Feb 7, 2009

Arab Silence by Majed Badra

Arab Silence by Majed Badra

Unless we do something about it, we’ll never ever be able to hold our heads up! An PACBI Open Letter to Sir Roger Moore

February 8, 2008
The Palestinian arts community has received the news of your plans to make a special guest appearance at the Red Sea International Music Festival in Eilat this February in a state of disbelief. At a time of unprecedented Israeli war crimes and grave violations of human rights, condemned by leading UN officials and international human rights organizations, with Israel just ending its atrocious assault on the occupied Gaza Strip, after more than 18 months of a criminal siege, described as a “prelude to genocide” by the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, your participation in this festival can only be understood as condoning this injustice and celebrating it.
We feel exceptionally disappointed because of your otherwise significant record in advocating human rights, particularly in your capacity as the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Israel’s bloody war on occupied Gaza caused the immediate death of over 1,300 people, of whom 410 were children, in addition to injuring another 5,300 people. As UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman noted in her statement regarding the Israeli aggression on Gaza:
“Each day more children are being hurt, their small bodies wounded, their young lives shattered. These are not just cold figures. They talk of children’s lives interrupted. No human being can watch this without being moved. No parent can witness this and not see their own child.”


Far-right Israel politician gains momentum: Los Angeles Times

Avigdor Lieberman, center, campaigns in Ashkelon, Israel. “We are under a coordinated attack of terror from within and from without,” he said at a rally this week. “And the threats from within are even more dangerous.”

Avigdor Lieberman, center, campaigns in Ashkelon, Israel. “We are under a coordinated attack of terror from within and from without,” he said at a rally this week. “And the threats from within are even more dangerous.”

Avigdor Lieberman’s proposal for a loyalty oath has connected with voters suspicious of Israeli Arabs. He is unlikely to win the prime minister’s post, but could push the new government to the right.
By Richard Boudreaux, February 7, 2009
Reporting from Kiryat Motzkin, Israel — Portraits of two Israeli Arab politicians, defaced by red Hebrew letters reading “Shame and Disgrace!” flashed on a giant video screen. Jeering erupted in the hall, packed for the tough-talking candidate whose bid to lead Israel is propelled by unease about its Arab minority.
Avigdor Lieberman’s attacks on Arabs have shaken up the race for parliament and prime minister. He is drawing large, boisterous crowds that delight in chanting his slogan — “Without loyalty, there is no citizenship” — and back his proposal for a mandatory loyalty oath to the Jewish state.

Lieberman’s anti-Arab ideology wins over Israel’s teens: Ha’aretz

The Yisrael Beiteinu youths gather for a final consultation as dozens of elderly party supporters slowly make their way into the white tent where the movement’s conference is being held, behind the Plaza Hotel in Upper Nazareth. The youths, ages 16-18, many of them good friends from school, had stood for a long time before the event began at the intersection near the hotel, waving Israeli flags and shouting “Death to the Arabs” and “No loyalty, no citizenship” at passing cars. In the tent, they deliberate over what to shout when Lieberman enters: Calling out “The next prime minister” may sound a bit presumptuous with regard to the leader of what’s likely to be the third-largest party in the next Knesset. But during a week when Yisrael Beiteinu won the highest level of support in mock high-school polls – the sky’s the limit.
Not even the investigation of several close Lieberman aides, announced by the state prosecutor that very morning, could dampen their enthusiasm. To the sounds of kitschy Russian music, the party’s candidates take their places behind a long table. The young people gather right in front of the stage and lovingly greet the new heroes of the right. Even Lieberman’s rather colorless deputy, MK Uzi Landau, evokes strong, passionate cheers. But these pale in comparison to the reaction when the party chairman makes his entrance.

