Gaza under blockade – and the weather
Qatari diesel to run power plant enters Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 15 Dec — Israeli authorities started to pump industrial diesel donated by Qatar into the Gaza Strip on Sunday morning, a Gaza official told Ma‘an. The move is part of a temporary agreement to ease the blockade following days of record flooding that has devastated large swathes of the besieged coastal enclave. Raed Fattouh, president of a committee that coordinates the entry of goods into the Gaza Strip, told Ma‘an that 450,000 liters of diesel donated by Qatar was being shipped to the coastal enclave via Kerem Shalom crossing on Sunday. Fattouh added that as a result of an agreement, the Kerem Shalom crossing will temporarily operate for 12 hours a day in order to allow increased quantities of gasoline, domestic-use diesel, and gas to enter the Gaza Strip. He added that the extended hours would begin on Sunday and continue for the next week. Eight truckloads of strawberries, flowers and spices are expected to leave the Gaza Strip to European countries through the same crossing on Sunday, added Fattouh, as Gazans take advantage of the temporary ease on the Israeli blockade to ship exports. n addition, 100 truckloads of goods for commercial use and for agriculture will be allowed into the Gaza Strip as well as limited sums of cement and gravel for internationally-funded projects. On Friday, Qatari authorities announced that they would donate $10 million to Hamas authorities in Gaza in the wake of the humanitarian crisis caused by severe weather since Thursday.
Gaza power plant rumbles to life as violent storm passes
GAZA CITY (AFP) 15 Dec — Gaza’s lone power station rumbled to life on Sunday for the first time in more than seven weeks after receiving a long-awaited delivery of diesel, the electricity company said. “The power station started reworking gradually after stopping for 50 days,” spokesman Jamal Dirsawi told AFP. The plant, which supplies some 30 percent of the coastal enclave’s electricity needs, fell silent on Nov. 1 as the stocks of diesel to power it ran out. “The first generator has started working, the second one will follow, and by this evening, the company should be able to generate around 60 megawatts of electricity,” he said. “This will give the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCO) an opportunity to provide more hours of electricity to citizens.”
Initial losses from bad weather that hit Gaza 64 million dollars
GAZA (PIC) 15 Dec — Gaza government said that the direct material losses of the bad weather that hit the Strip were estimated at 64 million dollars, and that the rescue teams succeeded to control the situation, despite the lack of equipment and the blockade. Minister of Public Works and Housing Yousef Gariz reviewed, during a press conference held on Saturday evening at the headquarters of Ministry of Information in Gaza, the details of losses left by the bad weather conditions, pointing out that about seven thousand families were displaced from their homes. He said: “More than 3,300 houses were flooded and nearly one thousand others were damaged. Material losses of these residential units were estimated at about 40 million dollars.” Gariz pointed out that the damage to the infrastructure sector and roads hit 12 million dollars, while losses of the transport sector reached about 2 million dollars. Regarding the industrial and commercial sector, nearly one thousand shops and industrial installations have been damaged so far, with losses estimated at U.S. $3 million, while the losses of the agricultural sector reached seven million dollars.
Gaza port suffers $100,000 in storm damage
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 15 Dec — The port of Gaza and the fisherman’s dock have suffered losses of up to $100,000 in the recent storm as an indirect result of the Israeli blockade on concrete blocks, a Gaza Ministry of Transportation official said Sunday. In a news conference held Sunday at the fisherman’s dock, coordinator of the Gaza Harbors Said Ammar said that the dock had been severely damaged as a result of the storm, affecting the 1000 Gazan families who directly depend on the dock for their livelihoods.
Ammar said that the wave breakers off the Gaza coast were not strong enough and as a result the port and the docks were battered by the storm, which began on Thursday. He added that there were attempts before the storm to strengthen the wave breaker with concrete blocks but these were done “haphazardly,” as the coasts needed 5000 dolosse, or large concrete blocks, to be fully secured. “We couldn’t obtain more than 600 dolosse because of the siege Israel has been imposing on the Gaza Strip,” he added, referring to the Israeli blockade of the coastal enclave that limits concrete imports. A spokesperson for the Gaza Ministry of Transportation, Khalil al-Zayyan, highlighted that the ministry managed to move more than 200 fishing boats from the dock in anticipation of the storm. He added that Israeli restrictions on entry of cement and other construction materials would severely impede repairs on the port of Gaza. [Wikipedia: A dolos (plural dolosse) is a concrete block in a complex geometric shape weighing up to 20 tons, used in great numbers to protect harbour walls from the erosive force of ocean waves.]
