Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Discrimination / Restriction of movement
Land of Israel caucus submits bills to annex West Bank settlement blocs
Jerusalem Post 26 May by Lahav Harkov — Katz seeks MK to legislate his plan to turn settlements near capital into “Greater Jerusalem.” — Ten bills that could lead to the annexation of all settlements were placed on the Knesset’s docket Monday. Coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu) and MK Orit Struck (Bayit Yehudi), leaders of the Knesset Land of Israel Caucus, submitted separate bills calling to annex different settlement blocs, making up most of Area C. Area C, which is under Israeli control, makes up about 60 percent of the West Bank, including all Jewish towns and settlements. The legislation calls for Israeli law, judiciary and administration to apply to the areas in question. Each of the 10 bills are identical, except for the names of the regions, which are: the Jordan Valley, the Ariel region, Lev Hashomron, the Modi’in area, Menashe, Binyamin, Gush Etzion including Efrat and Betar Illit, the Hebron region, Ma’aleh Adumim and western Samaria. “This puts a solution on the table which the State of Israel used since its establishment and when it applied its laws to Jerusalem and the Golan Heights,” Struck said. According to Struck, “the Oslo Accords were a serious detour from this path and our move will return us to sanity and Zionism.” A caucus spokesman said the bills were not coordinated with any ministers, but MKs were confident that they will receive support from many of them … Ahead of Jerusalem Day, which is on Wednesday, Katz is looking for MKs to submit a bill to expand the borders of the capital city to form “Greater Jerusalem.”
OCHA: Israel separates Jerusalem from the West Bank and empties Area C
Middle East Monitor 26 May — The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, has revealed that the Israeli authorities have demolished a number of buildings in six populated districts in Area C, east of Jerusalem in the E1 settlement zone and the surrounding region. The demolitions took place on May 19. According to OCHA, the affected communities are in Nakhila, al-Kassarah, al-Khan al-Ahmar, Makab al-Samen, Mount Pope and Bethany … “The region which includes 18 localities and hosts 2,800 people has been identified as a priority region to implement an official Israeli scheme to deport most of the communities across area C and limit them in certain sites,” said OCHA. “The emptied area will be used to expand Israeli settlements including the E1 zone. It is planned that the wall surrounding Maale Adumim settlement bloc will surround this region.” … OCHA said that during last week the Israeli authorities have demolished and confiscated three housing tents funded by donors and a cement mixer near Nablus, which led to the displacement of 27 people, including 18 children, for the third time in three weeks.
Israel okays 50 new settler homes in E. Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (AFP) 26 May — Israel on Monday approved plans for 50 new settler homes in annexed East Jerusalem as Pope Francis wrapped up a visit to the region, city officials said. “The municipality has given the green light to build 50 new housing units in five buildings in Har Homa,” city Councillor Yosef Pepe Alalu told AFP. Har Homa is a settlement neighborhood in the southern sector of East Jerusalem, which was occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War then annexed, in a move not recognized by the international community. The settlement was built in 1997 on a wooded hill top known as Jabal Abu Ghneim. It was the first such announcement of Israeli plans to build on land seized in 1967 since the collapse last month of the US-led peace talks … The last time Israel pushed plans for new construction was on April 1 with the re-issuing of tenders for more than 700 new homes in Gilo in East Jerusalem. The PLO has said they will not return to the crisis-hit talks without a complete settlement freeze. But Israel has flatly refused, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejecting the notion that settlement building ran counter to peace efforts, saying he never agreed to any “restraints on construction” throughout the talks.
State to hinder removal of settlers from private land
Haaretz 27 May by Chaim Levinson — Despite denials, government is covertly carrying out 2012 pro-settlement Levy report’s recommendations, including special court for land cases in West Bank — Despite the Netanyahu government’s public reluctance to adopt the controversial 2012 Levy Committee Report, which recommended ways to ease the settlement of Jews in the West Bank, some of these recommendations are being put into practice, Haaretz has learned. The report, written under the supervision of the late Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy, examined various legal issues relating to land in the West Bank, and was submitted to the government in July 2012. The report made headlines by concluding that in principle the West Bank is not occupied territory, and it made a number of recommendations for removing obstacles to Jewish settlement there. At first it seemed as if the government planned to adopt the operative parts of the report and even prepared a draft resolution to this effect, but in the end Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu feared the response of the international community and backed off. But unofficially, parts of the Levy report are being carried out.
Settlers leave West Bank for Israel’s mixed Arab-Jewish towns
AKKO (The Forward) 24 May by Nathan Jeffay — On Mission To ‘Reclaim’ Akko for Jews — Ariel Greenbaum insists he’s a settler. But he lives many miles from the West Bank. “Settling the land also applies here,” he said in the Galilee synagogue where he spends his days studying Talmud. This synagogue tells the story better than most places of the “settlement” activity Greenbaum and other young Jews are bringing to the city of Akko (also known as Acre) within Israel’s internationally recognized pre-1967 boundaries. It is in the Akko’s Wolfson neighborhood, which has morphed in the past two decades from a predominantly Jewish area to one where about 70% of residents are now Arab. And with that demographic change, a few years ago the synagogue closed. But Greenbaum is part of a group of 150 ideologically minded Orthodox Zionist families who have moved to the city in a bid to strengthen its economy, its Jewish life and, they hope, its demography … “Every Jewish family that comes here is settling the land no less than a family in Samaria,” Greenbaum said, using the Hebrew name for a region of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
In Al-Arakib, even the dead face eviction
972blog 26 May by Michal Rotem — On May 21, 2014, eight eviction orders were placed on structures in the cemetery of Al-Arakib, [al-Araqib] a Bedouin village in the Negev that has been demolished over 60 times. The evictions are to take place between June 12 and July 12 – what’s known as a “flexible eviction.” However, some of the eviction orders were also issued against people who are no longer living, and are buried in the village cemetery, as well as against people who no longer resident in the village. Although Al-Arakib has faced 63 demolitions since 2010, the cemetery, along with several homes and a small improvised mosque, has so far been left untouched by the authorities. However, various authorities entered the perimeter and photographed the buildings for the first time several months ago. This latest order is a new and disturbing development, with far-reaching implications beyond the confines of Al-Arakib itself, which have the potential to cause a conflagration throughout the Negev. Al-Arakib, a village of some 350 people, underwent a massive demolition in July 2010, which included its crops and water supply. Despite police violence, arrests and injuries, the residents do not give up and rebuild their structures each time the village is demolished. Since 2010, Sheikh Sayah Al-Turi, who has led the resistance to the demolitions, has been frequently harassed and was even arrested several times for trespassing. IN PHOTOS: Al-Arakib ongoing struggle for its land
Clashes in Sawa unrecognized village
BEERSHEBA (Ma’an) 26 May – Young Palestinians were abused by Israeli soldiers and two were detained in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Sawa in Negev on Sunday, residents said. The clashes began after Israeli authorities placed posters of demolition orders on buildings, they said. Obaida Hasan al-Khawatra and Othman Muhammed al-Qasasi were detained by Israeli police, who completely blocked off the village. Salameh al-Qasasi, a resident of the village, said that “they put orders of demolitions on houses of the village and abused one of the young men and the detained him.” Some 300 out of 1,500 people who live in the unrecognized village demanded in August 2013 that Israel postpone the demolition orders until they are able to find a place to live in the nearby town of Hura. But the Israeli building and construction authority ordered families in Sawa to leave in 2007 claiming that it was a “military area” and they have been trying to find substitute residences ever since … Witnesses told Ma‘an that the police detained a young man who was filming them and fired tear gas which led to moving several women to hospitals near Hura town.
