Illinois becomes first state to list companies banned for business due to BDS
WASHINGTON (JTA) 20 Mar — An Illinois state agency named 11 companies barred from doing business with the state for boycotting Israel or its settlements, the first such designation by an official US body. A number of the entities on the list approved Friday by the Illinois Investment Policy board have pulled money from Israeli businesses that operate in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, but have not boycotted Israel within its 1967 lines. At least two of the entities have said their disinvestment from Israel in recent years was based on commercial, not political, calculations. The Illinois law passed last year explicitly bars dealing with companies that boycott Israeli operations in territories controlled by Israel . . . More than 20 states are considering bills or have passed laws targeting companies that comply with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. Most of these penalize only companies that boycott Israel, although nine states, like Illinois, have passed or are considering passing laws that extend the penalties to entities that boycott Israeli businesses operating in the West Bank
Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
UPDATE: Israeli soldiers kill a Palestinian in Hebron
IMEMC 19 Mar — Israeli soldiers shot and killed, on Saturday morning, a Palestinian teenager in the southern area of Hebron’s Old City, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank, allegedly after he attempted to stab a soldier. Medical sources in Hebron said the soldiers fired several rounds of live ammunition at Abdullah Mohammad al-‘Ajlouni, 18, fatally wounding him in the upper parts of his body. The incident took place near the Abu ar-Reesh military roadblock, close to the Ibrahimi Mosque, in the Old City of Hebron. An Israeli ambulance later moved the young man to the Hadassah Medical Center, in occupied Jerusalem. Eyewitnesses said the soldiers closed all the entrances of the Ibrahimi Mosque and prevented the Palestinians from entering it, in addition to closing all roads leading to the area where the deadly shooting took place.
Hours after al-‘Ajlouni’s death, the Israeli army allowed the transfer of his body to the Palestinian side, before he was taken to his family home, and later to the Tareq Bin Ziad Mosque, in Hebron, where the locals held his funeral. Despite extensive military restrictions and deployment, hundreds marched in his funeral procession, carrying Palestinian flags, pictures of al-‘Ajlouni and dozens of Palestinians, recently killed by the army in Hebron, while chanting against the occupation and its escalating violations.
Hundreds attend funeral of Palestinian killed after alleged stab attack
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 19 Mar — Hundreds of Palestinians attended a funeral held in Hebron on Saturday for a Palestinian man who was shot dead by Israeli troops after allegedly attempting to carry out a stabbing attack at the Gush Etzion junction on Friday. Mourners marched from al-Ahli hospital as the body of Mahmud Ahmad Abu Fanunah, 21, was carried in a vehicle to the family home in the Wadi al-Hariyya neighborhood. The body was then carried to Abu Eisha mosque, where hundreds performed the funeral prayer before Abu Fanunah was laid to rest in the neighborhood cemetery. “It is obvious the Israeli occupation insists on killing Palestinians in cold blood,” the governor of Hebron, Kamil Hmeid, said during the funeral. Abu Fanunah was shot dead after allegedly attempting to carry out a stabbing attack at the Gush Etzion junction, shortly after two Palestinians were detained on suspicions of planning an attack in the illegal Shaare Benjamin settlement. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an that an “assailant armed with a knife exited his vehicle and charged at soldiers” at the Gush Etzion junction southwest of Bethlehem, with soldiers opening fire, killing the man and “foiling” the alleged attack. Witnesses disputed the army’s account of the incident and told Ma‘an that Abu Fanunah was “not holding anything in his hands” when Israeli forces opened fire, killing him on the spot.
Thousands attend funeral of 2 slain Palestinians
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 Mar — Thousands attended a funeral on Sunday in the village of Beit Fajjar in the occupied West Bank for two Palestinians who were shot dead after a stab attack left an Israeli soldier injured. Israeli authorities returned the bodies of Ali Abd al-Rahman al-Kar Thawabta, 20, and Ali Jamal Muhammad Taqatqa, 19, at a military checkpoint near the village of Husan, before an ambulance took them to the Beit Jala hospital. The funeral procession started from the Beit Jala hospital before heading to the slain Palestinians’ hometown of Beit Fajjar in the southern West Bank district of Bethlehem. Mourners chanted slogans calling for revenge against Israel and raised Palestinian flags. Thawabta and Taqatqa were killed on Thursday after carrying out a stab attack that injured an Israeli soldier near the illegal Israeli settlement of Ariel in the northern occupied West Bank district of Salfit. Witnesses told Ma‘an that the two Palestinians were shot “dozens” of times.
Israeli troops raid West Bank village day after funeral of slain Palestinians
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 21 Mar — Israeli troops raided the village of Beit Fajjar east of Bethlehem early on Monday, storming several houses and detaining two Palestinians. The raid took place a day after the funerals of Ali Abd al-Rahman al-Kar Thawabta, 20, and Ali Jamal Muhammad Taqatqa, 19, who were killed by Israeli forces on Thursday after carrying out a stab attack that injured an Israeli soldier near the illegal Israeli settlement of Ariel in the northern occupied West Bank. Local sources said that Israeli troops raided Thawabta’s house and detained his brother Muhammad, 24. They also detained Muhammad Akram Taqatqa, 22. Witnesses said Israeli excavators escorted by Israeli troops raided the al-Mahajer neighborhood of Beit Fajjar, seizing equipment and detaining workers in the area. Israeli forces have shut down most roads leading to Beit Fajjar since Thursday, except for one between the villages of Sair and al-Manshiya . . . Over 200 Palestinians and just under 30 Israelis have been killed since October, and attempts to quell the violence by the international community have subsequently failed.
