Activist group: Israel ends closes military zone in Hebron
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 19 May — The Israeli army did not renew a closed military zone order in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of the city of Hebron, a Palestinian activist group said on Wednesday. An Israeli army spokesperson could not immediately confirm the report. If confirmed, the end of the closed military zone in Tel Rumeida would mark the first time the neighborhood of the flashpoint occupied West Bank city is reopened to the public since Nov. 1, 2015. Since then, Israeli authorities had renewed the closed military zone order every couple of weeks. In a statement, local activist group Youth Against Settlements (YAS) said it attributed “this success to the Open the Zone campaign that YAS and International Solidarity Movement (ISM) launched on May 3. ”Dozens of activist groups have been pushing for the reopening of Tel Rumeida for the past seven months. For the past six months, non-residents — including relatives, medics, or journalists — have been barred from entering Tel Rumeida, while residents were assigned numbers and had to pass through a checkpoint to leave or enter their homes.
PRESS RELEASE: Closed Military Zone in Hebron Ended Following Open the Zone Campaign
Youth Against Settlements is pleased to announce that the closed military zone orders in Hebron were not renewed today by the Israeli military. The Tel Rumeida neighborhood in Hebron had been under closed military zone orders since November 1, 2015 with the order having been renewed at 2-4 week intervals.
Youth Against Settlements attributes (YAS) this success to the Open the Zone campaign that YAS and International Solidarity Movement (ISM) launched on May 3. The campaign involved video testimony of families and individuals living in the closed military zone describing the difficulties the closed military zone created for their lives. On May 12 the campaign held a press conference in front of the Shuhada Street checkpoint where Hebron’s mayor and director of municipality spoke.
The closed military zone order had prohibited non-residents – including medical personnel, human rights observers, journalists, home repair people, family, and friends – from entering the area.Palestinians who were living in the zone were assigned numbers that they had to give at the checkpoint in order to reach their homes within the closed military zone. The supposed purpose of the order had been for security. However, Youth Against Settlements coordinator Issa Amro described the order as being a thinly-disguised attempt to forcibly displace of the Palestinians from Hebron’s old city where illegal Israeli settlers reside.
Palestinians in Hebron continue to suffer from massive closures, restrictions, and violence. Shuhada Street in Hebron has been almost entirely closed to Palestinians since 1994. Youth Against Settlements will continue working to end the systems of apartheid and separation in Hebron until the military occupation of the West bank is ended and equality is achieved for all people in Palestine.
Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
Israeli settlers arrested after threatening Palestinians with allegedly fake gun
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 17 May — Israeli police detained on Monday two Israeli settlers who threatened Palestinians in the southern occupied West Bank with what they claimed was a toy gun. According to Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri, two settlers from the illegal settlement of Efrat south of Bethlehem obstructed a Palestinian vehicle on Monday afternoon with “heavy motorcycles,” before threatening the driver with a handgun and forcing him to step out of his car. Soon afterwards, the settlers stopped at gunpoint a bus carrying Palestinian workers and forced its occupants to step out of the vehicle as well. One of the settlers pointed the gun to the head of one of the Palestinians and ordered him to recite the Muslim declaration of faith, which Islamic teachings call to be recited in the moments preceding death. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Ma‘an that no one was injured in the case. Al-Samri said that a Palestinian man submitted a complaint at a Hebron police station, after which Israeli police arrested two suspects ages 19 and 22. The settlers admitted to the charges, but claimed that the handgun they used was a toy. The alleged weapon was handed over to Israeli police, which extended the settlers’ remand until Tuesday for further investigation….
After months, Israel returns bodies of Palestinian woman, teenage boy to their families
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces on Monday night returned the bodies of a Palestinian woman and a teenage boy from occupied East Jerusalem to their families for burial, after withholding the bodies for months. Israeli forces deployed heavily in the Um Tuba neighborhood of East Jerusalem before intelligence officers handed over the body of 51-year-old Fadwa Abu Teir to her family in front of the neighborhood’s mosque. Abu Teir was shot and killed on March 8 in the Old City of Jerusalem after she allegedly attempted to stab Israeli officers. No Israelis were injured in the case. A Palestinian Red Crescent doctor told Ma’an at the time that Israeli forces prevented medics from reaching Abu Teir at the scene, wasting “critical time during which the woman could have been rescued.” Family members wrapped Abu Teir in a shroud and performed funeral prayer in the mosque, before a small number of mourners, as stipulated by Israeli intelligence, carried her body and marched to the neighborhood’s cemetery where she was laid to rest. “Her body was detained for seventy days, which was very hard on the family,” Abu Teir’s son Muhammad told Ma’an.
After Abu Teir’s burial, Israeli forces returned the body of Muataz Ahmad Uweisat, a 16-year-old teenager from the neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabbir, to his family after midnight. Uweisat was shot dead by Israeli soldiers on Oct. 17 after allegedly attempting to stab an Israeli policeman in the illegal settlement of East Talpiot. No Israelis were hurt in the case. Uweisat’s body was buried in the Bab al-Rahmah cemetery outside of the eastern wall of the Old City.
Lawyer Muhammad Mahmoud from Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer, who was present when Israeli forces returned both bodies, said Israeli intelligence stipulated that Abu Teir be buried in Um Tuba and Uweisat in Jabal al-Mukabbir immediately after the bodies were returned. Abu Teir’s son confirmed to Ma’an that Israeli intelligence had imposed a number of preconditions before returning Abu Teir’s body. In addition to limiting the number of people allowed to attend the funeral, mourners were forbidden from chanting “Allah Akbar” (God is greater). Abu Teir’s family was also made to pay bail to guarantee that they would stick to Israeli authorities’ demands. Mahmoud said Abu Teir and Uweisat’s families had to pay 20,000 shekels each ($5,241.50) before the bodies were released, and added that only 45 people were allowed to attend each funeral. Israeli intelligence is still withholding the bodies of at least 17 Palestinians who have been killed since October.
Jewish extremist arrested in Dawabsha murders case to be released in two weeks
BETHLEHEM 17 May by Lily Leach — A Jewish extremist arrested in the wake of a deadly arson attack that killed three members of the Palestinian Dawabsha family in the occupied West Bank last summer is to be released from Israeli custody, it was revealed on Tuesday. Israeli state prosecutors decided not to extend the administrative detention of Meir Ettinger — Israeli security agency Shin Bet’s leading suspect for the case — when his remand expires at the end of May, Israeli media reported. Two Israeli suspects were indicted for murder for the incident in January, five months after suspects belonging to a Jewish terror organization set the home of the Dawabsha family ablaze, killing 18-month-old Ali Saad immediately. The infant’s parents, Riham and Saad, later died from severe burns, leaving 4-year-old Ahmad Dawabsha the only surviving member of the family. Ettinger, 23, was detained in August among several suspected Israeli extremists in raids following mounting outrage and calls for a crackdown on Jewish extremism in the wake of the arson attack. He was allegedly detained “because of his activities in a Jewish extremist organization,” Shin Bet said at the time. Police said he was suspected of “nationalist crimes,” but did not accuse him of direct involvement in the attack in which the toddler died.
