GIVING PALESTINE A ‘WEDGIE’

Abbas got a wedgie from Olmert last week and seemed to enjoy getting it…. pretty sad seeing as it was his entire nation that was humiliated, not just him.

Also pretty sad that the best analysis that I found on the situation comes from a foreign journalist, not a local one. But, it is worth reading and raises some interesting questions as to whom Abbas actually represents.

The following is from DissidentVoice….

Olmert and Abbas “Push the Wedge” in Palestine
by James Brooks

December 30, 2006

The recent “peace” overtures between Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Abbas do not promise significantly improved conditions for Palestinians or an end to the Israeli occupation. More likely results include intensified efforts to split the Palestinian public and undermine their legally elected government.

The meeting has been portrayed as an opening to relations between Israel and the PA that “boost Abbas” and exclude Hamas altogether. Olmert, Abbas, and their backers in Washington and Europe have insisted that Hamas, the popularly elected majority party, “renounce violence” and “recognize Israel’s right to exist.” These are the stated objectives of the crushing economic blockade that Israel and the western powers have enforced against occupied Palestine since last March.

Objectively, neither demand has much substance. Hamas recently renounced violence by maintaining a unilateral ceasefire for well over a year. The same period saw a steady escalation of Israeli raids, arrests, killings, and settlements in the occupied territories. Everyone, including Israel’s general staff, knows that Hamas would return to a ceasefire if it thought Israel were serious about reciprocating. Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Meshaal’s recent proposal for a 10-year ceasefire was summarily rebuffed.

It is not Hamas that is launching most of the rockets into Israel these days, but the Al Aqsa Brigades attached to Mr. Abbas’ Fateh Party, seconded by the Al Quds Brigades of Islamic Jihad. And all the Israeli casualties and destruction caused by the last two years of Palestinian rockets would not equal the damage wrought in one average week of IDF operations in occupied Palestine.

The Olmert-Abbas “mini-summit” provided more evidence of the insincerity of the “renounce violence” demand when Mr. Olmert failed to get even a pause in the firing of Al Aqsa rockets before his meeting with the leader of Fateh.

As for “recognizing Israel’s right to exist,” we simply note that Israel has yet to recognize the state of Palestine’s “right to exist.” Israel currently forbids a Palestinian state and negates the Palestinians’ national rights daily with its strangling military occupation. Under the circumstances, it hardly seems unreasonable for Hamas to withhold recognition of this “right to exist” until it is reciprocated in word and deed.

The problem, of course, is that a PA run by Hamas cannot be considered fit company in any “peace process” with Israel until Hamas meets both demands, as Fateh is supposed to have done in the past. The “peace process” operates under a bifurcated system of precedent, in which every concession made by Palestinian leaders has been irreversibly chiseled into stone, while numerous Israeli promises have been erased in practice and will have to be won again by Palestinians in future talks.

Today, in the 40th year of Israel’s occupation and creeping annexation of their remaining land, Palestinians have little left to hold on to but their national rights, and their obstinate refusal to part with them. No one familiar with the history of the “peace process” can be surprised by polls that continue to show a majority of Palestinians supporting Hamas and its refusal to recognize Israel’s “right to exist,” at least until it is returned in kind.

Yet the stated subtext to the economic blockade of the PA has been to “convince the Palestinian people” (by driving them into destitution) to abandon Hamas in favor of the more “moderate” Fateh. Presumably, an informed strategist would know that the majority of Palestinians would reject this blatant attempt to undermine their voice. It might even harden support for Hamas and its allegiance to principles.

If so, the policy must have been directed at the minority response. What was the likelihood that deepening poverty, accompanied by a bloody military siege and internal strife, fanned and sometimes instigated by Israeli agents and collaborators, would drive a sizeable number of people to capitulate in the arms of Abbas? This was, after all, one of the stated objectives of the project.

Politically, this would be considered “pushing a wedge issue”, a calculated effort to divide an electorate along ideological lines, usually for one’s own political gain. In this case the electorate is not the constituency of the politicians “pushing the wedge”, but the Palestinian people, the impoverished and land-robbed victims of the modern world’s longest running illegal military occupation.

While Mr. Olmert and his wife recently shared herring in lemon sauce with Mr. Abbas in a sunny East Jerusalem villa, the PM’s aides pulled out all the stops to project the image of Abbas as “just like any other head of state.” They even (flouting the law) flew a Palestinian flag.

The Christmas “gifts” from Mr. Olmert included 100 million dollars of the PA’s own tax revenues, which Israel has refused to turn over since the elected Hamas government took office last March. Since Israel’s take in this heist is now estimated to exceed 800 million dollars, the pittance given to Mr. Abbas had the air of hush money paid by organized crime. Most of it will be used to pay down the PA’s debts — to Israeli creditors — and then only after Israel is satisfied that Hamas will never see it.

As Olmert was willing to part with only one-eighth of the Palestinians’ money, he may consent to removing one-eighth of the Israeli army’s “roadblocks” in the fragments of the West Bank where Palestinians are still allowed to live. He also promises to make it easier for the people of the West Bank to get permits to travel to their own orchards, or to the next town or village, or maybe (mirable dictu!) to a nearby city. In other words, Mr. Abbas has gained a slight (and very likely temporary) loosening of Israel’s suffocating grip on the throat of Palestine.

In exchange, President Abbas managed to forget that Israel has illegally kidnapped and imprisoned the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, at least 28 of the PLC’s elected members, and at least 10 government ministers, half of whom it still holds. Does a “head of state” go begging for crumbs from a foreign power that is holding abducted members of his own government?

If Mr. Abbas were sincerely interested in forming a national unity government with Hamas, he would not have sold their prisoners of state so cheaply. Had he been truly committed to democracy last March, he would have led his defeated party into loyal opposition in the newly elected Hamas government. By closing ranks with Hamas, Abbas and Fateh could have shown the world that Palestinians would obey their own constitution, work out their own issues, and would not be prey to outside interference or blockades.

Instead, he set out to commandeer the PA’s security forces and led Fateh into the disloyal opposition they have maintained to this day. Lately he has taken the PA into new constitutional territory by claiming the unilateral power to call new elections. His Fateh-packed Supreme Court recently declared that decisions made by the current PLC are “null and void.” Fortified by a significant new supply of US weapons and training, Mr. Abbas appears dangerously close to usurping both the Palestinian constitution and the will of the people by pretending to be the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian Authority.

In following this course, Mr. Abbas has made himself available to external forces that wish to make him the ultimate spoiler of last January’s free and fair elections. The ultimate goal of these parties, Israel foremost among them, may be to trigger Palestinian civil war and fatally split the Palestinians’ national solidarity, their key to survival. Perhaps to this end, the myth that Israel has “no partner for peace” is being transformed into the myth that Israel has “only one partner for peace,” one that, under present conditions, cannot claim to represent the Palestinian people.

James Brooks serves as webmaster for Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel. He can be contacted at: jamiedb@wildblue.net.

2006 IN REVIEW~~HERE’S TO A BETTER 2007

Image by David Baldinger
Years ago there was a weekly television programme hosted by David Frost called ‘The Week That Was’… it was quite enjoyable and Frost had the knack of getting a chuckle out of his North American audience with his dry British humour.. the world was less complex back then so it was easier to laugh at it.
Today we find Frost in a much more sophisticated position on screen as the main Anchor for AlJaZeera’s English Network…. I wish him luck in that role.
This morning I was sent a hilarious review of the past year written by Alexander Cockburn. It originally appeared in CounterPunch… Read it HERE and enjoy…
The paragraph in italics is written by my dear friend Deb Reich… thanks Deb for sending this my way..
It’s an Alexander Cockburn tour de force (heh heh, pun intended), including: “civil liberty infringement engines,” “crackpot realism,” knocking on Galbraith’s farmhouse door and getting Sidney Hook instead (ooops!!), “Old Glory underwear,” an explanation of why old Communists live longer than old Trotskyists, and an optimistic ending. Truly a pleasure, the macabre reality notwithstanding.

‘THE KISS WAS JUST A KISS’… ABBAS-OLMERT LOVE AFFAIR SEEMS OVER

Just a week ago they dined and kissed over a candlelight dinner.. promises were made… I said they were lies at the time… now the truth comes out. Lucky for you guys I’m not the type to say ‘I told you so’….
But I did!!! Olmert lied and Abbas swallowed them…. hook, line and sinker.
Try to have an Eid Mubarak anyways….

The following Associated Press report is taken from USA Today….

Israel won’t free Palestinian prisoners

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel has rebuffed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ request to free Palestinian prisoners ahead of a major Muslim holiday, insisting that Palestinian militants first agree to release a captured Israeli soldier.
The decision was at odds with recent overtures by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to bolster the moderate Abbas in the eyes of the Palestinian people, who voted the militantly anti-Israel Hamas group into power nearly one year ago.

Separately, the Yediot Ahronot newspaper reported that Olmert was prepared to hold back-channel talks on a blueprint for a final peace deal, as Abbas has proposed. Olmert spokeswoman Miri Eisin had no comment on the report.

The estimated 8,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails enjoy iconic status in Palestinian society, and Israel usually frees a small number at Muslim holiday time in a goodwill gesture. Last week, at their first official meeting, Abbas asked Olmert to do the same before the Eid al-Adha holiday, which begins on Saturday.

Olmert said he would consider it, Abbas aide Saeb Erekat said, but just hours before the Muslim holiday and the Jewish Sabbath were to begin, no release had been announced. “Right now, it’s not on the agenda,” so long as Cpl. Gilad Shalit remains in captivity, Eisin said.

Erekat interpreted Olmert’s reluctance to mean he was unwilling to risk the wrath of Israeli public opinion by releasing Palestinian prisoners without assuring Hamas-linked militants would free Shalit, seized in a June 25 cross-border raid.

“It’s unfortunate,” Erekat said of the decision, adding that it would hurt Abbas’ standing.

Olmert has said repeatedly since Shalit’s capture that he would not free Palestinians before the soldier was released.

One of the Hamas-linked groups holding Shalit said Thursday that progress has been made toward a prisoner exchange, and media reports cited Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas as saying the soldier would be released soon. But neither said when a swap might take place, and such claims of progress have been made in the past.

In their landmark meeting on Saturday, Olmert agreed to ease restrictions on Palestinian travel in the West Bank and to release $100 million in frozen funds to the Palestinian Authority — moves that prompted outcries among hard-liners in Israel. Releasing prisoners before Shalit was freed would likely have angered Olmert’s opponents even further.

“I think that a gesture that in normal times is accepted at holiday time must not happen today because it would be misinterpreted,” Israeli Cabinet minister Zeev Boim told Israel Radio.

Shalit’s father, Noam, who has been critical of the Israeli government’s conduct regarding his son, said he advocated a pre-holiday release of Palestinian prisoners.

“I thought it might generate some positive momentum toward a final deal to free Gilad and other prisoners,” he told Israel Radio.

In a letter in Arabic that appeared Friday in an East Jerusalem newspaper, Al-Quds, Shalit’s parents assured their son they were doing everything to win his release and appealed to his captors to treat him well.

With regard to the peace talks, Yediot said Olmert had no intention of abandoning the internationally backed “road map” peace plan that Israel and the Palestinians agreed to in June 2003. The plan, which calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, stalled shortly after it was presented.

In Egypt on Wednesday, Abbas said he’d like the two sides to start closed-door talks on some of their most intractable disputes, including final borders, the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees. He said he proposed such backdoor negotiations to Olmert at their weekend meeting, and that the Israeli leader promised to consider the suggestion.

Abbas did not spell out why he sought backdoor talks. But as one of the architects of the 1993 Oslo peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, negotiated secretly, he is known to champion quiet, informal diplomacy.

Palestinian militants, meanwhile, fired eight rockets at Israel on Friday, the highest number in a single day since a Nov. 26 truce went into effect. On Wednesday, Olmert ordered the military to attack rocket squads, abandoning the policy of restraint it had adopted since the cease-fire.

So far, Israel, which waged a five-month campaign against rocket squads before the truce took hold, has not carried out any attacks.

SADDAM HUSSEIN~~AMERICA’S SELF CREATED NIGHTMARE

The Net had plenty to offer this morning on the political life and death of Saddam Hussein. The strange tale of his ‘creation’ and ‘destruction’ by the same forces… It almost sounds like novel written by Mary Shelly of ‘Frankenstein’ fame.
The most comprehensive article I found was the one below, written by Robert Fisk. It appears in today’s on-line edition of The Independent. It gives a pretty clear history of the man’s political life and death…

Robert Fisk: A dictator created then destroyed by America
Published: 30 December 2006

Saddam to the gallows. It was an easy equation. Who could be more deserving of that last walk to the scaffold – that crack of the neck at the end of a rope – than the Beast of Baghdad, the Hitler of the Tigris, the man who murdered untold hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis while spraying chemical weapons over his enemies? Our masters will tell us in a few hours that it is a “great day” for Iraqis and will hope that the Muslim world will forget that his death sentence was signed – by the Iraqi “government”, but on behalf of the Americans – on the very eve of the Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, the moment of greatest forgiveness in the Arab world.

