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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  
14 March 2008

News

Israeli forces invade West Bank village, occupy Palestinian houses
Ma’an News Agency 3/14/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - Israeli forces stormed the town of Tuqu, south of the West Bank city of Bethlehem, occupied several houses on Friday morning. Witnesses said that six Israeli military vehicles and a number of infantry soldiers entered the neighborhood near the municipal government building. Soldiers took up positions on the roofs of houses, including a house belonging to resident Jamil Al-Amour. While on top of the houses, Israeli soldiers blew up residential water tanks, witnesses said. Stone-throwing Palestinian youths confronted the soldiers, who fired rubber-coated metal bullets. Israeli troops also prevented worshippers from attending prayer services at local mosques.

Gaza: IDF chopper hit by bullet
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 3/14/2008
Senior Air Force official tells Ynet threat on Israeli helicopters in Gaza Strip growing - Terror groups in Gaza getting closer to downing Israeli choppers:An IDF helicopter on operational duty in the Gaza Strip Friday was hit by a bullet, the army said. The chopper landed safely at an Air Force base. No injuries were reported in the incident. The army said the helicopter was apparently hit by a machinegun bullet, but fortunately the section of the chopper hit by the bullet was not a sensitive one. The Air Force is looking into the incident. Meanwhile, a senior Air Force official told Ynet that the threat on Israeli helicopters has been growing. "The threat is growing every day," the official said. "Terror organizations have great motivation to hit Air Force aircraft, and helicopters are naturally a major target because they fly at a relatively low altitude. . . "

Barak skips three-way meeting
Al Jazeera 3/14/2008
The US air force officer overseeing Israeli and Palestinian compliance with the so-called "roadmap" to peace has held his first meeting, but Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, did not attend. General William Fraser’s three-way meeting in Jerusalem on Friday came after renewed violence and failed commitments on both sides. The Palestinians sent Salam Fayyad, their prime minister, while the Israelis dispatched Amos Gilad, a lower-level defence ministry official, a decision the Palestinians said showed a lack of seriousness. "It would have been very appropriate for Barak to go. Maybe Barak couldn’t go because he is busy planning more [settlement construction] and more incursions," Saeb Erekat, senior Palestinian negotiator, said. Before the meeting began, Gilad told Israel Radio that it was "part of the general dialogue between us and the Palestinians and us and the Americans" and part of an effort to "make progress in the peace process".

3 rockets hit Negev during Vilnai visit
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 3/14/2008
Three Qassam rockets were fired from the northern Gaza Strip towards Israel on Friday afternoon. Two rockets landed in open areas near the southern town of Sderot, and another rocket hit the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council. There were no reports of injuries or damage. The Qassam were fired at Sderot while Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai was touring the city with Labor Party activists. Immediately upon hearing the alert, Vilnai and his men ran to a fortified building in the area. The deputy minister arrived in the city in order to attend a Labor meeting with local council heads. Simultaneously, a delegation of business people arrived at the city as well in a convoy of 20 taxis and handed out Purim gifts to Sderot’s children. On Friday morning, a Qassam rocket landed within the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

Israeli police attacks shepherds in Hebron
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 3/14/2008
The Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank, reported on Friday that Israeli Border Policemen attacked several Palestinian shepherds grazing their sheep and working in their olive groves in Khourba valley. The policemen were trying to force the shepherds out of a Palestinian orchard which was attacked by extremist settlers who damaged some olive trees last month. The CPT reported that one border policeman attacked a Palestinian shepherd and twisted his arm before pushing him to the ground. The policemen also attacked another shepherd, grabbed him from his collar, and pushed several other residents. The policemen also attacked several international volunteers who accompanied the Palestinian shepherds and threatened to arrest them. There were no reports of serious injuries.

Two Israelis wounded in clashes with IDF at anti-fence protest
Meron Rappaport, Ha’aretz 3/14/2008
Two Israeli protestors were wounded Friday in clashes with Israel Defense Forces troops during a weekly protest against the construction of the West Bank separation fence near the Palestinian village of Bil’in. The protesters accused IDF troops of firing rubber bullets directly at them from short range, without any provocation. Some 100 Israeli and Palestinian demonstrators participated in the protest. "We were standing in a group of about 10 Israelis next to the fence," said one protester. "The soldiers were standing roughly 10 meters from us. They saw Us and it was clear that we weren’t throwing stones or anything. Suddenly I felt a blow to my arm. I was relatively lightly hurt. The guy next to me was more seriously wounded because the bullet penetrated his thigh. "

Barghouthi: Barak should be tried for war crimes after Bethlehem shooting
Ma’an News Agency 3/14/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an - "Ehud Barak’s actions are those of a war criminal, one who should be tried in an international court for crimes against humanity," said Palestinian National Initiative (PNI) Secretary General Mustafa Barghouthi on Thursday. Barghouthi, the former Palestinian information minister, dismissed a statement by Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak that the killing of four Palestinians by an undercover Israeli forces in Bethlehem early on Wednesday evening, demonstrated Israel’s commitment to "pursue and strike all killers with Jewish blood on their hands. ""Barak is directly responsible for the recent massacre of scores of Palestinian civilians, including 31 children, in the Gaza Strip. Now he is intensifying killings in the West Bank to provoke a reaction from armed Palestinian groups, in order to justify the massive violations of human rights and. . .

EU demands Israel halt all construction in W. Bank, E. J’lem
Reuters, Ha’aretz 3/14/2008
European Union leaders on Friday condemned Israeli plans to build hundreds of new homes in a West Bank settlement, and called on Israel to act swiftly to keep peace efforts alive. "The EU reiterates that settlement building anywhere in the occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law," the bloc’s presidency said in a statement after a summit of EU leaders. "Settlement activity prejudges the outcome of final status negotiations and threatens the viability of an agreed two-state solution. The European Council therefore urges Israel to take immediate action in particular on settlements and outposts," the leaders said. Israel said on Sunday that plans to build a total of 750 homes in Givat Ze’ev, a settlement near Jerusalem, were being revived.

Barhoum: Bethlehem massacre scandalizes Abbas and his team’s collusion
Palestinian Information Center 3/13/2008
GAZA, (PIC) -- The Hamas Movement on Thursday urged all resistance factions in the West Bank to escalate attacks on the Israeli occupation forces in retaliation to the IOF troops’ bloodbath in Bethlehem where four resistance fighters were killed in cold blood. Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said that the relentless IOF troops targeting of resistance fighters reflect the IOA "hysteria" due to the success of the resistance strikes in the Zionist depth. He charged that the massacre revealed the extent of collusion between PA chief Mahmoud Abbas and his entourage with the Israeli occupation after "selling resistance at the Annapolis and Paris conferences in return for protecting their personal interests and the corrupt group in Ramallah and Fayyad’s illegal government". The "vicious crime" paves the way for the tripartite meeting on Thursday grouping the American security. . .

Anti-siege campaign calls on int’l community to save Palestinian patients
Palestinian Information Center 3/13/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The international Palestinian campaign to break Gaza siege appealed to the international community to intervene to save hundreds of Palestinian patients who are at risk of dying because of the Israeli suffocating siege imposed on Gaza more than nine months ago. Dr. Eyad Al-Seraj, the head of the campaign, stated that the Israeli siege is an unjust mass punishment and affected economic, social, educational and health sectors, adding that Gaza hospitals suffer an acute shortage of all kinds of medical supplies especially medicines and appliances. In another context, the Palestinian scholars league called on Wednesday on the Islamic nation’s scholars to respond to the Jewish rabbis’ twisted religious edicts which called for killing Palestinian activists who are defending the Aqsa Mosque against Judaization schemes.

