and other news from Today in Palestine:
Peace group: Settlers attack international observers
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 29 July — Israeli settlers from the illegal outpost of Havat Maon, south of Hebron, attacked two international observers on Wednesday, hitting one on the head with an iron bar, the Christian Peacemaker Teams said. “At approximately 9:15 AM on July 27, 2011, masked settlers from the Havat Maon outpost armed with stones and an iron bar harassed three Palestinian shepherds and attacked two international observers. The settlers threw stones at the internationals, and hit one of them in the head with an iron bar,” a CPT statement said. “The Palestinian shepherds were out with their flocks on Palestinian land near Mesheha hill when the four masked settlers attacked them. The shepherds were able to leave the area, but the settlers attacked the internationals.
“One of the internationals was a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams, the other was visiting the area. The settlers destroyed the CPTer’s camera and chased them both back to At-Tuwani. Christian Peacemaker Teams and Operation Dove have documented 6 occasions since June 22, 2011 in which settlers from Havat Maon have attacked Palestinians or internationals near Mesheha Hill.
Settlers invade Beit Ommar and Surif on Friday morning
[photos] PSP 29 July — On the 29th of July, 2011 a large group of settlers was observed passing through the land of Beit Ommar and Surif. The group, which consisted of 40 settlers, 2 of whom were armed, and 4 soldiers, walked through farmland in Beit Ommar and crossed through the town of Surif. They were observed by a group of residents from the towns as well as two internationals. Members of the group harassed residents as they passed through Surif, and briefly sat down near the entrance of a Palestinian house. They were seen carrying maps and taking pictures of the land and Palestinian homes. Residents responded to the presence of settlers on the land by throwing stones. The military accompanying the settlers then shot live ammunition in their direction. Surif has a history of violence by settlers in the area. In January, settlers from Bat Ayn shot two youths from the town, killing 17 year old Yousef Ikhlayl.
Witnesses: Settlers set fire to olive trees in Burin
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 29 July — Israeli settlers on Friday torched olive trees in Burin village, south of Nablus, and fired live ammunition at firefighters’ trucks trying to reach the blaze, Palestinian Authority officials said. PA settlement affairs official Ghassan Doughlas said the fire continued to rage as firefighters were unable to reach the area. Witnesses said clashes erupted between the settlers and villagers, and that Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas at the Palestinians. Resident Khaled Omran said Israeli forces prevented Palestinian firefighters from putting out the fire.
Settlers set fire to olive groves in Nablus
NABLUS (PIC) 29 July — A group of Jewish settlers from the Itamar settlement, which is built on confiscated Palestinian land to near Nablus in the northern West Bank, on Thursday set fire to Palestinian crops and olive groves in lands belonging to the residents of the village of Awarta to the east of Nablus. The Awarta village council said in a statement that settlers set fire to fields in the north east of the village resulting in the burning of seven dunums (1 dunum= 1000 square meters) of producing olive trees. The council added that civil defence teams from nearby Bourin village helped tackle the fire which resulted in great loss to Palestinian farmers.