Witness intimidation in Douma: Arson attack against only witness to burning alive of family
IMEMC/Agencies 21 Mar — The home of the only witness in last July’s Douma arson attack (in which a mother, father and baby were burned alive by Israeli settlers) was set on fire early Sunday morning by unknown assailants, in an apparent act of witness intimidation. Ibrahim Mohammad Dawabsha, 26, is the only witness in the case against several Israeli settlers charged with arson. He has already testified several times as to what he saw during the late-night attack last fall in which an entire family was burned alive in their beds. Just one member of the family, 4-year old Ahmad Dawabsha, managed to survive that attack. He has been left with severe burns and scarring all over his body, as well as the loss of his mother, father and baby brother. Following this Sunday’s early morning arson, Israeli military forces arrived into the town and abducted the victim of the arson and his father, taking them to an unknown destination. The military put the entire town under a closure, forcing everyone to remain in their homes under penalty of death, until 8 am. At 8, as children began to come out of their homes to go to school, the Israeli forces began shooting live rounds at them, as well as tear gas and concussion grenades. The military made no effort to ascertain the identity or to apprehend the perpetrators of the attack. Ghassan Daghlas, the Palestinian Authority’s official in charge of monitoring Israeli settlement activities in the northern West Bank, said that the attack Sunday morning on Ibrahim’s house was an explicit assault against the witness and his wife, who were asleep in their beds. Daghlas said it appeared to be an attempt to burn them alive, much like the earlier attack on the family of his relatives last fall. Ibrahim and his wife were moved to the Rafidia hospital for treatment, after suffocating on the fumes from the fire. Upon their release from the hospital, the Israeli military abducted Ibrahim and his father.
Home of key witness in Duma arson-murder catches fire
Haaretz 20 Mar by Amira Hass and Gili Cohen —A fire on Sunday in the West Bank village of Duma damaged the house of a key witness to a deadly arson attack there last summer, which killed three members of a Palestinian family. Police said they do not suspect any nationalist motive behind Sunday’s fire, pointing at findings from the scene that don’t indicate Jewish involvement. But details of the investigation were under gag-order. In Sunday’s fire a Palestinian relative of the slain Dawabsheh family, was very lightly wounded from smoke inhalation. The house only sustained partial [but serious, acc. to the photos] damage and there were no slogans daubed nearby that are more typical of attacks by Jewish extremists. (Continued)
Duma leader accuses PA of inaction after latest arson attack
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 20 Mar — The council leader of the village of Duma in the occupied West Bank has accused the Palestinian Authority of negligence in the months prior to an arson attack on a home in the village on Saturday night. Unidentified assailants set fire to a house in Duma at 2 a.m., targeting the only witness of an arson attack that killed a Palestinian family last year. Ibrahim Dawabsha and his wife were hospitalized after they suffered from smoke inhalation due to the Molotov cocktails thrown at their home. Although the identities of the arsonists was as of yet unknown, Palestinian officials have condemned the attack and accused Israel of cultivating a culture of impunity by rarely investigating and prosecuting acts of violence by Israeli settlers in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem. Speaking to Ma‘an on Sunday hours after the attack, Abd al-Salam Dawabsha said Palestinian authorities hadn’t provided aid requested by Duma’s local council to organize local night watchmen to guard the village. Duma made international headlines after extremist Israeli settlers set fire to a house in the village on July 30 last year. Ahmad Dawabsha, now 5 years old, was the only survivor of the attack, which killed both his parents, Saad and Riham Dawabsha, as well as his 18-month-old brother, Ali.
Nearly 90 Palestinian villages in the West Bank currently implement nightly patrols. Autonomous from the government and unarmed, the groups form an organized system of self-protection against settler attacks that Israeli authorities are complicit in and the PA has no jurisdiction to prevent. The formation of now long-running night guard systems in villages and towns across the West Bank marks the inability of the PA to provide security to Palestinians, that analysts say the PA from its inception was never intended to give. Abd al-Salam Dawabsha said Duma’s council had sent an official letter to the PLO Commission Against the Wall and Settlements asking for a monthly budget of 20,000 shekels ($5,186) to hire seven to 10 watchmen, as well as equipment. However, “nothing has arrived so far and I don’t think we have been asking too much” for a village facing settler attacks on a nearly daily basis, the council leader said, adding that a suggestion by the Duma council to have some young men from the village work with PA security services was “turned down.” Commission Against the Wall and Settlements head Walid Assaf said the remarks were inaccurate, and that equipment had been provided through the Fatah political party across the West Bank. “We provided winter jackets for the watchmen, as well as flashlights and prepaid mobile phone cards in 100 locations suffering from settler attacks through Fatah movement’s branches,” Assaf said. “I don’t know how the supplies were delivered, but I know they were delivered to the Fatah movement. Nobody has contacted me to tell that the supplies were not received,” he added, noting that his commission’s budget was limited and couldn’t afford to employ or pay for watchmen.
