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‘Pope is coming on peace pilgrimage, and wall is erected’ –Catholic leader on threatened land

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Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing

Last mass held in Beit Jala as court to rule on land seizure
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 24 Jan by Charlie Hoyle — Residents of Beit Jala held their last weekly mass Friday in an area threatened by Israel’s separation wall as locals awaited a decision from Israel’s Supreme Court on an appeal to halt the land seizure. Around 60 Palestinians, internationals and representatives of the Catholic, Orthodox and Lutheran churches gathered on an olive tree-covered hilltop in the Cremisan Valley to pray for a halt to Israel’s separation wall, which is set to annex the entire lush green area north of Beit Jala. The weekly mass, which has been held since 2011, is the last action by the largely Christian community before Israel’s Supreme Court issues a final ruling on Jan. 29 regarding the route of the wall. Rev. Ibrahim Shomali, a Catholic priest who led the mass, thanked the crowd for its support over the years and said it was now up to the Israeli court to decide on the “future of our presence in the Holy Land.” Issa Kassissieh, Palestine’s ambassador to the Vatican, which owns the land threatened with confiscation, told Ma’an that the seizure was unacceptable. “The pope is coming as a peace pilgrimage to the Holy Land to build bridges and here we are seeing that a wall is being erected.” …
Israel is constructing some of the last segments of its wall on lands west of Bethlehem, including the Cremisan monastery area, and al-Walaja village. In 2006, Israel issued a military order to build the separation wall around Beit Jala and Har Gilo. After a seven-year legal battle, 58 local landowners, and nuns from the Salesian convent who joined their legal action, lost an appeal against the route of the separation wall in April 2013. The ruling last year proposed that the convent, and adjacent school, remain on the Palestinian side of the wall, but the nuns would lose access to 75 percent of their land and the school would be situated in a military zone surrounded by the separation wall. The Cremisan monastery and winery would be on the Israeli side on the wall, splitting the religious community, and residents would no longer be able to participate in the annual religious event of the Holy Spirit Procession, which sees local Christians walk from Cremisan to the Annunciation church in Beit Jala. After a lengthy legal battle, residents have little faith that justice will prevail through Israeli courts.

Settler-driven archaeology plan threatens to push Hebron family off farmland
HEBRON (Electronic Intifada) 23 Jan by Patrick O. Strickland — Israeli settlers recently began an alleged archaeological excavation on two plots of land surrounding a Palestinian family’s homes in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron. Feryal Abu Haikal, 68, is a retired school principal and mother of 11. She told The Electronic Intifada that settlers and soldiers arrived on 5 January and razed the orchards her family had farmed for decades. “They ripped out 50 of our almond trees. Some of [the trees] were over 60 years old.” The Abu Haikal family owns the land, on which its four homes are located. Yet the family has also been renting and farming the neighboring two plots of land — six dunams, or almost an acre and a half — for more than 65 years (a dunam is equal to 1,000 square meters) … Israeli settlers claim the two plots of land are home to the burial site of Yishai and Ruth the Moabite, figures present in Islamic, Christian and Jewish traditions. Similar to plans in several other areas in occupied East Jerusalem and the broader West Bank, they plan to build an archaeological park. The Israeli government is financing the project to the tune of an estimated seven million shekels (around two million dollars), according to the Israeli daily Haaretz (“Israeli government funding dig in Palestinian Hebron, near Jewish enclave,” 9 January 2014). Abu Haikal fears that the settlers have larger plans than what they have publicly declared. “Seven million shekels … it’s not possible they will stop [the excavation project] after just two pieces of land,” she said.

Police order man to remove tent after home demolished
IMEMC 23 Jan by Chris Carlson — Israeli police have ordered Khalid al-Zir, a resident of Silwan neighborhood in East Jerusalem, to remove a tent which he and other Jerusalem residents had set up the night before in front of the Red Cross headquarters, in Sheikh Jarrah, to protest Israeli demolition of homes in the city … The municipality demolished Zir’s small Silwan home in August and, when he attempted to set up a structure with a metal roof on his land, to house his seven-member family, it was also demolished. Zir then moved with his family, to live in a cave, but the Israeli antiquities authority ordered him not to change anything in the cave, after he attempted to add to it in order to shelter his family from cold and rain. Israeli police raided the tent Thursday morning and ordered the people holding a vigil inside to remove it within 30 minutes or be fined.

Israel uproots hundreds of olive trees near Salfit
SALFIT (WAFA) 23 Jan — The Israeli military authority uprooted Thursday hundreds of newly planted olive trees in the Wadi Qana area, near Salfit, said residents. They said the Israeli forces sealed off the area and prevented residents and farmers access to their land while the bulldozers were uprooting the olive trees. Issam Abu Baker, governor of Salfit, said the Israeli military uprooted around 1000 trees out of 2483 planted in that area. He said the Israeli decision to uproot the trees was made in May when they marked the trees to be uprooted under the pretext that the area was a natural reserve. Former mayor of the nearby village of Deir Istiya, Nathmi Salman, said confrontations broke out between the residents and the Israeli forces, which fired stun grenades at them. [Wadi Qana is a special place. A bit of description from the International Women’s Peace Service: “Wadi Qana is a fertile valley that is part of the village of Deir Istiya in the West Bank … The Wadi Qana stream runs through it as well as 15 natural springs. Orange and lemon trees line the river, and olive trees have grown on the land for thousands of years.” Wadi Qana has been badly damaged by the surrounding settlements that have emptied their sewage into it, contaminated all the springs, and released wild pigs there.]

Restriction of movement

Watch: Nabi Samuel – a village in a cage
Israeli Social TV (1:12 minutes) 23 Jan — Residents of the village of Nabi Samuel live in a place where they do not have authorization to be. Relatives and friends cannot visit because of checkpoints and walls, residents must to spend hours at checkpoints to go to work, they need permission from the courts to plant a tree, not to mention building rights. The village of Nabi Samuel was occupied by Israel in 1967. Four years later residents were deported to an area nearby and their homes destroyed. The village area was declared a national park and last year the Civil Administration began to promote a plan to establish an archaeological site around the mosque and cemetery. This is their story.

Israeli report reveals demographic policy in Gaza
Al-Monitor 24 Jan by Daoud Kuttab — A report by two Israeli human rights organizations reveals that Israeli policy regarding the movement of Palestinians is motivated by political, not security, concerns — One of the key obstacles to permanent Israeli control of the West Bank is the presence of Palestinians in it. Unable to physically move them or have them leave voluntarily, Israel has over the years deployed an administrative process that is called “transfer.” The basic foundation of this racist policy is to have administrative policies that “encourage” Palestinians to voluntarily leave and make it very difficult for them to return … This joint report takes the Israeli court to task for facilitating the Israeli policy that is based on this demographic policy aimed at gradually empting the West Bank of its Palestinian residents. How does Israel use demographics in its Gaza policy?  The residency address on the Palestinian ID card is a determinant factor. Even though the Oslo Accord considered the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to be one single political unit, Israel does not honor this. If one’s address is in the Gaza Strip, one is not allowed to live in the West Bank and vice versa. However, the report shows that Israel allows West Bank residents to change their address to one in the Gaza Strip, but makes it next to impossible for Gazans to change their address to one in the West Bank. Under external pressure from the world soccer body FIFA, in 2008, Israel allowed Gaza soccer player Suleiman Obeid to move to the West Bank for training with the Palestinian national team. However, his wife and two children were not allowed to join him. Five years later, Obeid quit soccer to be reunited with his family. Obeid was not only barred from visiting his wife and children, but when his mother became ill he was not allowed to visit her. She later died without him having a chance to see her. Obeid, one of 27 cases mentioned in the report, spoke emotionally about his ordeal. “Wanting to hug your baby and play with him, or thinking about sleeping with your wife or having more kids … these are basic needs,” Obeid said, “[but] you can’t do that because Israel doesn’t want you to do that.” This Israeli policy has been regularly supported by Israeli high court decisions in which it accepted without challenge the Israeli government’s justification for keeping Palestinian families divided.

