Mondoweiss Online Newsletter



Bedouins displaced and dispossessed by settlement expansion in the West Bank

Jun 15, 2011


Video: Dispossession of Bedouins in the Ma’ale Adummim area

[short, 1.37 minutes, English and Hebrew subtitles] B’tselem 5 June — Muhammad Khamis relates how his family arrived in the Judean Desert as part of a group of families that were expelled in the 1950s from the area of Arad to al-Murassas, east of al-‘Eizariya. The families, he relates, raised flocks and farmed the land until establishment of the Ma’ale Adummim settlement, when they were expelled again, to a nearby site. The building of the settlement resulted in destruction of the wells the families used for their sheep and goats, and blocked access to their farmland. Two years ago, demolition orders were issued for the dilapidated structures in which they presently live, although they have nowhere to go.
IOF soldiers destroy Bedouin tents
JORDAN VALLEY (PIC) 14 June — Israeli occupation forces (IOF) tore down Bedouin tents and tin homes in Fasayel Al-Wusta area in the Jordan Valley on Tuesday morning rendering ten families homeless. Safa news agency … said that the IOF demolition displaced more than 120 individuals including women, children, and old people. Bedouins in Fasayel Al-Tihta opened their homes for the displaced families. Locals said that the soldiers confiscated small electricity generators used by those Bedouins. The sources noted that the IOF soldiers recently discovered relics in the area and demolished the Bedouin homes in a bid to turn the area into a tourist attraction.

And more news from Today in Palestine:

IOF serves notice for demolition of village mosque
BETHLEHEM (PIC) 15 June — Israeli occupation forces (IOF) on Tuesday stormed the village of Ma‘sara south of Bethlehem and told the inhabitants that their village mosque would be knocked down for unlicensed construction. Spokesman of the popular anti-wall committee in Bethlehem Mohammed Brejiah said in a press release that the notice gave the inhabitants 13 days to contest the decision at the civil administration’s office in Etzion south of the city or else the demolition would take place after this period.
Home demolitions in Fasayel
[photos] JVS 14 June — Today the colonialist forces demolished 18 structures in Fasayel, Southern Palestinian Jordan Valley. At 6 o’clock this morning, about 10 military jeeps, one civil administration car and 3 bulldozers entered Fasayel Wasta and Foqa, turning the area into a ‘closed military area’, preventing anybody to enter the village for more than 3 hours. The army demolished 9 homes and 9 animal shelters, leaving 9 families homeless and destroying the means of production of 9 some of them. … All [he owners] but Omar Taamri had got a demolition order 3 months ago. Soldiers attacked Taamri’s wife and daughter, hitting both of them.

Peres becomes Sheikh
Ynet 14 June — Peres was awarded the title in a ceremony held Tuesday on the Bedouin community of Hura, in the Negev … The newly appointed and visibly moved Sheik Peres said: “This visit has been a pleasure. I am deeply impressed by Hura. You have done more for yourselves than anyone else could have.” The Bedouins, he said, “Are a part of the Negev. It cannot be developed without developing the Bedouin community, so that it may keep its traditions while joining the modern world.”
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Israeli forces demolish 5 wells in Hebron
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 14 June — Israeli forces demolished five water wells in the southern West Bank city of Hebron on Tuesday morning, targeting a neighborhood in the city’s south. The wells belonged to the Al-Jamal family, brother of the owner Samir Abdul-Hamid Ma‘an. Soldiers and crews from Israel’s Civil Administration arrived on the property early, Samir said, assaulting family members who attempted to prevent the demolitions and then deploying tear-gas to drive them out of the area. Five wells were destroyed and filled-in, “under the guise that they were built without a license,” Samir said.
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IOF soldiers torch hundreds of Palestinian dunums
RAMALLAH, (PIC) 14 June — Israeli occupation forces (IOF) set hundreds of dunums of cultivated land west of Ramallah city and near the racist, separation wall on fire. Local sources said that the fire spread in the Safa village land near the separation wall on Monday night and that villagers rushed to extinguish the blaze but were prevented by the IOF troops. The IOF command claimed that it was cleaning the land of weed fearing possible infiltration of Palestinians across it. IOF troops started fire in agricultural land near Azun village in Qalqilia a couple of days earlier causing fire to spread and destroy vast areas of farmers’ land.
Demolition orders handed to farmers
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 15 June — Israel’s Civil Administration handed out demolition orders to three farmers in the northern West Bank on Tuesday, warning them that bulldozers would shortly arrive to demolish their greenhouses and farm buildings. Officials from the agricultural village of Majdal in the Nablus region said water collecting buckets and plastic tenting were targeted in the orders, affecting the farms of Hani Bani Fadel, Ayed Bani Fadel and Imad Bani Fadel.  A tractor from the farm of Fadel was confiscated … In April, UN officials warned that home and building demolitions carried out by Israeli forces had doubled since the beginning of 2011. UN reports showed that demolitions in May had displaced a record number of Palestinian children.
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Report: Palestinians assist visit to flashpoint holy site
TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma‘an) 14 June — With assistance from the Palestinian Authority, eight right-wing members of Israel’s parliament visited Joseph’s Tomb in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, Israeli media reported. Hundreds of Palestinian officers were deployed on main Nablus traffic routes as the lawmakers entered the city on a guarded bus in the first visit during daylight hours since 2000, the Israeli news site Ynet reported. “We came not only for historic reasons, but to make Arabs see that there is no place in the Land of Israel we cannot enter,” Knesset member Arieh Eldad said, according to the report … Under the Oslo accords, the city of Nablus is in the so-called Area A and is part of the 17 percent of the West Bank under Palestinian civil and security control.
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Settlers hurl stones at Palestinian homes in Hebron
IMEMC 14 June — Dozens of fundamentalist Israeli settlers, living in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, hurled on Tuesday at night, stones at five Palestinian homes in the city while chanting racist slogans and slurs at the Palestinian natives of the city. Mofeed Sharabaty, a local resident, stated that approximately 100 settlers attacked his home, the homes of his brother Zeidan, and the homes of Abdul-Rahman Al Salayma, Idrees Zahda, and Ali Al Nather. The army was present in the area but did not attempt to stop the settlers.
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The sad face of a boy who had his bike stolen in the middle of the night  / Vicky Orwel
PNN 14 June — When your neighbor steals your bike and you see them riding around the streets enjoying it and as happy as can be, what do you do? Go and take it back? Not if you live in Palestine and your neighbors are settlers. This was the case of one boy living in Tel Remeida who left his bike outside his front door before going to bed at night, as he always used to do, only to wake up in the morning to find it gone.
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News video: ‘Israel after Gaza natural resources’ / Ashraf Shannon
PressTV 14 June
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Activism / Solidarity
Video: How Israel deals with nonviolent Palestinian protest / Adam Horowitz
Mondo 14 June — Watch this video from Nabi Saleh (13 June). You might recognize the woman in the video. She is the same mother who fought as her 11-year old child was abducted by the Israeli military (video below). This is yet another tactic Israel has used to try to break the back of the nonviolent protests in the West Bank. [interesting comments on the YouTube video. Top-rated comment is “It makes me want to donate to Hamas.”]
Video: Special Forces vs. weekly demonstration, buffer zone, Gaza Strip
14 June. For once, no injuries, just a peaceful demonstration, in a very dangerous place
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Armed settlers harass the villagers of Qusra, a village southeast of Nablus in the West Bank
ISM 14 June — On Saturday June 11, six or seven armed settlers accompanied by the Israeli military entered the Palestinian village of Qusra and harassed villagers … At approximately 5.00pm, the Imam of the mosque in Qusra started calling to the population of the village that there were armed settlers (from a new illegal outpost near the village) approaching the village, from one of the surrounding mountains. In a show of strength and solidarity, around 100 villagers went to the mountain with the purpose of defending their land. The army accompanied the settlers and threw several sound bombs to disperse the Palestinians. One of the bombs fell in between 19 year old Ismail Aburedi’s legs. It rendered him unconscious and later, deaf and unable to walk. The Israeli army refused to let Ismail be taken to the hospital but it is reported that his friends placed him in the back of a car and raced him to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus where he was kept until 2 am the next day.
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7 hurt at protest against land confiscation near Ramallah
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) 15 June – Seven Palestinians were injured, including two critically, Wednesday after an anti-wall protest turned into clashes between Israeli soldiers and young Palestinians in Deir Qaddis, west of Ramallah. A rally headed from the village to obstruct Israeli bulldozers digging up private lands for the separation wall, a Ma‘an correspondent reported. Israeli forces were heavily deployed in the area and tried to disperse the demonstrators, beating them with clubs and rifle butts.
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US citizen in Jerusalem arrest video speaks to EI
EI 14 June MCM: What was it like in Israeli detention? LK: …What struck me most about my time in prison is that it is a reflection of the rest of Israeli society in that it’s completely segregated. I was placed against my will in the Jewish cell. I asked to be put in the Arab cell. The Jewish cell conditions weren’t bad at all; it was still jail, but it was bearable. I did see the Arab cell or at least one of the Arab cells and the conditions there were absolutely abominable. … We had furniture, we had beds of some sort, we had a clean bathroom. They had nothing. Just a bench and an open toilet. The conditions were horrible. That’s what struck me most.
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Gaza — under siege for 1,463 days now
UN: Gaza unemployment rate remains among the worst in the world
Haaretz 14 June — UNRWA report says 45.2 percent of Gazans in working age are unemployed, dropping more than 5,900 jobs to 190,365 in the second half of 2010 … the refugees, who make up two-thirds of Gaza’s 1.5 million population, were the worst hit,” UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said of the report in a statement.
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Red Cross donates stockpiled medicine to Gaza hospitals
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 14 June — The Red Cross in Gaza announced Tuesday that it had donated all of the medicine in its local warehouses to public Gaza hospitals as the health sector remained in a shortage crisis.  ICRC spokesman Omar Fery said warehouse managers were coordinating shipments with hospitals across the sector as they await a second shipment of medicines from the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah.
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Red Cross: Gaza medical crisis needs attention
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 15 June — The Gaza medication crisis is “enormous and needs concentrated efforts” to see its resolution, Red Cross official Omer Ferry said Wednesday. Ferry said the organization would continue supporting the health sector in any way it could, but called on the Palestinian Ministry of Health to look seriously at the problem.
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Gaza suffers gas shortage after pump breaks at crossing
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 15 June — The Gaza Strip has been suffering from shortages of domestic-use gas for three days due to a technical fault in the gas pump at the Kerem Shalom crossing.
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Germany to spend 73 million euros in Gaza projects
GAZA (Xinhua) 14 June —  German Minister for Cooperation and Development Dirk Niebel said on Tuesday that his country will provide 73 million euros (about 105 million U.S. dollars) to support projects in the Gaza Strip. Niebel’s announcement came during a news conference at the end of his hours-long visit to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Of the amount, 50 millions are allocated to complete the development of a station to treat sewage water in Central Gaza Strip and another 20 millions for a similar project serving Gaza City, Niebel told reporters inside the headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the city. Three million euros will also go for the UNRWA to build more schools.