Read the whole article to geta horrifying insight into the depth of racism in Israel! “Death to the Arabs” is as popular a chant in Israel nowadays as the Tikva, Israel’s national anthem. In fact, you hear the former far more frequently than the latter: in football matches, in election rallies, and in random gatherings of Israeli youth anywhere near the Palestinians (in Jaffa, Acre, Upper Nazareth, etc.). Some teasing excerpts from utterings by Israeli students and youth quoted in the article:
- “This country has needed a dictatorship for a long time already. But I’m not talking about an extreme dictatorship. We need someone who can put things in order. Lieberman is the only one who speaks the truth.”

– “In my daughter’s class, the kids told a joke that went something like: ‘How long does it take an Arab woman to get rid of the trash? Nine months,’ and the teacher didn’t stop or say anything to them about it.”

– “We have a problem: Upper Nazareth is surrounded by minorities. There are lots of incidents with them. Women are scared to walk in the streets, and people are afraid they’ll be stabbed. No one knows what to do about it at this point. There are people who live here and during a war they act as a fifth column. It will only be possible to make peace with them after we make war.”
Is that why people shout “Death to the Arabs”?
“The people who shout ‘Death to the Arabs’ – they mean death to those
who support terror.”

No wonder even a very “moderate” Palestinian candidate to the Knesset like Ahmad Tibi is now calling for a *boycott against Israel* if Lieberman is elected prime minister, just as Austria was boycotted when Jorg Haider was elected. (comment by Omar Barghouti)

British Mandate-era arms cache found in Hod Hasharon synagogue: Ha’aretz film clip

Two Israeli curators on Thursday stumled upon an arms cache dating back to the British Mandate at a Synagogue in Hod Hasharon. The weapons, which included grenades and bullet casings, were apparently stored in the building by the Hagannah Jewish militia.

Quite interesting in view of Israel making much political capital of the (never proven) claim that Hamas was storing weapons in mosques…

An open letter to President Obama: Jewish Voice for Peacejvphope-israeljvphope-palestine

Sign this open letter to President Obama asking him to lift the blockade of Gaza and more, and then ask your like-minded friends to do the same. Ask Obama to make good on his promise of HOPE.

Dear President Obama,
Your presidency marks the beginning of a new era in America and in the world. Against all odds and maybe even our own better judgment, you taught us to hope again. Now, the crisis in Gaza demands that you match our hope with real progress. And, just to be clear, those who voted for you aren’t the only ones doing the hoping.
We are Americans who voted for you and we are Palestinians and Israelis a world away. We are the women, men, and children who are suffering every single day in Gaza and Israel and we are the people who seek to heal their suffering. We are mothers of soldiers and children of refuseniks. We are Jews and Muslims, Christians and Atheists. We are united in our call to you today:
Please, support peace for the people of Gaza and Israel.
Press for an end to the blockade of Gaza, so that the people there can have food, medicine, fuel, and basic necessities. That is the only way that they can live, thrive, and rebuild their economy. Talk to everyone, including Hamas. The late Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban said, “You make peace by talking to your enemies.” This holds true today. Even a majority of American Jews support negotiations even with Israelis “worst enemies.” Back up talk with actions. This includes monitoring arms smuggling into Gaza and U.S. military aid to Israel. These weapons are killing mostly children and civilians. And, support the Peace Plan. 57 countries around the world support this plan that provides independence and support for both Israel and Palestine. Peace Plan supporters won’t wait for the United States forever – and without the United States, it won’t happen. It’s that simple.
President Obama, we will continue to hope, and to support your efforts. Please, don’t let us down. Please deliver the promise of hope.

