March 31, 2010

Unbreakable Bond, by Khalil Bendib

Palestinian prisoners of all factions unite in maltreatment protest: Haaretz

Palestinian detainees in Israel’s Ketziot prison in the Negev have decided to unite in order to secure better conditions, the Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported on Wednesday.
The protest, which will start on April 7, marks the first time since 2006 that prisoners from all factions would unite in a demonstration.
The prisoners have been unhappy with the restrictions placed on some of their families so they decided to protest and halt all family visits for one month. They have also decided to mark the protest by a hunger strike.
A detainee in Ketziot prison, Mahmud Da’is, told Ma’an that “the prisoners were united in their determination to secure fair treatment for Palestinians.

Needed: An Israeli peace plan: Haaretz Editorial

While in Washington the U.S. administration is trying to reduce tensions with Israel, in Jerusalem they go out of their way to depict in war paint the demands President Barack Obama put to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Political sources in Jerusalem told Haaretz’s Ari Shavit this week that hiding behind the American demands is an intention to impose a permanent settlement on the two sides in less than two years. This is being presented as a troubling change in U.S. policy toward Israel, while the Americans issue veiled yet serious threats about the risks that allegedly loom for them if their credibility in the Middle East is lost.

The top U.S. political officials and that country’s defense establishment recently made it clear that the continued Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the perpetuation of the occupation in the territories undermine the strategic interests of the United States (and Israel as well). The stern demands made of the Israeli government reflect Obama’s willingness to invest a significant effort in defense of these interests. It seems he concluded that the endless dialogue with the Israeli government does not push forward anything unless an American peace plan is formulated.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. The possibility that the United States will propose a plan of its own and seek to convince the sides to accept it, or even impose it, is not the worst of all possibilities.

However, it is obvious that a settlement reached through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians is preferable to an imposed settlement, where not accepting it would involve an especially intense confrontation with the international community and deepen Israel’s isolation. The only way to prevent an imposed settlement must be through a realistic Israeli peace plan that is similar to that of the United States and based on agreements and understandings reached by previous governments. It must be based on principles that, obvious to everyone, are imperative for a settlement.

A government that seeks to prevent an imposed settlement must not only bring to the fore serious propositions and demands of its own, it must avoid at all costs unilateral steps that signal an intention to foil all chances for an agreed settlement. An imposed settlement may prove to be the least worst alternative when compared with no settlement and a continuation of the situation. Those who fear an imposed solution must immediately present an Israeli peace plan.

US pushes Israel to freeze settlement construction: The Guardian

A four-month halt to building in East Jerusalem may be brokered by encouraging Palestinians to enter direct peace talks
The US administration is pressing Israel for a four-month freeze on settlement construction in East Jerusalem and in return will encourage Palestinians to enter direct peace talks, the Ha’aretz newspaper reported today.

The report, which cited an unnamed Israeli official in Jerusalem, said Washington believed this would be enough to restart peace talks for the first time since Israel’s war in Gaza more than a year ago. A number of senior Israeli ministers have said publicly they will not halt settlement construction in the city, but Ha’aretz said a “tacit agreement” with the US might be possible.

“According to this idea, Israel would make it clear to the United States that during the coming four months no massive construction in East Jerusalem neighbourhoods would be planned or carried out, enabling Israel to be seen as meeting the American and Palestinian demands,” the report said.

Palestinians have refused to return to direct talks with Israel without a full freeze on construction in Israeli settlements, in line with the road map of 2003. Washington too made an identical demand of Israel for most of last year, but in the end Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu put instead a partial, temporary freeze on construction in West Bank settlements. Netanyahu insists in public that he will continue to allow building in East Jerusalem, which Israel regards as sovereign territory. The international community does not recognise Israeli sovereignty in the east of the city and all settlement on occupied land is illegal under international law.

Israel and the Palestinians had been due to start a new programme of “indirect” proximity talks earlier this month, but they were scuppered when Israeli authorities gave approval for 1,600 new homes in an ultra-Orthodox settlement in East Jerusalem.

Ha’aretz reported earlier this week that Barack Obama had presented Netanyahu with several other demands during their meeting in Washington last week including the opening of a Palestinian commercial interests office in East Jerusalem, an end to demolitions of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem, and a commitment to discuss all the core issues of the conflict during the next round of talks.

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, said the demand for a freeze of settlement construction in East Jerusalem was “completely unreasonable”. He said none of the top seven ministers – known as the forum of seven – agreed to it. “I have not seen anyone in the forum of seven who has consented to this,” Lieberman told the Ma’ariv newspaper in an interview published on Monday. “The past few days have taught me that there is no point to further concessions … I am certain that we can convince the US that this demand is unreasonable … There will be no choice but to insist. To pay the price, even if it is high.”

Benny Begin, another of the forum of seven ministers, said on Monday that US demands were “bothersome and certainly worrying”. “This change will definitely bring about the opposite to the declared objective. It will bring about a hardening in the policy of the Arabs and of the Palestinian Authority,” he told Israel Radio.

West Bank reaches Wigmore Hall: The Guardian

It’s difficult to imagine a more pacific backwater than the genteel Wigmore Hall, London’s most prestigious chamber-music venue – but that peace was abruptly disturbed when anti-Israel demonstrators disrupted a concert given by the Jerusalem Quartet on Monday lunchtime. Wigmore Hall director John Gilhooly told Classical Music magazine: “The demonstration was evidently extremely well planned. The protesters must have bought their tickets for the concert a long time ago, because they were all sitting in individual seats in different parts of the hall. One stood up and started singing and shouting, and while we were removing him, another one started up somewhere else, and so on.”

One of the protesters, Tony Greenstein, wrote on his blog: “I stood up . . . and proceeded to tell the Jerusalem Quartet that they were the cultural ambassadors of apartheid Israel and its army whom they perform for.” Supporters of the quartet highlight the fact that its cellist, Kyril Zlotnikov, works with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which was founded by Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said to include both Israeli and Arab young musicians, and point out that military service is compulsory in Israel. The quartet’s live broadcast on Radio 3 was truncated and replaced with a performance by the Salomon Quartet. But the Jerusalem Quartet’s recital eventually continued. “The atmosphere in the hall was very tense,” said Gilhooly.