Human Rights Council calls for cessation of Israeli military attacks in occupied Palestinian territories and of firing of crude rockets
United Nations Human Rights Council, ReliefWeb 3/6/2008
The Human Rights Council this afternoon adopted a resolution in which it called for the immediate cessation of all Israeli military attacks throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories and of firing of crude rockets. In the resolution, which was adopted by a roll-call vote of 33 in favour, 1 against and 13 abstentions, the Council condemned the persistent Israeli military attacks and incursions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, particularly the recent one in the Gaza strip. The Council expressed its shock at the Israeli bombardments of civilian homes. The Council called for the immediate cessation of all Israeli military attacks throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the firing of crude rockets and for urgent international action to put an end to the grave violations committed by Israel. It reiterated its call for the immediate protection of the Palestinian people. . .

Nonviolent resistance undetered even as Israeli forces use new weapon
Palestine News Network 3/14/2008
Ramallah / PNN – In the weekly nonviolent demonstration in Bil’in Village, west of Ramallah, Israeli forces injured six people. After Friday prayers the march began, with international and Israeli supporters in the midst. They held banners condemning construction of the Israeli Wall and settlements, and particularly what is happening in the Jordan Valley as the Israeli government confiscates the water supply. Israeli soldiers began immediately attacking the nonviolent resistance as they walked through their own lands and approached the Wall. Using rubber-coated steel bullets and gas, including pepper spray straight into the eyes of some, Israeli forces attacked those who were chanting slogans of national Palestinian unity and resistance to occupation on all levels, including against checkpoints within the West Bank.

Qassam Brigades clash with IOF troops in Qalqilya
Palestinian Information Center 3/14/2008
QALQILYA, (PIC)-- Resistance fighters affiliated with the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas clashed with IOF troops during an IOF incursion, at dawn Friday, into the northern West Bank city of Qalqilya. The clashes took place at Nablus street and the Brigades said in a statement on Friday that its fighters were confronting the invading troops in an attempt to defend the Palestinian people against "this barbaric Zionist holocaust which the enemy is bringing to the West Bank after the Gaza Strip. " The Brigades further said: "We, in the Qassam Brigades, stress our right to defend our people in the face of usurping Zionists and we find it strange that Abbas’s security agencies in the West Bank carry out campaigns of arrest and pursue resistance fighters during the day while the occupation forces carry out the same task at night in a very naked collaboration and unprecedented security coordination with the murderers of our people.

Hamas fighters confront Israeli forces in Qalqilia
Ma’an News Agency 3/14/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinian fighters confronted Israeli forces that invaded the West Bank city of Qalqilia at dawn on Friday, Hamas’ military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades said. The Brigades said that their activists engaged in violent clashes with Israeli forces on Nablus Street. Israeli forces reportedly raided several private homes after invading the town from several directions. The Al-Qassam Brigades accused Israel of attempting to transfer a policy of aggression from Gaza to the West Bank. [end]

Israeli forces invade Aqqaba, threatening to demolish houses
Ma’an News Agency 3/14/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli occupation forces entered the West bank town of Aqqaba, near Tubas, threatening to demolish Palestinian houses. Municipal council chair Sami Sadeq said that the Israeli forces stormed the town and closed the eastern entrance of the town deployed troops in streets throughout the town. Sami Sadeq added that the Israeli troops threatened to demolish the houses built without hard-to-obtain construction permits. [end]

Israeli forces invade Jenin and surrounding area
Ma’an News Agency 3/14/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces invaded the West Bank city of Jenin and the nearby town of Arraba before dawn on Friday. Local sources said that more than 15 military vehicles invaded Jenin and the surrounding refugee camps, forcibly searching Palestinians’ homes amid a gunfire and sound grenades. The Israeli troops were searching for "wanted" Palestinian activists, though none were arrested. [end]

DFLP fighters ’launch two projectiles at Sderot’
Ma’an News Agency 3/14/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The National Resistance Brigades, the armed wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), claimed responsibility for launching two homemade projectiles at the Israeli town of Sderot, bordering the Gaza Strip, on Friday. The group said the attack was a response to Israeli attacks on the Palestinian people. [end]

PCHR Weekly Report: 9 Palestinians killed, 17 wounded by Israeli forces
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 3/14/2008
According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR)’s Weekly Report, during the week of 6 - 12 Mar. 2008, 9 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces. 4 of the victims were extra-judicially executed by Israeli forces in Bethlehem. 3 of the victims bled to death, and another Palestinian died from a previous wound. 17 Palestinians, including 7 children and a woman, were wounded by Israeli forces. Israeli attacks in the West Bank: Israeli forces conducted 47 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. Israeli forces abducted 78 Palestinian civilians, including 12 children, during these incursions in the West Bank. One Palestinian civilian was abducted by Israeli forces at a checkpoint in the West Bank. In one example of an incursion, on March 10th, Israeli forces invaded a village near Tulkarem, raided and searched a number of houses and abducted ’Abdul Rahim Mohammed Daoud, 17, and Mohammed ’Omar Sabbah, 16.

Human rights organisation condemns storming of news agency offices
Palestinian Information Center 3/14/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) on Thursday condemned the storming of the headquarters of the Ramattan Press Agency in Ramallah  by members of the Palestinian Preventive Security Service (PSS) and arresting a journalist on Wednesday, stressing that the Palestinian basic law guarantees freedom of expression. PCHR said in a press statement: "PCHR believes that this attack constitutes an assault on press freedoms and the right to freedom of expression, and stresses that the rights to freedom of expression and to receive and impart information are ensured by the Palestinian Basic Law and international human rights instruments. " "According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 12:00 on Wednesday, 12 March 2008, armed members of the PSS, accompanied by 3 officers in civilian clothes, stormed the headquarters of Ramattan Press Agency in al-Wehaidi Building in al-Masyoun neighborhood in Ramallah.

The army attack Bil’in non-violent protest: six injured, one kidnapped
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 3/14/2008
Dozens of residents of Bil’in, a village near Ramallah, took to the streets on Friday in their weekly demonstration protesting against the illegal confiscation of village land through Israel’s continued expansion of the wall. The residents were joined by many international and Israeli peace activists. Israeli troops manning the wall and the gate in the wall that cuts off the villagers from their lands showered the protesters with tear gas and rubber coated steal bullets as soon as the protesters arrived at a military blockade nearby. In addition, when the protestors arrived back to the village, Israeli troops attacked them at the entrance of the village with rifle butts and batons. Eyewitnesses told IMEMC that soldiers also used sprayed the eyes of the peace protesters with pepper spray. In total, six people were injured, among them a freelance European journalist known as Tom.

Al Khader village near Bethlehem holds its weekly anti-wall protest
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 3/14/2008
Around 100 Palestinians from the village of Al Khader located near the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, joined by Israeli and international peace activists staged a protest on Friday midday against the illegal Wall Israel is building on the village land. The protest started by holding the Friday prayers at Al Nashah Israeli checkpoint located at the entrance of the village. Shortly afterwards, protesters marched towards the checkpoint where they were stopped by Israeli soldiers. Organizers from the local popular committee of lands defense in Al Khader village delivered speeches in Arabic and English. The protests were then finished with local youth burning tyres at the checkpoint. No clashes with the army were reported.