PCHR Weekly report on Israeli human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (21-27 July)
28 July — …During the reporting period, IOF conducted at least 24 military incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, during which they arrested 9 Palestinian civilians, including two children. In the Gaza Strip, IOF conducted one limited incursion into the southern Gaza Strip, during which they leveled areas of Palestinian land. [details] … During the reporting period, IOF used force against peaceful demonstrations organized by Palestinian civilians and international and Israeli human rights defenders in protest to the construction of the Wall and settlement activities in the West Bank. As a result, a Palestinian civilian was wounded, dozens of Palestinian civilians and human rights defenders suffered from tear gas inhalation and others sustained bruises. IOF also arrested 8 Palestinian civilians. [details]
IOF intensify presence in and around Jerusalem on the eve of Ramadan
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 29 July — IOF troops have increased their presence in and around the occupied city of Jerusalem and tightened measures on all roads leading from the West Bank to Jerusalem on the eve of Ramadan to prevent Palestinian worshipers from reaching the Aqsa Mosque. Local sources said that the IOF have deployed thousands of policemen and soldiers in the streets of city and alleyways leading to the Aqsa Mosque in the old city as well as the gates of the Mosque starting on the morning of the last Friday before the start of Ramadan. The sources added that military roadblocks were set up inside the city, while worshipers from the West Bank were denied entry into the city at the major roadblocks: Kalandia roadblock to the north, Hizma roadblock to the east and Bethlehem roadblock to the south, as well as at other minor roadblocks. [Ramadan starts Aug 1 this year for most Muslims anyway]
Activism / Solidarity / BDS
Israeli army shuts down West Bank protests
[photos] RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) — Israeli forces on Friday fired tear gas and sound grenades to shut down weekly anti-wall protests in villages across the West Bank. Activists said three women were injured and three foreign nationals were detained in Nabi Saleh. A journalist for Al-Hayat Al-Jadida was attacked and briefly detained at the protest. Meanwhile hundreds of Palestinians, Israelis and international activists played a football match during an anti-wall demonstration in Al-Ma‘sara near Bethlehem. Activists said soldiers attacked popular committee spokesman Muhammad Ahmad Burjieh, 33. He was taken to hospital in Beit Jala with fractured ribs.
Israeli soldiers attack West Bank anti-wall protesters; four injured, four arrested
Ramallah (PNN) 29 July — On Friday, four injured and four arrested as Israeli troops attacked anti-wall protests organized in a number of West Bank communities. Protests took place in the central West Bank villages of al-Nabi Salleh, Bil‘in, and Ni‘lin in addition to al-Ma‘ssara in the southern West Bank. Three women, two local and one international were injured and a journalist and three activists were arrested as Israeli troops attacked the anti-wall and settlements protests in the village of al-Nabi Salleh. Villagers and their Israeli and international supporters marched to local farm lands Israel had taken to build a new settlement. Troops attacked protesters with tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets. Then soldiers forced people back into the village and fired rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas at journalists and medics. The three injured women sustained moderate wounds as soldiers beat them up.
Israeli army attacks Dutch music orchestra with tear gas
Nablus (PNN) 29 July — The Dutch street orchestra ‘Fanfare van de Eerste Liefdesnacht’ (the First Night of Love Brass Band) from Amsterdam was attacked with tear gas today by the Israeli army during their performance in the Palestinian village Kufr Qadum near Nablus, northern West Bank. The band’s tour of Palestine is designed to be interactive, working with children from a refugee camp in the east of Bethlehem and having them play along with the band and dancing in the streets together. The musicians were confronted with tens of soldiers who shot tear gas canisters from behind their military jeeps during the musical performance. They then found themselves surrounded with snipers. Several members of the band were injured and suffered from tear gas inhalation.
Report: Israeli soldier tweets from detained protester’s phone
+972mag 29 July — In what appears to be an escalation in the Israeli army’s attempts to intimidate unarmed protesters from joining protests in Nabi Saleh, soldiers apprehended a Palestinian-American college student this morning at the entrance to Nabi Saleh as the weekly demonstration against the occupation was starting. The demonstrator, who wishes to remain anonymous, told +972 that he was on his way into the village in a private taxi from Ramallah. At the entrance to the village, Israeli soldiers prevented him from entering and searched him and his driver multiple times. After the searches were complete, soldiers took his phone, passport and wallet while leaving him and his driver to sit in the sun. After one hour, soldiers informed him that he must return to Ramallah and demanded that he “tell people not to come to Nabi Saleh because it is closed.” One military jeep then followed his taxi as it drove back to Ramallah. Using the Twitter handle @Abou_Charlie, he reported his experience with the soldiers only to realize that soldiers had used his phone to tweet while he was detained.