Sarkozy ‘condemns Israeli construction in East Jerusalem’: Haaretz

French President Nicolas Srakozy on Tuesday said his country stands with the United States in condemning Israeli settlement activity in East Jerusalem.
Sarkozy said his own commitment to Israel’s security is well known but adds that the settlement activity in an area claimed by the Palestinians “contributes nothing.”
Speaking at a news conference with U.S. President Barack Obama after their White House meeting, Sarkozy praised Obama for trying to engage the two sides in peace talks.

Sarkozy said that the “absence of peace” in the region “is a problem for all of us” – and that it feeds terrorism around the world.
Obama, meanwhile, said he thinks Netanyahu understands that he will have to “take some bold steps” when it comes to advancing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, in an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday.
“I think Prime Minister Netanyahu intellectually understands that he has got to take some bold steps. I think politically he feels it. But it’s not just on the Israeli side. I’ve been very clear that the Palestinians have to take steps,” Obama said.
The U.S. president also said that the recent tension between his administration and the Israeli government is merely a “disagreement among friends” and emphasized the strength of the bond between the United States and Israel.

Israel allows first shipment in three years: The Independent

Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Israel will allow a shipment of clothes and shoes to be delivered to the Gaza Strip for the first time in its three-year blockade of the enclave, Palestinian officials said.
The first 10 truckloads would be arriving via the Israeli-controlled Gaza border point on Thursday.
Israel is under international pressure to relax its blockade, which the United Nations says punishes Gaza’s 1.5 million people over their leaders – the Islamist group Hamas, who are pledged to Israel’s destruction.

Israel prohibits shipments of cement and steel to Gaza on the grounds that Hamas could use them for military purposes.

Its long list of controlled goods also includes items that critics say have no apparent military value, such as children’s crayons and books.
Gaza has been getting most of its consumer goods via tunnels from neighbouring Egypt operated by smugglers who add on hefty surcharges. Gaza merchants said 10 truckloads would not fill their stocks and demanded that Israel release goods long held in its sea ports.
Egypt is building an underground wall to block the tunnels, which have been frequently bombed by the Israeli air forces since Israel’s offensive against Hamas 14 months ago in which some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.

Hamas releases footage of ‘Gaza clashes’: Haaretz

The military wing of Hamas publicized on Wednesday its documentation of the Gaza clashes last Friday, wherein two Israel Defense Soldiers were killed.
An article in the website of the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade, Hamas’s military wing, describes the escalation of events in the Gaza incident and provides video documentation.

In the events on Friday, Maj. Eliraz Peretz and Staff Sgt. Ilan Sviatkovsky were killed in the Gaza Strip while pursuing a group of Palestinian militants trying to lay mines near the border fence. Two other soldiers were injured in the incident, and two militants were killed.
The Hamas website says that in the video, it is possible to see “the Special Forces (IDF soldiers) crossing outside the border area and then seen advancing westward. The forces get injured by Iz al-Din al-Qassam forces and then rescue forces come and evacuate the killed and injured soldiers.”
The military wing of Hamas, the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade, announced on Friday that it was responsible for the killing of the two IDF soldiers and injuring two others.
In a Hamas news conference, the spokesperson for the military wing of Hamas, Abu Obeida, said that a Hamas sniper succeeded in striking two Israeli soldiers. Abu Obeida said that “the act is dedicated to the Palestinian nation, to the jailed prisoners and in honor of shahid Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.”

Poll: 21% of settlers back resisting evacuation ‘by any means’: Haaretz

By Akiva Eldar
Twenty-one percent of settlers believe that all means must be employed in to resist the evacuation of most West Bank settlements, including the use of arms, according to a recent Hebrew University study.
Five years ago, however, just 15 percent gave the same response.
Sixty-three percent believe the evacuation of settlements must be carried out only after a referendum rather than a Knesset decision.
The study, conducted at the beginning of the month by the university’s Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, found that 54 percent of settlers do not recognize the government’s authority to evacuate settlements, compared with 50 percent in 2005.
Asked whether they would accept the removal of settlements if a referendum found a majority of Israeli Jews in favor, 49 percent of settlers said they would not, compared with 46 percent five years ago. The proportion of settlers willing to follow rabbinical instructions to evacuate settlements also dropped slightly, from 72 percent in 2005 to 71 this year.
Among the general public, 72 percent accept the government’s authority to order a settlement withdrawal, compared with 67 percent who would support such an order from the Knesset and 51 percent who support a referendum.
The study, supervised by Prof. Yaacov Shamir, also found that settler support for removing the majority of settlements has dropped from 30 to 23 percent in five years. Among the general public, that figure rose slightly, from 59 to 60 percent. Although a majority of Israeli Jews support a settlement withdrawal, only a third of respondents said such an evacuation has the support of the majority.
Fifty-two percent of settlers said a government decision to remove the majority of settlements must be opposed, compared to 61 percent in 2005.
The survey was conducted by phone among a representative segment of 501 adults in Israel proper and 506 West Bank settlers.
The study has a 5-percent margin of error, partly because the 2005 study included residents of the Gaza Strip settlements now living in Israel.

Juan Cole: Top Ten Reasons East Jerusalem does not belong to Jewish-Israelis: IOA