Aggressive young Israeli settlers provoke anger in Damascus Gate, Jerusalem
JERUSALEM, Occupied Palestine ISM al-Quds Team — The 12th of May 2016 notes the day Israel calls Independence Day. For Palestinians, Israeli Independence Day means the start of the Naqba in 1948 (the Catastrophe) and the loss of their homeland, which is still ongoing today. . We had traveled to Jerusalem and had expected a big march of Israelis waving flags and chanting nationalistic slogans. Last year hundreds, if not thousands, had marched down to Damascus gate on their way to the Western Wall, provoking the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem. Although we did see some flag waiving and heard shouting, we saw no big crowds. As it turned out, the size of the Israeli march was of little importance. The small group of young provocative right-wing Jewish extremists that did come, succeeded in creating mayhem in front of the city wall; sparking anger which resulted in three Palestinians being beaten up by border police, arrested and taken away. A few of the Israeli extremists were also arrested for attacking Palestinian onlookers including children, and fighting with the police- although not until after the events had unfolded and the three Palestinians had already been arrested. The group came down from New Gate loudly calling for the destruction of Al Aqsa and the building of the third temple, as well as shouting insults to local Palestinians. Border police surrounded them and tried to prevent two of the Jewish extremists from entering the gate. Although border police did attempt to push some of the settlers away most of the group- especially the women who had brought babies with them to this provocative and hateful display on Palestinian land (likely in an attempt to prevent anyone getting close to them; either Palestinians or police) – were allowed to go very close to the entrance of the old city. There they tried to block Palestinians from entering and exiting, continued their provocative shouting and started pushing people. The many border police and soldiers did nothing to stop this behaviour; they only kept them from entering the city and ensured they were not hurt….
Israeli forces raid Palestinian village near Bethlehem
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 16 May — Israeli forces raided the Palestinian village of al-Khader south of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on Monday evening, the mayor told Ma‘an. Al-Khader Mayor Ishaq Sbeih said Israeli military vehicles accompanied by bulldozers and soldiers raided the village in the area of the Old City where many of the village’s schools are located, as they removed dirt mounds located near the Israeli separation wall. Sbeih added that the bulldozers flattened the mounds of earth to prevent Palestinians from approaching the area, in the latest efforts by the Israeli army to stop stone-throwing near al-Khader. An Israeli army spokesperson said they were looking into the reports. In a raid in early April, the Israeli army dropped leaflets in the streets of al-Khader threatening to take “tough” actions against village residents if stones continued to be thrown at Israeli vehicles on Route 60, a major bypass road through the West Bank that connects nearby illegal Israeli settlements. Israeli authorities have long tried to crack down on Palestinian stone throwing by levying ever bigger threats of legal and military action. Prisoners’ rights group Addameer found in a report that the most common charge levied against Palestinian children was stone throwing, a crime that is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
State investigators admit Palestinian teen killed by sponge-tipped bullet, but won’t charge Israeli officer
Haaretz 17 May by Nir Hasson — The state acknowledges that 16-year-old Sunuqrut died as a result of being shot, after police had initially maintained that his head hit the ground after a fall — The Justice Ministry division that investigates police malpractice has closed the case against a policeman who killed a youth with a sponge-tipped bullet in August 2014. The youth, Mohammed Sunuqrut, 16, was shot in the head with a sponge-tipped bullet during a demonstration in East Jerusalem. The black bullet used by the shooter is regarded as the heaviest and most dangerous of its kind in the police arsenal. The shooter, a Border Police officer, was not trained to fire sponge-tipped bullets of the type used, the investigation found. Nevertheless, the investigators of the Police Investigation Department decided that there was insufficient evidence to bring the officer to trial. The case was transferred to the police for possible disciplinary action. Dozens of cases of serious injury have been documented since the black bullets were first introduced into East Jerusalem about two years ago. They include many cases of children and youths losing eyes as a result of black bullet injuries. Sunuqrut’s family maintained that [he] was not involved in the stone throwing in his home neighborhood of Wadi Joz. In a letter to his father, a senior officer in the investigation division wrote that “the policeman claims to have shot a single bullet at the legs of the youths, who were standing on a ridge at the time.” “As a consequence of the firing, the sponge-tipped bullet hit the head of the deceased, who fell to the ground. The policeman reported the fire to his commander and a team of fighters rushed to the deceased. Members of the team secured the area and called for medical assistance.” … The attorney representing the Sunuqrut family announced that he intended appealing the decision to close the case.
This 13-year-old Palestinian is the Third Intifada’s first amputee
Haaretz 13 May by Gideon Levy & Alex Levac — The army says Isa al-Muati was shot in the legs because he threw a Molotov cocktail. He says he was just looking for his younger brother — Here is the brutal, shameful photograph. His mother took it secretly, far from the view of the warders who were guarding her son. She shows us the clipping from a Palestinian newspaper: A boy is lying in an Israeli hospital bed, one leg completely shattered, its wounds exposed, the other in bandages. The crippled boy, Isa al-Muati, is bound to his bed with an iron handcuff. He spent 28 consecutive days like that – badly wounded and bound – at Hadassah Medical Center, Ein Karem, before his guards left and his hand was freed. He then spent another two months in the hospital – for a total of three months. The physicians tried to save his right leg, but after two months of futile efforts they amputated it, in stages. First the foot, then the shin. Isa is a boy of 13. Israel Defense Forces soldiers shot him no fewer than five times. The 13-year-old threw – or did not throw – a Molotov cocktail at the soldiers within the fortified IDF watchtower next to Rachel’s Tomb, at the edge of his city, Bethlehem, where the intimidating concrete wall begins. The soldiers did not make do with one bullet, or two, or three, not even four – they pumped five rounds into him. Isa will be an invalid all his life; it’s unlikely that his impoverished family will be able to raise the means for rehabilitation and a prosthesis. In the meantime, he’s been at home for a few months, without the leg, doing nothing, having dropped out of school in the wake of the injury. Maybe he’ll return to school next year, he says, as though to please us, though it seems very unlikely that he will go back.….
IDF confiscates a ‘dragon’ musket in West Bank
Times of Israel 18 May by Judah Ari Gross — Soldiers discover vintage pistol in Hebron during nighttime sweep, arrest two senior Hamas men — Israeli troops arrested 16 Palestinian suspects, including two senior Hamas members, in raids around the West Bank Tuesday night and seized what appears to be an antique muzzle-loaded blunderbuss [photo] from a house in Hebron, the army said. Waspi Kabaha and Rafat Nasif were picked up for the affiliation with the Hamas terror organization, while the rest are suspected of so-called popular terrorism, a catch-all term used by the Israel Defense Forces for rock throwing, violent demonstrations and other minor offenses. Kabaha, a former Hamas minister of prisoners, was arrested from his home in Jenin, according to the Ynet news site. Nasif, a senior member of the organization, has been in and out of Israeli prisons for decades. He was picked up in Nablus. While on a raid in Hebron, soldiers from the Nahal Infantry Brigade uncovered the vintage flintlock musket and confiscated it. The dragon, which is the technical term for a blunderbuss pistol, was “handed over to security forces,” the army said in a statement. It was not clear if the dragon seized by Nahal soldiers was still in working condition, an IDF spokesperson said. Blunderbusses, which were used primarily in the 18th century, feature a smooth bore, making them highly inaccurate, and can only be loaded with one round at a time. In order to reload the weapon, a shooter needs to clean the gun, reload it with gunpowder by hand and then a new cotton-wrapped bullet is pushed down the barrel with a ramrod … The 16 Palestinians arrested overnight came from villages and cities around the West Bank, including Hebron, Nablus, Jenin, Abu Dis, Beit Fajjar, Beit Umar and the Palestinian village of Tekoa [or Tuqu‘], which is adjacent to a Jewish settlement of the same name.
