October 5, 2010

EDITOR: BDS has been joined by governments!

Now it is not just the people in supermarkets, members of unions, and activists. Governmental and other organisations are now joining the boycott!

Tourism Minister: U.K., Spain to boycott OECD tourism conference because it’s in Jerusalem: Haaretz

Palestinians pressure Europe to shun October conference on sustainable tourism, which normally takes place in Paris.

Britain and Spain will not send delegates to the OECD’s biannual tourism conference on October 20-22, because it will be held in Jerusalem, Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov (Yisrael Beiteinu ) said yesterday.

The Dome of the Rock is seen on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, and to Jews as Temple Mount, in
This is only the second time in its history that the conference, which this year will deal with sustainable tourism, is being held outside Paris.

“OECD officials demanded that we not bring the delegates to East Jerusalem, or that we move the conference to Tel Aviv,” Misezhnikov said. “If we agreed to that, they promised to send many delegates. We held a meeting with the Foreign Ministry and decided to reject” the Tel Aviv idea.

But even after Israel agreed not to take the delegates to East Jerusalem – and even to eschew any mention of East Jerusalem during the conference – the Palestinians urged OECD members to stay away from it, Misezhnikov charged.

“The Palestinians, who insist they are a reliable negotiating partner, are continuing to cause us damage,” he said. “We exerted intensive pressure via the ambassadors and decided to hold the conference despite certain countries’ decision not to send delegates, including England and Spain.”

“I strongly denounce the states that surrendered to threats,” he added. “But the conference – with the participation of 21 ministers, deputy ministers and organization heads – will take place as planned in Jerusalem. This will be a declaration of intent and a seal of approval on the fact that we have a state whose recognized capital is Jerusalem.”

Delegates from Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, South Africa, The Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Estonia and Turkey, among others, are expected to take part in the conference.

The British Embassy said in response:

“The U.K. won’t be attending this conference, but it is entirely false to suggest that this is due to a boycott of for political reasons. The U.K.’s opposition to boycotts against Israel is well known. The UK will actually be chairing a session at the OECD’s international data protection and privacy commission later this month in Jerusalem. The only reason there’s no U.K. representation at the tourism seminar is because that right delegates simply weren’t available.

Israel expels Nobel peace laureate over Gaza protest: The Guardian

Mairead Corrigan Maguire, who tried to break Gaza blockade, loses appeal against deportation

Israel today expelled an Irish Nobel peace laureate and pro-Palestinian activist who was barred from the country for trying to break the naval blockade of Gaza.

The Irish Nobel peace laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire at the Israeli supreme court yesterday. Photograph: Bernat Armangue/AP

Máiread Corrigan Maguire was placed on an early morning flight to Britain, the interior ministry said.

Corrigan Maguire had been banned from Israel for 10 years after trying to sail to Gaza in June, but landed in Tel Aviv last week as part of a delegation meeting Israeli and Palestinian peace activists.

She was immediately held at an airport detention facility. She appealed but the supreme court upheld her deportation order yesterday.Adalah, an Arab Israeli advocacy group representing Corrigan Maguire, said she planned to give a news conference in Ireland today

Corrigan Maguire, 66, won the 1976 Nobel peace prize for her work in Northern Ireland. In recent years she has emerged as an outspoken critic of Israel. At yesterday’s court hearing, she called Israel an “apartheid” state, and, in comments to reporters, accused it of committing “ethnic cleansing”.

A supreme court justice told her the courtroom was “no place for propaganda” and cut her off.

Jody Williams, a Nobel laureate and part of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, which sponsored the delegation that included Corrigan Maguire, said she was unaware of the travel ban against the activist. However, Israel’s foreign ministry wrote earlier this year to the group refusing an appeal to let Corrigan Maguire join the delegation.

Corrigan Maguire has also voiced support for the Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, who is seen by many in Israel as a traitor. Before her ban, she attended anti-Israel demonstrations in the West Bank and compared the Jewish state’s nuclear arsenal to Hitler’s gas chambers. In 2007, police shot her in the leg with a rubber bullet at a demonstration against Israel’s West Bank security barrier.

By expelling her, Israel risked doing further damage to an image already tarnished by a perceived lack of tolerance of criticism.

Israel has banned other pro-Palestinian activists from entering the country, including, in May, the 81-year-old Jewish-American linguist Noam Chomsky. The government later said that that was a mistake.

Corrigan Maguire’s attempt to reach Gaza came a week after Israeli naval commandos killed nine Turkish activists on 31 May this year aboard a flotilla that tried to breach the blockade. Hundreds more activists were detained and expelled from the country. An Israeli commission investigating the raid on the flotilla, which included the Turkish-owned ship Mavi Marmara, said today it had summoned an Israeli official to testify on how international activists were treated in detention.

A report by the UN human rights council released last week accused Israel of using “extreme and unprovoked violence” against the detainees at a time when they posed no threat.

Israel refused to co-operate with that investigation, saying the council had a long record of bias. Israel is co-operating with a separate UN investigation commissioned by the secretary general, Ban Ki-moon.

The interior ministry official Yossi Edelstein, who was in charge of the detainees’ conditions, will testify to the Israeli commission next week. It will be the first Israeli account of what happened to the activists. “We need to check how the government acted. He was in charge,” said the commission spokesman Ofer Lefler.

It was not clear whether Edelstein was summoned in response to the UN report, or whether the testimony was scheduled in advance.

YouTube clip shows IDF soldier belly-dancing beside bound Palestinian woman: Haaretz

IDF orders immediate probe after Channel 10 airs clip on national TV.

A video uploaded to YouTube shows an Israel Defense Forces soldier wriggling in a belly dance beside a bound and handcuffed Palestinian woman, to the cheers of his comrades who were documenting the incident.