By Juan Cole, 23 March 2010
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the American Israel Public Affairs Council on Monday that “Jerusalem is not a settlement“. He continued that the historical connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel cannot be denied. He added that neither could the historical connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem. He insisted, “The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today.” He said, “Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital.” He told his applauding audience of 7500 that he was simply following the policies of all Israeli governments since the 1967 conquest of Jerusalem in the Six Day War.
Netanyahu mixed together Romantic-nationalist cliches with a series of historically false assertions. But even more important was everything he left out of the history, and his citation of his warped and inaccurate history instead of considering laws, rights or common human decency toward others not of his ethnic group.
So here are the reasons that Netanyahu is profoundly wrong, and East Jerusalem does not belong to him.
1. In international law, East Jerusalem is occupied territory, as are the parts of the West Bank that Israel unilaterally annexed to its district of Jerusalem. The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and the Hague Regulations of 1907 forbid occupying powers to alter the lifeways of civilians who are occupied, and forbid the settling of people from the occupiers’ country in the occupied territory. Israel’s expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem, its usurpation of Palestinian property there, and its settling of Israelis on Palestinian land are all gross violations of international law. Israeli claims that they are not occupying Palestinians because the Palestinians have no state are cruel and tautological. Israeli claims that they are building on empty territory are laughable. My back yard is empty, but that does not give Netanyahu the right to put up an apartment complex on it.
2. Israeli governments have not in fact been united or consistent about what to do with East Jerusalem and the West Bank, contrary to what Netanyahu says. The Galili Plan for settlements in the West Bank was adopted only in 1973. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin gave undertakings as part of the Oslo Peace Process to withdraw from Palestinian territory and grant Palestinians a state, promises for which he was assassinated by the Israeli far right (elements of which are now supporting Netanyahu’s government). As late as 2000, then Prime Minister Ehud Barak claims that he gave oral assurances that Palestinians could have almost all of the West Bank and could have some arrangement by which East Jerusalem could be its capital. Netanyahu tried to give the impression that far rightwing Likud policy on East Jerusalem and the West Bank has been shared by all previous Israeli governments, but this is simply not true.
3. Romantic nationalism imagines a “people” as eternal and as having an eternal connection with a specific piece of land. This way of thinking is fantastic and mythological. Peoples are formed and change and sometimes cease to be, though they might have descendants who abandoned that religion or ethnicity or language. Human beings have moved all around and are not directly tied to any territory in an exclusive way, since many groups have lived on most pieces of land. Jerusalem was not founded by Jews, i.e. adherents of the Jewish religion. It was founded between 3000 BCE and 2600 BCE by a West Semitic people or possibly the Canaanites, the common ancestors of Palestinians, Lebanese, many Syrians and Jordanians, and many Jews. But when it was founded Jews did not exist.
4. Jerusalem was founded in honor of the ancient god Shalem. It does not mean City of Peace but rather ‘built-up place of Shalem.”
5. The “Jewish people” were not building Jerusalem 3000 years ago, i.e. 1000 BCE. First of all, it is not clear when exactly Judaism as a religion centered on the worship of the one God took firm form. It appears to have been a late development since no evidence of worship of anything but ordinary Canaanite deities has been found in archeological sites through 1000 BCE. There was no invasion of geographical Palestine from Egypt by former slaves in the 1200s BCE. The pyramids had been built much earlier and had not used slave labor. The chronicle of the events of the reign of Ramses II on the wall in Luxor does not know about any major slave revolts or flights by same into the Sinai peninsula. Egyptian sources never heard of Moses or the 12 plagues & etc. Jews and Judaism emerged from a certain social class of Canaanites over a period of centuries inside Palestine.
6. Jerusalem not only was not being built by the likely then non-existent “Jewish people” in 1000 BCE, but Jerusalem probably was not even inhabited at that point in history. Jerusalem appears to have been abandoned between 1000 BCE and 900 BCE, the traditional dates for the united kingdom under David and Solomon. So Jerusalem was not ‘the city of David,’ since there was no city when he is said to have lived. No sign of magnificent palaces or great states has been found in the archeology of this period, and the Assyrian tablets, which recorded even minor events throughout the Middle East, such as the actions of Arab queens, don’t know about any great kingdom of David and Solomon in geographical Palestine.
7. Since archeology does not show the existence of a Jewish kingdom or kingdoms in the so-called First Temple Period, it is not clear when exactly the Jewish people would have ruled Jerusalem except for the Hasmonean Kingdom. The Assyrians conquered Jerusalem in 722. The Babylonians took it in 597 and ruled it until they were themselves conquered in 539 BCE by the Achaemenids of ancient Iran, who ruled Jerusalem until Alexander the Great took the Levant in the 330s BCE. Alexander’s descendants, the Ptolemies ruled Jerusalem until 198 when Alexander’s other descendants, the Seleucids, took the city. With the Maccabean Revolt in 168 BCE, the Jewish Hasmonean kingdom did rule Jerusalem until 37 BCE, though Antigonus II Mattathias, the last Hasmonean, only took over Jerusalem with the help of the Parthian dynasty in 40 BCE. Herod ruled 37 BCE until the Romans conquered what they called Palestine in 6 CE (CE= ‘Common Era’ or what Christians call AD). The Romans and then the Eastern Roman Empire of Byzantium ruled Jerusalem from 6 CE until 614 CE when the Iranian Sasanian Empire Conquered it, ruling until 629 CE when the Byzantines took it back.
The Muslims conquered Jerusalem in 638 and ruled it until 1099 when the Crusaders conquered it. The Crusaders killed or expelled Jews and Muslims from the city. The Muslims under Saladin took it back in 1187 CE and allowed Jews to return, and Muslims ruled it until the end of World War I, or altogether for about 1192 years.
Adherents of Judaism did not found Jerusalem. It existed for perhaps 2700 years before anything we might recognize as Judaism arose. Jewish rule may have been no longer than 170 years or so, i.e., the kingdom of the Hasmoneans.
8. Therefore if historical building of Jerusalem and historical connection with Jerusalem establishes sovereignty over it as Netanyahu claims, here are the groups that have the greatest claim to the city:
A. The Muslims, who ruled it and built it over 1191 years.
B. The Egyptians, who ruled it as a vassal state for several hundred years in the second millennium BCE.
C. The Italians, who ruled it about 444 years until the fall of the Roman Empire in 450 CE.
D. The Iranians, who ruled it for 205 years under the Achaemenids, for three years under the Parthians (insofar as the last Hasmonean was actually their vassal), and for 15 years under the Sasanids.
E. The Greeks, who ruled it for over 160 years if we count the Ptolemys and Seleucids as Greek. If we count them as Egyptians and Syrians, that would increase the Egyptian claim and introduce a Syrian one.
F. The successor states to the Byzantines, which could be either Greece or Turkey, who ruled it 188 years, though if we consider the heir to be Greece and add in the time the Hellenistic Greek dynasties ruled it, that would give Greece nearly 350 years as ruler of Jerusalem.
G. There is an Iraqi claim to Jerusalem based on the Assyrian and Babylonian conquests, as well as perhaps the rule of the Ayyubids (Saladin’s dynasty), who were Kurds from Iraq.
9. Of course, Jews are historically connected to Jerusalem by the Temple, whenever that connection is dated to. But that link mostly was pursued when Jews were not in political control of the city, under Iranian, Greek and Roman rule. It cannot therefore be deployed to make a demand for political control of the whole city.
10. The Jews of Jerusalem and the rest of Palestine did not for the most part leave after the failure of the Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans in 136 CE. They continued to live there and to farm in Palestine under Roman rule and then Byzantine. They gradually converted to Christianity. After 638 CE all but 10 percent gradually converted to Islam. The present-day Palestinians are the descendants of the ancient Jews and have every right to live where their ancestors have lived for centuries.

