S. African politicians ‘beaten up by IDF’ & Please sign the petition to free Palestinian children detained by Israel

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and other news from Today in Palestine:

Settlers/ Land, Property, Resource Theft & Destruction/Ethnic Cleansing
Sheikh Jarrah: Daoudi family faces first court appearance to fight eviction
Today in Jerusalem, the Daoudi family appeared at their first court hearing to defend themselves against forced eviction. The Daoudis live in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Palestinian East Jerusalem where Israeli settlers are seeking to illegally evict and displace Palestinian residents from their homes. According to the UN, of the approximately 2,800 Palestinian residents in Sheikh Jarrah, more than 60 have lost their homes and 500 are at risk of forced eviction.

Israel builds new settlement neighborhood in Jerusalem
Jerusalem, December 16, (Pal Telegraph) – Israeli occupation authorities have started building new settlement neighborhood in Jabl Al-Zaytoon in Jerusalem.  The radio of Israel reported that the new settlement neighborhood will include 24 housing units and it will be specified for the students of the Jewish institute pointing out that the local committee for building and organizing approved the building project one year ago.  The project is carried out by a company belonging a right-wing association pays for settlement projects in Jerusalem called Elad.

Despite court ruling, IDF took Arab land for train line
Former Civil Administration head, Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, signed an order expropriating 50 dunams from a West Bank village for the rail line connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, just two days before stepping down from his post on November 3.  According to the document, Mordechai was convinced the expropriation was done for public good and that the user of the land would be in a position to compensate the property owners.

Hebron court vandalized ‘without any justification’
HEBRON (Ma’an) – The Palestinian lawyers’ union condemned on Thursday what it called an attack by Israeli troops against the Dura courthouse in Hebron “without any justification.”  The court’s doors and windows were damaged during arrest raids in the village overnigh

Uninvited Israeli Settlers Enter Beit Ommar Mosque
At 4am on the morning of Wednesday, December 16th 2010, a contingent of Israeli soldiers accompanied a group of settlers into the town of Beit Ommar. They woke up the guardian of the Old Mosque and demanded that he open the building for them. On entering the Old Mosque the settlers began taking photographs of the interior.  The guardian was told that the settlers wish to partition the mosque and use their half for prayers three times a week, claiming that the building holds special religious significance for them.

Court asked to ensure Palestinian farmers’ water access
Law suit filed after Civil Administration declares land as archeological area; lawyer says settlers have access to disputed spring.  Farmers from Deir Nizam, 23 km. northwest of Ramallah, petitioned the High Court of Justice on Thursday to order the civil administration to allow them access to the Ein al-Kis spring to irrigate their fields.

Israel’s Jerusalem Master Plan 2020, Stephen Lendman
A November 10 Qatar News Agency article headlined, “Israel Plans to Rebuild Old Jerusalem – Palestinian Official,” stated: Attorney Ahmed Al-Ruwaidi, “responsible for the Jerusalem unit in the Palestinian Authority (PA), said Israel plan(s) to build new settlement homes in old Jerusalem where the ancient walls of the city will be overshadowed by modern bridges, synagogues and gardens spreading from the Arab neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah to Wdi Al Joze and Suwaneh.

Activism/Solidarity/Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions
One Critically injured, Many Treated for Tear Gas Inhalation During West Bank Anti Wall Protests
Ramallah – PNN – a civilian was critically injured, Many protesters were treated for the effects of tear gas inhalation on Friday when Israeli troops attacked anti wall protests organized in a number of West Bank villages.  This Friday protests were organized in the villages of Bil’in, Nil’in, and al Nabi Saleh in central West Bank in addition to al-Ma’ssara village in southern West Bank. International and Israeli supporters joined the villagers at all four locations. The protests took place shortly after the midday prayers have ended.

Dozens tear-gassed in Bil’in as they walk toward lands owned by people of the village, Hamde Abu Rahme
Today dozens of people were injured as a result of inhaling the tear gas due to the clashes that took place in the village of Bil’in. Many people from Bil’in village joined this march along with the peace activists and foreigners who came to give solidarity to Bil’in people, especially after the decision of the Israeli Defence Force to suppress the weekly march against the wall and the settlements.

S. African politicians ‘beaten up by IDF’
Parliament members say ‘shoved’ by soldiers during anti-Israel protest in village near Bethlehem last week. ‘They fired tear gas and stun grenades at us,’ one of them claims. Army: Forces used means required to end violent riot.

State Department hails ‘civil society activists’ around the world but refuses to say anything for imprisoned Abdallah Abu Rahmah, Philip Weiss
Yesterday, 15 December 2010, the issue of Abu Rahmah was followed up by the AP. Crowley answered that the case is ‘watched closely’ by US representatives in Israel. Far from releasing a statement on Abdallah Abu Rahmah, Crowley confirmed the silent position on Palestinian non-violence that the United States has maintained in recent months.  Video links of the relevant State Department briefings can be found here (10.12.2010, minute 13:08), here (13.12.2010, minute 17:08), here (14.12.2010, minute 21:33) and here (15.12.2010, minute 22:20).

US State Department Silent on Bil’in’s Abdallah Abu Rahmah, Joseph Dana
US State Department spokesman continues to avoid giving a clear US position on the case of imprisoned non-violent leader Abdallah Abu Rahmah. Asked three times on different occasions by Associated Press reporters, spokesman PJ Crowley failed to show clear US support of Abdallah Abu Rahmah.

Write a letter and condemn them their decision to ignore Abu Rahma here

Freedom for Ibrahim, Hassan and Zaydoon: An interview with leaders of the Ni’lin Popular Committee Against the Separation Wall
On December 3, 2010, three leaders of the Ni’lin Popular Committee Against the Separation Wall were released from Israeli military prison: Ibrahim Amireh, coordinator of the Popular Committee; Hassan Mousa, spokesperson; and Zaydoon Srour.  Israel wrongfully imprisoned them for 11 months in apparent retaliation for their role as leaders of the nonviolent movement. During their imprisonment, Saeed Amireh, Ibrahim’s 19 year-old son, stepped forward as a powerful leader of the efforts to free his father.  ISM interviewed the four activists on December 15.

