July 6, 2010

EDITOR: The love story hots up again…

After all the entreaties, demands, threats and sweet-talk, and after the Gaza and Flotilla massacres, a freeze on settlements that never was, and the new huge Jerusalem settlements, you would have thought that Obama has by now found out the basic facts about Israeli occupation, and he might actually DO something, rather than talk about it. Instead, Netanyahu is invited for a grand visit to the White House, which must be the prize for the massacres, or else it is difficult to explain…

After all is said and done, Obabma seems to be even more supportive than those before him, Clinton and Bush the Father and the Son. While talking tough, he has been walking with a big carrot, as far as Israel is concerned. It is now even clearer than before, that we have nothing to expect for from the American administration, whoiever happens to live in the White House at the time.

The differences between Binyamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama: The Guardian

Why the two politicians have not enjoyed the rapport of their predecessors
Binyamin Netanyahu at a press conference. Photograph: Jim Hollander/EPA
Binyamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama, who took office within a month of each other, have not enjoyed the warm rapport felt between many of their predecessors.

Obama’s early demand for a halt to settlement expansion in the West Bank was met with evasion and foot-dragging by Netanyahu, who clearly believed he had outflanked the new US president.

A temporary freeze was eventually wrung out of Israel. But things went further downhill when a big settlement housing project was announced during vice-president Joe Biden’s visit to Jerusalem in March.

The White House made its displeasure known during Netanyahu’s subsequent visit to Washington when the customary photo opportunity was humiliatingly denied to him.

The US was further angered by Israel’s deadly interception of the flotilla carrying aid to Gaza, followed by its refusal to accept demands for an international inquiry.

Ahead of today’s attempts to publicly paper over the cracks between the two sides, many Israeli commentators have been critical of Netanyahu for endangering the traditionally close and supportive relationship between the two countries.

Americans for Peace Now to Obama: Extend settlement freeze: Haaretz

Ahead of PM Netanyahu’s White House meeting with U.S. President Obama, Americans for Peace Now deliver petition to Obama with nearly 16,000 signatures calling for extension of settlement freeze.
Americans for Peace Now delivered a petition to U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday, calling on him to press Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to extend the freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank, set to expire in late September.

The petition, with 15,962 signatures, arrived ahead of a meeting between Obama and Netanyahu at the White House on Tuesday.
“These thousands of voices are expressing what we all know: Peace for Israel is more important than settlement expansion. American leadership toward a two-state solution is essential, and Israel’s future depends on reaching such a solution,” APN’s president and CEO Debra DeLee said.

Last November, Netanyahu declared a 10-month freeze in settlement construction. The upcoming expiration of the freeze is expected to be an issue discussed during Tuesday’s meeting between Obama and Netanyahu at the White House.

Israeli soldier charged with manslaughter during Gaza offensive: The Guardian

Unnamed staff sergeant indicted in connection with killing of two Palestinian women during 2008-09 Israeli Defence Force operation
Israeli infantry soldiers on the Gaza border: A soldier has been charged with manslaughter after the 2008-09 Israeli offensive. Photograph: Baz Ratner/Reuters
An Israeli soldier was today charged with manslaughter during the 2008-09 offensive in Gaza – a move that will bring the military’s conduct during the conflict, in which hundreds of Palestinian civilians were killed, into fresh focus.

The unnamed staff sergeant was indicted in connection with the killing of two Palestinian women who were part of a group witnesses said were carrying white flags.

According to reports and testimonies at the time, 35-year-old Majda Abu Hajaj and her mother, Rieyh, 64, were among 30 people, including children, trying to leave a house where they had taken shelter on 4 January 2009. The group was fired on and the two women were killed.

An Israeli military statement issued today said the charge was based on evidence that the soldier, a marksman, “deliberately targeted an individual walking with a group of people waving a white flag without being ordered or authorised to do so”.

In a second case, a battalion commander was disciplined in connection with a claim that a Palestinian man, Majdi Abed-Rabo, had been used as a “human shield”.

An Israeli Defence Force (IDF) investigation found the commander had “authorised the sending of a Palestinian man into a house … sheltering terrorists in order to convince them to exit the house”.

This, according to the IDF statement, was a deviation from “authorised and appropriate IDF behaviour”.

According to a graphic account of the incident given to reporters at the time, Abed-Rabo said he was forced, at gunpoint, to go ahead of Israeli soldiers into buildings suspected of housing Palestinian militants. The use of human shields is prohibited under the fourth Geneva convention.

Disciplinary action has also been taken against a third soldier, a captain, for failing to exercise appropriate judgment in ordering an air strike close to a mosque. The IDF said the strike was targeted at a militant launching rockets at Israel.

According to witnesses, around 200 people were praying in the Ibrahim al-Maqadna mosque at the time and at least 13 people, including six children, were killed.

The IDF today said an investigation had concluded that the attack “did not violate the international laws of warfare because the attack did not target the mosque, rather it targeted a terror operative”. It said “no possibility of harming civilians was identified”.

A criminal investigation has been ordered in a fourth case, an airstrike on a residence in Zaitoun, where around 100 members of one family, the al-Samounis, were staying.

There were two earlier indictments arising out of the three-week military operation in Gaza – one for theft and the other for overstepping authority in a case in which soldiers ordered a Palestinian child to open a suspicious bag.

Turkey’s president says Israel acting ‘irrationally’: Haaretz

Turkish President Abdullah Gul says that divisions within Israel’s governing coalition were stopping Israel from repairing relations with Turkey in the wake of the Gaza flotilla affair.
Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul said on Tuesday that divisions within Israel’s governing coalition were stopping Israel from repairing relations ruined by the storming of a Gaza-bound aid ship over a month ago.