A new illegal setttlement is under construction
KAFR AD DIK, Occupied Palestine (ISM, Nablus Team) 26 May — Early yesterday morning, at approximately 05:00, two drilling machines were at work in Daher Sobeh, at the top of a mountain in the eastern part of Kafr ad Dik, an area where there are many water springs. Together with the machines, there were a large number of settlers from nearby illegal settlements, a tent with Israeli flags, and four military jeeps, with approximately 40 soldiers. According to several witnesses, the land grab could sum up 600 dunums (60 hectares). When the first farmer arrived on his land at 06:00, the area had already been declared a closed military zone. When he asked why there where machines at work, and why he was not allowed to access his land, he was told that the area was closed for “security reasons”. He was later handcuffed and detained for almost two hours when he attempted to access his land. In the following hours, other villagers arrived at the area to protest, together with international activists and Palestinian media, documenting the construction. The Israeli military reportedly stated that if they continued to take photographs, local olive trees in the area would be burnt. The villagers remained in the area for approximately three hours, but only the mayor of Kafr ad Dik was allowed to speak with the Israeli captain. The mayor stated that the soldiers claimed to operate under a military order, but no documents were ever shown. International witnesses reported that this military zone was arbitrary, allowing some people through but stopping others.These events followed the previous Thursday; where there was a first attempt to take over the land.
Israeli forces level land, issue confiscation notices in Salfit
SALFIT (Ma‘an) 25 May — Israel bulldozers leveled Palestinian land in the central West Bank on Sunday, while soldiers issued notices to residents announcing the confiscation of their lands, a local popular committee member said. Jamal Tawfiq told Ma‘an that as Israeli forces leveled lands in the Thahr Sabha area of Kafr al-Dik village in the Salfit district, locals were informed that some 3,000 dunams (750 acres) of Palestinian land were slated for confiscation. Israeli authorities — who claimed to have received a court decision on the matter — will confiscate privately owned land from the villages of Kafr al-Dik, Sarta, Bidya, and Broqin, Tawfiq said. He told Ma‘an the land slated for confiscation was declared a closed military zone.
Israeli forces deny Nablus farmers access to fields to harvest wheat
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 24 May — Israeli forces on Saturday morning prevented Palestinian farmers from accessing their fields to harvest wheat south of Nablus in the northern West Bank, a Palestinian official said. Ghasan Daghlas, who monitors settlement-related activities in the northern West Bank, told Ma‘an that dozens of Palestinian farmers were on their way to harvest wheat in the area of Lafjan near the village of ‘Aqraba when they were stopped. Daghlas said that Israeli troops blocked the farmers and told them that they could not access their fields because the area had been declared a closed military zone, with no further explanation.
Settlers graze sheep on Palestinian land, destroy crops near Bethlehem
BETHLEMEM (WAFA) 26 May – Israeli settlers on Monday allowed their sheep to graze in a Palestinian private-owned agricultural land near the village of al-Khader, south of Bethlehem, causing the destruction of grapevines, reported Ahmad Salah of the anti-settlement committee. He said settlers from a nearby illegal settlement grazed their sheep in a private-owned ranch belonging to one of the residents, causing the destruction of around 120 fruitful grapevines. He said that the area has been targeted by settlers’ attacks, under army protection.
Crops destroyed in night attack near outpost-adjacent village
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 24 May — Palestinian farmers in the South Hebron Hills awoke on Thursday to find wheat they had recently harvested lit on fire, in what they suspect may have been an attack by extremist Jewish settlers from a nearby outpost, a local peace group reported. Farmers in the village of Qawawis reached their fields around 4:30 a.m. on Thursday morning to discover three tons of wheat burning on their property, close to the Israeli-only road 316 and the settler outpost of Mitzpe Yair, near Susiya, Operation Dove said in a statement. The wheat had been harvested only the day before and collected into a pile on the field, but by the time farmers arrived the entire crop had been burned to the ground. Activists from Operation Dove arrived on the scene around 5:00 a.m., at which time Israeli police and soldiers had arrived on the scene with a fireman, who only began extinguishing the fire about 15 minutes later, according to the group. The locals later filed a complaint with Israeli authorities in the Kiryat Arba police station.
Official: Settlers uproot 30 olive trees near Nablus
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 26 May — Israeli settlers uprooted dozens of olive trees in the northern West Bank on Monday, a Palestinian official said. Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors settler activity in the northern West Bank, told Ma‘an that Israelis from the settlement of Eli destroyed 30 olive trees in the village of Qaryut south of Nablus. The trees were located in the al-Mwajeh and al-Marah areas of the village and belonged to Hassan Nimr, Marouh Hamdan, and Othman Suleiman, Daghlas said.
Jewish graffiti insult Prophets Muhammad and Jesus in Lod
LOD (PIC) 25 May — Fanatic Jewish settlers thought to be from the price tag gang on Sunday morning spray-painted blasphemous remarks against Prophets Muhammad and Jesus on public property in the Arab city of Lod, southeast of Tel Aviv. Senior Islamic Movement official in the city Ismail Abu Marsa stated that many citizens were surprised to see in the morning graffiti insulting the Prophets of Muslims and Christians at a public bus station to the west of Lod. Abu Marsa added that such act reflected the amount of hatred the Jewish extremists have against other religions and exposed further the reality of Israel, which claims to be a democratic country. He expressed his belief that such abusive remarks were a message to Pope Francis of the Vatican, who is on a three-day visit to the occupied Palestinian lands and Jordan.
link to www.palestine-info.co.uk/En/
In one random hitchhiker, the story of the Palestinians
Haaretz 26 May by Amira Hass — On a journey from Ramallah to the Hashmonaim checkpoint, one man reveals the grim reality that is routine for most — It’s still dark on Al-Rukab Street in Ramallah. Ju’ebeh’s small book and newspaper shop is the only place open, and the fresh newspapers await distribution to the other sales points in the city. I stop the car. The man who raised his arm looking to hitch a ride hurries over, looks at me through the window with some surprise, but opens the door and gets in … The man works in construction. In the Haifa area. He tries to come home every day, even though his permit allows him to sleep in Israel. He has six grandchildren already and has been working in Israel since 1970, when he was just 13 … We chat about things in the news: the weather, the two teenage boys that IDF soldiers killed on Nakba Day, was there really an attempted kidnapping attack on a moshav. And then he suddenly says: “I lost a child, too.” My words are lost for a moment, and then the questions come – when, where, how. It was the fall of 2002. The boy was 12, he was standing in the street, not far from home. Gunfire from a military vehicle, or a military post (I didn’t delve into the details). Afterwards, they apologized, he said. They admitted they had fired for no reason. The boy wasn’t endangering the soldiers, let alone the state of Israel. I didn’t ask about compensation. I did ask what happened then with the work permit, and as I guessed, having killed his son, Israel also stripped him of his work permit and his livelihood. After 10 years, with a lawyer’s help, he was able to obtain the permit again, so he can work now — 15-hour days, including travel, building houses for Jews
Government office in largest Bedouin city has just one Arabic speaker
Haaretz 27 May by Shirly Seidler — Most of Rahat’s 60,000 residents struggle, at best, with Hebrew, but the National Insurance Institute office there doesn’t reflect the demographic — The branch of the National Insurance Institute serving the residents of Rahat – Israel’s largest Bedouin city – and the Bedouin villages nearby has four windows where employees provide services to the public, but only one of those employees is an Arabic speaker. Citizens’ complaints about language difficulties and the gap in the provision of services have been on the rise recently as segments of the population have been unable to receive the services they are entitled to. “Every month we deal with 400 cases, 70 percent of which are linked to the NII,” said Etidal Abu-Ayyish, director of the Rahat branch of the Yedid Association for Community Empowerment. She said that because of the volume of calls, her office coordinated its opening hours with those of the NII so that they can help residents with their problems as they arise.
