Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements
In rare move, Israeli orders demolition of entire West Bank Bedouin village
Haaretz 20 Feb by Yotam Berger — Israel has avoided large-scale evacuation of Palestinians in Area C, partly because of the involvement of European and American diplomats — In a rare occurrence, the IDF’s Civil Administration in the West Bank on Sunday distributed some 40 demolition orders in a Bedouin village in Area C, which is under full Israeli civil and military control. A few hundred people live in temporary structures without any infrastructure in the Bedouin encampment of Khan al-Ahmar, just east of the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim. Among the buildings at the site is the “Tire School,” built of worn-out tires, which is used by students from a number of illegal villages in the area. The structures in the village were built without permits, but the Civil Administration has avoided demolishing them or evacuating the entire village, despite political pressure to do so. Residents say the issuing of dozens of demolition orders is unprecedented in the area. “All the houses received [demolition] orders,” A’id Khamis Jahalin, a local resident, told Haaretz. “I’m scared. This time is different. Then they gave one [demolition order] or two, but such a blow, it’s something. They gave 42 orders. They gave for everything, there are no structures here in all the area that didn’t receive an order. I spoke with our lawyer, they gave us up to five days [to object], that’s a short time,” said Jahalin .Israeli authorities confirmed that such a widespread issuance of demolition orders was unprecedented in the area, and this is a declaration of intention in advance of an attempt to evacuate the entire village … The Bedouins living in Area C near Ma’aleh Adumim endure harsh conditions and poverty, and the EU has often provided structures in their villages. These buildings have been put up illegally, but the EU makes sure to put a large sticker with the EU flag on all of them. The Civil Administration sometimes removes these structures. The Tire School was built in 2009 by an Italian NGO, and has since become a symbol for the Bedouins in the region….
Israel builds industrial zones to deepen control of West Bank
Haaretz 20 Feb by Yotam Berger — Under the international radar, commercial centers, some of which remain vacant, broaden Israeli presence in the West Bank, including in areas unauthorized for housing construction and outside the settlement blocs — The Shiloh industrial zone, adjacent to the settlement of that name in the middle of the West Bank, is spread over 500 dunams (125 acres). But a visit to the site shows that it isn’t exactly a humming industrial enclave with masses of workers coming and going from its factories and businesses. The few small factories at the zone take up only 28 dunams (seven acres, or 5.6 percent of the area) and a total of 36 workers. Most of the land is empty. Several dozen prefab homes were placed there recently for the evacuees of the illegal Amona outpost, but they refused to move there and the structures stand vacant. This industrial zone is one of 14 that Israel has set up beyond the Green Line. While some are successful and flourishing, with high occupancy rates, others are mostly empty, producing nothing, certainly not jobs. But these industrial zones, of which more are planned, and their area, which could reach several thousand dunams, will enable Israel to boost its presence in the territories, including in areas where no home construction has been approved. When it was proposed to house the Amona evacuees on such lands, Civil Administration sources said that only a short procedure was necessary to permit the building of homes on open land originally zoned for industry….
Opinion: Jerusalem’s ‘landlords’ are digging away again / Nir Hasson
Haaretz 21 Feb — An Israel Antiquities Authority project involves an effort to increase the Jewish presence in a Palestinian neighborhood lying just below the Al-Aqsa mosque and to assert religious influence over archaeological finds. — In May 2010, Haaretz published an extensive investigative report that I wrote about the excavation of Muslim graves at the construction site of the Museum of Tolerance, west of the Old City of Jerusalem, sponsored by the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center. In an expedited operation carried out at night and during rainstorms, tens of thousands of bones and skulls of Muslims buried there over the course of about 1,000 years were extracted. The Israel Antiquities Authority issued a statement, by way of explanation, saying that “the work evacuating the skeletons was performed professionally, with extreme care and while maintaining respect for the dead.” The professional prestige of the IAA had been a key factor in the decision handed down by the Supreme Court authorizing the removal of the bones and the construction of the museum at the site. It later turned out that the criticism the excavation sparked among Islamic groups, Arab lawmakers and others had been on the mark, and perhaps even mild under the circumstances …
This time the subject of controversy is the excavation of a Roman-era Herodian street that runs from the Siloam pool in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan toward the Temple Mount. The work is being carried out in a tunnel reinforced by giant iron and concrete supports under the Palestinian neighborhood. The well-connected project developers are from the non-profit organization Elad. Those criticizing the dig are two senior IAI staffers, Gideon Avni, who heads the organization’s archaeological division, and Jon Seligman, head of excavations and surveys at the authority. In internal correspondence revealed by Haaretz, they wrote that the work being done in the tunnels, contrary to accepted practice, was “bad archaeology,” and added that “the authority could not be proud of this excavation.” … But this time the project doesn’t involve construction of some American museum in the heart of Jerusalem, but rather an effort to increase the Jewish presence in a Palestinian neighborhood lying just below the Al-Aqsa mosque, and to assert religious influence over archaeological finds….
Israeli forces destroy UNICEF-funded water pipeline in Jordan Valley
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 20 Feb — Israeli forces demolished a water pipeline in the Jordan Valley region of the occupied West Bank on Monday, after the same pipeline was destroyed earlier this month, according to local sources. Muataz Bisharat, a local official who monitors Israeli activities in the Jordan Valley, told Ma‘an that Israeli bulldozers destroyed the eight-and-a-half kilometers pipeline running between the Bedouin communities of al-Hadidiya and al-Ras al-Ahmar in the northern Jordan Valley, east of the Tubas district. He said that 47 Palestinian families depended on the pipeline as their water source. According to Bisharat, the pipeline was funded by international humanitarian organization UNICEF, at a construction cost of 12,500 euros (approximately $13,270). He said that it was the second time this month that Israeli forces had destroyed the pipeline. A spokesperson for Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which is responsible for implementing the Israeli government’s policy in the occupied Palestinian territory, told Ma‘an on Monday evening that “an illegal water pipe was disconnected” in the area. The spokesperson went on to claim that the “illegal (water pipeline) connections cause water theft and pollution in the area that harm all residents” in the occupied West Bank….
Palestinian homes to be demolished for settlement road
[with map] Al Jazeera 21 Feb by Aseel Jundi — Hundreds of Palestinians in the Jabal al-Mukaber area of occupied East Jerusalem say they are living in a state of anxiety and fear as Israeli occupation authorities begin excavations for the “American road” project, set to be built on the ruins of their homes. The road that constitutes only one section of a larger highway, titled al-Touq, will cut through East and West Jerusalem, with the unstated aim of connecting illegal Israeli settlements north, south, and east of the city. It is set to bridge between the West Bank settlements of Har Homa and Maale Adumim, passing through Jerusalem. The Israeli municipality’s planning and construction committee introduced al-Touq road scheme in Jerusalem a decade ago. The completed highway will run a length of more than 11km, with a width of about 70 metres. To build the road, the Jerusalem municipality will confiscate approximately 1,200 dunams (300 acres) of Palestinian land in at least 12 Palestinian neighbourhoods within Jabal al-Mukaber. Construction for the “American road” section of the project has already commenced in the Sala‘a neighbourhood of Jabal al-Mukaber, stirring fears among residents. “We are living in a state of perpetual fear,” said Mohammad al-Sawahra, a resident of Salaa. “It’s as if we are living in [two different worlds]. In Palestinian areas, it is like living in the third world, while those living in settlements built on the land of Jabal al-Mukaber are offered a life of comfort like first world countries,” al-Sawahra told Al Jazeera. A month ago, Al-Sawahra received a demolition order for his home to make way for the new road. “Now, they want to build a road on the ruins of my home for themselves, as well,” he added. About 57 homes, housing 500 Palestinians, will be demolished for the completion of the “American road”, according to Raed Basheer, a lawyer with the Committee of Defence for Jabal al-Mukaber properties. Suhad Bishara, a lawyer with the Haifa-based Adalah legal centre, said that the map for the planned project indicates that the road will serve only Israelis and Israeli settlements. The plan will wipe out all the roads that connect the Palestinian neighbourhoods of Jerusalem together, turning the areas into islands that will be geographically and economically disconnected, making it difficult for Palestinians to access their schools and health centres, she told Al Jazeera….