Gul said Israel’s apparent readiness to become more isolated by ditching relations with a country that had been its only Muslim ally was irrational.
“They don’t have many friends in the region, ” Gul said. “Now it seems they want to get rid of the relationship with Turkey.”

The United States, a mutual ally of Israel and NATO-member Turkey, has quietly encouraged the two governments to overcome their differences.
But in comments as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepared to meet President Barack Obama in the United States on Tuesday, Gul said that he believed bitter rivalries within the Israeli coalition were stopping a rapprochement.

“As far as I can see, the internal political strife in Israel is very harsh. They undermine each other… they always block one another,” Gul said.
“It is important that everyone is aware of what kind of politics is going on there,” Gul said. “My own impression is that they don’t have the ability to act rationally.”

Nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists were killed when Israeli marines stormed the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara in international waters on May 31, after which Turkey withdrew its ambassador, suspended joint military exercises and closed Turkish airspace to Israeli military planes.
Turkey has demanded an apology, compensation for victims’ families and an international inquiry into the incident. It doubts the impartiality of an Israeli inquiry begun last month.

Turkey also led calls for an end to the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned on Monday that Turkey would not wait forever and without going into specifics he said Turkey would cut off ties if Israel failed to start making amends.

Should the Israeli commission rule that the raid was indeed unfair and the Israeli government apologized in line with those findings, Turkey could be satisfied, Davutoglu added.

On Tuesday, the Turkish foreign minister renewed his demand for an Israeli apology and criticized his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman’s approach to the issue.

“What Lieberman says has no value for us,” Davutoglu said in an interview with Turkish television network TGRT.

Davutoglu said he did not view his Israeli counterpart as a proper go-between “owing to his rhetoric and attitude.”

Israel maintains the marines fired in self defense after a boarding party was attacked by activists armed with metal clubs and knives.

Israel has partially relaxed its blockade of Gaza following the international outcry over the incident, but argues that a blockade is needed to choke off the supply of arms to Hamas Islamists running the enclave of 1.5 million people.

Gul said a meeting between ministers of the two governments in Brussels last Wednesday was requested by the Israeli side and was supposed to have been secret; but news of the talks was leaked by other factions in Netanyahu’s cabinet who wanted to stop any progress.

“There were those who were not happy with this, and the situation remains frozen.”

The meeting between Davutoglu and Israeli Trade and Industry Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer had been the first face to face contacts between senior officials since the attack on the aid flotilla on May 31.

Lieberman said he had not been informed of the meeting as a row broke out within the Israeli cabinet.

Netanyahu subsequently said that while his government regretted the loss of life and wanted to stop relations deteriorating further there would be no apology as the Israeli soldiers had acted in self-defense. Lieberman also ruled out an apology.

Although Turkey is heading towards an election a year away, and politics are highly charged, there has been cross-party support for the government’s stance towards Israel.

Threat to Palestinian parliamentarians: The Guardian Letters

Mohammed Abu Tir, Ahmed Othwan and Mohammed Tutah, in addition to the former minister for Jerusalem affairs, Khalid Abu Arafa, have been issued with notices by the Israeli authorities of eviction to leave their homes in occupied east Jerusalem. On 30 June, the Israelis detained Abu Tir in preparation for his expulsion, whilst Othwan, Tutah and Abu Arafa have sought refuge in the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Jerusalem. Israel, the occupying power, claims these members of the Palestinian legislature are being served with notices as their participation in the Palestinian legislature proves non-allegiance to Israel. The parliamentarians have been informed that they may only remain if they resign from the Palestinian legislature.

It is without doubt that as elected representatives of the Palestinian Legislative Council they should not be removed from the areas which they have been elected to represent. We call for the British government to support the right of these parliamentarians to live in their home and to uphold the principles of the fourth Geneva convention which prohibits the expulsion of a protected people by an occupying power “regardless of their motive”. Any breach of this convention constitutes a war crime and as such Israel’s political and military leadership should be held accountable.

Caroline Lucas MP (Green)

John McHugo Chair, Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine

Betty Hunter General secretary, Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Ismail Patel Chair, Friends of Al-Aqsa

Richard Burden MP and Martin Linton Labour Friends of Palestine

Settlements are a blockade to peace: The Guardian CiF

No Israeli words can speak as loudly as the action of a large-scale pull-out from illegal West Bank settlements
There are plenty of thorns in the side of the peace process, but none as sharp and intractable as Israel’s settlement programme. For decades, successive Israeli governments have persisted in their obstinate policies in the West Bank to the detriment of civilians on both sides, despite knowing full well that no lasting peace deal can ever be reached without an end to the settlement enterprise.

Although the settlements are deemed illegal under international law, Israeli officials continue to cling to their belief that Israel has every right to settle its citizens in expropriated land over the Green Line. One line of argument employed by settlement supporters is that no settlement is built on private Palestinian land – though such a claim appears to be based largely on settler fiction rather than hard facts.

According to a new report by the Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, over a fifth of built-up settlement areas are constructed on privately owned Palestinian land, giving the lie to the assertions of settler leaders that their actions are entirely above board. B’Tselem’s figures are based on official government records which reveal a state-wide complicity in the wholesale violations of local and international law – and the deception has been going on for years.

