Israel invites bids to build 1,000 settler homes
JERUSALEM (AFP) 11 Aug — Israel is inviting bids to build over 1,000 settler homes in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the housing ministry said on Sunday, ahead of peace talks with the Palestinians. “Tenders will be published” later in the day for 793 units in annexed east Jerusalem and 394 elsewhere in the West Bank, the ministry said in a statement, three days before the next round of talks. Housing Minister Uri Ariel, of the far-right Jewish Home party, dismissed international criticism of settlement building on occupied Palestinian land as illegal and an obstacle to peace. “No country in the world accepts diktats from other countries on where it is allowed to build or not,” he said in the statement. “We shall continue to market apartments and build throughout the country.” The statement said that plots were to be offered in Har Homa and Gilo, both on east Jerusalem’s southern outskirts and in Pisgat Zeev, on the city’s northern edge. Tenders would also be invited for homes in Ariel, in the northern West Bank, in Maale Adumim, East of Jerusalem, and in Efrata and Beitar Ilit, around Bethlehem, it said.
Israel places cornerstone for Jerusalem settlement
IMEMC 12 Aug — [Sunday August 11, 2013] Israeli “Housing Minister”, Uri Ariel, and the Jerusalem City Council head, Nir Barkat, placed the cornerstone of a new settlement, meant for Haredi Jews, on Palestinian lands in Jabal Al-Mokabbir Palestinian town, south of occupied East Jerusalem. A settler group, known as Emonah, will implement the new constructions. Parking lots for the new settlement had already been built nearly five years ago on three dunams of land, but the settlement was not built due to legal procedures after the Palestinians filed appeals against the constructions, but an Israeli court ruled against the Palestinians and the Israel government okayed the plan …
Resident Jamal Abu Sarhan, a Palestinian impacted by the construction, told the WAFA news agency that the City Council in Jerusalem closed the main road that leads to his home, and converted it into a pedestrian only pathway. “I pay thousands of shekels in taxes to the Jerusalem City council, but I get no services, and now they surrounded me, and left me a small pathway that is less that 2 meters wide,” he said, “No cars, no ambulances, no fire trucks… can reach my place.” He also said that he received an official notice informing him that Israel intends to confiscate a half dunam (0.12 acre) of land he owns in front of his home.
Lawyer Majed Hamdan told WAFA that he has been representing the residents in Israeli courts for several years now in an attempt to prevent the implementation of the new settlement plan, and that he managed to stop it for two years. “But Emonah is supported by various international groups that fund illegal settlements in Palestine, they can pay legal fees, hire lawyers, lobby…,” Hamdan said, “The residents cannot do that….
Israel shifts Oslo Accord borders to continue to prevent Palestinians from using their land and building homes
[with map] HUWWARA, Occupied Palestine (ISM) 10 Aug by Nablus Team — Maher, from the village of Huwwara close to Nablus, is one of many Palestinians who has been tricked into thinking that Palestinians have the power to issue building permits in areas labeled as ‘B’ under the Oslo accords. Maher owns land designated as ‘B’ and so applied to the Palestinian Authority for planning permission to build a house to provide for his children when they grew up. The permission was accepted and he obtained the relevant documents and paid the relative charges to proceed. The land the house was going to be built on was being used as a rubbish tip and so he started to clear the land in order to build the house. For six months he cleared the land and dug the foundations of the house before Israel issued a stop work paper in early July. Maher was surprised by this, especially when the reason for the stop work order being issued was because of Israeli claims that the land was Area C. Maps obtained show that the proposed structure is in area B but Maher has no choice but to challenge the decision in the court if he wants to continue building … The land is on the outskirts of a built up area of houses and Palestinian residents and so it is not clear why Israel is prohibiting the building of the property as there are no ‘security’ concerns of the occupation nearby. “There’s just Palestinians here. No army, no settlers, nothing prohibiting us from building,” says Maher.
Settlers seize Palestinian lands in Bethlehem
BETHLEHEM (PIC) 10 Aug — A group of Jewish settlers seized agricultural lands in the Bethlehem village of al-Khader southern occupied West Bank on Saturday. Settlers from Elazar settlement, led by the extremist settler Nadia Matar’s organization “women in green”, have seized an agriculture land belonging to a Palestinian farmer in the village, said Ahmed Salah the coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlement in al-Khader village. The settlers planted the confiscated land, belonging to Ibrahim Odeh Salah, with olive trees, the local activist added.
Knesset to discuss possibility of opening Aqsa Mosque permanently before Jews
NAZARETH (PIC) 11 Aug — The interior and environment committee of the Knesset intends to table [=consider] a proposal calling for allowing the Jews to desecrate the Aqsa Mosque to perform their rituals, especially during their religious days and festivals. The website of the Knesset said that the interior committee would discuss the opening of the Aqsa Mosque before [to] the Jews during the holy month of Ramadan and the coming Jewish holidays. The committee is expected to study a request filed by Jewish groups calling for opening all gates and entrances of the Aqsa Mosque before [to] the Jews. The issue of preventing the Jews from entering the Aqsa Mosque during the last holy month of Ramadan will also be debated during this session. Representatives from the ministries of interior, tourism, public security in addition to other Jewish and Zionist groups were invited to participate in this meeting.