The IDF’s internal investigation department ordered an immediate probe into the matter after the Ch. 10 television program Tzinor Laila caught wind of the clip on the internet. The full clip and the details behind the incident will be broadcast on the show just before midnight on Monday.

A number of IDF soldiers have over the last year faced investigation and penalty for documenting themselves performing questionable acts in front of Palestinian prisoners or while on patrol.

In August, former soldier Eden Abergil raised controversy by posting pictures of herself beside a bound and blindfolded Palestinian prisoner on her Facebook page.

Days later, three IDF soldiers were arrested taking photographs of themselves alongside cuffed and blindfolded Palestinian detainees using their cellphones.

Photographs uploaded by Abergil and labeled “IDF – the best time of my life,” depicted her smiling next to Palestinian prisoners with their hands bound and their eyes covered.
A comment attached to one of the photos of the soldier smiling in front of two blindfold men and posted by one of Abergil’s friends read “That looks really sexy for you,” with Abergil’s response reading: “I wonder if he is on Facebook too – I’ll have to tag him in the photo.”

A comment allegedly added by Abergil to her Facebook page later that wee said that she would “gladly kill Arabs – even slaughter them.”

Screen grab from a video clip uploaded to YouTube of an IDF soldier belly-dancing beside bound Palestinian woman.

“In war there are no rules,” Abergil allegedly wrote on the wall of her profile page.

Other soldiers faced disciplinary action over the last year for uploading video of themselves stopping a patrol in the West Bank to dance to American electro-pop singer Kesha’s hit Tick Tock.

The video “Batallion 50 Rock the Hebron Casbah” shows six dancing Nahal Brigade soldiers, armed and wearing bulletproof vests, patrolling as a Muslim call to prayer is heard. Then the music changes and they break into a Macarena-like dance.

The video was uploaded over the weekend, and quickly spread across Facebook pages and blogs before it was removed by those who uploaded it.

EDITOR: Burning books?…

Now there you have something for Jews to be proud of – burning books and mosques… and we are criticised for comparing Zionism to other political movements, which have greatly developed the burning of books as political discourse… Fascism, Nazism and racism have no boundaries.

Ehud Barak says arsonists who attacked West Bank mosque are terrorists: The Guardian

Israeli settlers widely blamed and accused of campaign of revenge attacks on Palestinians

A Palestinian with a burnt copy of the Qur’an after the arson attack on a mosque in the West Bank village of Beit Fajar, south of Bethlehem. Photograph: Abed Al Hashlamoun/EPA
The perpetrators of an arson attack on a West Bank mosque in which copies of the Qur’an and prayer mats were burned were tonight described as terrorists by Israel’s defence minister, Ehud Barak.

Settlers were widely blamed for torching the mosque in the early hours of this morning as part of a “price tag” campaign of revenge attacks on Palestinians to mark their opposition to Israeli government policy on West Bank settlement expansion. Graffiti sprayed on the mosque in the village of Beit Fajar, between Bethlehem and Hebron, included the words “price tag” and “mosques we burn” as well as a Star of David, according to witnesses. It is the fourth attack on a West Bank mosque since December.

Ali Sawabta, the head of the village committee, said six settlers arrived in the village at 2.40am. “Fifteen Qur’an books have been burnt and the building is drenched in smoke,” he told the Ynet website. “It is effectively out of commission.” Villagers, who claimed the attackers came from the nearby settlement of Gush Etzion, rushed to defend the mosque and scuffles broke out which were broken up by Israeli soldiers.

The attack came amid US efforts to persuade the Israeli government to prolong the freeze on settlement construction, which expired just over a week ago, to keep alive talks on a deal to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinian leadership has said it will walk out of negotiations without an extension.

Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has so far refused US inducements. His rightwing coalition government has a powerful pro-settler element that opposes any extension of the freeze.

Barak, who has been heavily involved in negotiations with the US, was swift to condemn the mosque attack. “Whoever did this is a terrorist in every sense of the word, and intended to hurt the chances for peace and dialogue with the Palestinians,” he said. “This was a shameful act that besmirched the state of Israel and its values.” He ordered the security forces to find and arrest the perpetrators. Army spokeswoman Lt-Col Avital Liebowitz said the attack was “a very serious incident which we view with the utmost gravity”.

The Israeli military has been accused in the past of not pursuing settler attacks on Palestinians with sufficient rigour. “The settlers’ message is: terrorise the Palestinian people,” Mohammad Hussein, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, who inspected the damage at the mosque, told Reuters. “Such attacks will only embolden the Palestinian people and increase our determination to achieve all of our rights.”

The Palestinian cabinet today warned of an increase in settler attacks, in particular during the olive harvest which has just begun.

Almost 500,000 Jews live in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which are illegal under international law. Four settlers were killed last month in a drive-by shooting near Hebron on the eve of direct peace talks. Hamas said its militants carried out that attack. Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar today told a meeting in Gaza City the negotiations were leading nowhere. “We believe in resistance by all means to reach our goal,” he said.

Shaul Goldstein, leader of the Gush Etzion settlers, condemned the attack but added: “Experience has taught us that it is not always Jews who have committed such crimes”.