250 trucks of goods allowed into Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 15 June — Israeli officials approved the transport of 250-260 truckloads of goods and humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip via the sole commercial crossing between Israel and the coastal enclave … The goods are just a fraction of the number needed for the 1.6 million Palestinians in the area, according to the latest reports from UN monitors. Goods remain at some 40 percent of pre-siege levels.
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Egyptian police seize Gaza arms dealers
EL-ARISH, Egypt (Ma‘an) 15 June — Egyptian police in the northern Sinai said officers had arrested a ring of Palestinian arms dealers on Wednesday who were preparing bring a shipment of automatic weapons, flak jackets and night vision goggles into Gaza … The weapons – Israeli and American – were being sold to buyers in Egypt and Gaza, Al-Masri said.
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French flotilla ship won’t sail
Ynet 15 June — Members of Jewish community in France band together, send 500 letters of protest against Gaza flotilla, effectively preventing ship bought by organizers for €530,000 from docking in Marseille …   Ynet learned Wednesday that the ship was being prevented from docking in France thanks to pressure applied by parliament members and organizations on insurance local companies and authorities. The vessel is currently anchored in waters outside of Marseille, where it has been for the past four days.”It’s fantastic. Even we didn’t believe this battle would lead to victory,” a member of the French Jewish community told Ynet.
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Video: Freedom Flotilla 2: Message in a Bottle / Adam Shapiro
Camera: Mohammed Al Majdalawi – Dear Ansaam and all the children in Gaza: We received your messages. We are coming!
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IHH may not take part in flotilla
Ynet 15 June — Turkish organization announces it will make final decision by end of the week, but other groups slated to take part in Gaza sail determined to go … On Wednesday, Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported that the IHH is considering canceling the flotilla following developments in the region, particularly in Syria … IHH senior official Hussein Uruç confirmed the report saying the group is rethinking the departure date but that preparations are still underway.
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IHH sends ‘no violence’ message to Israel
Ynet 14 June — Flotilla organizers ask Turkish Jews to tell Israeli government they are willing to subject vessels to international inspection before heading to Gaza in late June. Meanwhile, Turkish government officials vow to stop flotilla from departing
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Navy gears for Turkish flotilla
Ynet 15 June — IDF determined to stop Gaza-bound flotilla, senior officer says. ‘If we allow one ship to enter, next ones will carry dangerous weapons.’ IDF equipped with new non-lethal means to stop vessels
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10 Palestinians detained from West Bank overnight
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 15 June — …Palestinian officials said five were detained in the north after soldiers entered the villages of Beit Dajan and Einabus and carried out house-to-house searches. Local sources told Ma’an that soldiers entered both villages at 2:30 a.m. A military official reported that lawyer Zidan Khaled Abu Za’lan, 40, and Wa’el Tawfiq Hanini, 39, both from Beit Dajan, were detained for “suspected terrorist activity.” The Israeli military confirmed that six other Palestinians were also taken into custody.
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Israel detention campaign continues to target political leaders
QALQILIYA (Ma‘an) 14 June — The fifth Palestinian political leader detained since the start of May, Fatah leader in Qalqiliya Muhammad Walwil and his brother were taken from their family home before dawn on Tuesday morning. The detention followed a home raid and search which family member said took place at 3 a.m., prompting immediate condemnation from Fatah officials.
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Two detained from Bethlehem village, families say
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 14 June — The families of two 17-year-old Bethlehem-area residents reported their abduction by Israeli forces overnight, saying the teenagers were taken to an unknown location after home raids on Tuesday morning. An Israeli military spokesman said two Palestinians were detained overnight, one from west of Bethlehem and a second from an area north of Nablus. A statement from the military said both were “wanted for terrorist activity” and were “transferred for security questioning.” The families of Mahmoud Sabateen and Usama Shusha said soldiers forcibly entered their homes and forced the men, women and children in the homes outside as searches were carried out at 2 a.m.
In the Jerusalem region, Israeli military jeeps entered the village of Anata at 1:30 a.m., and handed out summons to several villagers.
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MP Mansour says Nablus attack a message for Cairo meeting
NABLUS (PIC) 14 June — MP Mona Mansour has called on Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas to issue orders freeing all political prisoners immediately, saying it is inconceivable that Palestinians would be held in both Israeli and Palestinian jails on the same charges. “The reconciliation is in a valley, and the practices of the security agencies are in another valley,” Mansour said, referring to the daily arrests in the West Bank targeting Hamas’s men in the West Bank that persisted after the Palestinian unity deal signed in early May. “It’s as if the reconciliation is non-existent and they’ve never heard of it.” … Mansour was one of those attacked on Monday when West Bank security services cracked down on a sit-in staged by the families of political prisoners and attended by several members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Although it was held in a “peaceful and civilized manner,” the security elements also attacked media that was present to cover the event and confiscated video footage of the crackdown.
Nakba / Naksa Days
Doc: Damascus behind ‘Nakba’ riots
Ynet 14 June — British blogger posts official-looking Syrian document showing clear link between Syrian regime, deadly ‘Nakba Day’ riots on northern border
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Syrian forces let Palestinians cross ceasefire lines: UN
UNITED NATIONS (AFP) 15 June – Syrian forces stood by as Palestinian demonstrators crossed the Golan Heights ceasefire line and were fired upon by Israeli forces, according to a UN report obtained by AFP. At least 27 people were killed in the demonstrations on May 15 and June 5 and some diplomats said the accounts given in the report reinforced claims that Syria is stirring up border troubles to divert attention from President Bashar al-Assad’s deadly crackdown on opposition protests … The report on the UN Disengagement Force (UNDOF) monitoring the ceasefire between Syria and Israel did not accuse Syrians of organising the protests by Palestinians. But each time Syrian forces were nearby, it stressed.
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Political / Diplomatic / International news
US envoys try to renew Israeli-Palestinian talks
JERUSALEM (AP) 15 June — Senior U.S. diplomats have returned to the Middle East for an unannounced visit to try to find a way to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that collapsed last year and now face new challenges. Dennis Ross and David Hale’s visit, confirmed by Israeli and Palestinian officials Wednesday, is their first to the region since special Mideast envoy George Mitchell resigned last month after failing to break the negotiations deadlock.
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EU’s Ashton due in Mideast over stalled peace talks
JERUSALEM (AFP) 15 June — EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is to fly to the Middle East this week for talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials over the impasse in peace talks, a spokesman told AFP on Wednesday.
Eastern Europe new battleground in Mideast rift
WARSAW, Poland (AP) 15 June — Warsaw and Prague might seem like unlikely battlegrounds in the Middle East conflict. Yet it suddenly matters — a lot — whether Poles, Czechs and others in the region align themselves with the Israelis or Palestinians. Their votes will be crucial if the Palestinian leadership carries out a plan to bring a resolution on Palestinian statehood to the United Nations in September, and that has sparked intense diplomatic efforts in recent weeks by both Israelis and Palestinians to win them over to their side. The Palestinians aim to win two-thirds support in the 192-member General Assembly at the United Nations — or 129 countries — and are now about 13 countries short of their target.
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Bardawil: Name of premier to be resolved in Abbas-Misha‘al meeting
GAZA, (PIC) 15 June — Hamas leader Dr. Salah Al-Bardawil hailed the Hamas-Fatah meeting in Cairo yesterday, saying that it was “positive and amicable”. Bardawil in a press statement on Wednesday said that an agreement was reached on the issue of political detainees and the passports. He added that Fatah promised to solve both issues. The formation of unity government and its premier would be resolved next Tuesday in Cairo when Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah leader and PA chief, and Khaled Misha‘al, the Hamas leader, meet, he elaborated.
Report: Hamas nominates Haniyeh to head government
Ynet 14 June — Several days after Fatah nominated Salam Fayyad to head the new Palestinian government, Hamas announced it was pushing for Ismail Haniyeh’s appointment. According to the London-based al-Hayat newspaper, a senior Hamas element said that as far as the Islamist group is concerned, Haniyeh will head the new Palestinian government. Fatah and Hamas representatives are slated to meet Tuesday and discuss the makeup of the new government.
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Fatah denies claims of unrest after Dahlan ouster
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) 15 June — The office of Fatah leader Nabil Sha‘ath denied Wednesday claims on Facebook and Palestinian internet forums that the leader’s home had been torched by mobs of “angry Fatah members.” … Dahlan was voted out of Fatah on Sunday, following a discreet internal investigation during which unnamed sources said the former Fatah strongman in Gaza tried to mobilize a personal militia in the West Bank.
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MP: No success for elections without freedom
NABLUS (PIC) 14 June — MP Husni Al-Bourini has rejected the decision by minister of economy in the illegitimate Ramallah government Hassan Abu Libde to organize elections for the Nablus chamber of commerce and industry in mid-July. The lawmaker charged that the decision ran contrary to the atmosphere of reconciliation and to the vision of the majority of national forces, which opined that the elections should be delayed until suitable conditions were created.
Prosor assumes UN ambassador role
Ynet 15 June — Former UK envoy to weather political storms in September, when PA plans to declare statehood
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European Parliament: East Jerusalem should be Palestinian capital
dpa 15 June — In a speech before the Knesset, European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek said he backs Obama’s peace plan, and that negotiations are the ‘only solution.’