Tel Aviv water war, while Palestine is in drought!
Birmingham City Univ. 11 Aug — So this image was found by us BCUPalestineSociety from the ‘water-war’ tag on Tumblr. An image of thousands of Israelis in Tel-Aviv splashing water like it just fell from the sky. Now you’re probably thinking “They can do what they want!” well take these facts into consideration and it may change your mind: “In occupied Palestine 87% of water obtained from generated from the mountain aquifer in the West Bank and 82% of water obtained in the coastal aquifer in Gaza is denied to Palestinians and used directly by Israelis In occupied Palestine only 5.3% of inhabitants of the Gaza strip consider their water quality to be ‘good’. In occupied Palestine half of the water delivered to Palestinians homes and farms is lost or does not reach them … In occupied Palestine, Palestinians are prevented from digging deep holes to extract water, and are forced to rely on dirty and superficial water sources. When they run out of water, they are forced to buy their own stolen water back from Israeli companies.
Restriction of movement
Israeli soldiers deny medical help to boy bitten by snake
NABLUS (Ma’an) 11 Aug — A young boy bitten by a snake in Nablus on Sunday was refused medical attention by Israeli soldiers manning a checkpoint, the boy’s father said. Tareq Abu Aoun told Ma’an that his son Muhammad was bitten by the snake near the Hamra checkpoint in Nablus and lost consciousness. He asked Israeli soldiers to allow him to pass the checkpoint and call an ambulance, but they refused. The soldiers told Abu Aoun that he was obstructing the checkpoint and prevented him from queuing to pass through. An ambulance from the Palestinian Red Crescent managed to access the area after an hour and a half and transferred the boy to Rafida hospital, where he is said to be in a critical condition. The boy’s father killed the snake and took it to the hospital so doctors would be able to identity the correct antidote.[There are said to be nine poisonous snakes in Palestine/Israel] He said the soldiers were laughing as they left the area.
Violence / Raids / Suppression of protests / Clashes / Illegal arrests
IOF quell anti-settlement marches in Ma‘sarah and Kafr Qaddum villages
RAMALLAH (PIC) 10 Aug — The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) violently attacked the weekly marches against settlement that were organized on the second day of Eid Al-Fitr (lesser Bairam) in the villages of Ma‘sarah and Kafr Qaddum. Anti-settlement activist Hasan Berejaih said that Israeli soldiers subdued the march organized on Friday afternoon in Ma‘sarah village and prevented the participants from reaching the segregation wall. He added that the IOF detained some participating activists, including pro-Palestinian foreigners from France and Italy.
In Kafr Qaddum village, five children under age of seven suffered severe suffocation when some tear gas grenades fired by Israeli soldiers fell onto their homes. The incident happened when the IOF showered the weekly march protesting settlement activities in the village with a hail of tear gas grenades. Eyewitnesses said that the IOF deliberately fired tear gas grenades over the houses. Several protesters also suffered injuries during the events in Kafr Qaddum village.
Photo essay: Israeli army incursion through Apartheid Wall in Ni‘lin
NI‘LIN, Occupied Palestine (ISM) 10 Aug by Ramallah Team — …After an hour of continuous shooting of tear gas canisters, Israeli forces crossed through the gate in the wall and chased protesters up the hill shooting more gas canisters and rubber-coated steel bullets. The protest finished at around 3pm when Israeli forces retreated. Two Palestinian demonstrators needed medical treatment after being shot with rubber coated steel bullets. For five years the people of Ni‘lin have been demonstrating against the Apartheid Wall that has taken 2500 dunums of Ni‘lin land.
Journal — Welcome to Palestine: tear gas and coffee
[with video of demo] KAFR QADDUM, Occupied Palestine (ISM) 10 Aug by Anna, Nablus Team — I came to Palestine last Tuesday and joined the weekly protest held on Friday the 8th of August in Kafr Qaddum. The demonstration represented non-violent resistance against the land grab and for the freedom of movement in the village. Kafr Qaddum was my first demonstration in Palestine in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, self-determination, human rights and international law … Yesterday as we got off the service (shared taxi), soldiers started firing tear gas and sound bombs directly at protesters. They had invaded the village and chased after Palestinians and several international and Israeli activists throughout the village. Even though I knew the answer I asked two international comrades who were there with me: “has the demo begun?” – “No, that’s the pre-demo.” I can now easily reply to anybody asking me the same. Actually, since early that morning soldiers and police (with at least three jeeps) had entered the village, scaring people and filling the air with so much gas people could hardly breathe. After one of the first clashes between the Palestinian youth and the soldiers had begun, everyone started running everywhere trying to protect themselves as best as possible.