But history will record that the Arabs and other Muslims and, indeed, many millions in the West, will ask another question this weekend, a question that will not be posed in other Western newspapers because it is not the narrative laid down for us by our presidents and prime ministers – what about the other guilty men?

No, Tony Blair is not Saddam. We don’t gas our enemies. George W Bush is not Saddam. He didn’t invade Iran or Kuwait. He only invaded Iraq. But hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians are dead – and thousands of Western troops are dead – because Messrs Bush and Blair and the Spanish Prime Minister and the Italian Prime Minister and the Australian Prime Minister went to war in 2003 on a potage of lies and mendacity and, given the weapons we used, with great brutality.

In the aftermath of the international crimes against humanity of 2001 we have tortured, we have murdered, we have brutalised and killed the innocent – we have even added our shame at Abu Ghraib to Saddam’s shame at Abu Ghraib – and yet we are supposed to forget these terrible crimes as we applaud the swinging corpse of the dictator we created.

Who encouraged Saddam to invade Iran in 1980, which was the greatest war crime he has committed for it led to the deaths of a million and a half souls? And who sold him the components for the chemical weapons with which he drenched Iran and the Kurds? We did. No wonder the Americans, who controlled Saddam’s weird trial, forbad any mention of this, his most obscene atrocity, in the charges against him. Could he not have been handed over to the Iranians for sentencing for this massive war crime? Of course not. Because that would also expose our culpability.

And the mass killings we perpetrated in 2003 with our depleted uranium shells and our “bunker buster” bombs and our phosphorous, the murderous post-invasion sieges of Fallujah and Najaf, the hell-disaster of anarchy we unleashed on the Iraqi population in the aftermath of our “victory” – our “mission accomplished” – who will be found guilty of this? Such expiation as we might expect will come, no doubt, in the self-serving memoirs of Blair and Bush, written in comfortable and wealthy retirement.

Hours before Saddam’s death sentence, his family – his first wife, Sajida, and Saddam’s daughter and their other relatives – had given up hope.

“Whatever could be done has been done – we can only wait for time to take its course,” one of them said last night. But Saddam knew, and had already announced his own “martyrdom”: he was still the president of Iraq and he would die for Iraq. All condemned men face a decision: to die with a last, grovelling plea for mercy or to die with whatever dignity they can wrap around themselves in their last hours on earth. His last trial appearance – that wan smile that spread over the mass-murderer’s face – showed us which path Saddam intended to walk to the noose.

I have catalogued his monstrous crimes over the years. I have talked to the Kurdish survivors of Halabja and the Shia who rose up against the dictator at our request in 1991 and who were betrayed by us – and whose comrades, in their tens of thousands, along with their wives, were hanged like thrushes by Saddam’s executioners.

I have walked round the execution chamber of Abu Ghraib – only months, it later transpired, after we had been using the same prison for a few tortures and killings of our own – and I have watched Iraqis pull thousands of their dead relatives from the mass graves of Hilla. One of them has a newly-inserted artificial hip and a medical identification number on his arm. He had been taken directly from hospital to his place of execution. Like Donald Rumsfeld, I have even shaken the dictator’s soft, damp hand. Yet the old war criminal finished his days in power writing romantic novels.

It was my colleague, Tom Friedman – now a messianic columnist for The New York Times – who perfectly caught Saddam’s character just before the 2003 invasion: Saddam was, he wrote, “part Don Corleone, part Donald Duck”. And, in this unique definition, Friedman caught the horror of all dictators; their sadistic attraction and the grotesque, unbelievable nature of their barbarity.

But that is not how the Arab world will see him. At first, those who suffered from Saddam’s cruelty will welcome his execution. Hundreds wanted to pull the hangman’s lever. So will many other Kurds and Shia outside Iraq welcome his end. But they – and millions of other Muslims – will remember how he was informed of his death sentence at the dawn of the Eid al-Adha feast, which recalls the would-be sacrifice by Abraham, of his son, a commemoration which even the ghastly Saddam cynically used to celebrate by releasing prisoners from his jails. “Handed over to the Iraqi authorities,” he may have been before his death. But his execution will go down – correctly – as an American affair and time will add its false but lasting gloss to all this – that the West destroyed an Arab leader who no longer obeyed his orders from Washington, that, for all his wrongdoing (and this will be the terrible get-out for Arab historians, this shaving away of his crimes) Saddam died a “martyr” to the will of the new “Crusaders”.

When he was captured in November of 2003, the insurgency against American troops increased in ferocity. After his death, it will redouble in intensity again. Freed from the remotest possibility of Saddam’s return by his execution, the West’s enemies in Iraq have no reason to fear the return of his Baathist regime. Osama bin Laden will certainly rejoice, along with Bush and Blair. And there’s a thought. So many crimes avenged.

But we will have got away with it.

SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

Carlos Latuff

Latuff and Palestinian artist Yasmine


This weekend the most important feast on the Muslim calendar will begin, Eid al Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice).
In reality, it is the Palestinian people that are still being sacrificed today, every day…. and no one seems to care. The west is silent, the Arab world is silent, Palestine stands alone…
Below is a report from the Palestinian Centre on Human Rights….. can you honestly remain silent after reading this?…..Keep in mind… these incidents are from this week alone….

Weekly Report of Human Rights Violations
Report, PCHR, 28 December 2006

Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Continue Systematic Attacks on Palestinian Civilians and Property in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT)

A Palestinian civilian died from a previous wound in the Gaza Strip.

4 Palestinian civilians, including two children, were wounded by IOF.

IOF conducted 22 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank.

IOF arrested 37 Palestinian civilians, including 6 children.

IOF have continued to impose a total siege on the OPT; IOF have isolated the Gaza Strip from the outside world and IOF positioned at various checkpoints in the West Bank arrested 3 Palestinian civilians.

IOF have continued to construct the Annexation Wall inside the West Bank; IOF razed areas of Palestinian land in Um Salamouna village, south of Bethlehem, and 4 demonstrators protesting the construction of the Wall in Bal’ein village, west of Ramallah, sustained bruises when IOF soldiers beat them.

IOF have continued settlement activities in the West Bank; the Israeli government approved the construction of 30 housing units in “Mashkhit” settlement to resettle 30 Israeli families from the evacuated “Gush Qatif” settlement bloc.

Summary

Israeli violations of international law and humanitarian law continued in the OPT during the reporting period (21 – 27 December 2006):

Killing: On Thursday morning, 21 December 2006, Hamdan Mahmoud Barhoum, 24, from al-Mawasai area in Khan Yunis, died from a wound he had sustained on 13 December 2006. According to PCHR’s documentation, Barhoum was seriously wounded by shrapnel from live bullets throughout the body, when IOF gunboats positioned opposite to Rafah seashore opened fire at a fishing boat on which Barhoum and two other fishermen were sailing. The three fishermen were wounded, but Barhoum was in a serious condition.

During the reporting period, a Palestinian farmer was wounded by the IOF gunfire in the northern Gaza Strip.

In the West Bank, 3 Palestinian civilians, including two children, were wounded in Qabatya village, southeast of Jenin, on 25 December 2006, when IOF soldiers who besieged a house in the village fired at civilians who threw stones at military vehicles.

Incursions: During the reporting period, IOF conducted at least 22 military incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, during which they raided houses and arrested 37 Palestinian civilians, including 6 children. IOF also raided offices of the Islamic Association in Beit Sahour town and a medical center in Beit ‘Awa village, southwest of Hebron, claiming that they were looking for wanted Palestinians.

Restrictions on Movement: IOF have continued to impose a tightened siege on the OPT and imposed severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem.

Gaza Strip

IOF have imposed a strict siege on the Gaza Strip. They have closed its border crossings as a form of collective punishment against Palestinian civilians.

IOF have closed Rafah International Crossing Point since 25 June 2006, even though they do not directly control it. During the reporting period, the crossing point was not opened. IOF have partially reopened commercial crossings, especially al-Mentar (Karni) crossing, but many goods and medical supplies have been lacked in markets in the Gaza Strip. IOF have also continued to close Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip have been prevented from traveling through this crossing. IOF have allowed international workers to pass through the crossing. With this closure, only few Palestinian patients have been able to travel to hospitals in Israel and the West Bank. In addition, IOF have continued to prevent Palestinian fishermen from fishing for nearly 6 months.

West Bank

Israeli military bulldozers continue to destroy land and uproot Palestinians. (PCHR)
IOF have tightened the siege imposed on Palestinian communities in the West Bank. They have isolated Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. IOF positioned at various checkpoints in the West Bank have continued to impose severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians. Contrary to promises vowed by the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, to Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, during their summit in Jerusalem on 23 December 2006 to ease the movement of Palestinian civilians, Israeli media sources reported that the Israeli Defense Minister, Amir Perets, rejected a plan to dismantle 27 checkpoints in the West Bank. During the reporting period, IOF soldiers positioned at various checkpoints in the West Bank arrested 3 Palestinian civilians.

Annexation Wall: IOF have continued to construct the Annexation Wall inside the West Bank. On 26 December 2006, IOF started to raze areas of Palestinian land in Um Salamouna village, south of Bethlehem, to construct a section of the Wall. It is worth noting that on 3 September 2006, IOF issued a military order seizing 152 donums[1] of land in Um Salmouna village to be used for “military purposes to establish a fence and a number of secure roads.” During the reporting period, IOF used force against Palestinian civilians and international and Israeli solidarity activists who demonstrated in protest to the construction of the Wall in Bal’ein village, west of Ramallah. Four demonstrators sustained bruises.

Illegal Settler Activities: On 26 December 2006, IOF started to place barbwires along a settler road that passes through Jenata village, southeast of Bethlehem. According to local sources, IOF closed the areas located near the road and started to place barbwires along it. During the reporting period, Israeli media sources reported the Israeli Defense Ministry approved the resettlement of Israeli families evacuated from the “Gush Qatif” settlement bloc in the Gaza Strip in 2005 in a deserted settlement in the northern Jordan Valley on the Palestinian side of the Annexation Wall. According to those sources, the ministry approved the construction of 30 housing unit in the settlement, which is known as “Mashkhit”, and 30 Israeli families evacuated from the “Gush Qatif” settlement bloc would be settled in those units. Furthermore, the Israeli Attorney-General declared that he would initiate a criminal investigation into the construction of settlements on private Palestinian land. This declaration came in response to a demand by the Israeli Peace Now to conduct a criminal investigation into the robbery private Palestinian land to build settlement. According to Peace Now, private Palestinian land accounts for 40% of land used for Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The outcome of crimes committed by IOF since 25 June 2006:

484 Palestinians, 307 of whom are civilians, including 92 children and 30 women, have been killed by IOF. In the Gaza Strip alone, 405 Palestinians, 243 of whom are civilians, including 84 children, 28 women and 4 paramedics, haven been killed by IOF.

At least 1632 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including 347 children, 110 women. In the Gaza Strip alone, 1276 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including 345 children, 104 women, 4 paramedics and 7 journalist, have been wounded by the IOF gunfire.

At least 328 air-to-surface missiles and hundreds of artillery shells have been fired at Palestinian civilian and military targets in the Gaza Strip.

Buildings of the Palestinian Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of National economy, the office of the Palestinian Prime Minister and a number of educational institutions have been destroyed.

The electricity generation plant, providing 45% of the electricity of the Gaza Strip, was destroyed, and electricity networks and transmitters have been repeatedly attacked.

6 bridges linking Gaza City with the central Gaza Strip and a number of roads have been destroyed.

Hundreds of donums of agricultural land and dozens of houses have been destroyed.

Hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including 10 ministers and 31 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), including the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and Secretary, have been arrested. Minster of Prisoners’ Affairs, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Labor and Second Deputy Speaker of the PLC were released.

The Palestinian governmental compound in Nablus has been destroyed.

Many families in Rafah, Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia have been forced to leave their houses.

IOF intelligence has warned some Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip by phone to evacuate their houses, which would be attacked.

73 houses belonging to activists of Palestinian factions have been destroyed by IOF warplanes.

IOF have imposed a strict siege on the OPT, and have isolated the Gaza Strip from the outside world.

Israeli Violations Documented during the Reporting Period (21 – 27 December 2006)

1. Incursions into Palestinian Areas and Attacks on Palestinian Civilians and Property in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip

Thursday, 21 December 2006

At approximately 02:00, IOF moved into Beit Sahour town. They raided and searched offices of the Islamic Association.