UN official: Israeli siege failed to make Gaza people revolt against Hamas
Palestinian Information Center 3/13/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- John Holmes, the UN coordinator of humanitarian affairs, stated that the Israeli idea that the siege on Gaza would lead its inhabitants to topple the Hamas Movement proved to be unsubstantiated. In an interview with the Reuters news agency, Holmes reiterated UN’s description of the Israeli siege as a mass punishment that does not help in establishing a foundation for peace other than damaging Gaza economy. "What is needed is peace founded on political dialogue, confidence and hope instead of despair, hatred and humiliation," the UN coordinator added. He also lashed out at Israel’s settlement activities at the expense of the Palestinian lands in the West Bank and its persistence in building its apartheid, separation wall. In another context, Dr. Aziz Duwaik, the PLC speaker imprisoned in Israeli jails called, on behalf of all imprisoned MPs, on the Arab League,. . .

Thousands of Palestinian orphans protest Israeli army looting of their food
Khalid Amayreh in Hebron, Palestinian Information Center 3/12/2008
Thousands of Palestinian orphans on Tuesday took to the streets in this southern West Bank town to protest recent raids by the Israeli occupation army of their orphanages and boarding schools. Hundreds of Israeli troops, backed up by armored carriers, raided the Islamic Charitable Society in downtown Hebron earlier this week , vandalizing property and looting hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of food materials, clothes, shoes and furniture donated by local and foreign donors for the benefit of the orphans. The charitable society, the largest in Palestine, runs two orphanages and several boarding schools, which cater for as many as 7000 children who have lost either or both parents. "Israel is treating us the way Nazi Germany treated the Jews," read one of the placards carried by the protesters.

Court extends remand of two men suspected of beating Arab workers
Fadi Eyadat, Ha’aretz 3/14/2008
A High Court in the Krayot area of northern Israel on Friday extended the remand of two Kiryat Ata residents arrested on Thursday on suspicion of attacking two Arab construction workers, aged 20 and 25. Police suspect the two, aged 19 and 25, arrived Thursday afternoon at a construction site in the town’s center where the victims worked. They launched insults of racist nature at them, cursed Prophet Mohammed and later physically attacked them and damaged their car. One victim received medical treatment. Upon their arrest, the two suspects attacked police and caused damage to Zvulun police headquarters [end]

Israel concerned about renewed shooting attacks in Gilo
Ma’an News Agency 3/14/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli police are concerned about the possibility of renewed shooting by Palestinian fighters from the Palestinian town of Beit Jala into the Israeli settlement Gilo, south of Jerusalem after Israeli forces gunned down four fighters in neighboring Bethlehem on Wednesday. Senior Jerusalem police officers toured Gilo on Thursday night and gave instructions on how to respond to new shooting, Israeli media reported. Emergency services in the southern parts of Jerusalem have been put on a heightened state of alert. During the first years of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, Gilo was exposed to almost daily attacks from the Palestinian resistance, so that a number of Israeli residents displaced, usually to locations inside Israel’s 1949 borders.

Officials: IAF helicopter hit by Palestinian fire over Gaza
Amos Harel and Yuval Azoulays and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 3/14/2008
Palestinians hit an Israel Air Force helicopter flying over the Gaza Strip with machine gun fire Friday but the aircraft returned safely to Israel with no casualties, Israeli security officials said. Hamas said its men fired at the chopper as it raided a rocket-launching site in the northern Gaza Strip and reported hitting the aircraft. "This afternoon our anti-aircraft crew opened fire at an Israeli aircraft over north Gaza, we know that it was hit," said Abu Obeida, spokesman for Hamas military wing. Abu Obeida said Hamas would continue to try to target IAF aircraft with ever-improving munitions at their disposal. "This is a message from the Qassam Brigades that we are doing our utmost to confront Zionist planes. . . and we will continue to try to hit them with more accurate weapons," he told Reuters.

AUDIO - This Week In Palestine - week 11 2008
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center 3/14/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| File 10. 9 MB || Time 12m 0s || This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www. IMEMC. org, for March 8th through to March 14th, 2008. As ten Palestinians killed by Israeli army fire this week, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak of obstructing peace talks, these stories and more coming up, stay tuned. Nonviolent Resistance Let’s begin our weekly report with the nonviolent actions in the West Bank, IMEMC’s Mary Firth. with the details: Bil’in Dozens of residents of Bil’in, a village near Ramallah, took to the streets on Friday in their weekly demonstration protesting against the illegal confiscation of village land through Israel’s continued expansion of the wall.

Don’t ’make my day’
Stuart P. Green, Ha’aretz 3/14/2008
This week, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee was considering two alternative bills inspired by the case of Shai Dromi, the Negev sheep farmer who in January 2007 shot two trespassing Bedouin sheep thieves, killing one and wounding the other. Although there are some significant differences between the bills, both would make it more difficult to prosecute people who use deadly force to defend their homes from intruders. Because the issues now being considered in the Knesset are similar to those that have been dealt with in recent years in the United States, in connection with the enactment of so-called "Shoot First" and "Make My Day" statutes, it may be helpful to consider the American experience with such legislation. Under the rule of self-defense that has traditionally applied in both Jewish and Anglo-American law, a person is justified. . .

Report: Israel threatened to target Syria if Hizbullah attacks
Reuters, YNetNews 3/14/2008
Israel reportedly warned Syria in February that it would hold it accountable for Hizbullah attacks -Israel recently conveyed a warning to Syria through a third party that it would hold Damascus accountable if Hizbullah launched attacks on the Jewish state, Israeli and European sources said on Friday. The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the warning stemmed largely from Israeli concerns that Hizbullah would launch salvoes of cross-border rockets to coincide with any major Israeli offensive in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The sources said the message was conveyed in February through at least one European intermediary following the assassination of a top Hizbullah commander and before this month’s five-day Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip. After the group’s senior commander, Imad Mugniyah, was killed in a bombing in Damascus, Hizbullah leader Nasrallah threatened Israel with "open war".

Sources: Israel warned Syria it could pay price for any Hezbollah attack
Reuters, Ha’aretz 3/14/2008
Israel recently conveyed a warning to Syria through a third party that it would hold Damascus accountable for any Hezbollah attacks, Israeli and European sources said on Friday. The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the warning stemmed largely from Israeli concerns that Hezbollah would launch salvoes of cross-border rockets to coincide with any major Israeli offensive in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The sources said the message was conveyed in February through at least one European intermediary following the assassination of a top Hezbollah commander and before this month’s five-day Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip in which more than 120 Palestinians, many of them civilians, were killed. After the group’s senior commander, Imad Mughniyah, was killed in a bombing in Damascus, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened Israel with "open war".

Peacekeepers show UN flag across South
Mohammed Zaatari, Daily Star 3/13/2008
Heavier patrols follow denial of Israeli trespasses - SIDON: The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon circulated extensive patrols along the border with Israel on Wednesday, but officials from both UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) reiterated that the situation in the South was "calm and normal. "Also Wednesday, UNIFIL’s Spanish contingent erected observation posts along the Lebanese portion of the occupied Southern village of Ghajar. Last week a UNIFIL spokeswoman denied rumors that the Israeli Army had crossed the Blue Line, established by the UN to demarcate the border with Israel after the latter withdrew from most of the South in 2000. In a press release, Yasmina Bouzianne said the Israeli military had not violated the Blue Line through the town of Ghajar, nor was the army lined up along the Wazzani River, contrary to information that was circulated by the press earlier.