Many Palestinian young men wounded in clashes with IOF south of Jenin
JENIN (PIC) 11 Aug — Several Palestinian young men suffered injuries during violent clashes with Israeli soldiers on Saturday in Kafr Ra’ei [Kafr Ra‘i] town to the south of Jenin. Local sources reported that the Israeli occupation forces intensively fired tear gas grenades and rubber bullets at the angry young men. They affirmed that the clashes broke out after the IOF raided and ransacked several homes and commercial stores in the town.
IOF storms a church in al-Khalil
AL-KHALIL (PIC) 11 Aug — Israeli military forces on Sunday stormed a church in the city of al-Khalil in the south of the occupied West Bank. According to Palestinian security sources, three Israeli military vehicles raided in the early morning hours the Moscobiya Church in the city of al-Khalil. No arrests were reported.
Meanwhile, the occupation forces arrested a 17-year-old Palestinian boy, following a raid on his house in the town of Khader near Bethlehem in the southern occupied West Bank.
IOF kidnap young ex-detainee near Al-Khalil
AL-KHALIL (PIC) 10 Aug — The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) kidnapped on Saturday morning ex-detainee Othman Abu Arram, a 23-year old young man from Yatta town, south of Al-Khalil city. The father of Othman told the Palestinian information center (PIC) that the IOF kidnapped his son at a checkpoint they established suddenly at Zaif junction to the south of Al-Khalil, as he was en route to his workplace in a restaurant in Ramallah city. Abu Arram was kidnapped for the first time when he was at age 17 and charged, then, with attempting to stab an Israeli soldier and carrying attacks against Israelis.
When Ahmad returns: A Palestinian family waits for the brother who hasn’t been home in more than two decades
Haaretz 11 Aug by Ilene Prusher — With Israel due to release 104 long-serving prisoners, 26 of them this week, many Palestinians are waiting, and wondering about life after prison — Ahmad Juma Khalaf’s family has big plans for his homecoming. He was 17 in November 1992 when he was arrested for attempted murder; he was convicted and sentenced the following month. Stirred up by Palestinian sentiment during the first intifada, his family says, he was convicted of stabbing a young Israeli man in the Old City of Jerusalem, although he never confessed to the crime. Now 38, he’s been in prison for almost 21 years. His younger brother Moussa underscores the seeming severity of the sentence: Ahmad has spent more years of his life in prison than out of it. His family has its theories about why he was given such a long sentence: He still denies his involvement in the attack, making it impossible for him to show contrition or promise never to return to violence. In addition, the offense makes him a convict “with blood on his hands,” according to Israel … Qaddoura Fares, the head of the Palestinian Prisoner’s Association, said Ahmad’s treatment was indicative of the discriminatory treatment of Palestinian prisoners compared to their Jewish counterparts in Israeli jails. “We hear on the radio that Ami Popper, who killed seven people and is serving a life sentence, is allowed to come out of prison to get married for the third time, got to father three children since going to jail and even managed to have a car accident while on vacation with them in Eilat.
Sheikh Abu al-Hija spends Eid with his son in custody
JENIN (PIC) 10 Aug — Sheikh Jamal Abdel Salam Abu Hija, 54, has spent for the first time the Eid with one of his family members where he was prevented to meet any of them since his detention ten years ago. Sheikh Jamal spent for the first time the Eid with his eldest son Abdul Salam, detained since April, in the same room in Eshel prison in Beersheba.
Families of political detainees stage sit-in outside PA jail in Jericho
RAMALLAH (PIC) 10 Aug — The families of political prisoners Islam Saleh and Mohamed Asi held a sit-in on Friday afternoon outside the detention center of the Palestinian Authority intelligence agency in Jericho after they were prevented from visiting them. An informed source told the Palestinian information center (PIC) that two families of 20 individuals left Beit Lakiya village, near Ramallah city, in the early morning hours on Friday on their way to visit their relatives Saleh and Asi in Jericho jail, but they were unjustifiably barred from seeing them … After long hours of waiting, the jailers allowed only the mother of Islam to see her son for a few minutes.
Israelis kill Palestinian on Gaza border
Naharnet/AFP 11 Aug — Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian on the border with Gaza and wounded another, sources on both sides told Agence France Presse on Sunday. The 30-year-old man, shot east of El-Bureij in the central Gaza Strip on Saturday night, was named as Hussein Awadallah from Nuseirat refugee camp in the center of the Palestinian enclave. A Gaza health service official said the body was returned to the Gaza Strip. The Israeli army said the man had been seen behaving suspiciously in an area close to the border fence where explosive devices had been planted in the past. “Later on, he began crossing the fence with a suspicious object in his possession,” a military spokesman told AFP. He said that after warning shots were ignored, soldiers fired at the man. A military source said he was subsequently found to be unarmed.
Palestinian killed by army fire Saturday identified [and another man shot]
IMEMC 12 Aug — …Dr. Ashraf Al-Qodra, spokesperson of the Ministry of Health in Gaza, stated that Israel handed, on Sunday, the body of Hussein Abdul-Hadi Awadallah, 30, to the Palestinian side, and added that the slain man is from An-Nusseirat refugee camp, in central Gaza.
