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Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel
www.vtjp.org/
For those interested in keeping up with events in Palestine/Israel, there is no better digest than VTJP.

VTJP Archives | Newslinks Archives  
10 December, 2008

UN expert: Israeli policies amount to ’crime against humanity’
Middle East Online 12/10/2008
GENEVA - The UN expert on human rights in the Palestinian territories said Tuesday Israel’s policies against their people amounted to a "crime against humanity. " In a statement, Richard Falk called on the United Nations to make an "urgent effort" to "implement the agreed norm of a "˜responsibility to protect’ a civilian population being collectively punished by policies that amount to a Crime Against Humanity. " He went on: "In a similar vein, it would seem mandatory for the International Criminal Court to investigate the situation, and determine whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders responsible for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law. " Falk said that "such a flurry of denunciations by normally cautious UN officials has not occurred on a global level since the heyday of South African apartheid",. . .

Israeli court frees Jewish settler filmed shooting Palestinians
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/11/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: An Occupied Jerusalem court Wednesday freed a Jewish settler who shot at Palestinians from point-blank range in the Occupied West Bank city of Hebron. Zeev Braudeh from the settlement of Kiryat Arba on the city’s outskirts turned himself in to police on Saturday after video footage released by a human-rights group showed him firing at a group of Palestinians. Two Palestinians were wounded by the gunfire and Braudeh was lightly injured after a Palestinian crowd threw stones at him after the colonist shot at them. The judge ordered the immediate release of Braudeh and criticized Israeli police for failing to arrest any of the Palestinians defending themselves from the gunfire. "Police are treating Palestinian behavior in this incident extremely light-handedly," the ruling said. "We can not take part in this blatant discrimination.

Barak approves transfer of NIS 100 million to Gaza banks
Amos Harel , and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 12/11/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak agreed on Wednesday to transfer NIS 100 million ($25 million) to Gaza from banks in the West Bank. The transfer is expected to take place in the next few days. Barak’s decision came after special appeals to him from both the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and the Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer to help ease the cash shortages in Gaza. Right-wing faction Yisrael Beiteinu criticized Barak, saying that the NIS 100 million being transferred to Gaza will be returned to Israel in the form of 100,000 Qassam rockets. The party also accused Barak of pandering to the Palestinians. Israel has not allowed money to enter Gaza since October, causing cashshortages in local banks. Last week, on what was meant to be pay day for tens of thousands of civil servants, many Gazans were unable to collect their salaries because money ran out.

Hamas raises specter of ’Intifada’ in reaction to Gaza siege, settler attacks
Ma’an News Agency 12/10/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an – Hamas warned on Wednesday that settler violence in the West Bank and Israel’s crippling siege of the Gaza Strip could provoke a new Palestinian Intifada, or uprising. There have been two Palestinian Intifadas, revolts against the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. The First Intifada began in late 1987 and was characterized by popular resistance and demonstrations. The second, the Al-Aqsa Intifada, began in September 2000, has been more heavily based on armed struggle. Salah Al-Bardawil a Gaza-based Hamas leader and the spokesman of Hamas’ parliamentary bloc, made this pronouncement in a statement carried on a Hamas-affiliated website, the Palestinian Information Center. "The situation experienced by Palestinians nowadays is similar to the situation before the Intifada in 1987," he said.

Israeli forces invade West Bank village, raid houses
Ma’an News Agency 12/10/2008
Nablus - Ma’an – Israeli military vehicles stormed the West Bank village of Azmut, east of the city of Nablus early on Wednesday morning. Local sources told Ma’an that Israeli troops invaded the house of resident Jawad Ibrahim Thabet, in the north of the village, bordering the Israeli Elon Moreh settlement. Israeli troops occupied the house for two hours, imprisoning the family in one room. [end]

Fatah al-Islam leader believed dead
Al Jazeera 12/10/2008
The leader of Fatah al-Islam has been "captured or killed" in Syria, an online statement believed to be from the armed group has said. Shaker al-Abssi and two other members of the group were ambushed in Syria on their way to a meeting to make contact with fighters in Iraq, Site, the US-based intelligence monitoring group, reported the website as saying on Wednesday. The authenticity of the statement has not been confirmed. The web posting said the three were either captured or killed in a gunfight with Syrian security forces at Jermana, a Damascus suburb. "We don’t know his fate, but we believe he probably was martyred, but we don’t have solid evidence," the statement read, according to Site. It said Abu Mohamad Awad has been elected to succeed Abssi as the new head of Fatah al-Islam.

Israeli leaders mull Gaza invasion
Ma’an News Agency 12/10/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Israel’s top three ministers met in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning to discuss a possible major incursion in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli news agency Ynet. Gaza was expected to take up the bulk of the meeting between Israel’s prime minister and his government’s foreign and defense ministers. Defense Minister Ehud Barak will brief his two top colleagues on policies toward Gaza, including the truce with Hamas and other groups that ends on 19 December, as well as upcoming Palestinian elections. According to the Israeli news agency, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni have been increasingly at odds with the defense minister over Israel’s assault on Gaza, which they want to escalate, while Barak hopes to maintain the relative calm. The defense minister apparently is at odds with Livni and Olmert over the use of force in response to projectiles being launched from the besieged strip.

VIDEO - Ministers urge tough action in Gaza
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 12/10/2008
(Video) Prime minister, foreign minister and defense minster convene to discuss Israel’s course of action against rocket attacks from Gaza. government ministers call on leaders to launch immediate military operations in Strip - VIDEO - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak convened Wednesday to discuss the alternatives for an Israeli response to theongoing rocket fire from Gaza. Shas chairman, Minister Eli Yishai called on the leaders ahead of the meeting to order "immediate pinpoint operations against the Hamas leadership and those who carry out the terror attacks against Israel. " IDF unveils new anti-rocket radar system (Video: Infolive. tv)Yishai added that Israel should impose an economic blockade on the Strip by halting all money transfers to Gaza.

Aid trickles in as Israel opens Gaza crossings for second day
Ma’an News Agency 12/10/2008
Gaza - Ma’an – Israel will allow minimum shipments of humanitarian aid into the besieged Gaza Strip for the second day in a row on Wednesday, a Palestinian official in Gaza said. Nasser Serraj, the Assistant Undersecretary at the Ministry of National Economy in Gaza said Israel informed him that the Kerem Shalom crossing will be open to allow 55 trucks through. By momentarily easing its blockade of the Gaza Strip, Israel would prevent mass starvation in Gaza, but is still in violation of international law, a top UN official said on Tuesday. The Strip has faced widespread shortages of food, fuel, and medicine, and most industries have shut down since Israel began the siege in June 2007. Twenty-five trucks will be loaded with humanitarian aid, including food and medical supplies, and 20 are destined for the private sector.

Iran to send relief ship to Gaza
AFP, YNetNews 12/10/2008
Islamic Republic’s Red Crescent organization says consignment of 1,000 tons of wheat, sugar, rice and medical supplies to be sent to Hamas-controlled territory next week -Iran’s Red Crescent announced on Wednesday that it is sending a relief ship to the Gaza Strip, in the face of an Israeli blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory. "We are sending a consignment of 1,000 tons on a ship to Gaza the beginning of next week," Red Crescent secretary general Ahmad Moussavi was quoted as saying on the organization’s website. "There is the possibility of our ship being blocked just as the Libyan ship was blocked," he added referring to a vessel intercepted by Israel a month ago. Libya protested to the UN Security Council over Israel’s interception of the cargo ship, which had sought to take 3,000 tons of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

On int’l human rights day, Palestinians traumatized
Press release, Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, Electronic Intifada 12/10/2008
Today marks the 60th anniversary of International Human Rights Day. It is the day the United Nations declared the issuance of the International Declarations of Human Rights to put new international foundations for enforcing and respecting the sacred life and dignity of all human beings. It is a noteworthy coincidence that the birth of this declaration shares the anniversary of the Palestinian uprooting in 1948, still experienced by Palestinians up until today. This occasion comes as Palestine and the whole Middle East region are immersed in continuing violence, political instability and violations of human rights. Palestinian people are witnessing tremendous violations of their rights. Moreover, Israel has continued tightening a strict political and economical siege as well as partitioning the whole of the Occupied Palestinian Territories and restricting freedom of movement, controlling

Int’l official says UN must translate condemnation of Gaza siege into actions
Palestinian Information Center 12/10/2008
GENEVA, (PIC)-- Richard Falk of the UN Human Rights Inquiry Commission for the Palestinian territories has urged the United Nations to translate its condemnation of the Israeli siege on Gaza into actions on the ground. He also stressed that it is about time for an international action to lift the siege on the 1. 5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, underlining that the international body must salvage the tiny Strip which is on the brink of a serious "humanitarian catastrophe". Quds Press quoted the UN official as asserting that UN secretary-general Ban-Ki-Moon, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, the president of the United Nation General Assembly, and Navanethem Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, were concerned about the "suffering" of the Gaza inhabitants. He also accused the Israeli occupation government of "allowing only barely enough food and fuel to enter to stave off mass famine and disease.

Israeli rights group marks UN Declaration anniversary
Ma’an News Agency 12/10/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - On the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an Israeli organization aired "a video homage to the ongoing global struggle for the realization of these rights," according to a news release sent to Ma’an. Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem aired the video clip on its website, which mentions the achievements of "struggles waged by people all over the world in the last 60 years. " In a departure from B’Tselem’s regular work on Israel’s abuses of Palestinian rights, the video does not deal with the occupied territories. Rather, it follows the modern human rights movement that emerged after World War II. In the video, which is narrated by Israeli actor Yossi Pollak, B’Tselem stresses that "realizing the right to equality, to freedom of speech and to human dignity should not be taken for granted, as even today, human rights are violated worldwide.

El Khodary supports calls from UN expert to prosecute occupation officials
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/10/2008
Palestinian legislator, head of the Popular Committee Against the Siege (PCAS), Jamal El Khodary, voiced support to the calls of UN expert, Professor Richard Falk, who called for immediate intervention to stop the ongoing Israeli violations in the Gaza Strip, and that Israeli political and military leaders, should be prosecuted in international courts for violating the international law and the Gaza siege. Falk said that the International Criminal Court must investigate the situation in Gaza, and determine whether Israeli political and military leaders are should be convicted and prosecuted for violations of the international law. In a press release on Wednesday, El Khodary said that the UN expert considered the Israeli polices parallel with "crimes against humanity". Falk is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories.

