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

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31 March 2008


Hundreds of new settler homes planned in Jerusalem
Joseph Krauss, Daily Star 4/1/2008
Agence France Presse - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Local authorities announced the construction of hundreds of new houses in a Jewish settlement in Occupied East Jerusalem on Monday, dealing a new blow to faltering peace talks. The Israeli municipality made the announcement as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrapped up a tour of the region aimed at bolstering the peace process and amid Palestinian outrage at continued settlement activity. "The plan is part of a global initiative by the mayor of Jerusalem to build 40,000 housing units in the city to ease access to housing for young couples," the city authorities said in a statement. It said 600 homes will be built in Pisgat Zeev, a Jewish settlement in the mostly Arab east of the Holy City which was seized by Israel in the 1967 war and annexed shortly thereafter in a move not recognized by the international community.

Nonviolent Palestinian resistance contiues in Hebron as Israeli settlers given green light to attack
Palestine News Network 3/31/2008
Hebron / CPT - In the ongoing coverage of the situation in the southern West Bank’s Hebron, the Christian Peacemakers Team issued their latest eyewitness account. In At-Tuwani on the morning of 29 March, 20 Israeli settlers from the illegal Israeli settlement outpost Havat Ma’on entered the village of At-Tuwani. Throughout the day, groups of four to five settlers entered the village three additional times. While in the village, settlers harassed Palestinians, twice displaying their buttocksto Palestinians and foreign volunteers in the area. Israeli authorities did nothing to move settlers away from the village. Israeli military spoke and joked with settlers when they entered the village, allowing them to stay on land owned by Palestinian residents of At-Tuwani. Palestinian residents report that a military commander threatened to tell the settlers to attack the village after the military left the area.

HRW calls on Israel to stop immediately demolition of Bedouin homes
Palestinian Information Center 3/31/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Human rights watch (HRW) called on the Israeli occupation to declare an immediate moratorium on demolition of Bedouin homes in the Negev area, south of the Palestinian lands occupied in 1984, and to create an independent commission to investigate land and housing discrimination against its Bedouin citizens in the Negev. In a new report published Monday, the international organization underlined that the discriminatory Israeli laws and practices forced tens of thousands of Negev Bedouins to live in unrecognized shantytowns under constant threat of demolishing their homes and tearing their communities apart. The report says that the IOA systematically demolishes Bedouin homes while overlooking or retroactively legalizing unlawful construction by Jewish citizens. HRW rejects Israeli officials’ suggestions that Bedouins can relocate to seven existing government. . . -- See also: HRW - Israel: End Systematic Bias Against Bedouin

IOF troops advance into southern Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 3/31/2008
KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- A number of IOF armored vehicles on Monday advanced into eastern Khan Younis, south of the Gaza Strip, amidst intensive firing at citizens’ houses and bulldozed agriculture lands. PIC correspondent reported that the IOF soldiers’ limited advance was covered by Apache choppers and escorted a number of bulldozers. He said that the choppers also fired at civilian neighborhoods. Palestinian resistance fighters confronted the IOF advance as the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas Movement, took the credit for firing five mortar shells at the invading troops. At dawn Monday, the Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, said it engaged an IOF special force that infiltrated from Kissufim crossing east of Khan Younis into Palestinian lands in southern Gaza. It said that it fired three mortar shells at the invaders and opened machineguns at them.

Barak: If Gaza calm continues, we’ll mull easing border control
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 3/31/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that if the relative calm continues in the Gaza Strip, and militants there cease firing rockets, Israel will consider easing control of the border crossings to include cooperation with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s government. The remarks, made during Barak’s meeting his visiting Czech counterpart, Vlasta Parkanova, represent a shift in Israeli policy toward the Gaza border crossings. Until now, Israel has opposed the requests of both the Americans and the Europeans to respond to Fayyad’s plan to hand over control of the crossing to the Palestinian Authority. Fayyad had reasoned the giving the PA control of the crossings would allow for an ease on conditions for the Palestinian people in Gaza. Fayyad also said that such a transfer could also strengthen the moderate elements in the Palestinian Authority and present a first step toward returning Gaza to PA control.

VIDEO - Peace Now: Settlement construction increased since Annapolis
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 3/31/2008
(Video) Group publishes report claiming Israeli construction in West Bank, east Jerusalem continues in full swing since US-sponsored peace conference, in which Olmert committed to freeze settlement expansion - VIDEO - Despite Israel’s commitment to freeze construction in the settlements following the Annapolis peace conference in November 2007, construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem has in fact increased in recent months, a new report published by Peace Now revealed Monday. According to the Left-wing group, tenders for the construction of some 750 housing units in east Jerusalem have been published after the peace conference, a huge increase compared to the 46 tenders published last year. All in all, the government is currently promoting the building of 3,648 new housing units in Jerusalem’s neighborhoods located east of the Green Line, the report stated.

Terror attack thwarted near West Bank settlement
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 3/31/2008
Palestinian attempting to stab people standing at hitchhikers’ station near Shiloh shot to death by Israeli citizen; 7. 5-inch knife found on terrorist’s body - An Israeli citizen shot dead a Palestinian man who attempted to stab people standing at a hitchhikers station near the West Bank settlement of Shiloh on Monday evening. The Magen David Adom emergency services, there were no Israeli casualties in the incident. A 20-centimeter (7. 5-inch) knife was found on the terrorist’s body, in addition to the knife he used to try and stab the citizens. An initial IDF inquiry revealed that the Palestinian ran towards the hitchhikers’ station in an attempt to stab two citizens standing there. One of the civilians pulled out his personal weapon, fired at the terrorist and killed him. A police sapper examined the terrorist’s body in order to rule out the presence of explosive devices.

Charities appeal to Arbour to pressure Israel to revoke closure decision
Palestinian Information Center 3/31/2008
AL-KHALIL, (PIC)-- The popular campaign to support orphans along with the charities threatened with confiscation and closure in Al-Khalil city appealed to UN high commissioner for human rights Louise Arbour to intervene urgently to pressure Israel to backtrack on its unjust decision to shut them down and confiscate their property. The IOA recently issued a decision to close the Islamic charity and the Islamic youth society which take care of orphan children and to confiscate all their property. The decision will take effect at the beginning of April. The popular campaign appealed to Ms. Arabour to save 7,000 students, 4,000 orphans, 5, 000 poor families whose fate will be unknown and many of them will end up on the streets if the Israeli decision is carried out. The campaigners said that the IOF troops already confiscated foodstuffs, stationary, food refrigerators and clothing belonging to orphans.

Israeli forces targeting youth, elderly and ill in arrest campaigns
Palestine News Network 3/31/2008
Najib Farrag -- Israeli forces are targeting minors, the elderly and ill during recent arrest campaigns, according to the latest report issued by the Palestinian Prisoner Society. Lawyers from the well-respected PPS gathered field research and testimonies from the arrestees themselves. On average, Israeli forces arrest 15 Palestinians per day over the last six months. Some were released, but the majority of the latest 700 imprisoned remain so. There are over 11,000 Palestinians currently in Israeli prisons. A lawyer from PPS reports that he visited the Etzion Detention Center in the Settlement Bloc of the same name. This military compound lies in the southern West Bank on confiscated Palestinian lands between Hebron and Bethlehem. The lawyer met with a large number of newly arrested Palestinians and found that the majority of them are minors, with the remainder being either elderly or ill.

OPT: Off the map - Land and housing rights violations in Israel’s unrecognized Bedouin villages
Human Rights Watch, ReliefWeb 3/31/2008
I. Summary - Tens of thousands of Palestinian Arab Bedouin, the indigenous inhabitants of the Negev region, live in informal shanty towns, or ’unrecognized villages,’ in the south of Israel. Discriminatory land and planning policies have made it virtually impossible for Bedouin to build legally where they live, and also exclude them from the state’s development plans for the region. The state implements forced evictions, home demolitions, and other punitive measures disproportionately against Bedouin as compared with actions taken regarding structures owned by Jewish Israelis that do not conform to planning law. In this report, Human Rights Watch examines these discriminatory policies and their impact on the life of Bedouin in the Negev. It calls on Israel to place an immediate moratorium on home demolitions in the Negev and establish an independent mechanism to investigate the discriminatory. . . -- See also: HRW - Israel: End Systematic Bias Against Bedouin

Peace Now: Israeli settlement construction in Jerusalem accelerated since Annapolis
Ma’an News Agency 3/31/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Construction in Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land in greater Jerusalem has accelerated since the Annapolis international conference last November, a report by the Israeli group Peace Now issued on Monday says. Peace Now’s Settlement Watch Team reports that despite a pledge by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to freeze settlement construction in November, settlement construction has continued, and accelerated in Jerusalem. "In Jerusalem we do see an increase in new tenders and in promotion of new plans," said Hagit Ofran, a settlement monitor for Peace Now. "I hope Prime Minister Olmert was serious and sincere, but he did not do anything to make sure [the freeze] works," Ofran added. Outside of Jerusalem, construction took place in 101 settlements since last August, including at least 220 already in-progress buildings, the report says.

Israeli Army Invades Marda, Imposes Curfew, Arrests 2
International Solidarity Movement 3/31/2008
Reports Salfit RegionAt about 10 AM today, Monday, March 31, 2008, the Israeli army invaded the village of Marda, in the Sulfiet region of the West Bank. After invading, the army immediately announced curfew on the entire village, thus prohibiting all residents from leaving their homes, opening their shops, or leaving the village. Marda lies at the base of the hill on which the illegal Israeli settlement of Ariel is built. The village has only two entrances, and just one of those is accessible by car. Fences surround Marda on three sides and the fourth side, the one facing Ariel, there is a wall. Marda is further isolated as it is the only Palestinian village to the north of the main road in that area. Due to its proximity to Ariel and its isolation from other villages, Marda has faced an exceptionally high number of military invasions throughout the years.