Furthermore, Al-Qodra said that, on Sunday, Israeli soldiers manning a military across the border east of Gaza City fired rounds of live ammunition at Palestinian lands and homes, wounding one Palestinian identified as Mahmoud Samir Jundiyya, 25. Jundiyya was shot in his right foot, and was moved to the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza suffering moderate injuries.
From little Gaza to chunky Australia
BBC Magazine 10 Aug by Jon Donnison — “Well, you have certainly got a bigger patch,” one of my friends in Gaza remarked as we strolled along the beach on my final sun-kissed summer evening on the shores of the Mediterranean. A little heavy of heart as I stepped around children flying kites against an ever-pinkening sky, I was about to leave the pint-sized Palestinian territory and set off on the interminable thrombosis-inducing journey to the vast expanses of Australia. And since I touched down on the world’s biggest island, jaded by jetlag and infused with insomnia, I have become somewhat obsessed with matters of size. It began with a bit of night-time number crunching which revealed to me the probably never-before-reported fact that Gaza would fit inside Australia no fewer than 21,366 times … There are 4,602 people per square kilometer in Gaza [and] 3 people per square kilometer in Australia.
Hamas vs. Fatah
Hamas security forces crack down on Fatah in Gaza
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 11 Aug — Hamas security forces have launched an arrest campaign against Fatah leaders and affiliates in the Gaza Strip, Fatah said in a statement on Sunday. Hamas security forces raided the home of Fatah official Abed al-Aziz al- Maqadma on Thursday, confiscating his computer and mobile phone. He was taken to internal security headquarters in northern Gaza, where he is still being detained. Hamas security forces also detained Fatah officials Issa Darwish and Hussein Abu Hilayel on Friday, with both officials still being held for unknown reasons. Abed al-Jawad Ziyada, Walid Sbeih, Jalil Ishteiwi, and Raed Abu Hussein were summoned for questioning for participating in Fatah activities. Fatah said the arrests were flagrant assaults and violate previous arrangements made during reconciliation talks, which agreed to end to politically motivated arrests. The party called on Hamas to end all violations against its members.
PA summons 6 Hamas affiliates
WEST BANK (PIC) 11 Aug — …The Preventive Security Service (PSS) summoned six Hamas supporters from the town of Immatin east of Qalqilya, local sources confirmed. In Tulkarem, the PSS also continued to detain ten Hamas affiliates. They all are liberated captives from the Israeli jails and former political detainees in PA prisons.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Courts in Ramallah extended the detention of three leaders in the Islamic bloc at Birzeit University for fifteen days. The three detainees have launched an open hunger strike since their arrest by the General Intelligence Service in Ramallah last Tuesday.
Fear and loathing in Upper Nazareth
Haaretz 11 Aug by Eli Ashkenazi — Arab and Jewish residents respond to Mayor Shimon Gapso, who is determined to keep his town predominantly Jewish … “There’s a war atmosphere in the city,” said an Arab business owner who requested anonymity. “This time things have reached a climax, but there have been statements against us for a long time and they are already creating a bad atmosphere here.” He claimed that as a result of that atmosphere his young son was humiliated and harassed in his kindergarten. “Other children called him a ‘stinking Arab,’ among other things, and we had to take him out of the kindergarten [in Upper Nazareth] and transfer him to one in Nazareth.”
Children with swollen bellies in East Jerusalem
Haaretz 12 Aug by Yudith Oppenheimer — The declaration by Social Affairs Ministry Director General Yossi Silman, according to which there is no hunger in Israel because kids aren’t wandering around with swollen bellies, was a pathetic statement that sets back welfare policy by decades … The poverty data for Jerusalem’s Jewish children, Haredim and non-Haredim alike, are deplorable and must be addressed immediately. But nothing compares to the horrific statistics for the capital’s Palestinian children. While the state statistics bureau’s numbers point to a moderate decline in poverty among the city’s Jewish children, including Haredim, in the past few years, in Palestinian East Jerusalem the poverty rate rose 10 percent in the past four years. According to data from the Jerusalem municipality, 36 percent of children in the eastern part of the city do not complete 12 years of schooling; the dropout rate is five times the national rate. The only possible explanation is the fact that the state barely exists in East Jerusalem these days. Palestinian children meet the authorities primarily when they are pulled from their beds in the middle of the night and arrested on suspicion of throwing stones, allegations that often turn out to be false. Even if most are released after a few days without being charged, the emotional damage has already been done, joining a long list of injustices that make up their stolen childhood … The Israeli-Palestinian talks have resumed, but under pressure from the Israeli government the issue of Jerusalem is being set aside, as usual, indefinitely. The ministers will continue to speak loftily about the united city and to delude the public into thinking a negotiated solution can be reached without a compromise in Jerusalem. At the same time, Israel will continue its policy of appropriating East Jerusalem while abandoning its residents. If this continues it may not be long before Silman finally sees children with hunger-swollen bellies, at least in East Jerusalem.