Sheikh Jarrah to light community Christmas tree
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — National and religious institutions in Jerusalem invited guests to join Sheikh Jarrah families in lighting its Christmas tree Monday at 4 p.m.  Organizers said the event would be a chance to “voice your rejection and opposition to Israel’s ethnic cleansing policy in Jerusalem,” and support the “lawful struggle” of many residents to remain in their homes.

Anti-Jewish abuse from Ahava staff
! Zionists in the UK are on the ropes again.  First, a picket is mounted against the Ahava store by Palestine solidarity activists protesting the sale of products made from Palestine resources, then the Zionist Federation (ZFUK) mounts a counter picket, then the neo-nazis of the EDL come to support zionism (as they do and always did), then ZFUK activist, Jonathan Hoffman gets photographed openly fraternising with an EDL activist, then he has to issue a grovelling apology for libelling the photographer, also called Hoffman, who snapped the rather compromising situation.  And now…. And now what?  And now an assistant at the Ahava store has called a Jewish Palestine solidarity activists a Christ-killer. See this short clip from Tony Greenstein’s blog.

#BDS: LDFP Press Release: Ethical Principles for Boycotting Israel
Lib Dem Friends of Palestine, a voice for human rights in Palestine, have joined the growing call to the British public and companies to boycott Israeli goods on sale in Britain.   We are deeply concerned at the continuing failure of UK and USA governments to take any measures against Israel. LDFP call on the coalition government and EU to implement economic sanctions against Israel.

U.S. Boat to Gaza announces: Application Process Now Open
Hurry — Registration for the “Audacity of Hope” will close after 30 DAYS.

Mondo Awards: Call for entries
Although it often seems like changing the status quo is a never ending slog of two steps forward and one step back it behooves us on occasion to stop and see the mileage we’ve made, to appreciate our movement, the people who’ve inspired us, the great courageous and brave actions taken by people in the region both Palestinians and Israelis, those in the diaspora and our supporters from all walks of life.

Resisting an ideology of inequality: Jody McIntyre interviewed
Over the past month, journalist and activist Jody McIntyre has joined a growing number of students, workers, activists and others in the UK protesting a government decision to cut public sector funding, especially to education. Jody, who spent months alongside Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip protesting the Israeli occupation, is now back in London attending and reporting on various student-led actions. The Electronic Intifada’s Matthew Cassel spoke with Jody at his south London home.

USPCN Stands Against Political Repression
The United States Palestinian Community Network (USPCN) strongly condemns and denounces the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s political repression of 19 anti-war, Palestine solidarity and Palestinian activists. The USPCN calls for the immediate suspension of the federal government’s grand jury prosecution of these activists, and an end to the FBI’s harassment of our communities.

Anti-BDS Campaigners Liken Movement to Nazi Germany Policies, Alex Kane
If you can’t beat ‘em, smear ‘em.  As the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement continues full-steam ahead in its efforts to force Israel to comply with international law, pro-Israel hawks are increasingly attempting to link the movement to anti-Semitism and Nazi Germany-era policies.  The latest person to do so is Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, who has been described as “one of the most influential Jewish journalists working in mainstream media.”

Say it ain’t so: Zakaria, Huffington and Tom Friedman go to bat for center that is desecrating Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem, Philip Weiss
This one stopped me, made me wonder if I need to have my eyes adjusted.  This is an invitation to a benefit next spring for Canadian friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies. On the cover of the invite you will see Arianna Huffington, Thomas Friedman of the NY Times, Fareed Zakaria of CNN fame, and Aayan Hirsi Ali. They’ll all be speaking at the May 31 event at a Toronto synagogue.  Hold on. This is the same Simon Wiesenthal Center that is building a “Museum of Tolerance” in Jerusalem on a 12th Century Muslim cemetery.

National Hillel sends many young Jews into exile. Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb on Talmud and BDS.
Hillel, the world’s largest Jewish campus organization-with staff, funding and physical space on some 500 mostly US campuses – says it wants to create a “welcoming environment for Jewish students on campus by fostering students’ ability to incorporate Jewish tradition into their lives.” Translation? Only Jews who pass an ideological litmus test on Israel are welcome. Others can stop at the door.

Avi Shlaim in Israel
I am not surprised at this: neither about Avi Shlaim visit to Saudi Arabia (at the invitation of Bin Laden’s friend, Prince Turki Al-Faysal) nor at the invitation by Saudi government itself.  Avi Shlaim represents a case of a moderate Zionist–if there is such a thing because there is nothing moderate about a project that uprooted an entire population and that imposes its political will by force and occupation and explusion–whose judgment on regimes in the region is not based on their human rights record but on their closeness to Israel.  Witness his love affair with the king and his fawning biography of him.  Avi Shlaim served in the Israeli terrorist army and he explains away this fact to Arab students at Oxford by telling them dismissively: oh, I only served in the border police.  I told Arab students at Oxford two years ago: but the border police was the one that shot at thousands of Palestinian civilians from 1948 to 1960s merely because they wanted to go and  check on their homes and property.   Now Avi Shlaim is in love with the House of Saud: and notice that he only cares about their views of the usurping Zionist entity:  ””I was surprised by the absence of talk of violence and condemnation against Israel. I have not heard anyone deny Israel’s right to exist…and the Saudis wish that this issue could be resolved,” Shlaim said.”  Yes, Avi Shlaim.  I am sure that the sample of Saudis that you are permitted to meet is quite representative of the Saudi population.   Oh, yeah.  And this is somebody who teaches Middle East studies. [end]

Israeli flag in Dubai
“After a month of uncertainty, Israel’s national swim team arrived early yesterday morning in Dubai ahead of the World Short Course Championships, which open today.  The Israeli delegation went through hell and high water to get to Dubai. Officials of the emirate refused to issue the Israelis visas until the last minute, and only allowed them in without stamping their passports and making them undergo stringent security checks. “It seems they feared we would bring in something special, but everything went quietly,” said Noam Zvi, chairman of the Israeli Swimming Federation.”