B’Tselem: 2016 a record year in Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes
Ynet 16 Feb by Elior Levy — Three weeks ago, a Civil Administration force arrived with heavy equipment at Khirbet ‘Ein al-Karzaliyah, an area located three kilometers east of the Palestinian village of al-Jiftlik in the Jordan Valley. The force crossed a tough mountainous area which only off-road vehicles are able to cross. The area accommodates three Palestinian families from the Bany Maniya clan. Seventeen people live there in the most basic conditions imaginable: A few tents, a sheep pen, a tiny beehive and water that comes from a nearby natural spring. There is no electricity. The force arrived to demolish a few tin shacks and confiscate two or three tents in which the families live. There were no Israeli, Palestinian or international media crews waiting there. Zuhir Bany Maniya, the head of the families, was forced to cope with the situation on his own. The mission was completed within short order and the forces left the area. “They arrived in the morning hours and told me that this is an IDF training area and that we can’t live here, but we have been here for 35 years now. We are simple shepherds. There are no settlers here, there are no agricultural crops here, there is nothing here,” Bany Maniya says, pointing to the rocky ground and the bald hills. “I don’t understand what they want from us and who is it that we are disturbing.” … The extent of demolitions in 2016 exceeded the extent of demolitions in the two preceding years together, and a review of the demolition map reveals that the Israeli government focuses its efforts primarily in three areas: South Mount Hebron, the Ma’ale Adumim area and the Jordan Valley.
Interactive: Broken homes – a record year of home demolitions in occupied East Jerusalem
Al Jazeera 20 Feb by Megan O’Toole and Nigel Wilson — A record year of home demolitions in occupied East Jerusalem –– This is East Jerusalem, home to more than 300,000 Palestinians. It has been occupied by Israel since 1967. Why is Israel demolishing Palestinian homes here? For decades, Israel has been accused of using home demolitions as a tool to control the Palestinian population in the occupied territories. Israel approves less than two percent of all requests for building permits submitted by Palestinians, and then razes the homes and shops that lack one. In recent months, Israel has also ramped up its policy of punitive demolitions – destroying the family homes of suspected Palestinian attackers – despite the practice being labelled a war crime.
What happened in 2016? [Chart] For a full year, Al Jazeera worked with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to monitor and document every demolition that occurred in occupied East Jerusalem, a neighbourhood that has been at the heart of a recent wave of unrest. After violence between Israelis and Palestinians picked up in late 2015, in what some described as a “third Intifada”, Al Jazeera began monitoring how the policy of home demolitions was being enforced in the ensuing months. 2016 turned out to be a record year, with the highest number of demolitions and displacements since UNOCHA began recording these trends in 2009….
63 wells destroyed, 5310 trees, 150 doors: a chronicle of the occupation in Hebron district
Mondoweiss 21 Feb by Abdulhadi Hantash — Susie Kneedler introduces a chronicle of 2016 abuses: Abdulhadi Hantash keeps records on the ever-increasing violence of Israel’s illegal occupation in the Hebron area of the West Bank, including these figures from 2016. Hantash is a field consultant to the Palestinian Prime Minister for Wall and Settlement Affairs, and he chairs the non-profit organization, Land Defense Committee for the Hebron District in the West Bank, where he has worked as a land surveyor/cartographer for more than 30 years. He served on a special task force for the Geneva Conventions on human rights abuses for many years and testified in Israeli courts more than three hundred times. Hantash is particularly attuned to Israel’s effort to give a veneer of legality through hundreds of military laws to its theft of Palestinian land, says my friend Mary Yoder, who met Hantash while volunteering with Christian Peacemaker teams in 2002. He is “a courageous person with relentless energy,” she says. “He knows every dunum in Hebron and has often been targeted by the Israeli military. Palestinians and Israelis highly regard his expertise.” Here is his latest report. 2016 Hebron District, West Bank Special Report: Crimes committed against Palestinians by the Israeli military occupation forces and Israeli settlers. The area covers 375,000 acres (1.5 million dunams). The Palestinian population includes more than 706,000 people. 2016 is the year of the enormous settlement expansion and house raids – doubled from 2015. Senior Israeli military officers continue to execute and kidnap Palestinians citizens.* Meanwhile, US lawmakers are busy passing laws prohibiting boycotts of Israeli products. The atrocities committed by the ‘finest’ military in the world are listed below. Palestinians killed: 37 Martyrs Land confiscation and dredging operations: 229 acres (military and settlers) Uprooting or burning of trees: 5310 trees, close to Yatta, Halhul, Dahria, Bet Ula, Alarub (continued)
Israel approves bill obligating businesses to publicly state refusal to serve illegal settlements
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 21 Feb — Israeli parliament, the Knesset, approved legislation on Tuesday that would obligate businesses in Israel to make public on their premises if they refuse to provide services to residents of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, a move which critics say is the latest of a series of Israeli laws centered on the “practical annexation” of the Palestinian territory. The legislation, initiated by MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli from the ultraright Jewish Home party, added an amendment to the Prohibition of Discrimination in Products, Services and Entry into Places of Entertainment and Public Places Bill, which protects customers from being discriminated against by Israeli businesses based on their location of residence, according to a statement released by the Knesset. The statement added that the legislation also aims to modify the 1981 Consumer Protection Law, which prohibits businesses from “misleading the consumer regarding the location to which the services or assets would be provided.” If a business fails to publicly post that they do not offer services to Israeli settlements, the owners could face a fine of 10,000 shekels ($2,660). According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, an article in the amendment “specifies that its purpose is to help settlers address the refusal by many business owners to cross the border out of security concerns or ideology.”