Also at approximately 02:00, IOF moved into al-Duhaisha refugee camp, south of Bethlehem. They raided and searched a house belonging to Mohammed Ibrahim Salama, 35, and arrested him.

At approximately 06:00, medical sources at the Gaza European Hospital in Khan Yunis declared that Hamdan Mahmoud Barhoum, 24, from al-Mawasai area in Khan Yunis, died from a wound he had sustained on 13 December 2006. According to PCHR’s documentation, Barhoum was seriously wounded by shrapnel from live bullets throughout the body, when IOF gunboats positioned opposite to Rafah seashore opened fire at a fishing boat on which Barhoum and two other fishermen were sailing. The three fishermen were wounded, but Barhoum was in a serious condition. He was evacuated to the intensive care unit at the Gaza European Hospital, where he had received medical treatment until the time he died.

At approximately 23:30, IOF moved into Bani Na’im village, east of Hebron. They raided and searched a house belonging to Kayed Hmaidan Taraira, 50, and arrested him.

Friday, 22 December 2006

At approximately 01:00, IOF moved into Tulkarm town and refugee camp and the neighboring Ektaba suburb. They patrolled in the streets. They withdrew at 06:00, and no arrests were reported.

At approximately 01:30, IOF moved into Taqqou’ village, southeast of Bethlehem, and imposed a curfew. They raided and searched a number of houses and arrested 4 Palestinian children:

1. Mohammed Jamal Khalil, 15;
2. ‘Omar Isma’il Khalil, 16;
3. Hamza Ameen Khalil, 16; and
4. Ayoub ‘Abed Khalil, 16.

Sunday, 24 December 2006

In the evening, IOF moved into al-Jab’a village, southwest of Hebron. They closed the entrances if he village and imposed a curfew. They raided and searched dozens of houses, claiming that they were looking for young men who threw Molotov Cocktail bottles at military vehicles. IOF withdrew on the following day morning and no arrests were reported.

Monday, 25 December 2006

At approximately 01:00, IOF moved into Nablus. They raided and searched a number of houses and arrested 3 Palestinian civilians, including a child:

1. Ra’ed Samer al-Sirreesi, 15;
2. Ahmed Mahmoud ‘Awada, 20; and
3. Ashraf al-Beitar, 19.

At approximately 05:00, an IOF undercover unit moved into Qabatya village, southeast of Jenin, traveling in two civilian vehicles with Palestinian registration plates. The two vehicles stopped near a house belonging to ‘Adnan ‘Omar Kmayel and IOF soldiers besieged the house. Soon after, IOF military vehicles moved into the village and reinforced the siege imposed on the house. A number of IOF soldiers also took position atop a number of neighboring houses. IOF soldiers also violently beat ‘Alaa’ Mohammed Kmayel. IOF ordered residents of the besieged house through megaphones to get out. They focused in their order on Mohammed Hamza Abu al-Rub, 22, and Mahmoud Ahmed Kmayel, 21. IOF opened fire at the house and threatened to demolish it. Residents of the house got out, and two hours later, Abu al-Rub and Kmayel surrendered to IOF. During this incursion, a number of Palestinian children and young men gathered and threw stones at IOF military vehicles. Immediately, IOF soldiers opened fire at the children and young men, wounding 3 of them:

1. Mahmoud Ahmed al-Shayeb Saba’na, 22, seriously wounded by a live bullet to the neck;
2. Mohammed Joma’a Abu al-Rub, 15, wounded by a live bullet to the foot; and
3. Ahmed Tayseer Tazaz’a, 15, wounded by shrapnel to the head.

Before their withdrawal from the village at 15:30, IOF arrested 9 Palestinians, including two brothers and a man and his two sons:

1. Mohammed Hamza Abu al-Rub, 22;
2. Mahmoud Ahmed Kmayel, 21;
3. Mohammed ‘Adnan Kmayel, 20;
4. Nabeel ‘Adnan Kmayel, 22;
5. Yasser Ameen Nazzal, 47, an intelligence officer;
6. Nidal Sa’id Salama, 55, an officer of the Palestinian National Security Forces;
7. Mujahed Nidal Salama, 19;
8. ‘Allan Nidal Salama, 22; and
9. Diaa’ Ibrahim Saba’na, 20, a police officer.

Tuesday, 26 December 2006

At approximately 01:00, IOF moved into Qalqilya. They raided and searched a number of houses and arrested Rafeeq ‘Abdullah Noufal, 19.

Also at approximately 01:00, IOF moved into Hijja village, southeast of Qalqilya. They raided and searched a house belonging to the family of Ahmed ‘Abdul Hadi Tayoun, 23, and arrested him.

Also at approximately 01:00, IOF moved into al-’Eizariya village, east of Jerusalem. They raided and searched a house belonging to the family of Hakam Mujahed Abu Roumi, 18, and arrested him.

At approximately 01:15, IOF moved into Beit ‘Awa village, southwest of Hebron. They raided and searched the medical center in the village, claiming that they were looking for wanted Palestinians. During the raid, IOF held the medical crew of the center. IOF withdrew from the village two hours later and no arrests were reported.

At approximately 01:30, IOF moved into al-Khader village, south of Bethlehem. They raided and searched a house belonging to the family of Mustafa Salem Salah, 20, and arrested him.

Also at approximately 01:30, IOF moved into ‘Aaida refugee camp, north of Bethlehem. They raided and searched a house belonging to the family of Mahmoud Rida Harazallah, 18, and arrested him.

At approximately 02:00, IOF moved into Yatta village, south of Hebron. They raided and searched a number of houses and arrested two Palestinian civilians:

1. Trad ‘Othman Abu ‘Arram, 30; and
2. Fadel Mohammed Abu ‘Arram, 35.

At approximately 03:20, an IOF undercover unit moved into Jenin, traveling in a civilian vehicle with a Palestinian registration plate. The car stopped near a house belonging to Eyad al-Sayed, 43, in Wad ‘Izziddin neighborhood. IOF soldiers got out of the vehicle and besieged the house. Soon after, IOF military vehicles arrived at the area. IOF soldiers raided and searched the house, and arrested al-Sayed and Mahmoud Sa’id al-Sa’di, 27.

At approximately 09:15, IOF positioned at the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel to east of Beit Lahia town in the north of the Gaza Strip fired for no apparent reason at Isma’il Sa’d Ghaben, 27, when he was on his agricultural land. He was wounded by a live bullet to the right leg. PCHR has documented 9 cases of shooting by IOF at Palestinian farmers in the northern Gaza Strip since the beginning of the current Israeli-Palestinian truce.

Wednesday, 27 December 2006

At approximately 01:00, IOF moved into al-Khader village, south of Bethlehem. They raided and searched a house belonging to the family of ‘Ali Jom’a Salah, 19, and arrested him.

At approximately 01:15, IOF moved into al-’Araqa village, west of Jenin. They raided and searched a number of houses and arrested two Palestinian civilians:

1. Kamal ‘Omar Ibrahim, 20; and
2. Mohammed Ahmed Waked, 19.

At approximately 01:30, IOF moved into ‘Aaida refugee camp, north of Bethlehem. They raided and searched a house belonging to the family of Ahmed Yousef Abu Hadu, 17, and arrested him.

At approximately 02:00, IOF moved into Nablus. They raided and searched a number of houses and arrested 4 Palestinian civilians:

1. Khalil Sameer Abu Ja’sa, 20;
2. Mohammed Kamel ‘Abdul Haq, 22;
3. Mohammed Khalbous, 18; and
4. Ahmed Abu Salha, 22.

At approximately 02:30, IOF moved into Hebron. They raided and searched a number of houses and arrested 3 Palestinian civilians:

1. Mo’ayad Burhan al-Muhtasseb, 22;
2. Mohammed Ahmed Fannouna, 39; and
3. Anas As’ad Laban, 26.

Also at approximately 02:30, IOF moved into Ethna village, west of Hebron. They raided and searched a number of houses and arrested ‘Arafat ‘Abdul ‘Alim al-Nattah, 27, and arrested him.

2. Continued Siege on the OPT

IOF have continued to impose a tightened siege on the OPT and imposed severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including Occupied East Jerusalem.

Gaza Strip

IOF have continued to close all border crossings of the Gaza Strip. During the reporting period, these crossings were partially reopened to allow the entry of basic foodstuffs, medical supplies and other necessities into the Gaza Strip. The total siege imposed by IOF on the Gaza Strip has left disastrous impacts on the humanitarian situation and has violated the economic and social rights of the Palestinian civilian population, particularly the rights to appropriate living conditions, health and education. It has also paralyzed most economic sectors. Furthermore, severe restrictions have been imposed on the movement of the Palestinian civilian population.

Rafah International Crossing Point: Rafah International Crossing Point on the Egyptian border is the sole outlet for the Gaza Strip to the outside world. IOF have closed Rafah International Crossing Point, even though they do not directly control it. They have prevented European observers working at the crossing point form reaching it. The crossing point has been closed since 25 June 2006.

On 15 November 2006, the Palestinian – Israeli agreement on border crossing, which was concluded under US and European supervision, expired. Under this agreement, IOF have maintained indirect control over of the crossing point. The European observation team working at the crossing point extended their task for additional 6 months. On 15 November 2005, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and Israel reached an agreement over the border crossings of the Gaza Strip. Under the agreement, on 25 November 2005, the Rafah International Crossing Point, on the Egyptian border in the south of the Gaza Strip, was opened for civilian travel to Egypt and the rest of the world. The Palestinians and European Union (EU) observers would run the Palestinian side of the crossing point. In addition, the EU observers would transmit live images to a joint control room several kilometers away. The EU observers repeated withdrew from the crossing following receiving warnings from IOF that there were threats to them. However, all warnings proved to be void, and the observers resumed their work.

Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing: IOF have completely closed Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing, which links the Gaza Strip with Israel and the West Bank. Before this latest closure, IOF had prevented Palestinian workers from reaching their work places inside Israel through Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing since 12 March 2006. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip had been prevented from traveling through this crossing. IOF have allowed international workers to pass through the crossing. With this closure, few Palestinian patients have been able to travel to hospitals in Israel and the West Bank. IOF have prevented Palestinian female patients aged under 40 from passing through the crossing, even though most of these patients are in serious conditions and suffer from serious diseases. During the reporting period, IOF issued 510 permits to Palestinian Christians from the Gaza Strip to travel to the West Bank to celebrate Christmas, where as they rejected 12 permit applications for no apparent reason, and have not given any response to 67 others.

Al-Mentar (Karni) Commercial Crossing: IOF have closed the crossing, which is the main commercial crossing for the Gaza Strip. As a consequence, the economic situation inside the Gaza Strip has further deteriorated and many goods have been lacked in markets. During the reporting period, IOF partially reopened the crossing. They allowed the importation of foodstuffs and medicines into the Gaza Strip, and the exportation of some goods from the Gaza Strip to Israel and the West Bank. Prices of goods have increased due to the increase in transportation costs at the crossing; the transportation cost of a container has increased from 2,000 NIS to 9,000 NIS.

Sofa Crossing: During the reporting period, IOF partially reopened Sofa crossing, northeast of Rafaha, for 6 days allowing the entry of aggregate. However, IOF have continued to close Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing.

The closure of border crossings deprives the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip of their right to freedom of movement, education and health.

IOF have continued to impose severe restrictions on fishing in the Gaza Strip. Following the attack on IOF on 25 June 2006, IOF prevented fishing. Approximately 35,000 people in and around Gaza’s coastal communities rely on the fishing industry, including 2,500 fishermen, 2,500 support staff and their families. Fishermen have been subjected to intensive monitoring by IOF, which use helicopter gunships and gunboats to monitor the fishermen. The Oslo Accords allow Palestinian fishermen to go fishing up to 20 nautical miles away from the Gaza seashore.

The West Bank

IOF have imposed a tightened siege on the West Bank. They have continued to impose severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians and imposed curfews on a number of Palestinian communities.

Jerusalem: On the eve of Christmas and the Eid al-Adha, IOF imposed additional restrictions in the movement of Palestinian civilians inside and around the city. According to eyewitnesses, IOF soldiers positioned at checkpoints on the roads leading to the city conducted prolonged and humiliating checking on Palestinian civilians. They also prevented dozens of civilians from entering the city although they have valid entry permits.

Bethlehem: Thousands of Palestinians were not able to enter the town to celebrate Christmas due to restrictions imposed by IOF on the movement of Palestinian civilians. On Saturday noon, 23 December 2006, IOF erected a checkpoint on Bethlehem – al-Obaidiya road, which links between the south and center of the West Bank. They stopped and searched Palestinian civilian vehicles and prevented a number of civilians from passing through the checkpoint. On Sunday evening, 24 December 2006, IOF closed the western and southern entrances of Bethlehem and Beit Jala, thus cutting off the two towns from Hebron and villages located to the west and south of the two towns.