3 Border Police officers lightly hurt in West Bank clashes: Haaretz

Three Border Police officers were lightly hurt on Wednesday in clashes with 200 Palestinian and left-wing activists near Ramallah, who were calling for the release of Palestinians arrested earlier in the week.
Protesters hurled stones at Israeli security forces by the Ofer prison near the Bitunia crossing, located west of Ramallah.
The activists were protesting the arrest on Sunday of ten activists in Bethlehem, among them senior Fatah officials including Fatah Central Committee member Abbas Zaki.

Two demonstrators were arrested in Wednesday’s clashes.
The protesters reprotedly tried to break through the crossing to reach Ofer Prison, where Zaki and the other detained officials are being held.
Meanwhile, about 50 protesters rioted and threw stones at IDF forces at the Shaked crossing near Jenin, Channel 10 news reported.
On Tuesday, ten thousand protesters participated in an annual procession to mark the events of Land Day in Sakhnin in 1976, in which six demonstrators lost their lives in clashes with Israeli security forces.

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee noted that the commemoration takes place “while homes continue to be razed – mostly in Wadi Ara and in the Negev, and we demand that the planning blueprints and areas of municipal control for Arab communities be increased.”
The committee also commented on the issue of Jerusalem and the continued policy of building Jewish settlements of East Jerusalem, along with the Israeli refusal to end occupation and work toward the creation of a Palestinian state living next to it.

Gaza youth ‘shot dead’ in border incident: BBC

A Palestinian teenager has been shot dead close to southern Gaza’s border, Palestinians say, as at least five other Gazans were wounded elsewhere.
Muhammad al-Faramawi, 15, was killed on Tuesday by Israeli fire near Rafah, the Hamas-run health ministry said.
The Israeli military said it was not aware of hitting anyone, but military sources said warning shots had been fired in the area.
At least five Gazans were injured at protests elsewhere along the border.
Several rallies were held in Gaza border areas on Tuesday to mark Palestinian Land Day, which commemorates the deaths of six Palestinians with Israeli citizenship who were killed at a demonstration over land seizures 34 years ago.
Early reports said Muhammad al-Faramawi had died during a protest, but later reports said the incident occurred before the demonstrations took place, and the main protests were held further north.
Israel enforces a buffer zone close to the border, where it says Palestinians frequently try to plant explosives and have launched attempts to kidnap Israeli soldiers.
Troops have in the past fired at Palestinians in the zone.
The Israeli military said it had acted in “accordance with procedures” to deter protesters who had approached the fence.
It was initially reported that a Palestinian doctor told reporters that medics were not able to reach the body of the boy in time because of ongoing “clashes”.
An official from the Hamas-run ministry of health said the teenager “was left bleeding for hours” before paramedics were able to get Israeli permission to evacuate him.
However, there has been speculation over whether the boy could have died in an intra-Palestinian dispute.
The Maan news service quoted unnamed Palestinian sources who said the boy’s death “may have been an internal matter”, without giving further details.
Further north, near the town of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip, hundreds of demonstrators marched to the border and hurled rocks at Israeli troops, who responded with live fire, witnesses said.
Five people were injured in such protests, Palestinian medical sources said.
Last week, Israeli tanks advanced briefly into the Gaza Strip following clashes in which two Israeli soldiers and two Palestinian militants died.
Witnesses in Gaza said tanks and bulldozers had moved towards the southern town of Khan Younis before withdrawing.
It was the first time Israeli soldiers had died in Gaza since Israel’s 22-day offensive there more than a year ago.
Israel says the fighting started when its troops crossed into Gaza after spotting militants planting explosives along the border.
Reports from inside Gaza say the militants then tried to capture an Israeli soldier.
Unilateral ceasefires declared by both Israel and the Islamist movement Hamas after Israel’s military operation in December 2008 and January 2009 have largely held.
Palestinians and human rights groups say more than 1,400 Gazans were killed in that operation, though Israel puts the figure at 1,166. Three Israeli civilians and 10 Israeli soldiers were also killed.
Hundreds of rockets have since been fired into southern Israel by militants in Gaza.

U.S. seeks 4-month East Jerusalem building freeze in return for direct talks: Haaretz

One of the U.S. administration’s requests to Israel regarding the peace process with the Palestinians is a four-month construction freeze in all parts of East Jerusalem. In exchange, the United States would pressure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to hold direct talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instead of the indirect talks to which the Palestinians have agreed.

An official in Jerusalem said the U.S. administration is demanding that Israel freeze construction in East Jerusalem, including Jewish neighborhoods such as Neveh Yaakov, French Hill and of course Ramat Shlomo, which sparked the recent tensions between Israel and the United States.
The freeze would last four months, the time frame the Arab League has authorized for indirect talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.
In a briefing Monday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the issue of Jerusalem is one that will be resolved in the final-status talks between Israel and the PA.

The U.S. administration seeks to take advantage of the recent tensions with Israel to alter the preconditions for starting talks between Israel and the PA – replacing proximity talks with Israel’s preference for direct talks.
Abbas was consistent in his refusal to hold direct talks with Israel as long as it failed to completely freeze settlement activity, including in East Jerusalem.
The Americans say that if Netanyahu agrees to freeze construction for four months, direct talks will be possible between the two sides in that period.
In discussions of the forum of seven senior cabinet ministers, the general view is that it will be impossible to publicly announce a freeze of construction in East Jerusalem. However, one possibility is that it will be possible to reach a tacit agreement with the U.S. administration on construction in East Jerusalem.

