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Over half of all Israeli land sales in 2014 have been in the occupied territories

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Israeli settlements in the West Bank (Photo: Reuters)

Israeli settlements in the West Bank (Photo: Reuters)

Most land Israel sold for new homes in 2014 in West Bank or East Jerusalem
Haaretz 25 mar by Nimrod Bousso — The Israel Lands Authority published tenders for land to build some 3,050 residential units in the first quarter but only 45 units are in the center of the country and 55% are in the West Bank or East Jerusalem. The land sales reflect an annual pace of 12,000 new units, which is considered very low and casts serious doubt on the government’s ability to meet its housing-supply targets for this year, especially in areas of high demand near the center of the country. This is particularly embarrassing for the ILA and the Housing and Construction Ministry, which set optimistic new-construction targets for 2014. The sole land tender in the center of Israel was for 126 units in Tel Mond northeast of Tel Aviv. But since January 1, land for some 700 units was sold for construction in West Bank settlements, around 23% of the total. Another 966 units, or 31.5%, were in Jerusalem. All the units marketed for new construction in Jerusalem were in neighborhoods over the Green Line that were annexed to the capital after 1967 – Pisgat Ze’ev, Ramot, Ramat Shlomo and Neveh Yaakov – based on an analysis by the The Marker of the figures released by the ILA.  All told, some 55% of all new tenders conducted by the ILA were for land over the Green Line.

Land, property, resources theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Judaization / Racism & Discrimination

Two steps forward, one step back: Israeli’s new discriminatory health rights for Palestinians
72mag 25 Mar by Michael Omer-Man — A new law that extends health insurance rights to non-citizen family members of Israeli citizens discriminates against Palestinians, according to an attorney working on the subject. Israeli ministers signed the new regulations, which according to a Haaretz report on Monday, will primarily benefit Palestinians who are permitted to live in Israel under “family unification” procedures.  (The Knesset last week extended the formal ban on family unification, which was first enacted 11 years ago at the height of the Second Intifada. The ban, to which humanitarian exceptions are occasionally granted, applies only to Palestinians and therefore primarily discriminates against the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, who are most likely to marry Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Those Palestinian family members of Israeli citizens who are granted humanitarian exceptions are given military permits to stay in Israel, but not formal residency permits that would allow them to work or make them eligible for any other social rights granted to residents or citizens.) What the Haaretz report missed, however, is that the new regulation gives far more, and far cheaper social and health rights to non-Palestinian family members in Israel for reasons of family unification. Furthermore, while Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party is attempting to take credit for the new regulation, which despite its discriminatory shortcomings is an important step forward, it turns out that the change is the result of a High Court petition and not, as Attorney Oded Feller of ACRI notes, the good will of any legislator.

Watch: Thousands celebrate Palestinian culture in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 25 Mar — Thousands of people surrounded Jerusalem’s Old City walls from Jaffa Gate (Bab al-Khalil) to Lions’ Gate (Bab al-Asbat) on March 16 for a celebration of Palestinian culture and education. In an event organized by the Shabbab al-Balad youth initiative, Palestinians from Jerusalem, the West Bank, and inside Israel gathered to read and to mark the anniversary of the opening of a public library in East Jerusalem’s Jabal al-Mukkaber neighborhood. For those in the West Bank who were unable to obtain Israeli permits to enter Jerusalem, a similar event was organized in Bethlehem’s Manger Square.

In photos: Al-Walaja village faces ‘slow death’ as Israel takes its land
Electronic Intifada 24 Mar by Anne Paq — Sheerin al-Araj, a prominent Palestinian activist from al-Walaja described her village this way in her TedEx Ramallah talk in 2011: “Al-Walaja is a microcosm of Palestine. It’s a window into the Palestinian people’s suffering. It’s a glimpse into the Palestinian people’s resilience, the Palestinian nation’s resilience. For me it is one of the most beautiful places on earth and believe me I have been to many places…. Among this beauty, there is madness – madness that stems from the Israeli occupation that began back in 1948. In October that year, my entire village was forced out by Zionist militias and we scattered all over the world as refugees, mainly in refugee camps in Amman, [Jordan].” Al-Walaja is a beautiful Palestinian village of around 2,000 people, located partly in the occupied West Bank’s Bethlehem governorate. It is well known for its water sources, its beautiful landscapes and agricultural terraces. According to UNWRA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, the village used to span more than 17,793 dunums (4,400 acres). But after more than six decades of continuous dispossession, it stands to be reduced to around 3,000 dunums through the completion of Israel’s separation wall in the West Bank – meaning a loss of around 85 percent of its agricultural lands and a painful share of its cultural heritage.

Palestinians ordered to pay Israel to demolish their own homes
Middle East Monitor 18 MarAn Israeli court has not only ruled that a number of Palestinian homes in Haifa have to be demolished but also that the home owners must pay 20,000 shekels (just under $6,000) to the authorities to cover the costs. The buildings belong to Palestinian citizens of Israel who refused to be ethnically cleansed from their land when the state was created in 1948. Most of the owners belong to the long-suffering Hamid family, which has 65 members. The Israeli authorities want to displace the family and replace them with Jewish settlers. According to Ata Hamid, his family have neither the means to pay for the demolition costs nor anywhere else to go. Despite living in a prosperous city, he said, like other “Arab-Israelis” they suffer grave economic circumstances. The family has called upon all the Palestinians in Haifa, Lod and Ramle to stand up in their support in the rejection of Israel’s discriminatory housing policy. They have asked the municipality in Lod to take appropriate action to freeze the demolition order and protect their homes. Sadly, dozens more Palestinian families and their homes face the same threat.