By boat, air, and bike UK activists pedal to Palestine
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 29 July — A group of UK activists has arrived in the occupied West Bank after cycling 7,000km from London to support Palestinian popular resistance movements, Friday said a press release by Bil‘in Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements. The bicycle convoy will meet the Bil‘in popular committee this Friday to join the demonstrations against Israel’s illegal separation wall and occupation of Palestinian land. The group has been exchanging seeds with communities along their route and is working with Palestinian farmers to pass on the ‘seed bank of solidarity’ … ‘PEDAL — 100 days to Palestine’ have traversed 18 countries linking communities fighting social injustice and responding to the Palestinian civil society call for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions in 2005. The group of food growers, journalists and community workers has taken part in BDS international days of action and run educational workshops about the campaign.
Japan celebrates completion of electrical project in Kufr Ein
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 28 July — The completion ceremony for the project of Extending the Electric Network was held in Kufr-Ein, a Village northwest of Ramallah on Thursday, according to a press release by the Japan Representative office. The release said that the project was funded by the Government of Japan in 2010, through its Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP). With the fund of $104,017, Kufr-Ein Village Council has implemented the project of extending the Electric Network in the village, to realize safe and sufficient provision of electricity for all citizens in Kufr-Ein Village by extending the existing electric network to the districts without electricity supply including some parts of the main road.
Hamas seeks to attract youngsters to summer camps
GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories (AFP) 29 July — The militant Islamist group Hamas is seeking to attract youngsters to its annual summer camps in the Gaza Strip, offering activities far beyond religious study. However, organisers say the activities do not include militia training. “These camps have no military or political dimension; they are held outdoors, with sports, cultural, educational, social and recreational activities,” said Saleh Hamdan, a member of the central committee for summer camps. An example, he said, were camps on Islamic fashion, being attended by thousands of girls, which he said “do not focus on purely religious matters.”
Gaza’s economic mirage / Wasseem El Sarraj
GAZA CITY(FP) 28 July — A predominant, if misguided, narrative holds Gaza to be a Mediterranean secret, where food is plentiful and joy is unabated. Such statements are not exactly false. As a Gazan, I can say I have laughed, dined out (not just falafel), and been able to embrace my proclivity for consumption — recently purchasing a 37″ flat-screen TV. But this has been a product of the stubbornness and creativity of capitalism under an enforced closure (where goods flow into Gaza, but what goes out is very limited). Not to mention the sheer luck that I hail from an elite class and of the simple fact that humans, in desperate circumstances, still muster the ability to “look on the bright side of life.”
Israel’s prison walls cannot keep us apart / Fidaa Elaydi
EI 28 July — It’s been six months since I was in Gaza and I miss everything about it. I miss the company of my large extended family, the delicious food we enjoyed from communal trays as we sat on the ground, the gorgeous sunsets on the beach and the peace of mind and serenity that only come with the feeling of being home. I think about the kind but tortured people I met and the impossible-to-forget harshness of life in Gaza. But out of all of the inmates of this outdoor prison, there is one in particular that cannot escape my thoughts. Although all of Gaza’s 1.6 million residents feel suffocated by siege and closure, there are nearly 700 Gazans who have it immeasurably worse. They are the Gazans being held illegally in Israeli prisons.
Detention by Israel
IOF arrest lawmaker Khaled Abu Tous, Hamas leader Mustafa Abu Arra
JENIN (PIC) 29 July — IOF troops on Friday morning arrested two Hamas prominent leaders in the districts of Jenin and Toubas; Sheikh Khalid Abu Tous, lawmaker representing Toubas [in the PLC] and prominent Hamas leader in Jenin Sheikh Mustafa Abu Arra. Hamas sources said that IOF troops raided this morning the home of Sheikh Khaled Abu Tous (50 years) in the village of Tamoun to the east of Toubas, they questioned the lawmaker and then took him away. As well as being an elected lawmaker, Abou Tous is a well-known and respected figure in the Toubas district. He is married and has 4 children. He was detained on several occasions by the occupation authorities.
Meanwhile, IOF troops raided the village of Aqqaba, south of Jenin, and arrested former mayor and prominent Hamas leader in the village, Sheikh Mustafa Abu Arra (55 years), after searching his home. Abu Arra was released about a year ago after spending two years in administrative detention in occupation jails.