Watch Palestinian-Americans discuss how Israel discriminates against US travelers
Mondoweiss 25 May by Alex Kane — Last week, a day after a Senator pulled a bill from consideration that gives Israel a path into the visa-waiver program with the U.S., activists and experts gathered on Capitol Hill to discuss the legislation. The bill, long an Israel lobby priority, would allow Israel entry into a program that would give their citizens visa-free entry when traveling to the U.S., and allow Americans the same privilege. But it has sparked a firestorm of controversy over Israel’s practice of denying entry to Palestinian- and Arab-Americans. Organized by the U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation, the May 21st panel featured two Palestinian Americans–Nour Joudah and Sandra Tamari–who had personally been denied entry by Israel when they were on their way to the Palestinian territories. Also speaking at the panel was Yousef Munayyer, the executive director of the Jerusalem Fund, and Donna Nevel, a Jewish Voice for Peace board member and long-time organizer. Watch the panel below, in four parts:
Violence / Raids / Suppression of protests / Clashes / Illegal arrests
Jerusalem physician dies due to effects of teargas inhalation
IMEMC 27 May by Saed Bannoura — [Tuesday Morning, May 26, 2014] Palestinian medical sources in occupied Jerusalem have reported that an elderly Palestinian physician died due to the effects of teargas inhalation. He was hurt and hospitalized several days ago. The sources said that Dr. Samih Abu Oheish, 64, from Abu Dis Town southeast of occupied Jerusalem, was hospitalized in a critical condition after inhaling gas fired by Israeli soldiers invading the town. Jamal Dannoun, a local nonviolent activist in Abu Dis, stated the army fired dozens of gas bombs in the town, and that Dr. Samih collapsed, and remained in a serious condition until his death. Dannoun stated that Dr. Samih is one of the prominent social and national figures in occupied Jerusalem, was a political leader of the Fateh movement of President Mahmoud Abbas, and enjoyed respect from all national factions. Dr. Samir held senior positions at the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the Jericho Hospital Administration, and also ran a clinic and a pharmacy in Abu Dis.
Injuries reported as army attacks nonviolent protest in Hebron
IMEMC 25 May by Saed Bannoura — [Saturday, May 24, 2014] Palestinian medical sources said dozens of Palestinians were injured after Israeli soldiers attacked a nonviolent protest in support of the detainees, in Hebron, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank. The sources said that the soldiers shot at least one Palestinian with live rounds, while several Palestinians were beaten, and dozens suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation. The Israeli assaults came after hundreds of Palestinians marched in Hebron, in a protest organized by the Hebron Defense Committee and the National Committee against the Wall and Settlements. The procession started in the al-Fawwar refugee camp, and headed towards the main bypass road #60. The protesters carried Palestinian flags, pictures of hunger striking detainees, pictures of detained children, in addition to posters demanding an end to the occupation and the release of all prisoners. As the protesters arrived at the main gate, installed by the army at the western entrance of the camp, the army closed the gate and showered them with gas bombs and concussion grenades. Resident Emad Abu Shamsiyya, an activist of the Hebron Defense Committee, was also shot in his right leg after a soldier deliberately fired a gas bomb at him. Dozens of Palestinians have been treated for the effects of tear gas inhalation.
Israeli forces disperse protests across the West Bank
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 23 May — Israeli forces on Friday dispersed protests in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners and against the occupation and separation wall in three West Bank cities on Friday, injuring dozens after opening fire with rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas canisters. Protests took place in the central and southern West Bank, including in Bil‘in, al-Ma‘sara, and Nabi Saleh. Bil‘in In Bil‘in near Ramallah, Israeli forces fired tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber-coated steel bullets at participants in a protest in solidarity with more than a 100 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails who have been on hunger strike for a month, as well as against against continued Israeli settlement construction and the separation wall. The parents of American activist Rachel Corrie, Craig and Cindy Corrie, participated in the protest along with other Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists. Rachel Corrie was killed by Israeli military bulldozers while trying to protect a Palestinian home in Gaza in 2003. Participants wore shackles and outfits similar to those worn by Palestinian prisoners and holding signs that read “water + salt = freedom” in reference to the daily meals of Palestinian hunger strikers, who are protesting their detention without trial or charge by Israeli authorities. Participants also raised Palestinian flags and posters of prisoners and marched in the village chanting songs in support of national unity. Since 2005, Bilin villagers have protested on a weekly basis against the Israeli separation wall that runs through their village on land confiscated from local farmers. [details of protests in other villages follow]
Army invades village near Hebron, three Palestinians injured
IMEMC/Agencies 24 May — Palestinian medical sources have reported that three young men were shot and injured by Israeli army fire, after several military jeeps invaded the at-Tabaqa village, south of Doura town, in the southern West Bank district in Hebron. The three were shot during clashes which took place when the soldiers invaded the village, and clashes with local youths who hurled stones and empty bottles at them. Soldiers also broke into several homes in the village, and searched them while interrogated various Palestinians. In related news, soldiers invaded the al-‘Arroub refugee camp, in Hebron, and searched several homes after forcing the families out.
What Nazi shootings tell me about West Bank killings
The Forward 23 May by Jordan Kutzik — Watching horrifying tapes of Nazi executions can tell us a lot about the authenticity of a video depicting the killings of two Palestinian teens in the West Bank — …My experience with viewing films of shootings did, however, leave me with a well-trained, albeit non-expert eye that I use to critically evaluate films of disputed incidents. One thing I’ve learned watching films of such material is that the human body reacts to the trauma of a gunshot wound in a wide variety of ways. The Hollywood stereotype of a person being shot and keeling over like a felled tree is just that, a stereotype. It does happen. But people also sometimes run and suddenly collapse after being shot. People sometimes twitch involuntarily after being shot. And in a few instances I’ve even seen a person be shot, fall, catch himself with some apparent coordination and then lie still shortly thereafter. Since the filmed deaths of Palestinian teenagers Nadim Nawarah and Muhammad Salameh, on May 15 during a demonstration in the West Bank town of Bitunya were released to the public many people have commented on social media that the films must have been faked because such a display of coordination is not possible. Among them is Rabbi Kenneth L. Cohen, the founder and director of the Vine and Fig Tree Project, a religious pro-peace organization. In a series of Tweets sent on May 21, which are no longer publicly viewable, Cohen responded to tweets about the footage by claiming that a person catching himself in such a way was “inconsistent” with his having been shot and that the films were therefore staged. Cohen used the term “Pallywood,” a term combining Palestine and Hollywood, as a hashtag to refer to his belief that the films were staged … I can, with absolute certainty, say that the way that Nadim Nawarah reacted on film to being shot was in no way “inconsistent” with his being shot … Cohen’s claim that the footage was part of a “Pallywood” conspiracy due to Nawarah’s having caught himself is profoundly disturbing to me, not in the ignorance it evinces about how people should appear after being shot but in its continuation of the idea that Palestinians are inherently liars. Unlike Cohen, I am not an expert in peacemaking. But I do know that peace is built on trust, goodwill and mutual respect. And there is nothing more disrespectful and indeed dehumanizing than stating without evidence that a child didn’t die correctly.
Settlers attack school near Bethlehem, attempt to invade it
IMEMC 27 May by Saed Bannoura — [Tuesday, May 25, 2014] A number of fanatic Israeli settlers surrounded a Palestinian school in the Teqoua‘ [or Tuqu‘, Taqu‘] town, east of the West Bank city of Bethlehem, and attempted to invade it. The Radio Bethlehem 2000 has reported that several settlers gathered around the school, located on the main road of the town, and attempted to invade it, but the teachers and the headmaster of the school managed to stop their attack. It added that Israeli soldiers were at the scene, but did not help in the attempt to remove the invading extremists. The settlers left the area later on without being able to invade the school. No clashes or injuries were reported.
Settlers broke into Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, provoke clashes
NABLUS (WAFA) 26 May – Hundreds of Israeli settlers Monday broke into Joseph’s Tomb east of the West Bank city of Nablus, leading to clashes, according to local sources and witnesses. Witnesses told WAFA that hundreds of settlers stormed the area under heavy army protection, provoking confrontations with local residents; soldiers fired tear gas canisters, stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets towards the residents, yet no injuries or arrests were reported. To be noted, settlers tend to break into the tomb and perform rituals there almost on a weekly basis, a practice which has predominantly resulted in tension and clashes with local residents.