Do not let go of the Green Line: It is Israel’s Achilles heel
Ma‘an 18 Feb by Nadia Hijab, Executive Director of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network — The death of the two-state solution has been foretold for nearly 20 years, after it became clear that Israel had signed on to the Oslo peace process in 1993 with no intention of allowing a sovereign Palestinian state. And yet the light has refused to die. It has been in every country’s interest, including Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)/Palestine, to maintain flickers of life in the two-state possibility, despite Israel’s relentless colonization of the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) that has so far planted some 200 settlements and 600,000 settlers there — acts that constitute war crimes under international law … The settler movement no longer wants to exist in the murkiness of the two-state scenario: It seeks the clarity of formal annexation of the rest of the OPT (Israel has already illegally annexed Jerusalem) or at least of Area C, which accounts for some 60% of the West Bank … The bill Bennett’s Jewish Home Party pushed through the Knesset on Feb. 6, 2017 to “regularize” illegal outposts like Amona, which are built on privately-owned Palestinian land, was intended to make a clear statement as to who owns the land of Palestine and who holds real power in Israel. The horrified response of the international community to the “Regularization” bill was almost comic … What this episode has demonstrated, more than anything, is that despite all its maneuvering, Israel has not yet been able to erase the Green Line altogether and legalize the permanent acquisition of the OPT. To date, the international community does not recognize its formal annexation of East Jerusalem or its unilateral claim to West Jerusalem. The world maintains that Jerusalem has a separate status (corpus separatum) under the 1947 Partition Plan and its status can only be agreed through negotiations … In short, Israel cannot repeat the original victory of the Zionist movement in creating a state in Palestine, including the expansion of the boundaries of that state well beyond those set out in the 1947 Partition Plan, on which its existence was based. It is in the wrong century for this colonial project. The Green Line — the armistice line at the end of the fighting between the Arab and Israeli armies in 1949 — underpins the international community’s refusal to legalize Israel’s occupation because it demarcates what the world considers as the Israeli state from the territory it occupied in 1967 and its illegal acts therein. More importantly, the status of the OPT is not only something that concerns the Palestinian people: It concerns every other state that is vulnerable to loss of territory … Letting go of the Green Line at this time would be a serious, perhaps terminal, mistake. The unlawful character of Israel’s activities in the OPT maintains Palestinians’ ability to pursue Israel and Israeli officials in international and national courts … Yet arguing that Palestinians should not let go of the Green Line is not a statement of support for the political outcome of a two-state solution. Rather, it is an argument for using all possible and effective sources of power available without giving up inalienable Palestinian rights.
US trailer for acclaimed documentary ‘The Settlers” explores life in the West Bank
thefilmstage 18 Feb by Jonathan Dixon — With a filmmaking career extending to 35 years, the Romanian-born, Israeli-raised director Shimon Dotan (Repeat Dive, The Finest Hour, You Can Thank Me Later) will bow his latest film in U.S. theaters next month. The Settlers present audiences with the harsh reality that Jewish people who live along the West Bank face today. After earning acclaim following its Sundance Film Festival debut and appearance at New York Film Festival, the U.S. trailer has now arrived. “Partisans on both sides of the conflict will find plenty to argue with, as would be the case with almost any movie on this topic,” Variety‘s Ben Kenigsberg writes. “The real achievement here is in going beyond the buzzwords of newscasts and talking points to convey a sense of what’s happening on the ground — and to give it a sense of urgency.” Check out the trailer below and return for our review ahead of the theatrical release.
Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
Israeli forces violently raid Palestinian home before razing it to the ground
[with photos] JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 22 Feb — Seven Palestinians, including five children, were left homeless Wednesday morning when Israeli bulldozers demolished their house in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of northern occupied East Jerusalem early Wednesday, after Israeli forces assaulted the owner at gunpoint, according to the family. Witnesses told Ma‘an that municipality crews and bulldozers escorted by Israeli special forces and police raided Beit Hanina at around 5 a.m. and surrounded Luay Abu Rmouz’s house. Abu Rmouz told Ma‘an that Israeli forces raided the house, assaulted him while holding him at gunpoint, and prevented him and members of his family from evacuating their furniture and possessions. He said that seven family members were left without shelter as a result of the demolition, and five of them were under 18 years old. Abu Rmouz added that the municipality held a court session two weeks ago, when it was ruled the house would be demolished. He said he was planning to present an appeal on Wednesday, but was taken by surprise when bulldozers and police surrounded his home early that morning without prior warning. The homeowner said that he built his house seven years ago and had attempted to obtained licenses for the structure to no avail, and had paid a total of 80,000 shekels (approximately $21,572) in fines to the municipality over the years while trying to legalize his house. He added that that the municipality had demanded that he demolish his house by himself, or he would be forced to pay the municipality exorbitant fees when their staff carried it out, as they ultimately did. “It is difficult for me to demolish my own house with my own hands, when I built it myself,” he told Ma’an. “I was shocked by the way they (Israeli authorities) raided my home and dealt with the family before carrying out the demolition.”…
Israeli settlers threaten Bedouins in Jordan Valley, attack their sheep
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 19 Feb — Israeli settlers raided a Bedouin community in the Khallat Hamad area of the northern Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank and threatened local Palestinians, a day after a herd of sheep belonging to one of the community’s residents was attacked. Local activist Muataz Bisharat, who monitors settlement-related activities in the Jordan Valley, told Ma‘an on Sunday that a group of 12 settlers came to the community’s tents and demanded that residents leave the area. Locals also told the Palestinian state-run Wafa news agency that settlers had threatened to “harm them” on Saturday evening if they attempted to take their sheep to pasture in the area. In addition, the settlers also killed one sheep and injured two others after they attacked a herd belonging to Mahmoud Awwad on Friday, Wafa reported. Last week, Israeli settlers and soldiers attacked Palestinian shepherds whose herds were grazing near an illegal Israeli settler outpost in the northern Jordan Valley. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there were a total of 221 reported settler attacks against Palestinians and their properties in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem in 2015, and 107 in 2016.
Including three siblings, Israeli soldiers abduct five Palestinians in Jerusalem
IMEMC 21 Feb — Israeli soldiers invaded, on Tuesday at dawn, the town of al-‘Eesawiyya, in occupied Jerusalem, violently searched and ransacked homes, and abducted five Palestinians, including three siblings. The soldiers conducted several invasions into the town, overnight and during dawn hours, Tuesday, and clashed with dozens of youngsters, who hurled stones and empty bottles on them, while the soldiers fired rubber-coated steel bullets and gas bombs.
The soldiers also removed a tent that was installed by the locals who were preparing to celebrate the release of detainee Mohammad Zeidan, who is scheduled to be freed today, after spending fifteen years in Israeli prisons. The soldiers wanted to stop the celebrations, and removed Palestinian flags, posters and pictures of the detainee, and all signs welcoming him back home, in addition to invading his father’s home, and threatening to abduct him should he and the locals celebrate his son’s release. During the invasion, the soldiers abducted Mohammad Kayed Mahmoud, Shahin Oleyyan, and three siblings, identified as Samer, Mohannad and Sami Anwar Obeid; they were moved to the al-Maskobiyya detention and interrogation center, in west Jerusalem.
Israeli police detain Palestinian immediately following release from 15-year prison sentence
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an)21 Feb — Israeli police detained a Palestinian on Tuesday immediately after he was released from Israel’s Gilbou prison, following the completion of a 15-year prison sentence for political activities with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP)’s military wing. Members of Muhammad Zeidan Mahmoud’s family told Ma‘an they were shocked when they went to welcome their son home from Israeli prison to learn that he had been redetained by Israeli forces before they were able to see or hug him. Mahmoud, a resident of the ‘Issawiya neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem, was transferred to the Russian police compound in West Jerusalem. A member of a follow-up committee in ‘Issawiya, Muhammad Abu al-Hummus, told Ma‘an that Israel was “stealing joy from Mahmoud’s family and friends by detaining him again following his release.”
Israeli forces also raided ‘Issawiya in the early morning on Tuesday and tore down and confiscated a tent dedicated to Mahmoud in preparation for his release, locals said. Clashes erupted in the neighborhood following the dismantlement of the tent, with locals reporting that Israeli forces fired tear gas bombs into the neighborhood, causing many, mostly women, to suffer from tear gas inhalation … An Israeli police spokesperson was not immediately available for comment. It was unknown as of Tuesday what reasons were behind Mahmoud’s detention.