MK Majadele receives death threats
Ynet 15 June — Letter sent to Labor MK’s Knesset office says he has 180 days to live, will die agonizing death … A letter addressed to Majadele at his Knesset office stated that a Pulsa Dinura (Kabbalistic death curse) had been cast upon him on May 1 for his “Anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist activity.” … Sources close to the MK said that he had recently declared in an interview that east Jerusalem was the capital of Palestine and that Islam’s holy sites in Jerusalem must be handed over to the Palestinians. They noted the letter may be linked to these statements.
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Other news
Israel’s harassment of US-Mexico border human rights activist raises many questions / Gabriel Matthew Schiavone
Mondo 14 June — On May 16, a 19-year-old American student from a Southwest university was stopped by Israeli security agents and held for several hours as she attempted to enter the occupied Palestinian West Bank with 17 other schoolmates and two professors. At one point in a grueling interrogation that lasted until 2 am, she was harassed about her affiliation with No Más Muertes/No More Deaths, a humanitarian group that operates along the U.S.-Mexico border.
89,000 Palestinian students to take Tawjihi
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 15 June — Approximately 89,000 Palestinian students sat for the first session of the General Secondary Certificate, or Tawjihi, in the West Bank and Gaza on Wednesday. Education Minister Lamis Al-Alami said that of the 88,768 registered test takers, 52 percent were women. Of the total number of students, 52,367 were from the West Bank and 36,401 were from Gaza. The Tawjihi, administered every year for Palestinian students seeking the high school qualification, is required for those who wish to enter Palestinian universities. The score on the test determines which programs a would-be student can enter.
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Jerusalem education fund created during Amman conference
AMMAN (PIC) 14 June — A specialized fund to urgently support Jerusalem’s culture and education sectors was established during a conference on the holy city in Jordan’s capital Amman. The conference titled “Jerusalem: A human right and nation’s responsibility” ended Sunday evening and was slated to discuss the situation in the holy city and to take political action to confront attempts to Judaize the holy city and displace its Arab residents … As 60 percent of Palestinians in Jerusalem attend schools administered by Israel’s Jerusalem municipality and learn Hebrew history and language, the participants called for new Palestinian schools funded by Arabs and Muslims.
Israel police train for mass Palestinian protests
JERUSALEM (AFP) 14 June – Hundreds of Israeli police are taking part in a training exercise in preparation for potentially large-scale Palestinian protests in September, a police spokesman said on Tuesday. “There’s an exercise that the police are carrying out… in order to deal with public order, maintaining public order, and dealing with widespread disturbances,” spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told AFP. The Palestinian leadership plans to seek UN recognition and membership in September in a move Israeli security officials fear could be accompanied by widespread Palestinian protests.
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Bedouin sheikh jailed for imprisoning, raping girl
Ynet 15 June — The Beersheba District Court on Wednesday sentenced a Bedouin sheikh to 13 years in prison for imprisoning, raping, and beating a teenage girl because she violated “family honor”. The girl’s uncle, convicted of kidnapping her, was sent to prison for five years … the uncle’s attorneys claimed that he saved the girl’s life by setting up her marriage to another man. They added that the defendant is a known women’s rights activist in the Bedouin sector.
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Rivlin: Public service shouldn’t favor ex-soldiers
Ynet 14 June —  Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday said that a bill meant to give preference to those who served in the army or did national service in admittance into public service positions “is contradictory to the principle of equal opportunity.” Speaking at a conference on absorption of Arab workers into the public service, Rivlin said “ex-soldiers and those who did national service should be rewarded with housing, scholarships, and grants, but not with benefits that will harm other sectors and the special role of the public service.
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Muslim police officer ascends to new heights
Ynet 15 June — Deputy Inspector-General Jamal Hakroush on Wednesday became the first Muslim police officer to ascend to his rank in Israel. He was recently nominated to the office of deputy chief of the Traffic Department … The officer added, “My religion and origin are facts I do not ignore, but I have never, in all my years of service, felt discriminated against or hurt by it.” Hakroush says his home village of Kfar Kana has offered a lot of support.
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Glenn Beck’s Jerusalem rally program unveiled
Ynet 15 June — Tens of thousands of excited Israelis and Americans, music performances, appearances by local and international celebrities, senior politicians and a live broadcast that will reach millions of viewers – this is just some of what is in store for Glenn Beck’s upcoming rally “to restore courage,” which is set to take place on August 24 in Jerusalem.
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Analysis / Opinion
Interview: The leader of the group that claims to have kidnapped Vittorio Arrigoni speaks
15 June — You deny to have played any role in the kidnapping and assassination of Vittorio Arrigoni, yet you are still being accused of that.  Someone wants to involve us at all costs in this affair, but Tawhid wal Jihad did not in any way plan or participate in the kidnapping of the Italian. Our denial was immediate, from the very start we made it clear that the kidnappers were not part of our Jihad project. Those young men used our name because it is known and they wanted to gain some attention.
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Gaza border opening little more than rhetoric / Ramzy Baroud
JT 16 June — For most Palestinians, leaving Gaza through Egypt is as exasperating a process as entering it. Governed by political and cultural sensitivities, most Palestinian officials and public figures refrain from criticizing the way Palestinians are treated at the Rafah border. There is really no diplomatic language to describe the relationship between desperate Palestinians — some literally fighting for their lives — and Egyptian officials at the crossing which separates Gaza from Egypt. “Gazans are treated like animals at the border,” I was told by a friend who was afraid that her fiancé would not be allowed to leave Gaza, despite having his papers in order. Having crossed the border myself just a few days earlier, I could not disagree with her statement … I was one of the very first Palestinians who stood at Rafah following the announcement of a “permanent” opening. Our bus waited at the gate for a long time. I watched a father repeatedly try to reassure his crying 6-year-old child, who displayed obvious signs of a terrible bone disease. “Get the children out or they will die,” shouted an older passenger as he gasped for air. The heat in the bus, combined with the smell of trapped sweat was unbearable.
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Palestinians seek to redefine national struggle / Tom Perry
RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) 15 June — Freedom, justice, dignity and equality are the demands of a new generation of Palestinians seeking to redefine their national struggle in a way that could threaten both Israel and their own leadership. They are neither Fatah or Hamas and care as little for the Palestinians’ factional politics as they do for the “two-state solution” which President Mahmoud Abbas has long presented as the only workable resolution to the conflict with Israel. “As far as we are concerned, our issue is one of rights,” said Hazem Abu Hilal, an activist in a human rights-focused movement which he says is gaining followers thanks to Arab uprisings across the region. “It’s not that important if there is a state or not. What matters is securing these four demands,” he said, speaking as he recovered from the effects of a foul-smelling liquid sprayed by Israeli forces during a West Bank protest he helped organise.
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Gaza: Young Palestinians lead a global movement / Joe Catron
13 June — On a warm, sunny afternoon, I met Eman Sourani and Rana Baker in an airy outdoor café several blocks from the port of Gaza. Both are members of the Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI). Sourani, a 22-year-old English literature student at Al-Aqsa University, cofounded the group after Operation Cast Lead in January 2009, while Baker, a 19-year-old blogger and a business administration student at the Islamic University of Gaza, joined it during Israeli Apartheid Week, a global event in March 2011. PSCABI is the student arm of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), itself part of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee. Since its July 2005 founding by Palestinian organizations from Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, and the diaspora, BDS has grown into a formidable global movement with an impressive record of victories.