Victory for Worker Solidarity: COSATU

Issued by Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC)
6 February 2009
The Congress of South African Trade Union is pleased to announce that its members, dock workers belonging to the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) achieved a victory last night when they stood firm by their decision not to offload the Johanna Russ, a ship that was carrying Israeli goods to South Africa. This, despite threats to COSATU members from sections of the pro-Israeli lobby, and despite severe provocation. The Johanna Russ, flying an Antigua flag, is owned by M. Dizengoff and Co., an established “pioneer of the modern era of shipping business in the Middle East” and shipping agent for the ironically named Zim Israel Navigation Company. (Ironic because, last year, the same SATAWU members refused to offload the Chinese ship An Yue Jiang, which was carrying arms and ammunition destined for Robert Mugabe’s army.) The worker action last night took place despite attempted subterfuge on the part of the owners of the shipping company. There was an attempt to confound the plan by arriving earlier than originally scheduled, which was 8 February. Dates for the berthing of the Johanna Russ were changed constantly. Yesterday morning, SATAWU members were told that the ship would dock this morning (Friday) at 02:00. Thanks to the vigilance of the dock workers, SATAWU discovered that the ship had docked on Wednesday morning and was due to be offloaded last night at 21:00. But the vigilant workers were on guard and immediately they realised that it had docked, they then refused to handle it, despite pressures from management. SATAWU members maintained their refusal to offload the ship and also attempted to ensure that scab labour would not be used. A few hours after berthing, at 23:00, the Johanna Russ sneaked out of the Durban Harbour.
From the beginning of this action, COSATU workers remained resolute about their position and were convinced that, following the recent Israeli massacres in Gaza, they will take determined action against Israel. Israel’s terror included flagrant breaches of international law, the bombing of densely populated neighbourhoods, the illegal deployment of chemical white phosphorous, and attacks on schools, ambulances, relief agencies, hospitals, universities and places of worship. COSATU has now decided to intensify its efforts in support of the struggles of the Palestinian people. The worker victory in Durban yesterday spurs COSATU members on to more determined action in order to isolate the Apartheid state of Israel. Other Cosatu unions are currently in discussion about how they might also give effect to Cosatu resolutions on boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, including a refusal to handle Israeli goods, and continuing pressure on our government to sever diplomatic and trade relations with Israel. The momentum against apartheid Israel has become an irresistible force. We are proud to stand with the millions around the world who say ‘Enough is enough’. They are doing what we asked them to do when we faced the apartheid regime in our own country.
COSATU and the PSC call on all people of conscience to join us in boycotting Israeli products and institutions until a just, democratic state, with equal rights for all comes into existence in Palestine. This is just the beginning of a solidarity campaign which will continue until the demands of the Palestinian people have been won.

Israel Is Preventing Repair of the Electrical, Water and Sewage Systems in Gaza: Gisha online

Policy of Deliberate Obstruction Continues Even After the Ceasefire:
The amount of industrial diesel Israel has permitted to enter Gaza is just 64% of the total needed to operate the power station.
Since the fighting ended, Israel has totally obstructed the transfer of vital spare parts needed to repair the electrical, water and sewage systems.
As a result, 1/4 million people have been without electricity in Gaza for the past month; power outages span 16-18 hours a day for the others.
More than 200,000 people have no access to running water; the rest get water for only a few hours every 2-5 days.

Letter from Gaza: Prof. Abdelwahed, Department of English, Faculty of Arts & Humanities

Hello there. I am okay. I have been trying to be back to normal life; my children are like the majority of the children in Gaza; they keep telling me their nightmares and bad dreams of bombing and explosions, Israeli soliders, etc. War memories are still in their passive minds and it will take them sometime before they get rid of it and feel back to normal! I told them before that when el-Zahhar appears, then it will be not a lull but a ceasefire; or it would be, at least okay! Yesterday, Al-Jazeera’s Ghada talked to el-Zahhar when he “supposedly” was on his way to Cairo heading Hamas delegation for more negotiations, and perhaps, for wrapping up an agreement! He did not answer her three qustions. The last question was on the reason of his trip as it seemed to her a final step in the case of the captured israeli solider G. Shalit. Al-Zahhar hung up on her! Anyway, Israel pressures for a long term ceasefire as they threatened if there will be no ceasefire, then they will hit a big target!
On another subject, white meat animals and birds died after eating from the remaining and uprooted plants after the war! One professor at Al-Azhar Univeristy found that hearts of those animal have turned unusually pitch black, but it was impossible for him to examin it because the Israeli army deliberately destroyed the laboratories of the Faculty of Agriculture at Al-Azhar University and those of the Islamic University. They were the only two laboratories in Gaza Strip. By the way, with the destruction of the Faculty of Agriculture’s buildings, library, labs, animals, fish pond, greenhouses and green fields, Al-Azhar University stated theat their losses amount to about 5 million dollars and with destroying two buildings including the one where their science labs and computers labs are, the Islamic University stated a loss of 15 million dollars!
The Israelis also destroyed the American school in Gaza! Students are still unable to go back to their school! Thus, school’s administration rented a place in the middle of Gaza. In the past, the new place was rented by the British Council. I wonder how classes can given there as the place is like an apartment building! Halls and very small rooms!
It is still that nothing was put together after the war! All talk of a support for re-building are still words in the air. There will be an international summits to be held in Cairo for re-builidng Gaza as said! Life in Gaza is actually complicated! I am exhaused of thinking all the time! There is no chance to relax! During the war I used to say that it is all question marks, but today I say, its all exclamation marks!