Massive construction
According to this idea, Israel would make it clear to the United States that during the coming four months no massive construction in East Jerusalem neighborhoods would be planned or carried out, enabling Israel to be seen as meeting the American and Palestinian demands.

During the forum of seven’s discussions, Avigdor Lieberman, Moshe Ya’alon, Benny Begin and Eli Yishai took a more hawkish view of the situation, while Ehud Barak and Dan Meridor recommended that a “creative solution” be found. This solution would offer the administration a “yes, but…” answer, through which Israel would express a number of reservations, with an emphasis on a construction freeze in East Jerusalem.
In an interview with Haaretz in December, Abbas hinted that he could be persuaded to accept a “silent freeze” of construction in East Jerusalem. Abbas said he had proposed in a conversation with Defense Minister Barak that Israel freeze construction in East Jerusalem for six months without announcing it.
At the current stage, no further meetings of the forum of seven are scheduled during the Passover holiday. It is unclear whether such meetings will be scheduled in the future, especially because Netanyahu’s two advisers busy with this issue – Yitzhak Molcho and Ron Dermer – are scheduled to hold meetings in Washington. The Prime Minister’s Bureau refused to comment on this report.
Haaretz reported on Monday that the U.S. administration had further demands regarding East Jerusalem including the reopening of a Palestinian commercial office there, as well as an end to both the razing of Palestinian homes and the evacuation of Palestinians from their homes.

Chris Hedges: Israel Crackdown Puts Liberal Jews on the Spot: IOA

By Chris Hedges, 15 March 2010
The Israeli government, its brutal war crimes in Gaza exposed in detail in the U.N. report by Justice Richard Goldstone, has implemented a series of draconian measures to silence and discredit dissidents, leading intellectuals and human rights organizations inside and outside Israel that are accused—often falsely—of assisting Goldstone’s U.N. investigators. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu is attempting to shut down Israel’s premier human rights organizations, including B’Tselem, the New Israel Fund (NIF) and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. It is busy expelling or excluding peace activists and foreign nationals from the Palestinian territories. The campaign, if left unchecked, will be as catastrophic for Palestinians as it will be for Israel.
The Goldstone report, which is over 500 pages, investigated Israel’s 22-day air and ground assault on Gaza that took place from Dec. 27, 2008, to Jan. 18, 2009. The United Nations and the European Parliament have endorsed the report. The report found that Israel used disproportionate military force against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip while failing to take adequate precautions to protect the civilian population against the military assault. The Israeli attack killed 1,434 people, including 960 civilians, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. More than 6,000 homes were destroyed or damaged, leaving behind some $3 billion in destruction in one of the poorest areas on Earth. No Israelis were killed by Hamas rockets fired into Israel during the assault. The report did not limit itself to the 22-day attack; rather, it went on to indict the occupation itself. It examines the beginning of the occupation and condemns Israel for the border closures, the blockade and for the wall or security barrier in the West Bank. It has two references to the right of return, investigates Israeli torture and criticizes the willful destruction of the Palestinian economy.
“The impact of the Goldstone report is tremendous,” the Middle East scholar Norman Finkelstein said when I reached him in New York. “It marks and catalyzes the breakup of the Diaspora Jewish support for Israel because Goldstone is the classical Diaspora Jew. He is a lawyer and upholder of human rights and a liberal. He has distinguished himself in the field of law and he is also a lover of Zion. He calls himself a Zionist. His mother was an activist in the Zionist movement. His daughter did aliyah. He sits on the board of governors of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has an honorary degree from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has said over and over again that he is a Zionist. He believes Jews have a right to a state in Palestine. His is a mostly emblematic profile of the classically liberal Jew.”
“Liberal has a distinct connotation,” Finkelstein went on. “It means to believe in the rule of law. It means to believe in international institutions. It means to believe in human rights. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are liberal organizations. What the Goldstone phenomenon registers and catalyzes is the fact that it is impossible to reconcile liberal convictions with Israel’s conduct; too much is now known about the history of the conflict and the human rights record and the so-called peace process. It is impossible to be both liberal and defend Israeli policy. That was the conflict that confronted Goldstone. I very much doubt he wanted to condemn Israel.”
“Israeli liberalism always had a function in Israeli society,” said Finkelstein, whose new book, “This Time We Went Too Far,” examines the Israeli attack a year ago on Gaza. “When I talk about liberals I mean people like A.B. Yehoshua, David Grossman and Amos Oz. Their function was to issue these anguished criticisms of Israel which not only extenuated Israeli crimes but exalted Israeli crimes. ‘Isn’t it beautiful, the Israeli soul, how it is anguished over what it has done.’ It is the classic case of having your cake and eating it. Not only were any crimes being committed extenuated, but they were beautiful. And now something strange happened. Along comes a Jewish liberal and he says, ‘Spare me your tears. I am only interested in the law.’ ”
“Goldstone did not perform the role of the Jewish liberal,” Finkelstein said, “which is to be anguished, but no consequences. And all of a sudden Israeli liberal Jews are discovering, hey, there are consequences for committing war crimes. You don’t just get to walk into the sunset and look beautiful. They can’t believe it. They are genuinely shocked. ‘Aren’t our tears consequences enough?’ Aren’t our long eyes and broken hearts consequences enough?’ ‘No,” he said, ‘you have to go to the criminal court.’ ”
The campaign against Israeli dissidents has taken the form of venomous denunciations of activists and jurists, including Justice Goldstone. It includes a bill before the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, which will make it possible to imprison the leaders of Israeli human rights groups if they fail to comply with crippling new registration conditions. Human rights activists from outside Israel who work in the Palestinian territories are being rounded up and deported. The government is refusing to issue work visas to employees of 150 NGOs operating in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including Oxfam, Save the Children and Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). The new tourist visas effectively bar these employees from Palestinian territory under Israeli occupation. Professor Naomi Chazan, the Israeli head of the NIF, which has donors in the United States, is being publicly vilified by ultranationalist groups such as Im Tirzu.  Foreign donors to the NIF, as well as other human rights groups, are being pressured by Israeli officials to halt contributions. Billboards have sprouted up around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with a grotesque caricature of Chazan, who has been branded by groups such as Im Tirzu as an agent for Hamas and Iran, with a horn growing from her forehead. “Naomi-Goldstone-Chazan” the caption on the billboard reads. Im Tirzu, the front organization behind many of the attacks, includes among its financial backers the John Hagee Ministries and the New York Central Fund, which also support extremist settler organizations.
The purge is under way because of the belief within the Netanyahu government that these groups and activists provided evidence of Israeli war crimes in Gaza to Justice Goldstone. Israel has no intention of lifting the blockade on Gaza, halting settlement expansion, including the 1,600 new homes to be built in East Jerusalem, or reversing its division of the West Bank into impoverished ghettos of Palestinians. The growing brutality and violence of the occupation, no longer easy to deny or hide, coupled with Israel’s growing status as an international pariah, have unleashed a crackdown against all those within the Jewish state who are blamed for the bad publicity. Yuli Edelstein, the Diaspora affairs minister, summed up the witch hunt when he announced that the Cabinet had been “concerned for a time with a number of groups under the guise of NGOs that are funded by foreign agents.”
The Knesset bill, if passed, will force human rights groups to register as political bodies and turn over identification numbers and addresses of all members to the government. These groups will lose their tax-exempt status. Most governmental organizations, such as the European Union, which is a large donor to Israeli human rights organizations, cannot legally pay taxes to another government, and the new law will effectively end European Union and other outside funding. The groups will be mandated to provide the government with the records of all foreign donations and account for how these donations were spent. Any public statement, event or speech, even if it lasts half a minute, by these groups must include a declaration that they are being supported and funded by a foreign power. Those who fail to follow these guidelines, including local volunteers, can face a year in jail.
“This is the first time the human rights dimension of the Israel Palestine conflict has moved center stage,” Finkelstein said. “It has temporarily displaced the fatuous peace process. It is the first time that human rights reports have counted. There are literally, because I have read them, tens if not hundreds of thousands of pages of accumulation of human rights reports condemning Israel going back roughly to the first intifada to the present. The human rights organizations since the 1990s have been quite sharp in their criticism of Israel human rights policy, but nobody ever reads the reports. They are never reported on, with maybe a couple of exceptions, in the mainstream media. The Goldstone report was the first time the findings of these human rights organizations moved center stage. People stopped talking about the peace process and started talking about Israel’s human rights record.”
There is a growing disenchantment among Israelis with the endless occupation of Gaza and the West Bank as well as endemic government corruption. Maj. Gen. Avi Zamir, the head of the Israeli military’s Personnel Directorate, admitted recently to UPI that increasing numbers of Israelis are refusing to serve in the occupied territories. “Taking into consideration Israeli Arab youth, we’re facing a situation in which 70 percent of youths will not enlist in the military,” the general told the news agency. The discontent, along with the international condemnation, is inhibiting Israel’s ability to muster international support for further attacks.
“Israel attacked Gaza to restore what it called its deterrence capacity, its ability to terrorize the Arab world into submission,” Finkelstein said. “But it actually diminished its deterrence capacity because it can’t attack. If they were to attack now, anywhere, all hell would break loose and they wouldn’t get sympathy.” The numbers of so-called refuseniks are proliferating with groups such as the Courage to Refuse, Shministim and New Profile supporting those who will not serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. It is not that many Israelis lack a conscience, it is not that many cannot delineate right from wrong; it is that the Netanyahu government is determined to see that these courageous voices within Israel will be silenced along with those of the Palestinians.