OCHA: Number of displaced tops 10,000 in Gaza
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 15 Dec — Approximately 10,000 people have been forced to flee their homes due to widespread flooding in the Gaza Strip, according to a report released Saturday evening by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The numbers of displaced dwarf earlier estimates, as they take into account both the thousands who have sought refuge in Gaza shelters as well as those who have sought refuge elsewhere … The areas most devastated by the storm are “North Gaza and Gaza City where over 1,500 houses suffered damage due to water entering houses, damaging furniture and electricity networks.” An infant died and 100 were injured in storm-related incidents throughout Gaza, the report said. Gaza government officials said on Sunday that two individuals had died, but did not mention any case involving an infant. Schools throughout Palestine have been closed since Thursday, and according to OCHA 17 schools in Gaza have been converted into shelters, while five other schools have been rendered unusable due to flooding… In Gaza, over 10 percent of the coastal enclave’s greenhouses and field crops were destroyed or damaged by winter storm Alexa, in addition to 50 animal pens, the report said.
2 dead, 2200 in shelters across storm-ravaged Gaza Strip
[with video] GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 15 Dec — The death toll in the Gaza Strip from winter storm Alexa rose to two on Sunday as more than 2,000 Gazans remained in shelters and much of the region was still paralyzed after four days of severe weather. Gaza Ministry of Health spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra in a statement Sunday identified the two dead as 21-year-old Hamza al-Amour, who suffocated to death while trying to heat himself at home, and 90-year-old Mahmoud Farajallah, who died after his house was flooded. More than a hundred people were injured in storm-related incidents across the Gaza Strip as well, the statement added, though most of these injuries were minor … A Ma‘an reporter in Gaza confirmed that fishermen were seen using rowing boats to move from house to house to evacuate families in areas afflicted with disaster in Gaza City, Jabalia, Rafah, and Khan Younis … The storm was the strongest the region had seen in decades and it revealed the decrepit state of the Gaza Strip’s aging infrastructure. Since 2006-7, the Israeli blockade of Gaza has severely restricted imports of concrete, making repair extremely difficult. The power crisis also compounded the storm’s devastation, as in recent days electricity availability plunged from six hours a day to a mere one or two after electricity lines from Egypt and Israel into Gaza were downed soon after the storm hit the area. In some areas electricity was cut completely for two days as cold water flooded up to half a meter in many places.
Families seek refuge in school as flooded Gaza turns into ‘disaster area’
GAZA STRIP 14 Dec by Rami Almeghari — Two metal sheets fell from the ceiling of Bilal al-Riqib’s house on Tuesday evening, narrowly missing his wife and children. The power had already been cut when the house was struck by one of the worst storms Gaza has encountered in living memory, flooding large areas and displacing thousands of residents. The destruction led al-Riqib and his family — including his five-month-old baby — to seek shelter at a nearby school, though they now spend nights in a neighbor’s home. Located in Bani Suhaila, a town in southern Gaza, al-Riqib’s cottage-like home consists of two rooms. Al-Riqib, a 31-year-old unemployed construction worker, pointed to a children’s wardrobe that was wrecked by the storm. He had not yet fully paid for the piece of furniture. Al-Riqib has not had any income since July, when the Egyptian authorities destroyed numerous underground tunnels linking Egypt to Gaza. His business had depended on construction materials brought into the Strip via the tunnels.
Gaza diary: the war to keep warm
Haaretz 15 Dec by Abeer Ayyoub — As I’m writing this now, I’m in a race against time; not only because I have a deadline, but also because I have only three hours of electricity per day. During the three hours, I have to charge my laptop and cellphones, queue for a shower, wash and iron my clothes, and get my pieces filed. I always loved winter; it was always my favorite. To me, it was always a season where I hand around the heater along with my siblings and parents watching TV and roasting chestnuts. This scene is no longer our typical winter; today, our winter is about fighting over who showers first. Today, we are no longer hanging out anywhere; my sisters and I never leave our beds as it’s the only way to keep out the cold; it’s barely working.
IOF opens Wadi Salaqa dams and dozens of homes flooded
GAZA (PIC) 15 Dec — Hundreds of houses in central Gaza Strip were flooded as the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) on Saturday afternoon opened the earth dams east of the town of Wadi Salaqa in Deir al-Balah. The IOF established many earth dams east of the Gaza Strip to collect rainwater to use it; however in case the levels of water increase they open these dams and water flows to Gaza. Palestinian sources told Quds Press that the rescue teams and civil defense have evacuated 40 families including 200 people from the town of Wadi Salaqa and brought them to a shelter center.