West Bank road tragedy mars young Israeli, Palestinian lives
HARES, West Bank (Reuters) 25 May by Noah Browning — On March 14 last year, an Israeli woman and her three daughters were hurt in a car wreck on the road between the Jewish settlement of Ariel and the Palestinian village of Hares in the occupied West Bank. Five village boys were arrested and accused of throwing stones at cars and causing the crash. The incident has become emblematic for both sides of the decades-old conflict between neighbors who despise each other – and shows how young lives on both those sides can be reduced to ruins. A three-year old Israeli girl in the car was paralyzed and suffered brain damage. The jailed teens, all aged 16 at the time of the incident, face possible life sentences for attempted murder. Israelis fed up with frequent such attacks have rallied around the case. The boys’ families say they threw no stones and that the settlers convinced the mother to blame the crash on them out of spite. “Shame on you! You have your children, now give me back mine,” said 17-year-old suspect Tamer Souf’s mother Watfa, speaking at the family home. “She changed her story under pressure from the settlers,” added his father Ayyad, who works in a plastic factory in the settlement next door. “It was just a normal accident, but they thought they could use it to incite against us.” The extreme length of the boys’ trial process and severity of the charges has led Palestinians to accuse Israel of making an example of them and highlight for them the unfairness of detaining hundreds of minors a year to ensure settlers’ safety….
Israeli forces detain 7 Palestinians in East Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) updated 24 May — Israeli forces detained seven Palestinians in East Jerusalem overnight Wednesday and early Thursday, a local community center said. Israeli forces stormed Silwan early Thursday and detained Suleiman Khalid al-Awar, 16, his brother Haron, 15, and Muntasir Omar al-Awar, 16, according to the Wadi Hilweh information center. Muhammad Tahir Abu Nab, 23, was detained from his Silwan home at 2 a.m. after Israeli forces kicked down his front door. Relatives say Israeli forces physically assaulted his brothers Ahmad and Nasser. On Wednesday, Israeli forces detained Majdi Afanah, 25, and Hasan Sabri Wahish, 28, during clashes in Abu Dis, while Suleiman Abdul-Latif was arrested in the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, where he works in maintenance.
Israeli forces arrest two teens north of Hebron
HEBRON (WAFA) 25 May — Israeli forces Sunday arrested two Palestinian teenagers from the town of Beit Ummar, north of Hebron, according to a local activist. Spokesperson of the anti-settlement Popular Committee in Beit Ummar, Mohammad Awad told WAFA that forces arrested two 16-year-old Palestinians while they were picking grape leaves in vineyards adjacent to the settlement of ‘Carmi Tzur‘, built illegally on the town’s land. They were led to an unknown destination.
Gaza under dual blockades
Israeli forces shoot, injure Palestinian in northern Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) — Israeli forces shot and injured a Palestinian man in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday, a ministry spokesman and medics told Ma‘an. Ashraf al-Qidra, Gaza’s health ministry spokesman, said that Israeli naval forces shot a Palestinian man in the hand and the back, moderately injuring him. Medics identified the man as 52-year-old Imad Shukri Salim, and told Ma‘an that he had been taken to Kamal Adwan hospital for treatment.
Gaza fisherman injured in Israeli navy attack
GAZA (Al Ray) 26 May — The Israeli occupation navy on Monday fired on Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of northern Gaza governorate, injuring a Palestinian fisherman, a medical official has said. Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said in a statement that the fisherman sustained moderate injuries as a result of the Israeli naval firing on his boat.
Explosion kills two militants, injures 2 in southern Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 24 May — Two Palestinian militants were killed and two others were injured Saturday in an explosion at a military training site in the southern Gaza Strip, an official said. Ashraf al-Qidra, Gaza’s health ministry spokesman, said two “unidentified citizens” were killed and two sustained serious injuries in an explosion in Khan Younis, without providing details about the cause of the explosion. He said the injured were taken to nearby Nasser Hospital. Islamic Jihad said in a statement that the men who died were affiliated to the faction’s military wing, the al-Quds Brigades.
Turkey court issues arrest warrants to Israeli ex-generals over Gaza flotilla raid
Haaretz 26 May by Barak Ravid — …The court also asked Interpol to release international arrest warrants against the four, who include former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, former Navy Chief Eliezer Marom, former Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin and former Naval Intelligence chief Avishai Levy. The court’s ruling claimed that the warrants were necessary for the legal proceedings because the defendants failed to appear at hearings and hadn’t responded to summons sent by the Turkish Ministry of Justice. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in response that its legal advisors would study the ruling. If any of the four former officers enter Turkey, they will be arrested. Likewise, the Turkish government can request the extradition of any of the officials should they enter a country with an extradition agreement. Should Interpol respond to the Turkish request and publicize the international arrest warrants, the officers will be under threat of arrest in all countries that are Interpol members. Interpol is under no obligation to respond.
Papal visit — well covered by the mainstream media, so only a few articles given here
Israel police ban 15 extremists ahead of pope visit
Jerusalem (AFP) 23 May – Fearing disruption by Jewish extremists when Pope Francis visits Jerusalem this weekend, police said on Friday they would issue restraining orders against 10 more activists, bringing the total to 15. And just two days before the pope’s arrival, police said that offensive “anti-Christian graffiti” was discovered on the outer wall of a church in the southern desert city of Beersheva, spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP. A picture distributed by police showed Hebrew graffiti reading “Jesus = son of a bitch,” prompting police to open an investigation. Earlier, Rosenfeld said Jerusalem police chief Yossi Pariente had decided to slap another 10 people with restraining orders for the duration of the pope’s visit to the city, which begins on Sunday. On Wednesday, three young Jews were confined to house arrest on suspicion they were planning to disrupt the pontiff’s two-day visit. Restraining orders were also imposed on two students from a Jewish seminary at Mount Zion, where on Monday the pope will celebrate a mass at the Upper Room where Jesus held the Last Supper.
Israel police arrest 26 Jewish extremists at pope visit site
Jerusalem (AFP) 25 May — Jerusalem police arrested 26 Jewish extremists protesting Sunday at a holy site on Mount Zion outside the Old City that will be visited by Pope Francis, a spokesman said. The arrests took place just hours before Francis’ arrival in Jerusalem. “Demonstrators at King David’s Tomb threw stones and bottles at the security forces, lightly injuring two police,” spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, referring to a site revered as holy by Christians, Jews and Muslims where the pope will celebrate mass on Monday. “Among those arrested was a soldier who threatened a police officer with his weapon when one of his friends was arrested,” he added, saying some of them had broken into the room where the ancient sarcophagus is located before being evacuated. Israeli public radio said 150 extremists had gathered to denounce the pope’s upcoming visit and were chanting slogans against the atrocities committed by the church against Jews during the Crusades and the Inquisition. The upper floor of the building where the tomb is located is known to Christians as the Cenacle, the place where Jesus ate the Last Supper and where his followers were baptised by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Under Israeli law, Christians are only permitted to pray there twice a year, and plans for the pope to celebrate mass there have prompted weeks of protest and several incidents of anti-Christian vandalism.
Activists prevent Israeli company from painting over apartheid wall for papal visit
IMEMC 25 May by Chris Carlson — Workers from an Israeli construction company were stopped by protesters, on Friday, as they were painting a section of the massive so-called “separation barrier” which is to extend approximately 430 miles througout the West Bank region upon completion. The workers were painting, in white, over a part of the wall and gate located in the main entrance of the West Bank city of Bethlehem, according to the PNN, in order to improve its appearance for the visit of Pope Francis. The activists asked the construction workers to stop painting because of the fake message that Israelis wish to present to the world during Francis’ visit to Bethlehem, as the West Bank continues to be under siege by the wall, blocked by military checkpoints and subjected to suffering over ongoing land confiscations … In preparation for the Pope’s visit, a group of Palestinian volunteers from the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) made a cross using recycled concrete from the wall to give it as a gift to Pope Francis.