Refugees/Siege/Rights Violations/Restriction of Movement
Industrial Fuel – Needs Vs. Supply – Nov 14 – Dec 11

UAE calls for lifting of Gaza blockade
The UAE called on the international community to “compel” Israel to lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip yesterday.  The UAE’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ahmed Abdul Rahman al Jarman, addressed the UN General Assembly and pledged further support to those trapped inside the region.  “The Humanitarian conditions in the occupied Palestinian Territories, especially in the Gaza Strip, continue to deteriorate because of the siege imposed on the Strip by the Israeli occupying forces for the last three years,” the state news agency WAM quoted him as saying.

A Bethlehem Christmas wish
More than 2,000 years ago, a miracle happened in Bethlehem and the prophet of peace, love and forgiveness was born. Now Bethlehem, as well as every other Palestinian city, town and refugee camp, still lives under occupation and oppression.

Silwan children’s football league opens today to great success
Today marks the opening of the children’s football league in Silwan. The opening match, held between the Wadi Hilweh and el-Bustan teams, showcased the talents of young players from the two neighborhoods of Silwan most targeted by the Israeli settlement enterprise. The league opened under the banner of “Silwan Remains”, drawing teams from throughout Silwan and surrounding villages to participate. Madaa Center currently organizes training sessions for the Wadi Hilweh team, its players aged from 14-16 years. The opening match ended with a final score of 7 – 2 el-Bustan – Wadi Hilweh. Murad Abu Shafi, a member of the el-Bustan Popular Committee commented that “activities such as the football league play a crucial role in helping Silwan’s youth to seek alternatives to the huge social and economic problems here, and simply enjoy their childhood.” Nihad Siyam, coach of the Wadi Hilweh team stated that “whether we win or lose is inconsequential – the real goals of the league, and all its players, are to embrace Palestinian culture and identity here in Silwan – to celebrate it. We hope that through a strong sports program, we can see our children laugh and play, despite the threats posed by the settlements, the soldiers and the Municipality.”       

Racism and Discrimination
Jerusalem’s Pisgat Ze’ev: Arabs Raus!
The Jerusalem settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev, named for rightist Revisionist leader Zeev Jabotinsky, knows how to handle Arabs.  Just take it from Moshe Ben Zikri, recently elected “community adminstrator” (in Chicago he’d be called the ward boss or council leader) for the neighborhood.  His most critical task: fighting the Arab menace, the campaign to take control of the community from its rightful Jewish residents.  How will he do this?  By levying a hefty $30,000 fine on any resident who sells an apartment to an unapproved tenant.  Who approves?  The Jewish residents, of course.

Live ammunition in Baten el-Hawa, roadblocks in Wadi Hilweh
Clashes were reignited today in Silwan as Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition in Baten el-Hawa neighborhood in the heart of Silwan village. Palestinian youths threw molotov cocktails at the army in response. No injuries have been reported. Israeli forces erected two roadblocks in Wadi Hilweh district at the entrance to the neighborhood, enforcing strict control and inspection of both inward- and outward-bound Palestinian vehicles and pedestrians attempting to pass.

Troops amassing in Silwan as Friday prayers draw to a close
Israeli troops closed off the main street of Wadi Hilweh in Silwan today immediately after the Friday prayers. A state of tension has gripped the village, with an extremely high number of Israeli troops and police stationed throughout the region, in addition to a markedly higher number of settler guard vehicles at the various settlement projects. A large number of residents assembled in the el-Bustan protest tent for the weekly public Friday prayer. Israeli authorities have issued repeated threats to demolish and/or remove the tent. During his sermon, Imam Najeh Bakirat emphasized the importance to resist the normalization of relations with Israel and called for a boycott of all Israeli products – not only those produced in settlements. Witnesses also confirm that Israeli Intelligence has been sighted today installing more surveillance cameras throughout Silwan. All Israeli settlements in the village maintain a network of surveillance cameras on the premises to monitor Palestinians in the surrounding streets. Surveillance is so extensive as to invade the privacy of neighboring homes, with some cameras able to film through windows and inside houses. Residents have submitted several complaints, but have received no response. Israeli police have in fact used material recorded on private settler surveillance cameras during interrogation of Palestinian child detainees, in attempts to extract confessions or informations on other “suspects”. Surveillance material has also been used to incriminate residents who have been present at or in the proximity of street clashes in Silwan.

Clashes erupt in Silwan
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Young residents of East Jerusalem fathered near a protest tent in the Al-Bustan neighborhood of Silwan on Friday and said they were harassed and assaulted by a patrolling force of Israeli border guards, sparking clashes.  One young man said he and friends gathered in the area as a show of solidarity following the afternoon prayer, noting the neighborhood was tense on account of several pedestrian checkpoints police had erected at the entrances to Al-Bustan.

Detainees (held by Israelis and the PA)
Petition – Act Now to Free The Children of Palestine!
Please take a moment to read and sign the online petition at: http://www.gopetition.com/petition/41467.html   This petition demands that President Barak Obama direct Israel to release all Palestinian children detained in its prisons and detention centers immediately, and to end all forms of systematic and institutionalized abuse that it practices against the children of Palestine.  Please ask your friends and contacts to do the same.