UN attacks Israeli rights ’crimes’
Al Jazeera 12/10/2008
Israel’s policies against the Palestinians are tantamount to a "crime against humanity", the United Nations’ human rights rapporteur has said. Richard Falk said in a statement on Tuesday that the UN must "implement the agreed norm of a responsibility to protect a civilian population being collectively punished by policies that amount to a crime against humanity". The statement came on the same day that the UN Human Rights Council urged Israel to implement 99 measures to improve its rights record. Falk said it would seem "mandatory" that the UN’s International Criminal Court investigate Israel’s policies in regard to the Palestinians. "[The court could] determine whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders responsible for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law," he said.

World marks UN rights declaration
Al Jazeera 12/11/2008
Diplomats and rights activists have marked the 60th anniversary of the United Nations declaration of human rights that "all human beings are born free and equal". UN and EU officials were joined by activists and artists in Paris, the French capital, on Wednesday for a ceremony at the Palais de Chaillot near the Eiffel Towel where the document was first adopted. The historic document, created in the aftermath of the bloodshed and trauma of World War II, states all people have the right to life, liberty and security. Based on France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1789 and the US Declaration of Independence in 1776, the 30-point non-binding text was adopted by 58 UN states on December 10, 1948. It has since served as a template for international rights conventions, and it. . .

Attempt to stop Israeli ambassador from addressing UN fails
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 12/10/2008
Gabriella Shalev to speak before General Assembly in special session marking human rights day as representative of 30 nations, despite Assembly president’s attempt to prevent speech - WASHINGTON- A recent attempt to prevent Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriella Shalev from speaking before the General Assembly has been foiled. Shalev stands to speak at a UN session marking human rights day as the representative of "western European and other nations" - which includes 30 nations the likes of the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Shalev previously spoke at the Assembly’s meeting marking the 60th anniversary of the UN’s Human Rights Decree. UN General Assembly President, Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua, has gone to great lengths over the past few days in order to prevent Shalev from speaking at the meeting, including ordering that no speeches were to be made in it at all.

Vatican delegation, Peres aides discuss possible pope visit
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 12/10/2008
Israel hopes official visit by pontiff to Jerusalem would help diffuse tension surrounding beatification of controversial World War II-era Pope Pius XII -Despite the Israel and the Vatican surrounding the Holy See’s decision to press ahead with the process of beatifying controversial World War II-era Pope Pius XII, an official Vatican delegation arrived atPresident Shimon Peres’ official residence in Jerusalem on Wednesday to discuss a possible visit by Pope Benedict XVI next year. The delegation, responsible for preparing the pope’s official visits around the world, met with Efrat Duvdevani, the director general of the Office of the President and senior representatives from the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Religious Services and the Interior Ministry. During his visit to Italy in 2007 Peres invited Pope Benedict to Israel, saying such a. . .

After controversial release, settler who shot 2 Palestinians to be charged today
Jonathan Lis and Ofra Edelman, Ha’aretz 12/11/2008
The West Bank settler who was caught on film shooting at Palestinians last week was indicted in Jerusalem’s Magistrate’s court yesterday. Ze’ev Braude, 51, of Kiryat Arba, is alleged to have shot two Palestinians at close range during the evacuation of a disputed house in Hebron. The Magistrate has moved to release Braude with restrictions while the State Prosecutor’s Office appealed to the Jerusalem District Court against the release. The appeal will be heard this morning. Braude was released from police custody just hours before the indictment was announced. The indictment came after Braude’s release because the presiding judge refused to extend his remand until an appeal was served. In her decision to release Braude, Magistrate Malka Aviv criticized police forces for not having arrested the Palestinians documented on the same video hurling stones at Braude.

Hebron shooter sent home
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 12/10/2008
Man suspected of shooting Palestinians after eviction of disputed Hebron house placed under house arrest; judge criticizes police’s ’double standards’ in not arresting Palestinians involved in incident, says police, prosecutors influenced by media - Ze’ev Brauda, the settler from Kiryat Arba who is suspected of shooting at two Palestinians after the eviction of the disputed house in Hebron, was placed under house arrest on Wednesday. Before issuing her decision, Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court’s Judge Malka Aviv harshly criticized the police. "The police are being extremely lenient towards the behavior of the Palestinian residents in that incident"¦ We cannot play a part in such outright double standards. "The judge pointed out that none of the other people involved in the serious incident were arrested by the police and no proceedings were opened against them, when it was clear that Brauda was being lynched.

Settler involved in Hebron shooting charged with assault
Aviad Glickman, YNetNews 12/10/2008
State Prosecutor’s Office decides to file assault with malicious intent charges against Ze’ev Brauda, for injuring two Palestinians in Hebron. Attorney claims he feared for his life -The State Prosecutor’s Office has filed an indictment against Ze’ev Brauda, a settler from Kiryat Arba suspected of firing at Palestinians after the eviction of the disputed house in the West Bank city of Hebron last week. The State decided to charge Brauda with assault with malicious intent. Earlier Wednesday, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court remanded Brauda to house arrest, but the prosecution appealed the decision, demanding he be remanded to police custody pending the conclusion of the legal proceedings against him. According to the indictment, during the tumultuous events surrounding the eviction of the Hebron house, Brauda pulled out his gun and demanded several Palestinians living adjacently to the disputed house go back inside their house.

Indictment filed against Hebron man
Jerusalem Post 12/10/2008
Ze’ev Braude, the Kiryat Arba man suspected of shooting two Palestinians during clashes that followed the evacuation of Hebron’s Beit Hashalom last week, was indicted on Wednesday for causing injury with malicious intent. Indictment filed against Hebron shooter Zev Braude - Earlier in the day, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ordered that Braude be released to house arrest. Judge Malka Aviv said Braude was a "grown man whom the Palestinians tried to lynch [and was helpless]. " "This is a man without a [criminal] past, [and] this is the first incident in which he found himself in trouble," she said. Braude’s lawyer Ariel Etri praised the decision, saying that the "cat is out of the bag. " Braude and Gabi Bibi were arrested in connection with the incident. Both settlers say they were defending themselves from being lynched, while the Palestinians said they were innocent bystanders and were attacked for no reason.

Israeli court indicts settler caught shooting Palestinians in Hebron, yet he is still a free man
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/10/2008
The Israeli Magistrates Court in Jerusalem indicted on Wednesday Ze’ev Braude, an extremist Israeli settler who was caught on film firing at Palestinians residents in the southern West Bank city of Hebron last week after the army evacuated a house the settlers illegally occupied in the city. Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported that the settler was release hours before the indictment was submitted to the court as the presiding judge refused to extend his remand until an appeal was filed. The judge, Malka Aviv, said that the Israeli police should have arrested the Palestinians who were "caught of video hurling stones at the army". The settler had to turn himself in to the Israeli police last week after an activist with the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (B’Tselem) caught him on film while shooting at Palestinians from a close range, injuring one.

Israel releases Hebron settler filmed shooting Palestinian
Ma’an News Agency 12/10/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – An Israeli court on Wednesday released a settler filmed shooting two Palestinians last Thursday during the court ordered Israeli evacuation of settlers from a Palestinian house in the West Bank city of Hebron. Ze’ev Baruda, a resident of the illegal settlement of Kiryat Arba, was placed under house arrest by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court. After an Israeli criminal court rejected his bail appeal, Baruda appealed to the Jerusalem District Court on Monday, but Justice Orit Efal Gabai ordered that he remain behind bars for being “likely to try and hinder the investigation. ”Today, Judge Malka Aviv decided otherwise and ordered Baruda released. Aviv criticized police and prosecutors, accusing them of being ’influenced by the media. ’Although Baruda claimed he “didn’t mean to hurt anyone,” “only fired in self defense,” and “meant to fire warning shots. . .

Gaza lawmaker: Settler attacks on Palestinians ''terrorism''
Ma’an News Agency 12/10/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A Palestinian lawmaker condemned recent attacks by settlers as acts of “organized terrorism” against Palestinians sponsored by Israel. Palestinian Legislative Council member Hussam At-Tawil’s comments came after weeks of escalating violence culminated in settler riots across the West Bank last Thursday as the Israeli government evacuated just one settler-occupied house in the city of Hebron. In Hebron, settlers rampaged through the city, setting houses on fire while stoning and shooting Palestinian residents. At-Tawil, an independent from Gaza, said these attacks are a response to calls from Europeans and Arabs for Israel to halt the construction of illegal West Bank settlements. “There is no sense in talking about any negotiations or political meetings or even a truce with [Israel] during these attacks by settlers in Hebron, Ramallah and Nablus where. . .

Hamas: Settlers’ attacks, plots to liquidate Palestinian cause bode new intifada
Palestinian Information Center 12/10/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement said on Wednesday that the brutal Israeli settlers’ attacks on the Palestinian people, and the malicious schemes to liquidate the Palestinian issue coupled with the crippling siege on Gaza Strip will lead to a new Palestinian intifada that "would strengthen the torch of resistance in Palestine further". These comments were made by MP Dr. Salah Al-Bardaweel, the spokesman of the Movement’s parliamentary bloc in the PLC, in an interview with the PIC where he also stressed, "The atmosphere that our Palestinian people live these days was similar to the conditions that sparked the first Palestinian intifada in 1987 after Israeli settlers’ attacks against our people intensified". "It is a fact that the Palestinian intifada [in 1987] erupted in the aftermath of the brutal crimes committed by the extremist Kahana gangs against the Palestinian people in the. . . "

Settler who shot a Palestinian in al-Khalil released
Palestinian Information Center 12/10/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Israeli radio reported on Wednesday that an Israeli settler who shot a Palestinian in al-Khalil was set free by a magistrate who rebuked the IOF for not arresting the Palestinians who were throwing stones. Malka Aviv, a judge at the magistrates court in Jerusalem, ordered the release of  Ze’ev Brauda from "house arrest" after his lawyer claimed that Brauda acted in self defence and even claimed that the Palestinian who was shot got up again and started throwing stones. The judge also rejected a request by prosecution to extend the house arrest of Brauda for a few hours to allow them appeal the decision at a higher court. The shooting was caught on camera and the footage was used by the prosecution at the court. The judge accused the IOF of being captives to the media by acting on this case the way they did.