A rare voice of courage: journalist Gideon Levy interviewed: The Electronic Intifada

David Cronin, 31 March 2010

Gideon Levy (Haim Taragan/Haaretz)

Gideon Levy is a rare voice of courage in an Israeli media generally supine towards the political establishment. Since 1988, he has written the “Twilight Zone” column for the Israeli daily Haaretz, documenting unflinchingly the myriad cruelties inflicted on the Palestinian people under occupation. In his new book Gaza, a collection of articles which has just been published in French, Levy utters phrases that, by his own admission, are considered “insane” by most of his compatriots. The Electronic Intifada contributor David Cronin spoke with Gideon Levy about his background and journalism.

David Cronin: You were born in Tel Aviv in the 1950s. Were your parents survivors of the Holocaust?

Gideon Levy: They were not Holocaust survivors, they just left Europe in 1939. My father was from Germany, my mother Czech. Both were really typical refugees because my father came on an illegal ship, which was stopped for half a year in Beirut by the British and only after half a year on the ocean could it make it to Palestine. My mother came on a project with Save the Children. She came without her parents directly to a kibbutz.

My father always said he never found his place in Israel. He lived there for 60 years but his life was ruined. He had a PhD in law but never practiced it in Israel. He never really spoke proper Hebrew. I think he was really traumatized all his life.

At the same time, he never wanted to go back [to Europe] even for a visit. He came from Sudetenland, which became Czechoslovakia. All the Germans were expelled.

DC: How did your parents’ history affect you when you were growing up?

GL: I was a typical first-generation immigrant. When my mother used to talk to me in German, I was so ashamed that she spoke to me in a foreign language. Her name was Thea; I always said it was Lea. Thea is a Greek name from mythology. It is a beautiful name but as a child I always said Lea just to cover up the fact they were immigrants.

My father’s family name was Loewy and for so many years I was called Loewy. But then I changed it to Levy and now I regret it so much.

DC: Tell me about your military service in the Israeli army.

GL: I did my military service in the [army’s] radio station. I was always a good Tel Aviv boy; I had mainstream views; I was not brought up in a political home.

I was at the radio station for four years instead of three [the standard length of military service] but for the fourth year as a civilian. It’s a very popular radio station; the army finances it but it is totally civilian.

I was totally blind to the occupation. It was a word I didn’t dare to pronounce. I was a typical product of the Israeli brainwash system, without any doubts or questions. I had a lot of national pride; we are the best.