Rice: U.S. to ensure Israel removes West Bank roadblocks
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 4/1/2008
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice vowed yesterday that the United States will step up its efforts to ensure that Israel carries through the implementation of promised measures that aim to improve living conditions for the Palestinian population in the West Bank. Israel meanwhile announced yesterday a series of moves that will ease restrictions on Palestinian movement and economic activity in the territories. Rice will meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert today, who will brief the visiting U. S. official on progress in the talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The secretary of state will also hold a meeting with the heads of the negotiating teams of each side, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Ahmed Qureia. Rice also visited Amman yesterday, where she met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas. In reference to the announced easing of restrictions on the Palestinians, Rice said that the U.

Shas: Olmert promised to build in East Jerusalem
Nadav Shragai, Jonathan Lis, Mazal Mualem and Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 4/1/2008
Israeli officials announced plans yesterday for 1,400 new homes in East Jerusalem and nearby settlements, just hours after U. S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice completed her trip to the region. During a tour of the ultra-Orthodox West Bank settlement of Betar Illit yesterday, Shas leaders said that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had promised to thaw frozen construction plans in all the settlements near Jerusalem. In particular, they said, Olmert promised to lift a marketing freeze on 800 homes in Betar Illit in the next few days, and to enable construction or marketing of hundreds of additional nearby homes in the next few weeks. Olmert made the promise to Shas spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the party’s Knesset members said. In addition, Jerusalem’s city hall announced yesterday that it would build 600 new apartments in Pisgat Ze’ev, a neighborhood in the capital’s eastern sector.

UTJ joins Yesha Council, seeks expansion of Haredi settlement
Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 4/1/2008
The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party joined hands for the first time Sunday with the Yesha Council of settlements, to promote a cause that both hold dear: expanding the population of the Haredi settlement of Beitar Ilit, located between Jerusalem and Gush Etzion. "We all have the same feelings about the Land of Israel," declared MK Avraham Ravitz (UTJ) at a special faction meeting in the settlement, to which leaders of the Yesha Council were invited. "We need pressure, pressure, pressure. "Referring to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s pledge to U. S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to freeze construction in the settlements, Ravitz added: "Olmert must tell his rabbi, Condoleezza, ’I can’t do it. ’" One goal of the meeting was to pressure Shas, another ultra-Orthodox party, to quit the government over its decision to stop marketing 800 apartments in Beitar Ilit.

Settlement plans eclipse Rice talks
Al Jazeera 3/31/2008
Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, has reiterated calls for a halt to settlement construction as Israel announced plans to build up to 1,400 new homes on occupied Palestinian land. Her comments came after meeting Palestinian and Israeli negotiators in Jordan on Monday during a three-day trip aimed at bolstering US-backed peace talks. Speaking at a news conference alongside Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, Rice said: "We continue to state America’s position that settlement activity should stop. . . that it is indeed not consistent with ’road map’ obligations. "The US-sponsored "road map to peace" set out in 2003 calls on Israel to halt all settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and obliges Palestinians to rein in armed groups. Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, earlier told MPs from his Kadima party that his government had made no secret it intended to continue building in what he called Jewish neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem and in areas of the West Bank it intends to keep in any peace deal.

Rice engages in shuttle diplomacy after Israeli pledge on roadblocks
Sylvie Lanteaum, ReliefWeb 3/31/2008
JERUSALEM, March 31, 2008 (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was to meet Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas after securing an Israeli pledge to remove 50 West Bank roadblocks. The move would improve the daily lives of Palestinians and reinvigorate Middle East peace talks. Rice returned to Israel late Sunday after talks in the Jordanian capital Amman with King Abdullah II and Abbas. Her helicopter had to land in Tel Aviv due to poor weather conditions in Jerusalem. The move on roadblocks was part of a package of steps Israel announced following a three-way meeting between Rice, Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad. Rice won the Israeli promise during her second trip to the region in less than a month as she sought to advance faltering peace negotiations relaunched at a US conference in November.

Palestinian appeal: Boycott "Israel at 60" celebrations
Stop The Wall 3/31/2008
The BDS National Committee has issued an appeal to international civil society, calling for a boycott of the “Israel at 60” celebrations. Adopted from a PACBI initiative and supported by 104 organizations, this appeal is the core call from Palestine for 2008. It is backed by a wide range of Palestinian civil society groups, trade unions, popular committees and political organizations from across historic Palestine as well the diaspora. The appeal equates celebrating the foundation of Israel with a celebration of the colonial project of destruction and displacement that began in 1948. It notes that after 60 years, Palestinian refugees are forbidden from returning to their homes because they are “non-Jews”, while Palestinians living under the control of the Israeli state face systematic and institutionalized discrimination. Palestinians in the West Bank witness the ongoing colonization and the ghettoization of their land, and those in Gaza live under perpetual siege.

Boycott Israeli celebrations of Palestinian Catastrophe, Al Nakba
Palestine News Network 3/31/2008
PNN English published this call a month ago, but there are some additions today in the list of supporters, so we have decided to re-run it. Sixty Years of Dispossession and Ethnic Cleansing Boycott the "Israel at 60" Celebrations! How can you celebrate? The establishment of the State of Israel sixty years ago was a settler-colonial project that systematically and violently uprooted more than 750 thousand Palestinian Arabs from their lands and homes. Sixty years ago, Zionist militias and gangs ransacked Palestinian properties and destroyed hundreds of Palestinian villages. How can people of conscience celebrate this catastrophe? Israel at 60 is a state that continues to deny Palestinian refugees their UN-sanctioned right to return to their homes and receive compensation, simply because they are "non-Jews".

New Yorkers protest Leviev’s Israeli settlements on Land Day
Press Release, Adalah-NY, Electronic Intifada 3/29/2008
Forty New Yorkers commemorated the Palestinian national holiday Land Day today with the eighth protest at the Madison Avenue jewelry store of Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev. The protest included songs, theater and testimonials from villages threatened by Leviev’s settlements. Land Day marks Palestinians’ ties to their land, in defiance of Israeli efforts to displace them. "We targeted Leviev’s New York store on Land Day because his companies have recently built Israeli settlements on Palestinian land in at least four different locations in the Israeli-occupied West Bank," said Issa Mikel, a spokesperson for Adalah-NY. "He has also financed the Land Redemption Fund, a settler organization accused of using fraud to secure Palestinian land for settlement construction. " Land Day protests are being held in Palestinian towns throughout Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories this weekend.

Demonstration in Umm Salamuna calls for solidarity from Arab nations
International Solidarity Movement 3/31/2008
Bethlehem Region On Sunday, March 30th, more than 200 protesters took to the main street in Umm Salamuna to demonstrate against the Apartheid wall. What is usually a small weekly demonstration in Umm Salamuna, was this week host to an increased amount of demonstrators in honor of Land Day. Local community members, students from El Sawara high school from the nearby El Masara village, 5 Israelis and 3 Internationals attended this weeks protest. But this increased amount of protesters meant a higher level of military presence. The demonstrators walked from the center of Umm Salamuna and up the main road, where they were stopped by the army who had blocked the road with barbed wire. Four people suffered minor injuries, when the army physically pushed the protesters away with the barbed wire. Two members of the community spoke about land day and the significance of the 1976 events when 6 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army. They also sent out a call for solidarity to the Arab Nations meeting in Damascus this week.

Nomadic bedouin fight to survive in the village which does not exist
Rory McCarthy, The Guardian 4/1/2008
Israel accused of discriminating against Negev desert clans - Aqil al-Talalqah, from the Bedouin village of al Twayil Abu Jarwal, stands among the rubble of homes demolished by the Israeli authorities in the Negev near the southern Israeli city of Beer Sheva. Photograph: Gali Tibbon There are no road signs to the village, just a dirt track off the highway to the north of the Israeli city of Beer Sheva. Officially Twayil Abu Jarwal, a village on the land where the Talalqah clan has lived for generations, does not exist. It is "unrecognised" in the terminology that shapes the bitter land dispute between Israel’s 160,000 indigenous bedouin in the Negev desert and the Israeli state. Last year the authorities mounted eight separate operations in Twayil to demolish the homes of those living there, but the villagers stayed on. Now they live in poor quality tents surrounded by the remains of destroyed homes: corrugated iron, bricks and heaps of dirt piled on torn-down tents.

Global support for Palestinians on Land Day against settlement builder
Palestine News Network 3/31/2008
New York City -- Forty New Yorkers commemorated the Palestinian national holiday Land Day Saturday with the eighth protest at the Madison Avenue jewelry store of Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev. He is an Israeli settlement builder. Hillary Clinton was recently tasked to not attend one of his fund-raisers. The protest included songs, theater and testimonials from villages threatened by Leviev’s settlements. Land Day marks Palestinians’ ties to their land, in defiance of Israeli efforts to displace them. "We targeted Leviev’s New York store on Land Day because his companies have recently built Israeli settlements on Palestinian land in at least four different locations in the Israeli-occupied West Bank," said Issa Mikel, a spokesperson for Adalah-NY. "He has also financed the Land Redemption Fund, a settler organization accused of using fraud to secure Palestinian land for settlement construction.

Khudari: Solidarity campaigns support Palestinian people
Palestinian Information Center 3/31/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- MP Jamal Al-Khudari, the chairman of the popular anti siege committee, said that marches in solidarity with Gaza in various world areas send messages of support to the Palestinian people. The lawmaker told a rally in solidarity with Gaza held in the French cities of Lyon and Marseille that the rallies tell the Gaza inhabitants that they are not alone as long as the freedom loving peoples in the world are with them. Khudari explained in his speech over the phone the tragic conditions in Gaza as a result of the Zionist siege that was further tightened nine months ago and its impact on all aspects of life in the Strip. He elaborated on the dangers of the siege whether on the health sector where almost 120 patients died while 3,900 factories or workshops were closed and 150,000 laborers were out of work, which completely paralyzed life activity in the Strip.