Demonstration in Hebron after two members of the Jabari family arrested following settler attacks on their house
International Solidarity Movement 12/10/2008
Hebron Region - Photos - At around 3 o’clock on Monday afternoon, the first day of Eid al-Adha, Israeli forces seized two members of the Jabari family from their home under charges of stone throwing. The soldiers brought security camera tapes from the nearby the illegal Quiryat Arba settlement supposedly showing the two throwing stones along with two members of the settlement as "witnesses". Fadi Jabari, 20 and Mohammed Jabari, 22, live directly across from the recently evicted Rajabi occupied house and over the past months have suffered tremendously from settler attacks on their home and families. In recent attacks they have had part of their home torched, their windows completely smashed and have each been injured by both rocks and assault. The police and army present during the multiple settler attacks did nothing to help the family. . .

Dignity boat arrives to Gaza amidst overwhelming popular joy
Palestinian Information Center 12/10/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Al-Karama "dignity" boat has anchored at Gaza shores amidst overwhelming joy from hundreds of Palestinian citizens after Israeli gunboats attempted to block and return it back to Cyprus. International supporters were on board of the boat that was carrying medical assistance to the besieged Palestinian people in Gaza Strip. MP Jamal Al-Khudari, the chairman of the Popular Committee Against the Siege on Gaza, welcomed the arrival of foreign ship after it succeeded in breaking the Israeli marine cordon on Gaza. He also praised the "Free Gaza" movement for sending the vessel, which arrived one week after the Israeli navy blocked the Libyan Al-Marwa vessel and two other vessels from Qatar and from the Islamic Movement inside the 1948-occupied Palestinian territories from proceeding to Gaza. Furthermore, Khudari highlighted the importance of continuing to send more. . .

Court reviews Palestinian children’s registration error
Ma’an News Agency 12/10/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Israel’s High Court of Justice will hear the case of three Palestinian children mistakenly registered in Israel’s Palestinian Population Registry as Gaza residents, according to Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. Three Palestinian children were accidentally registered as Gaza residents, making their presence in the West Bank illegal under Israeli law. But 10-year-old Nasaam Sabah, seven-year-old Amir-Sa’id Sabah and four-year-old Amam-Sa’id Sabah were born and raised in the West Bank, according to their lawyer, Ido Blum of the human rights organization Moked-Defense of the Individual. Their mother, however, was born in Gaza but notified the Palestinian Population Registry of her change of address when she moved to the West Bank with the children. The Palestinian Authority (PA) sent notice to Israeli officials on 8 December 2006, according to the Palestinian Interior Ministry.

West Bank ''Ultra-Marathon'' to help Palestinian children
Ma’an News Agency 12/9/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A 50km “ultra-marathon” will take place in the West Bank on 22 December 2008 to raise awareness of the plight of Palestinian children caught in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Two aid workers, Gergey Pasztor and Gerard Horton, will run the entire distance from the city of Ramallah to the Huwarra checkpoint at the entrance of Nabulus. Participating runners from the region and abroad will join them for five to ten of those kilometers. “Children are not responsible for the conflict surrounding them, yet suffer the brunt of the impact. They deserve to be sheltered from the conflict and receive a proper education,” Pasztor explained in a statement. While running a previous 28km race in the Palestinian territories, Pasztor and Hortonlearned how something as simple as running was hampered by Israeli checkpoints they were forced to stop at.

Hizbullah rebuffs Carter’s request for meeting
Ma’an News Agency 12/10/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Lebanese movement Hizbullah reportedly rejected a meeting with Former US President Jimmy Carter on Wednesday. Carter’s spokesperson told the German DPA news agency that the group was "not able to meet" Carter. Carter arrived on Wednesday in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon on a five-day trip to meet with Lebanese officials. He plans to assess whether his Carter Center will monitor parliamentary elections scheduled for May. Carter Had expressed interest in meeting Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah or any of his top officials, according to Lebanese media sources. The former president said he hoped to meet with "as many of the political parties as possible. " During a visit to the region in April Carter met with Israeli officials and members of the Islamic movement Hamas. ***Updated at 14:14 local time

Carter urges Lebanon, Israel to ’seize opportunity to work toward peace’
Daily Star 12/11/2008
BEIRUT: Former US President Jimmy Carter met with President Michel Sleiman Wednesday, before being flown to Naqoura in South Lebanon for a meeting with United Nations peacekeepers. The presidential visit and trip to the South came as Hizbullah reportedly declined an invitation to meet with the former head of state. Carter, on a five-day visit to Lebanon, told reporters after speaking with Sleiman that he was pleased to back in Lebanon. "I am happy to come back to this great country - a country that has dedicated itself to peace, stability, progress, freedom and human rights. " The renowned peace activist and Nobel laureate, said he was honored to have met with Sleiman, who, Carter said, has earned the trust of the Lebanese people and the rest of the world. Carter also expressed the hope that Lebanon’s springtime elections would be "successful and safe," adding that he might return. . .

Hit the road, Damascus tells Americans
Stephen Starr, Asia Times 12/11/2008
DAMASCUS - Americans living in Syria are feeling the effects of a snarling international entanglement. Demonstrations denouncing the United States, and the expulsion of a number of Americans working in US-owned institutes and schools, have led expatriates to question the viability of their future here. Those who have been affected by the slide in US-Syrian relations are not marines, politicians or diplomats. Many are American individuals and families who had built new lives in Syria and come to appreciate the Middle East as something altogether different to that portrayed by US media. Up until late October, Syria had slowly but surely repositioned itself as a legitimate player on the international scene. An invitation for President Bashar al-Assad to sit before the July 14 national day parades on the Champs Elysees in Paris was followed by what was expected to be the biggest news story

Israel releases Palestinian lawmaker who won seat while in prison
Ma’an News Agency 12/9/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an – Israel released a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC)after holding him for three years prison on Monday, following a court ruling. The court at Israel’s Ofer detention center acquitted 47 year-old lawmaker Nizar Abdel Aziz Ramadan of all charges. Ramadan had been held in administrative detention under which Palestinian detainees can be held without charge or trial virtually indefinitely. Ramadan was first detained in September 2005. He campaigned and won a seat in the PLC while still in prison in 2006. Ramadan is a member of Hamas’ “Change and Reform” list representing the West Bank city of Hebron. Forty other members of the PLC are still in Israeli prisons.

Rocket fired at western Negev
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 12/10/2008
Qassam lands near kibbutz in Shaar Hanegev Regional Council; none injured. Prime minister, foreign minister to discuss on Wednesday Israel’s response to ongoing fire from Gaza -A Qassam rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed in an open field near a kibbutz in the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council Wednesday morning. No injuries or damage were reported in the attack. The rocket exploded while students were on heading to schools and kindergartens and the sound of the blast caused a panic in the area. The Qassam was not located and probably sunk in the ground due to Tuesday night’s rain. The kibbutz in question has not yet been fortified and works are slated to begin soon. Sha’ar Hanegev Council head Alon Shuster said the rocket was "another painful reminder of the reality we live in and emphasizes our rightful fight for fortification, that we are happy to see has partly ended.

Projectile fired toward Ashkelon from Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 12/10/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an – Palestinian fighters fired a homemade projectile towards the Israeli city of Ashkelon from the Gaza Strip late on Tuesday night, the first such attack in several days. The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the Al-Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah, claimed responsibility for the attack. Israeli sources reported that a rocket fell in the area, causing no casualties. [end]

Official: IDF prepared for Gaza op
Ron Ben Yishai, YNetNews 12/11/2008
Security source tells Ynet military is waiting for political echelon to green light operation in Strip, adds various plans already presented to cabinet -Eight days before the ceasefire agreement brokered with the militant groups in the Gaza Strip is scheduled to end, and amid non-stop rocket fire, a security source said that "the IDF will execute any operation the political echelon orders. "The source further criticized statements made by various cabinet members, saying there was no need for them to publicly call for a Gaza operation, while they choose to take different stands - sometimes opposite stands - in the practical discussions on the matter. The IDF presented the National Security Cabinet, which discussed the ongoing rocket fire onIsrael Wednesday night, with various plans of action, meant to paralyze the rocket and mortar shell fire emanating form the Strip.

PRC warns of attacks as ceasefire expiration approaches
Ma’an News Agency 12/10/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – With the Israel-Gaza ceasefire due to expire on 19 December, the An-Nasser Brigades reiterated their “right to respond to Israeli attacks against our people” on Wednesday, even if the group chooses to committing to the truce. The ceasefire began on 19 June. Israel broke the agreement on 4 November with a deadly incursion into the territory it said was intended to thwart a Palestinian attack. Israel also renewed its siege of the Strip in November. Because of Israeli crimes against Palestinians “Gaza bordering Israeli towns will never be safe from our attacks,” warned Abu Yousef, spokesperson for An-Nasser Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees. Yousef called on all Palestinian factions to unite and oppose Israeli attacks.

Explosives device detonated near soldiers in Hebron area; none wounded
Jerusalem Post 12/10/2008
An explosives device was detonated near an IDF patrol in the Hebron area on Wednesday night, Army Radio reported. None of the troops were wounded in the incident and no damage was done. The soldiers were patrolling the area after Molotov cocktails were hurled at cars driving on a nearby road earlier in the evening. They discovered two additional Molotov cocktails that were ready for use. [end]

Israel to extend hours at checkpoint near Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 12/10/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israel will keep open the Shave Shomeron checkpoint south of Nablus for three more hours through the remainder of the Eid Al-Adha holy day. The Shave Shomeron checkpoint is an important link between the north and central West Bank. Starting Wednesday, it will close at midnight instead of 9:00pm. Nablus, an important population center in the northern West Bank, is surrounded by Israeli checkpoints. [end]

Palestine Today 121008
IMEMC News - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 12/10/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 3 m 30s || 3. 22 MB || Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center www. imemc. org, for Wednesday , December 10 2008 The Free Gaza Movement ship "Dignity" successfully broke through the Israeli blockade yesterday, President Mahmoud Abbas stated that there will be no Peace with Israel unless Israel releases all Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons, and that Israel must put an end to settler aggressions against Palestinian citizens. These stories and more coming up Stay tuned. The Free Gaza Movement ship "Dignity" successfully broke through the Israeli blockade for the fourth time since August, arriving in Gaza Port at 2:45pm, Tuesday 9 December. The ship carried one ton of medical supplies and high-protein baby formula, in addition to a delegation of international academics, humanitarian and human rights workers.

