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

VTJP Archives | VTJP 2009
15 May , 2009


International Middle East Media Center

Six injured by the military attack on Nil'in weekly protest
15 May 2009 - Israeli soldiers on Friday attacked Palestinian and international peace activists holding the weekly non-violent protest against the Wall in Nilin village, west of the central West Bank city of Ramallah.

Bil'in: Nine injured and dozens suffered teargas inhalation
15 May 2009 - Residents of Bilin, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah marched on Friday after midday prayer in the weekly protest. They were joined by international and Israelis activists.

Israel rejects a Vatican request to grant to Jerusalem Palestinian couple residency in the city
15 May 2009 - Israel Minister of Interior, Ely Yishai, refused a request from the Vatican to grant a Palestinian couple residency in Jerusalem, although it is their birthplace, and their residency rights were taken away by an Israeli decision. 

Fateh accuses Hamas of barring its members from commemorating the Nakba in Gaza
15 May 2009 - Fateh movement accused Hamas of barring its members from commemorating the 61st anniversary of the Nakba in different districts of the Gaza Strip. 

PCHR Weekly Report: 5 Palestinians injured by Israeli forces this week
15 May 2009 - According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, during the week of 07 - 13 May 2009, five Palestinian civilians, including two children and one woman, were wounded by Israeli forces. Israeli forces conducted 15 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, and abducted 12 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, and four in the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces also abducted the mother of an allegedly wanted Palestinian. 

Fifth round of unity talks Saturday
15 May 2009 - Fateh and Hamas movements are slated to hold a fifth round of unity talks in Cairo on Saturday morning. The talks would be conducted for two days and the rest of the factions would join them on the third day. 

On Nakba eve, Abbas calls for a Palestinian state, right of return for refugees
15 May 2009 - As the Palestinians are marking the Nakba, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas stated that ending the Israeli occupation, establishing a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and resolving the refugee issue, are minimum conditions to begin to lift the injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people 61 years ago. 

Lieberman seeks a ban on Nakba commemoration
15 May 2009 - Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, and his extremist Yisrael Beiteinu Party,  is seeking a ban on Arabs marking the Nakba day, which commemorates the year 1948 when more than 700.000 Palestinians were forced out of their homeland as Israel was being created. 

Netanyahu arrives in Amman, meets king Abdullah
14 May 2009 - Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, arrived on Thursday in the Jordanian Red Sea city of Aqaba, and held a meeting with King Abdukllah II. The king asked Netanyahu to be committed to a two-state solution and to accept the Arab Peace Initiative. 

Hamas and Fatah trade arrests in Gaza and the West Bank
14 May 2009 - Both Hamas and Fatah announced that each rival movement security forces arrested members of the movements in Gaza and the West Bank on Thursday. 

A Palestinian fighter killed in Gaza
14 May 2009 - One Palestinian fighter was reported dead on Thursday in Khan Younis town northern Gaza strip.

Israeli settlers attack Palestinian homes near Hebron
14 May 2009 - A group of Israeli settlers attacked on Thursday Palestinian homes located at the village of Khirbit Um-alkher near the southern West Bank city of Hebron.

Ha'aretz Defense page

Only 2,000 turn out for Gaza Nakba Day march held by Hamas
15 May 2009 - Gaza commentators believe poor showing due to Fatah-Hamas divide, Israel's recent offensive. 

Egypt finds massive arms cache along Israel border
15 May 2009 - Weapons include at least 266 rockets, 50 mortar shells and three anti-aircraft missiles, according to report. 

Here's how Israel would destroy Iran's nuclear program
15 May 2009 - U.S. study maps out 'complex and high-risk' possibilities for an IAF strike on Iran's facilities. 

Amira Hass / Life among the ruins in Gaza
15 May 2009 - Despite 4,000 homes destroyed in the war, Israel won't let building materials be brought into the Strip. 

Defense Ministry: Iran could have nuclear bomb by 2010
14 May 2009 - Iran has two-thirds of fissile material needed to manufacture a nuclear weapon, ministry warns. 

Iran sends two warships to confront Somali pirates
14 May 2009 - Iran says warships to spend 5 months patrolling Gulf of Aden for pirates preying on oil tankers. 

Elite IDF soldier confesses to looting Gaza home during war
13 May 2009 - Infantryman stole Gazan's credit card, later withdrew NIS 1,600: IDF: We probe all suspected wrongdoings. 

Court to state: Explain failure to evacuate 6 West Bank outposts
13 May 2009 - High Court gives state 90 days to explain why outposts slated for evacutaion in 2004 still standing. 

Ma'an News

Israel locks down West Bank as Palestinians mourn Nakba
5/15/2009 - Gaza – Ma’an – Palestinian refugees expelled from their lands have the right to demand their return, the Popular Resistance Committee’s military wing said on Nakba Day. In realizing our rights, the An-Nasser Brigades said in a statement, “resistance is the only option. ”The statement, in honor of the anniversary of the day the 1948 expulsion of Palestinians from their homes began, said, “We are one Palestinian nation and we will unite to face the Israeli occupation of our lands and we will do our best to protect Jerusalem and get back our lands. ”Echoing the An-Nasser Brigades, their Fatah-affiliated counterparts the Al-Mujahedin Brigades called on all Palestinians to unite and face Israeli harassment. The brigades issued a statement on the occasion of Nakba Day that Palestinian land owners should “never abandon their right” to return to that land. 

Israeli soldier shoots 12-year-old girl with live fire in Ni’lin
5/15/2009 - Bethlehem - Ma'an - A 12-year old Palestinian girl was shot with. 22 calibre live ammunition in Ni'lin by Israeli forces on Friday afternoon, sources told Ma'an. The girl, Summer Amira, was shot by Israeli forces as she was standing near the window of her home. Amira was shot in her lower arm, near her elbow, around 4:30pm and was taken to a hospital in Ramallah about 15 minutes afterward. Israeli forces have been frequently using live ammunition in response to unarmed demonstrations held in Ni'lin every Friday. In the past few months, the army has been entering the village during demonstrations, as well. On Friday, the Israeli army shot tear-gas canisters, rubber-coated bullets and. 22 calibre live ammunition during a demonstration against the illegal separation wall, protesters told Ma'an in a statement. 