I remember my first trip to the occupied territories [the West Bank and Gaza Strip]. There were a lot of national emotions visiting Rachel’s Tomb and the mosque in Hebron. I didn’t see any Palestinians then; I just remember the white sheets on the terraces. I was even convinced that they were happy we had conquered them, that they were so grateful we released the Palestinians from the Jordanian regime.

DC: What was the turning point that caused you to criticize the occupation?

GL: There was no turning point. It was a gradual process. It started when I started to travel to the occupied territories as a journalist for Haaretz. It is not as if I decided one day, “I have to cover the occupation.” Not at all. I was attracted gradually like a butterfly to a fire or to a light.

My political views were shaped throughout the years; it’s not that there was one day that I changed. It was really a gradual process in which I realized this is the biggest drama: Zionism, the occupation. And at the same time I realized there was no one to tell it to the Israelis. I always brought exclusive stories because almost nobody was there. In the first [Palestinian] intifada, there was more interest in the Israeli media. But between the first intifada and the second intifada, I really found myself almost alone in covering the Palestinian side.

DC: Have you completely rejected Zionism?

GL: Zionism has many meanings. For sure, the common concept of Zionism includes the occupation, includes the perception that Jews have more rights in Palestine than anyone else, that the Jewish people are the chosen people, that there can’t be equality between Jews and Arabs, Jews and Palestinians. All those beliefs which are very basic in current Zionism, I can’t share them. In this sense, I can define myself as an anti-Zionist.

On the other hand, the belief about the Jewish people having the right to live in Palestine side by side with the Palestinians, doing anything possible to compensate the Palestinians for the terrible tragedy that they went through in 1948, this can also be called the Zionist belief. In this case, I share those views.

DC: If somebody was to call you a moderate Zionist would you have any objections?

GL: The moderate Zionists are like the Zionist left in Israel, which I can’t stand. Meretz and Peace Now, who are not ready, for example, to open the “1948 file” and to understand that until we solve this, nothing will be solved. Those are the moderate Zionists. In this case, I prefer the right-wingers.

DC: The right-wingers are more honest?

GL: Exactly.

DC: As an Israeli Jew, have you encountered hostility from Palestinians during your work in the Occupied Palestinian Territories?

GL: Never. And this is unbelievable. I’ve been traveling there for 25 years now. I’ve been to [the scene of] most of the biggest tragedies one day after they happened. There were people who lost five children, seven children in one case.

I was always there the morning after and I would have appreciated if they told me, “Listen we don’t want to talk to an Israeli, go away.” Or if they would tell me: “You are as guilty as much as any other Israeli.” No, there was always an openness to tell the story. There was this naive belief or hope that if they tell it to the Israelis through me, the Israelis will change, that one story in the Israeli media might also help them.

They don’t know who I am. The grassroots have never heard about me; it’s not like I have a name there. The only time we were shot in our car was by Israeli soldiers. That was in the summer 2003. We were traveling with a yellow-plate taxi, an Israeli taxi: bullet-proof, otherwise I wouldn’t be here now. It was very clear it was an Israeli taxi. We were following a curfew instruction. An officer told us: “You can go through this road.” And when we went onto this road, they shot us. I don’t think they knew who we were. They were shooting us as they would shoot anyone else. They were trigger-happy, as they always are. It was like having a cigarette. They didn’t shoot just one bullet. The whole car was full of bullets.

DC: Have you been in Gaza recently?

GL: I have been prevented from going there. The last time I was there was in November 2006. As I mention in the foreword of my book, I was visiting the Indira Gandhi kindergarten in Gaza the day after a nurse [Najwa Khalif], the teacher in the kindergarten, was killed in front of all her children [by an Israeli missile]. When I came in, they were drawing dead bodies, with airplanes in the sky and a tank on the ground. I just went to the funeral of the nurse. It was called the Indira Gandhi kindergarten not because [assassinated Indian prime minister] Indira Gandhi was involved but because the owner of this kindergarten was named Indira Gandhi as an appreciation of Indira Gandhi.

DC: You have often talked about how you enjoy complete freedom to write anything you wish. But do you get the impression that life is getting more difficult for people with critical voices in Israel and that the government is actively trying to stifle dissent?

GL: Me personally, writing for Haaretz, appearing on TV, practically I have never gained such freedom. I’m appearing every week on Israeli TV on a discussion program. There were years in which I had to be more cautious, there were years in which the words “crimes of war” were illegal, even in Haaretz. Today, those words are over and I’m totally, totally free. No pressure from government or army — nothing.

But for sure, in the last year there have been real cracks in the democratic system of Israel. [The authorities have been] trying to stop demonstrators from getting to Bilin [a West Bank village, scene of frequent protests against Israel’s wall]. But there’s also a process of delegitimizing all kinds of groups and [nongovernmental organizations] and really to silence many voices. It’s systematic — it’s not here and there. Things are becoming much harder. They did it to “Breaking the Silence” [a group of soldiers critical of the occupation] in a very ugly but very effective way. Breaking the Silence can hardly raise its voice any more. And they did it also to many other organizations, including the International Solidarity Movement, which are described in Israel as enemies.

DC: Did you ever meet Rachel Corrie, the American peace activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer seven years ago?

GL: I never met her, unfortunately. I just watched the film about her last week. Rachel, James Miller and Tom Hurndall were all killed within six or seven weeks, one after the other, in the same place in Gaza, more or less. It was very clear this was a message.

DC: What do you think of her parents’ decision to sue the State of Israel over her killing?

GL: Wonderful. I saw them both when they were in Israel. They are really so noble. They speak about the tragedy of the soldier who killed their daughter, that he is also a victim. And they are so low-key. I admire the way they are handling it and I hope they will win. They deserve compensation, apologies, anything. Their daughter was murdered.

I participated in a film about James Miller, a documentary by the BBC. James Miller’s story is even more heart-breaking. There was a real murder. They knew he was a journalist, he was a photographer, he had his vest saying “Press.” It was very clear he was a journalist. And they just shot him.

DC: How do you feel about Israel’s so-called insult toward the US, when it announced the construction of new settlements in East Jerusalem during a visit to the Middle East by US Vice President Joe Biden?

GL: I really think it is too early to judge. Something is happening. For sure, there is a change in the atmosphere. For sure, [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is sweating. And the question is: do the Americans have a clear program?