Abbas: No Peace Until Israel Releases Political Prisoners and Stops Settler Agressions
Justin Theriault, International Middle East Media Center News 12/10/2008
MECCA, December 10, 2008 - On Tuesday, President Mahmoud Abbas stated that there will be no Peace with Israel unless Israel releases all Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons, and that Israel must put an end to settler aggressions against Palestinian citizens, WAFA News Agency reported. President Mahmoud Abbas asserted that the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons must be released, saying that this is one of the fundamental Final Status issues. He stressed that there will be ’no peace without freedom to all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons,’ adding that the 11,000 prisoners suffering behind Israeli bars must be released, and that a number of them are to be released very soon. Abbas condemned the Jewish settlers’ continued aggressions against Palestinian citizens in the West Bank, and he demanded that Israel put an end to these aggressions because the Israeli Government. . .

DFLP: Israel discriminating among prisoners in upcoming release
Ma’an News Agency 12/10/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - The leftist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) decried on Wednesday what it said was discrimination in Israel’s list of Palestinian prisoners soon to be released. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had ordered the release of 230 Palestinians, most of them members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement. Scheduled to take place before the Eid Al-Adha holiday, their release was delayed without explanation. Speaking to Ma’an on Wednesday, a DFLP source complained that few prisoners affiliated to the movement had been placed on the list, which was released on Sunday. The DFLP is seeking the release of some of its leaders, including a member of its Political Bureau, Ibrahim Abu Hijleh.

Islamic Jihad warns PA security against handing over commander to occupation
Palestinian Information Center 12/10/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- An Islamic Jihad leader in the West Bank warned Abbas’s security against handing over a commander of the Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, to the Israeli occupation. Abu al-Qassam said in a press statement that Abbas’s security forces arrested Fadi Kittani, a commander of the Quds Brigades, on 5th December in al-Fara’a refugee camp and took him to Junaid prison in Nablus. Abu al-Qassam said that his movement fears that the security forces intend to hand him over to the Israeli occupation as they denied his presence in PA jails, that is if he has not already been handed over. He continued by saying that what provokes doubt about the commander being handed over to occupation is a large-scale military operation carried out by the IOF in Qaffin near Tulkarem as tens of armoured vehicles raided the area and declared a closed military zone preventing people from going to pray the dawn prayers at the mosque.

Gaza’s Fatah youth bloc calls for unity during Eid
Ma’an News Agency 12/10/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The head of the Fatah youth bloc in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday called on Palestinians to unite and work toward reconciliation, especially during Eid Al-Adha, according to a statement. Mahmoud Qanan called on Hamas to “make good use of these blessed days (Eid)” and work diligently toward a national-dialogue agreement. Qanan, speaking for the youth bloc’s leadership council, congratulated Palestinians during the Islamic holiday. In October, Fatah and Hamas-affiliated students clashed at Al-Azhar University in Gaza City. As a result, classes were suspended on three separate occasions and de facto security forces were asked to deploy to the campus to restore order. While tensions later cooled between the youth blocs, university officials suspended seven students, four affiliated with Fatah and three with Hamas.

PRC officials visit killed fighters’ families during Eid in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 12/10/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - A delegation of leaders from the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) met with families of fighters killed in clashes with Israeli forces, according to a statement received by Ma’an on Wednesday. A delegation from the leadership of the An-Nasser Brigades visited the families of detainees and those killed in Israeli-Palestinian clashes. Among them was the commander-in-chief of the PRC, Abu Youssef Al-Qawqa, in Gaza City. The delegation was led by Secretary General of the Brigades Abu Al-Qasim Doghmash and a number of leaders within its Supreme Military Council. The delegation also visited detainees’ families, notably the relatives of Sherif Zyadeh, a leader detained in the Israeli Nafha Prison. An official promised to work hard to release all the PRC detainees in Israeli jails.

Mental health group: World must protect Palestinians in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 12/10/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A Gaza-based mental health organization issued a plea on behalf of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, the 60th anniversary of the International Declaration of Human Rights, in a statement sent to Ma’an. “This occasion comes as Palestine and the whole region are immersed in continuing incidents of violence, political instability, and violations of human rights,” the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme insisted. The group called the anniversary a “coincidence” as it is also “the anniversary of the Palestinian uprooting in 1948, still experienced by Palestinians up until today. ”“The Palestinian people are witnessing tremendous violations to their rights. Moreover, Israel has continued tightening [its] strict political and economical siege, as well as partitioning the whole occupied Palestinian territory and restricting freedom of movement,. . .

Fatah al-Islam says leader was killed or captured in Syria
Daily Star 12/11/2008
BEIRUT: Fatah al-Islam leader Shaker al-Abssi was "probably" killed in a raid by Syrian security forces and fellow fugitive Abed Awad has replaced him, according to an internet statement apparently posted by the group. The unverified information was posted on a website used by Islamic extremists. It said that Abssi and two of his associates were either captured or killed in an ambush by anti-terrorism officers in the Syrian town of Jermana while on their way to meet militants linked with the insurgency in Iraq. Security forces in Lebanon have been hunting Abssi since he led Fatah al-Islam into a 15-week battle against the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) at Nahr al-Bared, but have been unable to capture him. If confirmed, his death would strike another blow at a group which has seen many of its senior members, including his successor, captured or forced into hiding in recent months.

Lebanese terror group says head may be dead
Associated Press, YNetNews 12/10/2008
Shaker al-Absi, head of al-Qaeda-linked Fatah al-Islam group operating from Palestinian refugee camp was probably killed by local security forces in Syria in 2007, group’s web statement says - The leader of an al-Qaeda-linked Lebanese group has probably been killed in Syria, according to a statement purportedly posted by the faction on an Islamic militant website Tuesday. Shaker al-Absi went on the run last year after his group, Fatah al-Islam, battled the Lebanese army for weeks inside a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon. The statement attributed to Fatah al-Islam said al-Absi fled Lebanon in 2007 and went to Syria. It claimed he was later ambushed by Syrian security forces in Jermana, a small town south of Damascus. Al-Absi might have been detained, but most likely was killed, the statement said, without providing further details.

Fatah al-Islam leader captured or killed in Syria
Middle East Online 12/10/2008
NICOSIA - Radical Islamist group Fatah al-Islam has announced that its leader had been "captured or killed" and named his successor, a US intelligence monitoring service reported Tuesday. The group said Shaker al-Abssi and two other members of its group were ambushed in Syria while trying to link up with other Islamic militants from Iraq and Afghanistan, SITE Intelligence Group Monitoring Service reported. The three were either captured or killed in the ensuing gunfight with members of the Syrian security forces, said the statement. Abu Mohamad Awad had been named to succeed Abssi at the head of Fatah al-Islam, said the group. SITE said the statement, the authenticity of which has still not been confirmed, was posted on Islamic militant website on Monday. Fatah al-Islam fought a fierce three-month battle with the Lebanese army last year in the northern Palestinian refugee. . .

Poets for Palestine
Mary Rizzo, Palestine Think Tank 12/10/2008
It’s that time of year, when we give, if we can, something nice to people we love. The past few years on Peacepalestine, and not only at Christmas, I’ve suggested books, and this time, it’s not going to be any different. The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan was one of the best books possible to read for an understanding of Palestine/Israel history. Joe Sacco’s Palestine, a graphic novel, does for the Nakba what Art Spiegelman did for the Holocaust, and it is a book with images that stay imprinted on the mind for days. This year’s suggested book takes some of those things and combines them with a few new elements in a completely different format. Poets For Palestine, (Edited by Remi Kanazi, who you can see on Palestine Think Tank performing two of his poems), is a collection of poetry and artwork that is an emotional tour de force.

Photostory: The month in pictures, November 2008
Slideshow, Electronic Intifada 12/10/2008


From refugee camp to European Parliament: Palestinian seeks EU seat
Ma’an News Agency 12/9/2008
Ramallah - Ma’an – A Palestinian born in a refugee camp in Lebanon is now campaigning to represent Denmark in the European Parliament. Fathi Al-Abed is the head of the Danish-Palestinian Friendship Association and a member of the Danish Socialist People’s Party. He granted an exclusive interview to Ma’an’s correspondent in Ramallah. Al-Abed said views the elections, slated for June, as an opportunity to advance the Palestinian cause and affirm the Palestinian presence in Denmark and other European societies. The slogan of his campaign, which he launched a month ago, is "From the refugee camp to the European Parliament,” referring to his place of birth in Burj Al-Barajneh refugee camp in Lebanon. As for the work of the The Danish-Palestinian Friendship Association, he said the organization “was established to deliver the voice of Palestinian community to the world and to show our struggle.

Hajj pilgrims pray; Palestinians deprived of Eid traditions
Ma’an News Agency 12/9/2008
Mecca – Ma’an – As three million Hajj pilgrims made their way to Jamaraat on Monday to throw symbolic stones at three pillars symbolizing Satan’s temptations, Palestinians in Jerusalem and Gaza did their best to keep up Eid Al-Adha tradition. In Jerusalem, Muslims spent Eid Al-Adha, the Muslim religious festival of sacrifice, praying and feasting under a tense political situation and an Israeli-declared state of alert. In the Gaza Strip, humble prayers were all that could be had amidst the Israeli siege. An absence of salaries, electricity and lambs prevented the feasts, happiness and ritualistic slaughter associated with the holy day. “I couldn’t buy anything for my big family and Eid passed as a normal day under the siege with no happiness and nothing to celebrate,” Sa’id Hamudah, a teacher at a governmental school in Gaza said.

Salfit bans fireworks during Eid Al-Adha
Ma’an News Agency 12/10/2008
Nablus/Salfit – Ma’an – A ban on fireworks in Salfit during Eid Al-Adha has kept the city calm and safe, Palestinian Authority (PA) security officials are maintaining on Wednesday. The ban made by the Salfit Council intends to promote tradition and end dangerous celebratory practices which have previously caused injuries to children and their families. The council, along with residents and prominent personalities in Salfit, praised the safe atmosphere and expressed their gratitude for the action against the fireworks, which they say are dangerous.

Thousands expected for Egyptian pop star’s Jericho concert
Ma’an News Agency 12/10/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Hani Shaker, an Egyptian pop singer known for her sympathy for the Palestinian cause, will perform at this year’s Eid Al-Adha Festival in Jericho on Thursday. Sources stated that 10,000 Palestinians from the West Bank and Jerusalem plan to attend the US $160,000 event. Shaker is scheduled to arrive on Wednesday and hold a press conference at the Grand Park Hotel in Ramallah. Festival coordinators denied reports that Israel had been attempting to prevent the singer from coming to the occupied Palestinian territories. [end]

Report: Arab-Israeli arrested in Mecca
Sharon Roffe-Ofir, YNetNews 12/10/2008
MK Tibi, Jordanians plead with Saudi authorities to free Fureidis resident suspected of assaulting officer during hajj -An Arab-Israeli who made the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia for Eid al-Adha (Muslim festival of sacrifice) was arrested Saturday for allegedly assaulting a local police officer, the Nazareth-based Arabic newspaper Kul al-Arab reported. Relatives of the Israeli, a resident of Fureidis, near Zichron Yaakov, turned to Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) for help. The MK confirmed to Ynet that he had contacted Saudi authorities to facilitate the man’s release. The detainee’s son told Kul al-Arab "to our understanding, my father was arrested following a routine argument with a few people. " According to the newspaper, in recent days a Jordanian delegation to Mecca has conducted intense negotiations with the Saudis to free the Israeli.