Court asked to restore water to Arab parts of Jerusalem
Haaretz 25 Mar by Nir Hasson — Rights watchdog says four areas have little to no water pressure — A rights group has asked the High Court of Justice to order the Jerusalem water company to restore normal water supply to Arab neighborhoods in the city’s northeast that have been suffering severe shortages for around three weeks. The Sho‘afat refugee camp and three neighborhoods next to it are on the far side of the separation barrier, but all are within city limits and most residents have Israeli ID cards. In the neighborhoods’ elevated areas and in other sections there is no water at all, while the other parts suffer from very low water pressure. Many families have had no choice but to buy water and severely limit their consumption – whether for drinking, showering, laundry or cleaning. As a result, a lawyer for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Keren Tzafrir, filed the petition Tuesday on behalf of the residents and the local community administration. “The water problem is the latest expression, and perhaps the most serious one, of the authorities’ neglect of the neighborhoods on the other side of the wall,” the association said. “Educational services, welfare, transportation, garbage collection, infrastructure and even policing – in almost every respect the state authorities are simply absent from the area…”

Tourism as a tool to erase Palestinian identity
Middle East Monitor 22 Mar by Jessica Purkiss — At the entrance of a Dead Sea resort located in the West Bank, Palestinian man Hazem paid his 70 shekels admission fee to the women sitting behind the desk. “Can we camp here?” he asked. Surveying the group of internationals, she said, “Are there any Arabs in your group?” Hazem, born and bred in the West Bank city of Beit Sehour, confessed his origin to the women who replied, “We don’t let Arabs stay the night.” Past the entrance desk, the small stretch of beach is dotted with groups of Palestinian men smoking arguila- flavoured tobacco- and heating coals for BBQ’s. All of them have paid the same entrance fee. The women behind the desk collecting their fees is Israeli and only speaks Hebrew and English, and the shop on site sells Israeli flags and Jewish relics. While this resort stands on the chunk of the Dead Sea that lies in the West Bank, the Palestinian side and its resources have been appropriated by Israel. This means all the Palestinians that visit the resort, in fact any of the three resorts in the occupied Dead Sea area, have to pay Israel to do so. The Dead Sea, which is famous for its skin benefits, is a goldmine for those able to tap into its resources, with the extraction of mud proving to be an extremely lucrative business. Friends of the Earth Middle East claim that there are 50 cosmetic factories on the Western shore, both in the occupied Dead Sea area and in Israel proper, The Israeli cosmetic company Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories ltd. is located on the settlement of “Mitzpe Shalem,” in the occupied West Bank, and is the only cosmetic company to be licensed by Israel to mine mud in the area.

After years of humiliation, Israeli Arabs say getting better treatment at airport
Haaretz 26 Mar by Amira Hass — A new security system at Ben-Gurion International Airport seems to have suspended the invasive and humiliating security checks that have until now been routine for Palestinian and Israeli Arab travelers. For the past two weeks, these passengers say, they have been treated exactly the same as Jewish passengers, instead of being subjected to interrogations, searches and delays. The change is due to the installation of a new, automated system for checking passengers’ bags. “The technological [baggage] check systems have replaced the physical security checks, and their goal is to significantly ease the physical security check process,” Israel Airports Authority spokesman Ofer Lefler said in a written statement to Haaretz. Since the system went into operation on March 9, the practice of selectively and publicly searching the contents of certain suitcases in the departure hall has ceased. Instead, after the routine security interrogation, all passengers are sent straight to the check-in counter, where their baggage is examined in the automated system. The change in procedure was prompted, in part, by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel’s petition to the High Court of Justice demanding that the airports end the discriminatory practice of treating all Arabs as potential security threats and subjecting them to special security checks. Israeli Arabs, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem and Palestinians with foreign passports who have gone through Ben-Gurion Airport in the last few weeks have all reported to Haaretz and ACRI that in contrast to previous trips, this time they weren’t asked invasive and aggressive personal questions; their possessions (including laptop computers) weren’t taken from them to be searched; they weren’t separated from the other passengers; and they weren’t body-searched….

Is there by any chance a connection between the changes detailed in the previous article and the following?
US: Israel’s discrimination keeps it out of visa waiver deal
JTA 25 Mar — Discrimination against visiting Arab-Americans is the primary reason Israel is not eligible for a program allowing Israeli tourists in to the United States without visas, the Obama administration said. “The Department of Homeland Security and State remain concerned with the unequal treatment that Palestinian Americans and other Americans of Middle Eastern origin experience at Israel’s border and checkpoints, and reciprocity is the most basic condition of the Visa Waiver Program,” Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said March 21 in her daily briefing with reporters. The State Department warns Americans of Arab descent that they may be delayed or even turned back when arriving at Israeli points of entry.

Israel to evacuate 18 families in northern Jordan Valley
IMEMC Mon 24 Mar by Chris Carlson — Israeli forces, on Monday, served 18 families from Wadi Buzeq, in the northern Jordan Valley, with orders to evacuate their homes tomorrow (Tuesday, March 25, 2014), under the pretext of carrying out military training. Representative of the Wadi Buzeq, Imad Harbout, according to the PNN, said that Israeli forces raided the area and gave evacuation orders to 18 families, adding that the residents were ordered to evacuate their homes from 7 am till 4 pm for military purposes.

Israelis attempt to torch Palestinian-owned shop in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 24 Mar — Three Israelis attempted to set fire to a gift shop owned by a Palestinian man in Jerusalem late Monday, an Israeli police spokeswoman said. Luba al-Samri said in a statement that the suspects also vandalized the shop — located on Jaffa Street in West Jerusalem — posting slogans reading “Kahane was right,” before fleeing the scene. She said police were investigating the incident. Meir Kahane was an American-born Israeli rabbi and political figure who advocated expelling all Arabs from Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Settlers continue to storm Al-Aqsa Mosque compound
IMEMC Mon 24 Mar by Chris Carlson — Israeli settlers raided, on Monday, al-Aqsa mosque through Bab al-Magharbeh (Maghrabi Gate), under the protection of Israeli police. Local and media sources said that the groups raided the mosque in small groups and carried out tours at the mosque’s compound, according to the PNN. The sources added that Israeli police stationed at the main entrances of the mosque imposed strict restrictions on the Palestinians, detaining the IDs of the young men and women until they leave the mosque. It’s worth mentioning that Israeli police arrested Sunday evening, an employee of the Islamic awqaf, Fadi Bakeer, while he was working in the mosque. The raids on al-Aqsa are continuous and have been escalating over the past few months, resulting in violent clashes with settlers and police.