Israel bars Gaza student from travel to US for coexistence program
Haaretz 23 Jan by Yarden Skop — Israel has rejected the request of a Palestinian living in Gaza to travel to the United States to attend a coexistence program at New York University.  A civil rights group that advocates on behalf of Palestinians says the refusal to issue a permit to the 21-year-old is indicative of a policy shift that is making it more difficult for Palestinian students to study abroad. Israel’s Coordination and Liaison Administration for Gaza said it would not approve the Palestinian student’s travel request because he had failed to secure an official request from the U.S. consulate and had not arranged to be chaperoned to by a consulate official during transit through Israel. But Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement said such requirements were not enforced in recent years. “It’s not clear why Israel decided to toughen the restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinian academics in general, and in particular that of an outstanding student who received academic recognition from an institution as respectable as NYU,” said Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement. “Especially in light of the fact that he was chosen to participate in a program that includes Israeli and Palestinian students who aspire to promote coexistence and reconciliation among the nations.”

Violence / Raids / Attacks / Clashes / Suppression of protests / Illegal arrests

Settlers assault man, woman near Yatta
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 24 Jan — Israeli settlers early Friday assaulted a woman and a man from Khirbet Umm al-Khair east of Yatta in the southern West Bank. The head of the local council of the nearby village of Susiya Jihad al-Nawaja told Ma’an that around 20 settlers attacked Bilal al-Hathaleen, 27, and Maliha al-Hathaleen, 57, while they were on their way to an agricultural area near their home. They were beaten by the settlers and suffered multiple cuts as a result of the attack, he added.

Jewish settler runs over pregnant woman
NABLUS (PIC) 23 Jan — A Jewish settler ran over a pregnant woman on the main street in Hawara village, south of Nablus, on Wednesday. Abdulkarim Abu Shehada, the husband of the woman, said that his wife Wijdan, 39, who is in her 8th month of pregnancy, was run over while trying to cross the main street in the village. He charged the settler with over speeding in a street that was not designed for such high speed. He said that his wife suffered bruises and cuts all over her body and was transferred to a hospital in Nablus where her condition was described as moderate.
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Israeli forces injure infant, man in Kafr Qaddum
QALQILIYA (Ma‘an) 24 Jan — One man was struck in the shoulder by a tear-gas canister and dozens suffered from excessive tear-gas inhalation after Israeli forces raided the village of Kafr Qaddum following a protest. Witnesses said Israeli forces fired tear gas into residential areas in the village as clashes broke out following the village’s weekly protest, hitting one man and injuring dozens, including a 2-month-old infant. Photographer Jafar Shtayyah, meanwhile, was struck with a tear-gas canister fired by Israeli forces in the shoulder. Coordinator for the local popular resistance committee Murad Shtewi said that Israeli forces fired over 10 tear-gas canisters toward his house, causing his family to suffer from the tear-gas inhalation. Among those affected by the use of excessive tear gas was his 2-month-old daughter, Bisan. Protests are held every Friday in Kafr Qaddum against Israel’s closure of a main road linking the village to its nearest city, Nablus. The road has been closed since 2000.

2 injured in Bil‘in clashes
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 24 Jan — Two Palestinians were injured and dozens suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation on Friday after Israeli forces dispersed a protest in the northern West Bank village of Bil‘in. Israeli forces fired tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades, and live 0.22 inch caliber bullets at protesters as they neared their lands close to the wall during the weekly protest. Nimer Atta, 19, was shot with a 0.22 bullet in the foot and taken to Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah, while Wael Burnat, 35, was shot in the hand. Protesters raised Palestinian flags and chanted songs for unity, and slogans in resistance against the Israeli occupation … Since 2005, Bil‘in villagers have protested on a weekly basis against the Israeli separation wall that runs through their village on land confiscated from local farmers. Previous protests by Bil‘in activists have forced the Israeli authorities to re-route the wall, but large chunks of the village lands remain inaccessible to residents because of the route.

Israeli forces clash with Palestinians in Beit Ummar, arrest 1
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 24 Jan — Dozens of Palestinians suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation after Israeli forces raided a village in the southern West Bank late Thursday, a popular committee spokesman said. After entering Beit Ummar, Israeli forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades, and tear gas during clashes with Palestinians, Muhammad Ayyad told Ma‘an. He said the clashes lasted two hours. Additionally, 22-year-old Ahmad Ali Ayyad Awad was detained by Israeli soldiers on his way to work, Ayyad said.

Remembering Saleh: a life cut short
[with photos] BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 24 Jan by Graham Liddell — Hundreds of Palestinians gathered across Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank to mourn the anniversary of the death of a boy killed during protests a year earlier.  Fifteen-year-old Saleh al-Amarin from ‘Azza camp died Jan. 23, 2013 after being shot in the head during clashes with Israeli forces days before. Around noon Jan. 18, 2013, Saleh attended a protest at the nearby ‘Aida refugee camp. As tensions grew, he and his friends threw stones toward the Israeli separation wall, while soldiers fired tear-gas canisters back at the boys. Then the protest came to an abrupt end. Saleh was hit in the head with a live bullet. His friends and the Palestinian Red Crescent carried him to a nearby hospital, and he died five days later.
A year later, locals held memorial services and military parades in Saleh’s honor. On Thursday, hundreds from the Bethlehem area attended a memorial service in Dheisheh camp’s Phoenix Center … On Wednesday, a group of teenagers from Dheisheh and ‘Azza organized a march on a main street in Bethlehem, temporarily blocking traffic … On Saturday, ‘Azza camp held another memorial service commemorating the day Saleh was shot … In separate interviews with Ma‘an, Saleh’s friends from Azza said he was beloved by everybody in the camp. “Everyone loved him,” said 16-year-old Muhannad. “He would always joke around with us. … He’d always make us laugh.” Muhannad said Saleh loved to wrestle with other kids. “Not ‘kill, kill,’ but just joking around,” Muhannad said, smiling. Saleh was respected by everyone, he said …
According to a Palestinian-led activist group, doctors speculated that the bullet that killed Saleh was an expanding dumdum bullet, due to the fragmentation of shrapnel within his skull. One doctor said he was sure a dumdum bullet was used, the International Solidarity Movement reported on the day of Saleh’s death. Expanding bullets have been illegal under international law since the Hague convention of 1899. Their use by Israeli forces has been documented in various news reports throughout the past decade.

Israeli forces arrest PA police officer near Kafr Qaddum
QALQILIYA (Ma‘an) 24 Jan — Israeli forces late Thursday arrested a Palestinian police officer at a checkpoint in a northern West Bank city, witnesses said. Witnesses told Ma‘an that Muhammad Shaker Ishtawi, 23, was arrested at a flying checkpoint at the entrance of Kafr Qaddum near Qalqiliya. Ishtawi is an officer for the Palestinian Authority police force.