Survey: Most Israelis think state must crack down on sex industry
Ruth Sinai, Ha’aretz 12/11/2008
More than 80 percent of Israel’s Jewish, non-Orthodox population feels that prostitution harms human dignity and society and that it is a phenomenon that must be confronted. These findings were part of a survey conducted by the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women at the Prime Minister’s Office. The study also found that 50 percent of Israel’s Jewish, non-Orthodox population thinks there should be legislation to ban or limit the solicitation of sex services. The study was commissioned in order to gauge public views on prostitution. It surveyed 430 male and female Hebrew-speaking respondents from all sectors, with the exception of the ultra-Orthodox. Sixty-six percent of respondents said that the pimp is the sole criminal in prostitution rings, while 68 percent said that participation in prostitution stems from severe distress.

Dear God
Kobi Nahshoni, YNetNews 12/10/2008
Israel Postal Company delivers thousands of letters addressed to God from all over the world in festive ceremony at Western Wall - The Israel Postal Company made a special delivery on Tuesday. In a festive ceremony held at the Western Wall, thousands of letters to God sent in from people from all over the world were placed between the ancient stones of the wall. Director-General of the Postal Company Avi Hochman was in charge of the important delivery, along with the Western Wall’s Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, who prayed for the senders and asked that their prayers be answered. The Postal Company said that during the year all letters that are addressed to God are compiled in one package, and once a year a ceremony is held in which the letters are placed in the wall. Before the letters are delivered, each envelope is opened and some of the letters are even read in order. . .

Nobel peace laureate urges Obama to end Mideast conflict
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/11/2008
OSLO: Veteran mediator Martti Ahtisaari insisted Wednesday that all conflicts could be resolved and urged Barack Obama to strive to bring peace to the Middle East as he received the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize. "All conflicts can be settled, and there are no excuses for allowing them to become eternal," Ahtisaari said as he received the Nobel gold medal and diploma in an Oslo city hall bedecked with red flower decorations. The former Finnish president has over the past 30 years helped resolve conflicts in trouble spots such as Indonesia, Namibia, Northern Ireland and the Balkans. In his acceptance speech, Ahtisaari stressed the need to resolve one of the world’s most drawn-out conflicts, calling on US president-elect Barack Obama to give priority to a comprehensive peace deal in the Middle East when he takes office. "I do hope that the new president of the United States, who will be. . .

Nobel peace laureate urges Mideast focus for Obama
News Agencies, YNetNews 12/10/2008
Former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari wins Nobel peace prize, urges US president-elect Barack Obama to give priority to solving Mideast conflict saying ’all crises can be resolved’ - Nobel peace laureate Martti Ahtisaari says the United States and other powers can no longer sit back and watch Israel and Palestinians destroy each other if the goal is to achieve Middle East peace. The former Finnish president told the AP in an interview before the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony Wednesday that failing to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will lead to instability across the Middle East. He said countries in the region "are one way or another politically tied together" so problems in Palestinian areas will fuel problems in Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq. The 71-year-old peace mediator is receiving this year’s peace prize for his three decades of mediation efforts around the globe.

Hajj pilgrims not hopeful of Obama
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 12/10/2008
After pelting a symbol of the devil with stones, the Iraqi pilgrim knelt and prayed that one day soon all sorts of devils will be removed from his homeland - among them, that American forces will soon leave. Hatim Mohammed al-Sakr said he hoped President-elect Barack Obama will carry out that promise. "We have to wait and see if Obama will do that, but I’m optimistic about it," al-Sakr said Tuesday. But he and many others among pilgrims conducting the annual hajj pilgrimage this year were skeptical Obama will bring deeper changes to American policies that have angered many across the Islamic world, such as US support for Israel in the conflict with the Palestinians and Arab nations. Faith, not politics, is naturally at the center of the hajj, a once-in-a-lifetime journey for the faithful who hope to purify their souls of sin with the rites at Islam’s holiest sites around the city of Mecca.

Nobel winner in Obama Mideast plea
Al Jazeera 12/10/2008
Martti Ahtisaari, the former Finnish president, has used his Nobel peace prize acceptance speech to urge Barack Obama, the US president-elect, to make peace in the Middle East a priority. Ahtisaari called the region’s conflict the "world’s most challenging peace-building project" and urged Obama to start his term by giving it "high priority’’ as he was awarded the prize in Oslo, Norway, on Wednesday. Declaring that "all conflicts can be settled", Ahtisaari said he did not share the view that the decades-long violence between Israel and Palestinians would rage indefinitely. "We cannot go on, year after year, simply pretending to do something to help the situation in the Middle East - we must also get results,’’ he said. He also warned that the global financial crisis would strike hard at the developing world, and called on governments not to cut back on foreign aid.

Obama looks to mend America’s image in Muslim world
AFP, YNetNews 12/10/2008
US president-elect tells Chicago Tribune he plans to give ’major address’ in an Islamic capital soon after taking office, but adds his administration will be ’unyielding in stamping out terrorist extremism we saw in Mumbai’ -President-elect Barack Obama plans to give "a major address" in an Islamic capital soon after taking office as he seeks to mend America’s image in the Muslim world, a Chicago Tribune interview said. "I think we’ve got a unique opportunity to reboot America’s image around the world and also in the Muslim world in particular," Obama said in the interview published late Tuesday on the Tribune’s website. Obama promised an "unrelenting" desire to "create a relationship of mutual respect and partnership in countries and with peoples of good will who want their citizens and ours to prosper together.

PM orders blackout on Gaza policy
Jpost.com Staff And Elie Leshem, Jerusalem Post 12/10/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday afternoon ordered a complete blackout on the details of a discussion held earlier today with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni over the future of the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, which is set to expire on December 19. The future of cease-fire with Hamas: Olmert, Livni, and Barak discuss According to a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office, those present at the meeting received intelligence and operational briefings, and exchanged views on the continuation of Israel’s policy "in light of Hamas’s repeated violations of the understandings that were achieved with Egypt regarding the calm. " The statement also said that in the meeting, the prime minister emphasized that despite the election period ahead, the IDF and the security establishment must remain outside the political debate and may. . .

Egyptian MPs: Stop Israeli pilgrimages
The Media Line News Agency, Jerusalem Post 12/10/2008
Egyptian members of parliament and activists are campaigning to prevent thousands of Israeli Jews from flocking to Egypt every year to visit the grave of a famous rabbi. Thousands of Israelis make annual trips to neighboring Egypt to celebrate the birthday of Rabbi Ya’aqov Abu Ha’seira, a 19th-century Moroccan Jew who was considered a holy man and is buried in Egypt about 156 kilometers north of Cairo. Locals say Israeli visitors behave in a way they find offensive. Campaigners say the visitors dance and wear provocative clothing and that the locals suffer from the tight security measures applied throughout the festivities. The campaigners also say the farmers who live in the area around the tomb are being pressured into selling their land so that investors can build a resort in the area to accommodate the annual visitors.

Four Sri Lankan housemaids stranded in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 12/10/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Four Sri Lankan housemaids are stranded in Gaza and unable to return to Sri Lanka because of Israel’s and Egypt’s closures of the Gaza border. They, along with their employers, are seeking immediate evacuation as a result of difficulties brought on by food, medicine and fuel shortages. Israel has kept Gaza’s borders closed for over a month, allowing only humanitarian deliveries on special occasions. With few exceptions, neighboring Egypt has gone along with the siege, rarely opening its Rafah crossing with Gaza. The housemaids had been working in Gaza for the last seven or eight years, but do not have work permits as the Palestinian Authority (PA) has no power to issue them or to extend visas. Palestine’s borders are entirely controlled by the Israeli military.

Bank of Israel researcher sees zero Q4 growth
Adrian Filut, Globes Online 12/10/2008
This will be the first time in five years that the Israeli economy fails to post quarterly growth. "For the first time in five years of continuous growth, in the fourth quarter of 2008 it is projected that GDP will not rise," Bank of Israel research division deputy manager Dr. Michel Strawczynski said today in a lecture at semiconductor maker Intel. According to Strawczynski, the recession in the US started at the beginning of 2008, but its impact on Israeli exports began to be felt only in the third quarter of the year. Strawczynski said that the delayed reaction was because of the nature of this recession: in contrast to the recession that prevailed in the US in 2001, which hit high-tech industries first, the current recession began in other sectors of the US economy, headed by the housing market. Strawczynski went on to explain that,. . .

Defense exports fall 10%
Ran Dagoni, Washington, Globes Online 12/10/2008
85% of Israel’s defense industry sales are to overseas customers. Israel’s defense industries reported $4. 3 billion sales in January-October, "Defense News" reports. The magazine says government and defense industry officials expect sales for 2008 as a whole to reach $5 billion and possibly even higher. This is an impressive figure, but it falls short of the record $5. 6 billion in arms sales by Israeli defense industries in 2007. However, it is still more than the $4. 8 billion in sales for 2006. According to Ministry of Defense estimates, only 15% of the defense industries’ sales are to the local market, meaning the IDF. The fact that 85% of sales are to foreign customers places Israel in the ranks of the world’s top ten arms exporters. According to figures released by the US Congressional Research Service, Israel was the seventh. . .

Likud hardliner calls for paying the Palestinians to leave the country
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/10/2008
The Israeli Knesset TV had an interview on Wednesday with Likud party hardliner, Moshe Feiglin, who called for paying the Palestinians to leave their homeland instead of evacuating the Israeli settlers from the occupied West Bank, Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported. Feiglin stated that Israeli should annex the occupied West Bank and pay each Palestinian family $250. 000 to leave. He claimed that the Palestinians are willing to leave and that he is certain "that there are countries that are willing to take them in". This week, the Likud hardliner won seat number 20 in the Likud primaries. Haaretz stated that Likud party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu is attempting to marginalize him. Feiglin apparently has his own platform which is outrageous enough to ban Arab citizens of Israel from the parliament. His platform also opposes Israeli participation in the United Nations.