Israeli forces assault, detain Palestinian man hours after being released from PA prison
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 21 Feb — Israeli forces assaulted and detained a Palestinian man early Tuesday evening while at the Container checkpoint east of Bethlehem in the southern occupied West Bank. Rafat al-Titi said that Israeli soldiers deployed at the checkpoint assaulted his brother Shihab al-Din Ahmad al-Titi, 24, by beating him before handcuffing and detaining him. Al-Titi added that his brother, a resident of the southern West Bank Hebron district, was held in the custody of the Palestinian Authority (PA) security services for four months and was released Tuesday. Rafat added that Israeli forces took Shihab al-Din to an unknown location “after giving him bruises across his body.” An Israeli army spokesperson said they were looking into reports.
Palestinian political factions have repeatedly accused the PA of “escalating security collaboration” with Israeli authorities and “adopting a revolving door policy” funneling Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons. The Israeli army’s central command said that the Palestinian security forces were responsible for approximately 40 percent of all arrests of “suspected terrorists,” Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported last May.
Army abducts a Palestinian and his sister near Bethlehem
IMEMC 21 Feb — Several Israeli military vehicles invaded, Tuesday, the al-Khader town, south of West Bank city of Bethlehem, searched homes and abducted a Palestinian and his sister, in addition to summoning their sister and two former political prisoners for interrogation. The soldiers invaded and violently searched several homes throughout the town, and abducted Saher Mahmoud Issa, and his sister Saja, in addition to summoning their sister, Suzan, for interrogation in Etzion military base and security center, south of Bethlehem. Media sources in al-Khader said dozens of soldiers, accompanied by army vehicles are still in the town, and around it.
The soldiers also invaded Doha nearby town, and summoned two former political prisoners, identified as Firas Aziyya and Anas Mallash, for interrogation in Etzion.
Israeli forces detain 31 Palestinians across West Bank overnight
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 20 Feb — Israeli forces detained at least 31 Palestinians in overnight raids between Sunday and Monday across the occupied West Bank, Israeli and Palestinian sources told Ma‘an. Israeli forces carry out detention raids across the occupied Palestinian territory on a near-nightly basis, with the UN recording an average of 95 weekly raids in the West Bank in 2016, and 100 weekly raids on average thus far in 2017 …
Northern West Bank The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) reported that four Palestinians were detained in the northernmost West Bank district of Jenin, identifying them as Majdi Abu al-Haija and Saleh Abu Zina from the Jenin refugee camp, Muhammad Hardan from the city of Jenin, and Mahdi Bushnaq from the village of Rummana. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an that two Palestinians were detained in Jenin — without specifying whether it was the city or the refugee camp — in addition to a detention in Rummana and another in the village of Wadi Burqin. In the Nablus district, PPS reported the detentions of Mahmoud Saqr Assida, 29, and Musab Tawfiq al-Hindi, 27. The army spokesperson did not mention any Nablus-area detentions, but said that four Palestinians were detained in the city of Qalqiliya, while two others were detained in the Qalqiliya-area village of ‘Isla….
Opinion: The Palestinian heroes of Hebron / Amira Hass
Haaretz 20 Feb — The IDF won’t admit that Palestinian farmers need a military escort to work their own lands in order to keep the settlers from running riot — When you say extreme violence carried out by settlers with official encouragement, you think of Hebron. (With apologies for leaving out of the discussion all the other settlements that enjoy a full measure of transfer-advocating violence…) When you say Hebron, you think of the Old City, but you forget the neighborhoods scattered along the road on which the lords of the land travel from Kiryat Arba to the ghost town they created together with the Israel Defense Forces. All of the Palestinians who have remained — some only because they can’t afford to leave, others out of a determination not to abandon the place — are no less than heroes. Each and every one of them deserves international recognition for adhering to humanity in the shadow of one of the coarsest mutations of the Jewish people. Kiryat Arba is built “stain after stain” of well-kept neighborhoods on all that the Jewish mind defined as “state land” or expropriated for “military needs.” In between and around the stains are Palestinian houses, orchards, vineyards and fields, on territory that Israel failed to convert into divine real estate. For that reason, the people who live alongside the road, closed to Palestinian traffic, between Kiryat Arba to the center of Hebron, are also heroes, as I learned last week from my acquaintance with the family of Abdul Karim Jabari. (Haaretz Feb. 19). This heroism bears the repeat mention of their story. Is there anything the Jabaris did not endure? A prohibition, that persisted for around six years, on accessing and working their farmland. The erection by settlers of an illegal structure that occupied a significant portion of this area — which the Israeli authorities demolish repeatedly, only to be rebuilt again and again. Physical assaults, damage to their trees, the disruption of their work and astronomical property taxes.
Palestinian children attend vigil marking anniversary of Ibrahimi Mosque massacre
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 20 Feb– The Hebron-based Palestinian activist group Youth Against Settlements organized a vigil on Sunday night in Hebron’s Old City to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre, and to demand that Israeli authorities reopen the city’s former main marketplace, al-Shuhada Street, and other areas in the city that have been closed to Palestinians for years. On Feb. 24 1994, American-born Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein opened fire on Muslim worshipers at the mosque in the southern occupied West Bank city, killing 29 and injuring more than 120.
Following the massacre, the Israeli army divided Hebron, with the majority of the city placed under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, while the Old City and surrounding areas were placed under Israeli military control in a sector known as H2. The vigil was the first action to kick off a week of scheduled events marking the anniversary, and was organized in cooperation with Ibrahimi Kindergarten and independent organization the National Coalition of Martyrs’ Families in Hebron. Around 100 children from Ibrahimi Kindergarten partook in the vigil. Youth Against Settlements coordinator and outspoken advocate of nonviolent resistance Issa Amro said that a worldwide campaign was simultaneously taking place, and that 10 activists from Hebron would tour 12 European countries where similar activities were being organized….
Prisoners / Court actions
Israeli court sentences Palestinian boy with leukemia to 3 months in prison
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 20 Feb — The Israeli military court at Ofer prison sentenced 15-year-old Ahmad al-Khadour to 91 days in prison and a 3,000-shekel fine (approximately $810), after the boy was accused of throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers. The sentencing came despite Ahmad’s family’s and rights groups’ extreme concern regarding the boy’s health due to his chronic illnesses — including leukemia and epilepsy — and frequent need for medication. Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) lawyer Ahmad Safiya said in a statement on Monday that court’s judge gave al-Khadour a period of one year to pay the fine. The judge also gave complete authority to Ofer prison director to release al-Khadour before the end of his sentence, “in accordance with the Israel Prison Service’s (IPS) procedures.” Ahmad, who is from the town of Beituniya in the central occupied West Bank, has multiple illnesses and poor health. He has been suffering from leukemia for the past three years and also suffers from epilepsy, seizures, foot and hand injuries, intense dizziness, and muscle contractions in his fingers. He was detained on Jan. 2 after he was accused of throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers near the Ofer military checkpoint west of Ramallah in the central occupied West Bank. According to the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, soldiers violently assaulted Ahmad and beat him with the butt of their rifles when they detained the child. Prisoners rights group Addameer said last month that the group “strongly condemns the continued detention of the chronically ill child, who appears to present no security threat to the area, and who requires proper and consistent medical treatment.” Last week, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs reported that Ahmad’s medical condition had seriously deteriorated while being held in Ofer prison.
