Media Analysis

During Purim celebration, Israeli settlers use Ibrahimi Mosque loudspeaker to sing racist songs and call for expulsion of ‘Arabs’ from Hebron

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Israelis converge on West Bank holy sites in ‘provocative’ visits
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 23 Mar — Hundreds of Israelis, including large numbers of settlers, converged on religious sites across the occupied West Bank on Wednesday morning ahead of the Jewish holiday of Purim, in visits Palestinians condemned as “provocative.” In the southern West Bank city of Hebron, Israeli settlers as well as other right-wing Israelis held celebrations in the Old City’s Ibrahimi Mosque .Locals told Ma‘an that during the celebrations, which began late Tuesday, the settlers “provocatively” used the mosque’s loudspeakers “to sing racist songs that call for the expulsion of ‘Arabs’ from Hebron.” The settlers were under the heavy protection of Israeli forces, who closed off the premises, preventing Palestinians from entering the mosque, and restricted access to the surrounding area. Some Israeli media sites reported that as many 7,000 Israelis celebrated at the holy site, known to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs. . .
Separately on Wednesday, clashes broke out as hundreds of Israelis, including settlers, visited Joseph’s Tomb near Balata refugee camp east of Nablus under military escort, Palestinian security sources said. As many as 500 Israelis arrived in 10 buses at the holy site at dawn, the sources told Ma‘an. Large numbers of Israeli forces accompanied the Israelis to the site, and clashes quickly erupted, with local youths from Balata hurling stones at Israeli military jeeps, and soldiers firing tear gas canisters in return. A number of protesters reportedly suffered excessive tear gas inhalation, although no other injuries were reported.

Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem

2 Palestinians killed, Israeli soldier lightly wounded in alleged Hebron attack
[with photos] BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 24 Mar — Two Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces Thursday morning after allegedly stabbing and injuring an Israeli soldier in the Tel Rumeida area of Hebron’s Old City, an Israeli army spokesperson said. The two assailants reportedly stabbed a soldier near a military checkpoint and “forces responded and shot the attackers,” the spokesperson said. Israeli emergency medical services said the soldier, who was about 20 years old, was evacuated for treatment and in moderate condition. The Palestinian Ministry of Health identified the two Palestinian youths as Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, 21, and Abed al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif, 21. A witness told Ma‘an: “I heard gunshots, went outside my house to check what it was, and saw several Israeli soldiers yelling and two youths on the ground. A soldier approached one of the youths that was moving while yelling and opened fire at him from zero range.” “Half an hour later Israeli soldiers covered the two youths with black covers and took them to an unknown destination. I saw soldiers surrounding the (wounded) soldier after taking off the upper part of his clothing,” the witness added. Graphic video footage from Israeli media show the two Palestinians lying on the ground after they were shot dead, and a knife nearby. [photos of Qasrawi and Sharif in better times here]

Jerusalem family rejects son’s body after Israeli handover, another buried
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 22 Mar — The Israeli authorities late Monday returned the bodies of two Jerusalemite Palestinians who were shot dead after allegedly carrying out attacks, one of which was rejected by family members. Witnesses said the Lions’ Gate area of occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City where the handover took place “looked like a military barracks” as Israeli forces heightened their presence for the return of the bodies of 15-year-old Hassan Khalid Manasra and Omar Skafi, 21. Outrage erupted when the family of 15-year-old Manasra found their son’s body frozen, in violation of a mutual agreement set up between the Israeli authorities and family members. The father of Manasra upon exiting steel barriers set up by Israeli police for the release told Ma‘an his son’s body was “frozen like an ice cube, so we refused to receive it.” “We accepted the preconditions set by the [Israeli] occupation so we can bury him [Manasra] in dignity, and our only demand was that the body shouldn’t be frozen,” Manasra’s uncle Ahmad told Ma‘an. “The [Israeli] occupation is trying through these humiliating practices to put pressure on families. This child had been executed under ambiguous conditions which nobody knows, as they have never been revealed,” Ahmad added . . .
Following the attempted return of Manasra’s body, Israeli forces at 1:30 a.m returned the body of Omar Skafi. Israeli forces deployed heavily around the cemetery near Lions’ Gate during Skafi’s funeral, as soldiers allowed access into the cemetery only to family members whose names were on a list. Some 32 members of the Skafi family were reportedly present at the funeral. A relative present at the funeral told Ma‘an that “blood was dripping from his [Skafi’s] body filling the shroud as if he had been killed at that moment.” (Continued)

Israeli forces detain [female] Palestinian teen at Beit Fajjar checkpoint
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 23 Mar — Israeli forces reportedly opened fire on and detained a Palestinian teen carrying a knife at a military checkpoint in the occupied West Bank town of Beit Fajjar, witnesses said. Witnesses told Ma‘an that Israeli soldiers opened fire in the air behind a female Palestinian teen walking in the area. The witnesses added that the Israeli forces claimed the teen had a knife in her possession before handcuffing and detaining her. The Palestinian military liaison confirmed the teen was detained at a checkpoint set up at the western entrance of Beit Fajjar. Locals identified the detainee as Salwa Jamal Fakhri Taqatqa, 14. Witnesses said the area was closed by Israeli forces following the incident, and reported Israeli ambulances, significant traffic backups, and heavy Israeli military presence.

Israeli forces push their way into girls’ school
HEBRON, Occupied Palestine 21 Mar by ISM, al-Khalil Team — On Sunday, 20th March 2016, Israeli forces raided the al-Faihaa girls school in occupied al-Khalil (Hebron), using the staff in the school as human shields. In the morning, three heavily armed soldiers in full combat gear entered the premises of the school when the girls were still going to their classes. Al-Faihaa girls’ school is located near Ibrahimi mosque, on a road that connects Shuhada Street, which Palestinians are completely banned from using, with the biggest illegal settlement on the outskirts of al-Khalil, Kiryat Arba. Only settlers are allowed to drive on that road, while Palestinians are banned from driving any kind of cars, including ambulances, there, and often face harassment and violence from settlers. The soldiers entered the girls school and locked themselves in the director’s room with the director, the caretaker and another female teacher, preventing them from leaving the room. They then proceeded to go through the video camera footage of the girls’ school, accusing them of allowing Abdullah [Mohammad al-Ajlouni], a Palestinian gunned down at the nearby Queitun checkpoint the day before, pass through the school premises. As the girls school has repeatedly been threatened by Israeli forces that their main gate will be permanently shut if people other than teachers and students use it, the gate is now always locked shut except for when students are passing through for school.

Soldiers injure a child in Deheishe, confiscate print shop equipment and kidnap a Palestinian
IMEMC 22 Mar — Israeli soldiers invaded, on Tuesday morning, the Deheishe refugee camp, south of Bethlehem, broke into and searched homes and a print shop, while one child was injured by an explosive dropped by the army during the invasion. The soldiers surrounded the refugee camp before invading it, and initiated a search campaign targeting many homes, and stores. Local sources said the soldiers invaded a home and a print shop belonging to Akram Sha‘fout, and searched them, before confiscating machines, computers and printed artwork. The soldiers also invaded the home of Shadi Abu Ajamiyya, and searched his property before kidnapping him, and confiscated mobile phones belonging to him and his family. The invasion into the camp led to clashes between the soldiers and dozens of local youths who hurled stones and empty bottles at them while the army fired gas bombs and rubber-coated steel bullets.

Israeli forces storm, ransack PA-run charity in Tulkarem
TULKAREM (Ma‘an) 22 Mar — Israeli forces on Tuesday stormed and ransacked the headquarters of a charity run by the Palestinian Authority in Tulkarem district, destroying and confiscating equipment, a PA minister said. Palestinian Minister of Endowment Sheikh Yousif Ideis said several Israeli military vehicles and an “excavator” arrived at the charity headquarters, removing its main doors and smashing windows and tables. Ideis said Israeli soldiers “ravaged” the headquarters and confiscated all files and computers they found. The minister estimated there were at least 30,000 shekels ($7,789) in damages. “The Israeli occupation is fighting our people at all levels, including fighting their subsistence and seeking to destroy our social fabric and our economic and national institutions.” The charity is one of a number of official charitable committees approved by the PA Ministry of Endowment that offer financial and other forms of aid to needy families and individuals, Ideis added.