Rafah border terminal closed for third day
RAFAH (PIC) 15 Dec — The Egyptian authorities continued to close the Rafah border terminal with Gaza Strip for the third day on Sunday. The Egyptian authorities have been closing the only border crossing with Gaza for long periods ever since the army ousted president Mohammed Morsi last July. The Egyptian authorities had opened the crossing last Sunday for five days after nine days of closure and only for certain passengers and for the entry of mainly medical aid.
West Bank storm news
Minister: financial losses from storm around $12 million
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 15 Dec — An initial estimation of financial losses from the winter storm that devastated the West Bank last week is nearly $12 million, the Palestinian Minister of Agriculture told Ma‘an. Walid Assaf said that 20 percent of the losses caused by the storm affected the agricultural sector, with most of the damage in Yatta, Dura, and Bethlehem. Around 800 greenhouses were destroyed, in addition to dozens of chicken farms and crop fields, Assaf said. The figures are expected to increase when all storm-stricken areas are surveyed, he added.
20 villages near Nablus without electricity since Wednesday
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 15 Dec — More than 20 villages and neighborhoods in Nablus district in the northern West Bank have been without electricity for the last four days, causing huge losses to farmers and private properties. Executive director of the Northern West Bank Electricity Company Yahya Arafat told a Ma‘an reporter that the electricity network completely collapsed just as the storm started to hit the district, leaving the entire region powerless throughout the storm … Although emergency teams were dispatched and their numbers were increased from three to 36 operating round-the-clock trying to fix the issues with the networks, as of Sunday the region was still powerless … In the mean time, more than 20 villages and neighborhoods south of Nablus remain in the dark. Deputy mayor of Awarata village south of Nablus Qays Awwad highlighted that hundreds of olive trees have been damaged as a result of the storm and dozens of steel structures used for livestock were destroyed. Large numbers of poultry in steel structures, added Awwad, could die as a result of power cuts. A poultry breeder from the village of Tell west of Nablus, Khalid al-Sayfi, told Ma‘an that he suffered losses of up to a half million shekels ($145,000) after the roof of his farm collapsed. He said that when he woke up in the morning, he received a phone call from the landlord who owns the farm building telling him that the roof fell to the ground as a result of piling snow. “The roads were completely closed to traffic, so I went with my brother on foot to the farm which is 3 kilometers away. When were arrived, we were agonized by the scene. The roof fell on the chickens.” He added that he telephoned the civil defense services and the ministry of public works for help so he can save some of his birds, but nobody was able to do anything because all roads were shut down by snow. “We gave up hope after we waited four hours watching 7000 birds dying one after the other.”
Government institutions and schools closed across West Bank Sunday
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 14 Dec — Palestinian Authority officials have decided to keep all government institutions and schools closed again on Sunday as the West Bank struggles to battle historic snowfall and record low temperatures. The PA Information Office said in a statement on Saturday that in order to “ensure the safety of citizens,” all state institutions besides hospital emergency units and the civil defense would remain closed again on Sunday.
1 dead, 53 injured in storm-related incidents across West Bank
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 14 Dec — Civil defense forces in the West Bank reported on Saturday evening that at least one person had died and 53 were injured in storm-related incidents over the last four days. Civil defense forces have assisted in 4,165 storm-related cases since the storm began, rescuing a total of 5,980 people across the region, according to a report released by the public relations and media department of the civil defense forces. Ramallah and al-Bireh were the hardest hit by storm-related incidents, as 3,027 people involved in 1,586 separate incidents required help in that region. Hebron was second-hardest hit, with 899 people involved in 790 incidents, including a case where the house of a roof collapsed during the storm. The report said the roads across the West Bank are all but impassable, and that civil defense crews continue to work to open them.
Jerusalem buried in snow as rare storm pounds Mideast
JERUSALEM (AFP) 14 Dec — A fierce winter storm shut down much of the Middle East Friday, burying Jerusalem in snow, flooding parts of Gaza and bringing frigid, wet weather to war-ravaged Syria. The hilltop city of Jerusalem was paralyzed by its fiercest snowstorm in years, with its mayor calling out the army to help stranded motorists and authorities urging residents to stay indoors. “We are battling a storm of rare ferocity,” Mayor Nir Barkat said as snow in the Holy City piled up to around 15 inches and thousands of homes lost power. Main roads into the city, which climb around 2,600 feet above sea level, were closed and police appealed to drivers not to attempt the journey … Snow was still falling into the night Friday, as Barkat told Channel 1 television that 25,000 households in Jerusalem were without power.