One thing must be clear: Israel has never depended so much on the United States like it does today. Until now [Barack] Obama has made all the possible mistakes. His first year was wasted. But still we have to give them [the Americans] a chance because for sure there is a change in the tone. But I’m afraid their main goal now is to get rid of Netanyahu. And if this is the case, it will not lead anywhere. Anyone who will replace him will be more of the same, just nicer. It will be again this masquerade of peace process, of photo opportunities, of niceties which don’t lead anywhere. From this point of view, I prefer a right-wing government. At least, what you see is what you get.

DC: Spain, the current holder of the European Union’s (EU) rotating presidency, appears keen to strengthen the EU’s relationship with Israel. What signal would deeper integration of Israel into the EU’s political and economic programs send?

GL: I think it would be shameful to reward Israel now. To reward it for what? For building more settlements? But I think also that Europe will follow changes in Washington like it follows almost blindly anything the Americans do.

DC: There was a minor controversy recently about the fact that Ethan Bronner, The New York Times’ correspondent in Jerusalem, has a son in the Israeli army. Do you have any children in the army and do you think that Bronner was compromised by this matter?

GL: My son is serving in the army. My son doesn’t serve in the territories but I have always disconnected myself from my sons. They have their own lives and I haven’t tried to influence them.

About Ethan Bronner, it’s really a very delicate question. The fact there are so many Jewish reporters, Zionist reporters who report for their national media from the Middle East, for sure is a problem. On the other hand, I know from my own experience, you can have a son serving in the army and be very critical yourself. I wouldn’t make this a reason for not letting him cover the Middle East for The New York Times, even though I must tell you that I don’t see the possibility where The New York Times’ correspondent in Jerusalem is someone whose son is serving in the [Palestinian resistance organization] al-Aqsa Brigades, for example.

DC: What role can journalists play in trying to achieve a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

GL: There is an enormous historic role that the Israeli media is playing. The Israeli media, which is a free media, free of censorship, free of governmental pressure, has been dehumanizing the Palestinians, demonizing them. Without the cooperation of the Israeli media, the occupation would not have lasted so long. It is destructive in ways I cannot even describe. It’s not Romania, it’s not Soviet Russia. It’s a free democracy, the media could play any role but it has chosen to play this role. The main thing is about the flow of information. It is so one-sided, so much propaganda and lies and ignorance.

The French-language edition of Gideon Levy’s book Gaza: Articles pour Haaretz, 2006-2009, is published by La Fabrique. An English edition will be available soon.
David Cronin’s book Europe’s Alliance with Israel: Aiding the Occupation will be published later this year by Pluto Press.


Join the Second Global BDS Day of Action 30 March 2010

The BDS National Committee (BNC) is calling on you to unite in your different capacities and struggles for a Global BDS Day of Action on 30 March 2010 in solidarity with the Palestinian people and for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

The BNC calls on people of conscience and their organizations around the globe to mobilize in creative, concrete and visible BDSactions to make this day a historic step in the movement against Israel’s apartheid, colonialism and occupation, for accountability ofthe oppressor and for the fulfillment of the rights and dignity of the Palestinian people.

The BNC asks you to focus your 30 March BDS actions on:

1. Boycotting and divesting from Israeli and international corporations that sustain Israel’s apartheid, colonialism and occupation;

2. Taking legal action towards ending Israel’s impunity, including by investigating and prosecuting suspected Israeli  war criminals in  national courts and international tribunals;

3. Promoting and applying pressure to implement arms embargoes against Israel as well as a freeze or cancellation of free trade and other preferential agreements with it,  as a crucial  and urgent step towards full- fledged sanctions against Israel;

4. Launching academic, cultural and sports boycott actions against Israel and its complicit institutions.

The first Global BDS Day of Action was announced by Palestinian civil society with overwhelming support at the World Social Forum in 2009. The day of action held on March 30 coincides with Palestinian Land Day, which commemorates the day in 1976 when Israeli security forces shot and killed six young

Palestinian citizens of Israel. These brave youth were among the thousands protesting expropriation of Palestinian land to build new Jewish colonies and expand existing Jewish cities. Today, Land Day symbolizes Palestinian resistance to Israel’s ongoing land expropriation, colonization, occupation and apartheid.

The announcement of the first Global BDS Day of Action came in the wake of the Israel’s 23 day military offensive “Operation Cast Lead” during which it killed more than 1400 and injured over 5000 Palestinians in the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip.  One year later, Israel continues its suffocating blockade of the entire Gaza Strip in what has been described by human rights experts and analysts as an act of ‘slow genocide.’ This is but a continuation of Israel’s brutal oppression of the Palestinian people, including their expulsion from their homes during the Nakba in 1948, military rule, occupation and colonization of their land, apartheid, and persistent denial of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands.

In the 2009 BDS Day of Action, numerous NGOs, trade unions, student organizations, political parties and social groups in over 40 cities worldwide took up the call for globally coordinated BDS action coming from the 2009 World Social Forum. BDS activities on thatday targeted, among others, companies such as Connex, a subsidiary of the multinational Veolia complicit in building the Jerusalem light rail system connecting Israeli colonies in the occupied West Bank to Jerusalem; Chapters Indigo bookstore, whose profits fund ‘lone’ Israeli soldiers; the supermarket giant Tesco, which stocks an assortment of illegal settlement goods; and Motorola, supplier oftelecommunications and electronic systems for the Israeli occupation forces.

Since then, the global BDS campaign has grown. Students, private sector firms, trade unions, and other civil society actors worldwide have come to see that Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people cannot be tolerated any longer and have accordingly adopted diverse forms of BDS against Israel until it ends its oppression of the Palestinian people and fully complies with international law. This past year alone, trade unions, faith-based organizations, student groups, and many other civil society movements and organizations have engaged in BDS campaigns aimed at holding Israel accountable for its violations of international law and fundamental Palestinian rights.

For justice, freedom, peace and self-determination of the Palestinian people:

Join the Global BDS Action Day on 30 March 2010

For more information see:

For information on how to join the action day and how to develop BDS action in your country, organization and network, please contact the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC)

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