These actions must have had another purpose since Palestinians were no threat to the pope
Residents: Israeli forces detain 8 during pope visit
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 26 May — Israeli forces detained eight Palestinians from the al-Suwwana neighborhood and Damascus Gate during restrictions for Pope Francis’ visit to Jerusalem on Sunday, residents said. A Ma‘an reporter said that Israeli forces detained four youths of al-Suwwana and assaulted citizens before and after the pope’s visit. They prevented them from being in front of their houses or in the alleys of neighborhoods, placed gates and spread soldiers in the streets and neighborhoods and on the rooftops of houses. Witnesses said Israeli forces detained Raid al-Ammouri, Anas al-Imam, Ali Abu Gharbieh, and Ihab Abu Gharbieh while they were in front of their houses in al-Suwwana. Israeli forces also assaulted Ahmad al-Ammouri, Tamer Abu Gharbieh, Ihab Abu Gharbieh, and child Ahmad Abu Gharbieh with their hands and their rifles. After Francis left al-Suwwana, forces shot rubber-coated steel bullets at youths who were standing outside their doors to welcome the pope. Residents of al-Suwwana said that Israeli forces shut down the roads with gates from 5 a.m to 8 p.m., shut down the main street and other streets, and prevented pedestrians and cars from passing as part of security. Residents refused these procedures in their neighborhood and blamed Israel for the disputes. They also prevented Christian families from welcoming and greeting the pope, residents said. Israeli police detained four Christian young men and assaulted Christian families who tried to gather to welcome the pope. An Israeli police spokesman said he was not aware of any arrests during the pope’s visit.
Police detain 3 yeshiva students planning to disrupt Pope’s mass at King David’s Tomb
Jerusalem Post 26 May by Daniel K. Eisenbud — Apart from Monday’s detainments, police applaud “successful 2-day intensive security operation.” — Three yeshiva students who allegedly planned to disrupt Pope Francis’ mass at King David’s Tomb in Jerusalem Monday afternoon, were detained by police shortly before the ceremony began, police said. Although few details of the youths’ activities have been made public, according to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, they were apprehended approximately one hour before mass for “planning a public disturbance.” Rosenfeld said the students were affiliated with the 26 young Jewish activists arrested Sunday for rioting at the holy site to protest Francis’s trip to Israel and alleged Israeli plans to hand over sections of King David’s Tomb to the Vatican. Over 150 mostly teenage protesters – including at least one armed soldier – gathered at the contested area, believed to be the location of the Last Supper, at approximately 4 a.m. to denounce the pope’s scheduled Monday mass … As a preemptive safety measure, following Sunday’s arrests, police barred four additional students from entering the site until the pope left the country.
Israeli government tries to undo image of Pope at the wall
[many photos] Mondoweiss 26 May by Philip Weiss — [compilation of articles on the subject] … The NY Times: “After describing the overall situation between Israel and the Palestinians as “increasingly unacceptable,” the pope made a dramatic, unscheduled stop at Israel’s contentious concrete barrier separating Bethlehem from Jerusalem, where he prayed and touched his head against the graffiti-covered wall.” Meantime, the Prime Minister of Israel is fighting back against the image that has gone worldwide. ‘PM Netanyahu: “I explained to the Pope that building the security fence prevented many more victims that Palestinian terror planned to harm”’ Time Magazine, the Washington Post, NPR and the Associated Press have supported his endeavor, captioning the iconic photograph, “Pope Francis touches the wall that divides Israel from the West Bank.” But the wall doesn’t separate the countries. It robs tons of Palestinian land. And it’s not just the West Bank, it’s Palestine. As for the security claim, the absence of Palestinian suicide bombers is a reflection of a Palestinian decision to pursue a nonviolent course, as Mustafa Barghouthi said recently.
Pope Francis embraces rabbi and Muslim leader at Western Wall
Catholic Herald 26 May — On his last day in the Holy Land, Pope Francis prayed at the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, before an emotional hug with two old friends – a Muslim leader and a rabbi. Francis stood at the Wall for more than a minute and a half, most of the time in silent prayer, before reciting the Our Father. Then he followed custom by leaving a written message inside a crack between two blocks … Earlier in the morning Pope Francis toured the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, sacred to Muslims as the place from which Mohammed ascended to heaven, and spoke to Muslim leaders. Addressing his listeners as “brothers” – rather than “friends”, as indicated in his prepared text – the Pope pointed to Abraham as a common model for Muslims, Jews and Christians, since he was a pilgrim who left “his own people and his own house in order to embark on that spiritual journey to which God called him”. “We must constantly be prepared to go out from ourselves, docile to God’s call,” especially “his summons to work for peace and justice, to implore these gifts in prayer and to learn from on high mercy, magnanimity and compassion,” the Pope said.
Pope ends pilgrimage with mass at contested site
JERUSALEM (AFP) 27 May – Pope Francis celebrated mass at a contested Jerusalem site Monday at the end of a whirlwind pilgrimage which he marked by making a personal bid for Middle East peace. The 77-year-old pontiff, who has made interfaith dialogue a cornerstone of his papacy, made an impassioned call for an end to religious intolerance, saying believers must have free access to sites they consider sacred within the Holy City. Despite stating that the trip would be “purely religious” he waded into sensitive regional politics, issuing a unique invitation to the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to pray with him at the Vatican to end their “increasingly unacceptable” conflict. A visibly tired Francis celebrated the last public mass of his visit at the Upper Room on Mount Zion, in which Jesus is believed to have held the Last Supper, where Christians have access but very limited freedom of worship. Vatican efforts to negotiate greater rights at the Upper Room have sparked opposition from nationalist and Orthodox Jews, who revere part of the building as the tomb of King David, prompting a series of angry protests and several anti-Christian attacks.
Police were called to the Church of the Dormition, about 30 metres (yards) from the Upper Room in the Mount Zion compound, to probe an arson attack carried out shortly after the pope celebrated his mass. “Someone entered the church and went down to the crypt, took a book that is used by pilgrims to a small room next to the organ, and set some wood crosses on fire,” the Benedictine Abbot of the church, Nikodemus Schnabel, told AFP. Some of the German Benedictine monks from the church were coated in black soot after putting out the fire and there was a strong smell of smoke, said an AFP photographer. A small pile of fire-damaged crosses lay in a smouldering heap and furniture had been damaged. The Israeli police said it was investigating the fire. “According to initial testimony, a man, not a Jew, entered the Church of the Dormition, grabbed a candle and set fire to a book,” said spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
Pope Francis exceeds expectations for Palestinians
Al-Monitor 26 May by Daoud Kuttab — Pope Francis’ visit to Palestine was full of pleasant surprises for the Palestinians — The official welcome by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Pope Francis paled in importance to what would happen next as the pope traveled through the streets of Bethlehem and drove by the Aida refugee camp, which is adjacent to the 10-meter (33-foot) wall that Israel has erected, encircling Rachel’s Tomb deep inside Palestinian areas. For days before the visit, Palestinian youth and Israeli soldiers have been in constant battle. Two days prior to the visit, Israeli troops entered the Palestinian area and whitewashed the entire wall to prevent the pope from seeing the graffiti that has been filling it up. The night before the arrival of the pope, however, youth spray-painted new slogans, this time in English with the hope that as he drove by, the pope would learn about the aspirations of Palestinians to live in freedom. Pope Francis not only read the graffiti, but ordered his driver to stop and, in an unplanned move, walked up to the wall, touched it and laid his head on it for a moment of prayer. The image of Pope Francis’ head on the wall soon went viral on social media and no doubt adorned front pages of newspapers around the world. Some social media sites compared this image to that of Pope John Paul II’s prayer at the Jewish Western Wall in Jerusalem … The pope’s final visit before leaving was with children of Palestinian refugees held at the largest Bethlehem refugee camp, Dheisheh. The children spoke in Arabic and Italian, sang and held signs in many languages reflecting their aspirations and those of all Palestinians. They gave the pope a replica of a refugee ration card and a key representing the right of Palestinians to return. The pope listened, smiled and shook hands with every one of the Palestinian children to the surprise of many.
