May 31, 2009

Nadim Rouhana: This suppression is symbolic of a state that fears its past: The Independent

For the Palestinian citizens of Israel, life is becoming a collective Kafkaesque experience. For years, their state has been determined to buttress its Jewish identity by legal, constitutional, cultural, and political means, in spite of the fact that one in five of its residents is an Arab. This latest series of bills is just another part of that effort. In addition to the discrimination they already face in all walks of life, Palestinians will not be able to mourn the Nakba, the loss of their homeland, or express their opposition to Israel as a Jewish state. It is not only that they have been excluded from belonging to their homeland, which has been claimed by people who immigrated there and made exclusively Jewish; it is not only that their people have been expelled, occupied or dispersed to all corners of the world; it is not only that they are legally unequal citizens and even treated as enemies in many areas of life by the very state in which they are citizens. They also have to accept this reality: express loyalty, show no opposition, and even refrain from mourning their loss in public. The expression of the natural feelings of losing their people and homeland, the yearning to rectify injustice, and the quest to transform Israel into a democratic state will be criminalised and punishable by law if the bills are enacted. The Arab citizens have to accept Jewish superiority anchored in constitution and law, accept that their homeland is not really theirs. They have to stop being themselves if they are to avoid being punished by the Jewish state; they have to stop being human altogether. People are short of words to describe what is happening in Israel. It is becoming clear that Israel is fearful not only about the future, it is most fearful about history – and for a reason. Israel can suppress among its Jewish citizens – those who enjoy the privileges of superiority and of taking over a whole homeland – the history of the Nakba and the reality of its continuation for every Palestinian. But Israel must believe that Palestinians are subhuman if it thinks that it can suppress their feelings about the Nakba and their desire for democracy and equality and the yearning for the return of their people. For Israel to face its fear of the future it must first face history. Instead, in defiance of human nature, it is hopelessly seeking to suppress it. The author is the director of the Arab Centre for Applied Social Research in Haifa, Israel, and a professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Boston

Leading article: Thought crimes in Israel: The Independent

Any hope that bringing Israel’s right wing party, Yisrael Beiteinu, into government and making its leader, Avigdor Lieberman, Foreign Minister would blunt its extremist edge has been rudely shattered. Barely had the ink dried on the coalition agreement than one of the party’s members introduced a bill making it punishable by three years’ imprisonment for any Israeli Arab to mark Nakba, the Palestinian day of mourning for lost lands which coincides with Israel’s independence day. At the same time, Yisrael Beiteinu’s spokesman announced his party’s intention to bring forth legislation enforcing an oath of loyalty to Israel as a “Jewish state”. One can see the populist appeal of these measures. Lieberman owed much of his success in the recent election (his party was the third largest in the vote) to playing the “loyalty card” at a time when Israel’s Arab citizens were openly critical of the invasion of Gaza. What he and his party now want are measures which force the one million Arab citizens in the country to pledge absolute loyalty to the state. The Nakba bill, which was approved by the ministerial committee on legislation this week, is bad enough. But the bill for a compulsory oath, which is also due to go before the committee, would be a disaster. It would require anyone seeking citizenship to “make a declaration in which they commit to being loyal to the State of Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state, to its symbols and values and to serve the state as much as required through military or alternative service”. Arab citizens at the moment are not required to do military service given the sensitivities of their situation. There are many in the British National Party who would no doubt like a similar oath over here. But any democracy committed to freedom of expression knows that the road to oppression lies though just such attempts to control the thoughts of its people. And that is especially true of Israel, whose founding fathers expressly committed the new nation to principles of freedom of expression and protection of minorities. Of course Israel is a Jewish state. But it is also a democracy set in an Arab world. Its founders knew that. Let us hope that its current legislature does too.