Jerusalem council okays 600 new Jewish homes in Arab area
Nadav Shragai and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/1/2008
The municipality of Jerusalem on Monday approved the construction of 600 new homes in Pisgat Zeev, east of the Green Line. Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski approved the expansion in Pisgat Zeev - a Jewish settlement surrounded by Arab towns in the West Bank - as part of a plan to construct 40,000 more homes in the area as foreign interest drives property prices up. Also Monday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised the spiritual leader of the Shas Party, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, that he would authorize construction on "Jerusalem envelope" lands which have been thus far frozen, sources from the ultra-Orthodox Party said. "The Prime Minister promised Rabbi [Yosef] unequivocally that the construction in all the Jerusalem envelope communities will not be hindered and will be unfrozen without delay," sources from the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party said.

Construction of 600 new homes in east Jerusalem approved
Neta Sela and AP, YNetNews 3/31/2008
Jerusalem’s city hall announces its plan to construct new apartments in Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood, part of eastern part of city Palestinians hope will one day be their capital. Prime Minister Olmert has stressed building will not disrupt peace negotiations - Condtruction beyond Green Line continues in full pace: Jerusalem’s city hall announces Monday its plan to construct 600 new apartments in the neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev, part of the eastern part of the city Palestinians hope will one day be their capital. The apartments are an element of Mayor Uri Lupolianski’s plan to build 40 thousand new apartments for young couples in Jerusalem’s municipal territories, some of which are beyond the 1967 borders. Lupolianski said that he believed "that following the prime minister’s declaration that the construction in Jerusalem’s neighborhoods will continue, the government won’t impose any delays on this plan.

IDF tracker charged with ’aiding Hezbollah in war against Israel’
Fadi Eyadat, Ha’aretz 4/1/2008
An indictment was submitted to the Haifa military court on Monday against an Israel Defense Forces tracker who was accused of divulging military intelligence to Hezbollah in order to facilitate the smuggling of illicit drugs from Lebanon into Israel. The indictment included charges of treason, aiding an enemy during wartime, contact with a foreign agent, conspiracy to commit a crime and "assisting an enemy in a war against Israel. " The indictment reveals that between December 2007 and February 2008 Louai Balut made contact on several occasions with a Lebanese citizen named Elias Hazbani, who is a member of the Lebanon-based guerilla group Hezbollah. The indictment adds that the defendant used cellular phones to contact two other Lebanese citizens, Abu Hassan and Abu Ali, who also belong to the militant group.

Israeli forces raid Al-Asakra, near Bethlehem
Ma’an News Agency 3/31/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli forces invaded the southern West Bank village of Al-Asakra on Monday , near the city of Bethlehem, Palestinian security sources said. The sources told Ma’an that Israeli troops broke into home of Fuad Dar Ali. Although Dar Ali was not home, the soldiers delivered a document ordering him to appear at the Israeli intelligence station in the Eztion bloc of Israeli settlements. [end]

2 Qassams land in western Negev; no injuries
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 3/31/2008
On backdrop of drop in number of rockets fired at Israel from Gaza, Color Red alert system activated once again in south of country - Palestinians fired two Qassam rockets from the northern Gaza Strip towards Israel on Monday evening. The rockets landed within the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council. There were no reports of injuries or damage. The Color Red alert system was activated prior to the landing. Despite the drop in the number of Qassams fired from the Gaza Strip since the IDF’s Operation Warm Winter, the Palestinians continue to fire rockets and mortar shells on a nearly daily basis. Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal said that the municipality did not rely on the relative calm in the past 24 hours. "This calm is false, deceiving and extremely dangerous. Last week we held a wide-scale emergency economy drill, in which we examined the functioning of all the systems during times of emergency.

Israeli forces seize eight Palestinians in the West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 3/31/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Israeli forces seized eight Palestinians in the West Bank on Sunday night and Monday morning, witnesses and security sources said. Israeli military vehicles invaded the towns of Beit Rima and Deir Nidham, near Ramallah, on Monday, witnesses said. The Israeli forces entered at 1:00am, firing sonic bombs before seizing two young men. In the city of Tulkarem, residents and Palestinian security sources said that Israeli forces detained four Palestinian teenagers who were playing near the Israeli separation wall. In the city of Nablus, Palestinian security sources said the Israeli forces raided the city on Sunday evening and stormed several houses before seizing a young Palestinian man from the eastern neighborhood of the city. The Israeli military raids West Bank cities virtually every night, arresting Palestinians they suspected are involved in political or military activity.

Israeli forces seize Palestinian teenager in Ramallah
Ma’an News Agency 3/31/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces seized a Palestinian teenager at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah on Monday. Local sources said that Israeli troops stopped 18-year-old Ahmad Qaddura in his car at a flying checkpoint, and arrested him. Qaddura is from the town of Kafr Qalil, near the city of Nablus. In addition to more than 500 permanent checkpoints, gates, and other roadblocks in the West Bank, Israeli troops frequently impose "flying checkpoints" at will on roads throughout the West Bank. [end]

Settler who killed terrorist: Government policy foolish
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 3/31/2008
Erez Bar-On of Ofra tells Ynet how he shot Palestinian who tried to stab him at West Bank hitchhikers’ station, criticizes government over decision to remove roadblocks, supply Palestinian Authority with armored vehicles - Erez Bar-On, 30, of the West Bank settlement of Ofra, became a hero Monday after shooting a terrorist to death as the latter attempted to stab him and a teenager at a hitchhikers’ station near the settlement of Shilo. Talking to Ynet, Bar-On slammed the government’s roadblock removal policy and its decision to supply the Palestinians with armored vehicles. "This is a foolish policy which directly acts against us," he said. After reenacting the incident before police officers, Bar-On said that what was important to him at the moment was that the lessons would be learned.

Hamas and Fatah fighters in Gaza claim attacks on Israeli targets
Ma’an News Agency 3/31/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, claimed responsibility for firing five mortar rounds at Israeli military vehicles east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday. Separately, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah, claimed to have fired a homemade projectile at an Israeli town east of Al-Maghazi refugee camp, also in Gaza. Both groups, in separate statements, said the two attacks were a response to Israel’s "atrocities" in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. [end]

Islamic Jihad’s military wing ’engages’ invading Israeli troops in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 3/31/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds Brigades, claimed that their fighters fought with undercover Israeli forces who attempted to enter the Gaza Strip near the Kissufim military installation on Monday morning. The Al-Quds Brigades said they fired rocket-propelled grenades at the Israeli troops, who were forced to withdraw. [end]

Weekly Report on Israeli human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory 19 - 26 Mar 2008
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, ReliefWeb 3/26/2008
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Continue Systematic Attacks against Palestinian Civilians and Property in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT)- 2 Palestinian farmers were killed by IOF in the Gaza Strip. - 2 activists of the Palestinian resistance died from previous wounds. - 5 Palestinian civilians, including 3 children and a paramedic, were wounded by IOF in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. - IOF conducted 48 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, and 3 ones into the Gaza Strip. - IOF arrested 82 Palestinian civilians, including 15 children, and 7 others in the Gaza Strip. - IOF demolished 4 houses, razed 94 donums1 of agricultural land and destroyed 2 bird farms in al-Qarara village in the Gaza Strip. - IOF raided and searched offices of a number of NGOs, charities and radio stations in the West Bank. -- See also: PCHR Report and PDF format

News in Brief
Ha’aretz 4/1/2008
Infant mortality tumbles 70%over 25 years - The infant mortality rate in Israel dropped 70 percent between 1979 and 2004, from 15. 2 to 4. 8 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to data released yesterday by the National Bureau of Statistics. Among Jews, infant mortality fell 73 percent, from 12. 5 to 3. 4 deaths per 1,000 live births. Among Arabs, it dropped 65 percent, from 23. 5 to 8. 2 deaths per 1,000 live births. Despite this improvement in both populations, infant mortality remains twice as high among Arabs than among Jews. (Moti Bassok) [end]

JORDAN: Eligible Palestinian refugees sign up for new housing initiative
Maria Font de Matas/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 3/31/2008
An elderly Palestinian refugee woman from Baqaa refugee camp, 20km west of Amman. Some 1. 55 million of the 1. 8 million registered Palestinian refugees in Jordan can apply for cheap housing AMMAN, 31 March 2008 (IRIN) - Palestinians living in refugee camps in the three largest cities of Amman, Zarqa and Irbid were among thousands of low income people who flocked to post offices last week to take advantage of a US$7 billion housing initiative that aims to provide affordable homes. Only those Palestinians with ordinary Jordanian passports - some 1. 55 million of the 1. 8 million registered Palestinian refugees - can apply for the cheap housing; other refugees (mainly Gazans who hold temporary two-year passports) are not eligible. Most Palestinian refugees arrived after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and have Jordanian passports as well as refugee cards from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

Captured corporal is still alive, says Hamas leader
Rory McCarthy, The Guardian 4/1/2008
Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas, said yesterday that an Israeli corporal captured near Gaza two years ago was still alive. Meshal, who lives in exile in Damascus, said Gilad Shalit was being held captive and would not be freed until Israel agreed to release several hundred Palestinian prisoners. Egypt has been helping to negotiate a deal under which about 1,000 prisoners would be released in stages. But Meshal said Israel rejected some of the names on the list. Among the prisoners Hamas wants freed is Marwan Barghouti, a popular former leader of the Fatah movement. "We gave Egypt the list of prisoners’ names but Israel rejected most of them because they considered them to be prisoners with blood on their hands," Meshal told Associated Press. He also said that efforts to agree a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza had not been successful.

