InI Logo
InI Needs Your Support!
Subscribe to InI’s Mailing List/Newsletter

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

VTJP Archives | VTJP 2009
6 March, 2009
Israeli forces injure eight Ni’lin; occupy village after internationals leave
Ma’an News Agency 3/6/2009
Ramallah – Ma’an – Three protestors were injured by live bullets and five others injured when Israeli soldiers attacked those gathered for the weekly anti-wall protest at Ni’lin west Ramallah. In a statement, the Popular Committee Against the Wall said shots were fired following the completion of the Friday prayers on the lands near the most recent construction site of the concrete barrier that is set to cut off the village from its lands. Clashes erupted when village youth responded to the Israeli fire by throwing stones at the Israeli military vehicles. Soldiers then fired dozens of tear gas and sound bomb canisters and at the youth. Following the protest, when the last international activist left the area, Israeli soldiers invaded Ni’lin from three directions, in an attempt to surround the youth who had thrown stones.

Israel annexing East Jerusalem, says EU
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 3/7/2009
Confidential report attacks ’illegal’ house demolitions - Government accused of damaging peace prospects -- A confidential EU report accuses the Israeli government of using settlement expansion, house demolitions, discriminatory housing policies and the West Bank barrier as a way of "actively pursuing the illegal annexation" of East Jerusalem. The document says Israel has accelerated its plans for East Jerusalem, and is undermining the Palestinian Authority’s credibility and weakening support for peace talks. "Israel’s actions in and around Jerusalem constitute one of the most acute challenges to Israeli-Palestinian peace-making," says the document, EU Heads of Mission Report on East Jerusalem. The report, obtained by the Guardian, is dated 15 December 2008. It acknowledges Israel’s legitimate security concerns in Jerusalem, but adds: "Many of its current illegal actions in and around the city have limited security justifications. "

Nablus: Israeli to destroy 20 more homes in latest mass-demolition order
Ma’an News Agency 3/6/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli authorities ordered the demolition of more than 20 homes in the northern West Bank villages of Burin and Aqqaba. Residents received the notices on 2 March. The order marks the third such mass demolition notification this month, after Israeli authorities ordered 88 homes in Silwan (East Jerusalem) destroyed and another 12 residential and farming buildings in Al-Baqa’a (Hebron). All homes are in Israeli controlled areas and all were served demolition papers based on the accusation that they were not built with proper permits. In the case of Aqqaba/Burin and Al-Baqa’a, they are near illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In the Nablus region, the two villages held protests Friday, mirroring popular protests in Bil’in, Nil’in and Al-Ma’asara which are held every Friday as a popular outcry against the construction of the Israeli separation wall, which cuts off the villages from their land.

Israel orders more mass house demolitions, this time in Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 3/6/2009
Hebron – Ma’an – Israeli authorities notified the residents of the village of Al-Baqa’a that their homes were slated for demolition because they were built without permits. The town is sandwiched between two swaths of Hebron’s largest settlement Kiriya Arba, whose settlers were responsible for the death of a Hebron man during the riots following the Israeli evacuation of a settler-occupied home on 4 December. Kiriya Arba settlers are also responsible for the daily harassment and vandalism of Palestinian property. The residents received warning of the demolition orders on Wednesday and appealed to human rights organizations to intervene on their behalf. The eight homes and four agricultural buildings slated for destruction will render more than 40 homeless. The effort marks the second mass-demolition announcement in a month, after Israeli authorities warned residents of. . .

Arrest turns into destruction
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/6/2009
Broken TV, smashed furniture and broken windows, torn books, a stolen computer and a television were the outcomes of an attack carried out by Israeli soldiers who broke into the residence of a Palestinian family in Ramin village, near the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem, the Arabs48 news website reported. The attack took place three weeks ago when soldiers broke into the home of Mustafa Awwad in order to abduct him. But, in the process, troops ripped through the house, smashing windows, doors, a computer and even taking the father’s mobile phone. The Israelis broke into Awaad’s house late at night, waking the family by violently knocking and kicking at the door; then they dragged Awwad out. The family said that the attack did not end after he was kidnapped; soldiers started smashing furniture, windows and everything that they could see.

Israeli military readying for second 'harsh attack' on Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 3/6/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Israeli military is preparing a “harsh attack on Gaza,” in response to homemade rockets that are continuously fired into Israel by Palestinian fighters, multiple Israeli news sources reported on Friday. “The army is preparing to carry out a huge and harsh attack at any moment, which is required to stop firing projectiles on Israel,” said one report, quoting senior military sources. Last Sunday Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed a “painful response” to the homemade projectiles that Israel failed to stop with its three-week war on the Gaza Strip in December and January. More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed during the offensive. Israel holds Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, totally responsible for the projectiles, which are fired by a variety of Palestinian armed factions.

Israel’s navy attacks fishermen along Gaza shore; bombs Rafah tunnels
Ma’an News Agency 3/6/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Two fresh Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip were reported Friday morning on the southern Strip. No injuries were reported though damage to the Rafah tunnels was sustained. First thing Friday Israeli gunboats opened fire at Palestinian fishermen on the shore near Khan Younis and Rafah then Israeli warplanes renewed bombing against underground smuggling tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border. The attacks mark the third in two days, the earliest of which killed three Palestinian militiamen. On Thursday morning, Israeli aircraft attacked a group a Palestinian fighters east of Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp, killing three. On Wednesday night, a separate strike killed a leader in the Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad. Islamic Jihad has vowed to avenge those attacks, and began by firing a barrage of homemade projectiles into Israel.

Israeli forces attack two elderly women at Al-Ma’asara protest commemorating Women’s Day
Ma’an News Agency 3/6/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Clashes erupted as 22 Palestinians and international peace activists took to the streets in Al-Ma’sara’s weekly anti- wall rally Friday. The protest, in celebration of the role of women in the Palestinian struggle, saw two elderly women beaten by Israeli soldiers. The women, identified as Suad Jumm’a and Laila Zawahra were attacked and sustained several serious bruises. [end]

East Jerusalem Settlements Ratchet Up Tensions
Analysis by Helena Cobban, Inter Press Service 3/7/2009
JERUSALEM, Mar 6(IPS) - As the fires of human misery continue to smolder in Gaza, the situation in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem is emerging as another potentially explosive issue in, and far beyond, the Middle East. The future of the city is considered an issue of prime importance to both Palestinians and Israelis, as well as to their supporters around the world. Jerusalem-related tensions have sparked several earlier rounds of violence between the two peoples, including when former (and future) Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu started work on the new East Jerusalem settlement of Har Homa in 1997. In September 2000, it was a visit by opposition leader Ariel Sharon to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount - accompanied by 1,000 armed security people - that sparked the Second Intifada. Now, Israeli and Palestinian peace activists warn that the provocative actions of government-backed settler. . .

Report: EU accuses Israel of `pursuing illegal annexation` of East Jerusalem
Ha’aretz 3/7/2009
A confidential EU report accuses Israel of "actively pursuing the illegal annexation" of East Jerusalem, the British newspaper the Guardian reported early Saturday. The Guardian reported that the EU document accuses Israel of using settlement expansion, the security barrier in the West Bank, Palestinian house demolitions and discriminatory housing policies to gain control over East Jerusalem. The report, obtained by the Guardian, is dated December 15, 2008. It acknowledges Israel’s legitimate security concerns in Jerusalem, but says: "Many of its current illegal actions in and around the city have limited security justifications. "The report goes on to say that Israel has accelerated its plans for East Jerusalem, and is undermining the Palestinian Authority’s credibility and weakening support for peace talks.

Plan for tourist theme park raises Jerusalem tensions
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 3/6/2009
Demolition orders served on Palestinian homes - Close as it is to the historic and politically radioactive Old City of Jerusalem, when Naji Qafishi built his two-storey house in the Silwan district in 1994, he hardly expected it to be at the core of a global debate over the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even now, he is more worried about the impact of the demolition order for the property on the 14 people who live in its four rooms – his three sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren. " My grandson Naji, who is seven, came home from school yesterday. He got 96 in his test – and he said, ’Grandad, how will I be able to study if our house is destroyed? ’""I felt very bad about what he said. He is only in the first grade," said Mr Qafishi, 54, an unemployed former building worker. Naji’s mother, his daughter-in-law, had fallen into depression because of the threat to the home.

Qardawi calls on Muslim leaders to shoulder responsibilities towards Jerusalem
Palestinian Information Center 3/6/2009
DOHA, (PIC)-- Dr. Yousef al-Qardawi, chairman of the trustees of Al-Quds International Institution, sent an urgent appeal to all Arab and Muslim leaders asking them to shoulder their responsibilities towards occupied Jerusalem, especially after the occupation authorities announced their intention to demolish 88 Palestinian buildings and displace 1500 Palestinian residents from the Bustan neighbourhood to the south of the Aqsa Mosque. Qardawi explained that the new onslaught on east Jerusalem is the most dangerous since it was occupied in 1967 pointing out that the occupation aims to empty Jerusalem of its indigenous population and replace them with Jewish immigrants so that they can have a purely Jewish Jerusalem on the remains of Muslim and Christian holy places. He stressed that leaders should shoulder their responsibilities at this critical stage of the Israeli efforts to Judaize. . .

Police to deploy in force in Jerusalem
Ronen Medzini, YNetNews 3/6/2009
Police to reinforce presence in capital ahead of Purim holiday, as tens of thousands of revelers prepare to hit streets; two police officers wounded after married east Jerusalem father goes on rampage earlier in the day - Police not taking any chances - Officials have decided to reinforce the police presence on Jerusalem’s streets next week, in the wake of the terror attack Thursday that left two police officers lightly hurt. Police forces will deploy in force in order to secure the upcoming Purim celebrations, the Jerusalem Police said Thursday night. As is the case every year, tens of thousands of dressed-up revelers are expected to hit the streets during the holidays. Jerusalem’s municipal government is organizing several events to celebrate the holiday, including shows for the entire family, musical performances, and a Hassidic puppet show.