Hunger striker Muhammad al-Qiq held in ‘grave-like’ prison cell, lawyer says
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 19 Feb — Imprisoned Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, who has been on hunger strike for two weeks, has been held by Israel in a “grave-like” prison cell, his lawyer said on Sunday. Al-Qiq, who lives in Ramallah and is originally from Dura in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, was released from prison in May last year after having gone without food for a grueling 94 days — to protest his administrative detention at the time. However, al-Qiq was redetained in mid-January after he participated in a protest in the West Bank city of Bethlehem demanding the release of bodies of slain Palestinians held in Israeli custody, and once again placed under administrative detention — internment without trial or charges. Al-Qiq’s lawyer, Khalid Zabarqa, told Ma‘an that he was finally allowed to visit al-Qiq on Sunday, after awaiting a response from Israeli intelligence for ten days to grant him access to the detainee at the Kishon detention center in northern Israel. “Al-Qiq is held in a small cell measuring barely four square meters and lacking the minimum basic living requirements,” Zabarqa said, adding that the Israel Prison Service (IPS) had “refused to provide al-Qiq with winter clothes and sheets, leaving him unable to sleep due to low temperatures.” He added that al-Qiq was also suffering from dizziness, loss of balance, and back pain. Israel was deliberately imposing tough detention conditions on al-Qiq to coerce him into ending his hunger strike, Zabarqa claimed….
Elor Azarya sentenced to 1.5 years in prison for killing wounded Palestinian
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — After being found guilty of manslaughter for the filmed, execution-style shooting of 21-year-old Abd al-Fattah al-Sharif, 20-year-old Israeli soldier Elor Azarya was sentenced to 18 months in prison, a year’s probation, and a demotion in his military rank on Tuesday. The prosecution had sought a three- to five-year prison sentence for the killing, with the maximum sentence for manslaughter being 20 years in prison … After al-Sharif and Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, also 21, allegedly carried out a stabbing attack on another soldier in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron last March, al-Qasrawi was fatally shot, while al-Sharif was shot and left severely wounded on the ground for several minutes before Azarya stepped forward and shot him in the head, with a number of witnesses quoting him as saying “This dog is still alive” and “This terrorist deserves to die” before pulling the trigger … Israeli daily Haaretz quoting them as saying: “from the onset we knew this was a show trial that will not do us justice. Even though the soldier was caught on video and it is clear that this is a cold blooded execution, he was convicted only of manslaughter, not murder, and the prosecution asked for only a light sentence of three years. The sentence he received is less than a Palestinian child gets for throwing stones.” … Azarya’s defense team has attempted to reverse the manslaughter charges deemed too harsh, while the young Israeli army medic has garnered widespread support among the Israeli public under a vocal and at times violent solidarity campaign that dubbed Azarya “everyone’s son.” The Palestinian activist who captured the footage of the shooting has meanwhile received hundreds of death threats, and his house has been surrounded and attacked by Israeli settlers multiple times. Some 67 percent of Israelis said they supported a presidential pardon for committing what has been branded an extrajudicial execution by the United Nations and rights groups….
Mainstream media version of the story:
Israeli soldier is jailed for 18 months for shooting dead a wounded Palestinian
[with photos] AFP 21 Feb — An Israeli military court on Tuesday sentenced a soldier to 18 months in prison for shooting dead a wounded Palestinian assailant who lay on the ground, sparking criticism from rights groups. Defence lawyers announced an appeal and right-wing Israeli ministers immediately called for a pardon, while the Palestinian government and the victim’s family condemned the sentence as too lenient. Judge Maya Heller handed down the sentence a month after Elor Azaria, 21, was found guilty of manslaughter for killing Abdul Fatah al-Sharif in the southern occupied West Bank in March last year. He also received 18 months in suspended sentences and was demoted from sergeant to private. Heller said the panel of three judges had taken into account mitigating factors including the “harm suffered by his family” and the fact Azaria was in “hostile territory” when the shooting occurred. She added, however, that he had not expressed remorse for his actions. Azaria will begin his sentence on March 5, the court announced … The March 2016 shooting in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron was caught on video by a rights group and spread widely online. It showed Sharif, 21, lying wounded on the ground, shot along with another Palestinian after stabbing and wounding a soldier, according to the army. Azaria then shoots him in the head without any apparent provocation … Azaria entered the packed courtroom to applause from friends. Dressed in military uniform and smiling broadly, he hugged family members and his girlfriend. Outside the court, around 100 right-wing demonstrators protested against the trial. As the verdict was read out the family sat still but afterwards they sang the Israeli national anthem together … The reaction from Palestinians and rights groups, however, was anger and disappointment. A spokesman for the Palestinian government told AFP the sentence was a “green light to the occupation army to continue its crimes.” Sharif’s father Yusri told journalists at the family home near Hebron in the southern West Bank the sentence was a “farce.” “What does a year and a half mean? Was he an animal to be killed like this, in this barbaric way?”….
Israeli police want Palestinians to pay for their own security escort to court
Haaretz 21 Feb by Yaniv Kubovich — Anyone caught entering Israel illegally via occupied territories would be forced to pay about 5,000 shekels to hire private firm for every court hearing — The police are demanding that Palestinians caught entering Israel illegally pay thousands of shekels for private security firms to escort them to subsequent court hearings in Israel. In 2015, Israel Police arrested some 4,300 people who entered Israel illegally via the occupied territories in order to seek work … At present, the detainees are immediately released back into the territories, on condition that they leave a monetary guarantee of several thousand shekels in order to obligate them to turn up for court hearings. Many detainees have raised the problem that as soon as they are transferred to the Palestinian Authority, they automatically lose their right to return to Israel. This is due to a Shin Bet security service decision, according to the accepted procedure in such cases, whereby the accused present themselves at an Israel Defense Forces coordination command center, from where they are taken to court by the police. Recently, though, the police decided to cancel such escorts and are demanding that the accused turn to private security companies to provide a security escort, at their own expense. The courts have begun canceling indictments in cases where the accused does not reach the courtroom due to the lack of a security escort … Ramle Magistrate’s Court Judge Dr. Ami Kobo was more critical of the police when dealing with a Palestinian who failed to appear for a court appearance … The judge decided to immediately cancel the indictment. “I am of the opinion that demanding of an accused person who enters Israel illegally, seemingly in order to find work, to pay a security company – which will accompany him while in Israel to attend a court hearing – is an unreasonable demand under these circumstances,” Kobo wrote in his decision. “If such people had a reasonable amount of money that would allow for hiring a security company, it can be assumed the violation would not have taken place and they would not have entered Israel for work purposes.” Security sources were surprised to learn that the police are suggesting this solution for such cases … How can we allow a security guard, who we don’t even know is trained, to escort an accused man that the Shin Bet says is problematic?”….
Israeli minister moves to revoke citizenship of Palestinian charged with murder
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 21 Feb — Israel’s Interior Minister and founder of the ultra-orthodox Shas party, Aryeh Deri, has officially begun the process of attempting to revoke the citizenship of a Palestinian citizen of Israel who has been accused of carrying out a “nationalistically motivated” shooting in January, despite the fact that the trial and sentencing over the case has yet to begin. Israeli news website Ynet reported on Monday that Deri sent a letter to Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, asking for permission to begin the revocation proceedings against 21-year-old Muhammad Shinawi, a resident of the coastal Israeli city of Haifa, who was charged earlier this month for two shootings on Jan. 3 that left one Israeli injured and another dead … The minister’s efforts to revoke the legal status of a Palestinian were not his first. Last month, Deri decided to revoke the Jerusalem residency status and the corresponding social benefits of 13 family members –including the mother — of Fadi al-Qunbar, who was shot and killed after carrying out a truck attack that left four Israeli soldiers dead. Al-Qunbar’s relatives, who have denied having advanced knowledge of any plans to carry out an attack, reside in the Palestinian neighborhood of Jabal-al-Mukabbir in occupied East Jerusalem, which is located adjacent to the settlement where the attack took place … While punitive residency revocation has not been implemented in this way before, more than 14,000 Jerusalem residencies for Palestinians have been revoked for other reasons since Israel illegal annexed East Jerusalem in 1967. Over the years, “successive Israeli governments have cleverly chosen the timing of new regulatory turning points to broaden the scope of residency revocations, manipulating temporary crises to do so,” think tank al-Shabaka wrote in a report last year….
