West Bank protests held in solidarity with hunger strikers and refugees from Yarmouk camp

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Report: 4600 prisoners in Israeli jails, including 182 children, 184 administrative detainees
PNN — On Wednesday 19th December, a report prepared by Palestinian researcher in the field of prisoners’ affairs, Abdul Nasser Farawna, revealed that Israeli authorities detain 4600 in its detention centers and jails, from all social classes and segments of Palestinian society. He revealed that around 83% of prisoners are from the West Bank, 10% from the Gaza Strip and the rest are from Jerusalem, distributed to about 17 prisons and detention centers. He also revealed that among the prisoners, there are 182 children less than18 years, 11 female prisoners, 184 administrative detainees who were arrested without charge or trial, 13 elected deputies, and 3 former ministers, and several academic and political leaders.

“Keep your head high:” a comrade’s greeting to Samer Issawi
EI 21 Dec by Shahd Abusalama — Ayman Shrawna has suspended his 178-day hunger strike for ten days, as he has been promised by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) that it would review his case and release him by the beginning of next year. He is allowing himself to have only fluids, but has threatened to continue his strike if the IPS fails to fulfill its promises. This leaves Samer Issawi alone in this battle of empty stomachs, continuing his historic hunger strike that has lasted for 145 days.
While surfing on Facebook this week, I saw a video my best friend Loai Odeh had shared of the attack on Samer Issawi in an Israeli court. It made me feel sick and angry, but not shocked. “Your humanity and determination is always stronger than their brutality and savagery,” Loai wrote to his friend Samer, whom he grew up with in Jerusalem, and with whom he shared a cell in Israeli jails and was released in the prisoner exchange deal last year.

PCHR expresses extreme concern over the fate of al-Sharawna and al-Issawi
GAZA (PIC) 21 Dec — The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) expressed extreme concern over the fate of Ayman al-Sharawna and Samer al-Issawi, who have been on hunger strike in Israeli jails. PCHR held the Israeli Occupation Forces responsible for their lives, and called upon the international community to exert pressure on the IOF to immediately release al-Sharawna and al-Issawi … Ayman al-Sharawna, 36, from al-Khalil, and Samer al-Issawi, 33, from Jerusalem, have now been on hunger strike for 173 days and 143 days respectively in protest against being re-arrested and placed under the administrative detention.

Israel releases lawyer straight into house arrest so she can’t attend brother’s trial
MEMO 20 Dec — Palestinian human rights sources in occupied Jerusalem have reported that the city’s Magistrates’ Court has released lawyer Shereen El-Issawi on bail, only to place her under house arrest. She is the sister of hunger striker Samer El-Issawi, and her confinement at home means that she will be unable to attend his trial. Samer is in the fifth month of his hunger strike. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Forum in Jerusalem explained that the decision to release Shereen mentions specifically the ban on her attending the trials of any of her brothers, as well as Samer’s, for a period of six months.
The Forum’s lawyer, Mofeed El-Hajj, revealed that the court also decided to drop the new charge levelled against Samer El-Issawi for allegedly assaulting police officers who were transporting him to court.

Rebuilding the solidarity tent with al-Issawi for the second time
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 21 Dec — Residents of Issawiya town in Jerusalem rebuilt on Thursday evening the sit-in tent, that was set up in solidarity with their son the striking prisoner Samer al-Issawi and all the striking prisoners, after being demolished by the occupation. The residents had built the solidarity tent of wood at the same place next to al-Arabiin mosque in the town center where almost daily confrontations took place with occupation troops and police, in an attempt to prevent a campaign of solidarity with prisoner al-Issawi, who has been on hunger strike for several months.

Israel ‘will never undermine our steadfastness’: hunger strikers speak out from prison
EI 19 Dec by Maureen Clare Murphy — Three Palestinian political prisoners who have been on hunger strike for 22 days issued a statement expressing the goals of their protest through a lawyer with the rights group Addameer who visited them yesterday. The three men are being held by Israel without charge or trial — a practice known as administrative detention. All three were arrested on 22 November, the night after a Gaza ceasefire took effect, during which Israeli forces conducted sweeping arrest raids in the occupied West Bank. The prisoners — Jafar Azzadine, Tarek Qa’adan and Yousef Yassin — stated: Our open hunger strike is to protest the Intelligence and their policies, our goal is not just to gain our individual freedom but to end the practice of administrative detention, the pointed sword on the neck of the Palestinians.

New round of hunger strikes
RAMALLAH (Al-Akhbar) 20 Dec — Of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, Palestinians will often say, “We have no honor without you.” This is especially true for those who go on hunger strikes to protest the low conditions of their imprisonments, in particular the Israeli policy of “administrative detention,” which permits the detainment of prisoners without trial. In 2012, about 2,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails went on a hunger strike. When the strike ended in May 2012, many prisoners were assured their release, but Israel did not follow through.
Currently, there are five Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons who continue their hunger strikes:

West Bank marches in solidarity with prisoners and the Yarmouk camp
RAMALLAH (PIC) 21 Dec — West Bank’s weekly anti-apartheid wall and settlements marches were launched today in solidarity with the hunger striking prisoners and the refugees in Syria’s refugee camps. The occupation forces suppressed the Ma‘sara village’s weekly march … IOF also announced the town of Kafr Qaddoum a closed military zone and besieged it from its four sides … Meanwhile, dozens of citizens and foreign solidarity activists suffered suffocation after the Israeli troops fired at them tear gas grenades, during the repression of Bil’in‘s weekly anti-settlement and apartheid wall march. The IOF also attacked the weekly march of the village of Nabi Saleh that started from al-Shouhada Square after Friday prayers in solidarity with the prisoners in the Israeli jails.