Israeli forces detain Palestinian woman at Hebron-area checkpoint
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 19 May — Israeli forces detained a Palestinian woman at a checkpoint in the southern occupied West Bank as she was on her way to visit her son held in an Israeli prison, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) said on Thursday. According to PPS, Wiam Lutfi Manasra, 50, a resident of the town of Bani Naim east of Hebron, was detained at the al-Thahriya checkpoint as she was headed to the Ramon prison to visit her son, Usama al-Salal. The organization added that Israeli forces found nail clippers and a nail file in Manasra’s purse.
Israeli soldiers kidnap a child near Bethlehem
IMEMC 19 May — Israeli soldiers invaded, on Wednesday evening, the town of al-Khader, south of the West Bank city of Bethlehem, kidnapped a child, only 11 years of age, and refused to allow any member of his family to accompany him. Ahmad Salah, coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Annexation Wall and Colonies in al-Khader, said the soldiers took the child to the District Coordination Office, near the western entrance of Beit Jala city. Salah added that the soldiers have recently escalated their invasions into the town, and conducted frequent invasions and searches of homes, in addition to firing many gas bombs and concussion grenades.
Org: Israel has detained 18 Palestinian women over ‘online incitement’ since October
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 19 May — At least 28 Palestinian women have been detained by Israel since October over alleged “incitement” on social media, with six of them still in prison, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Center for Studies (PPCS) said in a statement released on Wednesday. PPCS spokesman Riyad al-Ashqar said that most of the women had been released hours or days after they were first detained, but that eight had been held in administrative detention — internment without trial or charges. Al-Ashqar identified the six women still held over alleged social media incitement as Suad Abed al-Karim Irzeiqat, 28, from the city of Hebron; Dunia Ali Musleh, 19, from the town of Bethlehem; Sanaa Nayif Abbad from the town of Dura; Hanin Abd al-Qader Amr, 39, from the city of Tulkarem; Majd Yousif Atwan, 23, from the village of al-Khader; and Samah Dweik, 25, from occupied East Jerusalem. Dweik, a journalist working for Shabakat al-Quds (The Jerusalem Network), was detained on April 10 in her home in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud after writing a Facebook status and sharing aan image in support of Palestinians recently killed by Israeli forces. Meanwhile, Atwan was sentenced by an Israeli court earlier this month to 45 days in prison and a 3,000 shekel ($794) fine over charges of incitement on her Facebook account….
Restrictions on movement / Closures
Magnetic card system restricts Palestinian visits to Jerusalem
AL-Monitor 17 May by Daoud Kuttab — Israel is issuing magnetic travel permits to Palestinians that only permit a certain number of visits to Jerusalem and Israel each year — One of the leading sources of anger among Palestinians under occupation is restriction on their movement. Palestinians living in the West Bank cannot travel to the Gaza Strip, and Palestinians in Gaza are normally not allowed to leave Gaza. Travel from the occupied territories to neighboring Jordan and Egypt also involves various kinds of restrictions … In a January bulletin, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that in the final quarter of 2015, Israeli forces had established 91 new checkpoints, further obstructing Palestinians’ freedom of movement throughout the West Bank. For Palestinians living near Jerusalem, the issue of travel to the holy city for work or for family visits is of great importance. When Israel unilaterally annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, and when it built the wall through the West Bank, it isolated Jerusalem from its environs, including the towns of Ramallah, Bethlehem and Abu Dis. To travel to Jerusalem or Israel, Palestinians are obliged to obtain permission from Israel, which issues permits. Israel regularly changes the color and stamps on these travel documents, in the form of paper permits, to avoid forgeries. Now it has gradually begun introducing a magnetic card containing biometric data for getting through the numerous checkpoints en route from the West Bank to Jerusalem and Israel. The paper permits continue to be issued, but the Israelis appear to be phasing them out to eventually limit travel to use of the magnetic cards. No date has been announced for when the magnetic card will be mandatory. A 2014 study by the Applied Research Institute examined the economics of the new cards. “Each year the Israeli occupation issues more than 400,000 magnetic cards to Palestinians for the sum of 100 shekels [$26] per card … The magnetic cards have been around for a while according to multiple Palestinian sources, but in 2016 Israel introduced a new system whereby Palestinians are allotted a certain number of entries into Jerusalem and Israel, and these entries are deducted with swipes of the card at the checkpoints. The cards are usually valid for a year but in certain cases can be used for two years. Palestinians are restricted to using only certain checkpoints, while Israeli settlers can use any of them. Would-be travelers’ entries can be tracked on computers at the crossings. Sami Awad, executive director of the Bethlehem-based Holy Land Trust, told Al-Monitor about his experience with the system. At the beginning of 2016, Israel credited him with 100 entries for the year. “Every time I cross the Bethlehem-Jerusalem checkpoint near Rachel’s Tomb, my credit goes down one entry,” Awad said. He explained that if he had a meeting in Jerusalem in the morning and another in the afternoon and returned to Bethlehem in between, two entries would be deducted from his card….
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Judaization / Racism
For the second time, Palestinian family sees their E. Jerusalem home demolished by Israel
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 18 May — Israeli forces demolished a Palestinian family’s home in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shu‘fat early on Wednesday morning, marking the second time the al-Hawarin family saw their home destroyed in 15 years. “The occupation is stealing our dreams, depriving us of living safely in our own homes,” Nadia al-Hawarin told Ma‘an as she looked at the ruins of her home. Al-Hawarin added that Israeli forces had demolished the family’s former home in the neighborhood of Beit Hanina in 2001, under the pretext that it was built without a license from the Israeli municipality. “Today, they demolished our house in Shu‘fat for the sake of a road serving settlers,” she said. “The occupation demolished our home to serve the settlers, paying no attention to the fact that eight family members will become homeless.” Al-Hawarin said that Israeli forces demolished a house belonging to al-Rishiq family in the same area in January, displacing dozens in order to build a road to benefit Israeli settlers in the area. Al-Hawarin’s husband, Rajih al-Hawarin, said in a filmed interview with Ma’an that a large number of Israeli troops stormed the house at dawn and started to tear down the building….
Israeli forces demolish 2 Palestinian homes in Jerusalem’s Old City
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 17 May — Israeli forces demolished two homes on Tuesday morning in the al-Suwwana neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem near the eastern wall of the Old City, leaving 23 Palestinians homeless. The houses, belonging to the Tutanji and Ghanim families, were demolished despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly suspending the demolition order last month, Arif Tutanji, the owner of one of the homes, said. In a video-recorded interview in front of his demolished home, Tutanji told Ma’an that excavators, escorted by a group of Israeli soldiers, stormed the area in the morning and demolished the houses. The only prior notice the family was given before the demolition was in the form of masked Israeli soldiers breaking into their homes and hurriedly evacuating the families, without giving them enough time to put on clothes, Tutanji said.
According to Tutanji, 16 people, including five children, had been residing in his family’s house for the past 18 years. Meanwhile, seven members of the Ghanim family had been living in the other now demolished house for two years. Meanwhile, Karima Ghanim told Ma‘an that she first heard “very violent” knocking on the door. “I was sure it was Israeli soldiers. In a few seconds they were all around our bed. I was only in a nightgown and they did not allow us to get dressed, so I quickly wrapped a shawl around me,” she said. Ghanim, her husband and children rushed to their car parked outside, as the soldiers insisted they leave the area. “Even down the valley, they didn’t allow us to park the car, so we drove until we reached al-Hilal [hospital], where I was able to put on my [Islamic] dress.” … The area where the Tutanji and Ghanim families were residing, a tract of 27,000 square meters of land, is part of several areas around the Old City that Israeli authorities have allocated for national park development since the 1970s. … Jerusalem expert and director of the Israeli nonprofit Jerusalem Terrestrial Daniel Seidemann told Ma‘an that Israeli development plans around the Old City were focused on restructuring the area into biblical parks and public areas that can imprint Israeli settler ownership, both literally and historically, while systematically “neutralizing the Palestinian presence.”