The Bedouin minority must be integrated / Moshe Arens
Haaretz 14 June — How many times does it have to be said that integrating the large minority population is the major challenge facing Israeli society? … Of all the segments of the Israeli minority population, the integration of the Bedouin is by far the most difficult. For centuries they have followed a nomadic lifestyle and now find themselves in the midst of a modern industrial society without the skills needed to become productive members of this society. The age-old tradition of polygamy is still practiced among them; a father having a large number of children is commonplace, leading to parental neglect and delinquency. [reminds me of Queensland, Australia, where ‘assimilation’ of the Aboriginal population actually means the destruction of their culture]
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Reasonable conjectures on Israel’s changing demographics – an analysis by Dr. Lawrence Davidon
Part 1 — Young Israelis are voting with their feet — If the historical goal of the state of Israel is to provide the world’s Jews a secure national home, a place of refugee in a world of real or potential anti-Semitism, it seems to have failed. It has failed not because this writer says so, but because an increasing number of its own Jewish citizens say so. There have been studies originating both in Israel and abroad that show “as many as half of the Jews living in Israel will consider leaving …if in the next few years the current political and social trends continue.” This finding is in addition to the fact that yerida, or emigration out of Israel, has long been running at higher numbers than aliyah, or immigration into the country.
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Two Palestinian protesters injured by live ammo in Deir Qaddis