When sanctioning early settlement construction in the West Bank, the report says:

“the principal means Israel used … was declaration of ‘state land’, a mechanism that resulted in the seizure of more than 900,000 dunams of land (16% of the West Bank), with most of the declarations being made in 1979-1992. The interpretation that the State Attorney’s Office gave to the concept ‘state land’ in the Ottoman Land Law contradicted explicit statutory provisions and judgments of the Mandatory Supreme Court. Without this distorted interpretation, Israel would not have been able to allocate such extensive areas of land for the settlements.”

When I interviewed prominent figures in the settler movement for my book on Israeli settlements, I was met time and again with the declaration that settlements are “more legitimate” than major Israeli coastal cities, in a paradoxical interpretation of Israeli law. “In Haifa and Tel Aviv, they took over Arab property. But the settler movement wasn’t allowed to touch private property”, said Daniella Weiss, mayor of the Kedumim settlement and a long-time settler figurehead.

“One of the backbones of the settler movement, according to the guidance of Rabbi Kook, was that we could only build on rocks – not on people’s private land … Now as there was a lot of rocky land, the settlers, including me, settled on the rocks,” she explained as she recalled the founding of Kedumim in the mid-1970s.

From rocks to riches, the settlement enterprise has covered vast amounts of ground in the succeeding years with people like Daniella at the helm. However, somewhere along the line the guidance of Rabbi Kook has gone unheeded, because according to official Israeli Civil Administration data obtained by B’Tselem, 21% of built-up land in the settlements is private, mostly Palestinian land, while in Kedumim itself that figure is over twice as high, according to Peace Now figures. If Daniella Weiss was aware of this fact, she chose not to mention it.

It is a similar story across the West Bank, with scores of other settlements built illegally with government approval, and the crimes compounded by continued state assistance to those residing within the illicit communities. One such settlement is Ma’on, in the South Hebron Hills, where buildings have been constructed without permission, with civil administration data revealing that 15% of the settlement is built on private, mostly Palestinian, land. Similarly, the settlement’s outpost, Havat Ma’on, which is illegal even according to Israeli law, is not only built without permission, but also extends on to private Palestinian land, with all the resulting hardships on the local Palestinians that such encroachment brings.

According to Israel’s Road Map commitments, the outpost is supposed to have been demolished, and yet it continues to be supplied with water, electricity and defence by the Israeli authorities. Moreover, even if the government was inclined to evacuate the outpost as it is committed to do, evacuations in the past have simply resulted in the transfer of the population to other West Bank settlements in the Occupied Territories.

There is little point in expecting the settlers themselves to up and leave their cushy, state-subsidised homes as long as there is no official pressure on them to do so. A dogged and dogmatic commitment to illegal settling of the West Bank is the nature of the settler beast: to expect a volte face to come from within the settler community is wildly unrealistic. Instead, the onus is on the Israeli government to pull the rug from beneath the settlers’ feet, in order to demonstrate serious commitment to the peace process and to prove to the Palestinians that Israel is prepared to make painful concessions in the name of ending the conflict.

While it is all well and good for Israelis to demand an end to Palestinian violence and sabre-rattling, there has to be goodwill shown from the Israeli side too – and no amount of words can speak as loudly as the action of a large-scale pull-out from West Bank settlements. Without such a step forward, the region is doomed to forever stagnate in a cycle of stalled road maps and failed efforts, and there will be no peace for both the wicked and good alike, on either side of the divide.

‘Settlements control 42% of West Bank’: Jerusalem Post

07/06/2010
After releasing report, B’Tselem accused of trying to mar PM’s trip.
Human rights group B’Tselem purposely released a report accusing Israel of stealing Arab land in the West Bank on the day of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington in order to ruin his meeting with US President Barack Obama, critics of the organization charged Monday.

The report on government settlement policy and settlement growth was sent to news organizations with a request to embargo its publication until Tuesday.
B’Tselem’s critics compared the move to Peace Now leaking the approval of Jewish construction in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood an hour ahead of Netanyahu’s last meeting with Obama in March.

“The fact that B’Tselem decided to publish it on the day of Netanyahu’s meeting with Obama to try to make it go badly reveals the organization’s face as a systemic harmer of Israeli interests,” said Dani Dayan, chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.

NGO Monitor president Gerald Steinberg added that “B’Tselem claims to be a human rights organization, but they write blatantly political reports that are timed to have the most negative impact, such as when Netanyahu is visiting Washington.”

B’Tselem spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli responded that the release date for the report had been set about a month and a half ago, long before the date of the Netanyahu-Obama meeting in Washington was known.

“We decided not to change the release date, because we have an obligation to inform the people about Israel’s obligations,” Michaeli said. “We hope that human rights issues, including the implications of the settlements, will be on the table at the meeting.”

According to the B’Tselem study, the Jewish settlements are in control of 42 percent of all the land in the West Bank, even though the built-up areas constitute only 1% of it.

The municipal boundaries of the settlements are on average 10 times larger than their built-up areas, the report says.

B’Tselem also reports that the settler population has tripled since 1993, from 110,000 to 301,200.

The organization accuses the government of violating the commitment it made to the US as part of former president George W. Bush’s 2003 road map. According to the plan, Israel promised to freeze all settlement activity.

“Israel was supposed to begin implementing its road map obligations in May 2003,” the report says. “Since 2004, however, due to extensive construction in the settlements and the generous incentives Israel offers settlers, the settler population (not including those in east Jerusalem) grew by 28%, from 235,263 to 301,200 persons by the end of 2009.

In 2008, the annual growth of the settler population was three times greater than the natural growth of the population inside Israel – 5% as opposed to 1.8% respectively.”

Furthermore, according to an analysis based on a database collected by Brig.-Gen. (res.) Baruch Spiegel, there is potential for the construction of 50,000 apartments in the settlements under existing plans.