Eight Palestinians kidnapped in Hebron, Bethlehem
IMEMC Thursday, 23 Jan by Saed Bannoura —  Israeli soldiers invaded the West Bank districts of Hebron and Bethlehem, kidnapping eight Palestinians after breaking into their homes and violently searching them. Local sources in Hebron, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank, said that dozens of soldiers invaded Beit Awwa town, nearby, searched several homes and kidnapped Wajdan Reziq Masalma, 18. The soldiers also invaded Hebron city, and kidnapped Amer Mohammad Al-Oweiwy, 27. Furthermore, dozens of soldiers also invaded the Tabaqa village, and the communities of Namous and ‘Arqan Awad in Doura, near Hebron, and violently searched several homes. In addition, soldiers invaded the West Bank district of Bethlehem, kidnapping five Palestinians in Beit Fajjar town, and one in Doha city …  In Doha town, south of Bethlehem, the soldiers broke into the home of Firas Odeh, searched the property, and kidnapped him. The invasion led to clashes between dozens of youth and the invading soldiers.

Residents: Israeli forces arrest 2 in Hebron area
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 23 Jan — Israeli forces on Thursday arrested two men and seized a truck in Hebron, locals said.  They said Amir Mohammad Abd al-Kadir Abu Eisha was arrested from his home in the city … A Mercedes truck belonging to Fadi Ali Abu Atwan was seized from the al-Tabaqa area in Dura after Israeli forces raided his home.

Ministry of Higher Education condemns Israeli attack on university
IMEMC Thursday, 23 Jan by Chris Carlson — In a Wednesday press release, the Ministry of Higher Education denounced the Israeli army attack against Al-Quds University, for desecrating the sanctity of the institution, obstructing the educational process, and for intentionally horrifying thousands of students and staff members by utilizing all terrorist means, including random heavy firing. Israeli forces raided, on Wednesday, Al-Quds University in Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem, where clashes erupted between the students and Israeli forces, who fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets inside and outside of the campus. A dozen students and faculty members suffocated due to tear gas inhalation, while others were injured from rubber-coated metal bullets.

PCHR Weekly Report: ‘Two Palestinians killed; Israeli escalation continues’
IMEMC 24 Jan — The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) issued its weekly report on Israeli violations in the occupied territories, for the period between January 16-22, 2014, and said that the army assassinated two Palestinians, conducted 73 invasions, and continued to target the civilian population … The PCHR added that on January 17, two Palestinian civilians were wounded near the eastern border area of the Gaza Strip. On the same day, soldiers stationed across the border east of Jabalia, in northern Gaza, fired rounds of live ammunition and gas bombs, into an area close to the Shuhada Graveyard after alleging some young Palestinians tried to throw stones at them. Soldiers also fired rounds of live ammunition and several gas bombs into Bouret Abu Samra area, in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza, also after alleging that Palestinians approached the border fence. Furthermore, the Israeli air force carried out more than four air strikes targeting different areas in the coastal region …  In The West Bank, the soldiers carried out 73 invasions targeting different districts, kidnapping 44 Palestinians, including 10 minors and 3 women….  Full Report

Settler violence: it comes with the territory
[extensive analysis, with map, videos] 972mag 21 Jan by Larry Derfner — Unlike any other aspect of the occupation, settler violence is something nobody outside the radical fringe in Israel will defend. This, alone, they’ll denounce. And yet, nobody — in Israel or internationally — has found the political will to put a stop to the decades-long phenomenon, even when the victims are U.S. citizens — Kamal Shaban, a farmer in the West Bank village of Sinjil, is watching workmen repair a local family’s house that had recently been firebombed by settlers in the middle of the night, forcing the parents and five children asleep inside to flee to the rooftop. As for himself, Shaban tells me that during the autumn olive harvests, settlers have stoned the laborers in his fields, turned over a tractor, stolen sacks of olives and once broke a worker’s arm with a big rock — all under the eye of Israeli soldiers required by the Supreme Court to protect the farmers. He asks: “Why do the United States, the European Union and the United Nations call Hamas terrorists and Hezbollah terrorists, but they don’t call these people terrorists?” … Rowaida spoke to me in English with an Americanized accent. The 38-year-old woman said she lived in Springfield, Massachusetts for many years before and after her marriage, and, like her husband and children, is a U.S. citizen. “People from the American consulate came here after the fire,” she said. “They’ve called me a couple of times since to see how we’re doing.” All American citizens, the family of seven, including five children, were the victims of a murder attempt because they are Palestinian, their house was firebombed in the middle of the night by Israel’s lords of the land. It was the third time the family had been targeted with Molotov cocktails by these people in two years — and not a word of protest was heard from the United States. I wanted to ask the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv about it, but my request for an interview was denied.

PA forces arrest three Palestinians, including ex-detainee
AL-KHALIL (PIC) 24 Jan — Political detainee Mohamad Asfour, from al-Khalil city, started Thursday an open-ended hunger strike shortly after his arrest by the PA preventive security forces … Asfour, a student at al-Khalil University, was arrested on Thursday after being summoned to Preventive Security Headquarters. The political detainee had earlier informed his family of his decision to go on hunger strike in case of his arrest. Two university students have also declared hunger strike in PA jails protesting their arrest.
Meanwhile, Hamas movement charged PA Preventive Security Service of arresting the liberated prisoner Raed Aldrabia, 40, on Thursday after being summoned to its headquarters. Aldrabia has spent 15 years in Israeli jails on charges of being affiliated with al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing. He was then re-arrested, where he served 3 years in administrative detention.
In another incident, PA court in the West Bank has extended Thursday the arrest of Mohamad Bahjat Abu Ahallil, 22, for 15 additional days. He was arrested since 22nd of December on charges of social media activity, according to the movement’s statement.
For its part, the family of university student Abdel-Rahman Abu Arqub confirmed that their son continued his hunger strike for 11 days in Jericho prison, adding that his arrest has been extended for 15 more days for further investigation.
Late on Thursday, a student at Palestine Polytechnic University named Seif al-Islam Taha was arrested by the PA preventive security apparatus.  Taha’s family said that the preventive security forces ransacked their house and confiscated its son’s computer before arresting him.
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Palestinian man arrested for naming baby after Morsi
Jerusalem Post 23 Jan by Khaled Abu Toameh — Abdel Halim Ghannam, 37, of the Jalazoun refugee camp north of Ramallah, was summoned for interrogation; man’s wife says baby name behind arrest — A Palestinian man who named his son after deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi was arrested on Wednesday by the Palestinian Authority General Intelligence Service in Ramallah. Abdel Halim Ghannam, 37, of the Jalazoun refugee camp north of Ramallah, was summoned for interrogation, his wife said. He was released from detention on Thursday afternoon following protests by his family and human rights organizations. The wife said that PA intelligence officers told the family that Ghannam was arrested for naming his son after Morsi.

Gaza under blockade

Gaza protester killed, several injured
IMEMC Friday 24 Jan by Chris Carlson — Israeli forces shot dead one Palestinian and injured another, on Friday, during a protest east of Jabaliya, in the northern Gaza Strip. Spokesman for the Gaza Ministry of Health, Ashraf al-Qidra, said that 20-year-old Bilal Samer Oweidah died after being shot in the chest by Israeli forces near the border, Ma‘an News Agency has reported. Owiedah was among a group of Palestinians who had gathered near the border to protest the buffer zone imposed by Israel, al-Qidra said. According to locals, Oweidah was taken to Kamal Adwan Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. It has been reported that seven other young men were wounded, three by live bullets.