Holy Land visit — Palestinian Christians need a political pope too
Palestine Chronicle 26 May by Jonathan Cook – Nazareth — When Pope Benedict XVI visited the Holy Land five years ago, Israel heightened its security, gladly emphasizing the potential threat he supposedly faced in Israel from Muslim extremists. As his successor, Pope Francis, arrived in Israel late on Sunday, security was no less strict. Some 9,000 police had been drafted in to protect him, Christian institutions were under round-the-clock protection, and the intelligence services were working overtime. According to a Vatican official, Israel’s preparations had turned “the holy sites into a military base”. On this occasion Israel was less keen to publicize the source of its fears, because the most tangible threat came not from Islamists but Jewish fanatics linked to Israel’s settler movement. Last month they issued a death threat to the Roman Catholic Bishop of Nazareth and his followers, while recent weeks have seen clergy attacked, churches and monasteries defaced with offensive graffiti, and cemeteries desecrated … Indeed, the mood of intolerance has spread beyond a dangerous fringe. Hundreds of Israeli Jews demonstrated angrily in Jerusalem last week against the Pope, while police barred Catholic authorities from putting up banners celebrating his visit, apparently fearful it could trigger wider protests. The local Palestinian Christian population, both in the occupied territories and inside Israel itself, is feeling more embattled than ever – and not just from settlers.
Detainees / Court actions
Hunger strike in 5th week as activists call for pressure on Israel
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 24 May — As hunger-striking prisoners in Israeli jails began a fifth week of refusing meals, activist organizations on Saturday called on Israel to respect prisoners’ rights and end its policy of administrative detention. Some 125 Palestinian prisoners are currently on hunger strike, many of whom are administrative detainees held without charge or trial. Most of the prisoners began their strike on April 24, demanding Israel change its detention policy. “We demand that the Israeli Prison Service (adhere) to the international treaties and declarations of which Israel is a signatory,” three organizations said in a joint statement Saturday. International Women’s Peace Service, International Solidarity Movement, and Christian Peacemaker Teams called on the IPS to respect “the human rights of all Palestinians” in Israeli custody, and to end “the illegal practice of administrative detention immediately.” The statement alleged that “prison guards have increased raids on hunger strikers, confiscated all belongings other than clothing, and in some cases have physically assaulted prisoners.” Prison authorities have also at times “denied strikers salt — the only form of sustenance besides water … that the strikers have been taking.”
50 more Palestinian prisoners to join open hunger strike
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 24 May — More than 50 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel’s Nafha prison have announced that they will begin an open hunger strike in support of around 100 administrative detainees who have been refusing meals for more than a month, according to a letter from prison. The group of 50 prisoners urged the Palestinian people to support hunger striking prisoners so they can go on “with their real battles against Israel’s racist policies of administrative detention, medical negligence, strip search, solitary confinement and deprivation of family visits,” in the letter, which was received by the coordinator of popular movement to support prisoners Nashat al-Wahidi. Among the 50 prisoners joining the hunger strike at Nafha facility near Mitzpe Ramon in southern Israel is prisoners’ spokesperson Alaa Abu Jazar.
Group: 55 Palestinian prisoners join hunger strike
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 26 May [33rd day of strike] — Fifty-five prisoners in Israeli jails joined a hunger strike on Monday against Israel’s detention policy, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society said. PPS said in a statement that 40 Palestinians held in Ramon prison and 15 in Shatta had begun an open hunger strike … Fifty prisoners joined the hunger strike on Saturday and another 47 joined on Sunday, according to PPS.
On May 14, 2012, some 2,000 Palestinian prisoners ended a 27-day hunger strike after reaching a deal with Israel. Under the terms of the deal, around 400 prisoners from Gaza would be allowed receive family visits and administrative detainees would be either freed or charged. According to Addameer, Israel also agreed to limit the use of administrative detentions to exceptional cases, but reneged on the deal, renewing the detention of several prisoners and continuing to regularly implement the policy.
Qaraqe‘: Israel reneges on previous hunger strike agreement
RAMALLAH (WAFA)25 May – Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs, Issa Qaraqe‘, said Sunday the Israeli prison administration distributed leaflets to all Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, reneging on a previous agreement with the prisoners reached in 2012 under the Egyptian auspices. The agreement, made with Israel to end a previous mass hunger strike in 2012 under the Egyptian auspices, stated to limit administrative detention and the renewal of detention without establishing clear legal grounds, to stop solitary confinement, allow family visits for Gaza prisoners and to improve the living conditions of the prisoners. “Israel’s reneging on this agreement comes in response to the continued hunger strike by the administrative prisoners, who have been on an open-ended hunger strike for 32 consecutive days demanding an end to the policy of administrative detention against them,” said Qaraqe‘.
Nativity Church deportees send appeal to pope
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 25 May – Palestinian activists who were were deported from Bethlehem to the Gaza Strip in 2002 published a letter Sunday addressing Pope Francis and urging him to do something about their suffering. The letter described the suffering of 39 Palestinian activists from the Bethlehem area who were deported in 2002 after hiding out at the Nativity Church for 40 days. Thirteen were exiled to Europe and 26 others to the Gaza Strip … It continued: “Thirteen years have passed since we were deported from the Nativity Church after the Israeli occupiers occupied our city Bethlehem. We were besieged inside the church for 39 days. The Israeli did not show any respect to the sacredness of the place, but instead they shot dead civilians inside the Nativity Church, the birthplace of Jesus. “The first victim was the church’s bell-ringer Samir Samaan. Eight other people were shot dead and 30 were injured inside the church which suffered material damage as well because Israeli troops fired gunshots and fire bombs inside paying no respect to the sacredness of the place.” The letter then appealed to the pontiff by urging him to intervene and call upon the Israelis to allow all deportees both in the Gaza Strip and in European countries to return to their city, the birthplace of Jesus. Furthermore, the letter invited the pope to visit the Gaza Strip
Three Yitzhar teens indicted for ‘price tag’ in Gush Halav
Jerusalem Post 26 May by Ben Hartman — Three teenage yeshiva students from Yitzhar were indicted for a “price tag” incident in April, during which the tires of 44 cars were slashed and anti-Arab graffiti was sprayed, in the village of Gush Halav in northern Israel. The indictment, which was presented at the Nazareth juvenile court, says that the three acted out of “racism and hostility towards the Arab public” and that the three carried out the act in part as a reaction to the demolition of three structures in Yitzhar in April. The indictment also said that the acts endangered the youths themselves and created a danger of greater incitement and anger among Arabs in Israel “which can severely harm the state of Israel and its image internationally.” In addition, it said that the damage done by the three youths totaled some NIS 114,000. The three teens, all aged 16 and 17 were arrested about a week and a half ago. All three are students at the Dorshei Yechudcha Yeshiva in Yitzhar, a settlement known for being a hotbed of extremism … Also this week, an indictment is expected against a Yokneam man allegedly caught in the act carrying out a price tag incident earlier this month. The suspect, 25-year-old Adir Yosef, will be charged with only one incident even though he is a suspect in several others.
Watch: Israeli Supreme Court hears Rachel Corrie appeal
Israeli Social TV 23 May by Jeremy Elster — Corrie’s father expresses hope that the top justices ‘understand what it means to protect civilians,’ and that they reverse the trend of impunity for the IDF — The Israeli Supreme Court this week heard an appeal on behalf of the family of Rachel Corrie, who was crushed to death by an IDF bulldozer in 2003 outside Rafah, Gaza. At the time, she was non-violently protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes. Her parents, Cindy and Craig Corrie, filed a civil suit against the State of Israel alleging wrongful death but faced a setback in August 2012 when the Haifa District Court ruled that the state was not responsible for her death and shifted the blame for the killing on to Rachel herself. Walking out of the courtroom after the two-and-a-half-hour appeal, Attorney Hussein Abu Hussein, lawyer for the Corrie family, declared the August 2012 decision “a bad day for human rights” and warned that a repeat verdict would set a dangerous precedent against the protection of activists and undermine Israel’s democracy.