Obama’s cave-in to Israel: IOA

By Jonathan Cook, www.jkcook.net – 4 Oct 2010
Letter suggests US not honest broker
The disclosure of the details of a letter reportedly sent by President Barack Obama last week to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, will cause Palestinians to be even more sceptical about US and Israeli roles in the current peace talks.
According to the leak, Obama made a series of extraordinarily generous offers to Israel, many of them at the expense of the Palestinians, in return for a single minor concession from Netanyahu: a two-month extension of the partial feeze on settlement growth.
A previous 10-month freeze, which ended a week ago, has not so far been renewed by Netanyahu, threatening to bring the negotiations to an abrupt halt. The Palestinians are expected to decide whether to quit the talks over the coming days.
Netanyahu was reported last week to have declined the US offer.
The White House has denied that a letter was sent, but, according to the Israeli media, officials in Washington are privately incensed by Netanyahu’s rejection.
The disclosures were made by an informed source: David Makovsky, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a close associate of Dennis Ross, Obama’s chief adviser on the Middle East, who is said to have initiated the offer.
The letter’s contents have also been partly confirmed by Jewish US senators who attended a briefing last week from Ross.
According to Makovsky, in return for the 60-day settlement moratorium, the US promised to veto any UN Security Council proposal on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the next year, and committed to not seek any further extensions of the freeze. The future of the settlements would be addressed only in a final agreement.
The White House would also allow Israel to keep a military presence in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley, even after the creation of a Palestinian state; continue controlling the borders of the Palestinian territories to prevent smuggling; provide Israel with enhanced weapons systems, security guarantees and increase its billions of dollars in annual aid; and create a regional security pact against Iran.
There are several conclusions the Palestinian leadership is certain to draw from this attempt at deal-making over its head.
The first is that the US president, much like his predecessors, is in no position to act as an honest broker. His interests in the negotiations largely coincide with Israel’s.
Obama needs a short renewal of the freeze, and the semblance of continuing Israeli and Palestinian participation in the “peace process”, until the US Congressional elections in November.
Criticism by the powerful pro-Israel lobby in Washington may damage Obama’s Democratic party unless he treads a very thin line. He needs to create the impression of progress in the Middle East talks but not upset Israel’s supporters by making too many demands of Netanyahu.
The second conclusion — already strongly suspected by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and his advisers — is that Netanyahu, despite his professed desire to establish a Palestinian state, is being insincere.
The White House’s private offer meets most of Netanyahu’s demands for US security and diplomatic assistance even before the negotiations have produced tangible results. For Netanyahu to reject the offer so lightly, even though the US was expecting relatively little in return, suggests he is either in no mood or in no position to make real concessions to the Palestinians on statehood.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported last Friday that senior White House officials were no longer “buying the excuse of politicial difficulties” for Netanyahu in holding his rightwing governing coalition together. If he cannot keep his partners on board over a short freeze on illegal settlement building, what meaningful permanent concessions can he make in the talks?
The third conclusion for the Palestinians is that no possible combination of governing parties in Israel is capable of signing an agreement with Abbas that will not entail significant compromises on the territorial integrity of a Palestinian state.
One US concession — allowing Israel to maintain its hold on the Jordan Valley, nearly a fifth of the West Bank, for the forseeable future — reflects a demand common to all Israeli politicians, not just Netanyahu.
In fact, the terms of Obama’s letter were drafted in cooperation with Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister and leader of the supposedly leftwing Labor party. When he was prime minister a decade ago, he insisted on a similar military presence in the Valley during the failed Camp David talks.
Ariel Sharon, his successor and founder of the centrist Kadima party, planned a new section of the separation wall to divide the Jordan Valley from the rest of the West Bank, though the scheme was put on hold after American objections.
Today, most Palestinians cannot enter the Jordan Valley without a special permit that is rarely issued, and the area’s tens of thousands of Palestinian inhabitants are subjected to constant military harassment. B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, has accused Israel of a “de facto annexation” of the area.
But without the Jordan Valley, the creation of a viable Palestinian state – even one limited to the West Bank, without Gaza — would be inconceivable. Statehood would instead resemble the Swiss-cheese model the Palestinians have long feared is all Israel is proposing.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

A version of this article originally appeared in The National, published in Abu Dhabi.

The IDF can’t play the victim on its actions in Gaza: Haaretz Editorial

Two soldiers convicted of using a Palestinian child as a human shield appeared in court wearing T-shirts claiming, ‘We are Goldstone’s victims’.
The brothers-in-arms of the two Givati soldiers who were convicted on Sunday of using a Palestinian child as a human shield during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza went to court wearing T-shirts claiming, “We are Goldstone’s victims.” They described their comrades’ conviction as “a stab in the back,” and some even declared they would no longer serve in the reserves. They thereby proved that they have not learned the lessons of Cast Lead, which include the court’s conviction of their friends.

The two convicted soldiers, who in the meantime had been demobilized from the Israel Defense Forces, forced an 11-year-old child to open bags in his home to ensure that they were not booby-trapped. The military court convicted them of exceeding their authority while endangering human life and of conduct unbecoming a soldier.

This justified conviction began with a report by the UN secretary general’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. This once again shows that not all the international reports published after the operation were false.

The Supreme Court has ruled the use of human shields illegal. But the use of a defenseless child is particularly grave. The two convicted soldiers, their comrades and the public must internalize this fact. And anyone who wishes to pride himself on the IDF’s morality must also know how to recognize its ethical and legal lapses and bring those responsible to justice.

In Cast Lead, like in every other military operation, not everything was permissible. The fact that 150 complaints about soldiers’ conduct during Cast Lead, including 36 for alleged war crimes, have produced only 47 criminal investigations – most of which have since been closed – is suspicious. But the fact that these two soldiers were tried and convicted redounds to the IDF’s credit.

The real victim in the case the court just concluded was the 11-year-old child from the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood, who was forced to risk his life in front of his terrified family. The convicted soldiers are not “victims of Goldstone,” but soldiers who committed a crime and therefore should have been tried and convicted – both to make them pay for their actions and to deter other soldiers from similarly unacceptable behavior in the future.