Israeli forces raid, confiscate items from Jenin-area university
JENIN (Ma‘an) 22 Mar — Israeli forces overnight Monday raided the campus of the Arab American University in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin and confiscated items — including computers and flags — from student union offices. The university’s public relations department told Ma‘an that 11 Israeli military vehicles stormed the campus grounds at 1 a.m. and broke into the office of the Dean of Students, as well as a number of offices belonging to the student union. The Israeli soldiers broke down doors and destroyed property in the offices before seizing flags of student union blocs as well as two computers and paper documents, the department said. The university’s administration released a statement denouncing “Israel’s aggressive policy which violates the sanctity of university campus.” Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah immediately condemned the raid. “This is not the first time that the Arab American University and other Palestinian educational institutions have been subjected to arbitrary Israeli raids,” the PM said, citing raids on Birzeit University and the Kadoorie Institute in recent months . . . The Israeli army said in a statement that Israeli forces had “uncovered and confiscated inciting propaganda materials linked to multiple terror organizations including Hamas” inside the university, adding that the operation was “based on intelligence information.” “In the recent wave of terror we’ve witnessed how incitement fuels acts of violence and terrorism,” the statement said. “Efforts as this prevent future attacks.” In addition to the statement, the army released what it said were “visuals from the overnight activity” — photographs of an Islamic Jihad flag and a Hamas one, as well as a poster depicting three recently slain Palestinian attackers, referred to as “martyrs.” Political flags and posters are commonly found items across the occupied West Bank, with poster of martyrs appearing throughout every West Bank town and village.

2 Palestinians injured in settlers’ attack
NABLUS,(PIC) 22 Mar — Two Palestinian citizens from Burin town north of Nablus suffered different injuries and bruises on Tuesday after being attacked by a group of settlers. Local activist Ghassan Daghlas said that a number of Israeli settlers attacked the Palestinian citizen Ayman Sufan, inflicting different injuries on him. The settlers had then attacked a group of Palestinian shepherds in the area, injuring one of them.

Ahmad Dawabsha visits Duma for first time since deadly arson attack
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 22 Mar — Five year-old Ahmad Dawabsha on Tuesday returned to the village of Duma in the occupied West Bank for the first time since Israeli settlers carried out an arson attack that killed his parents and younger brother in July. Ahmad is still receiving medical treatment for the burns he received on his body and face during the attack, which killed his parents, Saad and Riham, as well as his 18-month-old brother, Ali, on July 30, 2015. Medical sources said Ahmad would undergo plastic surgery on his right hand and left leg in coming months, but his burns could necessitate further procedures. Nasser Dawabsha, Ahmad’s uncle, said the young boy was doing better, and the Palestinian Authority was trying to have him sent abroad to receive medical treatment. According to his uncle, Ahmad is still not completely aware of his family’s death, although he knows “they are in heaven” without fully understanding its meaning. Ahmad recently returned from a trip to Spain, where he met the Real Madrid football team — a trip made made possible after a photo of him wearing the football club’s uniform in his hospital bed went viral. On Saturday, unidentified assailants set fire to a house in Duma, targeting the only witness of the attack that killed Ahmad’s family.

Update: Army kidnaps 28 Palestinians in the West Bank
IMEMC 22 Mar — The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) has reported that the number of Palestinians, kidnapped by the Israeli army in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, on Tuesday, has reached at least 28, in extensive military invasions, and violent searches of homes. The soldiers stormed and searched dozens of homes, in different parts of the West Bank, interrogated many Palestinians, and confiscated a car, two TV sets, and a computer. The PPS said the soldiers kidnapped 17 Palestinians, including many former political prisoners, in occupied Jerusalem . . . The PPS also said that the soldiers invaded and ransacked many homes in the southern West Bank district of Hebron, and kidnapped two Palestinians . . . The soldiers also kidnapped two Palestinians from their homes, in ‘Aseera ash-Shemaliyya town, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus; and invaded homes in Beit Forik town, east of Nablus . . . In addition, the soldiers confiscated a Palestinian car, and two TV sets and a computer, in Tal village, southwest of Nablus. Resident Nasser ‘Arayshy said the soldiers stopped him while driving his car, and confiscated it, along with the TV’s and computer. In occupied Jerusalem, the soldiers stormed and searched homes, and kidnapped two Palestinians from the al-Judeira town, northwest of the city . . . In the central West Bank district of Ramallah, the soldiers kidnapped two Palestinians from Mazare’ an-Nobani area . . . Another Palestinian was kidnapped in Salfit district . . . In Bethlehem, the soldiers invaded the Deheishe refugee camp, south of the city, and kidnapped one Palestinian . . . In addition, the Israeli police detained a Palestinian, from Qaffin village, north of the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem, while working in Kafr Qara’ village southeast of Haifa.

Israel arrests 1.200 unauthorized Palestinian workers
AFP 23 Mar — Israeli police said Tuesday that they had arrested 1,200 Palestinian workers without permits, under a crackdown aimed at helping to quell a five-month wave of violence. The unauthorised workers were detained along with 150 employers over the past two weeks, a police statement said. On March 14 the Israeli parliament approved a tough new law to keep out Palestinian workers, as part of measures aimed at tackling a surge in attacks against Israelis. The legislation means that the Israeli employer of a Palestinian who has entered the Jewish state without the hard-to-obtain permit could face several years in prison . . . An Israeli government adviser said this month that of the attacks in Israel, 44 percent were carried out by Palestinians who were in the Jewish state illegally.

Bulgarian probe: Signs of heavy beating on body of Nayef
RAMALLAH (PIC) 21 Mar — Family of slain Palestinian citizen Omar al-Nayef announced on Sunday the results of an investigation carried out by the Bulgarian authorities into his assassination at the headquarters of the Palestinian embassy in Sofia in February. Nayef’s family said in a press statement the Bulgarian authorities informed his wife, in the presence of lawyer Valeka Ondonova, that signs of aggressive beating and violent strokes were detected on his back, which rather proves that a fight had occurred with the killers before the assassination. The family is currently working on filing a lawsuit with Bulgarian and European Union courts. Nayef’s family said they refuse to receive his body before a serious probe reveals the real background of the assassination, for which they held the Israeli occupation intelligence responsible.

Palestinian support for knife attacks on decline, poll finds
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 22 Mar — Popular Palestinian support for stabbing attacks against Israelis is beginning to ebb, though most Palestinians still back a return to an armed intifada, a respected research center found in a poll published Monday. The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) said support for the use of knives had dropped from 67 percent last December to 58 percent this month — including 44 percent in the occupied West Bank, where most Palestinian attackers have come from.”There is a notable drop in the West Bank in the support for knifing attacks, due, it seems, to a rising perception in its inefficacy,” the research center said . . . “Indeed, only a little over one-third believes that if the current confrontations continue as they are now they would help achieve national rights in ways that negotiations could not; the majority does not believe that,” the center said. However, PSR found that the majority of Palestinians, at 52 percent, continues to support a return to an armed intifada, or uprising, believing it more effective than the isolated attacks. An even larger 65 percent — 59 percent in the West Bank and 75 percent in Gaza — believe that if the current violence were to develop into such an armed intifada, it would be more useful to national aspirations than negotiations. The poll found that only 29 percent of Palestinians now view negotiations as the most effective means of achieving a two-state solution, while a majority of Palestinians continues to hold a bleak outlook on the institutions traditionally associated with these negotiations. Mirroring past polls, nearly two-thirds of Palestinians — 63 percent — want to abandon the 1993 Oslo Accords, PSR said, while 64 percent back the resignation of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Closures / Checkpoints