Army opens fire into southern Gaza
IMEMC Thursday evening, 23 Jan — A number of Israeli military vehicles, stationed across the border fence with Gaza, fired dozens of rounds of live ammunition into Palestinian agricultural lands and homes east of Abasan As-Sagheera town, southeast of the southern Gaza Strip district of Khan Younis. Eyewitnesses said several military vehicles advanced towards the Sreij Gate, east of Abasan As-Sagheera, opening fire at random; no injuries were reported.  The soldiers also fired rounds of live ammunition into the Faraheen neighborhood and the Al-Qarara, east of Khan Younis; damage was reported but no injuries. Israeli war jets and drones were seen flying over several areas in the besieged and impoverished coastal region

Islamic Jihad blames Israel for Gaza escalation
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 24 Jan by Asmaa al-Ghoul — …Islamic Jihad came under a lot of political and military pressure last week, after its military wing was accused of rapid escalation, through firing sophisticated rockets at Israeli towns. This escalation reached its peak when Israeli bomber planes targeted two members of the Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad. One of those targeted was Ahmed Saad, who was struck on the morning of Jan. 19, while riding a motorcycle in the center of Gaza City. He was seriously injured in the attack. The other member targeted was Ahmed Zaanin. On the morning of Jan. 22, Zaanin was getting into a car with a relative when the planes carried out the strike, killing them both. Israeli aircraft carried out six raids on Jan. 16 and Jan. 19, targeting several resistance sites in the Gaza Strip. Moreover, they fired a number of artillery shells targeting agricultural land east of Gaza City … During a meeting in his office on Jan. 23, [Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud] Shihab told Al-Monitor, “We in Islamic Jihad do not know who is behind the launch of these rockets. Israel insists on accusing us, and says that Hamas is responsible since they [lead] the government. This is aimed at creating a state of disagreement between Hamas and Islamic Jihad, given that they are the two primary resistance factions.” Shihab cautioned that, in light of the political circumstances and the regional situation, the Palestinian factions have no intention to escalate matters. According to him, there is a consensus among these factions to commit to the truce, despite the large number of violations and attacks carried out by Israel.

Abu Zuhri denies allegations on presence of Iranian experts in Gaza
GAZA (PIC) 23 Jan — Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, has denied press allegations reported by Al-Watan Egyptian newspaper about Iranian experts’ arrival to Gaza for the production of explosive devices then transporting them to Sinai. “We totally deny Iranian experts’ presence in Gaza”, he said, adding that such allegations harm the reputation of Egyptian army and security services because they mean that they have failed to carry out their responsibilities. Abu Zuhri denied claims reporting the Egyptian arrest of persons while trying to transport explosives to Sinai. He warned that his movement might be forced to publish documents that expose the ongoing fabrications and allegations targeting Palestinian people and resistance in case the incitement continued.
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As power cuts continue, Gaza turns to solar energy
Al-Monitor 22 Jan by Hazem Balousha — …Abir al-Hurqali is one of Gaza’s many physically disabled residents. She uses her electric wheelchair on a daily basis to go to university, where she is majoring in multimedia studies. Her movement, however, is often restrained by electricity outages. Every time she wants to go somewhere, she has to check whether the battery will last long enough to get her to her destination and then back home. “I have struggled a lot with the continuous electricity outages,” Hurqali told Al-Monitor. “Frequently, I can’t leave the house because the wheelchair battery is dead or doesn’t have enough power for me to reach my destination.” … As part of a project implemented by the Salam Club for the disabled in Gaza, a few months ago Hurqali received a solar panel to recharge her wheelchair battery when electricity is unavailable from the grid. It has been a great help to her … Ali Hussein, an engineer and owner of a company involved in solar energy, told Al-Monitor that the demand for solar energy systems has been increasing among Gazans. The high price of the systems, however, limit the purchasing power of many residents. According to Hussein, the cheapest system for home use costs around $1,350, an extremely high price for the majority of Palestinians in Gaza. The system can provide lighting for hours and operate television sets and other light electrical appliances. Some public institutions recently began to rely on solar systems in some of their facilities. At the Nasr Children’s Hospital, the nursery for premature children relies completely on such a system. In addition, the water-pumping station in Khan Yunis is currently functioning on solar power as are some schools in the Gaza Strip.

Video: Entrepreneur cleans up in Gaza
Reuters 22 Jan – A businessman in the blockaded Gaza Strip is building up a head of steam with his mobile car-wash, a service that’s making the most of limited water supplies. Rob Muir reports. (Transcript)

Source: Hamas resorts to tobacco taxes to pay state employee
Al-Monitor 20 Jan by Asmaa al-Ghoul — The government in the Gaza Strip, which has been led by Hamas since 2006, has stressed multiple times that the taxes imposed on cigarettes and shisha tobacco since 2010 are aimed at reducing smoking, and that they are used to fund infrastructure projects and not to pay government salaries — given that tobacco is forbidden in Islam. However, Al-Monitor has learned from a government source that the Hamas government, in light of its financial crisis, has begun using cigarette taxes to pay part of employee salaries.

Detainees / Court actions

Seven detainees currently on hunger strike
IMEMC Thursday, 23 Jan by Saed Bannoura — The Palestinian Ministry of Detainees has reported that seven Palestinian detainees are currently holding open-ended hunger strikes in Israeli detention facilities, and that some of them are facing very serious health issues and complications. The Palestinian Ministry of Detainees said that detainees Akram Al-Faseesy, Waheed Abu Maria, legislator Yasser Mansour, and Bilal Abdul-Aziz are striking to protest their arbitrary illegitimate Administrative Detention without charges or trial. The Ministry added that detainee Abdul-Majid Khdeirat is striking to protest being arrested after his release under the Shalit prisoner swap deal, and detainee Yousef Nawaj’a is striking to demand urgently needed medical attention. Detainee Moammar Banat, along with detainee Al-Faseesy, started their hunger strike on January 9, 2014, after being forced into solitary confinement at the Ofer Israeli military detention center. They are being held under very difficult conditions; their clothes were confiscated, and each cold cell only includes one mattress and two blankets. Abu Maria said that the detainees are frequently harassed, repeatedly searched and assaulted in an attempt to force them to quit their strikes

Imprisoned Palestinian lawmaker suspends hunger strike
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 23 Jan — An imprisoned Palestinian lawmaker on Thursday suspended his hunger strike and was removed from solitary confinement, the prisoner’s wife said. Yasser Mansour, a lawmaker from Nablus who is currently held in an Israeli prison in the Negev, decided to end his hunger strike in order to allow the prison administration to respond to his demands, his wife Samar Adnan said. Mansour’s decision was made in coordination with other prisoners, Adnan added, without providing further details. Mansour began his hunger strike on Friday in protest against his ongoing administrative detention without trial. He is affiliated with the Hamas movement.