Israel boycotts Al Jazeera news channel
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center 3/15/2008
The Israeli government decided to officially boycott the Qatar-based Al Jazeera News channel after claiming the its coverage of the incident is unbalanced and biased towards the Palestinian people. The Israeli Foreign Ministry issued this decision on Wednesday after it was "outraged" by the channel’s coverage of the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip. The Ministry considered this coverage as "incitement to terror", Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported. Waleed Al Omari,head of Al Jazeera bureau in Jerusalem denounced the Israeli decision and labeled it as an attack on the freedom of expression. Al Omari added that this falls under the deliberate Israeli targeting of media outlets and reporters. He also said that the campaign against Al Jazeera is not new and that its started before the recent Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas preparing response to expected Israeli attack in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 3/14/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Hamas’ military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, is on alert in preparation for renewed Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip, spokesperson Abu Obeida said on Friday morning. Abu Obeida said that continued flights of Israeli surveillance planes and helicopter gunships over Gaza, bellicose rhetoric from the Israeli leadership, and Israeli attacks in the West Bank all point to an imminent Israeli operation in the Strip. "The occupation will not be rescued from our shelling in the West Bank," Abu Obeida said, saying that any new Israeli attack in Gaza will be met with a violent response. Abu Obeida added that the occupation is attempting to force any attempt at a ceasefire to fail. He cited Wednesday’s assassination of for Palestinian fighters in Bethlehem as evidence that Israel does not want calm in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.

Barak accuses PA of faltering in protecting Israel’s security
Palestinian Information Center 3/13/2008
NAZARETH, (PIC)-- Despite the unprecedented campaign being waged by the PA security apparatuses against the Palestinian resistance fighters in the West Bank, Israeli war minister Ehud Barak accused on Wednesday the PA leadership of being weak in protecting Israel’s security and fighting the Palestinian resistance. "Israel is not close to reaching a political agreement with the PA," the Hebrew radio quoted Barak as saying during his tour of the IOF command in the vicinity of Gaza. Barak’s statements came before the imminent holding of a meeting between Israel and the PA under the auspices of the international quartet committee next Friday, where the meeting would discuss security issues and ways to move the so-called peace process forward. In another context, ministers of the Israeli mini-cabinet charged that the Israeli government’s mistakes helped the Hamas Movement to build up its strength.

Islamic Jihad: No truce as long as Israel continues aggression
Palestinian Information Center 3/13/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Islamic Jihad Movement stated on Wednesday that it cannot approve to bow to the demands imposed by Israel, highlighting that the Palestinians cannot agree to a truce while the Israeli occupation has a free hand to kill and arrest them. In a press statement to the Quds Press, Sheikh Nafedh Azzam, a prominent Jihad leader, warned that the Israeli occupation is manipulating the Palestinian people and their cause, and if there is a serious talk about stability in the region, Israel must stop all acts of aggression. In a reply to a question whether the calm would include only Gaza, Sheikh Azzam said: "This is unacceptable and the talks that took place between us the Egyptian leadership focused on a comprehensive and mutual calm. There may be further rounds of talks in Cairo. " He added: "There would be a prerequisite tabled by us and all Palestinian factions which. . .

Netanyahu urges Olmert to resign over Palestinian primitive rockets
Palestinian Information Center 3/14/2008
NAZARETH, (PIC)-- Former Israeli prime minister and chairman of the rightist Likud Party Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday  called for the resignation of Israeli premier Ehud Olmert after failing to stop Palestinian home-made rockets fired on Israeli colonies. Netanyahu was reported to have said during a meeting with the EU envoys in Tel Aviv that an Israeli premier who calls on his citizens to get used to the Palestinian missile attacks isn’t eligible to continue in office and must resign and be replaced with another premier capable of fighting the Palestinian resistance. But according to Hebrew sources, Netanyahu was in the office of Olmert after he uttered such statements as both Israeli leaders held a meeting in which Olmert acquainted his arch political rival with the latest security and political affairs in accordance with the law.

Israel, Palestinians resume high level peace talks
Marius Shattner - JERUSALEM, Middle East Online 3/14/2008
Israel and the Palestinians on Friday resumed high-level talks after a two-week hiatus, meeting with a top US envoy amid mounting US criticism of settlement construction. US displeasure with the continued Jewish settlement activity in the occupied West Bank was stressed during the three-hour talks, an official close to the Israeli delegation said. The meeting, to discuss implementation of the stalled 2003 peace roadmap, was the first at senior level since Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas suspended talks on March 2 to protest an Israeli blitz on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. "We examined areas where the parties are not meeting their commitments and the reasons why, and explored ways to accelerate the process and make the parties’ implementation of their roadmap obligations more effective," the US embassy said. "Our goal remains the fulfillment of the parties’ roadmap obligations. . . "

Rice: Neither Israel nor PA have done nearly enough to implement road map
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 3/14/2008
U. S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Friday neither Israel nor the Palestinians have done "nearly enough" to meet their obligations under the 2003 road map for Middle East peace, making it difficult to sustain the U. S. push to end the conflict. "I have not hidden the fact that I think that there is a lot of room for improvement on both sides concerning road map obligations," Rice told reporters as she flew to Santiago, her final stop on a two-day trip to Brazil and Chile. "Frankly, not nearly enough has happened to demonstrate that the Israelis and the Palestinians fully understand. . . what is a very clear view to me -- that without following road map obligations and without improvements on the ground, it’s very hard to sustain this process," she added.

Rice: Israelis, Palestinians not doing enough
Reuters, YNetNews 3/14/2008
US Secretary of State apparently unimpressed with peace efforts, says there is ’a lot of room for improvement on both sides’ - America disappointed with peace efforts: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Friday neither Israel nor the Palestinians have done "nearly enough" To meet their obligations under a 2003 peace plan, making it difficult to sustain the US push to end the conflict. "I have not hidden the fact that I think that there is a lot of room for improvement on both sides concerning road map obligations," Rice told reporters as she flew to Santiago, her final stop on a two-day trip to Brazil and Chile. " Frankly, not nearly enough has happened to demonstrate that the Israelis and the Palestinians fully understand. . . what is a very clear view to me - that without following Road Map obligations and without improvements on the ground, it’s very hard to sustain this process," she added.

The Popular Committees demands Islamic Summit to protect the Aqsa Mosque
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center 3/14/2008
The Palestinian Popular (Folk) Committees issued a press release demanding the Islamic Summit to issues serious resolutions in order to protect the Al Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalem, in addition to protecting the Arab and Islamic sites and houses in the city. The statement comes as leaders of Islamic countries are currently holding their summit in Dakar. The Committees said in its statement that the summit should focus on the Palestinian cause and the Israeli violations in Jerusalem, especially the ongoing annexation of Palestinian lands, occupying Palestinian houses and barring the residents from building homes in Jerusalem, in addition to land grab in order to construct Jewish settlement outposts. The Committees added that the Annexation Wall is totally isolating the holy city from the rest of the West Bank, and that the residents aren’t allowed to enter Jerusalem in order to pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Haneyya’s gov’t warns of possible Israeli invasion after Jerusalem meeting
Palestinian Information Center 3/14/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The legitimate PA government of Premier Ismael Haneyya has warned on Friday that the Palestinian-Israeli-American security meeting in the occupied city of Jerusalem could be a prelude to a full IOF military invasion of Gaza Strip. The legitimate PA government also expressed anxiety over the escalating PA-Israeli security co-ordination against the Palestinian resistance in the West Bank as stipulated in the infamous roadmap plan. Taher Al-Nunu, the spokesman of the Haneyya’s legitimate government asserted in a statement he issued on Friday and a copy of which was obtained by the PIC that his government was "monitoring with full attention" the Jerusalem meeting between the illegitimate PA premier Salam Fayyad and the official representative of the Israeli war ministry Amos Gilad in the presence the US security envoy William Friezer in the occupied Palestinians city of Jerusalem.