Sabri warns of a third intifada against Zionist efforts to Judaize Jerusalem
Palestinian Information Center 3/6/2009
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Head of the Islamic Higher Committee, Sheikh Ekrema Sabri, warned of the outbreak of a third intifada in defence of occupied Jerusalem against Zionist campaigns of "transfer" and Judaization. He said in a statement to the UAE-based al-Khalij newspaper on Friday that people’s uprisings against oppression are spontaneous and that the Israeli occupation practices against the Palestinian people, in general, and occupied Jerusalem in particular are pushing towards explosion. He also pointed out that there is and evil Zionist plan against occupied Jerusalem which is being implemented in stages as conditions allow, explaining that the attempts to uproot and displace Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and the recent threats of demolishing Palestinian homes in various Jerusalem neighbourhoods are part of this evil plan.

Sheikh Sabri : Third Intifada to defend the al-Aqsa Mosque, not far off
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 3/6/2009
Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, Head of the Higher Islamic Committee, the grand Mufti of Jerusalem, said that a third Palestinian Intifada in defense of Jerusalem and its holy sites, combined with resisting Israel’s transfer policies against the Palestinians, is not a far stretch. In a Friday interview with the al-Khaleej (The Gulf) newspaper, based in Emirates, Sheikh Sabri said that an Intifada against injustice does not wait for a political decision. Sheikh Sabri added that Israel’s ongoing attacks against the Palestinians and Jerusalem is pushing towards a third Intifada. He said that the occupation is implementing its plans that aim at uprooting the Palestinians from Jerusalem. "This became clear after Israel said it intends to demolish dozens of homes in Ras Khamis, al-Tour, Silwan, Beit Hanina and al-Bustan," Sheikh Sabri said.

Israel declares alert in Jerusalem fearing attack
Ma’an News Agency 3/6/2009
Jerusalem – Ma’an – Israel deployed extra police and military forces in and around Jerusalem fearing violent attacks, a day after a Palestinian tractor driver plowed his vehicle into a police car in an alleged attack. Two police officers were injured in Thursday’s incident and the driver was shot dead. According to the Israel Police, patrols will be increased in residential neighborhoods and additional checkpoints installed on roads leading to Jerusalem from the West Bank. Meanwhile Israel imposed tight restrictions on access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City. Protests were expected in response to a renewed Israeli threat to demolish dozens of Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem. Israel is expected to continue the state of high alert next week in advance of the Jewish holiday of Purim.

Israeli soldiers shoot 17-year-old in foot near Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 3/6/2009
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces shot and injured a Palestinian youth following clashes on the northern mountain (Al-Jabal Ash-Shamali) of Nablus Friday. Palestinian medical sources identified the boy as 17-year old Muneer Al- Bustami, and noted he was shot in the foot. The youth were in an Israeli-controlled area on the outskirts of the city when the incident took place. Al-Bustami was transferred to the Rafidyah hospital and his condition was described as moderate. [end]

Israeli soldiers seize man from Jericho
Ma’an News Agency 3/6/2009
Jericho – Ma’an – Israeli soldiers seized a young Palestinian man from Aqbat Jaber Refugee Camp on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Jericho early on Friday. Israeli soldiers detained 25 year-old Muhannad Mahmoud Yousef during a raid on his family’s house in the camp. The Israeli military said that it arrested two Palestinians during overnight raids in the West Bank. The second detainee has not yet been identified. [end]

Palestinian Human Rights center Director challenges travel ban in Israeli court
Ma’an News Agency 3/6/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - A final decision in the case against the travel ban on General Director of the Palestinian rights institution Al-Haq was postponed again pending a four-day period for Israeli officials to “reconsider the absolute and unconditional ban” that prevents the director from leaving the West Bank. Shawan Jabarin brought the case to court after Geuzenpenning, a Dutch Human Rights organization, selected his organization to receive their Prize for Human Rights Defenders in the Netherlands. The awards ceremony will be held next week. In a statement, Al-Haq described the day’s proceedings:"Having heard the arguments of Mr Jabarin’s lawyer, Adv. Michael Sfard, and the lawyer for the State of Israel, the three-judge panel then dismissed everyone present in the courtroom except the State’s lawyers and a representative of the General Security Services (GSS), who would present secret "evidence" against Mr Jabarin ex parte.

Bil’in: Protest against settler burning of Qur’an, Peace Center
Ma’an News Agency 3/6/2009
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Three Palestinians were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets during the weekly protest against the wall in Bil’in Friday. This week’s protest also called for Israeli accountability in the defacement and destruction of the Bil’in Center for Peace, located on village lands on the western side of the wall. The building was built three years ago and has hosted a 24-hour a day seven day a week presence in an effort to maintain the Bil’in claim on the land slowly being annexed to Israel. The one room building played host to farmers during the day and activists during the evenings until a recent dictate from soldiers guarding the gate where villagers pass through into the occupied swath of land. Locals and internationals are no longer permitted to be in the zone between the wall and the Israeli settlement in the evening, leaving the building vulnerable to attack.

Three injured, dozens suffered teargas inhalation during the Bil’in Weekly Demonstration
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 3/6/2009
The residents of Bil’in, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah gathered today after the Friday prayer in another protest called by the Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlement Building. The protest was joined by international activists and the Israeli Anarchists Against the Wall and Settlements. Protesters carried Palestinian flags and banners condemning the Israeli policies of building the wall and settlements, especially the recent plan to build 75 new housing units. Protesters also condemned the recent house demolitions in Al-Bustan and Ras Khamis in Jerusalem. The protest called for national unity, resistance to the occupation and also encouraged the international community to be fair and balanced. Protesters demanded to bring Olmert, Livni, Barak and Peres to court for war crimes. Protesters headed towards the Apartheid Wall built on Bil’in’s land.

Five injured at the Nil’in weekly protest
IMEMC News, International Middle East Media Center News 3/6/2009
Scores of villagers from Nil’in, located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, on Friday midday, held their weekly protest against the illegal Israeli wall being built on the village’s land. At noon, villagers, along with international and Israeli solidarity workers, marched to the village’s land being confiscated by Israel to build the wall. Demonstrators carried banners calling for national unity and to support the Palestinians in Jerusalem. [end]

Attacks on both the armed and nonviolent resistance deter neither
Kristen Ess, Palestine News Network 3/5/2009
Fighting by Israeli forces in the central Gaza Strip’s Maghazi Refugee Camp began this morning with two serious injuries among members of Islamic Jihad. The leftist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s armed resistance fought along side Saraya Al Quds sporadically throughout Thursday. In the meantime the nonviolent resistance movement is on the ready for gas and bullets Friday. What they all have in common is the clarity in the justice of their cause and an absolute steadfastness. As nighttime sets in the central Gaza Strip three Palestinians are dead in Maghazi. This is the Israeli ceasefire: no room for citizens, no room for armed resistance. Projectiles were launched throughout the day while at the same time West Bank towns prepared to confront occupation with only their bodies, signs and flags. Tomorrow the nonviolent Palestinian resistance will take to their fields and towns, to their confiscated land to confront confiscation for the Wall and settlements.

Israeli settlers demonstrate against removal of West Bank checkpoints
Ma’an News Agency 3/6/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli settlers blocked a road in the southern West Bank on Friday morning in protest of Israel’s reported intention to remove military checkpoints. The demonstration took place at the Tarqumiya checkpoint, west of the city of Hebron. No violence was reported. On Wednesday Israel dismantled one military checkpoint south of the city of Tulkarem. The military has stated its intention to remove other roadblocks, but these reports have not been independently verified. Right-wing Israeli settlers living in the West Bank claim that the checkpoints are important for their security. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), Israel maintains more than 500 checkpoints, roadblocks, gates, earth mounds and other obstructions as a part of its occupation of the West Bank.

Settlers stone Palestinian cars north of Ramallah
Ma’an News Agency 3/6/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli settlers showered Palestinian cars with stones on the road between Ramallah and Nablus on Thursday night, witnesses reported. According to Palestinian witnesses, car windows were broken, and Israeli soldiers were present during the stoning. The attackers came from the settlement of Shilo. Incidents of settlers stoning Palestinian cars have been reported for the last decade. [end]

Policemen indicted for death by negligence of illegal resident
Ha’aretz 3/6/2009
Two Rehovot police officers were indicted yesterday in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court for causing death by negligence of a Palestinian illegal resident in Israel. The charges, brought by the Police Investigations Department in the Justice Ministry, state that the two policemen, Baruch Peretz, 36, and Assaf Yakutieli, 34, did not seek medical attention for a Palestinian whom they were transporting. The Palestinian had been released from the hospital, where he was recovering from injuries incurred in an accident with a stolen car he was driving. The charge states that the two police officers left the man by a highway in a secluded location in the West Bank, and he then died of dehydration. According to the indictment, the Palestinian, Omar Abu-Garban, was involved in an accident on May 29, 2008, while driving a stolen car on Route 6 south of the Sorek interchange.

Farawna: 'May 8, a day of solidarity with Palestinian female detainees'
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/6/2009
Palestinian researcher, specialized in the issue of detainees, Abdul-Nasser Farawna, stated on Friday the May 8, International Women’s Day, should be a day of solidarity with the Palestinian women detained by Israel. "The world marks this day to salute the women and their important role, struggle and achievements", Farawna said, "but it forgot that there are thousands of Palestinian women suffering under Israeli occupation, imprisoned and abused". He added that the world must understand that the detained Palestinian women are facing harsh treatment in Israeli prisons and are deprived from their basic rights. "They face torture, physical and psychological", Farawna said, "Some of them were even sexually harassed during interrogation". He also said that dozens of women are still imprisoned by Israel; some of them gave birth in prison, others left children behind, while a number of them are below the age of 18.

Palestinian prisoners hope pope will press their case
Ma’an News Agency 3/6/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinian political prisoners called on Pope Benedict XVI to press for their release during his visit to Israel in May. In a statement smuggled from Israel’s Negev (Naqab) desert prison camp and released to the public on Friday, the prisoners said, “We appeal Pope Benedict XVI to intervene to resolve our case and end our suffering. ”The prisoners said they welcomed the visit, and also called on the Catholic clergy to raise this issue of Palestinian prisoners with "His Holiness. " Benedict plans to visit Jordan, the West Bank, and Israel during a four day visit. It will be the first Papal trip to the Holy Land since John Paul II came in 2000. There are more than 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails, many of them elderly and sick. Hundreds are charged in connection with attacks on Israelis.