Threat of the ‘thought police’ alarms Israel’s Arab minority: The Independent

Freedom to oppose Israel’s right to exist among acts that right-wing politicians are attempting to outlaw By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem Israeli Arab leaders have called an emergency meeting today to discuss their growing alarm over a series of “racist and fascist” bills being promoted by right-wing members of the country’s parliament. One of the bills has already brought fierce accusations from two prominent Jewish Knesset members that its backers are trying to create a “thought police” and “punish people for talking”. The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee – the main umbrella body of Arab political and civic leaders in Israel – cited special concern over another bill which would outlaw the commemoration of the Nakba or catastrophe on Israel’s Independence Day. While Israel’s Declaration of Independence on 14 May 1948 is celebrated annually as the foundation of the state, Palestinians in Israel, Gaza, the West Bank and in refugee camps abroad mark the expulsion and flight of some 700,000 Arabs during the war of that year. But the Committee is also protesting at another bill, which was given its first reading in the Knesset this week, that would make it a crime to negate Israel’s right to exist as a “Jewish and democratic state”. It was during a heated debate on that bill last Wednesday that Haim Oron, leader of the left-wing Meretz party, declared: “Have you lost all faith in Israel as a Jewish and democratic state? This crazy government, what on earth are you doing? A thought police? Have you all lost it?” And Roni Bar-On, who was the centrist Kadima finance minister in the last government, asked the promoters: “You want to punish people for talking? Soon, will you want to punish for thoughts?” A third bill which is expected to come before the ministerial legislative committee tomorrow would enforce a “loyalty oath” on those seeking Israeli citizenship. The idea of the oath was a centrepiece of the election campaign waged by Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the hardline Yisrael Beiteinu party who is now foreign minister. The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, which says it represents well over one million Arab citizens in Israel, has declared its outrage, saying that these are “racist and fascist proposals aimed against the Arab public in Israel, and there is no doubt that these proposals must be dealt with”. The bill effectively outlawing Nakba commemoration was approved by a majority of the legislative committee last weekend after it was proposed by Alex Miller, a Russian-born Yisrael Beiteinu politician who lives in the Jewish West Bank settlement of Ariel. Mr Miller’s explanatory notes call for “harsh punishment for those who take advantage of the democratic and enlightened nature of the State of Israel to bring it down from within”. Saying that it would be inconceivable to hold protests against American Independence Day, Mr Miller declared this week: “It’s high time for us to be proud of our country.” The bill would carry penalties of up to three years in prison for violators. It is far from certain that the bills will pass or that they will survive the scrutiny of Israel’s Supreme Court even if they do. Bills similar to Mr Miller’s Nakba proposal have been proposed several times before and failed, though the rightward shift in Knesset representation in the last election may give them a better chance this time around. A majority of Yisrael Beiteinu and Likud ministers on the legislative committee voted in favour of the Knesset debating the Nakba bill, although two ministers – Labour’s Isaac Herzog and Likud’s Michael Eitan – opposed it. Mr Herzog, the son of a former President of Israel, said he had done so “because I believe that it could impair freedom of expression and freedom of protest and achieve the opposite goal – increasing alienation and strengthening extremists, who are on the margins of Arab society”. The first Knesset reading of the bill seeking to compel citizens to recognise the existence of Israel as a “Jewish and democratic” state secured a majority of 47 to 34. The bill’s promoter, Zevulun Orlev, a Knesset member in the right-wing Jewish Home party, cited the case of Azmi Bishara, a Christian Arab who resigned his Knesset seat in 2007 and fled Israel, where he was facing charges of treason and espionage. Mr Bishara was heavily criticised for trips to Syria and Lebanon, where he reportedly praised Hizbollah. Mr Orlev claimed during the debate that Mr Bishara’s case showed that what begins with words “very quickly leads to actions”. But Mr Oron said: “It is the right of Israeli citizens to say that they think Judaism and democracy are not the correct formula. I think that they’re wrong, but what does that have to do with criminality? Lay off it.”

Fringe meeting at the UCU Congress at Bournemouth You may view the images from this fringe meeting, organised by BRICUP, below

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Police shut Palestinian theatre in Jerusalem: BBC

Israeli police have shut down a Palestinian theatre in East Jerusalem. The action, on Thursday, prevented the closing event of an international literature festival from taking place. Police said they were acting on a court order, issued after intelligence indicated that the Palestinian Authority was involved in the event. Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since 1967 and has annexed the area. This is not recognised by the international community. The British consul-general in Jerusalem , Richard Makepeace, was attending the event. “I think all lovers of literature would regard this as a very regrettable moment and regrettable decision,” he added. Mr Makepeace said the festival’s closing event would be reorganised to take place at the British Council in Jerusalem. The Israeli authorities often take action against events in East Jerusalem they see as connected to the Palestinian Authority. Saturday’s opening event at the same theatre was also shut down. A police notice said the closure was on the orders of Israel’s internal security minister on the grounds of a breach of interim peace accords from the 1990s. These laid the framework for talks on establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but left the status of Jerusalem to be determined by further negotiation. Israel has annexed East Jerusalem and declares it part of its eternal capital. Palestinians hope to establish their capital in the area.