Film about Israeli imprisonment of Palestinians wins top award in Berlin
IMEMC 21 Feb by Celine Hagbard — A film depicting the torture, humiliation and violence experienced by Palestinians imprisoned by Israel won the first ever “Silver Bear” award at the Berlinale international film festival. The film, “Istiyad Ashbah” (Ghost Hunting), was produced by Palestinian filmmaker Raed Andoni. It was one of 18 finalists competing for the top honor at the Berlinale film festival this year. The ‘Golden Bear’ award was won by Hungarian filmmaker Ildiko Enyedi for the film “Testrol es lelekrol” (On Body and Soul). Andoni’s film “Ghost Hunting” involves a powerful re-enactment of interrogation rooms and prison facilities in the infamous ‘Russian Compound’ prison run by Israel. According to journalist Rene Windangel, who spoke with Andoni about the creation of the film, the director began by confronting his own ghosts, having been imprisoned during the first intifada in the late 1980s. He then “turned to newspaper ads as he set out to find a group of former inmates able to work as set designers and craftsmen in recreating a prison on the film set. He also sought out ex-detainees willing to play the roles of prison wardens and prisoners. And so this group of people, who had themselves experienced imprisonment, began to meticulously build their own prison.” German commentator Rene Windangel wrote in the paper ‘Qantara’, in a review of the film, “By giving the actors and crew room to express themselves, Andoni’s film manages to avoid cliches. In no way is the film limited to the observation of suffering or the re-enactment of victimisation. Raed Andoni’s film functions as both trauma therapy and as an opportunity to discuss the political problem of prisoners. First and foremost, though, the film works as an impressive piece of cinematography dealing with the basic questions of the human condition.”
Wife of Palestinian prisoner gives birth for second time using smuggled sperm
TULKAREM (Ma‘an) 20 Feb — The wife of a Palestinian prisoner serving 24 years in Israeli prison gave birth on Monday to a second child conceived using her husband’s smuggled sperm, her brother-in-law told Ma‘an. Ibrahim Hamarsha, the director of Tulkarem office of the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS), said his brother’s wife, Samira Hamarsha, gave birth to a baby boy named Ibrahim, conceived using sperm smuggled from her husband, who is being held inside Israel’s Ktziot prison in the Negev desert. Samira’s husband, 40-year-old Yahya Hamarsha from the Nur Shams refugee camp in the northern occupied West Bank district of Tulkarem, has been in Israeli custody for the last 15 years. Three years ago, his wife gave birth to baby girl Yasmin using his smuggled sperm. Yahya and his wife now have a daughter and two sons. Four years ago, the couple lost their 12-year-old daughter Fatima, who was run over and killed inside the refugee camp….
Gaza fisherman in critical condition after being shot in the back by Israeli forces
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 21 Feb 10:02 p.m. — A Palestinian fisherman who was detained earlier on Tuesday off the coast of the northern Gaza was reported in critical condition after being shot in the back by Israeli forces during his detention. Zakariya Bakr, head of Gaza’s fishermen union, told Ma‘an that the family of detained Palestinian Muhammad Imran Sabri Bakr had informed the union that he was injured with a bullet wound in his back. According to the family, he was taken to the al-Majdal Hospital in Gaza where doctors reported his injuries as critical. Israeli forces had detained Bakr earlier in the day off the coast of al-Sudaniya, along with four other Palestinian fishermen, identified as Abdullah Sabri Bakr, Mahmoud Sabri Bakr, Thabet Muhammad Bakr, and Omar Muhammad Bakr. All of the detained are in their twenties.
Israeli forces detain 5 Palestinian fisherman in northern Gaza
GAZA (Ma‘an) 21 Feb 9:44 a.m.– Israeli naval forces detained five Palestinian fishermen from the same family on Tuesday morning while they were sailing off the coast of the northern Gaza Strip. The head of the union of Gaza fishermen, Nizar Ayyash, told Ma’an that Israeli forces had detained Umran Saber Bakr, Mahmoud Saber Bakr, Abdullah Saber Bakr, Thabet Abd al-Raziq Bakr, and Omar Muhammad Bakr, and took them to the port of Ashdod in southern Israel.
Meanwhile, Israeli naval forces opened fire at Palestinian fishermen sailing off the coast of Beit Lahiya, witnesses told Ma‘an. No injuries were reported.
Gaza mother reunited with baby amid Israel entry row
AFP 20 Feb — A Palestinian baby was reunited with her mother after more than six months Monday after Israel granted Jumana Daoud a permit to travel from Gaza to Jerusalem to fetch her. Daoud and rights groups said she had submitted an application several months ago to reenter Israel to retrieve baby Maryam from a hospital in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, but received no reply. The Israeli defence ministry body responsible denied that any application had been received. Palestinians in the Gaza Strip need to apply for individual permits to enter or transit Israel, but do so through the Palestinian Authority. The PA circulated a document allegedly showing that the request had been submitted. AFP was not able to independently verify the cause for the delay. Tiny Maryam smiled as she was picked up by her mother for the first time since her premature birth on August 1. “It’s a very beautiful feeling. Finally I can take her in my arms. Now I just hope that she’ll be happy forever,” her grinning mother said. Daoud said the Israeli authorities called late Sunday to say she could cross the Gaza-Israel border, shortly after a television feature on the case. “She had no maternal affection, nobody held her,” said a tearful Umm Abdul Rahman, a woman from east Jerusalem who said she came in weekly to check on Maryam, sending photos to the family via WhatsApp. “I was trying to hold her and make her laugh.” Daoud was previously granted permission to travel to Jerusalem in July 2016 for medical treatment as there were complications with her pregnancy. Hospitals in Gaza do not have the facilities to care for premature babies, said paediatrician Mohammed al-Najjar at Makassed Hospital in east Jerusalem where Maryam was born more than two months early along with a sibling who died. She needed to be kept in an incubator for several weeks in order to survive, doctors said. Daoud said she now had to return to Gaza to care for her other two young children, assuming she could do so quickly once Maryam’s health improved. She reapplied for a permit to visit Jerusalem in October, she said, a claim supported by Physicians for Human Rights Israel….
Gaza court sentences to death 6 Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 19 Feb — A military court in the besieged Gaza Strip sentenced six Palestinians to death on Sunday after they were found guilty of collaborating with Israel. The Gaza Ministry of Interior said in a statement that a Gaza City court upheld the death sentences of three defendants, rejecting a final appeal, while three other defendants also found guilty of collaboration could still appeal their death penalty. Seven other defendants were handed down prison sentences of up to 17 years with hard labor. Under Palestinian law, willful premeditated murder, treason, and collaboration with the enemy — usually Israel — are punishable by death. However, all death sentences must be ratified by the Palestinian president before they can be carried out. Despite this, Hamas’ de facto administration in Gaza has carried out executions periodically without receiving approval from President Mahmoud Abbas since 2010 … Hamas officials maintain that due to the indefinite postponement of presidential and parliamentary elections in the Palestinian territory, and the failure of the Palestinian Authority to assume most of its functions in the besieged coastal enclave, authority for ratifying death sentences lies with the legislative council in Gaza.