Gaza fishermen face daily dangers – 04 Feb 09

Weeks after Israel’s war on Gaza, the suffering of people in the Strip has not ended. Israel maintains a blockade, on land, in the air and at sea. For fishermen in Gaza, making a living has become dangerous… Weeks after Israel’s war on Gaza, the suffering of people in the Strip has not ended.

Israel maintains a blockade, on land, in the air and at sea. For fishermen in Gaza, making a living has become harder and more dangerous, as Al Jazeera’s Mike Kirsch reports.

Call to Action Against Israel’s War on Palestine: American Jews for Just Peace

Friday January 30, 2009
American Jews for a Just Peace (AJJP) is an alliance of progressive and predominantly Jewish activists in the United States working to ensure equal rights, safety, and dignity for all the people of historic Palestine. We believe that the illegal occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem must end immediately, and that a just peace requires the international community to honor the national aspirations and human rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian Territories, within Israel, and in the Diaspora, as defined by international law and recognized principles of human rights.
Israel’s recent War on Gaza resulted in worldwide, popular condemnation. Perhaps this marks an important turning point in the relationship between Israel and the world community. We will not stand by while Israel instigates a war, annihilates civilian infrastructure, targets civilian shelters, blocks medical teams from reaching victims, uses chemical weapons, such as white phosphorous, on civilians, prevents medical equipment from entering the war zone, cuts off fuel, electricity and running water, and forcibly prevents civilians including children from escaping their carnage. These are only the latest in a long and shameful history of violent, illegal and immoral actions taken by the government of Israel against the Palestinian people over the last 61 years. They are not the actions of a state that respects international laws or norms. On the contrary, they represent the actions of a rogue state that flouts international law while justifying its atrocities by invoking the suffering of our forebears.

The call for Boycott, divestment and sanctions is certainly a new development in the USA, and a most welcome one!

University of Rochester Students for a Democratic Society (UR-SDS)

U of R Students to Occupy Academic Building for Peace and in Solidarity with Gaza
Rochester, NY – 02/05/09– Students from the University of Rochester and members of the local Rochester community will be occupying an academic building on campus tomorrow for peace and in solidarity with the people Gaza and in opposition to U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and the recent atrocities in Gaza. The action, organized by U of R Students for a Democratic Society (UR-SDS), will begin on the afternoon of Friday, February 6 and will last until the University of Rochester administration meets the demands put forward.
The demands are:
1. Divestment: We demand the University of Rochester to adopt the “UR-Peaceful Investing Initiative” which institutes a peaceful investment policy to the university’s endowment which includes divestment from corporations that manufacturer weapons and profit from war. (For example, the U of R invests in General Dynamics which manufactures weapons to maintain a 41-year occupation of the Palestinian territories and wars which slaughter Palestinian civilians by the 100s)
2. Humanitarian aid: We demand that the University of Rochester commit to a day of fundraising for humanitarian aid in Gaza within the next two weeks, as part of an ongoing commitment to provide financial support for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
3. Academic aid: We demand that the University of Rochester twin with the devastated Gaza University and provide the necessary academic aid (e.g., recycled computers, books, etc. ).
4. Scholarships: We demand that the University of Rochester grant a minimum of five scholarships to Palestinian students every year.
The recent war on Gaza has devastated Gazan society, taken hundreds of innocent lives, and has escalated the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Given the United States’ central role in supporting the war in Gaza and a harsh 41-year military occupation of the Palestinian territories, the students’ actions are to express solidarity with the Palestinian people and their struggle for life and peace.
The student occupation will feature a number of informational and peaceful consciousness raising events such as public talks, teach-ins, and sit-ins. The action was inspired by a wave of student occupations that occurred in 16 universities in England following the Israeli assault on Gaza.
This event is organized by the University of Rochester Students for a Democratic Society (UR-SDS), a local chapter of the national Students for a Democratic Society. UR-SDS was founded in the Fall 2008 semester and seeks to effect progressive social change on campus through educational events and direct actions.