Ramallah: IOF have continued to impose severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians at various checkpoints around the town, especially ‘Attara checkpoint, north of the town. On Saturday morning, 23 December 2006, IOF soldiers positioned at ‘Attara checkpoint imposed severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians coming from the northern West Bank towards Ramallah. On Monday morning, 25 December 2006, IOF soldiers positioned at Jaba’ checkpoint, southeast of Ramallah, stropped and searched hundreds of Palestinian civilians vehicles.

Hebron: IOF have continued to impose severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians inside and outside Hebron. During the reporting period, IOF erected a number of checkpoints in addition those permanent ones inside the town. They stopped, checked and interrogated Palestinian civilians. On Friday and Saturday, 22 and 23 December 2006, IOF soldiers stopped, checked and interrogated hundreds of Palestinian civilians. They also prevented civilians aged under 35 from passing through checkpoints. On Saturday morning, IOF closed al-Sikka road, which links Hebron with Halhoul town in the north. They also imposed additional restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians to and from the town.

On Thursday noon, 21 December 2006, IOF soldiers permanently positioned in the center and south of Hebron arrested two Palestinian civilians: Isma’il ‘Awad al-Khatib, 22; and Ra’ef Mohammed al-Najjar, 26.

On the same day evening, IOF soldiers positioned in the south of Hebron arrested Ussama ‘Abdul Rahim al-Muhtasseb, 21.

Tulkarm: IOF have continued to impose severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians. On Thursday morning, 21 December 2006, IOF erected a checkpoint on Tulkarm – Nablus road, east of the town. They stopped and searched Palestinian civilian vehicles. On Friday, 22 December 2006, IOF soldiers positioned at Ennab checkpoint, east of Tulkarm, and Wad al-Teen checkpoint, south of the town, prevented Palestinians aged under 35 from passing through the checkpoint. Dozens of young men were forced to resort to alternative dirt roads. However, IOF soldiers chased, beat and detained a number of them for several hours. On Saturday morning, 23 December 2006, IOF erected a checkpoint at Far’oun intersection, south of Tulkarm, and another one at Beit Leed intersection, east of the town. They stopped and searched Palestinian civilian vehicles. On Sunday, 24 December 2006, IOF erected a checkpoint at the entrance of al-Ras village, south of Tulkarm. They stopped and searched Palestinian civilian vehicles. They also held and checked young men and children. On Sunday evening, IOF closed all checkpoints surrounding Tulkarm. They also erected a checkpoint at the entrance of Ektaba suburb, east of the town. At approximately 06:00 on Monday, IOF closed Wad al-Teen checkpoint, south of Tulkarm, and prevented Palestinian civilians from passing through it. On Tuesday noon, 26 December 2006, IOF closed Ennab checkpoint, east of Tulkarm, and prevented Palestinian civilians from traveling to the town.

3. Construction of the Annexation Wall

IOF have continued to construct the Annexation Wall inside West Bank territory.

At approximately 13:00 on Friday, 22 December 2006, about 300 Palestinian civilians and international and Israeli solidarity activists demonstrated in protest to the construction of the Wall in Bal’ein village, west of Ramallah. IOF soldiers positioned near the Wall fired rubber-coated metal bullets, sound bombes and tear gas canisters at the demonstrators. IOF soldiers then beat a number of demonstrators. As a result, 4 demonstrators (3 Palestinian civilians and a Spanish solidarity activist) sustained bruises.

On Tuesday morning, 26 December 2006, IOF started to raze areas of Palestinian land in Um Salamouna village, south of Bethlehem, to construct a section of the Wall. It is worth noting that on 3 September 2006, IOF issued a military order seizing 152 donums of land in Um Salmouna village to be used for “military purposes to establish a fence and a number of secure roads.” According to local sources, the seizure of land aimed to construct a section of the Wall in the area, and establish a settler bypass road. On 9 November 2006, IOF surveillance teams started to survey on the lands of the village. According to local sources, the surveyed areas of land were to be razed to establish a crossing point separating the village from neighboring villages and from the Wall. The establishment of such crossing point would force residents of the village to use much longer roads to travel to Bethlehem.

4. Settlement Activities and Attacks by Settlers against Palestinian Civilians and Property

On Tuesday, 26 December 2006, IOF started to place barbwires along the settler road that passes through Jenata village, southeast of Bethlehem. According to local sources, IOF closed the areas located near the road and started to place barbwires along it.

Also on Tuesday, 26 December 2006, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported the Israeli Defense Ministry approved the resettlement of Israeli families evacuated from the “Gush Qatif” settlement bloc in the Gaza Strip in 2005 in a deserted settlement in the northern Jordan Valley on the Palestinian side of the Annexation Wall. According to the newspaper, the ministry approved the construction of 30 housing unit in the settlement, which is known as “Mashkhit” and served in the past as a military college, and 30 Israeli families evacuated from the “Gush Qatif” settlement bloc would be settled in those units. The Head of the Regional Council of the Jordan Valley, Dubi Tal, stated that permission was obtained and the construction would start in two weeks. He further pointed out that the plan to resettle Israeli settlers in the Jordan Valley was initially approved by Elan Cohen, the former director general of the Israeli cabinet during when the former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was in office. This plan was approved by the current Israeli Defense Minister Amir Perets. It is worth noting that the Israeli GOC Central Command Yair Naveh approved a plan in May 2006 to expand 4 settlements in the West Bank: “Pitar Elite; Giv’at Ze’ev; Unranit; and Mashkhit”.

The Israeli Attorney-General Manny Mazoz declared that he would initiate a criminal investigation into the construction of settlements on private Palestinian land. Mazoz’s declaration came in response to a demand by the Israeli Peace Now to conduct a criminal investigation into the robbery private Palestinian land to build settlement. Peace Now declared in a press conference held on 21 November 2006 that private Palestinian land accounts for 40% of land used for settlements in the West Bank (around 60 thousand dunoms). Settlements have been built on 157 thousand donums, including at least 61 thousand donums of private Palestinian land; 9000 donums of land which are in the final stages to be registered as state land; two thousand donums of Jewish-owned land; and 85 thousand donums of “state land”. Also according to Peace Now, at least 40% of the land used for settlement blocs located to the west of the Annexation Wall are private Palestinian land. Those settlement blocs stand on nearly 74 thousand donums of land, including at least 30 thousand donums of private Palestinian land. According to Peace Now, private Palestinian land constitute 86.4% of the land on which “Ma’ale Adomim” settlement stand; 35.1% of “Ariel” settlement; and 93% of “Oufra” settlement.

Recommendations to the International Community

PCHR calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their legal and moral obligations under Article 1 of the Convention to ensure Israel’s respect for the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. PCHR believes that the conspiracy of silence practiced by the international community has encouraged Israel to act as if it is above the law and encourages Israel continue to violate international human rights and humanitarian law.

PCHR calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to convene a conference to take effective steps to ensure Israel’s respect of the Convention in the OPT and to provide immediate protection for Palestinian civilians.

PCHR calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to comply with its legal obligations detailed in Article 146 of the Convention to search for and prosecute those responsible for grave breaches, namely war crimes.

PCHR recommends international civil society organizations, including human rights organizations, bar associations and NGOs to participate in the process of exposing those accused of grave breaches of international law and to urge their governments to bring these people to justice.

PCHR calls upon the European Union to activate Article 2 of the Euro-Israel Association Agreement, which provides that Israel must respect human rights as a precondition for economic cooperation between the EU states and Israel. PCHR further calls upon the EU states to prohibit import of goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements in the OPT.

PCHR calls upon the member States of the EU, and all other states, to adopt a voting pattern at the UN bodies, particularly the General Assembly, Security Council and Commission on Human Rights which is keeping with international law.

PCHR demands that the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion be immediately implemented by the international community.

PCHR calls on the international community to recognize the Gaza disengagement plan, which was implemented last year, for what it is – not an end to occupation but a compounding of the occupation and the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

In recognition of ICRC as the guardian of the Fourth Geneva Convention, PCHR calls upon the ICRC to increase its staff and activities in the OPT, including the facilitation of family visitations to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

PCHR appreciates the efforts of international civil society, including human rights organizations, bar associations, unions and NGOs, and urges them to continue their role in pressuring their governments to secure Israel’s respect for human rights in the OPT and to end its attacks on Palestinian civilians.

In light of the severe restrictions imposed by the Israeli government and its occupying forces on access for international organizations to the OPT, PCHR calls upon European countries to deal with Israeli citizens in a similar manner.

PCHR reiterates that any political settlement not based on international human rights law and humanitarian law cannot lead to a peaceful and just solution of the Palestinian question. Rather, such an arrangement can only lead to further suffering and instability in the region. Any peace agreement or process must be based on respect for international law, including international human rights and humanitarian law.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is an independent legal body based in Gaza City dedicated to protecting human rights, promoting the rule of law and upholding democratic principles in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It holds Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations and is an affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists, the Federation Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH), and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network. PCHR is a recipient of the 1996 French Republic Award for Human Rights.

A LETTER FROM PALESTINE

Carlos Latuff

Dear Friends;
Just want to wish all of you the best Greetings of the season. Last week our Jewish brothers celebrated the Festival of Lights, this week we saw our Christian brothers celebrate their Christmas. On Saturday night the Feast of the Sacrifice will begin for our Muslim brothers.
A time of love for all of us, a time to be united with families and loved ones. But this is not the case in the Occupied Territories. Thousands of families are still divided, chaos runs rampant in our streets, our children are dying….
With Israels ‘blessing, a large quantity of arms and ammunition were just sent thought the border crossing… the move was made ‘in a effort to bolster Fatah affiliated groups’….
Is this what Olmert sees as a peace initiative? Israel won’t fire at Palestinians but will aid Palestinians to do it themselves??
We are people, not cattle. Yes, we were herded into enclosed areas, hidden behind walls for the world not to see our suffering… but the fact remains, WE ARE PEOPLE. we have aspirations, hopes and dreams. The nightmares must be eliminated and we must be allowed to survive. Is this asking too much from one human being to another?
All I ask of you is not to remain silent…. protest in every way you can. Keep our struggle alive and in the limelight… PLEASE.
Bless you all and the best of the Holiday Wishes.

BACKDOOR PEACE TALKS???

I received this rather rude picture yesterday from a very dear friend… I find it very appropriate to use for the following Associated Press article. Just as the sign in the photo states…. this type of ‘backdoor activity’ will not bear fruit.
Judge for yourself….

Abbas proposes ‘backdoor’ peace talks with Israel
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas proposed Wednesday the start of “backdoor” negotiations with the Israeli government on the most difficult problems of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

“It is the right time to talk about this issue seriously,” Abbas told reporters after he met Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Tuesday.

Recent weeks have seen a growing momentum toward reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert meeting Abbas on Saturday and the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan Washington commission, reporting to US President George W. Bush that progress on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute would contribute to reducing the conflict in Iraq.

Abbas did not spell out why he was proposing that the negotiations with Israel be “backdoor” – meaning conducted out of the media spotlight. But as one of the architects of the Oslo peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians in 1993, he is known to champion quiet, informal diplomacy.

“We have the idea of a backdoor channel between us and the Israelis, with the participation of one or all members of the Quartet to discuss all the issues of the final status,” Abbas said, referring to the four Western powers – the United States, Russia, European Union and the United Nations – that oversee the peace process.

Abbas said he had proposed backdoor negotiations to Prime Minister Olmert at their weekend meeting, and that the Israeli leader had no immediate objection and promised to consider it.

Abbas said he planned to discuss the idea with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when she comes to the Middle East next month.

“This is not secret negotiations, therefore, they would help more than they would harm,” Abbas said.

Abbas made it clear that he wanted the talks to focus on the issues that have been the hardest to resolve in previous negotiations – the future of Palestinian refugees, the sovereignty of Jerusalem – which both Israelis and Palestinians claim as their capital, and the borders of the future Palestinian state.

It is not clear if Olmert would agree to tackle the thorniest issues rather than proceed by the more cautious route of step-by-step negotiations and interim agreements.

It is equally unclear what would be the reaction of Hamas to what might emerge from backdoor talks with Israel.

PROMISES~~PROMISES~~PROMISES=LIES~~LIES~~LIES

The average observer in the west might have the impression that the situation between Israel and Palestine is improving. There is nothing further from the truth. The promises were made to Abbas by Olmert… without government approval on Olmert’s part, without anyone’s approval on Abbas’ part… two men meeting for a candlelight dinner on a Saturday night….. one would think that is a sign of hope. In reality it was a sign of two ‘has-been’ leaders trying to prove, perhaps to themselves, that they actually represent the nations they supposedly lead.
In the case of Olmert, he has lost complete credibility with his government and his electorate since the Lebanon fiasco this past summer. Abbas signed his own ‘political death warrant’ by calling for new elections in the Palestinian Authority rather than try to form a unity government with Hamas…. the Party that was elected to rule Palestine…
But, these two ‘leaders’ continue their game and continue to try to fool the electorates on both sides of the wall….
BUT, the reality of the situation can be seen here in a new article by Amira Hass in today’s HaAretz…..