Young activists close Red Cross in Ramallah in response to protest calls
RAMALLAH (PIC) 20 Dec — Dozens of Palestinian young activists closed on Thursday morning the entrance of the Red Cross headquarters in Ramallah city to protest its passive role in exposing Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian prisoners and hunger strikers … Earlier on Wednesday, Palestinian youth groups in Ramallah city called for closing all the Red Cross offices in the West Bank in protest at its silence on Israel’s violations against the Palestinian prisoners and hunger strikers.

Land, property, resources theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Restriction of movement

Aid agencies call for halt to recurring demolitions of water cisterns in Area C
PNN 20 Dec — Aid agencies [list at end of article] are calling for an immediate end to demolitions of water cisterns belonging to Palestinian communities in the West Bank, which have been on steady increase in the past year. The recurring demolitions present a clear breach of International Humanitarian Law and undermine the sustainability of the communities that depend on them for survival. The year 2012 ends with a somber record — just in its first 10 months, Israeli armed forces have destroyed 36 rainwater cisterns used by the Palestinian communities in the Area C of the West Bank, affecting over 1600 people, an increase from 34 cisterns destroyed in 2011. The communities whose cisterns were destroyed live unconnected to the water network and are forced to rely on rain harvesting and/or water purchases from vendors. Most of the communities that have been subject to demolition of cisterns reside in the vicinity of Israeli settlements and unauthorized outposts that enjoy a regular water supply. Aid agencies are dismayed by what appears to be a continuous targeted destruction and consciously slanted distribution of one of the most scarce and most vital natural resources in the occupied Palestinian territory. As an object “essential for the survival of the population”, according to International Humanitarian Law, water cisterns have special protection and hence should never be destroyed based on administrative reasons.

Fact sheet on water and sanitation in the access-restricted areas of the Gaza Strip
PNN — Thursday 20th December, EWASH launched a factsheet on Water and Sanitation in the Access Restricted Areas of the Gaza Strip … The Access Restricted Areas (ARA) extend along the entire northern and eastern perimeter of the Gaza Strip, adjacent to the ‘Green Line’ with Israel. Since late 2008, Palestinian access to these areas is restricted under an unilateral decree by the Government of Israel. The restricted areas are between 300 and 1.500 meters wide and include residential areas and prime agricultural land and water resources. Key Facts:
113,000 people are affected by the Israeli restrictions in the ARA.
Farming is the main source of income for the majority of families in the ARA.
Approximately 35% of Gaza’s cultivable land is located within the ARA.
More than 50% of the land in the ARA is not cultivated due to access restrictions and unavailability of reliable water supply.
Average loss to farmers’ income in the ARA is estimated at 63.7% compared to 5 years ago.
306 water wells in the ARA have been demolished by the Israeli military since 2005 at an estimated cost of 9 million dollars.
6 agricultural water reservoirs have been demolished in the ARA since the 2008/9 Israeli offensive “Cast Lead”, all of which remain unrepaired.
2750 dunams of water irrigation networks and 7600 meters of water pipes have been destroyed by the Israeli military since 2007.

Organizations embark on new project to help protect Palestinians’ rights
PNN 21 Dec — The European Union (EU) and Oxfam together with the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC), Juzoor for Health and Social Development, The Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS), The Agriculture Development Association (PARC) and the Coalition for Jerusalem represented by the Palestinian Counseling Centre (PCC), have announced the launch of a three year project to help Palestinians living in some of the most marginalized communities of East Jerusalem, where people are suffering from severely limited municipal services, Israeli settlement expansion, house demolition, and revocation of their residency rights.
The 3.5 million Euro EU-funded project, “Protect the Rights and Improve the Resilience of Vulnerable Communities in East Jerusalem,” seeks both to address the Israeli governmental violations causing poverty and displacement and to improve living conditions for 30,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem neighborhoods like Silwan, Esawwiyyeh, Sur Baher, Wadi Al Joz and the Old City.

Cut off from water and electricity grids, Arab Abu Farda stands alone
Palestine Monitor 19 Dec by Calum Toogood, photos by Lazar Simeonov — Arab Abu Farda is a Bedouin village which for the past 60 years has received no basic amenities such as water and electricity, and little help from the outside community. It is situated South of Qalqiliya in what is known as the ‘seam zone’, which is the land between the green line and the Apartheid Wall. This land is classified as a closed military zone, meaning construction in the area is prohibited. Even access through the checkpoint requires special permission. Since structures are not allowed to be built within the village due to the Israeli occupation policies, the houses are predominately made of corrugated metal, wooden pallets and anything else the villagers have been able to gather. The village is agriculturally based, as the residents breed livestock and sell the cheese from their animals in Nablus. During the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians embarked upon Jewish militia groups in 1948, the family that now lives in Arab Abu Farda was forced to flee from their home in a village close to Netanya.

Israel ‘developing new city’ in West Bank
Telegraph 20 Dec by Robert Tait in Jerusalem — Amid international condemnation of a sudden rush of settlement-building announcements totalling more than 6,000 new homes, settlers hailed the approval of plans for 523 houses in Geveot in the Gush Etzion bloc in the southern West Bank as a major triumph. The area, in the Judaean hills near the pre-1967 green line border, is currently inhabited by a small number of settlers living in caravans. “After years, we are happy to announce that the government of Israel has decided to build a city in Gush Etzion,” David Perel, head of the Gush Etzion regional council, told AFP. “This is a huge achievement.” He said plans for a city of at least 6,000 homes had been on the drawing board for around 12 years but had previously been rejected by Israel’s defence ministry.  Mr Perel’s assertion was supported by the Israeli anti-settler group, Peace Now, which warned that the development could eventually accommodate 25,000 settlers and further complicate negotiations for a possible two-state solution.