IOA extends administrative detention of Sheikh Abdul-Khaliq Natsheh
AL-KHALIL (PIC) 24 Jan — The Israeli occupation authority (IOA) on Thursday renewed for the third time the administrative detention of Sheikh Abdul Khaliq Natsheh, a senior Hamas official and member of the higher committee of the movement’s prisoners. Palestinian prisoners’ center for studies stated that the Negev court extended for the third time running the arrest of Sheikh Jamal Natsheh, aged 59, for four months. The Israeli occupation forces arrested Natsheh on March 27 last year and jailed him administratively without any charge. Sheikh Natsheh had been arrested 10 times before and served a total of 17 years in Israeli jails.
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IOA court sentences school student to 9 months imprisonment
NABLUS (PIC) 23 Jan — The Israeli occupation authority (IOA) sentenced a Palestinian teenage school student, Ali Al-Houtari, to nine months imprisonment. Ahrar center for prisoner studies quoted parents of the teen from Qalqilia as saying that they were shocked with the Salem military court sentence. They said that Ali was held along with his 16-year-old brother Mahmoud since June 2013. Fuad Al-Khafsh, the director of Ahrar center, said that the verdict against a child who barely reached 18 years of age was meant to deprive Palestinian children from completing their studies. He said that Ali was at the final year of the secondary school stage when he was arrested and with this verdict he is now deprived of studying for the second year running.
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Released Palestinian detainees struggle with life outside prison
Al-Monitor 23 Jan by Asmaa al-Ghoul — Although Palestinian prisoners are given much attention and press when released, they face many challenges alone when it comes to re-entering everyday life — Liberated prisoner Oweida Kalab, 50, closed all the windows and turned on the radio to listen to Hebrew-language stations. He locked himself inside his room and refused to see visitors or go outside, except for the rarest of occasions, as he relived his 25 years in prison. For 18 of these years he was in solitary confinement, unable to hear anything but the voices of his Israeli jailers … Oweida is not the only detainee who has continued suffering after his release pursuant to the Shalit deal. Liberated prisoner Mohammad Karim, 31, who was incarcerated for nine years and released in the same deal, expressed his frustration to Al-Monitor. He said, “I feel that everyone is better than me. They all can plan for their futures, but I cannot. Despite my smile, this freedom pains me. I would rather remain alone and away from people.” The same holds true for liberated prisoner Hanaa Shalabi, who famously went on hunger strike while in Israeli custody and was released on condition that she be deported to the Gaza Strip. She told Al-Monitor that anxiety and stress caused her to lose her unborn child. She said, “I lost my baby when I was seven months pregnant. The doctor told me that my constant nervousness and stressed condition were to blame.” Shalabi affirmed that all the prisoners needed psychological rehabilitation … After the joy of freedom ebbs and the raucous receptions by families and political parties are over, liberated prisoners are shocked by the discrimination they are subjected to, depending on their affiliations.

Palestinian refugees in Syria

NGO: 63 dead from hunger, medical shortages in Yarmouk
BEIRUT (AFP) 24 Jan — A Syrian monitoring group said Friday it has documented the deaths of 63 people, including women and children, in the besieged Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus because of food and medical shortages. Yarmouk in southern Damascus has been under a choking army siege since June, along with several other opposition-held areas across Syria, mostly around the capital and in the central city of Homs. “Sixty-one of the dead lost their lives in the past three months,” said the Observatory, which relies on a network of activists and doctors inside the country for its reports. [A little] food aid entered Yarmouk last week for the first time in four months. UN rights chief Navi Pillay has warned blocking assistance to civilians “in desperate need may amount to a war crime.”
Activists in other besieged areas have also complained of dismal conditions. In Homs, activists say hundreds of families have been holed up for nearly 600 days in a handful of districts still held by rebels. They come under near-daily shelling and activists there say they have run out of most food supplies, and that residents now have little more than olives to survive on. In a bid to shed light on their circumstances, activists in Homs launched a campaign this week, putting up yellow signposts inscribed with slogans describing life in the rebel areas. “For two years, 300 children have had no schooling,” reads one, according to photographs shared by Homs-based activist Yazan. “One hundred people need urgent surgery,” reads another, held up by a young man on one of Homs’ heavily damaged streets. In the Eastern Ghouta area east of Damascus, conditions of life are also dire, said activist Tareq al-Dimashqi, who spoke to AFP via Skype.

Two Palestinians die after days of torture in Syrian jail
DAMASCUS (PIC) 23 Jan — The action group for the Palestinians in Syria said that two Palestinian refugees died on Wednesday in a Syrian detention center after they were exposed to excruciating torture at the hands of interrogators. The action group stated on Thursday that the brothers Mahmoud and Mohamed Abdul-Hafiz, Palestinian refugees living in Tadmur town died of torture in a Syrian jail. It added that a Syrian security apparatus kidnapped another Palestinian young man, a resident of Al-Aydoun refugee camp in Hama city and took him to an unknown place.
The group also said that the humanitarian situation in Al-Yarmouk refugee camp is still very difficult, and the relief efforts have stopped. It explained that the UNRWA stopped the distribution of food parcels after its relief workers claimed their exposure to maltreatment by the Palestinian refugees in Al-Yarmouk camp. However, the group affirmed that the refugees in the camp were exposed to humiliation by the UNRWA relief workers. It said that many Yarmouk families complained about a delay in the delivery of humanitarian aid and making them wait in lines for very long hours without getting anything, adding that the UNRWA  workers also refuse to give anything without writing numbers on wrists or hands of everyone who receives aid.
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Israel, save the Palestinians in Syria’s Yarmouk camp
Haaretz 22 Jan by Gideon Levy — Israel should declare that its gates are open for the 20,000 besieged residents to reunite with their families — This article will surely fall on deaf ears, even more than others of mine. Still, it must be written. I can’t forget the images from the Yarmouk camp for Palestinian refugees. Among all the victims of Syria’s horrors, these people should touch Israelis’ hearts. Israel is morally responsible for what happens in this camp, albeit indirectly. First, it bears historical responsibility for the fate of the camp’s residentsPalestinian natives of Israel who were forced to flee and their descendants. Second, many Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the territory of the Palestinian Authority have relatives in Yarmouk, sometimes even of the first degree. Siblings, grandparents and cousins are starving to death, and dozens have already died. We could draw a parallel. An atrocity takes place dozens of kilometers from the country’s borders, and relatives of Jewish Israelis are starving to death and dying for lack of medicine and supplies, wandering around emaciated and being shot like stray animals. Would Israel remain complacent? Wouldn’t it take action to save them? It’s easy to dump responsibility for Yarmouk on the Arabs … And yet the moral responsibility still lies with Israel, whose establishment led to the existence of these refugees and exiles. … A few days ago my colleague Zvi Bar’el described the situation in the camp … Bar’el was restrained as he referred to Yarmouk as resembling a World War II ghetto, and even this description fell on deaf ears.

Activism / Solidarity / BDS

Planting 113 trees named after displaced villages, on the 113th anniversary of the establishment of the Jewish National Fund
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-apartheid Wall Campaign 20 Jan — The anti-apartheid Wall Campaign and the Union of Palestinian Farmers planted 113 trees in Al Hamma and Ain Al Beida areas and in the northern Jordan Valley, coinciding with the 113 anniversary of the establishment of the Jewish National Fund. This event was carried out by about 70 participants and comes within the “Million Tree II” provided by the Arab Society for the Protection of Nature, in cooperation and partnership with the Association of anti-Jewish National Fund, a group of “Palestinians” and Save the Jordan Valley campaign. Suheil Salman, the coordinator of the people’s committees in Stop the Wall campaign said that this event comes in conjunction with the 113 anniversary of the establishment of the Jewish National Fund, which is one of the first and most important Zionist institutions that contributed to the displacement of Palestinians in 1948 and the destruction of more than 530 Palestinian villages, and raising funds for the Occupation Government, presenting itself to the world as a charity.