EDITOR: Shock! Horror! Surprise!…

Unbelievable! After Obama was worried by just about anyone about trying to force a Pax Israeliana, he seems to be surprised when it blows up in his face… The rest of us have no such luxuries, neither such delusions.

Obama faces humiliation over Middle East talks: The Guardian

Collapse of the peace talks would leave Obama exposed – and leave the two-state solution in tatters
‘Netanyahu may be calculating that big Republican gains in next month’s US midterm congressional elections will curtail Obama’s capacity to put pressure on Israel’. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA
Barack Obama has barely a week to save the Middle East peace process from collapse, only months after he relaunched it amid optimistic predictions that a solution would be reached within a year. The consequences of failure will be serious for the US president; for the region and the wider world, they are potentially disastrous.

Israel’s refusal to extend a moratorium on settlement building in the West Bank is the ostensible reason for the halt in direct talks with the Palestinians. Speaking at the weekend after the PLO refused to continue the negotiations, executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi said a line had to be drawn.

“How can you have a two-state solution if you are eating up the land of the other state?” Ashrawi told the Washington Post. “The Israelis have to understand once and for all that they just can’t continue with this approach … We can’t afford it any more.”

Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, is likewise refusing to budge. He reportedly told US officials that a 60-day extension to the building moratorium that expired last month, as sought by Obama, would damage his political credibility and endanger his coalition.

He also argued that the Palestinians were being unreasonable, given past practice. “For 17 years the Palestinians conducted direct talks with Israeli governments while building went on in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank),” Netanyahu said, ignoring Ashrawi’s point that this was no longer tolerable. Limited new settlement activity during the next 12 months would not affect the final two-state map, he argued.

As matters now stand, the impasse will be discussed at the Arab League summit in Libya at the weekend, where Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, says he will seek the “advice” of fellow leaders. If, as currently expected, they endorse the PLO position, direct talks may be suspended indefinitely at the beginning of next week.

George Mitchell, Obama’s peace envoy, is lobbying friendly Arab governments but has made no headway so far. Egypt, increasingly distracted by a looming succession crisis, is as usual punching below its weight. The dire warnings issued by Jordan’s King Abdullah about new regional conflict seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Washington’s friends in the Gulf, more wary of Iran than of Israel, are meanwhile arming themselves to the teeth, aided by $120bn in US weapons sales.

Mitchell’s effectiveness has been undermined by complaints that he exaggerated the progress made in the first three rounds of direct talks. He indicated that rapid advances were being made, but Arab and western diplomats told Haaretz newspaper that nothing of substance had been discussed.

“Netanyahu refused to hold a serious discussion on any of the core issues apart from security, Abbas reportedly told diplomats at the UN general assembly,” Haaretz said. “Israeli and foreign sources say the main problem is that Netanyahu refuses to present fundamental positions or discuss the borders of the Palestinian state.”

In other words, resumed Jewish settlement building was not the only or even the main stumbling block. Abbas was reportedly dismayed, for example, by Netanyahu’s insistence that an agreement, if any were reached, must be implemented over a period of 20 years.

Netanyahu may be calculating that big Republican gains in next month’s US midterm congressional elections will curtail Obama’s capacity to put pressure on Israel. If the process does collapse, Netanyahu will be able to say, publicly, that it was the Palestinians, not he, who turned their backs on peace; and privately, that the inexperienced Obama screwed up, a verdict that the American right will gleefully endorse.

Across the region, anti-Israel forces are gearing up for failure, as is their wont. Visiting Tehran at the weekend, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria definitively dismissed recent US conciliatory moves and stressed Syria’s “eternal” brotherhood with Iran. “The [Israel-Palestinian] negotiations follow no goal but are merely intended to improve the Obama administration’s image domestically,” Assad said.

Further stirring the pot with characteristic insouciance, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president, is due to visit Lebanon this week, where his political and military allies in Hezbollah are thought to be preparing new attacks on Israeli targets. Arab press reports say Ahmadinejad will visit the Lebanon-Israel border and make a symbolic gesture by throwing stones at Israeli soldiers – a possible reprise of the famous act of defiance by the late Palestinian intellectual, Edward Said, in 2000.

Israeli officials are already describing Ahmadinejad’s visit as a provocation, and are pressing the Lebanese authorities to rein him in. A row would doubtless delight Hamas, the rejectionist “other half” of the Palestinian nation, that has consistently reviled the latest peace efforts from its isolated Gaza ramparts.

The collapse of the talks process, so laboriously constructed, would almost certainly spell a humiliating end to Obama’s peace drive, although indirect diplomacy may stutter on. It would entrench Netanyahu and the Israel right, whose priority is confrontation with Iran, not compromise with the Palestinians. And it would serve to further convince the Palestinians themselves, and the wider Arab world, that a two-state solution is not attainable.

In the absence of a better idea, and notwithstanding the multiple tragedies of the past, many may thus conclude that a return to violence is their only way.

Livni: Netanyahu wasted two years prior to talks with PA: Haaretz

Speaking at Harvard University, Kadima leader says ending conflict with the Palestinians is a clear Israeli interest, not a favor to the United States.

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima) criticized on Tuesday the current government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for wasting two years before conducting negotiations with the Palestinians.

In a speech at the Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Livni said that the Israeli government must make the decisions that will save what remains of the negotiations, assuring that Kadima will support the prime minister if he makes these decisions, and urged him to make them quickly.

Livni said that ending the conflict with the Palestinians is a clear Israeli interest, and not a favor to the president of the United States.

She stressed that the time has come to reach decisions on the matter and said that avoiding the decisions hurts Israel’s interests and warned that the status quo is dangerous.