Olmert: 'There can be no peace with the Palestinians without handing them parts of Jerusalem'
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/7/2009
Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, stated Friday that there can be no peace with the Palestinians without Israeli withdrawal from parts of Jerusalem which will be the capital of the future Palestinian state. Olmert added that the protests in Israel demanding the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit, captured by the Palestinian resistance on June 26, 2006, do not help in resolving this issue as they "empower the position of Hamas". He said that the government is practicing utmost efforts to secure the release of Shalit in the framework of a prisoner swap deal. Commenting on the situation in the Western Negev, Shalit said that Israel is carrying measures aiming at stopping the firing of homemade shells from the Gaza Strip taking into consideration some complicated issue including achieving an understanding with Egypt to stop arms smuggling into Gaza.

Olmert: No peace without dividing Jerusalem
Ha’aretz 3/7/2009
Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned on Friday that it would not be possible to reach a peace accord with the Palestinians if Israel did not cede part of Jerusalem to them. "There won’t be peace if part of Jerusalem does not become the capital of the Palestinian state," said Olmert, speaking at Kibbutz Yifat in the Galilee. During Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that were relaunched in 2007, though are currently stalled, the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority demanded parts of Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. The demand is highly contentious in Israel, with many rightist politicians stating their total opposition to any division of the city. In a wide-ranging speech, Olmert also mentioned Israel’s recent offensive against Hamas in Gaza.

PA official: Time to impose 2-state solution
Ali Waked, YNetNews 3/6/2009
Following US secretary of state’s visit and ahead of establishment of rightist government, senior Palestinian Authority official tells Ynet time has come to exert massive international pressure on Israel - Senior Palestinian Authority officials believe that now is the time to exert massive international pressure on Israel, following US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to the region and ahead of the establishment of a new Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu. "There is an opportunity for the world to strongly enter the diplomatic negotiations and impose the two-state solution on Israel," a senior PA official told Ynet on Friday. "The world did not intervene when Israel had a convenient government in which Kadima and Labor made the decisions, claiming that this was the Israeli peace camp bargaining on marginal issues.

Olmert: No peace without dividing Jerusalem
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 3/6/2009
Significant part of Jerusalem must be turned over to Palestinians, be used as their future capital, Olmert says Friday; prime minister praises Rabin’s, Barak’s peace efforts, says concessions are inevitable - No peace agreement can be secured with the Palestinians unless Israel is willing to divide Jerusalem, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Friday. "There will be no peace if a significant part of Jerusalem is not the capital of the Palestinian state," Olmert said during a public appearance before northern residents. Addressing the change in his political views over the years, the PM said: "When you sit on the chair of the prime minister, which isn’t very comfortable, you have a panoramic view of everything, from end to end"¦when you see a panoramic image you have to reach different conclusions than the ones you reached when you only had a partial picture.

The Second Year of 'Israeli Apartheid Week' in Palestine
Hazem Jamjoum, International Middle East Media Center News 3/6/2009
March 2009 witnessed the second consecutive year in which the global event "Israeli Apartheid Week" (IAW) was organized in occupied Palestine, and event that has entered its fifth year. Since its initial launch in Toronto, Canada in 2005, IAW has grown to become one of the most important global events in the Palestine solidarity calendar. Last year, more than 25 cities around the world participated in the week’s activities, and has grown to over 40 cities this year. The importance of Israeli Apartheid Week lies in the fact that those working to organize it have tried to shift the terms of the debate over the Palestinian cause from that of an age-old military squabble between Palestinians and Jewish-Israelis to one based on the more accurate understanding of Israel as an apartheid state based on the legal definition set out by the International Convention for the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.

Israeli Apartheid Week taking place in Universities and refugee camps across the Occupied West Bank
Mary Arthur, International Middle East Media Center News 3/6/2009
The fifth international Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is occurring in over 40 cities in Palestine and worldwide from 2-8 March 2009. This is the second consecutive year IAW is hosted in the West Bank. The week will feature lectures, film screenings, art and photography exhibits, cultural events and demonstrations aiming at deepening the apartheid analysis of Israel, while gathering support for the growing local-Palestinian and international movement for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) until Israel complies with international law. The theme of this year’s IAW is "Standing United with the People’s of Gaza" - a focus which comes in the wake of Israeli military attacks on the people of Gaza in early 2009. Apartheid week will build upon the widespread protest and indignation witnessed during Israel’s assault and seek practicable ways to hold Israel accountable.

One Gaza crossing open for goods
Ma’an News Agency 3/6/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Israel will allow 80 truckloads of goods into the Gaza Strip through one border crossing, while another crossing will be closed on Friday. According to Raed Fattouh, head of a Palestinian government committee coordinating imports into Gaza, the Kerem Shalom crossing will be open, allowing 46 trucks of goods for UNRWA, the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees, and other relief organizations. Another 26 trucks will be shipped to the commercial sector carrying beans, rice, sugar, pasta, cooking oil, towels, toilet paper and blankets. Eight trucks carrying fruit and eggs will also be allowed through. The Karni crossing, which is used to ship grain and animal feed, will be closed for the second consecutive day. Israel has maintained a blockade of the Gaza Strip since June 2007, trapping 1.

This Week in Palestine -Week 10 2009
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 3/6/2009
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| 15 m 00s || 13. 7 MB || Welcome to This Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www. imemc. org, for February 28th through March 6th, 2009. Palestinian factions, including the rival Hamas and Fatah parties, met this week in Cairo as Israeli attacks and siege on Gaza leave 10 killed this week. These stories and more, coming up Stay tuned. Nonviolent Activities Lets begin our weekly report with the nonviolent activities in the West Bank with IMEMC’s George Rishmawi: The residents of Bil’in, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, marched towards the wall today following Friday prayers, in a protest joined by Israeli and international activists. Protesters called for national unity among Palestinians. The protest headed towards the wall being built by Israel on Bil’in’s farmland.

False alarm causes scare in south
Ilana Curiel, YNetNews 3/6/2009
Southern residents enter secured rooms as siren goes off; police: Alert system malfunctioned - A false alarm caused a scare Friday afternoon at several southern communities, including Beersheba, Ofakim, Rahat, and Ashdod. Police later said a malfunction in the anti-rocket siren system caused the needless panic. Residents in various southern regions reported hearing a siren around 4:15 pm. Concerned residents rushed into secured rooms, only to be told a few minutes later that no rockets were fired from Gaza. Ashdod resident Ilya recounted the tense moments: "We heard a siren, entered the building, and took cover. " The false alarm reminded residents that they are still within range of Palestinian rockets. "I felt helpless," said Dina Zilberman. "I was wondering whether I was wondering whether I was imagining it or not"¦after it was over, I said thank God that nothing happened.

Islamic Jihad: Israeli threats 'psychological tactic'
Ma’an News Agency 3/6/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades are ready to confront any attack on the Palestinians, a statement from the group said Friday. Brigades Spokesman Abu Ahmad was responding to the recent Israeli threats to attack Gaza less than seven weeks after the close of the Israeli onslaught that killed 1,455. The Israeli threats were once again based on “stopping the flow of projectiles” from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel. “We will not stand still in front of the Israeli crimes and assassinations of resistance fighters,” Abu Ahmad said. He called the statements war mongering and psychological tactics by the Israeli army in an effort to “restore its power,” following their failure to halt the projectiles after the first three-week onslaught.

Islamic Jihad claims responsibility for four projectiles
Ma’an News Agency 3/6/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – The Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, claimed to have launched four homemade projectiles into Israel from the Gaza Strip on Thursday night. According to Israel, three projectiles landed in the vicinity of Gaza – two to the east of the Strip and one to the north. No damage or injuries were reported. The group said in a statement that the attack was in response to Israeli attacks on Gaza. On Wednesday night and Thursday morning, Israel’s air force killed three Al-Quds Brigades fighters and a fourth affiliated to another group. [end]

Al-Aqsa Brigades claim Gaza projectile attack
Ma’an News Agency 3/6/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Palestinians affiliated to the Al-Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah, claimed to have launched two homemade projectiles at the Israeli town of Sderot from Gaza on Friday morning. Members of the Ayman Joudeh organization, an offshoot of the Al-Aqsa Brigades, told Ma’an that the attack was a response to Israeli attacks on Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. One projectile landed south of the Israeli city of Ashkelon after midnight on Friday. [end]

Lost Jews group shifts focus to Galilee
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 3/6/2009
Following criticism from left-wing politicians, the immigration-assistance group Shavei Israel has stopped settling immigrants in the West Bank, directing them to the Galilee instead. "We did it to stop ideological issues from blinding people to our cause," says Michael Freund, the U. S. -born founder and president of the nongovernmental organization, which focuses on bringing back lost Jewish communities around the world into the fold of Judaism. "We saw that even though our activity in reality had nothing to do with politics, we still had to break out of being viewed as some kind of right-wing organization," he added. Shavei Israel was founded by Freund in 2004 and is funded by private donations. It has a permanent staff of a dozen educators and rabbinic figures in its Jerusalem head office and a similar-sized group of employees and emissaries working in nine different countries.

A Smooth Crossing Into Egypt for Viva Palestina convoy
Mary Arthur, International Middle East Media Center News 3/6/2009
The emergency aid convoy travelling from Britain to Gaza reached Egypt on Thursday afternoon. Now some 2K long and containing 220 vehicles, they were met at the borders by officials and a jubilant crowd. They hope to get to the Rafah crossing and into Gaza on Sunday. With a smooth and speedy crossing, the Egyptian army and police organised the convoy into smaller groups to set off towards the town of Salum, their first stop. Here they were met by children who handed them flowers, and were warmly welcomed by the people. Then they were taken to a huge tent where a press conference was held and a reception ceremony took place. After lunch, they continued their journey towards Matruh, where a lavish reception awaits them.

Fatah confirms names of negotiators on reconciliation committees
Ma’an News Agency 3/6/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – A senior Fatah official confirmed who will represent the movement on each of five committees tackling the specifics of the reconciliation process with the rival Hamas movement on Friday. Ibrahim Abu An-Najja said that Nabil Shaath will represent Fatah in talks on the makeup of a transitional government. Naser Yousef will be on the security committee. PLC member Azzam Al-Ahmad will join talks on the timing of elections. Zakariyah Al-Agha, a Fatah official from Gaza, will join the PLO restructuring committee. Abu An-Najja himself will join the reconciliation committee, tasked with following up on all aspects of the reunification process. The five committees are intended to work out the details of what is expected to be a long and arduous process of bringing Hamas and Fatah, Gaza and the West Bank, back under the same political umbrella.