Palestinian refugees and Lebanon
Why are Palestinians blamed for violence in Lebanon?
BEIRUT 9 Aug (Electronic Intifada) by Moe Ali Nayel — As Syria’s war spills over into Lebanon, and Palestinian refugees from Syria pour into Lebanon by the tens of thousands, the Palestinian refugee community in Lebanon once again finds itself scapegoated along with Syrian refugees by Lebanon’s media and political elite. Palestinians and Syrians who have fled to Lebanon have been greeted by attitudes such as that of Gebran Bassil, minister of energy and water and leader of the centrist Free Patriotic Movement: “When we say we do not want displaced Syrians and Palestinians, it is because they want to take our place.” The minister added, referring to the Palestinian camps in Syria: “Isn’t it enough that we already have Palestinians in Lebanon for the rest of the camps to come and settle in Lebanon as well,” proposing that Lebanon should close its borders to those fleeing the violence in Syria, following the moves of Jordan and Turkey.
Rasd condemns banning Palestinian refugees’ entry to Lebanon
BEIRUT (PIC) 10 Aug — A Palestinian human rights organization, concerned with the Palestinian refugees’ affairs in Lebanon, condemned the Lebanese authorities’ decision to ban the Palestinian refugees’ entry from Syria to Lebanon. The Palestinian human rights foundation ‘Rasd’ said in a statement that the Lebanese authorities banned on August 6, 2013 the entry of Palestinian refugees fleeing from Syria due to the ongoing bloody conflict to Lebanon. The foundation considered the Lebanese decision a violation of the Lebanese international commitments, pointing out that dozens of families are stuck on the Lebanese borders including children and elderly. The human rights foundation called on the Lebanese authorities to cancel its decision to prevent the Palestinian refugees’ entry to Lebanon on humanitarian grounds. International law places obligations on Lebanon when deporting individuals who may face the risk of death, the foundation said.
Hamas appeals to Lebanese authorities to deal humanely with Palestinian refugees
GAZA (PIC) 11 Aug — The refugee affairs department of the Hamas Movement appealed to the Lebanese authorities to deal with the Palestinian refugee fleeing the Syrian war on humanitarian grounds. “While we recognize the Lebanese political fears related to the issue of the Palestinian presence, we appeal to the Lebanese authorities to deal with the issue of the Syria’s Palestinians humanely and not politically” the refugee affairs department stated in a press release. It called on the Lebanese authorities to arrange the entry of the Palestinian refugees displaced from Syria to Lebanon under the supervision of the UNRWA and the Palestinian factions, so as to ensure their safety and their presence in Lebanon temporarily due to the internal events in Syria.
Political and other news
Israel set to exile 14 prisoners to Gaza, release 12 others in ‘goodwill’ gesture
IMEMC 12 Aug - In a move labeled by Israeli government officials as a ‘goodwill’ gesture, but questioned by the families of the over 4,000 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel as a public relations stunt, just 12 prisoners will be released on Tuesday, with an additional 14 to be exiled to the Gaza Strip. In the past, such prisoner releases have involved hundreds of imprisoned Palestinians, but this time, the Israeli government has approved just 12 prisoners for full release. An additional 14 Palestinian prisoners will be exiled to the Gaza Strip, unable to return to their families and homes in the West Bank. Israeli forces engage in daily raids of Palestinian towns, villages and refugee camps, abducting sometimes dozens of people each day. So Palestinian prisoner advocacy groups say that the release of a dozen prisoners is rather disingenuous on the Israeli government’s part, since the Israeli military usually abducts that many in a single day … Although most of the Palestinians on the list were imprisoned for killing Israelis, prisoner rights advocates in Palestine point out that Palestinians are often convicted based on circumstantial evidence and without proper legal representation. Many Palestinian prisoners have also been forced to ‘confess’ through the use of torture techniques. The prison advocacy organization Addameer has documented the extensive and routine use of torture in the interrogations of Palestinian prisoners. According to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahranoth, the prisoners to be released or exiled on Tuesday are the following:
Israel to free first group of Palestinian prisoners ahead of peace talks
JERUSALEM (Reuters) 11 Aug by Allyn Fisher-Ilan — Israel on Monday published a list of 26 Palestinian prisoners set to go free within days, some after spending more than two decades behind bars, in the first stage of a deal that led to a resumption of U.S.-backed peace talks last month. The decision was made late Sunday by a panel of three cabinet ministers headed by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and security and legal personnel. Families of Israelis victimized by the inmates’ attacks have 48 hours to appeal their planned release to the high court. Based on past decisions, the court was unlikely to intervene. The prisoners were the first group of 104 Israel has already decided in principle to free as part of an agreement reached after intensive shuttle diplomacy by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to renew talks for Palestinian statehood … Two of the prisoners would have served out their sentences in another six months, and six others over the next three years … Most of the inmates on the list, as published by Israel Prisons Authority, were jailed between 1985 and 1994. They were convicted of murder, attempted murder or acting as an accomplice in a lethal assault … For Abbas the prospective prisoner release is a triumph after years of disappointing talks with Israel. Many of the inmates were said to have had an affiliation with his Western-backed Fatah movement or one of its allies.