Japan: ‘Settlements violate international law’
IMEMC/Agencies 26 Mar — The Japanese government issued a statement strongly denouncing recent Israeli plans to build hundreds of units, for Jewish settlers, in occupied East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. Japan’s Foreign Ministry said that Israel’s settlement activities violate International Law, and obstruct international efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace agreement, based on the two-state solution, especially US efforts to maintain direct peace talks between Ramallah and Tel Aviv.  “Settlements violate International Law,” the Foreign Ministry stated. “Japan is renewing its call to Tel Aviv to stop its settlement construction and expansion activities”. It also stated that Israel must stop its unilateral moves, especially in occupied Jerusalem, and to refrain from any actions which could jeopardize direct peace talks with the Palestinians.

Violence / Raids / Clashes / Illegal arrests

4 days of clashes in ‘Aida Camp, after activists break through wall
IMEMC Tues 25 Mar by Chris Carlson — Monday, March 24, 2014, marked the fourth day in a row of clashes between residents of ‘Aida refugee camp and Israeli forces, after Palestinian activists tore through the separation wall which surrounds the camp. Local popular committee member Munthir Amira told Ma‘an News Agency that Israeli special forces raided the Bethlehem-area refugee camp on Monday evening, detaining 24-year-old Muatasim Basim Abu Khdeir. A number of Israeli soldiers gathered in the area of Aida’s Key of Return, Amira said. Troops were also stationed on residents’ rooftops, using them as military posts during clashes with Palestinians in the area. The raid came on the same day which Israeli forces reinstalled a section of the separation wall that had been destroyed by Palestinians in the camp, on Thursday.

Jerusalem students face constant harassment by Israeli forces
ABU DIS (Electronic Intifada) 25 Mar by Patrick O. Strickland — Fadi Abu Nemeh cannot remember a time during his four years at Al-Quds University (AQU) when Israeli occupation authorities did not harass students and local residents alike.  “I also grew up in Abu Dis,” Abu Nemeh, a 21-year-old media studies student, explained, referring to the Jerusalem-area town where the university is located. “The military’s violence has been especially consistent since the second intifada,” he added. “My high school shared a building with AQU and the soldiers used to come there, too.”  A number of military checkpoints and outposts of Israeli settlements are located near the campus and each day armored military vehicles pass by several times, often stopping to clash with students and local residents. Israel’s wall in the West Bankwhich is illegal, according to the International Court of Justice — dissects land belonging to Abu Dis and cuts off the university and town from the rest of Jerusalem Military attack  On the third day of school this semester, 22 January, students were greeted with one of the worst raids the campus has seen in years. Around 10 AM, Israeli soldiers stopped in front of the university entrance and demanded that students show their identification cards. The military then launched an attack, firing rubber-coated steel bullets and showering the campus with tear gas … A local popular committee spokesperson subsequently told Ma’an News Agency that more than 100 persons suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation (“Israeli forces raid Abu Dis campus, clash with students,” 22 January 2014).

Israeli assaults and kidnappings continue across West Bank
IMEMC Mon 24 Mar by Chris Carlson — Israeli forces, Monday, abducted eight people in the West Bank districts of Bethlehem and Nablus, as well as summoned another for interrogation, according to local and security sources. Army forces stormed the village of Taqou‘, to the east of Bethlehem, and took with them five young Palestinians, all in their twenties, including two brothers, after raiding and searching their houses.
According to WAFA, forces also broke into ‘Aida refugee camp, near Bethlehem, and raided Lajee Center, a Palestinian creative cultural children’s centre in the camp, after breaking down its main gate. They also took over the rooftop of the center and turned it into a military outpost. Three Palestinians were shot and injured by rubber-coated metal bullets fired by Israeli forces in ‘Aida refugee camp, to the north of Bethlehem, according to local sources. Three citizens, including a female, were injured after being fired upon by Israeli forces. The people, including one seriously injured, were admitted into Beit Jala hospital for treatment. Forces declared the camp and the surrounding area a closed military zone, where they used equipment to fix some damaged parts of the apartheid wall which surrounds the camp. Forces raided other homes in the area, taking a local resident into custody, security sources told WAFA.
Meanwhile, in Nablus, soldiers in army vehicles broke through the nearby Balata refugee camp, kidnapping two people, 25 and 45, after searching several homes in the area.
Israeli settlers assaulted and beat up a Palestinian resident in the village of Burin, to the south of Nablus. The Palestinian, who was identified as Belal Dakhil, said that settlers attacked him and beat him up, under the protection of Israeli soldiers, while he was at the eastern part of the village checking on his house, which he was ordered by the Israeli army to stop the construction of, back in 2001…
In the Jenin district, Israeli forces invaded the village of Silat al-Harithiya, raided and searched several homes, interrogating residents. They also served a 22-year-old with a summons to appear for interrogation at the nearby Salem military base. The army further stormed the town of Ya‘bad to the west of Jenin. No arrests were reported.