The report goes on to explain how the government amassed the 2.39 million dunams of land in the West Bank since it took control of the territory in 1967.

The most effective means was declaring a large swath of it state land.

The criteria for determining what constituted state land were based on the 1858 Ottoman Land Law.

Most of the land declared state land by the government was taken over between 1979 and 1992. This included 913,000 dunams (almost 20%) of the entire West Bank. Since then, another 5,114 dunams have been declared state land.

The report adds that the government announced last year in the Arab-language newspaper Quds that it was going to declare another 138,000 dunams state land.

All of this must be added to the 600,000 dunams of land already designated state land during the years of the British Mandate and the Jordanian government.

The government has also requisitioned private Palestinian land on the basis of security needs, an action that is in keeping with international law. However, according to that law, the military may not give the land to anyone else and must return it at the end of the occupation. According to the report, though, the army has requisitioned 31,000 dunams of land and given it to 42 settlements since 1967.

The government also effectively annexed privately owned Palestinian land, the report says. Between 1994 and 2006, it defined and expanded the jurisdictional areas of 92 settlements.

The new boundaries contained Palestinian-owned land that was not officially annexed but which effectively fell under settlement control because the Palestinian owners were not allowed to access it.

The report concludes that the settlement enterprise “has caused continuing cumulative infringement of the Palestinians’ human rights, including the right of property, the right to equality and due process, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to freedom of movement and the right to self-determination.”

Dayan, however, responded that many of the numbers in the report were incorrect and many of its claims were distortions. For instance, he said, the percentage of land in Judea and Samaria controlled by Jewish councils was 9%, not 42%.

“The organization has been taken over by a group of anti-Israel supporters of the most extreme Palestinian groups and the Palestinian right of return,” Dayan said.

Steinberg said that a lot of the report was based on legal interpretations without regard for historical realities.

“It claims the government manipulated the law, but land ownership is so complicated that any decision is interpreted,” Steinberg said. “It can just as easily be said that B’Tselem manipulated the law to score political points. In this report, there is no historical context of decades of Arab hostility, the 1967 war and unreciprocated Israeli peace efforts. Instead it artificially blames everything on Israel.”

Leading Israeli figures accuse police of targeting leftist East Jerusalem protesters: Haaretz

A number of prominent jurists, intellectuals, writers and leftist public figures co-sign letter that charges Jerusalem police with ‘illegal and inequitable’ conduct towards Sheikh Jarrah protesters.
A number of prominent jurists, intellectuals, writers and leftist public figures have co-signed a letter that accuses the Jerusalem District police of “illegal and inequitable” conduct toward protesters in the predominantly Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem.

In the letter, which was sent yesterday to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, the signers demand an investigation against what they believe is unequal enforcement of the law “that is based on political leanings.”
Among the signatories to the letter are former attorney general Michael Ben-Yair, retired District Court judge and legal commentator Boaz Okun, former education and justice minister Amnon Rubinstein, renowned legal scholar Mordechai Kremnitzer, former deputy attorney general Yehudit Karp, former civil service commissioner Yitzhak Gal-Nur and the former head of the Israel Bar Association, Shlomo Cohen.

Other notable names who signed the letter include authors David Grossman and Ronit Matalon; professors Yehuda Bauer, David Shulman, Ariel Hirschfeld, Zeev Sternhell, Avishai Margalit and Moshe Halbertal; and former Meretz MKs Shulamit Aloni, Yossi Sarid, Zehava Gal-On, and Mossi Raz.

The signatories argue that left-wing demonstrators protesting Jewish settlement activity in Sheikh Jarrah are denied permission to stage protests near the homes from which Arab families were evicted, even though right-wingers are allowed to conduct activities at the site. The writers also claim that the police refrain from enforcing restraining orders against rightist activists while making sure to remove leftist protesters who have been similarly ordered outside the area.
According to the letter, police officers resorted to excessive violence against left-wing protesters and then lied about it in court. “All of these [incidents] and others arouse a heavy fear of political favoritism and flaws in the conduct of the Jerusalem District Police, the gravity of which does not need to be put into words,” the letter read. “We have evidence that the Jerusalem police broke the law and acted inequitably.”

The police are also accused of adopting the settlers’ view of the disputed neighborhood as a Jewish area, despite the overwhelming Arab majority.

“Even though the disputed neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah is home to hundreds of Palestinians and a handful of Jews, the Jerusalem police insist on treating the neighborhood as a Jewish one on all levels,” the letter states. “In its official memorandums and during their court appearances, police officers refer to the disputed area as ‘the Simeon the Just neighborhood’ even though such a neighborhood does not exist in Jerusalem.”

“Such a symbolic gesture reveals a political and moral stance that falls outside the Jerusalem police’s jurisdiction and provides an explanation into the conduct of officers on the ground and before the court,” the letter continues.

The signatories demand that Weinstein agrees to meet with them so they could present him with the facts, which would serve as the basis for an investigation.

In support of the letter, left-wing groups prepared a report that detailed what they believe to be false claims made by the police in court. During a January court hearing, officers said that demonstrators blocked the main street, Nablus Road, leading to Sheikh Jarrah, even though police showed the judge a photograph of a smaller street nearby that was cordoned off during the protest.

In another instance, officers claimed that they arrested protesters for injuring policemen despite the fact that the demonstrators were never questioned for assaulting officers, nor were they indicted on any such charges. The left-wing organizations also offer video evidence which they say proves that the police turned a blind eye to the presence of rightists in Sheikh Jarrah, even though they were banned from the area by a court order. The groups also accuse police of permitting Jewish settlers to harass neighboring Palestinians.