11 year old arrested by Israeli troops, clashes in Bir Ayyub
Israeli troops arrested a Palestinian child in the Bir Ayyub district of Silwan last night, 16 December, as the youth was returning from a school trip. Eyewitnesses report that 11 year old Khadr Jamjoum received blows to the head as he was seized by Israeli soldiers. Troops fired gas and sound bombs at the bus returning students to their homes after a school excursion, also firing gas grenades indiscriminately in the street and at shops, resulting in minor clashes between residents and Israeli troops and settler guards. Eyewitnesses also state that soldiers fired live ammunition during the clashes.

4 national security officers detained near Hebron
HEBRON (Ma’an) — Israeli forces detained on Thursday four Palestinian security officers at the entrance of Hebron.  Eyewitnesses told Ma’an that the forces in Yatta village took the Palestinian officers to the Civil Administration headquarters even though they showed the soldiers their security IDs.  The four officers were identified as Imad Bahees, Imad Hammad, Khalil Kabaja, and Mahmud Abu Qabita.  An Israeli military spokeswoman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

13 Palestinians arrested in the West Bank amid pursuit of activists
WEST BANK, (PIC)– Israeli troops rounded up thirteen Palestinians for questioning Thursday morning in the West Bank amid a wide-ranging campaign to pursue alleged wanted activists in the region.  Two Palestinians were arrested near the central West Bank city of Ramallah and taken in for interrogation, Israeli Radio reported. Their identities and the organizations were not identified.  Nine others were rounded up during an arrest spree n the city of Al-Khalil, Palestinian security sources said.

War/Occupation Crimes
Universal Jurisdiction at Risk of Sabotage, War Criminals
Alessandra Bajec – PNN – Last 1st December, the British government announced new proposals in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill which include legal changes restricting citizens’ right to seek the arrest of officials for alleged war crime.  The move will allow a political interference with the issuing of arrest warrants, and will thus weaken the existing universal jurisdiction law with the result of ending all threat of prosecution for Israeli officials visiting the UK.  The current legislation fully complies with the Geneva Convention, and Britain has a duty to seek out and prosecute those responsible for war crimes

Shin Bet to compensate PFLP member for torturing him
Jamal al-Hindi to receive an undisclosed amount of money for a partial disability that he says was caused by torture at the hands of Shin Bet agents 15 years ago.

Book exposes Israeli occupation as seen by troops (AFP)
AFP – Some stories are told with shame; others are just matter-of-fact accounts, but the dozens of soldier testimonies in a book to be released this month lays bare the grim day-to-day reality of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

PA Repression
France ‘concerned’ at Palestinian jailed for blasphemy blog (AFP)
AFP – France said Thursday it was “concerned” about the arrest of a young Palestinian blogger jailed for posting “blasphemous” remarks online.

Political Developments
Bolivia recognizes Palestinian state
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Bolivia announced Friday its recognition of a fully sovereign Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Israel.  President Evo Morales made the announcement in Brazil at a conference with regional leaders, Bolivia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said.  “Bolivia recognizes the Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, like Brazil and Argentina,” Morales was quoted as saying.

Israel condemns Norway’s upgrade of Palestinian standing in Oslo to ‘diplomatic delegation’
Foreign Ministry official warns that Palestinians won’t want to renew peace talks with Israel if they start attaining political goals without negotiations.

Palestinians disappointed in US House vote
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — PLO officials expressed disappointment Thursday over a resolution passed a day earlier by the US House condemning unilateral attempts to gain recognition of a Palestinian state.  “The Palestinian right to freedom and self-determination is not contingent on the approval of the state of Israel,” the PLO mission to the United States said in a statement.

PLO official questions US stance on peace process
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A member of the PLO negotiating team with Israel said Thursday that while the Palestinians backed a strong US role in the peace process, the Obama administration could be doing more.  Mohammad Shtayyeh criticized Wednesday’s US House vote opposing the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state and questioned why the Americans did not take a harder line against unilateral Israeli measures.

‘Talks between Abbas and Mitchell were difficult’ 
Palestinian sources said that talks between US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas were “difficult,” according to London-based newspaper al-Hayat.  The sources said that during the talks held in Ramallah and Cairo over the last two days Abbas spoke “harshly” telling Mitchell, “Unfortunately the talks failed, but fortunately were are not the reason behind this failure.”

No Israel talks ‘in any format,’ Palestinians insist (AFP)
AFP – The Palestinians on Thursday said they would not hold any form of talks with Israel, in any format, without a complete halt to settlement activity.

With Mideast peace talks adrift, the US searches for Plan B (The Christian Science Monitor)
The Christian Science Monitor – Soon after the US announced last week it would abandon an 18-month demand for an Israeli settlement freeze to advance peace talks with the Palestinians, state department spokesperson PJ Crowley insisted that the US would not start over with a blank slate.

PA suspects Fatah former Gaza strongman trying to form armed militia
PA security forces question Fatah activists about their ties to Mohammed Dahlan and whether they received instructions or funds from him in connection to the purchase of weapons.

Palestinians want control of more West Bank parts (AP)
AP – Children’s chairs pulled out of a pile of rubble are all that’s left of a schoolhouse that served 17 children of Palestinian herders in this encampment on a wind-swept West Bank plateau.

Hamas leader says time is on our side (AFP)
AFP – The Palestinians have time in their fight for a state, and Hamas is committed to observing a truce with Israel as it builds a nation, senior Hamas leader Mahmud Zahar told AFP.

Other News
PA settlement observer says gov’t confiscated car [Pathetic attempt by the PA to cut cost in the wrong places]
NABLUS (Ma’an) — Palestinian official in charge of the settlement file in the northern West Bank Ghassan Daghlas said Friday that a government decision would see his official vehicle confiscated.  Daghlas, who monitors and reports on settler violence, settlement expansions and related tensions, said the decision followed a cabinet decision pushed through by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in an effort to cut government costs.