Israel orders evacuation of 3 Palestinian-owned properties in East Jerusalem
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 17 May — The Jerusalem Magistrate Court of Justice on Tuesday ordered the evacuation of three Palestinian-owned properties in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem, claiming they were owned by Jews before 1948. The three properties were allegedly purchased by the Jewish Arica family who migrated from Syria to Israel in the 1930s, and fled from their properties in 1948 during the Arab-Israeli war, according to Israel’s Channel 7 News. Following the 1948 war, when some 750,000 Palestinians became refugees, the three houses fell under Palestinian ownership. The eviction in Sheikh Jarrah is being led by Aryeh King, the head of the right-wing settler organization Israel Land Fund (ILF), which is responsible for evicting and leaving several Palestinian families homeless in East Jerusalem. The ILF is considered a nonprofit organization — and receives US tax-deductible donations through their financial intermediary Central Fund for Israel — with a mission to transfer property from Palestinians into the hands of Jewish settlers for the purpose of “Judaizing” East Jerusalem.
They also work to prevent Palestinians from buying property by raising funds through their organization to present counter financial offers in an attempt to deter residents in East Jerusalem from selling property to Palestinians, according to the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ). The ILF, along with other pro-settler organizations, uses Israel’s 1970 Legal and Administrative Matters law to evict Palestinians from their homes….
Israel delivers demolition notices for EU-funded water tanks in Hebron
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 18 May — Israeli authorities delivered four demolition notices Wednesday ordering several Palestinians to remove their water tanks being used for irrigation in the northern and eastern areas of the town of Beit Ummar in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, locals said. The water tanks are used to irrigate lands in the areas of Beir Zaata, al-Furdeis and Thaghret al-Shabak, with an overall area of more than 30 dunums dependent on the tanks for irrigation, according to Muhammad Awad, a spokesperson for a local popular committee. The tanks were set up earlier in 2016 under a UN-funded water development program, Awad said. After Israeli authorities deliver a demolition order, the owners of the properties have seven days to remove the structures. If not, Israeli forces are expected to enter the area and demolish the structures at the financial expense of the owners of the property … It remains unclear what legal pretext Israeli authorities used to issue the demolition orders….
Again, settlers burn Palestinian farms in West Bank
[with photos] Days of Palestine 16 May — Settlers burnt wide areas of barley and wheat crops just on Sunday — A group of Israeli settlers brunt on Sunday evening more than 100 olive trees in Palestinian farms located in the West Bank city of Nablus. Palestinian sources said that the fire was ignited on Sunday evening in the neighbourhood of Tel in the south of Nablus and remained until Monday morning. bu-Ali Qasim, a Palestinian farmer, said that he along with tens of the Palestinian citizens and the firefighters affiliated to the municipality of Nablus spent all night trying to extinguish the fire. In the morning, after the fire was completely extinguished, Abu-Ali counted the number of burnt olive trees to find them more than 100. “At least 100 olive trees, including a very big number of old trees, were burnt,” he told Days of Palestine, noting that he did not know the reason of the fire. However, Lo’ai Manasreh, an anti-Israeli settlement activist, said that he and other Palestinians saw a group of Israeli settlers when they started the fire in a barley crop in the area. Manasreh reiterated that burning the Palestinian old trees is part of a “pre-planned” efforts to damage the Palestinian agriculture sector, noting to the other burning incident occurred in Al-Khalil. “In addition to the Israeli plans to damage the agriculture sector, they want to erase the witnesses on the Palestinian existence represented in the old olive trees,” he said.
Video: West Bank heritage site highlights tensions
DW 18 May — An excavation site below Shilo, in the biblical capital of Israel, has spawned a successful tourist enterprise for the settlers but Palestinians feel that it is just a scheme to justify Israeli occupation.
Militant Jerusalem Day march through Muslim Quarter set for Ramadan
Haaretz 18 May by Nir Hasson — Jerusalem municipality triples budget for polarizing annual flag march. Survey shows majority of Jewish public opposes march going through Muslim Quarter — The Jerusalem municipality has decided to triple its budget for the annual flag march held on Jerusalem Day by the religious Zionist movement. The parade, as usual, is set to pass through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, and be held on what is likely to be the first evening of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Every year for the past few years, dozens of cases have been documented of teens on the march banging on doors and windows in the Muslim Quarter with their flag poles, cursing Palestinian pedestrians and making racist remarks. The city’s decision to increase its financial support for the parade has come under intense public criticism. As in years past, this year right-wing organizations are planning the parade, which will cross Jerusalem with tens of thousands of young people, almost all of them Orthodox, participating.
Boys and girls are to march separately. The route of the boys’ march will take them through Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter, ending at the Western Wall. Store owners along the route are required to close their shops for a few hours while the march is passing, and most of the inhabitants of the Muslim Quarter remain in their homes … This year, in addition to the usual tensions, the evening the march is to be held will probably be the first evening of the holy month of Ramadan, which is a particularly festive occasion for Muslims, when people decorate their homes and go out to visit family and friends.
Israeli forces injure young Palestinian, fire at farmers in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 18 May — Israeli troops shot and injured a young Palestinian man on Wednesday morning in eastern Gaza City, Palestinian medical sources told Ma‘an. The head of the emergency unit at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, Ayman Sahabani, confirmed that an 18-year-old man arrived at the emergency room suffering from a gunshot wound and was in moderate condition. Sahabani added that the victim was shot near the Karni border crossing in the eastern suburbs of Gaza City. An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed to Ma‘an that a Palestinian had been shot by Israeli forces after “attempting to damage the security fence.” She said that Israeli troops initially fired “warning shots” to discourage the man before shooting him, adding that the situation was “nothing out of the ordinary.”
Israeli forces also opened fire at Palestinian farmers tending their fields near the border area east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. Witnesses told Ma‘an that farmers came under fire in the Abu Reida area east of the village of Khuza‘a. No injuries were reported.
Gazans say Jordan restricting movement
GAZA CITY (AP) 16 May — Gazans who have endured a border blockade by neighboring Egypt and Israel for almost a decade thought they were finally catching a break when Israel slightly eased restrictions on travel from the Hamas-ruled territory in recent months. But now Jordan appears to be emerging as an obstacle, routinely denying transit permits for Gazans and effectively preventing patients, university students and others with business abroad from leaving the territory. With the Egyptian-controlled Rafah border crossing — Gaza’s main gateway to the outside world — all but shuttered, Jordan has emerged as a key player in enabling Gazans to travel abroad. Over the past year or so, Israel has begun to allow growing numbers of Gazans to cross through its territory and the West Bank into Jordan, where they can catch flights to their final destinations. But Gazans can only cross through Israel if they have a special visa from Jordan known as a “no objection” letter. And travelers and human rights groups say that Gazans are experiencing difficulties receiving these permits like never before. The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch has urged Jordan to facilitate travel for Palestinians from Gaza to third countries.”Those seeking transit from Gaza are seeking just that — transit,” Ken Roth, executive director of the New York-based rights watchdog, wrote in a letter to Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour in April. Roth said that before last summer, Jordan would “routinely grant” these transit permits. Then, beginning last August, individuals, lawyers and human rights organizations began to observe “wide scale refusal” by the Jordanians, he wrote. Human Rights Watch said it has not received a response from Jordan. But Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed Momani told The Associated Press that there has been no change in the government’s visa policy and that his country, which has a large population of people of Palestinian origin, will do everything it can to facilitate the movement of Gazans. He called on “other countries to share their responsibilities when it comes to facilitating Palestinians’ right of travel” — an apparent reference to Egypt….