VIDEO: From stones to knives & settler crimes: The innocence of Ahmad Manasrah
MiddleEastRising 20 Mar by Ariyana Love — Breaking report: Israeli ministry falsified evidence to whitewash settler crimes and frame child Ahmad Manasrah on false charges –– CCTV security footage indicating 13-year-old Ahmad Manasrah and 15-year-old Hassan Manasrah running with knives in Occupied East Jerusalem has been confirmed by experts as doctored and fake, tampered with prior to release by the Israeli government, in an attempt to whitewash Hassan’s extrajudicial execution and the attempted execution of Ahmad by criminal, illegal settlers on October 12th 2015. Below is our breaking 10-minute investigative report explaining where the security footage was doctored, concluding that there were no knives in either Ahmad or Hassan’s hands: A private investigative firm in Canada analyzed the one and a half minute security footage frame by frame, in order to determine if it was authentic. It was a process that took over 10 hours. In multiple places the footage was doctored and the investigator demonstrates how the two knives that were edited into the hands of Hassan and Ahmad, can be seen disappearing and reappearing repeatedly
Israeli soldiers kidnap two Palestinians in Jenin, injure three near Bethlehem
IMEMC 19 Mar — Israeli soldiers kidnapped, Saturday, two Palestinians from the northern West Bank district of Jenin; one of them is a former political prisoner who was held for 13 years. The soldiers also invaded Teqoua‘ [or Taqu‘] town, in the Bethlehem district, and injured three Palestinians. The soldiers invaded Ya‘bad town, west of Jenin, after surrounding it, kidnapped Ziad Khaled Qalaqla and confiscated his truck. Qalaqla is from the nearby town of al-Jadeeda. Head of the Ya‘bad Local Council, Samer Abu Bakr, said the soldiers surrounded the town before invading it, clashed with many local youths, protesting the invasion, and fired many concussion grenades and gas bombs. Also in Jenin, the soldiers kidnapped a former political prisoner, identified as Shadi Jarrar, 37, from Wad Burqin area west of Jenin, after stopping him on a military roadblock near Nablus city, in the northern part of the occupied West Bank. The kidnapped Palestinian is a former political prisoner, who was released two years ago, after being held by Israel for thirteen years. In related news, the army said one of its military jeeps flipped over near Ya‘bad town, after crashing into a Palestinian truck, and that the soldiers started a search campaign, looking for the truck. In addition, several Israeli military vehicles invaded Teqoua‘’ town, east of Bethlehem, from its western entrance, and clashed with many local youths, who hurled stones and empty bottles at them. The army fired many live rounds, including the Toto  bullets that detonate after impact, illegal for use against a civilian population, wounding one Palestinian man, in his forties, while a young man and a child were shot with live bullets.
Israel punitively demolishes Palestinian home in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (WAFA) 21 Mar – Bulldozers of the so-called Israeli West Jerusalem municipality Monday punitively demolished a Palestinian-owned home in the Jabal al-Mukaber neighborhood to the southeast of Jerusalem. Sources reported that large Israeli police reinforcements stormed the neighborhood, and imposed a tight military cordon around the house before demolishing it. The house belongs to local Palestinian Mohammed Ja‘abis; the brother of Israa Ja‘abis, who is currently held in Israeli jails for her alleged partaking in a stabbing attempt against Israeli soldiers manning an Israeli military checkpoint near the east Jerusalem village of al-Zaeem. Israa Ja‘abis, a 31-year-old female from Jerusalem, was detained on October 10th, 2015, for allegedly “attempting to murder” Israeli soldiers, after a gas cylinder detonated inside her car on that day. The family of Ja‘abis said that, at the time of the incident, Ja‘abis was moving furniture in her private car to a new apartment. They said that she was also carrying a TV, a fact, which they said, the Israeli police failed to mention. It should be noted that the explosion took place almost 500 meters away from the checkpoint. Ja‘abis suffered from first and three degree burns over 50% of her body, including the back, chest, hands, and face; which was distorted. Eight fingers were also mutilated by the explosion.
Jordan: Cameras to be installed on Temple Mount to document Israeli ‘violations’
JPost 19 Mar by Khaled Abu Toameh — Surveillance cameras will be installed on the Temple Mount in the coming days, Jordanian Minister of State for Information Muhammad al-Mumani announced over the weekend. He said that the cameras were not intended to help Israel arrest Muslim men and women who have been protesting visits by Jews to the site. The decision to install the cameras was reached under the auspices of US Secretary of State John Kerry late last year as part of a deal to end tensions on the Temple Mount. Mumani said that the cameras would document Israeli “violations and incursions to Islamic holy sites and allow 1.7 billion Muslims to follow online what’s happening at the Aqsa Mosque compound. “Jordan considers the protection of the holy Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem a red line,” he added. The cameras would be installed at the site in the next few days, he said. The Jordanian minister added, however, that the cameras would not be installed inside the Aqsa Mosque, “because their purpose is to document Israeli trespasses.” The Jordanian-controlled Waqf Islamic trust in Jerusalem will be responsible for monitoring the cameras, which will cover an area of 14.4 hectares (35.25 acres), Mumani said. The cameras had been purchased and were being inspected by engineers, he said. He did not say whether the Palestinian Authority has agreed to the installation of the cameras. Some senior Palestinian Islamic clerics have voiced opposition to the move, saying Israel would use the footage to arrest Palestinian protesters opposed to visits by Jews to the Temple Mount.