Abducted soldier’s mother: PM must pay price to retrieve them
Avi Issacharoff and Jack Khoury , and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/1/2008
Miki Goldwasser, the mother of one of the two Israel Defense Forces soldiers whose abduction by Hezbollah in 2006 triggered the Second Lebanon War, attacked Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday over the government’s failure to retrieve them. Speaking at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, Goldwasser said: "Olmert, you want to be remembered for striving to bring the soldiers back without paying the price, but you will be remembered for having created three more Ron Arad cases. "Ron Arad, an IAF navigator, abandoned his Phantom jet over Lebanon in 1986 and his fate remains unknown. His family believes he is still alive in Iran. Goldwasser called the tendency to refrain from making major concessions to the enemy in order not to encourage further abductions of IDF soldiers is a "poor excuse.

Captive’s mother: Olmert causing 3 more Ron Arads
Ahiya Raved, YNetNews 3/31/2008
Miki Goldwasser, whose son was kidnapped by Hizbullah in July 2006, harshly criticizes prime minister during Hebrew University Conference. ’He wishes to be portrayed as someone who wants to release the abductees without paying a price,’ she says - Abandoning our sons is easier than paying a heavy price for their release, Miki Goldwasser said Monday in a direct attack on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Goldwasser, whose son Ehud was kidnapped by Hizbullah in July 2006 along with fellow reserve soldier Eldad Regev, told a conference at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem that "Olmert wishes to be portrayed as someone who did not pay a heavy price for the abductees, but will remembered eternally as the person who created three more Ron Arad cases. " Governmental Support - Yishai says willing to negotiate with Hamas, Hizbullah to release. . .

Rice urges Israel to halt settlement activity
Ma’an News Agency 3/31/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on Monday for a halt to Israeli settlement construction following news of Israeli plans for hundreds of new apartments in illegal settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank. "We continue to state America’s position that settlement activity should stop, that its expansion should stop – that is indeed not consistent with ’road map’ obligations," Rice said at a press conference in the Jordanian capital, Amman, Jordan with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Rice also expressed confidence, despite ongoing settlement activity, that a Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement can be reached by the end of 2008. "I have to say I find very impressive the work that is being done and the seriousness of the process and I think it’s all moving in the right direction," she said.

Jihad: Rice’s visit targets boosting Israeli settlement drive
Palestinian Information Center 3/31/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Islamic Jihad Movement has charged that American secretary of state Condoleezza Rice’s visit to the Hebrew state aimed at backing Israel’s plans to establish more settlements on Palestinian occupied lands in the West Bank. The Movement in a press release on the anniversary of land day said that Rice’s visit which coincided with the anniversary of land day on 30th March also aimed at influencing the Arab summit resolutions in Damascus and to pressure for halting Arab efforts to heal the internal Palestinian rift. The American administration’s alleged intervention to ease suffering of the Palestinian people during the visit including removing a number of barriers in the West Bank fell in line with attempts to lure PA chief Mahmnoud Abbas away from national reconciliation with Hamas, the statement elaborated.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s trilateral meeting with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Defense Minister Ehud Barak
United States Department of State, ReliefWeb 3/30/2008
Sean McCormack, Spokesman - Washington, DC. - The process launched at Annapolis includes several components-including the realization of President Bush’s vision of two states living side by side in peace and security, and implementation of Phase I obligations of the Road Map to improve the quality of life and the security of ordinary people on both sides. Today Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Defense Minister Ehud Barak agreed on concrete steps to implement the Roadmap. This is a program that will improve the daily lives of Palestinians and help make Israel secure. Lieutenant General William Fraser and others will continue their involvement in this effort to help the two sides implement their obligations. Secretary Rice was pleased to be able to join in those efforts today. Prime Minister Fayyad and Defense Minister Barak agreed on points of special, immediate emphasis. . .

Agha calls on the world to pressure Israel to respect The Hague resolution
Palestinian Information Center 3/31/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Mohamed Al-Agha, the agriculture minister in the PA caretaker government, stated on the occasion of the land day that the Israeli occupation takes pleasure in killing Palestinians and destroying trees, confiscating lands and expanding its settlements, calling on the international community to oblige Israel to implement the resolution of the international court of justice in The Hague on removing the apartheid wall. Dr. Agha underlined that the Israeli occupation destroyed 100 square kilometers of the Palestinian agricultural lands which is 27 percent of the total area of the Gaza Strip, pointing out that the agricultural sector in Gaza incurs $200,000 daily losses as a result of the Israeli siege and aggression. The minister also called on the Palestinian farmers to be cautious of brokers sent by the PA in Ramallah in order to buy their agricultural lands for the benefit of foreign investors who in fact work for Israel.

Barhoum: No excuse for Arab leaders for not breaking siege on Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 3/31/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, on Monday said that there was no excuse for the Arab leaders for not taking a decision to break the siege on the Strip. In a press release, Barhoum said that the summit adopted a decision declaring Gaza a "disaster area" but did not translate this decision into practical measures on the ground. He said that there was no justification for the Arab leaders not to break the siege on Gaza and send assistance to its inhabitants. The spokesman noted that Khaled Mishaal, the chairman of Hamas’s political bureau, had invited PA chief Mahmoud Abbas to visit Gaza. He added that none blocks or puts conditions before Abbas’s visit to Gaza to discuss Palestinian national unity and to unite ranks and political stands. Meanwhile, a Hamas detained leader in occupation jails warned of the "serious repercussions" of the repeated. . .

Caretaker gov’t regrets Arab summit’s failure in breaking siege on Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 3/31/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The PA caretaker government headed by premier Ismail Haneyya expressed regret and dismay at not setting mechanisms to break the Israeli siege imposed on the Gaza people during the two-day Arab summit which only urged the concerned parties to work on getting the siege lifted. Following the weekly cabinet meeting, Taher Al-Nunu, the spokesman for the government, stated that the government expressed its appreciation for the Arab leaders’ positions which supported the Palestinian people’s rights and considered the Israeli practices war crimes. Shifting to another issue, the government held the Fatah faction fully responsible for aborting efforts to revive national dialog through repudiating its signing of the Sana’a declaration as a framework for dialog, expressing thanks to the Arab efforts especially the efforts of Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh in this regard.

Abbas to meet Olmert next week for resumption of stalled peace talks
Sylvie Lanteaume, Daily Star 4/1/2008
Agence France Presse - AMMAN: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday he will meet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on April 7 for their first face-to-face talks in seven weeks. "My meeting with the prime minister will be held soon, I believe it will be on April 7," Abbas told a joint news conference in Amman with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The last meeting between Abbas and Olmert was in Jerusalem on February 19, after which the Palestinian president suspended all talks in protest at a deadly Israeli blitz on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. "I am confident that we will reach a comprehensive peace agreement in 2008 because we are working hard with Israel, the United States and other parties to reach this deal," Abbas said. "We want by the end of 2008 to reach this agreement, which will help establish a Palestinian state.

Abbas, Olmert to meet on April 7
Middle East Online 3/31/2008
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said on Monday he will meet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on April 7 for their first face-to-face talks in seven weeks. "My meeting with the prime minister will be held soon, I believe it will be on April 7," Abbas told a joint news conference in Amman with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The last meeting between Abbas and Olmert was in Jerusalem on February 19, after which the Palestinian president suspended all talks in protest at a deadly Israeli blitz on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. "I am confident that we will reach a comprehensive peace agreement in 2008 because we are working hard with Israel, the United States and other parties to reach this deal," Abbas said. "We want by the end of 2008 to reach this agreement, which will help establish a Palestinian state.

Hamas: American visits target preparing for large-scale aggression on Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 3/31/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Monday charged that the repeated visits by American officials to the Hebrew state fell in line with preparing for a "serious military escalation" targeting the Gaza Strip. Dr. Salah Al-Bardawil, who is a Hamas parliament member, refuted claims that American visits were to push forward the peace process. He opined that those visits targeted two things first foiling the Arab summit and aborting any possible Arab intervention to patch up inter-Palestinian differences and the second preparing for a military operation in the region. Bardawil said in a press release that the IOF aggression on Gaza would start with assassinating leaders followed by violent aerial bombing and finally a ground offensive. The Americans came to the region to put the final touches on that plan, he argued.

Israel removes checkpoints in Jericho, Ramallah
Associated Press, YNetNews 3/31/2008
Initial step towards fulfilling Israeli pledge to ease restrictions in West Bank underway; Yesha Council slams evacuation of Rimonim checkpoint - Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said Monday that Israel had removed two checkpoints in the West Bank town of Jericho as part of commitments made to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Malki said that Israel would also take down smaller barriers at different points around the West Bank. Rice announced the Israeli easements on Sunday during a visit to the region meant to prod along peace talks. Malki told reporters Monday that Israel notified the Palestinians that the Jericho checkpoints were removed earlier in the day. Meanwhile Israeli forces also began evacuating the Rimonim checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah on Monday afternoon.

Arab peace offer ’under review’
Al Jazeera 3/30/2008
Arab leaders meeting in Damascus have said that they will review a peace offer extended to Israel in 2002 unless it changes its behaviour. The warning was made on Sunday at the end a two-day Arab summit marred by divisions over the political crisis in Lebanon. "For the Arab side to continue to offer the Arab peace initiative is tied to Israel executing its commitments in the framework of international resolutions to achieve peace in the region," a Damascus Declaration said. The Arab initiative of 2002 offers Israel peace and normal relations with all Arab countries in return for withdrawal from all territory captured in the 1967 war. Although no time frame was set in the declaration, Amr Moussa, the Arab League chief, told a news conference that a review could begin in the middle of the year. The language on the Arab peace plan was not a surprise as it was almost identical to that of a decision approved by Arab foreign ministers at a meeting in Cairo three weeks ago.