Feiglin: State should demand loyalty of Arab citizens
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 12/10/2008
Moshe Feiglin grants Ynet an exclusive interview following victory in Likud primaries, in which he secured 20th slot on roster, and says there is room to consider withdrawal from UN, as well as eradication of Waqf from Temple Mount - Moshe Feiglin, who landed the 20th slot on the Likud roster recently, told Ynet about his views on Israel’s most pressing issues in an exclusive interview Wednesday. His aspirations for the State’s future include regaining control of the Temple Mount and perhaps withdrawal from the UN, but not the expulsion of the Arab population. What should the boundaries of this country be? "Just as it says in the Likud’s constitution: The State should reign over all of the parts of Israel currently in our hands, as we have done in the Golan Heights. "

Netanyahu to Haaretz: Likud is behind me; Feiglin will soon disappear
Yossi Verter and Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 12/11/2008
Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu reassured his supporters yesterday after the primary that produced a particularly right-wing list. He has also launched a campaign to calm down the international community and ease concerns about the peace process should Netanyahu become prime minister after the February election. Concerns increased this week after far-right-winger Moshe Feiglin and many of his supporters did well in the primary. In a series of consultations, Netanyau said the "Feiglin effect" would fade and the party would soon regain what few Knesset seats it might lose from the recent negative publicity. "The entire faction is with me," he told confidants. "They all called today and expressed their support. Feiglin will fade away very quickly. They can blow it up more and more, but even this lemon doesn’t have much juice left in it," he said.

Probe reveals voting irregularities during ’07 elections for Labor chairman
Jonathan Lis and Roni Singer-Heruti, Ha’aretz 12/11/2008
An investigation conducted by the police’s national fraud unit has revealed voting irregularities and fraud at voting booths during the 2007 internal elections for Labor Party chairman, law enforcement officials announced on Wednesday. Police say the findings of the probe showed forged signatures in the list of registered Labor Party voters for 10 voting booths ? eight in the north of the country and two more in the Negev region. The investigation was launched following a broadcast report by Channel 10 journalist Raviv Drucker. Hidden cameras which showed footage of the day’s voting suggested a significant discrepancy between the supposedly low voter turnout and the high number of voters who turned out in the Arab sector. Retired judge Amnon Stershnov, who supervised the elections, filed a complaint with police.

Police substantiate tampering in 2007 Labor chair elections
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 12/10/2008
Probe into primaries which saw Ehud Barak win chairmanship over Ami Ayalon suggest pollbooks in 10 voting stations were subject to tampering. Case turned over to State Prosecutor’s Office - The National Fraud Unit concluded its investigation of alleged election tampering in the 2007 elections of the Labor chairman. The 2007 chairmanship primaries saw Ehud Barak beat Knesset Member Ami Ayalon. Subsequent claims of election tampering, mostly in Labor’s Arab sector, prompted Commander Yohanan Danino, head of the police’s Investigations and Intelligence Unit, to launch an investigation into the allegations. Head of the Labor Party’s Election Committee, Retired Justice Amnon Straschnov, was said to have sent Danino a letter several days after the primaries, asking him to investigate whether ballots in four of Labor’s voting stations were compromised.

Likud nominee endorses insubordination
Jerusalem Post 12/10/2008
Boaz Haetzni, who was voted to the 36th place on the Likud’s slate, on Wednesday said that he would have refused to carry out an order to evacuate both the disputed Beit Hashalom in Hebron and any of the Arab houses in its vicinity. "A soldier must refuse to carry out a patently illegal order," Haetzni, the son of stalwart right-wing activist and Tehiya MK Elyakim Haetzni, told Israel Radio, saying that one example of an illegal order - the evacuation of settlers - constituted "ethnic cleansing. " Haetzni went on to say, however, that he was critical of right-wing activists who rioted in Hebron. Speaking to Israel Radio after Haetzni, Likud MK Reuven Rivlin said the remarks "first and foremost cause damage to the state. "Haetzni, Rivlin said, would have to learn to toe the line in the Likud and only issue statements that speak for the party’s broad constituency.

Poll: Likud loses 2 mandates over list
Gil Hoffman And Ap, Jerusalem Post 12/10/2008
The Likud party lost two mandates due in part to the election of a slate of hawkish candidates, according to a Teleseker poll set to be published on Thursday in the Ma’ariv newspaper. According to polls Likud’s hawkish list doesn’t hurt faction’s election prospects - These results come after a pair of polls published Wednesday indicated that the primary had not immediately hurt the Likud’s prospects in the February 10 elections. Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu had been concerned that the list of candidates chosen in this week’s primary could hurt his quest to return to the prime minister’s office. But those fears were not borne out by Wednesday’s surveys, though pollsters who took them for Ha’aretz and Yediot Aharonot said sentiments could shift once voters better understood the slate’s composition.

Netanyahu to warn candidates: I will steer this party alone
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 12/11/2008
Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu has called together his party’s top 40 Knesset candidates for an address today in Tel Aviv in which he is expected to outline a zero-tolerance policy to "mutinies and disturbances" in the 18th Knesset. In his speech at Metzudat Ze’ev, Likud’s headquarters in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu will tell the runner-ups that he, and only he, will "navigate" the party. The speech will come just days after the radical camp within Likud - led by Moshe Feiglin - reaped substantial achievements in the party’s primary election which determined the seniority order within Likud ahead of the general election scheduled for February 10, 2009. Polls predict Likud will win the election with approximately 30 seats. Netanyahu’s goal in delivering the speech appears two-fold. First, the speech is probably designed to assure potential voters that Likud has not been, and. . .

Ayalon, no longer with Labor, set to quit cabinet
Roni Singer-Heruti, Ha’aretz 12/11/2008
Minister without portfolio Ami Ayalon is expected to announce his resignation from the cabinet after Labor Party whip Eitan Cabel sent him a letter yesterday demanding he leave because he had retired from the party. "It’s not clear what the Labor people were thinking about when they asked Ami to leave; about handing out jobs in the transition government or about the good of the country," an associate said yesterday. "But it was important to Ami that he stay in order to complete processes he worked on during his time in office. "In his letter to Ayalon, Cabel wrote: "In light of your resignation [from Labor] I hereby request that you return the cabinet appointment you received on the strength of your membership in the party. . . . It seems to me that as someone with pretenses of being guided by morals and values, it is only fitting that you treat the public and members of your former party in the same manner.

Minister Ayalon set to resign from government
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 12/10/2008
Labor demands that its former member give up his appointment as it was made in framework of coalition deal with Kadima -Minister Ami Ayalon is expected to announce his resignation from the government, after the Labor Party demanded on Wednesday that he give up his position as minister without a portfolio due to his recent retirement from the party. Earlier Wednesday Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel sent Ayalon a letter asking him to give up his appointment since he was made minister without portfolio as part of a coalition deal between Kadima and Labor, and leaving the Labor party meant the deal was off. " As someone who pretended to be guided by morals and values, it is only fitting that you treat the public and members of your former party in the same manner," Cabel said in the letter. An associate of Ayalon said in response to the letter "if (Defense. . .

Meretz, new leftist group wrangle over list’s makeup
Roni Singer-Heruti, Ha’aretz 12/11/2008
As Meretz prepares for its Sunday primary, the steering committee of the party’s new leftward alignment will be meeting to discuss the composition of its candidates’ list. Professor Mordechai Kremnitzer heads the committee, which is expected to meet tomorrow with Meretz officials to begin working out the details of a possible combined slate in the general election. The negotiations over the precise mechanism by which candidates from the new movement will be integrated into the Meretz slate will wait until after the Meretz primary. The new grouping’s list has not been made public, but some of the names of those who have joined the new alignment are known. These include Yossi Kucik, Gilad Sher, Merav Michaeli, Uzi Baram and Nir Baram. Some of the figures who announced they were joining the new grouping a few weeks ago also said, though, that they did not intent to run for Knesset.

Mazuz: Justice Ministry bill will clarify conflict of interest
Jerusalem Post 12/11/2008
The Justice Ministry is preparing a bill meant to make it easier to determine when a conflict of interest constitutes a criminal act, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz said Tuesday. Mazuz was speaking at a special Knesset meeting marking the International Day of Struggle against Corruption, run by State Control Committee Chairman Michael Eitan (Likud). Mazuz said that a special task force had studied the matter and the ministry was now ready to draft legislation to clear up the vagueness of the current law. Conflict of interest was at the heart of the probe into Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s conduct in the tender for the sale of the government’s controlling share in Bank Leumi. Last week, State Attorney Moshe Lador closed the case for lack of sufficient evidence. Olmert was suspected of intervening to tip the terms of the tender in favor of a friend, Australian billionaire Frank Lowy.

Report: Israeli envoy to U.K. accuses church service of being anti-Semitic
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 12/11/2008
Ron Prosor, Israel’s Ambassador in Britain lashed out against the Church of England on Wednesday for having approved an anti-Israel carol that was sung as part of a service, according to the Times of London. The carol was part of an "alternative" event called ’Bethlehem Now: Nine Alternative Lessons and Carols’ that took place at the end of November in the Wren church of St James’s in Central London, and was organized by anti-Israel campaigners, including one liberal Jewish group. The carol Twelve Days of Christmas was sung as: "Twelve assassinations/Eleven homes demolished/Ten wells obstructed/Nine sniper towers/Eight gunships firing/Seven checkpoints blocking/Six tanks a-rolling/Five settlement rings. Four falling bombs/Three trench guns/Two trampled doves/And an uprooted olive tree.

PM to make last London calling
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 12/11/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will travel to London next week for a one-day visit, to say goodbye to his British counterpart, Gordon Brown. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad will also be in the British capital next week, for a conference aimed at promoting the Palestinian economy that Brown is hosting. Olmert is not expected to meet Fayyad or to attend the conference. The British government invited Olmert for the visit. During their meeting, he and Brown are expected to discuss a number of issues of interest to both countries. These include the British demand for the labeling of products from Israel and West Bank settlements. The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement indicating that the London visit will address "bilateral and regional issues. "Israeli diplomats in London, however, believe the main reason for the visit is Olmert’s desire to say goodbye to Brown.

Academics ’have abandoned Israeli boycott’, say opponents
Donald MacLeod, The Guardian 12/10/2008
Exclusive: Lecturers’ union denies u-turn on conference motion intended to show solidarity with Palestinians. The UK lecturers’ union has abandoned attempts to boycott Israeli universities after years of international controversy, opponents of the policy said today. In the face of legal threats, the leadership of the University and College Union has quietly dropped plans to implement a conference motion that instructed members to "consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions, and to discuss the occupation with individuals and institutions concerned, including Israeli colleagues". The unionwas asked to "widely disseminate" testimony from Palestinians and union delegations to Palestine. This too was shelved by the national executive at a meeting last month.