Why this Palestinian commuter app may be destined for dead end
GAZA CITY (AL-Monitor) 23 Mar —  Israelis and Palestinians appear be edging toward a technological confrontation that some see as an extension of their escalating physical conflict. On March 3, Israel’s West Bank settlements committee asked the government to prohibit the use of a smartphone  application designed to help Palestinian commuters navigate myriad Israeli security checkpoints. Committee member Saji Keisler told the BBC that Palestinians could use the app to communicate information on soldiers’ locations and put their lives at risk. Checkpoints separating Palestinian towns can make commuters miserable, forcing them to waste several hours navigating strict Israeli security measures. Israeli soldiers open and close these checkpoints unpredictably and seem to inspect vehicles and individuals at random. The number of checkpoints throughout the West Bank keeps expanding, reaching more than 400 by the end of 2015. The delays prompted a young Palestinian studying at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to design an app called Azmeh (Arabic for “traffic jam”). The crowd-sourced app invites commuters to post information about checkpoint conditions as they pass through, allowing other users to check ahead of time on the traffic situation at the specific checkpoint they intend to cross. “The idea for ​​the app stemmed from the great suffering faced by the Palestinian people at the Israeli checkpoints,” developer Basel Sader told Al-Monitor. “Travelers are forced to wait numerous hours, sometimes days, to reach their destination. This is why I told myself that I must do something to change this situation and find a solution to this problem, even if just a partial one.” He added, “The app is very simple and easy to use. All it needs is Internet or 3G service to enable a person to report on traffic at a specific checkpoint. This will inform other users on the road … whether this checkpoint is closed, jammed or open.” Sader started working on the app in early October and was able to release it to the Palestinian public after only a couple of weeks. Azmeh quickly gained popularity, with the number of downloads reaching 12,000, including 2,500 active users and around 500-600 daily users, according to Sader. He believes the Israeli government won’t be able to block the app without legal justification. “But the Israelis can do everything. Their ultimate goal is to maintain their restrictions against Palestinians,” he said (Continued)

Palestinians to face severe restrictions during Jewish holidays
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 23 Mar — Palestinians faced severe movement restrictions on Wednesday, as Israeli authorities shut down all movement through checkpoints in and out of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip ahead of the Jewish holiday of Purim. An Israeli army spokesperson said that beginning at 1 a.m. on Wednesday and lasting until midnight Saturday, the checkpoints would be closed to all Palestinians with the exception of humanitarian cases. Palestinian citizens of Israel, as well as holders of foreign passports, would still be allowed to pass through the checkpoints, she said, noting: “They’re only closed for Palestinians.” She said Palestinians could seek to arrange “special circumstances” with Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). Sources inside the Palestinian liaison department confirmed the measures would be extended to the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings into the Gaza Strip, with only humanitarian cases and a limited number of Palestinian Christians allowed to leave the blockaded coastal enclave for the Easter holiday. It was not immediately clear if West Bank Palestinian Christians who received permits to travel to Jerusalem for Easter will be permitted to travel during the Purim closures. The closures will likely effect the livelihoods of the tens of thousands of Palestinians who travel from the occupied West Bank to Israel for work . . . Palestinian access has also been restricted to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, with all Palestinian men younger than 50 denied entry to the site, which is the third holiest in Islam. Access restrictions to the mosque compound during a succession of Jewish holidays last September played a major role in triggering a wave of unrest that has since left more than 200 Palestinians and nearly 30 Israelis dead.

Video: IDF seals off West Bank in light of Purim
JPost 23 Mar by Yaakov Lappin — During the closure, only approved humanitarian and medical-linked travel for Palestinians will be permitted between the West Bank and Israel, and will require approval from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).


Israel returns 59 boat engines to Gaza, releases fisherman
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 23 Mar — Israeli authorities on Wednesday returned 59 engines from Palestinian fishing boats previously confiscated by Israeli naval forces off the coast of the Gaza Strip and released a fisherman held in Israeli prison. Head of the PA’s Crossings and Border Department, Nathmi Mhanna, told Ma‘an that the 59 engines were delivered at the Gaza Strip’s Kerem Shalom crossing. The engines are expected to be returned to their owners via “official Palestinian channels,” Mhanna added, without giving further information . . .
The Israeli authorities on Wednesday also released an injured Palestinian fisherman after detaining him for four months, Palestinian security sources told Ma‘an. The sources identified the detainee as Mahmoud Muhammad Bakr, 30, who was shot and injured by Israeli naval forces while he was working off the coast of the Gaza Strip in late 2015. Israeli forces detained Bakr and confiscated his boat in December. Indictments against him and another fisherman reportedly included fishing three nautical miles past the designated fishing zone, “deliberately bumping” into an Israeli military boat, and throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers. Confiscation of boats is one of a number of risks that Palestinian fishermen working off the coast of the besieged enclave face on a regular basis, in addition to routine harassment from Israeli naval forces, detention, and live fire.

Israeli forces open fire on Palestinian shepherds, level land in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 22 Mar — Israeli soldiers opened fire on Palestinian shepherds, and several Israeli military vehicles and bulldozers entered the Palestinian side of the borderline between the Gaza Strip and Israel on Tuesday, locals said. Locals told Ma‘an that soldiers fired live ammunition at a group of shepherds while their sheep were grazing in al-Fakhari east of Khan Yunis in the southern area of the besieged enclave. No casualties were reported. Northwest of Beit Lahiya in the north of the Strip, witnesses said five large armored bulldozers leveled Palestinian lands near the border fence. Witnesses also said four bulldozers entered through the border fence from Kissufim military post onto Palestinian land east of Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip. No gunfire was reported during either bulldozer incursion. [Ma‘an on Monday: Israeli excavators on Monday leveled lands near the borderline in the northern Gaza Strip. Witnesses told Ma‘an that Israeli excavators entered border area west of the city of Beit Hanoun and leveled lands in the area.” On Wednesday: “Israeli forces entered the border area of the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday and leveled land near the Zikim military base, local residents told Ma‘an. Witnesses said seven Israeli bulldozers escorted by an Israeli armored vehicle crossed the border near the military base, which is adjacent to the northern Gaza Strip village of al-Saifa.”]

Courting Egypt, Hamas removes all signs of Muslim Brotherhood from Gaza
JPost 21 Mar by Maayan Groisman — In what appears to be an attempt to detach itself from its mother organization in Egypt, Hamas has removed all signs of the Muslim Brotherhood from the streets and mosques of Gaza. The London-based Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat reported Monday that Hamas’s Public Works Department began removing images of senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including the image of the movement’s founder, Hassan al-Banna, and ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi. All the pictures and slogans related to the group have been taken down and removed from public view, including a major banner that hung in central Gaza over the past few years with the images of the current and previous emirs of Qatar, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and two of Hamas’s senior leaders – Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Mashaal – with the caption: “Jerusalem waits for the men.” Hamas replaced the banner with another reading: “The resistance does not direct its weapons to the outside, our compass is directed to Palestine’s liberation.” With this, Hamas seemingly is delivering a placating message to Egypt, according to which it will not intervene in the latter’s internal arena. The move by Hamas comes after Egypt reportedly demanded that the group cut its ties with the Brotherhood and show no presence in Sinai in exchange for Egypt’s opening of the Rafah border crossing and its undertaking not to flood Hamas tunnels. According to the report, Hamas also decided to remove all Muslim Brotherhood religious slogans from the mosques in the coastal territory.