British Muslims walk for Gaza
LONDON (OnIslam) 24 Jan by Catherine Shakdam — Thousands of British Muslims and non-Muslims answered the call of a British-based international relief and development NGO to walk for Gaza, demonstrating their support to the Palestinian cause and raising funds to help the war-stricken strip. Saving Gaza children is essentially saving Gaza,” one of Walk for Gaza’s organizers told Wrapped up warm with maps and refreshments, thousands of British people will take on the 5 miles of chilly terrain to raise funds for the children of Gaza on Saturday, January 25. The Winter Walk for Gaza, held for the sixth year, has been organized by Muslim Hands in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Leicester to finance its charitable programs in eastern Gaza. Focused on bringing relief to the children of Gaza, the organization has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars throughout the past years, determined to make a difference in the lives of Palestine’s forgotten children.

Germany toughens stance over Israel research deal
JERUSALEM (AFP) 24 Jan — Germany is insisting that research support and cooperation with Israel exclude Jewish settlements built on Palestinian land, Israeli media said Thursday, weeks ahead of a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. According to the report in Haaretz daily, Berlin’s decision “represents a significant escalation in European measures against the settlements” in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. Haaretz notes that a 1986 treaty of the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development states that the foundation will only sponsor projects “within the geographic areas under the jurisdiction of the State of Israel” prior to the 1967 Middle East war. The Germans want to apply that clause to the “German-Israeli funding program (DIP)”, an agreement signed in 1970 that is renewed annually on March 31, as well as to an agreement between the states providing “German funding for industrial and applied research and development,” Haaretz said. Merkel is due in Israel at the end of next month. Germany’s steadfast support of Israel has been a constant since World War II in atonement for its Nazi past, and Berlin is widely seen as Israel’s closest ally in Europe. [Haaretz: A senior Foreign Ministry official said that given the “special relationship” between Israel and Germany and the fact that Germany is considered Israel’s best friend in Europe, any Israeli consent to Germany’s demands is liable to set a precedent for all of Europe. “Germany will set an example for the rest of the world,” he said.]

[California] public radio KQED pulls SodaStream from gifts to donors
Electronic Intifada 24 Jan by Ali Abunimah — KQED’s publicist Evren Odcikin sent this statement to The Electronic Intifada on Friday afternoon: After careful consideration, KQED is pulling SodaStream from its pledge thank you gift offer. The decision to provide SodaStream to our members was based on the product’s positive impact on the environment, an issue near and dear to the hearts of our members and part of KQED’s commitment to sustainability. However, the controversy surrounding SodaStream would undermine the spirit of our impartiality and unbiased mission, therefore the product will no longer be offered as a thank you gift to our members.

Oxfam tells SodaStream spokesmodel Scarlett Johansson that settlements harm Palestinians
Electronic Intifada 23 Jan by Ali Abunimah — The international development charity Oxfam has publicly admonished Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson over her new and highly controversial role as spokesperson for the Israeli occupation profiteering firm SodaStream. “We are proud of our relationship with Scarlett Johansson who has worked with Oxfam since 2005 to support Oxfam’s mission to end poverty and injustice,” the charity says in a statement … But, the statement, adds, “Oxfam believes that businesses that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support. Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.” “We have made our concerns known to Ms Johansson and we are now engaged in a dialogue on these important issues.”

Scarlett Johansson releases statement defending SodaStream after criticism
The Forward 24 Jan by Sigal Samuel — Scarlett Johansson has released a statement to the Huffington Post after coming under fire for her decision to represent SodaStream, an Israeli company that operates in the occupied West Bank. “While I never intended on being the face of any social or political movement, distinction, separation or stance as part of my affiliation with SodaStream, given the amount of noise surrounding that decision, I’d like to clear the air,” Johansson stated. “I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine,” the actress said. “SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights. That is what is happening in their Ma’ale Adumim factory every working day.”

Other news

Palestinians: No al-Qaeda in West Bank
Ynet/AP 23 Jan — Palestinian security officials are dismissing Shin Bet claim that it broke up an al-Qaeda plot to bomb the US Embassy in Tel Aviv Jerusalem’s International Conference Center. Adnan Damiri, a spokesman for the Palestinian security services in the West Bank, says there is “no indication” that al-Qaida has a presence in the territory. He accused Israel of arresting some “boys” and exaggerating the nature of the threat to bolster its position in peace talks. “Al-Qa‘ida cannot operate here,” Damiri said. “It needs broad logistical support and that cannot be here in this small area.”  One of the suspects was identified as Ala Aanam, 21, from Aqaba, a village near the northern West Bank town of Jenin. His cousin, Arafat Aanam, told The Associated Press that the 21-year-old was arrested by the Israeli military two and half weeks ago in a night raid. He said Palestinian intelligence forces had arrested him just a week before and had let him go. The Palestinians arrested him because of “Islamic views” he expressed on Facebook, the cousin said without elaborating.,7340,L-4480438,00.html

Kerry promises Palestinians an IDF-free state
Ynet 24 Jan by Roei Eisenberg — US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday told an annual conference of international business and political leaders that a final peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians would include the complete removal of Israeli troops from Palestinian territory. “Palestinians need to know that at the end of the day their territory will be free of Israeli troops – that occupation ends,” Kerry said in a speech at the global economic forum in Davos, Switzerland. But, he added, that day would not come until Israel was certain that the territory from which they withdrew would not be used as a launch pad for attacks on its citizens. [see also Abed Rabbo interview below],7340,L-4480697,00.html

Netanyahu: I will not uproot a single Israeli
Haaretz 24 Jan by Barak Ravid — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a press conference in Davos on Friday and said that he does not intend on uprooting any Israeli citizen. Netanyahu’s statement came as a response to a question about his commitment to the Jordan Valley. “I do not intend to evacuate any settlements or uproot a single Israeli,” he said. The press conference followed a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State in which the two leaders discussed the peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Netanyahu stressed that Kerry is not trying to bring the two sides to sign a framework agreement but solely to put forth ideas for a path toward progress in the negotiations. He also rejected the warnings against an economic boycott on Israel due to settlement construction. “I actually see great interest on the part of international companies to invest in Israel,” he said.

UNRWA, unions meet in effort to end strike
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 23 Jan — The Palestinian Department of Refugee Affairs on Thursday hosted a meeting between the UN Palestine refugee agency’s administration and representatives of its Palestinian unions. UNRWA’s administration and unions met in an effort to end an ongoing strike that has kept schools closed for nearly two months and severely limited provisions of basic services to Palestinian refugee camps. The general director of the Department of Refugee Affairs told Ma‘an that the Palestinian Authority had adopted an initiative penned by the Ministry of Labor to end the strike. Ahmad Hannoun said that the PA was waiting on a response from UNRWA General Commissioner Filippo Grandi, without providing further details.

Father Hanna: The Church rejects Israel’s attempts to recruit Christian youth
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 23 Jan — Father Attallah Hanna, archbishop of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, said he rejects all attempts by the Zionist entity to Israelize the Palestinian people from all spectra, stressing the Christian and Muslim Palestinians are one people sharing the same history. Father Hanna made his remarks during a meeting with Christian young men refusing to join the Israeli army. “The Church rejects all attempt to segregate and discriminate between the sons and daughters of the one people from different sects, and all attempts to separate the Christian Palestinians from the Palestinian people and their Arab roots,” Father Hanna emphasized.
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EU supports livestock project with over €4 M
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 23 Jan — The Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) has recently launched SULALAH, project for livestock development, funded by the European Union (EU), a press release said on Thursday. The EU’s €4.17 million fund is part of its Food Security Program in the occupied Palestinian Territory. SULALAH aims to move herders from aid dependence to self-sustaining growth through livestock husbandry development and market expansion, said the press release. Its goal is to improve food security of Palestinian female and male herders by protecting, sustaining and developing livestock production.