What is happening in the UAE? Expulsion of Shi`ites and Palestians continues
I have been receiving many letters about this situation and I am here posting one.  By the way, Nabih Birri did indeed visit UAE and met with the ruler and he then returned “very satisfied” and the issue died in the Lebanese press and I am told that the families of the expelled were pressured to keep quiet by the political forces of the Birri movement.  Here is the letter (I cite with permission but the sender wishes to remain anonymous):  ”I decided to contact you as I am sure you are one of the very few courageous people who are willing to speak. As you already know,the UAE deported hundred of lebanese shiite families last year in a very oppressive and inhumane way. Many people thought that it was all over after Nabih Berri traveled to abudhabi and met with Khalifa bin Zayed. [continued]

Why Israel’s years are numbered
Prominent Hebrew University demographer Sergio DellaPergola recently told the Jerusalem Post that Jews already constitute just under 50% of the population in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip combined. In effect, a Jewish minority rules over a majority population that includes 1.4 million Palestinian (second-class) citizens of Israel, 2.5 million Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank and another 1.5 million under siege in the open-air prison known as the Gaza Strip. All credible projections show that Palestinians will be the decisive majority within a few years.

Trade bloc eyes agreement with Syria, Palestinians (AFP)
AFP – The South American trade bloc Mercosur on Thursday opened talks with Syria and the Palestinian Authority on free trade agreements, an Argentine official, Luis Kreckler, told reporters.

‘Holy Land’ does not include Bethlehem – It’s official!
The Israel Government Tourist Office (IGTO) has begun promoting a series of pilgrimages to the Holy Land, with itineraries that do not include Bethlehem, Hebron or Jericho. Instead, parts of illegally annexed East Jerusalem do feature, including the controversial ‘King David’s City’ controlled by the Elad settlers.  The pilgrimages, which have been advertised in the Church press, are listed on a new website: www.WalkWhereJesusWalked.com,  The website features some pictures of Bethlehem – but the itineraries do not include any time there. (There is advice on how to get there independently.)  Concern about the tours, and the advertising for them, has been expressed by Pax Christi, the Amos Trust,  and Sabeel UK, as well as the Interfaith Group for Morally Responsible Investment (IMRI) which includes the two Jewish organisations Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD).  The IGTO initiative follows the Vatican Synod on the Middle East in which Pope Benedict XVI pleaded for recognition of the ‘Living Stones’ within Israel/Palestine, the dwindling population of Palestinian Christians.  This was echoed by Catholic Archbishop Kelly of Liverpool, the English and Welsh Bishops’ representative at the Synod and also Franciscan Father Pizzaballa, Custodian of Holy Places.

150 activists protest ‘seduction center’ in Tel Aviv for promoting sexual violence
He wrote in detail about how the woman had refused to take off her clothes, but how he eventually had sex with her anyway.  ”I want to thank the Center for the Art of Seduction, which gave me the tools to do what I did yesterday,” Russo wrote in the posting.  Someone identified on the forum only as “Izmir,” and who is also believed to be the founder of the center – Yigal Stark – posted a response of his own, stating: “Fun to read!

Hizbullah and Hamas
I saw the US government ignore the PLO for much of the 1980s.  Now, the US government provides funding for the PLO.  I saw footage this week: first of the Hamas rally in Gaza and today of the `Ashurah commemoration in the southern suburbs of Beirut. I know that it is a Zionist policy for the US to ignore the presence of Hamas and Hizbullah but the footage leaves a clear impression regarding the mass base of both movements. [end]

Jordan is not Palestine – Lamis Andoni
George Mitchell, the US special envoy to the Middle East, has recently expressed his frustration at the lack of progress in the stalled “peace process”.  But it may be time for Mitchell to move aside, as Geert Wilders, the leader of the Netherlands’ third-largest party, seems to have found a ‘creative solution’ to the conflict: Jordan should be renamed Palestine and become a homeland for the Palestinians.

Movement for Palestinian State gains International Momentum, to Dismay of US Congress, Juan Cole
Palestinian authorities on Thursday protested the resolution passed by the US congress on Wednesday condemning movement toward a unilateral declaration by Palestinians of a Palestinian state. The congressional resolution was actually fairly weak, showing the tensions between the US and the far rightwing government of Binyamin Netanyahu, since it did call for the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state, something Netanyahu privately opposes. Still, as usual, the US Congress is an outlier in world affairs on the Palestine issue, typically adopting stances that are often to the right of Israel’s own more liberal parties. Even Israeli military personnel have complained bitterly about having been dragooned into being a harsh occupying force in the West Bank. And, of course, the US Congress is increasingly irrelevant, since it is implicitly abetting Israeli footdragging and continued illegal colonization of the West Bank.

House vote against Palestinian statehood actually showed that Israel lobby is losing its grip, Josh Ruebner
Yesterday the House of Representatives passed a resolution, H.Res.1765, “condemning unilateral measures to declare or recognize a Palestinian state.” At first glance, this vote appears to be yet another in a long string of resolutions shoring up unconditional Congressional support for Israeli occupation and apartheid. In reality, however, it demonstrates more a weakening—rather than a strengthening—of support for Israel on Capitol Hill at present.

Congress is fueling terrorism by denying Palestinans authority and empowerment, Maggie Sager
Palestinians are no closer to achieving statehood, and instead are being called upon by congress to continue to engage “without precondition” (read: while simultaneously letting Israel confiscate Palestinian land in violation of international law). Why on earth should they? Simply because Congress is under the impression that peace can only be achieved through direct negotiations, despite the utter lack of progress toward a lasting solution, and continuous steps in the opposite direction.

Israel Never Really Wanted Peace
Netanyahu and his cabinet are representative of Israeli society today. Public opinion polls point to increasing extremism, bordering on racism, in Jews’ opinion of Arabs, as well as to alienation and a distrust of the other side’s goals and intentions.