Britain to pull most troops from Iraq by June 2009
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/11/2008
LONDON: Britain will start pulling troops from Iraq in March and most will leave by June, reports said on Wednesday, but the Defense Ministry denied that US soldiers would take their place. Citing a senior defense source, the BBC and the Times newspaper said the pull-out was planned to begin in March if provincial elections in January passed peacefully. Other newspapers also reported that the withdrawal would start in March, six years after the US-led invasion of Iraq. Britain, Washington’s main ally in the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein, still has some 4,000 troops in southern Iraq. Responding to the reports, a Defense Ministry spokesman referred to comments by Prime Minister Gordon Brown in July. "We plan - subject to the conditions on the ground and the advice of military commanders - to reduce our force levels in Iraq as we complete our key tasks in Basra in the early months of next year," the spokesman said.

British troops out of Iraq by June
Middle East Online 12/10/2008
LONDON- The British government is preparing to withdraw all troops from Iraq by next June, newspaper reports here said Wednesday. Citing a senior defence source, The Guardian said Britain would start the pull-out in March, and the last troops will leave Basra in southern Iraq by June. Other newspapers also reported defence sources as giving a June date. The majority of Britain’s 4,000 troops in Iraq are currently confined to Basra air base, and the Guardian says that instead of handing over to the Iraqi authorities, they will be replaced by several thousand US troops. About 300-400 troops are likely to remain to help train the Iraqi forces, while equipment such as helicopters will be transferred to Afghanistan. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has ruled out a timetable for a withdrawal but has indicated he wanted to reduce the number of troops in Iraq.

Its tribal time in Iraq; Kurds take note!
Joseph Krauss, Middle East Online 12/10/2008
AL-MUQDADIYAH, Iraq - In 2007 the main road through the Iraqi town of Al-Muqdadiyah was the frontier between Sunnis and Shiites locked in a bloody tit-for-tat of kidnappings, bombings, and the torching of mosques. But that was before tribal sheikhs united to cast out Al-Qaeda, sewing the town’s sectarian wounds shut and reclaiming their traditional role as the region’s enforcers, now on behalf of a newly assertive modern state. "Our tribes have been the same for thousands of years. They don’t change when governments change," Sheikh Saadun al-Juburi says, fingering Muslim prayer beads at a recent gathering of the town’s six main tribal chiefs, all wearing chequered headscarves and dark, regal robes. In January 2008 the town’s leading sheikhs -- both Sunni and Shiite -- formed the province’s first of 14 so-called Support Councils, tribal gatherings aimed at purging their areas of radical Islamist militias.

Blackwater guards should die: dead Iraqi’s family
Middle East Online 12/10/2008
BAGHDAD - The family of an Iraqi man shot dead with 13 other civilians by guards from the private US security firm Blackwater in 2007 called on Wednesday for the death penalty against five who have been charged. "We ask for a just punishment," said Fulaih Ali Ahmad, whose brother Saad died as he was trying to flee the gunfire. Saad was hit by a bullet in the back of the head during the incident in central Baghdad. In Arabic, and in accordance with Iraqi traditions, a "just punishment" indicates the death penalty. Ahmad said the Blackwater guards "killed people who had families. "Who will compensate them? The Iraqi government should push for it and the American administration should pay compensation," he said. On Tuesday the Baghdad government welcomed the charges being laid, but said it could still demand compensation for the victims.

Barak approves transfer of NIS 100m to Palestinian banks
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 12/11/2008
As Israel’s leaders met Wednesday to discuss its military options following increasing numbers of missiles being launched into the western Negev from the Gaza Strip, the government approved transferring 100 million to Gaza banks. Defense Minister Ehud Barak agreed to transfer NIS 100 million ($25 million) to Gaza from banks in the West Bank. The transfer is expected to take place within the next few days. Barak’s decision came after special appeals were made to help ease the cash shortages in Gaza from both the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer. However, right-wing faction Yisrael Beiteinu criticized Barak, saying that the NIS 100 million being transferred to Gaza will be returned to Israel in the form of 100,000 Qassam rockets. The party also accused Barak of pandering to the Palestinians.

Report: Israel to allow banks to transfer cash to Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 12/10/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak agreed on Wednesday to allow the transfer of 100 million Israeli Shekels (25 million US dollars) to Gaza from banks in the West Bank. The transfer, which will ease a critical shortage of banknotes, is expected to take place in the next few days. The sum falls short of the 185 million shekels the Palestinian Authority says is needed to pay salaries to its employees in Gaza. Many banks in Gaza shut their doors last week after they ran out of cash, preventing workers from receiving their salaries. Barak’s decision came after appeals by both Palestinian caretaker Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and the Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer. Fayyad, the head of the West Bank-based Fatah government intervened although Gaza is ruled by the rival Hamas movement because the cash ban meant Fayyad’s government could not pay its employees in Gaza.

Barak okays NIS 100m transfer to Gaza
Ap And Jpost.com Staff, Jerusalem Post 12/10/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday approved the transfer of some NIS 100 million from West Bank banks to banks in the Gaza Strip. IDF spokesman Peter Lerner said armored trucks would cross from the West Bank to Gaza with the money. He said the transfer would be carried out by Sunday. The decision came in response to a "personal appeal" from Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad and a request from Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, the Defense Ministry said in a statement. Shas chair Eli Yishai on Wednesday criticized the move, calling it "a terror prize. " "The Security council gets together, and instead of sending a message to Gaza belt [communities], Sderot and Ashkelon, it sends a message to Gaza and to Kassam launchers," he said. Yoel Marshak, Head of an organization fighting for the release of captive soldier SSgt.

Barak approves funds transfer to Gaza
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 12/10/2008
Defense minister approves appeal to transfer NIS 100 million from West Bank banks to Gaza due to financial crisis in Strip; Shas chairman says decision will ’encourage Qassam launchers’ -Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday approved the transfer of NIS 100 million ($25. 5 million) from the West Bank banks to Gaza. The move was approved following an appeal made by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and the governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer, due to the cash fund crisis in the Strip, which has caused a number of banks to shut down. The funds are intended to pay the salaries of 70,000 of the Palestinian Authority’s employees in the Gaza Strip, and will be transferred this week in an Israeli ’Brink’s’ truck. Shas Chairman Eli Yishai criticized Barak’s decision and said, "This is a prize for terror.

Ultra-Orthodox pressure leads finance committee to approve budget changes
Zvi Zrahiya TheMarker Correspondent, Ha’aretz 12/11/2008
As the fiscal year comes to a close, the treasury, under pressure from ultra-Orthodox factions, has asked the Knesset Finance Committee on Wednesday to approve a series of changes to the state budget for 2009. The finance committee approved the changes within 85 minutes, with only 6 of the 19 committee members present. The changes, which do not increase the budget, include redistributing funds applied toward a variety of purposes, including political meetings, religious institutions, the disengagement plan, former presidents and ministers without portfolio. The treasury is seeking to transfer NIS 100 million to ultra-Orthodox and religious institutions, after MKs from ultra-Orthodox factions including Shas, United Torah Judaism and the National Religious Party leveraged pressure on it. The treasury is also requesting to transfer NIS 67.

Tzipi Livni slams Likud list as ’been there, done that’
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 12/11/2008
Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni criticized the Likud on Wednesday as a party that offers little in the way of new ideas to the public. "I saw the Likud list of candidates this morning and I said to myself, ’Ah, now I am reminded of why we left the party whose platform starts with "what we won’t do" rather than with "what we will do"’," Livni told a gathering of Kadima activists in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. "I remember when there were [Likud] rebels and we couldn’t come to agreements on diplomatic and social issues, and then we said we’re going to Kadima," Livni said. "I know why the Likud is not an alternative for advancing anything in Israel. The public has already been in this movie of the Likud. ""Kadima will attain a list that one can be proud of and will accompany me to the premiership of Israel," Livni said in the opening of her remarks.

Livni says Likud deserves ’no more than 12 mandates’
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 12/10/2008
Kadima leader says Likud’s new roster reminded her why she left party in the first place - The Likud Party cannot advance the peace process, Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni told her supporters in Tel Aviv Wednesday evening. "I saw Likud’s new Knesset roster and was reminded of why I left the party in the first place," she said. "Its platform is based on ’no to this’ and ’no to that’ – so what do they say ’yes’ to? ” The Kadima leader said that during her days as a Likud member she was unable to rally the party around any political, economic or social policies because of the so-called "rebels" – a group of Likud MKs who opposed to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Gaza Disengagement plan in 2005. "Kadima will present a Knesset roster which will make us proud, and it is this roster that will accompany me on the road to the premiership," said Livni, who is also Israel’s foreign minister.

Rabbis urge yeshiva heads to decline state funds
Kobi Nahshoni, YNetNews 12/10/2008
Thousands rally in Jerusalem in protest of state involvement in ultra-Orthodox education, call on MKs, educational institution heads to reject government budgets -Thousands of people attended a demonstration in Jerusalem on Tuesday against government supervision of haredi educational institutions. In the rally, which was organized by the Haredi Community anti-Zionist faction, rabbis urged education institution heads not to apply for state funds. A banner hung over the central stage at the event read, "It’s time to say no to the heretical government’s budgets, which bring a catastrophe on haredi education. " Thousands rally in Jerusalem (Photo: Gil Yohanan) The rally was opened with a reciting of psalms and speeches by prominent rabbis. Later on, protesters marched through the haredi neighborhoods of Geula and Mea Shearim, and hundreds of people joined them in the process.

Frustrated by impasse, New Green Movement will run for Knesset
Zafrir Rinat, Ha’aretz 12/10/2008
A recently-formed left-leaning environmentalist group on Tuesdayannounced that it will be running for the Knesset in the February 10 general elections. At a press conference in Tel Aviv, the chairman of The Green Movement, Eran Ben-Yemini, said the new party will hold a primary election this Friday to determine its list of candidates for the Knesset. Ben-Yemini, cofounder of the student environmental organization Green Course (megama yeruka), founded the new party along with Professor Alon Tal - the founder of Israel Union for Environmental Defense. Ben-Yemini said that he and his associates decided to form a party after realizing that none of the existing political parties are demonstrating enough commitment to dealing with environmental issues. He added that the new group considered joining the new leftist movement under Meretz.