ANALYSIS / Congress gives Obama green light to squeeze Israel: Ha’aretz

United States President Barack Obama lays out long-term visionary goals, such as Middle East peace, but he moves with political pragmatism in advancing them. This is as true of his domestic and economic objectives as it is of his complex approach to Israel. His statements are carefully tailored to the measure of Congress’ support for Israel. Congressional representatives are committed to preserving Israel’s security and dealing with Iran, but do not support strengthening the settlements. So Obama stresses his support for Israel’s security, but is willing to confront Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the settlements. This strategy, echoed in every statement by administration officials about the Middle East, was probably formulated by White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. Obama reiterated it at his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House on Thursday. Obama demanded that the Palestinians stop their incitement against Israel and said he would not talk to Hamas until it recognizes Israel. Congress supports these positions strongly, but they have a price. On the eve of Obama’s “reconciliation” speech to the Muslim world in Cairo, scheduled for this Thursday, he has one main demand from Israel – stop the settlements. That was his little gift to the Arab world. The U.S. administration understands this demand as the total suspension of construction in the settlements and the evacuation of the illegal outposts. Netanyahu is willing to evacuate the outposts but insists on building to accommodate “natural growth” on the basis of the understandings reached with former president George W. Bush: construction within built-up areas in settlements beyond the separation fence, expanding settlement blocs inside the barrier beyond the built-up area and unlimited construction in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Obama insists on a complete halt in construction. He is not bound by Bush-era understandings. A State Department spokesman hinted that Obama is also not bound by the “Bush letter” to Sharon of April 2004. The letter, seen as recognition of a future annexation of settlement blocs to Israel, was given in exchange for the disengagement from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria. Netanyahu sent a dovish member of his cabinet, Ehud Barak, to the U.S. to explain that a total construction freeze was neither practical nor moral – in other words, the world will have to accept the settlements and their development as faits accomplis. If even Barak says so, there is no chance of the Israeli political system accepting the freeze. The Americans are insisting that Israel must deliver on its commitment in the road map to a halt in all settlement construction. Netanyahu faces a difficult dilemma, whose outcome will also affect his coalition’s fate. He does not have too many cards to play with, but realizes he must give the Americans something. In the coming weeks he will try to concoct a formula that will keep his coalition and party intact, and satisfy Obama as well.

Six Palestinians killed in Hamas-Fatah clashes in West Bank: Ha’aretz

Three Palestinian policemen, two Hamas gunmen and a bystander were killed in in a Palestinian Authority crackdown on the rival Islamist movement in the West Bank on Sunday, Palestinian security officials said. The incident was among the bloodiest internal Palestinian confrontations since U.S.-backed President Mahmoud Abbas pressed a security drive and revived peace talks with Israel after breaking with Hamas over its 2007 takeover of the Gaza Strip.Security officials said Palestinian police raided the city of Qalqilya before dawn to arrest Hamas members, touching off gunfights. They named the dead Hamas men as Mohammad Yasin and Mohammad Samman. The names of the dead policemen were not immediately given. The owner of a home in which Hamas gunmen had been hiding was also killed, Palestinian security officials said. Witnesses said several Hamas gunmen holed up in buildings had ignored calls to surrender. Abbas’s forces have imposed a curfew on the city. The incident is likely to widen a rift between Fatah and Hamas. Tensions have been high between the rival groups since Hamas Islamists seized the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after routing Fatah forces loyal to Abbas. Hamas says Abbas’s Fatah-dominated security forces are pursuing a crackdown on its activists. The Islamist group said on Saturday that 22 of its activists were arrested in the West Bank. Fatah denies such arrests are politically motivated. A security official in the West Bank said the individuals arrested on Saturday were involved in hiding weapons, money laundering and incitement to violence. A spokesman for Hamas in the Gaza Strip said Saturday’s arrests were an attempt by Fatah to sabotage Egyptian efforts to reconcile the two rival groups. Hamas has also accused Fatah of helping Israel hunt down one of its fugitive militants who was killed on Thursday by soldiers who encircled his house near the West Bank city of Hebron. During unity talks between Hamas and Fatah in Cairo earlier this month, Egypt set a July 7 deadline for a deal to bridge their divisions I have included the next article in its entirety, due to its great importance!