Eleven Palestinians injured at West Bank anti-wall rallies
5/15/2009 - Ramallah – Ma’an – At least 11 Palestinians were injured at demonstrations against the Israeli-constructed separation wall in the West Bank on Friday. Nine residents of Bil'in, west of the central West Bank city of Ramallah, were injured after being shot by Israeli soldiers, while dozens choked on tear gas during demonstrations carried out in the village on Friday. The rally was joined by international peace activists after noon prayers on Friday, during which participants carried Palestinian flags and metal shields to protect them from Israeli bullets and tear-gas canisters. Protesters then headed to the construction site for a portion of the wall, where a number of children flew kites and tried to reach the other side of the wall, which is owned by local Palestinian families but has been annexed for the wall and settlements. 

Israel denies pontifical request; demands denunciation of Iran as Holy Father concludes peace pilgrimage
5/15/2009 - Jerusalem - Ma’an - Pope Benedict XVI made his final visits during his Holy Land pilgrimage Friday, where he met with church leaders from several sects in Jerusalem and paid a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Throughout his trip the pontiff has pushed a message of peace and urged Christians to remain and return to live in the Holy Land. Pope Benedict XVI addressed the Christians of the Holy Land on Thursday calling on them not to emigrate despite the difficult conditions and instability in this region. During his final speech he seemed to try and assuage fears of instability and never-ending conflict in the Middle East when he said, “The Gospel reassures us that God can make all things new, that history need not be repeated, that memories can be healed, that the bitter fruits of recrimination and hostility can be overcome, and that a future of justice, peace,. . . " 

Pope: Israel’s wall ’one of the saddest sights during my visit’
5/15/2009 - Bethlehem - Ma'an - Pope Benedict XVI left Israel for the Vatican in Rome on Friday afternoon, in the presence of a number of Israeli political and religious figures. At the ceremony, he told Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv that "[o]ne of the saddest sights for me during my visit to these lands was the wall. " "As I passed alongside it, I prayed for a future in which the peoples of the Holy Land can live together in peace and harmony without the need for such instruments of security and separation, but rather respecting and trusting one another, and renouncing all forms of violence and aggression," the pope added. Before departing, the pope also expressed support for the two-state solution to the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, saying, "[T]he Palestinian people have a right. . . " 

Former Ma’an photojournalist wins award for war coverage
5/15/2009 - Gaza – Ma’an – Former Ma'an photojournalist Eman Mohammad won a New Media Award for her field coverage during the latest Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip. The prize was presented by the British New Century Foundation to Mohammad, as well as ten others in the competition that focused on documenting new media in the Middle East. Two other Palestinian journalists won awards for the coverage of Gaza, Adel Az-Za'nun, an AFP correspondent, and Mu'een Al-Helu, a reporter for Israel's Channel 10. Mohammad is currently working for the Demotix news agency, which nominated her for the award on the basis for her excellence in photographic and journalistic correspondence, particularly a series entitled The War on Gaza and the Aftermath. None of the three winners were permitted to receive their awards in person, due to the ongoing Israeli and Egyptian blockade on the besieged coastal strip. 

Israel: West Bank locked down as Palestinians commemorate 1948 Nakba
5/15/2009 - Bethlehem – Ma’an – A security blockade will see West Bank traffic halt as Palestinians commemorate the 1948 Nakba (catastrophe) when hundreds of thousands were expelled from their homes. The blockade was announced Thursday night by Israeli Army Minister Ehud Barak and took effect early Friday; it will continue until Saturday night. Israeli sources said the measures are being taken out of fear of attacks as Palestinians mark the attacks against them following the founding of the State of Israel. A military spokeswoman explained that the restrictions would not affect Palestinians moving within the West Bank, but that all Jerusalem ID holders and West Bankers with permits to travel into Jerusalem would face “difficulty” passing into the area. Medical, humanitarian and legal professionals and emergency cases should be able to pass through, she said. 

Egyptian guards kill African immigrant near Israel
5/15/2009 - Bethlehem – Ma’an – An African immigrant was shot dead en route to Israel in Egypt on Friday, according to an official Egyptian source. The source added that the death was unintentional, and that police had previously ordered the man to stop before opening fire. [end] 

Israeli soldiers prevent youth group from cleaning Palestinian land near settlement
5/15/2009 - Hebron – Ma’an – Israeli authorities prevented a number of International peace activists and Palestinians from reaching lands in front of the illegal settlement of Kiyat Arba east Hebron Friday afternoon. The group headed to the area to clean the long-inaccessible agricultural lands, which were declared a closed military zone and physically barred citizens and internationals from accessing the area. B’Tselem field researcher Issa Amer, who was among those barred from the field, said “while we were working on [the land] a group of Israeli soldiers and policemen attacked us and asked us to evacuate the area under the pretext that it was a military closed zone. ”The peaceful action was organized by a group, Youth Against Settlements, which also catalogues settler rights violations in the tense West Bank city of Hebron. 

PWA: Refugee camp’s water network needs urgent repairs
5/15/2009 - Ramallah – Ma’an – The Bethlehem-area Duheisha Refugee Camp's water infrastructure is in desperate need of repairs, according to Shadad Al-A'teeli, the head of the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA), on Friday. Al-A'teeli told Ma'an that the camp is suffering from a number of ills, including pollution and a damaged water-purification system. He said the camp will need extensive repairs before the region's summer dry season is in full force. The PWA added in a statement that engineers from the water department had recently contacted them over samples taken from the camp in an effort to establish which areas were polluted and needed repairs. The department found that the camp lacks main water lines under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Health Ministry, and that the health department in the camp found that there was no blueprint for the water network inside it, in addition to issues with pipes laid out inappropriately. 