CCTV cameras at Al-Aqsa will not lower tensions in Jerusalem
+972 Blog 19 Mar by Aviv Tatarsky — It is welcome news that the long-awaited cameras will finally be installed soon. The bad news is that they don’t even touch the root of the problem — restrictions on Muslim worshipers accessing Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount — . . . The usual explanations we hear for the violence are “provocations by Jewish Temple Mount activists” on the one hand, and “Palestinian incitement” on the other. Yet regardless of what we think and what we are told are the sources of tension, this has been an ongoing phenomenon throughout the year. Why is it, then, that violence has broken out around the High Holy Days for the past two years? And why was there no violence during the High Holy Days in 2013, despite the fact that the struggle between Temple Mount activists and their Muslim counterparts was as tense as ever? -More restrictions, more violence- Something significant changed between 2013 and 2014. Starting in June 2014, Israeli police began placing unprecedented restrictions on the entry of Muslim worshipers to Haram al-Sharif. Those restrictions, which were implemented between the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashana and Sukkot, were imposed based on age and gender, thus negatively impacting an entire population that had never been involved in any rioting, clashes, or crime. The collective restrictions reappeared during the High Holidays in 2015. As far as the police are concerned, the collective restrictions were borne of security concerns. But the results, in reality, had an unequivocal and opposite consequence: [the] reinstitution [of] restrictions on access to Al-Aqsa on the eve of Rosh Hashana, on September 13, immediately led to the outbreak of violence, which spread rapidly from the closed-off Temple Mount through the alleyways of the Old City and throughout the streets of East Jerusalem. (Continued)
Three Palestinians injured, 5 missing after Gaza tunnel collapse
i24news 19 Mar — At least three Palestinians were injured and five reported missing after a tunnel collapsed in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday, according to Palestinian media. According to the reports, a Hamas tunnel collapsed near the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis. Since January 26, at least 13 Gazans have been killed in six separate tunnel collapses with both Israel and Egypt operating against the diggers.
IOF opens fire at Gazan farmers
GAZA (PIC) 20 Mar — The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) on Sunday opened machinegun fire at Palestinian farmers in the Gaza Strip while working in their agricultural lands east of Hajer al-Deek town south of Gaza City. A local source told Quds Press that Israeli border soldiers opened fire from their military posts at farmers working their lands, forcing them to leave their field which came under fire. The source added that the farmers escaped unhurt from the areas with no reported casualties. The Israeli army violates the 2014 ceasefire agreement in Gaza almost on a daily basis.
Hamas slams Israeli decision to freeze weekly Aqsa trips
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 19 Mar — The Hamas movement on Saturday condemned a recent decision by Israel to cancel the weekly trip permitted for Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem. Hamas made the statement on social media, days after Israel on Wednesday called off the agreement, which previously allowed 200 Gazans above the age of 60 to worship at the holy site as part of a ceasefire agreement that ended the 2014 Gaza war. The movement also condemned an Israeli decision to prevent Palestinians in Gaza from traveling abroad through the Beit Hanoun crossing to the Jordan bridge. “We consider these decisions an escalation of the Israeli blockade on Gaza and call on the international community to intervene and stop these Israeli crimes,” Hamas said. Palestinian liaison officials told Ma‘an earlier this week that Israel canceled the agreement due to allegations that Palestinians traveling for worship were not returning to the Gaza Strip on the same day of the visit, as the agreement stipulated . . . The Israeli authorities reportedly revoked hundreds of entry permits from Gaza to Israel last month, and COGAT head Yoav Mordechai in January threatened to seal all crossing currently permitted out of the besieged enclave.
850 Gaza Christians receive permits to celebrate Easter in Jerusalem
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 19 Mar — Hundreds of Christian Palestinians from the Gaza Strip will travel to celebrate Easter in Bethlehem and occupied East Jerusalem after the Israeli authorities agreed to grant them permits, a Palestinian Authority official said Saturday. Muhammad al-Maqadma, a public information officer for the Palestinian Ministry of Civil Affairs, told Ma‘an that Israel had granted around 850 permits to Gaza Christians of different ages to travel to the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Al-Maqadma said the permits were the result of “dedicated efforts” by Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh in order to enable hundreds of Christians to celebrate the holidays within a span of 45 days. This is the first time such a large number of Christians from Gaza received permits to travel to the West Bank and Jerusalem, al-Maqadma added.
The inflow of permits comes after hundreds of travel permits were revoked from Palestinians in Gaza last month, and Israel froze an agreement earlier this week that previously permitted a limited number of Gazans above the age of 60 to travel to occupied East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa for Friday worship. In a press briefing on Thursday, the rector of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Father Jamal Khader, said the way permits were attributed in past years affected the number of Gaza Christians who could actually travel to Jerusalem for Easter. “In previous years, permits (for Gaza Christians) were given randomly, and if they don’t have them for the whole family, they cannot come,” Khader said. “Can you imagine some members of the family coming to celebrate in Jerusalem and leaving behind their family? It’s not in our traditions, we celebrate together. So we had the experience in previous years when very few came. This year I’m not sure.”