Jun 15, 2011

Popular Struggle Coordination Committee

From the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee:

Demonstrators disrupted construction of a new neighborhood in the adjacent settlement of Nili. Israeli soldiers responded with baton charges, tear-gas, rubber-coated bullets and live ammunition. One organizer was arrested.

Two Palestinian youths in their twenties were hit by live ammunition today, during a demo against settlement expansion in the village of Dier Qaddis. One, a 24 year-old, was shot twice – in the pelvis and in the shoulder, and the second, a 22 year-old, was shot in the back of his thigh and will require an operation. Mohammed Amirah, a member of the Ni’lin popular committee, was arrested, apparently for incitement.

Residents of Deir Qaddis, accompanied by Israeli and international supporters, marched to their lands today in order to stop the construction of a new neighborhood in the settlement of Nili on their lands.

As the protesters advanced towards the bulldozers, Israeli soldiers and Border Police officers first fired a few rounds of live fire in the air and very quickly moved on to shoot tear-gas and rubber-coated bullets directly at the protesters. Despite the attack, demonstrators managed to reach the bulldozers and disrupt construction for half an hour.

As protesters retreated, soldiers followed them to the edge of the village, where clashes ensued and where the two were shot. In addition to the two hit by live ammo, six more were struck by rubber bullets.

UN report debunks Israel’s Naksa propaganda

Jun 15, 2011

Alex Kane

Immediately after the Israeli military reportedly killed a number of unarmed demonstrators in the occupied-Golan Heights on June 5, Israel’s propaganda machine went into high gear. Newly-released details from a United Nations report authored by the Secretary General clearly show that the Israeli spin on the Naksa protests was just that: spin.

The principle claim was that the Israel Defense Forces only shot at the bottom half ofprotesters’ bodies, and therefore did not kill them. Instead, as a New York Timesreport put it, the Israeli military said that “10 protesters were killed after they threw makeshift firebombs and started a fire that set off land mines near the border town of Quneitra, on the Syrian side of the lines.”

It turns out that there was indeed a fire that killed demonstrators, according to the UN. But according to published accounts of Ban Ki-Moon’s report on the demonstrations, it was Israeli weaponry that caused the fire which ultimately killed protesters.

From Ha’aretz:

A UN report on the Naksa day events said the IDF used tear gas, smoke grenades and live fire to prevent the demonstrators from crossing the ceasefire line.

It stated: “Several anti-tank mines exploded due to a brush fire apparently started by tear gas or smoke grenade canisters near UNDOF facilities at Charlie Gate, resulting in casualties among protesters.”

The brush fire was put out by Syrian and Israeli fire squads, and UNDOF, the report read.

Meanwhile, the Zionist blogosphere is all over this story by Michael Weiss of the Telegraph (UK) that purports to show Syrian state documents proving that “Assad orchestrated [the] Nakba Day raids” on the Golan Heights. Weiss, who works for a pro-Israel advocacy group, claimed that the document was authentic and originated from the “‘Office of the Mayor’ in Al-Qunaitera province.” But blogger Richard Silverstein throws cold water on Weiss’ report, writing that it was Israeli intelligence–which has a history of pushing false stories in the media–who leaked the memo to him.

Alex Kane, a freelance journalist based in New York City, blogs on Israel/Palestine and Islamophobia at, where this post originally appeared.  Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

How ‘A Gay Girl in Damascus’ became a mascot of the liberal west

Jun 15, 2011

Lizzy Ratner

Several days ago, Jadaliyya posted a brilliant essay exploring the reason so many Westerners – and Western media types, including some of us at this site – fell so hard for the myth of Amina Arraf, the fierce and fearless “Gay Girl in Damascus” who was recently unmasked as being a straight guy in Edinburgh (by way of the United States). The piece, which was written by Maya Mikdashi and R.M., a gender rights activist “in the Arab world,” is a powerful, provocative analysis of the way “the gay issue” is increasingly being used in the west to undermine the complex promise of the Arab Spring. And it’s an ardent cry to LGBT Arabs, women, progressives, and others “to refuse to allow parts of our personhood (sexuality, gender) to be mobilized at the expense of other parts of our personhood (the Palestinian, the Arab, the working class).” We’ve excerpted a section of the piece below but strongly encourage a full read by checking out the original essay, “Gays, Islamists, and the Arab Spring: What Would a Revolutionary Do?” at Jadaliyya.

The “gay issue” is becoming an increasingly hot topic in Western media coverage of the Arab world. In fact, beginning with the spate of gay killings in US occupied Iraq, the status of non-normative sexualities has perhaps been enfolded within a discourse that highlights the plight of “women” in Arab/Muslim countries, and the ideological, material, and military mobilization that such a discourse licenses. The already mentioned CNN article is one of several devoted to the issue of what will happen to “the gays” after the revolutions, in addition to spates of comments on many other pieces analyzing what the revolutions may mean. A critical reader might ask what lies behind this interest in gays? Where did it come from and what kinds of discourses and practices is it contributing to? What assumptions does this conversation make as to international practices of sexuality and politics, and what silences about other forms of oppression is this anxiety over the status of gay Arabs in Arab democracies implicated in?