Earlier on Tuesday, Netanyahu convened with his forum of six senior cabinet ministers but did not discuss the deadlock in Israeli-PA peace talks, despite earlier expectations that he would propose to extend the settlement freeze by 60 days in exchange for U.S. guarantees.

Moreover, Jordan’s King Abudullah urged Israel and the Palestinians on Tuesday not to miss a ‘historic opportunity for peace,’ while Egypt’s Mubarak warned of ‘global terror’ if Mideast peace talks fail.

At Harvard, Livni also discussed the subject of Iran, and said that the Islamic republic’s religious ideology makes its conflict with Israel irresolvable.

She said that the latest pronouncements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the heads of the regime prove that the world must increase the pressure of sanctions and supplement them with political sanctions against the heads of the regime.

She insisted that the world must stop giving Iranian leaders pulpits to spew their hatred, in the United Nations or anywhere else.

As long as Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust and talks about destroying Israel, she said, the world cannot tolerate and listen to him and it must stop giving him the legitimacy to spread his creed.

Palestinian worker killed at barrier: The Independent

Monday, 4 October 2010
Israeli police shot and killed a building worker from the West Bank village of Sair yesterday, after he used a rope to scale the “separation barrier” meant to keep Palestinians from entering Israel clandestinely.

Also yesterday, an Israeli military court convicted two soldiers of using a 9-year-old Palestinian boy as a human shield during last year’s Gaza war — the most serious conviction yet connected to troops’ conduct during the military offensive.

The West Bank laborer, Izzedine Kawazbeh, a 35-year-old father of five, was shot after scaling Israel’s towering separation barrier by rope and dashing across a wide stretch of road heavily patrolled by Israeli police. Israel started building the barrier in 2002 during a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings that killed hundreds of Israelis. The last one was in February 2008.

In an added twist, some of the laborers head to construction jobs in Jewish settlements, helping Israel tighten its hold on lands the Palestinians want for their state.

The workers say they are too busy struggling to feed their families to think much about the risk or the nature of their work. West Bank jobs are scarce, and a laborer there makes only about half of what he would get on an Israeli construction site.

“All he wanted in life was to earn money to feed his family,” Kawazbeh’s brother, Zeinedin, 34. “He didn’t care about anything else.” Kawazbeh’s widow, Fathiyeh, 30, is pregnant.

The West Bank has recently witnessed a modest economic recovery after years of conflict-driven downturn, but hardship remains widespread in places like Kawazbeh’s home village of Sair, where hundreds of men set out weekly for jobs inside Israel.

West Bank Palestinians must obtain permits to enter Israel and the dozens of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Israel argues that it must tightly screen Palestinian workers to weed out possible attackers.

About 20,000 Palestinians have permits to work in Israel, and another 20,000 have permits to work in West Bank settlements, said Salwa Alenat from Kav Laoved, an Israeli group that assists the laborers. As many as 15,000 sneak in without permits, she said.

Kawazbeh’s last trip started like all the others he had taken since he started working in Israel at age 15, said his cousin, Radad Kawazbeh, 30, who made the journey with him.

Well before dawn, he and two dozen other workers from the village arrived near a section of the barrier where many Palestinians cross. Hundreds of laborers from elsewhere were also nearby, waiting to sneak across, he said.

When the men could see no army jeeps nearby, they ran for a 15-foot-tall section of the wall. Workers who crossed earlier attached a rope to the top, and the men used it to climb over, Radad Kawazbeh said.

They dropped into a weedy patch full of barbed wire next to a wide stretch of roads. When the way appeared clear, they ran across.

A police car approached as they crossed, but most of the men ran up a hill and hid in the weeds. Kawazbeh, older and heavier than the others, couldn’t run fast enough, and a soldier started chasing him, Radad said. As his cousin headed up the hill, Radad said he heard a gunshot.

“When I heard the shot, I thought it was in the air,” Radad said. “I didn’t imagine they’d shoot my cousin.”

Israeli police said the Palestinians ignored police orders to stop and fled, but an officer caught up with Kawazbeh. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Kawazbeh tried to grab the officer’s gun. The police officer, re-enacting the incident, told investigators at the scene that his weapon discharged accidentally during the struggle.

The cousin denied that Kawazbeh had tried to grab the gun, saying the officer was 10 meters away when he fired.

Hundreds of villagers gathered near Kawazbeh’s house Sunday afternoon for the funeral. Even workers who had entered Israel safely before the shooting returned to pay their respects.

Many were rattled by the shooting.

“We always go that way,” said Hassan Kawazbeh, 30, another brother who had been with the group. “Sometimes they catch someone and take him back to the crossing, but they’ve never shot anyone before.”

Workers at the funeral said they earn around $40 a day in Israel, about double the rate in the West Bank. To avoid getting caught, most stay in Israel during the week, sleeping outdoors at their work sites.

Though Israel gives more permits to older, married men who are seen as less of a security risk, Kawazbeh never received one, family members said. Six months ago, Kawazbeh spent 16 days in an Israeli prison after being arrested for not having a permit, according to his brothers.

When Kawazbeh’s body reached the village, it was buried without being bathed — the funeral given a “martyr,” or one killed by the enemy.

After the service, worker Nasser Shalalda, 30, said he still planned to go back to Israel. When asked how soon, he said: “Next Saturday.”

Meanwhile, an Israeli military court convicted two soldiers of using a 9-year-old Palestinian boy as a human shield during the Gaza war.

The court said the soldiers asked the boy to open bags in a building they took over, fearing explosives were inside. The military bars soldiers from using civilians as human shields.