Jewish worshipers visit West Bank tomb
SALFIT (Ma‘an) 21 Dec — Thousands of Jewish worshipers accompanied by Israeli soldiers entered Kifl Haris in the northern West Bank on Friday, locals said. Kifl Haris mayor Issam Abu Yaqoub said the Israelis behaved provocatively during the visit, shouting at villagers and dancing in the streets.  Izzat Shuqour, Yaqoub’s deputy, said the group plastered stickers on Palestinian homes in the village. Religious sites sacred to Jews and Muslims are located in Kifl Haris.

Curfew imposed on Kifl Haris as settlers invade
ISM 21 Dec — At around 9.30pm last night several Israeli Army vehicles entered the village of Kifl Haris as they do many times every year. They immediately imposed a strict unannounced curfew. The Israeli military tell nobody this will happen, nobody can leave their homes, nobody is able to visit a doctor or a hospital. If settlers attack your home you must deal with it alone.
Kifl Haris is a Palestinian village in the northern West Bank, located six kilometres west of Salfit and 18 kilometres south of Nablus. Unfortunately for the villagers of Kifl Haris they are amongst the nearest village to the West Banks largest illegal settlement Ariel.
The pretext of the invasion into Kifl Haris is a pilgrimage to three disputed tombs, praying and dancing at a site they claim holds the remains of biblical ancestors. But as a resident explained, if they want to visit the tombs, why does it have to start in the middle of the night, and go onto the morning? Why do my children have to lay awake as they sing and drink alcohol? This isn’t about religion. This about them continuously intimidating us and seizing our land …
On certain visits the settlers have caused various different sorts of damage the village of Kifl Haris. They have forced their way into people’s homes leaving a trail of destruction behind them and often have damaged cars, by puncturing tyres or smashing windows.

Official: Israel lets 557 Christians out of Gaza for holidays
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 20 Dec — Israel will allow 557 Christians from the Gaza Strip to leave to the West Bank to participate in holiday celebrations, Palestinian officials and the Israeli army said.  A Palestinian official told Ma‘an that the Israeli side delivered 557 permits to Christians seeking to temporarily leave Gaza to join religious celebrations in the occupied West Bank. They will be allowed to leave Gaza from Dec. 24 until Jan. 8. The time period covers the two main Christmas observances for Catholic and Orthodox, on Dec. 25 and Jan. 7.  Many Christians were not eligible to apply for the permits which are subject to age restrictions. They are only given to Palestinians under 16 years old and older than 35 … In 2011 Israeli authorities gave 550 Christians from Gaza permits for the holidays.

Violence / Incursions / Clashes / Provocations / Arrests

PCHR Weekly Report [13-19 Dec]: 10 Palestinian civilians wounded; one dies of earlier wounds
IMEMC 21 Dec — 5 Palestinian civilians were wounded in the Gaza Strip, 4 of whom were wounded at the border area, while the fifth was wounded in the sea. Three Palestinian civilians, including two children, were wounded in the West Bank. At least 33 Palestinian civilians were abducted in the West Bank. 4 children from the Gaza Strip were abducted while attempting to cross the border into Israel … During the reporting period, the Israeli forces conducted at least 35 military incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank … During the reporting period, Israeli forces used force against peaceful demonstrations organized by Palestinian civilians and international and Israeli human rights defenders in protest at the construction of the wall and settlement activities in the West Bank. As a result, 4 Palestinian civilians, a 16 year-old boy sustained a gunshot to the right hand and an 18 year-old boy sustained a gunshot to his back in Bil‘in village   Full detailed report here

Palestinian child wounded in explosion of Israeli ordnance
JERICHO (PIC) 20 Dec — A 12-year-old Palestinian child was wounded when an Israeli army ordnance exploded near Jericho in the northern Jordan Valley on Thursday. Aref Daraghme, the mayor of Malih and rural areas in the northern Jordan Valley, said that Najiya Zamel suffered injuries in her limbs as a result of the explosion of the ordnance left over by Israeli occupation forces. He said that the blast took place in Hamamat Al-Malih that is frequently used by the IOF troops to exercise, adding that many victims fell as a result of similar explosions over the past few years.

Israel detains 3 from PA security in Nablus
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 20 Dec — Israeli forces crossed into Nablus overnight Wednesday and inspected seven houses belonging to Palestinians who work in the security services in Tal village, locals said. Israeli forces detained Sayel Tahseen Ramadan, 25, who works in the Palestinian security forces. They also detained Mohammad Ibrahim Ramadan, 25, and Jaafar al-Turabi, 28 and took them to an unknown location, according to residents of the village.

Undercover agents arrest seven Jerusalemites including child during night raid
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 20 Dec — Israeli occupation forces (IOF) fired tear gas and rubber bullets at Palestinian youths near the Shu‘fat refugee camp north of occupied Jerusalem on Tuesday night. Eyewitnesses said that undercover IOF soldiers ambushed Palestinian young men in the camp and captured seven of them. They said that the detainees included a 14-year-old child and a vendor, adding that the IOF soldiers were wearing plain clothes. They said that the agents beat up the seven detainees before holding them for two hours then taking them to Nabi Yaakov police station for questioning.