At any rate the weather conditions seem to have limited the violence:
Violence / Raids / Attacks / Illegal arrests
Soldiers violently beat a Palestinian man in Hebron [and Israeli jeep rams Palestinian man]
IMEMC — [Sun Dec 15] Israeli soldiers have violently attacked a young Palestinian man from Hebron, causing moderate injuries that required hospitalization. A man was also injured after being rammed by a military vehicle. Medical sources say that a number of Israeli soldiers violently assaulted resident Eyad Mohammad Hosniyya, from the Al-‘Arroub refugee camp in Hebron, as he was returning home. He was moved to the Beit Jala Governmental Hospital in Bethlehem, suffering moderate injuries.
In related news, a Palestinian was moderately injured after being rammed by an Israeli military jeep at the entrance of the Al-‘Arroub refugee camp, in Hebron. The resident, identified as Ma’en Hasan Obeyyat, 25, suffered fractures and bruises, and was moved to the Arab Society Hospital and Rehabilitation Center in Beit Jala.
Israeli forces shoot, injure Palestinian teenager in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 15 Dec — Israeli forces opened fire on a Palestinian teenager in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday, injuring him moderately. A spokesperson of the Gaza Ministry of Health Ashraf al-Qidra told Ma‘an that a 16-year-old boy was shot in his left foot by Israeli soldiers east of Beit Lahiya. He was evacuated to Kamal Udwan Hospital in the northern Gaza Strip. According to AFP, eyewitnesses said Israeli tanks and one bulldozer were near the border at the time. An Israeli forces spokeswoman told AFP that “a suspect approached the security fence in the southern Gaza Strip,” and that they opened fire after he ignored requests that he stop.
Israeli forces detain man at flying checkpoint near Jenin
JENIN (Ma‘an) 15 Dec — Israeli forces on Sunday detained a Palestinian man at a flying checkpoint near ‘Arraba southwest of Jenin. Local sources told Ma‘an that Abd al-Rahman al-Bajawi from Yabad was detained by Israeli forces as he passed through a checkpoint that Israeli forces had temporarily erected on a road in the northern West Bank.
New UK drone ‘field tested’ on captive Palestinians
Electronic Intifada 13 Dec by Ali Abunimah — Amna al-Dam kept the deflated red football her 12-year-old son Mamoun was playing with when he was killed by an Israeli drone strike in the occupied Gaza Strip on 20 June 2012. “I held my Mamoun in my arms when he died and everything felt destroyed for me,” his mother said. “I hope that he is the last child to be killed in Palestine.” She described how his body was torn apart, his clothes burned off him – and she recalled his tenderness. “You are my darling, I just want to keep you locked inside my heart,” he used to tell his mother. Mamoun is profiled in a new report by the charity War on Want, “Killer Drones: UK complicity in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people.” He is one of more than 800 Palestinians killed in Israeli drone attacks since 2006.
“Joint venture” — The “new Watchkeeper drone being developed for the UK military is based on a model that Israel has ‘field tested’ in attacks on Gaza which left many Palestinians dead, including children,” War on Want warns in a statement accompanying the report. The UK Ministry of Defense awarded a $1.6 billion contract for the drone to a joint venture between Israeli arms company Elbit and Thales UK. The Watchkeeper is based closely on Elbit’s Hermes 450 model, which Israel has used extensively in Gaza.
Israel refuses to distribute extra blankets to Palestinian prisoners
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 15 Dec — Israeli prison administration refused a request from the Palestinian Authority to allow extra blankets and clothes for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails during the recent storm, the PA prisoners’ affairs minister said on Sunday. Issa Qaraqe‘ told Ma‘an that despite coordination between the PA, the Red Cross, and the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the Israeli administration of Ofer prison refused to allow hundreds of blankets prepared by the PA to be distributed to inmates. Qaraqe‘ said the “the Israeli prison administration did not provide prisoners with the basic requirements to protect them from the extreme cold and it is responsible for their lives during these conditions.” “Israeli jails do not provide for the basic needs of prisoners, and they lack the sufficient number of blankets, clothes, or heating sources,” he added.