Arab pop star adds his voice to the calls for a peace deal for Palestine
RAMALLAH (The Observer) 10 Aug by Nabila Ramdani — Arab Idol winner Mohammed Assaf is revered by fans in the Middle East but his main aim now is to help establish the rights of fellow Palestinians — An incredible voice is invariably the key to success in any TV talent show. But not many singers choose to use theirs like Mohammed Assaf, the 23-year-old Palestinian who shot to prominence across the Middle East and North Africa in June by winning the hugely popular Arab Idol. Assaf’s pitch-perfect renditions of regional classics from across the Arab world attracted an audience of up to 100 million for the show’s final. Exuberant idealism may have been the hallmark of his performances but, like those who achieved so much in the early months of the Arab spring revolutions of 2011, Assaf knows romanticism alone will not sustain his ambitions. In the buildup to Palestinian-Israeli peace talks which resume in Jerusalem this week, there is no doubting his growing political influence. “I have a great responsibility to my people,” said Assaf, after performing at a new stadium near Hebron in the West Bank to thousands of ecstatic fans. Nationalist songs such as Ya Tair al-Tayer (Oh Bird in Flight) provided solace to those yearning for full Palestinian independence, but Assaf is convinced that real change is possible. “I am confident that I will see a free Palestine in my lifetime,” he said.
Update: Netanyahu complains to Kerry of incitement and cites — Mohammed Assaf’s lyrics
Mondoweiss 11 Aug by Annie Robbins — (Update: Mohammed Assaf’s political statement below) As Israel announces 1,200 new housing units over the Green Line, the second announcement of settlement expansion within one week, the Jerusalem Post says that Israel P.M. Netanyahu complained to Secretary of State John Kerry, Palestinian incitement undermines peace: He also included a link to a YouTube video that depicts the popular winner of Arab Idol Muhammad Assaf singing a song at the Barcelona soccer game in Hebron that spoke longingly of Israeli cities within the pre-1967 lines as belonging to Palestine. Assaf’s performance at Dora stadium on August 3rd included Palestinian national songs Ali Keffiyeh and Ya Tir Ya Tair/Oh you bird going home. And what are those incitement lyrics? Some of them: Palestine is my beautiful country / Go to Safad and Tiberias / Send my love to Acre and Haifa / Don’t forget the Arab Castle, Nazareth / Tell Bissan [Galilee city], its people are coming back / Mawwal: Oh Jerusalem, my tears are scattered / My people is, around the world, scattered
[some of the comments on this article are important, definitely worth reading. Note the rebuttals to the oft-repeated claim that Abbas said he would not allow any Israeli, civilian or soldier, in an independent Palestine]
BBC festival features Palestine Strings and condemnation of apartheid to jubilant applause
Mondoweiss 11 Aug by Tom Suarez — On August 8, seventeen young Palestinian musicians put Palestine on the ‘map’ of one of the world’s most prestigious international music festivals, the BBC Proms. Aged twelve to twenty-three years, they are members of the Palestinian Strings, a brainchild of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, Palestine’s preeminent music institution. Their appearance at the Proms was a collaboration with the renowned violinist Nigel Kennedy and several members of his Orchestra of Life. Kennedy, well-known for his musical interests beyond the confines of standard Western practice, first learned of the Palestinian musicians from a Youtube video.
Sinai air strike shows hair-trigger Israel-Egypt security ties
JERUSALEM/CAIRO (Reuters) 12 Aug by Dan Williams & Yasmine Saleh – Just as they were preparing to launch their rocket across the border into Israel on Friday, four Islamist guerrillas in Egypt were killed by a missile. Al Qaeda blamed Israel for the attack in the Egyptian Sinai near Gaza, where there has been a decade of fighting between Palestinians and Israelis. Israel dismissed reports of its responsibility and said it respected Egypt’s sovereignty. Egypt’s armed forces, struggling to impose order after they toppled Islamist President Mohamed Mursi last month but wary of upsetting Egyptians by appearing to cooperate with Israel, said Israel was not involved. They said the Rafah strike came from an Egyptian helicopter as part of efforts to crack down on al Qaeda in Sinai, a lawless desert peninsula that is home to an increasing number of militants who are also a threat to stability in Egypt. However, sources briefed on Israeli-Egyptian relations and military experts said there must have been cooperation. “Both Israel and Egypt were coordinating closely on Rafah this time around. I very much doubt that anything was done outside the framework of that coordination,” one source who declined to be identified by name or nationality told Reuters. The source said that in the hours leading up to the air strike, the security services of both countries had been working together to thwart a jihadi threat in the Rafah area.