IOF kidnap 12 Palestinians in W. Bank and Jerusalem
NABLUS (PIC) 20 Dec — The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) kidnapped at dawn Thursday 12 Palestinians from different areas in the West Bank and Jerusalem. A force of Israeli troops kidnapped three Palestinian citizens from the villages of Tal and Sura southwest of Nablus city. Eyewitnesses said that the troops smashed furniture and caused material damage inside homes during the raids in the two villages.
In Al-Khalil city, the IOF kidnapped at dawn Shiekh Omar Al-Qawasmi and one of his nephews.
Nine other citizens were also detained and interrogated for hours during raids on homes before releasing only six of them later in Jalama town east of Jenin city.
The IOF kidnapped three young men as well during a campaign in Issawiya area in the occupied city of east Jerusalem.

Israeli forces detain Palestinian in Hebron
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 20 Dec — Israeli forces on Thursday raided al-Aroub refugee camp and detained Mahmud Ali al-Bis, 25, a Ma‘an reporter said.
At 3 a.m., Israeli forces raided Ethna village west of Hebron, and fired stun grenades toward Palestinian laborers. Laborers were in their way to work inside the green line. One of the laborers told Ma‘an that the “Israeli forces fired sound bombs to provoke us.”
In Hebron, Israeli forces raided a money exchange shop. The shop keeper told Ma‘an that the Israeli forces caused damage to the shop.

IOF soldiers storm Hebron villages, serve summonses
AL-KHALIL (PIC) 20 Dec — Israeli occupation forces (IOF) stormed Beit Ummar village, north of Al-Khalil, at dawn Thursday and served summonses to two brothers. The spokesman for the popular anti-settlement committee in the village said that the soldiers broke into many homes and searched them. He said that the soldiers thoroughly searched the home of Adib Jafar before dawn and served summonses to both his sons Adham and Haithem for intelligence questioning in Gush Etzion army barracks, north of Al-Khalil.

Israel arrests 8 Palestinians in West Bank raids
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 21 Dec — Israeli forces detained eight Palestinians in the West Bank overnight Thursday, the army said. Troops detained three Palestinians in the Hebron district, two in Tulkarem and three from the village of Rummana north of Jenin, an Israeli military spokesman told Ma‘an. They were taken for security questioning, he added.

Settlers burn vehicles, spray racist slogans south of Nablus
NABLUS (WAFA) 20 Dec — Jewish settlers burnt on Thursday two Palestinian-owned cars and sprayed racist slogans in the area in Majdal Bani Faddel, a village south of Nablus city, according to an activist. Ghassan Douglas, in charge of settlements file in the northern part of the West Bank, said that settlers infiltrated the village and burnt the cars belonging to Khaled Othman [Ma‘an gives the name as Anan]. He added they also sprayed racist slogans and drew the Star of David.


Official: 5 injured by Israeli fire in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) 21 Dec — Israeli forces shot and injured five Palestinians on Friday in the northern Gaza Strip [PIC: east of the Shouhada cemetery and east of the town of Beit Lahiya], a health ministry spokesman said. Ashraf al-Qidra said five Palestinians were hospitalized with moderate wounds after being shot near the border with Israel … Israeli troops have shot at Gazans near the border at least 10 times since the end of an eight-day offensive last month. Some 30 people have been wounded in the incidents, Gaza officials said.

Israeli attacks on media in Gaza ‘unlawful’

Al Jazeera 20 Dec — Israel violated international laws by targeting media in Gaza during the November 2012 conflict, US-based non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch has said. During the eight day conflict, the Israeli army targeted media personnel and offices of al Aqsa TV, al Quds Educational Radio, Quds TV, and Alwan Radio. The four attacks on journalists and media facilities by Israel in Gaza “was unlawful as it violated the laws of war by targeting civilians and civilian objects that were making no apparent contribution to Palestinian military operations,” the rights organisation said in a statement on Thursday. The attacks left two Palestinian cameramen killed, ten other media workers wounded and four media offices destroyed, including one in a building housing international media. The Israeli government has consistently defended the attacks by stating that the attacks were on legitimate military targets.

Survivors of Israeli offensive give heartbreaking testimonies in new video
EI 21 Dec by Adri Nieuwhof — Palestinian rights organization al-Haq has released a new video with heartbreaking testimonies by people who lost family members in Israel’s November military offensive against Gaza. Jamal al-Dalou testifies in the video how his family was wiped out by an Israeli bomb.

Study: Older children hit hardest by Gaza war
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 Dec — Older children were more affected by Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip than younger children, a survey by UNICEF found. UNICEF worked with the Palestinian Center for Democracy and Conflict Resolution and Birzeit University to conduct a rapid psycho-social assessment of children in the hardest-hit areas of the Gaza Strip, four days after the Nov. 21 ceasefire. Around three-quarters of the children surveyed had witnessed at least four violent events during the 8-day war … 83 percent reported that their homes were damaged or destroyed in the war. Of those surveyed, 14 percent were injured by Israeli shelling. Some 94 percent slept with their parents during the war and over three-quarters suffered aches and illness. Nearly all children – 97 percent – felt insecure, and 82 percent felt angry. Boys reported significantly more fears than girls, while more girls reported physical symptoms.

We will remain rooted here, says defiant father of Gaza boy killed by Israel
EI 19 Dec by Rami Almeghari — Under a mulberry tree on a sunny day, Muhammad Ibrahim Ashour and five of his cousins were playing near their homes on Siyam street in the Zaytoun neighborhood of southern Gaza City. It was Tuesday, 20 November and Israeli warplanes were carrying out intensive air strikes on the area, and many other parts of the coastal occupied territory. All of a sudden, an Israeli drone-fired missile hit the mulberry tree, killing eight-year-old Muhammad and wounding the five cousins and Muhammad’s eighty-year-old grandfather … Abu Rizeq added: “I couldn’t imagine my nephew would be a target for their warplanes. Our home is almost three kilometers away from the borderline and as you see, all four homes belong to me and my other brothers and no stranger can approach this area. Our women, ourselves and our children are the only ones here,” he explained. “The moment the explosion hit just a few meters away from the family house, I was in shock while an ambulance came over to rescue the wounded children and my dead nephew Muhammad.”