Israeli settler hit with iron bar outside West Bank settlement
5/15/2009 - Jerusalem – Ma’an – A Palestinian citizen of Israel attacked a Jewish man with an iron bar, wounding him lightly Israel Radio reported Friday morning. The incident was said to have occurred on Route 443t near the Beit Horon settlement in the central West Bank. The wounded man was taken to an Israeli hospital and the alleged attacker was arrested. [end] 

Egyptians report finding 266 projectiles near Israel border
5/15/2009 - Bethlehem - Ma'an/Agencies - Egyptian security forces discovered some 266 rockets and three antitank missiles near the border with Gaza and Israel early on Friday, according to news reports. The weapons cache discovery was first reported in the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi, which quoted an Egyptian security source about the find. He reportedly said that the weapons were most likely meant to be smuggled into the Gaza Strip. No one was reported to have been arrested in the discovery, which included 43 mines, 51 shells, 21 grenades and 178 bullets for machine guns, the newspaper said. [end] 

Blair to US Senate: Time for two-state peace is now
5/15/2009 - Bethlehem - Ma’an/Agencies - “This is a moment of opportunity…for those who believe in a two-state solution” former British Prime Minister and special Middle East envoy Tony Blair told a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington Thursday. Blair’s presentation comes ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s Monday visit to the region, which will be followed by visits from Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas two days later on 28 May. Blair spoke to Palestinian media in a special conference at the start of May, where he told reporters a new “framework” for Middle East peacemaking may emerge in the coming weeks as Israeli and Palestinian leaders visit Washington. "President Obama has made it very clear that this is a strategic priority for the United States to advance towards a negotiated two-state solution," said Blair. 

Norwegian MP: If investment in occupation acceptable, we must revise ethics guidelines
5/15/2009 - Bethlehem - Ma’an Exclusive - A Norwegian ethics committee is due to travel to Israel and the West Bank in two weeks to assess the investment of the world’s largest government pension fund, The Norwegian Government Pension Fund, in Africa Israel Investments. In advance of that visit, a delegation of seven members of the Norwegian Socialist Left Party travelled to the West Bank and Gaza Strip this week to see for themselves the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, siege on Gaza and the destruction wrought following Israel’s war on the area last winter. After under a week in the area Member of Parliament Ågot Valle, spokesperson on foreign affairs for the party, spoke out about Norwegian investment in the Africa Israel Investments company. “No doubt we as a party cannot support investment in a company that violates human rights, contributes to an occupation and war,” Valle said in a telephone interview. 

Amid political uncertainty Hamas and Fatah travel to Cairo for fifth round of talks
5/15/2009 - Gaza – Ma’an – The fifth round of Palestinian unity talks is expected to kick off in Cairo Saturday in what many see as a final attempt to overcome the remaining obstacles preventing governmental unity between the West Bank and Gaza. The Fatah and Hamas delegations are expected to arrive to Cairo on Friday with the task of finding a solution to the remaining government, elections system and the security apparatus files. The four previous rounds, not all successful, were able to find acceptable solutions to two of the five central dividing points. Committees around the five points met during the third round of talks to discuss Transitional Government Formation, Issues in Reconciliation, Security Services, Elections Reform, and the role and make-up of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Following the third round of talks Egypt proposed a transitional committee be formed rather than a transitional government. 

Abbas and Fayyad address Palestinian nation via television on Nabka Day
5/15/2009 - Bethlehem - Ma’an - Marking the 61st anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for the end of Israeli occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital. In a televised speech aired Thursday night Fayyad said the refugee issue must be solved with the Arab Peace Initiative. He called the plan the “minimum requirement” for historical justice to be served and the only real end to the oppression of Palestinians that began with the Nakba in 1948. For the last 61 years, Fayyad said, Israel has used “all means” to force Palestinians to surrender and conceal their national identity. “But we are here to stay and we are deeply rooted in our lands, we cling to our rights and are determined to get rid of the hideous occupation,” he said. 

Hamas: Four members detaind by PA forces Thursday
5/15/2009 - Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinian Authority security forces arrested four Hamas members and affiliates on Thursday, sources in the party said. Those detained were identified as: Omar Abdel Halim At-Talahmeh from Dura village in Hebron - Muntaser Ass’ass from Tulkarem - Najem Ad-Din Muhammad Mansur from Qalqiliya and Subhi Ahmad Abu Arra from the village of Aqaba. [end] 

Fatah movement marks Nakba Day in Gaza Strip
5/15/2009 - Gaza - Ma'an - The Fatah movement in the Gaza Strip marked the 61st anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, or Catastrophe, on Friday. The Nakba is marked annually on 15 May, the day in 1948 that marked the establishment of the state of Israel, and subsequent displacement of some 750,000 Palestinians, who became refugees in Gaza, the West Bank and abroad. On Friday, the Fatah movement in Gaza stressed the need to "fight all forms of illegitimate existence of Israelis over Palestinian lands," and stressed the need to create an independent Palestinian state. "The feeling of nervousness and the loss of hope and lack of stability will remain in this land and will continue until the Palestinian people get back their rights,” Fatah said in a statement sent to Ma’an. Meanwhile in Ramallah, about 2,000 Palestinians packed the streets, carrying banners and black ribbons to symbolize their mourning, Al-Jazeera reported. 

Hamas and Fatah head to Cairo for a fifth round of talks
5/15/2009 - Gaza – Ma’an – Representatives from both the Fatah and Hamas movements departed for Cairo on Friday for a fifth round of negotiations aimed at establishing a unity government between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Fatah's delegates left Ramallah via Amman for the talks that will begin on Saturday, while Hamas' affiliates departed Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt. It is expected that Hamas' delegates will include Mahmoud Az-Zahar, Khalil Al-Haya, Nezar Awad Allah and Ismail Al-Ashqar from Gaza, and from abroad will include the deputy head of the movement’s politburo office, Musa Abu Marzuq, as well as Mohammad Naser, Imad Al-A’lami and member of the politburo office Izzat Ar-Resheq. There have been media reports that a transnational temporary unity government headed by President Mahmoud Abbas will be declared soon, but Hamas-affiliated Palestinian Legislative. . . 

Palestinian police seize quantities of opium south of Nablus
5/15/2009 - Nablus – Ma’an – Anti-narcotics police in Nablus seized a local resident possessing drugs and cigarettes mixed with the same chemicals, they said on Friday. The police pointed out that the alleged drug dealer was taken to an investigation center to take legal action against him. Meanwhile, police seized 45 opium plants in a village south of Nablus. [end] 

Palestinian factory catches fire in Jerusalem
5/15/2009 - Jerusalem – Ma’an – Two were injured after a fire broke out in the As-Siniora Food Factory in East Jerusalem Friday afternoonThe building was severely damaged as fire poured out the windows. Preliminary investigations suggested the fire may have been caused by an electrical short. The factory is in the Al-Iskan neighborhood of Al-Eizareiyah in the East Jerusalem municipality currently under Israeli control. [end] 

The National

Freed journalist leaves Iran
15 May 2009 - The US-born reporter Roxana Saberi flies into Vienna from Tehran, only days after her release from an Iranian prison.