Abbas seeks $1 billion Gaza deal with Russia
MOSCOW (AFP) 23 Jan — Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas sought on Thursday to secure a billion-dollar Gaza energy deal during talks with Russian leaders aimed at restoring warmer ties between the two Soviet-era allies. Abbas and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev were due to sign an intergovernmental agreement that reports said included a $1.0 billion (€730 million) natural gas project in the Gaza section of the Mediterranean Sea. The state ITAR-TASS news agency said Russia’s natural gas giant Gazprom hoped to produce 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas at the site. The report added that Russia’s Technopromexport engineering firm was also considering a small oil development project near the West Bank city of Ramallah. It was not immediately clear how far negotiations on the two deals had progressed or when the projects might be launched.

Russia, PA sign 3 agreements
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 24 Jan — Russia and Palestine signed three agreements on Friday, the Palestinian ambassador to Russia said. Fayed Mustafa told Ma‘an that the Russian and Palestinian ministries of interior signed an agreement. A second agreement was signed regarding customs, and a third regarding health, Mustafa said, without providing further details about the agreements. He added that a joint Palestinian-Russian economic committee was formed to improve trade and economic cooperation.

Police arrest 2 for anti-Arab graffiti in Tel Aviv
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 23 Jan — Israeli police have arrested two youths for writing “Death to Arabs” on two streets in Tel Aviv. Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samari said in a statement that the slogan was written on the Bar Kochva and Dizengoff streets in Tel Aviv and signed with “M.F.” Two young men are being held on suspicion of writing 15 anti-Arab slogans, she said.

15 Israeli soldiers injured after fire hits Israeli warship near Gaza
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 24 Jan — 15 Israeli soldiers were injured on Friday evening after a fire broke out in an Israeli warship off the coast of the Gaza Strip, according to Israeli media sources. Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot reported that the injured were taken to Tel Hashomer hospital with injuries ranging from light to moderate, while others suffered from smoke inhalation. The newspaper added that the fire broke out while the ship was engaged in routine activities off the Gaza coast due to an engine malfunction … This was the second incident involving the Israeli navy in less than a week, after a small naval vessel capsized on Monday a few miles off the Gaza coast during routine operations. No one was reported injured as a result of that accident.

US declares Islamic Jihad leader ‘Global Terrorist’
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 23 Jan — The US Department of State on Thursday designated a Palestinian leader of the Islamic Jihad movement a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist,” according to the State Department’s website. Ziyad al-Nakhalah was designated as a wanted “terrorist” under an executive order “which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism,” the State Department said in a statement. “The consequences of this designation include a prohibition against U.S. persons engaging in transactions with Ziyad al-Nakhalah, and the freezing of all property and interests of Ziyad al-Nakhalah that are in the United States, or come within the United States or the possession or control of U.S. persons,” the statement said. Responding to Thursday’s designation, a member of Islamic Jihad’s political bureau told Ma‘an that the decision provides cover for Israel to assassinate Islamic Jihad leaders and members.

NY mayor at closed AIPAC gala: Part of my job is to defend Israel
Haaretz 25 Jan — New York Mayor Bill de Blasio gave a heartfelt speech praising Israel at a private gala event hosted by AIPAC at the Hilton hotel in midtown Manhattan Thursday night, the local website Capital New York reported. According to an edited audio recording obtained by the site (below), de Blasio said that “part of his job description is to defend Israel” and that it is “elemental to being an American, because there is no greater ally on earth, and that’s something we can say proudly.”

Analysis / Opinion / Interviews / Reviews

‘Palestinian sovereignty, 1967 borders shredded to pieces’ / Elior Levy
Ynet 24 Jan — There are very few within the Palestinian leadership who are in the know regarding the negotiations with Israel. Senior Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official Yasser Abed Rabbo is one of them. In a uniquely candid interview, Abed Rabbo reveals the details of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s plans for the negotiations, while clarifying why the Palestinians have lowered their expectations regarding the current talks’ success. In an interview with Palestinian magazine Tariq, PLO’s Abed Rabbo said that Kerry’s plan includes security arrangements that would unfold over many years. These security measures would be joined by criteria that would depend on the improvement of the Palestinian security establishment. Israel would be the one to examine and decide whether the Palestinian security performance is adequate or not. However, the US will take part and be present in the evaluation of the Palestinian Authority’s security establishment so that Israel would withdraw and evacuate some of the areas in the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley. In addition, Israel would have security arrangements in mountain tops and in the skies. Israel would also maintain the right to perform live chases within the Palestinian country’s territory if any threat dictates the need to do so. Abed Rabbo explained that in fact all components of Palestinian sovereignty were taken apart and destroyed, and all components of the 1967 borders geographic unity were shredded to pieces. He stressed that these ideas were completely unacceptable by the Palestinian leadership …He noted there are formless and general talks regarding the Palestinian aspirations to have a capital city in Jerusalem.  According to him, the best scenario is to have the Palestinians offered a suburb of Jerusalem, such as Kafr ‘Aqab or Abu Dis, and this territory would be dubbed The Palestinian Capital of Jerusalem … Abed Rabbo further added that according to what the Palestinians know, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also rejected Kerry’s plan.,7340,L-4480594,00.html

The Shabak case of the terribly convenient Al Qaeda terror conspiracy / Richard Silverstein
Tikun Olam 23 Jan — The Shabak announced today (the Independent’s story here and Christian Science Monitor’s here) with great fanfare, and wide international press coverage, that it had broken a major Al Qaeda terror conspiracy that was in “advanced stages.” The plan was quite complex, even convoluted, and involved plans variously to cause a bus to overturn and spray fleeing victims and rescue workers with gunfire and, when that plan didn’t pan out, execute simultaneous terror attacks on the International Convention Center (Binyaney Ha’Umah) and the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. The latter target made my ears perk up. It’s bad enough to plot to kill Israelis, but if you can add Americans as victims you’ve hit the terror jackpot. It serves the same function as the 9/11 attacks in orchestrating an almost permanent national sympathy among Americans for Israel’s draconian counter-terror policies. What better way to elicit U.S. sympathy for Israeli interests than to thwart a terror attack on Americans in Israel? To be clear, I’m not denying the possibility that there were three Palestinians who got it into their heads that they could organize a major international terror attack inside the most highly guarded garrison state in the world (with the exception of possibly North Korea and a few others).  But what I am questioning is just about everything else.  First, the Shabak claims the plot was in advanced stages of preparation: The agency said it the plot was in “advanced planning stages” but gave no further information on how close the men got to carrying it out.  I’ve queried my own Israeli source with high-level political, military and intelligence contacts, who confirms the plot was not what it’s made out to be in the above passage.  In other words, not in an advanced state of preparation. The alleged conspirators carried out their plot via Skype and Facebook.  They’d never met in person.  They’d never met the international masterminds allegedly from Chechnya who were to help them facilitate the plot.  They’d never received any terror training nor left the country.  Hell, they didn’t even have criminal or security records.  So how far along could they have been?