Minister oversees export of Gaza strawberry harvest
MEMO 21 Dec — EXCLUSIVE PICTURES — The Palestinian Minister of Agriculture in Gaza, Ali Al-Tarshawi, has joined strawberry farmers to pick this year’s harvest and witness the filling and loading of shipments in preparation for export. The minister was accompanied on his tour of farms in Beit Lahiyya, in the north of the Gaza Strip, by the town’s mayor, Izzedine Al-Dahnoun as well as heads of agricultural associations and facilitating agencies, along with ministry officials.
Mr. Al-Tarshawi said that around 250 acres of strawberry crops had been cultivated this year, giving a yield of between 2,500 and 3,000 tons. It is expected that between 500 and 700 tons of the strawberries will be exported from Gaza to Western Europe; the remainder will be consumed locally. He explained only about 500 tons were exported last year, which represents only 30 per cent of the quantity of strawberries being exported prior to the start of Israel’s blockade of Gaza when, on average, 1,500 tons were exported.

Mass wedding in Gaza
MEMO 20 Dec — EXCLUSIVE PICTURES  A mass wedding ceremony organised by the Islamic National Committee for Social Solidarity has been held in Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip. The ceremony was funded by the UAE’s Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Aal Nahyan Foundation. Such wedding ceremonies in Gaza are held as a way of mitigating the high cost of individual weddings and are subsidised by international Islamic organisations and philanthropic individuals. Each couple at the ceremony in Rafah was also given $4,000 from a fund provided by the Foundation for humanitarian work. 436 couples thanked the Islamic National Committee and the Sheikh Khalifa Foundation for their blessed efforts.

Freedom Flotilla activists reject Israeli compensation for their taken belongings
NAZARETH (PIC) 20 Dec — Some activists who participated in the Freedom Flotilla aid convoy refused the renewed Israeli offer to compensate them financially instead of giving their confiscated belongings back. Their belongings were stolen by the Israeli naval forces during their raid on the Mavi Marmara boat, one of the Freedom Flotilla ships that were attacked in international waters by the navy in May 31, 2010 … For his part, Sheikh Ra’ed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement in the 1948 occupied lands and one of the activists, expressed his belief that all their belongings are still in Israel’s possession … “especially the notebook in which I wrote in detail the Freedom Flotilla trip including the deadly attack that was carried out by the Zionist pirates,” Sheikh Salah stated.

Egypt deports 11 Palestinians to the Gaza Strip
PNN 19 Dec — On Tuesday 19th December, Israeli authorities deported 11 Palestinians who “illegally” entered Egypt, and were returned to the Gaza Strip through Rafah crossing. An Egyptian security source said that Egyptian authorities discovered the Palestinians after they entered the country; some of them entered to Egypt through the tunnels, and the others stayed in Egypt after their visa   expired. Egyptian authorities decided to deport them and return them back to Gaza.

Activism / Solidarity / BDS

In historic decision, South Africa’s ANC makes support for Israel boycott its official policy
EI 20 Dec by Ali Abunimah — For the first time ever, the African National Congress (ANC), the ruling party in South Africa, today made the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel part of its official policy. Mbuyiseni Ndlozi of BDS South Africa said the decision “by the ANC’s National Conference, its highest decision making body, is by far the most authoritative endorsement of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign.” … In the days leading up to the conference, Jewish communal and Zionst organizations had expressed worries about the impending vote JTA reported on 18 December:… The groups mounted intense efforts to forestall the resolution

Amid stiff opposition, Israeli occupation profiteer Veolia abandons big London waste bid in final stage
EI 21 Dec by Ali Abunimah — Amid stiffening opposition, Israel occupation profiteer Veolia has withdrawn its bid for a major contract in London in the final stages of the process. “The North London Waste Authority has received notification from Veolia Environmental Services that they will not be submitting final tenders for either NLWA’s waste services or fuel use contracts,” said a 21 December statement from the body responsible for waste management for seven local authorities in the UK capital. The statement confirmed that “Veolia had been shortlisted for both contracts,” which have a total value of four billion pounds.The announcement came after mounting opposition to the bid, spearheaded by the No to Veolia Action Group.

BDS roundup: Boycott actions for the holidays; St. Louis to investigate Veolia before voting on contract
EI 20 Dec — In this latest roundup of news from the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, activists in the US and in Australia urge holiday shoppers to boycott Israeli settlement products; and St. Louis city officials delay a vote on a contract and will begin a full investigation into Veolia’s history after sustained pressure by activists.

Podcast: Sodastream part of the occupation, says UK-based boycott activist Tony Greenstein
EI 21 Dec — “People will see [Sodastream] as anything but green, and anything but progressive. Ethnic cleansing is not green.” – Tony Greenstein, longtime Palestine solidarity activist and member of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods
This week on The Electronic Intifada podcast: Israel breaks the ceasefire agreement with Gaza’s ruling party just days after it was signed last month, we’ll have reports on the ongoing attacks against Palestinian fishermen and farmers as Gaza continues to rebuild in the aftermath of Israel’s attacks; Palestinian hunger strikers speak out from Israeli jails; and more.