Abbas visit to Syria boycotted by Hamas
14 May 2009 - The snubbing of the president while in Damascus says much about the deep rivalries that continue to divide the Palestinian people.

Israeli Jews back Palestinian state
14 May 2009 - A poll indicates strong support for a two-state solution ahead of Mr Netanyahu's visit to the US.

Benedict backs Palestinian state
13 May 2009 - The Pope gives support for a sovereign Palestinian homeland as he makes his first official visit to the occupied West Bank.

Pope in historic visit to al Aqsa
12 May 2009 - Massive security operation in the city sees whole neighbourhoods of Jerusalem cordoned off to traffic.

Contest to win Obama's ear
12 May 2009 - On his first trip to Egypt since his re-election as Israel's prime minister in March, Benjamin Netanyahu said his new, far right government was committed to peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.

Pope visits Jerusalem's holy sites
12 May 2009 - Pope Benedict visits holy sites in Jerusalem at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Pope ends Middle East pilgrimage
15 May 2009 - Benedict XVI criticises Israel's separation wall and calls for a Palestinian state.

Gazans remember 1948 exodus
15 May 2009 - Huge rallies mark the displacement of 700,000 Palestinians as Israel was created.

Jordan hosts economic crisis talks
15 May 2009 - Leaders gather to discuss implications of global slowdown on the region.

Israel PM meets Jordanian king
14 May 2009 - Talks in Aqaba come ahead of Netanyahu's planned visit to Washington.


Inter Press Service

POLITICS: U.S.-Israel Balance Echoes Tensions of 1991 
LONDON, May 15 (IPS) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Pres. Barack Obama in Washington next Monday, amid speculation that their two administrations may be heading for a confrontation worse than any they have known since 1991-92.

ENVIRONMENT: West Bank Becomes Waste Land 
RAMALLAH, May 15 (IPS/IFEJ) - Israel has found a cheap and easy way to get rid of its waste, much of it hazardous: dump it into the West Bank. A few Palestinians can be bought, the rest are in no position to complain.

US-MIDEAST: Lobbies Gear Up Ahead of Bibi-Barack Meet 
WASHINGTON, May 15 (IPS) - In the months since U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have taken office, there has been lots of noise made about the relationship between the two men and their respective countries.

EGYPT: Fears Rise Over Spate of Missing Children 
CAIRO, May 15 (IPS) - A surge in reports of missing children has set off alarm across the Egyptian countryside. The fears are being fed both by reports and rumour.

Stop The Wall

Protests for the Ma’sara prisoners
9 May 2009 - Nearly 20 people were injured in protests against the Wall this Friday, several of which were held in solidarity for the five activists who were arrested in al-Ma’sara last week. In addition to a large demonstration in the Bethlehem area, the demonstrations in Ni’lin and Bil’in also called for their release. The people of Bi’lin themed the weekly action around “Occupation Flu”, and a demonstration was also held in Jayyus. [

PCHR Latest

(14-05-2009) War Crimes Against Children: new report on the 313 children killed during Gaza offensive

PCHR Condemns Arrests of Supporters of Islamic Movements in the West Bank

PCHR Weekly Report

(07 - 13 May  2008)
During the reporting period, five Palestinian civilians, including two children and one woman, were wounded in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

International Solidarity Movement

Israeli forces shoot young Palestinian girl in Ni’lin
International Solidarity Movement - Summer Amira was shot with live ammunition by Israeli forces - 4:30pm, 15 May 2009: A 12-year old girl has been shot with 0. 22 calibre live ammunition in Ni'lin - Summer Amira, was shot by Israeli forces as she was standing on the roof of her home. Amira was shot in her lower arm, near her elbow around 4:30pm. "Summer and I were standing on the roof watching soldiers enter our village. Summer was standing behind me, leaning against a pole and the bullet flew past my head and hit her arm. The soldier was aiming at us. Two weeks ago, my other sister, Raja, was injured in the leg with a sound grenade when the army tried to occupy a home to shoot at demonstrators. - Fatma Amira (14), Summer's sister. In total, 27 persons have been shot by Israeli forces with live ammunition in Ni'lin. The 22-calibre live bullet, fired from the Rutger rifle, was reintroduced in January 2009, despite military previous orders to stop its use in 2001. 

Israeli forces kidnap 2 farmers in Qalqiliya region
International Solidarity Movement - 11 May 2009 - At 7 am Sunday morning, May 10, 2009, two farmers from Izbaht Tabib, Jaefar Tabib, 23, and Naem Tayayhe, 30, were arrested as they went out to work their land. They remain in custody. In the evening of the same day, a bus with about 60 settlers, accompanied by the Israeli army, came to the area. They appeared to discuss the area while looking at maps. The farm land is vital for the farmers, and they suspect that the objective of the settlers' visit may be a first step towards constructing a new settlement. Izbaht Tabib, a small village established before 1948, has a population of 226 Palestinian refugees. Despite the 2005 court decision to alter the route of the Wall which is already constructed between Izbaht Tabib and Azzun, the Apartheid Wall in the northern West Bank continues to be built. 

Israeli forces prevent Beit Ommar farmers from working their lands
International Solidarity Movement - 9th of May 2009 - On Saturday, May 9th, farmers from Beit Ommar with lands in Saffa, close to the illegal Israeli settlement of Beit Ayn, were prevented from working their fields after Israeli forces declared the area a closed military zone.   At around 9am, about six farmers and their families went to their lands accompanied by a dozen Israeli and international solidarity activists.   After they were only in the fields for about ten minutes, a jeep of Israeli border police arrived.   The police used a bullhorn to declare the lands a closed military zone and all of the farmers and solidarity activists were ordered to leave. The farmers initially ignored the order and continued to work their lands. Three more jeeps with soldiers and border police arrived, and the soldiers approached the farmers in the fields.   Israeli forces displayed an order from a military court that designated the lands off limits to their Palestinian owners. 