The boy told Channel 10 TV that soldiers threw him up against a wall and fired at an attache case he failed to open. The Israeli Ynet news website said the soldiers could face up to three years in prison.

Israel has faced widespread criticism that it failed to properly investigate alleged wrongdoing by troops during the three-week military operation. Some 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including hundreds of civilians.

There have been a total of 48 investigations into Gaza war actions, a third of which are still in progress. Three indictments have been issued, including the case that resulted in yesterday’s conviction.

Jordan king: Don’t miss historic opportunity for peace: Haaretz

King Abdullah urges Israel, PA to engage in direct talks and act responsibly; Egypt’s Mubarak discusses Mideast peace with Abbas, Bill Clinton.
King Abdullah of Jordan said Tuesday that Israel and the Palestinians have a historic opportunity for peace which must not be missed.

While meeting with Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor) in his Amman palace, Abdullah urged a Mideast peace deal, saying that future generations will judge this moment of opportunity in the Middle East, so it cannot be missed.
Abdullah added that both sides must move toward the direction of peace and make every possible effort to engage in direct negotiations. He said that this requires the leaders to act with courage and responsibility.
Herzog assured King Abdullah that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aspires to engage in direct negotiations and reach a peace deal, and that the Labor Party supports this effort fully.

Meanwhile. Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak met separately Tuesday with Bill Clinton and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as part of Cairo’s latest efforts in international diplomacy.

Abbas and Mubarak met at the presidential palace in Cairo in a meeting that diplomatic sources say focused on Israeli- Palestinian peace negotiations.

The latest effort at direct talks between the sides, which were relaunched last month, were facing collapse after Israel refused to extend a 10-month freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank.

Abbas had met with Arab League chief Amr Moussa on Monday night, as the organization was debating whether to continue lending support to the peace talks. A decision was expected later this week.

Settlers threaten riots over synagogue sealing: YNet

Radical right gearing to fight decision to seal illegally built synagogue at Ma’ale Shomron settlement; warn they will stage protests, burn tires, set Palestinian farmland ablaze and block roads
The Settlement movement warned Tuesday of a harsh reaction and painful “price tag” style retaliation if authorities proceed in the plan to seal a synagogue which was illegally built in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Shomron.

The settlers are enraged that while legal action is taken against their prayer house, no action is being taken again an illegally built mosque in the Burin, an adjacent Palestinian village.
Elements in the far Right warned that should the synagogue be sealed, they will stage protests, burn tires, set Palestinian farmland on fire and block roads. Knesset Member Michael Ben Ari (National Union) vowed to entrench himself in the building and physically block any such attempt with his body.

“People are planning to block the entrance with their bodies and I will be joining them. We have no intention of leaving this place.”

Despite the outrage in the far Right, and the settlers’ promise to “be prepared,” extreme Right sources told Ynet that the settlers do not wish to repeat the events which took place during the evacuation of Amona.

“What the government and security forces should be worried about is the reaction after the fact. Sealing the synagogue will carry an expensive, harsh price tag and sights we have seen before, like torching mosques and setting Palestinian farmlands on fire – and not necessarily immediately afterwards,” a far Right source told Ynet.

According to MK Ben Ari, these statements were not made by criminal element: “These are moderate, law abiding citizens, but everyone sees this as a very aggressive move and no one plans to accept it.

“Netanyahu and Barak art fanning the flames here, especially since law enforcement across Judea and Samaria is not equal. This is just unbelievable – demolishing a synagogue right after the High Holidays.”

Extreme Right activist Baruch Marzel added that “The legal system blatantly sides with the far Left and loses points by the day. This inequality screams to high heaven… the people’s frustration stems from repeated lack of government reaction to terror acts and gross discrimination. Nothing is more dangerous to society than feelings of persecution and discrimination.”

The Samaria Settlers Council said that they would fight the decision by all means necessary: “We are not afraid of another Amona, if that’s what Bibi wants. We have taken steps to ensure activists can stay on the premises for a long time.”

Israel-bound submarines banned from testing in Norway’s waters: Haaretz

Israel-bound submarines will no longer be allowed to undergo tests in Norwegian territory, as part of the country’s ban on security exports to Israel, Norway has informed a German shipbuilder.
In early 2011, the Israeli navy is due to receive one improved Dolphin submarine built by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW ), a German shipbuilding company based in Kiel. It is scheduled to receive another one in 2012.
HDW leases a Norwegian submarine base to test its new submarines.
The first new Dolphin submarine has begun water trials, supervised by an Israeli team in Germany.
Following Oslo’s decision, the German shipbuilder will have to carry out its deep-water testing at another site.
The Israeli navy’s Squadron 7 has been using three Dolphin submarines for the past decade. The two new submarines are costing about 1.3 billion euros, according to German media reports, and Germany is funding a third of that.
The navy is expanding its submarine capabilities and doubling the number of operational crews, enabling them to undertake long-range missions far from their home port.
Israel and Germany recently discussed building a third submarine, Defense News reported.
The new submarines have an advanced propulsion system that enables them to stay submerged for up to three weeks.
In addition to their combat and intelligence gathering missions, Dolphin submarines are equipped with nuclear-head cruise missiles, according to foreign media reports.
Four months ago a Dolphin submarine passed southward via the Suez Canal in what was seen as an Israeli move to position a submarine in Persian Gulf waters.
HDW shipyards, one of the largest in the world, leases from the Norwegian government the Marvika submarine base on Norway’s southern shore as a base for testing new submarines. During WWII this port served as a base for the German fleet’s submarines.
The port serves as a departure point for deep-water experiments of up to 700 meters, and Israel’s first three Dolphin submarines were tested here. Such experiments are necessary to locate structural weaknesses in the submarines’ system, and are part of every new submarine’s trial process.
Norway’s foreign ministry advised HDW several weeks ago that it will no longer allow it to use its territory for naval experiments on submarines intended for the Israeli navy.
This is not Norway’s first security boycott on Israel. A year ago the Norwegian State Pension Fund announced it was dropping Elbit Systems due to the manufacturer’s involvement in building the West Bank separation fence.
The Norwegian treasury said the fence was infringing on Palestinians’ human rights.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment.
Norway’s foreign ministry commented that it does not respond to specific decisions regarding the export of military equipment and services.
When asked about these developments on Norwegian television last week, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store said, “We have extremely rigorous restrictions on exporting security goods and services … we don’t export materials or services to states at war or in which there is a danger of war.”
He did not mention Israel directly.
The German Thyssenkrupp group, which owns the shipyards that manufacture the Dolphin submarines, declined to comment.