Hebron PLC member Akram Al-Haymony dies
Ma’an News Agency 3/6/2009
Hebron – Ma’an – Akram Muhammad Ali Al-Haymony, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), died of a heart attack early on Friday morning. The 48-year-old was a Fatah member from the city of Hebron. Al-Haymony joined the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the late 1970s and was jailed by Israel several times over the years for his political activities. In 2002 he was elected by his fellow inmates as a prisoners’ Representative in the Ofar prison. In 2006 he was elected to the PLC. Prayers for his soul to rest in peace will take place at the Al-Hussein Mosque in Hebron on Friday. He will be buried in the Ash-Shuhada cemetery. Fatah members will receive visiting mourners at Al-Jame’eyin hall in Hebron.

Mauritania expels Israeli ambassador
Barak Ravid and Agencies, Ha’aretz 3/7/2009
The Foreign Ministry said Friday it had closed its embassy after the government of this overwhelmingly Muslim West African nation asked the Israeli ambassador and his staff to leave. The move came after Mauritania’s military junta recalled its own ambassador from Israel last month. In January, Mauritania said it was suspending ties with Israel over its military offensive against Hamas in Gaza. "Following the Mauritanian government’s decision, on January 16th 2009, to freeze diplomatic relations with Israel, and at its request, Israel will close its embassy in Nouakchott as of today," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said in a statement. Mauritanian authorities had asked the Israeli Embassy to close within 48 hours, according to a Mauritanian government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

Mauritania demands Israel’s embassy to leave the country within 48 hours
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/6/2009
An official source at the Mauritanian government stated on Friday that his country had asked the Israeli ambassador and embassy personnel to leave the country within 48 hours. The government said that it is kicking the Israeli officials out due to the Israeli offensive and the ongoing siege in Gaza. At least 1400 Palestinian were killed in the latest Israeli war on Gaza, and thousands were injured. Most of the casualties were civilians, including women and children. During the offensive, the Israeli army shelled homes, civil and governmental facilities, mosques, education facilities and even UNRWA facilities and warehouses. Medial agencies in the country said that embassy personnel evacuated the embassy building and are ready to leave the country. Mauritania is one of three Arab countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel.

Mauritania tells Israel embassy to leave
Roni Sofer and Reuters, YNetNews 3/6/2009
One of only three Arab countries to have full relations with Jewish state orders embassy staff to leave northwest African state within 48 hours, after freezing ties over Gaza offensive. Foreign Ministry: Ambassador returning to Israel for vacation -Mauritania has ordered staff at Israel’s embassy to leave the country within 48 hours after freezing ties with the Jewish state over its invasion of Gaza, a senior Mauritanian official said on Friday. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said in response that Ambassador Miki Arbel was "going on a vacation", following a request made by Mauritania on January 19. Diplomatic relations between Mauritania, one of only three Arab countries to have full ties with the Jewish state, have been strained since Israel launched a military offensive in the Gaza Strip in December.

Mauritania ’shuts’ Israeli embassy
Al Jazeera 3/6/2009
Mauritania has expelled Israel’s ambassador and his staff from the country following a dispute over the recent war in Gaza, Mauritanian and Israeli officials have said. A senior Mauritanian official said that the authorities had given staff at the embassy "48 hours to leave the country". Israeli foreign ministry officials confirmed the decision, and said Israel closed down its embassy in Nouakchott, Mauritania’s capital, on Friday at the request of the Mauritanian government. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because Israel’s foreign ministry had yet to release details. It was not clear if the embassy closure was temporary or permanent. Strained tiesDiplomatic relations between Mauritania and Israel have been strained since Israel launched a military offensive in the Gaza Strip in December.

Mauritania sets 48 hour deadline for Israeli embassy staff to leave country
Ma’an News Agency 3/6/2009
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Mauritania gave its Israeli ambassador 48 hours to leave the country, Israeli sources confirmed Friday. The ambassador has been asked to leave following a freeze in relations between the two countries in the wake of the Israeli war on Gaza which killed 1,455 and injured more than 5,000. As staff at the embassy packed their belongings Mauritanian police were seen removing the security barriers from around the building, opening the road for regular traffic. In a statement on the issue the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs said “the procedure was taken upon Mauritania request after the decision in January to freeze relations with Israel over the assault on Gaza. ”

Livni, Turkish FM hold reconciliation talks in Brussels
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 3/6/2009
Israel and Turkey held secret reconciliation talks at the highest level yesterday in an effort to end weeks of friction sparked by Operation Cast Lead. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met her Turkish counterpart, Ali Babacan, on the sidelines of a summit of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels. They both acknowledged the importance of the ties between the two nations and discussed regional peace moves. The meeting between Livni and Babacan was kept secret due to the sensitivity of the issue and fears of a leak. "The ties between Israel and Turkey are very important and are of a strategic nature which stands on a firm foundation," the two ministers concluded. They went on to say that "cooperation between the two states is important for the stability of the region and must continue. Diplomatic consultation will continue on all levels.

Israel, Turkey bury hatchet after Gaza rift
Middle East Online 3/6/2009
JERUSALEM - Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and her Turkish counterpart Ali Babajan on Thursday sought to defuse the recent crisis between the allies sparked in the wake of Israel’s offensive in Gaza. The two, who met at NATO headquarters in Brussels, "emphasised the importance of ties between their two countries which have a strategic character and a solid base," Livni’s office said in a statement. "The two said that cooperation between the two countries is important to the region’s stability and therefore cooperation and diplomatic discussions will continue at all levels. " In the highest-level talks between the two countries since the Gaza offensive, the two ministers also "discussed bilateral and regional issues including opportunities to advance peace in the region," it said. The allies have been trying to mend a gaping rift that followed Turkish Prime Minister. . .

’No Lieberman-Netanyahu deal on cabinet posts’
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 3/7/2009
Aides to Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman denied on Friday that the pair had agreed on the allocation of positions in Israel’s next cabinet. Netanyahu spokesman Yossi Levy said the prime minister-designate only intended on handing out cabinet roles to his coalition partners toward the end of next week. After that, Levy said, Netanyahu would decide upon positions for members of his own Likud party. Only then does Netanyahu plan to present his government, "and any other information is incorrect," Levy added. Yisrael Beiteinu spokeswoman Irena Ettinger also denied the reports, saying that no agreement on cabinet posts was reached in a meeting between Netanyahu and Lieberman on Thursday. There denials came after Haaretz reported on Friday that Lieberman, who Thursday emerged as the most likely candidate to replace. . .

Coalition talks: Bibi, Lieberman optimistic
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 3/6/2009
PM-designate, Yisrael Beiteinu leader meet, say portfolio assignment not an obstacle - Getting closer to a deal? Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman met Thursday evening in an attempt to advance the formation of a new government. The two spoke for more than two hours, discussing security and economic issues and the progress achieved so far in coalition talks. Following the meeting, both Netanyahu and Lieberman said that they were able to agree on several issues, adding that the issue of government portfolios will be discussed at a later stage. The two political leaders noted that they believe the issue will not be an obstacle in establishing Israel’s next government. Meanwhile, Netanyahu associates noted that the PM-designate may head the Finance Ministry for the time being in order to advance several urgent moves, such as the state budget, as quickly as possible.

Netanyahu associates: New government within 2 weeks
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 3/6/2009
Bibi’s office denies reports that PM-designate agreed to make Lieberman Israel’s next foreign minister - Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu intends to swear-in his new government in the third week of March, sources close to the Likud leader said Friday. Speaking at closed-door sessions, Netanyahu reportedly said that the task of forming the coalition will end by the end of next week, with all government portfolios being divided among the various coalition partners by then. Sources familiar with coalition talks said the PM-designate will first hand out portfolios to his coalition partners, before designating ministers from among Likud’s ranks. Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s office denied reports that the Likud chairman and Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman agreed to make the latter Israel’s next foreign minister and also grant the party the Justice Ministry.

Lieberman; most likely to become Israel’s new foreign minister
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/6/2009
Avigdor Lieberman, of the Yisrael Beiteinu ultra right-wing party in Israel, has become the most likely candidate for foreign minister in Israel’s forthcoming right-wing government, headed by Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli online daily Haaretz reported that Lieberman intends to demand "full autonomy" in his new post. Lieberman’s party, known for extremist views against Arabs and Palestinians, and for exposing agendas of massive deportation, has become the third most popular party in Israel. On Thursday, Lieberman and Netanyahu met at the Knesset, but contents of their meeting were not made public. Haaretz stated from a source involved in the talks that Lieberman is poised to become foreign minister, but he does not simply want to just be foreign minster; he wants full autonomy, and for this to be included in any coalition agreement with the Likud party.

Lieberman demanding ’full autonomy’ as foreign minister
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 3/6/2009
Avigdor Lieberman, who Thursday emerged as the most likely candidate to replace Tzipi Livni as Israel’s foreign minister, intends to demand that Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu grants him "full autonomy" in the new post, Haaretz has learned. Lieberman, who heads the country’s third largest party, Yisrael Beiteinu, met with prime minister-designate Netanyahu Thursday at the Knesset. Neither party leader divulged information about the meeting or the issues discussed. However, a source involved in talks between Yisrael Beiteinu and Likud said that "Lieberman wants to make sure that Netanyahu doesn’t let another minister receive tasks that belong to the Foreign Ministry. " The source indicated that Lieberman is interested in establishing sole and independent responsibility in Netanyahu’s future government over Foreign. . .

Religious parties up their demands in coalition talks
Zvi Zrahiya and Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 3/6/2009
Benjamin Netanyahu’s government will increase funding for religious seminary students by 30 to 50 percent, senior officials from ultra-Orthodox parties told Haaretz yesterday, following negotiations on the formation of a coalition with Likud. The increase in funding would apply to married yeshiva students aged 18 and over, and single adult students of higher education yeshivas, the politicians said, adding they would not join the coalition if their demands are not met. Senior officials in Shas said the ultra-Orthodox parties are united in this demand. The additional cost to the budget is estimated at the vicinity of NIS 130 million. One Shas official said the budget hike that the religious parties are demanding "in not below NIS 1 billion. "The entire budget for ultra-Orthodox yeshivas in 2008 was NIS 680 million.