When commentators, politicians, and journalists pose questions as to the potentially dangerous aspect of regime change in the Arab world, they are pointing to the possibility that Islamist governments may be formed in Tunisia, Egypt, or Syria. American and European fears of Islamists are certainly not because they represent a threat to personal freedoms (just look at the record of personal freedoms in Saudi Arabia, America’s strongest Arab ally) but because Western powers are afraid of what an Islamist-inspired foreign policy might look like. Simply put, the fear is that Islamist governments may realign themselves against the US/Israel camp, although, looking again to Saudi Arabia, there is little evidence to suggest that Islamism is inherently at odds with the foreign policy objectives of the United States and of Israel. In this way, gay Arabs are only the latest fodder used to fan the flames of Islamophobia in political, media, and public discourse. The idea is that Islamist governments are inherently intolerant of non-normative sexual behavior, and that that intolerance is unacceptable to the international community today. This statement, in turn, rests upon several assumptions: 1) Secular authoritarian regimes have been the protectors of women and gays in the Arab world, and 2) The international community, via the discourse of human rights, can cherry pick injustices and politicize them within a liberal discourse of tolerance. Under the twinned discourses of “tolerance” and “Islamophobia”, a state’s treatment of its gays and its women is used as a marker for “backwardness” or “civilization”. As Wendy Brown reminds us, the use of human rights abuses to justify the War on Terror speaks this violent logic; that those who are intolerant do not deserve to be tolerated [by those who both set the standard and are tasked with upholding it, when it suits them]. Homophobia within Palestine, for example, which is bizarrely presented as unique and exceptional, becomes a justification for why Palestinians are less deserving of justice, equality and a state than the liberal, tolerant and democratic Israelis.It is significant that populations such as gays, women, and Christians are being harnessed to promote fear of what will emerge post Assad, for example. In part, we should not be surprised; if the pinkwashing campaign has taught us anything, it is that Israel, by promoting itself as the protector of gay Palestinians, successfully cleaves human rights from political engagement and uses the ideological capital of “tolerance” to promote itself as a protector of freedom in a sea of intolerant, backwards, and dangerous Arabs/Palestinians. One could ask, as one Palestinian queer activist is fond of saying, is there a secret doorway in the apartheid wall visible only to gay Palestinians? In the context of the Arab Spring, this separation of human and political rights accomplishes many of the same objectives. It posits the Assad, Mubarak, or Ben Ali regime as preferable in terms of human and minority rights to the Islamist governments that may follow them. And it renders the political rights and will of all Arabs, gay and straight, male and female, old and young, citizens and non-citizens, Christian and Muslim and Jewish, a prospect that we, the secular and the liberal, should be weary of.

A focus on the dangers that Islamists pose to minority and sexual rights discourages people from asking serious questions about the structural issues that will determine the outcome of these post-revolutionary societies. The CNN article warning of the future of LGBT rights in the wake of the Arab Spring seems to say, ‘Instead of questioning the role of the US-allied Egyptian military, the IMF’s renewed interest in Egypt, or the architecture of political oppression still in place in Egypt, we should be worried about the crazy Muslims’. With little exception, the response of gay activists from the region and abroad in articles such as the ones by CNN and AP as well as in online for a such as Twitter and Facebook has been to bolster the fears promulgated by the US and the EU about the “Islamist threat” with no real or substantive understanding of what is actually taking place in post-revolutionary Tunisia and Egypt. Statements such as “gays might become the sacrificial lambs of the Arab Spring” or fearmongering about a possible “Islamist takeover” not only reinforce infantilizing and racist Euro-American discourses about Arabs and Muslims, but also betray a simplistic and naïve analysis of the political and social developments taking place in the region.

Read the entire piece at Jadaliyya.

In London, Benny Morris runs the gauntlet

Jun 15, 2011

Philip Weiss

This is a little like Marty Peretz being assailed at Harvard by people holding placards with his own repugnant words on them, only stronger.  Benny Morris, the Israeli historian who has rationalized ethnic cleansing to create a majority-Jewish state in ’48, being badgered as he walks to a lecture hall at London School of Economics to make an appearance. Schlumpfy historian. Note the intensity of the accusations, racism, justifying apartheid. The mood is shifting across Europe, and it’s coming here. Morris losing prestige, Zionism losing prestige.

A member of the audience reports: “He purports to be a historian yet when asked questions for example — “How can Palestinians be asked to compromise with their own land?”  (when he painted a picture at how wonderful and considerate Israel was for offering them 45% a while back) — his response — ‘I have only scratched the surface in my research; you would need at least 10 historians working together to answer these questions.’  He must have given this reply at least 5 times. He failed to discuss the refugee problem other than to say that it was caused by the Arab-led war.  He also referred to the Jewish refugees (Jews forced to leave and  expelled by Arab countries) which he said people aren’t aware of as they were all absorbed by Israel. . .  Several protesters left during his lecture with stickers taped over their mouths and holding up signs as they left. “

Why we support the US Boat to Gaza

Jun 15, 2011

Aman Muqeet

Students for Justice in Palestine FIU – Solidarity Statement with the US Boat to Gaza – The Audacity of Hope

“There’s no thrill in easy sailing when the skies are clear and blue, there’s no joy in merely doing things which any one can do. But there is some satisfaction that is mighty sweet to take; when you reach a destination that you never thought you’d make.” – Anonymous

According to several Israeli officials, there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. For the sake of the argument let’s assume that this is true. Now let us take a look at facts on the ground. Most Americans have probably never seen a blackout or might have never experienced a total power outage in their life, thanks to the infinite electricity provided by the all-powerful nuclear plants here. On the other hand, Gaza, which is not even one-third the size of the city of Los Angeles, inhabits more than 1.5 million people making it one of the world’s most crowded places and where there is only one power plant. That one power plant was bombed by Israel twice. The first time Israel bombed the plant in 2006, it did not for once think about damaging property worth US $140 million. The second time it bombed the plant in 2009, the plant shutdown completely. This second bombing was during the Operation Cast Lead which killed more than 1400 Palestinians during the month long operation. Moreover, the blockade constitutes to the shutdown of the lone power plant.

Recession is something which the Americans can relate to and they know what it means to be unemployed. United Nations Relief and Works Agency says that the unemployment rate in Gaza remains the highest in the world. A study conducted by the organization said that over 45.2 percent of the working-age people in Gaza were unemployed. Refugees, who make up two-thirds of Gaza’s 1.5 million population, were the worst hit. According to the study, the employment in the Hamas government sector remained high, with over 53% of all employed refugees working in the public sector. If the aim of the blockade policy was to weaken the Hamas administration, the public employment numbers suggest this has failed. The international poverty threshold is known to be around a $1/day to survive in any given country around the world. More than 80% of Gaza’s 1.5 million population lives under $1/day. Homelessness is another major issue in Gaza. Over 3000 families were homeless after the Operation Cast Lead. Amnesty International called it “wanton destruction” in violation of international law.

The UN, Human Rights Watch and many other international bodies and NGOs consider Israel to be the occupying power of the Gaza Strip as Israel controls Gaza’s airspace and territorial waters, and does not allow the movement of goods in or out of Gaza by air or sea. Gaza has been termed as an open air prison by officials from United Nations. Amnesty International calls it collective punishment, which according to international law, is illegal. Fishing is one of Gaza’s principal trades. According to Red Cross, 90% of Gaza’s 4000 fishermen are considered poor or very poor. The Israeli blockade has restricted access to the sea to 3 nautical miles from the shore, making profitable catches impossible and most of the fishermen are unnecessarily dependent on aid. There have been cases where the fishermen have strayed beyond the 3 mile periphery and have been shot at by the Israeli Navy; in some instances they have been killed. Their only crime was that they were fishing. Palestinians have tried to use tunnels to bring in goods from Egypt. Israel had repeatedly bombed several tunnels which killed several Palestinians. More than 160 Palestinians have been killed during their work in those tunnels since February, 2006 due to bombing, electric shock or suffocation. Now that the Rafah border has been opened there seemed to be a sense of relief amongst the Palestinians, which however was short-lived. Israel still controls all commercial crossings. Limited access of food, commodities and medications are still in effect.