Life among the ruins in Gaza
International Solidarity Movement - Amira Hass | 15 May 2009 - Wadi Gaza is an agricultural region southeast of Gaza City. The ruins of Hussein al Aaidy's family home are immediately apparent. The houses (and several other heaps of ruins) are scattered among budding hills, lazing goats and fields that have been plowed but not sown. Up until nine years ago, these houses were surrounded by orchards and other fruit trees. Until the Israel Defense Forces bulldozers uprooted everything in order to safeguard the Israelis driving to the settlement of Netzarim. The thousands of heaps of ruins in the Strip have now become part of the landscape. What attracts attention is when one pile of ruins or another disappears. The Gaza Public Works Bureau has already solicited bids for clearing away the ruins of several public buildings and several mosques. Building contractors have begun to evacuate the rubble, and tents have been set up on the site in order to serve the public and for prayers. 

Norwegian MP: If investment in occupation acceptable, we must revise ethics guidelines
International Solidarity Movement - 15 May 2009 - A Norwegian ethics committee is due to travel to Israel and the West Bank in two weeks to assess the investment of the world's largest government pension fund, The Norwegian Government Pension Fund, in Africa Israel Investments. In advance of that visit, a delegation of seven members of the Norwegian Socialist Left Party travelled to the West Bank and Gaza Strip this week to see for themselves the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, siege on Gaza and the destruction wrought following Israel's war on the area last winter. After under a week in the area Member of Parliament Ã…got Valle, spokesperson on foreign affairs for the party, spoke out about Norwegian investment in the Africa Israel Investments company. "No doubt we as a party cannot support investment in a company that violates human rights, contributes to an occupation and war," Valle said in a telephone interview. 

Ha'aretz Diplomacy page

'Israel's PR appeal isn't lost, it just needs a new label'
14 May 2009 - The recent changing of the guard in Jerusalem, and the introduction of Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud-led government, has also brought about retirement for Israel's longest-running ministerial director. ...

Why are British MPs courting cowardly Hamas?
14 May 2009 - There is something so distinctly British about the overtures that some of the United Kingdom's lawmakers have been making to Hamas of late. The visit to the Islamist group in Damascus, the letters of sympathy in the British press, Khaled Meshal's invitation to give a video address to parliamentarians; all these moves smack of a kind of an old-school colonial refusal to be scared by the natives coupled with a bloodyminded desire to patronize them. ...

Israel: U.S. will know before any Iran strike
14 May 2009 - Israel has acceded to American demands by pledging to coordinate its moves on Iran with Washington and not surprise the United States with military action. ... 

U.S. orders PA to pay $116 million to family of terror victims
14 May 2009 - The Palestine Liberation Organization and its governmental entity cannot overturn a court judgment forcing them to pay more than $116 million for a Hamas terror attack that killed a U.S. citizen and his wife, a federal judge has ruled. ...

U.S. officials: Two states for two peoples is not an empty slogan 
14 May 2009 - Israel's commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state will be a major focus of the upcoming talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama, senior American officials have said in internal discussions over the past few days. The officials stressed that the two-state principle was "not an empty slogan." ... 

The Guardian

Israel's Eurovision song for peace | Rachel Shabi
15 May 2009 - Israel's Eurovision entry is sung by two friends, one Jewish, one Palestinian. It may be idealistic, but shouldn't we support them? The timing was doomed. Just as the Israel-inflicted death toll in Gaza reached 900, a...

Hate kills the soul, says pope in Nazareth mass
14 May 2009 - Mixed crowd of faiths and nationalities approaching 50,000 people hears pontiff emphasise tolerance and family values Pope Benedict XVI stood on a mountaintop in Nazareth today to say the largest mass of his visit to the...

Singing for peace in Israel | Hillel Schenker
14 May 2009 - A campaign to stop a Leonard Cohen concert fails to understand the impact of such artists as Joan Baez and Roger Waters "This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender," reads the famous slogan on...

A relativist muddle | Benny Morris
14 May 2009 - The portrayal of pre-1948 Zionists as saintly and Israelis today as brutal is a misreading of history The story goes like this: before 1948, the Zionists/Israelis were saintly; in more recent times, they have grown brutal (...

Ha'aretz National page

Pope: 'Jews were brutally exterminated' in Holocaust
14 May 2009 - In a ceremony marking the end of Pope Benedict XVI's Israel visit on Friday at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, the pope expressed his sorrow at the 'extermination' of Jews in the Holocaust and called for the realization of the two-state solution. ...

Pope in Israel / Pontiff will leave behind many disappointed souls
14 May 2009 - Reactions to Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Israel were surprisingly similar to reactions to the concert by the British pop band Depeche Mode earlier this week. ... 

Eugenics in Israel: Did Jews try to improve the human race too?
14 May 2009 - In 1944, psychiatrist Kurt Levinstein gave a lecture at a Tel Aviv conference, where he advocated preventing people with various mental and neurological disorders - such as alcoholism, manic depression and epilepsy - from bringing children into the world. ...

From aviation safety to math, Israel's ratings are falling
14 May 2009 - As far as Israel's image is concerned, the nation's sovereign credit rating is a lonely point of light. Yet even Israel's credit rating is imperiled, thanks to the heavy budget deficit anticipated this year and next, and in a host of criteria Israel is falling further behind the west. ...

Haaretz poll: Netanyahu just as bad as Olmert, if not worse
14 May 2009 - More than half of all Israelis believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's performance is worse, or at least no better, than that of his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, who was one of Israel's least popular leaders, a new Haaretz poll has found. ... 

Relief Web

47 million euros in humanitarian aid granted for the world's crises
15 May 2009 - Source: Government of Finland

ACTED newsletter No 54 - May 2009
15 May 2009 - Source: Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development

OPT: The Humanitarian Monitor - April 2009
15 May 2009 - Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Palestinian Authority: Southern West Bank solid waste management project
15 May 2009 - Source: World Bank

OPT: Pope's visit to Aida refugee camp sows "hope for the future"
14 May 2009 - Source: UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

OPT: War crimes against children - new report on the 313 children killed during Gaza offensive
14 May 2009 - Source: Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

OPT: War crimes against children
14 May 2009 - Source: Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

OPT: Flash Floods DREF operation No. MDRPS003 - Final report
14 May 2009 - Source: IFRC

YNet News

Syria 'waiting for Israeli peace partner'
15 May 2009 - Assad, Turkey's Gul tell press conference both countries ready to resume indirect peace talks