Rabbis condemn attack on West Bank mosque: BBC

Rabbi Froman and a Muslim cleric raised a copy of the Koran in the air

Rabbis from Jewish settlements have given a box of Korans to a West Bank mosque as a gesture of solidarity after an arson attack blamed on settlers.

Palestinians cheered as the rabbis and other settlers arrived at the village of Beit Fajjar in bulletproof cars accompanied by Israeli soldiers.

The attackers set fire to a carpet and a dozen Korans in the mosque and wrote Hebrew slogans on the walls. The army has vowed to find the perpetrators.

The residents of Beit Fajjar allege that a group of settlers from the nearby Gush Etzion settlement bloc entered their village on Monday and set light to its mosque in a bid to derail the Middle East peace process.

“Mosques, we burn,” said a warning spray-painted on a door.

Some books were burned while walls were left charred and scrawled with graffiti
On Tuesday, a delegation including the prominent Rabbis Menachem Froman from Tekoa and Aharon Lichtenstein from Gush Etzion, visited the ancient mosque in a show of solidarity and condemned the attack.

They brought with them about a dozen copies of the Koran.

“Our goal is to share our horror at the attack of the mosque and to clearly state that this is not the way of the Torah or the Jewish way,” said Rabbi Shlomo Brin of the Yeshivat Har Etzion.

“This act does nothing for the settlements; it is morally and religiously wrong and is offensive to its core,” he added. “This is not how we educated our children; Islam is not a hostile religion even if we have a dispute with some of its followers.”

Nearly 500,000 settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, alongside 2.5 million Palestinians
20,000 settlers live in the Golan Heights
Settlements and the area they take up cover 40% of the West Bank
There are about 100 settlements not authorised by the Israeli government in the West Bank

The governor of Bethlehem, Abdel Fatah Hamayel, said: “We welcome the Jews to Beit Fajjar so they can see with their own eyes the crime that was committed in this mosque, which was against humanity and against religion.”

Close to 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

Some hardline settlers advocate a policy of setting what they call a “price tag” on any Israeli government policies they see as threatening settlements, including a recently expired partial freeze on construction in the West Bank, and the forced evacuations of unauthorised settlement outposts.

In April, a mosque was vandalised with Hebrew graffiti, cars were burnt and olive trees uprooted in the village of Hawara, near the Yitzhar settlement. And in May, a mosque in the village of Lubban al-Sharqiya, near Nablus, was gutted in a fire. No charges have yet been brought.

Direct peace talks between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority resumed in September after a break of 20 months.

• 62% under full Israeli control. This area contains all Israeli settlements, roads used by settlers, buffer zones and almost all of the Jordan Valley • 38% under Palestinian civil control. In more than half of this, Israel has security control • There are 149 settlements and 100 outposts (settlements not authorised by Israel) • Population: 2.4 million Palestinians, nearly 500,000 Jewish or Israeli settlers

The mendacity of “restraint”: The Electronic Intifada

Richard Irvine, 4 October 2010

Right-wing Israelis and Israeli settlers march through occupied East Jerusalem. (Anne Paq/ActiveStills)

As Israel’s self-imposed and largely irrelevant settlement freeze ends, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked settlers to show “restraint.” It is an interesting choice of adjective, for people who show restraint are the injured and outraged; they are victims who although entitled to a full measure of justice settle for less to maintain good will and harmony. In the context of the West Bank settlers and Israel’s illegal colonization no adjective could be less appropriate. Yet unwittingly it also reveals the mendacity behind Israel’s whole approach to these negotiations.

Settlements — or to describe them accurately, illegal Jewish-only colonies — did not happen by accident; nor do they continue as some sort of unfortunate but unavoidable historical hangover. Rather they are central to Israel’s entire policy with regard to the occupied Palestinian territories.

Centrally planned, funded and protected, the settlements are aimed at achieving strategic goals. What those goals are was revealed as early as the summer of 1967 with the Allon Plan, developed shortly after Israel occupied the West Bank. The plan was developed by and named after Yigal Allon, former general and then minister of labor. It involved Israel annexing and settling large sections of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, East Jerusalem and areas around Hebron. Meanwhile, the major Palestinian population centers would be returned to Jordanian control under the terms of a peace agreement. Although the plan was never approved, it has served as the basis for Israeli settlement policies and peace proposals since. Successive Israeli governments have offered their own adjustments to the Allon Plan, including the seizure of the main Palestinian water aquifers in the northern West Bank.