Petitions condemn California resolution equating Palestine activism with anti-semitism
EI 19 Dec by Nora — Two separate petitions have begun circulating across the state of California which express serious concerns about House Resolution 35, a non-binding resolution that was passed with no debate at the very end of the state Assembly’s term in August. One petition is aimed at garnering support (from University of California students and alumni) of the University of California Student Association’s condemnation of HR 35, and another has started to circulate from the California Scholars for Academic Freedom urging the state to rescind the resolution altogether.

UK lawsuit challenges college unions’ right to boycott Israel
EI 21 Dec by Asa Winstanley — In October and November, a London court heard a case with potential consequences for the Palestine solidarity movement and for trade unions’ gradual adoption of the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. The director of Academic Friends of Israel is suing his own union in an employment tribunal. Ronnie Fraser accuses the 120,000-member-strong University and College Union of “institutional anti-Semitism” after its congress passed motions calling for members to discuss the Palestinian call to boycott Israeli universities. But according to one court document seen by The Electronic Intifada, Fraser follows a definition of anti-Semitism that seems to include any criticism of Israel.

Political developments

Last local elections to be held Saturday
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 21 Dec — A second round of voting will take place in the West Bank on Saturday in municipalities that did not take part in earlier local elections. Some 78 municipalities failed to field any candidates for the elections, and after a second registration, 20 districts remained without candidates. In other municipalities only one list was nominated. In contested municipalities, voting will take place on Saturday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. in 24 voting centers, the Palestinian Central Elections Commission said.

Europe trying to convince US to obtain Security Council resolution against settlements
IMEMC/Agencies 21 Dec — Nimir Hammad, Political Advisor to President Mahmoud Abbas, stated that several European Countries are exerting efforts meant at convincing the United States to obtain a serious resolution at the United Nations General Assembly to prevent Israel from continuing its illegal settlement activities. Last Wednesday, the United States foiled several attempts by Security Council member countries meant at issuing a resolution condemning Israel for its settlement activities in occupied East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. Due to U.S. pressures, the countries failed to pursue such a resolution … Speaking to Ma‘an, Hammad said that “should it become apparent that the Security Council will not take any serious decision regarding Israel’s ongoing violations, the Palestinian leadership will weigh the possibility of heading to the International Criminal Court after obtaining a membership status.”

General Assembly votes for Palestinian right to self-determination
IMEMC/Agencies 21 Dec — With an overwhelming majority, the United Nations General Assembly voted for the “Palestinian Right To Self Determination”; the vote passed by 179 votes while only seven countries, including Israel and the United States, voted against, and three countries abstained.

Japan deplores Israeli settlement plans
TOKYO (WAFA) 20 Dec — Japan deeply deplored Israeli plans to expand settlements in East Jerusalem, said a foreign ministry statement on Wednesday … [The statement] said “the Government of Japan strongly calls upon Israel to refrain from any unilateral act that changes the current status of East Jerusalem as well as not to implement the above-mentioned plans of construction for the sake of progress in the peace process.”

Shaath: Boycott, civil disobedience to escalate in 2013
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 Dec — The Palestinian Authority will escalate its diplomatic and non-violent struggle in 2013 but will not confront Israel militarily, senior Fatah official Nabil Shaath said Thursday. “The struggle will evolve and take new forms of boycott of Israeli goods and civil disobedience,” Shaath told Ma‘an, adding that grassroots and international support would force Israel to abide by international norms in 2013.  Shaath said the PA did not seek a confrontation with the US and that he expected Washington to pressure Israel to stop building settlements and to propose new initiatives for negotiations.

Finance minister, union discuss salary crisis
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an)  20 Dec — The government employees union met with PA Finance Minister Nabil Qassis on Thursday to discuss the payment of public sector salaries. Union chief Bassam Zakarneh said PA employees had to borrow money for transport to work but were determined to support the government against Israeli “piracy.” Around 153,000 PA staff have not been paid November salaries yet because Israel has withheld $100 million in Palestinian tax revenue as punishment for the UN’s acceptance of Palestine as a non-member state.

Official: Arab League chief to visit Palestine
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 21 Dec — Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi will visit Palestine on Dec. 29 to meet with President Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority foreign minister said Friday. Riyad al-Malki said al-Arabi would discuss the financial safety net pledged by the Arab League to the Palestinian Authority to ease the West Bank government’s financial crisis. The League has yet to deliver the pledged money, forcing banks to lend the PA $100 million to pay November salaries to public sector employees. The PA says the short-term loan will be repaid when money arrives from Arab countries.

Ministry: Schools to reopen Sunday
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 Dec — Schools in the West Bank will reopen on Sunday, the education ministry said Thursday, after closing during a teachers’ strike over unpaid salaries. Ministry undersecretary Mohammad Abu Zeid said classes would resume Sunday and end-of-term exams will be held Wednesday, after the Christmas holiday.

Fatah insists on holding anniversary in Gaza square
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 21 Dec — The Fatah movement will not accept any location to hold its anniversary celebration except Gaza City’s al-Katiba Square, member of Fatah Revolutionary Council Abdullah Abu Samhadana said Friday. In a statement, Abu Samhadana wondered why Hamas opposed organization of Fatah anniversary ceremony at al-Katiba Square. “While the Palestinian Authority allowed Hamas to celebrate its 25th anniversary in the West Bank the way Hamas wanted including rallies across the West Bank, Hamas rewarded that by preventing Fatah from holding its anniversary ceremony at al-Katiba Square where all Palestinian factions celebrate their anniversary,” Abu Samhadana added.