Israeli navy detain 2 Gaza fishermen as 2 others remain in custody
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 17 May — Israeli naval forces detained two Palestinian fishermen off the coast of the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning, a spokesperson for the union of Gaza fishermen told Ma‘an. Nizar Ayyash said that Israeli gunboats obstructed a fishing boat off the coast from the town of Beit Lahiya, and detained Samih Zayid and his brother Ibrahim. Israeli forces also confiscated the Zayid brothers’ boat, which was taken to the port of Ashdod in southern Israel. An Israeli army spokesperson said she was looking into the report. Israeli naval forces detained 10 Palestinian fishermen off the coast of the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday evening. Two were still in custody as of Tuesday.
Gaza police detain 2 hunger-striking Palestinians protesting high unemployment
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 16 May — Palestinian security officers in the Gaza Strip on Monday morning arrested two young Palestinians who have been on hunger strike for 20 days to protest the crippling unemployment levels in the besieged Palestinian territory, according to another hunger striker involved in the demonstration. Said Lolo told Ma‘an that security officers arrived in the early dawn hours at Unknown Soldier’s Square in Gaza City, where he and two other hunger-strikers — unemployed university graduates — along with some 15 supporters had staged a sit-in for the past 20 days. The security officers detained Raed Nasr and Akram al-Amiri while Lolo was absent from the site. Lolo added that he intended to return to the square to continue his hunger strike and the sit-in alone. Lolo said that the security officers confiscated all the belongings of the three hunger-strikers and the rest of the group who had attended the sit-in. Six supporters of the hunger strike were also briefly detained, before being released after a few hours. Another group of unemployed university alumni were detained on May 10 after they staged a sit-in and began a hunger strike in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, also protesting lack of employment opportunities and the dire living conditions in besieged enclave….
Gaza students study in the dark for final examinations
GAZA (Palestine Chronicle) 18 May by Yousef M. Aljamal — Tens of thousands of Palestinian students in Gaza are studying for their final exams at school, yet the limited amount of electricity in Gaza makes it difficult for them to adapt. Electricity outages, sometimes for more than 12 hours per day, leave these students with no other option except to seek alternatives to solve this problem. With the temperature rising, and electricity cut, temper of students flare as well. The Palestine Chronicle spoke to some of these students to get an idea of how it feels to study under these circumstances. “It gets dark after 5 pm, and there is no way to study without lights,” said Yara Eid, a 16-year old high school student from Alburij refugee camp. “The weather is really hot these days and we need electricity to run the fans, to cool down,” she added. “We develop eye problems because of the lack of electricity and the reliance on alternative lights. I am confined to certain times to study, such as during the day. It is really bad,” she continued. “Not all families can afford to purchase alternative lights, and the whole situation here makes it difficult for students to study; we are not in the mood to do so.” The Ministry of Education in Palestine announced that the high school examinations for this year would start on May 28 and end on June 15. This time of the year is stressful for many students and their families, as this year determines the futures of many students….
Opinion: Breast cancer is bad enough — imagine enduring it in Gaza / Philippa Whitford
The Guardian 18 May — Twenty-five years ago, during the first intifada, I was working as a volunteer surgeon with Medical Aid for Palestinians in al-Ahli hospital in Gaza when the Madrid peace conference led to the Oslo agreement and the supposed roadmap to peace between Israel and Palestine. I returned to Palestine a few weeks ago in my capacity as a breast cancer surgeon. As well as assisting at clinics, performing operations and running teaching workshops in east Jerusalem, I visited Gaza to assess the challenges faced by cancer patients there. I found a population running desperately low on resilience and hope for the future, who feel forgotten by the international community … For women with breast cancer in Gaza, Israel’s and Egypt’s near-total closure affects nearly every stage of their diagnosis and treatment. Doctors in clinics and hospitals told me vital medicines, including chemotherapy drugs, were hard to procure. Several patients reported having had their chemotherapy course interrupted when drugs could not be supplied, or simply having been unable to complete the course at all. Radio isotopes used in bone scans or for guided biopsy of axillary lymph nodes are forbidden entry into Gaza despite having no potentially dangerous application. Gaza’s surgeons are prevented from travelling out to attend conferences or further develop their skills, freezing surgical practice many years behind the rest of the world. A Harvard Medical School study has shown that five-year survival rates for breast cancer patients are as low as 30-40%, compared with around 85% in England. Radiotherapy is completely unavailable. Patients requiring it must therefore apply to Israel for a permit to travel to hospitals in East Jerusalem. The application procedure is time-consuming, and patients must cover the cost of their own transport and accommodation. According to the World Health Organisation, in February over 28% of those applying for permits to travel out for treatment were either denied or received no response to their applications….
In Gaza, nothing is just an accident
Beach refugee camp, Gaza (EI) 17 May by Hamza Abu Eltarabesh — When a candle caused a fire that killed three young children at a house in Gaza, it seemed like the kind of horrible misfortune that could happen anywhere. But candles in Beach refugee camp, where the recent fire occurred, are lit not for mood but necessity. And in Gaza, where rolling power cuts leave people without electricity for 12 hours a day, that need is great And growing … In early April, Gaza’s sole electricity plant stopped operating. The power plant, which was targeted by Israeli airstrikes as far back as 2006, suffered further extensive damage in the 2014 Israeli military assault that Gaza’s authorities, with an Israeli-imposed blockade in force, have been unable to repair. On 8 April, it ran out of fuel. For some in the impoverished coastal enclave, that now means no electricity for 20 hours a day. For the Abu al-Hindi family it meant tragedy. On 6 May, the family of seven had enjoyed a long Friday fishing at the beach. Home, tired, hungry, and with no power supply, Nidaa, 32, lit a candle in the dark bedroom her five children shared and went to the kitchen to prepare dinner. “When we came back [home], the power was off,” said Nidaa. “I lit a candle in the bedroom. Then I went to make macaroni and prepare milk for Nasser [a 6-month-old baby].” Four of the children children stayed in the bedroom. Ali, 6, went out with his mother. Then the screaming started. Nidaa ran to the bedroom, but could only reach Muhannad, 8 … Muhannad suffered severe burns and remains in critical condition. Yusra, 3, Rahaf, 2, and Nasser were lost to the flames. Muhammad Abu al-Hindi, 38, the children’s father, was not at home when the fire started. He remains in shock and has been reticent about talking to the media. This reporter caught up with him for a brief moment. “I keep seeing my children burning,” he said. “And every time I die a million times. I still can’t believe it.” Nidaa can’t understand how the fire started. With 12 hours of power cuts a day, sometimes as many as 20, she said, candles were their only source of light and were used daily. “I always put the candles out of reach of the children,” said Nidaa. She is now praying for Muhannad, who is being treated at an Israeli hospital near Tel Aviv. She cried when she remembered that she never finished dinner. “My children died hungry,” she said … The Abu al-Hindi tragedy is just one of a growing trend of home fire accidents, a previously uncommon phenomenon, resulting directly from power outages and the use of alternative means of lighting.