Reformist candidate says Iran has 'done Israel a service'
15 May 2009 - Mehdi Karrubi, soon to run against Ahmadinejad, says talk of Holocaust put world on Israel's side

Jordan's king lauds US peace commitment 
15 May 2009 - King Abdullah II tells economic forum that 'Arab peace initiative offers Israel place in neighborhood and acceptance by 57 nations, which is true security that barriers and armed forces cannot bring'

UN presses Israel on 'secret detention center'
15 May 2009 - Anti-torture committee wants 'all detainees' allegations of ill-treatment at Facility 1391' probed

Meretz MK wants Israel to give gay Palestinians sanctuary
15 May 2009 - Nitzan Horowitz says Arab nations should sign treaty banning persecution of homosexuals

Pope concludes Holy Land visit
15 May 2009 - Ceremony in Ben Gurion Airport marks end of Benedict XVI's trip to Holy Land. Pope says 'I came to this country as friend of Israelis, Palestinian people...One of the saddest sights for me was the wall'. President Peres thanks pope for his statements during visit, urges him to help battle religious fundamentalism 

Report: Egypt finds 266 rockets near Israel border
15 May 2009 - Weapons cache apparently bound for Gaza Strip uncovered in Sinai includes three antitank missiles, dozens of mines, shells and grenades, al-Quds al-Arabi reports. Meanwhile, Almustaqbal newspaper reports Iranian cell operating in Egypt uncovered

Lebanese report: Spies also operated in Syria 
15 May 2009 - Lebanon-based newspaper al-Akhbar says suspected spies sent by Israeli handlers for missions in Syria 


Testimony: Settlers throw stones with soldiers present
9 May 2009 - According to a testimony given to B'Tselem by a resident of the Wadi a-Nasara neighborhood of Hebron, on 3 April 2009, dozens of settlers, accompanied by soldiers, entered the neighborhood. The soldiers allowed the settlers to throw stones at homes and pa

Settler youngsters attack ambulance in Hebron
6 May 2009 - On 11 April, a Palestinian ambulance was transporting a patient to her home in the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron. According to testimonies, children and youths from nearby settlements threw rocks at the ambulance and soldiers at the scene did not inte

Daily Star

Turkey's Gul visits Syria for Middle East peace talks 
15 May 2009 - Turkish President Abdullah Gul flew to neighboring Syria Friday for a three-day visit aimed at boosting bilateral ties and discussing prospects of peace in the Middle East. "We aim to develop our ties with Syria on the basis of friendship and mutual interest in a way that will benefit the entire region," Gul said at Ankara airport before his departure.

Palestinians in Gaza mark anniversary of Nakba 
15 May 2009 - Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Friday marked the 61st anniversary of the Nakba, the "catastrophe" of the 1948 creation of Israel, which made refugees out of around 700,000 Palestinians. They have been prevented from returning to their homes by Israel ever since - instead, they have lived dispersed around the Arab world.

Jordan's king lauds renewed US commitment to Mideast peace 
15 May 2009 - Jordan's king praised the renewed US commitment to achieving peace in the Middle East on Friday and urged Israel to work toward that goal. King Abdullah II spoke a day after he pressed Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu to immediately commit to the establishment of a Palestinian state, a step he has been reluctant to take despite pressure from the US.

Fears rise over spate of missing children in Egypt 
15 May 2009 - A surge in reports of missing children has set off alarm across the Egyptian countryside. The fears are being fed both by reports and rumor. "Provinces on fire with kidnapping rumors; every day more stories of missing children," read the May 1 headline of independent daily Al-Dustour.

Obama revives military trials for terrorism suspects 
15 May 2009 - President Barack Obama will restart military tribunals for a small number of Guantanamo detainees, reviving a Bush-era trial system he once assailed as flawed but with new legal protections for terror suspects, US officials said. The changes to the system, which will affect a small number of detainees, was announced on Friday.

Palestinian Information Center

Yisrael Beiteinu seeks to criminalise marking the Nakba
15 May 2009 - Ehud Barak, the Israeli war minister ordered a general closure on West Bank on the occasion of the 61st anniversary of the Nakba..

Bardawil wont confirm or deny that Hamas agrees to a government headed by Abbas
15 May 2009 - Dr. Salah al-Bardawil refused to confirm or deny news reports that Hamas was ready to accept an interim government headed by Mahmoud Abbas without such a government being approved by the PLC.

Al-Hassan: Abbas's proposed scheme ignores the RoR and the fait of Jerusalem
15 May 2009 - Bilal Al-Hassan said on Thursday that Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas has presented his Movement with a new proposal for settlement with the Israelis without the Right of Return and Jerusalem..

Radwan: Fifth round of dialogue set to kick off on Saturday
15 May 2009 - The Hamas Movement has reiterated its keenness to restore the Palestinian national unity, adding that a delegation from the Movement would head to Cairo to start the fifth round of dialogue.

Mishaal says RoR is uncompromised; rejects any PA government under Fayyad
15 May 2009 - Khaled Mishaal, the head of Hamas's political bureau, has made it clear on Thursday that the Right of Return (RoR) of the Palestinian refugees was a Palestinian sacred constant..

Arab league condemns international silence towards Israeli crimes
15 May 2009 - The Arab League expressed profound concern at the uncertainty of the future of the Palestinian issue in the light of extremist Zionist parties assuming power in Israel..

IOA notifies Jerusalemite of intention to flatten his home
15 May 2009 - The Israeli occupation authority has notified Hamada Mahfouz that his building in Beit Hanina suburb in occupied Jerusalem would be demolished for construction without permit, local sources said.

Jordanian labor unions call for not receiving Netanyahu in Jordan
15 May 2009 - Jordanian labor unions strongly denounced their government for its intention to allow Benjamin Netanyahu to visit Jordan, demanding it to declare Netanyahu persona non grata in the country.

Zahhar: The European subordination to the ex-US administration big mistake
15 May 2009 - MP Dr. Mahmoud Al-Zahhar stated that Europe had committed big mistakes in its blind subordination to the former US administration and lost its human rights and moral orientations.

Qanu: Right of return legitimate, surrendering it treason
15 May 2009 - Abdul Latif Qanu, the spokesman of Hamas in northern Gaza, has asserted that the Nakba (catastrophe) anniversary is an opportunity to assert the right of return for six million Palestinian refugees.