Report: Olmert admitted Israel struck Syrian nuclear facility
Ynet, YNetNews 3/31/2008
Asahi Shimbun newspaper reports prime minister told his Japanese counterpart that IDF strike last September targeted facility built with North Korea’s help - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has admitted that an Israeli strike in Syria last September targeted a nuclear facility built with North Korea’s help, Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported Monday on its website. The report quoted sources in the Japanese government, who have said that Olmert briefed Japan’s Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda on the attack during a meeting in Tokyo on February 27. The report quoted sources in the Japanese government, who have said that Olmert briefed Japan’s Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda on the attack during a meeting in Tokyo on February 27. The Japanese paper noted that this was apparently the first time that the intended target had been disclosed to the head of a foreign government. Israel has officially acknowledged that it carried out the September 6, 2007 attack, but failed to identify the strike’s target.

Give and take par excellence
Yoel Marcus, Ha’aretz 4/1/2008
It takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place, says the Red Queen in "Alice in Wonderland. "That is what Ehud Olmert is doing these days to keep a grip on his "workplace," as he called it a while back. At a meeting with the foreign press last Wednesday, the prime minister announced that he was making a concerted effort to achieve a historic breakthrough by the end of the year that would lay the foundations for a permanent accord between Israel and the Palestinians. With Condoleezza Rice in town, Olmert’s drive and Tzipi Livni’s energy and persistence hover over the front page of Yedioth Ahronoth. "Hush hush: Intensive final-status talks quietly underway" reads the banner headline in red, black and yellow. "Livni and Abu Ala [Ahmed Qureia] huddle over the maps.

Livni’s perseverance
Haaretz Editorial, Ha’aretz 4/1/2008
MK Limor Livnat’s attack on Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni during a radio broadcast yesterday, and her demand that Livni should "remove the veil of secrecy" behind which she is busy dividing Jerusalem - according to Livnat - is neither realistic nor just. It is important that the talks Livni is conducting with the chairman of the Palestinian negotiating team, Ahmed Qureia, remain confidential, and that they continue without hindrance, for the good of both sides. Livnat denounced Livni’s actions because she felt, and rightly so, that the foreign minister was creating understandings - via a slow, stubborn and patient process - on which it will be possible to build a realistic and enduring final-status arrangement. Livnat was apparently even more concerned about Livni’s cautious remark with regard to evacuation-compensation for settlers.

Cash-strapped Foreign Min. can’t celebrate 60th anniversary abroad
Zipi Shohat, Ha’aretz 4/1/2008
There is no funding for overseas cultural events to mark Israel’s 60th anniversary celebrations. The Foreign Ministry blames the Committee for Israel’s 60th Independence Day Events, which has NIS 100 million at its disposal, but has decided not to allocate any funds for overseas events. "For a long time the ministry presented proposals and plans for events abroad," says Amir Goldstein, from Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s bureau. "We submitted budget proposals and asked for around 10 percent of the budget for the 60th Independence Day celebrations for our activities, but the committee, chaired by minister Ruhama Avraham-Balila, decided not to allocate any funds for activities abroad. " Aviv Shir-On, the ministry’s deputy director general for media affairs and its representative on the 60th Independence Day Committee, backs up Goldstein: "We submitted. . .

Czech radar deal will help Israel, says visiting defense min.
Yossi Melman, Ha’aretz 4/1/2008
A new missile-defense system that will be deployed in the Czech Republic will also contribute to Israel’s defense, the Czech defense minister suggested yesterday in an interview with Haaretz. "If there is an effective missile defense, it will diminish the threat posed by Iran on Israel," said Vlasta Parkanova, who is on a visit here. The Czech defense minister will meet with her counterpart Ehud Barak today, and discuss greater defense cooperation between the two countries, and possible procurement of Israeli-made defense systems. Parkanova refused to specify what systems her country was interested in or the scale of the deals in question, but she stressed yesterday that "we are aware that Israel has very advanced technologies. " Parkanova also told Haaretz that she and her colleagues support the deployment of a missile-defense system on Czech soil, as proposed by the. . .

OPT: Report No. 59 - Implementation of the agreement on movement and access, 06 - 19 Feb 2008
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ReliefWeb 2/19/2008
The United Nations is submitting the 59th bi-weekly report on the implementation of the 15 November 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA), covering the period 6-19 February 2008(1). Overall Progress: The Karni and Rafah crossings remained closed for the movement of goods and people to and from Gaza, except for wheat grain and animal feed at Karni. Erez crossing remained closed for all Palestinians with the exception of urgent medical cases and a limited number of Palestinian staff working for international organizations who require special coordination arrangements with the Israeli District Civil Liaison. Thousands of Palestinians continued to cross into Egypt in an uncontrolled manner until the border was sealed on 10 February. Sufa crossing was open for humanitarian and commercial commodities for 10 days compared to 5 in the previous reporting period.

The Humanitarian Monitor Occupied Palestinian Territory No. 22, Feb 2008
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ReliefWeb 2/29/2008
Overview- Key Issues - Overview of Developments in the Gaza Strip - On 27 February, violence significantly increased between the IDF and Palestinian militants. This followed the killing of five Hamas fighters in an Israeli air strike and the launching of 73 rockets from Gaza which hit Sderot, Ashkelon and other areas in southern Israel, resulting in the death of a 47-year old Israeli man in Sderot. Between 27 February and 4 March, the IDF staged a large military operation into Gaza (named "Hot Winter"). During the operation, 120 Palestinians (including 34 children) were killed and 269 (at least 65 children) were injured. At least 55 of those killed and 104 of those injured were civilians not involved in fighting. During the same period, three Israelis were killed (including two IDF soldiers) and 36 were injured (including 1 child, 16 other civilians and 19 IDF soldiers).

With 20 million Euros, Spain is the first country contributing to the new european program to support the Palestinian Authority.
Government of Spain, ReliefWeb 3/27/2008
Today, Spain, the Palestinian Authority and the European Commission signed the Agreement to provide 20 million Euros to support the Palestinian Authority, through the European Commission’s new program entitled ’PEGASE’ (European-Palestinian Mechanism for Socio-Economic Aid and Management). This contribution is a direct response to the commitments outlined by Spain during the Annapolis Conference and the Paris Conference to further peaceful negotiations currently underway. This reinforcement of negotiations specifically focuses on the strengthening of political structures of the Palestinian Authority and the relief of the humanitarian situation for the Palestinian people, particularly those living in Gaza. The Spanish support plan will contribute to the guarantee of salary payments and social contributions for the civil employees of the Palestinian Authority in 2008.

Kuwait donates $1.5 million to UNRWA’s General Fund
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in, ReliefWeb 3/27/2008
The government of Kuwait has contributed $1. 5 million to UNRWA’s regular budget, the General Fund. The donation will be used to finance UNRWA’s core programs in the areas of health, education, social services, micro-finance, infrastructure and camp improvement. The donation comes at a time of growing pressure on the Agency, due to restrictions on access in Gaza and the West Bank and soaring food and fuel prices. The cost for example of delivering flour to refugees in the West Bank has doubled in the last year. UNRWA’s Commissioner-General Karen Koning AbuZayd thanked the Kuwaiti government. ’This donation is a further sign of the support and engagement by the government of Kuwait in the work UNRWA is doing at this very difficult time’, she said. ’We deeply appreciate the continuous support of Kuwait, which in most years is the biggest Arab contributor to our regular budget’.

Prostitutes convince Knesset to withdraw legalization proposal
Yael Branovsky, YNetNews 3/31/2008
Committee on Status of Women decides to rescind bill proposal to institutionalize prostitution following shocking testimony of former sex industry workers at debate - Knesset Member Elhanan Glazer (Pensioners Party) announced Monday that he would withdraw a bill proposal seeking to legalize prostitution in Israel. Committee chairwoman, MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz), welcomed Glazer’s decision to withdraw the bill from the committee’s agenda and called the move "an important step to prevent the legitimization of heinous offenses tied to prostitution and pimping. " Glazer’s decision was born out of the painfully candid testimonies of two former sex industry workers who were brought to the debate held by the Knesset Committee on the Status of Woman to discuss the bill. The special session, which also drew the participation of women’s rights organizations,. . .

Clinton and Obama voters support Israel in similar numbers
Shmuel Rosner, Ha’aretz 4/1/2008
Poll shows McCain voters back Israel more strongly than Democrats; few think U. S. can stop Iran alone. A newly released poll from The Israel Project contains some interesting data about the 2008 candidates, their constituencies and Israel. A cautionary note: The Israel Project is an organization with a clear agenda. A calming note: The poll was conducted by Neil Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies and Stan Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, two trustworthy and professional pollsters. Here are some findings, and some remarks: 1. As much as I understand the need for The Israel Project to highlight these findings, I do not see the major political benefit of having 70 percent of Americans support the expansion of United Nations sanctions against Iran. he U. S. was never the problem in that regard, and the support of Americans for measures against this country is neither at all surprising nor useful (a couple of weeks ago I reported here that

Drug boomerang
Yossi Melman, Ha’aretz 4/1/2008
This past week we learned of the arrest of a number of suspects involved in drug trafficking on the Lebanese border. Among others arrested, in two separate cases, were an Israel Defense Forces noncommissioned officer and couriers suspected of possession of more than 30 kilograms of pure heroin. The police said this was the "largest quantity of heroin ever captured on the northern border," and estimated its street value at tens of millions of shekels. This might be said to be the tip of the iceberg. Since Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, 24 IDF soldiers and civilians have been arrested for involvement in drug trafficking, including officers, both Jews and Arabs, as well as police. Drug trafficking on that border has a fixed pattern: Hezbollah allows Lebanese dealers to smuggle drugs into Israel, in exchange for which they provide Hezbollah, through their Israeli contacts, with intelligence information on the deployment of the IDF in the North, and purchase maps and equipment for Hezbollah.