Senior Labor Party officials slam Barak for continuing coalition talks
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 3/7/2009
Senior Labor officials harshly criticized party chairman Ehud Barak for continuing coalition negotiations with Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu. "Ehud Barak is a man who knows no boundaries," one senior official told Haaretz. "He is desperately trying to get into Netanyahu’s government and it doesn’t matter to him whether Daniel Friedmann is justice minister or not. He needs to stop negotiating with Netanyahu and announce he is taking Labor to the opposition. " Barak had conditioned his entry into the coalition on Friedmann being replaced. Friedmann, a Kadima nominee, has announced he plans to reform the justice system, and is backed by Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party. Friedmann’s proposals have irked some of Israel’s most prominent judicial figures, who have called him a threat to the system and the rule of law.

Barak: Nation demands unity government
Ynet, YNetNews 3/6/2009
Defense minister slams senior Labor party officials’ objection to joining Netanyahu-led coalition; ’Nation demands broad unity government that will look reality in the eye and contend with it,’ Barak says - Labor Party voters and the people of Israel demand a "broad unity government," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Friday in an interview with Channel 2. Barak characterized senior Labor party officials’ objection to joining a Likud-led coalition as "holy fury that is inexplicable to me. ""The nation demands a broad unity government that will look reality in the eye and contend with it," he said. "We have no spare country, and therefore we need a broad unity government that would address the problems we face. " During the interview, Barak explained why he does not reject the prospect of joining the new government.

Lieberman protege blazes trail to gov’t
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 3/6/2009
When Yisrael Beiteinu chairman MK Avigdor Lieberman went to Minsk after the elections, he left his trusted ally in the party, MK Stas Misezhnikov, to watch over the political pot and be the party’s main spokesman to the media. At the time, the media was awaiting Lieberman’s decision of whether to join a government formed by Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni or by Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu. Misezhnikov played the game well, remaining ambiguous as to Lieberman’s decision, and when Lieberman returned, the Kadima head appointed Misezhnikov chairman of the party’s coalition talks. Misezhnikov, 40, born in Moscow, and whom Lieberman intends to make communications minister, is considered the closest MK in the faction to the chairman. Lieberman placed his protege, third on the party list, behind only Uzi Landau, whom Lieberman plucked from Likud.

No Netanyahu-Lieberman deal
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/7/2009
Israeli sources reported Friday that aides to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister-designate, denied reports on a deal between Netanyahu and the Yisrael Beiteinu Party leader, Avigdor Lieberman, regarding the formula of the next government. Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported that Yossi Levy, spokesperson to Netanyahu, said that the later does not want to hand out cabinet positions to his coalition members before the end of next week. Levy added that Netanyahu will first decide on the cabinet positions of his Likud party, and after that he would present his government. Also, Irena Ettinger, Yisrael Beiteinu spokeswoman, said that an agreement on cabinet post was not reached during the Thursday Lieberman-Netanyahu meeting. Earlier on Friday, Haaretz said that it seems Lieberman became the most likely candidate to the Foreign Minister’s post.

Hamas sends envoy to Sudan in support of Al-Bashir
Ma’an News Agency 3/6/2009
Gaza – Ma’an – Hamas sent a high-ranking delegation to Sudan on Sunday to show support for President Omar Al-Bashir, whose arrest was ordered by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Wednesday. The acting speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), Ahmad Bahar is leading the delegation. The Hamas representatives met Sudanese officials and also members of the Iranian parliament. Al-Bashir has been charged in the ICC in the Hague with war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. Hamas also staged a rally in Gaza in support of Al-Bashir. Many in the Arab world and Africa view the arrest warrant as part of a Western double standard in which leaders from the third world are charged with war crimes while US, Israeli and other leaders are not held accountable. The US, for example, is not a signatory of the ICC.

Iran, Hamas dispatch solidarity missions to Sudan president
Ha’aretz 3/7/2009
Iran and the Palestinian militant group Hamas showed their support for Sudan’s president Friday, sending top officials to the Sudanese capital and denouncing the international warrant for his arrest on charges of war crimes in Darfur. Their visit came as the United Nations human rights group warned that Sudan’s expulsion of 13 aid organizations from Darfur could also constitute a war crime. Sudan took the step in retaliation after the Netherlands-based International Criminal Court issued a warrant against President Omar al-Bashir on Wednesday. The expulsion raised fears of a humanitarian crisis in the large, arid western region, where war has been raging for six years. Some 2. 7 million people have been forced from their homes, and many rely on aid groups for food, water, shelter and medical care.

Sarkozy’s Mediterranean Union on Hold
Middle East Online 3/6/2009
There is no doubt that President Nicolas Sarkozy’s grandiose plan of a Union for the Mediterranean has run into serious trouble. Launched with a flourish of trumpets in Paris last 13 July, in front of an audience of 43 heads of state, it has stumbled on persistent political problems. Of these problems none is more obstructive than the smouldering Arab-Israeli conflict, which burst into flames in December-January when Israel launched its all-out assault on Gaza. This war caused Egypt to call for a formal suspension of all meetings to do with the Union for the Mediterranean. None has been held since late December. For the moment at least, the Arab world wants nothing to do with Israel. The Union project is frozen and will no doubt remain so, unless Arab heads of state, meeting at a summit in Qatar at the end of this month, decide to revive it.

Italy attacks ’anti-Semitic’ summit
Al Jazeera 3/6/2009
Italy has said it will not take part in a United Nations conference on racism because of "anti-Semitic language" in a draft declaration. A spokesman for Franco Frattini, Italy’s foreign minister, said on Friday that Frattini had "decided that Italy was withdrawing its delegation" from a conference to be held in Geneva in April. He said the declaration, which relates to the situation in the Palestinian territories, contains "unacceptable, aggressive and anti-Semitic phrases". The European Union is seeking to remove at least five paragraphs from the draft such as the phrase that "in order to consolidate the Israeli occupation, [Palestinians] have been subjected to unlawful collective punishment, torture". Italy is the first EU country to officially withdraw from the conference, though other nations have threatened not to attend.

Israelis fight fire with fire over Apartheid Week
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 3/7/2009
Inspired by a controversial "Israeli Apartheid Week" poster, two local artists released a spoof they dubbed "Hypocrisy Week. " The original Canadian poster was an advertisement for an annual series of anti-Israel events held on campuses around the world. It shows a gunship bearing the word "Israel" firing at a kaffiyeh-clad boy holding a teddy bear. The poster was banned from two Ottawa universities over complaints that it displayed Israelis as child-killers. The spoof shows the same boy being used as a shield by militants launching rockets at Israel, while journalists film the boy. It was created by Australia-born David Guy, 54, from Rehovot, and his son’s best friend, 23-year-old Guy Gurfinkel from Shoham, who willbegin studies at the Bezalel Academy of Arts next year.

Top US intelligence pick under fire for Saudi, China ties
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 3/7/2009
WASHINGTON: A veteran US diplomat and vocal Israel critic named to a top intelligence post faced a probe into his financial ties Thursday, as lawmakers raised concerns about links to China and Saudi Arabia. But US Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair has served notice that he stands by Charles Freeman, a former ambassador to Riyadh and senior diplomat in Beijing, as his pick for chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Blair "looks forward to Ambassador Freeman assuming his new role" once his vetting is complete, the director’s spokeswoman, Wendy Morigi, said in a statement that flatly disputed some of the toughest charges. Freeman would coordinate "national intelligence estimates," sensitive assessments for US presidents and other decision-makers that reflect the view of all 16 US spy agencies on potential threats like Iran.

Israeli envoy to U.S. announces resignation after Netanyahu snub
Natasha Mozgovaya and Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 3/6/2009
Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Sallai Meridor, announced his resignation yesterday, ending a two-and-a-half-year term on a tense note with the political leadership in Israel. Sources said Meridor wanted to be a politician, not a diplomat. The tensions came to the fore in two embarrassing incidents: In mid-August, during Defense Minister Ehud Olmert’s visit to Washington, Meridor was not invited to Barak’s meeting with the U. S. national security adviser. In a sharply worded letter to Barak, copies of which were sent to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Meridor said the defense minister’s conduct had "greatly impaired Israel’s ability to impact processes in the U. S. capital. "This week, during U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Israel, Meridor was asked to leave the room where Clinton was meeting with prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu.

Meridor: Israel-US ties will remain firm
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 3/6/2009
In Ynet interview, resigning envoy to Washington estimates relations with US will stay stable during Netanyahu era. ’It’s in the State’s best interest that the new government appoints its own person for this job,’ he says of his decision to quit - WASHINGTON - Israeli Ambassador to the United States Sallai Meridor on Thursday evening explained his decision to quit following theelection results. "I have a contract until the end of October, but Israel’s ambassador to Washington must have the trust of the government and the prime minister-designate and serve three years, not eight months, so I thought I had to end my term of office," Meridor told Ynet. Israeli Official:’Rightist government may hurt US-Israel relations’/ Roni Sofer ’If Clinton did not realize that the process launched at Annapolis was dead before her current trip to the Middle. . .

Proposal in U.S. Congress: No Gilad Shalit, no Gaza aid
Natasha Mozgovaya, Ha’aretz 3/6/2009
WASHINGTON - U. S. congressmen are seeking to condition $900 million in aid for the Palestinians on ending Gazan rocket fire on Israel and the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged the $900 million during a conference in Egypt this week, which sought to raise money for rebuilding Gaza after Israel’s three-week Operation Cast Lead. The offensive was aimed at halting rocket fire on southern communities. Shalit has been held captive in Gaza since a cross-border raid in June 2006. The proposal followed a meeting on Capitol Hill between Noam Badin, the director of the communications center in Qassam-battered Sderot and several congressmen and their advisors. After the meeting, Rep. Shelley Berkley of Nevada drafted a petition to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which demanded that the aid be delayed as long as the rocket fire continues and Shalit remains captive.

Man who planned attack on Israeli consulate in California gets 16 years
Ha’aretz 3/7/2009
The leader of a radical Islamic group in the United States who formed a domestic terrorist group that planned to attack U. S. military operations and Jewish facilities in the Los Angeles area was sentenced Friday to 16 years in federal prison. Kevin James, 32, pleaded guilty to conspiring to wage war against the United States through terror for his part in the plot, which involved three co-conspirators who are also in custody. Among the group’s planned targets was the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles. Prosecutors said the terrorists were part of a group called Jam’iyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh (JIS), which was founded by James in 1997 while in prison. "Mr. James was the architect and mastermind of a very serious, very troubling offense," Judge Cormac Carney said.