Left-wing protests in Sheikh Jarrah began nine months ago. Since then, close to 100 activists, most of them Israeli, have gathered every Friday to stage demonstrations, some of which lead to violent clashes with police. Thus far over 100 people have been arrested and 44 indictments have been filed in court.

Obama and Netanyahu urge direct Mid-East peace talks: BBC

US President Barack Obama said the US-Israeli bond was “unbreakable”
US President Barack Obama has urged the Israelis and Palestinians to resume direct peace talks before a settlement freeze expires in September.
He spoke after Oval Office talks with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who said it was “high time” for direct talks.

The two leaders also played down any suggestion of a rift between the US and Israel, with Mr Obama saying the bond was “unbreakable”.

Mr Obama praised Israel for announcing it would ease its Gaza Strip blockade.

The US president said he hoped direct peace talks would resume “well before” Israel’s 10-month moratorium on building new settlements in the West Bank expired at the end of September.

The Israeli prime minister has been under pressure from his right-wing coalition not to cave in to US calls to extend the freeze.

Continue reading the main story
We want to resume direct negotiations, but the problem is that the land that is supposed to be a Palestinian state is being eaten up by settlements
“I believe Prime Minister Netanyahu wants peace. I think he is willing to take risks for peace,” said Mr Obama.

Mr Netanyahu said steps were being taken in the coming days and weeks to further the peace process, but he gave no further details.
The Palestinians withdrew from direct negotiations after Israel launched the Operation Cast Lead offensive in Gaza in late 2008.

Scheduled indirect talks were called off in March this year when Israel approved plans for 1,600 homes in East Jerusalem, where the Palestinians want the capital of their future state.

‘Tougher’ sanctions
That announcement, as US Vice-President Joe Biden was visiting to launch the negotiations, triggered a crisis in relations between Israel and its greatest ally, Washington.

ANALYSIS
Kim Ghattas,
BBC News, Washington
The two leaders were all smiles and both said they had had excellent discussions. Barack Obama said the bond with Israel was “unbreakable”, Benjamin Netanyahu said reports about the demise of the US-Israeli relationship were “flat wrong”.
So on atmospherics it’s a success: the spat appears over; in fact, listening to the two men it never even happened. But on substance there was little.
Mr Netanyahu spoke of concrete steps to be taken in the coming days and weeks to further the peace process but he gave no further details.
It was expected that Mr Obama would ask Mr Netanyahu to extend a freeze on Israeli settlement building in occupied territory beyond a September deadline.
It looks as though that is not happening. Mr Obama said he wants direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians to start well before September and once those talks start, he said, the two parties should not seize on actions by the other side to stop talking.

The US president gave Mr Netanyahu a frosty reception at the White House during their last encounter later that month.

Indirect talks finally got under way in May with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell shuttling between the two sides in Jerusalem and Ramallah in the West Bank.

The Palestinians have refused to sit down with Mr Netanyahu until he agrees to freeze construction in areas they want for an independent state. But Israel recently said it has no intention of doing that.

Mr Netanyahu warned during the White House talks that the main threat facing Israel was Iran’s nuclear programme, although Tehran denies claims it is building atomic weapons.

The Israeli prime minister praised new US sanctions on Iran that Mr Obama signed last week, but urged “much tougher” measures from other nations.

It was Mr Obama and Mr Netanyahu’s first meeting since Israel’s May raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that killed nine Turkish activists and triggered a regional diplomatic crisis.

Mr Netanyahu was snubbed by President Obama during their last encounter in March, when the US president refused even to allow a photo of their meeting to be released.

Afternoon tea
Correspondents say Tuesday’s bilateral appeared much warmer, with US First Lady Michelle Obama inviting Mr Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, for afternoon tea.
As the two leaders emphasised how strong their bond was, protesters gathered across the road in Lafayette Park and chanted “No More Aid [to Israel]. End the [Gaza] Blockade”.

During his three-day US visit, Mr Netanyahu is also expected to travel to New York, where he will meet UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and address Jewish American leaders.

Protesters outside the White House called for no more US aid to Israel
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Mr Netanyahu must choose between settlements and peace.

“We want to resume direct negotiations, but the problem is that the land that is supposed to be a Palestinian state is being eaten up by settlements,” he told the Associated Press news agency.

Meanwhile, an Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, says Israel’s Jewish settlements have now taken over more than 40% of all the land in the occupied West Bank.

The advocacy group’s report says Israel “systematically violates” and reinterprets international, as well as its own laws, to take over private Palestinian land, thus undermining peace negotiations for a two-state solution.

The deceptive rhetoric of “Invest for Peace”: The Electronic Intifada

Charlotte Silver, 6 July 2010
The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is gaining significant momentum cross the United States and Europe, including at US campuses. In response, opposition to the movement is devising new ways to divert attention from efforts to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law and flagrant abuses of Palestinian human rights.

At Stanford University, the school I graduated from last year, the Stanford Israel Alliance has created a counter-divestment campaign called “Invest For Peace.” Cloaked in the language of good intentions, Invest For Peace suggests that their campaign will work to uplift Palestinian society and economy by raising money to invest in micro-finance organizations in Israel and the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Their mission states that in contrast to divestment, Invest For Peace makes positive contributions that “move beyond counterproductive rhetoric.” Invest For Peace calls for campus unity by suggesting it aspires to the same goal as the divestment movements, but by different means. This campaign muddies the issue by conflating the goals of campus unity and advancing justice, not to mention aligning itself with the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The goal of divestment is to expose Israel’s oppressive policies and bring pressure to bear on Israel to end them. Stanford’s Invest For Peace campaign utterly denies Israel’s integral role in the debilitation of the Palestinian economy and therefore can have no credibility as a force to ameliorate the conflict. It ignores the fact that Israel has systematically and deliberately devastated Palestinian civil and economic society through its decades of usurpation of resources and military occupation.