Healthcare is a hotly debated topic in the United States. Republicans have come close to calling Obama’s healthcare plan to be the worst thing that has ever happened to America after the recession. In Gaza, the situation is in stark contrast. Not that they have an even worse healthcare system, in actuality, they have none. According to Gaza’s health bodies and utilities, severe shortages are hitting the sector due to the continued closure. The shortages have led to a reduction in services, including surgeries. A number of patients are on the waiting list for urgent medical operations. According to Gaza’s health ministry, the medical storage will soon be depleted, which further endangers the lives of the innocent population. The Gaza Strip still has a persistent drug shortage, despite some recent Israeli and Egyptian talks about easing the strict blockade that has left this crowded enclave isolated since July, 2007. The health crisis in the Strip has increased the suffering of people, with some nearing death. The World Health Organization says the blockade has led to a general “worsening of the health conditions of the population” and “accelerated the degeneration” of the health system. During Operation Cast Lead, six hospitals suffered damage, including one that had a new building was completely destroyed, another lost two whole floors. Gaza is simply not equipped to treat many severe cases. According to Israeli figures, 10,544 patients and their companions left the Gaza Strip for medical treatment in Israel in 2009. But the WHO says that in December 2009, permission for 21% of patients was denied or delayed, and 27 patients in total died during the year while waiting for referrals to Israel. Water and sewage is another significant requisite in a conurbation’s functioning and can lead to an epidemic if the sanitation requirements are not met. The WHO says Operation Cast Lead worsened an already bad situation. Before the operation, it says Gazans had only half the water they needed according to international standards, and 80% of water supplied did not meet WHO drinking standards. At the height of the January fighting, half of Gaza’s population had no access to piped water.

Civil Engineering and Construction are topics which are close to my heart. These are the subjects which are going to shape the rest of my career. As an Indian, I can understand why a developing country constantly needs improvements in infrastructure and how housing is crucial for a country’s population. In Gaza, restrictions on construction materials, particularly cement, and spare parts for machinery, has had a big impact on projects ranging from water treatment to grave digging. Reconstruction of buildings and infrastructure destroyed in the 2009 Israeli operations in Gaza has been virtually impossible. The UN says restrictions on cement have made the reconstruction of 12,000 Palestinian homes damaged or destroyed in Israeli military operations “impossible”. It says it has not been able to build schools to house 15,000 new pupils, necessary because of population growth since the blockade began. Even before Operation Cast Lead, all factories making construction materials had shut down and the building of roads, water and sanitation infrastructure, medical facilities, schools and housing was on hold. The Yasser Arafat International Airport which was bombed by Israel in 2001 still remains inoperable.

United Nations Human Rights Council has termed the blockade of Gaza as illegal under international law. The European Union has repeatedly called for the lifting of the blockade. Despite severe pressure on Israel it does not budge mainly due to USA’s unconditional support, which is in fact isolating it on the world stage. The international community and civil society had become agitated by Israel’s indifference. After tolerating Israel’s arrogance for several years, activists from around the world organized a flotilla of ships. This flotilla was called as the “Freedom Flotilla”. The Freedom Flotilla was organized to carry several tons of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. The flotilla set sail in the summer of 2010. On May 31, 2010 the flotilla was attacked in international waters by the Israeli navy in the dead of the night killing 9 Turkish activists sparking massive protests around the world. The UN Report on last year’s flotilla concluded that Israel had violated international law in several respects: by using excessive force, by wrongfully attacking humanitarian vessels in international waters, and by an unacceptable claim to be enforcing a blockade that was itself unlawful. Israel has so far been defiant of international law and is yet to comply. It has even rebuffed the demands to offer an apology to Turkey.

Despite last year’s incident, the international civil society has not given up on its solidarity for the Palestinians and has organized “Freedom Flotilla II – Stay Human”. On June 25 at least 15 ships including the US Boat to Gaza “The Audacity of Hope” will depart various ports from around the world and meet in the Mediterranean. The flotilla organizers are planning to reach Gaza in the first week of July. This flotilla has been named to honor Vittorio Arrigoni the Italian activist who was killed in Gaza earlier this year. The flotilla carries tons of much needed humanitarian aid including educational, medical and construction material and over 1500 humanitarian activists as passengers. Israel has begun its military trainings in order to stop the flotilla from reaching Gaza. We hope that the Israeli navy doesn’t commit the grave mistake it committed last year and wish all the passengers aboard the flotilla a happy journey. We especially wish ‘Gabriel Schivone’ member of Students for Justice in Palestine at University of Arizona all the best in this endeavor and pray that his participation in this historic effort be fruitful. To reiterate our commitment to Freedom Flotilla II we have organized a Florida Solidarity Rally to be held on June 18 in Downtown Miami in front of the Israeli Consulate and hope people who truly believe in peace and justice come out to show support for this humanitarian effort.

Aman Muqeet is a recent graduate from Florida International University receiving his Master’s Degree in Construction Management. He is one of the founding members of Students for Justice in Palestine at FIU and former Graduate Senator of the Student Government Association of FIU.

Keith Weissman says American Jewish community is pushing war with Iran (not Iraq)

Jun 15, 2011

Philip Weiss

I know this is days old, I missed it. Keith Weissman formerly of AIPAC, talking toRobert Dreyfuss of the Nation, on PBS:

“Now, for the first time, one of the two AIPAC officials, Keith Weissman, is speaking out. In a series of extended interviews with Tehran Bureau, Weissman tells his story. He’s come forward, he says, because he’s concerned that if a confrontation between the United States, Israel, and Iran leads to war, it will be a disaster — one that Weissman fears will be blamed on the American Jews. ….

“The reason why I want to tell this story now is, we may be going down a path, helped along by the American Jewish community, and maybe even Israel, that is going to be worse even than the one we’re on now – some sort of military confrontation with Iran. That worries me. Because they will be able to blame [it] on the Jews, to a great extent,” says Weissman, who worked at AIPAC from 1993 until 2005, much of that time as the group’s deputy director of foreign policy. Though Weissman disagrees sharply with those who say that AIPAC played a critical role in pushing for the 2003 U.S. decision to invade Iraq, he believes a war with Iran — which he says “would be the stupidest thing I ever heard of” — might well be blamed on AIPAC’s leaders and their constituents. “What the Jews’ war will be is Iran,” he says. “Not Iraq.”