Heavy rainfall drenches prisoners’ rooms in Negev prison
JENIN (PIC) 14 Dec — Water drenched tents and cement rooms of Palestinian prisoners in Negev desert prison as a result of heavy downpours amidst absolute neglect on the part of the prison administration. Fadi Salame, 26, was released from the Negev jail on Friday and told the PIC reporter that the conditions inside the jail were “tragic”. The ex-prisoner, from Jenin refugee camp, said that the prisoners lacked necessary covers and heating in such freezing weather conditions. He said that the prison administration was inventing new ways of quelling the prisoners, adding that Negev prisoners were appealing for urgent intervention to supply them with winter clothing.
Court puts prisoner in administrative detention on day of his release
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 11 Dec – An Israeli military court at Ofer camp near Ramallah Wednesday ruled to keep Raed Musa, 33, from Silat al-Dhahr, near Jenin, in administrative detention for six months. The ruling came on the day Musa was supposed to be released, according to the Palestinian Prisoner Club. It said a military court in Salem camp near Jenin had earlier ruled to release of Musa, who was arrested at his home on November 30. However, instead of releasing him, he was transferred to Ofer where the court slammed him with six months in administrative detention.
Three striking prisoners transferred to hospital
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 11 Dec – Three Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike to protest their administrative detention in Israel have been transferred to hospital due to worsening health conditions, said Ibrahim A’raj, an attorney with the Ministry of Prisoners. The three prisoners have been on hunger strike since November 6 to protest their prison conditions that do not conform to humanitarian standards, such as lack of descent mattresses and solitary confinement, said A’raj. Islam Bader, 20, who is serving a three month administrative detention, said he and his fellow prisoners encountered psychological pressure from the prison administration in order to break their strike. He said they will continue with the strike until Israel annuls their administrative detention orders. Bader said he has been also boycotting the prison clinic.
IOA transfers representative of prisoners to Megiddo prison
TULKAREM (PIC) 12 Dec — Israeli Ofer prison’s administration has transferred the prisoner Mutassim Samara, a leader in Captive Movement, to Megiddo prison after being moved from Negev to Ofer prison only one month ago. Mutassim Samara, from Tulkarem, was arrested several times most recently was in May 2001. He is one of the captive movement leaders in Israeli jails.
Land, property theft & destruction / Judaization / Ethnic cleansing
Video: A Palestinian family lives in a cave
SILWANIC 13 Dec — “As you see since the occupation demolished my house I live in this cave, I do not have another place to live. I have renovated as much as I can but the rain goes through. Today in the morning there was a huge collapse out of the cave. Because it is very dangerous I had to send my daughters to my father and brother. Every moment could collapse here….”
Video: Apartheid in service
SILWANIC 13 Dec — On Friday morning on 12/12/2013 there was a dramatic collapse in the neighborhood of Silwan in Albobria and as a result of the collapse more than 60 families have been trapped and this endangers the lives of the residents. It was a result of negligence by the occupation municipality not to complete the wall. This area is planned to be turned into national parks to complete the settlement project in Silwan … The residents … pay heavy taxes and fines on the so-called illegal buildings.
With pictures: Cracks and collapses in Silwan
Silwan, Jerusalem (SILWANIC) 12 Dec — Collapses and cracks occurred in the houses and streets of the neighbourhood of Wadi Hilweh in Silwan after the continuous rainfall and accumulation of snow and due to the Israeli excavations in the area. Wadi Hilweh Information Center pointed out that most of the collapses and cracks occurred in the area of “Ein Um Al-Daraj” in the neighbourhood of Wadi Hilweh where there is a high incidence of Israeli excavations and the rain and snow revealed the extent of damage caused by the excavations in the area. Harbi Abu Sbeih said he was surprised on Thursday early morning when he heard an explosion-like sound. When he checked the matter, he found out that the cracks on the inside and outside of the building had expanded in addition to the fall of a balcony as well as a plaster wall in his house. Abu Sbeih explained that the cracks started in his house two years ago and had gradually increased on Thursday indicating that he always hears digging sounds underneath his house, but the Israeli Antiquities Authority and “Elad” settlement organization try to evade responsibility and claim that they are not responsible. He said: “we have been living in the area for tens of years and we never witnessed any cracks or landslide. We always felt safe in our houses, but today we are worried about our lives and our children’s lives if we stay in our houses because of the Israeli excavations.” In a related matter, a large collapse occurred in the stairs of Al-Ein and the municipality had placed red tape and a sign that said “Be cautious …..Dangerous wall.”