The Farce of a Secular and Democratic Jewish State, Gideon Levy
Convinced and trying to convince others that the Jews are a chosen people, to which entry and even contact with those deemed inferior is forbidden, they live in their narrow pale of settlement, most of them boorish and ignorant of what happens outside.

Miami Jewish Federation smear-video says that Jimmy Carter and Walt and Mearsheimer want Israel ‘wiped off the map’,  Philip Weiss
The Jewish Federation of Greater Miami is having a big event on the delegitimation of Israel this weekend. What larks, huh! Debbie Wasserman-Shultz the Democratic congresswoman will be there, but also many rightwingers and Republicans, like Daniel Pipes, Natan Sharansky. Honey, you made your bed, now you have to lie in it.  The poster for the event is below the jump. Meantime, here’s a video that the Jewish Federation is featuring that is all about scary delegitimation. I’m not sure what that means, delegitimation. For myself it’s about basic human rights. Honor those rights and you won’t have any problem.

At Brooklyn College, the dialogue problem. Philip Weiss
Pro-Israel students at Brooklyn College don’t understand why the pro-Palestinian students don’t want dialogue. Zach Wales explained this to me a long time ago, after Columbia U (recovering from the witchhunt that it licensed during the Columbia Unbecoming period) committed itself to dialogue at the behest of alum/Patriots owner Robert Kraft. The problem, said Wales, is that the Palestinian students described horrific conditions on the West Bank outstripping the Jim Crow south, and the Jewish students nodded and said they felt awful about that and then the two groups walked away and nothing changed; and Wales said that the dialogue became an opportunity for atonement on the pro-Israel Jewish students’ part, and the pro-Palestinian student felt used. Because actually the dialogue was structurally imbalanced; it was not individual but political at heart, and one side had the power; and the other side was being asked to give up its power, which lies in protesting inhumane conditions… From the New York Jewish Week, reported by Doug Chandler; note that the Palestinian students are against individual dialogue.

At 6 am, reeling from all-night debaucheries of neoconservatism and Islamophobia and cursed dice, the ‘Washington Post’ doubles down, Philip Weis
This is funny. Now the Post has hired Jordan Sekulow as a blogger, a rightwing fundamentalist who was at the rally against the Islamic Center in Lower Manhattan. Matt Duss reports.

Insisting on Their Humanity: ‘The Plight of the Palestinians’, Ramzy Baroud
When a copy of William A. Cook’s latest book, The Plight of the Palestinians arrived in my mailbox, I initially felt a little worried. The volume, featuring the work of over 30 accomplished writers, is the most articulate treatise on the collective victimization of Palestinians to date. From Cook’s own introduction, ‘The Untold Story of the Zionist Intent to Turn Palestine into a Jewish State’ to Francis Boyle’s summation of ‘Israel’s Crimes against the Palestinians’, it takes the reader through an exhaustive journey, charting the course of Palestinian history prior to and since al-Nakba, the Catastrophe of 1947-48.

Israel, Obama and the Bomb, CONN HALLINAN
This past July, a nuclear-armed nation, in violation of an international treaty, clandestinely agreed to supply uranium to a known proliferator of nuclear weapons.  China and North Korea? No, the United States and Israel.  In a July 8 article entitled “Report: Secret Document Affirms U.S. Israeli Nuclear Partnership,” the Israeli daily Haaretz revealed that the Obama Administration will begin transferring nuclear fuel to Israel in order to build up Tel Aviv’s nuclear stockpile.

Obama’s War on WikiLeaks — and Us
One should be fierce in denouncing this violation of our principles and laws whatever/whomever the object of the abuses.

Who Is the FBI Really Trying to Entrap?, Glen Ford
The FBI has not been engaged in “uncovering and preventing terrorist attacks,” as Eric Holder claims, but rather, it has spent tens of millions of dollars and many thousands of man-hours concocting, financing, and providing training and equipment for crimes purely of its own invention.

Lebanon: Israeli tags on ‘spy gear’
Photos released by Lebanese army show Israeli tag, Hebrew writing on alleged Israeli espionage installation discovered in mountains near Beirut. Local media report Lebanese Foreign Ministry planning to file complaint with UN against Israel.

Report: Lebanon suspects citizens aided Israel in planting espionage cameras
Lebanon president prepares complaint to submit to UN over the cameras; Lebanon radio attributes explosion Wednesday to IAF covering up espionage.

UN Hariri court to ‘disappear with wind’: Nasrallah (AFP)
AFP – Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Thursday predicted a UN court on the murder of Rafiq Hariri would “disappear with the wind” as vast crowds gathered to mark the Shiite holy day of Ashura in Lebanon.

IDF holds drill in preparation for Lebanon confrontation
IDF finishes intensive training event in preparation for possible war with Lebanon. ‘I don’t belittle situation in Gaza Strip, but Lebanon is a different story,’ 401st Brigade Commander Enav Shalev says.

Lebanese Army versus dumb Mossad
Lebanese Army (clearly at the behest of Hizbullah was was implied in Nasrallah speech yesterday) moved to locate and disable various espionage devices planted by Israeli agents in Lebanese mountainous areas.  The device is camouflaged to look like a rock.  How dumb are those Mossad?  I mean, really.  They can take lessons from Ba`thist mukhabarat agents (of the 1960s, I mean).  What do you call an intelligence service that is now regularly beaten by Lebanese police–Lebanese police for potato’s sake. (As-Safir) [end]

8 wounded, 2 female would-be suicide bombers captured in Iraq
BAGHDAD, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) — Eight people were wounded in separate bomb attacks targeting Shiite pilgrims in and north of Baghdad on Thursday, while the security forces in Iraq’s eastern province of Diyala announced the capture of two women believed to have been prepared for suicide bomb attacks against Shiite pilgrims, the police said.