UNRWA allocates US$6 million to victims of 2014 Israeli aggression
GAZA (PIC) 20 Mar — The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) declared on Sunday that it allocated US$6 million of its funds for the reconstruction of part of the destroyed areas in the Gaza Strip. US$1.78 million are allocated for the reconstruction, while US$4.22 million are allocated for the rehabilitation of houses severely affected during the 2014 Israeli aggression. A total of 1,095 refugee families will receive financial assistance through local banks, the agency said. Temporary housing solutions will be found during the reconstruction process, according to the UN agency.
For the first time in 15 years … Gaza’s border wheat to be harvested
PIC 20 Mar — Since 2002, Gazan farmer Salamah Mehanna, 60, was like many other Gazan farmers deprived from reaching his land along the border east of Qarara in the southern Gaza Strip. He confirmed to the PIC reporter that for the past 15 years he was not able to sow his land with wheat not until a few months ago, expressing his great pleasure with this achievement. Architect Nizar al-Wahidi, director general of guidance department at the Ministry of Agriculture, told the PIC reporter that the Ministry of Agriculture is making great efforts to develop the agricultural lands there, and strengthen the farmers’ steadfastness. Suhair Zaqout, media spokeswoman of the Red Cross, emphasized in her talk to the PIC reporter, that “the Red Cross had had an important role in the coordination with the Israeli occupation authority in order to allow those farmers to cultivate their lands after long forcible years of absence.” Undeclared bilateral dialogues organized by the Red Cross with all parties, including the resistance factions, yielded access permissions to the areas that were only allowed for the Red Cross to enter. Big losses Farmer Nimr Jaradat is eagerly waiting for the cultivation of his land on the border at Shoukeh village at the southern tip of the Gaza Strip. He told the PIC reporter that he was prevented since 2006 from cultivating his six-dunum land with wheat, but he could finally do so now. (Continued)
Gaza’s sole power plant to shut down due to blue tax
GAZA (PIC) 20 Mar — Gaza’s Energy and Natural Resources Authority warned of an imminent breakdown to rock Gaza’s sole power plant due to the continued imposition of the blue tax by the Finance Ministry in Ramallah. The Energy Authority said in a statement the Finance Ministry’s decision to reimpose the blue tax on electricity fuel might force Gaza’s only power plant to shut down. According to the statement, such a decision stands in sharp contrast to the cabinet decisions to exempt besieged Gaza from the blue tax. The blue tax will inflict an additional loss of nine million shekels beside the regular monthly cost, it added. The authority condemned the decision, saying it will deeply affect power services in the besieged coastal enclave and curtail Gaza’s fuel resources. Gaza’s Energy Authority called for swift action to address the situation and avoid further power crises.
Gaza woes force educated to leave
EI 18 Mar by Mousa Tawfiq — . . . After nearly 10 years of suffocating siege, the Gaza Strip’s economy lies in tatters. The 43 percent unemployment rate is the highest in the world, according to the World Bank, and youth unemployment has soared above 60 percent. In such a climate, it is not surprising that Gaza’s brighter and better educated, like Humeid, seek their futures elsewhere . . . When the news that Egypt was to open the crossing in February broke, more than 25,000 people registered to cross. Fewer than 2,500 eventually made it. Many simply wanted to get out of Gaza for a while. After nearly 10 years of siege and three Israeli military assaults, a break from Gaza is a break from prison. But observers have also noted an increasing number of educated people leaving to make their lives elsewhere. And Gaza’s brain drain is causing concern. “Unemployment is the main reason,” said Samir Abu Mudalala, an economic analyst and head of the Department of Economics at Al-Azhar University in Gaza. “In the 1950s and 60s, Palestine was known as an exporter of educated and highly qualified people,” he added. “But more than 400,000 Palestinians were expelled after the 1990 Gulf War and came back to Palestine where most of them did not find jobs.” Abu Mudalala said 110,000 university graduates in Gaza are unemployed. And it was this that was spurring many on to get out. “The numbers are dangerous,” Abu Mudalala said. “The Palestinian economy will suffer from a shortage of people who may be able to develop the national economy and increase GDP. At the same time, we will face a political challenge because instead of sticking to their land, educated Palestinians look forward to leaving it.”