With Egypt strike, Israel violates two borders in three days
972mag 12 Aug by Michael Omer-Man — Two incidents in three days, in which Israel’s military was caught with its hand beyond its borders, raise questions of sovereignty and what it means to Israel — Sovereignty is a funny thing. Some countries claim more of it than they really have, some don’t have full control over their sovereign territory or airspace, and others willingly cede some of their sovereignty for a number of reasons. Two cases of Israel violating the sovereignty of its neighbors made headlines in the past few days. The first incident involved Israeli combat soldiers infiltrating Lebanon’s borders on Wednesday. Israeli violations of Lebanon’s airspace, maritime and land borders are, of course, nothing new. Overflights sometimes reaching as far north as Beirut take place on a near-daily basis. This case only even made headlines because four Israeli soldiers were injured inside Lebanese territory … The second case, of an entirely different nature, took place along Israel’s southern border on Friday. The Israeli Air Force reportedly struck a rocket-launching site on the Egyptian side of the Gazan border in Rafah. The drone strike, first confirmed by unnamed Egyptian officials, most likely carried the approval, or at least acquiescence of Egypt, or its army.
Analysis / Opinion
Peace talks: The perfect alibi for settlement expansion / Mairav Zonszein
972mag 11 Aug – Building thousands more settlement units all over the West Bank and East Jerusalem is in no way comparable or proportionate to the release of Palestinian prisoners. The construction of more settlements is equivalent to the annihilation of a two-state solution and the preemption of any kind of faith-building measures … The tandem news headlines of “peace talks to resume”oupled with “new Israeli settlements announced” are ridiculously insulting. How can anyone take these talks seriously? It is as if Israel was waiting patiently for the U.S. to announce peace talks before it could fling the settlement floodgates wide open; there was actually more restraint in the last year, with a de facto settlement freeze in East Jerusalem … If Israel wanted to show a modicum of genuine interest in moving towards a solution with the Palestinians — or if the United States was serious about compelling it to do so — the first thing it should carry out one single act to relieve the basic human rights violations in the occupied West Bank. At this point, even a really really small act could make a big difference. Like, how about the Civil Administration refrain from destroying water cisterns in the Palestinian village of Susya and allow residents to access their water? Is that too much to ask? Would that undermine the “peace process?” Or how about opening Shuhada Street in Hebron to Palestinians? How about ceasing to conduct night raids in the homes of Palestinians who are non-violently protesting occupation. Or how about this crazy thought? Instead of releasing some prisoners, how about ending the military system under which Palestinians can be arrested and imprisoned without trial for years on end? That would be too much. In the theatrical charade that is the 2013 “peace talks,” Israel has found the perfect equation: continue exactly as before, but this time, settlements aren’t even considered a hindrance, they are rather, the carrot.
Israel raises temperature in runup to Middle East peace talks
JERUSALEM (The Guardian) 11 Aug by Harriet Sherwood — In highly contentious moves heralding the renewal of Middle East peace talks this week, Israel on Sunday authorised 1,200 new homes to be built in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as it prepared to identify 26 long-term Palestinian prisoners to be released. The apparently choreographed steps came three days before the first substantive negotiations for five years, aimed at reaching a historic settlement of the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict by next May. The outcome of intense shuttle diplomacy by US secretary of state John Kerry, the talks will resume amid widespread scepticism on both sides … For most Israelis, the prisoner release is a controversial and painful price for the renewal of the peace process … But the issue is of visceral importance to Palestinians. Emotional family reunions will take place across the West Bank and Gaza, where the freed men will be feted as heroes. Their release is likely to result – at least temporarily – in a more favourable atmosphere towards the talks on the Palestinian side, a key reason why Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas insisted on the move before returning to the negotiating table.The announcement of a new settlement construction push, made by the ultra-rightwing housing minister, Uri Ariel, appeared to a be a quid pro quo for the release. The move was reportedly co-ordinated with US officials as part of the pre-talks framework. “The Americans agreed to resign themselves to moderate construction in exchange for a prisoner release,” the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv reported..
Haaretz editorial: Settlements will continue to determine Israel’s future
11 Aug — The government will do anything it can to sabotage the talks with the Palestinians. There is no other way to interpret the Civil Administration’s endorsement of plans to build 878 new housing units in secluded West Bank settlements. The government will also forge ahead with creating facts on the ground, just in case the talks get under way. The addition of 91 settlements to Israel’s national priority areas attests to this … But the Israeli government is not impressed. It sees itself as a victim of diplomatic rape intended to end the dream of a Greater Land of Israel. The government is determined to battle anyone seeking to thwart this dream. If there’s any need for further proof of the government’s derangement, it’s the decision not to sign the scientific cooperation agreement with the European Union as long as the agreement is restricted to the 1967 borders. Israel is the only country outside the European Union that was invited to join, but what’s NIS 1.5 billion — the sum Israel will lose if it doesn’t sign? And what does the government care if vital research fields are crippled as long as the delusion of the Greater Land of Israel is protected?