A quick look at the division of the West Bank under the Oslo process into Areas “A,” “B” and “C” shows clearly how in Area C, the area remaining under full Israeli control, this vision of annexation and expropriation has been put into practice. Area C comprises 59 percent of the West Bank but only 4 percent of its Palestinian population — it is the sector containing all of Israel’s settlements. Those unfortunates who live there are subject to all kinds of discriminatory laws and practices.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs states that 96 percent of Palestinian applications for building permits are refused while those few that are approved are restricted to just one percent of the territory. Malnutrition is also a problem with up to 28 percent of herding community children suffering from stunted growth (“Food Security and Nutrition Survey of Herding Communities in Area C,” Joint UNRWA-UNICEF WFP Household Survey, April 2010 [PDF]).

Amnesty International has reported that in the Jordan River Valley, wells dry up because of overuse by the settlements while the Israeli army has prevented Palestinians from even collecting rain water (“The day the bulldozers came,” Amnesty International, 27 October 2009). Meanwhile right next to this deliberate dispossession and impoverishment, the Jewish-only settlements keep their lush lawns, their Jewish-only highways and their subsidized housing.

Appalling as all this is, it is important to reiterate that it is not accidental: this is the planned imposition of a colonial apartheid system aimed at achieving ethnic cleansing. Even during the heyday of the Oslo peace process in the 1990s the number of settlers doubled. In short, Jewish settlement is a policy that is so central to Israel it has never been willing to curtail it, even for the prize of peace.

Yet all this is so unnecessary. The settlements are illegal, they violate international humanitarian law, international human rights law, a 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague, numerous UN Security Council, Human Rights Council and General Assembly resolutions, and the oft-cited Roadmap of the “Quartet” (i.e., the US, EU, UN, and Russia).

Yet all this can be resolved; all that needs happen is that Israel be held to the same standards of law as every other state in the world. In this context then, it is quite ludicrous for Netanyahu to call upon the settlers he encourages, funds and protects to show “restraint.” Restraint rather is what the Palestinians have shown waiting for the international community to wake up to Israel’s fundamental mendacity and actually get around to implementing the international legal standards and laws they have established.

Richard Irvine teaches a course at Queen’s University Belfast entitled “The Battle for Palestine” which explores the entire history of the conflict. Irvine has also worked voluntarily in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and taken part in olive planting and harvesting in the West Bank.

EDITOR: No need to read Israeli government lies!

You can read what really happened on the Jewish Gaza Boat, Irene – below:

Yonatan Shapira’s testimony from the Jewish Boat to Gaza: The Only Democracy?

September 29th, 2010, by Jesse Bacon
From Occupation Magazine
Journal of a voyage, by Yonatan Shapira
26 September 2010
The course is 120. Another 200 miles to the port in Cyprus and the automatic pilot in the boat, which is supposed to maintain the course, refuses to work and leaves me with the unending task of maintaining the course on a turbulent sea with no sign of land from horizon to horizon. In another half hour, Itamar, my brother, who is also a “refusenik,” will relieve me at the wheel, after him Bruce and then Glyn will take their shifts. If everything goes according to plan, we will reach Famagusta at midday on Saturday, and there we will pick up the rest of the passengers, who together with us, as strange as it may seem, will try to break the blockade of Gaza.
For some weeks already we have been making our way east, from the Greek island on which the yacht was bought, from north of the Peloponnese through the Corinthian Canal, the Cycladic islands. Already we have experienced just about every kind of mishap in the book: the engines overheated on us and died, the wheel suddenly became detached, the anchor got stuck, the sail tore, a storm, and more. What we have not yet experienced is the uniqueness, the wondrousness and the strong arm of the IDF – the most moral army in the world, for those who forgot.

Warships have not yet intercepted us, they have not lowered commandos on us from helicopters and snipers have not yet shot at us. Those challenges are still before us and we will experience them together with the passengers, among them Holocaust survivors, a bereaved father [1] and others.
The southwest wind is getting a little stronger and the compass is vacillating between 120 and 130. I glance at the GPS and see that I am veering slightly to the left. Well, if the automatic pilot were working I could simply sit, watch the waves and write undisturbed.
Seven years ago on the eve of Rosh Hashana we published what the media called “the pilots’ letter.” In that declaration we announced to the whole nation (yes, we wore flight-suits and were interviewed in the press and on television) that we would refuse to take part in the crimes of the Occupation.
Ten days after that, on the eve of Yom Kippur, we were invited for a talk with the Commander of the Air Force. After he outlined to me his racial theory (in the form of a scale of value of blood, from the Israelis on the top down to the Palestinians at the bottom) he informed me that I was dismissed and that I was no longer a pilot in the Israeli Air Force. Many things have happened since then. Many boats have crossed the Corinthian Canal, many demonstrations and arrests, but mainly, many children have been murdered in Gaza. I remember Arik, a close childhood friend and a combat pilot, who hesitated over whether to sign and to refuse but in the end sincerely informed me that he did not want to give up his wonderful toy, the F-16. At first he still had a little shame about the comfortable choice he had made. Secretly he supported me and admitted that he did not have courage. Seven years passed and today he is still an operational pilot in the reserves, a leader of attack formations in his combat wing and on his hands or wings is the boiling blood of tens of innocent Palestinians and Lebanese, maybe more. The traces of morality that he had are gone now and today Arik will bomb any place at any time, wherever they tell him. That is the beauty of routine. In the end everything looks normal to you: an ordinary man, kind and polite and a good father to his daughters, turns into a mass murderer. I was not a bomber pilot. I flew Blackhawks that are used mainly for rescue missions and to transport personnel. One argument we heard from those who disagreed with us, and especially people from my wing, three members of which signed the letter, was that none of us was asked personally to shoot or to bomb or to assassinate. We replied to that argument by saying that it was not necessary to commit murder in order to say that it is forbidden to commit murder, and that it is easy to say “I just held the stick while the other pilot launched the missile.”

Continue to read this fascinating journal on this link!

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