The new refugees By Amira Hass

Until Enaya Samara, who has been living in forced exile for the past eight months returns to her village near Ramallah, and until Someida Abbas, who was banished from his home 10 months ago accompanies his children to kindergarten again, it will not be possible to believe the defense establishment’s promise to change its policy. So long as American, Brazilian and German citizens whose name is not Cohen but Abdullah, are refused entry at the borders, we will know that the policy is still in effect – the policy of causing tens of thousands of Palestinian families to break up, or to leave their homes and emigrate. This is not a new policy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Since 1967, Israel has been carrying out demographic manipulations which should actually be called expulsion. Military edicts have caused some 100,000 people to lose their status as permanent residents in the occupied territories and to remain exiles in the countries to which they went to study or work. These manipulations have turned 240,000 people who were born in the West bank and Gaza and left the territories because of the 1967 war, and another 60,000 who were abroad when it broke out, to become new refugees.

All of them left behind families in the territories, but Israel prevented the vast majority from reuniting again in their homeland. (During those years, Israel was actively promoting the right of Jews in the USSR to emigrate and reunite with their families in Israel). After 1994, Israel made it possible for several thousand Palestinian families to unite every year; in other words, it granted their children the status of permanent residency. But the quota it fixed was always less than the real needs, and since 2001, Israel has even frozen the family unification process and barred Palestinians who are citizens of Arab countries (particularly Jordan and Egypt) from coming to visit.

Until 2006, Palestinians with Western citizenship (Europeans and Americans) were able to avoid this comprehensive policy. In the 1990s, they were considered a welcome population (investors, businessmen, academics working in international organizations such as the World Bank). Even if most of them did not get permanent residency, Israel permitted them to live here and visit regularly. This was also the case with Western spouses of Palestinian residents. Until someone in the political echelons decided that this “positive discrimination” (as opposed to citizens of Jordan and Egypt) was intolerable. And from the start of 2006 their entry has been blocked.

It is not clear who the decision-maker is. The coordinator of government activities in the territories told Western diplomats it was the Interior Ministry that made the decision. Interior Ministry officials say it was a joint decision with the Defense Ministry.

Be that as it may, whoever made the decision did not take into account that this was a blow to the strongest circles among the Palestinians – those who speak English, have access to the U.S. State Department, to important journalists, and to the Israeli and international business worlds. They found a way to get together and protest, unlike the tens of thousands of women who have Jordanian citizenship and hide in fear in the West Bank because Israel does not recognize their right to live with their husbands and children.

The change of policy toward Palestinians with Western citizenship was brought to the attention of MK Ephraim Sneh even before he became deputy defense minister. Already then, Sneh was of the opinion that there was no point in changing the policy and that doing so would be harmful to Israel’s interests. In a conversation with Haaretz, he sounded sincere in promising that this policy toward the Americans and Europeans had been canceled and that his bureau was working on new regulations that would “make things simpler rather than making them more complicated, and would alleviate rather than aggravate” the situation. (However, it was possible to understand from this that the regulations would not legalize the stay of thousands, particularly adults and children who remained even though their visas were no longer valid).

But the joy is premature: During the past two weeks, officials continued to prevent the entry even of those who are married and have children here and those who came on a visit. Are these merely “left-overs of the previous situation,” as Sneh put it, or does it testify also to the fact that Sneh is not the sole decision-maker, as was evident with his position on removing the roadblocks?

On the Israeli scene, army commanders (some of them settlers) act together with politicians, jurists and academics who are terrified of the demographic balance. The Green Line does not exist for them. They thought up the Citizenship Law, which crassly expanded the discrimination against Israeli Arabs and intervenes in their right to have a family life. Why do they not act the same across the Green Line where the military edict is in force? And if Sneh ceases being deputy defense minister, who can guarantee that a deputy from the Kadima party will not cancel the cancelation?

More than ever before, the Israeli system today denies the fact that it is repression and discrimination, an integral part of every occupation, that create the security threat. The most it is prepared to do is make “improvements” and mete out “favors,” but it will not recognize rights.

A PALESTINIAN LEGISLATOR LOOKS AT THE HOLOCAUST

A brilliant article written by a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset just appeared in the latest on-line edition of Al Ahram Weekly. There has been much talk lately, much written about the Holocaust, and denials of same. International confernces have been held in reference to both sides.
Azmi Bishara writes his views here, views that might catch some zionists by surprise. He does not deny the Holocaust, but tries to put it in perspective to the reality of the time it happened and the reasons for it.
It is a definite worth read and is presented here…..

Ways of denial
The Holocaust must be contextualised, and its lessons learned, writes Azmi Bishara

——————————————————————————–

The Nazi Holocaust aimed to rid Europe of its “Jewish taint”. By this was meant banking capital as opposed to industrial capital and the moral degeneracy, lack of patriotism, scorn for national values, heritage and other such ills caused by the “worm” that ate away at all that was noble and pure in the Germanic people. That worm was the racial strain that never belonged, that was intrinsically alien and that nevertheless insisted on remaining in order to wreak its pollution; it was European Jewry and its various manifestations including capitalism, communism and liberalism, and its mere presence, according to this diabolical system of thought, that were a scourge to racial purity.

Late capitalism, as forcefully imposed by the centralised bureaucratic state, converged with a fanatical and rabidly xenophobic and very ideological late nationalism of the “vesrspaeteten Nationen” with a history of religious anti-Semitism dating back to the Middle Ages and the crusader expeditions that attacked Jewish villages in central Europe en route to Palestine, a religious exclusionism that targeted both Muslims and Jews in Andalusian Spain and that shaped part of European identity in terms of both an external determinant — the Muslims — and an internal determinant — the Jews.

But the Nazis’ obsession with the annihilation of the Jews was also fired by an ideology that incorporated totalitarian social engineering, founded upon social Darwinism and assorted recent biological discoveries that were applied to human beings, together with a populist romantic socialism that was hostile to communism, democratic socialism and liberalism, all regarded as alien to the “Volksgeist”, “the spirit of the people”.

This form of pseudo-scientifically justified and coldly carried out mass extermination would not have been possible without a strong ability to compartmentalise between the bureaucratic functionary and the duty to obey orders, on the one hand, and the individual and his private moral sphere on the other, a phenomenon that is one of the characteristics of the modern state apparatus. Nor would it have been possible without all the business of documentation, recording and archiving, which is also a characteristic of the modern state.

The irony of all this pseudo-scientific human taxonomy and the obsessive documentation of the names, addresses, confiscated possessions and physical details of the people who were rounded up and freighted to the concentration camps and from there to the gas chambers is that this paperwork has become the most important primary historical source for the Holocaust and the most important instrument with which to refute the claims of those who deny it occurred or belittle its magnitude.

It is not so much the sheer numbers of victims that distinguishes the Holocaust. As unique as it was in the 20th century, millions of native inhabitants were exterminated en masse in the Americas over the course of previous centuries. Nor is it just a question of scale: many more millions died in the course of World War II, alone, than in the Nazi gas chambers and these included Russians, Germans, Poles, French, Italians and many other nationalities. The true horror of the Holocaust resides not only in the deliberate singling out of entire peoples — Jews and Gypsies — for extermination and in the scale of this crime, but also in the totality of the target and the “rational” way in which it was carried out.

Jews were snatched from their homes amid the general silence of their neighbours, a silence interspersed by hatemongering by anti-Semitic groups and by the active complicity of informers. Most of the Jews who died in the concentration camps were not Zionists; in fact, many may not have even heard of Zionism. Moreover, the role of the Zionist movement in saving Jews, or in conspiring with the Nazis, was very marginal, regardless of the number of studies that have been produced on both cases and regardless of the fact that most of their findings have been corroborated. Zionism did, indeed, have two faces; it was the perspectives and aims of the researchers that were and remain at odds.

The Zionist movement began, and had set its sights on Palestine, long before the Holocaust. Zionists only used the Holocaust to justify their national project in hindsight, even if that justification is what drove some Arabs to deny the existence of the Holocaust. Yet, while there are people who have felt that by minimising or even refuting the Holocaust they undermine Jewish claims to a state in Palestine, the majority of educated and informed Arab opinion has never denied the Holocaust or the existence of anti-Semitism in Europe. Rather, they have argued — correctly — that since this horror took place in Europe the Palestinians should not have to pay the price.

Although it vaguely existed as a blend between the residue of a religious culture and extremist nationalist ideas imported from Europe even in early stages, anti-Semitism in the sense of hostility towards the Jews only began to spread significantly in the Arab world in the form of cultural and intellectual output after 1967. Clearly, the rise of this phenomenon coincided with the rise of a metaphysical attitude that sought to explain the overwhelming Arab defeat of that year in terms of the confrontation with an absolute evil bent on a global conspiracy of the nature of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, which has been proven to be an invention of the Russian secret service at the end of the 19th century but which nevertheless found many gullible ears in the Arab world in the wake of the 1967 defeat. Holocaust denial similarly emerged during this period and in the same spirit of a fantastic conspiracy theory that ascribed to an international Jewish cabal the power to invent and dupe the entire world into believing a stupendous set of lies.

I would like to suggest that there are two types of Holocaust denial. One, espoused by elements of the European traditional right and neo-ultra right, is to deny it happened. This form has not acquired sufficient roots to become a determinant of the behaviour of nations and societies. The other form of denial is to ignore that the Holocaust occurred within a particular historic context and, hence, to deal with it as some fiendish aberration that somehow occurred outside the bounds of time and place. One major consequence of this approach is that it inhibits the study of the Holocaust as a historical phenomenon and as a sobering primer on the dangers of racism, extremist nationalist chauvinism and totalitarian social engineering in modern mass societies.

But Holocaust denial can assume another face, which is to reduce it to an instrument for realising political ends. The Zionist movement has excelled in this, its rituals and rhetoric in commemoration of Holocaust victims far outstripping its concern for the victims and its activities to combat the phenomenon when it occurred. In fact, the subject was not even on the agenda of the Jewish organised community, the “Yeshov”, in mandate Palestine during the war years and many Zionists at the time found it embarrassing to hear of Jews being dragged off to be slaughtered without putting up a resistance; it conflicted with the nationalist fighting spirit and the image of the new man they were trying to inculcate. It was not until the Eichmann trial that the embarrassed silence was broken and emotions suddenly gushed out.

In the course of Zionism’s attempts to portray the history of the entire Jewish people as one uninterrupted stream of oppression and persecution that culminated inevitably in the Holocaust, Holocaust history has been transformed into an exclusively Israeli property. Victims of the Nazi gas chambers have been nationalised and converted, in spite of themselves, either into an episode in the Zionist struggle to create a state or into an instrument for blackmailing others into supporting Zionist aims or for justifying the crimes the Zionist state perpetrates against others. It is as though the magnitude of the crime entitles Israel to play the victim par excellence or the victims’ sole proxy, placing it beyond accusations of wrongdoing because it is the victim by definition.

The Zionist casting of all Jews as victims of Nazi atrocities has given rise to two curious phenomena. The first is that any Israeli can speak and act as the victim even if he has more in common ideologically and psychologically with the offender or the “Capo” — the Jews who cooperated with the Nazis in the concentration camps. In other words, the mere fact of being born to a Jewish mother somehow gives licence to represent all victims, including in front of those who actually are more victims than he is and those who are more hostile to Nazism, racism and its offshoots. The second phenomenon is the monopoly claimed by the Israeli ruling establishment to speak on behalf of Jews and Jewish history in general, which largely translates into soliciting, and pressuring for, political and financial support for Israel.

In the first instance, the challenge of truly understanding and learning lessons from the Nazi phenomenon is reduced to something akin to a therapy session in which those in the role of victim help those in the role of perpetrator purge their guilt by satisfying the psychological and material demands of the former. There is something morally repugnant in this passing of the sins, or innocence, of the fathers to the sons, as opposed to engaging in an objective process of historical investigation with the aim of combating racism in all forms and in all societies. After all, the main victims of European racism today are not Jews, and in Palestine Zionism is not the victim but the perpetrator. Unfortunately, the Israeli- German therapy sessions ignore such stark realities and, in so doing, offer both the Israelis and the Germans carte blanche to vent their racism on others, as though the Holocaust were a purely German-Israeli concern and the greater phenomenon of racism something else entirely. It is as if through their mutual catharsis with regard to the former they exonerate themselves from responsibility for the latter.