The Israel-lovers club of Canada and Australia: White, conservative, and Christian / CHemi Shalev
Haaretz West of Eden blog 22 Jan — After hearing Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s promise the Knesset this week that his government would support Israel “though fire and water,” one could excuse Israeli lawmakers for thinking that they had died and gone to hasbara heaven .. .Indeed, under their respective conservative governments, both Canada and Australia have gone above and beyond the traditional parameters of support for Israel, much to the dismay of its detractors among commentators and public opinion in both countries and in the Arab world at large … But Harper and Abbott, much to Israel’s regret, do not represent the next big thing in international politics. As far as support for Israel is concerned, they are, in fact, exceptions that prove the rule: together with American evangelicals and other so-called Christian Zionists, Abbott and Harper are the last bastion of the kind of total love and absolute support that Netanyahu and most Israelis not only yearn for, but actually think they deserve. In an increasingly hostile environment, they are an island of comfort and tranquility that, on closer inspection, turns out to be nothing more than a mirage.

In new book, Palestinians, Israeli Jews reflect on history of ethnic cleansing / Rosemarie M. Esber
Electronic Intifada 17 Jan — In Contested Land, Contested Memory (Dundurn, 2013), Jo Roberts, a British lawyer and anthropologist, focuses on how Israel contends with the Nakba, its 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine. She examines how “contested histories of the past” currently affect the lives of Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel. Roberts principally analyzes how the respective traumatic histories of Israelis and Palestinians shape their national identities and influence the possibility of their reconciliation. The author significantly contributes to the historiography of 1948, particularly in her presentation of the lesser-known experiences of displaced Palestinians who remained in what became Israel after the war. Roberts’s thoughtful book considers the traumas of the Holocaust for Jewish Israelis and the Nakba for Palestinian citizens of Israel through the lens of “social suffering.”

Firms active in the settlements are facilitating abuses of human rights – UN report says
BRUSSELS, Belgium (European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine) 24 Jan — The UN report is the result of a mission investigating Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Information gathered by the mission shows that private firms have enabled, facilitated and profited, directly and indirectly, from the construction and growth of the settlements. It identified a number of business activities that raise particular concerns about abuses of human rights. They include: • The supply of equipment and materials facilitating the construction of settlements and Israel’s wall in the West Bank; •The supply of surveillance and identification equipment for settlements, the wall and military checkpoints; • The supply of equipment for the demolition of housing and property, including the destruction of farms, greenhouses, olives groves and crops; • The supply of security services, equipment and materials to businesses operating in settlements; • The provision of transport and other services to support the maintenance of settlements; • Banking and financial operations helping to develop, expand or maintain settlements and their activities, including loans for housing and business development; • The use of natural resources, in particular water and land, for business purposes; • Pollution, dumping and transfer of waste to Palestinian villages; • The way Palestinian financial and economic markets are held captive by Israel, as well as practices that disadvantage Palestinian businesses, including through restrictions on movement, and administrative and legal constraints. According to the report, companies active in the settlements are fully aware that they are abusing international law and contributing to violations of human rights. It also states that Israel labels all its export products as originating from Israel, including those wholly or partially produced in settlements. Some companies operating in settlements have been accused of hiding the original place of production of their products.

The places a regular Birthright tour doesn’t take you / Gideon Levy & Alex Levac
Haaretz 23 Jan — Gideon Levy spends a day in the company of young Jewish-Americans who came on the Birthright program and stayed on a few days to see the West Bank — A group picture on the steps of PLO headquarters in Ramallah. Around 20 young Jewish-Americans are posing for a photographic memento. In the background is a PLO sign, and two armed Palestinian soldiers in battle fatigues look on from the side. A few hours later, they are wondering aloud: “What will people in the States say?” “Maybe you don’t have to publish the picture?” Some members of the group panic: They’re afraid of what their parents will say and of what people in the synagogue will say. Still, they’re here, in Ramallah, these members of a Birthright Israel group. After 10 days of indoctrination, including the Western Wall, Yad Vashem, Rabin Square, Masada, the IDF and the kibbutz in a pita, a veritable shakshuka of propaganda, they decided to stay on for five days of touring the occupied West Bank. It was a courageous, estimable decision – but still, they were leery of the photograph at the headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organization. In the course of these five days of penitence, they visited Hebron and Ramallah, and the villages in the forefront of the Palestinian struggle, Bil’in and Nebe Salah; met representatives of left-wing organizations – B’Tselem, Peace Now, Breaking the Silence; and stayed in a guesthouse in the village of Jifna, near Ramallah. They also met with representatives of the Yesha settlers’ council and with the committee of Jewish settlers in Hebron, as well as visiting the settlement of Psagot. All in all, a very intensive study tour, balanced and horizon-broadening. Few young Israelis ever get to see what this group from America saw. The person behind this new and refreshing initiative is Jon Emont, a young Jew of 23 from New York. Determined, energetic and brimming with good intentions, Emont has set himself the goal of presenting the other side of the coin, the dark side of the Birthright Israel moon. [Has Levy heard about Birthright Unplugged, which has been around for years?] (listserv) (archive)

About Kate

American; political science major, M.A.; former ISM volunteer in the West Bank

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2 Responses

  1. Walid
    January 25, 2014, 2:21 pm

    The Pope is coming, but regrettably, nothing is going to happen and nothing is going to change with his visit, especially as it concerns the Cremisan Monastery and al-Walaja village being split and cut-off by the apartheid wall. There’s an “understanding” between the Vatican and Israel to the effect that Catholic clergy wouldn’t make waves and could exercise a limited amount of autonomy and in exchange, the Vatican would turn a blind eye to what’s happening to the Palestinians.

    After the Palestinians lost their appeal last year to stop the wall and there was a small gathering to protest, Haaretz wrote:

    “… Though a number of Christian clerics were present, no monks or nuns joined because they had decided to focus on their mission and not speak further with the press or attend public events, Hazzan abu Sinni said.

    Father Ibrahim Shomali, a Catholic priest from the Beit Jala Church, followed the Arabic-language mass with a sermon in English. “Jesus told us don’t be afraid and we are not afraid,” he said. “We will continue our nonviolent fight against injustice.”

    Shomali explained that the Arabic-language mass every Friday in the olive groves was launched in 2011 to encourage the “message to follow the nonviolent path of Jesus” in the protest against the barrier.

    Many participants said after the prayers that they were feeling sad, angry or in despair. Abdallah abu Eid, a local in his 70s, said he was feeling “choked and strangled” at the thought of a wall running through the village where he grew up. “Look how beautiful it is,” he said.

    Later, the community walked down to the gates of the convent, founded in 1960. They looked out about 200 meters down the road onto the contiguous property, where the 1885 monastery and its vineyards overlooked the valley.

    As the receding sun threw long shadows behind them, the locals talked about what will happen if they can no longer make this walk on their beloved stomping ground.

    Beit Jala resident Antwan Saca, 28, lamented that he had given so much energy to the peace camp yet it had not helped change his village’s fate. “This is where my wife and I come to hide, to be in nature, to be away from the pressure of life,” he said.”

    Full sad story:

  2. dbroncos
    January 26, 2014, 4:03 pm

    The Pope has said some respectable things so far and he’s very popular. Let’s hope he doesn’t punk out like the peace prize winner in the WH by giving a speech praising the virtues of an Apartheid state. He should make a gift to Netanyahu of of Mandela’s Long Walk To Freedom.

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