Several kidnappings and interrogations across West Bank and Jerusalem
IMEMC Tue 25 Mar by Chris Carlson — Nine people from the districts of Hebron, Jenin, and Nablus, in addition to another in Jerusalem, were kidnapped by occupation forces on Tuesday, according to reports by media and security sources. Soldiers stormed Beit ‘Awa, a village located to the southwest of Hebron, and al-Fahs, abducting two people, after breaking into and searching their houses. The abductees are identified as Mohammed Raed Nayef al-Masalmeh, age 20, and Jum’aa Abdul Hadi al-Masalmeh, age 16. The houses of Muntaser Rebhi al-Masalmeh and Izzat Abdullah Hassan Masalmeh, both 21, were raided in the invasions. An Israeli Intelligence officer called them, demanding they turn themselves over to the agency.  Local sources said that six military vehicles raided the village at 2 am, carrying out a large search campaign. Forces also invaded Surif and Bani Naʻim, two towns located to the northwest and east of Hebron respectively, and blocked the southern entrance of Um al-Harayeq, under the pretext of conducting military drills, forcing Palestinians to take alternative roads to reach their workplaces, WAFA Palestinian News & Info Agency has reported.
Meanwhile in Jenin, forces stormed al-Yamoun, a town located to the west of Jenin, where they took four people, after breaking into and searching several houses. According to the Palestinian News Network (PNN), the detainees are: Hamzeh Basman Abu al-Hayga’, age 20, Sharaf Wael Abu Obaid, 21, Ayman Ahmed Frehat, 23, Raed Salah Abu al-Hassan, 40. They were arrested after occupation forces raided and searched their parents’ houses. Residents Mohammed Hassan Zayed, Sufyan Mussa Khamayseh, Mu’ayad Hassan Merweh and his brother Bassem were all interrogated, after having their houses searched.
In Nablus, soldiers backed with military vehicles infiltrated ‘Ayn Beit al-Mai, located to the west of Nablus, kidnapping Mohammed Qatouni, 28, and seizing his personal laptop after breaking into and searching his house. Balata refugee camp, located to the east of Nablus, was also raided, where soldiers broke into and tampered with the contents of some houses belonging to the Amero and al-Jarmi families.
In Jerusalem, Israeli police took one person, a resident of Taybeh village, under the pretext of an attack on Israeli right-wing member of Knesset, Moshe Fieglin. Police claim that the person was identified after checking surveillance cameras installed in the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, where he attempted to attack Feiglin.

Report: Police detain 5 Palestinian citizens of Israel in Nazareth
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 24 Mar — Police detained five Palestinian citizens of Israel in Nazareth on Monday on suspicion that they hurled rocks at Israeli soldiers, according to Israeli media. The Hebrew-language news site Walla reported that Israeli police arrested five men at a construction site after soldiers complained that workers from the construction site had been throwing rocks at them. Police have opened an investigation into the incident, the Walla report said.

Israeli forces detain student near campus in Hebron
HEBRON (Ma‘an)25 Mar  – An undercover Israeli force on Tuesday afternoon detained a Palestinian university student near the campus of Palestine Polytechnic University in Hebron in the southern West Bank. Locals told Ma‘an that Israeli undercover agents found Jabir Rajoub on the main street in Wadi al-Hariyya neighborhood near the campus and forced him into their car at gunpoint. They highlighted that Rajoub is a Hamas supporter.

Fourth stage of planned prisoner release

Arab blood remains cheaper in Israel
Haaretz 23 Mar by Gideon Levy — This country pardons the Jewish murderers of Arabs after only a few years. The Arab murderers of Jews stay behind bars for decades — A few hundred Israelis had a very tense weekend, keeping track of every scrap of information, every comment in the media. They moved from hope to despair, almost like the families of the passengers on the missing Malaysian airliner … These Israelis are the families of the 14 security prisoners scheduled to be freed this week in the fourth prisoner release Israel committed to when it resumed peace talks with the Palestinians in July. Only evil, the lust for revenge, nationalist demagoguery and stark inequality will prevent this – and these are present in abundance. These 14 prisoners are Arab Israelis who killed soldiers or civilians more than 25 years ago; some have been in prison more than 30 years. All these decades Israel has treated them as if they were Palestinians from the occupied territories: no furloughs, no conjugal visits and not a single phone call – not even when their parents or siblings died. That’s how far the evil went. But now Israel is reluctant to release them because they are Israelis.

MKs call on Netanyahu to freeze settlement construction instead of releasing prisoners
Ynet 25 Mar by Moran Azulay — Opposition Knesset Members issued a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday calling him to halt the fourth round of Palestinian prisoner release expected at the end of March … The letter is signed by all members of the Labor party, as well as MK David Tzur (Hatuna) and MKs Ya’akov Margi and Yitzhak Cohen (Shas). The lawmakers behind the letter noted that in the past, the administration chose the least favorable option out of its potential good-will gestures to entice Palestinians back to the negotiations table. “Freezing of settlement construction can always be stopped, but it is impossible turn back the wheels on releasing more prisoners, terrorists and murderers,” the letter reads.,7340,L-4502914,00.html

Israel excludes prisoners of ’48 lands from release list
IMEMC Tue 25 Mar by Chris Carlson — Israeli media outlets report that Israel is planning to exclude Palestinian prisoners of lands occupied in 1948 from the list of the fourth and final group of pre-Oslo prisoners, scheduled for release at the end of March.  Qadura Fares, President of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, has said that if this happens, the negotiations will stop and that Palestinians will appeal to United Nations institutions. Fares considered any delay or shirking, by Israel, a blatant violation of understandings, adding that this is totally rejected. Fares told the PNN that the United States bears full responsibility, should Israel fail to adhere to the timetable of the prisoners’ release.

Abbas: Israel avoiding prisoner release
KUWAIT (Ma‘an) 25 Mar — President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday said that the Israeli government is trying to get out of releasing a fourth group of veteran Palestinian prisoners. “The Israeli government is trying to dodge an agreement it had with the US administration to release pre-Oslo Palestinian prisoners,” Abbas said in remarks to an Arab League summit in Kuwait … Earlier Tuesday, Palestinian leaders threatened to renew their diplomatic push at the United Nations if Israel fails to free Palestinian prisoners as scheduled this weekend. When US-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peace resumed in July, Abbas agreed that for their nine-month duration he would shelve efforts to use the UN’s November 2012 recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer to press for membership in international bodies where it could fight Israeli occupation. In exchange for the diplomatic ceasefire Israel was to release 104 Palestinians imprisoned since before the 1993 Oslo peace accords between the sides. It has so far freed 78 with the final batch due for release on March 29. “We shall turn to the UN’s international organizations if Israel does not release the fourth and final group of prisoners,” said Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee. “The release of the prisoners is in return for the freeze on seeking membership in international organizations,” he told official Voice of Palestine radio …  Israel particularly objects to the Palestinians’ demand for Arab Israelis or Palestinian residents of Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem convicted of militant acts to be included in the release, even though both groups were included in a 2011 swap of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners for captive soldier Gilad Shalit.