Israel invited 26 Oscar stars to visit. So far none has
AFP 22 Feb — A year ago Israel offered Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and other Hollywood stars all-expenses paid luxury trips, but it seems they have chosen to miss their cues. Campaigners are claiming victory as it appears none of the 26 Oscars stars offered a free personalised tour valued at up to $55,000 has visited. The offer, part of gift bags given out by a marketing firm around the time of the 2016 Oscars each worth an estimated $200,000 and including other items such as ultra-expensive toilet paper, sparked a backlash. Campaign groups accused Israel of trying to use the celebrities to gain positive coverage and downplay alleged abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories. A few days ahead of the 2017 ceremony on February 26, it appears none of the nominees has visited themselves. Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence did take up the offer but gave it to her parents, said the agency that came up with the idea. “This is a success,” said Yousef Munayyer of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, which ran the campaign against the visits along with American organisation Jewish Voice for Peace. “I am very glad there’s no evidence that people went. I think it is clear the objective of using the actors to whitewash Israel has failed.”
Performers are flooding Israel: A sign of the cultural boycott’s failure?
Haaretz 19 Feb by Itay Stern — As a veritable airlift of artists is on its way to Israel, best efforts of Roger Waters and BDS appear to be in vain. A veteran producer and local boycott activists agree: It’s a trend, and like any other, it has ups and downs — It’s been years since music lovers in Israel have had the opportunity to enjoy so many performers from overseas. A partial list of artists scheduled to perform here this summer includes Radiohead, the Pixies, Justin Bieber, Aerosmith, Guns and Roses, Rod Stewart, Nick Cave, Tears for Fears, Grandaddy, Jose Gonzalez, Fatboy Slim, Jean-Michel Jarre, Paul Young, Vanessa Mae, Emir Kusturica and Ace of Base. The list could include other top performers who have had good runs in Israel in recent years, including the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Alice Cooper, Rihanna, Sia and Elton John. It’s true that along with this glittering array there were also some resounding cancellations, one of the more memorable ones being that of the Pixies’ concert in 2010 only a few days before their performance, shortly after Israel’s fatal takeover of the Gaza-bound ship Mavi Marmara. Since that cancellation they have performed in Israel again. Among the artists whose names are linked to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement are Elvis Costello, the Gorillas, Devendra Banhart and Annie Lennox. Some of them have openly stated that their reason for objecting to performing here was Israel’s domination of the Palestinians. The list includes thousands of artists, people in the academic and film worlds and intellectuals who have called for a cultural boycott of Israel and its institutions. So, is the boycott working? “At first, many performers thought that appearing in Israel would hurt them financially, but then they saw that musicians were performing here without paying a price. They understood that the sanctions movement is a marginal one,” says a senior Israeli journalist who has been covering the subject … Less optimistic regarding the waning of BDS is veteran producer Shuki Weiss. “BDS is causing us great harm. It’s not something you can assess over one summer or another, but it’s something cumulative in people’s perception. It’s true that we’ve had worse years – three or four years ago people signing petitions were in a much stronger position. In practice not much has changed, and like every other trend there are ups and downs….
Palestinian refugees – Lebanon
Balloon, camera, action: mapping a Palestinian camp in Lebanon
AFP 19 Feb — Equipped with an inexpensive camera and a big red balloon, Firas Ismail — a 20-year-old Palestinian refugee in southern Lebanon — is not your typical urban planner. But the aerial shots he helped capture of the Burj al-Shamali refugee camp, near the Mediterranean coastal city of Tyre, will help residents plan out everything from future green spaces to health inspections. “From below, you can’t really tell anything about the camp. But from above, you can see just how dense the buildings are and how little space there is,” Ismail told AFP. “It becomes clear there was no planning — this map is the first time there’s a kind of urban planning for the camp,” he said. The mapping project was born when residents of Burj al-Shamali, one of 12 Palestinian camps in Lebanon, wanted to create a local green space. They enlisted help from Claudia Martinez, a humanitarian worker who has volunteered in the camp for years. “I asked to see a map, but what they showed me was like a kid’s drawing,” she told AFP. “We decided we needed a new map… which could also be useful to deal with problems of electricity grid, fires, and doing health inspections of restaurants.” Lebanon is home to around 450,000 Palestinian refugees registered with the UN, who live in cramped camps where infrastructure is dilapidated and services limited. When it was established in 1948 to accommodate Palestinians who fled or were forced from their homes after the creation of Israel, Burj al-Shamali housed just 7,000 people. But it is now home to nearly 23,000 residents and suffers from “extremely high” unemployment, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees….
Egyptian president and Jordanian king say two-state solution not up for compromise
CAIRO (Reuters) 21 Feb — Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah said in a Cairo meeting on Tuesday that they were committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Sisi’s office said in a statement. “The two sides discussed future movements to break the gridlock within the Middle East peace process, especially with U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration taking power,” the statement said. “They also discussed mutual coordination to reach a two-state solution and establish a Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as a capital which is a national constant that cannot be given up.” (Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Amina Ismail)
Iran Supreme Leader calls on Palestinians to pursue intifada against Israel
Reuters 21 Feb — Iran’s Supreme Leader called on Palestinians on Tuesday to pursue an uprising against Israel, suggesting the Israeli government was a “cancerous tumour” that should be confronted until Palestinians were completely liberated. “… by Allah’s permission, we will see that this intifada will begin a very important chapter in the history of fighting and that it will inflict another defeat on that usurping regime,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, according to his website. The Supreme Leader’s bellicose comments, made during a two-day conference in Tehran focused on its support for the Palestinians, come at a time of increasingly heated rhetoric between Iran, Israel and the United States. While on a visit to Washington last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Fox News that Israel and the United States had a “grand mission” to confront the threat of a nuclear Iran….
Palestinians sign first-ever labor pact with Israeli employer
Haaretz 21 Feb by Tali Heruti-Sover — Employees to be entitled to annual wage increases and higher pay grades, as well as paid Jewish and Muslim holidays — In a groundbreaking agreement for Palestinian workers’ rights in West Bank settlements, the 75 employees of a garage in the Mishor Adumim industrial zone signed a collective labor agreement with Israeli management last week. The accord, which was reached through arbitration after three years of labor strife and lawsuits, was reached between Zarfati Garage – one of the largest in the industrial zone, close to the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim – and the WAC-Maan labor organization based in Tel Aviv. The collective labor agreement, the first of its type, marks a major advance for the estimated 50,000 Palestinians who work in Area C of the West Bank (the part under Israeli civilian control). The Mishor Adumim industrial zone, which covers more than 1,600 dunams (395 acres) and is only a 10-minute drive from Jerusalem, employs more than 1,300 people.
Although a 2007 High Court of Justice decision entitled them to the same social benefits and labor laws as in Israel, the regulations are rarely enforced. Many don’t get a pay slip or benefits they are legally entitled to. The agreement at Zarfati followed a struggle that began in 2013 when employees agreed to organize under the sponsorship of WAC-Maan. Negotiations started that September….
Who are the real losers of US veto at UN against former Palestine PM?