The similarity in rhetoric between Invest for Peace and the Netanyahu government is conspicuous. Last year, Netanyahu called for an “economic peace” with the Palestinians, as opposed to a peace based on negotiations, rights and justice. In spite of his talk of improving the standard of living among Palestinians, Netanyahu has continued and expanded Israel’s policy of building settlements on Palestinian land in violation of international law while the siege of Gaza enters its 36th month. Netanyahu’s talk of an “economic peace” is empty rhetoric designed to disguise nefarious policies.

Moreover, investing in micro-finance organizations while demanding continued unquestioned US aid to Israel and its military is like dropping a quarter in someone’s tin cup after you’ve chopped off her hands. When Israel disconnects Palestinian orange groves from their water supplies, uproots its olive trees and cuts Gaza off from any potential trade, it commits intentional acts of destruction to the Palestinian economy. Invest For Peace speaks of the deterioration of the Palestinian economy as though it were a natural disaster, without specific and man-made origins, designed to ensure Palestinian economic dependency and penury.

In her book Failing Peace and other works, Harvard’s Sara Roy chronicles the deterioration of the Palestinian economy as it relates directly to Israel’s occupation and control of trade and borders. Roy identifies Israel’s imposition of closure policies as well as its division of Palestinian land as the principle culprits of the rapidly declining Palestinian economy. She states that “The result is de-development — a process I define as the deliberate, systematic and progressive dismemberment of an indigenous economy by a dominant one, where economic — and by extension — societal-potential is not only distorted but denied.”

Roy is not alone in her assessment. The World Bank has indicted Israel’s system of checkpoints, roadblocks, and obstructions to Palestinian movement as the chief source of the decaying economic life in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In a 2007 report entitled “Movement and Access Restrictions in the West Bank,” the World Bank called for an overhaul in Israel’s treatment of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, prescribing “a fundamental reassessment of closure practices, a restoration of the presumption of movement, and review of Israeli control of the population registry and other means of dictating the residency of Palestinians” (“West Bank Restrictions,” [PDF]).

Considering the brutality of Israeli policies and the clear effects they have on the Palestinian economy, it is hard to take seriously the Invest For Peace campaign’s assertion that it is seeking to take “effective action” to remediate poverty in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. In an op-ed published by the Stanford Daily, Stanford student and member of the Stanford Israel Alliance and Invest For Peace, Yishai Kabaker argued that “In my experience with divestment when applied to this conflict, damage is wrought, but nothing positive comes of it.” He added: “In the past, divestment campaigns helped combat apartheid in South Africa and genocide in Darfur. However, the divestment campaign against Israel is a crass bludgeon, which reduces an incredibly complex situation to euphemisms and demonizations” (“We Choose to Invest,” 4 May 2010). Yet, the dissolution of Israel’s policies is precisely the “positive” outcome that divestment campaigns intend to achieve.

Historically, Israel-allied groups have inhibited Palestinian solidarity groups from gaining prominence on college campuses across the country. But that time is ending. The astonishing mobilization and collaboration that divestment efforts at schools like UC Berkeley, Hampshire College and Evergreen State College are generating reflect the broad support for divestment and the success that it will eventually achieve. Public opinion is catching up to the radical reality of Israeli policies in Palestine. The train for BDS has left the station, and you’re not going to catch it if you’re running in the opposite direction.

Charlotte Silver is a litigation assistant at the American Civil Liberties Union, Immigrant Rights Project and was active in the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement at Stanford. She lives in San Francisco and can be reached at charlottesilver A T gmail D O T com.

Nocturnal Terror in Silwan: The Only Democracy?