Video: Collapse season in Silwan
SILWANIC 13 Dec — “Here down there is a tunnel leads to Dung Gate. The second tunnel leads somewhere else. You will be shocked if you see the tunnels from the inside … Look, look here – if this collapses [as it already partially has] it will fall down on my house. It is a waste of time talking to them. City of David says it is not us, it is the National Park Authority. The National Park Authority says it is the Antiquities Authority”
With pictures: the weekly march in Sheikh Jarrah in the snow
Silwan, Jerusalem (SILWANIC) 13 Dec — Locals of Sheikh Jarrah and peace activists organized on Friday the weekly protest in the neighbourhood despite the snowfall in the city of Jerusalem. The participants raised the Palestinian flag and signs that said “No to occupation” and chanted slogans against the settlements in Sheikh Jarrah and Judaization of the neighbourhood. The locals organize a weekly march in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah since 2009 to condemn the confiscation of Arabs’ houses in favor of Israeli settlers.
PHOTOS: Araqib celebrates return of jailed sheikh
Activestills 11 Dec — Sheikh Sayah Aturi returned to his home village of Al Araqib today (Tuesday) for the first time since his arrest on November 20. On that day, Al Araqib was demolished for the 62nd time while most of its residents were busy protesting in Jerusalem outside of the Knesset during committee debates on the Prawer Plan … Village head Sheikh Sayakh was one of the few residents to stay behind, which led Israeli authorities to arrest him for “trespassing” on “state-owned land” (despite the fact that the question of land ownership of the land is still being debated in court). Sayah remained in detention for over one week after refusing to sign an order that would force him to stay away from the village. Village residents celebrated Sayah’s return with a feast of roasted lamb and goat eaten with shraq flatbread and sweets. Al Araqib, the dwellings of which are now primarily confined to its cemetery grounds as the only place safe from repeated demolitions, lies on land where the Jewish National Fund plans to create a new forest.
Netanyahu’s situation room recognizes no West Bank
Mondoweiss 13 Dec by Philip Weiss — Peter Lerner is the Israeli Defense Forces spokesman for international media. He tweeted this picture today. If you look carefully at the radar map on right, you can see that the border between Jordan and Israel is clearly marked, bisecting the Dead Sea. There is no line for the West Bank. Judea and Samaria, as this government calls the occupied territory. Don’t be fooled by this Israeli regime. They want it all. And there’s no line for Gaza.
Solidarity / BDS
Boycott activists celebrate as Ahava quits South Africa
Electronic Intifada 13 Dec by Asa Winstanley — An Israeli cosmetics company based in an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank has been forced out of South Africa after a sustained boycott campaign. The news about Ahava was revealed yesterday by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. A spokesperson for BDS South Africa today described it as “a great victory for us.” Itani Rasalanavho expressed surprise at the news, but noted that the company had been gradually reducing its presence in malls and shopping centers around the country for a while. “It shows the influence we are having,” he said. “It is something that needs to be celebrated.” According to Haaretz, “A few weeks ago, Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, an Israeli cosmetics company, ceased operations in South Africa following a … [boycott, divesment and sanctions] campaign.”
In surprise move, opponent votes to endorse ASA’s Israel boycott
Electronic Intifada 11 Dec by Benjamin Doherty — A prominent critic of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement surprised many observers last week by voting in favor of the American Studies Association (ASA) resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Claire Potter, professor of history at The New School in New York City, is the author of the widely read blog Tenured Radical, where she has engaged in intense debates about the movement to boycott Israel among a range of other topics including politics, academia, queer activism and feminism. In 2009, she strongly opposed academic boycott and divestment.
Forging new links to boycott movement in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Electronic Intifada) 13 Dec by Joe Catron — Tom Anderson and Therezia Cooper are the research team of Corporate Occupation, a project of Corporate Watch. Naming names, and going into detailed specifics, their blog documents the involvement of both international and Israeli companies in the illegal occupation of Palestine. They spent most of November in the Gaza Strip on a new research trip “to create resources for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli apartheid, militarism, colonization and occupation.”
Congress leaves town without passing lobby priority: visa-waiver bill for Israelis
Mondoweiss 15 Dec by Alex Kane — … AIPAC had been pushing the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act since their last policy conference in March. The bill, sponsored by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA), had come under withering attack from a coalition of groups. Now, the Arab-American Institute and Jewish Voice for Peace are celebrating the defeat of the bill, though it could come back up on the floor next year….The act, backed by dozens of U.S. officials, would waive the need for Israeli travelers to possess a visa to enter the U.S. The countries that have this arrangement with the U.S. usually extend those same privileges to American travelers to their countries. But AIPAC had been pushing for language that would exempt Israel from reciprocity. Under the current version of the legislation, Israel would be allowed to deny American visitors entry if Israel said they posed a “security” risk to the state. The majority of those denied entry into the territories Israel controls–which includes occupied Palestine–are Arab- and Muslim-American travelers, as well as activists who work on Palestine.