Meanwhile, Zionism’s unwarranted, illogical and historically unsubstantiated monopoly on the role of Holocaust victims’ spokesperson sits well with Europe. Most of Zionism’s aims and demands do not require Europe to engage in a serious process of introspection in order to uproot the deeper causes that gave rise to the Holocaust. Contrary to what one may logically expect, this suits Zionism’s purposes because it keeps the monolithic discreteness of the Holocaust intact and diminishes, in comparison, the significance of Europe’s other crimes. The upshot is to toss the entire Jewish question outside Europe and dump it in the Middle East. It may come as a relief to European officials to be able to exonerate themselves for the Holocaust by placating Israel with anti-Palestinian, anti- Arab and even anti-Muslim sympathies. If anything, however, this form of behaviour confirms the continuation of the underlying syndrome, a syndrome that is nevertheless glossed over with a fresh bill of moral health, authorised and stamped by Israel after every visit of atonement a European leader makes to the “Yad Vashim” Museum in Jerusalem.

It is for this reason that all victims of racism across the world should campaign to break the Zionist hold over the role of spokesman for victims of the Holocaust. Conversely, the Arabs and Palestinians who deny the Holocaust offer European and Zionist racism no greater gift than this denial of the occurrence of the Holocaust. What possible Arab or Islamic interest can it serve to even offer to exonerate Europe of one of the blackest pages in its history? To do so is not only to absolve Europe of a crime that was, in fact, committed, but also to earn its contempt and to wake up one day to find Europe and Israel joining forces against Arab or Muslim Holocaust deniers with such venom that one might imagine that the Holocaust had occurred in Egypt or Iran and that Holocaust denial is a far graver crime than the perpetration of the Holocaust itself. Holocaust denial is just plain stupid, also as a political argument. But Israel will be no less expedient in turning the provocation against its regional adversaries who had nothing to do with the Holocaust.

On the other hand, the Holocaust is a phenomenon that merits proper scholastic study, the purpose of which is to sort fact from fiction, and myth form reality. No incident in history lies beyond the realm of historical research. This said, Tehran can hardly be said to have a tradition of Holocaust studies; the subject does not rate very high in Iranian academic priorities. And a conference in Tehran that was proceeded by a political speech denying the Holocaust cannot be said to be an academic conference; it was a political demonstration, one that harms the Arabs and Muslims and serves only the ultra-right and neo-Nazi forces in Europe and the Zionist movement.

During World War II, when some Arabs and other Third World peoples were rooting for Germany because it was fighting the colonial powers France and Britain, the Arab and Third World left, which had allied with the Soviet Union, argued that it was wrong for the victims of racism to side with the racist Nazi regime. Their position was correct. Today, there is not even a pragmatic immoral justification whatsoever for siding with European racism. Holocaust denial does not undermine the moral justifications for the existence of the state of Israel, as some imagine. What it does, however, is hand the European right and Israel a convenient enemy upon which to unload their problems. This enemy comprises Palestinians and Arabs, specifically fundamentalist Muslims, those Bush is fond of calling “Islamic fascists”.

The initial Arab reaction to the Holocaust was simple and straightforward and much more rational. The Holocaust occurred, but it was a tragedy for which the Europeans, not the Arabs, should assume responsibility. This is the opinion that prevailed throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the sense of normalcy that survived in all of us continues to hold it.

HOPE ON THE HORIZON FOR SEPARATED FAMILIES


If things go as planned, thousands of Palestinians will soon be reunited with their families. For years it was virtually impossible for holders of foreign passports to obtain entry into the Occupied Territories. If they were able to enter to all, it was for a limited period and more often than not, the visas were not extended.
This caused great hardships on the families involved, caused great pain to the children who were without a father or mother.
The plights of many of these people have been given much attention over the past few months in the western press, including the New York Times which published an Op-Ed recently. As in many injustices, when the truth does get out, eyes are opened… when eyes are opened, often the heart opens as well.
Hopefully the proposed changes will rectify this unbearable sitution…. opening the struggle for a Right of Return for ALL Palestinians.
The following is a report by our dear Amira Hass that appeared in the pages of HaAretz….

Expected rule change could re-unite thousands in West Bank
By Amira Hass, Haaretz Correspondent

Enaya Samara, Hayan Ju’beh and Somaida Abbas are only three of the thousands of Palestinians with foreign passports who are waiting impatiently for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories to publish its new regulations.

These regulations, to be formulated in coordination with deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh, will allegedly enable them to return to their families and their homes in the West Bank, after forced six- to 12-month stays abroad. The changes are meant to prevent the forced separation of families, and to allow thousands of Palestinians married to citizens of Western countries, especially the United States, to come to and stay in the West Bank. They should reverse a 2006 decision by Israel to deny thousands of people entrance to the West Bank.

On December 13, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, Major General Yussef Mishlav, met with European Union representatives to inform them of the promised changes, and various diplomats in Israel passed the news on to their citizens. Sneh confirmed to Haaretz that the Defense Ministry is working on implementing the new policy “to ease and not to burden, to simplify and not to complicate.” He preferred not to go into detail, since the regulations have not yet been finalized.

As soon as Sneh took up his post, he initiated a meeting with Interior Minister Roni Bar-On to discuss the matter of denied entry. At the meeting, which took place on November 13, it was decided to post representatives of the coordinator’s office at the Allenby Bridge and Ben- Gurion International Airport. They would determine, in consultation with the Interior Ministry, who would receive a visitor’s permit (the authorities’ term for entrance to the territories).

But meanwhile, Haaretz has learned that the Interior Ministry and the coordinator’s office are continuing to block foreign citizens married to Palestinian Authority residents from entering the country. Others have received permits good for a week to a month at border crossings. In addition, 105 people, all spouses and children of Palestinian residents, have submitted visa extension requests through the Civil Administration (which is under the authority of the government coordinator). On November 19 their passports were returned, stamped with the words “last permit.” Sneh said this was a “remnant of the previous situation,” and that on December 10 the category of “last permit” was canceled.

But meanwhile, new cases of denied entries have disappointed and frightened others who have not left to renew their visa. Some have sought legal aid.

“There will be no ‘laundering’ for those who have broken the law and remained in the country without a valid visa,” said Sneh. The change of policy would not apply to tens of thousands of women married to Jordanian citizens who are Palestinian residents, or a few hundred Eastern European spouses of Palestinians, who live abroad – away from their families – because they have been denied entry, or who have remained in the territories even though their visa has expired.

The stories of Samara (a U.S. citizen), Ju’beh (an Irish citizen), and Abbas (a Swedish citizen) have been told here over the past few months. They, like a few hundred others from Europe or America, have been hurt over the past year by the drastic change in Israel’s policy regarding the entrance of Westerners to the territories. Most are spouses of Palestinian residents, and some were born in the territories (including East Jerusalem) but lost their residency status due to a pre-1994 Israeli policy. Over the years they were allowed to stay with their families as “tourists,” and a small number received residency. The others renewed their tourist visas every three months.

As first reported in Haaretz in July 2006, the government initially changed this policy without declaring or admitting it. But at Israel’s sea and land crossings, the number of people denied entry increased. Some estimates put the number at a few tens of thousands of U.S., European and South American citizens who were permanently living in the territories as “tourists.”

There are no statistics showing how many of them did not return to their families this year. Many others did not leave to renew their visa, out of the fear that they would not be allowed to return. As a result, they are now considered to be breaking the law. Among them are many elderly people who were born in the territories. Apparently, thousands passed up family or business trips after learning of the policy change. Palestinian citizens of the U.S. and Europe who live in Ramallah established a group that gained world media attention, presenting the denied entry as discrimination between Jews and Palestinians. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed her displeasure with Israel’s policy, the State Department complained to the Israeli Embassy in Washington, and representatives of the European Union submitted complaints of their own.

Sneh says he initiated the change not because of American pressure, but because the policy was “stupid and contravened Israeli interests.” The EU representatives reported to their citizens that according to Mishlav, the Interior Ministry headed by Ronnie Bar-On is the body that decided to deny entry to U.S. and European citizens heading to the territories.

The Interior Ministry told Haaretz that the entrance of tourists to the territories has always been the responsibility of the Defense Ministry and the coordinator of government activities in the territories, and that the decision to deny entry was made at a joint meeting between the Interior Ministry, the Defense Ministry and the coordinator.


http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/805528.html

ONE ZIONIST’S DILEMMA WITH APARTHEID

I have said many times that certain things are just ‘not Jewish’. One of those things is hatred. Jews traditionally were in the forefront of struggles throughout the world to combat hatred, segregation, apartheid, wars, anything that oppressed people. How then did a total turnabout take place wherein the ‘Jewish State’ became the champion of all the aforementioned evils plaguing humanity. It is something that I as a Jew, as an Israeli am totally ashamed of. I let that be known through any media possible and struggle daily to end the situation. This is demonstrated daily through my posts on this Blog, where my positions are well known.
Today on the Ynet Website there was a most welcome article written by a well known Israeli author and film critic. Yoram Kaniuk is not considered a leftist, never actually dabbed in politics at all, but the article he wrote will hopefully be an eyeopener for others in the zionist camp.
The article is presented here, definitely a must read……

Like the worst nations

Israeli actions in Territories corrupt Zionist dream, no better than Apartheid

Yoram Kaniuk

Where is our justice going? It’s being trampled on. It’s getting lost.

A man whose only crime was to illegally enter Israel heard in prison that his young daughter was killed by the IDF. He asked to see her for the last time. He wasn’t allowed to attend the funeral.

When President Carter, who was never a friend of Israel, writes that what we are doing in the Territories is similar to Apartheid, everyone cries out in protest. Yet he wasn’t far off from reality: Our behavior is worse than that prevalent in South Africa at the time. It’s unpleasant to say this, but this is the way it is.

Ever since the days of Mofaz as army chief and defense minister, the order is to abuse, kill, humiliate. The roadblocks are not between the Palestinians and Israel, but rather, aimed at making their life difficult. A 15-year-old boy was arrested and held in custody for several months without trial. After that, they just released him. Left him without a penny in his pocket near a roadblock in the middle of the night. Officers are serving as judges and they create gross injustice.

I haven’t been a leftist for years, because I don’t believe the Arabs would ever agree to share this country with us, and I believe in the Jews’ right to a national home and a state in our historic homeland. Yet what we’ve been doing with this dream borders on the criminal.

Who will protect us Jews who think we’re right, a virtual defense minister with a real mustache? A cowardly army chief who doesn’t know how to lose honorably after he screwed up a war and was beaten by Hizbullah? Where’s the prime minister? Do the ministers even know what my daughter and her friends see every day? The kind of injustice we’re creating there?

The killing. The hatred. The beatings. The humiliations. What will all this bring? Will we have fewer Qassam rocket attacks? Will there will be no more terror attacks if an elderly woman cannot reach the hospital?

Ashamed of country I helped create

We’ve become a violent, heartless society. We’re killed at crosswalks because no car driven by an Israeli would allow someone limping with a walking stick to cross the road. What has happened to us?

After all, back then when I was a youngster we had to establish a state. We had no weapons, and we were hungry. We fought every night with toothpicks stuck in our eyes so we wouldn’t fall asleep. Yet we established a country. Today I’m ashamed of the country that I helped create as a soldier. Jewish rabbis are sanctifying injustice and ugliness and the killing of innocent people. Our young men enjoy shooting every Arab who passes by simply because they’re bored.

Yes, I still stick to my tragic belief that only a Jewish state would solve the Jewish tragedy and that there’s no chance for two states for two people, but this is why we need wisdom, reason, restrained force, and not just mere killings, shame, a walking nightmare and a cold heart.

Our intelligent young people are leaving the country. For most of them the reality they see is a harsh one. Those who remain here are violent and indifferent, yet we, who do not wish to renounce the Zionist dream, see how with every passing day it becomes more wicked and cruel.

In the festival of wickedness we’re playing, we disappoint those who contiued to dream when the situation was bad and dangerous. Such a situation may return. We have a history that dates back 2,000 years. Perhaps it will become dangerous again, and Jews will be killed, but this time there will be no more idiots like ourselves who will establish a state for those who behave like a herd of monsters.

‘OH COME ALL YE FAITHFUL’

Greetings from Palestine
Christmas in Bethlehem 2006 will be known as the Christmas that was ‘stolen by the Grinch’. Thousands of disappointed children woke up this morning to find their hung stockings empty. Unemployment, war, internal fighting, whatever the reasons, there was no festive feelings in the town that once was the centre of attention this time of year.
This year, despite ‘outward apearances’ that ‘all is calm, all is bright, there was nothing further from the truth. The Abbas-Olmert ‘peace talks’ were nothing but a scam, despite ‘welcome banners’ hung on the wall of hate, entrance to the Holy City was next to impossible for the foreign tourists that either were unable to cross the checkpoints or were frightened away due to the internal strife in the Palestinian Authority. Whatever the reasons, the point remains that there was an ugly shaddow cast on what should have been one of the most festive seasons of the year.
This will certainly be a year that the children will remember, they will be able to tell their own children in years to come that in the year 2006, Santa was not able to get into Bethlehem…. Yes Virginia, WAR IS UGLY!
The Associated Press contributed to the following article from Bethlehem…

Gloom Hovers Over Bethlehem Christmas

Dec 24, 7:28 PM (ET)

ARON HELLER

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) – Thousands of people joined by marching bands, clergymen in magenta skullcaps and children dressed as Santa Claus celebrated Christmas Eve in the center of Bethlehem Sunday, doing their best to dispel the gloom hovering over Jesus’ traditional birthplace.