Israel’s top general in West Bank warns: ‘Power blackouts will lead to violence’
Haaretz 26 May by Barak Ravid — Israel Electric Corporation threatening to cut power twice a day to different parts of the West Bank, over $458 million debt — The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, recently sent a letter to National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen warning against the Israel Electric Corporation’s plan to start instituting power cuts in the West Bank and East Jerusalem because of enormous debts it’s owed by the Palestinian Authority. In a letter sent on May 15 to Cohen, senior IEC executives, the Foreign Ministry and the defense minister, Mordechai said the question of supplying electricity to the Palestinians is not just a commercial issue for the IEC, but a strategic and diplomatic one for Israel. Mordechai claimed that limiting power supplies to the Palestinians would be viewed as a sanction by Israel against the civilian population, and this must be prevented … Now the IEC is threatening to start cutting the power twice a day to different parts of the West Bank, for an hour each time. The IEC says it will provide solutions, such as generators, for the Jewish settlements in the areas to be hit by the power cuts – as well as in the case of Palestinian attacks on the electricity infrastructure. Mordechai warned that power cuts could expose Israel to legal claims of collective punishment, and cause diplomatic damage and lead to international pressure. But, most of all, it could lead to further feelings of bitterness and frustration, which could also lead to attacks against the electricity infrastructure – or even to an outbreak of violence. “The situation of a shortage of electricity could lead to instability and the pointing of an accusatory finger at the Palestinian Authority,” wrote Mordechai.
Fatah official: No disputes on unity govt
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 26 May — The head of the Fatah reconciliation team Azzam al-Ahmad said on Monday that there were no disputes on the formation of a unity government with Hamas. Upon arriving in Gaza, he said: “I think this is the final meeting before forming the government. We were in contact, and the president discussed the government with all factions.” Al-Ahmad expected the government to be announced by the end of this week, describing the atmosphere around it as positive. “I think the president is still insistent on choosing (current premier) Rami Hamdallah to form the government, and the announcement of the government will be made by the president from Ramallah,” he added. Last week, President Mahmoud Abbas informed Hamdallah that he had been chosen to head the consensus government. Hamas had no objection to the appointment. Several Palestinian political factions, such as the PFLP and DFLP, have said that they have been excluded from unity discussions.
Hamas, Iran meet for first time in three years as unity deal nears
Haaretz 24 May by Jack Khoury — Hamas’ political leader, Khaled Meshal, reportedly met with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian last Thursday, the first public meeting between the two sides in three years. According to Iranian sources, the meeting was held in Doha, Qatar, where Meshal has been living since 2012. Ties were severed between the two sides after Hamas refused to support Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, leading to the ouster of Hamas from its headquarters in Damascus. Hamas is extremely keen to improve relations with Iran, since the organization has been left without patrons following last year’s collapse of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo. The meeting reportedly dealt with two issues: the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, and the ongoing Syrian civil war. Palestinian websites stated that Meshal supported the unity pact, claiming it as vital for the Palestinian people. Meshal reportedly said that Israel has exploited the rift, and the crisis in the Arab world, to continue building settlements and increasing the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem. Meshal praised Iranian support for the “axis of resistance,” as he called it, as well as Iran’s calls for a political resolution to the war in Syria … In previous years, the Palestinian Authority accused Iran of meddling in Palestinian politics, pressuring Hamas and Islamic Jihad not to join such a government. It is believed that, this time, the Iranians will not interfere to such an extent, but will still wish to maintain close ties with both Islamic factions in Gaza.
Report: PLO accepts papal invite to Vatican talks with Israel
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 25 May — A senior Palestinian official told US media on Sunday that the PLO had accepted an invitation to attend talks with an Israeli delegation at the Vatican. A member of the PLO executive committee was quoted by CNN and The Associated Press as agreeing to the request, which came as Pope Francis visited the occupied West Bank. Francis extended the invitation at a mass Sunday in Bethlehem’s Manger Square. “In this, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, I wish to invite you, President Mahmoud Abbas, together with (Israeli) President Shimon Peres, to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace.” He added: “I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer.” PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi told CNN that Abbas would go to the Vatican. The Israeli president’s office also welcomed the invitation, CNN reported.
FIFA’s Blatter visits Palestinian territories
Al Arabiya 26 May — FIFA President Sepp Blatter on Monday is to visit the Palestinian territories, amid previous calls on Israel to help facilitate travel for Palestinian players between the West Bank and Gaza. Members of the Palestinian squad are split between the West Bank and Gaza and often unable to move from one territory to the other due to Israeli security restrictions. Blatter’s visit is part of on a several day trip to the Middle East, which includes visits to Israel and Jordan. His tour mirrors that of Pope Francis, who has been visiting Holy Land sites since Saturday, meeting with the Palestinian, Jordanian and Israeli heads of state as well as Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders. Blatter will first travel to Ramallah and meet with, among others, President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Football Association President Jibril Rajoub, according to Haaretz. Rajoub recently announced intentions to urge delegates at June’s FIFA Congress to sanction Israel following the arrest of a Palestinian footballer and the shooting of two other players. Blatter had promised to help the Palestinian national team during his tour of the West Bank last year.
Bethlehem left out in the cold as tourists refuse to stay
The National 24 May by Orlando Crowcroft — In the public square opposite Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, a gaggle of Palestinian tour guides hone in on the crowds of European tourists, waving their laminated credentials and touting for business. They could be waiting some time. While hundreds of European, Asian and African pilgrims mill around in matching hats and led by tour guides on this sunny weekend after Easter, few are independent travellers arriving in the city without a guide – and nearly all are here with Israeli tour groups, brought in for just a couple of hours. “This is the worst year I have ever had,” says Saaed Al Tammari, 29, who has been a tour guide in Bethlehem for the past four years … The vast majority of the tourists coming to the city come with Israeli tour groups as part of a wider Holy Land tour, visiting the church as well as other sites in the city for only a few hours before going back to their hotels in West Jerusalem. Even those that do stay overnight in Bethlehem pay so little for their rooms that hotels barely break even – officials say that, as part of a tour group, tourists can pay as little as $18 per night for a four-star hotel, including breakfast. This means that outside of the high season, the city’s 3,700 hotels struggle.
Egypt revokes citizenship of Associated Press journalist
Middle East Monitor 26 May — The Egyptian cabinet decided Sunday to revoke the Egyptian citizenship from a Palestinian Associated Press photojournalist on charges of membership in a foreign militant group. Award-winning AP photojournalist Khalil Abdel-Kader Abu Hamra said in statements Sunday that he had lived in Egypt for a long time, and was never harassed by authorities whenever he traveled abroad. The Ministry of Interior stated that Hamra left Egypt on November 27, 2013 and never came back. It accused him of “membership in a foreign militant group that aims at disrupting social and economic order of the Egyptian state.” Hamra, whose mother is Egyptian and his father Palestinian, obtained Egyptian citizenship since 2012 in accordance with Egyptian law, which allows Palestinians with Egyptian mothers to receive citizenship. Hamra said he has been in vacation in Jordan for few days, and travelled from Egypt and returned without facing any problems by airport authorities. He added that he has no political affiliations, and that he is merely a journalist by profession. Hamra said he will take necessary legal measures to appeal the “unjustified” decision.