Were IDF close-range killings in Gaza justified?: Ha’aretz

By Amira Hass Among the 1,400 Palestinians killed during Operation Cast Lead last December and January, 1,085 died in Israeli air strikes, according to a study by the Gaza-based human rights group Mezan. Israeli soldiers killed 93 Palestinians at close range with rifles, according to the study, which was requested by Haaretz. Even assuming a margin of error, Mezan has confidence in the statistics, which show that less than 7 percent of the dead were struck by bullets at close range. Because these are close-range killings, journalists often focus on them, from various points of view. Soldiers’ views, for example, were made public after the soul-searching comments by graduates of the Yitzhak Rabin pre-military preparatory course earlier this year. Did the Israel Defense Forces carefully examine each instance of close-range killing and find that they were justified? Do all the soldiers, sometimes the only eyewitnesses to such killings, share the army’s position? Raya Abu Hajaj, 65, and her daughter Majeda, 35, were among the people fleeing the Juhor Ad-Dik agricultural area, four or five kilometers south of the Karni crossing into Israel. At 6:30 A.M. on January 4, the first Sunday of the ground attack, one of many shells falling in the area crashed through the northern wall of the Abu Hajaj family’s home; a young girl suffered a shrapnel wound on her hand. According to Salah Abu Hajaj, Raya’s son, Israeli soldiers interrupted local radio broadcasts and ordered residents to leave their homes carrying white flags. Abu Hajaj and the neighboring Safadi family – 29 people in all – decided to flee to Gaza City. The adults walked at the front of the group carrying small children; Majeda and Ahmed Safadi waved white rags. They walked to the west toward Salah Ad-Din Road. Near a house under construction by the Dughmush family, about 300 meters west of the Safadi home, they could make out a group of tanks at a standstill. The two families continued walking. One tank stood in a field to the north and began moving west, parallel to their route. Suddenly the tank fired, apparently machine-gun fire while the tank was on the move, causing great panic in the group. They began to run back, to the east. Salah saw a soldier emerge halfway from the tank’s turret. The tank was now between 50 and 100 meters from them. Salah heard shots. He saw his mother and sister fall. Their bodies would be collected from the spot two weeks later. Did someone higher up know? Haaretz sent the following question to the IDF Spokesman’s Office on May 19: “Was the decision to shoot from a tank at a line of people walking and waving white flags made by an individual soldier or according to orders from someone higher up? Are we talking about an officer inside the tank or elsewhere? Was there intelligence about an armed fighter hiding among these civilians, based on which a decision was made to fire on the civilians, according to IDF regulations? Did the people pose a threat to the lives of the soldiers in the tanks, and how is it that there was no fire from the tanks to the west of the road, near the Dughmush home? Do the names of Raya and Majeda Abu Hajaj appear on the IDF list of people killed?” On May 21, the spokesman’s office replied: “The information given us by the reporter was checked over a period of several days by the IDF units on duty in the area. From this examination it became clear that the incident described is unknown to the army. We would be glad to receive further information that may be of use from the reporter, with her permission. It should be noted that during Operation Cast Lead, Hamas cynically exploited the civilian population and used it as a ‘human shield.'” On January 5, between 4 P.M and 5 P.M., soldiers apparently from Golani infantry units broke into the home of Samir Rashid in the Izbet Abed Rabbo neighborhood in east Jabalya. They broke through the house’s western wall and entered the stairwell. The house faces a mosque where three members of Hamas’ Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades were entrenched. The army shelled this house between January 5 and 6. According to several interviews by Haaretz, at those hours, IDF soldiers forced Palestinian civilians to march in front of them, break into homes and search them. Using shock grenades, the soldiers walked up to the second floor of the Rashid home, where the entire family had gathered. Samir and Munir Rashid opened the door to the soldiers, immediately putting their hands over their heads. The soldiers demanded that Munir bring them the key to the iron entrance gate, and made Samir accompany them in searches of apartments on the upper floor. A few minutes later, when Munir returned with the key, he saw soldiers carrying his brother on a stretcher. Samir was dressed only in his pants; blood ran from his naked chest. His dead body remained at the front of the building until January 14. From bloodstains discovered later it is possible to conclude that Samir Rashid was shot on the southeast porch of the four-story house. Two weeks later, after the attack had ended, there were no signs of shooting on the porch wall. ‘They returned fire at the terrorists’ Haaretz asked the IDF Spokesman’s Office: “Samir Rashid worked for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. According to his family, the agency and reporters have already asked the IDF why Samir Rashid was shot. The IDF answered that Rashid was trying to escape, according to the family. Is it possible to conclude that Samir Rashid was killed at close range? Has the IDF examined the circumstances surrounding Samir Rashid’s killing?” The spokesman responded: “Upon examination it came to light that IDF soldiers were fired on during their mission in the area under discussion, and they returned fire at the terrorists. During the exchange of fire in a combat zone, a man was hurt. The claims of shooting at close range are completely baseless.” The date when Jamila Da’ur, 61, and her son Mohammed, 32, were killed is unknown. On January 18, their bodies were found at the entrance to their home in the Atatra neighborhood. Someone had covered the woman’s body with a blanket, apparently a few days after she died, because there were no signs of blood on the blanket. Mohammed was found with his hands in the motion of raising his shirt. On the night of January 3, a Saturday, when the explosions and shelling increased, the Da’ur family wanted to escape from their home. But fleeing was also dangerous; shells fell all around, a rocket injured one of them, and glass shattered over people’s heads in the distance. The Da’ur family did not get further than a hundred meters from their house, spending the night wide awake and frightened at a neighbor’s. The next day Jamila and Mohammed somehow managed to return home, apparently to gather up documents and some valuables. In the afternoon, the IDF dropped white phosphorous shells on the area, killing five members of the Abu Halima family. The last telephone communication with the Da’urs took place Sunday night. Two mattresses in a corridor and an ashtray filled with cigarette butts were discovered the day the fighting ended, so the family has concluded that the two were still alive that Monday morning. A mobile phone and ID cards they had on them have disappeared. Haaretz asked the IDF Spokesman’s Office: “Were the two killed because they were in an area that residents were asked to vacate? Were they killed because they were suspected of being armed or because armed people were in their vicinity?” The office replied: “The matter was investigated, and is unknown [to us]. On the surface it appears the journalist has reached conclusions based on guesses and pieces of information. The army spokesman denies any statement that IDF soldiers intentionally shot, without reason, at Palestinians who were not involved [in fighting]. IDF soldiers and their officers have been trained and act in accordance with international legal regulations on warfare, and a great effort is made to reduce injury to the civilian population, even despite the monstrous use of civilians by Hamas.”