This type of action is spreading to places that never knew political activity of this kind! Let it continue and multiply!

The Nightmare of Netanyahu Returns: Information Clearing House

This is the man calling for the re-occupation of Gaza to ‘liquidate’ its elected government

By Johann Hari
February 06, 2009 “The Independent” — — Israel is about to make a misjudgement as disastrous – and deadly – as the attack on Gaza. In a few days, it looks as if it could elect Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister once again. This is a man calling for the violent re-occupation of Gaza to “liquidate” its elected government. This is a man who says he will “naturally grow” the West Bank settlements. This is a man who says he will “never” negotiate over Jerusalem, or the Golan Heights, or control of the West Bank water supply. This is a man who says establishing a Palestinian state would leave Israel with, “an existential threat and a public relations nightmare reminiscent of 1938 Czechoslovakia”. This is a man who Yitzhak Rabin’s widow said helped create a climate of hate that led to his murder.
The political beneficiaries of Operation Cast Lead have been Israel’s hard-right. The opinion poll numbers have surged for Netanyahu’s Likud and for the even more extreme Avigdor Lieberman. They say the only problem with the 23-day bombing of Gaza – killing 410 children, and hugely strengthening support for Hamas – is that it did not go far enough. The world urgently needs to look at these individuals – and ask how this came to pass.
The key to understanding Netanyahu lies with his father, Benzion. He is a distinguished scholar of medieval history who believes the world is eternally and ineradicably riddled with genocidal anti-Semitism. When he arrived in British Mandate Palestine, he declared that the majority of Jews there were naïve and idealistic. They had to immediately seize the entire Biblical land of Israel – taking all of the West Bank and stretching right into present-day Jordan. There could be no compromise, ever, with the Arabs, who only understand force. The man he calls his mentor, Abba Ahimeir, described himself proudly as “a fascist”.
Today, Benzion’s son routinely compares dealing with the Palestinians to dealing with the Nazis. He can only understand their anger as a resurfacing of Europe’s irrational, murderous hate. He insists they have no right to a share of the land because they “stole” it – in 636AD. Accordingly, Netanyahu rubbishes every peace initiative offered by Israel. His reaction to Yitzhak Rabin’s decision to sign the mild and moderate Oslo accords with Yasser Arafat reveals the depth of his opposition to compromise. He warmly addressed crowds that chanted “Rabin is a Nazi” and “through blood and fire, Rabin shall expire”. He called the former prime minister “a traitor”, shortly before Rabin was murdered by a Jewish fundamentalist who agreed.

While I do not disagree with much in this article, he may be overestimating Netanyahu’s difference from Barak and Livni – they have proven what they stand for during the Gaza atrocities!