Most were local residents or Christian Arabs from neighboring Israel with a sprinkling of foreign tourists.

“It hasn’t really set in that I am here in Bethlehem where everything happened so many thousand years ago,” said an overwhelmed Matt Lafontaine, a 21-year-old university student from Plymouth, Minnesota. “It’s really exciting. It’s just starting to set in. It’s surreal.”

In an annual tradition, Bethlehem’s residents enacted Christmas rituals that seem out of place in the Middle East. Palestinian scouts marched through the streets, some wearing kilts and pompom-topped berets, playing drums and bagpipes. They passed inflatable red-suited Santas, looking forlorn in the West Bank sunshine.

Other scenes of this Bethlehem Christmas, however, could be found nowhere else. To get to town, Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the Roman Catholic Church’s highest official in the Holy Land, rode in his motorcade through a huge steel gate in the Israeli separation barrier that separates Jerusalem from Bethlehem.

Israel says it built the barrier to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from reaching Israeli population centers. Palestinians view the structure, which dips into parts of the West Bank, as a land grab.

The robed clergyman was led into Palestinian-controlled territory by a formal escort of five Israeli policemen mounted on horses. Two Israeli Border Police troops closed the gate behind him.

In his homily at midnight Mass in Bethlehem, Sabbah appealed to Palestinians to halt their recent “fratricidal struggles” and called for an end to Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed as well.

“The conflict here has lasted too long,” he said. “It is high time that the leaders who have our destinies in their hands in this land – specifically, the Palestinian and Israeli leaders as well as those of the international community – it is time for all of them to take new measures that will bring an end to the long phase of death in our history and lead us into a new phase in the history of this Holy Land.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a Muslim, joined the celebrations, expressing hope that his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Saturday would lead to a peace breakthrough.

“I congratulate our people, especially our Christian brothers, not only here but all around the world for Christmas and the New Year, God bless us,” he said. He called his meeting with Olmert “a good start.”

Sabbah, wearing a flowing gold and burgundy robe, led a procession into St. Catherine’s Church, adjacent to the traditional birthplace of Jesus for midnight Mass.

Hundreds of worshippers packed the cavernous church for the service, as clergymen chanted in Latin amid the sound of bells and organ music. Abbas attended the ceremony, escorted by a large security detail to a front row seat. Sabbah offered him a blessing.

In his homily, Sabbah asked all political leaders and adversaries, including Israeli troops and those “who are classified as extremists and terrorists ” to “examine their conscience” to end the bloodshed.

Earlier, Sabbah sounded similar themes in his annual Christmas address at his Jerusalem office before departing for Bethlehem

“God wants us all to be peacemakers. He wants every believer who has faith in God – Jewish, Muslim or Christian – to work to make peace,” Sabbah said. “Our leaders so far have only made war, they haven’t made peace.”

Bethlehem’s tourist industry has been hit hard by the last six years of Israeli-Palestinian violence and by the barrier, which Israel began building in 2002, but also by internal Palestinian friction.

This Christmas is the first under a Palestinian Authority governed by the militant Islamic group Hamas. To alleviate Christian fears ahead of the holiday, Hamas promised that it would send $50,000 to decorate Manger Square in the center of town for the holiday. It was not clear if the money ever arrived.

Even so, Manger Square and the surrounding buildings were decorated in neon lights. Bands performed on a stage, and a large screen beamed images of Palestinian flags and officials.

Standing outside his empty souvenir shop, George Baboul said this is the “worst Christmas” he has seen in more than 30 years. Baboul’s shop, the “Bethlehem Star Store,” is in a prime location, at the side of the Church of the Nativity, but he said there is no business.

“No tourists are coming,” said Baboul, 72, who opened the shop in 1967. “I don’t know what’s the reason for that. There are no problems, Bethlehem is safe, but tourists are afraid to come.”

Bethlehem’s mayor, Victor Batarseh, said his city would celebrate Christmas despite the hardship.

“With all this oppression, this economic stress, physical stress, psychological stress, we are defying all these obstacles and we are celebrating Christmas so that we’ll put joy into the faces of our children, joy to the citizens of Bethlehem,” he said.

By evening, Manger Square was bustling with thousands of people. The small contingent of foreign tourists in Bethlehem this year included a Polish choir group and a handful of pilgrims from South Korea who gathered to sing carols in one corner of the square, interrupted briefly by the loud call to prayer from a nearby mosque.

“It’s exciting. I can feel that Jesus was here,” said Jae Hwan Kim, 29, of Seoul.

Israel’s Tourism Ministry forecast 18,000 tourists would visit Bethlehem this year, up from 16,000 last year, but far below the tens of thousands of people who thronged Manger Square at the height of peacemaking in the 1990s.

“It’s a lot more positive than I thought,” said Frank Baumann, 59, of Squamish, Canada, who came with his wife and three daughters. “It’s very festive and everybody is in a good mood. There’s certainly no sense of any violence.”

The only large foreign contingent in Manger Square was made up of around 200 Filipino Christians who work in Israel.

With every Christmas, the Holy Land’s Christian community shrinks a bit. The native Palestinian Christian population has dipped below 2 percent of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Arab East Jerusalem, down from at least 15 percent in 1950, by some estimates. Bethlehem is now less than 20 percent Christian.

In Gaza, where 3,000 Christians live among around 1.4 million Muslims, the head of the tiny Roman Catholic community, Father Manuel Musallem, canceled Midnight Mass celebration, citing the recent Palestinian infighting between Fatah and Hamas.

“The children told me Santa Claus won’t come this year because it’s too dangerous,” he said.

Associated Press reporter Dalia Nammari contributed to this article from Bethlehem.

BETHLEHEM AT CHRISTMAS

‘Peaceful Slumber’ by David Baldinger
The ‘ghosts of Christmas past’ are haunting the empty streets of Bethlehem this holiday season. What once was a vibrant community during this time of year is a deserted ghost town. Tourism is down in Israel/Palestine because of the political situation and travel advisories from western countries about visiting the Occupied Territories.
Shopowners are suffering due to the lack of tourist dollars that they are not getting this year.
There was hope that a peace process would begin… that the end of the crisis was near….. there still is that hope…. but not for this Christmas.
Here is a report from Ma’an on the situation…

Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinians in the holy city of Bethlehem believed for a moment that the Olmert-Abbas meeting on Saturday evening would result in the lifting of the siege imposed on the city and the withdrawal of Israeli soldiers from Bethlehem so the people could enjoy the Christmas and the New Year celebrations.

In the past, the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem used to receive over 100,000 tourists and pilgrims during the Christmas celebrations. The numbers have decreased dramatically as a result of the Israeli military occupation and the separation wall, in addition to the tension prevailing recently in the occupied Palestinians territories.

Palestinian Minister of Tourism Jouda Murqus believes that this year’s celebrations are not going to bring much cheer, especially in the shadow of the occupation and closures imposed on the West Bank.

Mayor of Bethlehem Victor Batarsah said that the numbers of pilgrims are not as they were in previous years. Residents of the city also say that celebrations this year are not like in previous years. Many say the atmosphere is “sad” and the current hard times are due to the occupation.

On Sunday morning, the celebrations started in the city of Bethlehem with a parade headed by the Latin Patriarch in Palestine and Jordan, Micheal Sabbah.

It is expected that Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas will participate in the celebrations and attend the midnight Mass in the Church of the Nativity on Christmas Eve, the site where it is believed that Jesus was born. The mass will be presided over by His Eminence Micheal Sabbah.

A parade of scouts also marched through the streets of Bethlehem playing drums and traditional music. Hundreds of Palestinians and tourists gathered in the main square to welcome the patriarch who is expected to arrive before noon at the Church of the Nativity.

On this occasion, Ma’an News Agency would like to extend its best wishes to the Palestinian people in the hope that next year will be better than the current one, and that peace will prevail in the region.

AND TO ALL… A GOOD NIGHT!

David Baldinger

And so, it was written that during the winter solstice one should turn off his computer for a few days, take leave of his ‘virtual’ family and friends, and spend real time with the loved ones in his life.
So, I am doing exactly that… I am fortunate to have the ones to be with… I will be away from the ‘Net’ until Sunday….

So, to my
Jewish Brothers and Sisters, A Happy Chanukah
Christian Brothers and Sisters, A Merry Christmas
Muslim Brothers and Sisters, Eid al-Adha Mubarek
Black Brothers and Sisters, Happy Kwanzaa

Let us all hope and pray that we will see 2007 be the year that heralds in a time of Peace and Justice for all of humanity. An end to wars and hatred, an end to walls, guns, bombs, all evil that either separates or kills each other.

And to all… a good night!

Carlos Latuff

MORE ON ‘SECOND CLASS CITIZENSHIP’ FOR PALESTINIANS IN ISRAEL

Yesterday, one of my regular readers, Lenny Bruce, commented… “I would love to do a post based on that kind of concrete statistical info in addition to attitudinal research among Jewish Israelis towards Israeli Arabs….” That comment was in regard to a post I did on ‘Mistaken Identity’
Again, proving that Palestinians (Israeli Arabs) are treated as second class citizens, the following was just published in HaAretz..
Yes, there is eqality in Israel…. All (most) Jews are treated the same.
Following is the report…..

Report: Arabs in north get 10% of budget for rebuilding region By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent
A new report released on Wednesday alleges that the State of Israel has allocated to Arab communities 10 percent, instead of the 30 percent pledged, of the budgets for rebuilding Israel’s north in the wake of the war in Lebanon.

The Mossawa Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel reveals that out of a total of NIS 4.25 billion only NIS 400 million had been allocated to the Arab sector. Mossawa based its report on data collected from official government decisions and the 2007 State Budget bill.

Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office Ra’anan Dinur declared after the war that the state would rebuild communities damaged in the war.

At the time, Dinur pledged a third of the funds to be allocated to Arab communities, a third to Jewish communities and a third to national infrastructures in the region.

This division was to reflect the size of the Arab sector, constituting approximately 50 percent of the region’s population.

The report, compiled by Mossawa economist Amin Fares, was submitted to the Knesset Finance Committee as well as to the chairs of the other Knesset committees. In a letter the group urged parliamentarians to intervene in the negotiations on the 2007 State Budget in order to rectify this discrimination.

Mossawa is demanding that the state allocate approximately NIS 1 billion to the development of the Arab sector in 2007.

The group stated “once more we find ourselves facing gaps between the declarations about affirmative action and a discriminatory reality.”

“It is time to put an end to the growing economic differences in infrastructures between Jews and Arabs,” the statement said.

WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON IN PALESTINE?~~ A VIEW FROM WITHIN

It seems that most westerners do not really know what is happening on the ‘other side of the wall’… in Palestine. Reports in the press are mostly written on the Israeli side or outside of the country… reports based on heresay and not always factual.
There has been much confusion in recent days as to what is really going on in Palestine today. Why the fighting, why the calls for elections, so many whys and so few answers. This situation is a golden opportunity for the enemies of Palestine to come up with answers for those that do not know better…. answers that will serve their own purposes, not those of Palestine.
The Ma’an News Agency published the following report a few days ago… it’s a must read for anyone looking for what is really happening… it is written by a very well known Palestinian journalist, Rashid A. Shahin…..

The Devils of Fatah and the Angels of Hamas
by Rashid A. Shahin

It seems that Palestinian leaders are determined to go ahead with the tug-of-war process which broke out, right after the legislative elections that brought Hamas to power, and impeached the Fatah movement from what they believed to be their historical heritage, which they wouldn’t surrender to anybody.

The problem didn’t lie, as many believed, in the inability of Fatah to accept defeat in elections. The Hamas movement played a major, if not to say, the main role in the deterioration of the situation in the Palestinian arena that has led to the current impasse.

While Fatah had gradually built their control of the Palestinian leadership, in every perspective, as a result of the long term of domination in the Palestinian arena without a serious rival, Hamas was determined to play the same role that Fatah had played, yet from the outset.

Hamas wanted to perform single-handedly, and that is their unalienable right. However what wasn’t their right was to practice undesirable, and unjustifiable tactics, including declaring creeds, without sticking to them. Despite their frequent discourse over the will to compose a unity government through dialogue with the other factions, they ended up, at the decisive moments, willing to play the game alone.