Detainees / Court actions

Prisoner Abu Sisi transferred to hospital
IMEMC 24 Mar by Chris Carlson — Spokesperson of Waed Association for Prisoners and Ex-prisoners, Abdullah Qandil, said that prisoner Dirar Abu Sisi was transferred today [Mon 24 Mar] from “Eshel” prison to “Soroka” hospital, in Beersheba, due to the deterioration in his health … Abu Sisi is inside an unhealthy and inhumanitarian isolated cell in “Eshel Prison” since his arrest. He is exposed to various acts of torture and humiliation by the IPS and suffers from heart and stomach troubles and high blood pressure. Abu Sisi, 44, is married to Ukrainian Veronica Abu Sisi and is a father of six children. He worked as a director of Palestine Company for Power Generation in the Gaza Strip. He was kidnapped by personnel of Mossad on February 18, 2011, in the Ukraine, while he was about to complete the procedures of obtaining Ukrainian nationality.

4 Jerusalem detainees released by Israeli court
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 24 Mar — An Israeli court judge on Monday ordered the release of four people from Jerusalem on bail and on the condition that they not enter Damascus Gate for 60 days.  Prisoner’s society lawyer Mufeed al-Hajj said that its director in Jerusalem Nasser Qaws, Jerusalem prisoners families committee member Alaa Haddad, head of the Fatah-affiliated youth group al-Shabeeba Ahmad al-Ghoul, and Adi Sublabban were released on bail of 1,000 shekels, with a third-party guarantee of 5000 shekels, and on the condition that they do not enter Damascus Gate for 60 days. The four were arrested on Saturday evening in a demonstration against the killing of three militants in Jenin.

Gaza under double blockade

Israeli warship opens fire at Gaza fishermen, injuring 4
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 26 Mar — Israeli warships early Wednesday fired at Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, injuring four fishermen, witnesses and medics said. Witnesses told Ma‘an the four fishermen were brought to nearby Kamal Udwan Hospital, where medics said they sustained moderate injuries. Additionally, witnesses said the Israeli navy shelled fishing boats that were docked in the harbor, causing a fire to break out before emergency services arrived to control the fire. One of the shells hit electricity lines, caus[ing] a power outage in the area, locals told Ma‘an. An Israeli military spokeswoman said that overnight, “navy soldiers identified Palestinian vessels drifting into Egyptian territorial waters in a suspected smuggling attempt.” When the boats returned to Gaza’s territorial waters, soldiers in an Israel navy ship called on them stop, the spokeswoman said. After they did not stop, the Israeli ship fired shots in boats’ vicinity, and afterwards at the boats themselves.
“Hits were confirmed,” she said, adding that “secondary explosions were heard.” Palestinian militants on the shore responded by firing at the Israeli ship, damaging it, she said. The navy responded by “firing towards the terrorists,” the spokeswoman added.

Egypt prevents Gaza pilgrims from crossing Rafah
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 25 Mar — Egyptian authorities prevented hundreds of pilgrims from returning home to Gaza on Monday after closing the Rafah crossing, witnesses said. The passengers, who were returning from the Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca, arrived at Rafah on Monday afternoon but were forced to go back to the city of el-Arish by Egypt’s army. The pilgrims spent the night at the bus station in the city before trying to cross on Tuesday. Many Palestinian pilgrims say Egyptian security procedures slow down their return to the Gaza Strip. Egypt is expected to open the crossing on Tuesday to allow the stranded pilgrims to return to Gaza, Maher Abu Sabha, the manager of Gaza border crossings, told Ma’an.

Israel’s ‘Hollywood propaganda’ about Gaza-bound missile ship unravels
Electronic Intifada Tue 25 Mar by Ali Abunimah — Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took part in what Haaretz columnist Amir Oren condemned as a display of “Hollywood-style propaganda.” The media stunt was to advertise what Israel claimed was a shipment of missiles en route from Iran to the Gaza Strip. At the time, many people pointed out that it was hard to understand how large missiles could be smuggled into Gaza, given Israel’s siege by land sea and air, supported by Egypt. Iran and the Palestinian political and military organization Hamas claimed Israel was lying. While Oren didn’t question the veracity of Israel’s claim, he did point out its propaganda value. First, for the prime minister: the media event took place five days after the ship had been supposedly captured, but just after Netanyahu returned from a trip to the United States. Second, as form of pressure on Iran. The claims also give Israel a pretext for its continued collective punishment of Gaza…
While there were already plenty of reasons to cast doubt on Israel’s story, Dan Williams of Reuters has a report today headlined: “Doubts surface on Gaza destination of rockets seized by Israel.” The reports quotes a “US official” saying of the rockets: “You look at those things and it’s obvious they couldn’t have been slipped into Gaza.” Williams writes: “Some US intelligence analysts and Middle East security officials believe that a rocket shipment seized by the Israeli navy in the Red Sea this month was destined for the Egyptian Sinai and not for the Gaza Strip, as Israel says. A US official and two non-Israeli regional sources said Israel appeared to be insisting on the Gaza destination in order to spare the military-backed interim Egyptian administration embarrassment as it struggles to impose order in the Sinai….”

Israeli jets perform mock raids over Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) Mon 24 Mar — Israeli fighter jets on Monday evening performed mock air raids in Gaza’s airspace. Witnesses said that loud sounds were heard as Israeli fighter jets roared low over Gaza, causing panic among residents.
Earlier, the Israeli army fired an artillery shell into the northern Gaza Strip, witnesses told Ma‘an. Locals said that the shell landed in the Buart Abu Samra area of Beit Lahia. No injuries were reported. It was not immediately clear if the shell caused damage.

Israeli military vehicles enter Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 25 Mar — Israeli military vehicles crossed into Gaza at two locations on Tuesday, witnesses told Ma‘an. Locals said Israeli tanks entered the Strip near Nahal Oz, east of Gaza City’s al-Shujaiyya neighborhood. Additionally, Israeli military vehicles were seen in Abasan al-Kabira east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. Bulldozers that accompanied the tanks leveled Palestinian lands, witnesses told Ma‘an.