Talk of Palestinian-Jordanian confederation irks observers on both sides of the river
Times of Israel 17 Dec — ‘We have disengaged from the West Bank and we don’t want it back,’ writes Jordanian columnist — Media reports that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is advancing a plan for confederation with Jordan have sparked a flurry of negative reactions both in Jordan and in the Palestinian territories. London-based daily al-Quds al-Arabi reported last Thursday that Abbas held a closed meeting with seven Fatah and PA members earlier last week to discuss the imminent possibility of a confederate union with the Hashemite Kingdom. According to the report, Abbas asked his team to prepare a report on diplomatic possibilities for negotiating the confederation plan with Jordan, which he considered “among the supreme Palestinian interests.”

Survey: 62% of Palestinians for negotiations with Israel
AFP 20 Dec –  A survey conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center found that 62% of Palestinians believe that negotiations with Israel should be held in order to put an end to the conflict. Also, 75% believe that the United Nations bid was justified and 51% believe that the military response against Israel should be intensified. If presidential elections would be held in the Palestinian Authority, 43% said they would for vote for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and 29% said they would vote for Hamas prime minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh. Approximately 1,200 Palestinians participated in the survey.,7340,L-4322704,00.html

But compare that poll with this one; was the 20 Dec poll only in the West Bank? Were the questions asked differently?
88 percent of Palestinians believe armed struggle is the best way to achieve independence
Times of Israel 16 Dec — For the first time since 2006, more West Bank Palestinians support the political approach of Hamas as opposed to that of Fatah and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, a new poll shows. And an overwhelming majority of Palestinians believe the results of the latest Hamas-Israel escalation that included Operation Pillar of Defense — Israel’s eight-day operation against terror targets in Gaza last month — prove that the armed struggle represents the best path to Palestinian independence. The poll, conducted earlier this month by the Arab World Research and Development (AWRAD), a Ramallah-based research center, sampled 1,200 Palestinians from both Gaza and the West Bank. It set out to examine political opinions among Palestinians following Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza and Mahmoud Abbas’s successful UN nonmember statehood bid.


Palestinian refugees face high costs
BEIRUT (Daily Star) 22 Dec — Palestinians from Syria who have fled to neighboring Lebanon find themselves facing a new set of challenges as their second home was severely damaged in recent fighting in Syria’s capital. “We had to pay a LL25,000 [per person] visa fee to get into Lebanon,” said Umm Mohammad, a recent arrival from the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus. The 58-year-old, now a resident of the Palestinian refugee camp of Burj al-Barajneh south of Beirut, says the fee might seem small to many but for large families the costs add up. “Some are fleeing with five or six family members; they have to pay about $100 to get in and that is simply impossible for some families,” said Umm Mohammad.

UN agency says 100,000 Palestinians have fled from Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria
MEMO 21 Dec — Lisa Gillian of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) has announced that about 100,000 Palestinians have fled from the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria due to the recent clashes. The UN official said that “people are still fleeing”. The Yarmouk refugee camp was home to 150,000 Palestinians, but two-thirds have now left the camp on the outskirts of Damascus. That is, though, an estimate, said Gillian. Almost 3,000 have gone to Lebanon and another 2,000 are on the way, she added, most of them women and children. Dozens have held a demonstration in front of the UNRWA headquarters for Lebanon in Beirut, urging the Agency to provide them with accommodation.

Abu Zuhri appreciates neutralizing the Yarmouk refugee camp
GAZA (PIC) 20 Dec– Hamas welcomed the Palestinian consensus plan to save the Palestinian refugees in Syria, that aims to neutralize the Yarmouk refugee camp in the conflict between the regime and the free army in Syria, especially after the displacement of hundred thousand people out of the 150 thousand live in the camp. Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas spokesman, told PIC that the movement appreciated this plan to save the Palestinian refugees, through taking out all the armed parties, including the Syrian regular army, in the camp, to ensure calm and security for all the refugees.

Ambassador: Palestinian refugees can return to Damascus camp
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 Dec — An agreement between Palestinian factions in Damascus will allow residents of the Yarmouk refugee camp to return after fleeing violence, the Palestinian ambassador to Syria said Thursday. Mahmud al-Khalidi said Syrian and Palestinian factions will not allow gunmen to enter the camp. In turn, troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad will stay outside, he said. “We are working to make the entrances of the camp safe for Palestinians,” al-Khalidi told Ma‘an.

Other news

Two men seize an Israeli soldier’s weapon north of Jerusalem
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 21 Dec — Hebrew media sources reported that two Palestinians assaulted an Israeli soldier stationed at Al-Ram checkpoint in occupied Jerusalem, and seized his weapon before withdrawing from the place. An initial inquiry revealed that the soldier was assaulted by two Palestinians, who dosed him with pepper spray, overpowered him and stole his weapon. He sustained mild injuries and was treated by IOF medics on site, the Hebrew radio confirmed.

Jenin man dies aged 117, relatives say
JENIN (Ma‘an) 21 Dec — A very elderly man died on Friday in Kafr Dan village near Jenin at the age of 117, relatives said. The family of Abdul-Latif Amir Aabid say he was born in 1895 and took part in revolutions against the British Mandate in Palestine … Aabid never visited a traditional doctor and preferred to use herbs. “He was the village’s herbal doctor all his life,” the relative said. Aabid had five sons and three daughters, the eldest of whom is now 75. He had 50 grandchildren; the eldest is 51.