Israel releases two Hamas affiliates from Nablus
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 29 July — Israeli authorities released two jailed Hamas affiliates from Nablus on Thursday. “The Israeli army has released Mustafa Ash-Shunnar, who works as lecturer at An-Najah University, and Yaser Bedrasawi, an activist in the field of refugee issues from Balata refugee camp east of the West Bank city of Nablus,” a Ma‘an correspondent said .. It is unclear on what charges both men were arrested.
Israeli court allows Palestinian detainee to meet his niece
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 28 July — An Israeli court in Nazareth has allowed a Palestinian prisoner from Jerusalem to meet briefly with his niece inside a courthouse. A request was filed by Abeer Baker, a lawyer from the prisoners society, to allow Ala Al-Bazyan to meet with his niece. The Israeli court accepted the request after having turned down several appeals in the past … Al-Bazyan adopted his niece after her father died 20 years ago. He has spent considerable periods of his life inside Israeli jails and is currently serving a life sentence. The details of the charges against him are unknown.
Detention by the Palestinian Authority
Military court in Nablus postpones trial, families of prisoners call for protest
NABLUS, (PIC) 29 July– The PA military court in Nablus decided on Thursday to postpone the trial of nine political prisoners till the end of September, while families of political prisoners called for a sit-in on Saturday to protest the continued detention of their loved ones. Families of the political prisoners who are affiliated with Hamas said that this was the ninth time the military court postpones the trial of their sons. The nine prisoners hail from the district of Tulkarem and are detained at Junaid prison in Nablus since 20 November 2010.
Large protest march in Al-Khalil to protest political detention
AL-KHALIL (PIC) 29 July — A large demonstration took place in the southern West Bank city of al-Khalil [Hebron] on Thursday to protest political detention by the PA and to condemn threats made by PA security agencies to participants in weekly demonstrations, the last of which was the assault against university student Muhammad Amre after taking part in such a demonstration last week. Participants in the demonstration which was called for by the families of political prisoners and the League of Young Muslims held pictures of political prisoners and placards calling for their immediate release and in support of a facebook campaign called “Mish Khayef” which means “I am not frightened” which was launched by a number of youth on the social network Facebook. The demonstrators said they would continue with their demonstration until there are no political prisoners held in PA jails.
PA security detain a Palestinian youth
SALFIT (PIC) 29 July — PA security detained on Wednesday 17-year-old Abdel-Aziz Mari’ [Mar‘i] after raiding his home in the village of Qarawat Bani Hassan. PA security raided Mari’s home several times over the past two weeks and told his family that he should turn himself in, but he refused to comply. Local sources said that PA security men raided Mari’s home on Wednesday, arrested him and charged him with insulting and denigrating PA security leaders on his Facebook page. Abdel-Aziz Mari’ is the brother of Ramzi Mari’ who is serving a 14-year sentence in Israeli occupation jails. The PA security had detained his other two brothers; Hamza for four months and Said for 9 months.
PA security releases Mahmoud Arouri
RAMALLAH (PIC) 29 July — PA General Intelligence the Mukhabarat released political detainee Muhammad Naim al-Arouri on Friday morning after he went on a hunger strike over the past 23 days. Family of Arouri told PIC that the release of their 24-year-old son was at around 1:00 am Friday after 23 days of hunger strike to protest his continued detention despite completing a six-month sentence he was served with by a PA military court. The family said that he was arrested in his village ‘Aroura on 7 October 2010. The Supreme Court ruled for his release but the PA security refused to release him and tried him before a military court on 3 April 2011 which sentenced him to six months in detention, including the time he already spent in detention. The family added that despite ending his sentence four months ago, the PA security still would not release him, until today.