US Affairs: Losing the lobby on the Hill?
Hilary Leila Krieger, Jerusalem Post 3/5/2009
Last month, three members of Congress made an usual trip, visiting Gaza for the first time since both the 2003 killing of three American security personnel by Palestinian militants, and the 2007 takeover of the coastal strip by Hamas, that prompted Israel and the United States to stay away. That the visit by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) and, separately, Congressmen Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) and Brian Baird (D-Washington) took place at all might have been its most newsworthy aspect. But it was not its only atypical one. Ellison and Baird both made comments conspicuously critical of Israel, and then organized a briefing for members of Congress to share what they saw, in an effort to push for change in American policies. They would like to see the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip opened, and well as a rethinking of the ways America supports Israel.

Report: Israel guaranteed Abu Marzouk’s safety during Gaza visit
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 3/6/2009
London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat says Jerusalem gave Cairo official assurances it would not harm Hamas’ deputy politburo chief while he met with head of group’s military wing in Strip -Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman was given assurances from Israel thatHamas’ deputy politburo chief Moussa Abu Marzouk would not be harmed during his visit to the Gaza Strip last weekend, London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat reported Friday. According to the report, Marzouk was traveling to Gaza in order to meet Ahmed Jabari, head of the organization’s military branch, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Jabari is rumored to have the final say on whether kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit will be released. Al-Hayat further reported that Marzouk asked for the meeting in order to speed up the captive soldier’s release.

Hamas: Latest aggression on Gaza unveils Israel’s bad intention
Palestinian Information Center 3/6/2009
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement has considered the latest escalation in the Israeli atrocities in Gaza Strip as "serious development" that reflects the bad intention of the Israeli occupation government, and proves that it wasn’t interested in the calm. Fawzi Barhoum, the spokesman of the Movement in Gaza Strip, asserted in an interview with the Bayan information center on Thursday that the escalation would push Hamas to assert the right of the Palestinian people to repel the aggression and to defend themselves against those atrocities. He said that the aggression was meant to pressure Hamas and the rest of the Palestinian resistance factions with the aim to corner them in the square of the Israeli options. "The [Israeli] enemy speaks only one language that is the language of violence and terrorism that they practice against our Palestinian people, which calls on all of us to. . .

Mass rallies aren’t helping to free Gilad Shalit, says Olmert
Jack Khoury and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 3/7/2009
Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Friday that mass rallies are "not helping" secure the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. "Scum are holding him," said Olmert. "When they see demonstrations of 20,000 people, what do you think, that it strengthens or weakens them? "His comments came after bereaved families of terror attack victims announced Friday they would launch a campaign against the release of Palestinian prisoners for Shalit. Israel is expected to release prisoners, some of whom have perpetrated deadly terrorist attacks within Israel, in exchange for abducted soldier. Shalit was kidnapped by Gaza militants in a 2006 cross-border raid. The group of bereaved families is set to launch on Sunday a public campaign against the prisoner release.

Acting on promise
Doaa El-Bey, Al-Ahram Weekly 3/5/2009
This week’s donors conference on reconstructing Gaza saw many pledges being made. But how are the funds to be distributed, asks Mubarak and Clinton during their meeting held on the sidelines of the donors conference The international donors conference on reconstructing Gaza managed to raise over $4. 5 million for rebuilding the war-shattered Strip. It also cast light on the factors that could impede reconstruction: failure to conclude a long- term truce between Israel and Hamas; Palestinian divisions and the absence of any clear mechanism determining how donor pledges are actually spent. In his opening speech to the conference President Hosni Mubarak said the priority was to reach a truce. He linked the success of the reconstruction process to five factors: a truce; reconciliation between the Palestinian parties; developing a mechanism to guarantee funds are directed towards rebuilding; activating the role of the UN to monitor reconstruction and a continuous review to ensure donors fulfil their pledges.

’SLA members? Not in this community’
Anat Yitach, YNetNews 3/6/2009
After preventing family of Sudanese refugees from residing in his town, Shlomi Mayor Gabi Naaman does the same with Lebanese couple seeking to rent apartment in area - For the second time in the past few weeks, Zivit Avivi has been forced to terminate a tenancy agreement for her apartment in the northern town of Shlomi after the local council rejected her potential lodgers. About two months ago, the tenants were a family of Sudanese refugees staying in Israel legally. This time it was a young couple, former members of the Southern Lebanon Army, who had already signed a contract and paid rent. Avivi’s husband took the signed contract to the local council offices in order to connect the apartment to the water supply, but the payment office workers immediately telephoned the council head, who instructed them not to connect the flat. The new tenants were forced to cancel the agreement and leave the community.

Fortification of Ashkelon schools postponed
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 3/6/2009
Decision on structural reinforcement of schools in southern city put on hold yet again after Defense Minister Barak orders Home Front Command to explore matter further - The fortification of schools in the southern city of Ashkelon has been postponed and is unlikely to be finished during the current government’s tenure, the defense establishment concluded recently. A subsequent government decision on whether to reinforce school buildings in communities within a 7-kilometer (4. 35-mile) radius of the Gaza Strip as well is also expected to be postponed. Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with security officials on the matter Thursday, and despite the expectations expressed by the mayor and parents’ association of Ashkelon, no concrete decision was made. Last Saturday saw two Grads fired at the city, one of which landed in a high school yard, luckily causing no injuries.

Plan to build a ’White House’ for the Israeli Prime Minister shakes Jerusalem Municipality
Maram Isid & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 3/6/2009
According to city planning’s sources in Jerusalem, a scheme to build a ’White House’ for the Israeli Prime Minister, which was rejected by the architect of the Municipality of Jerusalem a year ago, was approved by the Government three weeks ago. Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that the architect for the Municipality of Jerusalem, Shlomo Eshkol, said that "the project was totally rejected by Jerusalem Municipality. It is a bad project which would not be approved by any planning commission in Jerusalem". The Israeli engineer, Ram Karmi, who developed this new housing scheme on the basis of a mandate from the Israeli government, called this project "a space-ship. "Construction is planned to start near the Prime Minister’s Office in Sho’fat Ram. The construction plan outlines the establishment of a residence and offices for the Israeli Prime Minister, including conference and. . .

Talansky lawyers say Israel aided U.S. investigation
Ha’aretz 3/6/2009
The State of Israel did not honor its promises to Morris (Moshe) Talansky, an American Jewish businessman who testified against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the man’s attorneys said yesterday. The attorneys said an investigation of Talansky in the United States was being conducted based on material provided by the Israeli authorities, despite assurances that this would not happen. "It is easy to imagine how Mr. Talansky felt, considering he agreed to deliver his initial testimony on this matter under an explicit statement by the authorities that anything he said would not be used against him," Jacques Chen and Yehoshua Reznick wrote in a letter to the state prosecutor and the Jerusalem district prosecutor. "In parallel, and without his knowledge, the Israeli authorities were feeding the U. S. authorities investigative material and the protocols of Talansky’s testimony,. . .

U.S.: No plans to renew contact with Hezbollah
Ha’aretz 3/7/2009
The U. S. State Department said late Friday that it has not changed its stance regarding Hezbollah, and that it feels the time is not right for renewed contacts with the Lebanon-based militant group. The comments from Washington came after Britain announced its decision to reestablish ties with Hezbollah as part of an effort to press the militant organization to disarm. The U. S. also said it would closely follow developments between the U. K. and Hezbollah. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Friday explained his country’s decision to renew contacts with Hezbollah. "In the Lebanon, they have one Cabinet member and we’ve sanctioned low-level contacts with them so that we can make absolutely clear our determination to see United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which calls for the disbanding. . .

US reassures Lebanon of support
Al Jazeera 3/6/2009
Two US diplomatic envoys are in Lebanon to reassure the country’s leaders of Washington’s support. The diplomats said on Friday that the US will show "unwavering support" for Lebanon, despite recent efforts to repair US-Syria relations. Jeffrey Feltman, a former US ambassador to Lebanon, and Daniel Shapiro, a Middle East officer from the US national security council, are in Lebanon to hold talks with Lebanese leaders before a visit to neighbouring Syria. Feltman said: "The US president [Barack Obama] has said he wants to sustain in principle engagement with all states in the region and that includes Syria. " They first met Saad Hariri, the son and political heir of Rafiq al-Hariri, a former prime minister killed by a car bomb in Beirut in 2005. They also met Michel Sleiman, Lebanon’s president, and other parliament members. Feltman said it was appropriate to meet Hariri first as an international tribunal to try the killers of his father opens its doors in The Hague.

Britain authorises contacts with Hezbollah
Middle East Online 3/6/2009
LONDON - Britain has authorised low-level contact with the political wing of Lebanon’s Hezbollah to stress the urgency of disbanding militias, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Friday. He underscored the need to curb Iran’s influence with the Lebanese militant group and others in the region in a statement immediately hailed by Hezbollah. London has had no official talks with Hezbollah since 2005, and last July added its military wing to a blacklist of designated terror groups. Britain said Wednesday it was prepared to engage in direct contacts with Hezbollah’s political wing, after it became part of a national unity government last year. "The military wing of Hezbollah is proscribed in the UK," but the political wing is now represented in the Lebanese government, Miliband explained on BBC radio. "In the Lebanon government they have one cabinet member and we’ve. . .

US envoys seek to reassure Lebanon
Middle East Online 3/6/2009
BEIRUT - Two senior US diplomatic envoys were meeting Lebanese leaders on Friday in a bid to reassure them of Washington’s continued support despite its recent rapprochement with former powerbroker Syria. Jeffrey Feltman and Daniel Shapiro are in Beirut ahead of a visit to neighbouring Syria on Saturday following the pledge by President Barack Obama’s administration to engage US foes. On their arrival on Thursday, the pair met parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri, the son and political heir of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri who was killed in a massive Beirut car bombing in 2005. The attack paved the way for the pullout of Syrian troops from Lebanon after a 29-year presence but Damascus has consistently denied accusations it was behind the bombing. Feltman, the former US ambassador to Lebanon, said it was appropriate to meet first with Hariri as an international tribunal. . .