Bethlehem unveils giant carving of baby Jesus
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 21 Dec — A Bethlehem artist hopes to enter the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest ever model of baby Jesus, carved in olive wood. Zakaria Zakaria’s 300-kg carving was unveiled in Bethlehem on Thursday, made from a 700-kg olive tree imported from Italy. Ibrahim Faltas, the head of the John Paul II Foundation, had the idea for the carving and the organization supported the endeavor, along with Children Without Borders, foundation coordinator Suhail Daibes told Ma‘an.

Officials: 3 swine flu deaths in West Bank
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 Dec — The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health announced on Thursday that three Palestinians died of the H1N1 flu in the occupied West Bank, and 45 are ill … Al-Ramlawi said hundreds more were likely infected but had not been evaluated.

Analysis / Opinion / Reviews

Financial and political deadlock / Lama Khater
MEMO 21 Dec — The crisis did not begin when Israel decided to transfer the tax revenue owed to the Palestinian Authority (PA) to the Israeli Electricity Company instead, to pay for its arrears. Nor did it begin when the PA leadership decided to go to the United Nations to obtain non-member observer status. In fact, it began when we Palestinians believed that it was possible to build a state while being occupied; and that prosperity, development and success with state institutions were attainable before liberation. The crisis began when we believed that all other national priorities could be deferred in order to reform the internal administrative system, expand the civil service sector and strengthen the security agencies with ever more personnel and apparatus.
Why did the authority turn a blind eye to the accumulated consequences of placing its life-line and means of revenue in the hands of the Israeli Occupier?

US policy on Gaza rife with contradiction / Stephen Zunes
Nat. Catholic. Reporter 19 Dec — The Obama administration’s reaction to last month’s Israeli onslaught on the Gaza Strip is emblematic of the contradictions in its foreign policy seen throughout its first term. On the one hand, pushed by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, the administration was virtually alone in the international community defending the bombing and shelling of the crowded civilian enclave, and single-handedly blocking a modest and balanced initiative in the U.N. Security Council calling for a cease-fire. On the other hand, the administration was largely responsible for stopping the Israeli assault after little more than a week prior to a planned ground invasion and over the objections of most of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line cabinet … While, much to the chagrin of Israeli peace activists and others, the administration was largely repeating Israeli talking points, Obama was acting very differently behind the scenes.

As the ANC votes to support BDS, a new film compares life in Palestine with apartheid South Africa
Democracy Now 21 Dec — As the African National Congress voted Thursday to support the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel known as BDS, declaring it was “unapologetic in its view that the Palestinians are the victims and the oppressed in the conflict with Israel,” we look at a new film that examines the apartheid analogy commonly used to describe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Roadmap to Apartheid” is narrated by Pulitzer Prize-winning Alice Walker and puts archival footage and interviews with South Africans alongside similar material that shows what life is like for Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and inside Israel. The documentary has just been released to the public after a year-long film festival run, where it won numerous awards. We are joined by its co-directors, South African-born Ana Nogueira and Israeli-born Eron Davidson, both longtime journalists. [includes rush transcript]

Book Review — The hour of sunlight: One Palestinian’s journey from prisoner to peacemaker
MEMO 21 Dec reviewed by Amelia Smith — Every week, inmates at the Israeli prison of Beer Al-Sabe’ hold political debates inside their cells. What are the benefits of negotiations with Israel; how useful is the Palestine Liberation Organisation in the South of Lebanon? Hunger strikes in the 70s have granted the cellmates paper and pens and no restrictions on the books they read inside. They want to understand what is happening beyond their cell walls. Sami Al Jundi, a Palestinian militant turned peacemaker, was one of these detainees; it is through his story that we discover what life is like in the prison. It is here, within this democratic community of political prisoners that he begins his transformation from violent resistance to pacifism. In this beautiful memoir, written with his co-author and former colleague Jen Marlowe, he recounts the details and stages of his colourful life.

Jerusalem Post‘s self-censorship protects Israeli racism / Richard Silverstein
[includes screenshot of article before it disappeared] Tikun Olam 20 Dec — This post began the way a good number of them do: an enterprising Israeli noticed a newspaper article had been available online for an hour or a day or a year and then, all of a sudden, it disappeared. What happened? … A Jerusalem Post report from 2010 featured some especially noxious remarks by Shas founder, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, likening non-Jews to donkeys whose job was to serve Jews in the days of the messiah … It’s no accident that some of the most virulently racist language attacking African refugees in Israel has come from the Shas interior minister and disciple of Rabbi Yosef, Eli Yishai. In this sense, Yishai is giving license to his followers to incite such hate through sermons like this one. The remarks also impact (or should) the close relationship between the evangelical Christian Zionist movement and the Likud-settler political agenda. Though it’s doubtful anything can break the hold of this ideological kinship, at least true believers like Hagee and his flock should know that they’re held in deep disdain by Rabbi Yosef and tens of thousands of his true believers … I called the Post and spoke briefly to the editor of the online edition, who asked me to send an email. After I did, I received a response from Steve Linde, the editor, who wrote that he ordered the article expunged after receiving a condemnation of the Rabbi’s remarks from a reader who was affronted by them and believed they would encourage anti-Semitism.

Department of alternate reality:
Israel: Palestinians power-drunk
Ynet 21 Dec — Foreign Ministry warns PA’s pledge to take far-reaching steps against Israel if Right wins elections is ‘delusional and suicidal’; Jerusalem gears for possible ICC backlash … “The ‘new rules’ the Palestinians are talking about are no different than the old rules that have always resulted in conflict, hatred, violence and their defeat,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yigal Palmor said. “The Palestinians’ tragedy is that instead of dedicating efforts to building themselves, they are focusing on trying to harm Israel. Instead of building their future they are immersed in attempts to ruin ours…”,7340,L-4322837,00.html (listserv) (archive)