July 2nd, 2010 | by Jesse Bacon
Ed’s note: Here is a story that ran earleir this week in Just Jerusalem. We are reposting it here in advance of an interview with the author, Daniel Dukarevich with additional actions expected this weekend. You can follow live tweets by Daniel from Silwan at JVP’s twitter feed right now, Saturday July 3rd.
Another night sets in on Silwan. Just two days ago, hundreds of Israeli and Palestinian demonstrators marched together along the narrow streets of the neighborhood, to support the local residents, facing the municipality’s plan to demolish 22 houses. But here, as anywhere in east Jerusalem, happenings do not cease for a moment.
In previous weeks, more and more appeals to the solidarity activists of Sheikh Jarrah  came in from the residents of Silwan. In view of our successful campaign, more and more Palestinians have been trying to find a way for Arab-Jewish cooperation. During recent tours in Silwan, we all had a sense of urgency and shared destiny. We must act, and act fast, before catastrophe hits us, before the abyss becomes too deep and wide to bridge. And we must act together, against all the risks and against all the suspicion which has built up here over the years.
And now we are here, climbing up the narrow alleys, together with the locals. Just one hour ago, tens of private security guards, escorted by border policemen, entered Palestinian homes around “Beit Hadvash” (house of honey in Hebrew…) and “Beit Yehonatan”. The settlers have only managed to seize two houses in this area, but this is enough to bring the place to the brink of eruption. Nightly border police patrols, private security personnel, armed with guns, undercover policemen and “Mistaarvim” (Israeli soldiers disguised as Arabs) have turned the place into a war zone.
This alley is narrow, dark. Tens of meters above us, shots are being fired and explosions can be heard. A helicopter is hovering above us, projecting rays of light onto alleys where the municipality has never thought of installing street lights. Twenty activists cling to the walls, and keep going forward.
All of a sudden the alley comes to an end, and a battlefield lies ahead of us. The small street around Beit Hadvash is all strewn with rifle bullet casings, unexploded grenades and the parts of destroyed cars. The soldiers are standing in groups at the entrances to houses and on the balconies, shooting into the houses around them. Our group disperses immediately into various houses, among groups of locals gazing with despair at what is happening around them. I run after a Palestinian paramedic into one of the houses. Soldiers are hiding in the stairway, blocking us, and trying to prevent us from progressing. Eventually they let us pass, and we reach the wounded. The three-story house is full of tear gas. The windows are all shattered, their frames lying on the floor. We go up, floor by floor, scanning the apartments. In most of them, we find families huddled together, scared people, little children, women, and wounded people lying on the floor. In the living room of one apartment, a young girl is lying on a stretcher. For two hours she has been waiting to be evacuated, after the soldiers had prevented ambulances from moving in. And in the next room I can see a few little children sitting in front of the computer. That’s just the way it is here. Apartments, families, a life that has suddenly become hell. But some of those living here insist on going on with their lives.
The wounded are taken down, one by one, on stretchers, into the street. From here one still has to run quickly, a few hundred meters along the alleys, towards the ambulances on standby. During one of the “heats”, I fall behind, momentarily fearing the race between the gas grenades and the rubber bullets. And staying alone here is bad. I try to stay close to the wall, but it doesn’t seem to help. Two gas grenades land next to me. Goddammit, they could have seen me just a second ago, they knew I was trying to evacuate the wounded. Not that it matters. Luckily, a few locals rescue me from that alley. After one hour, it’s all over. The soldiers withdraw towards the outskirts of the neighborhood, leaving behind a trail of devastation. A leaking water pipe, cars smashed by military jeeps and shooting, shattered windows and five wounded people. And tens of families who are about to sleep outside their tear gas flooded apartments, tonight too. And all this in the name of defending a house where nobody has ever lived, a house which, according to the owner’s claim, the settlers simply took over one day.
As we leave the neighborhood, escorted by our Palestinian friends, we know clearly that there is nothing left to do, except that which has already been done. Just as we have stood in Sheikh Jarrah until tonight, we shall stand in Silwan. And we shall return any time our presence is needed, until someone up there understands this obvious reality. This injustice, this folly, of settlement, especially in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods, must come to an end.
P.S  There is some comfort in seeing that this time the Israeli media did not ignore the events, thanks to the good work done by the solidarity activists.
Read the Physicians for Human Rights-Israel report on the violence here.
Watch a video of the police violence in Silwan.

Report on the events in Jerusalem, March 16, 2010: Severe violence, injuries, arrests, delays and prevention of medical treatment: IPHR

In East Jerusalem on Tuesday, the fieldworkers of Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-Israel) took initial testimony from local medical teams regarding the day’s events. The following information is based on initial testimonies, some of which were taken via telephone as events occurred, and others given in person. PHR-Israel’s staff continues to collect testimony on the events that took place in East Jerusalem, and will provide updates as more complete and accurate information is collected.

Following is a summary of the information that has been gathered so far:
Number of injured
Over 90 injured persons were documented throughout East Jerusalem, primarily in ‘Issawiyeh, Wadi Joz, a-Tur, and the Sho’efat and ‘Anata refugee camps.
Of these, three suffered severe injuries; the remainder suffered mild or moderate injuries. At least 15 persons were injured by fire of rubber-covered metal bullets at short range. At least one person was injured by live ammunition.

Most injuries were caused by rubber-coated metal bullets, tear gas grenades, stun grenades and beatings. In addition to tear gas grenades, the police used pepper spray, which causes severe stinging of the eyes and burns the skin.
In the Qalandia/Kafr ‘Aqeb area, 11 persons with severe and moderate injuries were taken to Alsheikh Zaed Hospital in Ramallah. Fourteen persons who suffered moderate injury from rubber-coated metal bullets and tens of others who suffered injury from gas exposure received on-site medical assistance from the Red Crescent and Medical Relief. In the Beit Omar/Hebron area, three severely injured persons were taken to Alahali and ‘Aalia hospitals and tens of persons injured by gas exposure were treated on site. In the Ramallah area, tens of demonstrators were injured by gas exposure at ‘Atara checkpoint and treated on site.

Treatment of injured persons and transfer to hospitals
The Palestinian Red Crescent treated 91 persons, of whom 37 were injured by rubber-coated metal bullet fire, 19 by tear gas fire, and 16 suffered severe contusions and/or broken bones resulting from beatings. In the Alsuani, a-Tur and Wadi Joz area alone, some fifty persons were injured in demonstrations. Tens of persons were injured in ‘Issawiyeh as well.

Three cases were designated as severe: One was a youth who was injured by fire (PHR-Israel is awaiting definitive information on the type of weapon) outside the Separation Barrier at Abu Dis and taken to Moqassad Hospital in coordination with the Civil Administration.  During their visit to the hospital, PHR-Israel representatives met with him as he awaited surgery. Another was a journalist for Reuters, who suffered a leg injury at ‘Issawiyeh, apparently by live fire, and taken by the Red Crescent to Hadassah Hospital at Mount Scopus. The third is a young man who was injured in the eye, taken to St. John’s Eye Hospital, and then transferred about an hour later to Hadassah at Ein Kerem.