Articles


Behind Israeli Bars: Palestinian Child Prisoners
Joharah Baker – The West Bank, Palestine Chronicle 12/10/2008
      During Israel’s first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session on December 4 in Geneva’s UN Palais de Nations, a number of issues were brought to the fore by representatives of the UN member states sitting in the room. The UPR, a new Human Rights Council mechanism whereby a country’s own national report on human rights is subjected to scrutiny by its fellow countries, is supposedly aimed at creating a means of addressing human rights violations occurring throughout the world. Among the concerns voiced by state parties towards Israel’s national report was concern over its treatment of Palestinian minors in Israeli prisons. While Israel’s panel of experts attempted to put to rest this issue by claiming that a total of six Palestinian minors from the occupied Palestinian territories were in Israeli prisons or detention centers and that all of these minors were 17 years of age, there are a number of Palestinian and international organizations that beg to differ.
     The Palestinian prisoner issue has long been at the forefront of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, and has often been used as one of the more flexible bargaining chips that Israel is willing to utilize under the umbrella of “good will gestures”. There are over 10,000 Palestinian prisoners currently in Israeli prisons and detention centers both in the Palestinian territories and inside Israel. While this issue continues to remain a grave concern for Palestinians, the incarceration of children is no doubt an even graver concern and a clear breach of several international laws and charters protecting the rights of the child.

Wisdom and laughter in a child’s view of Palestine

Naomi Shihab Nye, Electronic Intifada 12/10/2008
      Might Randa Abdel-Fattah’s new book ’Where the Streets Had a Name’ be required reading, please, for the new American government? Such an eloquent, high-velocity novel with a spunky 13-year-old heroine, Hayaat, could easily help adults grasp the ridiculous realities of insult constantly faced by residents of occupied Palestine.
     Abdel-Fattah’s third book -- she’s an "Australian-born-Palestinian-Egyptian-choc-a-holic," a lawyer, and a mom of two, all somewhat miraculously before the age of 30 -- absorbs a reader immediately. This engaging family story deftly weaves together every iconic element of Palestinian disenfranchisement -- land titles, checkpoints, curfews, the general frustrations of daily life -- along with jokes, arguments and repeated stories which keep people going. Lost olive trees and the profound and irrevocable sense of time and haunted belonging, are in place by page 20.And they all ring very very true.
     Young Hayaat of Bethlehem has a scarred face and an ebullient spirit. Written in first person, the narrative feels genuine without stretching our belief. Her older sister Jihan diets and exercises obsessively (including lifting cans of chickpeas, as weights) to prepare for her wedding. The girls have two little brothers, minor characters. Their father, Baba, carries the profound weight of the endlessly frustrated, depressed Palestinian man: "We have no way of seeing Baba’s demolition -- the rubble and ruins are inside him."Their mother grits her teeth and channels her own frustration into cleaning and cooking and bossing her children around.

An Israeli in Gaza: An Interview with Jeff Halper

Frank Barat - London, Palestine Chronicle 12/10/2008
      Jeff Halper heads an Israeli peace organization.
     Frank Barat: You recently took part in the Free Gaza movement (1) and successfully reached Gaza by boat with others activists, journalists and human rights workers from around the globe. How did you get involved in such an initiative and why was it important for you to take part?
     Jeff Halper: As an Israeli and the head of an Israeli peace organization (ICAHD -- The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions), I was asked by the Free Gaza Movement organizers to take part in their action to Break the Siege of Gaza by sailing two boats from Cyprus to Gaza City port. I agreed because this was a non-violent political action; breaking the siege and by implication highlighting Israel’s responsibility for it (which it tries to shrug) fit into ICAHD’s mission, to end the Israeli Occupation completely. Had this been defined as a humanitarian mission I would not have participated, since the so-called "humanitarian crisis" in Gaza is not the result of some natural calamity, but of a deliberate policy of Israel -- plus the US, Europe and Japan, it must be said, and aided by Egypt -- to break the will of the Palestinians to resist and to replace the democratically elected government of Hamas by a collaborationist regime more amenable to Israeli control.

The UN Resolution That Time Forgot

Ghada Karmi - London, Palestine Chronicle 12/10/2008
      Rectifying this injustice is a moral and practical imperative.
     Sixty years ago, on 11 December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly passed an important resolution about Israel and the Palestinians. It called on the newly formed Israeli state to repatriate the displaced Palestinians "wishing to live in peace with their neighbours’at the earliest practicable date", and to compensate them for their losses. A Conciliation Commission was set up to oversee the repatriation of the returnees. Though never implemented and frequently ignored since then, Resolution 194 has haunted the Israeli-Palestinian peace process ever since, and has proved the most insurmountable obstacle in all peace negotiations. It is the legal basis for the ’right of return’, to which Palestinians have clung for sixty years.
     Far from this fundamental plank of the Palestinian cause being protected and preserved, it has been used like a political football between the parties, sometimes to attack, sometimes to defend, and now as something to bargain over. Through this process the discourse about the right of return has become deliberately ambiguous or vague, responding to Israel’s anxieties. To assert, against this background of appeasement, that the right of return is the sine qua non of any solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem is viewed today as ’unrealistic’ and old-fashioned, even an obstacle to peace, as if the passage of sixty years had disqualified the Palestinians from entitlement to their homeland. Israel, conversely, shows no such ambiguity in its perennial and unambiguous rejection of the right of return.

The EU’s blind eye to Israel

David Morrison, Electronic Intifada 12/10/2008
      On 1 September 2008, the European Union decided that meetings with Russia about a new partnership agreement would be postponed until the latter ended its military occupation of Georgia. In contrast, on 16 June 2008 the 27-member EU decided to "upgrade" its relations with Israel. This has now been put into effect by a decision of the EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Brussels on 8 December.
     Was this in recognition of Israeli adherence to previous agreements with the EU, or progress in the peace process with the Palestinians? On the contrary, by the EU’s very own standards it appears to have been a reward for Israel’s military occupation of the territory of several countries, and gross violations of human rights and international law, as well as specific commitments made to the EU. If the conditions applied to Russia today were applied to Israel, the EU would immediately terminate its partnership agreements with Israel.
     In 2004, Israel became an EU partner within the framework of the EU’s European Neighborhood Policy (ENP), which encompasses both the EU’s Mediterranean and eastern European neighbors. Under the ENP, according to the policy stated on its Web site, the EU’s relations with other states are "a privileged relationship, building upon a mutual commitment to common values (democracy and human rights, rule of law, good governance, market economy principles and sustainable development)." Moreover, the ENP offers "a deeper political relationship and economic integration."However, this is not unconditional, as "the level of ambition of the relationship will depend on the extent to which these values are shared."

Legal lenience

Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 12/11/2008
      The decision yesterday by Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge, Malka Aviv, to order the release of Ze’ev Braude, the settler suspected of shooting a Palestinian following the evacuation of the House of Contention in Hebron, did not come as a surprise to either the State Prosecutor’s Office or human rights groups.
     A brief search on the judiciary’s Web site reveals that Aviv, according to her CV, is herself is a long-term settler. She was one of the first settlers of Gigit, a moshav which was established in the Jordan Valley in 1975.
     During 41 years of occupation, many settlers and supporters of Jewish settlements in the West Bank have risen to senior posts in the Israel Defense Forces and hold key offices in the Civil Administration as well.
     The friendly handling of settler Noam Federman’s case a week ago, by Judge Moshe Drori, was not unusual. Although the settler breached an area declared a "special security zone," violating a military order and promises made by the local council head to restrain renegade settlers, Drori reprimanded the state for removing Federman.

lsrael’s Hitler to Join the Knesset

Khalid Amayreh in Occupied Jerusalem, Palestinian Information Center 12/11/2008
      His name is Moshe Feiglin, but he may very well be called Israel’s Adolph Hitler. On Monday, 8 December,  the day the Likud held its primaries,  Feiglin won  a respectable position on the Likud’s  Knesset list  for the upcoming Israeli elections,  slated to take place on 10 February. This means, almost certainly,  that Feiglin will become a Knesset member as all opinion polls indicate that the jingoistic party will win the elections and form Israel’s next government.
     Calling Feiglin a "Hitler" is not an exaggeration at all. The man stands for and advocates all the fascist ideas and  ideals that made Hitler the Nazism evil. In fact,  whatever  differences there may be between people like Feiglin and the hated Nazi hierarchy   have  more to do with form rather than substance, e.g. Hitler and ilk  believed in the superiority of the  Master Aryan  Race while Feiglin and tens of thousands of supporters  believe in the superiority of the Chosen People over goyem.. And while Hitler would call German territorial expansionism "lebensraum," Feiglin uses a lesser sophisticated term in reference to  Israel’s territorial aggrandizement: Eretz Yisrael ha’Shlema (the Greater Land of Israel) which includes, in addition to mandatory Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, and large parts of Syria, Iraq and Egypt.

Instead of Auschwitz

Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 12/11/2008
      The committee coordinating the struggle to free Gilad Shalit went all the way to Auschwitz where, it is reported, its members distributed 888 yellow flowers. That was in October, and we can only hope that this media gimmick will not be repeated, either because an agreement will be reached in the near future or because the organizers will understand how lacking in taste that move was.
     The committee is continuing to put non-stop pressure on the government despite warnings that this is hampering the negotiations. In this way, the organizers and participants are showing a healthy lack of faith in the politicians’ promises. But the lack of faith stops when we talk about the policy of repression employed by Israel against the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip. Here the organizers (including the kibbutz movement’s missions branch) accept the government’s approach and merely demand "more!" - more blockading of food, medicine, fuel and cash; more destruction of industry and agriculture; more homes without water. That is the logic behind the demonstrative obstruction of the border crossings initiated by the organizing committee in October. Now the committee is aiming its arrows at the families of the Palestinian prisoners. It tried to stop family visits at the Ashkelon prison and pledges to do so at other jails.

Poem: To Exist is to Resist

Remi Kanazi, Palestine Think Tank 12/10/2008
      Palestinian New Yorker, Remi performs 2 of his poems.
     In my mind
     I’ve freed Palestine
     Envisioned a dream
     That just needs to be seen
     Olive trees and fields of figs
     Orange groves
     That lead to our roads
     No blocks filled with cops
     No ten-year-olds shot
     Freedom
     Is what I got
     I understand my grandmother’s plan
     To live on her bought and paid for land
     And though it isn’t in her hands
     It remains in her heart
     Every time another is killed
     We go back to the start....