Through their 9 months in power, although in reality they practiced no powers, Hamas wanted to eliminate the history of struggle for all other factions, and consequently for the whole Palestinian people. They saw the break of that struggle to be only registered from the moment when Hamas was set. They don’t recognize the PLO, for example. Regardless of one’s reservations against the PLO, and the fact that it became inefficient, and that its Executive Committee members represent, in some cases, only a few dozen people who are attached to them by personal interest, nobody wants to eliminate that organization, which, as a symbol, has represented the Palestinian people over decades.

Furthermore, that political symbol had its accomplishments, which nobody dares to deny. The least to be said in this regard, is that the PLO could preserve the Palestinian cause as a political national cause, rather than a humanitarian cause, which magnetized charity, sympathy and humanitarian food and clothing support for displaced Palestinians.

The Hamas movement, which had raised very good-sounding declarations about fighting corruption and reform, wasn’t the same Hamas which ascended to power, but the allegation that they didn’t want sovereignty and hated authority hasn’t been proved in reality. On the other hand, the allegation that Fatah was singularly responsible for the whole crisis, with the truth and precision it has, is not absolutely true and precise either. In fact, Fatah is part of the crisis, but not all of it.

The advocating by Hamas of mottos they couldn’t adhere to, as well as their attempts to load the Palestinian people with more than their capacity, participated in the culmination of the problem; when thousands of public sector employees asked for their salaries, which are a legitimate right, they were accused of treason. That was perceived by the average Palestinians as an oppressive and undemocratic approach by the leaders of Hamas.

The inclination by this Palestinian government to accuse a wide sector of the Palestinian people of treason for participating in rallies, demonstrations and strikes in protest, calling for their salaries to be paid, can only mean that this government does not wish to tolerate the other point of view, or the so-called “opposition”.

In addition, hiding behind mottos of steadfastness and resistance, through “pressing the wound”; “tightening one’s belt” and eating mallow, thyme and arum will not provide one tablet of medicine, nor can it buy milk for a hungry Palestinian child.

The failure to reach a solution to the current problem and the disagreement over the “unity” government could not be blamed on Fatah alone. We can’t deal with the Fatah leaders, despite their reprehensible points and shortcomings we attribute to them, as “devils”, as much as we abstain from dealing with the Hamas gentlemen as “angels”, who descended from heavens and who enjoy absolute purity. They can not be seen as the heirs of God on Earth.

It is in the same vein that we put the blame on the Fatah “devils” that we burden the same blame onto the shoulders of the Hamas “angels” for this delay and stalling of the unity government, regardless of its name, whether it be called a “technocrat government”, or “professional” or “unity” or “emergency” or “relief”. The Palestinian people don’t have to take what Hamas says as the absolute truth, especially if we recall the black day when 19 Palestinians fell during a Hamas show in Gaza. At that time, they swore that the massacre resulted from an Israeli rocket, an allegation which hadn’t stood long, when it was revealed that somebody else, or, for the sake of accuracy, something else.

The siege on the Palestinian people, we agree, is a conspiracy between the Americans, the Israelis, and many of the Arab regimes, with the added possibility of Palestinian hands also been involved in that siege. This siege adds to the suffering and complicates the problem even more. What is the way out? Should the Palestinians become groups of gangs and burglars? Don’t the gentlemen of Hamas agree to the proverb, “hunger is atheist”? Don’t they think that this hunger paves the way to several Palestinians to fall victims of Israeli intelligence? Don’t they think hunger could drag many into inappropriate and dirty approaches to earn their living?

The gentlemen in Hamas should tell the Palestinians what to do, and the gentlemen in Fatah have to say, once and for all, what they are up to. This endless cycle of exchanging accusations is useless. The issue must be tackled with a higher spirit of responsibility, since nobody any more buys the allegation that disagreement between the two movements is over principles. Everybody now knows that the major disagreement derives from personal interests, away from the claimed “unchangeable principles”.

THIS IS A JOKE….RIGHT???

L-R..Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dumb and Dumber
Part two of my ‘Puppet King Saga’ continues today…. the two ‘greatest friends’ of the people of Palestine met today to discuss the future of the Palestinians. Puppet King Abdulla had a ‘surprise’ visit from Olmert this morning… we are all really surprised at his eagerness to establish peace in the region….
Abdullah wants Israel to resume peace negotiations with the Palestinians….. Yesterday he made it very clear that he will support Abbas, Olmert made it very clear he will never negotiate with Hamas…. just who are these peace negotiations going to be between?
Will be interesting to see agreements signed by people not representing anyone but themselves, that’s what I predict Abbas will be doing if he is successful in getting the elections he called for.
Should be an interesting next few weeks…. to say the least.
Following is an Associated Press report on this….

Olmert makes surprise visit to Jordan for peace talks with king By The Associated Press
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made a surprise visit to Jordan Tuesday for talks with King Abdullah II on ways to revive Mideast peacemaking.

A senior royal palace official said Olmert’s visit came in response to an invitation by Abdullah, who is eager to see Israel resume peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed the visit. “In the meeting the two leaders discussed bilateral issues and developments in the Palestinian Authority as well as the wider regional situation,” it said in a statement.

Olmert’s visit came hours after Abdullah said in a written statement that he will soon make a rare public contact with Israeli leaders in a bid to revive stalled Mideast peacemaking.

The statement released by the royal palace Monday night did not explain if the king planned to host Israeli leaders or visit the neighboring country, with whom Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994.

The king hosted Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in June in an effort to get both leaders to open direct negotiations, but the effort failed.

Abdullah has said a return to Arab-Israeli peace negotiations is vital to curb rising extremism in the Middle East, fueled by the conflict in Iraq. The monarch has called on Washington to concentrate more on reviving the peace process, which is stalled amid a Palestinian leadership crisis.

A CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY

I’ve heard it said a hundred times… I’ve seen it written on various zionist blogs as many times… ‘Jews and Arabs are treated equally in Israel’…. I even blogged about that MISCONCEPTION myself yesterday….
Well… try this short tale on for size…..
I received a notice to pick up a parcel at the post office, so I went there this afternoon to get it. I was not able to get into the premises as there was construction going on outside, so I asked the security guard to please get the parcel for me…
He very rudely asked me (in Arabic) for my identity card. I just as rudely replied that there was no reason for him to have it as the people in the post office know me and will give it to him without my ID…
He went in to get it…. came out a moment later with parcel in hand and said… (not rudely this time)…”You are Jewish!” I said’ So????”
“Why didn’t you tell me that when I asked for your ID in Arabic?”
I said I understood what he said so there was no reason to say anything…. but asked him why he was so rude when he thought I was an Arab….. he’s still working on an answer for that one as he knows he was wrong to do that…..
Anyhow…. just a small, passsing experience of a mistaken identity…. but what about all the others that arn’t a mistake….
YES…. there is equality in Israel… one for Jews and another for Arabs.
Anyone who tells you differently is either lying or totally ignorant of the truth.

AN APPEAL TO KEEP HOPE ALIVE IN PALESTINE

Action Alert – Hope Flowers School
This originally appeared on the site of the International Solidarity Movement….
An Urgent Request to Keep Hope Alive

As many of you know, the Israeli authorities started to build a wall around the Palestinian cities and villages a few years ago. In 2003, the Hope Flowers School received a demolition order for the school cafeteria, because the cafeteria is located 120 meters away from the proposed route of the wall.

Now the Israeli authorities have started to build the last segment of the wall near the school. Bulldozers and stone crushing machines are working daily to crush thousands of years of beautiful rocks at the front of the school in preparation for either laying the 8 meters high cement wall segments or to build a fence.

The proposed route of the barrier will isolate the Hope Flowers School and will not allow Israelis to come to visit the school. The school has been well known for many years as a home for peace education in the Middle East. Our bridge-building programs have reached out to thousands of Palestinians and Israelis.

We encourage peace and coexistence based on our belief that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict cannot be solved in a violent way. With our joint programs we create an opportunity for dialogue and understanding. The mutual meetings are very helpful to minimize fear and prevent stereotyping. They form a tool for both Palestinians and Israelis to find their common humanity.

The problem is that, when the wall (barrier) is built, Israelis and Palestinians will not be able to meet each other anymore. The Hope Flowers School will not be accessible to Israelis. This means more fear and more stereotyping of ‘the other’, which would end any chance for creating peace and dialogue. The wall is not only physical: it will be a barrier in the minds and hearts of future Palestinian and Israeli generations, preventing them from living together. The wall will not bring peace. It may bring a cease-fire, but a cease-fire is never peace. (The current cease-fire in late 2006 applies to Gaza only).

To all our friends, your help is needed now!

The Israelis will not stop building the wall for sure! But let’s all together ask them to create a gate in the wall near the school to allow Israelis to reach the Hope Flowers School. This gate will be a Gate for Hope to keep hope alive and to keep Hope Flowering for the next generation.

How to help?

Please apply pressure to the contacts below by letter, fax, e-mail or phone. Ask them to do whatever they can to pressure the Israelis to overturn the demolition order of the cafeteria and to create a gate in the wall to allow Israelis to reach the school. Emphasize the unique operating principles and ethos of the Hope Flowers School – it is the only school in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza areas focusing on peace and democracy education, teaching our students to look for non-violent solutions to the ongoing situation.

Here is is an example of a letter that you can re-work (if you wish), sign and send to one of the contacts below.
Click here to download (MSWord document). Please write pleasant and constructive letters and e-mails!

a) Commander, Israeli Civil Administration
(Sub Committee for Supervision of Building Activity in Beth El),
Fax: (Israel) +972-2-997-7326

b) Mr. Ehud Olmert, Prime Minister of Israel
E-mail: webmaster@pmo.gov.il
Fax: (Israel) +972-2-566-4838 or +972-2-267-5475
Tel: +972-2-670-5555

UK residents please write to:

Rt Hon Margaret Beckett MP
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London SW1A 2AH, UK
http://www.fco.gov.uk (click ‘Feedback’)

c) The Israeli Embassy / Consulate in your home country.

d) Dr Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State
Address: US Department of State, 2210 C Street N.W, Washington D.C 20520, USA.
Tel: (USA) 202 647 5291 (Dr. Rice’s office) or 202 647 4000 (State Dept. main number)
Email: contact-us.state.gov

By sending your letter to one or more of the above officials, you are helping us to keep hope alive.

If you can draw attention to this situation in your local and wider communities, through various methods, therefore resulting in greater awareness of our situation, it would further help our cause.

For further information specifically relating to this issue, please contact us at the school.

In peace,
Ibrahim Issa
Co-director, Hope Flowers School

The original Appeal can be seen HERE

OLMERT SINCERE ABOUT WANTING PEACE

Cold and worry by Ismael Shammout
OMG!!!! Did I just say that? Olmert says he wants peace… Olmert told this to the Palestinians and the world in recent days… he almost had me fooled… till I read the following in HaAretz a few minutes ago.
Nothing has changed. Olmert is the same warmonger he has always been… and so is his government who is sure to approve his request for almost TWO BILLION Shekles to next year’s defense budget.
This is money that can be used to fight poverty among the Jewish and Palestinian population in Israel, money that can be used to fight hunger and disease…. but NO… Olmert wants to fight humanity instead. Let the poor folks freeze and starve… that’s part of his plan of ethnic cleansing.
This is truly a man of peace…. OMG!!!! Did I say that as well???
I guess his buddy Bush already approved the request and the funds are on their way…. Thank you America!
Below is the HaAretz article I referred to…

Olmert instructs Finance Minister to add NIS 1.9 billion to defense budget By Haaretz Service
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday instructed Finance Minister Abraham Hirchson to immediately transfer NIS 1.9 billion to the defense budget.

The funds would be transferred as an advance to the 2007 defense budget, even before the budget is passed in the Knesset.

Hirchson said he will soon present the prime minister with alternative sources of funding.

The finance minister emphasized that he would not agree to an augmented state budget, and that if he is unable to divert the funds from other budgetary clauses available to the defense establishment, the additional funds would be taken at the expense of civilian ministries.

“There are no sacred cows,” Hirchson said, referring to the possible sources of funding.

The cuts expected in funding to the civilian ministries amount to NIS 600 million.

As a result of raises in the defense budget, Hirchson intends not to accede to the demands of members of the coalition, chief among them the Labor Party’s request for an additional NIS 2 billion for social budgets.

If Labor members of the Knesset Finance Committee do not support the budget, the Finance Ministry will have to obtain the support of the National Religious Party or another opposition party.

The money to be transferred is not connected to the additional funds demanded by the Israel Defense Forces after the Lebanon war for raising the army’s readiness for a future war, and for replenishing ammunition stores.

The figures for the budget will be deliberated further by the Brodet committee for the defense budget.

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