Israel authorizes transfer of Turkish medical equipment
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 25 Mar — Israel has authorized a transfer of medical equipment from Turkey to a hospital in the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian Authority official said Monday. PA Minister of Civil Affairs, Hussein al-Sheikh, told Ma‘an that his office submitted an application to Israel over a year ago to request a transfer of Turkish medical equipment. Israel officially authorized the request on Monday. The Turkish Friendship Hospital was built in 2013 after Israel agreed to allow Turkey to transfer construction material.

Iran resumes monetary aid to Hamas
Al-Monitor 24 Mar by Adnan Abu Amer — Al-Monitor has learned from Gaza sources that Iranian financial support has resumed to Hamas, but at a level lower than that which preceded the rupture between the two at the end of 2012. Gaza political circles have been wondering whether Hamas would return to the Iran axis after a break that lasted more than two years. On March 10, leading Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Zahar, the last link between Hamas and Iran, announced steps to restore the bilateral relationship. Al-Monitor has learned from a source close to Hamas’ political leadership that Iran is also planning to receive Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal soon, after a long tug of war marked by undisclosed shuttle discussions. The source said that Qatar was mediating with Iran to restore ties with Hamas. In late February, Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiyah visited Tehran for that purpose.

UNRWA leads the way with region’s first ‘green school’
GAZA (UNRWA) 24 Mar — The Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Filippo Grandi, laid the cornerstone today for an innovative project to construct an environmentally friendly, zero-emission ‘green school’ in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza. The project has come about after intensive work by the Agency’s engineers in cooperation with Italian design firm Mario Cucinella Architects and with the generous support of the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, through the Islamic Development Bank … The concept of the ‘green school’ refers to a stand-alone school building, which relies only on renewable, free, locally available resources (rainwater and solar and ground energy) instead of being hooked up to local water networks and energy grids. The design of the project promotes the use of affordable and locally available materials, as well as simple construction systems.

Israel in Gaza’s first fashion show
GAZA CITY (TurkishPress) 23 Mar — Kids from both sexes in vivid, neon-hued summer cloths walked the runway in a luxury hotel in Gaza City over the weekend in what was tipped as the first-ever fashion show for children in the coastal enclave. The children, aged between seven and 10, presented three shows for dresses, sets and outfits amid cheers and claps from families, who sat in the air-conditioned hall. Organizers said the first such show wanted to send a message that Gaza, despite reeling under siege, remains thirsty for life like any other city in the world. They went on to say the aim of the event was to bring happiness to children who suffer frequent Israeli assaults on Gaza, rounds of cross-border fights between Israel and resistance groups and restrictions on movement in and out of the coastal enclave … Noticeably, none of the clothes, brands and designs showcased was local or reflected the Palestinian culture, especially the embroideries that are a distinguished mark for Palestinian traditional wears, accord… The most controversial in the event was the huge banner behind the catwalk, which showed the logo of Fox, a leading Israeli fashion brand, according to the AA reporter.

Palestinian refugees in Syria

Four Palestinian university students kidnapped from Aleppo University in Syria
DAMASCUS (PIC) 25 Mar — The action group for the Palestinians in Syria said on Tuesday that the Syrian regime forces kidnapped four Palestinian students from Aleppo university, north of Syria. The students were identified as Ahmed Abdul-Hafed, Mohamed Jamil, Mohamed Abul-Saber and Amjad Magames. All of them are from Neirab refugee camp. The action group also said that a Palestinian refugee named Naser Ibrahim, from Handarat refugee camp, died of serious wounds he had sustained a week ago in Assalat area near Aleppo. 30 Palestinians had been killed during last week as a result of the hostilities taking place in different areas of Syria, according to the action group.
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Political, other news

Abbas agrees to extend talks if Israel freezes settlements, frees prisoners
AFP 24 Mar — According to a new poll, 65% of Palestinians would support talks running to year’s end if prisoners are released — The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has agreed to extend Israeli-Palestinian peace talks on condition of an Israeli settlement freeze and release of more Palestinian prisoners, the Palestinian news agency Ma‘an reported on Monday. According to the report, Abbas laid out his claims during his meeting with US President Barack Obama in Washington last week. The official said that if Israel delayed the release of the last group of prisoners, the Palestinian Authority would immediately take the case to the United Nations. A recent poll, published Monday, showed that the majority of Palestinians would support extending peace talks with Israel beyond an April deadline, but only in exchange for the release of additional prisoners. Without this condition, most Palestinians would reject extending the faltering negotiations, which have achieved no apparent progress in the nearly nine months since US Secretary of State John Kerry brought the two sides to the table.

Kerry to meet Abbas as peace talks stumble
AP 26 Mar — Hours after Abbas slammed Israel for ‘adding new demands that did not exist before,’ Kerry announces surprise meeting, expected to talks to Netanyahu as well — Hoping to salvage foundering Mideast peace negotiations, US Secretary of State John Kerry is interrupting a trip to Europe with President Barack Obama to press Israeli and Palestinian leaders to stick with the talks beyond an April deadline … The State Department announced Tuesday that Kerry will travel to Amman, Jordan, to meet with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday. Kerry also will talk with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, likely either by telephone or video conference, in the next few days, said deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf.,7340,L-4503341,00.html

Plan to transfer Arab-Israelis to new Palestinian state seeks legal approval
JERUSALEM (The Guardian) 25 Mar by Peter Beaumont — Israel‘s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has commissioned a confidential legal opinion that argues it would be legal under international law to transfer Arab-Israeli citizens to a new Palestinian state by shifting the border. The internal foreign ministry document, leaked to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, makes clear that the controversial proposal, which the rightwing foreign minister has been promoting for some years, would only be in line with international law if executed with the consent of those being transferred, and if it did not leave any of those transferred without any kind of citizenship. The opinion appears to have been commissioned to lay the legal groundwork for the so-called Lieberman plan – or “populated-area exchange plan” – which he first proposed in 2004. The idea is that Israel will retain Jewish areas in the West Bank in exchange for giving the Palestinian Authority populous Israeli Arab areas within Israel, including the Galilee Triangle and the Wadi Ara valley, which includes cities such as Umm el-Fahm. However, the plan is opposed strongly by many Israeli Arabs.