Israeli ministers: No West Bank settlement freeze: Ha’aretz

Senior members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet reiterated Sunday that the government has rejected a U.S. demand to halt all activity in West Bank settlements, despite strongly-worded demands from the Obama administration to do so. “I want to make it clear that the current Israeli government will not accept in any way the freezing of legal settlement activity in Judea and Samaria [West Bank,” Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz told Army Radio. Meanwhile, Interior Minister Eli Yishai of Shas told his fellow cabinet ministers Sunday that the U.S. demand on settlement activity was tantamount to “expulsion.” President Barack Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, have both made very public calls for Israel to institute a total freeze on construction in all West Bank settlements. Tensions between Washington and Jerusalem have been growing as a result. Israeli political officials have accused the administration of taking a preferential line toward the Palestinians on this issue.
Some officials expressed disappointment after Tuesday’s round of meetings in London with George Mitchell, Obama’s envoy to the Middle East. “We’re disappointed,” said one senior official. “All of the understandings reached during the [George W.] Bush administration are worth nothing.” Another official said the U.S. administration is refusing every Israeli attempt to reach new agreements on settlement construction. “The United States is taking a line of granting concessions to the Palestinians that is not fair toward Israel,” he said. The Israeli officials attributed the unyielding U.S. stance to the speech
Obama will make in Cairo this Thursday, in which he is expected to deliver a message of reconciliation to the Arab and Muslim worlds. Mitchell was joined at the London talks by his deputy David Hale, Daniel B. Shapiro (the head of the National Security Council’s Middle East desk), and State Department deputy legal adviser Jonathan Schwartz. The Israeli delegation consisted of National Security Adviser Uzi Arad, Netanyahu diplomatic envoy Yitzhak Molcho, Defense Ministry chief of staff Mike Herzog and deputy prime minister Dan Meridor.
Herzog spoke to Mitchell and his staff about understandings reached by former prime ministers Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon with the Bush administration on allowing continued building in the large West Bank settlement blocs. He asked that a similar agreement be reached with the Obama government.
Meridor spoke of the complexities characterizing the coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and said Washington’s demands of a complete construction freeze would lead to the dissolution of the Netanyahu government.
The Israeli delegates were stunned by the uncompromising U.S. stance, and by statements from Mitchell and his staff that agreements reached with the Bush administration were unacceptable. An Israeli official privy to the talks said that “the Americans took something that had been agreed on for many years and just stopped everything.”
“What about the Tenet Report, which demanded that the Palestinians dismantle the terror infrastructure?” said the official, referring to former CIA director George Tenet. “It’s unfair, and there is no reciprocity shown toward the Palestinians.” The Israeli envoys said the demand for a total settlement freeze was not only unworkable, but would not receive High Court sanction. Tensions reportedly reached a peak when, speaking of the Gaza disengagement, the Israelis told their interlocutors, “We evacuated 8,000 settlers on our own initiative,” to which Mitchell responded simply, “We’ve noted that here.” Defense Minister Ehud Barak will travel to Washington on Sunday in an attempt to put further pressure on the Obama administration. “We want to reach an agreement with the United States on ways to advance the peace process,” said a senior Jerusalem official. The U.S. stance, he said, “will stall the process and bring about tension and stagnation, which will hurt both Israel and the United States.”