Los Angeles Times

Israeli leader tells pope of qualms about Palestinian state 
15 May 2009 - Pope Benedict, who has spoken out in favor of an independent Palestine, meets with Prime Minister Netanyahu, who fears such a state would be backed by Iran and pose a threat. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday that a Palestinian state backed by Iran would jeopardize Israel's security. He urged the Roman Catholic leader, who favors an independent Palestine, to turn his moral authority against Iran and its threats toward the Jewish state. 

World Briefing 
15 May 2009 - Iran: Roxana Saberi leaves the country / Britain: Two lose jobs in expenses scandal / Kenya: White farmer gets 8 months in poacher's killing / Yemen: U.S. sailors detain 17 suspected pirates IRAN 

Pope calls for end to hostilities that led to Israel's barrier 
14 May 2009 - Speaking to Palestinians at a refugee camp in Bethlehem, Benedict also voices compassion for those killed in Israel's winter assault in Gaza, but avoids taking sides on any issue. Standing near a towering concrete wall at the edge of the West Bank, Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday called the Israeli-built barrier a stark reminder of the deadlocked Middle East conflict but declared that walls could be taken down. 

New York Times

Citing Auschwitz, Pope Assails Hatred
15 May 2009 - Pope Benedict XVI wound up a sometimes fraught trip to Israel and the West Bank on Friday with a plea that the Holocaust must “never be forgotten or denied.” 

Jordan Tells Israel to Accept Two-State Solution
14 May 2009 - Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, met with King Abdullah II of Jordan, who urged the Israeli leader to commit to a two-state solution with the Palestinians. 

Netanyahu to Meet Obama as U.S. Priorities Shift
14 May 2009 - The underlying relationship between Israel and the United States has become more unsettled since Barack Obama took office. 


New West Bank roads jeopardizing chances for peace accord
Ha'aretz - Palestinian interest in the intentions of the new Israeli government tends to focus on one small area in the West Bank, Ma'aleh Adumim and its environs, particularly the area known as E1 linking the settlement to East Jerusalem. Earlier this month Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad participated in mass Friday prayers against land expropriation in the area, and the Palestinian media was full of reports of Israeli settlement plans in Ma'aleh Adumim and E1. The concerns are not baseless. E1 is the only area that Benjamin Netanyahu explicitly committed to developing, on the eve of February's elections. 

War crimes against children: new report on the 313 children killed during Gaza offensive 
ReliefWeb - Date: 14 May 2009 - A new report released today reveals the true extent of child killings by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip during its 23 day offensive on Gaza between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is publishing War Crimes Against Children in response to the unprecedented number of children killed by Israeli forces in its latest operation; a total of 313 children under the age of eighteen. 

VIDEO - Off the Charts: Media Analysis of the Israel-Palestinian Conflict 
If Americans Knew - Produced by Alternate Focus - A 30-minute segment featuring Alison Weir and the findings of If Americans Knew in researching media coverage of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. 


Life among the ruins in Gaza 
Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 5/15/2009
      GAZA - Wadi Gaza is an agricultural region southeast of Gaza City. The ruins of Hussein al Aaidy’s family home are immediately apparent. The houses (and several other heaps of ruins) are scattered among budding hills, lazing goats and fields that have been plowed but not sown. Up until nine years ago, these houses were surrounded by orchards and other fruit trees. Until the Israel Defense Forces bulldozers uprooted everything in order to safeguard the Israelis driving to the settlement of Netzarim.
     The thousands of heaps of ruins in the Strip have now become part of the landscape. What attracts attention is when one pile of ruins or another disappears. The Gaza Public Works Bureau has already solicited bids for clearing away the ruins of several public buildings and several mosques. Building contractors have begun to evacuate the rubble, and tents have been set up on the site in order to serve the public and for prayers.
     But these are the exceptions. There is no point in clearing away the ruins of the 4,000 buildings and homes that have been totally destroyed, so long as Israel does not permit building materials to be brought into the Strip.
     The Gazan Ministry of Public Works also warns citizens not to clear away ruins through private initiative: It’s too dangerous. At least 50,000 people, members of 8,000 families whose homes have been destroyed, know that the temporary solution they have found is liable to become a long-term one.

What to Tell the Children 
Hannah Wolfe, CounterPunch 5/15/2009
      Why Caryl Churchill’s Play is Not Anti-Semitic
     Accusations of "anti-Semitism" have long been the knee-jerk response by Zionists to critics of Israel. And woe unto the Jew who dares to criticize; they are clearly a self-hating masochist.
     This is playing out once again in the barrage of vituperative criticism hurled at Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza, a "minor playlet" as one detractor called it, penned and staged in response to Israel’s most recent brutal massacre in Gaza. "Operation Cast Lead," Israel’s carefully calculated and long-planned 22-day December 2008/January 2009 attack on Gaza, resulted in the deaths of 1,300 Gazans, the majority unarmed civilians, and left communities in shambles.
     A major playwright in the tradition of Bertolt Brecht and Samuel Beckett, Churchill has won several awards, including the Obie Sustained Achievement Award in 2001. She worked with the radical theater companies Joint Stock and Monstrous Regiment during the 1970s and ’80s, during which time she produced some of her best-known plays (Cloud Nine, Top Girls and Serious Money).

Electronic Intifada
Hamas under scrutiny while Lieberman embraced
14 May 2009 - GAZA CITY, occupied Gaza Strip (IPS) - A founding member of Hamas says he hates all weapons and insists that his organization is not anti-Jewish. In an interview with IPS, Sayed Abu Musameh described frequent claims in the European and US press that Hamas's charter is based on enmity towards Jews as a "big lie." Speaking in the remains of the Palestinian Legislative Council headquarters in Gaza City, Husameh drew a distinction between followers of Judaism and the Zionist ideology to which most politicians in Israel's main political parties subscribe. 

Pope's visit overlooks Palestinians
14 May 2009 - Pope Benedict XVI upset the schedule on his first day in Israel by leaving an interfaith meeting in Jerusalem early on Monday night after a leading Muslim cleric called on him to condemn the "slaughter" of women and children in the recent assault on Gaza. The pontiff walked out, a spokesman noted, because Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi's speech was a "direct negation" of dialogue and damaged the Pope's efforts at "promoting peace." 