Egypt fence plans unveiled
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 3/14/2008
Ynetnews presents plans for new border fence characterized as ’national emergency project’ aimed at hindering terror threats on Egyptian border; fence to consist of two sections, construction scheduled to start in three months - Fence to counter southern terror threats:The new fence slated to be built on the Israel-Egypt border will consist of two sections of a "smart" fence that would extend for a total of 84 kilometers (roughly 50 miles. ) The new obstacle would identify any contact with the fence and relay the information to special control rooms, defense officials say. The construction of the fence, estimated to cost NIS 1. 4 billion (roughly $400 million) will start in about three months and is expected to take about two years. As the venture is characterized as a "national emergency project," every completed section of the fence would be handed over to the IDF immediately.

Islamic summit to accuse Israel of ’war crimes’
Reuters, YNetNews 3/14/2008
Draft of Islamic conference’s concluding statement charges Israel with human rights violations -The world’s largest Muslim body will accuse Israel of committing war crimes against Palestinian civilians, according to a draft of the final communiqué of an Islamic summit in Senegal seen by Reuters on Friday. "The conference denounces the current and increasing Israeli military campaign against the Palestinian people and the serious violation of human rights and war crimes including the killing and injuring of Palestinian civilians," the draft said. It called Israel’s "collective punishment of civilians" a violation of international human rights law and said "the occupying forces must be held responsible for these war crimes. " The communique is due to be approved at the end of a two-day meeting in Dakar, Senegal, of the 57-nation Organization of. . .

Fayyad discusses Road Map with US general; Barak snubs meeting
Ma’an News Agency 3/14/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinian, Israeli and American officials held the first meeting in Jerusalem on Friday of a trilateral mechanism designed to implement the US-backed Road Map peace plan. Lt. Gen. William Fraser III, the American envoy charged with overseeing the Road Map process faces the challenge of pushing both sides to fulfill their obligations amid rising tension and violence. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad attended the meeting, despite calls to boycott the meeting in the wake of the assassination of five Palestinians in the West Bank on Wednesday. Barak absent - Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak chose to skip the meeting, sending Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad in his place. This decision drew criticism from Palestinian officials. The PLO’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat told reporters: "It would have been very appropriate for Barak to go," Erekat said.

Palestinians upset over ’Barak snub’
Associated Press, YNetNews 3/14/2008
Palestinians say they were insulted by defense minister’s absence from peace meeting - US President George W. Bush’s Mideast peace monitor sat down withIsraeli and Palestinian representatives for the first time Friday since talks formally resumed nearly four months ago, but the atmosphere was clouded by what some Palestinians viewed as an Israeli slight. The Palestinians sent their prime minister, Salam Fayyad, while the Israelis dispatched a lower-level representative, Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad, a decision the Palestinians said showed a lack of seriousness. Representatives of the sides met Friday morning at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel. Sitting opposite Fayyad was Gilad, not his boss, former Israeli prime minister and current defense minister Ehud Barak. The Palestinians’ chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, criticized that decision.

Merkel to make historic visit to Israel
Middle East Online 3/14/2008
German Chancellor Angela Merkel travels to Israel on Sunday for a visit of major historical significance more than 60 years after the end of World War II. Merkel will be the first German chancellor to address the Knesset when she gives a speech at the Israeli parliament on Tuesday, an honour reserved normally for heads of state. On Sunday she will visit Sde Boker, the kibbutz in the Negev Desert where Israel’s first prime minister David Ben Gurion is buried and where in 1966 Ben Gurion met with Konrad Adenauer, West Germany’s first chancellor. Merkel, Germany’s first chancellor to be born after the war, will travel to Israel accompanied by the top members of her cabinet for a full inter-governmental conference. Germany has previously only held such meetings with France, Italy, Spain, Russia and Poland, and Israel’s cabinet will return the visit in 2009.

Berlin official: Merkel speech to Knesset signals normalizing ties
Reuters, Ha’aretz 3/14/2008
Angela Merkel becomes the first German chancellor to address Israel’s parliament next week, more than six decades after the end of World War Two. A senior German official called the trip "a signal of the normalisation of relations," referring to improving German-Israeli ties following the Holocaust, in which Nazi Germany killed 6 million Jews. Merkel’s three-day trip, starting on Sunday, marks the 60th anniversary of the creation of Israel in 1948. She will be accompanied by several cabinet ministers and launch annual consultations between the governments. Talks on Monday with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will include discussion of Iran’s nuclear program. The statutes of the Knesset were changed to allow Merkel to speak there. Before the changes wre made, the only German official allowed to address the chamber was the president, the head of state.

Merkel, Blair planning Middle East summit in Berlin for June
Reuters, Ha’aretz 3/14/2008
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Quartet envoy Tony Blair will jointly organize a Middle East peace conference to be held at the beginning of June in Berlin, the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported Friday. A spokesman for Merkel, Ulrich Wilhelm, confirmed the report, adding that the chancellor had spoken with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about the conference by telephone on Friday. All European Union members, several Arab states, the Middle East quartet of Russia, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations, and Palestinian and Israeli officials will be invited to the talks, the paper said, without identifying the source of its information. The aim of the meeting, which will be at the level of foreign ministers, will be to push forward the peace process and prepare Palestinians to take over responsibility. . .

The German-Israeli tango
Benjamin Weinthal, Ha’aretz 3/14/2008
BERLIN - Relations between Germany and Israel could be compared to an elaborate tango, with one step forward being followed by one step back. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni neatly captured the relationship’s complexity during a meeting with American Jewish leaders in New York last September. According to one participant, Livni stressed her appreciation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recognition that the international community cannot accept Iran as a nuclear power. Merkel, noted Livni, "is saying and doing the right thing," but added that "there is a gap between the government view and corporate action. "Indeed, even Merkel herself, who on Sunday begins a three-day visit to Israel together with selected members of her cabinet, recognizes that not all her compatriots share official Germany’s warmth for the Jewish state.

Peace conference in Berlin?
Reuters, YNetNews 3/14/2008
Report: Chancellor Merkel, peace envoy Blair to organize Mideast peace meeting in June - Peace talks in Berlin? German Chancellor Angela Merkel and peace envoy Tony Blair will jointly organize a Middle East peace conference at the beginning of June in Berlin, German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Friday. All European Union members, several Arab states, the Middle East quartet of Russia, the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Palestinian and Israeli officials will all be invited to the talks, the paper said, without identifying the source of its information. The aim of the meeting will be to push forward the peace process and prepare Palestinians to take over responsibility for their own state, the paper added. EU condemns Israel’s settlement planMeanwhile, European Union leaders on Friday condemned Israeli. . .