I find this slightly irresponsible. I mean, it’s a good thing, to stop a war on Iran. But it’s defensive, inasmuch as the argument is, Jews qua Jews had nothing to do with the Iraq war, when plainly they did. As I argued just the other day. As Jonathan Franzen apparently says in his novel Freedom (the post above this). This ain’t going away, Keith and Robert, this is something the Jewish community must come to terms with, the neoconservative complicity in the burning of Iraq as a means of improving Israel’s security, and the liberal Jewish complicity of silence, not diming their neocon cousins out.

Walt & Mearsheimer & Franzen

Jun 15, 2011

Peter Voskamp

I finally got around to reading Jonathan Franzen’s much-heralded novel, “Freedom.”At nearly 600 pages, it kept me engaged enough to finish, but I wonder what my impressions would have been had there not been so much hype surrounding the book.

Be that as it may, I was taken aback by how overtly Franzen pointed to neocon Jewish influence in Washington as a cause for the Iraq war. I found it especially surprising that in all the glowing reviews I’d read about the novel I’d seen nary a mention of that, pro or con.

In the novel, the character Joey Berglund, a UVA college freshman, attends a Thanksgiving dinner — the first after 9-11 — outside Washington at the home of his wealthy Jewish roommate. At dinner, the roommate’s father — presumably a very formidable, connected figure within the Beltway — holds forth on the opportunity the 9-11 attacks had presented:

“He referred to members of the president’s cabinet by their first names, explaining how ‘we’ had been ‘leaning on’ the president to exploit this unique historical moment to resolve an intractable geopolitical deadlock and radically expand the sphere of freedom. In normal times, he said, the great mass of American public opinion was isolationist and know-nothing, but the terrorist attacks had given ‘us’ a golden opportunity, the first since the end of the Cold War, for ‘the philosopher’ (which philosopher, exactly, Joey wasn’t clear on or had missed an earlier reference to) to step in and unite the country behind the mission that his philosophy had revealed as right and necessary.”

I backtracked and found that indeed this scene had generated discussion.

Back in September M.J. Rosenberg argued that the fact that such a claim could be made in such a ballyhooed novel was proof that Walt and Mearsheimer’s thesis had been accepted by the mainstream.

But others were far less comfortable with the Franzen’s take.

In Tablet, Marc Tracy, himself a child of the Beltway, said Franzen’s rendering did not ring true. Tracy said his “quibble” had less to do with his “jewishness” than with Franzen’s otherwise sharp eye falling laughably short when it came to understanding how D.C. works.

Perhaps the strongest reaction came from Adam Kirsch in The New Republic. He identified the “philosopher” mentioned by Franzen as Leo Strauss, the patron saint of neoconservatism. Kirsch excoriates Franzen for repeating left-wing talking points regarding the Iraq war, and for falling for other old canards:

What’s important is that, in fictionalizing this left-wing conventional wisdom about Strauss, the Jews, and the Iraq war, Franzen is spreading it to a much wider audience—complete with images of a wizened, cranially distorted Jewish puppetmaster, who cynically chuckles about how “we” control the U.S. government from behind the scenes. That Franzen could uncritically reproduce this kind of imagery is a reminder of how ugly and obsessive the antiwar discourse sometimes became.

To be sure, Franzen also smites scruple-less war profiteers (of indeterminate religious background) for their sins in Iraq, and wonders from time to time about just what Bush and Cheney’s motivation really was. But he never gives them a Thanksgiving dinner to lay out their reasons.

What about American sectarianism? (and Jewish fears that it will bust loose)

Jun 15, 2011

Philip Weiss

Sectarianism in the Middle East is a big issue in the news. BBC had a report on sectarian tensions in Syria yesterday, and NPR aired a good report the other day by Kelly McEvers on the destruction of Shia mosques across Bahrain.

“Bahrain society generally is made up of a lot of moderate people,” Staci Haag, the regional director for the National Democratic InstituteHaag says. “But if you create divisions, then you also have moderate Sunnis who are pushed more toward the government side, because this creates a sense of fear between the two communities, and people are quite frankly forced to pick sides.”

The question now is if a national dialogue planned for next month will bring Bahrain back to the way it was, when Sunnis and Shiites didn’t pick sides and lived together in peace.

Sectarian conflict in Iraq eventually turned brutal and violent, and the uprising in Syria is beginning to take on a sectarian tone that many worry could spill into deeply divided Lebanon.

Undoubtedly, social unrest strips away the cohesive tissue that prevents ethnicities from battling one another. But my question is, what about the sectarian issues in the U.S., are Jews likely to be affected by them? And I think the answer is yes, because of the deep unexplored divisions that Zionism has created in American culture and inside Jewish life too.

Here are two items that touch on the issue.

1. From Haaretz:

Jewish Federations of North America officials met today at the White House with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. The meeting, coinciding with the announcement of the Federation movement’s new partnership with DHS, was dedicated mainly to the state of threats posed to American Jewish institutions.

I think that’s about Zionism at heart And, 2. A piece in the Jerusalem Post about Jewish political giving and the dual loyalty issue:

Republicans are hopeful, [Jeffrey] Goldberg explains, that they will be able to chip away at the millions of dollars and political activism that American Jews bring to the Democratic Party.
And that is making some Jews distinctly uncomfortable.
Marta Wallant, 53, a lawyer from New York City, describes herself as a “liberal Jew” who has “recently had serious doubts about President Obama’s policies towards Israel.”
She explains it this way: “I was not happy with his speech, either. But when I read a headline in ‘the Wall Street Journal’ [on May 19], ‘Jewish donors warn Obama on Israel,’ I became very anxious. When Jews are talked about in terms of their financial control, when influential newspapers are openly making connections between Jews and money – no matter in what context – I fear that anti- Semitism cannot be far behind.”
The specter of accusations of dual loyalty, which arises when American Jews see their leader at odds with an Israeli leader, may not be far behind, either. American Jews therefore try, at almost all costs, to avoid even the appearance of such differences. At the AIPAC conference, says Goldberg, participants went out of their way to show that loyalty to Israel and loyalty to the US are inherently the same, because of their joint interests.

…[Peter] Beinart agrees, saying that the narrative of dual loyalty appears only in the “crazy blogs. It’s not in the mainstream.”
Wallant is not persuaded. “This is an issue of emotional tone as much as it is an issue of substance,” she explains. “And as we all know, emotions have an important role in both partisan politics and in racism.
[Brandeis professor Shai] Feldman agrees that the tone and tenor of Netanyahu’s response to Obama were out of line. “To say that he ‘expects’ the president to do something or to say ‘peace based on illusion’ while he stands next to the president – that’s not language to use with the president or the way to conduct these matters,” Feldman warns.

My own answer to this is to be stir debate within the Jewish community over Zionism, so that Jews are not associated overwhelmingly with support for Israel, which can spur dual-loyalty charges when American and Israeli interests are so different. And yes, let’s be honest about Jewish giving in the political campaigns. Everyone knows it, let’s talk about it. I don’t think Americans object to elites, there is a recognition in our society of the role of elites; it’s unaccountable elites that stir resentment.

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