Law sets 3-year jail penalty for car-owners who go to mechanics in PA
Zvi Zrachin, Ha’aretz 4/1/2008
A penalty of three years’ imprisonment will be imposed on Israeli vehicle-owners who take their vehicles to mechanics in the West Bank under a law passed by the Knesset on Monday. The new law, presented by Likud MK Moshe Kahlon, prohibits Israeli-registered vehicles from being repaired by mechanics in territories under Palestinian Authority control, including those that are towed there by another vehicle. The law will empower police officers to confiscate any vehicle in violation of it, as well as the vehicle license from its owner, and the vehicle that towed it to the Palestinian territories. Police statistics show that around 50 Israeli vehicles are dismantled by mechanics in Palestinian territories each day after accidents, and their parts are then transferred to Israeli mechanics or used-car dealerships.

Jail sentence for repairing car in West Bank
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 3/31/2008
Knesset approves bill determining that Israelis caught repairing their vehicle within Palestinian Authority territories could be sent to prison for up to three years - The Knesset on Monday authorized a bill proposal determining that Israelis caught repairing their vehicle within the Palestinian Authority territories would face a prison sentence of up to three years. The proposal, put forward by Knesset Member Moshe Kahlon (Likud), passed its second and third readings by a 12-MK majority - none objected or abstained. The law will only be valid for the next two years, but the internal security minister will be authorized to extend it by two more years with the approval of the transportation minister and the Knesset’s Economics Committee. MK Gilad Erdan (Likud), chairman of the Economics Committee, who presented the proposal at the Knesset plenum,. . .

Meshaal invites Abbas for unconditional talks
Middle East Online 3/31/2008
LONDON - Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal invited Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to Gaza for unconditional talks on the two factions’ divisions, in a television interview Monday. He also told British broadcaster Sky News that Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured by Palestinian militants in June 2006, is still alive and being treated well. "We invite Mr Mahmud Abbas to come to Gaza to talk directly without any conditions. . . to work together to find a solution to the problems in Gaza and the West Bank," Meshaal said, speaking from an undisclosed location in Damascus. The aim of the talks would be "get back our Palestinian union and find the reasons for our problems and to solve the security problem," he added. The invitation comes after rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah reached a Yemeni-brokered deal on March 23 to open their first direct talks since the Islamists seized control of the Gaza Strip nine months ago.

Palestinian high court suspends Fayyad’s utility bill rule
Ma’an News Agency 3/31/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - The Palestinian Higher Judicial Council has decided to suspend a rule by Prime Minister Fayyad requiring Palestinians to pay back utility bills before receiving government services, the head of the Palestinian public employees union, Bassam Zakarna, said on Monday. The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA), under Prime Minister Fayyad, instated a rule in January that required Palestinians to pay old electricity, water and other utility bills by 25 January. Those who did not comply would not be issued any PA document, including driver’s licenses and birth certificates. Labor unions are angered over the rule, arguing that it is impossible for the majority of Palestinians, who live in poverty, to pay their bills all at once.

Olmert to Shas: Construction in settlement blocs to resume
Neta Sela, YNetNews 3/31/2008
Haredi party facing tremendous pressure from its electorate over freeze in construction in ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem and Beitar Illit neighborhoods. Prime minister promises Shas’ spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, that building will resume - Construction in settlement blocs in the West Bank, which has been suspended by the government, is set to be resumed, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised Shas’ spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, on Monday. The conversation between the two could prove to have a crucial effect on Shas’ decision whether or not to stay in the coalition. The haredi party has been facing tremendous pressure from its electorate over the freeze in construction in the settlement blocs, which constitute an important share of the housing market for the ultra-Orthodox public.

Oligarchy or anarchy
Amir Oren, Ha’aretz 4/1/2008
The latest outburst by Ehud Olmert’s cronies against the state comptroller in the case of Jonathan Pollard encapsulates a synopsis of the entire 24-year affair since Pollard first appeared and offered his services as a spy: There is no central authority in Israel, only separate feudal holdings headed by self-appointed barons. Every minister or chief is an oligarch. Pollard, U. S. Federal Prisoner 09185-016, due for release on November 21, 2015, would not have managed to help Israel get itself into trouble had there been an effective and coordinated government in power in Israel during 1984 and 1985. Instead, there was a government that failed to oversee all its operational branches. The Bureau of Scientific Relations, which ran Pollard, operated without control, but not as a rogue organization, as the political leadership tried to argue.

This time a conviction won’t rattle Shas
Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 4/1/2008
In March 1999, on the night before the ruling in the case against Shas party chairman Aryeh Deri, sleep eluded the Shas leadership. Deri was accused of embezzlement, but the feeling, both before and after the verdict, was that Shas itself as well as all its supporters were the ones in the defendant’s seat. Shas was about to enter a period of huge rallies and protest songs and bumper stickers that pumped it up to its most powerful position ever, and the party went on to win 17 seats in the next Knesset election. Nine years later, ahead of today’s ruling in the bribery case against Shas’ Shlomo Benizri, the feelings are altogether different. For years, Benizri was one of the Sephardi party’s most prominent ministers and MKs, with some viewing him as its next leader. But these days, the party is different from how it was at the time of the Deri verdict.

Join the PA police, get NIS 1,400 a month
Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 4/1/2008
JENIN - Hundreds of young men are trying to elbow their way onto the line in the courtyard of the Muqata, shouting, pushing closer to the window where they get the forms to sign up for the Palestinian police. For a moment it seems like a brawl would break out. It is not every day that the average young man in Jenin finishes high school and has a chance to win a job with a steady salary from the Palestinian Authority as a member of the National Security force. Ahmed Agbariyeh, from Taibeh in the Jenin area, says he has come to join up, together with six of his friends from the same village. "I’m unemployed and here I can eat and get about NIS 1,200 to NIS 1,400 a month. "That is a considerable sum, in Palestinian terms. His family, he says, encouraged him. He is not worried about leaving home, nor do the demands of basic training under the broiling Jericho sun phase him.

Peretz, Barak trade insults at heated party meet
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 4/1/2008
Squabbling in the Labor Party reached the boiling point at yesterday’s meeting of its Knesset faction, with a harsh exchange between party leader and defense minister Ehud Barak and his predecessor, MK Amir Peretz. In an emotional outburst, Peretz accused Barak of being disconnected from reality and obsessed with being prime minister. Barak responded by calling Peretz "pathetic. " The noisy argument came amid the embarrassing fallout from National Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer’s conversation Sunday with Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, which was overheard through an open microphone. In it, Ben Eliezer criticized Barak’s "suicidal" political conduct, as well as Barak’s insinuations, in a meeting Sunday with bereaved families, that elections are imminent. Both incidents publicly exposed the internal tensions in the Labor Party, at the center of which is the dispute between Barak and Peretz.

Peretz accuses Barak of obsession with being PM
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 3/31/2008
Labor faction meeting results in petty accusations between current, former chairmen. ’You’re detached from reality,’ Peretz tells Barak, who replies, ’I have given up competing with you in being pathetic’ - Former Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz attacked current Labor Party Chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday, telling him he was "divorced from reality" during a Labor faction meeting. "You have an obsession with being prime minister, but you have no agenda. What is your economic agenda? What is your social agenda? What is your political agenda? " he asked. Peretz continued, "You haven’t been wise enough to hold on to my achievements as chairman. You should stop being so isolated and start taking advice from the excellent field officials this party has throughout. . . "

Mazuz won’t open criminal proceedings against Netanyahu
Aviram Zino, YNetNews 3/31/2008
Chief aid to attorney general clarifies decision has no bearing on public, ethical implications of Opposition leader’s expenditures during London trip amidst 2006 war - Attorney General Menachem Mazuz announced on Monday he would not open a criminal investigation against MK Benjamin Netanyahu over his controversial financial expenditures during an official visit to London during the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006. Mazuz said that while there was no basis for criminal charges in the matter, his decision had no bearing on whether there was room for ethical proceedings. "After reviewing the relevant information, we have found no factual basis justifying criminal proceedings against MK Netanyahu. This, of course, without regard to the public or ethical implications of the matter," said the chief assistant to the attorney general. . .

Barak allots NIS 30M more for security in frontline communities
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 3/31/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday allotted another NIS 30 million to the budget for security components in communities situated in the line of fire. Barak’s advisor on settlement affairs Eitan Broshi notified heads of the local councils in areas considered frontline communities, both in northern and southern Israel, that the budget necessary to cover security expenses would soon be transferred to them. Barak convened a meeting with the defense ministry’s director general and the commander of the Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command, after which it was agreed with the treasury that the funds would be transferred. Over the last two months, the defense ministry has cut the budget for securing the frontline communities. As a result, the local authorities were forced to reduce the number of security personnel in the community and were planning additional changes.

Third of Israelis so poor they must forgo some essential foods
Ruth Sinai, Ha’aretz 3/31/2008
More than a third of Israelis are in such difficult financial straits that they forgo buying essential foods in order to be able to buy other needed goods, a government report released on Monday showed. The finding, based on National Insurance Institute figures, was part of the report compiled by an inter-ministerial committee and presented by Welfare Minister Yitzhak Herzog. The panel was set up to study "nutrition insecurity" among Israeli citizens, a concept defined as lack of regular access to nourishing food by acceptable means (such as purchasing in stores), and in sufficient amounts. "The state of Israel must safeguard its character as a welfare state, and, as such, must bring about a solution to the problem of nutrition insecurity among some of its citizens, a problem which has widened in recent years," Herzog said Monday.

Israel can’t escape subprime woe
Meirav Arlosoroff, Ha’aretz 4/1/2008
No, Israel is not immune to the subprime crisis. As its ripples shake world markets, Israel too will feel its effects, predicts the Bank of Israel. Economic growth is going to be a lot slower than originally expected this year, possibly about 2%, compared with 5. 5% in 2007, the central bank says. In terms of growth per capita, that’s stagnation (because the population is growing at roughly that rate). If the scenario of slower growth materializes, the central bank’s interest rates may be brought down even further, warned deputy governor Zvi Eckstein on Sunday. That dire scenario explains the aggressive steps the Bank of Israel has been taking lately, to the general shock: intervening in the foreign currency market, once unthinkable, then done, then a policy of buying about $25 million every business day for two years, and the half-percent interest rate cut to the lowest level in Israeli history - 3.