The Politics Of Bollocks: Information Clearing House

By John Pilger
February 06, 2009 “Information Clearinghouse” — Growing up in an Antipodean society proud of its rich variety of expletives, I never heard the word bollocks. It was only on arrival in England that I understood its majesterial power. All classes used it. Judges grunted it; an editor of the Daily Mirror used it as noun, adjective and verb. Certainly, the resonance of a double vowel saw off its closest American contender. It had authority. A high official with the Gilbertian title of Lord West of Spithead used it to great effect on 27 January. The former admiral, who is security adviser to Gordon Brown, was referring to Tony Blair’s famous assertion that invading countries and killing innocent people did not increase the threat of terrorism at home.
“That was clearly bollocks,” said his lordship, who warned of the perceived “linkage between the US, Israel and the UK” in the horrors inflicted on Gaza and the effect on the recruitment of terrorists in Britain. In other words, he was stating the obvious: that state terrorism begets individual or group terrorism at source. Just as Blair was the prime mover of the London bombings of 7 July 2005, so Brown, having pursued the same cynical crusades in Muslim countries and having armed and disported himself before the criminal regime in Tel Aviv, will share responsibility for related atrocities at home.
There is a lot of bollocks about at the moment.
The BBC’s explanation for banning an appeal on behalf of the stricken people of Gaza is a vivid example. Mark Thompson, the director general, cited the BBC’s legal requirement to be “impartial… because Gaza is a major ongoing news story in which humanitarian issues… are both at the heart of the story and contentious.”

Read this excellent peice, which has repercussions for any future of Just Peace in the Middle East

חרם על ישראל: “לא נעבוד עם ישראלים עם דם על הידיים” “Boycott on Israel: We will refuse to work with Israelis with blood on their hands”

Hebrew article in Ha’aretz (will place the translation when it is available)

מבצע “עופרת יצוקה” העלה שוב קריאות להטיל חרם כלכלי על ישראל ■ בין היוזמים אנשי אקדמיה, עיתונאים, תעשיינים ואפילו מאות אלפי גולשים באינטרנט ■ מפלס החרדה בקרב ישראלים שעובדים עם מדינות זרות עולה: האם קיימת אפשרות שיום אחד העולם באמת יהיה נגדנו, ויחליט להחרים את מדינת ישראל

Fair trade, not aid, is the way forward: The Electronic Intifada

Gen Sander

Some would argue that fair trade never really existed in the Gaza Strip — at least not in the “certified” way. Needing to meet certain standards for present-day international export is reasonable enough, but fair trade can also exist domestically or internationally, without all the fuss and formalities. If we understand fair trade to be about dignity, empowerment, sustainability, justice and social responsibility, then any form of exchange that meets those criteria should be recognized as just that.
Before the days of Israel’s crippling siege of the Gaza Strip, six women’s couscous processing cooperatives were in operation in Gaza, built on the foundation of the above criteria. Their products, however, did not bear a fair trade certification mark that made the product instantly and internationally recognized as being fair trade. They were, however, exported by the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC), a member of the International Federation for Alternative Trade (IFAT, recently renamed the World Fair Trade Organization), so there is no question as to whether or not the products were actually fair trade. With the help of the Fair Trade department of PARC, which also provided their founding infrastructure, these co-ops exported more than 100 tons of couscous in 2006 to fair trade organizations all over Europe. That initiative had so much potential and seemed like a viable and promising avenue for economic development — “had” being the pivotal word.
Following Hamas’s victory in the January 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, Israel’s immoral and illegal collective punishment of Gaza’s 1.5 million people began. It has been two and a half years now since the siege was imposed, and Gaza has since been described as the world’s largest prison. Its borders are hermetically sealed, the free movement of people and essential goods and services severely restricted, and its economy and society stunted by a prohibition on partaking in any kind of trade, never mind fair trade.

Spanish judiciary asserts its competence for enquiry into war crimes committed in Gaza in 2002

The prosecutor did not appeal the decision
Paris, February 4, 2009 – The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Associación pro Derechos Humanos de España (APDHE) and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) welcome the decision taken on January 29, 2009 by the Central Investigative Judge N°4 of the Spanish National Court, which receives a complaint concerning crimes committed in Gaza in 2002 and hope that the Israeli authorities will fully cooperate with this investigation. The prosecutor did not appeal ; this decision thus marks the launch of a judicial enquiry into war crimes committed in Gaza in 2002. This investigation targets seven Israeli officials, including Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, former Defense Minister and currently Infrastructure Minister, Dan Halutz, Commander of the Israeli Air Force when the crimes were committed, Doron Almog, former Commander of the Israeli Defence Forces in Gaza, Giora Eiland, President of the Israeli National Security Council, Michael Herzog, military secretary at the Ministry of Defence, Moshe Yaalon, Commander-in-chief of the armed forces and Abraham Dichter, former Director of the Shin Beth.