Dutch water company pressured to resume ties with Israeli firm
Haaretz 16 Dec by Amira Hass — The Dutch water company Vitens, which last week severed ties with the Israeli water company Mekorot, is currently being pressured to rethink the decision by factions within the Dutch government and parliament. In response to questions in parliament regarding Vitens’ decision to cancel the deal with Mekorot, which supplies water to Israel and the West Bank settlements, Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans stated that the decision has nothing to do with government policy (which dissuades Dutch companies from working with Israeli settlements or companies that assist them) … Holland, Timmermans said, opposes the boycott on Israel and Israeli companies. On the other hand, the foreign minister stated that the Dutch government does not intervene in the decisions of private companies … “The government supports projects that foster cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians, and helps to fund such projects itself, including cooperation with Mekorot,” said Timmermans.
Photos of the week: Bedouin perseverance and other protests
Activestills 12 Dec — This week: Resisting displacement of Negev Bedouin, mourning Nelson Mandela, shootings of Palestinians by Israeli forces, marching in Nabi Saleh, protesting conscription of ultra-Orthodox Jews, taking action for animal rights, and seeking asylum for Afghan refugees.
Congress triples budget request to Israel
If Americans Knew 13 Dec by Alison Weir — It’s been a great week for Israel in the US Congress this week. But not for the American taxpayer. While many Americans are gearing up for the Christmas holidays and trying to earn the money to buy their children presents, and while the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits surged, Congress voted yet more money to Israel. It also passed two other measures pushed by the Israel lobby. Almost none of this was reported by US mainstream media. The budget committees of both the Senate and the House released a budget on December 10th included $284 million for U.S.-Israeli “joint defense” — in fact, primarily for defense systems in Israel. These defense systems are aimed at shielding Israel from perceived threats in the region. For context, rockets from Gaza have killed some 29 Israelis in just over a decade, during which time Israeli forces killed approximately 4,000 Gazans. Congress is virtually assured to pass the budget. This money is on top of the $3.1 billion in military aid the U.S. gives Israel every year. It is also triple the already-generous $96 million the Obama administration had requested for the programs.
Israeli soldier shot dead near Lebanese border
IMEMC — [Sun evening Dec 15] Israeli military sources have reported that an Israeli soldier was shot and killed by rounds fired from the Lebanese side of the border, adding that a Lebanese soldier fired the shots. Israeli daily Haaretz has reported that Tel Aviv has filed an official complaint against Lebanon with the United Nations, adding that the incident will not likely lead to confrontation between Lebanon and Israel. The incident took place around 8:30 PM, while an Israeli military vehicle was patrolling a border area. Haaretz said that approximately six of seven rounds of live ammunition were fired, likely from a light firearm, and from a relatively close range. Furthermore, the Lebanese army has reported that one of its soldiers is missing, and that Israeli soldiers likely abducted him. Similar to the Israeli Army, the Lebanese armed forces declared a state of emergency in the area. In addition, Israeli war jets were seen flying over Lebanese airspace, firing flares to illuminate border areas.
Analysis / Opinion / Film reviews
When security isn’t enough: Separating Gaza and the West Bank / Itamar Sha’altiel
972blog 11 Dec — When the Dutch prime minister offered a way to safely transport goods from Gaza to the West Bank, Prime Minister Netanyahu made sure to put the kibosh on the plan. Why? Because. That’s just the way it is — Try to imagine an economy without exports. It’s not self-contained, because it does not really supply all its own needs. It is simply an economic entity that sells almost no goods outside its territory – a large-scale economic experiment. That’s what the Gaza Strip is today. Why is this the case? The only crossing used for transporting goods outside of Gaza is Kerem Shalom, which is controlled by Israel. Israel allows goods to exit Gaza, but only if they are not sold in the West Bank or inside Israel itself. Goods that exit Gaza are transported on Israeli soil, and shipped to Europe via the Ashdod seaport. Goods exit Gaza, get shipped through Israel and the West Bank to Jordan. Goods are transported to Ben-Gurion International Airport in Israel and flown to the USA. These same goods cannot be sold here, or in the West Bank. Why? It’s unclear. The only reason Israel has given is the “separation policy,” i.e., separating and distinguishing the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from one another. What are the reasons for this policy? Well, it depends who you ask. Who conceived and implemented this policy? Unclear. When? Unknown. Why? Because. Why is this important? Because before the closure, 85 percent of the goods shipped out of Gaza, were sold in Israel and the West Bank. These are the main markets for Gaza’s products. European markets are too far, and the cost of shipping is very high. In fact, it is so high that the Dutch are funding about half the agricultural products chosen to be part of the European export project. It’s more of a humanitarian project than an export project, and it looks like it too. Before the closure, 1,064 trucks left Gaza every month. In October, only 10 trucks left. Ten trucks in an entire month. So what does an almost export-less economy look like? Like this: 32.5 percent unemployment in the third quarter of 2013.