Analysis / Opinion / Arts
Walking Palestine, expanding a shrinking country / Bassam Almohor
972blog 25 May — Walking in Palestine is a dangerous habit. But I walk because my country is small and getting smaller. I walk to make it big again — I walk because my country is small — getting smaller, shrinking and vanishing. It is being fragmented, scattered into pieces, disconnected, or connected with thin, narrow corridors. I walk to make it big again; I walk in valleys and canyons so that the land feels huge around me. I walk to make my country look vast and wide. I walk so I can spend weeks crossing it — to take photos, to smell fresh air, to get tanned, to feel free, to stretch my muscles, to relax my ears, to listen to the sounds of nature. I walk so I can feel that the whole country is my balcony. When I walk, Palestine is a continent. I also walk for fitness. But, goodness me, even the Bedouin have stopped walking nowadays. Only their shepherds walk. I recently crossed Palestine and met only two shepherds, children picking za‘tar (thyme), and a handful of hikers.
The ‘gentle’ voice of the army / Gideon Levy
Haaretz 25 May — The aggressive soldier bullies with his gun, the enlightened one with orderly procedures and official exigencies — Col. Einav Shalev is a manifestation of the Israel Defense Forces’ benign side. He is not the thuggish “David the Nachlawi” — the Nahal Brigade soldier videotaped cocking his weapon at a Palestinian teenager in Hebron, and later threatening to “put a bullet in the head” of another. Nor is Shalev the border policeman who killed two youths at the Beitunia border crossing, nor the soldier from the armored battalion who killed another youth from the village of Deir al-Asal. Col. Shalev, who currently commands Operations at the IDF’s Central Command, is a graduate of the National Defense College and a former commander of a reserve tank brigade. He has a soft look, a well-honed tongue and a gentle-sounding name (“Shalev” means peaceful in Hebrew). What else can be said of him other than that he is the salt of the earth? A month ago, this exemplary officer, an IDF success story, came to the Knesset to report to a subcommittee of the Committee for Security and Foreign Relations, responsible for Judea and Samaria, on the war that this army, the most moral of them all, is waging against illegal construction. Reporting on this parliamentary event in the May 21 edition, my colleague Amira Hass quoted the polished colonel: “I believe that when there is movement of armored vehicles in these areas, as well as that of thousands of soldiers, people tend to move aside. In places where we significantly reduced the amount of training, weeds have grown,” he said, referring to Palestinian communities. “This is something that must be factored into the equation.” Shalev’s words should indeed be considered as part of “the equation.” He admitted that one of the objectives of the IDF’s training in the Jordan Valley is to expel its inhabitants, the wild weeds which breed illegal construction. Let’s set aside for a moment the words of the only two (Habayit Hayehudi) MK’s who were at the session, our acquaintances Orit Strock (“how do you make sure a Bedouin is a Bedouin?”) and Mordechai Yogev (“there’s a difference between an Arab with a house in the town of Tubas who needs to be thrown back there and someone who is squatting in the area and that when you kick him out only moves over to an adjacent wadi”), whose words fit perfectly Amos Oz’s characterization of neo-Nazi-like behavior. Just imagine any European parliamentarian making similar comments about Jews. Let’s just focus on the words of the senior officer. Col. Shalev’s “wild weeds’ are well known to me – Burhan Basharat and Hakam Abu al-Kabash, both of them shepherds; the residents of Khomsa and Khirbet Umm Al-Jamal, Khalat Makhoul and Khirbet Ein Karzilye. These are hardscrabble farmers whose living conditions are almost inhuman, as if they were living in an earlier century. There are thousands of Jordan Valley residents who have been there for at least dozens of years, whose houses and tents have been demolished by the army, leaving them, their flocks and their children to the mercy of the elements under open skies. I’m familiar with the brutal acts of destruction, the “firing zones” created near every tent encampment designed to scare them and expel them, the mounds of earth erected with the purpose of cutting them off from transportation and livelihood routes, and the piles of rubble that were once their villages. Col. Shalev is proud of these actions, “good procedures followed by the army” and he wants much more of the same….
Israel declares war on Palestinian banks / Sam Bahour
TPM 24 May — Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip use the Israeli currency, the New Israeli Shekel, for their daily business. However, as the peace negotiation efforts of Secretary John Kerry stumbled (many would say failed) in late April, Israel took many punitive measures to punish Palestinians for not accepting full political submission. One such measure is that Israel informed the Palestinian side that it would no longer allow Palestinian banks to transport their surplus Israeli currency to the Israeli Central Bank, an act that is unheard of in the world of banking. Israel is refusing to serve its own currency. In effect, Israel is declaring war on the Palestinian economy, risking the collapse of the thriving Palestinian banking sector, and disrupting the flow of basic goods such as electricity, petroleum, and natural gas into Palestine … The expected results of this punitive measure are many. First, given the Palestinian bank safes are now overflowing with their clients’ Shekels the banks will need to stop accepting deposits. Secondly, as Palestinian businesses will not be able to make electronic transfers, they will be forced to move large sums of cash directly to their Israeli suppliers. Given most Palestinians do not have access to cross the illegal Israeli separation wall, they will need to look for intermediaries to transfer the cash to their Israeli suppliers, causing not only the creation of a black market, but a dangerous security situation. The equivalent of a central bank in the Palestinian Authority is the Palestine Monetary Authority (PMA) and they are not accepting this Israeli administrative punishment sitting down. The PMA Governor, Dr. Jihad Al-Wazir, has made it public that he is looking to use this regrettable situation to further advance structural changes in the Palestinian monetary system. One such immediate change is the possibility to “dollarize” the Palestinian economy and stop using Israeli currency altogether. Another possibility is the issuing of an independent Palestinian currency, which is a much larger project that has been in the works for quite some time and may be accelerated in response to these latest Israeli measures.
66-year Nakba: I saw Yaffa, land of oranges / Ramzy Baroud
Ma‘an 24 May — In Jaffa: Land of Oranges, Ghassan Kanafani described his exile from the Palestinian coastal city of Yaffa. As a 12-year-old boy, he struggled to understand, but “on that night, though, certain threads of that story became clearer … a big truck was standing in front of our door. Light things, mainly sleeping items, were being chucked into the truck swiftly and hysterically.” A few decades after Kanafani wrote about his exile, I, an 8-year-old boy from a Gaza refugee camp, pondered on my own. When I stood at the borders of Yaffa, the line of what was real and imagined suddenly became blurred. Once Palestine’s largest city, Yaffa turned out not to be a figment of my grandfather’s imagination, or Kanafani’s, but a tangible space of sand, air and sea. The Palestinian-Arab identity of Yaffa was evident everywhere. I was a third grader on my first school trip. Gazans were still allowed to cross into Israel in those days, mostly as exploited cheap labor. My family was driven out of Palestine during the Nakba, the “Great Catastrophe” that saw the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes. My family was comprised of simple peasants from the village of Beit Daras. The residents of my village were known for their love of couscous, and for their legendary stubbornness, courage and pride. Beit Daras residents saw in Yaffa a center of many aspects of their lives. A commercially vibrant port city, known around the world for its oranges, Yafa was home to some of the largest markets in southern Palestine. Yaffa was a center for Arab culture, and a model of co-existence between religions. But British colonization of Palestine starting in 1917 then morphed into a mandate government in 1922, interrupting the natural historic flow that positioned Yfafa as the beating heart of Palestine.
Art exhibit — Brick by brick: Deconstructing the use of Palestinian labor / Galia Yahav
Haaretz 26 May — ‘Foreigners Among Us’ deals with the complex status of Palestinian workers in Israel. There’s only one gripe – it should have been held 20 years ago — The new exhibition “Foreigners Among Us” does not deal with all immigrants, just those close to home – the Palestinians who are exploited for incidental work in Israel, the ones treated like foreign workers in their own country, those expelled from their homes and who build homes where they won’t live, participating against their will in the erasure of their people’s history. As opposed to the public discussion now being held in industrialized countries about the status and rights of foreign workers who are not citizens, in 1990s Israel – after the first intifada – this importing of foreign labor was part of a deliberate policy to push the Palestinian workers outside the job market, says curator Dor Guez. He calls it “a kind of de facto separation fence that preceded the construction of the wall.” … Guez’s exhibition at the Beit Hagefen Art Gallery in Haifa examines this concept of foreignness in its local context, and compares it to the burning international issue of immigration and citizenship.