Think of the Gaza Strip the next time you drink tap water
Haaretz 22 Mar by Amira Hass — The easiest, fastest and most logical way to prevent a humanitarian and environmental disaster would be to pipe a lot more cheap water from Israel into the Strip — When you open your faucet today, think of the Gaza Strip, where hundreds of thousands of children and young people aren’t familiar with the wonder of drinking tap water. The adults have already forgotten how easy it is to give one twist, see the water flow and hear lowering tone as the glass fills. Now they have to go down to the street, wait for the truck with the purified water tank, fill some gallon jugs and carry them back into the building, hoping that the electricity and the elevator are working. Each cubic meter of desalinated water cost 25 to 30 shekels ($6.50 to $7.80), compared to 1 to 3 shekels from the water system. When you wash your face today, think of the water that comes out of Gaza’s taps. It’s oily and leaves a salty film on one’s skin. Clothes come out of the wash feeling stiff because the water is mixed with seawater, sewage and pesticides. Some 95 percent of the tap water in Gaza is not potable . . .The Oslo Accords defined Gaza as self-contained when it comes to water production and consumption. That’s one of the clearest possible proofs that already back then Israel intended to disconnect Gaza from the West Bank, contrary to what was written.  (Continued)

Rights groups highlight Gaza’s ‘ravaged’ water infrastructure
teleSUR 22 Mar — The Emergency Water Sanitation and Hygiene group in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, a coalition of 30 leading humanitarian organizations, has called attention to the severe water situation in the Gaza Strip on World Water Day. “Through war after war, the existing and already poor water infrastructure in Gaza is repeatedly destroyed or damaged. With a near decade-long blockade, some of the EWASH projects remain delayed, incomplete or inoperative as vital materials take months to reach the local market – if at all,” Maher Al Najjar, the deputy general director of the Palestinian Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, said in a release . . . Often, the international community has donated funds to help rehabilitate Gaza’s decimated water infrastructure, which is then used to buy needed equipment. But “most of the equipment needed for the water sector needs to undergo extremely time-consuming and complex procedures” to pass through Israeli inspections in order to enter the besieged strip. EWASH cites the Sheikh Radwan water tank as “a perfect example.” Funds have been pledged for its construction and the project has obtained the necessary approval by Israel before the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism – through which projects are submitted for Israeli vetting – was established. “Yet, none of the needed technical materials have entered Gaza thus far. Without the missing electromechanical equipment,” such as water pumps, “the water tank remains inoperative, leaving 75,000 people subject to severe water shortages.”

Gaza’s electricity crisis sheds light on gap between social classes
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 23 Mar by Rasha Abou Jalal — Increasingly, solar energy is used as an alternative source of electricity generation in the Gaza Strip, which continues to suffer from the ongoing power crisis. While many hospitals, health care centers, schools and public outdoor spaces use solar energy, only households in affluent neighborhoods have access to this expensive alternative . . . To overcome the electric power crisis, 40 solar-powered lights were installed by the Palestinian Energy and National Resources Authority (PENRA) in a number of streets and at intersections in Gaza City on March 16. Three days earlier, the Kuwaiti Hospital in the city of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, was supplied with 13 photovoltaic cells. This came as part of the most recent local project for power generation and the bridging of electric power. Abdel Rahman al-Dahoudi, director of the Kuwaiti Hospital, told Al-Monitor, “This project came under very difficult circumstances, where power cuts in Rafah reached an average of 16 continuous hours, which has hampered the provision of medical services to the population.” (Continued)

Gaza’s Christians prepare to celebrate Easter in Jerusalem
Al-Monitor 22 Mar by Daoud Kuttab — Many Palestinians from Gaza have been given permits to attend Easter celebrations in Jerusalem, though the current easing of restrictions does not mean that Gazans have gained their freedom of movement — Karam Qubrosi can’t believe that Israel is allowing so many Gazans to travel on the occasion of Easter. “This is a dream come true, especially for many of us in the age group of 18-35,” he told Al-Monitor. Speaking to Al-Monitor after reaching the West Bank town of Beit Sahour, Qubrosi, 28, said that the last time Israel gave travel permits for men under the age of 35 to travel out of Gaza was at Easter 2008. “That was the last time I was able to travel to Jerusalem for Easter,” he said. Qubrosi explained the process of getting permits: “Every church in Gaza gives names of its parish members who want to travel to the Palestinian department of civil affairs in Gaza, which then sends the requests to the Israelis for permission. ” . . . Nashat Filmon, the director of the Palestinian Bible Society, explained to Al-Monitor how the travel permits become a way to escape. “Life is so difficult in Gaza that when people do get permission to exercise their natural right to pray and visit the holy places in Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem, they often use it to run away from the difficult reality,” he said. Filmon said that while he is sad at the sight of Gaza being emptied of its Christian presence, he doesn’t blame Gazans for wanting to leave.

Hamas stages military exercises to test Gaza readiness
AFP 23 Mar — Hamas staged major military exercises Tuesday to test its readiness in the event of another Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, which has been ravaged by three wars since 2008. The exercises involving 1,000 police and emergency services personnel were not meant to be seen as an “announcement of war”, said a spokesman for the Islamist movement’s interior ministry. For the duration of the exercises, however, a state of emergency was observed in Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya, bordering Israel in the north, and Jabalia farther to the south. The media was barred from approaching the area, but loud explosions could be heard from a distance, with hospitals and schools placed on alert.

Israel charges Palestinian with hacking drones, airport info
JERUSALEM (Reuters) 23 Mar by Ori Lewis — Israel has charged a Palestinian computer hacker from the Gaza Strip with breaking into Israeli military drone camera systems for Islamic militants and gleaning details of civilian aircraft movements. Beersheba District Court said on Wednesday it had charged Majd Oweida, 22, with designing several computer programs to help the Islamic Jihad group – for which he had been working since 2011 – to access Israeli networks. The court in southern Israel did not reveal details of how and where Oweida was taken into Israeli custody. Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip declined to comment on the arrest. According to the court statement, the charges against Oweida include helping Islamic Jihad hack into and monitor broadcasts from Israeli drones flying above Gaza.It said he also hacked signals from Israeli police street cameras and collected flight information from the country’s main Ben Gurion airport outside Tel Aviv.

Gaza professor loses position after publicly criticizing Hamas
JPost 21 Mar by Khaled Abu Toameh — A Palestinian professor has been suspended by The Islamic University in the Gaza Strip because of Facebook posts criticizing Hamas and the university administration. Professor Salah Jadallah, who teaches at the Biology and Biotechnology Department, is one of the founders of Hamas in the Shati refugee camp, where Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh lives. On March 19, he received a letter from the university administration notifying him of the decision to suspend him and bring him before a commission of inquiry. The decision has drawn sharp criticism and protests from many of the Manchester-educated professor’s colleagues and students. Professor Jadallah posted several comments on his Facebook account in which he complained about Hamas’s autocratic rule over the Gaza Strip. He has also accused Hamas of corruption. In one post he launched a scathing attack on the Hamas-affiliated university administration: “Some low-class folks in the university, which claims to be divine, are trying to lick the shoes of students in order to keep their jobs and avoid being transferred to another university.” In response to the decision to suspend him, Professor Jadallah accused The Islamic University of “fostering the culture of silencing its sons from an early age. This is disgraceful.”

2 Palestinian clowns offer relief to kids in Gaza hospitals
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) 23 Mar — A pair of Palestinian clowns is offering some laughs and relief to children with chronic illnesses at pediatric wards in hospitals in the Gaza Strip. With no circus or fair in Gaza to offer employment, Majed Kaloub and Alaa Miqdad began reaching out to kids in kindergartens and schools. Now, thanks to the aid of CISS, an Italian non-profit organization, they have found a niche for their work in hospitals, bringing some much needed cheer to sick children. Neither is formally trained in medical clowning, a profession popularized by American doctor Patch Adams and in which Israel’s University of Haifa offers a bachelor’s degree, but their goal is the same — to raise the spirit of young patients in an already sad part of the world. “The clown is a supporting tool for the medical doctor,” said Kaloub, 24. “As much as we can, we try to let the child respond to us to reach his heart.” For Miqdad, a 33-year-old dwarf, the experience has been far more personal. When he was younger, he said he was bullied and teased and for a long time after that, he resisted children. “The children are all my life now. I do most of the work with them,” he said. Both started clowning in hospitals in 2014. That summer, they worked with children traumatized by incessant airstrikes during a deadly 50-war with Israel. They performed in damaged neighborhoods and temporary shelters. The experience inspired the clowns to take their act to hospitals where there were children with chronic illnesses.