Thursday: 14 Iraqis Killed, 17 Wounded
About two million Shi’ite pilgrims are in Karbala for the climax of Ashuraa rituals. Heavy security, including the arrests of three female bombers, has so far prevented any large-scale violence today, but attackers targeting pilgrims in other parts of the country were more successful. At least 14 Iraqis were killed and 17 more were wounded.

‘Exodus’ of Iraqi Christians after church attack (AFP)
AFP – The UN refugee agency said Friday an “exodus” of thousands of Iraqi Christians was taking place following a deadly church attack in Baghdad carried out by Al-Qaeda militants at the end of October.

Hashemi: Iraq can normalize relations with Kuwait
Iraqi Vice President Tarek Al Hashemi believes that the International Security Council decision to remove Iraq restrictions helps the country normalize relations with neighboring countries especially Kuwait.

Bleak outlook for plans to help Sons of Iraq (AP)
AP – A broad plan to absorb Sunni Muslim militiamen who battled al-Qaida in Iraq into national security forces or government jobs is at risk of being derailed by lukewarm political support and limited funding, officials say.

Blackwater seeks dismissal of Iraq shooting suit (AP)
AP – The security firm formerly known as Blackwater told a federal judge Thursday that the U.S. government — and not the company — should be held accountable for a 2007 shooting by its contractors that killed 17 Iraqis.

Blackwater killings: ‘US at fault’
Private security company, now known as Xe Services, says responsibilty for 2007 Iraq killings lies with US government.

Ghosts of Abu Ghraib Haunt Local Sunnis
The name has now been changed along with the management, but the spectre of Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison continues to haunt locals, many of whom still call it the “House of Satan”.  Abu Ghraib, now called Baghdad central prison, became infamous in 2004 when pictures and reports emerged of horrific prisoner abuse carried out there by United States military police and other American agencies charged with running the facility.

Wikileaks/U.S. and other world news
Assange speaks of his relief at being freed : Audio

US military plan to destroy Wikileaks leaked
Counterintelligence agency hatched strategy to discredit leak site

Wikileaks did not commit a crime, House Judiciary chairman says
The chairman of the House judiciary committee defended Wikileaks on Thursday, arguing that the controversial actions of the anti-secrecy outlet are protected under free speech.  Speaking at a hearing to explore whether Wikileaks violated the Espionage Act — which the Obama administration claims its editor-in-chief violated — Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) said that “America was founded on the belief that speech is sacrosanct” and dismissed calls for censorship of media outlets publishing leaked documents.

No ‘substantive’ damage from Wikileaks, Biden admits
WASHINGTON — US Vice President Joe Biden says there has been no “substantive” damage to US foreign policy from the WikiLeaks drama, despite embarrassment caused by thousands of leaked diplomatic cables.  Biden commented on the fallout from the WikiLeaks campaign in an MSNBC interview broadcast on Thursday and recorded a day earlier at the United Nations, where he chaired a Security Council meeting on Iraq.  “I don’t think there is any substantive damage, no,” Biden said, when asked about the WikiLeaks revelations.

Supporters liken Bradley Manning’s detention to torture
The soldier accused of leaking secret US documents to secrets outlet WikiLeaks is being held in conditions that could amount to torture, his supporters say.  US Army Private Bradley Manning has been detained in solitary confinement since May, when charges were brought against him for “transferring classified data onto his personal computer and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system,” and “communicating, transmitting and delivering national defense information to an unauthorized source.”

WikiLeaks Cables: Pfizer Targeted Nigerian Attorney General to Undermine Suit Over Fatal Drug Tests
Diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks show the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer hired investigators to find evidence of corruption against the Nigerian attorney general to pressure him to drop a $6 billion lawsuit over fraudulent drug tests on Nigerian children. Researchers did not obtain signed consent forms, and medical personnel said Pfizer did not tell parents their children were getting the experimental drug. Eleven children died and others suffered disabling injuries including deafness, muteness, paralysis, brain damage, loss of sight, slurred speech. We speak to Washington Post reporter Joe Stephens, who helped break the story in 2000; and Musikilu Mojeed, a Nigerian journalist who has worked on this story for the Next newspaper in Lagos.

Cable: Egypt scared of Iran threat
Leaked US diplomatic file says that Egyptian officials were worried about Iran sending money, smuggling weapons to Gaza.

How Arab governments tried to silence WikiLeaks
An appetite for state secrets led to bans on western newspapers and hacked news websites across the Middle East.  WikiLeaks may be breaking new ground to promote freedom of information by releasing leaked US diplomatic cables, but Arab governments have been resorting to old tricks to ensure that nothing too damaging reaches their subjects.  Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Morocco have all tried to stem the flow of Wiki-revelations, whether the subject is corruption, authoritarianism or simply the embarrassment of having private exchanges with American interlocutors enter the public domain.

La Revolución will outlive Fidel Castro, says US cable from WikiLeaks
Fidel Castro almost died in 2006, according to US cables leaked by WikiLeaks, but his passing would likely have little impact over the direction of Cuba.

Wikileaks: Documents Confirm US Plans Against Venezuela
Not only has Washington been actively funding anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela, but it also has engaged in serious efforts during the past few years to convince governments worldwide to assume an adversarial position against President Hugo Chavez.

Peru: Leaked US Cables Reveal Two-Faced Politics by US
“It’s not surprising for the United States to cooperate with military or government officials in Peru about which it has information linking them to serious crimes,”

US Cables Portray a Different Side of Brazil’s Lula da Silva
The leaked U.S. cables, which chronicle Lula’s eight years in power, show a leader all too willing to placate Washington and double-cross fellow leftists throughout the region.