50% losses for supermarket chain under ultra-Orthodox boycott
Shoshana Chen, YNetNews 3/31/2008
Shefa Shuk suffers debilitating drop in revenues as religious sector follows rabbis’ decree urging them to steer clear of any retailer belonging to Dor Alon company over latter’s refusal to close urban convenience stores on Shabbat - Despite the fact that no official boycott has been announces, ultra-Orthodox consumers have already begun to impose informal sanctions on the Shefa Shuk supermarket chain. According to estimates provided by concerned advertisers and suppliers, the chain’s eight stores catering to the ultra-Orthodox sector have already suffered a 50% drop in revenue. The campaign against Shefa Shuk (loosely translated as ’market of plenty’) began in mid-March after rabbis from the Committee for the Sanctity of Shabbat took out an advertisement in ultra-Orthodox papers calling on readers to avoid any business transactions with the Dor Alon company. . .

Kosher financial assets, coming shortly
Sarit Menahem, Ha’aretz 4/1/2008
The highest court of the ultra-Orthodox community, the Badatz in Jerusalem, will award kashrut licenses to various financial instruments to indicate compliance with rabbinic court regulations. Observant investors often seek to put their money with companies that comply with kashrut laws. Awarding such licenses to financial instruments such as mutual funds, provident funds and pension funds will allow the ultra-Orthodox sector to invest in them. "The financial investment market in the Haredi sector has undergone a huge upgrade in the past year. Banks are investing a great deal of resources in marketing and advertisement to this sector, and investment houses are now taking an interest," says Shuky Batist, manager of advertising agency Tovanot. He added that one impetus behind the idea is that more Haredim work these days.

Shekel-dollar rate keeps rising
Efrat Perez-Harpaz, Globes Online 3/31/2008
Easy Forex: The cuts in US rates will continue in April. The shekel-dollar rate has risen in morning interbank trading, after trading in foreign currency options yesterday reflected a 0. 4% increase to NIS 3. 534/$. The shekel-dollar rate rose 3. 5% over last week, with Friday’s closing representative rate set at NIS 3. 519/$. It is believed that last Monday’s interest rate cut by Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer, which narrowed the gap between the shekel and dollar interest rates will be followed by further cuts in line with similar moves by the US Federal Reserve Board. The shekel-dollar rate has risen 0. 97% so far today, to NIS 3. 553/$, while the shekel-euro rate has risen 1. 1%, to NIS 5. 6137/€. Online foreign currency broker Easy Forex says the increase in the US personal consumption expenditure index, a key gauge of inflation, was in line with expectations, which shows that US inflation is still under control.

Stocks sink on Wall Street woes
Nathan Sheva, Ha’aretz 4/1/2008
Today is the last trading day of the first quarter, and a terrible quarter it was. Tel Aviv stocks have lost roughly a fifth of their value - much more in the case of real estate shares - since the beginning of the year, and yesterday brought no relief. Pulled down by the dead weight of Wall Street’s retreat late last week, Tel Aviv shares lost ground yesterday. The day began with a drop of about 1% that worsened as the session wore on. Ultimately the TA-25 index fell 2. 3% to 999 points, the Real Estate-15 index tumbled 5. 4%, the TA-100 index dropped 2. 5% to 927 points and the TelTech-15 index did much the same. Moreover, all this happened on heavy turnover, for a Sunday, of NIS 1. 6 billion. Yet again the session ended at 14:15 instead of 17:30, as sanctions by the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange workers entered their third week.

Puppet child on Hamas TV ’kills’ US president
Associated Press, YNetNews 3/31/2008
On show, child blames Bush, Israelis for killing his family in Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza, takes revenge by stabbing US president - In a Hamas TV production for Palestinian children, a puppet stabbed US President George Bush to death in revenge for American and Israeli actions. The children’s puppet aired Sunday, as part of series called ’Exceptionals. ’ In the episode, Bush, a hand-held puppet dressed in a green uniform and wearing boxing gloves, is shown talking to a Palestinian child. The child, with tears in his voice, accuses Bush of killing his father in Iraq, his mother in Lebanon and his brothers and sisters in Gaza with the assistance of the Israelis. The unnamed child tells Bush, "You are a criminal. You deprived me of everything. "He adds, "I have to take my revenge with this sword of Islam. "

Expired children’s food products seized in West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 3/31/2008
Nablus – Ma’an Exclusive – Palestinian customs services seized five thousand boxes of expired juice cans and other children’s food items in the West Bank cities of Nablus and Qalqilia on Monday afternoon, a customs official told Ma’an. Customs director Hatim Yousif said the expired products had been produced in Israeli settlements and were seized in the village of Audala, near Nablus, and Qalqilia. In a different regard, Yousif said that some of the 3,000 contraband cell phones that were confiscated from the car of former Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker Rawhi Fattouh earlier this month will be returned to their owners after they pay taxes and duties. [end]

IRAQ: Basra residents hit by surging food, fuel prices
UNICEF, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 3/31/2008
BAGHDAD, 31 March 2008 (IRIN) - Residents of Iraq’s second-largest city of Basra are breathing a sigh of relief after Shia radical leader Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his militia to end the clashes with government forces which erupted on 25 March. [Read this report in Arabic] "We witnessed wars in the past: the 1980s Iraq-Iran war, 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 US-led invasion, but we did not go through such an experience as we did with this tragedy," said Salim Abdul-Hussein, a 40-year-old resident of Basra’s central Jubaila area where clashes broke out. On the afternoon of 30 March Abdul-Hussein finally emerged from his home after the five-day curfew was eased in a bid to get food, water and medicines for his children and sick, elderly mother. "Food prices have at least doubled while those of other things have increased more than three times, with no bakeries and no fuel stations opened," Abdul-Hussein told IRIN in a telephone interview.

Sadr militia vanish from Iraq’s streets
Middle East Online 3/31/2008
Gun-toting fighters of hardline Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr melted away from Iraqi streets on Monday after week-long clashes with security forces that killed at least 461 people. Following six days of intense fighting with security forces, Sadr on Sunday reined in his fighters, signalling an end to the firefights which have also wounded more than 1,100 people across the country. Militants had disappeared on Monday and that fighting which had rocked the two cities and several other Shiite regions since last Tuesday had died down. The Sadr movement in the capital confirmed fighters from the cleric’s feared Mahdi Army militia were no longer deployed on the streets, including in their bastion of Sadr City in east Baghdad. "The militants have disappeared from Sadr City and its neighbouring areas and my information is that Sadr’s order is being implemented everywhere," the Baghdad spokesman for Sadr’s movement, Salman al-Fraiji, said.

Gathafi: Arab summit as fruitless as predecessors
Middle East Online 3/31/2008
DAMASCUS - Libyan leader Moamer Gathafi said on Sunday that an Arab summit which wrapped up in Damascus earlier in the day had been as fruitless as its predecessors. "There is nothing new to mention in this summit, it is like previous Arab summits," Gathafi said. Syrian President "Bashar al-Assad tried to present the divisions and criticisms as normal natural differences," he said. "The most important thing about the summit is that there has been some acknowledgment of the divisions and problems and hatred between the Arab states," he said. A Libyan source said that some Arab states were planning measures to try to ease tensions between Syria and pro-Western governments like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Gathafi said the only result of the summit was therefore "an attempt to mend fences and unify Arab ranks.

Secretary-General calls for strong, strategic partnership between United Nations, Arab League, in message to Damascus summit
United Nations Secretary-General, ReliefWeb 3/31/2008
Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message to the League of Arab States Summit, delivered by B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, in Damascus, 29 March: I am pleased to send my greetings to all who have come to Damascus for this Summit meeting. This meeting comes at a crucial juncture within the Arab world, as well as the broader region. Recent political developments represent a particular challenge to you, the leaders of the region, as well as to the international community as a whole. Lasting peace and progress in the Middle East hinges on a just and lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. You have already made a bold and collective commitment to this goal through the Arab Peace Initiative, which remains a key element in our efforts to achieve peace.

Digg It
Leonard Doyle in Washington, The Independent 3/31/2008
The US arms industry is backing Hillary Clinton for President and has all but abandoned its traditional allies in the Republican party. Mrs Clinton has also emerged as Wall Street’s favourite. Investment bankers have opened their wallets in unprecedented numbers for the New York senator over the past three months and, in the process, dumped their earlier favourite, Barack Obama. Mrs Clinton’s wooing of the defence industry is all the more remarkable given the frosty relations between Bill Clinton and the military during his presidency. An analysis of campaign contributions shows senior defence industry employees are pouring money into her war chest in the belief that their generosity will be repaid many times over with future defence contracts. Employees of the top five US arms manufacturers -- Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop-Grumman, General Dynamics and Raytheon -- gave Democratic. . .


Truth and Reconciliation
Edward Said, MIFTAH 3/31/2008
      [Despite this article being written in 1999 during the now discredited “peace process”, its powerful message for the basis of truth and reconciliation in Palestine is equally important today. The writer contends that the people of the region can never move forward unless the oppressors humanise those they systematically oppress and the injustices that have been committed are recognised. ]
     Given the collapse of the Netanyahu government over the Wye peace agreement, it is time once again to question whether the entire peace process begun in Oslo in 1993 is the right instrument for bringing peace between Palestinians and Israelis. It is my view that the peace process has in fact put off the real reconciliation that must occur if the 100-year war between Zionism and the Palestinian people is to end. Oslo set the stage for separation, but real peace can come only with a bi-national Israeli-Palestinian state.
     This is not easy to imagine. The Zionist-Israeli narrative and the Palestinian one are irreconcilable. Israelis say they waged a war of liberation and so achieved independence; Palestinians say their society was destroyed, most of the population evicted. And, in fact this irreconcilability was already quite obvious to several generations of early Zionist leaders and thinkers, as of course it was to all the Palestinians.