Israeli, Palestinian teens open back channel via Facebook
Al-Monitor 17 May by Shlomi Eldar — What started as verbal hostilities between Israeli and Gazan teenagers turned into meaningful online dialogue when mutual accusations gave way to curiosity about each other’s lives — For the past several months, a few dozen young Israelis and Palestinians from the Gaza Strip have been communicating with each other directly, in English. They tell each other about their lives, exchange experiences and, of course, they argue about their situation. As far as the young people from Gaza are concerned, they are taking no small risk. Hamas not only opposes any manifestations of normalization with Israelis, it could well decide that this kind of forbidden communication is a form of collaboration with the enemy. The first contacts were initiated by the young people from Gaza, using Facebook as their intermediary. Some of them posted statements denigrating their Israeli peers and protesting their silence over the blockade that the government has imposed on Gaza. According to the young Gazans, the siege prevents them from leading a normal life and pursuing their studies outside Gaza. The Israelis responded with claims of their own, but in a short time, their mutual recriminations became fascinating conversations about life in Gaza, life in Israel, dreams, aspirations and ideas to resolve the conflict. It took very little time for young people on both sides of the border to discover that they have quite a few common interests, including music, sports and even fashion … The young Israelis say that their friends in Gaza have provided them with detailed accounts of the terror that they experienced during Operation Protective Edge and the tragedies suffered by people that they know personally. It is hard for them to conceive of people their own age living like that, and how what they are most worried about now is whether they will survive to see another day….
Gaza rolls out the red carpet for film festival
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 17 May by Asmaa al-Ghoul — The second edition of the Red Carpet Film Festival in the Gaza Strip did not receive as much attention as last year, as security members insisted on keeping the lights on during the film screenings — On May 12, the second annual Red Carpet Film Festival opened with a screening of the film “Ya Tayr El Tayer” (“The Idol”), a biopic about Gazan singer Mohammed Assaf, the winner of the TV show “Arab Idol” in 2013. It was the film’s premiere in the Gaza Strip. Half an hour after the film started, the audience clapped as the theater employee turned off the main lights that had prevented them from clearly seeing the screen. But the cheering was short-lived as the same employee turned the lights back on 10 minutes later. Al-Monitor had overheard the employee’s telephone conversation and asked him why he turned the lights back on despite having received authorization to turn them off. He replied, “It wasn’t me, it was the security services. Yes, the center’s director authorized that, but the security officers do not want complete darkness,” as he pointed to the security services’ official, a 20-something man in civilian clothes who is affiliated with the Interior Ministry. Al-Monitor approached the officer, but he refused to make a statement. He only said, “I told them they could dim the lights but not turn them off completely. No theater in Gaza can be completely dark during the screening of a film to avoid immoral acts happening in the dark.” In addition to the discussion about turning off the lights in the theater, which was later repeated in the presence of other journalists, the film’s screening was affected also by the generator’s lack of power causing the quality of the sound to be inadequate….
Haaretz Editorial: It’s been a decade. Open Gaza, the Palestinian ghetto
17 May — The closure of Gaza hasn’t stopped the rockets or led to the overthrow of Hamas. Meanwhile, Israel uses it as a bargaining chip, knowing full well that justifications of security are meaningless — The enclave of Gaza, one of the most densely populated places in the world, will mark a decade of life under a strangulating siege next month. Some two million people, many born since the blockade was in place, are imprisoned there in a frightening human experiment, as if someone were trying to study how long people can survive when they are isolated from the world, their cultural environment, and any economic or national horizon. In order to keep this enclave alive, Israel sends in measured and insufficient quantities of construction materials. It also allows the transfer of food and medicines and, in exceptional cases, even permits a few hundred people to leave the Strip for abroad – a little less than 1,000 people since January 2016. The Gaza Strip is caught by the throat in a pincer movement, with one arm being held by Israel and the other by Egypt, which has sealed the Rafah border crossing on all but a few days a year.
Palestinian hunger-striking prisoner moved to hospital over deteriorating health
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 16 May — A Palestinian prisoner was transferred to the hospital on Monday over his severely deteriorating health following 44 days on hunger strike to protest his administrative detention — internment without trial or charges. The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society said that Adib Mafarja was moved from the Eshel prison in southern Israel to the Soroka hospital in Beersheba, following a visit by a lawyer from the Palestinian organization. The lawyer reported that Mafarja had already lost 30 kilograms [66 pounds] because of his hunger strike. According to Palestinian solidarity group Samidoun, Mafarja is from the village of Beit Laqiya, northwest of Ramallah in the central occupied West Bank. Mafarja is one of several Palestinian prisoners currently on hunger strike in an attempt to hold Israel accountable for its arbitrary arrest and detention of Palestinians. According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, there are currently 700 Palestinians being held in administrative detention.
Abdullah Abu Rahmah to be charged at Ofer Military Court
RAMALLAH, Occupied Palestine 19 May by ISM Media Team — Thursday the 19th of May, 2016 in the afternoon at Ofer military Prison charges will be brought against Human rights defender Abdullah Abu Rahma from the West Bank village Bil‘in.Abdullah was arrested from the Al-wada Cycling Marathon when the marathon reached Bil‘in and the cyclists were met by approximately 150 heavily armed soldiers. The soldiers immediately started showering the cyclists with tear gas and blocked the road, where their route was going. During this attack of the cyclists, Abu Rahma was arrested along with an Israeli demonstrator Israel. The Israeli was released shortly after her arrest. The military prosecution is expected to request that Abdullah, who has been held in detention since Friday the 13th of May, remain in detention until the end of proceedings against him. Abdullah has long promoted the use of peaceful means to raise international awareness about human rights violations suffered by Palestinians due to Israel’s illegal wall and settlements. His case illustrates a pattern of the Israeli authorities targeting and harassing those who stand up for their rights using peaceful action in support of Palestinian victims of human rights violations. Bil‘in became a symbol of creative popular resistance to the Israeli annexation wall and settlements when the village waged a successful campaign which resulted in their winning back half of their agricultural land that was confiscate from them by the Israeli authorities. Two siblings from the Abu Rahmah Family, Bassem and Jawaher were both killed while protesting nonviolently the illegal wall constructed on their land.
After seeing footage of Abdullah’s violent arrest , a military judge ordered his release on Monday, and instructed the police to forward the case file to the internal affairs unit, as he believed the arresting officers were lying in their description of the events and acted with intentional violence. However the military prosecution successfully appealed this decision….
Ontario law would blacklist BDS activists
EI 18 May by Ali Abunimah — Lawmakers in Canada’s most populous province are voting this week on a bill to blacklist supporters of the Palestinian-led grassroots campaign for human rights, the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Tim Hudak, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario for the right-wing Progressive Conservative opposition, introduced the so-called Standing Up Against Anti-Semitism in Ontario Act on Tuesday. The bill, co-sponsored by veteran Liberal lawmaker Mike Colle, passed its first reading. Using language characteristic of the Israeli government’s attacks on the movement, Hudak claimed that the goal of BDS is “to sponsor the de-legitimization of the state of Israel as well as to foster hatred and animosity against those of Jewish faith in support of Israel.” The bill is scheduled for debate and another vote on Thursday. While it would still have to pass a third vote to become law, passage on Thursday would significantly boost its prospects, especially if it gains backing from more members of the ruling Liberal Party. Palestine solidarity campaigners in Canada appear to have had no notice of the bill. Its quick introduction and vote may be an effort to circumvent public debate and opposition….