Of the cases treated by the Red Crescent, 16 were taken to the hospital by ambulance, most to Moqassed. Seven involved injuries to the face, including two eye injuries, which were taken to St. John’s, and one transferred to Hadassah, as stated.  Among the injured persons were two children from Sur Baher, ages one and a half and two, who suffered asphyxiation from gas inhalation. After receiving first aid, the toddlers were taken by the Red Crescent to Sur Baher Sick Fund clinic.

Obstacles and Delays to Evacuating Injured from the Old City
From March 12-16, 2010, a general closure was imposed on the Old City, banning the entry of anyone besides persons whose ID cards showed their place of residence as the Old City. Emergency vehicles were also prohibited from entering the Old City and the main route to Bab al-Amoud was blocked. This situation made it even more difficult to treat and evacuate injured persons from the Old City, beyond the fundamental problem posed by the structure of the city’s streets and its high density.

Two Red Crescent ambulances stood near the Damascus Gate outside the Old City, intending to accommodate injured persons from within the city. However, for reasons unknown to us, most of the injured persons were not transferred to the ambulances.

Furthermore, throughout the day military and police vehicles blocked the routes leading to Moqassed Hospital. Emergency vehicles were subsequently forced to take alternative routes, doubling their travel time from the typical five to ten minutes, delaying transfer of injured persons to the hospital. The Red Crescent evacuated five injured persons to Alkhaldieh clinic located in the Old City, including three injured by tear gas fire, one hit in the chest by a rubber bullet and one suffering from trauma.

A female Old City resident of about 30 years of age lost consciousness after police forces entered her home, beat the house’s residents and fired tear gas into the premises. The woman received first aid from paramedics from the Mount of Olives emergency services. She regained consciousness and was taken via Mount of Olives ambulance to Moqassed Hospital.

At PHR-Israel’s staff visit to Moqassed, we received testimony from a person who sustained severe injury by gunfire. His evacuation by ambulance was delayed at the a-Zayam checkpoint as he bled, due to difficulties in coordination vis-à-vis the Civil Authority.
At Bab al-Majles, large amounts of pepper spray were reportedly fired at one of the houses. Due to the closure imposed on the Old City, for nearly an hour medical and firefighting teams were not allowed to enter the area in order to evacuate the house’s residents. Ultimately the medical team was able to go in, and brought out four injured persons. The team was able to transfer only one injured person to the Red Crescent ambulance waiting at Damascus Gate, which took him to Moqassed Hospital. The three others were taken to Alkhaldieh clinic in the Old City.

Medical teams reported delays in receiving authorization to enter the Old City in order to provide medical assistance. Authorization was given only gradually. The police also prohibited teams from bringing in medical equipment such as oxygen tanks and various types of bandages into the Old City.

Arrests of injured persons and preventing medical treatment from detainees
Many cases are known of the arrests of injured persons and subsequent prevention of medical teams from providing them with medical assistance.  PHR-Israel recieved an official information that some of the detainees who had been transferred by police to Jerusalem’s detention facility were severely injured, therefore the detention center refused to take them in and they were transferred to the hospital.

Following is the testimony of M., a Mount of Olives paramedic, regarding the assault of two young men, as was told to PHR-Israel;

“At about 10:00 a.m. today, March 16, 2010, near Bab al-Asabat in East Jerusalem, a group of about 15 policemen grabbed S. and A. and began hitting them, especially in the head, and kicking them. Both of them bled profusely, especially from the nose and head. I was with the ambulance in paramedic uniform, my team and another paramedic team. I asked the policemen to let us administer first aid, at least bandage their heads to stop the bleeding, but when I approached the policemen threatened to hit my friends and me as well, if we came closer. They told us that when they finished with him they would call Zaka (Disaster Victim Identification). There was no one around but the two of them, and they stood and watched until the policemen jumped on them.  They didn’t resist or try to escape. They tried to explain that they were only standing there, but despite this they were hit without mercy. Then some others crowded around and tried to intervene, to prevent the two young men from getting hurt. It was the policemen who had provoked and started the disturbance.”

About fifteen minutes later, members of the Special Patrol Unit arrested the two young men, both Jerusalem residents. One was taken to the Kishle police station adjacent to Bab Alhalil, and transferred from there to the Russian Compound detention facility.It was reported to PHR-Israel that he had suffered from mild injuries, received medical attention and was now in good medical condition. The second detainee, whose identity is unknown to us, was taken directly to the Russian Compound. We have no information regarding his medical state.

In another case, it was reported that four Palestinians were arrested in Wadi Joz and that the police had prevented Palestinian paramedics from administering medical assistance to the detainees, while aiming their firearms at one of the paramedics.

In view of the testimony, PHR-Israel intends to examine:

1. Why injured persons were taken to detention facilities despite the fact that their medical condition required that they be taken to the hospital for medical treatment.

2. The nature of the security forces’ rules for dispersing demonstrations and rules of engagement and the relationship between these instructions and the large number of injured persons, particularly those injured by beating and rubber-coated metal bullets fired at short range.

3.  Why an ambulance carrying an injured man from Abu Dis was held at the checkpoint for fifteen minutes although the man was bleeding and required immediate transfer to the hospital, even without prior coordination.

4. Why members of the Yasam Special Patrol Unit prevented medical treatment from being administered on-site by local medical teams.

5. Why firefighting teams were not allowed to enter the Old City.

Sources: The Red Crescent; Al Haq;; The Arab Paramedic Association;  Director of a-Tur Clinic; Medical Relief – Jerusalem

Researched by Reut Katz, Amani Dayef

Written by Reut Katz

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