Political / Diplomatic / International news
Palestinian political bodies meet in Ramallah
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 29 July — The Palestinian National Council and the Palestinian Legislative Council met Thursday in Ramallah to discuss national reconciliation, elections and the reactivation of political bodies. It is the first meeting of its kind between the two political bodies and a participant told Ma‘an that the talks went on for over four hours in “a positive atmosphere.” Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council informed the head of the Palestinian National Council Salim Az-Zanoun that he may be able to go to Gaza, implying that Hamas may be willing to receive him without any obstacles. The meeting was attended by a number of Hamas lawmakers including Mohammad Abu Teir, Khaled Tafesh, Abdel Jabir Fokaha and Mohammad Abu Jhaisha.
Peres holds secret talks with Palestinians in bid to restart negotiations / Akiva Eldar
Haaretz 29 July — Peres and Erekat go over maps of West Bank, East Jerusalem in effort to find formula to bypass dispute over establishing 1967 borders as basis for negotiations; meetings held in coordination with Netanyahu.
PA spokesman denies reports of negotiations with Israel
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 29 July — Palestinian Authority presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh on Friday denied Israeli media reports that Saeb Erekat and Shimon Peres had been meeting in an attempt to relaunch peace talks. Abu Rudeineh described the reports as “totally not correct” adding that “we are committed to the Palestinian and Arab positions that say any negotiations should be clear and based on international resolutions,” the PA official news agency WAFA reported.
Barak: Israel needs a creative way of expressing regret to Turkey without apologizing
Haaretz 29 July — In a meeting in Washington with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Defense Minister Ehud Barak discusses Turkey, Iran, Gaza and the housing crisis.
PA ambassador meets with Russian foreign minister
MOSCOW (Ma‘an) — Palestinian Ambassador to Russia Faed Mustafa held a meeting with Russian deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov on Thursday in Moscow. Faed updated Bogdanov on the latest diplomatic efforts by the Palestinian leadership as part of their campaign for UN recognition in September, the ambassador said in a statement … Faed carried a message of appreciation from President Mahmoud Abbas concerning Russian support of the Palestinian right to have an independent state.
US voices commitment to Israel in defense talks
WASHINGTON (AFP) 19 July — The United States on Thursday reiterated its support for a strong military in Israel as Defense Minister Ehud Barak held talks with top leaders in Washington. Barak met separately with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and newly installed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Both meetings were closed to the press, with officials offering general statements.
Look at my butt! Airport guards embarrass Israel
Ynet 29 July — Airport guards confiscate Russian photographer’s camera, return it after taking asinine photos of themselves; tourist’s friend: Another goodwill ambassador of Israel brought to tears. Officials to issue apology
Pulling punches across Jerusalem divides
JERUSALEM (AFP) 28 July — Everyone looked on curiously as the Palestinian squared off with the Israeli, each seeking to land the decisive punch that would floor his opponent. Within minutes it was all over, and the two youths briefly embraced before heading off in separate directions. This was no political battle — just a regular bout of sparring between youngsters from a local Jerusalem boxing club that is trying to break down barriers between the two peoples.
Yad Vashem praises Arab staff for fighting Jerusalem forest fire
Haaretz 28 July — The Arab workers, mostly employed in the cleaning and maintenance staff, fought the blaze for hours as the flames threatened to reach the institution’s archives.
Lebanon’s last Arabic scribes struggle in IT age
BEIRUT (AFP) 29 July — Lebanon’s few remaining Arabic calligraphers, whose elegant script and interweaving words transport one to another era, are working to preserve an art form struggling to compete with new technology. “The computer is a wonderful tool but in no way can it replace an artist or produce masterpieces,” says Mahmoud Bayoun, one of the country’s best-known calligraphers, whose works have been displayed in the United States and Iran.
Opinion / Analysis
Palestinian ‘ghosts’ keep the Israeli economy moving / Mona Issa
National 29 July — “We built Israel,” says Abbas, a young migrant worker from Salem. A decade ago, he began travelling illegally from the northern West Bank to Tel Aviv to work in construction. “We have no jobs, so the only option is to work in Israel.” Years ago, between 1948 and 1967, Palestinians sneaked across borders to work in their former fields in Israel. Those borders were erased after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, when Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and Sinai. After 1967, Palestinians both from Gaza and the West Bank began working on Israeli construction sites. Now, with the building of the separation wall in the West Bank, those borders exist again. Although men over 35 years of age can obtain security clearance to enter Israel for work, the younger generation have no choice but to travel via the paths their fathers and grandfathers used to walk legally. They are, in effect, the ghost workers of the Israeli economy.
