tales to Tell - From Gaza 2009 3/4/2009
      Last night E and I went to visit Amer and Shireen Al Helou, and surviving kids Saja, Foad, and Mahmoud. They are back living in their Zaytoun house, which looks like a home again inside, instead of the disaster area the Israeli soldiers occupying it left behind. Shireen showed us the cupboards full of scrubbed folded clothes, all of which had been left soiled for her to clean. It was a relief to E and me to see everyone there, in their proper place with their belongings back in place around them. Amer’s now-widowed mother is living with them, and his younger sisters too.
     But all the mirrors that are carefully back on the wall are cracked, and the ceiling still has holes in, and the clean folded clothes in the smallest cupboard belong to Farah, who will never wear them again. And at the top of the stairs is a new, framed martyr poster, where the faces of baby Farah, her grandfather, and her uncle Mohammed (who was one of only about 100 resistance fighters who died during the invasion, as compared to more than 1000 civilians) are printed. And her other uncle Abdullah is in the next room, subdued under many blankets, slowly recovering from his multiple gunshot wounds.
     Not that they have a choice, but I cannot comprehend how this family can go about their daily lives feeling at home in a home where such horrible things happened to them. Run outside and play, kids. Where you all hid in terror under the stairs as they shelled your house, and then watched the soldiers shoot your grandfather and leave him to bleed to death.