US Presidential Elections: Selling ‘Hope’ to Youth in the Middle East
Rima Merhi, Middle East Online 3/14/2008
Most Arab understanding of American foreign policy begins and ends with one statement: “Republican or democrat, this election or past elections, what difference does it make? The Arab vote will end up in the garbage, and American foreign policy will always be “pro-Israeli”. An assessment of cartoons collected from twenty highly reputed newspapers in the region during last year’s presidential elections clearly reveals this theme to be dominant in Arab perceptions towards US foreign policy. No newspaper however, attempts to define “an Arab agenda” that moves beyond hostility towards the state of Israel. This hostility may stem from various well founded reasons documented in history that include the ongoing raging humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Israel’s lack of adherence to the principles of international humanitarian and human rights law, and disregard for UN Resolutions, as well as. . .

Hizbullah to support assassinated Jihad man’s family
Ali Waked, YNetNews 3/14/2008
Nasrallah’s office informs widow of Muhammad Shahade, killed by IDF in Bethlehem this week, that Hizbullah will offer financial support to his family; Palestinian sources: Shahade planned yeshiva attack on Hizbullah’s orders - Terror connection revealed: The family of Muhammad Shahade, the Fatah and Islamic Jihad man killed by the IDF along with three other Palestinians in Bethlehem Wednesday evening, received a phone call from Hassan Nasrallah’s office Friday evening, Palestinian sources reported. Hizbullah representatives reportedly spoke with Shahade’s widow and informed her that Nasrallah decided to designate her husband as a Hizbullah martyr, therefore entitling his family to a "martyr allowance. " "We do not alienate ourselves from our people and we will assume the financial burden involved in this," Hizbullah told the widow.

Report: ’Attack aimed at killing senior rabbi’
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 3/14/2008
Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar says organization that sent terrorist to Jerusalem yeshiva last week planned to assassinate one of its chief rabbis - The terrorist who carried out the attack at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem last week was sent to assassinate one of the yeshiva rabbis, the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar reported Thursday. According to the report, based on Palestinian sources, the organization which sent the terrorist planned to assassinate one of the yeshiva heads, but after the shooter failed to find the rabbi, he opened fire at the students in the library. The rabbi’s identity was not mentioned in the report. "The group behind the attack wanted to declare that it succeeded in killing the rabbi, but reconsidered this declaration after the shooter, Alaa Abu-Dheim, did not manage to kill him," one of the sources said,. . .

United Nations, Organization of the Islamic Conference are natural allies in confronting global issues, Secretary-General tells leaders at summit
United Nations Secretary-General, ReliefWeb 3/13/2008
Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s address to the eleventh Summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Dakar, today, 13 March: C’est un honneur pour moi que d’être parmi vous aujourd’hui à l’occasion du onzième Sommet de l’Organisation de la Conférence islamique. Permettez-moi de remercier d’abord notre pays hôte pour sa chaleureuse et généreuse hospitalité. Nous sommes réunis à Dakar en des temps difficiles pour le monde islamique. Depuis quelques années, la communauté internationale suit avec beaucoup d’attention les événements qui se déroulent dans les pays membres de l’OCI, de la situation en Iraq à la crise au Darfour en passant par les souffrances qui perdurent dans les territoires palestiniens occupés. En tant qu’organisation la plus importante et la plus ouverte du monde islamique, l’OCI a une légitimité particulière.

The dynamics of Israel’s Gazan calm
Lamis Andoni, Middle East Analyst, Al Jazeera 3/12/2008
The truce negotiations between Israel and Hamas, mediated by Egypt, have so far survived the disruption of the temporary calm on the Gaza front. But they have further fuelled inter-factional suspicion and rivalry between the Islamic resistance movement and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA). The Israeli assassination of activists from the Islamic Jihad and the Fatah-linked al-Aqsa Brigades in the West Bank on Wednesday, has reinforced Palestinian perceptions that Tel Aviv is using the truce negotiations to break up confidence even among allied Palestinian groups. Islamic Jihad’s firing of rockets into southern Israel triggered an Israeli raid on the Gaza Strip, putting Hamas’s alliance with the group and ability to control the launching rocket crews, to the test. The assassinations were also meant to portray Hamas as negotiating for its own political interests at the expense of other groups - a conclusion already reached and promoted by the PA that has been kept away from the talks.

Letter dated 4 March 2008 from the Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General - Statement by the Organization of the Islamic Conference Group in New
United Nations General Assembly, ReliefWeb 3/10/2008
General Assembly Sixty-second session Agenda items 17 and 18 The situation in the Middle East Question of Palestine I have the honour to enclose, in my capacity as Chair of the Organization of the Islamic Conference Group in New York, a statement by the OIC Group on the latest situation in Palestine, particularly in the Gaza (see annex). It is requested that the attached statement may kindly be issued as a document of the General Assembly, under agenda items 17 and 18. (Signed) Munir Akram Ambassador Permanent Representative Annex to the letter dated 4 March 2008 from the Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General3 March 2008 Statement by the Organization of the Islamic Conference Group in New York on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem*The. . .

Syria: Styling a new start - Women benefit from microfinance
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in, ReliefWeb 3/13/2008
Syria, March 2008 - Sequined evening dresses glitter in the window of Rawdha Saqbani’s house in Yarmouk. Rawdha is a mother of three and her husband works as a casual driver. Like most of the women in Yarmouk who have managed to establish their own business, Rawdha’s booming dress trade is part of the informal sector of the Syrian economy. Working from home, Rawdha uses beads to decorate wedding and evening dresses, which she then sells directly or through large merchants in Damascus. Proud of her work, she credits her success to God, perseverance and the UNRWA microfinance & microenterprise grant that gave her her first small loan. In July 2007, Rawdha received SYP 10,000 (USD 200) to purchase a beading machine to boost her small house-industry by upgrading the quantity and quality of her work. Explaining the difference the new machine has made, Rawdha says her "production has almost doubled.

Hamas allocates 1.1 million Shekels to repair Gaza’s schools
Ma’an News Agency 3/14/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Hamas-le de facto government in the Gaza Strip has allocated 1. 1 million Israeli Shekels to repair the Strip’s war-battered schools. The de facto government Information Office told Ma’an on Thursday that the money will mainly be devoted to repairing school buildings damaged by Israel’s military incursions. [end]

MK who touted Web censorship bill spent thousands on own computer use
Zvi Zrahiya, Ha’aretz 3/14/2008
A Shas member of Knesset who has proposed to restrict access to pornographic, violent, and gambling-related Web sites has spent handsome sums of public money for personal computer and internet usage, official Knesset figures show. According to a Knesset report on MKs’ expenses released earlier this month, MK Amnon Cohen spent NIS 78,690, including NIS 5,799 on Internet usage and another NIS 16,000 for two computers. Cohen’s spree earned him fourth place on the list of the country’s most spendthrift lawmakers. In terms of the budget item of maintaining contact with the public, Meretz whip Zehava Galon is the biggest spender among the 120 members of Israel’s parliament, having spent NIS 97,829 last year. Galon, a contender for the Meretz party leadership, spent NIS 29,279 on a survey; NIS 4,363 on refreshments, and NIS 2,199 on a palm-held computer.