Gaza rockers and rappers struggle to carve out a space
[with photos] AFP 21 Mar –Khamiss Abu Shaban’s band would love to wow the kinds of crowds seen elsewhere, but in Hamas-run Gaza they struggle to find venues and instruments, let alone get permission to play. Even so, that hasn’t dispelled the enthusiasm for popular music in the Palestinian territory, where 70 percent of the population is under 30 years old. “Gazans are fans of music. They flock to every concert,” Abu Shaban, a 22-year-old bass player in Watar Band, says on the small stage of a sold-out 200-seat theatre. It was only their third performance for the past year and a half. Musicians and other entertainers have found it hard to make a name and living for themselves in the hardscrabble Palestinian territory’s few venues. That is the paradox of Gaza, a fact not lost on advertisers who seek to woo young breakdancers and devotees of parkour — the urban sport combining running, acrobatics and gymnastics. But the rewards are few for the rappers, other musicians, dancers and acrobats trying to carve out a niche for themselves.  If they want to rehearse, record or be filmed, they must do it in whatever space they can find, often in their own homes. Without official authorisation and performance space, they cannot have grandiose dreams, they say. There is also a lack of instruments and equipment, thanks to an Israeli blockade of the strip in place for nearly a decade. The French Cultural Centre was one of the few places where young Gazans could get away briefly from Palestinian political divisions, repeated wars with Israel, poverty and chronic unemployment, but it has closed its doors. In December 2014, it was hit by a bombing claimed by Salafist jihadists. (Continued)

Indonesian volunteers distribute 15 tons of strawberries among Gaza children
Jakarta (ANTARA News) 21 Mar — Indonesian volunteers spent part of the money donated by the country’s people to buy 1.5 tons of strawberries for the children of Gaza. “We took the initiative to buy 1.5 tons of strawberries directly from the plantations in North Gaza and distributed them among 533 families. Each family got three kilograms of strawberries,” Abdillah Onim, an Indonesian volunteer who lives in Gaza, informed ANTARA from Gaza, Monday. Onim, who is married to a Palestinian woman, has helped the Medical Emergency Rescue Committee (MER-C) Indonesia in Gaza. He is now working on the establishment of the “Suara Palestina” (Palestinian Voice) news agency. He pointed out that March was the peak season for strawberry cultivation, and the fruit was available in abundance in Gaza.  Most poor children in Gaza, however, could not afford the fruit as their families, in general, lived below the poverty line, he affirmed . . . “This step was taken so that every inhabitant, including kindergarten students, could sample the sweetness of the strawberries harvested from the plantations in Gaza itself,” he explained. The fruit was distributed among the families in Bait Lahiyah, Um Naser, and Deir Balah in Central Gaza. Onim said that happiness was apparent on the faces of the children when they received and tasted the strawberries.  Onim said the decision to buy strawberries was also aimed at helping the farmers in Gaza.

In photos: The last tiger in Gaza
KHAN YOUNIS (EI) 21 Mar by Isra Saleh al-Namey & Majdi Fathi — Gaza’s only tiger is malnourished. To be properly fed, it needs a regular supply of fresh meat. Providing that supply is proving too costly for Muhammad Oweida, the owner of the zoo in Khan Younis, a town in southern Gaza. As a result, Oweida has put the tiger and a number of other animals up for sale. Opened in 2007, the zoo became a popular destination for school trips and family excursions. The tiger was brought to the zoo that year. Born in Australia, it was two months old at the time. Today, however, the zoo often has no visitors and the cages for its animals look rusted and desolate. Along with the tiger, its few remaining animals include monkeys and tortoises. The siege and repeated attacks that Israel has inflicted on Gaza have proven devastating for the zoo. The problems were especially severe when Israel bombed Gaza for 51 days in the summer of 2014. During the attack, it was too dangerous for Oweida to care for his animals. “They were also frightened by the deafening sounds of explosions that took place in areas close to the zoo,” he said. “The Israelis wage their war on nearly all facets of normal life in Gaza, even when it comes to poor animals.” Among the animals which died during that offensive were hyenas, crocodiles, deer and a lion. The tiger’s female partner also died . . . One man, Saad al-Jamal, has nonetheless kept visiting the zoo as he is deeply interested in wild animals. Al-Jamal would like to buy the tiger and is contemplating selling his house in order to raise the $30,000 asking price for the animal. “I have the skill to take care of this tiger,” said al-Jamal, who previously raised two lion cubs. “It is the last tiger in Gaza and we should not lose it.”.

Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements

Settler group wins in battle over controversial Silwan plan
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 23 Mar — In direct violation of past rulings, an Israeli council approved on Wednesday controversial plans in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan pushed by the settler organization Elad. The Israeli National Council for Planning and Building approved a plan for Elad’s Kedem project despite over a decade of appeals against the move by Palestinian residents and Israeli rights organizations. The Silwan-based Wadi Hilweh Information Center said in a statement that the settlement project was approved after an emergency session was held at the council’s headquarters on Tuesday. The center said Silwan residents withdrew from the session after they were treated “in a racist way.” Residents said they were repeatedly interrupted by members of the committee while explaining damages the settlement project would have on their private lands. The committee also failed to provide an Arabic translator for the session, according to the center. Lawyer Sami Irsheid said the council rejected all appeals against the Kedem project and canceled an order made by the Appeals Commission in the Supreme Planning Council which called off the project last summer . . . Wednesday’s move was condemned jointly by the Wadi Hilweh Information Center and members of a Silwan neighborhood committee who fear the approval will set a precedent for approvals on all future settlement projects in Silwan. The center and committee called upon UNESCO to immediately intervene as the project endangers a historical city, . . . Elad, the group responsible for the plan, is a private Israeli organization which promotes illegal settlement construction in occupied East Jerusalem in a bid to increase the city’s Jewish presence . . . The Kedem project is expected to cover some 9,000 square meters and include stores and offices for Elad as well as an archaeological visitors’ center for the nearby City of David National Park, built on Palestinian land. The land included in the Kedem project was confiscated by Israeli authorities following the occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, and has served as a parking lot since. In 2003, Elad took over the land and began planning a settlement project. The group has since excavated the land, reportedly demolishing an Islamic cemetery 1,200 years old, as well as Ottoman, Umayyad, Byzantine and Roman ruins. It was reported that they only preserved ruins they believed to be part of Jerusalem’s Second Temple, while disregarding ruins from other historical periods

Israel demolishes home in Silwan, family forced to demolish another
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 21 Mar — Israeli forces on Monday demolished a half-built home in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem, while residents were forced to demolish another home there following an Israeli order. Israeli forces stormed the Ras al-Amoud area of Silwan and tore down a home under construction belonging to Suleiman Abu Qalbein and Ali Abu Swayy, relatives told Ma‘an. They said the home, which measured 200 square meters, was demolished without prior notice. Meanwhile, the family of Suleiman Abu Qalbein tore down its own home in the same area after the Jerusalem municipality delivered an order giving them 24 hours to demolish the structure or incur the costs of its demolition. The family told Ma’an that the building’s walls were built of brick and the roof of tin. They began the demolition manually on Sunday, and brought in an excavator on Monday to finish the process. Silwan is one of many Palestinian neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem that is seeing an influx of Israeli settlers at the cost of home demolitions and the eviction of Palestinian families. Last year, the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department slammed what it termed Israel’s “systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians” in Silwan.