Feltman to tell Syria: ’Lebanon is for the Lebanese’
Daily Star 3/7/2009
BEIRUT: Two senior US diplomatic envoys sought to reassure Lebanese leaders on Friday of Washington’s continued support despite its recent rapprochement with former powerbroker Syria. "My visit here today underscores an important reality - the United States’ support for a sovereign and independent Lebanon remains unwavering," Jeffrey Feltman told reporters after meeting with President Michel Sleiman as well as the country’s premier and foreign minister. The former US ambassador to Lebanon said Washington’s overturesto the Syrian regime was in line with the policy of new US PresidentBarack Obama to engage states in the region, including foes. "The president has said he wants to sustain in principle engagement with all states in the region and that includes Syria," said Feltman, who is acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.

Cartoon of the day
Osama, Palestine Think Tank 3/6/2009

Bernard Madoff expected to plead guilty in $50 billion fraud
Ha’aretz 3/7/2009
Bernard Madoff, the accused mastermind of a $50 billion investment fraud, is expected to plead guilty to criminal charges next week, three months after his arrest shocked his investors worldwide. A court document signed on Friday by prosecutors and Madoff’s lead attorney indicated the once-respected Wall Street trader and investment manager would waive an indictment and plead guilty to criminal charges. A March 12 hearing was scheduled for Madoff to appear in court for arraignment on the charges, said a clerk for Judge Denny Chin in U. S. District Court in Manhattan. Defendants enter a plea of guilty or not guilty at arraignments. Madoff, who authorities said confessed to his scheme in December, has not formally answered any charges. Madoff is under house arrest.

’Iran could trigger nuclear arms race in Middle East’
Ha’aretz 3/7/2009
If Iran is allowed to pursue a nuclear weapons capability, countries around the world might feel compelled to take the same path, Brent Scowcroft, who advised two U. S. presidents on national security, said on Thursday. "We’re on the cusp of an explosion of proliferation and Iran is now the poster child," said Scowcroft, who served under former President Gerald Ford and President George Bush, the father of former President George W. Bush. "If Iran is allowed to go forward, in self-defense or for a variety of reasons we could have half-a-dozen countries in the region and 20 or 30 more around the world, doing the same thing, just in case," he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But Scowcroft and another former U. S. national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, counseled against using military force to try to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Morocco severs relations with Iran
Al Jazeera 3/7/2009
Morocco has severed diplomatic relations with Iran, accusing the Iranian diplomatic mission in Rabat of seeking to spread Shia Islam in the predominantly Sunni Muslim kingdom. A statement from Morocco’s foreign ministry accused on Friday the Iranian embassy of "intolerable interference in the internal affairs of the kingdom", and of engaging in activities which threatened the religious unity of the country. "The Kingdom of Morocco has decided to break its diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran beginning this Friday," the ministry said. Moroccan local media has repeatedly accused Iran of proselytising in recent years, claims rejected by the Iranian ambassador. The controversy was fuelled recently by comments attributed to an adviser of Iran’s supreme leader, which questioned. . .


’You don’t have a house any more’
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 3/7/2009
      The bulldozer came for the Abbasi family house just before 10am on Monday, grinding up the steep, narrow hill in the district of Silwan, in East Jerusalem. Dozens of policemen and security forces surrounded the house and then banged on the metal front door.
     "They pushed me and shoved me. I was terrified," said Ghadir al-Abbasi, who was in the house with the three youngest of her six children. "I told them, ’This is the only place we have, where else are we going to live?’ They shouted back to me: ’Silence. You don’t have a house any more.’"
     She persuaded them to let her collect her identity card, then the police removed some of the family’s furniture, including a red sofa which was dumped in the street. Moments later the bulldozer demolished the single-storey, breeze-block house. Now Ghadir and her husband Mahmoud, a labourer, live with their children in a tent pitched next to the rubble.
     Since 2004 around 400 houses have been demolished in East Jerusalem. Israeli authorities say the demolitions are the result of a strict legal process because so much Palestinian construction in the east of the city is done without a permit. The municipality said this week that it was only following the law and that enforcement of its planning policies was "completely equal between East and west Jerusalem."

Suddenly, Home Was Gone

Eva Bartlett, Inter Press Service 3/7/2009
      BEIT HANOUN, Gaza, Mar 6 (IPS) - Dates in the calendar to mark the rights of women mean little to Manwa Tarrabin (56) and her two daughters. They have lost home, and any rights to it.
     Until Jan. 17, they were living in a small bungalow in the Al-Amal quarter of Beit Hanoun, within 200 metres of Gaza’s eastern border, in a region declared by the Israeli authorities a ’closed military zone’.
     Prior to the three weeks of Israeli air, sea and land attacks on Gaza it had been a tidy home at the top of a slight rise, surrounded by open fields and a smattering of olive and fruit trees. Following the withdrawal of Israeli troops, the house is a pancake of angles and debris, one of 80 homes demolished in the Beit Hanoun border area.
     A dirt path leading to the Tarrabin house crosses agricultural land torn up by tank and bulldozer tracks, and passes numerous former homes, likewise demolished on the day before Israel unilaterally declared a ceasefire.
     A farming and herding family, the Tarrabins lived off what their sheep and goats produced, and what they could sow in the fertile agricultural land around them. After the attacks began Dec. 27, they continued to stay in the house. On the afternoon of their forced eviction, Manwa and her daughter Sharifa (22) were in the house.
     "I was so scared when I saw the tanks. My heart dropped to my feet," Tarrabin said, recounting how the Israeli army demolished her house.

The heroes of southern Bethlehem: steadfastness and compassion

Kristen Ess, Palestine News Network 3/6/2009
      It was rough in Umm Salamuna today: no Jayyous or Bi’lin as far as the weaponry employed by the army (no gas, no bullets), but a hatred was palpable.
     Clearly ready to pounce it was still surprising the amount of aggression in the eyes of 35, maybe 50, Israeli soldiers in green with army vehicles and the border police: the type sporting blue with white jeeps ready to arrest the foreigners.
     The heroes of southern Bethlehem: steadfastness and compasion
     Rushing attacks, soldiers swinging fists and rifle butts, was the scene as the southern Bethlehem nonviolent resistance movement demonstrated against land confiscation for the Wall and settlements. Tens more acres are being taken by an Israeli court decision last week. The resistance shouted for justice, for freedom.
     Palestinians were also marking international women’s day, but that did not stop soldiers from rushing an elderly mother, one who has lived a life of pain sprinkled with joy. She shouted with hands in the air that this was her land. The Palestinian flags wafted in a light breeze, the unseasonable sun shining through. It was a gorgeous day on beautiful Palestinian land, marred as most of it now is by the occupying forces.
     It was about 100, maybe 150 Palestinians, out on Friday afternoon, journalists both foreign and local, their supporters on hand.
     A woman came from Bethlehem City in support of the Day of Women. She was impeccably dressed and well-spoken, as were the group of women with her. “This is our land, you can see this. And you can see what they are doing to it, how much they are taking. Soon it will all be gone, but where will we go. This is Palestine and it belongs to the Palestinians.” She did not want to be named. Repercussions are hardly unheard of.

Rising Beyond Bullets

Natalie Abou Shakra – Gaza City, Palestine Chronicle 3/6/2009
      ’Acres of land across the borders are lost because farmers are targeted by Israeli bullets.’
     There is a limit to the sea, and there is a limit to the land. To a Palestinian’s life in Gaza, there is a limit that is not determined by natural death or an unfortunate accident. The harvest seasons forcibly altered, and the fishing boats from their routes blocked. Tanks and bulldozers have plucked the roots of citrus fruits and olive trees kilometers away from the northern and eastern borders of the strip, pushing the borderlines further in, and forcing the inhabitants around these areas out of their homes and into other areas within. The population is already strangled with an Apartheid wall and a suffocating siege and the rope around its neck continues to tighten with the encroachment of the occupation forces from the boundaries inwards by weapons no one is supposed to defy.
     Local economy, currency, basic resources, medication, technology, academic development and material, are entirely dependent on the Occupier and the allowance of equipment and supplies in through the crossings in a process of importation only, as exporting to the outer world has been prohibited ever since the blockade was enforced on the population in Gaza. A few days before Valentine’s, and at the demand of the farmers and the Dutch government, 25,000 Carnation flowers were allowed to be exported to Europe, which is one of the few exceptions. But, exceptions’ are merely exceptions; no rule from the oppressive codes imposed by the occupation has been altered in favor of the Palestinians in the Strip.

Palestinians Need Help, Not Charity

Aijaz Zaka Syed – Dubai, Palestine Chronicle 3/6/2009
      This is a strange world. All those who stood around and stared while Israel pounded Gaza for three weeks have now come together apparently to rebuild it. From UN chief Ban ki-Moon to the so-called Middle East Quartet’s so-called envoy Tony Blair to new US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, all the global movers and shakers turned up for the international donors’ conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt this week.
     Of course, Hamas hasn’t been invited. How could they have invited the terrorists any way? So what if the Palestinians elected them and they still control Gaza?
     At the Sharm El Sheikh meeting, everyone talked about reconstruction and committing billions in aid for Gaza. The Arab states came up with $1.65 billion in aid. Saudi Arabia led the charge with its billion dollar commitment. The European Union committed itself to 436 million Euros. And the mighty United States did not disappoint either by offering $900 million of which $300 million is to be paid up front in urgent aid. All in all, $5.2 billion have been promised to rebuild Gaza.

Putting hope on the horizon

Abdul Malik Al-Jabr, Ha’aretz 3/6/2009
      On a recent visit to a Cairo hospital to meet children wounded in the recent Israeli operation in Gaza, I talked with 10-year-old Riad, who was recovering from serious injuries caused by an Israeli missile. Replying to my question about what he plans to do after he recovers and returns to Gaza, he said his goal is to study telecom engineering, in order to work in telecommunications. In addition to his own injuries, Riad lost several family members. Nonetheless, what he dreams of is a job and peace - not revenge.
     How do we advance the hopes of this young boy, at a time when Israelis and Palestinians are at a political stalemate? For some of us in the Palestinian business community, the answer is to it take upon ourselves to create of a viable, thriving and democratic Palestinian society and state. This means preparing our youth to be able to participate fully in a future state that can compete globally, but it also means building a vibrant private-sector economy, which will be able to function only if paired with the clear promise of a two-state solution.