Barak: There is neither hunger nor crisis in Gaza: Ha’aretz

Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the cabinet on Sunday that he felt that there was no crisis in the Gaza Strip. “There is no hunger or crisis in Gaza,” he said during a security briefing. “More supplies pass through the border crossings today than did during some points of the last cease-fire. Only sensitive materials or construction materials are not transferred in.” Shin Bet security service Chief Yuval Diskin also briefed the cabinet “An ongoing improvement has been felt in the Egyptian efforts to curb arms smuggling along the Philadelphi route,” he said, referring to a strip of land along the Gaza-Egypt border. The Shin Bet director explained that the Egyptians replace the forces stationed at the border every few months to prevent soldiers from becoming too attached to the local population, and that several Egyptian officers have already been arrested on suspicion of having taken bribes.
Diskin also addressed the situation within Gaza, saying that tensions were rising between Hamas’ political leadership and the organization’s military wing. According to Diskin, the political leadership wants to engage in public relations and the military wing wants to arm itself and to achieve maximum results in efforts to gain the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.
Diskin added that Hamas’ “Damascus-based political leaders side with the military wing.” Diskin also remarked that the chances that the Palestinian will successfully establish a unity government were very small, and that tensions raged between the factions over the elections and security issues.

Shin Bet: Hamas cracking down on Gaza rockets, but arming itself

Diskin also explained to the cabinet that Hamas was working to stop militants in Gaza from firing rockets at Israel, it was nevertheless taking the opportunity to reinforce its own strength in the coastal territory. “Hamas is working against rocket fire from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, but is simultaneously building its own force within Gaza and is trying to expand its rocket range, both through internal manufacture and the smuggling of proper weapons from Egypt,” Diskin told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. The Shin Bet director added that Hamas was a particular interest in maintaining calm in the Gaza Strip at this time. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the briefing by emphasizing that while the current cease-fire between Israel and Gaza was nearly absolute, it was still fragile and threatened by Hamas’ participation in arms smuggling. “We are asked at all times to ease conditions for the Gaza population, to let in materials and equipment,” Netanyahu said. “But we have other interests in the Strip, and those have to do with security.”
“We do not want to strengthen Hamas, not in its capability, not in prevention, and not economically,” he added. “We want [abducted Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit back. We are examining the matter of border crossings and trying to find the balance between easing conditions for civilians while preventing Hamas’ rearmament.”