Arab League summit opens with row over Palestinian support
KUWAIT CITY (News Agencies) 25 Mar — Qatar’s ruler kicked off the opening session of the annual Arab League summit on Tuesday by criticizing fellow Arab leaders over their attitude to the Palestinians. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani reprimanded member states for not following through on a Qatari proposal made a year ago to set up a $1 billion fund to help the Arab residents of East Jerusalem, defiantly declaring that his tiny but super-rich nation will go ahead with the $250 million it has already pledged. A resolution to create the fund was adopted by last year’s Arab summit held in Qatar. He also renewed calls for a small Arab summit to be held try to resolve differences between the militant Hamas group, which rules the Gaza Strip, and the Western-backed Fatah group in the West Bank. Qatar supports Hamas. Meanwhile, in a final resolution drafted ahead of the summit, the League said it would flatly refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.,7340,L-4503006,00.html

PFLP calls on PA to stop arresting its cadre
IMEMC Tue 25 Mar by Chris Carlson — The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has demanded that the Palestinian Authority security apparatus and its intelligence services halt a campaign of arrests, and persecution of its supporters and members, in various parts of the West Bank. The PFLP stated that, in Bethlehem’s ‘Azza refugee camp, five supporters of the faction were arrested, dozens of homes were raided, and five sympathizers are being pursued by PA security forces, according to the Alternative Information Center (AIC). The PFLP demanded the PA end security coordination with Israel, recalling that, only a few days ago, occupation forces arrested Palestinian activists just hours after they were released by the PA security apparatus.

Hamas would accept peace with Israel, West Bank leader says
Times of Israel 25 Mar by Avi Issacharoff — In first, Sheikh Hassan Yousef says Islamists will support an accord should it pass a referendum, offers interim cease-fire — A top Hamas official in the West Bank said his hard-line group would accept a peace deal between the Palestinian Authority and Israel should it win approval in a national referendum. “It is our right to oppose an agreement that [PA President] Mahmoud Abbas brings, like you have your own opposition, but I stress here: we will accept the results of a national referendum and the decision of the majority,” Sheikh Hassan Yousef told The Times of Israel. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has promised to bring any agreement with Israel to a referendum that would include the Palestinian diaspora.  Yousef’s words mark a departure for Hamas, which in the past has rejected any deal with Israel and has refused even to recognize the state. However, Yousef said there could be peace if Israel withdraws to the 1967 lines, which Hamas leaders in the past have said they would accept.

WATCH: Could the Knesset’s Arab parties unite?
IsraeliSocial TV 24 Mar — The Knesset raised the election threshold earlier this month, which will have an adverse effect on the ability of most Arab parties to win seats in Israel’s parliament. What would happen if, in response, all of the Arab and non-Zionist parties unite and run on a joint list?

PA ministers to visit Jerusalem hospital in budget crisis
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 24 Mar – Two Palestinian ministers will visit the al-Maqasid Hospital in East Jerusalem to discuss a severe financial crisis the hospital has been facing for several years … The al-Maqasid Hospital, on the Mount of Olives, is the main recipient of patients referred by the PA ministry of health from the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. The hospital has been suffering from a crippling financial crisis in the past few years. The administration and the employees’ union say the crisis emerged because the PA doesn’t pay regularly on behalf of hundreds of patients referred by its ministry from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Al-Nasr highlighted that the ministry transferred in February and March 6,129,000 shekels to the hospital. More money will be transferred, he added, when the government transfers it to the ministry’s budget.

‘Israel, Turkey compensation agreement likely to be signed soon’
Ynetnews 25 Mar — Turkish Deputy PM says as soon as deal is approved by both governments, process of normalization could start immediately — Jerusalem and Ankara would likely sign a compensation deal following the local elections in Turkey after nearly four years of tense ties, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç told Hürriyet Daily News on Tuesday. Relations between the two countries [became] strained in May 2010 when nine Turkish citizens were killed in an IDF raid of the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish vessel trying to break the blockade on Gaza.,7340,L-4503219,00.html

Analysis / Opinion / Interview

Fifth column: Christians and illusory promises of Israel integration / Rifat Odeh Kassis
Ma‘an updated 23 Mar — Rifat Odeh Kassis is the general coordinator of the Palestinian-Christian activist group Kairos. In any situation of oppression, some of the oppressed direct their anger toward the oppressors. But some do not. Instead, they channel their frustration toward their peers, their fellow oppressed. They try to erase their past, hoping that the future will bring them a better lot in life, a new reality — and often, in the process, becoming more racist than their most bigoted neighbors. Nonetheless, history reminds us that these projections will never truly help the oppressed. Their oppressors will continue to see them as strangers — or, at best, as a fifth column, a group used to undermine their own country without ever gaining the respect of those who seek to serve them. On February 24 of this year, the Israeli Knesset passed a bill that creates a legal distinction between Christians and Muslims, categorizing Christians as non-Arabs. Israel actively seeks to make Palestinians forget that they share a history, a community, and a struggle, and is increasingly implementing legislation to make this aim a reality. The international media, unfortunately, has aided in this process through their simplistic, biased, and at times outright untruthful coverage of the issues facing Christian Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. Michele Chabin’s article “Israeli Christians seek integration, including army service” published on Mar. 14, 2014 in USA Today, is a good example of this kind of coverage. The article focuses on certain Christians’ decision to participate in activities run by the Israeli state, on different public responses to that decision, and on the Israeli government’s direct recruitment of Christians for the Israeli army and other bodies.