Fleeing the world’s largest prison: a journey from Gaza to Israel
+972 mag 17 Mar by Samah Salaime — When Shefaa was granted permission to leave Gaza for a four-day visit to Israel to meet with a group of Jewish and Palestinian women, it was nothing short of a miracle. There she could tell her story and dispel the myths about life in Gaza — I want to talk about the weekend I spent with a group of young women — Arabs and Jews from Israel and Palestine — to talk about women and war. I tried to take advantage of this project to encourage one young woman, Shefaa from Gaza, to join the group. Maybe, just maybe, there will be a miracle and she will be able to get a permit. After three years of knowing each other from afar, two wars, the death of her aunt in a Jerusalem hospital, and her father’s surgery in Israel, her family was able to leave the prison that is Gaza for serious medical procedures. Shefaa, however, was not able to leave. Her dream was to visit Nazareth, Tiberias, Jerusalem, and Haifa. Shefaa (not her real name) is 30 years old, works with women in Gaza, a fashion designer with embroidery, and a member of a Gaza youth community initiative. We speak on the phone and send messages back and forth. I get updates from her — like from other women — about the situation in Gaza. I did not believe her when she [said] both Hamas and Israel allowed her entry permits . . . One of the most difficult moments in the group was when Shefaa tried to answer a question whose subtext was, “if life is so bad for you, why don’t you resist?” (Continued)
Water apartheid in Gaza and Flint
EI 18 Mar by David Cronin — At first glance, the nature of the water crises in Gaza and Michigan look very different. Gaza’s water infrastructure has been bombed repeatedly by Israel. Despite their many problems, the people of Flint and Detroit have been spared such overt brutality. So why did women in Gaza send a message of compassion to women in Flint earlier this month? The answer is simple: both are striving to hold the powerful to account for how the water on which they and their families depend has been contaminated. The letter from Gaza to Flint — signed by various activists, including the prominent doctor Mona el-Farra — notes that Israel controls Palestinian water. The Israeli occupation steals from the coastal aquifer that is Gaza’s main source of water, prevents Palestinians from building sewage treatment facilities and forces them to buy water at prices they cannot afford. Ordinary people in Flint do not enjoy any sovereignty when it comes to water, either. Over the past few years, Rick Snyder, Michigan’s governor, has appointed a series of “emergency managers” — unelected technocrats, with powers to sell off public assets, invalidate union contracts and to undermine local democracy. In 2014, Darnell Earley, one of these emergency managers, decided that Flint should begin using water from Flint River. That was despite how the Michigan authorities deemed water from the river to be unsafe for drinking. (Continued)
Prisoners / Court actions
Police drop charges against rabbi who fought Bedouin home demolitions
Haaretz 19 Mar by Almog Ben Zikri — An Israeli court has scrapped an indictment against a rabbi activist over his refusal to comply with a police request to vacate premises in an unauthorized Bedouin village that was slated for demolition. Rabbi Arik Ascherman, the president of Rabbis for Human Rights, was charged with disrupting an officer after an incident that unfolded during a 2014 protest against the evacuation of the unauthorized Bedouin village of Al-Arakib in the northern Negev. Police were dispatched to the village and began demolishing 20 structures that were erected in the area without permission from the authorities. In a show of opposition, residents of the village and social activists including Ascherman holed themselves up in a mosque that had been built in the cemetery adjacent to the village. In September 2014, an indictment was filed against Ascherman that alleged that he lied down on the floor of the mosque and refused to leave. The indictment stated that he had to be removed by force and was arrested with a number of others. Initially he was investigated on more extensive changes involving obstructing the work of a police officer, trespassing and possession of property by force, but the indictment that was filed was more narrowly drawn. Under questioning, Ascherman denied that he had been violent toward the police, claiming that they had actually struck him, kicking him, hitting him in the jaw and injuring him in his ribs and arms. None of the other demonstrators were indicted, which Ascherman’s lawyer, Shahda Ibn Bari, called selective prosecution on the part of the police. While the indictment against Ascherman was pending, he refused offers of a plea agreement or mediation. (Continued)
Weekly report on Israeli human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory (10-16 March 2016)
PCHR-Gaza 17 Mar — Israeli forces continued to use excessive force in the oPt 3 Palestinian civilians were killed and a 4th succumbed to his injuries in the West Bank. 6 Palestinian civilians, including 5 children, were wounded in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli warplanes carried out 4 airstrikes against training sites and other targets in the Gaza Strip. 2 siblings were killed and their 2 other siblings were wounded in an airstrike, north of the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces continued to target the border areas along the Gaza Strip, due to which, a scrap collector was wounded in the east of Khan Yunis. Israeli forces conducted 83 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank and a limited one in the southern Gaza Strip. 74 Palestinian civilians, including 6 children, 2 women and 3 journalists, were arrested. Two of the journalists were arrested. 16 of them, including a child and 2 women, were arrested in occupied Jerusalem. Israeli forces raided TransMedia Production Company and confiscated some contents. Israeli forces raided also Palestine Technical (Khadoori) University in Tulkarm twice. Israeli forces continued their efforts to create Jewish majority in occupied East Jerusalem. (Continued, with details on these and other violations)
Turkey: 3 Israelis dead, 6 Palestinians wounded in blast
IMEMC/Agencies 20 Mar — Three Israelis were reported killed and 11 injured in a suicide bomb attack which occurred in Istanbul on Saturday. Six of the Israelis were identified by Palestinian member of Knesset, Ayman Odeh, as Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. Initial reports said that at least five people were killed during the attack in the Turkish city, including the assailant, and another 36 injured . . . The blast hit Istiklal Street, a popular pedestrian boulevard closed to traffic lined with shops and cafes, theaters, and foreign consulates. Israeli media reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered increased personnel at the Israeli consulate in Istanbul, in the aftermath of the attack.