EU settlement ban casts shadow over Palestinian industry in the West Bank / Asher Schechter
Haaretz 11 Aug — Israeli business owners wonder how many Palestinians will lose their jobs if companies are forced to move over the Green Line into Israel proper — It’s early morning in the middle of the week and the Barkan Industrial Park in the West Bank opens the day as always. The thousands of workers in dozens of factories – half Israelis and half Palestinians – arrive for work. Some come from the other side of the Green Line or nearby settlements, some from nearby villages and towns such as Nablus or Salfit. By 9:30 A.M. the machinery is chugging along, an ordinary day. But hovering in the air are the European Union’s new guidelines that limit cooperation with the settlements, amid the calls from Europe to boycott Israeli products made over the Green Line. Still, it seems business has never been better … “The European Union’s latest decision has no effect on us at all,” says Gershon Mesika, the head of the Shomron Regional Council, where Barkan is based … So yes, it’s business as usual for Israeli firms in the West Bank. The new guidelines, which go into effect at the start of next year, affect mostly government projects, research-and-development grants, and financing.
The problem is different. Alongside the new guidelines, the European Commission is crafting rules that will recommend that the EU’s 28 member states label products made in the settlements. Even before that, European stores could be required to boycott goods manufactured over the Green Line. The first signs of such a move started two weeks ago. Such a boycott could seriously sting the factories in Barkan; up to 80 percent of the plants’ products are exported. So even if business at Barkan is better than ever, an atmosphere of worry holds sway among the owners and employees, Israelis and Palestinians. These fears are not unfounded. Last year Unilever moved its Bagel-Bagel factory to Safed in light of the decision by South Africa to label products made in the settlements. Sweden’s Mul-T-Lock followed suit and moved its factory to Yavneh.
A Mideast summer night’s dream / Gideon Levy
Haaretz 11 Aug — A slender crescent moon in blackening skies, two days after the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul. Like every Friday night, whitish smoke rises from barbecues on the park lawns. But tonight it’s holiday smoke. It’s Id al-Fitr, and crowds of Israeli Arabs fill Yarkon Park. Many Israeli Jews are also in the park, as usual on summer evenings. The parking lots are full, a truck advertising Mansur Landscaping parked alongside Levinson Brothers, engineers. That was the scene two nights ago in Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv. For one magical moment it seemed like a dream had come true. One state, one park for all its citizens. On the beaches of Jaffa and south Tel Aviv over the past few days one could see masses of Palestinians from the territories who had received permits to celebrate at the forbidden sea; and in Yarkon Park, Moshe, Grisha and Mohammed grilled the same shish-kebab. The music was also mixed – Israeli Mizrahi, Russian and Arab with touches of Hare Krishna from a procession of passing adherents. Quite a few Arabs were listening to Eyal Golan. Multiculturalism. In the park of all its citizens, there seemed to be an Arab majority, perhaps half and half. The “demographic danger,” in all its horror, the Zionist dream cut short for a moment. And yet nothing happened … On Friday night in the park I imagined for a moment that everything could have looked different; how everything could perhaps still look different one day, or one Sabbath eve, after the politicians, the generals, the propagandists and the journalists stop inciting, frightening and brainwashing us and after justice reigns here, around the park as well, when this midsummer night’s dream is past.
A federation – why not? / Uri Avnery
Gush Shalom 10 Aug — …Last week Haaretz published an article in which [Avraham] Burg proposed linking the “two-state solution” with a two-state federation. He used the metaphor of a building, the first floor of which would consist of human rights, the second floor would host the two states, Israel and Palestine, and the third the federation. This brought a lot of memories to my mind. IN THE spring of 1949, immediately after the signing of the original armistice agreements between the new State of Israel and the Arab countries which had intervened in the war, a group was formed in Israel to advocate the setting up of a Palestinian state next to Israel, and the signing of a covenant between the two nations. At the time, that idea was considered heretical, since the very existence of a Palestinian people was strenuously denied in Israel … In the 1970s, Abba Eban floated the idea of a Benelux-type solution, a name derived from the federation-like arrangement between Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg. To my surprise, when I first met with Yasser Arafat during the siege of Beirut in 1982, he used the very same term: “A federation between Israel, Palestine and Jordan, and perhaps Lebanon too – why not?” He repeated the same idea, in the same words, at our last meeting, just before his mysterious death. In the course of time, I dropped the word “federation”. I had come to the conclusion that it frightened both sides too much. Israelis feared that it meant diminishing the sovereignty of Israel, while Palestinians suspected that it was another Zionist ruse to keep up the occupation by other means. But it seems clear that in a small land like historical Palestine, two states cannot live side by side for any length of time without a close relationship between them. It must be remembered that the original UN partition plan included a kind of federation, without using the word explicitly. According to the plan, the Arab and the Jewish states were to remain united in an economic union. THE WORLD is full of federations and confederations, and no two are alike.