Hamas: Ten years after Ahmed Yasin / Khalid Amayreh
PIC 25 Mar — This week, Hamas commemorated the murderous assassination by Israel of its founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yasin with a massive rally in central Gaza, attended by tens of thousands of supporters. The wheelchair-bound quadriplegic Yasin was assassinated when an Israeli helicopter gunship fired a hellfire missile at him as he was being wheeled from early morning prayers. His killing, in an attack that also claimed the lives of both his bodyguards and nine bystanders, was widely condemned. It prompted Palestinian resistance fighters to carry out a series of bombing operations inside Israel as an act of revenge. Yasin is still widely revered by all Palestinians for his moderation, commitment to national unity and wisdom. He is also viewed as a source of inspiration for many Islamists especially in Palestine. Yasin had little faith in peace negotiations between Israel and the PLO. He often said in interviews with the foreign press “I resist, therefore I exist.” On many occasions, he argued that in the absence of any semblance of a balance of power between Israel and the Palestinians,  peace negotiations, irrespective of any amount of good will showed by the Palestinians, would never lead to the conclusion of  any just and dignified peace deal as far as the Palestinian people were concerned … The massive rally commemorating Yasin as well as two other Hamas leaders, Abdul Aziz Rantisi and Ibrahim Maqadma, both brutally murdered by Israel, was meant to convey a message to Hamas’s friends and foes alike … Will Hamas survive the no-holds barred campaign against the Ikhwan?  There is no doubt that Hamas is facing one of the most difficult -if not the most difficult ordeals- since its foundation in the late 1987.  However, most pundits believe it is unlikely that the current Egyptian bullying  — short of an all-out invasion by the Egyptian army, possibly in a tacit or not so-tacit coordination with Israel and the Abu Mazen regime — would overthrow the movement. Moreover, the draconian restrictions against Gaza, particularly from Egypt’s side, are unlikely to cause Hamas to reach “the breaking point” especially in the immediate and foreseeable future.
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Former Israeli AG: We should have evicted Hebron settlers / Yossi Gurvitz for Yesh Din
972blog 25 Mar — In an interview, former Israeli attorney general Michael Ben-Yair says he considers the situation in Hebron a form of Apartheid, refers to ‘Price Tag’ attacks as Jewish terrorism and regrets consenting to the construction of West Bank bypass roads for settlers. About a month ago, I met with Michael Ben-Yair for an in-depth interview offering him a chance to share his thoughts on issues of highest national importance. Ben-Yair is best known to the public as a former attorney general who served in that position under Rabin’s second government. He is also a member of Yesh Din’s Public Council. The following text is a record of our conversation, with some unavoidable omissions. A few weeks ago, we marked the 20th anniversary of the massacre in the Cave of the Patriarchs. You were there when the government decided how to respond. You effectively approved an arrangement that you later called Apartheid. How did this happen? In the aftermath of the Goldstein massacre, there were two important steps I believe should have been taken: one which should have been taken but never was; and another that was, but was eventually only loosely implemented. Let’s start with the thing that wasn’t done: The Jewish settlers in Hebron were not removed following the massacre.

The origins of the Israeli lobby in the US / Alison Weir
Counterpunch 21-23 Mar — The immediate precursor to today’s pro-Israel lobby began in 1939[i] under the leadership of Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, originally from Lithuania. He created the American Zionist Emergency Council (AZEC), which by 1943 had acquired a budget of half a million dollars at a time when a nickel bought a loaf of bread.[ii]  In addition to this money, Zionists [adherents of “political Zionism,” a movement to create a Jewish state in Palestine] had become influential in creating a fundraising umbrella organization, the United Jewish Appeal, in 1939[iii], giving them access to the organization’s gargantuan financial resources: $14 million in 1941, $150 million by 1948. This was four times more than Americans contributed to the Red Cross and was the equivalent of approximately $1.5 billion today.[iv]  With its extraordinary funding, AZEC embarked on a campaign to target every sector of American society, ordering that local committees be set up in every Jewish community in the nation [for decades the larger majority of Jewish Americans had been either non-Zionits or actively anti-Zionist]. In the words of AZEC organizer Sy Kenen, it launched “a political and public relations offensive to capture the support of Congressmen, clergy, editors, professors, business and labor.”[v] … A measure of its power came in 1945 when Silver disliked a British move that would be harmful to Zionists. AZEC booked Madison Square Garden, ordered advertisements, and mailed 250,000 announcements – the first day. By the second day they had organized demonstrations in 30 cities, a letter-writing campaign, and convinced 27 U.S. Senators to give speeches.[vi] (listserv) (archive)

About Kate

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

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4 Responses

  1. American
    March 26, 2014, 11:28 am

    ‘But since January 1, land for some 700 units was sold for construction in West Bank settlements, around 23% of the total.”>>>>>

    Do I understand from this that Israel is actually ‘selling’ confiscated Palestine land to private developers? I was not aware of this, for some reason I thought Isr gov retained the land and just let contracts for housing construction.

    The fact that they are actually ‘selling stolen land’ to private business blows my mind.

    • Accentitude
      March 27, 2014, 4:25 am

      Yes it happens. It sells land to developers who build housing on that lend and rent, lease or sell the properties to settlers. Other times it allows developers to bid on contracts to building housing units. Keep in mind that this has all been going on in parallel to the so-called framework talks. So we all know how serious Israel is about formulating a concrete peace plan. What amazes me is that it is demanding an extension to the talks. For what, I have no idea.

  2. MHughes976
    March 26, 2014, 11:38 am

    Thanks for all the information, Kate. The item about the attempted partial integration of Christians is highly interesting. I can see that inequality for Christians creates a weak point for Israel’s standing in the West, also that strong assertions of a specifically Muslim character of opposition to Israel would frighten Palestinian Christians somewhat – though maybe much less so far than the Israeli polity frightens most of them. As the troubles around the Temple area sputter on Christian support for the interventions on Al Aqsa would be invaluable. On the other hand any transition from, as it were, Judaea to Judaeochristiania would be almost inconceivably difficult. I wonder if an overture will be made to another small group, that is people of Jewish background who are of Christian religion.
    This is a moment where the Christians the area could exercise some international influence if only they could find a powerfully rhetorical speaker – a Tutu? – for their cause.

    • Citizen
      March 26, 2014, 4:18 pm

      The Christians are being taken to the cleaners. Christian guilt for the Shoah is being exploited–nothing new; at the same time Jewish comedians are saying only jews have a monopoly on guilt.

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