Israeli orgs call on Norway to divest from occupation
14 May 2009 - In an unprecedented way, a wide array of Israeli civil society and grassroots organizations has sent a letter to the Norwegian Pension Fund, addressed to its Council on Ethics, urging it to support their efforts for a just peace and equality in Israel/Palestine by divesting from all companies involved in the Israeli occupation. 

EU obligated to prosecute war crime suspects
14 May 2009 - Fair criminal trials in EU member states, especially if they result in convictions, could provide genuine deterrence and begin to provide justice for Palestinian victims of Israeli actions. The EU has a massive role in that regard. Instead of paying lip service to injustices inflicted upon the Palestinian people by issuing statements "deploring the loss of life" and promises to "follow closely investigations into alleged violations of international humanitarian law," EU countries would achieve much more by applying the rule of law to Israel, starting with making their laws match their obligations under the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Daniel Machover and Adri Nieuwhof comment for The Electronic Intifada. 

In Gaza
who is the siege really on?
13 May 2009 - I don’t need to answer the rhetorical question. I know the cliches that the US, Canada and other siege-supporting western nations will say about Hamas and terrorism and not providing material aid [the irony of Israel, committing attacks of terrorism on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, occupied Jerusalem, and the militarily-occupied Gaza Strip every day --with Israel's invasions, city lock-downs ('curfews'), military checkpoints, arbitary arrests and indefinite detentions (including minors), military invasions, shelling from the sea, shooting at and abduction of fishermen and farmers from their own territorial areas, and so on --being supported by the very nations that besiege Gaza... is sickening]. Palestinians words before, during, and after...

Palestine Chronicle
Unity Comes First
14 May 2009 - By Joharah Baker – Jerusalem Saying we are back to square one hardly does our situation justice. If we are to be more accurate, we should say we are below zero, pushed back to a place we tried to avoid in the first place. But here we are – no national unity government, no factional conciliation and not even unity within Fateh itself. The Palestinian squabbling has splintered the leadership even more, leaving us empty handed once again. For months now, the Palestinian people have been on a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, alternately raising their hopes and watching them plummet with the start of every conciliation meeting and their subsequent failure. Each time, we average citizens hoped beyond hope that this time, our leaders would come to their senses and realize how important it is to see the bigger picture, to transcend these petty feuds and maintain the age-old aspiration of our people, which is a united front with the goal of national liberation. That goal has been lost for some time now, even if our leaders mouth the words in public forums. Their actions speak differently and the fact that they cannot unite, that they would rather pick at each other like roosters in a cock fight, shows that our national project has suffered one too many blows. Last week, President Mahmoud Abbas announced that he would call on resigned Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad to resume his position at the head of a “newly formed” government in...

The Drones Are Coming: New War on Civilians 
14 May 2009 - By Ramzy Baroud US President Barack Obama took the podium in a White House press conference and stood with an all-embellished confidence that often accompanies new presidents. He was flanked by two leaders whose apparent grandeur barely reflected their embattled situations on the ground: Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. The meeting at the White House on 6 May was fashioned to give the impression that the new US administration is both "serious" and "committed" about resolving the crises plaguing Afghanistan and Pakistan, which are imprudently reduced to that of a Taliban resurgence in the former, and a Taliban- inspired militant encroachment in the latter. Obama declared the meeting "extraordinarily productive" as the three nations, he said, are joined by the common goal to "defeat Al-Qaeda and its extremist allies in Pakistan and Afghanistan". The skewed reading of reality didn't cease there. "I am pleased that these two men, elected leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan, fully appreciate the seriousness of the threat that we face and have reaffirmed their commitment to confronting it," Obama said. Both leaders listened solemnly as to reflect the level of their "seriousness". For a fleeting moment one did in fact hope that Obama would bring with him more than a new language; rather, an entirely new take on US foreign policy. That hope is already in tatters. "Obama conveyed the right message last week by hosting Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. The meeting at the White...

Pope's 'Pilgrimage' Mired in Politics
14 May 2009 - By Jonathan Cook - Nazareth Pope Benedict XVI upset the schedule on his first day in Israel by leaving an interfaith meeting in Jerusalem early on Monday night after a leading Muslim cleric called on him to condemn the “slaughter” of women and children in the recent assault on Gaza. The pontiff walked out, a spokesman noted, because Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi’s speech was a “direct negation” of dialogue and damaged the Pope’s efforts at “promoting peace”. Before he arrived in the region, the Pope declared that he was coming as a “pilgrim of peace”, with his staff accentuating that his role would be spiritual rather than political. In truth, however, Pope Benedict’s visit was mired in politics the moment he agreed, at the invitation of Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, to step into this conflict-torn region. The two popes who preceded him to the Holy Land appear to have better appreciated that point. The first, Paul VI, made a hurried 12-hour stop in 1964, before the Vatican and Israel had established diplomatic relations, to conduct a Mass in Nazareth. During that time he did not utter the word “Israel” or formally meet with an Israeli official. The second, John Paul II, came to the Holy Land in radically different circumstances: for the millennium, when hopes were still bright for the peace process. The Vatican had recognized Israel a few years earlier and the pontiff worked hard to soothe long-standing Jewish grievances against the Catholic church. But he is also remembered...

Netanyahu May Be in for a Surprise
14 May 2009 - By George S. Hishmeh Benjamin Netanyahu, the right-wing Israeli prime minister, is going to Washington on Monday for talks with President Barack Obama. But he may be in for a surprise. His host is not like any other seen in the White House in the last 50 years. In fact there hasn't been a US president like him since Dwight Eisenhower ordered Israel and its two European allies - Britain and France - to pull out of the Suez Canal, which they had invaded in 1956 after Egypt's popular president Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the important waterway. It is not that Obama is about to take a dramatic step, unparalleled since the mid-fifties by any American head of state, but all indications are that the American leader is serious about reaching a "comprehensive peace" - a term hardly used by US officials in recent administrations. (Yet, Obama has surprisingly avoided making any reaction to the three-week Israeli invasion of Gaza earlier this year that cost the lives of about 1,300 Palestinians.) One by one, senior American officials have made public statements that signaled the new mood in Washington, touching off at times a verbal duel between the United States and Israel. In recent testimony in the House of Representatives, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared: "For Israel to get the kind of strong support it is looking for vis-à-vis Iran, it can't stay on the sidelines with respect to the Palestinians and the peace process". Netanyahu, who has diehard extremists...

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