Anti-Arab racism and incitement in Israel

Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada 3/30/2008
      A prominent strategy of Israeli hasbara, or official propaganda, is to deflect criticism of its actions in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip by stressing that within the country’s 1948 boundaries, it is a model democracy comparable to the societies in Western Europe and North America with which it identifies and on whose diplomatic support it relies to maintain a favorable status quo. In fact, Israeli society is in the grip of a wave of unchecked racism and incitement that seriously threatens Israel’s Palestinian community and the long-term prospects for regional peace. This briefing examines societal and institutional racism and incitement by public figures against Israel’s Arab population and considers some policy implications.
     Background and context When Israel was established in 1948, most of the indigenous Palestinian inhabitants were driven out or fled from the area that became Israel. Approximately 150,000 Palestinians remained behind. Until 1966, these Palestinians lived under martial law. Today, having increased in number to approximately 1.3 million or about one fifth of Israel’s population (not including the Palestinian population of occupied East Jerusalem), they are citizens of the state of Israel and can vote in elections for the Knesset. Despite this, most view themselves as second-class citizens. As indigenous non-Jews in a self-described Jewish state, they face a host of systematic social, legal, economic and educational barriers to equality. Israel lacks a constitution and has no other basic law guaranteeing equal rights to all citizens regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or national origin.

New Home for ex-Gaza Settlers: Deep in W.Bank

Akiva Eldar, MIFTAH 3/31/2008
      Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently approved the construction of 48 new apartments in Ariel, deep inside the northern West Bank.
     Last week, Olmert told foreign correspondents that Israel is not building in the territories outside the settlement blocs. Ariel has been considered a settlement bloc by all Israeli governments, but the United States refuses to recognize it as such.
     Because of Washington’s objections, Ariel Mayor Ron Nahman used to complain that former defense minister Amir Peretz consistently refused all his requests for permission to build new housing in the city. But Peretz’s successor in the ministry, Ehud Barak, ended the freeze.
     Barak’s office said in a statement that the new construction was meant to allow evacuated Gaza settlers, who had relocated to Ariel with the government’s consent, to move from temporary to permanent housing.
     Last week, Haaretz reported that Barak also approved bringing five trailer homes to the settlement of Tene Omarim to house evacuated Gaza settlers. That settlement is located east of the separation fence, meaning that Israel almost certainly does not intend to keep it under any future agreement.

Crossing the Line interviews journalist Jonathan Cook

Podcast, Electronic Intifada 3/31/2008
      This week on Crossing the Line: According to much of the international media, Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai was apparently "misunderstood" when he said that Gaza faced a "shoah," the Hebrew word for "holocaust." But was his comment really misunderstood? Host Naji Ali speaks with Nazareth-based journalist Jonathan Cook about Vilnai’s remarks and the Israeli government’s longer-term strategy for Palestinians in the occupied territories.
     Listen Now [MP3 - 21.4 MB, 46:50 min] Crossing the Line is a weekly podcast dedicated to giving voice to the voiceless in occupied Palestine. Through investigative news, arts, eyewitness accounts, and music, Crossing the Line does its best to present the lives of people on the ground.
     Crossing the Line’s host, Naji Ali, is an independent journalist currently living in San Francisco.Ali’s South African roots and desire for social change are the reason for his strong solidarity with the Palestinian people. In 1990 Ali was arrested in South Africa where he was detained and tortured for nearly two years by the South African secret police. Ali also lived and worked in the Old City of Hebron in the occupied West Bank.

The Farce goes on

Khalid Amayreh, Palestinian Information Center 3/31/2008
      As prospects of true peace in Palestine look as bleak as ever, mainly because of Israeli intransigence and American complicity with the Zionist state, peace-loving  people in the Middle East and around the world are once again affronted by yet another disingenuous visit to the region by US Secretary of State.
     Rice has made numerous visits to Ramallah and occupied Jerusalem ever since she became Secretary of State more than three years ago.
     However, the overall situation pertaining to the Palestinian plight  has more or less remained unchanged. In fact, one can safely contend  that the Israeli occupation and apartheid are now much worse than they were three years ago.
     Hence, it is highly unlikely that  Rice’s current visit is going to make any difference.
     It is really not difficult to pinpoint the causes and reasons for the failure of American  "peace efforts"  in this part of the world
     The US knows very well that Israel will not move even one centimeter toward peace without  serious American pressure. But the US government lacks both the inclination and the willingness to do so. The Jewish-control of Congress and the virtual complete subservience of Bush administration to the powerful  Jewish lobby, known as AIPAC,  as well as to pro-Israeli neocons, make any breakthrough, even any genuine progress in peacemaking , extremely unlikely.

Fooling ourselves

Haaretz Editorial, Ha’aretz 4/1/2008
      Had Peace Now not published reports from time to time, it is doubtful anyone would have been aware of the continuing construction in the settlements. One might have assumed from the declarations by Ehud Olmert’s government that construction had been suspended and that efforts were being made to reach a peace agreement to include withdrawal from most of the West Bank. From the complaints by the settlers’ leadership as well, one might have concluded that there was a freeze on building and that the settler youth were really and truly homeless.
     But quite different things are happening in the territories. The dynamic of deception is continuing. Deception of the Americans, deception of the voters for parties that etched peace on their standard, deception of the Palestinians and above all self-deception. Our top leaders have joined together on a course that has no objective. These include Defense Minister Ehud Barak, whose political path no one understands and which he himself is not bothering to clarify, the prime minister, who serves as a commentator on reality instead of shaping it, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who is conducting negotiations on evacuation while the government is continuing to build.

Backs to the demolished wall

Hanna Swaid, Ha’aretz 4/1/2008
      Protest tents against the demolition of houses have recently become part of the landscape surrounding Arab communities and Arab neighborhoods in mixed cities. In the Negev, it appears the planning and building authorities have been mainly demolishing houses in unrecognized Arab communities instead of planning and building. In Lod, seven homes of Arab families were demolished recently (in the Ta’ayush neighborhood, whose name means "coexistence"). In Tira, Kalansua and most of the communities in Wadi Ara (Nahal Iron) and the Galilee, public committees are fighting the authorities’ plans to demolish houses and buildings put up over the years without building permits.
     The authorities are conducting the campaign to demolish houses, which is accompanied by very heavy fines on their owners, in the name of the rule of law. But as long as the rule of law works in a selective way, it becomes an instrument of discrimination and revenge. It is right that Arab citizens, who suffer from a housing shortage and a dearth of legal building solutions, are wondering: What about the construction in the Jewish settlements in the territories, in the outposts and the Jewish agricultural sector, where illegal construction for business purposes is flourishing? The only difference is that in those places there are politically connected local authorities and lobbies that ensure illegal construction or the turning of a blind eye.

A Gaza Diary: Falling Sick in Gaza

Najwa Sheikh, MIFTAH 3/31/2008
      I have been long wondered about the feelings, fears, concerns of those whose meant to fall sick in Gaza, real sick, and have denied access to treatment either because of lack of equipment in Gaza or by the arrogance and prejudice of other human beings who enjoy putting more suffering on the people of Gaza.
     I have always asked myself about these people as I was sure of the huge burden that they have to bear, and the trauma they have to suffer, shattered, and lost between their own pain, and between the images, memories, they wanted to keep for their families, kids, and beloved ones.
     However, I guess I have the chance to tell part of their pain now. A week ago I went to my doctor for regular pregnancy check, though the pregnancy was going well, my doctor suspected that I have a problem in my heart, therefore, he transferred me to another specialized doctor, who confirmed the diagnosis.
     If I received the news in another place in the world except Gaza I would not feel that bad, but because in Gaza things can dramatically changed easily to the worst, I felt that something different had stricken my life and change my perspective to every thing. Even though I believe in God, I felt that it is not the time to fall sick; I still have more to tell to my children, I still have plans I wanted to fulfill, and still have life that I wanted to live.

Palestinian orgs: Israel’s anniversary nothing to celebrate

Appeal, Various undersigned, Electronic Intifada 3/31/2008
      How can you celebrate? The establishment of the state of Israel 60 years ago was a settler-colonial project that systematically and violently uprooted more than 750,000 Palestinian Arabs from their lands and homes. Sixty years ago, Zionist militias and gangs ransacked Palestinian properties and destroyed hundreds of Palestinian villages. How can people of conscience celebrate this catastrophe?
     Israel at 60 is a state that continues to deny Palestinian refugees their UN-sanctioned right to return to their homes and receive compensation, simply because they are "non-Jews." It still illegally occupies Palestinian and other Arab lands, in violation of numerous UN resolutions. It persists in its blatant denial of fundamental Palestinian human rights, in contravention of international humanitarian law and human rights conventions. It still subjects its own Palestinian citizens to a system of institutionalized discrimination, strongly reminiscent of the defunct apartheid regime in South Africa. And Israel gets away with all this, thanks to the unprecedented immunity granted to it by the unlimited and munificent US and European economic, diplomatic, political, and academic support.

Bjork, cancel your Tel Aviv concert!

Open letter, PACBI, Electronic Intifada 3/30/2008
      You uttered one word ["Tibet"] in a concert in Shanghai that sent ripples across many disapproving seas. This time, say it louder, and support another just cause: that of the Palestinian people.
     Do not sing in Israel, so that your silence will prove to be more deafening.
     The concert you plan to give in July in Israel will coincide with the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of this state over the ruins of another country, Palestine. With the creation of this state 60 years ago, three quarters of a million Palestinians were dispossessed and uprooted from their homes and lands, condemned to a life of exile and destitution.
     At Hayarkon park in Tel Aviv, where you plan to sing, the Palestinian village of Jarisha was wiped off the map by the Zionist forces 60 years ago.