On a low simmer

Saleh Al-Naami, Al-Ahram Weekly 3/5/2009
      "Bomb, bomb, bomb Gaza" is the extent of Israeli strategic thinking these days.
     Mustafa Barghouti, Fatah official Ahmed Qurei and exiled Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouq agree on a unity government by the end of March following reconciliation talks in Cairo Last Saturday night, Adel Zareb was on his way home in Rafah, near the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, when a massive explosion shook the area. Its force made Zareb take to the ground, and when he rose again he found that his hand was bleeding. The explosion’s source was an Israeli F-15 fighter jet that was attacking the border strip with bombs that weighed up to a tonne, and flying shrapnel from this attack struck Zareb’s arm. Zareb, who is a spokesperson for the Palestinian Crossing Authority, told Al-Ahram Weekly that he’s lost count of how many times Israeli jets have attacked the border area. Its features are unrecognisable due to the many deep pits caused by bombing aimed at destroying the tunnels that Israel claims are used to smuggle arms into the Gaza Strip.
     The hopes of Zareb and his neighbours for calm following the declaration of a ceasefire and an end to the war were dashed at the end of last week when the Israeli government announced that it cannot agree to the Egyptian truce proposal that Hamas has agreed to. Many Palestinian families who live in the Egyptian border area have begun to search for other apartments to rent since it has become difficult for them to remain in their homes. Area resident Hassan Al-Shair told the Weekly, "We’re no longer able to sleep due to the intense shelling, not for even an hour. It feels as though an earthquake were taking place -- the glass in the windows breaks, the walls shake, and my children are terrified.&quot.

Beyond the pledge

Assem El-Kersh, Al-Ahram Weekly 3/5/2009
      Can Israel be prevented from destroying anything that is rebuilt in Gaza? Assem El-Kersh speaks with European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner about the implications of the Sharm El-Sheikh donors conference.
     What message has the Sharm El-Sheikh International Conference for the Reconstruction of Gaza sent?
     It is certainly a message of hope, that we won’t let the Palestinians down. The European Commission has always been on the side of the Palestinians. We have been the biggest donor so far. The 440 million euros we are pledging here is for all Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Some will go to UNRWA, some to other humanitarian organisations such as the Red Cross. A great deal will be channelled through our own financial mechanisms, directly reaching Gazans. There is cash for the poorest of the poor. Distribution has been working very well in terms of control and monitoring.
     Both Israel and Hamas will be asked to make changes before reconstruction can take place. What are the odds on their agreeing?
     We are not wearing rose-tinted glasses. We know the situation is not an easy one. First it is necessary that the new government in Israel be formed and that it return to a peace process that results in actual peace-making. On the other side we want to see the Palestinians together in a national unity government, a government of reconciliation that will also pursue peace. If the Palestinians want a state they have to work for that state. That is what we are hoping for as part of the international Quartet.

Zionists in 1948: poised for expansion

Shahid Alam, Al-Ahram Weekly 3/5/2009
      Exponents of a pure form of settler-colonialism, the Zionists in 1948 smashed Palestinian society and dramatically altered an important part of the Islamic heartlands in what was an affront to the whole Islamic world.
     "The Achilles’ heel of the Arab coalition is Lebanon. Muslim supremacy in this country is artificial and can easily be overthrown. A Christian State ought to be set up there, with its southern frontier on the river Litani. We should sign a treaty of alliance with this State. Then, when we have broken the strength of the Arab Legion and bombed Amman, we could wipe out Transjordan; after that Syria would fall. And if Egypt dared to make war on us, we would bomb Port Said, Alexandria and Cairo. We should thus end the war, and would have settled the account with Egypt, Assyria and Chaldea on behalf of our ancestors." (Ben-Gurion, 1948)
     In their first test of strength with the "natives" in 1948, the Zionists had gained control of nearly four-fifths of Palestine, expelled most of the Palestinians from these territories, and repulsed the combined forces of five Arab proto-states. Yet, the Zionists were not about to rest on their laurels: their interests did not lie in making peace with the Arabs. The events of 1948 had demonstrated what they could achieve; with minor losses of their own, they had obliterated Palestinian society and handily beaten back the Arabs.

The haggling continues

Khaled Amayreh, Al-Ahram Weekly 3/5/2009
      It appears Labour will join the Likud-led government, says NetanyahuAs Israeli politicians continue to haggle over the formation of the next government, sources in Tel Aviv this week unveiled a plan by the outgoing government of Ehud Olmert to build tens of thousands of settler units in the West Bank.
     If implemented, the plan would irreversibly kill any realistic hope for a viable Palestinian state in the Palestinian territories seized by Israel in 1967.
     According to a detailed report released by the Peace Now Movement, which monitors Jewish settlement expansion, the Israeli government is planning to build as many as 72,000 settler units in the West Bank. The organisation said the plan would mean an increase by 100 per cent of the Jewish settler population, now estimated at more than half a million.
     According to the report, approval has already been granted for the building of 15,000 settler units, with plans for building an additional 58 units being worked out by various governmental agencies.
     Peace Now said it was highly likely that the next Israeli government, expected to be dominated by right-wing extremists, will expedite settlement building at a rapid pace, which would mean the utter destruction of whatever chances there still are for peace with the Palestinians.

It takes a village

Ran Shapira, Ha’aretz 3/5/2009
      After being forced by the state to pull up stakes in 1952, the Abu Alkiyan tribe relocated to Umm al-Hiran, but was never granted formal recognition or status. Now the Bedouin have been deemed illegal trespassers and must move again.
     A few minutes after sunset, Raed Abu Alkiyan’s house is filled with darkness and the temperature drops quickly. "The children are growing up in unsuitable surroundings," says Raed, a father of five. "There is no heater to warm them at night, no light in the house and no health services."
     His house, like all the others in the village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev, is not connected to the national electricity grid, nor are there telephone connections or a sewage system. Water comes from a makeshift pipe, connected to a building owned by the Jewish National Fund in the Yattir Forest, a few kilometers north of the village.
     ....Umm al-Hiran and its neighboring, twin village, Attir, are unrecognized Bedouin towns. Unlike the majority of similar locales in the Negev, they were founded some 55 years ago - in effect, at the government’s behest - when their residents were forced to move there. The residents of both villages belong to one large, extended family: the Abu Alkiyan tribe.

Identity crisis

Sherine Bahaa, Al-Ahram Weekly 3/5/2009
      Can money make peace? Hillary Clinton seems to thinks so.
     Give the Palestinians money to show support and solidarity. It’s been the received wisdom seemingly forever, prevalent in Washington, in European capitals, but above all in the Gulf sheikhdoms. The Palestinians have been showered with cash. Peace, though, has never seemed so far away.
     This week Hillary Clinton arrived in Sharm El-Sheikh with $900 million, $300 million for Gaza, the remaining $600 earmarked for the Palestinian Authority to cover budget shortfalls, institutional reform and economic development. After the conference Clinton left for Israel and the West Bank to talk with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
     Pledges at the donors conference far exceeded what Palestinian officials had hoped to raise for reconstruction efforts. The challenge now is putting the money to work to rebuild Gaza.
     Clinton made no bones about what Washington wanted. American aid was being pledged as part of overall US policy, which is to push aggressively for a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians. Her address to the conference spoke eloquently about the need for a Palestinian state and American commitment to achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Anatomy of dialogue

Abdel-Moneim Said, Al-Ahram Weekly 3/5/2009
      It’s still the same old story, the plot depressingly familiar.
     The need for inter-Palestinian dialogue has loomed over Arab politics since 1948, or even before. Some of you may recall how in the 1960s everyone wanted the Ahmed Shoqeiri-led PLO to sort things out with the Yasser Arafat-led Fatah, the latter being back then a bit of an enigma. Was it an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, some wondered, or a pawn of Israel?
     Having taken control of the PLO after the 1967 war, Fatah found itself having to talk to the George Habash-led Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Then the PFLP had to talk to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), Fatah had to talk to the Revolutionary Council, and all the above had to contend with the General Command or whatever splinter group was up and coming.
     You cannot be smart enough to know what’s going on in the dark recesses of Palestinian politics. You cannot be up-to-date enough to know who is incensed by who, what and why. At any point some Palestinian official will be haranguing another about something, while the nation suffers.

Remember Ophira?

Uri Avnery – Israel, Palestine Chronicle 3/6/2009
      ’Clinton was the star; Mubarak celebrated his achievement in getting them all together.’
     This week I had a nostalgic experience. I met a parliamentary delegation from one of the European countries. What turned this meeting into a special occasion for me was its location.
     The "Pasha Room" of the "American Colony" Hotel in East Jerusalem is a beautiful square hall, decorated in traditional Arab style. I was in this hall at the moment Yitzhak Rabin held out his hand to Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn at the Oslo agreement signing ceremony.
     We gathered there spontaneously, Israeli peace activists and Fatah leaders, to celebrate the event together. We watched the proceedings on TV and cracked bottles of champagne. I still have one of the corks.
     Just an hour before, I had witnessed a no less exciting meeting. A group of young Palestinians, delirious with joy, marched through the streets, olive branches in their hands and a large Palestinian flag fluttering over their heads. At the street corner, a unit of the Border Police -- the most aggressive anti-Arab force in Israel -- was waiting. At the time, even the simple possession of a Palestinian flag was a crime.

Must Jews always see themselves as victims?

Antony Lerman, The Independent 3/7/2009
      Fierce debate has been raging in ’The Independent’ about Israel’s conduct in Gaza. Here, one leading Jewish thinker argues that until Jews shake off their persecution complex, there can never be peace in the Middle East. In the wake of Israel’s attack on Gaza, eager voices are telling us that anti-Semitism has returned – yet again. Eight years of Hamas rockets and the world unfairly cries foul when Israel retaliates, they say. Biased media are delegitimising the Jewish state. The Left attacks Israel as uniquely evil, making it the persecuted Jew among the nations. Even theatres keep wheeling out those anti-Semitic stereotypes, Shylock, Fagin and the "chosen people", just to torment us. If this bleak picture were an accurate portrayal of what Jews are experiencing today, who could deny that suffering is the determining feature of the Jewish condition?
     In most Jewish circles, if you pause to question this narrative and suggest that it might be exaggerated, that it unrealistically implies a level of dreadfulness and victimhood unique to Jews, you’ll attract hostility and disbelief in equal measure, and precious little public sympathy. But in the work of Professor Salo Baron, probably the greatest Jewish historian of the 20th century, we find powerful justification for just such a questioning.