Al-Monitor 21 Feb by Daoud Kuttab — When US President-elect Donald Trump tweeted that things would be different for Israel at the United Nations after his inauguration Jan. 20, no one expected that it would include vetoing a personnel decision by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, but that is exactly what happened with the appointment of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as Guterres’ personal envoy to Libya. Fayyad had undergone a rigorous selection process at the end of which all parties appeared to be onboard. The secretary-general’s office even sent a draft press release on the appointment for Fayyad to review, Al-Monitor has learned. Then came the shocker: Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations, announced Feb. 10 that the United States opposed Fayyad’s appointment, calling it “biased and detrimental to our allies in Israel.” Former US peace envoy and ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk suggested that Haley’s statement rejecting the appointment might have been triggered the night before during a private dinner in New York that included the president and his biggest donor, Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is a strong supporter of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had made it clear that his government was unhappy about Israel’s treatment at the United Nations and had opposed Fayyad’s appointment.
The reaction to the US veto was swift and crossed partisan lines. Former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro slammed the move as “stunningly dumb” and a “farce.” The Times of Israel quoted Shapiro as saying, “If you know Fayyad — decent, smart, honest, ethical, hardworking — it’s much more outrageous.” Even the right-wing Jerusalem Post rejected the Trump administration’s position on Fayyad’s appointment … The strong reaction to blocking the secretary-general from appointing a qualified Palestinian has left a mark on the Trump administration and has inadvertently resurrected the profile of a Palestinian leader the world had forgotten. It even brought about agreement within Palestinian society and its leadership. Fayyad and Palestinians are not the real losers in this case. Rather, that distinction belongs, unfortunately, to the people of Libya, who have been denied a competent, Arabic-speaking world class talent to help bring their splintered society together.
Israel nature exhibition at UN whitewashes the occupation
EI 20 Feb by Charlotte Silver — Last week, while US President Donald Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority quietly opened an exhibition at the United Nations headquarters in New York that asserts the occupied Golan Heights and West Bank as Israel’s own territory. The exhibition, title The Natural Side of Israel, features some 30 photographs that purport to display the “rare and inspiring variety of natural landscapes and unspoiled scenery” in Israel, but in fact include geographic sites that lie on land Israel has occupied for decades. The first photo in a catalog of the exhibition shows a wolf stopped on a snow-covered opening in a forest in the Golan Heights – Syrian territory occupied by Israel since 1967. But the catalogue identifies the location of the photograph as the “Odem Forest in the northern part of Israel.” “The wolves living in this part of the country are bigger and darker than the wolves who live in other parts of Israel,” the catalogue states. “Some consider them a subspecies of the grey wolf and call them the Golan wolf.” When Israel occupied Syria’s Golan Heights five decades ago, it expelled and displaced 130,000 Syrians – most of the population of the territory at the time – and destroyed more than 200 villages, according to a 2010 investigation by the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz. In 1981, Israel formally annexed the territory. The UN Security Council, of which the United States is a permanent member, considers that annexation null and void.
Palestinian Christians learn iconography
BETHLEHEM (Al-Monitor) 20 Feb by Aziza Nofal — The Bethlehem Icon Center is seeking to revive iconography that originated in Palestine, by offering classes for Palestinians and foreigners eager to learn this ancient Christian form of art — Rosette Qaabar, a woman in her 50s from Beit Jala in northern Bethlehem, just attended her first of many courses that will allow her to get a diploma in iconography, which she had always been a fan of. This course is accredited by the British university of the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, and it is one of many educational courses provided by the Bethlehem Icon Center. Qaabar, along with four other women, have taken up the art of iconography after having learned the basic principles of this art. By the end of the course, Qaabar wants to be able to paint her own icon, as well as one for each of her five children. She told Al-Monitor, “Years ago, all my children immigrated to the US but I could never leave my city. So I enrolled in the center for fun. On the one hand, I would spend my spare time here and on the other, I would learn a beautiful, mystical art.” The Bethlehem Icon Center on Star Street is a local center specialized in painting religious icons. On Feb. 7, the center kick-started its first iconography course for 2017, as part of its mission to revive Palestinian art….
How this West Bank village became a writers’ retreat
RAMALLAH (Al-Monitor) 21 Feb by Aziza Nofal — A Palestinian journalist living in Germany started a cultural retreat program in the West Bank village of Kafr Rumman where visitors, in exchange for educating and interacting with the area’s children, can stay for free — Feb. 1 marked the end of the winter vacation for Jordanian storyteller Sally Shalabi, who spent most of her time off in the Kafr Rumman village retreat, near the city of Tulkarm in the northern West Bank. As part of a cultural retreat program, Shalabi spent most of her time in an old house that was restored by the owner to receive intellectuals and artists. who spend their time there … Abed Rahman Othman is a local journalist and editor in chief at the German radio station DW (Deutsche Welle). He restored his family’s house along with other old houses he bought in the old town of the village at his own expense, to host writers and artists as part of a retreat program that he dubbed the Dooz Artists Residency, which started receiving guests at the beginning of 2017. In return for free accommodation, the guests provide public services to the village, such as painting, drawing, writing and reading workshops for women and children … Othman is seeking to revive the heritage of traditional Palestinian houses. The restoration of the buildings he bought was done along the lines of the Palestinian traditional construction style, with natural stone exteriors. This style is vanishing in light of the wave of modern buildings and urbanism. He hopes that Kafr Rumman turns into a cultural beacon in this marginalized area in the West Bank….[see hundreds of photos of this village here]
‘Speed Sisters’ of the West Bank: Documentary chases after the first all-female race car team in the Mideast
LA Times 18 Feb by Jeffrey Fleishman — They rev their engines and race on a battered land. They are five Palestinians in what’s billed as the first all-female race car team in the Middle East. They roar beyond checkpoints of Israeli soldiers and zip through the glare of religious conservatives who curse their humming pistons and blowing hair. Shifting gears and beating clocks, they are restless souls in a sequestered world that cannot contain their visions. They are the Speed Sisters of the West Bank. Male competitors have accepted them in a culture where tradition and patriarchy run rigid and deep. The young women have also grown up with the pop of Israeli tear gas and the whistle of stones hurled by Palestinian youths. They fix their makeup and paint their nails because, as Betty, one of the swiftest among them, says, “it’s very important for me to show I’m not a tomboy.” Amber Fares has captured their spirit, victories, rivalries and defeats in her documentary “Speed Sisters.” The film moves past the politics of the Arab-Israeli conflict and into the lives of five women with fuel-injected dreams. The trappings of the region are inescapable — razor wire, barricades, gunfire — but the film’s Palestinian women, at least those in the West Bank, are more fully realized than the repressed portrayals of Arab mothers and daughters common in the West.
Arab Israeli film ‘Bar Bahar’ faces backlash
JERUSALEM (AFP) 19 Feb — The culture clash in “Bar Bahar” starts off when Nur, a veiled and conservative Muslim, moves into a flat with two other Arab Israeli women and sees their drug-taking, party-going lives. But for its director, the real shock of the film, which opened last month in Israel, has been the controversy it has whipped up, even death threats on social media. Maysaloun Hamoud, herself an Arab, always hoped her first feature film would hit hard. In its two hours, the Galilee-born filmmaker, 35, tackles almost all the taboos of Arab Israeli society: drugs, alcohol, homosexuality. The film has already been released in the United States, under the title “In Between”, and it won three prizes at the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain last year. US magazine Variety called it a “compelling” drama and The Hollywood Reporter trumpeted it as a “sparkling, taboo-breaking first feature.” The film company has not released ticket sale numbers but Hamoud said there had been a lot of feedback, mostly positive but some less so. The response from Umm al-Fahm has been particularly sharp … Hamoud as well as her actresses have received death threats. Bar Bahar, literally meaning “land and sea” in Arabic, translates as “neither here, nor there” in Hebrew. For its director it aims to be “the voice of a generation” of young Arab Israelis who feel trapped between cultures.