3 structures torn down as East Jerusalem demolitions continue
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an)  22 Mar — Three structures belonging to Palestinians were demolished in occupied East Jerusalem on Tuesday, continuing a recent surge in Israeli demolitions across the occupied Palestinian territory. Israeli bulldozers tore down a 100-square meter mobile home in Beit Hanina in northern Jerusalem belonging to local resident Majdi Idris, relatives told Ma‘an. Majdi’s father, Jamal Idris, said Israeli forces tore down the structure after storming and emptying it. He said his son had been planning to move into the home in the coming days. Jamal said the demolition took place as their lawyer was en route to an Israeli court to stop it from going ahead. He said the demolition order had been attached outside the house, and they had only happened to see it. “The order gave us 72 hours to appeal to the court, but the municipality demolished the house after 48 hours,” he said. Meanwhile, in the Ein al-Luza area of Silwan neighborhood, Imad al-Abbasi said that he and his family were forced to demolish their own half-built apartment after an Israeli order gave them 24 hours to do so or incur the municipality’s demolition costs. Imad said the apartment belonged to his father, Khalil al-Abbasi, noting that Jerusalem municipality officials first delivered the demolition order three weeks ago, before issuing a second one two days ago, demanding that they carry out the demolition themselves within 24 hours. (Continued)

Rights group: Israel demolishes Palestinian home in West Bank
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 22 Mar — The Israeli Civil Administration in the occupied Palestinian territory demolished a home and several structures in the southern West Bank on Tuesday morning, an Israeli human rights group said. According to B’Tselem, Israeli authorities demolished a home and an adjacent shed and animal enclosure in the community of Khirbet Jenbah in the Masafer Yatta area of the southern Hebron Hills. Solar panels donated by an international aid agency were also confiscated in the process, B’Tselem added. A spokesperson for Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT)‪ told Ma‘an that the demolition measures were taken against structures “which had been built illegally and without the relevant orders in a firing zone.” . . . The B’Tselem statement said residents viewed the demolition as a “message” from the Israeli state after they filed a petition against Israeli plans to expel them from the Masafer Yatta area to establish a military training area known as “Firing Zone 918.” The demolition occurred a day before a hearing in front of Israel’s High Court of Justice on the issue.

Israeli forces level large swath of land, demolish shack near Hebron
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 23 Mar — Israeli forces on Tuesday leveled 40 dunams (9.88 acres) of land west of Hebron and demolished a tin shack in the Masafer Yatta area in the southern occupied West Bank, locals said. Village spokesman Abdul-Rahman al-Tumazi told Ma‘an that Israeli troops leveled the lands in the Suba area of the village of Idhna in order to illegally annex it to a nearby Israeli settlement. Al-Tumazi added that he believed the land was being leveled for the purpose of extracting stones — considered the best in the area — to use for construction for nearby illegal settlements. Meanwhile, local committee member Rateb al-Jbour said Israeli forces demolished a tin shack belonging to Nasser Khalil Abu Obeid in the village of Khirbet al-Tabban in the Masafer Yatta area. Sarit Michaeli, the spokeswoman for Israeli rights group B’Tselem, confirmed the demolition in Khirbet al-Tabban.

Monitor: Israel to confiscate 1,200 dunams of land in Nablus district
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 21 Mar — The Israeli Civil Administration is planning to confiscate 1,200 dunams (296.5 acres) of land from Palestinian villages in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus, a local monitor said Monday. Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank for the Palestinian Authority, told Ma‘an that Israeli authorities gave Palestinian residents of the villages of al-Lubban al-Sharqiya, al-Sawiya, and Qaryut an official notice to confiscate 1,200 dunams of land. According to the Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem, Israeli authorities over the decades have seized land near Qaryut to establish the illegal settlements of Eli, Shilo, and Mizpe Rahel, at least ten settlement outposts, as well as two military bases. However, a spokesperson for Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT)‪ said in response by email that the claim that 1,200 dunams had been confiscated was “incorrect.” The email, which was not entirely clear in its wording, said that while examining the borders of the illegal Israeli settlement of Eli, COGAT had found that 541 dunams (134 acres) “should be subtracted” — or not included as “state land” — while 612 dunams (151 acres) “should be added.” COGAT said “the status of the subtracted lands will be determined in accordance with the protocols,” saying it had been brought to “the public’s attention,” allowing residents of Eli settlement to appeal to Israel’s Civil Administration.

Whither the Bedouin once their homes are demolished?
Haaretz 19 Mar by Amira Hass — The High Court and European Union are wondering too. But the state hasn’t frozen plans to evict Bedouin who have lived east of Jerusalem since before 1967 — It was hard to ignore the elephant in the courtroom at the High Court of Justice on Monday – the European Union. It financed the prefab structures that the state seeks to demolish on both sides of the Hizma-Anata road east of Jerusalem. The prefabs were built because the tents, huts and shacks of the Bedouin residents had become unfit for human habitation. At Monday’s hearing, the state asked the court to reject a petition filed in January 2014 against the demolition orders. If the court complies, 62 buildings will be destroyed – buildings that house some 430 people, including 250 minors, from the Jahalin Bedouin tribe . . . Though Israel froze construction plans for E-1 due to vehement American opposition, it hasn’t frozen its plan to evict the Bedouin who have lived there since before 1967. The eviction would facilitate expansion by nearby settlements. Despite agreeing that the Bedouin buildings were illegal, the justices were astounded that the state sought to destroy an entire community without offering the people an alternative housing solution . . . Between January 1 and March 7, Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank significantly increased the pace of demolitions . . . An Israeli source who requested anonymity told Haaretz that the person behind the accelerated demolition of EU-funded buildings over the past two months was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu . . . Monday’s hearing never addressed the most fundamental question: Why are people who have lived in the area since long before the settlements were established not entitled to continue living there, to connect their houses to infrastructure and even build for their children?

Settler volunteers to combat Bedouin construction in West Bank
Haaretz 23 Mar by Amira Hass — Residents of the four Gush Adumim settlements, in the West Bank near Jerusalem, have formed a volunteer policing unit to combat what they call a “Palestinian takeover of Gush land.” Members of the unit recently underwent training in a civil policing course. The unit is the second group initiative by members of the settlements of Kfar Adumim, Nofei Prat, Alon and Mitzpeh Yeriho. They also work together in the Jerusalem Periphery Forum, the objective of which is to prevent Bedouin construction on both sides of Highway No. 1 between Ma’aleh Adumim and Jericho. The Bedouin construction is partially funded by the European Union. The forum plans to conduct patrols in the area in the coming four days (Purim and the weekend,) when Civil Administration inspectors will be on vacation. A spokesman for the forum told Haaretz that the patrols are meant to prevent a repetition of last year’s events, when the Purim vacation was exploited for the construction of 22 prefabricated buildings for Bedouin in several compounds in the area . . . The intention is to mount similar patrols during the Passover vacation, when the Civil Administration inspectors will again be on vacation.

Photos: IDF demolishes Palestinian homes in occupied Jordan Valley
23 Mar Photos by Ahmad Al-Bazz/  Text by Haggai Matar.  Demolitions take place in two areas of the West Bank as Israel’s High Court prepared to hear a high-profile case on the matter. — The Israeli army demolished 17 structures, including family homes, in the Khirbet Tana, an impoverished Palestinian hamlet in the occupied Jordan Valley on Wednesday. This was the third time Israeli forces demolished homes in Khirbet Tana in recent months, according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, including shelters that were donated for families made homeless by previous demolitions. Israeli authorities refuse to connect the village to the electricity or water grids or approve any building permits.

Family returns to its hotel building in Jerusalem after Israeli army occupied it for 13 years
IMEMC 24 Mar — The Ayyad family in occupied Jerusalem managed on Tuesday to enter its “Cliff Hotel”, in Abu Dis town, southeast of occupied Jerusalem, for the first time in 13 years. The Israeli military had occupied the building since 2003, after taking possession of it under the so-called “Absentee Property Law.” Bassam Bahar, head of the Land Defense Committee in occupied Jerusalem, said the Ayyad family, the rightful owners of the hotel, managed to enter the building on Wednesday, following a lengthy legal battle with the Israeli authorities, after the building and nearby area, were illegally annexed by Israel. Bahar said that the Ayyad family owns the entire property, but had to battle Israel for thirteen years over the Israeli decision to annex it. He stated that family members Ali and Khaled Ayyad, along with a delegation of the Norwegian embassy, managed to enter the building and saw the excessive damage caused by the Israeli army and police . . . An important part of the legal battle is the army’s insistence on keeping its advanced surveillance system and cameras on the roof of the building, which also means to continue using the rooftop of the hotel, while security officials said last year that there is no need to continue using the entire building as a military base, but they still want to keep the surveillance system. Bahar said that the army wants the hotel and its surrounding area to build a new colonial neighborhood for Jewish settlers.