Barcelona basketball fans receive Maccabi Tel Aviv with dozens of Palestinian flags and a stunning chant: “Boycott Israel — Viva Palestine”!

After sports fans and activists in Turkey and New Zealand took action in support of a sports boycott of Israel, this very promising sports boycott movement has finally eached Europe, where it counts the most, starting from Barcelona, no less, a major European sports powerhouse! As many of you already know, Israeli teams compete in European championships as if Israel were part of Europe. Not different from academia, among other fields. Finally, Israeli sports teams are facing what their South African predecessors had experienced in the 1980s. Could not have come at a more opportune time …

UN halts Gaza aid over ‘thefts’: BBC

The UN aid agency in Gaza says it has suspended all aid shipments, accusing the Hamas government of seizing hundreds of tonnes of food supplies. Ten lorries carrying flour and rice were taken from the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom crossing, the UN’s Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) said. Hamas admitted a “mistake” had been made and says it will return the goods. But Unrwa says deliveries will not restart until it has assurances that such seizures will not happen again. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Hamas must immediately release the seized aid shipments. He also called on Hamas “to refrain from interference with the provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance in Gaza”.
Gaza is facing a humanitarian crisis after Israel’s recent three-week offensive. About half the population is dependent on UN food aid. Israel intensified a blockade on the territory 19 months ago when Hamas took over the territory. The lifting of the blockade is among Hamas’ demands for agreeing a long-term truce with Israel.

Hamas cash into Gaza is stopped: BBC

A senior Hamas official has been prevented from crossing back into Gaza with millions of dollars in cash, say Egyptian authorities. Border guards at the Rafah crossing searched members of a Hamas delegation as they returned from talks in Cairo. They say the man had $9m (£6m) and 2m euros (£1.7m) in his bags. He was made to return to the Egyptian capital. The Palestinian territory has a shortage of cash caused by the Israeli blockade and other sanctions. Egypt allowed Hamas representatives to cross into Gaza with large sums of money several times, after the Islamist group won parliamentary elections three years ago, says the BBC’s Yolande Knell in Cairo.

Israeli-Arabs take anger to ballot box: BBC

It seems everyone on the chaotic, slightly scruffy streets of the Israeli-Arab town of Nazareth is still seething about Israel’s operation in Gaza.
“Nobody agreed to this massacre,” says gently-spoken restauranteur Dokhol Safadi, 41, who swears by a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and condemns rocket fire against southern Israel. Until 27 December, Jewish customers came from “all over Israel” to sample his chefs’ renowned Arab cuisine. But most of them stopped visiting as the fighting in Gaza put relations between the Arab fifth of Israel’s population and the Jewish majority under severe strain. And now projected gains for the far-right party Yisrael Beiteinu ahead of 10 February elections are ratcheting up tensions further.

Appeal of Israel’s Avigdor Lieberman: BBC

Israelis concerned above all with defence and security appear to be turning to the right and to Avigdor Lieberman, leader of Israel’s ultra-nationalist Israel Beiteinu party, the BBC’s Katya Adler reports from Jerusalem. Mr Lieberman is under investigation for fraud, embezzlement and money-laundering, although he denies any wrong-doing. Mr Lieberman looks like he could have stepped straight from one of those 50s B-movies about the American underworld. The ones which feature paunchy middle-aged men in shades with some charisma and a few rather-too-sharp and shiny suits in their wardrobes. I saw him recently at a Jerusalem conference surrounded by fawning aides, a steely, striking, strawberry blonde Russian PA and a host of paparazzi. In his youth, Mr Lieberman was a bouncer outside a Moldovan nightclub. You might then be surprised to hear that one of his political opponents recently described him to me as “Israel’s new Jesus”.
“He’s attracting followers left and right,” a centrist politician told me. “It’s a nightmare for us.”