Prof. Aumann: 2 states between sea and Jordan River
Yoav Kapshuk, YNetNews 3/14/2008
Israeli Nobel Prize laureate, who recently endorsed right-wing party established by National Union MKs, says supports idea of two states for two people ’without expelling a Jew or an Arabs from his home’ - Nobel prize laureate Prof. Yisrael Aumann has expressed his support for the idea of "two states for two people - West of the Jordan River - but without expelling a Jew or an Arab from his home. " A solution can be found by thinking "outside the box" and with different proposals raised nowadays in the public discourse, he told Ynet on Thursday. " At the moment there is no one to talk to, and therefore the solution cannot be implemented at the moment," Prof. Aumann added. "And we must do it without expelling anyone from his home, not the Jews and not the Arabs to Jordan. " Although Israeli Arabs only comprise 20% of the Israeli population, Prof. Aumann believes they are a very important factor.

Markets fear central bank’s buy of dollars won’t stop U.S. plunge
Moti Bassok Dafna Maor and Eytan Avriels, Ha’aretz 3/14/2008
The central bank surprised financial markets Thursday by intervening in foreign currency trade for the first time since 1997. In response to the dollar’s three percent fall against the shekel from a representative rate of NIS 3. 48 on Wednesday to NIS 3. 35 Thursday afternoon the Bank of Israel bought dollars in a move slated to strengthen the dollar against the shekel, despite the American currency’s plunge on global markets. The currency market is readying for another day of trading in dollars, while sources in the market expressed concerns that the move by Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer will not succeed in blocking the further drop in the dollar exchange rate. The move came as a shock because Fischer and Bank of Israel foreign currency department head Barry Topf had previously said it was unlikely that the bank would intervene in the currency market.

Rival Lebanese brace for outcome of regional conflicts
Michael Bluhm, Daily Star 3/15/2008
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s 16-month-old political crisis has entered a new phase where the two sides have pulled back from confrontation in the streets and are waiting to see how a number of potential regional conflicts unfold as they prepare for the next round of domestic political jousting, a number of analysts told The Daily Star on Friday. The previous phase of escalation, marked by opposition-backed protests throughout January, culminated when seven opposition supporters died during clashes with the Lebanese Armed Forces on January 27, a date described since as Black Sunday. Then on February 12 top Hizbullah commander Imad Mughniyeh was assassinated by a car bomb in Damascus, in a killing the resistance has blamed on Israel. As a result, the domestic tug-of-war has become a secondary concern for Hizbullah, and the most highly anticipated regional event revolves around how opposition leader Hizbullah will react, the analysts said.

State Dept. notes rise in global anti-Semitism over last decade
Reuters, Ha’aretz 3/14/2008
Anti-Semitism, including government-promoted hatred toward Jews and prejudice couched as criticism of Israel, has risen globally over the last decade, the State Department said on Thursday. "Today, more than 60 years after the Holocaust, anti-Semitism is not just a fact of history, it is a current event," it said in a report to Congress. ( U. S. embassies have noted an increase in attacks on Jewish people, property, institutions, and religious facilities in the last decade, the report said. The report, titled "Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism," did not give comprehensive statistics, and said that in any case such statistics were skewed against Western democratic countries more likely to report the incidents. For example, Tel Aviv University’s Stephen Roth Institute listed 593 cases of major anti-Semitic incidents in 2006, the highest number since 2000, the report said. Of these, 277 were physical attacks on Jews; 105 synagogues were damaged. Over half the incidents took place in Western Europe.

Dutch brace for new anti-Islam film directed by far-right leader
Cnaan Lipshitz, Ha’aretz 3/14/2008
The Netherlands is feeling the pressure of the release in two weeks of an explosive short film entitled "Fitna" about the Koran, directed by the leader of the opposition’s far-right Party for Freedom, Geert Wilders. The Dutch government last week declared a heightened state of alert for fear of a wave of Islamist violence when the film is released, in a potentially aggravated repeat of the riots that in 2005 broke out in Denmark and across the Muslim world following the publication of a derogatory cartoon depicting Mohammed in a Danish daily. Though he describes his once-peaceful society as a "pressure cooker" on the verge of spilling over into religious violence, Dutch immigration expert Paul Scheffer is nonetheless optimistic about immigrant absorption in the Netherlands.


Articles


When the cartoon is as cutting as the occupation
Olivia Snaije, Daily Star 3/14/2008
      Exhibition of Naji al-Ali’s work reveals that, 20 years on, it’s still eerily contemporary.
     LONDON: It has been just over 20 years since master political cartoonist Naji al-Ali was assassinated in London. To commemorate this sad anniversary, an exhibition of original artwork, "Shooting the Witness: The cartoons of Naji al-Ali" opened here last week. The venue, fittingly, is London’s respected and alternately serious and rollicking, Political Cartoon Gallery.
     There are many elements that make Ali’s work compelling but what is initially striking is how contemporary his drawings remain, after 30 years. The Palestinian situation is possibly worse than ever, the US and Israel continue to be military partners, oil is at the top of everyone’s agenda and some fear Lebanon’s present political paralysis will lapse back into chaos.
     Ali, who left his Palestinian village in Galilee during the Nabka, came of age in the refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh, then on the outskirts of Sidon, in South Lebanon. As political awareness made its way into the camps in the 1950s, Ali began to draw on the walls of the camp and in Lebanese prisons, where he was confined for his political activities.

Dissolve this impotent entity called "the Palestinian Authority" now

Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank, Palestinian Information Center 3/14/2008
      I really don’t understand why  these brilliant Palestinian "negotiators" are still commuting between Ramallah and West Jerusalem for "peace talks"  that even little kids in the streets of  the smallest refugee camp in Gaza realize will lead nowhere.
     Indeed, the vast majority of Palestinians are fed up with  this despicable peace process under whose rubric Israel has is murdering our children, stealing our land, demolishing our homes and narrowing our horizons.
     On Wednesday, 12 March, an Israeli death squad murdered in cold blood four Palestinians in Bethlehem, a city where the PA claims to have "authority." The four Palestinians thought that the purported ceasefire in the Gaza Strip also applied to the West Bank, and that the PA had reached a tacit understanding with Israel according to which their lives would be spared. The four poor victims obviously didn’t know that the credibility of PA assurances were as valid as its claims of "authority" and "sovereignty" in the shadow of the Israeli occupation army.

Bay of Pigs in Gaza

Tom Segev, Ha’aretz 3/13/2008
      One day in the fall of 2006, the U.S. consul general in Jerusalem, Jake Walles, went to Ramallah to meet with Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). As diplomats do, he took with him a document known as "talking points" - a prepared memo listing the main elements of what he was going to tell the Palestinian leader. For some reason, perhaps by accident, Walles left the document behind when he left, with the result that the American monthly Vanity Fair is able to publish a first draft of a chapter in the history of the rise of Hamas and its takeover of the Gaza Strip. (The article can be accessed at www.vanityfair.com under "The Gaza Bombshell" in the April 2008 issue.)
     According to the paper left behind by the consul general, he wanted to pressure Abu Mazen to take action that would annul the outcome of the elections that had catapulted Hamas to power. The author of the article, David Rose, reminds his readers that President George W. Bush had pressed for the elections to be held, contrary to the advice of several experts, who warned that Hamas would emerge from them strengthened. But Bush wanted democracy. Now he effectively wanted Abu Mazen to cancel the elections in retrospect.