Palestinian Authority presents claims against Israel to International Criminal Court
Haaretz 20 Mar by Jack Khoury — Senior officials from the Palestinian Authority met with representatives of the International Criminal Court in Amman on Saturday, and presented them with Palestinian claims against Israel concerning cases they have already filed with the court. The Palestinian delegation consists of lawyers and activists from the committee responsible for the ICC cases on behalf of the PLO and human rights organizations within the PA. ICC representatives received a general briefing on the settlements enterprise, including figures and aerial photographs, and the effect of the settlements on Palestinian lives, the Jordanian newspaper Al-Ghad reported on Sunday morning, quoting a senior Palestinian delegation member. The meetings will continue through Monday. The Palestinians will present four cases, all linked to the settlements and Israel’s actions in Hebron and East Jerusalem, alongside allegations of environmental damage, appropriation of water resources, expropriation of land and aggression from settlers, added the official. The official said the Palestinians will raise the case of the arson against the Dawabshe family home and the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir. PA officials expect ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to adopt the Palestinian position and determine the evidence is sufficient to open an investigation, especially because this is one of the main cases submitted by the Palestinians to the court. Palestinian sources said they are countering the international pressure the United States, in conjunction with Israel, has spearheaded to halt the cases.(Continued)
Breaking the Silence under investigation after report claims it collects military intel
Haaretz 18 Mar by Gili Cohen, Jonathan Lis & Barak Ravid — Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has ordered the Israel Defense Forces to investigate whether classified material has been passed onto Breaking the Silence. The nongovernmental organization responded that all the soldiers’ testimonies it publishes are cleared by the military censor. Ya’alon’s order followed a Channel 2 report on Thursday that claimed the NGO gathers information about military operations while collecting testimonies from former soldiers who served in the occupied territories. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted Breaking the Silence after the report was aired and said an investigation had been launched into the allegations. He added that the group has “crossed yet another red line.” The TV report was based on hidden camera footage recorded by the far-right Ad Kan group, which plants activists in leftist organizations to collect incriminating information. The footage shows Breaking the Silence activists collecting testimony from former soldiers and asking them about Gaza tunnels as well as military equipment, positions and operation protocols. Breaking the Silence executive director Yuli Novak accused the prime minister of “turning Israel’s security services into a political tool. That’s the real, dangerous crossing of red lines, and this is what needs to be investigated.
Breaking the Silence: The poem that exposed Israeli war crimes in 1948
Haaretz 18 Mar by Yair Auron — A poem published by Natan Alterman during Israel’s War of Independence criticizing human-rights abuses was lauded by Prime Minister Ben-Gurion, who even distributed 100,000 copies of it among soldiers; other such testimonies were made to disappear. On November 19, 1948, Natan Alterman, whose influential “Seventh Column” – an op-ed in poetry form – appeared every Friday in the daily Davar, the mouthpiece of Israel’s ruling Mapai party (forerunner of Labor), published a poem titled “About This.” Excerpts: Across the vanquished city in a jeep he did speed – / A lad bold and armed, a young lion of a lad! / And an old man and a woman on that very street / cowered against a wall, in fear of him clad. / Said the lad smiling, milk teeth shining: / “I’ll try the machine gun”… and put it into play! / To hide his face in his hands the old man barely had time / When his blood on the wall was sprayed. . . What were the war crimes referred to in the poem? The massacres perpetrated by Israeli forces in Lydda (Lod) and in the village of Al-Dawayima, west of Hebron, were among the worst mass killings of the entire War of Independence. In an interview in Haaretz in 2004, historian Benny Morris (author of “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949”) declared that the most egregious massacres “occurred at Saliha, in Upper Galilee (70-80 victims), Deir Yassin on the outskirts of Jerusalem (100-110), Lod (50), Dawamiya (hundreds) and perhaps Abu Shusha (70).” . . . On July 10, Lod was bombed by the Israeli air force, the first such attack in the War of Independence . . . To their surprise, the IDF units encountered little or no resistance. Even so, there are Palestinian and other Arab sources that allege that 250 people were massacred after Lod was taken. Claims about the scale of the massacre gain credence from Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, who maintains that the army killed 426 men, women and children in a local mosque and the surrounding streets. According to him, 176 bodies were found in the mosque, and the rest outside. (Continued)
Ethiopian Israelis protest after immigration plan axed
MEE 20 Mar — Hundreds of Ethiopian Israelis marched in Jerusalem on Sunday after the government cancelled plans to allow their relatives to emigrate from the African nation, calling the move discrimination. The Israeli government had in November voted to allow the immigration of some 9,100 Ethiopians known as Falash Mura, descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity, many under duress, in the 18th and 19th centuries. But on 7 March, a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office informed members of parliament the decision would not be implemented because of budgetary constraints. Israel brought the bulk of Ethiopia’s Jewish community to the country between 1984 and 1991 under the Law of Return, guaranteeing citizenship to all Jews, but the law does not apply to the Falash Mura. Israel’s Ethiopian community includes about 135,000 people. Police and organisers estimated the crowd at up to 2,000 people for Sunday’s march, which ended outside Netanyahu’s office . . . Revital Swid, a lawmaker from the opposition Zionist Union, also accused the government of racial discrimination. “Would the government tell even one Jew from Russia, or Europe, or America who had family in Israel, we don’t have the money to bring you here?” she asked ahead of the march.