BDS resolutions shot down by United Methodist Church
JTA 17 May — The United Methodist Church rejected four resolutions calling for the church to divest from companies that profit from Israel’s control of the West Bank. The votes took place over the weekend at the quadrennial United Methodist Church General Conference that began May 10 in Portland, Oregon. The resolutions called for divesting from three companies that pro-Palestinian activists have accused of working with Israeli security forces to sustain Israel’s West Bank settlement enterprise. They are Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola. Similar boycott, divestment and sanctions petitions failed at general conferences in 2008 and 2012. Last week Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination who was raised and remains a practicing Methodist, criticized the BDS movement in a statement that was believed to be directed at the church, though it did not specifically mention the church. In January, the Methodists’ pension fund removed five Israeli banks from its portfolio, saying the investments were counter to its policies against investing in “high risk countries” and to remain committed to human rights.
Leaders of Belgium’s parliament nominate Marwan Barghouti for Nobel Peace Prize
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 18 May — Leading members of Belgium’s parliament, from across the national political spectrum, nominated Marwan Barghouti for the Nobel Peace Prize on Wednesday, referring to the imprisoned parliament member as the “Palestinian Mandela” and a symbol of peace in Palestine. “Peace requires the freedom of Marwan Barghouti and all of the political prisoners, and more generally the freedom of the Palestinian people living for decades under occupation,” the nomination letter sent to the Norwegian Nobel Committee stated. “By granting the Nobel Peace Prize to someone who embodies the Palestinian people’s struggle for freedom, but also their aspiration to achieve peace, a leader that can unite Palestinians around a political project that clearly includes a two-state solution on 1967 borders, more threatened than ever by colonisation and the absence of a political horizon, the Committee for the Nobel Prize would be helping to resurrect the indispensable hope of creating a way out of the current [political] impasse.” The statement continued with references to the 2013 Robben Island Declaration for the Freedom of Marwan Barghouti and all Palestinian Prisoners, launched by the veteran South African politician, Ahmed Kathrada, and signed by eight Nobel Peace Prize recipients and US President Carter inside Nelson Mandela’s old prison cell on Robben Island. The organizers and attendees sought to re-focus the world’s attention on the plight of Palestinians and call for the release of Palestinian political prisoners held by Israel … The decision by the Belgian Parliament members marked the third nomination Barghouti has received since the start of this year, with nominations coming from a former Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Adolfo Perez Esquivel — an artist and leading figure of the struggle against Latin American dictatorships — and the Arab Parliament following an unanimous decision to nominate the imprisoned politician….
Media forum seeks to boost image of Palestine
Al Jazeera 18 May by Shatha Khalil — The second International Palestinian Conference for Media and Communications begins today in Turkey. The two-day event, hosted by the Palestine Media Forum in partnership with Middle East Monitor (MEMO), aims to encourage dialogue and provide an opportunity for discussion in an attempt to formulate a true image of the Palestinian cause in Arab and international media. Renowned media professionals including writers, heads of newspapers, radio and television journalists, artists and directors, as well as intellectuals and international academics, will take part in the event which is split into workshops, courses, seminars and panel discussions. Panellists will highlight and discuss the most successful methods through which fair representation of the Palestinian cause can be attained….
Palestine Museum review: a beacon of optimism on a West Bank hilltop
[with photos] The Guardian 17 May by Oliver Wainwright — A sharp white crown rises from a hilltop in the West Bank, looking out across sun-scorched terraces of olive trees and sage bushes to the waters of the Mediterranean – a distant prospect that most Palestinians will never be able to reach. Seen from the valley below, this monolithic hangar could be the latest Israeli fortification, casting its beady eye over the surrounding Arab villages from the angular black windows slashed across its facade. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. This faceted box is the new Palestinian Museum, a $24m (£16.6m) container for celebrating the history, culture and society of the oppressed nation, finally inaugurated on Wednesday after a 20-year gestation – with nothing inside it. “We thought it was better to celebrate the collective achievement of completing the building than delay any longer,” says Omar Al-Qattan of the Welfare Association (Taawon), an NGO backed mainly by Palestinian exiles, which funded the project. “Positive energy is important in our current climate of cynicism and indecision, in a country that’s under occupation, where there’s little self-value or self-confidence. We wanted to make a statement that we’re here to stay.” Designed by Dublin-based architects Heneghan Peng, who won the project in an international competition in 2011, the building emerges from the landscape like a stealthy bunker, zig-zagging along the contours of the rocky site in precisely hewn planes of bright white Bethlehem limestone. Set at the top of a four-hectare plot, donated by the neighbouring Birzeit University, the angular form casts ripples into the surrounding land, giving on to a sunken amphitheatre and a garden of snaking terraces, planted with a cornucopia of native species that reads like a horticultural history of Palestine….
In Pictures: Traditional industries in the West Bank
BBC News 17 May — In the West Bank, several traditional Palestinian industries are still utilising historical techniques fine-tuned through generations – but once flourishing industries, such as shoemaking in Hebron or olive oil soap production in Nablus, are barely surviving, with a fraction of their former workforces. Photographer Rich Wiles has been documenting these industries, some of which may not survive much longer in the current political and economic climate.
Nakba: The man reconstructing Palestine’s lost villages
Al Jazeera 17 May by Vacy Vlazna — Driven by a desire to return to his childhood village, Salman Abu Sitta is rebuilding the map of historic Palestine — Salman Abu Sitta was only 10 years old when the Nakba – the mass expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 – happened, forcing him from his home near Beersheba. Like many Palestinians of his generation, his traumatic loss and enduring desire to return would be the defining features of his life from that moment on. Al Jazeera speaks to Abu Sitta about the long and winding journey that has taken him through many of the seismic events of the era.
Palestinian circus brings a smile to children’s faces in Jerusalem
[with video] ICRC Blog 16 May — It is 5 P.M. on a windy spring afternoon in Jerusalem. Despite the drastic drop in temperatures, in the East side of the city, more than 250 people headed to the Palestinian National Theatre to witness Mish Zabta – “it is not working,” in English – one of the main productions of the Palestinian Circus School (PCS). PCS is headquartered in Birzeit, a Palestinian town north of Ramallah in the central West Bank. Due to the escalation of violence in the recent months in the city, it has gotten more difficult for Palestinians to get a permit to cross from the West Bank to Israel. However, with the assistance of the ICRC, a PCS crew of eight people, composed of acrobats and technicians, have been granted a permit to perform in the city for at least six months. On the stage, there are three chairs and a pole. Warm lighting highlights a mural that represents the small and crowded village where Mish Zabta’s three characters come from. Behind the scenes, Ahmad AbuTaleb, Mohammad AbuTaleb, and Nour AbuRob are getting ready while the people flood into the theatre. Nour, from Jenin, a city in the northern West Bank, joined the PCS eight years ago. For him the circus is a way to express what he feels inside. “Some people express themselves dancing or telling stories. I use the circus because I can raise awareness on many things that do not work in the West Bank while I make people laugh and forget about the difficulties that they face every day,” Nour said. Mish Zabta is a new production of the PCS that combines acrobatics, music, juggling and humour. Through laughter, it tells the story of three ambitious young men looking to fulfil their dreams of a better future, after having obtained university degrees abroad….
West Bank solar project unites Muslims and Jews
EcoWatch 16 May by Lorraine Chow — Could a new solar project help promote peace between Israel and Palestine? Build Israel Palestine, a nonprofit involving both Muslims and Jews in the U.S., is building a $100,000 solar array that will help power an underground water pump used by farmers in the village of Al-Auja, which is located in the embattled West Bank. Project One: Increasing Water Capacity in West Bank is the first large project to be funded by Jews and Muslims in the U.S. and has both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims on the technical team, the New York Times reported. The solar facility will draw water from subterranean sources to irrigate a grove of palms growing Medjool dates. The project also involves working with agricultural experts on both sides of the border who will provide training in farming to the Al-Auja community. Importantly, the initiative will help reduce water and electricity costs for the 45 farming families living in Al-Auja, a village of 5,000 Palestinians where electricity is often unreliable and expensive, and water is scarce and expensive to pump….