NATO mistakenly killed 4 Afghan soldiers
Afghan official says NATO mistakenly killed 4 Afghan soldiers in airstrike in country’s south.

Nato Bombs Kill Afghan civilian, children hurt in strike
NATO aircraft killed an Afghan civilian and wounded two children, the coalition said on Wednesday, the latest incident involving civilian casualties which have strained ties between Kabul and Washington.

Speaking from clouded cuckoo land, Obama says: US: Afghan war ‘on track’
Obama on Thursday said progress was sufficient to permit a “responsible reduction” of US forces to begin in July, though the scope and size of the likely drawdown appear limited.

CIA report undermines Obama’s upbeat assessment of Afghan war
The downbeat estimates by America’s intelligence agencies, including the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency, directly contradicts the claim last week by the US Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the army offensive against the Taliban in south Afghanistan is making significant gains.

Poll: 60 percent of Americans say the war in Afghanistan has not been worth fighting
Public dissatisfaction with the war, now the nation’s longest, has spiked by 7 points just since July. Given its costs vs. its benefits, only 34 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say the war’s been worth fighting, down by 9 points to a new low, by a sizable margin.

Officials: CIA gave waterboarders $5M legal shield
The CIA agreed to cover at least $5 million in legal fees for two contractors who were the architects of the agency’s interrogation program and personally conducted dozens of waterboarding sessions on terror detainees, former U.S. officials said.  The secret agreement means taxpayers are paying to defend the men in a federal investigation over an interrogation tactic the U.S. now says is torture. The deal is even more generous than the protections the agency typically provides its own officers, giving the two men access to more money to finance their defense.

U.S. Illegal Experiments Went Far Beyond Guatemala
The illegal experiments conducted on human beings by a U.S. medical team in the 1940s went far beyond Guatemala, according to local news reports.

Republican senator calls cops on 9/11 responders
A group of nine 9/11 first responders who arrived in Washington, DC, to pressure Congress into passing a health care bill were met with an unwelcome surprise: A police escort, courtesy of Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.  Collins called Capitol Police when she heard the activists were planning to arrive on the Hill and stay in senators’ offices until they had the 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP filibuster of the health care bill for 9/11 responders, the New York Daily News reports.

War opponents arrested at White House
Dozens of activists, including the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War, were arrested Thursday at the White House as they protested the Afghanistan conflict and defended WikiLeaks. As President Barack Obama unveiled a war review strategy inside, more than 100 war opponents — many of them veterans — marched through snow […]

Pulitzer-winner, ex-CIA analyst, FBI whistleblower among those arrested outside White House
As President Barack Obama was unveiling a new report on progress of the war in Afghanistan, a lineup of high-profile dissenters joined in an act of civil disobedience that ended with about 135 demonstrators being arrested outside the White House Thursday afternoon.

shame on every civil rights organization that has not spoken out against such a plan

Can you imagine the uproar if a hearing was planned on the “radicalization” of the Jewish community or the African-American community?  Seeds of ideologies of hate are now planted in both parties in the US.  ”The Republican who will head the House committee that oversees domestic security is planning to open a Congressional inquiry into what he calls “the radicalization” of the Muslim community when his party takes over the House next year.”

US is officially worried about the Muslim population in UK: can you imagine if they were studying the Jewish community?
Can you imagine the loud accusation of anti-Semitism if the US embassy in London was preparing a study of the fertility rate and size of the Jewish population in the UK?  ”Summary. Per reftel, this cable provides information on the demographics of the Muslim community in the UK. The last official UK census was in 2001 and much of what is provided below is a combination of census figures and subsequent estimates and surveys. Post notes that the information is incomplete and in many cases several years old. This is, however, the most current and accurate information available. Among the findings are that the UK Muslim population has jumped in seven years from 1.6 million to 2 million. At that rate of increase, HMG estimates that the Muslim population of the UK at the next census in 2011 will be over 2.2 million.“  [end]

Police brutality in London
Reem sent me this:  ”You have to see this!  This is an interview with the British protester, Jody McIntyre, who was pulled out of his wheelchair and dragged by the police on day X3. Look how the BBC tries blatantly to pushe the ‘violent protester’ line by, for example suggesting if he was rolling towards the police -perhaps in a hostile manner- to try and find an explaination of why it was HIS fault that he was dragged out of his chair! A true example of blaming the victim of the violence, as he so eloquently put it.  Jody is really good politically too. Pro-palestine!” [end]

While Human Rights Watch is busy calling on Arabs to serve hot meals to Israeli invaders in their midst
“He’s a writer, he’s a journalist, he’s a blogger. Ali does not belong to any political party. He just writes his opinion.”  Jenan Al Oraibi’s dark eyes flash beneath her black hijab. She is speaking of her husband Ali Abdulemam, known as the Bahraini Blogger.  We are talking in the home of her friends in a village close to Manama, the capital city of this Gulf island kingdom, which projects itself as an Arab state that is open to investment, progressive about change and moving confidently toward democracy.  ”Ali has a free pen. That is exactly his crime. He has a free pen,” she says bluntly.  Ali Abdulemam is 32 years old. He worked as an IT specialist for the Bahraini airline Gulf Air. In his spare time he blogged.  But he was sacked from the airline after he was arrested in September and accused of being part of a terror organisation.  He was charged with spreading false information and linked to a group of Bahraini oppositionists who had been arrested in August.” [end]

Citizen `Ala’ Mubarak
“The intra-family politics of a Gamal succession bid are unclear. Elder son Alaa’, well-known to have extensive business interests (many of which are privately criticized as corrupt and exploitative) keeps a low public profile and has never shown any inclination to wade into the political arena. (A rare sighting of Alaa’ on national TV took place during the final game of the Africa Cup championship in late February, when he was photographed in the stadium’s VIP section with Gamal, cheering on Egypt to its 2-1 victory over Ivory Coast.)” [end]


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