Palestinian Christians protest Anglican chief’s occupation blind spot / Sarah Irving
EI 29 July — Stephen Sizer, a Palestine solidarity campaigner and Church of England vicar, wrote on his blog about visiting Aboud in March this year, “I was going to entitle this [post] ‘the Ethnic Cleansing of Aboud,’ but that is not strong enough language to describe what I witnessed in this village. … Since 1967 the Israeli government has stolen the best land, depriving villagers access to most of their olive groves and income. They have built three large colonies exclusively for American and European Jews on the confiscated hills around Aboud. They have even stolen the village water pump, diverting the bulk of the water to the settlements” (“The Rape of Aboud”). Despite the progressive approach of churchmen like Sizer, comments by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the Anglican and Episcopalian churches worldwide, have aroused anger among Palestinian Christians.
Can water end the Arab-Israeli conflict? / Arwa Arburawa
AJ 29 July — Could solving the water crisis in Israel and Palestine also help resolve the entrenched occupation and conflict? — Around three weeks ago on a late Tuesday morning, Israeli soldiers armed with a truck and a digger entered the Palestinian village of Amniyr and destroyed nine water tanks. One week later, Israeli forces demolished water wells and water pumps in the villages of Al-Nasaryah, Al-Akrabanyah and Beit Hassan in the Jordan Valley. In Bethlehem, a severe water shortage have led to riots in refugee camps and forced hoteliers to pay over the odds for water just to stop tourists from leaving. Palestinians insist that the Israeli occupation means that they are consistently denied their water rights which is why they have to live on 50 litres of water a day while Israeli settlers enjoy the luxury of 280 litres. Clearly, water is at the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict, but commentators are now insisting that shared water problems could help motivate joint action and better co-operation between both sides, which could in turn help end the conflict. “It’s a shame that water is being used as a form of collective punishment when it could be used to build trust and to help each side recognise that the other is a human being with water rights,” says Nader Al-Khateeb, the Palestinian director of the environmental NGO Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME).
Hamas leader: Palestinian UN bid a ‘scam’
dpa 29 July — …Hamas leaders have firm views on the attempt by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to get the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders, before Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan. ”Just nonsense,” says Mahmoud al-Zahar, a prominent Hamas member in Gaza. “A Palestinian state means land, people and authority. And now, what is the border of Israel? Israel has had many borders in the last 30, 40 years. What border are we going to speak about?'” The approach to the UN, he says, is a ‘political scam.’ He is equally unequivocal on the so-called two-state solution, which aims at an Israeli state and a Palestinian state existing side by side. “We are not going to recognize Israel. That is very simple…” He says accepting Israel’s right to exist would “cost 10 million Palestinians their right to Palestine. Who can pay that price? Who will go to the refugee camps and tell the people you have no right on Palestine?”
Vital lessons in hospitality / Fiyaz Mughal
Haaretz 29 July — Protecting Israel’s “brand” is not just about attracting tourists, but also about winning the moral support of the international community — As a frequent visitor to Israel, I have seen small but regular groups of Muslim pilgrims visiting Jerusalem and the Holy Land from India. What is striking, however, is how few European Muslims come on a religious pilgrimage, aside from small, handpicked groups of interfaith travelers. Visiting Israel is not the easiest of processes for European Muslims. My experiences entering and traveling around the country have unfortunately included a combination of extensive questioning and unexplained delays … I have heard from countless Muslim travelers that they felt they had been unfairly profiled or targeted at multiple junctures during their spiritual trip to Israel … Certainly, the suspicions of the authorities are understandable. They have undoubtedly been exacerbated by incidents such as the suicide bombing in a Tel Aviv nightclub in 2003, carried out by two British extremists. But ensuring that Muslim travelers have a safe and positive spiritual experience is vitally important for Israel.