Israel lobby fails to block screening of Palestinian film at Cannes
EI 17 May by Ali Abunimah — A Palestinian work was screened at the Cannes Film Festival’s Marché du Film as planned on Monday, despite an intense campaign by Israel lobby groups to have it canceled. Nasri Hajjaj’s Munich: A Palestinian Story was one of four film excerpts of which were screened to industry professionals in collaboration with the Dubai International Film Festival.Hajjaj told The Electronic Intifada from Cannes that the screening of a 14-minute segment passed without incident and he received a positive response from those present. As The Electronic Intifada reported last week, France’s main pro-Israel lobby group CRIF had been exerting intense pressure on authorities to ban the film, even enlisting the support of the mayor of Cannes.
Israel steps up war on Palestinian culture
HAIFA (EI) 18 May by Alia Al Ghussain — The Palestinian community in Haifa enjoyed a small victory in March when a theater successfully challenged the Israeli government to win reinstatement of official funding cut after controversy over the staging of a play about prisoners last year. But the reinstatement also threw into focus the constraints on Palestinian artistic expression in present-day Israel and some saw the resumption of official funding as a double-edged sword. On 29 March, al-Midan Theater reached agreement with the Israeli culture ministry to resume the transfer of public funds to the theater, as well as to unfreeze outstanding funding for last year, ending a stand-off that started in May 2015. The ministry had frozen al-Midan’s public funding after the theater staged Bashar Murkus’ play A Parallel Time, which revolves around the lives of six Palestinian prisoners and a jailer in an Israeli prison. Adalah, a Haifa-based legal center, alleged that the ministry’s decision was taken for “political reasons.” Acting on behalf of al-Midan, Adalah filed a petition against the decision in October 2015. The legal grounding for the ministry’s decision was dubious from the outset, according to Adalah….
France postpones Middle East peace conference to June
PARIS/VIENNA (Reuters) 17 May — French President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday an international conference due in late May in Paris to help relaunch peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis would be postponed to ensure the United States would attend. With U.S. efforts to broker a two-state accord in tatters and Washington focused on its November presidential election, Paris has lobbied major powers to hold a conference that would set the groundwork to get Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table before the end of the year. Paris has grown frustrated over the absence of movement toward a two-state solution since the collapse of U.S.-brokered talks in 2014 and argues that letting the status quo prevail was, as one French diplomat, called it “waiting for a powder keg to explode”. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault had proposed May 30 for the talks, but U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is not available on that date, Hollande told Europe 1 radio. “John Kerry cannot come on May 30. It’s postponed, it will take place, it will take place in the course of the summer,” he said. “This initiative is necessary because if nothing happens, if there is no strong French initiative, then colonisation, attacks, terrorist attacks and several conflicts are going to continue,” he added.
Israeli leaders clash over army’s role in public discourse
JERUSALEM (AP) 16 May — A public spat between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defense minister has exposed a simmering rift between Israel’s security establishment and its hard-line government, pitting the Israeli leader in a risky showdown. The dispute has spotlighted the sensitive debate over the military’s role in public discourse in Israel, where security figures have occasionally served as a moderating element to nationalist governments . The controversy was prompted by comments this month by Israel’s deputy military chief, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, who compared recent trends in Israeli society to the atmosphere in Nazi-era Germany. Netanyahu called Golan’s statement, made in a speech marking Holocaust memorial day, as “outrageous” — while Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon supported the general’s right to speak … Following their meeting, Netanyahu and Yaalon issued a joint statement denying any dispute and asserting that “officers are free to express their opinions in the relevant forums.” The dispute with the generals has dominated headlines and seems likely to continue — partly driven by increasing malaise among many over the government’s apparent complacency regarding Israel’s half-century entanglement in the West Bank. Under the ongoing situation, Israel rules millions of Palestinians who cannot vote in its elections. War-hardened generals who have learned the limits of force often tend to be more pragmatic than the hardliners who have been dominant in politics in recent years. Since taking office in 2009, Netanyahu has repeatedly clashed with his security chiefs over key matters. The late Mossad chief Meir Dagan is widely credited with preventing Netanyahu from ordering a pre-emptive military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities — with the backing of other key security figures. The differences have been especially stark in dealing with the Palestinians — particularly since the outbreak of a wave of violence last fall….
Egypt’s Sisi offers mediating role in Israel-Palestinian peace talks
CAIRO (Reuters) 17 May — Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi promised Israel on Tuesday warmer ties if it accepts efforts to resume peace talks with the Palestinians, urging Israeli leaders not to waste an opportunity to bring security and hope to a troubled region. In an impromptu speech at an infrastructure conference in the southern city of Assiut, Sisi said his country was willing to mediate a reconciliation between rival Palestinian factions in an effort to pave the way toward a lasting peace accord with the Israelis. “If we are able to solve the issue of our Palestinian brothers it will achieve warmer peace … I ask that the Israeli leadership allow this speech to be broadcast in Israeli one or two times as this is a genuine opportunity,” Sisi said. “I say to our Palestinian brothers, you must unite the different factions in order to achieve reconciliation and quickly. We as Egypt are prepared to take on this role. It is a real opportunity to find a long-awaited solution.”
Mossad uses creative recruitment riddle to enlist cyber spies
JPost 18 May by Hannah Broad — On Israel’s 68th Independence Day the Mossad announced a “help wanted” advertisement in a creative way. Reminiscent of a technique employed by British Intelligence in WWII, the Israeli intelligence organization published a riddle made up of seemingly random lines of code in a variety of newspapers. When solved, the code revealed the proposition: “Are you ready for a challenge?” Several further riddles eventually brought the candidates to the first challenge message which enlisted their help in a security simulation. “Good morning Agent C!” the message reads. “One of your colleagues has been taken hostage by an unidentified group, and is being held in a previously unknown facility…The rescue team needs your help in opening this mechanism so they can enter and search the premises.” Information security researcher Yossi Dahan said of the Mossad’s unique filtering process “in the event that the candidate successfully passes all of the stages of the challenge, then they can submit a resume.”….
Israel PM shuns Labour for coalition talks with hardliner
AFP 18 May — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched talks with rightwing hardliner Avigdor Lieberman to join his coalition Wednesday, shattering the prospects of a unity government working for a Palestinian peace deal. The surprise development comes after opposition head and Labour chief Isaac Herzog had indicated his willingness to join Netanyahu’s rightwing-led coalition. But Netanyahu’s Likud party said he and former foreign minister Lieberman had decided to form negotiating teams for the latter’s six-seat opposition Israel Beitenu to join the 61-member coalition … Lieberman’s entry into the government would be closely watched by the international community and the Palestinians. In remarks made just a month ago, he said that if he were defence minister, he would give Hamas’s Gaza leader Ismail Haniya “48 hours to return the soldiers’ bodies (from the 2014 war) and (Israeli) civilians (held in Gaza), or you’re dead”. Himself a settler, Lieberman has long expressed mistrust in Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and called for his removal. The former foreign minister also has a history of controversial statements about Arab Israelis. In March 2015, Lieberman said of Arab Israelis who are “against us” that “one must take an axe and chop their heads off”.