Court actions

2 Jerusalemite Palestinians sentenced by Israeli court
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 23 Mar — An Israeli court on Wednesday sentenced two Palestinians to years of jail time for transgressions allegedly carried out against Israeli military forces in occupied East Jerusalem. Head of the Jerusalem Committee for Families of Prisoners told Ma‘an that 18-year-old Suhaib al-Aawar was sentenced to four years in prison for throwing Molotov cocktails at an Israeli military vehicle in the occupied East Jerusalem Silwan neighborhood. Fadi Majdi Saleh, 33, from Shu‘fat refugee camp was sentenced to 12 years in prison for running over an Israeli soldier in al-Tur neighborhood last year. The court also ruled that Saleh must pay 40,000 NIS ($10,421) to the soldier injured during the incident, and confiscated Saleh’s private vehicle, the committee said. Saleh — married and a father to four — was detained on April 26, 2015, and is currently held at Ktziot prison in the Negev.

Other news

Canadian tapped as new UN rights expert on Palestinian territories
AFP 23 Mar — The UN Human Rights Council chief on Wednesday nominated a Canadian law professor to a controversial post surveying the rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.bCouncil president Choi Kyonglim circulated a letter to member states proposing that Stanley Michael Lynk be appointed to the position of special rapporteur, and the council was expected to accept the appointment Thursday without a vote. Lynk would replace Makarim Wibisono, who announced in January he would step down over Israel’s refusal to cooperate with his mandate and not allowing him access to the areas he was meant to monitor. Wibisono, an Indonesian diplomat who took on the role in June 2014, presented his final report to the council on Monday, criticising a “lack of cooperation (that) regrettably seems to signal the continuation of a situation under which Palestinians suffer daily human rights violations under the Israeli occupation.” The mandate is controversial, since it is limited to investigating Israel’s violations. Wibisono’s predecessor Richard Falk was also blocked from accessing the Palestinian territories, and it remains unclear if Lynk will be able to do so. Israel has a tense relationship with the Human Rights Council, which it accuses of having a built-in bias against it.

Obama sees no Middle East peace deal before his presidency ends
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) 23 Mar by Jeff Mason and Richard Lough — U.S. President Barack Obama said on Wednesday he did not expect a breakthrough on Middle East peace before he leaves office and reiterated his support for a two-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians could live peacefully side by side. Speaking to students and teachers in Argentina, Obama said he expected to continue working on Middle East peace after he leaves office next January. The president’s comments came amid reports that his administration was considering a renewed push on the issue. Obama conceded that despite his and others’ efforts, the decades-long dispute had not come closer to being resolved during his presidency. “This is not something I was able to get done,” he said. “I am not that hopeful that it’s going to happen in the next nine months. It’s been 60 years; it’s not going to happen in the next nine months.” Having twice failed to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace, the Obama administration is discussing ways to help preserve the prospect of an increasingly threatened two-state solution, U.S. officials said earlier this month. Despite his skepticism about progress anytime soon, Obama reinforced his commitment to that prospect. “There’s been talk about a one-state solution or sort of a divided government. It’s hard for me to envision that being stable, there’s such deep distrust between the two peoples right now,” he said. “And the neighborhood is in such a mess that I continue to believe that a two-state solution is the best way.  Now, over time that could evolve.”

Netanyahu hopes US will reject UN resolution on Palestinian statehood
WASHINGTON (Reuters) 22 Mar by Patricia Zengerle & Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday he hoped the United States would continue to reject any move towards a U.N. Security Council resolution backing Palestinian statehood. “A Security Council Resolution to pressure Israel would further harden Palestinian positions and thereby could actually kill the chances of peace for many, many years. And that is why I hope the United States will maintain its long-standing position to reject such a U.N. resolution,” he told a meeting of the powerful pro-Israel AIPAC lobbying group in Washington. Speaking via satellite from Israel, Netanyahu also said he was ready to begin talks “immediately, without preconditions” for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but insisted that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas did not back the idea.

Israel, US working to block UN resolution on ‘blacklist’ of settlement-linked firms
Haaretz 24 Mar by Barak Ravid & Jack Khoury  — Israel and the United States are making intense diplomatic efforts to block a resolution slated to be voted on Thursday by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that would obligate the organization to draw up a list of all Israeli and international firms operating directly or indirectly in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights, senior Israeli and Palestinian officials said. The resolution was a Palestinian initiative being advanced with the help of Egypt, Pakistan and other Arab and Muslim countries. The resolution includes a condemnation of the settlements, stating that they are illegal under international law, and calls on the world’s countries to refrain from providing any assistance of any kind to the settlements and to warn companies and businesses against entering into business transactions in the settlements so as not to risk being involved in human rights violations. The resolution also calls on international companies to avoid direct or indirect transactions with the settlements.
But what’s even more worrisome to Jerusalem is Article 17 of the resolution, in which the UNHRC asks the UN high commissioner for human rights “to produce a database of all business enterprises [both Israeli and international – B.R.] involved in the activities in the settlements,” that would be updated once a year. The activities detailed in the resolution are not just settlement construction but even the supply of construction materials or equipment, the supply of monitoring equipment for the separation barrier, the supply of equipment used in home demolitions, supplying security services or equipment to the settlements or supplying financial or banking services that aid the settlements, including loans and home mortgages. Israel over the past several weeks has been trying to scuttle the entire resolution or at the very least get Article 17 removed. (Continued)

Palestinians ban goods of five Israeli firms from West Bank
AFP 23 Mar —  The Palestinian government has announced products from five Israeli companies will be prevented from entering the occupied West Bank, calling it a response to a similar decision by the Jewish state. “In response to the Israeli decision to ban the entry to Jerusalem of products from five Palestinian companies, the government decided to ban the entry of products from five Israeli companies” to the West Bank, a statement issued after the weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday said. The decision takes effect immediately, it added. The five targeted firms are dairy companies Tnuva, Strauss and Tara, meat firm Zoglobeck and drinks company Tapuzina. Palestinians have often threatened to stop buying Israeli products, which represent more than two-thirds of Palestinian imports and amount to nearly $6.5 billion (€5.7 billion) per year. But the decision on Tuesday, if implemented effectively, would be a first. Recently, Israel banned products from five Palestinian businesses from entering Jerusalem, according to Palestinian officials. Israel’s agriculture ministry issued a statement on Wednesday saying it must enforce health and safety rules on imported products, without confirming the ban or providing further details. Over 90 percent of Palestinian exports go to Israel, mainly because of the high costs of transporting goods to anywhere else.