Christians concerned with Israeli restrictions for Holy Week, Easter
JERUSALEM (CNS) 18 Mar by Judith Sudilovsky — Israeli restrictions on reaching the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for Holy Week and Easter are part of the current Israeli government’s policy of making Jerusalem an exclusively Jewish city, said Yusef Daher, secretary-general of the Jerusalem Interchurch Center. Describing the network of Israeli police barriers that disrupt the flow and number of people able to reach the church for Good Friday services and the Orthodox Holy Fire ceremony at the Easter Vigil, Daher acknowledged that although the single entrance and exit to the church cause a potential hazard in case of a fire, there had been no problem in more than a century . . . Palestinian Christians living in the West Bank and Gaza also need special permits in order to attend Holy Week and Easter ceremonies. Israel grants the permits at the last minute, and then often does not grant enough for everyone in the family to travel . . . Over the past two years the Jewish Passover and Easter holiday have coincided and while the Jews entering the Old City have had complete freedom of movement, the movement of Christians celebrating Good Friday and the Orthodox Holy Fire ceremony have been restricted by the barriers, Daher said. Meanwhile, he said, as Palm Sunday approaches, West Bank and Gaza Palestinians had not yet received their permits, which made it difficult for West Bank parishes to plan for the transportation to Jerusalem in order to participate in the traditional procession into Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, following the path Jesus is thought to have taken, said Khader. He said he hoped permits would still be issued.
PM: Israeli decision to ban Palestinian products ‘racist’
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 20 Mar — Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Sunday slammed the recent Israeli decision to ban Palestinian food products from entering Jerusalem as “racist.” “Israel is moving forward with attempts to isolate Jerusalem from its surroundings and erase its identity,” Hamdallah said during an opening of a Palestinian food exhibition at an al-Bireh municipality building near Ramallah in the central occupied West Bank. Hamdallah described the recent decision by Israeli authorities to deny the trucks of five Palestinian food production companies from entering Israel as an “oppressive political” decision breaching all commercial agreements and protocols regulating Palestinian and Israeli economic relations. “Through this decision, Israel is attempting to wipe out our national economy and suppress its development,” the Palestinian Authority official said. (Continued)
US Congress blocks $159 million in aid to PA
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 Mar — Members of the United States Congress are delaying a payment of $159 million in aid allocated for the Palestinian Authority in an effort to pressure the PA to relaunch negotiations with Israel, the PLO ambassador to Washington said Saturday. Maen Erekat confirmed earlier reports that US Congress was blocking the payment, which came at the request of House Republican Kay Granger, the Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations, under the pretext that the PA supports “terrorism.” The Obama administration allocated $440 million in aid to Palestinians for 2015, including $131 million for economic and development projects by USAID and $70 million for PA agencies and security agencies, while $80 million in aid was deducted following Israeli criticism of “incitement” by the PA last October. Erekat added that some “pro-Israel” congress members are continuing to pressure the PA to relaunch diplomatic negotiations with Israel, and prevent Palestinians from joining international organizations and conventions . . . On March 12 PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi conducted a series of meetings in Washington, D.C., during which she discussed peace negotiations with Israel and urged US Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley to pressure House Republicans to release the $159 million in aid.
AIPAC is destroying Israel, not safeguarding it / Gideon Levy
Washington, D.C. 20 Mar — The enemies of Israel will gather here Sunday for their annual conference. Almost 20,000 people will flock to the city’s Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Almost all are Jews, and almost all are not friends of Israel, despite their organization’s name and pretensions. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee may be the organization that has caused the greatest damage to Israel. It corrupted Israel, taught it that everything is permissible to it. It made sure America would cover up and restrain itself over everything. That it would never demand anything in exchange. That Uncle Sam would pay – and keep mum. That the supply of intoxicating drugs would continue. America is the dealer, and AIPAC the pusher. America’s second most powerful lobby, after the National Rifle Association, is considered pro-Israel. But it is pro an evil, aggressive, occupying, right-wing and nationalist Israel. With friends like these, Israel doesn’t need enemies in the United States. The day AIPAC weakens, Israel will grow stronger. It will be forced to stand on its own two feet and be more moral. This is an annual parade of toadying to Israel. Only the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces is a more embarrassing and ridiculous organization (there, they also put disabled IDF veterans on the dais to expose their stumps and beg for donations). And in an election year, this embarrassing toadying reaches its peak. There’s no rational explanation for it. I’ve never met anyone who could provide a comprehensive explanation for the enormous and destructive power AIPAC has accumulated. I’ve never met anyone who could explain America’s blind, automatic policy toward Israel, for which AIPAC is to a large extent responsible, and which contradicts both America’s interests and its declared values . . . This isn’t a good situation for Israel. Behind this fawning, which more and more Americans are beginning to try to get to the root of, hides suppressed thoughts that will eventually burst forth. Not all of those who fawn over Israel in the Senate and House of Representatives do so willingly. The fear of AIPAC silences them. It also silences the media. This can’t go on forever. (Continued)