Hegemony through free trade: Interview with Daoud Hamoudi

Stefan Christoff, Electronic Intifada 3/10/2008
      Economics is a central element of US-driven military policy in the Middle East. A series of free trade agreements initiated by the US are currently being negotiated or have recently been signed throughout the region.
     From Bahrain, to Jordan, to Egypt to Saudi Arabia, these economic agreements aim to crack the long-standing boycott of Israel maintained by the majority of countries in the Middle East. These bilateral trade accords include a condition for countries to recognize Israel.
     Apartheid economics is critical to US and Israeli policy in the region, implemented through neo-liberal bilateral trade accords, or on the ground in Palestine where Israel is pushing a plan to build industrial processing zones. Proposed industrial zones will see Israeli corporations’ factories operating with a Palestinian labor force, similar to maquiladoras, Mexican factories which became notorious for human and labor rights abuses in the 1990s.

A Middle East Regime Needing Change

Patrick Seale, Middle East Online 3/14/2008
      Bernard Lewis, 93, historian, scourge of Islamic radicalism and spiritual god-father of America’s neocons, gave a word of advice to Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at a meeting in Jerusalem this month. There could be no negotiation, he warned, with the regimes of Tehran and Damascus. They would have to be ‘replaced’.
     So it was back to regime change! As if nothing had happened since 2003! As if the catastrophic war in Iraq had not demonstrated the bankruptcy of the neocon fantasy of using American power to overthrow and ‘reform’ Arab regimes to make the Middle East safe for Israel and the United States.
     If the region is to be spared another disastrous explosion of violence, one might argue, the one regime that urgently needs changing is that of Olmert and his Defence Minister, Ehud Barak.
     Both are failed Prime MinistersOlmert for his lamentable, ill-conceived and destructive war in Lebanon in 2006, and Barak for his stubborn inability to seize the chance of peace with the Palestinians and Syria in 2000 -- when, as a newly-elected Prime Minister, the chance was there to be seized.

Is Israel engaging in ethnic cleansing?

Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star 3/15/2008
      At the summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Dakar, Senegal, on Thursday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that Palestinians in Occupied East Jerusalem "are facing an ethnic cleansing campaign through a set of Israeli decisions such as imposing heavy taxes, banning construction and closing Palestinian institutions, in addition to separating the city from the West Bank by the racist separation wall."
     The ethnic cleansing accusation is serious, but not new. It is galling to Israelis, but pivotal for Palestinians. Abbas is Israel’s and America’s preferred peace partner, though a peculiarly inefficient one after more than 40 years in politics. Yet for him to charge Israel with ethnic cleansing in a global Islamic summit suggests that the issue deserves to be examined in some depth. Peace-making and eventual coexistence require that the core claims of both sides be put on the table and examined fully.
     For Palestinians, the modern conflict between Arabism and Zionism - since the birth of modern political Zionism in the late 1800s - has always centered around the expulsion of indigenous Palestinian Arabs from their ancestral lands by Jewish colonial settlers who came from abroad, threw out as many Palestinian Arabs as they could, and created the Jewish state of Israel...

Two-state dreamers

Jonathan Cook, Electronic Intifada 3/14/2008
      If the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the world’s most intractable, much the same can be said of the parallel debate about whether its resolution can best be achieved by a single state embracing the two peoples living there or by a division of the land into two separate states, one for Jews and the other for Palestinians.
     The central argument of the two-staters is that the one-state idea is impractical and therefore worthless of consideration. Their rallying cry is that it is at least possible to imagine a consensus emerging behind two states, whereas Israelis will never accept a single state. Thus, the one-state crowd are painted as inveterate dreamers and time-wasters.
     This argument is advanced by Israel’s only serious peace group, Gush Shalom. Here is the view of the group’s indefatigable leader, Uri Avnery: "After 120 years of conflict, after a fifth generation was born into this conflict on both sides, to move from total war to total peace in a single joint state, with a total renunciation of national independence? This is total illusion."

Israel raises the ante against Iran

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, Asia Times 3/14/2008
      "We are in no danger at all of having an Iranian nuclear weapon dropped on us. We cannot say so too openly, however, because we have a history of using any threat in order to get weapons ... thanks to the Iranian threat, we are getting weapons from the US and Germany." - Israeli author, Martin van Crevled , June 2007.
     Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is on a speaking tour in the United States, putting her considerable personal charm in the service of a shrewd salesmanship - of a US war on Iran.
     Although considered a dove by Israeli standards, Livni is now on a historic mission that has begun with a pre-travel warmer in the form of a highly publicized telephone call to the Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, assuring him that there is direct linkage "between Iran and the terror groups".

A recipe for Israel’s security

Ghada Ageel, Electronic Intifada 3/12/2008
      Time after time, Israel has failed to provide its citizens with either actual security or even a sense of security, whether inside or outside the country. This is so despite the fact that it possesses all means of military power and superiority including the nuclear weapons making it the strongest regional power in the Middle East. In fact, despite all its power, Israel lives in a continuous security crisis. Despite its power, Israel has been unable to prevent even Palestinian children from picking up stones and throwing them at Israeli tanks and forces. Faris Odeh, a 13 year old Palestinian boy from Gaza, was doing just that when he was killed by Israeli bullets in the autumn of 2000. Moreover, despite Israel’s continuous shelling and bombardment of most of the iron workshops in Gaza, home-made rockets still keep falling on the Israeli town of Sderot. And, despite all the security measures taken by Israel, Palestinian suicide bombers have repeatedly entered Israeli areas and blown themselves up on buses and in markets.
     The question, then, is why has Israel been unable to provide security despite all its military might? And what is the solution to this complicated problem, one that has become part and parcel of the psychology, the rhetoric and the culture of Israeli society?

Dreaming of a better future in Gaza

Fida Qishta writing from Rafah, occupied Gaza Strip, Electronic Intifada 3/11/2008
      Israeli officials said on 3 March that they finished their military operation in the Gaza Strip, but the Israeli attacks continue, and we fear that Israel is still planning a major invasion. On 29 February, Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai warned of "a bigger holocaust" for Palestinians.
     From 27 February through 2 March, the Israeli army killed around 110 Palestinians in Gaza, about half of them civilians, and nearly a quarter children, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza. Hundreds were injured. Palestinians killed two Israeli soldiers and one Israeli civilian.
     What is happening in Gaza hurts all Palestinians, not just Hamas. Before this assault, the Gaza Strip, with 1.5 million residents, was already like a prison under siege, with dwindling supplies of food, medicine, fuel, clean water and electricity, and growing poverty. Many families eat just one meal a day. We have no electricity for 6-12 hours daily.

Photos of the Sea

Diana Buttu, Middle East Online 3/14/2008
      Diana Buttu recalls her experience of meeting a Palestinian family in occupied Palestine who have never seen the sea despite living just 10 miles away from the shore.
     In September 2000, I decided to do my part to bring peace to the Middle East. As a Canadian attorney of Palestinian origin, I believed I could use my legal skills to help broker a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Naive? Perhaps.
     I left my comfortable life in California and moved to the West Bank. Moving there was not easy: I did not know what life is like under military rule. My Western upbringing left me unprepared for life without freedom. Seven years later, I am still not used to it.
     As a lawyer for the Palestinian peace negotiating team, I met presidents, prime ministers, Nobel laureates, secretaries of state and other important figures. But none of these individuals hit me with the same emotional wallop as a young woman named Majda.
     Like me, Majda is in her thirties. Like me, she enjoys classical music, theatre and books. But unlike me, Majda has never lived a day as a free human being, for she was born Palestinian in the Israeli-dominated West Bank.