Poll: Two-thirds of Palestinians want Abbas to resign
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) 21 Mar — Poll results have been consistent over six months and were affirmed Monday: two-thirds of Palestinians would like President Mahmoud Abbas to resign after a string of policy failures. Yet the Palestinian leader does not appear to be under palpable domestic or international pressure to step down. The prospect of a chaotic succession battle might put off some Palestinians, while Abbas’ Western backers view him as a guarantor of relative stability in a region engulfed by conflict. Potential successors from Abbas’ Fatah party have not challenged him openly for fear of hurting their chances later. They might also be deterred by anemic popular support for them, particularly if competing against a candidate from the Islamic militant group Hamas, Fatah’s main rival, said pollster Khalil Shikaki. “Abbas is weak, but his contenders are weak, too,” Shikaki told reporters as he released his latest poll. The survey was based on responses from 1,270 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, with an error margin of 3 percentage points. Palestinian uprising leader Marwan Barghouti, who is serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli prison, is the only Fatah candidate who could defeat a Hamas rival, Shikaki said. His findings come at a time of deep-rooted hopelessness among Palestinians who have seen their statehood dreams slip away. Abbas’ political goals have repeatedly been frustrated by Hamas and by Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister. (Long article)

One in every four Israelis experienced racism last year, poll finds
+972 Blog 21 Mar by Yael Marom — Over half of Israelis believe that Israel has become a more racist society over the past two years, according to a new poll published on Sunday by the Coalition Against Racism in Israel. The poll, conducted with Israeli pollster Rafi Smith and surveyed 400 Jewish Israelis and 100 Arab citizens, was published to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which is held annually on March 21. According to the findings, 79 percent of respondents believe that there is racism against Arabs; 77 percent claimed that there is racism against asylum seekers; 75 percent believe there is racism against Ethiopian-Israelis; 41 percent say Mizrahim (Jews with origins in Arab or Muslim countries) suffer from racism; 39 percent believe that immigrants from the former Soviet Union face discrimination; and 20 percent responded that there is racism against Ashkenazim (Jews of Eastern European ancestry). According to the survey, 25 percent said they had personally faced racist behavior in the past year. Twenty-four percent of Israeli Jews said they personally experienced racism, as opposed to 28 percent of Arabs. Among Russian-speaking citizens, 37 percent said they experienced racism in the past year. Only 11 percent of those polled said they believe Israel has become a less racist place in the past two years (11 percent Jews, 1 percent Arabs). On the other hand, 49 percent of Jews and 67 percent of Arabs believe Israel has become more racist over the past two years. The majority of those polled (72 percent) feel that social media networks only serve to exacerbate racism in Israel.

Arab NGO report says Israeli racism doubled in past year
JPost 21 Mar by Ariel Ben Solomon — A new report against racism by the Mossawa Center – an Advocacy center for Arab citizens in Israel – to be published in the Knesset on Tuesday found that racism doubled in the past year. “We will present the report to MKs in the Knesset with the hope they will do something. We explain that if the government doesn’t do anything, more and more organized racism would be committed by gangs that attack various weak groups of society,” Jafar Farah, director of the NGO Mossawa Center told The Jerusalem Post on Monday evening. “We call for the creation of a governmental commission against racism that will coordinate between the various governmental institutions,” he added. The report documents 465 alleged racist incidents from March 2015 to March 2016, which represents almost a doubling over the previous two years.

Government has yet to allocate church schools promised funds
Haaretz 23 Mar by Jack Khoury — ‘We will bring the matter to our mother churches in Europe, including the Holy See in Rome,’ warns director of Nazareth school — Half a year after a funding agreement was reached between church schools and the Education Ministry, the Finance Ministry and the Social Equality Ministry, the schools have yet to receive any of the 50 million shekels ($13 million) they were promised. At the start of the school year, some 33,000 pupils were kept out of school for a month to protest the cuts in the allocations to these Christian schools by the Education Ministry. The executive committee representing the schools claimed at the time that the ministry was trying to undermine the independence of schools that are among the most successful in the Arab community by demanding changes and reforms in the way the schools were run and budgeted. After a month-long strike and public campaign, and the intervention of senior church leaders, President Reuven Rivlin and MKs, the sides came to an agreement to end the strike. (Continued)

University of California softens anti-Semitism statement
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) 23 Mar by Cassie Paton — The University of California’s regents declared on Wednesday they would not tolerate anti-Semitism on campus but rejected a proposal to equate anti-Zionism with religious bigotry, as they tried to defuse tensions between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian students. The statement of principles, approved unanimously by the university’s governing board, stems from concerns among Jewish students and faculty about a rise in anti-Semitism on several UC campuses in response to recent student activism in support of Israel. Pro-Palestinian campus activists, however, say they are simply voicing legitimate criticism of Israel, which, they say, is being misconstrued, creating a pretext for pro-Israeli activists to squelch the Arab side of the Mideast debate. The regents rebuffed draft language that would have broadly defined opposition to Israel as anti-Jewish bigotry, with the board instead voting to disapprove “anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism.” The action by California’s flagship public university, reflecting a broader conflict playing out on college campuses nationwide, sought to strike a balance between condemning intolerance and protecting free speech . . .Critics said a blanket condemnation of anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism, as contained in the original draft, would have trampled academic freedom and opened the university to costly litigation. Some students said the final language still conflated a political doctrine with anti-Jewish bias and could suppress free speech. “Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism have very little to do with each other,” said Tallie Ben Daniel, an academic advisory council coordinator for the group Jewish Voice for Peace.

For Palestinian artist, spiny cactus makes perfect canvas
Al-Monitor 23 Mar by Shlomi Eldar — Artist Ahmad Yaseen paints the suffering and hopes of the Palestinian people on the prickly pear, a symbol of rugged survival also claimed by the Israelis — . . . A resident of Asira ash-Shamaliya, a village in the Samarian mountains near Nablus, Yaseen decided about a year ago that the cacti growing in and around his village would become his canvases. He realized that he could use them to accurately depict what the Palestinians are going through and how they live. His favorite set of drawings is of two newborns. One is resting in his mother’s arms while the other is breastfeeding. From above, the arms of the mother of the second baby look like a keyless lock. Generally speaking, keys are a recurring motif in Yaseen’s drawings. “This is the key of return,” he explained, adding that it also represents hope. “I have mumbled the words ‘sumud‘ [perseverance] and ‘sabr‘ [patience], and sabr sounds like ‘sabra’ [cactus],” he said. “Sabra is a plant symbolizing the land of Palestine, expressing the rugged nature of the people. It grows everywhere, under all weather conditions. Tenacious and strong, it is hard to stamp out. What better way than to use this plant through which to relate the Palestinian narrative?”

From 1948 until today: A history of silencing Israeli army whistleblowers
Palestine Chronicle 23 Mar by Jonathan Cook – Nazareth — One might expect that only historians would care to revisit the 1948 war that created Israel. And yet the debate about what constitutes truth and myth from that period still provokes raw emotions. Much rests on how those events are reconstructed, not least because the shock waves have yet to subside. Israelis fear, and Palestinians crave, a clearer picture of the past because it would powerfully illuminate the present. It might also influence the international community’s proposed solutions for the conflict. That is why the unearthing of an Israeli soldier’s letter from 1948 detailing what was probably the war’s worst massacre – one long buried by Israel – is of more than historical significance. It comes as Moshe Yaalon, the defense minister, this week accused Breaking the Silence, an Israeli organisation that exposes military abuses, of “treason” for collecting evidence from the army’s current whistle-blowers . . . For decades Israel’s chief concession to the truth was an admission that a massacre took place just outside Jerusalem, at Deir Yassin. Israel claimed the atrocity was the exception that proved the rule: a rogue militia killed more than 100 villagers, violating Israel’s ethical codes in the chaotic weeks before statehood was declared. Palestinians have always known of dozens of other large massacres of civilians from 1948 carried out by the Israeli army. The barbarity, they say, was intended to terrorize the native population into flight. This account puts responsibility on Israel for taking the refugees back . . . Last year a key deception was punctured: that Israel urged many of the war’s 750,000 Palestinian refugees to return. In a letter to Haifa’s leaders shortly after the city’s Palestinians were expelled, David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, demanded that any return be barred. Now another letter, located by Israeli historian Yair Auron and published last week for the first time in English by the Haaretz newspaper, trashes the idea of an ethical Israel army. Written by Shabtai Kaplan, a soldier and journalist, the letter confirms long-held suspicions of a massacre – one that dwarfs Deir Yassin – at Dawaymeh, near Hebron. Soldiers executed hundreds of men, women and children who offered no resistance. The massacre, near the end of the war, was carried out by elite troops under the command of Yitzhak Sadeh. He developed the Israeli army’s famous doctrine of “purity of arms” (Continued). (listserv) (archive)

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Yup, I thought there was more to Purim in Israel than just masks, feasting, fun, and genociding a couple of ten-thousand people because they appeared to have embroidered vests beneath their burnooses. And they “twitched”!