May this war criminal spend his days in the Hague prison, on the same diet he allowed Gazans to subsist. Below you can read about the real situation:

Gaza housing, water situation still dire: The Electronic Intifada,

Report, 29 May 2009

TEL AVIV (IRIN) – Reports published recently by the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) paint a grim picture of life in Gaza more than four months after the 23-day Israeli offensive ended on 18 January. At the end of April 2009, UNRWA and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) completed their assessments of damage caused during the offensive: Some 3,500 houses were totally destroyed or are beyond repair and many others have yet to be repaired. Israel has not allowed cement and building materials into Gaza since June 2007. Some internally displaced persons (IDPs) are living with family members, while others live in the makeshift tent camps. Cameras distributed by B’Tselem to IDPs in the makeshift camp of al-Azza, which was set up in the Gaza Strip immediately after the Israeli incursion, reveal harsh conditions. The testimonies have been compiled into a short film. Living on sand dunes in tents provided by international aid agencies, cooking on kerosene burners and using portable toilets, they report a feeling of despair and lack of safety. To overcome the ban on imports of cement and water pipes, the ICRC is helping recycle local materials and using components manufactured in Gaza. The Rafah recycling plant needs to be repaired, it says. To mitigate cement shortages, concrete segments of the old Rafah border wall, which lay abandoned after its partial demolition in January 2008, are being salvaged.
Water, sanitation
Pierre Wettach, ICRC’s head of delegation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, quoted in an ICRC update on 12 May, said: “The water and sanitation infrastructure in the Gaza Strip is in dire need of a comprehensive upgrade. Even if the existing infrastructure were operating at full capacity, it would not meet the needs of the population. To provide Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants with adequate facilities it is absolutely essential that materials such as cement, steel and water pipes be allowed in.” According to a UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report on 15 May, raw sewage was back-flowing into homes in Khan Younis due to the deterioration of the sewage and waste-water treatment systems. During April, only three truckloads of plastic pipes for water and wastewater projects for the private sector were allowed into Gaza. There has been a ban on plastic pipe deliveries since late October 2008.
The Israeli Security Cabinet met on 24 May to discuss opening more crossings into Gaza and allowing a regular flow of medical supplies, food and a list of other commodities, including building materials, but no change in Israeli policy has been reported so far. This item comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian news and information service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. All IRIN material may be reposted or reprinted free-of-charge; refer to the copyright page for conditions of use. IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

West Bank rights violations on the rise: The Electronic Intifada

Mel Frykberg,  29 May 2009

RAMALLAH, occupied West Bank (IPS) – “I heard voices, I turned around to look, and saw a group of Israeli settlers assaulting my brother Hammad,” says Abdallah Wahadin, 82, a Palestinian farmer from Beit Ummar near the southern West Bank city of Hebron. “Three of them surrounded me, while a fourth threw a rock at the back of my head. Lots of blood ran down onto my clothes. Other settlers then joined them,” Wahadin told the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. Wahadin and his brother Hammad, 72, had been farming their land, which produces olives, almonds and grapes, near the illegal Israeli settlement of Bat Ayin, when they were attacked on their way home. Their land in Beit Ummar is near Hebron, about 30 kilometers south of Jerusalem. Hammad Abdallah was taken to a local hospital where he received 10 stitches for a head wound and treatment for chest injuries. Settler attacks against Palestinian civilians, and the occasional retaliatory attacks by Palestinians continue to dominate media headlines on an almost daily basis. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has reported that an increase in settler attacks, as well as Israeli military raids, are part of an overall deterioration in the humanitarian situation in the West Bank. “During April four Palestinians, including two boys, were killed by [the Israeli army] and another 145 were injured by Israeli soldiers and settlers. The number of Palestinians injured rose by 40 percent compared with the 2008 monthly average,” the report says. “We have noticed a significant increase in the incidents of both settler and soldier violence against Palestinian civilians since the new Israeli government took power at the beginning of the year,” says Ronen Shimoni from B’Tselem.
“This is probably related to an increase in settlement activity in the West Bank as the rightist government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tries to establish facts on the ground,” Shimoni told IPS.  The expropriation of Palestinian land for enlargement of settlements has proceeded at an accelerated rate since Netanyahu took office. New settlements, and the settler-only bypass roads which service them, are being built. The full extent of settler violence against Palestinian civilians is uncertain as many cases go unreported.”Only a small number of complaints is investigated by the Israeli authorities,” says Lior Yavne, rights group Yesh Din’s research director.” Conviction rates are less than 10 percent of cases opened due to what we consider unprofessional investigations. Often the police claim to have lost the paperwork or say they are unable to find the perpetrators,” Yavne told IPS. There has also been a sharp rise in the number of Palestinian children in Israeli detention this year, with 391, including six girls, incarcerated at the end of April, a 20 percent increase between December 2008 and February 2009. Human rights organizations monitoring the situation of child prisoners in Israeli prisons are concerned about the lack of respect for the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a signatory.

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