Why can’t we walk back? A conversation with Palestinian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir
[with film trailer] 972blog 13 Dec by Frank Barat — ‘When I Saw You’ tells the story of a Palestinian child in 1967 who refuses to accept his fate as a refugee. Writer and director Annemarie Jacir discusses what led her to make the film and what lessons its carries — Returning to Palestine is a recurring theme in Annemarie Jacir’s films. Unlike the majority of Palestinians, who are refugees, Jacir was able to return to her hometown Bethlehem every year to visit family while growing up, something she describes as “the privilege of Palestine.” In 2008, however, she was denied entry, separated from her partner and left feeling like a modern-day refugee. That experience, she says, inspired her latest film, “When I Saw You.” Set in the refugee crisis surrounding the 1967 war, the film centers on a Palestinian boy who refuses to accept his fate as a refugee; he doesn’t understand why he can’t simply return home. By telling the story through the eyes of a child, Jacir is able to boil down the Palestinian refugee issue into one simple question: “If you walked away, why can’t you walk back?”
Hany Abu-Assad’s ‘Omar’ takes top prize at major festivals
[with film trailer] Electronic Intifada 13 Dec by Maureen Clare Murphy — Hany Abu-Assad’s acclaimed new film Omar picked up two new prizes this week. Omar was awarded best Arab feature film at the Dubai International Film Fest today, and Abu-Assad was named best director in the same competition. Omar was the opening film at the festival, and his previous film Paradise Now was the opening film at the festival in 2005. Several other Palestinian films were featured at the festival, including Cherien Dabis’ May in the Summer, Jinan Coulter’s Searching for Saris, Mais Darawzah’s My Love Awaits Me by the Sea and Rashid Masharawi’s Palestine Stereo. On Thursday, Omar was named best feature film at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards in Brisbane, Australia. Two other Palestine films, Annemarie Jacir’s When I Saw You and Mahdi Fleifel’s A World Not Ours were also nominated for best children’s feature film and best documentary feature, respectively. Omar, Palestine’s official submission to the 2014 Academy Awards for the best foreign language film, “is an intimate, surprisingly humorous and often claustrophobic portrait of friendship, love, betrayal and sacrifice in the face of extreme pressures,” according to Jonathan Cook’s review for The Electronic Intifada.
Israel and apartheid: Confused? You will be / Mira Bar Hillel
The Independent 13 Dec — The lame excuses made up by Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu for failing to go to Nelson Mandela’s memorial on Tuesday have raised eyebrows and wry smiles all over the world. Having insisted on a £150,000 refit of the plane he and his wife took for the five-hour flight to Lady Thatcher’s funeral in London earlier this year, the trip to Johannesburg would, he claimed, be “too costly”. This from a man who spends thousands a year – from the public purse – on pistachio ice-cream and scented candles. However, it is quite possible that Mr Netanyahu may have been less than ecstatically welcomed in the new South Africa anyway, following revelations that the country’s apartheid regime was the Israeli defense industry’s biggest customer and sponsor.
Reflections of an Arab Jew / Ella Habiba Shohat
Bint Jbeil — When issues of racial and colonial discourse are discussed in the U.S., people of Middle Eastern and North African origin are often excluded. This piece is written with the intent of opening up the multicultural debate, going beyond the U.S. census’s simplistic categorization of Middle Eastern peoples as “whites.” It’s also written with the intent of multiculturalizing American notions of Jewishness. My personal narrative questions the Eurocentric opposition of Arab and Jew, particularly the denial of Arab Jewish (Sephardic) voices both in the Middle Eastern and American contexts.