Ghosts of 1948 haunt Gaza crisis: BBC

You would think, on meeting him, that Sameh Zakout has a contented life – a career in music, occasional trips abroad, the very embodiment of an Israeli Arab who has made the most of his opportunities. But speaking in his home-town of Ramla, near Tel Aviv, Sameh says he is always “depressed” and indeed “oppressed” as well. This is not a matter of material circumstances, but of family history. Sameh’s grandparents once lived in the Palestinian village of Isdud, just south of Tel Aviv. But in 1948, they fled their home as refugees during the war that brought about Israel’s creation. Isdud was left in ruins and today its agricultural land is cultivated by Jewish owners. Part of that land is now covered by a new Israeli city, Ashdod. “My grandpa and grandma used to tell me lots of stories about Isdud, that it was a better life than now,” says Sameh. “My grandpa was a teacher, of history and geography – a peaceful and quiet life that nowadays they don’t have.”

Grad rocket hits Ashkelon as Gaza truce talks progress: Ha’aretz

Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Sunday fired a Grad rocket at the southern city of Ashkelon, as a deal for an Israeli-Hamas truce in the coastal territory was taking form. The rocket attack on the southern town caused neither casualties nor damage. Earlier Sunday, a Qassam rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck the western Negev. The Israel Defense Forces said one car was set ablaze and several others were damaged by shrapnel. No injuries were reported.

Netanyahu: I’ll keep the Golan Israeli, Jerusalem undivided: Ha’aretz

Prime Ministerial candidate Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said only a government led by his Likud party could ensure that the Golan Heights will remain in Israeli hands and that Jerusalem will not be divided. “Jerusalem will not be divided again and Gamla will not fall again. The Golan will stay in our hands only if the Likud is victorious. If Kadima wins, we will leave the Golan,” Netanyahu said. Gamla was the historic capital of the Jewish Golan, sacked by the Romans in 68 CE. The Likud leader’s made the statements during a tree-planting ceremony in the Golan Heights, where he was joined by Likud heavyweights Moshe Ya’alon, Yossi Peled, Benny Begin and Effi Eitam. He added that, “Anyone who wants defensible borders will vote Likud. A large Likud will defend the tree we have planted.” He also vowed that his son Avner will sit beneath the trees planted Sunday with his grandchildren. Netanyahu refused to discuss reports that a deal to secure the release of Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit is not far off, but said the reports “may be helpful to the election campaigns of certain people, but they hurt the chances of securing Shalit’s release.”

Kahane won: By Gideon Levy: Ha’aretz

Rabbi Meir Kahane can rest in peace: His doctrine has won. Twenty years after his Knesset list was disqualified and 18 years after he was murdered, Kahanism has become legitimate in public discourse. If there is something that typifies Israel’s current murky, hollow election campaign, which ends the day after tomorrow, it is the transformation of racism and nationalism into accepted values. If Kahane were alive and running for the 18th Knesset, not only would his list not be banned, it would win many votes, as Yisrael Beiteinu is expected to do. The prohibited has become permitted, the ostracized is now accepted, the destestable has become the talented – that’s the slippery slope down which Israeli society has skidded over the past two decades. There’s no need to refer to Haaretz’s startling revelation that Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman was a member of Kahane’s Kach party in his youth: This campaign’s dark horse was and is a Kahanist. The differences between Kach and Yisrael Beiteinu are minuscule, not fundamental and certainly not a matter of morality. The differences are in tactical nuances: Lieberman calls for a fascist “test of loyalty” as a condition for granting citizenship to Israel’s Arabs, while Kahane called for the unconditional annulment of their citizenship. One racist (Lieberman) calls for their transfer to the Palestinian state, the other (Kahane) called for their deportation.

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